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   Chapter 50 No.50

Through stained glass By George Agnew Chamberlain Characters: 8656

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

On the following day, while Leighton and Lewis were sorting out their things and Nelton was packing, Leighton said:

"Nelton, you'd better go back to London with Mr. Lewis."

"Beg your pardon, sir," said Nelton from the depths of a trunk, "but I'd like to go with you, sir."

"Where to?" asked Leighton, surprised. "Africa?"

"Yes, sir, Africa, sir."

Leighton paused for a moment before he said:

"Nelton, you can't go to Africa, not as a serving-man. You wouldn't be useful and you wouldn't be comfortable. Africa's a queer place, the cradle of slavery and the land of the free. A place," he continued, half to himself, "where masters become men. They are freed from their servants by the law that says white shall not serve white while the black looks on lest he be amazed that the gods should wait upon each other."

He turned back to Nelton and added with a smile that was kindly:

"What would you do in a land where just to be white spells kingship-a kingship held by the power to stand up to your thirty miles a day, to bear hunger and thirst without whimpering, to stand steady in danger, and to shoot straight and keep clean always? It's a land where all the whites sit down to the same table, but it isn't every white that can get to the table. You mustn't think I'm picking on you, Nelton. The man that's going with me is always hard up, but I heard him refuse an offer of Lord Dubbley's of all expenses and a thousand pounds down to take him on a trip."

"Lord Dubbley!" repeated Nelton, impressed. "Is there anything w'at a lord can't 'ave?"

"Yes," said Leighton. "There are still tables you can't sit down at for just money or name, but they are getting further and further away."

"Mr. Lewis Leighton and servant" attracted considerable attention on the Laurentia, but let it be said to Lewis's credit, or, rather, to the credit of his abstraction, that he did not notice it. Never before had Lewis had so much to think about. His parting with his father ought to have been more than a formality. Why had it been a mere incident-an incident scarcely salient among the happenings of a busy day? As he looked back, Lewis began to see that it was not yesterday or the day before that he had parted from his father. When was it, then? Suddenly it came upon him that their real farewell had been said in that still, deserted lane overlooking his father's land of dreams.

The realization depressed him. He did not know why. He did not know that the physical partings in this world are as nothing compared with those divisions of the spirit that come to us unawares, that are never seen in anticipation, but are known all too poignantly when, missing from beside us some long familiar soul, we look back and see the parting of the ways.

Then there was another matter that had come to puzzle his inexperience. He knew nothing of his father's theory that there is no erotic affection that can stand a separation of six months in conjunction with six thousand miles. To youth erotic affection is nonexistent; all emotional impulse is love. Along this road the race would have come to utter marital disaster long ago were it not for the fact that youth takes in a new impulse with every breath.

In certain aspects Lewis had the maturity of his age. People who looked at him saw a man, not a boy. But there was a shy and hidden side of him that was very young indeed. He was one of those men in whom youth is inherent, a legion that cling long to dreams and are ever ready to stand and fall by some chosen illusion. Reason can not rob them of God, nor women rob them of woman.

To Lewis's youth had come a new impulse so entangled with contact with H lne, with Leighton, and with Natalie that he could not quite define it. He only knew that it had pushed Folly back in his vision-so far back that his mind could not fasten upon and hold her in the place to which he had given her a right. The realization troubled him. He worried over it, but comforted himself with the thought that once his eyes could feast again upon her living self, she would blot out, as before, all else in life.

He should have arrived in London on Saturday night, but a heavy fog held the steamer to the open sea over night, and it was only late on Sunday morning that he disembarked at Plymouth. Well on in the af

ternoon he reached town and rushed to the flat for a wash and a change before seeking Folly.

Eager to taste the pleasures of surprising the lady of his choice, he had sent her no word of his coming, and as a consequence he found her apartment empty-empty for him, for Folly was not in. Marie opened the door, and after a few gasping words of welcome told him that Folly had just gone out, that she was driving in the park; but wouldn't he come in and wait?

At first he said "Yes," but his impatience did not let him even cross the threshold. It drove him out to the park with the assurance that it was better to hunt for a needle in a haystack than to sit down and wait for the needle to crawl out to him. For a while he stood at a point of vantage and watched the long procession of private motor-cars and carriages, but he watched in vain. Depressed, he started to walk, and his mood carried him away from the throng.

He was walking head down when a lonely carriage standing by the curb drew his eye. At first he thought desire had deceived his senses. The equipage looked very like Folly's smart little victoria, but it was empty, and the man on the box was a stranger. Lewis approached him doubtfully. "Is this Miss Delaires's carriage?" he asked.

The man looked him over before he answered:

"Yes, sir."

"Where is Miss Delaires?" asked Lewis, his face brightening.

"Doin' 'er mile," replied the coachman.

Lewis waved his hand toward a path to the right questioningly. The man nodded. Feeling suddenly young again, Lewis hurried along the path with a long and eager stride. He had not gone far when he saw a dainty figure, grotesquely accompanied by a ragamuffin, coming toward him. He did not have to ask himself twice if the dainty figure was Folly's. If he had been blind, the singing of the blood in his veins would have spelled her name.

He stepped behind a screening bush and waited to spring out at her. His eyes fastened curiously upon the ragamuffin. He could see that he was speaking to Folly, and that she was paying no regard to him. Presently Lewis could hear what he was saying:

"Aw, naow, lydy, give us a penny, won't cher?"

"I won't," replied Folly, sharply. "I said I wouldn't, and I won't. I'll give you up to the first officer we come to, though, if you don't clear."

"Ah, ga-am!" said the youth, whose head scarcely reached to Folly's waist. "Course you won't give me no penny. You ain't no lydy."

Folly stopped in her tracks. Her face went suddenly livid with rage.

"No lydy!" she cried in the most directly expressive of all idioms. "If

I wasn't a perfect lydy, I'd slap your blankety blank little blank."

At each word of the virile repartee of Cockneydom coming so incongruously from those soft lips, Lewis's heart went down and down in big, jolting bumps. Scarcely aware of what he was doing, he stepped out into the path. Folly looked up and saw him. The look of amazement in his face, eyes staring and mouth open and gulping, struck and held her for a second before she realized who it was that stood before her.

For just the fraction of a moment longer she was frightened and puzzled by Lewis's dumfounded mien; then her mind harked back for the clue and got it. No one had to tell her that the game was up so far as Lewis was concerned. She knew it. Her face suddenly crinkled up with mirth. With a peal of laughter, she dodged him and ran improperly for her very proper little turnout. He did not follow except with his eyes.

"Larfin' at us, governor," jibed the diminutive cockney, putting a rail between himself and Lewis. "The 'uzzy! The minute I lays my heye on that marm, I says, 'Blime yer, you ain't no lydy'! I say, governor, give us a penny."

Lewis turned away and took a few steps gropingly, head down, as though he walked in a trance. Presently he stopped and came back, feeling with finger and thumb in his waistcoat pocket. He drew out a gold coin, looked at it gravely, and flipped it across the rail at the ragamuffin. Then he turned and walked off with a rapid stride.

The little cockney snatched at the coin, and popped it into his mouth. Too overwhelmed to speak his gratitude, he stood on his head until Lewis was out of sight. It was the first time in his life that he had handled, much less possessed, a "thick un."

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