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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 6
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Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 6 Post by :Jackie_OQuinn Category :Long Stories Author :F. Marion Crawford Date :May 2011 Read :1745

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Fair Margaret: A Portrait - Chapter 6

CHAPTER VI

Mrs. Rushmore had not been at all surprised at Lushington's sudden departure. She was accustomed to the habits of lions and was well aware that they must be allowed to come and go exactly as they please if you wish them to eat out of your hand from time to time; and when the eminent young critic announced rather suddenly that he must leave early the next morning the good lady only said that she was sorry, and that she hoped he would come back soon. Sham lions love to talk about themselves, and to excite curiosity, but real ones resent questions about their doings as they would resent a direct insult. Mrs. Rushmore knew that, too.

She was really sorry to lose him, however, and had counted on his staying at least a week longer. She liked him herself, and she saw that Margaret liked him very much; and it was more moral in a nice girl to like an Englishman than a foreigner, just as it would be still more moral of her to prefer an American to an Englishman, according to Mrs. Rushmore's scale of nationalities. Next to what was moral, she was fond of lions, who are often persons without any morals whatsoever. But Lushington seemed to fill both requirements. He was a highly moral lion. She was quite sure that he did not drink, did not gamble, and did not secretly worship Ashtaroth; and he never told her naughty stories. Therefore she was very sorry when he was gone.

At the present juncture, however, she was in considerable anxiety about Margaret. She did not know one note from another, but she had heard all the greatest singers of the last thirty years, in all the greatest opera-houses from Bayreuth to New York, and it horrified her to be obliged to admit that Margaret's singing sounded dreadfully like the best. The girl meant to sing in opera, and if she could really do it well it would be quite impossible to hinder her, as she had no means of support and could not be blamed for refusing to live on charity. Everything was combining to make an artist of her, for the chances of winning the suit brought on her behalf were growing as slender as the seven lean kine.

It was characteristic of Margaret that she had kept to herself most of what Madame Bonanni had told her, but Mrs. Rushmore knew the girl well, and guessed from her face that there was much more behind. The appointment at the theatre confirmed this surmise, and when Margaret telegraphed the next day that she was going to stay in town until the afternoon, with Madame De Rosa, there was no longer any room for doubt.

As for poor Lushington, Margaret had told him nothing at all, and her visit to Madame Bonanni had been a secret between herself and Mrs. Rushmore. Logotheti had not made his appearance after all, but the young archaeologist had brought assurances that the financier would be honoured, charmed and otherwise delighted to be presented to Mrs. Rushmore within a day or two, if convenient to her. So it happened that Logotheti made his first visit after Lushington had left Versailles.

The latter went away in a very disconsolate frame of mind, and disappeared into Paris. It is not always wise to follow a discouraged man into the retirement of a shabby room in a quiet hotel on the left bank of the Seine, and it is never amusing. Psychology in fiction seems to mean the rather fruitless study of what the novelist himself thinks he might feel if he ever got himself into one of those dreadful scrapes which it is a part of his art to invent outright, or to steal from the lives of men and women he has known or heard of. People who can analyse their own feelings are never feeling enough to hurt them much; a medical student could not take his scalpel and calmly dissect out his own nerves. You may try to analyse pain and pleasure when they are past, but nothing is more strangely and hopelessly undefined than the memory of a great grief, and no analysis of pleasure can lead to anything but the desire for more. The only real psychologists have been the great lyric poets, before they have emerged from the gloom of youth.

