Read CHAPTER XI - A CANCELED RESERVATION of The Triflers , free online book, by Frederick Orin Bartlett, on ReadCentral.com.

Though it was late when he retired, Monte found himself wide awake at half past seven. Springing from bed, he took his cold tub, shaved, and after dressing proceeded to pack his bags. The process was simple; he called the hotel valet, gave the order to have them ready as soon as possible, and went below. From the office he telephoned upstairs to Marie, and learned that madame would meet him in the breakfast-room at nine. This left him a half-hour in which to pay his bill at the hotel, order a reservation on the express to Calais, and buy a large bunch of fresh violets, which he had placed on the breakfast table a little table in a sunshiny corner.

Monte was calmer this morning than he had been the night before. He was rested; the interval of eight hours that had passed since he last saw her gave him, however slight, a certain perspective, while his normal surroundings, seen in broad daylight, tended to steady him further. The hotel clerk, busy about his uninspired duties; the impassive waiters in black and white; the solid-looking Englishmen and their wives who began to make their appearance, lent a sense of unreality to the events of yesterday.

Yet, even so, his thoughts clung tenaciously to the necessity of his departure. In a way, the very normality of this morning world emphasized that necessity. He recalled that it was to just such a day as this he had awakened, yesterday. The hotel clerk had been standing exactly where he was now, sorting the morning mail, stopping every now and then with a troubled frown to make out an indistinct address. The corpulent porter in his blue blouse stood exactly where he was now standing, jealously guarding the door. Vehicles had been passing this way and that on the street outside. He had heard the same undertone of leisurely moving life the scuffling of feet, the closing of doors, distant voices, the rumble of traffic. Then, after this lazy prelude, he had been swept on and on to the final dizzy climax.

That must not happen again. At this moment he knew he had a firm grip on himself but at this moment yesterday he had felt even more secure. There had been no past then. That seemed a big word to use for such recent events covering so few hours; and yet it was none too big. It covered nothing less than the revelation of a man to himself. If that process sometimes takes years, it is none the less significant if it takes place in a day.

“Good-morning, Monte.”

He turned quickly so quickly that she started in surprise.

“Is anything the matter?” she asked.

She was in blue this morning, and wore at an angle a broad-brimmed hat trimmed with black and white. He thought her eyes looked a trifle tired. He would have said she had not slept well.

“I I didn’t know you were down,” he faltered.

The interval of six hours upon which he had been depending vanished instantly. To-day was but the continuation of yesterday. As he moved toward the breakfast-room at her side, the outside world disappeared as by magic, leaving only her world the world immediately about her, which she dominated. This room which she entered by his side was no longer merely the salle-a-manger of the Normandie. He was conscious of no portion of it other than that which included their table. All the sunshine in the world concentrated into the rays that fell about her.

He felt this, and yet at the same time he was aware of the absurdity of such exaggeration. It was the sort of thing that annoyed him when he saw it in others. All those newly married couples he used to meet on the German liners were afflicted in this same way. Each one of them acted as if the ship were their ship, the ocean their ocean, even the blue sky and the stars at night their sky and their stars. When he was in a good humor, he used to laugh at this; when in a bad humor, it disgusted him.

“Monte,” she said, as soon as they were seated, “I was depending upon you this morning.”

She studied him a second, and then tried to smile, adding quickly:

“I don’t like you to disappoint me like this.”

“What do you mean?” he asked nervously.

She frowned, but it was at herself, not at him. It did not do much except make dimples between her brows.

“I lay awake a good deal last night thinking,” she answered.

“Good Lord!” he exclaimed. “You ought n’t to have done that!”

“It was n’t wise,” she admitted. “But I looked forward to the daylight and you to bring me back to normal.”

“Well, here we are,” he hastened to assure her. “I had the sun up ready for you several hours ago.”

“You you look so serious.”

She leaned forward.

“Monte,” she pleaded, “you must n’t go back on me like that now. I suppose women can’t help getting the fidgets once in a while and thinking all sorts of things. I was tired. I ’m not used to being so very gay. And I let myself go a little, because I thought in the morning I ’d find you the same old Monte. I ’ve known you so long, and you always have been the same.”

“It was a pretty exciting day for both of us,” he tried to explain.

“How for you?”

“Well, to start with, one does n’t get married every morning.”

He saw her cheeks flush. Then she drew back.

“I think we ought to forget that as much as possible,” she told him.

Here was his opportunity. The way to forget the only way was for him to continue with his interrupted schedule to England, and for her to go on alone to Etois. It was not too late for that if he started at once. Surely it ought to be the matter of only a few weeks to undo a single day. Let him get the tang of the salt air, let him go to bed every night dog-tired physically, let him get out of sight of her eyes and lips, and that something intangible as a perfume that emanated from her, and doubtless he would be laughing at himself as heartily as he had laughed at others.

