Chapter XLVI

Madeleine made her toilette with trembling hands, nevertheless with no detail neglected. Her beautiful chestnut hair was softly parted and arranged in a mass of graceful curls at the back of the head. She wore a house-gown of white muslin sprigged with violets, and a long Marie Antoinette fichu, pale green and diaphanous. Where it crossed she fastened a bunch of violets. She looked like a vision of spring, a grateful vision for a sick room.

When Holt tapped on her door on his way out the second time, muttering characteristically: "Coast clear. All serene," she walked down the hall with nothing of the primitive fierce courage she had exhibited in Five Points. She was terrified at the ordeal before her, afraid of appearing sentimental and silly; that he would find her less beautiful than his memory of her, or gone off and no longer desirable. What if he should die suddenly? Holt had told her of his agitation. This visit should have been postponed until he had slept and recuperated. She had sent him word to that effect but he had replied that he had no intention of waiting.

She stood still for a few moments until she felt calmer, then turned the knob of Masters' door and walked in.

He was sitting propped up in bed and she had an agreeable shock of surprise. In spite of all efforts of will her imagination had persisted in picturing him with a violent red face and red injected eyes, a loose sardonic mouth and lines like scars. His face was very pale, his eyes clear and bright, his hair trimmed in its old close fashion, his mouth grimly set. Although he was very thin the lines in his cheeks were less pronounced. He looked years older, of course, and the life he had led had set its indelible seal upon him, but he was Langdon Masters again nevertheless.

His eyes dilated when he saw her, but he smiled whimsically.

"So you want what is left of this battered old husk, Madeleine?" he asked. "You in the prime of your beauty and your youth! Better think it over."

She smiled a little, too.

"Do you mean that?"

"No, I don't! Come here! Come here!"