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and a shadow of regret crossed her face.
'Some day he will marry,' she said, of course-marry into his own class. Some rich widow, he says-only she must be very rich, or he won't have her-or some young prude of the haute volée, who knows! or some American beauty; but she will have to be a millionairess at the very least. Till then he has promised to love no one but me.'
And you are happy, Linda?
Why, yes-as the world goes.' She was unconscious how her ideal of happiness, never highflown, had declined, and was declining. 'Come,' she said provokingly, piqued by the clearest dissonance in her companion's expression, 'you are not going to be prim and sanctimonious with me, I hope. Those fashions are well enough for some people, but rather out of place, my dear, among ourselves.'
'Then you cared so much,' said Laurence slowly, 'that you did not mind anything else in the world?'
Linda demurred, feeling that was anything but a correct version of the passage in her life referred to.
'Well, he would have committed any folly for my sake,' she said evasively. 'I suppose it is foolish to love anybody; if so, we were fools, both of us, he and I, and there is an end. But I think we have talked enough,' she said, changing her tone, and pretending to yawn. I for one shall not keep awake much longer.'
Perhaps she felt vaguely that they were talking at cross-purposes, as old comrades whose minds have drifted apart must do. In any case her lips were closed as regards further revelations. Gazing at the young violin-player, a new sensation had crossed her.
That girl was beautiful in her way -promised to become still more so. How young-looking still, and unworn! Poor Linda! A pang of unprofessional jealousy had come and gone, like the flap of a bat's wings.
Mdlle. Visconti settled herself comfortably, and slept soon. Not so the other. Flung back on thoughts that kept her wakeful for hours. Something in her had died since that night at the Villa Marta-that night which had made all clear. It is woman's destiny, they say, to love. Had she thought she would escape it? had she rashly defied it? that the powers that rule our lives must send it her thus, as it were in mockery, and to test her powers of resistance?
Obedient to the light within her, she had not swerved, nor vacillated as to what she should do. The summons from Araciel had made the first step easier; for the time to come she must care herself. The link was broken; and now, as every hour put another fifty miles between herself and Rome, she became aware of a strange sense of recovered freedom. Voluntarily released from the sweet spell that threatened to subjugate her very soul-as she would not.
Free, but alone; for a woman it implies it; and all the dreariness of life seemed to close over her as she leaned there, looking out into the darkness, as the train dashed on, across the wilds of the Apennines, through rock-cut tunnels, over mountain viaducts, with faint glimpses now and then of deep ravines, torrents, lightningfelled pines, haunts as savage and fantastic as any Salvator Rosa ever painted, till the light broke, and the travellers emerged into the calm wide plain of Lombardymiles on miles of fruitful fields, broken only by long lines of pop
lars. Surely life is like locomotion-time like space, that can be traversed quickly or slowly, according to the forces at work. Laurence felt as though a long, long gap of time lay between her and her departure from Rome, when, towards noon, they reached Milan, and went their waysLinda to the crack hotel, Laurence to the friend's house where her adoptive father lodged.
As she drove up, she caught sight of him, loitering on the lookout before the door. The divine fiddler was clearly out of sorts this morning, alarmingly so; his costume partook of the disturbance, his countenance was disordered and uneasy. To many who, carried away by his playing, revered him from a distance as more than human, one glimpse of superhumanity just then must have brought cruel, lasting disenchantment. His brow cleared curiously at the sight of her face; he stared a moment, as if at a hallucination, uttered an exclamation; then hurried forward to help her dismount, muttering fervently,
'Santa Maria be praised that you have come!
'I wrote that I would,' said Laurence, surprised at the demon
True; but I could not rest for fear you might delay, or be ill or detained. Somehow I never expected to see you to-day.'
So much was apparent indoors. No preparation had been made for her arrival. The people of the house were out. It was a saint's-day, and even the servants had all gone pleasuring. The luggage was deposited anyhow, anywhere; and Laurence mounted innumerable flights of stairs to the flat where her foster-father had his habitation.
'You are hungry now, I daresay,' said Araciel compassionately;
adding, in a tone of high self-congratulation on his foresight, I thought you would be after so long a journey.'
Why, then, did you not order something to eat? was a question that none in their senses who knew him would have dreamed of putting. Laurence seated herself on a hard, high, horsehair sofa in the cheerless sitting-room into which he had brought her, and tried to collect her senses. From the first moment she saw there was need. Her own troubles were forcibly set aside. The change in Araciel's face, the nervous misery that appeared in his manner, told too plainly that something serious was amiss.
