“Thank you,” said Lois, lifting her eyes to his face. Her color had deepened a little at his earnest manner. “I love a palpable truth.”
“You do not get it often in Society,” said Mrs. Lancaster.
“I promise you that you shall always have it from me,” said Keith.
“Thank you,” she said again, quite earnestly, looking him calmly in the eyes. “Then we shall always be friends.”
Just then Stirling came up and with a very flattering speech asked Miss Huntington to sing.
“I hear you sing like a seraph,” he declared.
“I thought they always cried,” she said, smiling; then, with a half-frightened look across toward her cousin, she sobered and declared that she could not.
“I have been meaning to have her take lessons,” said Mrs. Wentworth, condescendingly, from her seat near by; “but I have not had time to attend to it. She will sing very well when she takes lessons.” She resumed her conversation. Stirling was still pressing Miss Huntington, and she was still excusing herself; declaring that she had no one to play her accompaniments.
“Please help me,” she said in an undertone to Keith. “I used to play them myself, but Cousin Louise said I must not do that; that I must always stand up to sing.”
“Nonsense,” said Keith. “You sha’n’t sing if you do not wish to do so; but let me tell you: there is a deed of record in my State conveying a tract of land to a girl from an old gentleman on the expressed consideration that she had sung ‘Annie Laurie’ for him when he asked her to do it, without being begged.”
She looked at him as if she had not heard, and then glanced at her cousin.
“Either sing or don’t sing, my dear,” said Mrs. Wentworth, with a slight frown. “You are keeping every one waiting.”
Keith glanced over at her, and was about to say to Lois, “Don’t sing”; but he was too late. Folding her hands before her, and without moving from where she stood near the wall, she began to sing “Annie Laurie.” She had a lovely voice, and she sang as simply and unaffectedly as if she had been singing in her own room for her own pleasure.
When she got through, there was a round of applause throughout the company. Even Mrs. Wentworth joined in it; but she came over and said:
“That was well done; but next time, my dear, let some one play your accompaniment.”
“Next time, don’t you do any such thing,” said Keith, stoutly. “You can never sing it so well again if you do. Please accept this from a man who would rather have heard you sing that song that way than have heard Albani sing in ‘Lohengrin.’” He took the rosebud out of his buttonhole and gave it to her, looking her straight in the eyes.
“Is this the truth?” she asked, with her gaze quite steady on his face.
“The palpable truth,” he said.