Page:The Lesson of the Master, The Marriages, The Pupil, Brooksmith, The Solution, Sir Edmund Orme (New York & London, Macmillan & Co., 1892).djvu/246

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he was preparing for dinner—he was to dine at Mrs. Goldie's. This he explained to me without any question of mine, and it led me to say to him, with, I suspect, a tremor in my voice: "Then you have not yet seen her?"

"On the contrary: I drove to their villa as soon as I got here. I've been there these two hours. I promised them to go back to dine—I only came round here to tidy myself a little." I looked at him hard, and he added: "I'm engaged to be married."

"To which of them?" I asked; and the question seemed to me absurd as soon as I had spoken it.

"Why, to Veronica."

"Any of them would do," I rejoined, though this was not much better. And I turned round and looked out of the window into the dark. The tears rose to my eyes—I had ridden heroically, but I had not saved the city.

"What did you desire to say to me?" Wilmerding went on.

"Only that I wish you all the happiness you deserve," I answered, facing him again.

"Did you gallop out here for that?" he inquired.

"I might have done it for less!" I laughed, awkwardly; but he was very mild—he didn't fly at me. They had evidently been very nice to him at the other house—well they might be! Veronica had shaken her hair in his eyes, and for the moment he had accepted his fate.

"You had better come back and dine with me," he said.

"On an occasion so private—so peculiar—when you want them all to yourself? Never in the world."

"What then will you do here—alone?"

"I'll wash and dress first, if you'll lend me some things."