Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Fata Morgana - A Romance of Art Student Life in Paris
Author: Castaigne, J. André
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 "Fata Morgana - A Romance of Art Student Life in Paris" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



Transcriber’s Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.



FATA MORGANA

  [Illustration: “Helia at the very summit of the car”]



     FATA MORGANA

     A ROMANCE OF ART STUDENT
     LIFE IN PARIS

     BY
     ANDRÉ CASTAIGNE

     WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
     BY THE AUTHOR

     [Illustration]

     NEW YORK
     THE CENTURY CO.
     1904



     Copyright, 1904, by
     THE CENTURY CO.

     _Published November, 1904_


     THE DE VINNE PRESS



     TO HIS MANY FRIENDS IN AMERICA
     THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
     BY THE AUTHOR



CONTENTS


     PART I

                                                         PAGE

     ETHEL AND HELIA                                        1

     CHAPTER

        I AFTER THE QUAT’Z-ARTS BALL                        3

       II THE FATA MORGANA                                 17

      III REMEMBERING THE GOLDEN DAYS                      29

       IV WHEN PHIL CAME TO PARIS                          51

        V AN INITIATION INTO ART                           65

       VI THE HANGING GARDENS OF PARIS                     83

      VII A RUDE AWAKENING                                 99

     VIII THE END OF THE GUITAR                           102

       IX ALAS! POOR HELIA!                               117

        X MISS ETHEL ROWRER OF CHICAGO                    125

       XI AN APARTMENT IN THE LATIN QUARTER               133

      XII ETHEL’S IDEA OF A MAN                           139


     PART II

     MORE THAN QUEEN                                      151

        I WANTED—A DUCHESS!                               153

       II A PARISIAN DÉBUT                                167

      III PHIL, CHAMPION OF MISS ROWRER                   185

       IV ’TWIXT DOG AND POET                             196

        V LITTLE SISTER OF A STAR                         201

       VI THE OLD, OLD STORY                              215

      VII CARACAL’S NARROW ESCAPE                         232

     VIII A QUEEN FOR KINGS                               249


     PART III

     YOUTHFUL FOLLIES                                     269

        I TEUFF-TEUFF! TEUFF! BRRR!                       271

       II IN CAMP                                         284

      III GRAND’MÈRE VERSUS GRANDMA                       301

       IV THROUGH THE COUNTRY FAIR                        317

        V A BANQUET ON THE SAWDUST                        330

       VI WAS POUFAILLE RIGHT?                            347

      VII “A TRUE HEART LOVES BUT ONCE”                   360


     PART IV

     CONSCIENCE                                           377

        I ON THE BLUE SEA                                 379

       II ETHEL’S VICTORY                                 392

      III A CASTLE OF THE ADRIATIC                        398

       IV THE LITTLE DUKE                                 410

        V VISITING THE SORCERESS                          417

       VI THE FIGHT                                       431

      VII THE FATEFUL DAY BEGINS                          444

     VIII FATA MORGANA TO THE RESCUE!                     452

       IX STRICKEN IN TRIUMPH                             464

        X “ON YOUR KNEES!”                                478



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                             PAGE

