Robert Barr

Part 5 out of 5

saw the bayonet sticking in his breast. A look of agony came in the
wounded man's eyes, and his lips whitened. He staggered against the
soldier at his right, who gave way with the impact, and then he
tottered against the whitewashed stone wall, his right arm sweeping
automatically up and down the wall as if he were brushing something
from the stones. A groan escaped him, and he dropped on one knee. His
eyes turned helplessly towards Dupre, and he gasped out the words--

"My God! You were right--after all."

Then he fell forward on his face and the tragedy ended.



Prince Padema sat desolately on his lofty balcony at Florence, and
cursed things generally. Fate had indeed dealt hardly with the young

The Prince had been misled by the apparent reasonableness of the adage,
that if you want a thing well done you should do it yourself. In
committing a murder it is always advisable to have some one else to do
it for you, but the Prince's plans had been several times interfered
with by the cowardice or inefficiency of his emissaries, so on one
unfortunate occasion he had determined to remove an objectionable man
with his own hand, and realised then how easily mistakes may occur.

He had met the man face to face under a corner lamp in Venice. The
recognition was mutual, and the man, fearing his noble enemy, had fled.
The Prince pursued, and the man apparently tried to double upon him,
and, with his cloak over his face, endeavoured to sneak past along the
dark wall. When the Prince deftly ran the dagger into his vitals, he
was surprised that the man made no resistance or outcry, made no effort
to ward off the blow, but sunk lifeless at the Prince's feet with a

Alarmed at this, the Prince bade his servant drag the body to a spot
where a votive lamp set in the wall threw dim yellow rays to the
pavement. Then his Highness was appalled to see that he had
assassinated a scion of one of the noblest families of Venice, which
was a very different thing from murdering a man of low degree whose
life the law took little note of.

So the Prince had to flee from Venice, and he took up his residence in
a narrow street in an obscure part of Florence.

Seldom had fate played a man so scurvy a trick, and the Prince was
fully justified in his cursing, for the unfortunate episode had
interrupted a most absorbing amour which, at that moment, was rapidly
approaching an interesting climax.

Prince Padema had been several weeks in Florence, and those weeks had
been deadly dull. "The women of Florence," he said to himself bitterly,
"are not to be compared with those of Venice." But even if they had
been, the necessity of keeping quiet, for a time at least, would have
prevented the Prince from taking advantage of his enforced sojourn in
the fair city.

On this particular evening, the Prince's sombre meditations were
interrupted by a song. The song apparently came from the same building
in which his suite of rooms were situated, and from an open window some
distance below him. What caught his attention was the fact that the
song was Venetian, and the voice that sang it was the rich mellow voice
of Venice.

There were other exiles, then, beside himself. He peered over the edge
of the balcony perched like an eagle's nest high above the narrow stone
street, and endeavoured to locate the open window from which the song
came, or, better still, to catch a glimpse of the singer.

For a time he was unsuccessful, but at last his patience was rewarded.
On a balcony to the right, and some distance below his own, there
appeared the most beautiful girl even he had ever seen. The dark, oval
face was so distinctly Venetian that he almost persuaded himself he had
met her in his native town.

She stood with her hands on the top rail of the balcony, her dark hair
tumbled in rich confusion over her shapely shoulders. The golden light
in the evening sky touched her face with glory, as she looked towards
it, of that part of it that could be seen at the end of the narrow

The Prince's heart beat high as he gazed upon the face that was
unconscious of his scrutiny. Instantly the thought flashed over him
that exile in Florence might, after all, have its compensations.

"Pietro," he whispered softly through his own open windows to the
servant who was moving silently about the room, "come here for a
moment, quietly."

The servant came stealthily to the edge of the window.

"You see that girl on the lower balcony," said the Prince in a whisper.

Pietro nodded.

"Find out for me who she is--why she is here--whether she has any
friends. Do it silently, so as to arouse no suspicion."

Again his faithful servant nodded, and disappeared into the gloom of
the room.

Next day Pietro brought to his eager master what information he had
been able to glean. He had succeeded in forming the acquaintance of the
Signorina's maid.

For some reason, which the maid either did not know or would not
disclose, the Signorina was exiled for a time from Venice. She belonged
to a good family there, but the name of the family the maid also
refused to divulge. She dared not tell it, she said. They had been in
Florence for several weeks, but had only taken the rooms below within
the last two days. The Signorina received absolutely no one, and the
maid had been cautioned to say nothing whatever about her to any
person; but she had apparently succumbed in a measure to the
blandishments of gallant Pietro.

The rooms had been taken because of their quiet and obscure position.

That evening the Prince was again upon his balcony, but his thoughts
were not so bitter as they had been the day before. He had a bouquet of
beautiful flowers beside him. He listened for the Venetian song, but
was disappointed at not hearing it; and he hoped that Pietro had not
been so injudicious as to arouse the suspicions of the maid, who might
communicate them to her mistress. He held his breath eagerly as he
heard the windows below open. The maid came out on the balcony and
placed an easy-chair in the corner of it. She deftly arranged the
cushions and the drapery of it, and presently the Signorina herself
appeared, and with languid grace seated herself.

The Prince had now a full view of her lovely face, as the girl rested
her elbow on the railing of the balcony, and her cheek upon her hand.

"You may go now, Pepita," said the girl.

The maid threw a lace shawl over the shoulders of her mistress, and

The Prince leaned over the balcony and whispered, "Signorina."

The startled girl looked up and down the street, and then at the
balcony which stood out against the opalescent sky, the tracery of
ironwork showing like delicate etching on the luminous background.

She flushed and dropped her eyes, making no reply.

"Signorina," repeated the Prince, "I, too, am an exile. Pardon me. It
is in remembrance of our lovely city;" and with that he lightly flung
the bouquet, which fell at her feet on the floor of the balcony.

For a few moments the girl did not move nor raise her eyes; then she
cast a quick glance through the open window into her room. After some
slight hesitation she stooped gracefully and picked up the bouquet.

"Ah, beautiful Venice!" she murmured with a sigh, still not looking

The Prince was delighted with the success of his first advance, which
is always the difficult step.

