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The Flirt by Booth Tarkington

Part 4 out of 4

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you for her. This isn't a hysterical mood, or a fit of
`exaltation': I have thought it all out and I know that I can
live up to it. You are the best thing that can ever come into
her life, and everything I can do shall be to keep you there. I
must be very, very careful with her, for talk and advice do not
influence her much. You love her--she has accepted you, and it
is beautiful for you both. It must be kept beautiful. It has
all become so clear to me: You are just what she has always
needed, and if by any mischance she lost you I do not know what
would become----"

"Good God!" cried Richard. He sprang to his feet, and the
heavy book fell with a muffled crash upon the floor, sprawling
open upon its face, its leaves in disorder. He moved away from
it, staring at it in incredulous dismay. But he knew.


Memory, that drowsy custodian, had wakened slowly, during this
hour, beginning the process with fitful gleams of
semi-consciousness, then, irritated, searching its pockets for
the keys and dazedly exploring blind passages; but now it flung
wide open the gallery doors, and there, in clear light, were the
rows of painted canvasses.
He remembered "that day" when he was waiting for a car, and
Laura Madison had stopped for a moment, and then had gone on,
saying she preferred to walk. He remembered that after he got
into the car he wondered why he had not walked home with her; had
thought himself "slow" for not thinking of it in time to do it.
There had seemed something very "taking" about her, as she
stopped and spoke to him, something enlivening and wholesome and
sweet--it had struck him that Laura was a "very nice girl." He
had never before noticed how really charming she could look; in
fact he had never thought much about either of the
Madison sisters, who had become "young ladies" during his
mourning for his brother. And this pleasant image of Laura
remained with him for several days, until he decided that it
might be a delightful thing to spend an evening with her. He had
called, and he remembered, now, Cora's saying to him that he
looked at her sometimes as if he did not like her; he had been
surprised and astonishingly pleased to detect a mysterious
feeling in her about it.
He remembered that almost at once he had fallen in love with
Cora: she captivated him, enraptured him, as she still did--as
she always would, he felt, no matter how she treated him or what
she did to him. He did not analyze the process of the capti-
vation and enrapturement--for love is a mystery and cannot be
analyzed. This is so well known that even Richard Lindley knew
it, and did not try!
. . . Heartsick, he stared at the fallen book. He was a
man, and here was the proffered love of a woman he did not want.
There was a pathos in the ledger; it seemed to grovel, sprawling
and dishevelled in the circle of lamp-light on the floor: it was
as if Laura herself lay pleading at his feet, and he looked
down upon her, compassionate but revolted. He realized with
astonishment from what a height she had fallen, how greatly he
had respected her, how warmly liked her. What she now destroyed
had been more important than he had guessed.
Simple masculine indignation rose within him: she was to have
been his sister. If she had been unable to stifle this misplaced
love of hers, could she not at least have kept it to herself?
Laura, the self-respecting! No; she offered it--offered it to
her sister's betrothed. She had written that he should "never,
never know it"; that when she was "cured" she would burn the
ledger. She had not burned it! There were inconsistencies in
plenty in the pitiful screed, but these were the wildest--and the
cheapest. In talk, she had urged him to "keep trying," for Cora,
and now the sick-minded creature sent him this record. She
wanted him to know. Then what else was it but a plea? "I love
you. Let Cora go. Take me."
He began to walk up and down, wondering what was to be done.
After a time, he picked up the book gingerly, set it upon a shelf
in a dark corner, and went for a walk outdoors. The night air
seemed better than that of the room that held the ledger.
At the corner a boy, running, passed him. It was Hedrick
Madison, but Hedrick did not recognize Richard, nor was his mind
at that moment concerned with Richard's affairs; he was on an
errand of haste to Doctor Sloane. Mr. Madison had wakened from a
heavy slumber unable to speak, his condition obviously much
Hedrick returned in the doctor's car, and then hung uneasily
about the door of the sick-room until Laura came out and told him
to go to bed. In the morning, his mother did not appear at the
breakfast table, Cora was serious and quiet, and Laura said that
he need not go to school that day, though she added that the
doctor thought their father would get "better." She looked wan
and hollow-eyed: she had not been to bed, but declared that she
would rest after breakfast. Evidently she had not missed her
ledger; and Hedrick watched her closely, a pleasurable excitement
stirring in his breast.
She did not go to her room after the meal; the house was
cold, possessing no furnace, and, with Hedrick's assistance, she
carried out the ashes from the library grate, and built a fire
there. She had just lighted it, and the kindling was beginning
to crackle, glowing rosily over her tired face, when the bell
"Will you see who it is, please, Hedrick?"
He went with alacrity, and, returning, announced in an odd
voice. "It's Dick Lindley. He wants to see you."
"Me?" she murmured, wanly surprised. She was kneeling before
the fireplace, wearing an old dress which was dusted with ashes,
and upon her hands a pair of worn-out gloves of her father's.
Lindley appeared in the hall behind Hedrick, carrying under his
arm something wrapped in brown paper. His expression led her to
think that he had heard of her father's relapse, and came on that
"Don't look at me, Richard," she said, smiling faintly as she
rose, and stripping her hands of the clumsy gloves. "It's good
of you to come, though. Doctor Sloane thinks he is going to be
better again."
Richard inclined his head gravely, but did not speak.
"Well," said Hedrick with a slight emphasis, I guess I'll go
out in the yard a while." And with shining eyes he left the
In the hall, out of range from the library door, he executed
a triumphant but noiseless caper, and doubled with mirth,
clapping his hand over his mouth to stifle the effervescings of
his joy. He had recognized the ledger in the same wrapping
in which he had left it in Mrs. Lindley's vestibule. His moment
had come: the climax of his enormous joke, the repayment in some
small measure for the anguish he had so long endured. He crept
silently back toward the door, flattened his back against the
wall, and listened.
"Richard," he heard Laura say, a vague alarm in her voice,
"what is it? What is the matter?"
Then Lindley: "I did not know what to do about it. I
couldn't think of any sensible thing. I suppose what I am doing
is the stupidest of all the things I thought of, but at least
it's honest--so I've brought it back to you myself. Take it,
There was a crackling of the stiff wrapping paper, a little
pause, then a strange sound from Laura. It was not vocal and no
more than just audible: it was a prolonged scream in a whisper.
Hedrick ventured an eye at the crack, between the partly open
door and its casing. Lindley stood with his back to him, but the
boy had a clear view of Laura. She was leaning against the wall,
facing Richard, the book clutched in both arms against her bosom,
the wrapping paper on the floor at her feet.
"I thought of sending it back and pretending to think it had
been left at my mother's house by mistake," said Richard sadly,
"and of trying to make it seem that I hadn't read any of it. I
thought of a dozen ways to pretend I believed you hadn't really
meant me to read it----"
Making a crucial effort, she managed to speak.
You--think I--did mean----"
"Well," he answered, with a helpless shrug, "you sent it!
But it's what's in it that really matters, isn't it? I could
have pretended anything in a note, I suppose, if I had written
instead of coming. But I found that what I most dreaded was
meeting you again, and as we've got to meet, of course, it seemed
to me the only thing to do was to blunder through a talk with
you, somehow or another, and get that part of it over. I thought
the longer I put off facing you, the worse it would be for both
of us--and--and the more embarrassing. I'm no good at
pretending, anyhow; and the thing has happened. What use is
there in not being honest? Well?"
She did not try again to speak. Her state was lamentable: it
was all in her eyes.
Richard hung his head wretchedly, turning partly away
from her. "There's only one way--to look at it," he said
hesitatingly, and stammering. "That is--there's only one thing
to do: to forget that it's happened. I'm--I--oh, well, I care
for Cora altogether. She's got never to know about this. She
hasn't any idea or--suspicion of it, has she?"
Laura managed to shake her head.
"She never must have," he said. "Will you promise me to burn
that book now?"
She nodded slowly.
"I--I'm awfully sorry, Laura," he said brokenly. "I'm not
idiot enough not to see that you're suffering horribly. I
suppose I have done the most blundering thing possible." He
stood a moment, irresolute, then turned to the door. "Good-bye."
Hedrick had just time to dive into the hideous little room of
the multitudinous owls as Richard strode into the hall. Then,
with the closing of the front door, the boy was back at his post.
Laura stood leaning against the wall, the book clutched in
her arms, as Richard had left her. Slowly she began to sink, her
eyes wide open, and, with her back against the wall, she slid
down until she was sitting upon the floor. Her arms relaxed
and hung limp at her sides, letting the book topple over in
her lap, and she sat motionless.
One of her feet protruded from her skirt, and the leaping
firelight illumined it ruddily. It was a graceful foot in an old
shoe which had been re-soled and patched. It seemed very still,
that patched shoe, as if it might stay still forever. Hedrick
knew that Laura had not fainted, but he wished she would move her
He went away. He went into the owl-room again, and stood
there silently a long, long time. Then he stole back again
toward the library door, but caught a glimpse of that old,
motionless shoe through the doorway as he came near. Then he
spied no more. He went out to the stable, and, secluding himself
in his studio, sat moodily to meditate.
Something was the matter. Something had gone wrong. He had
thrown a bomb which he had expected to go off with a stupendous
bang, leaving him, as the smoke cleared, looking down in merry
triumph, stinging his fallen enemies with his humour, withering
them with satire, and inquiring of them how it felt, now THEY
were getting it. But he was decidedly untriumphant: he wished
Laura had moved her foot and that she hadn't that patch upon
her shoe. He could not get his mind off that patch. He began to
feel very queer: it seemed to be somehow because of the patch.
If she had worn a pair of new shoes that morning. . . . Yes, it
was that patch.
Thirteen is a dangerous age: nothing is more subtle. The
boy, inspired to play the man, is beset by his own relapses into
childhood, and Hedrick was near a relapse.
By and by, he went into the house again, to the library.
Laura was not there, but he found the fire almost smothered under
heaping ashes. She had burned her book.
He went into the room where the piano was, and played "The
Girl on the Saskatchewan" with one finger; then went out to the
porch and walked up and down, whistling cheerily.
After that, he went upstairs and asked Miss Peirce how his
father was "feeling," receiving a noncommital reply; looked in at
Cora's room; saw that his mother was lying asleep on Cora's bed
and Cora herself examining the contents of a dressing-table
drawer; and withdrew. A moment later, he stood in the passage
outside Laura's closed door listening. There was no sound.
He retired to his own chamber, found it unbearable, and,
fascinated by Laura's, returned thither; and, after standing a
long time in the passage, knocked softly on the door.
"Laura," he called, in a rough and careless voice, "it's kind
of a pretty day outdoors. If you've had your nap, if I was you
I'd go out for a walk." There was no response. "I'll go with
you," he added, "if you want me to."
He listened again and heard nothing. Then he turned the knob
softly. The door was unlocked; he opened it and went in.
Laura was sitting in a chair, with her back to a window, her
hands in her lap. She was staring straight in front of her.
He came near her hesitatingly, and at first she did not seem
to see him or even to know that she was not alone in the room.
Then she looked at him wonderingly, and, as he stood beside her,
lifted her right hand and set it gently upon his head.
"Hedrick," she said, "was it you that took my book to----"
All at once he fell upon his knees, hid his face in her lap,
and burst into loud and passionate sobbing.


