The Guest of Quesnay
by Booth Tarkington
OVID BUTLER JAMESON
There are old Parisians who will tell you pompously that the
boulevards, like the political cafes, have ceased to exist, but this
means only that the boulevards no longer gossip of Louis Napoleon, the
Return of the Bourbons, or of General Boulanger, for these highways
are always too busily stirring with present movements not to be
forgetful of their yesterdays. In the shade of the buildings and
awnings, the loungers, the lookers-on in Paris, the audience of the
boulevard, sit at little tables, sipping coffee from long glasses,
drinking absinthe or bright- coloured sirops, and gazing over the
heads of throngs afoot at others borne along through the sunshine of
the street in carriages, in cabs, in glittering automobiles, or high
on the tops of omnibuses.
From all the continents the multitudes come to join in that
procession: Americans, tagged with race-cards and intending hilarious
disturbances; puzzled Americans, worn with guide-book plodding;
Chinese princes in silk; queer Antillean dandies of swarthy origin and
fortune; ruddy English, thinking of nothing; pallid English, with
upper teeth bared and eyes hungrily searching for sign-boards of
tea-rooms; over-Europeanised Japanese, unpleasantly immaculate;
burnoosed sheiks from the desert, and red-fezzed Semitic peddlers;
Italian nobles in English tweeds; Soudanese negroes swaggering in
frock coats; slim Spaniards, squat Turks, travellers, idlers, exiles,
fugitives, sportsmen—all the tribes and kinds of men are tributary
here to the Parisian stream which, on a fair day in spring, already
overflows the banks with its own much-mingled waters. Soberly clad
burgesses, bearded, amiable, and in no fatal hurry; well-kept men of
the world swirling by in miraculous limousines; legless cripples
flopping on hands and leather pads; thin-whiskered students in
velveteen; walrus-moustached veterans in broadcloth; keen-faced old
prelates; shabby young priests; cavalrymen in casque and cuirass;
workingmen turned horse and harnessed to carts; sidewalk jesters,
itinerant vendors of questionable wares; shady loafers dressed to
resemble gold-showering America; motor-cyclists in leather; hairy
musicians, blue gendarmes, baggy red zouaves; purple-faced, glazed-
hatted, scarlet-waistcoated, cigarette-smoking cabmen, calling one
another "onions," "camels," and names even more terrible. Women
prevalent over all the concourse; fair women, dark women, pretty
women, gilded women, haughty women, indifferent women, friendly women,
merry women. Fine women in fine clothes; rich women in fine clothes;
poor women in fine clothes. Worldly old women, reclining befurred in
electric landaulettes; wordy old women hoydenishly trundling carts
full of flowers. Wonderful automobile women quick-glimpsed, in
multiple veils of white and brown and sea-green. Women in rags and
tags, and women draped, coifed, and befrilled in the delirium of
maddened poet-milliners and the hasheesh dreams of ladies' tailors.
About the procession, as it moves interminably along the boulevard,
a blue haze of fine dust and burnt gasoline rises into the sunshine
like the haze over the passages to an amphitheatre toward which a
crowd is trampling; and through this the multitudes seem to go as
actors passing to their cues. Your place at one of the little tables
upon the sidewalk is that of a wayside spectator: and as the
performers go by, in some measure acting or looking their parts
already, as if in preparation, you guess the roles they play, and name
them comedians, tragedians, buffoons, saints, beauties, sots, knaves,
gladiators, acrobats, dancers; for all of these are there, and you
distinguish the principles from the unnumbered supernumeraries
pressing forward to the entrances. So, if you sit at the little tables
often enough—that is, if you become an amateur boulevardier—you
begin to recognise the transient stars of the pageant, those to whom
the boulevard allows a dubious and fugitive role of celebrity, and
whom it greets with a slight flutter: the turning of heads, a murmur
of comment, and the incredulous boulevard smile, which seems to say:
"You see? Madame and monsieur passing there—evidently they think we
still believe in them!"
This flutter heralded and followed the passing of a white
touring-car with the procession one afternoon, just before the Grand
Prix, though it needed no boulevard celebrity to make the man who
lolled in the tonneau conspicuous. Simply for THAT, notoriety was
superfluous; so were the remarkable size and power of his car; so was
the elaborate touring- costume of flannels and pongee he wore; so was
even the enamelled presence of the dancer who sat beside him. His face
would have done it without accessories.
My old friend, George Ward, and I had met for our aperitif at the
Terrace Larue, by the Madeleine, when the white automobile came
snaking its way craftily through the traffic. Turning in to pass a
victoria on the wrong side, it was forced down to a snail's pace near
the curb and not far from our table, where it paused, checked by a
blockade at the next corner. I heard Ward utter a half-suppressed
guttural of what I took to be amazement, and I did not wonder.
The face of the man in the tonneau detached him to the spectator's
gaze and singled him out of the concourse with an effect almost
ludicrous in its incongruity. The hair was dark, lustrous and thick,
the forehead broad and finely modelled, and certain other ruinous
vestiges of youth and good looks remained; but whatever the features
might once have shown of honour, worth, or kindly semblance had
disappeared beyond all tracing in a blurred distortion. The lids of
one eye were discoloured and swollen almost together; other traces of
a recent battering were not lacking, nor was cosmetic evidence of a
heroic struggle, on the part of some valet of infinite pains, to
efface them. The nose lost outline in the discolorations of the puffed
cheeks; the chin, tufted with a small imperial, trembled beneath a
sagging, gray lip. And that this bruised and dissipated mask should
suffer the final grotesque touch, it was decorated with the moustache
of a coquettish marquis, the ends waxed and exquisitely elevated.
The figure was fat, but loose and sprawling, seemingly without the
will to hold itself together; in truth the man appeared to be almost
in a semi-stupor, and, contrasted with this powdered Silenus, even the
woman beside him gained something of human dignity. At least, she was
thoroughly alive, bold, predatory, and in spite of the gross
embon-point that threatened her, still savagely graceful. A purple
veil, dotted with gold, floated about her hat, from which green-dyed
ostrich plumes cascaded down across a cheek enamelled dead white. Her
hair was plastered in blue-black waves, parted low on the forehead;
her lips were splashed a startling carmine, the eyelids painted blue;
and, from between lashes gummed into little spikes of blacking, she
favoured her companion with a glance of carelessly simulated
tenderness,—a look all too vividly suggesting the ghastly
calculations of a cook wheedling a chicken nearer the kitchen door.
But I felt no great pity for the victim.
"Who is it?" I asked, staring at the man in the automobile and not
turning toward Ward.
"That is Mariana—'la bella Mariana la Mursiana,'" George answered;
"— one of those women who come to Paris from the tropics to form
themselves on the legend of the one great famous and infamous Spanish
dancer who died a long while ago. Mariana did very well for a time.
I've heard that the revolutionary societies intend striking medals in
her honour: she's done worse things to royalty than all the anarchists
in Europe! But her great days are over: she's getting old; that type
goes to pieces quickly, once it begins to slump, and it won't be long
before she'll be horribly fat, though she's still a graceful dancer.
She danced at the Folie Rouge last week."
"Thank you, George," I said gratefully. "I hope you'll point out
the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower to me some day. I didn't mean
"What did you mean?"
What I had meant was so obvious that I turned to my friend in
surprise. He was nervously tapping his chin with the handle of his
cane and staring at the white automobile with very grim interest.
"I meant the man with her," I said.
"Oh!" He laughed sourly. "That carrion?"
"You seem to be an acquaintance."
"Everybody on the boulevard knows who he is," said Ward curtly,
paused, and laughed again with very little mirth. "So do you," he
continued; "and as for my acquaintance with him—yes, I had once the
distinction of being his rival in a small way, a way so small, in
fact, that it ended in his becoming a connection of mine by marriage.
He's Larrabee Harman."
That was a name somewhat familiar to readers of American newspapers
even before its bearer was fairly out of college. The publicity it
then attained (partly due to young Harman's conspicuous wealth)
attached to some youthful exploits not without a certain wild humour.
But frolic degenerated into brawl and debauch: what had been scrapes
for the boy became scandals for the man; and he gathered a more and
more unsavoury reputation until its like was not to be found outside a
penitentiary. The crux of his career in his own country was reached
during a midnight quarrel in Chicago when he shot a negro gambler.
After that, the negro having recovered and the matter being somehow
arranged so that the prosecution was dropped, Harman's wife left him,
and the papers recorded her application for a divorce. She was George
Ward's second cousin, the daughter of a Baltimore clergyman; a belle
in a season and town of belles, and a delightful, headstrong creature,
from all accounts. She had made a runaway match of it with Harman
three years before, their affair having been earnestly opposed by all
her relatives—especially by poor George, who came over to Paris just
after the wedding in a miserable frame of mind.
The Chicago exploit was by no means the end of Harman's notoriety.
Evading an effort (on the part of an aunt, I believe) to get him
locked up safely in a "sanitarium," he began a trip round the world
with an orgy which continued from San Francisco to Bangkok, where, in
the company of some congenial fellow travellers, he interfered in a
native ceremonial with the result that one of his companions was
drowned. Proceeding, he was reported to be in serious trouble at
Constantinople, the result of an inquisitiveness little appreciated by
Orientals. The State Department, bestirring itself, saved him from a
very real peril, and he continued his journey. In Rome he was rescued
with difficulty from a street mob that unreasonably refused to accept
intoxication as an excuse for his riding down a child on his way to
the hunt. Later, during the winter just past, we had been hearing from
Monte Carlo of his disastrous plunges at that most imbecile of all
Every event, no matter how trifling, in this man's pitiful career
had been recorded in the American newspapers with an elaboration
which, for my part, I found infuriatingly tiresome. I have lived in
Paris so long that I am afraid to go home: I have too little to show
for my years of pottering with paint and canvas, and I have grown
timid about all the changes that have crept in at home. I do not know
the "new men," I do not know how they would use me, and fear they
might make no place for me; and so I fit myself more closely into the
little grooves I have worn for myself, and resign myself to stay. But
I am no "expatriate." I know there is a feeling at home against us who
remain over here to do our work, but in most instances it is a
prejudice which springs from a misunderstanding. I think the quality
of patriotism in those of us who "didn't go home in time" is almost
pathetically deep and real, and, like many another oldish fellow in my
position, I try to keep as close to things at home as I can. All of my
old friends gradually ceased to write to me, but I still take three
home newspapers, trying to follow the people I knew and the things
that happen; and the ubiquity of so worthless a creature as Larrabee
Harman in the columns I dredged for real news had long been a point of
irritation to this present exile. Not only that: he had usurped space
in the Continental papers, and of late my favourite Parisian journal
had served him to me with my morning coffee, only hinting his name,
but offering him with that gracious satire characteristic of the
Gallic journalist writing of anything American. And so this grotesque
wreck of a man was well known to the boulevard-one of its sights. That
was to be perceived by the nutter he caused, by the turning of heads
in his direction, and the low laughter of the people at the little
tables. Three or four in the rear ranks had risen to their feet to get
a better look at him and his companion.
Some one behind us chuckled aloud. "They say Mariana beats him."
The dancer was aware of the flutter, and called Harman's attention
to it with a touch upon his arm and a laugh and a nod of her violent
At that he seemed to rouse himself somewhat: his head rolled
heavily over upon his shoulder, the lids lifted a little from the
red-shot eyes, showing a strange pride when his gaze fell upon the
many staring faces.
Then, as the procession moved again and the white automobile with
it, the sottish mouth widened in a smile of dull and cynical contempt:
the look of a half-poisoned Augustan borne down through the crowds
from the Palatine after supping with Caligula.
Ward pulled my sleeve.
"Come," he said, "let us go over to the Luxembourg gardens where
the air is cleaner."
Ward is a portrait-painter, and in the matter of vogue there seem
to be no pinnacles left for him to surmount. I think he has painted
most of the very rich women of fashion who have come to Paris of late
years, and he has become so prosperous, has such a polite celebrity,
and his opinions upon art are so conclusively quoted, that the
friendship of some of us who started with him has been dangerously
He lives a well-ordered life; he has always led that kind of life.
Even in his student days when I first knew him, I do not remember an
occasion upon which the principal of a New England high-school would
have criticised his conduct. And yet I never heard anyone call him a
prig; and, so far as I know, no one was ever so stupid as to think him
one. He was a quiet, good-looking, well-dressed boy, and he matured
into a somewhat reserved, well-poised man, of impressive distinction
in appearance and manner. He has always been well tended and cared for
by women; in his student days his mother lived with him; his sister,
Miss Elizabeth, looks after him now. She came with him when he
returned to Paris after his disappointment in the unfortunate Harman
affair, and she took charge of all his business—as well as his
social—arrangements (she has been accused of a theory that the two
things may be happily combined), making him lease a house in an
expensively modish quarter near the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne. Miss
Elizabeth is an instinctively fashionable woman, practical withal, and
to her mind success should be not only respectable but "smart." She
does not speak of the "right bank" and the "left bank" of the Seine;
she calls them the "right bank" and the "wrong bank." And yet, though
she removed George (her word is "rescued") from many of his old
associations with Montparnasse, she warmly encouraged my friendship
with him—yea, in spite of my living so deep in the wrong bank that
the first time he brought her to my studio, she declared she hadn't
seen anything so like Bring-the-child-to-the-
old-hag's-cellar-at-midnight since her childhood. She is a handsome
woman, large, and of a fine, high colour; her manner is gaily
dictatorial, and she and I got along very well together.
Probably she appreciated my going to some pains with the clothes I
wore when I went to their house. My visits there were infrequent, not
because I had any fear of wearing out a welcome, but on account of
Miss Elizabeth's "day," when I could see nothing of George for the
crowd of lionising women and time-wasters about him. Her "day" was a
dread of mine; I could seldom remember which day it was, and when I
did she had a way of shifting it so that I was fatally sure to run
into it-to my misery, for, beginning with those primordial indignities
suffered in youth, when I was scrubbed with a handkerchief outside the
parlour door as a preliminary to polite usages, my childhood's,
manhood's prayer has been: From all such days, Good Lord, deliver me!
It was George's habit to come much oftener to see me. He always
really liked the sort of society his sister had brought about him; but
now and then there were intervals when it wore on him a little, I
think. Sometimes he came for me in his automobile and we would make a
mild excursion to breakfast in the country; and that is what happened
one morning about three weeks after the day when we had sought pure
air in the Luxembourg gardens.
We drove out through the Bois and by Suresnes, striking into a
roundabout road to Versailles beyond St. Cloud. It was June, a
dustless and balmy noon, the air thinly gilded by a faint haze, and I
know few things pleasanter than that road on a fair day of the early
summer and no sweeter way to course it than in an open car; though I
must not be giving myself out for a "motorist"—I have not even the
right cap. I am usually nervous in big machines, too; but Ward has
never caught the speed mania and holds a strange power over his
chauffeur; so we rolled along peacefully, not madly, and smoked (like
the car) in hasteless content.
"After all," said George, with a placid wave of the hand, "I
sometimes wish that the landscape had called me. You outdoor men have
all the health and pleasure of living in the open, and as for the
work—oh! you fellows think you work, but you don't know what it
"No?" I said, and smiled as I always meanly do when George "talks
art." He was silent for a few moments and then said irritably,
"Well, at least you can't deny that the academic crowd can DRAW!"
Never having denied it, though he had challenged me in the same way
perhaps a thousand times, I refused to deny it now; whereupon he
returned to his theme: "Landscape is about as simple as a stage fight;
two up, two down, cross and repeat. Take that ahead of us. Could
anything be simpler to paint?"
He indicated the white road running before us between open fields
to a curve, where it descended to pass beneath an old stone culvert.
Beyond, stood a thick grove with a clear sky flickering among the
branches. An old peasant woman was pushing a heavy cart round the
curve, a scarlet handkerchief knotted about her head.
"You think it's easy?" I asked.
"Easy! Two hours ought to do it as well as it could be done—at
least, the way you fellows do it!" He clenched his fingers as if upon
the handle of a house-painter's brush. "Slap, dash—there's your
road." He paddled the air with the imaginary brush as though painting
the side of a barn. "Swish, swash—there go your fields and your stone
bridge. Fit! Speck! And there's your old woman, her red handkerchief,
and what your dealer will probably call 'the human interest,' all
complete. Squirt the edges of your foliage in with a blow-pipe. Throw
a cup of tea over the whole, and there's your haze. Call it 'The
Golden Road,' or 'The Bath of Sunlight,' or 'Quiet Noon.' Then you'll
probably get a criticism beginning, 'Few indeed have more intangibly
detained upon canvas so poetic a quality of sentiment as this sterling
landscapist, who in Number 136 has most ethereally expressed the
profound silence of evening on an English moor. The solemn hush, the
brooding quiet, the homeward ploughman—'"
He was interrupted by an outrageous uproar, the grisly scream of a
siren and the cannonade of a powerful exhaust, as a great white
touring-car swung round us from behind at a speed that sickened me to
see, and, snorting thunder, passed us "as if we had been standing
It hurtled like a comet down the curve and we were instantly
choking in its swirling tail of dust.
"Seventy miles an hour!" gasped George, swabbing at his eyes.
"Those are the fellows that get into the pa—Oh, Lord! THERE they go!"
Swinging out to pass us and then sweeping in upon the reverse curve
to clear the narrow arch of the culvert were too much for the white
car; and through the dust we saw it rock dangerously. In the middle of
the road, ten feet from the culvert, the old woman struggled
frantically to get her cart out of the way. The howl of the siren
frightened her perhaps, for she lost her head and went to the wrong
side. Then the shriek of the machine drowned the human scream as the
The shock of contact was muffled. But the mass of machinery hoisted
itself in the air as if it had a life of its own and had been stung
into sudden madness. It was horrible to see, and so grotesque that a
long- forgotten memory of my boyhood leaped instantaneously into my
mind, a recollection of the evolutions performed by a Newfoundland dog
that rooted under a board walk and found a hive of wild bees.
The great machine left the road for the fields on the right,
reared, fell, leaped against the stone side of the culvert, apparently
trying to climb it, stood straight on end, whirled backward in a
half-somersault, crashed over on its side, flashed with flame and
explosion, and lay hidden under a cloud of dust and smoke.
Ward's driver slammed down his accelerator, sent us spinning round
the curve, and the next moment, throwing on his brakes, halted sharply
at the culvert.
The fabric of the road was so torn and distorted one might have
thought a steam dredge had begun work there, but the fragments of
wreckage were oddly isolated and inconspicuous. The peasant's cart,
tossed into a clump of weeds, rested on its side, the spokes of a
rimless wheel slowly revolving on the hub uppermost. Some tools were
strewn in a semi- circular trail in the dust; a pair of smashed
goggles crunched beneath my foot as I sprang out of Ward's car, and a
big brass lamp had fallen in the middle of the road, crumpled like
waste paper. Beside it lay a gold rouge box.
The old woman had somehow saved herself—or perhaps her saint had
helped her—for she was sitting in the grass by the roadside, wailing
hysterically and quite unhurt. The body of a man lay in a heap beneath
the stone archway, and from his clothes I guessed that he had been the
driver of the white car. I say "had been" because there were reasons
for needing no second glance to comprehend that the man was dead.
Nevertheless, I knelt beside him and placed my hand upon his breast to
see if his heart still beat. Afterward I concluded that I did this
because I had seen it done upon the stage, or had read of it in
stories; and even at the time I realised that it was a silly thing for
me to be doing.
Ward, meanwhile, proved more practical. He was dragging a woman out
of the suffocating smoke and dust that shrouded the wreck, and after a
moment I went to help him carry her into the fresh air, where George
put his coat under her head. Her hat had been forced forward over her
face and held there by the twisting of a system of veils she wore; and
we had some difficulty in unravelling this; but she was very much
alive, as a series of muffled imprecations testified, leading us to
conclude that her sufferings were more profoundly of rage than of
pain. Finally she pushed our hands angrily aside and completed the
untanglement herself, revealing the scratched and smeared face of
Mariana, the dancer.
"Cornichon! Chameau! Fond du bain!" she gasped, tears of anger
starting from her eyes. She tried to rise before we could help her,
but dropped back with a scream.
"Oh, the pain!" she cried. "That imbecile! If he has let me break
my leg! A pretty dancer I should be! I hope he is killed."
One of the singularities of motoring on the main-travelled roads
near Paris is the prevalence of cars containing physicians and
surgeons. Whether it be testimony to the opportunism, to the sporting
proclivities, or to the prosperity of gentlemen of those professions,
I do not know, but it is a fact that I have never heard of an accident
(and in the season there is an accident every day) on one of these
roads when a doctor in an automobile was not almost immediately a
chance arrival, and fortunately our case offered no exception to this
rule. Another automobile had already come up and the occupants were
hastily alighting. Ward shouted to the foremost to go for a doctor.
"I am a doctor," the man answered, advancing and kneeling quickly
by the dancer. "And you—you may be of help yonder."
We turned toward the ruined car where Ward's driver was shouting
"What is it?" called Ward as we ran toward him.
"Monsieur," he replied, "there is some one under the tonneau here!"
The smoke had cleared a little, though a rivulet of burning
gasoline ran from the wreck to a pool of flame it was feeding in the
road. The front cushions and woodwork had caught fire and a couple of
labourers, panting with the run across the fields, were vainly
belabouring the flames with brushwood. From beneath the overturned
tonneau projected the lower part of a man's leg, clad in a brown
puttee and a russet shoe. Ward's driver had brought his tools; had
jacked up the car as high as possible; but was still unable to release
the imprisoned body.
"I have seized that foot and pulled with all my strength," he said,
"and I cannot make him move one centimetre. It is necessary that as
many people as possible lay hold of the car on the side away from the
fire and all lift together. Yes," he added, "and very soon!"
Some carters had come from the road and one of them lay full length
on the ground peering beneath the wreck. "It is the head of monsieur,"
explained this one; "it is the head of monsieur which is fastened
"Eh, but you are wiser than Clemenceau!" said the chauffeur. "Get
up, my ancient, and you there, with the brushwood, let the fire go for
a moment and help, when I say the word. And you, monsieur," he turned
to Ward, "if you please, will you pull with me upon the ankle here at
the right moment?"
The carters, the labourers, the men from the other automobile, and
I laid hold of the car together.
"Now, then, messieurs, LIFT!"
Stifled with the gasoline smoke, we obeyed. One or two hands were
scorched and our eyes smarted blindingly, but we gave a mighty heave,
and felt the car rising.
"Well done!" cried the chauffeur. "Well done! But a little more!
The smallest fraction—HA! It is finished, messieurs!"
We staggered back, coughing and wiping our eyes. For a minute or
two I could not see at all, and was busy with a handkerchief.
Ward laid his hand on my shoulder.
"Do you know who it is?" he asked.
"Yes, of course," I answered.
When I could see again, I found that I was looking almost straight
down into the upturned face of Larrabee Harman, and I cannot better
express what this man had come to be, and what the degradation of his
life had written upon him, than by saying that the dreadful thing I
looked upon now was no more horrible a sight than the face I had seen,
fresh from the valet and smiling in ugly pride at the starers, as he
passed the terrace of Larue on the day before the Grand Prix.
We helped to carry him to the doctor's car, and to lift the dancer
into Ward's, and to get both of them out again at the hospital at
Versailles, where they were taken. Then, with no need to ask each
other if we should abandon our plan to breakfast in the country, we
turned toward Paris, and rolled along almost to the barriers in
"Did it seem to you," said George finally, "that a man so
frightfully injured could have any chance of getting well?"
"No," I answered. "I thought he was dying as we carried him into
"So did I. The top of his head seemed all crushed in—Whew!" He
broke off, shivering, and wiped his brow. After a pause he added
thoughtfully, "It will be a great thing for Louise."
Louise was the name of his second cousin, the girl who had done
battle with all her family and then run away from them to be Larrabee
Harman's wife. Remembering the stir that her application for divorce
had made, I did not understand how Harman's death could benefit her,
unless George had some reason to believe that he had made a will in
her favour. However, the remark had been made more to himself than to
me and I did not respond.
The morning papers flared once more with the name of Larrabee
Harman, and we read that there was "no hope of his surviving." Ironic
phrase! There was not a soul on earth that day who could have hoped
for his recovery, or who—for his sake—cared two straws whether he
lived or died. And the dancer had been right; one of her legs was
badly broken: she would never dance again.
Evening papers reported that Harman was "lingering." He was
lingering the next day. He was lingering the next week, and the end of
a month saw him still "lingering." Then I went down to Capri,
where—for he had been after all the merest episode to me—I was
pleased to forget all about him.
A great many people keep their friends in mind by writing to them,
but more do not; and Ward and I belong to the majority. After my
departure from Paris I had but one missive from him, a short note,
written at the request of his sister, asking me to be on the lookout
for Italian earrings, to add to her collection of old jewels. So, from
time to time, I sent her what I could find about Capri or in Naples,
and she responded with neat little letters of acknowledgment.
Two years I stayed on Capri, eating the lotus which grows on that
happy island, and painting very little—only enough, indeed, to be
remembered at the Salon and not so much as knowing how kindly or
unkindly they hung my pictures there. But even on Capri, people
sometimes hear the call of Paris and wish to be in that unending
movement: to hear the multitudinous rumble, to watch the procession
from a cafe terrace and to dine at Foyot's. So there came at last a
fine day when I, knowing that the horse-chestnuts were in bloom along
the Champs Elysees, threw my rope-soled shoes to a beggar, packed a
rusty trunk, and was off for the banks of the Seine.
My arrival—just the drive from the Gare de Lyon to my studio—was
like the shock of surf on a bather's breast.
The stir and life, the cheerful energy of the streets, put stir and
life and cheerful energy into me. I felt the itch to work again, to be
at it, at it in earnest—to lose no hour of daylight, and to paint
better than I had painted!
Paris having given me this impetus, I dared not tempt her further,
nor allow the edge of my eagerness time to blunt; therefore, at the
end of a fortnight, I went over into Normandy and deposited that rusty
trunk of mine in a corner of the summer pavilion in the courtyard of
Madame Brossard's inn, Les Trois Pigeons, in a woodland neighborhood
that is there. Here I had painted through a prolific summer of my
youth, and I was glad to find—as I had hoped—nothing changed; for
the place was dear to me. Madame Brossard (dark, thin, demure as of
yore, a fine- looking woman with a fine manner and much the flavour of
old Norman portraits) gave me a pleasant welcome, remembering me
readily but without surprise, while Amedee, the antique servitor,
cackled over me and was as proud of my advent as if I had been a new
egg and he had laid me. The simile is grotesque; but Amedee is the
most henlike waiter in France.
He is a white-haired, fat old fellow, always well-shaved; as neat
as a billiard-ball. In the daytime, when he is partly porter, he wears
a black tie, a gray waistcoat broadly striped with scarlet, and, from
waist to feet, a white apron like a skirt, and so competently
encircling that his trousers are of mere conventionality and no real
necessity; but after six o'clock (becoming altogether a maitre
d'hotel) he is clad as any other formal gentleman. At all times he
wears a fresh table-cloth over his arm, keeping an exaggerated pile of
them ready at hand on a ledge in one of the little bowers of the
courtyard, so that he may never be shamed by getting caught without
His conception of life is that all worthy persons were created as
receptacles for food and drink; and five minutes after my arrival he
had me seated (in spite of some meek protests) in a wicker chair with
a pitcher of the right Three Pigeons cider on the table before me,
while he subtly dictated what manner of dinner I should eat. For this
interval Amedee's exuburance was sobered and his bandinage dismissed
as being mere garniture, the questions now before us concerning grave
and inward matters. His suggestions were deferential but insistent;
his manner was that of a prime minister who goes through the form of
convincing the sovereign. He greeted each of his own decisions with a
very loud "Bien!" as if startled by the brilliancy of my selections,
and, the menu being concluded, exploded a whole volley of "Biens" and
set off violently to instruct old Gaston, the cook.
That is Amedee's way; he always starts violently for anywhere he
means to go. He is a little lame and his progress more or less
sidelong, but if you call him, or new guests arrive at the inn, or he
receives an order from Madame Brossard, he gives the effect of running
by a sudden movement of the whole body like that of a man ABOUT to
run, and moves off using the gestures of a man who IS running; after
which he proceeds to his destination at an exquisite leisure.
Remembering this old habit of his, it was with joy that I noted his
headlong departure. Some ten feet of his progress accomplished, he
halted (for no purpose but to scratch his head the more luxuriously);
next, strayed from the path to contemplate a rose-bush, and, selecting
a leaf with careful deliberation, placed it in his mouth and continued
meditatively upon his way to the kitchen.
I chuckled within me; it was good to be back at Madame Brossard's.
The courtyard was more a garden; bright with rows of flowers in
formal little beds and blossoming up from big green tubs, from red
jars, and also from two brightly painted wheel-barrows. A long arbour
offered a shelter of vines for those who might choose to dine,
breakfast, or lounge beneath, and, here and there among the
shrubberies, you might come upon a latticed bower, thatched with
straw. My own pavilion (half bedroom, half studio) was set in the
midst of all and had a small porch of its own with a rich curtain of
climbing honeysuckle for a screen from the rest of the courtyard.
The inn itself is gray with age, the roof sagging pleasantly here
and there; and an old wooden gallery runs the length of each wing, the
guest-chambers of the upper story opening upon it like the deck-rooms
of a steamer, with boxes of tulips and hyacinths along the gallery
railings and window ledges for the gayest of border-lines.
Beyond the great open archway, which gives entrance to the
courtyard, lies the quiet country road; passing this, my eyes followed
the wide sweep of poppy-sprinkled fields to a line of low green hills;
and there was the edge of the forest sheltering those woodland
interiors which I had long ago tried to paint, and where I should be
at work to-morrow.
In the course of time, and well within the bright twilight, Amedee
spread the crisp white cloth and served me at a table on my pavilion
porch. He feigned anxiety lest I should find certain dishes (those
which he knew were most delectable) not to my taste, but was obviously
so distended with fatuous pride over the whole meal that it became a
temptation to denounce at least some trifling sauce or garnishment;
nevertheless, so much mendacity proved beyond me and I spared him and
my own conscience. This puffed-uppedness of his was to be observed
only in his expression of manner, for during the consumption of food
it was his worthy custom to practise a ceremonious, nay, a
reverential, hush, and he never offered (or approved) conversation
until he had prepared the salad. That accomplished, however, and the
water bubbling in the coffee machine, he readily favoured me with a
discourse on the decline in glory of Les Trois Pigeons.
"Monsieur, it is the automobiles; they have done it. Formerly, as
when monsieur was here, the painters came from Paris. They would come
in the spring and would stay until the autumn rains. What busy times
and what drolleries! Ah, it was gay in those days! Monsieur remembers
well. Ha, Ha! But now, I think, the automobiles have frightened away
the painters; at least they do not come any more. And the automobiles
themselves; they come sometimes for lunch, a few, but they love better
the seashore, and we are just close enough to be too far away. Those
automobiles, they love the big new hotels and the casinos with
roulette. They eat hastily, gulp down a liqueur, and pouf! off they
rush for Trouville, for Houlgate—for heaven knows where! And even the
automobiles do not come so frequently as they did. Our road used to be
the best from Lisieux to Beuzeval, but now the maps recommend another.
They pass us by, and yet yonder—only a few kilometres—is the coast
with its thousands. We are near the world but out of it, monsieur."
He poured my coffee; dropped a lump of sugar from the tongs with a
benevolent gesture—"One lump: always the same. Monsieur sees that I
remember well, ha?"—and the twilight having fallen, he lit two
orange- shaded candles and my cigar with the same match. The night was
so quiet that the candle-lights burned as steadily as flames in a
globe, yet the air was spiced with a cool fragrance, and through the
honeysuckle leaves above me I saw, as I leaned back in my wicker
chair, a glimmer of kindly stars.
"Very comfortably out of the world, Amedee," I said. "It seems to
me I have it all to myself."
"Unhappily, yes!" he exclaimed; then excused himself, chuckling. "I
should have said that we should be happier if we had many like
monsieur. But it is early in the season to despair. Then, too, our
best suite is already engaged."
"Two men of science who arrive next week. One is a great man.
Madame Brossard is pleased that he is coming to Les Trois Pigeons, but
I tell her it is only natural. He comes now for the first time because
he likes the quiet, but he will come again, like monsieur, because he
has been here before. That is what I always say: 'Any one who has been
here must come again.' The problem is only to get them to come the
first time. Truly!"
"Who is the great man, Amedee?"
"Ah! A distinguished professor of science. Truly."
"I do not know. But he is a member of the Institute. Monsieur must
have heard of that great Professor Keredec?"
"The name is known. Who is the other?"
"A friend of his. I do not know. All the upper floor of the east
wing they have taken—the Grande Suite—those two and their
valet-de-chambre. That is truly the way in modern times—the
philosophers are rich men."
"Yes," I sighed. "Only the painters are poor nowadays."
"Ha, ha, monsieur!" Amedee laughed cunningly.
"It was always easy to see that monsieur only amuses himself with
"Thank you, Amedee," I responded. "I have amused other people with
it too, I fear."
"Oh, without doubt!" he agreed graciously, as he folded the cloth.
I have always tried to believe that it was not so much my pictures as
the fact that I paid my bills the day they were presented which
convinced everybody about Les Trois Pigeons that I was an amateur. But
I never became happily enough settled in this opinion to risk pressing
an investigation; and it was a relief that Amedee changed the subject.
"Monsieur remembers the Chateau de Quesnay—at the crest of the
hill on the road north of Dives?"
"It is occupied this season by some rich Americans."
"How do you know they are rich?"
"Dieu de Dieu!" The old fellow appealed to heaven. "But they are
"And therefore millionaires. Perfectly, Amedee."
"Perfectly, monsieur. Perhaps monsieur knows them."
"Yes, I know them."
"Truly!" He affected dejection. "And poor Madame Brossard thought
monsieur had returned to our old hotel because he liked it, and
remembered our wine of Beaune and the good beds and old Gaston's
"Do not weep, Amedee," I said. "I have come to paint; not because I
know the people who have taken Quesnay." And I added: "I may not see
them at all."
In truth I thought that very probable. Miss Elizabeth had mentioned
in one of her notes that Ward had leased Quesnay, but I had not sought
quarters at Les Trois Pigeons because it stood within walking distance
of the chateau. In my industrious frame of mind that circumstance
seemed almost a drawback. Miss Elizabeth, ever hospitable to those
whom she noticed at all, would be doubly so in the country, as people
always are; and I wanted all my time to myself—no very selfish wish
since my time was not conceivably of value to any one else. I thought
it wise to leave any encounter with the lady to chance, and as the
by-paths of the country-side were many and intricate, I intended,
without ungallantry, to render the chance remote. George himself had
just sailed on a business trip to America, as I knew from her last
missive; and until his return, I should put in all my time at painting
and nothing else, though I liked his sister, as I have said, and
thought of her—often.
Amedee doubted my sincerity, however, for he laughed incredulously.
"Eh, well, monsieur enjoys saying it!"
"Certainly. It is a pleasure to say what one means."
"But monsieur could not mean it. Monsieur will call at the chateau
in the morning"—the complacent varlet prophesied—"as early as it
will be polite. I am sure of that. Monsieur is not at all an old man;
no, not yet! Even if he were, aha! no one could possess the friendship
of that wonderful Madame d'Armand and remain away from the chateau."
"Madame d'Armand?" I said. "That is not the name. You mean
"No, no!" He shook his head and his fat cheeks bulged with a smile
which I believe he intended to express a respectful roguishness.
"Mademoiselle Ward" (he pronounced it "Ware") "is magnificent; every
one must fly to obey when she opens her mouth. If she did not like the
ocean there below the chateau, the ocean would have to move! It needs
only a glance to perceive that Mademoiselle Ward is a great lady—but
MADAME D'ARMAND! AHA!" He rolled his round eyes to an effect of
unspeakable admiration, and with a gesture indicated that he would
have kissed his hand to the stars, had that been properly reverential
to Madame d'Armand. "But monsieur knows very well for himself!"
