« PreviousContinue »
and Fava stood languidly tossing confetti at the dancers. Here nothing was changed.
"You see, I 'd have been here much sooner, but I met some friends. Campoformio-"
"Campoformio was here just now with Mr. Holland." “Of course. To be sure.
So he told But before that. One after the other! Or else I 'd have been here instantly."
“Is Thallie with Mr. Holland, then?”
“No, the fact is, she did n't feel well She asked me to take her home. You see, I'd have been here much sooner —”
Mr. Goodchild, turning pale, asked quickly :
“What ails her? What is the matter with my daughter ?”!
Reginald wanted to vault the box-rail and conceal himself among the dancers. Putting on the wretched imitation of a smile, he managed to get out the words:
“The heat and noise-"
"What a pity, Monsieur," said Fava, with a homicidal look, “that you did n't take my advice!"
But Mr. Goodchild's hands were trembling on his knees.
"Young sir, it is not necessary to break bad news to me so slowly.”
"Really, on my word of honor, it 's only a touch of vertigo."
"Vertigo!" cried the father, leaping to his feet. "That might be the beginning of anything!"
“No no! She asked me particularly to tell you it was nothing. She 'd rather you did n't bother. In fact, she wants to be alone.”
“Because she does n't want to spoil our pleasure,” Frossie retorted, rising. “Come, Dad.”
“It may be the beginning of cholera," gasped Aurelius, frozen with horror, staring wildly at them all.
Azeglio burst out laughing.
"Calm yourself, Signore. This year there is no cholera anywhere in Italy."
And Reginald, his shoulders bent in unaccustomed lines, continued to stutter:
“I tell you it 's nothing, absolutely nothing. She won't thank you, you know ! A headache! The noise and heat
Nevertheless, Frossie was already in the doorway. The Magenta Cavalry, with the resignation of good soldiers to the unexpected, were putting on their pearl-gray capes.
Mr. Goodchild was trying to withdraw his fingers from Princess Tchernitza's hand, as fat as a pincushion, blazing with sapphires and emeralds too gorgeous to be real. “My daughter, ma'am!
Pardon me, but my daughter 's been taken ill! We don't know yet what it is. We think it's not cholera-"
“Cholera! Bah! One moment. My day at home is Tuesday. Drop in, and I'll finish telling you about the astral colors.”
"Yes, yes! the astral colors! I implore you, ma'am! My daughter!”
"Bring her along. You'll meet a friend of mine who does crystal-gazing, a very clairvoyant person. Tuesday, and don't forget, because I feel somehow that you and I are kindred spirits, that we have met elsewhere, if not in a previous existence, at least on the Ripa-banks of Devachân"
But Aurelius, forgetting his 'manners for the first time in his life, had rushed into the corridor.
In the street, all scuffling along between a walk and a dog-trot, they passed Campoformio's chauffeur, who doffed his cap respectfully.
Aurelius and Frossie darted into the pension. The lieutenants lighted Toscana cigars and set out for the cavalry barracks. Reginald returned slowly to his hotel.
He locked his bedroom door. He paced the floor. From time to time he stopped before a looking-glass, stared at his face, exclaimed in the tones of one newly roused from intoxication, "What, is it
dispclled. Even the charm of all these And at last a delicious relief pervaded his weeks had been dissolved. The pinions despondency, with the thought that life of romance, after lifting him high above might hold out opportunities as tempting himself, had shriveled, at the contact of
as before. reality, and let him drop back to earth. “When we 're in wrong, we owe it to
On each side, indeed, there had been a ourselves to struggle out." Though he disillusionment and a revulsion so intense repeated that aloud, he still heard the that his past expectations of felicity now voice of conscience, whispering of manappeared insane. He saw between him- kind's traditional obligations. Soon, howself and Thallie an abyss which had ever, lifting his head defiantly, "But she opened in one moment like the fissure of told me with her own lips that she felt an earthquake, which he took for a gulf she could never lay eyes on me again.” eternally impassable.
And this speech of hers, the true causes "No, we were never meant for each of which he did not know enough to other. I must have been cra
fathom, became for him the open sesam.e so. What 's more, she knows it now as to liberty. well as l.” And as though she were Next morning, while Florence was still there before him, he cried accusingly, dim, Reginald and his baggage left the "You do know it, you ought to have Hotel Alexandra. John Holland, glancknown it from the first, as well as I!” ing down from a window, saw him drive And soon: “They were right, the Ghilla- away. For some time the historian's keen
Good Lord! if I'd taken their gray eyes remained fixed on the summit advice! Or if I were back where I stood of Mont' Oliveto, growing the graver before ever met her!”
as the illumination of the sunrise spread. Presently the old fancies, that had At the railroad station Reginald caught often come to him before his journey into a train for Naples. As the engine was Italy, returned, in poignant contrast to puffing out of Florence, he thought: the mockery of this night. Somewhere, "After all, decency demands that I amid the darkness, perhaps in the direc- send some plausible excuse from Naples tion of Lake Como, she existed in the a death or something--a sort of loophole. flesh- the sumptuous mistress of his pre- For if I should want to come back —” vious ideals, whose image had been But he knew in his heart that he would dimmed by this blundering infatuation? not come back.
