She laughed. “Really, sir, I am not aware that I have the slightest desire in the matter. I have given it no thought, but I presume the possibility of our meeting again depends largely upon yourself, and the sort of society you keep. Surely you cannot expect that I would seek such an opportunity?”
He bowed humbly. “You mistake my purpose. I merely meant to ask if there was not some possibility of our again coming together socially the presence of mutual friends.”
“Oh, I scarcely think so; I do not remember ever having met any soldiers at the social functions here—excepting officers. We are extremely exclusive in Glencaid,” she dropped him a mocking courtesy, “and I have always moved in the most exclusive set.”
Piqued by her tantalizing manner, he asked, “What particular social functions are about to occur that may possibly open a passage into your guarded presence?”
She seemed immersed in thought, her face turned partially aside. “Unfortunately, I have not my list of engagements here,” and she glanced about at him shyly. “I can recall only one at present, and I am not even certain—that is, I do not promise—to attend that. However, I may do so. The Miners’ Bachelor Club gives a reception and ball to-morrow evening in honor of the new schoolmistress.”
“What is her name?” with responsive eagerness.
She hesitated, as if doubtful of the strict propriety of mentioning it to a stranger.
“Miss Phoebe Spencer,” she said, her eyes cast demurely down.
“Ah!” he exclaimed, in open triumph; “and have I, then, at last made fair capture of your secret? You are Miss Phoebe Spencer.”
She drew back still farther within the recesses of the bushes, at his single victorious step forward.
“I? Why certainly not. I am merely Miss Spencer’s ‘star’ pupil, so you may easily judge something of what her superior attainments must necessarily be. But I am really going now, and I sincerely trust you will be able to secure a ticket for to-morrow night; for if you once meet this Miss Spencer you will never yield another single thought to me, Mr.—Mr.—” her eyes dancing with laughter—“First Lieutenant Donald Brant.”
Brant sprang forward, all doubt regarding this young woman instantly dissipated by those final words of mischievous mockery. She had been playing with him as unconcernedly as if he were a mere toy sent for her amusement, and his pride was stung.
But pursuit proved useless. Like a phantom she had slipped away amid the underbrush, leaving him to flounder blindly in the labyrinth. Once she laughed outright, a clear burst of girlish merriment ringing through the silence, and he leaped desperately forward, hoping to intercept her flight. His incautious foot slipped along the steep edge of the shelving bank, and he went down, half stumbling, half sliding, until he came to a sudden pause on the brink of the little stream. The chase was ended, and he sat up, confused for the moment, and half questioning the evidence of his own eyes.