Page:The Lesson of the Master, The Marriages, The Pupil, Brooksmith, The Solution, Sir Edmund Orme (New York & London, Macmillan & Co., 1892).djvu/245

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
231
THE SOLUTION.

I went straight to the stables at which I kept my horse—we all kept horses in Rome, in those days, for the Campagna was an incomparable riding-ground—and ordered the animal to be brought immediately to Porta San Giovanni. There was some delay, for I reached this point, even after the time it took me to change my dress, a good while before he came. When he did arrive I sprang into the saddle and dashed out of the gate. I soon got upon the grass and put the good beast to his speed, and I shall never forget that rich afternoon's ride. It seemed to me almost historic, at the time, and I thought of all the celebrated gallops, or those of poetry and fiction, that had been taken to bring good news or bad, to warn of dangers, to save cities, to stay executions. I felt as if staying an execution were now the object of mine. I took the direction of the Appian Way, where so many panting steeds, in the succession of ages, had struck fire from the stones; the ghostly aqueducts watched me as I passed, and these romantic associations gave me a sense of heroism. It was dark when I strained up the hill to Frascati, but there were lights in the windows of Wilmerding's villa, toward which I first pressed my course. I rode straight into the court, and called up to him—there was a window open; and he looked out and asked in unconcealed surprise what had brought me from Rome. "Let me in and I'll tell you," I said; and his servant came down and admitted me, summoning another member of the establishment to look after my horse.

It was very well to say to Wilmerding that I would tell him what had brought me: that was not so easy after I had been introduced into his room. Then I saw that something very important had happened: his whole aspect instantly told me so. He was half undressed—