A stirring and swiftly-moving conclusion to a tenselydramatic novel, in which the problems of Paula and Pandolfo are solved in a spectacular manner.
WILLIAM J. LOCKE
Concluded CHAPTER XX
PANDOLFO had not bolted in Mr. Veresy’s sense of the word.
A telegram from his wife had sent him flying south. Ordinary mortals must book seats on the Blue Train a month in advance. Pandolfo’s peculiar wizardry found a berth at a few hours’ notice. Broken in fortune, not even quite certain whether he was committing a criminal offence in leaving England and his snarling pack of creditor wolves, he felt again the old thrill of power, when the Wagon-Lit agent met him at Calais with a—
“Oui, monsieur, it is all arranged.
We received instructions and there happened, justement, to be one compartment cancelled at the last moment. It can be had.” It is only the powerful who can command the cancellation of a compartment at the last moment. Pandolfo, like a king, followed the deeply-impressed porter who carried his luggage, and entered the oblong box, which the Compagnie International des Wagons-Lits fondly imagine to be the last word in the luxury of travel. How long his kingship would endure was another matter. He gave the porter twenty francs.
He dined. He slept. At noon on a March day blazing with sunshine, he stepped out of the train at Monte Carlo. He looked up and down the platform, seeking, if not a welcoming, at least a greeting face.
There was the usual throng of friends meeting friends, and gay handshakes and embraces, and the laughter and the excitement of the fortunate sojourners in proclaiming to late fog-bound and rain-sodden travelers the glories of sun and sky. Pandolfo frowned as though his kingship had passed from him. Leaving his suit case in charge of the conductor of the hotel omnibus, he mounted by the elevator to the Casino terrace and strolled slowly along, filling his lungs with the warm sweet air and his eyes with the blue of the enchanted sea. For the moment troubles melted in the golden mystery of the light.
He went up the terrace steps and stood watching the familiar scene. Time might have stood still from such a morning three years ago when he had last stood on that spot. Nothing had changed. The same cheery black doorkeeper, his blue coat ablaze with war decorations, stood, with the same smile outside the Hotel. The same cars wheeled around discreetly.
Finally, he turned with a sigh, and prepared to cross the square in the direction of the hotel where his wife was staying when he saw her run down the Casino steps.
He advanced bare-headed, to greet her. They shook hands.
“I really meant to meet your train and I only went in there to put in time. But there was a run on my numbers and it would have been wicked to leave.”
“I hope you found itworth yourwhile,” said he.
“I picked up twelve thousand.”
They walked a few paces in silence.
At last she said:
“It was very decent of you to come. Until I got your telegram I didn’t know whether you would or not.” “You’re my wife. You’re Lady Pandolfo. You wired me you were in terrible trouble. I couldn’t do otherwise than come.” Then, dropping the ironical, he flashed round on her, “What have you been doing now?”
SHE looked up at him rather frightened. “Hadn’t we better wait until you’ve been to the hotel and changed? I’ve got you a comfortable room at the Paris, as I wired you. My hotel’s chock-a-block . . .You must be so tired after your long journey.”
He laughed. “Have you ever seen me tired? Or the worse for traveling?” He looked as spruce and pointdevice in his blue striped suit and clean linen, as any of the men lounging in that lounger’s paradise. “There are all conveniences for cleanliness on the Blue train.” He drew off his new wash-leather gloves which he put in his pocket, and displayed immaculate hands. “No; I am hungry; it is nearly one o’clock. What you have to say
would be better said in the comfort of the open air over a comfortable lunch table, than in the stuffiness of a private room in a hotel. For there, Heaven knows when one’d get anything to eat.”
She halted in their slow course, by the tobacconist’s at the corner of the Cafe de Paris.
“I’d sooner we were alone,” she said, with the hardening of the eyes to which he had grown accustomed. “But if it’s your good pleasure . . . At any rate, you’ll promise not to make a scene.”
An habitual gesture accompanied a laugh. “And throw my arms about—?”
“You’re doing it now,” she said. “Forgive me. The Knight of the British Empire shall strangle the Neapolitan lazzarone. I promise. And when I break my promise, it’s what insurance policies refer to as an Act of God. Have I ever broken a promise that I’ve made you?” “I do you the credit—” she began almost reluctantly and the meaningless words which she would have said died away.
“Let us lunch then. Here? There is noise—music and chatter. We can talk without being overheard. It’s ideal.” He made way for her. “Will you?”
She paused for an instant before obeying his courteous gesture.
“If you only knew how I hate your damned perfect manners!”
THREADING their way through the miniature forest of gaudy umbrellas that shaded the terrace tables, they reached the end where the pleasant restaurant began. A maitre d’hotel rushed forward, presented a table in a corner remote from the band.
“Ah, Monsieur Pandolfo, il ya deja long temps—’
Pandolfo called him by name, asked him the news of his family. There was a newcomer three years ago.
Precisely. The child was in perfect health. Ran about like a grown-up person. Always at Sospel? Mais oui, Monsieur Pandolfo. The mountain air. There was nothing like it. And what would Monsieur desire? Habit made him present the long menu-card. Monsieur in his grand manner waved it away, and, like a god ordaining, ordered the meal.
The waiter set the hors d'oeuvre. Ever courteous host, he consulted her choice. The meal began.
“Will you now tell me what’s the trouble?”
She made a gesture towards the Casino over the way. “That is.”
“How much?” “Everything.”
She entered upon the gambler's story of black and relentless ill-luck, representing herself as the innocent victim of diabolic agencies. She had begun by winning. It was necessary for her to win, in view' of the precariousness of her income in the immediate future. Had he not told her that he w'as ruined and that, henceforward, she must cut down
her expenses toa limit he could not yet define? If he could not make the money, she must make it herself. The tables seemed the most certain way. And she would have made it had it not been for the dark league of devils aforesaid. She had kept a few hundred francs. The good angels battling on her side had thrust her into the room that morning and had temporarily prevailed over the Powers of Darkness, seeing that she had come out with twelve thousand francs.
Pandolfo drank his Martini. "What have you been playing? Not this morning—but before?”
The great game? Maximum?”
She confessed. It was the only way to make the fortune
"When you left me." said he, "we calculated that you would have enough, in ready money at the bank, to live on comfortably for at least a year. \ ou yourself suggested a sum ”
And you increased it. I can’t accuse you of lack of generosity," she conceded.
He bowed acknowledgment. "And all that has gone?” "Yes. it's gone. Beyond my twelve thousand francs I haven't a penny. Oh, 1 know I’ve played the fool. I’m grateful to you for not cursing me.”
“Who could curse on such a morning and in such pleasant surroundings?”
II E GLANCED round and catching * * sight of a city acquaintance some few tables away, smiled and swept a hand of greeting.
"You're resolved,” she said bitterly,
"that no one should suspect you of being other than the perfect gallant."
"But am l not, my dear Nesta?” said he, with a laugh.
She pushed away her plate. “How you can eat, I don’t know.” fi/
“I'm hungry, and food is good and the sun is shining and I have faith in my power to survive any catastrophe.”
At last, hunger satisfied, a cigar between his lips and a glass of old Armagnac fief ore him. he said:
“A telegram would have brought you funds for immediate necessities.
A letter would have explained your— may I say so—lamentable position.
Unless there is something you’ve not yet told me. why bring me here?”
He held out a match across the table to light the cigarette which shook ever so slightly between her fingers.
'T don t know whether it’s cruel or considerate of you to make me say everything to you here.”
He bent forward. “Can't you, of all people, realize that the Englishman is sometimes afraid of the Neapolitan? What else has happened?”
“Well—can't you see, I'm penniless?”
"At a pinch, there are your jewels—”
She looked away from him. “They’ve been stolen. I’ve been robbed.”
He laid down his cigar and contemplated her fragile fairness and falseness. The adjustment of his mind to hers took some moments. He shook his head.
"Do you still, after all this time, take me for a fool? If you had been robbed, that is the first frantic news you would have given me. Why more lies? Didn’t we agree the night before you left London that we should be done with them?”
TPHEP^E she sat opposite to him, pink and fair and * powdered and rouged and pencilled, all in discreet accordance with modern convention. She was a beautiful woman of her type, irreproachably dressed, and, but for a certain air of distinction, would have passed unnoticed among the hundred women of all ages similarly made up and attired, who took part in that cool pageant of idleness. Nothing about her to betray the woman that he had long since known her to be. Her dark blue eyes beamed candour, and the little criss-cross lines of anxiety beneath them were all but massaged away; her lips and teeth when she smiled were those of a girl. Who could remark the flash of hardness, the twist of cruelty? She was as fair now as on that first day when he met her on the steamer’s deck. And she lied now, as she had lied then. But in those early days she had some object—marriage with a man in good position. Had she, in manner, no matter however grandly heroic, revealed to him the blatant truths of her past life, he would never have married her. In self-defence she had flung the fact at him some time since, and he had yielded. And now came this absurd, this idiotic falsehood.
