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HOME > Short Stories > The Queen of Farrandale > CHAPTER XVIII THE RECITAL
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 Of course, Adèle played wonderfully that night. No anxious to-morrow with Miss Frink ventured into the rose-color of her dreams. She was playing to Hugh; and occasionally she caught his spellbound and admiring eyes. Even the drop of gall occasioned by the fact that, Millicent’s duties with the hostess over, Hugh seated himself beside her to listen, was drowned in the sweetness of his frank admiration. The great room was crowded. Miss Frink, unsmiling and reflective, regarded Adèle with a calculating eye and ear, absolving herself from any anxious care for the financial future of such a one.
To many of the audience this private view, as it were, of Miss Frink and her home was of as much or more interest than the programme. John Ogden, as master of ceremonies, conducted the affair with grace, and his easy cordiality among a crowd almost entirely strange to him was a marvel to Miss Frink, and all her mental reservations were for the time being submerged in gratitude.
But, in spite of the interest in the Queen of Farrandale as a private individual, Hugh Stanwood was really Exhibit A of the evening: the man who had saved Miss Frink’s life and lived in her house ever since. Was Leonard Grimshaw’s star descending? Was the handsome youth going to be adopted by his hostess? Why was Millicent Duane receiving with Miss Frink? Was Mr. Stanwood really reading law with her grandfather?
Tongues would wag to-morrow. To-night they were silenced, first, by the music of—according to the programme—“Mrs. Adèle Lumbard, famous pianist of Atlanta, Georgia,” and later, by a very delicious supper.
A procession of enthusiasts approached Adèle where she stood in a bay window at the close of the programme. Leonard Grimshaw was stationed beside her.
“You are a queen, Adèle,” he murmured worshipfully, and she let her brown eyes speak her thanks.
Colonel Duane approached her. “Please accept my compliments,” he said, bending over her hand. “You will have all us oldsters practicing five-finger exercises to-morrow. Here is Hugh; he is almost bursting with pride that he knows you.”
“For a fact, Ally, you outdid yourself,” said Hugh, taking her hand. “Here is Millicent fairly afraid to approach such a star.”
“It was perfectly beautiful,” said the young girl, gazing at her fervently.
“Thanks,” returned Adèle perfunctorily, looking by her and wondering if she should have patience to receive the oncoming stream of people whom Grimshaw formally introduced one by one ere they dispersed about the house and out into the grounds.
“I think one party will go a long way with me, Ogden,” said Miss Frink late in the evening, hiding a yawn behind her hand.
John Ogden stood beside her as she sped the parting guests.
When nearly all had gone, Adèle had opportunity to speak to Hugh: “Take me outdoors. Let us lose ourselves so I won’t have to say any more good-nights.”
They slipped away and strolled far out underneath the great trees.
“A perfect success,” said Hugh.
“Was it?” Adèle leaned wearily on his arm.
“You will have all Farrandale for pupils if you want them,” he went on; “but honestly, Adèle”—he looked down into her upturned[213] face—“it’s like hitching a blooded horse to a coal-wagon to make you teach.”
“You see it, do you?” she returned. “Oh, how I hate drudgery, Hughie.”
“You must have gone through a lot of it, to play the way you do.”
“I didn’t realize it. It didn’t seem so. I liked it.”
Back and forth they strolled in the shadow of the old elms, Adèle’s cigarette adding its spark to his among the magic lanterns of fireflies.
“The house looks quiet,” she said at last. “Let us go in and see if we can find something to eat. I am nearly starved.”
They crossed the lawn and went up the veranda steps. In the hall they met the butler, hanging about aimlessly.
“Mrs. Lumbard has been neglected, Stebbins,” said Hugh. “She hadn’t a chance to eat much of anything. See if you can’t get some sandwiches and grapejuice for us. Has everybody gone to bed?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, when you’ve set out the stuff you go, too. You can lock up and I’ll see to putting out the lights.”
The two entered the big dim dining-room and sat down side by side at the table. For all[214] Adèle’s protestations of hunger, she only played with a sandwich and sipped the grapejuice. So far everything had gone exactly to suit her. Miss Frink, Leonard Grimshaw, and Mr. Ogden had all effaced themselves.
She had Hugh to herself in the high-ceiled old room, and her heart was still exulting in the incense that had been burned before her all the evening, incense that was valuable because Hugh had seen it burning.
Time was flying. This was her great opportunity.
“What are you planning to do with your life, Hugh?” she asked suddenly.
“I mean to keep on with the law work on the side while I go into Miss Frink’s store. Don’t you think you ought to go to bed, Ally? I know you must be very tired.”
She tossed aside the trivial suggestion with an impatient motion of her head. “I never sleep after playing a programme,” she said. Then she added in a low, appealing voice, her eyes fixed on his: “I want you to give up that idea, Hughie. Do you know what wonderful playmates we are—simply made for each other?”
Hugh began to feel uncomfortable under the clinging look. “Yes, but life isn’t play,” he returned.
“It would be for us—together. Come to me, Hughie. You would shrivel up, here. Let us go away. I will make you happier than you ever dreamed of being. I love you every second of every minute, and every minute of every hour. I—”
“Ally, Ally,” interrupted Hugh gently, “you’re mistaken. Love begets love, and if you loved me I should love you. I don’t, and—”
“Stop”—she seized his hand—“I’ll show you what love is. I will show you what happiness is. I will take care of the practical side. I have some money that no one knows of: enough to start you in business. We will work together, play together—I can’t live without you, Hughie, I can’t—”
“Adèle!” It was Miss Frink’s voice. In the silk negligée she was standing behind them inside the door.
Adèle sprang to her feet, the brown eyes flashing their fire directly into Hugh’s as he rose.
“Speak, Hugh,” she said, excitedly, “before she has a chance to talk. You know what I have said, and I mean every word.”
“No, you don’t. Now, let us forget it, Ally.”
“No, never; and whatever Miss Frink has heard she is welcome to remember. Speak,[216] Hugh.” There was hysterical appeal in the last words.
“Then I can only repeat, Ally. Oh, don’t spoil our friendship!”
“This is enough,” said Miss Frink, coming forward, and looking Adèle straight in the eyes. “Why must an artist be a fool?”
“Sometimes others are fools,” cried Adèle, carried away by her thwarted passion. “The great Miss Frink is a dupe herself. Hugh has fooled you as he has fooled me.”
Miss Frink lifted her head. “Do you refer to the fact that Hugh Stanwood is Hugh Sinclair, my nephew? That is ancient history.” A moment of tense stillness while the women’s gaze still struck a mutual fire. “Will you kind............
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