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Title: Cynthia Steps Out
Author: Best, Evangel Allena Champlin
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Cynthia Steps Out" ***

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  _Cynthia_
  STEPS OUT

  BY
  ERICK BERRY


  CHICAGO

  _The Goldsmith Publishing
  Company_



  COPYRIGHT, 1937, BY
  THE GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING COMPANY

  Made in U. S. A.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                          PAGE

     I  ALWAYS TRUST YOUR LUCK       11
        _Shipboard_

    II  CORNED BEEF HASH             42
        _Paris_

   III  COLD-IN-THE-HEAD             69
        _Brittany_

    IV  LITTLE MISS FIX-IT           99
        _Mont St. Michel_

     V  THE CUCKOO                  127
        _Basque Country_

    VI  ROMANCE IN CARCASSONNE      158
       _Carcassonne_

   VII  THE RACING SNAIL            190
        _Siena_

  VIII  ALL IS NOT LOST             219
        _Venice_



CHAPTER 1

_Shipboard_

ALWAYS TRUST YOUR LUCK


“It must be fun to be an artist.” Stasia’s speech was somewhat impeded
by the mouthful of pins she was trying not to swallow.

“Fun?” Cynthia frowned, thinking. “Yes, I suppose it is. I wouldn’t
know how to be anything else. Ouch! That was me you were pinning.” She
braced herself with one arm against the bulkhead as the ship tipped at
a slight angle. “Make that sleeve as short as you can.”

Stasia took the last pin out of her mouth. “Slip off your blouse now,
and I’ll baste it up for you. You’ll make a sweet pirate, if pirates
ever were sweet.”

Cynthia, free of the blouse, turned to experiment before the long
mirror in the door, hesitating between the respective merits of a red
bandana handkerchief over her black curls and the more sinister effect
of a black scarf which could be continued down into a black mask with
eyeholes.

Stasia bit off her thread. “There, that’s ready. When will you break it
to Miss Mitchall that she’s got to wear a costume tonight?”

Cynthia giggled. “You ought to come along and help me. But I guess I’ll
wait till the last minute and rush her into the idea.” She glanced
toward the bed where a tall, witch’s cap, made of green cardboard from
the ship’s barber shop, reposed beside a cape of green broadcloth,
borrowed from Stasia, and a pair of Miss Mitchall’s own shoes, now
adorned with huge buckles of cardboard and silver foil.

“I’ll need some help with my wig,” said Stasia, “and then I think we’re
all finished.” The wig was of bright orange yarn, loosely knitted into
a tight fitting cap of coarse net which completely covered Stasia’s
sleek bob.

“It needs tightening at the back. Wait a moment.” Cynthia braced her
feet. “Dash this boat, I hope she stops rolling before dinner or we
shan’t have any dance. Do they always have a costume party every trip?”

“Uh-huh. Always the second day before we get into Cherbourg, Paris,
day after tomorrow. Aren’t you thrilled?”

Cynthia, pinning the wig into a better fit, murmured a vague assent.
But she didn’t feel at all thrilled. After eight days the ship was
like another home in which she knew, by sight at least, almost every
occupant. Paris was going to be new and strange. Oh yes, a grand new
adventure, but sometimes she got scared at the thought of it. So big,
with all the street signs and the menus in a different language and
so much that was new to learn. What if she failed to make good on the
job that had brought her over, the dozen covers for _Little Ones’
Magazine_? Suppose she didn’t have the money to stay? Suppose she
couldn’t make people understand her French, even though Stasia had been
coaching her all week? Oh shut up, Cynthia!

“Miss Mitchall’s the old girl I admire,” she said suddenly. “She’s got
more courage! You know she’s returning practically without a job and
without money and she’s fifty if she’s a day, though she looks sixty,
poor darling. I don’t believe she’s got ten dollars beyond her fare to
London.”

“What was she doing in the States?” asked Stasia.

Stasia hadn’t, Cynthia thought, much imagination, but perhaps that was
because her father was president of the line. Look at this suite de
luxe, the best in the ship. And if she had never earned her own living
she couldn’t imagine what it was to be like Miss Mitchall.

“Oh, she had some sort of a governess job. But she’s English you know,
and she didn’t come in on the quota and so she had to go back home.
She was with a Canadian family in Buffalo. They are paying her fare
back, but that’s all. I wish ...” she stopped. She was going to say she
wished she could help her.

Stasia looked at her watch, the little platinum watch circled with
diamonds. “It’s six my dear, and dinner’s at half past seven. If you’re
going to get your roommate into her costume ...”

“You’re right, you’re perfectly right.” Cynthia struggled into her wool
dress, grabbed the black scarf, the buckled shoes, threw the blouse
over her arm. “Here, give me a hand with the other stuff, will you?
I’ll take the hat.”

Cynthia’s small cabin was down, down, two steep flights below the
cabins de luxe. Clean white corridors smelling of soap and sea and
ship, doors shut and white, doors open and dark, doors open and
lighted, a narrow corridor turning down to the left, two doors facing
each other, the left one always closed. Cynthia often wondered about
that door. She knew the cabin was occupied because the room steward
went in and out but no one else ever did. The door to the right was
Cynthia’s and Miss Mitchall’s.

“Here we are. Thanks a lot. Can I help with make-up or anything?”
Cynthia dumped her things on the bunk, turned on the lights.

“No, thanks. The stewardess and Lilia will help if I want it.” Lilia
was Stasia’s maid. Cynthia smiled. Think of having a maid to yourself!

Stasia was gone. Cynthia hustled out of her dress again, turned on the
hot water, whistled happily. This was going to be fun tonight. Like the
old Art Academy days when everybody dressed up and the dances lasted
till morning.

Someone in the cabin across the corridor coughed, a man’s cough.
Cynthia turned off the hot water and listened, caught herself staring
with wide gray eyes at the wide gray eyes in the mirror over the wash
basin.

The night she had come on board that left hand door had been wide open
and in the corridor there had been a suitcase, big and black, with lots
of stickers on it. Cynthia hurrying along the hall with an arm full of
last minute fruit and flowers and books, Chick and Judy and the others
of the old Art School bunch at her heels, had tripped and fallen full
length over that suitcase. When Chick had picked her up, unhurt, and
brushed her off, she had noted the suitcase and a huge Ottawa Hotel
paster on its side, bright with greens and blues and oranges. Chick had
noticed it too. “A good poster design, that,” he had said.

And Cynthia, thinking about Chick, sat down on the lower bunk and for
three minutes was devastatingly and overwhelmingly homesick for New
York and the studio, for Judy and Chick. Chick had, in this very room,
standing on that very same rug, kissed her good-bye with his arms tight
around her and wished her good luck and told her how rotten it was for
him to have to stay behind like this. “Keep my ring on your finger and
my face in your heart,” he had said.

Cynthia twisted the pretty emerald, which had belonged to Chick’s
mother, now so ill that he couldn’t get away for the trip they had
planned together. It was a sweet ring. Cynthia’s eyes were getting
teary when the dressing gong sounded. Goodness, was it as late as that!

The pirate costume had long black trousers--full ones from Cynthia’s
beach pyjamas. A wide sash of twisted red and green bristled with an
arsenal of silver paper pistols and knives. The white blouse, with
sleeves tacked very short, bore a black silk skull and crossbones over
the heart. She was tying heavy thread on brass curtain rings to loop
over her ears when Miss Mitchall pattered in, closing the door gently
behind her.

Miss Mitchall’s small sloping shoulders, claw-like hands and thin blond
hair, now a dusty gray, were the characteristics of the story-book
English governess, but her eyes gleamed brightly behind her spectacles
and one felt that her spirit was unconquerable.

“Oh my dear, how sweet you look,” she twittered.

Cynthia hung an earring over one ear and patted it with a slim finger
to see if it would swing free. In a minute she’d have to break the news
to her roommate. But Miss Mitchall had news of her own.

“I just heard a voice across the corridor, talking to the steward. It’s
a man and he talks with a Canadian accent,” she whispered.

They had both wondered about that room, for on this small ship everyone
seemed to know everyone else, with that exception. Was he ill, perhaps,
that he never came out, not even for meals? But there wasn’t time to
discuss him now.

“Hurry and get into your costume for the party,” directed Cynthia.

“Costume? Oh yes.” Miss Mitchall was going to appreciate the small
jest. “You mean my black dress.” She turned, bustling a little, to put
her purse and book and scarf and sweater on the long couch beneath the
porthole.

“No, I don’t mean just the black dress,” stated Cynthia in what she
hoped was a firm tone. “I mean your costume. Stasia Carruthers and I
made one for you this afternoon. You’re going as a Green Witch. See
here.” She took down the tall peaked hat, clapped it on the small gray
head and turned her roommate to face the mirror. “Then the cape, like
this.” She flung the long cape around the thin shoulders. “Of course we
must make you up. A little powder on your nose, probably some rouge on
your cheeks. But put on your black dress first. And hurry.”

“Oh my dear, I couldn’t--I’m too old--what will people think?” Mildly
clucking, continuing to protest, Miss Mitchall was shoved into her
costume, into the shoes with the silver buckles, into the long green
cape. Cynthia, against the other’s mild opposition, patted rouge on the
pale cheeks, then flung a towel over the cape and shook half a box of
white talcum powder on the gray hair.

“But my dear,” beamed Miss Mitchall, “it ... it makes me look so ... so
young.”

Indeed it did. The contrast of green cloth against the white hair was
dramatic. “Very successful,” purred Cynthia. “You’ll be the belle of
the ball. And it’s not immoral to look young you know. Now sit down
there and be good till I get this scarf tied. Or no, ring for the
steward, we must get a broom to go with the witch.”

By the time they hurried out of their cabin the echoes of the dinner
gong had been dead for ten minutes. But the corridors were full of
laughing groups: harlequins, monks, pierrots, Turkish ladies, Dutch
girls and nondescript costumes that defied a label. For fear that the
Green Witch might bolt back to the cabin, Cynthia kept close behind her
but after a few minutes realized this was unnecessary. Their passage
was a minor triumphal procession for everyone turned to look at them
and made some delighted exclamation over the novel costumes. Cynthia
was amused to note that Miss Mitchall’s sharp little chin went higher,
her step became firmer as the approbation grew and by the time they
reached the stairway to the dining saloon she walked like a princess
approaching her throne.

Cheers and a spatter of applause greeted their descent and three tables
claimed their company but Cynthia looked around and made a quick
decision. In a far corner sat Harvey O’Neill, as the Tin Woodman, and
Johnnie Graham, in sackcloth and straw, presumably a scarecrow. Miss
Mitchall needed what only an Irish tongue could supply. Cynthia steered
toward the small table.

“May I introduce the Green Witch of Greenwich Village?” sang Cynthia
above the hubbub. “Did you know that Green Witches had special magic
and charms, much stronger than black and white ones?”

“Special charms, certainly,” agreed the Irishman. “Come and cast a
spell on me, Miss Witch,” and he pulled out a chair for her. Cynthia
took the one next to Johnnie.

“Smart of you,” he whispered in her ear, “to give her a costume that
went with her specs. It’s one of the best on the floor.”

There was an almost continual pageant down the wide stairs. Stasia made
her entrance alone and effectively in the long, slinky costume of a
modern French doll. From the bright orange wig of knitted yarn, through
the high bodice and long full skirt of brilliant reds and raw blues
to the absurdly high heeled slippers of green satin and the painted
circles on her cheeks beneath the wide lashed baby stare, she was
perfect in every detail. Even to a price tag on her shoulder stating
“twenty five francs.” She was followed by a Spanish señorita on the arm
of a George Belchers, charlady, red nosed, apron-garbed, three dingy
violets nodding in his bonnet as he stumbled apologetically, paused
to mop up the steps before the señorita and dramatized the amusing
entrance.

How she hated to have this end, Cynthia thought. Paris, surely, wasn’t
going to be half so much fun. And never to see any of these nice people
again. ... Miss Mitchall for instance. It didn’t seem possible that you
could get to know a person so well and then let them slip out of your
life. Stasia was going to stay in Cherbourg for a week. Johnnie ...

“Where do you go, Johnnie?” she asked.

“Straight through Paris and down to Provence. I’m studying the poetry
of Mistral, who, if you don’t happen to know, was the greatest poet of
southern France. Why?”

But she turned to O’Neill. “And you’re going to Ireland, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Better come along,” he suggested, “it’s a bit of heaven.”

“Oh yes, there’s a song about that, isn’t there,” she laughed. Weren’t
any of these people going to be in Paris? Suppose she couldn’t get
in touch with the editor she had come to see? Suppose the job didn’t
materialize? Suppose ... well, these were nice cheerful meditations to
have in the middle of a party! She bet Miss Mitchall wasn’t harboring
any such gloomy thoughts. Suddenly Cynthia wished there was some way,
some nice, tactful, subtle manner in which she could help the little
governess without her knowing it. But a loan was out of the question.
Cynthia herself hadn’t much more than the price of a ticket home. And
you don’t pick up purses in mid ocean.

“I wish there was a Duchess on board, with a million pounds sterling
and eighteen children, and that she would fall overboard and I could
save her life,” was her fantastic thought. She must have said it out
loud for Johnnie murmured, “Heaven help us!” and then glanced at the
little governess. “Oh, you mean for Miss Mitchall. But why stop at
eighteen when you’re wishing!”

Cynthia spluttered into giggles and felt better. In fact she could
scarcely eat her dinner for all that was going on around her. Bright
balloons bumped her elbow, a rain of multicolored confetti sprinkled
the table cloth and brilliant streamers of paper flying through the
air, must be picked up and returned, lacing the dining saloon with
carnival colors.

After dinner there was a dance in the lounge. Cynthia had looked
forward to it all day and the day before, but after a few waltzes and
foxtrots it began, somehow, to fall flat. Everyone else seemed to
be having a perfectly gorgeous time. Even little Miss Mitchall was
plentifully supplied with partners but their enjoyment seemed only to
increase Cynthia’s gloom as every step she made took her nearer to the
time of leaving the ship, to the dreaded unknown.

She knew what it was. She had done too little work for days. This
wasn’t the first time that idleness had made her miserable, and it
would be useless to explain this to her puzzled partners. Between
dances she would slip off and dive below for her sketch pad. Drawing
would bring the relief it always had brought and as for models, they
were all about her. All she needed was her book to make a record, not
just of the clever costumes around her, but of the movement and the
groups that the dancers made. Why not get it? Left, for the moment,
between dances without a partner, Cynthia decided that she would, and
sped down to the cabin.

As she came along the main corridor, deserted now since all of the room
stewards were at their dinner, she heard a door banging, banging, with
the slow swing of the ship and irritatedly wondered why no one had
fastened it.

Turning down the small corridor that led to her own cabin she noted
that the swinging door was that opposite her own. If someone were ill
in there, the door must be extremely annoying. She opened her own door,
switched on the cabin light, found her sketch book and stepped out
again. Again the door opposite slammed back. The cabin light was on.
She tapped gently on the doorframe. Perhaps the occupant was too ill to
get up. But no one answered.

Cynthia put her hand on the knob to close it, but the door was partly
wedged by a suitcase which had slid against it--the suitcase which she
recognized as the same she had tripped over when she first came on
board. Or was it the same? There was that Mexican Airways label, and
next to it a circular yellow paster which formed a pattern her mind
had already recorded, but something was missing. She closed the door
gently, shoved it to see that it was firmly latched, and hurried along
the corridor. But as she ran up the stairway she remembered what was
missing. The Ottawa label had been sponged off. There was a darker spot
on the leather where it had been.

At the entrance to the lounge, the color and light and music burst on
her like a shower of thrown confetti. Figures whirled and swayed to the
music, the room was a shifting patchwork of bright color. Even Miss
Mitchall had been persuaded to dance and jigged round and round happily
with a little Hungarian whose bent knees and extreme speed were relics
of an older era.

Cynthia passed behind the row of chairs at the end of the dance floor
and skirted the room to where, in a remote corner behind an empty card
table, she could be comfortably inconspicuous yet have a good view of
the dancers. She leafed through her sketch book, found some blank
pages and began to work.

Between encores the couples paused, chatted, and applauded. That
scarecrow with his whitened face and clay pipe ... Cynthia got it with
a few strokes of the pencil. Then Miss Mitchall’s rapt expression as
she gazed into her partner’s face, radiant, unconscious. Oh darn! The
music had started again.

Cynthia made a dozen rapid action sketches of the dancing couples (some
of them so close to caricatures she wouldn’t have cared to have the
models see them), yawned, and looked about her. Perhaps it would be
more fun to go back to dancing.

Most of the older people had drifted away and were talking at the
further end of the room, or had gone in to the card tables. How
different some of them looked in costume. She would scarcely have
recognized Mrs. Moody, for instance, in the white hair and patches of
a colonial belle. And the man with her ... Cynthia frowned, trying to
place him. Oh yes, it was the hat that had put her off. He was the
man in the golf cap who tramped the deck all day long ... “walking
to Europe,” Johnnie Graham had said. But the middle aged man who sat
alone, not far from Cynthia? Surely she had never seen him before,
surely she would have remembered that beak-like nose, the hollow cut
deeply on either side of it and the thin lipped mouth.

She made a few strokes of her pencil on the blank page of her sketch
book, then, noting how still her unconscious model sat, became absorbed
in the portrait. Not a good face, but a strong one. The brows were
as heavy as her pencil could etch, the graying hair at the temples
disappeared beneath the tightly drawn edge of a stocking cap and the
long chin dipped into a wide pierrot ruff. The costume was that of a
harlequin and had probably been rented from the ship’s barber, who
carried a stock of fancy costumes for these parties.

Cynthia, absorbed in her sketch, worked rapidly. The claw-like hand
that had reached up to pull away the ruff ... the long white scar just
showing at the side of the chin, not an old scar, she thought, for it
still showed pink at the edges. Her model sat quietly, unaware of the
attention he was receiving.

No, that chin wasn’t right. Cynthia flipped over another page and made
a more detailed study of the lower part of the face. This was a type
she could use, sometime, in an illustration. She wondered vaguely what
the man did when he wasn’t on ship board. Then the music stopped.

Perhaps it was that his attention had wandered from the dancers or
perhaps it was a sudden sense of being watched, but the man turned
quickly in his seat and sent such a glare of enmity at the astonished
Cynthia that she started and dropped her book. When she emerged from
groping beneath the table her model had disappeared. He must have moved
very quickly for he was already slipping through the door. Cynthia
shook herself. That man certainly didn’t like artists! But this was a
good waltz, why not enjoy it.

It was after midnight when she tiptoed into the cabin. Miss Mitchall
was already asleep. Her tall green hat and the long cape were neatly
disposed on the couch beneath the window. She was still asleep when
Cynthia dressed silently next morning, when she left for breakfast.
The dining saloon was almost deserted. Nearly everyone seemed to be
sleeping late or breakfasting in bed.

“My last day on shipboard,” thought Cynthia a little mournfully. What
to do to stretch it out to its full length? She decided to spend the
morning on deck, sketching; the afternoon in the lounge with a book,
or perhaps a game of deck tennis with Stasia. But in the middle of
the morning a thunder shower drove everyone indoors and Cynthia found
Stasia and her father over coffee and toast in the lounge.

“This is Dad’s second breakfast and my first,” announced Stasia. “Have
some coffee, Cynthia?”

Cynthia declined the coffee. “I was up with the larks, or at least
the seagulls,” she said. “Do you mind if I sketch you while you eat?
I’ve wanted to get you all week.” But what she really wanted was Mr.
Carruthers with his rugged beak of a nose, his thin, slightly curling
mouth. In fact she became so intent on her sketch that she forgot she
was supposed to be drawing Stasia till the tall girl laughed:

“Dad, she’s found you more beautiful than I am!”

“What, what? That so?” Mr. Carruthers had been the ideal model,
absolutely unconscious of Cynthia’s flying pencil. It seemed only fair,
however, to show him the drawing when it was finished.

“And this is my roommate. Look, Stasia, I got her last night when she
was dancing with the Hungarian.”

Stasia murmured, “wish I could draw like that.” Mr. Carruthers, too,
seemed impressed. “Good work, young lady,” he nodded. But Cynthia
felt he wouldn’t have much use for artists. He would have all the
conventional ideas about them; temperament and talk and starving in
garrets.

Stasia was turning the leaves slowly, making here and there a comment,
Mr. Carruthers looking over her shoulder till he stopped her with a
large forefinger suddenly on one page.

“Who is this? Where did you sketch him?” he asked.

Cynthia leaned across the table. “Oh, that man? Isn’t it a wicked face?
I wish you could have seen ...”

But Mr. Carruthers was impatient. He took the book from Stasia. “Tell
me about this. When did you sketch this? Last night? And what was this,
part of the costume? Make-up?”

“No,” Cynthia laughed, “it was a bad scar, a fairly new one for it was
still pink and raw-looking. I think he had tried to cover it with that
harlequin ruff, but when he grew warm he forgot about it, and pushed
the ruff away from his face.”

Mr. Carruthers had already pushed the little electric bell with an
insistent finger. Before the hurrying steward had reached the table,
Mr. Carruthers barked, “Ask Captain Wain if we can see him immediately,
in his office, and tell the purser to join us there.” Then he turned to
Cynthia, “I’d like you to come along and tell the Captain what you just
told me. And may we borrow your sketch book for an hour or two?”

Puzzled and excited, Cynthia followed Stasia and her father out of
the lounge, down the corridor towards the captain’s office. Captain
Wain was a plump little man with a ruddy complexion that had weathered
many storms, white walrus whiskers, and a blue uniform with lots
of glittering buttons. Behind him stood the purser whom Cynthia
already knew, a lean, hatchet-faced man, with small sharp eyes and an
apologetic manner.

Mr. Carruthers held the door for the two girls, then closed it firmly
behind him and plunged immediately into his subject.

“It’s this matter of Goncourt,” he stated, and opened Cynthia’s
sketchbook where his thumb had been keeping the place. “I want you two
to see this.”

The Captain leaned to look at the portrait of the man in the ruff, and
passed it to the purser with no comment save a brief “Mmumph!”

The purser examined it somewhat longer. “Miss Wanstead made this?” he
asked.

Cynthia, bewildered, explained when and where she had made the sketch,
and questioned further, explained about the scar.

“He really had such a scar? It wasn’t grease paint, or whatever it is
you use on your face?”

Cynthia shook her head. You didn’t put things like that in a sketch
when you were making notes from real life. It was, she told them,
exactly as she had drawn it. She didn’t have any reason to make it up.

Mr. Carruthers sat down and waved the others to chairs. “Might we,” he
suggested, “see Goncourt’s passport again?”

Yes, the purser would bring it. He seemed glad to get away. Stasia,
who had quietly watched all this now said, “Don’t you think it would
be a good plan, Dad, if we told Cynthia what this was all about?”
And, at her father’s nod of assent, explained: “Dad is owner of this
steamship line, you see, and the night we sailed from New York the head
of the Police Department came down to see us off. He had come, he said,
especially to get track of a man with a scar on his face. It was then
late in the evening, you see, and most of the passengers were on board,
but the purser examined all passports for a man with a scar like that.
It was said to be very conspicuous, and the men at the gate watched all
other passengers who came in after that, but they decided that no such
man was on board.”

“He’s wanted by the police?” asked Cynthia, feeling very much like a
murder-mystery tale.

“Yes, for smuggling ... in ...”

“Here is the passport.” The purser, returning, had a little blue book,
not a dark red one, such as Cynthia’s, in his hand. He passed the book
to the Captain who gave it a brief glance, grunted non-committally
and shoved it towards Mr. Carruthers. Stasia’s father compared the
photograph to the face in Cynthia’s sketch book, but as one was full
face, the other in profile, little could be gained by the comparison.

“Is this the man?” he asked Cynthia, indicating the passport photograph.

Cynthia got up and came around the desk. Passport in hand she moved
to the window for a better light. As she examined the picture she was
aware of the silent tenseness behind her and suddenly had an idea of
how important all this was, important to several people. Closing her
eyes, she tried to remember more fully the face she had sketched, not
from the side as she had drawn him, but as he had quickly turned to
gaze at her, full face, under the dark frowning brows. Then she looked
again at the picture in her hand. It was very like. Still ...

“No, it’s not the same man.”

There was a little stir in the room and Mr. Carruthers got up and came
to stand beside her.

“But it’s very like him.” Something teased at her brain. Like and not
like ... like and not like ...

“It might be a relation,” she hazarded dubiously. “This man,” she
tapped the passport, “has had a broken nose at some time. We had a
model with one at the Academy, so I recognized the peculiar shape.” It
was not at all like the beaky feature she had sketched.

Absently she gazed at the cover of the passport. “What cabin is this
man in? The one with the passport.”

“He’s in 376, Miss,” the purser answered.

And Cynthia was in 374, right across the little corridor. The passport
in her hand was Canadian, and Miss Mitchall had said ... “Look here,”
Cynthia said suddenly, “could my roommate be called? I think she might
be able to help us;” and added, “you can be sure she won’t talk.”

The captain glanced dubiously at Stasia’s father. “The less people who
know about this ...” then, at the other’s nodded gesture toward the
purser, “ask her to come here,” he commanded gruffly.

Miss Mitchall, slightly fluttering, was produced almost immediately.
Cynthia didn’t try to explain the circumstances, just showed her the
passport. “Did you ever see this man? I mean, does he look familiar?”

Squinting near-sightedly, the little governess examined the picture,
then passed it back with a shake of her head. “No, my dear. I’ve never
seen him.”

There was a sigh in the cabin. But Cynthia had not finished. That
teasing idea of hers ... Miss Mitchall had once told her something that
bore on this. ... “Then if not that man, someone very like him?”

“Someone like him, surely. But not that man. Probably a twin brother. I
was a twin myself.”

So that was it. Cynthia’s memory had almost, but not quite, done the
trick.

“By Gad!” barked the Captain, “the woman has brains! Where did you see
this man, madame?” His tone was weighty with respect.

“In the cabin across from 374. Once the door was open as I passed and
he was shaving, with the light full on his face. There was quite a scar
on his cheek. He shut the door with a slam when he saw me.”

Cynthia was still looking at the passport in her hand. “Was this man
from Ottawa, the one you wanted?” she asked. Then gasped.

It was almost as though she had sprung a mine, so laughably surprised
were the faces about her. “How did you know that?” the Captain’s gruff
tones held suspicion.

But Cynthia had suddenly remembered the suitcase she had stumbled over
the first day, and the dark patch that showed some label had been
removed from it. “You see,” she explained further, “I’m accustomed to
remembering the shapes and colors of things, perhaps more than most
people do because that’s part of my job. I remembered an Ottawa paster
on the suitcase because of a certain clever arrangement of colors,
green and blue and orange.”

Mr. Carruthers stopped her with a gesture. Stepping into the doorway he
spoke a moment in a low voice to the steward outside then returned to
the room. “Will you describe this label for us, or could you draw it?”

“It’s something like this.” Cynthia took the pencil out of her pocket
and made a little diagram on a blank page of her note book. “It had an
orange moon and a tower, rather medieval, dark blue against it. Then
there was a jiggley border of green, in this manner.”

The steward with something in his hand, stood in the doorway. Mr.
Carruthers rose and brought in a suitcase, not the black one, but a
small, light-tan airplane case. He turned it around so that all might
see the Ottawa label, exactly as Cynthia had sketched it.

“We were in Ottawa a few weeks ago,” he explained, “and I remembered
this label on our bag. You see,” he turned to Cynthia, “this man is
wanted in Canada for jewel stealing. The police of Ottawa had wired the
police of New York to watch for him on any boat leaving port within the
next few days. I believe he has sailed on this line before, but we have
to be awfully sure before we can make an arrest. The publicity, if the
man were innocent, would be unpleasant for the steamship company.”

“I’ll go and make the arrest myself.” The Captain departed, taking the
purser with him.

Stasia, who had been quiet as a mouse all this time, prodded her father
with a finger. “Daddy, tell Cynthia the rest of it.”

“Oh yes ... ah,” Mr. Carruthers cleared his throat. “A hum ... we are
extremely grateful to you ladies, Miss Wanstead, and Miss Mitchall.
It would have been awkward if he had escaped by our line. Of course
you understand that there is a reward for information leading to his
arrest. And I think we can say that the reward will be yours if this is
Goncourt, as we now fully believe.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“And to think that it really was Goncourt and that he has been in that
cabin all the week,” thrilled Miss Mitchall for the hundredth time.