“They're pawned,” she said, “at half, quarter their value. Isn’t that robbery? I didn’t want to sell them outright. I hoped to make enough to get them back . . ” "You’re a woman of many phases,” said he, after a while. "This is my first introduction to you as a gambler.” "I've gambled with life since I was a school-girl. You, too, have gambled with life. You ought to understand.
You say you're down and out. I’m down and out. What’s the difference between us?”
"I take your point,” said he. “1 agree that we're both adventurers. 1 used the word in its constricted sense— the local sense.”
"In that sense, I’ve never gambled before. Not seriously."
"Why?” he asked gently. "It would be interesting to
She bit her lip. “A great intellect like yours ought to
guess. Before 1 married you I had men either behind me or in prospect. I had no need to try to make money at gaming tables.”
He swept a hand over his smooth bronze hair. “I am answered. I’m sorry. Unwittingly I opened a chapter that we agreed should be closed.”
“It has got to be opened again, anyway,” she said after a pause. “I hate myself.”
“No, my dear Nesta, you hate me.”
She drew a breath and looked around and leaned across the table.
“I don’t. It’s myself. I know I’ve been a rotten wife to you—it’s because I’m not built that way. It’s my fault or my misfortune, whichever you like. But for what it’s worth, I’ve been faithful to you. You must take that as truth. I have some sense of humor. That’s really why I asked you to come.”
AND while waiting for his reply, she pressed with peculiar care the stub of her cigarette against the ash-tray.
“It goes without saying—the contrary idea is fantastically insulting—that I have held you above suspicion.” “Caesar’s wife!” she checked a touch of the hysterical. “No, Victor—I was a fool to marry a man like you,” she continued, her eyes averted. “I ought to have known better. Oh, it’s a tribute to you and not a reproach . . . There are some women who are mergers and others who aren’t. I’m like you—a mergee.” She flashed a wry smile. “I’ve wanted everything—and I’ve had everything from men. Their lives, their interests haven’t concerned me ... I thought you were like the others—in that way. You gave profusely—I’m talking seriously for once, Victor. You gave like a god—but all the time, I felt the vast hand of the god over me, compelling me to him, to his personality, to his personal sphere, to something I didn’t care a hang about, to something I should never be able to appreciate or understand. I express myself badly ... I wanted all the things you’ve given me, but as you couldn’t share them, what use have they been to me? Nothing . . . Oh, we’ve had all this out before ”
“Perhaps not quite so openly, my dear Nesta,” said Pandolfo. He bent forward with the bottle of old Armagnac. “Just a tiny drop to deceive the gaping herd. They think I’m ruined. They know that you’ve lost what
in their eyes constitutes a fortune at the tables, and we’re objects of interest. Put the glass again to your lips.”
He bowed and smiled with uplifted glass and they seemed to pledge each other.
“Isn’t it great comedy?”
The open air restaurant began to thin. Already a trickle of idiot bees was disappearing into the hive across the way. The orchestra struck up its last number —a flaming jazz.
“I still don’t know,” said Pandolfo, “why you asked me to come.”
She regarded him anxiously. “You’ve made no reply to what I’ve just told you. You’ve sat there, a man with a mask, a man I’ve never met before. I think I’ve shown myself to you as soul-naked as a woman can.” He threw his cigar away behind the screen of tubbed foliage.
“What did you expect me to answer?”
“As you seem to be keeping hold over yourself you might very politely tell me to go back to my metier and the place I belong to, and that you cursed the day you married me and so forth and so forth. And that you would welcome any opportunity I gave you for regaining your freedom. You found me out very quickly.” “You’ve committed an act of amazing folly,” he continued. “But it was great folly.” He swept one of his big gestures. “For the first time you reveal yourself as a spacious human creature.”
He leaned back in his chair.
“Here we are facing the world without a penny piece between us. Great gamblers both.”
E LIT another cigar. The orchestra crashed out the final chords of the jazz tune and packed up their instruments. Pandolfo called the leader and gave him largesse. To-morrow would be ruin stern and bleak. He would have fallen down from his high estate. But let him fall like Lucifer. He beckoned the waiter ready with folded bill on plate. Largesse again. Nesta watched his superb disdain of economical pettiness. When the crowd of beneficiaries had bowed themselves away, she leaned again across the table.
“Won’t you be frank with me—let me know the exact truth? You say you’re ruined. What does it mean?” “Until I can come to a settlement with my creditors —the petition in bankruptcy will be presented next week —I have only a few hundred pounds I can honestly call my own.”
She lay back, white, half stunned. Her brain had not grasped the significance of the catastrophe. In a few words he sketched the situation. As they were meeting frankly for the first time since their relationship, it was right that she should know. She bent forward again, haggardly.
“My Heavens! Then what’s going to happen to me?” “What I have is yours,” said he, grandly. “It won’t keep you long in Monte Carlo. I should advise your living in retreat for a while—until things right themselves. If you’re big enough to live in a tiny way for a few months —a sacrifice, I admit—I am big enough to come to your aid and replace you in your position.”
A waiter came up following the routine of changing the ash-laden plates. Pandolfo waved him away impatiently with both arms. By this time theirs was almost the only table occupied. Nesta, struggling with new conceptions, made one or two vain attempts to speak. An unaccustomed lump in her throat choked her. At last—
“You gave me a cheque for six thousand pounds. If you only have a few hundreds now, you must have given me everything you had—”
“I don’t count what I give,” said he. “It’s not my way.” “It isn’t. Now I know it. Too late. What a fool I’ve been! Tell me, Victor, as one human soul to another. Wouldn’t you like to get rid of me . to put me out of your life altogether? ... On that voyage out you told me of a woman you were in love with, Paula Field. I came in as the consoler. One of the tricks of my trade .You know your Shakespeare ... It was only because Rosaline turned him down that Romeo took up with Juliet . . . Oh, I know all about it. But I’ve never mentioned Rosaline, have 1? At any rate, I’ve been discreet. I’ve heard vaguely about her. I’ve seen her once or twice. A beautiful statuesque woman ... I can give you every just cause . . . it’s as easy as falling off a log.”
He frowned and rose and, mechanically, she rose too. “Let us walk a little. You’re losing self-control. There's another hour or two of sunshine.”
They descended, past the fountain, to the lone end of the Casino Terrace, almost deserted in the afternoons. They stood by the parapet overlooking the railway line, with the green tiled toy-signal box in front of them.
You can’t prevent me, if I choose to do it,” she said at last.
He took her somewhat roughly by the shoulders. “Do you think that I—I, Victor Pandolfo—am the man to accept that supreme sacrifice?”
OHE looked into his eyes with a flattering courage.
“There would be no sacrifice. Pd go back of my own free choice to my old life of luxury . . . which you can’t afford to give me any longer.”
He said: “For the last time, I tell you, don’t lie. You would never go back of your own choice. For the last two hours you’ve shown yourself too big to do it.”
“But if I did and gave you proof, you would divorce me,” she persisted.
The man flamed and to her and to the blue Mediterranean and to the bottle-green uniformed gardien, some twenty yards away, he thundered:
He made wild gestures, reverberating, “No.” Then he stood before her.
“I give, but I don’t accept—least of all dishonor,” he declared dramatically.
, The weary-souled woman could not repress a smile of mockery.
“The Old Guard dies but never surrenders.”
His mood changed and he laughed: “Well, that’s the end of this foolery.” And he grew eloquent over the azure of sea and sky as they strolled along.
They emerged into the Casino Square. He pointed to the steps of the Room and the three mean little entrance doors. He pointed carelessly.
“Don’t go in them again.”
He felt his hand by her side seized for an instant in a nervous grip.
“Never again. I promise.”
They sat once more, this time on one of the benches by the circular garden, at the other end of which a nondescript seedy man was absorbed in pencilling calculations in a dirty note-book. Pandolfo said:
“Even now you haven’t told me why you sent for me.” She opened her bag, as though to draw out mirror and powder puff, and then shut it. A manoeuvre for the gaining of a fraction of time.
“Surely it was enough. I was without a sou and awfully afraid. And I wanted some kind of talk with you. As far as Pm concerned, you’ve done infinitely more than I had hoped for. 1 see my way clear now, thanks to your goodness.
I swear I’ll not give you any more trouble than I can help.”
"Are you sure you don’t need me any longer?”
“Quite sure, Victor. You’ve eased my mind. You’ve given me something—” she laughed somewhat nervously —“something to live for. I’ll disappear to-morrow into one of the little country places about here, Sospel where your friend maître d'hotel comes from, and live cheaply on my twelve thousand francs and what you can afford to send me. I’ll try to begin to be big by being little. You can trust me.”