"Monsieur knows that you are very confusing—even for a maitre
d'hotel. We were speaking of the present chatelaine of Quesnay,
Mademoiselle Ward. I have never heard of Madame d'Armand."
"Monsieur is serious?"
"Truly!" I answered, making bold to quote his shibboleth.
"Then monsieur has truly much to live for. Truly!" he chuckled
openly, convinced that he had obtained a marked advantage in a
conflict of wits, shaking his big head from side to side with an
exasperating air of knowingness. "Ah, truly! When that lady drives by,
some day, in the carriage from the chateau—eh? Then monsieur will see
how much he has to live for. Truly, truly, truly!"
He had cleared the table, and now, with a final explosion of the
word which gave him such immoderate satisfaction, he lifted the tray
and made one of his precipitate departures.
"Amedee," I said, as he slackened down to his sidelong leisure.
"Who is Madame d'Armand?"
"A guest of Mademoiselle Ward at Quesnay. In fact, she is in charge
of the chateau, since Mademoiselle Ward is, for the time, away."
"Is she a Frenchwoman?"
"It seems not. In fact, she is an American, though she dresses with
so much of taste. Ah, Madame Brossard admits it, and Madame Brossard
knows the art of dressing, for she spends a week of every winter in
Rouen—and besides there is Trouville itself only some kilometres
distant. Madame Brossard says that Mademoiselle Ward dresses with
richness and splendour and Madame d'Armand with economy, but beauty.
Those were the words used by Madame Brossard. Truly."
"Madame d'Armand's name is French," I observed.
"Yes, that is true," said Amedee thoughtfully. "No one can deny it;
it is a French name." He rested the tray upon a stump near by and
scratched his head. "I do not understand how that can be," he
continued slowly. "Jean Ferret, who is chief gardener at the chateau,
is an acquaintance of mine. We sometimes have a cup of cider at Pere
Baudry's, a kilometre down the road from here; and Jean Ferret has
told me that she is an American. And yet, as you say, monsieur, the
name is French. Perhaps she is French after all."
"I believe," said I, "that if I struggled a few days over this
puzzle, I might come to the conclusion that Madame d'Armand is an
American lady who has married a Frenchman."
The old man uttered an exclamation of triumph.
"Ha! without doubt! Truly she must be an American lady who has
married a Frenchman. Monsieur has already solved the puzzle. Truly,
truly!" And he trulied himself across the darkness, to emerge in the
light of the open door of the kitchen with the word still rumbling in
Now for a time there came the clinking of dishes, sounds as of pans
and kettles being scoured, the rolling gutturals of old Gaston, the
cook, and the treble pipings of young "Glouglou," his grandchild and
scullion. After a while the oblong of light from the kitchen door
disappeared; the voices departed; the stillness of the dark descended,
and with it that unreasonable sense of pathos which night in the
country brings to the heart of a wanderer. Then, out of the lonely
silence, there issued a strange, incongruous sound as an execrable
voice essayed to produce the semblance of an air odiously familiar
about the streets of Paris some three years past, and I became aware
of a smell of some dreadful thing burning. Beneath the arbour I
perceived a glowing spark which seemed to bear a certain relation to
an oval whitish patch suggesting the front of a shirt. It was Amedee,
at ease, smoking his cigarette after the day's work and convinced that
he was singing.
Au Tonkin je suis parti—
Ah! quel beau pays, mesdames!
C'est l'paradis des p'tites femmes!"
I rose from the chair on my little porch, to go to bed; but I was
reminded of something, and called to him.
"Monsieur?" his voice came briskly.
"How often do you see your friend, Jean Ferret, the gardener of
"Frequently, monsieur. To-morrow morning I could easily carry a
"That is precisely what I do not wish. And you may as well not
mention me at all when you meet him."
"It is understood. Perfectly."
"If it is well understood, there will be a beautiful present for a
good maitre d'hotel some day."
"Thank you, monsieur."
"Good night, Amedee."
"Good night, monsieur."
Falling to sleep has always been an intricate matter with me: I
liken it to a nightly adventure in an enchanted palace. Weary-limbed
and with burning eyelids, after long waiting in the outer court of
wakefulness, I enter a dim, cool antechamber where the heavy garment
of the body is left behind and where, perhaps, some acquaintance or
friend greets me with a familiar speech or a bit of nonsense—or an
unseen orchestra may play music that I know. From here I go into a
spacious apartment where the air and light are of a fine clarity, for
it is the hall of revelations, and in it the secrets of secrets are
told, mysteries are resolved, perplexities cleared up, and sometimes I
learn what to do about a picture that has bothered me. This is where I
would linger, for beyond it I walk among crowding fantasies,
delusions, terrors and shame, to a curtain of darkness where they take
my memory from me, and I know nothing of my own adventures until I am
pushed out of a secret door into the morning sunlight. Amedee was the
acquaintance who met me in the antechamber to-night. He remarked that
Madame d'Armand was the most beautiful woman in the world, and
vanished. And in the hall of revelations I thought that I found a
statue of her—but it was veiled. I wished to remove the veil, but a
passing stranger stopped and told me laughingly that the veil was all
that would ever be revealed of her to me—of her, or any other woman!
I was up with the birds in the morning; had my breakfast with
them—a very drowsy-eyed Amedee assisting—and made off for the forest
to get the sunrise through the branches, a pack on my back and three
sandwiches for lunch in my pocket. I returned only with the failing
light of evening, cheerfully tired and ready for a fine dinner and an
early bed, both of which the good inn supplied. It was my daily
programme; a healthy life "far from the world," as Amedee said, and I
was sorry when the serpent entered and disturbed it, though he was my
own. He is a pet of mine; has been with me since my childhood. He
leaves me when I live alone, for he loves company, but returns
whenever my kind are about me. There are many names for snakes of his
breed, but, to deal charitably with myself, I call mine
One evening I returned to find a big van from Dives, the nearest
railway station, drawn up in the courtyard at the foot of the stairs
leading to the gallery, and all of the people of the inn, from Madame
Brossard (who directed) to Glouglou (who madly attempted the heaviest
pieces), busily installing trunks, bags, and packing-cases in the
suite engaged for the "great man of science" on the second floor of
the east wing of the building. Neither the great man nor his companion
was to be seen, however, both having retired to their rooms
immediately upon their arrival—so Amedee informed me, as he wiped his
brow after staggering up the steps under a load of books wrapped in
I made my evening ablutions removing a Joseph's coat of dust and
paint; and came forth from my pavilion, hoping that Professor Keredec
and his friend would not mind eating in the same garden with a man in
a corduroy jacket and knickerbockers; but the gentlemen continued
invisible to the public eye, and mine was the only table set for
dinner in the garden. Up-stairs the curtains were carefully drawn
across all the windows of the east wing; little leaks of orange, here
and there, betraying the lights within. Glouglou, bearing a tray of
covered dishes, was just entering the salon of the "Grande Suite," and
the door closed quickly after him.
"It is to be supposed that Professor Keredec and his friend are
fatigued with their journey from Paris?" I began, a little later.
"Monsieur, they did not seem fatigued," said Amedee.
"But they dine in their own rooms to-night."
"Every night, monsieur. It is the order of Professor Keredec. And
with their own valet-de-chambre to serve them. Eh?" He poured my
coffee solemnly. "That is mysterious, to say the least, isn't it?"
"To say the very least," I agreed.
"Monsieur the professor is a man of secrets, it appears," continued
Amedee. "When he wrote to Madame Brossard engaging his rooms, he
instructed her to be careful that none of us should mention even his
name; and to-day when he came, he spoke of his anxiety on that point."
"But you did mention it."
"To whom, monsieur?" asked the old fellow blankly.
"But I told him I had not," said Amedee placidly. "It is the same
"I wonder," I began, struck by a sudden thought, "if it will prove
quite the same thing in my own case. I suppose you have not mentioned
the circumstance of my being here to your friend, Jean Ferret of
He looked at me reproachfully. "Has monsieur been troubled by the
people of the chateau?"
"'Troubled' by them?"
"Have they come to seek out monsieur and disturb him? Have they
done anything whatever to show that they have heard monsieur is here?"
"No, certainly they haven't," I was obliged to retract at once. "I
beg your pardon, Amedee."
"Ah, monsieur!" He made a deprecatory bow (which plunged me still
deeper in shame), struck a match, and offered a light for my cigar
with a forgiving hand. "All the same," he pursued, "it seems very
mysterious— this Keredec affair!"
"To comprehend a great man, Amedee," I said, "is the next thing to
sharing his greatness."
He blinked slightly, pondered a moment upon this sententious
drivel, then very properly ignored it, reverting to his puzzle.
"But is it not incomprehensible that people should eat indoors this
I admitted that it was. I knew very well how hot and stuffy the
salon of Madame Brossard's "Grande Suite" must be, while the garden
was fragrant in the warm, dry night, and the outdoor air like a gentle
tonic. Nevertheless, Professor Keredec and his friend preferred the
When a man is leading a very quiet and isolated life, it is
inconceivable what trifles will occupy and concentrate his attention.
The smaller the community the more blowzy with gossip you are sure to
find it; and I have little doubt that when Friday learned enough
English, one of the first things Crusoe did was to tell him some
scandal about the goat. Thus, though I treated the "Keredec affair"
with a seeming airiness to Amedee, I cunningly drew the faithful
rascal out, and fed my curiosity upon his own (which, as time went on
and the mystery deepened, seemed likely to burst him), until,
virtually, I was receiving, every evening at dinner, a detailed report
of the day's doings of Professor Keredec and his companion.
The reports were voluminous, the details few. The two gentlemen, as
Amedee would relate, spent their forenoons over books and writing in
their rooms. Professor Keredec's voice could often be heard in every
part of the inn; at times holding forth with such protracted vehemence
that only one explanation would suffice: the learned man was
delivering a lecture to his companion.
"Say then!" exclaimed Amedee—"what king of madness is that? To
make orations for only one auditor!"
He brushed away my suggestion that the auditor might be a
stenographer to whom the professor was dictating chapters for a new
book. The relation between the two men, he contended, was more like
that between teacher and pupil. "But a pupil with gray hair!" he
finished, raising his fat hands to heaven. "For that other monsieur
has hair as gray as mine."
"That other monsieur" was farther described as a thin man,
handsome, but with a "singular air," nor could my colleague more
satisfactorily define this air, though he made a racking struggle to
"In what does the peculiarity of his manner lie?" I asked.
"But it is not so much that his manner is peculiar, monsieur; it is
an air about him that is singular. Truly!"
"But how is it singular?"
"Monsieur, it is very, very singular."
"You do not understand," I insisted. "What kind of singularity has
the air of 'that other monsieur'?"
"It has," replied Amedee, with a powerful effort, "a very singular
This was as near as he could come, and, fearful of injuring him, I
abandoned that phase of our subject.
The valet-de-chambre whom my fellow-lodgers had brought with them
from Paris contributed nothing to the inn's knowledge of his masters,
I learned. This struck me not only as odd, but unique, for French
servants tell one another everything, and more—very much more. "But
this is a silent man," said Amedee impressively. "Oh! very silent! He
shakes his head wisely, yet he will not open his mouth. However, that
may be because"—and now the explanation came—"because he was engaged
only last week and knows nothing. Also, he is but temporary; he
returns to Paris soon and Glouglou is to serve them."
I ascertained that although "that other monsieur" had gray hair, he
was by no means a person of great age; indeed, Glouglou, who had seen
him oftener than any other of the staff, maintained that he was quite
young. Amedee's own opportunities for observation had been limited.
Every afternoon the two gentlemen went for a walk; but they always
came down from the gallery so quickly, he declared, and, leaving the
inn by a rear entrance, plunged so hastily into the nearest by-path
leading to the forest, that he caught little more than glimpses of
them. They returned after an hour or so, entering the inn with the
same appearance of haste to be out of sight, the professor always
talking, "with the manner of an orator, but in English." Nevertheless,
Amedee remarked, it was certain that Professor Keredec's friend was
neither an American nor an Englishman. "Why is it certain?" I asked.
"Monsieur, he drinks nothing but water, he does not smoke, and
Glouglou says he speaks very pure French."
"Glouglou is an authority who resolves the difficulty. 'That other
monsieur' is a Frenchman."
"But, monsieur, he is smooth-shaven."
"Perhaps he has been a maitre d'hotel."
"Eh! I wish one that
I know could hope to dress as well when
he retires! Besides, Glouglou says that other monsieur eats his soup
"I can find no flaw in the deduction," I said, rising to go to bed.
"We must leave it there for to-night."
The next evening Amedee allowed me to perceive that he was
concealing something under his arm as he stoked the coffee-machine,
and upon my asking what it was, he glanced round the courtyard with
histrionic slyness, placed the object on the table beside my cap, and
stepped back to watch the impression, his manner that of one who
declaims: "At last the missing papers are before you!"
"What is that?" I said.
"It is a book."
"I am persuaded by your candour, Amedee, as well as by the general
appearance of this article," I returned as I picked it up, "that you
are speaking the truth. But why do you bring it to me?"
"Monsieur," he replied, in the tones of an old conspirator, "this
afternoon the professor and that other monsieur went as usual to walk
in the forest." He bent over me, pretending to be busy with the
coffee- machine, and lowering his voice to a hoarse whisper. "When
they returned, this book fell from the pocket of that other moniseur's
coat as he ascended the stair, and he did not notice. Later I shall
return it by Glouglou, but I thought it wise that monsieur should see
it for himself."
The book was Wentworth's Algebra—elementary principles. Painful
recollections of my boyhood and the binomial theorem rose in my mind
as I let the leaves turn under my fingers. "What do you make of it?" I
His tone became even more confidential. "Part of it, monsieur, is
in English; that is plain. I have found an English word in it that I
know— the word 'O.' But much of the printing is also in Arabic."
"Arabic!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, monsieur, look there." He laid a fat forefinger on "(a + b)2
= a2 + 2ab + b2." "That is Arabic. Old Gaston has been to Algeria, and
he says that he knows Arabic as well as he does French. He looked at
the book and told me it was Arabic. Truly! Truly!"
"Did he translate any of it for you?"
"No, monsieur; his eyes pained him this afternoon. He says he will
read it to-morrow."
"But you must return the book to-night."
"That is true. Eh! It leaves the mystery deeper than ever, unless
monsieur can find some clue in those parts of the book that are
I shed no light upon him. The book had been Greek to me in my
tender years; it was a pleasure now to leave a fellow-being under the
impression that it was Arabic.
But the volume took its little revenge upon me, for it increased my
curiosity about Professor Keredec and "that other monsieur." Why were
two grown men—one an eminent psychologist and the other a gray-haired
youth with a singular air—carrying about on their walks a text-book
for the instruction of boys of thirteen or fourteen?
The next day that curiosity of mine was piqued in earnest. It
rained and I did not leave the inn, but sat under the great archway
and took notes in colour of the shining road, bright drenched fields,
and dripping sky. My back was toward the courtyard, that is,
"three-quarters" to it, and about noon I became distracted from my
work by a strong self- consciousness which came upon me without any
visible or audible cause. Obeying an impulse, I swung round on my
camp-stool and looked up directly at the gallery window of the salon
of the "Grande Suite."
A man with a great white beard was standing at the window, half
hidden by the curtain, watching me intently.
He perceived that I saw him and dropped the curtain immediately, a
speck of colour in his buttonhole catching my eye as it fell.
The spy was Professor Keredec.
But why should he study me so slyly and yet so obviously? I had no
intention of intruding upon him. Nor was I a psychological "specimen,"
though I began to suspect that "that other monsieur" WAS.
I had been painting in various parts of the forest, studying the
early morning along the eastern fringe and moving deeper in as the day
advanced. For the stillness and warmth of noon I went to the very
woodland heart, and in the late afternoon moved westward to a glade—a
chance arena open to the sky, the scene of my most audacious
endeavours, for here I was trying to paint foliage luminous under
those long shafts of sunshine which grow thinner but ruddier toward
sunset. A path closely bordered by underbrush wound its way to the
glade, crossed it, then wandered away into shady dingles again; and
with my easel pitched in the mouth of this path, I sat at work, one
late afternoon, wonderful for its still loveliness.
The path debouched abruptly on the glade and was so narrow that
when I leaned back my elbows were in the bushes, and it needed care to
keep my palette from being smirched by the leaves; though there was
more room for my canvas and easel, as I had placed them at arm's
length before me, fairly in the open. I had the ambition to paint a
picture here—to do the whole thing in the woods from day to day,
instead of taking notes for the studio—and was at work upon a very
foolish experiment: I had thought to render the light—broken by the
branches and foliage—with broken brush-work, a short stroke of the
kind that stung an elder painter to swear that its practitioners
painted in shaking fear of the concierge appearing for the studio
rent. The attempt was alluring, but when I rose from my camp-stool and
stepped back into the path to get more distance for my canvas, I saw
what a mess I was making of it. At the same time, my hand, falling
into the capacious pocket of my jacket, encountered a package, my
lunch, which I had forgotten to eat, whereupon, becoming suddenly
aware that I was very hungry, I began to eat Amedee's good sandwiches
without moving from where I stood.
Absorbed, gazing with abysmal disgust at my canvas, I was eating
absent- mindedly—and with all the restraint and dignity of a Georgia
darky attacking a watermelon—when a pleasant voice spoke from just
"Pardon, monsieur; permit me to pass, if you please."
That was all it said, very quietly and in French, but a gunshot
might have startled me less.
I turned in confusion to behold a dark-eyed lady, charmingly
dressed in lilac and white, waiting for me to make way so that she
Nay, let me leave no detail of my mortification unrecorded: I have
just said that I "turned in confusion"; the truth is that I jumped
like a kangaroo, but with infinitely less grace. And in my nervous
haste to clear her way, meaning only to push the camp-stool out of the
path with my foot, I put too much valour into the push, and with
horror saw the camp-stool rise in the air and drop to the ground again
nearly a third of the distance across the glade.
Upon that I squeezed myself back into the bushes, my ears singing
and my cheeks burning.
There are women who will meet or pass a strange man in the woods or
fields with as finished an air of being unaware of him (particularly
if he be a rather shabby painter no longer young) as if the encounter
took place on a city sidewalk; but this woman was not of that priggish
kind. Her straightforward glance recognised my existence as a
fellow-being; and she further acknowledged it by a faint smile, which
was of courtesy only, however, and admitted no reference to the fact
that at the first sound of her voice I had leaped into the air, kicked
a camp-stool twenty feet, and now stood blushing, so shamefully
stuffed with sandwich that I dared not speak.
"Thank you," she said as she went by; and made me a little bow so
graceful that it almost consoled me for my caperings.
I stood looking after her as she crossed the clearing and entered
the cool winding of the path on the other side.
I stared and wished—wished that I could have painted her into my
picture, with the thin, ruddy sunshine flecking her dress; wished that
I had not cut such an idiotic figure. I stared until her filmy summer
hat, which was the last bit of her to disappear, had vanished. Then,
discovering that I still held the horrid remains of a sausage-sandwich
in my hand, I threw it into the underbrush with unnecessary force,
and, recovering my camp-stool, sat down to work again.
I did not immediately begin.
The passing of a pretty woman anywhere never comes to be quite of
no moment to a man, and the passing of a pretty woman in the greenwood
is an episode—even to a middle-aged landscape painter.
"An episode?" quoth I. I should be ashamed to withhold the truth
out of my fear to be taken for a sentimentalist: this woman who had
passed was of great and instant charm; it was as if I had heard a
serenade there in the woods—and at thought of the jig I had danced to
it my face burned again.
With a sigh of no meaning, I got my eyes down to my canvas and
began to peck at it perfunctorily, when a snapping of twigs underfoot
and a swishing of branches in the thicket warned me of a second
intruder, not approaching by the path, but forcing a way toward it
through the underbrush, and very briskly too, judging by the sounds.
He burst out into the glade a few paces from me, a tall man in
white flannels, liberally decorated with brambles and clinging shreds
of underbrush. A streamer of vine had caught about his shoulders;
there were leaves on his bare head, and this, together with the
youthful sprightliness of his light figure and the naive activity of
his approach, gave me a very faunlike first impression of him.
At sight of me he stopped short.
"Have you seen a lady in a white and lilac dress and with roses in
her hat?" he demanded, omitting all preface and speaking with a quick
eagerness which caused me no wonder—for I had seen the lady.
What did surprise me, however, was the instantaneous certainty with
which I recognised the speaker from Amedee's description; certainty
founded on the very item which had so dangerously strained the old
My sudden gentleman was strikingly good-looking, his complexion so
clear and boyishly healthy, that, except for his gray hair, he might
have passed for twenty-two or twenty-three, and even as it was I
guessed his years short of thirty; but there are plenty of handsome
young fellows with prematurely gray hair, and, as Amedee said, though
out of the world we were near it. It was the new-comer's "singular
air" which established his identity. Amedee's vagueness had irked me,
but the thing itself—the "singular air"—was not at all vague.
Instantly perceptible, it was an investiture; marked, definite—and
intangible. My interrogator was "that other monsieur."
In response to his question I asked him another:
"Were the roses real or artificial?"
"I don't know," he answered, with what I took to be a whimsical
assumption of gravity. "It wouldn't matter, would it? Have you seen
He stooped to brush the brambles from his trousers, sending me a
sidelong glance from his blue eyes, which were brightly confident and
inquiring, like a boy's. At the same time it struck me that whatever
the nature of the singularity investing him it partook of nothing
repellent, but, on the contrary, measurably enhanced his
attractiveness; making him "different" and lending him a distinction
which, without it, he might have lacked. And yet, patent as this
singularity must have been to the dullest, it was something quite
apart from any eccentricity of manner, though, heaven knows, I was
soon to think him odd enough.
"Isn't your description," I said gravely, thinking to suit my
humour to his own, "somewhat too general? Over yonder a few miles lies
Houlgate. Trouville itself is not so far, and this is the season. A
great many white hats trimmed with roses might come for a stroll in
these woods. If you would complete the items—" and I waved my hand as
if inviting him to continue.
"I have seen her only once before," he responded promptly, with a
seriousness apparently quite genuine. "That was from my window at an
inn, three days ago. She drove by in an open carriage without looking
up, but I could see that she was very handsome. No—" he broke off
abruptly, but as quickly resumed—"handsome isn't just what I mean.
Lovely, I should say. That is more like her and a better thing to be,
shouldn't you think so?"
"Probably—yes—I think so," I stammered, in considerable
"She went by quickly," he said, as if he were talking in the most
natural and ordinary way in the world, "but I noticed that while she
was in the shade of the inn her hair appeared to be dark, though when
the carriage got into the sunlight again it looked fair."
I had noticed the same thing when the lady who had passed emerged
from the shadows of the path into the sunshine of the glade, but I did
not speak of it now; partly because he gave me no opportunity, partly
because I was almost too astonished to speak at all, for I was no
longer under the delusion that he had any humourous or whimsical
"A little while ago," he went on, "I was up in the branches of a
tree over yonder, and I caught a glimpse of a lady in a light dress
and a white hat and I thought it might be the same. She wore a dress
like that and a white hat with roses when she drove by the inn. I am
very anxious to see her again."
"You seem to be!"
"And haven't you seen her? Hasn't she passed this way?"
He urged the question with the same strange eagerness which had
marked his manner from the first, a manner which confounded me by its
absurd resemblance to that of a boy who had not mixed with other boys
and had never been teased. And yet his expression was intelligent and
alert; nor was there anything abnormal or "queer" in his good-humoured
"I think that I may have seen her," I began slowly; "but if you do
not know her I should not advise—"
I was interrupted by a shout and the sound of a large body plunging
in the thicket. At this the face of "that other monsieur" flushed
slightly; he smiled, but seemed troubled.
"That is a friend of mine," he said. "I am afraid he will want me
to go back with him." And he raised an answering shout.
Professor Keredec floundered out through the last row of saplings
and bushes, his beard embellished with a broken twig, his big face red
and perspiring. He was a fine, a mighty man, ponderous of shoulder,
monumental of height, stupendous of girth; there was cloth enough in
the hot-looking black frock-coat he wore for the canopy of a small
pavilion. Half a dozen books were under his arm, and in his hand he
carried a hat which evidently belonged to "that other monsieur," for
his own was on his head.
One glance of scrutiny and recognition he shot at me from his
silver- rimmed spectacles; and seized the young man by the arm.
"Ha, my friend!" he exclaimed in a bass voice of astounding power
and depth, "that is one way to study botany: to jump out of the middle
of a high tree and to run like a crazy man!" He spoke with a strong
accent and a thunderous rolling of the "r." "What was I to think?" he
demanded. "What has arrived to you?"
"I saw a lady I wished to follow," the other answered promptly.
"A lady! What lady?"
"The lady who passed the inn three days ago. I spoke of her then,
"Tonnerre de Dieu!" Keredec slapped his thigh with the sudden
violence of a man who remembers that he has forgotten something, and
as a final addition to my amazement, his voice rang more of remorse
than of reproach. "Have I never told you that to follow strange ladies
is one of the things you cannot do?"
"That other monsieur" shook his head. "No, you have never told me
that. I do not understand it," he said, adding irrelevantly, "I
believe this gentleman knows her. He says he thinks he has seen her."
"If you please, we must not trouble this gentleman about it," said
the professor hastily. "Put on your hat, in the name of a thousand
saints, and let us go!"
"But I wish to ask him her name," urged the other, with something
curiously like the obstinacy of a child. "I wish—"
"No, no!" Keredec took him by the arm. "We must go. We shall be
late for our dinner."
"But why?" persisted the young man.
"Not now!" The professor removed his broad felt hat and hurriedly
wiped his vast and steaming brow—a magnificent structure, corniced,
at this moment, with anxiety. "It is better if we do not discuss it
"But I might not meet him again."
Professor Keredec turned toward me with a half-desperate, half-
apologetic laugh which was like the rumbling of heavy wagons over a
block pavement; and in his flustered face I thought I read a signal of
"I do not know the lady," I said with some sharpness. "I have never
seen her until this afternoon."
Upon this "that other monsieur" astonished me in good earnest.
Searching my eyes eagerly with his clear, inquisitive gaze, he took a
step toward me and said:
"You are sure you are telling the truth?"
The professor uttered an exclamation of horror, sprang forward, and
clutched his friend's arm again. "Malheureux!" he cried, and then to
me: "Sir, you will give him pardon if you can? He has no meaning to be
"Rude?" The young man's voice showed both astonishment and pain.
"Was that rude? I didn't know. I didn't mean to be rude, God knows!
Ah," he said sadly, "I do nothing but make mistakes. I hope you will
He lifted his hand as if in appeal, and let it drop to his side;
and in the action, as well as in the tone of his voice and his
attitude of contrition, there was something that reached me suddenly,
with the touch of pathos.
"Never mind," I said. "I am only sorry that it was the truth."
"Thank you," he said, and turned humbly to Keredec.
"Ha, that is better!" shouted the great man, apparently relieved of
a vast weight. "We shall go home now and eat a good dinner. But
first—" his silver-rimmed spectacles twinkled upon me, and he bent
his Brobdingnagian back in a bow which against my will reminded me of
the curtseys performed by Orloff's dancing bears—"first let me speak
some words for myself. My dear sir"—he addressed himself to me with
grave formality—"do not suppose I have no realization that other
excuses should be made to you. Believe me, they shall be. It is now
that I see it is fortunate for us that you are our fellow-innsman at
Les Trois Pigeons."
I was unable to resist the opportunity, and, affecting considerable
surprise, interrupted him with the apparently guileless query:
"Why, how did you know that?"
Professor Keredec's laughter rumbled again, growing deeper and
louder till it reverberated in the woods and a hundred hale old trees
laughed back at him.
"Ho, ho, ho!" he shouted. "But you shall not take me for a window-
curtain spy! That is a fine reputation I give myself with you! Ho,
Then, followed submissively by "that other monsieur," he strode
into the path and went thundering forth through the forest.
No doubt the most absurd thing I could have done after the
departure of Professor Keredec and his singular friend would have been
to settle myself before my canvas again with the intention of
painting—and that is what I did. At least, I resumed my camp-stool
and went through some of the motions habitually connected with the act
I remember that the first time in my juvenile reading I came upon
the phrase, "seated in a brown study," I pictured my hero in a brown
chair, beside a brown table, in a room hung with brown paper. Later,
being enlightened, I was ambitious to display the figure myself, but
the uses of ordinary correspondence allowed the occasion for it to
remain unoffered. Let me not only seize upon the present opportunity
but gild it, for the adventure of the afternoon left me in a study
which was, at its mildest, a profound purple.
The confession has been made of my curiosity concerning my fellow-
lodgers at Les Trois Pigeons; however, it had been comparatively a
torpid growth; my meeting with them served to enlarge it so suddenly
and to such proportions that I wonder it did not strangle me. In fine,
I sat there brush-paddling my failure like an automaton, and saying
over and over aloud, "What is wrong with him? What is wrong with him?"
This was the sillier inasmuch as the word "wrong" (bearing any
significance of a darkened mind) had not the slightest application to
"that other monsieur." There had been neither darkness nor dullness;
his eyes, his expression, his manner, betrayed no hint of wildness;
rather they bespoke a quick and amiable intelligence—the more amazing
that he had shown himself ignorant of things a child of ten would
know. Amedee and his fellows of Les Trois Pigeons had judged wrongly
of his nationality; his face was of the lean, right, American
structure; but they had hit the relation between the two men: Keredec
was the master and "that other monsieur" the scholar—a pupil studying
boys' textbooks and receiving instruction in matters and manners that
children are taught. And yet I could not believe him to be a simple
case of arrested development. For the matter of that, I did not like
to think of him as a "case" at all. There had been something about his
bright youthfulness— perhaps it was his quick contrition for his
rudeness, perhaps it was a certain wistful quality he had, perhaps it
was his very "singularity"— which appealed as directly to my liking
as it did urgently to my sympathy.
I came out of my vari-coloured study with a start, caused by the
discovery that I had absent-mindedly squeezed upon my palette the
entire contents of an expensive tube of cobalt violet, for which I had
no present use; and sighing (for, of necessity, I am an economical
man), I postponed both of my problems till another day, determined to
efface the one with a palette knife and a rag soaked in turpentine,
and to defer the other until I should know more of my fellow-lodgers
at Madame Brossard's.
The turpentine rag at least proved effective; I scoured away the
last tokens of my failure with it, wishing that life were like the
canvas and that men had knowledge of the right celestial turpentine.
After that I cleaned my brushes, packed and shouldered my kit, and,
with a final imprecation upon all sausage-sandwiches, took up my way
once more to Les Trois Pigeons.
Presently I came upon an intersecting path where, on my previous
excursions, I had always borne to the right; but this evening,
thinking to discover a shorter cut, I went straight ahead. Striding
along at a good gait and chanting sonorously, "On Linden when the sun
was low," I left the rougher boscages of the forest behind me and
emerged, just at sunset, upon an orderly fringe of woodland where the
ground was neat and unencumbered, and the trimmed trees stood at
polite distances, bowing slightly to one another with small, well-bred
The light was somewhere between gold and pink when I came into this
lady's boudoir of a grove. "Isar flowing rapidly" ceased its tumult
abruptly, and Linden saw no sterner sight that evening: my voice and
my feet stopped simultaneously—for I stood upon Quesnay ground.
Before me stretched a short broad avenue of turf, leading to the
chateau gates. These stood open, a gravelled driveway climbing thence
by easy stages between kempt shrubberies to the crest of the hill,
where the gray roof and red chimney-pots of the chateau were glimpsed
among the tree-tops. The slope was terraced with strips of
flower-gardens and intervals of sward; and against the green of a
rising lawn I marked the figure of a woman, pausing to bend over some
flowering bush. The figure was too slender to be mistaken for that of
the present chatelaine of Quesnay: in Miss Elizabeth's regal amplitude
there was never any hint of fragility. The lady upon the slope, then,
I concluded, must be Madame d'Armand, the inspiration of Amedee's
"Monsieur has much to live for!"
Once more this day I indorsed that worthy man's opinion, for,
though I was too far distant to see clearly, I knew that roses trimmed
Madame d'Armand's white hat, and that she had passed me, no long time
since, in the forest.
I took off my cap.
"I have the honour to salute you," I said aloud. "I make my
apologies for misbehaving with sandwiches and camp-stools in your
presence, Madame d'Armand."
Something in my own pronunciation of her name struck me as
reminiscent: save for the prefix, it had sounded like "Harman," as a
Frenchman might pronounce it.
Foreign names involve the French in terrible difficulties. Hughes,
an English friend of mine, has lived in France some five-and-thirty
years without reconciling himself to being known as "Monsieur Ig."
"Armand" might easily be Jean Ferret's translation of "Harman." Had
he and Amedee in their admiration conferred the prefix because they
considered it a plausible accompaniment to the lady's gentle bearing?
It was not impossible; it was, I concluded, very probable.
I had come far out of my way, so I retraced my steps to the
intersection of the paths, and thence made for the inn by my
accustomed route. The light failed under the roofing of foliage long
before I was free of the woods, and I emerged upon the road to Les
Trois Pigeons when twilight had turned to dusk.
Not far along the road from where I came into it, stood an old,
brown, deep-thatched cottage—a branch of brushwood over the door
prettily beckoning travellers to the knowledge that cider was here for
the thirsty; and as I drew near I perceived that one availed himself
of the invitation. A group stood about the open door, the lamp-light
from within disclosing the head of the house filling a cup for the
wayfarer; while honest Mere Baudry and two generations of younger
Baudrys clustered to miss no word of the interchange of courtesies
between Pere Baudry and his chance patron.
It afforded me some surprise to observe that the latter was a most
mundane and elaborate wayfarer, indeed; a small young man very lightly
made, like a jockey, and point-device in khaki, puttees, pongee cap,
white-and-green stock, a knapsack on his back, and a bamboo stick
under his arm; altogether equipped to such a high point of
pedestrianism that a cynical person might have been reminded of loud
calls for wine at some hostelry in the land of opera bouffe. He was
speaking fluently, though with a detestable accent, in a
rough-and-ready, pick-up dialect of Parisian slang, evidently under
the pleasant delusion that he employed the French language, while Pere
Baudry contributed his share of the conversation in a slow patois. As
both men spoke at the same time and neither understood two consecutive
words the other said, it struck me that the dialogue might prove
unproductive of any highly important results this side of Michaelmas;
therefore, discovering that the very pedestrian gentleman was making
some sort of inquiry concerning Les Trois Pigeons, I came to a halt
and proffered aid.
"Are you looking for Madame Brossard's?" I asked in English.
The traveller uttered an exclamation and faced about with a jump,
birdlike for quickness. He did not reply to my question with the same
promptness; however, his deliberation denoted scrutiny, not sloth. He
stood peering at me sharply until I repeated it. Even then he
protracted his examination of me, a favour I was unable to return with
any interest, owing to the circumstance of his back being toward the
light. Nevertheless, I got a clear enough impression of his alert,
well-poised little figure, and of a hatchety little face, and a pair
of shrewd little eyes, which (I thought) held a fine little conceit of
his whole little person. It was a type of fellow-countryman not
altogether unknown about certain "American Bars" of Paris, and usually
connected (more or less directly) with what is known to the people of
France as "le Sport."
"Say," he responded in a voice of unpleasant nasality, finally
deciding upon speech, "you're 'Nummeric'n, ain't you?"
"Yes," I returned. "I thought I heard you inquiring for—"
"Well, m' friend, you can sting me!" he interrupted with
condescending jocularity. "My style French does f'r them camels up in
Paris all right. ME at Nice, Monte Carlo, Chantilly—bow to the
p'fess'r; he's RIGHT! But down here I don't seem to be GUD enough f'r
these sheep-dogs; anyway they bark different. I'm lukkin' fer a hotel
called Les Trois Pigeons."
"I am going there," I said; "I will show you the way."
"Whur is't?" he asked, not moving.
I pointed to the lights of the inn, flickering across the fields.
