“How nice that will be, and I am so grateful to you for the promise. By-the-bye, only this very morning a man stopped me on the street, actually mistaking me for Naida.”
“What sort of a looking man, Miss Spencer?”
“Large, and heavily set, with a red beard. He was exceedingly polite when informed of his mistake, and said he merely had a message to deliver to Miss Gillis. But he refused to tell it to me.”
The glances of the two men met, but Brant was unable to decipher the meaning hidden within the gray eyes. Neither spoke, and Miss Spencer, never realizing what her chatter meant, rattled merrily on.
“You see there are so many who speak to me now, because of my public position here. So I thought nothing strange at first, until I discovered his mistake, and then it seemed so absurd that I nearly laughed outright. Isn’t it odd what such a man could possibly want with her? But really, gentlemen, I must return with my news; Naida will be so anxious. I am so glad to have met you both.”
Hampton bowed politely, and Brant conducted her silently down the stairway. “I greatly regret not being able to accompany you home,” he explained, “but I came down on horseback, and my duty requires that I return at once to the camp.”
“Oh, indeed! how very unfortunate for me!” Even as she said so, some unexpected vision beyond flushed her cheeks prettily. “Why, Mr. Wynkoop,” she exclaimed, “I am so glad you happened along, and going my way too, I am sure. Good morning, Lieutenant; I shall feel perfectly safe with Mr. Wynkoop.”
THE DOOR OPENS, AND CLOSES AGAIN
In one sense Hampton had greatly enjoyed Miss Spencer’s call. Her bright, fresh face, her impulsive speech, her unquestioned beauty, had had their effect upon him, changing for the time being the gloomy trend of his thoughts. She was like a draught of pure Spring air, and he had gratefully breathed it in, and even longed for more.
But gradually the slight smile of amusement faded from his eyes. Something, which he had supposed lay securely hidden behind years and distance, had all at once come back to haunt him,—the unhappy ghost of an expiated crime, to do evil to this girl Naida. Two men, at least, knew sufficient of the past to cause serious trouble. This effort by Slavin to hold personal communication with the girl was evidently made for some definite purpose. Hampton was unable to decide what that purpose could be. He entertained no doubt regarding the enmity of the big gambler, or his desire to “get even” for all past injuries; but how much did he know? What special benefit did he hope to gain from conferring with Naida Gillis? Hampton decided to have a face-to-face interview with the man himself; he was accustomed to fight his battles in the open, and to a finish. A faint hope, which had been growing dimmer and dimmer with every passing year, began to flicker once again within his heart. He desired to see this man Murphy, and to learn exactly what he knew.