He bowed, impressed by her manner, and somewhat ashamed of his impetuousity.
“I accept the reproof,” he said quietly, “and will endeavour henceforth not to offend in any way. I am entirely at your service.”
“There is no offence; I merely thought it best there should be no misunderstanding. Now, I am sure, we can proceed intelligently. Indeed, I am going to frankly confess, I also like your appearance. This mutual liking ought to be half the battle. We have quite a ride before us yet; you may question me if you wish.”
A SUDDEN ENGAGEMENT
West gazed out through the window, wondering where they were. In his interest in his companion, he had until this moment, taken no note of things without, nor did his eyes rest now upon any familiar scene. They were swiftly, and noiselessly, passing blocks of respectable residences, none of these particularly distinguished. Her sudden invitation rather startled him.
“You mean I am to question you freely.”
“Assuredly; while I am to remain quite as free in my answers. That is perfectly fair, is it not?”
“At least, it sounds so. Where am I being transported then? And why the dress-suit?”
His questions evidently amused, for her eyes sparkled.
“Naturally that query comes first; and especially the dress-suit. You have the prejudices of your sex, I see, and without regret. I shall endeavour to reply catagorically, yet with reservations. We are going to a country home, where we dine, in company with a few guests.”
“I see; I am first of all to be projected into society. Are any of these guests known to me?”
“God forbid; and I may even venture to predict that you will never care to know any of them again. You are to be present as my guest, and will so be welcomed.”
“I feel the honour; but would it not be well under these circumstances for me to know more clearly whose guest I am? Suppose, for instance, I had to refer to our long friendship, it would be extremely awkward not to even be able to mention your name.”
“My name! Why, of course, you do not know what it is. Well, really I am not altogether certain that I do either. We will therefore compromise on the one I am known by; which will be safer. Allow me, Captain West, to present to you Miss Natalie Coolidge.”
She held out frankly a neatly gloved hand, which he as instantly took, and retained in his own, the girl making no immediate effort to withdraw it.
“This is very kind of you, Miss Coolidge,” he acknowledged, adapting himself to her present mood. “But it seems there is no necessity for me to present myself. Apparently my identity is already known.”
“Otherwise you would not be among those present,” she admitted frankly. “You must surely realize that I needed, at least, to have some information relative to a man in whom I expected to confide. Telling secrets—especially family secrets—to strangers is not my specialty.”