MoboReader> Literature > An Unpardonable Liar

   Chapter 1 AN ECHO.

An Unpardonable Liar By Gilbert Parker Characters: 33377

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"O de worl am roun an de worl am wide-

O Lord, remember your chillun in de mornin!

It's a mighty long way up de mountain side,

An day aint no place whar de sinners kin hide,

When de Lord comes in de mornin."

With a plaintive quirk of the voice the singer paused, gayly flicked the strings of the banjo, then put her hand flat upon them to stop the vibration and smiled round on her admirers. The group were applauding heartily. A chorus said, "Another verse, please, Mrs. Detlor."

"Oh, that's all I know, I'm afraid," was the reply. "I haven't sung it for years and years, and I should have to think too hard-no, no, believe me, I can't remember any more. I wish I could, really."

A murmur of protest rose, but there came through the window faintly yet clearly a man's voice:

"Look up an look aroun,

Fro you burden on de groun"-

The brown eyes of the woman grew larger. There ran through her smile a kind of frightened surprise, but she did not start nor act as if the circumstance were singular.

One of the men in the room-Baron, an honest, blundering fellow-started toward the window to see who the prompter was, but the host-of intuitive perception-saw that this might not be agreeable to their entertainer and said quietly: "Don't go to the window, Baron. See, Mrs. Detlor is going to sing."

Baron sat down. There was an instant's pause, in which George Hagar, the host, felt a strong thrill of excitement. To him Mrs. Detlor seemed in a dream, though her lips still smiled and her eyes wandered pleasantly over the heads of the company. She was looking at none of them, but her body was bent slightly toward the window, listening with it, as the deaf and dumb do.

Her fingers picked the strings lightly, then warmly, and her voice rose, clear, quaint and high:

"Look up an look aroun,

Fro you burden on de groun,

Reach up an git de crown,

When de Lord comes in de mornin-

When de Lord comes in de mornin!"

The voice had that strange pathos, veined with humor, which marks most negro hymns and songs, so that even those present who had never heard an Americanized negro sing were impressed and grew almost painfully quiet, till the voice fainted away into silence.

With the last low impulsion, however, the voice from without began again as if in reply. At the first note one of the young girls present made a start for the window. Mrs. Detlor laid a hand upon her arm. "No," she said, "you will spoil-the effect. Let us keep up the mystery."

There was a strange, puzzled look on her face, apparent most to George Hagar. The others only saw the lacquer of amusement, summoned for the moment's use.

"Sit down," she added, and she drew the young girl to her feet and passed an arm round her shoulder. This was pleasant to the young girl. It singled her out for a notice which would make her friends envious.

It was not a song coming to them from without-not a melody, but a kind of chant, hummed first in a low sonorous tone, and then rising and falling in weird undulations. The night was still, and the trees at the window gave forth a sound like the monotonous s-sh of rain. The chant continued for about a minute. While it lasted Mrs. Detlor sat motionless and her hands lay lightly on the shoulders of the young girl. Hagar dropped his foot on the floor at marching intervals-by instinct he had caught at the meaning of the sounds. When the voice had finished, Mrs. Detlor raised her head toward the window with a quick, pretty way she had, her eyes much shaded by the long lashes. Her lips were parted in the smile which had made both men and women call her merry, amiable and fascinating.

"You don't know what it is, of course," she said, looking round, as though the occurrence had been ordinary. "It is a chant hummed by the negro woodcutters of Louisiana as they tramp homeward in the evening. It is pretty, isn't it?"

"It's a rum thing," said one they called the Prince, though Alpheus Richmond was the name by which his godmother knew him. "But who's the gentleman behind the scenes-in the greenroom?"

As he said this he looked-or tried to look-knowingly at Mrs. Detlor, for, the Prince desired greatly to appear familiar with people and things theatrical, and Mrs. Detlor knew many in the actor and artist world.

