Part 8 out of 9
They stood about, veils floating, leather decorated coats thrown back,
lingering for awhile to talk the garage talk which fascinates people of
their type; then Millbank looked at the clock, made his adieux to Lydia,
nodded significantly to Mortimer, and followed the others down-stairs.
There was something amiss with his motor, for it made a startling racket
in the street, finally plunging forward with a kick.
Lydia laughed as the two young girls in the tonneau turned to nod to her
in mock despair; then she came running back up-stairs, holding her skirt
free from her hurrying little feet.
"Well?" she inquired, as Mortimer turned back from the window to
"Nothing doing, little girl," he said with a sombre smile.
She looked at him, slowly divesting herself of her light leather-trimmed
"I missed him," said Mortimer.
She flung the coat over a chair, stood a moment, her fingers busy with
her hair-pegs, then sat down on the couch, taking Tinto into her lap.
She was very pretty, dark, slim, marvellously graceful in her every
"I missed him," repeated Mortimer.
"Can't you see him to-morrow?" she asked.
"I suppose so," said Mortimer slowly. "Oh, Lord! how I hate this
"Hasn't he misused your confidence? Hasn't he taken your money?" she
asked. "It may be unpleasant for you to make him unbelt, but you're a
coward if you don't!"
"Easy! easy, now!" muttered Mortimer; "I'm going to shake it out of him.
I said I would, and I will."
"I should hope so; it's yours."
"Certainly it's mine. I wish I'd held fast now. I never supposed Plank
would take hold. It was that drivelling old Belwether who scared me
stiff! The minute I saw him scurrying to cover like a singed cat I was
fool enough to climb the first tree. I've had my lesson, little girl."
"I hope you'll give Howard his. Somebody ought to," she said quietly.
Then gathering up her hat and coat she went into her own apartments.
Mortimer picked up a cheap magazine, looked over the portraits of the
actresses, then, hunching up into a comfortable position, settled
himself to read the theatrical comment.
Later, Lydia not appearing, and his own valet arriving to turn on the
electricity, bring him his White Rock and Irish and the Evening
Telegraph, he hoisted his legs into another chair and sprawled there
luxuriously over his paper until it was time to dress.
About half past eight they dined in a white and pink dining-room
furnished in dull gray walnut, and served by a stealthy, white-haired,
pink-skinned butler, chiefly remarkable because it seemed utterly
impossible to get a glimpse of his eyes. Nobody could tell whether there
was anything the matter with them or not--and whether they were only very
deep set or were weak, like an albino's, or were slightly crossed, the
guests of the house never knew. Lydia herself didn't know, and had given
up trying to find out.
They had planned to go for a spin in Mortimer's motor after dinner, but
in view of the Quarrier fiasco neither was in the mood for anything.
Mortimer, as usual, ate and drank heavily. He was a carnivorous man, and
liked plenty of thick, fat, underdone meat. As for Lydia, her appetite
was as erratic as her own impulses. Her table, always wastefully
elaborate, no doubt furnished subsistence for all the relatives of her
household below stairs, and left sufficient for any ambitious butler to
make a decent profit on.
"Do you know, Leroy," she observed, as they left the table and sauntered
back into the pale blue drawing-room, "do you know that the servants
haven't been paid for three months?"
"Oh, for Heaven's sake," he expostulated, "don't begin that sort of
thing! I get enough of that at home; I get it every time I show my
"I only mentioned it," she said carelessly.
"I heard you all right. It isn't any pleasanter for me than for you. In
fact, I'm sick of it; I'm dead tired of being up against it every day of
my life. When a man has anything somebody gets it before he can
sidestep. When a man's dead broke there's nobody in sight to touch."
"You had an opportunity to make Howard pay you back."
"Didn't I tell you I missed him?"
"Yes. What are you going to do?"
"Of course. You are going to do something, I suppose."
They had reached the gold and green room above. Lydia began pacing the
length of a beautiful Kermanshah rug--a pale, delicate marvel of rose and
green on a ground of ivory--lovely, but doomed to fade sooner than the
pretty woman who trod it with restless, silk-shod feet.
Mortimer had not responded to her last question. She said presently:
"You have never told me how you intend to make him pay you back."
"What?" inquired Mortimer, turning very red.
"I said that you haven't yet told me how you intend to make Howard
return the money you lost through his juggling with your stock."
"I don't exactly know myself," admitted Mortimer, still overflushed. "I
mean to put it to him squarely, as a debt of honour that he owes. I
asked him whether to invest. Damn him! he never warned me not to. He is
morally responsible. Any man who would sit there and nod monotonously
like a mandarin, knowing all the while what he was doing to wreck the
company, and let a friend put into a rotten concern all the cash he
could scrape together, is a swindler!"
"I think so too," she said, studying the rose arabesques in the rug.
There was a little click of her teeth when she ended her inspection and
looked across at Mortimer. Something in her expressionless gaze seemed
to reassure him, and give him a confidence he may have lacked.
"I want him to understand that I won't swallow that sort of contemptible
treatment," asserted Mortimer, lighting a thick, dark cigar.
"I hope you'll make him understand," she said, seating herself and
resting her clasped, brilliantly ringed hands in her lap.
"Oh, I will--never fear! He has abused my confidence abominably; he has
practically swindled me, Lydia. Don't you think so?"
"I'll tell him so, too," blustered Mortimer, shaking himself into an
upright posture, and laying a pudgy, clinched fist on the table. "I'm
not afraid of him! He'll find that out, too. I know enough to stagger
him. Not that I mean to use it. I'm not going to have him think that my
demands on him for my own property resemble extortion."
"Extortion?" she repeated.
"Yes. I don't want him to think I'm trying to intimidate him. I won't
have him think I'm a grafter; but I've half a mind to shake that money
out of him, in one way or another."
He struck the table and looked at her for further sign of approval.
"I'm not afraid of him," he repeated. "I wish to God he were here, and
I'd tell him so!"
She said coolly: "I was wishing that too."
For a while they sat silent, preoccupied, avoiding each other's direct
gaze. When she rose he started, watching her in a dazed way as she
walked to the telephone.
"Shall I?" she asked quietly, turning to him, her hand on the receiver.
"Wait. W-what are you going to do?" he stammered.
"Call him up. Shall I?"
A dull throb of fright pulsed through him.
"You say you are not afraid of him, Leroy."
"No!" he said with an oath, "I am not. Go ahead!"
She unhooked the receiver. After a second or two her low, even voice
sounded. There came a pause. She rested one elbow on the walnut shelf,
the receiver tight to her ear. Then:
"Mr. Quarrier, please. . Yes, Mr. Howard Quarrier. . No, no name. Say it
is on business of immediate importance. . Very well, then; you may say
that Miss Vyse insists on speaking to him. . Yes, I'll hold the wire."
She turned, the receiver at her ear, and looked narrowly at Mortimer.
"Won't he speak to you?" he demanded.
"I'm going to find out. Hush a moment!" and in the same calm, almost
childish voice: "Oh, Howard, is that you? Yes, I know I promised not to
do this, but that was before things happened! . Well, what am I to do
when it is necessary to talk to you? . Yes, it is necessary! . I tell
you it is necessary! . I am sorry it is not convenient for you to talk
to me, but I really must ask you to listen! . No, I shall not write. I
want to talk to you to-night--now! Yes, you may come here, if you care
to! . I think you had better come, Howard. . Because I am liable to
continue ringing your telephone until you are willing to listen. . No,
there is nobody here. I am alone. What time? . Very well; I shall expect
She hung up the receiver and turned to Mortimer:
"He's coming up at once. Did I say anything to scare him particularly?"
"One thing's sure as preaching," said Mortimer; "he's a coward, and I'm
dammed glad of it," he added naively, relighting his cigar, which had
"If he comes up in his motor he'll be here in a few minutes," she said.
"Suppose you take your hat and go out. I don't want him to think what he
will think if he walks into the room and finds you waiting. You have
your key, Leroy. Walk down the block; and when you see him come in, give
him five minutes."
Her voice had become a little breathless, and her colour was high.
Mortimer, too, seemed apprehensive. Things had suddenly begun to work
themselves out too swiftly.
"Do you think that's best?" he faltered, looking about for his hat.
"Tell Merkle that nobody has been here, if Quarrier should ask him. Do
you think we're doing it in the best way, Lydia? By God, it smells of a
put-up job to me! But I guess it's all right. It's better for me to just
happen in, isn't it? Don't forget to put Merkle wise."
He descended the stairs hastily. Merkle, of the invisible eyes, held his
hat and gloves and opened the door for him.
Once on the dark street, his impulse was to flee--get out, get away from
the whole business. A sullen shame was pumping the hot blood up into his
neck and cheeks. He strove to find an inoffensive name for what he was
proposing to do, but ugly terms, synonym after synonym, crowded in to
characterise the impending procedure, and he walked on angrily, half
frightened, looking back from moment to moment at the house he had just
On the corner he halted, breathing spasmodically, for he had struck a
smarter pace than he had been aware of.
Few people passed him. Once he caught a glimmer of a policeman's buttons
along the park wall, and an unpleasant shiver passed over him. At the
same moment an electric hansom flew noiselessly past him. He shrank back
into the shadow of a porte-cochere. The hansom halted before the
limestone basement house. A tall figure left it, stood a moment in the
middle of the sidewalk, then walked quickly to the front door. It
opened, and the man vanished.
The hansom still waited at the door. Mortimer, his hands shaking, looked
at his watch by the light of the electric bulbs flanking the gateway
under which he stood.
There was not much time in which to make up his mind, yet his fright was
increasing to a pitch which began to enrage him with that coward's
courage which it is impossible to reckon with.
He had missed Quarrier once to-day when he had been keyed to the
encounter. Was he going to miss him again through sheer terror? Besides,
was not Quarrier a coward? Besides, was it not his own money? Had he not
been vilely swindled by a pretended friend? Urging, lashing himself into
a heavy, shuffling motion, he emerged from the porte-cochere and lurched
off down the street. No time to think now, no time for second thought,
for hesitation, for weakness. He had waited too long already. He had
waited ten minutes, instead of five. Was Quarrier going to escape again?
