Her lips moved but no sound issued. "Judge" Summerling bowed stiffly and cleared his throat. Steve Jarrold's hat ceased revolving an instant, then fairly spun as though to make up for lost time. Suddenly Gloria began to laugh hysterically, uncontrollably. Gratton whipped back and stared at her; Summerling and Jarrold were mystified. She looked so little like laughter!
"My dear," said Gratton, coming forward as though to meet her and then pausing abruptly and holding back, "this is Judge Judge Summerling. He will perform the ceremony, you know. And this is Mr. Jarrold. He brought the judge and will be a witness." Gloria from the last step regarded the three men as a prisoner might have looked upon jailers coming to drag her to execution.
"Now if you folks are ready," said Summerling, grown impatient the moment the cheque was in his pocket, "I've got a long ride ahead of me." This time Gloria did not keep them waiting. She came down the staircase to Mark King standing at the bottom. In her pink dress, like a thistledown, floating down to him. He was thinking she, too, remembered how for the first time they had met thus.
And yet, as she sat swallowed up in the big chair, for a space of time she was in a spell, caught up and whirled away from those about her; she forgot Gratton with the white, angry face; she had no eyes for Mark King or for Summerling, Steve Jarrold or Jim Spalding. She was thinking of another day, two years ago, when she and her mother had been alone in this room.
On his honest old face was a look of utter bewilderment; for the life of him he couldn't decide whether he or every one else had gone crazy. King flushed under the look, but nodded and managed a calm "Yes, Jim." Summerling cleared his throat and thereafter scratched his head. "It's irregular. I told Gratton that. But he said there was was extenuatin' circumstances and all that.
And to Summerling: "I am ready." "But I ain't!" cried Spalding. He got to the door and started down the hall. "Wait a minute, will you?" Gratton hurried after him, his face hot with rage, while Steve Jarrold guffawed loudly and then, under Gloria's startled look, dropped his eyes. "Come back here, Spalding," commanded Gratton angrily. "Whatever you've got to do can wait a minute "
"It strikes me," said Summerling sarcastically, "that there's mighty funny goings-on here to-night. I show up to marry one man to a girl and nex' thing I know I peek in a winder and see " "Never mind that," cut in King hastily. "You are going to marry her after all. Only to another man." "Meanin' you, Mark?" demanded Jim.
King silenced the man with a scowl and led him and Jim into the living-room, closing the door. It was unthinkable that Gloria should hear a lot of talk about why's and how's. For Gloria, it struck him, had undergone enough for one day. "Look here," he said to Summerling then, "either you will or you won't. If you won't, then Miss Gaynor and myself will go elsewhere. Now, which is it?"
Surely circumstance had placed her in an equivocal position to-night. Summerling was the type to blab; he was in no charitable frame of mind; he had found her alone here with men, had come to marry her to one man, and now had seen her in the arms of another. There was but one answer, even to Mark King. "Some time you are going to marry me, Gloria," he said gravely. "Why not now?"
King inclined his head gravely, not realizing that his body stiffened under her light touch. "What about me?" demanded the "judge" sharply. "Am I needed or ain't I?" "I'd say not this evening," King's dry voice answered him. "Good-night to you." "That's a fine way to treat a man," cried Summerling truculently.