The outward signs of Lushington's condition were few and not such as would have seemed dramatic to an acquaintance. When he was in his room at the hotel in the Rue des Saints Peres, he got an old briar pipe out of his bag, filled it and lit it, and stood for nearly a quarter of an hour at the window, smoking thoughtfully with his hands in his pockets. The subtle analyst, observing that the street is narrow and dull and presents nothing of interest, jumps to the conclusion that Lushington is thinking while he looks out of the window. Perhaps he is. The next thing to be done is to unpack his bag and place his dressing things in order on the toilet-table. They are simple things, but mostly made expressly for him, of oxidised silver, with his initials in plain block letters; and each object has a neat sole leather case of its own, so that they can be thrown pell-mell into a bag and jumbled up together without being scratched. But Lushington takes them out of their cases and disposes them on the table with mathematical precision, smoking vigorously all the time. This done, he unpacks his valise, his shirt-case and other belongings, in the most systematic way possible, looks through the things he left in the room when he went to Versailles, to see that everything is in order, and at last rings for the servant to take away the clothes and shoes that need cleaning. The subtle analyst would argue from all this that Lushington was one of those painfully orderly persons, who are made positively nervous by the sight of a hair-brush lying askew, or a tie dropped on the floor.

It was at most true that he had acquired a set of artificially precise habits to which he clung most tenaciously, and which certainly harmonised with the natural appearance of neatness that had formerly been his despair. Why he had taken so much trouble to become orderly was his own business. Possibly he had got tired of that state of life in which it is impossible to find anything in less than half an hour when one wants it in half a minute. At all events, he had taken pains to acquire orderliness, and, for reasons which will appear hereafter, it is worth while to note the fact.

When everything was arranged to his satisfaction, he sat down in the most comfortable chair in the room, filled another of the three wooden pipes that now lay side by side on the writing-table, and continued to smoke as if his welfare depended on consuming a certain quantity of tobacco in a given time. He must have had a sound heart and a strong head, for he did not desist from his occupation for many hours, though he had not eaten anything particular at breakfast, at Mrs. Rushmore's, and nothing at all since.

The afternoon was wearing on when he knocked the ashes out of his pipe very carefully, laid it in its place, rose from his seat and uttered a single profane ejaculation.

'Damn!'

Having said this, he said no more, for indeed, if taken literally, there could be nothing more to be said. The malediction, however, was directed against nothing particular, and certainly against no person living or dead; it only applied to the aggregate of the awkward circumstances in which he found himself, and as he was alone he felt quite sure of not being misunderstood.

He did not even take a servant with him when he travelled, though he had an excellent Scotchman for a valet, who could do a great variety of useful things, besides holding his tongue, which is one of the finest qualities in the world, in man or dog. And he also had a dog in London, a particularly rough Irish terrier called Tim; but as Tim would have been quarantined every time he came home it was practically impossible to bring him to the Continent. It will be seen, therefore, that Lushington was really quite alone in the quiet hotel in the Rue des Saints Peres.

He might have had company enough if he had wanted it, for he knew many men of letters in Paris and was himself known to them, which is another thing. They liked him, too, in their own peculiar way of liking their foreign colleagues. Most of them, without affectation and in perfect good faith, are convinced that there never was, is not, and never can be any literature equal to the French except that of Edgar Poe; but they feel that it would be rude and tactless of them to let us know that they think so. They are the most agreeable men in the world, as a whole, and considering what they really think of us--rightly or wrongly, but honestly--the courtesy and consideration they show us are worthy of true gentlemen. The most modest among ourselves seem a little arrogant and self-asserting in comparison with them. They praise us, sometimes, and not faintly either; but their criticism of us compares us with each other, not with them. The very highest eulogy they can bestow on anything we do is to say that it is 'truly French,' but they never quite believe it and they cannot understand why that is perhaps the very compliment that pleases us least, though we may have the greatest admiration for their national genius. With all our vanity, should we ever expect to please a French writer by telling him that his work was 'truly English'?

Lushington liked a good many of his French colleagues in literature, and had at least one friend among them, a young man of vast learning and exquisite taste, who was almost an invalid. For a moment, he thought of going to see this particular one amongst them all, but he realised all at once that he did not wish to see any one at all that day. He went out and wandered towards the Quai Voltaire, and smelt the Seine and nosed an old book here and there at the stalls. Later he went and ate something in an eating-house on the outskirts of the Latin Quarter, and then went back to his hotel, smoked several more pipes by the open window, and went to bed.

That was the first day, and the second was very like it, so that it is not necessary to describe it in detail in order to produce an impression of profound dulness in the reader's mind. Lushington's hair continued to be as preternaturally smooth as before, his beard was as glossy and his complexion as blooming and child-like, and yet the look of pain that Margaret had seen in his face was there most of the time during those two days.