Cynthia grinned. “And to think of your suggesting the twin business, of
your knowing it was a Canadian accent. That was really as important as
the sketch. You see he got the scar in Ottawa, when he made a big haul
of some jewels, about a year ago, and then he went to Quebec and did
the same thing. But then he used the picture of a twin brother on his
passport and covered the scar with a muffler when he came on board. I
suppose he was afraid to go out of his cabin very much.”

“How like a Wallace novel!”

Cynthia went on folding things to put into her suitcase. In another
minute she could close it, not to be opened again until she was in
France. “I wonder,” she asked without turning, “if you would do me a
great favor?”

“Why of course my dear, what is it?”

“Well, you see this reward business is rather a bother.” Cynthia didn’t
say that Stasia had warned her it might be some weeks before the check
got through. “I wonder if you would take some of my money now, as part
of your share. If I have too much I’m liable to spend it on Paris hats
and foolish things, you see. Perhaps a hundred now, and when the check
comes I’ll send you the rest of your half.”

For a moment Cynthia was afraid Miss Mitchall would see through her
plan and refuse, but the little governess smiled and nodded. Yes, she
knew how tempting Paris was if you had money. Yes, she’d be glad to
take some of it now.

Cynthia snapped off the light and hauled herself into the upper bunk.
Paris tomorrow! But she wasn’t afraid of her luck any more. She’d
proved it would stand by her.



CHAPTER 2

_Paris_

CORNED BEEF HASH


Steamship and steamer friends had been left behind. Paris was ahead,
closer now with every minute, every hurrying second. The little French
girl who had kept on her hat and gloves and had read, in silence, a
paper covered copy of Anatole France all the way from Cherbourg, let
down the window, leaned out to wave a beckoning hand, and shouted,
“_Porteur! Porteur!_”

Cynthia waited patiently, but as the other seemed in no haste to
relinquish her place at the window, the American finally leaned over
the French girl’s shoulder and beckoned in similar fashion. The long
train slid gently to a stop and a score of stout little blue smocked
men seemed to spring from the ground and began taking baggage from the
open windows, loading it on wide straps over their sturdy shoulders.

Cynthia captured the eye of number 972; a beady eye above a red nose
and a moustache that would have graced a member of the Beggar’s Opera.
She gulped, “Taxi!”--thank goodness, there was a word that meant the
same in several languages, at which he grinned cheerfully and slung her
heavy suitcase and her paint box in one huge paw. The other grasped her
neighbor’s bags and the whole strange and unwieldy combination lumbered
off down the platform. Was he gone for good? Better follow that French
girl, Cynthia decided. She seemed unconcerned. Oh, one had to give up
the ticket here, and there was the porter again. No more customs, that
had all been cleared at the quay, earlier in the morning.

The street met her with a blast of warm July air, a dazzle of summer
sunlight and such a medley of strange noises: taxis hooting in a new,
high key; shrill-pitched voices, mingled shouts and confusion, that she
stood for a moment bewildered and lost. Horrid luck that no one she
knew from the boat had been coming to Paris on this train!

Then Cynthia saw that her bag and paint box had been piled into a
taxi like a shiny black beetle and the blue smocked one waited for
his _pourboire_. She tipped him ten francs. Was that too much, or too
little? She had been warned that, in either case, he would glare, but
this one smiled, muttered, “_Merci!_” and departed. The hotel address
was written on a card and Cynthia had only to show that to the driver,
hop in, and they were off.

“Well!”

“Well, so this is Paris!”

“Well ...,” Cynthia giggled nervously. To be really here. To have
arrived safely, all by herself. Well, that was something. “Paris!”

She sighed, relaxed back against the cushions and closed her eyes for a
moment. Oh, the taxi was stopping. Her eyes popped open. Just a little
policeman in a toy soldier cape and a white stick with which he seemed,
miraculously, to hold up this mad traffic. Off again. She shut her eyes
once more. New smells, hot asphalt, violets, damp warm air, something
cooking, other things. She just couldn’t keep her eyes shut.

The car was running along gray cobbles between gray houses high and
incredibly ancient. Tall, plane trees leaned out over gray walls that
held in a silvery stream. The Seine! A little gay colored steamer, like
a miniature ferry-boat, hooted and put off from a landing. Cynthia
wanted to hug it all at once, to pinch herself to be sure she was here.
How she wished Judy could see it, and Chick, dear Chick. This was to
have been their honeymoon. He’d be over shortly, a few weeks at the
most. And meanwhile there was work to be done; a language to learn,
Nancy and Mrs. Brewster to see, and covers to be done for _Little One’s
Magazine_.

Was that, could that possibly be, Notre Dame over there to the left?
And the Eiffel Tower clear ahead, misty against sunny sky? She had seen
it as they came in on the train. Really Paris!

“Not a motion picture!” chuckled Cynthia. And tomorrow she could go and
see it all for herself.

Then a second bridge, Place St. Michel. And a swift turn to the left
into a narrow street where noises echoed back from the high stone
houses to right and left. They drew up before a door and a boy, in a
horizontal striped waistcoat and white shirt sleeves, came out from
the hotel entrance. Here was her home in Paris.

Inside, at the little brass-railed desk, they had a key for her room
and a letter from Mrs. Brewster, who had made her reservation for her.
There was a little cage-like elevator into which one squeezed, barely
avoiding the folding doors, and then up, up, like a wobbly balloon. A
hallway musty and dark, and at last a tall room with two high French
windows opening on to a small balcony.

“Yes, this will do nicely,” said Cynthia in her best French, and so
moved into Paris.

When the door closed, Cynthia sat down to catch her breath. So much had
happened in the last half hour, she had seen so much that was new, and
strange, and lovely. “I suppose there are people that live in Paris all
the time and take it as a matter of course,” she told herself. “And, I
suppose, I shall get to take it that way too, after a bit. But now it’s
all rather frightening. I wonder if I can make myself understood, I
wonder if I shall get lost, I wonder ... oh goodness, how shall I order
meals? But perhaps menu French is the same everywhere.”

Mrs. Brewster’s letter was reassuring. She seemed to think Cynthia
would find everything very simple and easy. “But I am giving you the
address of a little French girl, who speaks excellent English, she was
a governess in London for some years. If you get lonely, or wish to
improve your accent,” ha, _accent!_ “don’t hesitate to look her up.”
Enclosed was also a note from Nancy.

“Do come to Conquet,” she begged. “Mother and I are both painting here.
It’s all pearly gray mists and long, empty beaches and sabots, and fish
and steep streets and old houses. And you can find lots of children to
pose for your covers.”

It did sound fun. But Paris seemed quite enough adventure for the
moment. And Cynthia’s purse was very flat. She must first see Mr.
Culbert, who was over here now, and was the editor of the magazine for
which she had a contract for a dozen covers, see if she couldn’t get an
advance on the first order, and if he could put her in touch with a way
to get models. Just at the moment she hadn’t the slightest idea how to
go about getting one for the painting she must do.

She sat down and wrote to Nancy, planning to mail the letter when she
went out to dinner. Then leaning out on the little balcony, she watched
the light fade in the street below, listening to the sounds of Paris
echo up between the ancient, stained, backward sloping housefronts.

What, she wondered, with a little pang of homesickness, were they doing
now at home? Six o’clock ... but no, time was different. Was it three
over there, or nine, now? The mental gymnastics made her head reel and
she decided that she was hungry. But plenty of time yet. Cynthia hated
to admit to herself that she dreaded that first meal alone, doubted her
ability to order food, even to find her way home again, once she had
set her foot off the hotel doorstep. It was after eight o’clock when
she finally tore herself away from the window and summoned courage to
go out for dinner. “You can’t starve till morning, idiot!” she told
herself severely. “Just walk downstairs, and out the door. There must
be lots of places to eat within the next two blocks. Why, France is a
nation of cooks!”

A short way up the Boule’ Miche’, she found a little place with pretty
red-and-white checked table cloths on the iron topped tables, behind
dusty box hedges in their wooden boxes. This was pleasantly removed
from a small band that was playing lustily, and not too melodiously, on
the street corner. Funny about those bands. She had passed three in the
short distance from the hotel and another had begun playing beneath her
window just as she went out.

No one else seemed to be eating. Perhaps French people dined later
than this. The menu was as much an enigma as she had expected. It was
written in a flowing Spencerian hand, in dim violet ink on a limp and
food-stained bit of paper. Hardly a word seemed legible, and none of it
was intelligible. “Goodness,” murmured Cynthia, and looked about her.
Could she get up and leave, and try another place? But the waiter had
already placed a napkin beside her, fork and knife beside the napkin.
Cynthia decided she hadn’t the moral courage to rise and depart. Well,
here goes!

“Bring me some of that, and that, and that,” she directed and pointed
near the center of the page. The main body of a meal always came near
the middle of the menu, didn’t it?

The waiter, who wore a spotty black dinner jacket and a white apron,
broke into a voluble explanation of some sort. Evidently they were out
of this, would mademoiselle not prefer that? Mademoiselle nodded in
agreement. Yes, anything. _Oui, oui, oui!_ The waiter departed on swift
feet. Cynthia wondered what he would bring.

What he brought was a strange piece of pink meat swimming in a
cold bath of oil. This she poked about with a fork, wondering what
particular portion of what animal it might be. It hardly seemed edible,
and certainly though she was hungry, she was not yet hungry enough for
that. After a long time the waiter seemed to appreciate that she had
finished with that course, and brought her some hot boiled potatoes.
These were more palatable. And bread helped too. Then came a small
white something wrapped in tin foil, and served with a large salt
shaker.

But the foil proved to contain a small roll of really delicious cream
cheese, and eaten with sugar, which came from the large salt shaker,
and more of the crisp French bread. It served to round off the simple
meal.

“I suppose I have eaten,” thought Cynthia as she wandered home again.
“I wish I weren’t still so hungry. At least that meal was cheap,
and that’s important at the moment.” But she continued to think of
hot beefsteaks, and hot muffins, and hot chicken pies, and what she
wouldn’t do to a big plate of ham and eggs. ... Oh dear! But tomorrow
she’d try another place. Perhaps that wasn’t a really good example of
French cooking.

As she strolled slowly back towards the hotel all the little bands
were going full force. Cynthia noticed that people were beginning to
dance, under the lights, on the hard cobbled pavements to the jiggling,
monotonous tunes. She leaned for a while against the closed iron
shutter of a shop, and watched the gay crowds gather. They seemed very
happy. Was it some celebration, she wondered, or did French people
always dance like this in the evening? The musicians beneath her
window were in fine fettle, tootling, sawing, and bumping away at no
particular tune, but just a sort of penny whistle noise with a strongly
marked rhythm for the dancers.

She sat in her window watching them till she got so sleepy she could
no longer keep her eyes open, then deciding they’d probably keep it up
pretty late, till ten or maybe eleven, crawled into bed. It had been a
long day since Cherbourg that morning, and in spite of the band, which
surely must stop before midnight, she thought she could sleep.

But the monotonous, tuneless sound seemed to go round, and round, and
round inside her head. She dreamed that she was waltzing rapidly with
the _garçon_ of the striped waistcoat, with Madame in her black taffeta
dress and wide gold chain, with the black cat of the restaurant. Then
woke to hear the band still scraping, and bumping merrily. Foggily
she struggled out of bed and closed first the heavy wooden shutters,
then the window and went back to sleep with her head hot under the
bedclothes. Twice she woke again at odd hours, but always that rhythm
penetrated the darkness.

Then she woke again. Surprisingly all was still. How blissful that
was! She was sure the musicians had stopped only a short time ago,
and waited tensely to see if they would start again. But there was no
sound. Then rolling over with aching head she saw that light streamed
from between the chinks of the shutters, and that her watch said seven
o’clock.

She opened her window, went back to bed and slept till nine. Then she
wandered out to find breakfast. Only a gnawing hunger had made her get
up at all.

Strangely enough none of the restaurants seemed to be open. She peered
in at two, between drawn net curtains, to see chairs piled on empty
tables, and boys washing down the floors. Then rounding a corner
Cynthia came full on the Seine, between its gray stone banks, and a
gray stone bridge beyond which loomed, full in the summer sunlight, the
twin towers of Notre Dame de Paris. Oh lovely!

Along the embankment were the tiny stalls of the booksellers, all
closed now. Didn’t Paris people go to work until noon, she wondered?

Then at the end of the block, facing a small open square she saw a
sign which read “_Café, Chocolat_.” Here, perhaps, she could get some
sort of meal. Outdoors, under a gay striped awning she found a little
wicker table with a red and white top, and wicker chairs. A big black
cat with a white bib, and green eyes gave her welcome with purrs and
ankle rubbings. This was going to be jolly. She stammered her desire
for chocolate, and learned that “little breads,” and butter could also
be procured, and that little breads were really crisp warm rolls.

Notre Dame faced her, serene, solid, impregnable. When breakfast was
over she’d go across and visit the church, and stroll along by the
river. This must be the famous Left Bank, where all the artists and
students lived.

The cat rubbed, purring, about the table, and a small boy with eyes
as softly dark as the cat’s fur, and clad in a diminutive smock of
black, with a small black beret perched on his dark curls came out to
stare solemnly at this stranger. Cynthia buttered a piece of roll, and
offered it to him. With a shy, “_Merci!_” muttered in an oddly deep
voice he took it, bolted it, and watched for the next mouthful. Cynthia
grinned at him, ate a bit herself and gave him, thereafter, alternate
bites. By the time two rolls were finished, and the big pitcher of hot
chocolate was drained to the last sweet drop, the small boy had smiled
also, had told her that his name was Nono, and that he lived here. Here
at last was a friend. Tomorrow she’d bring a sketchbook to breakfast.

When tomorrow came Nono appeared, along with his black cat, for more
bits of warm roll. But this time he smiled immediately, crinkling
his dark eyes with an amused and delightful welcome. When his father
brought the chocolate, he said something in brief reproof, but Cynthia
protested. “Let him stay,” she begged and displayed her sketchbook.

The man grinned and nodded. He knew about artists, and explained to
the boy that he must sit still for mademoiselle. Whereat Nono climbed
into one of the café chairs, and grasping firm hold of the huge and
somewhat reluctant cat, proceeded to demonstrate that he was born to be
an artist’s model.

Oh, this was glorious. Cynthia’s fingers flew to get it all down before
it could dissolve, and when the cat finally went calmly to sleep, Nono
continued to sit immovable, wide eyed, minutes on minutes. Cynthia got
more and more thrilled. It was going to be a honey of a sketch. She
wondered if, maybe, colors tomorrow. ...

At last she nodded to the child. He laughed and stretched, and dumped
the sleeping cat from his knees. Cynthia put two francs in his small
hand. Was that, she wondered, too much, or too little? It was what her
breakfast had cost her. Apparently, by his reception, it was all right.

“Tomorrow?” she asked in French, and pointed toward the chair again.

“_Oui, oui, Demain_,” agreed Nono. Then he must know that artists
sometimes wanted one to pose again.

That was on Sunday. Saturday had not been strikingly successful. For
some reason, perhaps because it was Saturday, everything, banks and the
Express Company, Mr. Culbert’s office and most of the museums Cynthia
wished to visit, had been closed. Monday, of course, they would be open
again, and she could get in touch with Mr. Culbert. Cynthia’s money was
running low and she must ask for an advance on the first cover, and
must find some way to get in touch with models to work from.

But Monday was no better than Sunday, nor than Saturday had been.
The band, for the third time, had played all night, and Cynthia had
slept fitfully, hot and miserable in the closed, noisy room. She awoke
feeling as though she could sleep for a week. Then she remembered Nono.
Here at last was one bright spot in Paris. She hurried out to breakfast
with her large sketch pad and her color box under her arm.

Nono was waiting for her, and so was the black cat. Cynthia was
ravenously hungry. A continental breakfast wasn’t enough food to last
one through a day of sightseeing, and so far she had found no good
place to eat. Hastily she drank her chocolate, shared a double order of
rolls and butter with the somewhat greedy little Nono. She herself was
anxious to get to work on this color sketch.

Nono, complete with the large sleepy cat, clambered into his wicker
chair. The sunlight reflected warm and yellow beneath his chin and his
eyes were half closed, amusingly, in the glare. The black smock seemed
almost a dark green in contrast to the cat’s soft fur, and beyond them
was the red and white ruffle of the awning, a brilliant splash of warm
color. Cynthia asked to have her little painting pail filled with
water, sketched in the brief outline of her composition, and slashed
happily into color. Once she said, mechanically “Rest!” and found that
the boy understood. In a few minutes he returned to his place. The
cat was a little different, but Cynthia had allowed for that, and now
sketched him in and completed that part of the drawing all in one pose.

The drawing was emerging with both charm and strength. Black, red and
warm flesh tones accented with the green of the cat’s eyes, and one
white paw lifted to rest against Nono’s black smock. This, thought
Cynthia, was one of the nicest things she had ever done. Even fatigue
and hunger seemed to have added to her ability since her senses seemed
sharpened, nerves tautened by the past two days.

She had decided to go that afternoon and find the little French girl
Mrs. Brewster had recommended for language lessons. Her visit to the
Express Company, and to the office where she had hoped to find Mr.
Culbert were as unsuccessful as Saturday’s visits. Everything was still
closed tight.

Cynthia was beginning to worry. She had only a few hundred francs,
about fifteen dollars, left in her purse and there was no telling how
long this celebration might last. It puzzled her. She had asked Madame
at the desk and had learned that it was the “Fourteenth of July,”
whatever that was! But Friday had been the fourteenth. Surely they
didn’t celebrate America’s Fourth of July over here, did they? Foggily
she tried to connect it with Lafayette and the two Revolutions, but
couldn’t make it out. Everywhere the little street bands continued to
play and people continued to dance in the streets.

Still pondering on this mystery she found the house on the Boulevard
St. Michel that bore the address of the Mademoiselle Menard. Mrs.
Brewster had explained that she lived on the fifth floor and that “in
France the first floor is not the ground floor, nor the next, which is
called the entresol. You have to go up two flights to get to the first
floor and then begin to count from there!” They were long flights,
too, and Cynthia had begun to feel a little faint by the time she
reached the top. When she found Mr. Culbert, if she ever did, she would
certainly beg him to take her out for a real dinner!

Cynthia put her finger on the large white push button and a bell pealed
somewhere way off inside. But no one answered it. After a bit she tried
again, and then again. What should she do next? She already had visited
Notre Dame, and knew the Cluny and Luxembourg Gardens, for the past two
days, as well as the palm of her hand. Besides she still felt strangely
faint. She leaned against the heavy stone balustrade and looked down.

Suddenly up through the hallway, wafted from below came the most
glorious and enchanting odor. Cynthia closed her eyes. It made her
think of home, of a loaded dinner table with big plates of corned-beef
hash, with an egg on top, slabs of bread and butter, and a thick slice
of apple pie with cheese. Oh dear!

Like a good little hound following the scent, Cynthia, hypnotized by
that delicious smell, stepped down, step after step, to the floor
below. Still that beckoning, delightful odor. Another flight. It was
stronger now, over the banisters.

“Heavens!” thought Cynthia. “How can I ever stand this?”

Here was the door and she had tracked it to its lair. A door, heavy
and thick and solid, like those above. It was open just a crack, which
was why the lovely smell had wandered out. Cynthia leaned against the
doorpost. There were tears of hunger and of homesickness in her eyes as
she sniffed ... and sniffed. Onions in that hash, too! No calves head
in cold oil here, no tough thin steaks that might, or might not, be
horsemeat!

Then the door opened with a _whoosh_ and Cynthia almost fell through it
into the hall beyond.

“_’Ello!_” said a cheery voice in French. Another girl, shorter than
Cynthia but about her own age, with an amusing long nose, twinkly brown
eyes, her hair covered by a chic little straw hat with a red quill, a
white wool dress embroidered in red.

The girl continued to chatter something in French. Cynthia looked as
blank as a brick wall; she had been wrenched all too suddenly from
that corned-beef-hash day-dream.

“Say!” cried the girl suddenly. “You’re an American, too, aren’t you?”

Cynthia could have hugged her, right then and there. Why she hadn’t
heard a word of English for three whole days.

“Oh, _yes!_” she almost shouted. “And oh, is that hash you are cooking?”

The girl giggled, then sniffed appreciatively. “Does smell good,
doesn’t it? Mother’s a swell cook. Look here ...” she opened the door
that had half closed behind her. “Hey, Mums, have we got enough for a
guest?” and before Cynthia could object, had shoved her ahead, down the
hallway, into a wide room lit by late sunlight.

“Take off your mittens and bonnet and shawl,” laughed the girl. “You’re
invited to dinner ... that is if you can stay. Mums, this is Miss
America, winner of all beauty prizes to date, isn’t she pretty? ...”
Heavens how the girl did rattle on, thought the amused Cynthia. ... “I
found her fainting on our doorstep and brought her in.”

“Mums” was wide and comfortable looking in a huge white apron and
carried a turning-spoon in her hand. She seemed unperturbed by her
daughter’s nonsense.

“My name’s Wanstead, Cynthia,” explained the owner of that name. “And
I do hope you will forgive me. I sniffed your delicious cooking two
flights up.”

“Good grief, I must have left that door open again!” rattled the girl.
“We’d just about lose our French lease if they sniff our cooking in the
hall. Oh, I forgot, my name is Murchison. This is Mrs. Murchison, my
honored parent. ... Listen I’ve got to run out with some letters for
the post. Sit still and I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

Cynthia was only too glad to sit. Normally she would have protested
more strongly against their forced hospitality, but today, homesick and
genuinely hungry and considerably worried about the future, she found
this American household irresistible. Mrs. Murchison puttered into the
room and out again murmuring absentmindedly: “Father loves corn-beef
hash. ... Can’t get French cook to make it properly. ... Marie, our
cook, gone home for the holidays ...” and still murmuring disappeared
at last in the direction of the kitchen.

Over the delicious dinner Cynthia heard the story of the mysterious
holiday. “It’s the Jour de Bastille,” Alice explained to her, “in
celebration of the destruction of that beastly prison. The French never
have a half-holiday. They save it up and make four days of it. Father’s
in the consular service and had to be home for tomorrow morning, but
most Americans who live here plan to stay out of Paris during these
four days, they’re so noisy. Our cook won’t be worth her salt for the
next week, she’ll be so sleepy. If you ask me, you look half asleep.”

“I’ve had one of those bands under my window for the past three
nights,” apologized Cynthia. “Please, can I have some more hash?”

“Save room for real American ice cream,” advised her hostess, and, when
dinner was over, “I’m going to tuck you into bed right away, you poor
thing. It’s only seven and you can sleep till ten or eleven. Then I’ll
wake you to go home. Come on, my room is at the back, on the garden,
you won’t hear a single drum or whistle or even a taxi horn.”

Cynthia was too weary to utter more than a feeble protest. “It seems
kind of funny to break into a stranger’s house, eat their hash and go
to sleep in their bed,” she murmured as she slipped off her shoes.

“Take off your dress. That’s right. I’ll just throw a blanket over you
and open this window a little. Sleep _doucement!_”

Cynthia started to call, “Don’t fail to wake me,” but must have been
asleep before she could speak the words. At least when she awoke an
apparent few minutes later the sentence still hung unuttered, in her
mind. She stretched, blinked, fumbled for her thoughts, then glared at
the window. It was full daylight!

Frantically she bent to look at her watch. It had stopped. Then it
_was_ next day? The little clock on the bureau said “eight o’clock” and
then Alice, tousle headed, in bright pink candy-striped pyjamas peeped
round the edge of the door.

“Hello you! Gosh how you did sleep! Are you by any chance a descendant
of the Sleeping Beauty? I phoned your hotel so they wouldn’t think you
had got run over, and went in to sleep with Mother.”

She pranced into the room and perched on the foot of the bed. “It’s a
swell day. And things started to move again today. You’ll find your
little editor chap, no doubt. Will you have your breakfast on a tray in
here, milady, and go back to sleep again?”

“Goodness no! Oh, I feel fine.” Cynthia swung her feet out of bed.

It was nearly noon, however, when Cynthia sent her name to Mr. Culbert,
the editor of _Little Ones’ Magazine_. He came out immediately, a plump
little man with a round jolly face and held out both hands, beaming his
welcome.

“Such a shame you landed here in the middle of the holiday. I was down
in the south of France with the owner of the magazine, but got back
last night. Now, my dear child, about those covers of yours, I suppose
you want to get right at them. About models ... that’s going to be a
bit difficult. Children, you know. ...”

“Not a bit difficult.” Cynthia’s eyes were dancing. “I’ve been
working,” she said demurely.

“What, not already? Well, you are a wonder! Oh, you’ve got something
there? Come into the office, will you? This is just a borrowed place
and I hate it. Drat these French chairs. I like a good old swivel chair
I can lean back in. Shall be glad to get back to the States myself. Now
let’s see. ...”

He had chatted incessantly as he led the way into a room resembling
more a window display of a decorator’s shop than an office. Cynthia
perched on the corner of the elaborate inlaid desk and slipped the
wrapper off her drawing, the one Nono, over her second breakfast, had
finished posing for, just a half hour ago.

“Here you are.” She knew it was good. Would he think so too? Gosh, he
liked it! She could tell by his face.

“Sa ... ay, that’s fine. My dear child, you have certainly surpassed
anything you have done yet.” He set it on the floor, propped against
the wall and leaned back to squint at it.

It was nice to be praised and Cynthia felt herself getting warm and
pink cheeked. Yes, she knew Nono had been her best effort ... to date.
“There’ll be better ones, though,” she told the little editor. “I’m
going to Brittany next week to join the Brewsters, and to paint. I’ll
do you a Breton child for the issue after this one.”

Mr. Culbert got up and took her arm. “Now we’ll go and get a check
made out for this. I know you can always use money in Paris. And then
how about a celebration dinner tonight, some place where they have
marvelous French cooking?”

Cynthia laughed. “I can do better than that, I’ve got an invitation for
you, instead. We’re both invited to a really American meal. Please,
_do_ you like corned beef hash?”



CHAPTER 3

_Brittany_

COLD-IN-THE-HEAD


Nancy’s rapid, fluent French gave directions to the small, sabot shod
boy who dragged behind him a blue painted hand cart. Then she turned to
bestow an additional hug on the waiting Cynthia.

“Oh, but it is grand to see you. And how brown you will get here! Come
along. François’ll bring your luggage in his perambulator.”

Cynthia drew a deep whiff of the ocean scented air. “Ouff! ’S nice to
get on solid ground again. I feel inches deep in train dirt and trolley
dust. How sweet the air smells, Nancy.”

“You’ll see the broad Atlantic in a moment or two, just over that way a
few blocks. We have to walk about a half mile to the bathing beach, but
it’s a beauty when you get there.”

Cynthia gave a little skip of delight. “How’s your especially nice
parent?” she asked.

“She’s always lovely. At the moment she’s in a seventh heaven, having
donned a disreputable paint-smeared smock, stuck an old straw hat on
her head, and is painting ocean foam and wet rocks, laying the color
on the canvas with a trowel! She’s awfully glad to be free of the
illustration business for a time, if you ask me. But you’ll see her
soon. She gets hungry and comes home to meals.” Nancy babbled on and
Cynthia had a chance to see how brown and strong she looked, how much
good the summer in this tiny provincial town was doing her.

“We turn here, to the right. This, ladieeze and gen’lemen, is the main
and principal street of Le Conquet, the most wester-r-r-n town in all
France. Sweet, isn’t it, Cindy?”

It was, Cynthia admitted, adorable. Old and gray and cobblepaved, with
a tiny, one-pedestrian sidewalk along one wall, and with little two-
and three-story houses of old, pearly-gray stone whose tiny windows
opened intimately close to the street, as did the heavy wooden doors.
Green lichened roofs sloped steeply, and there were red geraniums
blooming in open windows between blowing red and green checked
curtains, to give color to the mellow softness of the ancient stone.

“Our American hero, Mr. Jones, used to put in here, they say,” remarked
Nancy casually.

“What Mr. Jones?” asked Cynthia, then at Nancy’s deepening dimple,
always an index to her mood, suspected a trap. “Who was Mr. Jones?”

“Why surely you remember John Jones, of the U. S. Navy? No? ... Not Mr.
John _Paul_ Jones?”

“Beast!” laughed Cynthia, then “Tell me some more.”

“Well, as you know, this is the Department of Finisterre, Lands End,
and is the farthest west of all western provinces. Some centuries
ago, dunno how many, but not long, it belonged to England and the
people here are closer to the southwest-of-England type than you could
imagine.”