"Yonder—beyond the second turn of the road," I said, and, as he
showed no signs of accompanying me, I added, "I am rather late."
"Oh, I ain't goin' there t'night. It's too dark t' see anything
now," he remarked, to my astonishment. "Dives and the choo-choo back
t' little ole Trouville f'r mine! I on'y wanted to take a LUK at this
"Do you mind my inquiring," I said, "what you expected to see at
Les Trois Pigeons?"
"Why!" he exclaimed, as if astonished at the question, "I'm a
tourist. Makin' a pedestrun trip t' all the reg'ler sights." And,
inspired to eloquence, he added, as an afterthought: "As it were."
"A tourist?" I echoed, with perfect incredulity.
"That's whut I am, m' friend," he returned firmly. "You don't have
to have a red dope-book in one hand and a thoid-class choo-choo ticket
in the other to be a tourist, do you?"
"But if you will pardon me," I said, "where did you get the notion
that Les Trois Pigeons is one of the regular sights?"
"Ain't it in all the books?"
"I don't think that it is mentioned in any of the guide-books."
"NO! I didn't say it WAS, m' friend," he retorted with contemptuous
pity. "I mean them history-books. It's in all o' THEM!"
"This is strange news," said I. "I should be very much interested
to read them!"
"Lookahere," he said, taking a step nearer me; "in oinest now, on
your woid: Didn' more'n half them Jeanne d'Arc tamales live at that
"Nobody of historical importance—or any other kind of importance,
so far as I know—ever lived there," I informed him. "The older
portions of the inn once belonged to an ancient farm-house, that is
"On the level," he demanded, "didn't that William the Conker nor
NONE o' them ancient gilt-edges live there?"
"Stung again!" He broke into a sudden loud cackle of laughter.
"Why! the feller tole me 'at this here Pigeon place was all three
rings when it come t' history. Yessir! Tall, thin feller he was, in a
three-button cutaway, English make, and kind of red-complected, with a
sandy MUS- tache," pursued the pedestrian, apparently fearing his
narrative might lack colour. "I met him right comin' out o' the Casino
at Trouville, yes'day aft'noon; c'udn' a' b'en more'n four
o'clock—hol' on though, yes 'twas, 'twas nearer five, about twunty
minutes t' five, say—an' this feller tells me—" He cackled with
laughter as palpably disingenuous as the corroborative details he
thought necessary to muster, then he became serious, as if marvelling
at his own wondrous verdancy. "M' friend, that feller soitn'y found me
easy. But he can't say I ain't game; he passes me the limes, but I'm
jest man enough to drink his health fer it in this sweet, sound
ole-fashioned cider 'at ain't got a headache in a barrel of it. He
played me GUD, and here's TO him!"
Despite the heartiness of the sentiment, my honest tourist's
enthusiasm seemed largely histrionic, and his quaffing of the beaker
too reminiscent of drain-the-wine-cup-free in the second row of the
chorus, for he absently allowed it to dangle from his hand before
raising it to his lips. However, not all of its contents was spilled,
and he swallowed a mouthful of the sweet, sound, old-fashioned
cider—but by mistake, I was led to suppose, from the expression of
displeasure which became so deeply marked upon his countenance as to
be noticeable, even in the feeble lamplight.
I tarried no longer, but bidding this good youth and the
generations of Baudry good-night, hastened on to my belated dinner.
"Amedee," I said, when my cigar was lighted and the usual hour of
consultation had arrived; "isn't that old lock on the chest where
Madame Brossard keeps her silver getting rather rusty?"
"Monsieur, we have no thieves here. We are out of the world."
"Yes, but Trouville is not so far away."
"Many strange people go to Trouville: grand-dukes, millionaires,
opera singers, princes, jockeys, gamblers—"
"And tourists," I finished.
"That is well known," assented Amedee, nodding.
"It follows," I continued with the impressiveness of all logicians,
"that many strange people may come from Trouville. In their excursions
to the surrounding points of interest—"
"Eh, monsieur, but that is true!" he interrupted, laying his right
forefinger across the bridge of his nose, which was his gesture when
he remembered anything suddenly. "There was a strange monsieur from
Trouville here this very day."
"What kind of person was he?"
"A foreigner, but I could not tell from what country."
"What time of day was he here?" I asked, with growing interest.
"Toward the middle of the afternoon. I was alone, except for
Glouglou, when he came. He wished to see the whole house and I showed
him what I could, except of course monsieur's pavilion, and the Grande
Suite. Monsieur the Professor and that other monsieur had gone to the
forest, but I did not feel at liberty to exhibit their rooms without
Madame Brossard's permission, and she was spending the day at Dives.
Besides," added the good man, languidly snapping a napkin at a moth
near one of the candles, "the doors were locked."
"This person was a tourist?" I asked, after a pause during which
Amedee seemed peacefully unaware of the rather concentrated gaze I had
fixed upon him. "Of a kind. In speaking he employed many peculiar
expressions, more like a thief of a Parisian cabman than of the polite
"The devil he did!" said I. "Did he tell you why he wished to see
the whole house? Did he contemplate taking rooms here?"
"No, monsieur, it appears that his interest was historical. At
first I should not have taken him for a man of learning, yet he gave
me a great piece of information; a thing quite new to me, though I
have lived here so many years. We are distinguished in history, it
seems, and at one time both William the Conqueror and that brave
I interrupted sharply, dropping my cigar and leaning across the
"How was this person dressed?"
"Monsieur, he was very much the pedestrian."
And so, for that evening, we had something to talk about besides
"that other monsieur"; indeed, we found our subject so absorbing that
I forgot to ask Amedee whether it was he or Jean Ferret who had
prefixed the "de" to "Armand."
The cat that fell from the top of the Washington monument, and
scampered off unhurt was killed by a dog at the next corner. Thus a
certain painter-man, winged with canvases and easel, might have been
seen to depart hurriedly from a poppy-sprinkled field, an infuriated
Norman stallion in close attendance, and to fly safely over a stone
wall of good height, only to turn his ankle upon an unconsidered
pebble, some ten paces farther on; the nose of the stallion projected
over the wall, snorting joy thereat. The ankle was one which had
turned aforetime; it was an old weakness: moreover, it was mine. I was
I could count on little less than a week of idleness within the
confines of Les Trois Pigeons; and reclining among cushions in a
wicker long- chair looking out from my pavilion upon the drowsy garden
on a hot noontide, I did not much care. It was cooler indoors,
comfortable enough; the open door framed the courtyard where pigeons
were strutting on the gravel walks between flower-beds. Beyond, and
thrown deeper into the perspective by the outer frame of the great
archway, road and fields and forest fringes were revealed, lying
tremulously in the hot sunshine. The foreground gained a human (though
not lively) interest from the ample figure of our maitre d'hotel
reposing in a rustic chair which had enjoyed the shade of an arbour
about an hour earlier, when first occupied, but now stood in the
broiling sun. At times Amedee's upper eyelids lifted as much as the
sixteenth of an inch, and he made a hazy gesture as if to wave the sun
away, or, when the table-cloth upon his left arm slid slowly
earthward, he adjusted it with a petulant jerk, without material
interruption to his siesta. Meanwhile Glouglou, rolling and smoking
cigarettes in the shade of a clump of lilac, watched with button eyes
the noddings of his superior, and, at the cost of some convulsive
writhings, constrained himself to silent laughter.
A heavy step crunched the gravel and I heard my name pronounced in
a deep inquiring rumble—the voice of Professor Keredec, no less. Nor
was I greatly surprised, since our meeting in the forest had led me to
expect some advances on his part toward friendliness, or, at least, in
the direction of a better acquaintance. However, I withheld my reply
for a moment to make sure I had heard aright.
The name was repeated.
"Here I am," I called, "in the pavilion, if you wish to see me."
"Aha! I hear you become an invalid, my dear sir." With that the
professor's great bulk loomed in the doorway against the glare
outside. "I have come to condole with you, if you allow it."
"To smoke with me, too, I hope," I said, not a little pleased.
"That I will do," he returned, and came in slowly, walking with
perceptible lameness. "The sympathy I offer is genuine: it is not only
from the heart, it is from the latissimus dorsi" he continued, seating
himself with a cavernous groan. "I am your confrere in illness, my
dear sir. I have choosed this fine weather for rheumatism of the
"I hope it is not painful."
"Ha, it is so-so," he rumbled, removing his spectacles and wiping
his eyes, dazzled by the sun. "There is more of me than of most
men—more to suffer. Nature was generous to the little germs when she
made this big Keredec; she offered them room for their campaigns of
"You'll take a cigarette?"
"I thank you; if you do not mind, I smoke my pipe."
He took from his pocket a worn leather case, which he opened,
disclosing a small, browned clay bowl of the kind workmen use; and,
fitting it with a red stem, he filled it with a dark and sinister
tobacco from a pouch. "Always my pipe for me," he said, and applied a
match, inhaling the smoke as other men inhale the light smoke of
cigarettes. "Ha, it is good! It is wicked for the insides, but it is
good for the soul." And clouds wreathed his great beard like a storm
on Mont Blanc as he concluded, with gusto, "It is my first pipe since
"That is being a good smoker," I ventured sententiously; "to whet
indulgence with abstinence."
"My dear sir," he protested, "I am a man without even enough virtue
to be an epicure. When I am alone I am a chimney with no hebdomadary
repose; I smoke forever. It is on account of my young friend I am
"He has never smoked, your young friend?" I asked, glancing at my
visitor rather curiously, I fear.
"Mr. Saffren has no vices." Professor Keredec replaced his
silver-rimmed spectacles and turned them upon me with serene
benevolence. "He is in good condition, all pure, like little
children—and so if I smoke near him he chokes and has water at the
eyes, though he does not complain. Just now I take a vacation: it is
his hour for study, but I think he looks more out of the front window
than at his book. He looks very much from the window"—there was a
muttering of subterranean thunder somewhere, which I was able to
locate in the professor's torso, and took to be his expression of a
chuckle—"yes, very much, since the passing of that charming lady some
"You say your young friend's name is Saffren?"
"Oliver Saffren." The benevolent gaze continued to rest upon me,
but a shadow like a faint anxiety darkened the Homeric brow, and an
odd notion entered my mind (without any good reason) that Professor
Keredec was wondering what I thought of the name. I uttered some
commonplace syllable of no moment, and there ensued a pause during
which the seeming shadow upon my visitor's forehead became a reality,
deepening to a look of perplexity and trouble. Finally he said
abruptly: "It is about him that I have come to talk to you."
"I shall be very glad," I murmured, but he brushed the callow
formality aside with a gesture of remonstrance.
"Ha, my dear sir," he cried; "but you are a man of feeling! We are
both old enough to deal with more than just these little words of the
mouth! It was the way you have received my poor young gentleman's
excuses when he was so rude, which make me wish to talk with you on
such a subject; it is why I would not have you believe Mr. Saffren and
me two very suspected individuals who hide here like two bad
"No, no," I protested hastily. "The name of Professor Keredec—"
"The name of NO man," he thundered, interrupting, "can protect his
reputation when he is caught peeping from a curtain! Ha, my dear sir!
I know what you think. You think, 'He is a nice fine man, that old
professor, oh, very nice—only he hides behind the curtains sometimes!
Very fine man, oh, yes; only he is a spy.' Eh? Ha, ha! That is what
you have been thinking, my dear sir!"
"Not at all," I laughed; "I thought you might fear that
was a spy."
"Eh?" He became sharply serious upon the instant. "What made you
"I supposed you might be conducting some experiments, or perhaps
writing a book which you wished to keep from the public for a time,
and that possibly you might imagine that I was a reporter."
"So! And THAT is all," he returned, with evident relief. "No, my
dear sir, I was the spy; it is the truth; and I was spying upon you. I
confess my shame. I wish very much to know what you were like, what
kind of a man you are. And so," he concluded with an opening of the
hands, palms upward, as if to show that nothing remained for
concealment, "and so I have watched you."
"Why?" I asked.
"The explanation is so simple: it was necessary."
"Because of—of Mr. Saffren?" I said slowly, and with some
"Precisely." The professor exhaled a cloud of smoke. "Because I am
sensitive for him, and because in a certain way I am—how should it be
said?—perhaps it is near the truth to say, I am his guardian."
"Forgive me," he rejoined quickly, "but I am afraid you do not see.
I am not his guardian by the law."
"I had not supposed that you were," I said.
"Because, though he puzzled me and I do not understand his
case—his case, so to speak, I have not for a moment thought him
"Ha, my dear sir, you are right!" exclaimed Keredec, beaming on me,
much pleased. "You are a thousand times right; he is as sane as
yourself or myself or as anybody in the whole wide world! Ha! he is
now much MORE sane, for his mind is not yet confused and becobwebbed
with the useless things you and I put into ours. It is open and clear
like the little children's mind. And it is a good mind! It is only a
little learning, a little experience, that he lacks. A few months
more—ha, at the greatest, a year from now—and he will not be
different any longer; he will be like the rest of us. Only"—the
professor leaned forward and his big fist came down on the arm of his
chair—"he shall be better than the rest of us! But if strange people
were to see him now," he continued, leaning back and dropping his
voice to a more confidential tone, "it would not do. This poor world
is full of fools; there are so many who judge quickly. If they should
see him now, they might think he is not just right in his brain; and
then, as it could happen so easily, those same people might meet him
again after a while. 'Ha,' they would say, 'there was a time when that
young man was insane. I knew him!' And so he might go through his life
with those clouds over him. Those clouds are black clouds, they can
make more harm than our old sins, and I wish to save my friend from
them. So I have brought him here to this quiet place where nobody
comes, and we can keep from meeting any foolish people. But, my dear
sir"—he leaned forward again, and spoke emphatically—"it would be
barbarous for men of intelligence to live in the same house and go
always hiding from one another! Let us dine together this evening, if
you will, and not only this evening but every evening you are willing
to share with us and do not wish to be alone. It will be good for us.
We are three men like hermits, far out of the world, but—a thousand
saints!—let us be civilised to one another!"
"With all my heart," I said.
"Ha! I wish you to know my young man," Keredec went on. "You will
like him—no man of feeling could keep himself from liking him—and he
is your fellow-countryman. I hope you will be his friend. He should
make friends, for he needs them."
"I think he has a host of them," said I, "in Professor Keredec."
My visitor looked at me quizzically for a moment, shook his head
and sighed. "That is only one small man in a big body, that Professor
Keredec. And yet," he went on sadly, "it is all the friends that poor
boy has in this world. You will dine with us to-night?"
Acquiescing cheerfully, I added: "You will join me at the table on
my veranda, won't you? I can hobble that far but not much farther."
Before answering he cast a sidelong glance at the arrangement of
things outside the door. The screen of honeysuckle ran partly across
the front of the little porch, about half of which it concealed from
the garden and consequently from the road beyond the archway. I saw
that he took note of this before he pointed to that corner of the
veranda most closely screened by the vines and said:
"May the table be placed yonder?"
"Certainly; I often have it there, even when I am alone."
"Ha, that is good," he exclaimed. "It is not human for a Frenchman
to eat in the house in good weather."
"It is a pity," I said, "that I should have been such a bugbear."
This remark was thoroughly disingenuous, for, although I did not
doubt that anything he told me was perfectly true, nor that he had
made as complete a revelation as he thought consistent with his duty
toward the young man in his charge, I did not believe that his former
precautions were altogether due to my presence at the inn.
And I was certain that while he might fear for his friend some
chance repute of insanity, he had greater terrors than that. As to
their nature I had no clew; nor was it my affair to be guessing; but
whatever they were, the days of security at Les Trois Pigeons had
somewhat eased Professor Keredec's mind in regard to them. At least,
his anxiety was sufficiently assuaged to risk dining out of doors with
only my screen of honeysuckle between his charge and curious eyes. So
much was evident.
"The reproach is deserved," he returned, after a pause. "It is to
be wished that all our bugbears might offer as pleasant a revelation,
if we had the courage, or the slyness"—he laughed—"to investigate."
I made a reply of similar gallantry and he got to his feet, rubbing
his back as he rose.
"Ha, I am old! old! Rheumatism in warm weather: that is ugly. Now I
must go to my boy and see what he can make of his Gibbon. The poor
fellow! I think he finds the decay of Rome worse than rheumatism in
He replaced his pipe in its case, and promising heartily that it
should not be the last he would smoke in my company and domain, was
making slowly for the door when he paused at a sound from the road.
We heard the rapid hoof-beats of a mettled horse. He crossed our
vision and the open archway: a high-stepping hackney going well,
driven by a lady in a light trap which was half full of wild flowers.
It was a quick picture, like a flash of the cinematograph, but the
pose of the lady as a driver was seen to be of a commanding grace, and
though she was not in white but in light blue, and her plain sailor
hat was certainly not trimmed with roses, I had not the least
difficulty in recognising her. At the same instant there was a hurried
clatter of foot-steps upon the stairway leading from the gallery; the
startled pigeons fluttered up from the garden-path, betaking
themselves to flight, and "that other monsieur" came leaping across
the courtyard, through the archway and into the road.
"Glouglou! Look quickly!" he called loudly, in French, as he came;
"Who is that lady?"
Glouglou would have replied, but the words were taken out of his
mouth. Amedee awoke with a frantic start and launched himself at the
archway, carroming from its nearest corner and hurtling onward at a
speed which for once did not diminish in proportion to his progress.
"That lady, monsieur?" he gasped, checking himself at the young
man's side and gazing after the trap, "that is Madame d'Armand."
"Madame d'Armand," Saffren repeated the name slowly. "Her name is
"Yes, monsieur," said Amedee complacently; "it is an American lady
who has married a French nobleman."
Like most painters, I have supposed the tools of my craft harder to
manipulate than those of others. The use of words, particularly,
seemed readier, handier for the contrivance of effects than pigments.
I thought the language of words less elusive than that of colour,
leaving smaller margin for unintended effects; and, believing in
complacent good faith that words conveyed exact meanings exactly, it
was my innocent conception that almost anything might be so described
in words that all who read must inevitably perceive that thing
precisely. If this were true, there would be little work for the
lawyers, who produce such tortured pages in the struggle to be
definite, who swing riches from one family to another, save men from
violent death or send them to it, and earn fortunes for themselves
through the dangerous inadequacies of words. I have learned how great
was my mistake, and now I am wishing I could shift paper for canvas,
that I might paint the young man who came to interest me so deeply. I
wish I might present him here in colour instead of trusting to this
unstable business of words, so wily and undependable, with their
shimmering values, that you cannot turn your back upon them for two
minutes but they will be shouting a hundred things which they were not
meant to tell.
To make the best of necessity: what I have written of him—my first
impressions—must be taken as the picture, although it be but a
gossamer sketch in the air, instead of definite work with well-ground
pigments to show forth a portrait, to make you see flesh and blood. It
must take the place of something contrived with my own tools to reveal
what the following days revealed him to me, and what it was about him
(evasive of description) which made me so soon, as Keredec wished, his
Life among our kin and kind is made pleasanter by our daily
platitudes. Who is more tedious than the man incessantly struggling to
avoid the banal? Nature rules that such a one will produce nothing
better than epigram and paradox, saying old, old things in a new way,
or merely shifting object for subject—and his wife's face, when he
shines for a circle, is worth a glance. With no further apology, I
declare that I am a person who has felt few positive likes or dislikes
for people in this life, and I did deeply like my fellow-lodgers at
Les Trois Pigeons. Liking for both men increased with acquaintance,
and for the younger I came to feel, in addition, a kind of
championship, doubtless in some measure due to what Keredec had told
me of him, but more to that half- humourous sense of protectiveness
that we always have for those young people whose untempered and
innocent outlook makes us feel, as we say, "a thousand years old."
The afternoon following our first dinner together, the two, in
returning from their walk, came into the pavilion with cheerful
greetings, instead of going to their rooms as usual, and Keredec,
declaring that the open air had "dispersed" his rheumatism, asked if
he might overhaul some of my little canvases and boards. I explained
that they consisted mainly of "notes" for future use, but consented
willingly; whereupon he arranged a number of them as for exhibition
and delivered himself impromptu of the most vehemently instructive
lecture on art I had ever heard. Beginning with the family, the tribe,
and the totem-pole, he was able to demonstrate a theory that art was
not only useful to society but its primary necessity; a curious
thought, probably more attributable to the fact that he was a
Frenchman than to that of his being a scientist.
"And here," he said in the course of his demonstration, pointing to
a sketch which I had made one morning just after sunrise—"here you
can see real sunshine. One certain day there came those few certain
moment' at the sunrise when the light was like this. Those few
moment', where are they? They have disappeared, gone for eternally.
They went"—he snapped his fingers—"like that. Yet here they
"But it doesn't look like sunshine," said Oliver Saffren
hesitatingly, stating a disconcerting but incontrovertible truth; "it
only seems to look like it because—isn't it because it's so much
brighter than the rest of the picture? I doubt if paint CAN look like
sunshine." He turned from the sketch, caught Keredec's gathering
frown, and his face flushed painfully. "Ah!" he cried, "I shouldn't
have said it?"
I interposed to reassure him, exclaiming that it were a godsend
indeed, did all our critics merely speak the plain truth as they see
it for themselves. The professor would not have it so, and cut me off.
"No, no, no, my dear sir!" he shouted. "You speak with kindness,
but you put some wrong ideas in his head!"
Saffren's look of trouble deepened. "I don't understand," he
murmured. "I thought you said always to speak the truth just as I see
it." "I have telled you," Keredec declared vehemently, "nothing of the
"But only yesterday—"
"Then you understood only one-half! I say, 'Speak the truth as you
see it, when you speak.' I did not tell you to speak! How much time
have you give' to study sunshine and paint? What do you know about
"Nothing," answered the other humbly.
A profound rumbling was heard, and the frown disappeared from
Professor Keredec's brow like the vanishing of the shadow of a little
cloud from the dome of some great benevolent and scientific institute.
He dropped a weighty hand on his young friend's shoulder, and, in high
"Then you are a critic! Knowing nothing of sunshine except that it
warms you, and never having touched paint, you are going to tell about
them to a man who spends his life studying them! You look up in the
night and the truth you see is that the moon and stars are crossing
the ocean. You will tell that to the astronomer? Ha! The truth is what
the masters see. When you know what they see, you may speak."
At dinner the night before, it had struck me that Saffren was a
rather silent young man by habit, and now I thought I began to
understand the reason. I hinted as much, saying, "That would make a
quiet world of it."
"All the better, my dear sir!" The professor turned beamingly upon
me and continued, dropping into a Whistlerian mannerism that he had
sometimes: "You must not blame that great wind of a Keredec for
preaching at other people to listen. It gives the poor man more room
for himself to talk!"
I found his talk worth hearing.
I would show you, if I could, our pleasant evenings of lingering,
after coffee, behind the tremulous screen of honeysuckle, with the
night very dark and quiet beyond the warm nimbus of our candle-light,
the faces of my two companions clear-obscure in a mellow shadow like
the middle tones of a Rembrandt, and the professor, good man, talking
wonderfully of everything under the stars and over them,—while Oliver
Saffren and I sat under the spell of the big, kind voice, the young
man listening with the same eagerness which marked him when he spoke.
It was an eagerness to understand, not to interrupt.
These were our evenings. In the afternoons the two went for their
walk as usual, though now they did not plunge out of sight of the main
road with the noticeable haste which Amedee had described. As time
pressed, I perceived the caution of Keredec visibly slackening.
Whatever he had feared, the obscurity and continued quiet of LES TROIS
PIGEONS reassured him; he felt more and more secure in this sheltered
retreat, "far out of the world," and obviously thought no danger
imminent. So the days went by, uneventful for my new friends,—days of
warm idleness for me. Let them go unnarrated; we pass to the event.
My ankle had taken its wonted time to recover. I was on my feet
again and into the woods—not traversing, on the way, a certain poppy-
sprinkled field whence a fine Norman stallion snorted ridicule over a
wall. But the fortune of Keredec was to sink as I rose. His summer
rheumatism returned, came to grips with him, laid him low. We hobbled
together for a day or so, then I threw away my stick and he exchanged
his for an improvised crutch. By the time I was fit to run, he was
able to do little better than to creep—might well have taken to his
bed. But as he insisted that his pupil should not forego the daily
long walks and the health of the forest, it came to pass that Saffren
often made me the objective of his rambles. At dinner he usually asked
in what portion of the forest I should be painting late the next
afternoon, and I got in the habit of expecting him to join me toward
sunset. We located each other through a code of yodeling that we
arranged; his part of these vocal gymnastics being very pleasant to
hear, for he had a flexible, rich voice. I shudder to recall how
largely my own performances partook of the grotesque. But in the
forest where were no musical persons (I supposed) to take hurt from
whatever noise I made, I would let go with all the lungs I had; he
followed the horrid sounds to their origin, and we would return to the
On these homeward walks I found him a good companion, and that is
something not to be under-valued by a selfish man who lives for
himself and his own little ways and his own little thoughts, and for
very little else,—which is the kind of man (as I have already
confessed) that I was—deserving the pity of all happily or unhappily
Responsive in kind to either a talkative mood or a silent one,
always gentle in manner, and always unobtrusively melancholy, Saffren
never took the initiative, though now and then he asked a question
about some rather simple matter which might be puzzling him. Whatever
the answer, he usually received it in silence, apparently turning the
thing over and over and inside out in his mind. He was almost
tremulously sensitive, yet not vain, for he was neither afraid nor
ashamed to expose his ignorance, his amazing lack of experience. He
had a greater trouble, one that I had not fathomed. Sometimes there
came over his face a look of importunate wistfulness and distressed
perplexity, and he seemed on the point of breaking out with something
that he wished to tell me—or to ask me, for it might have been a
question—but he always kept it back. Keredec's training seldom lost
its hold upon him.
I had gone back to my glade again, and to the thin sunshine, which
came a little earlier, now that we were deep in July; and one
afternoon I sat in the mouth of the path, just where I had played the
bounding harlequin for the benefit of the lovely visitor at Quesnay.
It was warm in the woods and quiet, warm with the heat of July, still
with a July stillness. The leaves had no motion; if there were birds
or insects within hearing they must have been asleep; the quivering
flight of a butterfly in that languid air seemed, by contrast, quite a
commotion; a humming-bird would have made a riot.
I heard the light snapping of a twig and a swish of branches from
the direction in which I faced; evidently some one was approaching the
glade, though concealed from me for the moment by the winding of the
path. Taking it for Saffren, as a matter of course (for we had
arranged to meet at that time and place), I raised my voice in what I
intended for a merry yodel of greeting.
I yodeled loud, I yodeled long. Knowing my own deficiencies in this
art, I had adopted the cunning sinner's policy toward sin and made a
joke of it: thus, since my best performance was not unsuggestive of
calamity in the poultry yard, I made it worse. And then and there,
when my mouth was at its widest in the production of these shocking
ulla-hootings, the person approaching came round a turn in the path,
and within full sight of me. To my ultimate, utmost horror, it was
I grew so furiously red that it burned me. I had not the courage to
run, though I could have prayed that she might take me for what I
seemed— plainly a lunatic, whooping the lonely peace of the woods
into pandemonium—and turn back. But she kept straight on, must
inevitably reach the glade and cross it, and I calculated wretchedly
that at the rate she was walking, unhurried but not lagging, it would
be about thirty seconds before she passed me. Then suddenly, while I
waited in sizzling shame, a clear voice rang out from a distance in an
answering yodel to mine, and I thanked heaven for its mercies; at
least she would see that my antics had some reason.
She stopped short, in a half-step, as if a little startled, one arm
raised to push away a thin green branch that crossed the path at
shoulder-height; and her attitude was so charming as she paused,
detained to listen by this other voice with its musical youthfulness,
that for a second I thought crossly of all the young men in the world.
There was a final call, clear and loud as a bugle, and she turned
to the direction whence it came, so that her back was toward me. Then
Oliver Saffren came running lightly round the turn of the path, near
her and facing her.
He stopped as short as she had.
Her hand dropped from the slender branch, and pressed against her
He lifted his hat and spoke to her, and I thought she made some
quick reply in a low voice, though I could not be sure.
She held that startled attitude a moment longer, then turned and
crossed the glade so hurriedly that it was almost as if she ran away
from him. I had moved aside with my easel and camp-stool, but she
passed close to me as she entered the path again on my side of the
glade. She did not seem to see me, her dark eyes stared widely
straight ahead, her lips were parted, and she looked white and
She disappeared very quickly in the windings of the path.
He came on more slowly, his eyes following her as she vanished,
then turning to me with a rather pitiful apprehension—a look like
that I remember to have seen (some hundreds of years ago) on the face
of a freshman, glancing up from his book to find his doorway ominously
filling with sophomores.
I stepped out to meet him, indignant upon several counts, most of
all upon his own. I knew there was no offence in his heart, not the
remotest rude intent, but the fact was before me that he had
frightened a woman, had given this very lovely guest of my friends
good cause to hold him a boor, if she did not, indeed, think him (as
she probably thought me) an outright lunatic! I said:
"You spoke to that lady!" And my voice sounded unexpectedly harsh
and sharp to my own ears, for I had meant to speak quietly.
"I know—I know. It—it was wrong," he stammered. "I knew I
shouldn't— and I couldn't help it."
"You expect me to believe that?"
"It's the truth; I couldn't!"
I laughed sceptically; and he flinched, but repeated that what he
had said was only the truth. "I don't understand; it was all beyond
me," he added huskily.
"What was it you said to her?"
"I spoke her name—'Madame d'Armand.'"
"You said more than that!"
"I asked her if she would let me see her again."
"Nothing," he answered humbly. "And then she—then for a moment it
seemed—for a moment she didn't seem to be able to speak—"
"I should think not!" I shouted, and burst out at him with
satirical laughter. He stood patiently enduring it, his lowered eyes
following the aimless movements of his hands, which were twisting and
untwisting his flexible straw hat; and it might have struck me as
nearer akin to tragedy rather than to a thing for laughter: this
spectacle of a grown man so like a schoolboy before the master,
shamefaced over a stammered confession.
"But she did say something to you, didn't she?" I asked finally,
with the gentleness of a cross-examining lawyer.
"Yes—after that moment."
"Well, what was it?"
"She said, 'Not now!' That was all."
"I suppose that was all she had breath for! It was just the
inconsequent and meaningless thing a frightened woman WOULD say!"
"Meaningless?" he repeated, and looked up wonderingly.
"Did you take it for an appointment?" I roared, quite out of
patience, and losing my temper completely.
"No, no, no! She said only that, and then—"
"Then she turned and ran away from you!"
"Yes," he said, swallowing painfully.
"That PLEASED you," I stormed, "to frighten a woman in the
woods—to make her feel that she can't walk here in safety! You ENJOY
doing things like that?"
He looked at me with disconcerting steadiness for a moment, and,
without offering any other response, turned aside, resting his arm
against the trunk of a tree and gazing into the quiet forest.
I set about packing my traps, grumbling various sarcasms, the last
mutterings of a departed storm, for already I realised that I had
taken out my own mortification upon him, and I was stricken with
remorse. And yet, so contrarily are we made, I continued to be unkind
while in my heart I was asking pardon of him. I tried to make my
reproaches gentler, to lend my voice a hint of friendly humour, but in
spite of me the one sounded gruffer and the other sourer with
everything I said. This was the worse because of the continued silence
of the victim: he did not once answer, nor by the slightest movement
alter his attitude until I had finished—and more than finished.
"There—and that's all!" I said desperately, when the things were
strapped and I had slung them to my shoulder. "Let's be off, in
At that he turned quickly toward me; it did not lessen my remorse
to see that he had grown very pale.
"I wouldn't have frightened her for the world," he said, and his
voice and his whole body shook with a strange violence. "I wouldn't
have frightened her to please the angels in heaven!"
A blunderer whose incantation had brought the spirit up to face me,
I stared at him helplessly, nor could I find words to answer or
control the passion that my imbecile scolding had evoked. Whatever the
barriers Keredec's training had built for his protection, they were
"You think I told a lie!" he cried. "You think I lied when I said I
couldn't help speaking to her!"
"No, no," I said earnestly. "I didn't mean—"
"Words!" he swept the feeble protest away, drowned in a whirling
vehemence. "And what does it matter? You CAN'T understand. When YOU
want to know what to do, you look back into your life and it tells
you; and I look back—AH!" He cried out, uttering a half-choked,
incoherent syllable. "I look back and it's all—BLIND! All these
things you CAN do and CAN'T do—all these infinite little things! You
know, and Keredec knows, and Glouglou knows, and every mortal soul on
earth knows—but I don't know! Your life has taught you, and you
know, but I don't know. I haven't HAD my life. It's gone! All I have
is words that Keredec has said to me, and it's like a man with no
eyes, out in the sunshine hunting for the light. Do you think words
can teach you to resist such impulses as I had when I spoke to Madame
d'Armand? Can life itself teach you to resist them? Perhaps you never
"I don't know," I answered honestly.
"I would burn my hand from my arm and my arm from my body," he went
on, with the same wild intensity, "rather than trouble her or frighten
her, but I couldn't help speaking to her any more than I can help
wanting to see her again—the feeling that I MUST—whatever you say or
do, whatever Keredec says or does, whatever the whole world may say or
do. And I will! It isn't a thing to choose to do, or not to do. I
can't help it any more than I can help being alive!"
He paused, wiping from his brow a heavy dew not of the heat, but
like that on the forehead of a man in crucial pain. I made nervous
haste to seize the opportunity, and said gently, almost timidly:
"But if it should distress the lady?"
"Yes—then I could keep away. But I must know that."
"I think you might know it by her running away—and by her look," I
said mildly. "Didn't you?"
"NO!" And his eyes flashed an added emphasis.
"Well, well," I said, "let's be on our way, or the professor will
be wondering if he is to dine alone."
Without looking to see if he followed, I struck into the path
toward home. He did follow, obediently enough, not uttering another
word so long as we were in the woods, though I could hear him
breathing sharply as he strode behind me, and knew that he was
struggling to regain control of himself. I set the pace, making it as
fast as I could, and neither of us spoke again until we had come out
of the forest and were upon the main road near the Baudry cottage.
Then he said in a steadier voice:
"Why should it distress her?"
"Well, you see," I began, not slackening the pace "there are
"Ah, I know," he interrupted, with an impatient laugh. "Keredec
once took me to a marionette show—all the little people strung on
wires; they couldn't move any other way. And so you mustn't talk to a
woman until somebody whose name has been spoken to you speaks yours to
her! Do you call that a rule of nature?"
"My dear boy," I laughed in some desperation, "we must conform to
it, ordinarily, no matter whose rule it is."
"Do you think Madame d'Armand cares for little forms like that?" he
"She does," I assured him with perfect confidence. "And, for the
hundredth time, you must have seen how you troubled her."
"No," he returned, with the same curious obstinacy, "I don't
believe it. There was something, but it wasn't trouble. We looked
straight at each other; I saw her eyes plainly, and it was—" he
paused and sighed, a sudden, brilliant smile upon his lips—"it was
very—it was very strange!"
There was something so glad and different in his look that—like
any other dried-up old blunderer in my place—I felt an instant
tendency to laugh. It was that heathenish possession, the old insanity
of the risibles, which makes a man think it a humourous thing that his
friend should be discovered in love.
But before I spoke, before I quite smiled outright, I was given the
grace to see myself in the likeness of a leering stranger trespassing
in some cherished inclosure: a garden where the gentlest guests must
always be intruders, and only the owner should come. The best of us
profane it readily, leaving the coarse prints of our heels upon its
paths, mauling and man-handling the fairy blossoms with what pudgy
fingers! Comes the poet, ruthlessly leaping the wall and trumpeting
indecently his view- halloo of the chase, and, after him, the joker,
snickering and hopeful of a kill among the rose-beds; for this has
been their hunting-ground since the world began. These two have made
us miserably ashamed of the divine infinitive, so that we are afraid
to utter the very words "to love," lest some urchin overhear and
pursue us with a sticky forefinger and stickier taunts. It is little
to my credit that I checked the silly impulse to giggle at the eternal
marvel, and went as gently as I could where I should not have gone at
"But if you were wrong," I said, "if it did distress her, and if it
happened that she has already had too much that was distressing in her
"You know something about her!" he exclaimed. "You know—"
"I do not," I interrupted in turn. "I have only a vague guess; I
may be altogether mistaken."
