WILLIAM J. LOCKE
PANDOLFO passed his hand over his crisp auburn hair. "I a dore to see you like that, Paula. You remind me more than ever of the Paola Malatesta who married the great Pandolfo of Rimini. But, pardon me, if I say so—you are beating the air. There has been no question of remission of interest between Mr. Veresy and myself. I assure you."
She a. . kn w you well enough not todo you the injustice of doubting your word."
IL made a hat ironical gesture of acknowledg'd ba', rrhe umty, as you doubtless have discovered, of thmkmg myself a great many great things. But I’m not a great liar."
W y , vu am then, why my father couldn’t afford to pay the other mortgagees and he can pay you.”
"Readily . my dear." He smiled. "It’s a mere question of a business man’s personal interest in Mr. Yeresy’s financial affairs. The late mortgagees cared not a fig. Why should they? 1 come along with lawyers, accountants. stockbrokers and bankers, a whole army of experts, and we see that with a little manipulation here, a little judicious investment there, a little thumb-screwing of a certain gentleman —”
"Ah. You know.
Well, we arranged a certain compromise in order to avoid a lawsuit.
Everything has helped, you see. 1 can’t say that we have restored Mr. Veresy to his position as a rich man.
Alas, that is not possible. at present. In the future, who knows? But at any rate, his solvency is assured, and if he is content with a modest scale of living, there is no reason why he should leave this beautiful ancestral home."
The last three florid words were accompanied by one of his wide gestures. Paula winced as at a jangled chord. If only he had said, like anybody else:
"this jolly old house!”
He waited for awhile and then took a step nearer and in a lowtone:
‘T hope you’re satisfied.” said he.
"I am very grateful for what you have done.” said Paula.
The door opened and Mr. \ eresy appeared.
He shut the door all in a hurry and advanced cordially with outstretched hand to Pandolfo.
“A thousand apologies. Sir Victor. I onlyjust learned that you were here. Really.
Paula. Pargiter is growing positively senile—”
And not even a sherry and bitters and a biscuit offered after his long motor journey!
Would he have one now-? Or one of the modern concoctions— a cocktail? He himself was old-fashioned
their making: vas sure Paula Pc one up” for
Pandolfo declined, smilingly. He defied all the doctors and never drank except at meals. Chadford, he explained, was so little off his route that he could not resist the temptation of calling to bid Mrs. Field good-bye before starting for Brazil.
"Brazil! How 1 envy you! A fine country. Rio Janeiro harbor! God bless my soul, how many years ago was it . . .?”
HIS calculations were interrupted by the entrance of Myrtilla. In a few moments luncheon was announced. Mr. Veresy compensated for the sin plicity of the meal by ordering up a precious bottle of the old Johannesburg. Its exquisite perfume filled the room. Pandolfo, silencing trivial talk, held up arresting hands.
"My dear Mr. Veresy, who am I that you should bestow on me this gift of the Rhine gods?”
He passed his glass under his nose and sipped. “What? Eighteen eight-four! It can’t be possible.”
Mr. Veresy thumped the leathern arm of his chair and beamed delight.
“It is. The very year.” Pargiter was sent to fetch the empty bottle. “To give good wine to a man who knows is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Yes, ’84. My old father laid it down. He made a specialty of Hocks. There’s half a cellarful still. During the war, I couldn’t bring myself to touch the stuff. Seemed unpatriotic. But now—what has the poor old wine got to do with it, anyhow? ... By George! Fancy your spotting the
He regarded Pandolfo as a kind of god, a modern and highly sophisticated Bacchus.
Paula, amused and interested, asked: “How did you recognize it, Sir Victor?”
“Memory. Why shouldn’t you record sensations like any other facts? I tasted this wine once before the war at a castle in Silesia. I drank it again last year in the City of London. Mistake was impossible. The particular flavors of wine are like individual melodies to a musical ear. Once heard never forgotten.”
“We’ll have up another. Indeed as many as are left,”
cried Mr. Veresy, “and we’ll sit down here until they’re all finished. It’s no use giving it to the people round about here. They prefer Moselle. Lighter and more refreshing! Or whisky and soda—very weak. If the war hadn’t proved the contrary I would say it was a dam’ degenerate age, when ar man can’t take his drink like a gentleman. Seems to me that the world’s all upside down. A young fellow comes in and drinks lemonsquash and eats ices, and you find he’s a V.C. I give it up.” He drank and smiled. “Thank God I’ve got a palate left,” said he.
“And this,’’said Pandolfo, with a bow. He went on. “I can’t give you anything better. That would be beyond the power of man. But something perhaps as good, of a different genre, if you would do me the honor of visiting my humble house in Tite Street. Imperial Tokay out of the cellars of the late Emperor Franz Josef. I once was in Vienna looking after a patent of mine. I had many introductions, in consequence of which I came to know the Surgeon-inChief to the Emperor. One night over an excellent Tokay wine he grew confidential. The Emperor suffered from many infirmities of old age. He mentioned one. No need to go into particulars. There came to me one of my usual flashes of inspiration— the inventor’s flashes. ‘But that,’ I cried, ‘can easily be remedied.’ I took out a pencil and made sketches on the table cloth. The next day I sent him a complete design and specification. A free gift. It was really a very simple trumpery matter. To cut the story short, he had the appliance made, clapped it on the old Emperor, with the re-
suit that, eventually, I was presented. Then came the question of recognition. Money was out of the question. In those days one was quite delighted to help a lame Emperor over a stile. I didn’t want the Order of the Three Purple Eagles or whatever they used to give away in Austria. I wanted what no one, unless he were a Crowned Head, could get. Some of the best Imperial Tokay that lay in the vaults of the Hoíburg. And I got it. I got a dozen. Court Functionaries drew up in motor-cars to my hotel, and presented me with a case all over seals and imperial devices franking me through the Customs Houses of the Universe.” He turned to Paula. “I always get what I want, don’t I?”
She avoided the direct question. “Why haven’t you told me this story before?”
“It would take me a lifetime to tell you all my stories. Haven’t you realized that I’m an amateur of the Picturesque?”
“I should say an expert,” said Mr. Veresy courteously. “Call me a professional,” laughed Pandolfo.
