Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPrince Fortunatus - Chapter 25. Changes
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 25. Changes Post by :meganet Category :Long Stories Author :William Black Date :May 2012 Read :2084

Click below to download : Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 25. Changes (Format : PDF)

Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 25. Changes

CHAPTER XXV. CHANGES

Shortly after ten on the Wednesday morning a young gentleman clad in travelling costume drove up to the door of a house in Edgeware Road, got out of the hansom, stepped across the pavement, and rang the bell. The smart little maid-servant who answered the summons appeared to know him, but was naturally none the less surprised by so early a visit.

"Miss Burgoyne isn't down yet, sir!" she said, in answer to his inquiries.

"Very well, I will wait," said the young man, who seemed rather hurried and nervous. "Will you tell her that I wish to see her on a matter of great importance. She will know what it is."

Well, it was not the business of this rosy-cheeked maid to check the vagaries of impetuous lovers; she merely said,

"Will you step up-stairs, sir; there's a fire in the morning-room."

She led the way, and when she had left him in the bright little chamber--where breakfast-things for one were laid on the table--she departed to find, perhaps to arouse, her mistress. The young man went to the window and stared into the street. He returned to the fire and stared into the red flames. He took up a newspaper that was on the table and opened it, but could not fix his attention. And no wonder; for he had just succeeded to a baronetcy and the extensive Petmansworth estates; and he was determined to win a bride as well--even as he was on his way to his father's funeral.

It was some considerable time before Miss Burgoyne came down, and when she did make her appearance she seemed none too well pleased by this unconscionable intrusion; at the same time she had paid some little attention to her face, and she wore a most charming tea-gown of pink and sage-green.

"Well?" she said, rather coldly. "What now? I thought you had gone over to Paris."

"But don't you know what has happened?" he said, rather breathlessly.

"What has happened?"

He took up the newspaper, opened it, and handed it to her in silence, showing her a particular paragraph.

"Oh!" she said, with startled eyes, and yet she read the lines slowly, to give time for consideration. And then she recollected that she ought to express sympathy. "I am so very sorry--so sudden and unexpected; it must have been such a shock to you. But," she added, after a second--"but why are you here? You ought to have gone home at once."

"I'm on my way home--I only got the telegram yesterday afternoon--I reached London this morning," the young man said, disconnectedly; all his eager and wistful attention was concentrated on her face; what answer was about to appear there to his urgent prayer? "Don't you understand why I am here, dear Kate?" said he, and he advanced a little, but very timidly.

"Well, really," said she, for she was bound to appear a trifle shocked, "when such a dreadful thing happens--your father's sudden death--really I think that should be the first thing in your mind; I think you ought not to delay a moment in going home."

"You think me heartless, but you don't understand," said he, eager to justify himself in her eyes. "Of course I'm sorry. But my father and I never got on very well; he was always trying to thwart me."

"Yes, but for the sake of mere outward form and decency," she ventured to say.

"That's just it!" he said, quickly. "I'll have to go away down there, and I don't know how long I may be kept; and--and--I thought if I could take with me some assurance that these altered circumstances would weigh with you--you see, dear Kate, I am my own master now, I can do what I like--and you know what it is I ask. Now tell me--you _will be my wife! I can quite understand your hesitating before; I was dependent upon my father; if he had disapproved there might have been trouble; but now it is different."

Miss Burgoyne stood silent, her eyes fixed on the floor, her fingers interclasped. He looked at her. Then, finding she had no answer for him, a curious change of expression came over his face.

"And if you hesitate now," he said, vindictively, "I know the reason, and I know it is a reason you may as well put out of your mind. Oh, I am quite aware of the shilly-shallying that has been going on between you and that fellow Moore--I know you've been struck, like all the rest of the women--but you may as well give up that fancy. Mr. Moore isn't much of a catch, _now_!"

She raised her head, and there was an angry flash in her eyes that for a second frightened him.

"Magnanimous!" she said, with a curl of her lip. "To taunt a man with being ill, when perhaps he is lying on his death-bed!"

