Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/Eleanor's victory - Part 3
BY THE AUTHOR OF “AURORA FLOYD,” “LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET,” &c.
CHAPTER IV. UPON THE THRESHOLD OF A GREAT SORROW.
It was nearly noon when Eleanor Vane awoke upon the morning after her journey, for this young lady was a good sleeper, and was taking her revenge for four-and-twenty hours of wakefulness. I doubt, indeed, if she would have opened her eyes when she did, had not her father tapped at the door of her tiny chamber and told her the hour.
She woke smiling, like a beautiful infant who has always seen loving eyes watching above its cradle.
“Papa, darling,” she cried, “is it you? I’ve just been dreaming that I was at Brixton. How delightful to wake and hear your voice. I won’t be long, papa dear. But you haven’t waited breakfast all this time, have you?”
“No, my dear. I have a cup of coffee and a roll brought me every morning at nine from a traiteur’s over the way. I’ve ordered some breakfast for you, but I wouldn’t wake you till twelve. Dress quickly, Nell. It’s a lovely morning, and I’ll take you for a walk.”
It was indeed a lovely morning. Eleanor Vane flung back the tawdry damask curtains, and let the full glory of the August noontide sun into her little room. Her window had been open all the night through, and the entresol was so close to the street that she could hear the conversation of the people upon the pavement below. The foreign jargon sounded pleasant to her in its novelty. It was altogether different to the French language as she had been accustomed to hear it at Brixton; where a young lady forfeited a halfpenny every time she forgot herself so far as to give utterance to her thoughts or desires in the commonplace medium of her mother tongue. The merry voices, the barking of dogs, the rattling of wheels and ringing of bells in the distance mingled in a cheerful clamour.
As Eleanor Vane let in that glorious noontide sunlight, it seemed to her that she had let in the morning of a new life; a new and happier existence, brighter and pleasanter than the dull boarding school monotony she had had so much of.
Her happy young soul rejoiced in the sunshine, the strange city, the change, the shadowy hopes that beckoned to her in the future, the atmosphere of love which her father’s presence always made in the shabbiest home. She had not been unhappy at Brixton, because it was her nature to be happy under difficulties, because she was a bright, spontaneous creature to whom it was almost impossible to be sorrowful; but she had looked forward yearningly to this day, in which she was to join her father in Paris, never perhaps to go far away from him again. And it had come at last, this long-hoped-for day, the sunny opening of a new existence. It had come; and even the heavens had sympathy with her gladness, and wore their fairest aspect in honour of this natal day of her new life.
She did not linger long over her toilet, though she lost a good deal of time in unpacking her box—which had not been very neatly packed, by the way—and had considerable trouble in finding hair-brushes and combs, cuffs, collars, and ribbons, and all the rest of the small paraphernalia with which she wished to decorate herself.
But when she emerged at last, radiant and smiling, with her long golden hair falling in loose curls over her shoulders, and her pale muslin dress adorned with fluttering blue ribbons, her father was fain to cry out aloud at the sight of his darling’s beauty. She kissed him a dozen times, but took very little notice of his admiration—she seemed, in fact, scarcely conscious that he did admire her—and then ran into the adjoining room to caress a dog, an eccentric French poodle, which had been George Vane’s faithful companion during the three years he had spent in Paris.
“Oh, papa!” Eleanor cried joyously, returning to the sitting-room with the dingy white animal in her arms, “I am so pleased to find Fido. You didn’t speak of him in your letters, and I was afraid you had lost him perhaps, or that he was dead. But here he is, just as great a darling, and just as dirty as ever.”
The poodle, who was divided in half, upon that unpleasant principle common to his species, and who was white and curly in front, and smooth and pinky behind, reciprocated Miss Vane’s caresses very liberally. He leaped about her knees when she set him down upon the slippery floor, and yelped wild outcries of delight. He was not permitted to pass the night in Mr. Vane’s apartments, but slept in a dismal outhouse behind the butcher’s shop, and it was thus that Eleanor had not seen him upon her arrival in the Rue L’Archevêque.
The young lady was so anxious to go out with her father, so eager to be away on the broad boulevards with the happy idle people of that wonderful city in which nobody ever seems to be either busy or sorrowful, that she made very short work of her roll and coffee, and then ran back to her little bed-chamber to array herself for a promenade. She came out five minutes afterwards, dressed in a black silk mantle and a white transparent bonnet, which looked fleecy and cloud-like against her bright auburn hair. That glorious hair was suffered to fall from under the bonnet and stream about her shoulders like golden rain, for she had never yet attained the maturer dignity of wearing her luxuriant tresses plaited and twisted in a hard knot at the back of her head.
