Elaine, now thoroughly frightened, tried to get down from the wall. Hubert restrained her, and as they stood thus, a moaning like the wind in autumnal leaves reached them. The moon-rays began to touch the water, and suddenly a nimbus of light formed about a floating face in the pool. The luminous path broadened, and to their horror they saw Berenice, her hair outspread, her arms crossed on her young bosom, lying in the little lake. Elaine screamed:—
“My God! My God! It is Berenice!—Berenice, I am punished for my wickedness to you!” Hubert, stunned by the vision, did not stir, as the almost fainting mother gripped his neck.
And then the eyes of the whimsical girl opened. A malicious smile distorted her pretty face. Slowly she arose, a dripping ghost in white, and pointing her long, thin fingers in the direction of the Ecouen road she mockingly cried:—
“There is some one to see your portrait at last, dear Master Painter.” And saying this she vanished in the gloom, instantly followed by her agitated mother.
Hubert turned toward the wall, and upon it he recognized the stepfather of Berenice. After staring at each other like two moon-struck wights, the American spoke:—
“I swear that I, alone, am to blame for this—” The other wore the grin of a malevolent satyr. His voice was thick.
“Why apologize, Hubert? You know that it has been my devoted wish that you marry Berenice.” He swayed on his perch. Hubert’s brain was in a fog.
“Berenice!” said he.
“Yes—Berenice. Why not? She loves you.”
“Then—you—Madame Mineur—” stammered Hubert. The Frenchman placed his finger on his nose and slyly whispered:—
“Don’t be afraid! I’ll not tell my wife that I caught Berenice with you alone in the park—you Don Juan! Now to the portrait—I must see that masterpiece of yours. Berenice wrote me about it.” He nodded his head sleepily.
“Berenice wrote you about it!” was the mechanical reply.
“I’ll join you and we’ll go to the house.” He tried to step down, but rolled over at Hubert’s feet.
“What a joke is this champagne,” he growled as he was lifted to his tottering legs. “We had a glorious time this afternoon before I left Paris. Hurrah! You’re to be my son-in-law. And, my boy, I don’t envy you—that’s the truth. With such a little demon for a wife—I pity you, pity you—hurrah!”
“I am more to be despised,” muttered Hubert Falcroft, as they moved away from the peaceful moonlit wall.
A SENTIMENTAL REBELLION
I came not to send peace,
but a sword.... I am come to send fire on