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They, too, laughed and dreamed, made mud-pies in the sands of fate, and bathed their souls in the sparkling waters of a unique friendship. They, too, gossiped and held up their hands in holy or unholy deprecation; did everything, in fact that the second-rate society of the Point did or wouldn't do even to shaking hands with their worst enemies, which were themselves; everything except make love or engagements.
So let it again be said the days drifted -the golden, mellow days; and on one of these days towards the latter part of the month a boat drifted with it and the child-sprite, and the man were in itdrifting, too!
Kitty had something on her mind, and was wondering how to say it, and wondering, also, why she found it so difficult. As for Kyle, he was silently considering the matter of how much further he was from the solution of the subtle, wind-blown charm of her personality; today (if his senses were any proper guide-which they were not) more subtle, wind-blown and charming than ever. It was on this author's excuse of solving things he had of course begun. And now, whenever selfconsciousness became a thing too much for him he always went back to that first excuse, and having taken it off the shelf and dusted it carefully, held it convincingly up to his view-never forgetting, however, to put it back on the shelf again --and drifti
This, of course, because no man can drift and carry his reason with him, and because no reason is half so convincing as Kittishness itself.
So, when Kitty drew herself in from gazing into the opalescent depth of the water, and, flinging the hair out of her eyes, turned her face toward him, he at once quit assuring himself that it was only for a month (when he would be again back in his attic in New York) so didn't matter, and looked at her as if it were only for a moment and that moment an eternity condensed.
As he was in the habit of sometimes looking that way at other things, however, the look neither said too much to himself nor too much to Kitty. Indeed, it was one of the things she most liked him for-because in the unexplored depths of her
youth she didn't quite understand it; though it thrilled her vaguely at timesalmost to the point of premonition. It always brought that naked, inquiring, dreamy gaze to her own eyes-there now as she sat regarding him.
"Do you know," she affirmed, with her usual unexpectedness, "I am beginning to like you."
The man who had already written volumes on divers things and was ambitious about plays blushed to his very ears. For an instant his form grew tense, then relaxed itself, while he dabbled an oar in the water and returned her smile. Thank you. ago to like you." "I am so glad." It was a genuine outbarst apparently.
I began quite a while
He sat up to it with the flash of something again in his eyes, wondering if it were too genuine-but this time to startle her to a vague foreboding.
"I thought Bobby, you know, was the only one who did that-liked me, I mean,' she added quickly, almost in an underbreath, the blood for an instant warming into her face.
"Bobby?" He was still sitting there, staring at her, now a little open-mouthed, a sort of trouble struggling on his brow. Then he drew back easily again, dabbling the oar in the water.
"Bobby is a girl, of course," he explained audibly to himself.
"Bobby is nothing of the kind," she interposed, a little nervous and not a little anxious, as she leaned toward him, a crimson spot in either cheek. "Bobby is a young man, rich and nice-looking, and we've been in love with one another ever since the day he found me in the big orchard with my big brother-because his father's four-in-hand had broken down on the road."
Then something timid and soft leapt into her voice as she went on. "I should have told you before, I guess-but I just didn't because men are so funny-and I don't suppose I would have said anything about it now only-well, Bobby's
Kyle turned and looked at her.
"Yes, he's here, or will be to-morrow, I mean. I don't know what Aunty will say when she finds out that-that we are
"Of course," she added, after a while, "it will be really too bad that we won't be able to see so much of each other now that Bobby's come-for I suppose he'll take up most of my time, but
"Not at all," put in Kyle, turning upon her almost cheerfully. "Shall I take you home now ?”
He had already taken up the oars, and she made a slight assent with her head. For all his smile, the harsh, dry note of his voice stirred her strangely-somehow rankled with even stronger note of premonition to depths still in many ways unconscious; depths that flashed out on her at times in a way to surprise even herself, and whose delicate suggestion she always carried; but which nevertheless she had so far only skimmed with the laughing grace of her youth-a youth that asked first as all youths must for the rainbow glamour of things-the color of substances and not the substances themselves.
It was this thing so monstrous, so pitiable in its conclusion that leapt into Kyle's eyes when they had separated a few minutes later: eyes which till then had so carried their joy-tone that it was the girl who had wondered and been silent.
As she fled down the path away from him the gossamer path of her young dream it seemed-he saw it fade and break to the depth and realization of years, and in the swift-running currents of the tragedy she held out her hands in an agony of helplessness. To him? That didn't matter, he told himself; it was because she held them out. Then he turned away with a wry smile. It was because, after all, that he, himself, was the thing
In the first place, Bobby, with his new gold-chained monocle and his still newer title of Mr. Robert Birks-lately of age and heir to the estates of his father, deceased-could do nothing but stare if he tried ever so hard; and loosed the pane of glass in his eye in the same reckless manner at everything from a common cur on the street to a high-toned lady in a high-toned drawing room. In the second place, Kyle himself had been waiting to stare waiting, in fact, with a desire so morbid, so intense, that it had been his only reason for staying on at the Point these last two weeks. He wanted to meet the man she called Bobby, to look into his eyes and strike the real estimate of him. If it were a good estimate and he meant to be fair about it-he was prepared to go away making the best attempt at resignation possible. And if the estimate were not good, he was still prepared to go away, though in a different manner with something of a grudge perhaps against the fate that cast pearls before swine.