They turned a corner, past a wide lipped stone well where a woman
dipped water in a huge, creamy-toned pitcher. Cynthia murmured, “Wait
till I can get to my sketch book!” and Nancy nodded understandingly.

“Then the French got it back,” she continued, “and perhaps the English
again after that. Anyway the English burnt it a couple of times, though
there were still some English families living here, but spared the
houses in which they lived. That’s why there are still some very old
places, in spite of the conquerors. Here’s the quay. You must get out
your canvas sneakers, these cobbles are death on good leather shoes.
Wooden sabots are best, though I’ve never tried ’em.”

The tiny hotel smelled pleasantly of soap and good Breton cooking. One
went steeply up two flights of stairs to a narrow hall and turned into
a small, whitewashed room with a dresser, a wash stand and a white
covered bed. The single window overlooked the long stretch of quay and
the tidal river, very low now and turning to marvelous lavender in the
sunset light.

“My room is next door, and mother’s beyond that. Here are your things.
I brought you the longest way so you could see the town--Goodness, you
aren’t catching a cold are you?”

Cynthia sneezed again. “I hope not. But a small child in the train from
Paris had frightful snuffles, right in my own compartment, and it was
sort of drafty on the trolley from Brest.”

Promising to hurry, she closed the door and went to the window to hang
out, gazing. Wooden shoes clattered merrily on the cobbles of the quay,
and along the distant dunes, purpling with dusk, smoke rose from the
smouldering potash fires where, Nancy had said, the thrifty Bretons
burned seaweed for fertilizer.

She was pleasantly weary and very hungry. All last night she had been
traveling, more than half the width of France from Paris to Brest.
Uncle Leslie had sailed from Brest after the Armistice, she remembered,
and its steep streets and ancient houses, built on half a dozen
different levels, had fascinated her during the hours she had to wait
for her trolley to Le Conquet.

It had been surprisingly hard to leave Paris. That city had changed for
her, almost overnight. She could have stayed on there, almost happily,
doing paintings and more paintings, digging herself in. _Almost_
happily, but not quite. After all, she could have done that in New
York. And what was the use of keeping on with a thing, once you had
learned you could really do it, once you had met it and conquered it?
While she was over here it was up to her to travel, learn, experiment,
grow.

And here, right outside the window was her first view of a real French
village. How different from Paris, how quaint and sweet and clean--and
oh, how paintable it was going to be. No wonder Nancy’s famous artist
mother planned to spend her summer here. Perhaps Mrs. Brewster would be
able to tell her how to find a model for the next cover, the Christmas
number of _Little One’s Magazine_. Cynthia wanted to paint a little
dark eyed Breton girl or boy, in wooden shoes and quaint cap for that
December number.

Goodness, there was the dinner gong! Cynthia pulled in her head just in
time to face Nancy at the door. “Mother just came up stairs. Want to
come say hello?”

Cynthia sneezed and fumbled in her suitcase for a clean handkerchief.
“Just a moment, Nan. I’ve been so busy just looking that I haven’t
had time to get washed or combed. Now where did I put those hankies?
Pour out the water, will you honey? So I can wash. Oh ... darling Mrs.
Brewster!”

Nancy’s mother, as pretty as ever, tanned from sea bathing, seemed
hardly older than her daughter. “We’re so glad to have you here, my
child. I want to hear all about your covers, and see what you’ve
been doing. Nancy tells me you’ve already completed one painting, in
Paris--Here’s the dining room, and this is our table.”

There were several painters and two writers among the jolly little
crowd at the Hotel Des Poissons. Cynthia got a tremendous thrill out
of having these older people, all professional craftsmen of proved
ability, regard her with respect and as an artist already “arrived.”
Yet she was, after all, also a professional, traveling, actually
seeing the world on what she earned with her brush and pencil.
When she stopped to think about that, Cynthia always felt like a
fairy-tale-princess who has rubbed the magic ring. But generally she
was too busy to think about it.

The next morning Nancy took her to explore the little town, not a long
tour, for there were not six streets in the whole place. The ancient
sturdy houses, facing the sea for half a dozen centuries seemed to
grow from the very rock on which they were built. Below the hotel one
crossed a bridge, at high water, or walked on a raised path across the
sands, at low tide, to a long sandy beach bordered with dunes and tall
waving grasses, very white and flat and clean.

Cynthia surveyed the clear stretch of deserted sand, and Nancy’s brief
little bathing suit with a longing eye. “I won’t go swimming for a
day or two, I guess,” she decided. “This cold doesn’t seem to get any
better and I’d rather not risk it.” She wondered if she were being
old-maid fussy about herself.

Breakfast was a delightfully informal meal, at almost any hour of the
morning, and in the inn parlor, not the dining room. Here the ceiling
quivered with reflections from the sunspangled river.

On the second morning Nancy brought to breakfast a large, mysterious
bag, and when she had received her huge bowl of _café au lait_, weak
coffee made with milk, she opened the paper bag find dumped a handful
of what appeared to be rolled oats, raw, into her bowl.

“What on earth is that?” asked Cynthia.

“That’s my breakfast food, want to try some?”

Cynthia shook her head, “Goodness no. But where can you get breakfast
food, American style, in a paper bag, in a French village?”

“Feed store,” mumbled Nancy around her large spoonful. “It’s just
chicken feed. Bran. I get so hungry by noon, with these continental
breakfasts.”

“How about an egg?” was Cynthia’s suggestion. “Soft boiled.”

“Try and get it.” Nancy’s tone was amused.

Cynthia struggled with the hard-to pronounce _oeuf_. Shortly it came,
all alone on a small dish. It was hot, so it must have been in hot
water. But when she broke it ... “Ugh! It’s completely raw!”

“They simply won’t boil it any longer, unless you want a twenty minute
egg, like a rock,” explained Nancy. “It’s one of the unsolved mysteries
of the French cuisine. You’ll come to chicken-feed yet!”

Meanwhile the time was passing. Cynthia had arrived on a Thursday,
Sunday had rolled round, her Christmas cover must go off to Paris this
week, and she seemed no nearer it than the week before. In fact, so
far, she hadn’t seen any children that looked paintable.

“They are pretty enough,” she mourned, at breakfast on Sunday. “But
it’s merely a matter of color with them. I haven’t seen a single child
that I thought would make a good poster cover.”

Mrs. Brewster nodded. “I know. But some of the old people are
marvelous. There are no better types for models of old people in all of
France.”

“But not for the Christmas cover of a children’s magazine. Unless ...
there is a thought, I give them a Breton Santa Claus.”

“No whiskers on ’em here.” Nancy was most discouraging. “What have you
to suggest, Mother?”

“Hark, there’s the church bell. I suggest that you two hurry into your
best bonnets and shawls and go to church. All the village will be there
and you will have a good chance to look them over. Then if you find
what you want I’ll ask Madame, our patronne, to introduce us. Hurry
now!”

It was a splendid idea, Cynthia admitted, as she followed Nancy into
the little stone church. Surely every good Breton inhabitant of Le
Conquet was present, the women in wide skirts trimmed with bands of
black velvet, with full sleeves, and tight black bodices setting off
the lace-trimmed white aprons, the frosty white caps of Breton lace
and the wide lace collars. Here at least, all the lovely quaintness
of medieval France had not gone down before the stupid uniform of
store-bought gingham dresses.

The men were no less picturesque, with their low crowned wide brimmed
hats, the shining silver buttons on their short, black velvet coats.
And each child was a miniature replica of its parents, with the
exception of the caps which mark the married women.

The small bleak church was warmed to light by the rustle of many
garments, by the soft glow of candles and Cynthia was enchanted by the
little ship-models that swung from the hand hewn rafters, all of them
as perfect as skill and loving care could make them.

“They are thank offerings for the safe return of the ships they
represent,” Nancy whispered to her. “Oh look, Cindy; isn’t she a
darling?” Her elbow nudged for Cynthia’s attention.

The minute Cynthia saw her, her artist’s eye registered her as the one
model for that Christmas cover. Such pansy-brown eyes, such soft curls
around the little pink-cheeked face, such a dimpled round chin above
the starched white collar and the tight little bodice, like a small
child playing at grown-up.

Cynthia nodded her approval of Nancy’s choice. “How nice,” she thought,
“to be with artists again. Oh, I wish they could be with me all over
France,” remembering her loneliness in Paris.

After the service they edged their way toward the door, Cynthia keeping
the child in sight all the way. The little girl’s mother, who walked
behind her, was a larger edition of the same type and must have been
lovely when she was young, but was now bent and weary eyed, like so
many of the hard working Breton peasants.

Nancy’s eyes had been roving the church. Now she gave Cynthia a
reassuring nod. “Wait for me outside,” she commanded and wriggled away
through the crowd. Cynthia, who was taller than most of the villagers,
saw her stop at last before a woman in black and wearing a hat. Their
own patronne from the hotel, very much in her Sunday best. Nancy waved
to Cynthia, then the two disappeared, blotted out by the congregation.

Five minutes later she joined Cynthia in the little square above the
fountain. “It’s all right,” she reported triumphantly. “We identified
your model and her mother, and Madame says she will ask her about
posing.”

That was fine. Cynthia already saw her cover, painted, delivered,
printed, and exhibited on every Christmas news stand in New York. She
drew a breath of relief.

They strolled back toward the hotel and the pleasant smell of Sunday
dinner, the crowd slowly trickling away behind them. The little bakery
was already doing a brisk business, for many of these small shops
opened as soon as the church was out. Cynthia’s eyes caught a new
poster on the bakery wall, a single sheet of vivid lemon yellow with
blue and red type, such a bright patch of color in the pearly gray
street that she hauled Nancy along to look at it.

“Well ...” after a minute of Nancy’s silent contemplation. “What does
it say, stupid? Can’t you read out loud, the way you were taught?”

Nancy chuckled. “Sorry, I forgot. Well, ‘Hypnotiste’ means ‘Hypnotist.’”

“I gathered as much as that. What comes after it?”

“‘World renowned Professor Reynaldo.’ That sounds Spanish but he
says he’s from Paris--‘Parisien’--will be here on Tuesday evening to
give a demonstration of his stupendous and altogether unexplainable
power of the human eye,” Nancy translated loosely. “It also says his
demonstration will be held in the meat market. ... I suppose that’s the
biggest room they have, except the church, and that admission will be
one and two francs. Standing room fifty centimes. Poor thing, he can’t
make much of a living out of that.”

“Let’s go,” suggested Cynthia.

“Eh? ... Well ... yes.” Then as the idea struck her. “I think it would
be fun. Maybe mother would like to go. Let’s ask her now.”

Mrs. Brewster was amused at the idea and quite willing they should go,
but refused to be a third of the party. “Not if it’s to be held in the
meat market. I never could stand the odor of so many sides of beef and
mutton. But you children go along. I’m sure you will find it an amusing
cross section of the peasant’s amusement. I believe they have never had
a hypnotist here before.”

But Cynthia very nearly didn’t get to the entertainment after all. For
on Sunday afternoon she went swimming with Nancy. It was an hour or two
after dinner, the warmest part of the day when the girls took their
bathing suits and crossed the little path across the tidal river. The
way straggled along the top of a high, wind-torn meadow where coarse
grasses tangled about the feet and where, on the rocks below, the sea
piled, churning among the crevices. But the further side of this little
peninsula was the bathing beach, quite wild and deserted, and one could
choose any of a hundred grass-grown sand dunes for a dressing room.

Nancy had raced on ahead, and Cynthia sneezed twice, and wondered
if she ought to go for this swim, after all. She wrestled with her
conscience for a bit ... and conscience lost.

It was a beautiful swim, but about midnight Cynthia awoke with such
a sore throat she could scarcely whisper. “Oh, darn!” she murmured
feverishly. “What a bother! I do hope I’m not going to be sick!”

She lay for a bit thinking about that, then rapped gently beside her
bed. She heard Nancy’s springs creak, heard her mutter something
sleepily, and in a moment the light of Nancy’s candle appeared beneath
the crack of the door. The crack widened and a sleepy voice asked, “Did
you rap, honey? Oh, you poor thing! Cynthia, you are a wreck!”

Mrs. Brewster was called immediately and then Madame. Together they
applied a hot, oily cloth to Cynthia’s throbbing throat, a funny
aluminum hot-water bottle to her feet, and gave her a dose of something
else, equally unpleasant and equally hot. Then she was given something
to breathe on a handkerchief ... Cynthia muttered that it nearly blew
off the top of her head, but it did miraculously clear her nose for
its original purpose of breathing.

Next day she felt heaps and heaps better and protested that she could
easily get up. But she was kept in bed till noon and then allowed out
only for a short stroll in the sunshine, equipped with a handkerchief
soaked in the breathing stuff. “But no more bathing till you are quite
over this,” was the stern order of Nancy’s mother.

“Yes’m,” murmured Cynthia meekly, ashamed to have given them all such a
fright.

There was, however, a final straw. At dinner that night Madame reported
that she had seen the mother of the little girl, Leonie her name was,
and that the woman refused to let the child pose for her portrait.

“But how silly,” stammered Cynthia. “What is the matter? I’ll pay for
her time of course.”

“It’s not that,” Mrs. Brewster explained from Madame’s conversation.
“But they are rather afraid of artists. The few who come here paint
only the sea and the dunes. They aren’t accustomed to the idea of
artists’ models, not even for portraits. This woman seems unusually
simple and I suppose the word ‘posing’ made her think of wicked Paris!
I’m sorry, for I think I might have persuaded her. Madame probably
didn’t know how to go about it tactfully. ... If the woman could have
met you. ... But aren’t there others you can get? I’m sure there must
be.”

So that Christmas cover had gone to smash, too! It would be hard to
pick out another child, after having seen Leonie. Perhaps she’d have
another opportunity to see the villagers at the meeting on Tuesday
evening.

Mrs. Brewster again gave her reluctant, though amused, consent. “If
you’ll take a fresh handkerchief with some of that Breathex on it. ...”

“Three of ’em,” promised Cynthia and Nancy together.

“... And come straight home if you find you’re in a draft, or if you
start to sneeze.”

“We will,” came the chorus.

Mrs. Brewster laughed. “All right. And I may sound fussy, but a tiny
village in a foreign country is no place for one to get ill. Now run
along and get ready for your show.”

They followed the crowd and the clomp of wooden shoes to the meat
market at the center of the town. Here, in the big hall, benches--rough
boards on trestles--had been arranged and the Professor himself stood
at the improvised ticket window.

“Shall we be extravagant and take a two-franc ticket? Then we can sit
in the front row,” suggested Nancy.

“Let’s,” urged Cynthia. “What fun to have eight cents buy so much
luxury.”

The first two rows were very de luxe; benches with backs, but so hard
and narrow that Cynthia was glad they had brought their coats for
cushions. The children, giggling and whispering, somewhat awestruck by
the promised entertainment, crowded into the seats behind them, and in
the front rows sat the old ladies, some even with their knitting, very
straight and stiff and impressive. There was a scuffle of sabots on the
stone floor and outside a tied sheep baa-a-a-ed plaintively.

Everyone peered and craned and turned heads to see the two American
mademoiselles, and discussed them in friendly fashion, but quite
openly. Cynthia’s bright beret and red coat, her gray eyes and dark
curls, her shoes, her silk stockings, the ring on her finger, were
argued and debated ... and relayed by Nancy in a choked murmur.

“You are rich, since you wear a gold ring with a greenglass stone in
it. Someone suggests that you are married, also because of the ring,
but it seems Madame at the hotel has reported that you are still a
‘Mees,’ judging by your letters. Oh, here is our professor!”

M’sieu Reynaldo, who had been at once ticket taker and dispenser,
usher, and frightener-away of small boys who would press their snubby
noses against the windows, at last barred the doors and strode proudly
up the center, and only, aisle. The stage was a rough platform on
saw-horses, beneath the light of a half dozen dim, swinging lanterns,
and was but a few feet from the de luxe seats occupied by Cynthia and
Nancy.

“Look, Nancy; there’s my lost model, Leonie. See, there at the end.
Isn’t she a darling!”

“Sh-h,” Nancy nudged her. “He’s going to begin.”

The professor’s performance began with a short talk on hypnotism, its
great antiquity, its meaning, and mostly of how wonderful he was at
that ancient art. How, with the supreme power of his eye and a few
passes of his hands--somewhat soiled hands they were--he could control
his subjects and command them, thereafter to do his bidding.

“I don’t believe it,” murmured Cynthia.

“Wait and see,” muttered Nancy.

“I must have absolute quiet here, during my demonstrations,” frowned
the great Reynaldo. He was a small, slender-boned man in a soiled
velvet jacket, and the jetty hair, the low brows, the wide cheekbones
of the typical lower class Parisien--an amusing contrast to the bigger,
blonder, slow-moving Breton audience.

He asked first for two volunteers from the audience. After considerable
shy shuffling of feet and chattering insistence on the part of their
feminine escorts, two boys were shoved forward, down the aisle.
Laughing, red with embarrassment, the clumsy young fishermen mounted
the stage, then half numb with stage fright awaited the next move.

A chorus of murmured advice came from the interested and neighborly
audience.

“Silence!” ordered the professor, with a flash of his Paris-black eyes.

Then before the eyes of each volunteer he made passes with his hand,
gave a low murmured command, and first one, then the other became
glassy eyed and appeared to go into a waking sleep, there on the stage.
The hall was intensely still, hardly a foot stirred or a skirt rustled.

Cynthia choked in her handkerchief. “Oh, dear,” she thought. “I believe
I’m going to sneeze, and how shall we ever get out of here!” But the
scent on her handkerchief, though it nearly strangled her, did put a
halt to the sneeze.

“You are now asleep,” the Professor told his subjects. “You will do
exactly as I say. Lie down and roll over.”

The two young men lay down on the platform and rolled over. There was a
murmur of awe from the onlookers.

“Now this is a stairway and you are climbing up it,” continued the
orders. “Now open this door,” where there was no door. “It is cold and
windy out and the rain beats on your faces as you open it.” The two
staggered back, arms over eyes as though they had indeed opened a real
door on a blast of wind and rain.

Cynthia was getting a little bored with this. It seemed so onesided,
so unsporting. The audience tittered, but the boys were such simple
country lads it seemed unfair they should be made a laughing stock like
this. She didn’t like that oily little man with his velvet coat and his
soiled hands. “I wish he’d stop,” she thought.

The exhibition continued with various orders. The subjects were given
water to taste, an empty glass to smell, but the Professor directed
that they smell or taste whatever he dictated, and their faces
amusingly registered disgust or delight or surprise. Yes, they were
funny, but Cynthia felt uncomfortable and looked back over her shoulder
toward the bolted door. She wished she hadn’t come.

Only once did the little professor nearly lose his subjects. During
a tense and silent moment the sheep in the yard uttered a prolonged
“Ba-a-ah!” The audience giggled hysterically and one of the young men
began to come to himself again, looked around in a bewildered fashion
and walked to the edge of the platform.

The Professor waved his hands, snapped his fingers. “Go, it is
finished,” he commanded.

The two subjects blinked awake. If they had been caught abroad in their
nightshirts they could not have looked more red and sheepish.

After that the renowned Reynaldo attempted to hypnotize a small dog,
a little fox terrier that belonged to someone in the audience. The
effort was hardly a success, for the fox terrier didn’t seem to realize
he was a subject for the professor’s art. But the audience, with the
remembrance of the former demonstration, was properly impressed and
after a bit the terrier was allowed to go, barking his joy at the
release, unharmed to his master.

Again the Paris Professor called for volunteers, asking this time for
two little girls as he had already demonstrated his power over grown
men. The children on the benches behind Cynthia and Nancy giggled and
nudged, “You go ... no, you go ... Let M’rie go ... Let Leonie ...”
till five had been suggested and the professor, making his choice,
called two to the stage.

“Oh, there goes my little model,” murmured Cynthia, really distressed.
“Can’t we stop her, Nancy?”

Nancy shook her head, her eyes on the stage. “I don’t know how we
could. After all, the professor is French and we are just outsiders.
Better let them handle it themselves.”

Cynthia subsided meekly but kept an eye on the little Leonie. What a
lovely pose ... and that one ... and the next. Why the child was a born
model, a picture in herself!

She was also excellent material for the hypnotist, for she immediately
obeyed his orders, going to sleep bolt upright in her chair before the
professor’s waving, commanding hands. The other little girl, older and
of stouter stuff, though not so easy a victim was also finally put to
sleep. To Cynthia’s relief Reynaldo used more discretion in this case
and satisfied his audience by having the children do a little dance, by
having them appear to smell a rose when he gave them an onion, seem to
taste something sour when he gave them a bonbon.

Then he asked if either of the girls were musical. Someone in the
audience volunteered that Marie could sing but that Leonie could not
sing a note. He then commanded Leonie to come forward and perform for
them. “Sing correctly,” he ordered, and named a little nursery tune
known to all French children.

The child really had a very pretty voice and performed with
considerable credit. Also her friends seemed to think it marvelous
that she could sing at all. But Cynthia, stifling a sneeze in her
handkerchief, tapped a restless foot on the stone floor.

Good, it was going to end! Monsieur Reynaldo had commanded with a
sharp clap of his hand beside the ear of each child, that his subjects
come awake. M’rie blinked her china blue eyes, smiled timorously and
clattered down the steps to join her friends.

But Leonie was a different matter. As Cynthia, taking a deep breath of
her “Breathex” soaked handkerchief, watched with some interest, then
growing apprehension, it seemed that the Professor also was becoming
concerned.

To cover his own confusion, he ordered her to get up, to walk across
the stage, to do various things, all of which she performed with her
former obedience. But when he again made passes before her eyes, then,
in a low tone to cover possible failure, again ordered her to waken,
she remained as soundly, as blank-eyed asleep as before. The audience
was apparently undisturbed, and seemed to take all this as part of the
performance.

“I’m worried,” Cynthia confided to Nancy through the muffling folds
of her handkerchief. “Oh, but this stuff is strong.” Her eyes were
streaming with tears, but so far she had managed to keep back that
sneeze.

“Worried?” Nancy turned big eyes on Cynthia. “Do you mean to say ...”

“I don’t think he can get that child out of that trance. I wonder ...”

Cynthia turned to look around the audience. They too were beginning,
unconsciously, to reflect the professor’s concern. Quietly, three times
now, he had given his command, Cynthia’s ears were abnormally keen, in
spite of the cold.

She glanced back again at the stage, then decided what she would do.
Evading Nancy she slipped out of her seat, past the two old ladies who
sat on the aisle. It was just a step to the stage, a step or two across
it. Leonie’s blank stare did not turn to follow her, but Cynthia knew
that she had the attention of every other soul in the house.

She smiled briefly at the bewildered professor and crossed to the
child. From her pocket she drew a clean handkerchief soaked with the
over-powering scent of “Breathex.”

“I wonder,” Cynthia spoke in English in the hope that the professor,
being from Paris, knew a little of that tongue, “if the _petite enfant_
would like to smell this.” And before the hypnotist could protest, had
clapped the handkerchief to Leonie’s little snub nose.

It was like a double dose of smelling salts. The American makers would
have been proud of their preparation, though perhaps no such strange
application of it had ever been suggested to them.

Leonie choked, coughed, strangled a moment. But the blank left her
eyes and she struggled to escape the handkerchief. Bewildered, for a
moment she gazed at Cynthia, then smiled shyly in a perfectly human,
understanding fashion.

Tactfully Cynthia withdrew. “Merci, Professor,” she murmured and backed
down the steps.

She heard little of what followed. The Professor’s florid explanation
of this occurrence, of the American’s interference with his
demonstration, but his willingness to let that pass ... and so on and
so on. The audience murmured polite amazement, stared at Cynthia,
clapped at the end of Reynaldo’s speech, and began to rise from their
benches. The door swung open into the sweet, starlit night.

“Well ...!” stated Nancy. “You certainly distinguished yourself. Gosh,
but that was a close call for Leonie. Wonder what would have happened
...”

Cynthia shook her head. “But I knew something must happen if she got a
whiff of this. It would have pulled a mummy back to life. Ah, here’s
Leonie.”

The child’s mother had appeared beside her, holding her hand. She at
least was not unaware that the American Mees had done something,
though she wasn’t quite sure what, for her petite.

“Thank you,” she murmured in shy, halting English; then, that proving
to be all she knew, she broke into fluid French which almost stumped
Nancy to translate.

“She asks,” interpreted Miss Brewster, “if there is anything she can do
for the pretty American ... make a bow, Cindy ... She says she is very
grateful to you and that it was very naughty for her Leonie to go up on
the stage like that, before all the village. I’ve told her that we will
come tomorrow to pay our respects to Leonie’s household. We’ll bring
Mother along, too. That all sounds sufficiently formal.”

They streamed out into the fan of light across the cobbled road. The
white caps and dark dresses of the audience melted behind them into
darkness. The night was sweet and warm and there was a sound of the sea
on the rocks, far off.

“Good night,” called Cynthia. “Good night!” then slipped her hand into
Nancy’s arm.

“There,” said Nancy, “is your Christmas cover, my dear, and in such a
funny way.”

“_Aitchoo!_” sneezed Cynthia in eloquent reply.



CHAPTER 4

_Mont St. Michel_

“LITTLE MISS FIX-IT”


Nancy’s mother, who as a young art student had lived in France, knew
all the places that Cynthia, as a younger art student, ought to see and
go.

“Don’t,” she told Cynthia, “despise the well-worn routes just because
they are well-worn. Later on you can go to the out of the way places
too. But you need the talked-about places as a basis for comparison,
just as you need to know black and white in order to paint color.”

The idea interested Cynthia. “What do you call the well-worn places.”

“Mother means those that are full of tourists and trippers,” explained
Nancy.

“Yes, of course,” said Mrs. Brewster, “Just the sort of places you
saw in Paris. The Louvre, the tomb of Napoleon, Montmartre, the Arc
de Triomphe. You don’t need to rush through them, Baedecker in
hand--though a guidebook is always useful--like the American couple out
of Punch. ‘You see the outside Marthy, and I’ll see the inside, and
we’ll cut the time in half.’”

Cynthia laughed. She knew those tourists, so intent on gathering data
to relate at home that they were blind to real beauty, to all the
little local color and pleasant customs of the people. “But besides
Paris, what would you suggest?”

“Well, there’s Carcassonne, of course.”

“Oh _yes!_” agreed Cynthia. Carcassonne had been on her list too.

“Then I think you should see a bit of the Basque country. It’s lovely,
though it has become a little self-conscious lately, with so many books
being written about it.”

Nancy had a suggestion here. “Don’t you think Cynthia would adore
Mouleon Soule?” And Mrs. Brewster, agreeing, had promised a letter of
introduction to an old Basque artist there. “And that will be real
local color too. Then there’s Rome and Venice and Florence ...”

Cynthia shook her head. Not much chance of her getting to Italy, not
unless the reward for capturing Goncourt, on the ship coming over,
should materialize. “Tell me some places near here. Normandy, Brittany.”

“Mont St. Michel!” cried Nancy.

Mrs. Brewster nodded. “I wonder ...” she began.

Nancy took her up. “If we couldn’t go too?”

“Oh that would be wonderful!” cried Cynthia. And so the matter was
arranged.

Mont St. Michel was famous for four things; its tides and the island
with its mile long causeway to land, its fortress abbey, and omelets.
Nature was responsible for the first two, Normandy abbots and the
wealth which William of Normandy had filched from England, for the
second, and Madame Poulard now dead, but still surviving in her
reputation, for the third.

It was to partake of the third that Cynthia was seated, on the evening
of her first day at Mont St. Michel, before a red checked cloth covered
table in the Hotel Tete D’or. It was a distracting scent. The great
arched room with ceiling darkened by the smoke of many fires, the
enormous fireplace under the great cowled chimney, and the fascinating
process of mixing that omelet which Madame Poulard had made famous
among gourmets all the world over. And for a further distraction there
was the couple at the corner table; the man so dark and slim and ...
well, interesting looking, the girl so pretty, and so angry. Cynthia’s
attention was doubly held, by the girl’s prettiness and by her anger.

Nancy’s tug at her sleeve pulled Cynthia’s attention back to the omelet
making. This was a ceremony, a rite in itself that people came from all
over the world to see. A huge bowl of sweet butter, eggs, and the long
handled iron skillet held in Madam’s skillful hand. From the butter she
sliced a great golden gob, dumped it into the pan and held it over the
small fire in the big fireplace.