“I can trust you,” said he, gravely. He looked up at the Casino clock. “In this happy case, I can go back to London with a free mind ...”
She proclaimed genuine concern. This dreadful journey just for two or three hours’ talk?
“Could we say more in twenty-two or twenty-three?”
UE EXPLAINED the delicate position of a man about to be declared bankrupt. Already he had taken a certain risk. Should she need his presence, he would take more. But the saving of twenty-four hours was important. He would take the Blue Train, due in twenty minutes. Just time to get his
bag from the Hotel de Paris and walk down to the station. He leapt to his feet, and with an apology, left her and strode into the hotel. Presently he reappeared.
“We might be strolling down. The bag follows.”
“But you haven’t a berth on the Blue Train.”
“That’s a matter of no importance whatever,” said he, enjoying, perhaps for the last time, the delightful sweets of power.
She accompanied him to the railway station. A letter shown to the chef de train procured bowing assurance of the utmost possible being done for his accommodation. Before mounting to the carriage, he bent down and kissed her. She flushed and looked at him somewhat bewildered. The great gleaming train of luxury moved out of the station and she waved a rag of a handkerchief to the signalling hat until it disappeared.
A heavily built man of fleshy good-looks standing on the steps of the Hotel de Paris advanced to meet her as she entered the square from the Casino Terrace.
“What’s he doing here?” he asked abruptly.
“Nothing. Pie’s just gone.”
“Then what was he doing?”
“I sent for him—to tell him,” she replied defiantly. “He seems to have taken it pretty casually.”
“I didn’t tell him.”
The man laughed in derision. “Of all the feminine contradictions now! Thought better of it at the last minute. Well, you’re wise. Let’s go into the Sporting bar and have a drink and talk it over.”
“There’s nothing to talk over,” said Nesta, “and I’m not going into the Sporting Club.”
Mr. Monte Dangerfield stuck his hands in his pockets and straddled, like Apollyon, across the way, for she would have passed out. “No, no, my dear Nesta, let us have this out. It isn’t as if we were strangers. We’ve been excellent pals for a long time—and you know the kind of man I am ...”
“I certainly do,” she said.
“Good. No need for frills on either side. I’ve made you a perfectly sound offer. I’ve been wanting to make it for months, but I’ve not had an opportunity. Now the opportunity’s come. I’m a man of the world, my dear, and not a mug. And you yourself . . .”
“Better leave my description out of the story,” she put
in, with a glint in her eyes. “In a man of the world it’s a want of tact.”
SHE clenched her hands at the insult of his laugh, as he made rejoinder.
“Well, old girl. There’s my offer. You can take it or leave it. Only you know what leaving it means. I repeat, I’m not a mug.”
“You can do what you like.”
He withdrew his hands from his pockets. “Come, come,” said he, “be sensible. I know that Pandolfo hasn’t a bean, and you don’t care a tuppenny damn for him.”
“That’s where you make your mistake,” she retorted, “I’d give my soul for him.”
“Since I made up my mind not to tell him. And now, I’ve had as much as I can stand. Let me pass.”
“I’ll give you to the end of the week, to think it over.” “You can give me till the Day of Judgment and I shan’t change.”
“Then you take the consequences, my dear.”
He lifted his hat with ironical politeness and she hurried away.
Hours afterwards she was still sitting in her hotel room staring at the mad ruin of her life. She magnified to divine dimensions the man’s vast and comprehending forgiveness. At each recurrent memory of his farewell kiss, the helpless tears streaked her face.
TT WAS Spencer Babington who first brought the news to Paula, contained in a cutting or two from financial newspapers; the real story of the liquidation of the Paulinium Steel Company Limited. All the shares of the concern had been bought up by the Chairman and Managing Director Sir Victor Pandolfo, who henceforward was solely responsible.
“What does it mean?” she asked.
“Bedlam,” said he.
He expounded to her the immunity of shareholders and even directors under the Limited Liability Companies Act. Except in case of fraud, directors, too, went off scotfree. Here there could be no charge against Pandolfo. He hated the man, she knew, his cock-sureness, his boastfulness, his way of wiping people off the earth. But to the Devil his due. About this particular devil there was a splendid craziness.
When Spencer had gone, she rang up Gregory whose time for deserting Mr. Micawber had not yet arrived. Would he dine with her? He regretted the impossibility, as Pandolfo was arriving that evening from Monte Carlo.
“Why, he must have only spent a few hours there.” “You know what he is,” said Gregory.
She dined alone and sat down to her writing. About ten the telephone rang. Gregory declared himself free. Pandolfo, dog-tired, had gone to bed with a novel. Could he come round?
He came. She showed him the cuttings that Spencer had left. Why hadn't he told her?
“I thought you knew. The first paragraph w as spite. He suspected that dreadful fellow Joram, the secretary, who naturally had lost his job. But it was contradicted immediately—the real reasons for liquidation being given. That's why Pandolfo’s going through the Bankruptcy court,” said he.
He gave her to understand that there had been a devil of a to-do. The Board of Directors, led on by the aforesaid Joram and Innwater, had conspired together to accuse him of fraudulent representation. They talked loudly of prosecution.
‘The infamy of it!” cried Paula.
It was then, Gregory continued, that Pandolfo had made his indignant offer. He could only guess at the scene, not having been present, and only having learned what happened from a furiously inarticulate master. They had but to name the priee they set upon their shares and he would buy them all out, paying up the extra liability per unpaid share. The shares, as Paula knew, were all privately held—not quoted—not in reach of the general public. The Board itself, including Pandolfo, held them all. As far as Gregory gathered, Pandolfo had arisen in his wrath and clubbed them right and left.
What did they consider a fair price? One or two ("Noble fellows,” said Pandolfo) were going into liquidation as a Company and getting what they could out of the bricks and mortar of the immense Staffordshire works. But the majority decided on acceptance of Pandolfo’s offer. And so, after much wrangling in which Pandolfo’s solicitor, fully authorized, took a leading part—Pandolfo having grandly left the room as one who scorned the haggling ways of men—a price per share was agreed upon.
To pay them, he had sacrificed practically all that remained of his private fortune. He possessed, as far as Gregory knew, the worthless business of Paulinium Limited, the small Bermondsey experimental factory, the Staffordshire works, his house, pictures, and cars. And his liabilities were colossal. He was filing his own petition in bankruptcy.
"My father's a shareholder,” said Paula.
"The only one, then, outside the ring: but he’ll be paid the fixed pnce.” He smiled. "These things can’t be done in a couple of days.”
She brightened. After all her father would be able to continue to pay the interest. Then her brow clouded again, when she recalled the details of the lunatic agreement. She shook a head lost in fog.
\ND Pandolfo? Apart from being dog-tired, how was **■ he? Gregory* reported a radiant and a hungry man. He was full of his experiences in the train during the preceding night. This time there was really not a vacant berth. An attendant put his own end berth at his disposal. Rob the poor fellow of his few hours sleep? Never, Pandolfo had cried, slipping into his hand, however, the hundred francs for which he had been willing to barter his night's rest. He had sat on the seat at the end of the corridor and schemed out a new electric lift that would knock out of existence all the elevators in the universe.
"He drew diagrams on the tablecloth between mouthfuls,” said Gregory.
He had drunk a glass of port—‘‘the last of the ’70 perhaps, my boy, I'll be able to allow myself”—risen, stretched himself, yawned vastly and gone to bed with the latest novel of Monsieur Gaston Leroux. Not a word about Lady Pandolfo, save the curtest answer to conventional enquiry. She was perfectly well, enjoying the serener atmosphere of the Midi.
“He must have gone on purpose to see her,” said Paula.
"Who know-3, dearest of ladies, the purposes of Pandolfo?”
To both of them, the chosen and intimate disciple and the woman around whom he had woven the spell of his vitality, he remained the Great Sphinx.
After Gregory' had gone, Paula tried to construct him as a definite entity: to see him in the round, so to speak, as she could see her father, Spencer Babington, Clara Demeter, Gregory . . . Apart from that secret and inscrutable chamber of the soul, whose mystery murderer and saint hold in common, all these were comprehensible human beings. Their attitude towards life was obvious to the most careless observer; they trod, each in his own direction, a beaten path; for most of their actions she could predicate the motive; in any emergency she could, without claim to infallibility', predict what they would do. Her mind, instinctively psychological, and further trained by the hard experimental work that every novelist must go through in order to make men and women emerge, with some semblance of life, from the mere black print on the cold white paper, could classify them all into type categories. There were hundreds of Claras, hundreds of Spencers, hundreds of elderly ex-dragoons, hundreds—she had to confess—of Gregory Uglows. But not a conceivable pigeon-hole for Pandolfo. She could relate with him nothing in her experience. He defied the typical comparison, whereby one arrives at one’s concept of another fellow-creature. He was a being apart, incalculable, fantastic, according to her standard of normality. Who could gauge his purposes?