Evening after evening they sat there later and later. The acquaintance
ripened to its inevitable conclusion--the conclusion the Prince had
counted on from the first.

One evening she stood in the darkness with her cheek pressed against
the wall at the corner of her balcony nearest to him; he looked over
and downward at her.

"It cannot be. It cannot be," she said, with a frightened quaver in her
voice, but a quaver which the Prince recognised, with his large
experience, as the tone of yielding.

"It must be," he whispered down to her. "It was ordained from the
first. It has to be."

The girl was weeping silently.

"It is impossible," she said at last. "My servant sleeps outside my
door. Even if she did not know, your servant would, and there would be
gossip--and scandal. It is impossible."

"Nothing is impossible," cried the Prince eagerly, "where true love
exists. I shall lock my door, and Pietro shall know nothing about it.
He never comes unless I call him. I will get a rope and throw it to
your balcony. Lock you your door as I do mine. In the darkness nothing
is seen."

"No, no," she murmured. "That would not do. You could not climb back
again, and all would be lost."

"Oh, nonsense!" cried the young man eagerly. "It is nothing to climb
back." He was about to add that he had done it frequently before, but
he checked himself in time.

For a moment she was silent. Then she said: "I cannot risk your not
getting back. It must be certain. If you get a rope--a strong rope--and
put a loop in it for your foot, and pass the other end of the rope to
me around the staunchest railing of your balcony, I will let you down
to the level of my own. Then you can easily swing yourself within
reach. If you find you cannot climb back, I can help you, by pulling on
the rope and you will ascend as you came down."

The Prince laughed lightly.

"Do you think," he said, "that your frail hands are stronger than

"Four hands," she replied, "are stronger than two. Besides, I am not so
weak as, perhaps, you think."

"Very well," he replied, not in a mood to cavil about trivialities.
"When shall it be--to-night?"

"No; to-morrow night. You must get your rope to-morrow."

Again the Prince laughed quietly.

"I have the rope in my room now," he answered.

"You were very sure," she said softly.

"No, not sure. I was strong in hope. Is your door locked?"

"Yes," she replied in an agitated whisper. "But it is still early. Wait
an hour or two."

"Ah!" cried the Prince, "it will never be darker than at this moment,
and think, my darling, how long I have waited!"

There was no reply.

"Stand inside the window," whispered the Prince. As she did so a coil
of rope fell on the balcony.

"Have you got it?" he asked.

"Yes," was the scarcely audible reply.

"Then don't trust to your own strength. Give it a turn around the
balcony rail."

"I have done so," she whispered.

Although he could not see her because of the, darkness, she saw him
silhouetted against the night sky.

He tested the loop, putting his foot in it and pulling at the rope with
both hands. Then he put the rope round the corner support of the

"Are you sure the rope is strong enough?" she asked. "Who bought it?"

"Pietro got it for me. It is strong enough to hold ten men."

His foot was in the loop, and he slung himself from his balcony,
holding the rope with both hands.

"Let it go very gently," he said. "I will tell you when you have
lowered enough."

Holding the end of the rope firmly, the girl let it out inch by inch.

"That is enough," the Prince said at last; and she held him where he
was, leaning over the balcony towards him.

"Prince Padema," she said to him.

"Ah!" cried the man with a start. "How did you learn my name?"

"I have long known it. It is a name of sorrow to our family.

"Prince," she continued, "have you never seen anything in my face that
brought recollection to you? Or is your memory so short that the grief
you bring to others leaves no trace on your own mind?"

"God!" cried the Prince in alarm, seizing the rope above him as if to
climb back. "What do you mean?"

The girl loosened the rope for an inch or two, and the Prince was
lowered with a sickening feeling in his heart as he realised his
position a hundred feet above the stone street.

"I can see you plainly," said the girl in hard and husky tones. "If you
make an attempt to climb to your balcony, I will at once loosen the
rope. Is it possible you have not suspected who I am, and why I am

The Prince was dizzy. He had whirled gently around in one direction for
some time, but now the motion ceased, and he began to revolve with
equal gentleness in the other direction, like the body of a man who is

A sharp memory pierced his brain.

"Meela is dead," he cried, with a gasp in his breath. "She was drowned.
You are flesh and blood. Tell me you are not her spirit?"

"I cannot tell you that," answered the girl. "My own spirit seemed to
leave me when the body of my sister was brought from the canal at the
foot of our garden. You know the place well; you know the gate and the
steps. I think her spirit then took the place of my own. Ever since
that day I have lived only for revenge, and now, Prince Padema, the
hour I have waited for is come."

An agonising cry for help rang through the silent street, but there was
no answer to the call.

"It is useless," said the girl calmly. "It will be accounted an
accident. Your servant bought the rope that will be found with you. Any
one who knows you will have an explanation ready for what has happened.
No one will suspect me, and I want you to know that your death will be
unavenged, prince though you are."

"You are a demon," he cried.

She watched him silently as he stealthily climbed up the rope. He did
not appear sufficiently to realise how visible his body was against the
still luminous sky. When he was within a foot of his balcony she
loosened the rope, and again he sunk to where he had been before, and
hung there exhausted by his futile effort.

"I will marry you," he said, "if you will let me reach my balcony
again. I will, upon my honour. You shall be a princess."

She laughed lightly.

"We Venetians never forget nor forgive. Prince Padema, good-bye!"

She sunk fainting in her chair as she let go the rope, and clapped her
hands to her ears, so that no sound came up from the stone street
below. When she staggered into her room, all was silence.


