The Mainwaring party was among the latest arrivals at the pier on th_ollowing day, owing to the dilatoriness of Mr. Thornton, Mrs. Mainwaring'_fforts to the contrary notwithstanding. At the last moment he appeared, serenely and smilingly unconscious of that lady's frowns of displeasure, t_he infinite amusement of his daughter, who whispered to Miss Carleton,—
"Poor papa! See how auntie glares at him, and he does not even know it."
But even Mrs. Mainwaring's facial muscles relaxed slightly at the sight of th_eautiful ocean greyhound lying in the harbor, her flags waving and streamer_luttering in the breeze, awaiting only the captain's orders to start on he_omeward course.
The decks were crowded with humanity, for the most part laughing and chattin_ayly and singing bits of song, though here and there were sad, tear-staine_aces, where long farewells, some of them perhaps the last farewells, wer_eing spoken.
"Thank heaven, there'll be no tears shed on this occasion!" said Isabe_ainwaring; "unless," she added, with a glance of scorn towards Mis_arleton's escort, "Mr. Whitney should contribute a few. I detest such vulga_emonstrations in public!"
The attorney certainly did not look very cheerful, and even Miss Carleton'_unny face was somewhat overcast, though why, it would seem difficult t_etermine, since she seemed to have no regrets at leaving America.
"Mercy me!" ejaculated Mrs. Mainwaring, "what a dreadful crowd! It is fa_orse than when we came over. Hugh, I wonder if your father examined th_hip's list. I particularly requested him to do so. I wished to ascertai_hether there would be any friends of ours on board. One does not care to mak_cquaintances promiscuously, you know."
"I don't think the governor investigated the subject very thoroughly," youn_ainwaring replied, with a laugh. "I noticed when we registered there wer_hree or four pages of names preceding ours, and I don't think he gave th_atter much attention. If I had time I would look it up for you, mother, bu_e must go ashore in a few moments."
"If I am not mistaken, my dear lady," said Mr. Thornton, who had overheard th_onversation, "you will have little time or inclination for looking u_cquaintances on this trip."
"May I ask why?" Mrs. Mainwaring demanded.
"I think," he replied, maliciously, "that you and Isabel will be too muc_ccupied in cultivating the acquaintance of mal de mer to care for your bes_riends."
"How's that, Thornton? Think it will be rough?" inquired Ralph Mainwaring.
"The captain tells me the wind is freshening every moment, and we'll have _ecidedly choppy sea before night. I'm thinking we'll have a nasty trip."
"In that case, perhaps mamma and I will not be the only victims," said Isabe_ainwaring.
"I fear not," responded Mr. Thornton. "Were it not or my inherent chivalry, _hould turn back; but I cannot leave you ladies to meet your fate alone."
Amid the general confusion of leave-taking, Mr. Whitney turned towards Mis_arleton, saying in a low tone, as he took her hand,—
"I have received cordial invitations both from yourself and Mr. Thornton t_isit your home, and I feel assured of a welcome should I accept you_ourtesy; but, pardon me, Miss Carleton, if, after so brief an acquaintance a_urs, I inquire whether I might ever hope for a welcome from you other tha_hat of a friend?"
The beautiful brown eyes met his own frankly, but all the laughter an_unshine had gone out of them. They were serious and had almost a look o_ain.
"I am sorry, Mr. Whitney," she said, simply; "but it would be very unjust if _ed you to hope that I could ever regard you other than as an esteeme_riend."
"Pardon me for troubling you," he said, gently. "Believe me always you_riend, and forget that I ever asked for more than friendship," and, releasin_er hand, he passed on to the others.
The final adieus were spoken; Ralph Mainwaring and his son, accompanied by th_ttorney, went ashore; and Miss Carleton, not caring just then to meet th_urious glances of her companions, walked slowly towards the forward part o_he deck. She had gone but a few steps, however, when she caught sight of th_amiliar figure of Mr. Merrick at a little distance, in conversation with _all, slender man, with dark, piercing eyes. He was speaking rapidly in lo_ones, but his usually non-committal face wore an expression of unmistakabl_atisfaction. Suddenly he turned and walked swiftly in Miss Carleton'_irection. Their eyes met, and in response to her glance of recognition h_uickly crossed to where she was standing.
"I have but a few seconds left, Miss Carleton," he said, a genial smil_ighting up his face; "but I am glad of an opportunity to wish you a pleasan_rip. Are you a good sailor?"
"I hardly know," she answered. "I have had so little experience on the sea.
Why? Shall we have a stormy passage, do you think?"
"Nothing dangerous; a little rough, perhaps; but with congenial company, suc_s I trust you will find," and his eyes gleamed with kindly merriment, "yo_ill hardly mind that. Good-by, Miss Carleton; bon voyage; and if I can eve_n any way serve you as a friend, do not fail to command me," and before sh_ould reply he had vanished in the crowd. She looked in vain for any trace o_im; then turning to glance at his companion of a moment before, discovere_hat he had disappeared also.
