The freakish little leader of the orchestra, newly imported from Sicily
to New York, tossed his conductor's wand excitedly through the air,
drowning with musical thunders the hum of conversation and the clatter
Yet neither his apish demeanour nor the deafening noises that responded
to every movement of his agile body detracted attention from the figure
of Reginald Clarke and the young man at his side as they smilingly wound
their way to the exit.
The boy's expression was pleasant, with an inkling of wistfulness, while
the soft glimmer of his lucid eyes betrayed the poet and the dreamer.
The smile of Reginald Clarke was the smile of a conqueror. A suspicion
of silver in his crown of dark hair only added dignity to his bearing,
while the infinitely ramified lines above the heavy-set mouth spoke at
once of subtlety and of strength. Without stretch of the imagination one
might have likened him to a Roman cardinal of the days of the Borgias,
who had miraculously stepped forth from the time-stained canvas and
slipped into twentieth century evening-clothes.
With the affability of complete self-possession he nodded in response to
greetings from all sides, inclining his head with special politeness to
a young woman whose sea-blue eyes were riveted upon his features with a
look of mingled hate and admiration.
The woman, disregarding his silent salutation, continued to stare at him
wild-eyed, as a damned soul in purgatory might look at Satan passing in
regal splendour through the seventy times sevenfold circles of hell.
Reginald Clarke walked on unconcernedly through the rows of gay diners,
still smiling, affable, calm. But his companion bethought himself of
certain rumours he had heard concerning Ethel Brandenbourg's mad love
for the man from whose features she could not even now turn her eyes.
Evidently her passion was unreciprocated. It had not always been so.
There was a time in her career, some years ago in Paris, when it was
whispered that she had secretly married him and, not much later,
obtained a divorce. The matter was never cleared up, as both preserved
an uncompromising silence upon the subject of their matrimonial
experience. Certain it was that, for a space, the genius of Reginald
Clarke had completely dominated her brush, and that, ever since he had
thrown her aside, her pictures were but plagiarisms of her former
The cause of the rupture between them was a matter only of surmise; but
the effect it had on the woman testified clearly to the remarkable power
of Reginald Clarke. He had entered her life and, behold! the world was
transfixed on her canvases in myriad hues of transcending radiance; he
had passed from it, and with him vanished the brilliancy of her
colouring, as at sunset the borrowed amber and gold fade from the face
of the clouds.