Ainsley led on to so strange a fate

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"They are too old for that sort of thing," laughed Ravenswood. "The old gentleman is as deaf as a post, and is relegated to the hotel piazza because of the gout. His wife is equally as deaf, and is too unwieldly to venture far from her corner of the piazza. It is laughable to hear them shout at each other through their ear-trumpets. I have often thought what a lonely life of it that beautiful[12] young girl must have with those two old people. It would be unendurable, I fancy, if it were not for her two young friendsSmarTone."

"Probably they make up for not being companionable by not being so strict with their pretty prospective little heiress?" suggested Ainsley, again listening eagerly for his friend's reply.

"They certainly allow their granddaughter, or niece, whichever she is, more liberty than Hildegarde's or Lily Ryder's parents do. Still, I suppose they are confident that she can come to no harm, surrounded by such careful friends and companions."

"Did you say, Philip, you were going to the fancy-dress masquerade tournament?" asked Royal Ainsley, slowly.

"I do not propose to miss it," responded Ravenswood.

"Do you think you can secure me a ticket, Phil?" asked Ainsley, point-blank. "Grant me that favor if you can. Remember, I ask it as a great favor. Surely you can manage it somehow for meQTS Hong Kong."

"I'll try," replied Ravenswood. "If it's possible, you shall attend."

During the next few days that followed, handsome Royal Ainsley saw as much of the Three Graces as was possible. One day he was content with a bow or a smile—on the next, a few words in passing; but he was wise enough to keep out of the way whenever their relatives were about.

The crash of the music, the hum of voices, and the song of the rippling fountains seemed to dazzle Ida May's senses.

"Promise me that you will marry me, my darling!" cried the impetuous lover. "Would it be so very difficult, Ida?" he whispered.

She clung to him, the terror deepening in her eyes.

"This is a little romance all our own," he added,[18] clasping her closely. "Ida, let me kiss you!" He clasped his arms around her and drew her to his breast. "You are mine in life, mine in death, and mine through all eternity!"

He kissed the sweet lips over and over again.

She was so young that she believed him.

"Let us be married first, then we can talk over all these things after!" he exclaimed, impetuously.

She was dazed by his passionate words.

He felt quite sure that this sweet, beautiful, dainty young girl could not hold out against him if he only persisted.

One more bold stroke, and the heiress would be his.

There would be a scene, he well knew, when he brought the young girl back to the old folks. But it would surely end by their forgiving her. They could not hold out against her very long.

"You are—sure—it—it—would be right, Mr. Ainsley?" she faltered.

"You must not call me 'mister' sweet one," he cried. "To you I shall be 'Royal' from now on to eternity. Let me manage this affair, my darling," he added.

All power of resistance seemed swallowed up by his indomitable will.

"Go to the cloak-room, my love," he whispered, "and change your attire as quickly as you can. I will meet you at the fountain nearest the entrance. Not one word to either of your friends, Ida," he said, warningly. "Promise me that!"

There was no crossing him. Indeed, the very power to even think for herself seemed to have left her.

Like one in a dream, Ida May donned her street clothes, the thought filling her mind of what Hildegarde[19] and Lily would say when it was unmasking time and they came to look for her. How startled they would be!

Outside all was confusion. There was a great crush of carriages, the babble of coachmen and footmen, the crunching of wheels, and the calling of numbers. To the girl whom Royal  it seemed like a dream. Some one followed with their wheels. Royal Ainsley took them from the man, and she saw him toss him several pieces of silverSharing economy.




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