Claire drew her mother’s head down towards her and whispered in her ear. Mrs. Luttrell frowned, hesitated, and finally said—
“Well, it shall be as you wish—though I doubt if it be wise. God bless you, Claire—and you, sir; but oh, be certain, be certain!”
What incoherent speech I made in answer I know not, but my heart was sore for this poor soul. Claire turned her eyes to me and rose, smoothing her mother’s grey locks.
“We will not leave her, will we? Tell her that we will not.”
I echoed her words, and stepping to Mrs. Luttrell, took the frail, white hand.
“Sir,” she said, “you who take her from me should be my bitterest foe. Yet see, I take you for a son.”
Still rapt with the glory of my great triumph, and drunk with the passion of that farewell kiss, I walked into our lodgings and laid my hand on Tom’s shoulder.
“Tom, I have news for you.”
Tom started up. “And so have I for you.”
“Tom, listen: I am accepted.”
“Bless my soul! Jasper, so am I.”
“This afternoon. Jasper, our success has come at last: for you the Loves, for me the Muses; for you the rose, for me the bay. Jasper, dear boy, they have learnt her worth at last.”
“Francesca. Jasper, in three months I shall be famous; for next November ‘Francesca: a Tragedy’ will be produced at the Coliseum.”
TELLS HOW THE CURTAIN ROSE UPON “FRANCESCA: A TRAGEDY.”
Again my story may hurry, for on the enchanted weeks that followed it would weary all but lovers to dwell, and lovers for the most part find their own matters sufficient food for pondering. Tom was busy with the rehearsals at the Coliseum, and I, being left alone, had little taste for the Materia Medica. On Sundays only did I see Claire; for this Mrs. Luttrell had stipulated, and my love, too, most mysteriously professed herself busy during the week. As for me, it was clear that before marriage could be talked of I must at least have gained my diplomas, so that the more work I did during the week the better. The result of this was a goodly sowing of resolutions and very little harvest. In the evenings, Tom and I would sit together—he tirelessly polishing and pruning the tragedy, and I for the most part smoking and giving advice which I am bound to say in duty to the author ("Francesca” having gained some considerable fame since those days) was invariably rejected.
Tom had been growing silent and moody of late—a change for which I could find no cause. He would answer my questions at random, pause in his work to gaze long and intently on the ceiling, and altogether behave in ways unaccountable and strange. The play had been written at white-hot speed: the corrections proceeded at a snail’s pace. The author had also fallen into a habit of bolting his meals in silence, and, when rebuked, of slowly bringing his eyes to bear upon me as a person whose presence was until the moment unsuspected. All this I saw in mild wonder, but I reflected on certain moods of my own of late, and held my peace.