AT sixteen an angry and frightened girl running away from a home where the necessity for work must cheat her youth of its just rights–at sixteen such a girl cannot analyze her emotions, and Mary's were in sheer panic. She had never before been farther from her own town than the ten miles' distant county-seat, had never before been at more than verbal odds with her parents. Philadelphia had stood for the City of Lanterns, and a quick retort for revolution. Now she was bound for New York and marriage.
There was none of the few persons on the trolleycar that knew her, yet she kept her face to the window and away from them. There was no chance of capture, yet she trembled whenever the brakes creaked and a new passenger came on board. it might, perhaps, be truly said that she did not feel at all, and the power of poignant realization was still paralyzed by her own action. it was if she had amputated a portion of her spiritual being, and was still numb from the shock
Whatever Max's feelings, he at any rate conducted himself in the manner least calculated to rouse his companion. he spoke only to give the few necessary direction, and then in a low tone, not facing her, but looking straight ahead. he had slipped her the money to pay her own fare and, the better to deceive whoever might follow them, had told her to buy a round-trip ticket to a point beyond that for which they were bound. With his lemon-colored shoes planted upon his suitcase, he sat beside her, but he kept as wide a space between them as the short seat would permit; and it was only under the discreet covering of the light overcoat upon his knee that he kept a tight and reassuring grasp of her firm hand.
At a mile from the county-town they left the car –Mary first and Max twenty yards behind–and then, for the competent young man seemed to have prepared for everything, walked across the fields,, under the stars, to a flag-station where, within a few minutes, they could catch a New York express. Arm in arm they walked, but Max never once frightened her by a burst of affection, never once did more than to encourage her by plain statements of his loyalty and more ornate descriptions of the life before her.
"You vill like it," he concluded. "I know you vill be happy, Mary."
Mary's breath caught a little in her throat.
"Ye–yes," she answered. "Only, I can't help thinking some about mom."
"Sure you can't," Max immediately agreed. "You mustn't led her vorry longer than you can help it. I tell you what ve'll do. Ofer here in the station, you wride her a letter und I'll haf it mailed."
"Oh, but then pop would see it, an' he might follow us!"
"Don' gif no names or say where ve're goin', und how can he? By the time he gets it, ve'll be safe married, anyways. Here ve are at the station. I've got some paper un' pencil und an envellup: I'll tell you chust what to wride." He did tell her, and this note, given to the trainporter, was mailed farther along the line:
" Dear Mother: Don't please worry about me. I will soon be back for a visit, only I have gone to Buffalo to get married. He is a nice young man and his father is rich, for I could not stand to have Pop beat me, nor do other people's work any more.
"Your aff. daughter,
" MARY DENBIGH."
The train, which Max had duly signaled, had stopped just as the writing was ended, and the pair of runaways had hurried into the last seat of the rear car.
During the journey that followed, Mary's nerves, accustomed to early hours, gave way not to tears, but to the exhaustion consequent upon the strain of her crowded day. Her hat in her lap, her russet hair made a pillow for her against the sharp windowsill, and, with Max's coat piled at the pane to protect her from the keen arrows of the inrushing night air, she lay back, the pink cheeks and the red mouth paler than an hour since, and the blue eyes closed. She did not seem to sleep, and yet it was in a dream that the ride ended, in a dream that she found herself one of a hurrying crowd stamping down the platform and into the huge elevator at the Jersey City station, in a dream that she clung faithfully to Max's arm as the sudden lights and damp odors struck her and as she dropped upon a straw-covered bench of a swaying car, which shot them immediately through a tunneled darkness into the very depths of the earth.
She knew from her geography that New York was separated from New Jersey by water.
" When do we cross the ferry, Max? " she asked. Max smiled, his thin lips showing his white teeth in sharp contrast to his olive skin.
"We're crossing it now," he answered.
"But where's the water?"
Max, mopping his dark forehead with a purple-bordered handkerchief, pointed to the roof of the car.
"Up there," he said. " Ve're in the tube, you know."
She did not know, but she was too much ashamed of her rural ignorance further to discover it by unconsidered questions, and so full of a pulsing wonder at what was to come next, so full of the expectation of the child at her first melodrama that she had place for no backward thought. She sat silent until they had come out of the tunnel, climbed a windy stair, and emerged upon a thoroughfare as much ablaze as if all the stars of heaven had descended to light it, and as brimming with moving life as her father's mill at ten o'clock in the morning.
Max regarded the girl's open-eyed wonder.