Was he going to get out of the house before--"
Fumbling with his latch-key, but with sense enough left to make no
noise, he let himself in, passed silently through the reception-hall and
up to the drawing-room floor, where for a second he stood listening.
Then something of the perverted sportsman sent the blood quivering into
his veins. He had him! He had run him down! The game was at bay.
An inrush of exhilaration steadied him. He laid his hand on the banister
and mounted, gloves and hat-brim crushed in the other hand. When he
entered the room he pretended to see only Lydia.
"Hello, little girl!" he said, laughing, "are you surprised to--"
At that moment he caught sight of Quarrier, and the start he gave was
genuine enough. Never had he seen in a man's visage such white
concentration of anger.
"Quarrier!" he stammered, for his acting was becoming real enough to
Quarrier had risen; his narrowing eyes moved from Mortimer to Lydia,
then reverted to the man in the combination.
"Rather unexpected, isn't it?" said Mortimer, staring at Quarrier.
"Is it?" returned Quarrier in a low voice.
"I suppose so," sneered Mortimer. "Did you expect to find me here?"
"No. Did you expect to find me?" asked the other, with emphasis
"What do you mean?" demanded Mortimer hoarsely. "What the devil do you
mean by asking me if I expected to find you here? If I had, I'd not have
travelled down to your office to-day to see you; I'd have come here for
you. Naturally people suppose that an engaged man is likely to give up
this sort of thing."
Quarrier, motionless, white to the lips, turned his eyes from one to the
"It doesn't look very well, does it?" asked Mortimer; and he stood
there, smiling, danger written all over him. "It's beginning rather
early," he continued, with a sneer. "Most engaged men with a conscience
wait until they're married before they return to the gay and frivolous.
But here you are, it seems, handsome, jolly, and irresistible as ever!"
Quarrier looked at Lydia, and his lips moved: "You asked me to come," he
"No; you offered to. I wished to talk to you over the wire, but "--her
lip curled, and she shrugged her shoulders--"you seemed to be afraid of
something or other."
"I couldn't talk to you in my own house, with guests in the room."
"Why not? Did I say anything your fashionable guests might take
exception to? Am I likely to do anything of that kind?--you coward!"
Quarrier stood very still, then noiselessly turned and made one step
toward the door.
"One moment," interposed Mortimer blandly. "As long as I travelled down
town to see you, and find you here so unexpectedly, I may as well take
advantage of this opportunity to regulate a little matter. You don't
mind our talking shop for a moment, Lydia? Thank you. It's just a little
business matter between Mr. Quarrier and myself--a matter concerning a
few shares of stock which I once held in one of his companies, bought at
par, and tumbled to ten and--What is the fraction, Quarrier? I forget."
Quarrier thought deeply for a moment; then he raised his head, looking
full at Mortimer, and under his silky beard an edge of teeth glimmered.
"Did you wish me to take back those shares at par?" he asked.
"Exactly! I knew you would! I knew you'd see it in that way!" cried
Mortimer heartily. "Confound it all, Quarrier, I've always said you were
that sort of man--that you'd never let a friend in on the top floor, and
kick him clear to the cellar! As a matter of fact, I sold out at ten and
three-eighths. Wait! Here's a pencil. Lydia, give me that pad on your
desk. Here you are, Quarrier. It's easy enough to figure out how much
you owe me."
And as Quarrier slowly began tracing figures on the pad, Mortimer
rambled on, growing more demonstrative and boisterous every moment.
"It's white of you, Quarrier--I'll say that! Legally, of course, you
could laugh at me; but I've always said your business conscience would
never let you stand for this sort of thing. 'You can talk and talk,'
I've told people, many a time, 'but you'll never convince me that Howard
Quarrier hasn't a heart.' No, by jinks! they couldn't make me believe
it. And here's my proof--here's my vindication! Lydia, would you mind
hunting up that cheque-book I left here before dinn--"
He had made a mistake. The girl flushed. He choked up, and cast a
startled glance at Quarrier. But Quarrier, if he heard, made no motion
of understanding. Perhaps it had not been necessary to convince him of
When he had finished his figures he reviewed them, tracing each total
with his pencil's point; then quietly handed the pad to Mortimer who
went over it, and nodded that it was correct.
Lydia rose. Quarrier said, without looking at her: "I have a blank
cheque with me. May I use one of these pens?"
So he had brought a cheque! Had he supposed that a cheque might be
necessary when Lydia called him up? Was he prepared to meet any demand
of hers, too, even before Mortimer appeared on the scene?
"As long as you have a cheque with you, Howard," said Lydia quietly,
"suppose you simply add to Mr. Mortimer's amount what you had intended
to offer me?"
He stared at her without answering.
"That little remembrance for old time's sake. Don't you recollect?"
"No," said Quarrier.
"Why, Howard! Didn't you promise me all sorts of things when I wanted to
go to your friend Mr. Siward, and explain that it was not his fault I
got into the Patroons Club? Don't you remember I felt dreadfully that he
was expelled--that I was simply wild to write to the governors and tell
them how I took Merkle's clothes and drove to the club and waited until
I saw a lot of men go in, and then crowded in with the push?"
Mortimer was staring at Quarrier out of his protruding eyes. The girl
leaned forward, deliberate, self-possessed, the red lips edged with
"That was a dirty trick!" said Mortimer heavily. He took the pad, added
a figure, passed it to Lydia, and she coolly wrote a total, underscoring
"That is the amount," she said.
Quarrier looked at the pad which she had tossed upon the desk. Then he
slowly wetted his pen with ink, and, laying the loose cheque flat, began
to fill it in. Afterward he dried it, and, reading it carefully, pushed
it aside and rose.
"It wouldn't be advisable for you to stop payment, you know," observed
Mortimer insolently, lying back in his chair and stretching his legs.
"I know," said Quarrier, pausing to turn on them a deathly stare. Then
he went away. After awhile they heard the door close. But there was no
sound from the electric hansom, and Mortimer rose and walked to the
"He's gone," he said.
Lydia stood at the desk, examining the cheque.
"We ought to afford a decent touring-car now," she suggested--"like that
yellow and black Serin-Chanteur car of Mr. Plank's."
CHAPTER XIII THE SELLING PRICE
The heat, which had been severe in June, driving the last fashionable
loiterer into the country, continued fiercely throughout July. August
was stifling; the chestnut leaves in the parks curled up and grew
brittle; the elms were blotched; brown stretches scarred the lawns; the
blazing colour of the geranium beds seemed to intensify the heat, like a
bed of living coals.
Nobody who was anybody remained in town--except some wealthy business
men and their million odd employes; but the million, being nobodies,
Nobody came into town; that is to say that a million odd strangers came
as usual, swelling the sweltering, resident population sufficiently to
animate the main commercial thoroughfares morning and evening, but they
didn't count; the money they spent was, however, very carefully counted.
The fashionable columns of the newspapers informed the fashionable
ex-urbanated that the city was empty--though the East Side reeked like
a cattle-pen, and another million or two gasped on the hot, tin roofs
under the stars, or buried their dirty faces in the parched park grass.
What the press meant to say was that the wealthy section of the city
within the shadow of St. Patrick's twin white spires and north of Fifty-
ninth Street was as empty and silent as an abandoned gold-mine. Which
was true. Miles of elaborate, untenanted dwellings glimmered blank under
the moon and stood tomb-like in barren magnificence against the blazing
blue of noon. Miles of plate-glass windows, boarded, or bearing between
lowered shade and dusty pane the significant parti-coloured placard
warning the honest thief, stared out at the heated park or, in the cross
streets, confronted each other with inert hauteur, awaiting the pleasure
of their absent owners.
The humidity increased; the horses' heads hung heavily under their
ridiculously pitiful straw bonnets. When the sun was vertical nobody
stirred; when the bluish shadows began to creep out over baked
sidewalks, broadening to a strip of superheated shade, a few stirred
abroad in the deserted streets; here a policeman, thin blue summer tunic
open, helmet in hand, swabbing the sweat from forehead and neck; there a
white uniformed street sweeper dragging his rubber-edged mop or a
section of wet hose; perhaps a haggard peddler of lemonade making for
the Park wall around the Metropolitan Museum where, a little later, the
East Side would venture out to sit on the benches, or the great electric
tourists' busses would halt to dump out a living cargo--perhaps only the
bent figure of a woman, very shabby, very old, dragging her ancient
bones along the silent splendour of Fifth Avenue, and peering about the
gutters for something she never finds--always peering, always mumbling
the endless, wordless, soundless miserere of the poor.
Quarrier's huge limestone mansion, looming golden in the sun, was
tenantless; its owner, closing even The Sedges, his Long Island house,
and driven northward for a breath of air, was expected at Shotover.
The house of Mrs. Mortimer was closed and boarded up; the Caithness
mansion was closed; the Ferralls', the Bonnesdels', the Pages', the
Shannons', Mrs. Vendenning's, all were sealed up like vaults. A
caretaker apparently guarded Major Belwether's house, peeping out at
intervals from behind the basement windows. As for Plank's great pile of
masonry, edging the outer Hundreds in the north, several lighted windows
were to be seen in it at night, and a big yellow and black touring-car
whizzed down town from its bronze gateway every morning with perfect
For there was a fight on that had steadily grown hotter with the
weather, and Plank had little time to concern himself with the
temperature or to mop his red features over the weather bureau report.
Harrington and Quarrier were after him, horse, foot, and dragoons;
Harrington had even taken a house at Seabright in order to be near in
person; and Quarrier's move from Long Island to Shotover House was not
as flippant as it might appear, for he had his private car there and a
locomotive at Black Fells Crossing station, and he was within striking
distance of Rochester, Utica, Syracuse, and Albany. Which was what
Harrington thought necessary.
The vast unseen machinery set in motion by Harrington and Quarrier had
begun to grind in May; and, at the first audible rumble, the aspect of
things financial in the country changed. A few industrials began to
rocket, nobody knew why; but the market's first tremor left it baggy and
spineless, and the reaction, already overdue, became a sodden and soggy
slump. Nobody knew why.
