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   Chapter 26 VERA'S ADVENTURE

The Twelfth Hour By Ada Leverson Characters: 10344

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Mrs. Ogilvie stopped at Hatchards' and fluttered in her usual vague way to the bookshop.

"I want some serious books," she said. "Something about Life or Philosophy or anything of that kind."

The young man said he understood exactly what she meant, and produced a new book by Hichens.

"But that's a novel! I want a real philosophical work."

"Maxims of Love, by Stendhal," suggested the young man.

"What a pretty book! No-I mean something really dull. Have you anything by Schopenhauer? or Dr. Reich?"

The young man said that he thought anything of that kind could be got, and meanwhile suggested Benson.

"No, that's too frivolous," said Vera seriously. She then bought casually Mr. Punch on the Continong, and left orders for books by Plato, Herbert Spencer, and various other thoughtful writers, to be sent to her without loss of time.

She then drove to the dressmaker's. Whenever she had fallen freshly in love she got new dresses and new books. To-day she ordered a rather ugly but very expensive new evening dress, rather weakly, at the last moment, buying a tea-gown that she did not want.

Then she began to think she wanted to see Felicity, and yet she liked to feel she had a sort of secret to herself for a little while. It really had been a declaration, and Felicity had a way of inquiring into these things and examining them until they were entirely analysed away.

No, she thought she would like to see him again before saying anything about it. He was a serious man. She had met him at a musical German lunch, where she had not expected to be amused. He looked as if he had suffered-or, perhaps, sat up too late.... He had dark blue eyes, which she chose to call violet. He talked, beautifully about philosophy. He made her feel she had a Soul-which was just the sort of thing she needed; and though he was at a musical German lunch, he was neither musical nor German, and his satisfaction in sitting next to her instead of next a celebrated German singer who was present was both obvious and complimentary. Yet what had he really said?

He had said, "My dear Mrs. Ogilvie, human nature is human nature all the world over, and there's no getting away from it, try how you will. Oh! don't get me on my hobby, because I'm afraid I shall bore you, but I'm a bit of a philosopher in my way."

How clever! But what did he mean? He told her to read philosophy. He said she had the eyes of a mystic. She had spent several minutes looking in the mirror trying to see the strange mysticism he saw in her eyes, and remembering the prophesies of Zero.

They talked a long time after lunch in the deep window seat, where the music was audible but not disturbing, and she had not asked him to call. She was always asking people to call, and they always called, and it was always the same, nothing ever came of it. Probably some instinct told her she would see him again, or she could not have resisted. Finally he said, "We have known each other in a previous existence. This is an old friendship. I shall come and see you to-morrow."

"Not to-morrow-Thursday," said Vera, thinking she would not have time to get a new dress. So he was coming to-morrow. Perhaps he would give her some new philosophy of life. He would make the riddle of existence clear. He had bright and beautiful eyes, but-and here came in Vera's weakness-she could not make up her mind even to fall in love without some comment of Felicity's.

Supposing Felicity said it was charming and just the right thing for her, how delightful that would be! On the other hand, she might make one of those terrible enlightening little remarks that smashed up all illusions and practically spoilt the fun. How right she had been about Bobby! "Not worth worrying about." How right about many other people! Then Felicity now settled nothing (with regard to people) without consulting Bertie. Instead of taking a person just as he appeared as Vera did, "Charming man, most cultured-I'm sure you'll like him," as the hostess, Mrs. Dorfenstein, had said, Bertie would know everything about him-who his father and mother were, why he happened to be at the German lunch, his profession, his favourite hobbies, what was his usual method, and a hundred other things likely to prevent any sort of surprises. Really, Felicity and Bertie together were a rather formidable couple of psychologists. Felicity often amused herself by experimenting on the people that Bertie had discovered. What Vera feared more than anything else was that Mr. Newman Ferguson would be pronounced a very simple case. When she came home from her drive she saw a letter-a new handwriting, which she instinctively felt certain was from Mr. Ferguson. Therefore, although she was alone, she put it in her muff, went and locked herself into her room, and began to read it.

The first thing that struck her was the remarkably beautiful, carefully formed handwriting, and the immense length of the letter.

Pink with joy and excitement, her hat and furs still on, she read-

"My dear Mrs. Ogilvie, ... Ships that pass in the night.... Friends signalling.... Elective affinities." ... "Oh, good gracious!" She gl

anced hastily at the signature. "Strange as it may seem, I am now and for all time your devoted slave, Newman Ferguson."

