"Look here," he said, "you two! Leave Stella alone, or I'll tie you together!"
"You call her Stella, you see!"
"Why shouldn't I? It's a jolly name!"
"All right; we give you leave to!"
Ashurst released the hair. Stella! What would she call him--after this? But she called him nothing; till at bedtime he said, deliberately:
"Good-night, Mr.---- Good-night, Frank! It was jolly of you, you know!"
Her quick, straight handshake tightened suddenly, and as suddenly became slack.
Ashurst stood motionless in the empty sitting-room. Only last night, under the apple tree and the living blossom, he had held Megan to him, kissing her eyes and lips. And he gasped, swept by that rush of remembrance. To-night it should have begun-his life with her who only wanted to be with him! And now, twenty-four hours and more must pass, because-of not looking at his watch! Why had he made friends with this family of innocents just when he was saying good-bye to innocence, and all the rest of it? 'But I mean to marry her,' he thought; 'I told her so!'