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   Chapter 15 MADAME TUSSAUD'S

The Twelfth Hour By Ada Leverson Characters: 15234

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"Savile," said Sylvia, smoothing his tie unnecessarily (a process that he endured like a martyr who had been very well brought up), "Felicity's coming to fetch me to go to Madame Tussaud's this afternoon. Would you like to come too, dear?"

"Who's your party?"

"Frank is going to meet us there, and Mrs. Ogilvie and Bertie Wilton."

"Oh, then, can I bring Dolly Clive?"

"Yes, of course, she's sweet. But-will they let her come?"

"Yes, they will with us. It's good for her history, and she can have a look in at her precious Charles II. What time?"

"Punctually about four," Felicity said. "Don't forget, Savile!"

"Righto! I'll bring Dolly and take her back. I say, shall we have tea there?"

"Of course, if you want to. Why fancy, Frank said it would be the greatest joke to dine there! You can, you know, if you like; wouldn't it be fun, and ghastly, with Byron and Peace, and Sir Campbell-Bannerman, and people like that, looking on?"

"No it wouldn't. These ghastly jokes never come off. They last too long. While you're about it, have a good dinner for Heaven's sake. And I dare say the people at the Savoy are quite as bad-if that's all-if you only knew, and more up to date."

"Yes, very likely, and people at real places often have no more expression than the waxworks. But, Savile, I thought it was all off between you and Dolly now?"

He answered, with a sigh, "So it is, in a way, but you'll learn in this life, old girl, that you must take what you can get-especially if you're not sure you can get it! Mind you," lowering his voice, "that little foreign bounder, de Saules, isn't going to have it all his own way."

"Oh," Sylvia, being in good spirits, was inclined to tease him, "I should have thought it would be a capital opportunity to show an intelligent foreigner the sights of London!"

"The intelligent foreigners are the sights of London," said Savile as he went out.

The same morning Vera rustled into her friend's room, with her usual air of vagueness and devotion, and said with a sort of despairing cry-

"Oh, Felicity darling! you're the only person in the world who always has clothes for every occasion, and knows everything. How on earth does one dress for Tussaud's? Should you regard it as a Private View, or treat it more like-say-Princes'?"

"Neither. Why on earth Princes'? Were you thinking of bringing your skates?"

"Don't be absurd. Then I had better not wear my new Paquin?"

"Certainly not. Nothing trailing, or showy. But for Heaven's sake don't dress for skating or bicycling. I fancy there is a notice up to say you can't do either of those things there. And please not too much of your Oriental embroideries."

"Well, my new tailor-made dress then, and a large hat?"

Felicity laughed.

"My dear girl, what does it matter? If you fondly imagine that any one will look at your dress while there are real horrors to see--!"

"Darling little creature!" said Vera, who absolutely idolised Felicity, and looked up to her in the most absurd way, although she was five years younger-often taking her ironical advice quite literally, and regarding her as a rare combination of faultless angel, brilliant genius, and perfect beauty.

"And now," said Felicity, standing up to her full height-which was far from imposing-"Go, please, Vera! I expect the hairdresser."

"Oh, then, you're taking a little trouble, after all," Vera said, laughing, and she vanished vaguely, behind a brocaded portière, leaving a very faint perfume of gilliflower.

The party met fairly punctually in the hideous hall, furnished with draughts and red velvet. The gloom was intensified by the sound of an emaciated orchestra playing "She was a Miller's Daughter," with a thin reckless airiness that was almost ghostly.

"Let's be a regular party," said Felicity, "and keep together, and get that nice chasseur-looking person to show us round."

Savile and Dolly preferred to stroll about alone, with a catalogue, and "take the Royal Family in their order." Woodville and Sylvia sat down near the band.

The amiable chasseur, who greatly enjoyed his work, and who saw that the living celebrities left our friends rather cold, showed them "The road to ruing," as displayed in six tableaux.

"No. 1, Temptation. 'Ere you see the young man being tempted to 'is ruing by cards-and what not."

The party gazed at the green table on which were strewn a few cards.

"Fancy being able to be ruined by only half a pack of cards!" said Felicity admiringly.

"Who," asked Wilton with interest, "is the lady in crimson satin, with pearls as big as oysters and diamonds like broken windows, holding out her hand so cordially to welcome the young man with long hair and an intelligent expression? (Obviously a very excellent model of Arthur Symons, the poet)."

"Why, she's the Decoy," said the chasseur, with intense relish. A sinister man with very black hair (probably in collusion with the decoy) was looking on, enjoying the scene.

