His Own People eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 67 pages of information about His Own People.

For a time Mellin sat grimly observing this inexplicable merriment with a cold smile.

“Laugh on!” he commanded with bitter satire, some ten minutes after play had been resumed—­and was instantly obeyed.

Whereupon his mood underwent another change, and he became convinced that the world was a warm and kindly place, where it was good to live.  He forgot that he was jealous of Cooley and angry with the Countess; he liked everybody again, especially Lady Mount-Rhyswicke.  “Won’t you sit farther forward?” he begged her earnestly; “so that I can see your beautiful golden hair?”

He heard but dimly the spasmodic uproar that followed.  “Laugh on!” he repeated with a swoop of his arm.  “I don’t care!  Don’t you care either, Mrs. Mount-Rhyswicke.  Please sit where I can see your beautiful golden hair.  Don’t be afraid I’ll kiss you again.  I wouldn’t do it for the whole world.  You’re one of the noblest women I ever knew.  I feel that’s true.  I don’t know how I know it, but I know it.  Let ’em laugh!”

After this everything grew more and more hazy to him.  For a time there was, in the centre of the haze, a nimbus of light which revealed his cards to him and the towers of chips which he constantly called for and which as constantly disappeared—­like the towers of a castle in Spain.  Then the haze thickened, and the one thing clear to him was a phrase from an old-time novel he had read long ago: 

“Debt of honor.”

The three words appeared to be written in flames against a background of dense fog.  A debt of honor was as promissory note which had to be paid on Monday, and the appeal to the obdurate grandfather—­a peer of England, the Earl of Mount-Rhyswicke, in fact—­was made at midnight, Sunday.  The fog grew still denser, lifted for a moment while he wrote his name many times on slips of blue paper; closed down once more, and again lifted—­out-of-doors this time—­to show him a lunatic ballet of moons dancing streakily upon the horizon.

He heard himself say quite clearly, “All right, old man, thank you; but don’t bother about me,” to a pallid but humorous Cooley in evening clothes; the fog thickened; oblivion closed upon him for a seeming second....

VII.  The Next Morning

Suddenly he sat up in bed in his room at the Magnifique, gazing upon a disconsolate Cooley in gray tweeds who sat heaped in a chair at the foot of the bed with his head in his hands.

Mellin’s first sensation was of utter mystification; his second was more corporeal:  the consciousness of physical misery, of consuming fever, of aches that ran over his whole body, converging to a dreadful climax in his head, of a throat so immoderately partched it seemed to crackle, and a thirst so avid it was a passion.  His eye fell upon a carafe of water on a chair at his bedside; he seized upon it with a shaking hand and drank half its contents before he set it down.  The action attracted his companion’s attention and he looked up, showing a pale and haggard countenance.

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His Own People from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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