They went together into the cottage. Fixing her eyes steadily on the Captain's face, Charlotte saw it turn pale when Percy followed her into the parlor. The two men greeted one another cordially. Charlotte sat down by her mother, preserving her composure so far as appearances went. "I hear you have called to bid us good-by," she said to Bervie. "Is it to be a long absence?"
"I have got two months' leave," the Captain answered, without looking at her while he spoke.
She turned away to her mother. Bervie seized the opportunity of speaking to Percy. "I have a word of advice for your private ear." At the same moment, Charlotte whispered to her mother: "Don't encourage him to prolong his visit."
The Captain showed no intention to prolong his visit. To Charlotte's surprise, when he took leave of the ladies, Percy also rose to go. "His carriage," he said, "was waiting at the door; and he had offered to take Captain Bervie back to London."
Charlotte instantly suspected an arrangement between the two men for a confidential interview. Her obstinate distrust of Bervie strengthened tenfold. She reluctantly gave him her hand, as he parted from her at the parlor-door. The effort of concealing her true feeling toward him gave a color and a vivacity to her face which made her irresistibly beautiful. Bervie looked at the woman whom he had lost with an immeasurable sadness in his eyes. "When we meet again," he said, "you will see me in a new character." He hurried out of the gate, as if he feared to trust himself for a moment longer in her presence.
Charlotte followed Percy into the passage. "I shall be here to-morrow, dearest!" he said, and tried to raise her hand to his lips. She abruptly drew it away. "Not that hand!" she answered. "Captain Bervie has just touched it. Kiss the other!"
"Do you still doubt the Captain?" said Percy, amused by her petulance.
She put her arm over his shoulder, and touched the plaster on his neck gently with her finger. "There's one thing I don't doubt," she said: "the Captain did _that!_"