“Thank Heaven,” murmured Mrs. Langdon devoutly, “I thought that it never was going to rise this evening. It’s from the south, too, so I suppose that it means rain.”
“Rain?” repeated Janet vaguely. “Why in the world should it mean rain?” Her small, pale face looked suddenly brilliant and enchanted, tilted up to meet the thunderous music that was swinging nearer and nearer. “Oh, do listen, you people! This time it’s surely going to land!”
Rosemary stared at her blankly. “Land? What are you talking about, Janie?”
“My airplane—the one that you said was the fat Hodges boy on a motorcycle! Is there any place near here that it can make a landing?”
“Darling child”—Mrs. Langdon’s gentle voice was gentler than ever—“darling child, it’s this30 wretched heat. There isn’t any airplane, dear; it’s just the wind rising in the beeches.”
“The wind?” Janet laughed aloud; they really were too absurd. “Why, Mrs. Langdon, you can hear the engines, if you’ll only listen! You can hear them, can’t you, Mr. Bain?”
The young engineer shook his head. “No plane would risk flying with this storm coming, Miss Abbott. There’s been thunder for the last hour or so, and it’s getting nearer, too. It’s only the wind, I think.”
“Oh, you’re laughing at me; of course, of course you hear it. Why, it’s as clear as—as clear as——”
Her voice trailed off into silence. Quite suddenly, without any transition or warning, she knew. She could feel her heart stand perfectly still for a minute, and then plunge forward in mad flight—oh, it knew, too, that eager heart! She took her hand from the arm of the chair, releasing Rosemary’s wrist very gently.
“Yes, of course, it’s the heat,” she said quietly. She must be careful not to frighten them, these kind ones. “If you don’t mind, Mrs. Langdon, I think that I’ll go down to the gate to watch the storm burst. No, please, don’t any of you come; I’ll promise to change everything if I get caught—yes, everything! I won’t be long; don’t wait for me.”
31 She walked sedately enough until she came to the turn in the path, but after that she ran, only pausing for a minute to listen breathlessly. Oh, yes—following, following, that gigantic music! How he must be laughing at her now, blind, deaf, incredulous little fool that she had been, to doubt that Jerry would find a way! But where could he land? Not in the garden—not at the gates—oh, now she had it—the far meadow. She turned sharply; it was dark, but the path must be here. Yes, this was the wicket gate; her groping fingers were quite steady; they found the latch, released it—the gate swung to behind her flying footsteps. “Oh, Jerry, Jerry!” sang her heart. Why hadn’t she worn the rose-coloured frock? It was she who would be a ghost in that trailing white thing. To the right here; yes, there was the hawthorn hedge—only a few steps more—oh, now!
She stood as still as a small statue, not moving, not breathing, her hands at her heart, her face turned to the black and torn sky. Nearer, nearer, circling and darting and swooping; the gigantic humming grew louder—louder still—it swept about her thunderously, so close that she clapped her hands over her ears, but she stood her ground, exultant and undaunted. Oh, louder still—and then suddenly the storm broke. All the winds and the rains of the world were unleashed, and fell32 howling and shrieking upon her; she staggered under their onslaught, drenched to the bone, her dress whipping frantically about her, blinded and deafened by that tumultuous clamour. She had only one weapon against it—laughter—and she laughed now, straight into its teeth. And as though hell itself must yield to mirth, the fury wavered—failed—sank to muttering. But Janie, beaten to her knees and laughing, never even heard it die.
“Jerry?” she whispered into the darkness, “Jerry?”
Oh, more wonderful than wonder, he was there! She could feel him stir, even if she could not hear him; so close was he that if she even reached out her hand, she could touch him. She stretched it out eagerly, but there was nothing there—only a small, remote sound of withdrawal, as though someone had moved a little.
“You’re afraid that I’ll be frightened, aren’t you?” she asked wistfully. “I wouldn’t be—I wouldn’t—please come back!”
He was laughing at her, she knew, tender and mocking and caressing; she smiled back, tremulously.
“You’re thinking, ‘I told you so!’ Have you come far to say it to me?”
Only that little stir; the wind was rising again.
33 “Jerry, come close—come closer still. What are you waiting for, dear and 杭州哪里有特色足浴 dearest?”
This time there was not even a stir to answer her; she felt suddenly cold to the heart. What had he always waited for?
