“Then that man came and demanded her! I was alone, except for Janet,—who is no good in an emergency,—and Mr. Merritt was very determined. If I hadn’t thought of the phonograph I don’t know what I should have done, for that man is quite capable of taking Baby away from my arms by main force. But I happened to think I could fool him,—as I couldn’t combat him,—so I put on the crying record to make him think we were still in the library,—and I scooted over to Gales’ with the baby as fast as I could run. Then I came back—”
“Weren’t you afraid of him?” asked Patty, shuddering at the thought of Azalea at the mercy of the infuriated man.
“No; I know him, and he isn’t a brute or a ruffian. He was just bent on getting Fleurette for that picture,—it would take only a few minutes,—and I was just as bent that he shouldn’t.
“So, when he found I had outwitted him, he accepted the situation,—why, he even wanted to take my picture in my angry mood! He is a man who thinks of nothing but a good pose for his pictures.”
“He seemed a decent chap,” Farnsworth said, “but I was so angry, I just fired him, for I feared otherwise I’d lose control of my own temper and give him his just deserts!”
“He’ll never come again,” observed Van Reypen, “I saw you, Bill, when you invited him to leave! I’m no craven, but I shouldn’t care to return to any one who had looked at me like that!”
“I was a bit positive,” laughed Farnsworth. “But, Azalea, I must admit I’m rather bowled over by this idea of you in the moving pictures! It—it isn’t done much in our crowd, you know.”
“I know it,—and I’m never going to do it again! I’ve had enough! I wanted to make it my career,—but,” she hesitated, “that was before I knew you—you nice people. I—I never knew really nice people before,—my Western friends are—are different. But I want to be like you,” her troubled glance took in Patty and Bill and then drifted to the others; and her face was wistful and only lighted up as she looked at Van Reypen. He smiled encouragingly at her, and she continued.
“I’m quite ready to give up all connection with the Bixby people and I’ll promise never to go near them again,—even if they try to get me to.”
“You bet you won’t!” exclaimed Farnsworth. “I’m glad you’ve given it up of your own accord, Zaly, for if you hadn’t I’d have to forbid it, anyway! I can’t allow you to do such things.”
“And I don’t want to. It wasn’t as nice as I thought it would be, and yet,—it was fun!” She smiled as thoughts of her daredevil stunts passed through her mind.
“Tell us all about it!” cried Ray Gale. “I’m awfully interested, and I’m sorry you’re going to quit! By George, Farnsworth! if you’d seen our Azalea in that picture of the cyclone!”
“Never mind!” Azalea interrupted him, “I’m all over that foolish idea.”
“I should hope so!” exclaimed Elise, with a withering glance. “The idea of anybody being in such company as you must have been—”