Valentine Corliss, having breakfasted in bed at a late hour that
morning, dozed again, roused himself, and, making a toilet,
addressed to the image in his shaving-mirror a disgusted
However, he had not the look of a man who had played cards
all night to a disastrous tune with an accompaniment in Scotch.
His was a surface not easily indented: he was hard and healthy,
clear-skinned and clear-eyed. When he had made himself
point-device, he went into the "parlour" of his apartment,
frowning at the litter of malodorous, relics, stumps and stubs
and bottles and half-drained glasses, scattered chips and cards,
dregs of a night, session. He had been making acquaintances.
He sat at the desk and wrote with a steady hand in Italian:

We live but learn little. As to myself it appears that I learn
nothing--nothing! You will at once convey to
me by CABLE five thousand lire. No; add the difference in
exchange so as to make it one thousand dollars which I shall
receive, taking that sum from the two-hundred and thirty thousand
lire which I entrusted to your safekeeping by cable as the result
of my enterprise in this place. I should have returned at once,
content with that success, but as you know I am a very stupid
fellow, never pleased with a moderate triumph, nor with a large
one, when there is a possible prospect of greater. I am
compelled to believe that the greater I had in mind in this case
was an illusion: my gentle diplomacy avails nothing against a
small miser--for we have misers even in these States, though you
will not believe it. I abandon him to his riches! From the
success of my venture I reserved four thousand dollars to keep by
me and for my expenses, and it is humiliating to relate that all
of this, except a small banknote or two, was taken from me last
night by amateurs. I should keep away from cards--they hate me,
and alone I can do nothing with them. Some young gentlemen of
the place, whose acquaintance I had made at a ball, did me the
honour of this lesson at the native game of poker, at which
I--though also native--am not even so expert as yourself, and, as
you will admit, Antonio, my friend, you are not a good
player--when observed. Unaided, I was a child in their
hands. It was also a painful rule that one paid for the counters
upon delivery. This made me ill, but I carried it off with an
air of carelessness creditable to an adopted Neapolitan. Upon
receipt of the money you are to cable me, I shall leave this town
and sail immediately. Come to Paris, and meet me there at the
place on the Rue Auber within ten days from your reading this
letter. You will have, remaining, two hundred and twenty-five
thousand francs, which it will be safer to bring in cash, and I
will deal well with you, as is our custom with each other. You
have done excellently throughout; your cables and letters for
exhibition concerning those famous oil wells have been
perfection; and I shall of course not deduct what was taken by
these thieves of poker players from the sum of profits upon which
we shall estimate your commission. I have several times had the
feeling that the hour for departure had arrived; now I shall
delay not a moment after receiving your cable, though I may
occupy the interim with a last attempt to interest my small
miser. Various circumstances cause me some uneasiness, though I
do not believe I could be successfully assailed by the law in the
matter of oil. You do own an estate in Basilicata, at least your
brother does--these good people here would not be apt to discover
the difference--and the rest is a matter of plausibility. The
odious coincidence of encountering the old cow, Pryor,
fretted me somewhat (though he has not repeated his annoying
call), and I have other small apprehensions--for example, that it
may not improve my credit if my loss of last night becomes
gossip, though the thieves professed strong habits of discretion.
My little affair of gallantry grows embarrassing. Such affairs
are so easy to inaugurate; extrication is more difficult.
However, without it I should have failed to interest my investor
and there is always the charm. Your last letter is too curious
in that matter. Licentious man, one does not write of these
things while under the banner of the illustrious Uncle Sam--I am
assuming the American attitude while here, or perhaps my early
youth returns to me--a thing very different from your own
boyhood, Don Antonio. Nevertheless, I promise you some laughter
in the Rue Auber. Though you will not be able to understand the
half of what I shall tell you--particularly the portraits I shall
sketch of my defeated rivals--your spirit shall roll with
To the bank, then, the instant you read. Cable me one
thousand dollars, and be at the Rue Auber not more than ten days
later. To the bank! Thence to the telegraph office. Speed!
V. C.

