Marcia said quietly: “No. If you wish to go, we will go. Are you tired of Italy?”
Anne Champneys looked at her with wide eyes. For a moment she hesitated, then ran to Marcia, and clung to her with her head against her friend’s shoulder.
“You’re so good to me—and I care so much for you,—I’ll tell you the truth,” she said in a whisper. “I—I heard something to-day, Marcia,—he’s coming to Rome—soon. And of course he’ll come here, too.”
“Peter Champneys,” said Peter’s wife, and literally shook in her shoes. Her clasp tightened. Marcia put her arms around her, and felt, to her surprise, that Anne was frightened.
“You are sure?”
“Yes. I heard it accidentally, but I am sure. You know how pretty the Arno is at the spot where we picnicked. We strolled about, and I—didn’t want to talk to anybody, so I slipped away by myself. There were a couple of English artists painting near by, and just as I came up I overheard what they were saying. Marcia,—they were talking about—him. They said he’d been called to Rome to paint somebody’s picture,—the pope’s, maybe,—and they’d probably see him here, later. They seemed to be—friends of his, from the way they spoke.” She shivered. “Italy isn’t big enough to hold us two!” she said, desperately. “Marcia, I can’t—run the risk of meeting Peter Champneys. Not until I have to. I—I’ve got to get away!” Her voice broke.
“All right, dear. We’ll go,” said Marcia, soothingly. “Jason’s about finished his work in Brazil, and he’ll be back in New York by this. Do you want to go directly home?”
“Yes,” said Anne Champneys. “Italy’s a very little place compared with America. Let’s go back to America, Marcia.”
Mrs. Vandervelde stroked the red head. It seemed to her that fate was playing into Mr. Berkeley Hayden’s hands.
Although the Champneys house was tightly closed, with the upper door and windows boarded up, the blonde person in shoddy fineries rang the area bell on the chance that there must be a caretaker somewhere about the premises. She felt that when one has come upon such an errand as hers, one mustn’t leave any stone unturned; and she couldn’t trust to a haphazard letter. An impassive and immaculate Japanese opened the door, and stood looking at her without any expression at all. Had the blonde person baldly stated her errand, the Japanese would probably have closed the door and that would have been the end of it. But she didn’t speak; after a sharp glance at him she opened her gay hand-bag, extracted a slip of paper, handed it to him, and stood waiting.
The Japanese read: “I wish you’d do what you can, for my sake,” and saw that it was addressed to Mr. Chadwick Champneys and signed by Mr. Peter Champneys. It had evidently been carefully kept, and for a long time, as the creases showed. The Japanese stood reflecting for a few moments, then beckoned the blonde person inside the house, ushering her into a very neat basement sitting-room.