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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter19,part4)

2006-08-28 23:39

    PART 4

    On their way back to the club house the safe man recurred to one phase of their talk.

    "You ought not to need any telling as to why I work, Alice."

    She shot one swift annoyed glance at him. When Ned Merrill tried the sentimental she liked him least.

    "Oh, all men like to work, I suppose. Uncle Joe says it's half the fun of life."

    "Most men work for some woman. I'm working for you," he told her solenmly.

    A little giggle of laughter floated across to him.

    "What are you laughing about?" he demanded.

    "Oh, the things I notice. Just now it's you, Ned."

    "If you'll explain the joke."

    "You wouldn't understand it. Dear me, what are you so stiff about?"

    Merrill brought things to an issue. "Look here, Alice! What's the use of playing fast and loose? I'd like to know where we're at."

    "Would you?"

    "Yes, I would. You know all about the arrangement just as well as I do. I haven't pushed you. I've stood back and let you have your good times. Don't you think it's about time for us to talk business?"

    "Just as soon as you like, Ned."

    "Well, then, let's announce it."

    "That we're not engaged to be married and never will be! Is that what you want to announce?"

    He flushed angrily. "What's the use of talking that way? You know it has been arranged for years."

    "I'm not going through with it. I told Father so. The thing is outrageous," she flamed.

    "I don't see why. Our people want it. We are fond of each other. I never cared for any girl but you."

    "Let's stick to the business reasons, Ned."

    "Hang it, you're so acid about it! I do care for you "

    Her dry anger spurted out. "That's unfortunate, since I don't care for you."

    "I know you do. Just now you're vexed at me."

    "Yes, I am," she admitted, nodding her head swiftly. "But it doesn't make any difference whether I am or not. I've made up my mind. I'm not going through with it."

    "You promised."

    "I didn't, not in so many words. And I was pushed into it. None of you gave me a fair chance. But I'll not go on with it."

    "But, why?"

    "Because I'm an American girl, and here we don't have to marry to amalgamate business interests. I won't do it. I'd rather be " She gave a little shrug of her shoulders. The passion died out of her voice. "Oh, well! No need getting melodramatic about it. Just the same, I won't do it. My mind's made up."

    "A pretty figure I'll cut, after all these years," he complained sulkily. "Everyone will know you jilted me."

    Alice turned to him, mischief sparkling in her eyes. "I wouldn't stand it if I were you. Show your spunk."

    He stared. "What do you mean?"

    "Why don't you jilt ME?"

    "Jilt you?"

    Her head went up and down in a dozen little nods of affirmation. "Yes. Marry Pauline Gillam. You know you'd like to, but you haven't had the courage to give me up. Now that you've got to give me up anyhow——"

    "I'm very much obliged, Miss Frome. But I don't think it will be necessary for you to select another wife for me."

    "Have you been married once. I didn't know it."

    "You know what I mean?" He was stiff as a poker.

    "I believe I do." She was in a perfectly good humor again now. "But you better take my advice, Ned. Think what a joke it will be on me. Everybody will say you could have had me."

    "We'll not discuss the subject if you please."

    Nevertheless Alice knew that she had dropped a seed on good ground.

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