“Iv course the Nora girl was right,” he insisted to Harney, both of whom were walking on the heels of Frona and St. Vincent. “I’d be seein’—”
“Rubber yer gran’mother!” Matt wrathfully exclaimed.
“Ez I was sayin’,” Harney continued, imperturbably, “rubber boots is goin’ to go sky-high ’bout the time of wash-up. Three ounces the pair, an’ you kin put your chips on that for a high card. You kin gather ’em in now for an ounce a pair and clear two on the deal. A cinch, Matt, a dead open an’ shut.”
“The devil take you an’ yer cinches! It’s Nora darlin’ I have in me mind the while.”
They bade good-by to Frona and St. Vincent and went off disputing under the stars in the direction of the Opera House.
Gregory St. Vincent heaved an audible sigh. “At last.”
“At last what?” Frona asked, incuriously.
“At last the first opportunity for me to tell you how well you did. You carried off the final scene wonderfully; so well that it seemed you were really passing out of my life forever.”
“What a misfortune!”
“It was terrible.”
“But, yes. I took the whole condition upon myself. You were not Nora, you were Frona; nor I Torvald, but Gregory. When you made your exit, capped and jacketed and travelling-bag in hand, it seemed I could not possibly stay and finish my lines. And when the door slammed and you were gone, the only thing that saved me was the curtain. It brought me to myself, or else I would have rushed after you in the face of the audience.”
“It is strange how a simulated part may react upon one,” Frona speculated.
“Or rather?” St. Vincent suggested.
Frona made no answer, and they walked on without speech. She was still under the spell of the evening, and the exaltation which had come to her as Nora had not yet departed. Besides, she read between the lines of St. Vincent’s conversation, and was oppressed by the timidity which comes over woman when she faces man on the verge of the greater intimacy.
It was a clear, cold night, not over-cold,—not more than forty below,—and the land was bathed in a soft, diffused flood of light which found its source not in the stars, nor yet in the moon, which was somewhere over on the other side of the world. From the south-east to the northwest a pale-greenish glow fringed the rim of the heavens, and it was from this the dim radiance was exhaled.
Suddenly, like the ray of a search-light, a band of white light ploughed overhead. Night turned to ghostly day on the instant, then blacker night descended. But to the southeast a noiseless commotion was apparent. The glowing greenish gauze was in a ferment, bubbling, uprearing, downfalling, and tentatively thrusting huge bodiless hands into the upper ether. Once more a cyclopean rocket twisted its fiery way across the sky, from horizon to zenith, and on, and on, in tremendous flight, to horizon again. But the span could not hold, and in its wake the black night brooded. And yet again, broader, stronger, deeper, lavishly spilling streamers to right and left, it flaunted the midmost zenith with its gorgeous flare, and passed on and down to the further edge of the world. Heaven was bridged at last, and the bridge endured!