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The Auction Block, a novel by Rex Beach

Chapter 16

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That afternoon Mrs. Knight, in a great flutter of excitement, arrived with Jim at the Elegancia. Embracing her daughter in tremulous, almost tearful delight, she burst forth:

"You DEAR! You DARLING! Jim came home not an hour ago and told me everything. I thought I should swoon."

"Told you--everything?" Lorelei flashed a glance at her brother, who made a quick sign of reassurance.

"Yes. Peter is so happy--he's better already, and wants to meet Robert. You know neither of us have seen our new son--that's what he's going to be, too--a real son, like Jim. But I think you MIGHT have telephoned." She checked her exuberance to inquire, in a stage whisper that carried through the flat, "Is the dear boy here?"

"Sure! Where's brother Bob?" echoed Jim.

"He went home to change his clothes and to telegraph his people."

"But how strange--how TERRIBLE you look!"

Jim volunteered an explanation. "Remember, ma, we were up all night, and it was SOME wedding party. Pipe me. I look like a wreck on the Erie."

"And to think that while Lilas was out enjoying herself with you poor Mr. Hammon was lying with a bullet in him. I NEVER had such a shock as when I read the extras. You've seen them?" Lorelei nodded--indeed, the room was strewn with newspapers. "They say it was accidental--but pshaw!" Mrs. Knight shrugged knowingly.

"Don't you think it was?"

"My dear! Think of his family troubles and financial worries!"

"That's the general talk," Jim agreed. "Things were boiling when the market closed. All of his stocks are away off. Well, I don't blame him."

"Yes, and he'd quarreled with Lilas, too. That's why she sailed for Europe this morning." Mrs. Knight's hard eyes glittered, her sharp nose seemed to lengthen. "I'll warrant she knows a lot more than she'll tell. I'd like to question her, and I will when-- Lorelei! You're as white as a sheet. Are you ill?"

"No. Only--everything came at once. It was a--long night."

Jim sighed wearily. "Deliver me from hysterical fluffs like Lilas. I'd rather load a cargo of boa-constrictors than start her for the briny."

What with Lorelei's good fortune and Lilas's catastrophe Mrs. Knight was well-nigh delirious. It was not often that she could roll two such delicious morsels under her tongue, and she patently gloried in the opportunity for gossip. She ended a period of chatter by saying:

"It just goes to show that a girl must be careful. If Lilas had behaved herself she'd have been married and rich like you. Oh, I can't believe it has come true! Think of it yourself, dearie; I-- I'm nearly out of my head." She dabbed at her moistening eyes, becoming more and more excited as she dwelt upon the family's sudden rise to affluence. She was still rejoicing garrulously when Lorelei burst into one of her rare passions of weeping and buried her face in her hands. "Child alive!" cried her astonished mother. "What ails you?"

Instantly Jim's suspicions caught fire.

"Say! Has Bob welched?" he demanded, harshly.

The amber head shook in negation.

"Isn't he--nice to you?" quavered Mrs. Knight.

"Yes. But--I'm sorry I did it. He was drinking; he didn't know what he was doing--"

"Hush!" Mrs. Knight cast a fearful glance over her shoulder. "It was all straight and aboveboard, and he knew perfectly well what he was about. Jim would swear to it."

Lorelei lifted a tragic, tear-stained face. "I ought to be hanged," she said.

Jim laughed with relief. "There's gratitude for you! If I had your share of the Wharton coin I'd let 'em hang ME--for a while."

"There, there!" Mrs. Knight chided her daughter. "You're worn out, and no wonder; but everything is lovely. I'm dying to meet Robert's mother, now that we have so much in common. I'm sure I'll like her, although I can't see what pleasure she can get from GIVING away money. Why, she's simply robbing Bob's family when she throws her thousands to charity, and I intend to tell her so, too, in a nice way, the first chance I get. Of course, you'll quit the Revue to-night. That'll be a relief, won't it? Has Robert given you anything yet? They say he's terribly generous."

"I can't quit right away, now that Lilas has left. But I dare say Bob won't let me work very long."

"Indeed! I should hope not." Mrs. Knight's chin lifted. "If I were you I'd never go near Bergman's theater again. Let him sue you."

