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- The Purple Parasol - 7/7 -


He humbled himself, accused himself, ridiculed himself, and wound up by throwing himself upon her mercy, uttering protestations of the love which had really been his undoing.

She heard him through without a word. The light in her eyes changed; the fear left them and the scorn fled. Instead there grew, by stages, wonder, incredulity, wavering doubt and--joy. She understood him and she loved him! The awful horror of that meeting in the hallway was swept away like unto the transformation scene in the fairy spectacle.

When he fell upon his knee and sought to clasp her fingers in his cold hand she smiled, and, stooping over, placed both hands on his cheeks and kissed him.

What followed her kiss of forgiveness may be more easily imagined than told.

"You see it was perfectly natural for me to mistake you for Mrs. Wharton," he said after awhile. "You had the gray jacket, the sailor hat, the purple parasol, and you are beautiful. And, besides all that, you were found red-handed in that ridiculous town of Fossingford. Why shouldn't I have suspected you with such a preponderance of evidence against you? Anybody who would get off of a night train in Fossingford certainly ought to be ashamed of something."

"But Fossingford is on the map, isn't it? One has a perfect right to get off where she likes, hasn't she, provided it is on the map?"

"Not at all! That's what maps are for: to let you see where you don't get off."

"But I was obliged to get off there. My ticket said 'Fossingford,' and, besides, I was to be met at the station in a most legitimate manner. You had no right to jump at conclusions."

"Well, if you had not descended to earth at Fossingford I wouldn't be in heaven at Eagle Nest. Come to think of it, I believe you did quite the proper thing in getting off at Fossingford--no matter what the hour."

"You must remember always that I have not taken you to task for a most flagrant piece of--shall I say indiscretion?"

"Good Heavens!"

"You stopped off at Fossingford for the sole purpose of seeing another woman."

"That's all very fine, dear, but you'll admit that Dudley was an excellent substitute for Havens. Can't you see how easy it was to be mistaken?"

"I won't fall into easy submission. Still, I believe I could recommend you as a detective. They usually do the most unheard of things--just as you have. Poor Jim Dudley an actor! Mistaken for such a man as you say Havens is! It is even more ridiculous than that I should be mistaken for Mrs. Wharton."

"Say, I'd like to know something about Dudley. It was his confounded devotion to you that helped matters along in my mind. What is he to you?"

"He came here to-night to repeat a question that had been answered unalterably once before. Jim Dudley? Have you never heard of James Dudley, the man who owns all of those big mines in South America, the man who--"

"Who owns the yachts and automobiles and--and the railroad trains? Is he the one? The man with the millions? Good Lord! And you could have had him instead of me? Helen, I--I don't understand it. Why didn't you take him?"

She hesitated a moment before answering brightly:

"Perhaps it is because I have a fancy for the ridiculous."

THE END


The Purple Parasol - 7/7

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