He placed his empty cup on the table and leaned closer to her, smiling. She did not smile in response; instead, her eyes fell and there was the faintest, pathetic quiver of her lower lip.
“Already you know that,” she said in a low voice.
She rose quickly, turned away from him and walked across the room to the curtains which opened upon the hall. One of these she drew back.
“My frien’, you mus’ go now,” she said in the same low voice. “To-morrow I will see you again. Come at four an’ you shall drive with me—but not—not more—now. Please!”
She stood waiting, not looking at him, but with head bent and eyes veiled. As he came near she put out a limp hand. He held it for a few seconds of distinctly emotional silence, then strode swiftly into the hall.
She immediately let the curtain fall behind him, and as he got his hat and coat he heard her catch her breath sharply with a sound like a little sob.
Dazed with glory, he returned to the hotel. In the lobby he approached the glittering concierge and said firmly:
“What is the Salone Margherita? Cam you get me a box there to-night?”
He confessed his wickedness to Madame de Vaurigard the next afternoon as they drove out the Appian Way. “A fellow must have just a bit of a fling, you know,” he said; “and, really, Salone Margherita isn’t so tremendously wicked.”
She shook her head at him in friendly raillery. “Ah, that may be; but how many of those little dancing-girl’ have you invite to supper afterward?”
This was a delicious accusation, and though he shook his head in virtuous denial he was before long almost convinced that he had given a rather dashing supper after the vaudeville and had not gone quietly back to the hotel, only stopping by the way to purchase an orange and a pocketful of horse-chestnuts to eat in his room.
It was a happy drive for Robert Russ Mellin, though not happier than that of the next day. Three afternoons they spent driving over the Campagna, then back to Madame de Vaurigard’s apartment for tea by the firelight, till the enraptured American began to feel that the dream in which he had come to live must of happy necessity last forever.
On the fourth afternoon, as he stepped out of the hotel elevator into the corridor, he encountered Mr. Sneyd.
“Just stottin’, eh?” said the Englishman, taking an envelope from his pocket. “Lucky I caught you. This is for you. I just saw the Cantess and she teold me to give it you. Herry and read it and kem on t’ the Amairikin Baw. Chap I want you to meet. Eold Cooley’s thyah too. Gawt in with his tourin’-caw at noon.”