"How symbolic those two champagne-glasses are on the card-table! What is that dark brown liquid in them?" asked Wilton.

"Still champagne, I suppose," said Felicity.

"Oh dear, yes, ma'am! It ain't been changed. Nothing's been changed."

"How sad it all is!" sighed Vera.

"It gets better later on," said Bertie consolingly.

"No. 3. 'Ere you find 'im ruinged by gambling. Take notice of the evil appearance of 'is accomplice."

The young man was now forging ahead for all he was worth (and a great deal more) with a cheque-book and a fountain pen. The sinister friend was leaning over his shoulder as if to jog his elbow.

"No. 4. 'Ere you see the sad result of all these goings on," said the chasseur morally, if vaguely. "The pore young man is condemned to several years."

"Does he break out again?" asked Wilton.

"Oh, lor', yes, sir! Don't you fret! he breaks out again all right. And 'ere you 'ave Revenge! A dark resolve 'as taken distinct form in the ruinged man's mind."

"Poor man, how long his hair has grown in prison," murmured Felicity sympathetically. "Who has he killed?"

"Why, the decoy!" said the chasseur, "and (if you ask me) serve 'er right!"

"How helpful all this is," said Bertie Wilton. "I feel really a better man since I've seen it. Seriously, I don't think I shall ever drink champagne of that colour now that we have seen the appalling results. It's a terrible lesson, isn't it, Lady Chetwode?"

They left the young man to his fate and followed the showman.

"'Ere we see Mary Manning, also Frederick George of same name, who, in singularly atrocious circumstances, killed a retired custom-'ouse officer."

"Why?" asked Vera inquisitively.

"They took against him, miss."

"I think I like the ladies best," said Bertie. "Who is this really terrible-looking woman?"

The showman hurried towards him, still repeating like a parrot what he wished to tell them about Manning.

"Yes, Manning was a railway guard, and 'is wife was highly connected with the best families-as lady's-maid. Ah, sir, you're looking at Cathering Webster. She was executed for the murder of another lady at Richmond. Jealousy was the reason of 'er motive for the crime."

"I say," said Felicity suddenly, to the guide, "don't you find all this terribly depressing? Do you hate all these creatures?"

"No, miss," said the showman smilingly, "I'm so used to them. I regard them almost like relations. 'Ere we 'ave a couple of French criminals. Their little game, if you please, was to decoy to their 'ome young ladies, and take away all their belongings, and everything

else they possessed."

"Oh, how horrid of them!" said Vera indignantly.

The chasseur grinned. "Yes, they weren't nice people, miss."

"I think you would like Burke and Hare, sir," he said persuasively to Wilton. "Let me tell you a bit about them."

"He talks as if they were Marshall and Snelgrove," murmured Wilton.

"What was the reason of their motive?" asked Felicity.

"Strychnine, miss," readily answered the well-informed guide.

"I suppose people get awfully hardened, eventually, to this sort of thing? I'm not. I'm terribly nervous. I'm frightened out of my life. If it weren't for you, Lady Chetwode, I should faint, and be carried out by the emergency exit."

While the chasseur went into atrocious details, Bertie was so frightened that he had to hold Felicity's hand.... Vera felt quite out of it, and in the cold. When once they got into the Chamber of Horrors, nobody had taken any notice of her, nor even heard her remarks. Felicity and Bertie were evidently at once excited and amused. As she was standing alone pretending to look at some relics, the gallant chasseur came up and said, "There's an emergency exit 'ere, if you like to go out 'ere, madam."

"There seems to be nothing else," said Bertie. "As soon as you get into Madame Tussaud's the main object seems to be to drive you out. They keep on telling you how you can get out, and where you can get out, and when. How wonderful a fire would be here!"

"Do you think Sylvia got out by one of the emergency exits? I haven't seen her or Woodville for some time."

"Oh, can't you let them have tea in peace?" said Bertie.

"I'm sure they are not having tea. Sylvia hates Bath buns. But we'll go and look for them, and the children too."

Savile and Dolly were found on a red velvet sofa, sulking, while Sylvia and Woodville were still listening to the band.

Dolly complained that Savile had been "horrid to her about Charles II," and that he said she was too young to see the Horrors.

Sylvia and Woodville had simply forgotten all about the waxworks.

The band was so very good and had been playing musical-comedy airs so charmingly.

Wilton declared his nerves were completely shattered and he must have a rest cure in the form of being driven home by Felicity, he could not possibly go alone.

