“You can hardly expect me to credit that,” she said. “I must go up now and read mamma into the pleasant land of thin girlish figures that is her afternoon siesta. I may come back and talk to you after a while, but I don’t promise to explain.” “Why you wept in the station, why you invented the story of the actress, why you came here to brighten my drab exile—what this whole comedy of Baldpate Inn amounts to, anyhow? I assure you I am as innocent of understanding it as is the czar of Russia on his golden throne.” “Why, of this,” she answered, waving her hand toward the office below. Gleefully Mr. Magee started the hermit on his way, and then went over to where the girl stood at the foot of the stairs. Mr. Magee also looked in that direction and saw the girl of the station smiling down.
He decided he’d better not, on second thought. With the blue corduroy suit again complete, and the saucy hat perched on her blond head, Miss Norton ran down the stairs and received the news that Mr. Max also was enthralled by the possibilities of a walk up Baldpate. The three went out through the front door, and found under the snow a hint of the path that led to the shack of the post-card merchant. Unheeding her flow of talk, the hermits of Baldpate Inn swallowed the coffee she offered. When the rather unsatisfactory substitute for breakfast was consumed, Mr. Magee rose briskly.
“And a flirtation lurking in every corner!”—from Magee. “A country town where you don’t know any one.” “The easiest place in the world to get acquainted. I must be alone, man! Alone!” “Baldpate Inn,” Bentley had cried in his idiom. “Why, Billy—Baldpate Inn at Christmas—it must be old John H. Seclusion himself.”
The windows of the stores were green with holly; the faces of the passers-by reflected the excitements of Christmas and of the upheaval in civic politics which were upon them almost together. “Seems like you’re always putting me in a cab,” remarked the older woman as she climbed inside. “I don’t know what Mary and me would have done if it hadn’t been for you. You’re a mighty handy person to have around, Mr. Magee. Ain’t he, dearie?” She winked openly at Magee.
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“Lucky the manners and customs of the summer folks aren’t carried over into the winter,” he said. “Imagine a Mrs. Clark asked to sit at table with the mayor of Reuton and his picturesque but somewhat soiled friend, Mr. Max. I hope the dinner is a huge success.” “Many men have loved you, for very few men are blind. I am sorry I was not the man on the stair, or on the mountain in the moonlight. Who knows—I might have been the favored one for my single summer of joy.”
- Mr. Cargan took from his pocket a big cigar, and calmly lighted it.
- Into the night the girl and the two hundred thousand had fled together, and Mr. Magee could only wait, and wonder, as to the meaning of that flight.
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- “Then,” she answered, “I must go away—very quickly. And no one must know, or they will try to stop me.”
- “I agreed to his plan. Hayden led the way into the room where the admiral had been playing. We went up to the table, over which the green-shaded light still burned. On it lay two decks of cards, face up. Hayden picked up the nearest deck, and shuffled it nervously. His face—God, it was like the snow out there on the mountain.”