Puslapio vaizdai

and Fava stood languidly tossing confetti at the dancers. Here nothing was changed.

"Where's Thallie?"
He answered:

"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 me. 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 you?"

The stimulations of the evening were

dispelled. Even the charm of all these weeks had been dissolved. The pinions of romance, after lifting him high above himself, had shriveled, at the contact of reality, and let him drop back to earth.

On each side, indeed, there had been a disillusionment and a revulsion so intense that his past expectations of felicity now appeared insane. He saw between himself and Thallie an abyss which had opened in one moment like the fissure of an earthquake, which he took for a gulf eternally impassable.

"No, we were never meant for each other. I must have been crazy to think so. What's more, she knows it now as well as I." And as though she were there before him, he cried accusingly, "You do know it, you ought to have known it from the first, as well as I!" And soon: "They were right, the GhillaGood Lord! if I 'd taken their advice! Or if I were back where I stood before I ever met her!"


Presently the old fancies, that had often come to him before his journey into Italy, returned, in poignant contrast to the mockery of this night. Somewhere, amid the darkness, perhaps in the direction of Lake Como, she existed in the flesh-the sumptuous mistress of his previous ideals, whose image had been dimmed by this blundering infatuation?

And at last a delicious relief pervaded his despondency, with the thought that life might hold out opportunities as tempting as before.

"When we 're in wrong, we owe it to ourselves to struggle out." Though he repeated that aloud, he still heard the voice of conscience, whispering of mankind's traditional obligations. Soon, however, lifting his head defiantly, "But she told me with her own lips that she felt she could never lay eyes on me again." And this speech of hers, the true causes of which he did not know enough to fathom, became for him the open sesame to liberty.

Next morning, while Florence was still dim, Reginald and his baggage left the Hotel Alexandra. John Holland, glancing down from a window, saw him drive away. For some time the historian's keen gray eyes remained fixed on the summit of Mont' Oliveto, growing the graver as the illumination of the sunrise spread.

At the railroad station Reginald caught a train for Naples. As the engine was puffing out of Florence, he thought:

"After all, decency demands that I send some plausible excuse from Naplesa death or something-a sort of loophole. For if I should want to come back-"

But he knew in his heart that he would not come back.

(To be continued)


"It must have been at some small hour in the morning that I was

aroused and gagged and pinioned"



The Collaborators


Author of "Joan of Garioch," etc

Illustrations by Dalton Stevens

T was after the publication of my first book, a historical romance dealing with the life and times of Charles XII of Sweden, that I received a letter in a strange and none too legible hand, addressed to me in the care of Messrs. Nicoll & Prout, the firm whose imprint stood upon my title-page. Such letters, coming from grateful readers, were scarce in those days. I opened it. I flushed with pleasure as I deciphered my unknown friend's warm praises and flattering testimony to the success wherewith I had presented a difficult personality and a barbaric period. He was in a position to judge of both, he said, and his own studies and a recent spell of travel had led him across much of the ground so vividly depicted.

This letter was signed "S. Bellamy," and infolded with it was an ordinary card such as a caller might send in by a servant. "Monsignor Canon Bellamy," it read, "17 Fairview Crescent, Claverton." Claverton I knew by repute as a fashionable watering-place in the southwest of England.

To the letter was added a postscript:

Call on me one afternoon. I am an old man, and you, I judge, are a young one. I am often in London, and you will find me at Wexford House in St. James's Place. I should be delighted to make the acquaintance of a writer who has given me so much pleasure, and hear something of his plans for the future; and, moreover, I have a proposal to make which I think will interest you. I shall be in town all next week.

Perhaps you can let me know on what afternoon I may expect you.

He had touched my vanity, he had roused my sense of adventure. Picture me as I was, a poor young man of our sober middle class who had starved himself in order to write a book. It was, in its way, a successful book. A second impression had been called for, a pirate had seized upon it in America, and my net profit was close on sixty pounds. For a beginner I had not done so badly.

