BEAUTIFUL LADY WITHOUT MERCY,—I am writing in a perturbed state of mind, for I think I shall get for you a great fortune. You do not answer my letters, though I have written at the lowest estimate ten thousand times. I want the date of your first marriage securely stated in written evidence; also the dates of the birth and death of the child. I want every scrap of paper which you have, concerning that sad affair of thirty years ago, ready for me when I arrive in Paris two weeks from to-day.
There is a little girl
over there studying music in whom I want you
to interest yourself. Her name is Katrine Dulany. She is with
Yours of the Shamrock,
The Countess de Nemours’ house in Paris stood in the centre of the street of the Two Repentant Magdalens. An iron door in a griffoned arch opened into a sunny court-yard, where peacocks strutted by an old fountain, and a black poodle, who was both a thief and a miser, snarled at the passers-by.
On the right of the entrance, in a kind of sentry-box, Quantrelle the Red acted as concierge. He was a man above the peasant class, ridiculously long and spare, with an unbroken record for thirty years of drunkenness and quarrelling. His narrow head was covered with irregular tufts of scarlet hair, and in his forehead were heavy furrows which curved down over the nose and waved upward and back to the temple. His eyebrows were red tufts standing fiercely out over his little red-brown eyes, and his nose, long, lean, and absurdly pointed, seemed peering at his great teeth, yellowed by much smoking of cigarettes. He added to his charms an attire intentionally bizarre, for he dressed himself, so to speak, in character. And with these natural and achieved drawbacks to his appearance he had the temper of a wasp, so that it was small wonder that questionings were rife as to the reason of his retention, his overpaid retention, in the De Nemours’ household. He had a wit of his own, had Quantrelle. Frequently his pleasing fancy led him to admit visitors when he knew Madame de Nemours to be absent, and, after conducting them by some circuitous route to unexpected rooms, he would leave them waiting until discovered by any chance domestic who happened by. And when they were ushered forth to the street he would follow them with a torrent of shrill apology, retiring, in a paroxysm of silent laughter, behind the shutters of his little box. Why Madame de Nemours endured his vagaries was indeed strange, for she was one who demanded of every other domestic something of an over-obsequiousness in service. It was a well-known fact, however, that he held an assured position in the household, and that the Countess only smiled at his grimaces and drinking, rewarding him with frequent gifts and holidays in the country.
On the morning of Dermott’s coming, Quantrelle the Red sat in his little house peering out, monkeylike, expectantly, at the passers-by, and craning his long neck to keep a constant eye on the corner around which the Irishman was to arrive. As the brougham drew up to the curb the Red One sprang to his feet, threw the iron doors wide apart, and stood bowing double as McDermott entered.