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   Chapter 17 SEVENTEEN-MILE DRIVE

The Port of Adventure By A. M. Williamson Characters: 8105

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


Things were better at Del Monte. Mrs. Harland was there, and made a delightful hostess. It rather amused Angela to watch Theo Dene with Sonia Dobieski, and to see how delightful Falconer's sister was to both. But somehow she contrived that Miss Dene should not be of the motoring party for the Seventeen-Mile Drive. A young officer from the Presidio was produced, to compensate as far as could be for her frankly lamented "failure"; and Theo resigned herself to a second-best flirtation. It was consoling to think that Falconer had been in love with the Dobieski long before he saw her: and Theo could almost forgive the Russian, whom she considered plain and gawky compared to herself. She could not, however, forgive "Mrs. May" for having come into the party, and for being liked by the host better than she was liked. Judging another woman by herself, she thought that, out of revenge for one or two little things (such as the talk about Mrs. Gaylor and Nick Hilliard), Angela was trying to "take away" her California friends. If Theo had considered it worth while, she would have broken her word, and told who "Mrs. May" really was; but that would be worse than useless, as it would only make Angela seem of more importance than at present. However, on hearing that Mrs. May might decide to "run up to Shasta and the McCloud River," she promised herself a certain amount of fun. She had reminded Mrs. Harland so often about writing to Mrs. Gaylor, that at last the letter had been sent. The lady who was supposed to have a claim upon Nick Hilliard was asked to visit Rushing River Camp, as Falconer's place was called; and a telegram had been dispatched by Falconer himself to Hilliard at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, whither he was bound. If they all came-yes, Theo would have her fun.

She thought of this, as she flirted with the officer from the Presidio, and promised to make him the hero of her next book. But the party in Falconer's motor thought of her not at all.

Angela was enchanted with the peninsula of Monterey. In the dark arbour of the cedar forest Falconer kept ordering the chauffeur of a hired car to slow down, or stop. The practically minded young man believed that this great gentleman and the three ladies must be slightly mad. It was so queer to stop a car when she was going well just to stare around and talk poetry about a lot of trees.

One of the ladies, the prettiest and youngest, with yellow hair under her gray motor-bonnet, said they weren't trees but people-either nymphs or witches-and the rest of the party humoured her, talking nonsense about Greece and goddesses. He thought the pleasure of a motor trip was "going some"; but his passengers seemed to have other ideas. They were idiots, of course, but they seemed mighty happy.

Angela, however, was less happy than the others, less happy than she tried to seem. She had a dim idea that, if she had come with Nick, she would have thought this the most beautiful place on earth, and that she had found the ideal spot for a home. As it was, in spite of all the loveliness, she was not sure of herself, or what she wanted. This made her ashamed. She was as self-conscious as Nick had been yesterday, and in sheer panic fear lest "they" should think she was pining for Hilliard, or grieving over some stupid quarrel, she said that she would certainly buy land in the forest. She must not lose such a chance. If for any reason she should change her mind, she could always sell, couldn't she? On this point Falconer reassured her. "You can sell to me," he laughed in the light-hearted way that surprised the chauffeur. "You build a house and furnish it, and take all the trouble, and I'll buy it from you-to live in myself when I want to imagine I'm in Greece or Sicily, as I do sometimes when I'm too busy to go there." And he looked at Sonia.

Though he laughed, he was in earnest, and Angela began to feel that she might want to keep her house-if she built it. She saw herself walking under the strange dark trees to the gray rocks, to look

at the seals. Nick was with her.... She hurried to think of something else. Nick would not be here. They would have forgotten each other by the time her house was built. Perhaps he would be married to his Mrs. Gaylor.

"Angela was enchanted with the peninsula of Monterey"

After all it did not seem so romantic to have a place where she could go and look at some seals, alone. Stupid! Because she had come to California on purpose to have a place where she could be alone.

"How absurd women, are!" she thought, irritably. "As soon as we can have what we want, we don't want it. I suppose it must be that. Now I long for all kinds of new things I can't possibly have, which would be very bad for me if I could."

After lunching at the wonderful Club House built of logs, they went back by way of Monterey, and in the sleepy old town which holds more California history than any other they wandered about, "seeing the sights," one after another. They paid their respects to the monument of Father Juniperra Serra, who landed at Monterey with his soldiers a hundred and forty years ago-a long time in America, where life moves quickly. Then, next in interest, came the verandaed Custom House, built under Spanish rule, and looking just the place to spend a lazy afternoon in gossiping about lovely ladies, and pretending to do important business for the Crown. There was the oldest Court-house in California, too, and the oldest brick house, and the oldest frame building-"brought round the Horn"; the oldest theatre, glorified by Jenny Lind's singing; and, indeed, all the oldest old things to be found anywhere in history or romance. But, though Angela dared not say so, she wondered what had become of the really old things, new in the beginning of the seventeenth century when Don Sebastian Viscanio landed to name the town-in honour of Philip the Third-Monterey or "King of the Mountains."

That night they all walked together under the great trees of the park at Del Monte. A lake (where black swans threaded their way like dark spirits among white water-lilies) drank the last light of day, and little waves the swans made were ruffled with dim silver. Above, the sky was another deep blue lake lilied with stars; and as darkness fell, hot and sweet-scented as the veil of an Eastern woman, slowly the boundaries were lost between forest and garden. Outlines faded and blended into one another. The fuchsias, big as babies' fists, the poppies like dolls' crêpe sunbonnets, the roses large enough for nightingales' nests, lost their colour, and seemed to go out in the dark, like brilliant bubbles that break into nothingness. Here and there yellow light flashed near the ground, far from the walkers, as if a faint firefly were astray in a tangle of flowers. Chinese gardeners, deft and mysterious as brownies, were working at night to change the arrangement of flower-beds so that the dwellers in the hotel should have a surprise by day.

Theo Dene talked of Carmen Gaylor, telling stories she had heard of the rich widow from people whose acquaintance she had first made at Del Monte. "I am longing to meet the woman," she said; "I think she must be an interesting character, typically Spanish, or Mexican-or, anyhow, not American-from what they all say. A beauty-vain and jealous, and a fearful temper. I shouldn't like to interfere with a woman of that sort in what she thought her 'rights,' should you?"

"They weren't trees, but people, either nymphs or witches"

"One can't interfere with a person one has never met, can one?" Angela remarked, pretending not to understand.

"Maybe not, in real life," Theo agreed. "I'm always losing myself in my books, and forgetting that the world outside isn't like my world, made of romance. But you can understand, can't you; here where it's so beautiful that even a married woman-who has, of course, left love far behind her in Europe-must feel some faint yearning to be the heroine of a romance?"

Princess di Sereno wondered why she had ever been nice to Theo in Rome.

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