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ASHES OF TINDER: THE LOOSING OF STAYS
When Hurstwood got back to his office again he was in a greater
quandary than ever. Lord, Lord, he thought, what had he got into?
How could things have taken such a violent turn, and so quickly?
He could hardly realise how it had all come about. It seemed a
monstrous, unnatural, unwarranted condition which had suddenly
descended upon him without his let or hindrance.
Meanwhile he gave a thought now and then to Carrie. What could
be the trouble in that quarter? No letter had come, no word of any
kind, and yet here it was late in the evening and she had agreed to
meet him that morning. To-morrow they were to have met and
gone off-where? He saw that in the excitement of recent events he
had not formulated a plan upon that score. He was desperately in
love, and would have taken great chances to win her under
ordinary circumstances, but now-now what? Supposing she had
found out something? Supposing she, too, wrote him and told him
that she knew all-that she would have nothing more to do with
him? It would be just like this to happen as things were going
now. Meanwhile he had not sent the money.
He strolled up and down the polished floor of the resort, his hands
in his pockets, his brow wrinkled, his mouth set. He was getting
some vague comfort out of a good cigar, but it was no panacea for
the ill which affected him. Every once in a
while he would clinch his fingers and tap his foot-signs of the
stirring mental process he was undergoing. His whole nature was
vigorously and powerfully shaken up, and he was finding what
limits the mind has to endurance. He drank more brandy and soda
than he had any evening in months. He was altogether a fine
example of great mental perturbation.
For all his study nothing came of the evening except this-he sent
the money. It was with great opposition, after two or three hours
of the most urgent mental affirmation and denial, that at last he
got an envelope, placed in it the requested amount, and slowly
sealed it up.
Then he called Harry, the boy of all work around the place.
"You take this to this address," he said, handing him the envelope,
"and give it to Mrs. Hurstwood."
"Yes, sir," said the boy.
"If she isn’t there bring it back."
"You’ve seen my wife?" he asked as a precautionary measure as
the boy turned to go.
"Oh, yes, sir. I know her."
"All right, now. Hurry right back."
"I guess not."
The boy hastened away and the manager fell to his musings. Now
he had done it. There was no use speculating over that. He was
beaten for to-night and he might just as well make the best of it.
But, oh, the wretchedness of being forced this way! He could see
her meeting the boy at the door and smiling sardonically. She
would take the envelope and know that she had triumphed. If he
only had that letter back he wouldn’t send it. He breathed heavily
and wiped the moisture from his face.
For relief, he arose and joined in conversation with a few friends
who were drinking. He tried to get the interest of things about
him, but it was not to be. All the time his thoughts would run out
to his home and see the scene being therein enacted. All the time
he was wondering what she would say when the boy handed her
In about an hour and three-quarters the boy returned. He had
evidently delivered the package, for, as he came up, he made no
sign of taking anything out of his pocket.