" Now," he said, "ve'll chust chump in a taxi un' go get a good supper, un' then, while the vaiter's filing our order, I'll first do a little delephoning."
He put up his dark hand; a passing automobile, its tin flag raised, hummed up to the curb, and Mary, clinging timidly to the arm of her betrothed, began her first ride in a taxicab.
The street–it was Fourteenth Street, he told her–flared and seethed and spluttered before them. As if leaning over the head of a runaway horse, they shot in and out among clanging cable-cars, dashed by snorting vehicles of their own sort, and nearly grazed jostling cabs driven by cursing Jehus. Even at that late hour, some of the shops were still open, and the wide pavements on either side were black with countermarching processions of people, moving with the steady rapidity and stolidity of a swarm of ants. When the street ran by a tree-sprinkled square, its houses seemed to burst into still greater brightness to atone for the darkness of the park. Every second building was a restaurant, a theater for moving-pictures, or a saloon. Their electric-signs now winked from nothingness to light, now flashed forth a word, one letter at a time, and now were surrounded with wriggling snakes of fire.
It came upon her–this vision of the absolutely new, of the city's immensity and teeming life–at a moment when her heart was ready for reaction, when memory was prepared to reassert itself, and when, anger gone and regret poised like a runner at the starting-line, her quick determination might have failed her. But it came with stupefying force. The dream of pleasure gave place for the moment to a certainty of dread. Vaguely, unreasoningly, but with the unquestioning acceptance of a child, she felt New York as a terrible, solidified unity; as a vast, malevolent consciousness; as a living prison that implacably and resistlessly raised itself on every hand and on every hand shut her in forever.
She trembled and clung the tighter to her companion's arm, and her companion was alert to note her agitation.
" Vhat's the matter?" he inquired, in a voice that he well meant to be tender.
" I–I don't know," she began, her red underlip indrawn. " I–aren't we goin' pretty fast?"
" Who? Us? Vhy, I was chust thinking I'd tell him to hit up the pace a little. Are you scared? "
Her pride would not permit confession.
"Oh, no," she lied; " I'm not scared."
" But you are shivering."
"I guess I'm kind of chilly."
" All righd. Chust vait a minute un' ve'll soon be it the restaurant un' varm up. You'll like that restaurant: it's von of the swellest in town."
"But it's pretty late," she ventured. "Your friend–are you sure he–-"
"Who? The minister? " Max patted her hand with reassuring affection. "Don't you vorry about him. He's all for me, und I'll get him out of bed chust as soon as ve've ordered our supper."
A few blocks more, and Max, aided by a marvelously tall person in a wonderful uniform, was helping her, with what she considered an elaborate courtesy, to dismount from the taxi, pass under a glass awning and, through a changing stream of hurrying waiters and arriving and departing guests terribly arrayed, to climb a softly carpeted stair and enter a brilliant balcony open to the street and full of chattering men and women eating and drinking at a score of tables. Even in her fright, it was with a touch of admiration that she observed how Max–her Max seemed to be known to the immediately attentive waiters, and how, smiling, they hurried to make way for him.
They secured a corner table, a relatively quiet corner table, and there, with a servant standing by, pencil in hand, and with a huge double-paged menu-card before each of them, made ready for their meal.
" Chust you order whatever you like," said Max. " Pretty near efferything in the world's on there, but if you vant anything that you can't see, chust you ask for it."
Mary looked at the card. In spite of all that had passed, and all that now filled her heart, she was young, and youth is so fortunate as to be able to eat in the trough of any emotional sea. She was a child, and, by the sure logic of childhood, who so thought to feed her could be nothing but a friend.
The card, however, was of small assistance. Its very size was appalling, and its offerings were made in an unfamiliar tongue.
" You get what you like," she at last submitted. " I'm so hungry I can eat anything."
He saw her difficulty so well that he could rescue her from it without seeming to see it at all.
" Vell, I'm vith you there," he said cheerfully, and proceeded to obey her, rattling off a list of dishes of no one of which she had ever heard before. " Un' have the Martinis dry," he cautioned in conclusion, "vith a dash of absinthe in them–un' bring them righd avay: I'm spittin' gotten."
The waiter left, and, as he did so, Max again addressed the girl.
" Excuse me for von minute," he said.
But Mary's blue eyes opened wide in instant alarm, and she put a detaining hand upon his wrist.
" Don't I " she quavered. " Don't go away! I–I don't want to be left alone."
Max laughed outright.
