Nice Brooklyn girls always attend church and symphony concerts. This dual custom is considered respectable and cultured. Lora’s parents during their lifetime never missed the Theodore Thomas concerts and the sermons of a certain famous local preacher; but there were times when the young woman longed for Carmen and the delights of fashionable Bohemia. Carefully reared by her Aunt Lucas, she had nevertheless a taste for gypsy bands and “Gyp’s” novels. She read the latter translated, much to the disedification of her guardian, who was a linguist and a patron of the fine arts. This latter clause included subscriptions to the Institute Course and several scientific journals. If Lora were less romantic, all would be well. Once the careful chaperon had feared music and its disturbing influences; but after she had read an article about its healing effect upon the insane she felt that it could work no evil in Lora; indeed, it was an elevating art. She was fond of music herself, and, as dancing was strictly tabooed, there seemed little likelihood of the noble art of “sweet concordance”—Aunt Lucas had picked this quotation up somewhere—doing mischief to her impressionable niece.
Nearly all dwelling-houses look alike in Brooklyn, even at midday. The street in which the Crownes lived was composed of conventional brown-stone buildings and English basements. Nielje, the Dutch maid, stood at the half-opened door, regarding with suspicion the big, dark man who had pulled the bell so violently. Aunt Lucas was in New York at the meeting of a society devoted to Ethical Enjoyment. Though Nielje had been warned secretly of an expected visitor, this wild-looking young man with long black hair, wearing a flaring coat of many colours and baggy Turkish trousers, gave her a shock. Why did he come to the basement as if he were one of the cook’s callers? She paused. Then the door was shoved in by a muscular arm, and she was pushed against the wall.
“Don’t try that again, man,” she protested.
He answered her in gibberish. “Mees, Mees Lora,” he repeated.
“Ach!” she exclaimed.
Arpad Vihary gloomily followed her into the dining-room, where Lora stood trembling. This was the third time she had met the Hungarian, and fearing Prospect Park,—after two timid walks there, under the fiery-fingered leaves of early autumn,—she had been prevailed upon to invite Arpad to her home. She regretted her imprudence the moment he entered. All his footlight picturesqueness vanished in the cold, hard light of an unromantic Brooklyn breakfast-room. He seemed like a clumsy circus hero as he scraped his feet over the parquetry and attempted to kiss her hand. She drew away instantly and pointed to a chair. He refused to sit down; his pride seemed hurt.
Then he gave the girl an intense look, and she drew nearer.
“Oh, Arpad Vihary,” she began.