“Good God!” cried Richard. He sprang to his feet, and the heavy book fell with a muffled crash upon the floor, sprawling open upon its face, its leaves in disorder. He moved away from it, staring at it in incredulous dismay. But he knew.
Memory, that drowsy custodian, had wakened slowly, during this hour, beginning the process with fitful gleams of semi-consciousness, then, irritated, searching its pockets for the keys and dazedly exploring blind passages; but now it flung wide open the gallery doors, and there, in clear light, were the rows of painted canvasses.
He remembered “that day” when he was waiting for a car, and Laura Madison had stopped for a moment, and then had gone on, saying she preferred to walk. He remembered that after he got into the car he wondered why he had not walked home with her; had thought himself “slow” for not thinking of it in time to do it. There had seemed something very “taking” about her, as she stopped and spoke to him, something enlivening and wholesome and sweet—it had struck him that Laura was a “very nice girl.” He had never before noticed how really charming she could look; in fact he had never thought much about either of the Madison sisters, who had become “young ladies” during his mourning for his brother. And this pleasant image of Laura remained with him for several days, until he decided that it might be a delightful thing to spend an evening with her. He had called, and he remembered, now, Cora’s saying to him that he looked at her sometimes as if he did not like her; he had been surprised and astonishingly pleased to detect a mysterious feeling in her about it.
He remembered that almost at once he had fallen in love with Cora: she captivated him, enraptured him, as she still did—as she always would, he felt, no matter how she treated him or what she did to him. He did not analyze the process of the captivation and enrapturement—for love is a mystery and cannot be analyzed. This is so well known that even Richard Lindley knew it, and did not try!
. . . Heartsick, he stared at the fallen book. He was a man, and here was the proffered love of a woman he did not want. There was a pathos in the ledger; it seemed to grovel, sprawling and dishevelled in the circle of lamp-light on the floor: it was as if Laura herself lay pleading at his feet, and he looked down upon her, compassionate but revolted. He realized with astonishment from what a height she had fallen, how greatly he had respected her, how warmly liked her. What she now destroyed had been more important than he had guessed.