There was a grim, merciless smile on Madison's lips; and a whiteness in his face windowed the passion that seethed within him. He stood motionless, listening, in Helena's room. He heard the automobile going away again; then he heard Helena's light step in the hallway without—and the smile died as his lips thinned.

But she did not come in—instead, he heard her go into the Patriarch's room, heard her talking to the Patriarch, and bid the Flopper go to the kitchen and make her some tea. Then the Flopper's step sounded, passing down to the rear, of the cottage.

The minutes passed—then that light footfall again. The door of the room swung suddenly wide—and closed—there was a cry—and Helena, wide-eyed, the red of her cheeks fading away, leaned heavily back against the door.

Neither spoke. Madison, in the center of the room, did not move. The smile came back to his lips.

Helena's great brown eyes met the gray ones, read the ugly glint, dropped, raised again—and held the gray ones steadily.

Madison gave a short laugh—that was like a curse. His hands at his sides knotted into lumps.

Then Madison spoke.

"Why don't you say, 'you!—you!'—and scream it out and clutch at your bosom the way they do in story books!" he flung out raucously. "Why don't you do your little stunt—go on, you're on for the turn—you can put anything over me, I'm only a complacent, blind-eyed fool! Anything goes! Why don't you start your act?"

"You don't know what you are saying," she said in a low voice. "If there's anything you want to talk about, we'd better wait until you're cooler."

"Oh, hell!" he roared, his passion full to the surface now. "Cut out the bunk—cut it out! Anything! No, it isn't much of anything—for you—out all night with Thornton. Do you think I'm going to stand for it! Do you think I'm going to sit and suck my thumb and share you, and—"

"You lie!" She was away from the door now, close before him, her breath coming fast, white to the lips, and in a frenzy her little fists pummelled upon him. "It's a lie—a lie—a lie! It's a lie—and you know it!"

He pushed her roughly from him.

"It is, eh?"—his words came in a sort of wild laugh. "And I know it—do I? Why should I know it? What do you think you are? Say, you'd think you were trying to kid yourself into believing you're the real thing—the real, sweet, shy, modest Miss Vail. Cut it out! You're name's Smith—maybe! And it's my money that's keeping you, and you belong to me—do you understand?"

She stood swaying a little, her hands still tightly clenched, breathing through half parted lips in short, quick, jerky inhalations like dry sobs.

"It's true," she faltered suddenly—and suddenly buried her face in her hands. And then she looked up again, and the brown eyes in their depths held an anger and a shame. "It's true—I was—was—what you say. But now"—her voice hurried on, an eagerness, a strange earnestness in it—"you must believe me—you must. I'll make you—I must make you."

"Oh, don't hurt yourself trying to do it!" jeered Madison. "We're talking plain now. I'm not taking into account how you feel about it —don't you fool yourself for a minute. The sanctity of my home hasn't been ruined—because it couldn't be! Get that? Thornton don't get you—not for keeps! But you and he don't make a monkey of me again. Do you understand—say, do you get that? You're mine—whether you like it or not—whether you'd rather have Thornton or not. But I'll fix you both for this—I'm no angel with a cherub's smile! I'll take it out of Thornton till the laugh he's got now fades to a fare-thee-well; and I'll put you where there aren't any strings tying me up the way there are here. Do you understand!" His voice rose suddenly, and for a moment he seemed to lose all control of himself as he reached for her and caught her shoulder. "I love you," he flashed out between his teeth. "I love you—that's what's the matter with me! And you know that—you know you've got me there—and you'd play the fool with me, would you!" He dropped his hands—and laughed a short, savage bark—and stepped back and stared at her.

"Will you listen?"—she was twisting her hands, her head was drooped, the long lashes veiled her eyes, her lips were quivering. "Will you listen?" she said again, fighting to steady her voice. "It was an accident."

"I saw the machine when you drove up—it was a wreck!" snapped Madison sarcastically.

