Dicky waited a long moment before answering, then he spoke tensely, sternly:
“Madge, answer me, are you coming back with me now, or are you not?”
The tone in which he put the question was one which I could not brook, even at the risk of seriously offending Dicky. An angry refusal was upon my lips when Harry Underwood’s voice saved me the necessity of a reply.
“There, there, Dicky-bird, keep your bathing suit on,” he admonished, roughly; “of course, she’ll go back, we’ll all go back, a regular triumphal procession with beautiful heroine escorted by watchful husband, treacherous villain and faithful friend.” He grinned at Dr. Pettit, and we all swam back to shallower water, Dr. Pettit and Mr. Underwood gradually edging off some distance away from Dicky and me.
I could not help smiling at the ludicrous aspect we must have presented. Dicky must have been watching me narrowly, for he suddenly growled:
“To the devil with Grace Draper!” Dicky cried, and his voice was louder, carried farther than he realized. “I’m not bothering about her. She’s getting on my nerves anyway; but you happen to be my wife, and what you do is my concern, don’t you forget that, my lady.”
“How nearly I lost you!”
Dicky and I had been so engrossed in our quarrel that we had not noticed our proximity to Grace Draper. Whether she had purposely approached us or not, I could not tell. At any rate, when, after Dicky’s outburst of jealous anger against Dr. Pettit and my retort concerning his model, he had cried out loudly, “To the devil with Grace Draper! I’m not bothering about her. She’s getting on my nerves anyway,” I heard a choking little gasp from behind me, and, turning swiftly, saw the girl standing quite near to us.
Except when excited, Grace Draper never has any color, but the usual clear pallor of her face had changed to a grayish whiteness. I had reason enough to hate the girl, I had schemed with Lillian to save Dicky from her influence, but in that moment, as I gazed at her, I felt nothing but deep pity for her.
For all the poise and pretence of the girl was stripped from her. She was a ghastly, pitiable sight, as she stood there, her big eyes fixed on Dicky, her breath coming unevenly in shuddering gasps.
Then she glanced at me and her eyes held mine for a moment, fascinated; then, with a little shrug of her shoulders, she turned away, and I knew that the danger of Dicky’s realizing her agitation was passed.
“What are you looking at so earnestly?” Dicky demanded.
Without waiting for an answer, he turned swiftly, following my gaze, and catching sight of the retreating back of Grace Draper.
“Good Lord!” he gasped in consternation. “Do you suppose she heard what I said?”
“Oh, I’m sure she didn’t,” I replied mendaciously.