“She was really responsible for the postponement of the wedding in December, I’m told. Of course, I don’t know that it is true,” said the Marchioness, wisely qualifying her gossip. “My brother, the Grand Duke, does not confide in me.”
“Oh, I think that story was an exaggeration,” said her husband. “Genevra says that he was very ill—nervous something or other.”
“Probably true, too. He’s a wreck. She will be the prettiest widow in Europe before Christmas,” said the young count. “Unless, of course, any one of the excellent husbands surrounding me should die,” he added gallantly.
“Well, my heart bleeds for her,” said Deppingham.
“She’s going into it with her eyes open,” said the Prince. “It isn’t as if she hadn’t been told. She could see for herself. She knows there’s the other woman in Paris and—Oh, well, why should we make a funeral of it? Let’s do our best to be revellers, not mourners. She’ll live to fall in love with some other man. They always do. Every woman has to love at least once in her life—if she lives long enough. Come, come! Is my entertainment to develop into a premature wake? Let us forget the future of the Princess Genevra and drink to her present!”
“And to her past, if you don’t mind, Prince!” amended Lord Deppingham, looking into his wife’s sombre eyes.
THE TITLE CLEAR
Two men and a woman stood in the evening glow, looking out over the tranquil sea that crept up and licked the foot of the cliff. At their back rose the thick, tropical forest; at its edge and on the nape of the cliff stood a bungalow, fresh from the hands of a hundred willing toilsmen. Below, on their right, lay the gaudy village, lolling in the heat of the summer’s day. Far off to the north, across the lowlands and beyond the sweep of undulating and ever-lengthening hills, could be seen a great, reddish structure, its gables and towers fusing with the sombre shades of the mountain against which they seemed to lean.
It was September. Five months had passed since the King’s Own steamed away from the harbour of Aratat. The new dispensation was in full effect. During the long, sickening weeks that preceded the coming of the Syndicate, Hollingsworth Chase toiled faithfully, resolutely for the restoration of order and system among the demoralised people of Japat.
The first few weeks of rehabilitation were hard ones: the islanders were ready to accede to everything he proposed, but their submissiveness was due in no small measure to the respect they entertained for his almost supernatural powers. In course of time this feeling was more or less dissipated and a condition of true confidence took its place. The lawless element—including the misguided husbands whose jealousy had been so skilfully worked upon by Rasula and Jacob von Blitz—this element, greatly in the minority, subsided into a lackadaisical, law-abiding activity, with little prospect of again attempting to exercise themselves in another direction. Murder had gone out of their hearts.