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slipped round to Thallie's face. And the friendliness of Mrs. Ghillamoor's good-by did not alter the young girl's conviction. that her secret had been discovered by a trick, that in consequence the other was her antagonist.
So her first intuition, formed at Cherbourg, had been right: there was, or had been, something between Mrs. Ghillamoor and Reginald? Pleading a headache, Thallie escaped the remainder of her walk.
In result, Reginald managed to enter the Ghillamoors' rooms in the Hotel Alexandra at precisely seven o'clock.
By the fire, wrapped in a Roman shawl of knitted silk, sat a little girl of seven, scrawny, colorless, with black ringlets and large, serious eyes.
"Wie gehts, Rosalie," cried Reginald, in the hearty tone that young men assume for ailing children.
"Wie gehts, Uncle Reggie," the little girl replied, watching him closely, as if expecting him to play some joke on her. "Your buttonhole looks lonely. Have a posy."
"Oh, thanks. And where are the paters and maters and potaters, what?"
Without the shadow of a smile she answered:
"The paters and maters are dressing. The potaters are cooking. That is, yours Little round bald ones to go with the sole Marguery, and long brown hairy ones with the filets mignons."
"Poor Uncle Reggie has no eyes left to lose, my dear. Nurse is coming now to take your temperature and tuck you in. Let Uncle Reggie have a kiss-unless he 's hoarding them these days."
Rosalie expelled her breath in a melancholy way.
"Here you are, then, Uncle Reggie. No, no; you know better than that! My forehead 's for papa, my right cheek 's for mama, my left cheek 's for you."
"How about your lips?"
"You grown-up people all smoke, and tobacco makes my lips burn. Besides, that kind of kissing is n't sanitary. Is it, Nurse?"
The nurse, lifting her in the Roman shawl, bore her away. Mrs. Ghillamoor sat down beside the fire.
She was not, and had never been, in love with Reginald. To her mind, he could no more be compared to Hector Ghillamoor than if he had belonged to an inferior species. She had long since discovered many of his shortcomings, due, as she thought, to the fact that he, unlike her husband and herself, was the product of only a single affluent generation. She discerned beneath his polish, beneath the romanticism that underlay his worldly manner, a weakness on which no heavy strain had yet been put, a flaw that she would have described to Hector as a yellow streak.
But it was not necessary to be in love with him in order to feel jealousy. Mrs.
"And what are your potaters doing? Ghillamoor, though faithful to her husDigesting?"
"I did n't get any. I only had a
Mrs. Ghillamoor entered the parlor in a saffron-colored evening gown, her hair freshly dressed, a cigarette between her. fingers. By some process known only to herself and to her maid she had lost half a dozen years since afternoon.
The little invalid solemnly inspected her mother.
"Mama, your hair is different to-night. It's rather chic, I think. Is that the new frock from Poiret? Did you put it on to make poor Uncle Reggie lose an eye?"
band, was not averse to the attentions of a cavaliere servente-a good-humored, presentable young man content to follow in her train and entertain her on demand. The traditional friend of the family, no matter how innocent his status, may sometimes find that a heart-affair arranged outside the long-frequented household affects the amiability of the wife.
As sleet lashed the window-panes, she regarded Reginald with a mocking smile. "A little of your famous Tuscan weather! By the way, we 're leaving for Sicily to-morrow." "To-morrow!"
"You'll stop all those American tricks when you 've married her, though?"
"Oh, then, to be sure," declared Fava, "she 'll have to learn a few lessons. But that bird is still in the tree."
"Courage!" Camillo laughed. "Put on a mask and propose at the carnival ball." "By the way," Azeglio inquired, "when the carnival ball comes along, shall we have to invite them? A box costs a hundred lire, you know."
The faces of the three lieutenants grew long.
That night, in barracks, Camillo counted his savings, shrugged, blew out the lamp, sat down to review his condition.
A light from the troopers' dormitories passed over the courtyard and entered hist room, a small white chamber arranged with that neat simplicity which distinguishes the born soldier. Here stood his military chest, there his narrow bed, and, over his varnished boots all precisely alined against the wall, hung his uniforms, helmet, revolver, and long, straight sword. Near the window, beside the shaving-shelf, were tacked some photographs of his parents and sisters. A table covered with books, a lamp, an arm-chair, completed his property.
