A REVERSIBLE SCANDAL.
How a Waiter told One Tale to two Persons.
The Hon. James Eddystone was attached to the Foreign Office. Not so much attached to it, though, that he did not enjoy his holidays when they came. Circumstances had forced him to take his vacation late, and it was far into September when he found himself at Lucerne, on his way back from Italy. The season was over at Lucerne, and one or two of the big hotels had already shut up for the winter. Some of the others were only waiting impatiently for their present visitors to depart to close their shutters and go to sleep for a few months.
“We haf rooms got,” said the waiter, who received Eddystone in the hall of one of the minor hotels. He was not a Swiss— few people are in Switzerland. He spoke a little crossly and looked now and again at the clerk, who could be seen through the glass window of his office dozing.
“We haf rooms got; but we go soon to close de hotel.”
“Well, well,” said the Hon. James, impatiently; “I suppose I can stay here to-night?”
“Certain,” said the waiter, with a look of relief — “for to-night, yes. You leave for Pa-ris tomorrow, sare, eh?”
Eddystone said he proposed to do so. The clerk woke up, and the waiter smiled and remarked that it vos ver’ fine vedder, and added that there was one lady (ver’ nice young lady) staying in the hotel already.
When Eddystone came downstairs for dinner, he found the lady at the other end of the long dinner- table. They looked at each other furtively through a long vista of glass, and silver table ornaments, and of white napkins. The waiter attended to both with considerable cheerfulness and obvious gayety. When the young lady rose, the Hon. James politely rose, also, and bowed to her at a distance of forty yards as she left the room. Then he finished his dessert and smoked his cigar.
The piano in the reading-room sent music gratefully to the ear of the Hon. James. It was well played, and from it came snatches of Mascagni, and snatches of Cellier, and snatches of Sullivan. The cachuca from “The Gondoliers” made the Hon. James throw away his cigar and start up.
“I’m going to have a chat with this damsel,” he said to himself.
The damsel seemed not sorry to be interrupted. She was a very charming girl, with quiet gray eyes, and tiny slippers, and — it was, of course, very rude of the Hon. James to look, but he could not help it — a well-turned, silk-stockinged ankle.
“It depends on to-morrow’s post,” she said, “when I leave. My aunt, Lady Betty Ffytche, is detained at Florence, and if she comes on here I think I shall wait for her. If she goes straight to London I shall start to-morrow.”
“Not afraid to travel alone?” inquired the Hon. James.
The young lady lifted her eyebrows and laughed a little.
“Oh, no,” she said; ” I can take care of myself.”
The Hon. James thought that so pretty a damsel might well take care of somebody else. As he stood at the fire he looked at her as she turned again to play, and thought what a delightful companion she would make.
“Good-night, sare,” said the waiter the last thing. “You go by airly train in morning, eh?”
“Well, no,” said Eddystone thoughtfully, as he stood at the door of his room; “not early. In fact, I may stay here a day or two.”
The waiter nearly dropped the candlestick in his amazement. He went downstairs, and had, first, a long and earnest talk to himself, then an excited altercation with the clerk. When Eddystone was in bed, a knock came to his door. He was thinking of the delightful evening he had spent, and wondering whether the young lady herself was thinking of him. It would be very jolly to stay here a day or two and have a look at the Rigi and–another knock.
The waiter entered. He was profuse in his apologies, and “so ver’ sorry to disturb; but might he speak von leedle vord?”
“Fire away,” said the Hon. James.
“Consarning this lady,” explained the waiter; “ver’ pretty lady, yes; ver’ nice lady, yes; ver’ pleasant lady, yes; but…”
“Well, well?” said the Hon. James, impatiently, from his pillow.
“Vell,” explained the waiter, ” she vos here airly in the soomer and caused gr-r-r-eat scan-del” (the waiter, with his hands, described a large circle to give some idea of the enormity of the offense). “Oh, shocking, shocking, shocking!” The waiter was so much disturbed that he could scarce give the details; but there was, he said, this lady (checking them off on his fingers), and an officer, and an indignant wife who shot at the officer. “Nearly killed him through the heart, joost here,” said the waiter, making a click with his mouth, to represent the report, and sending his fist against his chest.
“Good gracious!” exclaimed Eddystone; “do you mean to tell me that this is the same lady?”
“Ver’ same lady,” said the waiter, cheerfully; “excuse me delling you, sare. You like to know, eh?”
“Get out of the room, you grinning jackanapes!” cried the Hon. James.
The waiter said “Pardon,” and went to the door.
“You no stay late to-morrow, don’t it?” he inquired.
“Late? No!” said the voice at the pillow; “first train, confound you!”
The next morning the Hon. James Eddystone walked over the bridge separating the town from the station at Lucerne. He had slept little, for he could not help thinking of the wickedness of the girl with whom he had fallen in love. He stood at the station and watched for the hotel bus. As it came along with his luggage, he saw that inside was the little lady; seated next the coachman was the waiter. The waiter was dressed for traveling, and looked very radiant. As the young lady stepped out of the back of the bus, she caught sight of the Hon. James, and, flushing, passed by him without acknowledging his involuntary bow.
The waiter, in his tweed suit, found compartments for each of his departing customers.
“You off?” inquired the Hon. James, as he gave him a final tip.
“Yes, sare. I go to-day to Chaux de Fonds to be married.”
“Yes, sare.” The waiter smiled as if possessed of a joke that he could not keep to himself. The engine whistled. “Dot vos for vhy I dell you last night some leedle stories. I vanted you to go airly thees morning. Oxcuse me, sare, daking grade liberty, but it was ver’ imbortant for me dot hotel should glose,” and the train went off.
At Pontarlier, the Hon. James went to the other compartment and explained everything.
“Do you know,” said the pretty niece of Lady Betty Ffytche, “he told me the same tale, only he said that you — you were the officer.” St. James’s Gazette.
The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 9 January 1893
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Pietro Mascagni was an Italian composer, perhaps most celebrated for his opera Cavalleria Rusticana. Alfred Cellier worked with Gilbert and Sullivan and composed the comic opera Dorothy, which has the distinction of being the longest-running piece of musical theatre of the nineteenth century. Sir Arthur Sullivan, of course, needs no introduction. It speaks well for the personal charms of the young lady that the Hon. James was able to overlook the horrors of the out-of-season-hotel piano.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.