‘TWAS IN THE INDIAN SUMMER
Tale Of An Actress.
The next day, just as we were sitting down to dinner, the news came that Namur had fallen. The German army had marched singing into the burning town the afternoon before. The Youngster had his head over a map almost all through dinner. The Belgians were practically pushed out of all but Antwerp, and the Germans were rapidly approaching the natural defences of France running from Lille to Verdun, through Valenciennes, Mauberge, Hirson and Mezieres.
Things were beginning to look serious, although we still insisted on believing that the Germans could not break through. One result of the march of events was that we none of us had any longer the smallest desire to argue. Theories were giving way to the facts of every day, but in our minds, I imagine, we were every one of us asking, “How long CAN we stay here? How long will it be wise, even if we are permitted?” But, as if by common consent, no one asked the question, and we were only too glad to sit out in the garden we had all learned to love, and to talk of anything which was not war, until the Critic moved his chair into the middle of the circle, and began his tale.
“Let me see,” he remarked. “I need a property or two,” and he pulled an envelope out of his pocket and laid it on the table, and, leaning his elbows on it, began:
* * * * *
It was in the Autumn of ’81 that I last saw Dillon act.
She had made a great success that winter, yet, in the middle of the season, she had suddenly disappeared.
There were all kinds of newspaper explanations.
Then she was forgotten by the public that had enthusiastically applauded her, and which only sighed sadly, a year later, on hearing of her death, in a far off Italian town,–sighed, talked a little, and forgot again.
It chanced that a few years later I was in Italy, and being not many miles from the town where I heard that she was buried, and a trifle overstrung by a few months delicious, aimless life in that wonderful country, I was taken with a sentimental fancy to visit her grave.
It was a sort of pilgrimage for me, for I had given to Dillon my first boyish devotion.
I thought of her, and to remember her was to recall her rare charm, her beauty, her success, after a long struggle, and the unexpected, inexplicable manner in which she had abandoned it. It was to recall, too, the delightful evenings I had spent under her influence, the pleasure I had had in the passion of her “Juliet,” the poetic charm of her “Viola”; the graceful witchery of her “Rosalind”; how I had smiled with her “Portia”; laughed with her “Beatrice”; wept with her “Camille”; in fact how I had yielded myself up to her magnetism with that ecstatic pleasure in which one gets the best joys of every passion, because one does not drain the dregs of any.
I well remembered her last night, how she had disappeared, how she had gone to Europe, how she had died abroad,–all mere facts known in their bareness only to the public.
It was hard to find the place where she was buried. But at last I succeeded.
It was in a humble churchyard. The grave was noticeable because it was well kept, and utterly devoid of the tawdry ornamentation inseparable from such places in Italy. It was marked by a monument distinctly unique in a European country. It was a huge unpolished boulder, over which creeping green vines were growing.
On its rough surface a cross was cut, and underneath were the words: