Azalea understood, and was glad to be let off so easily, though she felt sure Elise would tell Patty all about it later.
With Azalea, however, out of sight was out of mind, and she walked away with young Gale in a merry mood.
As they strolled along, a man stepped toward them, and raising his cap in a respectful way, asked Azalea if he might have a few words with her, alone.
He had a business-like air, and though polite, was, quite evidently, not a man of social position.
Gale stared at him, and Azalea grew very red and confused.
“I—well—not just now,” she said, hesitatingly. “I’ll see you some other time.”
“No, miss, that won’t do,” The man was courteous, but decided,—and had a manner that bespoke authority.
“If I’m in the way, I’ll vanish,” Raymond said, laughing a little.
“Well—if you will—” Azalea looked at him beseechingly. “I’ll explain later.”
So Gale walked off by himself and Azalea turned a troubled face to the man.
“Mr. Merritt,” she said, “I can’t have anything more to do with the whole affair. I’m quite sure my relatives here wouldn’t approve of it, and I can’t keep the matter secret any longer.”
“But you must come, Miss Thorpe. By a strange coincidence you are greatly needed. Miss Frawley has broken her ankle—”
“She has!” Azalea’s eyes sparkled, “Oh,—I don’t mean I’m not sorry for her,—I am, indeed! But—”
“But it gives you a chance! A wonderful chance,—and if you can make good—”
“Oh, I can! I will! Shall I come now?”
“No; but you must come to-morrow morning at nine, sharp. Will you?”
“Indeed I will! I’ll be there on time.”
“And tell your people about it,—don’t you think you’d better?”
“Oh,” Azalea’s face fell. “I don’t know. Suppose they refuse to let me go!”
“How can they? They have no real control over you.”
“No,—but I’d hate to go against their expressed disapproval.”
“Nonsense! This is your first chance at a career. Don’t muff it, now! Why, just your skill at archery is enough to put you over! It’s the very place for you! Western doings, riding, shooting, lassoing, all sorts of bareback, daredevil stunts—”
“I know—I know. Yes, I’ll be there to-morrow. You go, now,—here comes my cousin.”
With a quick glance at Farnsworth, who was approaching, the man walked swiftly away.
“Who is he?” Bill asked, as he came up to Azalea.
“Friend of mine,” she answered, gaily.
“What’s his name?”
“I know it is, and I expect to be told.”
“People don’t always get all they expect.”
“Don’t trifle with me, Azalea; I’m not in a trifling mood. Who was that man?”
“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. Now, now, Cousin William, you know yourself, it’s very rude to insist on prying into other folks’ secrets!”