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Children of Hope'

By STEPHEN WHITMAN Author of "Predestined," "The Woman from Yonder," etc.


Illustrations by F. R. Gruger


ROM Florence the train whirled the Goodchilds and John Holland northward, past sunburned fields, shrunken rivers, baking towns, through Pistoia, Bologna, Modena, Parma, and Piacenza. In the heat of the afternoon they entered Milan, where, over a year before, Aurelius and the three Graces had made acquaintance with Italy.

They alighted before a hotel in the Corso Vittorio-in a street of awnings and balconies, noisy with tram-cars, but beautified at its western end by the pale, slender flutings and towers of the cathedral. They found themselves in a hostelry much finer than any to which they had ever aspired: the door-porter was an imposing creature with the beard of Belshazzar; the patrons, lounging about in brocade chairs, were undoubtedly persons of the utmost importance. John Holland, however, was not in the least disturbed by this elaborate scene. Could one help admiring a man who was able to give such an unembarrassed smile to so grand a reception-clerk? He even had the aplomb to inform that magnate of his intention of dining outside the hotel!

In fact, they dined at a restaurant near the Scala Theater, where, in a pretty garden, a band played the music of Verdi. When the excellent dinner was finished, they went to the Galleria, there to sip coffee and sherbets while watching the dandies saunter beneath the vast vaults of glass. After that they viewed the cathe

dral and the castle by moonlight; toward midnight the girls were barely able to give their teeth a perfunctory brush before tumbling into bed.

From Frossie's pillow came the yawn: "He certainly does know how to entertain folks!"

She got no answer. Was Thallie already asleep?

Next morning they resumed the journey to Como.

The train curved down from the hills; the town of Como showed its red roofs at the foot of the lake. A drive over cobblestones, quick work at the quay with the baggage, and off they went on a clean, white steamboat to Cadenabbia.

From the little wharf they stepped upon an esplanade planted with planetrees. Directly behind the hotels that edged this thoroughfare the ground began to rise toward the heights. The only level traffic hereabouts was confined to this long, shady road, which ran between hillside and water. So far as could be seen, Cadenabbia was a village spread along one side of a street.

A gray-haired, intelligent-looking man in black stepped forward, hat in handJohn Holland's servant, who had come on ahead to put the house in order. Two carriages were waiting, and a wagon for the baggage. The whole party went rattling northward along the esplanade past fresh-looking villas and hotels.

The lake at this point was nearing its full width; the hills on each side were rising to their highest. From the far shore, where the hamlets lay along the road like pearls strung sparsely on a thread, the

1 Copyright, 1915, by STEPHEN WHITMAN. All rights reserved.

land ascended in suave corrugations to rounded summits. So clearly, in the pellucid air, were those steep slopes defined that at first one did not realize their vastness. But presently, by comparing them with the heights on this side of the lake, one understood that the green fuzz which covered them was forests, that their fissures were veritable valleys, that their gilded crests were peaks worthy of the prowess of a mountain-climber. Towering on all sides round the level water, they had, as it seemed, entrapped in their midst an eternal purity and peace. At that moment the Goodchilds asked nothing better than to sit forever at a window open to this paradise.

Then they came to the spot that pleased them best of all. Behind a wall covered with Virginia creeper, on high ground, in the midst of a vivid garden set with trees, there rose a two-story villa of yellow stucco, a terraced staircase ascending to the pillared doorway. From the rocky heights above, the woods rushed down as if threatening to immerse the dwelling with their verdure; they inclosed the handsome façade like billows of green velvet setting of amber.

off a gem

"Oh, what a place to own!"

"At least," laughed John Holland, "nothing prevents us from pretending that we own it."

This was the villa he had rented.

While ascending the terraced staircase between deep flower-beds, they were sure that in another moment they would wake to find it all a dream. But the white vestibule, adorned with stone benches and the statue of a dryad, did not melt before their eyes. To the right, a large room showed walls of Pompeian fresco and a floor of polished marble, wherein were reflected a pianoforte, a harp, and some luxurious chairs and sofas. To the left, a billiard-table stood in the center of a room no less spacious and attractive. Straight ahead, a wide doorway gave upon a pergola covered with an awning; and there, against the brilliancy of still another. garden, a tea-table was spread amid some scarlet wicker chairs.

