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The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Part 5 out of 5

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I believe that Richey and Hotchkiss led me somewhere to dinner, and
that, for fear I would be lonely without him, they sent for Johnson.
And I recall a spirited discussion in which Hotchkiss told the
detective that he could manage certain cases, but that he lacked
induction. Richey and I were mainly silent. My thoughts would slip
ahead to that hour, later in the evening, when I should see Alison

I dressed in savage haste finally, and was so particular about my
tie that Mrs. Klopton gave up in despair.

"I wish, until your arm is better, that you would buy the kind that
hooks on," she protested, almost tearfully. "I'm sure they look
very nice, Mr. Lawrence. My late husband always - "

"That's a lover's knot you've tied this time," I snarled, and,
jerking open the bow knot she had so painfully executed, looked out
the window for Johnson - until I recalled that he no longer belonged
in my perspective. I ended by driving frantically to the club
and getting George to do it.

I was late, of course. The drawing-room and library at the Dallas
home were empty. I could hear billiard balls rolling somewhere,
and I turned the other way. I found Alison at last on the balcony,
sitting much as she had that night on the beach, - her chin in her
hands, her eyes fixed unseeingly on the trees and lights of the
square across. She was even whistling a little, softly. But this
time the plaintiveness was gone. It was a tender little tune. She
did not move, as I stood beside her, looking down. And now, when
the moment had come, all the thousand and one things I had been
waiting to say forsook me, precipitately beat a retreat, and left
me unsupported. The arc-moon sent little fugitive lights over her
hair, her eyes, her gown.

"Don't - do that," I said unsteadily. "You - you know what I want
to do when you whistle!"

She glanced up at me, and she did not stop. She did not stop!
She went on whistling softly, a bit tremulously. And straightway
I forgot the street, the chance of passers-by, the voices in the
house behind us. "The world doesn't hold any one but you," I
said reverently. "It is our world, sweetheart. I love you."

And I kissed her.

A boy was whistling on the pavement below. I let her go reluctantly
and sat back where I could see her.

"I haven't done this the way I intended to at all," I confessed.
"In books they get things all settled, and then kiss the lady."

"Settled?" she inquired.

"Oh, about getting married and that sort of thing," I explained
with elaborate carelessness. "We - we could go down to Bermuda - or
- or Jamaica, say in December."

She drew her hand away and faced me squarely.

"I believe you are afraid!" she declared. "I refuse to marry you
unless you propose properly. Everybody does it. And it is a
woman's privilege: she wants to have that to look back to."

"Very well," I consented with an exaggerated sigh. "If you will
promise not to think I look like an idiot, I shall do it, knee and

I had to pass her to close the door behind us, but when I kissed
her again she protested that we were not really engaged.

I turned to look down at her. "It is a terrible thing," I said
exultantly, "to love a girl the way I love you, and to have only
one arm!" Then I closed the door.

>From across the street there came a sharp crescendo whistle, and a
vaguely familiar figure separated itself from the perk railing.

"Say," he called, in a hoarse whisper, "shall I throw the key down
the elevator shaft?"

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