He was in better spirits as he read over this letter, and he
chuckled as he addressed it. He pictured himself in the rear
room of the bar in the Rue Auber, relating, across the
little marble-topped table, this American adventure, to the
delight of that blithe, ne'er-do-well outcast of an exalted poor
family, that gambler, blackmailer and merry rogue, Don Antonio
Moliterno, comrade and teacher of this ductile Valentine since
the later days of adolescence. They had been school-fellows in
Rome, and later roamed Europe together unleashed, discovering
worlds of many kinds. Valentine's careless mother let her boy go
as he liked, and was often negligent in the matter of
remittances: he and his friend learned ways to raise the wind,
becoming expert and making curious affiliations. At her death
there was a small inheritance; she had not been provident. The
little she left went rocketing, and there was the wind to be
raised again: young Corliss had wits and had found that they
could supply him--most of the time--with much more than the
necessities of life. He had also found that he possessed a
strong attraction for various women; already--at twenty-two--his
experience was considerable, and, in his way, he became a
specialist. He had a talent; he improved it and his opportuni-
ties. Altogether, he took to the work without malice and with a
light heart. . . .
He sealed the envelope, rang for a boy, gave him the letter
to post, and directed that the apartment should be set to rights.
It was not that in which he had received Ray Vilas. Corliss had
moved to rooms on another floor of the hotel, the day after that
eccentric and somewhat ominous person had called to make an
"investment." Ray's shadowy forebodings concerning that former
apartment had encountered satire: Corliss was a "materialist"
and, at the mildest estimate, an unusually practical man, but he
would never sleep in a bed with its foot toward the door;
southern Italy had seeped into him. He changed his rooms, a
measure of which Don Antonio Moliterno would have wholly
approved. Besides, these were as comfortable as the others, and
so like them as even to confirm Ray's statement concerning "A
Reading from Homer": evidently this work had been purchased by
the edition.
A boy came to announce that his "roadster" waited for him at
the hotel entrance, and Corliss put on a fur motoring coat and
cap, and went downstairs. A door leading from the hotel bar into
the lobby was open, and, as Corliss passed it, there issued a
mocking shout:
"Tor'dor! Oh, look at the Tor'dor! Ain't he the handsome
Ray Vilas stumbled out, tousled, haggard, waving his arms in
absurd and meaningless gestures; an amused gallery of tipplers
filling the doorway behind him.
"Goin' take Carmen buggy ride in the country, ain't he? Good
ole Tor'dor!" he quavered loudly, clutching Corliss's shoulder.
"How much you s'pose he pays f' that buzz-buggy by the day,
jeli'm'n? Naughty Tor'dor, stole thousand dollars from
me--makin' presents--diamond cresses. Tor'dor, I hear you been
playing cards. Tha's sn't nice. Tor'dor, you're not a goo' boy
at all--YOU know you oughtn't waste Dick Lindley's money like
Corliss set his open hand upon the drunkard's breast and sent
him gyrating and plunging backward. Some one caught the
grotesque figure as it fell.
"Oh, my God," screamed Ray, "I haven't got a gun on me! He
KNOWS I haven't got my gun with me! WHY haven't I got my
gun with me?"
They hustled him away, and Corliss, enraged and startled,
passed on. As he sped the car up Corliss Street, he decided
to anticipate his letter to Moliterno by a cable. He had stayed
too long.
Cora looked charming in a new equipment for November
motoring; yet it cannot be said that either of them enjoyed the
drive. They lunched a dozen miles out from the city at an
establishment somewhat in the nature of a roadside inn; and,
although its cuisine was quite unknown to Cora's friend, Mrs.
Villard (an eager amateur of the table), they were served with a
meal of such unusual excellence that the waiter thought it a
thousand pities patrons so distinguished should possess such poor
They returned at about three in the afternoon, and Cora
descended from the car wearing no very amiable expression.
"Why won't you come in now?" she asked, looking at him
angrily. "We've got to talk things out. We've settled nothing
whatever. I want to know why you can't stop."
"I've got some matters to attend to, and----"
"What matters?" She shot him a glance of fierce skepticism.
"Are you packing to get out?"
"Cora!" he cried reproachfully, "how can you say things like
that to ME!"
She shook her head. "Oh, it wouldn't surprise me in the
least! How do _I_ know what you'll do? For all I know, you
may be just that kind of a man. You SAID you ought to be
"Cora," he explained, gently, "I didn't say I meant to go. I
said only that I thought I ought to, because Moliterno will be
needing me in Basilicata. I ought to be there, since it appears
that no more money is to be raised here. I ought to be
superintending operations in the oil-field, so as to make the
best use of the little I have raised."
"You?" she laughed. "Of course _I_ didn't have anything to
do with it!"
He sighed deeply. "You know perfectly well that I appreciate
all you did. We don't seem to get on very well to-day----"
"No!" She laughed again, bitterly. "So you think you'll be
going, don't you?"
"To my rooms to write some necessary letters."
"Of course not to pack your trunk?"
"Cora," he returned, goaded; "sometimes you're just
impossible. I'll come to-morrow forenoon."
"Then don't bring the car. I'm tired of motoring and tired
of lunching in that rotten hole. We can talk just as well in the
library. Papa's better, and that little fiend will be in
school to-morrow. Come out about ten."
He started the machine. "Don't forget I love you," he called
in a low voice.
She stood looking after him as the car dwindled down the
"Yes, you do!" she murmured.
She walked up the path to the house, her face thoughtful, as
with a tiresome perplexity. In her own room, divesting herself
of her wraps, she gave the mirror a long scrutiny. It offered
the picture of a girl with a hard and dreary air; but Cora saw
something else, and presently, though the dreariness remained,
the hardness softened to a great compassion. She suffered: a
warm wave of sorrow submerged her, and she threw herself upon the
bed and wept long and silently for herself.
At last her eyes dried, and she lay staring at the ceiling.
The doorbell rang, and Sarah, the cook, came to inform her that
Mr. Richard Lindley was below.
"Tell him I'm out."
"Can't," returned Sarah. "Done told him you was home." And
she departed firmly.
Thus abandoned, the prostrate lady put into a few words what
she felt about Sarah, and, going to the door, whisperingly
summoned in Laura, who was leaving the sick-room, across the
"Richard is downstairs. Will you go and tell him I'm sick in
bed--or dead? Anything to make him go." And, assuming Laura's
acquiescence, Cora went on, without pause: "Is father worse?
What's the matter with you, Laura?"
"Nothing. He's a little better, Miss Peirce thinks."
"You look ill."
"I'm all right."
"Then run along like a duck and get rid of that old bore for
"Cora--please see him?"
"Not me! I've got too much to think about to bother with
Laura walked to the window and stood with her back to her
sister, apparently interested in the view of Corliss Street there
presented. "Cora," she said, "why don't you marry him and have
done with all this?"
Cora hooted.
"Why not? Why not marry him as soon as you can get ready?
Why don't you go down now and tell him you will? Why not, Cora?"
"I'd as soon marry a pail of milk--yes, tepid milk, skimmed!
"Don't you realize how kind he'd be to you?"
"I don't know about that," said Cora moodily. "He might
object to some things--but it doesn't matter, because I'm not
going to try him. I don't mind a man's being a fool, but I can't
stand the absent-minded breed of idiot. I've worn his diamond in
the pendant right in his eyes for weeks; he's never once noticed
it enough even to ask me about the pendant, but bores me to death
wanting to know why I won't wear the ring! Anyhow, what's the
use talking about him? He couldn't marry me right now, even if I
wanted him to--not till he begins to get something on the
investment he made with Val. Outside of that, he's got nothing
except his rooms at his mother's; she hasn't much either; and if
Richard should lose what he put in with Val, he couldn't marry
for years, probably. That's what made him so obstinate about it.
No; if I ever marry right off the reel it's got to be somebody
"Cora"--Laura still spoke from the window, not
turning--"aren't you tired of it all, of this getting so
upset about one man and then another and----"
"TIRED!" Cora uttered the word in a repressed fury of
emphasis. "I'm sick of EVERYTHING! I don't care for
anything or anybody on this earth--except--except you and mamma.
I thought I was going to love Val. I thought I DID--but oh,
my Lord, I don't! I don't think I CAN care any more. Or
else there isn't any such thing as love. How can anybody tell
whether there is or not? You get kind of crazy over a man and
want to go the limit--or marry him perhaps--or sometimes you just
want to make him crazy about you--and then you get over it--and
what is there left but hell!" She choked with a sour laugh.
"Ugh! For heaven's sake, Laura, don't make me talk.
Everything's gone to the devil and I've got to think. The best
thing you can do is to go down and get rid of Richard for me. I
CAN'T see him!"
"Very well," said Laura, and went to the door.
"You're a darling," whispered Cora, kissing her quickly.
"Tell him I'm in a raging headache--make him think I wanted to
see him, but you wouldn't let me, because I'm too ill." She
laughed. "Give me a little time, old dear: I may decide to
take him yet!"
It was Mrs. Madison who informed the waiting Richard that
Cora was unable to see him, because she was "lying down"; and the
young man, after properly inquiring about Mr. Madison, went
blankly forth.
Hedrick was stalking the front yard, mounted at a great
height upon a pair of stilts. He joined the departing visitor
upon the sidewalk and honoured him with his company, proceeding
storkishly beside him.
"Been to see Cora?"
"Yes, Hedrick."
"What'd you want to see her about?" asked the frank youth
Richard was able to smile. "Nothing in particular, Hedrick."
"You didn't come to tell her about something?"
"Nothing whatever, my dear sir. I wished merely the honour
of seeing her and chatting with her upon indifferent subjects.
"Did you see her?"
"No, I'm sorry to----"
"She's home, all right," Hedrick took pleasure in informing
"Yes. She was lying down and I told your mother not to
disturb her."
"Worn out with too much automobile riding, I expect," Hedrick
sniffed. "She goes out about every day with this Corliss in his
hired roadster."
They walked on in silence. Not far from Mrs. Lindley's,
Hedrick abruptly became vocal in an artificial laugh. Richard
was obviously intended to inquire into its cause, but, as he did
not, Hedrick, after laughing hollowly for some time, volunteered
the explanation:
"I played a pretty good trick on you last night."
"Odd I didn't know it."
"That's why it was good. You'd never guess it in the world."
"No, I believe I shouldn't. You see what makes it so hard,
Hedrick, is that I can't even remember seeing you, last night."
"Nobody saw me. Somebody heard me though, all right."
"The nigger that works at your mother's--Joe."
"What about it? Were you teasing Joe?"
"No, it was you I was after."
"Well? Did you get me?"
Hedrick made another somewhat ghastly pretence of mirth.
"Well, I guess I've had about all the fun out of it I'm going to.
Might as well tell you. It was that book of Laura's you thought
she sent you."
Richard stopped short; whereupon Hedrick turned clumsily, and
began to stalk back in the direction from which they had come.
"That book--I thought she--sent me?" Lindley repeated,
"She never sent it," called the boy, continuing to walk away.
"She kept it hid, and I found it. I faked her into writing your
name on a sheet of paper, and made you think she'd sent the old
thing to you. I just did it for a joke on you."
With too retching an effort to simulate another burst of
merriment, he caught the stump of his right stilt in a pavement
crack, wavered, cut in the air a figure like a geometrical
proposition gone mad, and came whacking to earth in magnificent
Richard took him to Mrs. Lindley for repairs. She kept him
until dark: Hedrick was bandaged, led, lemonaded and blandished.
Never in his life had he known such a listener.


