“Grateful nothing!” he cried. “I’m not grateful. I’m in love—in love with you. I want you—want you as I never wanted anything or anybody before, and I tell you I’m going to have you. Do you hear?”
Hope could not hide her agitation. The light in her eyes showed she was all a woman.
[Illustration: The Langdon family.]
“Oh, nothing in the world could happen as quickly as that, Mr. Haines!” she protested, with her last attempt at archness.
“Nothing could?” he threatened. “I’ll show you.”
He advanced quickly around the table, but the girl darted just beyond his grasp. Then she paused—and her lover gathered her in his arms.
“Hope, my dear, you are my own,” was all he could say as he bent over to kiss the lips that were not refused to him.
Hope released herself from his fervent grasp.
“I love you, I do love you,” she said fondly. “I believe in you, and father must too. You’ve got to straighten this tangle out now, for my sake as well as your own. Father will listen.”
“It’s all so strange, so wonderful, I can hardly understand it,” began Haines slowly, as he held the girl’s hands.
Unknown to both, the door leading from the hall had opened to admit Senator Langdon into the lower end of the room. Surprised at the sight of the couple, so seriously intent on each other, he made a sudden gesture of anger, then, apparently changing his mind, advanced toward them.
“I believe you want to see me, sir,” he said to Haines. “I hope you’ll be brief. I have very little time to spare from my guests.”
Hope’s bosom fluttered timorously at the interruption. The man nervously stepped forward.
“I sha’n’t take much of your time, Senator Langdon,” he said. “There has been a misunderstanding, a terrible mistake. I am sure I can convince you.”
Senator Langdon hesitated doubtfully, half turned toward Carolina, Randolph and Norton, who had followed him, and again faced Haines.
Hope pressed her father’s arm and looked up into his face entreatingly. Randolph, observing this, quickly stepped close to the Senator’s side, saying, “I can settle with this Mr. Haines for you.”
Waving his son aside, the Senator finally spoke.
“I reckon there’s been too many attending to my business and settling my affairs, Randolph,” he said. “I think for a change I’ll settle a few of my own. All of you children go out and leave me here with Mr. Haines.”
SENATOR LANGDON LEARNS THE TRUTH
When they were alone Haines faced the Senator and spoke determinedly.
“They told you I was not running straight,” he said.
The Senator nodded, and the lines about his mouth deepened.
Bud Haines stiffened at the word. Every muscle in his body seemed to become rigid as he mentally vowed that he would retaliate against his traducers if it cost him his life to do it. Hope had informed him only too accurately, he now realized. Little did the Senator know that what he was now about to hear would give him one of the severest shocks of his life.