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FROM THE "TIP" OF THE ROCKET

by Albert Payson Terhune
Author of "The Treasure Jar."

"I'M GLAD you're as cross as you know how to be," observed Maia.

Perhaps the man did not hear. Certainly he did not heed. He sat looking blankly to westward, over the roofs of the city.

"Because," explained Maia brilliantly, "then you can't be any crosser than you are."

Even this perfect feminine logic did not shake the man into a reply. Maia Garth tried to crush him with a single look, but her glare was wasted. He did not see. He did not sec anything but the line of black Palisades to the westward—black against an only less black sky.

Maia poked daintily with a waxed-paper straw at a fugitive cherry that lurked elusive amid the ice fields at the bottom of her long glass. Then she looked—despairingly, this time—at the man; and, noting his fixity of look, let her own gaze follow his.

Out over the heat-baked roofs, dull and misty, broken by rectangles of smoky, furnace-like glare from the intersecting streets she gazed; then over the dimmer void that was the North River, to the inky wall of rock, its crest picked out here and there with diamond points of blue-white electric lights, that stood out so primly against the starless sky behind.

The spectacle did not inspire Maia. Indeed, it vaguely depressed her. And, coupled with her escort's fixed abstraction, it tended to bring on a fit of blues.

To shake off the cloud, she turned eastward and leaned over so that she could see above the parapet of the roof-garden into whose far comer their table was wedged. Here, forsooth, was a spectacle of life to drive away the most persistent blues from any one who dwelt upon the outer crust of his own soul.

Below snapped and sparked joy! Real, hand-made joy. A form of joy that it took an aged and otherwise sane Dutch city three centuries to evolve.

The hot night air was vibrant with light and sound. A swirl of color blended and tinged the sky. from the hundred different hues cast by Gargantuan electric signs— signs that seemed to hang unstained in midair, in the dark murk of the Summer evening.

And in this white street itself and in its cross currents loafed and panted and sweltered the pleasure chasers, for few are adrift on Broadway at nine o'clock of an August night for anything but amusement—amusement that is fresh and optimistic; amusement that has grown stale unto boredom; noisy or apathetic or shop-worn amusement. Vet the lights, the crowds, the racket, all merged into one rather stirring note by the time they reached the altitude of roof-garden parapet.

At any rate, Maia found it a vast improvement on watching a glum-faced man eying a glum-faced line of Palisades. And thus cheered, she tried to galvanize Moylan Kiel back to life again.

"I can't just now think," she mused aloud, "of a jollier way to spend an hour in Summer than in the corner of a roof-garden, looking from a seltzer-lemonade glass that is empty to a man whose expression makes the glass seem brim full by contrast."

"H'm!" murmured Kiel abstractedly.

"Perhaps so," she agreed meekly. "That's one way of looking at it, of course. Moylan, are you thinking of staying cranky much longer? I only ask because the Fraynes are over there at the fourth table. And if you could set a time limit on your sulkiness, 1 could go across and sit with them till then. Or——"

Kiel came out of his abstraction with a start. Some of her words, or else a sudden realizing of her displeasure and of his own remissness, seemed to revive him.

"That is Grantwood over there," he announced, with a general gesture toward the Palisade crest. "Somewhere along there; just a little to the north, I think."

"Wonderful!" she sighed in stark rapture. "This is worth sitting up for! Grantwood! Oh, think of it! I'll just step over and tell the Fraynes. They'd love to know."

Kiel shifted his eyes from the west and looked doubtfully at her. He had not clearly understood. Her effort at irony had quite escaped him. Now he tried to rally his flagging attention.

"I—I beg your pardon," he faltered confusedly, "I——"

"It's about time," she announced, sarcasm shifting in a breath to indignation, as she caught the note of semi-penitence. "When you asked me to come here with you this evening, I was foolish enough to be a little glad. Then you brought me to this hole-in-a-corner table. And since you ordered I don't think you've spoken twenty words."

"I'm sorry. You see——"

"I don't see. If you wanted to get on a housetop and glower in dead silence at New Jersey, why did you bring me along to watch you do it? There are more exciting ways for a girl to spend the evening. Moylan!" she broke off sharply; for his troubled eyes had left her face and were once more fixed broodingly on the Palisades.

This time her exclamation brought him permanently to himself.

"I'm sorry," he said again simply. "I really am. It was rotten of me. Will—will you let me tell you about it? I didn't want to—yet. I wanted it (or a surprise. That's why I asked you to come here. But if it was going to happen, it would have happened by now, I think, it's quarter past nine. And nine was the time he said——"

"If you'll put it into English," she interposed with labored patience, "perhaps I can understand part of it. Start at the subject before last. What about Grantwood? And then, passing lightly to the next cage, who is 'he'?"

"Grantwood." said Kiel, "is one of the dozen or so suburbs that fringe the top of the Palisades. Judge Gregg lives there."

"And it's out of friendship for your old chief that you stare at the Palisades he lives on? Loyal friend!"

"No," returned Kiel. "It's to see what he means to do."

"Oh," exclaimed Maia. "Certainly! If only you had a night glass and watched long enough you might even see him wind the clock and put out the cat."

"No," he corrected, "I might see him make my career, or set me adrift."

SHE looked at him keenly, and at the stolid earnestness in his face, her own lost its banter and annoyance. Leaning forward, she touched ever so lightly the tanned fists clenched together on the table top.

"Tell me," she said softly.

"They want him to go back to Damascus," answered Kiel. "You know how popular he was with the natives and the Turkish Government while we were there, he and I. I was only a kid at the time— the youngest vice-consul in the East, they said. But I was old enough to appreciate all that Judge Gregg was doing for Uncle Sam over there, and how he stood head and shoulde...

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