Mrs. Detlor smiled in his direction, but the smile was not reassuring. He was, however, delighted. He almost asked her then and there to ride with him on the morrow, but he remembered that he could drive much better than he could ride, and, in the pause necessary to think the matter out, the chance passed-he could not concentrate himself easily.

"Yes. Who is it?" said the young girl.

"Lord, I'll find out," said the flaring Alpheus, a jeweled hand at his tie as he rose.

But their host had made up his mind. He did not know whether Mrs. Detlor did or did not recognize the voice, but he felt that she did not wish the matter to go farther. The thing was irregular if he was a stranger, and if he were not a stranger it lay with Mrs. Detlor whether he should be discovered.

There was a curious stillness in Mrs. Detlor's manner, as though she were waiting further development of the incident. Her mind was in a whirl of memories. There was a strange thumping sensation in her head. Yet who was to know that from her manner?

She could not help flashing a look of thanks to Hagar when he stepped quickly between the Prince and the window and said in what she called his light comedy manner:

"No, no, Richmond. Let us keep up the illusion. The gentleman has done us a service; otherwise we had lost the best half of Mrs. Detlor's song. We'll not put him at disadvantage."

"Oh, but look here, Hagar," said the other protestingly as he laid his hand upon the curtains.

Few men could resist the quiet decision of Hagar's manner, though he often laughed that, having but a poor opinion of his will as he knew it, and believing that he acted firmness without possessing it, save where he was purely selfish. He put his hands in his pockets carelessly, and said in a low, decisive tone, "Don't do it, if you please."

But he smiled, too, so that others, now gossiping, were unaware that the words were not of as light comedy as the manner. Hagar immediately began a general conversation and asked Baron to sing "The Banks o' Ben Lomond," feeling sure that Mrs. Detlor did not wish to sing again. Again she sent him a quick look of thanks and waved her fingers in protest to those who were urging her. She clapped her hands as she saw Baron rise, and the others, for politeness sake, could not urge her more.

* * *

For the stranger. Only the morning of that day he had arrived at the pretty town of Herridon among the hills and moors, set apart for the idle and ailing of this world. Of the world literally, for there might be seen at the pump-room visitors from every point of the compass-Hindoo gentlemen brought by sons who ate their legal dinners near Temple Bar; invalided officers from Hongkong, Bombay, Aden, the Gold Coast and otherwhere; Australian squatters and their daughters; attaches of foreign embassies; a prince from the Straits Settlements; priests without number from the northern counties; Scotch manufacturers; ladies wearied from the London season; artists, actors and authors, expected to do at inopportune times embarrassing things, and very many from Columbia, happy land, who go to Herridon as to Westminster-to see the ruins.

It is difficult for Herridon to take its visitors seriously, and quite as difficult for the visitors to take Herridon seriously. That is what the stranger thought as he tramped back and forth from point to point through the town. He had only been there twelve hours, yet he was familiar with the place. He had the instincts and the methods of the true traveler. He never was guilty of sightseeing in the usual sense. But it was his habit to get general outlines fixed at once. In Paris, in London, he had taken a map, had gone to some central spot, and had studied the cities from there; had traveled in different directions merely to get his bearings. After that he was quite at home. This was singular, too, for his life had been of recent years much out of the beaten tracks of civilization. He got the outlines of Herridon in an hour or two, and by evening he could have drawn a pretty accurate chart of it, both as to detail and from the point of a birdseye view at the top of the moor.

The moor had delighted him. He looked away to all quarters and saw hill and valley wrapped in that green. He saw it under an almost cloudless sky, and he took off his hat and threw his grizzled head back with a boyish laugh.

"It's good-good enough!" he said. "I've seen so much country all on edge that this is like getting a peep over the wall on the other side-the other side of Jordan. And yet that was God's country with the sun on it, as Gladney used to say-poor devil!"