In the courtyard a trumpet wailed the silenzio. The lights, except one in each dormitory, went out. Camillo looked up at the moon, which was struggling, like a soul in the toils of circumstance, to break through the clouds. His face of a young medieval knight grew firm.
"Since I cannot give my children a fortune, they must have honors, honors, and honors. Ah, yes, I'll have to rise quickly now. If only another war would come!"
Camillo had not been content with learning cavalry tactics and memorizing historic problems of strategy. For years, as if Italy's future depended upon his knowledge, he had studied the regimen, equipment, and field-work of infantry, the transportation of ammunition and food, the latest, most intricate forms of intrenchment, the conduct of sieges, ballistics, powders, projectiles-the whole com
plicated science of modern warfare. And nothing interested him more than the new coöperation of aëroplanes and artillery.
But a day of battle might come when the aviators had all been disabled, when volunteers would be needed to soar and spy, in order to save a brigade, a division, an army. That would be the chance for him if he knew how to fly.
One day he revisited Baron di Campoformio.
The Villa Campoformio, in the country-side north of Florence, was a white stucco house in a spacious garden of ilexand cypress-trees. High walls, surmounted by large stone urns, inclosed the grounds: one rang a bell in the gate-post, and, after five minutes or so, a man-servant in a green baize apron pushed back the bolts. Camillo, dismounting, left his horse with this servitor. The baron, clad in an old tweed coat, his thin hair blown by the breeze, his boots incrusted with. loam, was helping the gardener tie up the rose-bushes with straw.
Campoformio led Camillo into the drawing-room, a large apartment hung in yellow brocade, where a sporting widower's tastes had almost eclipsed the influence of the dead American wife. Another servant brought vermuth and seltzer, cigarettes and cigars. The baron's weatherbeaten face wore a quizzical look as he asked:
"Well, Signore Icarus?" Camillo smiled in turn.
"It 's true," he confessed, "that I came to ask for a little ride in the sky."
"Oh, I knew you would. It was easy to see that you'd never rest till you 'd driven a biplane yourself. Am I right?" "I should like to do that, too."
"Good enough! The more of us that can fly, the worse we shall beat the Austrians. I take it you 're not afraid of heights?"
"I was born on a mountain."
"Your nerves are all right in these fatal days of peace?"
Camillo held out his strong brown hands, palms down, with fingers spread, at arm's length. They did not move any
more than if carved out of Pavonazzetto marble.
"Bravo! A cavalry officer able to do that in Florence must have a constitution of iron-or be related to all the saints!"
They rode down to the flying-field. A biplane, propelled by mechanics and fieldhands, emerged from its hangar.
Campoformio insisted that Camillo also put on a fleece-lined jacket, an aviator's helmet, and gloves. Well muffled, they climbed the frame, the pilot taking the steering-seat, the passenger the perch behind, against the gasolene-tank. The baron raised his hand in the air. A mechanic gave the propeller a whirl and darted away. The engine began a deafening clatter. The biplane moved forward gently, then faster and faster. Camillo realized that the ground was ten, twenty, thirty feet beneath him, and blurred by the speed of this flight.
When had they left the turf?
Suddenly they shot up a steep hill of air, ran level, shot up again. The pressure of wind seemed to flatten Camillo's chest ; he could hardly expel his breath. The oxygen that rushed into his lungs made him feel drunk. He wanted to laugh aloud, to shout in triumph, to shake his fist at the clouds. He felt as if he had never really lived till this moment.
With a nod, Campoformio bade him. look down.
On every side the earth was unrolling in billows, hills flattening, highways and villages dwindling, forests melting to patches of grayish haze. Far behind, through the brilliant, transparent disk produced by the whirling propellers, Camillo saw Florence shrinking like some magical carpet of brown and silvery mottles, like Balzac's peau de chagrin, which diminished at every wish. The Arno became a thread; the heights beyond sank into their valleys, and Mount Cuccioli, slowly crumbling, was lost in the distance.
