As for that old Antonio, he might have known enough to beware. I had been timid with him always, and he counted on it now, but a man who has shown a painted head-top to the people of Paris will dare a great deal.
“As the Prince says,” replied Mrs. Landry, with many flutters, “one meets only the most agreeable people in Paris!”
“Paris!” I exclaimed. “Ah, that home of ingenuity! How they paint there! How they live, and how they dye—their beards!”
You see how the poor Ansolini played the buffoon. I knew they feared it was wine, I had been so silent until now; but I did not care, I was beyond care.
“Our young Prince speaks truly,” I cried, raising my voice. “He is wise beyond his years, this youth! He will be great when he reaches middle age, for he knows Paris and understands North America! Like myself, he is grateful that the people of your continent enrich our own! We need all that you can give us! Where should we be—any of us” (I raised my voice still louder and waved my hand to Antonio),—“where should we be, either of us” (and I bowed to the others) “without you?”
Mrs. Landry rose with precipitousness, and the beautiful lady, very red, followed. Antonio, unmistakably stung with the scorpions I had set upon him, sprang to the door, the palest yellow man I have ever beheld, and let the ladies pass before him.
The next moment I was left alone with Poor Jr. and his hyacinth trees.
For several minutes neither of us spoke. Then I looked up to meet my friend’s gaze of perturbation.
A waiter was proffering cigars. I took one, and waved Poor Jr.’s hand away from the box of which the waiter made offering.
“Do not remain!” I whispered, and I saw his sad perplexity. “I know her answer has not been given. Will you present him his chance to receive it—just when her sympathy must be stronger for him, since she will think he has had to bear rudeness?”
He went out of the door quickly.
I dod not smoke. I pretended to, while the waiters made the arrangements of the table and took themselves off. I sat there a long, long time waiting for Antonio to do what I hoped I had betrayed him to do.
It befell at last.
Poor Jr. came to the door and spoke in his steady
“Ansolini, will you come out here a moment?”
Then I knew that I had succeeded, had made Antonio afraid that I would do the thing he himself, in a panic, had already done — speak evil of another privately.
As I reached the door I heard him call out foolishly,
Poor, I beg you—”
Poor Jr. put his hand on my shoulder, and we walked out into the dark of the terrace. Antonio was leaning against the railing, the beautiful lady standing near. Mrs. Landry had sunk into a chair beside her daughter. No other people were upon the terrace.