Phyllis a Princess? Gretchen free? I sent for my coat and hat and went out. I forgot all about my appointment with Col. J—— of the Queen’s light and that I had left Pembroke playing billiards in a strange club, where I myself had been but a guest. The crisp October air blew in my face as I rapidly walked up the mall, and it cooled the fever in my veins. But my mind ran on rather wildly. Gretchen free? Phyllis a Princess? Gretchen’s little word, “perhaps,” came back and sang into my ears. Yet, win or lose, I was to meet the Prince in mortal combat. If Phyllis was not proven Gretchen’s twin sister, I should care but little for the Prince’s bullet. On the other hand—Well, I should trust to luck. Before I was aware of my destination, I stood fumbling the key in the door of my apartment. I wanted my pipe. At eleven by the clock, Pembroke came in.
“Hang your apologies!” he said.
“Phyllis,” said I, “do you remember the day we first met?”
We were in the morning room of the Wentworth mansion at B——. Phyllis, Pembroke and I sat before the warm grate, while Mrs. Wentworth and Ethel stood by one of the windows, comparing some shades of ribbon. My presence at B—— was due to a wire I had sent to New York, which informed headquarters that I was on the track of a great sensation. The return wire had said, “Keep on it.”
“When first we met?” echoed Phyllis. “Why, it was at Block Island.”
“Oh,” said I, “I do not refer to the time when you had shouldered the responsibilities of a society bud. I mean the time when the introduction was most informal. You were at the time selling lemonade without license and with very little lemon.”
“Selling lemonade?” cried Pembroke.
“Never mind him, Mr. Pembroke,” laughed Phyllis.
“It was a long time ago,” I went on. “I was a new reporter. Mr. Wentworth had to be interviewed. It was one of those hot days in May. The servant at the door said that Mr. Wentworth was in the back yard—he called it the garden—where I soon found myself. You had a small table, a glass and a pitcher. I suppose every time your uncle got thirsty you sold him a glass. You wore short dresses—”
“Terrible!” cried Phyllis, shielding her face with the hand-screen.
“And looked as cool as the ice in the pitcher, and as fresh as the flowers which lined the walls. I thought that if I bought a glass of you I might make my approach to your uncle an easier task. So I looked at you and smiled, and you giggled.”
“Giggled!” cried Phyllis, indignantly.
Pembroke was laughing.
“Yes, actually giggled,” I went on. “I laid down a twenty-five-cent piece, and you poured but some water which had had nothing more than a mild flirtation with a lemon, and I gulped it down. I held out my hand, and you said that there wasn’t any change. I smiled a false smile. Let me make a confession.”