Page:Leon Wilson - Ruggles of Red Gap.djvu/164

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150
RUGGLES OF RED GAP

of putting it off on to you, dear, when we're wholly to blame for the awful thing."

"That's so thoughtful of you, dear," replied her friend coldly.

"At three, then," said Belknap-Jackson as we arose.

"I shall be delighted," I murmured.

"I bet you won't," said Cousin Egbert sourly. "He wants to show you off." This, I could see, was ignored as a sheer indecency.

"We shall have to get a reception in quick," said Mrs. Effie, her eyes narrowed in calculation.

"I don't see what all the fuss was about," remarked Cousin Egbert again, as if to himself; "tearing me to pieces like a passel of wolves!"

The Belknap-Jacksons left hastily, not deigning him a glance. And to do the poor soul justice, I believe he did not at all know what the "fuss" had been about. The niceties of the situation were beyond him, dear old sort though he had shown himself to be. I knew then I was never again to be harsh with him, let him dress as he would.

"Say," he asked, the moment we were alone, "you remember that thing you called him back there that night—'blighted little mug,' was it?"

"It's best forgotten, sir," I said.

"Well, sir, some way it sounded just the thing to call him. It sounded bully. What does it mean?"

So far was his darkened mind from comprehending that I, in a foreign land, among a weird people, must now have a go at being a gentleman; and that if I fluffed my catch we should all be gossipped to rags!

Alone in my room I made a hasty inventory of my ward-