Puslapio vaizdai


“And none too soon for Rosalie, at not of love, but of loving some one who that.”

was neither rich nor fashionable. In his He flushed.

effort to prove his worldly cultivation, his "Honestly, Paula, I thought Florence aristocratic tastes, he had even insulted would be all right.”

his inamorata with a deprecatory smile. "Never mind. The doctors in Paris At last the yellow streak was showing. warned me.

I had no intention of stop- Instantly Reginald Dux became less deping here. Still, I did n't mind staying sirable even as a cavaliere servente. long enough to learn the reason for all Hector's valet bore in the cocktails. your eloquence. Now I think that the "It 's settled, however, that you won't

“ best thing for you, as well as for Rosalie, start with us to-morrow?" asked Paula, will be a month or two at Taormina.” casually.

His Aush deepened. Shrugging his “But how can I, since I 've asked a lot shoulders, he returned, with an attempt of people to that wretched ball?" at nonchalance:

Ghillamoor dubiously shook his head. "Sorry, but that 'll have to wait a bit. "Give me your word, at least, that as I can't possibly get off to-morrow.” soon as our backs are turned you won't

Hector Ghillamoor lounged into the slop over. You know, if you did, there 'd room, his big hands crammed in the pock- be the very devil. to pay at home. Why, ets of his dinner-jacket, his chest already your mother would probably hold Paula pushing the starched plastron out of his and me responsible !" waistcoat. Mrs. Ghillamoor, with a hint “My dear fellow !” Reginald protested, of bitterness in her voice, informed him: still with his deprecating smile.

“Reggie is n't traveling in the morn- A waiter, bowing in the doorway, aning.”

nounced that dinner was served. At once “Nonsense!"

Mrs. Ghillamoor swept her saffron-col“It 's so, old man. I've tied myself up

ored train into the adjoining room. for some sort of carnival ball."

When Thallie learned that Reginald "What a reason!” was Paula Ghilla- had renounced the Ghillamoors in order moor's comment.

to stay in Florence, a flood of triumph Her husband scowled.

washed away all her bitterness. "Bad business, Reggie. Go slow."

The carnival ball was imminent. In “Go slow at what?"

the Pension Schwandorf there was "Don't bluff. We have your number. merry trying-on of dominoes and masks, You 're stuck on her all right.”

a running to and fro of dressmakers' apIt was on the tip of Reginald's tongue prentices. It was arranged that on the to say, "Kindly mind your own business!” festive night all should meet at the penYet by such a rejoinder he would affront sion at half-past ten o'clock. The ball two well-established dwellers in a world was to be held in the opera-house, the that he had not entered till in his teens- Politeama Fiorentino, only a square away, a world, indeed, wherein he still felt at so carriages would not be needed unless times the fallibility of a novice. His re- it rained. The Magenta Cavalry prayed spect for these patricians of three genera- fervently for clear weather. tions cowed his spirit. The timidity of Their plea was granted. the parvenu changed his defiance to a As the hour approached, Thallie, standlaugh.

ing at the window of her bedroom, im“Oh, come, now," he remonstrated. bibed the balmiest air that she had ever “Hardly as bad as that!"

known in winter. It seemed to her that In Paula Ghillamoor's eyes the flash of spring must have returned for this occatriumph was immediately clouded by con- sion, with all that spring may mean. tempt. Though infatuated, Reginald Looking up at the starry sky, she found evaded owning up to it. He was ashamed the splendor of the world, enhanced by


the tenor of her present thoughts, almost Within a great ring of boxes the dantoo much to bear. With a sigh of rap- cing-floor disappeared beneath promenature she turned to the looking-glass. She ders in eccentric costume. A film of dust, knew that she was beautiful to-night. She produced by these innumerable feet,

, saw in her reflection a new alluring qual- dimmed the glitter of the military band ity. Her fresh loveliness seemed more that filled the stage, befogged the clushumanly provocative than previously. tered lights and tricolor decorations, gave Perhaps this was due in part to her attire, to the balconies overhead, where small, of white satin trimmed with tiny rose- grotesque figures chased one another amid buds, contrived in the very latest fashion showers of confetti, a look of unreality. known to Florence, the finest, most sophis- In the adjoining box Thallie and Frosticated dress that she had ever worn. sie were surprised to see "Moloch's wife,"

from Giacinta's tea-room. The lieutenCHAPTER XII

ants, bowing to her, introduced the Good


She was Princess Tchernitza!

The band burst into a triumphal Ar eleven o'clock the Goodchilds, Regi- march; the promenaders scampered in all nald, and the three lieutenants set out directions, and there emerged upon the afoot for the Politeama Fiorentino. Thal- floor a procession of nautch-girls, demons, lie's domino and mask were white; Fros- harlequins, giants with the heads of beasts, sie wore green; Aurelius, in order not to among whom, on an artificial camel, rode put a quietus on the merrymaking, had a handsome woman clad in gauze and muffled himself in a robe of red glazed rhinestones. The crowd made obeisance. muslin. But Reginald, observing that the Ribbons of colored paper curled through officers disdained to hide their uniforms the air. Amid frenzied applause a Roand faces with such frippery, blushed for man general, his classic costume enhanced his lack of savoir-faire, and left his carni- by spectacles and flowing whiskers, scaled val regalia in the pension. Thallie had the camel, embraced the Spirit of the Carnever seen him in full evening dress be- nival. Mr. Goodchild gave a jump. The fore.

victim of this onslaught was the InterApproaching the opera-house, they national Star! found a crowd of poor Florentines watch- "The Tesore!" Azeglio ejaculated. ing the participants arrive. Vehicles And to Fava, with a mischievous smile, crawled forward in a line; cab-doors kept "To-night would be an excellent time to slamming; between banks of heads, that

present papa!” wore an unearthly pallor in the rays of Camillo quelled him with a look. arc-lamps, a stream of dominoes, red, Thallie, standing at the box-rail, white, and green, ascended to the door- clapped her hands delightedly.

To see ways. Thallie was nearly crushed by a better she removed her mask. Immediluxurious motor-car, at the wheel of ately a group of men gathered on the which Reginald noted Baron di Campo- floor below-clowns, Fiji Islanders, brigformio's chauffeur.

ands, Arabs, mandarins.

Sounds of apIn the foyer, one mob besieged the proval rose; a few of the masqueraders cloak-rooms on the left, another, largely ventured florid compliments, and a little composed of rakish-looking fellows in

thin fellow, in evening dress, but wearing false noses, seethed round the buffets ex- a pig's head of papier-mâché, made a motending to the right. Straight ahead, a tion as if of yearning to clasp her to his third swarm was climbing a staircase to breast. Lieutenant Fava dashed a glass the ball-room. The Americans and the of champagne into the stranger's eyes. Magenta Cavalry drove upward through As the latter slunk away to mop his coat, this press and gained their box.

Aurelius let slip an exclamation of dis


tress. Reginald, however, felt irritation Autocrator, after the Egyptian title of because it was not he who had avenged the first Roman emperor, of whom, by that insolence.

the way, a friend of mine happens to be "Keep your mask on," Camillo Oli- the reincarnation. And you must rememvuzzi whispered in Thallie's ear.

ber never to wear brown or lavender! "I see one has to," she agreed, refast- Brown would bring you duels, while lavening the elastics with unsteady fingers. ender would produce an appetite insatia

"But naturally," said Fava, "when one ble for liquor. In addition to all this, has a smile to make the lights seem dim!" you must be sure to vibrate in the key of

And presently they observed that Prin- C Major!" cess Tchernitza also had clapped on a Leaning across the partition of the box, mask, bright green to match her gown, oblivious to the racket from the dancingand large enough to conceal at least the floor, Princess Tchernitza went on to decenter of her visage. Through this dis- scribe at length the science of numbers guise she fixed her eyes on Mr. Good- and colors as developed by the Florentine child.

theosophists. Her obesity made her curi"Well, sir,” she demanded of him in ously imposing; her deep voice issued her bassoon-like voice.

from behind the mask like the utterance “I find it stupendous, ma'am. It's of a pythoness from the curtains of a like a-kaleidoscope !"

sanctuary, and in the uproar of the car"A kaleido- Ah, to be sure-a calei- nival her statements seemed like the rigdoscopio, though considerably larger.” maroles of an oracle heard in the ancient

“The endless repetition of red, white, mysteries. Aurelius, who always swaland green!”

lowed such ideas at a gulp, could hardly "Yes, fortunately the regulations per- deny a feeling that this meeting was premitted a green dress, or I should not have destined, that this monstrous personage come. I wear only green, purple, and had been sent by Providence to show him gold, for those are the colors harmonizing how to end the incoherencies of his existwith my personality. Before I knew bet

Tense in his robe of red muslin, ter, I affected gray, and misfortunes with shivers running down his spine, he heaped themselves themselves upon

Gray no longer scanned the crowd for that unbrought me poverty, just as the habitual appreciated comic genius, Nella Tesore, use of crimson would cause me sooner or the International Star. later to commit a crime of passion.”

The maskers cavorted on the floor, here "Good heavens! ma'am!"

jigging in clusters, there skipping in long "Oh, these are established facts. Any- strings, or forming an eddy round some body who ignores them risks a cataclysm. acrobat who whirled his partner off her But all are not affected by these colors in feet. "Look!" cried Azeglio, pointing tothe same way. For example, tell me your ward the far curve of the boxes. “Camfull name and date of birth."

poformio!" But the others could not Receiving his answer, the Bulgarian discern the baron through that brilliant made a mental calculation.

haze. “The numerical potency of 'Aurelius "No matter; he will come over when Goodchild' in relation to this nativity is he catches sight of us," Camillo told Frosunfortunate. You must change your sie. “At last you shall see the good felname.”

low who is helping me to win my military "But it seems a little late—”

brevet.” "Then you must take a secret name, "I wish he did n't exist," said Frossie. propitious for you, and always identify “But all my efforts toward advanceyourself with it. Let me think. Ha! ment are on your account.” You could not do better than to call your- "I want no honors that you have to self, in your subconscious mind, Augustus risk your life for,” she answered. And





pressing his hand, she turned her masked first swallow of champagne, and she face away.

closed her eyes as they glided into a waltz. From below, some dapper officers, anx- The revolving couples engulfed them: ious to be invited to the box, made ges- they floated through a sea of languorous tures to the three lieutenants. Azeglio humanity. A confused fragrance was exand Fava motioned them to be off.

haled from these innumerable corsages, "We were right, I hope, Monsieur," bouquets, and coiffures. From all sides Lieutenant Fava asked Reginald, with a came unsteady bursts of mirth, stifled smile that seemed to cover a subtle bitter- protestations, murmurs that blended with ness.

the softness of the flutes. Here and there, "Perfectly, Monsieur," the other re- on a countenance from which both the plied, concealing his chagrin. From the satin and the natural shield had been first these wretched soldiers had behaved withdrawn, was visible a look that may as if the box were theirs ! To retrieve his have been the epitome of Reginald's and self-respect, Reginald ordered more cham- Thallie's own sensations. She, gazing up pagne.

at him, felt all the sentimental instincts of Thallie, with a glance at her father, her life fuse into an immense desire to consented to take another sip— "just a show her gratitude to this splendid lover. thimbleful." Like most ardent persons He, glancing down at her, was

was more who find themselves amid unusual excite- deeply stirred by the concealing mask ment, she began to feel her inhibitions than if he had seen her face. weakening, as if the atmosphere around The music stopped, but still there passed her were a vast, insidious solvent, replete through their temples the rhythm of the as it was with fluttering hues and swim- waltz, still there coursed through their ming lights, pulsating with melody and veins the stimulation of that dance perlaughter, informed with the emanations formed so exquisitely in accord, as though of a thousand reckless minds. She threw these two beings had been commanded by open her domino, which stifled her as if it a single impulse. Then they saw far off, had been the encumbrance of old hum- through the illusive mist of lights and drum, prudent teachings: and her young dust, the box occupied by Mr. Goodchild, form, emerging from that shapeless chrys- Frossie, and the three lieutenants. And alis, was charming in the new sophistica- that spot was for both of them a dwintion of its garniture. Reginald stared at dled, vague reminder of everything proThallie's throat, milk-white, encircled by saic, to which the expanded heart could the double crease.

not return so soon. "How about that dance?"

