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XV The Picnic

EDWARD SHAW called at my hotel early in the morning, and took me to the rendezvous, which was at the corner of Elizabeth and Park Streets. I wondered why he had incurred the trouble, and asked him the reason.

He answered, rather nervously, “You have never mixed much with people; have you, Rowe?”

“Very little!” I replied, surprised. “Why?”

“I watched you eating yesterday—there, I'm sorry I spoke; you look distressed.”

“No—I am not; go on.”

“Well, you did several little things wrongly. I wouldn't mention it, only I take an interest; I don't want you to be laughed at—do you see?”

“What were they?”

“Trifles; no doubt they arose from carelessness more than anything else. But still——”




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“Look here, Shaw,” I interjected, “I have never had any training; I don't want to pretend I have, to you. I have been all my life at a public school; my father died when I was a kiddy. It's only natural that I shouldn't know lots of things. How could I? If you are good enough to help me with hints, I'll be eternally grateful.”

Shaw looked much relieved. “It's what I came out for,” he replied. “I wasn't game to tell you yesterday; I did not know how you might take it—as an impertinence, perhaps.”

“You are a brick!” I cried.

“And you are a sensible fellow. I foresee that we shall be very good friends. And I tell you straight, if you suit me as well as I hope I do you, we can be real chums. I'm not the sort to spread myself. At school I had only one chum, and he died. It's hard for me to like people; I don't know how you find it.”

He spoke patronisingly, but seemed to apologise for his patronage.

“I have never had a chum,” I answered, “but I should dearly like to.”

Shaw was apparently quite satisfied, and he occupied all the time of our stroll to Park Street in giving me a useful lesson in social manners. I found him very much more instructive than Bailey, and entertaining into the bargain.

At the rendezvous waited a huge five-horse omnibus and a crowd of muslin-clad women and white-flannelled men. Shaw introduced me to his father, one of the handsomest old gentlemen I have ever seen. He was much older than his wife, but for all that, active and genial as a boy. He shook me heartily by the hand, and declared he was very glad to make my acquaintance. He said he had been told I was studious, and he hoped I would induce Edward to pay more attention to his books. I replied I would do my best; he laughed and said that Edward was the laziest fellow in Australia. “At his age,” he protested, “I had already been making my own living for several years!”

“Shut up, governor!” cried Shaw, laughingly. “It was only because you had to.”

The old gentleman pulled his son's ear, and told him to


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be off for a handsome idle dog! It was easy to see that a sincere affection subsisted between the pair. I liked the old man immensely.

“Isn't he a darling?” muttered Edward, as he led me away. “There is no one like my governor.”

“He worships you,” said I.

“No more than I do him,” replied Shaw, earnestly; “but here is May, now mind yourself!”

Amber Eyes came up to us arm in arm with a pretty, fair-haired girl, whom I recognised as “Edith,” the girl who had been with her on the night when she woke me on the sea-wall at Miller's Point.

They surveyed me from top to toe. I felt supremely glad that my clothes were new, and fitted me. Miss Denton gave me her hand. “This is Edith Glasson!” she cried, quickly; “she is to look after you during the drive, because I have to go with Mr. Percival. But, mind you, not a minute longer; do you hear?”

Miss Glasson blushed. “Oh, May, Mr. Rowe may not care.”

“Nonsense, Edith, he will care; what I am afraid of is that he'll care too much. Understand that he is my property after luncheon. You hear, Mr. Rowe!”

“Yes, Miss Denton.”

“And you, Edith?”

“Of course.”

“Then, don't you dare try to give me the slip!” With that she flitted off like a fairy. I am afraid that during the drive I did not pay Miss Glasson the attention which her prettiness deserved. She did most of the talking, and I answered in a preoccupied fashion for the most part, for my gaze was always wandering towards Amber Eyes, who sat upon the box-seat beside Rupert Percival, and seemed to be enjoying herself immensely. I wondered how she could bring herself to flirt like that with man after man. One seemed just as good as another to her. I asked Miss Glasson if all girls were flirts? She replied she thought so, till they fell in love, and then flirting lost its charms. I asked her, was she a flirt? She supposed she was—and her eyes suggested that I should undertake a practical investigation.


