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Title: The Azure Rose - A Novel
Author: Kauffman, Reginald Wright, 1877-1959
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Azure Rose - A Novel" ***

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



                 The Azure Rose

                   _A Novel_


                       BY
            REGINALD WRIGHT KAUFFMAN

    Author of "Jim," "The House of Bondage,"
      "The Mark of The Beast," "Our Navy at
                   Work," etc.


                    NEW YORK
              THE MACAULAY COMPANY


                 Copyright, 1919
               By The Macaulay Co.



  [Illustration: "Oh!" she cried. "I had just come in and I
    thought--I thought it was my room."]



                       For

            My Friend and Secretary,
          LANCE-CORPORAL ARNOLD ROBSON,

    No. 10864, "C" Company, Sixth Battalion,
    Yorkshire Regiment--"The Green Howards"--

  Who, Leading His Squad, Died for His Country
   At Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, 21st August, 1915,
                  Aged Twenty.



PREFACE


A novel about Paris that is not about the war requires even now, I am
told, some word of explanation. Mine is brief:

This story was conceived before the war began. I came to the task of
putting it into its final shape after nine months passed between the
Western Front and a Paris war-torn and war-darkened, both physically
and spiritually. Yet, though I had found the old familiar places, and
the ever young and ever familiar people, wounded and sad, I did not
long have to seek for the Parisian bravery in pain and the Parisian
smile shining, rainbowlike, through the tears. Nothing can conquer
France and nothing can lastingly hurt Paris. They are, as a famous wit
said of our own so different Boston, a state of mind. Had the German
succeeded in the Autumn of 1914 or the Spring of 1918, France would
have remained, and Paris. What used to happen in the Land of Love and
the City of Lights will happen there again and be always happening, so
that my story is at once a retrospect and a prophecy.

Realizing these things, I have found it a pleasure to make this book.
A book without problems and without horrors, its sole purpose is to
give to the reader some of that pleasure which went to its making.
Wars come and go; but for every man the Door Opposite stands open
beside the Seine, the hurdy-gurdy plays "Annie Laurie" in the Street
of the Valley of Grace and--a Lady of the Rose is waiting.

                                                    R. W. K.
    _Columbia, Penna._,
        Christmas Day, 1918.



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

       I. In Which, if not Love, at Least Anger, Laughs
            at Locksmiths                                       13

      II. Providing the Gentle Reader with a Card of
            Admission to the Nest of the Two Doves              36

     III. In Which a Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted         49

      IV. A Damsel in Distress                                  64

       V. Which Tells How Cartaret Returned to the Rue du
            Val-de-Grâce, and What He Found There               84

      VI. Cartaret Sets Up Housekeeping                        102

     VII. Of Domestic Economy, of Day-Dreams, and of a Far
            Country and Its Sovereign Lady                     118

    VIII. Chiefly Concerning Strawberries                      144

      IX. Being the True Report of a Chaperoned Déjeuner       154

       X. An Account of an Empty Purse and a Full Heart,
            in the Course of Which the Author Barely Escapes
            Telling a Very Old Story                           169

      XI. Tells How Cartaret's Fortune Turned Twice in a
            Few Hours and How He Found One Thing and Lost
            Another                                            192

     XII. Narrating How Cartaret Began His Quest of the
            Rose                                               206

    XIII. Further Adventures of an Amateur Botanist            222

     XIV. Something or Other About Traditions                  253

      XV. In Which Cartaret Takes Part in the Revival of
            an Ancient Custom                                  273

     XVI. And Last                                             300



OUT OF ASHES


    Paris as I knew her
      In the days ere this--
    Paris, when I threw her
      Many a careless kiss--
    Paris of my pleasure,
      Bright of eye and brow,
    Town of squandered treasure--
      Where's that Paris now?

    Song had shunned her traces,
      Care was on her track:
    All my young girls' faces
      Pale in folds of black!
    Half the hearts were broken,
      All the mirth was fled;
    Scarce a vow was spoken,
      Save above the dead....

    Oh, but there's a spirit
      Sorrow cannot kill!
    Even now I hear it
      Swear the great "I Will!"
    Paris, at your portal
      Taps the ancient truth,
    Laughing and immortal:
      Never-conquered Youth!
                    R. W. K.



THE AZURE ROSE



CHAPTER I

IN WHICH, IF NOT LOVE, AT LEAST ANGER, LAUGHS AT LOCKSMITHS

    Je ne connais point la nature des anges, parce que je ne suis
    qu'homme; il n'y a que les théologiens qui la
    connaissent.--Voltaire: _Dictionnaire Philosophique_.


He did not know why he headed toward his own room--it could hold
nothing that he guessed of to welcome him, except further tokens of
the dejection and misery he carried in his heart--but thither he went,
and, as he drew nearer, his step quickened. By the time that he
entered the rue du Val de Grâce, he was moving at something close upon
a run.

He hurried up the rising stairs and into the dark hall, and, as he did
so, was possessed by the sense that somebody had as hurriedly
ascended just ahead of him. The door to his room was never locked,
and now he flung it wide.

The last of the afterglow had all but faded from the sky, and only the
faintest twilight, a rose-pink twilight, came into the studio.
Rose-pink: he thought of that at once and thought, too, that these
sky-roses had a sweeter scent than the roses of earth, for there was
about this once-familiar place an odor more delicate and tender than
any he had ever known before. It was dim, illusive; it was like a
musical poem in an unknown tongue, and yet, unlike French scents and
hot-house flowers, it subtly suggested open spaces and mountain-peaks.
Cartaret had a quick vision of sunlight upon snow-crests. He wondered
how such a perfume could find its way through the narrow, dirty
streets of the Latin Quarter and into his poor room.

And then, in the dim light, he saw a figure standing there.

Cartaret stopped short.

An hour ago he had left the place empty. Now, when he so wanted
solitude, it had been invaded. There was an intruder. It was---- yes,
the Lord have mercy on him, it was a girl!

"Who's there?" demanded Cartaret.

He was so startled that he asked the question in English and with his
native American accent. The next moment, he was more startled when the
strange girl answered him in English, though an English oddly precise.

"It is I," she said.

"It is I," was what she said first, and, as she said it, Cartaret
noted that her voice was a wonderfully soft contralto. What she next
said was uttered as he further discovered himself to her by an
involuntary movement that brought him within the rear window's shaft
of afterglow. It was:

"What are you doing here?"

She spoke with patent amazement, and there were, between the words,
four perceptible pauses.

What was he doing there? What was _she_? What light there was came
from behind her: he could not at all make out her features; he had
only her voice to go by--only her voice and her manner of regal
possession--and with neither was he acquainted. Good Heavens, hadn't
he a right to come unannounced into the one place in Paris that he
might still call his own? It surely _was_ his own. He looked
distractedly about him.

"I thought," said Cartaret, "that this was my room."

His glance, bewildered as it was, nevertheless assured him that he had
not been mistaken. His accustomed eye detected everything that the
twilight might hide from the eye of a stranger.

Here was all his student-litter. Here were the good photographs of
good pictures, bought second-hand; the bad copies of good pictures,
made by Cartaret himself during long mornings in the Louvre, where
impudent tourists, staring at his work, jolted his elbow and craned
their necks beside his cheek; there were the plaster-casts on
brackets--casts of antiques more mutilated than the antiques
themselves; and here, too, were the rows of lost endeavors in the
shape of discarded canvases banked on the floor along the walls and
sometimes jutting far out into the room. Two or three chairs were
scattered about, one with a broken leg--he remembered the party at
which it was broken; across from the fire-place was Cartaret's bed
that a tarnished Oriental cover (made in Lyons) converted by day into
a divan; and close beside the rear window, flanked by the table on
which he mixed his colors, stood, almost at the elbow of this
imperious intruder, Cartaret's own easel with a virgin canvas in
position, waiting to receive the successor to that picture which he
had sold for a song a few hours ago.

What was he doing here, indeed! He liked that.

And she was still at it:

"How dare you think so?" she persisted.

The slight pauses between her words lent them more weight than, even
in his ears, they otherwise would have possessed. She came a step
nearer, and Cartaret saw that she was breathing quickly and that the
bit of lace above her heart rose and fell irregularly.

"How dare you?" she repeated.

She was close enough now for him to decide that she was quite the
most striking girl he had ever seen. Her figure, without a touch of
exaggeration, was full and yet lithe: it moved with the grace of the
athlete. Her skin was rosy and white--the rose of health and the clear
cream of sane living.

It was, however, her manner that had led Cartaret first to doubt his
own senses, and then to doubt hers. This girl spoke like a queen
resenting a next-to-impossible familiarity. He had half a mind to
leave the place and allow her to discover her own mistake, the nature
of which--his room ran the length of the old house and half its width,
being separated from a similar room by only a dark and draughty
hallway--now suddenly revealed itself to him. He seriously considered
leaving her alone to the advent of her humiliation.

Then he looked at her again. Her hair, in sharp contrast to the tint
of her face, was a shining blue-black; though her features were almost
classical in their regularity, her mouth was generous and sensitive,
and, under even black brows and through long, curling lashes, her eyes
shone frank and blue. Cartaret decided to remain.

"You are an artist?" he inquired.

"Leave this room!" She stamped a little foot. "Leave this room
instantly!"

Cartaret stooped to one of the canvases that were piled against the
wall nearest him. He turned its face to her.

"And this is some of your work?" he asked.

He had meant to be only light and amusing, but when he saw the effect
of his action, he cursed himself for a heavy-witted fool: the girl
glanced first at the picture and then wildly about her. She had at
last realized her mistake.

"Oh!" she cried. Her delicate hands went to her face. "I had just come
in and I thought--I thought it was _my_ room!"

He registered a memorandum to kick himself as soon as she had gone. He
moved awkwardly forward, still between her and the door.

"It's all right," he said. "Everybody drops in here at one time or
another, and I never lock my door."

"But you do not understand!" She was still speaking through her
unjeweled fingers: "Sir, we moved into this house only this morning. I
went out for the first time ten minutes since. My maid did not want me
to go, but I would do it. Our room--I understand now that our room is
the other one: the one across the hallway. But I came back hurriedly,
a little frightened by the streets, and I turned--Oh-h!" she ended, "I
must go--I must go immediately!"

She dropped her hands and darted forward, turning to her right.
Cartaret lost his head: he turned to his right. Each saw the mistake
and sought the left; then darted to the right again.

"Let me pass!" commanded the girl.

Cartaret, inwardly condemning his stupidity, suddenly backed. He
backed into the half open door; it shut behind him with a sharp snap.

"I'm not dancing," he said. "I know it looks like it, but I'm
not--truly."

"Then stand aside and let me pass."

He stood aside.

"Certainly," said he; "that is what I was trying to do."

With her head high, she walked by him to the door and turned the knob:
the door would not open.

Than the scorn that she turned upon him then, he had never seen
anything more magnificent--or more beautiful. "What is this?" she
asked.

He did not know.

"It's probably stuck," he suggested. She was beginning to terrify him.
"If you'll allow me----"

He bent to the knob, his hand just brushing hers, which was quickly
withdrawn. He pulled: the door would not give. He took the knob in
both hands and raised it: no success. He bore all his weight down upon
the knob: the door remained shut.

He looked up at her attempting the smile of apology, but her eyes, as
soon as they encountered his, were raised to a calm regard of the
panel above his head. Cartaret's gaze returned to the door and,
presently, encountered the old deadlatch that antedated his tenancy
and that he had never once used: it was a deadlatch of a type
antiquated even in the Latin Quarter, tough and enduring; years ago it
had been pushed back and held open by a small catch; the knob whereby
it was originally worked from inside the room had been broken off; and
now the catch had slipped, the spring-bolt had shot home and, the knob
being broken, the girl and Cartaret were as much prisoners in the room
as if the lock had been on the other side of the door.

The American broke into a nervous laugh.

"What now?" asked the girl, her eyes hard.

"We're caught," said Cartaret.

She could only repeat the word:

"Caught?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. It was my stupidity; I suppose I jolted the door
rather hard when I bumped into it, doing that tango just now. Anyhow,
this old lock's sprung into action and we're fastened in."

The girl looked at him sharply. A difficult red climbed her cheeks.

"Open that door," she ordered.

"But I can't--not right away. I'll have to try to----"

"Open that door instantly."

"But I tell you I can't. Don't you see?" He pointed to the offending
deadlatch. In embarrassed sentences, he explained the situation.

She did not appear to listen. She had the air of one who has prejudged
a case.

"You are trying to keep me in this room," she said.

Her tone was steady, and her eyes were brave; but it was evident that
she quite believed her statement.

Cartaret colored in his turn.

"Nonsense," said he.

"Then open the door."

"I tell you the lock has slipped."

"If that is so, use your key."

"I haven't any key," protested Cartaret. "And even if I had----"

"You have no key to your own room?" She raised her eyes scornfully.
"I understood you to say very positively that I was trespassing in
_your_ room."

"Great Scott!" cried Cartaret. "Of course it's my room. You make me
wish it wasn't, but it is. It is my room, but you can see for yourself
there's no keyhole to the confounded lock on this side of the door,
and never was. Look here." Again he pointed to the deadlatch: "If
you'll only come a little nearer and look----"

"Thank you," she said. "I shall remain where I am." She had put her
hand among the lace over her breast; now the hand, withdrawn, held an
unsheathed knife. "And if you come one step nearer to me," she calmly
concluded, "I will kill you."

It was the sole dream-touch needed to perfect his sense of the entire
episode's unreality. In his poor room, a princess that he had never
seen before--that, surely, he was not seeing now!--some royal figure
out of a lost Hellenic tragedy; her breast visibly cumbered by the
heavy air of modern Paris, her wonderful eyes burning with the cold
fire of resolution, she told him that she would kill him if he
approached her. And she would do it; she would kill him with less
compunction than she would feel in crushing an offending moth!

Cartaret had instinctively jumped at the first flash of the weapon.
Now his laughter returned. A vision could not be impeded by a sprung
lock.

"But you're not here," he said.

She did not shift by so much as a hairbreadth her position of defense,
yet, ever so slightly, her eyes widened.

"And I'm not, either," he persisted. "Don't you see? Things like this
don't happen. One of us is asleep and dreaming--and I must be that
one."

Plainly she did not follow him, but his laughter had been so boyishly
innocent as to make her patently doubtful of her own assumption. He
crowded that advantage.

"Honestly," he said, "I didn't mean any harm----"

"You at least place yourself in a strange position," the girl
interrupted, though the hand that held the knife was lowered to her
side.

"But if you really doubt me," he continued, "and don't want to wait
until I pick this lock, let me call from the window and get somebody
in the street to send up the concierge."

"The street?" She evidently did not like this idea. "No, not the
street. Why do you not ring for him?"

Cartaret's gesture included the four walls of the room:

"There's no bell."

Still a little suspicious of him, her blue eyes scanned the room to
confirm his statement.

"Then why not call him from the window in the back?"

"Because his quarters are at the front of the house, and he wouldn't
hear."

"Would no one hear?"

"There's nobody in the garden at this time of day. You had really
better let me call to the first person that goes along the street.
Somebody is always going along, you know."

He made two strides toward the front window.

"Come back!"

He turned to find her with her face scarlet. She had raised the knife.

"Break the lock," she said.

"But that will take time."

"Break the lock."

"All right; only why don't you want me to call for help?"

"And humiliate me still further?" One small foot, cased in an absurdly
light patent-leather slipper with a flashing buckle, tapped the floor
angrily. "I have been foolish, and your folly has made me more
foolish, but I will not have it known to all the world _how_ foolish I
have been. Break the lock at once--now--immediately."

Cartaret divined that this was eminently a time for silence: she was
alive, she was real, and she was human. He opened a drawer in the
table, dived under the divan, plunged behind a curtain in one corner,
and at last found a shaky hammer and a nicked chisel with which he
returned to the locked door.

"I'm not much of a carpenter," he said, by way of preparatory apology.

The girl said nothing.

He was angry at himself for having appeared to such heavy
disadvantage. Consequently, he was unsteady. His first blow missed.
His strength turned to mere violence, and he showered futile blows
upon the butt of the chisel. Then a misdirected blow hit the thumb of
his left hand. He swore softly and, having sworn, heard her laugh.

He looked up: the knife had disappeared. He was pleased at the change
to merriment that her face discovered; but, as he looked, he realized
that her mirth was launched against his efforts, and he was pleased no
longer. His rage directed itself from him to her.

"I'm sorry you don't approve," he said sulkily. "For my part, I am
quite willing to stop, I assure you."

If an imperious person may be said to have tossed her head, then it
should here be said that this imperious person now tossed hers.

"Now, shall I go to the window and yell into the street?" he savagely
inquired.

Her high-tilted chin, her crimsoned cheeks and the studiously managed
lack of expression in her eyes were proofs that she had heard him.
Nevertheless, she persisted in her disregard of his suggestion.

Cartaret's mood became more ugly. He resolved to make her pay
attention.

"I'll do it," he said, and turned away from the door.

That brought the answer. She looked at him in angry horror.

"And make us the laughing-stock of the neighborhood?" she cried. "Is
it not enough that you have shut me in here, that you have insulted
me, that----"

"Insulted you?" He stood with the hammer in one hand and the chisel in
the other, a rather unromantic figure of protest. "I never did
anything of the sort."

He made a flourish and dropped the hammer. When he picked it up, he
saw that she stood there, looking over his bent head, with eyes
sternly kept serene; but he saw also that her cheeks remained aglow
and that her breath came short.

"I never did anything of the sort," he went on. "How could I?"

"How could you?" She clenched her hands.

"I don't mean that." He could have bitten out his tongue. He
floundered in a marsh of confusion. "I mean--I mean--Oh, I don't know
what I mean, except that I beg you to believe I am incapable of the
impudence you charge! I came in here and found the most beautiful
woman----"

She recoiled.

"You speak so to me?"

It was out: he had to go ahead now. He did not at all recognize
himself: this was not American; it was wholly Gallic.

"I can't help it," he said, "you are."

"Go to work," said the girl.

"But I want you to understand----"

Two tears, twin diamonds of mortification, shone in her blue eyes.

"You have humiliated me, and mortified me, and insulted me!" she
persisted. Her white throat swallowed the chagrin, and anger returned
to take its place. "If you are what you pretend to be, you will go
back to your work of opening that door. If I were the strong man that
you are, I should have broken it open long ago."

She had a handsome ferocity. Cartaret put one broad shoulder to the
door and both hands to the knob. There was a tremendous wrenching and
splitting: the door swung open. He turned and bowed.

"It's open," he said.

To his amazement, her mood had entirely changed. Whether his action
had served as proof of his declared sincerity, or whether her brief
reflection on his words had itself served him this good turn, he could
not guess; but he saw now that her eyes had softened and that her
underlip quivered.

"Good afternoon," said Cartaret.

"Good-by," said she.

She moved toward the door, then stopped.

"I hope that you will pardon me," she said, and she spoke as if she
were not accustomed to asking pardon. "I have been too quick and very
foolish. You must know that I am new to Paris--new to France--new to
cities--and that I have heard strange stories of Parisians and of the
men of the large towns."

Cartaret was more than mollified, but he took a grip upon his emotions
and resolved to pursue this advantage.

"At least," he said, "you should have seen that I was your own sort."

"My own--my own sort?" She did not seem to comprehend.

"Well, of your own class, then." This girl had an impish faculty for
making him say things that sounded priggish: "You should have seen I
was of your own class."

Again her eyes widened. Then she tossed her head and laughed a little
silvery laugh.

He fancied the laugh disdainful, and thought so the more when she
seemed to detect his suspicion and tried to allay it by an alteration
of tone.

"I mean exactly that," he said.

She bit her red lip, and Cartaret noted that her teeth were even and
white.

"Forgive me," she begged.

She put out her hand so frankly that he would have forgiven her
anything. He took the hand and, as it nestled softer than any satin in
his, he felt his heart hammer in his breast.

"Forgive me," she was repeating.

"I hope _you'll_ forgive _me_," he muttered. "At any rate, you can't
forget me: you'll have to remember me as the greatest boor you ever
met."

She shook her head.

"It was I that was foolish."

"Oh, but it wasn't! I----"

He stopped, for her eyes had fallen from his and rested on their
clasped hands. He released her instantly.

"Good-by," she said again.

"Good---- But surely I'm to see you once in a while!"

"I do not know."

"Why, we're neighbors! You can't mean that you won't let me----"

"I do not know," she said. "Good-by."

She went out, drawing-to the shattered door behind her.

Cartaret leaned against the panel and listened shamelessly.

He heard her cross the hall and open the door to the opposite room; he
heard her suspiciously greeted by another voice--a voice that he
gladly recognized as feminine--and in a language that was wholly
unfamiliar to him: a language that sounded somehow Oriental. Then he
heard the other door shut, and he turned to the comfortless gloom of
his own quarters.

He sat down on the bed. He had forgotten a riotous dinner that was to
have been his final Parisian folly, forgotten his poverty, forgotten
his day of disappointment and his desire to go back to Ohio and the
law. He remembered only the events of the last quarter-hour and the
girl that had made them what they were.

As he sat there, there seemed to come again into the silent room the
perfume he had noticed when he returned. It seemed to float in on the
twilight, still dimly pink behind the roofs of the gray houses along
the Boul' Miche': subtle, haunting, an odor more delicate and tender
than any he had ever known before.

He raised his head. He saw something white lying on the floor--lying
where, a few moments since, he had stood. He went forward and picked
it up.

It was a flower like a rose--a white rose--but unlike any rose of
which Cartaret had any knowledge. It was small, but perfect, its pure
petals gathered tight against its heart, and from its heart came the
perfume that had seemed to him like a musical poem in an unknown
tongue.

For a second time Cartaret had that quick vision of the sunlight upon
snow-crests and the virgin sheen of unattainable mountain tops....



CHAPTER II

PROVIDING THE GENTLE READER WITH A CARD OF ADMISSION TO THE NEST OF
THE TWO DOVES

    Dans ces questions de crédit, il faut toujours frapper
    l'imagination. L'idée de génie, c'est de prendre dans la
    poche des gens l'argent qui n'y est pas encore.--Zola:
    _L'Argent_.


Until just before the appearance of Charlie Cartaret's rosy vision,
this had been a day of darkness and wet. Rain--a dull, hopeless,
February rain--fell with implacable monotony. It descended in fine
spray, as if too lazy to hurry, yet too spiteful to stop. It made all
Paris miserable; but, as is the way with Parisian rains, it was a
great deal wetter on the Left Bank of the Seine than on the Right.

No rain--not even in those happy times before the great war--ever
washed the Left Bank clean, and this one only made it a marsh. A
curtain of fog fell sheer between the Isle de la Cité and the Quai des
Augustins; the twin towers of St. Sulpice staggered up into a pall of
fog and were lost in it. The gray houses hunched their shoulders,
lowered their heads, drew their mansard hats and gabled caps over
their noses and stood like rows of patient horses at a cabstand under
the gray downpour. Now and again a real cab scuttled along the
streets, its skinny beast clop-clopping over the wooden paving, or
slipping among the cobbled ways, its driver hidden under a mountainous
pile of woolen great-coat and rubber cape. Even the taxis lacked the
proud air with which they habitually splash pedestrians, and such
pedestrians as business forced upon the early afternoon thoroughfares
went with heads bowed like the houses' and umbrellas leveled like
flying-jibs.

In front of the little Café Des Deux Colombes, the two marble-topped
tables which occupied its scant frontage on the rue Jacob were
deserted by all save their four iron-backed chairs with wet seats and
their twin water-bottles into which, with mathematical precision,
water dropped from a pair of holes in the sagging canvas overhead.
Inside, however, there were lighted gas-jets, the proprietor and the
proprietor's wife--presumably the pair of doves for whom the Café was
named--and a man that was trying to look like a customer.

Gaston François Louis Pasbeaucoup had an apron tied about his middle,
and, standing before the intended patron's table, leaned what weight
he had--it was not much--upon his finger-tips. His mustache was fierce
enough to grace the upper lip of a deputy from the Bouches-du-Rhône
and generous enough to spare many a contribution to the
_plat-du-jour_; but his mustache was the only large thing about
him--always excepting Madame his wife, who was ever somewhere about
him and who was just now, two hundred and twenty pounds of evidence to
the good food of the Deux Colombes, stuffed into a wire cage at one
end of the bar, and bulging out of it, her eyebrows meeting over her
pug-nose and the heap of hair leaping from her head nearly to the
ceiling, while her lips and fingers were busy adding the bills from
_déjeuner_.

"It would greatly pleasure me to accommodate monsieur," Pasbeaucoup
was whispering, "but monsieur must know that already----"

The sentence ended in a deprecating glance over the speaker's shoulder
in the general direction of mighty Madame.

"Already? Already what then?" demanded the intending customer.

He was lounging on the wall-seat behind his table, and he had an
aristocratic air surprisingly at variance with his garments. His black
jacket shone too highly at the elbows, and its short sleeves betrayed
an unnecessary length of red wrist. His black boots gasped for repair;
a soft black hat, pushed to the back of his black hair, still dripped
from an unprotected voyage along the rainy street, and his neckcloth,
which was also long and soft and black, showed a spot or two not put
there by its makers. These were patently matters beyond their owner's
command and beneath the dignity of his attention. Against them one
was compelled to set a manner truly lofty, which was enhanced by a
pair of burning, deep-placed eyes, a thin white face and, sprouting
from either side of his lower jaw, near the chin, two wisps of ebon
whisker. He frowned majestically, and he smoked a caporal cigarette as
if it were a Havana cigar.

"Already what?" he loudly repeated. "If it is possible! I patronize
your cabbage of a café for five years, and now you put me off with
your alreadys!"

Pasbeaucoup, his fingers still resting on the table, danced in
embarrassment and rolled his eyes in a manner that plainly enough
warned monsieur not to let his voice reach the caged lady.

"I was but about to say that monsieur already owes us the trifling sum
of----"

"_Sixty francs, twenty-five!_"

The tone that announced these fateful numerals was so tremendous a
contralto as to be really bass. It came from the wire cage and
belonged to Madame.

Pasbeaucoup sank into the nearest chair. He spread out his hands in a
gesture that eloquently said:

"Now you've done it! I can't shield you any longer!"

The debtor, albeit he was still a young man, did not appear unduly
impressed. The table was across his knees, but he rose as far as it
would permit and removed his hat with a flourish that sent a spray of
water directly over Madame's monument of hair. Disregarding the
blatant fact that she was quite the most remarkable feature of the
room, he vowed that he had not observed her upon entering, was
desolated because of his oversight and ravished now to have the
pleasure of once more beholding her in all her accustomed grace and
charm.

Madame shrugged her shoulders higher than the walls of the cage.

"Sixty francs, twenty-five," she said, without looking up from her
task.

Ah, yes: his little account. Monsieur recalled that: there was a
little account; but, so truly as his name was Seraphin and his passion
Art, what a marvelous head Madame had for figures. It was of an
exactitude magnificent!

When he paused, Madame said:

"Sixty francs, twenty-five."

"But surely, Madame----" Seraphin Dieudonné was politely amazed; he
did not desire to credit her with an impoliteness, and yet she seemed
to imply that, unless he paid this absurdly little sum, there might be
some delay in serving him in this so excellent establishment.

"_C'est ça_," said Madame. "The delay will be entire."

"Incomprehensible!" Seraphin put a bony hand to his heart. "Do you not
know--all the world of the _Quartier_ knows--that I have, Madame, but
three days' work more upon my _magnum opus_--a week at the utmost--and
that then it can sell for not a sou less than fifteen thousand
francs?"

Madame's face never changed expression when she talked; it always
seemed set at the only angle that would balance her monument of hair.
She now said:

"What all the world of the _Quartier_ knows is that your last _magnum
opus_ you sold to that simpleton Fourget in the rue St. André des
Arts; that even from him you could squeeze but a hundred francs for
it; and that he has not yet been able to find a customer."

At first Seraphin seemed slow to credit the scorn that Madame was at
such pains to reveal. He made one valiant effort to overlook it, and
failed; then he made an effort no less valiant to meet her with the
ridiculous majesty in which he habitually draped himself. It was as
if, unable to make her believe in him, he at least wanted her to
believe that his long struggle with poverty and an indifferent public
had served only to increase his confidence in his own genius and to
rear between him and the world a wall through which the arrows of the
scornful could hardly pass. But this attempt succeeded no more than
its predecessor: as he half stood, half bent before this landlady of
a fifth-rate café, a tardy pink crept up his white face and painted
the skin over his cheek-bones; his eyelids fluttered, and his mouth
worked. The man was hungry.

"Madeleine!" whispered Pasbeaucoup, compassion for the debtor almost
overcoming fear of the wife.

Seraphin wet his lips.

"Madame----" he began.

"Sixty francs, twenty-five," said Madame. "_Ca y est!_"

As she said it, the door of the Deux Colombes opened and another
patron, at once evidently a more welcome patron, presented himself. He
was a plump little man with hands that were thinly at contrast with
the rest of him. He was fairly well dressed, but far better fed, and
so contented with his lot as to have no eye for the evident lot of
Seraphin. He was Maurice Houdon, who had decided some day to be a
great composer and who meanwhile overcharged a few English and
American pupils for lessons on the piano and borrowed money from any
that would trust him. He stormed Dieudonné, leaned over the
intervening table and embraced him.

"My dear friend!" he cried, his arms outflung, his fingers rattling
rapid arpeggios upon invisible pianos. "You are indeed well found. I
have news--such news!" He thrust back his head and warbled a laugh
worthy of the mad-scene in _Lucia_. "Listen well." Again he embraced
the unresisting Seraphin. "This night we dine here; we make a
collation--a symposium: we feed both our bodies and our souls. I shall
sit at the head of the table in the little room on the first floor,
and you will sit at the foot. Armand Garnier will read his new poem;
Devignes will sing my latest song; Philippe Varachon and you will
discourse on your arts; and I--perhaps I shall let you persuade me to
play the fugue that I go to write for the death of the President: it
is all but ready against the day that a president chooses to die."

But Seraphin's thoughts were fixed on the food for the body.

"You make no jest with me, Maurice?"

"Jest with you? I jest with you? No, my friend. I do not jest when I
invite a guest to dine with me."

"I comprehend," said Dieudonné; "but who is to be the host?"

At that question, Pasbeaucoup rose from his chair, and Madame, his
wife, tried to thrust her nose, which was too short to reach, through
the bars of her cage. The composer struck a chord on his breast and
bowed.

"True: the host," said he. "I had forgotten. I have found a veritable
patron of my art. He has had the room above mine for two years, and I
did not once before suspect him. He is an American of the United
States."

Madame's contralto shook her prison bars:

"There is no American that can appreciate art."

"True, Madame," admitted Houdon, bowing profoundly; "there is no
American that can appreciate art, and there is no American
millionaire that can help patronizing it."

"Eh, he is a millionaire, then, this American?" demanded Madame,
audibly mollified.

"He has that honor."

