Warrington had really no right to be angry.
He was not engaged to Virginia, merely engaged with her in a somewhat tempestuous summer flirtation. Down in his heart he knew it for just that. But he was angry no less, for she had allowed a “hulking ass” newly arrived at the Inn to “hog her whole program and make him look a fool before every one.”
“Ah ha!” cried the still small voice, “so it’s Pride not Heart.” And that made him more angry than ever.
So he went away from the ball-room, out onto the dim veranda, and strode up and down muttering things better left unmuttered. Presently he stopped at the far shadowed end, lit a cigarette, snapped his case viciously, and said “damn.”
A demure voice just behind him said “shocking!” and he turned to confront a small figure in a big chair backed up against the wall.
“I repeat, shocking,” said the voice—a very nice voice. And giggled—a very ripply little gurgly little giggle.
His anger went away.
“Mysterious lady of the shadows,” he said (he was very good at that sort of thing), “does my righteous wrath amuse you?”
He came nearer. He had thought he knew every girl at the Hotel. Here was a strange one, and pretty. Very. He decided that monopolizing Virginia had been a mistake.
“It’s not a night for wrath, righteous or otherwise. See!” and she stretched out her arms to the great moon hanging low over the golf links beyond.
He hunted for a chair. This was bully. And when he had drawn one up, quite close:
“Whence do you come, all silvery with the moon, to chide me for my sins, moon maid?”
Without doubt he was outdoing himself.
She laughed softly and leaned toward him, elfin in the pale shimmer of light. “I am Romance,” she breathed, “and this is my night. The night, the moon, and I conspire to make magic.”
He secured a slim hand. The pace was telling. His voice was a little husky.
“Your charms are very potent, moon maid,” he said, “it is magic, isn’t it? It—it doesn’t happen like this—really.”
Their eyes met—clung.
“You—you take my breath,” he stammered. “Does your heart mean what your eyes are saying? Don’t—don’t look at me like that unless you do—mean it.”
She didn’t answer in words. She, too, was breathing quickly.
He released her hand, and sprang up—half turned away. Then he dropped to the arm of her chair. Swiftly he took her face in his two hands. The throbbing of her throat intoxicated him. “I—I—love me,” he stammered.
Her lips moved. A sob more poignant than words. They kissed for a long time.
There were footsteps down the veranda. She drew away. She recognized her mother’s voice and Miss Neilson’s. She was thinking very quickly. Should she send him away or end it now—end it all now?
“You darling—you darling. I—I love you,” he was saying.
She leaned to him. “Kiss me. Kiss me—quickly.”
The voices were quite close now.
“Mother,” she called, “here I am.” She laughed. “But I guess you know I wouldn’t run away. Mother, this is Mr.—ah—Brown, and we have been discussing—doctors. Mr. Brown has an uncle in exactly my condition. Hopelessly paralyzed.”
She said it calmly. The world reeled. His brain was numb. She was being wheeled away by the nurse. A wheeled chair—God!
“Good-night,” she called.
A cripple. He had kissed her. Horrible! He made for the bar.
In her room while the nurse was making her ready for bed, the mother said, “How strange you look, dear. And how—how beautiful.”
She flung her arms wide in an intoxication of triumph. “Mother,” she half sobbed, “all my life to now I’ve been just—just a thing. A cripple. Now—now—I am a woman.”
“Oh, God!” she cried, her eyes starry. “Life is good—good. For now—now I have—a Memory.”