Padre, you look tired and ill,' she said.
'I have been ill,' he said, turning sharply away to avoid her look; but that's not it.' His strained painful tone completely roused Laurence from the torpor of preoccupation that was dulling her faculties. She said soothingly,
'You have been too long away from us all-from Felicia, and Cherubina, and Domenico. Why did you not join us last week, as you intended?'
He raised his eyes with a scared wandering look, and said, 'I could not go back.'
'But you will when this concert is over? What is it prevents you playing?'
He turned to her, abandoning all attempts to hide his desperation.
'Renza, I shall distress you terribly,' he stammered.
'O, never fear,' she rejoined instantly, with an almost unnatural firmness. Her own heart's hope had foundered, and she was there still. Why shrink from a fresh trial?
Somehow he felt invisibly supported, and plucked up courage to speak.
'Renza, I deceived you about the concert. I had no accident. I am not ill. At least,' and he laughed constrainedly, I may play yet; that was not why I wanted you here.'
'For what, then ?'
'I dared not write, Renza. I feared to tell Felicia, poor soul; and could think of nothing but to send for you. I trusted it would have come right, and it has not. Renza, I think if you had not come, I should just have tried what a loaded pistol could do.'
'Nay, don't talk so wildly, dear padre,' she said, painfully touched by the real suffering that showed itself in his manner. Tell me what it is.'
'It's that accursed gambling demon got possession of me again,' said Araciel seriously, talking as if his enemy were indeed a third person. 'I thought I had seen the last of him; but, as ill-luck would have it-'
He leaned his arms on the table and sank his head in his hands. 'How far has it gone?' asked Laurence gravely, by and by.
He hid his face.
'Petite, just as far as it can go. Ruin-one must stop there, I suppose. But no, I have known ruin before. I shall now have to
know disgrace.' 'That you never shall,' she said quickly; we shall prevent that. Only tell me.'
Gradually gaining courage, if not composure, under the influence of her manner, he told her all. It soothed him inexpressibly that it did not seem to distress, or at least to upset her as he had dreaded. For the misfortune came on her at a time when the material ills of this world seemed to have lost consequence, and it was easy to face them calmly.
That old passion of his for play
was the skeleton in the family cupboard. During the first years after she came to them it had repeatedly brought them into trouble, more than once to poverty; but her influence had of late proved an invaluable safeguard against foolish indulgence. There was something in her steadiness and unselfishness that shamed him out of his thoughtless mobility. Incited by circumstances, it had mastered him again, and made havoc, as such things can. upon by companions who knew his infirmity, enticed into the whirl-helpless to extricate himself-he had been duped, fleeced, led on to the wildest risks,—a short spell of madness, broken rudely, when delusion was no longer possible, to find himself with damaged health, and nerve-power giving way; his savings gone, his substance melted like snow; a heavy load of debt, and absolutely no means of extrication at command.
When once he began he kept back nothing-made a clean shrift of it. Then he stopped, still afraid to look her in the face, yet feeling the worst was over. She was there, and he had told her all.
'Padre,' she said affectionately -she rarely called him so, but knew there was nothing pleased him so much-'do not let this trouble make you despair. There is help for it, I see how, so have courage. I shall get you the money you want.'
'You, Renza!' 'Yes; see here.'
She put a letter into his hands. It was Herr Cuscus's offer, of which she had made mention to Linda. Araciel ran his eye over the paper, and muttered disapprovingly,
'Wants you to bind yourself to stay with his concert-party and play for him only, and for a year?'
Yes, but he will give high
terms. I shall accept with the stipulation that part of the sum is advanced, 30,000 francs. The money is yours.'
'No, no!' he began vehemently. She interposed firmly.
'On condition, padre, that you go back to Felicia and the children at once, and get well, and do not gamble any more. But whilst you are with them you will not, that I know.'
'But you, Renza-must you leave us?'
'Only for a time-a year at the most. Next spring you go to England. This tour finishes there in the summer; we shall meet then in London, and I shall come home to you.'
'But they said-Felicia saidyou were not yet well-that you ought not to work hard,' he objected anxiously, scarcely daring yet to believe in his rescue.
'Padre, I am well now. Think what a long rest I have had in Rome. Yes,' she said, in a distant tone, 'a long dream, from which one must wake-to work-before one grows idle. I had determined, in any case, to take this engage. ment; it chances well. Thirty thousand francs will set you free. I will send more later. You and Felicia can start again, and all will be right soon.'