"What is it that you guess?" he demanded abruptly. "Who made her
"I think it was her husband," I said, with a lack of discretion for
which I was instantly sorry, fearing with reason that I had added a
final blunder to the long list of the afternoon. "That is," I added,
"if my guess is right."
He stopped short in the road, detaining me by the arm, the question
coming like a whip-crack: sharp, loud, violent.
"Is he alive?"
"I don't know," I answered, beginning to move forward; "and this is
foolish talk—especially on my part!"
"But I want to know," he persisted, again detaining me.
"And I DON'T know!" I returned emphatically. "Probably I am
entirely mistaken in thinking that I know anything of her whatever. I
ought not to have spoken, unless I knew what I was talking about, and
I'd rather not say any more until I do know."
"Very well," he said quickly. "Will you tell me then?"
"Yes—if you will let it go at that."
"Thank you," he said, and with an impulse which was but too plainly
one of gratitude, offered me his hand. I took it, and my soul was
disquieted within me, for it was no purpose of mine to set inquiries
on foot in regard to the affairs of "Madame d'Armand."
It was early dusk, that hour, a little silvered but still clear,
when the edges of things are beginning to grow indefinite, and usually
our sleepy countryside knew no tranquiller time of day; but to-night,
as we approached the inn, there were strange shapes in the roadway and
other tokens that events were stirring there.
From the courtyard came the sounds of laughter and chattering
voices. Before the entrance stood a couple of open touring-cars; the
chauffeurs engaged in cooling the rear tires with buckets of water
brought by a personage ordinarily known as Glouglou, whose look and
manner, as he performed this office for the leathern dignitaries, so
awed me that I wondered I had ever dared address him with any
presumption of intimacy. The cars were great and opulent, of
impressive wheel-base, and fore-and- aft they were laden intricately
with baggage: concave trunks fitting behind the tonneaus, thin trunks
fastened upon the footboards, green, circular trunks adjusted to the
spare tires, all deeply coated with dust. Here were fineries from
Paris, doubtless on their way to flutter over the gay sands of
Trouville, and now wandering but temporarily from the road; for such
splendours were never designed to dazzle us of Madame Brossard's.
We were crossing before the machines when one of the drivers saw
fit to crank his engine (if that is the knowing phrase) and the thing
shook out the usual vibrating uproar. It had a devastating effect upon
my companion. He uttered a wild exclamation and sprang sideways into
me, almost upsetting us both.
"What on earth is the matter?" I asked. "Did you think the car was
He turned toward me a face upon which was imprinted the sheer,
blank terror of a child. It passed in an instant however, and he
"I really didn't know. Everything has been so quiet always, out
here in the country—and that horrible racket coming so suddenly—"
Laughing with him, I took his arm and we turned to enter the
archway. As we did so we almost ran into a tall man who was coming
out, evidently intending to speak to one of the drivers.
The stranger stepped back with a word of apology, and I took note
of him for a fellow-countryman, and a worldly buck of fashion indeed,
almost as cap-a-pie the automobilist as my mysterious spiller of cider
had been the pedestrian. But this was no game-chicken; on the contrary
(so far as a glance in the dusk of the archway revealed him), much the
picture for framing in a club window of a Sunday morning; a seasoned,
hard-surfaced, knowing creature for whom many a head waiter must have
swept previous claimants from desired tables. He looked forty years so
cannily that I guessed him to be about fifty.
We were passing him when he uttered an ejaculation of surprise and
stepped forward again, holding out his hand to my companion, and
"Where did YOU come from? I'd hardly have known you."
Oliver seemed unconscious of the proffered hand; he stiffened
visibly and said:
"I think there must be some mistake."
"So there is," said the other promptly. "I have been misled by a
resemblance. I beg your pardon."
He lifted his cap slightly, going on, and we entered the courtyard
to find a cheerful party of nine or ten men and women seated about a
couple of tables. Like the person we had just encountered, they all
exhibited a picturesque elaboration of the costume permitted by their
mode of travel; making effective groupings in their ample draperies of
buff and green and white, with glimpses of a flushed and pretty face
or two among the loosened veilings. Upon the tables were pots of tea,
plates of sandwiches, Madame Brossard's three best silver dishes
heaped with fruit, and some bottles of dry champagne from the cellars
of Rheims. The partakers were making very merry, having with them (as
is inevitable in all such parties, it seems) a fat young man inclined
to humour, who was now upon his feet for the proposal of some prankish
toast. He interrupted himself long enough to glance our way as we
crossed the garden; and it struck me that several pairs of brighter
eyes followed my young companion with interest. He was well worth it,
perhaps all the more because he was so genuinely unconscious of it;
and he ran up the gallery steps and disappeared into his own rooms
without sending even a glance from the corner of his eye in return.
I went almost as quickly to my pavilion, and, without lighting my
lamp, set about my preparations for dinner.
The party outside, breaking up presently, could be heard moving
toward the archway with increased noise and laughter, inspired by some
exquisite antic on the part of the fat young man, when a girl's voice
(a very attractive voice) called, "Oh, Cressie, aren't you coming?"
and a man's replied, from near my veranda: "Only stopping to light a
A flutter of skirts and a patter of feet betokened that the girl
came running back to join the smoker. "Cressie," I heard her say in an
eager, lowered tone, "who WAS he?"
"Who was who?"
"That DEVASTATING creature in white flannels!"
The man chuckled. "Matinee sort of devastator—what? Monte Cristo
hair, noble profile—"
"You'd better tell me," she interrupted earnestly—"if you don't
want me to ask the WAITER."
"But I don't know him."
"I saw you speak to him."
"I thought it was a man I met three years ago out in San Francisco,
but I was mistaken. There was a slight resemblance. This fellow might
have been a rather decent younger brother of the man I knew. HE was
My strong impression was that if the speaker had not been
interrupted at this point he would have said something very
unfavourable to the character of the man he had met in San Francisco;
but there came a series of blasts from the automobile horns and loud
calls from others of the party, who were evidently waiting for these
"Coming!" shouted the man.
"Wait!" said his companion hurriedly, "Who was the other man, the
older one with the painting things and SUCH a coat?"
"Never saw him before in my life."
I caught a last word from the girl as the pair moved away.
"I'll come back here with a BAND to-morrow night, and serenade the
"Perhaps he'd drop me his card out of the window!"
The horns sounded again; there was a final chorus of laughter,
suddenly ceasing to be heard as the cars swept away, and Les Trois
Pigeons was left to its accustomed quiet.
"Monsieur is served," said Amedee, looking in at my door, five
"You have passed a great hour just now, Amedee."
"It was like the old days, truly!"
"They are off for Trouville, I suppose."
"No, monsieur, they are on their way to visit the chateau, and
stopped here only because the run from Paris had made the tires too
"To visit Quesnay, you mean?"
"Truly. But monsieur need give himself no uneasiness; I did not
mention to any one that monsieur is here. His name was not spoken.
Mademoiselle Ward returned to the chateau to-day," he added. "She has
been in England."
"Quesnay will be gay," I said, coming out to the table. Oliver
Saffren was helping the professor down the steps, and Keredec, bent
with suffering, but indomitable, gave me a hearty greeting, and began
a ruthless dissection of Plato with the soup. Oliver, usually, very
quiet, as I have said, seemed a little restless under the discourse
to-night. However, he did not interrupt, sitting patiently until
bedtime, though obviously not listening. When he bade me good night he
gave me a look so clearly in reference to a secret understanding
between us that, meaning to keep only the letter of my promise to him,
I felt about as comfortable as if I had meanly tricked a child.
I had finished dressing, next morning, and was strapping my things
together for the day's campaign, when I heard a shuffling step upon
the porch, and the door opened gently, without any previous ceremony
of knocking. To my angle of vision what at first appeared to have
opened it was a tray of coffee, rolls, eggs, and a packet of
sandwiches, but, after hesitating somewhat, this apparition advanced
farther into the room, disclosing a pair of supporting hands, followed
in due time by the whole person of a nervously smiling and visibly
apprehensive Amedee. He closed the door behind him by the simple
action of backing against it, took the cloth from his arm, and with a
single gesture spread it neatly upon a small table, then, turning to
me, laid the forefinger of his right hand warningly upon his lips and
bowed me a deferential invitation to occupy the chair beside the
"Well," I said, glaring at him, "what ails you?"
"I thought monsieur might prefer his breakfast indoors, this
morning," he returned in a low voice.
"Why should I?"
The miserable old man said something I did not understand—an
incoherent syllable or two—suddenly covered his mouth with both
hands, and turned away. I heard a catch in his throat; suffocated
sounds issued from his bosom; however, it was nothing more than a
momentary seizure, and, recovering command of himself by a powerful
effort, he faced me with hypocritical servility.
"Why do you laugh?" I asked indignantly.
"But I did not laugh," he replied in a husky whisper. "Not at all."
"You did," I asserted, raising my voice. "It almost killed you!"
"Monsieur," he begged hoarsely, "HUSH!"
"What is the matter?" I demanded loudly. "What do you mean by these
abominable croakings? Speak out!"
"Monsieur—" he gesticulated in a panic, toward the courtyard.
"Mademoiselle Ward is out there."
"WHAT!" But I did not shout the word.
"There is always a little window in the rear wall," he breathed in
my ear as I dropped into the chair by the table. "She would not see
I interrupted with all the French rough-and-ready expressions of
dislike at my command, daring to hope that they might give him some
shadowy, far-away idea of what I thought of both himself and his
suggestions, and, notwithstanding the difficulty of expressing strong
feeling in whispers, it seemed to me that, in a measure, I succeeded.
"I am not in the habit of crawling out of ventilators," I added,
subduing a tendency to vehemence. "And probably Mademoiselle Ward has
only come to talk with Madame Brossard."
"I fear some of those people may have told her you were here," he
"What people?" I asked, drinking my coffee calmly, yet, it must be
confessed, without quite the deliberation I could have wished.
"Those who stopped yesterday evening on the way to the chateau.
They might have recognised—"
"Impossible. I knew none of them."
"But Mademoiselle Ward knows that you are here. Without doubt."
"Why do you say so?"
"Because she has inquired for you."
"So!" I rose at once and went toward the door. "Why didn't you tell
me at once?"
"But surely," he remonstrated, ignoring my question, "monsieur will
make some change of attire?"
"Change of attire?" I echoed.
"Eh, the poor old coat all hunched at the shoulders and spotted
"Why shouldn't it be?" I hissed, thoroughly irritated. "Do you take
me for a racing marquis?"
"But monsieur has a coat much more as a coat ought to be. And Jean
"Ha, now we're getting at it!" said I. "What does Jean Ferret say?"
"Perhaps it would be better if I did not repeat—"
"Out with it! What does Jean Ferret say?"
"Well, then, Mademoiselle Ward's maid from Paris has told Jean
Ferret that monsieur and Mademoiselle Ward have corresponded for
years, and that—and that—"
"Go on," I bade him ominously.
"That monsieur has sent Mademoiselle Ward many expensive jewels,
"Aha!" said I, at which he paused abruptly, and stood staring at
me. The idea of explaining Miss Elizabeth's collection to him, of
getting anything whatever through that complacent head of his, was so
hopeless that I did not even consider it. There was only one thing to
do, and perhaps I should have done it—I do not know, for he saw the
menace coiling in my eye, and hurriedly retreated.
"Monsieur!" he gasped, backing away from me, and as his hand,
fumbling behind him, found the latch of the door, he opened it, and
scrambled out by a sort of spiral movement round the casing. When I
followed, a moment later—with my traps on my shoulder and the packet
of sandwiches in my pocket—he was out of sight.
Miss Elizabeth sat beneath the arbour at the other end of the
courtyard, and beside her stood the trim and glossy bay saddle-horse
that she had ridden from Quesnay, his head outstretched above his
mistress to paddle at the vine leaves with a tremulous upper lip. She
checked his desire with a slight movement of her hand upon the
bridle-rein; and he arched his neck prettily, pawing the gravel with a
neat forefoot. Miss Elizabeth is one of the few large women I have
known to whom a riding- habit is entirely becoming, and this group of
two—a handsome woman and her handsome horse—has had a charm for all
men ever since horses were tamed and women began to be beautiful. I
thought of my work, of the canvases I meant to cover, but I felt the
charm—and I felt it stirringly. It was a fine, fresh morning, and the
sun just risen.
An expression in the lady's attitude, and air which I instinctively
construed as histrionic, seemed intended to convey that she had been
kept waiting, yet had waited without reproach; and although she must
have heard me coming, she did not look toward me until I was quite
near and spoke her name. At that she sprang up quickly enough, and
stretched out her hand to me.
"Run to earth!" she cried, advancing a step to meet me.
"A pretty poor trophy of the chase," said I, "but proud that you
are its killer."
To my surprise and mystification, her cheeks and brow flushed
rosily; she was obviously conscious of it, and laughed.
"Don't be embarrassed," she said.
"Yes, you, poor man! I suppose I couldn't have more thoroughly
compromised you. Madame Brossard will never believe in your
"Oh, yes, she will," said I.
"What? A lodger who has ladies calling upon him at five o'clock in
the morning? But your bundle's on your shoulder," she rattled on,
laughing, "though there's many could be bolder, and perhaps you'll let
me walk a bit of the way with you, if you're for the road."
"Perhaps I will," said I. She caught up her riding-skirt, fastening
it by a clasp at her side, and we passed out through the archway and
went slowly along the road bordering the forest, her horse following
obediently at half-rein's length.
"When did you hear that I was at Madame Brossard's?" I asked.
"Ten minutes after I returned to Quesnay, late yesterday
"Who told you?"
I repeated the name questioningly. "You mean Mrs. Larrabee Harman?"
"Louise Harman," she corrected. "Didn't you know she was staying at
"I guessed it, though Amedee got the name confused."
"Yes, she's been kind enough to look after the place for us while
we were away. George won't be back for another ten days, and I've been
overseeing an exhibition for him in London. Afterward I did a round of
visits—tiresome enough, but among people it's well to keep in touch
with on George's account."
"I see," I said, with a grimness which probably escaped her. "But
how did Mrs. Harman know that I was at Les Trois Pigeons?"
"She met you once in the forest—"
"Twice," I interrupted.
"She mentioned only once. Of course she'd often heard both George
and me speak of you."
"But how did she know it was I and where I was staying?"
"Oh, that?" Her smile changed to a laugh. "Your maitre d'hotel told
Ferret, a gardener at Quesnay, that you were at the inn."
"Oh, but you mustn't be angry with him; he made it quite all
"How did he do that?" I asked, trying to speak calmly, though there
was that in my mind which might have blanched the parchment cheek of a
"He told Ferret that you were very anxious not to have it known—"
"You call that making it all right?"
"For himself, I mean. He asked Ferret not to mention who it was
that told him."
"The rascal!" I cried. "The treacherous, brazen—"
"Unfortunate man," said Miss Elizabeth, "don't you see how clear
you're making it that you really meant to hide from us?"
There seemed to be something in that, and my tirade broke up in
confusion. "Oh, no," I said lamely, "I hoped—I hoped—"
"No; I hoped to work down here," I blurted. "And I thought if I saw
too much of you—I might not."
She looked at me with widening eyes. "And I can take my choice,"
she cried, "of all the different things you may mean by that! It's
either the most outrageous speech I ever heard—or the most
"But I meant simply—"
"No." She lifted her hand and stopped me. "I'd rather believe that
I have at least the choice—and let it go at that." And as I began to
laugh, she turned to me with a gravity apparently so genuine that for
the moment I was fatuous enough to believe that she had said it
seriously. Ensued a pause of some duration, which, for my part, I
found disturbing. She broke it with a change of subject.
"You think Louise very lovely to look at, don't you?"
"Exquisite," I answered.
"Every one does."
"I suppose she told you—" and now I felt myself growing red—"that
I behaved like a drunken acrobat when she came upon me in the path."
"No. Did you?" cried Miss Elizabeth, with a ready credulity which I
thought by no means pretty; indeed, she seemed amused and, to my
surprise (for she is not an unkind woman), rather heartlessly pleased.
"Louise only said she knew it must be you, and that she wished she
could have had a better look at what you were painting."
"Heaven bless her!" I exclaimed. "Her reticence was angelic."
"Yes, she has reticence," said my companion, with enough of the
same quality to make me look at her quickly. A thin line had been
drawn across her forehead.
"You mean she's still reticent with George?" I ventured.
"Yes," she answered sadly. "Poor George always hopes, of course, in
the silent way of his kind when they suffer from such unfortunate
passions— and he waits."
"I suppose that former husband of hers recovered?"
"I believe he's still alive somewhere. Locked up, I hope!" she
"She retained his name," I observed.
"Harman? Yes, she retained it," said my companion rather shortly.
"At all events, she's rid of him, isn't she?"
"Oh, she's RID of him!" Her tone implied an enigmatic reservation
of some kind.
"It's hard," I reflected aloud, "hard to understand her making that
mistake, young as she was. Even in the glimpses of her I've had, it
was easy to see something of what she's like: a fine, rare, high
"But you didn't know HIM, did you?" Miss Elizabeth asked with some
"No," I answered. "I saw him twice; once at the time of his
accident— that was only a nightmare, his face covered with—" I
shivered. "But I had caught a glimpse of him on the boulevard, and of
all the dreadful—"
"Oh, but he wasn't always dreadful," she interposed quickly. "He
was a fascinating sort of person, quite charming and good-looking,
when she ran away with him, though he was horribly dissipated even
then. He always had been THAT. Of course she thought she'd be able to
straighten him out—poor girl! She tried, for three years—three years
it hurts one to think of! You see it must have been something very
like a 'grand passion' to hold her through a pain three years long."
"Or tremendous pride," said I. "Women make an odd world of it for
the rest of us. There was good old George, as true and straight a man
as ever lived—"
"And she took the other! Yes." George's sister laughed sorrowfully.
"But George and she have both survived the mistake," I went on with
confidence. "Her tragedy must have taught her some important
differences. Haven't you a notion she'll be tremendously glad to see
him when he comes back from America?"
"Ah, I do hope so!" she cried. "You see, I'm fearing that he hopes
so too—to the degree of counting on it."
"You don't count on it yourself?"
She shook her head. "With any other woman I should."
"Why not with Mrs. Harman?"
"Cousin Louise has her ways," said Miss Elizabeth slowly, and,
whether she could not further explain her doubts, or whether she would
not, that was all I got out of her on the subject at the time. I asked
one or two more questions, but my companion merely shook her head
again, alluding vaguely to her cousin's "ways." Then she brightened
suddenly, and inquired when I would have my things sent up to the
chateau from the inn.
At the risk of a misunderstanding which I felt I could ill afford,
I resisted her kind hospitality, and the outcome of it was that there
should be a kind of armistice, to begin with my dining at the chateau
that evening. Thereupon she mounted to the saddle, a bit of gymnastics
for which she declined my assistance, and looked down upon me from a
"Did anybody ever tell you," was her surprising inquiry, "that you
are the queerest man of these times?"
"No," I answered. "Don't you think you're a queerer woman?"
"FOOTLE!" she cried scornfully. "Be off to your woods and your
The bay horse departed at a smart gait, not, I was glad to see, a
parkish trot—Miss Elizabeth wisely set limits to her sacrifices to
Mode—and she was far down the road before I had passed the outer
fringe of trees.
My work was accomplished after a fashion more or less desultory
that day; I had many absent moments, was restless, and walked more
than I painted. Oliver Saffron did not join me in the late afternoon;
nor did the echo of distant yodelling bespeak any effort on his part
to find me. So I gave him up, and returned to the inn earlier than
While dressing I sent word to Professor Keredec that I should not
be able to join him at dinner that evening; and it is to be recorded
that Glouglou carried the message for me. Amedee did not appear, from
which it may be inferred that our maitre d'hotel was subject to lucid
intervals. Certainly his present shyness indicated an intelligence of
no low order.
The dining-room at Quesnay is a pretty work of the second of those
three Louises who made so much furniture. It was never a proper
setting for a rusty, out-of-doors painter-man, nor has such a fellow
ever found himself complacently at ease there since the day its first
banquet was spread for a score or so of fine-feathered epigram
jinglers, fiddling Versailles gossip out of a rouge-and-lace Quesnay
marquise newly sent into half-earnest banishment for too much
king-hunting. For my part, however, I should have preferred a chance
at making a place for myself among the wigs and brocades to the
Crusoe's Isle of my chair at Miss Elizabeth's table.
I learned at an early age to look my vanities in the face; I
outfaced them and they quailed, but persisted, surviving for my
discomfort to this day. Here is the confession: It was not until my
arrival at the chateau that I realised what temerity it involved to
dine there in evening clothes purchased, some four or five or six
years previously, in the economical neighbourhood of the Boulevard St.
Michel. Yet the things fitted me well enough; were clean and not
shiny, having been worn no more than a dozen times, I think; though
they might have been better pressed.
Looking over the men of the Quesnay party—or perhaps I should
signify a reversal of that and say a glance of theirs at me—revealed
the importance of a particular length of coat-tail, of a certain rich
effect obtained by widely separating the lower points of the
waistcoat, of the display of some imagination in the buttons upon the
same garment, of a doubled-back arrangement of cuffs, and of a
specific design and dimension of tie. Marked uniformity in these
matters denoted their necessity; and clothes differing from the
essential so vitally as did mine must have seemed immodest, little
better than no clothes at all. I doubt if I could have argued in
extenuation my lack of advantages for study, such an excuse being
itself the damning circumstance. Of course eccentricity is permitted,
but (as in the Arts) only to the established. And I recall a painful
change of colour which befell the countenance of a shining young man I
met at Ward's house in Paris: he had used his handkerchief and was
absently putting it in his pocket when he providentially noticed what
he was doing and restored it to his sleeve.
Miss Elizabeth had the courage to take me under her wing, placing
me upon her left at dinner; but sprightlier calls than mine demanded
and occupied her attention. At my other side sat a magnificently
upholstered lady, who offered a fine shoulder and the rear wall of a
collar of pearls for my observation throughout the evening, as she
leaned forward talking eagerly with a male personage across the table.
This was a prince, ending in "ski": he permitted himself the slight
vagary of wearing a gold bracelet, and perhaps this flavour of romance
drew the lady. Had my good fortune ever granted a second meeting, I
should not have known her.
Fragments reaching me in my seclusion indicated that the various
conversations up and down the long table were animated; and at times
some topic proved of such high interest as to engage the comment of
the whole company. This was the case when the age of one of the
English king's grandchildren came in question, but a subject which
called for even longer (if less spirited) discourse concerned the
shameful lack of standard on the part of citizens of the United
States, or, as it was put, with no little exasperation, "What is the
trouble with America?" Hereupon brightly gleamed the fat young man
whom I had marked for a wit at Les Trois Pigeons; he pictured with
inimitable mimicry a western senator lately in France. This outcast,
it appeared, had worn a slouch hat at a garden party and had otherwise
betrayed his country to the ridicule of the intelligent. "But really,"
said the fat young man, turning plaintiff in conclusion, "imagine what
such things make the English and the French think of US!" And it
finally went by consent that the trouble with America was the
vulgarity of our tourists.
"A dreadful lot!" Miss Elizabeth cheerfully summed up for them all.
"The miseries I undergo with that class of 'prominent Amurricans' who
bring letters to my brother! I remember one awful creature who said,
when I came into the room, 'Well, ma'am, I guess you're the lady of
the house, aren't you?'"
Miss Elizabeth sparkled through the chorus of laughter, but I
remembered the "awful creature," a genial and wise old man of affairs,
whose daughter's portrait George painted. Miss Elizabeth had missed
his point: the canvasser's phrase had been intended with humour, and
even had it lacked that, it was not without a pretty quaintness. So I
thought, being "left to my own reflections," which may have partaken
of my own special kind of snobbery; at least I regretted the Elizabeth
of the morning garden and the early walk along the fringe of the
woods. For she at my side to-night was another lady.
The banquet was drawing to a close when she leaned toward me and
spoke in an undertone. As this was the first sign, in so protracted a
period, that I might ever again establish relations with the world of
men, it came upon me like a Friday's footprint, and in the moment of
shock I did not catch what she said.
"Anne Elliott, yonder, is asking you a question," she repeated,
nodding at a very pretty gal down and across the table from me. Miss
Anne Elliott's attractive voice had previously enabled me to recognise
her as the young woman who had threatened to serenade Les Trois
"I beg your pardon," I said, addressing her, and at the sound my
obscurity was illuminated, about half of the company turning to look
at me with wide-eyed surprise. (I spoke in an ordinary tone, it may
need to be explained, and there is nothing remarkable about my voice).
"I hear you're at Les Trois Pigeons," said Miss Elliott.
"WOULD you mind telling us something of the MYSTERIOUS Narcissus?"
"If you'll be more definite," I returned, in the tone of a
"There couldn't be more than one like THAT," said Miss Elliott, "at
least, not in one neighbourhood, could there? I mean a RECKLESSLY
charming vision with a WHITE tie and WHITE hair and WHITE flannels."
"Oh," said I, "HE'S not mysterious."
"But he IS," she returned; "I insist on his being MYSTERIOUS!
Rarely, grandly, STRANGELY mysterious! You WILL let me think so?" This
young lady had a whimsical manner of emphasising words unexpectedly,
with a breathless intensity that approached violence, a habit
dangerously contagious among nervous persons, so that I answered
slowly, out of a fear that I might echo it.
"It would need a great deal of imagination. He's a young American,
very attractive, very simple—"
"But he's MAD!" she interrupted.
"Oh, no!" I said hastily.
"But he IS! A person told me so in a garden this VERY afternoon,"
she went on eagerly; "a person with a rake and EVER so many moles on
his chin. This person told me all about him. His name is Oliver
Saffren, and he's in the charge of a VERY large doctor and quite,
"Jean Ferret, the gardener." I said deliberately, and with venom,
"is fast acquiring notoriety in these parts as an idiot of purest ray,
and he had his information from another whose continuance unhanged is
every hour more miraculous."
"How RUTHLESS of you," cried Miss Elliott, with exaggerated
reproach, "when I have had such a thrilling happiness all day in
believing that RIOTOUSLY beautiful creature mad! You are wholly
positive he isn't?"
Our dialogue was now all that delayed a general departure from the
table. This, combined with the naive surprise I have mentioned, served
to make us temporarily the centre of attention, and, among the faces
turned toward me, my glance fell unexpectedly upon one I had not seen
since entering the dining-room. Mrs. Harman had been placed at some
distance from me and on the same side of the table, but now she leaned
far back in her chair to look at me, so that I saw her behind the
shoulders of the people between us. She was watching me with an
expression unmistakably of repressed anxiety and excitement, and as
our eyes met, hers shone with a certain agitation, as of some odd
consciousness shared with me. It was so strangely, suddenly a reminder
of the look of secret understanding given me with good night, twenty-
four hours earlier, by the man whose sanity was Miss Elliott's topic,
that, puzzled and almost disconcerted for the moment, I did not at
once reply to the lively young lady's question.
"You're hesitating!" she cried, clasping her hands. "I believe
there's a DARLING little chance of it, after all! And if it weren't
so, why would he need to be watched over, day AND night, by an
"This IS romance!" I retorted. "The doctor is Professor Keredec,
illustriously known in this country, but not as a physician, and they
are following some form of scientific research together, I believe.
But, assuming to speak as Mr. Saffren's friend," I added, rising with
the others upon Miss Ward's example, "I'm sure if he could come to
know of your interest, he would much rather play Hamlet for you than
let you find him disappointing."
"If he could come to know of my interest!" she echoed, glancing
down at herself with mock demureness. "Don't you think he could come
to know something more of me than that?"
The windows had been thrown open, allowing passage to a veranda.
Miss Elizabeth led the way outdoors with the prince, the rest of us
following at hazard, and in the mild confusion of this withdrawal I
caught a final glimpse of Mrs. Harman, which revealed that she was
still looking at me with the same tensity; but with the movement of
intervening groups I lost her. Miss Elliott pointedly waited for me
until I came round the table, attached me definitely by taking my arm,
accompanying her action with a dazzling smile. "Oh, DO you think you
can manage it?" she whispered rapturously, to which I replied—as
vaguely as I could—that the demands of scientific research upon the
time of its followers were apt to be exorbitant.
Tables and coffee were waiting on the broad terrace below, with a
big moon rising in the sky. I descended the steps in charge of this
pretty cavalier, allowed her to seat me at the most remote of the
tables, and accepted without unwillingness other gallantries of hers
in the matter of coffee and cigarettes. "And now," she said, "now that
I've done so much for your DEAREST hopes and comfort, look up at the
milky moon, and tell me ALL!"
"If you can bear it?"
She leaned an elbow on the marble railing that protected the
terrace, and, shielding her eyes from the moonlight with her hand,
affected to gaze at me dramatically. "Have no distrust," she bade me.
"Who and WHAT is the glorious stranger?"
Resisting an impulse to chime in with her humour, I gave her so dry
and commonplace an account of my young friend at the inn that I
presently found myself abandoned to solitude again.
"I don't know where to go," she complained as she rose. "These
other people are MOST painful to a girl of my intelligence, but I
cannot linger by your side; untruth long ago lost its interest for me,
and I prefer to believe Mr. Jean Ferret—if that is the gentleman's
name. I'd join Miss Ward and Cressie Ingle yonder, but Cressie WOULD
be indignant! I shall soothe my hurt with SWEETEST airs. Adieu."
With that she made me a solemn courtesy and departed, a pretty
little figure, not little in attractiveness, the strong moonlight,
tinged with blue, shimmering over her blond hair and splashing
brightly among the ripples of her silks and laces. She swept across
the terrace languidly, offering an effect of comedy not unfairylike,
and, ascending the steps of the veranda, disappeared into the orange
candle-light of a salon. A moment later some chords were sounded
firmly upon a piano in that room, and a bitter song swam out to me
over the laughter and talk of the people at the other tables. It was
to be observed that Miss Anne Elliott sang very well, though I thought
she over-emphasised one line of the stanza:
"This world is a world of lies!"
Perhaps she had poisoned another little arrow for me, too. Impelled
by the fine night, the groups upon the terrace were tending toward a
wider dispersal, drifting over the sloping lawns by threes and
couples, and I was able to identify two figures threading the paths of
the garden, together, some distance below. Judging by the pace they
kept, I should have concluded that Miss Ward and Mr. Cresson Ingle
sought the healthful effects of exercise. However, I could see no good
reason for wishing their conversation less obviously absorbing, though
Miss Elliott's insinuation that Mr. Ingle might deplore intrusion upon
the interview had struck me as too definite to be altogether pleasing.
Still, such matters could not discontent me with my solitude.
Eastward, over the moonlit roof of the forest, I could see the quiet
ocean, its unending lines of foam moving slowly to the long beaches,
too far away to be heard. The reproachful voice of the singer came no
more from the house, but the piano ran on into "La Vie de Boheme," and
out of that into something else, I did not know what, but it seemed to
be music; at least it was musical enough to bring before me some
memory of the faces of pretty girls I had danced with long ago in my
dancing days, so that, what with the music, and the distant sea, and
the soft air, so sparklingly full of moonshine, and the little dancing
memories, I was floated off into a reverie that was like a prelude for
the person who broke it. She came so quietly that I did not hear her
until she was almost beside me and spoke to me. It was the second time
that had happened.
"Mrs. Harman," I said, as she took the chair vacated by the elfin
young lady, "you see I can manage it! But perhaps I control myself
better when there's no camp-stool to inspire me. You remember my
woodland didoes—I fear?"
She smiled in a pleasant, comprehending way, but neither directly
replied nor made any return speech whatever; instead, she let her
forearms rest on the broad railing of the marble balustrade, and,
leaning forward, gazed out over the shining and mysterious slopes
below. Somehow it seemed to me that her not answering, and her quiet
action, as well as the thoughtful attitude in which it culminated,
would have been thought "very like her" by any one who knew her well.
"Cousin Louise has her ways," Miss Elizabeth had told me; this was
probably one of them, and I found it singularly attractive. For that
matter, from the day of my first sight of her in the woods I had
needed no prophet to tell me I should like Mrs. Harman's ways.
"After the quiet you have had here, all this must seem," I said,
looking down upon the strollers, "a usurpation."
"Oh, they!" She disposed of Quesnay's guests with a slight movement
of her left hand. "You're an old friend of my cousins—of both of
them; but even without that, I know you understand. Elizabeth does it
all for her brother, of course."
"But she likes it," I said.
"And Mr. Ward likes it, too," she added slowly. "You'll see, when
he comes home."
Night's effect upon me being always to make me venturesome, I took
a chance, and ventured perhaps too far. "I hope we'll see many happy
things when he comes home."
"It's her doing things of this sort," she said, giving no sign of
having heard my remark, "that has helped so much to make him the
success that he is."
"It's what has been death to his art!" I exclaimed, too
quickly—and would have been glad to recall the speech.
She met it with a murmur of low laughter that sounded pitying.
"Wasn't it always a dubious relation—between him and art?" And
without awaiting an answer, she went on, "So it's all the better that
he can have his success!"
To this I had nothing whatever to say. So far as I remembered, I
had never before heard a woman put so much comprehension of a large
subject into so few words, but in my capacity as George's friend,
hopeful for his happiness, it made me a little uneasy. During the
ensuing pause this feeling, at first uppermost, gave way to another
not at all in sequence, but irresponsible and intuitive, that she had
something in particular to say to me, had joined me for that purpose,
and was awaiting the opportunity. As I have made open confession, my
curiosity never needed the spur; and there is no denying that this
impression set it off on the gallop; but evidently the moment had not
come for her to speak. She seemed content to gaze out over the valley
"Mr. Cresson Ingle," I hazarded; "is he an old, new friend of your
cousins? I think he was not above the horizon when I went to Capri,
two years ago?"
"He wants Elizabeth," she returned, adding quietly, "as you've
seen." And when I had verified this assumption with a monosyllable,
she continued, "He's an 'available,' but I should hate to have it
happen. He's hard."
"He doesn't seem very hard toward her," I murmured, looking down
into the garden where Mr. Ingle just then happened to be adjusting a
scarf about his hostess's shoulders.
"He's led a detestable life," said Mrs. Harman, "among detestable
She spoke with sudden, remarkable vigour, and as if she knew. The
full- throated emphasis she put upon "detestable" gave the word the
sting of a flagellation; it rang with a rightful indignation that
brought vividly to my mind the thought of those three years in Mrs.
Harman's life which Elizabeth said "hurt one to think of." For this
was the lady who had rejected good George Ward to run away with a man
much deeper in all that was detestable than Mr. Cresson Ingle could
"He seems to me much of a type with these others," I said.
"Oh, they keep their surfaces about the same."
"It made me wish
I had a little more surface to-night," I
laughed. "I'd have fitted better. Miss Ward is different at different
times. When we are alone together she always has the air of excusing,
or at least explaining, these people to me, but this evening I've had
the disquieting thought that perhaps she also explained me to them."
"Oh, no!" said Mrs. Harman, turning to me quickly. "Didn't you see?
She was making up to Mr. Ingle for this morning. It came out that
she'd ridden over at daylight to see you; Anne Elliott discovered it
in some way and told him."
This presented an aspect of things so overwhelmingly novel that out
of a confusion of ideas I was able to fasten on only one with which to
continue the conversation, and I said irrelevantly that Miss Elliott
was a remarkable young woman. At this my companion, who had renewed
her observation of the valley, gave me a full, clear look of earnest
scrutiny, which set me on the alert, for I thought that now what she
desired to say was coming. But I was disappointed, for she spoke
lightly, with a ripple of amusement.
