4HH01i

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“No, thank you, sir,” she said, with a quaintly pretty inclination of her head. “I am only sent here to make her Ladyship’s apologies. She has put the poor dear dog into a warm bath, and she can’t leave him. And Mr. Moody can’t come instead of me, because I was too frightened to be of any use, and so he had to hold the dog. That’s all. We are very anxious sir, to know if the warm bath is the right thing. Please come into the room and tell us.”

She led the way back to the door. Hardyman, naturally enough, was slow to follow her. When a man is fascinated by the charm of youth and beauty, he is in no hurry to transfer his attention to a sick animal in a bath. Hardyman seized on the first excuse that he could devise for keeping Isabel to himself — that is to say, for keeping her in the drawing-room.

“I think I shall be better able to help you,” he said, “if you will tell me something about the dog first.”

Even his accent in speaking had altered to a certain degree. The quiet, dreary monotone in which he habitually spoke quickened a little under his present excitement. As for Isabel, she was too deeply interested in Tommie’s welfare to suspect that she was being made the victim of a stratagem. She left the door and returned to Hardyman with eager eyes. “What can I tell you, sir?” she asked innocently.

Hardyman pressed his advantage without mercy.

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“You can tell me what sort of dog he is?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How old he is?”

“Yes, sir.”

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“What his name is? — what his temper is? — what his illness is? what diseases his father and mother had? — what —”

Isabel’s head began to turn giddy. “One thing at a time, sir!” she interposed, with a gesture of entreaty. “The dog sleeps on my bed, and I had a bad night with him, he disturbed me so, and I am afraid I am very stupid this morning. His name is Tommie. We are obliged to call him by it, because he won’t answer to any other than the name he had when my Lady bought him. But we spell it with an i e at the end, which makes it less vulgar than Tommy with a y. I am very sorry, sir — I forget what else you wanted to know. Please to come in here and my Lady will tell you everything.”

She tried to get back to the door of the boudoir. Hardyman, feasting his eyes on the pretty, changeful face that looked up at him with such innocent confidence in his authority, drew her away from the door by the one means at his disposal. He returned to his questions about Tommie.

“Wait a little, please. What sort of dog is he?”

Isabel turned back again from the door. To describe Tommie was a labor of love. “He is the most beautiful dog in the world!” the girl began, with kindling eyes. “He has the most exquisite white curly hair and two light brown patches on his back — and, oh! such lovely dark eyes! They call him a Scotch terrier. When he is well his appetite is truly wonderful — nothing comes amiss to him, sir, from pate de foie gras to potatoes. He has his enemies, poor dear, though you wouldn’t think it. People who won’t put up with being bitten by him (what shocking tempers one does meet with, to be sure!) call him a mongrel. Isn’t it a shame? Please come in and see him, sir; my Lady will be tired of waiting.”