The problem of getting it back again at some future time was more complicated, but even that he thought he could accomplish. He had made one fortune and he supposed he could some day make another.
The practical question was: What sum would make him impossible to Christine as a husband? Twenty thousand a year would be out of the question. But to be perfectly safe he decided to leave himself only fifteen thousand. He would begin operation as soon as the exchange opened in the morning. In the meantime what about that mine of Welsley’s? There was an easy means of sinking almost any sum.
He took up the telephone and sent a telegram at once.
“Plans for my wedding prevent trip to mine. Have, however, decided after minute investigation here to invest $500,000 in it. Believe we shall make our fortunes.”
He stood an instant with the instrument still in his hand. “Suppose the damned thing succeeds,” he thought, “I shall be worse off than ever.”
Then his faith returned to him. “Nothing of Welsley’s ever did succeed,” he thought; and with this conclusion he went back to bed and slept like a child.
With his definite decision and unalterable plan of action, wonderful peace of mind had come to Riatt. He said to himself that he was now to have a few weeks—whatever time it should take him to lose his fortune decently—of being engaged to a woman whom, he now acknowledged, he passionately loved. He intended to make the best of it.
The next day as he walked up Fifth Avenue on his way to lunch with her, another inspiration came to him; it was not necessary to lose his money; spending it would be quite as effective. Acting on this idea, he went into a celebrated jeweler’s shop, and with astonishing celerity chose, paid for and pocketed a string of brilliant pearls.
It was a present that might have made any man welcome—and Christine had never been accused of not being able to express herself when she wanted to—but Christine had already welcomed him for his changed demeanor; his brilliant smile and unruffled brow told her as soon as she saw him that he was a very different person from the tortured and irritable creature who had left her the preceding afternoon.
Never were two people more disposed to find each other and themselves agreeable, and Riatt was in process of clasping the pearls about Christine’s neck (for she had had some unaccountable difficulty in doing it for herself) when the drawing-room door opened and Nancy Almar strolled in.
Her jaw did not actually drop at the scene that met her eyes, for that did not happen to be her method of expressing surprise, but her manner conveyed none the less an astonishment not very agreeable.
“Was I mistaken,” she said, “in thinking I was to stop and take you to the Bentons’?”
“Quite right, my dear. Only Max’s return has put everything else out of my head.”