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Chapter II “What jewels will the señora wear tonight?”
 “None, Dolores. Manuel has gone for flowers—he likes them best. You may go.”  
“But the señora's toilette is not finished; the sandals, the gloves, the garland yet remain.”
“Leave them all; I shall not go down. I am tired of this endless folly1. Give me that book and go.”
The pretty Creole obeyed; and careless of Dolores' work, Pauline sank into the deep chair with a listless mien2, turned the pages for a little, then lost herself in thoughts that seemed to bring no rest.
Silently the young husband entered and, pausing, regarded his wife with mingled3 pain and pleasure—pain to see her so spiritless, pleasure to see her so fair. She seemed unconscious of his presence till the fragrance4 of his floral burden betrayed him, and looking up to smile a welcome she met a glance that changed the sad dreamer into an excited actor, for it told her that the object of her search was found. Springing erect5, she asked eagerly, “Manuel, is he here?”
“His wife is with him.”
“Is she beautiful?”
“Pretty, petite, and petulant6.”
“And he?”
“Unchanged: the same imposing7 figure and treacherous8 face, the same restless eye and satanic mouth. Pauline, let me insult him!”
“Not yet. Were they together?”
“Yes. He seemed anxious to leave her, but she called him back imperiously, and he came like one who dared not disobey.”
“Did he see you?”
“The crowd was too dense9, and I kept in the shadow.”
“The wife's name? Did you learn it?”
“Barbara St. Just.”
“Ah! I knew her once and will again. Manuel, am I beautiful tonight?”
“How can you be otherwise to me?”
“That is not enough. I must look my fairest to others, brilliant and blithe10, a happy-hearted bride whose honeymoon11 is not yet over.”
“For his sake, Pauline?”
“For yours. I want him to envy you your youth, your comeliness12, your content; to see the man he once sneered13 at the husband of the woman he once loved; to recall impotent regret. I know his nature, and can stir him to his heart's core with a look, revenge myself with a word, and read the secrets of his life with a skill he cannot fathom14.”
“And when you have done all this, shall you be happier, Pauline?”
Infinitely15; our three weeks' search is ended, and the real interest of the plot begins. I have played the lover for your sake, now play the man of the world for mine. This is the moment we have waited for. Help me to make it successful. Come! Crown me with your garland, give me the bracelets16 that were your wedding gift—none can be too brilliant for tonight. Now the gloves and fan. Stay, my sandals—you shall play Dolores and tie them on.”
With an air of smiling coquetry he had never seen before, Pauline stretched out a truly Spanish foot and offered him its dainty covering. Won by the animation19 of her manner, Manuel forgot his misgivings20 and played his part with boyish spirit, hovering21 about his stately wife as no assiduous maid had ever done; for every flower was fastened with a word sweeter than itself, the white arms kissed as the ornaments23 went on, and when the silken knots were deftly24 accomplished25, the lighthearted bridegroom performed a little dance of triumph about his idol27, till she arrested him, beckoning28 as she spoke29.
“Manuel, I am waiting to assume the last best ornament22 you have given me, my handsome husband.” Then, as he came to her laughing with frank pleasure at her praise, she added, “You, too, must look your best and bravest now, and remember you must enact30 the man tonight. Before Gilbert wear your stateliest aspect, your tenderest to me, your courtliest to his wife. You possess dramatic skill. Use it for my sake, and come for your reward when this night's work is done.”
The great hotel was swarming31 with life, ablaze32 with light, resonant33 with the tread of feet, the hum of voices, the musical din18 of the band, and full of the sights and sounds which fill such human hives at a fashionable watering place in the height of the season. As Manuel led his wife along the grand hall thronged35 with promenaders, his quick ear caught the whispered comments of the passers-by, and the fragmentary rumors36 concerning themselves amused him infinitely.
“Mon ami! There are five bridal couples here tonight, and there is the handsomest, richest, and most enchanting37 of them all. The groom26 is not yet twenty, they tell me, and the bride still younger. Behold38 them!”
