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Theodora was sitting rather on the outskirts of the party in the
bosquet, her two devoted admirers still on either side of her. All the
chairs were arranged informally, and hers was against the opening, so
that it proved easy for Lord Bracondale to come up behind her
She believed he had gone. She could not see distinctly from where she
was, but she had thought she saw the automobile whizzing by. She
recognized Mrs. Ellerwood's hat. An unconscious feeling of blankness
came over her. She grew more silent.
A lady beyond the Prince spoke to him, and at that moment Mr.
Hoggenwater rose to put down her coffee-cup, and in this second of
loneliness a deep voice said in her ear: "I could not go--I wanted to say good-night to you!"
Then Theodora experienced a new emotion; she could not have told herself
what it was, but suddenly a gladness spread through her spirit; the
moon looked more softly bright, and her sweet eyes dilated and glowed,
while that voice, gentle as a dove's, trembled a little as she said: "Lord Bracondale! Oh, you startled me!"
He drew a chair and sat down behind her.
"How shall we get rid of your Hogginheimer millionaire?" he whispered.
"I feel as if I wanted to kill every one who speaks to you to-night."
The half light, the moon, Paris, and the spring-time! Theodora spent the
next hour in a dream--a dream of bliss.
Mrs. McBride, with her all-seeing eye, perceived the turn events had
taken. She was full of enjoyment herself; she had quite--almost
quite--decided to listen to the addresses of Captain Fitzgerald,
therefore her heart, not her common-sense, was uppermost this night.
It could not hurt Theodora to have one evening of agreeable
conversation, and it would do Herryman Hoggenwater a great deal of good
to be obstacled; thus she expressed it to herself. That last success
with Princess Waldersheim had turned his empty head. So she called him
and planted him in a safe place by an American girl, who would know how
to keep him, and then turned to her own affairs again.
The Prince was a man of the world, and understood life. So Theodora and
Lord Bracondale were left in peace.
The latter soon moved his chair to a position where he could see her
face, rather behind her still, which entailed a slightly leaning over
attitude. They were beyond the radius of the lights in the bosquet.
Lord Bracondale was perfectly conversant with all moves in the game; he
knew how to talk to a woman so that she alone could feel the strength of
his devotion, while his demeanor to the world seemed the least
Theodora had not spoken for a moment after his first speech. It made her
heart beat too fast.
"I have been watching you all through dinner," he continued, with only a
little pause. "You look immensely beautiful to-night, and those two told
you so, I suppose."
"Perhaps they did!" she said. This was her first gentle essay at
fencing. She would try to be as the rest were, gay and full of badinage.
"And you liked it?" with resentment.
"Of course I did; you see, I never have heard any of these nice things
much. Josiah has always been too ill to go out, and when I was a girl I
never saw any people who knew how to say them."
She had turned to look at him as she said this, and his eyes spoke a
number of things to her. They were passionate, and resentful, and
jealous, and full of something disturbing. Thrills ran through poor
His eyes had been capable of looking most of these things before to
other women, when he had not meant any of them, but she did not know
"Well," he said, "they had better not return or recommence their
compliments, because I am not in the mood to be polite to them
"What is your mood?" asked Theodora, and then felt a little frightened
at her own daring.
"My mood is one of unrest--I would like to be away alone with you, where
we could talk in peace," and he leaned over her so that his lips were
fairly close to her ear. "These people jar upon me. I would like to be
sitting in the garden at Amalfi, or in a gondola in Venice, and I want
to talk about all your beautiful thoughts. You are a new white flower
for me, as different as an angel from the other women in the world."
"Am I?" said she, in her tender tones. "I would wish that you should
always keep that good thought of me. We shall soon go our different
ways. Josiah has decided to leave next week, and we are not likely to
meet in England."
"Yes, we are likely to meet--I will arrange it," he said.
There was nothing hesitating about Hector Bracondale--his way with women
had always been masterful--and this quality, when mixed with a sudden
bending to their desires, was peculiarly attractive. To-night he was
drifting--drifting into a current which might carry him beyond his
It was now several years since he had been in love even slightly. His
position, his appearance, his personal charm, had all combined to spoil
a nature capable of great things. Life had always been too smooth. His
mother adored him. He had an ample fortune. Every marriageable girl in
his world almost had been flung at his head. Women of all classes with
one consent had done their best to turn him into a coxcomb and a beast.
But he continued to be a man for all that, and went his own way; only as
no one can remain stationary, the crust of selfishness and cynicism was
perhaps thickening with years, and his soul was growing hidden still
deeper beneath it all. From the beginning something in Theodora had
spoken to the best in him. He was conscious of feelings of
dissatisfaction with himself when he left her, of disgust with the days
of unmeaning aims.
He had begun out of idle admiration; he had continued from inclination;
but to-night it was plus fort que lui, and he knew he was in love.
The habit of indulging any emotion which gave him pleasure was still
strong upon him; it was not yet he would begin to analyze where this
passion might lead him--might lead them both.
It was too deliciously sweet to sit there and whisper to her sophistries
and reasonings, to take her sensitive fancy into new worlds, to play
upon her feelings--those feelings which he realized were as fine and as
full of tone as the sounds which could be drawn from a Stradivarius
It was a night of new worlds for them both, for if Theodora had never
looked into any world at all, he also had never even imagined one which
could be so quite divine as this--this shared with her in the moonlight,
with the magic of the Tzigane music and the soft spring night.
He had just sufficient mastery over himself left not to overstep the
bounds of respectful and deep interest in her. He did not speak a word
of love. There was no actual sentence which Theodora felt obliged to
resent--and yet through it all was the subtle insinuation that they were
more than friends--or would be more than friends.
And when it was all over, and Theodora's pulses were calmer as she lay
alone on her pillow, she had a sudden thrill of fear. But she put it
aside--it was not her nature to think herself the object of passions. "I
would be a very silly woman to flatter myself so," she said to herself,
and then she went to sleep.
Lord Bracondale stayed awake for hours, but he did not sup with
Esclarmonde de Chartres or Marion de Beauvoison. And the Café de
Paris--and Maxims--and the afterwards--saw him no more.
Once again these houris asked each other, "Mais qu'est-ce qu'il a! Ce
bel Hector? Oú se cache-t-il?"