The large mansion of Louis Heckle, millionaire and dealer in gold
mines, was illuminated from top to bottom. Carriages were arriving and
departing, and guests were hurrying up the carpeted stair after passing
under the canopy that stretched from the doorway to the edge of the
street. A crowd of on-lookers stood on the pavement watching the
arrival of ladies so charmingly attired. Lord Stansford came alone in a
hansom, and he walked quickly across the bit of carpet stretched to the
roadway, and then more leisurely up the broad stair. He was an athletic
young fellow of twenty-six, or thereabout. The moment he entered the
large reception-room his eyes wandered, searchingly, over the gallant
company, apparently looking for some one whom he could not find. He
passed into a further room, and through that into a third, and there,
his searching gaze met the stare of Billy Heckle. Heckle was a young
man of about the same age as Lord Stansford, and he also was seemingly
on the look-out for some one among the arriving guests. The moment he
saw Lord Stansford a slight frown gathered upon his brow, and he moved
among the throng toward the spot where the other, stood. Stansford saw
him coming, and did not seem to be so pleased as might have been
expected, but he made no motion to avoid the young man, who accosted
him without salutation.

"Look here," said Heckle gruffly, "I want a word with you."

"Very well," answered Stansford, in a low voice; "so long as you speak
in tones no one else can hear, I am willing to listen."

"You will listen, whether or no," replied the other, who, nevertheless,
took the hint and subdued his voice. "I have met you on various
occasions lately, and I want to give you a word of warning. You seem to
be very devoted to Miss Linderham, so perhaps you do not know she is
engaged to me."

"I have heard it so stated," said Lord Stansford, "but I have found
some difficulty in believing the statement."

"Now, see here," cried the horsey young man, "I want none of your
cheek, and I give you fair warning that, if you pay any more attention
to the young lady, I shall expose you in public. I mean what I say, and
I am not going to stand any of your nonsense."

Lord Stansford's face grew pale, and he glanced about him to see if by
chance any one had overheard the remark. He seemed about to resent it,
but finally gained control over himself and said--

"We are in your father's house, Mr. Heckle, and I suppose it is quite
safe to address a remark like that to me!"

"I know it's quite safe--anywhere," replied Heckle. "You've got the
straight tip from me; now see you pay attention to it."

Heckle turned away, and Lord Stansford, after standing there for a
moment, wandered back to the middle room. The conversation had taken
place somewhat near a heavily-curtained window, and the two men stood
slightly apart from the other guests. When they left the spot the
curtains were drawn gently apart, and a tall, very handsome young lady
stepped from between them. She watched Lord Stansford's retreat for a
moment, and then made as though she would follow him, but one of her
admirers came forward to claim her hand for the first dance. "Music has
just begun in the ball-room," he said. She placed her hand on the arm
of her partner and went out with him.

When the dance was over, she was amazed to see Lord Stansford still in
the room. She had expected him to leave, when the son of his host spoke
so insultingly to him, but the young man had not departed. He appeared
to be enjoying himself immensely, and danced through every dance with
the utmost devotion, which rather put to shame many of the young men
who lounged against the walls; never once, however, did he come near
Miss Linderham until the evening was well on, and then he passed her by
accident. She touched him on the arm with her fan, and he looked round

"Oh, how do you do, Miss Linderham?" he said.

"Why have you ignored me all the evening?" she asked, looking at him
with sparkling eyes.

"I haven't ignored you," he replied, with some embarrassment; "I did
not know you were here."

"Oh, that is worse than ignoring," replied Miss Linderham, with a
laugh; "but now that you do know I am here, I wish you to take me into
the garden. It is becoming insufferably hot in here."

"Yes," said the young man, getting red in the face, "it is warm."

The girl could not help noticing his reluctance, but nevertheless she
took his arm, and they passed through several rooms to the terrace
which faced the garden. Lord Stansford's anxious eyes again seemed to
search the rooms through which they passed, and again, on encountering
those of Billy Heckle, Miss Linderham's escort shivered slightly as he
passed on. The girl wondered what mystery was at the bottom of all
this, and with feminine curiosity resolved to find out, even if she had
to ask Lord Stansford himself. They sauntered along one of the walks
until they reached a seat far from the house. The music floated out to
them through the open windows, faint in the distance. Miss Linderham
sat down and motioned Lord Stansford to sit beside her. "Now," she
said, turning her handsome face full upon him, "why have you avoided me
all the evening?"

"I haven't avoided you," he said.

"Tut, tut, you mustn't contradict a lady, you know. I want the reason,
the real reason, and no excuses."

Before the young man could reply, Billy Heckle, his face flushed with
wine or anger, or perhaps both, strode down the path and confronted

"I gave you your warning," he cried.

Lord Stansford sprang to his feet; Miss Linderham arose also, and
looked in some alarm from one young man to the other.

"Stop a moment, Heckle; don't say a word, and I will meet you where you
like afterwards," hurriedly put in his lordship.

"Afterwards is no good to me," answered Heckle. "I gave you the tip,
and you haven't followed it."

"I beg you to remember," said Stansford, in a low voice with a tremor
in it, "there is a lady present."

Miss Linderham turned to go.

"Stop a moment," cried Heckle; "do you know who this man is?"

Miss Linderham stopped, but did not answer.

"I'll tell you who he is: he is a hired guest. My father pays five
guineas for his presence here to-night, and every place you have met
him, he has been there on hire. That's the kind of man Lord Stansford
is. I told you I should expose you. Now I am going to tell the others."

Lord Stansford's face was as white as paper. His teeth were clinched,
and taking one quick step forward, he smote Heckle fair between the two
eyes and felled him to the ground.

"You cur!" he cried. "Get up, or I shall kick you, and hate myself ever
after for doing it."

Young Heckle picked himself up, cursing under his breath.

"I'll settle with you, my man," he cried; "I'll get a policeman. You'll
spend the remainder of this night in the cells."

"I shall do nothing of the sort," answered Lord Stansford, catching him
by both wrists with an iron grasp. "Now pay attention to me, Billy
Heckle: you feel my grip on your wrist; you felt my blow in your face,
didn't you? Now you go into the house by whatever back entrance there
is, go to your room, wash the blood off your face, and stay there,
otherwise, by God, I'll break both of your wrists as you stand here,"
and he gave the wrists a wrench that made the other wince, big and
bulky as he was.

"I promise," said Heckle.

"Very well, see that you keep your promise."

Young Heckle slunk away, and Lord Stansford turned to Miss Linderham,
who stood looking on, speechless with horror and surprise.

"What a brute you are!" she cried, her under lip quivering.

