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   Chapter 5 WHO IS MR. GREX

Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 13826

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Lady Weybourne insisted, after a reasonable amount of time spent over their coffee, that her brother should pay the bill and leave the restaurant. They walked slowly across the square.

"What are you going to do about it?" he asked.

"There is only one thing to be done," she replied. "I shall speak to every one I meet this afternoon-I shall be, in fact, most sociable-and sooner or later in our conversation I shall ask every one if they know Mr. Grex and his daughter. When I arrive at some one who does, that will be the first step, won't it?"

"I wonder whether we shall see some one soon!" he grumbled, looking around. "Where are all the people to-day!"

She laughed softly.

"Just a little impetuous, aren't you?"

"I should say so," he admitted. "I'd like to be introduced to her before four o'clock, propose to her this evening, and-and-"

"And what?"

"Never mind," he concluded, marching on with his head turned towards the clouds. "Let's go and sit down upon the Terrace and talk about her."

"But, my dear Dicky," his sister protested, "I don't want to sit upon the Terrace. I am going to my dressmaker's across the way there, and afterwards to Lucie's to try on some hats. Then I am going back to the hotel for an hour's rest and to prink, and afterwards into the Sporting Club at four o'clock. That's my programme. I shall be doing what I can the whole of the time. I shall make discreet enquiries of my dressmaker, who knows everybody, and I sha'n't let a single acquaintance go by. You will have to amuse yourself till four o'clock, at any rate. There's Sir Henry Hunterleys over there, having coffee. Go and talk to him. He may put you out of your misery. Thanks ever so much for my luncheon, and au revoir!"

She turned away with a little nod. Her brother, after a moment's hesitation, approached the table where Hunterleys was sitting alone.

"How do you do, Sir Henry?"

Hunterleys returned his greeting, a little blankly at first. Then he remembered the young man and held out his hand.

"Of course! You are Richard Lane, aren't you? Sit down and have some coffee. What are you doing here?"

"I've got a little boat in the harbour," Richard replied, as he drew up a chair. "I've been at Algiers for a time with some friends, and I've brought them on here. Just been lunching with my sister. Are you alone?"

Hunterleys hesitated.

"Yes, I am alone."

"Wonderful place," the young man went on. "Wonderful crowd of people here, too. I suppose you know everybody?" he added, warming up as he approached his subject.

"On the contrary," Hunterleys answered, "I am almost a stranger here. I have been staying further down the coast."

"Happen to know any one of the name of Grex?" Lane asked, with elaborate carelessness.

Hunterleys made no immediate reply. He seemed to be considering the name.

"Grex," he repeated, knocking the ash from his cigarette. "Rather an uncommon name, isn't it? Why do you ask?"

"Oh, I've seen an elderly man and a young lady about once or twice," Lane explained. "Very interesting-looking people. Some one told me that their name was Grex."

"There is a person living under that name, I think," Hunterleys said, "who has taken the Villa Mimosa for the season."

"Do you know him personally?" the young man asked eagerly.

"Personally? No, I can scarcely say that I do."

Richard Lane sighed. It was disappointment number one. For some reason or other, too, Hunterleys seemed disposed to change the conversation.

"The young lady who is always with him," Richard persisted, "would that be his daughter?"

Hunterleys turned a little in his seat and surveyed his questioner. He had met Lane once or twice and rather liked him.

"Look here, young fellow," he said, good humouredly, "let me ask you a question for a change. What is the nature of these enquiries of yours?"

Lane hesitated. Something in Hunterleys' face and manner induced him to tell the truth.

"I have fallen head over heels in love with the young lady," he confessed. "Don't think I am a confounded jackass. I am not in the habit of doing such things. I'm twenty-seven and I have never gone out of my way to meet a girl yet. This is something-different. I want to find out about them and get an introduction."

Hunterleys shook his head regretfully.

"I am afraid," he said, "that I can be of no use to you-no practical use, that is. I can only give you one little piece of advice."

"Well, what is it?" Richard asked eagerly.