“I knew the original Madam Poulard,” Mrs. Brewster was saying. “She and
her husband were the handsomest couple in Normandy, or so it was said.
Look ... the eggs go in now.”

The little cook, plump and trim in her black dress and neat white apron
poured the golden mass into the hot butter, stirred it slowly with a
long handled spoon.

“Funny to think how small a thing, like an omelet, can make a place
famous,” mused Cynthia.

“Oh, but she made it an art. Like your child portraits, Cynthia,” said
Mrs. Brewster.

A delicious smell, wood smoke, butter, the omelet. Cynthia grew
ravenous just watching the process. In another moment it would be ready
for them. And again her attention sought the couple at the further
table. The man looked almost French, thin and wiry and intense, the
girl had buttercup hair that gleamed in the lamplight, and slim,
capable hands with which she gestured as she talked.

The finished omelet was served piping hot upon a plate warmed before
the fire. When Cynthia had finished the last delicious morsel she
looked up again. The party of two had become three by the addition of
an older man, obviously the father of the girl.

“I wonder if they’re engaged,” said Cynthia turning the little emerald
on her own slim finger.

“Who’s engaged, Cyn?” asked Nancy. “Listen honey, try the raspberries,
with sour cream, they’re delicious.” But then Nancy’s back was toward
the interesting couple so she might be excused for a lack of interest.
Mrs. Brewster caught Cynthia’s eye and smiled.

“The man looks like a Basque,” she said. “But I think the girl is
American. I saw them in our hotel this afternoon.”

The Brewsters, who with Cynthia had come the short but complicated trip
from Brittany that morning, planned now to spend several days at Mont
St. Michel. After that Cynthia was reconciled to traveling alone again.
Meanwhile she and Nancy could paint and explore the abbey fortress and
talk Academy gossip, there wouldn’t be such another chance till Cynthia
got back to New York.

Exploration got under way immediately after breakfast the next morning.
Nancy with her mother’s sketch box, Cynthia with the sketching stool
accompanied Mrs. Brewster up the steep cobbled street of the tiny
village.

“Just as far as half way up the hill,” directed Mrs. Brewster. “There’s
a small garden of cabbages there that takes on the most heavenly color
in the sunlight. That is if the man has planted cabbages this year.”

The man had, and they were indeed heavenly. Cynthia sucked in her
breath at the beauty of the color. One had not guessed that mere
cabbages could be so decorative.

Below them stretched stairs and more stairs of the dark purplish brown
stone of the island, all the long, steep, curving way up which they
had come. Slowly the stairway had widened, houses dropped away and
now, level with the eye, rose the second and third stories of the
fortress-like dwellings that fringed the town. Chimneys incredibly
thick threw long morning shadows of rich blue on salmon pink walls and
grey tiled roofs. Round towers lent piquant variety to the outlines and
the incongruity of a bedquilt stuffed through the window of a beetling
fortress, to air above a frowning keep, made Cynthia’s fingers tingle
for paper and pencil with which to note it all down. Below the windows,
tiny gardens--something pinkish, something ochre--Cynthia with eyes
half closed to shut out shapes of things saw only color where some
thrifty Normandy farmer had planted provender for the coming winter.
And cabbages, so green they were almost blue, jewel vivid, jewel
bright. Cynthia nodded. Tomorrow she would bring her paint box.

“My stool, Cynthia dear.” Amusedly Mrs. Brewster broke in on her
reverie. “I’ll be here for two hours at least. Run along and don’t fall
off any parapets or into any oubliettes.”

“What’s an oubliette?” asked Cynthia racing upward beside Nancy.

“It’s a ‘forgettery,’” explained Nancy, “and if that doesn’t mean
anything to you, my child, it’s an extremely graphic name for the
trap-door, underground dungeons that they used to drop you into if you
offended a king or an abbot. Monte Cristo stuff, you know. I believe
this place is simply riddled with ’em.”

“Ugh! Horrid people, kings and abbots!”

“Ah, but they could build. Look up, honey!”

Above now, far above them, rose the peaks and pinnacles of this
fairy-tale place. Below them the whole island rose like a hand from
the sea, joined to the mainland by only the single mile-long causeway.
Ringed about the finger’s root were the far off houses, fronting the
sea, backs to the land. And surmounting the whole, like a thimble atop
the finger, the abbey, rising, ever rising in the still clear air
to the final peak of all, the glittering image of Saint Michel de la
mer du peril; of the perilous sea. The Archangel, it seemed, loved
heights. From the tip of the tower that crowned his abbey, wings of
gold outspread, sword uplifted, his mailed foot crushed the devil who
crawled beneath, and atop one foot perched the golden cock, symbol of
eternal vigilance.

Cynthia, gazing skyward murmured, “Lovely!”

“Marvelous!” whispered Nancy looking seaward. The sands of St. Michel,
those treacherous sands through which the tide can rip and roar in
minutes, seconds almost, shone far below them now, peacefully dry,
almost lavender in the sun, creating a false horizon for the fringe of
little houses along the shore.

“Let’s get a guide,” suggested Nancy turning back. “I detest them as a
rule. But this place is a perfect labyrinth, and besides you can pick
up so much information the guide books don’t give you.”

At the entrance gate, where a few francs bought admittance, they found
that a group would start through the abbey in about twenty minutes.
Preferring to wait outside they braced themselves against the wall
where the sun was pleasantly warm and watched their fellow tourists
assemble.

A little old lady and her husband, both very winded from the long
climb. “From Ioway,” Cynthia bet Nancy in a whisper. “And on their
wedding anniversary trip.”

“Heads you win, tails I lose,” said Nancy scornfully. “But these are
Britishers, I’ll bet my new tube of Prussian blue.”

Sober hats set high on the head, bright complexions, and, as they
drew nearer up the stair, broad A’s and clipped G’s proved Nancy to
be right. Next three French sisters in black and white, from some
religious order.

“Probably from a convent in Canada,” hazarded Nancy, listening to their
French. “They come on holiday to visit the churches in France. Mother
and I have crossed with groups of them several times; they are always
so picturesque and so jolly. And here’s a pretty girl for your sketch
book, Cyn.”

It was the girl from the restaurant, the girl with the buttercup hair.
And her young man. The girl seemed to half recognize Cynthia, for she
gave a little tremulous smile, then turned abruptly away as though she
wasn’t sure whether they had met or not.

“_Mesdames et Messieurs_ ...” began the guide in shrill tones and,
fumbling with an enormous bunch of keys, unlocked the great door to the
abbey. For the next hour he led them through cloisters twelve hundred
feet above the ocean, through the refectory and the ancient church,
through banqueting halls in which kings and princes had feasted. “They
say Harold the Saxon was a guest and a prisoner here of William of
Normandy before William became the Conqueror,” translated Nancy.

Beyond her the young man also translated for the benefit of the girl
with him. Between them Cynthia managed to pick up most of the guide’s
information. They were in the banqueting hall, that long gray drafty
hall with its many pillars, and Cynthia, gazing about her, tried to
transform it to the way it must have been when Harold was the unwilling
guest. A place of flaring torches, lords and ladies in silks and
velvets, in trailing veils and sky-pointing hennins, lifting their
heavy trains from the rushes that covered the floor. There would be
tapestries, rippling along the walls as the drafts caught them, painted
ceilings that had long ago faded to gray and stone color, minstrels to
make music, great dogs to lie about on the rush-strewn floor, and the
delicious scent of long forgotten foods from those great fireplaces in
the kitchens beyond. Yes, the far off times must have been fun too. She
wished she had been here then.

But the oubliettes changed her opinion on that. Only a few of them, so
the guide said, now remained open to the public. The others, cut down
through the solid rock, lay far, far below, damp, almost airless, foul
with rats and crawling things.

“And if the abbot or the king wanted you out of the way, you lived for
years down there,” said Nancy.

One, not far below the dining hall, was a tiny place, dark, airless,
with scarcely room to lie or sit or stand upright.

“Do you mean to say,” asked Cynthia, “that those people up above could
dance and sing and ... and enjoy themselves with all those prisoners
down below them?”

The group had gone on a way; but Cynthia, lingering behind to explore,
had jumped down into the oubliette to see just what kind of a place it
really was. She spoke from the floor, some distance below Nancy’s neat
brown oxfords.

Nancy shrugged. “That’s the middle ages, darling.”

Cynthia reached up. “Give me a hand, Nancy. I want to get out of here.
Ugh ...” once on the floor beside the other, “I hate this place, it’s
haunted by all those horrible things they used to do.”

Nancy looked at her queerly. “Not see any more? All right. I’m
willing,” and five minutes later they stood once more before the great
western entrance looking out over the sands and the town below.

“Ou ... uf!” Cynthia drew a great breath of the free air. “I’d go off
my nut if we stayed in there much longer. It’s beautiful, but gosh,
it was cruel. Let’s go somewhere and pick daisies and get the smell
of those forgetteries out of our noses. C’mon, Nannie.” And grabbing
Nancy’s wrist she hauled her headlong down the stairs towards the town
below.

As they raced past, Mrs. Brewster was still absorbed in her cabbages
and did not even look up. The steps narrowed, they came to the
block-long village with its dark, tiny windowed houses where were
displayed all the usual tricks to catch the tourist trade.

“Daisies!” cried Cynthia. “Where can we get daisies?” and looked about
her. Steep cobbled streets, the sands ahead.

“Let’s stop and get us a citronade, and I’ll ask,” suggested the
diplomatic Nancy. While they sipped the sweet warmish drink from
thick tumblers she chattered with the waitress. “It’s all right,” she
reported. “There are pretty flowers for you to pick, my child. Oh,
there’s your blonde friend’s boy friend, and all alone.”

Cynthia had noticed him too, furiously striding down the steep street.
Where was the buttercup girl? “They were quarreling last night,” she
said, watching the nervous wiry back as it turned the lower corner of
the street, entered the hotel. “And then her father came in. She didn’t
seem very happy today either.”

“Little Miss Fix-it,” teased Nancy. “What’s it to you? Come on now,
we’ll go hunt daisies.”

At the very foot of the street where, at high tide the seas must wash,
where boats lay, small and deserted on the yellow sand, footprints led
along the base of the cliff. Here, rounding the turn, the wind blew
freshly from off the coasts of England, small crabs scuttled to shelter
as they passed and far far above them Saint Michel dominated his devil
and the cock eternally crowed.

Above them suddenly rose steep cliffs covered with coarse grass,
and, if not daisies, at least their French cousins. No houses here,
though piles of rubble and a bit of crumbled wall told that the abbey
buildings must once have straggled down the face of this cliff. Far
above small peasant children climbed and called, or swung bare legs
from an outcrop of rock, and still higher a small hunched figure sat
all alone on a rock. Cynthia was about to say, “Oh, there’s the little
American,” but remembering what Nancy had just called her, held her
tongue and busied herself with collecting a bouquet for Mrs. Brewster’s
room.

Presently wearying of this she sat on a stone to survey the steep climb
she had already come and the sands beyond that. It seemed to her that
the color of the sand had changed, darkened, in the past ten minutes.
Idly she noted that the children had gone; already she could see them
scampering past the rock at the base, saw them disappear. She looked
back of her. Nothing here, no connection with the town. To get home
one must go the way they had come. Just beyond where Nancy was still
picking flowers was the American girl. Cynthia’s gaze took her in with
the rest of the scene. Suddenly she was startled almost out of her wits
by a small figure that tore past her, yelling at the top of his lungs.

She sprang to her feet, and was still more startled to see Nancy come
pelting after the boy.

“_La marée ... la marée montante ..._”

“What is it?” asked Cynthia, gazing after the small figure that had
passed. A good model that boy would be, with his wind blown curls, his
startled eyes.

Nancy grabbed her arm, shouted in her ear, “Run ... _run_ ...”

“What ... why?” Cynthia’s feet pounded after Nancy. Over her shoulder
Nancy flung, “‘The tide,’ he said. ‘The tide is rising.’”

Cynthia looked back. The girl behind them had risen from her rock. With
a wrench Cynthia freed her arm from Nancy’s grasp, put hands to mouth
and megaphoned. “Hurry! _Hurry!_ The _tide!_”

She seemed to get the idea for immediately she came leaping down over
the rocks. Cynthia paused only once to glance behind and see what good
speed the girl was making, then raced to catch up with Nancy. Almost
together the three reached the sands.

So that was why they had changed so rapidly from ochre to lavender.
Water, tidal water, seeping swiftly, menacingly from beneath, pouring
in from every side. But the sand at the base of the rocks was still
dry, it was hardly five minutes race around the rocks to the end of
the little street. Hearts pounding, breath sobbing, they reached it
together.

Cynthia could not stop there. She wanted to reach her hotel, her room,
feel safe ground, familiar ground that could not dissolve into seas
beneath her feet, before she stopped. As she tore through the hallway,
passed the astonished eyes of Madame at the desk, Nancy was close
behind. Together they dragged the little American in with them, slumped
together on the two beds.

“Well!” gasped Cynthia.

“_Well!_” Nancy echoed her. “My good gosh, Cynthia, that was a close
call!” The buttercup girl rose first, stood for a long moment at the
window looking out. “Look here ...” she said at last, seemed to have
trouble with her voice and spoke again, “Come here, you two.” It was
the first they had heard her speak.

Cynthia who had by now slightly recovered her breath, felt that her
knees would bear her again. But when she looked out she nearly lost
what breath she had gained.

“Nancy ... oh _Nancy!_”

From base of rock to farthest horizon the sea rushed, tumbling,
foaming, stealthily rising, rising. Ten minutes later and they would
have been engulfed in it, even five minutes later and the quicksands,
forerunner of the rush of waves, would have caught them.

“They say it rises sixteen feet every tide.” Nancy’s voice was shaking.

The best thing that could have happened was the entrance of Mrs.
Brewster. Having heard Madame’s story at the desk she immediately took
cheerful charge of the situation. “We’ll have lunch here in the room,”
she suggested. “I’ll order anything you like, and then all three of you
had better lie down for an hour. This is Miss ...?”

“Comstock, Betsey Comstock,” murmured the buttercup girl.

Cynthia, endeavoring to follow Mrs. Brewster’s cheerful lead, asked if
the hotel couldn’t serve some _escargots_, snails. She had heard they
were good, and she said she felt in a mood to experiment. Actually not
even snails for lunch seem very reckless after their recent experience.
Betsey still seemed a little dazed but Nancy had several wildly
fantastic suggestions and Mrs. Brewster rang for the waiter, ordered
lunch to be brought to their room.

They had scarcely sat down to eat when a knock sounded imperatively on
the door. As Mrs. Brewster answered it Cynthia saw beyond her shoulder
a man’s face, distraught and white.

“Oh, Madame,” he cried. “Is Miss ... I was told ... that is. ...”

“Robert!” Betsey Comstock had rushed past Mrs. Brewster, and
flung herself into the young man’s arms. Smiling, Mrs. Brewster
discreetly closed the door, but murmurs and soft voices as though in
reconciliation sounded beyond it. The girls were half way through lunch
when Betsey, such a changed Betsey, all smiles and radiance, reappeared.

“Apologies, please,” she begged charmingly. “Robert had a luncheon
engagement with a man he met here at the hotel, an architect. So I did
not ask him in. But the rest, I’d like to explain.”

To Cynthia it sounded very romantic, a young Basque, Yberri was the
name, educated in America for his career of architecture and Betsey,
now engaged to be married to him, with her own career as a costume
designer. What could be nicer?

“Who do you work for?” asked the practical Nancy. “Have you sold
anything yet?”

“I had my first act in Cochran’s Revue, the recent one, in London.”

“Oh! Moms and I saw that. Did you see the lovely ballet with the
Chinese pagodas on their heads?”

Betsey flushed a little and smiled. “That one was mine. ...”

“Cynthia, she’s good,” Nancy turned enthusiastically to the others.
“The stuff was swell. ...”

Betsey continued. They were to be married next week, in Paris, and
return to the States, Dad and Robert and she. Betsey had letters of
introduction to two or three big theatrical producers in New York and
promise of further work with Cochran.

“Grand!” applauded Nancy.

But the trouble, it seemed, was this: Robert didn’t want his wife to
continue her work after they were married.

“Oh dear!” murmured Cynthia. Just suppose Chick didn’t want her to keep
on with her covers. But then Chick was an artist also; he understood.

“Stop your painting?” asked Nancy, puzzled to understand anyone in a
family that didn’t design or illustrate or paint.

“Oh no, he’s willing I should keep on with the designing, but not
willing I should earn money with it.”

Which explained their quarrel at the table last night, explained why
Betsey had gone off today by herself on the rocks.

“But now it’s all right, isn’t it?” asked Cynthia.

Betsey’s smile became somewhat less bright. “No ... o,” she admitted.
“We made it up, the quarrel I mean. But nothing is decided, nothing
definite.”

“It’ll work out somehow,” consoled Cynthia. “Just see if it doesn’t.”

Betsey of the buttercup hair was still on her mind next morning. Nancy
had volunteered to go on a hunt for the small boy of the hill, the one
who had warned them of the tide. Cynthia had an idea that he would make
a good model for her next magazine cover. She herself was sharing the
privilege of the cabbage patch and the shade of the parapet with Mrs.
Brewster, both painting busily, when Betsey’s voice sounded slightly
above Cynthia’s right ear.

“’S good,” murmured the voice.

Cynthia looked up. “Hi!” she said, around the paintbrush in her mouth,
but her gaze wandered back to the sunny ochre of the sands and the
blue-green of the cabbages. Difficult to depict sunlight against that
false horizon; you need blue sky to make a landscape look sunny.

“I’m going up to the abbey,” whispered Betsey with an eye on Mrs.
Brewster busily painting along the wall.

“Stop on the way back. And don’t fall into any oubliette.” But after
she had gone Cynthia still worried about her. It was all mixed up
with the hue of cabbages in sunlight. Why was Betsey alone, had they
quarreled again? If that Robert Yberri had any sense he’d let her keep
on with her work ... oh glory, _how_ did you get the color of that
shadow! Cynthia took a peek at Mrs. Brewster’s oil sketch, almost
groaned at the comparison, but mixed a tiny drop of rose madder with
her wash and cocked her head on one side. Perhaps that was it!

An hour later she put the last touch on it, yawned, stretched and
looked up. Mrs. Brewster had tactfully stolen away. Below the fortress
wall the sands were slowly darkening into lavender as they had
yesterday and the shadow of the wall no longer gave her shelter. Time
to pack up and go home.

But with her paints packed, her box strapped neatly, she perched on
the wall to watch again that relentless tide. First the darkening of
the sand. One could not say at just what instant the lavender began to
gleam with moisture, at what precise second one noted water seeping
into this hollow and that, at what tick of the watch the hollows
joined, ran into each other, became larger, ran into a hundred thin,
continuous streams across the wide expanse of sand.

Someone was coming up the steps, a man with thick brown hair uncovered,
with American plus fours.

“Miss Wanstead?” asked Betsey’s Robert.

Cynthia nodded, then glanced back at the sands below, and gasped. Where
an instant before had been wet sand with a few thin streams across it
a dozen rushing rivers now flowed, joining swiftly into a relentless,
heaving sea.

“Frightening, isn’t it?” said Betsey’s Robert. “We saw it rise like
that two days ago. That’s why I’m here. I know how dangerous it is and
I want to thank you for bringing Betsey back yesterday, you and Miss
Brewster.”

“Oh,” murmured Cynthia. “It ... it wasn’t anything.” Then she laughed.
“I mean, of course, it was a lot. Only she would have got back. ...”

“She says she wouldn’t. Of course she could have stayed there eight or
nine hours.”

“Or you could have sent for her in a boat,” suggested the more
practical Cynthia.

“Anyway, I’m tremendously grateful.” He sat down on the wall beside
her. “Imposing, isn’t it?” He gestured toward the great abbey behind
them. “One of the most imposing sites in all the world, and combined
with what man has done to it, it’s stupendous. You’re an artist, aren’t
you?”

Cynthia admitted it. “And you too ... and Betsey.”

“Betsey’s a smart kid.” And suddenly Cynthia thought, “Why, he’s
awfully in love with her,” and liked him better, even if he were as
stubborn as a mule.

“Is she?” she asked aloud and ingenuously, so that Robert had to brag a
little.

“She’s worked for Cochran, you know; costumes,” with quiet pride in the
ability of his fiancée.

“Marvelous. She must be good. Though of course he takes lots of
beginners, doesn’t he, for a short tryout?” She knew nothing of the
kind, but spoke as one with inside information.

Robert flushed and set his jaw. “Not at all,” he said stiffly.
“Betsey’s good enough to keep on with him, show after show. And to get
work in New York too, if she wishes.”

“Really?” Cynthia’s eyebrows expressed her scepticism. “Only of course,
once she’s married. ... I mean no girl can really manage two jobs, can
she?”

She almost giggled at the way he took it. “I ...” his mouth hung open
a minute. But stubborn people were contrary, too, and Robert was no
exception. “Well, after all, I expect to keep on with architecture
after I’m married.”

“Oh yes, but a man ...” Cynthia’s air was still one of polite
incredulity. “Here’s Betsey now.”

Buttercup hair windblown, cheeks very pink. “But my dear, you’ve been
crying again,” thought Cynthia and wondered if it wouldn’t be tactful
to withdraw immediately. Betsey herself answered that.

“Finished your sketch, Cynthia? I’m so glad you waited. I’ve got a
telegram to show you. ... I’m leaving tonight, if I can get across to
the mainland.” She was carefully avoiding Robert’s eyes.

Betsey had a little pink slip in her hand. Cynthia took it and read
aloud, as well as she could, the garbled English of the French wire.
“Miss Elizabeth Comstock. Hotel des Poissons ... and so on. Please be
in London Monday the eleventh, my office. Stop. Wish to talk over two
scenes in new revue. Stop. Charles Cochran.”

So. Betsey had made her decision. What would Betsey’s Robert say to
that. Cynthia looked up, was about to burst into congratulations when
the man forestalled her.

“Betsey! I’m so glad! But hadn’t we better hurry? I’ve got to pack and
you know how slow I am. We’ll get your Dad to chaperon us as far as
London and get married there instead of in Paris. This Cochran thing
is too grand a chance to miss.”

Cynthia, viewing Betsey’s radiant astonishment, thought almost smugly,
“What price Nancy’s little Miss Fix-it?”



CHAPTER 5

_The Basque Country_

THE CUCKOO


It was Nancy and Mrs. Brewster who had suggested the Basque country.
This was partly because Cynthia needed a new type of child’s head
for her covers for _Little One’s Magazine_, and partly because they
thought it would be a new and amusing adventure. It bore also the
extra recommendation of economy. Mrs. Brewster had a friend in a tiny
village, well off the beaten track of tourists. He was an artist, he
would see that Cynthia found good accommodations, if not in his own
house, then in a house nearby. Good, she would write to him, find out
for sure if he was still living. For he was, she said, old, old.

The Basque country seemed, to Cynthia, a very long way off from Paris,
and from the Brewsters in Brittany, and from all the places she had
grown to know. The scare and loneliness of Paris had been exorcised
by her first success with the portrait of Nono. No place where you can
earn a living can be, after you have proved yourself, really strange
or unfriendly. But miles and miles away, in the southwestern corner of
France it might be different.

Somewhat reluctantly, feeling a little forlorn and abandoned, Cynthia
left the Brewsters in Britanny and returned to Paris. France is a great
spider web of glittering rails of railways, but Paris, like a giant,
not unfriendly, spider, sits in the heart, if not the exact center, and
to go almost anywhere it is cheaper and easier to return to that city
and start all over again.

An hour on the train, and the feeling of forlornness began to
disappear. Under Nancy’s stern tutelage Cynthia’s French had improved
enormously. Now she knew how to order a meal, where and how to buy her
lunch, if there was no dining car on the train; knew that she must give
up her ticket at the exit barrier, but retain it until then, and half a
hundred other small things that went to make life and travel smoother
and more pleasant.

Going back to Paris was almost like going home again. Her own little
room up near the roof in the Hotel St. Severin, or one very like it
except that the wallpaper sprawled magenta fuschias on a green ground
instead of huge coins of blue and gold and purple on a red ground. A
dinner with Alice and the Murchisons, and a pressing invitation to
bring over her bags from the hotel and stay with them as long as she
could. Then she encountered, of all people, Stasia Carruthers, in front
of the Café de la Paix, and was carried off to Rumplemeier’s for one of
their scrumptious teas.

News was exchanged. Stasia had been down to Switzerland, was back now
for some fittings and to buy some new hats. Gaily Cynthia plunged
into her own adventures, even to how she had sold three portraits of
children in the little town of Le Conquet, once she had succeeded in
breaking down the reserve of the villagers. For just a little while
she found herself envying Stasia; her new, smart little Paris hat, her
trick little silk suit, fresh from the scissors of Chanel. Looking up
suddenly she surprised a strange expression in Stasia’s dark eyes.
Could it be envy? Envy for the greater adventure of earning your way.
Anyone could buy his way on a fat letter of credit. But to earn as you
went, that was the greater risk, hence the greater adventure.

Cynthia chuckled to herself, tucked a stray curl beneath the brim of
the hat she had bought for fifty francs in the Rue St. Roch, and ceased
to envy Stasia.

Two days later, having restocked her box of water colors on the
Boulevard Montparnasse, that parnassus of all good little art students,
she took train at some uncanny hour of the early morning for Bordeaux.
There, late in the afternoon and from the shouting hotel runners at the
station, each screaming the particular merits of his own hotel, she
chose the Hotel de New York. It seemed homelike as to name at least.

It proved dingy and down at heels, but with a charming view out over
one of Bordeaux’ countless city squares. Cynthia yawned through her
dinner, left an early call for breakfast, and was off again almost
before daylight for Gotien, in the Basses-Pyrénées. Three times that
day she changed trains, until, from sheer weariness Gotien began to
seem like some Never-never land, always retreating as one advanced. And
beyond Gotien--the address she was bound for was Mouleon-Soule.

She had gone through the gate with her suitcase and sketch box and
stood, almost shaking with weariness full in the afternoon sun that
streamed across the dusty, cobblestoned plaza. No one could tell her
how to get to Mouleon-Soule. But perhaps if she could find the station
hotel, get a good dinner and a night’s sleep, she could grapple,
tomorrow, with the problem.

Then from beyond the ragged plane trees that lined the plaza came
a little shabby, stoop-shouldered man in a Basque beret timidly
displaying a wide, toothless smile. His English savored quaintly of
both French and American.

“Is it that this is the Mademoiselle Euanstead?”

Cynthia squinted against the sun. She was too weary to think. Was
someone to meet her here?

“Yes, I’m Miss Wanstead.”

“_Bon!_ We had the letter from Madame Brewster.”

“Oh, then you are Monsieur Marge. How nice! I couldn’t discover a train
for Mouleon.”

“No train,” he shook his head. “Only the tramcars. But come and meet my
wife.”

Madame was a plump little dumpling in plain worn black, knitting on
one of the benches beneath the trees. She beamed a silent welcome and
carried her knitting with her, needles clicking without a break, into
the tram which had been waiting, small town fashion, for Monsieur Marge
to find his guest. For an hour, while Cynthia struggled to keep her
eyes open, they rattled and banged through clouds of dust toward the
tiny town of Mouleon, then out again into open country.

Sunset had passed and it was nearly dark when they reached their final
stop and Cynthia stumbled up the path behind her hosts. Twice, during
the simple dinner, she found herself nodding. Then at some brief remark
from Madame, Monsieur Marge suggested kindly:

“My wife sees that you are very tired. I will light the candle and show
you to your room.” Behind him a silly little cuckoo clock chirped nine
times, as Cynthia stumbled up the bed.

Cynthia woke slowly, aware of an unusual sound. Something, someone was
snoring. Surely--no, the sound couldn’t possibly be human. She lay
still a moment, listening, then decided she really must investigate,
and sat up against her pillows.

She was in a high, story-book bed, such a bed as might have
accommodated the princess of a Grimm fairy-tale. With four high posts,
heavy dark draperies sweeping the floor, and, actually, three little
steps of a ladder to lead up to it. She leaned over and peered down at
them, then gave a delighted bounce. She had been too sleepy the night
before to notice those steps, but she did remember her host’s very
French warning that the night air was dangerous and that she must keep
her windows tight closed. But after Madame and Monsieur had departed
she had crossed to the casements and opened them wide.