* * *

At last Vera's wish had been granted; some one had really fallen in love with her. But she had not patience to read the letter through. Her friend's counsel was necessary instantly.

She flew to the telephone. "Felicity!-Oh, there you are!... I meant not to tell you, but something so exciting has happened.... Yesterday at the German lunch ... a wonderful person.... His name?-Newman Ferguson.... Have you ever heard of him?... You'll find out all about him from Bertie.... Thanks.... Couldn't I see you to-day? Very well, then, ring me up if you have any news.... Keep calm indeed! I am keeping calm!"

Mr. Ogilvie's knock was heard. Vera hid the letter and went downstairs.

Felicity walked in at ten o'clock the next morning. Vera thought she had rather a peculiar expression.

"Don't you think it sounds lovely?" said Vera.

"I should like to see the letter."

They read the letter together.

"What an extraordinary conglomeration! I can't make head or tail of it."

"He's coming to see me this afternoon."

"Is he, though?"

"What do you know about him?"

"Well, Bertie knows the Dorfensteins who gave the lunch, and he says they don't know anything about him at all. He was just sort of brought instead of some one else."

"Does Bertie know him?" asked Vera.

"Well, yes, he does a little, and he says he's very nice generally."

"What do you mean by 'generally'?"

At this moment the servant came in and said, "Mr. Newman Ferguson has called and wishes to see you immediately."

"Good heavens!" said Vera.

"Show him in!" said Felicity.

They were sitting in the little yellow boudoir, Mr. Ogilvie having just gone out.

Mr. Newman Ferguson came in, carrying an enormous bouquet. He bowed most courteously, offered Vera the bouquet, and said-

"Human nature is human nature all the world over, my dear lady. There's no getting away from it, try how you will."

"It's very early for you to think of such a clever thing to say," said Felicity.

"I trust you don't think it's too early to call."

"Not at all," said Vera, looking terrified.

"The only thing is," said Felicity, "that my friend and I are just going out."

She stood up.

"Then pray excuse me," said Mr. Newman Ferguson; "I will call a little later on to-day instead."

"Where did you say you were staying now?" said Felicity.

"I'm at the Savoy at present, but I hope to move very soon," he said, with a meaning look.

Felicity saw him to the door where he had left his cab, came back, and stood silently looking at her friend and the bouquet.

"My dear Felicity, there's no doubt he's madly in love with me," said Vera. "Can you deny it?"

"My dear Vera, he's raving mad," answered Felicity.

"What?" cried Vera.

"Is it possible that you don't see it?"

"But look at that clever letter!" said Vera.

"It's the maddest letter I ever read. Besides, dear, I know about it. Don't distress yourself. Bertie says he was always eccentric, but sometimes he's quite all right for years. Then, any sudden excitement, especially Falling in Love--"

"Then you own he did fall in love with me?"

"Oh, of course, of course! Certainly! No one denies that. But I really think we ought to write to the Dorfensteins and get them to tell the Savoy people to look after him. It's very sad. He has rather a nice manner-nice eyes."

Vera buried her face in her handkerchief.

"Now don't worry, darling," said Felicity affectionately. "Be out when he calls, and I'm quite sure we shall soon find some one quite sane who will amuse you just as much."

"Never!" sobbed Vera. "It's just like my luck! Oh, and the books I ordered, and the new dress. I can never bear to look at them."

"It's a very good thing we found it out," said Felicity.

"But how on earth does Bertie know?"

"He knows everything-about people, I mean-and he's always right. In fact, he sent you a message to ask you to be very careful, and said he'd come and see you about it."

"Rather cool! It seems I can't have any secret to myself now," panted Mrs. Ogilvie.

"Well, you see, dear, you did ask me to get all the information I could, and after all I only told Bertie you met Mr. Ferguson. He guessed that he would fall in love with you, and bring you a bouquet early in the morning, and write you a lot of letters about philosophy."

"How did he know?"

"Well, if you don't mind my saying so, dear, it's because it's what he always does."

Vera began to laugh.

"Tell Bertie he need not trouble to call about it, I'd rather forget it."

"Oh, of course he won't now!"

"He doesn't know, then, that I was in love with him? Besides, I wasn't."

"Certainly he doesn't. Besides, you weren't."

"I hate the sight of that bouquet," said Vera.

"Yes, let's send it away; and now come for a drive with me."

"All right, dear. I say, couldn't we countermand those philosophical books?"

"Yes, of course we will. What do you feel you'd like instead?"

"Oh, something by Pett Ridge," said Vera, recklessly.

* * *

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