“Why, I feel pretty fine, Shirley. I think it did me a lot of good to crawl out of my shell last night.”
“You feel encouraged to go on living, eh?”
“By all means.”
“Then, something has occurred of late to give you new courage?”
“Oh, many things. Didn’t I give an exhibition of my courage in accepting Ogilvy’s invitation to dinner, knowing you were going to be there?”
She did not like that. “You carry your frankness to extremes, my friend,” she retorted. “I’m sure I’ve always been much nicer to you than you deserve.”
“Nevertheless there wasn’t any valid reason why I should tantalize myself last night.”
“Then why did you come?” He had a suspicion that she was laughing silently at him.
“Partly to please Ogilvy, who has fallen head over heels in love with Moira; partly to please Moira, who wanted me to meet you, but mostly to please myself, because, while I dreaded it, nevertheless I wanted to see you again. I comforted myself with the thought that for the sake of appearances we dared not quarrel in the presence of Moira and my friend Ogilvy, and I dare say you felt the same way. At any rate, I have seldom had more enjoyment when partaking of a meal with an enemy.”
“Please do not say that,” she answered. “I am your opponent, but not your enemy.”
“That’s nice of you. By the way, Shirley, you may inform your uncle at breakfast Friday morning about my connection with the N. C. O. In fact, I think it would be far better for you if you made it a point to do so.”
“Because both Ogilvy and myself have a very strong suspicion that your uncle has a detective or two on our trails. There was a strange man rather prevalent around him all day yesterday and I noticed a fellow following my car last night. He was on a bicycle and followed me home. I communicated my suspicions to Ogilvy, and this morning he spent two hours trying to shake the same man off his trail—and couldn’t. So I judge your uncle will learn to-day that you dined with Ogilvy, Moira, and me last night.”
“Oh, dear! That’s terrible.” He could sense her distress.
“Ashamed of having been seen in my company, eh?”
“Please don’t. Are you quite serious in this matter?”
“Uncle Seth will think it so—so strange.”
“He’ll probably tell you about it. Better beat him to the issue by ’fessing up, Shirley. Doubtless his suspicions are already aroused, and if you inform him that you know I am the real builder of the N. C. O., he’ll think you’re a smart woman and that you’ve been doing a little private gum-shoe work of your own on behalf of the Laguna Grande Lumber Company.”
“Which is exactly what I have been doing,” she reminded him.
“I know. But then, I’m not afraid of you, Shirley—that is, any more. And after Friday morning I’ll not be afraid of your uncle. Do tell him at breakfast. Then watch to see if it affects his appetite.”