He went outdoors and smoked Orduma cigarettes, one after the other. Dances and intermissions succeeded each other but Noble had “enough of that, for one while!” So he muttered.
And remembering how Julia had told him that he was killing himself with cigarettes, “All right,” he said now, as he bitterly lighted his fifth at the spark of the fourth;—“I hope I will!”
“Lot o’ difference it’d make!” he said, as he lighted the eighth of a series that must, all told, have contained nearly as much tobacco as a cigar. And, leaning back against the trunk of one of the big old walnut trees in the yard, he gazed toward the house, where the open window nearest him splashed with colour like a bright and crowded aquarium. “To her, anyway!” he added, with a slight remorse, remembering that his mother had frequently shown him evidences of affection.
Yes, his mother would care, and his father and sisters would be upset, but Julia—when the friends of the family were asked to walk by for a last look, would she be one? What optimism remained to him presented a sketch of Julia, in black, borne from the room in the arms of girl friends who tried in vain to hush her; but he was unable to give this more hopeful fragment an air of great reality. Much more probably, when word came to her that he had smoked himself to death, she would be a bride, dancing at Niagara Falls with her bald old husband—and she would only laugh and pause to toss a faded rose out of the window, and then go right on dancing. But perhaps, some day, when tears had taught her the real meaning of life with such a man——
Noble jumped. From the darkness of the yard beside the house there came a grievous howl, distressful to the spinal marrow, a sound of animal pain. It was repeated even more passionately, and another voice was also heard, one both hoarsely bass and falsetto in the articulation of a single syllable. “Ouch!” There were sounds of violent scuffing, and the bass-falsetto voice cried: “What’s that you stuck me with?” and another: “Drag her! Drag her back by her feet!”
These alarms came from the almost impenetrable shadows of the small orchard beside the house; and from the same quarter was heard the repeated contact of a heavy body, seemingly wooden or metallic, with the ground; but high over this there rose a shrieking: “Help! Help! Oh, hay-yulp!” This voice was girlish. “Hay-yulp!”
Noble dashed into the orchard, and at once fell prostrate upon what seemed a log, but proved to be a large and solidly packed ice-cream freezer lying on its side.
Dark forms scrambled over the fence and vanished, but as Noble got to his feet he was joined by a dim and smallish figure in white—though more light would have disclosed a pink sash girdling its middle. It was the figure of Miss Florence Atwater, seething with furious agitations.