“Did you accept me, Christine? And if so, why? Why commit yourself to a marriage without affection, at the psychological moment when a man for whom you have always cared is about to be free?
“If you still need me in the game, I am ready enough to be of use, but I will not be bound to a relation unless you, too, consider it irrevocably binding.
He told the messenger to wait for an answer, but he thought that Christine would hardly be willing to commit herself on such short notice, or without an interview with Linburne.
But, within a surprisingly short interval, her letter was in his impatient hands.
“I will not be so cruel as to leave you one moment longer in the false hope that your little break for freedom may be successful. Face the fact, bravely, my dear. I am going to marry you. We are both irrevocably bound—at least as irrevocably as the marriage tie can bind nowadays. If this afternoon my manner seemed less portentous than you expected, that must have been because I have always counted on just this termination to our little adventure. You must do me the justice to confess that I have always told you so. As for Lee, in spite of Nancy (I suppose it was Nancy to whom you rushed for information from my very doorstep) I have never cared sixpence for him.
“Yours till death us do part,
Max read the letter which was brought to him while he was at dinner. He put it into his pocket, finished an excellent salad, went to the theater, came back to the hotel and went to bed and to sleep rather congratulating himself on the fact that he had become callous to the whole situation, and that, so far as he was concerned, the crisis was past.
But of course it wasn’t. With the rattle of the first milkcart, which in a modern city has taken the place of the half-awakened bird, he woke up, and if he had been in jail he could not have felt a more choking sense of imprisonment. There was no escape for him, no hope.
He got up and looked out at the city far below, all outlined like a great electric sign that said nothing. There must be some way of being free, besides jumping from the twelfth story window. He lit a cigarette, and stood thinking. Men disappeared every day; it could be done. What were the chances, he wondered, of being identified if he shipped as steward, or engineer for that matter, on a South American freighter?
It was full daylight before he found himself in possession of a possible scheme. He remembered the legend of a certain Saint, told him by his nurse in his early days. She had been beautiful, too beautiful for her religious ideals; the number of her suitors was distracting; so to one of them who had extravagantly admired her eyes she sent them on a salver.
Riatt did not intend sending Christine his worldly goods, but recognizing that they were the source of the whole trouble, he decided to get rid of the major part. The problem was simply to lose his money before the date set for the wedding. And that was not so difficult, after all. There were a number of people in the metropolis he thought who would give him every assistance.