But in the evening he crossed the river and went to hear _Romeo and Juliet_, for he knew that it was the last night on which Madame Bonanni would sing before she left for the London season. He sat in the second row of the orchestra stalls, and never moved from his seat during the long performance. No secret intuition told him that Margaret was in the house, and that if he stood up and looked round after the second act he might see her and Madame De Rosa going out and coming back again and sitting at the end of a back row. He did not want to see any one he knew, and the surest way of avoiding acquaintances was to sit perfectly still while most people went out between the acts. His face only betrayed that the music pleased him, by turning a shade paler now and then; at the places he liked best, he shut his eyes, as if he did not care to see Madame Bonanni or the fat tenor.

She sang very beautifully that night, especially after the second act, and Lushington thought he had hardly ever heard so much real feeling in her marvellous voice. Afterwards he walked home, and he heard it all the way, and for an hour after he had gone to bed, when he fell asleep at last, and dreamt that he himself had turned into a very fat tenor and was singing Romeo, but the Juliet was Margaret Donne instead of Madame Bonanni, and though she sang like an angel, she was evidently disgusted by his looks; which was very painful indeed, and made him sing quite out of tune and perspire terribly.

'You look hot,' said Margaret-Juliet, with cruel distinctness, just as he was trying to throw the most intense pathos into the words, ''tis not the lark, it is the nightingale!'

Perhaps dreaming nonsense is also a subject for the inquiries of psychology. At the moment the poor man's imaginary sufferings were positively frightful, and he awoke with a gasp. He had always secretly dreaded growing fat, he had always felt a horror of anything like singing or speaking in public, and the only thing in the world he really feared was the possibility of being ridiculous in Margaret's eyes. Of course the ingenious demon of his dreams found a way of applying all these three torments at once, and it was like being saved from sudden death to wake up in the dark and smell the stale smoke of the pipe he had enjoyed before putting out his light.

Then he fell asleep again and did not awake till morning, being naturally a very good sleeper. It was raining when he got up, and he looked out disconsolately upon the dull street. It seemed to him that if it was going to rain in Paris he might as well go back to London, where he had plenty to do, and he began to consider which train he should take, revolving the advantages and disadvantages of reaching London early in the evening or late at night. He knew the different time-tables by heart.

But it stopped raining while he was dressing, and the sun came out, and a bird began to sing somewhere at a window high above the street, and it was suddenly spring again. It was a great thing to be alone in spring. If he went back to London he must see people he knew, and dine with people he hardly knew at all, and be asked out by others whom he had not even met, because he was the distinguished critic, flattered and feared and asked to dinner by everybody who had a seventh cousin in danger of literary judgment. He belonged to the flock of dramatic lions and must herd with them, eat with them and roar with them, for the greater glory of London society and his native country generally. Under ordinary circumstances such an existence was bearable and at times delightful, but just now he wanted to roar in the wilderness and assert his leonine right of roaming in desolate places not less than two geographical degrees east of Pall Mall.

He went out at last and strolled towards the bridge, and across it and much farther, but not aimlessly, for though he did not always take the shortest way, he kept mainly in the same direction till he came to the Avenue Hoche.

At the end of the street he stopped and looked at his watch. It was five minutes to eleven. Looking along the pavement in front of him his eye was attracted by the striped awning that distinguished Madame Bonanni's house from the others on the same side, and he noticed an extremely smart brougham that stood just before the door. The handsome black horse stood perfectly motionless in the morning sunshine, the stony-faced English coachman sat perfectly motionless on the box, looking straight between the horse's ears; he wore a plain black livery that fitted to perfection and there was no cockade on his polished hat. No turnout could have been simpler and yet none could have looked more overpoweringly smart.

