THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE
Ridgeway had been directed to the home of Mr. Henry Coleman. He was never able to describe his emotions as he drove through the streets toward that most important place in all the world at that hour. The cab drew up in front of the rather pretentious home and he stepped forth, dazed and uncertain, his knees stiff, his eyes set. Had some one shouted “Run!” he would have fled with his resolution.
Every window in the home seemed to present Grace Vernon’s glad face to his misty eyes; she was in there somewhere, he knew, waiting as she had been waiting for a whole year.
Slowly he mounted the steps and stood before the screen door. After what seemed an hour of deliberation, during which he sought to resurrect the courage that had died, he timidly tapped on the casement with his knuckles. The sound could not have been heard ten feet, yet to him it was loud enough to wake people blocks away. There was no response and his heart, in its cowardice, took a hopeful bound. No one at home! He turned to leave the place, fearing that some one might appear to admit him before he could retreat. At the top of the steps he paused, reasoning that if no one was at home he could at least rap again. His conscience would be easier for the extra effort. He rapped once more, quite boldly. A man appeared in the doorway so suddenly that he caught his breath and put out his hand to steady himself.
The screen flew open and Henry Veath grasped him by the arms, fairly dragging him into the hallway.
“Hugh! Hugh! Is it really you?” For a moment he stood like one suddenly gone mad.
“Henry, I can’t believe it!” gasped Ridgeway. Both of them stood looking at one another for more than a full minute. “What a wonderful escape!” fell hazily from the newcomer’s stiff lips.
“How did you escape?” cried the other in the same breath. Pale as ghosts they wrung each other’s hands spasmodically, dazed and bewildered.
“Where is Grace?” demanded Hugh.
“She is out just at present,” said the other slowly and with an effort. “Come in and sit down. She will be here presently.” He staggered as he drew back.
“Has—has my sister given up all hope of ever seeing me again?” said Ridgeway. Their hands were still clasped.
“Miss Vernon feared that you were lost, Hugh,” said Veath. A cold perspiration was showing itself on his brow. “She has told me all. How ill and white you look. Sit down here and I’ll get you some wine.”
“Never mind, old man. I’m well enough. When will she return? Great heaven, man, I can’t wait!” He sank limply into a chair. His companion’s heart was freezing.
“Be calm, old friend. She shall be sent for at once.”
“Break it to her gently, Veath, break it to her gently,” murmured Hugh.