"It is not because he is ill," he retorted, and his naturally pale face was somewhat paler, "I dare say he'll get well enough again. It is because he is dead broke and ruined. And do you know who did it?" he went on, more impetuously still. "Well, I did it! I said I would break him, and I broke him. I knew he was only playing with you and making a fool of you, and I said to myself that I would have it out with him--either he or I would have to go to the right about. I said I would smash him, and I have smashed him. Do you see this check? That was waiting for me at my rooms this morning. Eleven hundred pounds--that was two days' work only, and I had plenty more before. But do you think it is his check? Not a bit! It is drawn out by a friend of his. It is lent him. He is just so much the more in debt, and I don't believe he has a farthing in the world. And that's the wonderful creature all you women are worshipping!"

Now this foolish boy ought to have taken care, but he had been carried away on a whirlwind of jealous rage. All the time that he was pouring forth his vengeful story, Miss Burgoyne's face had become more and more hard; and when he ceased, she answered him, in low and measured tones that conveyed the most bitter scorn.

"Yes," she said, "we women are worthy of being despised, when--when we think anything of such creatures as men are capable of showing themselves to be! Oh, it is a fine time to come and boast of what you have done, when the man you hate--when the man you _fear_--is lying ill, delirious, perhaps dying. That is the time to boast of your strength, your prowess! And how dare you come to me," she continued, with a sudden toss of her head, "with all this story of gambling and debt? What is it to me? It seems that is the way men fight now--with a pack of cards! That is fighting between--men, and the victor waves a check in triumph, and comes and brags about it to women! Well--I--I don't appreciate--such--such manliness. I think you had better--go and see to your father's funeral--instead of--of bringing such a story to me!" said Miss Burgoyne, with heaving bosom; and it was real indignation this time, for there were tears in her eyes as she turned proudly away from him and marched straight for the door of the room.

"For Heaven's sake!" he cried, intercepting her. "Kate, I did not mean to offend you! I take back what I said. How could any one help being jealous--seeing your off-and-on relations with him all this time, and you would never say one thing or another. Forgive me."

She turned to him, and there were still indignant tears in her eyes.

"It isn't fair!" she said. "It isn't fair!--he is ill; you might have a little humanity."

"Yes, I know," he said, quite humbly and imploringly (for this young man was in a bad way, and had lost his head as well as his heart). "And I didn't mean half what I said--indeed I didn't! And--and you shouldn't reproach me with not going at once down to Petmansworth, when you know the cause. I shall be among a lot of people who won't know my relations to you; I shall have all kinds of duties before me now, and I wanted to take with me one word of assurance. Even if it was only sympathy I wanted, why should I not come first to you, when you are the one I care for most in the world? Isn't it a proof of that, when my first thought is of you when this great change has taken place? Don't you see how you will be affected by it--at least if you say yes. I know you are fond of the theatre, and of all the flattery you get, and bouquets and newspaper notices; but you might find another way of life just as satisfying to your pride--I mean a natural pride, a self-respect such as every woman should have. Oh, I don't mind your remaining on the stage, for a time anyway; we could not be married for at least six months, I suppose, according to usual observances; but I think if you knew how you could play the part of great lady down at Petmansworth, that might have as great attraction for you as the theatre. I was considering in the train last night," continued this luckless youth--studying every feature of his mistress's face for some favorable sign of yielding, "that perhaps you might agree to a private marriage, in a week or two's time, by private license, and we could have the marriage announced later on."

"Oh, Percy, you frighten me," said the young lady, whose wrath was clearly being mollified by his persuasive words--or perhaps by other considerations. "I couldn't think of such a thing! Oh, no, no! What would my people say? And what would the public say, when it all came out?"

"I only offered the suggestion," said he, submissively. "It would be making everything sure, that was all. But I can quite understand that a young lady would rather have a grand wedding, and presents, and a list of friends in the _Morning Post_: well, I don't insist; it was only a fancy I had last night in the train, but I am sure I would rather study your wishes in every respect."