He was launched on the theme of the color and joy and madness of Life’s adventure. He held the worn and simple Myrtilla spellbound. He was a radiant angel fallen into her little narrow world.
CONFIRMATION of his estimate of the guest as a damn good fellow set Mr. Veresy aglow. By the end of the meal Pandolfo had established a position in at least two simple hearts. Mr. Veresy kept him in the dining room after the ladies had retired. Myrtilla was full of questions. Why had Paula given no hint of her friendship with this most remarkable man? Paula had to respond lamely that, in London, one met so many remarkable men that they eclipsed one another, so to speak, and individually made no impression. Whereupon Myrtilla sighed and said that Paula had all the luck.
The men came in; Pandolfo with the announcement of immediate departure. He must be in London for a great Paulinium dinner-party he was giving prior to his sailing for Brazil. Myrtilla asked: What was a Paulinium dinnerparty? He threw up his hands to Paula.
“Have you said never a word for me?”
• “For you? Why should I? Of you—no. No more than you’ve said a word of me.”
Mr. Veresy and Myrtilla exchanged glances. “Paulinium steel,” said Mr. Veresy, with the air of one who knew, “is the new metal of which Sir Victor is the inventor.”
"I see,” murmured Myrtilla.
“And so the dinner-party—a band of believers . . .” Pandolfo smiled in his engaging way.
Leave was taken. Mr. Veresy and Paula followed their guest into the hall where Pargiter stood by the entrance door, furlined coat in hand. Suddenly from the morning room came a sharp cry.
With an apology the old man obeyed the summons. Myrtilla caught him by the arm.
“Don’t be a dear old silly. Give the man a chance.” Mr. Veresy asked God to bless his soul and Myrtilla to explain.
“You don’t suppose he came here to see you—or me. Can’t you see he’s over head and ears in love with Paula? They’re as thick as thieves. Why should he christen his old metal Paulinium? And why should he have taken such an affectionate interest in Chadford? The dear thing gives himself away at every turn.”
“That makes things rather awkward.”
“On the contrary,” replied Myrtilla.
“Yes—but—I can’t let the fellow go without bidding him good-bye.”
“Paula will see to that,” Myrtilla declared. “Where’s our old visitors’ book?”
UNAWARE of the subtlety of the feminine brain, Mr.
Veresy damned the book. No one had written in it for the last five years, and of its whereabouts he had no knowledge.
“I think I have,” said Myrtilla. “Wait here till I come.”
Meanwhile Paula and Pandolfo stood together at one end of the great staircased and balconied hall, while Pargiter stood impassive at the other.
Said he: “Tell me. To-day. At least have you been contented with my demeanor?”
She laughed. “What an odd lot of words. What do you mean?”
“I came here a starving man. Almost a wolf. Instead of saying and doing what I wanted to, I’ve been as discreet and colorless as our friend, Babington. I deserve some thanks. Considering all things—I think I’ve been great!” Like an actor, at the fall of the curtain, turning to an invited friend in the wings, he awaited his meed of praise. She wrinkled a perplexed and humorous brow.
“My dear friend, after all this time, don’t you understand? If you didn’t want me to marry you, there’s no man in the world I’d like to love more.”
“That’s cold comfort,” said he, “to one who needs all the warmth he can get.”
For the first time during his embarrassing pursuit did he touch her heart. She felt just a faint sensation of a
stab. Hitherto his love-making had been a mere invitation—not to share, for everything he did was in the grand manner—-but to crown his splendor. His attitude had been that of the Great Olympic Giver of All. For the very first time, therefore, he struck the very simple human chord. For the very first time he had suggested his own needs, had asked for something for himself. With an awakened intelligence she swept his face with a swift feminine glance. He had grown a shade older. There were new faint lines on his forehead and at the corners of his eyes in which there seemed to burn a strange hunger. Hers met them for a second or two very steadily. She was a woman of the modern world; beautiful woman, inured, if such a thing were possible, to the admiration and desire of men. But in his eyes she read something apart from man’s stark desire; a hunger, almost wolfish, for other things than love.
She came close to him and said in a low voice:
“Putting foolishness—you know what I mean—aside, what can I do for you? How can I help you?”
“What is the value of the goblet to a thirsty man without the wine?”
She turned aside, at loss for immediate answer, her straight English sense of language ever so slightly offended by the exotic metaphor. Not that the words did not ring true to the man. His sincerity to himself she did not question. But, as an instinctive expression of the man, they did not ring true to her. No clean-run Englishman appealing to her sympathy in an indubitably tense moment would have talked of the vanity of an empty goblet. And yet, the Latin who spoke had summed up the whole business in a phrase.
HAD she been in a flippant mood, she might have suggested, by way of compromise, the filling of the goblet with soda water or lemonade. But compromise was impossible. Either wine—for wine is a living thing, one of the three “God’s great words to man”—and at once a symbol and a gift of God’s grace and love; or the mockery of the empty cup, no matter how elaborately and exquisitely garlanded.
So, as has been said, she turned her head away and made no answer. He shrugged his shoulders.
' “Do you know why you broke off your brief engagement to the excellent Babington? You realized that the rich vintage of yourself which you were prepared to pour out wouldn’t be good for his health. I defy you to say, as I defied you the first moment we met, that it wouldn’t be good for mine. What are you going to do with it? Keep it in a locked cellar, for ever and a day, so that no man can get a drink of it? Think of the wickedness of the waste, my dear!”
She said with a wry smile:
“I think, my dear friend, it’s only a little vin du pays and has turned sour already.”
“If it had, you would have thought it quite good enough for Babington.”
The voice of Mr. Veresy, perhaps ostentatiously raised came from the open door of the morning room.
“So you’ve found the book at last, Myrtilla.”
Paula asked swiftly: “When do you sail?”
“The day after to-morrow. Southampton. Royal Mail Oranta. Can’t I carry away a crumb of comfort?” Again the appeal. She felt wickedly hard-hearted. As a friend she could feed him whatever loaves and fancy bread he desired. As husband postulant she could give him naught.
“You shall have a telegram,” she said.