"Heavens!" gasped Mr. Goodchild, "this is positively palatial!"

"Not bad," John Holland assented. "Still, before we rejoice, we 'd better see what 's coming to us up-stairs."

But the girls wanted to explore the garden behind the pergola.

Inclosed by the interlacing foliage of lofty trees, overshadowed by a great cliff that formed the first titanic step toward the uplands, it resembled one of those retreats in the heart of the enchanted glen where fairies hold their court. Here some devoted gardener had given rein to a fancy bordering on genius. The boxwood bushes were clipped into shapes of delicate extravagance; the roses, coaxed round pliant sticks, twined in arches, squares, and circles; the grass-borders. were tufted with forget-me-nots and pansies in alternate clusters, like a procession of tortoises; the back drop, so to speak, was a cascade that trickled over moss so pruned as to suggest a school of leaping fish. Yet such was the reticence and harmony of all these various conceits that the whole effect was less humorous than charming.

"As far as I can see, there's only one false note," John Holland remarked, and he pointed to a marble bust on a pillar in the center of the garden.

"I thought, sir, that you would find it inappropriate," said his servant, gravely, with an English accent. "Something elfin would of course be better, or at least, in a manner of speaking, a bit in Verocchio's style? Ahem!" Recollecting himself, the man stepped back. While the Goodchilds stared at him in astonishment, he murmured, "The house servants can easily remove it."

But the host approached this piece of sculpture for a closer look.

It was an old marble, perhaps an ancient one, the bust of a woman with a majestic countenance. She was crowned with a garland of corn-ears.

"It seems to be a Demeter," said John. "I know it's not necessary to introduce you to her."

"This Demeter seems unusually sad.

Perhaps she's mourning for her daugh- giveness of the Bellegrams, an oblation ter."

"But Persephone came up from the lower world at last," protested Thallie. "Not yet, her mother says. Suppose, after all, we leave the poor lady here. Some day she might reward us with a smile."

already pleading for her stridently. It was a boy, if anything so small could really be said to have that much significance; it contained, perhaps, beside a voice, a British heart.

Down-stairs, in the hall, where foxes' masks were nailed against oak panels, the

So Demeter remained, sad-eyed, in the baronet, teetering in his gaiters, slapping midst of that whimsical garden.

They soon forgot her.

Their bedroom windows opened toward the lake. In the morning they saw Dawn groping with her rosy fingers through the vapors of the heights. At night their last drowsy glance was toward Bellagio's twinkling lamps, which plunged their reflections deep into the water. While they dreamed, the snow-capped Alps, lying beyond the northern limits of Lake Como, sent down breezes that released into the air a fragrance blended of nature's innumerable perfumes.

Usually they took dinner in the pergola. The square table was illumined with candles in orange-colored shades; the crystal bowl in the center overflowed with flowers. The girls sat opposite each other, between John and Mr. Goodchild. The servants, their faces obscure above the line of candle-light, came softly to one's elbow with a silver dish, which was bound to contain something toothsome. When the fruit had been passed, there fell a silence, through which penetrated the trickling of the cascade. At a whispered word, John's man-servant stole into the house on a mysterious errand. A faint, rasping sound was followed by a metallic strain of music: it was a phonograph, arrived that day from Como. They heard the "Meditation" from "Thaïs." They thought, "If poor Aggie were here!"

Poor Aggie was just then listening to another sort of music-the squalling of a new-born baby.

In a big, wainscoted chamber at Twelve Chimneys, Devonshire, she lay on a fourpost bed, her copper-colored hair in braids, her long lashes lowered on her alabaster cheeks. By her side stirred the tiny lump of humanity which was to justify the for

a riding-crop against his thigh, reflected warmly, "At any rate, we 'll breed this one up for the diplomatic service!" After all, are they so unfortunate who are destined to see their fondest hopes fulfilled not in their own lives, but in their children's?

Cyril came on tiptoe to the bedside, the collar of his Norfolk jacket rucked up about his ears, his black forelock dangling in one eye, his lean face, that face of a neurotic younger brother of Julius Cæsar, altered by a new sort of ecstasy. He a father, and she, the idol of his adoration, a mother!

