Chapter 181528668

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1885-10-10
Page Number21
Word Count1445
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Week (Brisbane, Qld. : 1876 - 1934)
Trove TitleA Strange Love-Letter
article text

Tales *and Sketches.

A Strange Love-letter.

' At a email table outside the Cafe. Orientale

on the Eiva degli Schiavoni, in Venice, eat I 1 one evening in September, a middle-agedj / Englishman. He was a tall, spare man, with

s thin, ennburnt face, greyish hair, w<ll-cut | features, a fierce moustache, and a pair of kind 1

grey eyes.

It was a glorious evoning. All Venico was out of doors. In tho Piazza of St. Hark, the ; band was playing, and crowds were promenad

ing ; round tables at the Cafe Florian and tho Cafe Qusdri, were officers, ladies, cosmopolitan artiste, tourists, and middle-class .Venetians; vendors of evening pa'pers were plying a brisk trade; flower-girls wore exchanging bouquets for half-pence; a gayer, or a brighter, or a more quiokly changing scene it would be diffi culty imagine. The Cafe Orientale, though not far removed from this resort of fashion, presented a sedate and unpretentious air. Here gay uniforms were the exception. Prosy looking elderly civilians chattered, sipped coffee and cognac, and matched their still in games of chess; a sprinkling, of such artists as dis dained the attractions of the Piazza were to be leen and heard, lounging on accustomed seats, and discussing art and cigarettes; a certain 'number of Americans were here, aB were not in places of Venetian rendezvous; and some work men in blouses had put iu an appearance, bringing with them wives, sisters, daughters,

or sweethearts.

. Our Englishman sipped his coffee, and conned hU newspaper with tho air of an habitue, when he lifted his head from its printed columns to watch the cloud of smoke from his cigar disappear in the air, or to glance over the moon-illumed water before the

Btva, his expression of countenance testified familiarity .with the scene before him. Trnth to tell, the Englishman—bis namo was Henry Courtney—had occupied the same comer, under the awning, among chess-players, coffee drinkers, readers, and conversationalists, ovening after evening, for more months than I care to count. Venetians had begun to look upon him as a Venetian institution. He knew every, inoh of their town by heart. He had poked his investigating British nose into every narrow cnlU and insignificant campo: he had explored reraot^ churches and comparatively : unknown galleries; he was as full of informa

tion as a guide hook on tho merits or demerits of( different shops, restaurants, and hotbl*. His knowledge—geographical and general— extended itself to numerous other continental towns. And yet, while essentially a traveller, he was essentially a travelled Englishman. The cut of his clothtfs -and' the shape oFhis : hoots proclaimed tf London origin; the news

paper in which ho had buried his faoo was the leading English journal; and his aocent,

when he called to a waiter in Italian for a glass of water, admitted no doubt as to his nationality.

? 1 Excuse me—am I addressing Mr. Court

ney ?'

Down went tho newspaper. Courtney looked up, with the half-aggrieved, wholly surprised air common to his countrymen when spoken to by a stranger.

.'Courtney is my name,' he answered shortly, A shade of ^ resentment in his voioe. Bat the corresponding shade of resentment vanished from bis face when his eyes met those of his interrogator. He found himself addressed by a young man, who had jnst taken a seat near him, and who was of singularly attractive ap pearance. The new-comer—obviously a British tourist of tho better class—was tall and well

made; he had a good carriage, an air of good breeding, a frank, boyish face, close curling, yellow faair and a pleasant smile.

' Courtney is my name/ repeated the Eng lishman. relaxing visibly. f Can I do anything for you ? '

' Well, yes, you oan You knowGribb'e— Frank Gribblo of tbo Twelfth Hussars ?1

' Yes, I know Frank Gribblo—woll ?'

* My name is Edwardes. I have brought

feeling in his pocket for a lett-r, which he pro duced and handod to his neighbour—'a letter of introduction from Gribblo, whom I left the other day in Florence. I intended giving my self the pleasure of calling on you to-morrow But I heard that I sh mld find you at the Orientale. A waiter pointed you out to me and I thought that you would allow mo to iutroduoo myself at once.'

