Her Hero by Ethel M. Dell
Priscilla left a hastily scribbled note for Carfax in Froggy's keeping. In it she explained that she was obliged to go to town, but that she would meet him there any day before noon at any place that he would appoint. Froggy was to be the medium of his communication also.
She made no mention of Carfax to her father. He had hurt her far too deeply for any confidence to be possible. Moreover, it seemed to her that she had no right to speak until Carfax himself gave her leave.
She did not see her stepmother till the following day. The greeting between them was of the coolest, though Lady Raffold, being triumphant, sought to infuse a little sentiment into hers.
"I am really worn out, Priscilla," she said. "It is my turn now to have a little rest. I am going to leave all the hard work to you. It will be such a relief."
Three days later, however, she relinquished this attitude. Priscilla was summoned to her room, where she was breakfasting, and found her in great excitement.
"My dear child, he has arrived. He has actually arrived, and is staying at the Ritz. He must come and dine with us to-morrow night. It will be quite an informal affair--only thirty--so it can easily be managed. He must take you in, Priscilla; and, oh, my dear, do remember that it is the great opportunity of your life, and it mustn't be thrown away, whatever happens! Your father has set his heart upon it."
"Are you talking about Mr. Cochrane?" asked Priscilla.
"To be sure. Who else? Now don't put on that far-away look, pray! You know what is, after all, your simple duty, and I trust you mean to do it. You can't be going to disappoint your father in this matter. And you really must marry soon Priscilla. It is getting serious. In fact, it worries me perpetually. By the way, here is a letter for you from Raffold. It must have got among mine by mistake. Mrs. Burrowes's handwriting, I imagine."
She was right. It was directed by Froggy, but Priscilla paled suddenly as she took it, realising that it contained an answer to her own urgent note.
Alone in her own room she opened it. The message was even briefer than hers had been: "Sweetheart,--At 11 A.M., on Thursday, under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.--I am thine, J. C."
Priscilla stood for long seconds with the note in her hand. It had reached her too late. The appointment had been for the day before. She turned to the envelope, and saw that it must have been lying among her stepmother's correspondence for two days. Doubtless he had waited for her at the trysting-place, and waited in vain.
Only one thing remained to be done, and that was to telegraph to Froggy for Carfax's address. But Froggy's answer, when it came, was only another disappointment:
"Address not known. Did you not receive letter I forwarded?"
Reluctantly Priscilla realised that there was nothing for it but patience. Carfax would almost certainly write again through Froggy.
That he had not her address she knew, for Froggy was under a solemn vow to reveal nothing, but she would not believe that he would regard her failure to keep tryst as a deliberate effort to snub him, though the fear that he might do so haunted and grew upon her all through the day.
She went to a theatre that night, and later to a dance, but neither entertainment served to lift the deadening weight from her spirits. She was miserable, and the four hours she subsequently spent in bed brought her no relief.
She rose at last in sheer desperation, and went for an early ride in the Park. She met a few acquaintances, but she shook them off. She wanted to be alone.
When she was returning, however, her youthful admirer, Lord Harfield, attached himself to her, refusing to be discouraged.
"I met your cousin at the Club yesterday," he told her.
"What is he like?" Priscilla asked, without much interest.
"Oh, haven't you seen him yet? A very queer fish, with a twang you could cut with a knife. Don't think you'll like him," said Lord Harfield, who was jealous of every man who so much as bowed to Priscilla.
Priscilla smiled faintly.
"I don't think so, either," she said. "You are coming to dine with us to-night, aren't you? He will be there too."
"Will he? I say, what a bore for you! Yes, I'm coming. I'll do my best to help you," the boy assured her eagerly.
And again Priscilla smiled. She was quite sure that she would be bored, whatever happened, though she was too kind-hearted to say so.