"And his name?"--Madame wanted to make a memorandum of that name.

Houdon struck another chord. It was as if he were sounding a fanfare
for the entrance of his hero.

"Charles Cartaret." He pronounced the first name in the French fashion
and the second name "Cartarette."

Seraphin's reply to this announcement rather spoiled its effect. He
laughed, and his laughter was high and mocking.

"Cartaret!" he cried. "Charlie Cartaret! But I know him well."

"Eh?"--The composer was reproachful--"And you never presented him to
me?"

"It never happened that you were by."

"My faith! Why should I be? Am I not Houdon? You should have brought
him to me. Is it that you at the same time consider yourself my
friend and do not bring to me your millionaire?"

Seraphin's laughter waxed.

"But he is not my millionaire: he is your millionaire only. I know
well that he is as poor as we are."

The musician's imaginary melody ceased: one could almost hear it
cease. He gazed at Seraphin as he might have gazed at a madman.

"But that room rents for a hundred francs a month!"

"He is in debt for it."

"And his name is that of a rich American well known."

"An uncle who does not like him."

"And he has offered to provide this collation."

Seraphin shrugged.

"M. Cartaret's credit," said he, with a glance at Madame, "seems to be
better than mine. I tell you he is only a young art-student, enough
genteel, and the relation of a man enough rich, but for
himself--poof!--he is one of us."



CHAPTER III

IN WHICH A FOOL AND HIS MONEY ARE SOON PARTED

    Money's the still sweet-singing nightingale.--Herrick:
    _Hesperides_.


Seraphin Dieudonné told the truth: at that moment Charlie
Cartaret--for all this, remember, preceded the coming of the
Vision--at that moment Cartaret was seated in his room in the rue du
Val-de-Grâce, wondering how he was to find his next month's rent. His
trouble was that he had just sold a picture, for the first time in his
life, and, having sold it, he had rashly engaged to celebrate that
good fortune by a feast which would leave him with only enough to buy
meals for the ensuing three weeks.

He was a rather fine-looking, upstanding young fellow of a type
essentially American. In the days, not long distant, when the goal at
the other end of the gridiron had been the only goal of his ambition,
he had put hard muscles on his hardy frame; later he had learned to
shoot in Arizona; and he even now would have looked more at home along
Broadway or Halsted Street than he did in the rue St. Jacques or the
Boulevard St. Michel. He was tow-haired and brown-eyed and
clean-shaven; he was generally hopeful, which is another way of saying
that he was still upon the flowered slope of twenty-five.

Cartaret had inherited his excellent constitution, but his family all
suffered from one disease: the disease of too much money on the wrong
side of the house. When oil was found in Ohio, it was found in land
belonging to his father's brother, but Charlie's father remained a
poor lawyer to the end of his days. Uncle Jack had children of his own
and a deserved reputation for holding on to his pennies. He sent his
niece to a finishing-school, where she could be properly prepared for
that state of life to which it had not pleased Heaven to call her,
and he sent his nephew to college. When the former child was finished,
he found her a place as companion to an ancient widow in Toledo and
dismissed her from his thoughts; when Charlie was through with
college--which is to say, when the faculty was through with him for
endeavoring to plant a fraternity in a plot of academic soil that
forbade the seed of Greek-letter societies--he asked him what he
intended to do now--and asked it in a tone that plainly meant:

"What further disgrace are you planning to bring upon our name?"

Charlie replied that he wanted to be an artist.

"I might have guessed it," said his uncle. "How long'll it take?"

Young Cartaret, knowing something about art, had not the slightest
idea.

"Well," said the by-product of petroleum, "if you've got to be an
artist, be one as far away from New York as you can. They say Paris is
the best place to learn the business."

"It is one of the best places," said Charlie.

The elder Cartaret wrote a check.

"Take a boat to-morrow," he ordered. "I'll pay your board and tuition
for two years: that's time enough to learn any business. After two
years you'll have to make out for yourself."

So Charlie had worked hard for two years. That period ended a week
ago, and his uncle's checks ended with it. He had stayed on and hoped.
To-day he had carried a picture through the rain to Seraphin's
benefactor, the dealer Fourget; and the soft-hearted Fourget had
bought it. Cartaret, on his return, met Houdon in the lower hall and
before the American was well aware of it, he was pledged to the feast
of which Maurice was bragging to Dieudonné.

Charlie dug into his pocket and fished out all that was in it: a
matter of two hundred and ten francs. He counted it twice over.

"No use," he said. "I can't make it any larger. I wonder if I ought to
take a smaller room."

Certainly there was more room here than he wanted, but he had grown to
love the place: even then, when he had still to see it in the
rose-pink twilight of romance, in the afterglow that was a dawn--even
then, before the apparition of the strange Lady--he loved it as his
sort of man must love the scenes of those struggles which have left
him poor. Its front windows opened upon the street full of
student-life and gossip, its rear windows looked on a little garden
that was pretty with the concierge's flowers all Summer long and merry
with the laughter of the concierge's children on every fair day the
whole year round. The light was good enough, the location excellent;
the service was no worse than the service in any similar house in
Paris.

"But I have been a fool," said Cartaret.

He looked again at his money, and then he looked again about the room.
The difference between a fool and a mere dilettante in folly is this:
that the latter knows his folly as he indulges it, whereas the former
recognizes it, if ever, only too late.

"If I'd been able to study for only one year more," he said.

It was the wail of retrospection that, sooner or later, every man,
each in his own way and according to his chances and his character for
seizing them, is bound to utter. It was what we all say and what, in
saying, we each think unique. Happy he that says it, and means it, in
time to profit!

"Yes," said Cartaret, "I've been a fool. But I won't be a quitter," he
added. "I'll go and order that dinner."

Thus Charles Cartaret in the afternoon.

He had put on a battered, broad-brimmed hat of soft black felt, which
was picturesquely out of place above his American features, and a
still more battered English rain-coat, which did not at all belong
with the hat, and, thus fortified against the rain, he hurried into
the hall. As he closed the door of his studio behind him, he fancied
that he heard a sound from the room across from his own, and so stood
listening, his hand upon the knob.

"That's queer," he reflected. "I thought that room was still to let."

He listened a moment longer, but the sound, if sound there had been,
was not repeated, so he pulled his hat-brim over his eyes and
descended to the street.

The rain had lessened, but the fog held on, and the thoroughfares were
wet and dismal. Cartaret cut down the rue du Val-de-Grâce to the
Avenue de Luxembourg and through the gardens with their dripping
statues and around the museum, whence he crossed to the sheltered way
between those bookstalls that cling like ivy to the walls of the
Odéon, and so, by the steep descent of the rue de Tournon and the rue
de Seine, came to the rue Jacob and the Café Des Deux Colombes.

Seraphin and Maurice were still there. They received him as their
separate natures dictated, the former with a restrained dignity, the
latter with the dignity of a monarch so secure of his title that he
can afford to condescend to an air of democracy. Seraphin bowed;
Maurice embraced and, embracing, tapped the diatonic scale along
Cartaret's vertebræ. Pasbeaucoup, in trembling obedience to a cryptic
nod from the caged Madame, hovered in the background.

"I have come," said Cartaret, whose French was the easy and inaccurate
French of the American art-student, "to order that dinner." He half
turned to Pasbeaucoup, but Houdon was before him.

"It is done," announced the musician, as if announcing a favor
performed. "I have relieved you of that tedium. We are to begin with
an _hors-d'oeuvre_ of anchovies and----"

Madame had again nodded, this time less cryptically and more
violently, at her husband, and Pasbeaucoup, between twin terrors,
timidly suggested:

"Monsieur Cartaret comprehends that it is only because of the so high
cost of necessities that it is necessary for us to request----"

He stopped there, but the voice from the cage boomed courageously:

"The payment in advance!"

"A custom of the establishment," explained Houdon grandly, but
shooting a venomous glance in the direction of Madame.

Seraphin came quietly from behind his table and, slipping a thin arm
through Cartaret's, drew him, to the speechless amazement of the other
participants in this scene, toward the farthest corner of the café.

"My friend," he whispered, "you must not do it."

"Eh?" said Cartaret. "Why not? It's a queer thing to be asked, but why
shouldn't I do it?"

Seraphin hesitated. Then, regaining the conquest over self, he put his
lips so close to the American's ear that the Frenchman's wagging wisps
of whisker tickled his auditor's cheek.

"This Houdon is but a pleasant _coquin_," he confided. "He will suck
from you the last sou's worth of your blood."

Cartaret smiled grimly.

"He won't get a fortune by it," he said.

"That is why I do not wish him to do it: I know well that you cannot
afford these little dissipations. I do not wish to see my friend
swindled by false friendship. Houdon is a good boy, but, Name of a
Name, he has the conscience of a pig!"

"All right," said Cartaret suddenly, for Seraphin was appealing to a
sense of economy still fresh enough to be sensitive, "since he's
ordered the dinner, we'll let him pay for it."

"Alas," declared Dieudonné, sadly shaking his long hair, "poor Maurice
has not the money."

"Oh!"--A gleam of gratitude lighted Cartaret's blue eyes--"Then you
are proposing that you do it?"

"My friend," inquired Seraphin, flinging out his arms as a man flings
out his arms to invite a search of his pockets, "you know me: how can
I?"

Cartaret blushed at his ineptitude. He knew Dieudonné well enough to
have been aware of his poverty and liked him well enough to be tender
toward it. "But," he nevertheless pardonably inquired, "if that's the
way the thing stands, who's to pay? One of the other guests?"

"We are all of the same financial ability."

"Then I don't see----"

"Nor do I. And"--Seraphin's high resolution clattered suddenly about
his ears--"after all, the dinner has been ordered, and I am very
hungry. My friend," he concluded with a happy return of his dignity,
"at least I have done you this service: you will buy the dinner, but
you will not both buy it and be deceived."

Cartaret turned, with a smile no longer grim, to the others.

"Seraphin," he said, "has persuaded me. Madame, _l'addition_, if you
please."

Pasbeaucoup trotted to the cage, bringing back to Cartaret the long
slip of paper that Madame had ready for him. Cartaret glanced at only
the total and, though he flushed a little, paid without comment.

"And now," suggested Houdon, "now let us play a little game of
dominoes."

Seraphin, from the musician's shoulder, frowned hard at Cartaret, but
Cartaret was in no mood to heed the warning. He was angry at himself
for his extravagance and decided that, having been such a fool as to
fling away a great deal of his money, he might now as well be a
greater fool and fling it all away. Besides, he might be able to win
from Houdon, and, even if Houdon could not pay, there would be the
satisfaction of revenge. So he sat down at one of the marble-topped
tables and began, with a great clatter, to shuffle the dominoes that
obsequious Pasbeaucoup hurriedly fetched. Within two hours, Seraphin
was head over ears in the musician's debt, and the American was paying
into Houdon's palm all but about ten francs of the money that he had
so recently earned. He rose smilingly.

"You do not go?" inquired Houdon.

Cartaret nodded.

"But the dinner?"

"Don't you worry; I'll be back for that--I don't know when I'll get
another."

"Then permit me," Houdon condescended, "to order a bock. For the
three of us." He generously included the hungry Seraphin. "Come, we
shall drink to your better fortune next time."

But Cartaret excused himself. He said that he had an engagement with a
dealer, which was not true, and which was understood to be false, and
he went into the street.

The last of the rain, unnoticed during Cartaret's fevered play, had
passed, and a red February sun was setting across the Seine, behind
the higher ground that lies between L'Etoile and the Place du
Trocadero. The river was hidden by the point of land that ends in the
Quai D'Orsay, but, as Cartaret crossed the broad rue de Vaugirard, he
could see the golden afterglow and, silhouetted against it, the high
filaments of the Eiffel Tower.

What an ass he had been, he bitterly reflected, as he passed again
through the Luxembourg Gardens, where now the statues glistened in the
fading light of the dying afternoon. What a mad ass! If a single
stroke of almost pathetically small good luck made such a fool of
him, it was as well that his uncle and not his father had come into a
fortune.

His thought went back with a new tenderness to his father and to his
own and his sister Cora's early life in that small Ohio town. He had
hated the dull routine and narrow conventionality of the place. There
the most daring romance of youth had been to walk with the daughter of
a neighbor along the shaded streets in the Summer evenings, and to
hang over the gate to the front yard of the house in which she lived,
tremblingly hinting at a delicious tenderness, which one never dared
more adequately to express, until a threatening parental voice called
the girl to shelter. His life, since those days, had been more
stirring, and sometimes more to be regretted; but he had loved it and
thought it absurd sentiment on Cora's part to insist that their tiny
income go to keeping up the little property--the three-story brick
house and wide front and back-yard along Main Street--which had been
their home. Yet now he felt, and was half ashamed of feeling, a
strong desire to go back there, a pull at his heartstrings for a
return to all that he was once so anxious to quit forever.

He wondered if it could be possible that he was tired of Paris. He
even wondered if it were possible that he could not be a successful
artist--he had never wanted to be a rich one--whether the sensible
course would not be to go home and study law while there was yet
time....

And then----

Then, in the rose-pink twilight, the beginning of the Dream Wonderful:
that scent of the roses from the sky; that quick memory of sunlight
upon snow-crests; that first revelation of the celestial Lady
transfiguring the earthly commonplace of his room!



CHAPTER IV

A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS

                              ... Adowne
    They prayd him sit, and gave him for to feed.
                    --Spenser: _Faerie Queene_.


Charlie Cartaret would have told you--indeed, he frequently did tell
his friends--that the mere fact of a man being an artist was no proof
that he lacked in the uncommon sense commonly known as common.
Cartaret was quite insistent upon this and, as evidence in favor of
his contention, he was accustomed to point to C. Cartaret, Esq. He,
said Cartaret, was at once an artist and a practical man: it was
wholly impossible, for instance, to imagine him capable of any silly
romance.

Nevertheless, when left alone in his room by the departure of the Lady
on that February evening, he sat for a long time with the strange
rose between his fingers and a strange look in his eyes. He regarded
the rose until the last ray of light had altogether faded from the
West. Only then did he recall that he had invited sundry persons to
dine with him at the Café Des Deux Colombes, and when he had made
ready to go to them, the rose was still in his reluctant hand.

Cartaret looked about him stealthily. He had been in the room for some
hours and he should have been thoroughly aware that he was alone in
it; but he looked, as all guilty men do, to right and left to make
sure. Then, like a naughty child, he turned his back to the
street-window.

He stood thus a bare instant, yet in that instant his hand first
raised something toward his lips, and then bestowed that same
something somewhere inside his waistcoat, a considerable distance from
his heart, but directly over the rib beneath which ill-informed people
believe the heart to be. This accomplished, he exhibited a rigorously
practical face to the room and swaggered out of it, ostentatiously
humming a misogynistic drinking-song:

    "There's nothing, friend, 'twixt you and me
    Except the best of company.
        (There's just one bock 'twixt you and me,
            and I'll catch up full soon!)
    What woman's lips compare to this:
    This sturdy seidel's frothy kiss----"

Armand Garnier, one of the men that were to dine with Cartaret
to-night, had written the words of which this is a free translation,
and Houdon had composed the air--he composed it impromptu for Devignes
over an absinthe, after laboring upon it in secret for an entire
week--but Cartaret, when he reached the note that stood for the last
word here given, came to an abrupt stop; he was facing the door of the
room opposite his own. He continued facing it for quite a minute, but
he heard nothing.

"M. Refrogné," he said, when he thrust his head into the concierge's
box downstairs, "if--er--if anybody should inquire for me this
evening, you will please tell them that I am dining at the Café Des
Deux Colombes."

Nothing could be seen in the concierge's box, but from it came a grunt
that might have been either assent or dissent.

"Yes," said Cartaret, "in the rue Jacob."

Again the ambiguous grunt.

"Exactly," Cartaret agreed; "the Café Des Deux Colombes, in the rue
Jacob, close by the rue Bonaparte. You--you're quite sure you won't
forget?"

The grunt changed to an ugly chuckle, and, after the chuckle, an ugly
voice said:

"Monsieur expects something unusual: he expects an evening visitor?"

"Confound it, no!" snapped Cartaret. He had been wildly hoping that
perhaps The Girl might need some aid or direction that evening and
might seek it of him. "Not at all," he pursued, "but you see----"

"How then?" inquired the voice.

Cartaret's hand went to his pocket and drew forth one of the few
franc-pieces that remained there.

"Just, please, remember what I've said," he requested.

In the darkness of the box into which it was extended, his hand was
grasped by a larger and rougher hand, and the franc was deftly
extracted.

"_Merci, monsieur._"

A barely appreciable softening of the tone encouraged Cartaret. He
balanced himself from foot to foot and asked:

"Those people--the ones, you understand, that have rented the room
opposite mine?"

Refrogné understood but truly.

"Well--in short, who are they, monsieur?"

"Who knows?" asked Refrogné in the darkness. Cartaret could feel him
shrug.

"I rather thought you might," he ventured.

The darkness was silent; a good concierge answers questions, not
general statements.

"Where--don't you know where they come from?"

There was speech once more. Refrogné, it said, neither knew nor
cared. In the rue du Val de Grâce people continually came and
went--all manner of people from all manner of places--so long as they
paid their rent, it was no concern of Refrogné's. For all the
information that he possessed, the two people of whom monsieur
inquired might be natives of Cochin-China. Mademoiselle evidently
wanted to be an artist, as scores of other young women, and Madame,
her guardian and sole companion, evidently wanted Mademoiselle to be
nothing at all. There were but two of them, thank God! The younger
spoke much French with an accent terrible; the elder understood
French, but spoke only some pig of a language that no civilized man
could comprehend. That was all that Refrogné had to tell.

Cartaret went on toward the scene of his dinner-party. He wished he
did not have to go. On the other hand, he was sure he had thrown
Refrogné a franc to no purpose: the Lady of the Rose was little likely
to seek him! He found the evening cold and his rain-coat inadequate.
He began humming the drinking-song again.

They were singing it outright, in a full chorus, when he entered the
little room on the first floor of the Café Des Deux Colombes. The
table was already spread, the feast already started. The unventilated
room was flooded with light and full of the steam of hot viands.

Maurice Houdon, his red cheeks shining, his black mustache stiffly
waxed, sat at the head of the table as he had promised to do,
performing the honors with a regal grace and playing imaginary themes
with every flourish of address to every guest: a different theme for
each. On his right was a vacant place, the sole apparent reference to
the host of the evening; on his left, Armand Garnier, the poet, very
thin and cadaverous, with long dank locks and tangled beard, his skin
waxen, his lantern-jaw emitting no words, but working lustily upon the
food. Next to Cartaret's place bobbed the pear-shaped Devignes,
leading the chorus, as became the only professional singer in the
company. Across from him was Philippe Varachon, the sculptor, whose
nose always reminded Cartaret of an antique and long lost bit of
statuary, badly damaged in exhumation; and at the foot Seraphin was
seated, the first to note Cartaret's arrival and the only one to
apologize for not having delayed the dinner.

He got up immediately, and his whiskers tickled the American's cheek
with the whisper:

"It was ready to serve, and Madame swore that it would perish. My
faith, what would you?"

Pasbeaucoup was darting among the guests, wiping fresh plates with a
napkin and his dripping forehead with his bare hand. Cartaret felt
certain that the little man would soon confuse the functions of the
two.

"Ah-h-h!" cried Houdon. He rose from his place and endeavored to
restore order by beating with a fork upon an empty tumbler, as an
orchestral conductor taps his baton--at the same time nodding fiercely
at Pasbeaucoup to refill the tumbler with red wine. He was the sole
member of the company not long known to their host, but he said:
"Messieurs, I have the happiness to present to you our distinguished
American fellow-student, M. Charles Cartar_ette_. Be seated among us,
M. Cartarette," he graciously added; "pray be seated."

Cartaret sat down in the place kindly reserved for him, and the
interruption of his appearance was so politely forgotten that he
wished he had not been such a fool as to make it. The song was
resumed. It was not until the salad was served and Pasbeaucoup had
retired below-stairs to assist in preparing the coffee, that Houdon
turned again to Cartaret and executed what was clearly to be the
Cartaret theme.

"We had despaired of your arrival, Monsieur," said he.

Cartaret said he had observed signs of something of the sort.

"Truly," nodded Houdon. His tongue rolled a ball of salad into his
cheek and out of the track of speech. "Doubtless you had the one
living excuse, however."

"I don't follow you," said Cartaret.

Houdon leered. His fingers performed on the table-cloth something
that might have been the _motif_ of Isolde.

"I have heard," said he, "your American proverb that there are but two
adequate excuses for tardiness at dinner--death and a lady--and I am
charmed, monsieur, to observe that you are altogether alive."

If Cartaret's glance indicated that he would like to throttle the
composer, Cartaret's glance did not misinterpret.

"We won't discuss that, if you please," said he.

But Houdon was incapable of understanding such glances in such a
connection. He tapped for the attention of his orchestra and got it.

"Messieurs," he announced, "our good friend of the America of the
North has been having an adventure."

Everybody looked at Cartaret and everybody smiled.

"Delicious," squeaked Varachon through his broken nose.

"Superb," trilled the pear-shaped singer Devignes.

Garnier's lantern-jaws went on eating. Seraphin Dieudonné caught
Cartaret's glance imploringly and then shifted, in ineffectual
warning, to Houdon.

"But that was only what was to be expected, my children," the musician
continued. "What can we poor Frenchmen look for when a blond Hercules
of an American comes, rich and handsome, to our dear Paris? Only
to-day I observed, renting an abode in the house that Monsieur and I
have the honor to share, a young mademoiselle, the most gracious and
beautiful, accompanied by a _tuteur_, the most ferocious; and I noted
well that they went to inhabit the room but across the landing from
that of M. Cartarette. Behold all! At once I said to myself: 'Alas,
how long will it be before this confiding----'"

He stopped short and looked at Cartaret, for Cartaret had grasped the
performing hand of the composer and, in a steady grip, forced it
quietly to the table.

"I tell you," said Cartaret, gently, "that I don't care to have you
talk in this strain."

"How then?" blustered the amazed musician.

"If you go on," Cartaret warned him, "you will have to go on from the
floor; I'll knock you there."

"Maurice!" cried Seraphin, rising from his chair.

"Messieurs!" piped Devignes.

Varachon growled at Houdon, and Garnier reached for a water-bottle as
the handiest weapon of defense. Houdon and Cartaret were facing each
other, erect, each waiting for the other to make a further move, the
former red, the latter white, with anger. There followed that flashing
pause of quiet which is the precursor of battle.

The battle, however, was not forthcoming. Instead, through the
silence, there came a roar of voices that diverted the attention of
even the chief combatants. It was a roar of voices from the café
below: a heavy rumble that was unmistakably Madame's and a clatter of
unintelligible shrieks and demands that were feminine but
unclassifiable. Now one voice shouted and next the other. Then the two
joined in a mighty explosion, and little Pasbeaucoup was shot up the
stairs and among the diners as if he were the first rock from the
crater of an emptying volcano.

He staggered against the table and jolted the water-bottle out of the
poet's hand.

"Name of a Name!" he gasped. "She is a veritable tigress, that woman
there!"

They had no time then to inquire whom he referred to, though they knew
that, however justly he might think it, he would never, even in terror
like the present, say such a thing of his wife. The words were no
sooner free of his lips than a larger rock was vomited from the
volcano, and a still larger, the largest rock of the three, came
immediately after.

Everybody was afoot now. They saw that Pasbeaucoup cowered against the
wall in a fear terrible because it was greater than his fear for
Madame; they saw that Madame, who was the third rock, was clinging to
the apron-strings of another woman, who was rock number two, and they
saw that this other woman was a stocky figure, who carried in her hand
a curious, wide head-dress, and who wore a parti-colored apron that
began over her ample breasts and ended by brushing against her equally
ample boots, and a black skirt of simple stuff and extravagant puffs,
surmounted by a short-skirted blouse or basque of the same material.
Her face was round and wrinkled like a last winter's apple on the
kitchen-shelf; but her eyes shone red, her hands beat the air
vigorously, and from her lips poured a lusty torrent of sounds that
might have been protestations, appeals or curses, yet were certainly,
considered as words, nothing that any one present had ever heard
before.

She ran forward; Madame ran forward. The stranger shouldered Madame;
Madame dragged her back. The stranger cried out more of her alien
phrases; Madame shouted French denunciations. The Gallic diners formed
a grinning circle, eager to lose no detail of the sort of wrangle
that a Frenchman loves best to watch: a wrangle between women.

Cartaret made his way through the ring and put his hand on the
stranger's shoulder. She seemed to understand, and relapsed into
quiet, attentive but alert.

"Now," said Cartaret, "one at a time, please. Madame, what is the
trouble?"

"Trouble?" roared Madame. Her face did not change expression, but she
held her arms akimbo, pug-nose and strong chin poked defiantly at the
strange interloper. "You may well say it, trouble!"

She put her position strongly and at length. She had been in the
_caisse_, with no one of the world in the café, when, crying barbarous
threats incomprehensible, this she-bandit, this--this _anarchiste
infâme_, had burst in from the street, disrupting the peace of the
Deux Colombes and endangering its well-known quiet reputation with the
police.

That was the gist of it. When it was delivered, Cartaret faced the
stranger.

"And you, Madame?" he asked, in French.

The stranger strode forward as a pugilist steps from his corner for
the round that he expects to win the fight for him. She clapped her
wide head-dress upon her head, where it settled itself with a rakish
tilt.

"Holy pipe!" cried Houdon. "In that I recognize her. It is the
ferocious _tuteur_!"

Cartaret's interest became tense.

"What did you want here?" he urged, still speaking French.

The stranger said, twice over, something that sounded like
"Kar-kar-tay."

"She is mad," squeaked Varachon.

"She is worse; she is German," vowed Madame.

Cartaret raised his hand to silence these contentions.

"Do you understand me?" he urged.

The wide head-dress flapped a vehement assent.

"But you can't answer?"

The head-dress fluttered a negative, and the mouth mumbled a negative
in a French so thick, hesitant and broken as to be infinitely less
expressive than the shake of the head.

Cartaret remembered what the concierge Refrogné had told him. To the
circle of curious people he explained:

"She can understand a little French, but she cannot speak it."

Madame snorted. "Why then does she come to this place so respectable
if she cannot talk like a Christian?"

"Because," said Cartaret, "she evidently thought she would be
intelligently treated."

It was clear to him that she would not have come had her need not been
desperate. He made another effort to discover her nationality.

"Who of you speaks something besides French?" he asked of the company.

Not Madame; not Seraphin or Houdon: they were ardent Parisians and of
course knew no language but their own. As for Garnier, as a French
poet and a native of the pure-tongued Tours, he would not have soiled
his lips with any other speech had he known another. Varachon, it
turned out, was from the Jura, and had picked up a little Swiss-German
during a youthful _liaison_ at Pontarlier. He tried it now, but the
stranger only shook her head-dress at him.

"She knows no German," said Varachon.

"Such German!" sniffed Houdon.

"Chut! This proves rather that she knows it too well," grumbled
Madame. "She but wishes to conceal it; probably she is a German spy."

Devignes said he knew Italian, and he did seem to know a sort of
Opera-Italian, but it, too, was useless.

Cartaret had an inspiration.

"Spanish!" he suggested. "Does any one know any Spanish?"

Pasbeaucoup did; he knew two or three phrases--chiefly relating to
prices on the menu of the Deux Colombes--but to him also the awful
woman only shook her head in ignorance.

Cartaret took up the French again.

"Can you not tell me what you want here?" he pleaded.

"Kar-kar-tay," said the stranger.

"Ah!" cried Seraphin, clapping his hands. "Does not Houdon say that
she makes her abode in the same house that you make yours? She seeks
you, monsieur. 'Kar-kar-tay,' it is her manner of endeavoring to say
Cartar_ette_."

At the sound of that name, the stranger nodded hard.

"_Oui, oui!_" she cried.

She understood that her chief inquisitor was Cartaret, and it was
indeed Cartaret that she sought. She flung herself on her knees to
him. When he hurriedly raised her, she caught at the skirt of his coat
and nearly pulled it from him in an attempt to drag him to the stairs.

Cartaret looked sharply at Houdon. The musician having been so
recently saved from the wrath of his host, was momentarily discreet:
he hid his smile behind one of the thin bands that contrasted so
sharply with his plump cheeks.

"Messieurs," said Cartaret, "I am going with this lady."

They all edged forward.

"And I am going alone," added the American. "I wish you good-night."

"You will be knifed in the street," said Madame. Her tone implied:
"And it will serve you right."

None of the others seemed to mind his going; the wrangle over, they
were ready for their coffee and liqueurs. Houdon was frankly relieved.
Only Seraphin protested.

"And you will leave your dinner unfinished?" he cried.

Cartaret was taking his hat and rain-coat from the row of pegs on the
wall where, among the other guests', he had hung them when he entered.
He nodded his answer to Seraphin's query.

"Leave your dinner?" said Seraphin. "But my God, it is paid for!"

"Good-night," said Cartaret, and was plunged down the stairs by the
strangely-garbed woman tugging at his hand.



CHAPTER V

WHICH TELLS HOW CARTARET RETURNED TO THE RUE DU VAL-DE-GRÂCE, AND WHAT
HE FOUND THERE

    La timidité est un grand péché contre l'amour.--Anatole
    France: _La Rotisserie de la Reine Pédauque_.


If that strange old woman in the rakish head-dress was in a hurry,
Cartaret, you may be sure, was in no mood for tarrying by the way. He
left the Café des Deux Colombes, picturing The Girl of the Rose
desperately ill, and he was resolved not only to be the first to come
to her aid, but to have none of the restaurant's suspicious company
for a companion. Then, no sooner had he passed through the empty room
on the ground-floor of Mme. Pasbeaucoup's establishment and gone a few
steps toward the rue de Seine, than he began to fear that perhaps the
house to which he was apparently being conducted--The Girl's house
and his own--had taken fire; or that the cause of the duenna's
mission was some like misfortune which would be better remedied, so
far as The Girl's interests were concerned, if there were more
rescuers than one.

"What is the matter?" he begged his guide to inform him, as they
hurried through the darkened streets.

His guide lifted both hands to her face.

"Is mademoiselle ill?"

The duenna shook her head in an emphatic negative.

"The place isn't on fire?" His tone was one of petition, as if, should
he pray hard enough, she might avert the catastrophe he now dreaded;
or as if, by touching her sympathies, he could release some hidden
spring of intelligible speech.

The old woman, however, only shook her head again and hurried on.
Cartaret was glad to find that she possessed an agility impossible for
a city-bred woman of her apparent age, and he was still more relieved
when they reached their lodging-house and discovered it in apparently
the same condition as that in which he had left it.

Their ascent of the stairs was like a race--a race ending in a
dead-heat. At the landing, Cartaret turned, of course, toward his
neighbor's door; to his amazement, the old woman pulled him to his
own.

He opened it and struck a match: the room was empty. He held the match
until it burnt his fingers.

