wished to wait. She had a sudden perception that she should be helped. She rejoiced Henrietta had come; there was something terrible in an arrival in London. The dusky, smoky, fararching vault of the station, the strange, livid light, the dense, dark, pushing crowd, filled her with a nervous fear and made her put her arm into her friends. She remembered she had once liked these things; they seemed part of a mighty spectacle in which there was something that touched her. She remembered how she walked away from Euston, in the winter dusk, in the crowded streets, five years before. She could not have done that to-day, and the incident came before her as the deed of another person.
Its too beautiful that you should have come, said Henrietta, looking at her as if she thought Isabel might be prepared to challenge the proposition. If you hadntif you hadnt; well, I dont know, remarked Miss Stackpole, hinting ominously at her powers of disapproval.
Isabel looked about without seeing her maid. Her eyes rested on another figure, however, which she felt she had seen before; and in a moment she recognized the genial countenance of Mr Bantling. He stood a little apart, and it was not in the power of the multitude that pressed about him to make him yield an inch of the ground he had takenthat of abstracting himself discreetly while the two ladies performed their embraces.
Theres Mr Bantling, said Isabel, gently, irrelevantly, scarcely caring much now whether she should find her maid or not.
Oh yes, he goes everywhere with me. Come here, Mr Bantling! Henrietta exclaimed. Whereupon the gallant bachelor advanced with a smilea smile tempered, however, by the gravity of the occasion. Isnt it lovely she has come? Henrietta asked. He knows all about it, she added; we had quite a discussion. He said you wouldnt, I said you would.
I thought you always agreed, Isabel smiled in return. She felt she could smile now; she had seen in an instant, in Mr Bantlings brave eyes, that he had good news for her. They seemed to say he wished her to remember he was an old friend of her cousinthat he understood, that it was all right. Isabel gave him her hand; she thought of him, extravagantly, as a beautiful blameless knight.
Oh, I always agree, said Mr Bantling. But she doesnt, you know.
Didnt I tell you that a maid was a nuisance? Henrietta enquired. Your young lady has probably remained at Calais.
I dont care, said Isabel, looking at Mr Bantling, whom she had never found so interesting.
Stay with her while I go and see, Henrietta commanded, leaving the two for a moment together.
They stood there at first in silence, and then Mr Bantling asked Isabel how it had been on the Channel.
Very fine. No, I believe it was very rough, she said, to her companions obvious surprise. After which she added: Youve been to Gardencourt, I know.
Now how do you know that?
I cant tell youexcept that you look like a person who has been to Gardencourt.
Do you think I look awfully sad? Its awfully sad there, you know.
I dont believe you ever look awfully sad. You look awfully kind, said Isabel with a breadth that cost her no effort. It seemed to her she should never again feel a superficial embarrassment.
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