“Surveying your domain, ma’am,” Phil replied; “it’s most beautiful by moonlight,—especially when viewed in company with a fair lady.”
He bowed gallantly to Azalea, who was looking her best,—a slight blush of excitement on her cheeks at the compliment.
“It is lovely,” she said; “the house, from the west lawn, is a wonderful picture! Patty, Mr. Van Reypen has asked me to go to New York with him to-morrow afternoon,—to a matinee. May I?”
“Certainly, my child. And as Mona and I are going down in the early afternoon, we’ll all go together in the big car.”
Then all went to the hall for a dance. The large reception hall was admirably adapted for this purpose, and the strains of a fine phonograph soon set all feet in motion.
Dancing with Raymond Gale, Azalea pirouetted gaily with some fancy steps.
“Good!” he cried, falling into the spirit of the thing, and they pranced about in a mad whirl.
“How Western she is,” Elise said to Phil, with whom she was sedately one-stepping.
“Clever dancer,” he returned, briefly, and the subject was not continued.
“Come for a walk,” said Gale to Azalea, as the dance was over.
“No; let’s sit on the porch a minute,” she preferred.
“Come along to this end, then, for I want to say something particular,” he urged, and they found a pleasant seat, from which they could see the moon through the leafy wistaria branches.
“Look here, Azalea,” Gale began, “I know what you’re up to,—with the Bixbys.”
“What!” Azalea’s voice was full of fear.
“Yes, and there’s no reason you should be so secretive about it.”
“Oh, Raymond,—there is reason! Don’t tell on me, will you?”
“Of course not,—if you forbid it. But when Farnsworth asks me, what am I to say?”
“What does he ask you?”
“Who the Bixbys are. And other awkward questions. You see, I know old Bixby,—and I knew as soon as I saw him here that day that he had drawn you into his snares.”
“Don’t put it that way—I wasn’t exactly drawn in.”
“Well, you’re in, all right. Why, Azalea, I saw you in a picture in New York, night before last.”
“Yes; in ‘Star of the West.’ Don’t try to fib out of it—”
“Now you needn’t get mad! I know you’re not entirely above a little fibbing, now and then!”
“I think I’ll go in the house,—I don’t like you.”
“Oh, Zaly, behave yourself. Be a sensible girl, and face the music! Why don’t you own it all up, and tell Farnsworth the whole story? It isn’t a criminal thing to act in the ‘movies.’”
“They think it is,—Bill and Patty. They’d never forgive me!”
“Oh, pshaw, they would, too! Anyway, I want you to do it,—tell ’em, I mean. Won’t you, Zaly,—won’t you,—for my sake?”
Gale was sincere and earnest, and Azalea thrilled to the strong tenderness in his voice as he urged her.