"Mother," began Dick, earnestly. Belding called her that, and so did Ladd and Lash, but it was the first time for Dick. "Mother --I want to speak to you."
The only indication Mrs. Belding gave of being started was in her eyes, which darkened, shadowed with multiplying thought.
"I love Nell," went on Dick, simply, "and I want you to let me ask her to be my wife."
Mrs. Belding's face blanched to a deathly white. Gale, thinking with surprise and concern that she was going to faint, moved quickly toward her, took her arm.
"Forgive me. I was blunt....But I thought you knew."
"I've known for a long time," replied Mrs. Belding. Her voice was steady, and there was no evidence of agitation except in her pallor. "Then you--you haven't spoken to Nell?"
Dick laughed. "I've been trying to get a chance to tell her. I haven't had it yet. But she knows. There are other ways besides speech. And Mercedes has told her. I hope, I almost believe Nell cares a little for me."
"I've known that, too, for a long time," said Mrs. Belding, low almost as a whisper.