“In the name of Heaven!” Mr. Woods demanded of his soul, “what possible reason could she have had for this new insanity? And in the name of Heaven, why couldn’t she have put off her tete-a-tete with Kennaston long enough to explain? And in the name of Heaven, what does she see to admire in that putty-faced, grimacing ass, any way! And in the name of Heaven, what am I to say to this poor, old man here? I can’t explain that his daughter isn’t in any danger of being poor, but merely of being locked up in jail! And in the name of Heaven, how long does that outrageous angel expect me to remain in this state of suspense!”
Billy groaned again and paced the vestibule. Then he retraced his steps, shook hands with Colonel Hugonin once more, and, Kennaston or no Kennaston, set out to find her.
But when he came out upon the terrace, Sarah Ellen Haggage stopped him—stopped him with a queer blending of diffidence and resolve in her manner.
The others, by this, had disappeared in various directions, puzzled and exceedingly uncertain what to do. Indeed, to congratulate Billy in the Colonel’s presence would have been tactless; and, on the other hand, to condole with the Colonel without seeming to affront the wealthy Mr. Woods was almost impossible. So they temporised and fled—all save Mrs. Haggage.
She, alone, remained to view Mr. Woods with newly opened eyes; for as he paused impatiently—the sculptured Eagle above his head—she perceived that he was a remarkably handsome and intelligent young man. Her motherly heart opened toward this lonely, wealthy orphan.
“My dear Billy,” she cooed, with asthmatic gentleness, “as an old, old friend of your mother’s, aren’t you going to let me tell you how rejoiced Adele and I are over your good fortune? It isn’t polite, you naughty boy, for you to run away from your friends as soon as they’ve heard this wonderful news. Ah, such news it was—such a manifest intervention of Providence! My heart has been fluttering, fluttering like a little bird, Billy, ever since I heard it.”
In testimony to this fact, Mrs. Haggage clasped a stodgy hand to an exceedingly capacious bosom, and exhibited the whites of her eyes freely. Her smile, however, remained unchanged and ample.
“Er—ah—oh, yes! Very kind of you, I’m sure!” said Mr. Woods.
“I never in my life saw Adele so deeply affected by anything,” Mrs. Haggage continued, with a certain large archness. “The sweet child was always so fond of you, you know, Billy. Ah, I remember distinctly hearing her speak of you many and many a time when you were in that dear, delightful, wicked Paris, and wonder when you would come back to your friends—not very grand and influential friends, Billy, but sincere, I trust, for all that.”
Mr. Woods said he had no doubt of it.