This thought sent the blood rushing to her cheeks and hardened her heart against him. He was with Nina Jaffray, of course. In his last letter he had written that he  two mornings no letter arrived. She missed these letters and was furious with herself that it was so. But the energy of her anger was conserved in the form of further favors for Coley Van Duyn who radiated it in rapturous good-will toward all the world. When the letters were resumed, she locked them in her desk unread, determining upon his return to town to make them into a package and send them back in bulk. Many times she unlocked her desk and scrutinized the envelopes, but it was always to thrust them into their drawer which she shut and locked each time with quite unnecessary violence.

“Mr. Gallatin is nothing to me.”

Mrs. Pennington leaned back in her chair and smiled.

“You told me that your faith in Phil was unending.[234] Your eternity, my dear, lasted precisely one week.”

Jane flashed around at her passionately, aroused at last, as Nellie Pennington intended that she should be.

“Oh, why couldn’t he have explained?”

“Explain! At the expense of another girl? Phil is a gentleman.”

Mrs. Pennington had had that reply ready. She had considered it carefully for some days.

Jane paused, and her eyes, scarcely credulous, sought the face of her visitor. Nellie Pennington met her look eagerly.

“Nina Jaffray’s,” she went on. “Could Phil tell why it happened? Obviously not.”

“But he kissed her——”

Mrs. Pennington shrugged her pretty shoulders.

“As to that, Nina, of course, had reasons of her own.”

“Nina—Miss Jaffray—reasons?”

“She probably asked him to——”

“Impossible!”

“She did.”

“Do you know that?”

“No, but I know Nina.”

“I can’t see that that alters anything.”

“But it does—amazingly—if you’ll only think about it.”

“I saw it all.”

“Oh! Did you? I’m glad.”

“Glad! Oh, Nellie!”

“Of course. Think how much worse it might have seemed if you hadn’t.”

“I don’t understand.”

“If some one else had told you, you might have believed anything.”

[235]

“I saw enough to believe——”

“What did you see?”

“He—he—he just kissed her.”

“Oh, Jane, think! What did you see? Why should Phil kiss a girl he doesn’t love? Aren’t there any kisses in the world but lovers kisses? Think. You must. Phil’s whole life and yours depend upon it.”

Jane rose and walked quickly to the window.

“This conversation—is impossible.”

Nellie Pennington watched her narrowly. She had created a diversion upon the flank, which, if it did nothing else, had temporarily driven Jane’s forces back in confusion. She looked anxiously toward the door of the drawing-room and then smiled, for a figure had entered and was coming forward without hesitation.

With one eye on Jane, who was still looking out of the window, Nellie Pennington rose and greeted the newcomer.

“Hello, Phil. I had almost given you up. You don’t mind, do you, Jane. I had to see Mr. Gallatin and asked if he wouldn’t stop for me here.”

At the sound of his name Jane had twisted around and now faced them, breathless. Mrs. Pennington was smiling carelessly, but Phil Gallatin, hat in hand, stood with bowed head before her. At the door into the hallway, the butler, somewhat uncertainly, hovered.