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"No," she said, hastily. “I am very very sorry; but it can never be.”
“Thanks,” said Loyd, feeling that she meant to be kind, and standing up bravely under the blow. But when he turned away, Irvine saw the sorrow in his frank, open face. “How are you?” muttered Loyd, with a mechanical nod. Irvine shook his hand, and looked at Miss Katharine with curious disfavour. He could not bear to see her inflicting pain. He certainly did not wish her to marry this stolid young Guardsman; and yet that antagonism to the other sex which he sometimes felt, was strong in him for the moment. He thought that woman was incomprehensible, and he was impatient of puzzles. He had come for the purpose of being agreeable to a beautiful young lady; but when Loyd had passed him and re-entered the room, he looked at her, who was more beautiful than ever, with a somewhat cross expression. Miss Adare, for her part, aggrieved at being obliged to pain a friend, was inclined to compensate herself by making another friend suffer. She assumed a calm and gentle appearanoe, and contemplated the Park.
"I am afraid I came at the wrong moment," said he.
“Not at all,” said she. “You are absolutely refreshing; quite a novelty in society.”
“So you are bored already? And yet you have woman's dearest amusement.”
Irvine intended to throw a world of meaning into his last sentence; but Katharine clearly misunderstood him, for she briefly observed, “Dancing.”
Irvine was at once repelled and powerfully attracted by the young lady. “Are you really tired of the season ?” he asked.
"Do say something original. Everybody begins to talk about being tired of the season, and to ask where everybody else is going, and nobody cares about the answer.”
“Not even Loyd,” said Irvine, bitterly.
Miss Katharine raised her eyebrows, and then laughed lightly. She would not for the world have allowed Irvine to suspect how tender her heart was at the moment. “What are you doing with yourself now?” she asked, carelessly, playing with her fan.
“And nobody cares about the answer,” he remarked.
She looked at him with a most mischievous air. “Perhaps you are doing nothing," she suggested.
“You are right,” said he, with a short laugh ; " but at least I am not playing— "
Here he stopped in some trepidation; and she said “Yes ?” in a tone of voice which suggested danger.
“It's no business of mine," said he.
“Irvine,” she said, with a delightful assumption of gravity, "I think that you give yourself too much to solitude. You should go out more into society, and learn to make yourself agreeable."
“Perhaps you will teach me.”
“Certainly. I shall begin by telling Ned where you ought to go; but” (she had kept her keenest shaft for him) “London must be very dull after Italy."
Irvine flushed hotly. It was peculiarly distasteful to him to hear an allusion to Italy from her lips. He shifted himself about in an impatient manner.
“Do sit down," said the young lady, blandly. “It's fatiguing to see you jumping about; and it's too hot to dance."
He sat down, and wondered why he did not go away. Nevertheless he remained, answered questions, and gave a lame explanation of his disappearance since the end of term. Miss Adare was unlike herself. Her tongue was flippant, but her heart was full of sorrow for the brave youth who had gone, and troubled by the sudden appearance of his eccentric successor.
“Who is the new swain?” whispered Mrs Midelmass Duff, as she twirled her long gown after her on to the balcony, and allowed her large darkrimmed eyes to rest for a moment on Mr Dale.
"I can tell you,” said little Tom Peepin, eagerly, at her ear; and his information was rewarded by that silvery laugh which was the lady's greatest charm.
Irvine, who fancied that he caught the word “prig,” glared at the amiable Mr Peepin in a bloodthirsty manner. He walked home that evening feverish but interested. Life was an exciting matter, though somewhat stuffy, and moving on to waltz-tunes.
ON THE TERRACE.
PEOPLE were more or less interested by the fact that the beautiful Miss Adare had a new admirer. Captain Loyd disappeared, and his friend Tom Peepin imparted the reason to everybody in the strictest confidence.
“What can the girl be waiting for?" asked the Duchess of Ruffborough; "surely not for this jerky young man?”
" Jerky !” cried Mr Hubert Hanley Smart Hanley - "that is good, my dear duchess — that is very good.” He had a great appreciation of the duchess's jokes.
“They say that he is enormously rich," murmured old Lady Dunduffy, with a sigh, and a pathetic glance at her Amelia, whose shoulders were really not bad.