I left the train at the Rocky Mountain city about the middle of the afternoon. And now, what to do? I think I am not a fool, but I certainly lack the training of a detective, and I felt perfectly rudderless and helpless as I ordered the taxi-driver to take me to the Alcazar Hotel.
I was by no means sure that Harry had come to Denver. He was traveling with a bundle of animated caprice, a creature who would have hauled him off the train at Rahway, New Jersey, if she had happened to take a fancy to the place. At the moment, I reflected, they might be driving along Michigan Boulevard, or attending a matinee at the Willis Wood, or sipping mint juleps at the Planters’.
Even if they were in Denver, how was I to find them? I keenly regretted the week I had lost. I was sure that Harry would avoid any chance of publicity and would probably shun the big hotels. And Denver is not a village.
It was the beauty of Le Mire that saved me. Indeed, I might have foreseen that; and I have but poorly portrayed the force of her unmatchable fascination unless you have realized that she was a woman who could pass nowhere without being seen; and, seen, remembered.
I made inquiries of the manager of the hotel, of course, but was brought up sharply when he asked me the names of my friends for whom I was asking. I got out of it somehow, some foolish evasion or other, and regarded my task as more difficult than ever.
That same evening I dined at the home of my cousin, Hovey Stafford, who had come West some years before on account of weak lungs, and stayed because he liked it. I met his wife that evening for the first time; she may be introduced with the observation that if she was his reason for remaining in the provinces, never did man have a better one.
We were on the veranda with our after-dinner cigars. I was congratulating Hovey on the felicity of his choice and jocularly sympathizing with his wife.
“Yes,” said my cousin, with a sigh, “I never regretted it till last week. It will never be the same again.”
Mrs. Hovey looked at him with supreme disdain.
“I suppose you mean Senora Ramal,” said she scornfully.
Her husband, feigning the utmost woe, nodded mournfully; whereupon she began humming the air of the Chanson du Colonel, and was stopped by a smothering kiss.
“And who is the Senora Ramal?” I asked.
“The most beautiful woman in the world,” said Mrs. Hovey.
This from a woman who was herself beautiful! Amazing! I suppose my face betrayed my thought.
“It isn’t charity,” she smiled. “Like John Holden, I have seen fire-balloons by the hundred, I have seen the moon, and—then I saw no more fire-balloons.”
“But who is she?”
Hovey explained. “She is the wife of Senor Ramal. They came here some ten days ago, with letters to one or two of the best families, and that’s all we know about them. The senora is an entrancing mixture of Cleopatra, Sappho, Helen of Troy, and the devil. She had the town by the ears in twenty-four hours, and you wouldn’t wonder at it if you saw her.”