“Now, papa, please, where are we to go?”
“Wherever you like, my darling,” the old man answered; “I mean to give you a treat to-day. You shall spend the morning how you like, and we’ll dine on the Boulevard Poissonnier. I’ve received a letter from Mrs. Bannister. It came before you were up. I am to call in the Rue de la Paix for a hundred and six pounds. A hundred to be paid to Madame Marly, and six for me; my monthly allowance, my dear, at the rate of thirty shillings a week.”
Mr. Vane sighed as he named the sum. It would have been better for this broken down old spendthrift if he could have received his pittance weekly, or even daily, for it was his habit to dine at the Trois Frères, and wear pale straw-coloured gloves, and a flower in his button-hole, at the beginning of the month, and to subsist on rolls and coffee towards its close.
He unfolded the narrow slip of paper upon which his eldest daughter had written the banker’s address and the amount which Mr. Vane was to demand, and looked at the magical document fondly, almost proudly. Any one unfamiliar with his frivolous and sanguine nature, might have wondered at the change which had taken place in his manner since the previous night, when he had tearfully bewailed his daughter’s cruelty.
He had been an old man then, degraded, humiliated, broken down by sorrow and shame: to-day he was young, handsome, gay, defiant, pompous, prepared to go out into the world and hold his place amongst the butterflies once more. He rejoiced in the delicious sensation of having money to spend. Every fresh five-pound note was a new lease of youth and happiness to George Vane.
The father and daughter went out together, and the butcher neglected his business in order to stare after Miss Vane, and the butcher’s youngest child, a tiny damsel in a cambric mob-cap, cried out, “Oh, la belle demoiselle!” as Eleanor turned the corner of the narrow street into the sunny thoroughfare beyond. Fido came frisking after his master’s daughter, and Mr. Vane had some difficulty in driving the animal back. Eleanor would have liked the dog to go with them in their noontide ramble through the Parisian streets, but her father pointed out the utter absurdity of such a proceeding.
Mr. Vane conducted his daughter through a maze of streets behind the Madeleine. There was no Boulevard Malesherbes in those days, to throw this part of the city open to the sweep of a park of artillery. Eleanor’s eyes lit up with gladness as they emerged from the narrower streets behind the church into the wide boulevard, not as handsome then as it is to-day, but very broad and airy, gay and lightsome withal.
An involuntary cry of delight broke from Eleanor’s lips.
“Oh, papa,” she said, “it is so different from Brixton. But where are we going first, papa, dear?”
“Over the way, my dear, to Blount & Co.’s, in the Rue de la Paix. We’ll get this money at once, Nelly, and we’ll carry it straight to Madame Marly. They had no occasion to insult us, my dear. We have not sunk so low, yet. No, no, not quite so low as to rob our own children.”
“Papa, darling, don’t think of that cruel letter. I don’t like to take the money when I remember that. Don’t think of it, papa.”
Mr. Vane shook his head.
“I will think of it, my dear,” he answered, in a tone of sorrowful indignation—the indignation of an honourable man, who rebels against a cruel stigma of dishonour. “I will think of it, Eleanor. I have been called a thief—a thief, Eleanor. I am not very likely to forget that, I think.”
They were in the Rue de la Paix by this time. George Vane was very familiar with the banker’s office, for he had been in the habit of receiving his monthly pension through an order on Messrs. Blount & Co. He left Eleanor at the foot of the stairs, while he ascended to the office on the first floor; and he returned five minutes afterwards, carrying a bundle of notes in one hand, and a delicious little roll of napoleons in the other. The notes fluttered pleasantly in the summer air, as he showed them to his daughter.
“We will go at once to Madame Marly, my darling,” he said, gaily, “and give her these, without a moment’s unnecessary delay. They shall have no justification in calling me a thief, Eleanor. You will write to your sister by this afternoon’s post, perhaps, my dear, and tell her that I did not try to rob you. I think you owe so much as that to your poor old father.”
George Vane’s daughter clung lovingly to his arm, looking up tenderly and entreatingly in his face.
“Papa, darling, how can you say such things,” she cried. “I will write and tell Mrs. Bannister that she has been very cruel, and that her insulting letter has made me hate to take her paltry money. But, papa, dearest, how can you talk of robbing me. If this money is really mine, take it, take every penny of it, if—if—you owe it to anybody who worries you, or if you want it for anything in the world. I can go back to Brixton and earn my living to-morrow, papa. Miss Bennett and Miss Lavinia told me so before I came away. You don’t know how useful they began to find me with the little ones. Take the money, papa, dear, if you want it.”
