“He hasn’t insulted you?” asked Dave quietly.
“Oh, dear, no! If he had, I think I might have been able to startle him somewhat,” laughed Belle, who had a “temper” when it was necessary to have one. As she spoke she raised her eyes, glancing ahead.
“There, he has stopped, and looks almost as though he were waiting for us,” she added.
“There’s an ugly scowl on his face, too.”
Dave Darrin looked ahead at the foppish, rather good-looking, tall and slender young man of some twenty-six years.
“I hope he isn’t going to be troublesome,” murmured Dave. “I don’t want to have to fight with him—at least, not when you’re along with me.”
As they neared Ardmore, Dave continued to look at the young man quietly, steadily, frankly. Ardmore seemed trying to ignore the gaze, and looked, instead, at Belle.
Just as the young couple reached him, Ardmore raised his hat, at the same time stepping forward so that he blocked Belle’s progress.
“Good afternoon, Miss Meade,” was Ardmore’s greeting. “I was on my way to your house when I saw you. Mother has some tickets for a concert at the Sorosis rooms, and is unable to use them this afternoon. So I have come to ask you if you will not honor me with your company at the concert?”
“Thank you, no,” Belle answered coldly. “And I would also like to make it plain, Mr. Ardmore, since you make it necessary, that I do not wish your company at any time or place. I am sorry to have to speak so plainly.”
A deep flush dyed the cheeks of the fop. But he was not so easily discouraged.
“I had intended to call this evening, Miss Meade. I am to have a box at the theatre.”
“You may call anywhere you wish,” Belle retorted, her eyes flashing, “provided it is not at my home.”
“Oh, I am very much afraid that you are annoyed with me,” cried Ardmore.
“I am,” Belle admitted. “Mr. Ardmore, will you do me the very great favor of ceasing your attempts at acquaintance?”
“Acquaintance? Why, we’re already very well acquainted, Miss Meade; in fact, I had hoped that we were, by this time, the most excellent friends. If this gentleman,” with a sidelong look at Dave, “will excuse us, Miss Meade, will you stroll along with me and tell me in what way I may have offended you without intending anything of the sort?”
Dave, who had remained quiet, now felt called upon to interpose.
“Sir,” he demanded, “will you observe Miss Meade’s request and take yourself away?”
“And what have you to say about this?” demanded Ardmore sneeringly.
“The young lady is under my protection.”
“I have offered her mine.”
“And Miss Meade has just told you that you will please her most by keeping away from her at all times,” replied Darrin quietly but firmly.
“What? After all the good times she and I have enjoyed together?” demanded Ardmore, as though astounded beyond measure.