Lushington suddenly turned on his heel and walked off in the opposite direction, as if he were not pleased, but he had not gone fifty yards when he heard the brougham behind him, and in a few seconds it passed him at a sharp pace. He caught sight of the elderly man inside--a tremendous profile over a huge fair beard that was half grey, one large and rather watery blue eye behind a single eyeglass with a broad black ribbon, a gardenia in the button-hole of a smart grey coat, a cloud of cigarette smoke, one very large and aristocratic hand, with a plain gold ring, holding the cigarette and resting on the edge of the window. He smelt the smoke after the brougham had passed, and he recognised the fact that it was superlatively fragrant.

He turned back again in a few moments and saw that three men were just coming out of Madame Bonanni s house. One was Schreiermeyer, whom he knew, and one looked like a poor musician. The third was the Minister of Fine Arts, whom he did not know but recognised. The Minister and the pianist walked one on each side of Schreiermeyer, and were talking excitedly, but the manager looked at neither of them and never turned his head. They went down the Avenue Hoche away from Lushington, who walked very slowly and looked at his watch twice before he reached Madame Bonanni's door. There he stopped, rang and was admitted without question, as if he were in the habit of coming and going as he pleased. He apparently took it for granted that the prima donna must be alone and already at her late breakfast, but he was stopped by the smiling servant who came out of the dining-room, arrayed as usual in a frock coat and a white satin tie.

'I will inform Madame,' he said.

'Is there any one there?' asked Lushington, evidently not pleased.

The servant shrugged his shoulders in a deprecatory way, and his smile became rather compassionate.

'One young person to breakfast,' he said, 'a musician'.

'Oh, very well.' Lushington's brow cleared.

The servant left him and went in again. A screen was so placed as to mask the interior of the dining-room when the door was open. Within, Madame Bonanni and Margaret were seated at table. Encouraged by circumstances the prima donna had on this occasion tied her napkin round her neck as soon as she had sat down; the inevitable plovers' eggs had already been demolished, and she was at work on a creamy puree soup of the most exquisite pale green colour. It was clear that she had not lost a moment in getting to her meal after the men had left. Margaret was eating too, but though there was fresh colour in her cheeks her eyes had a startled look each time she looked up, as if something very unusual had happened.

The servant whispered something in Madame Bonanni's ear. She seemed to hesitate a moment, and glanced at Margaret before making up her mind. Then she nodded to the man without saying a word, and went on eating her soup.

A few seconds later Lushington entered. Margaret faced the door and their eyes met. Madame Bonanni dropped her spoon into her plate with a clang and uttered a scream of delight, as if she had not known perfectly well that Lushington was coming.

'What luck!' she cried. 'Little Miss Donne, this is my son!'

Margaret's jaw dropped in sheer amazement.

'Your son? Mr. Lushington is your son?'

'Yes. Ah, my child!' she cried, springing up and kissing Lushington on both cheeks with resounding affection. 'What a joy it is to see you!'

Lushington was rather pale as he laid his hand quietly on Madame Bonanni's.

'I have the pleasure of knowing Miss Donne already, mother,' he said steadily, 'but she did not know that I was your son. She is a little surprised.'

'Yes,' answered Margaret, faintly, 'a little.'

'Ah, you know each other?' Madame Bonanni seemed delighted. 'So much the better! Miss Donne will keep our little secret, I am sure. Besides she has another name, too. She is Senorita Margarita da Cordova from to-day. Sit down, my darling child! You are starving! I know you are starving! Angelo!' she screamed at the smiling servant, 'why do you stand there staring like a stuffed codfish? Bring more plovers' eggs!'

Angelo smiled as sweetly as ever and disappeared for an instant. Madame Bonanni took Lushington by the shoulders, as if he had been a little boy, made him sit down in the vacant place beside her, unfolded the napkin herself, spread it upon his knees, patted both his cheeks and kissed the top of his head, precisely as she had done when he was six years old. Margaret looked on in dumb surprise, and poor Lushington turned red to the roots of his hair.

'You have no idea what a dear child he is,' she said to Margaret, as she sat herself down in her own chair again. 'He has been my passion ever since he was born! My dear, you never saw such a beautiful baby as he was! He was all pink and white, like a little sugar angel, and he had dimples everywhere--everywhere, my dear!' she repeated with suggestive emphasis.