Then, into the hall came Mr. Veresy and Myrtilla, visitors’ book and fountain pen in hand. Pandolfo laughed and, on a carefully presented virgin page, dashed off his triumphant signature.
Mr. Veresy accompanied him down the dignified flight of steps to his car. Pandolfo drove off, waving his hat, with his usual air of a conqueior.
“Splendid fellow! One of the best!”
“I’m so glad you like him, dear,” said Paula demurely. When he had retired to his study, where of afternoons he had the habit of facing ruin like a somnolent gentleman, Myrtilla turned on her sister.
“Why the—why the—why the . . .?”
Paula took her by her lean shoulders.
“What the—what the—what—what has it got to do with you?”
“I’m sorry,” said Myrtilla, disengaging herself. “I’m not often indiscreet. But this is so obvious.”
“And the poor dear,” said Paula, “thought no one could possibly have guessed his secret. He himself told me so.”
Myrtilla, the faded, elderly image of Paula, laughed in her turn.
“Men are idiots, aren’t they?” And after a pause: “But, you darling—you see it’s of such enormous interest to us all—what are you going to do about it?” “I’m going to find a nice little undiscovered, uncharted island in the middle of the Pacific,” replied Paula, “and I’m going to sit there for the rest of my days.”
“Women like you,” said Myrtilla a trifle sourly, “make me tired.”
Perhaps this was the first time in their lives that their
English reserve had allowed them to talk nakedly. And Paula saw that they were poles apart. Brief, though her joy had been, she had had Life’s glorious fulfilment. She had loved; she had borne a child; death had been but that fulfilment’s sanctification. She had gone forth again into the world, humorously, regally conscious of every man’s desire. Like every beautiful and virtuous woman she had had her own unconsciously woven scale of values. She never doubted that, in her world, other decent women had the same. Her mind was too delicate and her preoccupation with material things too insistent for anything approaching morbid self-analysis. The great sweet people of the world do not worry about themselves. It is only the little diseased folk that love to turn themselves inside out and discuss their poor little psychical insides thus exposed in either private or general company. The strong and the sane give themselves in robust objectivity to the world. So Paula Field.
A defect, it might be of her qualities that until that moment of her sister’s exclamation, she had not recognized the cry of the starved woman.
She replied lamely:
“But, Myrty darling, how can one marry a man one doesn’t love?”
Myrtilla stood tragically in front of her, worked into a rare and sudden passion, so that her withered beauty started into intense loveliness.
“Love! What does it matter so long as a man wants one? You’ve been wanted all your life. No man has ever wanted me—” she shook her hands in front of her, in unprecedented gesture—“you throw away God’s gifts as if they were nothing, while I would be contented with any crumb that fell from the table. I have no patience with you. I hate you!”
She flung out.
Paula went to the window and looked on the desolate and dripping winter garden. For a moment she regarded apathetically the forlorn female statue. Then her fancy worked. That it should spring into fantastic, Bacchantic Maenadic life were less a miracle than the staid Myrtilla’s outburst.
Then suddenly she turned away and swept her brows with impatient hands. What on earth could Myrtilla know about it? You must love a man . . . you must . . . Oh, the whole thing was impossible.
THE last visit Pandolfo paid before sailing was to Lady Demeter. At six o’clock in the afternoon, according to telephonic arrangement, he burst into her drawing-room where, according to her account of the interview, he behaved like a tornado. He had the audacity to upbraid her for wrong counsel.
“I’ve seen her.”
“Just the same as ever.”
“I’m surprised,” said Clara.
He declared he was not. He had lost three months. A woman wanted wooing, not neglect, as she had advised. And now he must lose two months more. It would take him at least two months to get out to Brazil, go up country, flay alive the scoundrels who were mismanaging the mines and get back again. Lady Demeter suggested that Paula must have been pleased to see him.
“Pleased! She was kind, she was hospitable. I was cold and hungry and she took me in. She could do no less. But when it came to grips, the same old story. Tout ce que vous voudrez, mais pas ca. Everything you want but that! And that—to marry her—good heavens! —is all I want. I’m a man—look at me!” He thumped his chest and braced his biceps. “Am I the sort to be content with a flower thrown from her window like a mildewed minnesinger?"
“You haven’t yet told me what actually happened.” Even his exuberant fancy could not fill in the meagre detail. Reference to the mortgages which had formed the main subject of the conversation he omitted. That side of things had nothing to do with Lady Demeter. At the end of his tale, she said:
“At any rate she promised a telegram.”
“What’s the good of that? Paula Field sending her heart along a bit of wire? Absurd! No. 'Bon voyage. That’s all it will be.”
Lady Demeter declared afterwards that the wind of his movements stirred the drawn winter curtains. He went on:
“This Fabian policy is at an end. There shall be no more hiding in the background. She shall have letters, cables, monkeys, marmosets, gold nuggets, from me every day. She shall learn that without me, life is impossible. She shall learn to look on me as a necessity.
COMFORTABLE Lady Demeter waited until his fury w'as more or less spent.
“Why, my dear Victor, are you so particularly set on marrying Paula?”
“Why?” He looked at her as though she had asked him why he desired food when a-hungered. “She is created for me and I for her. We’re complementary. Could the world provide a more perfect pair?”
She smiled inwardly at the flamboyant egotism. Indictment on the count, however, would but lead to useless wrangling. She came down to lower levels.
'If only men had a little sense! Did it never occur to you to make violent love before her eyes, of course— to another woman?”
He spread out his arms. "Is there another woman?’
”My poor friend,” said Lady Demeter.
He took his leave, and, the next day, set sail for South America Gregory Uglow and a fellow director or so of “Paulinium Steel" Ltd.” saw him off at Waterloo.
On board the Orante at Southampton, he found the promised telegram.
"My sincerest good wishes follow you. Paula.”
Making the best of the nourishment provided for the hungry lover, he sucked whatever juice there was in every w >rd She was not one who spoke idly. Her good wishes were good wishes; she declared them smeertthat they should follow him on his adventures was, on her part, a solemn undertaking And for the first time, she acquiesced in the familiarity of the Christian name. Yet. in this pregnant message, he could discover nothing but friendship. As usual she held her real self tantalisingly aloof.
