It was not my right to hear the sounds of a man’s shame and humiliation; or of his rising resolve, of his reformed manhood; but I did hear it all. I think that he took her hand and kissed it. Presently I heard some sort of shufflings and crinkling of paper on the table. I heard him sigh, as though he stood and looked at his work. His heavy footfalls crossed the room as though he sought hat and stick. Her lighter feet, as I heard, followed him, as though she held out both her hands to him. There was a pause, and yet another; and so, with a growling half sob, at last he passed out the door; and she closed it softly after him.
When I entered, she was standing, her arms spread out across the door, her face pale, her eyes large and dark, her attire still disarrayed. On the table, as I saw, lay a parchment, mended with wafers.
Slowly she came, and put her two arms across my shoulders. “Monsieur!” she said, “Monsieur!”
THE PROXY OF PAKENHAM
A man can not possess
anything that is better than a good woman,
nor anything that is worse than a bad one.—Simonides.
When I reached the central part of the city, I did not hasten thence to Elmhurst Mansion. Instead, I returned to my hotel. I did not now care to see any of my friends or even to take up matters of business with my chief. It is not for me to tell what feelings came to me when I left Helena von Ritz.
Sleep such as I could gain, reflections such as were inevitable, occupied me for all that night. It was mid-morning of the following day when finally I once more sought out Mr. Calhoun.
He had not expected me, but received me gladly. It seemed that he had gone on about his own plans and with his own methods. “The Senora Yturrio is doing me the honor of an early morning call,” he began. “She is with my daughter in another part of the house. As there is matter of some importance to come up, I shall ask you to attend.”
He despatched a servant, and presently the lady mentioned joined us. She was a pleasing picture enough in her robe of black laces and sulphur-colored silks, but her face was none too happy, and her eyes, it seemed to me, bore traces either of unrest or tears. Mr. Calhoun handed her to a chair, where she began to use her languid but effective fan.
“Now, it gives us the greatest regret, my dear Senora,” began Mr. Calhoun, “to have General Almonte and your husband return to their own country. We have valued, their presence here very much, and I regret the disruption of the friendly relations between our countries.”
She made any sort of gesture with her fan, and he went on: “It is the regret also of all, my dear lady, that your husband seems so shamelessly to have abandoned you. I am quite aware, if you will allow me to be so frank, that you need some financial assistance.”