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I had not the heart for it, though, and I am sure she thought me stupid; but for all that she showed no inclination to introduce me to any of the other girls who were sitting around us, in spite of several hints which were quite unmistakably advanced to her concerning me. Very few of the other girls were pretty; indeed, they were so plainfeatured that I asked Miss Glasson if most Sydney girls were homely. She raised her eyebrows, and said no, she thought them mostly pretty.

“There are only two pretty girls on the 'bus,” I objected. She laughed. “May and I?”

“Yes; it's rather strange, is it not, if you are right in what you said? I have counted them; there are sixteen present.”

She gave me a queer glance. “It's May's picnic.”

“What of that?”

“Well, don't you think she would be foolish to ask a lot of pretty girls? Where would she come in?”

It was a revelation to me in feminine methods. “How is it that she asked you, then?” I blurted out.

“Now that is a compliment I appreciate,” she replied. “I am her friend, you see; besides, she is dark and I am fair; we don't clash.”

“You mean you would probably not be such good friends if you were both dark?”

“Or fair.”

“And do you really like each other?”

“We love each other!” she replied, indignantly. “I would trust May to—to the death!”

“And she, you?”

“In anything!”

“She is a flirt.”

“So is every girl who has a grain of sense in her head. Why shouldn't we have a good time while we are young? It's slow enough after——”

“After what?”

“Marriage.”

“You said ‘marriage’ as if you regarded it as a sort of death?”

“That is just what it is.”




  ― 132 ―

“I presume that with such ideas you will remain single.”

“And die an old maid. Oh, you horrid man, to suggest such a thing!”

I laughed. “Why marry, if you hate the thought of it? Why not have a good time to the end?”

She shook her head. “You don't when you grow old; that's the worst of it. Besides, it's nice to have a home of one's own after a certain age.”

“How frank you are!” I cried. “Do be a little more so, and tell me something I want to know.”

“What is it?”

“Do you girls find any real pleasure, I mean happiness, in being made love to—kissed, and that sort of thing?”

“It depends on who does it. If he's nice”—she paused.

“Well?” I demanded.

Miss Glasson smiled. “It's great!” she murmured, and her smile was evidently inspired by pleasant recollections, for she pursed out her pretty lips as though in the act of receiving a beneficent caress.

Further confidences were prevented by our arrival at Maroubra Bay. It was a small indenture of the coast of which I had often heard, because it was a favourite spot for Push picnics; but I had never before seen it. The waves washed in sheer from the great ocean upon a small esplanade of firm white sand, which was bound in by north and south by bold and sharply rising yellow sandstone cliffs. The sand merged on the landward side into a wide sward of turf some twenty acres in extent, level as a billiard table, which, for its part, was enclosed with scrub-clad hills. At the farthest edge of the turf reposed a little freshwater lagoon, grown high with tall, brown sedge and glittering green reeds. It is a beautiful place, and richly merits the distinction it enjoys as the best of Sydney's excursionist retreats. Tables, made of planks, stretched across carpenter's trestles, were spread out on the lawny green; they were draped with damask cloths, and covered with costly eatables. It made one hungry to even glance at them. The horses were quickly unharnessed from the 'bus, hobbled, and turned out to graze; and the party was presently invited to the luncheon. It was almost mid-winter,


  ― 133 ―
but the day was mild and balmy; there was not a breath of wind, and the great sun poured upon us his gentle golden beams, unhampered by a single leafy interruption. But the air was bracing in spite of him, and no one cried for shade. It was a very delightful function, that luncheon. There was no ceremony; there were no seats. Each person helped him or herself to what they wished, then sat upon the grass to eat at their pleasure. There was no conversation, but everyone chatted, laughed, jested, and enjoyed themselves.