But he could not frame the words. His lips refused to move. Not only that, but, facing her here, it seemed a grossly brutal thing to do. She looked so gentle and fragile this morning as, picking up the violets, she half hid her face in them.

“You mean we ought to go back to the day before yesterday?” he asked.

“In our thoughts,” she answered.

“And forget that we are ”

She nodded quickly, not allowing him to finish.

“Because,” she explained, “I think it must be that which is making you serious. I don’t know you that way. It is n’t you. I ’ve seen you all these years, wandering around wherever your fancy took you care-free and smiling. I’ve always envied you, and now I thought you were just going to keep right on, only taking me with you. Is n’t that what we planned?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “We started yesterday.”

“I shall never forget that part of yesterday,” she said.

“It was n’t so bad, except for Hamilton.”

“It was n’t so bad even with Hamilton,” she corrected. “I don’t think I can ever be afraid of him again.”

“Then it was n’t he that bothered you last night?” he asked quickly.

“No,” she answered.

“It it was n’t I?”

She laughed uneasily.

“No, Monte; because you were just yourself yesterday.”

He wondered about that. He wondered, if he placed before her all the facts, including the hours after he left her, if she would have said that. Here was his second opportunity to tell her what he had planned. If he did not intend to go on, he should speak now. To-morrow it would be too late. By noon it would be too late. By the time they finished their breakfast, it would be too late.

He met her eyes. They were steady as planets. They were honest and clear and clean and confident. They trusted him, and he knew it. He took a deep breath and leaned forward. Impulsively she leaned across the table and placed her hand upon his.

“Dear old Monte,” she breathed.

It was too late now! He saw her in a sort of mist of dancing golden motes. He felt the steady throb of her pulse.

She withdrew her hand as quickly as she had given it. It was as if she did not dare allow it to remain there. It was that which made him smile with a certain confidence of his own.

“What we’d better do,” he said, “is to get out of Paris. I’m afraid the pace here is too hot for us.”

“To Etois?” she asked.

“That’s as good a place as any. Could you start this afternoon?”

“If you wish.”

“The idea is to move on as soon as you begin to think,” he explained, with his old-time lightness. “Of course, the best way is to walk. If you can’t walk why, the next best thing ”

He paused a moment to consider a new idea. It was odd that it had never occurred to him before.

“I have it!” he continued. “We’ll go to Etois by motor. It’s a beautiful drive down there. I made the trip alone three years ago in a car I owned. We’ll take our time, putting up at the little villages along the way. We’ll let the sun soak into us. We’ll get away from people. It’s people who make you worry. I have a notion it will be good for us both. This Hamilton episode has left us a bit morbid. What we need is something to bring us back to normal.”

“I’d love it,” she fell in eagerly. “We’ll just play gypsy.”

“Right. Now, what you want to do is to throw into a dress-suitcase a few things, and we’ll ship the trunks by rail to Nice. All you need is a toothbrush, a change of socks, and ”

“There’s Marie,” she interrupted.

“Can’t we ship her by rail too?”

“No, Monte,” she answered, with a decided shake of her head.

“But, hang it all, people don’t go a-gypsying with French maids!”

“Why not?” she demanded.

She asked the question quite honestly. He had forgotten Marie utterly until this moment, and she seemed to join the party like an intruder. Always she would be upon the back seat.

“Wouldn’t you feel freer without her?” he asked.

“I should n’t feel at all proper,” she declared.

“Then we might just as well not have been married.”

“Only,” she laughed, “if we had n’t taken that precaution it would n’t have been proper for me to go, even with Marie.”

“I’m glad we’ve accomplished something, anyhow,” he answered good-naturedly.

“We’ve accomplished a great deal,” she assured him. “Yesterday morning I could n’t at this time have done even the proper things and felt proper. Oh, you don’t know how people look at you, and how that look makes you feel, even when you know better. I could n’t have sat here at breakfast with you and felt comfortable. Now we can sit here and plan a wonderful trip like this. It’s all because you’re just Monte.”

“And you just you!”

“Only I don’t count for anything. It makes me feel even more selfish than I am.”

“Don’t count?” he exclaimed. “Why ”

He stifled the words that sprang to his lips. It was only because she thought she did not count that she was able to feel comfortable. Once let her know that she counted as at that moment she did count to him, and even what little happiness he was able to bring her would vanish. He would be to her then merely one of the others even as he was to himself.

He rose abruptly.

“I must see about getting a machine,” he said. “I want to start this afternoon if possible.”

“I’ll be ready,” she agreed.

As they went out to the office, the clerk stepped up to him.

“I have secured the reservation, monsieur,” he announced.

“Please cancel it,” replied Monte.

“Reservation?” inquired Marjory.

“On the Calais express for a friend of mine who has decided not to go,” he answered.