“You aren’t waiting—you aren’t waiting to go?” She fought to keep the terror out of her voice, but it had her by the throat. “Oh, no, no, you can’t—not again! Jerry, Jerry, don’t go away and leave me; truly and truly I can’t stand it—truly!”
She wrung her hands together desperately; she was on her knees to him—did he wish her to go lower still? Oh, she had never learned to beg!
Not a sound, not a stir, but well she knew that he was standing there, waiting. She rose slowly to her feet.
“Very well—you’ve won,” she said hardly. “Go back to your saints and seraphs and angels; I’m beaten. I was mad to think that you ever cared—go back!”
She turned, stumbling, the sobs tearing at her throat; she had gone 杭州洗浴中心按摩 several steps before she realized that he was following her—and all the hardness and bitterness and despair fell from her like a cloak.
“Oh, Jerry,” she whispered, “Jerry, darling, I’m so sorry. And you’ve come so far—just to find this! What is it that you want; can’t you tell me?”
34 She waited tense and still, straining eyes and ears for her answer—but it was not to eyes or ears that it came.
“Oh, of course!” she cried clearly. “Of course, my wanderer! Ready?”
She stood poised for a second, head thrown back, arms flung wide, a small figure of Victory, caught in the flying wind.
And, “Contact, Jerry!” she called joyously into the darkness. “Contact!”
There was a mighty whirring, a thunder and a roaring above the storm. She stood listening breathlessly to it rise and swell, and then grow fainter—fainter still—dying, dying—dying——
But 杭州水疗酒店 Janie, her face turned to the storm-swept sky, was smiling at the stars which shone behind it. For she had sped her wanderer on his way—she had not failed him!
THERE WAS A LADY
THERE is one point on which Larry Benedick’s best friend and worst enemy and a lot of other less emphatic individuals are thoroughly and cordially agreed. Ask his closest female relative or his remotest business acquaintance or the man who plays an occasional hand of auction with him at the club why Benedick has never married, and they will one and all yield to sardonic mirth, and assure you that the woman who could interest that imperturbable individual has not yet been born—that he is without exception the coldest-hearted, hardest-headed bachelor who has ever driven fluttering débutantes and radiant ladies from the chorus into a state of utter 杭州洗浴桑拿全套 and abject despair—that romance is anathema to him and sentiment an abomination.
“Benedick!” they will chorus with convincing unanimity. “My dear fellow, he’s been immune since birth. He’s never given any girl that lived or breathed a second thought—it’s extremely doubtful if he ever gave one a first. You can say what you please about him, but this you can take as a36 fact; you know one man who is going down to the grave as single as the day he was born.”
Well, you can take it as a fact if you care to, and it’s more than likely that you and the rest of the world will be right. Certainly, no one would ever have called him susceptible, even at the age when any decent, normal young cub is ready to count the world well lost for an eyelash. But not our Benedick—no, long before the gray steel had touched the blue of his eyes and 杭州江干区足浴店可啪 the black of his hair he had apparently found a use for it in an absolutely invulnerable strong box for what he was pleased to call his heart. Then as now, he had faced his world with curled lips and cool eyes—graceful and graceless, spoiled, arrogant, and indifferent, with more money and more brains and more charm and a better conceit of himself than any two men should have—and a wary and sceptical eye for the charming creatures who circled closer and closer about him. The things that he used to think and occasionally say about those circling enchantresses were certainly unromantic and unchivalrous to a degree. Rather an intolerable young puppy, for all his brilliant charm—and the years have not mellowed him to any perceptible extent. Hardly likely to fall victim to the wiles of any lady, according to his worst enemy and his 杭州品茶的地方你懂的 best friend and the world37 in general. No, hardly. But there was a lady….
It wasn’t yesterday that he first saw her—and it wasn’t a hundred years ago, either. It was at Raoul’s; if you are one of the large group of apparently intelligent people whose mania consists in believing that there is only one place in the world that any one could possibly reside in, and that that place is about a quarter of a mile square and a mile and a half long and runs up from a street called Forty-second on an island called Manhattan, you undoubtedly know Raoul’s. Not a tea room—Heaven save the mark! Not a restaurant—God forbid! Something between the two; a small room, clean and shabby, fragrant with odours more delectable than flowers. No one is permitted to smoke at Raoul’s, not even ladies, because the light blue haze might disturb the 杭州水磨坊足浴 heavenly aroma, at once spiced and bland, that broods over the place like a benediction. Nothing quite like it anywhere else in America, those who have been there will tell you; nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. It costs fine gold to sit at one of the little round tables in the corner, but mere gold cannot pay for what you receive. For to Raoul the preparation of food is an art and a ceremony and a ritual and a science—not a commercial enterprise. The only thing that he purchases with38 your gold is leisure in which to serve you better. So who are you to grudge it to him?