The old woman pushed him toward his table, on which stood a battered
lamp. She pointed to the lamp.

"But your mistress?" asked Cartaret.

The duenna pointed to the lamp.

"Shall I light it?"

She nodded.

He lit the lamp. The flame grew until it illuminated a small circle
about the table.

"Now what?" Cartaret inquired.

Again that odd gesture toward the nose and mouth.

"I don't understand," said Cartaret.

She picked up the lamp and made as if to search the floor for
something. Then she held out the lamp to him.

"Oh"--it began to dawn on Cartaret--"you've lost something?"

"_Oui, oui!_"

He took the lamp, and they both fell on their knees. Together they
began a minute inspection of the dusty floor. Cartaret's mind was more
easy now: at least his Lady suffered no physical distress.

"It's like a sort of religious ceremony," muttered the American, as,
foot by foot, they crawled and groped over the grimy boards....

"Was it money you lost?" he inquired.

No, it was not money.

The search continued. Cartaret crawled under the divan, while the
duenna held the cover high to admit the light. He blackened his hands
in the fire-place and transferred a little of the soot to his few
extra clothes that hung behind the corner curtain--but only a little;
most of the soot preferred his hands.

"I never knew before that the room was so large," he gasped.

They had covered two-thirds of the floor-space when a new thought
struck him. Still crouching on his knees, he once more tried his
companion.

"I can't find it," he said; "but I'd give a good deal to know what I'm
looking for. What were you doing in here when you lost it, anyway?"

She shook her head, with her hand on her breast. Then she pointed to
the door and nodded.

"You mean your mistress lost it?"

"_Oui._"

"Well, then, let's get her. She can tell me what I'm after."

He half rose; but the woman seized his arm. She broke into loud
sounds, patently protestations.

"Nonsense," said Cartaret. "Why not? Come on; I'll knock at her door."

The duenna would not have her mistress disturbed. The ancient voice
rose to a shriek.

"But I say yes."

The shriek grew louder. With amazing strength, the old woman forced
his unsuspecting body back to its former position; she came near to
jolting the lamp from his hand.

It was then that Cartaret heard a lesser noise behind them: a voice,
the low sweet voice of The Rose-Lady, asked, in the duenna's strange
tongue, a question from the doorway. Cartaret turned his head.

She was standing there in the dim light, a sort of kimono gathered
about her, her sandaled feet peeping from its lower folds, the lovely
arm that held the curious dressing-gown in place bare to the elbow.
She was smiling at the answer that her guardian had already given her;
Cartaret thought her even more beautiful than when he had seen her
before.

The duenna had scuttled forward on her knees and, amid a series of
cries, was pressing the hem of the kimono to her lips. The Girl's free
hand was raising the petitioner.

"I am sorry that you have been disturbed by Chitta," she was saying.

Cartaret understood then that he was addressed. Moreover, he became
conscious that he was by no means at his best on his knees, with his
clothes even more rumpled than usual, his hands black and, probably,
his face no better. He scrambled to his feet.

"It's been no trouble," he said awkwardly.

"I should say that it had been a good deal," said the Girl. "Chitta is
so very superstitious. Did you find it?"

"No," said Cartaret. "At least I don't think so."

The Girl puckered her pretty brow.

"I mean," explained Cartaret, coming nearer, but thankful that he had
left the lamp on the floor behind him, whence its light would least
reveal his soiled hands and face--"I mean that I haven't the least
idea what I was looking for."

The Girl burst into rippling laughter.

"Not the least," pursued the emboldened American. "You see, I left
word with Refrogné--that's the concierge--that I was dining with some
friends at the Deux Colombes--that's a café--when I went out; and I
suppose she--I mean your--your maid, isn't it?--made him understand
that she--I mean your maid again--wanted me--you know, I don't
generally leave word; but this time I thought that perhaps you--I mean
she--or, anyhow, I had an idea----"

He knew that he was making a fool of himself, so he was glad when she
came serenely to his assistance and gallantly shifted the difficulty
to her own shoulders.

"It was too bad of Chitta to take you away from your dinner."

Chitta had slunk into the shadows, but Cartaret could descry her
glaring at him.

"That was of no consequence," he said; he had forgotten what the
dinner cost him.

"But, sir, for a reason of so great an absurdity!" She put one hand on
the table and leaned on it. "I must tell you that there is in my
country a superstition----"

She hesitated. Cartaret, his heart leaping, leaned forward.

"What is your country, mademoiselle?" he asked.

She did not seem to hear that. She went on:

"It is really a superstition so much absurd that I am slow to speak to
you of it. They believe, our peasants, that it brings good luck when
they take it with them across our borders; that only it can ensure
their return, and that, if it is lost, they will never come back to
their home-land." Her blue eyes met his gaze. "They, sir, love their
home-land."

Cartaret was certain that the land which could produce this presence,
at once so human and so spiritual, was well worth loving. He wanted to
say so, but another glance at her serene face checked any impulse that
might seem impertinent.

"I, too, love my country, although I am not superstitious," the Girl
pursued, "so I had brought it with me from my country. I brought it
with me to Paris, and I lost it. We go early to sleep, the people of
my race; I had not missed it when I went to bed; but then Chitta
missed it; and I told her that I thought that I had perhaps dropped it
here. She ran before I could recall her--and I fell straightway
asleep. She tells me that she had seen you go out, sir, and that she
went to the concierge, as you supposed, to discover where you had
gone, for she thought, she says, that your door was locked." The
corners of the Girl's mouth quivered in a smile. "I trust that she
would not have trespassed when you were gone, even if your door _was_
open. Until I heard her shriek but now, I had no idea that she would
pursue you. I regret for your sake that she disturbed you, but I also
regret for her sake that it was not found."

Cartaret had guessed the answer to his question before he asked it.
His cheeks burned for the consequences, but he put the query:

"What was lost?" he inquired.

"Ah, I thought that I had said it: a flower."

"A--a rose?"

The hand that held her kimono pressed a little closer to her breast.

"Then you have found it?"

Mountain-peaks and glaciers in the sun: Cartaret, being a practical
man, was distinctly aware of not wanting her to know the present
whereabouts of that flower. He fenced for time.

"Was it a rose?" he repeated.

"Yes," she said, "the Azure Rose."

"What?" Perhaps, after all, he was wrong. "I've never heard of a blue
rose."

"It is not blue," she said; "we call it the azure rose as you, sir,
would say the rose of azure, or the rose of heaven. We call it the
azure rose because it grows only in our own land, where the mountains
are blue, and only high, high up on those mountains, near to the blue
of the sky. It is a white rose."

"Yes. Of course," said Cartaret. "A white rose."

He stood uncertainly before her. For a reason that he would have
hesitated long to define, he hated to part with that rose; for a
reason concerning which he was quite clear, he did not want to produce
it there and then.

"You have it?" asked The Girl.

"Er--do you want it?" countered Cartaret.

A shade of impatience crossed her face. She tried to master it.

"I gather from your speech that you, sir, are American, not English.
You are the first American that ever I have met, and I do not seem
well to understand the motives of all that you say, although I do
understand perfectly the words. You ask do I want this rose. But of
course I want it! Have I not asked for it? I want it because Chitta
will be distressed if we lose it, but also I want it for myself, to
whom it belongs, since it is a souvenir already dear to me."

Her face was alight. Cartaret looked at it; then his glance fell.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to offend you. I'm forever
putting my foot in things."

"You have trodden on my rose?" Her voice discovered her dismay.

"No, no! I wouldn't--I couldn't. I meant that I was always making
mistakes. This afternoon, for instance--And now----"

To the rescue of his embarrassment came the thought that indeed he
obviously could not tread on the rose, unless he were a contortionist,
because the rose was----

Among the smudges of black, his cheeks burned a hot red. He thrust a
hand between his shirt and waistcoat and produced the coveted flower:
a snow-rose in the center of his grimy palm.

Again the perfume, subtle, haunting. Again the pure mountain-peaks.
Again the music of a poem in a tongue unknown....

At first he did not dare to look at her; he kept his gaze lowered. Had
he looked, he would have seen her wide eyes startle, then change to
amusement, and then to a doubting tenderness. He felt her delicate
fingers touch his palm and he thrilled at the touch as she recaptured
her rose. He did not see that, in welcome to the returned prodigal,
she started to raise to her own lips those petals, gathered so tight
against the flower's heart, which he had lately kissed. When at last
he glanced up, she had recovered her poise and was again looking like
some sculptured Artemis that had wandered into his lonely room from
the gardens of the Luxembourg.

Then he saw a much more prosaic thing. He saw the hand that held the
rose and saw it discolored.

"Will you ever forgive me?" he cried. "You've been leaning on my
table, and I mix my paints on it!"

The speech was not precisely pellucid, but she followed his eyes to
the hand and understood.

"The fault was mine," she said.

Cartaret was searching among the tubes and bottles on the table. He
searched so nervously that he knocked some of them to the floor.

"If you'll just wait a minute." He found the bottle he wanted. "And if
you don't mind the turpentine.... It smells terribly, but it will
evaporate soon, and it cleans you up before you know it."

He lifted one of the rags that lay about, and then another. He
discarded both as much too soiled, hesitated, ran to the curtained
corner and returned with a clean towel.

She had hidden the flower. She extended her hand.

"Do you mind?" he asked.

"Do I object? No. You are kind."

He took the smudged hand--took it with a hand that trembled--and bent
his smudged face so close to it that she must have felt his breath
beating on it, hot and quick. He made two dabs with the end of the
towel.

Chitta, whom they had both sadly neglected, pounced upon them from her
lair among the shadows. She seized the hand and, jabbering fifty words
in the time for two, pushed Cartaret from his work.

"I'm not going to hurt anybody," said Cartaret. "Do, please, get
away."

The Girl laughed.

"Chitta trusts no foreigners," she explained.

She spoke to Chitta, but Chitta, glowering at Cartaret, shook her
head and grumbled.

"I do not any more desire to order her about," said The Girl to
Cartaret. "Already this evening I have wounded her feelings, I fear.
She says she will allow none but herself to minister to me. You, sir,
will forgive her? After all, it is her duty."

Cartaret inwardly cursed Chitta's fidelity. What he said was: "Of
course." He knew that just here he might say something gallant, and
that he would think of that something an hour hence; but he could not
think of it now.

The Girl touched the turpentine bottle.

"And may we take it to our room?"

"Eh? Oh, certainly," said Cartaret.

She held out her hand, the palm lowered.

"Good-night," she said.

Cartaret's heart bounded: this time she had not said "Good-by." He
seized the hand. Chitta growled, and he released it with a
conventional handshake.

The Girl smiled.

"Ah, yes," she said; "this afternoon it puzzled me, but now I
recollect: you Americans, sir, shake one's hand, do you not?"

She was gone, and glowering Chitta with her, before he could answer.

Cartaret stood where she had left him, his brows knitted. He heard
Chitta double-lock the door to their rooms. He was thinking thoughts
that his brain was not accustomed to. It was some time before they
became more familiar. Then he gasped:

"I wonder if my face is dirty!"

He took the lamp and sought the sole mirror that his room boasted. His
face was dirty.

"Damn!" said Cartaret.

Down in the narrow street, an uncertain chorus was singing:

    "There's nothing, friend, 'twixt you and me
    Except the best of company.
        (There's just one bock 'twixt you and me,
            and I'll catch up full soon!)
    What woman's lips compare to this:
    This sturdy seidel's frothy kiss----"

His guests were coming to seek him. They had remembered him at last.

Cartaret's mind, however, was busy with other matters. He had not
thought of the gallant thing that he might have said to The Girl, but
he had thought of something equally surprising.

"Gee whiz!" he cried. "I understand now--it's probably the custom of
her country: she expected me to kiss her hand. Kiss her hand--and I
missed the chance!"



CHAPTER VI

CARTARET SETS UP HOUSEKEEPING

    Que de femmes il y a dans une femme! Et c'est bien
    heureux.--Dumas, Fils: _La Dame Aux Perles_.


Cartaret did not see the Lady of the Rose next day, though his work
suffered sadly through the worker's jumping from before his easel at
the slightest sound on the landing, running to his door, and sometimes
himself going to the hall and standing there for many minutes, trying,
and not succeeding, to look as if he had just come in, or were just
going out, on business of the first importance. He concluded, for the
hundredth time, that he was a fool; but he persevered in his folly. He
asked himself why he should feel such an odd interest in an unknown
girl practically alone in Paris; but he found no satisfactory answer.
He declared that it was madness in him to suppose that she could want
ever to see him again, and madness to suppose that a penniless failure
had anything to gain by seeing her; but he continued to try.

On the night following the first day of his watch, Cartaret went to
bed disappointed and slept heavily. On the second night he went to bed
worried, and dreamed of scaling a terrible mountain in quest of a
flower, and of falling into a hideous chasm just as the flower turned
into a beautiful woman and smiled at him. On the third night, he
surrendered to acute alarm and believed that he did not sleep at all.

The morning of the fourth day found him knocking on the panel of that
magic door opposite. Chitta opened the door a crack, growled, and shut
it in his face.

"I wonder," reflected Cartaret, "what would be the best means of
killing this old woman. I wonder if the hyena would eat candy sent her
by mail."

He had been watching, all the previous day, for the Lady of the Rose
to go out, and she did not leave her room. Now it occurred to him to
watch for Chitta's exit on a forage foray and to renew his attack
during her absence. This he accomplished. From a front window, he had
no sooner seen the duenna swing into the rue du Val de Grâce, with her
head-dress bobbing and a shopping-net on her arm, than he was again
knocking at the door across the landing.

He knew now, did Cartaret, that, on whatever landing of life he had
lived, there was always that door opposite, the handle of which he had
never dared to turn, the key to which he had never yet found. He knew,
on this morning--a clear, windy morning, for March had come in like a
lion--that, for the door of every heart in the world, or high or low,
or cruel or tender, there is a heart opposite with a door not
inaccessible.

The pale yellow sun sang of it: Marvelous Door Opposite!--it seemed to
sing--how, when they pass that portal, the commonplace becomes the
unusual and reality is turned into romance. Lead becomes silver then,
and copper--gold. Magical Door Opposite! All the possibilities of
life--aye, and what is better, all life's impossibilities--are behind
you, and all life's fears and hopes before. All our young dreams, our
mature ambitions, our old regrets, curl in incense from our brains and
struggle to pass that keyhole. Unhappy he for whom the door never
opens; more unhappy, often, he for whom it does open; but most unhappy
he who never sees that it is there: the Door across the Landing.

Cartaret knocked as if he were knocking at the gate of Paradise, and,
perhaps again as if he were knocking at the gate of Paradise, he got
no answer. He knocked a second time and heard the rustle of a woman's
skirt.

"Who is there?"--She spoke in French now, but he would have known her
voice had she talked the language of Grand Street.

"Cartaret," he answered.

She opened the door. A ray of light beat its way through a grimy
window in the hall to welcome her--Cartaret was sure that no light had
passed that window for years and years--and rested on the beauty of
her pure face, her calm eyes, her blue-black hair.

"Good morning," said the Lady of the Rose.

It sounded wonderful to him. When _he_ replied "Good morning"--and
could think of nothing else to say--the phrase sounded less
remarkable.

She waited a moment. She looked a little doubtful. She said:

"You perhaps wanted Chitta?"

Were her eyes laughing? Her lips were serious, but he was uncertain of
her eyes.

"Certainly not," said he.

"Oh, you wanted me?"

"Yes!" said Cartaret, and blushed at the vehemence of the
monosyllable.

"Why?"

For what, indeed, had he come there? He vividly realized that he
should have prepared some excuse; but, having prepared none, he could
offer only the truth--or so much of it as seemed expedient.

"I wanted to see if you were all right," he said.

"But certainly," she smiled. "I thank you, sir; but, yes, I am--all
right."

She said no more; Cartaret felt as if he could never speak again.
However, speak he must.

"Well, you know," he said, "I hadn't seen you anywhere about, and I
was rather worried."

"Chitta takes of me the best care."

"Yes, but, you see, I didn't know and I--Oh, yes: I wanted to see
whether that turpentine worked."

"The turpentine!" All suspicion of amusement fled her eyes: she was
contrite. "I comprehend. How careless of Chitta not at once to have
returned it to you."

Turpentine! What a nectar for romance! Cartaret made a face that could
not have been worse had he swallowed some of the liquid. He tried to
protest, but she did not heed him. Instead, she left him standing
there while she went to hunt for that accursed bottle. In five minutes
she had found it, returned it, thanked him and sent him back to his
own room, no further advanced in her acquaintance than when he knocked
at her door.

She had laughed at him. He returned fiercely to his work, convinced
that she had been laughing at him all the while. Very well: what did
he care? He would forget her.

He concentrated all his thoughts upon the idea of forgetting the Lady
of the Rose. In order to assist his purpose, he set a new canvas on
his easel and fell to work to make a portrait of her as she should be
and was not. The contrast would help him, and the plan was cheap,
because it needed no model. By the next afternoon he had completed the
portrait of a beautiful woman with a white rose at her throat. It was
quite his best piece of work, and an excellent likeness of the girl in
the room opposite.

He saw that it was a likeness and thought of painting it out, but it
would be a pity to destroy his best work, so he merely put it aside.
He decided to paint a purely imaginative figure. He squeezed out some
paints, almost at haphazard, and began painting in that mood. After
forty-eight hours of this sort of thing, he had produced another
picture of the same woman in another pose.

In more ways than one, Cartaret's position was growing desperate. His
money was almost gone. He must paint something that Fourget, or some
equally kind-hearted dealer, would buy, and these two portraits he
would not offer for sale.

Telling himself that it was only to end his obsession, he tried twice
again to see the Lady of the Rose, who was now going out daily to some
master's class, and each time he gained nothing by his attempt. First,
she would not answer his knock, though he could hear her moving about
and knew that she must have heard him crossing the hall from his own
room and be aware of her caller's identity. On the next occasion, he
waited for her at the corner of the Boul' Miche' when he knew that she
would be returning from the class, and was greeted by nothing save a
formal bow. So he had to force himself to pot-boilers by sheer
determination, and finally turned out something that then seemed poor
enough for Fourget to like.

Houdon came in and found him putting on the finishing touches. The
plump musician, frightened by his impudence, had stopped below at his
own room on the night of the dinner when the revelers at last came to
seek their host. Now it appeared that he was anxious to apologize. He
advanced with the dignity befitting a monarch kindly disposed, and his
gesturing hands beat the score of the kettle-drums for the march of
the priests in _Aïda_.

"My very dear Cartarette!" cried Houdon. "Ah, but it is good again to
see you! I so regretted myself not to ascend with our friends to call
upon you the evening of our little collation." He sought to dismiss
the subject with a run on the invisible piano and the words: "But I
was slightly indisposed: without doubt our good comrades informed you
that I was slightly indisposed. I am very sensitive, and these
communions of high thought are too much for my delicate nerves."

His good comrades had told Cartaret that Houdon was very drunk; but
Cartaret decided that to continue his quarrel would be an insult to
its cause. After all, he reflected, this was Houdon's conception of an
apology. Cartaret looked at the composer, who was a walking symbol of
good feeding and iron nerves, and replied:

"Don't bother to mention it."

Houdon seized both of Cartaret's hands and pressed them fondly.

"My friend," said Houdon magnanimously, "we shall permit ourselves to
say no more about it. What sings your sublime poet, Henri Wadsworth
Longchap? 'I shall allow the decomposed past to bury her dead.'--Or do
I mistake: was it Whitman, _hein_?"

He gestured his way to Cartaret's easel, much as if the air were water
and he were swimming there. He praised extravagantly the picture that
Cartaret now knew to be bad. Finally he began to potter about the
room with a pretense of admiring the place and looking at its other
canvases, but all the while conveying the feeling that he was
apprising the financial status of its occupant. Cartaret saw him
drawing nearer and nearer to the two canvases that, their faces toward
the wall, bore the likeness of the Lady of the Rose.

"I am just going out," said Cartaret. He hurried to his visitor and
took the fellow's arm. "I must take that picture on the easel to the
rue St. André des Arts. Will you come along?"

Houdon seemed suspicious of this sudden friendliness. He cast a
curious glance at the canvases he had been about to examine, but his
choice was obviously Hobson's.

"Gladly," he flourished. "To my _cher ami_ Fourget, is it? But I know
him well. Perhaps my influence may assist you."

"Perhaps," said Cartaret. He doubted it, but he hoped that something
would assist him.

He held the picture, still wet of course, exposed for all the world of
the Quarter to see, hurried Houdon past the landing and could have
sworn that the composer's eyes lingered at the sacred door.

"But it is an infamy," said Houdon, when they had walked as far down
the Boul' Miche' as the Musée Cluny--"it is an infamy to sell at once
such a superb work to such a little cow of a dealer. Why then?"

"Because I must," said Cartaret.

Houdon laughed and wagged his head.

"No, no," said he; "you deceive others: not Houdon. I know well the
disguised prince. Come"--he looked up and down the Boulevard St.
Germain before he ventured to cross it--"trust your friend Houdon, my
dear Cartarette."

"I am quite honest with you."

"Bah! Have your own way, then. Pursue your fancy of self-support for a
time. It is noble, that. But think not that I am deceived. Me, Houdon:
I know. Name of an oil-well, you should send this masterpiece to the
Salon!"

But just at the corner of the rue St. André des Arts, the great
composer thought that he saw ahead of him a friend with whom he had a
pressing engagement of five minutes. He excused himself with such a
wealth of detail that Cartaret was convinced of the slightness of the
Fourget acquaintanceship, which Houdon had not again referred to.

"I shall be finished and waiting at this corner long ere you return,"
vowed Houdon. "Go, my friend, and if that little dealer pays you one
third of what your picture is worth, my faith, he will bankrupt
himself."

So Cartaret went on alone, and was presently glad that he was
unaccompanied.

For Fourget would not buy the picture. It was a silly sketch of a
pretty boy pulling to tatters the petals of a rose, and the
gray-haired dealer, although he had kindly eyes under his bristling
eyebrows, behind his glistening spectacles, shook his head.

"I am sorry," he said: so many of these hopeful young fellows brought
him their loved work, and he had so often, but never untruthfully, to
say that he was sorry. "I am very sorry, but this is not the real
you, monsieur. The values--you know better than that. The
composition--it is unworthy of you, M. Cartarette."

Cartaret was in no mood to try elsewhere. He wanted to fling the thing
into the Seine. He certainly did not want Houdon to see him return
with it. Might he leave it with Fourget? Perhaps some customer might
see and care for it?

No, Fourget had his reputation to sustain; but there was that rascal
Lepoittevin across the street----

Cartaret went to the rascal, a most amiable man, who would buy no more
than would Fourget. He was willing, however, to have the picture left
there on the bare chance of picking up a sale--and a commission--and
there Cartaret left it.

Houdon wormed the truth out of him as easily as if Cartaret had come
back carrying the picture under his arm: the young American was too
disconsolate to hide his chagrin. Houdon was at first incredulous and
then overcome; he asked his dear friend to purchase brandy for the
two of them at the Café Pantheon: such treatment of a veritable
masterpiece was too much for his sensitive nerves.

With some difficulty, Cartaret got rid of the composer. On a bench in
the Luxembourg Gardens, he took account of his resources. They were
shockingly slender and, if they were to last him any time at all, he
must exercise the most stringent economy. He must buy no more brandy
for musical geniuses. Indeed, he must buy no more café dinners for
himself....

It struck him, as a happy thought, that he might save a little if he
lived on such cold solids as he could buy at the fruit-stand and
_pâtisseries_ and such liquids as he might warm in a tin-cup over his
lamp. Better men than he was had lived thus in the Quarter, and
Cartaret, as the thought took shape, rather enjoyed the prospect: it
made him feel as if he were another martyr to Art, or as if--though he
was not clear as to the logic of this--he were another martyr to Love.
He considered going to Père la Chaise and putting violets on the tomb
of Héloise and Abelard; but he decided that he could not afford the
tram-fare, and he was already too tired to walk, so he made his scanty
purchases instead, and had rather a good time doing it.

He passed Chitta on his way up the stairs to his room, with his arms
full of edibles, and he thought that she frowned disapproval. He
supposed she would tell her mistress scornfully, and he hoped that her
mistress would understand and pity him.

He got a board and nailed it to the sill of one of the rear windows.
On that he stored his food and, contemplating it, felt like a
successful housekeeper.



CHAPTER VII

OF DOMESTIC ECONOMY, OF DAY-DREAMS, AND OF A FAR COUNTRY AND ITS
SOVEREIGN LADY

    L'indiscrétion d'un de ces amis officieux qui ne sauraient
    garder inédite la nouvelle susceptible de vous causer un
    chagrin.--Murger: _Scènes de la Vie de Bohème_.


You would have said that it behooved a man in Charlie Cartaret's
situation to devote his evenings to a consideration of its
difficulties and his days to hard work; but Cartaret, though he did,
as you will see, try to work, devoted the first evening of his new
régime to thoughts that, if they affected his situation at all, tended
only to complicate it. He thought, as he had so much of late, and as
he was to think so much more in the future, of the Lady of the Rose.

Who was she? Whence did she come? What was this native land of hers
that she professed to love so well? And, if she did love it so well,
why had she left it and come to Paris with a companion that appeared
to be some strange compromise between guardian and servant?

He wondered if she were some revolutionary exile: Paris was always
full of revolutionary exiles. He wondered if she were a rightful
heiress, dispossessed of a foreign title. Perhaps she was the lovely
pretender to a throne. In that mysterious home of hers, she must have
possessed some exalted position, or the right to it, for Chitta had
kneeled to her on the dusty floor of this studio, and the Lady's
manner, he now recalled, was the manner of one accustomed to command.
Her beauty was of a type that he had read of as Irish--the beauty of
fair skin, hair black and eyes of deepest blue; but the speech was the
English of a woman born to another tongue.

What was her native speech? Both her French and her English were
innocent of alien accent--he had heard at least a phrase or two of the
former--yet both had a precision that betrayed them as not her own and
both had a foreign-born construction. Her frequent use of the word
"sir" in addressing him was sufficiently peculiar. She employed the
word not as one that speaks frequently to a superior, but rather as if
she were used to it in a formal language, or a grade of life, in which
it was a common courtesy. It was something more usual than the French
"monsieur," even more usual than the Spanish "señor."

Cartaret leaned from a window. The air was still keen, but the night
was clear. The rue du Val de Grâce was deserted, its houses dark and
silent. Overhead, in the narrow ribbon of indigo sky, hung a pallid
moon: a disk of yellow glass.

What indeed was she, this Lady of the Rose? He pictured as hers a
distant country of deep valleys full of clamoring streams and high
mountains where white roses grew. He pictured her as that country's
sovereign. Yet the rose which she treasured had not yet faded on the
day of her arrival: she could not come from anywhere so far away.

He was cold. He closed the window, shivering. He was ridiculous: why,
he had been in danger of falling in love with a woman of whom he knew
nothing! He did not even know her name....

       *       *       *       *       *

The passage of slow-footed time helped him, however, not at all. He
would sit for hours, idle before his easel, listening for her light
step on the stair and afraid to go to meet her when at last he heard
it, for he was desperately poor now, and poverty was making him the
coward that it will sooner or later make any man.

He had antagonized the concierge by preparing his own coffee in the
morning instead of continuing to pay Mme. Refrogné for it. When he had
something to cook, he cooked badly; but there were days when he had
nothing, and lived on pastry and bricks of chocolate, and others when
it seemed to him that such supplies as he could buy and store on that
shelf outside the window were oddly short-lived.

For a while he called daily at the shop of M. Lepoittevin, but that
absurd picture of a boy tearing a rose would not sell, and Cartaret
soon grew ashamed of calling there; Fourget he would not face. He
managed at first to dispose of one or two sketches and so kept barely
alive, yet, as the days went by, his luck dwindled and his greatest
energy was expended in keeping up a proud pretense of comfort to his
friends of the Quarter.

Pear-shaped Devignes was easy to deceive: the opera-singer lived too
well to want to believe that anybody in the world could starve.
Garnier, the cadaverous poet, saved trouble, indulging his dislike of
other people's poverty by remaining away from it; but Seraphin, who
came often and sat about the studio in a silence wholly
uncharacteristic, was difficult. Houdon, finally, was frequent and
expensive: he always foraged about what he called Cartaret's "tempting
window-buffet," but he regarded the condition of affairs as the
passing foible of a young man temporarily wearied by the pleasures of
wealth.

"Ah," he snorted one day when he had come in with Varachon, "you fail
wholly to deceive me, Cartarette. You say you are not well-to-do so
that we shall think that you are not, but I know, I! Had you not your
own income, you would try to sell more pictures, and your pictures are
superb. They would fetch a pretty sum. Believe not that because I have
a great musical genius I have no eye for painting. I know good
painting. All Arts are one, my brother."

He jabbed Cartaret's empty stomach and, whistling a theme and twisting
his little mustache, went to the window and took a huge bite of the
last apple there.

Cartaret watched the composer toss half the apple into the concierge's
garden.

Varachon, the sculptor, grunted through his broken nose.

"Your work is bad," he whispered to Cartaret--"very bad. You require a
long rest. Go to Nice for a month."

The weeks passed. Cartaret was underfed and discouraged. He was too
discouraged now to attempt to renew his acquaintance with the Lady of
the Rose. He was pale and thin, and this from reasons wholly physical.

Meanwhile, through the scented dawns, April was coming up to that
city in which April is most beautiful and most seductive. From the
spicy Mediterranean coasts, along the Valley of the Rhone, Love was
dancing upon Paris with laughing Spring for his partner. Already the
trees had blossomed between the Place de La Concorde and the Rond
Point, and out in the Bois the birds were singing to their mates.

One morning, when Cartaret, with unsteady hand, drew back his curtain,
_rouge-gorges_ were calling from the concierge's garden, and seemed to
be calling to him.

"Seize hold of love!" they chorused in that garden. "Life is short;
time flies, and love flies with it. Love will pass you by. Take it,
take it, take it, while there still is time! Like us, it is a bird
that flies, but, unlike us, it never more returns. It is a rose that
withers--a white rose: take it while it blooms. Take it, though it
leave you soon; take it, though it scratch your fingers. Take it, take
it, take it now!"

On that day the annual siege of Paris ended, the city fell before her
invaders, and by the time that Cartaret went into the streets, the
army of occupation was in possession. The Luxembourg Gardens, the very
benches along the Boul' Miche' were full of lovers: he could not stir
from the house without encountering them.

From it, however, he had to go: the Spring called him with a sad
seductiveness that he could no longer resist. He wandered aimlessly,
trying the impossible: trying to keep his eyes from the couples that
also wandered, but wandered hand in hand, and trying to keep his
thoughts from roses and the Lady of the Rose.

