Read CHAPTER XVIII of The Common Law, free online book, by Robert W. Chambers, on ReadCentral.com.

Helene d’Enver had gone back to the country, and Ogilvy dared not pursue her thither.

From her fastness at Estwich she defied him in letters, but every letter of hers seemed to leave some loophole open for further argument, and Ogilvy replied valiantly from a perfectly safe distance, vowing that he meant to marry her some day in spite of herself and threatening to go up and tell her so to her face, until she became bored to death waiting for him to fulfil this threat.

“There’s a perfectly good inn here,” she wrote, ­“for of course, under the circumstances, you would scarcely have the impudence to expect the hospitality of my own roof.  But if you are determined to have a final ‘No’ for your answer, I am entirely competent to give it to you by word of mouth ­”

“And such a distractingly lovely mouth,” sighed Ogilvy, perusing the letter in his studio.  He whistled a slow waltz, thoughtfully, and as slowly and solemnly kept step to it, turning round and round, buried in deepest reflection.  He had a habit of doing this when profoundly perplexed.

Annan discovered him waltzing mournfully all by himself: 

“What’s up?” he inquired cheerfully.

“It’s all up, I suppose.”

“With you and your countess?”

“Yes, Harry.”

“Rot!  Why don’t you go and talk to her?”

“Because if I remain invisible she might possibly forget my face.  I stand a better chance by letter, Harry.”

“Now you’re not bad-looking,” insisted Annan, kindly.  “And besides, a man’s face doesn’t count with a girl.  Half of ’em are neurotics, anyway, and they adore the bizarre ­”

“Damn it,” snapped Sam, “do you mean that my countenance resembles a gargoyle?  If you do, say so in English.”

“No, no, no,” said Annan soothingly, ­“I’ve seen more awful mugs ­married mugs, too.  What woman has done woman may do again.  Buck up!  Beauty and the beast is no idle jest ­”

“I’ll punch you good and plenty,” began Sam wrathfully, but Annan fled, weak with laughter.

“There’s no vainer man than an ugly one!” he called back, and slammed the door to escape a flight of paint brushes hurled by a maddened man.

“I’ll go!  By jinks, I’ll go, anyway!” he exclaimed; “and I don’t care what she thinks of my face ... only I think I’ll take Annan with me ­just for company ­or ­dummy bridge on the way up....  Harry!” he shouted.

Annan cautiously appeared, ready for rapid flight.

“Aw come on in!  My face suits me.  Besides, thank Heaven I’ve got a reputation back of it; but yours breaks the speed laws.  Will you go up there with me ­like a man?”

“Where?”

“To Estwich?”

“When?” inquired Annan, sceptically.

“Now! ­b’ jinks!”

“Have you sufficient nerve, this time?”

“Watch me.”

And he dragged out a suit-case and began wildly throwing articles of toilet and apparel into it,

“Come on, Harry!” he shouted, hurling a pair of tennis shoes at the suit-case; “I’ve got to go while I’m excited or I’ll never budge!”

But when, ten minutes later, Annan arrived, suit-case in hand, ready for love’s journey, he could scarcely contrive to kick and drag Sam into the elevator, and, later, into a taxicab.

Ogilvy sat there alternately shivering and attempting to invent imperative engagements in town which he had just remembered, but Annan said angrily: 

“No, you don’t.  This makes the seventh time I’ve started with you for Estwich, and I’m going to put it through or perish in a hand-to-hand conflict with you.”

And he started for the train, dragging Sam with him, talking angrily all the time.

He talked all the way to Estwich, too, partly to reassure Ogilvy and give him no time for terrified reflection, partly because he liked to talk.  And when they arrived at the Estwich Arms he shoved Ogilvy into a room, locked the door, and went away to telephone to the Countess d’Enver.

“Yes?” she inquired sweetly, “who is it?”

“Me,” replied Annan, regardless of an unpopular grammatical convention.  “I’m here with Ogilvy.  May we come to tea?”

“Is Mr. Ogilvy here?”

“Yes, here at the Estwich Arms.  May I ­er ­may he bring me over to call on you?”

“Y-yes.  Oh, with pleasure, Mr. Annan....  When may I expect hi ­you?”

“In about ten minutes,” replied Annan firmly.

Then he went back and looked into Ogilvy’s room.  Sam was seated, his head clasped in his hands.

“I thought you might tear up your sheets and let yourself out of the window,” said Annan sarcastically.  “You’re a fine specimen!  Why you’re actually lantern-jawed with fright.  But I don’t care!  Come on; we’re expected to tea!  Get into your white flannels and pretty blue coat and put on your dinkey rah-rah, and follow me.  Or, by heaven! ­I’ll do murder right now!”

Ogilvy’s knees wavered as they entered the gateway.

“Go on!” hissed Annan, giving him a violent shove.

Then, to Ogilvy, came that desperate and hysterical courage that comes to those whose terrors have at last infuriated them.

“By jinks!” he said with an unearthly smile, “I will come on!”

And he did, straight through the door and into the pretty living room where Helene d’Enver rose in some slight consternation to receive this astonishingly pale and rather desperate-faced young man.

“Harry,” said Ogilvy, calmly retaining Helene’s hand, “you go and play around the yard for a few moments.  I have something to tell the Countess d’Enver; and then we’ll all have tea.”

“Mr. Ogilvy!” she said, amazed.

But Annan had already vanished; and she looked into a pair of steady eyes that suddenly made her quail.

“Helene,” he said, “I really do love you.”

“Please ­”

“No!  I love you!  Are you going to let me?”

“I ­how on earth ­what a perfectly senseless ­”

“I know it.  I’m half senseless from fright.  Yes, I am, Helene!  Now! here! at this very minute, I am scared blue.  That’s why I’m holding on to your hand so desperately; I’m afraid to let go.”

