“A rich man—my father wrote me. I have had no letter’s from you. Your uncle treated you generously, Ned.”
“Did he not always treat me generously?” said Lynde, with a light coming into his face and instantly dying out again. “Yes, he left me a pile of money and a heart-ache. I can hardly bear to talk of it even now, and it will be two years this August. But come up to my room. By Jove, I am glad to see you! How is it you are in Geneva? I was thinking about you yesterday, and wondering whether you were drifting down the Nile in a dahabeeah, or crossing the desert on a dromedary. Of course you have hunted tigers and elephants: did you kill anything?”
“I haven’t killed anything but time. I was always a dead shot at that.”
Lynde passed his arm through Flemming’s, and the two friends mounted the staircase of the hotel.
“How is it you are in Geneva?” repeated Lynde.
“By luck,” answered Flemming. “I am going home—in a zigzag way. I’ve been obliged to take a reef in my Eastern itinerary. The fact is, I have had a letter from the old gentleman rather suggesting it. I believe he has availed himself of my absence to fall into financial difficulties.”
“Why, I thought he was rolling in wealth.”
“No, he is rolling in poverty, as nearly as I can make out. Well, not so bad as that. Nothing is ever as bad as it pretends to be. But he has met with heavy losses. I shall find letters in London and learn all about it. He wrote me not to hurry, that a month or two would make no difference. When I got to Munich I thought I would take a peep at Switzerland while I had the opportunity. I have done a good piece—from Lindau to Lucerne, from Lucerne to Martigny by way of the Furca; through the Tete Noire Pass to Chamouni, and from Chamouni, here.”
While Flemming was speaking, Lynde unlocked a door at the end of the hall and ushered him into a sitting-room with three windows, each opening upon a narrow balcony of its own.
“Sit there, old fellow,” said Lynde, wheeling an easy-chair to the middle window, “and look through my glass at the view before it takes itself off. It is not often as fine as it is this evening.”
In front of the hotel the blue waters of the Rhone swept under the arches of the Pont des Bergues, to lose themselves in the turbid, glacier-born Arve, a mile below the town. Between the Pont des Bergues and the Pont du Montblanc lay the island of Jean Jacques Rousseau, linked to the quay by a tiny chain bridge. Opposite, upon the right bank of the Rhone, stretched the handsome facades of tile-roofed buildings, giving one an idea of the ancient quarter which a closer inspection dispels; for the streets are crooked and steep, and the houses, except those lining the quays, squalid. It was not there, however, that the eye would have lingered. Far away, seen an incredible distance in the transparent evening atmosphere, Mont Blanc and its massed group of snowy satellites lifted themselves into the clouds. All those luminous battlements and turrets and pyramids—the Mole, the Grandes Jorasses, the Aiguilles du Midi, the Dent du Geant, the Aiguilles d’Argentiere— were now suffused with a glow so magically delicate that the softest tint of the blush rose would have seemed harsh and crude in comparison.