Now she pattered, barefooted, down the steps and leaned out over the
low sill. The curious snores came from just below. Grunts, not snores!
Oh, the darlings! Pigs, little ones, and all ten of them very vocal and
very hungry and directly beneath her window.

“Well, I never thought I’d live over a pigpen,” laughed Cynthia. “Isn’t
that France for you!”

At the end of the long room a dusty old mirror in a tall gold frame
reflected the polished parquet floor with its dark oak inlay, the huge
heavy furniture, built to last many lifetimes, the two high windows,
and the Basque Pyrénées, towering, blue, beyond the green of rolling
fields. In the center of it all Cynthia herself, like some new kind of
a blue-and-white striped, pyjamaed, fairy-tale princess; dark hair a
tangle of curls, blue eyes wide and amused, bare pink toes pattering
over the shining floor.

“Well, you certainly are an anach ... anachronism ... or however you
pronounce it when you mean you’re out of place!” she twinkled at the
fairy in the mirror. “Wonder what time they breakfast here! Gosh, I’m
hungry!”

She tiptoed to the door. It swung silently on well-oiled hinges. No
footsteps sounded below but there was a murmur of soft voices, the
smell of toast--she sniffed--and chocolate. Then from somewhere in the
house a bird call sounded. Nine times.

A cuckoo clock. Nine cuckoos. My, but it was late! Hurry and get
dressed, my dear. She scampered back to fling on her clothes. “Glory,
what a day!”

She must have slept twelve hours solid. Goodness, how heavenly the
pines smelled, how wonderful this peace and quiet after the hot
asphalt, the ceaseless noise, the rattle and scream of Paris.

She ran a comb through her hair, gave a dab of powder to her nose and
opened the door again. The wide shallow stairs led directly into the
sun-drenched kitchen.

Madame, looking up, beamed good morning from her work over the stove.
“Bon jour, bon jour,” and seemed very proud of even that much French.
Her own language was Basque, of course.

“Good morning, Mam’selle Euanstead. You have slep’ well?”

“Gorgeously! Is this for me, Monsieur Marge?”

A single place at the kitchen table was set with a bowl of hot cocoa on
a red checked napkin. There was another napkin, a big spoon, crisp hot
bread fresh toasted in the oven, and a huge sweet orange.

“An egg also?” asked Monsieur Marge from the doorstep where he sat with
his pipe. “No? Then when you have finished a second cup of cocoa I
shall show you my hive’ and my bee’ and my studio.”

The latter proved to be a small, dingy, not too well-lighted building
behind the rambling, whitewashed, red-roofed house. Here dusty
canvases and dried tubes of paint, bits of old tapestry and ancient
stretcher-frames were piled and presided over by two of those artist’s
lay figures that resemble life-sized, wigless dolls.

Monsieur Marge turned over the quaint old pictures to display them and
Cynthia murmured appreciation, trying hard to find something to admire
in each. But they were of such an ancient manner, of the “brown gravy”
school, with shadows dead as brown paint and thick, lifeless color,
that proper applause was difficult.

“You know I paint in America too?” he asked her proudly.

“Yes, Mrs. Brewster told me. Where was that?”

“I live in Philadelphia fifteen years. That was before the war. Then
I live in South America with my son, long time. Many Basque live in
South America. Then I come home here, to my old farm I buy when I young
man ... many year ago. That was before you were born.” He chuckled at
his own age. “Long ago I paint those panorama for the World Fair in
Chicago.”

“Goodness! Did you? I’ve heard of them but never saw one.”

“Yes, indeed. They be gre-e-a-t painting.” He spread his arms to
indicate an immense canvas. “And figures modeled like life. I paint
twelve of those. They go all round the country. Twelve Battle of
Gettysburg, with men in uniform in the wheat field. Battle of
Gettysburg, she was fought in a wheat field.” He chuckled again and
sucked on his empty pipe. “We work all night, many night, on that to
get her ready for the opening of the Fair. We were all French, the
artists who work on her. But the day after the opening we close the
doors again, take her down and paint again all night long.”

“Oh, why?” cried Cynthia.

“Because,” he grinned in cheerful toothlessness. “We have paint
_French_ wheat field. Full of puppies. American wheat field have no
puppies.” And he roared with laughter over the ancient jest.

“Pup ...” for a moment Cynthia was puzzled. Then she too laughed. “Oh
yes, _poppies!_” For all day yesterday she had admired the glorious
silky red flowers blooming among the wheat beside the railway.

“You want to paint this morning?” And, when Cynthia decided that she
might as well start immediately, “Go down the road and then turn right,
by the mill. That is near and pretty, and tomorrow you can go further.
You have everything you want? Oil? Turpentine? Oh, you paint in the
water color. That is pretty, too.”

So Cynthia settled down contentedly on the old Basque farm. It was two
miles through the hot sunlight to the nearest village but she found
plenty to paint within easy walking distance of the Marge house; nearby
houses with their Spanish iron balconies overhung with roses and vines;
the sturdy Basque farmers at work in the fields, and their great cream
colored oxen that paced so slowly along the road. The houses were white
with steep roofs and wide eaves of deep gray and heavy shutters painted
green, and the vines, sprayed with arsenic green made rich shadow
patterns on the old walls. Then she found an old stone church with the
three-peaked tower so characteristic of Basque village churches and
beneath its porch an iron grill to discourage the pigs from entering
the place of worship. She peeped through the stone doorways where the
lintels bore blurred dates of the early seventeenth century, to peer
into the dim, dark timbered kitchens on whose table-high hearthstones
a tiny fire of twigs burned beneath the black kettle on a crane. With
many of the women she had a pleasant nodding and smiling acquaintance,
but she spoke no word of their language and found that her French was
not understood. Besides, these people seemed unusually reserved. She
could establish no contact with them.

Cynthia began to suspect that Monsieur Marge was in a similar position
and was very lonely because of it. He had lived so long in America
that he had lost touch with these, his own people, and when he had
returned to them found that they considered him a foreigner. He was now
neither Basque nor American.

It was a valley of enchantment hidden between the high snow capped
peaks of the Pyrénées. Each day was as clear-skied, as sunny and warm
as the one before it and Cynthia woke each morning in her fairytale
bed to look forward to another bright morning of painting, another
sleepy afternoon of sketching. Still, she reminded herself after a week
of this, she wasn’t getting any further with her job for the month.
She had come down here to do a Basque cover for the _Little Ones’
Magazine_. Somewhere she must find herself a model.

Her second week in the Basque country had started. Monday slipped by,
Tuesday evening she sat, as usual on the doorstep after a late dinner.
Monsieur Marge smoked placidly, Madame knitted in the half dark of the
vine-hung verandah. There was a sound of cattle bells far down the
smooth winding road and the mountains leaned, purple dark, against the
sunset.

Cynthia and the old man had been comparing their memories of old
songs. Astonishing how many of the old ones, the really old ones that
belonged to mother’s, even to grandmother’s day, he remembered from his
years in America. There was “Sweet Marie” and “Sweet Rosey O’Grady,”
and “Sidewalks of New York.”

“Oh yes, they sing that still,” cried Cynthia and whistled it with him.
Madame hummed and smiled placidly while her fingers seemed to twinkle
in time to the gay little tune.

“A Bicycle Built for Two,” he suggested.

Yes, Cynthia knew that one. She had heard it in the movies. A moment
of silence then, while they paused to think of more, and from the dark
room behind them came a cheerful “Cuck ... oo. Cuckoo ...!”

“What makes the bird in the clock cuckoo?” asked Cynthia when she had
finished counting nine warbles.

“Wait, I show you.” Monsieur sprang to his feet and disappeared into
the kitchen, to return a moment later with the clock beneath his arm.

Madame gave a little chuckle and Monsieur explained. “We bought this on
our wedding trip, in Switzerland, almost fifty years ago.”

He set it down on the step and returned for a lamp, which he lighted
and placed beside the clock. Then, with delicate fingers he removed the
screws in the back and exposed the carved wooden works for Cynthia to
see. Unlike the usual cuckoo-clock this was all self-contained, without
the long pendulum and the heavy iron weights that usually hang down
below the little box. Its face and the surrounding frame was like old
lace, interwoven with tiny intricate figures and small deer and cows
and squirrels, the whole dark with age and good French furniture polish.

“See,” explained the old man. “There are two little b’lows, here, and
here,” and his finger indicated the tiny bellows of leather, like those
used to blow a fire, “Now watch. I make him sing.”

He turned the white hands to ten o’clock, and the cuckoo popped out,
opened his little red mouth and warbled. One small bellow went _Cu ...
ck_, and the other, immediately afterwards, went _ooooo. Cuck ... oo.
Cuck ... oo!_ Over and over. Ten times.

“Oh, I never knew what made him do it,” cried Cynthia. “Now let me
try.” The bird popped out in such a quaintly serious fashion that one
wanted to laugh every time he appeared.

“I will keep him here and oil him in the morning,” decided Monsieur
Marge. “Perhaps, in the night, he will attract other cuckoos, yes?”
Madame chuckled.

“Does she understand English?” asked Cynthia, getting up to put the
clock on the verandah table.

“I un’ stand,” murmured Madame, in the darkness and her husband shook
his head. “Only little. But she too lazy to speak anything but Basque.
We are conservative peepul, we Basque. Per’aps it is as well. Otherwise
we could not remain so entrench’ against the centuries of invaders, and
of change.” And as the night deepened and the stars came out Cynthia
heard old tales of Charlemagne and of his blond barbarians from the
north who had been defeated in these very hills. Of how the Basque had
dwelt here for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of years, unconquered,
unchanging.

“It may be because our language is so difficul’,” explained the old man
with pride. “We have a saying that the Devil once came here, to our
country and stayed seven years. In that time he learn but two words.
... “By” for “Yes,” and “Es,” for “No.” At las’ disgusted by his waste
of time, he flew away again, and soon forgot even those two. That is
why the evil never comes here.”

He sighed in the darkness and Cynthia felt a pang of pity. Even here,
among his own people, he was homesick, denied a closer contact with
them because of his long years in America.

The next morning Cynthia unfolded the camp stool, on which she sat to
sketch, beneath the vines at the side of the farmhouse. A stone-paved
walk ran back to the little ramshackle studio and M. Marge pottered
about in the sunlight with his beehives. Cynthia opened her sketch
book, squeezed color onto her palette and set to work.

The cuckoo clock behind her ticked steadily with no relation to the
hour of the day. Cynthia, rapidly sketching in the grape arbor and
the green door in the white wall beyond it, wondered how to get the
effect of spattered sunlight where the light dribbled down through
leaves, and discovered with a little thrill that part of the trick
lay in breaking the color, patting it on in little spats of the brush
with flecks of white paper showing between, part in letting the shadow
actually dribble off her brush so that it was lightest farthest from
the leaves.

A small, cooing voice sounded behind her. Turning, she saw on the path,
a little girl of six or maybe less, very Basque in her bright blouse
and dark blue cotton skirt and bare brown feet thrust into rope soled
espadrilles. Her eyes were soft and brown and her hair had been plaited
into two pigtails, so tight that they seemed actually to drag her
eyelids upwards at the corners.

“Oh, you duck!” breathed Cynthia. “What fun if I could paint you!”

The brown eyes danced with mischief, and the small mouth was puckered
into a demure rosebud. What could have drawn her up the path from the
road? Cynthia’s glance followed the child’s. The tick of the clock? But
surely she had heard a clock before. Then Cynthia remembered that a
moment before it had erratically struck eleven. Laughing, she gestured
a query towards the clock. Was that it?

The small one nodded shyly.

“Sure, I’ll show it to you,” Cynthia offered. “Want to see the birdie,
do you?” She put down book and brushes and led the way up the steps.
Then she turned the hands gently as she had seen M. Marge do the night
before. The bird answered with a startled “Cuck ... oo!”

“Oh!” The brown eyes danced with delight, the small hands clapped
_ecstatically_. The child came closer.

“Now the next will be twelve,” Cynthia said, though of course that
wouldn’t mean anything to this infant, and turned the hands again. This
time the bird gave a most satisfactory performance. By the time his
song was finished the child’s face was so close to the little flapping
doors that Cynthia was afraid she would pop inside, out of sheer
rapturous delight.

“If I could get her, just so, with her head turned like that, and those
quaint little pigtails, and the sunlight behind her--but I’m afraid I’m
not clever enough,” mourned Cynthia. “No; it’s impossible.” Then to the
child, “Birdie’s all gone, my dear. No more today. I refuse to ruin M.
Marge’s wedding present just because a Basque baby wants to hear the
cuckoo clock. Sit down won’t you, and amuse me while I work.”

Monsieur Marge came up the walk from his beehives. He said something
in Basque to the child, who answered stammeringly. “She should not be
here,” he explained. “She lives down there, the Yturbe house. She is
the only one left. The two sons died in the war, and this is the only
grandchild. The old people worship her. I will take her home.”

Cynthia was sorry to see her go. “I wish I could paint her,” she
thought again wistfully, but she knew M. Marge was not on good enough
terms with his neighbors to make the unusual request. This was not
Paris, where everyone knew about artists and where models seem to drop
ripe from every lamp-post, blossom in every _zinc_ with your breakfast
cocoa.

That afternoon a hive of bees swarmed and M. Marge was so busy with
them that the little cuckoo clock waited another night unoiled,
upon the verandah. “I’ll do the job tomorrow and put it back in the
morning,” he promised Madame. “It is quite safe there.”

But apparently it wasn’t so safe. At least when Cynthia came down to
breakfast M. Marge reported the clock was gone.

“Gone? ... The cuckoo clock?” Cynthia heard herself repeating
idiotically. “Well! but goodness! Who on earth would take it?”

M. Marge shook his head and Madame, pouring the morning chocolate,
murmured something in Basque.

“She says she is sorry to lose our wedding present.”

“Oh dear, I feel terribly responsible,” mourned Cynthia. “If I only
hadn’t asked you to bring it out and show me.”

“It is my own fault.” The old man became firmly cheerful. “Mais non,
Mademoiselle, I am a careless old man. I should not have left the clock
on the verandah. But the Basque are honest peepul. We do not steal and
we are too far from the town for gypsies or tramps. I cannot figure it
out.”

Cynthia painted that morning with a wretched feeling of responsibility.
“I could get them a new clock,” she told herself, “but it wouldn’t be
the same.” She had chosen a spot down the main road, where two small
stone, white-washed houses, overgrown with rambling roses, were as
theatrically picturesque as a scene from the Follies. But the sketch
was not very satisfactory. “It’s not my kind of thing,” she fretted.
“It’s fun to do, but I’d rather paint people. Wonder where my little
friend of yesterday is. She must live in one of those houses. ...”

A team of oxen plodded slowly down the dusty road, brilliantly golden
beneath the shadow of the blue dyed sheepskin that lay atop their heavy
yoke, their eyes hidden behind a heavy fringe of bright colored net.
Their driver walked ahead, his _makhila_ over his shoulder rested on
the yoke to guide the animals.

Cynthia listened to the soft jangle of bells till it died in the
distance, then decided she was hungry; that was what must be wrong with
her sketch, and packed up her materials. The Marges never ate lunch.
Cynthia had discovered that a continental breakfast did not sustain one
very well from eight A.M. till five in the afternoon, and after two
days of semi-starvation had persuaded Madame to give her a cold meal
at noon. Today there was sliced duckling and a pleasant salad set on
the red checked table cloth beneath the sun spangled arbor.

She finished her raspberries, with the thick pat of rich sour cream
and the crust of warm bread and idly watched M. Marge talking to
someone beyond the beehives. It looked like the old man in the Yturbe
household, Thomasina’s grandfather. Cynthia wondered at that, for she
knew the two men were not close friends. “I wish I could get that child
to paint,” she thought idly, remembering the small eager face of the
day before.

M. Marge came slowly and alone up the stone flagged walk and sat down
on the step beside Cynthia’s luncheon table.

“There must be gypsies here,” he stated, “For Thomasina has been
stolen.”

“Thomasina!” cried Cynthia, aghast. “How perfectly dreadful!” and
felt her throat tighten. For a moment she could not speak for fear of
bursting into tears. Little Thomasina! “When ... how long?” she asked
after a moment.

“Perhaps not stolen ... perhaps. ... But she has been gone since early
this morning. It is two now. She did not come home for her noon meal.
Her grandfather came to ask if we had seen her. She has never gone from
the dooryard before, not until yesterday when she came here. Her father
thinks she may have strayed down the road and met someone; she was very
unhappy over a little thrush they had, which died. She may have been
looking for him.”

Cynthia knew those little thrushes in their willow cages which hung
outside so many French doorways.

“They are afraid of the canal, and the mill-pond.”

“Oh, but surely ...” Cynthia shivered and was silent. No, nothing like
that could happen to someone that one knew! Absently she pushed away
the last of her raspberries. They were her favorite fruit but she had
lost any appetite for them.

“Painting this afternoon?” asked her host, trying to be cheerful.

Yes, Cynthia had thought she’d take the tram into the tiny village and
sketch the interior of the old ruined fort, with the remains of the
sally-port and guardhouse.

Monsieur Marge surveyed the sky, unflinchingly blue. “Too hot to go
into town,” he commented. “Why not stay and we go hunt for mushrooms.
Madame wishes some for the dinner tonight. I know deep woods, cool,
where the sun does not strike.”

City-bred Cynthia had never gathered mushrooms; it sounded like a new
and amusing experience, and it would certainly be cooler than sketching
on that hot and sunny hill beyond the town. Besides she didn’t really
want to go far from the house, in case little Thomasina should be found
... no, _when_ she should be found.

Cynthia went to her room for a wide shade hat and came downstairs again
to find M. Marge ready for her. He bore a leather bound _makhila_, the
Basque walking stick, with its graven brass binding and leather strap.

“Won’t we need a basket or something?”

“No. I show you.”

The method, it seemed, was to string the fungus on a long thin peeled
rod. They were big things, flabby and pale lavender, rather like
unpleasantly raw liver, but Monsieur assured her they were delicious
when cooked.

They had found the grove about two miles from the house up an old
logging road now nearly overgrown with brush and deep damp moss. The
pines rose huge and straight and the air was cool, but after an hour
or more of scrabbling over dead logs and grubbing among fallen leaves
for the mushrooms Cynthia was glad to sink wearily to a seat on a mossy
stone.

“_Ouff_ but I’m weary. Goodness, how you can walk!” she exclaimed to
the pleased old man.

“I have been hard worker in my time.”

“There’s a funny noise about here,” Cynthia commented after a moment of
silence. “Sounds rather like a cricket, yet not. ... I wonder. ...” She
listened again and as the old man started to speak held up her hand for
silence. There was no breeze. The pine boughs high overhead scarcely
moved. There were certainly no crickets about, yet what was that noise?

Then from a thicket just a few yards away came a familiar call. “Cuck
... oo! Cuck ... ooooo!”

“Your clock!” Cynthia almost shouted, and jumped to her feet. Monsieur
Marge was right behind her as she parted the brush, looked downward.
She chuckled and held back the branch that he might see.

There, wrapped in an old shawl and fast asleep was Thomasina Yturbe.
In her arms, its placid little face turned to the skies, ticked the
imperturbable cuckoo clock.

“Well, we’ve found one kidnapper at least,” laughed Cynthia somewhat
shakily. “Shall we wake her up?” Poor little thing, she had come a long
way in this heat and the clock was quite a weight for those small arms.

“It is too far to carry her home,” advised the old man.

The child stirred at his voice, opened one sleepy eye. Her face was
pink as a seashell from the rough warmth of the old shawl beneath her.
For a moment she blinked like a little owl, then recognized them and
beamed, murmuring something. Monsieur chuckled and repeated it for
Cynthia’s benefit.

“She said the bird wouldn’t sing.”

“Come on honey. Time to go home.” Cynthia’s words might not have been
understood, but her brightly matter of fact tone was sufficient.
Thomasina scrambled to her feet. “Here, better let me take the clock.
No? All right. But let me carry the shawl, anyway. I wonder why she
brought the shawl?” she puzzled.

Monsieur had the suggestion that it had been one thrown over the
thrush’s cage at night.

“Poor kid,” murmured Cynthia.

It was a long journey back. Monsieur had the two long sticks of
mushrooms. Cynthia, toward the last, was so far trusted as to be
allowed the clock but Thomasina kept one hand in Cynthia’s. One was
to understand that she was not weary, but she wanted closer contact
with her little bird. The clock itself ticked steadily throughout the
journey and twice it even cuckooed.

It was late and the sun was low, throwing long shadows across the road
as they came down it towards the Yturbe farm. Cynthia heard the soft
cooing of doves, the grunt of the little pigs that lived beneath her
window. Thomasina stumbled once or twice.

They neared the doorway with its seventeenth century date on the
lintel. Someone inside was sobbing.

“I won’t go with you.” Cynthia pushed the child forward and nodded that
Monsieur Marge was to follow her. This might be--who could tell?--just
the right moment for him to become a Basque again.

Thomasina, the clock again in her arms, stumbled through the doorway.
Cynthia heard nothing for a moment, then such a heartfelt cry of
delight and joy as made her, for the second time that day, brush away
the tears. Followed, in three voices, much talk in the rapid Basque
tongue, and after a moment Grandmother Yturbe came out, to throw her
arms about the petite Americaine.

“She says,” twinkled Monsieur behind her, “that you are wonderful, that
you found her little cabbage.”

“Non--non. It was Monsieur,” Cynthia gestured towards her host. “It’s
all right anyway, Thomasina would have come home for dinner,” protested
the embarrassed Cynthia.

They got away at last, but there was more to come.

After dinner Cynthia and Madame were sitting beneath the vines.
Madame’s fingers flew steadily as her needles ate up the gray yarn,
and moonlight bright as day dripped through the dark leaves of the
arbor. Someone came slowly up the stone walk and spoke in Basque. It
was Thomasina’s grandfather.

“He has come to thank the American lady,” explained M. Marge after
a moment’s conversation and added that he had told M. Yturbe that
Thomasina was to keep the clock for herself. “After all, we have no
grandchildren ourselves.” And a moment later he translated again, “He
asks if the American lady will do him a portrait of his little one; he
will of course be proud to pay for it.”

“I’d adore it,” cried Cynthia, “Oh, what a day!”

The men moved off together, talking. Cynthia saw them cross the road
slowly, two old men together.

Madame, chuckling richly, made one of her rare remarks in English:
“They not be back till late.” But she seemed more pleased than
concerned.

“I guess that means M. Marge has become all Basque at last,” thought
Cynthia sleepily.



CHAPTER 6

_Carcassonne_

ROMANCE IN CARCASSONNE


Cynthia had long ago learned how to say in French “Stand still. Turn
a little to the right ... to the left. Raise the chin please.” And
finally and most urgent, again “stand still!” One needed these phrases
constantly in the one language the model understood. She had had
occasion to use them all, and more besides, this afternoon, for the
ragged little urchin, posing against a background of old stone house
and carved fourteenth century doorway, was an imp, though a delightful
one, and had far too large a circle of friends vitally interested in
what he was doing. Cynthia glanced up from her painting and for the
twentieth time in ten minutes sighed in exasperation.

Every small child’s head, including of course the model’s, had turned
to watch the small group crossing the square. It was just the usual
collection of American tourists; every child in the city must have
seen their like hundreds of times, herded by the Carcassonne guide--an
old _mutilé_ of the Great War. Cynthia herself had twice been round the
wonderful old walls with him, so she knew quite well what the others
were about to hear; of the ancient old towers, fifty of them, and the
ramparts dating back and back to the tenth century, the foundations
older even than that, for the Romans had held a fortress here; of the
lovely little cathedral of Saint Nazaire, set like a jewel in the heart
of the town; all these and more would the visiting Americans see. The
small model and his friends must know by heart every syllable of the
guide’s lecture, every stone of the city by now. So why need they turn,
like a group of little monkeys, just because someone had crossed the
square!

“Oh _do_ sit still!” she muttered crossly in French.

The sketch was a good one, the best she had made this week. Now if she
could get just the right hue of the shadow on his shoulder. ...

For several minutes the shadow and the mixing of it from her color box
held her absorbed. Then an undue amount of chatter, even for a group
of small French boys watching an American lady who made the _peinture_,
caused her to glance up again. One of the American tourists had let the
group go on without her and had come across to stand behind Cynthia.
She was a tall girl, pretty, though pale, with big black eyes and curly
dark lashes and a smart American traveling suit of blue and white
wash silk. In a low tone she was chatting with the children and with
such amazing ease and flourish of idiom that Cynthia, with a pang of
envy thought; Canadian ... or Louisiana bred. She’s grown up with the
language. Oh darn that model!

“Look here,” she turned to address the visitor. “I wish you’d tell
this little devil that I won’t pay him the two francs I’d promised
him unless he sits still for ten more minutes. Then he can go. My
vocabulary simply won’t stand the strain of putting that forcefully.”

The girl laughed. She had a nice laugh thought Cynthia still slightly
resentful of the interruption, then followed a stream of fluent French
addressed to the model.

“Mind if I watch?” she asked quietly, and Cynthia, again intent on the
color of that shadow, muttered an absent-minded permission. Thereafter
for the space of ten minutes there was peace.

Along the old walls of Carcassonne, swimming in the golden haze of
afternoon light, pigeons circled and cooed. From a not too distant
watch tower came the nasal drone of the guide, explaining how, just
here, the Black Prince had stormed the city and burned the tower. The
air smelt of hot dust, sleepiness, and France, and Cynthia’s busy brush
flew from palette to sketch and back again.

Finally, she leaned back on her stool, squinted at the sketch with her
head on one side, then looked up and nodded. “It’s finished I guess. I
don’t know what you said to him, but it worked like a charm. Sorry I
was rude.”

“You weren’t rude. That’s a lovely painting, and a good likeness
too. You’re American aren’t you? My name is Serena Grayson, from New
Orleans.” Only she said “O’lean” in the prettiest manner imaginable.

“I guessed it,” grinned Cynthia. “Staying in the Lower Town? Wait till
I pay off this infant and we’ll walk down together.”

“I should wait for Aunt Anna,” the girl hesitated. “Look here, let
me have a piece of paper from your sketch book, will you? I’ll just
scribble a note to tell her that I’ve gone on. She is shopping in the
Cité, and started me out with that guide.” Serena made a little face of
dislike. “I thought watching you would be more fun, so I deserted, but
she’ll be looking for me when the tour is finished.”

Cynthia didn’t say anything but she thought it was strange that a girl,
fully her own age, should have to report so carefully on where she was
going. Serena dispatched the note by one of the small urchins who still
lingered to watch the fascinating process of packing up the paint box.
Almost any of them was eager to earn an extra franc. “Though I hope it
gets delivered,” remarked Serena, watching the small boy dubiously as
he scampered off, “perhaps I hadn’t better go, after all.”

“Oh, come along. It’s just to the Lower Town. Nothing can hurt you and
surely your Aunt won’t care. Why I go all over France alone.”

“Do you?” almost wistfully.

The way out of the ancient walled city led down a steep little cobbled
street where houses leaned their heads together, like gossips over tea
cups, and between whose stones grasses grew and the shadows of the late
afternoon flung a welcome coolness. Then out past the tourney court
where once gallant knights in full armor had fought for their ladies’
favor, and past the Porte d’Aude, which looked out over the lower and
newer ... and uglier town.

“Where are you staying?” asked Cynthia. “Glory, but it’s good to talk
to an American again! It’s been weeks since I have been able to.” She
hadn’t quite been aware how much she had missed Nancy; had wished that
Chick were here until she met someone from home.

“It is jolly to speak your own tongue again. We’re staying at the Chat
d’Or, Aunt Anna and myself. We only got here today. And won’t you come
and have dinner with us tonight? I’d love to have you.”

“I’d love to come. I’ve been here nearly a week now, and it’s worth
every minute you can spend here too. Look!” and Cynthia clutched the
other’s arm to turn her attention behind them.

Above the road they had descended, full in the glow of the late sun the
city rose, golden pale against the southern sky; turrets and towers,
battlements and barbicans, dreaming in the fairy-tale light exactly as
they had dreamed for the past six hundred years and more.

“Lovely!” murmured the other, starry eyed. For just a moment Cynthia
thought there were tears in her eyes, as well as stars, but she could
understand that. Cynthia herself often felt teary when something was
too beautiful to believe.