Camillo looked ahead. Mount Rinaldi, Fiesole, Mount Ceceri were bowing before this miracle, this great bird, ridden by men, that swept over them at the altitude of a thousand feet. The white ham
lets whirled round and scattered like chickens below the hawk. The hill streams, all their secrets revealed, writhed in their channels and wriggled away to the south. And ahead, the snow-capped mountains, so haughty till now in their supremacy, were beginning to crouch, like ranks of cowardly Titans preparing for flight.
"Now I know how God feels in his heavens!" Camillo thought. "At last man comes into his own! At last our divinity abases the world!" And, to Campoformio, who was looking back at him strangely, he gave an exalted, dazed smile.
"Are you dizzy?" the pilot demanded, his howl no more than a sigh in the roar of engine and wind.
"Go on! go on! go on!" cried Camillo. The words, driven back into his throat, set him to coughing.
The baron put the aëroplane round in a banking curve, descended five hundred feet at one swoop, raced homeward. Florence, creeping forth over the rim of the world, expanded from a puddle to a wide, flashing lake of roofs. The hills beyond, as the biplane dipped again, emerged from bluish mists, regained their courage, held up their heads as before. Below appeared pastures that seemed like table-cloths raised to catch the aeroplane safe in their folds. And into their folds the machine descended so softly that one could not tell when it left the air and ran on the ground.
A few rods away two hangars appeared. Familiar faces surrounded the biplanethe faces of the baron's mechanics. What, they had skimmed the world and unerringly regained this obscure little spot?
Camillo was further amazed to learn that they had flown only thirteen minutes. Campoformio gave him another keen glance.
"You were dizzy up there?"
"Not at all. I felt a bit tipsy at first." "Next time you won't notice that. If, indeed, you wish to go on?"
"Go on! Per Baccho! nothing can stop me now!"
"Then look here; while you 're at it,
"And none too soon for Rosalie, at that."
"Honestly, Paula, I thought Florence would be all right."
"Never mind. The doctors in Paris warned me. I had no intention of stopping here. Still, I did n't mind staying long enough to learn the reason for all your eloquence. Now I think that the best thing for you, as well as for Rosalie, will be a month or two at Taormina."
His flush deepened. Shrugging his shoulders, he returned, with an attempt at nonchalance:
"Sorry, but that 'll have to wait a bit. I can't possibly get off to-morrow."
Hector Ghillamoor lounged into the room, his big hands crammed in the pockets of his dinner-jacket, his chest already pushing the starched plastron out of his waistcoat. Mrs. Ghillamoor, with a hint of bitterness in her voice, informed him: "Reggie is n't traveling in the morning."
"It 's so, old man. I've tied myself up for some sort of carnival ball."
"What a reason!" was Paula Ghillamoor's comment.
Her husband scowled.
"Bad business, Reggie. Go slow."
"Don't bluff. We have your number. You 're stuck on her all right."
It was on the tip of Reginald's tongue to say, "Kindly mind your own business!" Yet by such a rejoinder he would affront two well-established dwellers in a world that he had not entered till in his teensa world, indeed, wherein he still felt at times the fallibility of a novice. His respect for these patricians of three generations cowed his spirit. The timidity of the parvenu changed his defiance to a laugh.
"Oh, come, now,' he remonstrated. "Hardly as bad as that!"
In Paula Ghillamoor's eyes the flash of triumph was immediately clouded by contempt. Though infatuated, Reginald evaded owning up to it. He was ashamed
not of love, but of loving some one who was neither rich nor fashionable. In his effort to prove his worldly cultivation, his aristocratic tastes, he had even insulted his inamorata with a deprecatory smile. At last the yellow streak was showing. Instantly Reginald Dux became less desirable even as a cavaliere servente.
Hector's valet bore in the cocktails. "It 's settled, however, that you won't start with us to-morrow?" asked Paula, casually.
"But how can I, since I 've asked a lot of people to that wretched ball?"
Ghillamoor dubiously shook his head. "Give me your word, at least, that as soon as our backs are turned you won't slop over. You know, if you did, there 'd be the very devil to pay at home. Why, your mother would probably hold Paula and me responsible!"
"My dear fellow!" Reginald protested, still with his deprecating smile.
A waiter, bowing in the doorway, announced that dinner was served. At once Mrs. Ghillamoor swept her saffron-colored train into the adjoining room.
