It seemed to be my duty to tell Rosa, of course with all possible circumspection, that, despite a general impression to the contrary, Lord Clarenceux was still alive. His lordship’s reasons for effacing himself, and so completely deceiving his friends and the world, I naturally could not divine; but I knew that such things had happened before, and also I gathered that he was a man who would hesitate at no caprice, however extravagant, once it had suggested itself to him as expedient for the satisfaction of his singular nature.
A light broke in upon me: Alresca must have been aware that Lord Clarenceux was alive. That must have been part of Alresca’s secret, but only part. I felt somehow that I was on the verge of some tragical discovery which might vitally affect not only my own existence, but that of others.
I saw Rosa on the morning after my interview with Yvette. She was in perfect health and moderately good spirits, and she invited me to dine with her that evening. “I will tell her after dinner,” I said to myself. The project of telling her seemed more difficult as it approached. She said that she had arranged by telephone for another rehearsal at the Opera Comique at three o’clock, but she did not invite me to accompany her. I spent the afternoon at the Sorbonne, where I had some acquaintances, and after calling at my hotel, the little Hotel de Portugal in the Rue Croix des Petits Champs, to dress, I drove in a fiacre to the Rue de Rivoli. I had carefully considered how best in conversation I might lead Rosa to the subject of Lord Clarenceux, and had arranged a little plan. Decidedly I did not anticipate the interview with unmixed pleasure; but, as I have said, I felt bound to inform her that her former lover’s death was a fiction. My suit might be doomed thereby to failure,—I had no right to expect otherwise,—but if it should succeed and I had kept silence on this point, I should have played the part of a—well, of a man “of three letters.”
“Mademoiselle is not at home,” said the servant.
“Not at home! But I am dining with her, my friend.”
“Mademoiselle has been called away suddenly, and she has left a note for monsieur. Will monsieur give himself the trouble to come into the salon?”
The note ran thus:
thousand excuses! But the enclosed will
explain. I felt that I must go—and go instantly. She might
die before I arrived. Will you call early to-morrow?
And this was the enclosure, written in French:
“Rue Thiers, Pantin, Paris.
“Mademoiselle:—I am dying. I have wronged you deeply, and I dare not die without your forgiveness. Prove to me that you have a great heart by coming to my bedside and telling me that you accept my repentance. The bearer will conduct you.