He dropped his eyes from the prospect before him and pushed the sod and ling with his foot musingly. "If I had been in Gladney's place, would I have done as he did, and if he had been in my place would he have done as I did? One thing is certain, there'd have been bad luck for both of us, this way or that, with a woman in the equation. He was a fool-that's the way it looked, and I was a liar-to all appearances, and there's no heaven on earth for either. I've seen that all along the line. One thing is sure, Gladney has reached, as in his engineering phrase he'd say, the line of saturation, and I the line of liver, thanks be to London and its joys! And now for sulphur water and-damnation!"

This last word was not the real end to the sentence. He had, while lighting his cigar, suddenly remembered something. He puffed the cigar fiercely and immediately drew out a letter. He stood looking at it for a minute and presently let go a long breath.

"So much for London and getting out of my old tracks! Now, it can't go for another three days, and he needing the dollars. * * * I'll read it over again anyhow." He took it out and read:

"Cheer up, and get out of the hospital as soon as you can and come over yourself. And remember in the future that you can't fool about the fire escapes of a thirteen story flat as you can a straight foothill of the Rockies or a Lake Superior silver mine. Here goes to you $1,000 (per draft), and please to recall that what's mine is yours, and what's yours is your own, and there's a good big sum that'll be yours, concerning which later. But take care of yourself, Gladney. You can't drown a mountain with the squirt of a rattlesnake's tooth; you can't flood a memory with cognac. I've tried it. For God's sake don't drink any more. What's the use? Smile in the seesaw of the knives. You can only be killed once, and, believe me, there's twice the fun in taking bad luck naked, as it were. Do you remember the time you and I and Ned Bassett, the H.B. company's man, struck the camp of bloods on the Gray Goose river? How the squaw lied and said he was the trader that dropped their messenger in a hot spring, and they began to peel Ned before our eyes? How he said as they drew the first chip from his shoulder, 'Tell the company, boys, that it's according to the motto on their flag, Pro Pelle Cutem-Skin For Skin?' How the woman backed down, and he got off with a strip of his pelt gone? How the medicine man took little bits of us and the red niggers, too, and put them on the raw place and fixed him up again? Well, that's the way to do it, and if you come up smiling every time you get your pound of flesh one way or another. Play the game with a clear head and a little insolence, Gladney, and you won't find the world so bad at its worst.

"So much for so much. Now for the commission you gave me. I'd rather it had been anything else, for I think I'm the last man in the world for duty where women are concerned. That reads queer, but you know what I mean. I mean that women puzzle me, and I'm apt to take them too literally. If I found your wife, and she wasn't as straightforward as you are, Jack Gladney, I'd as like as not get things in a tangle. You know I thought it would be better to let things sleep-resurrections are uncomfortable things mostly. However, here I am to do what's possible. What have I done? Nothing. I haven't found her yet. You didn't want me to advertise, and I haven't. She hasn't been acting for a long time, and no one seems to know exactly where she is. She was traveling abroad with some people called Branscombes, and I'm going to send a letter through their agent. We shall see.

"Lastly, for business. I've floated the Aurora company with a capital of $1,000,000, and that ought to carry the thing for all we want to do. So be joyful. But you shall have full particulars next mail. I'm just off to Herridon for the waters. Can you think it, Gladney-Mark Telford, late of the H.B.C, coming down to that? But it's a fact. Luncheons and dinners in London, E.C., fiery work, and so it's stand by the halyards for bad weather! Once more, keep your nose up to the wind, and believe that I am always," etc.

He read it through, dwelling here and there as if to reconsider, and, when it was finished, put it back into his pocket, tore up the envelope and let it fall to the ground. Presently he said: "I'll cable the money over and send the letter on next mail. Strange that I didn't think of cabling yesterday. However, it's all the same."

