It was just three days after
the Doctor and the Admiral had
congratulated each other upon
the closer tie
which was to unite their two families, and to turn their
friendship into something even dearer and more intimate,
that Miss Ida Walker received a letter which caused her
some surprise and considerable amusement. It was dated
from next door, and was handed in by the red-headed page
"Dear Miss Ida," began this
curious document, and then relapsed
suddenly into the third person. "Mr.
Charles Westmacott hopes that
he may have the extreme pleasure
of a ride with Miss Ida Walker
upon his tandem tricycle. Mr.
Charles Westmacott will bring
it round in half an hour. You
in front. Yours very truly, Charles
Westmacott." The whole was written
in a large, loose-jointed, and
school-boyish hand, very thin
on the up strokes and thick on
the down, as though care and
pains had gone to the fashioning
Strange as was the form, the
meaning was clear enough; so
Ida hastened to her room, and
had hardly slipped on her light
grey cycling dress when she saw
the tandem with its large occupant
at the door. He handed her up
to her saddle with a more solemn
and thoughtful face than was
usual with him, and a few moments
later they were flying along
the beautiful, smooth suburban
roads in the direction of Forest
Hill. The great limbs of the
athlete made the heavy machine
spring and quiver with every
stroke; while the mignon grey
figure with the laughing face,
and the golden curls blowing
from under the little pink-banded
straw hat, simply held firmly
to her perch, and let the treadles
whirl round beneath her feet.
Mile after mile they flew, the
wind beating in her face, the
trees dancing past in two long
ranks on either side, until they
had passed round Croydon and
were approaching Norwood once
more from the further side.
"Aren't you tired?" she
over her shoulder
turning towards him a little
pink ear, a fluffy golden curl,
and one blue eye twinkling from
the very corner of its lid.
a bit. I am
to be strong?
You always remind me of a steamengine."
is so powerful,
and reliable, and unreasoning.
Well, I didn't mean that last,
you know, but--but--you know
what I mean. What is the matter
you have something
on your mind. You have not laughed
am quite jolly," said he.
no, you are
not. And why
did you write me such a dreadfully
"There now," he cried, "I
was sure it
I said it
was absurdly stiff."
why write it?"
wasn't my own
no. It was
a person of
the name of Slattery."
Who is he?"
knew it would
come out, I
felt that it
heard of Slattery the author?"
himself. He wrote a book called
`The Secret Solved; or, Letter-writing
Made Easy.' It gives you models
of all sorts of letters."
burst out laughing. "So
you actually copied one."
was to invite
a young lady
to a picnic, but I set to work
and soon got it changed so that
it would do very well. Slattery
seems never to have asked any
one to ride a tandem. But when
I had written it, it seemed so
dreadfully stiff that I had to
put a little beginning and end
of my own, which seemed to brighten
it up a good deal."
there was something funny about
the beginning and
"Did you? Fancy
your noticing the difference
in style. How
quick you are! I am very slow
at things like that. I ought
to have been a woodman, or game-keeper,
or something. I was made on those
lines. But I have found something
"What is that,
I have a chum in Texas, and
he says it is a rare
life. I am to buy a share in
his business. It is all in the
open air--shooting, and riding,
and sport. Would it--would it
inconvenience you much, Ida,
to come out there with me?"
fell off her perch in her amazement.
The only words
of which she could think were "My
goodness me!" so she said them.
"If it would not upset your
plans, or change your arrangements
in any way." He had slowed down
and let go of the steering handle,
so that the great machine crawled
aimlessly about from one side
of the road to the other. "I
know very well that I am not
clever or anything of that sort,
but still I would do all I can
to make you very happy. Don't
you think that in time you might
come to like me a little bit?"
Ida gave a
cry of fright. "I
won't like you if you run me
against a brick wall," she said,
as the machine rasped up against
the curb "Do attend to the steering."
"Yes, I will.
But tell me, Ida, whether you
will come with
"Oh, I don't
know. It's too absurd! How
can we talk about
such things when I cannot see
you? You speak to the nape of
my neck, and then I have to twist
my head round to answer."
"I know. That
was why I put `You in front'
upon my letter.
I thought that it would make
it easier. But if you would prefer
it I will stop the machine, and
then you can sit round and talk
"Good gracious!" cried Ida. "Fancy
our sitting face to face on a
motionless tricycle in the middle
of the road, and all the people
looking out of their windows
"It would look
rather funny, wouldn't it?
Well, then, suppose
that we both get off and push
the tandem along in front of
"Oh, no, this
is better than that."
"Or I could
carry the thing."
Ida burst out
would be more absurd still."
"Then we will
go quietly, and I will look
out for the steering.
I won't talk about it at all
if you would rather not. But
I really do love you very much,
and you would make me happy if
you came to Texas with me, and
I think that perhaps after a
time I could make you happy too."
"But your aunt?"
"Oh, she would
like it very much. I can understand
father might not like to lose
you. I'm sure I wouldn't either,
if I were he. But after all,
America is not very far off nowadays,
and is not so very wild. We would
take a grand piano, and--and--a
copy of Browning. And Denver
and his wife would come over
to see us. We should be quite
a family party. It would be jolly."
Ida sat listening to the stumbling
words and awkward phrases which
were whispered from the back
of her, but there was something
in Charles Westmacott's clumsiness
of speech which was more moving
than the words of the most eloquent
of pleaders. He paused, he stammered,
he caught his breath between
the words, and he blurted out
in little blunt phrases all the
hopes of his heart. If love had
not come to her yet, there was
at least pity and sympathy, which
are nearly akin to it. Wonder
there was also that one so weak
and frail as she should shake
this strong man so, should have
the whole course of his life
waiting for her decision. Her
left hand was on the cushion
at her side. He leaned forward
and took it gently in his own.
She did not try to draw it back
"May I have it," said he, "for
"Oh, do attend to your steering," said
she, smiling round at him; "and
don't say any more about this
to-day. Please don't!"
I know, then?"
to-morrow, I don't know. I
must ask Clara.
Talk about something else."
And they did talk about something
else; but her left hand was still
enclosed in his, and he knew,
without asking again, that all