“Take me out somewhere where there is air to breathe.”
They stood together on the stone terrace, blown lightly upon by a mist-ladden breeze.
“It ought to be a great drive of rain, filling the world,” said Io in her voice of dreams. “The roar of waters above us and below, and the glorious sense of being in the grip of a resistless current.... We’re all in the grip of resistless currents. D’you believe that yet, Ban?”
“Skeptic! You want to work out your own fate. You ’strive to see, to choose your path.’ Well, you’ve climbed. Is it success. Ban?”
“It will be.”
“And have you reached the Mountains of Fulfillment?”
He shook his head. “One never does, climbing alone.”
“Has it been alone, Ban?”
“So it has been for me—really. No,” she added swiftly; “don’t ask me questions. Not now. I want to hear more of your new venture.”
He outlined his plan and hopes for The Patriot.
“It’s good,” she said gravely. “It’s power, and so it’s danger. But it’s good.... Are we friends, Ban?”
“How can we be!”
“How can we not be! You’ve tried to drop me out of your life. Oh, I know, because I know you—better than you think. You’ll never drop me out of your life again,” she murmured with confident wistfulness. “Never, Ban.... Let’s go in.”
Not until she came to bid him good-night, with a lingering handclasp, her palm cleaving to his like the reluctant severance of lips, did she tell him that she was going away almost immediately. “But I had to make sure first that you were really alive, and still Ban,” she said.
It was many months before he saw her again.
The House With Three Eyes sent forth into the darkness a triple glow of hospitality. Through the aloof Chelsea district street, beyond the westernmost L structure, came taxicabs, hansoms, private autos, to discharge at the central door men who were presently revealed, under the lucent globe above the lintel, to be for the most part silhouette studies in the black of festal tailoring and silk hat against the white of expansive shirt-front. Occasionally, though less often, one of the doors at either flank of the house, also overwatched by shining orbs, opened to discharge an early departure. A midnight wayfarer, pausing opposite to contemplate this inexplicable grandeur in a dingy neighborhood, sought enlightenment from the passing patrolman:
“Wot’s doin’? Swell gamblin’ joint? Huh?” As he spoke a huge, silent car crept swiftly to the entry, which opened to swallow up two bareheaded, luxuriously befurred women, with their escorts. The curious wayfarer promptly amended his query, though not for the better.