She flushed brightly with annoyance, or something or other ­but he held fast to her hand and put one arm around her waist.

“Sam!” she said, exasperated.  That was the last perfectly coherent word she uttered for several minutes.  And, later, she was too busy to say very much.

When Annan returned, Helene rose from the couch where she and Ogilvy had been seated and came across the floor, blushing vividly.

“I don’t know what on earth you think of me, Mr. Annan, and I suppose I will have to learn to endure the consequences of Mr. Ogilvy’s eccentricities ­”

“Oh, I’m terribly glad!” said Annan, grinning, and taking her hand in both of his.

They had tea on the veranda.  Ogilvy was too excited and far too happy to be dignified, and Helene was so much embarrassed by his behaviour and so much in love that she made a distractingly pretty picture between the two young men who, as Rita had said, would never, never be old enough to grow up.

“Do you know,” said Helene, “that your friends the Nevilles have recently been very nice to me?  They have called, and have returned my call, and have asked me to dinner.  I suppose cordiality takes longer to arrive at maturity in New York State than in any other part of the Union.  But when New York people make up their minds to be agreeable, they certainly are delightful.”

“They’re a bunch of snobs,” said Ogilvy, calmly.

“Oh!” said Helene with a distressed glance at Annan.

“He’s one, too,” observed her affianced, coolly nodding toward Annan.  “We’re a sickening lot, Helene ­until some charming and genuine person like you comes along to jounce us out of our smiling and imbecile self-absorption.”

“I,” said Annan gravely, “am probably the most frightful snob that ever wandered, in a moment of temporary aberration, north of lower Fifth Avenue.”

“I’m worse,” observed Sam gloomily.  “Help us, Helene, toward loftier aspirations.  Be our little uplift girl ­”

“You silly things!” she said indignantly.

Later two riders passed the house, Cameron and Stephanie Swift, who saluted Helene most cordially, and waved airy recognition to the two men.

“More snobs,” commented Sam.

“They are very delightful people!” retorted Helene hotly.

“Most snobs are when they like you.”

“Sam!  I won’t have you express such sentiments!”

He bent nearer to her: 

“Dearest, I never had any sentiments except for you.  And only the inconvenient propinquity of that man Annan prevents me from expressing them.”

“Please, Sam ­”

“Don’t be afraid; I won’t.  He wouldn’t care; ­but I won’t....  Hello!  Why look who’s here!” he exclaimed, rising.  “Why it’s the great god Kelly and little Sunshine!” ­as Neville and Valerie sprang out of Mrs. Collis’s touring car and came up the walk.

Helene went forward to meet them, putting one arm around Valerie and holding out the other to Neville.

“When did you arrive, darling?” she exclaimed.  “How do you do, Mr. Neville?  Valerie, child, I’m perfectly enchanted to see you.  But where in the world are you stopping?”

“At Ashuelyn,” said the girl, looking straight into Helene’s eyes.  A faint flash of telepathy passed between them; then, slowly, Helene turned and looked at Neville.

“Will you wish us happiness?” he said, smiling.

“Oh-h,” whispered Helene under her breath ­“I do ­I do ­God knows.  I wish you everything that makes for happiness in all the world!” she stammered, for the wonder of it was still on her.

Then Sam’s voice sounded close at hand: 

“Why,” he said admiringly, “it looks like lovey and dovey!”

“It is,” said Valerie, laughing.

“You! ­and Kelly!”

“We two.”

Sam in his excitement became a little wild and incongruous: 

  “’My wife’s gone to the country! 
    Hooray!  Hooray!’”

he shouted, holding hands with Annan and swinging back and forth.

“Sam!” exclaimed Helene, mortified.

“Darling? ­oh, gee!  I forgot what is due to decorum!  Please, please forgive me, Helene!  And kindly inform these ladies and gentlemen that you have consented to render me eternally and supremely happy; because if I tried to express to them that delirious fact I’d end by standing on my head in the grass ­”

“You dear!” whispered Valerie, holding tightly to Helene’s hands.

“Isn’t it dreadful?” murmured Helene, turning her blue eyes on the man who never would grow old enough to grow up.  “I had no such intention, I can assure you; and I don’t even understand myself yet.”

“Don’t you?” said Valerie, laughing tenderly; ­“then you are like all other women.  What is the use of our ever trying to understand ourselves?”

Helene laughed, too: 

“No use, dear.  Leave it to men who say they understand us.  It’s a mercy somebody does.”

“Isn’t it,” nodded Valerie; and they kissed each other, laughing.

“My goodness, it’s like the embrace of the two augurs!” said Ogilvy.  “They’re laughing at us, Kelly! ­at you, and me and Harry! ­and at man in general! ­innocent man! ­so charmingly and guilelessly symbolised by us!  Stop it, Helene!  You make me shiver.  You’ll frighten Annan so that he’ll never marry if you and Valerie laugh that way at each other.”

“I wonder,” said Helene, quieting him with a fair hand laid lightly on his sleeve, “whether you all would remain and dine with me this evening ­just as you are I mean; ­and I won’t dress ­”

“I insist proh pudeur,” muttered Sam.  “I can’t countenance any such saturnalia ­”

“Oh, Sam, do be quiet, dear ­” She caught herself up with a blush, and everybody smiled.

“What do we care!” said Sam.  “I’m tired of convention!  If I want to call you darling in public, b’jinks!  I will!  Darling ­darling ­darling ­there! ­”

“Sam!”

“Dearest ­”

Sam!

“Ma’am?”

Helene looked at Valerie: 

“There’s no use,” she sighed, “is there?”

“No use,” sighed Valerie, smiling at the man she loved.