The Lighted Match (Chapter 9, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 9

That she had left Maritzburg, and that she had written him a message to
be sealed for a month, meant that the date of March 5th had
significance. That she was in Galavia meant that the significance
was--he winced.

On the calendar of a bronze desk-set, the first four days of March were
already cancelled. Now, taking up a blue pencil, he crossed off the
number five. After that he looked at his watch. It wanted one minute of
six. He held the timepiece before him while the second-hand ticked its
way once around its circle, then with feverish impatience he tore the
end from the envelope.

Benton's face paled a little as he drew out the many pages covered with
a woman's handwriting, but there was no one to see that or to notice the
tremor of his fingers.

For a moment he held the pages off, seeing only the "Dearest" at the
top, and the wild way the pen had raced, forming almost shapeless
characters.

"Dearest," she said in part, "I write now because I must turn to
someone--because my heart must speak or break. All day I must smile as
befits royalty, and act as befits one whose part is written for her.
Unless there be an outlet, there must be madness. I have enclosed this
envelope in another and enjoined you not to read it until March 5th.
Then it will be too late for you to come to me. If you came to-night,
you would find me hurrying out to meet you and to surrender. Duty would
so gladly lay down its arms to Love, dear, and desert the fight.

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