It was the same cold Comfort. Had she given a hint of a promise, the murk of Southampton waters would have been irradiated by gleams of gold.
IT WAS a dismal and depressing I day. Decks and hatchways and taffrails of the great steamer were sticky with moisture. Fog loomed ahead in the Channel. The queerly assorted mass of humanity issuing out of the warm train had gathered on its garments myriads of globules of dampness. There was a steam of breaths. As he went aboard in the midst of the surging mass of passengers, he had the exacerbating sensation of being but an unrecognized and inconsiderable member of a horde. It was only after having awaited his turn in a decorous group before the purser’s office, and handed his card, and a spry clerk had said cheerily: "Yes, Sir Victor, there’s a wire for you,” that his spirits leaped at the recognition of his individuality. Paula once had said that he must suffer agonies of obscurity in a foreign city.
He tore open the telegram and went below in search of his cabin.
The port-holes were shut and the glass obscured by mist. The room, in its stark formality and stagnation of air reminded him of a prison cell.
He bade hi3 waiting valet for heaven’s sake turn off the steam heating.
On deck again he watched the movements—almost as aimless as ant3—of the throng of humans. The signa! went for visitors to go ashore. He stood by the gangway and was witness to the multifarious leavetakings. The parting hug of women’s arms around men's necks gave him a queer sensation of heart-ache. Every fresh-faced man—even some of the swarthy homeward-bound—seemed to have some living link with woman, sundered, of a sudden, by the inexorable syren-whistle. He was desolate. Only the crumpled telegram in his pocket suggested a tenuous bond.
The vast steamer glided away. The quay in front of the dirty and ignoble sheds became alive with waving hats and fluttering handkerchiefs. The dull red-brick mass of the London and South Western Hotel stood out, ironical, expressive neither of rale nor of ave, of welcome nor of farewell. Pandolfo crossed to the other side of the deck, and stared at the vague outline of the Isle of Wight just discernible through the fog.
Perhaps for the first time in his vivid, all conquering life, he was oppressed by the eternal sadness of things, 'ft hy had he not brought Gregory Uglow to Southampton, so that one human soul, at least, should have waved a farewell hand to him, from the quay? His self-sufficiency had forbidden the concession to sentiment. He had been strongly tempted to take the young man with him to Brazil for the sake of human companionship. But that^ was impossible. Uglow must stay in London, his confidential representative, intellectual, possessive of all secrets, diplomatic, able to cope with the Board of Directors of "Paulinium Steel Ltd.” which was growing restive. Gregory had certain powers of attorney. Armed with those he could block the sinister activities of an
abominable fellow, one Joram, to whose appointment as secretary an equally abominable, though at first, plausibly amenable director, had induced him to consent. Joram, in a wormy Levantine way, had already insinuated doubts as to the infallibility of the great Pandolfo. \\ hy this Brazilian journey, lie was reported to have asked, at the critical moment of the Company’s fortunes? Gregory must deal with the beast until his return, when he would lift him by his collar, ’twixt finger and thumb, and drop him out of the fifth floor window of the City offices of “Paulinium Steel Ltd.” In some such terms had he explained his motives to G regory.
HIS valet interrupted disconsolate meditation by asking him to choose a pitch for his deck chair. Pandolfo waved him away.
"The best and sunniest and most sheltered.”
The valet, a pound note in hand, consulted the Deck Steward.
“For Gawd’s sake tell me which it is, for if it isn’t, ’eaven ’elp me.”
The Deck Steward told him.
Now, one of the minor annoyances of ocean-travel is this specified location of your deck-chair. No matter whether the sun scorches you or the winds freeze your marrow, in that one same seat must you sit the whole voyage through, unless you are one of those prowling trespassers whose name is anathema on ship-board. There, in proximity to neighbours whose language you may detest, whose perfume artificial or otherwise you may much dislike, who invariably crackle newspapers when you want to sleep, must you recline if you desire to enjoy, in repose, the full joy of sea and sky. No hotel in its senses would ear-mark its garden seats for specific guests; no guests in their senses would stand it. And yet generation after generation of ocean passengers submit with lamb-like meekness to the tyranny of a corporation of monopolists known as the Oceanic Chair Company. Why steamers cannot provide deckchairs, just as they provide unrestricted sitting accommodation in saloon and smoking-rooms is a mystery.
This enforced juxtaposition of individuals on a steamer’s deck is responsible for many tragedies. Steamship companies dare not compile statistics of the passengers pushed overboard on dark nights by neighbours who have returned purring to the side of the thenceforward vacant chair. It has been responsible for embarrassing acquaintanceships, friendships ever after to be regretted, and mephitic cargoes of scandal. It is
responsible for a devil of a lot of other things; among them the meeting day after day of Pandolfo and a lady.
For the first few days of vile weather—indeed, it blew a gale—Pandolfo sat on the promenade deck, in the chair which his admirable valet, acting on the highly paid professional advice of the deck steward, had set in the most perfect spot to leeward, in comfortable solitude. Left-hand neighbour had he none. The kindly tempest had swept at least eight chairs to his right free of occupants. He noticed that the visiting card slipped into the brass fitment on the chair beside him bore the inscription “Comtesse de Breville.” Spanish names appeared next, a family party; then “Mr. John P. Cotton” and “Mrs. John P. Cotton,” and so on, in uninteresting category.
THE calm and sunshine of the fourth morning magically filled the hitherto desolate decks. Among the new arrivals Pandolfo greeted an acquaintance or two; General and Lady Fairfield starting on a trot round the globe; Pelham Foxe, an eminent engineer, bound for work at Buenos Aires. The world seemed brighter. The Fairfields invited him to their table in the dining saloon. The head-steward would arrange the transfer. He accepted gladly. The one stalwart eater at his own table was a dried American who gave the impression that, having been talked at for years by his wife and daughter (still in the cabin stage), he had lost the power of speech. Now, though Pandolfo was a talker, he scorned pure monologue, and the monosyllabic interlocutor bored him. On the other hand, the General was a cheery person who had soldiered all over the world and commanded a division in France;
and his wife, like many good soldiers’ wives, took a philosophic and amusing view of the universe. In a charming way they made clear their recognition of the importance of the Great Pandolfo. The dried American had apparently never heard of him, or, if he had, seemed deeply unimpressed. He sunned himself in his friends’ gentle flattery. Foxe, too, greeted him with some enthusiasm.