"Yes," he replied quietly. "Most of us men are brutes when you take a
little of the varnish off. Won't you sit down, Miss Linderham? There is
no need now to reply to the question you asked me: the incident you
have witnessed, and what you have heard, has been its answer."

The young lady did not sit down; she stood looking at him, her eyes
softening a trifle.

"Is it true, then?" she cried.

"Is what true?"

"That you are here as a hired guest?"

"Yes, it is true."

"Then why did you knock him down, if it was the truth?"

"Because he spoke the truth before you."

"I hope, Lord Stansford, you don't mean to imply that I am in any way
responsible for your ruffianism?"

"You are, and in more than one sense of the word. That young fellow
threatened me when I came here to-night, knowing that I was his
father's hired guest; I did not wish exposure, and so I avoided you.
You spoke to me, and asked me to bring you out here. I came, knowing
that if Heckle saw me he would carry out his threat. He has carried it
out, and I have had the pleasure of knocking him down."

Miss Linderham sank upon the seat, and once more motioned with her fan
for him to take the place beside her.

"Then you receive five guineas a night for appearing at the different
places where I have met you?"

"As a matter of fact," said Stansford, "I get only two guineas. I
suppose the other three, if such is the price paid, goes to my

"I thought Mr. Heckle was your employer tonight?"

"I mean to the company who let me out, if I make myself clear; Spink
and Company. Telephone 100,803. If you should ever want an eligible
guest for any entertainment you give, and men are scarce, you have only
to telephone them, and they will send me to you."

"Oh, I see," said Miss Linderham, tapping her knee with the fan.

"It is only justice to my fellow employes," continued Lord Stansford,
"to say that I believe they are all eligible young men, but many of
them may be had for a guinea. The charge in my case is higher as I have
a title. I have tried to flatter myself that it was my polished,
dignified manner that won me the extra remuneration; but after your
exclamation on my brutality to-night, I am afraid I must fall back on
my title. We members of the aristocracy come high, you know."

There was silence between them for a few moments, and then the girl
looked up at him and said--

"Aren't you ashamed of your profession, Lord Stansford?"

"Yes," replied Lord Stansford, "I am."

"Then why do you follow it?"

"Why does a man sweep a street-crossing? Lack of money. One must have
money, you know, to get along in this world; and I, alas, have none. I
had a little once; I wanted to make it more, so gambled--and lost. I
laid low for a couple of years, and saw none of my old acquaintances;
but it was no use, there was nothing I could turn my hand to. This
profession, as you call it, led me back into my old set again. It is
true that many of the houses I frequented before my disaster overtook
me, do not hire guests. I am more in demand by the new-rich, like
Heckle here, who, with his precious son, does not know how to treat a
guest, even when that guest is hired."

"But I should think," said Miss Linderham, "that a man like you would
go to South Africa or Australia, where there are great things to be
done. I imagine, from the insight I have had into your character, you
would make a good fighter. Why don't you go where fighting is
appreciated, and where they do not call a policeman?"

"I have often thought of it, Miss Linderham, but you see, to secure an
appointment, one needs to have a certain amount of influence, and be
able to pass examinations, I can't pass an examination in anything. I
have quarrelled with all my people, and have no influence. To tell you
the truth, I am saving up money now in the hope of being able to buy an
outfit to go to the Cape."

"You would much rather be in London, though, I suppose?"

"Yes, if I had a reasonably good income."

"Are you open to a fair offer?"

"What do you mean by a fair offer?"

"I mean, would you entertain a proposal in your present line of
business with increased remuneration?"

The young man sat silent for a few moments and did not look at his
companion. When he spoke there was a shade of resentment in his voice.

"I thought you saw, Miss Linderham, that I was not very proud of my
present occupation."

"No, but, as you said, a man will do anything for money."

"I beg your pardon for again contradicting you, but I never said
anything of the sort."

"I thought you did, when you were speaking of the crossing-sweeping;
but never mind, I know a lady who has plenty of money; she is an
artist; at least, she thinks she is one, and wishes to devote her life
to art. She is continually pestered by offers of marriage, and she
knows these offers come to her largely because of her money. Now, this
lady wishes to marry a man, and will settle upon him two thousand
pounds a year. Would you be willing to accept that offer if I got you
an introduction?"

"It would depend very much on the lady," said Stansford.

"Oh no, it wouldn't; for you would have nothing whatever to do with
her, except that you would be her hired husband. She wants to devote
herself to painting, not to you--don't you understand? and so long as
you did not trouble her, you could enjoy your two thousand pounds a
year. You, perhaps, might have to appear at some of the receptions she
would give, and I have no doubt she would add five guineas an evening
for your presence. That would be an extra, you know."

There was a long silence between them after Maggie Linderham ceased
speaking. The young man kicked the gravel with his toes, and his eyes
were bent upon the path before him. "He is thinking it over," said Miss
Linderham to herself. At last Lord Stansford looked up, with a sigh.

"Did you see the late scuffle between the unfortunate Heckle and

"Did I see it?" she asked. "How could I help seeing it?"

"Ah, then, did you notice that when he was down I helped him up?"

"Yes; and threatened to break his wrists when you got him up."

"Quite so. I should have done it, too, if he had not promised. But what
I wanted to call your attention to, was the fact that he was standing
up when I struck him, and I want also to impress upon you the other
fact, that I did not hit him when he was down. Did you notice that?"

"Of course, I noticed it. No man would hit another when he was down."

"I am very glad, Miss Linderham, that you recognise it as a code of
honour with us men, brutes as we are. Don't you think a woman should be
equally generous?"

"Certainly; but I don't see what you mean."

"I mean this, Miss Linderham, that your offer is hitting me when I'm

"Oh!" exclaimed Miss Linderham, in dismay. "I'm sure I beg your pardon;
I did not look at it in that light."

"Oh, it doesn't matter very much," said Stansford, rising; "it's all
included in the two guineas, but I'm pleased to think I have some self-
respect left, and that I can refuse your lady, and will not become a
hired husband at two thousand pounds a year. May I see you back to the
house, Miss Linderham? As you are well aware, I have duties towards
other guests who are not hired, and it is a point of honour with me to
earn my money. I wouldn't like a complaint to reach the ears of Spink
and Company."

