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drive?" she asked.
"As far as Castle de Lys," said Lord Francis.
She started. "Then you are . . . ." she began.
"My name is Charmian," he explained.
"Oh!" cried the lady; "and what must you think of
me?"

"My dear Mrs. Fletcher," said Charmian, pressing
her hand, "I think you're a brick."

He closed the door with a bang, the horses started
forward, James plied his whip, and the faint light of the
stars gleamed for an instant upon a face set in rich
furs, smiling from the carriage window. Charmian
turned to Jacob.



Vol. i«-i4 , 207



CHAPTER V

AURELIA

Lord Francis had watched with satisfaction the slow
approach of the Cape boat towards the quay at South-
ampton ; and as they lay alongside, his eyes, roving
upon the scenes and faces by him, sparkled with un-
accustomed pleasure. He had been three weeks within
the walls of the liner, and his restless nature was de-
ranged by so great a captivity and the endurance of one
company so long. His heart rose from its depression,
and he surveyed the lively faces of the returning pas-
sengers and their shore friends with exhilaration. As
he stood thus, indolently awaiting his opportunity, and
gazing upon the stream of bustling people, his attention
was drawn momentarily by a figure upon the quay. It
was that of a girl clad in a blue skirt that danced in the
sharp spring breeze. She held a hand to her hat to
keep it from the rowdy wind, and the March morning
had colored and brightened the pretty features below it.
He noticed so much and no more, for by then his
chance had come; and, giving final instructions to
Jacob with regard to his luggage, he stepped down the
gangway ladder with a small bag in his hand. Friendly
people, pushing to and fro, nudged, jogged him, and
apologized; fellow-passengers smiled farewells, waved
good-byes, and detained him to whisper invitations;
and thus, in a current of noise and traffic and beaming
anxious faces, he passed to the quay, and laying down
his bag, stood looking for a porter.

208



THE SKIRTS OF CHANCE

It was high noon, and he meant to lunch at an hotel
ere going through to London. Here in this little back-
water of the rolling current he remained, searching out
of his inquiring and unresting eyes; and presently his
gaze fell once more upon that light-blue blowing figure
with the dancing eyes and the attitude of expectation.
Their glances met; the sea-wind shook her like a reed,
and the gown fluttered and tore and cracked about her
ankles. A faint smile crept into Charmian's expression,
and was echoed upon hers. Suddenly behind that dim
confession of sympathy grew boldly a blaze of under-
standing; and the girl, lifting her hand from her hat,
made a quick little run towards him, coming to a pause
abruptly and breathlessly, with pink-flushed cheeks.

"Aren't you Frank?" she asked excitedly.

"Indeed," said Charmian, smiling gaily, "I have that
honor."

"I knew it — I guessed it," cried she, with enthusiasm.
"Mother said you wouldn't come, but would be sure to
miss your boat as before; and Cissy said nothing. And
Hilda and Margaret hoped you would, but I was the
only one who said you would."

"Well," said Lord Francis in his friendly manner,
"so you see you are justified of your faith; and I take it
unkindly of both mother and Cissy. I don't like
Cissy's silence, to say the truth."

The girl stared at him, and then gave a little laugh.

"You're not at all what I supposed you would be,"
she went on. "Cissy never told us anything like this.
You see we — I "

"I began to see," said Charmian pleasantly, "that I
shall have a crow to pluck with Cissy. But you must
be " He hesitated.

"Aurelia," she cried gaily.

"Of course," said he; "and I should have guessed it
anywhere."

209



COMEDY

"Well, now," she rattled on, as prettily as ever, "you
must come with me, as I've got a trap waiting. I drove
the dog-cart over myself, and Redding is waiting with
it off the quay. So — where's your luggage?"

"My luggage, my dear Aurelia, will follow in due
course," replied Charmian promptly.

It appeared that he was being taken possession of,
and he liked the situation. No one could say that he
had put out a finger to assist in this mistake. His
whimsical mind took flight, and with a jest he grasped
his bag. "Come along," said he, — "I'll race you,
Aurelia." The girl laughed lightly and, lifting her
skirts with one hand, accepted his challenge, so that
presently they found themselves by the gates, breath-
less, smiling, and hugely enjoying one another. Char-
mian threw the bag into the dog-cart; the youth in
livery touched his hat; and the girl leapt swiftly in.
Lord Francis lingered, and gazed for one moment into
her face. He wondered who the deuce she was, and
to what he was committing himself.

"If you don't jump up, Frank, I'll run over you," said
Aurelia, who had grown warm under his eyes.

"Try," said he, and leaped with alacrity to a place be-
side her. The horse started at a sharp pace. They
drove through the town, and out upon a settled and
wind-swept country, brightening under the young
spring sun.

"You will be glad to hear that Baby is rampageously
well," said Aurelia presently.

"Now, I wonder who in the name of goodness Baby
may be," thought Charmian; but aloud he said, "I am
delighted to hear it. I have always had a great interest
in Baby."

The girl turned her eyes on him curiously, and meet-
ing his, broke out smiling. "Oh, you are not a bit



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Online LibraryUnknownClassic tales by famous authors (Volume 18) → online text (page 14 of 20)