Now, when the card of Captain Kerissen was handed to Miss Arlee Beecher the next afternoon, when she sauntered in from the sunny out-of-doors and paused at the desk for the voluminous harvest of letters the last mail had brought, and furthermore the information was added that the Captain was waiting, little Miss Beecher’s first thought was the resentful appreciation that the Captain was overdoing it.
She hesitated, then, with her hands full of letters and parasol, she crossed the hall into the reception room. She intended to let her caller see his mistake, so with her burdened hands avoiding a handclasp, she greeted him and stood waiting, with eyes of inquiry upon him.
The young man smiled secretly to himself. He was a young man not without experience in ladies’ moods and he had a very shrewd idea that somebody had been making remarks, but he did not permit a hint of any perception of the coolness of her manner to impair the impeccable suavity of his.
“Will you accord me two moments of your time that I may give you two messages?” he inquired, and Arlee felt suddenly ill-bred before his gentle courtesy and she sat down abruptly upon the edge of the nearest chair.
The Captain placed one near her and seated himself, with a clank of his dangling scabbard. He was really a very handsome young man, though his features were too finely finished to please a robust taste, and there was a hint of insolence and cruelty about the nose and mouth—though this an inexperienced and light-hearted young tourist of one and twenty did not more than vaguely perceive.
“They are, the both, of the ball of the Khedive,” he continued in his English, which was, though amazingly fluent and ready, a literal sounding translation of the French, which was in reality his mother tongue. “My sister thinks she can arrange that invitation. You are sure that you will be returned at Cairo, then?”
“Oh, dear, yes! I would come back by train,” Arlee declared eagerly, “rather than miss that wonderful ball!”
She thought how astonished a certain red-headed young Englishman would be to see her at that ball, and how fortunate she was compared to his haughty and disappointed friend, the Lady Claire, and the chill of her resentment against the Captain’s intrusion vanished like snow in the warmth of her gratitude.
“Good!” He smiled at her with a flash of white teeth. “Then my sister herself will see one of the household of the Khedive and request the invitation for you and for your chaperon, the Madame——”
“Eversham. She will be included for you, but not the daughter—no?”
“Is that asking too much?” said Arlee hesitantly. “Miss Eversham would feel badly to be left out.... But, anyway, I’m not sure that I shall be with them then,” she reflected.
“Not with them?” The young man leaned forward, his eyes curiously intent upon her.