     Helia at the very summit of the car            _Frontispiece_

     The Concierge                                              5

     The Cow Painting                                          13

     The Great Canvas                                          21

     The Little Saint John                                     31

     Helia and her “Professor”                                 35

     Phil courting Helia in the Yard                           43

     Phil arrives at the Hotel                                 53

     Hammering the clay with a terrific blow of his fist       59

     Socrate at Deux Magots                                    69

     Stripped to the waist                                     75

     “They are pigs!”                                          79

     On the Roofs of the Louvre                                91

     “Only put your soul into it!”                            103

     He encumbered the room                                   113

     A magnificent guardian stopped her                       123

     Miss Ethel and Empress Eugénie                           129

     Ethel, who was their leader                              145

     “Here is the engraving”                                  159

     Giving the Flower to the Child                           169

     Cemetery                                                 173

     At the Circus                                            181

     Phil rose up, pale with anger                            193

     Suddenly Socrate recognized Phil                         199

     “To whom shall I write?”                                 205

     He approached in visible embarrassment                   217

     Poufaille’s Goods Ready for Auction                      227

     The Punch d’Indignation                                  235

     Suzanne and Poufaille at the Louvre                      253

     Ethel and the Royal Throne                               265

     Watching the Arrival of the Rowrers                      273

     The Arrival of the Rowrers                               277

     Ethel and the Little Peasant Girls                       291

     Phil listening to Ethel                                  297

     They went down into the garden                           311

     Suzanne and Poufaille at the Country Fair                319

     The Banquet in the Ring of the Circus                    333

     Phil watching Helia and Socrate                          351

     Ethel stood upright in the ruined colonnade              371

     She dreamed under a sky studded with stars               389

     She arose angrily                                        395

     The Searchlight on the Castle                            407

     Visiting the Castle                                      413

     “Does the sight of so many weapons make you nervous?”    421

     Helia facing the Assailants                              433

     The Return to the City                                   439

     The Delegates                                            447

     “Help me!” he cried                                      457

     The peddler of pious pictures                            467

     The duke stood alone                                     473

     “My people await their duchess”                          483



PART I

ETHEL AND HELIA



FATA MORGANA



CHAPTER I

AFTER THE QUAT’Z-ARTS BALL


At daybreak, Phil Longwill, the young American painter, entered
his studio, threw away his cigar, gulped down the contents of his
water-jug—and then slipped into an arm-chair and dozed.

What a night!

In his half-sleep he thought he was still at the Quat’z-Arts Ball,
from which he had just come; he still heard the murmuring noise of
the multitude, like the prolonged “moo-o-o” of oxen in the stable; and
there still moved before his eyes the restless throng, masked in the
skins of beasts or trailing gilt-embroidered mantles.

His dreaming had the sharp relief of life; but it was the car on
which Helia was drawn—Helia the circus-girl, the little friend of
his boyhood, whom he had not seen for so long and whom he found here
with surprise—it was this car, with the superb figure of Helia at its
summit, which eclipsed all the rest.

The car itself was an attention of Phil’s friends. They had chosen for
its subject the personages of the “Fata Morgana”—a great decorative
picture which Phil was finishing for the Duke of Morgania.

Helia, upright at the very summit of the car, like an idol at the
pinnacle of a temple, personified Morgana, the fairy, the saint,
the legendary Queen of the Adriatic. Lower down, seated at the four
corners, Thilda, Marka, Rhodaïs the slave, and Bertha the Amazon—the
four heroines of Morgania—kept watch and ward over their queen.

The car, drawn by knights, advanced amid hushed admiration. Helia
seemed to float above the sea of heads, and behind her the great hall
was ablaze with lights.

Phil, dozing in his arm-chair, saw himself, clad in his magnificent
Indian costume, marching at the head of the car, brandishing his
tomahawk in honor of Morgana. Then, at the breaking up of the cortège
when the procession was over, there were the supper-tables taken by
storm amid cries and laughter.

And the feast began.

Helmets and swords ceased to shine. Hands laid down battle-axes to
wield knives and forks; warriors fell upon the food as they might have
done after a night of pillage. Each man kissed his fair neighbor.
Poufaille, the sculptor, disguised as the prehistoric man, put his
hairy muzzle against the rosy cheeks of Suzanne, his model. Close
at hand, Phil, the Indian chief, seated at the table of the Duke of
Morgania, talked with Helia of old times, of the strolling circus in
which he had known her, of their meeting in her dressing-room below the
benches; and he said to her in a low voice:

  [Illustration: The Concierge]

“Do you remember when I used to go to wait for you?”

“And you,” answered Helia, “the flowers you gave me—do you remember?”

But now it was full day and the sun was lighting up the studio. Phil’s
memories faded little by little, scattered by the early morning cries
of Paris. The shrill piping of the wandering plumber awakened him with
a start just as he was dropping off into real sleep and seeing in his
dream Helia soar through a strange world amid heavenly splendors.

“Here’s the morning paper, M. Longwill,” said the old concierge, who
came up with the mail; but he stopped short with open mouth at the
sight of Phil’s costume. To dress one’s self like that! _Etait-il Dieu
possible!_ They didn’t have such ideas in his time!

Certainly, Phil was an odd figure in his Indian dress. If he lowered
his head he risked scratching his chin against the bear’s claws of his
collar. He was clad in leather and glass beads. There were feathers
down his legs and a calumet was stuck in his belt. At his feet lay
the tomahawk which he had brandished a few hours before in honor of
beautiful Helia. He had the look of a veritable savage. No one would
have recognized in him the society painter, descendant of Philidor
de Longueville, the Protestant banished from France by Louis XIV, who
became a great proprietor in Virginia.

“Ah, monsieur,” the concierge began again, “in the old times when you
took walks with Mlle. Helia in my garden on the roofs of the Louvre,
where I was inspector, you didn’t need to dress up like that to amuse
yourself. Ah, it was the good time then! I remember one day—”

“I say, concierge,” interrupted Phil, in a solemn tone; “go down quick
and get me a bottle of seltzer water. I am dying of thirst!”