The noise of the fray in the papers, which had first excited then
stunned the outside public, continued in a delirium of rumour, report,
forecast, and summing up at the week's end.
Scare heads, involving everybody and everything, from the District-
Attorney to Plank's office boy, succeeded one another. Plank's name
headed column after column. Already becoming familiar in the society and
financial sections, it began to appear in neighbouring paragraphs. Who
was Plank? And the papers told people with more or less inaccuracy,
humour, or sarcasm. What was he trying to do? The papers tried to tell
that, too, making a pretty close guess, with comments good-natured or
ill-natured according to circumstances over which somebody ought to have
some control. What was Harrington trying to do to Plank--if he was trying
to do anything? They told that pretty clearly. What was Quarrier going
to do to Plank? That, also, they explained in lively detail. A few
clergymen who stuck to their churches began to volunteer pulpit opinions
concerning the ethics of the battle. A minister who was generally
supposed to make an unmitigated nuisance of himself in politics dealt
Plank an unexpected blow by saying that he was a "hero." Some papers
called him "Hero" Plank for awhile, but soon tired of it or forgot it
under the stress of the increasing heat.
Besides Plank scarcely noticed what the press said of him. He was too
busy; his days were full days, brimming over deep into the night.
Brokers, lawyers, sycophants, tipsters, treacherous ex-employes of
Quarrier, detectives, up-State petty officials, lobbyists from Albany,
newspaper men, men from Wall Street, Broad Street, Mulberry Street,
Forty-second Street--all these he saw in units, relays, regiments--either
at his offices or after dinner--and sometimes after midnight in his own
house. And these were only a few, picked from the interested or
disinterested thousands who besieged him with advice, importunity,
threats, and attempted blackmail. And he handled them all in turn,
stolidly but with decision. His obstinate under lip protruded further
and further with rare recessions; his heavy head was like the lowered
head of a bull. Undaunted, inexorable, slow to the verge of stupidity at
times, at times swift as a startled tiger, this new, amazing personality
steadily developing, looming higher, heavier, athwart the financial
horizon--in stature holding his own among giants, then growing,
gradually, inch by inch, dominated his surrounding level sky line.
The youth in him was the tragedy to the old; the sudden silence of the
man the danger to the secretive. Harrington was already an old man;
Quarrier's own weapon had always been secrecy; but the silence of Plank
confused him, for he had never learned to parry well another's use of
his own weapon. The left-handed swordsman dreads to cross with a man who
fights with the left hand. And Harrington, hoary, seamed, scarred,
maimed in onslaughts of long forgotten battles, looked long and hard
upon this weird of his own dead youth which now rose towering to
confront him, menacing him with the armed point of the same shield
behind which he himself had so long found shelter--the Law!
The closing of the courts enforced armed truces along certain lines of
Plank's battle front; the adjournment of the legislature emptied Albany.
Once it was rumoured that Plank had passed an entire morning with the
Governor of the greatest State in the Union and that the conference was
to be repeated. A swarm of newspaper men settled about the Governor's
summer cottage at Saratoga, but they learned nothing, nor could they
find a trace of Plank's tracks in the trodden trails of the great Spa.
Besides, the racing had begun; Desmond, Burbank, Sneed, and others of
the gilded guild had opened new club-houses; the wretched, half-starved
natives in the surrounding hills were violating the game-laws to distend
the paunches of the overfed with five-inch troutlings and grouse and
woodcock slaughtered out of season; so there was plenty of copy for
newspaper men without the daily speculative paragraph devoted to the
doings of Beverly Plank. Some scandal, too--but newspapers never touch
that; and after all it was nobody's affair that Leroy Mortimer drove a
large yellow and black Serin-Chanteur touring-car, new model, all over
Saratoga county. Perhaps the similarity of machines gave rise to the
rumour of Plank's presence; perhaps not, because the car was often
driven by a tall, slender girl with dark eyes and hair; and nobody ever
saw that sort of pretty woman in Plank's Serin, or saw Leroy Mortimer
for many days without a companion of that species.
Mortimer's health was excellent. The races had not proved remunerative
however, and his new motor-car was horribly expensive. So was Lydia. And
he began to be seriously afraid that by the end of August he would be
obliged to apply to Quarrier once more for some slight temporary token
of that gentleman's goodwill. He told Lydia this, and she seemed to
agree with him. This pleased him. She had not pleased him very much
recently. For one thing she was becoming too friendly with some of his
friends--Desmond in particular.
Plank, it was known, had opened his great house at Black Fells. His
servants, gamekeepers, were there; his stables, kennels, greenhouses,
model stock-farm--all had been put in immaculate condition pending the
advent of the master. But Plank had not appeared; his new sea-going
steam yacht still lay in the East River, and, at rare intervals, a
significant glimmer of bunting disclosed the owner's presence aboard for
an hour or two. That was all, however; and the cliff-watchers at
Shotover House and the Fells looked seaward in vain for the big Siwanoa,
as yacht after yacht, heralded by the smudge on the horizon, turned from
a gray speck to a white one, and crept in from the sea to anchor.
The Ferralls were at Shotover with their first instalment of guests.
Sylvia was there, Quarrier expected--because Kemp Ferrall's break with
him was not a social one, and Grace's real affection for Sylvia blinded
neither her nor her husband to the material and social importance of the
intimacy. Siward was not invited; neither had an invitation to him been
even discussed in view of what Grace was aware of, and what everybody
knew concerning the implacable relations existing between him,
personally, and Howard Quarrier.
Bridge, yachting, and motoring were the August sports; the shooting set
had not yet arrived, of course; in fact there was still another relay
expected before the season opened and brought the shooting coterie for
the first two weeks. But Sylvia was expected to last through and hold
over with a brief interlude for a week's end at Lenox. So was Quarrier;
and Grace, always animated by a lively but harmless malice, hoped to
Heaven that Plank might arrive before Quarrier left, because she adored
the tension of situations and was delightedly persuaded that Plank was
more than able to hold his own with her irritating cousin.
"Oh, to see them together in a small room," she sighed ecstatically in
Sylvia's ear; "I'd certainly poke them up if they only turned around
sulkily in the corners of the cage and evinced a desire to lie down."
"What a mischief-maker you are," said Sylvia listlessly; and though
Grace became very vivacious in describing her plans to extract amusement
out of Plank's hoped-for presence Sylvia remained uninterested.
There seemed, in fact, little to interest her that summer at Shotover
House; and, though she never refused any plans made for her, and her
attitude was one of quiet acquiescence always--she never expressed a
preference for anything, a desire to do anything; and, if let alone, was
prone to pace the cliffs or stretch her slim, rounded body on the sand
of some little, sheltered, crescent beach, apparently content with the
thunderous calm of sea and sky.
Her interest, too, in people had seemingly been extinguished. Once or
twice she did inquire as to Marion's whereabouts, and learned that Miss
Page was fishing in Minnesota somewhere but would return to Shotover
when the shooting opened. Somebody, Captain Voucher, perhaps, mentioned
to somebody in her hearing that Siward was still in New York. If she
heard she made no sign, no inquiry. The next morning she remained abed
with a headache, and Grace motored to Wendover without her; but Sylvia
spent the balance of the day on the cliffs, and played Bridge with the
devil's own luck till dawn, piling up a score that staggered Mr.
Fleetwood, who had been instructing her in adversary play a day or two
The hot month dragged on; Quarrier came; Agatha Caithness arrived a few
days later--scheme of the Ferralls involving Alderdene!--but the Siwanoa
did not come, and Plank remained invisible. Leila Mortimer arrived from
Swan's Harbour toward the middle of the month, offering no information
as to the whereabouts of what Major Belwether delicately designated as
her "legitimate." But everybody knew he was at last to be crossed off
and struck clean out, and the ugly history of the winter, now so
impudently corroborated at Saratoga, gave many a hostess the opportunity
long desired. Mortimer, as far as his own particular circle was
concerned, was down and out; Leila, accepted as a matter of course
without him, remained quietly uncommunicative. If the outward physical
change in her was due to her marital rupture people thought it was well
that it had come in time, for she bloomed like a lovely exotic; and her
silences and enthusiasms, and the fragrant freshness of her developing
attitude toward the world first disconcerted, then amused, then touched
those who had supposed themselves to be so long a buckler for her
foibles and a shield for her caprice.
"Gad," said Alderdene, "she's well rid of him if he's been choking her
this long--the rank, rotten weed that he is, sapping the life from her so
when she hung over toward another fellow's bush we thought she was frail
in the stem--God bless us all for a simpering lot of blatherskites!"
And if, in the corner of the gun-room, there was a man among them who
had ever ventured to hold Leila's smooth little hand, unrebuked, in days
gone by, none the less he knew that Alderdene spoke truth; and none the
less he knew that what witness he might be called to bear at the end of
the end of all must only incriminate himself and not that young matron
who now, before their very eyes, was budding again, reverting to the
esoteric charm of youth reincarnated.
"A suit before a referee would settle him," mused Voucher; "he hasn't a
leg to stand on. Lord! The same cat that tripped up Stephen Siward!"
Fleetwood's quick eyes glimmered for an instant in Quarrier's direction.
Quarrier was in the billiard-room, out of earshot, practising balk-line
problems with Major Belwether; and Fleetwood said: "The same cat that
tripped up Stephen Siward. Yes. But who let her loose?"
"It was your dinner; you ought to know," said Voucher bluntly.
"I do know. He brought her"--nodding toward the billiard-room.
"No," yawned Fleetwood.
Somebody said presently: "Isn't he one of the Governors? Oh, I say, that
was rather rough on Siward though."
"Yes, rough. The law of trespass ought to have operated; a man's liable
for the damage done by his own live-stock."
"That's a brutal way of talking," said somebody. And the subject was
closed with the entrance of Agatha in white flannels on her way to the
squash court where she had an appointment with Quarrier.
"A strange girl," said somebody after she had disappeared with Quarrier.
