Chapter III

The Talbots remained to supper and arrived at the Occidental Hotel at the dissipated hour of half past nine. As they entered their suite the bride took her sweeping skirts in either hand and executed a pas seul down the long parlor.

"I was a success!" she cried. "You were proud of me. I could see it. And even at the table, although I talked nearly all the time to Mr. McLane, I never mentioned a book."

She danced over and threw her arms about his neck. "Say you were proud of me. I'd love to hear it."

He gave her a bear-like hug. "Of course. You are the prettiest and the most animated woman in San Francisco, and that's saying a good deal. And I've given them all a mighty surprise."

"I believe that is the longest compliment you ever paid me--and because I made a good impression on some one else. What irony!"

She pouted charmingly, but her eyes were wistful. "Now sit down and talk to me. I've scarcely seen you since we arrived."

"Oh! Remember you are married to this old ruffian. You'll see enough of me in the next thirty or forty years. Run to bed and get your beauty sleep. I promised to go to the Union Club."

"The Club? You went to the Club last night and the night before and the night before that. Every night since we arrived--"

"I haven't seen half my old cronies yet and they are waiting for a good old poker game. Sleep is what you want after such an exciting day. Remember, I doctor the nerves of all the women in San Francisco and this is a hard climate on nerves. Wonder more women don't go to the devil."

He kissed her again and escaped hurriedly. Those were the days when women wept facilely, "swooned," inhaled hartshorn, calmed themselves with sal volatile, and even went into hysterics upon slight provocation. Madeleine Talbot merely wept. She believed herself to be profoundly in love with her jovial magnetic if rather rough husband. He was so different from the correct reserved men she had been associated with during her anchored life in Boston. In Washington she had met only the staid old families, and senators of a benignant formality. In Europe she had run across no one she knew who might have introduced her to interesting foreigners, and Mrs. Chilton would as willingly have caressed a tiger as spoken to a stranger no matter how prepossessing. Howard Talbot, whom she had met at the house of a common friend, had taken her by storm. Her family had disapproved, not only because he was by birth a Southerner, but for the same reason that had attracted their Madeleine. He was entirely too different. Moreover, he would take her to a barbarous country where there was no Society and people dared not venture into the streets lest they be shot. But she had overruled them and been very happy--at times. He was charming and adorable and it was manifest that for him no other woman existed.

But she could not flatter herself that she was indispensable. He openly preferred the society of men, and during that interminable sea voyage she had seen little of him save at the table or when he came to their stateroom late at night. For her mind he appeared to have a good-natured masculine contempt. He talked to her as he would to a fascinating little girl. If he cared for mental recreation he found it in men.

She went into her bedroom and bathed her eyes with eau de cologne. At least he had given her no cause for jealousy. That was one compensation. And a wise married friend had told her that the only way to manage a husband was to give him his head and never to indulge in the luxury of reproaches. She was sorry she had forgotten herself tonight.