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- Once Aboard The Lugger - 70/75 -


This poor little Mary clung to her little principles. "Don't you see? we're engaged, dear; and being engaged, we oughtn't to live alone like this. People would--"

He began to rave. Certainly he had had a devil of a day; and this was a maddening buffet.

"People!" he cried. "People! People! You're always thinking of people, you women! Who's to know? Who on earth's to know?"

The instinct of generations of training gave her the instinctive reply in the instinctive sweet little tone: "We should know, Georgie," she said.

He flung up his arms: "Oh, good God!"

He swallowed his boiling irritation; laughed 'spite himself; went to his Mary. "Mary, don't be such an utter, utter goose. It's too, too ridiculous."

She took his kiss; but she held her stupid little ground.

"It wouldn't be right, Georgie, _really_!"

Her George clanged the bell with a furious stroke that brought Mrs. Pinking in panic up the stairs. Holding himself very straight, speaking in sentences short and hard, paying to his Mary no smallest attention, he made the arrangements. Miss Humfray would take on her bedroom again. By the week. If Mrs. Pinking would be so kind as to allow them the same terms. He thanked her. That was settled, then. He would look in in the morning. He would say good night, Mrs. Pinking.

Mrs. Pinking gave him good night; busied herself with the tea-things.

Her presence enabled this brutal George to preserve his stony bearing; denied his pretty Mary opportunity to melt him with her tears.

Hard as flint, "Well, good night," he said to her. "I'll look in to- morrow morning."

Upon a little sniff, "Good night," she whispered; strangled an "Oh, George! George!"

She followed him to the door. He was down the stairs before she could command her voice for: "Where shall you go, George?"

With the reckless fury of one who sets forth to plunge into the river, he called back, "I? I? Oh, _anywhere--anywhere_. Who cares where _I_ go?"

The hall door slammed.

* * * * *

Late into that night while a young woman sobbed her pretty eyes out upon a pillow in a back room of Meath Street, Battersea, a young man, who furiously had been pacing London, paced and repaced the street from end to end, gazing the windows of the house where she lay. This young man muttered, gesticulated, groaned. "Oh, damn!" was his song. "Oh, Mary! Oh, what a cursed brute I am!"

It was a bitter ending to a fearful day.

CHAPTER VII.

Mr. William Wyvern In Meath Street.

I.

George spent the night--such of it as remained after his bitter moanings outside his Mary's lodging--with the Mr. Franklyn who had accompanied him on that little "stroll up west" that had terminated in the cab adventure nearly three months before. Of all his student friends who would give him a bed, Mr. Franklyn, because in a way associated with his Mary, had come most prominently into his mind. That same association gave him a lead from which to pour out his reply to Mr. Franklyn's rallying, as they sat at supper, upon his gloom.

"You remember that day after the July exam, when we went up west together?" he began.

Mr. Franklyn remembered; in some gloom shook his head over the recollection. "That waitress you left me with in the shop," said Mr. Franklyn sadly, "she--"

"Oh, hang the waitress! Listen, Franklyn, After I left you I turned up past the Marble Arch--" He proceeded with some account of the love between him and his Mary; skipped all details relating to the cat; came to the impending marriage; sought advice upon the prospects of a man marrying on a locum's earnings.

Mr. Franklyn listened with great sympathy. "It's a rum thing you should be placed like that, George," he said. "I'm in just the same position."

George exclaimed eagerly--in love, youth warms to a companion--"You are!"

"Well, not exactly," Mr. Franklyn admitted. "Very nearly. I've got myself into a brute of a fix over a girl in the lager-beer garden at Earl's Court. She--"

George bounced from the table, seized his hat. "Who cares a damn about your lager-beer girls?" he shouted; slammed from the house.

It was then, while Mr. Franklyn laboriously indited a letter in reply to one received from the lager-beer girl's mother, that George paced Meath Street.

II.

At breakfast with Mr. Franklyn upon the following morning, he was in brighter trim--apologised for his over-night abruptness; apologised for the hasty meal he was making; announced that he was off to see his Mary.

As he lit his pipe, "I'll see you at hospital this morning some time, old chap," he said. "I shall dash in to fix up with the Dean about taking Bingham's place in that practice up in Yorkshire."

Mr. Franklyn prodded for another slice of bacon. "You can't, old chap," he remarked. "That's filled."

George shouted: "Filled! What do you mean?"

"Why, taken--gone. Simpson's got it--ten days ago."

An icy chill smote my poor George. After the dreadful loss of Runnygate everything had depended upon this appointment with its salary considerably above the average.

"Simpson! Simmy got it!" he shouted. "What the blazes does Simmy mean by taking it? He knew I was after it."

"My good lad, you never came near the place after you'd qualified. If Simmy hadn't taken it someone else would. Bingham was in a hurry."

Blankly George stared before him. At length, "I suppose there are several other jobs going?" he asked.

"None on the Dean's list," said Mr. Franklyn. "I was looking at it last night."

Beneath this new distress George postponed the burning desire to clasp his Mary in his arms and beg forgiveness. He hurried to hospital; made for the Dean's office. Here disaster was confirmed. Simpson had already taken the Yorkshire place; the Dean had no other posts on his lists. "Only this Runnygate practice," he said. "I haven't seen you since you qualified. Can you raise the price?"

George, rising and making for the door, could only shake his head. There was something at his throat that forbade speech. Runnygate and all that Runnygate meant--the dear little home, the tight little practice, the tremendous future--was a bitter picture now that it was so utterly lost; now that even this place in Yorkshire was also gone.

He shook his head.

"Great pity!" the Dean told him. "I've kept it for you. Lawrence, the man who's leaving it, is coming to see me at five this evening. I shall have to help him find another purchaser."

III.

The infernal something in George's throat gripped the harder as he took his way to his Mary. He cursed himself for that hideous cat enterprise. Had he never undertaken it, had he continued instead to entreat and implore, there was always the chance that his uncle would have relented and advanced the money sufficient for Runnygate.

As things were, he stood for ever damned in his uncle's eyes; further, by his folly he had encompassed his darling Mary's ejection from a home where she might comfortably have stayed till he was in position to marry her; further, he had just missed the assistantship which, to his present frame of mind, seemed the sole post in the world that would give him sufficient upon which to call his Mary wife.

The desperate thoughts augmented his fearful remorse at his treatment of her overnight. Arrived at Meath Street, admitted by Mrs. Pinking, he bounded up the stairs, tremendous in his agony of love.

His Mary had her pretty nose pressed flat against the window. With dim eyes she had been gazing for her George in the opposite direction from that he had approached.

He closed the door behind him.

"Mary!" he called, arms outstretched.

Into them she flung herself.


Once Aboard The Lugger - 70/75

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