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   Chapter 30 No.30

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 8887

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Weeks passed. Lewis worked steadily at his figure of Vi. From the time the wires had been set and the rough clay slapped on them, he had never allowed her to see the figure.

"It's no use asking," he said. "You're no master at this art. The workman who shows unfinished stuff to anybody but a master is a fool."

"Well, when, then?" asked Vi, impatiently, after weeks had lengthened to months.

"Almost any day now," said Lewis; but before 'any day' came around, something happened that materially delayed the satisfaction of Vi's curiosity.

Lady Derl had frequently drafted Lewis into dinners that she thought would be stupid for her without him. As a result, the inevitable in London happened. It became a habit to invite Lewis when Lady Derl was coming. He never took her in,-her rank and position made that impossible,-but he was there, somewhere at the lower end of the table, where she could watch him when she felt bored and occasionally read in the astonished faces of his neighbors the devastation he had caused by some remark; for Lewis, like his father, had a way of saying things. The difference was that Leighton's mots were natural and malicious, while Lewis's were only natural. On the whole, Lewis created the greater sensation.

The night after Lewis had said "Almost any day now" to Vi, he found himself at a semi-diplomatic dinner next to a young person who, like himself, seemed to find the affair a bit heavy.

"What did they invite you for?" asked Lewis.

"They couldn't help it," replied the young person, stifling a yawn. "I'm the wife of the charge of the Brazilian legation. And you?"

"Oh, I'm here just to take Lady Derl home."

The young person's eyes showed a gleam of interest as they glanced up the table to where Lady Derl sat and reigned an easy queen in that assembly.

"Oh," she said, "are you? Why you?"

"Well," said Lewis, "I suppose it's because I'm the only man in town that always remembers Lady Derl's beauty and gray hair at the same time."

The young person smiled.

"I believe I've heard of you. Leighton is your name, isn't it?"

"It's only five minutes since I was introduced," said Lewis, smiling, "and you made me say it over three times."

"Ah, yes," said the lady, unperturbed, "but five minutes is a long time-sometimes. Is Leighton a common name?"

"Not as common as some," said Lewis. "Why?"

"Nothing, only I know some Leightons in Brazil."

Lady Derl saw Lewis start, and quickly lay down his fork. She watched in vain through the rest of that dinner for a conversational sensation at his end of the table. When they were in the carriage and on the way home she asked:

"Well, what was it?"

"What was what?" said Lewis, out of a reverie.

"What did that Senhora What's-her-name have to tell you that made you forget to eat?"

"She was telling me about an old pal of mine," said Lewis. "Did dad ever tell you where he found me?"

"Yes," said Lady Derl; "he said he found you in the geometrical center of nowhere, surrounded by equal parts of wilderness."

"That's what he thought," said Lewis; "but there was a home tucked into the wilderness. It had been my home for a great many years. People had been kind to me there-Mrs. Leighton; Natalie, my pal; an old darky named just mammy; and, in a way, the Reverend Orme. After I'd been away a year, I wrote back. They had gone. I've just found out where they are, all but the Reverend Orme. I reckon he must be dead."

"And you're going to write?"

"Write?" said Lewis. "No, I'm not going to write. I'm just going." For a moment they were silent, then he said, "There's something about hearing of people what were kind to you that makes you feel awfully lonely."

Lady Derl reached out and took his hand. Their hands lay together on his knee. The drive came to an end, and they had said nothing more. As they stood under the light of the outer hall Hélène turned to Lewis.

"When are you going?"

"To-morrow."

She held up her lips to him.

"Kiss me good-by, Boy."

He kissed her, and for a moment gripped her wrists.

"Hélène," he said, "you've been awfully good to me, too. I-I don't forget."

"You don't forget," repeated Lady Derl. "That's why I kissed you. Don't be hard on your little pal when you find her. Remember, you've gone a long way alone."