"Haf you forgot our minister?" he demanded. Ve don't vant to go to his house vithout first giffin' him a chanc't to get some clothes on. Efen up vay, the ministers vear a suit under their nighdgowns when they marry people."
She smiled faintly at his labored wit, and, as her heart fluttered at this definite approach to the end her journey, permitted him to go.
Had he been absent for only the minute that he had promised, the time would have seemed long to the waiting girl, but he remained invisible for much longer, and to Mary, watching the laughing, uncaring strangers from another life, the terror of the city in her soul and the sense of all that she had done lurking in the shadows of her brain, the quarter of an hour appeared to be four times that period. Once she feared that he had met with some accident; once she was saved from starting in search of him only by the knowledge that, in so doing, she must infallibly lose herself. She would have made inquiries of a waiter, but the waiters were too imposing. She would have cried, but she was afraid to cry. She would have ended, perhaps, by some utter betrayal of all that was battling within her; but, when she was sure, for the thousandth time, she could endure no more, she saw Max coming toward her from the long-watched door.
As soon as she noticed his strangely stern face, the old fear gave place to a fresh one. " What's happened? " she asked.
He pulled back his chair spitefully and flung himself into it.
" These crazy laws of your America," he snarled, " there ain't no sense in them!"
" What's the matter! " she repeated.
" Vhy, it's this way. Of course, it don' make no difference; it only puts things off till mornin'; but it's this way: I got my minister friend on the 'phone, un' he's all ready to marry us, only he says the law says we must haf a license from City Hall first, un' if we don't get won, he can go to chail because of marryin' us without it."
" Well," said Mary, "let's get a license."
Max spread forward the palms of his dark hands.
"How can we?" he demanded. "The City Hall closes in the afternoon un' don't open till mornin'."
Here, apparently, was tragedy. Specific reasons for its tragic elements the girl would, perhaps, have found it hard to give, but that it was tragic she knew instinctively. Her blue eyes opened wide in fright.
"What are we to do?" she pleaded.
But Max, the resourceful, had been, it appeared, only temporarily checkmated.
"I thought of that," he said. "Ve can't get married now till to-morrow; but my modder has a good friend un' I delephone her. She told me she'd be glad to have you her guest ofer to-nighd. I'll take you there in a taxi, un' go home for my own sleep. I'd take you vith me, but it wouldn't do to spring a new wife on the family without varnin'. Then I'll have talked with my own people, und I'll bring them around to the weddin', first thing in the mornin'."
Mary, however, quailed.
" I don't want to do that," she inconsequently responded. "I don't want to go to strange people's alone."
"Oh, don't you worry, now," Max soothed her. " I'll go with you for a liddle while un' see that you make yourself at home. This friend of my modder's sis a fine woman, un' she's rich. She is Mrs. Legere. She lives in a fine house: you'll like her."
He persisted in his persuasions, and, in the end, he won her acquiescence. After all, here were the walls of the city about her, and she had no choice.
While they had been talking, the waiter had returned and had placed before each of them one of the stemmed glasses full of the pale yellow concoction that Max had ordered.
" Vell," grinned the host, " here's happy returns if the day un' many of them."
He took his glass in his hairy hand and flung the contents down his throat.
But Mary looked at the drink in growing alarm.
" Isn't it whiskey?" she asked.
"No-o-o! I don't drink whiskey. This is only vermout' un' tchin."
" Gin's just the same as whiskey," the girl protested.
" Not by a long sighd it ain't."
" It's liquor, anyhow."
" Sure, it's liquor; but drink a liddle of it; it will you an appetite."
Mary shook her russet head.
"I don't need no appetite," she said; " I'm half starved as it is."
" You'll need something to grind up these here Hungarian things, though."
No," said Mary; " I'd rather not."
" But efferybody does here in New York."
" Then I guess I'll wait till I'm a regular New Yorker."
" Don't your fader drink?"
" Sometimes he does," said the girl, conclusively; " an' that's why I don't."
He urged her no further; he even denied himself a glass of the wine that he had ordered, and he succeeded, by this abstinence, in regaining whatever he had lost of her faith in him. He ate heartily himself, and if his manner of eating was not precisely that most common in restaurants of a more careful sort, this was something that the girl would have failed to note even had she not been so busily engaged by wonder at the service and consumption of the novel food. It was not until, contentedly sighing, she had sunk back from the wreck of her second ice, that she remembered again the lateness of the hour.
With a display of his large bills and another flurry of attendants, they left the restaurant, walking among the gayly dressed and loudly laughing people at the tables, passing down the heavily carpeted stairs, and entering another pulsing motor-car. Max leaned out of the door and gave an address that Mary did not hear; the chauffeur threw forward the metal clutch, and the automobile shot ahead on its journey.