“I saw your name on the passenger list and was looking forward to seeing you. But this infernal gale —my first time up. You’re looking splendid — as though you hadn’t missed a meal since Southampton. ’ “I haven’t,” said Pandolfo. “Lucky fellow. And where are you off to?”
“Brazil. I’ve some mines to look at in the Andes.”
“Luckier still. I’ve got to sweat all the time in a Buenos Aires office over blue-prints.”
Yes. After all, it was a pleasant world, and he not its least fortunate inhabitant. Anyhow he had a stomach defiant of wind and wave and had a couple of months of God’s fresh air before him. His pity for Pelham Foxe raised him in his own esteem. He went for a tramp around the decks with quickened pulses and springing step, despising the decrepit of all ages and sexes who lay or crawled about huddled up in overcoats and wraps on that blue and sunny morning when the salt of the sea on the lips was like a Naiad’s kisses. He scorned an overcoat, smiled a contemptuous smile on the young men attired bravely like himself, hatless, jackets open shewing the gaudy silk-bound knitted waistcoat. He stopped to watch a game of deck-quoits which youth, an English quartette, boys and maidens, had just started. The latter looked radiantly fresh in their white jerseys and Alpine sports caps—a stimulating touch of Aurora. He retrieved a rolling ring thrown to one of them and stood with it in hand while she made an awkward cast. He stepped forward.
“Forgive me. There’s a knack. It’s very simple. Just this.”
He made a motion of arm and wrist. She gave him a swift, appraising glance; then laughed in confidence. “So?”
She cast and missed.
“Nearly right. Watch.”
He threw. The rope ring fell delicately over the middle peg. He laughed in his turn, waved both his arms with a “voila!” and went on his way triumphant.
HIS walk over, he descended to his cabin to seek a book, a detective story of great promise which he had begun the night before. He only had one more with him. That was the only spot of failure in an otherwise perfect world; the lamentable scarcity of good detective novels. On deck again, he looked into the Winter Garden. Pallid Southerners sat dismal on the cane chairs and settees. Profound pity raised his spirits still higher. Why did they remain bat-like
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instead of seeking the sunshine and the sweet salt breeze and the joy of the white network of foam in the cups of the Mild and dark blue waves ?
Book in hand, he mounted to the promenade deck, feasted his senses for a while on that which the pallid Southerners seemed to despise, and went in search of his chair. At first it was difficult, for the crowded row bore a different aspect from thé gaunt array of the previous days. At last he found it, tucked away in its corner by the turn of the companion. The next one was occupied by a lady; presumably the Comtesse de Breville whose card he had read. Elegantly be-rugged, she sat in the act of taking a bowl of soup from the deck-steward’s laden tray. It was about eleven o’clock. Why a jorum of Scotch-broth between breakfast and lunch should be considered essential to human support is another of the mysteries of the sea. Yet, like most mysteries it can have its elements of comedy. The steward unbent from the lady, and, in brisk seafashion turned on Pandolfo. Pandolfo smiled and swept a declining gesture. His
hand caught the edge of the tray. The steward performed a trick of legerdemain; but all his skill could not prevent a bowl falling on the lady’s rug. She uttered a little cry of dismay and spilled half her own cup. The steward broke into horrified apology. Pandolfo, with masterful hand, extricated her from the soaked covering, and, snatching up his own which his man had placed in readiness on the adjoining chair, in words of authority put it at her entire disposal. He spoke in French. The lady replied in the same tongue. She could not dream of depriving him of his rug.
“Madame,” said he, in his most Pandolfian manner, “if you don’t use it, I will throw it overboard.”
She yielded, allowed him to fix it round her. She murmured her thanks. Pandolfo snatched the rug from the rueful steward who was trying to repair damages with a napkin, bowed and marched away with it over his shoulder.
“Who is that?” asked the lady.
The steward looked at the card on the chair back.
“That’s Sir Victor Pandolfo. I overheard one gentleman say to another: 'that’s the great Pandolfo.’ I took him for a variety artist: but as he’s a ‘Sir,’ he can’t be.”
HE PICKED up his tray and with further apologies hurried away to make up for lost time in supplying the wants of famished passengers.
Presently Pandolfo appeared: “Madame,” said he, “my valet, who knows more about the taking out of stains than any man on earth—otherwise 1 should not employ him—assured me that your beautiful fawn-colored rug is irretrievably ruined. The one you have around you is the poorest return I can make.”
“Such a word, Madame, does not exist in my vocabulary.”
She looked up at him and laughed, and said in pure English:
“If you’re Sir Victor Pandolfo, you must be an Englishman.”
“Then I don’t see the point of our talking in a foreign language.”
“But you,” said he, motioning to her chair-back, “are the Comtesse de Breville.”
“Quite so. But my father was an eminent divine in Ely.”
“And you married a Frenchman?” “You’ve guessed my secret.”
He sat down by her side. It was the obvious thing to do, the offended lady being in a forgiving and conversational mood.
“It’s absurd,” she said. “I can’t accept your rug. It’s of the finest wool, and worth ten times mine which is only a common old thing.”
“I have them made specially for me. By the dozen,” he declared. “A secret process. I carry a bale about with me in case of such emergencies. I beg you to let the unhappy incident be closed, with some degree of happiness to myself.” “We’ll discuss the matter again, when your man has cleaned the rug.”
“He is too wise to attempt it. Besides, it is already thrown away. At the best it would be a lamentable makeshift. I have no use for makeshifts.”
“But, unfortunately, I have,” said the Comtesse de Breville.
He indicated the rug on her knees. “Unfortunately,” said he, with a bow. “It’s awfully kind of you,” said she, and settled herself luxuriously under the soft wool.