'I don't doubt it,' said Margaret, biting her lips and looking at her plate.

By this time the plovers' eggs had come for Lushington and he was glad of anything to do with his hands.

'My mother can never believe that I am grown up,' he said, with much more self-possession than Margaret had expected; and suddenly he raised his eyes and looked steadily and quietly at her across the table.

It must have cost him something of an effort, for his colour came and went quickly. Margaret knew what he was suffering and her respect for him increased a hundredfold in those few minutes, because he did not betray the least irritation in his tone or manner. His mother evidently worshipped him, but her way of showing it was such as must be horribly uncomfortable to a man of his retiring character and sensitive taste. He might easily have been forgiven if he had shown that it hurt him, as well it might. Whatever reason he and Madame Bonanni might have had for changing his name, he was brave enough not to be falsely ashamed of her, in the presence of the woman he loved.

'You see,' Margaret said, looking at him, but speaking to the prima donna, 'Mr. Lushington has been stopping with us at Versailles for a good while, but I did not tell him that I had been to see you, and he never even said that he know you, though he often spoke of your singing.'

'Did he?' asked Madame Bonanni with intense anxiety. 'What did he say? Did he say that I was growing old and ought to give up the stage?'

'Mother!' exclaimed Lushington reproachfully.

'He never said anything of the kind!' cried Margaret, taking his part with energy.

'Because he always says just what he thinks,' explained Madame Bonanni, who seemed relieved. 'And the worst part of it is that he knows,' she added, thoughtfully. 'I do not pretend to understand what he writes, but I would take his opinion about music rather than any one's. You wretched little boy!' she cried, turning on Lushington suddenly. 'How you frightened me!'

'I frightened you? How?'

'I was sure that you had told everybody that I was growing old! How could you? My darling child, how could you be so unkind? Oh, you have no heart!'

'But he never said so!' cried Margaret vehemently and feeling as if she were in a madhouse. 'He has told me again and again that you are still the greatest lyric soprano living----'

'Angelo,' said Madame Bonanni, with perfect calm, 'change my plate.'

Margaret glanced at Lushington, who seemed to think it all quite natural. He was eating little bits of thin toast thoughtfully, and from time to time he looked at his mother with a gentle expression. But he did not meet Margaret's glance.

'You never sang better in your life than you did last night, mother,' he observed.

The prima donna's face glowed with pleasure, and as she turned her big eyes to his Margaret saw in them a look of such loving tenderness as she had rarely seen in her life.

'I saw you, my dear,' said Madame Bonanni to her son. 'You were in the second row of the stalls. I sang for you last night, for I thought you looked sad and lonely.'

Lushington laid his hand on hers for a moment.

'Thank you,' he said simply.

There was a short silence, which was unusual when the prima donna was present. Margaret had recovered from her first surprise, and had understood that Madame Bonanni adored her son and that he felt real affection for her, though he suffered a good deal from the manner in which hers showed itself. If Lushington had fancied that he might fall in Margaret's estimation through her discovery of his birth, he was much mistaken. His patience and perfect simplicity did more to make her love him than anything he had done before. She had learned his secret, or a great part of it, and she understood him now, and the reason why he had changed his name, and she felt that he had behaved very well to her in going away, though she wished that he had boldly taken her into his confidence before leaving Mrs. Rushmore's. But she did not know all, though she was neither too young nor too innocent to guess a part of the truth. Few young women of twenty-two years are. Madame Bonanni's career as an artist had been a long series of triumphs, but her past as a woman had been variegated, of the sort for which the French have invented a number of picturesquely descriptive expressions, such as 'leading the life of Punch,' 'throwing one's cap over the windmills,' and other much less elegant phrases. Margaret saw that Lushington was not ashamed of his mother, as his mother; but she knew instinctively that his mother's past was a shame which he felt always and to the quick.

Madame Bonanni ate a good deal before she spoke again, feeling, perhaps, that she had lost time.

'Schreiermeyer says she sings divinely,' she said at last, looking at Lushington and then nodding at Margaret. 'You know what that means.'