As Lewis strode away rapidly toward the flat, the fragrance of Hélène clung to him. It clung to him so long that

he forgot Vi-forgot even to leave a note for her explaining his sudden departure. When he reached Santos, three weeks later, it didn't seem worth while to cable.

As Lewis stepped out of the station at San Paulo, he felt himself in a dream. He crossed the street into the public gardens and looked back. He had never seen a station like that. It was beautiful. It had the spirit of a cathedral raised by some pagan as a shrine to the commercial age. Had the railroad bred a dreamer?

Several motor-cars for hire lined the curb. Lewis stepped up to one of the drivers.

"How did they come to build that?" he asked in Portuguese, with a nod toward the station.

The driver shrugged his shoulders.

"Too much money," he said. "The charter limits them to twenty-five per cent, profits. They had such a surplus, they told the architect he could go as high as he liked. He went pretty high." The driver winked at his own joke, but did not smile.

"I want you by the hour," said Lewis. "Do you know Mrs. Leighton's house-Street of the Consolation?"

The driver shook his head.

"There's no such house," he said.

"Well, you know the Street of the Consolation? Drive there. Drive slowly."

On the way Lewis stared, unbelieving, at the things he saw. Gone were the low, thick-walled buildings that memory had prepared him for; gone the funny little street-cars drawn by galloping, jack-rabbit mules. In their stead were high, imposing fronts, with shallow doorways and heavy American electric trams.

The car shot out upon a mighty viaduct. Lewis leaned out and looked down. Here was something that he could remember-the valley that split the city in two, and up and down the sides of which he had often toiled as a boy. Suddenly they were across, and a monster building blotted all else from his sight. He looked up at the massive pile. "What is it?" he asked.

"Theater built by the state," answered the driver, without looking around. "Cost millions."

"Reis?" asked Lewis, smiling.

"Reis? Bah!" grunted the driver. "Pounds."

The street left the level and started to climb. Lewis looked anxiously to right and left. He saw a placard that read, "Street of the Consolation."

"Stop!" he cried.

The driver drew up at the curb.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"This isn't the Street of the Consolation," said Lewis, dismayed. "Where's the big cotton-tree and the priest's house, and-and the bamboos? Where are the bamboos?"

The driver looked around curiously.

"I remember them, the bamboos," he said, nodding. "They're gone."

"Wait here," said Lewis.

He stepped out of the car and started to walk slowly up the hill. He felt a strange sinking of the heart. In his day there had been no sidewalk, only a clay path, beaten hard by the feet of three children on their way to school. In his day the blank row of houses had been a mud taipa wall, broken just here by the little gate of the priest's house. In his day there had been that long, high-plumed bank of bamboos, forever swaying and creaking, behind the screen of which had lain the wonder realm of childhood.

He came to the spot where the gate to Consolation Cottage had been. The old wooden gate and the two friendly, square brick pillars on which it had swung were gone; but in their stead rose a wondrous structure of scrolled wrought iron between two splendid granite shafts.

Lewis stood on tiptoe and gazed through the gate, up the driveway, to where Consolation Cottage had once stood. Through the tepid haze of a beautiful tropical garden he saw a high villa. It did not look back at him. It seemed to be watching steadily from its hilltop the spread of the mighty city in the valley below.

Lewis was brought to himself with a start. Somebody behind him cried out, "O-la!" He turned to find two impatient horses almost on top of him. A footman was springing from his place beside the coachman to open the gate.

Lewis stepped aside. In the smart victoria sat a lady alone. She was dressed in white, and wore a great, black picture-hat. Lewis glanced at her face. He recognized the Anglo-Saxon pallor. Out of the dead-white shone two dark eyes, unnaturally bright. He raised his hat.

"I beg your pardon," he began in English.

The gate had swung open. The horses were plunging on the taut reins. The lady drew her skirts in at her side and nodded. Lewis stepped into the carriage. The horses shot forward and up the drive.

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