Constance rose trembling from her chair.
“Don’t say any more, dear Otto. I didn’t mean any harm. I—I was so sorry for you both.”
He laughed again softly.
“You’ve got to marry him!” he said triumphantly. “There!—you may go now. But you’ll come again soon. I know you will!”
She seemed to slip, to melt, out of the room. But he had a last vision of flushed cheeks, and half-reproachful eyes.
On the day following Constance’s visit to the Boar’s Hill cottage she wrote to Radowitz:—
“DEAR OTTO,—I am going to ask you not to raise the subject you spoke of yesterday to me again between us. I am afraid I should find my visits a pain instead of a joy, if you did so. And Mrs. Mulholland and I want to come so much—sometimes alone, and sometimes together. We want to be mother and sister as much as we can, and you will let us! We know very well that we are poor painted things compared with real mothers and sisters. Still we should love to do our best—I should—if you’ll let me!”
To which Otto replied:—
“DEAR CONSTANCE,—(That’s impudence, but you told me!)—I’ll hold my tongue—though I warn you I shall only think the more. But you shan’t have any cause to punish me by not coming. Good heavens!—if you didn’t come!
“The coast is
always clear here between two and four. I get
my walk in the morning.”
Two or three days a week accordingly, Constance, or Mrs. Mulholland, or both took their way to the cottage. They did all that women with soft hearts can do for a sick man. Mrs. Mulholland managed the servants, and enquired into the food. Connie brought books and flowers, and all the Oxford gossip she could collect. Their visit was the brightness of the boy’s day, and thanks to them, many efforts were made to soften his calamity. The best musical talent that Oxford could furnish was eager to serve him; and a well-known orchestra was only waiting for the completion of his symphony and the result of his examination to produce the symphony in the hall of Marmion.
Meanwhile Connie very rarely saw Falloden—except in connection either with Otto’s health, or with the “Orpheus,” as to which Falloden was in constant communication with the inventor, one Auguste Chaumart, living in a garret on the heights of Montmartre; while Constance herself was carrying on an eager correspondence with friends of her own or her parents, in Paris, with regard to the “records” which were to make the repertory of the Orpheus. The automatic piano—or piano-player—which some years later became the pianola, was in those days rapidly developing. The difference between it and the Orpheus lay in the fact that the piano-player required hands and feet of flesh and blood for anything more than a purely mechanical rendering of the music provided by the rolls; while in the Orpheus, expression, accent, interpretation, as given by the best pianists of the day, had been already registered in the cylinders.