He found himself before one of the riverside bookstalls, fingering an
old book, leather-bound. The text, he realized, was English, or what
once was so: it was a volume of Maundeville, and Cartaret was reading:

"Betwene the cytee and the chirche of Bethlehem is the felde Floridus;
that is to seyne, the field florsched. For als moche as a fayre mayden
was blamed with wrong ... for whiche cause sche was demed to the
dethe, and to be brent in that place, to the which she was ladd. And,
as the fyre began to brenne about hire, she made her preyeres to oure
Lord, that als wissely as sche was not gylty ... that he would help
hire, and make it to be knowen to alle men of his mercyfulle grace.
And, whanne sche had thus seyd, sche entered into the fuyer; and anon
was the fuyer quenched and oute, and the brondes that weren brennynge
becomen white roseres, full of roses; and theise werein the first
roseres and roses, both white and rede, that ever ony man saughe. And
thus was this mayden saved by the grace of God." ...

All that week--while the contents of his window-sideboard dwindled, he
was sure, faster than he ate from it--he had tried to forget
everything by painting heavily at pot-boilers. He had begun with the
aim of earning enough to resume his studies; he had continued with the
hope of getting together enough to keep alive--in Paris. And yet,
fleeing from that bookstall, he was fool enough to walk all the way to
Les Halles, to walk into Les Halles, and to stop, fascinated by a
counter laden with boxes of strawberries, odorous and red, the
smallest box of which was beyond the limits of his economy.

That was bad enough--it was absurd that his will should voluntarily
play the Barmecide for the torture of his unrewarded Shacabac of a
stomach--but worse, without fault of his own, was yet to follow this
mere aggravation of his baser appetites. Spring and Paris are an
irresistible combination on the side of folly, and that evening
another sign of them presented itself: there was a burst of music; a
hurdy-gurdy was playing in the rue du Val de Grâce, and Cartaret, from
his window, listened eagerly. It has been intimated from the best of
sources that all love lives on music, and it is the common experience
that when any love cannot get the best music, it takes what it can
get:

    "Her brow is like the snaw-drift;
      Her throat is like the swan;
    Her face it is the fairest
      That e'er the sun shone on--
    That e'er the sun shone on--
      And dark blue is her e'e----"

That French hurdy-gurdy was playing "Annie Laurie," and, since the
lonely artist's heart ached to hear the old, familiar melody, when the
bearded grinder looked aloft, Cartaret drew a coin from his pocket.
Anxious to pay for his pain, as the human kind always is, he tossed
his last franc to that vendor of emotions in the twilit street.

He was drunk at last with the wine that his own misery distilled. He
abandoned himself to the admission that he was in love: he abandoned
himself to his dream of the Lady of the Rose.

Seraphin, in a wonderful new suit of clothes, found him thus the next
morning--it was a Friday--and found him accordingly resentful of
intrusion. Cartaret was sitting before an empty easel, his hands
clasped in his lap, his eyes looking vacantly through the posts of the
easel.

"Good-day," said Seraphin.

Cartaret said "Good-day" as if it were a form of insult.

Seraphin's hands tugged at his two wisps of whisker.

"You are not well, _hein_?"

"I was never better in my life," snapped Cartaret, turning upon his
friend a face that was peaked and drawn.

The Frenchman came timidly nearer.

"My friend," he said, "I have completed my _magnum opus_. It has not
sold quite so well as I hoped, not of course one thousandth of its
value. That is this Spanish cow of a world. But I have three hundred
francs. If you need----"

"Go away," said Cartaret, looking at his empty easel. "Can't you see
I'm trying to begin work?"

Seraphin himself had suffered. His dignity was not offended: he kept
it for only his creditors and other foes. He guessed that Cartaret was
at last penniless, and he guessed rightly.

"Come, my friend," he began; "none shall know. Will you not be so kind
as to let me----"

Cartaret got up and, for all his weakness, gripped the Frenchman's
hand until Dieudonné nearly screamed.

"I'm a beast, Seraphin!" said Cartaret. "I'm a beast to treat a
friendly offer this way. Forgive me. It's just that I feel a bit rocky
this morning. I drank too much champagne last night. I do thank you,
Seraphin. You're a good fellow, the best of the lot, and a sight
better than I am. But I'm not hard up; really I'm not. I'm poor, but
I'm not a sou poorer than I was this time last year."

It was a magnificent lie. Seraphin could only shrug, pretend to
believe it, and go away.

Cartaret scarcely heeded the departure. He had relapsed into his
day-dream. He took from against the wall the two portraits that he had
painted of the Lady of the Rose and hung them, now here, now there,
trying them in various lights. There were at least ten more sketches
of her by this time, and these, too, he hung in first one light and
then another. He studied them and tried to be critical, and forgot to
be.

His thoughts of her never took the shape of conscious words--he loved
her too much to attempt to praise her--but, as he looked at his
endeavors to portray her, his mind was busy with his memories of all
that loveliness--and passed from memories to day-dreams. He saw her as
something that might fade before his touch. He saw her as a Princess,
incognito, learning his plight, buying his pictures secretly, and,
when she came to her throne, letting him serve her and worship from
afar. And then he saw her even as a Galatea possible of miraculous
awakening. Why not? Her eyes were the clear eyes of a woman that has
never yet loved, but they were also, he felt, the eyes of one of those
rare women who, when they love once, love forever. Cartaret dared, in
his thoughts, to lift the heavy plaits of her blue-black hair and,
with trembling fingers, again to touch that hand at the recollection
of touching which his own hand tingled.

Why not, indeed? Already a stranger thing had happened in his meeting
her. Until that year he had not guessed at her existence; oceans
divided them; the barriers of alien race and alien speech were raised
high between them, and all of these things had been in vain. The
existence was revealed, the ocean was crossed, the bar of sundering
speech was down. He was here, close beside her, as if every event of
his life had been intended to bring him. Through blind ways and up
ascents misunderstood, unattracted by the many and lonely among the
crowd, he had, somehow, always been making his way toward--Her.

Thus Cartaret dreamed while Seraphin made a hurried journey to the rue
St. André des Arts and the shop of M. Fourget.

"But no, but no, but no!" Fourget's bushy brows met in a frown. "It is
out of the question. Something has happened to the boy. He can no
longer paint."

Oh, well, at least monsieur could go to the boy's rooms and see what
he had there.

"No. Am I then a silly philanthropist?"

Seraphin tried to produce his false dignity. What he brought out was
something genuine.

"I ask it from the heart," he pleaded. "Do not I, my God, know what
it is to be hungry?"

"Hungry?" said the dealer. "Hungry! The boy has an uncle famously
rich. What is an uncle for? Hungry? You make _une bêtise_. Hungry." He
called his clerk and took up his hat. "I will not go," he vowed.
"Hungry, _par example_!"

"Truly you will not," smiled Seraphin. "And do not tell him that I
sent you: he is proud."

       *       *       *       *       *

The sound of the door opening interrupted Cartaret's dream. He turned,
a little sheepish, wholly annoyed. Spectacled Fourget stood there,
looking very severe.

"I was passing by," he explained. "I have not come to purchase
anything, but I grow old: I was tired and I climbed your stairs to
rest."

It was too late to hide those portraits. Cartaret could only place for
Fourget a chair with its back to them.

"What have you been doing?" asked the dealer.

He swung 'round toward the portraits.

"Don't look at them!" said Cartaret. "They're merely sketches."

But Fourget had already looked. He was on his feet. He was bobbing
from one to the other, his lean hands adjusting his glasses, his
shoulders stooped, his nose thrust out. He was uttering little cries
of approval.

"But this is good! It is good, then. This is first-rate. This is of an
excellence!"

"They're not for sale," said Cartaret.

"_Hein?_" Fourget wheeled. "If they are not for sale, they are for
what, then?"

"They--they are merely sketches, I tell you. I was trying my hand at a
new method; but I find there is nothing in it."

Fourget was unbuttoning his short frock-coat. He was reaching for his
wallet.

"I tell you there is everything in it. There is the sure touch in it,
the clear vision, the sympathy. There is reputation in it. In fine,
there is money."

He had the wallet out as he concluded.

Cartaret shook his head.

"Oh," said Fourget, the dealer in him partially overcoming the lover
of art, "not much as yet; not a great deal of money. You have still a
long way to go; but you have found the road, monsieur, and I want to
help you on your journey. Come, now." He nodded to the first portrait.
"What do you ask for that?"

"I don't want to sell it."

"Poof! We shall not haggle. Tell Fourget what you had thought of
asking. Do not be modest. Tell me--and I will give you half."

He kept it up as long as he could; he tried at last to buy the least
of the preliminary sketches of the Rose-Lady; he offered what, to
Cartaret, were dazzling prices; but Cartaret was not to be shaken:
these experiments were not for sale.

Fourget was first disappointed, then puzzled. His enthusiasm had been
genuine; but could it be possible that Dieudonné was mistaken? Was
Cartaret not starving? The old man was beginning to button his coat
when a new idea struck him.

"Who was your model?" he asked abruptly.

"I--I had none," Cartaret stammered.

"Ah!"--Fourget peered hard at him through those glistening spectacles.
"You painted them from memory?"

"Yes." Cartaret felt his face redden. "From imagination, I mean."

Then Fourget understood. Perhaps he had merely the typical Frenchman's
love of romance, which ceases only with the typical Frenchman's life;
or perhaps he remembered his own youth in Besançon, when he, too, had
wanted to be an artist and when, among the vines on the hillside,
little Rosalie smiled at him and kissed his ambition away--little
Rosalie Poullot, dust and ashes these twenty years in the Cimetière du
Mont Parnasse....

He turned to a pile of pot-boilers. He took one almost at random.

"This one," he said, "I should like to buy it."

It was the worst pot-boiler of the lot. Before the portraits, it was
hopeless.

Cartaret half understood.

"No," he said; "you don't really want it."

Seraphin had been right: the young man was proud. "How then?" demanded
Fourget. "This also did you paint not-to-sell?"

"I painted it to sell," said Cartaret miserably, "but it doesn't
deserve selling--perhaps just because I did paint it to sell."

To his surprise, Fourget came to him and put an arm on his shoulder, a
withered hand patting the American's back.

"Ah, if but some more-famous artists felt as you do! Come; let me have
it. That is very well. I shall sell it to a fool. Many fools are my
patrons. How else could I live? There is not enough good art to meet
all demands, or there are not enough demands to meet all good art. Who
shall say? Suffice it there are demands of sorts. Daily I thank the
good God for His fools...."

Cartaret went to Les Halles and bought a large box of strawberries.

       *       *       *       *       *

He had put them carefully on his window-shelf and covered them with a
copy of a last week's _Matin_--being an American, he of course read
the _Matin_--for he was resolved that, now he again had a little
money, these strawberries should be his final extravagance and should
be treasured accordingly--he had just anchored the paper against the
gentle Spring breeze when he became aware that he had another visitor.

Standing by his table, much as she had stood there on the night of his
second sight of her, was the Lady of the Rose.

Cartaret thought that his eyes were playing him tricks. He rubbed his
eyes.

"It is I," she said.

He thought that again he could detect the perfume of the Azure Rose.
He again thought that he could see white mountain-tops in the sun. He
could have sworn that, in the street, a hurdy-gurdy was playing:

    "Her brow is like the snaw-drift;
      Her throat is like the swan----"

"I came in," she was saying, "to see how you were. I should have sent
Chitta, but she was so long coming back from an errand."

"Thank you," he said--he was not yet certain of himself--"I'm quite
well. But I'm very glad you called."

"Yet you, sir, look pale, and your friend"--her forehead
puckered--"told me that you had been ill."

"My friend?" He spoke as if he had none in the world, though now he
knew better.

"Yes: such a pleasant old gentleman with gray hair and glasses. As I
came in half an hour ago, I met him on the stairs."

"Fourget!"

"Was that his name? He seemed most anxious about you."

"He is my friend."

"I like him," said the Lady of the Rose.

"Then you understand him. I didn't understand him--till this morning.
He is an art-dealer: those that he won't buy from think him hard; the
friends of those that he buys from think him a fool."

Although he had reassured her of his health, she seemed charmingly
willing to linger. Really, she was looking at Cartaret's haggard
cheeks with a wonderful sympathy.

"So he bought from you?"

Cartaret nodded.

"Only I hope _you_ won't think him a fool," he said.

"I shall consider," she laughed. "I must first see some of your work,
sir."

She came farther into the room. She moved with an easy dignity, her
advance into the light displaying the lines of her gracile figure, the
turn of her head discovering the young curve of her throat; her eyes,
as they moved about his studio, were clear and starry.

In the presence of their original, Cartaret had forgotten the
portraits. Now she saw them and turned scarlet.

It was a time for no more pride on the part of the painter: already,
head high in air, she had turned to go. It was a time for honest
dealing. Cartaret barred her way.

"Forgive me!" he cried. "Won't you please forgive me?"

She tried to pass him without a word.

"But listen. Only listen a minute! You didn't think--oh, you didn't
think I'd sold him one of those? They were on the wall when he came
in, and I couldn't get them away in time. I'd put them up--Well, I'd
put them up there because I--because I couldn't see you, so I wanted
to see them."

His voice trembled; he looked ill now: she hesitated.

"What right had you, sir, to paint them?"

"I don't know. I hadn't any. Of course, I hadn't any! But I wouldn't
have sold them to the Luxembourg."

What was it that Fourget had told her when he met her on the
stair?--"Mademoiselle, you will pardon an old man: that Young
Cartarette cannot paint pot-boilers, and in consequence he starves.
For more things than money, mademoiselle. But because he cannot paint
pot-boilers and get money, he starves literally."--Her heart smote her
now, but she could not refrain from saying:

"Perhaps the Luxembourg did not offer--in the person of M. Fourget?"

The last vestige of his pride left Cartaret.

"He wanted to buy those portraits," he said. "I know that my action
loses by the telling of it whatever virtue it might have had, but I'd
rather have that happen than have you think what you've been thinking.
He offered me more for them than for all my other pictures together,
but I couldn't sell."

It was a mood not to be denied: she forgave him.

"But you, sir, must take them all down," she said, "and you must
promise to paint no more of them."

He would have promised anything: he promised this, and he had an
immediate reward.

"To-morrow," she asked, "perhaps you will eat _déjeuner_ with Chitta
and me?"

Would he! He did not know that she invited him because of Fourget's
use of the phrase "starving literally." He accepted, declaring that he
would never more call Friday unlucky.

"At eleven o'clock?" she asked.

"At eleven," he bowed.

When she was gone, Cartaret went again to the window that looked on
the concierge's garden. The robins were still singing:

"Seize hold of love! It is a rose--a white rose. Take it--take
it--take it now!"



CHAPTER VIII

CHIEFLY CONCERNING STRAWBERRIES

    Theft in its simplicity--however sharp and rude, yet if
    frankly done, and bravely--does not corrupt men's souls; and
    they can, in a foolish, but quite vital and faithful way,
    keep the feast of the Virgin Mary in the midst of
    it.--Ruskin: _Fors Clavigera_.


It was quite true that he had resolved to be careful of the money that
old Fourget had paid him for the pot-boiler. He still meant to be
careful of it. But he was to be a guest at _déjeuner_ next morning,
and a man must not breakfast with a Princess and wear a costume that
is really shockingly shabby. Cartaret therefore set about devising
some means of bettering his wardrobe.

His impulse was to buy a new suit of clothes, as Seraphin had done
when he sold his picture. Seraphin, however, had received a good deal
more money than Cartaret, and Cartaret was really in earnest about
his economies: when he had spent half the afternoon in the shops, and
found that most of the ready-made suits there exposed for sale would
cost him the bulk of his new capital, he decided to sponge his present
suit, sew on a few buttons and then sleep with it under his mattress
by way of pressing it. A new necktie was, nevertheless, imperative: he
had been absent-mindedly wiping his brushes on the old, and it would
not do to smell more of turpentine than the exigencies of his suit
made necessary; the scent of turpentine is not appetizing.

If you have never been in love, you may suppose that the selection of
so small a thing as a necktie is trivial; otherwise, you will know
that there are occasions when it is no light matter, and you will then
understand why Cartaret found it positively portentous. The first
score of neckties that he looked at were impossible; so were the
second. In the third he found one that would perhaps just do, and this
he had laid aside for him while he went on to another shop. He went
to several other shops. Whereas he had at first found too few
possibilities, he was now embarrassed by too many. There was a flowing
marine-blue affair with white _fleur-de-lys_ that he thought would do
well for Seraphin and that he considered for a moment on his own
account. He went back to the first shop and so through the lot again.
In the end, his American fear of anything bright conquered, and he
bought a gray "four-in-hand" that might have been made in
Philadelphia.

On his return he went to the window to see how his strawberries were
doing. He remembered the anecdote about the good cleric, who said that
doubtless God could have made a better berry, but that doubtless God
never did. Cartaret wondered if it would be an impertinence to offer
his strawberries to the Lady of the Rose.

They were gone.

He went down the stairs in two jumps. He thrust his head into the
concierge's cavern.

"Who's been to my room?" he shouted. He was still weak, but anger lent
him strength.

Refrogné growled.

"Tell me!" insisted Cartaret.

"How should I know?" the concierge countered.

"It's your business to know. You're responsible. Who's come in and
gone out since I went out?"

"Nobody."

"There must have been somebody! Somebody has been to my room and
stolen something."

Thefts are not so far removed from the sphere of a concierge's natural
activities as unduly to excite him.

"To rob it is not necessary that one come in from without," said he.

"You charge a tenant?"

"I charge nobody. It is you that charge, monsieur. I did not know that
you possessed to be stolen. A thief of a tenant? But certainly. One
cannot inquire the business of one's tenants. What house is without a
little thief?"

"I believe you did it!" said Cartaret.

Refrogné whistled, in the darkness, a bar of "Margarita."

Houdon was passing by. He made suave enquiries.

"But not Refrogné," he assured Cartaret. "You do an injustice to a
worthy man, my dear friend. Besides, what is a box of strawberries to
you?"

Cartaret felt that he was in danger of making a mountain of a
molehill; he had the morbid fear, common to his countrymen, of
appearing ridiculous. It occurred to him that it would not have been
beyond Houdon to appropriate the berries, if he had happened into the
room and found its master absent; but to bother further was to be once
more absurd.

"I don't suppose it does matter," he said; "but my supplies have been
going pretty fast lately, and if I was to catch the thief, I'd hammer
the life out of him."

"Magnificent!" gurgled Houdon as he passed gesturing into the street.

Cartaret returned toward his room. The dusk had fallen and, if he had
not known the way so well, he would have had trouble in finding it. He
was tired, too, and so he went slowly. That he also went softly he
did not realize until he gently pushed open the door to his quarters.

A shadowy figure was silhouetted against the window out of which
Cartaret kept his supplies, and the figure seemed to have some of them
in its hands.

Cartaret's anger was still hot. Now it flamed to a sudden fury. He did
not pause to consider the personality, or even the garb, of the thief.
He saw nothing, thought nothing, save that he was being robbed. He
charged the dim figure; tackled it as he once tackled runners on the
football-field; fell with it much as he had fallen with those runners
in the days of old--except that he fell among a hail of
food-stuffs--and then found himself tragically holding to the floor
the duenna Chitta.

It was a terrible thing, this battle with a frightened woman. Cartaret
tried to rise, but she gripped him fast. His amazement first, and next
his mortification, would have left him nerveless, but Chitta was
fighting like a tigress. His face was scratched and one finger bitten,
before he could hold her quiet enough to say, in slow French:

"I did not know that it was you. You are welcome to what you want. I
am going to let you go. Don't struggle. I shan't hurt you. Get up."

He thanked Heaven that she understood at least a little of the
language. Shaken, he got to his own feet; but Chitta, instead of
rising, surprisingly knelt at his.

She spouted a long speech of infinite emotion. She wept. She clasped
and unclasped her hands. She pointed to the room of her mistress; then
to her mouth, and then rubbed that portion of her figure over the spot
where the appetite is appeased.

"Do you mean," gasped Cartaret--"do you mean that you and your
mistress"--this was terrible!--"have been poor?"

Chitta had come to the room without her head-dress, and the subsequent
battle had sent her hair in dank coils about her shoulders. She
nodded; the shaken coils were like so many serpents.

"And that she has been hungry?--Hungry?"

A violent negative. Chitta bobbed toward Cartaret's rifled stores and
then toward the street, as if to include other stores in the same
circle of depredation. She was also plainly indignant at the idea that
she would permit her mistress to be hungry.

"Oh," said Cartaret, "I see! You are a consistent thief."

This time Chitta's nod was a proud one; but she pointed again to the
other room and shook her head violently; then to herself and nodded
once more. Words could not more plainly have said that, although she
had been supplementing her provisions by petty thefts, her employer
knew nothing about them.

And she must not be told. Again Chitta began to bob and moan and weep.
She pointed across the hallway, put a finger to her lips, shook her
old head and finally held out her clasped hands in supplication.

Cartaret emptied his pockets. He wished he had not been so extravagant
as to buy that necktie. He handed to Chitta all the money left from
the price that Fourget had paid him, to the last five-centime piece.

"Take this," he said, "and be sure you don't ever let your mistress
know where it came from. I shan't tell anybody about you. When you
want more, come direct to me." He knew that he could paint marketable
pot-boilers now.

She wanted to kiss his hand, but he hurried from the woman and left
her groveling behind him....

"M. Refrogné," he said to the concierge, "I owe you an apology. I am
sorry for the way I spoke to you a while ago. I have found those
strawberries."

"Bah!" said Refrogné. He added, when Cartaret had passed: "In his
stomach, most likely."

Slowly the horror of having had to use physical force against a woman
left Cartaret. He started for a long walk and thought many things. He
thought, as he trudged at last across L'Etoile, how the April
starshine was turning the Arc de Triomphe to silver, and how the
lovers on the benches at the junction of the rue Lauriston and the
avenue Kléber made Napoleon's arch in praise of war a monument to
softer passions. He thought, as he strolled from the avenue d'Eylan
and across the Place Victor Hugo, how the heart of that poet, whose
statue here represented him as so much the politician, must grow warm
when, as now, boys and girls passed arm in arm about the pediment. The
night bore jonquils in her hands and wore a spray of wisteria in her
hair. Brocaded ghosts of the old régime must be pacing a stately
measure at Ranelagh, and all the elves of Spring were dancing in the
Bois.

The Princess was poor. That brought her nearer to him: it gave him a
chance to help her. Cartaret found it hard to be sorry that she was
poor.



CHAPTER IX

BEING THE TRUE REPORT OF A CHAPERONED DÉJEUNER

    For she hath breathed celestial air,
    And heavenly food hath been her fare,
    And heavenly thought and feelings give her face
    That heavenly grace.
                    --Southey: _The Curse of Kehama_.


Sometimes a mattress is doubtless as efficient a means of pressing
one's clothes as any other means, but doubtless always a good deal
depends upon the mattress. By way of general rules, it may be laid
down, for instance, that the mattress employed must not be too thin,
must not be stuffed with a material so gregarious as to gather
together in lumpy communities, and must not sag in the middle.
Cartaret's mattress failed to meet these fundamental requirements, and
when he made his careful toilet on the morning that he was to take
_déjeuner_ at the Room Across the Landing, he became uneasily aware
that his clothes betrayed certain evidences of what had happened to
them. He had been up half a dozen times in the night to rearrange the
garments, in fear of just such a misfortune; but his activities were
badly repaid; the front of the suit bore a series of peculiar
wrinkles, rather like the complicated hatchments on an ancient
family's escutcheon; he could not see how, when the coat was on him,
its back looked, and he was afraid to speculate. With his mirror now
hung high and now standing on the floor, he practiced before it until
he happily discovered that the wrinkles could be given a more or less
reasonable excuse if he could only remember to adopt and assume a
mildly Pre-Raphaelite bearing.

Something else that his glass showed him gave him more anxiety and
appeared beyond concealment: Chitta's claws had left two long
scratches across his right cheek. He had no powder and no money to buy
any. He did think of trying a touch of his own paint, but he feared
that oils were not suited to the purpose and would only make the
wound more noticeable. He would simply have to let it go.

He had wakened with the first ray of sunlight that set the birds to
singing in the garden, and, Chitta's fall of the previous evening
having spilled his coffee and devastated his supplies, he was forced
to go without a _petit déjeuner_. He found a little tobacco in one of
his coat-pockets and smoked that until the bells of St. Sulpice, after
an unconscionable delay, rang the glad hour for which he waited.

Chitta opened the door to his knock, and he was at once aware of her
mistress standing, in white, behind her; but the old duenna was aware
of it too and ordered herself accordingly. Chitta bowed low enough to
appease the watchful Lady of the Rose, but Chitta's eyes, as she
lowered them, glowered at him suspiciously. It was clear that she by
no means joined in the welcome that the Lady immediately accorded him.

The Lady, in clinging muslin and with a black lace scarf of delicate
workmanship draped over her black hair, gave him her hand, and this
time Cartaret was not slow to kiss it. The action was one to which he
was scarcely accustomed, and he hesitated between the fear of being
discourteously brief about it and the fear of being discourteously
long. He could be certain only of how cool and firm her hand was and,
as he looked up from it, how pink and fresh her cheeks.

It was then that the Lady saw the scratches.

"Oh, but you have had an accident!" she cried.

Cartaret's hand went to his face. He looked at Chitta: Chitta's
returning glance was something between an appeal and a threat, but a
trifle nearer the latter.

"I had a little fall," said Cartaret, "and I was scratched in
falling."

The room was bare, but clean and pleasant, fresh from the constant
application of Chitta's mop and broom, fresher from the Spring breeze
that came in through the front windows, and freshest from the presence
of the Lady of the Rose. Two curtained corners seemed to contain beds.
At the rear, behind a screen, there must have been a gas-stove where
Chitta could soon be heard at work upon the breakfast. What furniture
there was bore every evidence of being Parisian, purchased in the
Quarter; there was none to indicate the nationality of the tenants;
and the bright little table, at which Cartaret was presently seated so
comfortably as to forget the necessity of the Pre-Raphaelite pose, was
Parisian too.

"You must speak French," smiled the Lady--how very white her teeth
were, and how very red her lips!--as she looked at him across the
coffee-urn: "that is the sole condition that, sir, I impose upon you."

"Willingly," said Cartaret, in the language thus imposed; "but why,
when you speak English so well?"

"Because"--the Lady was half serious about it--"I had to promise
Chitta that, under threat of her leaving Paris; and if she left Paris,
I should of course have to leave it, too. French she understands a
little, as you know, but not English, and"--the Lady's pink
deepened--"she says that English is the one language of which she
cannot even guess the meaning when she hears it, because English is
the one language that can be spoken with the lips only, and spoken as
if the speaker's face were a mask."

He said he should have thought that Chitta would pick it up from her.
"Why," he said, "it comes so readily to you: you answered in it
instinctively that time when I first saw you. Don't you remember?"

"I remember. I was very frightened. Perhaps I used it when you did
because we had an English governess at my home and speak it much in
the family. We speak it when we do not want the servants to
understand, and so we have kept it from Chitta." She was pouring the
coffee. "Tell me truly: do I indeed speak it well?"

"Excellently. Of course you are a little precise."

"How precise?"

"Well, you said, that time, 'It is I'; we generally say 'It's
me'--like the French, you understand."

If Princesses could pout, he would have said that she pouted.

"But I was right."

"Not entirely. You weren't colloquial."

"I was correct," she insisted. "'It is I' is correct. My grammar says
that the verb 'To be' takes the same case after it as before it. If
the Americans say something else, they do not speak good English."

Cartaret laughed.

"The English say it, too."

"Then," said the Lady with an emphatic nod, "the English also."

It was a simple breakfast, but excellently cooked, and Cartaret had
come to it with a healthy hunger. Chitta was present only in the
capacity of servant; but managed to be constantly within earshot and
generally to have hostess and guest under her supervision. He felt her
eyes upon him when she brought in the highly-seasoned omelette, when
she replenished the coffee; frequently he even caught her peeping
around the screen that hid the stove. It was a marvel that she could
cook so well, since she was forever deserting her post. She made
Cartaret blush with the memory of his gift to her; she made him feel
that his gift had only increased her distrust; when he fell to talking
about himself, he made light of his poverty, so that, should Chitta's
evident scruples against him ever lead her to betray what he had done,
the Lady might not feel that he had sacrificed too much in giving so
little.

Nevertheless, Cartaret was in no mood for complaint: he was sitting
opposite his Princess and was happy. He told her of his life in
America, of football and of Broadway. It is a rare thing for a lover
to speak of his sister, but Cartaret even mentioned Cora.

"Is she afraid of you, monsieur?" asked the Lady.

"I can't imagine Cora being afraid of any mere man."

"Ah," said the Lady; "then the American brothers are different from
brothers in my country. I have a brother. I think he is the
handsomest and bravest man in the world, and I love him. But I fear
him too. I fear him very much."

"Your own brother?"

The Lady was giving Cartaret some more omelette. Cartaret, holding his
ready plate, saw her glance toward the rear of the room and saw her
meet the eyes of Chitta, whose face was thrust around the screen.

"Yes," said the Lady.

It struck Cartaret that she dropped her brother rather quickly. She
talked of other things.

"Your name," she said, "is English: the concierge gave it me. It is
English, is it not?"

She had made enquiries about him, then: Cartaret liked that.

"My people were English, long ago," he answered. He grew bold. He had
been a fool not to make enquiries about her, but now he would make
them at first hand. "I don't know your name," he said.

He saw her glance again toward the rear of the room, but when he
looked he saw nobody. The Lady was saying:

"Urola."

It helped him very little. He said;

"That sounds Spanish."

Instantly her head went up. There was blue fire in her eyes as she
answered:

"I have not one drop of Spanish blood; not one."

He had meant no offense, yet it was clear that he came dangerously
near one. He made haste to apologize.

"You do not understand," she said, smiling a little. "In my country we
hate the Spaniard."

"What is your country?"

It was the most natural of questions--he had put it once before--yet
he had now no sooner uttered it than he felt that he had committed
another indiscretion. This time, when she glanced at the rear of the
room, he distinctly saw Chitta's head disappearing behind the screen.

"It is a far country," said Mlle. Urola. "It is a wild country. We
have no opportunities to study art in my country. So I came to Paris."

After that there was nothing for him to do but to be interested in
her studies, and of them she told him willingly enough. She was very
ambitious; she worked hard, but she made, she said, little progress.

"The people that have no feeling for any art I pity," she said; "but,
oh, I pity more those who want to be some sort of artist and cannot
be! The desire without the talent, that kills."

Chitta was coming back, bearing aloft a fresh dish. She bore it with
an air more haughty than any she had yet assumed. Directing at
Cartaret a glance of pride and scorn, she set before her
mistress--Cartaret's strawberries.

The Lady clapped her pretty hands. She laughed with delight.

"This," she said, "is a surprise! I had not known that we were to have
strawberries. It is so like Chitta. She is so kind and thoughtful,
monsieur. Always she has for me some surprise like this."

"It is a surprise," said Cartaret. "I'm sure I'll enjoy it."

She served the berries while Chitta stalked away.

