“That’s a clincher,” said he, with an air of decision. A faint question dwelt in the look she gave him. It was ridiculous to think he meant anything he was saying, but—she felt suddenly a little confused and shy under that light-hearted young gaiety which took every man’s friendly admiration happily for granted.
In silence they finished the dance, and this time the music failed them when they were near the wide entrance to the room where the Evershams, beckoning specters, were standing.
“I’m keeping them waiting,” said the girl, with a note of concern which she had not shown over her performance in that line earlier in the day. But Billy had no time for humorous comparisons.
“When can I see you again?” he demanded bluntly. “Can I see you to-morrow?”
“To-morrow is a very busy day,” she parried.
“But the evening——?”
“I shall be here,” she admitted.
“And could I—could I take you—and the Evershams, of course—somewhere, anywhere, you’d like to go? If there’s any other concert——”
She shook her head. “We leave bright and early the next morning, and I know Mrs. Eversham will want her rest. I think they would rather stay here in the hotel after dinner.”
“But you will keep a little time for me?” Billy urged. “Of course, staying in the same hotel, I can’t take my hat and go and make a formal call on you—but that’s the result I’m after.”
They had paused, to finish this colloquy, a few feet away from the ladies, who were regarding with dark suspicion this interchange of lowered tones.
Suddenly Arlee raised her eyes and gave Billy a quick look, questioning, shyly serious.
“I shall be here—and you can call on me,” she promised, and bade him farewell.
She left him deliriously, inexplicably, foolishly in spirits. He plunged his hands in his pockets and squared his shoulders; he wanted to whistle, he wanted to sing, he wanted to do anything to vent the singular hilarity which possessed him.
Then he saw, across the room, a sandy-haired young man regarding him with dour intentness, and the spectacle, instead of feeding his joy, sent conjecturing chills down his spine. His bubble was pricked. Suppose, ran the horrid thought, suppose she was simply paying off the Englishman? Girls, even blue-eyed, angel-haired girls of cherubic aspect, have not been unknown to perform such deeds of darkness! And this particular girl had mischief in her eyes.... The thought was unpleasantly likely. What had he, Billy B. Hill, of New York—State—to offer to casual view worthy of competition with the presumable advantages of a young Englishman whose sister was staying with a Lady Claire? Perhaps the fellow himself had a title....
Considerably dashed, he went out to consult the register upon that point.
THE CAPTAIN CALLS