The conversation turned upon her ere they had been a quarter of an hour at table. Mr. Walraven never could leave the subject uppermost in his thoughts for long.
“It is altogether extraordinary,” Sir Roger Trajenna said, slowly. “The first absence was unaccountable enough, but this second is more unaccountable still. Some enemy is at the bottom.”
“Surely Miss Dane could have no enemies,” said Hugh Ingelow. “We all know how amiable and lovable she was.”
“Lovable, certainly. We know that,” remarked Sardonyx, with a grim smile.
“And I adhere to my former opinion,” said Dr. Oleander, with consummate coolness—“that Miss Mollie is playing tricks on her friends, to try their affection. We know what a tricksy sprite she is. Believe me, both absences were practical jokes. She has disappeared of her own free will. It was very well in the Dark Ages—this abducting young ladies and carrying them off to castle-keeps—but it won’t do in New York, in the present year of grace.”
“My opinion precisely, Guy,” chimed in his fair cousin. “Mollie likes to create sensations. Her first absence set the avenue on the qui vive and made her a heroine, so she is resolved to try it again. If people would be guided by me,” glancing significantly at her husband, “they would cease to worry themselves about her, and let her return at her own good pleasure, as she went.”
“Yes, Mr. Walraven,” said Dr. Oleander, flushed and triumphant, “Blanche is right. It is useless to trouble yourself so much about it. Of her own accord she will come back, and you may safely swear of her own accord she went.”
“Guy Oleander, you lie!”
The voice rang silver-sweet, clear as a bugle-blast, through the room. All sprung to their feet.
The wordless cry of affright came from Mrs. Carl Walraven. Dr. Oleander stood paralyzed, his eyes starting from their sockets, his face like the face of a dead man.
And there in the door-way, like a picture in a frame, like a Saxon pythoness, her golden hair falling theatrically loose, her arm upraised, her face pale, her eyes flashing, stood Mollie.
The tableau was magnificent.
There was a dead pause of unutterable consternation. All stood rooted to the spot with staring eyes and open mouths. Before the first electric charge had subsided, Mollie Dane advanced and walked straight up to the confounded doctor, confronting him with eyes that literally blazed.
“Liar! traitor! coward! Whose turn is it now?”
Dr. Oleander fairly gasped for breath. The awful suddenness of the blow stunned him. He could not speak—he made the attempt, but his white lips failed him.
“Before all here,” cried Mollie Dane, arm and hand still upraised with an action indescribably grand, “I accuse you, Guy Oleander, of high felony! I accuse you of forcibly tearing me from my home, of forcibly holding me a prisoner for nearly two weeks, and of intending to carry me off by force to-morrow to Cuba. And you, madame,” turning suddenly as lightning strikes upon Mrs. Carl, “you, madame, I accuse as his aider and abettor.”