Much light shatters much loveliness; but a pretty girl who looks pretty outdoors on a dazzling hot summer morning is prettier then than ever. Cora knew it; of course she knew it; she knew exactly how she looked, as she left the concrete bridge behind her at the upper end of Corliss Street and turned into a shrub-bordered bypath of the river park. In imagination she stood at the turn of the path just ahead, watching her own approach: she saw herself as a picture—the white-domed parasol, with its cheerful pale-green lining, a background for her white hat, her corn-silk hair, and her delicately flushed face. She saw her pale, live arms through their thin sleeves, and the light grasp of her gloved fingers upon the glistening stick of the parasol; she saw the long, simple lines of her close white dress and their graceful interchanging movements with the alternate advance of her white shoes over the fine gravel path; she saw the dazzling splashes of sunshine playing upon her through the changeful branches overhead. Cora never lacked a gallery: she sat there herself.
She refreshed the eyes of a respectable burgess of sixty, a person so colourless that no one, after passing him, could have remembered anything about him except that he wore glasses and some sort of moustache; and to Cora’s vision he was as near transparent as any man could be, yet she did not miss the almost imperceptible signs of his approval, as they met and continued on their opposite ways. She did not glance round, nor did he pause in his slow walk; neither was she clairvoyant; none the less, she knew that he turned his head and looked back at her.
The path led away from the drives and more public walks of the park, to a low hill, thoughtfully untouched by the gardener and left to the shadowy thickets and good-smelling underbrush of its rich native woodland. And here, by a brown bench, waited a tall gentleman in white.
They touched hands and sat without speaking. For several moments they continued the silence, then turned slowly and looked at each other; then looked slowly and gravely away, as if to an audience in front of them. They knew how to do it; but probably a critic in the first row would have concluded that Cora felt it even more than Valentine Corliss enjoyed it.
“I suppose this is very clandestine,” she said, after a deep breath. “I don’t think I care, though.”
“I hope you do,” he smiled, “so that I could think your coming means more.”
“Then I’ll care,” she said, and looked at him again.
“You dear!” he exclaimed deliberately.
She bit her lip and looked down, but not before he had seen the quick dilation of her ardent eyes. “I wanted to be out of doors,” she said. “I’m afraid there’s one thing of yours I don’t like, Mr. Corliss.”
“I’ll throw it away, then. Tell me.”
“Your house. I don’t like living in it, very much. I’m sorry you can’t throw it away.”