Edgar Saltus.

Mr. Incoul's Misadventure





I dare say, his friend answered, but I have never been able to take an interest in women of that class.

Blydenburg was flushed with winnings and wine. He did not notice the snub and proceeded to relate an after-dinner story of that kind in which men of a certain age are said to luxuriate. Mr. Incoul listened negligently.

God knows, he said at last, I am not a Puritan, but I like refinement, and refinement and immorality are incompatible.

Fiddlesticks! Look at London, look at Paris, New York even; there are women whom you and I both know, women in the very best society, of whom all manner of things are said and known. You may call them immoral if you want to, but you cannot say that they are not refined.

I say this, were I related in any way, were I the brother, father, the husband of such a woman, I would wring her neck. I believe in purity in women, and I believe also in purity in men.

Yes, its a good thing to believe in, but its hard to find.

Mr. Incoul had spoken more vehemently than was his wont, and to this remark he made no answer. His eyes were green, not the green of the cat but the green of a tiger, and as he sat with fingers clinched, and a cheerless smile on his thin lips, he looked a modern hunter of the Holy Grail.

The night train leaves Hendaye a trifle after ten, and soon a sereno was heard calling the hour, and declaring that all was well. It was time to be going, they knew, and without further delay they had themselves ferried again across the stream. The return journey was unmarked by adventure or incident. Mr. Blydenburg fell into a doze, and after dreaming of the pomegranate mouth awoke at Biarritz, annoyed that he had not thought to address the manola in Basque. At the station they found a carriage, and, as Blydenburg entered it, he made with himself a little consolatory pact that some day he would go back to Fuenterrabia alone.

The station at Biarritz is several miles from the town, and as the horses were slow it was almost twelve oclock before the Continental was reached. Blydenburg alighted there and Mr. Incoul drove on alone to the villa. As he approached it he saw that his wifes rooms were illuminated. For the moment he thought she might be waiting for him, but at once he knew that was impossible, for on leaving he had said he would pass the night in Spain.

The carriage drew up before the main entrance. He felt for small money to pay the driver, but found nothing smaller than a louis. The driver, after a protracted fumbling, declared that in the matter of change he was not a bit better of. Where is the cabman who was ever supplied? Rather than waste words Mr. Incoul gave him the louis and the man drove off, delighted to find that the old trick was still in working order.

Mr. Incoul looked up again at his wifes window, but during his parley with the driver the lights had been extinguished. He entered the gate and opened the door with a key.

The hall was dark; he found a match and lit it. On the stair was Lenox Leigh. The match flickered and went out, but through the open door the moon poured in.

The young man rubbed his hat as though uncertain what to do or say. At last he reached the door, I am at the Grand, you know, he hazarded.

Yes, I know, Mr. Incoul answered, and I hope you are comfortable.

Leigh passed out. Mr. Incoul closed and bolted the door behind him. For a moment he stood very still. Then turning, he ascended the stair.

CHAPTER X.
THE POINT OF VIEW

On leaving the villa Lenox Leigh experienced a number of conflicting emotions, and at last found relief in sleep. The day that followed he passed in chambered solitude; it was possible that some delegate from Mr. Incoul might wish to exchange a word with him, and in accordance with the unwritten statutes of what is seemly, it behooved him to be in readiness for the exchange of that word. Moreover, he was expectant of a line from Maida, some word indicative of the course of conduct which he should pursue, some message, in fact, which would aid him to rise from the uncertainty in which he groped. As a consequence he remained in his room. He was not one to whom solitude is irksome, indeed he had often found it grateful in its refreshment, but to be enjoyable solitude should not be coupled with suspense; in that case it is uneasiness magnified by the infinite. And if fear be analyzed, what is it save the dread of the unknown? When the nerves are unstrung a calamity is often a tonic. The worst that can be has been done, the blow has fallen, and with the falling fear vanishes, hope returns, the healing process begins at once.

The uneasiness which visited Lenox Leigh came precisely from his inability to determine whether or not a blow was impending. As to the blow, he cared, in the abstract, very little. If it were to be given, let it be dealt and be done with; that which alone troubled him was his ignorance of what had ensued after his meeting with Mr. Incoul, and his incapacity to foresee in what manner the consequences of that meeting would affect his relations with Mr. Incouls wife.

