“How did you know it was my rose?”
“Any one would know!”
Her expression of surprise was instantaneously merged in a flash of honest pleasure and admiration, such as only an artist may feel in the presence of a little masterpiece by a fellow-craftsman.
Happily, anticlimax was spared them by the arrival of the person for whom the visitor had asked at the door, and the young man retained the rose in his hand.
Mr. Madison, a shapeless hillock with a large, harassed, red face, evidently suffered from the heat: his gray hair was rumpled back from a damp forehead; the sleeves of his black alpaca coat were pulled up to the elbow above his uncuffed white shirtsleeves; and he carried in one mottled hand the ruins of a palm-leaf fan, in the other a balled wet handkerchief which released an aroma of camphor upon the banana-burdened air. He bore evidences of inadequate adjustment after a disturbed siesta, but, exercising a mechanical cordiality, preceded himself into the room by a genial half-cough and a hearty, “Well-well-well,” as if wishing to indicate a spirit of polite, even excited, hospitality.
“I expected you might be turning up, after your letter,” he said, shaking hands. “Well, well, well! I remember you as a boy. Wouldn’t have known you, of course; but I expect you’ll find the town about as much changed as you are.”
With a father’s blindness to all that is really vital, he concluded his greeting inconsequently: “Oh, this is my little girl Cora.”
“Run along, little girl,” said the fat father.
His little girl’s radiant glance at the alert visitor imparted her thorough comprehension of all the old man’s absurdities, which had reached their climax in her dismissal. Her parting look, falling from Corliss’s face to the waste-basket at his feet, just touched the rose in his hand as she passed through the door.
Cora paused in the hall at a point about twenty feet from the door, a girlish stratagem frequently of surprising advantage to the practitioner; but the two men had begun to speak of the weather. Suffering a momentary disappointment, she went on, stepping silently, and passed through a door at the end of the hall into a large and barren looking dining-room, stiffly and skimpily furnished, but well-lighted, owing to the fact that one end of it had been transformed into a narrow “conservatory,” a glass alcove now tenanted by two dried palms and a number of vacant jars and earthen crocks.