"I find," confessed the Lady in English, "that they are not so good
below as they seemed on the top. You will not object?"

Oh, no: Cartaret wouldn't object.

"I suppose," said Mlle. Urola, "that I should reprimand her, for their
quality is"--she frowned at the berries--"inferior; but I have not the
heart. Not for the whole world could I hurt her feelings. She is both
so kind and so proud, and she is such a marvel of economy. You, sir,
would not guess how well she makes me fare upon how small an expense."

After breakfast, she showed him some examples of her work. It had
delicacy and feeling. An unprejudiced critic would have said that she
had much to learn in the way of technique, but to Cartaret every one
of her sketches was a marvel.

"This," she said, again in English, as she produced a drawing from the
bottom of her bundle, "does not compare with what you did, sir, but
it is not the work of a flatterer, since it is my own work. It is I."

It was a rapid sketch of herself and it was, as she had said, the work
of no flatterer.

"I like that least of all," declared Cartaret, in the language to
which she had returned; but he wanted her to forget those portraits he
had made. He caught, consequently, at trifles. "Why don't you say
'It's me'?" he asked.

She clasped her hands behind her and stood looking up at him with her
chin tilted and her unconscious lips close to his.

"I say what is right, sir," she challenged.

He laughed, but shook his head.

"I know better," said he.

"No," she said. She was smiling, but serious. "It is I that am right.
And even if I learned that I were wrong, I would now not change. It
would be a surrender to you."

Cartaret found his color high. His mind was putting into her words a
meaning he was afraid she might see that he put there.

"Not to me," he said.

"Yes, yes, to you!"

Surrender! What a troublesome word she was using!

The chin went higher; the lips came nearer.

"A complete surrender, sir." Quickly she stepped back. If she had read
his face rightly, her face gave no hint of it, but she was at once her
former self. "And that I will never do," she said, reverting to
French.

It was Cartaret's turn to want to change the subject. He did it
awkwardly.

"Have you been in the Bois?" he asked.

No, she had not been in the Bois. She loved nature too well to care
for artificial scenery.

"But the Bois is the sort of art that improves on nature," he
protested; "at least, so the Parisian will tell you; and, really, it
is beautiful now. You ought to see it. I was there last night."

"You go alone into the Bois in the night? Is not that dangerous?"

He could not tell whether she was mocking him. He said:

"It isn't dangerous in the afternoons, at any rate. Let me take you
there."

She hesitated. Chitta was clattering dishes in the improvised kitchen.

"Perhaps," said the Lady.

Cartaret's heart bounded.

"Now?" he asked.

The dishes clattered mightily.

"How prompt you are!" she laughed. "No, not now. I have my lessons."

"To-morrow, then?"

"Perhaps," said the Lady of the Rose. "Perhaps----"

Cartaret's face brightened.

"That is," explained his hostess, "if you will not try to teach me
English, sir."



CHAPTER X

AN ACCOUNT OF AN EMPTY PURSE AND A FULL HEART, IN THE COURSE OF WHICH
THE AUTHOR BARELY ESCAPES TELLING A VERY OLD STORY

    C'est état bizarre de folie tendre qui fait que nous n'avons
    plus de pensée que pour des actes d'adoration. On devient
    véritablement un possédé que hante une femme, et rien
    n'existe plus pour nous à côté d'elle.--De Maupassant: _Un
    Soir_.


The Lady's "perhaps" meant "yes," it seemed, for, when Cartaret called
for her the next day, he found her ready to go to the Bois, and not
the Lady only: hovering severely in the immediate background, like a
thunder-cloud over a Spring landscape, was Chitta, wrapped in a shawl
of marvelous lace, doubtless from her own country, and crowned with a
brilliant bonnet unmistakably procured at some second-hand shop off
the rue St. Jacques. The Lady noticed his expression of bewilderment
and appeared a little annoyed by it.

"Of course," she said, "Chitta accompanies us."

Cartaret had to submit.

"Certainly," said he.

He proposed a taxi-cab to the Bois--he had visited the Mont de
Piété--but the Lady would not hear of it; she was used to walking; she
was a good walker; she liked to walk.

"But it's miles," Cartaret protested.

"It is nothing," said she.

Her utmost concession was to go by tram to the _Arc_.

It was a beautiful day in the Bois, with half of Paris there:
carriages from the Faubourg St. Germain, motors of the smart set,
hired conveyances full of tourists. The trees were a tender green; the
footways crowded by the Parisian bourgeois, making a day of it with
his family. Slim officers walked, in black jackets and red trousers,
the calves of their legs compressed in patent-leather riding-leggings;
women of the half-world showed brilliant toilettes that had been
copied by ladies of the _haut monde_, who, driven past, wore them not
quite so well. Grotesquely clipped French poodles rode in the
carriages, and Belgian police-dogs in the automobiles; thin-nosed
collies frolicked after their masters; here and there a tailless
English sheep-dog waddled by, or a Russian boar-hound paced sedately;
children played on the grass and dashed across the paths with a
suddenness that threatened the safety of the adult pedestrians.

Cartaret led the way into the less frequented portions of the great
park beyond the Lac Inférieur. The Lady was pleasantly beside him,
Chitta unpleasantly at his heels.

"Don't you admit it's worth coming to see?" he began in English. "When
I was here, under the stars, the other night----"

"You must speak French," the Lady smilingly interrupted. "You must
remember my promise to Chitta."

Cartaret ground his teeth. He spoke thereafter in French, but he
lowered his voice so as to be sure that Chitta could not understand
him.

"I was thinking then that you ought to see it." He took his courage in
both hands. "I was wishing very much that you were with me." His
brown eyes sought hers steadily. "May I tell you all that I was
wishing?"

"Not now," she said.

Her tone was conventional enough, but in her face he read--and he was
sure that she had meant him to read--a something deeper.

He put it to her flatly: "When?"

She was looking now at the fresh green leaves above them. When she
looked down, she was still smiling, but her smile was wistful.

"When dreams come true, perhaps," she said. "Do dreams ever come true
in the American United States, monsieur?"

The spell of the Spring was dangerously upon them both. Cartaret's
breath came quickly.

"I wish--I wish that you were franker with me," he said.

"But am I ever anything except frank?"

"You're--I know I haven't any right to expect your confidence: you
scarcely know me. But why won't you tell me even where you come from
and who you are?"

"You know my name."

"I know a part of it."

"My little name is--it is Vitoria."

"V-i-t-t-o-r-i-a?" he spelled.

"Yes, but with one 't,'" the Lady said.

"Vitoria Urola," he repeated.

She raised her even brows.

"Oh, yes; of course," said she.

Somehow it struck him that its sound was scarcely familiar to her:

"Do I pronounce it badly?"

"No, no: you are quite correct."

"But not quite to be trusted?"

She looked at him doubtfully. She looked at Chitta and gave her a
quick order that sent the duenna reluctantly ahead of them. Then the
Lady put her gloved hand on Cartaret's arm.

"I want you to be my friend," she said.

"I am your friend," he protested: "that is what I want you to believe.
That is why I ask you to be frank with me. I want you to tell me just
enough to let me help--to let me protect you. If you are in danger, I
want----"

"You might be my danger."

"I?"

She bowed assent.

"No, do not ask me why. I shall not tell you. I shall never tell
you--no more," she smiled, "than I shall ever say for you 'it's me.'
It is very kind of you to want to be my friend. I am alone here in
Paris, except for poor Chitta, and I shall be glad if you will be my
friend; but it will not be very easy."

"It would be hard to be anything else."

"Not for you: you are too curious. My friend must let me be just what
I am here. All that I was before I came to Paris, all that I may be
after I leave it, he must ask nothing about."

Cartaret looked long into her eyes.

"All right," he said at last. "I am glad to have that much. And--thank
you."

He stuck to his side of their agreement; not only during that
afternoon in the Bois, but during the days that followed. He worked
hard. He turned out one really good picture, and he turned out many
successful pot-boilers. He would not impose these on Fourget, because
old Fourget had already been too kind to him; but Lepoittevin wanted
such stuff, and Cartaret let him have it.

Cartaret worked gladly now, because he was, however little she might
guess it, working for Vitoria. He had left for himself precisely
enough to keep him alive, but every third or fourth day he would have
the happiness of slipping a little silver into Chitta's horny palm:
Chitta came readily to the habit of waiting for him on the stair. He
grew happier day by day, and looked--as who does not?--the better for
it. He sought out Seraphin and Varachon; he bought brandy for Houdon;
went to hear Devignes sing, and once he had Armand Garnier to
luncheon. He rewarded the hurdy-gurdy so splendidly that it was a
nightly visitor to the rue du Val de Grâce: the entire street was
whistling "Annie Laurie."

Seraphin guessed the truth.

"Ah, my friend," he nodded, "that foolish one, Houdon, says that you
have again decided to spend of your income: _I_ know that you are
somehow making largess with your heart."

Cartaret took frequent walks with Vitoria, Chitta always two feet
behind, never closer, but never farther away. Often he saw the Lady to
her classes, more frequently they walked to the Ile Saint Louis, or
between the old houses of the rue des Francs Bourgeois; to the Jardin
des Plantes, or into the Cours de Dragon or St. Germain des Prés:
Chitta's unsophisticated mind should have been improved by a thorough
knowledge of picturesque Paris.

He was guilty of trying to elude the guardian--guilty of some rather
shabby tricks in that direction--and he suffered the more in
conscience because they were almost uniformly unsuccessful. More than
once, however, he reached a state of exaltation in which he forgot
Chitta, cared nothing about Chitta, and then he felt nearer Heaven.

On one such occasion he was actually nearer than the site usually
ascribed to the Celestial City. With Vitoria and her guardian he had
climbed--it was at his own malign suggestion--to Montmartre and, since
Chitta feared the funicular, had toiled up the last steep ascent into
Notre Dame de Sacre Coeur. Chitta's piety--or her exhaustion--kept
her long upon her knees in that Byzantine nave, and the Lady and
Cartaret had a likely flying-start up the stairs to the tower.
Cartaret possessed the wit to say nothing, but he noticed that
Vitoria's blue eyes shone with a light of adventure, which tacitly
approved of the escapade, and that her step was as quick as his own
when Chitta's slower step, heavy breathing and muttered imprecations
became audible below them.

"I'm sure the old girl will have to rest on the way up, for all her
spryness," thought Cartaret. "If we can only hold this pace, we ought
to have five minutes alone on the ramparts."

They had quite five minutes and, no other sight-seers being about,
they were quite alone. Below them, under a faintly blue haze, Paris
lay like an outspread map, with here and there a church steeple rising
above the level of the page. The roof of the Opéra, the gilt dome of
Napoleon's tomb and the pointing finger of the Tour Eiffel were
immediately individualized, but all the rest of the city merged into a
common maze about the curving Seine with the red sun setting beyond
the Ile de Puteaux.

Vitoria leaned on the rampart. She was panting a little from her
climb; her cheeks were flushed, and her whole face glowing.

"It is as if we were gods on some star," she said, "looking down upon
a world that is strange to us."

She was speaking in English. Cartaret bent closer. Pledges of mere
friendship ceased, for the moment, to appear of primary importance: he
wanted, suddenly, to make the most of a little time.

"Am I never to see you alone?" he asked.

She forsook the view of Paris to give him a second's glance. There was
something roguish in it.

"Chitta," she said, "has not yet arrived."

He felt himself a poor hand at love-making. Its language was upon his
tongue--perhaps the slower now because he so much meant what he wanted
to say. His jaw set, the lines at his mouth deepened.

"I've never thought much," he blundered, "about some of the things
that most fellows think a lot about. I mean I've never--at least not
till lately--thought much about love and--" he choked on the
word--"and marriage; but----"

She cut him short. Her speech was slow and deliberate. Her eyes were
on his, and in them he saw something at once firm and sad.

"Nor I, my friend," she was saying: "it is a subject that I am
forbidden to think about."

If she conveyed a command, he disobeyed it.

"Then," he said, "I wish you'd think about it now."

"I am forbidden to think about it," she continued, "and I do not think
about it because I shall not marry any one--at least not any one
that--that I----"

Her voice dropped into silence. She turned from him to the sunset over
the gray city.

Cartaret's exaltation left him more suddenly than it had come.

"Any one that you care for?" he asked in a lowered tone.

Still facing the city, she bowed assent.

"But, in Heaven's name, whom else should you marry except somebody
that you care for?"

She did not answer.

"Look here," urged Cartaret, "you--you're not engaged, are you?"

She faced him then, still with that something at once firm and sad in
her fine eyes.

"No," she said; but he must have shown a little of the hope he found
in that monosyllable, for she went on: "Yet I shall never marry any
one that I care for. That is all that I may tell you--my _friend_."

As a hurrying tug puffs up to the liner that it is to tow safely into
port, Chitta puffed up to her mistress. She met a Cartaret, could she
have guessed it, as hopeless as she wanted him to be.

He did his best to put from him all desire to unravel the mystery, and
for some days he was again content to remain Vitoria's unquestioning
friend. She had told him that she could not marry him: nothing could
have been plainer. What more could he gain by further enquiry? Did she
mean that she loved somebody else whom she could not marry? Or did
she mean that she loved, but could not marry--_him_? Cartaret highly
resolved to take what good the gods provided: to remain her friend; to
work on, in secret, for her comfort, and to be as happy as he could in
so much of her companionship as she permitted him. He would never tell
her that he loved her.

And then, very early on an evening in May, Destiny, who had been
somnolent under the soft influence of Spring, awoke and once more took
a hand in Cartaret's affairs and those of the Lady of the Rose.

Cartaret had just returned from a mission to Lepoittevin's shop and,
having there disposed of a particularly bad picture, had put money in
his purse: Chitta was waiting on the stairs and accepted the bulk of
his earnings with her usual bad grace. He went into his studio,
leaving the door ajar. The cool breeze of the Spring twilight
fluttered the curtains; it bore upward the laughter of the concierge's
children, playing at diavolo in the garden; it brought the fainter
notes of the hurdy-gurdy, grinding out its music somewhere farther
down the street.

Somebody was tapping at the door.

"Who is it?" he called.

"It's--_I_," came the answer, with the least perceptible pause before
the pronoun. "May I come in?"

"Do," he said, and rose.

Before he could reach the door, Vitoria had entered, closing it
carefully behind her. He could see that she was in her student's
blouse; tendrils of her hair, slightly disarrayed, curled about the
nape of her white neck; her delicate nostrils were extended and her
manner strangely quiet.

"This is good of you," he gratefully began. "I didn't expect----"

"What is this that you have been doing?"

Her tone, though low, was hasty. Cartaret bewilderedly realized that
she was angry. Before he could reply, she had repeated her question:

"Sir, what is this that you have been doing?"

"I don't understand." He had drawn away from her, his face
unmistakably expressive of his puzzled pain.

"You have been---- oh, that I should live to say it!--you have been
giving money to my maid."

He drew back farther now. He was detected; he was ashamed.

"Yes," he confessed; "I thought--You see, she gave me to understand
that you were--were poor."

"None of my family has ever taken charity of any man!"

"Charity?" He did not dare to look at her, but he knew just how high
she was holding her head and just how her eyes were flashing. "It
wasn't that. Believe me--please believe me when I say it wasn't that.
It never struck me in that way." He was on the point of telling her
how he had caught Chitta red-handed in a theft, and how this had led
to his enlightenment; but he realized in time that such an explanation
would only deepen the wound that he had inflicted on the Lady's pride.
"I merely thought," he concluded, "that it was one comrade--one
neighbor--helping another."

"How much have you given that wretched woman?"

"I haven't the least idea."

"You must know!" She stamped her foot. "Or are you, after all, one of
those rich Americans that do not have to count their money, and that
are proud of insulting the people of older and poorer countries by
flinging it at them?"

It was a bitter thing to say. He received it with head still bent, and
his answer was scarcely a whisper:

"I am not quite rich."

"Then count. Recollect yourself, sir, and count. Tell me, and you
shall be repaid. Within three days you shall be repaid."

It never occurred to him further to humiliate her by seeking sympathy
through a reference to his own poverty. He looked up. In her clenched
hands and parted lips, in her hot eyes and face, he saw the tokens of
the blow that he had dealt her. He came toward her with outstretched
hands, petitioning.

"Can't you guess why I did this?" he asked her. His amazement, even
his sorrow, left him. In their place was only the sublimation of a
worthy tenderness, the masterfulness of a firm resolve. His face was
tense. "Listen," he said: "I don't want you to answer me; I wouldn't
say this if I were going to allow you to make any reply. I don't want
pity; I don't deserve it. Anything else I wouldn't ask, because I
don't deserve anything else, either, and don't hope for it. I just
want to make my action clear to you. Perhaps I should have done for
any neighbor what I did for--what little I have been doing; I trust
so; I don't know. But the reason I did it in this case was a reason
that I've never had in all my life before. Remember, I'm hopeless and
I shan't let you reply to me: I did this because"--his unswerving
glance was on hers now--"because I love you."

But she did reply. At first she seemed unable to credit him, but then
her face became scarlet and her eyes blazed.

"Love me! And you do this? Yes, sir, insult me by contributing--and
through my servant--to my support! If I had not come back
unexpectedly but now and found her counting more silver than I knew
she could by right possess--if I had not frightened her into a
confession--it might have gone on for months." The Lady stopped
abruptly. "How long _has_ it been going on?"

"I tell you that I have no idea."

"But once, sir, was enough! You insult me with your money, and when I
ask you why you do it, you answer that you love me. Love!"

She uttered the concluding word with an intensity of scorn that lashed
him. She turned to go, but, as on the occasion of their first meeting,
he stepped forward and barred the way.

"You have no right to put that construction on what I say. Our points
of view are different."

"Yes--thank the Holy Saints they _are_ different!"

"I shall try to understand yours; I beg you to try to understand
mine."

Their eyes met again. In his it was impossible for her not to read the
truth. Slowly she lowered hers.

"In my country," she said, more softly now, but still proudly, "love
is another sort of thing. In my country I should have said: 'If you
respect me, sir, you perhaps love me; if you do not respect me, it is
out of the question that you should love me.'"

"Respect you?" This was a challenge to his love that he could not
leave unanswered. His voice rose fresh and clear. He was no longer
under the necessity of seeking words: they leaped, living, to his
lips. "Respect you? Good God, I've been worshiping the very thought of
you from the first glimpse of you I ever had. This miserable room has
been a holy place to me because you have twice been in it. It's been a
holy place, because, from the moment I first found you here, it has
been a place where I dreamed of you. Night and day I've dreamed of
you; and yet have I ever once knowingly done you any harm, trespassed
or presumed on your kindness? I've seen no pure morning without
thinking of you, no beautiful sunset without remembering you; you've
been the harmony of every bar of music, of every bird-song, that I've
heard. When you were gone, the world was empty for me; when I was with
you, all the rest of the world was nothing, and less than nothing.
Respect you? Why, I should have cut off my right hand before I let you
even guess what you've discovered to-day!"

As he spoke, her whole attitude altered. Her hands were still clenched
at her sides, but clenched now in another emotion.

"Is--is this true?" she asked. Her voice was very low.

"It is true," he answered.

"And yet"--she seemed to be not so much addressing him as trying to
quiet an accuser in her own heart--"I never spoke one word that could
give you any hope."

"Not one," he gravely assented. "I never asked for hope; I don't
expect it now."

"And it is--it is really true?" she murmured.

Again he spoke in answer to what she seemed rather to address to her
own heart:

"Because you found out what I'd done, I wanted you to know why I'd
done it--and no more. If you hadn't found out about Chitta, I would
never have told you--this."

She tried to smile, but something caught the smile and broke it. With
a sudden movement, she raised her white hands to her burning face.

"Oh," she whispered, "why did you tell me? Why?"

"Because you accused me, because----" He could not stand there and see
her suffer. "I've been a brute," he said; "I've been a bungling
brute."

"No, no!" She refused to hear him.

He drew her hands from before her face and revealed it, the underlip
indrawn, the blue eyes swimming in hushed tears, all humbled in a
wistful appeal.

"A brute!" he repeated.

"No, you are not!" Her fingers closed on his. "You are splendid; you
are fine; you are all that I--that I ever----"

"Vitoria!"

Out in the rue du Val de Grâce that rattletrap French hurdy-gurdy
struck up "Annie Laurie." It played badly; its time was uncertain and
its conception of the tune was questionable; yet Cartaret thought
that, save for her voice, he had never heard diviner melody. She was
looking up at him, her hands clasped in his over his pounding heart,
her eyes like altar-fires, her lips sacrosanct, and, wreathing her
upturned face, seeming to float upon the twilight, hovered, fresh from
sunlit mountain-crests of virgin snow, the subtle and haunting perfume
that was like a poem in a tongue unknown: the perfume of the Azure
Rose.

"Vitoria!" he began again. "You don't mean that you--that you----"

She interrupted him with a sharp cry. She freed her hands. She went by
him to the door.

Her voice, as she paused there, was broken, but brave:

"You do not understand. How could you? And I cannot tell you.
Only--only it must be 'Good-by.' Often I have wondered how Love would
come to me, and whether he would come singing, as he comes to most, or
with a sword, as he comes to some." She opened the door and stepped
across the threshold. She was closing it upon herself when she spoke,
but she held it open and kept her eyes on Cartaret until she ended. "I
know now, my beloved: he has come with a sword."



CHAPTER XI

TELLS HOW CARTARET'S FORTUNE TURNED TWICE IN A FEW HOURS AND HOW HE
FOUND ONE THING AND LOST ANOTHER

    A man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to
    let alone.--Thoreau: _Walden_.


A great deal has been said, to not much purpose, about the vagaries of
the feminine heart; but its masculine counterpart is equally
mysterious. The seat of Charlie Cartaret's emotions furnishes a case
in point.

Cartaret had resolved never to tell Vitoria that he loved her, and he
told her. Similarly, when he told her, he sought to make it clear to
her, quite sincerely, that he nursed no hope of winning her for his
wife, and, now that she was gone, hope took possession of his breast
and brought with it determination. Why not? Had she not amazingly
confessed her love for him? That left him, as he saw it, no reason
for abnegation; it made sacrifice wrong for them both. The secret
difficulty at which she hinted became something that it was now as
much his duty, as it was his highest desire, to remove. For the rest,
though he could now no more than previously consider offering her a
union with a man condemned to a lifelong poverty, there remained for
him no task save the simple one of acquiring affluence. What could
seem easier--for a young man in love?

The more he thought about it, the more obvious his course became.
During all his boyhood, art had been his single passion; during all
his residence in Paris he had flung the best that was in him upon the
altar of his artistic ambition; but now, without a single pang of
regret, he resolved to give up art forever. He would see Vitoria on
the morrow and come to a practical understanding with her: was he not
always a practical man? Then he would reopen negotiation with his
uncle and ask for a place in the elder Cartaret's business. Perhaps it
would not even be necessary for him to return to America: he had the
brilliant idea that his uncle's business--which was to say, the great
monopoly of which his uncle's holdings were a small part--had never
been properly "pushed" in France, and that Charles Cartaret was the
man of all men to push it. The mystery that dear Vitoria made of some
private obstacle? That, of course, was but the exaggeration of a
sensitive girl; it was the long effect of some parental command or
childish vow. He had only to wrest from her the statement of it in
order to prove it so. It was some unpractical fancy wholly beneath the
regard of a practical, and now wholly assured, man of affairs.

By way of beginning a conservative business-career, Charlie went to
the front window and, as he had done one day not long since, emptied
his pockets for the delight of the hurdy-gurdy grinder. Then, singing
under his breath, and inwardly blessing every pair of lovers that he
passed, he went out for a long walk in the twilight.

He walked along the Quai D'Orsay, beside which the crowded little
passenger-steamers were tearing the silver waters of the Seine;
crossed the white Pont de l'Alma; struck through the Trocadero
gardens, and so, by the rue de Passy and the shaded Avenue Ingrez,
came to the railway bridge, crossed it and strolled along the Allée
des Fortifications. He walked until the night overtook him, and only
then turned back through Auteuil and over the Pont Grenelle toward
home.

Alike in the perfumed shadows beneath the trees and under the yellow
lamps of the Boulevard de Mont Parnasse, he walked upon the clouds of
resolution. The city that has in her tender keeping the dust of many
lovers, cradled him and drew him forward. Her soft breath fanned his
cheek, her sweet voice whispered in his ears:

"Trust me and obey me! Did I not know and shelter Gabrielle d'Estrées
and her royal suitor? Have I not had a care for De Musset and for
Heine? In that walled garden over there, Balzac dreamed of Mme.
Hanska. Along this street Chopin wandered with George Sand."

That whisper followed him to his room, still thrilling with Vitoria's
visit. It charmed him into a wonderful sense of her nearness, into a
belief that he was keeping ward over her as long as he sat by his
windows and watched the stars go down and the pink dawn climb the
eastern sky. It lulled him at last to sleep with his head upon his
arms and his arms upon the mottled table.

He overslept. It must have been nearly noon when he woke, and then he
was wakened only by a pounding at the door of his room. Fat Mme.
Refrogné had brought him a cable-message. When she had gone, he opened
it, surprised at once by its extravagant length. It was from Cora; a
modern miracle had happened: there was oil in the black keeping of the
plot of ground that only sentiment had so long bade them retain in the
little Ohio town. Cartaret was rich....

       *       *       *       *       *

When the first force of the shock was over, when he could realize, in
some small measure, what that message meant to him, Cartaret's
earliest thought was of the Lady of the Rose. Holding the bit of paper
as tightly as if it were itself his riches and wanted to fly away on
the wings that had brought it, he staggered, like a drunken man, to
the door of the Room Opposite.

He knocked, but received no answer. A clock struck mid-day. Vitoria
had probably gone to her class, and Chitta to her marketing.

A mad impulse to spread the good news possessed him. It was as if
telling the news were recording a deed that there was only a brief
time to record: he must do it at once in order to secure title. He
knew that his friends, if they were in funds, would soon be gathered
at the Café Des Deux Colombes.

When he passed the rue St. André Des Arts, he remembered Fourget.
Cartaret was ashamed that his memory had been so tardy. Fourget had
helped him in his heavy need; Fourget should be the first to know of
his affluence....

The old dealer, his bushy brows drawn tight together, his spectacles
gleaming, was trying to say "No" to a lad with a picture under his
arm--a crestfallen lad that was a stranger to Cartaret.

"Let me see the picture," said Cartaret, without further preface. He
put out a ready hand.

The boy blushed. Cartaret had been abrupt and did not present the
appearance of a possible purchaser.

"If you please," urged Cartaret. "I may care to buy."

Fourget gaped. The boy turned up his canvas--an execrable daub.

"I'll buy that," said Cartaret.

"Are you mad?" asked Fourget.

"Bring back that picture to M. Fourget in half an hour," pursued the
heedless American, "and he will give you for it two hundred francs
that he will have lent me and that I shall have left with him."

He pushed the stammering lad out of the shop and turned to Fourget.

"Are you drunk?" asked the dealer, changing the form of his
suspicions.

"Fourget," cried Cartaret, clapping his friend on the back, "I shall
never be hungry again--never--never--never! Look at that." He
produced the precious cable-message. "That piece of paper will feed
me all my life long. It will buy me houses, horses, motors,
steamship-tickets. It looks like paper, Fourget." He spread it under
Fourget's nose. "But it isn't; it's a dozen suits of clothes a year;
it's a watch-and-chain, a diamond scarf-pin (if I'd wear one!); it's
a yacht. It's an oil-well, Fourget--and a godsend!"

Fourget took it in his blue-veined hands. His hands trembled.

"Oh, I forgot," said Cartaret. "It is in English. Let me translate."
He translated.

When Charlie looked up from his reading, he found Fourget busily
engaged in polishing his spectacles. Perhaps the old man's eyes were
weak and could not bear to be without their glasses: they certainly
were moist.

"I do not see so well as I once saw," the dealer was explaining: his
voice was very gruff indeed. "You are wholly certain that this is no
trick which one plays upon you?"

Cartaret was wholly certain.

Fourget made a valiant attempt at expressing his congratulations in a
mere Anglo-Saxon handshake. He found it quite inadequate, and this
annoyed him.

"The world," he growled, "loses a possibly fair artist and gets an
idle millionaire."

"You get a new shop," vowed Cartaret. "Don't shake your head! I'll
make it a business proposition: I've had enough trouble by being
suspected of charity. I'm going to buy an interest, and I shan't want
my money sunk in anything dark and unsanitary."

Fourget shook his gray head again.

"Thank you with all my heart, my friend," he said; "but no. This
little shop meets my little needs and will last out my little
remaining days. I would not leave it for the largest establishment on
the boulevards."

They talked until Cartaret again bethought him of the café in the rue
Jacob.

"But you will lend me the two hundred francs," he asked, "and give it
to that boy for his picture?" How much a boy that boy seemed now: he
was just the boy that Cartaret had been in the long ago time that was
yesterday!

"Since you insist; but truly, my dear monsieur, myself I was about to
weaken and purchase the terrible thing when you interrupted and saved
me." ...

The money from Seraphin's latest _magnum opus_ not being yet
exhausted, Seraphin's friends were lunching at the Café Des Deux
Colombes, with little Pasbeaucoup fluttering between them and the
kitchen, and Madame, expressionless under her mountain of hair,
stuffed into the wire cage and bulging out of it. The company rose
when they espied Cartaret, the cadaverous poet Garnier picking up his
plate of roast chicken so as not to lose, in his welcoming, time that
might be given to eating.

Cartaret felt at first somewhat ashamed before them. He felt the
contrast between his changed fortunes and their fortunes unchanged. At
last, however, the truth escaped him, and then he felt more ashamed
than ever, so unenvious were the congratulations that they poured upon
him.

Devignes' round belly shook with delight. Garnier even stopped eating.

"Now you may have the leisure for serious work, which," squeaked
Varachon through his broken nose, "your art has so badly needed."

Seraphin said nothing, but put his hand on Cartaret's shoulder and
gripped it hard.

Houdon embraced the fortunate one.

"Did I not always tell you?" he demanded of Seraphin. "Did I not say
he was a disguised millionaire?"

"But he has but now got his money," Seraphin protested.

"Poof!" said Houdon, dismissing the argument with a trill upon his
invisible piano. "La-la-la!"

"Without doubt to mark the event you will give a dinner?" suggested
Garnier.

"Without doubt," said Houdon.

Cartaret said that he would give a dinner that very evening if
Pasbeaucoup would strain the Median laws of the establishment so far
as to trust him for a few days, and Pasbeaucoup, receiving the
necessary nod from Madame, said that they would be but too happy to
trust M. Cartarette for any sum and for any length of time that he
might choose to name.

So Cartaret left them for a few hours and went back to his room at the
earliest possible moment for finding Vitoria returned from her class.
This time he not only knocked: he tried, in his haste, the knob of the
door, and the door, swinging open, revealed an empty room, stripped of
even its furniture.

He nearly fell downstairs to the cave of Refrogné.

"Where are they?" he demanded.