'Renza,' he pleaded, 'the money is yours, not mine. How can I take it?'
Laurence put both her hands in his, saying,
'You and Felicia have been everything to me for years long. Don't talk of money. Are not your sorrows my sorrows? Do not I love you, and Felicia, and Cherubina, and Domenico? Can I be happy while you are in trouble, and could anything please me more than to help you out of it?'
Araciel was hiding his face in his hands, and sobbing like the
child he always would be. Laurence went on gaily,
'To-morrow will set everything right. You shall see. I mean Herr Cuscus to do this for us, and he will. O, I shall be greedy. I shall exact terms-exorbitant terms-but I shall get them. Come, padre, we shall get out of trouble this time.'
'Renza, it was God sent you to us exclaimed the poor fellow, divided between passionate gratitude and bitter self-reproach. 'O, may I lose my right arm if ever I look at a card or a rolling ball again!'
'Nay, your right arm is too precious. We sha'n't allow you to part with that on any terms,' said Laurence playfully. But now, padre, I should like some coffee, I confess. Travelling all night has made me ready for breakfast.'
'Ah, ah, I never thought of it,' he said remorsefully. I am a selfish idiot; my head is gone. But now I go at once and order myself what you want from the café opposite, since all these bestie' -meaning the domestics of the establishment-'have gone to take
It is all very well,' he remarked, when he had successfully performed his mission, regarding her uneasily as she sipped her coffee. 'You say you are well and strong, but you look neither.'
'It is nothing,' she said. 'You will see I am strong enough for what I have to do.'
The very next day the agreement was signed, whereby Laurence Therval bound herself over for a year to remain under the dictatorship of Herr Emanuel Cuscus, and play when and where he should appoint. The impresario, bent on securing the artiste he wanted, consented, as she had foretold, to her conditions with
out reserve,-and Araciel was saved.
From the deepest despondency he soared at once to beatitude. All in a day! With the optimism that distinguished his temperament, he saw everything in pink. Whatever Laurence told him to do, he did. Had it been to walk barefooted through the streets, he would joyfully have obeyed. She was his preserver, his good angel. He vowed never to trust himself into temptation again. Felicia must be told-not just now, if Laurence would rather not, but later. He would join his wife and children at Frascati; a short rest in villeggiatura would set him up; he would soon be well and able creditably to fulfil his autumn engagements, which had lately been a nightmare to him. What was it the papers had said the other day? That he was going off-getting old. Aha, he would show them to-night there was life left in him yet.
And he did. The sense of relief and hope made a man of him again. He played as in his best days; got an ovation that put him into spirits. His health had been severely shaken, and the evil could not be undone in a day; but now his mind was at ease, he had no more fear but that rest from work would restore him to his full powers; and a few days later he suffered himself to be despatched to join his family at Frascati.
Just as he was starting from the station, whither Laurence had accompanied him, he seemed to bethink himself. He put his hand to his forehead, and looked at Laurence. The change so suddenly brought about to her struck him vividly, and he said, with pathetic frankness,
'Petite, you are going out into the world alone, without pro
tectors, and it is my fault. You are very young; you are an artist, which means that your life cannot run in leading-strings. Keep yourself the angel-artist we have always known you, or—or—I shall feel— I shall know-it is my fault too.' She pressed his hand affectionately in reply.
We shall be always thinking of you,' he added wistfully; 'think of us sometimes.'
The train rolled away. Laurence was left standing alone on the platform, with a sense of solitude indeed.
'Mademoiselle Therval,' said a voice behind her.
She turned. There stood a commissionaire with a letter.
'From Herr Cuscus,' he said, I who wished it to be delivered immediately.'
There is no rest for the artist, no more than for the wicked. The manager wrote to beg her as a favour to attend a vocal rehearsal at his house that afternoon. Erlanger, the pianist, was anxious to try through with her the piece he was to accompany at the concert that night. Cuscus urged her to come; she would meet all her colleagues. The letter was long, and the rest of it, which she read on her way thither, threw her into some perplexity and surprise.
ADVENTURES ARE TO THE
EMANUEL CUSCUS-a notable name in every capital, from St. Petersburg to New York-had sprung from nothing to affluence and eminence, thanks entirely (so he modestly told you) to his singular talent for doing without sleep-a virtual physical indifference as to how, when, or whe