SHE smiled at him with the air of a woman conscious of attraction. He smiled back with the air of a gallant man doing homage to feminine charms. Her voice was soft, an excellent thing in woman. She had dark blue eyes that laughed with a touch of sadness behind them. The sudden sea-air, after days’ confinement in her cabin, had whipped color into her cheeks. Little masses of dark brown hair appeared on each side beneath the brim of her travelling toque. Her lips were mobile and her teeth were those of a young girl. Yet a line or two here and there betrayed the woman of the middle thirties.
She turned with the faintest suggestion of a sigh and opened her book. Pandolfo opened his. The incident was closed. Had she been a child of fourteen or a harridan of seventy, he would have behaved in the same grand, Pandolfian way, such conduct being the man’s tribute to himself. He had the power of instant concentration. No sooner had he found his place than he became absorbed in the intrigue. Meanwhile the woman scanned his face beneath lowered eyelids and her lips closed somewhat thin and hard.
The acquaintance thus made was continued from day to day, mainly through the forced companionship of the adjoining deck-chairs. He learned something of her history, which appeared to be a simple one. She was the daughter of a Canon of Ely. Sent to school in France to finish her education, she spent a vacation or two at the house of a French fellow pupil. There she met the Comte de Breville, who fell in love with her and married her, to the contentment of relations on both sides. But the marriage had not been a happy one, owing to Breville’s obtuseness in not recognizing that the upkeep of two establishments was incompatible with perfect conjugal lelicity. They had separated and gone their respective ways. Now he was
She was going she knew not exactly whither. It was a voyage of distraction. Although she had a comfortable flat in Paris, for years she had been living on the branch, at Biarritz, Monte Carlo, Deauville, Florence, Palermo, New York, wherever leaves seemed to be green. She hated things that were cold and grey, and shuddered at Ely in its misty marshes. Besides her father had died there long ago. Of rheumatism of the soul, she said.
She was a lonely bird, blown about the world. Of friends or acquaintances on board save those made casually, she had none. Pandolfo pitied her; yet upbraided her for lack of aim in life. She smiled enigmatically. Perhaps she had one. What was it? She replied in French. It was her secret.
Fine weather followed them. Past Saint-Vincent, half way across to Rio, the sea fell to a dead calm and the sun blazed down tropically. At night a full moon shone upon the waters, ironically remantic.
TT WAS late. Pandolfo sat on the Jpromenade deck with the Fairfields and Pelham Foxe. Elderly loungers had retired to bed. The young were dancing on a deck below, and the strains of the music rose faintly. The deck was deserted. The lazy talk in the moonlight drifted to the personalities of fellow-travellers.
“Who is the pretty lady I have seen you talking to?” asked Lady Fairfield.
“The Comtesse de Breville.”
“Breville—Breville—” Pelham Foxe tapped a dome-like forehead. “Where have I heard that name?”
“Her husband seems to have been a notorious profligate,” said Pandolfo.
“No—no—it’s the lady. Wait—yes. Two years ago in Montevideo.”
“It can’t be the lady in question,” said Pandolfo, “because this is her first visit to South America.”
Foxe conceded with a smile. “Then I’m wrong,” said he.
But he sat silent for a while, knitting his brow.
“Now I come to think of it, the name was Treviile. I beg the lady’s pardon. This was a very beautiful woman—by report—I never saw her—but there was a nine days’ scandal. A young American shot himself in the hotel corridor outside her bedroom door. And pinned to his coat was a piece of paper on which he had scribbled: “As I have given you my last penny, so have I given you my last drop of blood.”
“How romantic,” said Lady Fairfield.
“Silly ass!” said the General.
He rose and shook himself like a dog, being a man of full habit.
“The man who spends his last penny on a woman ought to be put in a lethal chamber.”
His wife hugged his arm. “Then you ought to have been put out of the way many times, old dear.”
He laughed a jolly laugh, and disengaging his arm, folded it bear-like around her slim shoulders.
“I always laid it out at a million per cent, interest,” said he.
On this pleasant conjugal incident, the party broke up. Foxe confessed to a desire for slumber. Pandolfo was left alone. He went to the forward rail to get the most of the breeze made by the ship’s course and looked far down on the maindeck below. A belated couple, probably second-class passengers, had wandered thither and leaned over the side, watching the night, their arms clasped around each other. After a while he saw their little white specks of faces turn and their lips meet in a kiss.
“They’re happy, at any rate,” said a voice by his side.
He started. It was the Comtesse de Breville.
“I’ve been dancing and it’s all over. And I thought I’d come up here for air; before going to bed. What a wonderful night.”
He assented, rather gloomily. “Yes, wonderful.”
There was a silence during which, impelled perhaps by the same motives, they watched the lovers. Now the man had both his arms around her and she held her head back, so that she could look into his eyes: and then kissed him passionately. It was so far down that it seemed a drama of fantocchini: yet to the man and woman looking on, it was very real.
She said: “I would give my soul for such happiness.”
Continued on pape 42
Continued from page 40
“My God! So would I,” he cried.
She touched the back of his clenched hand lightly with a finger. Her words came very soft and low.
“There’s a woman in your life. Tell me.”
The sound of a voice must have reached the couple on the far down deck, for they looked up and beheld the half body of a man with uplifted and gesticulating hands silhouetted against the moonlit sky.
It. was Pandolfo telling of the wonder of Paula Field.
ON^ A Sunday morning in early May, Gregory Uglow sat solitary by the bowling-green of Hinsted Park, going through a portfolio of flimsy typed documents. They were very worrying and very contradictory, and, as he studied them, by no means for the first time, his face grew pinched with anxiety. Presently he clenched his hands in a little despairing gesture and looked up to heaven for inspiration.
At that moment, Paula, entering by the path between the high box hedges that separated the green from the terraced lawn sweeping down from the Elizabethan front of Hinsted, caught him unawares. She stood for a few seconds, white and regal, embowered in green, until the young man’s eyes, baffled by heaven, were held by the more significant vision.
He threw his portfolio on the rustic bench and rose and they met midway on the green.
“You look the picture of woe.”
He regarded her with wry humor.
“I’m afraid I’ve been sitting for my portrait.”
“Are things as bad as that?”
“You’ve no idea,” he replied, with a rueful laugh, “how bad things can be till they set themselves to work.”
She took his arm lightly and together they crossed to the garden seat.
“And on such a beautiful May morning.”
