He was trying to hide as much of the true reason for the affray as he could. He wanted to get the girl out of sight.
“I didn’t know—I did nothing—if it was about me I didn’t—” He stopped her brutally.
“About you, you little fool? Of course it wasn’t about you! My grandson is going to marry Luke Presson’s daughter.”
She stiffened in the hook of his arm. They were in the corridor and had not come into the view of the people.
“Every one knows it,” he hurried on. He saw an opportunity to get in a cruel blow at the romance he suspected and hated. “They have been going together for months. She’ll be the right kind of a wife for him. They were fighting about her—those two young hyenas.”
She pulled away from him. The tears were on her cheeks, but she held herself straight and looked him in the eye.
“That’s a lie, Mr. Thornton!”
“It’s the truth. He’ll marry her if you haven’t spoiled it all for him—spoiled his good name and stirred up all this scandal for him just as he was getting ready to amount to something in the world, with a wife that could help him! You get away from here as quickly as you can. You hear me? If his career is spoiled you’ve done it. Don’t stay around here and disgrace him any more. It’s bad enough, as it is, for him and Miss Presson!”
She stared at him, stricken and puzzled. Then she left him.
“I don’t need any further escort,” she informed him, turning after she had gone a few steps. It was Dennis Kavanagh’s girl speaking now. “I have been escorted by the Thorntons quite enough during the past ten minutes. I tell you again, I believe you lie. But I propose to understand something more about this—and I’ll not disgrace you nor your grandson!”
“Go ask some questions!” he called after her. He felt sure that gossip would confirm him. But to make sure that Harlan did not follow her and find her and discredit gossip he turned back down the corridor purposing to keep that belligerent young man under watch and ward for a time.
THE WAY OF A MAID WITH A MAID
The Duke found his grandson in an anteroom where the half dozen excited, wondering men had conveyed him.
The old man and the young man stood for a few moments and gazed at each other. Harlan was breathless, disheveled, his knuckles were bleeding.
“Where is she?”
The Duke came close to him. “She went away. Now keep your mouth closed. You talk about disgracing a girl,” he muttered in his grandson’s ear; “if you haven’t disgraced her and yourself and all of us here to-day it isn’t because you haven’t done your best! God only knows why I didn’t leave you in the woods where you belong!”
“I’m going out to find her,” insisted his grandson. “This is my own business from now on.”
“You try to leave this room in the shape you’re in and I’ll have you committed to the insane asylum across the river. The girl has more sense than you’ve got.”