With a beating heart he did.
Thence came the invitation to meet her at the Magnifique for tea, and the card she scribbled for him with a silver pencil. She gave it with the prettiest gesture, leaning from her gondola to his as they parted. She turned again, as the water between them widened, and with her “Au revoir” offered him a faintly wistful smile to remember.
All the way to Rome the noises of the train beat out the measure of his Parisian verses:
Marquise, ma belle, with
your kerchief of
Awave from your flying car—
He came out of his reverie with a start. A dozen men and women, dressed for dinner, with a gold-fish officer or two among them, swam leisurely through the aquarium on their way to the hotel restaurant. They were the same kind of people who had sat at the little tables for tea—people of the great world, thought Mellin: no vulgar tourists or “trippers” among them; and he shuddered at the remembrance of his pension (whither it was time to return) and its conscientious students of Baedeker, its dingy halls and permanent smell of cold food. Suddenly a high resolve lit his face: he got his coat and hat from the brass-and-blue custodian in the lobby, and without hesitation entered the “bureau.”
“I ’m not quite satisfied where I am staying—where I’m stopping, that is,” he said to the clerk. “I think I’ll take a room here.”
“Very well, sir. Where shall I send for your luggage?”
“I shall bring it myself,” replied Mellin coldly, “in my cab.”
He did not think it necessary to reveal the fact that he was staying at one of the cheaper pensions; and it may be mentioned that this reticence (as well as the somewhat chilling, yet careless, manner of a gentleman of the “great world” which he assumed when he returned with his trunk and bag) very substantially increased the rate put upon the room he selected at the Magnifique. However, it was with great satisfaction that he found himself installed in the hotel, and he was too recklessly exhilarated, by doing what he called the “right thing,” to waste any time wondering what the “right thing” would do to the diminishing pad of express checks he carried in the inside pocket of his waistcoat.
“Better live a fortnight like a gentleman,” he said, as he tossed his shoes into a buhl cabinet, “than vegetate like a tourist for a year.”
He had made his entrance into the “great world” and he meant to hold his place in it as one “to the manor born.” Its people should not find him lacking: he would wear their manner and speak their language—no gaucherie should betray him, no homely phrase escape his lips.
This was the chance he had always hoped for, and when he fell asleep in his gorgeous, canopied bed, his soul was uplifted with happy expectations.