Vera had to fetch Mr. Ogilvie from the chambers. Savile, feeling very grown-up, drove Dolly back in a hansom.

"Oughtn't I to take you?" said Felicity to Sylvia.

"My dear Lady Chetwode, please remember that Woodville is staying in the same house as Miss Crofton, and it is perfectly absurd, and cruelty to the horses to drag them out of their way, when you live in Park Street, and I only a stone's-throw from you! Do be practical!" cried Wilton.

"Oh, all right."

"Won't you take Miss Sylvia home?" said Bertie.

"Oh, certainly," said Woodville, and they walked a little way towards the cab together.

* * *

Ever since Ridokanaki's departure, Woodville, having consented to keep their engagement secret until Sylvia was twenty-one, had sought, and thought he had found, a solution, which was at once balm to his conscience and support to his pride. Sylvia and he should make a compact that they should be to one another in reality as they appeared to her father, and to the world: friends only. They would neither seek nor avoid tête-a-têtes, and when alone would ignore, crush, and temporarily forget their tenderer relations. Sylvia had willingly, eagerly agreed. She knew, in fact, that these were the only terms on which he would remain there. And yet it was rather hard. She remembered (how clearly!) that during all these years he had kissed her on seven separate occasions only, and those occasions, after the first, were always, or nearly always, at her suggestion-because it was her birthday-or because it was Christmas Day-because she was unhappy-or because he was in good spirits, and similar reasons. How admirable they had seemed! How sophistically she argued!

All this, Woodville had explained, must now cease. He tried with some difficulty to point out to her that this innovation was because he loved her, not less, but more. He could not trust himself, and did not intend to try. She was so happy to think he had given up going to Athens that she was only too glad to consent to anything.

* * *

This was the first time they had been alone since the compact. She looked at him beamingly as they started on their drive.

"But I'm not going home," said Woodville.

"Aren't you? Where are you going?"

"To the Beafsteak Club. I'm dining with Mervyn, and we're not going to dress. I'll take you home first, if you like."

"No," said Sylvia. "I shall drive you nearly as far as the Club, drop you, and then go home by myself." She spoke decidedly, and gave the direction to the cabman. She had calculated that it would be a longer drive.

"It's twice as far!" she said with childish triumph. He looked at her trusting, adoring eyes, her smiling, longing lips, and looked out of the window. She put her hand on his arm, and he moved away quickly, almost shaking her off. With a smile she sat as far from him as possible. They began talking of all kinds of things-Sylvia talked most and most gaily-then, gradually, they fell into silence.

It was the end of a warm April day; they passed quickly, in the jingling cab, through the stale London streets, breathing the spring air that paradoxically suggested country walks, tender vows, sentiment and romance.... Was she hurt at his coldness? On the contrary, it seemed to exhilarate her. So close, yet so absolutely separated-not in mind, but by his will only-by that extraordinary moral sense of his, that was, to her, in her innocence, a dark mystery. Sylvia never forgot that drive. She felt one of those unforgettable moments of exalted passion, like the attainment of some great height that one may never reach again. She worshipped him.

As they reached the end of their drive, the personal magnetism was almost too strong for her-she nearly took his hand again, but resisted. The cab stopped.

"I should like to drive you back, Sylvia," he said, as he got out, "but-it's better not."

"All right!-Good-bye! I suppose I shall see you to-morrow morning."

"I hate leaving you here," he said.

"Never mind!" She smiled brightly, and waved her hand. The cab drove off, and he seemed to be swallowed up by the darkness of the street, looking, as she thought, very wonderful, very handsome.... Then, quite suddenly, she felt cold, quite lonely, almost forsaken....

For hours she could not shake off the horrible impression of his walking away from her into the darkness, leaving her alone.

After her conventional evening at home, she shed bitter tears on her pillow. Could he care for her really? She knew he did, and she suddenly suspected that it was a sort of pleasure, a kind of indulgence to him to play the ascetic when so near her, and at this fancy she felt a little momentary resentment. But as soon as she saw him again, a word or a smile was sunshine and life to her. She wanted so little, and she was again her happy and gentle self.... At least, she could see him-while, if he had gone to Athens.... Surely they would not have to wait a year? No-Savile would find out some splendid arrangement that would make it all right. She loved Woodville too much not to be hopeful; he cared too much for her not to feel, almost, despair. The conditions of their present existence were far harder for him, though she never knew it, and did not dream how much she-not he-was exacting.

* * *

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