"We ran out of gasoline," she said quietly.

And then Madison laughed—fiercely—in his derision.

"Oh, keep on!" he rasped. "I told you I was only a blind fool that you could put anything over on! That accounts for it, of course—a breakdown isn't so easy to get away with. Gasoline!"

"We were miles from anywhere," she went on. "We had taken what we thought was a short cut. Mr. Thornton built a shelter for me in the woods, and went to—to—"

He caught up her hesitation like a flash.

"Fake the lines, Helena, if you haven't had enough rehearsals," he suggested ironically. "Anything goes—with me."

And now a tinge of color came to Helena's cheeks, and the brown eyes raised, and flashed, and dropped.

"He went to try and find help," she said. "He was out all night in the storm. I do not know how far he must have walked. I know the nearest house was five or six miles away—and there was no horse there—the man had driven to some town that morning. It was almost daylight before Mr. Thornton at last came back with a team. We were forty miles from here—we sent the team to the nearest town for gasoline and then motored back." She stopped—and then, with a catch in her voice: "He—he was very good to me."

"Good to me"—the words seemed to stab at Madison, seemed to ring in his ears and goad him with a fiercer jealousy—and her story of the night, what she had been saying, save those words, was as nothing, meant nothing, was swept from his consciousness—and only she, standing there before him, glorious, maddening in her beauty, remained. Soul, mind and body leaped into fiery passion—she was his, and his she always would be—those eyes, those lips, the white throat, those perfect arms to cling about his neck—and all of heaven and hell and earth were naught beside her.

"I love you!"—his face was white, his words fierce-breathed, almost incoherent—and he leaned toward her with a sudden, uncontrollable movement, his arms sweeping out to clasp her. "I love you, Helena—I love you. Do you understand—it's you! You—I love you!"

"You love me!"—she retreated from him, but her head was raised now, and her voice rang with a bitterness cold as the touch of death. "Love! What do you know of love! We talk plain, you say. Love—love for me! Passion, vice, lust, sin—and, oh, my God, degradation and misery and shame—love! Love! That is your love!"

He stood for a moment and stared at her again—and her face was as pallid ivory. And something seemed to daze him, and he brushed his hand across his eyes—the logic was faulty, torn and pitiful, and he groped after the flaw.

"It's—it's your love as well as mine," he said in a stumbling way—then his brain flashed quick into action. "My love—what other love have you known but that?" he cried. "It's our love—the love we have known together—and we're going back to it—see? I've had enough of this. You pack your trunks—and pack them quick! We're going to beat it out of here! We're going back to our—love. We're going back where I don't have to sit around like a puling fool and watch Thornton chuck you under the chin—we're going where he'll want a tombstone if he ever shows his face there. You thought the game would hold me to the last jackpot—did you? Well, I've got enough—and there's no game big enough to make me stand for this. That looks like love—doesn't it?" He burst again into a sudden, mirthless laugh—and once again swept his hand across his eyes. "We're going to beat it out of here now—to-night—to-morrow morning."

But now she had drawn further away from him—and there was a frightened look in her eyes, and her lips quivered pitifully.

"No—I can't—I can't," she cried out. "No, no—I can't—I can't go back to that."

"That! That—is love," he said wildly. "The only love you know. What more do you want? There's loot enough now, and—ha, ha!—that little contribution of Thornton's, to give you all the money you want. Love, Helena—you and I—the old love—you and I together again, Helena. I tell you I love you—do you hear? I love you—and I'll have you—I love you! What do you know, what do you care about any other kind of love!"

She looked at him, misery and fear still in her eyes, and her slight figure seemed to droop, and her hands hung heavy, listless, at her sides.

"I care"—the words came in a strange mechanical way from her lips. "Oh, I care. I can't—I won't go back to that. And I know—I know now. I have learned what love is."

Quick over Madison's face surged the red in an unstemmed tide—volcanic within him his love that he knew now possessed his very soul, jealousy that, blinding, robbed him of his senses, roused him to frenzy.

