“Probably I was in the wrong.”
“And he licked you?”
“All over the place!”
“I wish I’d seen it,” said Hedrick, not unsympathetically, but as a sportsman. And he consented to be led away.
Laura had been standing at the top of the steps looking down the street, where Corliss and his brisk companion had emerged momentarily from deep shadows under the trees into the illumination of a swinging arc-lamp at the corner. They disappeared; and she turned, and, smiling, gave the delaying guest her hand in good-night.
His expression, which was somewhat troubled, changed to one of surprise as her face came into the light, for it was transfigured. Deeply flushed, her eyes luminous, she wore that shining look Hedrick had seen as she wrote in her secret book.
“Why, Laura!” said Lindley, wondering.
She said good-night again, and went in slowly. As she reached the foot of the stairs, she heard him moving a chair upon the porch, and Cora speaking sharply:
“Please don’t sit close to me!” There was a sudden shrillness in the voice of honey, and the six words were run so rapidly together they seemed to form but one. After a moment Cora added, with a deprecatory ripple of laughter not quite free from the same shrillness:
“You see, Richard, it’s so—it’s so hot, to-night.”
Half an hour later, when Lindley had gone, Cora closed the front doors in a manner which drew an immediate cry of agony from the room where her father was trying to sleep. She stood on tiptoe to turn out the gas-light in the hall; but for a time the key resisted the insufficient pressure of her finger-tips: the little orange flame, with its black-green crescent over the armature, so maliciously like the “eye” of a peacock feather, limned the exquisite planes of the upturned face; modelled them with soft and regular shadows; painted a sullen loveliness. The key turned a little, but not enough; and she whispered to herself a monosyllable not usually attributed to the vocabulary of a damsel of rank. Next moment, her expression flashed in a brilliant change, like that of a pouting child suddenly remembering that tomorrow is Christmas. The key surrendered instantly, and she ran gayly up the familiar stairs in the darkness.
The transom of Laura’s door shone brightly; but the knob, turning uselessly in Cora’s hand, proved the door itself not so hospitable. There was a brief rustling within the room; the bolt snapped, and Laura opened the door.
“Why, Laura,” said Cora, observing her sister with transient curiosity, “you haven’t undressed. What have you been doing? Something’s the matter with you. I know what it is,” she added, laughing, as she seated herself on the edge of the old black-walnut bed. “You’re in love with Wade Trumble!”
“He’s a strong man,” observed Laura. “A remarkable throat.”