[Illustration: “Wait!” she murmured “There is to be a meeting—” Page 79]
“Wait!” she murmured. “There is to be a meeting—” She had time for no more as she swept by.
Alas, that mere moments should spell ruin as well as happiness! This new woman whom I had wooed and found, this new Elisabeth whose hand lay on my arm, saw what no one else would have seen—that little flash of recognition on the face of Helena von Ritz! She heard a whisper pass. Moreover, with a woman’s uncanny facility in detail, she took in every item of the other’s costume. For myself, I could see nothing of that costume now save one object—a barbaric brooch of double shells and beaded fastenings, which clasped the light laces at her throat.
The baroness had perhaps slept as little as I the night before. If I showed the ravages of loss of sleep no more than she, I was fortunate. She was radiant, as she passed forward with her escort for place in the line which had not yet dwindled away.
“You seem to know that lady,” said Elisabeth to me gently.
“Did I so seem?” I answered. “It is professional of all to smile in the East Room at a reception,” said I.
“Then you do not know the lady?”
“Indeed, no. Why should I, my dear girl?” Ah, how hot my face was!
“I do not know,” said Elisabeth. “Only, in a way she resembles a certain lady of whom we have heard rather more than enough here in Washington.”
“Put aside silly gossip, Elisabeth,” I said. “And, please, do not quarrel with me, now that I am so happy. To-night—”
“Nicholas,” she said, leaning just a little forward and locking her hands more deeply in my arm, “don’t you know you were telling me one time about the little brooch you were going to bring me—an Indian thing—you said it should be my—my wedding present? Don’t you remember that? Now, I was thinking—”
I stood blushing red as though detected in the utmost villainy. And the girl at my side saw that written on my face which now, within the very moment, it had become her right to question! I turned to her suddenly.
“Elisabeth,” said I, “you shall have your little brooch to-night, if you will promise me now to be ready and waiting for me at six. I will have the license.”
It seemed to me that this new self of Elisabeth’s—warmer, yielding, adorable—was slowly going away from me again, and that her old self, none the less sweet, none the less alluring, but more logical and questioning, had taken its old place again. She put both her hands on my arm now and looked me fairly in the face, where the color still proclaimed some sort of guilt on my part, although my heart was clean and innocent as hers.
“Nicholas,” she said, “come to-night. Bring me my little jewel—and bring—”
“The minister! If I do that, Elisabeth, you will marry me then?”
“Yes!” she whispered softly.