"I suppose she finished her investigations? You told her all you
"I suppose you wouldn't trust ME with the reservation?" she asked,
"I would trust you with anything," I answered seriously.
"You didn't gratify that child?" she said, half laughing. Then, to
my surprise, her tone changed suddenly, and she began again in a
hurried low voice: "You didn't tell her—" and stopped there,
breathless and troubled, letting me see that I had been right after
all: this was what she wanted to talk about.
"I didn't tell her that young Saffren is mad, no; if that is what
"I'm glad you didn't," she said slowly, sinking back in her chair
so that her face was in the shadow of the awning which sheltered the
little table between us.
"In the first place, I wouldn't have told her even if it were
true," I returned, "and in the second, it isn't true—though YOU have
some reason to think it is," I added.
"I?" she said. "Why?"
"His speaking to you as he did; a thing on the face of it
"Why did he call me 'Madame d'Armand'?" she interposed.
I explained something of the mental processes of Amedee, and she
listened till I had finished; then bade me continue.
"That's all," I said blankly, but, with a second thought, caught
her meaning. "Oh, about young Saffren, you mean?"
"I know him pretty well," I said, "without really knowing anything
about him; but what is stranger, I believe he doesn't really know a
great deal about himself. Of course I have a theory about him, though
it's vague. My idea is that probably through some great illness he
lost—not his faculty of memory, but his memories, or, at least, most
of them. In regard to what he does remember, Professor Keredec has
anxiously impressed upon him some very poignant necessity for
reticence. What the necessity may be, or the nature of the professor's
anxieties, I do not know, but I think Keredec's reasons must be good
ones. That's all, except that there's something about the young man
that draws one to him: I couldn't tell you how much I like him, nor
how sorry I am that he offended you."
"He didn't offend me," she murmured—almost whispered.
"He didn't mean to," I said warmly. "You understood that?"
"Yes, I understood."
"I am glad. I'd been waiting the chance to try to explain—to ask
you to pardon him—"
"But there wasn't any need."
"You mean because you understood—"
"No," she interrupted gently, "not only that. I mean because he has
done it himself."
"Asked your pardon?" I said, in complete surprise.
"He's written you?" I cried.
"No. I saw him to-day," she answered. "This afternoon when I went
for my walk, he was waiting where the paths intersect—"
Some hasty ejaculation, I do not know what, came from me, but she
lifted her hand.
"Wait," she said quietly. "As soon as he saw me he came straight
"Oh, but this won't do at all," I broke out. "It's too bad—"
"Wait." She leaned forward slightly, lifting her hand again. "He
called me 'Madame d'Armand,' and said he must know if he had offended
"You told him—"
"I told him 'No!'" And it seemed to me that her voice, which up to
this point had been low but very steady, shook upon the monosyllable.
"He walked with me a little way—perhaps It was longer—"
"Trust me that it sha'n't happen again!" I exclaimed. "I'll see
that Keredec knows of this at once. He will—"
"No, no," she interrupted quickly, "that is just what I want you
not to do. Will you promise me?"
"I'll promise anything you ask me. But didn't he frighten you?
Didn't he talk wildly? Didn't he—"
"He didn't frighten me—not as you mean. He was very quiet and—"
She broke off unexpectedly, with a little pitying cry, and turned to
me, lifting both hands appealingly—"And oh, doesn't he make one SORRY
That was just it. She had gone straight to the heart of his
mystery: his strangeness was the strange PATHOS that invested him; the
"singularity" of "that other monsieur" was solved for me at last.
When she had spoken she rose, advanced a step, and stood looking
out over the valley again, her skirts pressing the balustrade. One of
the moments in my life when I have wished to be a figure painter came
then, as she raised her arms, the sleeves, of some filmy texture,
falling back from them with the gesture, and clasped her hands lightly
behind her neck, the graceful angle of her chin uplifted to the full
rain of moonshine. Little Miss Elliott, in the glamour of these same
blue showerings, had borrowed gauzy weavings of the fay and the
sprite, but Mrs. Harman—tall, straight, delicate to fragility, yet
not to thinness— was transfigured with a deeper meaning, wearing the
sadder, richer colours of the tragedy that her cruel young romance had
put upon her. She might have posed as she stood against the marble
railing—and especially in that gesture of lifting her arms—for a
bearer of the gift at some foredestined luckless ceremony of votive
offerings. So it seemed, at least, to the eyes of a moon-dazed old
She stood in profile to me; there were some jasmine flowers at her
breast; I could see them rise and fall with more than deep breathing;
and I wondered what the man who had talked of her so wildly, only
yesterday, would feel if he could know that already the thought of him
had moved her.
"I haven't HAD my life. It's gone!" It was almost as if I heard his
voice, close at hand, with all the passion of regret and protest that
rang in the words when they broke from him in the forest. And by some
miraculous conjecture, within the moment I seemed not only to hear his
voice but actually to see him, a figure dressed in white, far below us
and small with the distance, standing out in the moonlight in the
middle of the tree-bordered avenue leading to the chateau gates.
I rose and leaned over the railing. There was no doubt about the
reality of the figure in white, though it was too far away to be
identified with certainty; and as I rubbed my eyes for clearer sight,
it turned and disappeared into the shadows of the orderly grove where
I had stood, one day, to watch Louise Harman ascend the slopes of
Quesnay. But I told myself, sensibly, that more than one man on the
coast of Normandy might be wearing white flannels that evening, and,
turning to my companion, found that she had moved some steps away from
me and was gazing eastward to the sea. I concluded that she had not
seen the figure.
"I have a request to make of you," she said, as I turned. "Will you
do it for me—setting it down just as a whim, if you like, and letting
it go at that?"
"Yes, I will," I answered promptly. "I'll do anything you ask."
She stepped closer, looked at me intently for a second, bit her lip
in indecision, then said, all in a breath:
"Don't tell Mr. Saffren my name!"
"But I hadn't meant to," I protested.
"Don't speak of me to him at all," she said, with the same hurried
eagerness. "Will you let me have my way?"
"Could there be any question of that?" I replied, and to my
astonishment found that we had somehow impulsively taken each other's
hands, as upon a serious bargain struck between us.
The round moon was white and at its smallest, high overhead, when I
stepped out of the phaeton in which Miss Elizabeth sent me back to
Madame Brossard's; midnight was twanging from a rusty old clock
indoors as I crossed the fragrant courtyard to my pavilion; but a lamp
still burned in the salon of the "Grande Suite," a light to my mind
more suggestive of the patient watcher than of the scholar at his
When my own lamp was extinguished, I set my door ajar, moved my bed
out from the wall to catch whatever breeze might stir, "composed
myself for the night," as it used to be written, and lay looking out
upon the quiet garden where a thin white haze was rising. If, in
taking this coign of vantage, I had any subtler purpose than to seek a
draught against the warmth of the night, it did not fail of its
reward, for just as I had begun to drowse, the gallery steps creaked
as if beneath some immoderate weight, and the noble form of Keredec
emerged upon my field of vision. From the absence of the sound of
footsteps I supposed him to be either barefooted or in his stockings.
His visible costume consisted of a sleeping jacket tucked into a pair
of trousers, while his tousled hair and beard and generally tossed and
rumpled look were those of a man who had been lying down temporarily.
I heard him sigh—like one sighing for sleep—as he went
noiselessly across the garden and out through the archway to the road.
At that I sat straight up in bed to stare—and well I might, for here
was a miracle! He had lifted his arms above his head to stretch
himself comfortably, and he walked upright and at ease, whereas when I
had last seen him, the night before, he had been able to do little
more than crawl, bent far over and leaning painfully upon his friend.
Never man beheld a more astonishing recovery from a bad case of
After a long look down the road, he retraced his steps; and the
moonlight, striking across his great forehead as he came, revealed the
furrows ploughed there by an anxiety of which I guessed the cause. The
creaking of the wooden stairs and gallery and the whine of an old door
announced that he had returned to his vigil.
I had, perhaps, a quarter of an hour to consider this performance,
when it was repeated; now, however, he only glanced out into the road,
retreating hastily, and I saw that he was smiling, while the speed he
maintained in returning to his quarters was remarkable for one so
The next moment Saffron came through the archway, ascended the
steps in turn—but slowly and carefully, as if fearful of waking his
guardian— and I heard his door closing, very gently. Long before his
arrival, however, I had been certain of his identity with the figure I
had seen gazing up at the terraces of Quesnay from the borders of the
grove. Other questions remained to bother me: Why had Keredec not
prevented this night-roving, and why, since he did permit it, should
he conceal his knowledge of it from Oliver? And what, oh, what
wondrous specific had the mighty man found for his disease?
Morning failed to clarify these mysteries; it brought, however,
something rare and rich and strange. I allude to the manner of
Amedee's approach. The aged gossip-demoniac had to recognise the fact
that he could not keep out of my way for ever; there was nothing for
it but to put as good a face as possible upon a bad business, and get
it over—and the face he selected was a marvel; not less, and in no
hasty sense of the word.
It appeared at my door to announce that breakfast waited outside.
Primarily it displayed an expression of serenity, masterly in its
assumption that not the least, remotest, dreamiest shadow of danger
could possibly be conceived, by the most immoderately pessimistic and
sinister imagination, as even vaguely threatening. And for the rest,
you have seen a happy young mother teaching first steps to the
first-born— that was Amedee. Radiantly tender, aggressively
solicitous, diffusing ineffable sweetness on the air, wreathed in
seraphic smiles, beaming caressingly, and aglow with a sacred joy that
I should be looking so well, he greeted me in a voice of honey and
bowed me to my repast with an unconcealed fondness at once maternal
I did not attempt to speak. I came out silently, uncannily
fascinated, my eyes fixed upon him, while he moved gently backward,
cooing pleasant words about the coffee, but just perceptibly keeping
himself out of arm's reach until I had taken my seat. When I had done
that, he leaned over the table and began to set useless things nearer
my plate with frankly affectionate care. It chanced that in "making a
long arm" to reach something I did want, my hand (of which the fingers
happened to be closed) passed rather impatiently beneath his nose. The
madonna expression changed instantly to one of horror, he uttered a
startled croak, and took a surprisingly long skip backward, landing in
the screen of honeysuckle vines, which, he seemed to imagine, were
some new form of hostility attacking him treacherously from the rear.
They sagged, but did not break from their fastenings, and his
behaviour, as he lay thus entangled, would have contrasted
unfavourably in dignity with the actions of a panic-stricken hen in a
"And so conscience DOES make cowards of us all," I said, with no
hope of being understood.
Recovering some measure of mental equilibrium at the same time that
he managed to find his feet, he burst into shrill laughter, to which
he tried in vain to impart a ring of debonair carelessness.
"Eh, I stumble!" he cried with hollow merriment. "I fall about and
faint with fatigue! Pah! But it is nothing: truly!"
"Fatigue!" I turned a bitter sneer upon him. "Fatigue! And you just
out of bed!"
His fat hands went up palm outward; his heroic laughter was checked
as with a sob; an expression of tragic incredulity shone from his
eyes. Patently he doubted the evidence of his own ears; could not
believe that such black ingratitude existed in the world. "Absalom, O
my son Absalom!" was his unuttered cry. His hands fell to his sides;
his chin sank wretchedly into its own folds; his shirt-bosom heaved
and crinkled; arrows of unspeakable injustice had entered the
"Just out of bed!" he repeated, with a pathos that would have
brought the judge of any court in France down from the bench to kiss
him—"And I had risen long, long before the dawn, in the cold and
darkness of the night, to prepare the sandwiches of monsieur!"
It was too much for me, or rather, he was. I stalked off to the
woods in a state of helpless indignation; mentally swearing that his
day of punishment at my hands was only deferred, not abandoned, yet
secretly fearing that this very oath might live for no purpose but to
convict me of perjury. His talents were lost in the country; he should
have sought his fortune in the metropolis. And his manner, as he
summoned me that evening to dinner, and indeed throughout the courses,
partook of the subtle condescension and careless assurance of one who
has but faintly enjoyed some too easy triumph.
I found this so irksome that I might have been goaded into an
outbreak of impotent fury, had my attention not been distracted by the
curious turn of the professor's malady, which had renewed its painful
assault upon him. He came hobbling to table, leaning upon Saffren's
shoulder, and made no reference to his singular improvement of the
night before— nor did I. His rheumatism was his own; he might do what
he pleased with it! There was no reason why he should confide the
cause of its vagaries to me.
Table-talk ran its normal course; a great Pole's philosophy
receiving flagellation at the hands of our incorrigible optimist. ("If
he could understand," exclaimed Keredec, "that the individual must be
immortal before it is born, ha! then this babbler might have writted
some intelligence!") On the surface everything was as usual with our
trio, with nothing to show any turbulence of under-currents, unless it
was a certain alertness in Oliver's manner, a restrained excitement,
and the questioning restlessness of his eyes as they sought mine from
time to time. Whatever he wished to ask me, he was given no
opportunity, for the professor carried him off to work when our coffee
was finished. As they departed, the young man glanced back at me over
his shoulder, with that same earnest look of interrogation, but it
went unanswered by any token or gesture: for though I guessed that he
wished to know if Mrs. Harman had spoken of him to me, it seemed part
of my bargain with her to give him no sign that I understood.
A note lay beside my plate next morning, addressed in a writing
strange to me, one of dashing and vigorous character.
"In the pursuit of thrillingly scientific research," it read, "what
with the tumult which possessed me, I forgot to mention the bond that
links us; I, too, am a painter, though as yet unhonoured and unhung.
It must be only because I lack a gentle hand to guide me. If I might
sit beside you as you paint! The hours pass on leaden wings at
Quesnay—I could shriek! Do not refuse me a few words of instruction,
either in the wildwood, whither I could support your shrinking steps,
or, from time to time, as you work in your studio, which (I glean from
the instructive Mr. Ferret) is at Les Trois Pigeons. At any hour, at
any moment, I will speed to you. I am, sir, "Yours, if you will but
breathe a 'yes,'
To this I returned a reply, as much in her own key as I could write
it, putting my refusal on the ground that I was not at present
painting in the studio. I added that I hoped her suit might prosper,
regretting that I could not be of greater assistance to that end, and
concluded with the suggestion that Madame Brossard might entertain an
offer for lessons in cooking.
The result of my attempt to echo her vivacity was discomfiting, and
I was allowed to perceive that epistolary jocularity was not thought
to be my line. It was Miss Elizabeth who gave me this instruction
three days later, on the way to Quesnay for "second breakfast."
Exercising fairly shame-faced diplomacy, I had avoided dining at the
chateau again, but, by arrangement, she had driven over for me this
morning in the phaeton.
"Why are you writing silly notes to that child?" she demanded, as
soon as we were away from the inn.
"Was it silly?"
"You should know. Do you think that style of humour suitable for a
This bewildered me a little. "But there wasn't anything
"No?" Miss Elizabeth lifted her eyebrows to a height of bland
inquiry. "She mightn't think it rather—well, rough? Your suggesting
that she should take cooking lessons?"
"But SHE suggested she might take PAINTING lessons," was my feeble
protest. "I only meant to show her I understood that she wanted to get
to the inn."
"And why should she care to 'get to the inn'?"
"She seemed interested in a young man who is staying there.
'Interested' is the mildest word for it I can think of."
"Pooh!" Such was Miss Ward's enigmatic retort, and though I begged
an explanation I got none. Instead, she quickened the horse's gait and
changed the subject.
At the chateau, having a mind to offer some sort of apology, I
looked anxiously about for the subject of our rather disquieting
conversation, but she was not to be seen until the party assembled at
the table, set under an awning on the terrace. Then, to my
disappointment, I found no opportunity to speak to her, for her seat
was so placed as to make it impossible, and she escaped into the house
immediately upon the conclusion of the repast, hurrying away too
pointedly for any attempt to detain her—though, as she passed, she
sent me one glance of meek reproach which she was at pains to make
Again taking me for her neighbour at the table, Miss Elizabeth
talked to me at intervals, apparently having nothing, just then, to
make up to Mr. Cresson Ingle, but not long after we rose she
accompanied him upon some excursion of an indefinite nature, which led
her from my sight. Thus, the others making off to cards indoors and
what not, I was left to the perusal of the eighteenth century facade
of the chateau, one of the most competent restorations in that part of
France, and of the liveliest interest to the student or practitioner
Mrs. Harman had not appeared at all, having gone to call upon some
one at Dives, I was told, and a servant informing me (on inquiry) that
Miss Elliott had retired to her room, I was thrust upon my own devices
indeed, a condition already closely associated in my mind with this
picturesque spot. The likeliest of my devices—or, at least, the one I
hit upon—was in the nature of an unostentatious retreat.
I went home.
However, as the day was spoiled for work, I chose a roundabout way,
in fact the longest, and took the high-road to Dives, but neither the
road nor the town itself (when I passed through it) rewarded my vague
hope that I might meet Mrs. Harman, and I strode the long miles in
considerable disgruntlement, for it was largely in that hope that I
had gone to Quesnay. It put me in no merrier mood to find Miss
Elizabeth's phaeton standing outside the inn in charge of a groom, for
my vanity encouraged the supposition that she had come out of a fear
that my unceremonious departure from Quesnay might have indicated that
I was "hurt," or considered myself neglected; and I dreaded having to
My apprehensions were unfounded; it was not Miss Elizabeth who had
come in the phaeton, though a lady from Quesnay did prove to be the
occupant— the sole occupant—of the courtyard. At sight of her I
halted stock- still under the archway.
There she sat, a sketch-book on a green table beside her and a
board in her lap, brazenly painting—and a more blushless piece of
assurance than Miss Anne Elliott thus engaged these eyes have never
She was not so hardened that she did not affect a little timidity
at sight of me, looking away even more quickly than she looked up,
while I walked slowly over to her and took the garden chair beside
her. That gave me a view of her sketch, which was a violent little
"lay-in" of shrubbery, trees, and the sky-line of the inn. To my
prodigious surprise (and, naturally enough, with a degree of pleasure)
I perceived that it was not very bad, not bad at all, indeed. It
displayed a sense of values, of placing, and even, in a young and
frantic way, of colour. Here was a young woman of more than
"You see," she said, squeezing one of the tiny tubes almost dry,
and continuing to paint with a fine effect of absorption, "I HAD to
show you that I was in the most ABYSMAL earnest. Will you take me
painting with, you?"
"I appreciate your seriousness," I rejoined. "Has it been
"How can I say? You haven't told me whether or no I may follow you
to the wildwood."
"I mean, have you caught another glimpse of Mr. Saffren?"
At that she showed a prettier colour in her cheeks than any in her
sketch-box, but gave no other sign of shame, nor even of being
flustered, cheerfully replying:
"That is far from the point. Do you grant my burning plea?" "I
understood I had offended you."
"You did," she said. "VICIOUSLY!"
"I am sorry," I continued. "I wanted to ask you to forgive me—"
I spoke seriously, and that seemed to strike her as odd or needing
explanation, for she levelled her blue eyes at me, and interrupted,
with something more like seriousness in her own voice than I had yet
heard from her:
"What made you think I was offended?"
"Your look of reproach when you left the table—"
"Nothing else?" she asked quickly.
"Yes; Miss Ward told me you were."
"Yes; she drove over with you. That's it!" she exclaimed with
vigour, and nodded her head as if some suspicion of hers had been
confirmed. "I thought so!"
"You thought she had told me?"
"No," said Miss Elliott decidedly. "Thought that Elizabeth wanted
to have her cake and eat it too."
"I don't understand."
"Then you'll get no help from me," she returned slowly, a frown
marking her pretty forehead. "But I was only playing offended, and she
knew it. I thought your note was THAT fetching!"
She continued to look thoughtful for a moment longer, then with a
resumption of her former manner—the pretence of an earnestness much
deeper than the real—"Will you take me painting with you?" she said.
"If it will convince you that I mean it, I'll give up my hopes of
seeing that SUMPTUOUS Mr. Saffren and go back to Quesnay now, before
he comes home. He's been out for a walk—a long one, since it's lasted
ever since early this morning, so the waiter told me. May I go with
you? You CAN'T know how enervating it is up there at the chateau—all
except Mrs. Harman, and even she—"
"What about Mrs. Harman?" I asked, as she paused.
"I think she must be in love."
"I do think so," said the girl. "She's LIKE it, at least."
"But with whom?"
She laughed gaily. "I'm afraid she's my rival!"
"Not with—" I began.
"Yes, with your beautiful and mad young friend."
"But—oh, it's preposterous!" I cried, profoundly disturbed. "She
couldn't be! If you knew a great deal about her—"
"I may know more than you think. My simplicity of appearance is
deceptive," she mocked, beginning to set her sketch-box in order. "You
don't realise that Mrs. Harman and I are quite HURLED upon each other
at Quesnay, being two ravishingly intelligent women entirely
surrounded by large bodies of elementals. She has told me a great deal
of herself since that first evening, and I know—well, I know why she
did not come back from Dives this afternoon, for instance."
"WHY?" I fairly shouted.
She slid her sketch into a groove in the box, which she closed, and
rose to her feet before answering. Then she set her hat a little
straighter with a touch, looking so fixedly and with such grave
interest over my shoulder that I turned to follow her glance and
encountered our reflections in a window of the inn. Her own shed a
light upon THAT mystery, at all events.
"I might tell you some day," she said indifferently, "if I gained
enough confidence in you through association in daily pursuits."
"My dear young lady," I cried with real exasperation, "I am a
working man, and this is a working summer for me!"
"Do you think I'd spoil it?" she urged gently.
"But I get up with the first daylight to paint," I protested, "and
I paint all day—"
She moved a step nearer me and laid her hand warningly upon my
sleeve, checking the outburst.
I turned to see what she meant.
Oliver Saffren had come in from the road and was crossing to the
gallery steps. He lifted his hat and gave me a quick word of greeting
as he passed, and at the sight of his flushed and happy face my riddle
was solved for me. Amazing as the thing was, I had no doubt of the
"Ah," I said to Miss Elliott when he had gone, "I won't have to
take pupils to get the answer to my question, now!"
"Ha, these philosophers," said the professor, expanding in
discourse a little later—"these dreamy people who talk of the spirit,
they tell you that spirit is abstract!" He waved his great hand in a
sweeping semicircle which carried it out of our orange candle-light
and freckled it with the cold moonshine which sieved through the
loosened screen of honeysuckle. "Ha, the folly!"
"What do YOU say it is?" I asked, moving so that the smoke of my
cigar should not drift toward Oliver, who sat looking out into the
"I, my friend? I do not say that it IS! But all such things, they
are only a question of names, and when I use the word 'spirit' I mean
identity—universal identity, if you like. It is what we all are,
yes— and those flowers, too. But the spirit of the flowers is not
what you smell, nor what you see, that look so pretty: it is the
flowers themself! Yet all spirit is only one spirit and one spirit is
all spirit—and if you tell me this is Pant'eism I will tell you that
you do not understand!"
"I don't tell you that," said I, "neither do I understand."
"Nor that big Keredec either!" Whereupon he loosed the rolling
thunder of his laughter. "Nor any brain born of the monkey people! But
this world is full of proof that everything that exist is all one
thing, and it is the instinct of that, when it draws us together,
which makes what we call 'love.' Even those wicked devils of egoism in
our inside is only love which grows too long the wrong way, like the
finger nails of the Chinese empress. Young love is a little sprout of
universal unity. When the young people begin to feel it, THEY are not
abstract, ha? And the young man, when he selects, he chooses one being
from all the others to mean—just for him—all that great universe of
which he is a part."
This was wandering whimsically far afield, but as I caught the
good- humoured flicker of the professor's glance at our companion I
thought I saw a purpose in his deviation. Saffren turned toward him
wonderingly, his unconscious, eager look remarkably emphasised and
"All such things are most strange—great mysteries," continued the
professor. "For when a man has made the selection, THAT being DOES
become all the universe, and for him there is nothing else at all—
nothing else anywhere!"
Saffren's cheeks and temples were flushed as they had been when I
saw him returning that afternoon; and his eyes were wide, fixed upon
Keredec in a stare of utter amazement.
"Yes, that is true," he said slowly. "How did you know?"
Keredec returned his look with an attentive scrutiny, and made some
exclamation under his breath, which I did not catch, but there was no
mistaking his high good humour.
"Bravo!" he shouted, rising and clapping the other upon the
shoulder. "You will soon cure my rheumatism if you ask me questions
like that! Ho, ho, ho!" He threw back his head and let the mighty
salvos forth. "Ho, ho, ho! How do I know? The young, always they
believe they are the only ones who were ever young! Ho, ho, ho! Come,
we shall make those lessons very easy to-night. Come, my friend! How
could that big, old Keredec know of such things? He is too old, too
foolish! Ho, ho, ho!"
As he went up the steps, the courtyard reverberating again to his
laughter, his arm resting on Saffren's shoulders, but not so heavily
as usual. The door of their salon closed upon them, and for a while
Keredec's voice could be heard booming cheerfully; it ended in another
burst of laughter.
A moment later Saffren opened the door and called to me.
"Here," I answered from my veranda, where I had just lighted my
"No more work to-night. All finished," he cried jubilantly,
springing down the steps. "I'm coming to have a talk with you."
Amedee had removed the candles, the moon had withdrawn in fear of a
turbulent mob of clouds, rioting into our sky from seaward; the air
smelled of imminent rain, and it was so dark that I could see my
visitor only as a vague, tall shape; but a happy excitement vibrated
in his rich voice, and his step on the gravelled path was light and
"I won't sit down," he said. "I'll walk up and down in front of the
veranda—if it doesn't make you nervous."
For answer I merely laughed; and he laughed too, in genial
response, continuing gaily:
"Oh, it's all so different with me! Everything is. That BLIND
feeling I told you of—it's all gone. I must have been very babyish,
the other day; I don't think I could feel like that again. It used to
seem to me that I lived penned up in a circle of blank stone walls; I
couldn't see over the top for myself at all, though now and then
Keredec would boost me up and let me get a little glimmer of the
country round about—but never long enough to see what it was really
like. But it's not so now. Ah!"—he drew a long breath—"I'd like to
run. I think I could run all the way to the top of a pretty fair-sized
mountain to-night, and then"— he laughed—"jump off and ride on the
"I know how that is," I responded. "At least I did know—a few
"Everything is a jumble with me," he went on happily, in a
confidential tone, "yet it's a heavenly kind of jumble. I can't put
anything into words. I don't THINK very well yet, though Keredec is
trying to teach me. My thoughts don't run in order, and this that's
happened seems to make them wilder, queerer—" He stopped short.
"What has happened?"
He paused in his sentry-go, facing me, and answered, in a low
"I've seen her again."
"Yes, I know."
"She told me you knew it," he said, "—that she had told you."
"But that's not all," he said, his voice rising a little. "I saw
her again the day after she told you—"
"You did!" I murmured.
"Oh, I tell myself that it's a dream," he cried, "that it CAN'T be
true. For it has been EVERY day since then! That's why I haven't
joined you in the woods. I have been with her, walking with her,
listening to her, looking at her—always feeling that it must be
unreal and that I must try not to wake up. She has been so kind—so
wonderfully, beautifully kind to me!"
"She has met you?" I asked, thinking ruefully of George Ward, now
on the high seas in the pleasant company of old hopes renewed.
"She has let me meet her. And to-day we lunched at the inn at Dives
and then walked by the sea all afternoon. She gave me the whole
day—the whole day! You see"—he began to pace again—"you see I was
right, and you were wrong. She wasn't offended—she was glad—that I
couldn't help speaking to her; she has said so."
"Do you think," I interrupted, "that she would wish you to tell me
"Ah, she likes you!" he said so heartily, and appearing meanwhile
so satisfied with the completeness of his reply, that I was fain to
take some satisfaction in it myself. "What I wanted most to say to
you," he went on, "is this: you remember you promised to tell me
whatever you could learn about her—and about her husband?"
"It's different now. I don't want you to," he said. "I want only to
know what she tells me herself. She has told me very little, but I
know when the time comes she WILL tell me everything. But I wouldn't
hasten it. I wouldn't have anything changed from just THIS!"
"I mean the way it IS. If I could hope to see her every day, to be
in the woods with her, or down by the shore—oh, I don't want to know
anything but that!"
"No doubt you have told her," I ventured, "a good deal about
yourself," and was instantly ashamed of myself. I suppose I spoke out
of a sense of protest against Mrs. Harman's strange lack of
conventionality, against so charming a lady's losing her head as
completely as she seemed to have lost hers, and it may have been, too,
out of a feeling of jealousy for poor George—possibly even out of a
little feeling of the same sort on my own account. But I couldn't have
said it except for the darkness, and, as I say, I was instantly
It does not whiten my guilt that the shaft did not reach him.
"I've told her all I know," he said readily, and the unconscious
pathos of the answer smote me. "And all that Keredec has let me know.
You see I haven't—"
"But do you think," I interrupted quickly, anxious, in my remorse,
to divert him from that channel, "do you think Professor Keredec would
approve, if he knew?"
"I think he would," he responded slowly, pausing in his walk again.
"I have a feeling that perhaps he does know, and yet I have been
afraid to tell him, afraid he might try to stop me—keep me from going
to wait for her. But he has a strange way of knowing things; I think
he knows everything in the world! I have felt to-night that he knows
this, and— it's very strange, but I—well, what WAS it that made him
"The light is still burning in his room," I said quietly.
"You mean that I ought to tell him?" His voice rose a little.
"He's done a good deal for you, hasn't he?" I suggested. "And even
if he does know he might like to hear it from you."
"You're right; I'll tell him to-night." This came with sudden
decision, but with less than marked what followed. "But he can't stop
me, now. No one on earth shall do that, except Madame d'Armand
herself. No one!"
"I won't quarrel with that," I said drily, throwing away my cigar,
which had gone out long before.
He hesitated, and then I saw his hand groping toward me in the
darkness, and, rising, I gave him mine.
"Good night," he said, and shook my hand as the first sputterings
of the coming rain began to patter on the roof of the pavilion. "I'm
glad to tell him; I'm glad to have told you. Ah, but isn't this," he
cried, "a happy world!"
Turning, he ran to the gallery steps. "At last I'm glad," he called
back over his shoulder, "I'm glad that I was born—"
A gust of wind blew furiously into the courtyard at that instant,
and I heard his voice indistinctly, but I thought—though I might have
been mistaken—that I caught a final word, and that it was "again."
The rain of two nights and two days had freshened the woods,
deepening the green of the tree-trunks and washing the dust from the
leaves, and now, under the splendid sun of the third morning, we sat
painting in a sylvan aisle that was like a hall of Aladdin's palace,
the filigreed arches of foliage above us glittering with pendulous
rain-drops. But Arabian Nights' palaces are not to my fancy for
painting; the air, rinsed of its colour, was too sparklingly clean;
the interstices of sky and the roughly framed distances I prized, were
brought too close. It was one of those days when Nature throws herself
straight in your face and you are at a loss to know whether she has
kissed you or slapped you, though you are conscious of the tingle;—a
day, in brief, more for laughing than for painting, and the truth is
that I suited its mood only too well, and laughed more than I painted,
though I sat with my easel before me and a picture ready upon my
palette to be painted.
No one could have understood better than I that this was setting a
bad example to the acolyte who sat, likewise facing an easel, ten
paces to my left; a very sportsmanlike figure of a painter indeed, in
her short skirt and long coat of woodland brown, the fine brown of
dead oak- leaves; a "devastating" selection of colour that!—being
much the same shade as her hair—with brown for her hat too, and the
veil encircling the small crown thereof, and brown again for the
stout, high, laced boots which protected her from the wet tangle
underfoot. Who could have expected so dashing a young person as this
to do any real work at painting? Yet she did, narrowing her eyes to
the finest point of concentration, and applying herself to the task in
hand with a persistence which I found, on that particular morning, far
beyond my own powers.
As she leaned back critically, at the imminent risk of capsizing
her camp-stool, and herself with it, in her absorption, some
ill-suppressed token of amusement most have caught her ear, for she
turned upon me with suspicion, and was instantly moved to moralize
upon the reluctance I had shown to accept her as a companion for my
excursions; taking as her theme, in contrast, her own present display
of ambition; all in all a warm, if over-coloured, sketch of the idle
master and the industrious apprentice. It made me laugh again, upon
which she changed the subject.
"An indefinable something tells me," she announced coldly, "that
henceforth you needn't be so DRASTICALLY fearful of being dragged to
the chateau for dinner, nor dejeuner either!"
"Did anything ever tell you that I had cause to fear it?"
"Yes," she said, but too simply. "Jean Ferret."
"Anglicise that ruffian's name," I muttered, mirth immediately
withering upon me, "and you'll know him better. To save time: will you
mention anything you can think of that he HASN'T told you?"
Miss Elliott cocked her head upon one side to examine the work of
art she was producing, while a slight smile, playing about her lips,
seemed to indicate that she was appeased. "You and Miss Ward are old
and dear friends, aren't you?" she asked absently.
"We are!" I answered between my teeth. "For years I have sent her
She interrupted me by breaking outright into a peal of laughter,
which rang with such childish delight that I retorted by offering
several malevolent observations upon the babbling of French servants
and the order of mind attributable to those who listened to them. Her
defence was to affect inattention and paint busily until some time
after I had concluded.
"I think she's going to take Cressie Ingle," she said dreamily,
with the air of one whose thoughts have been far, far away. "It looks
preponderously like it. She's been teetertottering these AGES and AGES
"You and Mr. Ingle," she replied, not altering her tone in the
slightest. "But she's all for her brother, of course, and though
you're his friend, Ingle is a personage in the world they court, and
among the MULTITUDINOUS things his father left him is an art magazine,
or one that's long on art or something of that sort—I don't know just
what—so altogether it will be a good thing for DEAREST Mr. Ward. She
likes Cressie, of course, though I think she likes you better—"
I managed to find my voice and interrupt the thistle-brained
creature. "What put these fantasias into your head?"
"Not Jean Ferret," she responded promptly.
"It's cruel of me to break it to you so coarsely—I know—but if
you are ever going to make up your mind to her building as glaring a
success of you as she has of her brother, I think you must do it now.
She's on the point of accepting Mr. Ingle, and what becomes of YOU
will depend on your conduct in the most immediate future. She won't
ask you to Quesnay again, so you'd better go up there on your own
accord.—And on your bended knees, too!" she added as an afterthought.
I sought for something to say which might have a chance of
impressing her—a desperate task on the face of it—and I mentioned
that Miss Ward was her hostess.
One might as well have tried to impress Amedee. She "made a little
mouth" and went on dabbling with her brushes. "Hostess? Pooh!" she
said cheerfully. "My INFANTILE father sent me here to be in her charge
while he ran home to America. Mr. Ward's to paint my portrait, when he
comes. Give and take—it's simple enough, you see!"
Here was frankness with a vengeance, and I fell back upon silence,
whereupon a pause ensued, to my share of which I imparted the deepest
shadow of disapproval within my power. Unfortunately, she did not look
at me; my effort passed with no other effect than to make some of my
facial muscles ache.
"'Portrait of Miss E., by George Ward, H. C.,'" this painfully
plain- speaking young lady continued presently. "On the line at next
spring's Salon, then packed up for the dear ones at home. I'd as soon
own an 'Art Bronze,' myself—or a nice, clean porcelain Arab."
"No doubt you've forgotten for the moment," I said, "that Mr. Ward
is my friend."
"Not in painting, he isn't," she returned quickly,
"I consider his work altogether creditable; it's carefully done,
"Isn't that true of the ladies in the hairdressers' windows?" she
asked with assumed artlessness. "Can't you say a kind word for them,
good gentleman, and heaven bless you?"
"Why sha'n't I be asked to Quesnay again?"
She laughed. "You haven't seemed FANATICALLY appreciative of your
opportunities when you have been there; you might have carried her off
from Cresson Ingle instead of vice versa. But after all, you AREN'T"—
here she paused and looked at me appraisingly for a moment-"you AREN'T
the most piratical dash-in-and-dash-out and leave-everything-upside-
down-behind-you sort of man, are you?"
