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gône down; for there was some little trouble about getting a man and horse to tow us up to Oxford—where more permanent arrangements were to be made. Thus it was that we three set forth by ourselves : two of us making ostentatious display of their silly affection for each other; the third driven in selfdefence to the invertebrate garrulities of the House of Commons.
As the train slowed into Kingston Station, we perceived a young gentleman eagerly scanning the carriages. He was a straight-limbed, slimly-built young fellow, of pale complexion, with good features, intelligent grey eyes, chestnut-brown hair, and a small brown moustache. He wore a blue jacket, white ducks, and yachting-shoes.
“Peggy,” said the elder of the two women, as they stepped out and on to the platform, “ let me introduce to you Mr. Duncombe-Miss Rosslyn."
The quick look of surprise that appeared on the young man's face! Had our familiar speaking about Peggy deceived him ? Perhaps he was not prepared to find this American young lady so distinguished-looking, and so calm and self-possessed ; to say nothing of the observant, direct glance of her clear-shining eyes. Miss Peggy bowed complacently and not unkindly; and the young man, recovering a little from his embarrassment, turned to his hostess and explained that he had a youth below and a barrow for the transference of our luggage, and that he had left Murdoch in charge of the boat. Then these two, the luggage having been carried down, walked on ahead; leaving Miss Peggy to follow with the only companion left her.
“ Well ?” one says to her, by way of encouragement and inquiry.
She does not care to look up in answer : you would think she was quite interested in the dusty road before her.
And then Miss Peggy slowly raises her eyes, when she has had time to make them quite inscrutable. It is a trick she has when she dares you to read any meaning into them.
“ Well ?"
though there is the smallest, faintest curve at the end of her lips hat speaks of a dark concealment.
“What do you think of him ?”
“Of your friend?" she says, artlessly; and she glances ahead. “Oh, well, I think he is rather good-looking; that is tall one can say as yet."
“Miss Peggy, are you going to let him alone?"
“I didn't think you were going to accuse me of such things, even in fun. You are always kirid to me-and--and defending me against everybody. Besides, didn't I tell you you would see for yourself, all the day long, how well I behave?” But
you mustn't behave too well, Miss Peggy; that would never do; we might begin to think you had some definite kind of a character about you. Don't you know what made that small woman there determined to inveigle you into going with us? It was because you had no angles of character at all; because you were nothing but simply nice."
“Did she say I was nice ?” she inquires, with a touch of shyness.
“And did you agree with her ?” asks this bold hussyshowing what her shyness is worth.
"I? Oh, well, that's asking questions, and too soon. You know what the man said who went off in a balloon by himself; he said, “This is very nice, I hope /' We'll see, Miss Peggy. We'll have a little scrutiny of your conduct before saying anything definite. We'll give you a written warranty afterwards."
“And that is all you trust me?” says Miss Peggy, looking very, very much hurt and aggrieved. “Well, then, I will tell you this: sometimes I imagine it is you who say all those wicked things about me, while professing to be my friend the whole time. I believe it is your wife who is my real friend, and that it is you who put suspicions into her mind. But I will show you how wrong you are. I will just show you how wrong you are. And then, when you are heartily ashamed of yourself, I hope you will apologise."
At this moment Miss Peggy is regarding those other two in front: a smile begins to hover about her lips; the faintest dimple appears in her cheek; but her eyes are inscrutably grave. She turns towards her companion.
“Yes, he is rather good-looking. Don't you think so ?”
6 You villain ! !"
No other protest is possible ; for here we are down at the river; and there is the long white thing-an elongated Noah's Ark—a white-washed gondola it seems—that is to be our home for many a day. And here is Murdoch come ashore-a sailorlike, sunburned young fellow, who has made himself smart in his steward suit and peaked cap; he is very bashful before the young lady stranger; he waits to be spoken to by Queen Tita, who is an old friend and sea-faring comrade of his.
"Well, Murdoch," says she, “and what do you think of the boat, now you have seen her?"