Even now she could not comprehend his inevitable fall. He loomed before her, irr ’-'»ense.
’ I 'HE next day she saw Clara Demeter, and told her of her abduction at the hands of Pandolfo and his renewed declaration of their indissoluble destinies.
Cried Clara, buxom, incarnation of Common Sense, "What’s the man playing at? Is he going to divorce or kill his wife, or does he expect you to go off with him, disregarding her existence altogether?”
Paula didn’t know. She must leave the solution to the
future. In the meantime it behooved her to stand by his side in his hour of need.
"I could never make out whether you cared for him or whether you didn’t,” said Lady Demeter.
Paula clasped helpless hands on her lap. “There are times when I feel I could give upthe whole world for him.” Clara hinted that, if she had acted up to this sentiment a couple of years ago, she might have avoided the present complication. Paula went away, rather sore at Clara’s lack of intelligent sympathy.
At last came the public crash, the culmination of weeks of underground working. The press howled over the fall of the Great Pandolfo. It proclaimed him the world’s greatest fool. His liabilities were enormous. All his possessions were swept automatically into the administrative hands of an official. House, pictures, furniture, cars, factories, securities, patents, all passed out of his control. He seemed, so far as Paula could understand, to be caught in an inextricable web of legal complications.
He dashed in to see her, in response to a letter of sympathy.
“Yes, I’ve failed. But what a colossal failure!” He was proud of it. “And it’s not I—” he touched heart and brain—“that am responsible. I’m but a victim of the irony of the high gods. This bursting of the dam that they had ordained, has swept everything away for the moment. I stand up penniless, liable to criminal prosecution, if I order two or three suits of clothes from my tailor. I can only enjoy the phantasmagorical grotesqueness of the situation. For daily bread I am dependent on the charity of my creditors. Perhaps not exactly that. They’re ravenous for golden eggs, so they can’t kill the goose. They must let me go on with my laying. But, my dear, the humour of it!”
He laughed aloud, as though the high gods had played him the silliest trick, not realizing that before they had come to the end of their mirth, he would get the better of them.
“I’ve never had an invention fail in my life,” he declared. “With proved material, of course. I’ve half a dozen roughly worked out, which the necessary concentration on Paulinium has not allowed me to perfect. I’m a free man now. I can snap my fingers at the high gods. I am still young. I was born to fortune, and the great things of the earth, and in another year or two, everything will be mine again.”
He took her by the elbows and held her with his eyes. “You believe me.”
She said: “Yes, you are unconquerable,” and the truth of her words vibrated through her.
“I’m the most hopelessly ruined man on God’s earth. Do I look like it?”
She cried idiotically: “No. You look like a god.”
He flung his arm round her and kissed her on the mouth.
“You’re mine, as I always told you.”
He drew her to the sofa, sat by her side and poured out rhapsody into her enchanted ear.
TT IS marriage. Had she herself not analyzed the whole human conditions? There was no such thing as love between them. Yet she too, his wife, was a woman of great nature. She had offered to set him free. He had refused. Neither he nor his Paula would accept such a gift of dishonor.
She sat, her senses awakened, her mind half numbed, close by his side encircled in his embrace, her head on his shoulder. It was her first physical surrender.
“If you only had been a little patient and waited for me,” she said, “I did once offer to marry you.”
He started round and his grip grew tighter.
“When? Good Heavens, when?”
She told him the history of the cable. He leaped to his feet and clapped his hands to his head. Of all the insensate fools! He deserved everything. Then he turned on Gregory. How dared he suppress the message?
“How dared he save it for you without consulting me? To have given it to you would have been monstrous.” “That’s true. That’s true.”
He strode about the room. At last he stood before her, with his usual gesture of outstretched arms, and his face illuminated by sudden inspiration.
“Don’t you see? That makes it all the more imperative. You’ve confessed at last.”
“I suppose so,” she said.
He cried triumphantly: “There’s no supposition at all about it.”
She smiled helplessly.
“What do you want me to do?”
“What I want is that you should defy the world and come with me and that, together, we should rebuild the great names Pandolfo and Paula ... In that way we can make reparation to a woman we have wronged. We can then give her her freedom.”
“It seems impossible that a woman whom you married should not love you. How could she help it? Are you sure?”
“I am sure,’.’ he said. “Our life together has been a chronicle of unhappiness. My late hurried visit to her revealed to me an unsuspected nobility of character—
but love—no. It’s on account of that nobility that you, and I must give, not she.”
Only then did she realize, with startling suddenness, the vast scope of his demand! She clapped her hands before her eyes and sprang to her feet.
“This kind of talk is horrible.”
“It’s frank and honest,” said he, “and it’s big talk— talk that the little people couldn’t understand.”
ALL the traditions of her blood rebelled; the blood of the Veresys who had for centuries been too proud to do anything significant. Sheer blood instinct spoke.
“I don’t see it. Why should I be dragged through the mud, when there’s a woman, on your own showing—and on hers—to whom mud doesn’t matter—who’s perfectly willing to give you cause—call it only technical cause ?”
“She’s not willing. She holds my name and her position in honor. She would sacrifice herself as an act of expiation, God forgive me, for the wrong she thinks she has done me. As I said before, you and I, Victor and Paula, can’t accept that. Ah no!”
He towered above her, dramatically. Then, as she sat with bowed head, he yielded.
“Yes. I see that is more than I dare ask. I, too, can give technical cause without there being a breath on your fair name. Nowadays there’s no need to flog a woman with a horsewhip or desert her. . . one formal offence is enough. What does the ha’porth of scandal matter to me? I’m drenched in scandal of another sort already. But all who know me, even my enemies, will recognize a technicality. No one can point at me and say T knew all along he was a man of dissolute life.’ ”
She shivered at the cold vulgarity of the proposal.
“It seems more horrid than the other idea.”
He flung his arms wide: “Then what the devil are we going to do? There’s only the other alternative.”
A hand clasped on breast. “I’d sooner that,” she said. But when he sprang forward, after the way of men to seal the wondrous bargain in an embrace, she thrust both hands forward to keep him off.
“Please go, Victor, please go. I must be alone to think.” She stood before him in an attitude of dismissal, both commanding and imploring. He could not but obey.
“I’ll come for your answer to-morrow,” he said.
HE CAME the next day, splendid, confident. His presence vivified the flat’s dead atmosphere. For Paula had spent a sleepless night, torn this way and that. In his fall the man loomed more vast at the zenith of his fortunes. She knew that had he picked her up in his arms, in true Troglodyte fashion and carried her away no matter where, her limbs would have been as water, her will as air, and her veins as fire. But civilization had its manifest drawbacks. In the first place, such things aren’t done nowadays, except in a certain type of French novel; in the second, even a man of such robust physique as Pandolfo would have found grotesque embarrassment in. transporting bodily, no matter whither, an upstandingand largely built woman like herself. Had she been aí skimpy scrag of a hungry cat, modern woman’s apparent ideal of the perfect woman, entirely alien to any man, ancient or modern, it would have been a different matter;, and thirdly—her essential Puritanism boggled at the contemplation of things robbed of a savagely romantic setting. Between primitive caves and Sloane Street yawned the unbridgable chasm. She had to translate wild and elemental emotion into coagulated terms of Chadford Park and Harrod’s Stores, which is a very difficult and sleep-dispelling thing to do. She was as limp as yesterday’s daffodils which drooped forlornly over the sides of the vase.
And then came Pandolfo, and all was changed. Even the daffodils lifted their heads in delight.
“I’ve done my life’s greatest work,” he cried. “I didn’t tell you yesterday, because only last night was it accomplished.”
Her heart leaped and laughed.
“What have you done now?”
He was like a boy who might have burst in on her with the news of his winning a school championship.
“I’ve breathed the breath of life into that dried prayingmantis of a Spencer Babington. That mortgage on Chadford Park—you remember?—It was one of my securities—a source of income. It had to go into the melting-pot together with everything else. Well, I’ve pursuaded Babington to take it over!” She gasped, and he went on:
“I thought you’d be delighted.”
She smiled. “Of course I am. The terror of my father’s life was to live in a little flat in Putney. I’ve told him over and over again that quite the best people live in flats in Putney. It’s the distinguished thing to do. But he won’t believe me. He’ll be happy. Only, he’ll be worried about the interest. You see, a mortgage is an investment like any other. Somebody would have taken it over, so why not Spencer? But he would expect a return on bis capital, wouldn’t be?”
“The buyer in the ordinary market—yes.”
“But can you see Spencer Babington giving anything for nothing?”
