It was some time since he had given Clyde Burnaby more than an occasional thought; his immediate affairs had been too pressing. Now the vision of her, as he had seen her last, rose before his eyes, and he found it a pleasant recollection.
Burnaby was forbid the court, and published a memorial in his own vindication; on the other hand, the king of Sweden justified his conduct in a rescript sent to all the foreign ministers. The king of Great Britain had proposed a subsidy-treaty to Sweden, which, from the influence of French councils, was rejected.
When they were seated came the embarrassing moment when it became necessary to find a conversational topic of common acquaintance. But this passed easily. From the table decorations Clyde turned deftly to flowers in general, to trees, to outdoor things. Casey Dunne laughed gently. "You are trying to talk of things I am expected to know about, aren't you, Miss Burnaby?"
"Would you like to hear it?" he asked, turning to Mary Rochefort. "Certainly!" she laughed. "Is it very immoral?" "Extremely," vouchsafed Burnaby, "from the accepted point of view." "Tell it in the other room," suggested Mrs. Ennis. "We'll sit before the fire and tell ghost stories." There was a trace of grimness in Burnaby's answering smile. "Curiously enough, it is a ghost story," he said.
Indeed it is difficult to see why the fellow does a thing so nameless and yet so formidable to look at, unless on the theory that he likes it. I suspect that is why; and I suspect it is at least ten per cent. of why Lord Beaconsfield and Mr. Gladstone have debated so much in the House of Commons, and why Burnaby rode to Khiva the other day, and why the Admirals courted war like a mistress.
So Burnaby got up and disposed of as much of himself as was possible in a hamper on the top of the cart. I sat on the shaft, and taking the reins out of the old gentleman's resistless hand, drove off down the road at quite a respectable pace. After we had gone about a mile the old gentleman, who had been employing his unwonted leisure in staring at us all over, broke into a chuckle.
Ennis; she was watching intently Pollen's half-averted face. Burnaby threw away his cigarette. "At first," he said, "it seemed to me like the most ordinary of stories the usual fixed idea that the rejected lover carries around with him for a year or so until he forgets it; the idea that the girl will regret her choice and one day kick over the traces and hunt him up.
Pollen spoke first, but with some difficulty, as if in the long period of listening on his part his throat had become dry. "It's very interesting," he said; "very! But what's it all about? And you certainly don't believe it, do you?" "Of course I do," answered Burnaby calmly. "You should, too; it's true." Mary Rochefort looked up with an exclamation. "Gracious!" she said.
We had been staying a week with Burnaby in his father's old home, and it had been settled, on the invitation of his old friend Henry Doetsch, that we should meet again later in the year, and set out for Spain to spend a month at Huelva.
He paused, and with half-closed eyes studied the effect of his announcement. "You mean ?" asked Burnaby. "Exactly." Sir John spoke with a certain cool eagerness. "He sat up before all those people and told the inner secrets of his life; and of them all I was the only one who suspected the truth. Of course, he was comparatively safe, none of them knew him well except myself, but think of it!