Manuel looked down at Pauline with a mirthful glance, but she had not heard.
“See, Belle39! Cubans; own half the island between them. Splendid, aren't they? Look at the diamonds on her lovely arms, and his ravishing moustache. Isn't he your ideal of Prince Djalma, in The Wandering Jew?”
A pretty girl, forgetting propriety40 in interest, pointed41 as they passed. Manuel half-bowed to the audible compliment, and the blushing damsel vanished, but Pauline had not seen.
“Jack, there's the owner of the black span you fell into raptures42 over. My lord and lady look as highbred as their stud. We'll patronize them!”
Manuel muttered a disdainful “Impertinente!” between his teeth as he surveyed a brace17 of dandies with an air that augured43 ill for the patronage44 of Young America, but Pauline was unconscious of both criticism and reproof45. A countercurrent held them stationary46 for a moment, and close behind them sounded a voice saying, confidentially47, to some silent listener, “The Redmonds are here tonight, and I am curious to see how he bears his disappointment. You know he married for money, and was outwitted in the bargain; for his wife's fortune not only proves to be much less than he was led to believe, but is so tied up that he is entirely48 dependent upon her, and the bachelor debts he sold himself to liquidate49 still harass50 him, with a wife's reproaches to augment51 the affliction. To be ruled by a spoiled child's whims52 is a fit punishment for a man whom neither pride nor principle could curb53 before. Let us go and look at the unfortunate.”
Pauline heard now. Manuel felt her start, saw her flush and pale, then her eye lit, and the dark expression he dreaded55 to see settled on her face as she whispered, like a satanic echo, “Let us also go and look at this unfortunate.”
A jealous pang56 smote57 the young man's heart as he recalled the past.
“You pity him, Pauline, and pity is akin58 to love.”
“I only pity what I respect. Rest content, my husband.”
Steadily59 her eyes met his, and the hand whose only ornament was a wedding ring went to meet the one folded on his arm with a confiding60 gesture that made the action a caress61.
“I will try to be, yet mine is a hard part,” Manuel answered with a sigh, then silently they both paced on.
Gilbert Redmond lounged behind his wife's chair, looking intensely bored.
“Have you had enough of this folly, Babie?”
“No, we have but just come. Let us dance.”
“Too late; they have begun.”
“Then go about with me. It's very tiresome62 sitting here.”
“It is too warm to walk in all that crowd, child.”
“You are so indolent! Tell me who people are as they pass. I know no one here.”
“Nor I.”
But his act belied63 the words, for as they passed his lips he rose erect, with a smothered64 exclamation65 and startled face, as if a ghost had suddenly confronted him. The throng34 had thinned, and as his wife followed the direction of his glance, she saw no uncanny apparition66 to cause such evident dismay, but a woman fair-haired, violet-eyed, blooming and serene67, sweeping68 down the long hall with noiseless grace. An air of sumptuous69 life pervaded70 her, the shimmer71 of bridal snow surrounded her, bridal gifts shone on neck and arms, and bridal happiness seemed to touch her with its tender charm as she looked up at her companion, as if there were but one human being in the world to her. This companion, a man slender and tall, with a face delicately dark as a fine bronze, looked back at her with eyes as eloquent72 as her own, while both spoke rapidly and low in the melodious73 language which seems made for lover's lips.
“Gilbert, who are they?”
There was no answer, and before she could repeat the question the approaching pair paused before her, and the beautiful woman offered her hand, saying, with inquiring smiles, “Barbara, have you forgotten your early friend, Pauline?”
Recognition came with the familiar name, and Mrs. Redmond welcomed the newcomer with a delight as unrestrained as if she were still the schoolgirl, Babie. Then, recovering herself, she said, with a pretty attempt at dignity, “Let me present my husband. Gilbert, come and welcome my friend Pauline Valary.”