They took up this matter of dinner again. “It will be nice to eat
somewhere else, neither of the two places I’ve tried are very good
and I’m sick of the boiled veal and caramel custard at the Cheval
Blanc,” said Cynthia. “And where the French ever got the idea they
were a nation of born cooks! ... I know where your hotel is, suppose I
run home now, my road goes this way and yours to the left, then I’ll
get a bath and into a clean dress and be at your place ... when? About
seven?”

There were three hotels in Carcassonne, one in the upper Cité, very
grand and quaint, and with the grandest, quaintest prices too, and two
in the lower town across the river Aude. Cynthia had taken a room at
the station hotel, which was the first one she saw when she got off
the train. It was at least cheap and convenient. Oh yes, and there
was the Hotel de l’Universe, hardly worthy of the name of a hotel but
displaying its grandiloquent appellation in gilt letters two feet high
across its entire three room frontage. Cynthia had smiled at the name,
for she had found in France that it was generally the smallest places
that bore the biggest names.

The Universe looked cozy and very clean, and she had even thought of
moving her suitcase inside its hospitable blue door, but had been
too busy to carry out the thought. Often however she dined there and
tonight as she crossed the square and passed the little red checked
gingham curtains and the green painted iron tables on the terrace, she
saw the American boy having a beer on the terrace, just as she had
seen him every evening since she came. She smiled and waved a hand
at him, and he very nearly smiled in return. Cynthia had an impulse
to try once more to talk to him, as she had tried on the train, but
immediately his gaze had returned morosely to the long lane of dusty
plane trees that lined the street. Oh well, she wasn’t going to waste
her time picking up someone who evidently didn’t want to be picked up.
But when you travel for miles and miles, and hours and hours in the
same railway coach with a chap, and you know he’s a fellow countryman,
and hard up probably, like you are ... just look at the clothes he
wore; neat, but not any product of Park Avenue, and when there’s
scarcely another American in the Lower Town, not at least until today,
why it would seem sort of pleasant to meet once or twice and have a
talk. Cynthia gave a little skip of pleasure and forgot the boy on the
terrace. Nice to have a dinner date, nice to be going to talk good old
United States for an evening. Adventure was exciting ... afterwards,
but it was pretty dull sometimes while it was happening.

But when she returned along the narrow little street, past the Hotel de
l’Universe, with the last rays of the sun gilding the far off towers
of the upper city, the boy was still sitting on the terrace. Cynthia
wondered.

She had first seen him at Toulouse, standing on the platform with his
suitcase in his hand and Cynthia, leaning out of the window to buy
a _sandwich jambon_ and a bottle of mineral water from the little
pushcart, like a giant baby carriage, that peddles lunches on all the
train platforms in France, noticed his very American shoes. She always
played little games with herself to ward off boredom, and by this time
considered herself quite skillful in telling even Norwegians from
English, who looked so much like them.

This boy had ascended further down on the corridor train. Cynthia was
riding second class instead of third for it was a long trip from the
Pyrenees to Carcassonne. Later in the afternoon she noticed him in the
very next compartment, and still later passed him in the corridor,
leaning listlessly against the long window. The last time before
Carcassonne she noticed him on the platform of a tiny way-station where
he stopped to buy a flower from a little girl and for the first time,
he smiled. Cynthia was startled at that smile, so white and sudden and
flashing. “Why, he doesn’t look cross and unhappy at all!” she thought.
“Somebody ought to tell him to smile more often!”

But she hadn’t seen him smile again in all the weeks since then.

       *       *       *       *       *

It might have been a very happy evening, but for Miss Comstock,
Serena’s Aunt Anna. She was a pretty, plump little Southerner,
carefully rouged and powdered and manicured, exquisitely dressed, with
manners as sleek as the fur of a well tended cat. But her manners
didn’t somehow put you at your ease, they just made you feel crude
and ill bred by contrast. Miss Comstock’s slow drawl, even more
pronouncedly of the south than Serena’s, was as purring as a kitten’s
song of content, and she appeared to be intensely interested in all her
guest had been and done and seen.

The hotel was much more pretentious than Cynthia’s humble Cheval
Blanc, with corridors choked with palm trees and hanging baskets; with
delicious food; and with a great yellow cat on the front mat attesting
to the excellence of the cuisine. Cynthia thought the cat’s smug
countenance bore a fantastic resemblance to Serena’s Aunt Anna, but she
wouldn’t have trusted him alone with a canary.

“How wonderful to be an artist, wonderful to do as you like with your
life, no cares, no responsibilities, no ties!” gushed Aunt Anna over
their coffee on the terrace.

Cynthia rudely thought “Oh yeah,” and remembered the cover she must
send back to the States every month and all the other work she had
accomplished in Europe, but said nothing.

“You know I always had a fancy to be an artist. But once I had an
artist in love with me,” and she sighed romantically.

“Lots of people in love with you, Auntie,” murmured Serena, in so
dutiful a tone that Cynthia wondered how many hundred times she had
made the same remark.

Someone was playing a violin in the café across the street, the lights
and the sound of voices streamed out across the little square beyond
the hotel terrace and a big yellow moon swam up behind the plane trees.
The streets were full of people coming and going, for tonight was
Saturday when all the town felt free to play.

Serena had gone very silent since her last remark and Cynthia, in spite
of the beauty of the hour, was beginning to feel sleepy and finding it
difficult to stifle her yawns as she watched the shadow silhouettes of
people passing, dark against the café lights. It was like a scene in
a play. Some of the characters she already recognized from her week
in the town. There was good old Madame Brassard, who kept the pastry
shop down by the river, leaning plumply on the arm of her thin, gray
little husband, and both in spotless black as befitted a gala Saturday
night. And there was the guide from the Carcassonne walls, limping
on his cane, his face as blankly sweet as a chromo portrait. It had
been, Cynthia knew, almost entirely shot away at Amiens, and repaired
again by a surgeon who had almost, but not quite repeated the charm of
the original. And there was the boy from the other terrace, slouching
slowly, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched disconsolately. Some day,
perhaps tomorrow morning, she would certainly cross the street and
start talking to him. ...

Aunt Anna gave a faint exclamation and leaned forward, blinking against
the lights, “Oh, isn’t that ... but no, of course not, how foolish
of me!” She gave a nervous little laugh. “I ... excuse me, I thought
I recognized someone from home,” she said, and began to tell Cynthia
all about the nice man in the shop in the Upper Town who was keeping a
lovely silk shawl till she came in to look at it again in the morning.

Serena, sitting with her back to the light, was still silent. Cynthia
suddenly jumped to her feet and exclaimed. “Come on, let’s go for a
walk up to the walls. It’s a wonderful night to see them, and it’s
perfectly safe, there will be lots of people along the road.”

Miss Comstock glanced swiftly down the street, then reached out to pat
her hand. “You Yankee girls are so energetic,” she drawled. “I’m sure
Serena would much prefer to sit right here and listen to the beautiful
music.”

But it seemed Serena wouldn’t. She, too, was on her feet. “We’ll just
go a little way, Aunt Anna,” she said, “and we won’t be gone long. Come
on, Yankee gal,” and she linked her arm through Cynthia’s.

She laughed and talked animatedly for the next block or two but when
they came out of the new town and faced the walls of the ancient
fortress, all green and dark gold under the moon, with crickets
shrilling from the banks of the little stream and the lights of the
houses behind them, she was silent again.

“Let’s not go any farther, here’s a splendid place to sit,” suggested
Cynthia, who thought the other might be rather tired, and had found a
seat on the handrail of the little stone bridge. One could hear far off
music and voices sounding faintly, and contrary to expectations the
road was almost deserted. Perhaps the old town had little romance or
mystery for those who had always lived within sight of its walls. But
she must make conversation; this wasn’t being a good guest.

“Where do you go after Carcassonne?” she asked, politely, then saw,
with astonishment that Serena was crying!

“Oh, don’t do that!” cried Cynthia distressed. “Look here, you aren’t
happy. Can’t you tell me about it?”

“Oh I hate France, I hate Europe, I hate this town worst of all!” and
Serena suddenly flopped down beside Cynthia and dropped her head on a
much surprised Yankee shoulder. “I want to go ho ... ome! I want ... to
... go ... ho ... ome!”

“Is it just homesickness?” asked Cynthia gently. She certainly knew
a lot about that feeling since she came abroad, but Serena shook her
head, then started to wipe her eyes. “No ...” forlornly. “It’s ... it’s
Jack.”

“Jack? Oh ... ah ... yes,” murmured Cynthia vaguely. “Come, sit up and
tell me all about it,” and she patted the other’s back, reassuringly.
She had heard that it was sometimes easier to tell your troubles to a
stranger. Serena may have heard that too, for she said:

“It’s Aunt Anna, really. She’s mother’s oldest sister. Oh I know she
doesn’t look it, but she’s always had money and can afford to do things
to keep young and buy clothes to make herself pretty and I guess that’s
about all she cares about anyway. I guess long ago she was in love with
Jack’s father, too, though that’s only a sort of guess.”

“Jack?”

“Jack Hemstead. He’s a boy from home,” as though that were sufficient
explanation. “And when Jack ... Jack said he ca ... cared for me ...”
she swallowed, waited a minute and went on, “Aunt Anna made fun of him,
and said it was all foolishness at our age, though I’m eighteen ... and
Jack’s nearly twenty one, and finally she said she’d take me abroad for
the summer and then maybe I’d see Jack wasn’t so marvelous. But he is,
oh he’s the most marvelous person.”

She’d start to cry again if Cynthia wasn’t careful. “But haven’t you
written him?” she asked.

Serena nodded vigorously. “Yes, but we had a quarrel just before I
left. He said if I really cared I’d marry him then, even if we weren’t
of age. But I guess maybe I wanted the trip and I thought I could have
Jack too, and I haven’t heard a word, not one single word since I left
home. I’ve written and written begging him to write me and I’m so
ashamed!”

“Something’s wrong somewhere,” thought Cynthia, wondering what on earth
she could do about it. “Tell me more about him? And how long have you
been over?”

“Only four weeks and Auntie’s really been awfully kind, in her own way.
She’s bought me things and things, and we shopped for clothes till
I never want to see another Paris label again. I hated Paris. Then
Aunt decided to come to Carcassonne. We are sailing from the south of
France. She said she’d once read a poem about it. But you’re the first
young person I’ve talked to since we left home. On the boat she was
awfully sick and wanted to be read to all the time, so I just stayed in
the cabin with her, I was so grateful for the trip. But I didn’t know
Jack wasn’t going to forgive me,” she wailed.

Cynthia, looking off towards the walls through the sweet scented
moonlight, felt very sorry for this little Southerner. But it all
seemed too remote, too far away for her to do anything to help. With
Jack in America she couldn’t do anything more than lend a listening ear
to Serena and try to cheer her up as much as possible in the few days
they’d be staying here.

Serena seemed quite content with that, quite willing, in the days
that followed just to trail along with a book or a bit of sewing and
sit, not too far off, while Cynthia sketched along the walls of the
old city. She proved indeed extremely useful. Her fluent French was a
prop for Cynthia’s faltering accents and she had a delightful knack
with persuading the children to pose. Cynthia made three excellent
portraits, any one of which would do for her monthly cover, then felt
free to give her time to sketching the town itself.

But wherever they went Aunt Anna either hovered in the background or
knew exactly where they would be from half hour to half hour. It was
like having a secret service man always in the offing. Serena didn’t
mind but Cynthia said it gave her the creeps, always to have Miss
Comstock bobbing up like a cuckoo out of a clock, and put up with it
only for the sake of the other girl.

Meanwhile she heard more about this Jack person. She heard about the
color of his eyes and of his hair, about his cleverness and about his
family and about his job, which was, at the moment, junior clerk, very
junior indeed, in a big real estate office in New Orleans.

“He’s got the nicest smile ... you’d think he was cross, really, until
he smiles and then it sort of ... flashes across his face,” expatiated
Serena. They had been sitting for the past hour in the tourney court,
trying to reconstruct the ancient Court of Beauty with its lists; the
ground enclosed for the contest, its seats for the great ladies from
which the Queen of Beauty was chosen. “I wonder if they called her
‘Miss Carcassonne,’ or ‘Miss France,’” murmured Cynthia to herself.

All was quiet here. One could follow, on the ancient walls, the
reconstruction of centuries, the lower bricks of Roman tile, small and
flat, the higher coarser stone of the tenth century, then above that,
still more careful work of later years and finally the deliberately
antiqued and weathered rebuilding of the great Viollet-le-Duc, without
whose interest and wealth this greatest relic of the middle ages would
not exist today. Birds wheeled in the sunlight above them, but the
shadow of the wall was cool and the small herd of tourists, whose
voices sounded from the tower above them, scarcely left a ripple on the
peace of the afternoon.

“I love this place,” murmured Cynthia splashing happily in rich blue
shadow color, but she frowned a little. Something Serena had said a
moment back had started her memory working. She didn’t really want it
to work, she wanted to stay here and finish her sketch. “That was it
though ... ‘it sort of flashes across his face!’”

“This place gives me the shivers,” Serena remarked crossly. “I guess
it’s because it’s so full of romance and I ... I feel so empty of it.”

Suddenly Cynthia jumped off the wall and began to gather up her
painting materials. She had remembered what she wanted to remember, it
was just a chance, the wildest chance possible, but she had to know for
sure. “I’m going back to the hotel,” she said. “You stay here, Serena
... but I’d like it if you could come along in a couple of hours and
have tea with me. French tea is terrible of course but we can order
citron pressé. I may have something to show you too.”

“Just me, without Auntie?” asked Serena.

Cynthia nodded. “Try, for Pete’s sake to get her into a shop for an
hour or two, or tell her it’s time she took the tour around the walls.
She might enjoy the guide, he was very handsome once,” she added
maliciously, “but do come without her.”

“I’ll try. I’ve got to stay here and wait for her anyway. She said
she’d be along about two o’clock and it’s only half past one.” And
her puzzled dark gaze followed Cynthia down the steep steps to the
court, across it, through the high pointed arch of the gate, and long
afterwards as she appeared again on the dusty stretch of sunlit road to
the lower town.

Cynthia had suddenly remembered that boy at the Hotel de l’Universe,
and how flashing his smile had been, that one time she had seen it. But
he hadn’t even appeared on the terrace for the past two days, perhaps
he had left Carcassonne entirely, and almost certainly he had no least
connection with Serena’s Jack, but he had looked so forlorn and somehow
he had looked Southern too. Cynthia’s ardent desire to be again a
Little Miss Fixit almost persuaded her she could tell a Yankee from a
Louisianian even before he had said a single word.

She’d ask at the hotel for the young American with the brown eyes, and
if he were still registered there she’d leave a note inviting him to
join her for tea this afternoon ... anyway it might be rather fun, even
if nothing came of it.

Serena was on time, and Cynthia suggested that the Hotel de l’Universe
looked more amusing than the terrace of her own hotel.

“And I’d like to try a grenadine, it’s such a pretty color,” she
announced, once settled at the green painted table. So they each had
one of the sickly pink syrups so beloved of the French and sat sipping
contentedly while they gazed out across the low hedge of dusty box that
separated the terrace from the street. Then Cynthia, who was watching
her companion, saw her grab the edge of the table and go almost white.

“I was right ... I was right!” thought Cynthia. “Oh Golly!”

“_Cynthia!_” gasped the other wildly. “Who ... who’s that?”

A tall figure was lounging down the street, coming swiftly towards
them. Then he had got Cynthia’s little note, and had come almost as
though he had guessed what it was about.

The next happened so suddenly that Cynthia could scarcely untangle
it all. A very flushed, happily laughing Serena, different from any
Serena Cynthia had yet seen, standing in the entrance to the street,
then tearing wildly towards the approaching boy. A meeting of the two,
no doubt about its being the right Jack ... and the amused delighted
proprietor beaming in the doorway. After all this was Carcassonne,
and it was France, where else in the world would one expect to find
romance, if not here?

“But how did you guess, how did you guess?” asked Serena, as,
introductions properly over they sat again at the little green table.
Jack had placed his straw hat and the Tauchniz book he had been
carrying on the next table, had ordered a beer, but had made no move to
consume it for his attention was too occupied with Serena.

“Oh, we traveled together, once upon a time,” began Cynthia but
immediately saw that neither of her listeners was giving her the
slightest attention. Wisest to slip away and stand guard outside. “I’ll
give you a half hour together, _mes enfants_,” she said firmly, “but
if I give an alarm, you’ve got to scoot! Better get busy and make your
plans. May I borrow this?” and picking up the little Tauchnitz paper
covered volume, she nodded, and went out through the dusty hedge.

All this was making her feel pretty blue, herself. Chick, also,
might have been here today, with a bit of luck. But Chick was a very
satisfying person; he, at least wrote letters, and fat ones too. She
had had one this morning and while she waited would be a good time to
read it again, for the third time.

That finished she found a seat beneath the plane trees and turned to
the book she had picked up, a volume of Conrad’s sea stories with _Jack
Hemstead_ sprawled in large, plain hand across the cover. She gave
the couple thirty-five minutes, then fearing that Miss Comstock, who
of course knew where Serena had gone for the afternoon, might happen
along, Cynthia got up and briskly returned to the terrace.

Serena’s head was close to Jack’s tumbled locks, and Cynthia was amused
to note that their warming drinks stood in the glasses just at the
height they had been when she left them.

“Well children, what’s the plans?” she asked pulling out her chair
again.

“We’re going to be married.” Serena’s eyes were like stars. “Jack was
twenty one last month and he came over on a cattle boat, wasn’t that
brave of him? He got a big commission, big for a beginner that is, for
selling a business plot in the city, so he decided to trail us over
here and see what was wrong. He found out our address from the hotel in
Paris. I’ve got a first class ticket home, and Jack has a third class,
he thinks we can trade them in for two second class. My ticket’s my own
because Mother paid for that, not Aunt Anna.”

“The American consul at Marseilles can marry us,” Jack told Cynthia. “I
can’t tell you how grateful we are for arranging this. Serena hasn’t
been getting any of my letters.”

“Your aunt?” Cynthia’s eyebrows were questioning and Serena nodded and
shrugged. “It’s all right now, but we can’t give her another chance
to mess things up for us. Jack thinks we had better get away on the
_rapide_ tonight. But I don’t see how I can get away before tomorrow,
not without an awful fuss.”

“You’ve got to,” said Jack firmly, already playing the heavy husband.
“This is one time when you’ll have to put on some Yankee pep. Your
aunt knows I’m here, or at least that I was here for over a week.”

“_What!_” gasped Serena, and even Cynthia was astonished.

“Yes, she saw me one evening when I was strolling about the streets
here, that was, let’s see, about five days ago.”

The night Serena talked to me on the bridge, thought Cynthia ... that’s
so, he passed the café where the lights were so bright.

“So a couple of days later she hunted me up at the hotel. She said she
had no intention of my seeing her niece and of making her unhappy all
over again, and that Serena’s not writing was proof enough that she was
through caring for me. That sort of set me thinking, for how could she
be sure that Serena wasn’t really writing to me unless she herself was
doing something about it.”

“But I did write Jack, two letters every week,” protested the indignant
Serena.

“Yes, I know, honey child, but your aunt was very careful that they
didn’t get mailed, or that you didn’t get mine either. So I let her
come down to the station to see me off. She was most gracious, having
won her point. She saw me buy a ticket for Marseilles and get on the
express, but she didn’t know that it stops again about a half hour
beyond here, and that I got off there and returned by the next train.
I’ve been very careful ever since to keep out of sight as much as
possible, but I’d seen you two together so when I got Miss Wanstead’s
note I suspected that she had arranged something.”

“Oh Jack, and I never guessed you were in Carcassonne all this time.”

For a long moment then they forgot all about Cynthia till in protest
that young lady remarked. “Hadn’t we better get on with those plans of
yours?”

So for fifteen more minutes plans were made, rejected, and reaccepted,
till Cynthia looking up suddenly exclaimed, “And here comes your aunt!”

Tripping gaily down the street on the arm of the little blesse, parasol
unfurled, eyes upcast in characteristic admiring pose came Miss
Comstock.

“Run, Jack!” gasped Serena. “She mustn’t see you ...” and there was a
scramble for the doorway, a hasty return for the straw hat, and at the
last minute Cynthia reached out to switch the untasted beer to another
table, as though a departing customer had left it there. But it was a
close shave.

Aunt Anna was full of the sights she had seen, the new bargains she had
procured, of the delightful little soldier who had showed her around,
but her eyes were keen and Cynthia knew she did not miss that beer at
the next table. Then Cynthia did a clumsy thing, she dropped the volume
of Conrad. For just a moment it lay, face upward on the floor, the
sprawling signature showing plainly across its cover. Cynthia bent to
grab it, hastily flapped it on top her purse, she rose immediately to
go, she couldn’t risk the fact that Miss Comstock might have glimpsed
that name.

The next two hours were merely a matter of waiting. Serena and her
aunt usually dined at eight, and Cynthia, cautiously strolling along
the street which commanded Serena’s bedroom window watched for the
agreed signal, a handkerchief; pasted against the pane as though put
there for drying. She waited five minutes more, then slipped upstairs,
repeating to herself the story she would tell if any one tried to stop
her. But no one did.

Serena’s room-key hung, in trusting European fashion on a high nail
beside her door. Cynthia took it down, glanced once again along the
corridor, thought she heard footsteps and hastily turned the key.
Inside.

Serena’s bag, already packed, had been slid beneath her bed. Her
traveling coat and hat, her street shoes were with it. Cynthia grabbed
the lot and opened the door again. Then came a moment of fright, for
the maid, Agnés, stood just outside in the corridor. But she was
wreathed in smiles, already primed by Serena for the _enlévement_, the
elopement, and her ancient romantic heart was in the job. She piloted
Cynthia along the corridor and down the servant’s stairway, then out
through an alley behind the garage, put her finger to her lips as a
vow of silence, then blew a kiss into the air as a gesture of her best
wishes for the bride and groom. No word between them had been passed
during the whole four minutes of action. Cynthia, giggling, was on her
way. This was certainly something to write home about.

The remainder worked like a charm, a charm of ancient Carcassonne,
where, even in the tenth century young ladies must have fled with their
heart’s desire. At nine o’clock the _rapide_ for Marseilles stopped for
five minutes at the tiny station. At nine minutes to nine Jack with his
suitcase, Cynthia with Serena’s belongings and a bunch of flowers for
the bride-to-be, watched anxiously down the street. Then against the
sunset appeared Serena, breathless, with dusty evening slippers, still
in her dinner gown, but happy and incoherent with excitement.

“Oh you treasures, both of you!” she cried. “Have we tickets? ...
Goodness, there’s the train already ... She thinks I’m out buying
some aspirin tablets ... I didn’t have time to leave a note on the
pincushion ... My lamb, will you tell her I’ve gone? ...” and rattled
on and on while they climbed into the compartment. Cynthia kept one
anxious eye on the door. She didn’t know what would be the proper
procedure should Aunt Anna appear at the station with the fire of
suspicion in her eye. Cynthia had a wild momentary vision of herself
grabbing the woman around her ample waist and hanging on until the
train could have pulled out.

But no one appeared. The conductor blew his little toy trumpet, shouted
the usual warning, and at the last minute Cynthia still clasping the
bridal bouquet had to run beside the carriage to fling it through the
window. She had a final glimpse of Serena’s starry eyes, of Jack’s
white smile.

Then silence. Nothing.

Cynthia came out of the station door to the deserted cobble street
and twilight. “I wish it had happened to me,” she thought a little
mournfully. “But maybe it will, soon,” and had no idea how very soon
that would be. The moon hung like a burnished platter above the
romantic old town, too beautiful, too unreal to be true.

“Well,” thought Cynthia, going practical all of a sudden, “I guess
somebody’s got to break the news to Auntie!” And started down the
street toward the hotel of Miss Comstock.



CHAPTER 7

_Siena_

THE RACING SNAIL


Then at Marseilles, where Cynthia had planned to take train for Paris,
for Cherbourg and a ship for home, she caught up with her mail. One
specially fat and formidable envelope, with many seals, for which she
had to sign papers and more papers, proved to contain, of all things,
the long deferred check for the capture of Goncourt, the jewel thief.

Cynthia, in the office of Cook and Sons, stood surveying the paper
with bright round eyes. So many francs--one thought in francs now, not
in dollars--would purchase--what? Presents for home? Her luggage was
already heavy with ’em. More clothes in Paris? She had, really, all
she needed. A trip to some place farther on? Cynthia nibbled a pink
finger tip and thought about that. Maybe never again, after this once,
would she get to Europe. Maybe she’d be some day, a long time off,
one of those little old ladies with shawls who sit in corners, well
out of the draft, and talk with wistful reminiscence of “when I was in
France--when I was in Italy.” Meaning of course the _one_ time they
were there. Perhaps that wouldn’t be true, perhaps she’d come again in
a year or two. But just the same she owed it to herself to get all she
could out of this adventure while she was right here on the spot. The
thief had proved to be just so many extra francs, dropped by the gods
directly into her lap. Shouldn’t she, therefore, take it for a sign,
cable home that she was waiting for a later boat, and go on with the
adventure?

“When I was in Italy,” the rhythm returned. Cynthia whirled to face the
surprised young man behind the counter.

“If you had a windfall of ... so many hundred or thousand francs,” she
asked him, “where would you go--from here?”

The young man grinned cheerfully and replied in meticulous English.
“Madmoiselle, I should go to Italy.”

“Bon!” Cynthia was enchanted that his advice should agree with her
mental toss of a coin. “And where in Italy, please?”

The young man grinned more widely and shuffled the papers on his
counter. Here then was a customer for the tickets he had to sell.
“Madmoiselle, I should go to the palio in Siena. It is the month for
that. Madmoiselle has heard of the palio? Non? Oh, but then----,” and
he proceeded to expound.

Twenty minutes later Cynthia, walking on air, emerged from Cook and
Sons. In her purse reposed a ticket for Italy. And the palio in Siena
would be one of those things she could talk of, once she got to the age
of relating, “When I was in Italy.”

Five days later Cynthia, in Siena, pressed her small tip tilted nose
flat against the glass of the dusty window, peering in. She had come
again, for the third time today to see the frame. The lovely leather
frame was right in the foreground propped against the glass, just as
it had been yesterday and probably for weeks and weeks before that.
Beside it lay other leather things; cigarette cases, glove boxes
and portfolios, all beautiful. But it was the frame that interested
Cynthia.

It was the one frame in all Siena, which, after all is a city of
leather frames, for the photograph of Chick which she had received in
the mail in Marseilles. And nothing short of perfection was worthy of
holding that picture. In it the face of Chick squarely fronted the
beholder, the hair of Chick was fluffy and rumpled, as it had been when
the Academy bunch had given him his nickname, the eyes looked straight
and truly into the eyes of Cynthia, and the quirky mouth seemed just
about to say: “Hi, Cynthia ... Darling!”

The frame was wine colored, the leather as soft as old satin, and all
around its edge was a delicate gold border of conventional ivy leaves,
with, next to it, a band of oak leaves and tiny acorns, and inside,
next to the glass a tiny frail beading. All very simple but it was the
color and the workmanship that held Cynthia’s eye.

She sighed. She knew to a lira just exactly what was in her purse, knew
that she mustn’t afford the frame, no matter how low the price might
be. Nevertheless she pushed open the paint scarred old door in the
stone housefront and entered the little shop.

It was, as she had expected, dim and dusty within. The proprietor,
an aged little Italian with the down-drooping nose of one who works
in delicate detail, was busy with another customer. She also, was an
American, small and dainty, expensively clad, older than she appeared.
Cynthia smiled to herself. After two months in Europe she knew the type
very well.

“Too much, too much!” she was saying, in Italian over and over again,
and gestured prettily with a gloved hand toward a small pile of
cigarette cases lying on the counter. Unexpectedly then she turned to
Cynthia.

“You look as though you could speak Italian, my dear. Do ask him if he
will give me a better price for the whole dozen. I want them for bridge
prizes, next winter.”

Cynthia was willing to try, and struggled with her scant store of the
language. The proprietor shrugged his shoulders and spread expressive
Italian fingers wide. “Yes, yes, eight, ten lira less perhaps,” he
smiled. And Cynthia knew that all along he had expected to take less
than his original price. But the pretty lady was pleased.

“Wrap them up,” she ordered the man, in the loud tone so often employed
to the foreigner who seems not to understand, as though by mere volume
of sound one could impress one’s meaning.

