He retired to his own chamber, found it unbearable, and, fascinated by Laura’s, returned thither; and, after standing a long time in the passage, knocked softly on the door.
“Laura,” he called, in a rough and careless voice, “it’s kind of a pretty day outdoors. If you’ve had your nap, if I was you I’d go out for a walk.” There was no response. “I’ll go with you,” he added, “if you want me to.”
He listened again and heard nothing. Then he turned the knob softly. The door was unlocked; he opened it and went in.
Laura was sitting in a chair, with her back to a window, her hands in her lap. She was staring straight in front of her.
He came near her hesitatingly, and at first she did not seem to see him or even to know that she was not alone in the room. Then she looked at him wonderingly, and, as he stood beside her, lifted her right hand and set it gently upon his head.
“Hedrick,” she said, “was it you that took my book to——”
All at once he fell upon his knees, hid his face in her lap, and burst into loud and passionate sobbing.
Valentine Corliss, having breakfasted in bed at a late hour that morning, dozed again, roused himself, and, making a toilet, addressed to the image in his shaving-mirror a disgusted monosyllable.
However, he had not the look of a man who had played cards all night to a disastrous tune with an accompaniment in Scotch. His was a surface not easily indented: he was hard and healthy, clear-skinned and clear-eyed. When he had made himself point-device, he went into the “parlour” of his apartment, frowning at the litter of malodorous, relics, stumps and stubs and bottles and half-drained glasses, scattered chips and cards, dregs of a night session. He had been making acquaintances.
He sat at the desk and wrote with a steady hand in Italian:
MOST ILLUSTRIOUS MOLITERNO:
We live but learn little. As to myself it appears that I learn nothing—nothing! You will at once convey to me by cable five thousand lire. No; add the difference in exchange so as to make it one thousand dollars which I shall receive, taking that sum from the two-hundred and thirty thousand lire which I entrusted to your safekeeping by cable as the result of my enterprise in this place. I should have returned at once, content with that success, but as you know I am a very stupid fellow, never pleased with a moderate triumph, nor with a large one, when there is a possible prospect of greater. I am compelled to believe that the greater I had in mind in this case was an illusion: my gentle diplomacy avails nothing against a small miser—for we have misers even in these States, though you will not believe it. I abandon him to his riches! From the success of my venture I reserved four thousand