It was surely more than he deserved. It made him feel virile and religious; it gave him a sensation of importance. For the first time in his life Cyril Bellegram found himself a success. He had produced if not a masterpiece of art or literature or music or diplomacy, at leastwith some collaboration, to be sure-a man!

He leaned over the coverlet to gaze at this chef-d'œuvre. It failed to answer his proud look with any sign of obligation. Keeping its swollen eyelids pressed together, but opening its minute, yet curiously elastic, mouth, it emitted a thin screech, as if proclaiming, "You will find in time that I am here on my own business!" But Cyril, perceiving on its bulbous little pate some wisps of black, considered, in his inexperience, with a dizzy joy, "By George! there 's no doubt that it's a regular Bellegram!" Some day it would have a long black forelock dangling in its eye: the father, his fondness enhanced by the egotism natural to parents, would discern his image in the son.

He turned to Aggie, who gave him a glance, compounded of resentment and

self-pity, that seemed to say, "Ah, yes, that's all very well; but if you only knew!" She suffered his embrace in silence. Her green eyes, which seemed to share the pallor of her face, scrutinized him steadily, as though she was asking herself if this could be the one on whose account she had endured so much. She listened attentively while Cyril, assured that nobody was by to hear his un-English sentiments, murmured in her ear:

"It 's another beginning, an introduction to a deeper love. I can't find the words now to explain what I feel for you; but a day will come when I shall be able to make you understand, in a more poetic land, in Japan, where the wisteria covers a bridge like a picture on a fan, and a pool reflects the stone lanterns of the thingumbobs-the daimios! There we shall realize all our past dreams and many new ones. That time is only waiting now till you 're able to travel. I 've got my appointment: I 'm to be vice-consul at Kobe."

Vice-consul! Not even a consul, then! And at Kobe, a wretched seaport far from Tokio, the capital, where women in long tulle veils and court-trains made their bows before a throne! On top of all her sacrifices, this news was the last straw.

But when Mr. Goodchild got word that a grandson had been bestowed on him, he went rushing through the villa like a madman.

"Frossie! Thallie! It's a boy!" "Really?"

"Eight pounds!"

"As little as that?"

"Good Lord! what would you have?" "Well, we must cable her this minute." Sometimes, after dinner, if there were new books and magazines to interest the girls, the grandfather and the historian walked together on the road beside the lake. The stars, the glimmering water, the floating silhouettes of mountains, persuaded Aurelius to reveal himself completely. He unfolded the whole tale of his acquaintance with the International Star; he even told of that afternoon when he had wavered for a moment. He ad

mitted that the buried treasure of Constantine Farazounis had tempted him, finally, more because of its intrinsic than of its archæological value. He ended by confessing that one day, in the Pension Schwandorf, he had tried to take a man's life. "There was provocation, never mind what, though at the time it seemed sufficient. But to think that I imagined all these years I knew myself quite well! What am I? An amalgam of the whole human race? Do I contain the elements of avarice, marital infidelity, and murder? The soul! Ah, awesome enigma! Or are such emotions merely the vapors of unreal things, clouding just for a moment the shining mirror of the eternal man, in which all souls might see themselves identically reflected?"

"I fancy we may safely call it that," John Holland responded.

And when they returned to the villa, Aurelius went straightway to the harp.

"A noble thing!" he exclaimed, after running his long, slender finger over the strings. "It lends to the player a dignity not to be obtained with the violin or the violoncello or the guiterne, cithern, or dulcimer." He sat down, embraced the harp, and groped for chords. In ten minutes he had discovered the theory of that in


John started the phonograph; a rich soprano filled the room; Aurelius plucked a graceful obbligato from the harp-strings. But suddenly he stopped playing. "Where have I heard that voice?" "It 's Bertha Linkow's. By the way, she 's coming up to visit us."

Thallie, pretending to be deep in the new number of the "Revue des Deux Mondes," reflected, "To join her old flame!"

She noticed, however, that this news from Bertha Linkow did not excite John Holland. But, then, despite his constant sympathy and good spirits, he was such a baffling man!

Once, watching him closely, Thallie asked him to tell her of the prima donna's past. He did so without hesitation.

Bertha Linkow, as a child, had been


"Her mouth opened for the song which Carmen sings to Jose, 'Bel officier!""

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