“That’s the way nearly everybody would do,” said Madison, laughing. “There’s at least a few similar kinks common to our noble race—we’re busy most of the time trying to fool ourselves one way or another. Well, that’s about all. I can’t lay out a programme for every minute of the day—you and Helena have got to use your heads and work along that general idea. You play up your gratitude strong. And, oh yes—keep the altar box well baited. Let Helena put some of her near-diamond rings and joujabs in until we collect some genuine ones—and then keep the genuine ones going—change every day for variety, you know. And take the silver money out every time you see any in—not that we scorn it in the great aggregate, far from it—it’s just psychology again, Flopper. I went to church once and sat beside a duck with a white waistcoat and chop whiskers, who wore the dollar sign sticking out so thick all over him that you couldn’t see anything else; and when it came time for collection he peeled a bill off a roll the size of a house, and waited for the collection plate to come along. But he got his eye on the plate a couple of pews ahead and it was full of coppers and chicken feed, and he did the palming act with the bill slicker than a faro dealer—and whispered to me to change a quarter for him.”
“And did you?” asked the Flopper anxiously.
“Oh, wake up, Flopper!” grinned Madison; then, suddenly: “Hullo! Who’s that?”
Across the lawn, coming through the row of maples from the direction of the wagon track, appeared two figures.
“Dat’s who,” said the Flopper, after gazing an instant. “It’s Helena an’ Thornton.”
“So it is,” agreed Madison. “Get behind the trellis here then—it wouldn’t do for him to see me out here at this time of night.”
They rose noiselessly from the bench, and slipped quickly behind the trellis. Toward them, walking slowly came the two figures, Helena leaning on Thornton’s arm. Thornton was talking, but in too low a tone to be overheard. Then a silence appeared to fall between the two, and it was not until they reached the porch, close to Madison and the Flopper, that either spoke again.
Then Thornton held out his hand.
“Good-night, Miss Vail—and good-by temporarily,” he said. “I suppose I shall be gone four or five days; I’m going up on the morning train, you know. I wish you’d go as often as you can to see Naida in the car while I’m away—will you? Her condition worries me, though she insists that she is completely cured, and she will not listen to any advice. I have an idea that she has overtaxed herself—apart from her hip disease, her heart was in a very critical state. You’ll go to her, won’t you?”
“Yes,” said Helena, “of course, I will.”
Their voices dropped lower, and for a moment only a murmur reached Madison; and then, with another “Good-night, Miss Vail,” Thornton started back across the lawn.