Cynthia had removed the lovely frame from the window and now held it
in her hand. Close like this, it was even more beautiful than when
viewed through the wavering old glass, and at Cynthia’s “How much?”
the old man smiled almost fondly, as though he too knew this for one
of his best pieces. He named the sum in lire and Cynthia made a rapid
calculation, then, with a sigh, shook her head and turned to replace
it in the window. He might as well have said fifteen hundred dollars,
as fifteen. Why, in her tiny room in the _pensione_ she could live for
two whole weeks on fifteen dollars. Chick would have to wait, unframed,
till she returned to the States and a steady job.

The American lady was still fussing over the wrapping of her package
when Cynthia left the shop and stepped out into the street again, one
of those steep streets of Siena that seemed to bear always in their
sunny stone the tinge of a perpetual sunset glow. From far down the
street came the roll of a drum, and Cynthia who had already seen two
of these _contrade_ rehearsals pelted off as fast as rubber soles on
cobbles could carry her. Never mind the frame, though she gave it a
regretful relinquishing thought.

Tomorrow was the Palio, the famous horse race with which Siena, twice
a year, for the past four hundred years, has celebrated her liberation
from the long arm of her tyrant neighbor, Florence. And now for the
past three days Siena had fallen back, body and spirit, into the
fifteenth century.

Certainly Cynthia, rounding the corner of the narrow street, felt as
though she had been projected feet first into a slice of the middle
ages. Banners of silk and of satin, of tapestry and of heavy velvet,
fringed and tasseled in gold, embroidered with the arms of some ancient
family, hung from a high balcony, and above it, glowing in the warm
stone was carved again the heraldic device. Below the slow swaying
banners stood a little band of Siennese, two drummerboys in long-hose
and doublets, peaked caps over their frizzy locks, their companions two
banner-bearers, all in black and white and gold. The flags displayed
the arms of their _contrada_, or ward; this one Lupa, the Wolf, and
their huge ruffled sleeves and the little purses which dangled from
their belts were embroidered in fine gold with a similar device.

The drums tapped out a strange, intriguing little rhythm while the two
banner bearers, practising their rite, did a sort of solemn dance with
the great five foot square flags. The object seemed to be to keep up a
continual stepping, with the banners never for one moment allowed to
lag. Under the arms and up again, out and beneath the dancing feet, and
the drums always beating faster and faster. Fascinated, Cynthia watched
for the culmination which she knew would come. With a final roll of
the drums the banners were flung high, high, almost ... incredibly, to
the tops of the houses, then descending, their heavy sticks acting as
weights, were caught lightly and skillfully. And the dance, for the
moment, was over.

There was a slight cheer from the small group that had gathered to
watch and a voice behind her said “Gosh, that was great!”

It was such a shock to hear, in this scene of the past, a good American
voice that Cynthia whirled involuntarily to face the speaker. To
her surprise he was all of fifty, with the reddish complexion of a
confirmed golf player, a shock of nice thick white hair, gray tweeds,
the expensive kind, and a panama hat which he wore in his hand.

Cynthia met his smile with one as friendly. “It is nice, isn’t it,” she
said, for no particular reason except that one so often does speak to
fellow Americans on foreign soil. Then she started to turn away.

“They’re having a _prove_, in the Piazza del Campo, this morning,” he
informed her. “Perhaps you’d like to see that too?”

“Oh are they? Thank you,” said Cynthia, and this time she really did
turn away. She had already seen one of the _proves_, the rehearsal for
the big race, and thought she’d prefer, instead of seeing this one, to
find a place to sketch. With her final cover off to America she was
free now to sketch wherever she pleased, and she had an idea that she
might work up material for an exhibition, back in New York. The heads
to be her main attraction but perhaps a few landscapes to add a little
variety to the show.

That afternoon she saw the man again. She had taken her sketch box
and camp stool, and having hired a tiny barouche, was set down about
two miles out of Siena where a little old monastery sat atop a tall
hill. Here among the cypresses she could sketch for an hour, or two,
or three, nibble her apple and sandwiches, and in the cool of later
afternoon pack her box and walk back to town.

Cynthia had chosen a shady angle of the wall, and had roughed in her
drawing; a bit of a gateway tiled in warm red, and a tall niche where
stood a della robbia madonna robed in blue as deep as the Italian
sky. Bougainvillea spilled in a fountain of magenta over the wall,
and Cynthia was struggling with this riot of color when she heard the
_clopity-clop_ of horses’ hoofs, but did not look up. Color dried so
swiftly in this warm dry air, one had no time for distractions.

Then there were voices, two, a man’s and a woman’s, the feminine voice
light, pleasant, but pitched to a note of amused complaint that was
vaguely familiar. Cynthia could not help overhearing.

“Why on earth you had to drag me way out here, Gerald! Oh, of course
the road was lovely, but we have so little time in Siena and I did want
to get in some more shopping ...”

“Shopping! Always shopping! Don’t you get enough shops in the States?”
replied the man’s voice in very husbandly tones.

“Now Gerald, you remember I didn’t really want to come to Siena in the
first place, but then of course I had no idea the leather and the iron
work was so lovely here.”

Leather, that was it! The woman who had bought the cigarette boxes this
morning. And the man with her? Cynthia, absent-mindedly wiping her
brush on her white skirt said a faint “Darn!” for the color was rose
madder and probably would stain ... peered out from behind her wall.
The man was her nice gray haired acquaintance. Well, his trip to the
monastery was no business of hers.

Now how to get that tone of sunlight between the deep leaf-shadows? Ah,
that did it! Intent on the success of a trick of the trade, Cynthia
forgot the voices and when she came out of her corner an hour later
there was no one, native or American, in sight. Cynthia took the two
mile walk home through a lemon tinted sunset, ran into another flag
rehearsal just at the edge of the town and enjoyed it hugely.

So pervasive and insistent was the tap. tap ... tr...r..r..r... tap.
tap. of the drums that she seemed, that night to dream about them all
night long and she woke the next morning with the distant, dream patter
of the rhythm still tapping merrily through her head. In the pale light
of early morning the sound was so real she could not banish it with the
remainder of her doze and finally hopped out of bed to see if she had
been hearing the reality.

Sure enough, just down the street the banner-dancers were practicing
their strange little steps, and the first rays of sunlight over the
housetops caught the gilded tips of the banner staves as they were
flung, in the final flourish of the dance, to the house tops. Cynthia
remembered the fourteenth of July celebration in Paris and grinned to
herself. She was prepared, now, for such festive spirits. Besides that,
and all reports to the contrary notwithstanding, the Italians didn’t
seem to put so much noise into their celebrations as their French
neighbors. But then they let off more steam in just every-day living.

When she had finished her brief and early breakfast and emerged to the
street she saw that this was truly and whole-heartedly a gala day.

The steep cobbled way to the cathedral which crowned the hill was like
an illustration clipped from her Morte d’Arthur, a street made ready
for the entrance of a Lancelot or a King. Banners of silk and banners
of velvet, cloth of gold and cloth of silver, all embroidered with the
arms of Siena and her ruling houses, and, so far as Cynthia knew, of
Mussolini himself, hung from every upper window and balcony, fluttering
in the morning breeze with a constant play of color and pageantry along
the gay little street. Every doorway held smiling faces above the
garments of this holiday mood. Every child carried a brilliant hued
balloon or a whistle, or a small flag. And down around the _piazza_
where the race was to be run the side streets were crowded with tiny
bright colored booths, peddling those cheap and sticky indigestibles
that go with a holiday all the world over.

Cynthia wanted very much to see the ceremony of blessing the horses
that were to run in the race. Only ten of the seventeen wards might
compete, due to the tiny race course, and these would be chosen by lot
just before the race began. Each horse would be in the little chapel of
its own _contrada_, so Cynthia chose the Snail, since that of all the
ward names seemed to appeal to her most. It was so delightfully silly
for a Snail to be running a race, even by proxy.

The chapel was a plain little building of warm stone, hidden in the
lower edges of the walled town, and the room was already crowded with
interested and loyal Snailists, including the horse, who seemed the
most interested of all.

Cynthia listened with delight to the sonorous Latin phrases of the
little priest, but almost burst into giggles at the horse’s astonished
expression when his nose was sprinkled with water from a kind of
overgrown silver pepper box. It was an emotional relief when she caught
a glance from an amused gray eye, twinkling over the heads of the
shorter Sienese and automatically she twinkled back at it. Then she
saw a tuft of stiff white hair and recognized her acquaintance of the
day before. Cynthia flushed and bit her lip. When she looked again he
was gone.

Behind the chapel was a room used for exhibition purposes. Here in the
dim glass cases, dusty with age, were the ancient costumes worn in past
Palios by the jockeys of the Snail. Many of them were hundreds of years
old and all displayed the same careful craftsmanship, the same loving
care for detail that Cynthia had noted in the costumes she had seen on
the streets.

She made some sketches in her notebook, and went back to the _pensione_
by way of the leather shop to have another look at the frame in the
window.

Back in her room she emptied her pocketbook on the bed, and counted her
express checks and lire. But the frame was hopeless. She just couldn’t
manage it, not even if she asked the shop keeper to come down in his
price. The price was fair, Cynthia felt that it was even more than
that, and one couldn’t ask a fellow artist to cheapen his wares.

“I’m afraid, Chick darling,” she told the photograph propped between
the mirror and the hair brush, “you’ll just have to go as you are.
Maybe a little later ...”

For the future looked very bright indeed. Cynthia had already received
two letters from advertising firms who were interested in her covers on
_Little One’s Magazine_, and she had an idea for a new series for that
same publication, once she was back in the States. But at the moment,
in a strange country, with no friend nearer than Nancy and her Mother
in Brittany, Cynthia didn’t dare risk fifteen of her precious dollars.
Oh dear, it was difficult to be poor, ’specially when Chick needed a
frame!

Where at she planted a cautious kiss on the pictured countenance of Mr.
Charles Dalton.

The Palio race was due to start at five that afternoon. Cynthia took
her sketch book and her portfolio to use as a lap-rest and went off
early to find the seat she had purchased three days before. She could
spend the time in sketching the crowd--you never could tell; some day
she might be called on to illustrate a story about Siena and then her
foresight and her sketches would come in handy.

For days the workmen of Siena had been preparing the Piazza del Campo
for this event. In the center was a walled off space known as the Dog’s
Box, where the poorer people might stand. The race course itself came
between this and the tiers of seats raised against the housefronts that
faced the piazza; hard, narrow little seats like the bleachers of a
ball park. But Cynthia was lucky, for she was on the shady side, and
was so interested that she didn’t much care how long she sat there.

Her neighbors were mostly tourists, French, Italians from the south,
Germans, a few Austrians, and one or two Americans. Small boys sold
bags of nuts, and programs in five languages while the shadow of the
bell tower slowly crept across the Dog’s Box and the hard packed earth
of the race course. Cynthia noted the mattresses strapped against the
bare walls at the four corners of the course, presumably that the
horses or riders might not be injured in the scramble around these
dangerous places, and learned from her pink leafed program that many
of the horses did daily duty through Siena’s streets, pulled cabs, or
fruit carts during the year and their owners each belonged to the
_contrada_ from which they were chosen to race.

At last the sound of a mortar. The crowd which had been strolling
leisurely about the course began to squeeze in under the fence to their
places in the box, or scramble, goat-like up the steep tiers of wooden
seats. Urged on by the carabinieri, those delightful, self-contained,
tweedledum and tweedledee police of Italy, loiterers were soon cleared
from the course and way was made for a group of little men, like blue
clad gnomes. These, pushing tiny wheelbarrows, swarmed along the
roadway. Their job seemed to be to cover with earth any places where
the original paving stones might show through.

Then again the sound of the mortar. And here they come!

First the Ensign Bearer of Siena, with the simple black and white flag
of the city. Then the Palace Trumpets, the picturesque long trumpets
with their pendent banners carried by youthful pages in jaunty velvet
caps, slashed doublet and sleekly silken hose. Then the musicians,
all in costume and the crossbowmen with their ancient weapons and at
last a group from each _contrada_. In each group a drummer, two flag
bearers, a Lord or Captain on horseback in gorgeous armor, of silver,
or bronze, or steel beautifully inlaid with gold that glittered in the
sunlight. Behind him his squires, his ensign bearers, and on the race
horse, the jockey who would ride later, in the race.

Slowly the procession passed around the course. Before the judges’
stand, and four times as they circled the square each group paused that
the drummers might perform their little rhythm, that the banner bearers
might dance their skillful little steps.

Cynthia sat enthralled. Almost she had to pinch herself to believe it
was real. Glorious in color as an old window of stained glass; silks
and velvets, knights in full armor, pages, banners and trumpeters, and
at the very end the Palio itself, a great banner drawn in a cart, with
the staked flags of the _contrada_ around it.

The procession was over. Cynthia sat back and cracked a few nuts and
ate them. Just to return to reality for a while, after so much beauty,
was a rest and a relief. She had thought so intensely, packed it
down so tightly into her memory that no least gesture of it might be
forgotten. Even so, she felt as though she would have liked a week of
that procession in order to be able to remember it all.

Again the mortar.

The race was about to start. Ten restive little horses ranged behind
a rope, ten jockeys struggling to keep them in line. The sound of the
gun. They’re off!

Panting, scrambling, hurled against the Dog’s Box, cutting corners,
they tore around the course, and the piazza was one vast shout as
though from a single throat. Cynthia, on her feet like the rest,
stamped and clapped and shouted with the others. The Snail, the little
brown Snail was among the leaders. Once around the course. Three times
was the extent of the race. And the starting post was in sight again.
But one rider was off--which was it?

The Snail’s! Cynthia could have sobbed aloud with despair, with
disappointment. Her favorite, out of the race because without a rider.
Someone had raised a whip and the Snail’s jockey had been the victim.

Oh well, so much for that! Cynthia, disgusted, almost sank back to her
seat, but the mass of excitement around her was too strong to resist.
The Snail, for some reason, seemed still to be a favorite, his name
rose again and again from surrounding throats. Stubbornly he kept to
the track, came to the first of the tiny streets that turned off, away
from the race track. Gallantly he resisted temptation, clung to the
course. Past the next alley, past the next street, and well among the
leaders still. Pulling ahead now, faster and faster, because riderless,
guideless. The Snail caught up with the horse of the Eagle, passed him,
caught up with the horse of the Owl, hitherto the leader. The Owl’s
rider plied whip with vigor, but he was a husky youth, quite a burden
for the Owl’s little horse to carry. And the Snail was half a head in
the lead as the goal post was passed for the second time.

“Oh come on ... come _on!_” Regardless now of the fact that the horse
was riderless, Cynthia wanted only that he should make the circle the
third time. Successfully.

Now he was well in the lead, past the wicked flail of the Owl’s
malicious rider. Nothing now could stop him, though as he approached
for the third time the steep street leading up into the town Cynthia
held her breath lest this time he should leave the course and gallop up
it. Held her breath so that she was completely unconscious of the broad
shoulders in front of her which her eager hands were grasping.

For an instant the pony faltered. Then urged on by the pounding hoofs
behind him passed the last temptation. And was on the final stretch for
the goal post.

Faster. Faster! A length, two lengths, three lengths ahead. Cynthia
shouted wildly, pounded a fist on the harris tweed shoulder and yelled
with the others. “Go on ... Snail ... go on! ... Go on! ... Home! ...
_Ah..h..h!_”

The race was over. “And quite fitting that it should have been won by
the Snail,” dryly remarked the owner of the harris tweed shoulder.

Cynthia came out of her daze and gaped at him. It was the nice twinkley
man she had seen in the chapel this morning, the one who had come to
the monastery with his wife.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she gasped, feeling very hot and red in the face.
“Did I pound you to a jelly? Races are pretty exciting, aren’t they?”

“They certainly are,” he agreed cheerfully. “And that was a most
surprising one.”

“Do you suppose he really won?” asked Cynthia, carefully following the
man down the steep narrow steps. “I don’t imagine it will be allowed
like that, without a rider, will it?”

The man laughed. “Well, this is Italy, you know, and after all they may
figure it was a race for horses, not jockeys. And the horse certainly
came in ahead. But let’s go and find out,” he suggested. “By the way,
my name is Lewis, though I believe we have met before, even if you
didn’t know my name.”

“How do you do, Mr. Lewis. I’m pleased to meet you I’m sure,” stated
Cynthia with mock primness. “And now that’s over, we’re both from the
States, I gather, and my name is Wanstead. Didn’t your wife come to the
races?”

Mr. Lewis shook his head. “If it had been Longchamps, or Saratoga ...
But she wasn’t interested in a little Italian hick town race. Oh, here
we are, and I imagine there’s little doubt about the winner.”

The rose-and-gold Snail jockey, wreathed in flowers and comically
suggestive of an ancient Greek statue, a blood stained handkerchief as
additional decoration about his forehead, was being carried high on the
shoulders of a dozen competitors for the honor of the burden. Around
him surged a horde of shouting friends and at least a score of pretty
girls tossed jests and languorous glances toward the victor.

“I think they ought to be carrying the horse up there,” was Cynthia’s
objection. “The jockey didn’t do anything but tumble off.”

“That in itself seems to have been a feat not without its perils. How
about some tea up here, to celebrate that our horse won?”

Over the tea cups, in the ancient palace now transformed into a tea
shop, over delicious tiny cakes, sweet with honey, deep with frosting,
Cynthia heard about Mr. Lewis. Heard that long ago he, too, had been
an art student and had come to Siena, heard that he had come back this
time, a successful broker, to try to recapture some of the enchantment
of that far off time. “But it’s not the same,” he said sadly. “How
about some more tea?--No?--Then some more cakes--oh, just one more.”

“Well, maybe, just one.” Cynthia chose a cake like a little Italian
palace, all tiled with lemon peel and crowned with a candied cherry.
“And do you know the lovely old monastery at the top of the hill?”

“I should say I do. I made a sketch of that, years ago--before you
were born, young lady.” Why did people always lay such emphasis on
one’s lack of age? “But my wife didn’t think much of it, and perhaps it
wasn’t very good, really. Anyway it got lost once when we were moving.”

His smile was slightly rueful and Cynthia forgave the remark about
her youthfulness. “It was of the gate, and a lovely old Della Robbia
madonna. I went out to see it again, just yesterday, but couldn’t find
it.”

“Why, I found it, and did a sketch of it too,” Cynthia blurted out,
and a moment later wished she hadn’t. It was obvious that he had been
dragged away before he had had time to do much exploring.

“Did you? Oh, could I see it perhaps? But first won’t you have another
cake, some more tea?” urged the hospitable Mr. Lewis.

“I couldn’t eat another cake if I knew it was the last one in Siena,”
protested Cynthia. “And I think I’ve got the sketch right here. The
portfolio made a good rest for my sketch book.”

So there in the tea shop, cool and quiet and growing a bit dim as the
sun sank behind the towers and tiles of Siena, Cynthia hauled out
her sketches. There were some of the crowd she had made just this
afternoon, of the carabinari, heads gravely bent, two by two, always
two by two, white gloved hands folded behind their solemn backs.

“You have quite a knack for caricature,” commented Mr. Lewis, and
Cynthia said, “You have to, if you are going to do portraits. A really
good likeness always holds a little exaggeration.”

At which he nodded understandingly. Nice to be showing your sketches to
another artist.

“And here are some of the landscapes I’ve done around Siena, mostly
bits of streets and old tiled houses. They aren’t as good as my people.”

“And here is your madonna,” she cried, hauling out the drawing she
had finished the day before. She told him about her plan to have an
exhibition of the heads and of the landscapes together.

“That’s a good idea too,” he agreed, and propped the little sketch of
the monastery against a chair and sat back to squint at it.

“I wonder,” he said at last, “if you’d be willing to make a sale before
you go home. I have a fancy to own this one,” and he nodded towards the
little tiled gateway. “Could you part with it, do you think?”

Cynthia hesitated. She did sort of want to show that one to Chick and
hear his approval. But perhaps tomorrow she could go back to the same
place and make another, even a better one.

“We..ll, yes,” she agreed reluctantly. “I might.”

And then came the “How much?” which she had dreaded. Cynthia knew
the value, at least the commercial value, of her portraits. But the
landscapes were different. They were just studies, perhaps not worth
anything at all. “Would ... would two dollars be too much?” she asked.
“Or maybe three?”

“My dear child!” protested Mr. Lewis, and Cynthia laughed.

“Well, give me what you like. It will be all right anyway.--Oh,
American money, how nice to see it again!” And it was quite a roll, too.

She took the two bills and handed over the painting. “Better take
along this cardboard, it’s just the back of the pad, but it fits, and
will keep the sketch from being crumpled. And now I really must run. I
promised a little English girl at the _pensione_ that I’d have dinner
with her tonight and tell her all about the palio. She couldn’t afford
a ticket for it. I know she won’t at all approve of the way it turned
out. ‘Most unsportin’ my deah!’” she laughed, mimicking the other’s
accent.

“Goodbye,” waved Cynthia from the doorway. Nice Mr. Lewis. It had been
fun, the tea, and such an appreciative audience--and the two dollars.
She opened her purse, just for the comfort of seeing good United States
greenbacks again, shook them out of the rumple and gazed at them,
startled. Not two one dollar bills, but two for ten dollars each.
Twenty good bucks! Oh gosh ... oh glory ... oh joy!

“Miss British Isles can wait,” said Cynthia aloud to the deserted
street and turned rapidly in a direction opposite to the _pensione_.
She knew somehow that her luck would hold, her marvelous luck of
the day, and that even as late as this sunset hour, with the rosy
housefronts of Siena still holding their perpetual sunset glow, the
little man in the frame shop would still be there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Chick that night was no longer propped limply, somewhat forlornly,
between the dusty, green tinged mirror and the box of cold cream, but
smiled gaily, resplendently, festively, in a frame of wine colored
leather with a border of acorns and gold beading.

Cynthia bent over and bestowed a brief kiss on the chilly glass.

“Hi, Chick ... Darling,” she laughed. And turned off the light.



CHAPTER 8

_Venice_

ALL IS NOT LOST


Cynthia was sleepy when she stumbled into the station at Genoa. She
hadn’t been too sure that the hotel keeper would wake her in time to
get the train for Venice. So all night long she had dozed fitfully,
waking to sit bolt upright and flash on the light to see her watch,
then finally been waked from a sound sleep at five, just an hour before
train time by the sharp summoning knuckles of the garçon on her bedroom
door.

And it must have been because her eyes were still blurred with sleep
that she took the _rapide_ instead of the express for Venice. They were
standing directly opposite each other, and both of them had “Venezia”
in letters a foot high along the carriages. An Italian _rapide_ does
not necessarily move with great rapidity. By the best of expresses it
is a long day’s journey across the width of Italy and by the time she
had discovered, with the half dozen native phrases that she knew, that
she had taken the wrong train it was too late to do anything about it.
They were already an hour east of Genoa.

“What time do we get to Venezia,” she begged. “Venezia ... _Venezia_.
...”

“Si...si...si...si...si,” hissed the beaming conductor as he punched
her ticket.

“Yes, but what time? Tempo? Tempo?” she pleaded.

The conductor shook his head and shrugged. Probably mad, this pretty
signorina. But he had no English, and what did she in third class, in
that expensive dress of real silk, with leather shoes upon her feet,
a hat, and a suitcase also of veritable leather? He gave it up and
sauntered down the crowded aisle between the wooden benches to examine
the biglietto of a wizened little great-grandmother traveling, with six
great-grandchildren, to Milan.

Cynthia grinned and settled philosophically against the frame of the
open window. Ten hours was a pretty long time, and it would be more
than that now in this poky old train, but anyway it was an adventure
and all part of traveling. She was certainly going in the right
direction, there was no one to meet her at the other end, no one to
worry when she didn’t arrive, and she would have all day to observe and
to make sketches.

Third class had been almost a necessity, this Italian trip hadn’t been
allowed for in her original budget, but Cynthia had found third class
in France so much more fun than second ... and of course even the
Italians say that no one but rich, rich Americans and officials who
travel on passes ever go by first. This was the coolest carriage too,
since the always open windows let in floods of air and sunlight along
with the floods of dust, and the hard wooden benches were pleasantly
free of the small insect life almost universally inhabiting the
upholstery of first and second coaches.

But third class in Italy! The young man at Cooks who had sold her her
ticket had almost expired to hear of an Anglo-Saxon traveling in so
unorthodox a fashion. No one ... _no one_ ever traveled third class in
Italy! Cynthia surveyed the coach and chuckled again.

Further down the aisle, two lovely little Sisters of Santa Chiara, in
the soft, dove-gray habit of their order, with spotless wide-spreading
winged headdresses and speckless collars munched contentedly and
daintily on bread and cheese augmented by a bottle of water they had
brought with them. Cynthia’s eye took in the angle of that tilted,
sail-like headdress, stealthily her fingers groped for sketch-book
and pencil. A moment later she was so absorbed in her drawing that
she absent-mindedly grinned back in friendly fashion at the littlest
Sister, who had caught her drawing. Nobody seemed to mind being
sketched in this country.

Then there was the old great grandmother and her boisterous brood.
Beside them she tended a hen in her apron, a hen that seemed very
content to sleep and to cluck drowsily in the warm depths of that blue
lap. The littlest bambino was not more than a year old, sleeping with
bobbing head on the shoulder of the oldest sister. He had the most
beautiful hands, tapering, with tiny dimples and wee pink nails, which
fell into enchanting poses. Cynthia sketched happily.

People came and went from every tiny station and crowds gathered
and dispersed beneath the trailing potted flowers that decorated the
pillars of every station platform. Cheerily they screamed “_Buon
giorno!_” “_Addio!_” “_Arrivederci! Arrivederci!_” Italian, someone had
told Cynthia, was a language intended to be shouted.

The sun grew warmer, the paper beneath her hand sticky with
perspiration. Somewhere along the line a few lire purchased a sandwich
of garlic-flavored sausage between thick slices of warm bread, a bottle
of warmish water and a bunch of sweet, very juicy green grapes. After
lunch she curled in her corner and slept.

When she awoke the car was nearly empty and they were clattering and
banging through the light of midafternoon. Hills were purple beyond
hot haze and vineyards, white with dust, spread for miles and miles on
either side the track. Cynthia sighed and got up to walk the length of
the car and back again. Where were they now, she wondered?

When they stopped with a clatter and bang at the next station she
hopped out to look at the map hung on the station wall. Keeping
one careful eye on the train lest it slide out and leave her, she
estimated the probable time that it would reach Venice. Good gracious,
it was hours away yet! And at the rate this train was going ...

The little horn tooted its warning and Cynthia fled back to her seat.
What to do, what to do? Thank goodness, nobody would be at all worried
or put out by this fool mistake of hers. Nancy, back in Brittany by
now, and Mrs. Brewster were the only people that knew about her trains
and her plans. Mother had insisted when Cynthia first left America that
she keep in touch, close touch, with some one person in Europe, and she
had been awfully faithful about that. She had even written Nancy what
train she was taking from Genoa ... and now, Cynthia grinned ... look
at the darn thing!

By five o’clock she was ravenous and very weary. From former experience
she knew that she could hop off almost any place that the train might
stop and continue next day on the same ticket. But for hours they had
not passed a decent sized town, just little settlements about the usual
tiny church and inn, a few donkeys and a mangy yellow dog or two. Did
she dare get off just anywhere and risk what she might find, or should
she stick on here till seeming doomsday, till midnight anyway and
arrive at some weird hour on the unknown canals of Venice?

Fumbling in the pocket of her silk jacket she found a single lira and
on impulse flipped it into the air. It dropped into her lap and she
covered it quickly with her hand.

“Heads; I’ll get off at the very next stop, no matter if it’s in the
middle of a field. Tails; I’ll go on to Venice, no matter how late we
get there or how hungry I am,” she said aloud.

She uncovered the coin. Heads it was!

Cynthia was a little scared. But determined, oh very determined.
Resolutely she took down her suitcase from the rack, swung her painting
box beside it. Firmly she waited by the open window till the train
banged again to a stop beside a little shack that served as a station.
The sign read Santa Maria Something-or-other, a name which meant
nothing to Cynthia. Sturdily she stepped backward down the three steep
steps to the ground, swung her box and suitcase off beside her and
turning her back on the poky little train walked toward the gate.

“Tomorrow ... tomorrow morning I go to Venice,” she explained to
the gatekeeper who was punching lacework patterns into her ticket.
“_Domani. Comprendo?_”

“_Si, si._” Wonderingly he let her pass. Not until the gate had closed
firmly did Cynthia feel sure that she herself wouldn’t turn and race
toward the departing train, the train that eventually must reach Venice.