When Thallie learned that Reginald had renounced the Ghillamoors in order to stay in Florence, a flood of triumph washed away all her bitterness.
The carnival ball was imminent. In the Pension Schwandorf there was a merry trying-on of dominoes and masks, a running to and fro of dressmakers' apprentices. It was arranged that on the festive night all should meet at the pension at half-past ten o'clock. The ball was to be held in the opera-house, the Politeama Fiorentino, only a square away, so carriages would not be needed unless it rained. The Magenta Cavalry prayed fervently for clear weather.
Their plea was granted.
As the hour approached, Thallie, standing at the window of her bedroom, imbibed the balmiest air that she had ever known in winter. It seemed to her that spring must have returned for this occasion, with all that spring may mean. Looking up at the starry sky, she found the splendor of the world, enhanced by
the tenor of her present thoughts, almost too much to bear. With a sigh of rapture she turned to the looking-glass. She knew that she was beautiful to-night. She saw in her reflection a new alluring quality. Her fresh loveliness seemed more humanly provocative than previously. Perhaps this was due in part to her attire, of white satin trimmed with tiny rosebuds, contrived in the very latest fashion known to Florence, the finest, most sophisticated dress that she had ever worn.
AN OLD GATE-KEEPER IN a rôle of
Ar eleven o'clock the Goodchilds, Reginald, and the three lieutenants set out afoot for the Politeama Fiorentino. Thallie's domino and mask were white; Frossie wore green; Aurelius, in order not to put a quietus on the merrymaking, had muffled himself in a robe of red glazed muslin. But Reginald, observing that the officers disdained to hide their uniforms and faces with such frippery, blushed for his lack of savoir-faire, and left his carnival regalia in the pension. Thallie had never seen him in full evening dress before.
Approaching the opera-house, they found a crowd of poor Florentines watching the participants arrive. Vehicles crawled forward in a line; cab-doors kept slamming; between banks of heads, that wore an unearthly pallor in the rays of arc-lamps, a stream of dominoes, red, white, and green, ascended to the doorways. Thallie was nearly crushed by a luxurious motor-car, at the wheel of which Reginald noted Baron di Campoformio's chauffeur.
In the foyer, one mob besieged the cloak-rooms on the left, another, largely composed of rakish-looking fellows in false noses, seethed round the buffets extending to the right. Straight ahead, a third swarm was climbing a staircase to the ball-room. The Americans and the Magenta Cavalry drove upward through. this press and gained their box.
Within a great ring of boxes the dancing-floor disappeared beneath promenaders in eccentric costume. A film of dust, produced by these innumerable feet, dimmed the glitter of the military band. that filled the stage, befogged the clustered lights and tricolor decorations, gave to the balconies overhead, where small, grotesque figures chased one another amid showers of confetti, a look of unreality.
In the adjoining box Thallie and Frossie were surprised to see "Moloch's wife," from Giacinta's tea-room. The lieutenants, bowing to her, introduced the Goodchilds.
She was Princess Tchernitza!
The band burst into a triumphal march; the promenaders scampered in all directions, and there emerged upon the floor a procession of nautch-girls, demons, harlequins, giants with the heads of beasts, among whom, on an artificial camel, rode a handsome woman clad in gauze and rhinestones. The crowd made obeisance. Ribbons of colored paper curled through the air. Amid frenzied applause a Roman general, his classic costume enhanced by spectacles and flowing whiskers, scaled the camel, embraced the Spirit of the Carnival. Mr. Goodchild gave a jump. The victim of this onslaught was the International Star!
"The Tesore!" Azeglio ejaculated. And to Fava, with a mischievous smile, "To-night would be an excellent time to present papa!"
Camillo quelled him with a look. Thallie, standing at the box-rail, clapped her hands delightedly. better she removed her mask. Immediately a group of men gathered on the floor below-clowns, Fiji Islanders, brigands, Arabs, mandarins. Sounds of approval rose; a few of the masqueraders ventured florid compliments, and a little thin fellow, in evening dress, but wearing a pig's head of papier-mâché, made a motion as if of yearning to clasp her to his breast. Lieutenant Fava dashed a glass of champagne into the stranger's eyes. As the latter slunk away to mop his coat, Aurelius let slip an exclamation of dis