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His Second Wife   By: (1880-1950)

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On a train speeding toward New York, in one of the parlour cars two young women sat facing each other, talking and smiling, deeply absorbed. They took little apparent notice of any one else in the car, but most of the people near them kept throwing curious glances their way.

These glances differed vastly, as did the thoughts behind them. A tall, genial Westerner, who looked as though he had come from a ranch, smiled frankly and hungrily on the pair and told himself with emphasis, "Those two girls are fifty fifty. I'd like a dozen of each brand." And a slim college boy with fresh, eager eyes kept darting quick looks from time to time at the older of the two, the blonde. He asked himself confusedly, "How'd I start in with a woman like her?" And exciting pictures rose in his mind. In the meantime an elderly lady, with a sharp, inquisitive air, had put down the ages of the girls at twenty two and thirty.

"They're sisters," she decided, but then she nearly changed her mind. They were such contrasted types. The blonde gave an appearance of sleek and moneyed elegance, with carefully undulated hair, a rounded bust, and pretty features smooth and plump, with a retroussé nose and rich, full lips, and a manner of easy assurance. The brunette was younger and less developed, slim and lithe, her curling black hair rebellious, her features more clean cut and clear, with wide, eager lips and warm brown eyes set wide apart.

"Nevertheless, they are sisters," the little lady firmly concluded. "The family resemblance is quite unmistakable." And frowning in perplexity, "But if they are sisters," she went on, "why is only one in mourning?" She looked at the younger of the two, who was simply dressed in black; and then at the blonde, whose sable cloak put back from her shoulders revealed a stylish travelling suit. "And why is one rich and the other poor?"

Meanwhile a young woman nearby, with a fat, discontented face, regarded the blonde with envy and thought:

"She's an actress with her maid. Why can't Harry allow me a maid, a real clever one like that? Men see these actresses on the stage and get to expecting things from their wives without being willing to pay for it! Think what that girl could make of me!"

A quiet, able looking woman sitting just across the aisle, who travelled for a clothing store, was watching the "maid," the brunette, and was thinking, "She makes her clothes herself. She has been the beauty of her small town. She's smart, too, and original. That collar was a clever idea and that fichu of lace. A pity she's in mourning."

But the large fat man behind the two girls had little thought for the brunette. His heavy eyes, quite motionless, were upon the older girl. He took in her sensuous shoulders, the rounded contour of her bust, her glossy coiffure, the small, fine hairs at the back of her neck. And he thought, "Yes, she has been loved pretty well." She was talking, and he could just hear her voice, soft and provocative, like the little gloved hand on her chair. By her eyes, which were of a violet hue, he saw she was aware of his gaze. Something gleamed in them that sent a thrill far down into his sluggish soul.

In the meantime a kindly old lady, whose eyes were fixed on the brunette, noticed how hard she was listening, noticed the fresh expectancy in her parted lips and clear brown eyes, and asked with a touch of sadness:

"I wonder what's waiting for you in New York? I'm afraid I don't like this companion of yours. And you're so very young, my dear, and eager and gay. And you are to be so beautiful."

And while all these conjectures were being made about them both, the brunette was wrapt in her own inner fancies, vivid and exciting. Listening to her sister, swift thoughts and expectations mingled with the memories of the life behind her. As she stared out of the window, fields and woods and houses kept whirling back out of her view and so it was with her memories... Continue reading book >>

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