"No, I believe I'm not."
"However, that's only a SMALL half of the reason," Miss Elliott
went on. "She's furious on account of this."
These were vague words, and I said so.
"Oh, THIS," she explained, "my being here; your letting me come.
Impropriety—all of that!" A sharp whistle issued from her lips. "Oh!
the EXCORIATING things she's said of my pursuing you!"
"But doesn't she know that it's only part of your siege of Madame
Brossard's; that it's a subterfuge in the hope of catching a glimpse
of Oliver Saffren?"
"No!" she cried, her eyes dancing; "I told her that, but she thinks
it's only a subterfuge in the hope of catching more than a glimpse of
I joined laughter with her then. She was the first to stop, and,
looking at me somewhat doubtfully, she said:
"Whereas, the truth is that it's neither. You know very well that I
want to paint."
"Certainly," I agreed at once. "Your devotion to 'your art' and
your hope of spending half an hour at Madame Brossard's now and then
are separable;—which reminds me: Wouldn't you like me to look at your
"No, not yet." She jumped up and brought her camp-stool over to
mine. "I feel that I could better bear what you'll say of it after
I've had some lunch. Not a SYLLABLE of food has crossed my lips since
coffee at dawn!"
I spread before her what Amedee had prepared; not sandwiches for
the pocket to-day, but a wicker hamper, one end of which we let rest
upon her knees, the other upon mine, and at sight of the foie gras,
the delicate, devilled partridge, the truffled salad, the fine yellow
cheese, and the long bottle of good red Beaune, revealed when the
cover was off, I could almost have forgiven the old rascal for his
scandal- mongering. As for my vis-a-vis, she pronounced it a
"Fall to, my merry man," she added, "and eat your fill of this fair
pasty, under the greenwood tree." Obeying her instructions with right
good-will, and the lady likewise evincing no hatred of the viands, we
made a cheerful meal of it, topping it with peaches and bunches of
"It is unfair to let you do all the catering," said Miss Elliott,
after carefully selecting the largest and best peach.
"Jean Ferret's friend does that," I returned, watching her rather
intently as she dexterously peeled the peach. She did it very
daintily, I had to admit that—though I regretted to observe
indications of the gourmet in one so young. But when it was peeled
clean, she set it on a fresh green leaf, and, to my surprise, gave it
"You see," she continued, not observing my remorseful confusion, "I
couldn't destroy Elizabeth's peace of mind and then raid her larder to
boot. That poor lady! I make her trouble enough, but it's nothing to
what she's going to have when she finds out some things that she must
"What is that?"
"About Mrs. Harman," was the serious reply. "Elizabeth hasn't a
"'Clue'?" I echoed.
"To Louise's strange affair." Miss Elliott's expression had grown
as serious as her tone. "It is strange; the strangest thing I ever
"But there's your own case," I urged. "Why should you think it
strange of her to take an interest in Saffren?"
"I adore him, of course," she said. "He is the most
glorious-looking person I've ever seen, but on my WORD—" She paused,
and as her gaze met mine I saw real earnestness in her eyes. "I'm
afraid—I was half joking the other day—but now I'm really afraid
Louise is beginning to be in love with him."
"Oh, mightn't it be only interest, so far?" I said.
"No, it's much more. And I've grown so fond of her!" the girl went
on, her voice unexpectedly verging upon tremulousness. "She's quite
wonderful in her way—such an understanding sort of woman, and
generous and kind; there are so many things turning up in a party like
ours at Quesnay that show what people are really made of, and she's a
rare, fine spirit. It seems a pity, with such a miserable first
experience as she had, that this should happen. Oh I know," she
continued rapidly, cutting off a half-formed protest of mine. "He
isn't mad—and I'm sorry I tried to be amusing about it the night you
dined at the chateau. I know perfectly well he's not insane; but I'm
absolutely sure, from one thing and another, that—well—he isn't ALL
THERE! He's as beautiful as a seraph and probably as good as one, but
something is MISSING about him— and it begins to look like a second
tragedy for her."
"You mean, she really—" I began.
"Yes, I do," she returned, with a catch in her throat. "She conies
to my room when the others are asleep. Not that she tells me a great
deal, but it's in the air, somehow; she told me with such a strained
sort of gaiety of their meeting and his first joining her; and there
was something underneath as if she thought I might be really
serious in my ravings about him, and—yes, as if she meant to warn me
off. And the other night, when I saw her after their lunching together
at Dives, I asked her teasingly if she'd had a happy day, and she
laughed the prettiest laugh I ever heard and put her arms around
me—then suddenly broke out crying and ran out of the room."
"But that may have been no more than over-strained nerves," I
"Of course it was!" she cried, regarding me with justifiable
astonishment. "It's the CAUSE of their being overstrained that
interests me! It's all so strange and distressing," she continued more
gently, "that I wish I weren't there to see it. And there's poor
George Ward coming—ah! and when Elizabeth learns of it!"
"Mrs. Harman had her way once, in spite of everything," I said
"Yes, she was a headstrong girl of nineteen, then. But let's not
think it could go as far as that! There!" She threw a peach-stone over
her shoulder and sprang up gaily. "Let's not talk of it; I THINK of it
enough! It's time for you to give me a RACKING criticism on my
Taking off her coat as she spoke, she unbuttoned the cuffs of her
manly blouse and rolled up her sleeves as far as they would go,
preparations which I observed with some perplexity.
"If you intend any violence," said I, "in case my views of your
work shouldn't meet your own, I think I'll be leaving."
"Wait," she responded, and kneeling upon one knee beside a bush
near by, thrust her arms elbow-deep under the outer mantle of leaves,
shaking the stems vigorously, and sending down a shower of sparkling
drops. Never lived sane man, or madman, since time began, who, seeing
her then, could or would have denied that she made the very prettiest
picture ever seen by any person or persons whatsoever—but her purpose
was difficult to fathom. Pursuing it, I remarked that it was
improbable that birds would be nesting so low.
"It's for a finger bowl," she said briskly. And rising, this most
practical of her sex dried her hands upon a fresh serviette from the
hamper. "Last night's rain is worth two birds in the bush."
With that, she readjusted her sleeves, lightly donned her coat, and
preceded me to her easel. "Now," she commanded, "slaughter! It's what
I let you come with me for."
I looked at her sketch with much more attention than I had given
the small board she had used as a bait in the courtyard of Les Trois
Pigeons. Today she showed a larger ambition, and a larger canvas as
well—or, perhaps I should say a larger burlap, for she had chosen to
paint upon something strongly resembling a square of coffee-sacking.
But there was no doubt she had "found colour" in a swash-buckling,
bullying style of forcing it to be there, whether it was or not, and
to "vibrate," whether it did or not. There was not much to be said,
for the violent kind of thing she had done always hushes me; and even
when it is well done I am never sure whether its right place is the
"Salon des Independants" or the Luxembourg. It SEEMS dreadful, and yet
sometimes I fear in secret that it may be a real transition, or even
an awakening, and that the men I began with, and I, are standing
still. The older men called US lunatics once, and the critics said we
were "daring," but that was long ago.
"Well?" she said.
I had to speak, so I paraphrased a mot of Degas (I think it was
Degas) and said:
"If Rousseau could come to life and see this sketch of yours, I
imagine he would be very much interested, but if he saw mine he might
say, 'That is my fault!'"
"OH!" she cried, her colour rising quickly; she looked troubled for
a second, then her eyes twinkled. "You're not going to let my work
make a difference between us, are you?"
"I'll even try to look at it from your own point of view," I
answered, stepping back several yards to see it better, though I
should have had to retire about a quarter of the length of a city
block to see it quite from her own point of view.
She moved with me, both of us walking backward. I began:
"For a day like this, with all the colour in the trees themselves
and so very little in the air—"
There came an interruption, a voice of unpleasant and wiry
nasality, speaking from behind us.
"WELL, WELL!" it said. "So here we are again!"
I faced about and beheld, just emerged from a by-path, a fox-faced
young man whose light, well-poised figure was jauntily clad in gray
serge, with scarlet waistcoat and tie, white shoes upon his feet, and
a white hat, gaily beribboned, upon his head. A recollection of the
dusky road and a group of people about Pere Baudry's lamplit door
flickered across my mind.
"The historical tourist!" I exclaimed. "The highly pedestrian
tripper from Trouville!"
"You got me right, m'dear friend," he replied with condescension;
"I rec'leck meetin' you perfect."
"And I was interested to learn," said I, carefully observing the
effect of my words upon him, "that you had been to Les Trois Pigeons
after all. Perhaps I might put it, you had been through Les Trois
Pigeons, for the maitre d'hotel informed me you had investigated every
corner—that wasn't locked."
"Sure," he returned, with rather less embarrassment than a brazen
Vishnu would have exhibited under the same circumstances. "He showed
me what pitchers they was in your studio. I'll luk'em over again fer
ye one of these days. Some of 'em was right gud."
"You will be visiting near enough for me to avail myself of the
"Right in the Pigeon House, m'friend. I've just come down t'putt in
a few days there," he responded coolly. "They's a young feller in this
neighbourhood I take a kind o' fam'ly interest in."
"Who is that?" I asked quickly.
For answer he produced the effect of a laugh by widening and
lifting one side of his mouth, leaving the other, meantime, rigid.
"Don' lemme int'rup' the conv'sation with yer lady-friend," he said
winningly. "What they call 'talkin' High Arts,' wasn't it? I'd like to
Miss Elliott's expression, when I turned to observe the effect of
the intruder upon her, was found to be one of brilliant delight. With
glowing eyes, her lips parted in a breathless ecstasy, she gazed upon
the newcomer, evidently fearing to lose a syllable that fell from his
lips. Moving closer to me she whispered urgently:
"Keep him. Oh, keep him!"
To detain him, for a time at least, was my intention, though my
motive was not merely to afford her pleasure. The advent of the young
man had produced a singularly disagreeable impression upon me, quite
apart from any antagonism I might have felt toward him as a type.
Strange suspicions leaped into my mind, formless—in the surprise of
the moment— but rapidly groping toward definite outline; and
following hard upon them crept a tingling apprehension. The
reappearance of this rattish youth, casual as was the air with which
he strove to invest it, began to assume, for me, the character of a
theatrical entrance of unpleasant portent—a suggestion just now
enhanced by an absurdly obvious notion of his own that he was enacting
a part. This was written all over him, most legibly in his attitude of
the knowing amateur, as he surveyed Miss Elliott's painting
patronisingly, his head on one side, his cane in the crook of his
elbows behind his back, and his body teetering genteelly as he shifted
his weight from his toes to his heels and back again, nodding
meanwhile a slight but judicial approbation.
"Now, about how much," he said slowly, "would you expec' t' git f'r
a pitcher that size?"
"It isn't mine," I informed him.
"You don't tell me it's the little lady's—what?" He bowed genially
and favoured Miss Elliott with a stare of warm admiration. "Pretty a
thing as I ever see," he added.
"Oh," she cried with an ardour that choked her slightly. "THANK
"Oh, I meant the PITCHER!" he said hastily, evidently nonplussed by
a gratitude so fervent.
The incorrigible damsel cast down her eyes in modesty. "And I had
hoped," she breathed, "something so different!"
I could not be certain whether or not he caught the whisper; I
thought he did. At all events, the surface of his easy assurance
appeared somewhat disarranged; and, perhaps to restore it by
performing the rites of etiquette, he said:
"Well, I expec' the smart thing now is to pass the cards, but
mine's in my grip an' it ain't unpacked yet. The name you'd see on 'em
is Oil Poicy."
"Oil Poicy," echoed Miss Elliott, turning to me in genuine
"Mr. Earl Percy," I translated.
"Oh, RAPTUROUS!" she cried, her face radiant. "And WON'T Mr. Percy
give us his opinion of my Art?"
Mr. Percy was in doubt how to take her enthusiasm; he seemed on the
point of turning surly, and hesitated, while a sharp vertical line
appeared on his small forehead; but he evidently concluded, after a
deep glance at her, that if she was making game of him it was in no
ill- natured spirit—nay, I think that for a few moments he suspected
her liveliness to be some method of her own for the incipient stages
of a flirtation.
Finally he turned again to the easel, and as he examined the
painting thereon at closer range, amazement overspread his features.
However, pulling himself together, he found himself able to reply—and
with great gallantry:
"Well, on'y t' think them little hands cud 'a' done all that rough
The unintended viciousness of this retort produced an effect so
marked, that, except for my growing uneasiness, I might have enjoyed
As it was, I saved her face by entering into the conversation with
a question, which I put quickly:
"You intend pursuing your historical researches in the
The facial contortion which served him for a laugh, and at the same
time as a symbol of unfathomable reserve, was repeated, accompanied by
a jocose manifestation, in the nature of a sharp and taunting cackle,
which seemed to indicate a conviction that he was getting much the
best of it in some conflict of wits.
"Them fairy tales I handed you about ole Jeanne d'Arc and William
the Conker," he said, "say, they must 'a' made you sore after-WOIDS!"
"On the contrary, I was much interested in everything pertaining to
your too brief visit," I returned; "I am even more so now."
"Well, m'friend"—he shot me a sidelong, distrustful glance—"keep
yer eyes open."
"That is just the point!" I laughed, with intentional significance,
for I meant to make Mr. Percy talk as much as I could. To this end,
remembering that specimens of his kind are most indiscreet when
carefully enraged, I added, simulating his own manner:
"Eyes open—and doors locked! What?"
At this I heard a gasp of astonishment from Miss Elliott, who must
have been puzzled indeed; but I was intent upon the other. He proved
perfectly capable of being insulted.
"I guess they ain't much need o' lockin' YOUR door," he retorted
darkly; "not from what I saw when I was in your studio!" He should
have stopped there, for the hit was palpable and justified; but in his
resentment he overdid it. "You needn't be scared of anybody's cartin'
off THEM pitchers, young feller! WHOOSH! An' f'm the luks of the
CLO'ES I saw hangin' on the wall," he continued, growing more nettled
as I smiled cheerfully upon him, "I don' b'lieve you gut any worries
comin' about THEM, neither!"
"I suppose our tastes are different," I said, letting my smile
broaden. "There might be protection in that."
His stare at me was protracted to an unseemly length before the
sting of this remark reached him; it penetrated finally, however, and
in his sharp change of posture there was a lightning flicker of the
experienced boxer; but he checked the impulse, and took up the task of
obliterating me in another way.
"As I tell the little dame here," he said, pitching his voice
higher and affecting the plaintive, "I make no passes at a friend o'
her—not in front o' her, anyways. But when it comes to these here
ole, ancient curiosities"—he cackled again, loudly—"well, I guess
them clo'es I see, that day, kin hand it out t' anything they got in
the museums! 'Look here,' I says to the waiter, 'THESE must be'n left
over f'm ole Jeanne d'Arc herself,' I says. 'Talk about yer relics,' I
says. Whoosh! I'd like t' died!" He laughed violently, and concluded
by turning upon me with a contemptuous flourish of his stick. "You
think I d'know what makes YOU so raw?"
The form of repartee necessary to augment his ill humour was, of
course, a matter of simple mechanism for one who had not entirely
forgotten his student days in the Quarter; and I delivered it airily,
though I shivered inwardly that Miss Elliott should hear.
"Everything will be all right if, when you dine at the inn, you'll
sit with your back toward me."
To my shamed surprise, this roustabout wit drew a nervous, silvery
giggle from her; and that completed the work with Mr. Percy, whose
face grew scarlet with anger.
"You're a hot one, you are!" he sneered, with shocking bitterness.
"You're quite the teaser, ain't ye, s'long's yer lady-friend is
lukkin' on! I guess they'll be a few surprises comin' YOUR way, before
long. P'raps I cudn't give ye one now 'f I had a mind to."
"Pshaw," I laughed, and, venturing at hazard, said, "I know all YOU
"Oh, you do!" he cried scornfully. "I reckon you might set up an'
take a little notice, though, if you knowed 'at I know all YOU know!"
"Not a bit of it!"
"No? Maybe you think I don't know what makes you so raw with ME?
Maybe you think I don't know who ye've got so thick with at this here
Pigeon House; maybe you think I don't know who them people ARE!"
"No, you don't. You have learned," I said, trying to control my
excitement, "nothing! Whoever hired YOU for a spy lost the money. YOU
don't know ANY-thing!"
"I DON'T!" And with that his voice went to a half-shriek. "Maybe
you think I'm down here f'r my health; maybe you think I come out f'r
a pleasant walk in the woods right now; maybe you think I ain't seen
no other lady-friend o' yours besides this'n to-day, and maybe I
didn't see who was with her—yes, an' maybe you think I d'know no
other times he's be'n with her. Maybe you think I ain't be'n layin'
low over at Dives! Maybe I don't know a few real NAMES in this
neighbourhood! Oh, no, MAYBE not!"
"You know what the maitre d'hotel told you; nothing more."
"How about the name—OLIVER SAFFREN?" he cried fiercely, and at
last, though I had expected it, I uttered an involuntary exclamation.
"How about it?" he shouted, advancing toward me triumphantly,
shaking his forefinger in my face. "Hey? THAT stings some, does it?
Sounds kind o' like a FALSE name, does it? Got ye where the hair is
short, that time, didn't I?"
"Speaking of names," I retorted, "'Oil Poicy' doesn't seem to ring
particularly true to me!"
"It'll be gud enough fer you, young feller," he responded angrily.
"It may belong t' me, an' then again, it maybe don't. It ain' gunna
git me in no trouble; I'll luk out f'r that. YOUR side's where the
trouble is; that's what's eatin' into you. An' I'll tell you
flat-foot, your gittin' rough 'ith me and playin' Charley the Show-Off
in front o' yer lady- friends'll all go down in the bill. These people
ye've got so chummy with—THEY'LL pay f'r it all right, don't you shed
no tears over that!"
"You couldn't by any possibility," I said deliberately, with as
much satire as I could command, "you couldn't possibly mean that any
sum of mere money might be a salve for the injuries my unkind words
Once more he seemed upon the point of destroying me physically,
but, with a slight shudder, controlled himself. Stepping close to me,
he thrust his head forward and measured the emphases of his speech by
his right forefinger upon my shoulder, as he said:
"You paint THIS in yer pitchers, m' dear friend; they's jest as
much law in this country as they is on the corner o' Twenty-thoid
Street an' Fif' Avenoo! You keep out the way of it, or you'll git
Delivering a final tap on my shoulder as a last warning, he wheeled
deftly upon his heel, addressed Miss Elliott briefly, "Glad t' know
YOU, lady," and striking into the by-path by which he had approached
us, was soon lost to sight.
The girl faced me excitedly. "What IS it?" she cried. "It seemed to
me you insulted him deliberately—"
"You wanted to make him angry?"
"Oh! I thought so!" she exclaimed breathlessly. "I knew there was
something serious underneath. It's about Mr. Saffren?"
"It is serious indeed, I fear," I said, and turning to my own
easel, began to get my traps together. "I'll tell you the little I
know, because I want you to tell Mrs. Harman what has just happened,
and you'll be able to do it better if you understand what is
understandable about the rest of it."
"You mean you wouldn't tell me so that I could understand for
myself?" There was a note of genuine grieved reproach in her voice.
"Ah, then I've made you think me altogether a hare-brain!"
"I haven't time to tell you what I think of you," I said brusquely,
and, strangely enough, it seemed to please her. But I paid little
attention to that, continuing quickly: "When Professor Keredec and Mr.
Saffren came to Les Trois Pigeons, they were so careful to keep out of
everybody's sight that one might have suspected that they were in
hiding—and, in fact, I'm sure that they were—though, as time passed
and nothing alarming happened, they've felt reassured and allowed
themselves more liberty. It struck me that Keredec at first dreaded
that they might be traced to the inn, and I'm afraid his fear was
justified, for one night, before I came to know them, I met Mr.
'Percy' on the road; he'd visited Madame Brossard's and pumped Amedee
dry, but clumsily tried to pretend to me that he had not been there at
all. At the time, I did not connect him even remotely with Professor
Keredec's anxieties. I imagined he might have an eye to the spoons;
but it's as ridiculous to think him a burglar as it would be to take
him for a detective. What he is, or what he has to do with Mr.
Saffren, I can guess no more than I can guess the cause of Keredec's
fears, but the moment I saw him to-day, saw that he'd come back, I
knew it was THAT, and tried to draw him out. You heard what he said;
there's no doubt that Saffren stands in danger of some kind. It may be
inconsiderable, or even absurd, but it's evidently imminent, and no
matter what it is, Mrs. Harman must be kept out of it. I want you to
see her as soon as you can and ask her from me— no, persuade her
yourself—not to leave Quesnay for a day or two. I mean, that she
absolutely MUST NOT meet Mr. Saffren again until we know what all this
means. Will you do it?"
"That I will!" And she began hastily to get her belongings in
marching order. "I'll do anything in the world you'll let me—and oh,
I hope they can't do anything to poor, poor Mr. Saffren!"
"Our sporting friend had evidently seen him with Mrs. Harman
to-day," I said. "Do you know if they went to the beach again?"
"I only know she meant to meet him—but she told me she'd be back
at the chateau by four. If I start now—"
"Wasn't the phaeton to be sent to the inn for you?"
"Not until six," she returned briskly, folding her easel and
strapping it to her camp-stool with precision. "Isn't it shorter by
"You've only to follow this path to the second crossing and then
turn to the right," I responded. "I shall hurry back to Madame
Brossard's to see Keredec—and here"—I extended my hand toward her
traps, of which, in a neatly practical fashion, she had made one close
pack—"let me have your things, and I'll take care of them at the inn
for you. They're heavy, and it's a long trudge."
"You have your own to carry," she answered, swinging the strap over
her shoulder. "It's something of a walk for you, too."
"No, no, let me have them," I protested, for the walk before her
WAS long and the things would be heavy indeed before it ended.
"Go your ways," she laughed, and as my hand still remained extended
she grasped it with her own and gave it a warm and friendly shake.
"Hurry!" And with an optimism which took my breath, she said, "I know
YOU can make it come out all right! Besides, I'll help you!"
With that she turned and started manfully upon her journey. I
stared after her for a moment or more, watching the pretty brown dress
flashing in and out of shadow among the ragged greeneries, shafts of
sunshine now and then flashing upon her hair. Then I picked up my own
pack and set out for the inn.
Every one knows that the more serious and urgent the errand a man
may be upon, the more incongruous are apt to be the thoughts that skip
into his mind. As I went through the woods that day, breathless with
haste and curious fears, my brain became suddenly, unaccountably busy
with a dream I had had, two nights before. I had not recalled this
dream on waking: the recollection of it came to me now for the first
time. It was a usual enough dream, wandering and unlifelike, not worth
the telling; and I had been thinking so constantly of Mrs. Harman that
there was nothing extraordinary in her worthless ex-husband's being
part of it.
And yet, looking back upon that last, hurried walk of mine through
the forest, I see how strange it was that I could not quit remembering
how in my dream I had gone motoring up Mount Pilatus with the man I
had seen so pitiably demolished on the Versailles road, two years
before— Larrabee Harman.
Keredec was alone in his salon, extended at ease upon a long chair,
an ottoman and a stool, when I burst in upon him; a portentous volume
was in his lap, and a prolific pipe, smoking up from his great cloud
of beard, gave the final reality to the likeness he thus presented of
a range of hills ending in a volcano. But he rolled the book
cavalierly to the floor, limbered up by sections to receive me, and
offered me a hearty welcome.
"Ha, my dear sir," he cried, "you take pity on the lonely Keredec;
you make him a visit. I could not wish better for myself. We shall
have a good smoke and a good talk."
"You are improved to-day?" I asked, it may be a little slyly.
"Improve?" he repeated inquiringly.
"Your rheumatism, I mean."
"Ha, yes; that rheumatism!" he shouted, and throwing back his head,
rocked the room with sudden laughter. "Hew! But it is gone—almost!
Oh, I am much better, and soon I shall be able to go in the woods
again with my boy." He pushed a chair toward me. "Come, light your
cigar; he will not return for an hour perhaps, and there is plenty of
time for the smoke to blow away. So! It is better. Now we shall talk."
"Yes," I said, "I wanted to talk with you."
"That is a—what you call?—ha, yes, a coincidence," he returned,
stretching himself again in the long chair, "a happy coincidence; for
I have wished a talk with you; but you are away so early for all day,
and in the evening Oliver, he is always here."
"I think what I wanted to talk about concerns him particularly."
"Yes?" The professor leaned forward, looking at me gravely. "That
is another coincidence. But you shall speak first. Commence then."
"I feel that you know me at least well enough," I began rather
hesitatingly, "to be sure that I would not, for the world, make any
effort to intrude in your affairs, or Mr. Saffren's, and that I would
not force your confidence in the remotest—"
"No, no, no!" he interrupted. "Please do not fear I shall
misinterpretate whatever you will say. You are our friend. We know
"Very well," I pursued; "then I speak with no fear of offending.
When you first came to the inn I couldn't help seeing that you took a
great many precautions for secrecy; and when you afterward explained
these precautions to me on the ground that you feared somebody might
think Mr. Saffren not quite sane, and that such an impression might
injure him later—well, I could not help seeing that your explanation
did not cover all the ground."
"It is true—it did not." He ran his huge hand through the heavy
white waves of his hair, and shook his head vigorously. "No; I knew
it, my dear sir, I knew it well. But, what could I do? I would not
have telled my own mother! This much I can say to you: we came here at
a risk, but I thought that with great care it might be made little.
And I thought a great good thing might be accomplish if we should come
here, something so fine, so wonderful, that even if the danger had
been great I would have risked it. I will tell you a little more: I
think that great thing is BEING accomplish!" Here he rose to his feet
excitedly and began to pace the room as he talked, the ancient floor
shaking with his tread. "I think it is DONE! And ha! my dear sir, if
it SHOULD be, this big Keredec will not have lived in vain! It was a
great task I undertake with my young man, and the glory to see it
finish is almost here. Even if the danger should come, the THING is
done, for all that is real and has true meaning is inside the soul!"
"It was in connection with the risk you have mentioned that I came
to talk," I returned with some emphasis, for I was convinced of the
reality of Mr. Earl Percy and also very certain that he had no
existence inside or outside a soul. "I think it necessary that you
But the professor was launched. I might as well have swept the
rising tide with a broom. He talked with magnificent vehemence for
twenty minutes, his theme being some theory of his own that the
individuality of a soul is immortal, and that even in perfection, the
soul cannot possibly merge into any Nirvana. Meantime, I wondered how
Mr. Percy was employing his time, but after one or two ineffectual
attempts to interrupt, I gave myself to silence until the oration
should be concluded.
"And so it is with my boy," he proclaimed, coming at last to the
case in hand. "The spirit of him, the real Oliver Saffren, THAT has
NEVER change! The outside of him, those thing that BELONG to him, like
his memory, THEY have change, but not himself, for himself is eternal
and unchangeable. I have taught him, yes; I have helped him get the
small things we can add to our possession—a little knowledge, maybe,
a little power of judgment. But, my dear sir, I tell you that such
things are ONLY possessions of a man. They are not the MAN! All that a
man IS or ever shall be, he is when he is a baby. So with Oliver; he
had lived a little while, twenty-six years, perhaps, when pft—like
that!—he became almost as a baby again. He could remember how to
talk, but not much more. He had lost his belongings—they were gone
from the lobe of the brain where he had stored them; but HE was not
gone, no part of the real HIMSELF was lacking. Then presently they
send him to me to make new his belongings, to restore his possessions.
Ha, what a task! To take him with nothing in the world of his own and
see that he get only GOOD possessions, GOOD knowledge, GOOD
experience! I took him to the mountains of the Tyrol—two years—and
there his body became strong and splendid while his brain was taking
in the stores. It was quick, for his brain had retained some habits;
it was not a baby's brain, and some small part of its old stores had
not been lost. But if anything useless or bad remain, we empty it
out—I and those mountain' with their pure air. Now, I say he is all
good and the work was good; I am proud! But I wish to restore ALL that
was good in his life; your Keredec is something of a poet.—You may
put it: much the old fool! And for that greates' restoration of all I
have brought my boy back to France; since it was necessary. It was a
madness, and I thank the good God I was mad enough to do it. I cannot
tell you yet, my dear sir: but you shall see, you shall see what the
folly of that old Keredec has done! You shall see, you shall—and I
promise it—what a Paradise, when the good God helps, an old fool's
dream can make!"
A half-light had broken upon me as he talked, pacing the floor,
thundering his paean of triumph, his Titanic gestures bruising the
harmless air. Only one explanation, incredible, but possible,
sufficed. Anything was possible, I thought—anything was
probable—with this dreamer whom the trump of Fame, executing a
whimsical fantasia, proclaimed a man of science!
"By the wildest chance," I gasped, "you don't mean that you wanted
him to fall in love—"
He had reached the other end of the room, but at this he whirled
about on me, his laughter rolling out again, till it might have been
heard at Pere Baudry's.
"Ha, my dear sir, you have said it! But you knew it; you told him
to come to me and tell me."
"But I mean that you—unless I utterly misunderstand—you seem to
imply that you had selected some one now in France whom you planned
that he should care for—that you had selected the lady whom you know
as Madame d'Armand."
"Again," he shouted, "you have said it!"
"Professor Keredec," I returned, with asperity, "I have no idea how
you came to conceive such a preposterous scheme, but I agree heartily
that the word for it is madness. In the first place, I must tell you
that her name is not even d'Armand—"
"My dear sir, I know. It was the mistake of that absurd Amedee. She
is Mrs. Harman."
"You knew it?" I cried, hopelessly confused. "But Oliver still
speaks of her as Madame d'Armand."
"He does not know. She has not told him."
"But why haven't you told him?"
"Ha, that is a story, a poem," he cried, beginning to pace the
floor again—"a ballad as old as the oldest of Provence! There is a
reason, my dear sir, which I cannot tell you, but it lies within the
romance of what you agree is my madness. Some day, I hope, you shall
understand and applaud! In the meantime—"
"In the meantime," I said sharply, as he paused for breath, "there
is a keen-faced young man who took a room in the inn this morning and
who has come to spy upon you, I believe."
"What is it you say?"
He came to a sudden stop.
I had not meant to deliver my information quite so abruptly, but
there was no help for it now, and I repeated the statement, giving him
a terse account of my two encounters with the rattish youth, and
"He seemed to be certain that 'Oliver Saffren' is an assumed name,
and he made a threatening reference to the laws of France."
The effect upon Keredec was a very distinct pallor. He faced me
silently until I had finished, then in a voice grown suddenly husky,
"Do you think he came back to the inn? Is he here now?"
"I do not know."
"We must learn; I must know that, at once." And he went to the
"Let me go instead," I suggested.
"It can't make little difference if he see me," said the professor,
swallowing with difficulty and displaying, as he turned to me, a look
of such profound anxiety that I was as sorry for him now as I had been
irritated a few minutes earlier by his galliard air-castles. "I do not
know this man, nor does he know me, but I have fear"—his beard moved
as though his chin were trembling—"I have fear that I know his
employers. Still, it may be better if you go. Bring somebody here that
we can ask."
"Shall I find Amedee?"
"No, no, no! That babbler? Find Madame Brossard."
I stepped out to the gallery, to discover Madame Brossard emerging
from a door on the opposite side of the courtyard; Amedee, Glouglou,
and a couple of carters deploying before her with some light trunks
and bags, which they were carrying into the passage she had just
quitted. I summoned her quietly; she came briskly up the steps and
into the room, and I closed the door.
"Madame Brossard," said the professor, "you have a new client
"That monsieur who arrived this morning," I suggested.
"He was an American," said the hostess, knitting her dark
brows—"but I do not think that he was exactly a monsieur."
"Bravo!" I murmured. "That sketches a likeness. It is this 'Percy'
without a doubt."
"That is it," she returned. "Monsieur Poissy is the name he gave."
"Is he at the inn now?"
"No, monsieur, but two friends for whom he engaged apartments have
"Who are they?" asked Keredec quickly.
"It is a lady and a monsieur from Paris. But not married: they have
taken separate apartments and she has a domestic with her, a negress,
"What are their names?"
"It is not ten minutes that they are installed. They have not given
me their names."
"What is the lady's appearance?"
"Monsieur the Professor," replied the hostess demurely, "she is not
"But what is she?" demanded Keredec impatiently; and it could be
seen that he was striving to control a rising agitation. "Is she
blonde? Is she brunette? Is she young? Is she old? Is she French,
"I think," said Madame Brossard, "I think one would call her
Spanish, but she is very fat, not young, and with a great deal too
She stopped with an audible intake of breath, staring at my
friend's white face. "Eh! it is bad news?" she cried. "And when one
has been so ill—"
Keredec checked her with an imperious gesture. "Monsieur Saffren
and I leave at once," he said. "I shall meet him on the road; he will
not return to the inn. We go to—to Trouville. See that no one knows
that we have gone until to-morrow, if possible; I shall leave fees for
the servants with you. Go now, prepare your bill, and bring it to me
at once. I shall write you where to send our trunks. Quick! And you,
my friend"—he turned to me as Madame Brossard, obviously distressed
and frightened, but none the less intelligent for that, skurried away
to do his bidding—"my friend, will you help us? For we need it!"
"Anything in the world!"
"Go to Pere Baudry's; have him put the least tired of his three
horses to his lightest cart and wait in the road beyond the cottage.
Stand in the road yourself while that is being done. Oliver will come
that way; detain him. I will join you there; I have only to see to my
papers—at the most, twenty minutes. Go quickly, my friend!"
I strode to the door and out to the gallery. I was half-way down
the steps before I saw that Oliver Saffren was already in the
courtyard, coming toward me from the archway with a light and buoyant
He looked up, waving his hat to me, his face lighted with a
happiness most remarkable, and brighter, even, than the strong,
midsummer sunshine flaming over him. Dressed in white as he was, and
with the air of victory he wore, he might have been, at that moment, a
figure from some marble triumph; youthful, conquering—crowned with
I had time only to glance at him, to "take" him, as it were,
between two shutter-flicks of the instantaneous eyelid, and with him,
the courtyard flooded with sunshine, the figure of Madame Brossard
emerging from her little office, Amedee coming from the kitchen
bearing a white-covered tray, and, entering from the road, upon the
trail of Saffren but still in the shadow of the archway, the
discordant fineries and hatchet-face of the ex-pedestrian and tourist,
my antagonist of the forest.
I had opened my mouth to call a warning.
"Hurry" was the word I would have said, but it stopped at "hur—."
The second syllable was never uttered.
There came a violent outcry, raucous and shrill as the wail of a
captured hen, and out of the passage across the courtyard floundered a
woman, fantastically dressed in green and gold.
Her coarse blue-black hair fell dishevelled upon her shoulders,
from which her gown hung precariously unfastened, as if she had
abandoned her toilet half-way. She was abundantly fat, double-chinned,
coarse, greasy, smeared with blue pencillings, carmine, enamel, and
At the scream Saffren turned. She made straight at him, crying
"Enfin! Mon mari, mon mari—c'est moi! C'est ta femme, mon coeur!"
She threw herself upon him, her arms about his neck, with a
tropical ferocity that was a very paroxysm of triumph.
"Embrasse moi, Larrabi! Embrasse moi!" she cried.
Horrified, outraged, his eyes blazing, he flung her off with a
violence surpassing her own, and with loathing unspeakable. She
screamed that he was killing her, calling him "husband," and tried to
fasten herself upon him again. But he leaped backward beyond the reach
of her clutching hands, and, turning, plunged to the steps and
staggered up them, the woman following.
From above me leaned the stricken face of Keredec; he caught
Saffren under the arm and half lifted him to the gallery, while she
strove to hold him by the knees.
"O Christ!" gasped Saffren. "Is THIS the woman?"
The giant swung him across the gallery and into the open door with
one great sweep of the arm, strode in after him, and closed and bolted
the door. The woman fell in a heap at the foot of the steps, uttered a
cracked simulation of the cry of a broken heart.