The concierge disappeared.

“Ouf!” Phil gave a sigh of relief. “The old man, with his good old
times, was starting off on his remembrances. He is in for two hours
when he begins with the Louvre garden. Bah! that’s all fol-de-rol,” he
added, smoothing his hair with his hand, “not to speak of my having so
many things to do this morning. Let’s see: first, Miss Rowrer; then
the duke is to bring Helia. It appears that Helia has the legendary
Morgana type,—so the duke told me, after seeing her last night,—and,
at the duke’s request, she agrees to pose for my picture. Oh, I was
forgetting! I am expecting Caracal also.”

Phil detested Caracal. This critic was his _bête noire_, a man sweet
and bitter at the same time, who talked of him behind his back as a
painter for pork-packers and a dauber without talent.

Phil had never forgotten his first impression of the critic. He met
him shortly after his arrival in Paris, in the studio of the sculptor
Poufaille, and later on in the Restaurant de la Mère Michel, and at the
Café des Deux Magots, during his student years. Caracal was outwardly
correct and an intimate friend of the duke, and he was received at the
Rowrers’; and Phil had to be agreeable to him. Nevertheless, he was
going to play him a trick.

As he opened the morning paper, Phil looked around to assure himself
that the pictures in his studio had their faces turned to the wall,
and that his painting of the Fata Morgana was covered with a veil.
It was for Caracal’s benefit that he had made these arrangements the
evening before; and he smiled as he gave a glance at the portière which
separated his studio from a little adjoining room, where his trick was
ready.

“Ah, I’m commonplace, am I—no originality? We shall see!” he said to
himself, laughing.

“What’s the news?” Phil went on, as he looked absently through the
paper. “‘A Description of the Bal des Quat’z-Arts.’ Pass!—‘A Case of
Treason.’ Pass!—‘War Declared.’ _Diable!_ ‘The Fleet of the Prince of
Monaco Threatening English Ports.’ Pass!—Good! Here’s another extract
from the ‘Tocsin’: ‘The Tomb of Richard the Lion-hearted to be Stolen
from France! Interference of Yankee Gold in French Politics,’ signed
‘An Indignant Patriot.’”

The foolishness of the article did not prevent Phil’s reading it to the
end.

“That’s all very amusing,” he thought; “but why these personal
allusions? What have the Rowrers to do with it? And who can be writing
such nonsense?”

Phil turned the page disdainfully, when a sound in the room made him
lift his eyes.

Caracal stood before him.

Phil had not heard him come in. Caracal entered without knocking, as
the concierge in his hurry had forgotten to close the door. The critic
looked mockingly at Phil, like those devils who, in German legends,
start up from a hole in the floor and offer you some crooked bargain
in exchange for your soul. He greeted Phil with an affectation of
politeness.

“How are you, _cher ami_?”

Caracal turned the glitter of his monocle on the Indian costume.

“Very, very curious—very amusing—very American! From last night’s ball,
doubtless?”

For once there was nothing to say, and Caracal was right. It was really
very American.

Occupied with his paper, Phil had forgotten to change his costume. He
rose, excused himself briefly, and asked after Caracal’s health.

“Thanks, _cher ami_, I’m very well; allow me to admire you!”

“Wait a bit,” thought Phil to himself. “I’ll give you something to
admire!”

But Caracal, with his squirrel-like activity, was already inspecting
the studio and the pictures which were turned with their faces to the
wall.

“Oh, ho!” he asked, “so you blush for your work, _mon cher_? Yet your
talent is very interesting, very American.”

“Don’t let us talk of such trifles,” said Phil; “I show them only
to the ignorant. You’re not really acquainted with my works, M.
Caracal—those which I paint for myself alone, those into which I put
my soul, as your friend, the painter-philosopher Socrate, used to say.
Allow me to show them to you. Enter, M. Caracal!”

Lifting the portière of the little room, Phil showed the way to
Caracal, who stopped on the threshold in amazement. Phil was fond
of practical jokes. With imperturbable seriousness he had gathered
in this room all the grotesque works which he had found among the
art-junk-dealers in his chance explorations. If he found a picture
cast aside,—provided it was utterly bad,—Phil bought it. There was one
canvas, among the others, which represented cows—something so fearful
that Phil, the first time he saw it, scarcely knew whether to groan, or
shout with laughter.

