The beautifully-dressed tea-drinkers were there now, under the green glass dome, prattling and smiling, those people he had called his own. And as the music sounded louder, faster, wilder and wilder with the gipsy madness—then in that darkening bedchamber his soul became articulate in a cry of humiliation—
“God in His mercy forgive me, how raw I was!”
A vision came before his closed eyes; the maple-bordered street in Cranston, the long, straight, wide street where Mary Kramer lived; a summer twilight; Mary in her white muslin dress on the veranda steps, and a wistaria vine climbing the post beside her, half-embowering her. How cool and sweet and good she looked! How dear—and how kind!—she had always been to him.
Dusk stole through the windows: the music ceased and the tea-hour was over. The carriages were departing, bearing the gay people who went away laughing, calling last words to one another, and, naturally, quite unaware that a young man, who, five days before, had adopted them and called them “his own,” was lying in a darkened room above them, and crying like a child upon his pillow.
X. The Cab at the Corner
A ten o’clock, a page bearing a card upon a silver tray knocked upon the door, and stared with wide-eyed astonishment at the disordered gentleman who opened it.
The card was Lady Mount-Rhyswicke’s. Underneath the name was written:
If you are there will you give me a few minutes? I am waiting in a cab at the next corner by the fountain.
Mellin’s hand shook as he read. He did not doubt that she came as an emissary; probably they meant to hound him for payment of the note he had given Sneyd, and at that thought he could have shrieked with hysterical laughter.
“Do you speak English?” he asked.
“Spik little. Yes.”
“Who gave you this card?”
“Coachman,” said the boy. “He wait risposta.”
“Tell him to say that I shall be there in five minutes.”
“Fi’ minute. Yes. Good-by.”
Mellin was partly dressed—he had risen half an hour earlier and had been distractedly pacing the floor when the page knocked—and he completed his toilet quickly. He passed down the corridors, descended by the stairway (feeling that to use the elevator would be another abuse of the confidence of the hotel company) and slunk across the lobby with the look and the sensations of a tramp who knows that he will be kicked into the street if anybody catches sight of him.
A closed cab stood near the fountain at the next corner. There was a trunk on the box by the driver, and the roof was piled with bags and rugs. He approached uncertainly.
“Is—is this—is it Lady Mount-Rhyswicke?” he stammered pitifully.
She opened the door.
“Yes. Will you get in? We’ll just drive round the block if you don’t mind. I’ll bring you back here in ten minutes.” And when he had tremulously complied, “Avanti, cocchiere,” she called to the driver, and the tired little cab-horse began to draw them slowly along the deserted street.