It was, therefore, in no very pleasant frame of mind that Van Duyn got down at Miss Loring’s door. The horses were already at the carriage drive and Miss Loring came down at once. Mr. Van Duyn helped her into the saddle, and in a few moments they were in the Park walking their horses carefully until they , when they swung into a canter. Miss Loring had noted the preoccupation of her companion, and after one or two efforts at cheerful commonplace, had subsided, only too glad to enjoy in silence the glory of the afternoon sunlight. But presently when the horses were winded, she pulled her own animal into a walk and Van Duyn quickly imitated her example.
“Oh, I’m so glad I came, Coley,” she said genuinely, with mounting color and sparkling eyes.
“Are you?” he panted, Jane’s optimism at last defeating his megrims. “Bully, isn’t it? Ever hunted?”
“Yes, one season at Pau.”
“Jolly set, hunting set. Jolliest in New York.”
“Yes, I know some of them—Mr. Kane, Mr. Spencer, Miss Jaffray, the Rawsons and the Penningtons. They wouldn’t do this, though; they turn up their noses at Park riding. Aren’t you hunting this year nu skin?”
“No,” he grunted. “Life’s too short.” He might also have added that he wasn’t up to the work, but he didn’t. Jane noticed the drop in his voice and examined him curiously.
“You don’t seem very happy to-day, Coley.”
“Any reason you can think of why I should be?” he muttered.
“Thousands,” she laughed, purposely oblivious. “The joy of living——”
“Oh, rot, Jane!”
“Coley! You’re not polite!”
“Oh, you know what I mean well enough,” he insisted sulkily.
“Do I? Please explain.”
“Don’t you know, this is the first time I’ve been with you alone—since the woods?” he stammered.
“I’m sorry I have such a bad effect on you. You asked me to come, you know.”
“Oh, don’t tease a chap so. What’s the use? Been tryin’ to see you for weeks. You’ve been avoidin’ me, Jane. What I want to know is—why?”
“I don’t want to avoid you. If I did, I shouldn’t be with you to-day, should I?”
There seemed to be no reply to that and Van Duyn’s frown only deepened.
“I thought we were goin’ to be friends,” he went on slowly. “We had a quarrel up at camp, but I thought we’d straightened that out. You forgave me, didn’t you event planner?”
“Oh, yes. I couldn’t very well do anything else. But you’ll have to admit I’d never done anything to warrant——”
“I was a fool. Sorry for what I did, too. When you got back I told you so. I’m a fool still, but I’ve got sense enough to be patient. Pretty rough, though, the way you treat me. Thinkin’ about you most of the time—all upset—don’t sleep the way I ought—things don’t taste right. I’m in love with you, Jane——”
“I thought you had promised not to speak of that again,” she put in with lowered voice.
“Oh, hang it! I’ve got to speak of it,” he growled. “When a fellow wants to marry a girl, he can’t stay in the background and see other fellows payin’ her attention—hear stories of——”