When the last shriek of the whistle had died along the echoing hills,
when the last smudge of smoke had disappeared against the dazzling
light of the sinking sun, Cynthia was plodding almost ankle deep in
dust along the wide path that seemed to do duty as the town road. But
there was literally no town here. Far off across the plowed fields
a sugar white tower reared against the skyline; the village church.
Four or five scattered houses with the inevitable grape vine, their
whitewashed sides stained verdigris green with arsenic spray, and a
tiny inn to which the gateman had directed her. This latter was her
objective.

Its entrance was beneath a vine covered lattice and its bare dirt
floor, its collection of dogs looked much like the other farmhouses.
But inside there were several tables and a girl behind a counter. She
slid forward and smiled shyly with a flutter of incredible lashes.
Cynthia felt reassured.

Stumblingly she asked for a room for the night, explained her wish to
be called early for the first train for Venice.

Yes, signorina, there was a room, but one. The signorina should regard
it.

It was bare, save for the bed, table and chair and directly above the
café, but clean and cool. Cynthia nodded, did not ask the price and
letting her suitcase slide to the floor, ordered water with which to
wash. That was easy, one always asked for water. Supper also should be
simple, since a traveler was expected to desire food. Cynthia thought
of her first night in Paris and felt a little proud of how much more
confident she had become since then. What would Chick think of this
adventure of hers, she wondered and was glad he needn’t know about it
for weeks yet. He’d be sure to scold her for taking such a risk.

It proved however to be no risk at all. At supper, a simple meal of
spaghetti, a salad and grapes, she was examined shyly by several
children, hopefully by several dogs, curiously by the adults of the
family. But the spaghetti was delicious and Cynthia was hungry. After
dinner she was far too sleepy to do more than take a short walk down
the quiet dusty road. Back in her room she wedged a chair under the
latch of the lockless door and fell asleep almost before she could
think again what an adventure this was.

       *       *       *       *       *

The express from the north, to which Cynthia transferred a half hour
beyond the little village, arrived in Venice about nine o’clock. It
looked, she thought as she waited in the train corridor, just a little
disappointing, only a long, tunnel-like train shed. No canals, no
gondolas, no palaces in sight.

The burly Italian in front of her swung off with his bags, Cynthia
prepared to follow, and stopped stock still, midway of the top step.

“_Chick!_”

“_Cynthia_,” came the excited reply, “Where on earth? ...”

“I ... I thought you were in New York, Chick!” And stood gaping with
open mouth until a large bag prodded her, not too gently, in the middle
of her back. Then she swung down the steps and dropped suitcase and
paint box to fling herself into the arms of the surprised young man.
Almost, it seemed, as surprised as she was.

“I thought you were due last night, on the _rapide_ from Genoa,”
exclaimed the disgusted Chick. “You wrote that to Nancy you know. And
I’ve been meeting trains almost all night. ... It was only by luck I
stopped here. I was meeting the express from Genoa on track six ten
minutes ago.”

He signaled a porter. “This your stuff? All of it?” A hand beneath her
elbow, impersonally, kindly, almost as though he were the favorite
nephew of a maiden aunt, all concern for her baggage, that she pass
the _dogana_, the local custom house, that she give her ticket to the
proper uniformed official. They came out of the stone doorway onto a
half dozen steep stone steps. Before them shimmered the canal. So the
popular report was true and Venice did have them?

“I’ve got a gondola waiting right here ...” he looked along the
bobbing, yelling line of gondoliers who shouted their wares and virtues
below the quay. “Dash that fellow ...” she heard him mutter. “Oh well,
never mind Cyn, we’ll take this one,” and still with that air of a
nephew-who-expects-to-be-well-remembered-in-the-will, piloted her down
the step.

The wide upholstered seat was very comfortable. With surprisingly
little fuss they were in the center of the stream, Chick had given the
order, his fingers caught hers and held them tight. Good, then they
really were still engaged! Cynthia chuckled happily.

“I can’t ...” she turned to gaze at him ... “can’t get over this Chick.
It’s the greatest surprise of my life.”

“That was the intention,” Chick grinned back. He had, he told her,
arrived in Naples two days ago, had promptly wired Nancy to find
Cynthia’s exact address and had been told of the train she would take
to Venice.

“Neat, very neat!” approved Cynthia. “If I just hadn’t taken a local by
mistake. And now where are you taking me?”

“Pensione Casa Petrarca?”

She nodded, Yes, that was where she had reserved a room.

“Had your breakfast? Good. Then wash and tidy up and we’ll do a bit of
sightseeing. After that. ...” Quietly he slipped his hand from hers,
slid it into his pocket.

“Oh dear, Chick, what’s the matter, what is it?”

“I’ve ... that is I seem to have. ...” And with the maddening masculine
manner of one blessed with many pockets started fumbling through them
all, one after another.

“Lost something?”

Chick frowned. “Gone. But I hope it’s not lost.” Deliberately he went
through the whole lot again while the gondola rocked gently before the
steps of the pensione. At last he shrugged. “I came out last night and
this morning with a gondolier named Luigi, from the traghetta, that’s a
sort of gondola taxi-stand, across the way. If I’ve dropped the thing,
it’ll probably be in his gondola. Go on up, will you? I’ll see if I can
trace him.”

A big airy room with a quaint porcelain stove in the corner. As the
door closed behind the porter, Cynthia dropped into a chair and
dragged off her hat. She didn’t know whether to weep or to laugh. Was
she, or was she not, engaged to Chick? He hadn’t mentioned it, he
hadn’t acted like it. She decided to laugh and felt better. Washed her
face, ran a comb through her curls and felt better yet.

A bit of powder, some rouge and she was ready to meet the world again,
or at least Venice and Chick. He was waiting for her by the pensione
steps.

“Know any Italian?” he asked anxiously.

“Not much, I’m afraid, Chick.” But, she thought, probably more than he
did.

“Well, come see if you can make anything out of this jumble of talk.
I’m about cuckoo. We’ll walk across, it’s a good chance to see the
Rialto bridge.”

This was of stone, lined with a shallow, stepped, series of shops on
either side, going up, going down till one reached the farther side
of the Grand canal. Here Chick pointed out the row of gondolas as the
taxi-rank from which he had taken Luigi.

Cynthia stammered a few questions, listened to the voluble replies and
managed to make out that Luigi had gone some where with a sightseeing
party, probably to one of the islands. He’d be back later in the day.

“This morning?” asked Chick anxiously.

“I guess so.” Cynthia was slightly careless about that. Funny of Chick,
not like him to make such a fuss over some silly little souvenir he’d
bought. “Come on,” she put a hand on his arm, “let’s go sight-see for a
while.”

Somewhat reluctantly Chick agreed. Over tiny crooked stone bridges
they went, along quays along whose mossy sides the water lapped dark
and mysterious, down blind, colorful alleys where small children stuck
their heads from windows and yelled shrilly. “_Non passaggio_ ... no
passage!” Cynthia adored it all, adored being with Chick again.

If he only wouldn’t fuss so, she thought. For he kept looking at his
watch, glancing back over his shoulder, until finally she gave it up in
despair. No use of sightseeing till Chick recovered his lost property.

“How about going back now and having another try at your gondolier?”
she suggested.

He was so grateful that she was almost ashamed of her impatience, and
they turned back immediately. But there was no further news; Luigi had
not returned. Desperately Chick started to ask questions, perhaps one
of the other gondoliers had heard Luigi speak of a package he had found?

Cynthia, first on one foot and then on the other, for she was getting a
little tired, translated to the best of her ability. Chick stuck in a
word now and then.

“_Perdita._ ... Lost ... lost.” Was Chick’s gender wrong, or had he
really mislaid a blonde?

But a few in the group of gondoliers got the idea. Apparently each
one had, at one time or another discovered something _perdita_.
From beneath the flea-infested blanket of a gondola was produced a
dogs-eared magazine. Cynthia beginning to be amused read the lurid
title in flaming vermilion sprawled across its cover. “True Tales
of the Wild West.” The date was over a year ago but it had been,
undoubtedly, once lost.

Other gondoliers left their bobbing craft, passers-by drew closer as
Chick’s eagerness held promise of rich reward. Waving the magazine
aside he chanted impatiently, “Piccolo ... piccolo,” while he made
gestures of small measurement with his hands. Then aside to Cynthia,
“that does mean ‘little,’ doesn’t it? Not a musical instrument?”

Cynthia nodded silently, not daring to risk speech and watched with
dancing eyes while Chick refused, from a second cheerful brigand a
musty, torn golash.

Cheerful brigand number two was a sheer loss to high pressure
salesmanship. Cynthia caught the word “_Impermeabile_ ... waterproof,”
as he covered the tear with one big hand. Twisting the rubber inside
out he sought to display its amazing suppleness and elasticity while
an admiring group applauded both at the golash and the salesman, with
ohs and ahs of astonishment. Cynthia was wondering how a single torn
rubber had been brought from so many thousand miles to lie forgotten in
a Venetian gondola, and also how the gondolier thought Chick, with a
foot obviously many sizes larger, was going to use it. But perhaps he
surmised a sentimental attachment.

She glanced at Chick. Poor darling, this was awfully important to
him, and it was mean of her to take it all so lightly. But he was
being pretty darn solemn and masculine. Impatiently she said. “If
you’d _only_ tell me what it is, Chick, perhaps I could make them
understand.” Oh dear, how annoying men could be!

Chick seemed not to hear. The new distraction was a cabbage, wilted,
but unquestionably of more recent vintage than either the galosh or
the ancient magazine. Its discoverer had waited for a time outside the
magic circle, while firing forth a rapid stream of “_Ecco ... ecco ...
ecco!_” as he held aloft the proffered vegetable. Breaking through
at last he encountered the two previous presenters of articles, thus
gaining the attention also of the crowd. Which was his downfall.

An old woman, black shawl over her head, flattened slippers of magenta
felt upon her feet, having heaved her way through by sheer force of
language, not only wanted a cabbage, but _the_ cabbage. Perhaps it was
the cabbage of her childhood, perhaps she had nursed it from a tiny
seedling, this dejected thing. For a moment longer Cynthia listened,
then screwed up her face and clapped frantic hands to ears. Couldn’t
they get out of this soon?

Close behind the old woman came shouldering two calm carabinieri, just
in time it seemed to prevent a general combat. White gloved hands
behind them, patent leather hats set squarely above unruffled brows,
two identical, magnificent examples of the Venetian police. Tweedledum,
it seemed, asked the questions. Tweedledee answered them. Conversely
Dum asked and Dee answered. Comparative silence settled upon the circle
and Cynthia cautiously removed her hands from her ears.

All available witnesses began to present their evidence. As there were
perhaps a score in number all acting out their theories in violent
pantomime, Cynthia began to wish they weren’t right in the center
of it. The one who had taken upon himself the part of the inquirer
after lost articles, Chick’s rôle in fact, was losing things in all
directions with wide, dramatic sweeps of his arms.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee executed a half turn in perfect unison,
raised right hands in gloves of immaculate whiteness in formal
salutation and in Chick’s direction. By now, Cynthia knew them of old,
they would have come to an unshakable conclusion. If they awarded the
galosh to the old lady, the cabbage to Chick, both parties would have
to be content. But no, they had another plan.

The cabbage was bestowed upon its rightful owner who still lingered,
voluminous with words, to see what else might happen. The golash
returned to the gondolier in whose craft it had originally been found.
Cynthia applauded the decision, then translated for Chick’s benefit
Tweedledum’s speech:

“We’re to go to the police station, Chick. That’ll teach you, young
man, not to start riots. And I hope it does!”

Behind them an admiring and still unsilenced throng applauded their
departure, even followed a short distance along the quay and over the
ancient bridge.

“My heavens!” fumed Chick, “can’t they understand! I’ve said ‘perdita,’
and ‘piccolo’ till I’m black in the face.” But Cynthia was enjoying
herself.

“If you’d tell them a little more,” she soothed, slipping her hand into
his arm. “Or if you’d even tell me. ... What in the name of Agatha
_have_ you lost, anyway?”

The police were speaking again. Cynthia thought she caught the word.
... “Fondere.” Did that mean “found?” The Lost and Found Department
perhaps? She made that suggestion to Chick.

A few more streets, a bridge or two, a narrow sun-lit way and one of
the innumerable palaces which seemed now to be a police station, with
the crown and arms of Italy above the door. Beyond this a damp and
cheerless room, none too clean and the equivalent of a desk sergeant
who drew towards him a large book and set down their names, Chick’s
and Cynthia’s, and their _pensione_. Dum and Dee were doing all the
explaining but in Italian far too rapid for Cynthia to follow. It might
yet prove that she and Chick had defied municipal authority by starting
a barter shop on the quayside, one decaying golash for a wilted cabbage.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee had finished, the man at the desk made a
gesture. An attendant opened a door, flung back a huge iron grill that
closed off about half the room behind it and signed for them to enter.
Cynthia clutched at Chick’s arm. Oh dear!

Frankly uncertain she followed Chick’s slow steps, the attendant
close behind, Dum and Dee bringing up in the rear. Then the attendant
switched on a light, a series of lights disclosing what might have been
a wine cellar. But instead of wine ... Cynthia choked back her laughter
and pointed.

A bicycle, a shelf of gloves, a regular store of ancient umbrellas and
sunshades, piles and piles of books, mostly Baedeckers by their moldy
red bindings, boots, odd bits of clothing, a coffeepot, market loads
still knotted in capacious handkerchiefs, a coffin, a load of bricks.
...

Chick’s face was flaming. “How in the name of goodness can we tell
whether it’s here or not!” He turned to Cynthia. “Don’t they have a
list of things somewhere, and the times they were found? Tell them it’s
small, small. And done up in white paper and a box.”

“I know,” Cynthia nodded solemnly. “A pound of butter, Chick dear. Oh
Chick, you weren’t going to ask me to set up housekeeping were you?”
But at the hurt expression in his eyes her levity dimmed. “I’ll tell
them you lost it last night, is that it?” And turning to Dum and Dee,
carefully choosing her words, she managed to convey the idea.

One of them gave a shrug of disappointment which was echoed by the
other. With all these things to choose from, they seemed to say,
surely any but the most captious would be satisfied. But they turned
to discuss the matter with the attendant. Lights began to go out,
indication that this particular exhibition was over, Finish. But
apparently more was to follow. Chick might yet discover his pound of
butter.

As they returned to the main room the attendant departed and polite
gestures demanded that Chick and Cynthia should take chairs and wait.
An air of expectancy hung above the little room. Obviously the choicest
gem of the collection, something too valuable to be left with the other
articles had been sent for.

“Do you think they’ve sent to the bank?” asked Cynthia.

Chick brightened at the suggestion, brightened until the door swung
open again. There entered behind the attendant a woman, slatternly,
down at heels, very cross and carrying a basket on her arm. Slowly,
reluctantly she advanced to the desk, lifted the cover of the basket.
At the summons of the sergeant Chick appeared beside her. With a wild
burst Dum and Dee grabbed the basket from the woman, thrust it into
Chick’s reluctant arms. Whereat the basket, considerably disturbed, let
out a long neck, green mottled with brown feathers, a wide open yellow
beak, an indignant eye and a stiffly upstanding comb of violent red.
Loudly the occupant of the basket protested with a violent “... C ck
... a ... doo ... dle ... do!”

Chick nearly dropped the basket.

Cynthia, nearly helpless with laughter, had fallen into a chair and,
with face buried in her handkerchief, could only indulge in what Dum
and Dee must surely have considered tears of uncontrolled joy at
this return of her lost property. Sympathetic murmurs, croonings of
consolation echoed about the room. Even the rather hard faced woman was
touched. Chick stood stupidly staring.

The hardest part of the day came when Cynthia, drying her streaming
eyes, was forced into sufficient sobriety and Italian to explain that
indeed and indeed the rooster, and it was a beautiful rooster, oh a
magnificent rooster, was not theirs. Was not at all what they sought.

“No, no, no, no, no!” Like a popgun, Cynthia shot out violent
negatives. And at last she had made it clear. Almost with joy the woman
received back the cherished rooster from Chick’s relieved embrace.
Almost haughtily they were shown to the door, sent, with an air of
extreme disapproval, upon their way.

Outside in the sunlight Cynthia was almost surprised to find it was the
same day, and Chick pulled down his coat, let out a great puff of a
sigh.

After that first burst of laughter Cynthia had managed to get control
of herself, but she wasn’t sure how long this would last. She must
get somewhere, anywhere, and have it all out with Chick. Meekly she
took his arm, let him lead her along the quay, through small streets
toward the Piazza San Marco. She glanced upward. Chick was being very
masculine, very stern, one might almost think, unforgiving.

In silence they traversed the small streets. Well, if Chick was going
to be stuffy! ... But he couldn’t be, he simply couldn’t be. And whose
beastly old bundle was it anyway? _She_ didn’t go about leaving things
in gondolas.

Florio’s, on the Piazza San Marco. A small green iron table, two small
twisted iron chairs and an attentive waiter in a white apron. Chick’s
eyes consulted Cynthia, then ordered two lemonades. They came. In
silence Cynthia sipped hers, bit her lips, gulped and regarded fixedly
a stupid, pink toed pigeon who was strutting, with puffed out chest
before the lovely little faun colored lady of his choice. Sideways out
of her eyes Cynthia caught a glimpse of Chick, then turned to face him.

His face was red but in his eyes was now a glimmer of understanding,
one might almost say mirth. Cynthia dared a slight, tremulous giggle,
forerunner of the gale to come. Then. ...

“Oh Chick, Chick, if you could have seen yourself with that silly
rooster. ... And the cabbage ... and Tweedledum ...!”

The tide had risen now, all bars were down. Rocking with mirth they
clung to the little iron chairs and laughed and laughed. A moment’s
pause to recount the pomposity of the attendant, the old woman with the
cabbage, the galosh, the list of things in that storeroom. Did you see
the bicycle? ... Who could have left those high, buttoned shoes? ...
Oh, and the fans, simply stacks of them!

For ten minutes the gale raged backwards and forwards then, weak and
helpless Cynthia begged for another lemonade, wiped the tears from her
eyes and subsided into comparative sanity. Their laughter together
had relieved her in many ways. It was going to be all right now, she
and Chick still thought alike, could still find amusement in the same
things, and the doubts of the morning were all swept away.

“But Chick,” doggedly she returned to the old question. “Now it’s all
over, you can tell me, can’t you? What was in that package?”

Chick wasn’t going to be stuffy about it any more. He grinned this
time, but shook his head. “If we don’t find it today I’ll really tell
you. Not yet, though.”

“Cross your heart?”

“Cross my heart!”

From the corner of the square a big bell began a slow solemn booming
and as though it was a signal, hundreds, thousands of pigeons rose
against the deep blue of the Venetian sky and the sunlit columns
opposite. Glinting silvery, iridescent, dark blue and rose and gold
they whirled with the muffled beat and roar of a thousand wings.
Cynthia gazed enthralled.

Across the square, giving access to the Merceria, the Way of the
Merchants, was the clock tower. As the great painted face recorded noon
two giant moors slowly struck a bronze bell with big hammers, marking
the hour.

“Lovely!” murmured Cynthia. “Oh Chick, I wish ... I wish we didn’t have
to go back, ever. I wish we could stay on, in one of those sweet old
palaces. ...”

“Like Othello and Desdemona?”

“No ...,” slowly. “She got smothered, didn’t she? I guess I wouldn’t
care for that.”

“New York will be fun too,” hazarded Chick. “And with all the
advertisement you’ve had, young lady; your magazine covers on every
newstand, month after month.”

“Chick! Are they really? Yes, I suppose they are, I hadn’t thought
of that. Better hurry back, hadn’t I?” And then laughed at her own
weather-vane mood. “Well, what shall we do next, Chick? I feel sane
once more.”

Chick’s suggestion was: lunch at the Danieli, which was the swankiest
hotel in Venice, and, he had heard, one of the loveliest of the old
Venetian palaces. Then back to the traghetti to see if Luigi had come.

Oh, that again! Cynthia made an impatient gesture. Save us from a man
with one idea! But she adored the lunch, loved the gracious old palace
with its carved, minstrel gallery, its floor of multicolored tiles, its
ceiling carved and painted in deep blue and rose and gold. Out into the
sunlight again, and the Adriatic shimmering as blue as the ceiling, a
pleasant little wind chilled by the snows of the Dalmatian Alps and the
white bubble of the Church of the Salute rising across the lagoon.

“Shall we ride, or walk?” asked Chick. By the way he said it Cynthia
knew he wanted to walk.

“We see more on foot, don’t we?” she suggested amiably. Perhaps a
little later they could go through the Grand Canal in a gondola. And
indeed she loved the great Piazza flanked by the Doges Palace, by St.
Mark’s and the long colonnade of the Library and the Mint. And the
shops beneath those columns most fascinating of all. Cynthia’s whole
allowance for abroad had been divided between seeing places, and saving
up a bit for what might, when she got home, prove to be a long wait for
more work. But she had learned a lot by looking just in windows, had
learned that you can so memorize a beautiful thing you can at least
carry it away with you in your mind.

“See, Chick, isn’t that the loveliest old bracelet? ...” A thick
circle, not quite joined, of gold, the two ends which almost touched
circled with tiny crowns of blue, blue turquoises. “And oh, Chick, just
look at that ring. ...” A lovely old thing of Florentine gold, studded
with seed pearls and surrounding a topaz as richly dark as the gold
itself. Chick put a hand on her arm and urged her along to the next
window which, being full of ancient books and maps was not quite so
enthralling.

Perhaps it hadn’t been really tactful to admire that ring, almost as
though she had wanted it herself. She had Chick’s own ring, hadn’t she?
The little emerald, very prettily set, not quite good enough, not quite
old enough to be called an antique, not quite the same as though it
had been bought just for her. ... Cynthia checked the feeling. It was
unkind, ungracious, ungrateful. Chick was just a poster artist in the
first year of his success, he had come all the way to Venice just to
see her, or at least she supposed he had, for he hadn’t said so yet. ...

And thank goodness, here was the traghetti. Perhaps they’d find that
stupid lost bundle of Chick’s at last.

Word must have been passed around for there was someone, Chick
exclaimed that it was Luigi, waiting for them, his weathered old face a
mass of interweaving laughter wrinkles. Sturdy, stocky, clad in ragged
clean shirt, with the uniform black trousers and sash of the public
gondolier, Luigi dashed up the short flight of steps, rushed toward
them. In his outstretched hand he held a parcel, small, oh very small.
Not big enough even for a quarter of a pound of butter.

It had been opened, clumsily retied with gray twine. Thrusting it into
Chick’s hand he followed with a flood of rapid Italian. Once more a
circle of interested onlookers threatened to engulf them.

Chick gave a hasty order, grasped Cynthia’s arm and thrust her down the
steps, into the Luigi gondola. Then waved a wide gesture down the Grand
Canal toward the lagoon beyond.

“Buono! ... Buono!” agreed Luigi, nodding vigorously like a porcelain
mandarin. There came a faint cheer from the crowd on the quay and
Cynthia recognized a few of their morning’s spectators. But the man
with the galosh, the woman with the cabbage were not present. From the
comfortable cushioned seat she watched palaces of kings and doges,
princesses, great composers and poets glide past. This was heavenly,
this was the way to see Venice, to see any place, with Chick’s hand in
hers and not a care in the world.

Then she saw the little package in his other hand, glanced up
inquiringly and caught the look in his eyes. Her heart skipped a beat,
two beats. No nephew ever looked like that at a maiden aunt!

“Let’s,” said Chick, taking his hand out of hers, “let’s both undo the
package. You do want to see what’s in it, don’t you, Cyn?”

Cynthia laughed. “Here I’ve been hustled and bustled over half of
Venice, in jail and out again ...” she addressed the diminishing houses
of candy pink, baby blue, as the gondola struck the wide lagoon and
rocked slowly away from the town, “and he asks me, do I want to know
what’s in it. Man alive, do you think I’ve got no curiosity?”

From behind them came a musical shout. Luigi warning off another
gondola. Beyond him, Venice glowed pearl pink in the late light of
afternoon, the long paddle made a soft ripple on the blue lagoon. Dark
Italian eyes looked over their shoulders, whole heartedly, honestly
as curious as Cynthia, and two heads, one brown, one blond bent close
together.

Cynthia untied the knot, with slim fingers that were cold and
loosened the rumpled white paper. A small box of blue stained leather
beautifully tooled in gilt. She lifted the lid.

“Oh Chick ... oh you darling! Chick, is it really, really for me?”

On the third finger of her right hand she slipped it. Quaint old green
gold, delicately lacy as the collar of a doge, held firmly in its heart
a single pink pearl. Chick reached and took the hand in his, slipped
off the ring, slid into his palm the little emerald she had worn all
summer, and in its place substituted the other. It fitted as though it
had been made for her. Perhaps it was.

“Just for you, yourself,” he said. “It’s quite old, four or five
hundred years they told me. I got it yesterday afternoon in one of
those shops you looked at, Cynthia. And I’ve been frantic all day. ...
I wanted to tell you, just this way, in a gondola, with just this ring.
And I couldn’t, darling, tell you before.”

“Chick, it’s the most beautiful, beautiful thing I ever saw in my whole
life.”

“Isn’t it?” said Chick, but when she glanced up his eyes were not
on the ring. “Tomorrow,” he said, “we’ll see the American consul. I
understand he’s the marrying guy about here.”

Behind them suddenly came a great shout, baritone, Italian. “_Yum
tum tumti tumtum. ... Yum tiddilty tum, tum ti tumitytum_. ...”
Confidentially Luigi leaned forward, whispered in tones that might have
been heard back in Venice. “That, ladiee, gentleman ... that ver’ fine
Venezia loove song. You like?”



Transcriber’s Notes:

Inconsistent hyphenation, punctuation, spelling, the use of golash and
galosh and poster and paster, and placement of the apostrophe in Little
One’s Magazine and Little Ones’ Magazine have been retained as printed
in the original publication except as follows:

  Page 16
  had tipped and fallen _changed to_
  had tripped and fallen

  Page 22
  before the senorita and dramatized the _changed to_
  before the señorita and dramatized the

  Page 24
  every step she made took here nearer _changed to_
  every step she made took her nearer

  Page 33
  with small sharp eyes and an opologetic _changed to_
  with small sharp eyes and an apologetic

  Page 43
  a member of the Begger’s Opera
  a member of the Beggar’s Opera

  Page 47
  Its all pearly gray mists _changed to_
  It’s all pearly gray mists

  Page 52
  the _garcon_ of the striped waistcoat _changed to_
  the _garçon_ of the striped waistcoat

  Page 60
  leaned againt the heavy stone balustrade _changed to_
  leaned against the heavy stone balustrade

  Page 78
  chance to to look them over _changed to_
  chance to look them over

  Page 79
  medieval France had not, _changed to_
  medieval France had not

  Page 99
  the Arc de Triomph _changed to_
  the Arc de Triomphe

  Page 102
  that omelet which Madame Poularde _changed to_
  that omelet which Madame Poulard

  Page 127
  all right anyway. --Oh _changed to_
  all right anyway.--Oh

  Page 146
  mourned Cynthia. No; it’s _changed to_
  mourned Cynthia. “No; it’s

  Page 160
  darn that model!” _changed to_
  darn that model!

  Page 164
  caramel custard, at the Cheval Blanc _changed to_
  caramel custard at the Cheval Blanc

  Page 166
  street, past the hotel de l’Universe _changed to_
  street, past the Hotel de l’Universe

  Page 171
  till she come in to look at it _changed to_
  till she came in to look at it

  Page 184
  but your Aunt was _changed to_
  but your aunt above was

  Page 199
  of horses hoofs _changed to_
  of horses’ hoofs

  Page 201
  pervasive and insistant was the tap _changed to_
  pervasive and insistent was the tap

  Page 202
  brillant hued balloon _changed to_
  brilliant hued balloon

  Page 208
  the judges stand _changed to_
  the judges’ stand

  Page 215
  and Cynthia said. _changed to_
  and Cynthia said,

  Page 219
  waking to sit bold upright _changed to_
  waking to sit bolt upright

  Page 246
  irridescent, dark blue and rose _changed to_
  iridescent, dark blue and rose

  Page 250
  like a porcelain manderin _changed to_
  like a porcelain mandarin





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