“You wouldn’t let me send you a book or two just as a friendly memento?” she cried, incredulous.
“I don’t take anything from anybody,” he retorted doggedly.
“Ah; that’s small-minded,” she accused. “That’s ungenerous. I wouldn’t think that of you.”
He strode along in moody thought for a few paces. Presently he turned to her a rigid face. “If you had ever had to accept food to keep you alive, you’d understand.”
For a moment she was shocked and sorry. Then her tact asserted itself. “But I have,” she said readily, “all my life. Most of us do.”
The hard muscles around his mouth relaxed. “You remind me,” he said, “that I’m not as real a socialist as I thought. Nevertheless, that rankles in my memory. When I got my first job, I swore I’d never accept anything from anybody again. One of the passengers on your train tried to tip me a hundred dollars.”
“He must have been a fool,” said Io scornfully.
Banneker held open the station-door for her. “I’ve got to send a wire or two,” said he. “Take a look at this. It may give some news about general railroad conditions.” He handed her the newspaper which had arrived that morning.
When he came out again, the station was empty.
Io was gone. So was the newspaper.
Deep in work at her desk, Camilla Van Arsdale noted, with the outer tentacles of her mind, slow footsteps outside and a stir of air that told of the door being opened. Without lifting her head she called:
“You’ll find towels and a bathrobe in the passageway.”
There was no reply. Miss Van Arsdale twisted in her chair, gave one look, rose and strode to the threshold where Io Welland stood rigid and still.
“What is it?” she demanded sharply.
The girl’s hands gripped a folded newspaper. She lifted it as if for Miss Van Arsdale’s acceptance, then let it fall to the floor. Her throat worked, struggling for utterance, as it might be against the pressure of invisible fingers.
“The beast! Oh, the beast!” she whispered.
The older woman threw an arm over her shoulders and led her to the big chair before the fireplace. Io let herself be thrust into it, stiff and unyielding as a manikin. Any other woman but Camilla Van Arsdale would have asked questions. She went more directly to the point. Picking up the newspaper she opened it. Halfway across an inside page ran the explanation of Io’s collapse.
BRITON’S BEAUTIFUL FIANCEE LOST
read the caption, in the glaring vulgarity of extra-heavy type, and below;
Ducal Heir Offers Private Reward to Dinner Party of Friends
After an estimating look at the girl, who sat quite still with hot, blurred eyes, Miss Van Arsdale carefully read the article through.