She stood silent for a little time, he intently waiting her answer.

"It is too serious a matter for me to decide by myself," she said, at last, in a low voice.

"But who else has any right to interfere?" he exclaimed. "Why should you not decide for yourself? You know I love you--you have seen it? and I have waited and waited, and borne with a good deal. But then I was hardly in a position to demand an answer; there would have been some risk on your part, and I hesitated. Now there can be none. Dear Kate, you are going to say one word!--and I shall go away down to all this sad business that lies before me with a secret comfort that none of them will suspect."

"It is too sudden, Percy," she said, lingeringly; "I must have time to consider."

"What have you to consider?" he remonstrated.

"A great many things," she said, evasively. "You don't know how a girl is situated. Here is papa coming to town this very morning; Jim and Cicely have gone up to Paddington to meet him. Well, I don't know how he might regard it. If you wanted me to leave the theatre altogether, it would make a great difference; I do a good deal for Jim and Cicely."

"But, Katie," he said, and he took her hand in spite of her, "these are only matters of business! Do you think I can't make all that straight? Say yes!"--and he strove to draw her towards him, and would have kissed her, but that she withdrew a step, with her cheeks flushing prettily through the thin make-up of the morning.

"You must give me time, Percy," she said, with downcast eyes. "I must know what papa says."

"What time?"

"Well--a week," she said.

"A week be it: I won't worry you beyond your patience, dear Kate," said this infatuated young man. "But I know what you will have to say then--to make me the happiest of human beings alive on this earth. Good-bye, dearest!"

And with that he respectfully kissed her hand and took his leave; and so soon as she was sure he was out of the house she rang for breakfast, and called down to the little maid to look sharp with it, too. She was startled and pleased in one direction, and, in another, perhaps a trifle vexed; for what business had any man coming bothering her with a proposal of marriage before breakfast? How could she help displaying a little temper, when she was hungry and he over pertinacious? Yet she hoped she had not been too outspoken in her anger, for there were visions before her mind that somehow seemed agreeable.

That was another anxious day for those people in Piccadilly, for the fever showed no signs of abating, while some slight delirium returned from time to time. Nina, of course, was in constant attendance; and when he began, in his wanderings, to speak of her and to ask Maurice what had become of her, she would simply go into the room, and take a seat by the bedside, and talk to him just as if they had met by accident in the Piazza Cavour. For he had got it into his head now that they were in Naples again.

"Oh, yes, it is all right, Leo," she would say, putting her cool hand on his burning one, "they will all be in time, the whole party; when we get down to the _Risposta_, they will all be there; and perhaps Sabetta will bring her zither in its case. Then there will be the long sail across the blue water, and Capri coming nearer and nearer; then the landing and the donkeys and the steep climb up and up. Where shall we go, Leo?--to the Hotel Pagano or the Tiberio? The Pagano?--very well, for there is the long balcony shaded from the sun, and after luncheon we shall have chairs taken out--yes, and you can smoke there--and you will laugh to see Andrea go to the front of the railings and sing, '_Al ben de tuoi qual vittima,_' with his arms stretched out like a windmill, and Carmela very angry with him that he is so ridiculous. But then no one hears--what matter?--no one except those perhaps in the small garden-house for the billiard. Will there be moonlight to-night before we get back? To-morrow Pandiani will grumble. Well, let him grumble; I am not afraid of him--no!"

So she would carelessly talk him back into quietude again; and then she would stealthily withdraw from the room, and perhaps go to the piano and begin to play some Neapolitan air--but so softly that the notes must have come to him like music in a dream.

Lord Rockminster called that afternoon and was shown up-stairs.

"I am going down to Scotland to-night," said he to Maurice, "and I have just got a telegram from Miss Cunyngham--you may have heard of her from Mr. Moore?"

"Oh, yes," Mangan said.

"She wishes me to bring her the latest news."

Well, he was told what there was to tell--which was not much, amid all this dire uncertainty. He looked perplexed.

