“A little. When a man is relaxed and the reaction is on him—” He stopped.
“Tell me—tell me all,” she breathed. “Every bit of it, Harry.”
His lips twitched. To hear his almost forgotten name spoken again by her! A moment he seemed to waver. Temptation of violet eyes; wonder of the rapt face! Oh, that he might catch her in his arms, claim her anew; this time for all time! But again he mastered himself and went on succinctly, as quickly as possible. Between the lines, however, the girl might read the record of struggles which was very real to her. He had reverted “to the beginning” with poor tools and most scanty experience. And there was that other fight that made it a double fight, the fiercer conflict with self. Hunger, privation, want, which she might divine, though he did not speak of them, became as lesser details. She listened enrapt.
“I guess that’s about all,” he said at last.
She continued to look at him, his features, clear-cut in the white light. “And you didn’t ever really go back—to undo it all?”
“Once I did go back to ’Frisco”—he told her of the relapse with cold candor—“out at heels, and ready to give up. I wanted the millions. They were gone.”
“You mean, lost?”
“Yes; he had speculated; was dead. Poor fellow!”
“You say that? And you have never tried to get any of the money back?”
“Fortunately, he died bankrupt,” said Mr. Heatherbloom calmly.
“And you failed to show the world he was a—thief?” Something in the word seared her.
“What was the use? He left a wife and children. Besides, he really served me by what the world would call robbing me. I had to continue at the beginning. It was the foot of the ladder, all right,” he added.
Her face showed no answering gaiety. “You are going to amount to a great deal some day,” she said. “I think very few of us in this world find ourselves,” she added slowly.
“Perhaps some don’t have to hunt so hard as others,” observed Mr. Heatherbloom.
“Don’t they?” Her lips wore an odd little smile.
He threw back his shoulders. “Good night, now. You are very tired, I know.”
She put out her hand. He took it—how soft and small and cold! The seconds were throbbing hours; he couldn’t release it, at once. The little fingers grew warmer—warmer in his palm—their very pulsations seemed throbbing with his. Suddenly he dropped her hand.
“Good night,” he said quickly.
He remembered he was nothing to her—that they would soon part for ever.
“Good night,” she answered softly.