"Name of a name of God!" she wailed. "After all these years! And my
husband strikes me!"
Then it was that what had been in my mind as a monstrous suspicion
became a certainty. For I recognised the woman; she was Mariana—la
bella Mariana la Mursiana.
If I had ever known Larrabee Harman, if, instead of the two strange
glimpses I had caught of him, I had been familiar with his gesture,
walk, intonation—even, perhaps, if I had ever heard his voice—the
truth might have come to me long ago.
"Oliver Saffren" was Larrabee Harman.
I do not like to read those poets who write of pain as if they
loved it; the study of suffering is for the cold analyst, for the
vivisectionist, for those who may transfuse their knowledge of it to
the ultimate good of mankind. And although I am so heavily endowed
with curiosity concerning the people I find about me, my gift (or
curse, whichever it be) knows pause at the gates of the house of
calamity. So, if it were possible, I would not speak of the agony of
which I was a witness that night in the apartment of my friends at
Madame Brossard's. I went with reluctance, but there was no choice.
Keredec had sent for me.
... When I was about fifteen, a boy cousin of mine, several years
younger, terribly injured himself on the Fourth of July; and I sat all
night in the room with him, helping his mother. Somehow he had learned
that there was no hope of saving his sight; he was an imaginative
child and realised the whole meaning of the catastrophe; the eternal
darkness.... And he understood that the thing had been done, that
there was no going back of it. This very certainty increased the
intensity of his rebellion a thousandfold. "I WILL have my eyes!" he
screamed. "I WILL! I WILL!"
Keredec had told his tragic ward too little. The latter had
understood but vaguely the nature of the catastrophe which overhung
his return to France, and now that it was indeed concrete and
definite, the guardian was forced into fuller disclosures, every word
making the anguish of the listener more intolerable. It was the
horizonless despair of a child; and that profound protest I had so
often seen smouldering in his eyes culminated, at its crisis, in a
wild flame of revolt. The shame of the revelation passed over him;
there was nothing of the disastrous drunkard, sober, learning what he
had done. To him, it seemed that he was being forced to suffer for the
sins of another man.
"Do you think that you can make me believe
I did this?" he
cried. "That I made life unbearable for HER, drove HER from me, and
took this hideous, painted old woman in HER place? It's a lie. You
can't make me believe such a monstrous lie as that! You CAN'T! You
He threw himself violently upon the couch, face downward,
shuddering from head to foot.
"My poor boy, it is the truth," said Keredec, kneeling beside him
and putting a great arm across his shoulders. "It is what a thousand
men are doing this night. Nothing is more common, or more
unexplainable—or more simple. Of all the nations it is the same,
wherever life has become artificial and the poor, foolish young men
have too much money and nothing to do. You do not understand it, but
our friend here, and I, we understand because we remember what we have
been seeing all our life. You say it is not you who did such crazy,
horrible things, and you are right. When this poor woman who is so
painted and greasy first caught you, when you began to give your money
and your time and your life to her, when she got you into this
horrible marriage with her, you were blind—you went staggering, in a
bad dream; your soul hid away, far down inside you, with its hands
over its face. If it could have once stood straight, if the eyes of
your body could have once been clean for it to look through, if you
could have once been as you are to-day, or as you were when you were a
little child, you would have cry out with horror both of her and of
yourself, as you do now; and you would have run away from her and from
everything you had put in your life. But, in your suffering you must
rejoice: the triumph is that your mind hates that old life as greatly
as your soul hates it. You are as good as if you had never been the
wild fellow—yes, the wicked fellow—that you were. For a man who
shakes off his sin is clean; he stands as pure as if he had never
sinned. But though his emancipation can be so perfect, there is a law
that he cannot escape from the result of all the bad and foolish
things he has done, for every act, every breath you draw, is immortal,
and each has a consequence that is never ending. And so, now, though
you are purified, the suffering from these old actions is here, and
you must abide it. Ah, but that is a little thing, nothing!—that
suffering— compared to what you have gained, for you have gained your
The desperate young man on the couch answered only with the sobbing
of a broken-hearted child.
I came back to my pavilion after midnight, but I did not sleep,
though I lay upon my bed until dawn. Then I went for a long, hard
walk, breakfasted at Dives, and begged a ride back to Madame
Brossard's in a peasant's cart which was going that way.
I found George Ward waiting for me on the little veranda of the
pavilion, looking handsomer and more prosperously distinguished and
distinguishedly prosperous and generally well-conditioned than
ever—as I told him.
"I have some news for you," he said after the hearty greeting—"an
announcement, in fact."
"Wait!" I glanced at the interested attitude of Mr. Earl Percy, who
was breakfasting at a table significantly near the gallery steps, and
led the way into the pavilion. "You may as well not tell it in the
hearing of that young man," I said, when the door was closed. "He is
"So I gathered," returned Ward, smiling, "from his attire. But it
really wouldn't matter who heard it. Elizabeth's going to marry
"That is the news—the announcement—you spoke of?"
"Yes, that is it."
To save my life I could not have told at that moment what else I
had expected, or feared, that he might say, but certainly I took a
deep breath of relief. "I am very glad," I said. "It should be a happy
"On the whole, I think it will be," he returned thoughtfully.
"Ingle's done his share of hard living, and I once had a notion"—he
glanced smiling at me—"well, I dare say you know my notion. But it is
a good match for Elizabeth and not without advantages on many counts.
You see, it's time I married, myself; she feels that very strongly and
I think her decision to accept Ingle is partly due to her wish to make
all clear for a new mistress of my household,—though that's putting
it in a rather grandiloquent way." He laughed. "And as you probably
guess, I have an idea that some such arrangement might be somewhere on
the wings of the wind on its way to me, before long."
He laughed again, but I did not, and noting my silence he turned
upon me a more scrutinising look than he had yet given me, and said:
"My dear fellow, is something the matter? You look quite haggard.
You haven't been ill?"
"No, I've had a bad night. That's all."
"Oh, I heard something of a riotous scene taking place over here,"
he said. "One of the gardeners was talking about it to Elizabeth. Your
bad night wouldn't be connected with that, would it? You haven't been
"What was it you heard?" I asked quickly.
"I didn't pay much attention. He said that there was great
excitement at Madame Brossard's, because a strange woman had turned up
and claimed an insane young man at the inn for her husband, and that
they had a fight of some sort—"
"Damnation!" I started from my chair. "Did Mrs. Harman hear this
"Not last night, I'm certain. Elizabeth said the gardener told her
as she came down to the chateau gates to meet me when I arrived—it
was late, and Louise had already gone to her room. In fact, I have not
seen her yet. But what difference could it possibly make whether she
heard it or not? She doesn't know these people, surely?"
"She knows the man."
"He is not insane," I interrupted. "He has lost the memory of his
earlier life—lost it through an accident. You and I saw the
"That's impossible," said George, frowning. "I never saw but one
accident that you—"
"That was the one: the man is Larrabee Harman."
George had struck a match to light a cigar; but the operation
remained incomplete: he dropped the match upon the floor and set his
foot upon it. "Well, tell me about it," he said.
"You haven't heard anything about him since the accident?"
"Only that he did eventually recover and was taken away from the
hospital. I heard that his mind was impaired. Does Louise—" he began;
stopped, and cleared his throat. "Has Mrs. Harman heard that he is
"Yes; she has seen him."
"Do you mean the scoundrel has been bothering her? Elizabeth didn't
tell me of this—"
"Your sister doesn't know," I said, lifting my hand to check him.
"I think you ought to understand the whole case—if you'll let me tell
you what I know about it."
"Go ahead," he bade me. "I'll try to listen patiently, though the
very thought of the fellow has always set my teeth on edge."
"He's not at all what you think," I said. "There's an enormous
difference, almost impossible to explain to you, but something you'd
understand at once if you saw him. It's such a difference, in fact,
that when I found that he was Larrabee Harman the revelation was
inexpressibly shocking and distressing to me. He came here under
another name; I had no suspicion that he was any one I'd ever heard
of, much less that I'd actually seen him twice, two years ago, and
I've grown to— well, in truth, to be fond of him."
"What is the change?" asked Ward, and his voice showed that he was
greatly disquieted. "What is he like?"
"As well as I can tell you, he's like an odd but very engaging boy,
with something pathetic about him; quite splendidly handsome—"
"Oh, he had good looks to spare when I first knew him," George said
bitterly. "I dare say he's got them back if he's taken care of
himself, or been taken care OF, rather! But go on; I won't interrupt
you again. Why did he come here? Hoping to see—"
"No. When he came here he did not know of her existence except in
the vaguest way. But to go back to that, I'd better tell you first
that the woman we saw with him, one day on the boulevard, and who was
in the accident with him—"
"La Mursiana, the dancer; I know."
"She had got him to go through a marriage with her—"
"WHAT?" Ward's eyes flashed as he shouted the word.
"It seems inexplicable; but as I understand it, he was never quite
sober at that time; he had begun to use drugs, and was often in a
half- stupefied condition. As a matter of fact, the woman did what she
pleased with him. There's no doubt about the validity of the marriage.
And what makes it so desperate a muddle is that since the marriage
she's taken good care to give no grounds upon which a divorce could be
obtained for Harman. She means to hang on."
"I'm glad of that!" said George, striking his knee with his open
palm. "That will go a great way toward—"
He paused, and asked suddenly: "Did this marriage take place in
"Yes. You'd better hear me through," I remonstrated. "When he was
taken from the hospital, he was placed in charge of a Professor
Keredec, a madman of whom you've probably heard."
"Madman? Why, no; he's a member of the Institute; a psychologist or
metaphysician, isn't he?—at any rate of considerable celebrity."
"Nevertheless," I insisted grimly, "as misty a vapourer as I ever
saw; a poetic, self-contradicting and inconsistent orator, a blower of
bubbles, a seer of visions, a mystic, and a dreamer—about as
scientific as Alice's White Knight! Harman's aunt, who lived in
London, the only relative he had left, I believe—and she has died
since—put him in Keredec's charge, and he was taken up into the Tyrol
and virtually hidden for two years, the idea being literally to give
him something like an education—Keredec's phrase is 'restore mind to
his soul'! What must have been quite as vital was to get him out of
his horrible wife's clutches. And they did it, for she could not find
him. But she picked up that rat in the garden out yonder—he'd been
some sort of stable-manager for Harman once—and set him on the track.
He ran the poor boy down, and yesterday she followed him. Now it
amounts to a species of sordid siege."
"She wants money, of course."
"Yes, MORE money; a fair allowance has always been sent to her.
Keredec has interviewed her notary and she wants a settlement, naming
a sum actually larger than the whole estate amounts to. There were
colossal expenditures and equally large shrinkages; what he has left
is invested in English securities and is not a fortune, but of course
she won't believe that and refuses to budge until this impossible
settlement is made. You can imagine about how competent such a man as
Keredec would be to deal with the situation. In the mean time, his
ward is in so dreadful a state of horror and grief I am afraid it is
possible that his mind may really give way, for it was not in a normal
condition, of course, though he's perfectly sane, as I tell you. If it
should," I concluded, with some bitterness, "I suppose Keredec will be
still prating upliftingly on the saving of his soul!"
"When was it that Louise saw him?"
"Ah, that," I said, "is where Keredec has been a poet and a dreamer
indeed. It was his PLAN that they should meet."
"You mean he brought this wreck of Harman, these husks and shreds
of a man, down here for Louise to see?" Ward cried incredulously. "Oh,
"No," I answered. "Only insane. Not because there is anything
lacking in Oliver—in Harman, I mean—for I think that will be righted
in time, but because the second marriage makes it a useless cruelty
that he should have been allowed ta fall in love with his first wife
again. Yet that was Keredec's idea of a 'beautiful restoration,' as he
"There is something behind all this that you don't know," said Ward
slowly. "I'll tell you after I've seen this Keredec. When did the man
make you his confidant?"
"Last night. Most of what I learned was as much a revelation to his
victim as it was to me. Harman did not know till then that the lady he
had been meeting had been his wife, or that he had ever seen her
before he came here. He had mistaken her name and she did not
"Meeting?" said Ward harshly. "You speak as if—"
"They have been meeting every day, George."
"I won't believe it of her!" he cried. "She couldn't—"
"It's true. He spoke to her in the woods one day; I was there and
saw it. I know now that she knew him at once; and she ran away,
but—not in anger. I shouldn't be a very good friend of yours," I went
on gently, "if I didn't give you the truth. They've been together
every day since then, and I'm afraid—miserably afraid, Ward—that her
old feeling for him has been revived."
I have heard Ward use an oath only two or three times in my life,
and this was one of them.
"Oh, by God!" he cried, starting to his feet; "I SHOULD like to
meet Professor Keredec!"
"I am at your service, my dear sir," said a deep voice from the
veranda. And opening the door, the professor walked into the room.
He looked old and tired and sad; it was plain that he expected
attack and equally plain that he would meet it with fanatic serenity.
And yet, the magnificent blunderer presented so fine an aspect of the
tortured Olympian, he confronted us with so vast a dignity—the driven
snow of his hair tousled upon his head and shoulders, like a storm in
the higher altitudes—that he regained, in my eyes, something of his
mountain grandeur before he had spoken a word in defence. But sympathy
is not what one should be entertaining for an antagonist; therefore I
"This is Mr. Ward, Professor Keredec. He is Mrs. Harman's cousin
and close friend."
"I had divined it." The professor made a French bow, and George
responded with as slight a salutation as it has been my lot to see.
"We were speaking of your reasons," I continued, "for bringing Mr.
Harman to this place. Frankly, we were questioning your motive."
"My motives? I have wished to restore to two young people the
paradise which they had lost".
Ward uttered an exclamation none the less violent because it was
half- suppressed, while, for my part, I laughed outright; and as
Keredec turned his eyes questioningly upon me, I said:
"Professor Keredec, you'd better understand at once that I mean to
help undo the harm you've done. I couldn't tell you last night, in
Harman's presence, but I think you're responsible for the whole
ghastly tragi- comedy—as hopeless a tangle as ever was made on this
This was even more roughly spoken than I had intended, but it did
not cause him to look less mildly upon me, nor was there the faintest
shadow of resentment in his big voice when he replied:
"In this world things may be tangled, they may be sad, yet they may
"I'm afraid that seems rather a trite generality. I beg you to
remember that plain-speaking is of some importance just now."
"I shall remember."
"Then we should be glad of the explanation," said Ward, resting his
arms on my table and leaning across it toward Keredec.
"We should, indeed," I echoed.
"It is simple," began the professor. "I learned my poor boy's
history well, from those who could tell me, from his papers—yes, and
from the bundles of old-time letters which were given me—since it was
necessary that I should know everything. From all these I learned what
a strong and beautiful soul was that lady who loved him so much that
she ran away from her home for his sake. Helas! he was already the
slave of what was bad and foolish, he had gone too far from himself,
was overlaid with the habit of evil, and she could not save him then.
The spirit was dying in him, although it was there, and IT was good—"
Ward's acrid laughter rang out in the room, and my admiration went
unwillingly to Keredec for the way he took it, which was to bow
gravely, as if acknowledging the other's right to his own point of
"If you will study the antique busts," he said, "you will find that
Socrates is Silenus dignified. I choose to believe in the infinite
capacities of all men—and in the spirit in all. And so I try to
restore my poor boy his capacities and his spirit. But that was not
all. The time was coming when I could do no more for him, when the
little education of books would be finish' and he must go out in the
world again to learn—all newly—how to make of himself a man of use.
That is the time of danger, and the thought was troubling me when I
learned that Madame Harman was here, near this inn, of which I knew.
So I brought him."
"The inconceivable selfishness, the devilish brutality of it!"
Ward's face was scarlet. "You didn't care how you sacrificed her—"
"Sacrificed!" The professor suddenly released the huge volume of
his voice. "Sacrificed!" he thundered. "If I could give him back to
her as he is now, it would be restoring to her all that she had loved
in him, the real SELF of him! It would be the greatest gift in her
"You speak for her?" demanded Ward, the question coming like a
lawyer's. It failed to disturb Keredec, who replied quietly:
"It is a quibble. I speak for her, yes, my dear sir. Her action in
defiance of her family and her friends proved the strength of what she
felt for the man she married; that she have remained with him three
years—until it was impossible—proved its persistence; her letters,
which I read with reverence, proved its beauty—to me. It was a living
passion, one that could not die. To let them see each other again;
that was all I intended. To give them their new chance—and then, for
myself, to keep out of the way. That was why—" he turned to me—"that
was why I have been guilty of pretending to have that bad rheumatism,
and I hope you will not think it an ugly trick of me! It was to give
him his chance freely; and though at first I had much anxiety, it was
done. In spite of all his wicked follies theirs had been a true love,
and nothing in this world could be more inevitable than that they
should come together again if the chance could be given. And they
HAVE, my dear sirs! It has so happened. To him it has been a wooing as
if for the first time; so she has preferred it, keeping him to his
mistake of her name. She feared that if he knew that it was the same
as his own he might ask questions of me, and, you see, she did not
know that I had made this little plan, and was afraid—"
"We are not questioning Mrs. Harman's motives," George interrupted
hotly, "but YOURS!"
"Very well, my dear sir; that is all. I have explained them."
"You have?" I interjected. "Then, my dear Keredec, either you are
really insane or I am! You knew that this poor, unfortunate devil of a
Harman was tied to that hyenic prowler yonder who means to fatten on
him, and will never release him; you knew that. Then why did you bring
him down here to fall in love with a woman he can never have? In
pity's name, if you didn't hope to half kill them both, what DID you
"My dear fellow," interposed George quickly, "you underrate
Professor Keredec's shrewdness. His plans are not so simple as you
think. He knows that my cousin Louise never obtained a divorce from
"What?" I said, not immediately comprehending his meaning.
"I say, Mrs. Harman never obtained a divorce."
"Are you delirious?" I gasped.
"It's the truth; she never did."
"I saw a notice of it at the time. 'A notice?' I saw a hundred!"
"No. What you saw was that she had made an application for divorce.
Her family got her that far and then she revolted. The suit was
"It is true, indeed," said Keredec. "The poor boy was on the other
side of the world, and he thought it was granted. He had been bad
before, but from that time he cared nothing what became of him. That
was the reason this Spanish woman—"
I turned upon him sharply. "YOU knew it?"
"It is a year that I have known it; when his estate was—"
"Then why didn't you tell me last night?"
"My dear sir, I could not in HIS presence, because it is one thing
I dare not let him know. This Spanish woman is so hideous, her claim
upon him is so horrible to him I could not hope to control him—he
would shout it out to her that she cannot call him husband. God knows
what he would do!"
"Well, why shouldn't he shout it out to her?"
"You do not understand," George interposed again, "that what
Professor Keredec risked for his 'poor boy,' in returning to France,
was a trial on the charge of bigamy!"
The professor recoiled from the definite brutality. "My dear sir!
It is not possible that such a thing can happen."
"I conceive it very likely to happen," said George, "unless you get
him out of the country before the lady now installed here as his wife
discovers the truth."
"But she must not!" Keredec lifted both hands toward Ward
appealingly; they trembled, and his voice betrayed profound agitation.
"She cannot! She has never suspected such a thing; there is nothing
that could MAKE her suspect it!"
"One particular thing would be my telling her," said Ward quietly.
"Never!" cried the professor, stepping back from him. "You could
not do that!"
"I not only could, but I will, unless you get him out of the
country— and quickly!"
"George!" I exclaimed, coming forward between them. "This won't do
at all. You can't—"
"That's enough," he said, waving me back, and I saw that his hand
was shaking, too, like Keredec's. His face had grown very white; but
he controlled himself to speak with a coolness that made what he said
painfully convincing. "I know what you think," he went on, addressing
me, "but you're wrong. It isn't for myself. When I sailed for New York
in the spring I thought there was a chance that she would carry out
the action she begun four years ago and go through the form of ridding
herself of him definitely; that is, I thought there was some hope for
me; I believed there was until this morning. But I know better now. If
she's seen him again, and he's been anything except literally
unbearable, it's all over with ME. From the first, I never had a
chance against him; he was a hard rival, even when he'd become only a
cruel memory. "His voice rose. "I've lived a sober, decent life, and
I've treated HER with gentleness and reverence since she was born, and
HE'S done nothing but make a stew-pan of his life and neglect and
betray her when he had her. Heaven knows why it is; it isn't because
of anything he's done or has, it's just because it's HIM, I suppose,
but I know my chance is gone for good! THAT leaves me free to act for
her; no one can accuse me of doing it for myself. And I swear she
sha'n't go through that slough of despond again while I have breath in
"Steady, George!" I said.
"Oh, I'm steady enough," he cried. "Professor Keredec shall be
convinced of it! My cousin is not going into the mire again; she shall
be freed of it for ever: I speak as her relative now, the
representative of her family and of those who care for her happiness
and good. Now she SHALL make the separation definite—and LEGAL! And
let Professor Keredec get his 'poor boy' out of the country. Let him
do it quickly! I make it as a condition of my not informing the woman
yonder and her lawyer. And by my hope of salvation I warn you—"
"George, for pity's sake!" I shouted, throwing my arm about his
shoulders, for his voice had risen to a pitch of excitement and fury
that I feared must bring the whole place upon us. He caught himself up
suddenly, stared at me blankly for a moment, then sank into a chair
with a groan. As he did so I became aware of a sound that had been
worrying my subconsciousness for an indefinite length of time, and
realised what it was. Some one was knocking for admission.
I crossed the room and opened the door. Miss Elizabeth stood there,
red- faced and flustered, and behind her stood Mr. Cresson Ingle, who
looked dubiously amused.
"Ah—come in," I said awkwardly. "George is here. Let me present
"'George is here!'" echoed Miss Elizabeth, interrupting, and paying
no attention whatever to an agitated bow on the part of the professor.
"I should say he WAS! They probably know THAT all the way to
"We were discussing—" I began.
"Ah, I know what you were discussing," she said impatiently. "Come
in, Cresson." She turned to Mr. Ingle, who was obviously reluctant.
"It is a family matter, and you'll have to go through with it now."
"That reminds me," I said. "May I offer—"
"Not now!" Miss Elizabeth cut short a rather embarrassed handshake
which her betrothed and I were exchanging. "I'm in a very nervous and
distressed state of mind, as I suppose we all are, for that matter.
This morning I learned the true situation over here; and I'm afraid
Louise has heard; at least she's not at Quesnay. I got into a panic
for fear she had come here, but thank heaven she does not seem
to—Good gracious! What's THAT?"
It was the discordant voice of Mariana la Mursiana, crackling in
strident protest. My door was still open; I turned to look and saw
her, hot-faced, tousle-haired, insufficiently wrapped, striving to
ascend the gallery steps, but valiantly opposed by Madame Brossard,
who stood in the way.
"But NO, madame," insisted Madame Brossard, excited but darkly
determined. "You cannot ascend. There is nothing on the upper floor of
this wing except the apartment of Professor Keredec."
"Name of a dog!" shrilled the other. "It is my husband's apartment,
I tell you. II y a une femme avec lui!"
"It is Madame Harman who is there," said Keredec hoarsely in my
ear. "I came away and left them together."
"Come," I said, and, letting the others think what they would,
sprang across the veranda, the professor beside me, and ran toward the
two women who were beginning to struggle with more than their tongues.
I leaped by them and up the steps, but Keredec thrust himself between
our hostess and her opponent, planting his great bulk on the lowest
step. Glancing hurriedly over my shoulder, I saw the Spanish woman
strike him furiously upon the breast with both hands, but I knew she
would never pass him.
I entered the salon of the "Grande Suite," and closed the door
quickly behind me.
Louise Harman was standing at the other end of the room; she wore
the pretty dress of white and lilac and the white hat. She looked cool
and beautiful and good, and there were tears in her eyes. To come into
this quiet chamber and see her so, after the hot sunshine and tawdry
scene below, was like leaving the shouting market-place for a shadowy
Her husband was kneeling beside her; he held one of her hands in
both his, her other rested upon his head; and something in their
attitudes made me know I had come in upon their leave-taking. But from
the face he lifted toward her all trace of his tragedy had passed: the
wonder and worship written there left no room for anything else.
"Mrs. Harman—" I began.
"Yes?" she said. "I am coming."
"But I don't want you to. I've come for fear you would, and
you—you must not," I stammered. "You must wait."
"It's necessary," I floundered. "There is a scene—"
"I know," she said quietly. "THAT must be, of course."
Harman rose, and she took both his hands, holding them against her
"My dear," she said gently,—"my dearest, you must stay. Will you
promise not to pass that door, even, until you have word from me
"Yes," he answered huskily, "if you'll promise it SHALL come—some
"It shall, indeed. Be sure of it."
I had turned away, but I heard the ghost of his voice whispering
"good- bye." Then she was beside me and opening the door.
I tried to stay her.
"Mrs. Harman," I urged, "I earnestly beg you—"
"No," she answered, "this is better."
She stepped out upon the gallery; I followed, and she closed the
door. Upon the veranda of my pavilion were my visitors from Quesnay,
staring up at us apprehensively; Madame Brossard and Keredec still
held the foot of the steps, but la Mursiana had abandoned the siege,
and, accompanied by Mr. Percy and Rameau, the black-bearded notary,
who had joined her, was crossing the garden toward her own apartment.
At the sound of the closing door, she glanced over her shoulder,
sent forth a scream, and, whirling about, ran viciously for the steps,
where she was again blocked by the indomitable Keredec.
"Ah, you foolish woman, I know who you are," she cried, stepping
back from him to shake a menacing hand at the quiet lady by my side.
"You want to get yourself into trouble! That man in the room up there
has been my husband these two years and more."
"No, madame," said Louise Harman, "you are mistaken; he is my
"But you divorced him," vociferated the other wildly. "You divorced
him in America!"
"No. You are mistaken," the quiet voice replied. "The suit was
withdrawn. He is still my husband."
I heard the professor's groan of despair, but it was drowned in the
wild shriek of Mariana. "WHAT? You tell ME that? Ah, the miserable! If
what you say is true, he shall pay bitterly! He shall wish that he had
died by fire! What! You think he can marry ME, break my leg so that I
cannot dance again, ruin my career, and then go away with a pretty
woman like you and be happy? Aha, there are prisons in France for
people who marry two like that; I do not know what they do in YOUR
barbaric country, but they are decent people over here and they
punish. He shall pay for it in suffering—" her voice rose to an
incredible and unbearable shriek—"and you, YOU shall pay, too! You
can't come stealing honest women's husbands like that. You shall PAY!"
I saw George Ward come running forward with his hand upraised in a
gesture of passionate warning, for Mrs. Harman, unnoticed by me—I was
watching the Spanish woman—had descended the steps and had passed
Keredec, walking straight to Mariana. I leaped down after her, my
heart in my throat, fearing a thousand things.
"You must not talk like that," she said, not lifting her voice—yet
every one in the courtyard heard her distinctly. "You can do neither
of us any harm in the world."
It is impossible to say what Mariana would have done had there been
no interference, for she had worked herself into one of those furies
which women of her type can attain when they feel the occasion demands
it, a paroxysm none the less dangerous because its foundation is
histrionic. But Rameau threw his arms about her; Mr. Percy came
hastily to his assistance, and Ward and I sprang in between her and
the too-fearless lady she strove to reach. Even at that, the
finger-nails of Mariana's right hand touched the pretty white hat—but
only touched it and no more.
Rameau and the little spy managed to get their vociferating burden
across the courtyard and into her own door, where she suddenly
subsided, disappearing within the passage to her apartment in
unexpected silence— indubitably a disappointment to the interested
Amedee, to Glouglou, Francois, and the whole personnel of the inn, who
hastened to group themselves about the door in attentive attitudes.
"In heaven's name," gasped Miss Elizabeth, seizing her cousin by
the arm, "come into the pavilion. Here's the whole world looking at
"Professor Keredec—" Mrs. Harman began, resisting, and turning to
the professor appealingly.
"Oh, let him come too!" said Miss Elizabeth desperately. "Nothing
could be worse than this!"
She led the way back to the pavilion, and, refusing to consider a
proposal on the part of Mr. Ingle and myself to remain outside,
entered the room last, herself, producing an effect of "shooing" the
rest of us in; closed the door with surprising force, relapsed in a
chair, and burst into tears.
"Not a soul at Quesnay," sobbed the mortified chatelaine—"not one
but will know this before dinner! They'll hear the whole thing within
"Isn't there any way of stopping that, at least?" Ward said to me.
"None on earth, unless you go home at once and turn your visitors
and THEIR servants out of the house," I answered.
"There is nothing they shouldn't know," said Mrs. Harman.
George turned to her with a smile so bravely managed that I was
proud of him. "Oh, yes, there is," he said. "We're going to get you
out of all this."
"All this?" she repeated.
"All this MIRE!" he answered. "We're going to get you out of it and
keep you out of it, now, for good. I don't know whether your
revelation to the Spanish woman will make that easier or harder, but I
do know that it makes the mire deeper."
"For Harman. But you sha'n't share it!"
Her anxious eyes grew wider. "How have I made it deeper for him?
Wasn't it necessary that the poor woman should be told the truth?"
"Professor Keredec seemed to think it important that she
She turned to Keredec with a frightened gesture and an
unintelligible word of appeal, as if entreating him to deny what
George had said. The professor's beard was trembling; he looked
haggard; an almost pitiable apprehension hung upon his eyelids; but he
came forward manfully.
"Madame," he said, "you could never in your life do anything that
would make harm. You were right to speak, and I had short sight to
fear, since it was the truth."
"But why did you fear it?"
"It was because—" he began, and hesitated.
"I must know the reason," she urged. "I must know just what I've
"It was because," he repeated, running a nervous hand through his
beard, "because the knowledge would put us so utterly in this people's
power. Already they demand more than we could give them; now they
"They can do what?" she asked tremulously.
His eyes rested gently on her blanched and stricken face. "Nothing,
my dear lady," he answered, swallowing painfully. "Nothing that will
last. I am an old man. I have seen and I have—I have thought. And I
tell you that only the real survives; evil actions are some phantoms
that disappear. They must not trouble us."
"That is a high plane," George intervened, and he spoke without
sarcasm. "To put it roughly, these people have been asking more than
the Harman estate is worth; that was on the strength of the woman's
claim as a wife; but now they know she is not one, her position is
immensely strengthened, for she has only to go before the nearest
Commissaire de Police—"
"Oh, no!" Mrs. Harman cried passionately. "I haven't done THAT! You
mustn't tell me I have. You MUSTN'T!"
"Never!" he answered. "There could not be a greater lie than to say
you have done it. The responsibility is with the wretched and vicious
boy who brought the catastrophe upon himself. But don't you see that
you've got to keep out of it, that we've got to take you out of it?"
"You can't! I'm part of it; better or worse, it's as much mine as
"No, no!" cried Miss Elizabeth. "YOU mustn't tell us THAT!" Still
weeping, she sprang up and threw her arms about her brother. "It's too
horrible of you—"
"It is what I must tell you," Mrs. Harman said. "My separation from
my husband is over. I shall be with him now for—"
"I won't listen to you!" Miss Elizabeth lifted her wet face from
George's shoulder, and there was a note of deep anger in her voice.
"You don't know what you're talking about; you haven't the faintest
idea of what a hideous situation that creature has made for himself.
Don't you know that that awful woman was right, and there are laws in
France? When she finds she can't get out of him all she wants, do you
think she's going to let him off? I suppose she struck you as being
quite the sort who'd prove nobly magnanimous! Are you so blind you
don't see exactly what's going to happen? She'll ask twice as much now
as she did before; and the moment it's clear that she isn't going to
get it, she'll call in an agent of police. She'll get her money in a
separate suit and send him to prison to do it. The case against him is
positive; there isn't a shadow of hope for him. You talk of being with
him; don't you see how preposterous that is? Do you imagine they
encourage family housekeeping in French prisons?"
"Oh, come, this won't do!" The speaker was Cresson Ingle, who
stepped forward, to my surprise; for he had been hovering in the
background wearing an expression of thorough discomfort.
"You're going much too far," he said, touching his betrothed upon
the arm. "My dear Elizabeth, there is no use exaggerating; the case is
unpleasant enough just as it is."
"In what have I exaggerated?" she demanded.
"Why, I KNEW Larrabee Harman," he returned. "I knew him fairly
well. I went as far as Honolulu with him, when he and some of his
heelers started round the world; and I remember that papers were
served on him in San Francisco. Mrs. Harman had made her application;
it was just before he sailed. About a year and a half or two years
later I met him again, in Paris. He was in pretty bad shape; seemed
hypnotised by this Mariana and afraid as death of her; she could go
into a tantrum that would frighten him into anything. It was a
joke—down along the line of the all-night dancers and cafes—that she
was going to marry him; and some one told me afterward that she
claimed to have brought it about. I suppose it's true; but there is no
question of his having married her in good faith. He believed that the
divorce had been granted; he'd offered no opposition to it whatever.
He was travelling continually, and I don't think he knew much of what
was going on, even right around him, most of the time. He began with
cognac and absinthe in the morning, you know. For myself, I always
supposed the suit had been carried through; so did people generally, I
think. He'll probably have to stand trial, and of course he's
technically guilty, but I don't believe he'd be convicted— though I
must say it would have been a most devilish good thing for him if he
could have been got out of France before la Mursiana heard the truth.
Then he could have made terms with her safely at a distance— she'd
have been powerless to injure him and would have precious soon come to
time and been glad to take whatever he'd give her. NOW, I suppose,
that's impossible, and they'll arrest him if he tries to budge. But
this talk of prison and all that is nonsense, my dear Elizabeth!"
"You admit there is a chance of it!" she retorted.
"I've said all I had to say," returned Mr. Ingle with a dubious
laugh. "And if you don't mind, I believe I'll wait for you outside, in
the machine. I want to look at the gear-box."
He paused, as if in deference to possible opposition, and, none
being manifested, went hastily from the room with a sigh of relief,
giving me, as he carefully closed the door, a glance of profound
commiseration over his shoulder.
Miss Elizabeth had taken her brother's hand, not with the effect of
clinging for sympathy; nor had her throwing her arms about him
produced that effect; one could as easily have imagined Brunhilda
hiding her face in a man's coat-lapels. George's sister wept, not
weakly: she was on the defensive, but not for herself.
"Does the fact that he may possibly escape going to prison"—she
addressed her cousin—"make his position less scandalous, or can it
make the man himself less detestable?"
Mrs. Harman looked at her steadily. There was a long and sorrowful
"Nothing is changed," she said finally; her eyes still fixed
gravely on Miss Elizabeth's.
At that, the other's face flamed up, and she uttered a half-choked
exclamation. "Oh," she cried—"you've fallen in love with playing the
martyr; it's SELF-love! You SEE yourself in the role! No one on earth
could make me believe you're in LOVE with this degraded imbecile—all
that's left of the wreck of a vicious life! It isn't that! It's
because you want to make a shining example of yourself; you want to
get down on your knees and wash off the vileness from this befouled
creature; you want—"
"Madame!" Keredec interrupted tremendously, "you speak out of no
knowledge!" He leaned toward her across the table, which shook under
the weight of his arms. "There is no vileness; no one who is clean
remains befouled because of the things that are gone."
"They do not?" She laughed hysterically, and for my part, I sighed
in despair—for there was no stopping him.
"They do not, indeed! Do you know the relation of TIME to this
little life of ours? We have only the present moment; your
consciousness of that is your existence. Your knowledge of each
present moment as it passes—and it passes so swiftly that each word I
speak now overlaps it— yet it is all we have. For all the rest, for
what has gone by and what is yet coming—THAT has no real existence;
it is all a dream. It is not ALIVE. It IS not! It IS—nothing! So the
soul that stands clean and pure to-day IS clean and pure—and that is
all there is to say about that soul!"
"But a soul with evil tendencies," Ward began impatiently, "if one
must meet you on your own ground—"
"Ha! my dear sir, those evil tendencies would be in the soiling
memories, and my boy is free from them."
"He went toward all that was soiling before. Surely you can't
pretend he may not take that direction again?"