'London?' inquired Lushington, who knew the manager.

'London next year, and an appearance this season if any one breaks down. Meanwhile he signs for her _debut in Belgium and a three months' tour. Twenty-four performances in three operas, fifty thousand francs.'

'I congratulate you,' said Lushington, looking at Margaret and trying to seem pleased.

'You seem to think it is too little,' observed Madame Bonanni.

'Little?' cried Margaret. 'It's a fortune!'

'You may talk of a fortune when you get three hundred pounds a night,' said Lushington. 'But it is a good beginning. I wonder that Schreiermeyer agreed to it so easily.'

'Easily!' Madame Bonanni laughed. 'I wish you had been there, my dear boy! He kicked and screamed, and we called him bad names. The King told him he was a dirty little Jew, which he is not, poor man, but it had a very good effect.'

'Oh!' Lushington did not seem surprised at the royal personage's reported language. 'Then it was the King who passed me in that smart brougham? I thought so.'

'Yes,' answered Madame Bonanni rather brusquely, and she became very busy with some little birds.

'It's funny,' Margaret said to Lushington. 'One always imagines a king with a crown and a sort of ermine dressing-gown, and a sceptre like the Lord Mayor's mace! Of course it s perfectly ridiculous, isn't it?'

'I believe His Majesty possesses those things,' answered Lushington, as if he did not like the subject.

'He looked and talked much more like an old friend than anything else,' Margaret went on, remembering that Madame Bonanni had used the same expression before Schreiermeyer.

To her surprise and sudden discomfiture neither of the two paid the least attention to her remark.

'What train shall you take, mother?' asked Lushington so abruptly upon Margaret's speech that she understood her mistake.

Though she had guessed something, it had somehow not occurred to her to connect the royal personage with Madame Bonanni's past; but now she scarcely dared to glance at Lushington. When she did, he seemed to be avoiding her eyes again, and she saw the old look of pain in his face, though he was talking about the timetables and the turbine channel-boat.

'You must come over to London and see me before your _debut_, my dear,' Madame Bonanni said, breaking off the discussion of trains and turning to Margaret. 'That is, if Schreiermeyer will let you,' she added. 'You will have to do exactly what he tells you, now, and he is always right. He will be a father to you, now that he is going to make money out of you.'

'Will he call me his "darling"?' inquired Margaret, with a shade of anxiety.

'Of course he will! And when you sing well he will kiss you on both cheeks.'

'Indeed he won't!' cried Margaret, turning red.

Madame Bonanni laughed heartily, but Lushington looked annoyed.

'My dear, why not?' asked the prima donna. 'Everybody kisses us artists, when we have a triumph, and we kiss everybody! The author, the manager, the dressmaker and the stage carpenter, besides all our old friends! What difference can it make? It means nothing.'

'But it's such an unpleasant idea!' Margaret objected.

'Of course,' returned Madame Bonanni, licking her fingers between the words, 'there are artists who ride the high horse and insist on being treated like duchesses. The other artists hate them, and real society laughs at them. It is far better to be simple, and kiss everybody. It costs so little and it gives them so much pleasure, as Rachel said of her lovers!'

'It was Sophie Arnould,' said Lushington, correcting her mistake.

'Was it? I don't care. I say it, and that is enough. Besides I hate children who are always setting their parents right! It's my own fault, because I was so anxious to have you well educated. If I had brought you up as I was brought up, you would never have left me! As it is'--she turned to Margaret with suddenly flashing eyes--'do you know, my dear? that atrocious little wretch will never take a penny from me, from me, his own mother! Ah, it is villainous! He is perfectly heartless! He denies me the only pleasure I wish for. Even when he was at school, at Eton, my dear, at the great English school, you know, he worked like a poor boy and won scholarships--money! Is it not disgusting? And at Oxford he lived on that money and won more! And then he worked, and worked at those terrible books, and wrote for the abominable press, and never would let me give him anything. Ah, you ungrateful little boy!

