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The St. Charles herald. [volume] (Hahnville, La.) 1873-1993, January 19, 1918, Image 3

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85034322/1918-01-19/ed-1/seq-3/

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Am Unusual Love Story
l ¥ E. PHILLIPS GPPENHEE
MiaMT
CHAPTER XXI—Continued.
— 12 —
"My own reputation," she mur
mured, "is absolutely of no conse
quence, but remember that you live
kere, and—"
"Don't be silly !" he Interrupted.
"What does that matter? And besides,
according to you and all the rest of
you here, these things don't affect a j
man's reputation—they are expected
of him. See, I have rung the bell for
breakfast. Now I am going to tele
phone down for a messenger boy to
go for your clothes."
They breakfasted together, a little
later, and she made him smoke. He
stood before the window, looking down
upon the river, with his pipe in his
mouth and an unfamiliar look upon
his face.
"Do you suppose that Louise knows
anything?" he asked at length.
"I should think not," she replied.
"It is for you to tell her. I rang up
the prince's house while you were in
the bathroom. They say that he has
a broken rib and some bad cuts, sus
tained in a motor accident last night,
but that he is in no danger. There
was nothing about the affair in the
newspapers, and the prince's servants
have evidently been instructed to give
this account to inquirers."
A gleam of interest shone in John's
face.
"Ey the bye," he remarked, "the
prince is a Frenchman. He will very
likely expect me to fight with him."
"No hope of that, my belligerent
friend," Sophy declared, with an at
' tempc at a smile. "The prince knows
that he is in England. He would not
be guilty of such an anachronism. Be
sides, he is a person of wonderfully
well-balanced mind. When he is him
self again, he will realize that what
happened to him is exactly what he
asked for."
John took up his hat and gloves.
He glanced at the clock—It was a lit
tle past eleven.
"I am ready," he announced. "Let
me drive you home first."
His motor was waiting at the door,
and he left Sophy at her rooms. Be
fore she got out, she held his arm for
a moment.
"John," she said, "remember that
Louise is very high-strung and very
sensitive. Be careful !"
"There is only one thing to do 01
to say," he answered. "There is only
one way in which I can do It."
He drove the car down Piccadilly
like a man in a dream, steering as
carefully as usual through the traffic,
and glancing every now' and then with
unseeing eyes at the streams of peo
ple upon the pavements. Finally he
came to a standstill before Louise 9
house and stopped the engine with de
liberate care. Then he rang the bell,
and was shown into her little draw
ing-room, which seemed to have become
a perfect bow r er of pink and w'hite
lilac.
He sat waiting as if in a dream,
unable to decide upon his words, un
able even to sift his thoughts. The
one purpose with which he had come,
the one question he designed to ask,
was burning in his brain. The min
utes of her absence seemed tragically
long. , .
Then at last the door opened and
Louise entered. She came toward him
with a little welcoming smile upon
her lips. Her manner was gay, al
most affectionate.
"Have you come to take me for a
ride before lunch?" she asked. "Do
you know, I think that I should really
like it! We might lunch at Ranelagh
on our way home."
The words stuck in his throat. From
where she was, she saw now the writ
ing on his face. She stopped short.
"What is it?" she exclaimed.
"Ever since I knew you," he said
slowly "there have been odd moments
when I have lived in torture. During
the last fortnight, those moments have
become hours. Last night the end
"Are you mad, John?" she demand
^"Perhaps," he replied. "Listen. When
1 left you last night. I went to the
club in Adelphl Terrace. There was a
well-known critic there, comparing you
and Latrobe. On the whole he fa
vored you, but he gave Latrobe the
first place in certain parts. Latrobe
be said, had had more experience in
life. She had had a dozen lovers
von only one !"
7 She winced. The glad freshness
seemed suddenly to fade from her
face. Her eyes became strained.
"Well?"
"I found Graillot. I cornered him.
I asked him for the truth about you.
