“I expect we better be getting on,” said Pryor. “It’s near Lottie’s bedtime; we just came out for our evening walk.”
“Well, he can come and shake hands with her anyway,” urged Hedrick’s father. “Then they’ll know each other, and they can play some other time.” He turned toward the house and called loudly:
There was no response. Behind the back of his chair Hedrick could not be seen. He was still sitting immovable, his eyes torpidly fixed upon the wall.
“Oh, Hed-rick!” shouted his father. “Come out here! I want you to meet a little girl! Come and see a nice little girl!”
Mr. Pryor’s grandchild was denied the pleasure. At the ghastly words “little girl,” Hedrick dropped from his chair flat upon the floor, crawled to the end of the porch, wriggled through the railing, and immersed himself in deep shadow against the side of the house.
Here he removed his shoes, noiselessly mounted to the sill of one of the library windows, then reconnoitred through a slit in the blinds before entering.
The gas burned low in the “drop-light”—almost too dimly to reveal the two people upon a sofa across the room. It was a faint murmur from one of them that caused Hedrick to pause and peer more sharply. They were Cora and Corliss; he was bending close to her; her face was lifting to his.
“Ah, kiss me! Kiss me!” she whispered.
Hedrick dropped from the sill, climbed through a window of the kitchen, hurried up the back-stairs, and reached his own apartment in time to be violently ill in seclusion.
Villages are scattered plentifully over the unstable buttresses of Vesuvius, and the inhabitants sleep o’ nights: Why not? Quite unaware that he was much of their condition, Mr. Madison bade his incidental gossip and the tiny Lottie good-night, and sought his early bed. He maintained in good faith that Saturday night was “a great night to sleep,” because of the later hour for rising; probably having also some factitious conviction that there prevailed a hush preparative of the Sabbath. As a matter of fact, in summer, the other members of his family always looked uncommonly haggard at the Sunday breakfast-table. Accepting without question his preposterous legend of additional matutinal slumber, they postponed retiring to a late hour, and were awakened—simultaneously with thousands of fellow-sufferers—at about half-after five on Sunday morning, by a journalistic uprising. Over the town, in these early hours, rampaged the small vendors of the manifold sheets: local papers and papers from greater cities, hawker succeeding hawker with yell upon yell and brain-piercing shrillings in unbearable cadences. No good burgher ever complained: the people bore it, as in winter they bore the smoke that injured their health, ruined their linen, spoiled their complexions, forbade all hope of beauty and comfort in their city, and destroyed the sweetness of their homes and of their wives. It is an incredibly patient citizenry and exalts its persecutors.