“I can see him coming to an honorable agreement with your father.”
“But, supposing,” she said, after a while, “that Spencer accepts a guarantee from you as to the interest, where does my father come in? He would be no more beholden to you than to Spencer.”
“But my dearest of dear women,” cried Pandolfo, “where are your wits? Babington is but a passing phantom. I am the reality. Mr. Veresy has but to view all this mortgage business in the light of marriage settlement on you and where is the obligation?”
HE STOOD before her bankrupt, penniless, luminous, commanding the earth; dazing her by the lightning presentation of the scheme which to him appeared clear-cut, indefectible; claiming her, as always, for his own, by indefeasible right. Again she felt the old dread of him.
“You call Spencer a phantom. Haven’t you used him rather as a cat’s
“Are such men good for anything else? It’s their justification for existence.
I’ve made him think he’s doing a noble action. It’ll be good for his soul. He’ll live on it for the rest of his life.”
“So, according to you, you’re still giving. You’re giving Spencer the opportunity of doing, as you call it, a noble action.”
“That’s casuistry,” he declared, with his gesture sweeping away argument.
“Didn’t I tell you the first time I met you that your wit was keener than mine? We come now to the big essentials. I have laid all my cards on the table—everything I can think of as being me—my past, my present, my future. All my certainties of existence.
You told me yesterday to come for your answer. What is it?”
The telephone rang in the dining room, cutting, for a second, the intensity of the situation.
“My maid’s there,” she said, impatiently.
She rose and said somewhat wildly:
“How do I know? How do I know?
You’re always putting me in a false position. You’ve appealed to me in every way that a man can appeal to woman—except one. Except pity—”
He threw the humiliating sentiment into the air.
The maid entered. Mr. Uglow would like to speak to Sir Victor. It was important.
“You permit me? These are times when one must bow to necessity? And Gregory’s discretion—”
She sat alone. The splendid man commanded her. There was nothing but surrender.
He came in after his brief talk over the wires.
“I must go. Gregory read me a telegram just received. My wife dangerously ill at Dover. Lord Warden Hotel. I am summoned at once. Can I do otherwise than obey?”
She said: “Mere humanity.”
He pulled out his watch: “The four o’clock boat train. I have just time.” He had given Gregory hurried instructions. Fate only allowed him a few more moments with her. What this sudden illness meant he could not imagine. He had left her in Monte Carlo in perfect health. And the telephone said, “dangerously ill.” It was a matter of life and death. Paula smiled at his implied pleading.
“Of course you must go.”
She put out a hand. “Good-bye. This makes further talk between us impossible for the time being, doesn’t it?”
“I suppose it does,” said he.
WHEN he had gone, she sat in the little dainty drawing-room, staring at the future as she had done so many times before. He had left the dining room door open, after coming from the telephone, and her eye caught the gleam of the Paulinium Perseus in its corner. Once more it summed up in her mind, the history of the extravagant being who held her in the meshes of his will; the heredity of his plaster-cast conception; his illimitable ambition; the tastelessness of his achievement. She rose and shut the door, on pretext of draught, and drew up a chair close to the fire.
The woman was dangerously ill. Her death would solve the abominable problem of his regained freedom. She shivered as though the imps of all the indelicacies
alien to her traditions were drawing around her and touching her with unclean fingers. ... In the great things of life he stood an unassailable rock. Dishonor, disloyalty, cruelty, ungenerosity to the woman whom, through her own wretched fault, he had his wife, were inconceivable. His Monte Carlo story was true. He would not stain his own conception of himself with lies. It was in the little things, the little things that matter so infinitely, that he failed. The vulgarity of the arranged divorce. Her friends did it every day; but that didn’t atone for its essential vulgarity. And the Spencer Babington affair, showing a bluntness of fine susceptibility—and then,
his defiance of misfortune. Ajax defying the lightning. The remembered tag produced a sense of anti-climax— bathos. If only he had come to her as the broken man, broken in fortune, broken in ambition, broken in the sweeter of life’s hopes. . . .
And now, he was gone. She felt in her soul an undercurrent of relief; a sense of respite. The woman who stood between them was dangerously ill. Thus she came back to the point of the circle whence she had started. To speculate on the chances of the woman living or dying was a ghastly and gross indecency.
At five o’clock her maid announced a chattering woman whom she had forgotten she had asked to tea. The chattering woman fresh from the Riviera entertained her with accounts of Lady Pandolfo’s enormous losses at Monte Carlo.
PANDOLFO drove home in a taxi-cab. The vast limousine had already gone into the trustee’s meltingpot, and his tenure of the home in Tite Street was limited to the immediate future. Gregory met him with the telegram. It read: “Very dangerously ill.” The qualifying word had been lost over the wires. It was worse than he had thought.
He took his packed bag, drove to Victoria, and just managed to catch the train for Dover.
He mounted the steps of the Lord Warden. Giving his name to the hall porter, he was immediately shown into the manager’s room. He waved the telegram: “My wife—Lady Pandolfo? What is the matter?” “We received a telephone message from your house,” said the manager, “notifying us that you would arrive by this train. I asked Dr. Warrender to be here to meet you.”
He turned to another man and made perfunctory introductions, with the air of an hotel keeper relieving responsibility and left the two together.
The doctor, a middle-aged heavy man, with a professional manner, looked at Pandolfo with an appraising
“I’d better be frank. Lady Pandolfo is suffering from an overdose of veronal.”
“Good God!” said Pandolfo, passing his hand over
his forehead. Then: “Are you really frank, or are you trying to break bad news to me?”
“She’s still alive, unconscious, of course. Unfortunately I was called in rather late. No fault of the management. Her door was locked and it was only at noon, when getting no reply to knocking, that they broke in. I ventured to take charge of this letter addressed to you which I found under her pillow.”
Pandolfo tore open the envelope.
The letter was brief:
“My dear Victor,
“This is the only clean way out. I have never given anything to anybody in my life. And now the only thing I have in the world to give you is your freedom. The only thing I ask of you. who have given me so much, is that you should think as kindly as you can of your Nesta.’
Pandolfo put the letter in his pocket. “It is merely a line,” said he, “to explain her reason for staying in Dover, instead of coming straight home. She had been sleepless for many nights. The state of my affairs has naturally caused her much anxiety. Before plunging into them, she wished to have a good night’s rest.”
“Quite so,” said the doctor gravely. “Was she in the habit of taking veronal? » “She has suffered from insomnia since infancy,” declared Pandolfo.
SUDDENLY a nerve seemed to snap in his brain, almost with the vibration of a fiddle-string. He dropped into the manager’s swivel-chair and buried his face in his hands, his elbows resting on the desk. He had no use for this silly doctor with his silly questions. There was nothing but one great Fact before him. The doctor looked at him for a few seconds and then slipped out. He returned with a glass of brandy.
“Better drink this,” said he, with a hand on his shoulder.
Pandolfo’s pride revolted at his momentary weakness. He pushed the glass aside and sprang to his feet.
“I must go up and see her. She can’t be left alone like this.”
The doctor smiled. “She’s not alone, Sir Victor. I sent in a nurse at once on my own responsibility.”
Pandolfo waved a hand. She must have as many nurses as he thought fit. The best nursing home in Dover, if need be. The resources of the earth.
“She has got to live, do you understand that. She
has got to live.” . ,
The doctor expressed the hope that she would. Everything possible had been done. Assembled Harley Street could do no more.
The letter was a fire before his eyes, blazing with the supreme sacrifice of a human soul. It was manelous yet monstrous. It staggered thought. Such a sacrifice he could not accept. She must live. Eternal Justice must put a veto on her death.
He paced the small office. Halted to the consciousness of the doctor’s dry report. Of course it was natural that he should wish to see Lady Pandolfo. He was at er service, but she lay unconscious. Perhaps, after all, it would be more satisfactory. . . . The lift took them up to the third floor. They entered the room. A nurse in uniform sat by the bed where lay the drugged and pallid woman. Pandolfo looked down on his wife. Her features seemed very pure and girlish; her body, faintly outlined by the bed clothes, but the wisp of a fragi e thing. His heart swelled with an immense pity.
The doctor put some questions to the nurse, examined the pulse and eyes of the patient. Pandolfo wat che him and the sweat stood on his forehead. The doctor turned. Humanly speaking, she would recover. It vas a question of waiting, watching and nursing. He forecast the ordinary stages. The awakening to a half consciousness; the succeeding sleep; the gradual recocery o memory and reason. With a dry professional smile íe gave hope and counselled patience. U nless summone earlier on unexpected emergency, he would call upon her about nine o’clock.
