As the sound of the furious voice stopped short, there fell a stricken silence upon these three men.
Old Carson Tinker's gaze drifted downward from his employer's face. He sat, then, gazing into the rosy little fire until something upon the lapel of his coat caught his attention—a wilted and disreputable carnation. He threw it into the fire; and, with a sombre satisfaction, watched it sizzle. This brief pleasure ended, he became expressionless and relapsed into complete mummification.
Potter cleared his throat several times, and as many times seemed about to speak, and did not; but finally, hearing a murmur from the old man gazing at the fire, he requested to be informed of its nature.
“What?” Tinker asked, feebly.
“I said: 'What are you mumbling about?'”
“What was it you said?”
“I said it was the bride-look,” said the old man gently. “That's what it was about her—the bride-look.”
It was a word that went deep into the mourning heart of the playwright. “The bride-look!” That was it: the bride's happiness!
“She had more than that,” said Potter peevishly, but, if the others had noticed it his voice shook. “She could act! And I don't know how the devil to get along without that hypocrite. Just like her to marry the first regular man that asked her!”
Then young Stewart Canby had a vision of a room in a boarding-house far over in Brooklyn, and of two poor, brave young people there, and of a loss more actual than his own—a vision of a hard-working, careworn, stalwart Packer trying to comfort a weeping little bride who had lost her chance—the one chance—“that might never have come!”
Something leaped into generous life within him.
“I think I was almost going to ask her to marry me, to-morrow,” he said, turning to Talbot Potter. “But I'm glad Packer's the man. For years he's been a kind of nurse for you, Mr. Potter. And that's what she needs—a nurse—because she's a genius, too. And it will all be wasted if she doesn't get her chance!”
“Are you asking me to take her back?” Potter cried fiercely. “Do you think I'll break one of my iron—”
“We couldn't all have married her!” said the playwright with a fine inspiration. “But if you take her back we can all see her—every day!”
The actor gazed upon him sternly, but with sensitive lips beginning to quiver. He spoke uncertainly.
“Well,” he began. “I'm no stubborn Frenchman—”
“Do it!” cried Canby.
Then Potter's expression changed; he looked queer.
He clapped his hands loudly;—Sato appeared.
“Sato, take that stuff out.” He pointed to the untouched whiskey. “Order supper at ten o'clock—for five people. Champagne. Orchids. Get me a taxicab in half an hour.”
Tinker rose, astounded. “Taxicab? Where you—”
“To Brooklyn!” shouted Potter with shining eyes. “She'll drive with me if I bring them both, I guess, won't she?”
He began to sing:
“For to-night we'll merry, merry be! For to-night we'll merry, merry be—”
Leaping uproariously upon the aged Tinker, he caught him by the waist and waltzed him round and round the room.