Late as he went to sleep, Billy B. Hill was up in good season that Sunday morning. The need for cautioning Fritzi Baroff haunted him, and he was not satisfied until he had had breakfast with that lively young lady and laid down the law to her upon the situation.
She was very loath not to talk about herself at first. She wanted to tell her tale to the papers and see if one of them would be hardy enough to publish the story of the outrageous incarceration; she wanted to cable the Viennese theater where she had played of her sensational detention—in short, she wanted to get all the possible publicity out of her durance vile and to advertise her small person from Cairo to the Continent.
But Billy was urgent. “You just bide a wee on this publicity stunt,” he demanded. “Cable your manager and press agent all you want to—but don’t talk around the hotel here—and whatever you do and whatever you say, keep Miss Beecher’s name and mine out of it.”
He was very decided about that, and because she was very grateful to him and because she liked him and because she lacked other friends and other pocketbooks, the little Viennese held her tongue as directed. And she borrowed as much money as Billy would lend her, and drove off to the small shops which were open that day, and found a frock or two and a hat which she declared passable, and returned transfigured to the hotel and rendered the table where she lunched with Billy, with the air of possessing him, quite the most conspicuous in the room. The ladies gazed past them with chill eyes; the men stared covertly, with the surreptitious envy with which even the most virtuous of men surveys a lucky devil. And Billy sadly perceived that he was acquiring a reputation.
He did not blame Miss Falconer for turning haughtily aside as he and his vivid companion went past them in the veranda. But he did think her disdainful lack of memory a little overdone.
His cheeks were still red as he looked away from her and encountered the direct eyes of the girl who followed her.
“Oh, how do you do, Mr. Hill?” said Lady Claire, as clear as a bell. “It’s such a nice day, isn’t it?” she added, a little breathlessly, as she went by.
“It’s much better than it was,” said Billy, and he turned back to open the door for her.
“Claire!” said Miss Falconer from within.
“Coming, dear,” said Lady Claire, and with a little smile of defiant friendliness at the young American she was gone.
But the memory of that plucky little smile stayed right with Billy. The girl liked him, she liked him in spite of his unknown antecedents, his preposterous picture, his conspicuous companion. She had a mind of her own, that tall English girl with the lovely eyes and the proud mouth. In a warm surge of friendliness his thoughts went out to her, and he wished vaguely that he could let her know how fine he thought she was.