(To be continued)
By ALBERT KINROSS
Author of "Joan of Garioch,” etc
Illustrations by Dalton Stevens
Perhaps you can let me know on what after
noon I may expect you. T was after the publication of my first
book, a historical romance dealing He had touched my vanity, he had with the life and times of Charles XII of roused my sense of adventure. Picture Sweden, that I received a letter in a me as I was, a poor young man of our strange and none too legible hand, ad- sober middle class who had starved himdressed to me in the care of Messrs. Nicoll self in order to write a book. It was, in & Prout, the firm whose imprint stood its way, a successful book. A second imupon my title-page. Such letters, coming pression had been called for, a pirate had from grateful readers, were scarce in those seized upon it in America, and my net days. I opened it. I flushed with plea- profit was close on sixty pounds. For a sure as I deciphered my unknown friend's beginner I had not done so badly. warm praises and flattering testimony to I wander from the point. Let us get the success wherewith I had presented a back to it. · Here was a high personage difficult personality and a barbaric period. who desired my acquaintance, a notable He was in a position to judge of both, he of the Roman Catholic Church, with said, and his own studies and a recent spell quarters in St. James's Place. I did not of travel had led him across much of the know Wexford House, but I knew St. ground so vividly depicted.
James's Place. Prying round London, as This letter was signed "S. Bellamy," was my constant habit in those days, I had and infolded with it was an ordinary card acquired a familiarity with the exteriors such as a caller might send in by a ser- of many famous houses, with the lay and vant. "Monsignor Canon Bellamy," it atmosphere of most of the great squares read, “17 Fairview Crescent, Claverton." and of all the royal palaces. I wondered Claverton I knew by repute as a fashion- over that hidden life, I speculated and able watering-place in the southwest of wove romances; and when a gentlewoEngland.
man issued from one of those noble manTo the letter was added a postscript: sions, affording me a glimpse of the hall
and powdered servants, I experienced a Call on me one afternoon. I am an old thrill which she, stepping into her carriage man, and you, I judge, are a young one. I or limousine, might have envied. I was a am often in London, and you will find me at prowler and a nobody, with a high, roWexford House in St. James's Place. I mantic passion for the unknown, and, livshould be delighted to make the acquaint- ing in London as I did on the hazardous ance of a writer who has given me so much earnings of a bookish hack, was I not altopleasure, and hear something of his plans gether surrounded by the mysterious and for the future; and, moreover, I have a inaccessible? It is a city the wealth and proposal to make which I think will inter
power and splendor of which would leave est you. I shall be in town all next week. such a one as I was then gasping and ever
open-mouthed. Of its squalor, rascality, mired the smooth, melliflucus artifices of and evil I saw much and yet saw nothing. Mr. Pope. A neglected house, it seemed, Youth has that knack, and middle age without much life in it. None at all, if I mourns the loss of it.
except a tabby-cat that brooded on the I return once more to Wexford House in door-step. St. James's Place. It must be, I fancied, one So much for the front of Wexford of the five large mansions which make an House. My next course was to take it in inclosure of the park end of that aristo- the rear. I found the narrow outlet which cratic back-water. In a public house I connects St. James's Place with St. James's consulted the London Directory. Wex- Park, and discovered that the mansion ford House, I soon discovered, lay be- possessed a garden of its own and rose to tween the residences of the Duke of Mells five sheer stories. A score of windows and the Earl of Templehaven, the latter overlooked the park, and the little garden of which has no special name, but only a had its gate of entry. For London this number. I found that number in St. was luxury indeed. I thought of my own James's Place, and so to Wexford House. penurious quarters and my hemmed-in In the directory the present tenant was
view. Roofs and chimney-stacks were all inscribed as plain Hugh Janvier. The I saw with the bodily eye, and at night I name meant nothing to me then. He often rose to deal with cats.
Here one must be a rich man, and possibly the could look out and observe the courtships friend or patron of monsignor, if one so of true lovers. A couple sat on a bench highly placed could suffer such protection. just now. He was earnest and silk-hatHugh Janvier, I decided, was his friend. ted; she was tender, and her gray shoes I had no means of ascertaining the actual matched her stockings. Oh, heart, dear facts, for I was too poor and too obscure heart of me, how lonely and friendless and to belong to clubs, and I had no acquaint- unloved I felt in this great city! I went ance among the well informed who con- away from there and mounted to my attic. duct our newspapers.
I was a solitary I wrote in haste and agitation: student, with a turn for the historical ro
Monsignor, I will come to you on Tuesmance, a precarious income, and an attic
day afternoon next at five o'clock. I am, in the dingier part of Bloomsbury. My
as you supposed, a young man, a very young library was the one at the British Mu
man. Pray do not expect too much of me. seum. There I browsed, there I raised
I am grateful for the praises you bestowed my facts and fancies, there I wandered off
on my poor book, and my future plans deinto foreign lands, and made those vision
pend on inspiration. ary friendships with the illustrious dead to which, all said and done, I owe my I inscribed myself his "obedient serpresent enviable position.
vant,” and put my name in full, "John Before replying to my unknown corre- Stacey Cornwallis Loughborough." It is spondent I took the liberty of marking a grand name, and I was proud of it. down Wexford House. So much has al
II ready been hinted. Like a pointer, or, better still, a detective, I gathered such in- On the Tuesday I was punctual and more
I formation as its exterior could offer, and than punctual. It was an afternoon of even looked in at the lower windows. mid-December, a black fog in the air, the These were separated by an iron railing streets doubly dark, and all the elements from the street, and at that distance af- against me. I
was not to be deterred, forded no serious clue to the pomp and however. At a quarter to the hour I armagnificence of Mr. Janvier. The house rived in St. James's Place; and there, coolitself was spacious and plain-fronted, de- ing my heels, inhaling the fog, and collidsigned, no doubt, by one of those Georgian ing with lamp-posts, I marked time and architects who aped the classic and ad- waited for the appointed moment. The