I felt limp and weak. “And all this display, this dinner, this added expense?”
“Part of the game, my dear!”
“And the end of it all? When they come back from the manoeuvres?”
“We shall be gone! Without a word!”
“Then this isn’t a flirtation?”
“Only on their parts. They are after our scalps. But we are actuated by the true missionary spirit.”
We leaned over and shook hands solemnly. I do love Bee!
That night—shall I ever forget it? Those stunning men dashed into our rooms muffled in military cloaks, which they tossed aside with such grace that they nearly secured my scalp, for all they were after Bee’s and Mrs. Jimmie’s. They were in velveteen hunting costumes; we in the smartest of evening dress. Jimmie had given his fancy free rein in ordering the dinner, but, to his amazement and indignation, the little game being played by the rest of us so surprised and baffled our guests that Jimmie’s delicacies were removed with course after course untasted. The officers searched the brilliant room with their eyes, hoping for a quiet nook, or balcony. There was none, and their disguise effectually prevented them from suggesting to go out. I saw that, finally, they pinned their hopes to me, and the way I clung to Jimmie to prevent their speaking to me almost roused his suspicions that I was in love with him. We stuck doggedly to the table, even after dinner was over and the servants dismissed. Finally, Von Furzmann, who spoke English rather well, rose in a determined manner, and quite forgetful of our proximity, said to Bee in a loud, distinct tone:
“My heart is on fire!”
It was too much. Jimmie and I led the way in a general shout of laughter, and then, as a happy family party, we adjourned to the single salon, where we grouped ourselves together, and, strive as they might, the officers could not outwit my sister nor upset her plan.
Toward midnight, when the hour of parting drew near, they grew so desperate I almost feared that they would say something rash. But they were diplomats and game. Occasionally a gleam of suspicion would appear on their countenances—it was so very unusual, I imagined, for their plans so persistently to miscarry—but both Bee and I have an extremely guiltless and innocent eye, and we used an unwinking gaze of genial friendliness which disarmed them.