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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesIole - Chapter 11
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Iole - Chapter 11 Post by :MSCOTT Category :Long Stories Author :Robert W. Chambers Date :May 2012 Read :3084

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Iole - Chapter 11

CHAPTER XI

But there were further poignant emotions in store for the poet, for, as his cab swung out of the avenue and drew up before the great house on the southwest corner of Seventy-ninth Street and Madison Avenue, he caught a glimpse of his eldest daughter, Iole, vanishing into the house, and, at the same moment, he perceived his son-in-law, Mr. Wayne, paying the driver of a hansom-cab, while several liveried servants bore houseward the luggage of the wedding journey.

"George!" he cried dramatically, thrusting his head from the window of his own cab as that vehicle drew up with a jolt that made his stomach vibrate, "George! I am here!"

Wayne looked around, paid the hansom-driver, and, advancing slowly, offered his hand as the poet descended to the sidewalk. "How are you?" he inquired without enthusiasm as the poet evinced a desire to paw him. "All is well here, I hope."

"George! Son!" The poet gulped till his dewlap contracted. He laid a large plump hand on Wayne's shoulders. "Where are my lambs?" he quavered; "where are they?"

"Which lambs?" inquired the young man uneasily. "If you mean Iole and Vanessa----"

"No! My ravished lambs! Give me my stolen lambs. Trifle no longer with a father's affections! Lissa!--Cybele! Great Heavens! Where are they?" he sobbed hoarsely.

"Well, _where are they?" retorted his son-in-law, horrified. "Come into the house; people in the street are looking."

In the broad hall the poet paused, staggered, strove to paw Wayne, then attempted to fold his arms in an attitude of bitter scorn.

"Two penniless wastrels," he muttered, "are wedded to my lambs. But there are laws to invoke----"

An avalanche of pretty girls in pink pajamas came tumbling down the bronze and marble staircase, smothering poet and son-in-law in happy embraces; and "Oh, George!" they cried, "how sunburned you are! So is Iole, but she is too sweet! Did you have a perfectly lovely honeymoon? When is Vanessa coming? And how is Mr. Briggs? And--oh, do you know the news? Cybele and Lissa married two such extremely attractive young men this afternoon----"

"Married!" cried Wayne, releasing Dione's arms from his neck. "_Whom did they marry?"

"Pups!" sniveled the poet--"penniless, wastrel pups!"

"Their names," said Aphrodite coolly, from the top of the staircase, "are James Harrow and Henry Lethbridge. I wish there had been three----"

"Harrow! Lethbridge!" gasped Wayne. "When"--he turned helplessly to the poet--"when did they do this?"

Through the gay babble of voices and amid cries and interruptions, Wayne managed to comprehend the story. He tried to speak, but everybody except the poet laughed and chatted, and the poet, suffused now with a sort of sad sweetness, waved his hand in slow unctuous waves until even the footmen's eyes protruded.

"It's all right," said Wayne, raising his voice; "it's topsyturvy and irregular, but it's all right. I've known Harrow and Leth--For Heaven's sake, Dione, don't kiss me like that; I want to talk!--You're hugging me too hard, Philodice. Oh, Lord! _will you stop chattering all together! I--I--Do you want the house to be pinched?"

He glanced up at Aphrodite, who sat astride the banisters lighting a cigarette. "Who taught you to do that?" he cried.

"I'm sixteen, now," she said coolly, "and I thought I'd try it."

Her voice was drowned in the cries and laughter; Wayne, with his hands to his ears, stared up at the piquant figure in its pink pajamas and sandals, then his distracted gaze swept the groups of parlor maids and footmen around the doors: "Great guns!" he thundered, "this is the limit and they'll pull the house! Morton!"--to a footman--"ring up 7--00--9B Murray Hill. My compliments and congratulations to Mr. Lethbridge and to Mr. Harrow, and say that we usually dine at eight! Philodice! stop that howling! Oh, just you wait until Iole has a talk with you all for running about the house half-dressed----"

"I _won't wear straight fronts indoors, and my garters hurt!" cried Aphrodite defiantly, preparing to slide down the banisters.

"Help!" said Wayne faintly, looking from Dione to Chlorippe, from Chlorippe to Philodice, from Philodice to Aphrodite. "I won't have my house turned into a confounded Art Nouveau music hall. I tell you----"

"Let _me tell them," said Iole, laughing and kissing her hand to the poet as she descended the stairs in her pretty bride's traveling gown.

She checked Aphrodite, looked wisely around at her lovely sisters, then turned to remount the stairs, summoning them with a gay little confidential gesture.

And when the breathless crew had trooped after her, and the pad of little, eager, sandaled feet had died away on the thick rugs of the landing above, the poet, clasping his fat white hands, thumbs joined, across his rotund abdomen, stole a glance at his dazed son-in-law, which was partly apprehensive and partly significant, almost cunning. "An innocent saturnalia," he murmured. "The charming abandon of children." He unclasped one hand and waved it. "Did you note the unstudied beauty of the composition as my babes glided in and out following the natural and archaic yet exquisitely balanced symmetry of the laws which govern mass and line composition, all unconsciously, yet perhaps"--he reversed his thumb and left his sign manual upon the atmosphere--"perhaps," he mused, overflowing with sweetness--"perhaps the laws of Art Nouveau are divine!--perhaps angels and cherubim, unseen, watch fondly o'er my babes, lest all unaware they guiltlessly violate some subtle canon of Art, marring the perfect symmetry of eternal preciousness."

Wayne's mouth was partly open, his eyes hopeless yet fixed upon the poet with a fearful fascination.

"Art," breathed the poet, "is a solemn, a fearful responsibility. _You are responsible, George, and some day you must answer for every violation of Art, to the eternal outraged fitness of things. _You must answer, _I must answer, every soul must answer!"

"A-ans--answer! What, for God's sake?" stammered Wayne.

The poet, deliberately joining thumb and forefinger, pinched out a portion of the atmosphere.

"That! _That George! For that is Art! And Art is justice! And justice, affronted, demands an answer."

He refolded his arms, mused for a space, then stealing a veiled glance sideways:

"You--you are--ah--convinced that my two lost lambs need dread no bodily vicissitudes----"

"Cybele and Lissa?"

"Ah--yes----"

"Lethbridge will have money to burn if he likes the aroma of the smoke. Harrow has burnt several stacks already; but his father will continue to fire the furnace. Is _that what you mean?"

"No!" said the poet softly, "no, George, that is not what I mean. Wealth is a great thing. Only the little things are precious to me. And the most precious of all is absolutely nothing!" But, as he wandered away into the great luxurious habitation of his son-in-law, his smile grew sweeter and sweeter and his half-closed eyes swam, melting into a saccharine reverie.

"The little things," he murmured, thumbing the air absently--"the little things are precious, but not as precious as absolutely nothing. For nothing is perfection. Thank you," he said sweetly to a petrified footman, "thank you for understanding. It is precious--very, very precious to know that I am understood."

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CHAPTER XWhen the curtain at last descended upon the parting attitudes of the players the poet arose with an alacrity scarcely to be expected in a gentleman of his proportions. Two and two his big, healthy daughters--there remained but four now--followed him to the lobby. When he was able to pack all four into a cab he did so and sent them home without ceremony; then, summoning another vehicle, gave the driver the directions and climbed in. Half an hour later he was deposited under the bronze shelter of the porte-cochere belonging to an extremely expensive mansion overlooking the park; and
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