“She is not ill, sir?” asked Dan in alarm.
“Ill! Oh, dear me, no!”
Mr. Preston laughed most heartily.
“No; she is not in the least ill, Mr. Dalzell, though, on Monday, she may feel a bit nervous toward noon,”
“Nervous—–on Monday?” asked Dan vaguely. It seemed rank nonsense that her uncle should be able to predict her condition so definitely on another day.
“Why, yes; Monday is to be the great day, of course.”
“Great day, sir? And why ’of course’?” inquired Dan, now as much interested as he was mystified.
“Why, my niece is to be married Monday at high noon.”
“Married?” gasped Midshipman Dalzell, utterly astounded and discomfited by such unlooked-for news.
“Yes; didn’t you know Miss Preston was engaged to be married?”
“I—–I certainly did not,” Dan stammered.
“Why, she spoke to you much of ’Oscar’-----”
“No; the man who will be her husband on Monday,” went on Mr. Preston blandly. Being quite near-sighted the elder man had not discovered Dan’s sudden emotion. “That is what occupies us to-night. We leave on the first car for Baltimore in the morning. Mrs. Preston is now engaged over our trunks.”
“I—–I am very certain, then, that I have come at an unseasonable time,” Dan answered hastily. “I did not know—–which fact, I trust, will constitute my best apology for having intruded at such a busy season, Mr. Preston.”
“There has been no intrusion, and therefore no apology is needed, sir,” replied Mr. Preston courteously.
Dan got out, somehow, without staggering, or without having his voice quiver.
Once in the street he started along blindly, his fists clenched.
“So that’s the way she uses me, is it?” he demanded of himself savagely. “Plays with me, while all the time the day for her wedding draws near. She must be laughing heartily over—–my greenness! Oh, confound all girls, anyway!”
It was seldom that Midshipman Dalzell allowed himself to get in a temper. He had been through many a midshipman fight without having had his ugliness aroused. But just now Dan felt humiliated, sore in spirit and angry all over—–especially with all members of the gentler sex.
He even fancied that Mr. Preston was at that moment engaged in laughing over the verdant midshipman. As a matter of fact, Mr. Preston was doing nothing of the sort. Mr. Preston had not supposed that Dan’s former call had been intended as anything more than a pleasant social diversion. The Prestons supposed that every one knew that their niece was betrothed to an excellent young fellow. So, at this particular moment, Mr. Preston was engaged in sitting on a trunk, while his wife tried to turn the key in the lock. Neither of them was favoring Midshipman Dalzell with as much as a thought.
“Why on earth is it that all girls are so tricky?” Dan asked himself savagely, taking it for granted that all girls are “tricky” where admirers are concerned.