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- The Purple Parasol - 5/7 -


looking, and she seemed to realize she had said something she ought not to have said and shut up. I'm sorry she's sick, though. I miss that parasol dreadfully. She always has it, and I can see her a mile away. Usually he carries it, though. Well, I suppose he has a right--as original owner. Jim and I smoked together this evening, but he evidently smells a mouse. He did not talk much, and I caught him eying me strangely several times."

MONDAY NIGHT.

"Dudley has departed. I believe they are on to me. He went to Boston this afternoon, and he actually was gruff with me just before leaving. The size of the matter is, some one has posted him, and they are all up to my game as a spy. I wish I were out of it. Never was so ashamed of a thing in my life; don't feel like looking any one in the face. They've all been nice to me. But what's the difference? They're all interested. She went to the train with him and--the rest of us. I'll never forget how sad she looked as she held his hand and bade him good-by. I carried the parasol back to the hotel, and I know I hurt her feelings when I maliciously said that it would look well with a deep black border. She almost looked a hole through me. Fine eyes. I don't know what is coming next. She is liable to slip out from under my eye at any time and fly away to meet him somewhere else. I telegraphed this message to Grover & Dickhut:

"He has gone. She still here. What shall I do?

"Got this answer:

"Stay there and watch. They suspect you. Don't let her get away.

"But how the devil am I to watch day and night?"

The next week was rather an uneventful one for Rossiter. There was no sign of Havens and no effort on her part to leave Eagle Nest.

As the days went by he became more and more vigilant. In fact, his watch was incessant and very much of a personal one. He walked and drove with her, and he invented all sorts of excuses to avoid Mrs. Van Haltford and Miss Crozier. The purple parasol and he had become almost inseparable friends. The fear that Havens might return at any time kept him in a fever of anxiety and dread. Now that he was beginning to know her for himself he could not endure the thought that she cared for another man. Strange to say, he did not think of her husband. Old Wharton had completely faded from his mind; it was Havens that he envied. He saw himself sinking into her net, falling before her wiles, but he did not rebel.

He went to bed each night apprehensive that the next morning should find him alone and desolate at Eagle Nest, the bird flown. It hurt him to think that she would laugh over her feat of outwitting him. He was not guarding her for old Wharton now; he was in his own employ. All this time he knew it was wrong, and that she was trifling with him while the other was away. Yet he had eyes, ears, and a heart like all men, and they were for none save the pretty wife of Godfrey Wharton.

He spoke to her on several occasions of Dudley and gnashed his teeth when he saw a look of sadness, even longing, come into her dark eyes. At such times he was tempted to tell her that he knew all, to confound her by charging her with guilt. But he could not collect the courage. For some unaccountable reason he held his bitter tongue. And so it was that handsome Sam Rossiter, spy and good fellow, fell in love with a woman who had a very dark page in her history.

She received mail, of course, daily, but he was not sneak enough to pry into its secrets, even had the chance presented itself. Sometimes she tossed the letters away carelessly, but he observed that there were some which she guarded jealously.

Once he heard her tell Aunt Josephine that she had a letter from "Jim." He began to discover that "Jim" was a forbidden subject and that he was not discussed; at least, not in his presence. Many times he saw the two women in earnest, rather cautious conversation, and instinctively felt that Havens was the subject. Mrs. Wharton appeared piqued and discontented after these little talks. He made this entry in his diary one night, a week after Havens went away:

"I almost wish he'd come back and end the suspense. This thing is wearing on me. I was weighed to-day and I've lost ten pounds. Mrs. Van Haltford says I look hungry and advises me to try salt-water air. I'm hanged if I don't give up the job this week. I don't like it, anyhow. It doesn't seem square to be down here enjoying her society, taking her walking and all that, and all the time hunting up something with which to ruin her forever. I'll stick the week out, but I'm not decided whether I'll produce any evidence against her if the Wharton _vs._ Wharton case ever does come to trial. I don't believe I could. I don't want to be a sneak."