In this uncertainty he looked at the matter from every side, and, that he might get the broadest view, he recalled the incidents connected with the meeting. The facts of the case seemed then to resolve themselves into this: Mr. Incoul had unexpectedly returned to his home after midnight, and had met a friend of his wifes descending the stair. Their greeting, if formal, had been perfectly courteous. The departing guest had informed the returning husband at what hotel he was stopping, and that gentleman had expressed the hope that he was comfortable. Certainly there was nothing extraordinary in that. People who dwelled in recondite regions might see impropriety in a call that extended up to and beyond midnight, whereas others who lived in more liberal centres might consider it the most natural thing in the world. It was, then, merely the point of view, and what was the point of view which Mr. Incoul had adopted? If he considered it an impropriety why had he seemed so indifferent? And, if he considered it natural and proper, why should he have been so damned civil? Why should he have expressed the hope that his wifes guest was comfortable at a hotel? Was the expression of that hope merely a commonplace rejoinder, or was it an intentional slur? Surely, every one possessed of the brain of a medium-sized rabbit feels that it is as absurd to expect an intelligent being to be comfortable in a hotel as it is to suppose that he can find enjoyment in an evening party or amusement in a comic paper. Then again, and this, after all, was the great question: was the return of Mr. Incoul intentional or accidental? If it was intentional, if he had gone away intending that he would be absent all night merely that by an unexpected return he might verify any suspicions which he may have harbored, then in driving to his door in a rumbling coach he had shown himself a very poor plotter. On the other hand, if the return were accidental had it served to turn a suspicionless husband into a suspicious one, and if it had so served, how far did those suspicions extend? Did he think that his wife and her guest had been occupied with aimless chit-chat, or did he believe that their conversation had been of a personal and intimate nature?

As Lenox pondered over these things it seemed to him that, let Mr. Incoul suspect what he might, the one and unique cause for apprehension lay in the attitude which Maida had assumed when her husband, after closing the door, had gone to her in search of an explanation. That he had so gone there was to him no possible doubt. And it was in the expectancy of tidings as to the result of that explanation that he waited the entire day in his room.

But the afternoon waned into dusk and still no tidings came. As the hours wore on his uneasiness decreased. Bah! he muttered to himself at last, in the winter I gave all my mornings to Pyrrho and ?nesidemus, and here six months later during an entire day I bother myself about eventualities.

He sighed wearily with an air of self-disgust, and rising from the sofa on which his meditations had been passed he went to the window. The Casino opposite was already illuminated. They will be there to-night, he thought. I have been a fool for my pains. If Maida hasnt written it is because there has been nothing to write. I will look them up after dinner and everything will be as before. He took off his morning suit and got himself into evening dress. He tied his white cravat without emotion, with a precision that was geometric in its accuracy, and to hold the tie in place he ran a silver pin through the collar without so much as pricking his neck. He was thoroughly at ease. The fear of the blow had passed. Pyrrho, ?nesidemus, the whole corps of ataraxists had surged suddenly and rescued him from the toils of the inscrutable.

At a florists in the street below he found an orchid with which he decked his button-hole, and then in search of dinner he sauntered into Helders, a restaurant on the main street, a trifle above the Grand H?tel. It was crowded; there did not seem to be a single table unoccupied. He hesitated for a moment, and was about to go elsewhere when he noticed some one signaling to him from the remoter end of the garden. He could not at first make out who it was and it was not until he had made use of a monocle that he recognized a fellow Baltimorean, Mr. Clarence May, with whom in days gone by he had been on terms approaching those of intimacy.

Mr. Clarence May, more familiarly known as Clara, was a pigeon-shooter who for some years past had been promenading the side scenes of continental life. He was well known in the penal colonies of the Riviera, and hand-in-glove with some of the most distinguished rastaquou?res, yet did he happen in a proscenium it was by accident. In appearance he was not beautiful: he was a meagre little man, possessed of vague features and an allowance of sandy hair so undetermined that few were able to remember whether or not he wore any on his face. When he spoke it was with a slight stutter, a trick of speech which he declared he had inherited from his wet-nurse.

He rose from his seat, and hurrying forward, greeted Lenox as though he had seen him the week before. He was anything but an idealist, yet he treated Time as though it were the veriest fiction of the non-existent, and he bombarded no one with questions as to what had become of them, or where had they been.

I have just ordered dinner, he said, in his amusing stammer, you must share it with me. And Lenox, who had not a prejudice to his name, accepted the invitation as readily as it was made.