Murdoch glances towards the Nameless Barge with evident disfavour; but he is too courteous to say anything very disparaging
“I thought, Mem, it wass to be a yat,” he says, still regarding that long white eel of a thing. “A yacht? Oh, no.
We couldn't take a yacht away inland. Why,” she says, with a smile, looking at him, “I believe you are quite disappointed!”
“Oh, no, Mem. Maybe it is a good boat for the purpose maybe it uz. But I would not like for us to be going round Ru Hunish in that." “I dare say not.
But she could lie at anchor well enough in the Sound of Ulva, couldn't she? You remember the place, Murdoch ?"
There is a quick look of pleasure in Murdoch's clear, dark
“Ay, indeed, Mem; it wass many's the time we were in there; and a nice place it wass to be in, Mem, when the Gometra men did not forget to bring us bread from the steamer.”
“Murdoch, this is Miss Rosslyn; she is an American young lady, who wants to see all about England, you know; and you'll have to do everything to make her comfortable while she is on board."
“Oh, yes, Mem; but I wish the young leddy wass going with us on a yat, Mem,” says Murdoch, rather pathetically: it is clear that he regards our present expedition as a sad falling off from others he has known in former days.
Queen Tita looks at him and laughs a little.
“Oh, no, Mem; indeed not that, Mem,” says this bashfuleyed young fellow (who would scarcely even look Peggy's way). “I am sure I do not care what kind of a boat it
will ask me to go, Mem; and it's ferry glad I am to be going with you, Mem, whateffer the kind of boat.”
It was a pretty speech, in intention, and may have helped to put that sprat of a creature into an amiable frame of mind. At all events, when we got the two women bundled on board, disappointment was not the mood in which they took possession of their new quarters. They were simply delighted with everything; could not express their admiration of all the cunning little arrangements; must needs ransack the pantry, and overhaul the cooking apparatus ; were astonished at the convenience and snugness of the berths; and then, when it was intimated to them that the saloon forward, when not required for meals, was to be their own especial boudoir, into which meaner members of the company might occasionally be admitted on invitation, you should have seen how naturally Queen Tita began to roll up the red silk blinds of the small windows, so as to let plenty of light in, and Miss Peggy, taking her banjo from its case, at once found a hook where it could hang.
“We must get some flowers for the table,” said Miss Peggy.
“God grant I have no need of thee !” remarked her friend, addressing the waterproof that she was folding up for stowage in the rack.
They were at home at once. They sat down opposite each other, to admire all the cheap Tottenham-court-road finery around them- the Utrecht velvet cushions, the mirrors, the sconces, and what not; and they had no word of complaint against the character of the decoration.
“Well, I do think this is very comfortable,” says the elder of them.
“I call it perfectly charming,” says the younger.
“I am sure we are very much obliged to Mr. Duncombewhere is he?” And then she cries : “Why, I declare, we're moving !”
There could be no doubt of the fact; for a glance out at the forward window showed that we were being towed across the river by a small boat pulled by two men. And ci course the women must needs see the start; and as that forward window was found to open on to a space of deck at the bow, they had no difficulty in getting out there, and commanding an excellent view of all that was going on.
Where was Jack Duncombe all this time? Why, he was steering. He was responsible for all the arrangements of our setting-forth ; and his air was serious, not to say important. He had neither word nor look for the women-folk; and they, of course, knew better than to talk to the man at the wheel. They humbly looked on as he got the boat close to the bank, and, springing ashore, proceeded to get ready the towing-line. The horse, adorned with bows of ribbon, was there, waiting; so was the driver. We should start in a minute at furthest.
But alas ! for our assiduous and serious-eyed young friend. No sooner is the line attached than the gaily-decorated steed appears to think he ought to do something; and what he does is far from what we want him to do. He proceeds to dance around on his hind legs, scattering the small boys who have assembled, and paying no heed at all to the man, who clings desperately to his head. It is a humiliating spectacle—a beast pawing the air in that fashion, as if he were imitating a bear at a show. Our women-folk are too ashamed to laugh; but Mr. Duncombe, no doubt, assumes that they are laughing, and very angry he becomes.
"Wol you confounded beast! Come down, you brute !' ”