Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Flirt by Booth Tarkington

Part 2 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Oh, I don't think it's soiled," he said, a speech which she
punished with a look of starry contempt. For an instant she made
him afraid that something had gone wrong with his measuring tape;
but with a slow movement she set her hand softly against her hot
cheek; and he was reassured: it was not his touching her that had
offended her, but the allusion to it.

"Thanks," he said, very softly.

She dropped her hand to her parasol, and began, musingly, to dig
little holes in the gravel of the path. "Richard Lindley is
looking for investments," she said.

"I'm glad to hear he's been so successful," returned Corliss.

"He might like a share in your gold-mine."

"Thank heaven it isn't literally a gold-mine," he exclaimed.
"There have been so many crooked ones exploited I don't believe
you could get anybody nowadays to come in on a real one. But I
think you'd make an excellent partner for an adventurer who had
discovered hidden treasure; and I'm that particular kind of
adventurer. I think I'll take you in."

"Do you?"

"How would you like to save a man from being ruined?"

"Ruined? You don't mean it literally?"

"Literally!" He laughed gayly. "If I don't `land' this I'm gone,
smashed, finished--quite ended! Don't bother, I'm going to `land'
it. And it's rather a serious compliment I'm paying you, thinking
you can help me. I'd like to see a woman--just once in the
world--who could manage a thing like this." He became suddenly
very grave. "Good God! wouldn't I be at her feet!"

Her eyes became even more eager. "You think I--I _might_ be a
woman who could?"

"Who knows, Miss Madison? I believe----" He stopped abruptly, then
in a lowered, graver voice asked: "Doesn't it somehow seem a
little queer to you when we call each other, `Miss Madison' and
`Mr. Corliss'?"

"Yes," she answered slowly; "it does."

"Doesn't it seem to you," he went on, in the same tone, "that we
only `Miss' and `Mister' each other in fun? That though you never
saw me until yesterday, we've gone pretty far beyond mere
surfaces? That we did in our talk, last night?"

"Yes," she repeated; "it does."

He let a pause follow, and then said huskily:

"How far are we going?"

"I don't know." She was barely audible; but she turned
deliberately, and there took place an eager exchange of looks
which continued a long while. At last, and without ending this
serious encounter, she whispered:

"How far do _you_ think?"

Mr. Corliss did not answer, and a peculiar phenomenon became
vaguely evident to the girl facing him: his eyes were still fixed
full upon hers, but he was not actually looking at her;
nevertheless, and with an extraordinarily acute attention, he was
unquestionably looking at something. The direct front of pupil and
iris did not waver from her; but for the time he was not aware of
her; had not even heard her question. Something in the outer field
of his vision had suddenly and completely engrossed him; something
in that nebulous and hazy background which we see, as we say, with
the white of the eye. Cora instinctively turned and looked behind
her, down the path.

There was no one in sight except a little girl and the elderly
burgess who had glanced over his shoulder at Cora as she entered
the park; and he was, in face, mien, and attire, so thoroughly the
unnoticeable, average man-on-the-street that she did not even
recall him as the looker-round of a little while ago. He was
strolling benevolently, the little girl clinging to one of his
hands, the other holding an apple; and a composite photograph of a
thousand grandfathers might have resulted in this man's picture.

As the man and little girl came slowly up the walk toward the
couple on the bench there was a faint tinkle at Cora's feet: her
companion's scarfpin, which had fallen from his tie. He was
maladroit about picking it up, trying with thumb and forefinger to
seize the pin itself, instead of the more readily grasped design
of small pearls at the top, so that he pushed it a little deeper
into the gravel; and then occurred a tiny coincidence: the elderly
man, passing, let fall the apple from his hand, and it rolled
toward the pin just as Corliss managed to secure the latter. For
an instant, though the situation was so absolutely commonplace, so
casual, Cora had a wandering consciousness of some mysterious
tensity; a feeling like the premonition of a crisis very near at
hand. This sensation was the more curious because nothing whatever
happened. The man got his apple, joined in the child's laughter,
and went on.

"What was it you asked me?" said Corliss, lifting his head again
and restoring the pin to his tie. He gazed carelessly at the back
of the grandsire, disappearing beyond a bush at a bend in the

"Who was that man?" said Cora with some curiosity.

"That old fellow? I haven't an idea. You see I've been away from
here so many years I remember almost no one. Why?"

"I don't know, unless it was because I had an idea you were
thinking of him instead of me. You didn't listen to what I said."

"That was because I was thinking so intensely of you," he began
instantly. "A startlingly vivid thought of you came to me just
then. Didn't I look like a man in a trance?"

"What was the thought?"

"It was a picture: I saw you standing under a great bulging sail,
and the water flying by in moonlight; oh, a moon and a night such
as you have never seen! and a big blue headland looming up against
the moon, and crowned with lemon groves and vineyards, all
sparkling with fireflies--old watch-towers and the roofs of white
villas gleaming among olive orchards on the slopes--the sound of

"Ah!" she sighed, the elderly man, his grandchild, and his apple

"Do you think it was a prophecy?" he asked.

"What do _you_ think?" she breathed. "That was really what I asked
you before."

"I think," he said slowly, "that I'm in danger of forgetting that
my `hidden treasure' is the most important thing in the world."

"In great danger?" The words were not vocal.

He moved close to her; their eyes met again, with increased
eagerness, and held fast; she was trembling, visibly; and her
lips--parted with her tumultuous breathing--were not far from his.

"Isn't any man in great danger," he said, "if he falls in love
with you?"



Toward four o'clock that afternoon, a very thin, fair young man
shakily heaved himself into a hammock under the trees in that
broad backyard wherein, as Valentine Corliss had yesterday
noticed, the last iron monarch of the herd, with unabated
arrogance, had entered domestic service as a clothes-prop. The
young man, who was of delicate appearance and unhumanly pale,
stretched himself at full length on his back, closed his eyes,
moaned feebly, cursed the heat in a stricken whisper. Then, as a
locust directly overhead violently shattered the silence, and
seemed like to continue the outrage forever, the shaken lounger
stopped his ears with his fingers and addressed the insect in old

A white jacketed mulatto came from the house bearing something on
a silver tray.

"Julip, Mist' Vilas?" he said sympathetically.

Ray Vilas rustily manoeuvred into a sitting position; and, with
eyes still closed, made shift to accept the julep in both hands,
drained half of it, opened his eyes, and thanked the cup-bearer
feebly, in a voice and accent reminiscent of the melodious South.

"And I wonder," he added, "if you can tell me----"

"I'm Miz William Lindley's house-man, Joe Vaxdens," said the
mulatto, in the tone of an indulgent nurse. "You in Miz Lindley's
backyard right now, sittin' in a hammick."

"I seem to gather almost that much for myself," returned the
patient. "But I should like to know how I got here."

"Jes' come out the front door an' walk' aroun' the house an' set
down. Mist' Richard had to go downtown; tole me not to wake you;
but I heerd you splashin' in the bath an' you tole me you din'
want no breakfuss----"

"Yes, Joe, I'm aware of what's occurred since I woke," said Vilas,
and, throwing away the straws, finished the julep at one draught.
"What I want to know is how I happened to be here at Mr.

"Mist' Richard brought you las' night, suh. I don' know where he
got you, but I heered a considerable thrashum aroun', up an' down
the house, an' so I come help him git you to bed in one vem
spare-rooms." Joe chuckled ingratiatingly. "Lord name! You
cert'n'y wasn't askin' fer no _bed_!"

He took the glass, and the young man reclined again in the
hammock, a hot blush vanquishing his pallor. "Was I--was I very
bad, Joe?"

"Oh, you was all _right_," Joe hastened to reassure him. "You was
jes' on'y a little bit tight."

"Did it really seem only a little?" the other asked hopefully.

"Yessuh," said Joe promptly. "Nothin' at all. You jes' wanted to
rare roun' little bit. Mist' Richard took gun away from you----"


"Oh, I tole him you wasn' goin' use it!" Joe laughed. "But you so
wile be din' know what you do. You cert'n'y was drunkes' man _I_
see in _long_ while," he said admiringly. "You pert near had us
bofe wore out 'fore you give up, an' Mist' Richard an' me, we
_use'_ to han'lin' drunkum man, too--use' to have big times
week-in, week-out 'ith Mist' Will--at's Mist' Richard's brother,
you know, suh, what died o' whiskey." He laughed again in high
good-humour. "You cert'n'y laid it all over any vem ole times we
had 'ith Mist' Will!"

Mr. Vilas shifted his position in the hammock uneasily; Joe's
honest intentions to be of cheer to the sufferer were not wholly

"I tole Mist' Richard," the kindly servitor continued, "it was a
mighty good thing his ma gone up Norf endurin' the hot spell.
Sence Mist' Will die she can't hardly bear to see drunkum man
aroun' the house. Mist' Richard hardly ever tech nothin' himself
no more. You goin' feel better, suh, out in the f'esh air," he
concluded, comfortingly as he moved away.



Mr. Vilas pulled himself upright for a moment. "What use in the
world do you reckon one julep is to me?"

"Mist' Richard say to give you one drink ef you ask' for it, suh,"
answered Joe, looking troubled.

"Well, you've told me enough now about last night to make any man
hang himself, and I'm beginning to remember enough more----"

"Pshaw, Mist' Vilas," the coloured man interrupted, deprecatingly,
"you din' broke nothin'! You on'y had couple glass' wine too much.
You din' make no trouble at all; jes' went right off to bed. You
ought seen some vem ole times me an Mist' Richard use to have 'ith
Mist' Will----"



"I want three more juleps and I want them right away."