I dont know, May continued, when they were seated I dont know whether you will like the dinner I have ordered very little. No soup, too hot, dont you think? No oysters, there are none; all out visiting, the man said; for fish I have substituted a melon; fish, at the seaside, is never good; then we are to have white truffles, with a plain sauce, a chateaubriand, salad, a bit of cheese voil?! How will that suit you?

Lenox nodded, as who should say, had I ordered it myself it could not be more to my taste, and thus encouraged, May offered him a glass of Amer Picon, a beverage that smells like an orange and looks like ink.

The dinner passed off pleasantly enough. The white truffles were excellent, and the chateaubriand cooked to a turn. The only fault to be found was with the Brie, which May seemed to think was not as flowing as it should be.

By the way, he said at last when coffee was served, you know Mirette is here?

Mirette? Who is Mirette?

Why, good gad! My dear fellow, Mirette is Mirette; the one adorable, unique, divine Mirette. You dont mean to say you never heard of her!

I do, though perhaps she may have had the good fortune to hear of me.

Heavens alive, man! dont you read the papers?

Lenox smiled. Why should I? I am not interested in the community. It might be stricken with dry-rot, elephantiasis and plica polonica for ought I care. Besides, there is nothing in them; the English papers are all advertisements and aridity, the French are frivolous and obscene. I mind neither frivolity nor obscenity; both have their uses, as flowers and cesspools have theirs; but I object to them served with my breakfast. I think if once a year a man would read a summary of the twelvemonth, he would get in ten minutes a digest of all that might be necessary to know, and what is more to the point, he would have to his credit a clear profit of two hundred hours at the very least, and two hundred hours rightly employed are sufficient for the acquirement of such a knowledge of a foreign language as will permit a man to make love in it gracefully. No, I seldom read the papers, so forgive my ignorance as to Mirette.

After such an explanation I shall have to. But if you care to learn by word of mouth that which you decline to read in print, Mirette is premier sujet.

In the ballet, you mean.

Yes, in the ballet, and I cant for the life of me think of a ballet without her.

She must have gone to your head.

And to every ones who has seen her.

You say she is here?

Yes, shell be at the Casino to-night; Ill present you if you say so.

I might take a look at her, but I fancy I shalt be occupied elsewhere.

As you like. May drew out his watch. Its after nine, he added, if we are going to the Casino we had better be t-toddling.

On the way there May entered a tobacconists, and Lenox waited for him without. As he loitered on the curb, Blydenburg rounded an adjacent corner.

Well, exclaimed the latter, you didnt see our friends off.

What friends?

The Incouls of course; didnt you know that they had gone?

Lenox looked at him blankly. Gone, he echoed.

Yes, they must have sent you word. Incoul seemed to expect you. They have gone up to Paris. If I had known beforehand

Mr. Blydenburg rambled on, but Lenox no longer listened. It was for this then that he had been bothering himself the entire day. The abruptness of the departure mystified him, yet he comforted himself with the thought that had there been anything abnormal, it could not have escaped Blydenburgs attention.

And you say they expected me? he asked at last.

Yes, they seemed to. Incoul left good-bye for you. When you get to Paris look them up.

While he was speaking May came out from the tobacconists.

I will do so, Lenox said, and with a parting nod he joined his friend.

As he walked on down the road to the Casino, Mr. Blydenburg looked musingly after him. He would not be a bad match for Milly, he told himself, not a bad match at all; and thinking that perhaps it might be but a question of bringing the two young people together, he presently started off in search of his daughter and led her, lamb-like, to the Casino. But once there he felt instinctively that for that evening at least any bringing together of the young people was impossible. Lenox was engaged in an animated conversation with a conspicuously dressed lady, whom, Mr. Blydenburg learned on inquiry, was none other than the notorious Mlle. Mirette, of the Th??tre National de lOp?ra.

CHAPTER XI.
THE HOUSE IN THE PARC MONCEAU

There had been a crash in Wall street. Two of the best houses had gone under. Of one of these the senior partner had had recourse to the bare bodkin. For several years previous his wife had dispensed large hospitality from a charming h?tel just within the gates of the Parc Monceau. At the news of her ruined widowhood she fled from Paris. In a week it was only her creditors that remembered her. The h?tel was sold under the hammer. A speculator bought it and while waiting a chance to sell it again at a premium, offered it for rent, fully furnished, as it stood. This by the way.

After the dinner in Spain, Mr. Incoul passed some time in thought. The next morning he sent for Karl, and after a consultation with him, he went to the square that overhangs the sea, entered the telegraph office, found a blank, wrote a brief message, and after attending to its despatch, returned to the villa. His wife was in the library, and as he entered the room the ma?tre dh?tel announced that their excellencies were served.