One day Rossiter and the purple parasol escorted the pretty trifler over the valley to Bald Top, half a mile from the hotel. Mrs. Van Haltford and Miss Crozier were to join them later and were to bring with them Colonel Deming and Mr. Vincent, two friends who had lately arrived. The hotel was rapidly filling with fashionable guests, and Mrs. Wharton had petulantly observed, a day or two before, that the place was getting crowded and she believed she would go away soon. On the way over she said to him:

"I have about decided to go down to Velvet Springs for the rest of the month. Don't you think it is getting rather crowded here?"

"I have been pretty well satisfied," he replied, in an injured tone. "I don't see why you should want to leave here."

"Why should I stay if I am tired of the place?" she asked demurely, casting a roguish glance at his sombre face. He clenched the parasol and grated his teeth.

"She's leading me on, confound her!" he thought. At the same time his head whirled and his heart beat a little faster. "You shouldn't," he said, "if you are tired. There's more of an attraction at Velvet Springs, I suppose."

"Have you been there?"

"No."

"You answered rather snappishly. Have you a headache?"

"Pardon me; I didn't intend to answer snappishly, as you call it. I only wanted to be brief."

"Why?"

"Because I wanted to change the subject."

"Shall we talk of the weather?"

"I suppose we may as well," he said resignedly. She was plainly laughing at him now. "Look here," he said, stopping and looking into her eyes intently and somewhat fiercely, "why do you want to go to Velvet Springs?"

"Why should you care where I go?" she answered blithely, although her eyes wavered.

"It's because you are unhappy here and because some one else is there. I'm not blind, Mrs.--Miss Dering."

"You have no right to talk to me in that manner, Mr. Rollins. Come, we are to go back to the hotel at once," she said coldly. There was steel in her eyes.

He met her contemptuous look for a moment and quailed.

"I beg your pardon. I am a fool, but you have made me such," he said baldly.

"I? I do not understand you," and he could not but admire the clever, innocent, widespread eyes.

"You will understand me some day," he said, and to his amazement she flushed and looked away. They continued their walk, but there was a strange shyness in her manner that puzzled him.

"When is Dudley expected back here?" he asked abruptly.

She started sharply and gave him a quick, searching look. There was a guilty expression in her eyes, and he muttered something ugly under his breath.

"I do not know, Mr. Rollins," she answered.

"When did you hear from him last?" he demanded half savagely.

"I do not intend to be catechized by you, sir," she exclaimed, halting abruptly. "We shall go back. You are very ugly to-day and I am surprised."

"I supposed you had letters from him every day," he went on ruthlessly. She gave him a look in which he saw pain and the shadow of tears, and then she turned and walked swiftly toward the hotel. His conscience smote him and he turned after her. For the next ten minutes he was on his knees, figuratively, pleading for forgiveness. At last she paused and smiled sweetly into his face. Then she calmly turned and resumed the journey to Bald Top, saying demurely:

"We have nearly a quarter of a mile to retrace, all because you were so hateful."

"And you so obdurate," he added blissfully. He had tried to be severe and angry with her and had failed.

That very night the expected came to pass. Havens appeared on the scene, the same handsome, tragic-looking fellow, a trifle care-worn perhaps, but still--an evil genius. Rossiter ran plump into him in the hallway and was speechless for a moment. He unconsciously shook hands with the new arrival, but his ears were ringing so with the thuds of his heart that he heard but few of the brisk words addressed to him. After the eager actor had left him standing humbly in the hall he managed to recall part of what had been said. He had come up on the express from Boston and could stay but a day or two. Did Mr. Rossiter know whether Miss Dering was in her room? The barrister also distinctly remembered that he did not ask for his aunt, which would have been the perfectly natural query.

Half an hour later Havens was strolling about the grounds, under the lamp lights, in and out of dark nooks, and close beside him was a slim figure in white. Their conversation was earnest, their manner secretive; that much the harassed Rossiter could see from the balcony. His heart grew sore and he could almost feel the tears of disappointment surging to his eyes. A glance in his mirror had shown him a face haggard and drawn, eyes strange and bright. He had not slept well, he knew; he had worn himself out in this despicable watch; he had grown to care for the creature he had been hired to spy upon. No wonder he was haggard.

Now he was jealous--madly, fiendishly jealous. In his heart there was the


The Purple Parasol - 5/7

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