I became separated from Edith Glasson, and totally lost sight of Amber Eyes; but I attached myself to Mrs. Shaw, and acted as her attendant. It was a wise move, and well repaid me for the slight trouble involved; for she was evidently charmed with my attentions, and every few moments gave me a new invitation to her house. Before it was over I had engaged myself to dine there on the following day, an dtwo evenings in the ensuing week. There seemed no limit to her hospitality; for no sooner had I agreed to this than she suggested a theatre party for the week after, and declared her intention of presently giving a ball. I noticed Edward Shaw seated at some distance, amongst a crowd of girls. He seemed to be enjoying himself, for they fed him as though he were a baby. Half the men were middle-aged and married; their wives waited on them hand and foot. Among the younger folk, girls were in a preponderance of numbers, but they did not appear to mind. I had never seen such a crowd of smiling faces. Not one appeared to have a care in the wide world. I could not help feeling happy in very sympathy. The party broke up gradually, wandering off in all directions by twos and threes. Amber Eyes acted as master of ceremonies. With the exception of myself, she dismissed everybody, even Mr. and Mrs. Shaw, and finally we stood by the deserted tables alone. She then called the 'bus driver, and other servants, and after making them perfectly contented with eatables and a generous quantity of bottled ale, she took my arm, and led me towards the northern hill.

“Why in this direction?” I enquired. “The others are on the beach.”

“The very reason,” she cried, merrily. “I am going to


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take you to a cave I found last year. No one else knows about it. But you must be very quiet and not make a sound, or we shall be discovered.”

As soon as we reached the shelter of the trees she took a path which led back towards the sea, but through the scrub. Once she turned to me with eyes dancing with laughter, but her finger on her lips. I heard voices. We tip-toed past, stealthy as Indians, in single file, but through a screen of shrubs we saw Edward Shaw seated in the shade, with his arm round Edith Glasson's waist. When we were at a safe distance Amber Eyes burst into laughter.

“The humbug!” she cried; “won't I have some fun with him now! He pretends not to care a fig for Edith!”

Soon we reached the cliffs, and the path led to a great fissure, down which we clambered cautiously, a hundred feet or more. We stood at last upon the rocks of the sea level, and I saw before us a tiny cavern, hollowed out centuries ago by the action of the waves. It was marvellously secluded, a veritable hiding-place, with but a single approach, for on both sides of us huge cliff promontories extended far into the water. The cave was spangled with periwinkles right to the roof. Upon the floor was a great flat rock, which offered a tempting seat. Miss Denton brushed it clear of shells, then spread out a woollen wrap which she had brought.

“Well, what do you think of it?” she cried.

“I think you are a very daring girl,” said I.

“Why?”

“To bring me—a man you know so very little of—here alone with you! You are beyond the reach of assistance. Your loudest scream could not be heard.”

She looked at me curiously, but with no sign of fear.

“What could you do to me?” she asked.

“I might kill you!”

She laughed.

“I might kiss you!”

She drew herself up and eyed me very haughtily.

“You would regret the attempt, Mr. Rowe.”

“I beg your pardon, Miss Denton; I was jesting.”

“I hope so!”




  ― 135 ―

I meditated the reproof for some time, gazing out to sea or watching the waters lapping on the stones. I felt completely crushed. But presently her laughter rippled out.

“How down you look!” she cried.

I glanced up and met her eyes; they were dancing with merriment.

“You are cruel!” I muttered.

“Nedder mind, the dear! Diddums hurt it, the naughty things—mudder will beat them!” she chuckled.

She was utterly beautiful, but she was laughing at me. I grew wrathful.

“It is a simple thing to make a fool of a man that way!” I cried. “I took you seriously.”

“I was serious!” She was grave on instant.

“Indeed; then why did you bring me here, if it was not to tempt me to kiss you or something?”

