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Chapter XXIV--What made the Chase
 To quote S. K., it had an entirely “sane and logical” explanation, and it was started by that little fellow who wears wings, carries a quiver, is talked of and felt often, but is never seen--except on Valentines. And of course you know whom I mean. His name comes from an old monk, which is strange, I think. S. K. said it was not. He said that everybody has their monastery garden where they, quite alone, make the prettiest rhymes to love. And he explained further that when you try to say them aloud, in the fumbling words of men, they will not echo even half of what is felt. All this discussion came because of the date, which was February fourteenth. Much had happened since Christmas week, and this day we all sat in the living-room reviewing things.
Evelyn was hemming napkins, and Herbert sat on a foot-rest at her feet, muttering things like “Beautiful hands!” or “Did she prick her sweet finger!” which everybody heard, but had to pretend they didn’t. (That’s a funny sentence, but I haven’t time to alter it.) Amy and Willy were doing a picture puzzle, S. K. was sitting idle, and I was trying to address post-cards to people at home. Personally, I don’t like them, but the people to whom I was going to send them did. I could take part in all the talk, inasmuch as I only wrote, “Wish you were here,” and, “This is a picture of Grant’s tomb,” or, “The Woolworth Tower,” or whatever it was. Of course, it said what the picture was, in print; but people always do explain again in writing on post-cards, I suppose because it fills up space. Even real writers always use a great deal of explaining to do that, I have noticed.
Willy would leave the table now and again to read my messages, all of which were almost the same, in a different voice. He made it deeply dramatic, or Miss Hooper-high, and Amy giggled awfully. She laughs at anything he says; and he says she has more perception and appreciation of true humour than any woman he has ever met--which is what men always do say when women laugh at their jokes.
The fifth time he made a tour to the desk he picked up a card I had addressed to Colonel Sephus I. Lemley, who did detective work in Baltimore in 1892. He has been resting since then, and his wife takes in sewing. He explained that the business world was not a fit place for a Southern gentleman. Willy told about how he acts when he gets drunk. On one occasion he painted the entire house with apple butter (his wife had just made five crocks), and it was in fly season, too. And on another he sawed out the lower panel of the front door, and then he got down on his hands and knees and stuck his head through the hole and barked at everyone who passed. That was really very funny, because he has a little goatee which wags when he talks, and to see his head, topped by a wide-brimmed felt hat, and bottomed by wiggling fluff, to see this sticking through a hole in the door and hear him say, “Bow, wow!” in a high falsetto, was enough to make you yell. For three days he honestly thought he was Miss Hooper’s dog, Rover. His wife was visiting in a near town. When she is at home she tactfully restrains him, with a broom, the neighbours say, and it is noticeable that he stands in front of the Mansion House after these attacks, instead of occupying one of the rocking-chairs which trail all over the porch and half across the sidewalk.
But to get back. After Willy told of him, he said he should have been on the job. And I agreed. “No six weeks to find out what started it, if Sephus had humped!” he stated, surely. I nodded, for Colonel Lemley’s own tales of his achievements made Sherlock Holmes’ affairs look as exciting as the woven mats you do in the first year of school.
After I wrote for perhaps fifteen more minutes I finished my work and went over to sit by S. K., who was on the davenport before the fire. I had on a lovely bunch of violets he had sent me, and I was enjoying them a lot, also the prospect for the evening, which was a theatre party, which S. K. was giving because Evelyn and Herbert are engaged. People seem to do things like that for engaged people, quite as if they need cheering up. And I was to wear a new dress, which was pink and fluffy and, I must admit, becoming.
“You are going to sit next to me, to-night,” said S. K.
I said I hoped so, and then I was quiet, for I was thinking how very much S. K. had done to make my New York life happy and to smooth out, and erase, my troubles.