Larry Benedick lunched there every day of his life, when he was in New York, heedless of a steady shower of invitations. He lived then in one of those coveted apartments not a stone’s throw from Raoul’s brown door—a luxurious box of a place that one of the charming creatures (who happened to be his 杭州kb群 sister-in-law) had metamorphosed into a bachelor’s paradise, so successfully that any bachelor should have frothed at the mouth with envy at the mere sight of it.
It had a fair-sized living room, with very masculine crash curtains, darned in brilliant colours, and rough gray walls and an old Florentine chest skillfully stuffed with the most expensive phonograph on the market, and rows and rows of beautifully bound books. There was a deep gray velvet sofa with three Chinese-red cushions in front of the small black fireplace (of course it wasn’t possible to light a fire in it without retiring from the apartment with a wet towel tied around the head, crawling rather rapidly on the hands and knees because all the first-aid books state that any fresh air will be near the floor—but what of that? After all, you can’t have everything!)—and there were wrought-iron lamps that threw the light at exactly the right angle for reading, and very good English39 etchings and very gay Viennese prints in red lacquer frames, and a really charming old Venetian mirror over the mantel. It was a perfect room for a fastidious young man, and Benedick loathed it with an awful loathing.
“All the elusive charm of a window in a furniture shop,” he remarked pensively to his best friend—but at least he refrained from destroying the pretty sister-in-law’s transports of altruistic enthusiasm, and left it grimly alone, keeping his eyes averted from its charms as frequently as possible, and leaving for South Carolina or northern Canada on the slightest provocation—or else swinging off to Raoul’s at twelve o’clock with a feeling of profound relief, when what he fantastically referred to as “business” kept him chained to New York and the highly successful living room.
“Business” for Benedick consisted largely of a series of more or less amicable colloquies with a gray-faced, incisive gentleman in a large, dark, shining office, and the even more occasional gift of his presence at those convivial functions known as board meetings. His father, long dead,
had been imprudent enough to sow the wind of financial speculation, and his unworthy son was now languidly engaged in reaping a whirlwind of coupons and dividends. It is painful to dwell on so rudimentary a lack of fair play on the part of40 Fate, though Benedick occasionally did dwell on it, with a sardonic grin at the recollection of the modest incomes received by the more prudent and thrifty members of the family. He made what atonement he could for his father’s unjustifiable success by a series of astoundingly lavish gifts, however, and wasted the rest of it more or less successfully.
“Business” had kept him in town on that March day when he first saw her. He had arrived at Raoul’s doorstep at exactly five minutes past twelve; he lunched early, because he was a disciple of the Continental schedule, and it also avoided interruptions from over-fervent friends who frequented the
place. The pretty cashier with her red cheeks and her elaborate Gallic coiffure bestowed her usual radiant smile on him, and Benedick smiled back, with a swift response that many a débutante would have given a large piece of her small soul to obtain. Jules, the sallow and gentle-eyed, pulled out the little round chair with its padded cushions, pushed in the little round table with its threadbare and spotless cloth, and bent forward with pencil poised, the embodiment of discreet and eager interest.
“Bonjour, monsieur! Monsieur désire?——”
This, after all, was nearer a home than anything that Larry Benedick had known for many a41 weary year—this warm and peaceful corner, with old Jules and young Geneviève spreading friendliness all about him, with Raoul out in the tiled and copper-hung kitchen, alert to turn his skill to service. Monsieur desired? Well, kidneys flamboyant, perhaps—and then some artichokes with Raoul’s Hollandaise—and the little curled pancakes with orange and burnt sugar in the chafing-dish. Demi-tasse, of course, and Bénédictine. Not yesterday, you see, that March afternoon!—Jules slipped away, as elated as though he were bearing with him great good tidings, and the brown-and-gray kitten came out from under the table, tapping at the cuff of his trousers with an imperious paw, and he had a smile for it, too. Here in this tranquil space Monsieur had all that he desired, had he not? Surely, all. He bent forward to stroke the pink nose of his enterprising visitor, the smile deepening until the dark face was suddenly young—and the brown door opened and she came in.