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    III. Glamour

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    Chapter 3
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    It was some fair dream that would be gone too soon, he told himself, as they drove rapidly through the twilight streets, down from the Pincio and up the long slope of the Quirinal. They came to a stop in the gray courtyard of a palazzo, and ascended in a sleepy elevator to the fifth floor. Emerging, they encountered a tall man who was turning away from the Countess' door, which he had just closed. The landing was not lighted, and for a moment he failed to see the American following Madame de Vaurigard.

    "Eow, it's you, is it," he said informally. "Waitin' a devil of a long time for you. I've gawt a message for you. He's comin'. He writes that Cooley--"

    "Attention!" she interrupted under her breath, and, stepping forward quickly, touched the bell. "I have brought a frien' of our dear, droll Cooley with me to tea. Monsieur Mellin, you mus' make acquaintance with Monsieur Sneyd. He is English, but we shall forgive him because he is a such ole frien' of mine."

    "Ah, yes," said Mellin. "Remember seeing you on the boat, running across the pond."

    "Yes, ev coss," responded Mr. Sneyd cordially. "I wawsn't so fawchnit as to meet you, but dyuh eold Cooley's talked ev you often. Heop I sh'll see maw of you hyuh."

    A very trim, very intelligent-looking maid opened the door, and the two men followed Madame de Vaurigard into a square hall, hung with tapestries and lit by two candles of a Brobdingnagian species Mellin had heretofore seen only in cathedrals. Here Mr. Sneyd paused.

    "I weon't be bawthring you," he said. "Just a wad with you, Cantess, and I'm off."

    The intelligent-looking maid drew back some heavy curtains leading to a salon beyond the hall, and her mistress smiled brightly at Mellin.

    "I shall keep him to jus' his one word," she said, as the young man passed between the curtains.

    It was a nobly proportioned room that he entered, so large that, in spite of the amount of old furniture it contained, the first impression it gave was one of spaciousness. Panels of carved and blackened wood lined the walls higher than his head; above them, Spanish leather gleamed here and there with flickerings of red and gilt, reflecting dimly a small but brisk wood fire which crackled in a carved stone fireplace. His feet slipped on the floor of polished tiles and wandered from silky rugs to lose themselves in great black bear skins as in unmown sward. He went from the portrait of a "cinquecento" cardinal to a splendid tryptich set over a Gothic chest, from a cabinet sheltering a collection of old glass to an Annunciation by an unknown Primitive. He told himself that this was a "room in a book," and became dreamily assured that he was a man in a book. Finally he stumbled upon something almost grotesquely out of place: a large, new, perfectly-appointed card- table with a sliding top, a smooth, thick, green cover and patent compartments.

    He halted before this incongruity, regarding it with astonishment. Then a light laugh rippled behind him, and he turned to find Madame de Vaurigard seated in a big red Venetian chair by the fire.

    She wore a black lace dress, almost severe in fashion, which gracefully emphasized her slenderness; and she sat with her knees crossed, the firelight twinkling on the beads of her slipper, on her silken instep, and flashing again from the rings upon the slender fingers she had clasped about her knee.

    She had lit a thin, long Russian cigarette.

    "You see?" she laughed. "I mus' keep up with the time. I mus' do somesing to hold my frien's about me. Even the ladies like to play now--that breedge w'ich is so tiresome--they play, play, play! And you--you Americans, you refuse to endure us if we do not let you play. So for my frien's when they come to my house--if they wish it, there is that foolish little table. I fear"--she concluded with a bewitching affectation of sadness--"they prefer that to talkin' wiz me."

    "You know that couldn't be so, Comtesse," he said. "I would rather talk to you than--than--"

    "Ah, yes, you say so, Monsieur!" She looked at him gravely; a little sigh seemed to breathe upon her lips; she leaned forward nearer the fire, her face wistful in the thin, rosy light, and it seemed to him he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life.

    He came across to her and sat upon a stool at her feet. "On my soul," he began huskily, "I swear--"

    She laid her finger on her lips, shaking her head gently; and he was silent, while the intelligent maid--at that moment entering --arranged a tea-table and departed.

    "American an' Russian, they are the worse," said the Countess thoughtfully, as she served him with a generous cup, laced with rum, "but the American he is the bes' to play wiz." Mellin found her irresistible when she said "wiz."

    "Why is that?"

    "Oh, the Russian play high, yes--but the American"--she laughed delightedly and stretched her arms wide--"he make' it all a joke! He is beeg like his beeg country. If he win or lose, he don' care! Ah, I mus' tell you of my great American frien', that Honor-able Chanlair Pedlow, who is comin' to Rome. You have heard of Honor-able Chanlair Pedlow in America?"

    "I remember hearing that name."

    "Ah, I shall make you know him. He is a man of distinction; he did sit in your Chamber of Deputies--what you call it?--yes, your Con-gress. He is funny, eccentric--always he roar like a lion --Boum!--but so simple, so good, a man of such fine heart--so lovable!"

    "1'll be glad to meet him," said Mellin coldly.

    "An', oh, yes, I almos' forget to tell you," she went on, "your frien', that dear Cooley, he is on his way from Monte Carlo in his automobile. I have a note from him to-day."

    "Good sort of fellow, little Cooley, in his way," remarked her companion graciously. "Not especially intellectual or that, you know. His father was a manufacturer chap, I believe, or something of the sort. I suppose you saw a lot of him in Paris?"

    "Eh, I thought he is dead!" cried Madame de Vaurigard.

    "The father is. I mean, little Cooley."

    "Oh, yes," she laughed softly. "We had some gay times, a little party of us. We shall be happy here, too; you will see. I mus' make a little dinner very soon, but not unless you will come. You will?"

    "Do you want me very much?"

    He placed his empty cup on the table and leaned closer to her, smiling. She did not smile in response; instead, her eyes fell and there was the faintest, pathetic quiver of her lower lip.

    "Already you know that," she said in a low voice.

    She rose quickly, turned away from him and walked across the room to the curtains which opened upon the hall. One of these she drew back.

    "My frien', you mus' go now," she said in the same low voice. "To-morrow I will see you again. Come at four an' you shall drive with me--but not--not more--now. Please!"

    She stood waiting, not looking at him, but with head bent and eyes veiled. As he came near she put out a limp hand. He held it for a few seconds of distinctly emotional silence, then strode swiftly into the hall.

    She immediately let the curtain fall behind him, and as he got his hat and coat he heard her catch her breath sharply with a sound like a little sob.

    Dazed with glory, he returned to the hotel. In the lobby he approached the glittering concierge and said firmly:

    "What is the Salone Margherita? Cam you get me a box there to-night?"
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