It was in his concierge’s lodge that Phil one day had conceived the
idea of this collection. The old man of “my time,” the former inspector
of the Louvre roofs, had on his chimney under bell-glasses two little
personages—Monsieur and Madame—made from lobster-shells; a claw formed
the nose, and the tail was turned into coat-skirts.

“Eureka!” thought Phil, when he saw them. “But I must have something
better still.” And he at once began a search through the slums of
impressionism and modern style; and he had found what he wanted.

“_Eh bien_, M. Caracal, what do you think of that?” asked Phil.

Caracal, at first upset, pulled himself together.

“Bravo, _mon cher_! you’ve found your line! You are revealed to
yourself! My congratulations, _cher ami_!”

“Does the ignoramus take it seriously?—No; that would be too funny!”
Phil said to himself amazed in his turn.

Phil, with his glass beads jingling at every step, took the cow
painting and set it in full light. The frightful beasts lowered their
crocodile heads to graze in a fantastic meadow whose daisies resembled
white plates with egg-yolks in the middle.

Phil looked at Caracal and winked his eye. Caracal answered by a
prudent shrug. Phil was one of those rare Americans who can shrug and
wink. The mute dialogue went on:

“That catches you, _mon vieux_ Caracal!” said the wink.

“Idiot!” answered the shoulders; “you’ll pay me for this—to make fun of
me—Caracal!”

“Each has his turn!” winked Phil.

Caracal fixed his eye-glass and stared at the picture.

“Very—very interesting—very original. That’s art—that ought to be at
the Luxembourg! Oughtn’t it, _cher ami_?”

“The deuce!” thought Phil.

“And this, look at this!” said Caracal, taking up an abominable sketch
for a pork-butcher’s sign. “Here’s the quintessence of animalism!
Bravo, _mon cher_, you’re the man I’m looking for!”

“Indeed!” exclaimed Phil, to himself.

“Let me explain. I am looking for an artist to illustrate my new novel.”

Phil made a gesture of protest.

“No commonplace book,” Caracal went on, “but a bitter, bleeding slice
of life—something which takes you by the throat, makes you weep and
shriek and pant!”

  [Illustration: The Cow Painting]

Caracal explained his book. The general idea (an idea of genius,
according to him) was this: A vast house rises in the midst of Paris,
all of glass, transparent from top to bottom, without curtains. Therein
swarm all the vices; yet there are no crimes, so soft and weak-willed
are the personages, so incapable of anger or hatred. And they drag
themselves from floor to floor, on all-fours like swine. Title, “The
House of Glass”—and there you are!

“And you offer me collaboration in such nastiness?” said Phil.

“Do you know what you are saying?” replied Caracal.

“It’s my idea of your literature, and I say what I think.”

“Let it be so, _mon cher_; we’ll say no more about it. Rather let us
look at your beautiful works. That cow painting is superb! It’s as fine
as a Millet. If it’s for sale, I’ll buy it!”

“If you want it, take it. I won’t sell it. I’ll give it to you.”

They came back into the studio. Caracal, well pleased with the gift,
swung his monocle familiarly. Then they talked of other things, of
yesterday’s ball, of the “Tocsin,” whose sensational head-lines stared
at them from the floor.

“What do you think of that?” Phil asked, pointing to the newspaper.

“It’s idiotic, _mon cher_, utterly idiotic. I don’t know where
Vieillecloche picks up such asinine stuff.”

“Who does the articles for him?” demanded Phil.

“Who knows?” answered Caracal.

With a glance at the clock, Phil excused himself.

“Will you permit me? I must get ready—the concierge is going to do up
the studio. Be seated, please; I’ll be with you again in a moment.”

Caracal sat down on a lounge to wait for Phil, who went to his room to
change his Indian costume.

The concierge returned. He began dusting the studio, and in his zeal
rubbed off half a pastel with his feather duster. He pulled the veil
from sketches, and set the easels in place. The studio began to be
peopled with half-finished portraits, with designs, with studies of
every kind, representing an immense amount of labor. The canvas of
Morgana, in particular, rid of the cover which veiled it, illuminated
all with a glow of legend. The figure of the fairy queen was barely
indicated; but Helia was to pose for Phil, as she had promised, and
with a month’s work all would be finished.

Caracal, in spite of his jealous ignorance, could not help admiring the
superb production; but he rubbed his hands as he thought of the picture
of the cows which he was going to carry away with him. He glanced slyly
at Phil, who came back smartly dressed and refreshed from his bath, fit
and full of the joy of life, ready for work, in spite of his sleepless
night.



