“You won’t go, will you?” he whispered.
“No, of course not.”
“I mean with—Geraldine,” he said feebly.
“If I did, father, we’d take you with us,” he laughed.
“It is too far, my son.... You and Geraldine are going too far for me to follow.... Wait a little while.”
Geraldine, blushing, bent down swiftly, her lips brushing the sick man’s wasted face:
“I would not care for him if I could take him from you.”
“Your father and I were old friends. Your grandfather was a very fine gentleman.... I am glad.... I am a little tired—a little confused. Is your grandfather here with you? I would like to see him.”
She said, after a moment, in a low voice: “He did not come with me to-day.”
“Give him my regards and compliments. And say to him that it would be a pleasure to see him. I am not very well; has he heard of my indisposition?”
“I think he—has.”
“Then he will come,” said Colonel Mallett feebly. “Duane, you are not going, are you? I am a little tired. I think I could sleep if you would lower the shade and ask your mother to sit by me.... But you won’t go until I am asleep, will you?”
“No,” he said gently, as his mother and Naida entered and Geraldine rose to greet them, shocked at the change in Mrs. Mallett.
She and Naida went away together; later Duane joined them in the library, saying that his father was asleep, holding fast to his wife’s hand.
Geraldine, her arm around Naida’s waist, had been looking at one of Duane’s pictures—the only one of his in the house—merely a stretch of silvery marsh and a gray, wet sky beyond.
“Father liked it,” he said; “that’s why it’s here, Geraldine.”
“You never made one brush-stroke that was commonplace in all your life,” said Geraldine abruptly. “Even I can see that.”
“Such praise from a lady!” he exclaimed, laughing. Geraldine smiled, too, and Naida’s pallid face lightened for a moment. But grief had set its seal on the house of Mallett; that was plain everywhere; and when Geraldine kissed Naida good-bye and walked to the door beside her lover, a passion of tenderness for him and his overwhelmed her, and when he put her into her brougham she leaned from the lowered window, clinging to his hand, careless of who might see them.
“Can I help in any way?” she whispered. “I told you that my fortune is still my own—most of it——”
There was a strange look in his eyes; she said no more with her lips, but her eyes told him all. Then he stepped back, directing Dunn to drive his mistress to the Commonwealth Club, where she was to lunch with Sylvia Quest, whom she had met that morning in the blockade at Forty-second Street, and who had invited her from her motor across the crupper of a traffic-policeman’s horse.