But just before the end where it might linger longest in the memory came a paragraph which riveted Lady Gertrude's attention. "And how about Nan's portrait?" Isobel had written. "I suppose by this time it is finished and adorning the picture gallery? That is, if Roger has really succeeded in persuading Mr. Rooke to part with it.
Nan's "feeble" chair came the night before the opening, and all three of the children christened it, by getting in, and wheeling it over the shining floors at a high rate of speed, thereby proving it to be anything but feeble. The morning train brought a bevy of pale-faced, joyless-looking waifs.
I may see a friend perhaps I may see the other fellow's friend, and with my lone cartridge I may be able to bluff him out of a horse," he suggested, gazing at the crimson tie that flowed from Nan's open neck. "By the way," he added, his glance resting on her right side as he noticed the absence of her holster, "where is your protector to-day?" She made no answer.
Believe me, Nan" his voice roughened "it's far worse to be married to someone you don't love than to remain unmarried all your days." "I am very glad to meet you, my dear." The frosty voice entirely failed to confirm the sense of the words as Lady Gertrude Trenby bent forward and imprinted a somewhat chilly kiss on Nan's cheek.
"It's because it's easier to play than to work," she replied with grim candour. "Don't scold, Penny." Nan brought the influence of a pair of appealing blue eyes to bear on the matter. "I really mean to begin work soon." "When?" demanded the other searchingly. Nan's charming mouth, with its short, curved upper lip, widened into a smile of friendly mockery.
The old Admiral, who had at the outset given her that nickname, spent a great deal of time that might have been profitably employed otherwise in deliberately inventing impieties, each of which was bruited about in certain circles as 'Nan's last; and if you happened to meet him anywhere between the United Service Club and Spring Gardens, completely self-absorbed, his face brimming over with laughter, you might be sure he was just putting on a finishing touch.
He was anxious on Nan's account to meet him early. The difficulty was to meet him without the mob of hangers-on whose appetite had been whetted with the prospect of a death, and perhaps more than one, in the meeting of men whose supremacy with the gun had never been successfully disputed.
The nights still being chilly, a roaring wood fire had been built, adding a note of cheerfulness to an otherwise sombre apartment. "This was Nan's room," he said suddenly. "Nan's room!" I echoed glancing about the shadowy interior. "Rather heavy for a girl." "It is a trifle severe," he agreed, "but I dare say it was different when she was here. Her things are all packed away in the attic."
With never such apprehension, never such stealth, never so heavy a secret, so sensible a burning in cheek and eye, as when she tiptoed into her uncle's room at midnight, Nan's heart beat as the wings of a bird beat from the broken door of a cage into a forbidden sky of happiness. She had left the room a girl; she came back to it a woman.
It was not until the great snow-plow and a special locomotive appeared the next morning, and towed the stalled train on to its destination, and Nan Sherwood and her chum arrived at Tillbury, that Nan learned anything more regarding Mr. Ravell Bulson. Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood had been more than a little worried by Nan's delay in getting home and Mr.