Book IV
Chapter XII
 

I

She heard Janet Maynard, who had returned alone the day before from Nice, enter the next, room. She kept very still; she had no desire for conversation. But Janet tapped on her door in a moment and entered looking very important.

"I've something to tell you," she announced. "You'd never guess in a thousand years. Don't get up. 111 sit on the bed-used to any old place. Only too thankful it isn't a box, or to sit down at all. Try one of mine? Don't you feel well?"

"I've a rotten headache."

"Oh...mind my smoking?"

"Not a bit. What did you have to tell me?"

"Well, 'way back in ancient times, B.W., nineteen hundred and six, a young Englishman named Gathbroke came to California after his sister, who was ill." She was blowing rings and did not see Gora's face. When she leveled her eyes Gora was unbuttoning her gaiters. "It seems she died some time during the fire and he had a perfectly horrid experience getting the body out to the cemetery. But that has nothing to do with the story. He met Olive and the rest of us--and Alexina--the night of the Hofer ball. I had forgotten the whole thing until Olive reminded me that we had joked Alex afterward about the way she had bowled him over. His eyes simply followed her, but Mortimer gave him no chance.

"Then. I remembered something else. Isabel Gwynne once told me that her husband was sure Gathbroke had proposed to Alex one day when he took him down to Eincona. He was in a simply awful state of nerves afterward. John thought he was going out of his mind. Now, here's the point. Night before last Olive was at a, ball and who should come up to her and introduce himself but Gathbroke. He's changed a lot but she recognized him. Well, he hardly waited to finish the usual amenities before he asked her plump out if Alex was in Paris, said he was positive he had seen her at that embassy ball where all the lights went out and they expected a riot. He turned white when he did it, but he was as direct as chain lightning. He wanted her address. Of course he got it. Olive was thrilled. It's safe to assume that he's with Alex at the present moment. At any rate Olive called him up this morning intending to ask him to dinner, and was told he was out of town. Now, isn't that romance for you?"

"Rather."

"Twelve years! Fancy a man being faithful all that time. Hadn't got what he wanted, that's probably why. Have you ever heard Alex speak of him? Think she'll divorce Mortimer?"

"I asked her the other night why she didn't. She said it was against the traditions of the family. But--I recall--she said--it seemed to me there was a curious sort of meaning in her voice--that if she wanted to marry a man nothing would stop her."

"And it wouldn't. Nothing would stop Alexina if anything started her. The trouble always was to start her. She's indolent and unsusceptible and fastidious. But deep and intense--Lord! Mark my words, she saw him at the Embassy. If she did and the thing's mutual she'll give poor old Maria such a shock that the war will look like ten cents."

"Possibly."

"You look really ill, Gora. No wonder you have headaches with that hair. It's magnificent--but! Go to bed and I'll send up your dinner. Got any aspirin?"

"Yes, thanks."

"Au 'voir."