CHAPTER II

THE FATA MORGANA


Phil prepared his colors. The ball was forgotten, and the Indian
costume was laid away for another year. Outside, the cries of the
plumber and old-clo’ man alternated, like a trombone after a fife; and
a barrel-organ was grinding below on the sidewalk. Phil, brushes in
hand, spoke now and then a word with Caracal, lying on the sofa.

“Here are my visitors,” said Phil, suddenly.

From the stairway came the sound of voices, the light tread of feet,
the swish of skirts.

The bell rang.

“I was waiting for you, M. le Duc,” said Phil, as he opened the door.
“Come in, I beg of you! Come in, Mlle. Helia!”

“I have brought you Mlle. Helia,” the duke said. “You know, she
consents to pose for you. Look! she’s not even tired after such a
night!”

“Oh, as for me, I’m used to it,” said Helia,—“a little more or a little
less!”

Caracal came bustling up, shaking hands energetically, as he always did.

“Show the duke your little gallery,” he said in a low tone to Phil.
“You’re too modest—you mustn’t hide your light under a bushel.”

“Pshaw! he wouldn’t appreciate it,” said Phil.

They stood before the Morgana painting. Helia, strongly impressed
by the luxury of the studio, looked around with astonishment. She
remembered Phil’s beginnings in his attic by the quays of the Seine.

The duke turned toward him: “Superb! It is very beautiful! Allow me to
congratulate you, Monsieur Phil!”

Phil bowed.

Conrad di Tagliaferro, Duke of Morgania, was a _grand seigneur_, who
left his duchy to take care of itself, and passed half his time in
his Paris mansion. His people believed him to be quite taken up with
politics, discussing _mordicus_ with the representatives of the Great
Powers, and securing support against the coming storm. For the duchy
was on the banks of the Adriatic, lower than Montenegro, and backed up
against Albania, where the clouds threatened. The duke, meanwhile, went
about with Caracal, his professor of elegant vice, and his handsome
presence was a part of _Tout-Paris_.

“Your picture is a masterpiece, Monsieur Phil,” the duke went on. “It
would be impossible to interpret better the legend of my ancestress,
Morgana. It will hang well in the great hall of the castle, above the
ducal throne—I see it from here. You have quite caught what I wished,
and I am grateful to you.”

The great painting took up a whole side of the studio, and its effect
was superb under the light, which fell in floods. It was a decorative
work, which, from the first, impressed the beholder by its look of
strangeness.

Phil was familiar with the mirage which is peculiar to the Adriatic
Sea, and which is known as the Fata Morgana.

In the morning oftenest, but sometimes at evening, you suddenly
perceive in the sky images of various things—of ruined towers and
castles, which crumble and change and take on prodigious shapes. The
dwellers of the coast call the phenomenon the Fata Morgana; their
superstitious ideas lead them to see in it the enchantments of a fairy
(_fata_), whereas it is simply an effect of the mirage caused by the
heating of the sea. This was the moment which Phil had chosen for his
picture.

The lower part of the canvas was in shadow, but the upper part was
resplendent with light; and towers seemed to rise and arches hang above
the abyss, while visions appeared between the clouds. The setting sun
lighted up with its dying fires the moving mists, whereon rainbow tints
were playing. At the horizon the sea mingled with the clouds. Morgana
rose from the waves which broke along the beach. Strange sea-flowers
clung to her hair and covered her shoulders. In the background, cliffs
fell straight down to the sea; and all along the shore an ecstatic
people acclaimed the return of their lady, the Duchess Morgana.

Phil had put all his talent into this picture. Months of implacable
labor were in it. The duke, who had not yet seen the finished canvas,
seemed delighted. Phil was paid for his labors.

The Duke of Morgania had a love for art and artists. He chatted in a
friendly way with Phil of the numerous studies which such a picture
demands.

“I should have liked to be a painter,” he said, smilingly. “I am
infatuated with the bohemian life!”

“It hasn’t been all amusement to me,” replied Phil. “Art is not easy,
_allez_!”

“It’s about the same in everything; nothing is easy,” Helia observed.

She entered into the conversation timidly. Accustomed as she had been
from childhood to brave a thousand eyes in the circus ring, Helia felt
herself embarrassed in the sumptuous studio where she found Phil,
friend of her childhood and youth—Phil, who had been so fond of her
then, and who doubtless loved her still. She would know soon,—when they
were alone,—if only by the way in which he would take her hand.