The bracelet business had made me half sick. It had been so crawly. And it all happened because a little coquette, who was the Spanish girl we saw photographed in the Sunday paper, and the one who muttered pretty Spanish admirations over the bracelet (one of the people who stays at the Mansion told me of those), had made her lover a test. I think she did it in joke, but he took it seriously because he was so very much in love. Of course, he was Vicente Alcon y Rodriguez, and it happened this way:
He had met her somewhere on a business trip. I suppose he had letters of introduction which admitted him almost anywhere, since he has a great deal of money and is of great importance in the business world of Cuba. And, like a good many Latin men, he fell in love with her immediately, and wildly so. He called her “orange blossom,” and “white, sweet heart of the rose” (that is, in notes), and he threatened to kill himself if she didn’t love him, but he didn’t. And she didn’t love him; she only laughed. That is, at first.
I think she was capricious and liked to feel her power, for she played with him. One day being kind, and the next day scorning, as only her race can scorn. . . . S. K. told me the story, and he put in trimmings, as he always does. And I am repeating in part from the tale that he related. . . .
Each day this man who had so much money--but not the love he wanted more than all of the world--would send her mountains of flowers, or a strange string of beads, or candied fruits from the Orient, or candies from our States. S. K. said he was a good lover, and he sounded so. I became very much interested, and I did not see how Marguerita Angela Blanco y Chiappi could help liking it, but sometimes she didn’t. One morning she threw all of his flowers out on the street, and then she called to him (he was lurking around on the other side of the way; they act that way more there than here), and she said: “The scent in all of its heaviness is wearisome!” And rumour states that he tore his hair, but I think S. K. put that in for a nice touch, because he had it clipped so short I don’t see how he could get a decent hold.
Well, things went on in that way. She would soften, only to harden. And he would become elated, only to taste the depth of despair. It was very romantic. And then--Marguerita’s father had a mission to perform in the United States; she came along, and of course Vicente Alcon y Rodriguez trailed at a respectful distance (but he didn’t stay so), which is the paper-chase manner in which some South American and Cuban courtships come off.
Their pictures were taken together at the Jumel Mansion, and so evidently she was a little kinder to him then. And that was the day she paused before the bracelet and said, “Es incomparable lindo y yo lo deseo!” and she said it with hunger floating on her liquid voice.
“Would that I could give it to you!” whispered Vicente Alcon y Rodriguez.
“You can give me nothing I want!” he was answered, and after this pleasant speech the little se?orita shrugged her shoulders.
S. K. said he clenched his hands, glared ahead, and then said: “A copy? A good copy, Fairest Angel of Heaven?”
And she said, “A copy? Bah!” and her lips curled. I didn’t see why he loved her after that, but S. K. said she stimulated his interest by acting that way. But that I wasn’t to try it on him, since his interest didn’t need stimulating. Then Marguerita looked mischievous and said: “The man who would get for me this original, I would give the gift of my love. . . . But it is a poor thing, my little heart, and perhaps not worth the effort to get?”
He said: “You cast me to the depths. . . . How can I live? . . . For this, you ask the impossible!”
And again she shrugged her shoulders.
“Why ask the possible?” she said, “since that I could get myself?” Then S. K. said Vicente went out, sat down on the green bench that faces the side gate, held his head in his hands, and stared unseeingly at the gravel at his feet. He said they both enjoyed acting that way and being miserable, as a good many people do.
And Marguerita laughed in her tinkling way, not seeming to care how unhappy she had made him. Just before they started back to The Biltmore, he spoke to her again. “You meant that?” he said fiercely.
“But certainly,” she replied. “I have said, my heart in exchange for that bracelet!” And then they all got in motors and started off for lunch.
Well, Vicente was determined to get that bracelet, and he set out to do it. Somehow he got into communication with Debson, offered him twenty-five thousand dollars if he got the bracelet and delivered it into his, Vicente Alcon y Rodriguez’s hands, and then he sailed off on another chase, for Marguerita and her papa had started home again.
So much is simple, and the rest is only the result of the start.
Debson heard me tell the tale of my bracelet that day I first visited the Mansion. Getting the one in the case was not an easy affair, for the place is well guarded, and so--he naturally decided to get mine. It was he who chased me, dodging behind things when I turned, and even sitting on the kerb at the last with his cup for pennies, and telling me that he was blind! . . . He had, of course, visite............
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