"That pallor is stunning," said a big, ruddy youth, with sunburn on his
neck and forehead.
"It isn't healthy," said Fleetwood.
"It attracts me," persisted the ruddy young man, voicing naively that
curious truth concerning the attraction that disease so often exerts on
health--the strange curiosity the normal has for the sub-normal--that
fascination of the wholesome for the unhealthy. It is, perhaps, more
curiosity than anything, unless, deep hidden under the normal, there lie
one single, perverted nerve.
Sylvia, passing the hall, glanced in through the gun-room door with an
absentminded smile at the men and their laughing greeting, as they rose
with uplifted glasses to salute her.
"The sweetest of all," observed a man, disconsolately emptying his
glass. "Oh irony! What a marriage!"
"Do you know any girl who would not change places with her?" asked
Every man there insisted that he knew one girl at least who would not
exchange Sylvia's future for her own. That was very nice of them; it is
to be hoped they believed it. Some of them did--for the moment, anyhow.
Then Alderdene, blinking furiously, emitted one of his ear-racking
laughs; and everybody, as usual, laughed too.
"You damned cynic," observed Voucher affectionately.
"Somebody," said Fleetwood, "insists that she doubled up poor Siward."
"She never met Siward until she was engaged to Howard," remarked
"Oh, don't you consider that enough to squelch the story?"
"Engaged girls," mused Alderdene, "never double up except at Bridge."
"Everybody has been or is in love with Sylvia Landis," said Voucher,
"and it's a man's own fault if he's hit. Once she did it, innocently
enough, and enjoyed it, never realising that it hurt a man to be doubled
Fleetwood yawned again and said: "She can have me to-morrow. But she
won't. She's tired of the sport. Any girl would get enough with the pack
at her heels day in and day out. Besides she's done for--unless she
looses Quarrier and starts on a duke-hunt over in Blinky's country! . Is
anybody on for a sail? Is anybody on for anything? No? Oh, very well.
Shove that decanter north by west, Billy."
This was characteristic of the dog-days at Shotover. The dog-days in
town were very different; the city threw open the parks to the poor at
night; horses fell dead in the streets; pallid urchins, stripped naked,
splashed and rolled and screeched in the basin of the City Hall fountain
under the indifferent eyes of the police.
As for Plank he was too busy to know what the thermometer was about; he
had no time for anything outside of his own particular business except
to go every day to the big, darkened house in lower Fifth Avenue where
the days had been hard on Siward and the nights harder.
Siward, however, could walk now, using his crutches still, but often
stopping to gently test his left foot and see how much weight he was
able to bear on it--even taking a tentative step or two without crutch
support. He drove when he thought it prudent to use the horses in the
heat, usually very early in the morning, though sometimes at night with
Plank when the latter had time to run his touring-car through the park
and out into the Bronx or Westchester for a breath of air.
But Plank wanted him to go away, get out of the city for his
convalescence, and Siward flatly declined, demanding that Plank permit
him to do his share in the fight against the Inter-County people.
And Plank, utterly unable to persuade him, and the more hampered because
of his anxiety about Siward--though that young man did not know it--wore
himself out providing Siward with such employment in the matter as would
lightly occupy him without doing any good to the enemy.
So Siward, stripped to his pajamas, pored over reams of typewritten
matter and took his brief walking exercise in the comparative cool of
the evening and drove when he dared use his horses; or, sitting beside
Plank, whizzed northward through the starry darkness of the suburbs.
When it was that he first began to like Plank very much he could not
exactly remember. He was not, perhaps, aware of how much he liked him.
Plank's unexpected fits of shyness, of formality, often and often amused
him. But there was a subtler feeling under the unexpressed amusement,
and, beneath all, a constantly increasing sub-stratum of respect. Too,
he found himself curiously at ease with Plank, as with one born to his
own caste. And this feeling, unconscious, but more and more apparent,
meant more to Plank than anything that had ever happened to him. It was
a tonic in hours of doubt, a pleasure in his brief leisure, a pride
never to be hinted at, never to be guessed, never to be dreamed of by
any living soul save Plank alone.
Then, one sultry day toward the last week in August, a certain judge of
a certain court, known among some as "Harrington's judge," sent secretly
for Plank. And Plank knew that the crisis was over. But neither
Harrington nor Quarrier dreamed of such a thing.
Fear sat heavy on that judge's soul--the godless, selfish fear that sends
the first coward slinking from the councils of conspiracy to seek
immunity from those slowly grinding millstones that grind exceeding
Quarrier at Shotover, with his private car and his locomotive within an
hour's drive, strolled with Sylvia on the eve of her departure for Lenox
with Leila Mortimer; then, when their conference was ended, he returned
to Agatha, calmly unconscious of impending events.
Harrington, at Seabright, paced his veranda, awaiting this same judge,
annoyed as two boats came in without the expected guest. And never for
one instant did he dream that his creature sat closeted with Plank,
tremulous, sallow, nearing the edge of cringing avowal--only held back
from utter collapse by the agonising necessity of completing a bargain
that might save himself from the degradation of the punishment that had
seemed inevitable. All day long he sat with Plank. Nobody except those
two knew he was there. And after a very long time Plank consented that
nobody else except Siward and Harrington and Quarrier should ever know.
So he called up Harrington on the telephone, saying that there was, in
the office, somebody who desired to speak to him. And when Harrington
caught the judge's first faint, stammered word he reeled where he stood,
ashen, unbelieving, speechless. The shaking but remorseless voice went
on, dinning horribly in his ear, then ceased, and Plank's heavy voice
sounded the curt coup de grace.
Harrington was an old man, a very old man, mortally hurt; but he
steadied himself along the wall of his study to the desk and sank into
There he sat, feeling the scars of old wounds throbbing, feeling his age
and the tragedy of it, and the new sensation of fear--fear of the wraith
of his own youth, wearing the mask of Plank, and menacing him with the
menace he had used on others so long ago--so very long ago.
After a little while he passed a thin hand over his eyes, over his gray
head, over the mouth that all men watched with fear, over the shaven jaw
now grimly set, but trembling. His hand, too, shook with palsy as he
wrote, painfully picking out the words and figures of the cipher from
his code-book; but he closed his thin lips and squared his unsteady jaw
and wrote his message to Quarrier:
"It is all up. Plank will take over Inter-County. Come at once."
And that was all there was to be done until he could come into Plank's
camp with arms and banners, a conquered man, cynical of the mercy he
dared not expect and which, in all his life, he had never, never shown
to man, to woman, or to child.
Plank slept the sleep of utter exhaustion that night; the morning found
him haggard but strong, cool in his triumph, serious, stern faced,
almost sad that his work was done, the battle won.
From his own house he telegraphed a curt summons to Harrington and to
Quarrier for a conference in his own office; then, finishing whatever
business his morning mail required, put on his hat and went to see the
one man in the world he was most glad for.
He found him at breakfast, sipping coffee and wrinkling his brows over
the eternal typewritten pages. And Plank's face cleared at the sight and
he sat down, laughing aloud.
"It's all over, Siward," he said. "Harrington knows it; Quarrier knows
it by this time. Their judge crawled in yesterday and threw himself on
our mercy; and the men whose whip he obeyed will be on their way to
surrender by this time. . Well! Haven't you a word?"
"Many," said Siward slowly; "too many to utter, but not enough to
express what I feel. If you will take two on account, here they are in
one phrase: thank you."
"Debt's cancelled," said Plank, laughing. "Do you want to hear the
They talked for an hour, and, in the telling, even Plank's stolidity
gave way sufficient to make his heavy voice ring at moments, and the
glimmer of excitement edge his eyes. Yet, in the telling, he scarcely
mentioned himself, never hinted of the personal part--the inspiration
which was his alone; the brunt of the battle which centred in him; the
tireless vigilance; the loneliness of the nights when he lay awake,
perplexed with doubt and nobody to counsel him--because men who wage such
wars are lonely men and must work out their own salvation. No, nobody
but his peers could advise him; and he had thought that his enemy was
his peer, until that enemy surrendered.
The narrative exchanged by Plank in return for Siward's intensely
interested questions was a simple, limpid review of a short but terrific
campaign that only yesterday had threatened to rage through court after
court, year after year. In the sudden shock of the cessation from
battle, Plank himself was a little dazed. Yet he himself had expected
the treason that ended all; he himself had foreseen it. He had counted
on it as a good general counts on such things, confidently, but with a
dozen plans as substitutes in case that plan failed--each plan as
elaborately worked out to the last detail as though it alone existed as
the only hope of victory. But if Siward suspected something of this it
was not from Plank that he learned it.
"Plank," he said at last, "there is nothing in the world that men admire
more than a man. It is a good deal of a privilege for me to tell you
Plank turned red with surprise and embarrassment, stammering out
That was all that was said about the victory. Siward, unusually gay for
awhile, presently turned sombre; and it was Plank's turn to lift him out
of it by careless remarks about his rapid convalescence, and the chance
for vacation he so much needed.
Once Siward looked up vacantly: "Where am I to go?" he asked. "I'd as
soon stay here."
"But I'm going," insisted Plank. "The Fells is all ready for us."
"The Fells! I can't go there!"
"W-what?" faltered Plank, looking at Siward with hurt eyes.
"Can't you--don't you understand?" said Siward in a low voice.
"No. You once promised--"
"Plank, I'll go anywhere except there with you. I'd rather be with you
than with anybody. Can I say more than that?"
"I think you ought to, Siward. A--a fellow feels the refusal of his
"Man! man! it isn't your roof I am refusing. I want to go; I'd give
anything to go. If it were anywhere except where it is, I'd go fast
enough. Now do you understand? If--if Shotover House and Shotover people
were not next door to the Fells, I'd go. Now do you understand?"
Plank said: "I don't know whether I understand. If you mean Quarrier,
he's on his way here, and he'll have business to keep him here for the
next few months, I assure you. But"--he looked very gravely across at
Siward--"if you don't mean Quarrier--" He hesitated, ill at ease under the
expressionless scrutiny of the other.
"Do you know what's the matter with me, Plank?" he asked at length.