He sighed: “If it weren’t for you, I
should go crazy.”
He caught up some sheets and laid them down again. “Just business matters.”
“He doesn’t say when he’s coming home?”
“No. Still detained. Experimenting on the spot. I’m to carry on here as best I can. I wish I could. That’s the worst of not being a superman like him.”
“But you’ve told him about Joram and Innwater and the gang generally?”
“Of course,” said Gregory.
From which conversation it may be gathered that Paula Field was more conversant with the inner workings of “^aulinium Steel Ltd.” than she was on the winter day of sleet when she had last seen Pandolfo.
He had been away for five months; the limit which he had set himself had been two. A month from Rio Janeiro and back; a lortnight for the journey to and from the mines in the Andes; a fortnight to put fear into the workers of the mines. He was three months overdue.
HAD it not been for Gregory Uglow, Paula, perhaps, would have felt little anxiety. But the strain of suspense had obviously been affecting the health of that peculiarly interesting and sympathetic young man. That he was some years older than herself didn’t matter. Compared with Pandolfo in his forties, he was young, and, until she realized her juniority, she had been wont to regard him with pleasant grandmaternal sentiment.
Their coming together, for the first time since her many-incidented stay in Renes-les-Eaux, had been, like most things mundane, a matter of unromantic commonplace. Mirabile dictu, there had not been the least idea of intrigue in the head or the heart of Lady Demeter.
Early in the year Lady Demeter and Paula had made up whatever there was of quarrel between them. In letters and telephone talks Clara had signified a penitent holding out of the olive-branch.
“You’re the most exasperating proud cat of a woman I know,” she wrote; “but you’re the only woman in the world I care for, and I can’t get on without you Whether I’ve been right or wrong, everything I’ve done has been with a view to your happiness. It’s horrid of you not to realize it. Anyhow, if I promise not to worry any more about you, but let you go to rack and ruin without stretching out a
hand to save you, will you let me come down and see you and put me up for the night, so that we can clear up everything.” Clara came. Paula met her at the station with the ramshackle car and took a very happy lady to Chadford Park.
“After all, it’s very stupid,” said Clara. “Idiotic,” said Paula.
“I suppose, if you can’t, you can’t, and there’s an end of it.”
“Do forgive me.”
IN THE ramshackle car, Paula threw her arms around her friend and kissed her and called her a darling old thing and thus the friendship was re-established. In the house, Paula showed her a pre-paid cable under the tacit convention that there should be no comment, which she had received from Pandolfo soon after his arrival at Rio Janeiro. He had written it in French, evidently to baffle the curiosity and stay the gossip, of the presumable young woman in the little Chadford postoffice. In English it ran:
“Say definitely if I may hope. Most urgent.”
“And you replied?” asked Clara.
“ ‘Can’t help your hoping my dear friend, but what is the good. What I said at our last meeting stands.’ ”
“That must have been awfully expensive,” said the practical Clara.
“Í only used up half the words he credited me with,” said Paula.
“Just like him!” sighed Lady Demeter. “And the funny part of it is,” continued Paula, “that I’ve not had a word from him since. Have you?”
“No. Only heard of him from Gregory Uglow.”
Paula pricked her ears. Had Clara kept up acquaintance with the young man? Lady Demeter proclaiming him a dear, gave Paula to understand that she had caught him and set him in the most intimate section of her menagerie. Not much of a lion at present—it was Paula who translated her friend’s account into terms of metaphor—he might reasonably develop a sonorous roar one of these days. Meanwhile he was the most skilful lion tamer’s assistant that ever existed. He could make himself agreeable to anybody. Why, the other day at Hinsted—that awful Boxer woman—Miss Virginia Boxer —“cursed, you see, my dear, from birth, by her very godfathers and godmothers” —the great authority on Birth-rate and Malthus and Unmarried Mothers and Unwanted Babies—and all those dreadful things—Oh, an unspeakable female, with a face like a scorbutic sergeant of Dragoons— “You know, my dear, the sort of creature you see in pictures of Napoleon —and with much less knowledge of babies and how to get them”—What was she saying? Well—this Boxer woman; she simply had to ask her down; she was leading a Royal Commission by the nose, and the newspapers were full of her. She came. Spread consternation around. Wiped the floor with Spencer Babington and threw him limp into a corner, terrified at the possibility of having an unwanted baby— Clara Demeter could be picturesque when she chose—treated dear, darling Calithorpe, the great gynaecologist, like a little innocent boy and told him to go and play among the daisies, made old Lady Susan Mottbury, the mother of ten, so please you, wonder whether she had done it, how she had done it, and why the whole lot, instead of flourishing in riotous health, had not been death-stricken the day they were born.
“They were all bolting on Sunday, my dear,” said Clara, “sending telegrams to themselves. In despair, I turned Gregory on to her. Somehow he kept her quiet and all was well. A social genius, that young man. I came across them in the evening talking astronomy. I asked him afterwards how he had managed to get her off babies and on to stars. He laughed and said: ‘Perhaps via the Milky Way.’ He's such a dear.”
SHE had continued adopted him, her for eulogy. everybody Yes, loved she him. Even Demeter. One week-end. when Gregory had refused—through pride or something silly—Demeter himself had gone and routed him out of Tite Street—“And when Demeter sets out to be gracious, I’ve never met anybody who could resist him,” said the good wife.
All this from Lady Demeter to show how it had come about that Gregory Uglow had allowed himself to become attached to her household.
Clara, looking round the desolate and faded house, once, as she remembered it from pleasant experience, so bright in its quiet luxury and warm in that curious living comfort that arises from noiseless, invisible, efficient service, shivered with commiseration for Paula. She had not counted on such poverty-stricken dreariness. Pargiter, an old acquaintance, questioned amiably as to his general well being, replied that he was well in health but— “things aren’t what they were, m’lady.” And he shook his head with the air of the mildewed old steward of the play. Mr. Veresy, an old friend, beamed jollily upon her, and gave her the picture of a fine old English gentleman facing ruin with a stout heart. Myrtilla asked her anxiously to recommend the cheapest place in London where she could make up the store of common table linen.
“Why you must have mountains of it,” cried Lady Demeter.