Miss Linderham rose and placed her hand within his arm.

"Telephone, what number?" she asked.

"Telephone 100,803," he answered. "I am sorry the firm did not provide
me with some of their cards when I was at the office this afternoon."

"It doesn't matter," said Miss Linderham; "I will remember," and they
entered the house together.

Next day, at a large studio in Kensington, none of the friends who had
met Miss Linderham at the ball the evening before would have recognised
the girl; not but what she was as pretty as ever, perhaps a little
prettier, with her long white pinafore and her pretty fingers
discoloured by the crayons she was using. She was trying to sketch upon
the canvas before her the figure of a man, striking out from the
shoulder, and she did not seem to have much success with her drawing,
perhaps because she had no model, and perhaps because her mind was pre-
occupied. She would sit for a long time staring at the canvas, then
jump up and put in lines which did not appear to bring the rough sketch
any nearer perfection.

The room was large, with a good north window, and scattered about were
the numberless objects that go to the confusing make-up of an artist's
workshop. At last Miss Linderham threw down her crayon, went to the end
of the room where a telephone hung, and rang the bell.

"Give me," she said, "100,803."

After a few moments of waiting, a voice came.

"Is that Spink and Company?" she asked.

"Yes, madam," was the reply.

"You have in your employ Lord Stansford, I think?"

"Yes, madam."

"Is he engaged for this afternoon?"

"No, madam."

"Well, send him to Miss Linderham, No. 2,044, Cromwell Road, South

The man at the other end wrote the address, and then asked--

"At what hour, madam?"

"I want him from four till six o'clock."

"Very well, madam, we shall send him."

"Now," said Miss Linderham, with a sigh of relief, "I can have a model
who will strike the right attitude. It is so difficult to draw from

The reason why so many women fail as artists, as well as in many other
professions, may be because they pay so much attention to their own
dress. It is an astonishing fact to record that Miss Linderham sent out
for a French hairdresser, who was a most expensive man, and whom she
generally called in only when some very important function was about to
take place.

"I want you," she said, "to dress my hair in an artistic way, and yet
in a manner that it will seem as if no particular trouble had been
taken. Do you understand me?"

"Ah, perfectly, mademoiselle," said the polite Frenchman. "You shall be
so fascinating, mademoiselle, that--"

"Yes," said Miss Linderham, "that is what I want."

At three o'clock she had on a dainty gown. The sleeves were turned up,
as if she were ready for the most serious work. The spotless pinafore
which covered this dress had the most fetching little frill around it;
all in all, it was doubtful if any studio in London, even one belonging
to the most celebrated painter, had in it as pretty a picture as Miss
Maggie Linderham was that afternoon. At three o'clock there came a ring
at the telephone, and when Miss Linderham answered the call, the voice
which she had heard before said--"I am very sorry to disappoint you,
madam, but Lord Stansford resigned this afternoon. We could send you
another man if you liked to have him."

"No, no!" cried Miss Linderham; and the man at the other end of the
telephone actually thought she was weeping.

"No, I don't want any one else. It doesn't really matter."

"The other man," replied the voice, "would be only two guineas, and it
was five for Lord Stansford. We could send you a man for a guinea,
although we don't recommend him."

"No," said Miss Linderham, "I don't want anybody. I am glad Lord
Stansford is not coming, as the little party I proposed to give, has
been postponed."

"Ah, then, when it does come off, madam, I hope:--"

But Miss Linderham hung up the receiver, and did not listen to the
recommendations the man was sending over the wire about his hired
guests. The chances are that Maggie Linderham would have cried had it
not been that her hair was so nicely, yet carelessly, done; but before
she had time to make up her mind what to do, the trim little maid came
along the gallery and down the steps into the studio, with a silver
salver in her hand, and on it a card, which she handed to Miss
Linderham, who picked up the card and read, "Richard Stansford."

"Oh," she cried joyfully, "ask him to come here."

"Won't you see him in the drawing-room, miss?"

"No, no; tell Kim I am very busy, and bring him to the studio."

The maid went up the stair again. Miss Linderham, taking one long,
careful glance at herself, looking over her shoulder in the tall
mirror, and not caring to touch her wealth of hair, picked up her
crayon and began making the sketch of the striking man even worse than
it was before. She did not look round until she heard Lord Stansford's
step on the stair, then she gave an exclamation of surprise on seeing
him. The young man was dressed in a wide-awake hat, and the costume
which we see in the illustrated papers as picturing our friends in
South Africa. All he needed was a belt of cartridges and a rifle to
make the picture complete.

"This is hardly the dress a man is supposed to wear in London when he
makes an afternoon call on a lady, Miss Linderham," said the young man,
with a laugh, "but I had either to come this way or not at all, for my
time is very limited. I thought it was too bad to leave the country
without giving you an opportunity to apologise for your conduct last
night, and for the additional insult of hiring me for two hours this
afternoon. And so, you see, I came."

"I am very glad you did," replied Miss Linderham. "I was much
disappointed when they telephoned me this afternoon that you had
resigned. I must say that you look exceedingly well in that outfit,
Lord Stansford."

"Yes," said the young man, casting a glance over himself; "I am
compelled to admit that it is rather becoming. I have had the pleasure
of attracting a good deal of attention as I came along the street."

"They took you for a cowboy, I suppose?"

"Well, something of that sort. The small boy, I regret to say, was so
unfeeling as to sing 'He's got 'em on,' and other ribald ditties of
that kind, which they seemed to think suited the occasion. But others
looked at me with great respect, which compensated for the
disadvantages. Will you pardon the rudeness of a pioneer, Miss
Linderham, when I say that you look even more charming in the studio
dress than you did in ball costume, and I never thought that could be

"Oh," cried the girl, flushing, perhaps, because the crimson paint on
the palette she had picked up reflected on her cheek. "You must excuse
this working garb, as I did not expect visitors. You see, they
telephoned me that you were not coming."

