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"THE lady who dropped her glove in the Forbidden Radius," he repeated. "She guessed too much then."
I began to remember Landry's mysterious words when I returned her glove. They might be taken in evidence of the truth of this, but I was chary of taking Dornton's bare word for a thing, particularly in a case like the present where he was evidently speaking with a definite though hidden purpose. Again and again I put myself the question— what was the object that influenced him? And each solution that I thought of seemed more futile than the last.
"She guessed far too much," he went on, "or, at any rate, so Mirzarbeau assumes. Hence he is undecided whether the Beast had better put an end to Beauty, or whether she is to be sort of Mrs. Beast. Being a Frenchman, he is naturally susceptible to feminine charms."
"He is not likely to have much difficulty in persuading her," I let slip bitterly.
"No? . . . The eternal feminine is always a troublesome factor, however. Supposing Beauty should elect to dispossess the Beast— how then?"
"I should say that there is a man ready to work it to his own ends whichever way the cat jumps," I rejoined tartly.
"You flatter me. But I think I should aim higher did I aim at all— the Beast is not the most important character to be found in the Book of Revelation. I should 'go the whole hog '— to quote your lady friend. However, nous verrons. To change the subject, you are, I presume, unaware of Mirzarbeau's latest?"
"You remember that wild talk about the comet at the meeting of the Finis Mundi hystericals? You remember his 'Messieurs, it shall'?"
"Yes, but what of it? That was mere gas."
"Gas or no, he has not forgotten it! Or, rather, our planet is still of the same mind, and Mirzarbeau in the plenitude of his absolute 'free will' is the finger on the trigger. The Earth is still bent on suicide, and millions of miles away in the depths of space a body of flaming violet is growing to do the deed. . . . Possibly the world would be more comfortable for its molecules did Mirzarbeau cease to exist."
This reiterated incitement to murder the professor struck me, and I fancied that I could read between the lines of all this talk about the comet.
"You'll pardon my being incredulous," said I, " but I can't conceive of Mirzarbeau in the character you assign him. 'Twill be a very long day before any one dares to attack him— let them be told of his powerlessness or not. And he's got too much to make life worth living, to be in any hurry to relinquish it."
"Including the beautiful Miss Baker."
And with this thrust he bade me good-night.
I sat long pondering over his words. Try as I would I could not nerve myself to attempt to kill Mirzarbeau; every assurance of immunity that Dornton had given me, every word that he had said to incite my jealousy only made me the more afraid. There was something behind that I could not fathom, and it terrified me. Yet, I did decide to go and call upon Landry on the morrow; and, if I could in any way persuade her to listen, to warn her of the death that might await her at the hand of Mirzarbeau. But, even supposing that she granted me an interview, whether she would heed me or no was quite another matter; even as I made the resolve I remembered how she had once said that she would "boss the whole caboodle." From a literary or dramatic point of view for her to do this was admirable, a situation to be encountered in books by the score— to be met with in history also, for that matter; but. . .
And even were she able to play Cleopatra to Mirzarbeau's Antony, there was Dornton to consider. Cleopatra's beauty made no impression on Octavius; was it likely that Landry would be more successful in a modern version? Also, a Cleopatra who spoke of "bossing the whole caboodle" seemed hampered for a fight wherein sentiment would be her only weapon— sentiment and "English as she is spoke" in America did not seem to have a marked affinity even in my own case where I had had the best of intentions. Yet I doubted whether Landry would take it kindly did I hint to her ever so delicately that she might be handicapped by her Chicago speech.
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