“But you did not bring me to my friends. I do not like your sending me here, without explanation,” she returned, trying to be very wise and speak quietly and not rouse him to anger. “We passed a city where the American flags were flying over a house, and I could have gone there.”
“I am sorry you do not care for my hospitality. I did not know that I was displeasing to you.”
“It is those ways that are displeasing to me. I——”
“Then you shall change them,” he laughed. “That will give me pleasure.... But I did not come in the dead of this night, half sick and fatigued, to find such welcome. Come, you must smile a little and sit down at the table with me. Here are delicacies I sent from Cairo.”
Smilingly he seated himself at the divan by the table and lifted the covers from the plates, nodded satisfaction at the food, and began to help himself, while she stood there, motionless.
Without looking up, “Will you not help me to the Apollinaris, Mademoiselle?” he suggested. “My right hand, you see, is not as it should be. There is a bottle opener on the tray.”
Feeling a fool, but unwilling to provoke a crisis, Arlee tugged at the cork and poured him a glass of the sparkling water and then a glass for herself, which she thirstily drank. “How did you hurt your hand?” it occurred to her to say.
“By playing with fire—the single pastime of entertainment!” He spoke gaily, but his lips twitched. “But will you not sit down and join me? This caviar I recommend.”
“I do not care to eat.”
“No?” He finished his sandwich and drained his glass, talking banteringly the while to her. She did not answer. Something told her that the time of explanation between them was coming fast; he had ceased to play with his good fortune, ceased to feel he could afford to wait and look and fancy. He had come urgent, in the dead of night. His mood was teasing, mocking, but imperative.... Slowly she moved toward the unlatched door.
Alertly he was before her; the bolts shot home. “Ah, pardon, but I was negligent! We might be interrupted—and also,” he laughed, as if deprecatingly, “I have foolish fears that you are so dream-like that you will vanish like a dream without those earthly bars. Locks are for treasures.... And now where is that welcome for me? I came in that door on fire to see you, and your eyes froze me. I came to love—you made me mock. Shall we begin again? Will you be nice now, little one, be kind and sweet——”
“Captain Kerissen, you make it impossible for me to like you at all! Why do you treat me like this? You shut me in this house like a prisoner. If you—if you care for me at all,” stammered Arlee, “you would not treat me so!”
“And how, then, would I treat you?” he inquired slowly.
“You would—you would take me to my own people and give me back my independence, my dignity. Then there would be honor in your—your courtship. I——”