“May I come in?”
The nurse opened the door. There was a rustle of draperies, and to Douglas it seemed as though the room was suddenly full of wonderful colour. A new life flowed in his veins. It was Emily de Reuss who came towards him with outstretched hands.
THE FIRST TASTE OF FAME
At first he scarcely recognised her. He had seen her last in furs, to-day she seemed like a delicate dream of Springtime. She wore a white spotless muslin gown, whose exquisite simplicity had been the triumph of a French artiste. Her hat, large and drooping, was a vision of pink roses and soft creamy lace. There was a dainty suggestion of colour about her throat—only the sunlight seemed to discover when she moved the faint glinting green beneath the transparent folds of her gown.
She came over to Douglas with outstretched hands, and he was bewildered, for she had not smiled upon him like this once during that long journey to London.
“So it is I who have had to come to you,” she exclaimed, taking his hands in hers. “May I sit down and talk for a little while? I am so glad—every one is glad—that you are better.”
He laughed, a little oddly.
“Every one? Why I could count on the fingers of one hand the people with whom I have spoken since I came to London.”
“Yes,” she said, “but to-day you could not count in an hour the people who know you. You are very fortunate. You have made a wonderful start. You have got over all your difficulties so easily.”
“So easily?” He smiled again and then shuddered. She looked into his face, and she too felt like shuddering.
“You do not know,” he said. “No one will ever know what it is like—to go under—to be saved as it were by a miracle.”
“You suffered, I know,” she murmured, “but you gained a wonderful experience.”
“You do not understand,” he said, in a low tone. “No one will ever understand.”
“You could have saved yourself so much,” she said regretfully, “if you had kept your promise to come and see me.
“I could not,” he answered. “I lost your address. It went into the Thames with an old coat the very night I reached London. But for that I should have come and begged from you.”
“You would have made me famous,” she answered laughing. “I should have claimed the merit of discovering you.”
He looked puzzled.
“Of course you know,” she said, “how every one has been reading those wonderful articles of yours in the Courier? You are very fortunate. You have made a reputation at one sitting.”
He shook his head.
“A fleeting one, I am afraid. I can understand those articles seeming lifelike. You see I wrote them almost literally with my blood. It was my last effort. I was starving, poisoned with horrors, sick to death of the brutality of life.”