Once Aboard the Lugger Part 48

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V.

"My darling!" cried George.

"Georgie!"

They embraced.

He held her to him; kissed the soft gold hair.

On a movement in the next room his Mary wriggled free. "Tell me."

"By Gad, it's been awful! Did you hear me in that room?"

She nodded, laughing at him. He kissed the smiles.

"Oh, do be careful! Let _go_, George; let _go_. I couldn't hear what you said. But you were hours--_hours_."

"Years," said George. "Years. Aeons of time. I have aged considerably.

I thought it would never end. It was appalling."

She clasped her pretty hands. "But tell me, George. Do tell me. I don't understand _anything_. What has _happened?_"

"Give me time," George told her. "I am not the same George. The light- hearted George of yore is dead under Miss Ram's chair. I am old and seamed with care."

"George, _do, do_ tell me! Don't fool."

"I'm not fooling. I can't fool. You don't realise what I have been through. You have no heart. I can't fool. When I was a child I thought as a child; I did childish things. But now that I have been through Miss Ram's hands my bright boyhood is sapped. I am old and stricken in years."

"Oh, Georgie, _do, do_ tell me!"

This ridiculous George gave a boyish laugh; clasped his Mary again; squeezed her to him till she gasped. "I've got you, Mary!" he said. He kissed the gold hair. "I've got you. I'm going to see you every day.

You're coming down to live at Herons' Holt."

Then he told her.

VI.

Miss Ram returned; directed at George a bow that Was one huge note of interrogation.

"Quite satisfactory," George replied. "I am sure my uncle will agree."

"There is, of course," objected Miss Ram, "the unfortunate matter of references."

George took a frank air. "Miss Ram, I am quite willing to take your personal a.s.surances on that matter. On behalf of my uncle I accept them."

"I will send a written statement of the matter," said Miss Ram. Her air was dogged.

"I most solemnly a.s.sure you that is unnecessary."

Miss Ram killed him with a bow. "It is my custom. I have the reputation of seventeen years to sustain."

George quailed.

"Your uncle," Miss Ram exclaimed, "will also wish to see Miss Humfray.

She shall go this afternoon."

"Not this afternoon," George told her. "No. To-morrow. He could not see her to-day."

"Very well. To-morrow. To-night I will write the references to him.

Kindly pay the fee to Miss Porter in the office. Good morning!"

She pushed him off with a stabbing bow. He fled.

VII.

In that delectable interview during Miss Ram's absence George had arranged with his Mary that this was a day to be celebrated. She should not proceed instantly to be weighed by Mr. Marrapit; let that ordeal be given to the morrow. This splendid day should splendidly end; tremendous gaiety should with a golden clasp fasten the golden hours of the morning. In the afternoon he had a lecture and clinical demonstrations. Like a horse he would work till half-past six. At seven he would meet his Mary in Sloane Square.

So it was. At that hour George from the top of his 'bus spied his Mary upon the little island in the Square. He sprang down and his first action was to show a fat and heavy sovereign, pregnant with delights, lying in his palm.

"Borrowed," said George. "One pound sterling. Twenty s.h.i.+llings net.

And every penny of it is going to fly."

He called a hansom, and they smoothly rolled to Earl's Court.

When sovereigns are rare possessions, how commanding an air the feel of one imparts! Mary watched her George with pride. How masterful was he! How deferential the head waiter at the restaurant in the Exhibition became! The man was putting them off with an inner table.

Her George by a look and a word had him in a minute to right-abouts, and one of the coveted tables upon the verandah was theirs. Waiters flocked about. With such an air did George command the cheapest wine upon the list that the waiter, whose lip ordinarily would have curled at such an order, hastened to its execution with dignity of task, deference of service.

They ate robustly through the menu: faltered not nor checked at a single dish. They pa.s.sed remarks upon their neighbours. At intervals George would say, "Isn't this fine, Mary?"; or his Mary would say, "Oh, Georgie, isn't this splendid?" And the other would answer, "Rather!"

A meal and a conversation to make your proper lovers shudder! There was no nibbling at and toying with food; there was no drinking and feasting from the light of one another's eyes. When George felt thirsty he would put his nose in the cheap claret and keep it there till mightily refreshed; such hungry yearnings as his Mary felt she satisfied with knife and fork. These were very simple children and exceedingly healthy.

But while his Mary's tongue ached with a cold, cold ice, George was in the pangs of mental arithmetic. As the bill stood, that pregnant sovereign had given birth to all the delights of which it was capable; was shattered and utterly wrecked in child-bed.

A waiter came bustling. There was just time. George leant across.

"Mary, when I ask you if you'll have coffee, say you prefer it outside--it's cheaper there."

"Coffee, sir?"

"Special coffee," George ordered nonchalantly. "Yes, two. One moment.

Would you rather have your coffee outside near the band, Mary?"

His Mary was splendid. She looked around the room, she looked into the cool night--and there her eye longer lingered. "It's cooler outside,"

she said. "I think it would be nicer outside, if you don't mind."

Once Aboard the Lugger Part 48

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Once Aboard the Lugger Part 48 summary

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