Mr. Vane turned upon his daughter with almost tragic indignation.
“Eleanor,” he said, “do you know me so little that you dare to insult me by such a proposition as this? No, if I were starving I would not take this money. Am I so lost and degraded that even the child I love turns upon me in my old age?”
The hand which held the bank notes trembled with passionate emotion as the old man spoke.
“Papa, darling,” Eleanor pleaded, “indeed, indeed, I did not mean to wound you.”
“Let me hear no more of this, then, Eleanor, let me hear no more of it,” answered Mr. Vane, drawing himself up with a dignity that would have become a toga, rather than the old man’s fashionable over-coat. “I am not angry with you, my darling, I was only hurt, I was only hurt. My children have never known me, Eleanor, they have never known me. Come, my dear.”
Mr. Vane put aside his tragic air, and plunged into the Rue St. Honoré, where he called for a packet of gloves that had been cleaned for him. He put the gloves in his pocket, and then strolled back into the Rue Castiglione, looking at the vehicles in the roadway as he went. He was waiting to select the most elegantly appointed of the hackney equipages crawling slowly past.
“It’s a pity the Government insist on putting a painted badge upon them,” he said, thoughtfully. “When I last called on Madame Marly, Charles the Tenth was at the Tuileries, and I had my travelling chariot and pair at Meurice’s, besides a Britska for Mrs. Vane.”
He had pitched upon a very new and shining vehicle, with a smart coachman, by this time, and he made that half hissing, half whistling noise peculiar to Parisians when they call a hackney carriage.
Eleanor sprang lightly into the vehicle, and spread her flowing muslin skirts upon the cushions as she seated herself. The passers by looked admiringly at the smiling young Anglaise with her white bonnet and nimbus of glittering hair.
“Au Bois, Cocher,” Mr. Vane cried, as he took his place by his daughter.
He had bought a tiny bouquet for his button-hole near the Madeleine, and he selected a pair of white doeskin gloves, and drew them carefully on his well-shaped hands. He was as much a dandy to-day as he had been in those early days when the Prince and Brummel were his exalted models.
The drive across the Place de la Concorde, and along the Champs Elysées, was an exquisite pleasure to Eleanor Vane; but it was even yet more exquisite when the light carriage rolled away along one of the avenues in the Bois de Boulogne, where the shadows of the green leaves trembled on the grass, and all nature rejoiced beneath the cloudless August sky. The day was a shade too hot, perhaps, and had been certainly growing hotter since noon, but Eleanor was too happy to remember that.
“How nice it is to be with you, papa, darling,” she said, “and how I wish I wasn’t going to this school. I should be so happy in that dear little lodging over the butcher’s, and I could go out as morning governess to some French children, couldn’t I? I shouldn’t cost you much, I know, papa.”
Mr. Vane shook his head.
“No, no, my love. Your education must be completed. Why should you be less accomplished than your sisters? You shall occupy as brilliant a position as ever they occupied, my love, or a better one, perhaps. You have seen me under a cloud, Eleanor; but you shall see the sunshine yet. You’ll scarcely know your old father, my poor girl, when you see him in the position he has been used to occupy; yes, used to occupy, my dear. This lady we are going to see, Madame Marly, she remembers, my love. She could tell you what sort of a man George Vane was five-and-twenty years ago.”
The house in which the fashionable school-mistress who had “finished” the elder daughters of George Vane still received her pupils, was a white walled villa, half-hidden in one of the avenues of the Bois de Boulogne.
The little hired carriage drew up before a door in the garden wall, and a portress came out to reply to the coachman’s summons.
Unhappily, the portress said, Madame was not at home. Madame’s assistants were at home, and would be happy to receive Monsieur and Mademoiselle. That might be perhaps altogether the same thing, the portress suggested.
No, Monsieur replied, he must see Madame herself. Ah, but then nothing could be so unfortunate. Madame, who so seldom quitted the Pension, had to-day driven into Paris to arrange her affairs, and would not return until sunset.
Mr. Vane left his card with a few words written upon it in pencil to the effect that he would call at two o’clock the next day, in the charge of the portress, and the carriage drove back towards Paris.
“Bear witness, Eleanor,” said the old man, “bear witness that I tried to pay this money away immediately after receiving it. You will be good enough to mention that fact in your letter to my eldest daughter.”
