Nothing of my feeling, however, must I betray to the friend who had come to me for help and comfort. I drew closer the arms that had not yet released her.
“Dear girl,” I said softly, “don’t worry any more about your husband or anything else. Just consider that you’ve come home to your sister. I’m going to keep you awhile now I’ve got you, and we’ll straighten everything out. Don’t even bother to tell me anything about it until you are fully rested. I can see you’ve been under some great strain.”
“No one can ever realize how great,” she returned. “You see—”
What revelation she meant to make to me I did not then learn, for just at that moment a knock sounded on the door, and in answer to my “come in,” Katie appeared and announced the arrival of the Durkees and Richard Gordon.
“Tell me, Madge,” Dicky’s tone was tense, and I recognized the note of jealous anger which generally preceded his scenes, “are you going to have that old goat take you out to dinner? Because if you are—”
He broke off abruptly, as if he thought an unspoken threat would be more terrifying than one put into words. I knew to what he referred. As hostess, I, of course, should be escorted in to dinner by the stranger in our almost family party, Robert Gordon, who was also the oldest man present. Ordinarily, Dicky would have realized that his demand to have me change this conventional arrangement was a most ill-bred and inconsiderate thing. But Dicky sane and Dicky jealous, however, were two different men.
Always before this day Dicky had regarded with tolerant amusement the strange interest shown in me by the elderly man of mystery who had known my mother. But the magnificent chrysanthemums which Mr. Gordon had brought me, dozens of them, costing much more money than the ordinary conventional floral gift to one’s hostess ought to cost, had roused his always smouldering jealousy to an unreasoning pitch.
Fear of hurting Robert Gordon’s feelings was the one consideration that held me back from defying Dicky’s mandate. Experience had taught me the best course to pursue with Dicky.
“If, as I suppose, you are referring to Mr. Gordon, it may interest you to know that I have not the faintest intention of going in to dinner with him,” I retorted coolly. “Lillian wants to talk with him about South America, and I shall have your friend, Mr. Underwood, as my escort.”
“Gee, how happy you’ll be,” sneered Dicky, but I could see that he was relieved at my information. “You’re so fond of dear old Harry, aren’t you?”
“To tell you the truth, I have to fight all the time against becoming too fond of him,” I returned mockingly. “He can be dangerously fascinating, you know.”
Dicky laughed in a way that showed me his brainstorm over Robert Gordon had been checked. But there was a startled look in his eyes which changed to a more speculative scrutiny before he moved away.