“Into my affair! You dirty pup, do you dare to intimate—are you lunatic enough to take stock in any such story about me?”
The epithets sent the color into Linton’s face. But he restrained himself.
“Your own grandfather had to take you in hand about the matter before you left Fort Canibas, Thornton. I heard him say that much myself. He gave no details. I don’t care for any. I merely came to you to bring a hint as to what you ought to do. You don’t seem to take the hint. If you haven’t got manliness enough yourself to keep away from Miss Presson until this story—well, put it mildly, and say until this story is run down—then I propose to insist that you do so.”
“Look here, Linton, I’ve usually got pretty good control of myself. I’m trying to hold myself in now—trying as hard as I can. What you have told me is a lie—a damnable lie. See? I say it calmly.” He was quivering. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t the patience to explain to you. It’s none of your business. You keep away from me. Now don’t put any more strain on my self-control—in God’s name, don’t do it, Linton!”
“I am making no secret of my hopes in regard to Miss Presson,” stated Linton, firmly. “I have been waiting until I could offer her what she has been accustomed to. You have the advantage of me in money, Thornton. But you’re welcome to that! My hopes give me the right to guard her from scandal. I insist that you relieve her of your presence to-morrow evening!”
Harlan, shaken, gray with passion, his teeth set over his lower lip, rushed to the door and threw it open.
“D—n you, you get on the outside!” he panted. “I’m in the mood to kill you!”
Linton went. By his visit and his warning he had thrown a sop to his conscience. He had approached Harlan Thornton with something like desperation. Under his calmness he had long-hidden, consuming passion for Madeleine Presson—a love that had grown through the years, and now waited a fitting time of expression and the endorsement of assured position. If he had any doubts of the truth of the shameful story he had brought he concealed those doubts—he would not admit them to himself. He proposed to win the girl. He chose any weapons that would rout the interloper.
“I warn you that I shall protect her,” he said, from the corridor.
“Take a warning from me, too: you get into my affairs, and you’ll find hell fires cooler!”
“Your affairs do seem to have that flavor,” declared Linton, walking away.
Thornton hurried to the headquarters that the corporations maintained in the hotel for Spinney. Spinney was not there. He ran back to his room and telephoned to the clerk of the hotel. He was informed that Mr. Spinney had gone away for a few days.
It was late, but he threw on his coat and hastened up street to the Presson home. The windows were dark. He did not have the assurance to arouse the family at that time of night.