He had carried the notes in his hand all this time, as if eager to deliver them over to the school-mistress, but he now put them into his breast-pocket. I think upon the whole he was rather pleased at the idea of retaining custody of the money for the next twenty-four hours. It was not his own, but the mere possession of it gave him a pleasant sense of importance; and again he might very probably have an opportunity of displaying the bank notes, incidentally, to some of his associates. Unhappily for this lonely old man, his few Parisian acquaintances were of a rather shabby and not too reputable calibre, and were therefore likely to be somewhat impressed by the sight of a hundred and twenty-five napoleons, in crisp, new notes upon the Bank of France.
It was past three when Mr. Vane and his daughter alighted in front of the Palais Royal, and the coachman claimed payment for two hours and a-half. The old man had changed the first of his six Napoleons at the glove-cleaners, and he had a handful of loose silver in his waistcoat pocket, so the driver was quickly paid and dismissed, and Eleanor entered the Palais Royal, that paradise of cheap jewellery and dinners, hanging on her father’s arm.
Mr. Vane bore patiently with his daughter’s enthusiastic admiration of the diamonds and the paste, the glittering realities and almost as glittering shams in the jewellers’ windows. Eleanor wanted to look at everything, the trinkets, and opera-glasses, and portmanteaus, and china,—everything was new and beautiful. The fountain was playing; noisy children were running about amongst equally noisy nurses and well-dressed loungers. A band was playing close to the fountain. The chinking of tea-spoons and cups and saucers, sounded in the Café de la Rotonde: people had not begun to dine yet, but the windows and glazed nooks in the doorways of the restaurants were splendid with their displays of enormous pears and peaches. George Vane allowed his daughter to linger a long time before all the shops. He was rather ashamed of her exuberant delight, and unrestrained enthusiasm, as so much pleasure in these simple things was scarcely consistent with that haut ton which the old man still affected even in his downfall. But he had not the heart to interfere with his daughter’s happiness—was it not strange happiness to him to have this beautiful creature with him, clinging to his arm, and looking up at him with a face that was glorified by her innocent joy.
They left the Palais Royal at last, before half its delights were exhausted, as Eleanor thought, and went through the Rue Richelieu to the Place de la Bourse, where Mr. Vane’s eager companion looked wistfully at the doors of the theatre opposite the great Temple of Commerce.
“Oh, papa,” she said, “how I should like to go to a theatre to-night.”
Miss Vane had seen a good deal of the English drama during her Chelsea life, for the old man knew some of the London managers, men who remembered him in his prosperity, and were glad to give him admission to their boxes now and then, out of pure benevolence. But the Parisian theatres seemed mysteriously delightful to Eleanor, inasmuch as they were strange.
“Can you get tickets for the theatres here, papa,” she asked, “as you used in London?”
Mr. Vane shrugged his shoulders.
“No, my love,” he said, “it’s not quite such an easy matter. I know one of the scene-painters at the Ambigu—a very clever fellow—but he doesn’t get many orders to give away. I’ll tell you what, though, Eleanor, I’ll take you to the Porte St. Martin to-night—why should I deny my child an innocent pleasure—I’ll take you to the Porte St. Martin, unless—”
George Vane paused, and a gloomy shadow crept over his face—a shade that made him look an old man. His youthfulness of appearance entirely depended upon the buoyancy of a nature which contended with age. The moment his spirits sank he looked what he was—an old man.
“Unless what, papa, dearest?” Eleanor asked.
“I—I had an appointment for to-night, my love, with—with a couple of gentlemen who—But I won’t keep it, Eleanor,—no, no, I’ll not keep it. I’ll take you to the theatre. I can afford you that pleasure.”
“Dear, dear papa, you never refused me any pleasure; but it would be so selfish of me to ask you to break your appointment with these two gentlemen. You had better keep it.”
“No, no, my dear—I’d—it would be better—perhaps. Yes, I’ll take you to the Porte St. Martin.”
Mr. Vane spoke hesitatingly. The shadow had not yet left his face. Had his daughter been less occupied by the delights of the Parisian shops, the novelty and gaiety of the crowd, she must surely have observed the change in that idolised father.
But she observed nothing, she could remember nothing but her happiness. This glorious day of reunion and delight seemed indeed the beginning of a new life. She looked back wonderingly at the dull routine of her boarding-school existence. Could it be possible that it was only a day or two since she was in the Brixton school-room hearing the little ones, the obstinate, incorrigible little ones, their hateful lessons,—their odious, monotonous repetitions of dry facts about William the Conquerer and Buenos Ayres, the manufacture of tallow candles, and the nine parts of speech?