The troubled expression upon the coloured man's face deepened.
"Mist' Richard say jes' one, suh," he said reluctantly. "I'm



"I don't know," said Ray Vilas slowly, "whether or not you ever
heard that I was born and raised in Kentucky."

"Yessuh," returned Joe humbly. "I heerd so."

"Well, then," said the young man in a quiet voice, "you go and get
me three juleps. I'll settle it with Mr. Richard."


But it was with a fifth of these renovators that Lindley found his
guest occupied, an hour later, while upon a small table nearby a
sixth, untouched, awaited disposal beside an emptied coffee-cup.
Also, Mr. Vilas was smoking a cigarette with unshadowed pleasure;
his eye was bright, his expression care-free; and he was sitting
up in the hammock, swinging cheerfully, and singing the
"Marseillaise." Richard approached through the yard, coming from
the street without entering the house; and anxiety was manifest in
the glance he threw at the green-topped glass upon the table, and
in his greeting.

"Hail, gloom!" returned Mr. Vilas, cordially, and, observing the
anxious glance, he swiftly removed the untouched goblet from the
table to his own immediate possession. "Two simultaneous juleps
will enhance the higher welfare," he explained airily. "Sir, your
Mr. Varden was induced to place a somewhat larger order with us
than he protested to be your intention. Trusting you to exonerate
him from all so-and-so and that these few words, etcetera!" He
depleted the elder glass of its liquor, waved it in the air,
cried, "Health, host!" and set it upon the table. "I believe I do
not err in assuming my cup-bearer's name to be Varden, although he
himself, in his simple Americo-Africanism, is pleased to pluralize
it. Do I fret you, host?"

"Not in the least," said Richard, dropping upon a rustic bench,
and beginning to fan himself with his straw hat. "What's the use
of fretting about a boy who hasn't sense enough to fret about

"`Boy?'" Mr. Vilas affected puzzlement. "Do I hear aright? Sir, do
you boy me? Bethink you, I am now the shell of five mint-juleps
plus, and am pot-valiant. And is this mere capacity itself to be
lightly _boyed_? Again, do I not wear a man's garment, a man's
garnitures? Heed your answer; for this serge, these flannels, and
these silks are yours, and though I may not fill them to the
utmost, I do to the longmost, precisely. I am the stature of a
man; had it not been for your razor I should wear the beard of a
man; therefore I'll not be boyed. What have you to say in

"Hadn't you better let me get Joe to bring you something to eat?"
asked Richard.

"Eat?" Mr. Vilas disposed of the suggestion with mournful hauteur.
"There! For the once I forgive you. Let the subject never be
mentioned between us again. We will tactfully turn to a topic of
interest. My memories of last evening, at first hazy and somewhat
disconcerting, now merely amuse me. Following the pleasant Spanish
custom, I went a-serenading, but was kidnapped from beneath the
precious casement by--by a zealous arrival. Host, `zealous
arrival' is not the julep in action: it is a triumph of

"I wish you'd let Joe take you back to bed," said Richard.

"Always bent on thoughts of the flesh," observed the other sadly.
"Beds are for bodies, and I am become a thing of spirit. My soul
is grateful a little for your care of its casing. You behold, I am
generous: I am able to thank my successor to Carmen!"

Lindley's back stiffened. "Vilas!"

"Spare me your protests." The younger man waved his hand
languidly. "You wish not to confer upon this subject----"

"It's a subject we'll omit," said Richard.

His companion stopped swinging, allowed the hammock to come to
rest; his air of badinage fell from him; for the moment he seemed
entirely sober; and he spoke with gentleness. "Mr. Lindley, if you
please, I am still a gentleman--at times."

"I beg your pardon," said Richard quickly.

"No need of that!" The speaker's former careless and boisterous
manner instantly resumed possession. "You must permit me to speak
of a wholly fictitious lady, a creature of my wanton fancy, sir,
whom I call Carmen. It will enable me to relieve my burdened soul
of some remarks I have long wished to address to your excellent

"Oh, all right," muttered Richard, much annoyed.

"Let us imagine," continued Mr. Vilas, beginning to swing again,
"that I thought I had won this Carmen----"

Lindley uttered an exclamation, shifted his position in his chair,
and fixed a bored attention upon the passing vehicles in the
glimpse of the street afforded between the house and the
shrubberies along the side fence. The other, without appearing to
note his annoyance, went on, cheerfully:

"She was a precocious huntress: early in youth she passed through
the accumulator stage, leaving it to the crude or village belle to
rejoice in numbers and the excitement of teasing cubs in the
bear-pit. It is the nature of this imagined Carmen to play
fiercely with one imitation of love after another: a man thinks he
wins her, but it is merely that she has chosen him--for a while.
And Carmen can have what she chooses; if the man exists who could
show her that she cannot, she would follow him through the devil's
dance; but neither you nor I would be that man, my dear sir. We
assume that Carmen's eyes have been mine--her heart is another
matter--and that she has grown weary of my somewhat Sicilian
manner of looking into them, and, following her nature and the law
of periodicity which Carmens must bow to, she seeks a cooler gaze
and calls Mr. Richard Lindley to come and take a turn at looking.
Now, Mr. Richard Lindley is straight as a die: he will not even
show that he hears the call until he is sure that I have been
dismissed: therefore, I have no quarrel with him. Also, I cannot
even hate him, for in my clearer julep vision I see that he is but
an interregnum. Let me not offend my friend: chagrin is to be his
as it is mine. I was a strong draught, he but the quieting potion
our Carmen took to settle it. We shall be brothers in woe some
day. Nothing in the universe lasts except Hell: Life is running
water; Love, a looking-glass; Death, an empty theatre! That
reminds me: as you are not listening I will sing."

He finished his drink and lifted his voice hilariously:

"The heavenly stars far above her,
The wind of the infinite sea,
Who know all her perfidy, love her,
So why call it madness in me?
Ah, why call it madness----"

He set his glass with a crash upon the table, staring over his
companion's shoulder.

"_What_, if you please, is the royal exile who thus seeks refuge
in our hermitage?"

His host had already observed the approaching visitor with some
surprise, and none too graciously. It was Valentine Corliss: he
had turned in from the street and was crossing the lawn to join
the two young men. Lindley rose, and, greeting him with sufficient
cordiality, introduced Mr. Vilas, who bestowed upon the newcomer a
very lively interest.

"You are as welcome, Mr. Corliss," said this previous guest,
earnestly, "as if these sylvan shades were mine. I hail you, not
only for your own sake, but because your presence encourages a
hope that our host may offer refreshment to the entire company."

Corliss smilingly declined to be a party to this diplomacy, and
seated himself beside Richard Lindley on the bench.

"Then I relapse!" exclaimed Mr. Vilas, throwing himself back
full-length in the hammock. "I am not replete, but content. I
shall meditate. Gentlemen, speak on!"

He waved his hand in a gracious gesture, indicating his intention
to remain silent, and lay quiet, his eyes fixed steadfastly upon

"I was coming to call on you," said the latter to Lindley, "but I
saw you from the street and thought you mightn't mind my being as
informal as I used to be, so many years ago."

"Of course," said Richard.

"I have a sinister purpose in coming," Mr. Corliss laughingly went
on. "I want to bore you a little first, and then make your
fortune. No doubt that's an old story to you, but I happen to be
one of the adventurers whose argosies are laden with real cargoes.
Nobody knows who has or hasn't money to invest nowadays, and of
course I've no means of knowing whether _you_ have or not--you see
what a direct chap I am--but if you have, or can lay hold of some,
I can show you how to make it bring you an immense deal more."

"Naturally," said Richard pleasantly, "I shall be glad if you can
do that."

"Then I'll come to the point. It is exceedingly simple; that's
certainly one attractive thing about it." Corliss took some papers
and unmounted photographs from his pocket, and began to spread
them open on the bench between himself and Richard. "No doubt you
know Southern Italy as well as I do."

"Oh, I don't `know' it. I've been to Naples; down to Paestum;
drove from Salerno to Sorrentoby Amalfi; but that was years ago."

"Here's a large scale map that will refresh your memory." He
unfolded it and laid it across their knees; it was frayed with
wear along the folds, and had been heavily marked and dotted with
red and blue pencillings. "My millions are in this large irregular
section," he continued. "It's the anklebone and instep of Italy's
boot; this sizable province called Basilicata, east of Salerno,
north of Calabria. And I'll not hang fire on the point, Lindley.
What I've got there is oil."

"Olives?" asked Richard, puzzled.

"Hardly!" Corliss laughed. "Though of course one doesn't connect
petroleum with the thought of Italy, and of all Italy, Southern
Italy. But in spite of the years I've lived there, I've discovered
myself to be so essentially American and commercial that I want to
drench the surface of that antique soil with the brown,
bad-smelling crude oil that lies so deep beneath it. Basilicata is
the coming great oil-field of the world--and that's my secret. I
dare to tell it here, as I shouldn't dare in Naples."

"Shouldn't `dare'?" Richard repeated, with growing interest, and
no doubt having some vague expectation of a tale of the Camorra.
To him Naples had always seemed of all cities the most elusive and
incomprehensible, a laughing, thieving, begging, mandolin-playing,
music-and-murder haunted metropolis, about which anything was
plausible; and this impression was not unique, as no
inconsiderable proportion of Mr. Lindley's fellow-countrymen share
it, a fact thoroughly comprehended by the returned native.

"It isn't a case of not daring on account of any bodily danger,"
explained Corliss.

