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   Chapter 36 No.36

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 7426

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


DURING the next few days Leighton saw little of his son and nothing of Folly, but he learned quite casually that the lady was occupying an apartment overlooking Hyde Park. From that it was easy for him to guess her address, and one morning, without saying anything to Lewis of his plans, he presented himself at Folly's door. A trim maid opened to his ring.

"Is Mlle. Delaires in, my dear?" asked Leighton.

The maid stiffened, and peered intently at Leighton, who stood at ease in the half-dusk of the hall. When she had quite made out his trim, well-dressed figure, she decided not to be as haughty as she had at first intended.

"Miss Delaires," she said, without quite unbending, however, "is not in to callers at half after ten; she's in her bath."

"I am fortunate," remarked Leighton, coolly. "Will you take her my card?" He weighted it with a sovereign.

"Oh, sir," said the maid, "it's not fair for me to take it. She won't be seeing you. I can promise."

"Where shall I wait?" asked Leighton, stepping past her.

"This way, sir."

He was shown into a small, but dainty, sitting-room. The door beyond was ajar, and before the maid closed it he caught a glimpse of a large bedroom still in disarray. In the better light the maid glanced at his face and then at his card.

"What kin are you to Mr. Lewis Leighton, please, sir?" she asked.

"I have every reason to believe that I'm his father," said Leighton, smiling.

"I should say you had, sir," answered the maid, with a laugh, "if looks is a guaranty. But even so she won't see you, I'm afraid."

"I don't mind much if she doesn't," said Leighton. "Just to have had this chat with you makes it a charming morning."

In saying that Miss Delaires was in her bath, the maid had committed an anachronism. Folly was not in her bath. She had been in her bath over an hour ago; now she was in her bandages.

Folly's bath-room was not as large as her bedroom, but it was larger than anything since Rome. To the casual glance, its tiled floor and walls and its numerous immaculate fittings, nickel-trimmed and glass-covered, gave the impression of a luxurious private-clinic theater. Standing well away from one wall was, in fact, a glass operating-table of the latest and choicest design. A more leisurely inspection of the room, however, showed this operating-table to be the only item-if a large-boned Swedish masseuse be omitted-directly reminiscent of a surgery. All the other glittering appliances, including an enormous porcelain tub, were subtly allied to the cult of healthy flesh.

At the moment when the maid entered with Leighton's card, Folly was virtually indistinguishable. She could only be guessed at in the mummy-like form extended, but not stretched, if you please, on the operating-table. Her face, all but a central oval, was held in a thin mask of kidskin, and her whole body, from neck to peeping pink toes, was wrapped closely in bandages soaked with cold cream. The bath-tub was still half-full of tepid water, from which rose faint exhalations of the latest attar, so delicate that they attained deception, and made one look around instinctively for flowers.

Folly's big brown eyes seemed to be closed, but in reality they were fixed on a little clock in plain, white porcelain, to match the room, which stood on a glass shelf high on the wall in front of her. "I'm sure that old clock has stopped," she cried petulantly to the masseuse. "Tell me if it's ticking."

"Ut's ticking," said the masseuse, patiently. Then she added, as though she were reciting: "Be mindful. Youth is a fund that can be saved up like pennies. The tenure of youth and beauty is determined by the amount and the quality-"

"Of relaxation," chanted Folly, breaking in. "It is not enough that the body be relaxed; wrinkles come from the mind. Relax your mind even as you relax your fingers and your toes. Tra-la-la, la-la!" Folly wriggled the free tips of her pink toes. She felt the maid come in. "What do you want, Marie?"

"Nothing, Miss," said the maid; "only I think something must of happened."

"Nothing, only something's happened," mimicked Folly. "Well, what's happened?"

"It's Mr. Lewis's governor, Miss, please. He's here, and he says he just must see you."

"So you let him in, did you? At half-past ten in the morning? How much did he give you?"

"Oh, nothing at all, Miss." Marie paused. "He's that charming he didn't have to give me anything."

"H-m-m!" said Folly. "Well, go ask him what he wants."

"He won't say, Miss. He's that troubled he just keeps his eyes on the floor, an' says as he has something private he must tell you. Perhaps Mr. Lewis has broke his leg. I'm sure I don't know."

"Come on, Buggins," said Miss Delaires to the masseuse. "Don't you hear?

There's a gentleman waiting to see me."

Buggins shook her head.

"The hour ut is not finish," she said calmly. "Five minutes yet." And for five long minutes Folly had to wait. Then the masseuse went swiftly into action. Off came the mask and the long, moist bandages. As the bandages uncoiled, Marie rolled them up tightly and placed them, one after the other, on the glass shelves of a metal sterilizer. Buggins rolled up her white sleeves, and entered forthwith on the major rite.

First she massaged Folly's full, round neck; then her swift, deep fingers, passed down one arm and felt out every muscle, every joint, to the tips of Folly's fingers. Back up the arm again, across the bosom, and down the other arm. Back to the neck once more, and then down and around the body to the very last joint of Folly's very last and very little toe.

Folly let go a great sigh, sprang from the table, and stood erect, young and alive in every fiber, in the center of the blue and white bath-rug. The film of cold cream was quite gone. But the masseuse was not yet content. She caught up a soft, scented towel and passed it deftly over arms, body, and legs, not forgetting the last little toe. When she finished, she was on her knees. She looked up and nodded to Folly's inquiring glance.

Folly gave a little laugh of pure delight, and stretched. She held her doubled fists high above her head. Her whole body glowed in an even, unblemished pink. Verily, it seemed to breathe; it breathed with the breath of flowers. And no wonder!

When she had finished stretching, Marie was holding ready a gown of silk,-dark blue, with a foam of lace at the throat and on the broad half-sleeves,-and Buggins had placed lamb's-wool slippers just before her feet. But Folly was too full of animal to be even so softly imprisoned just yet. With a chuckle of mischief, she gave them each a quick push and darted across the room and out by the door.

Maid and masseuse followed her into the bedroom with protesting cries. The bedroom had been put in order. Only the bed itself, dressed merely in a fresh white sheet and pillows, looked a little naked, for the bedclothes proper had been carried out to air. In the center of the bed was Folly, curled up like a kitten. Her hair had tumbled down into two thick, loose braids. She submitted now to the gown, and wrapped herself carefully in it. Propped high against the pillows, a braid of brown hair falling forward over each shoulder, and her bare arms lying still at her sides, she looked very demure indeed and very sweet.

"Bring tea, Marie," she said softly, "and show in Daddy Leighton."

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