Part 5 out of 5
"He told me"--she burst out furiously--"he said you were a
"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
He caught her by the shoulder. "See here, Cora, do you believe all
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
"What did you tell him?" The question rang sharply on the instant.
"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 reputation----"
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 and----"
"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
"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 you?"
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 Corliss.
"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 perfectly----"
"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 divorced----"
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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 hurriedly.
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.
"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!"
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
"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 it."
"But I've got to know where you're going--I can't let you go and
"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
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 over."
"I'll send the bag," Laura quavered, "if you'll promise to come
back in two hours."
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
"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 because--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
"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_
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
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
"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
"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 start--dear!"
"_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
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
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
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 Lohengrin 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 packed.
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 combination.
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 two.
There was a shallow clothes-closet in the wall near the fireplace,
and Corliss ran in there; but Vilas began to shoot through the
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," meaning
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 picturesqueness. 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
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
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
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,
"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----"
"I wish you would sometimes," she said wistfully, "so only you
laughed. My idea is that Laura was in love with that poor little
"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
He was interested enough to show some surprise. "In love with
"Four, I hear." The best of women are sometimes the readiest with
"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, Richard."
"No," he sighed. "I suppose not."
"But there's more than that in this case, my dear son."
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
"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
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
"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
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
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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