The general interrupted her with a laugh. “A man with an evil smell takes offence at every wrinkled nose,” he asserted, “and you hit upon a subject on which my friend has perhaps cause to be sensitive.”
Janice ran rather than walked the whole way home, and, not stopping when she reached the house to tell her father of her successful mission, or even to remove her cloak and calash, she tripped upstairs to her room, went straight to her bureau, and, pulling open the bottom drawer, took from it the unset miniature, and scrutinised it closely for a moment. “’T is she beyond question!” the girl ejaculated. “And I always thought of her as a young female, never suspecting it might have been some time painted. Why, she is a good ten years older than Colonel Brereton, or at least eight, let alone that she paints and powders! If that is the ill-mannered creature he gave his love to, I have little pity for him.”
This decided, the maiden sought out her father and informed him of her mission and its successful result.
“Why, Jan,” exclaimed her father, “thou ’rt indeed a wonderful lass to have schemed and carried it through. I’d have spoken to Sir William myself, but he keeps himself so secluded that never a chance have I had to speak to him save in public. It is for the best, however, for I doubt not he paid more heed to thy young lips than ever he would to mine. Hadst thou told me, however, I would have gone with thee, for it must have been a tax on thy courage to have ventured alone.”
I did n’t even let myself think of it,” replied the daughter, “and, indeed, ’t was so much easier than the thought of your further increasing your debt to Lord Clowes that ’t was nothing.” Then, after a slight pause, she asked: “Dadda, who is the Mrs. Loring I found at Sir William’s?”
“Humph!” grunted the squire, with obvious annoyance. “’T is the wife of Joshua Loring, commissary of prisoners.”
“Has she been long married to him?” asked Janice.
“That I know not; and the less ye concern yourself, Jan, with her, the better.”
Despite this recommendation, Janice once again repeated her question, this time making it to Andre at the Assembly that evening.
“I know not,” the captain told her, pursing up his lips and raising his eyebrows. Then he called to his opposite in the quadrille: “Cathcart, can you tell me how long Mrs. Loring has rejoiced in that title of honour?”
The earl laughed as if Andre had said something witty, and made reply: “Since ever I can remember, and that is a full five years.”
When later the dancers adjourned to the supper-room, Lord Cathcart tossed a billet across the table to Andre, and he in turn passed it to Mobray, who was squiring Janice. The baronet held it so that she could see the message as well, and inscribed on the paper were the lines:—
don’t think me a moment ignoring:
‘How long has she honoured the surname of Loring?’
Wiseacre, first tell, how a man without honour
Could ever confer that fair jewel upon her?”