Read CHAPTER IX of The Beautiful Miss Brooke , free online book, by Louis Zangwill, on

HE wandered he knew not whither, penetrating into strange, silent regions his foot had never trod. At the end of an hour he found he had taken a long circuit round, and that he had arrived again at the hotel where Lisa lived. He crossed the narrow street, and, standing in the shadow, looked up at the window he knew so well. It stood wide open, and he could see the white ceiling of the lighted room, with the huge Japanese umbrella making a glare of colour against it. In the balcony sat two figures full in the light that flooded out. One was Miss Brooke, the other a stalwart young man in a Norfolk suit he could not recollect having seen before. A vague sound of their cheerful talking came down to him.

He turned away with a sigh, and strode rapidly to his lodging. He lighted his lamp, and, sinking into a chair, sat looking at his trunks. The labels with their bold ornamental lettering “Middleton, Paris a Perros-Guirec” stared him mockingly in the face. He averted his eyes, instinctively seeking in his pocket for his mother’s letter, which he had till now forgotten, and was surprised to find it rolled into a ball. Smoothing it out, he read it through again.

“Write to me, dear Paul, direct there, or, better still, come down and surprise us. Celia, I am sure, will be delighted to see you. I never understood what happened between you two exactly. You said ‘good-bye’ so stiffly that I made sure you had quarrelled, though Celia assures me that it was not so. She is a dear, good girl, and I love her as if she were my own daughter.”

And with these words he seemed to read the inevitableness of his fate. His rebellion against it was over. He had broken loose from the maternal leading-strings, but had made a miserable failure without them. Now he would help to fix them on him again.

The millionaire’s daughter, the keynote of whose character had struck him as a charming, simple frankness, and in pursuit of whom he had set out, had proved to be a more complex specimen of womanhood than he could have imagined to exist, the very essence of that femininity of which he had always had an instinctive distrust. Celia was not brilliant, but she was safe he knew her well enough to be sure of that.

He seized a small brush and inked over the flamboyant “Perros-Guirec,” writing over the black strip the word “Dieppe” in the plainest of lettering. Then, finishing what little packing there remained to be done, he went out to consult a time-table at a neighbouring cafe, where he wrote and posted a note to his professor, and another to the massier of his class. He next hailed a cab at the rank, and the concierge carried down his trunks. “A la gare St. Lazare!

The cocher cracked his whip, and Paul, lost in thought, was only vaguely conscious of the streets and boulevards that had become so dear to him.