She seemed perfectly furious with him and shook her fist in his face; but the next moment she laughed and patted his cheek with her fat hand.

'And to say that I am proud of him!' she said, beaming with motherly smiles. 'Proud of him, my dear, you don't know! He is beating them all, as he always did! At the school, at the university, he was always the best! He used to get what they call firsts and double firsts every week!'

Margaret could not help laughing, and even Lushington smiled in his agony.

'It was splendid,' said the young girl, looking at him. 'Did you really get a double first?'

Lushington nodded.

'One?' screamed Madame Bonanni. 'Twenty, I tell you! A hundred----'

'No, no, mother,' interrupted Lushington. No one can get more than one.'

'Ah, did I not tell you?' cried the prima donna, triumphantly. There is only one, and he got it! What did I tell you? How can you expect me not to be proud of him?'

'You ought to be,' answered Margaret, very much in earnest, and for the first time Lushington saw in her eyes the light of absolutely unreserved admiration.

It was not for the double first at Oxford that she gave it. There had been a moment when it had hurt her to think that he probably accepted a good deal of luxury in his existence out of his mother's abundant fortune, but it was gone now. Even as a schoolboy he had guessed whence at least a part of that wealth really came, and had refused to touch a penny of it. But Lushington felt as if he were being combed with red-hot needles from head to foot, and the perspiration stood on his forehead. It would have filled him with shame to mop it with his handkerchief and yet he felt that in another moment it would run down. The awful circumstances of his dream came vividly back to him, and he could positively hear Margaret telling him that he looked hot, so loud that the whole house could understand what she said. But at this point something almost worse happened.

Madame Bonanni's motherly but eagle eye detected the tiny beads on his brow. With a cry of distress she sprang to her feet and began to wipe them away with the corner of her napkin that was tied round her neck, talking all the time.

'My darling!' she cried. 'I always forget that you feel hot when I feel cold! Angelo, open everything--the windows, the doors! Why do you stand there like a dressed-up doll in a tailor's window? Don't you see that he is going to have a fit?'

'Mother, mother! Please don't!' protested the unfortunate Lushington, who was now as red as a beet.

But Madame Bonanni took the lower end of her napkin by the corners, as if it had been an apron, and fanned him furiously, though he put up his hands and cried for mercy.

'He is always too hot,' she said, suddenly desisting and sitting down again. 'He always was, even when he was a baby.' She was now at work on a very complicated salad. 'But then,' she went on, speaking between mouthfuls, 'I used to lay him down in the middle of my big bed, with nothing on but his little shirt, and he would kick and crow until he was quite cool.'

Again Margaret bit her lip, but this time it was of no use, and after a conscientious effort to be quiet she broke into irrepressible laughter. In a moment Lushington laughed too, and presently he felt quite cool and comfortable again, feeling that after all he had been ridiculous only when he was a baby.

'We used to call him Tommy,' said Madame Bonanni, putting away her plate and laying her knife and fork upon it crosswise. 'Poor little Tommy! How long ago that was! After his father died I changed his name, you know, and then it seemed as if little Tommy were dead too.'

There was visible moisture in the big dark eyes for an instant. Margaret felt sorry for the strange, contradictory creature, half child, half genius, and all mother.

'My husband's name was Goodyear,' continued the prima donna thoughtfully. 'You will find it in all biographies of me.'

'Goodyear,' Margaret repeated, looking at Lushington. 'What a nice name! I like it.'

'You understand,' Madame Bonanni went on, explaining. '"Goodyear," "buon anno," "bonanno," "Bonanni"; that is how it is made up. It's a good name for the stage, is it not?'

'Yes. But why did you change it at all for your son?'

Madame Bonanni shrugged her large shoulders, glanced furtively at Lushington, and then looked at Margaret.

'It was better,' she said. 'Fruit, Angelo!'

'Can I be of any use to you in getting off, mother?' asked Lushington.

Margaret felt that she had made another mistake, and looked at her plate.

