Madison turned and caught the Flopper’s arm in a fierce, imperative grasp.
“You keep your mouth shut—do you hear?” he flung out, clipping off his words. “You haven’t seen me to-day—understand!” And, dropping the Flopper’s arm, he stepped quickly across the little hall to Helena’s door, opened it, went in—and closed the door behind him.
And the Flopper, staring, licked his lips again.
“Swipe me!” he croaked hoarsely. “Pipe de eyes on de Doc! Dere’ll be somethin’ doin’ now!”
There was a grim, merciless smile on Madison’s lips; and a whiteness in his face windowed the passion that seethed within him. He stood motionless, listening, in Helena’s room. He heard the automobile going away again; then he heard Helena’s light step in the hallway without—and the smile died as his lips thinned.
But she did not come in—instead, he heard her go into the Patriarch’s room, heard her talking to the Patriarch, and bid the Flopper go to the kitchen and make her some tea. Then the Flopper’s step sounded, passing down to the rear, of the cottage.
The minutes passed—then that light footfall again. The door of the room swung suddenly wide—and closed—there was a cry—and Helena, wide-eyed, the red of her cheeks fading away, leaned heavily back against the door.
Neither spoke. Madison, in the center of the room, did not move. The smile came back to his lips.
Helena’s great brown eyes met the gray ones, read the ugly glint, dropped, raised again—and held the gray ones steadily.
Madison gave a short laugh—that was like a curse. His hands at his sides knotted into lumps.
Then Madison spoke.
“Why don’t you say, ’you!—you!’—and scream it out and clutch at your bosom the way they do in story books!” he flung out raucously. “Why don’t you do your little stunt—go on, you’re on for the turn—you can put anything over me, I’m only a complacent, blind-eyed fool! Anything goes! Why don’t you start your act?”
“You don’t know what you are saying,” she said in a low voice. “If there’s anything you want to talk about, we’d better wait until you’re cooler.”
“Oh, hell!” he roared, his passion full to the surface now. “Cut out the bunk—cut it out! Anything! No, it isn’t much of anything—for you—out all night with Thornton. Do you think I’m going to stand for it! Do you think I’m going to sit and suck my thumb and share you, and—”
“You lie!” She was away from the door now, close before him, her breath coming fast, white to the lips, and in a frenzy her little fists pummelled upon him. “It’s a lie—a lie—a lie! It’s a lie—and you know it!”
He pushed her roughly from him.
“It is, eh?”—his words came in a sort of wild laugh. “And I know it—do I? Why should I know it? What do you think you are? Say, you’d think you were trying to kid yourself into believing you’re the real thing—the real, sweet, shy, modest Miss Vail. Cut it out! You’re name’s Smith—maybe! And it’s my money that’s keeping you, and you belong to me—do you understand?”