So saying, he came down the moor into the town and sent his cable, then went to his hotel and had dinner. After dinner he again went for a walk. He was thinking hard, and that did not render him less interesting. He was tall and muscular, yet not heavy, with a lean dark face, keen, steady eyes, and dignified walk. He wore a black soft felt hat and a red silk sash which just peeped from beneath his waistcoat-in all, striking, yet not bizarre, and notably of gentlemanlike manner. What arrested attention most, however, was his voice. People who heard it invariably turned to look or listened from sheer pleasure. It was of such penetrating clearness that if he spoke in an ordinary tone it carried far. Among the Indians of the Hudson Bay company, where he had been for six years or more, he had been known as Man of the Gold Throat, and that long before he was called by the negroes on his father's plantation in the southern states Little Marse Gabriel, because Gabriel's horn, they thought, must be like his voice-"only mo' so, an dat chile was bawn to ride on de golden mule."

You would not, from his manner or voice or dress have called him an American. You might have said he was a gentleman planter from Cuba or Java or Fiji, or a successful miner from Central America who had more than a touch of Spanish blood in his veins. He was not at all the type from over sea who are in evidence at wild west shows, or as poets from a western Ilion, who ride in the Row with sombrero, cloak and Mexican saddle. Indeed, a certain officer of Indian infantry, who had once picked up some irregular French in Egypt and at dinner made remarks on Telford's personal appearance to a pretty girl beside him, was confused when Telford looked up and said to him in admirable French: "I'd rather not, but I can't help hearing what you say, and I think it only fair to tell you so. These grapes are good. Shall I pass them? Poole made my clothes, and Lincoln is my hatter. Were you ever in Paris?"

The slow, distinct voice came floating across the little table, and ladies who that day had been reading the last French novel and could interpret every word and tone smiled slyly at each other or held themselves still to hear the sequel; the ill-bred turned round and stared; the parvenu sitting at the head of the table, who had been a foreign buyer of some London firm, chuckled coarsely and winked at the waiter, and Baron, the Afrikander trader, who sat next to Telford, ordered champagne on the strength of it. The bronzed, weather worn face of Telford showed imperturbable, but his eyes were struggling with a strong kind of humor. The officer flushed to the hair, accepted the grapes, smiled foolishly, and acknowledged-swallowing the reflection on his accent-that he had been in Paris. Then he engaged in close conversation with the young lady beside him, who, however, seemed occupied with Telford. This quiet, keen young lady, Miss Mildred Margrave, had received an impression, not of the kind which her sex confide to each other, but of a graver quality. She was a girl of sympathies and parts.

The event increased the interest and respect felt in the hotel for this stranger. That

he knew French was not strange. He had been well educated as a boy and had had his hour with the classics. His godmother, who had been in the household of Prince Joseph Bonaparte, taught him French from the time he could lisp, and, what was dangerous in his father's eyes, filled him with bits of poetry and fine language, so that he knew Heine, Racine and Beranger and many another. But this was made endurable to the father by the fact that, by nature, the boy was a warrior and a scapegrace, could use his fists as well as his tongue, and posed as a Napoleon with the negro children in the plantation. He was leader of the revels when the slaves gathered at night in front of the huts and made a joy of captivity and sang hymns which sounded like profane music hall songs, and songs with an unction now lost to the world, even as Shakespeare's fools are lost-that gallant company who ran a thread of tragedy through all their jesting.

Great things had been prophesied for this youth in the days when he sat upon an empty treacle barrel with a long willow rod in his hand, a cocked hat on his head, a sword at his side-a real sword once belonging to a little Bonaparte-and fiddlers and banjoists beneath him. His father on such occasions called him Young King Cole.

All had changed, and many things had happened, as we shall see. But one thing was clear-this was no wild man from the west. He had claims to be considered, and he was considered. People watched him as he went down over the esplanade and into quiet streets. The little occurrence at the dinner table had set him upon a train of thoughts which he had tried to avoid for many years. On principle he would not dwell on the past. There was no corrosion, he said to himself, like the memory of an ugly deed. But the experiences of the last few days had tended to throw him into the past, and for once he gave himself up to it.

