1218 Corliss Street.”
“It’s from Laura Madison,” he said, staring at this writing. “What in the world would Laura be sending me?”
“You might possibly learn by opening it,” suggested his mother. “I’ve seen men puzzle over the outside of things quite as often as women. Laura Madison is a nice girl.” She never volunteered similar praise of Laura Madison’s sister. Mrs. Lindley had submitted to her son’s plans concerning Cora, lately confided; but her submission lacked resignation.
“It’s a book,” said Richard, even more puzzled, as he took the ledger from its wrappings. “Two little torn places at the edge of the covers. Looks as if it had once had clasps——”
“Perhaps it’s the Madison family album,” Mrs. Lindley suggested. “Pictures of Cora since infancy. I imagine she’s had plenty taken.”
“No.” He opened the book and glanced at the pages covered in Laura’s clear, readable hand. “No, it’s about half full of writing. Laura must have turned literary.” He read a line or two, frowning mildly. “My soul! I believe it’s a novel! She must think I’m a critic—to want me to read it.” Smiling at the idea, he closed the ledger. “I’ll take it upstairs to my hang-out after dinner, and see if Laura’s literary manner has my august approval. Who in the world would ever have thought she’d decide to set up for a writer?”
“I imagine she might have something to write worth reading,” said his mother. “I’ve always thought she was an interesting-looking girl.”
“Yes, she is. She dances well, too.”
“Of course,” continued Mrs. Lindley, thoughtfully, “she seldom says anything interesting, but that may be because she so seldom has a chance to say anything at all.”
Richard refused to perceive this allusion. “Curious that Laura should have sent it to me,” he said. “She’s never seemed interested in my opinion about anything. I don’t recall her ever speaking to me on any subject whatever—except one.”
He returned his attention to his plate, but his mother did not appear to agree with him that the topic was exhausted.
“`Except one’?” she repeated, after waiting for some time.
“Yes,” he replied, in his habitual preoccupied and casual tone. “Or perhaps two. Not more than two, I should say—and in a way you’d call that only one, of course. Bread, Joe.”
“What two, Richard?”
“Cora,” he said, with gentle simplicity, “and me.”
Mrs. Lindley had arranged for her son a small apartment on the second floor, and it was in his own library and smoking-room that Richard, comfortable in a leather-chair by a reading-lamp, after dinner, opened Laura’s ledger.
The first page displayed no more than a date now eighteen months past, and the line:
“Love came to me to-day.”