"No," Richard smiled reminiscently. "I don't believe that would
have much weight with you if it were. You certainly showed no
symptoms of that sort in your extreme youth. I remember you had
the name of being about the most daring and foolhardy boy in

"I grew up to be cautious enough in business, though," said the
other, shaking his head gravely. "I haven't been able to afford
not being careful." He adjusted the map--a prefatory gesture.
"Now, I'll make this whole affair perfectly clear to you. It's a
simple matter, as are most big things. I'll begin by telling you
of Moliterno--he's been my most intimate friend in that part of
the continent for a great many years; since I went there as a boy,
in fact."

He sketched a portrait of his friend, Prince Moliterno, bachelor
chief of a historic house, the soul of honour, "land-poor"; owning
leagues and leagues of land, hills and mountains, broken towers
and ruins, in central Basilicata, a province described as wild
country and rough, off the rails and not easy to reach. Moliterno
and the narrator had gone there to shoot; Corliss had seen
"surface oil" upon the streams and pools; he recalled the
discovery of oil near his own boyhood home in America; had talked
of it to Moliterno, and both men had become more and more
interested, then excited. They decided to sink a well.

Corliss described picturesquely the difficulties of this
enterprise, the hardships and disappointments; how they dragged
the big tools over the mountains by mule power; how they had kept
it all secret; how he and Moliterno had done everything with the
help of peasant labourers and one experienced man, who had "seen
service in the Persian oil-fields."

He gave the business reality, colouring it with details relevant
and irrelevant, anecdotes and wayside incidents: he was fluent,
elaborate, explicit throughout. They sank five wells, he said, "at
the angles of this irregular pentagon you see here on the map,
outlined in blue. These red circles are the wells." Four of the
wells "came in tremendous," but they had managed to get them
sealed after wasting--he was "sorry to think how many thousand
barrels of oil." The fifth well was so enormous that they had not
been able to seal it at the time of the speaker's departure for

"But I had a cablegram this morning," he added, "letting me know
they've managed to do it at last. Here is, the cablegram." He
handed Richard a form signed "Antonio Moliterno."

"Now, to go back to what I said about not `daring' to speak of
this in Naples," he continued, smiling. "The fear is financial,
not physical."

The knowledge of the lucky strike, he explained, must be kept from
the "Neapolitan money-sharks." A third of the land so rich in oil
already belonged to the Moliterno estates, but it was necessary to
obtain possession of the other two thirds "before the secret leaks
into Naples." So far, it was safe, the peasants of Basilicata
being "as medieval a lot as one could wish." He related that these
peasants thought that the devils hiding inside the mountains had
been stabbed by the drills, and that the oil was devils' blood.

"You can see some of the country people hanging about, staring at
a well, in this kodak, though it's not a very good one." He put
into Richard's hand a small, blurred photograph showing a spouting
well with an indistinct crowd standing in an irregular semicircle
before it.

"Is this the Basilicatan peasant costume?" asked Richard,
indicating a figure in the foreground, the only one revealed at
all definitely. "It looks more oriental. Isn't the man wearing a

"Let me see," responded Mr. Corliss very quickly. "Perhaps I gave
you the wrong picture. Oh, no," he laughed easily, holding the
kodak closer to his eyes; "that's all right: it is a fez. That's
old Salviati, our engineer, the man I spoke of who'd worked in
Persia, you know; he's always worn a fez since then. Got in the
habit of it out there and says he'll never give it up. Moliterno's
always chaffing him about it. He's a faithful old chap, Salviati."

"I see." Lindley looked thoughtfully at the picture, which the
other carelessly returned to his hand. "There seems to be a lot of
oil there."

"It's one of the smaller wells at that. And you can see from the
kodak that it's just `blowing'--not an eruption from being `shot,'
or the people wouldn't stand so near. Yes; there's an ocean of oil
under that whole province; but we want a lot of money to get at
it. It's mountain country; our wells will all have to go over
fifteen-hundred feet, and that's expensive. We want to pipe the
oil to Salerno, where the Standard's ships will take it from us,
and it will need a great deal for that. But most of all we want
money to get hold of the land; we must control the whole field,
and it's big!"

"How did you happen to come here to finance it?"

"I was getting to that. Moliterno himself is as honourable a man
as breathes God's air. But my experience has been that Neapolitan
capitalists are about the cleverest and slipperiest financiers in
the world. We could have financed it twenty times over in Naples
in a day, but neither Moliterno nor I was willing to trust them.
The thing is enormous, you see--a really colossal fortune--and
Italian law is full of ins and outs, and the first man we talked
to confidentially would have given us his word to play straight,
and, the instant we left him, would have flown post-haste for
Basilicata and grabbed for himself the two thirds of the field not
yet in our hands. Moliterno and I talked it over many, many times;
we thought of going to Rome for the money, to Paris, to London, to
New York; but I happened to remember the old house here that my
aunt had left me--I wanted to sell it, to add whatever it brought
to the money I've already put in--and then it struck me I might
raise the rest here as well as anywhere else."

The other nodded. "I understand."

"I suppose you'll think me rather sentimental," Corliss went on,
with a laugh which unexpectedly betrayed a little shyness. "I've
never forgotten that I was born here--was a boy here. In all my
wanderings I've always really thought of this as home."

His voice trembled slightly and his face flushed; he smiled
deprecatingly as though in apology for these symptoms of emotion;
and at that both listeners felt (perhaps with surprise) the man's
strong attraction. There was something very engaging about him: in
the frankness of his look and in the slight tremor in his voice;
there was something appealing and yet manly in the confession, by
this thoroughgoing cosmopolite, of his real feeling for the

"Of course I know how very few people, even among the `old
citizens,' would have any recollection whatever of me," he went
on; "but that doesn't make any difference in my sentiment for the
place and its people. That street out yonder was named for my
grandfather: there's a statue of my great uncle in the State House
yard; all my own blood: belonged here, and though I have been a
wanderer and may not be remembered--naturally am _not_
remembered--yet the name is honoured here, and I--I----" He
faltered again, then concluded with quiet earnestness: "I thought
that if my good luck was destined to bring fortunes to others, it
might as well be to my own kind--that at least I'd offer them the
chance before I offered it to any one else." He turned and looked
Richard in the face. "That's why I'm here, Mr. Lindley."

The other impulsively put out his hand. "I understand," he said

"Thank you." Corliss changed his tone for one less serious.
"You've listened very patiently and I hope you'll be rewarded for
it. Certainly you will if you decide to come in with us. May I
leave the maps and descriptions with you?"

"Yes, indeed. I'll look them over carefully and have another talk
with you about it."

"Thank heaven, _that's_ over!" exclaimed the lounger in the
hammock, who had not once removed his fascinated stare from the
expressive face of Valentine Corliss. "If you have now concluded
with dull care, allow me to put a vital question: Mr. Corliss, do
you sing?"

The gentleman addressed favoured him with a quizzical glance from
between half-closed lids, and probably checking an impulse to
remark that he happened to know that his questioner sometimes
sang, replied merely, "No."

"It is a pity."


"Nothing," returned the other, inconsequently. "It just struck me
that you ought to sing the Toreador song."

Richard Lindley, placing the notes and maps in his pocket, dropped
them, and, stooping, began to gather the scattered papers with a
very red face. Corliss, however, laughed good-naturedly.

"That's most flattering," he said; "though there are other things
in `Carmen' I prefer--probably because one doesn't hear them so

Vilas pulled himself up to a sitting position and began to swing
again. "Observe our host, Mr. Corliss," he commanded gayly. "He is
a kind old Dobbin, much beloved, but cares damn little to hear you
or me speak of music. He'd even rather discuss your oil business
than listen to us talk of women, whereas nothing except women ever
really interests _you_, my dear sir. He's not our kind of man," he
concluded, mournfully; "not at all our kind of man!"

"I hope," Corliss suggested, "he's going to be my kind of man in
the development of these oil-fields."

"How ridic"--Mr. Vilas triumphed over the word after a slight
struggle--"ulous! I shall review that: ridiculous of you to
pretend to be interested in oil-fields. You are not that sort of
person whatever. Nothing could be clearer than that you would
never waste the time demanded by fields of oil. Groundlings call
this `the mechanical age'--a vulgar error. My dear sir, you and I
know that it is the age of Woman! Even poets have begun to see
that she is alive. Formerly we did not speak of her at all, but of
late years she has become such a scandal that she is getting
talked about. Even our dramas, which used to be all blood, have
become all flesh. I wish I were dead--but will continue my
harangue because the thought is pellucid. Women selecting men to
mate with are of only two kinds, just as there are but two kinds
of children in a toy-shop. One child sets its fancy on one
partic"--the orator paused, then continued--"on one certain toy
and will make a distressing scene if she doesn't get it: she will
have that one; she will go straight to it, clasp it and keep it;
she won't have any other. The other kind of woman is to be
understood if you will make the experiment of taking the other
kind of child to a toy-shop and telling her you will buy her any
toy in the place, but that you will buy her only one. If you do
this in the morning, she will still be in the shop when it is
closing for the night, because, though she runs to each toy in
turn with excitement and delight, she sees another over her
shoulder, and the one she has not touched is always her
choice--until she has touched it! Some get broken in the handling.
For my part, my wires are working rather rustily, but I must obey
the Stage-Manager. For my requiem I wish somebody would ask them
to play Gounod's masterpiece."

"What's that?" asked Corliss, amused.

"`The Funeral March of a Marionette!'"

"I suppose you mean that for a cheerful way of announcing that you
are a fatalist."

"Fatalism? That is only a word," declared Mr. Vilas gravely. "If I
am not a puppet then I am a god. Somehow, I do not seem to be a
god. If a god is a god, one thinks he would know it himself. I now
yield the floor. Thanking you cordially, I believe there is a lady
walking yonder who commands salutation."

