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   Chapter 17 No.17

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 5462

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Leighton rang. The door was opened by a man in livery. So pompous was he that Lewis gazed at him open-mouthed. He could hardly tear his eyes from him to follow his father, who was being conducted by a second footman across the glassy, waxed hall into a vast drawing-room.

The drawing-room might have been a tomb for kings, but Lewis felt more awed by it than depressed. It was a room of distances. Upon its stately walls hung only six paintings and a tapestry. Leighton did not tell his son that the walls carried seven fortunes, because he happened to be one of those who saw them only as seven things of joy.

There were other things in the room besides the pictures: a few chairs, the brocade of which matched the tapestry on the wall; an inlaid spinet; three bronzes. Before one of the bronzes Lewis stopped involuntarily. From its massive, columned base to the tip of the living figure it was in one piece. Out of the pedestal itself writhed the tortured, reaching figure-aspiring man held to earth. Lewis stretched out a reverent hand as though he would touch it.

The lackey had thrown open a door and stood waiting. Leighton turned and called:

"Come on, boy."

Lewis followed them through a second drawing-room and into a library. Here they were asked to sit. Never had Lewis dreamed of such a room. It was all in oak-in oak to which a century of ripening had given a rare flower.

There was only one picture, and that was placed over the great fireplace. It was the portrait of a beautiful woman-waves of gray hair above a young face and bright black eyes. The face laughed at them and at the rows upon rows of somber books that reached from floor to ceiling.

Before the fireplace were two leather chairs and a great leather couch. At each end of the couch stood lighted lamps, shaded to a deep-amber glow.

The lackey returned.

"Her ladyship waits for you in her room, sir."

Leighton nodded, and led Lewis down a short hall. The library had been dark, the hall was darker. Lewis felt depressed. He heard his father knock on a door and then open it. Lewis caught his breath.

The door had opened on a little realm of light. Fresh blue and white cretonnes and chintzes met his unaccustomed eyes; straight chairs, easy-chairs, and deep, low comfy chairs; airy tables, the preposterously slender legs of which looked frail and were not; books, paper-backed, and gay magazines; a wondrous, limpid cheval-glass.

Across the farther side of the room was a very wide window. Through its slender gothic panes one saw a walled lawn and a single elm. Beside the window and half turned toward it, so that the light fell across her face, sat the woman of the portrait.

"How do!" she cried gaily to Leig

hton, and held out her hand. She did not rise.

"H lne," said Leighton, "your room's so cursedly feminine that it's like an assault for a man to enter it."

"I can't give you credit for that, Glen," said the lady, laughing.

"You've had a year to think it up. Where have you been? That's right.

Sit down, light up, and talk."

Leighton nodded over his shoulder at Lewis.

"Been fetching him."

"So this is the boy, is it?" The bright eyes stopped smiling. For an instant they became shrewd. They swept Lewis from head to foot and back again. Lewis bowed, and then stood very straight. He felt the color mounting in his cheeks. The smile came back to the lady's eyes.

"Sit down, boy," she said.

For an hour Lewis sat on the edge of a chair and listened to a stream of questions and chatter. The chatter was Greek to him. It skimmed over the surface of things like a swift skater over thin ice. It never broke into deep waters, but somehow you knew the deep waters were there.

At last Leighton arose.

"Boy," he said, "come here. This lady is my pal. There are times when a man has to tell things to a woman. That's what women are for. When you feel you've got to tell things to a woman, you come and tell them to H lne. Don't be afraid of that peacock of a doorman; push him over. He's so stiff he'll topple easy."

"Oh, please don't ever!" cried the lady, turning to Lewis. "I'll give you money to tip him." She turned back to Leighton. "They're so hard to get with legs, Glen."

"Legs be hanged!" said Leighton. "Our age is trading civility for legs.

The face that welcomes you to a house should be benign--"

"There you go," broke in the lady. "If you'd think a minute, you would realize that we don't charter doormen to welcome people, but to keep them out." She turned to Lewis. "But not you, boy. You may come any time except between nine and ten. That's when I have my bath. What's your name? I can't call you boy forever."

"Lewis."

"Well, Lew, you may call me H lne, like your father. It'll make me feel even younger than I am."

"H lne is a pretty name," said Lewis.

"None of that, young man," said Leighton. "You'll call H lne my Lady."

"That's a pretty name, too," said Lewis.

"Yes," said the lady, rising and holding out her hand, "call me that-at the door."

"Dad," said Lewis as they walked back to the flat, "does she live all alone in that big house?"

Leighton came out of a reverie.

"That lady, Lew, is Lady H lne Derl. She is the wife of Lord Derl. You won't see much of Lord Derl, because he spends most of his time in a sort of home for incurables. His hobby is faunal research. In other words, he's a drunkard. Bah! We won't talk any more about that."

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