Presently there came to him the sound of a banjo-not an unusual thing at Herridon. It had its mock negro minstrels, whom, hearing, Telford was anxious to offend. This banjo, he knew at once, was touched by fingers which felt them as if born on them, and the chords were such as are only brought forth by those who have learned them to melodies of the south. He stopped before the house and leaned upon the fence. He heard the voice go shivering through a negro hymn, which was among the first he had ever known. He felt himself suddenly shiver-a thrill of nervous sympathy. His face went hot and his hands closed on the palings tightly. He stole into the garden quietly, came near the window and stood still. He held his mouth in his palm. He had an inclination to cry out.

"Good God!" he said in a whisper. "To hear that off here after all these years!" Suddenly the voice stopped. There was a murmur within. It came to him indistinctly. "She has forgotten the rest," he said. Instantly and almost involuntarily he sang:

"Look up an look aroun,

Fro you burden on de groun."

Then came the sequel as we described, and his low chanting of the negro woodcutter's chant. He knew that any who answered it must have lived the life he once lived in Louisiana, for he had never heard it since he had left there, nor any there hum it except those who knew the negroes well. Of an evening, in the hot, placid south, he had listened to it come floating over the sugarcane and through the brake and go creeping weirdly under the magnolia trees. He waited, hoping, almost wildly-he knew it was a wild hope-that there would be a reply. There was none. But presently there came to him Baron's crude, honest singing:

"For you'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road,

And I'll be in Scotland before you;

But I and my true love will never meet again

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Ben Lomond."

Telford drew in his breath sharply, caught his mustache between his teeth savagely for a minute, then let it go with a run of ironical laughter. He looked round him. He saw in the road two or three people who had been attracted by the music. They seemed so curious merely, so apathetic-his feelings were playing at full tide. To him they were the idle, intrusive spectators of his trouble. All else was dark about him save where on the hill the lights of the Tempe hotel showed, and a man and woman, his arm round her, could be seen pacing among the trees. Telford turned away from this, ground his heel into the turf and said: "I wish I could see who she is. Her voice? It's impossible." He edged close to the window, where a light showed at the edge of the curtains. Suddenly he pulled up.

"No. Whoever she is I shall know in time. Things come round. It's almost uncanny as it stands, but then it was uncanny-it has all been so since the start." He turned to the window again, raised his hat to it, walked quickly out into the road and made his way to the View hotel. As he came upon the veranda Mildred Margrave passed him. He saw the shy look of interest in her face, and with simple courtesy he raised his hat. She bowed and went on. He turned and looked after her; then, shaking his head as if to dismiss an unreasonable thought, entered and went to his room.

About this time the party at Hagar's rooms was breaking up. There had been more singing by Mrs. Detlor. She ransacked her memory for half remembered melodies-whimsical, arcadian, sad-and Hagar sat watching her, outwardly quiet and appreciative, inwardly under an influence like none he had ever felt before. When his guests were ready, he went with them to their hotel. He saw that Mrs. Detlor shrank from the attendance of the Prince, who insisted on talking of the "stranger in the greenroom." When they arrived at the hotel, he managed, simply enough, to send the lad on some mission for Mrs. Detlor, which, he was determined, should be permanent so far as that evening was concerned. He was soon walking alone with her on the terrace. He did not force the conversation, nor try to lead it to the event of the evening, which, he felt, was more important than others guessed. He knew also that she did not care to talk just then. He had never had any difficulty in conversation with her-they had a singular rapport. He had traveled much, seen more, remembered everything, was shy to austerity with people who did not interest him, spontaneous with those that did, and yet was never-save to serve a necessary purpose-a hail fellow with any one. He knew that he could be perfectly natural with this woman-say anything that became a man. He was an artist without affectations, a diplomatic man, having great enthusiasm and some outer cynicism. He had started life terribly in earnest before the world. He had changed all that. In society he was a nervous organism gone cold, a deliberate, self-contained man. But insomuch as he was chastened of enthusiasm outwardly he was boyishly earnest inwardly.