He rose to his feet, bowing profoundly. Cora Madison was passing,
strolling rather briskly down the street, not in the direction of
her home. She waved her parasol with careless gayety to the trio
under the trees, and, going on, was lost to their sight.

"Hello!" exclaimed Corliss, looking at his watch with a start of
surprise. "I have two letters to write for the evening mail. I
must be off."

At this, Ray Vilas's eyes--still fixed upon him, as they had been
throughout the visit--opened to their fullest capacity, in a gaze
of only partially alcoholic wildness.

Entirely aware of this singular glare, but not in the least
disconcerted by it, the recipient proffered his easy farewells. "I
had no idea it was so late. Good afternoon. Mr. Vilas, I have been
delighted with your diagnosis. Lindley, I'm at your disposal when
you've looked over my data. My very warm thanks for your patience,

Lindley looked after him as he strode quickly away across the
green lawn, turning, at the street, in the direction Cora had
taken; and the troubled Richard felt his heart sink with vague but
miserable apprehension. There was a gasp of desperation beside
him, and the sound of Ray Vilas's lips parting and closing with
little noises of pain.

"So he knows her," said the boy, his thin body shaking. "Look at
him, damn him! See his deep chest, that conqueror's walk, the
easy, confident, male pride of him: a true-born, natural rake--the
Toreador all over!"

His agitation passed suddenly; he broke into a loud laugh, and
flung a reckless hand to his companion's shoulder.

"You good old fool," he cried. "_You'll_ never play Don Jose!"


Hedrick Madison, like too many other people, had never thought
seriously about the moon; nor ever had he encouraged it to become
his familiar; and he underwent his first experience of its
incomparable betrayals one brilliant night during the last week of
that hot month. The preface to this romantic evening was
substantial and prosaic: four times during dinner was he copiously
replenished with hash, which occasioned so rich a surfeit within
him that, upon the conclusion of the meal, he found himself in no
condition to retort appropriately to a solicitous warning from
Cora to keep away from the cat. Indeed, it was half an hour later,
and he was sitting--to his own consciousness too heavily--upon the
back fence, when belated inspiration arrived. But there is no
sound where there is no ear to hear, and no repartee, alas! when
the wretch who said the first part has gone, so that Cora remained
unscathed as from his alley solitude Hedrick hurled in the teeth
of the rising moon these bitter words:

"Oh, no; _our_ cat only eats _soft_ meat!"

He renewed a morbid silence, and the moon, with its customary
deliberation, swung clear of a sweeping branch of the big elm in
the front yard and shone full upon him. Nothing warned the fated
youth not to sit there; no shadow of imminent catastrophe tinted
that brightness: no angel whisper came to him, bidding him
begone--and to go in a hurry and as far as possible. No; he sat
upon the fence an inoffensive lad, and--except for still feeling
his hash somewhat, and a gradually dispersing rancour concerning
the cat--at peace. It is for such lulled mortals that the
ever-lurking Furies save their most hideous surprises.

Chin on palms, he looked idly at the moon, and the moon
inscrutably returned his stare. Plausible, bright, bland, it gave
no sign that it was at its awful work. For the bride of night is
like a card-dealer whose fingers move so swiftly through the pack
the trickery goes unseen.

This moon upon which he was placidly gazing, because he had
nothing else to do, betokened nought to Hedrick: to him it was the
moon of any other night, the old moon; certainly no moon of his
delight. Withal, it may never be gazed upon so fixedly and so
protractedly--no matter how languidly--with entire impunity. That
light breeds a bug in the brain. Who can deny how the moon wrought
this thing under the hair of unconscious Hedrick, or doubt its
responsibility for the thing that happened?

"_Little boy_!"

It was a very soft, small voice, silky and queer; and at first
Hedrick had little suspicion that it could be addressing him: the
most rigid self-analysis could have revealed to him no possibility
of his fitting so ignominious a description.

"Oh, little boy!"

He looked over his shoulder and saw, standing in the alley behind
him, a girl of about his own age. She was daintily dressed and had
beautiful hair which was all shining in pale gold.

"Little boy!"

She was smiling up at him, and once more she used that wantonly
inaccurate vocative:

"Little boy!"

Hedrick grunted unencouragingly. "Who you callin' `little boy'?"

For reply she began to climb the fence. It was high, but the young
lady was astonishingly agile, and not even to be deterred by
several faint wails from tearing and ripping fabrics--casualties
which appeared to be entirely beneath her notice. Arriving at the
top rather dishevelled, and with irregular pennons here and there
flung to the breeze from her attire, she seated herself cosily
beside the dumbfounded Hedrick.

She turned her face to him and smiled--and there was something
about her smile which Hedrick did not like. It discomforted him;
nothing more. In sunlight he would have had the better chance to
comprehend; but, unhappily, this was moonshine.

"Kiss me, little boy!" she said.

"I won't!" exclaimed the shocked and indignant Hedrick, edging
uneasily away from her.

"Let's play," she said cheerfully.

"Play what?"

"I like chickens. Did you know I like chickens?"

The rather singular lack of connection in her remarks struck him
as a misplaced effort at humour.

"You're having lots of fun with me, aren't you?" he growled.

She instantly moved close to him and lifted her face to his.

"Kiss me, darling little boy!" she said.

There was something more than uncommonly queer about this
stranger, an unearthliness of which he was confusedly perceptive,
but she was not without a curious kind of prettiness, and her pale
gold hair was beautiful. The doomed lad saw the moon shining
through it.

"Kiss me, darling little boy!" she repeated.

His head whirled; for the moment she seemed divine.

George Washington used profanity at the Battle of Monmouth.
Hedrick kissed her.

He instantly pushed her away with strong distaste. "There!" he
said angrily. "I hope that'll satisfy you!" He belonged to his

"Kiss me some more, darling little boy!" she cried, and flung her
arms about him.

With a smothered shout of dismay he tried to push her off, and
they fell from the fence together, into the yard, at the cost of
further and almost fatal injuries to the lady's apparel.

Hedrick was first upon his feet. "Haven't you got _any_ sense?"
he demanded.

She smiled unwaveringly, rose (without assistance) and repeated:
"Kiss me some more, darling little boy!"

"No, I won't! I wouldn't for a thousand dollars!"

Apparently, she did not consider this discouraging. She began to
advance endearingly, while he retreated backward. "Kiss me

"I won't, I tell you!" Hedrick kept stepping away, moving in a
desperate circle. He resorted to a brutal formula: "You make me

"Kiss me some more, darling lit----"

"I won't!" he bellowed. "And if you say that again I'll----"

"Kiss me some more, darling little boy!" She flung herself at him,
and with a yell of terror he turned and ran at top-speed.

She pursued, laughing sweetly, and calling loudly as she ran,
"Kiss me some more, darling little boy! Kiss me some more, darling
little boy!"

The stricken Hedrick knew not whither to direct his flight: he
dared not dash for the street with this imminent tattered
incubus--she was almost upon him--and he frantically made for the
kitchen door, only to swerve with a gasp of despair as his foot
touched the step, for she was at his heels, and he was sickeningly
assured she would cheerfully follow him through the house,
shouting that damning refrain for all ears. A strangling fear took
him by the throat--if Cora should come to be a spectator of this
unspeakable flight, if Cora should hear that horrid plea for love!
Then farewell peace; indeed, farewell all joy in life forever!

Panting sobbingly, he ducked under the amorous vampire's arm and
fled on. He zigzagged desperately to and fro across the broad,
empty backyard, a small hand ever and anon managing to clutch his
shoulder, the awful petition in his ears:

"Kiss me some more, darling little boy!"


Emerging from the kitchen door, Laura stood and gazed in wonder as
the two eerie figures sped by her, circled, ducked, dodged, flew
madly on. This commonplace purlieu was become the scene of a
witch-chase; the moonlight fell upon the ghastly flitting face of
the pursued, uplifted in agony, white, wet, with fay eyes; also it
illumined the unreal elf following close, a breeze-blown fantasy
in rags.

"Kiss me some more, darling little boy!"

Laura uttered a sharp exclamation. "Stand still, Hedrick!" she
called. "You must!"

Hedrick made a piteous effort to increase his speed.

"It's Lolita Martin," called Laura. "She must have her way or
nothing can be done with her. Stand _still_!"

Hedrick had never heard of Lolita Martin, but the added
information concerning her was not ineffective: it operated as a
spur; and Laura joined the hunt.

"Stand still!" she cried to the wretched quarry. "She's run away.
She must be taken home. Stop, Hedrick! You _must_ stop!"

Hedrick had no intention of stopping, but Laura was a runner, and,
as he dodged the other, caught and held him fast. The next
instant, Lolita, laughing happily, flung her arms round his neck
from behind.

"Lemme go!" shuddered Hedrick. "Lemme go!"

"Kiss me again, darl----"

"I--woof!" He became inarticulate.

"She isn't quite right," his sister whispered hurriedly in his
ear. "She has spells when she's weak mentally. You must be kind to
her. She only wants you to----"

"`_Only_'!" he echoed hoarsely. "I won't ki----" He was unable to
finish the word.

"We must get her home," said Laura anxiously. "Will you come with
me, Lolita, dear?"

Apparently Lolita had no consciousness whatever of Laura's
presence. Instead of replying, she tightened her grasp upon
Hedrick and warmly reiterated her request.

"Shut up, you parrot!" hissed the goaded boy.

"Perhaps she'll go if you let her walk with her arms round your
neck," suggested Laura.

"If I _what_?"

"Let's try it. We've got to get her home; her mother must be
frantic about her. Come, let's see if she'll go with us that way."