“Or something!” repeated Miss Denton, scornfully.

“What was it for, then?”

“Something—just you consider it, Mr. Rowe!”

“No!”

“Sit down beside me!”

I obeyed. We regarded each other, I defiantly, she in secret mirth.

“How slow you are!” she muttered.

“What do you expect me to do?”

“Something!”

A reckless demon possessed me. With a swift movement I slipped my arm round her waist.

“How dare you!” said Amber Eyes, indignantly; but she did not try to free herself.

“I don't know!” I replied. I was happy as a king. We kept silent for quite a time; but soon I felt the girl's frame quivering. Before I could think what it was she had her hands before her face. I thought she was sobbing, but the emotion was suppressed laughter.

“Is that the way you make love?” she gasped, between bursts of merriment.

It was too much, such treatment maddened me. Of a sudden, and more in rage than love, I caught her roughly


  ― 136 ―
in my arms and crushed her lips to my own. Not once but a hundred times I kissed her, manliness, memory, and all else lost in a perfect whirl of passion. She struggled to escape, but she was helpless, for I seemed possessed with the strength of a dozen men. My kisses were rude and cruel; they hurt her, they burned me. When I released her she was breathless and white as death. For me, I was utterly undone. I trembled so violently that I feared to fall. We stared into each other's eyes for a few dreadful seconds, and then what needs must I do but burst outweeping? I could not help myself. I cursed myself for the weakness, but to stem it was impossible. I threw myself, face downwards, upon the stone and sobbed and cried as I have never done before or since, and in my heart was such a mixture of anguish and despair and strange exultant grief, as I imagine must sometimes torture the souls of outraged women. Something seemed torn from me whose loss was irremediable. I was no longer my own master. I hated the woman bitterly, but, ah! how I hated myself. I felt her hand upon my shoulder. It recovered me. Fiercely I wiped my face, more fiercely I shook off her touch, and disdaining to look at her I strode to the cavern's mouth. But there I paused. The sunlight was like a threatening hand clenched before my mouth. I thought of returning to the party with a shudder of terror. I could not do it. I felt that if anyone looked at me I should die of shame. I wanted to escape, but wanted courage to face the difficulties in my path. The girl must have watched me in amaze, but I did not consider her feelings, so wild and tortured were my own. I walked hither and thither through the cavern like a drunken man. Twice she called to me. Her voice was maddening. I could not bear it.

“Go,” I cried. “Go!” and faced her desperately.

Her lips were tremulously parted. Her eyes were luminous with some deep feeling. They held me spell-bound.

“Must I go?” she asked, and her tones were full of sweet humility. I thought she mocked me, and was almost choked with rage.




  ― 137 ―

“Yes,” I cried. “Go to your friends, and laugh with them at me. Tell them what I have done. Tell them how I kissed you, and how I played the woman afterwards. I never wish to see you again. I hate you! I hate all women! You are all flirts and heartless creatures. I have disgraced myself; but it is all your fault. Yours, do you hear? I wish to God I had never seen you!”

The words poured from me in a torrent; wildly unreasonable as they were, I never realised their import. I was filled with a burning sense of injury and resentment. And yet it was she who had the best right to be indignant.

The girl's eyes filled with tears as I watched her. Even those I thought a mock. She whispered, “Yes, it was all my fault. I shall go. I was wrong. I shall never flirt again. I have hurt you. It was very wrong of me. But we have known each other so short a time. How could I know that you loved me like this?”

“Love you!” I cried. “I——” “Loathe you” was on my tongue; but something restrained the words—a strange meaning in her eyes, a sudden revelation in my own heart.