“Of the best, yes,” sighed Myrtilla, “but I don’t think we can afford to use it.”
The only serene and apparently unconscious person in the house was Paula. Her silence as to fallen fortunes closed Clara’s lips; she could only convey her sympathy obliquely. It was time for Paula to reappear in the world. She admitted that life in the country conduced to bodily health; but insinuated that it also led to stagnation of the soul. Why shouldn’t she carry off Paula then and there for a life-giving month in London?
“Because, my dear, it would prevent me from earning enough money to have a little life-giving time on my own,” laughed Paula.
There were her weekly articles; there were books to review, a recent source of income; and there was her novel which was either going to splutter out like a damp squib, or go flaring up like a rocket amid the gasping of the literary world. She was stuffing the cartridge with wickedness, beauty and laughter and she couldn’t leave off till she had finished. She was perfectly happy. In two or three months she hoped to be through with it. She had been playing about with the materials in the rough for over a year. Since she had sat down at Chadford, it was only a question of putting them artistically together.
“Well, when you’ve finished the horrid thing you’ll come to me, won’t you? If you don’t, I’ll be miserable.”
Paula, to avoid condemnation of her friend to misery, consented.
TN APRIL the complete manuscript was
sent to the publisher of her first novel, who having read the first half and a sketched scenario of this second one, had given her a fair contract providing for a modest advance in respect of royalties on delivery, and Paula, with money to burn, burned a considerable amount of it in the purlieus of Bond Street, and clothing herself in the filmy results of the smoke, took up her abode for a time with Clara Demeter.
And so it came to pass that on a May morning she sat with Gregory Uglow by the box-hedge enclosed bowling green of the ancient Elizabethan Manor of Hinsted. This was by no means the first time they had met since Renes-les-Eaux. He had lunched and dined at the Demeters in London. He had come down to Hinsted for the previous week-end. Hence her conversance with the inner workings of “Paulinium Steel Ltd.” and the recalcitrance of the dreadful gang represented by Joram and Innwater.
Starlings, in the just leafing walnut trees beyong the further hedge, twittered their raucous joy at the beginning of summer and the new house-furnishing season. In the holes of the old branches there were scores of self-contained commodious flats to be had for the choosing. Straw by straw, tiny twig by twig, they moved in. Their clatter filled the air. A pair of blackbirds, artists, hating the life of vulgar communities, proclaimed, involuntarily their seclusion in the boxhedge itself. A thrush called his mate from a copper-beech by the house-front. A wagtail scuttled impudently over the green, in search of worms, cocking his eye this way, that way, pecking and flapping his little tail feathers in satisfaction. Far, far away came the pleasant sound of a church-going bell. A pale and astonishingly near blue sky contained like a vault all the scents of spring.
Unconsciously the two on the bench had abandoned talk of minerals and of gangs. Their hands touched, maybe accidentally; but the touch lingered and grew into a clasp. The magic of the morning was common to them both. A second wagtail came with even greater impudence. Gregory’s free hand pointed to them. Paula smiled and nodded.
FROM the entrance gap in the hedge there waddled, slobbering and dignified, Barabbas, the brindled bull-dog of the house. He scarcely deigned a contemptuous glance at the wagtails who shot, arrow-like, away at his vast approach. Slowly and solemnly he completed the traverse of the green and sat with lolling tongue and Satyr-like collusive eyes before the pair of humans. They called him by name. His stump of a tail responsively rubbed the grass. They snapped their fingers. Paula, knowing herself beloved, bent forward with a lavish .word of endearment that made the young man’s heart beat faster. Barabbas grunted his appreciation and spread himself out prone, his monstrous head on his forepaws and his cynical eyes defiantly observant. The spell of the sentimental moment was broken.
“Tell me,” she said, at last, “what is really the matter in Brazil? That’s to say, if you can, without breach of confidence.” He passed a hand over a worried brow. “I don’t think there’s anything very confidential—the gang seem to have got hold of it—It’s this way. Do you remember my telling you of my first meeting with Pandolfo? How I mistook a mineralogical specimen for mispikel? And John Cummings F.R.S. and the great authority had just made the same mistake? Well, of course it wasn’t mispikel; it was something quite different. He had spotted the difference years before in Brazil. As a matter of fact it’s an ore, the only one yet discovered, containing the essential element of paulinium. That’s the secret. Naturally he got a mining concession. Cargoes of the raw ore came over. The last few lots were so poor that drastic measures had to be taken. He went out himself to take them.”
“I see,” said Paula. “They were just exploiting him and sending over any old stuff.”
“So we thought,” said Gregory.
“That’s what’s worrying my life out,” replied Gregory. “If they had only been slack, you may trust him to have tightened them up like a colossal winch. In things of that sort he has no pity. But suppose—I only say suppose— for I don’t really know—that the seam, of this rare and utterly unknown mineral which everybody took for inferior mispikel, was already worked out, or at the best coming to an end? You see what it might mean?” “The end of paulinium.”
“And the end, for a time, anyhow, of Pandolfo.”
Paula stared at him, with dismay dawning in her eyes, and put her hand on her heart which began to beat with foolish quickness.
“I hope so,” said the young man, anxiously. “But how to account for these months? He posts his letters from all kinds of places I’ve never heard of. Although he never gives a hint, it looks as though he were prospecting for new mines.”
“But surely,” said Paula, “if that were the case, he would tell you, on this side, to go slow, instead of getting on as fast as possible.”
For she knew, from previous talks with Gregory, the feverish haste in which the Staffordshire works had been completed, with Pandolfo’s Napoleonic disregard of economic details, and the impetuousness with which the first flush of orders was being executed. Up to now Pandolfo, throwing thunderbolts from the Andes, had imposed his will on malcontent directors and the Levantine weasel of a secretary. The Staffordshire manager and his staff, highly paid experts, declared themselves satisfied. Though the ore was not so rich as before—a thing to be reckoned upon when manufacture passed from the laboratory to the commercial stage—yet, the metal was being produced in vast quantities.
“It’s a question of Faith,” replied Uglow. “His is infinite.”
(The startling result of Pandolfo's mission is told in the next instalment.)