But a slacker was a slacker! A coward was a coward! All the money in the world couldn’t take away the stain. A man who wouldn’t fight at this moment for the freedom of the world was a renegade! She would have none of him.
He came on smiling. “Hello, Ralph. Miss McKenzie, your father says you may dance with me—I hope you have something left?”
The blood sang in her ears, her cheeks burned.
“I haven’t anything left—for you—” The emphasis was unmistakable.
[Illustration: “I haven’t anything left for you.”]
Even then he did not grasp what had happened to him. “Ralph will let me have one of his—be a good sport, Ralph.”
“Well, I like that,” Ralph began. Then Jean’s crisp voice stopped him. “I am not going to dance any more—my head aches. I—I shall ask Daddy to take me—home—”
It was all very young and obvious. Derry gave her a puzzled stare. Ralph protested. “Oh, look here, Jean. If you think you aren’t going to dance any more with me.”
“Well, I’m not. I am going home. Please take me down to Daddy.”
It seemed a long time before the blurred good-byes were said, and Jean was alone with her father in the cozy comfort of the closed car.
“Do you love me, Daddy?”
“My darling, yes.”
“May I live with you always—to the end of my days?”
He chuckled. “So that was it? Poor Ralph!”
“You know you are not sorry for him, Daddy. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
He drew her close to him. “I should be sorry for myself if he took you from me.”
She clung to him. “He is not going to take me away.”
“Was that what you were telling him on the balcony stairs?”
“Yes. And he said I was too young to know my own mind. That I was a sleeping Princess—and some day he would wake me—up—”
“And he is not the Prince, Daddy. There isn’t any Prince.”
She had shut resolutely away from her the vision of Derry Drake as she had seen him on the night of Cinderella. She would have no white-feathered knight! Princes were brave and rode to battle!
It was Alma who gave Derry Drake the key to Jean’s conduct.
“Did your ears burn?” she asked, as they danced together after Jean and her father had gone.
“We were talking about you at dinner.”
“I hope you said nice things.”
“I did, of course.” Her lashes flashed up and fluttered down as they had flashed and fluttered for Ralph. Every man was for Alma a possible conquest. Derry was big game, and as yet her little darts had not pierced him. She still hoped, however. “I did, but the rest didn’t.”
He shrank from the things which she might tell him. “What did they say?” His voice caught.