He might have met him before, it was true. He had seen him at a distance, and could have met him a dozen times, perhaps, if he had cared to meet the girl along with him. But such a meeting possessed a peculiar aversion for him. At the thought of it the golden August days he had spent with her seemed to crowd around in a body and suffocate him with their very perfume. So he shrank from the contact, bitterly passionate, yet clung as intently to his idea of meeting the man face to face and alone.
And now the moment had come-or rather had Bobby of his own accord-at ten o'clock at night, and to Kyle's own room-Bobby, with the big flashing diamond in his meagre shirt-front, the big, flashing solitaire on his little left hand, the dapper gold-headed cane in his right, the slight wiggle in his neat, boyish body
when he walked, and the smile that showed all his fine white teeth-and was intended to and never came off.
Kyle stood staring at him-behind the mask; the outward flush of youth that in its way was rather taking and wholly genial, stood staring and reflecting.
Continued silence, however, was one of the traits of Bobby's character; moreover, he had a mission.
"So you are Kyle," he said. "Kitty's been telling me about you."
For the instant, Kyle was engaged in the mental struggle to command the blood that threatened to rush to his face. He was frowning unmistakably.
"Kitty!" he emphasized.
"Well, Miss Rogers, of course. She's been wondering why you've been keeping so much to yourself lately. And I've been telling her that you literary chaps always have something or other on your mind to cause you to prefer loneliness."
"Yes, that's it, of course," endorsed Kyle, somewhat relieved. Then for the first time he thought of himself and offered his visitor a chair.
Bobby seated himself in a manner becoming a man of his size of solitaire, and spread his hands on his knees.
"I'm not one of these rum, jealous chaps, you know," he explained, philanthropically. "The girl I go with is as free as the wind. And Kitty is certainly a character to interest one in the literary business."
Kyle was silent. He was afraid to speak lest the other would look up and see what was passing in his face-the wrath which, if he had given it vent, would have liked nothing better than to take this unwittingly impudent, cocksure individual by the neck and thrust him out the open window.
Bobby had no motive to look up, however. He was sitting there, his hands still on his knees, reflecting on the enormity of his own generosity typified in a certain. red globular spot in the carpet. Then suddenly he flashed a hand to his pocket, flashed out a jeweled watch, flashed it in again with a snap-and did look up.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed briskly, rising to his feet, "I pretty nearly forgot myself. It's time I should be off, and I haven't yet told you what I came for. The
fact is, old man." (he had come over and laid a hand familiarly on Kyle's shoulder) "Kitty and I are going to have a Gretna Green tonight. Going to make a runaway match down to Enderton and back. Only twenty odd miles, you know-four or five hours will do it, I guess-but still, novel, romantic, exciting, and a regular Gretna Green-waking the preacher out of bed, and all that. The old woman, you know, favors my suit, but doesn't want us to get married till Kitty's twenty-three years yet. And I am simply taking the matter in my own hands and have persuaded Kitty to do the trick right off. So we are away to Enderton tonight behind the fastest pair of greys that ever tread mud in this flat-footed, high-shouldered country. If Kitty would have heard to the auto, we'd do it in half the time; but she thinks they're spooky at night. She's in spirits, though. And Lord, why shouldn't she be! Why, we'll send the Point fairly reeling with gossip, and the old woman, once she hears it's done, will come around like a hen on eggs. She's doing a shirtwaist social or something with the set tonight, and we are taking advantage of it."
He paused for an instant looking into the other's dumbfounded face, then hurried on.
"Now, what we want you to do, old man, is to jump into your duds and come along with us. There's a girl friend of Kitty's waiting down the road a piece, and you'll make a fourth. You see, we want to do the thing up with all the customary form, even if we are making a stampede of it. And Kitty has great faith in you. She's been talking of you all along. I know it's a little rotten of course dropping in on you so the last minute, and I wouldn't have bothered you myself at all if the other chap I expected had turned up. But he didn't, and we just had to take our chances on you going by. Kitty sent me up whether or no-said you wouldn't go back on us if you were here kind of hankered for you, indeed. So it's up to you to be up to expectations, old man. She's down there in the rig waiting for us now."
The exclamation-so sudden, so stormladen-cut the other's volubility like a
sword-edge, so that he stood slightly gaping and aware for the first time that there was something unusual in his companion's face.