"I should like to have taken Miss Cunyngham some more reassuring message," he said, thoughtfully. "I suppose there is nothing either she or I could do?" And then he drew Maurice aside and spoke in an undertone. "Except perhaps this. I have heard that Moore has been playing a little high of late--and has burned his fingers. I hope you won't let his mind be harassed by money matters. If a temporary loan will serve, and for a considerable amount if necessary, I will rely on your writing to me; may I?"

"It is exceedingly kind of you," Maurice said--but made no further promise.

No, Lionel had not been forgotten by all his fashionable friends. That same afternoon a package arrived, which, according to custom, Maurice opened, lest some acknowledgment should be necessary. It proved to be Lady Adela Cunyngham's new novel--the three volumes prettily bound in white parchment.

"Is the woman mad with vanity," said Francie, in hot indignation, "to send him her trash at such a time as this?"

Maurice laughed; it was not often that the gentle Francie was so vehement.

"Why, Francie, it was the best she could do," he said; "for when he is able to read it will send him to sleep."

He was still turning over the leaves of the first volume.

"Oh, look here," he cried. "Here is the dedication: 'To Octavius Quirk, Esq., M.A., in sincere gratitude for much kindly help and encouragement.' Now, that is very indiscreet. The log-rollers don't like books being dedicated to them; it draws the attention of the public and exposes the game. Ah, well, not many members of the public will see _that dedication!"

A great change, however, was now imminent. Saying as little as possible--indeed, making all kinds of evasions and excuses, so as not to alarm the women-folk--old Dr. Moore intimated that he thought it advisable he should sit up this night with Lionel; and Maurice, though he promised Francie he would go home as soon as she and the old lady had left, was too restless to keep his word. They feared, they hoped--they knew not what. Would the exhausted system hold out any longer against the wasting ravages of this fell disease, or succumb and sink into coma and death? Or would Nature herself step in, and with her gentle fingers close the tired eyes and bring restoring sleep and calm? Maurice meant to go home, but could not. First of all, he stayed late. Then, when the nurse came down, she was bidden to go back to bed again, if she liked. Hour after hour passed. He threw himself on the sofa, but it was not to close his eyes. And yet all seemed going well in the sick-room. Both the doctor and he had convinced themselves that Lionel was now asleep--no lethargic stupor this time, but actual sleep, from which everything was to be hoped. Maurice would not speak; he wrote on slips of paper when he had anything to say. And so the long night went by, until the window-panes slowly changed from black to blue, and from blue to gray.

About eight o'clock in the morning the old doctor came out of the room, and Maurice knew in a moment the nature of his tidings.

"All is going well," he whispered. "The temperature is steadily decreasing--nearly three degrees since last night--and he is now in a profound sleep; the crisis is over, and happily over, as I imagine. I'm going along to tell his mother and Francie--and to go to bed for a bit."

And Maurice? Well, here was the nurse; he was not wanted; he was a good-natured sort of person and he had seen how patiently and faithfully Nina had concealed her grief and done mutely everything they wanted of her. A few minutes' drive in a hansom would take him down to Sloane Street; the fresh air would be pleasant--for his head felt stupefied for want of rest; and why should not Nina have this glad intelligence at the first possible moment? So forth he went, into the white light of the fresh April morning; and presently he was rattling away westward, as well as the eastward-flowing current of the newly awakened town would allow. But very much surprised was he, when he got to Mrs. Grey's house, to find that Nina was not there. She had gone out very early in the morning, the maid-servant told him; she had done so the last two or three days back--without waiting for breakfast even.

"But where does she go?" he demanded, wondering.

"I don't know, sir," the girl said; so there was nothing for it but to walk leisurely away back to Piccadilly--after all, Nina would be sure to make her appearance at the usual hour, which was about ten.

