This is concluding part of “His Queen”, by Mrs Neish.
You can read the first part by clicking here.
Dick Meredith had disappeared suddenly and completely out of their lives.
He wrote a curt but manly little note to Diana, saying he blamed no one but his own conceit. Diana’s heart ached for the obvious misery underlying the bare and almost formal words — and a month later war broke out, and Rosemary’s lover and Dick both went to fight for their country.
Rosemary heard constantly from her lover, and both girls sent him letters and parcels, and watched daily in fear and trembling the sad roll of honour.
One morning Diana was busy making the breakfast coffee, when suddenly Rosemary gave a little cry of joy.
“Oh, Di— Di do listen!”
She held a telegram towards her sister.
“Jack is coming home today, you know, and he wants me to marry him at once — tomorrow. Isn’t it exciting! Oh, I can’t bear it!”
She flung her arms round her sister.
“Fancy being Jack’s wife; doesn’t it sound lovely?”
“Darling, won’t he wait?” asked Diana doubtfully, “until—?”
“No, Di, not ‘until’ anything.” Rosemary shook her head. “Neither will I. Of course we don’t. Just think if he were wounded and I hadn’t the right to go out to him.
“I wonder how you get a passport,” she added, “but he won’t be wounded — I’m not going to think of that. No, darling, I couldn’t eat bacon, I couldn’t. Fancy eating bacon when I’m going to marry Jack, perhaps tomorrow.
“He’s got the license — but I showed you his last letter, and I’m to go to his people for a few days afterwards.
“And, oh, Di. I believe I shall die with excitement. I’d rather stay with you than go to his people — but Hack wants me to know them better!”
She chattered on, playing with her breakfast, and suddenly she put down the paper she had glanced at between her happy sentences.
“Oh, Di, poor old Dick’s wounded. Just fancy, and he’s so brave with his D.S.O. Now he’s wounded you must write to him, Di. Can’t we find out where he is?”
Diana’s face had gone very white, so white and tragic that in a sudden moment Rosemary read her secret. She rose impulsively and went over to her sister.
“Darling Di, I—I had”, she faltered, “no idea. How selfish I’ve been, you poor darling, and I never knew or guessed,” and a moment later Diana, usually so serene and self-controlled, was sobbing on Rosemary’s breast.
Rosemary was walking down Piccadilly with her lithe, happy step, She and Jack Morton were married, and she had been staying for nearly a month with his father and mother.
Diana had begged to be left alone, and Rosemary knowing her so well had left her, and now she was home again, and to all outward appearance Diana was her usual placid self.
They had heard nothing from Dick, they did not know what hospital he was in — he had never written.
She wondered if he had seen her marriage in the paper, and if he had forgotten her. She was walking along this morning thinking rather of him and Diana than her own affairs, when suddenly she met him face to face.
He stopped in front of her with a look of sudden pleasure.
“How do you do?” he cried eagerly. “I’m awfully glad to see you. I have to congratulate you.”
Smiling, he held her hand firmly in his, and added, with a sudden strange access of shyness, “Er—how is Diana?”
“Very well, thanks. How are you? When did you come back?”
“I? Oh, I was wounded, and in hospital for two months. I’m all right, only a bit lame, so they won’t let me back yet.
“May I come along with you, Rosemary? I won’t come in today, but if I may I will call and see Diana tomorrow.”
“Yes, do walk part of the way, Dick, if you’re fit to walk.
“Thanks,” he answered. “Yes, I’m fit. I want to talk to you, Rosemary, I’m a silly fool, for I ought to have seen you did not care. But somehow one gets to know oneself, and I want you to let me tell you what I discovered, out there in the trenches.
“I think you’ll understand me. I’ve learnt to know myself and to know someone else, too — at least, I hope so, Rosemary.”
“Diana, I’m going out.”
Diana looked up from her book.
“All right, I’ll come with you, if you like.”
“No, it’s private. I mean, it’s a little thing I want to do alone,” said Rosemary, “I’ll be back to tea; don’t go out. I may be early — do you mind waiting in?”
“No, dear,” said Diana, indifferently. “I’ll wait and have tea ready for you.”
“All right. Do you want anything?”
Diana shook her head, and Rosemary crossing the room went and kissed her.
“Darling Di, you’re the sweetest, most patient girl in the world. I have a sort of feeling something lovely is going to happen today.”
“Is Jack expecting leave?”
Rosemary shook her head.
“No, it’s not about Jack its going to happen.”
She waited a moment, and as Diana asked no further questions she turned to leave the room, a little smile of knowledge and happiness on her face as she went.
Diana laying down her book, leant back in her chair and closed her eyes with a sigh.
For a moment she almost envied Rosemary, envied her her gaiety and her happiness, and the wit and charm that had won Dick’s love.
Where was he now? She wished, oh, how she wished he had written her a line; perhaps he was too ill; supposing he was dead; but, no, she would not suppose anything so utterly horrible — the very thought was an agonising one.
As she sat there, half dreaming and only half conscious of her surroundings, there came a light knock at the sitting-room door.
“Come in,” she spoke listlessly. It was probably a friend of Rosemary’s who was coming in without troubling to be announced.
“Diana!” her name was uttered very softly, and then repeated — “Diana, may I come in?”
“Dick!” She sprang to her feet, a glad light in her eyes, her voice trembling uncontrollably with the sudden gladness that surged through her; then, as she laid her trembling hand on the chair from which she had risen, her face grew very pale again and she tried to study her shaking voice.
He had come to see Rosemary, and Rosemary was married. This though beat into her brain—
“Rosemary is married — Rosemary is married,” and suddenly she turned and faced him, and said the words aloud to him—
“Oh, Dick, Rosemary is married.”
“I know. I met her yesterday. I am so glad she is happy. Diana,” he took a sudden step towards her. “Diana,” he said pleadingly, “I have come to you for help again. “I—I am in love again, deeply in love, real love, not a passing infatuation, but a love I never knew before — a love that means life and more than life to me.
“Will you help me once more, Diana?”
“Oh, Dick,” she faltered, and stood in silent agony before him.
It was too cruel that Fate should make her bear this trial again. To hear him again tell her of his love for another girl. Why come to her for help? Why?
For a moment a wave of anger came over her — and yet she loved him, so dearly that even self was nothing to her, and only his happiness mattered.
“Diana, will you help me?”
She raised her head and looked at him, a sweet, serene, and steady look.”
“Yes, Dick, I will do my best. Who is she?”
She waited, her head held proudly to hide the pain.
A quick step, and he was standing beside her.
“Diana!” He put his hands about her shoulders and turned her gently towards the mirror above the mantelpiece.
“There she is, Diana,” he said, “my darling girl, my Queen, my love, will you give her to me — will you?”
And reading her answer from the face he saw reflected, he bent and gently kissed her lips.
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