“This is good fortune! I’m very glad indeed to see you,” he said, cordially, to Bessie. “Miss King, is it not—Miss Bessie King, Miss Mercer’s friend? Won’t you introduce me to the other young lady!”
A FOOLISH PROCEEDING
Reluctantly enough, Bessie yielded to his request. If she had known how to avoid introducing Holmes to Dolly, she would have done it. But she was not old enough, and not experienced enough, to understand how to manage such an affair. Had there been occasion, Miss Eleanor, of course, could have snubbed a man and still been perfectly polite while she was doing it. But Bessie had not reached that point yet.
“Are you staying down here together? How very pleasant!” said Holmes. “This seems to be a beautiful place from the road, but of course one can’t see very much from an automobile.”
“We’re down here with our Camp Fire—a lot of the girls,” explained Dolly, hurriedly. “Miss Mercer is Guardian of the Camp Fire, and this is her father’s farm. It is a nice place, but it’s dreadfully slow. Just fancy, there isn’t a place anywhere around where we can even get an ice-cream soda!”
“Dolly!” said Bessie, in a low voice, reproachfully. “You mustn’t—”
“What a tragedy!” said Holmes, laughing.
“Oh, of course, you don’t know what it is to have a craving for soda and not be able to get it!” said Dolly, pouting. “So you laugh at me—”
Holmes was all regret in a moment.
“My dear Miss Dolly!” he protested. “I wasn’t laughing at you at all—really I wasn’t! I was smiling at the idea of there being such a primitive place in a civilized country. Really, I was! And I’m sure it is a tragedy. I believe I’m as fond of ice-cream soda as you, if I am such an old fellow. And, after all, though it seems so tragic, it’s easily mended, you know. I happen to remember passing a most attractive looking drug store in a town about five miles back, and that’s no ride at all in this car. Jump in, both of you, and I’ll run you there and back in no time!”
“Oh, that’s awfully kind of you, but I really think we shouldn’t,” stammered Dolly, who had meant, as soon as she saw that Holmes knew Bessie, to get that invitation.
“Of course we shouldn’t, Dolly,” said Bessie, irritated, since she saw through Dolly’s rather transparent little scheme at once. “It’s very kind of you, Mr. Holmes, but we mustn’t think of troubling you so much. Dolly doesn’t really want an ice-cream soda at all; she just thinks she does, and she’s much better off without it.”
“Oh, come, that’s very unkind, Miss Bessie! I can see that your friend is really suffering for a strawberry ice-cream soda. And you mustn’t talk as if I would be taking any trouble. I’m just riding around the country aimlessly, for want of something better to do. I’m not going anywhere in particular, and it doesn’t matter when I get there or if I never get there at all. I’m just a useless man, too old to work any longer. Surely you won’t refuse to let me make myself useful to a young lady in distress?”