By the time he was nearing Lionel's lodgings again, he had forgotten all about Nina; he was thinking that now, since Lionel seemed on a fair way to recovery, there might be a little more leisure for Francie and himself to talk over their own plans and prospects. He was on the southern side of Piccadilly, and sometimes he glanced into the Green Park; when suddenly his eye was caught by a figure that somehow appeared familiar. Was not that Miss Ross--walking slowly along a pathway between the trees, her head bent down, though sometimes she turned and looked up towards the houses for but a second, as if she were asking some unspoken, pathetic question. She was about opposite Lionel's rooms, but some little way inside the Park, so that it was not probable she could be seen from the windows. Well, Maurice walked back until he found a gate, entered, and went forward and overtook her. In fact, she seemed to be simply going this way and that, hovering about the one spot, while ever and anon a hopeless glance was cast on the unresponsive house-fronts up there.

"Miss Ross!" he said.

She turned, quickly, and when she saw who it was, her face paled with alarm. For a moment she could not speak. Her eyes questioned him--and yet not eagerly; there was a terrible dread there as well.

"Why are you here?" he asked, in his surprise.

"I could not rest within doors--I wished to be nearer," she answered, hurriedly; and then, fixing her eyes on him, she said, "Well? What is it? What do they say?"

"Oh, but I have good news for you," said he; "such excellent news that I went away down to Sloane Street, so that you could hear it without delay. The crisis is over and everything going on satisfactorily."

She murmured something in her native tongue and turned away her face. He waited a minute or two, until she brushed her handkerchief across her eyes and raised her head somewhat.

"Come," said he, "we will go in now. I hear you have had no breakfast. Do you want to be ill, too? Mrs. Jenkins will get you something. We can't have two invalids on our hands."

She accompanied him, with the silent obedience she had shown all the way through; she only said, in a low voice, as he opened the door for her,

"I wonder if Leo will ever know how kind you have been to every one?"

This was a happy day for that household, though their joy was subdued; for a shadow of possibilities still hung over them. And perhaps it was the knowledge that now there was every probability of the greater danger being removed that caused a certain exaggeration of minor troubles and brought them to the front. When Mangan begged his betrothed to go out for a five-minutes' stroll in the Park before lunch, he found, after all, that it was not his and her own affairs that claimed their chief attention.

"I don't know what to do, Francie," he said, ruefully. "I'm in a regular fix, and no mistake. Here is Nina--it seems more natural to call her Nina, doesn't it?--well, she talks of going away to-morrow, now that Linn is in a fair way to get better. She is quite aware that he does not know she has been in London, or that he has seen her; and now she wishes that he should never be told; and that she may get safely away again, and matters be just as they were before. I don't quite understand her, perhaps; she is very proud, for one thing, but she is very much in love with him--poor thing! she has tried to conceal it as well as ever she could; but you must have seen it, Francie--a woman's eyes must have seen it--"

"Oh, yes, Maurice!" his companion said; then she added, "And--and don't you think Linn is just as much in love with her? I am sure of it! It's just dreadful to think of her going away again--these two being separated as they were before--and Linn perhaps fretting himself into another illness, though never speaking a word--"

"But how am I to ask her to stay?" Maurice demanded, as if in appeal to her woman's wit. "There's Miss Burgoyne. Linn himself could only ask Nina to stay on one condition--and Miss Burgoyne makes it impossible."

"Then," said Francie, grown bold, "if I were you, Maurice, I would go straight to Miss Burgoyne, and I would say to her, 'My friend Lionel is in love with another woman; he never was in love with you at all; _now will you marry him?'"

(Illustration: "_Maurice walked back until he found a gate, entered, and went forward and overtook her._")

"Yes, very pretty," he said, moodily. "The first thing she would do would be to call a policeman and get me locked up as a raging lunatic. And what would Linn say to me about such interference when he came to hear of it? No, I must leave them to manage their own affairs, however they may turn out; the only thing I should like in the meantime would be for Nina to see Linn before she goes. That's all; and that I think I could manage."

"How, Maurice?"