Had monsieur again been missing strawberries? Where were what?

"Where is Mlle. Urola--where are the occupants of the room across from
mine?" Cartaret's frenzied tones implied that he would hold the
concierge personally responsible for whatever might have happened to
his neighbors.

"Likely they are occupying some other room by this time," growled
Refrogné. "I was unaware that they were such great friends of
monsieur."

"They are. Where are they?"

"In that case, they must have told monsieur of their contemplated
departure."

"Do you mean they've moved to another room in this house?"

"But no."

"Then where have they gone?"

They had gone away. They had paid their bill honestly, even the rent
for the unconsumed portion of the month, and gone away. That was all
it was an honest concierge's business to know.

"When did they go?"

"Early this morning."

"Didn't they leave any address?"

"None. Why should they? Mademoiselle never received letters."

Cartaret could bear no more. Even the man that hauled away the
furniture had only taken it to the shop from which it had been leased.
Refrogné had seen the two women get into a cab with their scanty
luggage and had heard them order themselves driven to the Gare
d'Orsay. That was the end of the trail....

       *       *       *       *       *

Cartaret climbed to his own room. Thrust under the door, where he had
missed it in the rush of his hopeful exit that morning, was an
envelope. It did not hold the expected note of explanation. It held
only a pressed rose, yellow now, and dry and odorless.



CHAPTER XII

NARRATING HOW CARTARET BEGAN HIS QUEST OF THE ROSE

    The power of herbs can other harms remove,
    And find a cure for every ill, but love.
                    --Gray: _Elegy I_.


For a great while Cartaret remained as a man stunned. It was only very
slowly that there came to him the full realization of his loss, and
then it came with all the agony with which a return to life is said to
come to one narrowly saved from death by drowning.

Blindly his brain bashed itself against the mysterious wall of
Vitoria's flight. Why had she gone? Where had she gone? Why had she
left no word? A thousand times that day these unanswerable questions
whirled through his dizzy consciousness. Had he offended her? He had
explained his one offense, and she had given no sign of having taken
any other hurt. Was she indeed a revolutionist from some strange
country, summoned away, without a moment's warning, by the inner
council of her party? Revolutionist conspirators did not go to
art-classes and do not walk only under the chaperonage of an ancient
duenna. Was she, then, that claimant to power that he had once
imagined her, now gone to seize her rights? Things of that sort did
not, Cartaret knew, occur in these prosy days. Then why had she gone,
and where, and why had she left no word for him? Again these dreary
questions began their circle.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, he had thought that money would
resolve all his troubles. Money! Fervently he wished himself poor
again--poor again, as yesterday, with Her across the landing in the
Room Opposite.

Somehow, he did not forget his friends and the dinner he had promised
them. He went to the Deux Colombes and ordered the dinner.

"Say to them, Pasbeaucoup," he gave instructions, "that I am
indisposed and shall not be able to dine with them. Say that we shall
all dine together some other night--very soon I hope. Say that I am
sorry."

He was bitter now against all the world. "What will they care, as long
as they have the dinner?" he reflected.

Pasbeaucoup cared. He expressed great concern for monsieur's health.

"That," thought Cartaret, "is because I'm rich. A month or two ago and
they wouldn't trust me: they'd have let me starve."

He went back to his desolate room and to his dreary questioning. He
was there, with his head in his hands, when Seraphin found him.

Seraphin's suit was still new, and it was evident that he had dressed
carefully his twin wisps of whisker in honor of Cartaret's
celebration. The Frenchman's face was grave.

"Why aren't you dining?" sneered Cartaret.

Seraphin passed by the sneer.

"They told me that you were ill," he said, simply.

"And you came to see if it was true?"

"I came to see if I could be of any assistance."

("Ah," ran Cartaret's unjust thoughts, "it's very evident you're rich
now, Charlie!")

"Nobody else came with you," he said.

Seraphin hesitated. He twirled his soft hat in his hands.

"They thought--all but Houdon, who still persists that you have been
rich always--they thought that, now that you were rich, you might
prefer other society."

"_You_ didn't think it?"

"I did not."

It was said so frankly that even Cartaret's present mood could not
resist its sincerity. Charlie frowned and put both his hands on
Seraphin's shoulders.

"Dieudonné," he said, "I'm in trouble."

"I feared it."

"Not money-trouble."

"I feared that it was not money-trouble."

"You understood?"

"I guessed. You have been so happy of late, while you were so poor,
that to absent yourself from this gayety when you were rich----" An
expressive gesture finished the sentence. "Besides," added Seraphin,
"one cannot be happy long, and when you told me that you had money, I
feared that you would lose something else."

Cartaret wrung the hand of his friend.

"Go back," he said. "Go back and tell them that it's not pride. Tell
them it's illness. I _am_ ill. It was good of you to come here, but
there's nothing you can do just now. To-morrow, or next day, perhaps I
can talk to you about it. Perhaps. But not now. I couldn't talk to any
one now. Good-night."

He sat down again--sat silent for many hours after he had heard
Seraphin's footsteps die away down the stairs. He heard the
hurdy-gurdy and thought that he could not bear it. He heard the other
lodgers return. He heard the strange sounds--the creaking boards, the
complaining stairway, the whispering of curtains--which are the
night-sounds of every house. In the ear of his mind, he heard the
voices of his distant guests:

    "What woman's lips compare to this:
    This sturdy seidel's frothy kiss?----"

Because he grew afraid of the ghosts of doubt that haunt the darkness,
he lighted his lamp; but for a long time the ghosts remained.

This was the very room in which he had told her that he loved her;
this desert place was once the garden in which he had said that little
of what was so much. She had stood by that table (so shabby now!) and
made it a wonderful thing. She had touched that curtain; her fingers,
at parting, had held that rattling handle of the shattered door. He
half thought that the door might open and reveal her, even now. Memory
joined hands with love to make her poignantly present. Her lightest
word, her least action: his mind retained them and rehearsed them
every one. The music of her laughter, the melody of her grace, wove
spells in the lamplit room; but they ceased as she had ceased; they
left the song unfinished, they stopped in the middle of a bar.

He wondered whether it must always remain unfinished, this allegro of
love in what, without it, would be the dull biographic symphony of
his life; whether he would grow to be an old man with no memories but
broken memories to warm his heart; and whether even this memory would
become as the mere memory of a beautiful portrait seen in youth, a
Ghirlandaio's or a Guido Reni's work, some other man's vision, a part
of the whole world's rich heritage, a portion of the eternal riddle of
existence.

"So short a time ago," crooned the ghosts--"and doubtless she has
already forgotten you. You have but touched her hands: how could you
hope that you had touched her heart? She will be happy, though she
knows that you are unhappy; glad, though you are desolate. You gave
her your dreams to keep, your hopes, your faith in love and womankind:
and this is what she did with them! They are withered like that rose."

He had put the yellow thing against his heart, where once he had put
it when it was fresh and pure. He drew it out now and looked at it.
What did it mean--that message of the rose? That, as she had once
treasured the flower, so now she would treasure in its place her
memory of him?

"It means," chanted the ghosts, "that her friendship is as dead as
this dry flower!"

Did it? He would make one trial more.

Vivid as was her face in his mind, he brought to the lamp his pictures
of her. She had liked those pictures; in spite of herself, she had
shown him that she liked them----

(The ghosts were crooning:

"Though you had the brush of Diego Velasquez, she would not heed you
now!")

Had he painted her--he had tried to--as she should have been? Or had
he painted her as she really was?

He searched the pictures. Her eyes seemed to look at him with a long
farewell in their blue-black depths, the parted lips to tremble on a
sob. A light was born in the canvas--the reflected light of his own
high faith revived. Whatever separated them, it was by no will of
hers. No, there was no ghost in all the fields of night that he would
listen to again: in that pictured face there was as much of pride as
there was of beauty, but there was nothing of either cruelty or
deceit. Yes, he had only touched her hand, but certainly hand had
never yet touched hand as his touched hers. He was sure of it and sure
of her. A short acquaintance--it had been long enough to prove her. A
few broken words in the twilight--they were volumes. The merest breath
of feeling--it would last them to their graves.

He would move earth and Heaven to find Vitoria: the wine of that
resolution rang in his ears and fired his heart. The sun, coming up
over the Panthéon in a glory of red and gold, sent into Cartaret's
room a shining messenger of royal encouragement before whose sword the
ghosts forever fled. The lover was almost gay again: here was new
service for her; here, for him, was work, the best surcease of sorrow.
He felt like an athlete trained to the minute and crouching for the
starter's pistol-shot. He believed in Vitoria! He believed in her, and
so he could not doubt his own ability to discover her in the face of
all hardships and to win her against all odds; he believed in her and
in himself, and so he could not doubt God.

He understood something of the difficulties that presented themselves.
He knew scarcely anything of the woman whom he sought; his only clews
were her name and the name of the rose; he must first find to what
country those names belonged, and to find that country he might have
to seek through all the world. He could not ask help of the police; he
would not summon to his assistance those vile rats who call themselves
private-detectives. It was a task for himself alone; it was a task
that must occupy his every working-hour; but it was a task that he
would accomplish.

A second cable-message interrupted him at his ablutions. It was from
his uncle, and it read:

    "Cora wires me received no reply from you. Do you accept
    trust's offer stated in her cable? Advise you say yes. Better
    come home and attend to business."

This brought Cartaret to the realization that he was in a paradoxical
position: he was a penniless millionaire. He went to Fourget's and
borrowed some money. Thence he went to the cable-office in the Avenue
de l'Opera. There had been, he now recalled, an offer--a really
dazzling offer--mentioned in his sister's message; but more practical
matters had driven it from his mind. He therefore sent his uncle this:

    "I accept trust's offer. Advise Cora to agree. Don't worry:
    New York's not the only place for business. There's business
    in Paris--lots of it."

His uncle had been very annoying: Charlie should have been at work at
the Bibliothèque Nationale a full half-hour ago. He had resolved to
begin with the floral clew.

He went there immediately and asked what books they had about flowers;
they told him that they had many thousand. Cartaret narrowed his
field; he said what he wanted was a book on roses, and he was told
that he might choose any of hundreds that were at hand. In despair, he
ordered brought to him any one that began with an "A"; he would work
through the alphabet.

By closing-time he had reached "Ac." He hurried out into the fresh
breeze that blew down through the public square and the narrow rue
Colbert, and so cut across to the cable-office.

He wanted to send a message mentioning a little matter he had
forgotten that morning. As it happened, the operator had just received
a message for Charlie. It was again from his uncle, and said that the
sale would be consummated early next day. There was about it a brevity
more severe than even cables require: the elder Cartaret patently
disapproved of the communication that his nephew had sent him. Still,
the sale seemed to be assured, and that was the main thing, so Charlie
put the word "Five" in place of the word "One" in the message he was
drafting, and sent it off:

    "Cable me five thousand."

He interrupted his library-researches the next day to make a sporadic
raid upon florist-shops along the boulevards, but found no florist
that had ever heard of the Azure Rose.

The answer to his latest cable-message came the next day at noon. He
had resumed his search at the Bibliothèque and instructed the
cable-clerk to hold all messages until he should call for them. He
called for this at lunch-time:

    "Sale completed, thanks to power-of-attorney you left me when
    sailing. Do you mean dollars?"

Cartaret groaned at this procrastination.

"And my uncle brags of his American hustle!" he cried.

He filed his reply:

    "Of course I meant dollars. What did you suppose I meant?
    Francs? Pounds sterling? I mean dollars. Hurry!"

"Be sure to put in the punctuation marks," he admonished the pretty
clerk.

He dashed back to the library. During the next hundred and twenty
hours, he divided his time between botanical researches and one side
of the following cable-conversation:

"Come home."

"Can't."

"Why?"

"Busy."

"How?"

"Botanizing. But if you don't send me immediately that little bit of
all that belongs to me, I'll knock off work to find out the reason
why."

The money arrived just as his credit in short-credit Paris was
everywhere close to the breaking-point, and just as he gave up hope of
ever finding what he wanted at the great library, where he had driven
every sub and deputy librarian to the brink of insanity. Money,
however, brings resourcefulness: Cartaret then remembered the Jardin
des Plantes, where he had once been with Vitoria.

No official knew anything about the Azure Rose, but an old gardener
(Cartaret was trying them all) gave him hope. He was a little Gascon,
that gardener, with white hair and blue eyes, and his long labor had
bent him forward, as if the earth in which he worked had one day laid
hold of his shoulders and never since let go.

"I had a brother once who was a _fainéant_ and so a great traveler.
He spoke of such a rose," the Gascon nodded; "but I cannot remember
what it was that he told me."

"Here are five francs to help you remember," said Cartaret.

The old man took the money and thanked him.

"But I cannot remember what my brother told me," he said, "except that
the rose was found nowhere but in the Basque provinces of Spain." ...

A half-hour later Cartaret had bought his traveling-kit, which
included a forty-five caliber automatic revolver. Forty minutes later
he had paid Refrogné ten months' rent in advance, together with a
twenty-five franc tip, and directed that his room be held against his
return. An hour later he was sheepishly handing Seraphin a bulky
package, evidently containing certain canvases, and saying to him:

"These are something I wouldn't leave about and couldn't bring myself
to store, and you're--well, I think you'll understand."

At twelve o'clock that night, from an opened window in his compartment
of a sleeping-car on a southward-speeding _train de luxe_, Cartaret
was looking up at the yellow stars somewhere about Tours.

"Good-night, Vitoria!" he was whispering. "Good-night, and--God keep
you!"

He was a very practical man.



CHAPTER XIII

FURTHER ADVENTURES OF AN AMATEUR BOTANIST

    The happiness of the good old times is a mere dream in every
    age; but to keep on the laws of the old times, in preserving
    to reform, in reforming to preserve, is the true life of a
    free people.--Freeman: _The Norman Conquest_.


"Vitoria," explained the guard, whom Cartaret inveigled into
conversation next morning, "is the capital of the province of Alava."

"Eh?" said Cartaret. "Then there's more than one Vitoria, my friend.
If I'd only studied geography when I was at school, it might have
saved me a week now."

He tried to make talk with a hatless Englishman in tweeds, who was
smoking a briar-pipe in the corridor.

"Vitoria," said the Englishman, "is one of the places where Wellington
beat the French under Joseph Buonaparte and Jourdan, in the
Peninsular War."

"Didn't the Spanish help?" asked Cartaret.

"They thought they did," said the Englishman.

Cartaret had had small time in Paris to learn anything about the
strange people and the strange country for which he was bound; but,
had he had weeks for study, he would have learned little more.
Centuries had availed almost nothing to the scholars that sought to
explain them. The origin of their race and language still unknown, the
Basques, proud and wild, free and self-sufficient, have held to
themselves their sea and mountain-fortresses from the dawn of recorded
history. The successive tides of the Suavi, the Franks and the Goths
have swept through those rugged valleys, and left the Basque unmixed
and untainted. From the days of the Roman legions to those of the
Napoleonic armies, he has withstood the onslaughts of every conqueror
of Western Europe, unconquered and unchanged. The rivers of his
legends draw direct from the source of all legends; the boundary of
his customs is as unalterable as the foundation of his Pyrenees. The
engines of imperial slaughter, the steady blows of progress, the
erosion of time itself, have left him as they found him: the serene
despair of the philologist, the Sphynx of ethnology, the riddle of the
races of mankind.

Cartaret picked up the scanty threads of the Basques' known chronicle.
He learned that these Celtiberi had preserved an independence which
outlasted the Western Empire, gave no more than a nominal allegiance
to Leovigild, to Wamba and to Charlemagne, cast their fortunes with
the Moors at Roncesvalles and, in the eleventh century, formed a free
confederation of three separate republics under a ruler of their own
blood and choice, whose tenure was dependent upon constitutional
guarantees and whose power was wholly executive. Even the yoke of
Spain, hated as it was, had failed materially to affect this form of
government and could be justly regarded as little save a name. The
three provinces--the Vascongadas as they were called: the sea-coast
Viscaza and Guipuzcoa and the inland Alava--retained their ancient
identity. Somewhere among their swift rivers and well-nigh
inaccessible mountains must be the house of her whom he sought.
Because of the name that she had given him, Cartaret headed now for
Vitoria.

Twice he had to change his train, each time for a worse. From Bayonne
he crossed the Spanish border at Hendaya, whence the railway, after
running west along the rocky coast of the Bay of Biscay, turned
southward toward the heights about Tolosa. All afternoon the scenery
was varied and romantic. The hard-clay soil, cultivated with painful
care by young giants and graceful amazons, gave place to pine-forests,
to tree-cloaked hills, to mountains dark with mystery.

Twilight fell, then night. Cartaret could now see nothing of the
landscape through which he was jolted, but, from the puffing of the
engine, the slow advance, the frightful swinging about curves, it was
clear to him that he was being hauled, in a series of half-circles,
up long and steep ascents.

"What station is this?" he asked a French-speaking guard that passed
his window at a stop where the air was cool and sweet with the odor of
pine. The lantern showed only a good-natured face in a world of
darkness.

"Ormaiztegua, monsieur," said the guard.

"What?" said Cartaret. "Say it slow, please, and say it plainly: I am
a stranger and of tender years."

The guard repeated that outlandish name.

"And now which way do we go?" Cartaret inquired.

"North again to Zumarraga."

"North again?" repeated Cartaret. "Look here: I'm in a hurry. Isn't
there any more direct route to Vitoria?"

"Evidently monsieur does not know the Pyrenees."

From Zumarraga, the train bent yet again southward, out of Guipuzcoa
across the Navarra line.

"Aren't we late?" asked Cartaret.

"But a little," the guard reassured him: "scarcely two hours."

At last, when they had climbed that precipitous spur of the Pyrenees
which forms the northern wall of Alava; after they had stopped once to
harness an extra locomotive, and stopped again to unharness it; after
they had descended again, ascended again and once more descended--this
last time for what seemed but a little way--the train came to the end
of this stage of Cartaret's journey. He alighted on a smoky platform
only partially illuminated by more smoky lamps and had himself driven
to the hotel that the first accessible cabby recommended.

Vitoria is a curious city of nearly 150,000 inhabitants, situated on a
hill overlooking the Plain of Alava. Cartaret, waking with the sun,
could see from his window the Campillo, the oldest portion of the
town, crowning the hill-crest, an almost deserted jumble of ruined
walls and ancient towers, surrounded by public-gardens and topped by
the twelfth-century Cathedral of St. Mary, the effect of its Gothic
arches sadly lessened by ugly modern additions to the pile. Below,
the Vitoria Antigua clung to the hillside, a maze of narrow, twisting
streets; and still lower lay the new town, a place of wide
thoroughfares and shady walks, among which was Cartaret's hotel.

He breakfasted early and, having no leisure for sight-seeing, asked
his way to the city's administrative-offices. He passed rows of
hardware-factories, wine and wool warehouses, paper-mills and
tanneries, wide yards in which rows of earthenware lay drying, and
plazas where the horse and mule trade flourished, and so came at last
to the arcaded market-place opposite which was the building that he
was in search of; the offices were not yet open for the day.

He sat down to wait at a table under an awning and before a café that
faced the market. The market was full of country-folk, men and women,
all of great height and splendid physique, and Cartaret saw at once
that the latter wore the same sort of peculiar head-dress that, in
Paris, had distinguished Chitta.

A loquacious waiter, wholly unintelligible, was accosting him.
Cartaret, guessing that he was expected to pay for his chair with an
order for drink, made signs to fit that conjecture, and the waiter
brought him a flask of the native _chacoli_. It was a poor wine, and
Cartaret did not care for it, but he sat on, pretending to, watching
the white municipal building and looking, from time to time, at the
farmers from the market who passed into the café and out of it.

He half expected to see Chitta among their womenfolk: Chitta, of whom
he would so lately have said that he never wanted to see her again!
The farmers all gravely bowed to him, and Cartaret, of course, bowed
in return. Finally it occurred to him that he might get news from one
of them and so, one by one, he would stop them with an inquiry as to
whether they spoke French. A dozen failures were convincing him of his
folly, when their result was ruined by the appearance of a
rosy-cheeked young man in a wide hat and swathed legs, who appeared to
be more prosperous than his neighbors and who replied to Cartaret in
a French that the American could understand.

"Then do sit down and have a drink with me," urged Cartaret. "I'm a
stranger here and I'd be greatly obliged to you if you would."

The young man agreed. He explained complacently that the folk of
Alava, though invariably hospitable, generally distrusted strangers,
but that he had had advantages, having been sent to the Jesuit school
in St. Jean Pied-de-Port. He was the one chance in a thousand: he knew
something of what Cartaret wanted to learn.

Had he ever heard of a rose, a white rose, called the Azure Rose?

Had he not heard! It was one of the foolish superstitions of the folk
of Northern Alava, that rose. His own mother, being from the
North--God rest her soul--had not been exempt: when he was sent into
France to school, she had pinned an Azure Rose against his heart in
order to insure his return home.

"Then it grows in the North?"

"For the most part, yes, monsieur, and even there it is something
rare: that, without doubt, is why it is esteemed so dearly by the
common folk. It grows only near the snows, the high snows. There are
but few white peaks there, and on them a few such roses. The country
beyond Alegria is the place of all places for them. If monsieur wants
to find the Azure Rose, he should go to the wild country beyond
Alegria."

"Do you know that country?" asked Cartaret.

The young man shrugged. He ought to know it: he had been brought up
there. But it was no place for strangers; it was very wild.

"I wonder," said Cartaret, hope shining in his brown eyes--"I wonder
if you ever heard of a family there by the name of Urola?"

The farmer shook his head. Urola? No, he had never heard of Urola. But
stay: there was the great family, the Ethenard-Eskurola d'Alegria.
Eskurola was somewhat like Urola; indeed, Urola was part of Eskurola.
Perhaps, monsieur----

Cartaret was leaning far over the table.

"Is there," he asked, "a young lady in that family named Vitoria?"

The farmer reflected.

"There was one daughter," he said; "a little girl when I was a lad.
She was the Lady Dolorez. She had, however, many names: people of
great houses among us have many names, monsieur, and Vitoria is not
uncommonly among them. Vitoria? Yes, I think she was also called
Vitoria."

"Did she speak English?"

"It was likely, monsieur." Nearly all of the Ethenard-Eskurolas spoke
English, because one of their so numerous ancestors was the great Don
Miguel Ricardo d'Alava, general under the Duke of Wellington, who
valued him above all his generals in that Spanish campaign. Since then
there had always been English teachers for the children of the house.
So much was common knowledge.

It was enough for Cartaret. Within the hour he was summoning the
proprietor of his hotel to his assistance in arranging for an
expedition to Alegria.

The hotel proprietor stroked a beard so bristling as to threaten his
caressing fingers.

"It is a wild country," he remarked.

"That's what they all say," returned Cartaret. "When does the next
train leave for it?"

"There is no train. Alegria is a little town in the high Cantabrian
Mountains, far from any train."

"Then come along downtown and help me buy a horse," said Cartaret. "I
saw a lot of likely-looking ones this morning."

"But, monsieur," expostulated the hotel proprietor, "nobody between
here and Alegria speaks French. Nobody in Alegria speaks French--and
you do not speak _Eskura_."

"What's that?"

"It is how we Basques name our own tongue."

"Well, I don't care. Get me a guide."

"I fear I cannot, monsieur. The country people do not want Alava to
become the prey of tourists, and they will be slow to allow a
stranger."

"Have you got a road-map?"

Yes, the proprietor had a road-map--of sorts. It looked faulty, and
Cartaret found later that it was more faulty than it looked; but he
resolved to make it do, and that afternoon found him in the saddle of
a lean and hardy mare, ten miles on his way. He had brought with him a
pair of English riding-breeches and leggings--purchased in Paris for
no other reason than that he had the money and used to love to
ride--his reduced equipment was in saddle-bags, and the road-map in
his handiest pocket.

He put up at a little inn that night and rode hard, east by south, all
the next day. He rode through fertile valleys where the fields were
already yellow with wheat and barley. He came upon patches of Indian
corn that made him think of the country about his own Ohio home, and
upon flax-fields and fields of hemp. His way lay steadily upward, and
in the hills he met with iron-banks and some lead and copper mines.
Queerly costumed peasants herded sheep and goats along the roadside;
but nobody that Cartaret addressed could understand a word of his
speech. The road-map was bad, indeed: twice he lost his way by
consulting it and once, he thought, by failing to consult it. A road
that the map informed him would lead straight to Alegria ended in a
marble-quarry.

Cartaret accosted the only workman in sight.

"Alegria?" he asked.

The man pointed back the way that Cartaret had come.

He followed the direction thus indicated and took a turning that he
had missed before. He passed through a countryside of small plains.
Then he began to climb again and left these for stretches of bare
heath and hills covered with furze. From one hilltop he looked ahead
to a vast pile of mountains crowned by two white peaks that shone in
the sun like the lances of a celestial guard. The farms were less and
less in size and farther and farther apart--tiny farms cultivated with
antique implements. Apple-orchards appeared and disappeared, and then,
quite suddenly, the hills became mountains, their bases covered by
great forests of straight chestnut-trees, gigantic oaks and stately
bushes whose limbs met in a dark canopy above the rider's head. At
his approach, rabbits scurried, white tails erect, across the road;
from one rare clearing a flock of partridges whirred skyward, and
once, in the distance, he saw a grazing herd of wild deer.

Late in the afternoon, he came to a wide plateau, surrounded on three
sides with mountain-peaks. There was a lake in the center, with a few
cottages scattered along its shores, and at one end of the lake a
high-gabled, wide-eaved inn, in front of which a short man, dark and
wiry and unlike the people of that country, lounged in the sun. He
proved to be the innkeeper, a native of Navarre, and, to Cartaret's
delight, spoke French.

"Yes," he nodded, "I learned it years ago from a French servant that
they used to have at the castle in the old lord's time."

"I've come from Vitoria," Cartaret explained. "Can you tell me how far
it is to Alegria?"

"If you have come from Vitoria," was the suspicious answer, "you must
have taken the wrong road and come around Alegria. Alegria is a score
of miles behind you."

Cartaret swore softly at that road-map. He was tired and stiff,
however, and so he dismounted and let the landlord attend to his mare
and bring him, at the inn-porch, some black bread and cheese and a
small pitcher of _zaragua_, the native cider.

"These are a strange people here," he said as the landlord took a
chair opposite.

The landlord shook his swarthy head.

"I do not speak ill of them," said he. His tone implied that such a
course would be unwise. "They call themselves," he went on after a
ruminative pause, "the direct descendants of those Celtiberi whom the
old Romans could never conquer, and I can well believe it of them.
However, I know nothing: the lord at the castle knows."

"They don't like the Spaniards?" asked Cartaret.

"They hate us," said the innkeeper.

"Why?"

"I do not know. Perhaps because Spain rules them--so much as any
power could. But I know nothing: the lord at the castle knows."

"What's his name?"

The question fell thoughtlessly from the lips of the American, but he
had no sooner uttered it than he surmised its answer:

"The Don Ricardo Ethenard-Eskurola d'Alegria."

Cartaret produced a gold-piece and spun it on the rude table before
him.

"An important man, isn't he?"

The innkeeper was eyeing the money, but his reply was cautious:

"How--'important'?"

"Rich?"

"The old lord lost much when there was the great rising for Don
Carlos. But an Ethenard-Eskurola does not need riches."

"Then he's lucky. How does that happen?"

"Because his family is the most ancient and powerful in all the
Vascongadas. There is no family older in Spain, nor any prouder." It
was plainly one subject of which this alien was permitted to know
something. "They have been lords of this land since before the time
that men made chronicles. The papers in the castle go back to the
Fifteenth Century--to the time when _Eskura_ was first turned into an
alphabet. They were at Roncesvalles; they made pilgrimages to
Jerusalem and fought in the crusades. One of them was Lord-Lieutenant
of Jerusalem when Godfrey de Bouillon was its King. There was an
Ethenard-Eskurola at La Isla de los Faisanes when the French Louis XI
arranged there with our Henry the marriage of the Duc de Guienne.
Always they have been lords and over-lords--always."

"I see," said Cartaret. "And the present lord lives near here at the
castle?"

"As all his fathers lived before him. At their place and in their
manner. What they did, he does; what they believed, he believes.
Monsieur, even the ancient Basque traditions of hospitality are there
a law infringeable. Were you his bitterest blood-enemy and knocked at
the castle-gate for a night's shelter, he himself, Ricardo d'Alegria,
would greet you and wait upon you, and keep you safe until morning."

"And then shoot my head off?" suggested Cartaret.

The innkeeper smiled: "I know nothing; but the lord at the castle
knows."

"I suppose he hasn't a drop of any blood but Basque blood in him?"

"Monsieur, there is but one way in which a foreigner may marry even
the humblest Basque, and that is by some act that saves the Basque's
entire line. Thus even the humblest. As for the grandee at the castle,
if I so much as asked him that question, so proud is he of his
nationality and family that likely he would kill me."

"He must be a pleasant neighbor," said the American. "He lives alone?"

"With his servants. He has, of course, many servants."

"He is not married?"

Still eyeing the gold-piece, the landlord answered:

"No. There was something, once, long ago, that men say--but I know
nothing. The Don Ricardo is the last of his house. Unless he marries,
the Eskurolas will cease. However, he will marry."

"You seem certain of it."

"Naturally, monsieur. He will marry in order that the Eskurolas do not
cease."

"Yes-s-s." Cartaret hesitated before his next question. "So he's alone
up there? I mean--I mean there's no other member of his family with
him now?"

Instantly the innkeeper's face became blank.

"I know nothing----" he began.

"But the lord at the castle knows!" interrupted Cartaret. "I said it
first that time. The lord at the castle must know everything."

"He does," said the landlord simply.

Cartaret rose. He pushed the gold-piece across the table.

"That sentiment earns it," said he. "Bring my mare, please. And you
might point out the way to this castle. I've a mind to run up there."

The innkeeper looked at him oddly, but, when the mare had been
brought around, pointed a lean brown finger across the lake toward the
mountains that ended in twin white peaks: the peaks that Cartaret had
seen a few hours since and that now seemed to him to be the crests of
which he had dreamed when first he saw the Azure Rose.

"The road leads from the head of the lake, monsieur," said the
innkeeper: "you cannot lose your way."

Cartaret followed the instructions thus conveyed. After three miles'
riding, a curved ascent had shut the lake and the cottages from view,
had shut from view every trace of human habitation. He rode among
scenery that, save for the grassy bridle-path, was as wild as if it
had never before been known of man.

It was a ravishing country, a fairy-country of blue skies and fleecy
clouds; of acicular summits and sharp-edged crags; of mist-hung
valleys shimmering in the sun; of black chasms dizzily bridged by
scarlet-flowered vines. The road ran along the edges of precipices
and wreathed the gray outcropping rock; thick ropes of honeysuckle
festooned the limbs of ancient trees and perfumed all the air. Here a
blue cliff hid its distant face behind a bridal-veil of descending
spray, broken by a dozen rainbows; there, down the terrifying depths
of a vertical wall, roared a white and mighty cataract. The traveler's
ears began to listen for the song of the hamadryad from the branches
of the oak; his eyes to seek the flashing limbs of a frightened nymph;
here if anywhere the gods of the elder-revelation still held sway.

