THE GOLD BAG COMEDY
If ever there was a blush of guilt, it was Nick’s.
Angela lifted her eyebrows, though she smiled. It would have been ungracious not to smile, and Angela hated to be ungracious. All the youth in her was glad to see him again; but all that was conventional, all that responded to her early training, disapproved of his presence.
“This is very unexpected!” she exclaimed, wondering if he would say it was a surprise to him, almost hoping that he might say so, because she could then seem to accept his word; which would save bother.
Nick hung his head. He jumped up when Mrs. May was shown to the table, and did not sit down again until she was seated. Now he disappointed Angela by making no attempt to defend himself. “Will you please forgive me?” he begged.
This forced Angela to be stern, and she decided to spare him no pang.
“Forgive you for what?” she asked.
“For coming,” he answered to the first turn of the rack.
She was coldly puzzled. “But—do you mean your being in this train? Surely that can have nothing to do with me.”
Nick was silent for a moment. The dining-car was full, and the waiters all busy. No one had come to take Mrs. May’s order. Gathering his mental forces he resolved upon honesty as the best and only policy. “’Twould be easy enough to say it had nothing to do with you; that I’d have been travelling by this train to-day, anyhow,” he began bravely. “The fact is, I came on board meanin’ to try and make you think so, without exactly tellin’ lies. But you’ve asked me a straight question, and I’ve just got to answer it straight, even if you refuse to speak to me ever again. I’m here because you’re here, Mrs. May. But I promise I won’t trouble you. And maybe you won’t believe me, after my tellin’ you this, but it’s true; I didn’t intend ever to let you see me to-night, and maybe not the whole journey. I only wanted to be on the same train and then, supposin’ you should happen to need help any way, I’d be ready.”
“But—that’s rather too much self-sacrifice,” said Angela, looking him full in the face with her dark-lashed, slate-gray eyes. “I’m not alone. I have my maid. I shan’t need help.”
“I guess you know I’m not making a self-sacrifice,” Nick said honestly. “I’d be gladder than glad to do anything for the first angel I ever met on earth. But please don’t be worrying, Mrs. May. This ain’t any hold-up. I won’t come near you, unless you happen to need a man to look after you. I’ll fade away this minute, if——”
“Certainly not!” cried Angela. “It was your table before it was mine. But—I don’t understand yet. I think it would have been better if you’d finished your visit to New Orleans.”
“I was sure there for the same reason I’m here,” Nick blurted out. “I guess I have to tell you the whole thing now.”