He was telling Mrs. Detlor of some incident he had seen in South Africa when sketching there for a London weekly, telling it graphically, incisively-he was not fluent. He etched in speech; he did not paint. She looked up at him once or twice as if some thought was running parallel with his story. He caught the look. He had just come to the close of his narrative. Presently she put out her hand and touched his arm.

"You have great tact," she said, "and I am grateful."

"I will not question your judgment," he replied, smiling. "I am glad that you think so, and humbled too."

"Why humbled?" she laughed softly. "I can't imagine that."

"There are good opinions which make us vain, others which make us anxious to live up to them, while we are afraid we can't."

"Few men know that kind of fear. You are a vain race."

"You know best. Men show certain traits to women most."

"That is true. Of the most real things they seldom speak to each other, but to women they often speak freely, and it makes one shudder-till one knows the world, and gets used to it."

"Why shudder?" He guessed the answer, but he wanted, not from mere curiosity, to hear her say it.

"The business of life they take seriously-money, position, chiefly money. Life itself-home, happiness, the affections, friendship-is an incident, a thing to juggle with."

"I do not know you in this satirical mood," he answered. "I need time to get used to it before I can reply."

"I surprise you? People do not expect me ever to be either serious or-or satirical, only look to me to be amiable and merry. 'Your only jig-maker,' as Hamlet said-a sprightly Columbine. Am I rhetorical?"

"I don't believe you are really satirical, and please don't think me impertinent if I say I do not like your irony. The other character suits you, for, by nature, you are-are you not?-both merry and amiable. The rest"-

"'The rest is silence.' * * * I can remember when mere living was delightful. I didn't envy the birds. That sounds sentimental to a man, doesn't it? But then that is the way a happy girl-a child-feels. I do not envy the birds now, though I suppose it is silly for a worldly woman to talk so."

"Whom, then, do you envy?"

There was a warm, frank light in her eyes. "I envy the girl I was then."

He looked down at her. She was turning a ring about on her finger abstractedly. He hesitated to reply. He was afraid that he might say something to press a confidence for which she would be sorry afterward. She guessed what was passing in his mind.

She reached out as if to touch his arm again, but did not, and said: "I am placing you in an awkward position. Pardon me. It seemed to me for a moment that we were old friends-old and candid friends."

"I wish to be an old and candid friend," he replied firmly. "I honor your frankness."

"I know," she added hastily. "One is safe-with some men."

"Not with a woman?"

"No woman is safe in any confidence to any other woman. All women are more or less bad at heart."

"I do not believe that as you say it."

"Of course you do not-as I say it. But you know what I mean. Women are creatures of impulse, except those who live mechanically and have lost everything. They become like priests then."

"Like some priests. Yet, with all respect, it is not a confessional I would choose, except the woman was my mother."

There was silence for a moment, and then she abruptly said: "I know you wish to speak of that incident, and you hesitate. You need not. Yet this is all I can tell you. Whoever the man was he came from Tellaire, the place where I was born."

She paused. He did not look, but he felt that she was moved. He was curious as to human emotions, but not where this woman was concerned.

"There were a few notes in that woodcutter's chant which were added to the traditional form by one whom I knew," she continued.

"You did not recognize the voice?"

"I cannot tell. One fancies things, and it was all twelve years ago."

"It was all twelve years ago," he repeated musingly after her. He was eager to know, yet he would not ask.

"You are a clever artist," she said presently. "You want a subject for a picture. You have told me so. You are ambitious. If you were a dramatist, I would give you three acts of a play-the fourth is yet to come; but you shall have a scene to paint if you think it strong enough."

His eyes flashed. The artist's instinct was alive. In the eyes of the woman was a fire which sent a glow over all her features. In herself she was an inspiration to him, but he had not told her that. "Oh, yes," was his reply, "I want it, if I may paint you in the scene."

"You may paint me in the scene," she said quietly. Then, as if it suddenly came to her that she would be giving a secret into this man's hands, she added, "That is, if you want me for a model merely."

"Mrs. Detlor," he said, "you may trust me, on my honor."