A flight of steps near by ascended to the Fava objected. "A lady could not go balconies. The white balustrades, entanon the floor with all those rascals." His gled with confetti, resembled the approtest dwindled to a curse as Reginald proaches to some submarine palace of an and Thallie slipped out of the box. Eastern legend, fashioned of nacre, fes

In the corridor an odalisk jingled by, tooned with such vivid weeds as lie bean Apache in pursuit. Two masks were neath enchanted seas. Thallie and Regisqueaking at each other in the disguised nald ran up the stairs like truants from falsetto customary at Italian carnivals. the actual world. A Turk appeared, walking on his hands, On a landing, in a pillared embrasure followed by shouting friends. Thallie which no one else had yet discovered, they and Reginald, dodging past these zanies, found an open window. A mild breeze reached the dancing-floor.

caressed them, rich with the perfume of The band was playing "Smile of this almost vernal night. Thallie lifted April." Reginald put his arm round the ruffle of her mask. In the starlight Thallie. A shiver passed through her, her mouth was like a crimson flower. similar to that which she had felt at her "How delicious the air is!" she


breathed. “It blows from the park. The Many a youth, at the very height of his Cascine is only a block away from here." infatuation, is not as he was yesterday or “A queer night,” he answered in un- as he will be to

morrow. Romance, choossteady tones; for he knew that to-nighting the moment of unique seductiveness, he was at the first real crisis of his life. has whirled him up on Alaming wings to

Long ago, in those summer days when regions of unexampled devotion and nohe had rediscovered her in Florence, he bility. Then, indeed, the least worthy had been like one who, for lack of livelier lover may become the person that his girl occupation, takes out a skiff upon a tran- imagines him to be, raised far above all quil little stream. Condescendingly he cowardice, all calculation, all his normal had drifted between banks of unpreten- flaws. So Reginald, oblivious at last to tious verdure, which formed a prospect every thought but this, that the time had quite unlike the scenes that his romanti- come when he must say to her, “Yes, cism craved-broad waters which marry me, for somehow I cannot live flected mountain-peaks transfigured by without you!" the afterglow, which mirrored, beneath But how could he say that here, in this the fading shore, à carved marble terrace place where every minute they risked some surrounded by Olea fragrans trees. But, ribald interruption ? as he went on Aoating down the stream, The sweet breeze was still blowing he had come to perceive in this naïve re- from the park, only a block away. He treat a charm not furnished by the land- saw on the opposite footpath, beyond a scapes of his dreams.

He had said to line of waiting vehicles, a man staring up himself, "There, round that turn ahead, at the window. It was Baron di Campois surely a still prettier view ; I can't turn formio's chauffeur. back until I 've seen it." Seeing it, he Reginald leaned across the sill. had mused, “Some men would be content “Antonio!” to live in such a place.”' And, as he The chauffeur, removing his cap, drifted on, new thoughts, as simple as his showed his teeth in a grin of recognition. surroundings, arrayed themselves against “Can you give me half an hour?" his old, precociously extravagant ideals. The fellow

fellow shrugged uncertainly. Then for a while he had buried in his Reginald twisted a bank-note round some heart the fact that such scenes as these silver. The packet clinked on the footcould please him, as if there were some- path. thing shameful in appreciating unelabo- The chauffeur ran to crank Camporated beauty. But new vistas kept open

formio's car. ing before him, all winsome, all refresh- "Think, Thallie, on a night like this ing, as idyllic as a panorama of unspoiled just you and I and the Cascine!" young love. Presently, he no longer re- Out there!” flected, with a smile, "At least this spot “No one need see us. But when we would do for the amusement of a day.” come back perhaps we 'll let them know." Instead, with ardor almost triumphant She thought, “He means that when we over snobbishness, he wondered, “Even come back we 'll be engaged !" She lowfor a lifetime I might be happiest here." ered her head, her throat pulsing, her And finally, when he heard from far up- body seeming to thrill, in its shimmering stream a faint outcry bidding him return, new frock, with the emotions that her had he not drifted too far, had not the mask concealed. Then with a resolute current grown too strong for him to make movement she pulled the hood of her that long pull back?

domino over her bright curls. BreathTo-night all his hesitation had evapo- less, she said, "All right." And it was rated in this spring-like air, in this em- Thallie, not Reginald, who led the way. brasure where a bacchanalian uproar As they hastened through a corridor melted into the silence of the stars. behind the balcony, the carnival rout

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