“You’ve got a first-rate chance to be generous, too, Miss Valdes. I’m like a kid. I want to put this thing over my way so that I’ll look big. Be a nice girl and let me have my own way. You know I said my wedding present was in that tin box. Don’t spoil everything. Show me that you do think we’re friends at last.”
“We’re friends—if you’re sure you forgive me,” she said shyly.
“Nothing in the world to forgive,” he retorted cheerfully. “I’ve had the time of my life. Now I must go home and get to work.”
“Yes,” she agreed quietly, looking straight in front of her.
He drove in silence for a mile or two before he resumed the conversation.
“Of course I’ll want to come back for the wedding if you send me an invitation. I think a good deal of the prince consort, you know. He’s one man from the ground up.”
“He’s the only man I know that’s good enough for you. The more I see of him the better I like him. He’s sure the gamest ever, a straight-up man if ever there was one.”
“I’m glad of that.” She flashed a little sidelong look at him and laughed tremulously. “It’s good of you to pick me a husband you can endorse so heartily. Would you mind telling me his name—if it isn’t a secret?”
“You know mighty well, but I reckon all girls play the game of making believe it isn’t so for a while. All right. You don’t have to admit it till the right time. But you’ll send me a card, won’t you?”
Her eyes, shyly daring, derided him. “That’s no fair, Mr. Gordon. You go out of your way to pick a prince consort for me—a perfect paragon I’m given to understand—and then you expect me to say ’Thank you kindly, sir,’ without even being told his name.”
He smiled. “Oh, well, you can laugh at me all you like.”
“But I’m not laughing at you,” she corrected, her eyes dancing. “I’m trying to find out who this Admirable Crichton is. Surely I’m within my rights. This isn’t Turkey, you know. Perhaps I mayn’t like him. Or, more important still, he may not like me.”
“Go right ahead with your fun. Don’t mind me.”
“I don’t believe you’ve got a prince consort for me at all. If you had you wouldn’t dodge around like this.”
At that instant he caught sight by chance of her ungloved left hand. Again he observed that the solitaire was missing. His eyes flashed to hers. A sudden hope was born in his heart. He drew the horse to a halt.
“Are you telling me that——? What about Don Manuel?” he demanded.
Now that the crisis was upon her, she would have evaded it if she could. Her long lashes fluttered to the hot cheeks.
“He is my cousin and my friend—the best friend I have,” she answered in a low voice.
“No more than that?”
“No more.” She lifted her eyes and tried to meet his boldly. “And now I really think you’ve been impudent enough, don’t you?”