Read CHAPTER XXVI of Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo , free online book, by E. Phillips Oppenheim, on


Fedora sauntered slowly around the rooms, leaning over and staking a gold plaque here and there. She was dressed as usual in white, with an ermine turban hat and stole and an enormous muff. Her hair seemed more golden than ever beneath its snow-white setting, and her complexion more dazzling. She seemed utterly unconscious of the admiration which her appearance evoked, and she passed Lane without apparently observing him. A moment afterwards, however, he moved to her side and addressed her.

“Quite a lucky coup of yours, that last, Miss Grex. Are you used to winning en plein like that?”

She turned her head and looked at him. Her eyebrows were ever so slightly uplifted. Her expression was chilling. He remained, however, absolutely unconscious of any impending trouble.

“I was sorry not to find you at home this morning,” he continued. “I brought my little racing car round for you to see. I thought you might have liked to try her.”

“How absurd you are!” she murmured. “You must know perfectly well that it would have been quite impossible for me to come out with you alone.”

“But why?”

She sighed.

“You are quite hopeless, or you pretend to be!”

“If I am,” he replied, “it is because you won’t explain things to me properly. The tables are much too crowded to play comfortably. Won’t you come and sit down for a few minutes?”

She hesitated. Lane watched her anxiously. He felt, somehow, that a great deal depended upon her reply. Presently, with the slightest possible shrug of the shoulders, she turned around and suffered him to walk by her side to the little antechamber which divided the gambling rooms from the restaurant.

“Very well,” she decided, “I suppose, after all, one must remember that you did save us from a great deal of inconvenience the other night. I will talk to you for a few minutes.”

He found her an easy-chair and he sat by her side.

“This is bully,” he declared.

“Is what?” she asked, once more raising her eyebrows.

“American slang,” he explained penitently. “I am sorry. I meant that it was very pleasant to be here alone with you for a few minutes.”

“You may not find it so, after all,” she said severely. “I feel that I have a duty to perform.”

“Well, don’t let’s bother about that yet, if it means a lecture,” he begged. “You shall tell me how much better the young women of your country behave than the young women of mine.”

“Thank you,” she replied, “I am never interested in the doings of a democracy. Your country makes no appeal to me at all.”

“Come,” he protested, “that’s a little too bad. Why, Russia may be a democracy some day, you know. You very nearly had a republic foisted upon you after the Japanese war.”

“You are quite mistaken,” she assured him. “Russia would never tolerate a republic.”

“Russia will some day have to do like many other countries,” he answered firmly, “obey the will of the people.”

“Russia has nothing in common with other countries,” she asserted. “There was never a nation yet in which the aristocracy was so powerful.”

“It’s only a matter of time,” he declared, nonchalantly.

She shrugged her shoulders.

“You represent ideas of which I do not approve,” she told him.

“I don’t care a fig about any ideas,” he replied. “I don’t care much about anything in the world except you.”

She turned her head slowly and looked at him. Its angle was supercilious, her tone frigid.

“That sort of a speech may pass for polite conversation in your country, Mr. Lane. We do not understand it in mine.”

“Don’t your men ever tell your women that they love them?” he asked bluntly.

“If they are of the same order,” she said, “if the thing is at all possible, it may sometimes be done. Marriage, however, is more a matter of alliance with us. Our servants, I believe, are quite promiscuous in their love-making.”

He was silent for a moment. She may, perhaps, have felt some compunction. She spoke to him a little more kindly.

“We cannot help the ideas of the country in which we are brought up, you know, Mr. Lane.”

“Of course not,” he agreed. “I understand that perfectly. I was just thinking, though, what a lot I shall have to teach you.”

She was momentarily aghast. She recovered herself quickly, however.

“Are all the men of your nation so self-confident?”

“We have to be,” he told her. “It’s the only way we can get what we want.”

“And do you always succeed in getting what you want?”


“Then unless you wish to be an exception,” she advised, “let me beg you not to try for anything beyond your reach.”

“There is nothing,” he declared firmly, “beyond my reach. You are trying to discourage me. It isn’t any use. I am not a prince or a duke or anything like that, although my ancestors were honest enough, I believe. I haven’t any trappings of that sort to offer you. If you are as sensible as I think you are, you won’t mind that when you come to think it over. The only thing I am ashamed of is my money, because I didn’t earn it for myself. You can live in palaces still, if you want to, and if you want to be a queen I’ll ferret out a kingdom somewhere and buy it, but I am afraid you’ll have to be Mrs. Lane behind it all, you know.”