I wander from the point. Let us get back to it. Here was a high personage who desired my acquaintance, a notable of the Roman Catholic Church, with quarters in St. James's Place. I did not know Wexford House, but I knew St. James's Place. Prying round London, as was my constant habit in those days, I had acquired a familiarity with the exteriors of many famous houses, with the lay and atmosphere of most of the great squares and of all the royal palaces. I wondered over that hidden life, I speculated and wove romances; and when a gentlewoman issued from one of those noble mansions, affording me a glimpse of the hall and powdered servants, I experienced a thrill which she, stepping into her carriage or limousine, might have envied. I was a prowler and a nobody, with a high, romantic passion for the unknown, and, living in London as I did on the hazardous earnings of a bookish hack, was I not altogether surrounded by the mysterious and inaccessible? It is a city the wealth and power and splendor of which would leave such a one as I was then gasping and ever

open-mouthed. Of its squalor, rascality, and evil I saw much and yet saw nothing. Youth has that knack, and middle age mourns the loss of it.

I return once more to Wexford House in St. James's Place. It must be, I fancied, one of the five large mansions which make an inclosure of the park end of that aristocratic back-water. In a public house I consulted the London Directory. Wexford House, I soon discovered, lay between the residences of the Duke of Mells and the Earl of Templehaven, the latter of which has no special name, but only a number. I found that number in St. James's Place, and so to Wexford House.

In the directory the present tenant was inscribed as plain Hugh Janvier. The name meant nothing to me then. He must be a rich man, and possibly the friend or patron of monsignor, if one so highly placed could suffer such protection. Hugh Janvier, I decided, was his friend. I had no means of ascertaining the actual facts, for I was too poor and too obscure to belong to clubs, and I had no acquaintance among the well informed who conduct our newspapers. I was a solitary student, with a turn for the historical romance, a precarious income, and an attic in the dingier part of Bloomsbury. My library was the one at the British Museum. There I browsed, there I raised my facts and fancies, there I wandered off into foreign lands, and made those visionary friendships with the illustrious dead to which, all said and done, I owe my present enviable position.

Before replying to my unknown correspondent I took the liberty of marking down Wexford House. So much has already been hinted. Like a pointer, or, better still, a detective, I gathered such information as its exterior could offer, and even looked in at the lower windows. These were separated by an iron railing. from the street, and at that distance afforded no serious clue to the pomp and magnificence of Mr. Janvier. The house itself was spacious and plain-fronted, designed, no doubt, by one of those Georgian architects who aped the classic and ad

mired the smooth, melliflucus artifices of Mr. Pope. A neglected house, it seemed, without much life in it. None at all, if I except a tabby-cat that brooded on the door-step.

So much for the front of Wexford House. My next course was to take it in the rear. I found the narrow outlet which connects St. James's Place with St. James's Park, and discovered that the mansion possessed a garden of its own and rose to five sheer stories. A score of windows overlooked the park, and the little garden had its gate of entry. For London this was luxury indeed. I thought of my own. penurious quarters and my hemmed-in view. Roofs and chimney-stacks were all I saw with the bodily eye, and at night I often rose to deal with cats. Here one could look out and observe the courtships of true lovers. A couple sat on a bench just now. He was earnest and silk-hatted; she was tender, and her gray shoes matched her stockings. Oh, heart, dear heart of me, how lonely and friendless and unloved I felt in this great city! I went away from there and mounted to my attic. I wrote in haste and agitation:

Monsignor, I will come to you on Tuesday afternoon next at five o'clock. I am, as you supposed, a young man, a very young man. Pray do not expect too much of me. I am grateful for the praises you bestowed on my poor book, and my future plans depend on inspiration.

I inscribed myself his "obedient servant," and put my name in full, "John Stacey Cornwallis Loughborough." It is a grand name, and I was proud of it.


ON the Tuesday I was punctual and more than punctual. It was an afternoon of mid-December, a black fog in the air, the streets doubly dark, and all the elements against me. I was not to be deterred, however. At a quarter to the hour I arrived in St. James's Place; and there, cooling my heels, inhaling the fog, and colliding with lamp-posts, I marked time and waited for the appointed moment. The

« AnkstesnisTęsti »