"Well, there is simply nothing she wouldn't do for Linn's sake," he made answer; "and if I were to tell her I thought it would greatly help his recovery if he were to know that she was well, that she was here in London and ready to be friends with him and looking forward to his getting better, then I am pretty sure she would remain for that little time at least, and do anything we asked of her. Of course it would not do for them to meet just now--Linn is too weak to stand any excitement--and he will be so for some time to come; still, I think Nina would wait that time if we told her she could be of help. Then once these two have seen each other and spoken, let them take the management of their own affairs. Why, good gracious me!" he exclaimed, in lighter tones, "haven't you and I got our own affairs to manage, too? I have just been drawing up a code of regulations for the better governing of a wife!"

"Oh, indeed!" said Francie.

"Yes, indeed," said he, firmly. "I am a believer in the good old robust virtues that have made England what she is--or rather, what she has been. I'm not a sentimentalist. If the sentimentalists and the theorists and the faddists go on as they are doing, they'll soon leave us without any England at all; England will be moralized away to nothing; there will only be her name and her literature left to remind the world that she once existed. The equal rights of women--that's one of their fads. The equal rights of women! Bosh! Women ought to be very proud and grateful that they are allowed to live at all! However, that is a general principle; the particular application of it is that a man should be master in his own house, and that his wife's first and paramount duty is to obey him--"

"You shouldn't frighten me too soon, Maurice," she said--but she did not appear to be terribly scared.

"And I mean to begin as I mean to end," said he, ominously, as they were about to cross the street on their way back. "I am not going to marry a wife who will have all her interests out of doors. I will not allow it. A woman, madam, should attend to her own house and her own husband, and not spend her time in gadding about hospitals and sick-wards and making friends and companions of nurses."

Francie laughed at him.

"Why, Maurice," said she, as they were about to enter, "you yourself are the very best nurse I ever saw!"

But it was not in this mood that Mangan received Miss Burgoyne when she called that afternoon to make inquiries. She and her brother were shown to the room up-stairs, and thither Mangan followed them. He was very polite and cold and courteous; told her that Lionel was getting on very well; that the fever was subsiding, and that he was quite sensible again, though very weak; and said he hoped his complete recovery was now only a question of time. But when the young lady--with more hesitation than she usually displayed--preferred a request that she might be allowed to see Mr. Moore, Maurice met that by a gently decisive negative.

"He is not to be disturbed in any way. Perfect rest is what the doctors ordain. He has been left a wreck, but his fine constitution will pull him through; in the meantime we have to be most careful."

She was silent and thoughtful for a minute.

"I can't see him?"

"I think not--it would be most unwise. You would not wish to do anything inconsiderate."

"Oh, certainly not. May I write to him, then?" she asked.

"It will be some time before he can attend to any letters. You have no idea how weak he is. We want him to remain in perfect rest and quiet."

"This is Thursday," she said. "Supposing everything goes well, and I called on Tuesday next, could I see him then?"

"By that time it would be easier to say," he answered, with diplomatic ingenuity. "I should think it very likely."

"It will be a long time before he can come back to the theatre?" she asked again.

"There is no doubt about that."

"But his voice will be all right when he gets well?"

"Dr. Whitsen seems to think so."

She stood undecided for a moment; then she said,

"Well, I won't write until you give me leave. I don't mind your seeing the letter, when I do. In the meantime, will you tell Lionel how awfully glad I am that he is going on well, and that we shall all be glad to have him back at the theatre?"

"I will give him the message."

"Thanks--good-bye." And therewith Miss Burgoyne and her brother Jim withdrew.

But if Maurice set his face against that young lady being allowed to see Lionel in his present exhausted condition, it was quite otherwise with his notions about Nina. He talked to the three doctors, and to Mrs. Moore, and to Francie--to Francie most of all; and he maintained that, so far from such a meeting causing any mental disturbance, the knowledge that Nina was in London, was close by, would only be a source of joy and placid congratulation and peace. They yielded at last, and the experiment was to be tried on the Saturday morning about eleven. Nina was told. She trembled a little, but was ready to do whatever was required of her.

