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Huntley poked the open-wood fire viciously; the sudden glow lit up the easy luxuriousness of the studio, reflecting in quaint bits of copper and antique bronzes, and casting a yellow light on the heavy oriental hangings. Tomorrow he was to be married, and he realized that he ought to be happy on his wedding eve. Particularly, when he was to marry a girl, who, beside being one of the prettiest, sweetest girls in town, was the envied possessor of an inheritance of some million dollars and a very ancient family tree . . . also, he was very much in love with her . . .

However, Huntley was very nervous; he swore softly at the fire, where he had been burning, without any regrets, a pack of old letters.

"After tomorrow," he reflected, "We'll be married, anyhow . . . God . . . if Opal should turn up before that . . . Well, I know Alecia . . . and Alecia's family . . . it would be all over with them . . . and her. I couldn't explain—they wouldn't understand. They'd never consent to Alecia marrying a divorced man . . . they're so awfully conservative. However, there's a chance Opal hasn't heard of . . . maybe she's out of town . . . this is the trouble of not keeping in [touch] with your 'former wife.' "

He smiled a little cynically. He was aware of the former Mrs. Huntley's fondness for theatrical poses, and he surmised that she would choose tonight to see him, if she wished to interfere. And knowing also her disposition, he felt that there was reason to dread her appearance. So he had decided to remain at the studio this evening, despite his fiancée's objections.

*          *          *

There was a soft patter of feet at the door, and Huntley's Japanese man announced.

"Leddy to see you, Sir."

Huntley started . . . so she had come, after all.

"Show her in—"

"Ah—. I came right up," a soft figure brushed past the astonished Jap, "but .  . . I don't suppose I've even got that privilege now."

The oriental pulled the curtains together, and slipped down the stairs. Huntley looked at her as she stood there, in the firelight, waiting for him to speak. She was just the same Opal . . . the same dead-black hair . . . the rich coloring . . . the pathetically childish curve of her mouth that so well belied her true character. She looked even younger, he thought, than when he saw her last. And he approved of her gown. It was better than he had been able to give her.

"Well. Preddy, aren’t you going to speak to me at all?" She assumed an innocently confiding expression . . . the one he so used to adore. Then she laughed.

"So," she mocked him, "tomorrow you're going to marry Miss Alecia Ketteredge, heiress—"

Huntley groaned.

"You hell-hound . . . I'm going to marry her, yes. I told her all about you." He realized the futility of his lie.

"Now, now, Preddy . . . don't call names. We're not married now, you know. Do you suppose for one moment I think you told her?" She laughed scornfully.

"Look here," she continued, "do you remember, right after our divorce . . . you told me that if I ever 'tried to fool some poor devil,' as you expressed it, into marrying me . . . do you remember what you said you'd do? . . . do you remember? It was your own fault that you married me. I wasn't going to tell you all about my past . . . you never asked me. And now your turn comes . . . you've got a past now. You've got a divorced wife . . . and you're trying to marry into a wealthy Catholic family . . . trying to fool some young girl. Are you much worse than I was . . . are you?"

"It's different. I'm not marrying her for her money, as you seem to think. I love her, Opal."

"You love her . . ."      She turned on him fiercely. "Well, and if you do, didn't I love you? Do you suppose I married a poor artist for fun, or what? I didn't know then that you'd ever succeed."

They were silent for a moment, then he spoke desperately. "Well, Opal, when are you going to tell them? It won't make so much difference to the family socially . . . because . . . they . . . well, I don't think they quite like it, anyhow. And Alecia told me her brother is going to surprise the family tomorrow. He's going to announce his engagement to some girl he met last summer . . . so that will be something to divert their attention."

She smiled at him mockingly.

"Don't worry, Preddy. I won't tell. I'm the 'girl' her brother's going to marry."

10 Story Book, May, 1910.

 

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