This page will take you into pieces of literature that are carefully selected for their great content at the literary, scientific, or philosophical level. A short selection will be presented in full. A long one will be divided into sections that will be refreshed regularly. Emphasis and highlights are mostly ours, not made by the original author.
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Anna the Adventuress (1904) by E. Phillips Oppenheim
Chapter 13. "He Will Not Forget"
The external changes in Brendon following on his alteration of fortune were sufficiently noticeable. From head to foot he was attired in the fashionable garb of the young man of the moment. Not only that, but he carried himself erect--the slight slouch which had bent his shoulders had altogether disappeared. He came to her at once, and turning, walked by her side.
"Now I should like to know," she said, looking at him with a quiet smile, "what you are doing here? It is not a particularly inspiring neighbourhood for walking about by yourself."
"I plead guilty, Miss Pellissier," he answered at once. "I saw you go into that place, and I have been waiting for you ever since."
"I am not sure whether I feel inclined to scold or thank you," she declared. "I think as I feel in a good humour it must be the latter."
He faced her doggedly.
"Miss Pellissier," he said, "I am going to take a liberty."
"You alarm me," she murmured, smiling.
"Don't think that I have been playing the spy upon you," he continued. "Neither Sydney nor I would think of such a thing. But we can't help noticing. You have been going out every morning, and coming home late--tired out--too tired to come down to dinner. Forgive me, but you have been looking, have you not, for some employment?"
"Quite true!" she answered. "I have found out at last what a useless person I am--from a utilitarian point of view. It has been very humiliating."
"And that, I suppose," he said, waving his stick towards Mr. Earles' office, "was your last resource."
"It certainly was," she admitted. "I changed my last shilling yesterday."
He was silent for a moment or two. His lips were tight drawn. His eyes flashed as he turned towards her.
"Do you think that it is kind of you, Miss Pellissier," he said, almost roughly, "to ignore your friends so? In your heart you know quite well that you could pay Sydney or me no greater compliment than to give us just a little of your confidence. We know London, and you are a stranger here. Surely our advice would have been worth having, at any rate. You might have spared yourself many useless journeys and disappointments, and us a good deal of anxiety. Instead, you are willing to go to a place like that where you ought not to be allowed to think of showing yourself."
"Why not?" she asked quietly.
"The very question shows your ignorance," he declared. "You know nothing about the stage. You haven't an idea what the sort of employment you could get there would be like, the sort of people you would be mixed up with. It is positively hateful to think of it."
She laid her fingers for a moment upon his arm.
"Mr. Brendon," she said, "if I could ask for advice, or borrow money from any one, I would from you--there! But I cannot. I never could. I suppose I ought to have been a man. You see, I have had to look after myself so long that I have developed a terrible bump of independence."
"Such independence," he answered quickly, "is a vice. You see to what it has brought you. You are going to accept a post as chorus girl, or super, or something of that sort."
"You do not flatter me," she laughed.
"I am too much in earnest," he answered, "to be able to take this matter lightly."
"I am rebuked," she declared. "I suppose my levity is incorrigible. But seriously, things are not so bad as you think."
"They never seem so at first!" he said.
"You do not quite understand," she said gently. "I will tell you the truth. It is true that I have accepted an engagement from Mr. Earles, but it is a good one. I am not going to be a chorus girl, or even a super. I have never told you so, or Sydney, but I can sing--rather well. When my father died, and we were left alone in Jersey, I was quite a long time deciding whether I would go in for singing professionally or try painting. I made a wrong choice, it seems--but my voice remains."
"You are really going on the stage, then?" he said slowly.
"In a sense--yes."
Brendon went very pale.
"Miss Pellissier," he said, "don't!"
"Why not?" she asked, smiling. "I must live, you know."
"I haven't told any one the amount," he went on. "It sounds too ridiculous. But I have two hundred thousand pounds. Will you marry me?"
Anna looked at him in blank amazement. Then she burst into a peal of laughter.
"My dear boy," she exclaimed. "How ridiculous! Fancy you with all that money! For heaven's sake, though, do not go about playing the Don Quixote like this. It doesn't matter with me, but there are at least a dozen young women in Mr. Earles' waiting-room who would march you straight off to a registrar's office."
"You have not answered my question," he reminded her.
"Nor am I going to," she answered, smiling. "I am going to ignore it. It was really very nice of you, but tomorrow you will laugh at it as I do now."
"Is it necessary," he said, "for me to tell you----"
"Stop, please," she said firmly.
Brendon was silent.
"Do not force me to take you seriously," she continued. "I like to think of your offer. It was impulsive and natural. Now let us forget it."
"I understand," he said, doggedly.
"And you must please not look at me as though I were an executioner," she declared lightly. "I will tell you something if you like. One of the reasons why I left Paris and came to London was because there was a man there who wanted me to marry him. I really cared for him a little, but I am absolutely determined not to marry for some time at any rate. I do not want to get only a second-hand flavour of life. One can learn and understand only by personal experience, by actual contact with the realities of life. I did not want anything made smooth and easy for me. That is why I would not marry this man whom I did and whom I do care for a little. Later on--well then the time may come. Then perhaps I shall send for him if he has not forgotten."
"I do not know who he is," Brendon said quietly, "but he will not forget."
Anna shrugged her shoulders lightly.
"Who can tell?" she said. "Your sex is a terrible fraud. It is generally deficient in the qualities it prides itself upon most. Men do not understand constancy as women do."
Brendon was not inclined to be led away from the point.
"We will take it then," he said, "that you have refused or ignored one request I have made you this morning. I have yet another. Let me lend you some money. Between comrades it is the most usual thing in the world, and I do not see how your sex intervenes. Let me keep you from that man's clutches. Then we can look out together for such employment--as would be more suitable for you. I know London better than you, and I have had to earn my own living. You cannot refuse me this."
He looked at her anxiously, and she met his glance with a dazzling smile of gratitude.
"Indeed," she said, "I would not. But it is no longer necessary. I cannot tell you much about it, but my bad times are over for the present. I will tell you what you shall give me, if you like."
"Lunch! I am hungry--tragically hungry."
He called for a hansom.
"After all," he said, "I am not sure that you are not a very material person."
"I am convinced of it," she answered. "Let us go to that little place at the back of the Palace. I'm not half smart enough for the West End."
"Wherever you like!" he answered, a little absently.
They alighted at the restaurant, and stood for a moment in the passage looking into the crowded room. Suddenly a half stifled exclamation broke from Anna's lips. Brendon felt his arm seized. In a moment they were in the street outside. Anna jumped into a waiting hansom.
"Tell him to drive--anywhere," she exclaimed.
Brendon told him the name of a distant restaurant and sprang in by her side. She was looking anxiously at the entrance to the restaurant. The commissionaire stood there, tall and imperturbable. There was no one else in the doorway. She leaned back in the corner of the cab with a little sigh of relief. A smile flickered upon her lips as she glanced towards Brendon, who was very serious indeed. Her sense of humour could not wholly resist his abnormal gravity.
"I am so sorry to have startled you," she said, "but I was startled myself. I saw someone in there whom I have always hoped that I should never meet again. I hope--I am sure that he did not see me."
"He certainly did not follow you out," Brendon answered.
"His back was towards me," Anna said. "I saw his face in a mirror. I wonder----"
"London is a huge place," Brendon said. "Even if he lives here you may go all your life and never come face to face with him again."