It was early afternoon, as Madison, emerging from the wagon track, and walking slowly, started across the lawn toward the Patriarch's cottage. He was in a mood that he made no attempt to define—except that it wasn't a very pleasant mood. Before Thornton had returned to Needley it had been bad enough, after that, with his infernal car, it had been—hell.

Madison's fists clenched, and his gray eyes glinted angrily. His hands had been tied like a baby's—like a damned infant's! Helena was getting away from him further every day, and he couldn't stop it—without stopping the game! He couldn't tell Thornton that Helena belonged to him—had belonged to him! He couldn't even evidence an interest in what was going on. He had to put on a front, a suave, cordial, dignified front before Thornton—while he itched to smash the other's face to pulp! Hell—that's what it was—pure, unadulterated hell! He couldn't get near Helena alone with a ten-foot pole, morning, noon or night—she had taken good care of that. And he wanted Helena—he wanted her! It was an obsession with him now—at times driving him half crazy,—and it didn't help any that he saw her grow more glorious, more beautiful every day! Of course she knew she had him—had him where she knew he couldn't do a thing—where she could laugh at him—go the limit with Thornton if she liked. But, curse it, it wasn't only Thornton—that was what he could not understand—she had begun to keep away from him before ever Thornton had come back.

Madison was near the porch now, and, raising his eyes, noted a supplicant going into the shrine-room—a woman, richly dressed but in widow's weeds, who walked feebly. The game went on by itself, once started—there were half a hundred more about the lawn! Like a snowball rolling down hill, as he had put it at the Roost. The Roost! If he only had Helena back there for about a minute there'd be an end of this! She'd go a little too far one of these days—a little too far—it was pretty near far enough now—and then there'd be a showdown, game or no game, and somebody would get hurt in the smash, and—

He lifted his eyes again, as some one came hurrying through the cottage door. It was the Flopper. And then to his surprise, he found himself being pushed unceremoniously from the porch and pulled excitedly behind the trellis.

"What's the matter with you!" he demanded angrily. "Are you crazy!"

"T'ank de Lord youse have showed up!" gasped the Flopper. "Say, honest, I can't do nothin' wid him—he's got me near bughouse."

"Who?"—Madison scowled irritably.

"De Patriarch, of course. He's noivous, an' gettin' worse all de time. He won't eat an' he won't keep still. He wants Helena, an' he keeps writin' her name on de slate—he's got me going fer fair."

"Well, I'm not Helena!" growled Madison. "Why doesn't she go to him?"

"Now wouldn't dat sting youse!" ejaculated the Flopper. "How's she goin' to him when she ain't here?"

"Not here?" repeated Madison sharply. "Where is she?"

The Flopper looked down his nose.

"I dunno," said he.

Madison stared at him for a moment—then he reached out and caught the Flopper's arm in a sudden and far from gentle grip.

"Out with it!" he snapped.

"I dunno where she is," said the Flopper, with some reluctance. "She ain't back yet, dat's all."

"Back from where?"—Madison's grip tightened.

The Flopper blinked.

"Aw, wot's de use!" he blurted out, as though his mind, suddenly made up, brought him unbounded relief. "Youse'll find it out anyhow. Say, she went off wid Thornton in de buzz-wagon yesterday, an' I put de Patriarch to bed last night 'cause she wasn't back, an' dat's wot's de matter wid him, she ain't showed up since an' he's near off his chump, an'—fer God's sake let go my arm, Doc, youse're breakin' it!"

A sort of cold frenzy seemed to seize Madison. He was perfectly calm, he felt himself perfectly calm and composed. Off all night with Thornton—eh? Funny, wasn't it? She'd gone pretty far at last—gone the limit.

"Why didn't you send me word this morning?"—was that his own voice speaking? Well, he wouldn't have recognized it—but he was perfectly calm nevertheless.

"Fer God's sake let go my arm," whimpered the Flopper. "I—I ain't no squealer, dat's why."

Madison's arm fell away—to his side. He felt a whiteness creeping to his face and lips, felt his lips twitch, felt the fingers of his hands curl in and the nails begin to press into the palms.

"Mabbe," suggested the Flopper timidly, "mabbe dere was an accident."

Madison made no answer.

The Flopper shifted from foot to foot and licked his lips, stealing frightened glances at Madison's face.

"Wot—wot'll I do wid de Patriarch?" he stammered out miserably.