The deluded young man actually thought this statement was correct,
which in part it was, and he believed also that the luxuriant hair
tossed up here and there with seeming carelessness was not the result
of an art far superior to any the girl herself had ever put upon

"So you are off to South Africa?" she said.

"Yes, the Cape."

"Oh, is the Cape in South Africa?"

"Well, I think so," replied the young man, somewhat dubiously, "but I
wouldn't be certain about it, though the steamship company guarantee to
land me at the Cape, wherever it is."

The girl laughed.

"You must have given it a great deal of thought," she said, "when you
don't really know where you are going."

"Oh, I have a better idea of direction than you give me credit for. I
am not such a fool as I looked last night, you know; then I belonged to
Spink and Company, and was sublet by them to old Heckle; now I belong
to myself and South Africa. That makes a world of difference, you

"I see it does," replied Miss Linderham. "Won't you sit down?"

The girl herself sank into an armchair, while Stansford sat on a low
table, swinging one foot to and fro, his wide-brimmed hat thrown back,
and gazed at the girl until she reddened more than ever. Neither spoke
for some moments.

"Do you know," said Stansford at last, "that when I look at you South
Africa seems a long distance away!"

"I thought it was a long distance away," said the girl, without looking

"Yes; but it's longer and more lonely when one looks at you. By Jove,
if I thought I couldn't do better, I would be tempted to take that two
thousand a year offer of yours and--"

"It wasn't an offer of mine," cried the girl hastily. "Perhaps the lady
I was thinking of wouldn't have agreed to it, even if I had spoken to
her about it."

"That is quite true; still, I think if she had seen me in this outfit
she would have thought me worth the money."

"You think you can make more than two thousand a year out in South
Africa? You have become very hopeful all in a moment. It seems to me
that a man who thinks he can make two thousand a year is very foolish
to let himself out at two guineas an evening."

"Do you know, Miss Linderham, that was just what I thought myself, and
I told the respectable Spink so, too. I told him I had had an offer of
two thousand a year in his own line of business. He said that no firm
in London could afford the money. 'Why,' he cried, waxing angry, 'I
could get a Duke for that.'"

"'Well,' I replied, 'it is purely a matter of business with me. I was
offered two thousand pounds a year as ornamental man by a most charming
young lady, who has a studio in South Kensington, and who is herself,
when dressed up as an artist, prettier than any picture that ever
entered the Royal Academy'; that's what I told Spink."

The girl looked up at him, first with indignation in her eyes, and then
with a smile hovering about her pretty lips.

"You said nothing of the sort," she answered, "for you knew nothing
about this studio at that time, so you see I am not going to emulate
your dishonesty by pretending not to know you are referring to me."

"My dishonesty!" exclaimed the young man, with protest in his voice. "I
am the most honest, straightforward person alive, and I believe I would
take your two thousand a year offer if I didn't think I could do

"Where, in South Africa?"

"No, in South Kensington. I think that when the lady learns how useful
I could be around a studio--oh, I could learn to wash brushes, sweep
out the room, prepare canvases, light the fire; and how nicely I could
hand around cups of tea when she had her 'At Homes,' and exhibited her
pictures! When she realises this, and sees what a bargain she is
getting, I feel almost certain she will not make any terms at all."

The young man sprang from the table, and the girl rose from her chair,
a look almost of alarm in her face. He caught her by the arms.

"What do you think, Miss Linderham? You know the lady. Don't you think
she would refuse to have anything to do with a cad like Billy Heckle,
rich as he is, and would prefer a humble, hard-working farmer from the

The girl did not answer his question.

"Are you going to break my arms as you threatened to do his wrists last

"Maggie," he whispered, in a low voice, with an intense ring in it, "I
am going to break nothing but my own heart if you refuse me."

The girl looked up at him with a smile.

"I knew when you came in you weren't going to South Africa, Dick," was
all she said; and he, taking advantage of her helplessness, kissed her.


Eugene Caspilier sat at one of the metal tables of the Cafe Egalite,
allowing the water from the carafe to filter slowly through a lump of
sugar and a perforated spoon into his glass of absinthe. It was not an
expression of discontent that was to be seen on the face of Caspilier,
but rather a fleeting shade of unhappiness which showed he was a man to
whom the world was being unkind. On the opposite side of the little
round table sat his friend and sympathising companion, Henri Lacour. He
sipped his absinthe slowly, as absinthe should be sipped, and it was
evident that he was deeply concerned with the problem that confronted
his comrade.

"Why, in Heaven's name, did you marry her? That, surely, was not

Eugene shrugged his shoulders. The shrug said plainly, "Why, indeed?
Ask me an easier one."

For some moments there was silence between the two. Absinthe is not a
liquor to be drunk hastily, or even to be talked over too much in the
drinking. Henri did not seem to expect any other reply than the
expressive shrug, and each man consumed his beverage dreamily, while
the absinthe, in return for this thoughtful consideration, spread over
them its benign influence, gradually lifting from their minds all care
and worry, dispersing the mental clouds that hover over all men at
times, thinning the fog until it disappeared, rather than rolling the
vapour away, as the warm sun dissipates into invisibility the opaque
morning mists, leaving nothing but clear air, all round, and a blue sky

"A man must live," said Caspilier at last; "and the profession of
decadent poet is not a lucrative one. Of course there is undying fame
in the future, but then we must have our absinthe in the present. Why
did I marry her, you ask? I was the victim of my environment. I must
write poetry; to write poetry, I must live; to live, I must have money;
to get money, I was forced to marry. Valdoreme is one of the best
pastry-cooks in Paris; is it my fault, then, that the Parisians have a
greater love for pastry than for poetry? Am I to blame that her wares
are more sought for at her shop than are mine at the booksellers'? I
would willingly have shared the income of the shop with her without the
folly of marriage, but Valdoreme has strange, barbaric notions which
were not overturnable by civilised reason. Still my action was not
wholly mercenary, nor indeed mainly so. There was a rhythm about her
name that pleased me. Then she is a Russian, and my country and hers
were at that moment in each other's arms, so I proposed to Valdoreme
that we follow the national example. But, alas! Henri, my friend, I
find that even ten years' residence in Paris will not eliminate the
savage from the nature of a Russian. In spite of the name that sounds
like the soft flow of a rich mellow wine, my wife is little better than
a barbarian. When I told her about Tenise, she acted like a mad woman--
drove me into the streets."

