“Do you like me, Betty?”
Her eyes danced. They answered as well as her lips:
“Of course I do. Haven’t I been telling you so plainly enough? I’ve been ashamed of myself for being so transparent—on such slight provocation.”
“How much?” he demanded.
The ballroom was suddenly shrouded in darkness, saved only from a cavelike black by diffused street light through the upper windows. A blown fuse. A mis-pulled switch. One of those minor accidents common to electric lighting systems. The orchestra hesitated, went on. From a momentary silence the dancers broke into chuckles, amused laughter, a buzz of exclamatory conversation. But no one moved, lest they collide with other unseen couples.
Jack and Betty stood still. They could not see. But MacRae could feel the quick beat, of Betty’s heart, the rise and fall of her breast, a trembling in her fingers. There was a strange madness stirring in him. His arm tightened about her. He felt that she yielded easily, as if gladly. Their mouths sought and clung in the first real kiss Jack MacRae had ever known. And then, as they relaxed that impulse-born embrace, the lights flashed on again, blazed in a thousand globes in great frosted clusters high against the gold-leaf decorations of the ceiling. The dancers caught step again. MacRae and Betty circled the polished floor silently. She floated in his arms like thistledown, her eyes like twin stars, a deeper color in her cheeks.
Then the music ceased, and they were swept into a chattering group, out of which presently materialized another partner to claim Betty. So they parted with a smile and a nod.
But MacRae had no mind for dancing. He went out through the lobby and straight to his room. He flung off his coat and sat down in a chair by the window and blinked out into the night. He had looked, it seemed to him, into the very gates of paradise,—and he could not go in.
It wasn’t possible. He sat peering out over the dusky roofs of the city, damning with silent oaths the coil in which he found himself inextricably involved. History was repeating itself. Like father, like son.
There was a difference though. MacRae, as he grew calmer, marked that. Old Donald had lost his sweetheart by force and trickery. His son must forego love—if it were indeed love—of his own volition. He had no choice. He saw no way of winning Betty Gower unless he stayed his hand against her father. And he would not do that. He could not. It would be like going over to the enemy in the heat of battle. Gower had wronged and persecuted his father. He had beaten old Donald without mercy in every phase of that thirty-year period. He had taken Donald MacRae’s woman from him in the beginning and his property in the end. Jack MacRae had every reason to believe Gower merely sat back awaiting a favorable opportunity to crush him.