Scarlet75 with shame, dumb with conflicting emotions, and utterly76 deserted77 by self-possession, Redmond stood with downcast eyes and agitated78 mien, suffering a year's remorse79 condensed into a moment. A mute gesture was all the greeting he could offer. Pauline slightly bent80 her haughty81 head as she answered, in a voice frostily sweet, “Your wife mistakes. Pauline Valary died three weeks ago, and Pauline Laroche rose from her ashes. Manuel, my schoolmate, Mrs. Redmond; Gilbert you already know.”
With the manly82 presence he could easily assume and which was henceforth to be his role in public, Manuel bowed courteously83 to the lady, coldly to the gentleman, and looked only at his wife. Mrs. Redmond, though childish, was observant; she glanced from face to face, divined a mystery, and spoke out at once.
“Then you have met before? Gilbert, you have never told me this.”
“It was long ago—in Cuba. I believed they had forgotten me.”
“I never forget.” And Pauline's eye turned on him with a look he dared not meet.
Unsilenced by her husband's frown, Mrs. Redmond, intent on pleasing herself, drew her friend to the seat beside her as she said petulantly85, “Gilbert tells me nothing, and I am constantly discovering things which might have given me pleasure had he only chosen to be frank. I've spoken of you often, yet he never betrayed the least knowledge of you, and I take it very ill of him, because I am sure he has not forgotten you. Sit here, Pauline, and let me tease you with questions, as I used to do so long ago. You were always patient with me, and though far more beautiful, your face is still the same kind one that comforted the little child at school. Gilbert, enjoy your friend, and leave us to ourselves until the dance is over.”
Pauline obeyed; but as she chatted, skillfully leading the young wife's conversation to her own affairs, she listened to the two voices behind her, watched the two figures reflected in the mirror before her, and felt a secret pride in Manuel's address, for it was evident that the former positions were renewed.
The timid boy who had feared the sarcastic86 tongue of his guardian's guest, and shrunk from his presence to conceal87 the jealousy88 that was his jest, now stood beside his formal rival, serene and self-possessed89, by far the manliest90 man of the two, for no shame daunted91 him, no fear oppressed him, no dishonorable deed left him at the mercy of another's tongue.
Gilbert Redmond felt this keenly, and cursed the falsehood which had placed him in such an unenviable position. It was vain to assume the old superiority that was forfeited92; but too much a man of the world to be long discomforted by any contretemps like this, he rapidly regained93 his habitual94 ease of manner, and avoiding the perilous95 past clung to the safer present, hoping, by some unguarded look or word, to fathom the purpose of his adversary97, for such he knew the husband of Pauline must be at heart. But Manuel schooled his features, curbed98 his tongue, and when his hot blood tempted99 him to point his smooth speech with a taunt100, or offer a silent insult with the eye, he remembered Pauline, looked down on the graceful101 head below, and forgot all other passions in that of love.
“Gilbert, my shawl. The sea air chills me.”
“I forgot it, Babie.”
“Allow me to supply the want.”
Mindful of his wife's commands, Manuel seized this opportunity to win a glance of commendation from her. And taking the downy mantle102 that hung upon his arm, he wrapped the frail103 girl in it with a care that made the act as cordial as courteous84. Mrs. Redmond felt the charm of his manner with the quickness of a woman, and sent a reproachful glance at Gilbert as she said plaintively104, “Ah! It is evident that my honeymoon is over, and the assiduous lover replaced by the negligent105 husband. Enjoy your midsummer night's dream while you may, Pauline, and be ready for the awakening106 that must come.”
“Not to her, madame, for our honeymoon shall last till the golden wedding day comes round. Shall it not, cariña?”
“There is no sign of waning107 yet, Manuel,” and Pauline looked up into her husband's face with a genuine affection which made her own more beautiful and filled his with a visible content. Gilbert read the glance, and in that instant suffered the first pang of regret that Pauline had foretold108. He spoke abruptly109, longing110 to be away.
“Babie, we may dance now, if you will.”
“I am going, but not with you—so give me my fan, and entertain Pauline till my return.”
He unclosed his hand, but the delicately carved fan fell at his feet in a shower of ivory shreds—he had crushed it as he watched his first love with the bitter thought “It m............
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