Jim eyed his sister admiringly. "You're a dandy crier, Sis," he observed. "Your nose doesn't swell and your eyes don't pop out. You could sob your way right into the Wharton family if you tried." He lit a cigar, sighed gratefully, and, dragon-like, emitted twin columns of smoke from his nostrils. "Hannibal Wharton is worth twenty millions easy," he went on, complacently; "maybe forty. We didn't do so badly--for country yaps--did we? It feels mighty good to be in the kale-patch. No more small change for yours truly. But, say--it was a battle!"

Mrs. Knight ran down slowly, like a clock. This sudden and unexpected triumph had gone to her head; she could talk only of dollars and cents. In her fancy she juggled huge sums of money; she drew extravagant pictures of a glittering future in which the whole family figured. Throughout this sordid chatter, with its avaricious gloatings and endless repetitions, Lorelei sat listless, her thoughts far from pleasant. It had required this final touch to make her fully feel her wretchedly false position.

As mother and son were leaving, Jim managed to get a word in private with his sister.

"Don't weaken," he cautioned her. "Lynn's gone, and it's all over. We've got the whip-hand on all of 'em--Hammon, Merkle, Bob, Lilas --everybody. We've got 'em all, understand? We've landed BIG!"

When she was alone Lorelei gave a sigh of relief, which changed to a sob as the sense of her helplessness surged over her again. She was worn out, and yet she could not rest. She longed for the open air, and yet she dreaded to show herself abroad, fearing that some one would read her secret. Thoughts of the evening performance at the theater filled her with unfamiliar misgivings--she wondered if she could appear in public without breaking down. SHE knew well enough who had fired that shot--would others fail to suspect? The secrecy in which the whole affair was veiled seemed terribly artificial; it was impossible that such a barefaced conspiracy to suppress the truth could long remain undiscovered. And--if Hammon died, what then? He was reported to be very low; suppose he became delirious and betrayed himself? She would be involved--and Merkle and Bob.

Every clang of the elevator gate, every footfall outside her door alarmed her. As with most women, her knowledge of the law was negligible, her conception of its workings was grotesquely child- like.

Yet, after all, the incidents of the shooting affected her less than the amazing change in her own fortunes; she was a wife. The word sounded shockingly unreal. This was no longer her home, her sanctuary; another had equal share in it. She no longer belonged to herself: another--possessed her. And, worst of all, that other was practically a stranger. She felt her cheeks burn; she was suffocated by a sense of shame from which there was no escape. In one night she had passed the turning-point from girlhood to womanhood, from womanhood to wifehood, and there had been no love, no faith, no glamour even, in the act. She had deliberately sold herself; she wearily wondered where the new road led--surely not to happiness.

Toward evening Adoree Demorest telephoned, and with many anticipatory exclamations of pleasure invited Lorelei to dine. "I can't," answered Lorelei, faintly.

"Bother your engagements!" Miss Demorest's disappointment was keen.

"I can't even explain, unless--you'll come here."

"To dinner?"

Lorelei decided swiftly. She dreaded to be alone with Bob; her constraint in his presence was painful, and he also, before going out, had appeared very ill at ease. He had not even made plans for the evening meal. In view of all this she answered:

"Yes, to dinner. Please, please come."

"What IS the matter?"

"I'll--tell you later."

Miss Demorest yielded, not without some regret. "I was going to cook the supper myself, and I'm all done up like a sore foot; but I'll remove the bandages. I suppose you know the potatoes are peeled and the salad will spoil unless I bring it?"

"Then bring it, and hurry."

Lorelei was not quite sure that Bob would consent to dine in the modest little home, but under the circumstances idleness was maddening, so she fell to work. It seemed very odd, when she thought of it, for the bride of a millionaire to prepare a meal with her own hands, but anything was preferable to dining out, in her present frame of mind. This was very different from what she had expected, but--everything was different. Once the marriage had become known to Bob's people and he had thoroughly sobered down, once she had withdrawn from the cast of the Revue, their real life would begin.

Bob was pale and a bit unsteady when he arrived, but Lorelei saw that he suffered only from the effects of his previous debauch. He was extremely self-conscious and uneasy in her presence, though he kissed her with a brave show of confidence.

"I galloped into the bank just as they slammed the doors," he explained, "but my bookkeeping is rotten."


"My accounts somehow never tally with theirs, and they always explain very patiently--it's a patient bank--that they use adding- machines. Beastly nuisance, this constant figuring, especially when you never hit the right answer. But a man can't expect to compete with one of those mechanical contraptions."

