“When her will is built up—perhaps.”
“May I kiss her?” For the first time in his experience of her, Blake traced a note of feminine softness in Mrs. Markham’s tones.
Blake took the back of the little head firmly in his hand, pressed the face tightly on his shoulder.
“Her cheek—yes. You must not look into her eyes.”
As Mrs. Markham lifted her face from Annette’s cheek, the tears showed under her lids.
“But, oh, Annette,” she whispered, “I ask you to believe that I am real—that once I was all real—but I fell like the rest.”
For the first time Annette spoke coherently.
“Oh, Aunt Paula—it breaks my heart—but I will try to remember only how kind you were.”
And now Rosalie had wrapped her for the street; and now the door closed between Mrs. Markham and her biggest operation.
* * * * *
Rosalie was first to quit the automobile—she had asked Norcross to drive her to a woman’s hotel.
“Good-night, people,” she said cheerily at the curb, “I hope it ain’t good-by to any of you. Doctor, I’d like to be invited to the weddin’, however private—that’s my tip. When I git settled again, I’ll send you my card an’ address. Good-night, Mr. Norcross, I’m real pleased to have met you. I had a cousin who was a conductor on one of your roads an’ he always spoke nicely of the way he was treated. An’, oh, yes! Don’t you worry about me givin’ any of this away. I’m a medium, all right, but I ain’t in that kind of work. I ain’t recommendin’ myself, of course, Mr. Norcross, but if you git over this—they generally do—an’ want some good, straight clairvoyant work done, write Mme. Rosalie Le Grange, care the Spirit Truth Bulletin, an’ I’ll recommend you to them that are strangers to graft. Good-night.”
After they drove on, Blake, brazenly patting and caressing Annette toward calm and a right mind, furtively noticed Norcross as the bands of city light flashed his figure into view. He was huddled in a corner of the cushioned seat; he looked again the pitiful, broken, disappointed old man. But when he parted from the lovers at the curb of an old house in Lexington Avenue, his voice came out of him with certainty and ring.
“If I can do anything more for you in this matter, I am at your service,” Blake had said.
“I will attend to the rest myself, thank you!” answered Norcross.
“It has occurred to me,” continued Blake, “that Mrs. Markham will communicate at once with whatever confederates she had in this business. I hope you don’t mind my mentioning it.”
“Probably,” responded Norcross, “she’s at the telephone now. That’s my part of it. Good-night.”
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