Courtney bowed; ho adjusted a pair of speotaolos, took his cigar from his mouth, and road tho lotter in a slow, elderly fashion,

which contrasted with the evident eagerness of . his now fnond. v'; •

' Can I do anything, Mr. Edwardes?' ho asked again, us ho returned the lottor to the envelope and his cigar to his lips. Then, as it conscious of an omission, he added, with old fashioned formality, and with a etiff little bow, 'I am happy to make tho acquaintance of

Frank Gribblq's friend.'

: Gribblq's

' Thank you—yes, you can do mo a favour, if you will. I want yon'—tho young man bent his head low, and professod to bo engaged in a minute inspection of hi* finger nails—'to introduce mo to Mr. Kanyon—the Mr. Kon

yon whoso family is now in Venice. I'm sure

that von know him, for—for—I saw you speak; iog this aftornoon, in tho Piazza, to tho ladies of his party.'

Conrtnoy lifted his eyebrows. ' Know Mr.

Kenyon !—know Tom Kenyoh 1 I havo known i him all my lifo; he is my oldost and best friend.' " * ; : .

.'And you will introduce mo to'him, Mr. Courtney P • I shall, he excoodingly obliged.'

'Tho family seoms already known to yon, by right.' . ; v

' Y—oi; but it was only yesterday, by ac cident, that I learned their mimes. I havo noon them in tho ffiazzn, in tho English cburob, hero, thoro, and evnrywhoro in Vonico. Of course I remarked tliacu; they—the lavlinsv I mean—cannot fail to attract attention, wh jro evor thoy may uhunco to be.'

' I suppose not.' Courtney gave a qulok, searching, something like an apprehensive gloaoe towards the handsome young face teside him, then his eyes wandered thought

fully—a little sadly—towards the wide water,, where the moon was touching with silver light the gay-colourod sails of the fishing boats. (Miss Kenyon is very beautiful/ he said quickly.

/Two ladies are w th Mt. Kenyon,' re sponded Edwardos, evasively; ' are they both his daughters ?'

1 No ; one is his ward, a Miss Stuart.'

There was a pause. "Was the desired pro mise of an introduction not forthcoming ? Edwardes began to grow a little impatient. But Courtney had fallen into a rever.o. His eyes were still fixed on the water before the Kiv8, but they seemed to be lo. king beyond his present surroundings and into vague dis tance. 'Yes, Miss Kenyon is very beautiful,' he said, musingly. ' She grows'—his voice softened—1 every day, more like her mother.'

' Indeed, I did not know '

1 — Her mother. No, my lad'—Courtney

woke from his roverio with a start—' not

likely. Mrs. Kenyon died when her child was born.'.

' 1 suppose that thero is no harm in con fessing,' said Edwardes impulsively, as if in answer to an unspoken question—and he gave up the inspection of his nails, and lifted his frank young face, with a boyish blush, to Courtney's—'that I admire Miss Kenyon—I conclude that the lady is Miss Henyon—im mensely, and that I fell in love with her at first eight.'

' Check,' cried, from a table near, a gentle man, whose clean hands pronounced him of Anglo-Saxon, and who?o accent, of American origin, and who was playing cht-es with an Italian artist in a threadbare suit and a'pio

tureeque slouched hat.

'.Harm—no, there is no harm in the confes

sion, at any rate,' replied Courtney, kindly. I 'lam not surprised; I suspected the huth when you first mentioned the Kenyon's name. I

It is not for me, of course, to offer you en- I courageraent or the reverse. But I'll give you !

your introduction. Let mo see. Mub Kenyon ! receives to-morrow evening: if you will call I for me a little before 9 o'clock, I shall be happy I to take you to the ICenyons' room. You have my address ?'

' Oh, yes - Gribblo—'

'Then I'll wish you good night. A rive• derei, as the Italians say.' Courtney rose, chinked his glass, to arrest the attention of a waiter, and laid some coppers on an empty

Elute. Beforo Kdwardcs had time to pour one

alf tho grateful speeches which rose to his

lips, Courtney had turned away.