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Act II--Vendale Makes Love
The summer and the autumn passed. Christmas and the New Year were at hand.
As executors honestly bent on performing their duty towards the dead, Vendale and
Bintrey had held more than one anxious consultation on the subject of Wilding's will. The
lawyer had declared, from the first, that it was simply impossible to take any useful
action in the matter at all. The only obvious inquiries to make, in relation to the lost man,
had been made already by Wilding himself; with this result, that time and death together
had not left a trace of him discoverable. To advertise for the claimant to the property, it
would be necessary to mention particulars--a course of proceeding which would invite
half the impostors in England to present themselves in the character of the true Walter
Wilding. "If we find a chance of tracing the lost man, we will take it. If we don't, let us
meet for another consultation on the first anniversary of Wilding's death." So Bintrey
advised. And so, with the most earnest desire to fulfil his dead friend's wishes, Vendale
was fain to let the matter rest for the present.
Turning from his interest in the past to his interest in the future, Vendale still found
himself confronting a doubtful prospect. Months on months had passed since his first
visit to Soho Square--and through all that time, the one language in which he had told
Marguerite that he loved her was the language of the eyes, assisted, at convenient
opportunities, by the language of the hand.
What was the obstacle in his way? The one immovable obstacle which had been in his
way from the first. No matter how fairly the opportunities looked, Vendale's efforts to
speak with Marguerite alone ended invariably in one and the same result. Under the most
accidental circumstances, in the most innocent manner possible, Obenreizer was always
in the way.
With the last days of the old year came an unexpected chance of spending an evening
with Marguerite, which Vendale resolved should be a chance of speaking privately to her
as well. A cordial note from Obenreizer invited him, on New Year's Day, to a little family
dinner in Soho Square. "We shall be only four," the note said. "We shall be only two,"
Vendale determined, "before the evening is out!"
New Year's Day, among the English, is associated with the giving and receiving of
dinners, and with nothing more. New Year's Day, among the foreigners, is the grand
opportunity of the year for the giving and receiving of presents. It is occasionally possible
to acclimatise a foreign custom. In this instance Vendale felt no hesitation about making
the attempt. His one difficulty was to decide what his New Year's gift to Marguerite
should be. The defensive pride of the peasant's daughter--morbidly sensitive to the
inequality between her social position and his--would be secretly roused against him if he
ventured on a rich offering. A gift, which a poor man's purse might purchase, was the one
gift that could be trusted to find its way to her heart, for the giver's sake. Stoutly resisting
temptation, in the form of diamonds and rubies, Vendale bought a brooch of the filagree-
work of Genoa--the simplest and most unpretending ornament that he could find in the
jeweller's shop.