They went for some time under the still hammering elevated; then turned through a quieter and darker street; threaded rapidly, twisting hither and yon, a dozen other highways and byways and at length drew up at their destination. Max leaped lightly to the pavement and tossed the driver a bill.
"Neffer mind the change," he said, and had scarcely helped Mary to dismount before the car had snorted away into the night, leaving the pair of young lovers in the scarcely broken darkness and in a silence that seemed surrounded by a dim, distant rumble of city-sound.
The girl could see little of her whereabouts. She observed only that she was in a slumbering block of blinded dwelling-houses, a scene different from any that New York had thus far presented to her. One distant, sputtering arc-light succeeded only in accentuating the gloom; underfoot the way resounded to the slightest tread; from the little patch of inky sky into which the roofs blended above, a bare handful of anemic stars twinkled drowsily, and, on both side, from corner to corner, the uniform, narrow houses rose in somber repetition, each with its brief, abrupt flight of steps, each with its blank windows, each seemingly asleep behind its mask.
More than this, indeed, Mary's tired eyes could have had no time to observe, for Max's strong fingers were at once curled under her armpit, and she was hurried up to one of the innumerable mute doorways. He pressed a button hidden somewhere in the wall, and, almost immediately, the door swung open.
The pair looked from darkness upon a rosy twilight. Under the feeble rays of the pink-shadowed stairway, there were just visible the outlines of a full-blown form.
" Hello, Rosie ! " cried Max as, quickly snapping the door behind him, he passed by his charge and seized an invisible hand. " You vaited up for us 'un come to the door yourself! That vas good of you."
In spite of her Gallic cognomen, Mrs. Rose Legere replied in the tone and vernacular of Manhattan Island.
" Sure I waited for you", she answered.
" But don't talk so loud: you'll wake the whole family.–And is this the little lady, eh? "
Half disposed to resist, Mary felt herself gently propelled forward by Max, and then enveloped in an ample, strangely perfumed embrace, while two full warm lips printed a kiss upon her cool young cheek.
"Come into the back parlor," said Rose Legere, lightly seizing the girl's hand. "I want to get a look at the bride."
She led the way past the closed double doors of the front room on the ground floor, and into a rear apartment that, though not brilliantly illuminated, was far better lighted than the hall.
It was a room the like of which Mary had never seen, decorated in colors that outshone the rainbow and filled to overflowing with furniture that, to the undiscriminatlng eyes of the girl, gave it the air of a chamber in the Cave of Monte Cristo. Gilt-framed pictures of beautiful men and women–she supposed they must be Grecian men and women–flamed, in more than life-like hues, from the crimson walls. The tall lamp on the blue-clothed table was shaded in red; the thick rug flowered gorgeously; the deep chairs were upholstered in pale brown, and the lazy sofa on which, as Max closed the inner door upon their entrance, Mrs. Legere seated herself with her guest, was stuffed with soft pillows of bewildering radiance.
Nor, when Mary came to look at her, did the hostess seem out of keeping with her surroundings. To the girl's home Owen Denbigh had once brought a large, lithographed calendar, issued by a brewery, and depicting, at its top, a woman of the elder Teutonic days, very red and white, with long yellow hair, and a body of rounded proportions, which threatened to grind to powder the rock on which she sat, and desperately endangered the filmy garments that enfolded without clothing her. It was of this picture that Mary instantly thought when she got her first full view of Mrs. Legere.
The hostess was clad in a long, fluttering, babyblue kimona, spotted by embroidered white dragons, with sleeves that fell despairingly from her puckered elbows, disclosing thick white arms with rolls of fat at the wrists, and plump hands and lingers the almond shaped nails of which gleamed like the points of daggers. The folds of light silk, held by a large amethyst pin at the base of her sturdy throat, bulged broadly over her capacious breasts and trailed, across frou-frouing lace, far beyond her heels.
All this Mary saw first, and then, looking upward across the figure that, literally, overshadowed her, she saw a large, round, good-enough-natured face, surmounting a white double chin. The corn-colored hair was massed in an intricate maze of puffs and coils and braids, which made the girl wonder how much was its owner's natural growth and how much was due to the artifices that Mary had always longed for and had always been denied. The forehead was low and calm; the violet eyes of a more than natural brightness, with crowsfeet beside them and pouches below, only just discernible in lamplight. The brews and lashes were of a blackness that contrasted with the coiffure; the skin, here like snow and there as red as roses, and the full, easy-going mouth as crimson as a wound. Mary thought that here at last was a beautiful woman.