For half an instant Kyle stood glaring at him, then turned with quick steps and swept apart the curtains of the side window. Sure enough, the outfit was standing there, opposite the ladies' entrance, a boy on the box, and the horses' heads set straight on the road to Enderton. The magnificent moonlight and the electric globe overhead made it all plain. Yes, and she was there, too, her back toward him, dressed in shimmering white, with some dark, fluffy covering about her shoulders. And long afterwards did he recall the pretty nestling look of her as she sat there; a picture that even imprinted itself on his anger at that moment at boiling heat.
He turned to his visitor with a halffrantic gesture of his hand.
"Yes, she is there waiting," he hurled,. "and why is she waiting. Why in the devil's name have you kept her waiting, sir ?"
That was the preposterous thing to him -that this moon-faced toy of a fellow should have dared to sit down, rub his hands, and explain himself at such length -while she waited!
Then he stood hot-shod, silent, gradually growing calm, and becoming slowly aware that his own conduct might be appearing a little preposterous, too.
Bobby, in the meantime, thought he saw light. He drew up his cane, twirling it between his hands, and smiled appeasingly.
"Oh, don't mind about it," he soothed. "It's not your fault, you know; I'll take all the blame. I'll go down and tell her now while you dress.'
Again something hot hot flashed into Kyle's face, but went out as quickly. He controlled himself with visible effort, and took a step nearer the other, put a finger on his arm, and then with a sudden shrinking let it fall.
"I'm not going to dress," he said flatly, in a hushed, dry way; "I am not going." Then as the blood mounted for an instant to his face beneath the other's glance "I-I have to catch that twelve train to New York tonight."
His visitor gasped slightly, putting his cane to his mouth. "Oh, well, I guess we'll have to do with witnesses, then," he said, a little sourly.
"And now"-Kyle had gone swiftly to the door and opened it-"you will not keep Miss Rogers waiting any longer. Tell her I wish her every happiness, and that-that-I am sorry!"
The other passed slowly out, looking back at him, and he closed the door upon him with a click.
He stood there, however, for seconds afterward, listening intently, his head crushed between his hands, his senses wonderfully acute. He heard the dull thud of the fellow's footsteps down the stairs, fancied he even distinguished their individual ring on the pavement below, heard him, at least, speak in his glib, gushing voice to some one down therethen a low-spoken word or two at the side floating in through the flowing curtains, the rattle of stirring harness-and in a half frenzy he flung himself to the window and stood peering out.
She had just turned to look back at something, as it were, her white, oval face peculiarly clear in the soft, moon-flecked night; and standing there, framed in the light of the window, she caught a sight of him. So for a long moment they remained regarding each other, her eyes so near in the floating indistinctness that they seemed to be peering into his soul-his face expressing everything, hers a growing wonder; till at length at a word from her companion she drew about again and settled the wrap on her shoulders, her back toward him and her face toward Enderton-while the team spanked gayly out into the night.
He watched it, his hands clenched fiercely together; then with a mad instinct made a race for the telephone. He picked up the book and rummaged the leaves; he traced the names blindly with his finger till he came to that of Mrs. Campbell; then he snatched up the receiver and stood waiting.
Good Heavens, how long they were! His mind teemed rapidly with images of Mrs. Campbell at her shirt-waist social, as the other man had called it; the expression of her face when she would receive his message; the immediate means she would set
in motion to stop this ridiculous, yet tragic, affair. For stop it she would, and moreover, the fellow would never stand another chance with her having once over-ruled her authority.
He laughed harshly, then became suddenly conscious that some one had called "Number!"
What devil's joke was this? He had forgotten it. He stood fumbling in his mind, his hand again stretched toward the telephone book; then paused, staring. It was at that white, oval, perfect face he had seen turned toward him with its look of growing wonder the moment before. But now there was a smile of impossible
contempt wreathing the lips. Then suddenly right beside it the number he had lost stood pictured in his mind. He read it over audibly-almost unconsciously. Then as the girl at the other end repeated it "three three-two"-turned to the phone with a sort of choking sound.
"No, no," he stammered; "Two-one." It was the number of a night expressman which he remembered..
A gruff voice almost immediately sounded in his ear. He answered in low
"Three trunks from the Queen's Hotel for the twelve train tonight, New York City," he said. "Fergus Kyle, Room 47.”
BY ROSA BERNAUD
She is yellow and blonde and bare,
And she gloats as she holds me there
Like a bawd of the skies she leers,
At me as I writhe in vain,
Till I tear at the flimsy lace,
And the flash of a gleaming limb,
Her cheek to the leaning sky:
And the star men around her whirl
But I know that her foils are set
I can see by the grin she wears
Ye shall drink and forget-forget!"
She meshes about my soul!
It was night by the op'ning stars,
As he lay with his face upturned,
Where the eyes of her blazed and burned;
Now she passeth exulting slow
It is dawn by the closing stars—
With a soul in her strong white bars,
And a mindless hulk below.