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Franklin Kane   By: (1873-1935)

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[Illustration: 'My dear Mr. Kane, I do congratulate you,' Helen said.]







T. NELSON & SONS LONDON AND EDINBURGH PARIS: 189, rue Saint Jacques LEIPZIG: 35 37 Königstrasse



Miss Althea Jakes was tired after her long journey from Basle. It was a brilliant summer afternoon, and though the shutters were half closed on the beating Parisian sunlight, the hotel sitting room looked, in its brightness, hardly shadowed. Unpinning her hat, laying it on the table beside her, passing her hands over the undisordered folds of her hair, Miss Jakes looked about her at the old gold brocade of the furniture, the many mirrors in ornate gold frames, the photographs from Bougereau, the long, crisp lace curtains. It was the same sitting room that she had had last year, the same that she had had the year before last the same, indeed, to which she had been conducted on her first stay at the Hôtel Talleyrand, eight years ago. The brocade looked as new, the gilded frames as glittering, the lace curtains as snowy as ever. Everything was as she had always seen it, from the ugly Satsuma vases flanking the ugly bronze clock on the mantelpiece, to the sheaf of pink roses lying beside her in their white paper wrappings. Even Miss Harriet Robinson's choice of welcoming flowers was the same. So it had always been, and so, no doubt, it would continue to be for many years to come; and she, no doubt, for many summers, would arrive from Basle to sit, jadedly, looking at it.

Amélie, her maid, was unpacking in the next room; the door was ajar, and Miss Jakes could hear the creaking of lifted trays and the rustling of multitudinous tissue paper layers. The sounds suggested an answer to a dim question that had begun to hover in her travel worn mind. One came back every summer to the Hôtel Talleyrand for the purpose of getting clothes; that, perhaps, was a sufficient answer. Yet, to day, it did not seem sufficient. She was not really so very much interested in her clothes; not nearly enough interested to make them a compensation for such fatigue and loneliness as she was now feeling. And as she realised this, a further question followed: in what was she particularly interested? What was a sufficient motive for all the European journeyings with which her life, for the past ten or twelve years, had been filled? In a less jaded mood, in her usual mood of mild, if rather wistful, assurance, she would have answered at once that she was interested in everything in everything that was of the best pictures, music, places, and people. These surely were her objects.

She was that peculiarly civilised being, the American woman of independent means and discriminating tastes, whose cosmopolitan studies and acquaintances give, in their multiplicity, the impression of a full, if not a completed, life. But to day the gloomy question hovered: was not the very pilgrimage to Bayreuth, the study of archæology in Rome, and of pictures in Florence, of much the same nature as the yearly visit to Paris for clothes? What was attained by it all? Was it not something merely superficial, to be put on and worn, as it were, not to be lived for with a growing satisfaction? Miss Jakes did not answer this question; she dismissed it with some indignation, and she got up and rang rather sharply for tea, which was late; and after asking the garçon, with a smile that in its gentleness contrasted with the sharpness of the pull, that it might be brought at once, she paused near the table to lean over and smell her sheaf of roses, and to read again, listlessly, Miss Harriet Robinson's words of affectionate greeting. Miss Robinson was a middle aged American lady who lived in Paris, and had long urged Althea to settle there near her. Ten years ago, when she had first met Miss Robinson in Boston, Althea had thought her a brilliant and significant figure; but she had by now met too many of her kind in Rome, in Florence, in Dresden to feel any wish for a more intimate relationship... Continue reading book >>

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