In Friendship's Guise by Wm. Murray Graydon


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Page 2

"She's a good little girl, except when she's in a temper," he said to
himself, "and I love her every bit as much as I did when we were married
a year ago. Perhaps I was a fool, but I don't regret it. She was as
straight as a die, with a will of her own, and it was either lose her
altogether or do the right thing. I couldn't bear to part with her, and
I wasn't blackguard enough to try to deceive her. I'm afraid there will
be a row some day, though, when the Mater learns the truth. What would
she say if she knew that Diane Merode, one of the most popular and
fascinating dancers of the Folies Bergere, was now Mrs. John Clare?"

It was not a cheerful thought, but Jack's momentary depression vanished
as he stopped before the imposing facade of the Hotel Netherlands, in
the vicinity of the Opera. He entered boldly and inquired for Monsieur
Martin Von Whele. The gentleman was gone, a polite garcon explained. He
had received a telegram during the night to say that his wife was very
ill, and he had left Paris by the first train.

The happiness faded from Jack's eyes.

"Gone--gone back to Amsterdam?" he exclaimed incredulously.

"Yes, to his own country, monsieur."

"And he left no message for me--no letter?"

"Indeed, no, monsieur; he departed in great haste."

An appeal to a superior official of the hotel met with the same
response, and Jack turned away. He wandered slowly down the gay street,
the parcel hanging listlessly under his left arm, and his right hand
jingling the few coins in his pocket. His journey over the river, begun
so hopefully, had ended in a bitter disappointment.

Martin Von Whele was a retired merchant, a rich native of Amsterdam, and
his private collection of paintings was well known throughout Europe. He
had come to Paris a month before to attend a private sale, and had there
purchased, at a bargain, an exceedingly fine Rembrandt that had but
recently been unearthed from a hiding-place of centuries. He determined
to have a copy made for his country house in Holland, and chance brought
him in contact with Jack Clare, who at the time was reproducing for an
art patron a landscape in the Luxembourg Gallery--a sort of thing that
he was not too proud to undertake when he was getting short of money.
Monsieur Von Whele liked the young Englishman's work and came to an
agreement with him. Jack copied the Rembrandt at the Hotel Netherlands,
going there at odd hours, and made a perfect duplicate of it--a
dangerous one, as the Hollander laughingly suggested. Jack applied the
finishing touches at his studio, and artfully gave the canvas an
appearance of age. He was to receive the promised payment when he
delivered the painting at the Hotel Netherlands, and he had confidently
expected it. But, as has been seen, Martin Von Whele had gone home in
haste, leaving no letter or message. For the present there was no
likelihood of getting a cheque from him.

The brightness of the day aggravated Jack's disappointment as he walked
back to the little street just off the Boulevard St. Germain. He tried
to look cheerful as he mounted the stairs and threw the duplicate
Rembrandt into a corner of the studio, behind a stack of unfinished
sketches. Diane entered from the bedroom, ravishingly dressed for the
street in a costume that well set off her perfect figure. She was a
picture of beauty with her ivory complexion, her mass of dark brown
hair, and the wonderfully large and deep eyes that had been one of her
chief charms at the Folies Bergere.

"Good boy!" she cried. "You did not keep me waiting long. But you look
as glum as a bear. What is the matter?"

Jack explained briefly, in an appealing voice.

"I'm awfully sorry for your sake, dear," he added. "We are down to our
last twenty-franc piece, but in another fortnight--"

"Then you won't take me?"

"How can I? Don't be unreasonable."

"You promised, Jack. And see, I am all ready. I won't stay at home!"

"Is it my fault, Diane? Can I help it that Von Whele has left Paris?"

"You can help it that you have no money. Oh, I wish I had not given up
the stage!"

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 5th Jun 2020, 22:03