“I am mad about you,” he said in a low tone.
“And only me?” she laughed, her dimples showing.
So, teasing and luring, she held him off, and her heart beat exultantly as she saw that she had given him the thought of marriage for that of conquest, the dream of a perfect idyll for that of an enforced submission.... It was a desperate play, but she played it valiantly, and her fearfulness and the spell of her beauty sweetened the role of beseeching suitor for him, and gave a glamour to this pretty garden dalliance.... The memory of time came to him at last with a start, and frowningly he stared at the watch he drew out to consult.
“I must hurry away—to another part of the palace,” he amended swiftly, “where I have an engagement.... I shall not be at liberty till to-night—rather late. I will send word to you, then——”
She shook her head at him. “To-morrow,” she substituted gaily. “Let us have luncheon to-morrow under the trees again like this.
“To-morrow is too far away——”
“No, it is just right for me. And if you really want to please me——”
“But does it please you to make me miserable——?”
“You can’t be very miserable when you have a luncheon engagement,” she insisted. “I’m not!”
He shrugged. “Till luncheon then—unless I should be back earlier than I think.” He gave her a quick look, but her face did not betray awareness of the slip.
“Oh, of course, if you are at liberty sooner—And while you are busy won’t you manage things so I can stay out here awhile? I shall love this garden, I know, when I am better friends with it,” and after an imperceptible pause he promised to send a maid back to keep watch over her, and with a lingering pressure of hands and a look that plainly said he was but briefly denying himself a more ardent farewell, he hurried away through the banquet hall into the court.
She dared not run after to spy upon his departure. She could only wait, hoping in every throbbing nerve that the maid would prove to be the little one with the wart over her eye. And as she hoped she feared, lest all her frail barrier of cards should be swept away by a single breath.
If he should learn that the little dancer had visited her! If he should discover that she was playing a game with him!
A MAID AND A MESSAGE
The March hare would have been a feeble comparison for Billy Hill’s madness if Robert Falconer could have seen him that Saturday morning, that same Saturday on which Arlee was essaying her daring role, for Billy Hill was sitting in the sun upon a camp stool, a white helmet upon his head, an easel before him, and upon the easel a square of blank canvas, and in Billy’s left hand was a box of oils and in his right a brush. And the camp stool upon which Billy was stationed was planted directly before the small, high-arched door of the Kerissen palace and in plain view of the larger door a few feet to the right.