"Oh, you've learned what love is, have you—with him!" he cried—and sprang for her and snatched her into his arms. "And you won't come, eh? Well, I've learned what love is too in the last month—and if I can't get it one way, I'll get it another"—he was raining mad kisses upon her face, her hair, her eyes—"I love you, I tell you—I love you!"

With a cry she tried to struggle from him—and then fought and struck at him, beating upon his face with her fists. Fiercer, closer he held her—around the little room, staggering this way and that, they circled. He kissed her, laughing hoarsely like a madman, laughing at the blows, beside himself, not knowing what he did—mad—mad—mad. He kissed her, kissed the white throat where the dress was torn now at the neck; imprisoned a little fist that struck at him and kissed the quivering knuckles; kissed the wealth of glorious, burnished-copper hair that, unloosened, fell about her, kissed it and buried his face in its rare fragrance. And then—and then his arms were empty—and he was staring at the calm, majestic figure of the Patriarch—and Helena was crouched upon the floor, and, sobbing, was clinging with arms entwined around the old man's knees.

And so for a little while Madison stood and stared—what had brought the Patriarch there—the Patriarch who could neither see nor hear nor speak—what had brought him from his own room across the hall! And Madison stared, and his hands crept to his temples and pressed upon them—weak he seemed as from some paroxysm of madness that had passed over him. The sunlight streaming through the window sheened the luxuriant mass of hair that falling over shoulders and to the waist seemed alone to cloak the little figure in its crouched position—the little figure that shook so convulsively with sobs—the little figure that clung so desperately at the feet of this god-like, regal man, whose beard was silver, whose hair was hoary white, upon whose face, marring none its strength or self-possession, was a troubled, anxious, questioning look.

Strange! Strange! Madison's hands fell to his sides. The Patriarch's eyes were turned full upon him, wavering not so much as by the fraction of an inch—full upon him. And then, as into some holy sanctuary, fending her from harm and danger, the Patriarch turned a little to interpose himself before Madison, and, raising Helena, held her in his arms, her head against his bosom—and one hand lay upon her head and stroked it tenderly. But upon Madison was still turned those sightless eyes, that noble face, serene, commanding even in its perturbation, even in its alert and searching look.

Madison stirred now—stirred uneasily—while the silence held. There was a solemnity in the silence that seemed to creep upon and pervade the room—a sense of a vast something that was the antithesis of turmoil, passion, strife, that seemed to radiate from the saintly figure whose lips were mute, whose ears heard no sound, whose eyes saw no sight. And upon Madison it fell potent, masterful, and passion fled, and in its place came a strange, groping response within him, a revulsion, a penitence—and he bowed his head.

And then Helena spoke—but her head was turned away from him, hidden on the Patriarch's breast.

"Once," she said, and her words were like broken whispers, for she was sobbing still, "once, long, long ago, when I was a little girl, I read the story of Mary Magdalen. I had almost forgotten it, it was so long ago, but it has come back to me, and—and it is a glad story—at the end."

She stopped—and Madison raised his head, and his face was strained as with some sudden wonder as he looked at her.

"It is a glad story," she said presently. "It—it is my story."

"You mean"—Madison's voice was hoarse—"you mean that you've turned—straight!"

"They love me here," she said. "They trust me and they think me good—as they are. All think me that—the little children and this dear man here—and for a little while, since I have been here, I have lived like that. They made me believe that it was true—true. And there was shame and agony—and hope. It seemed they could not all be wrong, and I have asked and prayed that I might make it true always—and—and forgiveness for what I was."

"You mean," he said again hoarsely, and he stepped toward her now, "you mean that you are—straight!"

She did not answer—only now she turned her face toward him and lifted up her head.

And for a long minute Madison gazed into the tear-splashed eyes, deep, brave in chastened wistfulness, gazed—and like a man stunned walked from the room, the cottage, and out across the lawn.

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