"I think so."
"I have wondered. I wonder now how much you know."
"Very little, Siward."
Plank looked up, hesitated, and shook his head: "One infers from what
"The truth, I suppose," replied Plank simply.
"And what," insisted Siward, "have you inferred that you believe to be
the truth? Don't parry, Plank; it isn't easy for me, and I--I never
before spoke this way to any man. . It is likely I should have spoken to
my mother about it. . I had expected to. It may be weakness--I don't
know; but I'd like to talk a little about it to somebody. And there's
nobody fit to listen, except you."
"If you feel that way," said Plank slowly, "I will be very glad to
"I feel that way. I've been through--some things; I've been pretty sick,
Plank. It tires a man out; a man's head and shoulders get tired. Oh, I
don't mean the usual reaction from self-contempt, disgust--the dreadful,
aching sadness of it all which lasts even while desire, stunned for the
moment, wakens into craving. I don't mean that. It is something else--a
deathly, mental solitude that terrifies. I tell you, no man except a man
smitten by my malady knows what solitude can be! . There! I didn't mean
to be theatrical; I had no intention of--"
"Go on," cut in Plank heavily.
"Go on! . Yes, I want to. You know what a pillow is to a tired man's
shoulders. I want to use your sane intelligence to rest on a moment.
It's my brain that's tired, Plank."
Although everybody had cynically used Plank, nobody had ever before
found him a necessity.
"Go on," he said unsteadily. "If I can be of use to you, Siward, in
God's name let me be, for I have never been necessary to anybody in all
Siward rested his head on one clinched hand: "How much chance do you
think I have?" he asked wearily.
"Chance to get well?"
Plank considered for a moment, then: "You are not trying, Siward."
"I have been trying since--since March."
Plank looked at him curiously: "What happened in March?"
"Had I better tell you?"
"You know better than I."
Siward, cheek crushed against his fist, his elbow on the desk, gazed at
"In March," he said, "Miss Landis spoke to me. I've made a better fight
Plank's serious face darkened. "Is she the only anchor you have?"
"Plank, I am not even sure of her. I have made a better fight since
then; that is all I dare say. I know what men think about a man like me;
I knew they demand character, pride, self-denial. But, Plank, I am
driving faster and faster toward the breakers, and these anchors are
dragging. For it is not, in my case, the physical failure to obey the
will; it is the will itself that has been attacked from the first. That
is the horror of it. And what is there behind the will-power to
strengthen it? Only the source of will-power--the mind. It is the mind
that cannot help me. What am I to do?"
"There is a spiritual strength," said Plank timidly.
"I have never dreamed of denying it," said Siward. "I have tried to find
it through the accepted sources--accepted by me, too. God has not helped
me in the conventional way or through traditional methods; but that has
not inclined me to doubt Him as the tribunal of last resort," he added
hastily. "I don't for a moment waver in faith because I am ignorant of
the proper manner to approach Him. The Arbiter of all knows that I
desire to be decent. He must be aware, too, that all anchors save one
have failed to hold me."
"You mean--Miss Landis?"
"Yes. It may be weakness; it may be to my shame that the cables of pride
and self-respect, even the spiritual respect for the Highest, cannot
hold me when this one anchor holds. All I know is that it holds--so far.
It held me at Shotover; it holds me again, now. And the rocks were close
abeam, Plank--very close--when she spoke to me over the wires, through the
rain, that dark day in March."
He moistened his lips feverishly.
"She said that I might see her. I have waited a long time. I have taken
my fighting chance again and I've won out, so far."
He looked up at Plank, curiously embarrassed:
"Your body is normal; your intelligence wholesome, balanced, sane; and I
want to ask you if you think that perhaps, without understanding how, I
have found in her, or through her, in some way, the spiritual source
that I think might help me to help myself?"
And, as Plank made no reply:
"Or am I talking sentimental cant? Don't answer, if you think that. I
can't trust my own mind any more, anyway; and," with an ugly laugh,
"I'll know it all some day--the sooner the better!"
"Don't say that!" growled Plank. "You were sane a moment ago."
Siward looked up sharply, but the other silenced him with a gesture.
"Wait! You asked me a perfectly sane question--so wholesome, so normal,
that I'm trying to frame an answer worthy of it! I intimated that after
the physical, the mental, the ethical phenomena, there remained always
the spiritual instinct. Like a wireless current, if a man can establish
communication it is well for him, whatever the method. You assented, I
"And you ask me if I believe it possible that she can be the medium?"
Plank said deliberately: "Yes, I do think so."
The silence was again broken by Plank: "Siward, you have asked me what I
think. Now you must listen to the end. If you believed that through
her--her love, marrying her--you stood the best chance in the world to win
out, it would be cowardly to ask her to take the risk. As much as I care
for you I had rather see you lose the fight than accept such a risk from
her. Now you know what I think--but you don't know all. Siward, I say to
you that if you are man enough to take her, take her! And I say that of
the two risks she is running to-day, the chance she might take with you
is infinitely the lesser risk. For with you, if you continue slowly
losing your fight, the mental suffering only will be hers. But if she
closes this bargain with Quarrier, selling to him her body, the light
will go out of her soul for ever."
He leaned heavily toward Siward, stretching out his powerful arm:
"You marry her; and keep open your spiritual communication through her,
if that is the way it has been established, and hang on to your God that
way until your body is dead! I tell you, Siward, to marry her. I don't
care how you do it; I don't care how you get her. Take her! Yours, of
the two, is the stronger character, or she would not be where she is.
Does she want what you cannot give her? Cure that desire--it is more
contemptible than the craving that shatters you! I say, let the one-eyed
lead the blind. Miracles are worked out by mathematics--if you have faith
He rose, striding the length of the room once or twice, turned, holding
out his broad hand:
"Good-bye," he said. "Harrington is about due at my office; Quarrier
will probably turn up to-night. I am not vindictive; I shall be just
with them--as just as I know how, which is to be as merciful as I dare
be. Good-bye, Siward. I--I believe you and she are going to get well."
When he had gone, Siward lay back in his chair, very still, eyes closed.
A faint colour had mounted to his face and remained there.
It was late in the afternoon when he went down-stairs, using his
crutches lightly. Gumble handed him a straw hat and opened the door, and
Siward cautiously descended the stoop, stood for a few moments on the
sidewalk, looking up at the blue sky, then wheeled and slowly made his
way toward Washington Square. The avenue was deserted; his own house
appeared to be the only remaining house still open in all that old-
fashioned but respectable quarter.
He swung leisurely southward, a slim, well-built young fellow, strangely
out of place on crutches. The poor always looked at him; beggars never
importuned him, yet found him agreeable to watch. Children, who seldom
look up into the air far enough to notice grown people, always became
conscious of him when he passed; often smiled, sometimes spoke. As for
stray curs and tramp cats, they were for ever making advances. As long
as he could remember, there was scarcely a week in town but some
homeless dog attached himself to Siward's heels, sometimes trotting
several blocks, sometimes following him home--where the outcast was
always cared for, washed, fed, and ultimately shipped out to the farm,
where scores of these "fresh-air" dogs resided on his bounty and rolled
in luxury on his lawns.
Cats, too, were prone to notice him, rising as he passed to hoist an
interrogative tail and make tentative observations.
In Washington Square, these, and the ragged children, knew him best of
all. The children came from Minetta Lane and the purlieus south and west
of it; the cats from the Mews, which Siward always thought most
And now, as he passed the marble arch and entered the square, glancing
behind him he saw the inevitable cat trotting, and, at his left, a very
dirty little girl pretending to trundle a hoop, but plainly enough
keeping sociable pace with him.
"Hello!" said Siward. The cat stopped; the child tossed her clustering
curls, gave him a rapid but fearless sidelong glance, laughed, and ran
on in the wake of her hoop. When she caught it she sat down on a bench
opposite the fountain and looked around at Siward.
"It's pretty warm, isn't it?" said Siward, coming up and seating himself
on the same bench.
"Are you lame?" asked the child.
"Oh, a little."
"Is your leg broken?"
"Oh, no, not now."
"Is that your cat?"
Siward looked around; the cat was seated on the bench beside him. But he
was accustomed to that sort of thing, and he caressed the creature with
his gloved hand.
"Are you rich?" asked the child, shaking her blond curls from her eyes
and staring up solemnly at him.
"Not very," he answered, smiling. "Why do you ask?"
"You look rich, somehow," said the child shyly.
"What! With these old and very faded clothes?"
She shook her head, swinging her plump legs: "You look it, somehow. It
isn't the clothes that matter."
"I'll tell you one thing," said Siward, laughing "I'm rich enough to buy
all the hokey-pokey you can eat!" and he glanced meaningly at the pedlar
of that staple who had taken station between a vender of peaches and a
The child looked, too, but made no comment.
"How about it?" asked Siward.
"I'd rather have something to remember you by," said the girl
"What?" he said, perplexed.
"A rose. They are five cents, and hokey-pokey costs that much--I mean,
for as much as you can eat."
"Do you really want a rose?" he said amused.
But the child fell shy, and he beckoned the Greek and selected a dozen
big, perfumed jacks.
Then, as the child sat silent, her ragged arms piled with roses, he
asked her jestingly what else she desired.
"Nothing. I like to look at you," she answered simply.
"And I like to look at you. Will you tell me your name?"