With convincing earnestness, Hedrick refused to make the
experiment until Laura suggested that he remain with Lolita while
she summoned assistance; then, as no alternative appeared, his
spirit broke utterly, and he consented to the trial, stipulating
with a last burst of vehemence that the progress of the
unthinkable pageant should be through the alley.

"Come, Lolita," said Laura coaxingly. "We're going for a nice
walk." At the adjective, Hedrick's burdened shoulders were racked
with a brief spasm, which recurred as his sister added: "Your
darling little boy will let you keep hold of him."

Lolita seemed content. Laughing gayly, she offered no opposition,
but, maintaining her embrace with both arms and walking somewhat
sidewise, went willingly enough; and the three slowly crossed the
yard, passed through the empty stable and out into the alley. When
they reached the cross-street at the alley's upper end, Hedrick
balked flatly.

Laura expostulated, then entreated. Hedrick refused with sincere
loathing to be seen upon the street occupying his present position
in the group. Laura assured him that there was no one to see; he
replied that the moon was bright and the evening early; he would
die, and readily, but he would not set foot in the street.
Unfortunately, he had selected an unfavourable spot for argument:
they were already within a yard or two of the street; and a
strange boy, passing, stopped and observed, and whistled

"Ain't he the spooner!" remarked this unknown with hideous

"I'll thank you," returned Hedrick haughtily, "to go on about your
own business."

"Kiss me some more, darling little boy!" said Lolita.

The strange boy squawked, wailed, screamed with laughter, howled
the loving petition in a dozen keys of mockery, while Hedrick
writhed and Lolita clung. Enriched by a new and great experience,
the torturer trotted on, leaving viperish cachinnations in his

But the martyrdom was at an end. A woman, hurrying past,
bareheaded, was greeted by a cry of delight from Lolita, who
released Hedrick and ran to her with outstretched arms.

"We were bringing her home, Mrs. Martin," said Laura,
reassuringly. "She's all right; nothing's the matter except that
her dress got torn. We found her playing in our yard."

"I thank you a thousand times, Miss Madison," cried Lolita's
mother, and flutteringly plunged into a description of her
anxiety, her search for Lolita, and concluded with renewed
expressions of gratitude for the child's safe return, an
outpouring of thankfulness and joy wholly incomprehensible to

"Not at all," said Laura cheerfully. "Come, Hedrick. We'll go home
by the street, I think." She touched his shoulder, and he went
with her in stunned obedience. He was not able to face the
incredible thing that had happened to him: he walked in a trance
of horror.

"Poor little girl!" said Laura gently, with what seemed to her
brother an indefensibly misplaced compassion. "Usually they have
her live in an institution for people afflicted as she is, but
they brought her home for a visit last week, I believe. Of course
you didn't understand, but I think you should have been more
thoughtful. Really, you shouldn't have flirted with her."

Hedrick stopped short.

"`_Flirted_'!" His voice was beginning to show symptoms of
changing, this year; it rose to a falsetto wail, flickered and
went out.

With the departure of Lolita in safety, what had seemed bizarre
and piteous became obscured, and another aspect of the adventure
was presented to Laura. The sufferings of the arrogant are not
wholly depressing to the spectator; and of arrogance Hedrick had
ever been a master. She began to shake; a convulsion took her, and
suddenly she sat upon the curbstone without dignity, and laughed
as he had never seen her.

A horrid distrust of her rose within him: he began to realize in
what plight he stood, what terrors o'erhung.

"Look here," he said miserably, "are you--you aren't--you don't
have to go and--and _talk_ about this, do you?"

"No, Hedrick," she responded, rising and controlling herself
somewhat. "Not so long as you're good."

This was no reassuring answer.

"And politer to Cora," she added.

Seemingly he heard the lash of a slave-whip crack in the air. The
future grew dark.

"I know you'll try"--she said; and the unhappy lad felt that her
assurance was justified; but she had not concluded the
sentence--"darling little boy," she capped it, choking slightly.

"No other little girl ever fell in love with you, did there,
Hedrick?" she asked, and, receiving an incoherent but furious
reply, she was again overcome, so that she must lean against the
fence to recover. "It seems--so--so _curious_," she explained,
gasping, "that the first one--the--the only one--should be
an--a--an----" She was unable to continue.

Hedrick's distrust became painfully increased: he began to feel
that he disliked Laura.

She was still wiping her eyes and subject to recurrent outbursts
when they reached their own abode; and as he bitterly flung
himself into a chair upon the vacant front porch, he heard her
stifling an attack as she mounted the stairs to her own room. He
swung the chair about, with its back to the street, and sat facing
the wall. He saw nothing. There are profundities in the abyss
which reveal no glimpse of the sky.

Presently he heard his father coughing near by; and the sound was
hateful, because it seemed secure and unshamed. It was a cough of
moral superiority; and just then the son would have liked to
believe that his parent's boyhood had been one of degradation as
complete as his own; but no one with this comfortable cough could
ever have plumbed such depths: his imagination refused the picture
he was bitterly certain that Mr. Madison had never kissed an

Hedrick had a dread that his father might speak to him; he was in
no condition for light conversation. But Mr. Madison was unaware
of his son's near presence, and continued upon his purposeless
way. He was smoking his one nightly cigar and enjoying the
moonlight. He drifted out toward the sidewalk and was accosted by
a passing acquaintance, a comfortable burgess of sixty, leading a
child of six or seven, by the hand.

"Out taking the air, are you, Mr. Madison?" said the pedestrian,

"Yes; just trying to cool off," returned the other. "How are you,
Pryor, anyway? I haven't seen you for a long time."

"Not since last summer," said Pryor. "I only get here once or
twice a year, to see my married daughter. I always try to spend
August with her if I can. She's still living in that little house,
over on the next street, I bought for her through your real-estate
company. I suppose you're still in the same business?"

"Yes. Pretty slack, these days."

"I suppose so, I suppose so," responded Mr. Pryor, nodding.
"Summer, I suppose it usually is. Well, I don't know when I'll be
going out on the road again myself. Business is pretty slack all
over the country this year."

"Let's see--I've forgotten," said Madison ruminatively. "You
travel, don't you?"

"For a New York house," affirmed Mr. Pryor. He did not, however,
mention his "line." "Yes-sir," he added, merely as a decoration,
and then said briskly: "I see you have a fine family, Mr. Madison;
yes-sir, a fine family; I've passed here several times lately and
I've noticed 'em: fine family. Let's see, you've got four, haven't

"Three," said Madison. "Two girls and a boy."

"Well, sir, that's mighty nice," observed Mr. Pryor; "_mighty_
nice! I only have my one daughter, and of course me living in New
York when I'm at home, and her here, why, I don't get to see much
of her. You got both your daughters living with you, haven't you?"

"Yes, right here at home."

"Let's see: neither of 'em's married, I believe?"

"No; not yet."

"Seems to me now," said Pryor, taking off his glasses and wiping
them, "seems to me I did hear somebody say one of 'em was going to
be married engaged, maybe."

"No," said Madison. "Not that I know of."

"Well, I suppose you'd be the first to know! Yes-sir." And both
men laughed their appreciation of this folly. "They're mighty
good-looking girls, _that's_ certain," continued Mr. Pryor. "And
one of 'em's as fine a dresser as you'll meet this side the Rue de
la Paix."

"You mean in Paris?" asked Madison, slightly surprised at this
allusion. "You've been over there, Pryor?"

"Oh, sometimes," was the response. "My business takes me over, now
and then. I _think_ it's one of your daughters I've noticed
dresses so well. Isn't one of 'em a mighty pretty girl about
twenty-one or two, with a fine head of hair sort of lightish
brown, beautiful figure, and carries a white parasol with a green
lining sometimes?"

"Yes, that's Cora, I guess."

"Pretty name, too," said Pryor approvingly. "Yes-sir. I saw her
going into a florist's, downtown, the other day, with a
fine-looking young fellow--I can't think of his name. Let's see:
my daughter was with me, and she'd heard his name--said his family
used to be big people in this town and----"

"Oh," said Madison, "young Corliss."

"Corliss!" exclaimed Mr. Pryor, with satisfaction. "That's it,
Corliss. Well, sir," he chuckled, "from the way he was looking at
your Miss Cora it struck me he seemed kind of anxious for her name
to be Corliss, too."

"Well, hardly I expect," said the other. "They just barely know
each other: he's only been here a few weeks; they haven't had time
to get much acquainted, you see."

"I suppose not," agreed Mr. Pryor, with perfect readiness. "I
suppose not. I'll bet _he_ tries all he can to get acquainted
though; he looked pretty smart to me. Doesn't he come about as
often as the law allows?"

"I shouldn't be surprised," said Madison indifferently. "He
doesn't know many people about here any more, and it's lonesome
for him at the hotel. But I guess he comes to see the whole
family; I left him in the library a little while ago, talking to
my wife."

"That's the way! Get around the old folks first!" Mr. Pryor
chuckled cordially; then in a mildly inquisitive tone he said:
"Seems to be a fine, square young fellow, I expect?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Pretty name, `Cora'," said Pryor.

"What's this little girl's name?" Mr. Madison indicated the child,
who had stood with heroic patience throughout the incomprehensible

"Lottie, for her mother. She's a good little girl."

"She is _so_! I've got a young son she ought to know," remarked
Mr. Madison serenely, with an elderly father's total
unconsciousness of the bridgeless gap between seven and thirteen.
"He'd like to play with her. I'll call him."

"I expect we better be getting on," said Pryor. "It's near
Lottie's bedtime; we just came out for our evening walk."

"Well, he can come and shake hands with her anyway," urged
Hedrick's father. "Then they'll know each other, and they can play
some other time." He turned toward the house and called loudly:


There was no response. Behind the back of his chair Hedrick could
not be seen. He was still sitting immovable, his eyes torpidly
fixed upon the wall.