“You really are the most intolerable person,” she exclaimed, biting her lip. “How can I get these absurd ideas out of your mind?”

“By telling me honestly, looking in my eyes all the time, that you could never care for me a little bit, however devoted I was,” he answered promptly. “You won’t be able to do it. I’ve only one belief in life about these things, and that is that when any one cares for a girl as I care for you, it’s absolutely impossible for her to be wholly indifferent. It isn’t much to start with, I know, but the rest will come. Be honest with me. Is there any one of the men of your country whom you have met, whom you want to marry?”

She frowned slightly. She found herself, at that moment, comparing him with certain young men of her acquaintance. She was astonished to realise that the comparison was all in his favour. It was for her an extraordinary moment. She had indeed been brought up in palaces and the men whom she had known had been reckoned the salt of the earth. Yet, at that crisis, she was most profoundly conscious that not all the glamour of those high-sounding names, the picturesque interest of those gorgeous uniforms, nor the men themselves, magnificent in their way, were able to make the slightest appeal to her. She remembered some of her own bitter words when an alliance with one of them had been suggested to her. It was she, then, who had been the first to ignore the divine heritage of birth, who had spoken of their drinking habits, pointed to their life of idle luxury and worse than luxury. The man who was at the present moment her suitor forced himself upon her recollection. She knew quite well that he represented a type. They were of the nobility, and they seemed to her in that one poignant but unwelcome moment, hatefully degenerate, men no self-respecting girl could ever think of. Family influence, stern parental words, the call of her order, had half crushed these thoughts. They came back now, however, with persistent force.

“You see,” Richard Lane went on, “it mayn’t be much that I have to offer you, but in your heart I know you feel what it means to be offered the love of a man who doesn’t want you just because you are of his order, or because you are the daughter of a Personage, or for any other reason than because he cares for you as he has cared for no other woman on earth, and because, without knowing it, he has waited for you.”

She moved restlessly in her chair. Their conversation was not going in the least along the lines which she had intended. She suddenly remembered her own disquiet of the day before, her curious longing to steal off on some excuse to-day. A week ago she would have been content to have dawdled away the afternoon in the grounds of the villa. Something different had come. From the moment she had entered the rooms, although she had never acknowledged it, she had been conscious, pleasurably conscious of his presence. She was suddenly uneasy.

“I am afraid,” she murmured, “that you are quite hopeless.”

“If you mean that I am without hope, you are wrong,” he answered sturdily. “From the moment I met you I have had but one thought, and until the last day of my life I shall have but one thought, and that thought is of you. There may be no end of difficulties, but I come of an obstinate race. I have patience as well as other things.”

She was avoiding looking at him now. She looked instead at her clasped hands.

“I wish I could make you understand,” she said, in a low tone, “how impossible all this is. In England and America I know that it is different. There, marriages of a certain sort are freely made between different classes. But in Russia these things are not thought of. Supposing that all you said were true. Supposing, even, that I had the slightest disposition to listen to you. Do you realise that there isn’t one of my family who wouldn’t cry out in horror at the thought of my marrying forgive me marrying a commoner of your rank in life?”

“They can cry themselves hoarse, as they’ll have to some day,” he replied cheerfully. “As for you, Miss Fedora you don’t mind my calling you Miss Fedora, do you? you’ll be glad some day that you were born at the beginning of a new era. You may be a pioneer in the new ways, but you may take my word for it that you won’t be the last. Please have courage. Please try and be yourself, won’t you?”

“But how do you know what I am?” she protested. “Or even what I am like? We have spoken only a few words. Nothing has passed between us which could possibly have inspired you with such feelings as you speak of,” she added, colouring slightly. “It is a fancy of yours, quite too absurd a fancy. Now that I find myself discussing it with you as though, indeed, we were talking of it seriously, I am inclined to laugh. You are just a very foolish young man, Mr. Lane.”

He shook his head.