He put me off with an evasion. I
Sue down here and looked a your
window. It was three o clock in the
morning. I dared not come in A ver.v
demon of unrest was in my blood. I
stopped at the night club on my ' wy
back Sophy was there. I asked her
plainly to Put me out of my agony.
She was like Graillot. She fenced with
me. And then—the prince came.
"The prince was there? she fal
* erP< ?' __ the table where
"He came np to me
Sophy and I were sitting. I think I
was half mad. I poured him a glass of
X". I told him that you had prom
36I.fi
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.
a
a
in
I
I
I
of
ised to become my wife. He raised J
his glass—I can see him now. He !
told me, with a smile, that it was the
anniversary of the day on which you
promised to become his—!"
Louise shrank back.
"He told you that?"
John was on his feet. The fever
was blazing once more.
"He told me that, face to face!"
"And you?"
"If we had been alone," John an
swered simply, "I should have killed
him. I drove the words down his
throat. I threw him hack to the place
he had left, and hurt him rather badly.
I'm afraid. Sophy took me home
somehow, and now I am here."
She leaned a little forward on the
couch. She looked into his face search
ingly, anxiously as If looking for
something she could not find. His lips
were set in hard, cold lines. The
likeness to Stephen had never been
more apparent.
"Listen !" she said. "You are a Puri
tan. While I admire the splendid self
restraint evolved from your creed, it is
partly temperamental, isn't it? I was
brought up to see things differently,
and I do see them differently. Tell
me. do you love me?"
"Love you?" he repeated. "You
know it! Could I suffer the tortures
of the damned if I didn't? Could I
come to you with 'a man's blood upon
my hands if I didn't? If the prince
lives, it is simply the accident of fate.
I tell you that if we had been alone I j
should have driven the breath out of <
his body. Love you !"
He rose slowly to her feet. She
leaned with her elbow upon the man
telpiece, and her face was hidden for
a moment.
"Let me think!" she said. "I don't
know what to say to you. I don't
know you, John. There Isn't anything ,
left of the John I loved. Let me look ;
again !"
She swung around.
"You speak of love," she went on
suddenly. "Do you know what it Is?
Do you know that love reaches to the
heavens, and can also touch the neth
ermost depths of hell? If I throw
myself on your knees before you now, i
if I link my fingers around your neck,
if I whisper to you that in the days
that were past before you came I had
done things I would fain forget, if I
told you that from henceforth every j
second of my life was yours, that my j
heart beat with yours by day and by '
night, that I had no other thought, no
other dream, than to stay by your side,
to see you happy, to give all there was
of myself into your keeping, to keep
it holy and sacred for you—John,
what then?"
Never a line in his face softened. He
looked at her a moment as he had
looked at the woman in Piccadilly, into
whose hand he had dropped gold.
"Are you going to tell me that It is
the truth?" he asked hoarsely.
"Think for a single moment of that
feeling which you call love, John!"
she pleaded. "Listen ! I love you. It
has come to me at last, after all these
1
- • V
a
y
rv;
"Am I Too Good for You, Sophy?"
years. It lives in my heart, a greater
thing than my ambition, a greater
thing than my success, à greater thing
than life Itself. I love you, John ! Can't
you feel, don't you know, that noth
ing else In life can matter?"
Not a line in his face softened. His
teeth had «come together. He was like
a man upon the rack.
"It Is true? It is true, then?" he
demanded.
She looked at him without any reply.
The seconds seemed drawn out to an
Interminable period. He heard the
rolling of the motorbuses In the street.
Once more the perfume of the lilac
seemed to choke him. Then she leaned
back and touched the bell.
"The prince spoke the truth." she
said. "I think you had better go !"
CHAPTER XXII.
Before the wide-flung window of her
attic bedchamber, Sophy Gerard was
crouching with her face turned west
ward. She had abandoned all effort
to sleep. The one thought that was
beating in h°r brain was too insistent,
too clamorous. Somewhere beyond
that tangled mass of chimneys and
telegraph poles, somewhere on the oth
er side of the gray haze which hung
about the myriad roofs, John and
Louise were working out their destiny,
speaking at last the naked truth to
each other.
