“Gentlemen and Miss Gaines,” said Mr. Jelnik, in a ringing and vibrant voice, “permit me to inform you that I also have asked Miss Smith to marry me. And she has done me the honor to accept me.”
THE GREATEST GIFT
The Author threw his short cape backward, laid one hand upon the hilt of his sword, doffed his cap, and made a sweeping courtesy.
“Prettily played, Mr. Jelnik!” said he, admiringly. “May one be permitted to congratulate you, upon your indubitably dramatic instinct?”
“All things are permitted; but not all things are expedient,” Mr. Jelnik replied evenly.
“Oh, we know who can quote scripture!” cried The Author; and looked longingly at the other’s naked throat.
At which point Doctor Geddes, coming as it were out of a trance, took the situation in hand.
“Have done with this nonsense!” he ordered sharply. “Alicia, get Sophy home; she looks more dead than alive. Jelnik, your declaration puts a new complexion on this affair; but let me tell you flatly I don’t like your method of announcing engagements.”
“Suppose you waive criticism and look after Sophy,” suggested Mr. Jelnik. He walked up to his cousin and looked straight in his eyes: “Richard, you’re not such a fool as to dare doubt us?”
“Eh?” blinked the doctor, “what? Doubt Sophy? I should say not! And you—oh, well, you’re a bit of a fool yourself at times, Jelnik, and this seems to be one of the times; but I don’t doubt you. However,” said the doctor, grimly, “I should like to whale some sense into you with a club!”
“An ax would be more to the point,” murmured The Author, regretfully.
“In the meantime, Richard,” said Mr. Jelnik, with a faint smile, “take Sophy home, please.”
I have a vague recollection of swallowing something that the doctor told me to swallow. Then came blessed oblivion, a sleep so profound that I didn’t even dream, and didn’t awake until that afternoon; to find the tender face of Alicia again bent over me.
I waited for her to ask at least one of the many questions she must have been longing to ask. But Alicia shook her head.
“Sophy,” said she, loyally, “you haven’t got to tell me one single, solitary thing unless you really want to. But—isn’t this just a bit sudden? I was—surprised.”
“So was I.”
“You see, Sophy, I never once dreamed—”
“That he cared for me? Neither did I.”
“No. That you cared for him,” Alicia puckered her brows.
“My dear girl,” I was trying to feel my way toward letting her have the truth, “listen: whether or not he is engaged to me, Mr. Nicholas Jelnik really loves some lady that neither you nor I know. He told me so himself.”
It took Alicia some moments to recover from that!
“And yet you’re going to marry him, Sophy?”