"Are you trying to tell me that you have overdrawn?"

"Exactly. But I drew against the old gentleman, as usual, so on with the dance. What's the--er--idea of the apron?"

"It's nearly dinner-time."

Bob's eyes opened with surprise. "Why, we're going to Delmonico's."

"I'd--rather do this if you don't mind." She eyed him appealingly. "I don't feel equal to going out to-night. I'm--afraid."

"Don't you keep a maid?" he inquired.

"Where would I keep her--in the ice-box?" Lorelei smiled faintly.

His glance brightened with admiration. "Well, you look stunning in that get-up, and I'd hate to see you change it. Do you mean to say you can COOK?"

"Not well, but I can fry almost anything. Mother has a maid. I couldn't afford two."

"I love fried things," he assured her, with a twinkle. "And to think you're going to cook for ME! That's an experience for both of us. Let's have some fried roast beef and fried corn on the cob with fried salad and cheese--"

"Don't tease," she begged, uncertainly. "I hardly know what I'm doing, and I thought this would keep me busy until theater-time."

He extended a hand timidly and patted her arm, saying with unexpected gentleness:

"Please don't worry. I supposed we'd dine in public, but if you like this better, so do I. When we pull ourselves together and get settled a bit we'll make our plans for the future. At present I'm still in a daze. It was a terrible night for all of us. When I think of it I'm sure it must have been a dream. I saw Merkle; he's perfectly cold and matter-of-fact about it all. He got back to Hammon's house ahead of the doctor, and nobody suspects the truth. But the Street is in chaos, and all of Hammon's companies are feeling the strain. The shorts are running to cover, and there's a report that it was suicide, which makes things worse. It couldn't have happened at a more inopportune time, either. Dad's on his way from Pittsburg to help save Merkle's bank."

"Shouldn't you have been at business on such a day?"

Bob shrugged carelessly. "I'm only a 'joke' broker. The governor thinks a firm-name looks well on my cards. I hope he doesn't lose more than a million in this flurry--it won't improve his disposition. But--wait till he learns I've married a girl who can fry things--By the way--" Bob paused. "I invited a friend to dine with us tonight."

Lorelei was less dismayed than he had expected. "So have I," she said.

"I thought it might be pleasanter for you," he explained, a bit awkwardly, "inasmuch as we're not very well--acquainted. I saw before I went out that you were--er--embarrassed--and--and--" He flushed boyishly, scarcely conscious of the delicacy that had prompted his action. "Anyhow, he's gone home to put on a clean sweater."

"You don't mean you asked--?"

"Campbell Pope; yes. I met him, and he looked hungry. He's coming here at six." For almost the first time in Bob's society Lorelei laughed out clearly.

"And I asked Adoree Demorest," she said.

Bob grinned and then laughed with her. "Fine!" he cried. "Both members of this club. Really, this ought to make the best finish fight seen in New York for many a day."

"I don't care," Lorelei said, stubbornly. "Adoree is the most misjudged person in America, and Pope ought to know the truth."

As she flitted back and forth preparing dinner Bob kept up a ceaseless chatter that did much to lessen their constraint. She was conscious through it all of his admiration, but it still seemed to be the admiration of a stranger, not of a husband; never for one moment had either of them felt the binding force of their new relationship; never had they been farther apart than now.

Adoree's surprise at finding Robert Wharton in her friend's apartment was intense, and when she learned the truth she was for once in her life speechless. She could only stare from one to the other, wavering between consternation and delight. Finally she sat down limply.

"I--I'd have brought a present if I'd known," she managed to say.

"Are you going to wish us luck?" Bob inquired.

"Luck! You've both got it. She's the best girl in the world, and you're--" Adoree hesitated, and continued to stare, round-eyed. "I didn't think you'd--I didn't think she'd--I don't know what I thought or didn't think. But--Jimminy! MARRIED!" When Lorelei led her into the bedroom to lay off her wraps the thunderstruck young woman had more nearly recovered herself. "Why, he's worth millions," she exclaimed, in a whisper--"BILLIONS! I don't know how to talk to him--or you, for that matter. Shall I call you 'my Lady' or 'your Honor,' or--"

"You knew how to talk to him that night of the supper."