Maida had never been more bewildering in her beauty. Her lips were moist, and under her polar-blue eyes were the faintest of semicircles.

Did you enjoy your trip to Fuenterrabia? she asked.

Exceedingly, he answered. But he did not enter into details and the breakfast was done before either of them spoke again.

At last as Maida rose from the table Mr. Incoul said: We leave for Paris at five this afternoon. I beg you will see to it that your things are ready.

She steadied herself against a chair, she would have spoken, but he had risen also and left the room.

For the time being her mind refused to act. Into the fibres of her there settled that chill which the garb and aspect of a policeman produces on the conscience of a misdemeanant. But the chill passed as policemen do, and a fever came in its place.

To hypnotize her thoughts she caught up an English journal. She read of a cocoa that was grateful and comforting, the praises of Pears Soap, an invitation from Mr. Streeter to view his wares, a column of testimonials on the merits of a new pill, appeals from societies for pecuniary aid. She learned that a Dor? was on exhibition in New Bond street, that Lady Grenville, The Oaks, Market Litchfield, was anxious to secure a situation for a most excellent under-housemaid, that money in large amounts or small could be obtained without publicity on simple note of hand by applying personally or by letter to Moss & Lewes, Golden Square. She found that a harmless, effective and permanent cure for corpulency would be sent to any part of the world, post-paid, on receipt twelve stamps, and that the Junior Macready Club would admit a few more members without entrance fee. She read it all determinedly, by sheer effort of will, and at last in glancing over an oasis her eye fell upon a telegram from Madrid which stated cholera had broken out afresh.

She took the paper with her and hurried from the room. In the hall her husband stood talking to Karl. She went to him and pointed to the telegram. Is it for this we are to leave? she asked.

He read the notice and returned it. Yes, he answered, it is for that. And then it was that both chill and fever passed away.

The journey from Biarritz was accomplished without incident. On their previous visit to Paris, they had put up at the Bristol and to that hostelry they returned. The manager had been notified and the yellow suite overlooking the Palace Vend?me was prepared for their reception. On arriving, Maida went at once with her maid to her room. Mr. Incoul changed his clothes, passed an hour at the Hamman, breakfasted at Voisins, and then had himself driven to a house-agent.

The clerk, a man of fat and greasy presence, gave him a list of apartments, marking with a star those which he thought might prove most suitable. Mr. Incoul visited them all. He had never lived in an apartment in Paris and the absence of certain conveniences perplexed him. The last apartment of those that were starred was near the Arc de Triomphe. When he had been shown it over he found a seat, and heedless of the volubility of the concierge, rested his head in his hand and thought. For the moment it seemed to him as though it would be best to return to New York, but there were objections to that, and reflecting that there might be other and better arranged apartments, he left the chattering concierge and drove again to the agents.

I have seen nothing I liked, he said simply.

At this the clerk expressed his intense surprise. The apartment in the Avenue Montaigne was everything that there was of most fine, and wait, the Hospodar of Wallachia had just quitted the one in the Rue de Presbourg. It astonishes me much, he said.

The astonishment of the clerk was to Mr. Incoul a matter of perfect indifference. Have you any private houses? he asked.

Ah, yes, particular h?tels. Yes, there was one near the Trocadero, but for his part he found that the apartment in the Avenue Montaigne would fit him much better. But now that I am there, he continued, I recall myself of one that is enchanter as a subjunctive. I engage you to visit it. And thereupon he wrote down the address of the house in the Parc Monceau.

It was not, Mr. Incoul discovered, a large dwelling, but the appointments left little to be desired. In the dressing-rooms was running water, and each of the bed-rooms was supplied with gas-fixtures. He touched one to see if it were in working order, and immediately the escaping ether assured him that it was. He sniffed it with a feeling akin to pleasure. One would have thought that since he left Madison avenue he had not enjoyed such a treat. There was gas to be found in the dining-room, but the reception-rooms were furnished with lamps and candelabras. The bed-rooms were on the floor above. One of these overlooked the park. There was a dressing-room next to it, but to the two rooms there was but one entrance, and that from the hall. This little suite, Mr. Incoul resolved, should be occupied by his wife. Beyond, across the hall, was a sitting-room, and at the other end of the house was a second suite, which Mr. Incoul mentally selected for himself.





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