" I sure am glad to see you," purred Mrs. Legere, as, having divested the guest of hat and coat, she whisked these into the hall and, returning, again seated herself and fondled the visitor's passive, but flattered, hand between her own extensive, well-cared-for palms. " Max raved about you over the telephone–just raved–and, now that I get to a clinch with you, I begin to think that he knew what he was talking about."
Max was seating himself on an orange-colored ottoman opposite them. He grinned broadly, his narrowed lips showing his even, sparkling teeth.
" Sure I knew what I vas talkin' about," he declared.
Mary was not used to compliments, but she was too honest not to show that she liked them. She blushed, and was all the prettier for it; but she did manage to deprecate the sentiments of the better known of her critics.
" Mr. Crossman is crazy," she modestly observed.
"About you he is," said Mrs. Legere; "and," she added, " I don't blame him.–But look here "– she placed a crooked forefinger under the girl's chin and turned the blushing face upward–"look here, what a tired little woman it is!–Max, you're so careless, I'll bet you've never thought to give this poor child a drop of wine to strengthen her after all that traveling! "
"I tried to get her to," said Max, "but she vouldn't take it."
" I don't drink," explained Mary.
"Of course you don't, but," Mrs. Legere elucidated, " taking a glass or two of wine after a railroad ride isn't drinking."
" No-o," Mary granted; " but I don't care for it."
"I hope not–only taken this way it's medicine. I don't blame you for not drinking in a restaurant with a bad boy like Max; but you need it now; you're all played out. This is as good as your home till to-morrow, you know. Just have a little with me; I'm old enough to be your mother, and we won't give Max a drop–just to punish him.–Cassie! "
She had run through the speech with a rapidity that had left the girl no chance for reply, and now, before Mary could move her lips, she had, with amazing agility, leaped to a back door, opened it, called an order into the darkness beyond, and as quickly returned to her former position on the sofa.
" It will be the best thing in the world for you," she said. "The doctor orders it for me, and so I always have it ready on ice."
As she concluded speaking, the door through which she had called was reopened and there entered a tall, raw-boned, glum, colored girl, whose shining ebony skin was darkened by the white apron that she wore. She bore a tray on which was a gilt-topped bottle and two narrow glasses.
"Put it there, Cassie," said Mrs. Legere, pointing to the table.
The girl obeyed and left the room. Max seized the bottle, ripped off the gilding and;, wrapping his purple-bordered handkerchief about the neck, with one dexterous twist, drew out the resounding cork.
A living foam gushed from the neck as the self-appointed butler poured into the two glasses a pale gold fluid, which creamed angrily to their edges, and then subsided until first one addition and then another set them boiling again.
Mrs. Legere took a glass in each hand and pressed the foremost into the passive palm of the girl.
"Well, she said in a phrase new to Mary, "here we are."
Mary hesitated, the glass to her lips. She could hear the liquid whispering to her, and particles seemed to jump from it and sting her eyes.
" What is it?" she asked.
" Vine," said Max.
" But what kind of wine? " she weakly delayed.
" My dear," her entertainer informed her, " there is only one kind of wine in New York."
"It's champagne," hissed Max, as if the name were something too sacred to be spoken in the tone of ordinary conversation. "Un' this kind costs eighd dollars a bottle."
The words and the connotation had their lure. Champagne-she had heard of it as the beverage of the rich; and eight dollars for one bottle–the price of two winter dresses !
" Come on," smiled Mrs. Legere.
The girl still hesitated.
" Here's to the wedding! " prompted the hostess, and drank the entire contents of her glass.
Mary took a mouthful and swallowed it. At first she nearly choked. Then the fiery liquid brought fresh tears to her blue eyes, still smarting from the gas that had, a moment before, assailed them. But finally, there began to spread through her weary body a grateful glow, and, half in apology for what she feared had been a clownish exhibition, she looked up with red lips pleasantly parted.
"Now, wasn't I right? " inquired Mrs. Legere. "Don't you feel better already?"
" I–I believe I do, thank you," Mary admitted. "Anyhow, it is pretty good, I guess–when you get used to it."
She took, bravely and with an ease now gained by experience, a second drink, and, as she held the glass before her, Max gallantly replenished it.
A bell rang and the glum, ebony maid passed through the room, closing both doors behind her.
Mary, alarmed at this nocturnal interruption, started a little, but neither of her companions seemed to regard the incident as unusual.