PANDOLFO sat bv the bed while the nurse told him all she knew. Lady Pandolfo had arrived the previous afternoon from Monte Carlo, having Ieie” graphed for a room. The labels on her luggage proclaimed Dover and not Victoria as her destination. She had come down to dinner; had sat awhile in the lounge and then gone upstairs, when she had given orders not to be disturbed until she rang for breakfast in the morning. At noon they found her unconscious with an empty phial of veronal tablets by her side. Shortly afterwards,
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summoned by the doctor, she herself had taken up her duties. She strove to comfort the stricken husband. She had seen cases of veronal poisoning before. In every instance, when the pulse had lasted out all those hours, the patient had recovered. She put his simple mind at ease with regard to her suspicions.
“People who aren’t accustomed to veronal don’t know what a dangerous thing it is. They haven’t slept for a few nights—they’ve heard of veronal— they go and get a bottle and take ten times too much. And the result—”
She motioned to the bed.
“She must be very pretty>” she remarked.
“Yes; a very pretty woman ” he answered vaguely.
Then, the figure lying so tragically still, he questioned anxiously:
“Are you quite certain?” >
The nurse, to humour him, put her skilled hand on the patient’s pulse, and nodded reassurance.
“She mustn’t die. I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t bear it,” he repeated, with a gesture suggestive of the fall of Heaven if his Atlas strength should fail.
Again she comforted him. At last
using her authority she turned him out of the sick room.
THE woman who had passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death wept helplessly when she awoke to find that she had journeyed back to her starting point. She made no pretence of ignorant taking of veronal. She had deliberately sought to end a life which she, of her own doing, had rendered intolerable. She moaned piteously. Why did they drag her back? Those few moments of semi-consciousness before the deep descent into Nirvana had been the most exquisite of her life. Why hadn’t they let her die? She had. gone through it all for nothing. What kind of a thing was the new life that stretched drearily before her?
She was very weak, very tired, her drugged brain as yet only awakened to the major fact of an unutterable disappointment. She cried piteously: “Tell me what I can do to go back.” This was in the early hours of the April morning. Dawn already slanted through curtain edges across the room. Pandolfo, called from bed, appeared lightly clad.
He knelt down and kissed her hand. Her fingers strayed to his face.
“I did it all for the best.” Her voice came faint as from in another world. “It was the only way out. The only way out—•” she repeated the terms of her letter. “I couldn’t go to Monte Dangerfield. You made it impossible. . . . You made me love you at last. It was the only way. And now don’t let Monte come near me—until I’m better—I suppose I must get better. . . .”
Her voice trailed off into an incoherent murmur. The nurse standing by with restraining authority, whispered to Pandolfo:
He obeyed, for the sick woman had fallen again into stupor. . . . He watched with the nurse in the gray broadening light, until the doctor came at a telephone summons. Doctor and nurse bent over the bed and whispered. Pandolfo stood in a corner of the room by the drawn curtain of a window that commanded a view of the Castle and the harbour, feeling for the first time in his life, the least significant being on earth. They did things, he knew not what. Their forms loomed between him and Nesta. He stared out of the window. Once before, during the war, he had stood by some such window in that hotel and watched the dawn creep over the Channel which he was to cross on a given signal, with a mystery of his own making in his hands. . . .
. A touch on his arm aroused him from his reflections. The doctor was by his side. With a great pang he read the message in the man’s eyes.
His wife was dead.
PANDOLFO asked later: “Did anyone see the letter you gave me?”
The doctor said no. He had taken it from beneath her pillow.
“Could it be,” asked Pandolfo, “that such a letter was never found and handed to me? Indeed, as I said, it was but an unimportant note which I have torn up-.”
“There need be no letter, unless I have to give sworn evidence,” said the doctor.
“What was the final cause of death?” “Failure of the heart’s action, of course.”
“Then you can give a certificate?” “A guarded one.”
“Who is there,” said Pandolfo, sadly, “to question it?”
He stayed in Dover, where Gregory joined him, until the poor lady had been put to rest for ever in the Dover cemetery. The lesser newspapers, in view of his fall, gave what ungenerous details they could scrape together, for sensational copy. Lady Pandolfo, the wife of the well-known inventor, Sir Victor Pandolfo, whose affairs were now in Bankruptcy, had only lately startled even the imperturable world of Monte Carlo by her enormous losses at the table. She had been a familiar figure in the world of amusement. She was the daughter of a late Canon of Ely and had made a runaway marriage with the Comte de Breville, a man well known in Paris fashionable circles. . . . All the non-libellous insinuations in the stereo-
typed language of the lower journalist. The story of the romantic shipboard courtship and the Rio Janeiro marriage was set out with more or less exactitude. And now, the sudden death in a Dover hotel was headlined in one foul print as “The Tragic End of a Life of Pleasure.” Pandolfo cast the paper from him: “If only I were God!” he cried, impotently.
“In two days’ time, who will remember?” asked Gregory.
“I shall remember,” said Pandolfo.
PAULA had written, in reply to the telegram announcing Nesta’s death. It had been a mind-tearing, senserending letter to write. As yet, of course, no idea of the cause had entered her brain. The woman who stood between them was dead. There was now no barrier except of her own making. No more the alternation between the Great Defiance and the shiveringly vulgar compromise of the Divorce Court. The woman was dead. And yet, for the moment at any rate, death yawned between them, an indecent gulf. In writing the letter, the traditions of her race came to her aid. She fenced herself round with convention. She planted herself firmly at the terrifying cross-roads.
She longed for, yet dreaded, his coming. He had the power, at once to carry her away from the self that the centuries had made her, the fine product of gentle and cultured generations, to appeal sometimes irresistably to all kinds of wild emotions, primitive impulses, visionary enthusiasms and to put a rough and scornful hand on all the delicate and vital tendrils of her being whereby she thought she lived.
Clara Demeter came to her.
“Now, my dear, what the devil are you going to do?”
“If you worry me any more,” said Paula, “I’ll marry Spencer Babirigton who has just made arrangements to take over that nightmare of a mortgage and let my father down easily. He has already made me his fiftieth proposal.” “Mortgage? Spencer? What’s it all about?”
In desperation Paula told her.
“Don’t you see, you’re all driving me crazy? Spencer, at last, has got hold of the most gentlemanly and diplomatic and sentimental chance of blackmail in the world. My father was here yesterday. Spencer has got at him. Why shouldn’t I marry Spencer? A man of a family as good as our own. Tons of money—” She described the scene between the two men, as reported by Mr. Veresy.
“If she’ll accept, I’ll do an unheard-of thing. I’ll change my name. I’ll get letters-patent and call myself VeresyBabington,”
“Way not the other way about? Babington-Veresy?”
They had argued, the idiots, without coming to any decision. At last it occurred to them that Paula would have something to say in the matter. In fact, it depended entirely on her.
Paula repeated to Lady Demeter: “Don’t you see, you’re all driving me crazy? I wish to Heaven you’d leave me alone.”
Clara laughed in her comfortable way. “What I really came for was to carry you down to Histed for a few days’ rest.” “Then why begin by worrying me?” asked Paula.
Clara promised not to breathe a disturbing syllable. This time Histed was to be real rest. Not a soul to be invited for the next week-end in view of Demeter’s gout and general sorrow for himself.
“You’re the only creature in the world Frank would care to have. You can hold each other’s hands all day long.”
“You’re only doing this out of sheer kindness,” said Paula, “you think—and perhaps rightly—”
“No matter what I think,” laughed Lady Demeter. “It’ll be good for you.”
CO WHEN Pandolfo returned to GJ London, he found a note from Paula telling him of her Histed visit. Gregory still saw him anxious, preoccupied, as though grief-stricken at the loss of the wife whom he had never loved. He opened the letter in the young man’s presence, who recognized the familiar handwriting on the envelope, and no gleam of pleasure lit his gloomy face. He glanced through one or two' other letters and then bade Gregory ring up a
man called Montague Dangerfield a company promoter of sorts who must have offices in rhe city. Gregory frowned, seeking some lost association with the name. At last he found it. Paula Field had mentioned the man, during their confidential talks, in connection with her father’s unfortunate speculations. Vaguely too he had heard of him otherwise. He knew that Pandolfo was in need of money to float his reserve of inventions. Why go to Dangerfield? He ventured:
“I don’t think he’s a man with the best of reputations.”
“That’s the very reason I want to get into touch with him,” said Pandolfo.
Gregory looked up the address in the telephone book and called the number. They sat as usual on opposite sides of the long table.
“I’ve got them,” said Gregory.
“Say t hat I want to have an immediate interview with Mr. Dangerfield.”
Gregory listened and reported: “He’s returning from Monte Carlo this evening and will be at the office to-morrow morning.”
“Say that I’ll call on him at eleven o’clock.”
Gregory gave the message, hooked up the receiver. Pandolfo sat silent with heavy brow. At last he spoke.
“The man has a private address I suppose.” He reached for the open book, and found an address in Mount Street. "I don’t think I can wait, I’ll try to see him this evening.”
Gregory stared. That Pandolfo should change his mind in a few minutes was an unprecedented phenomenon.
“Mrs. Field has gone down to Histed,” he said, presently, as though speaking to himself. “Perhaps it’s better so. I’ve got to straighten all this out first,”
AT NINE o’clock, Pandolfo was -c A shewn into the gaily furnished drawing-room of a Mount Street flat. The man-servant informed him that Mr. Dangerfield was just finishing dinner, but would join him in a moment or two.
Monte Dangerfield, fresh from bath and food and prosperous-looking in blue velvet smoking jacket, entered suddenly with apologetic greetings.
“My dear Sir \rictor. ... So sorry to keep you waiting. . . .”
Pandolfo took no notice of the hand held out,
“I suppose you know that my wife is dead.”
The other made a gesture. “Alas, yes. My deep condolences. . . . Indeed it was a great shock. So sudden.” “Yes. Very sudden,” said Pandolfo. “Noemdash;I’d rather stand, if you don’t mind. You were a friend of my wife’s?” “I had that privilege.”
“You saw something of her lately in Monte Carlo.”
Before replying, Dangerfield opened a gold cigarette box, offered it to Pandolfo who motioned it away, and lit a cigarette himself. Then he looked at Pandolfo through narrowed eyes.
“I don’t see any reason for beating about the bush like this,” he said bluntly. “I can see what you’ve come for. In a few days’ time I’d have had to come to you myself. Yes, I saw a good deal of Lady Pandolfo in Monte Carlo. . . . Well, we’ve got at it quick, at any rate. W’hat are you going to do about it?” “About what?”
“Why the chequeemdash;the dishonoured cheque.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t know?” He made a turn about the room, then faced Pandolfo. “Well, don’t blame me, my dear fellow. You’ve brought it on yourself.” He drew a letter case from his breast-pocket and from it a cheque which he held up. “I was fully intending to allow a decent intervalemdash;but I can’t afford to lose a thousand pounds.”
“A thousand pounds!” said Pandolfo. “Look.”
He held out the cheque before Pandolfo’s eyes. A dishonoured cheque on her own bank payable to Monte Dangerfield.
“Lady Pandolfo was losing heavily one evening. She came to me. They wouldn’t change her cheques. The word had gone round about youremdash;your difficulties emdash;you’ll forgive me mentioning it. We exchanged cheques and mine, for eightyfive thousand francs, known to be good anywhere in the worldemdash;she gave the barman as security and drew upon it. Her cheque came back to me as you see.”
‘T see,” said Pandolfo. “Why didn’t you communicate with me at once?” “Surely, in the first place, it was a matter between myself and Lady Pandolfo. I gave her time to make arrangements, with or without your knowledge. That did not concern me.”
“May I ask what you proposed to do in case you could come to noemdash;arrangement with Lady Pandolfo?”
“I should have come to you, as you force me to do at the present moment.”
THE man with his veneer of goodbreeding and his logic disputable only on unmentionable grounds, held him at a disadvantage. To have flown at his throat and otherwise overwhelmed him with fury would have been merely to traduce the honour of the dead woman. He had only the inference from her dying words to go upon. Besides, he felt no fury. The fountains of his splendid impulses seemed to have dried at the source. He felt dull and powerless.
“You must take my word that eventually the amount shall be repaid in full, with interest. But you appreciate my present position. It was owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding, for which I am responsible, that Lady Pandolfo drew the cheque. My lawyer will write you to that effect and invite you to lodge your claim as a creditor against my estate.”
“That will be perfectly satisfactory,” said Monte Dangerfield politely. “But,” he went on, throwing his cigarette into the fire, and putting his hands into his smoking-jacket pockets, “may I ask you a question? If you were ignorant of the existence of this returned cheque, to what do I owe, as they say, the honour of your visit?”
“I just wanted to look at you,” replied . Pandolfo. “We can leave it at that.” He cast a contemptuous glance around the vulgar room. “You needn’t ring. I can find my way out. Good-night.”
HE WROTE to Paula: “Forgive me if I do not seek to see you for the moment. It is not that I love you less or am more sufficient unto myself. The contrary is the case. But a cloud has settled over my soul which only time can dispel. I can’t see yet how to walk clearly; and before you I must walk in the full light of day.”
Paula, a million miles from the truth, was baffled. That a veil of reverence should be drawn over the dead was natural and decorous. But between the veil of decorum and, the cloud enveloping a man’s soul lay a psychological grief which she could not bridge.
He had spoken, it is true, of his wife’s nobility in offering. But is there a woman alive who does not discount a man’s chivalry towards other women? Especially such a man as Pandolfo. Above all things he was a Romantic. A Romantiek with a Kemdash;she remembered her Renesles-Eaux conception of him as Ceceo of the Burning Coal. She had only the equipment of her knowledge of facts wherewith to judge the situation.
For a while she sought, as she had grown into an intolerable habit of doing, to leave the matter on the knees of the high gods. But somehow the high gods, finally impatient, tossed the matter from them, repudiating responsibility. The problem of her life must be solved, once and for all, one way or the other. She must take his direct course. He had unceasingly proclaimed her greatness. She burned at the realization that never had she exhibited to him anything but her littleness. She must go to him and compel his emergence into the full light of day.
“I’ve had a letter. I must go and see him. Can the car take me to the station?” “The car can take you up to town,”
She rang the bell of the Tite Street house. A woman servant none too tidy opened the door. Her substitution for the smart maid was Paula’s first visible indication of the fall of the mighty. No, Sir Victor was not at home. When was he likely to return? The servant summoned an expression of blank ignorance. “Mr. Uglow, thenemdash;”
Mr. Uglow was in. If the lady would wait she would fetch him._ She disappeared. Paula remained in the hall. After a minute or two she_ sat in an old Spanish chair covered with Cordovan
leather. A gloomy picture of the school of Ribiera hung on the opposite wall.
PRESENTLY Gregory came running down the stairs with arms outstretched.
“My dearemdash;forgive us for leaving you here. The fool maid didn’t know any better. Things have changed.”
She smiled on him. What did it matter? The great thing was that she hadn’t come on a fool’s errand. At any rate, he was there and could tell her about Pandolfo.
“But he too is in,” said Gregory. “Only he had left strict orders not to be disturbed. Don’t blame the maid.” “What would happen if I disturbed him?”
“You should know better than I,” replied Gregory.
“I wish I did,” she said, with a touch on his arm, “I’m in the dark. What has happened? He wrote me a letteremdash; so strangeemdash;”
“He has had a great shock. Connected of course somehow with Lady Pandolfo’s death. What it is, I don’t knowemdash;he’s so different.”
“In what way?” she asked.
Gregory sat on the corner of the marble hall-table, by her side and tried to explain. Pandolfo, once as expansive as the North-East wind, had grown reserved and morose. He spent his nights and days in his laboratory working at the neglected inventions. He would not take even him, Gregory, into his scientific, still less into his emotional confidence. He left to Gregory, now on the eve of taking up his new duties with the Blickham-Anstruther Company, the task of businessemdash;figures, books and interviews. He insisted on the concentration of solitude. When they met for meals, now somewhat haphazardly provided, he sat pre-occupied, wringing his strong, nervous hands. The only time he had flashed out his old self was when Gregory suggested that he was ill and should consult a doctor. He declared that the whole lot should go to perdition before he would see one of them. A nervous break-down? The nerves of men like him never broke down. He had the air of one repudiating a hideous calumny.
At last Paula put the torturing question:
“Do you think that, after all, he was really fond of her?”
“To me it’s inconceivable. But who knows the hearts of men?’
He rose. “I must see him. Will you tell him I’m here?” She was quick to note a shadow of pain pass across his pale features. She put her hands on his shoulders. “You know, if I could cut a bit off myself and give it to you, I would. But I can’t. Tell me where he is and I’ll go to him.”
He said, with an indicating gesture: “Follow the passageemdash;the door at the
She turned the handle noiselessly and entered the octagonal room. Pandolfo stood, with his back turned, at the far end, engaged at the workman’s bench. He looked strange to her in the long working blouse. She noticed too that his hair was dishevelled. She walked towards him and called:
HE SWUNG round. She suppressed a little cry at the sight of him. ill and haggard and unkempt. He advanced. “WThy have you come, Paula?”
“Do you think I have a heart of stone?” He smiled sadly. “You have a heart of gold. All women seem to have hearts of gold.”
She drew herself up. “A ou mean your wife who is dead. Het us go straight to the soul of things at once. It’s better for both of us.”
“Yes. It’s better,” he said. .
He crossed the room to a safe which he unlocked and from it drew Nesta’s
“That will tell you everything.”