"Oh, _Hed_-rick!" shouted his father. "Come out here! I want you
to meet a little girl! Come and see a nice little girl!"

Mr. Pryor's grandchild was denied the pleasure. At the ghastly
words "_little girl_," Hedrick dropped from his chair flat upon
the floor, crawled to the end of the porch, wriggled through the
railing, and immersed himself in deep shadow against the side of
the house.

Here he removed his shoes, noiselessly mounted to the sill of one
of the library windows, then reconnoitred through a slit in the
blinds before entering.

The gas burned low in the "drop-light"--almost too dimly to reveal
the two people upon a sofa across the room. It was a faint murmur
from one of them that caused Hedrick to pause and peer more
sharply. They were Cora and Corliss; he was bending close to her;
her face was lifting to his.

"Ah, kiss me! Kiss me!" she whispered.

Hedrick dropped from the sill, climbed through a window of the
kitchen, hurried up the back-stairs, and reached his own apartment
in time to be violently ill in seclusion.


Villages are scattered plentifully over the unstable buttresses of
Vesuvius, and the inhabitants sleep o' nights: Why not? Quite
unaware that he was much of their condition, Mr. Madison bade his
incidental gossip and the tiny Lottie good-night, and sought his
early bed. He maintained in good faith that Saturday night was "a
great night to sleep," because of the later hour for rising;
probably having also some factitious conviction that there
prevailed a hush preparative of the Sabbath. As a matter of fact,
in summer, the other members of his family always looked
uncommonly haggard at the Sunday breakfast-table. Accepting
without question his preposterous legend of additional matutinal
slumber, they postponed retiring to a late hour, and were
awakened--simultaneously with thousands of fellow-sufferers--at
about half-after five on Sunday morning, by a journalistic
uprising. Over the town, in these early hours, rampaged the small
vendors of the manifold sheets: local papers and papers from
greater cities, hawker succeeding hawker with yell upon yell and
brain-piercing shrillings in unbearable cadences. No good burgher
ever complained: the people bore it, as in winter they bore the
smoke that injured their health, ruined their linen, spoiled their
complexions, forbade all hope of beauty and comfort in their city,
and destroyed the sweetness of their homes and of their wives. It
is an incredibly patient citizenry and exalts its persecutors.

Of the Madison family, Cora probably suffered most; and this was
the time when it was no advantage to have the front bedroom. She
had not slept until close upon dawn, and the hawkers woke her
irreparably; she could but rage upon her hot pillow. By and by,
there came a token that another anguish kept company with hers.
She had left her door open for a better circulation of the warm
and languid air, and from Hedrick's room issued an "_oof_!" of
agonized disgust. Cora little suspected that the youth reeked not
of newsboys: Hedrick's miseries were introspective.

The cries from the street were interminable; each howler in turn
heard faintly in the distance, then in crescendo until he had
passed and another succeeded him, and all the while Cora lay
tossing and whispering between clenched teeth. Having ample
reason, that morning, to prefer sleep to thinking, sleep was
impossible. But she fought for it: she did not easily surrender
what she wanted; and she struggled on, with closed eyes, long
after she had heard the others go down to breakfast.

About a hundred yards from her windows, to the rear, were the open
windows of a church which fronted the next street, and stood
dos-a-dos to the dwelling of the Madisons. The Sunday-school hour
had been advanced for the hot weather, and, partly on this
account, and partly because of the summer absence of many
families, the attendants were few. But the young voices were
conducted, rather than accompanied, in pious melody by a cornetist
who worthily thought to amend, in his single person, what lack of
volume this paucity occasioned. He was a slender young man in hot
black clothes; he wore the unfacaded collar fatally and
unanimously adopted by all adam's-apple men of morals; he was
washed, fair, flat-skulled, clean-minded, and industrious; and the
only noise of any kind he ever made in the world was on Sunday.

"Prashus joowuls, sweet joowuls, _thee_ jams off iz crowowun,"
sang the little voices feebly. They were almost unheard; but the
young man helped them out: figuratively, he put them out. And the
cornet was heard: it was heard for blocks and blocks; it was heard
over all that part of the town--in the vicinity of the church it
was the only thing that could be heard. In his daily walk this
cornetist had no enemies: he was kind-hearted; he would not have
shot a mad dog; he gladly nursed the sick. He sat upon the
platform before the children; he swelled, perspired and blew, and
felt that it was a good blowing. If other thoughts vapoured upon
the borders of his mind, they were of the dinner he would eat,
soon after noon, at the house of one of the frilled, white-muslin
teachers. He was serene. His eyes were not blasted; his heart was
not instantly withered; his thin, bluish hair did not fall from
his head; his limbs were not detached from his torso--yet these
misfortunes had been desired for him, with comprehension and
sincerity, at the first flat blat of his brassy horn.

It is impossible to imagine the state of mind of this young
cornetist, could he have known that he had caused the prettiest
girl in town to jump violently out of bed with what petitions upon
her lips regarding his present whereabouts and future detention!
It happened that during the course of his Sunday walk on Corliss
Street, that very afternoon, he saw her--was hard-smitten by her
beauty, and for weeks thereafter laid unsuccessful plans to "meet"
her. Her image was imprinted: he talked about her to his
boarding-house friends and office acquaintances, his favourite
description being, "the sweetest-looking lady I ever laid eyes

Cora, descending to the breakfast-table rather white herself, was
not unpleasantly shocked by the haggard aspect of Hedrick, who,
with Laura and Mrs. Madison, still lingered.

"Good-morning, Cora," he said politely, and while she stared, in
suspicious surprise, he passed her a plate of toast with
ostentatious courtesy; but before she could take one of the
slices, "Wait," he said; "it's very nice toast, but I'm afraid it
isn't hot. I'll take it to the kitchen and have it warmed for
you." And he took the plate and went out, walking softly.

Cora turned to her mother, appalled. "He'll be sick!" she said.

Mrs. Madison shook her head and smiled sadly.

"He helped to wait on all of us: he must have been doing something

"More likely he wants permission to do something awful."

Laura looked out of the window.

"There, Cora," said Hedrick kindly, when he brought the toast;
"you'll find that nice and hot."

She regarded him steadfastly, but with modesty he avoided her eye.
"You wouldn't make such a radical change in your nature, Hedrick,"
she said, with a puzzled frown, "just to get out of going to
church, would you?"

"I don't want to get out of going to church," he said. He gulped
slightly. "I like church."

And church-time found him marching decorously beside his father,
the three ladies forming a rear rank; a small company in the very
thin procession of fanning women and mopping men whose destination
was the gray stone church at the foot of Corliss Street. The
locusts railed overhead: Hedrick looked neither to the right nor
to the left.

They passed a club, of which a lower window was vacated
simultaneously with their coming into view; and a small but ornate
figure in pale gray crash hurried down the steps and attached
itself to the second row of Madisons. "Good-morning," said Mr.
Wade Trumble. "Thought I'd take a look-in at church this morning

Care of this encumbrance was usually expected of Laura and Mrs.
Madison, but to their surprise Cora offered a sprightly rejoinder
and presently dropped behind them with Mr. Trumble. Mr. Trumble
was also surprised and, as naively, pleased.

"What's happened?" he asked with cheerful frankness. "You haven't
given me a chance to talk to you for a long while."

"Haven't I?" she smiled enigmatically. "I don't think you've tried
very hard."

This was too careless; it did not quite serve, even for Trumble.
"What's up?" he asked, not without shrewdness. "Is Richard Lindley
out of town?"

"I don't know."

"I see. Perhaps it's this new chap, Corliss? Has he left?"

"What nonsense! What have they got to do with my being nice to
you?" She gave him a dangerous smile, and it wrought upon him

"Don't you ever be nice to me unless you mean it," he said feebly.

Cora looked grave and sweet; she seemed mysteriously moved. "I
never do anything I don't mean," she said in a low voice which
thrilled the little man. This was machine-work, easy and accurate.

"Cora----" he began, breathlessly.

"There!" she exclaimed, shifting on the instant to a lively
brusqueness. "That's enough for you just _now_. We're on our way
to church!"

Trumble felt almost that she had accepted him.

"Have you got your penny for the contribution box?" she smiled. "I
suppose you really give a great deal to the church. I hear you're
richer and richer."

"I do pretty well," he returned, coolly. "You can know just how
well, if you like."

"Not on Sunday," she laughed; then went on, admiringly, "I hear
you're very dashing in your speculations."

"Then you've heard wrong, because I don't speculate," he returned.
"I'm not a gambler--except on certainties. I guess I disappointed
a friend of yours the other day because I wouldn't back him on a
thousand-to-one shot."

"Who was that?" she asked, with an expression entirely veiled.

"Corliss. He came to see me; wanted me to put real money into an
oil scheme. Too thin!"

"Why is it `too thin'?" she asked carelessly.

"Too far away, for one thing--somewhere in Italy. Anybody who put
up his cash would have to do it on Corliss's bare word that he's
struck oil."

"Well?" She turned her face to him, and a faint perturbation was
manifest in her tone. "Isn't Mr. Corliss's `bare word' supposed to
be perfectly good?"

"Oh, I suppose so, but I don't know. He isn't known here: nobody
really knows anything about him except that he was born here.
Besides, I wouldn't make an investment on my own father's bare
word, if he happened to be alive."

"Perhaps not!" Cora spoke impulsively, a sudden anger getting the
better of her, but she controlled it immediately. "Of course I
don't mean that," she laughed, sweetly. "But _I_ happen to think
Mr. Corliss's scheme a very handsome one, and I want my friends to
make their fortunes, of course. Richard Lindley and papa are going
into it."

