“If I have been indiscreet,” he says, with a slight glance at Florence’s proud face, “pray pardon me. I only meant to render you a little assistance. I thought I understood from you that you were rather in a dilemma. Do not dwell upon my offer another moment. I am afraid I have made myself somewhat officious—unintentionally, believe me.”
“My dear fellow, not at all,” declares Sir Adrian hastily, shocked at his own apparent want of courtesy. “I assure you, you mistake. It is all so much to the contrary, that I gratefully accept your offer, and beg you will be Marlow.”
“But really—” begins Arthur Dynecourt.
“Not a word!” interrupts Sir Adrian; and indeed by this time Arthur Dynecourt has brought his cousin to believe he is about to confer upon him a great favor. “Look here, you fellows,” Sir Adrian goes on, walking toward the other men, who are still arguing and disputing over the vexed question, “I’ve settled it all for you. Here is my cousin; he will take the difficulty off your hands, and be a first-class Marlow at the same time.”
A suppressed consternation follows this announcement. Many and dark are the glances cast upon the new-comer, who receives them all with his usual imperturbable smile. Rising, Arthur approaches one of the astonished group who is known to him, and says something upon the subject with a slight shrug of his shoulders. As he is Sir Adrian’s cousin, every one feels that it will be impossible to offer any objection to his taking the much-coveted part.
“Well, I have sacrificed myself for you; I have renounced a very dear desire all to please you,” says Sir Adrian softly, bending down to Florence. “Have I succeeded?”
“You have succeeded in displeasing me more than I can say,” she returns coldly. Then, seeing his amazed expression, she goes on hastily, “Forgive me, but I had hoped for another Marlow.”
She blushes prettily as she says this, and an expression arises in her dark eyes that moves him deeply. Stooping over her hand, he imprints a kiss upon it. Dora Talbot, whose head is turned aside, sees nothing of this, but Arthur Dynecourt has observed the silent caress, and a dark frown gathers on his brow.
Every day and all day long there is nothing but rehearsing. In every corner two or more may be seen studying together the parts they have to play. Florence Delmaine alone refuses to rehearse her part except in full company, though Mr. Dynecourt has made many attempts to induce her to favor him with a private reading of those scenes in which he and she must act together. He has even appealed to Dora Talbot to help him in this matter, which she is only too willing to do, as she is secretly desirous of flinging the girl as much in his way as possible. Indeed anything that would keep Florence out of Sir Adrian’s sight would be welcome to her; so that she listens kindly to Arthur Dynecourt when he solicits her assistance.