“Now just don’t say a thing,” he said. “I know. I know just how you feel, and the things you want to say. But don’t. You’ve earned the best, and I’m going to see you get it. I’m going to lose a smart secretary, but I don’t care if I make one good little friend. Now, Nancy, what about to-night? I think we ought to celebrate your triumphant return with a little dinner up at the Chateau. What say? Will you—honour me? Eight o’clock. Thank goodness we’re not a dry country yet, and it’s still possible to enjoy our successful moments properly. Will you?”
Nancy longed to withdraw the hand the man still held. It was curious. Every word he said expressed just those things and tributes which her girlish vanity had desired. There was not a word in all of it to give offence. But for the second time she experienced a sense of trouble which her woman’s instinct prompted, and a feeling akin to panic stirred. But she resisted it, as she knew she must, and her mind was quite made up.
“You’re—very kind,” she said, with all the earnestness she could summon, and with a gentleness that was intended to disarm. “But I’m so very—very tired. You don’t know what it was like on the Myra. We were battered and beaten almost to death. I feel as if I needed sleep for a week.”
The man released her hand lingeringly. His disappointment was intense, but he smiled.
“Why, sure,” he said, “if you feel that way. I hadn’t thought.”
Then he turned abruptly back to his desk. “That’s all right. Guess we’ll leave it. You go right home and get your rest.”
For a moment Nancy hesitated. She was fearful of giving offence. She felt the man’s disappointment in his tone, and in the manner of his turning away. But she dared not yield to his request. Suddenly she remembered, and all hesitation passed.
“I—I just want to thank you for your kind thought sending me those flowers and fruit,” she exclaimed. “I wanted to thank you before, but I was too excited with my news. I—”
The man cut her short.
“That’s all right, my dear,” he said. Then he nodded and deliberately turned to his work. “I’m glad. Now—just run right along home and—rest.”
The palatial halls and public rooms of the hotel were crowded. Everywhere was the hum of voices, which penetrated even to the intended quiet of the writing rooms. Every now and then the monotony of it all was broken by the high-pitched, youthful voices of the messenger boys seeking out their victims.
Bull Sternford was at work. Within an hour of his arrival he was plunged in the affairs connected with the great business organisation he projected. The earlier date of his visit to Quebec had necessitated considerable changes in plans already prepared. He had entailed for himself endless added work for the pleasure of the companionship of a beautiful girl on the journey down the coast, and begrudged no detail of it. Just now he was writing to a number of important people, bankers and financial men, re-arranging appointments to suit his change of plans.