The Lighted Match (Chapter 6, page 2 of 10)


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Chapter 6

The few days of the last week raced by, with all the charm of sky and
field that the magic of Indian summer can lavish, and for Benton and
Cara, they raced also with the sense of fast-slipping hope and
relentlessly marching doom. Outwardly Cara set a pace for vivacious and
care-free enjoyment that left Mrs. Porter-Woodleigh, the
"semi-professional light-hearted lady," as O'Barreton named her, "to
trail along in the ruck." Alone with Benton, there was always the furrow
between the brows and the distressed gaze upon the mystery beyond the
sky-line, but Pagratide and Von Ritz were vigilant, to the end that
their tête-à-têtes were few.

Neither Benton nor Cara had alluded to the man's overbold assertion that
he would find a way. It was a futile thing said in eagerness. The day of
the dance, the last day they could hope for together, came unprefaced by
development. To-morrow she must take up her journey and her duty: her
holiday would be at its end. It was all the greater reason why this
evening should be memorable. He should think of her afterward as he saw
her to-night, and it pleased her that in the irresponsibility of the
maskers she should appear to him in the garb of vagabond liberty, since
in fact freedom was impossible to her.

As the kaleidoscope of the first dance sifted and shifted its pattern of
color, three men stood by the door, scanning the disguised figures with
watchful eyes.

One of the three was fantastically arrayed as a cannibal chief, in brown
fleshings, with cuffs upon his ankles, gaudy decorations about his neck,
and huge rings in nose and ears.

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