The Man and the Moment HTML version

M R. ELIAS CLOUDWATER came up the steps of the Savoy Hotel at Carlsbad, and called
to the Arab who was waiting about:
"Has the Princess come in from her drive yet?"
He was informed that she had not, and he sat down in the verandah to wait. He was both
an American gentleman and an American father, therefore he was accustomed to waiting
for his women folk and did not fidget. He read the New York Herald, and when he had
devoured the share list, he glanced at the society news and read that, among others who
were expected at the Bohemian health resort that day, was Lord Fordyce, motoring, for a
stay of three weeks for the cure.
He did not know this gentleman personally, and the fact would not have arrested his
attention at all only that he chanced to be interested in English politics. He wondered
vaguely if he would be an agreeable acquisition to the place, and then turned to more
thrilling things. Presently a slender young woman came down the path through the woods
and leisurely entered the gate. Mr. Cloudwater watched her, and a kindly smile lit his
face. He thought how pretty she was, and how glad he was that she had joined Moravia
and himself again this summer. The months when she went off by herself to her house in
Brittany always seemed very long. He saw her coming from far enough to be able to take
in every detail about her. Extreme slenderness and extreme grace were her distinctive
marks. The face was childish and rounded in outline, but when you looked into the violet
eyes there was some shadow of a story hidden there. She was about twenty-two years old,
and was certainly not at Carlsbad for any reasons of cure, for her glowing complexion
told a tale of radiant health.
Her white clothes were absolutely perfect in their simplicity, and so was her air of
unconcern and indifference. "The enigma" her friends often called her. She seemed so
frank and simple, and no one ever got beyond the wall of what she was really thinking—
what did she do with her life? It seemed ridiculous that any one so rich and attractive and
young should care to pass long periods of time at a wild spot near Finisterre, in an old
château perched upon the rocks, completely alone but for an elderly female companion.
There was, of course, some hidden tragedy about her husband—who was a raging lunatic
or an inebriate shut up somewhere—perhaps there! They had had to part at once—he had
gone mad on the wedding journey, some believed, but others said this was not at all the
case, and that she had married an Indian chief and then parted from him immediately in
America—finding out the horror of being wedded to a savage. No one knew anything for