A moment later the great ocean liner glided majestically out from the harbo_mid prolonged cheers and a final flutter of farewells; but she was well ou_pon the tossing waves ere Miss Carleton turned from watching the recedin_hore to join her friends, as yet having found no solution of the proble_erplexing her, nor even the meaning which she felt must be concealed in th_ords of the detective.
They had not been out many hours before it became evident that Mr. Thornton'_nfavorable predictions regarding their journey were likely to be fulfilled.
The sea was decidedly "choppy" and the motion of the boat anything bu_xhilarating.
When the hour for dinner arrived, Mr. Thornton, his daughter, and Mis_arleton were the only members of their party to venture forth to the dining- saloon, the others preferring to have a light repast served in their ow_partments. The captain, having discovered in Mr. Thornton an old-time friend, had ordered seats for him and his party at his own table, and the youn_adies, finding their appetites rather an uncertain quantity, had plenty o_pportunity for observing their fellow-passengers, particularly an Anglomania_f the most pronounced type, in the person of a callow youth seated opposit_hem, whose monocle, exaggerated collar, and affected drawl afforded the_onsiderable amusement.
"Winifred," said Miss Thornton, as they were leaving the dining-saloon, "d_ou see that young Englishman at the farther table?"
Her cousin glanced carelessly in the direction indicated, noting the fine, athletic figure seated, back towards them, at some distance, attired in heav_nglish tweed.
"Yes. What of him?"
"Nothing in particular; only the sight of him is such a relief, you know, after that wretched caricature at our table."
"Poor little harmless dudelet!" mused Winifred, with a smile; "his self- complacency will be short-lived whenever he meets Isabel. She will simpl_nnihilate him with one of those glances of hers!"
At Miss Carleton's suggestion, they went on deck; but Edith grew so rapidl_ll that her cousin assisted her below to their own elegant suite o_partments, which adjoined, on one side, those occupied by Mrs. Mainwaring an_er daughter, while on the other was comfortable state-room belonging to Mrs.
Finding Mrs. Mainwaring and Isabel already reduced to a state of abjec_elplessness which required the attendance of both maids as well as of th_tewardess, Miss Carleton left Edith in Mrs. Hogarth's care, and, wrappin_erself warmly, again went on deck. The wind was increasing and she found th_ecks nearly deserted, but the solitude and the storm suited her mood jus_hen, and, wrapping her rug closely about her, she seated herself in _omparatively sheltered place, alone with her own thoughts.
As she recalled the parting interview with Mr. Whitney, another face seemed t_lash before her vision, and a half-formed query, which had been persistentl_aunting her for the last few hours, now took definite shape and demanded _eply. What would have been the result if that other, instead of leavin_ithout one word of farewell, had asked for the hope of something better an_eeper than friendship? What would her answer have been? Even in the friendl_hadow of the deepening twilight she shrank from facing the truth graduall_orcing itself upon her.
A solitary figure pacing the deck aroused her from her revery. As h_pproached she recognized the young Englishman of whom Edith had spoken.
Dressed in warm jacket, with cap well pulled down over his eyes and hand_lasped behind him, he strode the rolling deck with step as firm and free a_hough walking the streets of his native city. She watched him wit_dmiration, till something in his carriage reminded her of the young secretar_t Fair Oaks, and in the sudden thrill of pleasure produced by that reminde_here was revealed to her inner consciousness a confirmation of the truth sh_ought to evade.
She watched the retreating figure with flashing eyes and burning cheeks. "I_s not true!" she exclaimed, to herself, passionately. "I do not care for him!
It was only a fancy, a foolish infatuation, of which, thank heaven, neither h_or any one else shall ever know."
But the monarch who had taken possession of her heart, call him by what nam_he chose, was not to be so easily dethroned.
Meanwhile, the young English stranger passed and repassed, unconscious of th_igure in the shadow, unconscious of the aversion with which one of hi_ountrywomen regarded him because of his resemblance to another. He, too, wa_ainly seeking the solution of problems which baffled him at every turn, an_aging an ineffectual warfare against the invisible but potent sovereign—Love.
All that night the storm raged with increasing fury, and morning found th_ntire Mainwaring party "on the retired list," as Miss Carleton expressed it.
She herself was the last to succumb, but finally forced to an ignominiou_urrender, she submitted to the inevitable with as good grace as possible, only stipulating that she be left entirely to herself.
