He was shaken by an emotion which bent his head to his knees. Nellie Custis pressed close against him and whined.
“He shan’t have her, Nellie. He shan’t——”
He burned with the thought of Dalton’s look of triumph. Dalton who had carried Becky off, and had left him with Kemp and a Canton teapot.
He recalled Kemp’s words. “After it things seem a bit small, sir.”
Well, it shouldn’t be small for him. It had seemed so big—over there. So easy to—carry on.
If he only had a fighting chance. If he had only a half of Dalton’s money. A little more time in which to get on his feet.
But in the meantime here was Dalton—with his money, his motors, and his masterfulness. And his look of triumph——
In a sudden fierce reaction he sprang to his feet. He stood in the doorway as if defying the future. “Nobody shall take her away from me,” he said, “she’s mine——”
His arms were folded over his chest, his wet black locks almost hid his eyes. So might some young savage have stood in the long ago, sending his challenge forth to those same hills.
It is one thing, however, to fling a challenge to the hills, and another to live up to the high moment. Looking at it afterwards in cold blood, Randy was forced to admit that his chances of beating George Dalton in a race for Becky were small.
There seemed some slight hope, however, in the fact that Becky was a Bannister and ought to know a gentleman when she saw one.
“And Dalton’s a—a bounder,” said Randy to Nellie Custis.
Nellie Custis, who was as blue-blooded as any Bannister, cocked a sympathetic ear. Cocking an ear with Nellie was a weighty matter. Her ears were big and unmanageable. When she got them up, she kept them there for some time. It was a rather intriguing habit, as it gave her an air of eager attention which wooed confidence.
“He’s a bounder,” said Randy as if that settled it.
But it did not settle it in the least. A man with an Apollo head may not be a gentleman under his skin, but how are you to prove it? The world, spurning Judy O’Grady, sanctions the Colonel’s lady, and their sisterhood becomes socially negligible. Randy should have known that he could not sweep George Dalton away with a word. Perhaps he did know it, but he did not care to admit it.
He and Nellie Custis were in the garage. It had once been a barn, but the boarders had bought cars, so there was now the smell of gasoline where there had once been the sweet scent of hay. And intermittently the air was rent with puffs and snorts and shrieks which drowned the music of that living chorus which has been sung in stables for centuries.
There were three cars. Two of them have nothing to do with this story, but the third will play its part, and merits therefore description.