"I'll bet they don't," said Trumble promptly. "Lindley told me
he'd looked it over and couldn't see his way to."

"He did?" Cora stiffened perceptibly and bit her lip.

Trumble began to laugh. "This is funny: you trying to talk
business! So Corliss has been telling you about it?"

"Yes, he has; and I understand it perfectly. I think there's an
enormous fortune in it, and you'd better not laugh at me: a
woman's instinct about such things is better than a man's
experience sometimes."

"You'll find neither Lindley nor your father are going to think
so," he returned skeptically.

She gave him a deep, sweet look. "But I mustn't be disappointed in
you," she said, with the suggestion of a tremor in her voice,
"whatever _they_ do! You'll take my advice, won't you--Wade?"

"I'll take your advice in anything but business." He shook his
head ominously.

"And wouldn't you take my advice in business,"--she asked very
slowly and significantly--"under _any_ circumstances?"

"You mean," he said huskily, "if you were my wife?"

She looked away, and slightly inclined her head. "No," he answered
doggedly, "I wouldn't. You know mighty well that's what I want you
to be, and I'd give my soul for the tip of your shoe, but business
is an entirely different matter, and I----"

"_Wade_!" she said, with wonderful and thrilling sweetness. They
had reached the church; Hedrick and his father had entered; Mrs.
Madison and Laura were waiting on the steps. Cora and Trumble came
to a stop some yards away. "Wade, I--I _want_ you to go into

"Can't do it," he said stubbornly. "If you ever make up your mind
to marry me, I'll spend all the money you like on _you_, but
you'll have to keep to the woman's side of the house."

"You make it pretty hard for me to be nice to you," she returned,
and the tremor now more evident in her voice was perfectly
genuine. "You positively refuse to do this--for me?"

"Yes I do. I wouldn't buy sight-unseen to please God 'lmighty,
Cora Madison." He looked at her shrewdly, struck by a sudden
thought. "Did Corliss ask you to try and get me in?"

"He did not," she responded, icily. "Your refusal is final?"

"Certainly!" He struck the pavement a smart rap with his
walking-stick. "By George, I believe he _did_ ask you! That spoils
church for me this morning; I'll not go in. When you quit playing
games, let me know. You needn't try to work me any more, because I
won't stand for it, but if you ever get tired of playing, come and
tell me so." He uttered a bark of rueful laughter. "Ha! I must say
that gentleman has an interesting way of combining business with

Under favourable circumstances the blow Cora dealt him might have
been physically more violent. "Good-morning," she laughed, gayly.
"I'm not bothering much about Mr. Corliss's oil in Italy. I had a
bet with Laura I could keep you from saying `I beg to differ,' or
talking about the weather for five minutes. She'll have to pay

Then, still laughing, she lowered her parasol, and with superb
impudence, brushed it smartly across his face; turned on her heel,
and, red with fury, joined her mother and sister, and went into
the church.

The service failed to occupy her attention: she had much in her
thoughts to distract her. Nevertheless, she bestowed some
wonderment upon the devotion with which her brother observed each
ceremonial rite. He joined in prayer with real fervour; he sang
earnestly and loudly; a great appeal sounded in his changing
voice; and during the sermon he sat with his eyes upon the
minister in a stricken fixity. All this was so remarkable that
Cora could not choose but ponder upon it, and, observing Hedrick
furtively, she caught, if not a clue itself, at least a glimpse of
one. She saw Laura's clear profile becoming subtly agitated; then
noticed a shimmer of Laura's dark eye as it wandered to Hedrick
and so swiftly away it seemed not to dare to remain. Cora was
quick: she perceived that Laura was repressing a constant desire
to laugh and that she feared to look at Hedrick lest it overwhelm
her. So Laura knew what had wrought the miracle. Cora made up her
mind to explore this secret passage.

When the service was over and the people were placidly buzzing
their way up the aisles, Cora felt herself drawn to look across
the church, and following the telepathic impulse, turned her head
to encounter the gaze of Ray Vilas. He was ascending the opposite
aisle, walking beside Richard Lindley. He looked less pale than
usual, though his thinness was so extreme it was like emaciation;
but his eyes were clear and quiet, and the look he gave her was
strangely gentle. Cora frowned and turned away her head with an
air of annoyance. They came near each other in the convergence at
the doors; but he made no effort to address her, and, moving away
through the crowd as quickly as possible, disappeared.

Valentine Corliss was disclosed in the vestibule. He reached her
an instant in advance of Mr. Lindley, who had suffered himself to
be impeded; and Cora quickly handed the former her parasol,
lightly taking his arm. Thus the slow Richard found himself
walking beside Laura in a scattered group, its detached portion
consisting of his near-betrothed and Corliss; for although the
dexterous pair were first to leave the church, they contrived to
be passed almost at once, and, assuming the position of trailers,
lagged far behind on the homeward way.

Laura and Richard walked in the unmitigated glare of the sun; he
had taken her black umbrella and conscientiously held it aloft,
but over nobody. They walked in silence: they were quiet people,
both of them; and Richard, not "talkative" under any
circumstances, never had anything whatever to say to Laura
Madison. He had known her for many years, ever since her
childhood; seldom indeed formulating or expressing a definite
thought about her, though sometimes it was vaguely of his
consciousness that she played the piano nicely, and even then her
music had taken its place as but a colour of Cora's background.
For to him, as to every one else (including Laura), Laura was in
nothing her sister's competitor. She was a neutral-tinted figure,
taken-for-granted, obscured, and so near being nobody at all,
that, as Richard Lindley walked beside her this morning, he
glanced back at the lagging couple and uttered a long and almost
sonorous sigh, which he would have been ashamed for anybody to
hear; and then actually proceeded on his way without the slightest
realization that anybody had heard it.

She understood. And she did not disturb the trance; she did
nothing to make him observe that she was there. She walked on with
head, shoulders, and back scorching in the fierce sun, and allowed
him to continue shading the pavement before them with her
umbrella. When they reached the house she gently took the umbrella
from him and thanked him; and he mechanically raised his hat.

They had walked more than a mile together; he had not spoken a
word, and he did not even know it.


Dinner on Sunday, the most elaborate feast of the week for the
Madisons, was always set for one o'clock in the afternoon, and
sometimes began before two, but not to-day: the escorts of both
daughters remained, and a change of costume by Cora occasioned a
long postponement. Justice demands the admission that her
reappearance in a glamour of lilac was reward for the delay;
nothing more ravishing was ever seen, she was warrantably informed
by the quicker of the two guests, in a moment's whispered
tete-a-tete across the banisters as she descended. Another wait
followed while she prettily arranged upon the table some dozens of
asters from a small garden-bed, tilled, planted, and tended by
Laura. Meanwhile, Mrs. Madison constantly turned the other cheek
to the cook. Laura assisted in the pacification; Hedrick froze the
ice-cream to an impenetrable solidity; and the nominal head of the
family sat upon the front porch with the two young men, and wiped
his wrists and rambled politically till they were summoned to the

Cora did the talking for the table. She was in high spirits; no
trace remained of a haggard night: there was a bloom upon her--she
was radiant. Her gayety may have had some inspiration in her
daring, for round her throat she wore a miraculously slender chain
of gold and enamel, with a pendant of minute pale sapphires
scrolled about a rather large and very white diamond. Laura
started when she saw it, and involuntarily threw a glance almost
of terror at Richard Lindley. But that melancholy and
absent-minded gentleman observed neither the glance nor the jewel.
He saw Cora's eyes, when they were vouchsafed to his vision, and
when they were not he apparently saw nothing at all.

With the general exodus from the table, Cora asked Laura to come
to the piano and play, a request which brought a snort from
Hedrick, who was taken off his guard. Catching Laura's eye, he
applied a handkerchief with renewed presence of mind, affecting to
have sneezed, and stared searchingly over it at Corliss. He
perceived that the man remained unmoved, evidently already
informed that it was Laura who was the musician. Cora must be
going it pretty fast this time: such was the form of her brother's

When Laura opened the piano, Richard had taken a seat beside Cora,
and Corliss stood leaning in the doorway. The player lost herself
in a wandering medley, echoes from "Boheme" and "Pagliacci"; then
drifted into improvisation and played her heart into it
magnificently--a heart released to happiness. The still air of the
room filled with wonderful, golden sound: a song like the song of
a mother flying from earth to a child in the stars, a torrential
tenderness, unpent and glorying in freedom. The flooding,
triumphant chords rose, crashed--stopped with a shattering
abruptness. Laura's hands fell to her sides, then were raised to
her glowing face and concealed it for a moment. She shivered; a
quick, deep sigh heaved her breast; and she came back to herself
like a prisoner leaving a window at the warden's voice.

She turned. Cora and Corliss had left the room. Richard was
sitting beside a vacant chair, staring helplessly at the open

If he had been vaguely conscious of Laura's playing, which is
possible, certainly he was unaware that it had ceased.

"The others have gone out to the porch," she said composedly, and
rose. "Shan't we join them?"

"What?" he returned, blankly. "I beg your pardon----"

"Let's go out on the porch with the others."

"No, I----" He got to his feet confusedly. "I was thinking---- I
believe I'd best be going home."

"Not `best,' I think," she said. "Not even better!"

"I don't see," he said, his perplexity only increased.

"Mr. Corliss would," she retorted quickly. "Come on: we'll go and
sit with them." And she compelled his obedience by preceding him
with such a confident assumption that he would follow that he did.