"That," returned the professor quickly, "is his to choose. If this
lady can be with him now, he will choose right."
"So!" cried Miss Elizabeth, "you offer her the role of a guide, do
you? First she is to be his companion through a trial for bigamy in a
French court, and, if he is acquitted, his nurse, teacher, and moral
preceptor?" She turned swiftly to her cousin. "That's YOUR conception
of a woman's mission?"
"I haven't any mission," Mrs. Harman answered quietly. "I've never
thought about missions; I only know I belong to him; that's all I EVER
thought about it. I don't pretend to explain it, or make it seem
reasonable. And when I met him again, here, it was—it was—it was
proved to me."
"Proved?" echoed Miss Elizabeth incredulously.
"Yes; proved as certainly as the sun shining proves that it's day."
"Will you tell us?"
It was I who asked the question: I spoke involuntarily, but she did
not seem to think it strange that I should ask.
"Oh, when I first met him," she said tremulously, "I was
frightened; but it was not he who frightened me—it was the rush of my
own feeling. I did not know what I felt, but I thought I might die,
and he was so like himself as I had first known him—but so changed,
too; there was something so wonderful about him, something that must
make any stranger feel sorry for him, and yet it is beautiful—" She
stopped for a moment and wiped her eyes, then went on bravely: "And
the next day he came, and waited for me—I should have come here for
him if he hadn't—and I fell in with the mistake he had made about my
name. You see, he'd heard I was called 'Madame d'Armand,' and I wanted
him to keep on thinking that, for I thought if he knew I was Mrs.
Harman he might find out—" She paused, her lip beginning to tremble.
"Oh, don't you see why I didn't want him to know? I didn't want him to
suffer as he would—as he does now, poor child!—but most of all I
wanted—I wanted to see if he would fall in love with me again! I kept
him from knowing, because, if he thought I was a stranger, and the
same thing happened again—his caring for me, I mean—" She had begun
to weep now, freely and openly, but not from grief. "Oh!" she cried,
"don't you SEE how it's all proven to me?"
"I see how it has deluded you!" said Miss Elizabeth vehemently. "I
see what a rose-light it has thrown about this creature; but it won't
last, thank God! any more than it did the other time. The thing is for
you to come to your senses before—"
"Ah, my dear, I have come to them at last and for ever!" The words
rang full and strong, though she was white and shaking, and heavy
tears filled her eyes. "I know what I am doing now, if I never knew
"You never did know—" Miss Ward began, but George stopped her.
"Elizabeth!" he said quickly. "We mustn't go on like this; it's
more than any of us can bear. Come, let's get out into the air; let's
get back to Quesnay. We'll have Ingle drive us around the longer way,
by the sea." He turned to his cousin. "Louise, you'll come now? If
not, we'll have to stay here with you."
"I'll come," she answered, trying bravely to stop the tears that
kept rising in spite of her; "if you'll wait till"—and suddenly she
flashed through them a smile so charming that my heart ached the
harder for George—"till I can stop crying!"
Mr. Earl Percy and I sat opposite each other at dinner that
evening. Perhaps, for charity's sake, I should add that though we
faced each other, and, indeed, eyed each other solemnly at intervals,
we partook not of the same repast, having each his own table; his
being set in the garden at his constant station near the gallery
steps, and mine, some fifty feet distant, upon my own veranda, but
moved out from behind the honeysuckle screen, for I sat alone and the
night was warm.
To analyse my impression of Mr. Percy's glances, I cannot
conscientiously record that I found favour in his eyes. For one thing,
I fear he may not have recalled to his bosom a clarion sentiment
(which doubtless he had ofttimes cheered from his native gallery in
softer years): the honourable declaration that many an honest heart
beats beneath a poor man's coat. As for his own attire, he was even as
the lilies of Quesnay; that is to say, I beheld upon him the same
formation of tie that I had seen there, the same sensuous beauty of
the state waistcoat, though I think that his buttons were, if
anything, somewhat spicier than those which had awed me at the
chateau. And when we simultaneously reached the fragrant hour of
coffee, the cigarette case that glittered in his hand was one for
which some lady-friend of his (I knew intuitively) must have given her
All—and then been left in debt.
Amedee had served us both; Glouglou, as aforetime, attending the
silent "Grande Suite," where the curtains were once more tightly
drawn. Monsieur Rameau dined with his client in her own salon,
evidently; at least, Victorine, the femme de chambre, passed to and
from the kitchen in that direction, bearing laden trays. When Mr.
Percy's cigarette had been lighted, hesitation marked the manner of
our maitre d'hotel; plainly he wavered, but finally old custom
prevailed; abandoning the cigarette, he chose the cigar, and, hastily
clearing my fashionable opponent's table, approached the pavilion with
his most conversational face.
I greeted him indifferently, but with hidden pleasure, for my soul
(if Keredec is right and I have one) lay sorrowing. I needed relief,
and whatever else Amedee was, he was always that. I spoke first:
"Amedee, how long a walk is it from Quesnay to Pere Baudry's?"
"Monsieur, about three-quarters of an hour for a good walker, one
"A long way for Jean Ferret to go for a cup of cider," I remarked
"Eh? But why should he?" asked Amedee blankly.
"Why indeed? Surely even a Norman gardener lives for more than
cider! You usually meet him there about noon, I believe?"
Methought he had the grace to blush, though there is an everlasting
doubt in my mind that it may have been the colour of the candle-shade
producing that illusion. It was a strange thing to see, at all events,
and, taking it for a physiological fact at the time, I let my willing
eyes linger upon it as long as it (or its appearance) was upon him.
"You were a little earlier than usual to-day," I continued finally,
full of the marvel.
"Monsieur?" He was wholly blank again.
"Weren't you there about eleven? Didn't you go about two hours
after Mr. Ward and his friends left here?"
He scratched his head. "I believe I had an errand in that
direction. Eh? Yes, I remember. Truly, I think it so happened."
"And you found Jean Ferret there?"
"At Pere Baudry's."
"What?" I exclaimed.
"No, monsieur." He was firm, somewhat reproachful.
"You didn't see Jean Ferret this morning?"
"Eh, but I did not find him at Pere Baudry's! It may have happened
that I stopped there, but he did not come until some time after."
"After you had gone away from Pere Baudry's, you mean?"
"No, monsieur; after I arrived there. Truly."
"Now we have it! And you gave him the news of all that had happened
A world—no, a constellation, a universe!—of reproach was in the
"I retract the accusation," I said promptly. "I meant something
"Upon everything that takes place at our hotel here, I am silent to
all the world."
"As the grave!" I said with enthusiasm. "Truly—that is a thing
well known. But Jean Ferret, then? He is not so discreet; I have
suspected that you are in his confidence. At times you have even
hinted as much. Can you tell me if he saw the automobile of Monsieur
Ingle when it came back to the chateau after leaving here?"
"It had arrived the moment before he departed."
"Quite SO! I understand," said I.
"He related to me that Mademoiselle Ward had the appearance of
agitation, and Madame d'Armand that of pallor, which was also the case
with Monsieur Ward."
"Therefore," I said, "Jean Ferret ran all the way to Pere Baudry's
to learn from you the reason for this agitation and this pallor?"
"I retract again!" I cut him off—to save time. "What other news
There came a gleam into his small, infolded eyes, a tiny glitter
reflecting the mellow candle-light, but changing it, in that
reflection, to a cold and sinister point of steel. It should have
warned me, but, as he paused, I repeated my question.
"Monsieur, people say everything," he answered, frowning as if
deploring what they said in some secret, particular instance. "The
world is full of idle gossipers, tale-bearers, spreaders of scandal!
And, though I speak with perfect respect, all the people at the
chateau are not perfect in such ways."
"Do you mean the domestics?"
"What do they say?"
"Eh, well, then, they say—but no!" He contrived a masterly
pretense of pained reluctance. "I cannot—"
"Speak out," I commanded, piqued by his shilly-shallying. "What do
"Monsieur, it is about"—he shifted his weight from one leg to the
other—"it is about—about that beautiful Mademoiselle Elliott who
sometimes comes here."
This was so far from what I had expected that I was surprised into
a slight change of attitude, which all too plainly gratified him,
though he made an effort to conceal it. "Well," I said uneasily, "what
do they find to say of Mademoiselle Elliott?"
"They say that her painting is only a ruse to see monsieur."
"To see Monsieur Saffren, yes."
"But, no!" he cried. "That is not—"
"Yes, it is," I assured him calmly. "As you know, Monsieur Saffren
is very, very handsome, and Mademoiselle Elliott, being a painter, is
naturally anxious to look at him from time to time."
"You are sure?" he said wistfully, even plaintively. "That is not
the meaning Jean Ferret put upon it."
"He was mistaken."
"It may be, it may be," he returned, greatly crestfallen, picking
up his tray and preparing to go. "But Jean Ferret was very positive."
"And I am even more so!"
"Then that malicious maid of Mademoiselle Ward's was mistaken
also," he sighed, "when she said that now a marriage is to take place
between Mademoiselle Ward and Monsieur Ingle—"
"Proceed," I bade him.
He moved a few feet nearer the kitchen. "The malicious woman said
to Jean Ferret—" He paused and coughed. "It was in reference to those
Italian jewels monsieur used to send—"
"What about them?" I asked ominously.
"The woman says that Mademoiselle Ward—" he increased the distance
between us—"that now she should give them to Mademoiselle Elliott!
GOOD night, monsieur!"
His entrance into the kitchen was precipitate. I sank down again
into the wicker chair (from which I had hastily risen) and
contemplated the stars. But the short reverie into which I then fell
was interrupted by Mr. Percy, who, sauntering leisurely about the
garden, paused to address me.
"You folks thinks you was all to the gud, gittin' them trunks off,
"You speak in mysterious numbers," I returned, having no
comprehension of his meaning.
"I suppose you don' know nothin' about it," he laughed satirically.
"You didn' go over to Lisieux 'saft'noon to ship 'em? Oh, no, not
"I went for a long walk this afternoon, Mr. Percy. Naturally, I
couldn't have walked so far as Lisieux and back."
"Luk here, m'friend," he said sharply—"I reco'nise 'at you're
tryin' t' play your own hand, but I ast you as man to man: DO you
think you got any chanst t' git that feller off t' Paris?"
"DO you think it will rain to-night?" I inquired.
The light of a reflecting lamp which hung on the wall near the
archway enabled me to perceive a bitter frown upon his forehead. "When
a gen'leman asts a question AS a gen'leman," he said, his voice
expressing a noble pathos, "I can't see no call for no other gen'leman
to go an' play the smart Aleck and not answer him."
In simple dignity he turned his back upon me and strolled to the
other end of the courtyard, leaving me to the renewal of my reverie.
It was not a happy one. My friends—old and new—I saw inextricably
caught in a tangle of cross-purposes, miserably and hopelessly
involved in a situation for which I could predict no possible relief.
I was able to understand now the beauty as well as the madness of
Keredec's plan; and I had told him so (after the departure of the
Quesnay party), asking his pardon for my brusquerie of the morning.
But the towering edifice his hopes had erected was now tumbled about
his ears: he had failed to elude the Mursiana. There could be no doubt
of her absolute control of the situation. THAT was evident in the
every step of the youth now confidently parading before me.
Following his active stride with my eye, I observed him in the act
of saluting, with a gracious nod of his bare head, some one, invisible
to me, who was approaching from the road. Immediately after—and
altogether with the air of a person merely "happening in"—a slight
figure, clad in a long coat, a short skirt, and a broad-brimmed,
veil-bound brown hat, sauntered casually through the archway and came
into full view in the light of the reflector.
I sprang to my feet and started toward her, uttering an exclamation
which I was unable to stifle, though I tried to.
"Good evening, Mr. Percy," she said cheerily. "It's the most
EXUBERANT night. YOU'RE quite hearty, I hope?"
"Takin' a walk, I see, little lady," he observed with genial
"Oh, not just for that," she returned. "It's more to see HIM." She
nodded to me, and, as I reached her, carelessly gave me her left hand.
"You know I'm studying with him," she continued to Mr. Percy,
exhibiting a sketch-book under her arm. "I dropped over to get a
"Oh, drawin'-lessons?" said Mr. Percy tolerantly. "Well, don' lemme
He moved as if to withdraw toward the steps, but she detained him
with a question. "You're spending the rest of the summer here?"
"That depends," he answered tersely.
"I hear you have some PASSIONATELY interesting friends."
"Where did you hear that?"
"Ah, don't you know?" she responded commiseratingly. "This is the
most scandalously gossipy neighbourhood in France. My DEAR young man,
every one from here to Timbuctu knows all about it by this time!"
"All about what?"
"About the excitement you're such a VALUABLE part of; about your
wonderful Spanish friend and how she claims the strange young man here
for her husband."
"They'll know more'n that, I expec'," he returned with a side
glance at me, "before VERY long."
"Every one thinks
I am so interesting," she rattled on
artlessly, "because I happened to meet YOU in the woods. I've held
quite a levee all day. In a reflected way it makes a heroine of me,
you see, because you are one of the very MOST prominent figures in it
all. I hope you won't think I've been too bold," she pursued
anxiously, "in claiming that I really am one of your acquaintances?"
"That'll be all right," he politely assured her.
"I am so glad." Her laughter rang out gaily. "Because I've been
talking about you as if we were the OLDEST friends, and I'd hate to
have them find me out. I've told them everything—about your
appearance you see, and how your hair was parted, and how you were
"Luk here," he interrupted, suddenly discharging his Bowery laugh,
"did you tell 'em how HE was dressed?" He pointed a jocular finger at
me. "That WUD 'a' made a hit!"
"No; we weren't talking of him."
"Why not? He's in it, too. Bullieve me, he THINKS he is!"
"In the excitement, you mean?"
"Right!" said Mr. Percy amiably. "He goes round holdin' Rip Van
Winkle Keredec's hand when the ole man's cryin'; helpin' him sneak his
trunks off t' Paris—playin' the hired man gener'ly. Oh, he thinks
he's quite the boy, in this trouble!"
"I'm afraid it's a small part," she returned, "compared to yours."
"Oh, I hold my end up, I guess."
"I should think you'd be so worn out and sleepy you couldn't hold
your head up!"
"Who? ME? Not t'-night, m'little friend. I tuk MY sleep's aft'noon
and let Rameau do the Sherlock a little while."
She gazed upon him with unconcealed admiration. "You are
wonderful," she sighed faintly, and "WONDERFUL!" she breathed again.
"How prosaic are drawing-lessons," she continued, touching my arm and
moving with me toward the pavilion, "after listening to a man of
action like that!"
Mr. Percy, establishing himself comfortably in a garden chair at
the foot of the gallery steps, was heard to utter a short cough as he
renewed the light of his cigarette.
My visitor paused upon my veranda, humming, "Quand l'Amour Meurt"
while I went within and lit a lamp. "Shall I bring the light out
there?" I asked, but, turning, found that she was already in the room.
"The sketch-book is my duenna," she said, sinking into a chair upon
one side of the centre table, upon which I placed the lamp. "Lessons
are unquestionable, at any place or time. Behold the beautiful
posies!" She spread the book open on the table between us, as I seated
myself opposite her, revealing some antique coloured smudges of
flowers. "Elegancies of Eighteen-Forty! Isn't that a survival of the
period when young ladies had 'accomplishments,' though! I found it at
the chateau and—"
"Never mind," I said. "Don't you know that you can't ramble over
the country alone at this time of night?"
"If you speak any louder," she said, with some urgency of manner,
"you'll be 'hopelessly compromised socially,' as Mrs. Alderman
McGinnis and the Duchess of Gwythyl-Corners say"—she directed my
glance, by one of her own, through the open door to Mr.
Percy—"because HE'LL hear you and know that the sketch-book was only
a shallow pretext of mine to see you. Do be a little manfully
self-contained, or you'll get us talked about! And as for 'this time
of night,' I believe it's almost half past nine."
"Does Miss Ward know—"
"Do you think it likely? One of the most convenient things about a
chateau is the number of ways to get out of it without being seen. I
had a choice of eight. So I 'suffered fearfully from neuralgia,' dined
in my own room, and sped through the woods to my honest forester." She
nodded brightly. "That's YOU!"
"You weren't afraid to come through the woods alone?" I asked,
uncomfortably conscious that her gaiety met a dull response from me.
"But if Miss Ward finds that you're not at the chateau—"
"She won't; she thinks I'm asleep. She brought me up a
"She thinks you took it?"
"She KNOWS I did," said Miss Elliott. "I'm full of it! And that
will be the reason—if you notice that I'm particularly nervous or
"You seem all of that," I said, looking at her eyes, which were
very wide and very brilliant. "However, I believe you always do."
"Ah!" she smiled. "I knew you thought me atrocious from the first.
You find MYRIADS of objections to me, don't you?"
I had forgotten to look away from her eyes, and I kept on
forgetting. (The same thing had happened several times lately; and
each time, by a somewhat painful coincidence, I remembered my age at
precisely the instant I remembered to look away.) "Dazzling" is a good
old-fashioned word for eyes like hers; at least it might define their
effect on me.
"If I did manage to object to you," I said slowly, "it would be a
good thing for me—wouldn't it?"
"Oh, I've WON!" she cried.
"Won?" I echoed.
"Yes. I laid a wager with myself that I'd have a pretty speech from
you before I went out of your life"—she checked a laugh, and
concluded thrillingly—"forever! I leave Quesnay to-morrow!"
"Your father has returned from America?"
"Oh dear, no," she murmured. "I'll be quite at the world's mercy. I
must go up to Paris and retire from public life until he does come. I
shall take the vows—in some obscure but respectable pension."
"You can't endure the life at the chateau any longer?"
"It won't endure ME any longer. If I shouldn't go to-morrow I'd be
put out, I think—after to-night!"
"But you intimated that no one would know about to-night!"
"The night isn't over yet," she replied enigmatically.
"It almost is—for you," I said; "because in ten minutes I shall
take you back to the chateau gates."
She offered no comment on this prophecy, but gazed at me
thoughtfully and seriously for several moments. "I suppose you can
imagine," she said, in a tone that threatened to become tremulous,
"what sort of an afternoon we've been having up there?"
"Has it been—" I began.
"Oh, heart-breaking! Louise came to my room as soon as they got
back from here, this morning, and told me the whole pitiful story. But
they didn't let her stay there long, poor woman!"
"They?" I asked.
"Oh, Elizabeth and her brother. They've been at her all
afternoon—off and on."
"To do what?"
"To 'save herself,' so they call it. They're insisting that she
must not see her poor husband again. They're DETERMINED she sha'n't."
"But George wouldn't worry her," I objected.
"Oh, wouldn't he?" The girl laughed sadly. "I don't suppose he
could help it, he's in such a state himself, but between him and
Elizabeth it's hard to see how poor Mrs. Harman lived through the
"Well," I said slowly, "I don't see that they're not right. She
ought to be kept out of all this as much as possible; and if her
husband has to go through a trial—"
"I want you to tell me something," Miss Elliott interrupted. "How
much do you like Mr. Ward?"
"He's an old friend. I suppose I like my old friends in about the
same way that other people like theirs."
"How much do you like Mr. Saffren—I mean Mr. Harman?"
"Oh, THAT!" I groaned. "If I could still call him 'Oliver Saffren,'
if I could still think of him as 'Oliver Saffren,' it would be easy to
answer. I never was so 'drawn' to a man in my life before. But when I
think of him as Larrabee Harman, I am full of misgivings."
"Louise isn't," she put in eagerly, and with something oddly like
the manner of argument. "His wife isn't!"
"Oh, I know. Perhaps one reason is that she never saw him at quite
his worst. I did. I had only two glimpses of him—of the briefest—but
they inspired me with such a depth of dislike that I can't tell you
how painful it was to discover that 'Oliver Saffren'—this strange,
pathetic, attractive FRIEND of mine—is the same man."
"Oh, but he isn't!" she exclaimed quickly.
"Keredec says he is," I laughed helplessly.
"So does Louise," returned Miss Elliott, disdaining consistency in
her eagerness. "And she's right—and she cares more for him than she
"I suppose she does."
"Are you—" the girl began, then stopped for a moment, looking at
me steadily. "Aren't you a little in love with her?"
"Yes," I answered honestly. "Aren't you?"
"THAT'S what I wanted to know!" she said; and as she turned a page
in the sketch-book for the benefit of Mr. Percy, I saw that her hand
had begun to tremble.
"Why?" I asked, leaning toward her across the table.
"Because, if she were involved in some undertaking—something that,
if it went wrong, would endanger her happiness and, I think, even her
life— for it might actually kill her if she failed, and brought on a
"Yes?" I said anxiously, as she paused again.
"You'd help her?" she said.
"I would indeed," I assented earnestly. "I told her once I'd do
anything in the world for her."
"Even if it involved something that George Ward might never forgive
"I said, 'anything in the world,'" I returned, perhaps a little
huskily. "I meant all of that. If there is anything she wants me to
do, I shall do it."
She gave a low cry of triumph, but immediately checked it. Then she
leaned far over the table, her face close above the book, and, tracing
the outline of an uncertain lily with her small, brown-gloved
forefinger, as though she were consulting me on the drawing, "I wasn't
afraid to come through the woods alone," she said, in a very low
voice, "because I wasn't alone. Louise came with me."
"What?" I gasped. "Where is she?"
"At the Baudry cottage down the road. They won't miss her at the
chateau until morning; I locked her door on the outside, and if they
go to bother her again—though I don't think they will—they'll
believe she's fastened it on the inside and is asleep. She managed to
get a note to Keredec late this afternoon; it explained everything,
and he had some trunks carried out the rear gate of the inn and carted
over to Lisieux to be shipped to Paris from there. It is to be
supposed—or hoped, at least—that this woman and her people will
believe THAT means Professor Keredec and Mr. Harman will try to get to
Paris in the same way."
"So," I said, "that's what Percy meant about the trunks. I didn't
"He's on watch, you see," she continued, turning a page to another
drawing. "He means to sit up all night, or he wouldn't have slept this
afternoon. He's not precisely the kind to be in the habit of afternoon
naps—Mr. Percy!" She laughed nervously. "That's why it's almost
absolutely necessary for us to have you. If we have—the thing is so
simple that it's certain."
"If you have me for what?" I asked.
"If you'll help"—and, as she looked up, her eyes, now very close
to mine, were dazzling indeed—"I'll adore you for ever and ever! Oh,
MUCH longer than you'd like me to!"
"You mean she's going to—"
"I mean that she's going to run away with him again," she
At midnight there was no mistaking the palpable uneasiness with
which Mr. Percy, faithful sentry, regarded the behaviour of Miss
Elliott and myself as we sat conversing upon the veranda of the
pavilion. It was not fear for the security of his prisoner which
troubled him, but the unseemliness of the young woman's persistence in
remaining to this hour under an espionage no more matronly than that
of a sketch-book abandoned on the table when we had come out to the
open. The youth had veiled his splendours with more splendour: a long
overcoat of so glorious a plaid it paled the planets above us; and he
wandered restlessly about the garden in this refulgence, glancing at
us now and then with what, in spite of the insufficient revelation of
the starlight, we both recognised as a chilling disapproval. The
lights of the inn were all out; the courtyard was dark. The Spanish
woman and Monsieur Rameau had made their appearance for a moment, half
an hour earlier, to exchange a word with their fellow vigilant, and,
soon after, the extinguishing of the lamps in their respective
apartments denoted their retirement for the night. In the "Grande
Suite" all had been dark and silent for an hour. About the whole place
the only sign of life, aside from those signs furnished by our three
selves, was a rhythmical sound from an open window near the kitchen,
where incontrovertibly slumbered our maitre d'hotel after the cares of
Upon the occasion of our forest meeting Mr. Percy had signified his
desire to hear some talk of Art. I think he had his fill to-night—and
more; for that was the subject chosen by my dashing companion, and
vivaciously exploited until our awaited hour was at hand. Heaven knows
what nonsense I prattled, I do not; I do not think I knew at the time.
I talked mechanically, trying hard not to betray my increasing
Under cover of this traduction of the Muse I served, I kept going
over and over the details of Louise Harman's plan, as the girl beside
me had outlined it, bending above the smudgy sketch-book. "To make
them think the flight is for Paris," she had urged, "to Paris by way
of Lisieux. To make that man yonder believe that it is toward Lisieux,
while they turn at the crossroads, and drive across the country to
Trouville for the morning boat to Havre."
It was simple; that was its great virtue. If they were well
started, they were safe; and well started meant only that Larrabee
Harman should leave the inn without an alarm, for an alarm sounded too
soon meant "racing and chasing on Canoby Lea," before they could get
out of the immediate neighbourhood. But with two hours' start, and the
pursuit spending most of its energy in the wrong direction—that is,
toward Lisieux and Paris—they would be on the deck of the
French-Canadian liner to-morrow noon, sailing out of the harbour of Le
Havre, with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean between them and the St.
I thought of the woman who dared this flight for her lover, of the
woman who came full-armed between him and the world, a Valkyr winging
down to bear him away to a heaven she would make for him herself.
Gentle as she was, there must have been a Valkyr in her somewhere, or
she could not attempt this. She swept in, not only between him and the
world, but between him and the destroying demons his own sins had
raised to beset him. There, I thought, was a whole love; or there she
was not only wife but mother to him.
And I remembered the dream of her I had before I ever saw her, on
that first night after I came down to Normandy, when Amedee's talk of
"Madame d'Armand" had brought her into my thoughts. I remembered that
I had dreamed of finding her statue, but it was veiled and I could not
uncover it. And to-night it seemed to me that the veil had lifted, and
the statue was a figure of Mercy in the beautiful likeness of Louise
Harman. Then Keredec was wrong, optimist as he was, since a will such
as hers could save him she loved, even from his own acts.
"And when you come to Monticelli's first style—" Miss Elliott's
voice rose a little, and I caught the sound of a new thrill vibrating
in it— "you find a hundred others of his epoch doing it quite as
well, not a BIT of a bit less commonplace—"
She broke off suddenly, and looking up, as I had fifty times in the
last twenty minutes, I saw that a light shone from Keredec's window.
"I dare say they ARE commonplace," I remarked, rising. "But now, if
you will permit me, I'll offer you my escort back to Quesnay."
I went into my room, put on my cap, lit a lantern, and returned
with it to the veranda. "If you are ready?" I said.
"Oh, quite," she answered, and we crossed the garden as far as the
Mr. Percy signified his approval.
"Gunna see the little lady home, are you?" he said graciously. "I
was THINKIN' it was about time, m'self!"
The salon door of the "Grand Suite" opened, above me, and at the
sound, the youth started, springing back to see what it portended, but
I ran quickly up the steps. Keredec stood in the doorway, bare-headed
and in his shirt-sleeves; in one hand he held a travelling-bag, which
he immediately gave me, setting his other for a second upon my
"Thank you, my good, good friend," he said with an emotion in his
big voice which made me glad of what I was doing. He went back into
the room, closing the door, and I descended the steps as rapidly as I
had run up them. Without pausing, I started for the rear of the
courtyard, Miss Elliott accompanying me.
The sentry had watched these proceedings open-mouthed, more
mystified than alarmed. "Luk here," he said, "I want t' know whut this
"Anything you choose to think it means," I laughed, beginning to
walk a little more rapidly. He glanced up at the windows of the
"Grande Suite," which were again dark, and began to follow us slowly.
"What you gut in that grip?" he asked.
"You don't think we're carrying off Mr. Harman?"
"I reckon HE'S in his room all right," said the youth grimly;
"unless he's FLEW out. But I want t' know what you think y're doin'?"
"Just now," I replied, "I'm opening this door."
This was a fact he could not question. We emerged at the foot of a
lane behind the inn; it was long and narrow, bordered by stone walls,
and at the other end debouched upon a road which passed the rear of
the Baudry cottage.
Miss Elliott took my arm, and we entered the lane.
Mr. Percy paused undecidedly. "I want t' know whut you think y're
doin'?" he repeated angrily, calling after us.
"It's very simple," I called in turn. "Can't I do an errand for a
friend? Can't I even carry his travelling-bag for him, without going
into explanations to everybody I happen to meet? And," I added,
permitting some anxiety to be marked in my voice, "I think you may as
well go back. We're not going far enough to need a guard."
Mr. Percy allowed an oath to escape him, and we heard him muttering
to himself. Then his foot-steps sounded behind us.
"He's coming!" Miss Elliott whispered, with nervous exultation,
looking over her shoulder. "He's going to follow."
"He was sure to," said I.
We trudged briskly on, followed at some fifty paces by the
perturbed watchman. Presently I heard my companion utter a sigh so
profound that it was a whispered moan.
"What is it?" I murmured.
"Oh, it's the thought of Quesnay and to-morrow; facing them with
THIS!" she quavered. "Louise has written a letter for me to give them,
but I'll have to tell them—"
"Not alone," I whispered. "I'll be there when you come down from
your room in the morning."
We were embarked upon a singular adventure, not unattended by a
certain danger; we were tingling with a hundred apprehensions,
occupied with the vital necessity of drawing the little spy after
us—and that was a strange moment for a man (and an elderly
painter-man of no mark, at that!) to hear himself called what I was
called then, in a tremulous whisper close to my ear. Of course she has
denied it since; nevertheless, she said it—twice, for I pretended not
to hear her the first time. I made no answer, for something in the
word she called me, and in her seeming to mean it, made me choke up so
that I could not even whisper; but I made up my mind that, after THAT
if this girl saw Mr. Earl Percy on his way back to the inn before she
wished him to go, it would be because he had killed me.
We were near the end of the lane when the neigh of a horse sounded
sonorously from the road beyond.
Mr. Percy came running up swiftly and darted by us.
"Who's that?" he called loudly. "Who's that in the cart yonder?"
I set my lantern on the ground close to the wall, and at the same
moment a horse and cart drew up on the road at the end of the lane,
showing against the starlight. It was Pere Baudry's best horse, a
stout gray, that would easily enough make Trouville by daylight. A
woman's figure and a man's (the latter that of Pere Baudry himself)
could be made out dimly on the seat of the cart.
"Who is it, I say?" shouted our excited friend. "What kind of a
game d'ye think y're puttin' up on me here?"
He set his hand on the side of the cart and sprang upon the hub of
the wheel. A glance at the occupants satisfied him.
"Mrs. Harman!" he yelled. "Mrs. Harman!" He leaped down into the
road. "I knowed I was a fool to come away without wakin' up Rameau.
But you haven't beat us yet!"
He drove back into the lane, but just inside its entrance I met
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Back to the pigeon-house in a hurry. There's devilment here, and I
want Rameau. Git out o' my way!"
"You're not going back," said I.
"The hell I ain't!" said Mr. Percy. "I give ye two seconds t' git
out o' my—TAKE YER HANDS OFFA ME!"
I made sure of my grip, not upon the refulgent overcoat, for I
feared he might slip out of that, but upon the collars of his coat and
waistcoat, which I clenched together in my right hand. I knew that he
was quick, and I suspected that he was "scientific," but I did it
before he had finished talking, and so made fast, with my mind and
heart and soul set upon sticking to him.
My suspicions as to his "science" were perfervidly justified. "You
long- legged devil!" he yelled, and I instantly received a series of
concussions upon the face and head which put me in supreme doubt of my
surroundings, for I seemed to have plunged, eyes foremost, into the
Milky Way. But I had my left arm around his neck, which probably saved
me from a coup de grace, as he was forced to pommel me at half-length.
Pommel it was; to use so gentle a word for what to me was crash, bang,
smash, battle, murder, earthquake and tornado. I was conscious of some
one screaming, and it seemed a consoling part of my delirium that the
cheek of Miss Anne Elliott should be jammed tight against mine through
one phase of the explosion. My arms were wrenched, my fingers twisted
and tortured, and, when it was all too clear to me that I could not
possibly bear one added iota of physical pain, the ingenious fiend
began to kick my shins and knees with feet like crowbars.
Conflict of any sort was never my vocation. I had not been an
accessory- during-the-fact to a fight since I passed the truculent age
of fourteen; and it is a marvel that I was able to hang to that
dynamic bundle of trained muscles—which defines Mr. Earl Percy well
enough—for more than ten seconds. Yet I did hang to him, as Pere
Baudry testifies, for a minute and a half, which seems no
inconsiderable lapse of time to a person undergoing such experiences
as were then afflicting me.
It appeared to me that we were revolving in enormous circles in the
ether, and I had long since given my last gasp, when there came a
great roaring wind in my ears and a range of mountains toppled upon us
both; we went to earth beneath it.
"Ha! you must create violence, then?" roared the avalanche.
And the voice was the voice of Keredec.
Some one pulled me from underneath my struggling antagonist, and,
the power of sight in a hazy, zigzagging fashion coming back to me, I
perceived the figure of Miss Anne Elliott recumbent beside me, her
arms about Mr. Percy's prostrate body. The extraordinary girl had
fastened upon him, too, though I had not known it, and she had gone to
ground with us; but it is to be said for Mr. Earl Percy that no blow
of his touched her, and she was not hurt. Even in the final
extremities of temper, he had carefully discriminated in my favour.
Mrs. Harman was bending over her, and, as the girl sprang up
lightly, threw her arms about her. For my part, I rose more slowly,
section by section, wondering why I did not fall apart; lips, nose,
and cheeks bleeding, and I had a fear that I should need to be led
like a blind man, through my eyelids swelling shut. That was something
I earnestly desired should not happen; but whether it did, or did
not—or if the heavens fell!—I meant to walk back to Quesnay with
Anne Elliott that night, and, mangled, broken, or half-dead,
presenting whatever appearance of the prize-ring or the abattoir that
I might, I intended to take the same train for Paris on the morrow
that she did.
For our days together were not at an end; nor was it hers nor my
desire that they should be.
It was Oliver Saffren—as I like to think of him—who helped me to
my feet and wiped my face with his handkerchief, and when that one was
ruined, brought others from his bag and stanched the wounds gladly
received, in the service of his wife.
"I will remember—" he said, and his voice broke. "These are the
memories which Keredec says make a man good. I pray they will help to
redeem me." And for the last time I heard the child in him speaking:
"I ought to be redeemed; I must be, don't you think, for her sake?"
"Lose no time!" shouted Keredec. "You must be gone if you will
reach that certain town for the five-o'clock train of the morning."
This was for the spy's benefit; it indicated Lisieux and the train to
Paris. Mr. Percy struggled; the professor knelt over him, pinioning
his wrists in one great hand, and holding him easily to earth.
"Ha! my friend—" he addressed his captive—"you shall not have
cause to say we do you any harm; there shall be no law, for you are
not hurt, and you are not going to be. But here you shall stay quiet
for a little while—till I say you can go." As he spoke he bound the
other's wrists with a short rope which he took from his pocket,
performing the same office immediately afterward for Mr. Percy's
"I take the count!" was the sole remark of that philosopher. "I
can't go up against no herd of elephants."
"And now," said the professor, rising, "good-bye! The sun shall
rise gloriously for you tomorrow. Come, it is time."
The two women were crying in each other's arms. "Good-bye!" sobbed
Mrs. Harman turned to Keredec. "Good-bye! for a little while."
He kissed her hand. "Dear lady, I shall come within the year."
She came to me, and I took her hand, meaning to kiss it as Keredec
had done, but suddenly she was closer and I felt her lips upon my
battered cheek. I remember it now.
I wrung her husband's hand, and then he took her in his arms,
lifted her to the foot-board of the cart, and sprang up beside her.
"God bless you, and good-bye!" we called.
And their voices came back to us. "God bless YOU and good-bye!"
They were carried into the enveloping night. We stared after them down
the road; watching the lantern on the tail-board of the cart diminish;
watching it dim and dwindle to a point of gray;—listening until the
hoof-beats of the heavy Norman grew fainter than the rustle of the
branch that rose above the wall beside us. But it is bad luck to
strain eyes and ears to the very last when friends are parting,
because that so sharpens the loneliness; and before the cart went
quite beyond our ken, two of us set out upon the longest way to