When I did it was at the Hotel Bristol in Paris, and she was in widow’s weeds, the Marquis having died eight months before. He never dropped into that dukedom, the kid turning out healthier than was expected, and hanging on; so she was still only a Marchioness, and her fortune, though tidy, was nothing very big—not as that class reckons. By luck I was told off to wait on her, she having asked for someone as could speak English. She seemed glad to see me and to talk to me.
“Well,” I says, “I suppose you’ll be bossing that bar in Capetown now before long?”
“Talk sense,” she answers. “How can the Marchioness of Appleford marry a hotel keeper?”
“Why not,” I says, “if she fancies him? What’s the good of being a Marchioness if you can’t do what you like?”
“That’s just it,” she snaps out; “you can’t. It would not be doing the straight thing by the family. No,” she says, “I’ve spent their money, and I’m spending it now. They don’t love me, but they shan’t say as I have disgraced them. They’ve got their feelings same as I’ve got mine.”
“Why not chuck the money?” I says. “They’ll be glad enough to get it back,” they being a poor lot, as I heard her say.
“How can I?” she says. “It’s a life interest. As long as I live I’ve got to have it, and as long as I live I’ve got to remain the Marchioness of Appleford.”
She finishes her soup, and pushes the plate away from her. “As long as I live,” she says, talking to herself.
“By Jove!” she says, starting up “why not?”
“Why not what?” I says.
“Nothing,” she answers. “Get me an African telegraph form, and be quick about it!”
I fetched it for her, and she wrote it and gave it to the porter then and there; and, that done, she sat down and finished her dinner.
She was a bit short with me after that; so I judged it best to keep my own place.
In the morning she got an answer that seemed to excite her, and that afternoon she left; and the next I heard of her was a paragraph in the newspaper, headed—“Death of the Marchioness of Appleford. Sad accident.” It seemed she had gone for a row on one of the Italian lakes with no one but a boatman. A squall had come on, and the boat had capsized. The boatman had swum ashore, but he had been unable to save his passenger, and her body had never been recovered. The paper reminded its readers that she had formerly been the celebrated tragic actress, Caroline Trevelyan, daughter of the well-known Indian judge of that name.
It gave me the blues for a day or two—that bit of news. I had known her from a baby as you might say, and had taken an interest in her. You can call it silly, but hotels and restaurants seemed to me less interesting now there was no chance of ever seeing her come into one again.
I went from Paris to one of the smaller hotels in Venice. The missis thought I’d do well to pick up a bit of Italian, and perhaps she fancied Venice for herself. That’s one of the advantages of our profession. You can go about. It was a second-rate sort of place, and one evening, just before lighting-up time, I had the salle-a-manger all to myself, and had just taken up a paper when I hears the door open, and I turns round.