Flemming gave a loud laugh. The “every married man of us” tickled him. “Yes,” said he; “they are all daughters of the Sphinx, and past finding out. Is Miss Denham an invalid?” he asked, after a pause.
“No; she is not strong—delicate, rather; of the pure type of American young-womanhood—more spirit than physique; but not an invalid—unless"- -
“You have let a morbid fancy run away with you, Ned. This lady and the other one are two different persons.”
“If I could only believe it!” said Lynde. “I do believe it at times; then some gesture, some fleeting expression, a turn of the head, the timbre of her voice—and there she is again! The next moment I am ready to laugh at myself.”
“Couldn’t you question the aunt?”
“How could I?”
“I have thought of that doctor at the asylum—what in the devil was his name? I might write to him; but I shrink from doing it. I have been brutal enough in other ways. I am ashamed to confess to what unforgivable expedients I have resorted to solve my uncertainty. Once we were speaking of Genoa, where the Denhams had spent a week; I turned the conversation on the church of St. Lorenzo and the relic in the treasury there—the Sacra Catino, a supposed gift to Solomon from the Queen of Sheba. Miss Denham listened with the calmest interest; she had not seen it the day she visited the church; she was sorry to have missed that. Then the aunt changed the subject, but whether by accident or design I was unable for the soul of me to conjecture. Good God, Flemming! could this girl have had some terrible, swift malady which touched her and passed, and still hangs over her—an hereditary doom?”
“Then she’s the most artful actress that ever lived, I should say. The leading lady of the Theatre Francais might go and take lessons of her. But if that were so, Ned?”
“If that were so,” said Lynde slowly, “a great pity would be added to my love.”
“You would not marry her!”
Lynde made no reply.
The night had settled down upon Geneva while the friends were talking. The room was so dark they could not distinguish each other; but Flemming was conscious of a pale, set face turned towards him in the obscurity, in the same way that he was conscious of the forlorn whiteness of Mont Blanc looming up out yonder, unseen. It was dark in the chamber, but the streets were gay now with the life of a midsummer night. Interminable lines of lamps twinkled on the bridges and along the quays; the windows of the cafes on the opposite bank of the Rhone were brilliant with gas jets; boats, bearing merry cargoes to and from the lake, passed up and down the river; the street running under the hotel balcony was crowded with loungers, and a band was playing in the English Garden. From time to time a strain of music floated up to the window where the two men were sitting. Neither had spoken for some minutes, when Lynde asked his friend where he was staying.