That was a long night for Cora Madison, and the morning found her
yellow. She made a poor breakfast, and returned from the table
to her own room, but after a time descended restlessly and
wandered from one room to another, staring out of the windows.
Laura had gone out; Mrs. Madison was with her husband, whom she
seldom left; Hedrick had departed ostensibly for school; and the
house was as still as a farm in winter--an intolerable condition
of things for an effervescent young woman whose diet was
excitement. Cora, drumming with her fingers upon a window in the
owl-haunted cell, made noises with her throat, her breath and her
lips not unsuggestive of a sputtering fuse. She was heavily
"Now what in thunder do YOU want?" she inquired of an
elderly man who turned in from the sidewalk and with serious
steps approached the house.
Pryor, having rung, found himself confronted with the lady he
had come to seek. Ensued the moment of strangers
meeting: invisible antennae extended and touched;--at the
contact, Cora's drew in, and she looked upon him without
"I just called," he said placatively, smiling as if some
humour lurked in his intention, "to ask how your father is. I
heard downtown he wasn't getting along quite so well."
"He's better this morning, thanks," said Cora, preparing to
close the door.
"I thought I'd just stop and ask about him. I heard he'd had
another bad spell--kind of a second stroke."
"That was night before last. The doctor thinks he's improved
very much since then."
The door was closing; he coughed hastily, and detained it by
speaking again. "I've called several times to inquire about him,
but I believe it's the first time I've had the pleasure of
speaking to you, Miss Madison. I'm Mr. Pryor." She appeared to
find no comment necessary, and he continued: "Your father did a
little business for me, several years ago, and when I was here on
my vacation, this summer, I was mighty sorry to hear of his
sickness. I've had a nice bit of luck lately and got a second
furlough, so I came out to spend a couple of weeks and
Thanksgiving with my married daughter."
Cora supposed that it must be very pleasant.
"Yes," he returned. "But I was mighty sorry to hear your
father wasn't much better than when I left. The truth is, I
wanted to have a talk with him, and I've been reproaching myself
a good deal that I didn't go ahead with it last summer, when he
was well, only I thought then it mightn't be necessary--might be
disturbing things without much reason."
"I'm afraid you can't have a talk with him now," she said.
"The doctor says----"
"I know, I know," said Pryor, "of course. I wonder"--he
hesitated, smiling faintly--"I wonder if I could have it with you
"Oh, it isn't business," he laughed, observing her
expression. "That is, not exactly." His manner became very
serious. "It's about a friend of mine--at least, a man I know
pretty well. Miss Madison, I saw you driving out through the
park with him, yesterday noon, in an automobile. Valentine
Cora stared at him. Honesty, friendliness, and grave concern
were disclosed to her scrutiny. There was no mistaking him:
he was a good man. Her mouth opened, and her eyelids flickered
as from a too sudden invasion of light--the look of one
perceiving the close approach of a vital crisis. But there was
no surprise in her face.
"Come in," she said.

. . . . When Corliss arrived, at about eleven o'clock that
morning, Sarah brought him to the library, where he found Cora
waiting for him. He had the air of a man determined to be
cheerful under adverse conditions: he came in briskly, and Cora
closed the door behind him.
"Keep away from me," she said, pushing him back sharply, the
next instant. "I've had enough of that for a while I believe."
He sank into a chair, affecting desolation. "Caresses
blighted in the bud! Cora, one would think us really married."
She walked across the floor to a window, turned there, with
her back to the light, and stood facing him, her arms folded.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed, noting this attitude. "Is it
the trial scene from a faded melodrama?" She looked steadily at
him without replying. "What's it all about to-day?" he
asked lightly. "I'll try to give you the proper cues if you'll
indicate the general nature of the scene, Cora mine."
She continued to look at him in silence.
"It's very effective," he observed. "Brings out the figure,
too. Do forgive me if you're serious, dear lady, but never in my
life was I able to take the folded-arms business seriously. It
was used on the stage of all countries so much that I believe
most new-school actors have dropped it. They think it lacks
Cora waited a moment longer, then spoke. "How much chance
have I to get Richard Lindley's money back from you?"
He was astounded. "Oh, I say!"
"I had a caller, this morning," she said, slowly. "He talked
about you--quite a lot! He's told me several things about you."
"Mr. Vilas?" he asked, with a sting in his quick smile.
"No," she answered coolly. "Much older."
At that he jumped up, stepped quickly close to her, and swept
her with an intense and brilliant scrutiny.
"Pryor, by God!" he cried.
"He knows you pretty well," she said. "So do now!"
He swung away from her, back to his chair, dropped into it
and began to laugh. "Old Pryor! Doddering old Pryor! Doddering
old ass of a Pryor! So he did! Blood of an angel! what a stew,
what a stew!" He rose again, mirthless. "Well, what did he
She had begun to tremble, not with fear. "He said a good
"Well, what was it? What did he tell you?"
"I think you'll find it plenty!"
"Come on!"
"YOU!" She pointed at him.
"Let's have it."
"He told me"--she burst out furiously--"he said you were a
professional sharper!"
"Oh, no. Old Pryor doesn't talk like that."
She came toward him. "He told me you were notorious over
half of Europe," she cried vehemently. "He said he'd arrested
you himself, once, in Rotterdam, for smuggling jewels, and that
you were guilty, but managed to squirm out of it. He said the
police had put you out of Germany and you'd be arrested if you
ever tried to go back. He said there were other places you
didn't dare set foot in, and he said he could have you arrested
in this country any time he wanted to, and that he was going to
do it if he found you'd been doing anything wrong. Oh, yes, he
told me a few things!"
He caught her by the shoulder. "See here, Cora, do you
believe all this tommy-rot?"
She shook his hand off instantly. "Believe it? I know it!
There isn't a straight line in your whole soul and mind: you're
crooked all over. You've been crooked with ME from the
start. The moment that man began to speak, I knew every word of
it was true. He came to me because he thought it was right: he
hasn't anything against you on his own account; he said he
LIKED you! I KNEW it was true, I tell you."
He tried to put his hand on her shoulder again, beginning to
speak remonstratingly, but she cried out in a rage, broke away
from him, and ran to the other end of the room.
"Keep away! Do you suppose I like you to touch me? He told
me you always had been a wonder with women! Said you were famous
for `handling them the right way'--using them! Ah, that was
pleasant information for ME, wasn't it! Yes, I could
have confirmed him on that point. He wanted to know if I thought
you'd been doing anything of that sort here. What he meant was:
Had you been using me?"
"What did you tell him?" The question rang sharply on the
"Ha! That gets into you, does it?" she returned bitterly.
"You can't overdo your fear of that man, I think, but _I_
didn't tell him anything. I just listened and thanked him for
the warning, and said I'd have nothing more to do with you. How
COULD I tell him? Wasn't it I that made papa lend you his
name, and got Richard to hand over his money? Where does that
put ME?" She choked; sobs broke her voice. "Every--every
soul in town would point me out as a laughing-stock--the easiest
fool out of the asylum! Do you suppose _I_ want you arrested
and the whole thing in the papers? What I want is Richard's
money back, and I'm going to have it!"
"Can you be quiet for a moment and listen?" he asked gravely.
If you'll tell me what chance I have to get it back."
"Cora," he said, "you don't want it back."
"Oh? Don't I?"
"No." He smiled faintly, and went on. "Now, all this
nonsense of old Pryor's isn't worth denying. I have met him
abroad; that much is true--and I suppose I have rather a gay
She uttered a jeering shout.
"Wait!" he said. "I told you I'd cut quite a swathe, when I
first talked to you about myself. Let it go for the present and
come down to this question of Lindley's investment----"
"Yes. That's what I want you to come down to."
"As soon as Lindley paid in his check I gave him his stock
certificates, and cabled the money to be used at once in the
development of the oil-fields----"
"What! That man told me you'd `promoted' a South American
rubber company once, among people of the American colony in
Paris. The details he gave me sounded strangely familiar!"
"You'd as well be patient, Cora. Now, that money has
probably been partially spent, by this time, on tools and labour
"What are you trying to----"
"I'll show you. But first I'd like you to understand
that nothing can be done to me. There's nothing `on' me! I've
acted in good faith, and if the venture in oil is unsuccessful,
and the money lost, I can't be held legally responsible, nor can
any one prove that I am. I could bring forty witnesses from
Naples to swear they have helped to bore the wells. I'm safe as
your stubborn friend, Mr. Trumble, himself. But now then,
suppose that old Pryor is right--as of course he isn't--suppose
it, merely for a moment, because it will aid me to convey
something to your mind. If I were the kind of man he says I am,
and, being such a man, had planted the money out of reach, for my
own use, what on earth would induce me to give it back?"
"I knew it!" she groaned. "I knew you wouldn't!"
"You see," he said quietly, "it would be impossible. We must
go on supposing for a moment: if I had put that money away, I
might be contemplating a departure----"
"You'd better!" she cried fiercely. "He's going to find out
everything you've been doing. He said so. He's heard a rumour
that you were trying to raise money here; he told me so, and said
he'd soon----"
"The better reason for not delaying, perhaps. Cora, see
here!" He moved nearer her. "Wouldn't I need a lot of money if
I expected to have a beautiful lady to care for, and----"
"You idiot!" she screamed. "Do you think I'm going with
He flushed heavily. "Well, aren't you?" He paused, to stare
at her, as she wrung her hands and sobbed with hysterical
laughter. "I thought," he went on, slowly, "that you would
possibly even insist on that."
"Oh, Lord, Lord, Lord!" She stamped her foot, and with both
hands threw the tears from her eyes in wide and furious gestures.
"He told me you were married----"
"Did you let him think you hadn't known that?" demanded
"I tell you I didn't let him think ANYTHING! He said you
would never be able to get a divorce: that your wife hates you
too much to get one from you, and that she'll never----"
"See here, Cora," he said harshly, "I told you I'd been
married; I told you before I ever kissed you. You understood
"I did not! You said you HAD been. You laughed
about it. You made me think it was something that had
happened a long time ago. I thought of course you'd been
"But I told you----"
"You told me after! And then you made me think you could
easily get one--that it was only a matter of form and----"
"Cora," he interrupted, "you're the most elaborate little
self-deceiver I ever knew. I don't believe you've ever faced
yourself for an honest moment in----"
"Honest! YOU talk about `honest'! You use that word and
face ME?"
He came closer, meeting her distraught eyes squarely. "You
love to fool yourself, Cora, but the role of betrayed virtue
doesn't suit you very well. You're young, but you're a pretty
experienced woman for all that, and you haven't done anything you
didn't want to. You've had both eyes open every minute, and we
both know it. You are just as wise as----"
"You're lying and YOU know it! What did _I_ want to
make Richard go into your scheme for? You made a fool of me."
"I'm not speaking of the money now," he returned
quickly. "You'd better keep your mind on the subject. Are
you coming away with me?"
"What for?" she asked.
"What FOR?" he echoed incredulously. "I want to know if
you're coming. I promise you I'll get a divorce as soon as it's
"Val," she said, in a tone lower than she had used since he
entered the room; "Val, do you want me to come?"
"Much?" She looked at him eagerly.
"Yes, I do." His answer sounded quite genuine.
"Will it hurt you if I don't?"
"Of course it will."
"Thank heaven for that," she said quietly.
"You honestly mean you won't?"
"It makes me sick with laughing just to imagine it! I've
done some hard little thinking, lately, my friend--particularly
last night, and still more particularly this morning since that
man was here. I'd cut my throat before I'd go with you. If you
had your divorce I wouldn't marry you--not if you were the last
man on earth!"
"Cora," he cried, aghast, "what's the matter with you?
You're too many for me sometimes. I thought I understood a
few kinds of women! Now listen: I've offered to take you, and
you can't say----"
"Offered!" It was she who came toward him now. She came
swiftly, shaking with rage, and struck him upon the breast.
"`Offered'! Do you think I want to go trailing around Europe
with you while Dick Lindley's money lasts? What kind of a life
are you `offering' me? Do you suppose I'm going to have
everybody saying Cora Madison ran away with a jail-bird? Do you
think I'm going to dodge decent people in hotels and steamers,
and leave a name in this town that--Oh, get out! I don't want
any help from you! I can take care of myself, I tell you; and I
don't have to marry YOU! I'd kill you if I could--you made a
fool of me!" Her voice rose shrilly. "You made a fool of me!"
"Cora----" he began, imploringly.
"You made a fool of me!" She struck him again.
"Strike me," he said. "I love you
"Cora, I want you. I want you more than I ever----"
She screamed with hysterical laughter. "Liar, liar,
liar! The same old guff. Don't you even see it's too late for
the old rotten tricks?"
"Cora, I want you to come."
"You poor, conceited fool," she cried, "do you think you're
the only man I can marry?"
"Cora," he gasped, "you wouldn't do that!"
"Oh, get out! Get out NOW! I'm tired of you. I never
want to hear you speak again."
"Cora,"he begged. "For the last time----"
"NO! You made a fool of me!" She beat him upon the
breast, striking again and again, with all her strength. "Get
out, I tell you! I'm through with you!"
He tried to make her listen, to hold her wrists: he could do
"Get out--get out!" she screamed. She pushed and dragged him
toward the door, and threw it open. Her voice thickened; she
choked and coughed, but kept on screaming: "Get out, I tell you!
Get out, get out, damn you! Damn you, DAMN you! get out!"
Still continuing to strike him with all her strength, she
forced him out of the door.