"If you are in earnest," Hunterleys continued, "and I will do you the credit to believe that you are, you had better pack up your things, return to your yacht and take a cruise somewhere."

"Take a cruise somewhere!"

Hunterleys nodded.

"Get out of Monte Carlo as quickly as you can, and, above all, don't think anything more of that young lady. Get the idea out of your head as quickly as you can."

The young man was sitting upright in his chair. His manner was half minatory.

"Say, what do you mean by this?" he demanded.

"Exactly what I said just now," Hunterleys rejoined. "If you are in earnest, and I have no doubt that you are, I should clear out."

"What is it you are trying to make me understand?" Richard asked bluntly.

"That you have about as much chance with that young lady," Hunterleys assured him, "as with that very graceful statue in the square yonder."

Richard sat for a moment with knitted brows.

"Then you know who she is, any way?"

"Whether I do or whether I do not," the older man said gravely, "so far as I am concerned, the subject is exhausted. I have given you the best advice you ever had in your life. It's up to you to follow it."

Richard looked at him blankly.

"Well, you've got me puzzled," he confessed.

Hunterleys rose to his feet, and, summoning a waiter, paid his bill.

"You'll excuse me, won't you?" he begged. "I have an appointment in a few minutes. If you are wise, young man," he added, patting him on the shoulder as he turned to go, "you will take my advice."

Left to himself, Richard Lane strolled around the place towards the Terrace. He had no fancy for the Rooms and he found a seat as far removed as possible from the Tir du Pigeons. He sat there with folded arms, looking out across the sun-dappled sea. His matter-of-fact brain offered him but one explanation as to the meaning of Hunterleys' words, and against that explanation his whole being was in passionate revolt. He represented a type of young man who possesses morals by reason of a certain unsuspected idealism, mingled with perfect physical sanity. It seemed to him, as he sat there, that he had been waiting for this day for years. The old nights in New York and Paris and London floated before his memory. He pushed them on one side with a shiver, and yet with a curious feeling of exultation. He recalled a certain sensation which had been dr

awn through his life like a thin golden thread, a sensation which had a habit of especially asserting itself in the midst of these youthful orgies, a curious sense of waiting for something to happen, a sensation which had been responsible very often for what his friends had looked upon as eccentricity. He knew now that this thing had arrived, and everything else in life seemed to pale by the side of it. Hunterleys' words had thrown him temporarily into a strange turmoil. Solitude for a few moments he had felt to be entirely necessary. Yet directly he was alone, directly he was free to listen to his convictions, he could have laughed at that first mad surging of his blood, the fierce, instinctive rebellion against the conclusion to which Hunterleys' words seemed to point. Now that he was alone, he was not even angry. No one else could possibly understand!

Before long he was once more upon his feet, starting out upon his quest with renewed energy. He had scarcely taken a dozen steps, however, when he came face to face with Lady Hunterleys and Mr. Draconmeyer. Quite oblivious of the fact that they seemed inclined to avoid him, he greeted them both with unusual warmth.

"Saw your husband just now, Lady Hunterleys," he remarked, a little puzzled. "I fancied he said he was alone here."

She smiled.

"We did not come together," she explained; "in fact, our meeting was almost accidental. Henry had been at Bordighera and San Remo and I came out with Mr. and Mrs. Draconmeyer."

The young man nodded and turned towards Draconmeyer, who was standing a little on one side as though anxious to proceed.

"Mr. Draconmeyer doesn't remember me, perhaps. I met him at my sister's, Lady Weybourne's, just before Christmas."

"I remember you perfectly," Mr. Draconmeyer assured him courteously. "We have all been admiring your beautiful yacht in the harbour there."

"I was thinking of getting up a little cruise before long," Richard continued. "If so, I hope you'll all join us. Flossie is going to be hostess, and the Montressors are passengers already."

They murmured something non-committal. Lady Hunterleys seemed as though about to pass on but Lane blocked the way.

