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H ALF an hour later Peter tiptoed over and closed the door. Then he sat down at his typewriter, removed the paper he had left in it, put in a new sheet and struck off a word. He sat still, then, in a sweat. The noise of the keys fell on his tense ears like the crackling thunder of a machine gun.
He got another sheet, sat down at the desk and wrote a few hurried sentences in longhand. He sealed it in an envelope, glancing nervously about the room; addressed it; and found a stamp in the desk. He stole into the bedroom, found his clothes in the dark and deliberately dressed, clear to overcoat and hat. He slipped out into the corridor, rang for the elevator and went out across the Square to the mail box. There was a box in the hall down-stairs; but he had found it impossible to post that letter before the eyes of John, the night man.
For a moment he stood motionless, one hand gripping the box, the other holding the letter in air—a statue of a man. Then he saw a sauntering policeman, shivered, dropped the letter in and almost ran home. Peter had done the one thing that he himself, twelve hours earlier, would have regarded as utterly impossible. Wilde, Scripture House, New York. It conveyed to that vigorous if pietistic gentleman the information that he would find his daughter, on the following evening, Saturday, performing on the stage of the Crossroads Theater, Tenth Street, near Fourth: with the added hint that it might not, even yet be too late to save her.
And Peter, all in a tremor now, knew that he meant to be at the Crossroads Theater himself to see this little drama of surprises come off. The fact developed when Hy came back from the office on Saturday that he was meditating a return engagement with his new friend Betty. I've meant to see it. You fellows going to-night? I'll join you. So the three Seventh-Story Men ate at the Parisian and set forth for their little adventure; Peter and Hy each with his own set of motives locked up in his breast, the Worm with no motives in particular.
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Peter smoked a cigar; the Worm his pipe; and Hy, as always, a cigarette. All carried sticks. Hy swung his stick; joked about this and that; offered an experimentally humorous eye to every young woman that passed.
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The Worm wore the old gray suit that he could not remember to keep pressed, soft black hat, flowing tie, no overcoat. A side pocket bulged with a paper-covered book in the Russian tongue. He had an odd way of walking, the Worm, throwing his right leg out and around and toeing in with his right foot. As they neared the little theater, Peter's pulse beat a tattoo against his temples. What if old Wilde hadn't received the letter! If he had, would he come! If he came, what would happen? Peter and the Worm were standing near the inner entrance, Waiting for Hy, who, cigarette drooping from his nether lip, stood in the me at the ticket window.
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Suddenly a man appeared—a stranger, from the casually curious glances he drew—elbowing in through the group in the outer doorway and made straight for the young poet who was taking tickets. Peter did not see him at first. Peter wheeled about. He had met the man only once or twice, a year back; now he took him in—a big man, heavy in the shoulders and neck, past middle age, with a wide thin orator's mouth surrounded by deep lines. He had a big hooked nose a strong nose! They struck you, those eyes, with their light hard surface. There were strips of whiskers on each cheek, narrow and close-clipped, tinged with gray.
His clothes, overcoat and hat were black; his collar a low turnover; his tie a loosely knotted white bow. He made an oddly dramatic figure in that easy, merry Bohemian setting; a specter from an old forgotten world of Puritanism. And the poet eyed him with cool suspicion. Still the big man frowned and compressed that wide mobile mouth.
Peter, all alert. Now Doctor Wilde spoke, with a sudden ring in his voice that gave a fleeting hint of inner suppressions. Peter heard a door open, down by the stage. He pressed forward, peering eagerly. A ripple of curiosity and friendly interest ran through that part of the audience that was already seated. Then he saw her, coming lightly, swiftly up the side aisle; in the boy costume—the knickerbockers, the torn stockings, the old coat and ragged hat, the tom shirt, open at the neck. She seemed hardly to hear the noise.
Her lips were compressed, and Peter suddenly saw that she in her fresh young way looked not unlike the big man at the door, the nervously intent man who stood waiting for her with a scowl that wavered into an expression of utter unbelief as his eyes took in her costume. Hy came up just then with the tickets, and Peter hurried in after Doctor Wilde; then let Hy and the Worm move on without him to their seats, lingering shamelessly. His little drama was on.
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He had announced that he would vivisect this girl! He studied her. But she saw nothing but the big gray man there with the deeply lined face and the pale eyes—her father! Peter noted now that she had her make-up on; an odd effect around those deep blazing eyes. Then the two were talking—low, tense.
Some late comers crowded in, chatting and laughing. Peter edged closer. Once more, will you put on your proper clothes and come home with me? I came out here to meet you and stop this thing, settle it, once and for all. It is the best way. I will not go with you. I have my own life to live, You must not try to speak to me again!
She turned away, her eyes darkly alight in her printed face, her slim body quivering.
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz: | denspacomnightil.tk: Books
Wilde's voice had been trembling with anger; now, Peter thought, it was suddenly near to breaking. He reached out one uncertain hand. And a wave of sympathy for the man flooded Peter's thoughts. Spiritual anarchy! It was all summed up, that revolt, in the girl's outrageous costume as she stood there before that older man, a minister, her own father! She caught the new note in her father's voice, hesitated the merest instant, but then went straight down the aisle, lips tight, eyes aflame, seeing and hearing nothing.
The stage door opened. She ran up the steps, and Peter caught a glimpse of the hulking Zanin reaching out with a familiar hand to take her arm and draw her within He turned back in time to see Doctor Wilde, beaten, walking rapidly out to the street, and the poet at the door looking after him with an expression of sheer uncomprehending irritation on his keen young face. While he was thus indulging his emotions, the curtain went up on Zanin's little play. He stood there near the door, trying to listen.
He was too excited to sit down. Turbulent emotions were rioting within him, making consecutive thought impossible.
go He caught bits of Zanin's rough dialogue. Then Peter plunged out the door and walked feverishly about the Village streets. He stopped at a saloon and had a drink. But the Crossroads Theater fascinated him. He drifted back there and looked in. The first play was over.