She started suddenly hack into the
room. There was a knocking at the
door, something quite different from
her landlady's summons. She wrapped
her dressing-gown around her, pulled
the curtains around the little bed on
which she had striven to rest, and
moved toward the door. She turned
the handle softly.
"Who Is that?" she asked.
John almost pushed his way past
her. She closed the door with nerve
less fingers. Her eyes sought his face,
her lips were parted. She clung to the
back of the chair.
"You have seen Louise?" she ex
claimed breathlessly.
"I have seen Louise." he answered.
"It is all over!"
She looked a little helplessly around
j would rather not talk any more about
\ didn't come here to talk about
her. Then she selected the one chair
in the tiny apartment that was likely
to hold him, and led him to it.
"I'lease sit down," she begged, "and
tell me about it. You musn't despair
like this all at once. I wonder if I
could help !" !
"No one can'help." he told her grim- I
lv. "It is all finished and done with.
so clean, so neat, so pathetically elo
, quent of poverty. She drew closer to
; gether the curtains which concealed
it. I came to see you. So this Is
whfre you live!"
He looked around him, and for a mo
ment he almost forgot the pain which
was gnawing at his heart. It was such
a simple, plainly furnished little room,
the little chlnts-covered bed, and came
and sat down by his'side.
She clasped her hands tighter
around his arm. Her eyes sought his
anxiously.
"But you mustn't climb down, John,"
she Insisted. "You are so much nicer
i w here you are, so much too good for the
U gi y things. You must fight this
in your own way> gght it according to
your own standards. You are too good
to come down—"
j « Am j too good for you, Sophy?"
j g he j 00 k e( j at him, and her whole
' face seeme ^ to soften. The light in
her blue eyes was sweet and wistful
A bewildering little smile curled her
lips.
"Don't be stupid!" she begged. "A
few minutes ago I was looking out of
my window and thinking what a poor
little morsel of humanity I am, and
what a useless, drifting life I have led.
But that's foolish. Come now ! What
I want to persuade you to do Is to
go back to Cumberland for a time,
and try hard—very hard indeed—to
realize what it means to be a woman
like Louise, with her temperament,
her Intense Intellectual curiosity, her
charm. Nothing could make Louise
different from what she is—a dear,
sweet woman and a great artist. And,
John, I believe she loves you !"
His face remained^ undisturbed even
by the flicker of an eyelid.
Sophy," he said, "I have decided
to go abroad. Will you come with
me?"
She sat quite still. Again her face
was momentarily transformed. All its
pallor and fatigue seemed to have van
ished. Her head had fallen a little back.
She was looking through the ceiling
Into heaven. Then the light died away
almost as quickly as it had come. Her
lips shook tremulously.
"You know you don't mean It, John!
You wouldn't take me. And If you did,
you'd hate me afterward—you'd want
to send me back!"
He suddenly drew her to him, his
arm went around her waist. She had
lost all power of resistance. For the
first time in his life of his own delib
erate accord, he kissed her—feverish
ly, almost roughly.
"Sophy," he declared, "I have been a
fool ! I have come an awful cropper,
but you might help me with what's
left. I am going to start afresh. I
am going to get rid of some of these
ideas of mine which have brought me
nothing hut misery and disappoint
ment. I don't want to live up to them
any longer. I want to just forget
them. I want to live as other men
live—just the simple, ordinary life.
Come with me! I'll take you to the
places we've talked about together. 1
am always happy and contented with
you. Let's try It !"
Her arms stole around his neck.
"John," she whispered, hiding her
face for a moment. "What can I say?
What could any poor, weak little crea
ture like me say? You know I am
fond of you—I haven't had the pride,
even, to conceal it !"
He stood up, held her face for a
moment between his hands, and kissed
her forehead.
"Then that's all settled," he de
clared. "I am going back to my rooms
now. I want you to come and dine
with me there tonight, at eight
o'clock."