"And to think you married him after what hap--I'm going to slap the very first millionaire _I_ meet--maybe he'll propose to me." She was suddenly dismayed. "Why, I can't afford to buy YOU a wedding-gift--you'll expect a diamond sunburst or a set of sea- otter. I didn't dress for dinner either; I suppose I should have worn the crown jools."

"You're going to wear an apron and help me scorch the dinner," Lorelei laughed.

"You--COOKING, with a billionaire husband!" Adoree gasped. "Am I dreaming? Why don't you dine aboard his yacht, or--buy the Plaza and have dinner served in the lobby? You COOKING! Why, you're going to have automobiles to match your dresses, and chateaux in France, and servants, and stables of polo-ponies, and a Long Island estate, and a hunting-lodge, and--and thousands of gowns, and a maid to put 'em on. She'll do it, too--when you're not looking." Miss Demorest paused, dazzled by the splendor of her own imaginings. "YOU! COOKING! Stop fidgeting and let me kiss you. There!"

As Lorelei explained the reasons for to-night's program, Adoree saw for the first time the weariness in her friend's eyes, the pallor of her cheeks, the tremulous droop of her lower lip. Seizing Lorelei by the shoulders, she held her off as the target for a searching gaze.

"Tell me, did they MAKE you marry him?" she inquired, fiercely. It was plain to whom she referred.


"Whew! I'm glad to hear that. You love him, don't you?"

The answer came readily enough, and the blue eyes did not flinch, but the smile was a trifle fixed and the cheeks remained colorless.

"Why, of course. He's very nice."

"Lorelei!" Miss Demorest's fingers tightened; her voice was tragic, but she had no chance to say more, for Bob called just then from the living-room:

"Hurry back, girls. There's something burning, and I can't find the emergency brake."

When Adoree finally came forth in one of Lorelei's aprons--really a fetching garment, more like a house dress than an apron--Bob told her whom they were expecting as the other guest.

She paused with a bread-knife upraised.

"That--VIPER?" she cried.

"Campbell isn't a viper; he's a cricket--a dramatic cricket," declared Bob.

Adoree began to undo the buttons at her back, but Bob seized her hands.

"Let go. I'll blow up if I see that creature," she exclaimed, in a kind of subdued shout.

Argument proved vain until Lorelei told her firmly: "You owe it to yourself, dear. And we WON'T let you go."

The dancer ceased her struggles, her brows puckered. "Perhaps I do owe it to myself, as you say. Anyhow, I haven't taken a human life yet, and this is my chance."

"Don't kill him, just stay and spoil his dinner," Lorelei urged.

Determination gleamed in Miss Demorest's countenance. "I'll do it --he's spoiled many a dinner for me. But give me room. Don't touch me. I'm distilling poison like a cobra." She seized the gleaming bread-knife and brandished it. "When the crisis comes, stand back."

"Seriously, now, Lorelei has told me everything, and I want Campbell to acknowledge his mistake," said Bob. "The public has swallowed that royalty hoax, but there's no use deceiving him."

Despite her show of bravery Adoree was panic-stricken when the bell rang and Bob went to the door to explain the change of plan and invite Pope in.

The latter could be heard saying: "That's fine. Me for a home- cooked dinner. Here's an unabridged cluster of orchids for Mrs. Wharton, too. If I'd had time I'd have brought you a hanging-lamp or a plush album decorated with sea-shells." He entered the living-room with a hand extended and a smile upon his lips, then halted as if frozen. By the time he had been introduced to Adoree he had burst into a gentle perspiration.

Certainly the personal appearance of the notorious dancer was sufficiently unexpected to shock him; she might have been anything rather than a king's favorite; she looked far more like a prim little housewife as she helped Lorelei with her homely tasks, and the incongruity affected Pope painfully. With involuntary suspicion he avoided her after his first stiff greeting; but his eyes followed her furtively, and he wandered slightly in his attention to Bob's chatter.

As for Miss Demorest, she took a grim delight in his discomfort, and prepared to blast him with sarcasm, to wither him with her contempt when the moment came. Meanwhile she listened as the two men talked, turning up her nose when Pope scored Broadway with his usual bitterness.

