She was sitting with this note in her hand when shuffling footsteps sounded in the corridor; either Wade’s cashier or the messenger, she supposed. The door-knob turned, a husky voice asking, “Want a drink?” as the door opened.
Cora was not surprised—she knew Vilas’s office was across the hall from that in which she waited—but she was frightened.
Ray stood blinking at her.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, at last.
It is probable that he got the truth out of her, perhaps all of it. That will remain a matter of doubt; Cora’s evidence, if she gave it, not being wholly trustworthy in cases touching herself. But she felt no need of mentioning to any one that she had seen her former lover that day. He had gone before the return of Enfield, Mr. Trumble’s assistant, who was a little later than usual, it happened; and the extreme nervousness and preoccupation exhibited by Cora in telling Enfield of his employer’s new plans were attributed by the cashier to the natural agitation of a lady about to wed in a somewhat unusual (though sensible) manner.
It is the more probable that she told Ray the whole truth, because he already knew something of Corliss’s record abroad. On the dusty desk in Ray’s own office lay a letter, received that morning from the American Consul at Naples, which was luminous upon that subject, and upon the probabilities of financial returns for the investment of a thousand dollars in the alleged oil-fields of Basilicata.
In addition, Cora had always found it very difficult to deceive Vilas: he had an almost perfect understanding of a part of her nature; she could never far mislead him about herself. With her, he was intuitive and jumped to strange, inconsistent, true conclusions, as women do. He had the art of reading her face, her gestures; he had learned to listen to the tone of her voice more than to what she said. In his cups, too, he had fitful but almost demoniac inspirations for hidden truth.
And, remembering that Cora always “got even,” it remains finally to wonder if she might not have told him everything at the instance of some shadowy impulse in that direction. There may have been a luxury in whatever confession she made; perhaps it was not entirely forced from her, and heaven knows how she may have coloured it. There was an elusive, quiet satisfaction somewhere in her subsequent expression; it lurked deep under the surface of the excitement with which she talked to Enfield of her imminent marital abduction of his small boss.