Madison could hear Helena fumbling with the door latch, and by the time she had succeeded in opening the door the retreating figure of Thornton was a safe distance away. Madison called in a whisper:
“Here, Helena! Wait a minute!”
There was a quick, startled little exclamation from the doorway, and Helena came out hurriedly from the porch.
“Who’s there?” she cried in a low voice. “Oh”—as they stepped into view—“you, Doc, and the Flopper! What were you doing behind that trellis?”
“Keeping out of Thornton’s road,” said Madison. “So he’s going away, eh? What for?”
“Business,” replied Helena. “Has to go to some meeting in Chicago—he’s leaving his wife and the private car here. What did you come at this hour for?”
“Lines for the next act,” said Madison; “but the Flopper’s got it all, and he’ll put you on.” He stepped toward Helena and slipped his arm around her waist. “Come on, it’s early yet, let’s go for a little walk. The Flopper’ll excuse us, and I—”
“I thought you said,” Helena interrupted, disengaging herself quietly, “that we had to play the game to the limit and take no chances.”
“Well, so I did,” admitted Madison, and his arm crept around her again; “but I guess we’ve earned a little holiday and—”
“‘Nix on that,’ I think was what you said,” said Helena with a queer little laugh, drawing away again. “And I really think you were right, Doc—we ought to play the game without breaking the rules, and so—good-night”—and she turned and ran from him into the cottage.
Madison stared after her in a sort of helpless state of chagrin.
“Mabbe,” said the Flopper, “mabbe she’s lonely.”
Helena sat in the Patriarch’s room, and her piquant little face was pursed up into a scowl so daintily grim as to be almost ludicrous. The Patriarch, in his armchair, had been scrawling words upon the slate all evening—and she had been wiping them off! He scrawled another now—and mechanically, without looking at it, by way of answer she pressed his arm to appease him.
She had been restless all day, and she was restless now. What had induced her to treat Madison the way she had the night before? Pique, probably. No; it wasn’t pique. It was just getting back at him—and he deserved it. He hadn’t seemed to mind it much, though—he had only laughed and teased her about it that morning when he had joined the Patriarch and herself in their walk along the beach.
With her chin in her hands, she began to study the Patriarch through half closed eyes—deaf and dumb and blind—and somehow it all seemed excruciatingly funny and she wanted to laugh hysterically. He seemed to sense the fact that she was looking at him, and, with quick, instant intuition, he smiled and reached out his hand toward her.