And she fell wide-eyed, knowing what she was doing, not in a fervor of excitement, without pleasure or passion, bitterly sure that it was better to be with some one she could not like than to be alone forever. The wrong to herself lay only in the fact that she could not care.
Toward the end of June, Lane’s long vigil of watchfulness from the vantage-point at Colonel Pepper’s apartment resulted in a confirmation of his worst fears.
One afternoon and evening of a warm, close day in early summer he lay and crouched on the attic floor above the club-rooms from three o’clock until one the next morning. From time to time he had changed his position to rest. But at the expiration of that protracted period of spying he was so exhausted from the physical strain and mental shock that he was unable to go home. All the rest of the night he lay upon Colonel Pepper’s couch, wide awake, consumed by pain and distress. About daylight he fell into a sleep, fitful and full of nightmares, to be awakened around nine o’clock by Pepper. The old gambler evinced considerable alarm until Lane explained how he happened to be there; and then his feeling changed to solicitude.
“Lane, you look awful,” he said.
“If I look the way I feel it’s no wonder you’re shocked,” returned Lane.
“Ahuh! What’d you see?” queried the other, curiously.
“Why, you numskull, while you were peepin’ all that time.”
Lane sombrely shook his head. “I couldn’t tell—what I saw. I want to forget.... Maybe in twenty-four hours I’ll believe it was a nightmare.”
“Humph! Well, I’m here to tell you what I’ve seen wasn’t any nightmare,” returned Pepper, with his shrewd gaze on Lane. “But we needn’t discuss that. If it made an old bum like me sick what might not it do to a sensitive high-minded chap like you.... The question is are you going to bust up that club.”
“I am,” declared Lane, grimly.
“Good! But how—when? What’s the sense in lettin’ them carry on any longer?”
“I had to fight myself last night to keep from breaking in on them.... But I want to catch this fellow Swann with my sister. She wasn’t there.”
“Lane, don’t wait for that,” returned Pepper, nervously. “You might never catch him.... And if you did....”
His little plump well-cared-for hand shook as he extended it.
“I don’t know what I’ll do.... I don’t know,” said Lane, darkly, more to himself.
“Lane, this—this worry will knock you out.”
“No matter. All I ask is to stand up—long enough—to do what I want to do.”
“Go home and get some breakfast—and take care of yourself,” replied Pepper, gruffly. “Damn me if I’m not sorry I gave Swann’s secret away.”
“Oh no, you’re not,” said Lane, quickly. “But I’d have found it out by this time.”