Cora lost no time. Corliss had not closed the front door behind
him before she was running up the stairs. Mrs. Madison, emerging
from her husband's room, did not see her daughter's face; for
Cora passed her quickly, looking the other way.
"Was anything the matter?" asked the mother anxiously. "I
thought I heard----"
"Nothing in the world," Cora flung back over her shoulder.
"Mr. Corliss said I couldn't imitate Sara Bernhardt, and I showed
him I could." She began to hum; left a fragment of "rag-time"
floating behind her as she entered her own room; and Mrs.
Madison, relieved, returned to the invalid.
Cora changed her clothes quickly. She put on a pale gray
skirt and coat for the street, high shoes and a black velvet hat,
very simple. The costume was almost startlingly becoming to her:
never in her life had she looked prettier. She opened her small
jewel-case, slipped all her rings upon her fingers;
then put the diamond crescent, the pendant, her watch, and three
or four other things into the flat, envelope-shaped bag of soft
leather she carried when shopping. After that she brought from
her clothes-pantry a small travelling-bag and packed it
Laura, returning from errands downtown and glancing up at
Cora's window, perceived an urgently beckoning, gray-gloved hand,
and came at once to her sister's room.
The packed bag upon the bed first caught her eye; then Cora's
attire, and the excited expression of Cora's face, which was
high-flushed and moist, glowing with a great resolve.
"What's happened?" asked Laura quickly. "You look exactly
like a going-away bride. What----"
Cora spoke rapidly: "Laura, I want you to take this bag and
keep it in your room till a messenger-boy comes for it. When the
bell rings, go to the door yourself, and hand it to him. Don't
give Hedrick a chance to go to the door. Just give it to the
boy;--and don't say anything to mamma about it. I'm going
downtown and I may not be back."
Laura began to be frightened.
"What is it you want to do, Cora?" she asked, trembling.
Cora was swift and business-like. "See here, Laura, I've got
to keep my head about me. You can do a great deal for me, if you
won't be emotional just now, and help me not to be. I can't
afford it, because I've got to do things, and I'm going to do
them just as quickly as I can, and get it over. If I wait any
longer I'll go insane. I CAN'T wait! You've been a
wonderful sister to me; I've always counted on you, and you've
never once gone back on me. Right now, I need you to help me
more than I ever have in my life. Will you----"
"But I must know----"
"No, you needn't! I'll tell you just this much: I've got
myself in a devil of a mess----"
Laura threw her arms round her: "Oh, my dear, dear little
sister!" she cried.
But Cora drew away. "Now that's just what you mustn't do. I
can't stand it! You've got to be QUIET. I can't----"
"Yes, yes," Laura said hurriedly. "I will. I'll do whatever
you say."
"It's perfectly simple: all I want you to do is to take
charge of my travelling-bag, and, when a messenger-boy
comes, give it to him without letting anybody know anything about
"But I've got to know where you're going--I can't let you go
and not----"
"Yes, you can! Besides, you've promised to. I'm not going
to do anything foolish ----"
"Then why not tell me?" Laura began. She went on, imploring
Cora to confide in her, entreating her to see their mother--to do
a dozen things altogether outside of Cora's plans.
"You're wasting your breath, Laura," said the younger sister,
interrupting, "and wasting my time. You're in the dark: you
think I'm going to run away with Val Corliss and you're wrong. I
sent him out of the house for good, a while ago----"
"Thank heaven for that!" cried Laura.
"I'm going to take care of myself," Cora went on rapidly.
"I'm going to get out of the mess I'm in, and you've got to let
me do it my own way. I'll send you a note from downtown.
You see that the messenger----"
She was at the door, but Laura caught her by the sleeve,
protesting and beseeching.
Cora turned desperately. "See here. I'll come back in two
hours and tell you all about it. If I promise that, will
you promise to send me the bag by the----"
"But if you're coming back you won't need----"
Cora spoke very quietly. "I'll go to pieces in a moment.
Really, I do think I'd better jump out of the window and have it
"I'll send the bag," Laura quavered, "if you'll promise to
come back in two hours."
"I promise!"
Cora gave her a quick embrace, a quick kiss, and, dry-eyed,
ran out of the room, down the stairs, and out of the house.
She walked briskly down Corliss Street. It was a clear day,
bright noon, with an exhilarating tang in the air, and a sky so
glorious that people outdoors were continually conscious of the
blue overhead, and looked up at it often. An autumnal
cheerfulness was abroad, and pedestrians showed it in their
quickened steps, in their enlivened eyes, and frequent smiles,
and in the colour of their faces. But none showed more colour or
a gayer look than Cora. She encountered many whom she knew, for
it was indeed a day to be stirring, and she nodded and smiled her
way all down the long street, thinking of what these greeted
people would say to-morrow. "_I_ saw her yesterday,
walking down Corliss Street, about noon, in a gray suit and
looking fairly radiant!" Some of those she met were enemies she
had chastened; she prophesied their remarks with accuracy. Some
were old suitors, men who had desired her; one or two had place
upon her long list of boy-sweethearts: she gave the same gay,
friendly nod to each of them, and foretold his morrow's thoughts
of her, in turn. Her greeting of Mary Kane was graver, as was
aesthetically appropriate, Mr. Wattling's engagement having been
broken by that lady, immediately after his drive to the Country
Club for tea. Cora received from the beautiful jilt a salutation
even graver than her own, which did not confound her.
Halfway down the street was a drug-store. She went in, and
obtained appreciative permission to use the telephone. She came
out well satisfied, and went swiftly on her way. Ten minutes
later, she opened the door of Wade Trumble's office.
He was alone; her telephone had caught him in the act of
departing for lunch. But he had been glad to wait--glad to the
verge of agitation.
"By George, Cora!" he exclaimed, as she came quickly in and
closed the door, "but you CAN look stunning! Believe
me, that's some get-up. But let me tell you right here and now,
before you begin, it's no use your tackling me again on the oil
proposition. If there was any chance of my going into it which
there wasn't, not one on earth--why, the very fact of your asking
me would have stopped me. I'm no Dick Lindley, I beg to inform
you: I don't spend my money helping a girl that I want, myself,
to make a hit with another man. You treated me like a dog about
that, right in the street, and you needn't try it again, because
I won't stand for it. You can't play ME, Cora!"
"Wade," she said, coming closer, and looking at him
mysteriously, "didn't you tell me to come to you when I got
through playing?"
"What?" He grew very red, took a step back from her, staring
at her distrustfully, incredulously.
"I've got through playing", she said in a low voice. "And
I've come to you."
He was staggered. "You've come----" he said, huskily.
"Here I am, Wade."
He had flushed, but now the colour left his small face, and
he grew very white. "I don't believe you mean it."
"Listen," she said. "I was rotten to you about that oil
nonsense. It WAS nonsense, nothing on earth but nonsense. I
tell you frankly I was a fool. I didn't care the snap of my
finger for Corliss, but--oh, what's the use of pretending? You
were always such a great `business man,' always so absorbed in
business, and put it before everything else in the world. You
cared for me, but you cared for business more than for me. Well,
no woman likes THAT, Wade. I've come to tell you the whole
thing: I can't stand it any longer. I suffered horribly be-
cause--because----" She faltered. "Wade, that was no way to
WIN a girl."
"Cora!" His incredulity was strong.
"I thought I hated you for it, Wade. Yes, I did think that;
I'm telling you everything, you see just blurting it out as it
comes, Wade. Well, Corliss asked me to help him, and it struck
me I'd show that I could understand a business deal, myself.
Wade, this is pretty hard to say, I was such a little fool, but
you ought to know it. You've got a right to know it, Wade: I
thought if I put through a thing like that, it would make a
tremendous hit with you, and that then I could say: `So this is
the kind of thing you put ahead of ME, is it? Simple little
things like this, that _I_ can do, myself, by turning over
my little finger!' So I got Richard to go in--that was easy; and
then it struck me that the crowning triumph of the whole thing
would be to get you to come in yourself. That WOULD be
showing you, I thought! But you wouldn't: you put me in my
place--and I was angry--I never was so angry in my life, and I
showed it." Tears came into her voice. "Oh, Wade," she said,
softly, "it was the very wildness of my anger that showed what I
really felt."
"About--about ME?" His incredulity struggled with his
hope. He stepped close to her.
"What an awful fool I've been, she sighed.
"Why, I thought I could show you I was your EQUAL! And
look what it's got me into, Wade!"
"What has it got you into, Cora?"
"One thing worth while: I can see what I really am when I
try to meet you on your own ground." She bent her head, humbly,
then lifted it, and spoke rapidly. "All the rest is dreadful,
Wade. I had a distrust of Corliss from the first; I didn't like
him, but I took him up because I thought he offered the chance to
show YOU what I could do. Well, it's got me into a most
horrible mess. He's a swindler, a rank----"
"By George!" Wade shouted. "Cora, you're talking out now
like a real woman."
"Listen. I got horribly tired of him after a week or so, but
I'd promised to help him and I didn't break with him; but
yesterday I just couldn't stand him any longer and I told him so,
and sent him away. Then, this morning, an old man came to the
house, a man named Pryor, who knew him and knew his record, and
he told me all about him." She narrated the interview.
"But you had sent Corliss away first?" Wade asked, sharply.
"Yesterday, I tell you." She set her hand on the little
man's shoulder. "Wade, there's bound to be a scandal over all
this. Even if Corliss gets away without being arrested and
tried, the whole thing's bound to come OUT. I'll be the
laughing-stock of the town--and I deserve to be: it's all through
having been ridiculous idiot enough to try and impress you with
my business brilliancy. Well, I can't stand it!"
"Cora, do you----" He faltered.
She leaned toward him, her hand still on his shoulder, her
exquisite voice lowered, and thrilling in its sweetness. "Wade,
I'm through playing. I've come to you at last because you've
utterly conquered me. If you'll take me away to-day, I'll
MARRY you to-day!"
He gave a shout that rang again from the walls.
"Do you want me?" she whispered; then smiled upon his rapture
Rapture it was. With the word "marry," his incredulity sped
forever. But for a time he was incoherent: he leaped and hopped,
spoke broken bits of words, danced fragmentarily, ate her with
his eyes, partially embraced her, and finally kissed her timidly.
"Such a wedding we'll have!" he shouted, after that.
"No!" she said sharply. "We'll be married by a Justice of
the Peace and not a soul there but us, and it will be now, or it
never will be! If you don't----"
He swore she should have her way.
"Then we'll be out of this town on the three o'clock train
this afternoon," she said. She went on with her plans, while he,
growing more accustomed to his privilege, caressed her as he
would. "You shall have your way," she said, "in everything
except the wedding-journey. That's got to be a long one--I won't
come back here till people have forgotten all about this Corliss
mix-up. I've never been abroad, and I want you to take me.
We can stay a long, long time. I've brought nothing--we'll get
whatever we want in New York before we sail."
He agreed to everything. He had never really hoped to win
her; paradise had opened, dazing him with glory: he was
astounded, mad with joy, and abjectly his lady's servant.
"Hadn't you better run along and get the license?" she
laughed. "We'll have to be married on the way to the train."
"Cora!" he gasped. "You angel!"
"I'll wait here for you," she smiled. "There won't be too
much time."
He obtained a moderate control of his voice and feet.
"Enfield--that's my cashier--he'll be back from his lunch at
one-thirty. Tell him about us, if I'm not here by then. Tell
him he's got to manage somehow. Good-bye till I come back Mrs.
At the door he turned. "Oh, have you--you----" He paused
uncertainly. "Have you sent Richard Lindley any word about----"
"Wade!" She gave his inquiry an indulgent amusement. "If
I'm not worrying about him, do you think you need to?"
"I meant about----"
"You funny thing," she said. "I never had any idea of really
marrying him; it wasn't anything but one of those silly
half-engagements, and----"
"I didn't mean that, "he said, apologetically. "I meant
about letting him know what this Pryor told you about Corliss, so
that Richard might do something toward getting his money back.
We ought to{}
"Oh, yes," she said quickly. "Yes, that's all right."
"You saw Richard?"
"No. I sent him a note. He knows all about it by this time,
if he has been home this morning. You'd better start, Wade.
Send a messenger to our house for my bag. Tell him to bring it
here and then take a note for me. You'd really better
"CORA!" he shouted, took her in his arms, and was gone.
His departing gait down the corridor to the elevator seemed, from
the sounds, to be a gallop.
Left alone, Cora wrote, sealed, and directed a note to Laura.
In it she recounted what Pryor had told her of Corliss; begged
Laura and her parents not to think her heartless in not preparing
them for this abrupt marriage. She was in such a state of
nervousness, she wrote, that explanations would have caused a
breakdown. The marriage was a sensible one; she had long
contemplated it as a possibility; and, after thinking it over
thoroughly, she had decided it was the only thing to do. She
sent her undying love.
She was sitting with this note in her hand when shuffling
footsteps sounded in the corridor; either Wade's cashier or the
messenger, she supposed. The door-knob turned, a husky voice
asking, "Want a drink?" as the door opened.
Cora was not surprised--she knew Vilas's office was across
the hall from that in which she waited--but she was frightened.
Ray stood blinking at her.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, at last.


