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The Count And The Wedding Guest
by [?]

Through the open gates of the iron-railed, old, downtown park, where the elect once took the air, they strolled, and found a quiet bench.

There is this difference between the grief of youth and that of old age: youth’s burden is lightened by as much of it as another shares; old age may give and give, but the sorrow remains the same.

“He was my fiance,” confided Miss Conway, at the end of an hour. “We were going to be married next spring. I don’t want you to think that I am stringing you, Mr. Donovan, but he was a real Count. He had an estate and a castle in Italy. Count Fernando Mazzini was his name. I never saw the beat of him for elegance. Papa objected, of course, and once we eloped, but papa overtook us, and took us back. I thought sure papa and Fernando would fight a duel. Papa has a livery business–in P’kipsee, you know.”

“Finally, papa came ’round, all right, and said we might be married next spring. Fernando showed him proofs of his title and wealth, and then went over to Italy to get the castle fixed up for us. Papa’s very proud, and when Fernando wanted to give me several thousand dollars for my trousseau he called him down something awful. He wouldn’t even let me take a ring or any presents from him. And when Fernando sailed I came to the city and got a position as cashier in a candy store.”

“Three days ago I got a letter from Italy, forwarded from P’kipsee, saying that Fernando had been killed in a gondola accident.”

“That is why I am in mourning. My heart, Mr. Donovan, will remain forever in his grave. I guess I am poor company, Mr. Donovan, but I cannot take any interest in no one. I should not care to keep you from gayety and your friends who can smile and entertain you. Perhaps you would prefer to walk back to the house?”

Now, girls, if you want to observe a young man hustle out after a pick and shovel, just tell him that your heart is in some other fellow’s grave. Young men are grave-robbers by nature. Ask any widow. Something must be done to restore that missing organ to weeping angels in crepe de Chine. Dead men certainly get the worst of it from all sides.

“I’m awfully sorry,” said Mr. Donovan, gently. “No, we won’t walk back to the house just yet. And don’t say you haven’t no friends in this city, Miss Conway. I’m awful sorry, and I want you to believe I’m your friend, and that I’m awful sorry.”

“I’ve got his picture here in my locket,” said Miss Conway, after wiping her eyes with her handkerchief. “I never showed it to anybody; but I will to you, Mr. Donovan, because I believe you to be a true friend.”

Mr. Donovan gazed long and with much interest at the photograph in the locket that Miss Conway opened for him. The face of Count Mazzini was one to command interest. It was a smooth, intelligent, bright, almost a handsome face–the face of a strong, cheerful man who might well be a leader among his fellows.

“I have a larger one, framed, in my room,” said Miss Conway. “When we return I will show you that. They are all I have to remind me of Fernando. But he ever will be present in my heart, that’s a sure thing.”

A subtle task confronted Mr. Donovan,–that of supplanting the unfortunate Count in the heart of Miss Conway. This his admiration for her determined him to do. But the magnitude or the undertaking did not seem to weigh upon his spirits. The sympathetic but cheerful friend was the role he essayed; and he played it so successfully that the next half-hour found them conversing pensively across two plates of ice-cream, though yet there wars no diminution of the sadness in Miss Conway’s large gray eyes.

Before they parted in the hall that evening she ran upstairs and brought down the framed photograph wrapped lovingly in a white silk scarf. Mr. Donovan surveyed it with inscrutable eyes.

“He gave me this the night he left for Italy,” said Miss Conway. “I had the one for the locket made from this.”