Her eyes sought his, pleaded with
them, searched them.
"You are sure, John?" she asked, her
voice a little broken. "You want me
really? I am to come?"
"I am sure," he answered steadfast
ly. "I shall expect you at eight
o'clock !"
John went back to his rooms fighting
all the time against a sense of unreal
ity, a sense almost of lost identity.
He bought an evening newspaper and
read it on the way. Ho talked to
the hall porter, he talked to n neigh
bor with whom he ascended in the
lift—he did everything except think.
In his rooms he telephoned to the
restaurant for a waiter, and with the
menu In his hand, a few minutes later,
he ordered dinner. Then he glanced
at his watch—it was barely seven
o'clock. He went down to the barber
shop, was shaved anti had his hair cut,
encouraging the barber ail the while
to talk to him. He gave his hands
over to a manicure, and did his best
to talk nonsense to her. Then he came
upstairs again, changed his clothes
with great care, and went into his
little sitting room.
It was five minutes to eight, and
dinner had been laid at a little round
table in the center of the room. There
was a bowl of pink roses—Sophy's fa
vorite flower—sent in from the flor
ist's; the table was lighted by a pink
shaded lamp. John went around the
I room, turning out the other lights, un
! til the apartment was hung with shad
I G ws save for the little spot of color
j n the middle. An unopened bottle of
Is
to
in
"A
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to
its
did,
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dine
eight
with
her
champagne stood in an ice-pail
two specially prepared cocktails had
been placed upon the little side table.
There were no more preparations to be
made.
He turned impatiently away from
the window and glanced at the clock.
It was almost eight. He tried to tmag
ine that the bell was ringing, that So
phy was standing there on the thresh
old In her simple but dainty evening
dress, with a little smile parting her
lips. The end of It all I He pulled
down the blind. No more of the win
dow, no more looking out at the lights,
no more living in the clouds ! It was
time, indeed, that he lived as other
men. He lifted one of the glasses to
his lips and drained its contents.
Then the bell rang. He moved for
ward to answer Its summons with
boating heart. As he opened it, he re
ceived n shock. A messenger boy stood
outside. He took the note which the
boy handed him and tore it open under
a lamp. There were only a few lines:
John, my heart is breaking, but I know
you do not mean what you said. I know
it was only a moment of madness with
you. I know you will love Louise all your
life, and will bless me all your life be
cause I am giving up the one thing which
could make my life a paradise. I shall
bo in the train when you read this, on my
way to Bath. I have wired my young
man, as you call him, to meet me. I am
going to ask him to marry me, If he will,
next week.
Good-by! I give you no advice. Some
day I think that life will right Itself with
you. SOPHY.
The letter dropped upon the table.
John stood for a moment dazed. Sud
denly he began to laugh. Then he re
membered the messenger boy, gave
him half a crown, and closed the door.
He came back into the room and took
his place at the table. He looked at
the empty chair by his side, looked at
the full glass on the sideboard. It
seemed to him that he was past all
sensations. The waiter came in si
lently.
"You can serve the dinner," John or
dered, shaking out his napkin. "Open
the champagne before you go."
"You will be alone, sir?" the man
Inquired.
"I shall be alone," John answered.
CHAPTER XXIII.
It was a room of silence, save for
the hissing of the green logs that
burned on the open hearth, and for
the slow movements of Jennings as he
cleared the table. Straight and grim
In his chair, with the newspaper by
his side, Stephen Strangewey sat
smoking stolidly. Opposite to him, al
most as grim, equally silent, sat John.
"Things were quiet at Market Ket
ton today, then, John?" Stephen asked
at last.
"There was nothing doing," was the
brief reply.
That, for the space of a quarter of
an hour or so, was the sole attempt at
conversation between the two broth
ers. Then Jennings appeared with a
decanter of wine and two glasses,
which he reverently filled. Stephen
held his up to the light and looked at
it critically. John's remained by his
side, unnoticed.