It is probable that he got the truth out of her, perhaps all of
it. That will remain a matter of doubt; Cora's evidence, if she
gave it, not being wholly trustworthy in cases touching herself.
But she felt no need of mentioning to any one that she had seen
her former lover that day. He had gone before the return of
Enfield, Mr. Trumble's assistant, who was a little later than
usual, it happened; and the extreme nervousness and preoccupation
exhibited by Cora in telling Enfield of his employer's new plans
were attributed by the cashier to the natural agitation of a lady
about to wed in a somewhat unusual (though sensible) manner.
It is the more probable that she told Ray the whole truth,
because he already knew something of Corliss's record abroad. On
the dusty desk in Ray's own office lay a letter, received that
morning from the American Consul at Naples, which was luminous
upon that subject, and upon the probabilities of financial returns
for the investment of a thousand dollars
in the alleged oil-fields of Basilicata.
In addition, Cora had always found it very difficult to
deceive Vilas: he had an almost perfect understanding of a part
of her nature; she could never far mislead him about herself.
With her, he was intuitive and jumped to strange, inconsistent,
true conclusions, as women do. He had the art of reading her
face, her gestures; he had learned to listen to the tone of her
voice more than to what she said. In his cups, too, he had
fitful but almost demoniac inspirations for hidden truth.
And, remembering that Cora always "got even," it remains
finally to wonder if she might not have told him everything at
the instance of some shadowy impulse in that direction. There
may have been a luxury in whatever confession she made; perhaps
it was not entirely forced from her, and heaven knows how she may
have coloured it. There was an elusive, quiet satisfaction
somewhere in her subsequent expression; it lurked deep under the
surface of the excitement with which she talked to Enfield of her
imminent marital abduction of his small boss.
Her agitation, a relic of the unknown interview just past,
simmered down soon, leaving her in a becoming glow of
colour, with slender threads of moisture brilliantly outlining
her eyelids. Mr. Enfield, a young, well-favoured and recent
importation from another town, was deliciously impressed by the
charm of the waiting lady. They had not met; and Enfield
wondered how Trumble had compassed such an enormous success as
this; and he wished that he had seen her before matters had gone
so far. He thought he might have had a chance. She seemed
pleasantly interested in him, even as it was--and her eyes were
wonderful, with their swift, warm, direct little plunges into
those of a chance comrade of the moment. She went to the window,
in her restlessness, looking down upon the swarming street below,
and the young man, standing beside her, felt her shoulder most
pleasantly though very lightly--in contact with his own, as they
leaned forward, the better to see some curiosity of advertising
that passed. She turned her face to his just then, and told him
that he must come to see her: the wedding journey would be long,
she said, but it would not be forever.
Trumble bounded in, shouting that everything was attended to,
except instructions to Enfield, whom he pounded wildly upon the
back. He began signing papers; a stenographer was called
from another room of his offices; and there was half an hour of
rapid-fire. Cora's bag came, and she gave the bearer the note
for Laura; another bag was brought for Wade; and both bags were
carried down to the automobile the bridegroom had left waiting in
the street. Last, came a splendid cluster of orchids for the
bride to wear, and then Wade, with his arm about her, swept her
into the corridor, and the stirred Enfield was left to his own
beating heart, and the fresh, radiant vision of this startling
new acquaintance: the sweet mystery of the look she had thrown
back at him over his employer's shoulder at the very last. "Do
not forget ME!" it had seemed to say. "We shall come
back--some day."
The closed car bore the pair to the little grim marriage-shop
quickly enough, though they were nearly run down by a furious
police patrol automobile, at a corner near the Richfield Hotel.
Their escape was by a very narrow margin of safety, and Cora
closed her eyes. Then she was cross, because she had been
frightened, and commanded Wade cavalierly to bid the driver be
more careful.
Wade obeyed sympathetically. "Of course, though, it wasn't
altogether his fault," he said, settling back, his arm round
his lady's waist. "It's an outrage for the police to break their
own rules that way. I guess they don't need to be in a hurry any
more than WE do!"
The Justice made short work of it.
As they stood so briefly before him, there swept across her
vision the memory of what she had always prophesied as her
wedding:--a crowded church, "The Light That Breathed O'er Eden"
from an unseen singer; then the warm air trembling to the Lohen-
grin march; all heads turning; the procession down the aisle;
herself appearing--climax of everything--a delicious and
brilliant figure: graceful, rosy, shy, an imperial prize for the
groom, who in these foreshadowings had always been very
indistinct. The picture had always failed in outline there: the
bridegroom's nearest approach to definition had never been
clearer than a composite photograph. The truth is, Cora never in
her life wished to be married.
But she was.


