As they stood so briefly before him, there swept across her vision the memory of what she had always prophesied as her wedding:—a crowded church, “The Light That Breathed O’er Eden” from an unseen singer; then the warm air trembling to the Lohengrin march; all heads turning; the procession down the aisle; herself appearing—climax of everything—a delicious and brilliant figure: graceful, rosy, shy, an imperial prize for the groom, who in these foreshadowings had always been very indistinct. The picture had always failed in outline there: the bridegroom’s nearest approach to definition had never been clearer than a composite photograph. The truth is, Cora never in her life wished to be married.
But she was.
Valentine Corliss had nothing to do but to wait for the money his friend Antonio would send him by cable. His own cable, anticipating his letter, had been sent yesterday, when he came back to the hotel, after lunching in the country with Cora.
As he walked down Corliss Street, after his tumultuous interview with her, he was surprised to find himself physically tremulous: he had not supposed that an encounter, however violent, with an angry woman could so upset his nerves. It was no fear of Pryor which shook him. He knew that Pryor did not mean to cause his arrest—certainly not immediately. Of course, Pryor knew that Cora would tell him. The old fellow’s move was a final notification. It meant: “Get out of town within twenty-four hours.” And Corliss intended to obey. He would have left that evening, indeed, without the warning; his trunk was packed.
He would miss Cora. He had kept a cool head throughout their affair until the last; but this morning she had fascinated him: and he found himself passionately admiring the fury of her. She had confused him as he had never been confused. He thought he had tamed her; thought he owned her; and the discovery of this mistake was what made him regret that she would not come away with him. Such a flight, until to-day, had been one of his apprehensions: but now the thought that it was not to be, brought something like pain. At least, he felt a vacancy; had a sense of something lacking. She would have been a bright comrade for the voyage; and he thought of gestures of hers, turns of the head, tricks of the lovely voice; and sighed.
Of course it was best for him that he could return to his old trails alone and free; he saw that. Cora would have been a complication and an embarrassment without predictable end, but she would have been a rare flame for a while. He wondered what she meant to do; of course she had a plan. Should he try again, give her another chance? No; there was one point upon which she had not mystified him: he knew she really hated him.
. . . The wind was against the smoke that day; and his spirits rose, as he walked in the brisk air with the rich sky above him. After all, this venture upon his native purlieus had been fax from fruitless: he could not have expected to do much better. He had made his coup; he knew no other who could have done it. It was a handsome bit of work, in fact, and possible only to a talented native thoroughly sophisticated in certain foreign subtleties. He knew himself for a rare combination.