"He thinks that's smart," she reflected; but she, too, detested the Great Trite Way, and his words expressed her own distaste so aptly that she could think of no argument sufficiently biting to confound him. She deliberately framed a stinging reference to his pose in the matter of dress, though in frankness she had to admit that he wore his gray sweater vest with an air of genuine comfort and unconsciousness. Then she remembered, barely in time, that her own style in garments both on and off the stage was far more startling than his, and decided that she would merely be laying herself open to a disastrous counter-attack if she hurled her sarcasm in that direction; therefore she sought another opening. She had made up her mind to begin humbling his conceit by voicing her contemptuous regard for newspaper men in general when he once more forestalled her by giving crisp expression to the very sentiments she was rehearsing. Of course, it was all affectation, like his slovenly disregard of fashion--and yet, she was interested to hear him tell Bob:

"I don't like the business--never have. Every time I get some money ahead I quit it and try something else. Writing isn't a man's exercise, anyhow, and journalism is just a form of body- snatching. The average reporter is a ghoul."

"You don't do reporting," said Bob.

"No, I don't; but that's all a dramatic review ought to be--a news story. Why not have social critics to comment on society entertainments--or financial critics to roast unhealthy commercial enterprises and advertise safe ones? How long d'you think Wall Street would stand for that? Why don't the papers hire dry-goods experts to prowl through the department stores, publishing the cost prices of merchandise and warning the public against bargain sales? That's what we do. We ridicule and warn and criticize, but we never build up. The theatrical business is the only one that permits outside interference--as if the public couldn't tell a good play from a poor one. It wouldn't be so bad if we were always honest; but we're not: we have to be smart to hold our jobs. We're like a patent dandruff cure--we don't cure, but we sting, and the public thinks we're beneficial."

Notwithstanding his garrulity, Pope was noticeably ill at ease. He was conscious of Miss Demorest's hostile eyes, and the pointed manner in which she ignored his presence was disquieting. He had the feeling that she was carefully measuring him and preparing herself to take revenge in some characteristic feminine manner. Knowing extremely little of women, he could not imagine what form that revenge would assume, and the uncertainty annoyed him. The dinner seemed slow in coming, conversation dragged, and, rising, he began to wander nervously about, canvassing his mind for some excuse to leave. Bob appeared to enjoy his lack of repose, and offered no relief. At last Pope turned to the piano and fluttered through the stack of sheet-music he found there.

"Do you play?" inquired Bob.

"Yes. Why?"

"You look as if you did--you're kind of--badly nourished. Know any rag-time?"

Pope shuddered. "I do not."

"Too bad! I was going to ask you to stir up the ivories."

"Nobody likes good music any more," growled the critic, seating himself upon the bench. His sensitive fingers idly rippled the length of the keyboard and a flood of melody filled the room.

"Say! You do know your way around, don't you? Can't you pick out 'Here Comes My Daddy Now' with one finger?"

The musician groaned. "What a pity!" After a moment he murmured, "I improvise a good deal." The instrument, perhaps for the first time in its life, began to vibrate and ring to something besides the claptrap music of the day. Once he had found a means of occupying himself, Pope surrendered to his impulse and in a measure forgot his surroundings.

A short time later Lorelei turned from the kitchenette to find Adoree Demorest poised, a salad-bowl in one hand, a wooden spoon gripped in the other, on her face a rapt expression of beatitude.

"Have you rubbed the dish with garlic?" inquired Lorelei.

Adoree roused herself slowly. "Lordy!" she whispered. "I'd give both legs to the knee and one eye if I could play like that. The mean little shrimp!"

The embers of her resentment were still glowing when the four finally seated themselves at the table. A furtive glance in Pope's direction showed that he was studiously avoiding her eyes: she prepared once more to begin the process of flaying him.

"You've been away for some time, haven't you?" Bob was asking.

Pope nodded. "I hate New York. I went as far away as I could get, and--I managed to return just two jumps ahead of the sheriff. It will take me six months to pay my debts. I'm a grand little business man."

"What was it this time? Mining?"

"No. Poultry." Adoree pricked up her ears.

"You went West, eh?" pursued Bob.

"No. East--Long Island. Did you know there are parts of the Island that are practically unexplored by civilized man? Well, there are. They're as remote from the influence of New York as the heart of New Guinea." Pope's thin lips parted in a smile. "The natives are all foreigners, too. There are Portuguese pickle-pickers and hairy-handed Hollanders who live with their heads lower than their knees, and weed-pulling wops who skulk in patches of cauliflower and lettuce, but as for American settlers--there ain't none."