"You look much better," Mrs. Legere asseverated. "Finish that glass, dearie, and you'll be all to the good again."
" Do you think I'd better take so much? "
Both Max and Mrs. L~g~re laughed unaffectedly.
"Vhy, there ain't enough here to hurt a baby," declared the former.
Mary accepted the assurance. She did not like the taste of the champagne, but she knew now that she had been very tired, and the wine sent fresh life and energy through her sleepy limbs. She emptied the glass and felt, joyfully, all her fears and regrets slipping for her. Doubt and difficulty were resolved into a shimmering mist, were overcome, were forgotten.
The black maid thrust her head in at the hall-doorway.
Mrs. L~g~re rose.
" Excuse me," she said, leaving the room. " I'll be right back."
Max, the instant she was gone, rose in his turn.
" I'm going to fool her," he said. " I'm going to graft her drink!"
He took the glass that his hostess had placed upon the table, poured more of the wine into it, replenished the glass of his now unresisting companion and sat down by her side, his arm stretched behind her.
Mary, with refreshed courage, broke the silence. She was feeling like a naughty child triumphantly successful in her naughtiness.
" DO YOU know, Max," she said, " I gave a jump when that bell rang! I thought for a minute they might be after us."
" Nix on that," chuckled Max. "They couldn't catch us if they tried. Here's to the runavays! " They clinked glasses and drank.
" I guess," the young man pursued, " it was chust von of Rosie's boarders."
"Her boarders? Does she run a boarding house?" There was a note of dignified scorn in Mary's climbing voice.
"Sure she keeps boarders."
"But I–" Mary hesitated. She was tasting wine for the first time in her life, she had been tired and nerve-wracked, and now, though thoughts danced through her mind with unfamiliar rapidity, utterance seemed to her suddenly, and somewhat amusingly, to have become too clumsy to keep pace with them. " I thought," she elaborately persisted, '' that-you-said-she-was rich."
"She is," said Max; " only she's got a big house she can't all use herself. Lots of people fill their houses that vay in N'York."
Mary started to formulate a reply that came glistening along the dim horizon of her mind; but just then there was a light tap at the door.
"Come in! " called Max, and Mrs. Legere reentered.
The precaution of her hostess forced a smile from Mary.
"Why did you knock? " she asked.
But Mrs. Legere shook her corn-colored locks wisely.
"I don't ever disturb lovers," she said.
She sat down opposite the pair she was addressing and, without noticing that Max had appropriated her glass, discovered a fresh one on the mantelpiece, poured herself a mouthful of the wine and then decanted the rest for Mary.
She had just put down the empty bottle when the bell rang a second time.
" Good Lord," she sighed, " there it goes again! These people will be the death of me, losing their keys and coming in at all hours. Never mind, Cassie," she called through the rear door, " I'll go myself! " And then, to Mary, she concluded: "I'll attend to this and then I'll come right back and send Max home and show you to your room."
She left them seated on the sofa, Max's dark hand encircling the soft, young fingers of the girl as gently as if he had been a rustic wooer.
"Shall I go graft another bottle from the kitchen? " he asked, grinning impishly.
Mary shook her russet head.
" Not for me," she said; "I guess I've had enough."
Max again refrained from insistence. Instead, he remained beside her, and fell once more into the story that she had learned best to like,–the beautiful pictures of the wonderful city, of the work-free life that she should lead there, and of their marriage on the fast approaching morning.
Gradually, as his voice ran smoothly on, the words he was then saying became confused in her brain with other words that he had said earlier in the evening. Her eyelids grew heavy. The mood of exhilaration passed, and a weariness far more compelling than that from which she had previously suffered stole upon her. Mrs. Legere was absent for an unconscionable time. The girl yawned.
"I wonder when she's comin' back," said Mary. "I'm–I'm awful tired."
Max's hand slipped to her unresisting head and pressed it down upon his shoulder. He had not yet so much as kissed her, and he did not kiss her now.
" Don't vorry about her," he said softly. " You're tired out. Chust close your eyes for a minute, Mary, un' I'll vake you when she comes."
His shoulder was very comfortable. She closed her blue eyes.
" You will wake me?" she murmured.
"Sure I vill," said Max. " I'll have you clean awake before she's through knockin'."
But he must have forgotten that promise, for when Mrs. Legere at last returned, he was still sitting there among the pillows, Mary's hair fallen over his green coat, her cheeks pinker than ever, and her girlish breast rising and falling rhythmically in sleep.