But that is all the information he could extract. Presently she said she
was going, hesitated, looked a very earnest good-bye, and darted away
across the park, her hoop over one arm, the crimson roses bobbing above
her shoulders. Something in her flight attracted the errant cat, for
she, too, jumped down and bounded after the little flying feet, but,
catlike, halted half-way to scratch, and then forgetting what she was
about, wandered off toward the Mews again, whence she had been lured by
Siward, intensely amused, sat there in the late sunlight which streamed
through the park, casting long shadows from the elms and sycamores. It
was that time of the day, just before sunset, when the old square looked
to him as he remembered it as a child. Even the marble arch, pink in the
evening sun, did not disturb the harmony of his memories. He saw his
father once more, walking home from down town, tall, slim, laughingly
stopping to watch him as he played there with the other children--the
nurses, seated in a row, crocheting under the sycamores; he saw the old-
fashioned carriage pass, Mockett on the box, Wands beside him, and his
pretty mother leaning forward to wave her hand to him as the long-
tailed, long-maned horses wheeled into Fifth Avenue. Little unimportant
scenes, trivial episodes, grew in the spectral garden of memory: the
first time he ever saw Marion Page, when, aged five, she was attempting
to get into the fountain, pursued by a shrieking nurse; and a certain
flight across the grass he had indulged in with Leila Mortimer, then
Leila Egerton, aged six, in hot pursuit, because she found that it bored
him horribly to be kissed, and she was bound to do it. He had a fight
once, over by that gnarled, old, silver poplar-tree, with Kemp
Ferrall--he could not remember what about, only that they ended by
unanimously assaulting their nurses and were dragged howling homeward.
He turned, looking across to where the gray towers of the University
once stood. There had been an old stone church there, too; and, south of
that, old, old houses with hip-roofs and dormers where now the high
white cliffs of modern architecture rose, riddled with tiny windows,
every vane glittering in the sun. South, the old houses still remained,
now degraded to sordid uses. North, the square, red-brick mansions, with
their white pillars and steps, still faced the sunset--the last
practically unbroken rank of the old regime, the last of the old guard,
standing fast and still confronting, still resisting the Inevitable
looming in limestone and granite, story piled on story, aloft in the
kindling, southern sky.
A cab, driven smartly, passed through the park, the horses' feet
slapping the asphalt till the echoes rattled back from the marble arch.
He followed it idly with his eyes up Fifth Avenue; saw it suddenly halt
in the middle of the street; saw a woman spring out, stand for a moment
talking to her companion, then turn and look toward the square.
She stood so long, and she was so far away, that he presently grew tired
of watching her. A dozen ragged urchins were prowling around the
fountain, casting sidelong glances at a distant policeman. But it was
not hot enough that evening to permit the children to splash in the
water, and the policeman drove them off.
"Poor little devils!" said Siward to himself; and he rose, adjusted his
crutches, and started through the park with a vague idea of seeing what
could be done.
As he limped onward, the sun level in his eyes, he heard somebody speak
behind him, but did not catch the words or apply the hail to himself.
Then, "Mr. Siward!" came the low, breathless voice at his elbow.
His heart stopped as he did. The sun had dazzled his eyes, and when he
turned on his crutches he could not see clearly for a second. That past,
he looked at Sylvia, looked at her outstretched hand, took it
mechanically, still staring at her with only a dazed unbelief in his
"I am in town for a day," she said. "Leila Mortimer and I were driving
up town from the bank when we saw you; and the next thing that happened
was me, on Fifth Avenue, running after you--no, the next thing was my
flying leap from the hansom, and my standing there looking down the
street and across the square where you sat. Then Leila told me I was
probably crazy, and I immediately confirmed her diagnosis by running
She stood laughing, flushed, sunburned, and breathless, her left hand
still in his, her right hand laid over it.
"Oh," she said, with a sudden change to anxiety, "does it tire you to
"No. I was going to saunter along."
"May I saunter with you for a moment? I mean--I only mean, I am glad to
"Do you think I am going to let you go now?" he asked, astonished.
She looked at him, then her eyes evaded his: "Let us walk a little," she
said, withdrawing her hand, "if you think you are strong enough."
"Strong! Look, Sylvia!" and he stood unsupported by his crutches, then
walked a little way, slowly, but quite firmly. "I am rather a coward
about my foot, that is all. I shall not lug these things about after to-
"Did the doctor say you might?"
"Yes, after to-day. I could walk home now without them. I could do a
good many things I couldn't do a few minutes ago. Isn't that curious?"
"Very," she said, avoiding his eyes.
He laughed. She dared not look at him. The excitement and impetus of
sheer impulse had carried her this far; now all the sadness of it was
clutching hard at her throat and for awhile she could not speak--walking
there in her dainty, summer gown beside him, the very incarnation of
youth and health, with the sea-tan on wrist and throat, and he, white,
hollow-eyed, crippled, limping, at her elbow!
Yet at that very moment his whole frame seemed to glow and his heart
clamour with the courage in it, for he was thinking of Plank's words and
he knew Plank had spoken the truth. She could not give herself to
Quarrier, if he stood firm. His was the stronger will after all; his was
the right to interfere, to stop her, to check her, to take her, draw her
back--as he had once drawn her from the fascination of destruction when
she had swayed out too far over the cliffs at Shotover.
"Do you remember that?" he asked, and spoke of the incident.
"Yes, I remember," she replied, smiling.
"Doctors say" he continued, "that there is a weak streak in people who
are affected by great heights, or who find a dizzy fascination drawing
them toward the brink of precipices."
"Do you mean me?" she asked, amused.
But he continued serenely: "You have seen those pigeons called 'tumbler
pigeons' suddenly turn a cart-wheel in mid-air? Scientists say it's not
for pleasure they do it; it's because they get dizzy. In other words,
they are not perfectly normal."
She said, laughing: "Well, you never saw me turn a cart-wheel!"
"Only a moral one," he replied airily.
"Stephen, what on earth do you mean? You're not going to be
disagreeable, are you?"
"I am going to be so agreeable," he said, laughing, "that you will find
it very difficult to tear yourself away."
"I have no doubt of it, but I must, and very soon."
"I'm not going to let you."
"It can't be helped," she said, looking up at him. "I came in with
Leila. We're asked to Lenox for the week's end. We go to Stockbridge on
the early train to-morrow morning.
"I don't care," he said doggedly; "I'm not going to let you go yet."
"If I took to my heels here in the park would you chase me, Stephen?"
she asked with mock anxiety.
"Yes; and if I couldn't run fast enough I'd call that policeman. Now do
you begin to understand?"
"Oh, I've always understood that you were spoiled. I'm partly guilty of
the spoiling process, too. Listen: I'll walk with you a little way"--she
looked at him--"a little way," she continued gently; "then I must go.
There is only a caretaker in our house and Leila will be furious if I
leave her all alone. Besides, we're going to dine there and it won't be
very gay if I don't give a few orders first."
"But you brought your maid?"
"Then telephone her that you and Leila are dining out."
"Where, silly? Do you want us to dine somewhere with you?"
"Want you! You've got to!"
"Stephen, it isn't best."
"It is best."
She turned to him impulsively: "Oh, I do want to so much! Do you think I
might? It is perfectly delicious to see you again. I--you have no idea--"
"Yes, I have," he said sternly.
They turned, walking past the fountain toward Fifth Avenue again.
Furtively she glanced at his hands with the city pallor on them as they
grasped the cross-bars of the crutches, then looked up at his worn face.
He was much thinner, but now in the softly fading light the shadows
under the eyes and cheek-bones seemed less sharp, his face fuller and
more boyish; the contour of head and shoulders, the short, crisp hair
were as she remembered--and the old charm held her, the old fascination
grew, tightening her throat, stealing through every vein, stirring her
pulses, awakening imperceptibly once more the best in her. The twilight
of a thousand years seemed to slip from the world as she looked out at
it through eyes opening from a long, long sleep; the marble arch burned
rosy in the evening glow; a fairy haze hung over the enchanted avenue,
stretching away, away into the blue magic of the city of dreams.
"There is no use," she said under her breath; "I can't go back to Leila.
Stephen, the dreadful part of it is that I--I wish she were in Jericho! I
wish the whole world were in Ballyhoo, and you and I alone once more!"
Under their gay laughter quivered the undertone of excitement. Sylvia
"I'd like to talk to you all alone. It won't do, of course; but I may
say what I'd like--mayn't I? What time is it? If I'm dining with you
we've got to have Leila for convention's sake, if not from motives of
sheer decency, which you and I seem to lack, Stephen."
"We lack decency," said Siward, "and we're proud of it. As for Leila, I
am going to arrange for her very simply but very beautifully. Plank will
take care of her. Sylvia! There's not a soul in town and we can be as
imprudent as we please."
"No, we can't. Agatha's at the Santa Regina. She came down with us."
"But we are not going to dine at the Santa Regina. We're going where
Agatha wouldn't intrude her colourless nose--to a thoroughly
unfashionable and selectly common resort overlooking the classic Harlem;
and we're going to whiz thither in Plank's car, and remain thither until
you yawn for mercy, whence we will return thence--"
"Stephen, you silly! I'm perfectly mad to go with you!"
"You'll be madder when you get there, if the table has not improved."
"Table! As though tables mattered on a night like this!" Then with
sudden self-reproach and quick solicitude: "Am I making you walk too
far? Wouldn't you like to go in now?"
"No, I'm not tired; I'm millions of years younger, and I'm as strong as
the nine gods of your friend Porsena. Besides, haven't I waited for
this?" and under his breath, fiercely, "Haven't I waited!" he repeated,
turning on her.
"Do--do you mean that as a reproach?" she asked, lowering her eyes.
"No. I knew you would not come on 'the first sunny day.'"
"Why did you think I would not come? Did you know me for the coward I
"I did not think you would come," he repeated, halting to rest on his
crutches. He stood, balanced, staring dreamily into the dim perspective;
and again her fascinated eyes ventured to rest on the worn, white face,
listless, sombre in its fixedness.
The tears were very near her eyes; the spasm in her throat checked
speech. At length she stammered: "I did not come b-because I simply
couldn't stand it!"
His face cleared as he turned quietly: "Child, you must not confuse
matters. You must not think of being sorry for me. The old order is
passing--ticking away on every clock in the world. All that inverted
order of things is being reversed. You don't know what I mean, do you?
Ah, well; you will know when I grow into something of what you think you
remember in me, and when I grow out of what I really was."
"Truly I don't understand, Stephen. But then--I am out of training since
you went--went out of things. Have I changed? Do I seem more dull? I--it
has not been very gay with me. I don't see--looking back across all the
noise, all the chaos of the winter--I do not see how I stood it alone."
"N-not seeing you--sometimes."
