kindness and attention. I wish you happy, sir—I wish you a kind good-by."
Mr. Gilmore came next.
"I hope we shall have a future opportunity of bettering our acquaintance, Mr. Hartright. You quite understand about that little matter of business being safe in my hands? Yes, yes, of course. Bless me, how cold it is! Don't let me keep you at the door. Bon voyage, my dear sir—bon voyage, as the French say."
Miss Halcombe followed.
"Half-past seven to-morrow morning," she said—then added in a whisper, "I have heard and seen more than you think. Your conduct to-night has made me your friend for life."
Miss Fairlie came last. I could not trust myself to look at her when I took her hand, and when I thought of the next morning.
"My departure must be a very early one," I said. "I shall be gone, Miss Fairlie, before you——"
"No, no," she interposed hastily, "not before I am out of my room. I shall be down to breakfast with Marian. I am not so ungrateful, not so forgetful of the past three months——"
Her voice failed her; her hand closed gently round mine—then dropped it suddenly. Before I could say "Good-night" she was gone.
The end comes fast to meet me—comes inevitably, as the light of the last morning came at Limmeridge House.
It was barely half-past seven when I went down stairs—but I found them both at the breakfast-table waiting for me. In the chill air, in the dim light, in the gloomy morning silence of the house, we three sat down together, and tried to eat, tried to talk. The struggle to preserve appearances was hopeless and useless; and I rose to end it.
As I held out my hand, as Miss Halcombe, who was nearest to me, took it, Miss Fairlie turned away suddenly and hurried from the room.
"Better so," said Miss Halcombe, when the door had closed—"better so, for you and for her."
I waited a moment before I could speak—it was hard to lose her, without a parting word or a parting look. I controlled myself; I tried to take leave of Miss Halcombe in fitting terms; but all the farewell words I would fain have spoken dwindled to one sentence.