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Chapter 15 MUTUAL SURPRISES

  • 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.
  • Hogarth.
  • 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."