And then Madison smiled at him—not happily, but eloquently.

"Swipe me!" mumbled the Flopper, as he backed out from the trellis. "Dis love game's fierce—an' mabbe I don't know! 'Sposin' she'd been Mamie an' me the Doc—'sposin' it had!" He gulped hastily. "Swipe me!" said the Flopper with emotion.

Madison, motionless, watched the Flopper disappear. He wasn't quite so calm now, not so cool and collected and composed. He must go somewhere and think this out—somewhere where it would be quiet and he wouldn't be disturbed.

A step sounded on the path—Madison looked through the trellis. A man, with yellow, unhealthy skin and sunken cheeks, his head bowed, was passing in through the porch. It caught Madison with fierce, exquisite irony. Why not go there himself if he wanted quiet—the shrine-room—the place of meditation! Well, he wanted to meditate! He laughed jarringly. The shrine-room—for him! Great! Immense! Magnificent! Why not? That's what he had created it for, wasn't it—to meditate in!

He stepped inside. The woman, whom he had seen enter a short while before, was sitting in a sort of rigid, strained attitude in the far corner; the man, who had just preceded him, had taken the chair by the fireplace—they were the only occupants of the room. There was no sound save his own footsteps—neither of the others looked at him. There was quiet, a profound stillness—and the softened light from the shuttered window fell mellow all about, fell like a benediction upon the simplicity of the few plain articles that the room contained—the round rag mats upon the white-scrubbed floor; the hickory chairs, severe, uncushioned; the table, with its little japanned box and book.

Madison's eyes fixed upon the japanned box, as he leaned now, arms folded, against the wall—a jewel, even in the subdued light, glowed crimson-warm where it nested on a crumpled bed of bank-notes—a ruby ring—the last contribution—it must have been the woman who had placed it there. Madison glanced at her involuntarily—but his thoughts were far away again in a moment.

Anger and a blind rage of jealousy were gripping him now. Accident! The thought only fanned his fury. Accident! Yes; it was likely—as an excuse! There would have been an accident all right—leave that to them! Thornton perhaps wasn't the stamp of man to seek an adventure of that kind deliberately—perhaps he wasn't—and perhaps he was—you never could tell—but what difference did that make! Helena was that kind of a woman—though he'd always thought her true to him since he'd known her—and Thornton, whatever kind of a man he was, wouldn't run away from her arms, would he?

The red glow from the ruby ring had vanished—the man had risen from his seat and was placing something in the box on top of the ring—Madison's mind subconsciously absorbed the fact that it was a little sheaf of yellow-backed bills. And now the man bent to the table and was writing in the book.

Yellow-backs and rubies! Rubies and yellowbacks! Madison's lips thinned and curled downward at the corners. Oh, it was coming all right, money, jewels, pelf, rolling in merrily every day, there wasn't any stopping it, but he was paying for it, and paying for it at a price he didn't like—Helena. Helena! She wanted Thornton, did she—with his money! Wanted to dangle a millionaire on her string—eh? She'd throw him over—would she! And she thought she had him where he couldn't lift a finger to stop it—just sit back and grin like a poor, sick fool!

The red crept up the knotted cords of Madison's neck, suffused the set jaws, and, as though suddenly liberated to run its course where it would, swept in a tide over cheeks and temples.

He couldn't do a thing—couldn't he! Well, he'd see the game in Gehenna before Thornton or any other man got her away from him. She belonged to him—to him! And he'd have her, hold her, own her—she was his—his! And he'd settle with Thornton too, by Heaven!

A laugh, low, unpleasant, purled to his lips—and he checked it with a sort of strange mechanical realization that he must not laugh aloud. His eyes swept the room—the man had returned to his seat, the woman had not moved, both were silent, motionless—that ghastly, hallowed, sanctimonious hush—that subdued, damnable light—meditation!

"For God's sake let me get out of here," he muttered, "or I'll go mad."

He turned—and stopped. Came a cry spontaneously from the man and the woman—they were on their feet—no, on their knees. The doorway at the further end of the room was framing a majestic figure, tall and stately—and a sun-gleam struggling suddenly through the lattice seemed to leap in a golden ray to caress in homage the snow-white hair, the silver beard that fell upon the breast, the saintly face of the Patriarch.

