Howel Beaucourt started as if he had received a blow instead of a compliment.
"There isn't another man or woman in the whole circle of my acquaintance," he declared, "who would have congratulated me on marrying Miss Dulane. I believe you would make allowances for me if I had committed murder."
"I hope I should," Dick answered gravely. "When a man is my friend--murder or marriage--I take it for granted that he has a reason for what he does. Wait a minute. You mustn't give me more credit than I deserve. I don't agree with you. If I were a marrying man myself, I shouldn't pick an old maid--I should prefer a young one. That's a matter of taste. You are not like me. _You_ always have a definite object in view. I may not know what the object is. Never mind! I wish you joy all the same."
Beaucourt was not unworthy of the friendship he had inspired. "I should be ungrateful indeed," he said, "if I didn't tell you what my object is. You know that I am poor?"
"The only poor friend of mine," Dick remarked, "who has never borrowed money of me."
Beaucourt went on without noticing this. "I have three expensive tastes," he said. "I want to get into Parliament; I want to have a yacht; I want to collect pictures. Add, if you like, the selfish luxury of helping poverty and wretchedness, and hearing my conscience tell me what an excellent man I am. I can't do all this on five hundred a year--but I can do it on forty times five hundred a year. Moral: marry Miss Dulane."
Listening attentively until the other had done, Dick showed a sardonic side to his character never yet discovered in Beaucourt's experience of him.
"I suppose you have made the necessary arrangements," he said. "When the old lady releases you, she will leave consolation behind her in her will."