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   Chapter 15 No.15

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 7160

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Four days later Lewis sat beside his bed, piled high with all the paraphernalia that go to make up a gentleman's wardrobe and toilet. He was very nervous-so nervous that he had passed an hour striding from one side of the small bedroom to the other, making up his mind to try to carry out his father's instructions, which were simply to go to his room and dress. Lewis had never in his life put on a collar or knotted a tie.

He answered a knock on the door with a cry of dismay. Leighton strode into the room.

"Well, what's the matter?"

Lewis looked ruefully from his father's face to the things on the bed and back again. He felt himself flushing painfully. He opened his mouth to speak and then closed it.

Suddenly Leighton's face lit up. He laughed.

"Well, well," he cried, "this is splendid! You've given me a new sensation." He yanked a bath-robe from the bed. "Here, you savage, shed those leather togs, but don't lose them. You'll want to take them out and look at them some stuffy day. Now put this on and run to your bath."

When Lewis came back to the room he found most of his things had been packed away in the big, new trunk. On the bed certain garments were laid out. They were laid out in correct order.

Leighton stood beside the bed in a deferential attitude. His face was a blank. "Will you be wearing the white flannels to-night, sir, or the dinner-jacket? If you will allow me, I would suggest the flannels. Sultry evening, and Mr. Leighton will be dining on the terrace."

"Yes, I'll wear the flannels," stammered Lewis.

"Your singlet, sir," said Leighton, picking up the undershirt from the bed. Article after article he handed to his son in allotted order. Lewis put each thing on as fast as his nervous hands would let him. He tried to keep his eyes from wandering to the head of the line, where lay collar and tie. The collar had been buttoned to the back of the shirt, but when it came to fastening it in front, Lewis's fingers fumbled hopelessly.

"Allow me, sir," said Leighton. He fastened the collar deftly. "I see you don't like that tie with the flannels, sir. My mistake."

He threw open the trunk, and took out a brown cravat of soft silk. "Your brown scarf, sir. It goes well with the flannels. Will you watch in the glass, sir?" He placed the cravat, measured it carefully, knotted it, and drew it up.

Lewis did not watch in the mirror. His eyes were fixed on his father's mask of a face. He knew that, inside, his father was bubbling with fun; but no ripple showed in his face, no disrespectful twinkle in his eye. Leighton was playing the game. Suddenly, for no reason that he could name, Lewis began to adore his father.

"Will that do, sir?"

"Certainly," stammered Lewis. "Very nicely, thank you"

"Thank you, sir," said Leighton. He handed Lewis the flannel trousers and then the coat.

As Lewis finished putting them on, Leighton whirled on his heel.

"Ready, my boy?" The mask was gone.

Lewis laughed back into his father's twinkling eyes.

"Yes, I'm ready," he said rather breathlessly. He followed his father out of the room. The new clothes gripped him in awkward places, but as he glanced down at the well-pressed flannels, he felt glorified.

That night, while strolling in a back street of the lower town, they discovered a tunnel running into the cliff. At its mouth was a turnstile.

"Shades of Avernus! What's this?" asked Leighton.

Lewis inquired of the gateman.

"It's an elevator to the upper town," he said.

They paid their fare and walked into the long tunnel. At

its end they found a prehistoric elevator and a terrific stench. Leighton clapped his handkerchief to his nose and dived into the waiting car. Lewis followed him. An attendant started the car, and slowly they crept up and up, two hundred feet, to the crest of the cliff. As they emerged, Leighton let go a mighty breath.

"Holy mackerel!" he said, "and what was that? Ugh! it's here yet!"

The attendant explained. At the bottom of the shaft was a pit into which sank the great chains of the car. The pit was full of crude castor-oil, cheapest and best of lubricants.

"My boy," said Leighton, as he led the way at a rapid stride toward the hotel, "never confuse the picturesque with the ugly. I can stand a bit of local color in the way of smells, but there's such a thing as going too far, and that went it. We'll prepare at once to leave this town. Would you like to go north or south?"

"I don't know, sir," said Lewis.

"Well, we'll just climb on board that big double-funnel that came in to-day and leave it to her. What do you say?"

They went south. Four days later, in the early morning, Lewis was wakened by a bath-robe hurled at his head.

"Put that on and come up on deck quick!" commanded his father.

Lewis gasped when he reached the deck. They were just entering the harbor. On the left, so close that it seemed to threaten them, loomed the Sugar-Loaf. On the right, the wash of the steamer creamed on the rocks of Santa Cruz. Before them opened the mighty bay, dotted with a hundred islands, some crowned with foliage, others with gleaming, white walls, and one with an aspiring minaret. Between water and sky stretched the city. There was no horizon, for the jagged wall of the Organ Mountains towered in a circle into the misty blue. Heaven and earth were one.

A white line of surf-foam ran along all the edge of the bay. Languorous Aphrodite of the cities of the world, Rio de Janeiro lay naked beyond that line, and gloried. Like a dream of fair woman, her feet plunged in foam, her body reclining against the heights, her arms outstretched, green hills for her pillows, her diadem the shining mountain-peaks, queen of the cities of the earth by the gift of Almighty God, she gleamed beneath the kiss of dawn.

Leighton drew a long, long breath.

"It will take a lot of bad smells to blot the memory of that," he said.

They came to the bad smells in about an hour and a quarter. An hour later they left the custom-house. Then, each in a rocketing tilbury, driven by a yelling Jehu, they shot through the narrow and filthy streets of the Rio of that far day and drew up, still trembling with fright, at the doors of the Hotel dos Estrangeiros.

"You got here, too!" cried Leighton as Lewis tumbled out of his cab. "We had both wheels on the ground at once three separate times. How about you?"

"I really don't know anything about what happened, sir," said Lewis, grinning. "I was holding on."

"What were they yelling? Did you make anything out of that?" asked

Leighton, when they had surveyed their rooms and were washing.

"They were shouting at the people in the way," said Lewis. "My driver

yelled only two things. When a colored person was in the way, it was,

'Melt chocolate-drop!' and when he shouted at a white man, it was:

'Clear the way to hell! a foreigner rides with me.'"

"Boy," said Leighton, speaking through several folds of towel and the open connecting-door, "if you ever find your brains running to seed, get a job as a cabman. There's something about a cab, the world over, that breeds wit."

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