“Does yours keep a line of the right thing?”
“It begins to see its way there. We’ve a lady staying in the hotel, Mrs. Everett, from San Francisco, who’s got what we want. Mrs. Everett’s a Native Daughter, too. Oh, yes, she’ll spare one—her prettiest. Don’t you worry, and don’t you say a word to your friend. I and Mrs. Everett will do the rest. When that lady from Europe opens her door to-night she’ll see lying on her bed something that’ll keep her from knowing the difference between the Yosemite Valley and Paris. Trust two Native Daughters.”
“I will,” said Nick devoutly. And he shook hands with Jessy Jones. He knew better than to offer money at this stage of the game; for he, too, was a Californian, and honour was concerned.
That night, her spirit illumined by the unearthly glory of a lunar rainbow, Angela went to her room with a faint sense of anticlimax, in the discomfort she expected. Then, making a light, she saw foaming over the coverlet a froth of lace and film of cambric. Almost it might have been woven from the moon-rainbow. But pinned on to a sleeve-knot of pale pink ribbon was a slip of paper; and on the slip of paper were a few words in a woman’s handwriting: “Compliments of California to Mrs. May.”
THE BEST THING IN HER LIFE
A faint fragrance of roses haunted the mysterious “nighty,” filled the room, and mingled with Angela’s dreams. All night long she walked in a garden of sleeping flowers, “sweet shut mouths of rosebuds, and closed white lids of lilies”; and it seemed but a short night, for in her dreams she had half the garden still to explore—in searching for Nick, it seemed—when a rap, sharp as the breaking of a tree branch, made her start up in bed. A dim impression was in her mind that a voice had accompanied the rap, and had made an unsympathetic announcement which meant the need to get up. But the only really important thing was to run back into the garden and find Nick Hilliard, as otherwise she might miss him forever. So Angela shut her eyes, and hurried down dim labyrinths, where she had been wandering before, and called to Nick: “I’m here again. Where are you?”
The rosebuds and lilies were still there, fast asleep, yet somehow the garden was different and not so beautiful. A handsome woman, with black hair, was gathering the flowers, pretending not to see Angela, and Nick had gone. A girl’s voice somewhere was saying, “Prince di Sereno! What a romantic name.”
It only seemed a minute since the first knock, but now there came another; and this time the announcement was even more disturbing: “Breakfast’s ready!” Immediately after, as if to show that no arguing would avail, steps went clanking along the veranda, heavy at first, fainter with distance, and at last a convulsive banging on the door of some other unfortunate.