"I only arrived the other day from Algiers," he went on, making frantic efforts to continue the conversation. "I brought Freddy Montressor and his sister, and Fothergill."

"Mr. Montressor has come to the Hotel de Paris," Lady Hunterleys remarked. "What sort of weather did you have in Algiers?"

"Ripping!" the young man replied absently, entirely oblivious of the fact that they had been driven away by incessant rain. "This place is much more fun, though," he added, with sudden inspiration. "Crowds of interesting people. I suppose you know every one?"

Lady Hunterleys shook her head.

"Indeed I do not. Mr. Draconmeyer here is my guide. He is as good as a walking directory."

"I wonder if either of you know some people named Grex?" Richard asked, with studious indifference.

Mr. Draconmeyer for the first time showed some signs of interest. He looked at their questioner steadfastly.

"Grex," he repeated. "A very uncommon name."

"Very uncommon-looking people," Richard declared. "The man is elderly, and looks as though he took great care of himself-awfully well turned out and all that. The daughter is-good-looking."

Mr. Draconmeyer took off his gold-rimmed spectacles and rubbed them with his handkerchief.

"Why do you ask?" he enquired. "Is this just curiosity?"

"Rather more than that," Richard said boldly. "It's interest."

Mr. Draconmeyer readjusted his spectacles.

"Mr. Grex," he announced, "is a gentleman of great wealth and illustrious birth, who has taken a very magnificent villa and desires for a time to lead a life of seclusion. That is as much as I or any one else knows."

"What about the young lady?" Richard persisted.

"The young lady," Mr. Draconmeyer answered, "is, as you surmised, his daughter.... Shall we finish our promenade, Lady Hunterleys?"

Richard stood grudgingly a little on one side.

"Mr. Draconmeyer," he said desperately, "do you think there'd be any chance of my getting an introduction to the young lady?"

Mr. Draconmeyer at first smiled and then began to laugh, as though something in the idea tickled him. He looked at the young man and Richard hated him.

"Not the slightest in the world, I should think," he declared. "Good afternoon!"

Lady Hunterleys joined in her companion's amusement as they continued their promenade.

"Is the young man in love, do you suppose?" she enquired lightly.

"If so," her companion replied, "he has made a somewhat unfortunate choice. However, it really doesn't matter. Love at his age is nothing more than a mood. It will pass as all moods pass."

She turned and looked at him.

"Do you mean," she asked incredulously, "that youth is incapable of love?"

They had paused for a moment, looking out across the bay towards the glittering white front of Bordighera. Mr. Draconmeyer took off his hat. Somehow, without it, in that clear light, one realised, notwithstanding his spectacles, his grizzled black beard of unfashionable shape, his over-massive forehead and shaggy eyebrows, that his, too, was the face of one whose feet were not always upon the earth.

"Perhaps," he answered, "it is a matter of degree, yet I am almost tempted to answer your question absolutely. I do not believe that youth can love, because from the first it misapprehends the meaning of the term. I believe that the gift of loving comes only to those who have reached the hills."

She looked at him, a little surprised. Always thoughtful, always sympathetic, generally stimulating, it was very seldom that she had heard him speak with so much real feeling. Suddenly he turned his head from the sea. His eyes seemed to challenge hers.

"Your question," he continued, "touches upon one of the great tragedies of life. Upon those who are free from their youth there is a great tax levied. Nature has decreed that they should feel something which they call love. They marry, and in this small world of ours they give a hostage as heavy as a millstone of their chances of happiness. For it is only in later life, when a man has knowledge as well as passion, when unless he is fortunate it is too late, that he can know what love is."

She moved a little uneasily. She felt that something was coming which she desired to avoid, some confidence, something from which she must escape. The memory of her husband's warning was vividly present with her. She felt the magnetism of her companion's words, his compelling gaze.

"It is so with me," he went on, leaning a little towards her, "only in my case-"

Providence was intervening. Never had the swish of a woman's skirt sounded so sweet to her before.

"Here's Dolly Montressor," she interrupted, "coming up to speak to us."

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