I sat down upon the stone, turned suddenly weak, all my anger gone and all my passion. I watched the girl pass from the cavern, slowly, a drooping, repentant figure. I had no strength to stay her or recall her. I scarcely felt the wish. Hours seemed to pass; the cold crept up from the sea, and entered my blood. I was chilled through and through, yet I remained as I was, overcome with an enthralling lassitude of mind and body, neither miserable nor happy, neither dreaming, nor entirely free from dreams. She crept back to my side like a shadow at last, and her beautiful face was wet. I looked at her in vague surprise, not perfectly comprehending her return.

“I am so sorry,” she whispered, her sweet lips quivering pathetically.

I shook my head. “Why should you? That is my part. I treated you brutally.”

She gave a sob. “No, it was my fault; all my fault. I led you on. It was all my fault.”

“Why are you crying?” I asked; “because I kissed you?”




  ― 138 ―

“No.”

“Why, then?”

“Because you are unhappy. What made you love me, Lucas?”

“I don't know.”

“Does it hurt very much?”

“It did at first.”

“Only at first?” Her eyes were utterly reproachful.

In spite of myself I smiled.

“Ah!” she cried, and panted a little. “Don't you love me?”

“No, I do not.”

“Lucas!”

“Yes!”

She gazed at me intensely. “You are telling me a lie.”

I got to my feet. “Let us go; it is getting late.”

“It's not yet four!”

“May, May, what a heartless girl you are!”

“I am not.”

“Do you love me, then?”

“No, no, no!”

“May I kiss you—one kiss? May I, May?”

“No.”

“Just one—for the last time!” I pleaded.

“No.” Her eyes were fixed on mine. “You hurt!” she muttered.

I put out my arms and seized her, my very heart on fire.

“Coquette!” I cried, and drew her to me—close—close. She resisted slightly—very slightly. With head thrown back, she waited for my kiss. Slowly I bent my face to hers, reading her eyes the while; they loved me if she did not. When I felt her breath upon my lips, I stopped. I drew back, and suddenly released her. She swayed, and fell apart from me in wild amaze. But I was master of myself.

“It is a crime, a blasphemous mockery of something half divine, unless both love,” I muttered, and I felt like one inspired as I spoke the words.

She went crimson from brow to throat, then white as a lily. She hurried from the cave, and I followed her. Not


  ― 139 ―
once did she glance at me as we climbed the path. I thought I had offended her past pardon; but, strangely enough, I did not care. When we reached the cliffs, a great noise, a commotion of angry voices, hoarse, enraged outcries, and the hammering of steel on wood, met our ears. With every step we took it grew louder, and before we arrived at the edge of the scrub we could already distinguish words, oaths, and other horrible expressions. Miss Denton quickened her pace, and at last broke from the scrub ten yards in advance of me; but before I could make the spot she had returned. “Quick! Quick!” she cried.

I dashed forward at a run, and in a second stood beside her.

“What is it?”

She pointed outwards towards the beach. I parted the bushes and perceived in the middle of the turf our party collected in a knot at a short distance from the omnibus. A rabole of about twenty larrikins were breaking up our tables, smashing the crockery, and wildly disporting themselves, while fully forty more, drawn up in line of battle, armed with sticks and stones, were menacing our friends. A heated altercation was in progress. A heavy hand was at that moment laid upon my shoulder. I swung round and stood face to face with Rupert Percival. He was very pale. “Don't show yourself, you fool!” he muttered. “If they saw you it would be all up with us.”

“But our friends!” I cried.

“We can't help them, the larrikins are between us; remember we have to save these girls!”

“Girls!” I echoed, stupidly, then perceived that a woman in the last stage of terror stood beside Miss Denton, who was trying to soothe her.

“It's a push!” cried Percival. “I believe it's the Dogs' Push. If it is, Heaven help us all!”

I started violently. “How did the quarrel start?” I demanded.

“They came along about an hour ago, and camped over there, then one of them insulted Miss Feversham and George Gribben, as they passed to go to the omnibus. Gribben knocked him down, but before you could say Jack Robinson


  ― 140 ―
the whole Push set upon poor George, and gave him a terrible time. I believe they would have killed him, only Shaw and some others ran to help. They were kicking him——”

“How do you know all this?” I demanded, sharply.

