“I don’t share your conviction.”
“Very well, then, if you don’t think it is Miss Beecher, you don’t have to go into this thing. If you can feel satisfied to lay the matter before the ambassador and let that unknown girl wait for the arm of the law to reach her, you are at perfect liberty, of course, to do so.” Billy was growing colder and colder in tone as he grew hotter and hotter in his anger.
Falconer said nothing. He was a very plucky young man, but he had no liking at all for strange and unlawful escapades. He didn’t particularly mind risking his neck, but he liked to do it in accredited ways, in polo, for instance, or climbing Swiss peaks, or swimming dangerous currents.... But he was young—and he had red hair. And he remembered Arlee Beecher. These three days had not been happy ones for him, even sustained as he was by righteous indignation. And if there was any chance that this prisoned girl was Arlee, as this infatuated American was so furiously sure—He reflected that Billy was doing the sporting thing in giving him the chance of it.
“I’ll join you,” he said shortly. “I can’t let it go, you know, if there’s a chance of its being Miss Beecher.”
“Good!” said Billy, holding out his hand and the two young men clasped silently, eyeing each other with a certain mutual respect though with no great increase of liking.
“Now, this is my idea,” Billy went on, and proceeded to develop it, while Falconer carefully studied the plans and made a shrewd suggestion here and there.
It was late in the morning when they parted.
“You must muzzle that Baroff girl,” was Falconer’s parting caution. “We must keep this thing deuced quiet, you know.”
“Of course. He shan’t get wind of it ahead.”
“Not only that. We mustn’t have talk afterwards. It would kill the girl, you know.”
Billy nodded. “She would hate it, I expect.”
“Hate it? My word, it would finish her—a tale of that kind going the rounds.... She could never live it down.”
“Live it down? It would set her up in conversation for the rest of her life!” Billy chuckled softly. “That is, if it comes out all right—and that’s the only way I can imagine its coming out.”
With one hand on the door Falconer paused to stare back at him. “You don’t mean she’d want to tell about it!” he ejaculated with unplumbed horror.
Billy was suddenly sobered. “Well, nobody but you and I and the Baroff know it now,” he said, “and I think we can keep the Baroff’s mouth shut.... I’ll see her in the morning. You’d better get in a nap to-morrow, and I will, too, for we’ll want steady nerves. Good night; I’m glad you’re going with me.”
“I’m damned if I’m glad,” said the honest Englishman, with a wry grin. “If we get our throats cut, I hope Miss Beecher will return from the desert in time for our obsequies.”
“Something in that red-headed chap I like after all,” soliloquized Billy B. Hill, as he turned toward his long-deferred repose. “Hanged if he hasn’t grit to go into a thing on an off chance!... Now, as for me, I’m sure.”