They strolled on the boulevard till six o’clock, and then ascended the shining staircase of a restaurant on the Boulevard Poissonnier, where Eleanor saw herself reflected in so many mirrors that she was almost bewildered by the repetition of her own auburn hair and white bonnet.
The long saloons were filled with eager diners, who looked up from their knives and forks as the English girl went by.
“We dine à la carte here,” her father whispered: “this is a fête day, and I mean to give you a first-class dinner.”
Mr. Vane found a vacant table in an open window. The house was at a corner of the boulevard, and this window looked down the crowded thoroughfare towards the Madeleine. Eleanor exclaimed once more as the prospect burst upon her, and she saw all the boulevard with its gay splendour, spread out, as it were, at her feet; but her father was too busy with the waiter and the carte to observe her manifestation of delight.
Mr. Vane was an epicure, and prided himself upon his talent for ordering a dinner. There was a good deal of finesse displayed by him now-a-days in the arrangement of a repast; for poverty had taught him all kinds of little diplomatic contrivances whereby he might, as it were, mingle economy and extravagance. He ordered such and such dishes “for one,” intending to divide them with his child. A few Ostend oysters, some soup,—purée crécy—a little dish of beef and olives, a sole normande, a quarter of a roast chicken, and a Charlotte Plombières.
It was a long time since Eleanor had eaten one of her father’s epicurean feasts, and she did ample justice to the dinner, even in spite of the ever recurrent distractions upon the boulevard below.
The dishes followed each other slowly, for the unresting waiters had many claimants on their attention, and the sun was low in the cloudless western sky when Mr. Vane and his daughter left the restaurant. It was nearly night; the lights began to shine out through a hot white mist, for the heat had grown more and more oppressive as the day had declined. The Parisians sitting at little marble tables on the pavement outside the cafés fanned themselves with their newspapers, and drank effervescing drinks pertinaciously. It was a night upon which one should have had nothing more laborious to do than to sit outside Tortoni’s and eat ices.
The noise and clamour, the oppressive heat, the bustle and confusion of the people rushing to the theatres made Eleanor’s head ache. One cannot go on being unutterably happy for ever, and perhaps the day’s excitement had been almost too much for this young school-girl. She had walked long distances already upon the burning asphalte of the wonderful city, and she was beginning to be tired. Mr. Vane never thought of this: he had been accustomed to walk about day after day, and sometimes all day, for what should a lonely Englishman do in Paris but walk about? and he forgot that the fatigue might be too much for his daughter. He walked on, therefore, with Eleanor still clinging to his arm, past the Ambigu, beyond the Barrière St. Antoine, and still the long, lamp-lit boulevard stretched before them, away into immeasurable distance as it appeared to Miss Vane.
The hot white mist seemed to grow denser as the evening advanced; the red sun blazed and flashed on every available scrap of crystal; the gas-lamps, newly illumined, strove against that fast fading sun. It was all light, and heat, and noise, and confusion, Eleanor thought, upon the boulevard. Very splendid, of course, but rather bewildering. She would have been glad to sit down to rest upon one of the benches on the edge of the pavement; but, as her father did not seem tired, she still walked on, patiently and uncomplainingly.
“We’ll go into one of the theatres presently, Nelly,” Mr. Vane said.
He had recovered his spirits under the invigorating influence of a bottle of Cliquot’s champagne, and the gloomy shadow had quite passed away from his face.
It was nearly nine o’clock, and quite dark, when they turned towards the Madeleine again, on their way back to the Porte St. Martin. They had not gone far when Mr. Vane stopped, suddenly confronted by two young men who were walking arm-in-arm.
“Hulloa!” one of them cried in French, “you have served us a handsome trick, my friend.”
George Vane stammered out an apology. His daughter had returned from school, he said, and he wished to show her Paris.
“Yes, yes,” the Frenchman answered; “but we were aware of Mademoiselle’s return, and it was arranged in spite of that that we should meet this evening: was it not so, my friend?”
He turned to his companion, who nodded rather sulkily, and turned away with a half weary, half dissatisfied air.
Eleanor looked at the two young men, wondering what new friends her father had made in Paris. The Frenchman was short and stout, and had a fair, florid complexion. Eleanor was able to see this, for his face was turned to the lamplight, as he talked to her father. He was rather showily dressed, in fashionably cut clothes, that looked glossy and new, and he twirled a short silver-headed cane in his gloved hands.