She looked at him, not searchingly, but with a clear, honest gaze such as one sees oftenest in the eyes of children, yet she had seen the duplicities of life backward and said calmly, "Yes, I can trust you."

"An artist's subject ought to be sacred to him," he said. "It becomes himself, and then it isn't hard-to be silent."

They walked for a few moments, saying nothing. The terrace was filling with people, so they went upon the veranda and sat down. There were no chairs near them. They were quite at the end.

"Please light a cigar," she said with a little laugh. "We must not look serious. Assume your light comedy manner as you listen, and I will wear the true Columbine expression. We are under the eyes of the curious."

"Not too much light comedy for me," he said. "I shall look forbidding lest your admirers bombard us."

They were quiet again.

"This is the story," she said at last, folding her hands before her. "No, no," she added hastily, "I will not tell you the story, I will try and picture one scene. And when I have finished, tell me if you don't think I have a capital imagination." She drew herself up with a little gesture of mockery. "It is comedy, you know.

"Her name was Marion Conquest. She was beautiful-they said that of her then-and young, only sixteen. She had been very happy, for a man said that he loved her, and she wore his ring on her finger. One day, while she was visiting at a place far from her home, she was happier than usual. She wished to be by herself to wonder how it was that one could be so happy. You see, she was young and did not think often. She only lived. She took a horse and rode far away into the woods. She came near a cottage among the trees. She got off her horse and led it. Under a tree she saw a man and a woman. The man's arm was round the woman. A child four or five years old was playing at their feet-at the feet of its father and mother. * * * The girl came forward and faced the man-the man she had sworn to marry. As I said, his ring was on her finger."

She paused. People were passing near, and she smiled and bowed once or twice, but Hagar saw that the fire in her eyes had deepened.

"Is it strong enough for your picture?" she said quietly.

"It is as strong as it is painful. Yet there is beauty in it, too, for I see the girl's face."

"You see much in her face, of course, for you look at it as an artist. You see shame, indignation, bitterness-what else?"

"I see that moment of awe when the girl suddenly became a woman-as the serious day breaks all at once through the haze of morning."

"I know you can paint the picture," she said, "but you have no model for the girl. How shall you imagine her?"

"I said that I would paint you in the scene," he answered slowly.

"But I am not young, as she was; am not-so good to look at."

"I said that I saw beauty in the girl's face. I can only see it through yours."

Her hands clasped tightly before her. Her eyes turned full on him for an instant, then looked away into the dusk. There was silence for a long time now. His cigar burned brightly. People kept passing and repassing on the terrace below them. Their serious silence was noticeable.

"A penny for your thoughts," she said gayly, yet with a kind of wistfulness.

"You would be thrown away at the price."

These were things that she longed yet dreaded to hear. She was not free (at least she dreaded so) to listen to such words.

"I am sorry for that girl, God knows!" he added.

"She lived to be always sorry for herself. She was selfish. She could have thrived on happiness. She did not need suffering. She has been merry, gay, but never happy."

"The sequel was sad?"

"Terribly sad."

"Will you tell me-the scene?"

"I will, but not to-night." She drew her hands across her eyes and forehead. "You are not asking merely as the artist now?" She knew the answer, but she wanted to hear it.

"A man who is an artist asks, and he wishes to be a friend to that woman, to do her any service possible."

"Who can tell when she might need befriending?"

He would not question further. She had said all she could until she knew who the stranger was.

"I must go in," she said. "It is late."

"Tell me one thing. I want it for my picture-as a key to the mind of the girl. What did she say at that painful meeting in the woods-to the man?"

Mrs. Detlor looked at him as if she would read him through and through. Presently she drew a ring from her finger slowly and gave it to him, smiling bitterly.

"Read inside. That is what she said."

By the burning end of his cigar he read, "You told a lie."

At another hotel a man sat in a window looking out on the esplanade. He spoke aloud.

"'You told a lie,' was all she said, and as God's in heaven I've never forgotten I was a liar from that day to this."

* * *

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