Valentine Corliss had nothing to do but to wait for the money his
friend Antonio would send him by cable. His own cable,
anticipating his letter, had been sent yesterday, when he came
back to the hotel, after lunching in the country with Cora.
As he walked down Corliss Street, after his tumultuous
interview with her, he was surprised to find himself physically
tremulous: he had not supposed that an encounter, however
violent, with an angry woman could so upset his nerves. It was
no fear of Pryor which shook him. He knew that Pryor did not
mean to cause his arrest--certainly not immediately. Of course,
Pryor knew that Cora would tell him. The old fellow's move was a
final notification. It meant: "Get out of town within
twenty-four hours." And Corliss intended to obey. He would have
left that evening, indeed, without the warning; his trunk was
He would miss Cora. He had kept a cool head
throughout their affair until the last; but this morning she
had fascinated him: and he found himself passionately admiring
the fury of her. She had confused him as he had never been
confused. He thought he had tamed her; thought he owned her; and
the discovery of this mistake was what made him regret that she
would not come away with him. Such a flight, until to-day, had
been one of his apprehensions: but now the thought that it was
not to be, brought something like pain. At least, he felt a
vacancy; had a sense of something lacking. She would have been a
bright comrade for the voyage; and he thought of gestures of
hers, turns of the head, tricks of the lovely voice; and sighed.
Of course it was best for him that he could return to his old
trails alone and free; he saw that. Cora would have been a
complication and an embarrassment without predictable end, but
she would have been a rare flame for a while. He wondered what
she meant to do; of course she had a plan. Should he try again,
give her another chance? No; there was one point upon which she
had not mystified him: he knew she really hated him.
. . . The wind was against the smoke that day; and his
spirits rose, as he walked in the brisk air with the rich
sky above him. After all, this venture upon his native purlieus
had been fax from fruitless: he could not have expected to do
much better. He had made his coup; he knew no other who
could have done it. It was a handsome bit of work, in fact, and
possible only to a talented native thoroughly sophisticated in
certain foreign subtleties. He knew himself for a rare
He had a glimmer of Richard Lindley beginning at the
beginning again to build a modest fortune: it was the sort of
thing the Richard Lindleys were made for. Corliss was not
troubled. Richard had disliked him as a boy; did not like him
now; but Corliss had not taken his money out of malice for that.
The adventurer was not revengeful; he was merely impervious.
At the hotel, he learned that Moliterno's cable had not yet
arrived; but he went to an agency of one of the steamship lines
and reserved his passage, and to a railway ticket office and
secured a compartment for himself on an evening train. Then he
returned to his room in the hotel.
The mirror over the mantelpiece, in the front room of his
suite, showed him a fine figure of a man: hale, deep-chested,
handsome, straight and cheerful.
He nodded to it.
"Well, old top," he said, reviewing and summing up his whole
campaign, "not so bad. Not so bad, all in all; not so bad, old
top. Well played indeed!"
At a sound of footsteps approaching his door, he turned in
casual expectancy, thinking it might be a boy to notify him that
Moliterno's cable had arrived. But there was no knock, and the
door was flung wide open.
It was Vilas, and he had his gun with him this time. He had
There was a shallow clothes-closet in the wall near the
fireplace, and Corliss ran in there; but Vilas began to shoot
through the door.
Mutilated, already a dead man, and knowing it, Corliss came
out, and tried to run into the bedroom. It was no use.
Ray saved his last shot for himself. It did the work.


