“If you’ll be so good then. And bring Mr. Davis along with you, please. He’ll keep us from quarreling too much.”
“I’ll throw him out of the window if he don’t behave right,” Davis promised joyfully. He was happy to-day, and he did not care who knew it.
Valencia passed on to her table, and Dick resumed his seat. He had a strong interest in this young woman, but even the prospect of a talk with her could not make him indifferent to the rare steak and French-fried potatoes before him. He was a healthy normal American in his late twenties, and after several days of starvation well-cooked food looked very good to him.
“There’s some mail waiting for you upstairs—one of the letters is a registered one, mailed at Corbett’s,” his friend told him as they rose to leave. He was like a hen with one chick in his eagerness to supply Dick’s wants and in his reluctance to let Gordon out of his sight.
The registered letter was the one Valencia had sent him, inclosing the one written by her grandfather to her father. Her contrite little note went straight to his emotions. If not in words, at least in spirit, it pleaded for pardon. Even the telegram she had wired implied an undeniable interest in him. Dick went with a light heart to the interview she had appointed him.
He slipped an arm through that of Davis. “Come on, you old bald-headed chaperone. Didn’t you hear the lady give you a bid to her party this mo’ning? Get a move on you.”
“Ain’t you going to let her invite get cold before you butt in?” retorted Steve amiably.
Valencia took away from the dining-room a heart at war with itself. The sight of his gaunt face, carrying the scars of many wounds and the lines marked by hunger, stirred insurgent impulses. The throb of passion and of the sweet protective love that is at the bottom of every woman’s tenderness suffused her cheeks with warm life and made her eyes wonderful. Out of the grave he had come back to her, this indomitable foe who played the game with such gay courage. It was useless to tell herself that she was plighted to a better man, a worthier one. Scamp he might be, but Dick Gordon held her heart in the hollow of his strong brown hand.
Some impulse of shyness, perhaps of reluctance, had restrained her from wearing Manuel’s ring at breakfast. But when she returned to her room she went straight to the desk where she had locked it and put the solitaire on her finger. The fear of disloyalty drove her back to her betrothed from the enticement of forbidden thoughts. She must put Richard Gordon out of her mind. It was worse than madness to be dreaming of him now that she was plighted to another.
Gordon, coming eagerly to meet her, found a young woman more reserved, more distant. He was conscious of this even before his eyes stopped at the engagement ring sparkling on her finger, the visible evidence that his rival had won.