Evening, which comes so suddenly in the Cantabrians, was falling
before the luxuriant verdure lessened and he came to a break in the
forest. Below him, billow upon billow, the foothills fell away in
rolling waves of green. Above, the jagged circle of the horizon was a
line of salient summits and tapering spires of every tint of
blue--turquoise, indigo, mauve--mounting up and up like the seats in a
Titanic amphitheater, to the royal purple of the sky.

Cartaret had turned in his saddle to look at the magnificent
panorama. Now, turning forward, he saw, rising ahead of him--ten miles
or more ahead, but so gigantic as to seem bending directly above him
and tottering to crush him and the world at his feet--one of the peaks
that the innkeeper had indicated. It was a mountain piled upon the
mountains, a sheer mountain of naked chalcedonous rock, rising to a
snow-topped pinnacle; and, at its foot, almost at the extreme edge of
the timber-line, a broad, muricated natural gallery, stood a vast
Gothic pile, a somber, rambling mass of wall and tower: the castle of
the Eskurolas.

Almost as Cartaret looked, the sun went down behind that peak and
wrapped the way in utter darkness. The traveler regarded with
something like dismay the last faint glow that vanished from the west.

"So sorry you had to go," he said, addressing the departed lord of
day. He tried to look about him. "A nice fix I'm in," he added.

He attempted to ride on in the dark, but, remembering the precipices,
dared not touch rein. He thought of trusting to the instinct of the
mare, but that soon failed him: the animal came to a full stop. The
stillness grew profound, the night impenetrable.

Then, suddenly, there was a wild cacophony from the forest on his
left. It shook the air and set the echoes clanging from cliff to
cavern. The mare reared and snorted. Lights danced among the trees;
the lights became leaping flames; the noise was identifiable as the
clatter of dogs and the shouts of men. Cartaret subdued his mare just
as a torch-bearing party of picturesquely-garbed hunters plunged into
the road directly in front of him and came, at sight of him, to a
stand.

In the flickering light from a trio of burning pine-knots, the sight
was enough strange. There were six men in all: three of them, in
peasant costume, bearing aloft the torches, and two more, similarly
dressed, holding leashes at which huge boar-hounds tugged. A pair of
torch-bearers carried a large bough from the shoulder of one to the
shoulder of the other, and suspended feet upward from this
bough--bending with the weight--was a great, gray-black boar, its
woolly hair red with blood, the coarse bristles standing erect like a
comb along its spine, its two enormous tusks prism-shaped and shining
like prisms in the light from the pine-knots.

A deep bass voice issued a challenge in _Eskura_. It came from the
sixth member of the party, unmistakably in command.

He was one of the biggest men Cartaret had ever seen. He must have
stood six-feet-six in his boots and was proportionately broad,
deep-chested and long-armed. In one hand he held an old-fashioned
boar-spear--its blade was red--as a sportsman that scorns the safety
of a boar-hunt with a modern rifle.

The torchlight, flickering over his tanned and bearded face, showed
features handsome and aquiline, fashioned with a severe nobility.
Instead of a hat, a scarf of red silk was wrapped about his black
curls and knotted at one side. His eyes, under eagle-brows, were
fierce and gray. Cartaret instinctively recalled his early ideas of a
dark Wotan in the _Nibelungen-Lied_.

The American dismounted. He said, in English:

"You are the Don Ricardo Ethenard-Eskurola?"

He had guessed rightly: the big man bowed assent.

"I'm an American," explained Cartaret. "The innkeeper down in the
valley told me your castle was near here, so I thought that this was
you. I'm rather caught here by the darkness. I wonder if----" He noted
Eskurola's eye and did not like it. "I wonder if there's another
inn--one somewhere near here."

The Basque frowned. For a moment he said nothing. When he did speak it
was in the slow, but precise, English that Cartaret had first heard
from the lips of the Lady of the Rose.

"You, sir, are upon my land----"

"I'm very sorry," said Cartaret.

"And," continued Don Ricardo, "I could not permit to go to a mere inn
any gentleman whom darkness has overtaken upon the land of the
Eskurolas. It is true: on my land merely, you are not my guest;
according to our customs, I am permitted to fight a duel, if need
arises, with a gentleman that is on my land." He smiled: he had, in
the torchlight, a fearsome smile. "But on my land, you are in the way
of becoming my guest. Will you be so good as to accompany me to my
poor house and accept such entertainment as my best can give you?"

Cartaret accepted, and, in the act, thought the acceptance too ready.

"Pray remount," urged Eskurola.

But Cartaret said that he would walk with his host, and so the still
trembling mare was given to an unencumbered torch-bearer to lead, and,
by the light of the pine-knots, the party began its ten-mile climb.

The night air, at that altitude, was keen even in Summer, and the way
was dark. The American had an uneasy sense that he was often toiling
along the edges of invisible abysses, and once or twice, from the
forest, he heard the scurry of a fox and saw the green eyes of a lynx.
He tried to make conversation and, to his surprise, found himself
courteously met more than half way.

"I know very little of this part of Spain," he said: "nothing, in
fact, except what I've learned in the past few days and what the
innkeeper down there told me."

"We Basques do not call this a part of Spain," Eskurola corrected him
in a voice patently striving to be gentle; "and the innkeeper knows
little. He is but a poor thing from Navarre."

"Yes," Cartaret agreed; "the staple of his talk was the statement that
he knew nothing at all."

Eskurola smiled.

"That is the truth," said he.

He went on to speak freely enough of his own people. He explained
something of their almost Mongolian language: its genderless nouns;
its countless diminutives; its endless compounds formed by mere
juxtaposition and elision; its staggering array of affixes to supply
all ordinary grammatical distinctions, doing away with our need of
periphrasis and making the ending of a word determine its number and
person and mood, the case and number of the object, and even the
rank, sex and number of the persons addressed.

He talked with a modesty so formed as really to show his high pride in
everything that was Basque. When Cartaret pressed him, he told, with
only a pretense of doubt in his voice, how the Celtiberi considered
themselves descendants of the ocean-engulfed Atalantes, and former
owners of all the Spanish peninsula. Even now, he insisted, they were
the sole power over themselves from the bold coast-line of Vizcaya to
the borders of Navarre and had so been long before Sancho the Wise was
forced to grant them a _fuero_. They had always named their own
governors and fixed their own taxes by republican methods. The sign of
the Vascongadas, the three interlaced hands with the motto
_Iruracacabat_, signified three-in-one, because delegates from their
three parliaments met each year to care for the common interests of
all; but there was no written pact between them: the Basques were
people of honor.

Spain? Don Ricardo disliked its mention. St. Mary of Salvaterra! The
Basque parliaments named a deputation that negotiated with
representatives of the Escorial and preserved Basque liberties and
law. If Madrid called that sovereignty, it was welcome to the term.

"We remain untouched by Spain," he said, "and untouched by the world.
Our legends are still Grecian, our customs are what the English call
'iron-clad.' Basque blood is Basque and so remains. It never mixes. It
could mix in only one contingency."

Cartaret was glad that the darkness hid his flushed cheek as he
answered:

"I have recently heard of that contingency."

"It never occurs," said Eskurola quickly, "because the Basque always
chooses not to permit himself to be saved. It is a traditional law
among us as strong as that against the disgrace of suicide."

Their feet were sounding over a bridge: the bridge, as Cartaret
reflected, to the castle's moat. Through the light of the torches, the
great gray walls of the pile climbed above him and disappeared into
the night. A studded door, with mighty heaving of bolts, swung open
before them, and they passed through into a vaulted gateway. The
pine-knots cast dancing shadows on the stones.

Into what medieval world was he being admitted? Did Vitoria indeed
inhabit it? And if she did, what difficulties and dangers must he
overcome before ever he could take her thence?

Don Ricardo was speaking.

"I welcome you to my poor home," he said.

Cartaret's heart beat high. He was ready for any difficulty, for any
danger....

With a solemn boom the great gate swung shut behind him. He felt that
it had shut out the Twentieth Century.



CHAPTER XIV

SOMETHING OR OTHER ABOUT TRADITIONS

    ... Since we must part, down right
    With happy day; burdens well borne are light.
                    --Donne: _Eleg. XIII_.


Cartaret was lighted by his host himself to a bedroom high up in the
castle and deep within it--a bedroom big enough and dreary enough to
hold all the ghosts of Spain. An old man-servant brought him a supper
calculated to stay the hunger of a shipwrecked merchant-crew. He lay
down in a great four-poster bed both canopied and curtained, and, in
spite of his weariness, he tossed for hours, wondering whether Vitoria
was also somewhere within those grim walls and what course he was to
pursue in regard to her.

The same uncertainty gripped him when breakfast was brought to his
bedside in the early morning. Was this, after all, Vitoria's home; and
if it was, had she returned to it? Supposing an affirmative answer to
these questions, what was he to say to her brother? So far, thank
Heaven, Don Ricardo, though he had once or twice looked queerly at the
American, had been too polite to make awkward inquiries, but such
inquiries were so natural that they were bound soon to be made; and
Cartaret could not remain forever an unexplained and self-invited
guest in the castle of his almost involuntary host. The guest recalled
all that he had heard of the national and family pride and traditions
of the Eskurolas, and only his native hopefulness sustained him.

He found his own way down twisting stairs and into a vast court-yard
across which servants were passing. The great gate was open, and he
stepped through it toward the battlemented terrace that he saw beyond.

His first shock was there. The bridge that he had crossed the night
before was indeed a drawbridge and did indeed span the castle-moat,
but the bridge was unrailed and that moat was a terrible thing. It was
no pit of twenty or thirty feet dug by the hand of man. The terrace
to which the castle clung was separated from that to which climbed the
steep approach by a natural chasm of at least twelve yards across,
with sheer sides, like those of a glacial crevasse, shooting downwards
into black invisibility and echoing upward the thunderous rush of
unseen waters.

Leaning on the weather-worn wall that climbed along the edge of this
precipice and guarded a broad promenade between it and the castle,
Cartaret looked with a new sensation at the marvelous scene about him.
Behind rose the frowning castle, a maze of parapets and towers, built
against that naked, snow-capped, chalcedonous peak. In front, falling
away through a hundred gradations of green, a riot of luxuriant
vegetation, lay the now apparently uninhabited country through which
he had ridden, and beyond this, circling it like the teeth of the
celestial dragon that the Chinese believe is to swallow the sun, rose
row on row of bare mountains, ridges and pinnacles blue and gray.

A hand fell on Cartaret's shoulder. He turned to find Don Ricardo
standing beside him. The giant gave every appearance of having been up
and about for hours, and, despite his bulk, he had approached his
guest unheard.

"I trust that you, sir, have slept well in my poor house."

Cartaret replied that he had slept like a top.

"And that you could eat of the little breakfast which my servants
provided?"

"I made a wonderful breakfast," said Cartaret.

"It is good, sir. If you can bear with my house, it is yours for so
long as you care to honor it with your presence."

Cartaret knew that this must be only an exaggerated fashion of speech,
but he chose to take it literally.

"That's very good of you," he said. "I haven't ridden for years and
I'm rather done up. If you really don't mind, I think I will rest here
over another night."

Don Ricardo seemed unprepared for this, but he checked a frown and
bowed gravely.

"A year would be too short for me," he vowed.

They fell to talking, the host now trying to turn the conversation
into the valley, the guest holding it fast to the castle-heights.

"It is a beautiful place," said Cartaret; "I don't know when I've seen
anything to compare with it; and yet I should think you'd find it
rather lonely."

"Not lonely, sir," said the Basque. "The hunting in the valley is a
compensation. For example, where you see those oaks about the curve of
that river, I hunted, not ten days ago, a wolf as large as those for
which my ancestors paid the wolf-money."

"Still," Cartaret persisted, "you do live here quite alone, don't
you?"

He knew that he was impudent, and he felt that only his host's
reverence for the laws of hospitality prevented an open resentment.
Nevertheless, Cartaret was bound to find out what he could, and this
time he was rewarded.

"There is good enough to live with me," said Don Ricardo stiffly, "my
lady sister, the Doña Dolorez Eulalia Vitoria." He looked out across
the chasm.

Cartaret caught his breath. There was an awkward pause. Then, glancing
up, he saw, coming toward them along the terrace, the figure of a
woman-servant that seemed startlingly familiar.

It was Chitta. She was bent, no doubt, on some household errand to her
master, whose face was luckily turned away--luckily because, when she
caught sight of Cartaret, her jaw dropped and her knees gave under
her.

Cartaret had just time to knit his brows with the most forbidding
scowl he could assume. The old woman clasped her hands in what was
plainly a prayer to him to be silent concerning all knowledge of her
and her mistress. A moment more, and Don Ricardo was giving her orders
in the Basque tongue.

"Our servants," he said apologetically when she had gone, "are
faithful, but stupid." His gray eyes peered at Cartaret searchingly.
"Very stupid, sir," he added. "For instance, you, sir, know something
of our customs; you know that centuries-old tradition--the best of
laws--makes it the worst of social crimes for a Basque to marry any
save a Basque----"

He stopped short, holding Cartaret with his eyes. Cartaret nodded.

"Very well, sir," Ricardo continued: "one time a lady of our house--it
was years upon years ago, when Wellington and the English were
here--fell in love, or thought that she did, with a British officer.
For an Englishman, his degree was high, but had he been the English
King it would have served him nothing among us. Knowing of course that
the head of our house would never consent to such a marriage, this
lady commanded her most loyal servant to assist in an elopement. Now,
the Basque servant must obey her mistress, but also the Basque servant
must protect the honor of the house that she has the privilege to
serve. This one sought to do both things. She assisted in the
elopement and brought the lady to the English camp. Then, thus having
been faithful to one duty, she was faithful to the other: before the
wedding, she killed both her mistress and herself." He turned
quickly. "Sir, I have pressing duties in the valley, and you are too
weary to ride with me: my poor house is at your disposal."

Cartaret leaned against the parapet and, when his host was out of
earshot, whistled softly.

"What a delightful _raconteur_," he mused. "I wonder if he meant me to
draw any special moral from that bit of family-history."

He waited until, a quarter of an hour later, he saw Don Ricardo and
two servants ride across the drawbridge and wind their way toward the
valley. He waited until the green forest engulfed them. What he was
going to do might be questionable conduct in a guest, but there was no
time to waste over nice points of etiquette. He was going to find
Vitoria.

He started for the court-yard. His plan was to accost the first
servant that he encountered and mention Chitta's name, but this
trouble was saved him. In the shadowy gateway, he found Chitta
crouching.

She glanced to right and left, saw that they were unobserved, passed
beyond a narrow door that opened into the gate, and led Cartaret up a
spiral stone staircase to the entrance of a circular room in one of
the twin gate-towers. There she turned and left him alone with
Vitoria.

In the center of that bare room, standing beside one of the bowmen's
windows that commanded the approach to the castle, the Lady of the
Rose awaited him. For an instant, he scarcely recognized her. She was
gowned in a single-piece Basque dress of embroidered silk, closely
fitted about her full lithe figure to below the hips, the skirt
widening and hanging loosely about her slim ankles. A black silk
scarf, in sharp contrast to the embroidery, was sewn to the dress and
drawn tightly over the right shoulder, across the bust, and then
draped beneath the left hip. But the glory of her blue-black hair was
as he had first seen it in the twilight of his far-off studio; the
creamy whiteness of her cheeks was just touched with pink, and her
blue eyes, under curling lashes, seemed at first the frank eyes that
he loved.

"Vitoria!" he cried.

She drew back. She raised one hand, its pink palm toward him.

"You should not have done this," she said in a rapid whisper. "How did
you find me? How did you come here?" Her voice was kind, but steady.

Cartaret stood still. This he had not looked for. His cheeks were
flushed, and the lines about his mouth deepened, as they always did at
moments of crisis, and made his face very firm.

"Does it matter how?" he asked. "Not all the width of the world could
have kept me away. There's something I've got to know and know
instantly."

"But you should not have come, and you must go immediately!
Listen--no, listen to me now! I am not Vitoria Urola in these
mountains; whether I want it or not, I have to be the Doña Dolorez
Ethenard-Eskurola. That would perhaps sound amusing in the rue du Val
de Grâce; here it is a serious matter: the most serious matter in this
little mountain-world. You will have to listen to me."

Cartaret folded his arms.

"Go on," he said.

"Last Winter," she continued, her face challenging his, "I had a time
of rebellion against all these things amongst which I had been brought
up. I had never been farther away from this place than Alegria, but I
had had French and English governesses, and I read books and dreamed
dreams. I loved to paint; I thought that I could learn to be a real
artist, but I knew that my brother would think that a shame in an
Eskurola and would never permit his unmarried sister to go to a
foreign city to study. Nevertheless, I was hungry for the great world
outside--for the real world--and so I took poor Chitta, gathered what
jewels were my own and not family-jewels, and ran away."

She looked from the window to the road that led into the valley; but
the road was still deserted.

"Chitta sold the jewels," she presently went on. "They brought very
little; but to me, who had never used money, it seemed much. We went
to Paris: I and Chitta, who, because she had often been so far as
Vitoria before, became as much my guardian as she was my servant--and
I was long afraid to go but a little distance in the streets without
her: the streets terrified me, and, after one fright, she made me
promise to go nowhere without her. So we took the room that you know
of. We were used to regarding my brother as all-powerful; we feared
that he would find us. Therefore, we would let no one know who we were
or whence we came. Now that is over." Her voice trembled a little. She
made a hopeless gesture. "It is all over, and we have come back to our
own people." She raised her head proudly; she had regained her
self-control: to Cartaret, she seemed to have regained an ancient
pride. "I have learned that I must be what I was born to be."

He squared his jaw.

"A slave to your brother's will," he said.

"A creature," she answered with steady gaze--"a creature of the will
of God."

"But this is nonsense!" He came forward. "This sort of thing may have
been all very well in the Fourteenth Century; but we're living in the
Twentieth, and it doesn't go now. Oh,"--he flung out a hand--"I know
all about your old laws and traditions! I dare say they're extremely
quaint and all that, and I dare say there was a time when they had
some reason in them; but that time isn't this time, and I refuse to
hear any more about them. I won't let them interfere with me."

She flashed crimson.

"You speak for yourself, sir: permit me to speak for myself."

His answer was to seize her hands.

"Let me go!" she ordered.

"I'll never let you go," said he.

"Let me go. You are a brave man to restrain a woman! Shall I call a
servant?"

She struggled fiercely, panting.

"I've got to make you understand me," he protested, holding fast her
hands. "I didn't mean any harm to your traditions or your customs.
Whatever you love I'll try to love too--just so long as it doesn't
hurt you. But _this_ does hurt you. Tell me one thing: Why did you
leave Paris? What was it made you change your mind?" He saw in her
face the signs of an effort to disregard the demand. "Tell me why you
left Paris," he repeated.

Her eyes wavered. The lids fluttered.

"That night," she began in an uneven tone, "I gave you to understand,
that night----"

"You gave me to understand that you loved me."

He said it fearlessly, and, on the edge of a sob, she fearlessly
answered him. She had ceased to struggle. Her hands lay still and cold
in his.

"I told you that love had brought me a sword."

"You've changed. What has changed you?"

"I have not changed. I have only come back to these unchangeable
mountains, to this unchanging castle, to the ancient laws and customs
of my people--their ancient and unalterable laws. I had to come back
to them," she said, "because I realized that it was not in me to be
false to all that my fathers have for centuries been true to."

Cartaret leaned forward. He could not believe that this was her only
reason; he could not understand that the sway of any custom can be so
powerful. He held her hands tighter. His eyes searched her quailing
eyes.

"Do you love me? That's all I want to know, and I'll attend to
everything else. I've no time for sparring. I've got to know if you
love me. I've got to know that, right here and now."

She shook her head.

"Don't!" she whispered.

"Do you love me?" he relentlessly persisted.

"To love in Paris is one thing: here I may not love."

"You may not--but _do_ you?"

"Don't. Please don't. Oh!"--her red lips parted, her breath came
fast--"if love were all----"

"It _is_ all!" he declared. He slipped both her cold hands into his
right hand and put his freed arm about her waist. "Vitoria," he
whispered, drawing her to him, "it _is_ all. It's all that matters,
all that counts. It can mock all custom and defy all law. I love you,
Vitoria." Slowly her eyes closed; slowly she sank against his arm;
slowly her head drooped backward, and slowly he bent toward its
parted, unresisting lips---- "And love's the one thing in the world
worth living and dying for."

At that word, she came to sudden life. With one wrench, she had darted
from his arms. Instantly she had recovered self-control.

"No, no, no!" she cried. "Go away! There is danger here. Oh, go away!"

The suddenness of her action shattered his delirium. He read in her
words only her reply to the question that he had put to her.

Impossible as it would have seemed a moment since, that negative meant
a catastrophic denial of any love for him. He glanced at the old walls
that surrounded them--at all the expressions of a remorseless self in
which he could have no part. He felt, with a sudden certainty, that
these things were of her, and she of them--that what she meant by her
distinction between herself in Paris and this other self here was the
vast difference between a Byzantine empress breaking plebeian hearts
in the alleys of her capital and that same woman on her throne,
passionless and raised above the reach of men's desires.

The most modest of young fellows is always a little vain, and his
vanity is always wounded; it is ever seeking hurts, anxious to suffer:
Cartaret was no exception to human rules. He told his heart that
Vitoria's words meant but one thing: She had entertained herself with
him during an incognito escapade and, now that the escapade was
finished, wanted no reminders. A Byzantine empress? This was worse:
the empress gave, if only to take away. What Vitoria must mean was
that even her momentary softening toward him on this spot was no more
than momentary. She was saying that, having had her amusement by
making him love her, she was now returned to her proper station, where
to love her was to insult her. He had been her plaything, and now she
was tired of it.

"Very well," he said, "if you think my love is worth so little. If you
can't brave one miserable medieval superstition for it, then I've got
the answer to what I asked you, and you're right: I'd better go." He
turned to the narrow door at the head of the spiral stairs. "I know,"
he said, as if to the stone walls about them, "that I'm not worth much
sacrifice; but my love has been worth a sacrifice. Some day you'll
understand what my love might have meant. Some day, when you're old,
you'll look from one of these windows out over these valleys and
mountains and think of what could have happened--what there was once,
just this one time, one chance for." He half faced her. "Other men
will love you, many of them. They'll love your happiness and grace and
beauty as well, I dare say, as I do and always will. But you'll
remember one man that loved your soul; you'll remember me----"

Vitoria was swaying dizzily. Her recaptured self-command visibly
wavered. She leaned against the rough wall. He leaped toward her, but
she had the strength left to warn him away.

"No, no, no!" she repeated. "I do not----" She raised her hands to the
vaulted roof. By a tremendous effort she became again mistress of
herself--and of him. "Why will you not understand? I do not love you.
Go!"

At that moment a cry rang out. It was a cry from the gateway. It was
the cry of Chitta, who came bounding into the narrow room and hurled
herself at her mistress's feet.

Before any one of the trio could speak, there was the clatter of a
galloping horse on the road, the thunder of hoofs over the drawbridge
above that frightful chasm.

"Go!" shrieked Vitoria. "Will you never go? Do you not understand what
this means? Do you not know who is coming here?"

Chitta set up a loud wail.

"I don't care who's coming here," said Cartaret. "If there's any
danger----"

Vitoria leaped over the prostrate servant and began pushing Cartaret
away.

"I hate you!" she cried. "Do you hear that? _I hate you!_ Now will you
go?"

He looked at her, and his face hardened.

"I'll go," he said.

He turned away.

"My brother!" gasped Vitoria.

Don Ricardo came in at the door of the tower-room.



CHAPTER XV

IN WHICH CARTARET TAKES PART IN THE REVIVAL OF AN ANCIENT CUSTOM

    La vieille humanité porte encore dans ses entrailles la
    brutalité primitive; un anthropoïde féroce survit en chacun
    de nous.--Opinions à Répandre.


For a moment none moved. There was Chitta, groveling on the stone
floor of the circular room, her face hidden in her hands; there was
Vitoria, her arms outstretched, struck rigid in the act of repulsing
Cartaret; and there were the two men--the American white, but
determined and unafraid; the Basque with a dull red spreading on his
tanned cheeks--facing each other as pugilists, entering the ring, face
each other at pause during the fleeting instant before they begin to
circle for an opening. Cartaret, with the eye that, in times of high
emotion, takes account of even trivial detail, noted how Don Ricardo,
who had been forced to stoop in order to pass the doorway, gradually
straightened himself with a slow, unconscious expansion of the muscles
such as a tiger might employ.

Vitoria was the first to speak: she lowered her arms and turned upon
her brother a glance of which the pride proved that her
self-possession was regained. She spoke in English, though whether for
Cartaret's comprehension, for the servant's mystification, or as an
added gibe at Ricardo, the American was unable to determine.

"You came unannounced, brother," she said. "I am not accustomed to
such entrances."

The red deepened over Don Ricardo's high cheek-bones, but he bit his
lip and seemed to bite down his rage.

"These are not your apartments, Doña Dolorez," he said, adopting, with
visible repugnance, the language she employed. "And I am the head of
your house." He bent his gray eyes on Cartaret. "Be so good as to come
with me, sir," he said. He stood aside from the door. "I follow after
my guest."

Cartaret's heart had place only for the last words that Vitoria had
said to him. He would not look at her again, and he cared little what
might happen to himself, so long as he could draw this irate brother
after him and away from the endangered women. Vitoria had said that
she hated him: well, he would do what he could to save her, and then
leave Alava forever. He passed through the door....

"He is my guest," he heard Don Ricardo saying. "An Eskurola remembers
the laws of hospitality."

Cartaret went on to the court-yard. There his host followed him.

"Will you come to my offices?" he asked.

He walked across to the north wing of the castle and into a large room
that looked upon the terrace. The ceiling was a mass of blackened
rafters; the walls, wainscoted in oak, were hung with ancient arms and
armor, with the antlers of deer and the stuffed heads of tusked boar,
and with some rags of long-faded tapestry. There was a yawning
fire-place at one end, between high bookshelves filled with
leather-bound folios, and, near one of the windows, stood an open
Seventeenth Century desk massed with dusty papers.

Eskurola waved his guest to a stiff-backed chair. Cartaret, seeing
that Don Ricardo intended to remain standing, merely stood beside it.

"Sir," began the Basque, "you have said that you are a stranger to our
country and its ways. It is my duty to enlighten you in regard to some
details."

He towered nearly half a foot above Cartaret. The nostrils of his
beaked nose quivered above his bristling beard, but he kept his voice
rigorously to the conversational pitch.

Cartaret, however, was in no mood to hear any more exposition of
Vascongada manners and customs. He had had enough of them.

"There's no need of that," he said. "If I've done anything I shouldn't
have done, I'm sorry. But I want you to understand that I'm to blame:
_I'm_ to blame--and nobody else."

Eskurola went on as if Cartaret had not spoken:

"It is not our custom to present to our ladies such casual strangers
as happen to ask shelter of us; nor is it the custom of our ladies to
permit such presentations, still less to seek them. Of that last fact,
I say but one word more: the Doña Dolorez has been lately from home,
and I fear that her contact with the outer world has temporarily
dulled the edge of her native sensitiveness."

"Look here," said Cartaret, his hands clenched, "if you mean to
imply----"

"Sir!" The Basque's eyes snapped. "I speak of my sister."

"All right then. But you'd better be told a few facts, too. Paris
isn't Alava. I met the Doña Dolorez in Paris. We were neighbors. What
could be more natural, then, than that, when I came here----"

"Ah-h-h!" Eskurola softly interrupted. In the meshes of his beard, his
red lips were smiling unpleasantly. "So that was it! How stupid of me
not to have guessed before, sir. I was sure that there had been in
Paris something beside Art."

Cartaret's impulse was to fly at the man's throat. His reason,
determined to protect the woman that cared no more for him, dictated
another course.

"I wanted," he said quietly, "to make your sister my wife."

The effect of this statement was twofold. At first a violent anger
shook the Basque, and the veins stood out in ridges along his neck and
at his temples, below the red cloth bound about his head. Then, as
quickly, the anger passed and was succeeded by a look reminiscent,
almost tender.

"You know that no alien can marry one of our people," he said. "You
know that now."

Cartaret thought again of Vitoria's parting word to him.

"I know it _now_," he said.

"You are my guest," Eskurola pursued. "I shall tell you something. You
have seen me only as what must seem to you a strange and hard
man--perhaps a fierce and cruel man. I am the head of my ancient
house; on me there depends not only its honor, but also its
continuance. Sir, I exact of my relatives no less than I have already
exacted of myself."

Cartaret looked at him in amazement. Could it be possible that there
had ever been in this medieval mind anything but ruthless pride of
race?

"Years ago--but not so many years ago as you, sir, might
suppose--there came to this house a young lady. She came here as a
governess for my sister, but she was a lady, a person of birth. Also,
she spoke your language." He paused, and then went on in a still
gentler voice. "Sir, because of her, your language, barbarous as it
is, has always been dear to me, and yet, still because of her, I have
ever since wanted not to speak it."

Cartaret looked at the floor. Even though this confession of a past
weakness was voluntary, it seemed somehow unfair to watch, during it,
the man whose pride was so strong.

"And you sent her away?" he found himself asking.

"She went when her work was finished. She went without knowing."

Cartaret raised his eyes. There was no false assumption in the man
upon whom they rested: it was impossible to believe that, seeing him
thus, a woman would not love him.

"I'll go," said Cartaret. Eskurola's words had assured him of
Vitoria's safety. "I'll go now."

"I would not drive you away. You have said that you would be my guest
for another night; you may remain as long as you care to remain."

"I'll go," Cartaret repeated. "It isn't you that's driving me. Will
you please send up to my room for my saddle-bags, and have my mare
brought around?"

Don Ricardo bowed. He went out.

Cartaret stood for some time on the spot where he had been standing
throughout the talk with his host. He was thinking of his ruined hopes
and of the woman that had ruined them. Once he asked himself what had
so changed her; but, when he could find no answer to that question, he
asked what the cause could matter, since the effect was so apparent.
He walked to a window. He could see that part of the terrace which lay
between the gate and the drawbridge, but he saw no sign of his mare.
What could Eskurola be doing? He seemed, whatever it was, to be a
long time about it.

The oaken door of the room opened and closed with a bang. Don Ricardo
stood before it. The dull red had returned to his cheeks.

"Sir," said he, "I have just been having another word with the Doña
Dolorez: she informs me that you have had the impertinence to tell her
that you love her."

Cartaret laughed bitterly. "In _my_ country," he said, "when a man
wants to marry a woman it is customary to say something of that kind."

"You are in Alava, sir, and you speak of a member of my family."

"I was in Paris then."

