Over The Hills, and Far Away: A Story of New Zealand
Chapter XIV. The End of the Concert
Chapter XIV. The End of the Concert.
Doctor Dacre was not away long; he soon returned and resumed his seat, looking so cool and unconcerned that Lucy felt quite reassured by one glance at his face. And in about half an hour Arthur Winstanley, too, came in, very pale, but quite himself again to all outward appearance. Just as he entered it became Clinton's turn to sing his last solo. This was nearly at the close of the evening. Lucy made her father applaud Clinton vigorously, and he got the encore he wished for. Then came a glee, and then “God save the Queen,” when, of course, every one rose.page 147
After this the people streamed out. Those who chose to wait until the crush was over grew into isolated little groups, and were full in view of each other. The Priors, Arthur Winstanley, and Mr. Cunningham, formed one of these; Clinton was hunting for some music on the platform, and Louis was with him. Lucy had gone to fetch some wraps from the small room at the entrance, used that night as a cloak-room; and Dacre, having waylaid her as she came out, was getting the interview he had been looking forward to so long. Not very far from the platform the two ladies who had interested Arthur Winstanley so much were still standing.
Mr. Winstanley detached himself from his own party, and walked quietly down the room towards them. As he drew near, the younger lady, with the coral in her hair, suddenly dropped her fan. Arthur made a hasty step forwards, as though to restore it to her, but she was too quick for him. She picked it up, and turned rather away from the rest of her party as she did so. Any one who had noticed her page 148 face at this moment would have seen that it expressed the blankest dismay.
Arthur Winstanley immediately addressed her; he spoke a very few words in an under tone, but all the world might have heard what he said. It was simply a request to know when and where it would be convenient to her to grant him an interview. She replied in the same tone, and naming a time and place.
This was all that passed between them. He bowed, and she returned the salute, and then he walked away again back to his own friends. The whole affair had not lasted two minutes, and her face never lost its startled expression till he had fairly gone.
On his way up the room he passed Lucy and Dacre. Dacre turned and looked hard at him, as he went by, with a somewhat puzzled face. Lucy ventured to ask him if that was not the gentleman who had been taken ill that evening.
“Yes,” Dacre returned, “it is. But what puzzles me is that I seem to remember having met him before, and I cannot recall where.” He stood a page 149 moment, evidently taxing his memory for something that had escaped him, and apparently in vain.
“His name is Mr. Winstanley,” said Lucy.
But this did not enlighten Dacre in the least. “I have seen the fellow before somewhere,” he said—“of that I am certain—and it must have been under a different name. But where and when I met him I cannot recollect at all.”
Lucy did not feel able to help him any further; but she thought it strange, if he were indeed right in his conjecture, that Arthur Winstanley had not already recalled himself to Dacre's remembrance.
Quite a little hum of conversation was going on at the upper end of the room.
“Mr. Brown played exquisitely, didn't he? I was quite enchanted.”
Those ‘Lieder ohne Worte’ are so bewitching!”
“And how sweetly Miss Jones sang!”
“Did you observe Mrs. Robinson's dress? Pearl-grey silk, and blue convolvulus in her hair. So lovely!”page 150
“She has just had a box from home. No doubt that sweet silk came in it!”
“The applause from the diggers behind was less uproarious than I expected.”
“Who was the poor man that fainted, I wonder?”
“The heat was enough to make any fellow faint. Why did not some one open a window?”
So ran the comments of the “upper ten thousand” upon the evening's amusement.
“Papa,” said Lucy, “I want to introduce you to Doctor Dacre.”
Mr. Cunningham took a fancy to Dacre's face, and invited him to Maungarewa on the spot. Clinton Meredith joined them, and they all four left the room together, followed in a moment by the Priors and Arthur Winstanley.
The instant they had disappeared Laura looked at Louis, and made him the slightest possible signal with her fan. He was by her side in a moment.