He looked at her with smiling, sceptical eyes. "Didn't you enjoy the
"Do you enjoy being drugged with champagne?"
His face altered so quickly that, confused, she only stared at him, the
fixed smile stamped on her lips; then, overwhelmed in the revelation:
"Stephen, surely, surely you know what I meant! I did not mean that!
Dear, do you dream for one moment that--that I could--"
"No. You have not hurt me. Besides, I know what you mean."
After a moment he swung forward on his crutches, biting his lip, the
frown gathering between his temples.
They were passing the big, old-fashioned hotel with its white facade and
green blinds, a lingering landmark of the older city.
"We'll telephone here," he said.
Side by side they went up the great, broad stoop and entered the lobby.
"If you'll speak to Leila, I'll get Plank on the wire. Say that we'll
stop for you at seven."
She gave her number; then, at the nod of the operator, entered a small
booth. Siward was given another booth in a few moments.
Plank answered from his office; his voice sounded grave and tired but it
quickened, tinged with surprise, when Siward made known his plan for the
"Is Mrs. Mortimer in town?" he demanded. "I had a wire from her that she
expected to be here and I hoped to see her at the station to-morrow on
her way to Lenox."
"She's stopping with Miss Landis. Can't you manage to come?" asked
"I don't know. Do you wish it particularly? I have just seen Quarrier
and Harrington. I can't quite understand Quarrier's attitude. There's a
certain hint of defiance about it. Harrington is all caved in. He is
ready to thank us for any mercies. But Quarrier--there's something I
don't fancy, don't exactly understand about his attitude. He's like a
dangerous man whom you've searched for concealed weapons, and who knows
you've overlooked the knife up his sleeve. That's why I've expected to
spend a quiet evening, studying up the matter and examining every
"You've got to dine somewhere," said Siward. "If you could fix it to
dine with us--But I won't urge you."
"All right. I don't know why I shouldn't. I don't know why I feel this
way about things. I--I rather felt--you'll laugh, Siward!--that somehow I'd
better not go out of my own house to-night; that I was safer, better off
in my own house, studying this Quarrier matter out. I'm tired, I
suppose; and this man Quarrier has come close to worrying me. But it's
all right, of course, if you wish it. You know I haven't any nerves."
"If you are tired--" began Siward.
"No, no, I'm not. I'll go. Will you say that we'll stop for them at
seven? Really, it's all right, Siward."
"I don't want to urge you," repeated Siward.
"You're not. I'll go. But--wait one moment tell me, did Quarrier know
that Mrs. Mortimer was to stop with Miss Landis?"
"Wait a moment. Hold the wire."
He opened the door of the booth and saw Sylvia waiting for him, seated
by the operator's desk. She rose at once when she saw he wished to speak
"Tell me something," he said in a low voice; "did Mr. Quarrier know that
Leila was to stay overnight with you?"
"Yes," she answered quietly, surprised. "Why?"
Siward nodded vaguely, closed the door again, and said to Plank:
"Yes, Quarrier knows it. Do you think he'll be there to-night? I don't
suppose Miss Landis and Mrs. Mortimer know he is in town."
Plank's troubled voice came back over the wire: "I don't know. I don't
know what to think. I suppose I'm a little, just a trifle, overworked.
Somebody once said that I had one nerve in me somewhere, and Quarrier's
probably found it; that's all."
"If you think it better not to come--"
"I'll come. I'll stop for you in the motor. Don't worry, old fellow!
And--take your fighting chance! Good-bye!"
Siward, absorbed in his own thoughts, rose and walked slowly out of the
booth, utterly unconscious that he had left his crutches leaning upright
in the corner. It was only the surprise dawning into tremulous delight
on Sylvia's face that at last arrested him.
"See what you have done!" he said, laughing through his own surprise.
"I've a mind to leave them there now, and trust to your new cure."
But she was instantly concerned and anxious, and entering the booth
brought out the crutches and forced him to take them.
"No risks now!" she said decisively. "We have too much at stake this
evening. Leila is coming. Isn't it perfectly delightful?"
"Perfectly," he said, his eyes full of the old laughing confidence
again; "and the most delightful part of it all is that you don't know
how delightful it is going to be."
"Don't I? Very well. Only I inform you that I mean to be perfectly
happy! And that means that I'm going to do as I please! And that
means--oh, it may mean anything! What are you laughing at, Stephen? I
know I'm excited. I don't care! What girl wouldn't be? And I don't know
what's ahead of me at all; and I don't want to know--I don't care!"
Her reckless, little laugh rang sweetly in the old-fashioned, deserted
hall; her lovely, daring eyes met his undaunted.
"You won't make love to me, will you, Stephen?"
"Will you promise me the same?"
"I don't know, silly! How do I know what I might say to you, you big,
blundering boy, who can't take care of himself? I don't know at all; I
won't promise. I'm likely to do anything to-night--even before Leila and
Mr. Plank--when you are with me. Shame on you for the shameless girl
you've educated!" Her voice fell, tremulously, and for an instant
standing there she remembered her education and his part in it.
The slow colour in his face reflected the pink confusion in hers.
"O tongue! tongue!" she stammered, "I can't hold you in! I can't curb
you, and I can't make you say what you ought to be saying to that boy.
There's trouble coming for somebody; there's trouble here already! Call
me a cab, Stephen, or I'll be dragging you into that big, old-fashioned
parlour and planting you on a chair and placing myself opposite, to moon
over you until somebody puts us out! There! Now will you call me a
hansom? . And I will be all ready at seven. . And don't dare to keep me
waiting one second! . Come before seven. You don't want to frighten me,
do you? Very well then, at a quarter to seven--so I shall not be
frightened. And, Stephen, Stephen, we're doing exactly what we ought not
to do. You know it, don't you? So do I. Nothing can stop us, can it?
CHAPTER XIV THE BARGAIN
If a man's grief does not awaken his dignity, then he has none. In that
event, grief is not even respectable. And so it was with Leroy Mortimer
when Lydia at last turned on him. If you caress an Angora too long and
too persistently it runs away. And before it goes it scratches.
Under all the physical degeneration of mind and flesh there had still
remained in Mortimer the capacity for animal affection; and that does
not mean sensuality alone, but generosity and a sort of routine devotion
as characteristic components of a character which had now disintegrated
into the simplest and most primitive elements.
Lydia Vyse left Saratoga when the financial stringency began to make it
unpleasant for her to remain. She told Mortimer without the slightest
compunction that she was going.
He did not believe her and he gave her the new car--the big yellow-and-
black Serin-Chanteur. She sold it the same day to a bookmaker--an old
friend of hers; withdrew several jewels from limbo--gems which Mortimer
had given her--and gathered together everything for which, if he turned
ugly, she might not be criminally liable.
She had never liked him--she had long disliked him. Such women have an
instinct for their own kind, and no matter how low in the scale a man of
the other kind sinks he can never entirely supply the type of running
mate that such women require, understand, and usually conceive a passion
Not liking him she had no hesitation in the matter; disliking him,
whatever unpleasant had occurred during their companionship remained as
an irritant to poison memory. She resented a thousand little incidents
that he scarcely knew had ever existed, but which she treasured without
wasting emotion until the sum total and the time coincided to retaliate.
Not that she would have cared to harm him seriously; she was willing
enough to disoblige him, however--decorate him, before she left him, with
one extra scratch for the sake of auld lang syne. So she wrote a note to
the governors of the Patroons Club, saying that both Quarrier and
Mortimer were aware that the guilt of her escapade could not be attached
to Siward; that she knew nothing of Siward, had accepted his wager
without meaning to attempt to win it, had never again seen him, and had,
on the impulse of the moment, made her entry in the wake of several men.
She added that when Quarrier, as governor, had concurred in Siward's
expulsion he knew perfectly well that Siward was not guilty, because she
herself had so informed Quarrier. Since then she had also told Mortimer,
but he had taken no steps to do justice to Siward, although he,
Mortimer, was still a governor of the Patroons Club.
This being about all she could think of to make mischief for two men
whose recent companionship had nourished and irritated her, she shipped
her trunks by express, packed her jewel-case and valise, and met Desmond
at the station.
Desmond had business in Europe; Lydia had as much business there as
anywhere; and, although she had been faithless to Mortimer for a
comparatively short time, within that time Desmond already had sworn at
her and struck her. So she was quite ready to follow Desmond anywhere in
this world or the next. And that, too, had not made her the more
considerate toward Mortimer.
When the latter returned from the races to find her gone the last
riddled props to what passed for his manhood gave way and the rotten
fabric came crashing into the mud.
He had loved her as far as he had been capable of imitating that passion
on the transposed plane to which he had fallen; he was stupefied at
first, then grew violent with the furniture, then hysterically profane,
then pitiable in the abandoned degradation of his grief. And, suspecting
Desmond, he started to find him. They put him out of Desmond's club-
house when he became noisy; they refused him admittance to several
similar resorts where his noise threatened to continue; his landlord
lost no time in interviewing him upon the subject of damage to furniture
from kicks and to the walls and carpets from the contents of smashed
Creditors with sharp noses scented the whirlwind afar off and hemmed him
in with unsettled accounts, mostly hers. Somebody placed a lien on his
horses; a deputy sheriff began to follow him about; all credit ceased as
by magic, and men crossed the street to avoid meeting with an old
companion in direst need.
Still, alternately stupefied by his own grief and maddened into the
necessity for action, he packed a suitcase, crawled out of the rear
door, toiled across country and found a farmer to drive him twenty miles
over a sandy road to a local railroad crossing, where he managed to
board a train for Albany.
At Albany, as he stood panting and sweating on the long, concrete
platform which paralleled track No. 1, he saw a private car, switched
from a Boston and Albany train, shunted to the rear of the Merchants'
The private car was lettered in gold on the central panel, "Algonquin."
He boarded the Pullman coupled to it forward, pushed through the
vestibule, shoved aside the Japanese steward and darky cook, forcing his
way straight into the private car. Quarrier, reading a magazine, looked
up at him in astonishment. For a full moment neither spoke. Then
Mortimer dropped his suit-case, sat down in an armchair opposite
Quarrier, and leisurely mopped his reeking face and neck.