“It is the same in everything. You are right, mademoiselle,” the duke
answered. “Yours is an art also.”

Helia blushed with pleasure.

“Phil will be proud of me,” she thought.

“But she’s taking it seriously, the little mountebank,” Caracal
murmured to himself. “She is as big a fool as Phil, on my word!”

“_Mon cher ami_,” the duke said to Phil, “Mlle. Helia has a singular
resemblance to Morgana. For we have documents concerning the appearance
of Morgana—Sansovino’s statue at Ancona, for example, the Botticelli
of the Louvre, and the stained-glass window of the throne-room in the
ducal castle, as well as numberless pictures scattered through the
cottages of Morgania. There is an admitted classic type. You will only
have to finish the figure of my ancestress with Mlle. Helia, and your
picture will be perfect.”

“And what happiness for me!” said Helia. “Phil—Monsieur Phil will do my
portrait!”

  [Illustration: The Great Canvas]

But Phil interrupted Helia to keep the duke, who was on the point of
departing:

“Wait a moment; Miss Ethel Rowrer is coming to see the picture. She is
over there in the students’ atelier. I’ll go and tell her.”

Phil went out; doors were heard opening and closing; and then he came
back with Miss Rowrer, whom he had found just quitting her work. She
was fastening a bouquet of Parma violets at her waist, and was ready to
come.

Miss Rowrer entered.

She was tall and pink and blonde. She had distinguished features,
with a wilful forehead and solid chin. Her beauty and her practice
of outdoor sports gave her a self-confidence which was superb, while
the prestige of the name of her father—the famous Chicagoan—and his
colossal fortune were as nothing when she looked you in the face with
her clear eyes, lighted up with intelligence. As soon as she entered
the studio there seemed to be no one else there.

Miss Rowrer nodded familiarly to Caracal and the duke, habitués of
the Comtesse de Donjeon’s teas, where she had made their acquaintance,
as well as that of Phil, some months previously. She cast a discreet
glance at Helia. As for Phil, whose pupil she was and whose talent she
admired, she treated him as a friend.

They began talking immediately. Miss Rowrer spoke of her brother Will,
of his yacht, still in the dock at Boston, but which was soon to sail
for France; of his autumn cruise in the Mediterranean; then, changing
the subject, she talked of art and literature, lightly, without pose.

“How can any one find time,” thought Helia, “to learn so many pretty
things!”

“Is that your Morgana picture?” Miss Rowrer asked Phil, pointing to
the great canvas. “That half-painted figure will doubtless be Morgana
herself—it is very beautiful. But,” she added, as she turned to the
duke, “explain it to me a little, will you? I am not acquainted with
the subject.”

“What, Miss Rowrer! You know everything, and you don’t know the legend
of Morgana!”

“Only by name,” said Miss Rowrer. “In my picture-books there used to be
Bluebeard and ogres and ugly wolves, who made me afraid—and the good
fairies Mélusine and Morgana, who delighted me. They did so much good
with their magic wands!”

“Morgana is my ancestress,” said the duke. “She is my good genius.
There is not a cottage in Morgania where her picture does not hang,
next to the icons of the Virgin. In the winter evenings, around the
fire, they recount her exploits and those of Rhodaïs and Bertha.
Children grow up with it in their blood; they no more think of their
country without its heroines than without its woods and mountains.”

“And what particular event have you chosen for this picture?” asked
Miss Rowrer. “Is it the coming of Morgana?”

“By the sea she departed,” said the duke, “and she has never come back.
Yet she will come, they say.”

“You laugh at it?”

“Not at all,” answered the duke. “Such things seen in the light of
Paris appear altogether ridiculous; but away in Morgania there are
thousands of good people—or thousands of foolish people, if you wish—”
the duke corrected himself, in terror of the mocking smile of Caracal,
his professor of skepticism—“thousands of foolish people who talk of
nothing else and await her return.”

“But when did she go away?” asked Miss Rowrer.

“Oh, ah!—well—a thousand years ago,” answered the duke.

“A thousand years ago!” exclaimed Miss Rowrer, amused by these stories
of fairy duchesses and poor mountaineers sitting by the sea and
watching from father to son for Morgana. “But who has foretold her
return?” she asked.

“An old sorceress who lives like an owl in the hollow of a rock.”

“Really!”

“Truly and really! People come to consult her from every quarter. She
makes her fire on three red stones, observes the sky and the stars,
traces serpents on the sand—and then this old woman foretells the
future. Now, according to her prediction, the cycle of time has swung
round and Morgana is coming, bringing in her arms the fortune of
Morgania. Events, we must acknowledge, seem to bear out the sorceress:
the country is deeply troubled; I shall soon be obliged to go back
myself—and you can imagine whether it is amusing for me? Oh, I wish I
were a simple citizen of Paris!”

