“Oh—Major Prime? How did it happen?”
“Heaven only knows. I call it a mean trick.”
“Well, of course, Kemp had a right to go if he wanted to. And perhaps you will like a Jap better. You always said Kemp was too independent.”
“He is,” shortly, “but I hate to be upset. It seems as if everything goes wrong these days. What did you want with me, Madge?”
Her eyelashes flickered as she surveyed him. “I wanted to see you—smile, Georgie.”
“You didn’t bring me down here to tell me that——” But in spite of himself the corners of his lips curled. “Oh, what’s the answer, Madge?” he said, and laughed in spite of himself.
“I wanted to talk a little about—your Becky.”
His laughter died at once. “Well, I’m not going to talk about her.”
“Please—I am dying of curiosity—I hear that she is very—rich, Georgie.”
“Yes. She has oodles of money——”
“I don’t believe it.”
“But it is true, Georgie.”
“Who told you?”
“It is all—rot——”
“It isn’t rot, Georgie. Mrs. Flippin knows about it. Becky inherits from her Meredith grandmother. And her grandfather is Admiral Meredith of Nantucket, with a big house on Beacon Street in Boston. And they all belong to the inner circle.”
He stared at her. “But Becky doesn’t look it. She doesn’t wear rings and things.”
“‘Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes’? Oh, George, did you think it had to be like that when people had money? Why, her pearls belonged to a queen.” She told him their history.
It came back to him with a shock that he had said to Becky that the pearls cheapened her. “If they were real,” he had said.
“It was rather strange the way I found it out,” Madge was saying. “Mary Flippin had on the most perfect gown—with all the marks on it of exclusive Fifth Avenue. She was going to the Merriweather ball, and Becky is to be there.”
She saw him gather himself together. “It is rather a Cinderella story, isn’t it?” he asked, with assumed lightness.
“Yes,” she said, “but I thought you’d like to know.”
“What if I knew already?”
She laughed and let it go at that. “I’m lonesome, Georgie, talk to me,” she said. But he was not in a mood to talk. And at last she sent him away. And when he had gone she sat there a long time and thought about him. There had been a look in his eyes which made her almost sorry. It seemed incredible as she came to think of it that anybody should ever be sorry for Georgie.
Since that night with Becky in the garden at Huntersfield George had been torn by conflicting emotions. He knew himself at last in love. He knew himself beaten at the game by a little shabby girl, and a lanky youth who had been her champion.