There was nothing extraordinary in my going to see her, but there was something very extraordinary in my taking such an hour for the purpose. I was supposed to be settled in Rome again, but it was ten o'clock at night when I turned up at the old inn at Albano. Mrs. Bushbrook had not gone to bed, and she greeted me with a certain alarm, though the theory of our intercourse was that she was always glad to see me. I ordered supper and a room for the night, but I couldn't touch the repast before I had been ushered into the vast and vaulted apartment which she used as a parlour, the florid bareness of which would have been vulgar in any country but Italy. She asked me immediately if I had brought bad news, and I replied: "Yes, but only about myself. That's not exactly it," I added; "it's about Henry Wilmerding."
"Henry Wilmerding?" She appeared for the moment not to recognise the name.
"He's going to marry Veronica Goldie."
Mrs. Rushbrook stared. "Que me contez-vous là? Have you come all this way to tell me that?"
"But he is—it's all settled—it's awful!" I went on.
"What do I care, and what do you mean?"
"I've got into a mess, and I want you to advise me and to get me out of it," I persisted.
"My poor friend, you must make it a little clearer then," she smiled. "Sit down, please—and have you had your dinner?"
She had been sitting at one end of her faded saloon, where, as the autumn night was fresh at Albano, a fire of faggots was crackling in the big marble-framed cavern of the chimney. Her books, her work, her materials