Towards night the storm abated slightly, and, weary of her own thoughts, whic_ad been anything but agreeable, and bored by the society of her companions i_isery, she wrapped her rug warmly about her and ventured out on deck. Th_ir, laden with salt spray, seemed invigorating, and without much difficult_he found her way to her sheltered corner of the preceding evening. She ha_een seated but a few moments, however, when the young Englishman made hi_ppearance, as preoccupied and unconscious of his surroundings and as fre_rom any symptoms of discomfort as when she had last seen him. The sight o_im was the signal for the return of the thoughts which had that day kept he_ompany. She cast a wrathful glance upon the unconscious young stranger jus_hen passing, his perfect health and evident good humor under existin_ircumstances adding to her sense of injury and exasperation. She grew ill, and determined to return at once to her apartments, but found her progres_gainst the gale slower and more difficult than she had anticipated. Dizzy an_aint, she had just reached the stairs when a sudden lurch threw her violentl_o one side; she staggered helplessly and would have fallen, but at tha_nstant a strong arm was thrown about her and she felt herself lifted bodily.
With a sigh of relief she turned her head towards her rescuer, supposing hi_ne of the officers of the ship, only to discover, to her horror, that she wa_n the arms of the young Englishman. His face was in the shadow, but the ligh_alling on her own face revealed her features, and at that instant she heard _mothered exclamation,—
"Great heavens! can it be possible?"
Something in the tone startled her and she listened, hoping he would spea_gain. He did not; but she noted the tenderness with which she was borne dow_he stairs and put in care of the stewardess. Again she listened eagerly fo_is voice, but his words were brief and in an altered tone.
During the succeeding twenty-four hours in which Miss Carleton tossed i_isery, one thought was uppermost in her mind,—to discover, if possible, th_dentity of the stranger who had come to her assistance. The only informatio_btainable, however, was that he was evidently a gentleman of wealth, travelling alone, and apparently with no acquaintance on board with th_xception of a young English officer. She determined, at the earliest possibl_oment, to meet her mysterious rescuer and thank him for his kindness, but wa_nable to carry her plan into immediate execution. Meantime, she learned tha_e had twice inquired for her.
On Sunday afternoon, their fourth day out, the storm had ceased and th_eather was gradually clearing, and Miss Carleton, somewhat pale but quit_erself again, came out for a promenade. She found quite a number o_assengers on deck, but for some time she looked in vain for her unknow_riend. At last, after several brisk turns, she saw him standing at a littl_istance, talking with the tall, dark-eyed man whom she had seen i_onversation with Mr. Merrick. The younger man's cap was thrown back, revealing to Miss Carleton the fine profile, almost classical in its beauty, of the secretary at Fair Oaks. For a moment her pulse throbbed wildly. Sh_elt a thrill of pleasure, not unmingled with a twinge of the resentment whic_he had been nursing for the last few days. Then she walked calmly in hi_irection, saying to herself,—
"At least, I will thank him for his kindness. I am no love-lorn peasant mai_earing my heart upon my sleeve!"
She had nearly reached his side, though he was unaware of her presence, whe_he young English officer approached from the other side and, slapping hi_amiliarly upon the shoulder, exclaimed,—
"Well, Mainwaring, my boy, you've kept your sea-legs well on this trip."
The tall, dark-eyed man withdrew, and Miss Carleton, utterly bewildered, turned and slowly retraced her steps. Mainwaring! What did it mean? She hear_he name distinctly, and he had taken it as a matter of course, replyin_leasantly and quietly, as though he had known no other name. The myster_hich she had thought to solve had only deepened tenfold. She was aroused b_he cheery voice of the captain.
"Well, well, Miss Carleton, glad to see you out! I congratulate you on you_peedy recovery. How are the ladies? and how is my old friend Thornton?"
They took a few turns up and down, chatting pleasantly, till Miss Carleton, looking into the face overflowing with kindliness and good humor, said,—
"Captain, I have a great favor to ask of you."
"Granted, my dear young lady, to the half of my kingdom!"
"May I have your permission to examine the list of cabin passengers?"
The captain elevated his shaggy eyebrows and his eyes twinkled with merriment.
"Ah! anxious to learn if some particular friend is on board, I suppose. Som_ne was inquiring of me the other night regarding your identity."
"Indeed!" said Miss Carleton, a world of inquiry in her eyes.
"Yes; Mr. Mainwaring, the gentleman conversing with Lieutenant Cohen ove_here. He and I both went to your assistance the other evening, but, much t_y regret, he was quicker than I. He remarked to me after he came back on dec_hat he had supposed you were a stranger, but that your face looked familiar.
He asked your name, and whether you were with Mr. Thornton and his daughter, stating that he had met you. Correct, I presume?"
"Quite so," said Miss Carleton, quietly.
"And now about that passenger list, Miss Carleton; you have my permission t_xamine it, and I will accompany you myself."
She thanked him. "Are you acquainted with Mr. Mainwaring?" she inquired, carelessly.
"Never met him until this trip. On first learning his name, I supposed him t_e a member of your party, as he is evidently a gentleman; but I soon learne_hat he was alone."
A few moments later the register was opened for Miss Carleton's inspection, but she did not have to search long. Half-way down the first page she found, in the familiar writing of the secretary, the name which she sought—"Harol_cott Mainwaring."