Adoree complacently felt that she had the critic talking against time, and the consciousness of her disturbing over him gratified her intensely.

"Their language is a sort of Reverse English," Pope went on, "and it's a hard country to explore because of the dialects. Some of the people are flesh-eaters, but the price of poultry is so high and the freight on eggs is so low that most of them are vegetarians. That's what got me started, in the first place--I saw a great opportunity to make money; so I found a farm on a lake, bought it, and went to raising ducks."

"Ducks!" breathlessly exclaimed Miss Demorest; but her interruption went unnoticed.

Campbell Pope's features shone with the gentle light of a pleasurable remembrance. "It was lovely and quiet out there, just like Saskatchewan or the Soudan. Sometimes I fancied I must be close to the fringe of civilization, with the life of the outer world pulsing near at hand, for I could hear whispers of it; but I soon got over that idea. The local inhabitants were shy but friendly; they did me no harm. But--it was no place for ducks; they swam all over the pond and spent so much time catching bugs on the bottom that they had no leisure for family obligations on land."

This gloomy recital met with an interest that prompted him to continue, whimsically:

"There was no home life among those ducks--none whatever, but they could swim nearly as well as Miss Kellerman. They never took cramps, either, although they appeared to have chronic bronchitis; and they must have learned to breathe through their tails, because they stood on their heads for hours at a time--all I could see was acres of white tails sticking up like patches of Cubist pond- lilies. They swam all their fat off, and I had the pond dredged and never found an egg."

Miss Demorest giggled audibly; she had lost all interest in her food; she was tingling with excitement.

"Why didn't you fence them in?" she asked.

Pope eyed her for a fleeting instant, then his gaze wavered.

"I fenced in the whole pond to begin with. It nearly broke me."

"A duck shouldn't have much water. What kind were they?"

"Plymouth Rocks, or Holsteins, or Jersey Lilies--anyhow they were white."

"White Pekins!"

The critic frowned argumentatively. "What is a duck for if he isn't to swim? What is his object? We had six on my father's farm, and they swam all the time. Of course, six isn't many, but--"

"Naturally they didn't do well--"

"But they DID do well--and quite naturally, too. They did beautifully, in fact. They never had an ache or a pain. What do you know about ducks?"

Adoree answered in a tone of calm and utter certainty: "I know everything. I've read hundreds, maybe thousands of duck books. I have a whole library of them."

"A duck library. I thought so. But did you ever own a library of ducks? There's a difference. A man doesn't have to know anything to write a book--I've done it myself. Practical experience is the thing."

"Did you keep cows for them?"

Pope stared at his inquisitor for a moment; then he explained with patient politeness: "These were not carnivorous ducks. They ate bugs and fish and corn."

"Corn!" Adoree was shocked, incredulous; her eyes glittered with the fire of fanaticism; she no longer saw in this man an enemy, a vile creature branded with the mark of the beast, but a fellow- enthusiast--a surprisingly ignorant one, to be sure, but an enthusiast for all that, and therefore bound to her by unbreakable bonds. Live steam would have been more easily confined than the vast fund of technical knowledge with which she was crammed.

"You should have fed soft food and sour milk," she began. "Buttermilk would have been all right, and in that way your cows would have been self-supporting. You need a good pasture with a duck-farm. When I was in Germany I saw the most wonderful incubator--a child could operate it. I'd like to show you some brooder-house plans I had drawn over there. You see, you made your first mistake in choosing fresh-water. If I had a good location near salt-water--not too near--and proper surroundings, I'd show you something about ducks. I'd start with a thousand--that's plenty--then kill for the market as they quit laying, and mix the stock right, and in three years--"

Bob Wharton signaled frantically to his wife, but there was no stopping the discussion that had begun to rage back and forth. It lasted until the conclusion of the meal, and it was only with an effort that Adoree tore herself away. She was in her element, and in a little time had won the critic's undivided attention; he listened with absorption; he even made occasional notes.

As the two girls dressed hurriedly for the theater, Adored confessed:

"Golly! I'm glad I stayed. He's not bright; he's perfectly silly about some things, and yet he's the most interesting talker I ever heard. And--CAN'T he play a piano?" _

Read next: Chapter 17

Read previous: Chapter 15

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