Before Mollie’s last word of welcome was uttered, the door opened for the third time, and enter Mr. Sardonyx.
The tableau was indescribably ludicrous. The four men glared at one another vengefully, and then four pairs of eyes turned indignantly upon Miss Dane for an explanation. They had it.
“Gentlemen,” said Miss Dane, with her sweetest smile, “I invited you here this morning because you are very particular friends, and I wished to give you an agreeable surprise before all the avenue knows it. Doctor Oleander, Mr. Ingelow, Mr. Sardonyx, allow me to present to you my plighted husband, Sir Roger Trajenna.”
Imagine that tableau!
For an instant there was dead silence; a bomb bursting in their midst could hardly have startled them more. Mollie dared not look in their faces, lest the inward laughter that convulsed her should burst forth.
Sir Roger Trajenna, a little surprised, yet bowed with gentlemanly ease, while the three young men sat perfectly thunder-struck.
The dead blank was broken by Dr. Oleander.
“Permit me to congratulate Sir Roger Trajenna,” he said, bowing to that gentleman; “and permit me to thank Miss Dane for this exceedingly unexpected mark of preference. If it is ever in my power to return your condescension, Miss Mollie, believe me you will find my memory good. I wish you all good-morning.”
His immovable face had not changed, but his gray eyes flashed one bright, fierce glance at Mollie, that said, plainly as words, “I will have revenge for this insult as sure as my name is Guy Oleander”.
But saucy Mollie only answered that sinister look by her brightest glance and smile; and taking his hat, Dr. Oleander strode away.
Then Mr. Sardonyx arose. He had been sitting like a statue, but the words and departure of his fellow-victim seemed to restore consciousness.
“Am I to understand, Miss Dane, that this is the answer you meant when you invited me here to-day?” he sternly asked.
“Did I really invite you? Oh, yes! Of course, Mr. Sardonyx, it must have been. I purposely kept my engagement secret since my return from Washington in order to give you an agreeable surprise.”
“I am exceedingly obliged to you. Believe me, I will prove my gratitude if ever opportunity offers.”
Miss Dane bowed and smiled. Sir Roger looked hopelessly bewildered. Mr. Sardonyx took his hat.
“Farewell, Miss Dane, and many thanks.”
He was gone. Hugh Ingelow alone remained—Hugh Ingelow, white and cold as a dead man. Mollie’s heart smote her cruelly for the second time at sight of him. He arose as the lawyer disappeared.
“You have nothing more to say to me, Miss Dane?”
Mollie lifted her eyebrows.
“My dear Mr. Ingelow, what should I possibly have to say to you, except that we will always be most happy to see you—Sir Roger and I?”