"A glass for yourself, Jennings,
Stephen ordered.
"I thank ye kindly, sir," the old
man replied.
He fetched a glass from the side
board, filled it, and held it respectfully
before him.
"It's the old toast," Stephen said
glumly. "You know it!"
"Aye, Master Stephen !" the servant
assented. "We've drunk it together
for many a long year. I give It ye
now with all my heart—confusion to
all women !"
They both glanced at John, who
an) ] I
at
at
It
si
for
for
he
by
sat
al
the
of
at
a
at
his
old
ye
to
showed no signs of movement. Then
they drank together, the older man
and his servant. Still John never
moved. Jennings drained his glass,
placed the decanter by his master's
side, and withdrew.
"So the poison's still there, broth
er?" Stephen asked.
"And will be so long as I live," John
confessed gloomily. "For all that, I'll
not drink your toast."
"Why nut?"
"There was a little girl—you saw
her when you were in London. She Is
married now, but I think of her some
times ; and when I do, you aud old
Jennings seem to me like a couple of
blithering idiots cursing things too
wonderful for you to understand !"
Stephen made uo protest. For a
time he smoked in silence. Curiously
enough, as they sat together, some of
the grim fierceness seemed to have
passed j'rom his expression and settled
upon John. More than once, as he
looked across at his younger brother,
it almost seemed as if there was some
thing of self-reproach in his question
ing look.
"You dined at the ordinary in Mar
ket Kettou?" Stephen asked at last.
"I did."
"Then you heard the news?"
"Who could help it?" John muttered.
"There wasn't much else talked
about."
"Bailiff Henderson has been over
] I here," Stephen went on. "There's a
small army of painters and decorators
coming down to the castle next week.
You saw the announcement of the
wedding in the morning Post, maybe?"
John assented without words. Ste
phen smoked vigorously for a few mo
ments. Every now and then he
glanced across to where John was sit
ting. Once again the uneasiness was
in his eyes, an uneasiness which was
almost self-reproach.
John moved a little restlessly in his
chair.
"Let's drop It, Stephen," he begged.
"We both know the facts. She is go
ing to marry him, and that's the end
of it. Fill your glass up again. Here's
mine untouched. I'll drink your toast
with you, If you'll leave out the little
girl who was kind to me. I'll give it
to you myself—confusion to all wom
en !"
"Confusion to—" Stephen began.
"What on earth is that?"
They both heard it at the same time
—the faint beating of a motor engine
in the distance. John set down his
glass. There was a strange look in
his eyes.
"There are more cars passing along
the road now than in the old days,"
he muttered ; "but that's a queer
sound. It reminds one—good heavens,
how it reminds one !"
There was a look of agony in his
face for a moment. Then once more
he raised his glass to his lips.
"It's passed out of hearing," Stephen
said. "It's someone on the way to the
castle, maybe."
Still their glasses remained suspend
ed in midair. The little garden gate
had opened and closed with a click ;
there were footsteps upon the flinty
walk.
"It's someone coming here !" John
cried hoarsely. "Why can't they keep
away? It's two years ago this week
since I brought her up the drive and
you met us at the front door. Two
years ago, Stephen! Who can It be?"
They heard the front door open,
they heard Jennings' voice raised In
unusual and Indignant protest. Then
their own door was suddenly flung
wide, and a miracle happened. John's
glass slipped from his fingers, and the
wine streamed out across the carpet.
He shrank hack, gripping at the table
cloth. Stephen turned his head, and
sat as if turned to stone.
"John," she faltered, "It isn't the car
this time—it is I who have broken
down ! I cannot go on. I have no
pride left. I have come to you. Will
you help me?"
He found himself upon his feet. Ste
phen, too, had arisen. She stood be
tween the two men, and glanced from
one to the other. Then she looked
more closely into John's face, peering
forward with a little start of pain, and
her eyes were filled with tears.
"John," she cried, "forgive me ! You
were so cruel that morning, and you
seemed to understand so little. Don't
you really understand, even now?
