Villa Rubein, and other stories eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 280 pages of information about Villa Rubein, and other stories.
he had heard a hundred times.  They were talking of investments, of cigars, horses, actresses, machinery.  What was that?  A foreign patent for cleaning boilers?  There was no such thing; boilers couldn’t be cleaned, any fool knew that!  If an Englishman couldn’t clean a boiler, no foreigner could clean one.  He appealed to the old statesman’s eyes.  But for once those eyes seemed hesitating, blurred, wanting in finality.  They vanished.  In their place were Rozsi’s little deep-set eyes, with their wide and far-off look; and as he gazed they seemed to grow bright as steel, and to speak to him.  Slowly the whole face grew to be there, floating on the dark background of the picture; it was pink, aloof, unfathomable, enticing, with its fluffy hair and quick lips, just as he had last seen it.  “Are you looking for something?” she seemed to say:  “I could show you.”

“I have everything safe enough,” answered Swithin, and in his sleep he groaned.

He felt the touch of fingers on his forehead.  ‘I’m dreaming,’ he thought in his dream.

She had vanished; and far away, from behind the picture, came a sound of footsteps.

Aloud, in his sleep, Swithin muttered:  “I’ve missed it.”

Again he heard the rustling of those light footsteps, and close in his ear a sound, like a sob.  He awoke; the sob was his own.  Great drops of perspiration stood on his forehead.  ‘What is it?’ he thought; ’what have I lost?’ Slowly his mind travelled over his investments; he could not think of any single one that was unsafe.  What was it, then, that he had lost?  Struggling on his pillows, he clutched the wine-glass.  His lips touched the wine.  ‘This isn’t the “Heidseck"!’ he thought angrily, and before the reality of that displeasure all the dim vision passed away.  But as he bent to drink, something snapped, and, with a sigh, Swithin Forsyte died above the bubbles....

When James Forsyte came in again on his way home, the valet, trembling took his hat and stick.

“How’s your master?”

“My master is dead, sir!”

“Dead!  He can’t be!  I left him safe an hour ago.”

On the bed Swithin’s body was doubled like a sack; his hand still grasped the glass.

James Forsyte paused.  “Swithin!” he said, and with his hand to his ear he waited for an answer; but none came, and slowly in the glass a last bubble rose and burst.

December 1900.

To

MY SISTER MABEL EDITH REYNOLDS

THE SILENCE

I

In a car of the Naples express a mining expert was diving into a bag for papers.  The strong sunlight showed the fine wrinkles on his brown face and the shabbiness of his short, rough beard.  A newspaper cutting slipped from his fingers; he picked it up, thinking:  ’How the dickens did that get in here?’ It was from a colonial print of three years back; and he sat staring, as if in that forlorn slip of yellow paper he had encountered some ghost from his past.

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Project Gutenberg
Villa Rubein, and other stories from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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