"But why did you tell her about Tenise?"

"_Pourquoi?_ How I hate that word! Why! Why!! Why!!! It dogs one's
actions like a bloodhound, eternally yelping for a reason. It seems to
me that a11 my life I have had to account to an inquiring why. I don't
know why I told her; it did not appear to be a matter requiring any
thought or consideration. I spoke merely because Tenise came into my
mind at the moment. But after that, the deluge; I shudder when I think
of it."

"Again the why?" said the poet's friend. "Why not cease to think of
conciliating your wife? Russians are unreasoning aborigines. Why not
take up life in a simple poetic way with Tenise, and avoid the Rue de
Russie altogether?"

Caspilier sighed gently. Here fate struck him hard. "Alas! my friend,
it is impossible. Tenise is an artist's model, and those brutes of
painters who get such prices for their daubs, pay her so little each
week that her wages would hardly keep me in food and drink. My paper,
pens, and ink I can get at the cafes, but how am I to clothe myself? If
Valdoreme would but make us a small allowance, we could be so happy.
Valdoreme is madame, as I have so often told her, and she owes me
something for that; but she actually thinks that because a man is
married he should come dutifully home like a bourgeois grocer. She has
no poetry, no sense of the needs of a literary man, in her nature."

Lacour sorrowfully admitted that the situation had its embarrassments.
The first glass of absinthe did not show clearly how they were to be
met, but the second brought bravery with it, and he nobly offered to
beard the Russian lioness in her den, explain the view Paris took of
her unjustifiable conduct, and, if possible, bring her to reason.

Caspilier's emotion overcame him, and he wept silently, while his
friend, in eloquent language, told how famous authors, whose names were
France's proudest possession, had been forgiven by their wives for
slight lapses from strict domesticity, and these instances, he said, he
would recount to Madame Valdoreme, and so induce her to follow such
illustrious examples.

The two comrades embraced and separated; the friend to use his
influence and powers of persuasion with Valdoreme; the husband to tell
Tenise how blessed they were in having such a friend to intercede for
them; for Tenise, bright little Parisienne that she was, bore no malice
against the unreasonable wife of her lover.

Henri Lacour paused opposite the pastry-shop on the Rue de Russia that
bore the name of "Valdoreme" over the temptingly filled windows. Madame
Caspilier had not changed the title of her well-known shop when she
gave up her own name. Lacour caught sight of her serving her customers,
and he thought she looked more like a Russian princess than a
shopkeeper. He wondered now at the preference of his friend for the
petite black-haired model. Valdoreme did not seem more than twenty; she
was large, and strikingly handsome, with abundant auburn hair that was
almost red. Her beautifully moulded chin denoted perhaps too much
firmness, and was in striking contrast to the weakness of her husband's
lower face. Lacour almost trembled as she seemed to flash one look
directly at him, and, for a moment, he feared she had seen him
loitering before the window. Her eyes were large, of a limpid amber
colour, but deep within them smouldered a fire that Lacour felt he
would not care to see blaze up. His task now wore a different aspect
from what it had worn in front of the Cafe Egalite. Hesitating a
moment, he passed the shop, and, stopping at a neighbouring cafe,
ordered another glass of absinthe. It is astonishing how rapidly the
genial influence of this stimulant departs!

Fortified once again, he resolved to act before his courage had time to
evaporate, and so, goading himself on with the thought that no man
should be afraid to meet any woman, be she Russian or civilised, he
entered the shop, making his most polite bow to Madame Caspilier.

"I have come, madame," he began, "as the friend of your husband, to
talk with you regarding his affairs."

"Ah!" said Valdoreme; and Henri saw with dismay the fires deep down in
her eyes rekindle. But she merely gave some instructions to an
assistant, and, turning to Lacour, asked him to be so good as to follow

She led him through the shop and up a stair at the back, throwing open
a door on the first floor. Lacour entered a neat drawing-room, with
windows opening out upon the street. Madame Caspilier seated herself at
a table, resting her elbow upon it, shading her eyes with her hand, and
yet Lacour felt them searching his very soul.

"Sit down," she said. "You are my husband's friend. What have you to

Now, it is a difficult thing for a man to tell a beautiful woman that
her husband--for the moment--prefers some one else, so Lacour began on
generalities. He said a poet might be likened to a butterfly, or
perhaps to the more industrious bee, who sipped honey from every
flower, and so enriched the world. A poet was a law unto himself, and
should not be judged harshly from what might be termed a shopkeeping
point of view. Then Lacour, warming to his work, gave many instances
where the wives of great men had condoned and even encouraged their
husbands' little idiosyncrasies, to the great augmenting of our most
valued literature.

Now and then, as this eloquent man talked, Valdoreme's eyes seemed to
flame dangerously in the shadow, but the woman neither moved nor
interrupted him while he spoke. When he had finished, her voice sounded
cold and unimpassioned, and he felt with relief that the outbreak he
had feared was at least postponed.

"You would advise me then," she began, "to do as the wife of that great
novelist did, and invite my husband and the woman he admires to my

"Oh, I don't say I could ask you to go so far as that," said Lacour;

"I'm no halfway woman. It is all or nothing with me. If I invited my
husband to dine with me, I would also invite this creature--What is her
name? Tenise, you say. Well, I would invite her too. Does she know he
is a married man?"

"Yes," cried Lacour eagerly; "but I assure you, madame, she has nothing
but the kindliest feelings towards you. There is no jealousy about

"How good of her! How very good of her!" said the Russian woman, with
such bitterness that Lacour fancied uneasily that he had somehow made
an injudicious remark, whereas all his efforts were concentrated in a
desire to conciliate and please.