Have you ever known the truth, I won
der?"
"The truth !" he echoed hoarsely.
"Don't we all know that? Don't we all
know that he is to give you your rights,
that you are coming—"
"Stop !" she ordered him.
He obeyed, and for a moment there
was silence—a tense, strained silence.
"John," she continued at last, "I
have no rights to receive from the
prince of Seyre. He owes me nothing.
Listen ! Always we have seen life dif
ferently, you and I. To me there is
only one great thing, and that Is love;
I
and beyond that nothing counts. I
tried to love the prince before you
came, and I thought I did, and I prom
ised him at last, because I believed
that he loved oie and that I loved him,
;
"I
is
and that if so It was his right. Look
down the road, John! On that night
I was on my way to the castle; but I
broke down, and in the morning the
world was all different, and I went
back to London. It has been different
ever since, and there has never been
any question of anything between the
prince and me, because I knew that It
was not love."
John was shuking in every limb. Hie
eyes were filled with fierce question
ing. Stephen sat there, and there was
wonder in his face, too.
"When you came to me that morn
ing," she went on, "you spoke to me
in a strange tongue. I couldn't under
stand you, you seemed so far away.
if*
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VI
I
"I've Come for You!"
I wanted to tell you the whole truth«
but I didn't. Perhaps I wasn't sure—
perhaps it seemed to mo that It was
best for me to forget, if ever I had
cured, for the ways of our lives seemed
so far apart. You went away, and I
drifted on ; but It wasn't true that I
ever promised to marry the prince. No
one had any right to put that para
graph in the newspaper!"
"But what are you doing here, then?''
John asked hoarsely. "Aren't you on
your way to the castle?"
She came a little nearer; her arms
went around his neck.
"You dear stupid !" she cried.
"Haven't I told you? I've tried to do
without you, and I can't. I've come for
you. Corne outside, please ! It's quite
light. The moon's coining over the
hills. I want to walk up the orchard.
I want to hear just what I've come to
hear !"
He passed out of the room in a
dream, under the blossom-laden boughs
of the orchard, and up the hillside
toward the church. The dream passed,
but Louise remained, flesh and blood.
Her lips were warm aud her arras held
him almost feverishly.
"In that little church, John, and
quickly—so quickly, please !" she whis
pered.
*••••••
Jennings hastened In to where Ste
phen was sitting alone.
"Mr. Stephen," he cried, "what's
coming to us? There's that French
hussy outside, and a motorcar in the
drive, and the chauffeur's asking
where lie's to sleep. The woman wants
to know whether she can have the
same bedroom for her mistress a3 last
time!"
"Then why don't you go and see
about it, you old fool?" Stephen re
plied. "Pick up those pieces of glass
there, lay the cloth, and get some sup
per ready."
Through the open doorway they
heard AUne's voice in the hall.
"Meester Jennings, will you please
come and help me with the luggage?"
"Get along with you !" Stephen or
dered. "You'd better hurry up with
the supper, too. The boy Tom can see
to the luggage."
The old man recovered himself
slowly.
"You're taking 'em in, sir—taking
'em Into the house?" he gasped. "What
about that toast?"
Stephen refilled two glasses.
"We'd better alter It a little," he
declared. "Here's confusion to most
women, but luck to John and his
wife!"
"Mr. John and his wife!" Jennings
repeated, as he set his glass down
empty. "I'll Just see that them sheets
is aired upstairs, sir, or that hussy
will be making eyes at Tom !"
He departed, and Stephen was left
alone. He sat and listened to the
sound of luggage being taken upstairs,
to Allne's little torrent of directions,
good-humored but profuse, to the
sound of preparations in the kitchen.
In the room the tall clock ticked sol
emnly; a fragment of the log every
now and then fell upon the hearth.
Presently he rose to his feet He
heard the click of the garden gate,
the sound of John and Louise return
ing. He rose and stood ready to wek
come them.
I THE END,

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