“How can I do that? This river walk is quite free, Mr. Vernon. Oh, please don’t think me ungrateful, but—but—”
She turned her head quickly away, and did not finish the sentence. She called a word of farewell over her shoulder, and Jack moodily watched her slim and graceful figure vanish between the great elm trees that guard the lower entrance to Strand-on-the-Green.
“John Vernon, you are a fool,” he said to himself. “The best thing for you is to pack up your traps and be off to-morrow morning for a couple of months’ sketching in Devonshire. You’ve been bitten once—look out!”
He took a shilling from his pocket, and muttered, as he flipped it in the air: “Tail, Richmond—head, town.”
The coin fell tail upward, and Jack went off to dine at the Roebuck on the hill, beloved of artists, where he met some boon companions and argued about Whistler until a late hour.
Number 320 Wardour street.
The rear-guard of London’s great army of clerks had already vanished in the city, and the hour was drawing near to eleven, when Victor Nevill shook off his lassitude sufficiently to get out of bed. A cold tub freshened him, and as he dressed with scrupulous care, choosing his clothes from a well-filled wardrobe, he occasionally walked to the window of his sitting-room and looked down on the narrow but lively thoroughfare of Jermyn street. It was a fine morning, with the scent of spring in the air, and the many colors of the rumbling ’busses glistened like fresh paint in the sunlight.
His toilet completed, Victor Nevill pressed an electric bell, in answer to which there presently appeared, from some mysterious source downstairs, a boy in buttons carrying a tray on which reposed a small pot of coffee, one of cream, a pat of butter, and a couple of crisp rolls. Nevill ate his breakfast with the mechanical air of one who is doing a tiresome but necessary thing, meanwhile consulting a tiny memorandum-book, and counting over a handful of loose gold and silver. Then he put on his hat and gloves, looked at the fit of his gray frock-coat in the glass, and went into the street. At Piccadilly Circus he bought a boutonniere, and as he was feeling slightly rocky after a late night at card-playing, he dropped into the St. James. He emerged shortly, fortified by a brandy-and-soda, and sauntered westward along the Piccadilly pavement.
A typical young-man-about-town, an indolent pleasure-lover, always dressed to perfection and flush with money—such was Victor Nevill in the opinion of the world. For aught men knew to the contrary, he thrived like the proverbial lily of the field, without the need of toiling or spinning. He lived in expensive rooms, dined at the best restaurants, and belonged to a couple of good clubs. To his friends this was no matter of surprise or conjecture. They were aware that he was well-connected, and that years before he had come into a fortune; they naturally supposed that enough of it remained to yield him a comfortable income, in spite of the follies and extravagances that rumor attributed to him in the past, while he was abroad.