“We watched from here.”

“You watched!” I cried.

He turned scarlet.

“It is not my fault. I could not leave Miss Somerset—she fainted!”

“What is that in your hand?”

“A revolver!”

He held it out. I snatched it from him and darted from the trees into the open. I was consumed with rage, and felt inclined to shoot down every one of my old companions. How dared they interfere with my new friends! I felt a match for them all. They should see.

Imagine my consternation when, at last, pausing within twenty feet of the ruffian mob, I discovered that they were all perfect strangers to me. In place of fury I was quickly turned into a block, icy with terror. But only for a moment. At all events, these were larrikins, and I remembered with a thrill of reviving courage that all larrikins are cowards. I pointed Percival's pistol at the mob and drew trigger. One man uttered a howl of agony and clapped his hand to his arm. All turned.

“You pack of cowardly scum!” I shouted, my voice reanimating my rage. “Is this what you call a fair game—forty of you against fifteen? Down to the beach with you, you dogs, or I'll damned soon make some of your wives widows!”

I advanced upon them with steady steps. Well was it for me then that larrikins are cowards! Before the revolver they fell back terrified. Forty to one it was; but they knew that did they rush me one man at least must die before they reached me, and no one wished to be that one. They swore, they uttered the most filthy curses, but they retreated. When they reached the tables, for a wild moment I thought that with such a reinforcement of their number they would gather pluck; but I did not falter in


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my advance. For a second they paused. There was only one thing for me to do: I commenced to run at them. That decided the matter; they wavered, broke, and fled, yelling like fiends, for the beach. I followed for fifty paces. They gathered in a knot by the water's edge. They were in a cul-de-sac. It was exactly what I wanted. Had I driven them to the scrub they would have assailed us from the cover, and I fear but few of us could have escaped unscathed from the volleys of stones with which they would have harassed us. I held my revolver in rest and watched them. Presently I heard footsteps behind me. Old Mr. Shaw came running up.

“By Heaven, Mr. Rowe!” he cried, “it is the finest thing I ever saw. You are a hero, sir!”

I did not look at him.

“Excuse me!” I replied, “I have to watch those brutes yonder. Get the horses put into the 'bus with all the speed you can, and drive off. Only, wait for me about half a mile up the road. I'll cover your retreat!”

“Leave you!” he cried, indignantly; “No, sir—not if I die for it!”

I glanced at him sideways. “Very good, you stay with me, but make the rest go! We shall be perfectly safe, for I am armed, and that scum hasn't an ounce of courage in its composition!”

He gave a short, brisk laugh, patted me on the back, and hurried off. In about ten minutes, I heard a ringing cheer, the crack of a whip, and the sound of wheels ploughing through the turf. “Lucas Rowe,” I muttered, in apostrophe, “this is the best day's work that you have ever done for yourself. I'm commencing to believe that you are not such a coward after all!”

Next instant friendly hands were on my shoulder. I turned, and saw Mr. Shaw and Edward. They were both shaking with excitement. Edward caught my left hand and pressed it between both of his own. “What do you think of my new pal, father?” he cried.

“I'll tell you another time!” said the old gentleman.

“Is Mr. Gribben hurt badly?” I demanded.

“No; he is terribly bruised, but no bones are broken.


  ― 142 ―
Aren't they cursed cads!” and the old gentleman shook his fist at the larrikins.

The Push saw, and loudly groaned.

“Don't do that again!” I advised, “we are within stone's-throw.”

“I'd like to kill them all!” growled Edward.

“I guess,” said I, “it's time for us to go. You move forward in advance of me; go quite slowly; if we offered to run they'd be after us like a shot, and then—good-bye!”