“Look here,” he said, “I am very good at meaning things, but it’s awfully hard for me to put my thoughts into words. I can’t explain how it’s all come about. I don’t know why, amongst all the girls I’ve seen in my own country, or England, or Paris, or anywhere, there hasn’t been one who could bring me the things which you bring, who could fill my mind with the thoughts you fill it with, who could make my days stand still and start again, who could upset the whole machinery of my life so that when you come I want to dance with happiness, and when you go the day is over with me. There is no chance of my being able to explain this to you, because other fellows, much cleverer than I, have been in the same box, and they’ve had to come to the conclusion, too, that there isn’t any explanation. I have accepted it. I want you to. I love you, Fedora, and I will be faithful to you all my life. You shall live where you choose and how you choose, but you must be my wife. There isn’t any way out of it for either of us.”

She sat quite still for several moments. They were a little behind the curtain and it chanced that there was no one in their immediate vicinity. She felt her fingers suddenly gripped. They were released again almost at once, but a queer sensation of something overmastering seemed to creep through her whole being at the touch of his hand. She rose to her feet.

“I am going away,” she declared.

“I haven’t offended you?” he begged. “Please sit down. We haven’t half talked over things yet.”

“We have talked too much,” she answered. “I don’t know really what has come over me that I have let you that I listen to you ”

“It is because you feel the truth of what I say,” he insisted. “Don’t get up, Fedora. Don’t go away, dear. Let us have at least these few minutes together. I’ll do exactly as you tell me. I’ll come to your father or I’ll carry you off. I have a sister here. She’ll be your friend ”

“Don’t!” the girl stopped him. “Please don’t!”

She sat down in her chair again. Her fingers were twisted together, her slim form was tense with stifled emotions.

“Have I been a brute?” he asked softly. “You must forgive me, Fedora. I am not much used to girls and I am sort of carried away myself, only I want you to believe that there’s the real thing in my heart. I’ll make you just as happy as a woman can be. Don’t shake your head, dear. I want you to trust me and believe in me.”

“I think you’re a most extraordinary person,” she said at last. “Do you know, I’m beginning to be really afraid of you.”

“You’re not,” he insisted. “You’re afraid of yourself. You’re afraid because you see the downfall of the old ideas. You’re afraid because you know that you’re going to be a renegade. You can see nothing but trouble ahead just now. I’ll take you right away from that.”

There was the rustle of skirts, a soft little laugh. Richard rose to his feet promptly. He had never been so pleased in all his life to welcome his sister.

“Flossie,” he exclaimed, “I’m ever so glad you came along! I want to present Miss Grex to you. This is my sister, Miss Fedora Lady Weybourne. I was just going to ask Miss Grex to have some tea with me,” he went on, “but I am not sure that she would have considered it proper. Do come along and be chaperone.”

Lady Weybourne laughed.

“I shall be delighted,” she declared. “I have seen you here once or twice before, haven’t I, Miss Grex, and some one told me that you were Russian. I suppose you are not in the least used to the free and easy ways of us Westerners, but you’ll come and have some tea with us, won’t you?”

The girl hesitated. Fate was too strong for her.

“I shall be very pleased,” she agreed.

They found a window table and Lane ordered tea. Fedora was inclined to be silent at first, but Lady Weybourne was quite content to chatter. By degrees Fedora, too, came back to earth and they had a very gay little tea-party. At the end of it they all strolled back into the rooms together. Fedora glanced at the watch upon her wrist and held out her hand to Lady Weybourne.

“I am sorry,” she said, “but I must hurry away now. It is very kind of you to ask me to come and see you, Lady Weybourne. I shall be charmed.”

Richard ignored her fingers.

“I am going to see you down to your car, if I may,” he begged.

They left the room together. She looked at him as they descended the stairs, almost tremulously.

“This doesn’t mean, you know,” she said, “that I that I agree to all you have been saying.”

“It needn’t mean anything at all, dear,” he replied. “This is only the beginning. I don’t expect you to realise all that I have realised quite so quickly, but I do want you to keep it in your mind that this thing has come and that it can’t be got rid of. I won’t do anything foolish. If it is necessary I will wait, but I am your lover now, as I always must be.”

He handed her into the car, the footman, in his long white livery, standing somberly on one side. As they drove off she gave him her fingers, and he walked back up the steps with the smile upon his lips that comes to a man only once or twice in his lifetime.