There is a song of parting, an intentionally pathetic song, which
contains the line, "All the tomorrows shall be as to-day, " mean-
ing equally gloomy. Young singers, loving this line, take care
to pronounce the words with unusual distinctness: the listener
may feel that the performer has the capacity for great and
consistent suffering. It is not, of course, that youth loves
unhappiness, but the appearance of it, its supposed picturesque-
ness. Youth runs from what is pathetic, but hangs fondly upon
pathos. It is the idea of sorrow, not sorrow, which charms: and
so the young singer dwells upon those lingering tomorrows, happy
in the conception of a permanent wretchedness incurred in the
interest of sentiment. For youth believes in permanence.
It is when we are young that we say, "I shall never," and "I
shall always," not knowing that we are only time's atoms in a
crucible of incredible change. An old man scarce dares say, "I
have never," for he knows that if he searches he will
find, probably, that he has. "All, all is change."
It was an evening during the winter holidays when Mrs.
Lindley, coming to sit by the fire in her son's smoking-room,
where Richard sat glooming, narrated her legend of the Devil of
Lisieux. It must have been her legend: the people of Lisieux
know nothing of it; but this Richard the Guileless took it for
tradition, as she alleged it, and had no suspicion that she had
spent the afternoon inventing it.
She did not begin the recital immediately upon taking her
chair, across the hearth from her son; she led up to it. She was
an ample, fresh-coloured, lively woman; and like her son only in
being a kind soul: he got neither his mortal seriousness nor his
dreaminess from her. She was more than content with Cora's
abandonment of him, though, as chivalrousness was not demanded of
her, she would have preferred that he should have been the jilt.
She thought Richard well off in his release, even at the price of
all his savings. But there was something to hope, even in that
matter, Pryor wrote from Paris encouragingly: he believed that
Moliterno might be frightened or forced into at least a partial
restitution; though Richard would not count upon it, and had
"begun at the beginning" again, as a small-salaried clerk in a
bank, trudging patiently to work in the morning and home in the
evening, a long-faced, tired young man, more absent than ever,
lifeless, and with no interest in anything outside his own
broodings. His mother, pleased with his misfortune in love, was
of course troubled that it should cause him to suffer. She knew
she could not heal him; but she also knew that everything is
healed in time, and that sometimes it is possible for people to
help time a little.
Her first remark to her son, this evening, was that to the
best of her memory she had never used the word "hellion." And,
upon his saying gently, no, he thought it probable that she never
had, but seeking no farther and dropping his eyes to the burning
wood, apparently under the impression that the subject was
closed, she informed him brusquely that it was her intention to
say it now.
"What is it you want to say, mother?"
"If I can bring myself to use the word `hellion'," she
returned, "I'm going to say that of all the heaven-born,
whole-souled and consistent ones I ever knew Hedrick Madison is
the King."
"In what new way?" he inquired.
"Egerton Villard. Egerton used to be the neatest,
best-mannered, best-dressed boy in town; but he looks and behaves
like a Digger Indian since he's taken to following Hedrick
around. Mrs. Villard says it's the greatest sorrow of her life,
but she's quite powerless: the boy is Hedrick's slave. The other
day she sent a servant after him, and just bringing him home
nearly ruined her limousine. He was solidly covered with
molasses, over his clothes and all, from head to foot, and then
he'd rolled in hay and chicken feathers to be a GNU for
Hedrick to kodak in the African Wilds of the Madisons' stable.
Egerton didn't know what a gnu was, but Hedrick told him that was
the way to be one, he said. Then, when they'd got him scraped
and boiled, and most of his hair pulled out, a policemen came to
arrest him for stealing the jug of molasses at a corner grocery."
Richard nodded, and smiled faintly for comment. They sat in
silence for a while.
"I saw Mrs. Madison yesterday," said his mother. "She seemed
very cheerful; her husband is able to talk almost perfectly
again, though he doesn't get downstairs. Laura reads to him a
great deal."
He nodded again, his gaze not moving from the fire.
"Laura was with her mother," said Mrs. Lindley. "She looked
very fetching in a black cloth suit and a fur hat--old ones her
sister left, I suspect, but very becoming, for all that. Laura's
`going out' more than usual this winter. She's really the belle
of the holiday dances, I hear. Of course she would be", she
added, thoughtfully--"now."
"Why should she be `now' more than before?"
"Oh, Laura's quite blossomed," Mrs. Lindley answered. "I
think she's had some great anxieties relieved. Of course both
she and her mother must have worried about Cora as much as they
waited on her. It must be a great burden lifted to have her
comfortably settled, or, at least, disposed of. I thought they
both looked better. But I have a special theory about Laura: I
suppose you'll laugh at me----"
"Oh, no."
"I wish you would sometimes," she said wistfully, "so only
you laughed. My idea is that Laura was in love with that poor
little Trumble, too."
"What?" He looked up at that.
"Yes; girls fall in love with anybody. I fancy she
cared very deeply for him; but I think she's a strong, sane
woman, now. She's about the steadiest, coolest person I
know--and I know her better, lately, than I used to. I think she
made up her mind that she'd not sit down and mope over her
unhappiness, and that she'd get over what caused it; and she took
the very best remedy: she began going about, going everywhere,
and she went gayly, too! And I'm sure she's cured; I'm sure she
doesn't care the snap of her fingers for Wade Trumble or any man
alive. She's having a pretty good time, I imagine: she has
everything in the world except money, and she's never cared at
all about THAT. She's young, and she dresses well--these
days--and she's one of the handsomest girls in town; she plays
like a poet, and she dances well----"
"Yes," said Richard;--reflectively, "she does dance well."
"And from what I hear from Mrs. Villard," continued his
mother, "I guess she has enough young men in love with her to
keep any girl busy."
He was interested enough to show some surprise. "In love
with Laura?"
"Four, I hear." The best of women are sometimes the readiest
with impromptu statistics.
"Well, well!" he said, mildly.
"You see, Laura has taken to smiling on the world, and the
world smiles back at her. It's not a bad world about that,
"No," he sighed. "I suppose not."
"But there's more than that in this case, my dear son."
"Is there?"

The intelligent and gentle matron laughed as though at some
unexpected turn of memory and said:
"Speaking of Hedrick, did you ever hear the story of the
Devil of Lisieux, Richard?"
"I think not; at least, I don't remember it."
"Lisieux is a little town in Normandy," she said. "I was
there a few days with your father, one summer, long ago. It's a
country full of old stories, folklore, and traditions; and the
people still believe in the Old Scratch pretty literally. This
legend was of the time when he came to Lisieux. The people knew
he was coming because a wise woman had said that he was on the
way, and predicted that he would arrive at the time of the great
fair. Everybody was in great distress, because they knew that
whoever looked at him would become bewitched, but, of
course, they had to go to the fair. The wise woman was able to
give them a little comfort; she said some one was coming with the
devil, and that the people must not notice the devil, but keep
their eyes fastened on this other--then they would be free of the
fiend's influence. But, when the devil arrived at the fair,
nobody even looked to see who his companion was, for the devil
was so picturesque, so vivid, all in flaming scarlet and orange,
and he capered and danced and sang so that nobody could help
looking at him--and, after looking once, they couldn't look away
until they were thoroughly under his spell. So they were all
bewitched, and began to scream and howl and roll on the ground,
and turn on each other and brawl, and `commit all manner of
excesses.' Then the wise woman was able to exorcise the devil,
and he sank into the ground; but his companion stayed, and the
people came to their senses, and looked, and they saw that it was
an angel. The angel had been there all the time that the fiend
was, of course. So they have a saying now, that there may be
angels with us, but we don't notice them when the devil's about."
She did not look at her son as she finished, and she had
hurried through the latter part of her
"legend" with increasing timidity. The parallel was more severe,
now that she put it to him, than she intended; it sounded savage;
and she feared she had overshot her mark. Laura, of course, was
the other, the companion; she had been actually a companion for
the vivid sister, everywhere with her at the fair, and never
considered: now she emerged from her overshadowed obscurity, and
people were able to see her as an individual--heretofore she had
been merely the retinue of a flaming Cora. But the "legend" was
not very gallant to Cora!
Mrs. Lindley knew that it hurt her son; she felt it without
looking at him, and before he gave a sign. As it was, he did not
speak, but, after a few moments, rose and went quietly out of the
room: then she heard the front door open and close. She sat by
his fire a long, long time and was sorry--and wondered.
When Richard came home from his cold night-prowl in the snowy
streets, he found a sheet of note paper upon his pillow:

"Dearest Richard, I didn't mean that anybody you ever cared
for was a d--l. I only meant that often the world finds out that
there are lovely people it hasn't noticed."

. . . He reproached himself, then, for the reproach his
leaving her had been; he had a susceptible and annoying
conscience, this unfortunate Richard. He found it hard to get to
sleep, that night; and was kept awake long after he had planned
how he would make up to his mother for having received her
"legend" so freezingly. What kept him awake, after that, was a
dim, rhythmic sound coming from the house next door, where a
holiday dance was in progress--music far away and slender:
fiddle, 'cello, horn, bassoon, drums, all rollicking away almost
the night-long, seeping through the walls to his restless pillow.
Finally, when belated drowsiness came, the throbbing tunes
mingled with his half-dreams, and he heard the light shuffling of
multitudinous feet over the dancing-floor, and became certain
that Laura's were among them. He saw her, gliding, swinging,
laughing, and happy and the picture did not please him: it seemed
to him that she would have been much better employed sitting in
black to write of a hopeless love. Coquetting with four suitors
was not only inconsistent; it was unbecoming. It "suited Cora's
style," but in Laura it was outrageous. When he woke, in the
morning, he was dreaming of her: dressed as Parthenia,
beautiful, and throwing roses to an acclaiming crowd through
which she was borne on a shield upon the shoulders of four
Antinouses. Richard thought it scandalous.
His indignation with her had not worn off when he descended
to breakfast, but he made up to his mother for having troubled
her. Then, to cap his gallantry, he observed that several inches
of snow must have fallen during the night; it would be well
packed upon the streets by noon; he would get a sleigh, after
lunch, and take her driving. It was a holiday.
She thanked him, but half-declined. "I'm afraid it's too
cold for me, but there are lots of nice girls in town, Richard,
who won't mind weather."
"But I asked YOU!" It was finally left an open question
for the afternoon to settle; and, upon her urging, he went out
for a walk. She stood at the window to watch him, and, when she
saw that he turned northward, she sank into a chair, instead of
going to give Joe Varden his after-breakfast instructions, and
fell into a deep reverie.
Outdoors, it was a biting cold morning, wind-swept and gray;
and with air so frosty-pure no one might breathe it and stay
bilious: neither in body nor bilious in spirit. It was a
wind to sweep the yellow from jaundiced cheeks and make them
rosy; a wind to clear dulled eyes; it was a wind to lift foolish
hearts, to lift them so high they might touch heaven and go
winging down the sky, the wildest of wild-geese.
. . . When the bell rang, Laura was kneeling before the
library fire, which she had just kindled, and she had not risen
when Sarah brought Richard to the doorway. She was shabby
enough, poor Cinderella! looking up, so frightened, when her
prince appeared.
She had not been to the dance.
She had not four suitors. She had none.
He came toward her. She rose and stepped back a little.
Ashes had blown upon her, and, oh, the old, old thought of the
woman born to be a mother! she was afraid his clothes might get
dusty if he came too close.
But to Richard she looked very beautiful; and a strange thing
happened: trembling, he saw that the firelight upon her face was
brighter than any firelight he had ever seen.

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