"Scotch and lithia!" he said hoarsely; the Japanese steward looked at
Quarrier; then, at that gentleman's almost imperceptible nod, went away
to execute the commission.
He executed a great many similar commissions during the trip to New
York. When they arrived there at five o'clock, Quarrier offered Mortimer
his hand, and held the trembling, puffy fingers as he leaned closer,
saying with cold precision and emotionless emphasis something that
appeared to require the full concentration of Mortimer's half-drugged
And when at length Mortimer drove away in a hansom, Quarrier's Japanese
steward went with him--perhaps to carry his suit case--a courtesy that did
credit to Quarrier's innate thoughtfulness and consideration for others.
He was very considerate; he even called Agatha up on the telephone and
talked with her for ten minutes. Then he telephoned to Plank's office,
learned that Harrington was already there, telephoned the garage for a
Mercedes which he always kept ready in town, and presently went bowling
away to a conference on which the last few hours had put an entirely new
It had taken Plank only a few minutes to perceive that something had
occurred to change a point of view which he had believed it impossible
for Quarrier to change. Something had gone wrong in his own careful
calculations; some cog had slipped, some rivet given way, some bed-plate
cracked. And Harrington evidently had not been aware of it; but Quarrier
knew it. There was something wrong.
It was too late now to go tinkering in the dark for trouble. Plank
understood that. Coolly, as though utterly unaware that the machinery
might not stand the strain, he started it full speed. And when he
stopped it at last Harrington's grist had been ground to atoms, and
Quarrier had looked on without comment. There seemed to be little more
for them to do except to pay the miller.
"To-morrow," said Quarrier, rising to go. It was on the edge of Plank's
lips to say, "to-day!"--but he was silent, knowing that Harrington would
speak for him. And the old man did, without words, turning his iron
visage on Quarrier with the silent dignity of despair. But Quarrier
coldly demanded a day before they reckoned with Plank. And Plank,
profoundly disturbed, shrugged his massive shoulders in contemptuous
So Quarrier and Harrington went away--the younger partner taking leave of
the older with a sneer for an outworn prop which no man could ever again
have use for. Old and beaten--that was all Harrington now stood for in
Quarrier's eyes. Never a thought of the past undaunted courage, never a
memory of the old victories which had made the Quarrier fortune possible
--only contempt for age, a sneer for the mind and body that had failed at
last. The old robber was done for, his armour rotten, his buckler
broken, his sword blade rusted to the core. The least of his victims
might now finish him with a club where he swayed in his loosened saddle,
or leave him to that horseman on the pale horse watching him yonder on
For now, whether Harrington lived or died, he must be counted as nothing
in this new struggle darkly outlining its initial strategy in Quarrier's
brain. What was coming was coming between himself and Plank alone; and
whatever the result--whether an armed truce leaving affairs indefinitely
in statu quo, or the other alternative, an alliance with Plank, leaving
Harrington like a king in his mail, propped upon his throne, dead eyes
doubly darkened under the closed helmet--the result must be attained
swiftly, with secrecy, and with the aid of no man. For he did not count
Mortimer a man.
So Quarrier's thin lips twitched and the glimmer of teeth showed under
the silky beard as he listened without comment to the old man's
hesitating words--a tremulous suggestion for a conference that
evening--and he said again, "to-morrow," and left him there alone,
groping with uncertain hands toward the door of the hired coupe which
had brought him to the place of his earthly downfall; the place where he
had met his own weird face to face--the wraith that bore the mask of
Quarrier, brooding sullenly in his Mercedes, was already far up town on
his way to Major Belwether's house.
At the door, Sylvia's maid received him smilingly, saying that her
mistress was not at home but that Mrs. Mortimer was--which saved Quarrier
the necessity of asking for the private conference with Leila which was
exactly what he had come for. But her first unguarded words on receiving
him as he rose at her entrance into the darkened drawing-room changed
that plan, too--changed it all so utterly, and so much for the better,
that he almost smiled to think of the crudity of human combinations and
inventions as compared to the masterly machinations of Fate. No need for
him to complicate matters when here were pawns enough to play the game
for him. No need for him to do anything except give them their initial
velocity and let them tumble into one another and totter or fall. Leila
said, laughingly: "Oh, you are too late, Howard. We are dining with Mr.
Plank at Riverside Inn. What in the world are you doing in town so
"A business telegram. I might have come down with you and Sylvia if I
had known. . Is Plank dining with you alone?"
"I haven't seen him," smiled Leila evasively. "He will tell us his plans
of course when he comes."
"Oh," said Quarrier, dropping his eyes and glancing furtively toward the
curtained windows through which he could see the street and his Mercedes
waiting at the curb. At the same instant a hansom drove up; Sylvia
sprang out, ran lightly up the low steps, and the silent, shrouded house
rang with the clamour of the bell.
Leila looked curiously at Quarrier, who sat motionless, head partly
averted, as though listening to something heard by him alone. He
believed perhaps that he was listening to the voice of Fate again, and
it may have been so, for already, for the third time, all his plans were
changing to suit this new ally of his--this miraculous Fate which was
shaping matters for him as he waited. Sylvia had started up-stairs like
a fragrant whirlwind, but her flying feet halted at Leila's constrained
voice from the drawing-room, and she spun around and came into the
darkened room like an April breeze.
"Leila! They'll be here at a quarter to seven--"
Her breath seemed to leave her body as a shadowy figure rose in the
uncertain light and confronted her.
He said: "Didn't you recognise the Mercedes outside?"
She had not even seen it, so excited, so deeply engaged had she been
with the riotous tumult of her own thoughts. And still her hurt,
unbelieving gaze widened to dismay as she stood there halted on the
threshold; and still his eyes, narrowing, held her under their
"When did you come? Why?" she asked in an altered voice.
"I came on business. Naturally, being here, I came to see you. I
understand you are dining out?"
"Yes, we are dining out."
"I'm sorry I didn't wire you because we might have dined together. I saw
Plank this afternoon. He did not say you were to dine with him. Shall I
see you later in the evening, Sylvia?"
"I--it will be too late--"
"Oh! To-morrow then. What train do you take?"
Sylvia did not answer; he picked up his hat, repeating the question
carelessly, and still she made no reply.
"Shall I see you to-morrow?" he asked, swinging on her rather suddenly.
"I think--not. I--there will be no time--"
He bowed quietly to Leila, offering his hand. "Who did you say was to
dine with you--besides Plank?"
Leila stood silent, then, withdrawing her fingers, walked to the window.
Quarrier, his hat in his gloved hands, looked from one to the other, his
inquiring eyes returning and focused on Sylvia.
"Who are you dining with?" he asked with authority.
"Mr. Plank and Mr. Siward."
"Mr. Siward!" he repeated in surprised displeasure, as though he had not
already divined it.
"Yes. A man I like."
"A man I dislike," he rejoined with the slightest emphasis.
"I am sorry," she said simply.
"So am I, Sylvia. And I am going to ask you to make him an excuse. Any
excuse will do."
"Excuse? What do you mean, Howard?"
"I mean that I do not care to have you seen with Mr. Siward. Have I ever
demanded very much of you, Sylvia? Very well; I demand this of you now."
And still she stood there, her eyes wide, her colour gone, repeating:
"Excuse? What excuse? What do you mean by 'excuse,' Howard?"
"I have told you. You know my wishes. If he has a telephone you can
communicate with him--"
"And say that I--that you forbid me--"
"If you choose. Yes; say that I object to him. Is there anything
extraordinary in a man objecting to his future wife dining in the
country at a common inn with a notorious outcast from every decent club
and circle in New York?"
"What!" she whispered, white as death. "What did you say?"
"Shall I repeat what everybody except you seems to be aware of? Do you
care to have me explain to you exactly why decent people have ostracised
this man with whom you are proposing to figure in a public resort?"
He turned to Leila, who stood at the window, her back turned toward
them: "Mrs. Mortimer, when Mr. Plank arrives, you will be kind enough to
explain why Sylvia is unable to accompany you."
If Leila heard she neither turned nor made sign of comprehension.
"We will dine at the Santa Regina," he said to Sylvia. "Agatha is there
and I'll find somebody at the club to--"
"Why bother to find anybody?" said Leila, wheeling on him, exasperated.
"Why not dine there with Agatha alone? It will not be the first time I
"What do you mean?" he said fiercely, under his breath. The colour had
left his face, too, and in his eyes Leila saw for the first time an
expression that she had never before surprised in any eyes except her
husband's. It was the expression of fright; she recognised it. But
Sylvia stared, unenlightened, at an altered visage she scarcely knew for
"What do I mean?" repeated Leila; "I mean what I say; and if you don't
understand it you can find the key to it, I fancy. Nor shall I answer to
you for my guests. I invite whom I choose. Mr. Siward is one, Mr. Plank
is another. Sylvia, if you care to come I shall be delighted."
"I do care to come," said Sylvia. Her heart was beating violently, her
eyes were on Quarrier.
"If you go," said Quarrier, showing the glimmering edge of teeth under
his beard, "you will answer to me for it."
"I will answer you now, Howard; I am going with Mrs. Mortimer. What have
you to say?"
"I'll say it to-morrow," he replied, contemplating her in a dull,
impassive manner as though absorbed in other things.
"Say what there is to be said now!" she insisted, the hot colour
staining her cheeks again. "Do you desire me to free you? Is that all? I
will if you wish."
"No. And I shall not free you, Sylvia. This--all this can be adjusted in
"As you please," she said slowly.
"In time," he repeated, his passionless voice now under perfect control.
He turned and looked at Leila; all the wickedness of his anger was
concentrated in his gaze. Then he took his leave of them as formally, as
precisely as though he had forgotten the whole scene; and a minute later
the big Mercedes ran out into a half-circle, backed, wheeled, and rolled
away through the thickening dusk, the glare of the acetylenes sweeping
the deserted street.
Into the twilight sped Quarrier, head bent, but his soft, dark-lashed
eyes of a woman fixed steadily ahead. Every energy, every thought was