'No, my angel,' said Madame Bonanni, answering her son's question, and eating hothouse grapes; 'you cannot help me in the least, my sweet. I know you would if you could, dear child! But you will come and dine with me quietly at the Carlton on Sunday at half-past eight, just you and I. I promise you that no one shall be there, not even Logotheti--though you do not mind him so much.'

'Not in the least,' Lushington answered, with a smile which Margaret thought a little contemptuous. 'All the same, I would much rather be alone with you.'

'Do you wonder that I love him?' asked Madame Bonanni, turning to Margaret.

'No, I don't wonder in the least,' answered the young girl, with such decision that Lushington looked up suddenly, as if to thank her.

The ordeal was over at last, and the prima donna rose with a yawn of satisfaction.

'I am going to turn you out,' she said. 'You know I cannot live without my nap.'

She kissed Margaret first, and then her son, each on both cheeks, but it was clear that she could hardly keep her eyes open, and she left Margaret and Lushington standing together, exactly as she had left the young girl with Logotheti on the first occasion.

Their eyes met for an instant and then Lushington got his hat and stick and opened the door for Margaret to go out.

'Shall I call a cab for you?' he asked.

'No, thank you. I'll walk a little way first, and then drive to the station.'

When they were in the street, Lushington stood still.

'You believe that it was an accident, don't you?' he asked. 'I mean my coming to-day.'

'Of course! Shall we walk on?'

He could not refuse, and he felt that he was not standing by his resolution; yet the circumstances were changed, since she now knew his secret, and was warned.

They had gone twenty steps before she spoke.

'You might have trusted me,' she said.

'I should think you would understand why I did not tell you,' he answered rather bitterly.

She opened her parasol so impatiently that it made an ominous little noise as if it were cracking.

'I do understand,' she said, almost harshly, as she held it up against the sun.

'And yet you complain because I did not tell you,' said Lushington in a puzzled tone.

'It's you who don't understand!' Margaret retorted.

'No. I don't.'

'I'm sorry.'

They went on a little way in silence, walking rather slowly. She was angry with herself for being irritated by him, just when she admired him more than ever before, and perhaps loved him better; though love has nothing to do with admiration except to kindle it sometimes, just when it is least deserved. Now it takes generous people longer to recover from a fit of anger against themselves than against their neighbours, and in a few moments Margaret began to feel very unhappy, though all her original irritation against Lushington had subsided. She now wished, in her contrition, that he would say something disagreeable; but he did not. He merely changed the subject, speaking quite naturally.

'So it is all decided,' he said, 'and you are to make your _debut_.'

'Yes,' she answered, with a sort of eagerness to be friendly again. 'I'm a professional from to-day, with a stage name, a prey to critics, reporters and photographers--just like your mother, except that she is a very great artist and I am a very little one.'

It was not very skilfully done, but Lushington was grateful for what she meant by it, and for saying 'your mother' instead of 'Madame Bonanni.'

'I think you will be great, too,' he said, 'and before very long. There is no young soprano on the stage now, who has half your voice or half your talent.'

Margaret coloured with pleasure, though she could not quite believe what he told her. But he glanced at her and felt sure that he was right. She had voice and talent, he knew, but even with both some singers fail; she had the splendid vitality, the boundless health and the look of irresistible success, which only the great ones have. She was not a classic beauty, but she would be magnificent on the stage.

There was a short silence, before she spoke.

'Two days ago,' she said, 'I did not think we would meet again so soon.'

'Part again so soon, you ought to say,' he answered. 'It is nothing but that, after all.'

She bit her lip.

'Must we?' she asked, almost unconsciously.

'Yes. Don't make it harder than it is. Let's get it over. There's a cab.'

He held up his stick and signalled to the cabman, who touched his horse and moved towards them. Margaret stood still, with a half-frightened look, and spoke in a low voice.

'Tom, if you leave me, I won't answer for myself!'

'I will. Good-bye--God bless you!'

The cab stopped beside them, as he held out his hand. She took it silently and he made her get in. A moment later she was driving away at a smart pace, sitting bolt upright and looking straight before her, her lips pressed tight together, while Lushington walked briskly in the opposite direction. It had all happened in a moment, in a sort of despairing hurry.

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