A Newport Aquarelle/Chapter 13
In the early October days Newport is still fair with a beauty tinged with sadness; the prime of the year is past. In the long crescent corridor of the Casino there is nothing of that gay throng of people we first saw there. Where hundreds were wont to sit and stare, walk and chat, only a dozen or two persons are to be seen scattered about. Among these few "late" people we recognize some faces on this October morning, whose acquaintance we first made in the merry month of August.
Mrs. Fallow-Deer, in the latest of Donovan's imported costumes, and Mrs. Craig, fresh as a rosebud, are sitting together, occupied for the moment in watching two people who are walking across the green that leads to the racket court. We can only see their backs, but that carriage of the head could belong to no one but Gladys Carleton— we beg her pardon—Farwell, and the light springing gait of the man at her side we have seen before, in the deeps of a Leadville mine. They had returned, the two young people, from their "trip," and the nine days' wonder of their marriage had been revived and seemed likely to live as many more days in the thoughts and conversation of the good people of Newport.
"Does not Gladys look handsomer than ever?" said Mrs. Fallow-Deer, warmly.
"Oh yes, she looks very well; but don't you think it's poor taste of them to come back to Newport, where they have been so much talked about, just now?" said Mrs. Craig.
"Indeed, no, or I should n't have asked them to visit me. Why should they not? I myself am proud of the girl who I always said had real heart, au fond. You knew that she never heard that Larkington was an impostor until a week after her marriage?"
"I heard that Gladys said so," remarked Mrs. Craig, with a vicious intonation of doubt in her voice.
"I know that she did not know about it," rejoined Mrs. Fallow-Deer.
"Do you really believe that, dear Mrs. Fallow-Deer? Well, it is refreshing to find some one who is not sceptical in this day and generation. I suppose you believe also that Gladys did not know about Farwell's having made that pile of money in the Little Quickgain Mine?"
"My dear, I know she did not, for when we talked it all over together that afternoon, after she came back, and surprised me into hysterics, she spoke quite seriously about her having married a poor man. She had always loved Charlie Farwell in a way, but she was a queer girl, and the knowledge of her love for him only came to her in its full force on that day when they went off for the fatal drive. She had loved him, but he had somehow failed to say the right thing to her; he had given her up too easily, before her heart was really awake."
"But," interrupted Mrs. Craig, "if she had not heard all about that horrid Englishman, she never would have done so queer, so utterly unheard-of a thing as to get up in the middle of the night and steal away to Fall River, to be married by dear knows who, to a man that she might have married six years ago. It was because she had not the face to stand the mortification alone, that she took up with Charlie Farwell, who really deserves better treatment."
"Now, Minnie Craig, once and for all I won't hear any more such spite about Gladys. It was because Charlie would not be taken as a pis aller, that he married her that morning. He told her afterwards that if she had not married him then, before she knew of Larkington's being a humbug, and while she thought Farwell to be a man of moderate means, she never would have had another chance. She never even knew there was such a mine as the Little Quickgain, which Charlie really only bought to help that queer Bohemian friend of his, Cartwright, never dreaming that his bread would come back to him toasted and buttered. Gladys married a poor New York broker, while she thought herself engaged to an English peer, just as surely as if the real Cuthbert Larkington had never been shot, and the false one discovered, and the Little Quickgain did not stand at 275. To her the credit of such unworldliness belongs, and only envy can deny it to her. It is not so often that we have a love match in our set; we had better make the most of it, I think."
The good Mrs. Fallow-Deer, at heart warm and kindly, spoke indignantly to the little pretty fribble of a worldling at her side, and Count Clawski noticed, as he joined the two ladies, that some rather high words must have passed between them, but he was too full of his subject to keep it to himself, he had a bit of news which he knew would be eagerly listened to by them both.
"I have just heard the real truth about our Englishman," he said, "in a letter from my friend in London, to whom I telegraphed to find out about him. His name is really what he said it was, only he has not a right to the Honorable, and he is not the son of Lord Lucre. He is the son of a respectable London retail haberdasher, of the same name as Lord Lucre's family, Larkington, and, this boy being born a short time after the son of Lord Lucre, the mother thought it might bring him good luck to give him the same name as that of the Earl's son. His father is a man of respectable position, but the silly wife has had great notions of making a gentleman of her boy. She did not want him to measure his betters for their socks, and so raked and scraped together enough money to keep him idle and floating about Europe, as a gentleman of leisure. His groom was his father's apprentice, and his great friend. Lately there had been some row between the father and son, and the two young men started off for America."
Gray Grosvenor had joined the group while Clawski gave this sketch of the bogus Hon. Cuthbert, and after listening intently to all the fat diplomate had to say, he heaved a great sigh of relief. No, Clawski had not heard the last thing connected with the strange affair, and his thunder was not stolen. Rapturous thought! As Gray Grosvenor stood silent, a smile of superior knowledge on his face, a warm complacency in his expression, awaiting the recovery of his breath, lost in the quick pace at which he had walked from the racket court to the corridor, his eyes fell upon a picture framed in the oriel of black wood in the balcony of the racket court. There, looking down at the group, stood Gladys and her lover husband, smiling, bright, and beautiful. What a contrast they were,—the Saxon-haired man, strong and ruddy with health, and the graceful slender woman with her white face and great dark eyes! For one moment they stood looking down at their friends in the full sunlight, and then Gladys waved a white hand, Farwell lifted his hat, and they disappeared under the shadow of the balcony.
As they were lost to view, Gray Grosvenor gained his lost breath, and said, "Well, what do you think the last extraordinary act of that extraordinary young man is?" Of course they could not guess and begged to be told.
"Why, the Farwells, passing through New York on their return from their queer bridal trip to Colorado, met Larkington in the street, looking seedy, sick, and generally broken up. Stirrups was with him, devoted still, but the two of them were in a bad plight. What does Farwell do, but pay the passage of these two rascals to Leadville, and give Cartwright directions to find them work in the mine, and let them have one more chance at supporting themselves honestly? What do you think of that?"
Mrs. Craig sniffed and said, "It is not surprising that the Farwells wanted the man out of the way; he might talk and say some things which they would rather not have heard."
Mrs. Fallow-Deer said nothing, but pressed her handkerchief to her eyes, in which were real tears; she was rather hysterical that morning, and was easily touched.
"Ah! noblesse oblige." Count Clawski was the speaker. For once the accomplished diplomate forgot his careful English and spoke feelingly in his native tongue. "Vraiment, c'est agir en grand seigneur."
University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.