“_Eh bien, monseigneur!_” said Miss Rowrer, “in that case, abdicate,
abdicate. But first tell me, I beg of you, the legend of Morgana.”

“It does not date from yesterday, as I have told you,” the duke went
on. “The duchy was already in existence, having been given to Hugh,
chief of the Franks, by the Emperor Theodosius; but it was only in
Morgana’s time that it came to a consciousness of itself. Morgana was
a poor sailor-girl, according to some—a king’s daughter, according
to others. Did she ever really exist? or is she only an ideal figure
created by a people in infancy, more inclined to poetry than to
reflection, and personifying in her all its great heroines?

“However that may be, the year, as your Edgar Poe says, ‘had been a
year of terrors.’ There was fighting along the frontiers. The duke,
selfish-hearted and weak, had lost two of his provinces. The people
were in despair. Morgana brought hope back to them. Her piety and her
beauty worked miracles. A light, it is said, followed her. She took
up arms for her country and worked wonders. The hordes of the enemy
thought her invulnerable—they had set a price on her head. One day,
in battle, she saved Duke Adhemar, when he was at the point of being
massacred; she leaped forward, with the great white-cross standard
in one hand and her battle-ax in the other, slashed her way through
the barbarians, and, her arms red with blood, brought back the duke
amid the acclamations of the people. Their enthusiasm was immense;
they prayed at Morgana’s feet. ‘What passed afterward?’ Had the duke
promised marriage to her, as some pretend—and, to obtain peace, did he
sell Morgana to the enemy? Our chronicles are uncertain on that point.
But Duke Adhemar compromised himself by some ugly deed or other—the
perjury of a coward. One evening the indignant Morgana came down to the
shore, followed by a whole people, who demanded her for their duchess
and scattered flowers before her. But she entered her bark alone.
‘Since the duke has sworn,’ she said, ‘let me save his honor. I go.
May my sacrifice redeem his race! And remember—not gold, but youth and
courage are a people’s strength!’ Then Morgana sailed away from the
shore and disappeared in the open sea, while the crowd still prayed
for her. The next day a strange mirage lighted up the country, and the
people said: ‘It is the soul of Morgana, virgin and martyr.’ Then the
people, in their indignation, drove Duke Adhemar from the throne. They
raised altars to her. To Morgana was given the title of duchess; she
became the protectress of Morgania—and of my house, whose honor she had
saved.”

“Let us hope she will come back,” said Miss Rowrer. “You are quite
right to believe in her!”

“I—” began the duke.

“Why, yes, monseigneur,” continued Miss Rowrer, who had remarked the
duke’s accent of conviction toward the end of his story. “Don’t deny
it—it is beautiful to believe in something! M. Caracal will pardon you
this time.”

“Willingly, Miss Rowrer,” said Caracal, with the pinching of the lips
which was his mode of smiling. “Willingly; but on one condition. Get
Monsieur Phil to show you his works.”

“Here they are, it seems to me,” Ethel said, pointing to the paintings
and sketches which filled the studio.

“No doubt,” Caracal insisted; “but—all his handiwork is not here. Come,
Monsieur Phil, show us the work which is really yours—what you paint
with your soul! Don’t be so modest; bring the light from beneath the
bushel!”

“Yes; show us, Phil,” said the duke.

“Monseigneur—” Phil began.

Caracal shot a triumphant glance at Phil.

“You will allow me, _cher ami_?”—and he opened the little gallery to
Miss Rowrer and the duke, while Helia, seated in the shadow, waited
impatiently for the visitors to leave.

Gay laughter was heard. Miss Ethel and the duke came back. “Ah,
charming! Couldn’t be more amusing,” said the duke. “A regular
art-trap! I must get one myself, to catch fools.”

All left the studio except Phil, and Helia, who was to pose for him.
They were already on the stairs, and Caracal, exasperated, went with
them, like the legendary devil who disappears into the earth, carrying
with him, instead of a soul, his cow painting under his arm. Behind
him, in place of the classical odor of brimstone, there was only the
fragrance of the Parma violets which Miss Rowrer let fall by accident
as she went away.

The noise ceased on the staircase—Phil was already seated on the sofa
beside Helia.



