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ASHES OF TINDER: A FACE AT THE WINDOW
That night Hurstwood remained down town entirely, going to the
Palmer House for a bed after his work was through. He was in a
fevered state of mind, owing to the blight his wifeís action
threatened to cast upon his entire future. While he was not sure
how much significance might be attached to the threat she had
made, he was sure that her attitude, if long continued, would
cause him no end of trouble. She was determined, and had
worsted him in a very important contest. How would it be from
now on? He walked the floor of his little office, and later that of
his room, putting one thing and another together to no avail.
Mrs. Hurstwood, on the contrary, had decided not to lose her
advantage by inaction. Now that she had practically cowed him,
she would follow up her work with demands, the
acknowledgment of which would make her word law in the
future. He would have to pay her the money which she would now
regularly demand or there would be trouble. It did not matter what
he did. She really did not care whether he came home any more or
not. The household would move along much more pleasantly
without him, and she could do as she wished without consulting
any one. Now she proposed to consult a lawyer and hire a
detective. She would find out at once just what advantages she
Hurstwood walked the floor, mentally arranging the chief points
of his situation. "She has that property in her name," he kept
saying to himself. "What a fool trick that was. Curse it! What a
fool move that was."
He also thought of his managerial position. "If she raises a row
now Iíll lose this thing. They wonít have me around if my name
gets in the papers. My friends, too!" He grew more angry as he
thought of the talk any action on her part would create. How
would the papers talk about it? Every man he knew would be
wondering. He would have to explain and deny and make a
general mark of himself. Then Moy would come and confer with
him and there would be the devil to pay.
Many little wrinkles gathered between his eyes as he
contemplated this, and his brow moistened. He saw no solution of
anything-not a loophole left.
Through all this thoughts of Carrie flashed upon him, and the
approaching affair of Saturday. Tangled as all his matters were, he
did not worry over that. It was the one pleasing thing in this whole
rout of trouble. He could arrange that satisfactorily, for Carrie
would be glad to wait, if necessary. He would see how things
turned out to-morrow, and then he would talk to her. They were
going to meet as usual. He saw only her pretty face and neat
figure and wondered why life was not arranged so that such joy as
he found with her could be steadily maintained. How much more
pleasant it would be. Then he would take up his wifeís threat
again, and the wrinkles and moisture would return.
In the morning he came over from the hotel and opened his mail,
but there was nothing in it outside the ordinary run. For some
reason he felt as if something might come that way, and was
relieved when all the envelopes had been scanned and nothing
suspicious noticed. He began to feel the appetite that had been
wanting before he had reached the office, and decided before
going out to the park to meet Carrie to drop in at the Grand
Pacific and have a pot of coffee and some rolls. While the danger
had not lessened, it had not as yet materialised, and with him no
news was good news. If he could only get plenty of time to think,
perhaps something would turn up. Surely, surely, this thing would
not drift along to catastrophe and he not find a way out.
His spirits fell, however, when, upon reaching the park, he waited
and waited and Carrie did not come. He held his favourite post for
an hour or more, then arose and began to walk about restlessly.
Could something have happened out there to keep her away?
Could she have been reached by his wife? Surely not. So little did
he consider Drouet that it never once occurred to him to worry
about his finding out. He grew restless as he ruminated, and then
decided that perhaps it was nothing. She had not been able to get
away this morning. That was why no letter notifying him had
come. He would get one today. It would probably be on his desk
when he got back. He would look for it at once.
After a time he gave up waiting and drearily headed for the
Madison car. To add to his distress, the bright blue sky became
overcast with little fleecy clouds which shut out the sun. The wind
veered to the east, and by the time he reached his office it was
threatening to drizzle all afternoon.