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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

Without rising Bassett bade him wait outside


A

single lamp on a table in the middle of the high-ceilinged room shed a narrow circle of light that deepened the shadows of the walls. Bassett, standing by a window, was aware of a lighter step than was usual in this plotting chamber. He advanced toward the table with his hands in his pockets, waited till Sylvia was disclosed by the lamp, stopped abruptly, stared at her with eyes that seemed not to see her. Then he placed a chair for her, muttering:--

"I thought you would come."

It seemed to her that a sigh broke from him, hidden by the scraping of the chair across the bare floor. He crossed and recrossed the floor several times, as though now that she had come he had dismissed her from his thoughts. Then as he passed near her with slow, heavy step she spoke.

"I came to talk to you, Mr. Bassett. Please turn on the other lights."

"Pardon me," he said; and she heard his fingers fumbling for the switch by the door. In a moment the room was flooded from the chandelier overhead, and he returned, and sat down by the table without looking at her.

"I shouldn't have come here, but I knew of no other way. It seemed best to see you to-night."

"It's all right," he replied indifferently.

He sat drooping, as though the light had in itself a weight that

bore him down. His face was gray; his hands hung impotently from the arms of his chair. He still did not meet her eyes, which had taken in every line of his figure, the little details of his dress, even the inconspicuous pearl pin thrust through the loose ends of his tie. A man opened the door hurriedly and peered in: Bassett was wanted elsewhere, he said. Without rising Bassett bade him wait outside. The man seemed to understand that he was to act as guard, and he began patroling the corridor. The sound of his steps on the tiles was plainly distinguishable as he passed the door.

"It's all right now," Bassett explained. "No one will come in here."

He threw his arm over the back of his chair and bent upon Sylvia a glance of mingled curiosity and indifference.

"I understand," she said quietly, "that nothing has been done. It is not yet too late. The situation here is as it has been?"

"Yes; if you mean out _there_. They are waiting for me."

"I suppose Mr. Harwood is there, and Mr. Thatcher."

He blinked at the names and changed his position slightly.

"I dare say they are," he answered coldly.

"I thought it best to see you and talk to you; and I'm glad I knew before it was too late."

His eyes surveyed her slowly now from head to foot. Why was she glad she had known before it was too late? Her calmness made him uneasy, restless. It was a familiar characteristic of Morton Bassett that he met storm and stress stoically. He was prepared for scorn, recrimination, tears; but this dark-eyed girl, sitting before him in her gray walking-dress and plain hat with a bunch of scarlet flowers showing through the veil she had caught up over them, seemed in no danger of yielding to tears. Her voice fell in cool, even tones. He had said that he expected her, but she did not know what manner of meeting he had been counting on in his speculations. After a long look he passed his hand across his face.


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