"Well, now," said Maurice to her, when she came up that morning (he noticed that she was dressed with extreme neatness and grace, and also that she seemed pale and careworn, though her beautiful dark eyes had lost none of their soft lustre), "we mustn't startle him. We must lead up to his seeing you. I wonder whether your playing those Neapolitan airs may not have left some impression on his brain?--they might sound familiar?"

At once Nina went to the piano and silently opened it.

"I will go and talk to him," he whispered. "Just you play a little, and we'll see."

Mangan went into the next room and began to say a few casual words, in a careless kind of way, but all the time keeping watchful and furtive observation of his friend's face. And even as he spoke there came another sound--soft and low and distant--that seemed to say, "_A la fenesta affaciate_--_nennela de stu core_--_io t'aggio addo che spasemi, ma spasemo d'amore_--_e cchiu non trovo requia, nennella mia, ppe te!_--"

"Maurice!" said Lionel, with staring eyes. "What is that? Who is there?"

"Don't you know, Linn?" his friend said, tranquilly. "She has been here all through your illness--she has played those airs for you--"

"Nina? Nina herself?" Lionel exclaimed, but in a low voice.

"Yes. If you like I will bring her in to see you. She has been awfully good. I thought it would please you to know she was here. Now be quite quiet, and she will come in and speak to you for a minute--for just a minute, you know."

He went and asked Nina to go into the room, but he did not accompany her; he remained without. Nina went gently forward to the bedside.

"Leo, I--I am glad you are getting on so well," she said, with admirable self-possession; it was only her lips that were tremulous.

As for him, he looked at her in silence, and tears rolled down his cheek--he was so nerveless. Then he said, in his weak voice,

"Nina, have you forgiven me?"

"What have I to forgive, Leo?" she made answer; and she took his hand for a moment. "Get well--it is the prayer of many friends. And if you wish to see me again before I go, then I will come--"

"Before you go?" he managed to say. "You are going away again, Nina?"

His eyes were more piteous than his speech; she met that look--and her resolution faltered.

"At least," she said, "I will not go until you are well--no. When you wish for me, I will come to see you. We are still friends as of old, Leo, are we not? Now I must not remain. I will say good-bye for the present."

"When are you coming back, Nina?" he said, still with those pleading eyes.

"When you wish, Leo."

"This afternoon?"

"This afternoon, if you wish."

She pressed his hand and left. Her determined self-possession had carried her bravely so far; there had hardly been a trace of emotion. But when she went outside--when the strain was taken off--it may have been otherwise; at all events, when, with bowed and averted head, she crossed the sitting-room and betook herself to the empty chamber above, no one dreamed of following her--until Francie, some little time thereafter, went quietly up-stairs and tapped at the door and entered. She found Nina stretched at full length on the sofa, her head buried in the cushion, sobbing as if her heart would break. Perhaps she was thinking of the approaching farewell.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 26. Towards The Dawn Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 26. Towards The Dawn

Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 26. Towards The Dawn
CHAPTER XXVI. TOWARDS THE DAWNOn the Tuesday about midday, according to her promise, Miss Burgoyne called and again preferred her request. And, short of a downright lie, Mangan saw no way of refusing her."At the same time," he said, in the cold manner which he unconsciously adopted towards this young lady, "you must remember he is far from strong yet; and I hope you have nothing to say to him that would cause agitation, or even involve his speaking much. His voice has to be taken care of, as well as his general condition.""Oh, you may trust me for that," said
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 24. Friends In Need Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 24. Friends In Need

Prince Fortunatus - Chapter 24. Friends In Need
CHAPTER XXIV. FRIENDS IN NEEDOn the Monday morning matters were so serious that Mangan telegraphed down to Winstead; but the old doctor and his wife and Francie were already on their way to town. When they arrived in Piccadilly, and went into the sick-room, Lionel did not know them; most likely he merely confused them with the crowding phantoms of his brain. He was now in a high state of fever, but the delirium was not violent; he lay murmuring and moaning, and it was only chance phrases they could catch--about some one being lost--and a wide and dark sea--and so
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT