“I believe you did, but I doubt your complete surrender to the creed.”
“Doubt! Only our second time of meeting, and you already venture to doubt! This can scarcely be construed into a compliment, I fear.”
“Yet to my mind it may prove the very highest type of compliment,” he returned, reassured by her manner. “For a certain degree of independence in both thought and action is highly commendable. Indeed, I am going to be bold enough to add that it was these very attributes that awakened my interest in you.”
“Oh, indeed; you cause me to blush already. My frankness, I fear, bids fair to cost me all my friends, and I may even go beyond your pardon, if the perverse spirit of my nature so move me.”
“The risk of such a catastrophe is mine, and I would gladly dare that much to get away from conventional commonplace. One advantage of such meetings as ours is an immediate insight into each other’s deeper nature. For one I shall sincerely rejoice if you will permit the good fortune of our chance meeting to be alone sponsor for our future friendship. Will you not say yes?”
She looked at him with greater earnestness, her young face sobered by the words spoken. Whatever else she may have seen revealed there, the countenance bending slightly toward her was a serious, manly one, inspiring respect, awakening confidence.
“And I do agree,” she said, extending her hand in a girlish impulse. “It will, at least, be a new experience and therefore worth the trial. I will even endeavor to restrain my rebellious spirit, so that you will not be unduly shocked.”
He laughed, now placed entirely at his ease. “Your need of mercy is appreciated, fair lady. Is it your desire to return to the hall?”
She shook her head positively. “A cheap, gaudy show, all bluster and vulgarity. Even the dancing is a mere parody. I early tired of it.”
“Then let us choose the better part, and sit here on the bench, the night our own.”
He conducted her across the porch to the darkest corner, where only rifts of light stole trembling in between the shadowing vines, and there found convenient seats. A moment they remained in silence, and he could hear her breathing.
“Have you truly been at the hall,” she questioned, “or were you merely fibbing to awaken my interest?”
“I truly have been,” he answered, “and actually have danced a measure with the fair guest of the evening.”
“With Phoebe Spencer! And yet you dare pretend now to retain an interest in me? Lieutenant Brant, you must be a most talented deceiver, or else the strangest person I ever met. Such a miracle has never occurred before!”
“Well, it has certainly occurred now; nor am I in this any vain deceiver. I truly met Miss Spencer. I was the recipient of her most entrancing smiles; I listened to her modulated voice; I bore her off, a willing captive, from a throng of despairing admirers; I danced with her, gazing down into her eyes, with her fluffy hair brushing my cheek, yet resisted all her charms and came forth thinking only of you.”