That night they all walked together under the great trees of the park at Del Monte. A lake (where black swans threaded their way like dark spirits among white water-lilies) drank the last light of day, and little waves the swans made were ruffled with dim silver. Above, the sky was another deep blue lake lilied with stars; and as darkness fell, hot and sweet-scented as the veil of an Eastern woman, slowly the boundaries were lost between forest and garden. Outlines faded and blended into one another. The fuchsias, big as babies’ fists, the poppies like dolls’ crepe sunbonnets, the roses large enough for nightingales’ nests, lost their colour, and seemed to go out in the dark, like brilliant bubbles that break into nothingness. Here and there yellow light flashed near the ground, far from the walkers, as if a faint firefly were astray in a tangle of flowers. Chinese gardeners, deft and mysterious as brownies, were working at night to change the arrangement of flower-beds so that the dwellers in the hotel should have a surprise by day.
Theo Dene talked of Carmen Gaylor, telling stories she had heard of the rich widow from people whose acquaintance she had first made at Del Monte. “I am longing to meet the woman,” she said; “I think she must be an interesting character, typically Spanish, or Mexican—or, anyhow, not American—from what they all say. A beauty—vain and jealous, and a fearful temper. I shouldn’t like to interfere with a woman of that sort in what she thought her ‘rights,’ should you?”
[Illustration: “They weren’t trees, but people, either nymphs or witches”]
“One can’t interfere with a person one has never met, can one?” Angela remarked, pretending not to understand.
“Maybe not, in real life,” Theo agreed. “I’m always losing myself in my books, and forgetting that the world outside isn’t like my world, made of romance. But you can understand, can’t you; here where it’s so beautiful that even a married woman—who has, of course, left love far behind her in Europe—must feel some faint yearning to be the heroine of a romance?”
Princess di Sereno wondered why she had ever been nice to Theo in Rome.
LA DONNA E MOBILE
Angela stood at her hotel window, looking down over the gilded hills and purple valleys of the most romantic city in America—San Francisco, the port of adventure; away to the Golden Gate, where the sea poured in a flood of gold under a sea of rosy fog—a foaming, rushing sea of sunset cloud, beneath a high dome of fire away to the fortified islands and to Mount Tamalpais.