"Very well," said Valdoreme, rising. "You may tell my husband that you
have been successful in your mission. Tell him that I will provide for
them both. Ask them to honour me with their presence at breakfast to-
morrow morning at twelve o'clock. If he wants money, as you say, here
are two hundred francs, which will perhaps be sufficient for his wants
until midday to-morrow."

Lacour thanked her with a profuse graciousness that would have
delighted any ordinary giver, but Valdoreme stood impassive like a
tragedy queen, and seemed only anxious that he should speedily take his
departure, now that his errand was done.

The heart of the poet was filled with joy when he heard from his friend
that at last Valdoreme had come to regard his union with Tenise in the
light of reason. Caspilier, as he embraced Lacour, admitted that
perhaps there was something to be said for his wife after all.

The poet dressed himself with more than usual care on the day of the
feast, and Tenise, who accompanied him, put on some of the finery that
had been bought with Valdoreme's donation. She confessed that she
thought Eugene's wife had acted with consideration towards them, but
maintained that she did not wish to meet her, for, judging from
Caspilier's account, his wife must be a somewhat formidable and
terrifying person; still she went with him, she said, solely through
good nature, and a desire to heal family differences. Tenise would do
anything in the cause of domestic peace.

The shop assistant told the pair, when they had dismissed the cab, that
madame was waiting for them upstairs. In the drawing-room Valdoreme was
standing with her back to the window like a low-browed goddess, her
tawny hair loose over her shoulders, and the pallor of her face made
more conspicuous by her costume of unrelieved black. Caspilier, with
the grace characteristic of him, swept off his hat, and made a low,
deferential bow; but when he straightened himself up, and began to say
the complimentary things and poetical phrases he had put together for
the occasion at the cafe the night before, the lurid look of the
Russian made his tongue falter; and Tenise, who had never seen a woman
of this sort before, laughed a nervous, half-frightened little laugh,
and clung closer to her lover than before. The wife was even more
forbidding than she had imagined. Valdoreme shuddered slightly when she
saw this intimate movement on the part of her rival, and her hand
clenched and unclenched convulsively.

"Come," she said, cutting short her husband's halting harangue, and
sweeping past them, drawing her skirts aside on nearing Tenise, she led
the way up to the dining-room a floor higher.

"I'm afraid of her," whimpered Tenise, holding back. "She will poison

"Nonsense," said Caspilier, in a whisper. "Come along. She is too fond
of me to attempt anything of that kind, and you are safe when I am

Valdoreme sat at the head of the table, with her husband at her right
hand and Tenise on her left. The breakfast was the best either of them
had ever tasted. The hostess sat silent, but no second talker was
needed when the poet was present. Tenise laughed merrily now and then
at his bright sayings, for the excellence of the meal had banished her
fears of poison.

"What penetrating smell is this that fills the room? Better open the
window," said Caspilier.

"It is nothing," replied Valdoreme, speaking for the first time since
they had sat down. "It is only naphtha. I have had this room cleaned
with it. The window won't open, and if it would, we could not hear you
talk with the noise from the street."

The poet would suffer anything rather than have his eloquence
interfered with, so he said no more about the fumes of naphtha. When
the coffee was brought in, Valdoreme dismissed the trim little maid who
had waited on them.

"I have some of your favourite cigarettes here. I will get them."

She arose, and, as she went to the table on which the boxes lay, she
quietly and deftly locked the door, and, pulling out the key, slipped
it into her pocket.

"Do you smoke, mademoiselle?" she asked, speaking to Tenise. She had
not recognised her presence before.

"Sometimes, madame," answered the girl, with a titter.

"You will find these cigarettes excellent. My husband's taste in
cigarettes is better than in many things. He prefers the Russian to the

Caspilier laughed loudly.

"That's a slap at you, Tenise," he said.

"At me? Not so; she speaks of cigarettes, and I myself prefer the
Russian, only they are so expensive."

A look of strange eagerness came into Valdoreme's expressive face,
softened by a touch of supplication. Her eyes were on her husband, but
she said rapidly to the girl--"

"Stop a moment, mademoiselle. Do not light your cigarette until I give
the word."

Then to her husband she spoke beseechingly in Russian, a language she
had taught him in the early months of their marriage.

"Eugenio, Eugenio!' Don't you see the girl's a fool? How can you care
for her? She would be as happy with the first man she met in the
street. I--I think only of you. Come back to me, Eugenio."

She leaned over the table towards him, and in her vehemence clasped his
wrist. The girl watched them both with a smile. It reminded her of a
scene in an opera she had heard once in a strange language. The prima
donna had looked and pleaded like Valdoreme.

Caspilier shrugged his shoulders, but did not withdraw his wrist from
her firm grasp.

"Why go over the whole weary ground again?" he said. "If it were not
Tenise, it would be somebody else. I was never meant for a constant
husband, Val. I understood from Lacour that we were to have no more of
this nonsense."

She slowly relaxed her hold on his unresisting wrist. The old, hard,
tragic look came into her face as she drew a deep breath. The fire in
the depths of her amber eyes rekindled, as the softness went out of

"You may light your cigarette now, mademoiselle," she said almost in a
whisper to Tenise.

"I swear I could light mine in your eyes, Val.," cried her husband.
"You would make a name for yourself on the stage. I will write a
tragedy for you, and we will--"

Tenise struck the match. A simultaneous flash of lightning and clap of
thunder filled the room. The glass in the window fell clattering into
the street. Valdoreme was standing with her back against the door.
Tenise, fluttering her helpless little hands before her, tottered
shrieking to the broken window. Caspilier, staggering panting, to his
feet, gasped--

"You Russian devil! The key, the key!"

He tried to clutch her throat, but she pushed him back.

"Go to your Frenchwoman. She's calling for help."

Tenise sank by the window, one burning arm over the sill, and was
silent. Caspilier, mechanically beating back the fire from his shaking
head, whimpering and sobbing, fell against the table, and then went
headlong on the floor.

Valdoreme, a pillar, of fire, swaying gently to and fro before the
door, whispered in a voice of agony--

"Oh, Eugene, Eugene!" and flung herself like a flaming angel--or fiend
--on the prostrate form of the man.


Back to Full Books