“How do you do, Mr. Hapgood? We didn’t expect you again so soon. I thought that maybe you had forgotten us.” And then, blushing prettily over the hand which Mr. Hapgood was still holding ardently in his, “Won’t you come in?”
Mr. Hapgood, having assured her that he should forget all else in the world before he forgot her, called her attention to the fact that it was a deucedly fine evening, and that it would be too bad to lose any of it by going into the house. His smile and eloquent eyes pointed out that there was a not uncomfortable rustic bench, large enough to accommodate two nicely, at the cozy, vine-sheltered end of the porch.
“And how is Mr. Truxton?” he asked, his tone gently solicitous, when they were seated.
“I have had Dr. Biggs call since you were here,” she told him, assuming the pose which a certain Broadway favorite had discovered (the photograph of the leading lady in this particular pose had been cut from the latest theatrical gazette which now lay upon the sitting-room table; it is denied us to enter the room set aside for Miss Jocelyn to see if the picture be pinned to the wall over her dresser!)—a pose which was not lost to the appreciative and admiring eyes of Mr. Hapgood. “Dr. Biggs says that papa’s is a high-strung, nervous disposition which at times makes the taking of—of a little alcohol absolutely necessary. And that the—the stimulant is liable to upset him. It is entirely a nervous trouble, and in a few days, with perfect rest, he will be well again.”
Mr. Hapgood nodded gravely, sympathetically.
“Mr. Truxton has been so great a factor in the reclamation project—he has been the very heart and soul of the actual work done—that I wonder how Mr. Crawford’s schemes will get along without him?”
“I hope they fail,” cried Jocelyn, hotly. “Papa has given the best in him to help them, and look how they send him adrift when—when he makes one little slip!”
“Do you know why Crawford really let him go?” Hapgood, speaking in hushed tones, continued to eye her keenly. “Don’t you know that Crawford was just waiting and looking for an excuse—any excuse?”
Jocelyn turned widening eyes upon him. “What do you mean?”
Hapgood gave the impression of a man hesitating over a serious matter. And then, with a sudden burst of something remarkably like ingenuous ardor, he exclaimed:
“Why should I say anything? Perhaps I should keep my peace and let matters take their own course. I have a distinctive dislike to interfering in any way with the affairs of other people. And yet, Miss Jocelyn, I feel so strong an interest in you—you will forgive me if I have to speak plainly; you will pardon me when you know I mean no offense?—that I cannot keep my peace.” A momentary struggle between his desire to befriend her and his dislike to say evil of others, and then with vehement intensity, “I will not remain silent.”