She read, turned to put the paper gently on the table behind her and stood there for a few seconds, confronting the issues of life and death. Then she looked at him, with a new great light ot
It tells me much. But not everything.
i neip yuu; , She led him by the arm to a couple of chairs. He obeyed with a strange docility, and told his story, in simple terms, with
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here and there only a dull gleam of the old Pandolfo whom, while loving, she had dreaded. And, as he talked, this change in him grew less and less a mvstery. He was a beaten man; but a man beaten not by Fortune, not by the hostility of material influences, but by spiritual imponderabilia almost on the borderland of sanity and unreason; by the swift and tragic assertion of a magnanimity far exceeding his own. She slipped her hand into his and they talked between many silences. A lesser man, she felt, would have smitten his breast in specious remorse, accusing himself of a course of conduct leading to the tragedy. For the first time she saw him clearly; his greatness and his childishness. And she saw herself in the light of human relationships which, in his simplicity, he had created around them. What of the richness and warmth and vitality of her womanhood had she given or thought of giving? It is true he had demanded nothing. He had stood apart in his grandeur and, without much reference to her, had proclaimed her his mate.
But now he had lost that fascinating insolence in the abasement of his soul. She read a piteous craving in his eyes. All that was in her yearned towards him, none the less truly because it was spurred by a most ignoble jealousy. The other woman had given him her death. She, at least could give him her life. A humility sweet and purifying crept through her veins.
At last she said:
“If I’m still any use to you, I’ll be to you anything you like.”
IT WAS through conspiracy between Paula and Gregory and Lady Demeter that Pandolfo was brought face to face with an eminent physician, who fulminated prognostics of a condition of mental, moral and bodily decrepitude compared to which a nervous breakdown ranked as a passing headache. Absolute rest, comfort, country air were the only means of his renewing a lease of vigorous life. He knew of a sanitorium in the solitudes of the Derbyshire hills, where he would be allowed to speak to nobody, read little or nothing; just breathe and eat (in moderation) and sleep.
“I should go stark, staring mad,” cried Pandolfo, as the eminent physician knew he would.
“God and Hippocrates forgive me,” laughed the latter, in his report to Lady Demeter, “the man’s not as bad as all that, though he’s tired out. But what can I do when you come to me with tears in your eyes?”
And thus did the conspiracy succeed. Pandolfo, aroused to furious wrath by the suggestion of the Derbyshire wilderness, consented to carry out a milder rest-cure at Histed Park. Clara promised him a wing of the house all to himself. He should see nobody. There would be nobody to see. Demeter’s gout, this time serious, had developed a vicious disposition which would put him in danger of biting any lions asked down for week-ends. The only guest would be Paula, who didn’t count.
“She counts so much,” he cried, “that I’d die in that infernal Derbyshire place
The kind and comfortable lady went about the country house, happiness
“It’s all very well to say that marriages are made in Heaven,” she said to Paula. “But the best I’ve known of have been made in Histed.”
She went on:
“When I telephoned you, years ago, to come down to meet him I knew he was the only man in the world for you. I’m quite aware that you scarcely credit me with a brainemdash;but, after all, wasn’t I
“You wanted me to bow down and worship, my dear, which, as a^ selfrespecting woman I refused to do.” Clara shrugged her plump shoulders. “I wanted nothing. I only foresaw.” And she went off in oracular triumph.
PANDOLFO, his will broken by the conspiracy, surrendered to the peace of the pleasant house. For the first time in his vehement, tempestuous life, did he find content in a quiet backwater. Did he show restiveness at times, with anxiety to get back to his work, there was always Paula holding out the menacing pronouncement of the Eminent Physician.
“Your idea of illness is pains and aches and spots and fevers and things. You’re so crude. Do you suppose a man like Sir Erasmus John would say you’re ill if you aren’t? And if you weren’t would you be sitting here, under a tree, perfectly happy doing nothing?”
“Perhaps you’re right. But on the other hand, I don’t know. I’ve got more work to do in the world than can be accomplished in a lifetime. If it weren’t for you I should have defied Harley street. But you see, I’ve never before sat under a tree, in my life, secure in possession of my heart’s desire.”
He talked to her of his life, giving every picturesque detail that his memory had recorded. The psychological episode of Giacomo’s monkey. His discovery of how to get gas for nothing. The provision for his mother in her Empyrean of Walham Green. His struggles. His hopes. His certainties. His achievements. And all calmly and reasonably, with only here and there an instinctive Neapolitan flicker of the fingers. He talked to her of art, of the marvellous impressions on his childish sensitiveness of the master pieces of the sculpture of mankind wherewith he had passed his childhood’s being.
He talked to her of travel, of men and things, of the fairy tales of science, of books, literature ancient and modern. Intellectually he was an inexhaustible mine of sympathy.
She thanked God that she saw him just as he waá, in the paralysing stress of utter fatigue, a richly and sweetly minded ma". She knew him now, and knew that of him which she must love eternally.
IN THE unruffled and tender atmosphere, exhausted nerves and tired brain and perturbed soul gathered gradual strength. He begun to regain eagerness of glance and elasticity of tread.
“I must get back to my work. There’s a whole career to be remade.. .. You’re a wonderful woman to have come to my side when I’m down in the depths. And the strange thing is that I’m contented to look to you to pull me up.”
She laughed. “Your new elevator will do that.”
“You’ll have to help me build the elevator.” He was silent, buried in thought for a few moments. Then: “It’s a grand idea, all the same. I must get to work on the models as soon as I go back.”
“I wish I had some scientific training so as to understand,” she sighed.
“But it’s as simple as a cats-cradle. Look.”
He pulled out paper and pencil, and boyishly began to draw the diagram. And this was the first flash of the old Pandolfo.
Then, one day later, as they sat by the old world bowling green, as she and Gregory had sat on that May morning, it now seemed so long ago, he urged her to tell him the story of the new novel. Hitherto shyness had restrained her from discussing with anyone the halfborn thing. The opening chapters had been written, but the gestation of the full scheme was not complete. She confessed as much. . .
“No matter. Let us have it as it is. You can’t talk comfortably on this hard bench.”
He went swiftly to a disguised summerhouse in the far corner and reappeared with comfortable cane chair and cushion, to which he motioned smiling command. She obeyed.
“Where shall I begin?”
"Middle or end or anywhere. With me I always begin with the end. Such a thing has to be done. How to do it?” “That’s just the difficulty.”
She began haltingly, sketched out the , main characters, the chief background of the tale. To tell the story he is about to write is a fearsome task for a novelist. For, Frankenstein as he is, how does he know that his monsters, however gentle they may be, may not, mid-way, defy him and, if not do him to death, at any rate tell him to go to the devil and assert their right to work out their own destinies? She felt like an uninspired adult suddenly ordered by a child to entertain it, in an original manner. At first she stumbled and took with grateful surprise a quick helping hand. Gradually beneath his eager sympathy her shyness vanished. She plunged into a dramatic story.
AT THE critical point she faltered. The man torn by horrible suspicion of the woman whom he regarded as an angel of purity watches her enter by night the house of another man whom he, perhaps alone of reputable mortals, knows to be of the most evil character. A while afterwards she leaves the house. He meets her. There is a scene between them, at the end of which she parts from him indignantly. The next day the wicked man is found dead with a dagger through his heart. The lover is horrified. Who else but the woman could have committed the murder? “And there,” said Paula, with a wrinkled brow, “I’m stuck. I don’t see a way out of it.”
He rose and put out his arms. “Why, of course. There’s only one way. The woman did kill the man. Why shouldn’t she? Listen. Let me tell you the whole thing now, as it occurs.”
He threw his hat on the bench and, pacing to and fro in front of her on the green, radiantly tore up her smug and commonplace scheme, reconstructed the bits on a heroic basis and flung in dashes of color which her orderly mind had not conceived possible. He transferred the scene of action to a romantic land: he raised the woman to a figure of Eternal
Tragedy; he created a conflict of elemental passions. His disciplined imagination found delight in this new invention. Vividly Neapolitan, he acted the stirring melodrama, vibrating with its excitement, and declaiming triumphant the inevitable end.
And Paula had risen too, listening with beating pulses to this miracle whereby the dry bones of her story were made to live; wondering too at his perfervid audacitv in offering her a theme which only Aeschylus or Hollywood could treat.
He stood before her victorious, with his familiar gesture of upflung arms.
“There! That’s the story that we’re going to write—which all the little people in the world couldn’t write. Haven’t I told you that you and I together must conquer the earth?”
He took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes.
“Isn’t it wonderful? Our novel!”
She laughed very happily, from a woman’s secret and ironic reserve of laughter surrendering herself, at last, not to the broken man who had stirred her pity, but wholly and irremediably to the flamboyant being, who, all said and done, was The Great Pandolfo.