"But this morning--just now?" Eskurola came a step forward.

"I won't talk any more about it," said Cartaret. "Please have my mare
brought around at once."

"No," Eskurola replied: "you shall talk no more about it. Mr.
Cartaret, you must fight me."

The American could not believe his ears. He recollected that when the
Continental speaks of fighting he does not refer to mere pugilism.

"You're crazy," said Cartaret. "I don't want to fight you."

"So soon as you have passed that gate, you will be my guest no longer.
What, sir, you may then want will not matter. You will have to fight
me."

Cartaret sat down. He crossed his legs and looked up at his host.

"Is this your little way of persuading me to stay awhile?" he asked.

"You cannot go too soon to please me."

"Then perhaps you'll be good enough to tell me what it's all about."

Eskurola's giant figure bent forward. His eyes blazed down in
Cartaret's face.

"You came into this place, the place of my people, under false
pretenses. I made you welcome; you were my guest, sir. Yet you used
your opportunities to insult my sister."

Cartaret got slowly to his feet. He knew the probable consequences of
what he was about to say, but, never shifting his gaze from the
Basque's, he said it quietly:

"That's a lie."

Don Ricardo leaped backward. It was doubtless the first time in his
life that such a phrase had been addressed to him, and he received it
as he might have received a blow. Both in mind and body, he staggered.

"My sister has told me----" he began.

"I don't want to hear any more, señor. I've said all that I have to
say." Cartaret thrust his hands into the pockets of his riding-breeches
and, turning his back on Eskurola, looked out of the window.

"Now," the Basque was saying, as his mental balance reasserted
itself--"now we must indeed fight."

Cartaret himself was thinking rapidly and by no means clearly. To say
that dueling was not an American custom would avail him nothing--would
be interpreted as cowardice; to fight with a man bred as Don Ricardo
was evidently bred would be to walk out to death. Cartaret looked at
the panorama of the mountains. Well, why not death? Less than an hour
ago his whole life had been mined, had been sent crashing about his
head. The only thing that he cared for in life was taken from him:
Vitoria had herself declared that she hated him. Nor that alone--the
thought burned in his brain: she had told this wild brother of hers
that he, Cartaret, had insulted her; she had incited Eskurola to
battle--perhaps to save herself, perhaps to salve some strange Basque
conception of honor or pride. So be it; Cartaret could render her one
more service--the last: if he allowed himself to be killed by this
half-savage who so serenely thought that he was better than all the
rest of the world, Don Ricardo's wounded honor would be healed, and
Vitoria--now evidently herself in danger or revengeful--would be
either safe or pacified. The Twentieth Century had never entered these
mountains, and Cartaret, entering them, had left his own modernity
behind.

"All right," said he, "since you're so confounded hungry for it, I'll
fight you. Anything to oblige."

He looked about to find Eskurola bowing gratefully: the man's eyes
seemed to be selecting the spot on their enemy's body at which to
inflict the fatal wound.

"I am glad, sir, that you see reason," said Don Ricardo.

"I'm not sure that I see reason," said Cartaret, "but I'm going to
fight you."

"I do not suppose that you can use a rapier, Mr. Cartaret?"

It was clear that not to understand the rapier was to be not quite a
gentleman; but Cartaret made the confession. "Not that it matters," he
reflected.

"But you can shoot?"

Cartaret remembered the boyish days when he had taken prizes for his
marksmanship with a revolver. It was the one folly of his youth that
he had continued, and he found a certain satisfaction (so much did
Eskurola's pride impress him) in admitting this, albeit he did not
mean to use the accomplishment now.

"I carry this with me," said he, producing his automatic revolver.

Don Ricardo scarcely glanced at it.

"That is not the weapon for a marksman," he said. "Nevertheless, let
me see what you can do. None will be disturbed; these walls are
sound-proof." He took a gold coin, an alfonso, from his pocket and
flung it into the air. "Shoot!" he commanded.

Cartaret had expected nothing of the sort. He fired and missed. The
report roared through the room; the acrid taste of the powder filled
the air. Eskurola caught the descending coin in his hand. Cartaret saw
that his failure had annoyed Don Ricardo, and this in its turn annoyed
the American.

"I didn't know you were going to try me," he said, "and I'm not used
to marking up the ceilings of my friends' houses. Try again."

The Basque, without comment, flung up the alfonso a second time, and a
second time Cartaret fired. Eskurola reached for the coin as before,
but this time it flew off at an angle and struck the farther wall.
When they picked it up, they found that it had been hit close to the
edge of the disk.

"Not the center," said Don Ricardo.

"Indeed?" said Cartaret. What sort of shot would please the man?
"Suppose you try."

Eskurola explained that he was not accustomed to such a revolver, but
he would not shirk the challenge; and there was no need for him to
shirk it: when Cartaret recovered the alfonso after Don Ricardo had
shot, there was a mark full in its middle.

"So much for His Spanish Majesty," said the Basque, as he glanced at
the mark made by his bullet in the face upon the coin. "We shall use
dueling-pistols. I have them here." He went to the desk.

Cartaret had no doubt that Eskurola had them there: he probably had a
rack and thumbscrews handy below-stairs.

"We shall have to dispense with the formality of a surgeon," Don
Ricardo was saying.

"It doesn't look as if one would be needed," Cartaret smiled; "and it
doesn't look as if we were to have seconds, either."

The Basque turned sharply. "We are the only gentlemen within miles,
and we cannot have servants for witnesses. Moreover, an Eskurola needs
no seconds, either of his choosing to watch his safety, or of his
enemy's to suspect his honor."

He pressed a spring, released a secret drawer in the desk and found
what he was seeking: a box of polished mahogany. Opening the lid, he
beckoned to Cartaret. There, on a purple velvet lining, lay a
beautifully kept pair of dueling-pistols, muzzle-loaders of the
Eighteenth Century pattern and of about .32 caliber, their long
octagonal barrels of shining dark blue steel, their curved butts of
ivory handsomely inlaid with a Moorish design in gold.

"Listen," said Eskurola, "as we are to have no seconds, I shall write
a line to exculpate you in case you survive me. Then"--his gray eyes
shone; he seemed to take a satisfaction that was close to delight in
arranging these lethal details--"also as we are to have no seconds to
give a signal, we shall have but one true shot between us. Certainly.
Are we not men, we two? And we have proved ourselves marksmen. You
cannot doubt me, but I have a man that speaks French, so that you
shall see that I do not trick you, sir."

He went to the door and called into the court-yard. Presently there
answered him a man whom Cartaret recognized as one of those who, the
night before, held the dogs in leash.

"Murillo Gomez," said Eskurola, in a French more labored than his
English, "in five minutes this gentleman and I shall want the terrace
to ourselves. You will close the gate when we go out. You will remain
on this side of it, and you will permit none to pass. Answer me in
French."

The servant's face showed no surprise.

"_Oui, señor_," he said.

"Now you will take these pistols and bring them back without delay. In
the armory you will load one with powder and shot, the other with
powder only. Neither this gentleman nor I must know which is which.
You understand?"

The servant's face was still impassive.

"_Oui, señor._"

"Go then. Also see that the Doña Dolorez remains in her own
apartments. And hurry."

The servant disappeared with the pistols. Eskurola, apologizing
gravely, went to the desk and wrote--apparently the lines of which he
had spoken. He sanded them, folded the paper, lit a candle and sealed
the missive with an engraved jade ring that he wore on the little
finger of his left hand.

"This is your first duel, sir?" he said to Cartaret. He said it much
as an Englishman at luncheon might ask an American guest whether he
had ever eaten turbot.

"Yes," said Cartaret.

"Well, you may have what the gamblers of London call 'beginner's
luck.'"

The servant knocked at the door.

"Will you be so good as to take the pistols?" asked Don Ricardo in
English of Cartaret. "It appears better if I do not speak with him.
Thank you. And please to tell him in French that he may have your mare
and saddle-bags ready in the gateway within five minutes, in case you
should want them."

Cartaret obeyed.

Eskurola again held the door for his guest to pass.

"After you, sir," he said.

They crossed the court-yard leisurely and shoulder to shoulder, for
all the world as if they were two friends going out to enjoy the view.
Any one observing them from the windows, had there been any one, would
have said that Don Ricardo was pointing out to Cartaret the beauties
of the scene. In reality he was saying:

"With your agreement, we shall fix the distance at ten paces, and I
shall step it. There is no choice for light, and the wind is at rest.
Therefore, there being no person to count for us, I shall ask you to
toss a coin again, this time that I may call it: if I fail to do so,
you fire first; if I succeed, I fire first. Permit me to advise you,
sir, that, if you are unaccustomed to the hair-trigger, it is as well
that you be careful lest you lose your shot."

Eskurola's manners were apparently never so polished as when he was
about to kill or be killed. He measured off the ground and marked the
stand for each, always asking Cartaret's opinion. He stood while
Cartaret again tossed a glittering gold-piece in the air.

"Tails!" cried Don Ricardo. "I always prefer," he explained, "to see
this king with his face in the dust. Let us look at him together, so
that there will be no mistake."

The piece lay with its face to the terrace.

"I win," said Eskurola. "I shoot first. It is bad to begin well."

Cartaret smiled. With such a marksman as this Basque to shoot at one,
the speech became the merest pleasantry. There was only the question
of the choice of the pistol, and as to that----

"If you will open the box, I shall choose," Eskurola was saying.
Evidently the choice was also to go to the winner of the toss.
Cartaret was certain this would not have been the case if the toss
had gone otherwise. "I must touch neither until I have chosen,
although the additional powder in the blank pistol tends toward making
their weight equal."

Mechanically Cartaret opened the mahogany box. Don Ricardo scarcely
glanced at the pair of beautiful and deadly weapons lying on the
purple velvet: he took the one farther from him.

"Pray remember the hair-trigger," he continued: "you might easily
wound yourself. Now, if you please: to our places."

Each man took off his hat and coat and stood at his post in his white
shirt, his feet together, his right side fronting his enemy, his
pistol pointing downwards from the hand against his right thigh.

"Are you ready, sir?" asked Eskurola.

For a flashing instant Cartaret wanted to scream with hysterical
laughter: the whole proceeding seemed so archaic, so grotesque, so
useless. Then he thought of how little he had to lose and of whom he
might serve in losing that little....

"Ready, señor," he said.

If only she could, for only that last moment, love him! That last
moment, for he made no doubt of the end of this adventure. The Basque
had been too punctilious in all his arrangements: from the first
Cartaret had been sure that Don Ricardo and the French-speaking
servant had played this tragic farce before, and that the master so
arranged matters as easily to choose the one pistol that held death in
its mouth. To convict him was impossible, and, were it possible, would
be but to strike a fatal blow at the honor of that family which
Vitoria held so dear. How false his vanity had played him! What was he
that a goddess should not cease to love him when she chose? Enough and
more that she had loved him once; an ultimate blessing could she love
him a moment more. But once again, then: but that one instant! To see
her pitiful eyes upon him, to hear her pure lips whisper the last
good-by like music in his dying ears!

He saw the arm of his enemy slowly--slowly--rising, without speed and
without hesitation, as the paw of a great cat rises to strike, but
with a claw of shining steel.

Cartaret would look his last on the scene that her eyes had known when
she was a child, that her eyes would know long after his--so soon
now!--were closed forever. It was mid-morning; the golden sun was
half-way to the zenith. At Cartaret's left, above the walls, the
turrets and towers of the Gothic castle, rose the sheer front of that
sheer chalcedonous peak. Its top was crowned with the dazzling and
eternal snow; its face was waxen, almost translucent; its outcroppings
of crypto-crystalline quartz, multi-toned by the wind and rain of
centuries, caught the sunlight and flamed in every gradation of blue
and yellow, of onyx, carnelian and sard. To the right lay the wide and
peaceful valley, mass after mass of foliage, silver-green and emerald,
and, above that, the ridges of the vast, scabrous amphitheater:
beetling peaks of gray, dark pectinated cones, fusiform apexes,
dancing lancets and swords' points, a hundred beetling crags and
darting spires under a turquoise sky.

(Eskurola's arm was rising ... rising....)

Her face came before his eyes; not the face of the woman that sent him
from the tower-room, but the face of The Girl that had parted from him
in his shabby studio: the frame of blue-black hair, the clear cheek
touched with healthy pink, the red lips and white teeth, the level
brows, the curling lashes and the frank violet eyes.... Into his own
eyes came a mist; it blotted out the landscape.

He dragged his glance back to his executioner. He must meet death face
forward. A horrid fear beset him that he had been tardy in this--had
seemed ever so little to waver.

But Eskurola had observed no faltering, and had not faltered: his arm
still crept upward. It must all have happened in the twinkling of an
eye, then: that impulse toward mad laughter, that thought of what he
had suffered, that realization of the landscape, even the memory of
her face--the Lady of the Rose.

Don Ricardo's arm had just risen a trifle above his shoulder and then
come back to its level.... It would come now--the flash, the quick
pang that would outstrip and shut out the very sound of the
explosion--come now and be over.

The man was taking an aim, careful, deadly....

But if everything else had been quick, this was an eternity. Cartaret
could feel the Basque's eye, he could see that the leveled
pistol-barrel covered his throat directly below the ear. He wanted to
shout out to Eskurola to shoot; to say, "You've got me!" He ground his
teeth to enforce his tongue to silence. And still he waited. Good God,
would the man never fire?

Don Ricardo was lowering his pistol, and his pistol was smoking. He
had fired. Moreover, he had aimed truly. But he had chosen his weapon
honorably--it was the one that did not hold a bullet.

Cartaret was dazed, but knew instantly what to do. As if it was the
performance of an act long since subconsciously decided upon, he
raised his own pistol slowly--the death-laden pistol--and shot
straight up into the air....

The smoke was still circling about the American's head when he saw
Eskurola striding toward him. The Basque's face was a study of
humiliation and dismay.

"What is this?" he demanded. "After I have tried to kill you, you do
not kill me? You refuse to kill me? You inflict the greatest insult
and the only one that I cannot resent?"

Cartaret threw down his pistol: it frightened him now. "I don't know
whether it's an insult to let you live or not," he said, "and I don't
care a damn. Where's my mare?"

He went to the gate. It was opened by the French-speaking servant,
wide-eyed now, but with his curiosity inarticulate. Cartaret mounted.
His hand trembled as he gathered up the reins. He was angry at this
and at the comedy that Fate had made of his attempted heroism. Was
there ever before, he reflected, a duel the two principals of which
were angry because they survived?

Eskurola was standing at the edge of the unrailed drawbridge that
crossed the precipitous abyss. It was evident even to Cartaret that
the Basque was still too amazed to think, much less speak,
coherently; that something beyond his comprehension had occurred; that
a phenomenon hitherto unknown had wrecked his cosmos.

"Sir," he began, "will you not return first into the castle and
there----"

"If you don't get out of my way," said Cartaret, "I'll ride you into
this chasm!"

Don Ricardo drew dumbly aside, and Cartaret rode on. With Vitoria
relentless and unattainable, abjured by the woman he had loved, robbed
even of the chance to give his life for her, he was riding anywhere to
get away from Alava, was fleeing from his sense of loss and failure.
He rode as fast as the steep descent permitted, and only once, at a
sharp twist of the way, a full mile down the mountain, did he allow
himself to turn in his saddle and look back.

There was Eskurola, a silhouette against the gray walls. Behind him
rose the castle of his fathers, and back of it the great peak towered,
through a hundred flashing colors, to its shining crown of eternal
snow.



CHAPTER XVI

AND LAST

    It must be a very dear and intimate reality for which people
    will be content to give up a dream.--Hawthorne: _The Marble
    Faun_.


Summer held Paris in his arms when Cartaret returned there--held her,
wearied from the dance with Spring, in his warm arms, and was rocking
her to sleep. Romance had crowded commerce from the boulevards; poets
wrote their verses at the marble-topped tables along the awninged
pavements; the lesser streets were lovers' lanes.

For Cartaret had not hurried. Once the Pyrenees were behind him, he
felt growing upon him a dread of any return to the city in which he
had first met and loved the Lady of the Rose; and only the necessity
of settling his affairs there--of collecting his few possessions,
paying two or three remaining bills and bidding a last good-by to his
friends--drew him forward. He lingered at one town after the other,
caring nothing for what he saw, but hating the thought of even a week
in a Paris without her. Vaguely he had decided to return to America,
though what of interest life could hold there, or anywhere, for him he
could not imagine: some dull business routine, most likely--for he
would never paint again--and the duller the better. Thus he wasted a
fortnight along the Loire and among the chateaux of Touraine and found
himself at last leaving his train in the Gare D'Orsay at the end of a
Summer afternoon.

He made for his own room with the objectless hurry of a native
American, his feet keeping time to a remembered stanza of Andrew Lang:

    "In dreams she grows not older
      The lands of Dream among,
    Though all the world wax colder,
      Though all the songs be sung;
    In dreams doth he behold her
      Still fair and kind and young."

Taciturn Refrogné seemed no more surprised to see him than if he had
gone out but an hour since: the trade of the Parisian concierge slays
surprise early.

"A letter for monsieur," said Refrogné.

Cartaret took it from the grimy paw that was extended out of the
concierge's cave. He went on up the stairs.

The door of the magic Room Opposite--in all probability commonplace
enough now--stood slightly ajar, and Cartaret felt a new pang as he
glanced at it. He passed on to his own room.

His own room! It was precisely as he had seen it last--a little
dustier, and far more dreary, but with no other change. The table at
which she had leaned, the easel on which he had painted those
portraits of her, were just as when he had left them. He went to the
window at which he used to store the provisions that Chitta looted,
and there he opened the envelope Refrogné had given him. It contained
only one piece of paper: A Spanish draft on the Comptoir Général for a
hundred and twenty francs, and on the back, in a labored English
script, was written:

    "For repayment of the sum advanced to my servant, Chitta
    Grekekora.

        "Ricardo B. F. R. Ethenard-Eskurola (d'Alegria)."

A limb of wisteria had climbed to the window and hung a cluster of its
purple flowers on the sill. Below, Refrogné's lilacs were in full
bloom, and the laughter of Refrogné's children rose from among them as
piercing sweet as the scent of the flowers. Cartaret took a match from
his pocket, struck it and set the bit of paper aflame. He held it
until the flame burnt his fingers, crushed it in his palm and watched
the ashes circle slowly downward toward the lilac-trees.

The sun had set and, as Cartaret walked aimlessly toward the front
windows, the long shadows of the twilight were deepening from wall to
wall. Summer was in all the air.

So much the same! He leaned forward and looked down into the silent
rue du Val-de-Grâce. He was thinking how she had once stood where he
was leaning now; thinking how he had leaned there so often, looking
for her return up that narrow thoroughfare, waiting for the sound of
her light footfall on the stair. So much the same, indeed: the
unchanged street outside, the unchanged room within; the room in which
he had found her on that February night. Here she had admitted that
she loved him, and here she had said the good-by that he would not
understand--a few short weeks ago. And now he was back--back after
having heard her repudiate him, back after losing her forever.

Fate works everywhere, but her favorite workshop is Paris. Something
was moving in the deepest shadow in the room--the shadow about the
doorway. Blue-black hair and long-lashed eyes of violet, lips of red
and cheeks of white and pink; the incredible was realized, the miracle
had happened: Vitoria was here.

He was beside her in a single bound. He thought that he cried her name
aloud; in reality, his lips moved without speech.

"Wait," she said. She drew away from him; but the statues of the Greek
gods in the Luxembourg gardens must have felt the thrill in the
evening air as she faced him. She was looking at him bravely with
only the least tremor of her lips. "Do you--do you still love me?" she
asked.

Her voice was like a violin; her words dazed him.

"Love you? I--I can't tell you how much--I--haven't the words to
say----"

He seized the hand with which she had checked him and kissed its
unjeweled fingers.

"What is it?... Why did you say you hated me?... What has brought you
back?... Is is true? Is it _true_?"

From Refrogné's garden came the last good-night-song of the birds.

"Love you? Why, from the day I left you--no, from that night I found
you here, I've thought nothing but Vitoria, dreamed nothing but
Vitoria----"

Now incoherent and afraid, then with hectic eloquence and finally with
a complete abandon, he poured out his soul in libation to her. With
the first word of it, she saw that she was forgiven.

"I came," she said, "to--to tell you this: You know now that I ran
away from Paris because I loved you and knew that I could not marry
you; but you do not know why I said that terrible thing which I said
in the tower-room. I was afraid of what my brother might do to you.
That is why I would not take your kisses. To try to make you leave
before he found you, I said what first came to my mind as likely to
drive you away. I said it at what fearful cost! I blasphemed against
my love for you."

Cartaret was recovering himself. Love gives all, but it demands
everything.

"Your brother said that I had offered you some insult. He said you'd
told him so. I thought you'd told him that in order to make him all
the angrier against me."

"Ever since Chitta and I returned to our home, he had been
suspecting," she said. "He would not forgive me for going away. Chitta
he tortured, but she told him nothing. Me, he kept almost a prisoner.
When you came, I knew that he would soon guess what was true, so I
sent for you that morning to send you away, and when that failed and
he found us together, I told him that we loved each other, because I
hoped that he would spare the man I loved, even though he would never
let me--let me marry that man. I should have known him too well to
think that, but I was too afraid to reason--too afraid for your sake.
He was so proud that he would not repeat it to you as I said it to
him: he repeated it in the way least hateful to him--and after you had
gone, I found that all I had done served only to make him try to kill
you. Of this I knew nothing until hours later. Then--then----"

The birds had ceased their song, but the scent of the lilacs still
rose from the garden.

"Don't you understand now?" she asked, her cheeks crimson in the
fading light. "I guessed you did not understand then; but don't you
understand now?"

He stood bewildered. She had to go through with it.

"My brother had to live--you made him live. To kill himself is the
worst disgrace that a Basque can put upon his family. Besides, the
thing was done; you had fired into the air; nothing that he might do
would undo that. At the bridge he tried to tell you so, but you rode
by. You know--my brother told it you--that one reason which allows a
foreigner to marry a Basque. We Eskurolas pay our debts; to let you go
a creditor for that was to put a stain upon our house indelibly. I
would have accepted the disgrace and made my brother continue to
accept it, had you not now said that you still loved me; but you have
said it. Oh, do--do, please, understand!" She stamped her foot. "My
brother is the last man of our name. In saving him, you saved the
house of Eskurola."

Cartaret was seized by the same impulse toward hysteria that had
seized him when he first faced Don Ricardo's pistol.

"Was _that_ what he tried to say at the bridge? What a fool I was not
to listen! If I had all the world to give, I'd give it to you!"

He tried to seize her hand again, but she drew it away.

"And so," she said, with a crooked smile and a flaming face, "since
you say that you love me, I--I have to pay the just debt of my house
and save its honor--I must marry you whether I love you or not."

He looked at her with fear renewed.

"Then you _have_ changed?" he asked.

Suddenly she put her own right hand to her lips and kissed the fingers
on which his lips had rested.

"You have all the world," she said.... "Give it me."

He found both of her hands this time, but still she kept him from her.
The scent of the lilacs mingled with another scent--a scent that made
him see again the tall Cantabrians.... Suddenly he realized that she
was wearing her student-blouse.

"You've been here--When did you come back to Paris?"

"A week ago."

"To this house?"

"Of _course_ I am living in this house as before, and with your friend
Chitta. You know that I could not have lived anywhere else in Paris.
I _couldn't_. So I took the old room--the dear little old
room--again."

"_Before_ you knew that I still loved you!" She hung her head. "But
I'll surely never let you go this time." He held her hands fast as if
fearing that she might escape him. "No custom--no law--no force could
take you now. Tell me: would you have wanted to go back?"

She freed herself. That newer perfume filled the purple twilight: the
pure perfume of the Azure Rose that the wandering Basque carries with
him abroad to bring him safely home. She drew the rose from beneath
her blouse and held it out to him. Cartaret kissed it. She took it
back, kissed it too, went to the nearest window and, tearing the
flower petal from petal, dropped it into the Paris street.

"No," she said softly when she had turned to him again, "do not kiss
me yet. I want you first to understand me. I do love my own country,
but I cannot stay in it forever. I was being smothered there by all
the dust of those dead centuries; I was being slowly crushed by the
iron weight of their old customs and their old laws--all horribly
alive when they should have been long ago in their graves. There was
nothing around me that was not old: old walls and towers, ancient
tapestries and arms, musty rooms, yellowed manuscripts. The age of the
place, it seemed to become a soul-in-itself. It seemed to get a
consciousness and to hate me because I was not as it was. There was
nothing that was not old--and I was young." As she remembered it, her
face grew almost sulky. "Even if it had not been for you, I believe I
should have come away again. I was so angry at it all that I could
even have put on a Paquin gown--if I had had a Paquin gown!--and worn
it at dinner in the big dining-hall of my ancestors."

He understood. He realized--none better--the hunger and thirst for
Paris: for the lights of the boulevards, the clatter of the dominoes
on the café-tables, the procession of carriages and motors along the
Champs Élysées, the very cries and hurry of the rue St. Honoré by day
or the Boul' Miche' by night. Nevertheless, he had lately been an
American headed for America, and so he said:

"Just wait till you see Broadway!"

Vitoria smiled, but she remained serious.

"I wanted you to know that--first," she said: "to know that I came
away this second time in large part because of you, but not wholly."

"I think," said Cartaret, "that I can manage to forgive that."

"And then--there is something else. You saw my brother in a great
castle and on a great estate, but he is not rich, and I am very poor."

Cartaret laughed.

"Was that what was on your mind? My dear, _I'm_ rich--I'm frightfully
rich!"

"Rich?" Her tone was all incredulity.

"It happened the day you left Paris. Oh, I know I ought to have told
you at the castle, but I forgot it. You see, there was so little time
to talk to you and so many more important things to say."

He told her all about it while the dusk slowly deepened. Chitta should
have a salary for remaining in a cottage that he would give her in
Alava and never leaving it. He would give his friends that dinner
now--Houdon and Devignes, Varachon and Garnier--a dinner of
celebration at which the host would be present and to which even
Gaston François Louis Pasbeaucoup and the elephantine Madame would sit
down. There would be bushels of strawberries. Seraphin would be
pensioned for life, so that he might paint only the pictures that his
heart demanded, and Fourget--yes, Cartaret would embrace dear old
Fourget like a true Gaul. In the Luxembourg Gardens the statues of the
old gods smiled and held their peace.

"You--you can study too," said Cartaret. "You can have the best
art-masters in the world, and you shall have them."

But Vitoria shook her head.

"There," she said, "is another confession and the last. I was the more
ready to leave Paris when I ran away from you, because I was
disheartened: the master had told me that I could never learn, and so
I was afraid to face you."

"Then _I'll_ never paint again," vowed Cartaret. "Pictures? I was
successful only when I painted pictures of you, and why should I paint
them when I have you?"

She looked at him gravely.

"I am glad," she said, "that you are rich, but I am also glad that we
have both been poor--together. Oh,"--she looked about the familiar
room,--"it needs but one thing more: if only the street-organ were
playing that Scotch song that it used to play!"

"If it only were!" he agreed. "However, we can't have everything, can
we?"

But lovers, if they only want it enough, can have everything, and,
somehow, the hurdy-gurdy did, just at that moment, begin to play
"Annie Laurie" as it used to do, out in the rue du Val-de-Grâce.

Cartaret led her toward the darkened window, but stopped half-way
across the room.

"I will try to deserve you," he said. "I _will_ make myself what you
want me to be."

"You _are_ that," she answered, her face raised toward his. "All that
I ask is to have you with me always as you are now." The clear
contralto of her voice ran like a refrain to the simple air of the
ballad. "I want you with me when you are unhappy, so that I may
comfort you; when you are ill, so that I may nurse you; when you are
glad, so that I may be glad because you are. I want to know you in
every mood: I want to belong to you."

High over the gleaming roofs, the moon, a disk of yellow glass, swung
out upon the indigo sky and peeped in at that window. One silver beam
enveloped her. It bathed her lithe, firm figure; it touched her pure
face, her scarlet lips; it made a refulgent glory of her hair, and,
out of it, the splendor of her wonderful eyes was for him.

"Soon," he whispered, "in the chapel of Ste. Jeanne D'Arc at the
church of St. Germain des Prés."

"Good-night," she said.... "Good-night, my love."

She raised her white hands to him and drew one step nearer. Then she
yielded herself to his arms and, as they closed, strong and tight,
about her, her own arms circled his neck.

The scent of the Azure Rose returned with her lips: a vision of
mountain-peaks and sunlight upon crests of snow, a perfume sweeter
than the scent of any rose in any garden, a poem in a language that
Cartaret at last could understand.

Her lips met his....

"Oh," he whispered, "sweetheart, is it really, really you?"

"Yes," said the lady of the Rose, "it--is _me_!"


THE END.



_ENVOI: THE SON OF JOEL._


    The poet is a beggar blind
      That sits beside a city gate,
    The while the busy people wind
      Their daily way, less fortunate.

    The many pass with slavish speed;
      The few remember this or that;
    Some hear and jeer, some stop to heed--
      And some drop pennies in his hat....

    O, you that pause and understand,
      Though I may never see your face,
    Across the years I touch your hand:
      I kiss you through the leagues of space!
                    R. W. K.



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Publishers 15 West 38th St. New York



Transcriber's Note

Variations in spelling are preserved as printed.

This book uses forms of both enquire and inquire; these are preserved
as printed.

Minor punctuation errors have been repaired.

Both rue du Val-de-Grâce and rue du Val de Grâce are used; these are
preserved as printed. Hyphenation usage has otherwise been made
consistent. There are also some inconsistencies in capitalisation of
French street and place names, and these are preserved as printed.

The following typographic errors have been repaired:

    Page 71--Carteret amended to Cartaret--"... whose nose always
    reminded Cartaret of an antique and long lost bit of
    statuary, ..."

    Page 84--Deaux amended to Deux--"He left the Café des Deux
    Colombes, ..."

    Page 87--drawn amended to dawn--""Oh"--it began to dawn on
    Cartaret ..."

    Page 99--Good-bye amended to Good-by--"... this time she had
    not said "Good-by.""

    Page 118--saraient amended to sauraient--"L'indiscrétion d'un
    de ces amis officieux qui ne sauraient ..."

    Page 129--peeked amended to peaked--"... turning upon his
    friend a face that was peaked and drawn."

    Page 165--unprejudicd amended to unprejudiced--"An
    unprejudiced critic would have said ..."

    Page 177--Eifel amended to Eiffel--"... and the pointing
    finger of the Tour Eiffel ..."

    Page 195--DeMusset amended to De Musset--"Have I not had a
    care for De Musset and for Heine?"

    Page 197--Cataret amended to Cartaret--"... a crestfallen lad
    that was a stranger to Cartaret."

    Page 268--elf amended to self--"... at all the expressions of
    a remorseless self ..."

    Page 311--Mich' amended to Miche'--"... of the rue St. Honoré
    by day or the Boul' Miche' by night."





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