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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter13,part5)

2006-08-28 23:39

    PART 5

    Sam called on Jeff two days later.

    "I want you to come round to-night at seven-fifteen. We're going to be married," he explained.

    The newspaper man's eye met his in a swift surprise. "You and Nellie?"

    "Yes." Miller's jaw set. "Why not? YOU'RE not going to spring that damned cant about——"

    "I thought you knew me better," his friend interrupted.

    Miller's face worked. "I'll ask your pardon for that, Jeff. You've been the best friend she has. Well, we've thrashed it all out. She fought her mother and me two days; didn't think it right to let me give my name to her, even though she admits she has come to care for me. You can see how she would be torn two ways. It's the only road out for her and the baby that is on the way, but she couldn't bring herself to sacrifice me, as she calls it. I've hammered and hammered at her that it's no sacrifice. She can't see it; just cries and cries."

    "Of course she would be unusually sensitive; Her nerves must be all bare so that she shrinks as one does when a wound is touched."

    "That's it. She keeps speaking of herself as if she were a lost soul. At last we fairly wore her out. After we are married her mother and she will take the eight o'clock for Kenton. Nobody there knows them, and she'll have a chance to forget."

    "You're a white man, Sam," Jeff nodded lightly. But his eyes were shining.

    "I'm the man that loves her. I couldn't do less, could I?"

    "Some men would do a good deal less."

    "Not if they looked at it the way I do. She's the same Nellie I've always known. What difference does it make to me that she stumbled in the dark and hurt herself——except that my heart is so much more tender to her it aches?"

    "If you hold to that belief she'll live to see the day when she is a happy woman again," the journalist prophesied.

    "I'm going to teach her to think of it all as only a bad nightmare she's been through." His jaw clinched again so that the muscles stood out on his cheeks. "Do you know she won't say a word——not even to her mother-about who the villain is that betrayed her? I'd wring his coward neck off for him," he finished with a savage oath.

    "Better the way it is, Sam. Let her keep her secret…… The least said and thought about it the better."

    Miller looked at his watch. "Perhaps you're right. I've got to go to work. Remember, seven-fifteen sharp. We need you as a witness. Just your business suit, you understand. No present, of course."

    The wedding took place in the room where Jeff had been used to drinking chocolate with his little friend only a year before. It was the first time he had been here since that night when the danger signal had flashed so suddenly before his eyes. The whole thing came back to him poignantly.

    It was a pitiful little wedding, with the bride and her mother in tears from the start. The ceremony was performed by their friend Mifflin, the young clergyman who had a mission for sailors on the waterfront. Nobody else was present except Marchant, the second witness.

    As soon as the ceremony was finished Sam put Nellie and her mother into a cab to take them to their train. The other three walked back down town.

    As Jeff sat before his desk four hours later, busy with a tax levy story, Miller came in and took a seat. Jeff waved a hand at him and promptly forgot he was on earth until he rose and put on his coat an hour later.

    "Well! Did they get off all right?" he asked.

    Miller nodded absently. Ten minutes later he let out what he was thinking about.

    "I wish to God I knew the man," he exploded.

    Jeff looked at him quietly. "I'm glad you don't. Adding murder to it wouldn't help the situation one little bit, my friend."

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