The other man was tall and slender, shabbily and untidily dressed in garments of a rakish cut, that hung loosely about him. His hands were thrust deep in the pockets of his loose overcoat, and his hat was slouched over his forehead.
Eleanor Vane only caught one passing glimpse of this man’s face as he turned sulkily away; but she could see the glimmer of a pair of bright, restless black eyes under the shadow of his hat, and the fierce curve of a very thick black moustache, which completely concealed his mouth. He had turned, not towards the lighted shop windows, but to the roadway; and he was amusing himself by kicking a wisp of straw to and fro upon the sharp edge of the curbstone, with the toe of his shabby patent leather boot.
The Frenchman drew George Vane aside, and talked to him for a few minutes in an undertone, gesticulating after the manner of his nation, and evidently persuading the old man to do something or other which he shrank from doing. But Mr. Vane’s resistance seemed of a very feeble nature, and the Frenchman conquered, for his last shrug was one of triumph. Eleanor, standing by herself, midway between the sulky young man upon the curbstone and her father and the Frenchman, perceived this. She looked up anxiously as Mr. Vane returned to her.
“My love,” the old man said, hesitatingly, nervously trifling with his glove as he spoke; “do you think you could find your way back to the Rue l’Archevêque?”
“Find my way back? Why, papa?”
“I—I mean, could you find your way back a—alone?”
She echoed the word with a look of mingled disappointment and alarm.
But here the Frenchman interposed eagerly.
Nothing was more simple, he said; Mademoiselle had only to walk straight on to the Rue Neuve des Petits Champs; she would then, and then—
He ran off into a string of rapid directions, not one of which Eleanor heard. She was looking at her father, Heaven knows how earnestly, for she saw in his face, in his nervous, hesitating manner, something that told her there was some sinister influence to be dreaded from this garrulous, eager Frenchman and his silent companion.
“Papa, dear,” she said, in a low, almost imploring voice, “do you really wish me to go back alone?”
“Why—why, you see, my dear, I—I don’t exactly wish—but there are appointments which, as Monsieur remarks, not—not unreasonably, should not be broken, and—”
“You will stay out late, papa, perhaps, with these gentlemen—”
“No, no, my love, no, no; for an hour or so; not longer.”
Eleanor looked up sorrowfully in the face she loved so dearly. Vague memories of grief and trouble in the past, mingled with as vague a presentiment of trouble in the future, filled her mind: she clasped her hands imploringly upon her father’s arm.
“Come home with me to-night, papa,” she said; “it is my first night at home. Come back, and we’ll play écarté as we used at Chelsea. You remember teaching me.”
Mr. Vane started, as if the tender grasp upon his arm had stung into his flesh.
“I—I can’t come home to-night, Eleanor. At least, not for an hour. There—there are social laws, my dear, which must be observed; and when—when a gentleman is asked to give another his revenge, he—he can’t refuse. I’ll put you into a carriage, my darling, if you think you can’t find your way.”
“Oh, no, papa dear, it’s not that. I can find my way.”
The Frenchman here interposed for the second time with some complimentary speech, addressed to Eleanor, who very imperfectly understood its purport. He had slipped his arm through that of George Vane, taking possession of him in a manner by that friendly gesture. In all this time the other man had never stirred from his sulky attitude upon the edge of the pavement.
Mr. Vane took his daughter’s hand.
“I am sorry I can’t take you to the theatre, my love,” he said, in the same hesitating manner, “I—I regret that you should be disappointed, but—good night, my dear, good night. I shall be home by eleven; but don’t sit up for me; don’t on any account sit up.”
He pressed her hand, held it for a few moments, as if scarcely knowing what to do with it, and then suddenly dropped it with something of a guilty manner.
The Frenchman, with his arm still linked in the old man’s, wheeled sharply round, and walked away towards the Barrière Saint Antoine, leaving Eleanor standing alone amongst the passers-by, looking wistfully after her father. The other man looked up as the Frenchman led Mr. Vane away, and slowly followed them, with his head bent and his hands in his pockets. Eleanor stood quite still, watching her father’s erect figure, the short Frenchman, and the tall, sulky stranger following the other two, until all three were out of sight. Then turning homewards with a half-repressed sigh, she looked sadly down the long lamplit vista. It was very beautiful, very gay, brilliant, and splendid; but all that splendour and gaiety made her feel only the more lonely, now that her father had left her. The first day, the natal day of her new life, seemed to end very drearily, after all.