In this manner we conducted our retreat. The Push followed us step by step, but every time I levelled the pistol at them they paused. We passed the lagoon, and gained the road in dead silence, but there the pursuit ceased. The larrikins, recognising that no hope of revenge remained to them, scattered over the turf immediately we had abandoned it, and set to work to build a camp-fire, using for fuel our broken tables. When I saw that, I overtook the others, and after a while carelessly examined the revolver. To my surprise it was uncharged. It had only contained the one cartridge which I had fired when I first attacked the mob. I handed it with a smile to Edward Shaw. He looked at it, saw, and turned to me, almost aghast.

“Did you know it was unloaded?” he cried.

I shook my head. “If I had,” I frankly confessed, “I don't know where we should all be now.”

“Don't libel yourself, my dear boy,” said Mr. Shaw, looking at me with warm eyes. “I believe you would have faced them in any case.”

I was silent; I did not agree with him, but I did not see why I should protest. When we had topped the first rise in the white sandy road, we saw the carriage awaiting us on the slope of a neighbouring declivity. Its occupants set up a ringing shout, which we heard echoed in loud groans from our rear. We laughed heartily all three! The whole thing appeared to me supremely ridiculous, now that the peril was past, and I comically wondered what the Dogs would say if they knew that I had put to shame a brother push.

“What does it feel like, being a hero?” asked Edward Shaw.




  ― 143 ―

I stopped and faced him. “Look here, old chap, none of that nonsense, you know. I won't stand chaff of that kind from you!”

“You'll have to from everyone else then; wait till the papers get hold of it!”

I gasped with terror, for I thought: “If the papers get hold of it, so will the Dogs.” “Mr. Shaw!” I cried, suddenly, “will you do me a great favour?”

“Anything, my boy!” cried the old gentleman, heartily.

“Keep this out of the papers!”

“But why?”

“I don't want my steps to be dogged by a push. You know what push vengeance is. I heard about it even in England!”

He looked at me curiously, shook his head, and smiled.

“I don't think you are very much afraid of push vengeance, my boy; but never mind, I like you all the better for your modesty.”

“Whatever it is—you promised,” I urged.

“For myself, yes,” he said. “But remember we have a press man amongst us—Rupert Percival.”

I smiled. “I don't think he will be hard to persuade.”

“What makes you think that?”

“This is his revolver!”

The old gentleman looked at me very thoughtfully, then nodded his head once or twice.

“I wondered what had become of him!” he muttered.

Edward laughed.

“He is a crack shot!” he explained. “He gave us an exhibition this afternoon!”

Next moment we reached the carriage. I had to shake hands all round. Mrs. Shaw and two old ladies insisted upon kissing me. Hero-worship has its drawbacks. I passed a very uncomfortable time indeed, until I found myself on the box seat beside Miss Denton. How I got there I have no idea; it was certainly not my fault, for I was so confused by my welcome that I was incapable of forming any plans. She subsequently protested that she had nothing to do with it, so I am obliged to consider that I must have unconsciously gravitated to her side. We spoke


  ― 144 ―
very little on the home journey. Amber Eyes appeared strangely reserved and shy, and I saw her from a new point of view. I think I liked the change. Often I caught her glancing at me in a sweet, furtive fashion. Each time I did so she blushed. She, of all the party, alone made no reference to what had passed, and I felt really grateful to her for her silence on the matter. When we did speak, it was upon some generality, and then very tersely. My brain was crowded with thoughts; perhaps hers was, too. When we reached Park Street, the Shaws begged me to dine with them, but I excused myself upon the pretence of a prior engagement. Everyone thought it necessary to shake hands with me again, and cover me with fulsome praise and thanks—that is, everyone save Amber Eyes. She stood apart and watched the performance, smiling vaguely. It was I who had to go to her.

I muttered low, “Good-bye, May.”

“Good-night,” she corrected, softly.

“Is that all?” I asked, reproachfully.

“Lucas!” she whispered, and cast down her eyes; also she pressed my hand.

I left her gloriously happy.

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