Then into the room advanced the Patriarch, and his hands were outstretched before him, and he moved them a little to and fro—and the gesture, the poise, the mien, as, touching nothing he seemed to feel his way through space itself, was as one invoking a blessing of peace ineffable.

Spellbound, Madison watched. Upon the face was a yearning that saddened it, and, saddening, glorified it; the head was slightly turned as though to listen—while slowly, with measured, certain tread, as though indeed he had no need for eyes, the Patriarch circled the table and passed on down the room. The man and the woman reached out and touched him reverently, and drew back reverently to let him pass, and, rising from their knees, followed him through the door and out onto the porch.

The room was empty. Madison stared at the doorway. Upon him fell a sudden awe—it was as though a vision, an ethereal presence, some strange embodiment of power, had been and gone—and yet still remained.

And now from without there came a sound like a distant murmur. It rose and swelled, and began to roll in its volume, and then, like the clarion sound of trumpets, voices burst into glad acclaim.

"The Patriarch! The Patriarch! The Patriarch!"

From the little hallway came the Flopper, running—and he stopped and gaped at Madison.

"I left him in his room fer a minute," he gasped. "He's—he's lookin' fer Helena."

And then Madison shook himself together—and smiled ironically. And at the smile the Flopper hurried on.

Madison stepped out onto the porch. Helena! Helena! Within him seemed to burn a rage of hell; but it seemed, too, most strangely that for the moment this rage was held in abeyance, that something temporarily supplanted it—this scene before him.

Onward across the lawn moved the Patriarch, and the Flopper had joined him now; but the Patriarch, unheeding, turning neither to the right nor to the left, his arms still extended before him, kept on. And the people cried aloud:

"He is coming—he is coming! The Patriarch! The Patriarch!"

Madison moved on—out upon the lawn himself.

From everywhere, from every scattered spot where they had been, men and women ran and limped and dragged themselves along, all converging on one point—the Patriarch.

Madison, in the midst of them now, hurried—for it was plainly evident that the Flopper's control over the Patriarch was gone. He reached the Patriarch and touched the other's arm—and at the touch the Patriarch halted instantly, his hand went out and lay upon Madison's sleeve in recognition, and he turned his face, and it was smiling and there was relief upon it—and confidence and trust, as, suffering himself to be guided, they started back toward the cottage.

And then upon Madison came again that sense of awe, but now intensified. From every hand tear-stained faces greeted him, white faces, faces full of sorrow and suffering through which struggled hope—hope—hope. They flung themselves before the Patriarch—yet never blocked the way. They cried, they wept, they prayed—and some were silent. It seemed that souls, naked, stripped, bare, held themselves up to his gaze. Men, prostrate on stretchers, tried to rise and stagger nearer—and fell. Friends, where there were friends to help, tugged and dragged desperately at cots—and from the cots in piteous, agonized appeal the helpless cried out to the Patriarch to come to them. All of human agony and fear and hope and despair and terror seemed loosed in a mad and swirling vortex. And ever the cries arose, and ever around them, giving way, closing in again, pressed the soul-rent throng.

And presently to Madison it seemed as though he had awakened from some terrifying dream, as, in the Patriarch's room again, he swept away a bead of sweat from his forehead, and stood and looked at the Patriarch and the Flopper.

The Flopper licked his lips, and pulled the Patriarch's chair forward—but his hands trembled violently.

"It's been gettin' me, Doc," he whispered, "an' I can't help it. It's been gettin' into me all de time. Say, I wisht it was over. Honest to God I do! Dis—dis makes me queer. Say, de Patriarch's got me, Doc—an'—an'—say—dere's been somethin' goin' on inside me dat's got me hard."

Madison did not answer—but he started suddenly—and as suddenly stepped to the window and looked out. Over the cries, the wailings, the confused medley of voices, growing lower now, subsiding, there had come the throb of a motor car.

Madison's eyes narrowed—that was supreme again. A car was coming to a stop before the porch—Thornton was helping Helena to alight.

Madison turned and caught the Flopper's arm in a fierce, imperative grasp.

"You keep your mouth shut—do you hear?" he flung out, clipping off his words. "You haven't seen me to-day—understand!" And, dropping the Flopper's arm, he stepped quickly across the little hall to Helena's door, opened it, went in—and closed the door behind him.

And the Flopper, staring, licked his lips again.

"Swipe me!" he croaked hoarsely. "Pipe de eyes on de Doc! Dere'll be somethin' doin' now!"

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