The fugitive pair were not upon the porch, however; they were
discovered in the shade of a tree behind the house, seated upon a
rug, and occupied in a conversation which would not have disturbed
a sick-room. The pursuers came upon them, boldly sat beside them;
and Laura began to talk with unwonted fluency to Corliss, but
within five minutes found herself alone with Richard Lindley upon
the rug. Cora had promised to show Mr. Corliss an "old print" in
the library--so Cora said.

Lindley gave the remaining lady a desolate and faintly reproachful
look. He was kind, but he was a man; and Laura saw that this last
abandonment was being attributed in part to her.

She reddened, and, being not an angel, observed with crispness:
"Certainly. You're quite right: it's my fault!"

"What did you say?" he asked vacantly.

She looked at him rather fixedly; his own gaze had returned to the
angle of the house beyond which the other couple had just
disappeared. "I said," she answered, slowly, "I thought it
wouldn't rain this, afternoon."

His wistful eyes absently swept the serene sky which had been
cloudless for several days. "No, I suppose not," he murmured.

"Richard," she said with a little sharpness, "will you please
listen to me for a moment?"

"Oh--what?" He was like a diver coming up out of deep water. "What
did you say?" He laughed apologetically. "Wasn't I listening? I
beg your pardon. What is it, Laura?"

"Why do you let Mr. Corliss take Cora away from you like that?"
she asked gravely.

"He doesn't," the young man returned with a rueful shake of the
head. "Don't you see? It's Cora that goes."

"Why do you let her, then?"

He sighed. "I don't seem to be able to keep up with Cora,
especially when she's punishing me. I couldn't do something she
asked me to, last night----"

"Invest with Mr. Corliss?" asked Laura quickly.

"Yes. It seemed to trouble her that I couldn't. She's convinced
it's a good thing: she thinks it would make a great fortune for

"`Us'?" repeated Laura gently. "You mean for you and her? When

"When we're married. Yes," he said thoughtfully, "that's the way
she stated it. She wanted me to put in all I have----"

"Don't do it!" said Laura decidedly.

He glanced at her with sharp inquiry. "Do you mean you would
distrust Mr. Corliss?"

"I wasn't thinking of that: I don't know whether I'd trust him or
not--I think I wouldn't; there's something veiled about him, and I
don't believe he is an easy man to know. What I meant was that I
don't believe it would really be a good thing for you with Cora."

"It would please her, of course--thinking I deferred so much to
her judgment."

"Don't do it!" she said again, impulsively.

"I don't see how I can," he returned sorrowfully.

"It's my work for all the years since I got out of college, and if
I lost it I'd have to begin all over again. It would mean
postponing everything. Cora isn't a girl you can ask to share a
little salary, and if it were a question of years, perhaps--
perhaps Cora might not feel she could wait for me, you see."

He made this explanation with plaintive and boyish sincerity,
hesitatingly, and as if pleading a cause. And Laura, after a long
look at him, turned away, and in her eyes were actual tears of
compassion for the incredible simpleton.

"I see," she said. "Perhaps she might not."

"Of course," he went on, "she's fond of having nice things, and
she thinks this is a great chance for us to be millionaires; and
then, too, I think she may feel that it would please Mr. Corliss
and help to save him from disappointment. She seems to have taken
a great fancy to him."

Laura glanced at him, but did not speak.

"He _is_ attractive," continued Richard feebly. "I think he has a
great deal of what people call `magnetism': he's the kind of man
who somehow makes you want to do what he wants you to. He seems a
manly, straightforward sort, too--so far as one can tell--and when
he came to me with his scheme I was strongly inclined to go into
it. But it is too big a gamble, and I can't, though I was sorry to
disappoint him myself. He was perfectly cheerful about it and so
pleasant it made me feel small. I don't wonder at all that Cora
likes him so much. Besides, he seems to understand her."

Laura looked very grave. "I think he does," she said slowly.

"And then he's `different,'" said Richard. "He's more a `man of
the world' than most of us here: she never saw anything just like
him before, and she's seen _us_ all her life. She likes change, of
course. That's natural," he said gently. "Poor Vilas says she
wants a man to be different every day, and if he isn't, then she
wants a different man every day."

"You've rather taken Ray Vilas under your wing, haven't you?"
asked Laura.

"Oh, no," he answered deprecatingly. "I only try to keep him with
me so he'll stay away from downtown as much as possible."

"Does he talk much of Cora?"

"All the time. There's no stopping him. I suppose he can't help
it, because he thinks of nothing else."

"Isn't that rather--rather queer for you?"

"`Queer'?" he repeated.

"No, I suppose not!" She laughed impatiently. "And probably you
don't think it's `queer' of you to sit here helplessly, and let
another man take your place----"

"But I don't `let' him, Laura," he protested.

"No, he just does it!"

"Well," he smiled, "you must admit my efforts to supplant him

"It won't take any effort now," she said, rising quickly.
Valentine Corliss came into their view upon the sidewalk in front,
taking his departure. Seeing that they observed him, he lifted his
hat to Laura and nodded a cordial good-day to Lindley. Then he
went on.

Just before he reached the corner of the lot, he encountered upon
the pavement a citizen of elderly and plain appearance, strolling
with a grandchild. The two men met and passed, each upon his
opposite way, without pausing and without salutation, and neither
Richard nor Laura, whose eyes were upon the meeting, perceived
that they had taken cognizance of each other. But one had asked a
question and the other had answered.

Mr. Pryor spoke in a low monotone, with a rapidity as singular as
the restrained but perceptible emphasis he put upon one word of
his question.

"I got you in the park," he said; and it is to be deduced that
"got" was argot. "You're not _doing_ anything here, are you?"

"No!" answered Corliss with condensed venom, his back already to
the other. He fanned himself with his hat as he went on. Mr. Pryor
strolled up the street with imperturbable benevolence.

"Your coast is cleared," said Laura, "since you wouldn't clear it

"Wish me luck," said Richard as he left her.

She nodded brightly.

Before he disappeared, he looked back to her again (which
profoundly surprised her) and smiled rather disconsolately,
shaking his head as in prophecy of no very encouraging reception
indoors. The manner of this glance recalled to Laura what his
mother had once said of him. "Richard is one of those sweet,
helpless men that some women adore and others despise. They fall
in love with the ones that despise them."

An ostentatious cough made her face about, being obviously
designed to that effect; and she beheld her brother in the act of
walking slowly across the yard with his back to her. He halted
upon the border of her small garden of asters, regarded it
anxiously, then spread his handkerchief upon the ground, knelt
upon it, and with thoughtful care uprooted a few weeds which were
beginning to sprout, and also such vagrant blades of grass as
encroached upon the floral territory. He had the air of a virtuous
man performing a good action which would never become known.
Plainly, he thought himself in solitude and all unobserved.

It was a touching picture, pious and humble. Done into coloured
glass, the kneeling boy and the asters--submerged in ardent
sunshine--would have appropriately enriched a cathedral: Boyhood
of Saint Florus the Gardener.

Laura heartlessly turned her back, and, affecting an interest in
her sleeve, very soon experienced the sensation of being stared at
with some poignancy from behind. Unchanged in attitude, she
unravelled an imaginary thread, whereupon the cough reached her
again, shrill and loud, its insistence not lacking in pathos.

She approached him, driftingly. No sign that he was aware came
from the busied boy, though he coughed again, hollowly now--a
proof that he was an artist. "All right, Hedrick," she said
kindly. "I heard you the first time."

He looked up with utter incomprehension. "I'm afraid I've caught
cold," he said, simply. "I got a good many weeds out before
breakfast, and the ground was damp."

Hedrick was of the New School: everything direct, real, no
striving for effect, no pressure on the stroke. He did his work:
you could take it or leave it.

"You mustn't strain so, dear," returned his sister, shaking her
head. "It won't last if you do. You see this is only the first

Struck to the heart by so brutal a misconception, he put all his
wrongs into one look, rose in manly dignity, picked up his
handkerchief, and left her.

Her eyes followed him, not without remorse: it was an exit which
would have moved the bass-violist of a theatre orchestra. Sighing,
she went to her own room by way of the kitchen and the
back-stairs, and, having locked her door, brought the padlocked
book from its hiding-place.

"I think I should not have played as I did, an hour ago," she
wrote. "It stirs me too greatly and I am afraid it makes me
inclined to self-pity afterward, and I must never let myself feel
_that_! If I once begin to feel sorry for myself. . . . But I
_will_ not! No. You are here in the world. You exist. You _are_!
That is the great thing to know and it must be enough for me. It
is. I played to You. I played _just love_ to you--all the yearning
tenderness--all the supreme kindness I want to give you. Isn't
love really just glorified kindness? No, there is something more.
. . . I feel it, though I do not know how to say it. But it was in
my playing--I played it and played it. Suddenly I felt that in my
playing I had shouted it from the housetops, that I had told the
secret to all the world and _everybody_ knew. I stopped, and for a
moment it seemed to me that I was dying of shame. But no one
understood. No one had even listened. . . . Sometimes it seems to
me that I am like Cora, that I am very deeply her sister in some
things. My heart goes all to You--my revelation of it, my release
of it, my outlet of it is all here in these pages (except when I
play as I did to-day and as I shall not play again) and perhaps
the writing keeps me quiet. Cora scatters her own releasings: she
is looking for the You she may never find; and perhaps the penalty
for scattering is never finding. Sometimes I think the seeking has
reacted and that now she seeks only what will make her feel. I
hope she has not found it: I am afraid of this new man--not only
for your sake, dear. I felt repelled by his glance at me the first
time I saw him. I did not like it--I cannot say just why, unless
that it seemed too intimate. I am afraid of him for her, which is
a queer sort of feeling because she has alw----"

Laura's writing stopped there, for that day, interrupted by a
hurried rapping upon the door and her mother's voice calling her
with stress and urgency.

Book of the day: