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   Chapter 37 No.37

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 9434

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


LEIGHTON'S first feeling on entering Folly's bedroom was one of despair. All his knowledge of the highways and byways of the feminine mind was only enough to make him recognize, as he glanced about the room, that he was about to encounter more! than a personality, that he was face to face with a force.

The most illuminating thing that can be said about Folly's bedroom is that Leighton saw the bedroom-the whole of it-before he consciously saw Folly. The first impression that the room gave was one of fresh air-the weighted air of a garden in bloom, however, rather than that of some wind-swept plain. The next, was one of an even and almost stolid tone, neither feminine nor masculine, in the furnishings. They were masterfully impersonal.

To Leighton, who had had the run of every grade of greasy, professional dressing-room, chaotic and slovenly beyond description, and of boudoirs, professional and otherwise, each in its appropriate measure a mirror of the character of its occupant, the detachment of this big room came as a shock. There were only eight pieces of furniture, of which four were chairs, yet there was no sense of emptiness. The proportions of the remaining objects would have dwarfed a far larger space.

Along the whole length of one wall stood an enormous press in mahogany, with sliding-doors. Two of the doors were slightly open, for Folly knew that clothes, like people and flowers, need a lot of air. Leighton caught a glimpse of filmy nothings hanging on racks; of other nothings, mostly white, stacked on deep shelves; of a cluster of hats clinging like orchids to invisible bumps; and last and least, of tiny slippers all in a row.

At right angles to the press, but well away from it, stood a dressing-table surmounted by a wide, low swivel-mirror. The table was covered with tapestry under glass. The dull gleam of the tapestry seemed to tone down and control the glittering array of toilet articles in monogrammed gold. Facing the press, stood a large trinity cheval-glass, with swinging wings. In the center of the room was the bed. Behind the bed and on each side of it were two high windows. They carried no hangings, but were fitted with three shades, differing in weight and color, and with adjustable porcelain Venetian blinds which could be made to exclude light without excluding air.

Folly's bed was a mighty structure. Like the rest of the furniture, it was of mahogany. It was a four-poster, but posts would be a misleading term applied to the four fluted pillars that carried the high canopy. The canopy itself was trimmed with no tassels or hangings except for a single band of thick tapestry brought just low enough to leave the casual observer in doubt as to whether there really was a canopy at all.

Having taken in all the surroundings at a glance, Leighton's eyes finally fell upon Folly. She lay in a puzzling, soft glow of light. Resting high on the pillows, she reached scarcely half-way down the length of the great bed. For a second they looked at each other solemnly. Then Leighton's glance passed from her face to the two braids of hair, down the braids to her bare arms demurely still at her sides, down her carefully wrapped figure, down, down to her pink toes. Folly was watching that glance. As it reached her toes, she gave them a quick wriggle. Leighton jumped as if some one had shot at him, and solemnity made a bolt through the open windows, hotly pursued by a ripple and a rumble of laughter.

When Leighton had finished laughing, he sat down in a chair and sighed. He was trying to figure out just what horse-power it would have taken to drag him away from Folly at Lewis's age. Where was he going to find the power? For the first time in many years he trembled before a situation. He began to talk casually, trying to lead up to the object of his call. Two things, however, distracted him. One was the puzzling glow of light that bathed Folly and the bed, the other was Folly herself.

Folly was very polite indeed as far as occasional friendly interjections went, but as to genuine attention she was distinctly at fault. She did not look at Leighton while he talked, but held her gaze dreamily on what would have been the sky above her had not three floors of apartments, a roof, and several other things intervened.

Finally Leighton exclaimed in exasperation:

"What are you staring at?"

Folly started as though she had just wakened, and turned her eyes on him.

"You're too far away," she said. "If you really want to talk to me, come over here." She patted the bed at her side.

Leighton crossed over, and sat on the edge of the bed. Something made him look up. His jaw dropped. There was a canopy to Folly's

bed. It consisted of one solid sweep of French mirror so limpid that reflection became reality. It was fringed with tiny veiled lights.

Once more Folly's gay ripple of laughter rang out, but it was unaccompanied this time. Leighton's fighting blood was up. He stared at her stolidly.

"Look here," he said, "I do want to talk to you. Put out those cursed little lights!"

"Oh, dear!" gasped Folly as she switched off the lights, "you're such a funny man! You make me laugh. Please don't do it any more."

"I won't try any harder than I have so far," said Leighton, grimly. "This is what I came to say to you. My boy wants to marry you. I don't want him to. I might as well confess that during the last ten minutes I've given up any ideas I had of buying you off. I'm not worth a million."

"You poor dear," said Folly, "don't worry any longer. I don't want to marry Lew. Ask me something else."

"I will," said Leighton. "It's just this. Chuck Lew over. Get rid of him. It will hurt him, I know. I can understand that better now than I did before. But I'd rather hurt him a bit that way than see him on the rack."

"Thanks," said Folly; "but, you see, I can't get rid of him. You can't get rid of something you haven't got." She smiled. "Don't you see? I'll have to get him before I can oblige you."

"Don't bother," said Leighton. "A clever woman like you often gets rid of something she hasn't got. Look here, you don't want to marry Lew, and, what's more, you don't love him. You couldn't marry him if you wanted to. You know it isn't in you to marry any man. But I tell you, Folly, if it really was in you truly to marry Lew, I'd give in and bless you. I wouldn't have yesterday, but I would to-day; because, my dear, you are simply made up of charms. The only thing missing is a soul."

"You talk better than Lew-not so silly," remarked Folly. "But what's the use of all this palaver about marrying? I've told you I don't want to marry him."

"Well, what do you want, then?"

"I want Lew," said Folly, smiling. She sat up, and drew her knees into the circle of her arms. "He's an awfully nice boy. So like you, Marie says. I just want him to have. You know."

"Yes," said Leighton, dryly. "Well, you can't have him."

"Can't have him?" repeated Folly, straightening. "Why not?"

"Because I don't want you to."

"But why?"

"Well," said Leighton, "I don't believe in that sort of thing."

"Oh, oh!" cried Folly, "now you're trying to make me laugh again! By the way, are you Mr. Grapes Leighton?"

"I am," said Leighton, flushing.

Folly called the maid.

"Marie," she said, "bring me my scrap-book-the oldest one."

Leighton moved back to the chair and sat down with a resigned air. Marie brought in a huge scrap-book, and placed it on a bracket tea-tray that swung in over the bed. Folly opened the book and turned the leaves slowly. "Here we are," she said at last, and read, mimicking each speaker to a turn:

"'Counsel:' 'Please, Mrs. Bing, just answer yes or no; did you or did you not meet Mr. Leighton in the corridor at three o'clock in the morning?

"'Mrs. Bing:' 'Well, sir, yes; sir, that is, please your Honor [turning to the judge], I did meet Mr. Leighton in the collidoor, but 'e was eating of a bunch of grapes that innercent you'd ha' knowed at once as 'ee 'adn't been up to no mischief.' [Laughter.]

"Order! Order!" boomed Folly, as she slammed the book.

Leighton shrugged his shoulders.

"That's neither here nor there. You'll find before you get through with life what people with brains have known for several centuries. The son that's worth anything at all is never like his father. Sons grow."

"I don't care anything about that," said Folly, calmly. "I'm going to have Lew because-well, just because I want him."

"And I say you 're not."

"So?" said Folly, her eyes narrowing. Then she smiled and added,

"There's only one way you can stop me"

"How's that?" said Leighton.

"By making me want somebody else more."

Leighton looked at her keenly for a moment.

"I shall never do that," he said.

"Somehow," said Folly, still smiling, "you've made a fair start. It isn't you exactly. It's that you are just Lew-the whole of Lew and a lot of things added."

"You are blind," said Leighton; "you don't know the difference between addition and subtraction. Anyway, even if I could do it, I wouldn't. I want to fight fair-fair with Lew, fair with you, if you're fair with me, and fair with myself. But I want to fight, not play. Will you lunch at our place to-morrow?"

"Let's see. To-morrow," said Folly, tapping her lips to hide a tiny yawn. "Well, we can't fight unless we get together, can we? Yes, I'll come."

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