CHAPTER III

REMEMBERING THE GOLDEN DAYS


They looked at each other as if astonished to be once again together.
Helia admired Phil, whom she found handsomer and stronger—more, indeed,
of a man. Phil scanned the refined features of Helia: she seemed even
more beautiful than in the old days.

Seated thus, hand in hand, eyes gazing into eyes, everything came back
to memory: their first meeting in the little provincial town where Phil
was studying, and where the circus in which Helia appeared had been set
up; their simple, childish love, the pretty romance of their youth.

In the old days Phil used to speak to her with the familiar “thou”;
here, in the quiet of the studio, alone with this beautiful young girl,
it seemed too familiar, almost wanting in respect for her.

“Perhaps Phil is more intimidated than myself,” Helia thought in her
surprise. “He has not even kissed me. But whether he speaks to me with
a ‘thou’ or a ‘you’ matters little, provided he loves me still!”

“Now, then, Phil,” she asked, between her smiles, “what hast thou—what
have you been doing all this time?”

“Oh!” answered Phil, “many things! And you, Helia?”

“Oh, for me it has been always the same thing, always just as it was
before—do you remember?”

Ah, the childish doings of other days! How happy Helia was to take
shelter in their sweet memories!

“Do you remember,” said Phil, “the day I saw you first? You know it was
at the Fête-Dieu procession. How pretty you were as the little Saint
John!”

On that day houses are decorated; the walls are hung with white sheets,
on which are pinned flowers and greenery, and the procession passes
between these blossoming walls. But the one thing in the procession for
Phil had been the little Saint John.

It was Helia who took the rôle. At first they had chosen the daughter
of a rich merchant; but fear of drafts and a possible fall of rain—a
cold is caught so quickly—led them to change at the last moment; and
in haste they took a creature of less importance, whose colds did not
count.

“I remember,” said Helia, “they came to get me at the circus. I
happened to be in a pink _maillot_, and they put the sheepskin on my
back and the wooden cross in my hand—and ten francs in papa’s hand—and
so I became the little Saint John.”

“And what a delightful Saint John you were!” said Phil. “I became a
lover and a poet on the spot; I wrote verses—I was wild!”

“And you got wilder still,” said Helia, “when you found out that,
instead of a merchant’s daughter, I was the famous Helia—the acrobatic
star whom the posters pictured on her trapeze, amid stars and suns!”

  [Illustration: “The Little Saint John”]

Helia, in her turn, had seen Phil a few days later, while she was
playing Wolf and Sheep. Sinking back in the sofa-cushions of the great
studio, she chatted with Phil of that momentous event.

“That was the day after they had thrown so many oranges to me—do
you remember, Phil?—and I was playing Wolf in the square with the
neighbors’ children. You remember the game? One of the players is the
wolf, another is the shepherd, the others are the sheep. They stand
behind the shepherd and walk around singing:

     ‘Promenons-nous dans les bois
     Pendant que le loup n’y est pas!’

     (‘Let’s go walking through the woods,
     While the wolf’s away!’)

And then the wolf jumps out and tries to catch a sheep.”

That second meeting of Phil and Helia had passed off very prettily.
Helia was a regular little tomboy at play. Of course she did not often
get a chance to play, and she found it pleasant to leap and laugh with
other children; and Phil was there, standing around with the boys. He
would have given everything in the world to be wolf and seize Helia and
devour her with kisses—if he had dared.

And perhaps he might have dared,—lured on by a smile from the little
Saint John,—but some one (it was Cemetery, the clown) came out from
the circus-tent, and at sight of him sheep and shepherd scattered. He
called harshly to Helia, and with a gesture sent her into the tent.

The little girl obeyed without a word, raising her elbow as she passed
before her master, as if to ward off a blow. The last thing seen by
Phil was the appealing glance of Helia, which seemed to say to him,
“You see—and yet I was doing no harm—and we’d have had such fun!”

That was their second meeting.

The next day Phil prowled around the circus-tent with the other boys
and tried to catch a glimpse of Helia through the holes of the canvas,
or from beneath, stretched out flat on the ground.

All the day long the little girl was kept rehearsing her exercises.
Sometimes it was the trapeze, or again the carpet. Cemetery gave her
his directions with a serious air.

“_Allez!_—firm on your feet—smile, smile—throw your head back—don’t
move your feet! Bend back! bend! bend! Fall on your hands!
There—there—smile! _Tonnerre!_ Won’t you smile?”

But Phil waited in vain; he never saw her play again with the others.

Soon afterward the circus went away, and Phil, when vacation-time came,
returned to America. He took with him tender remembrances, seeing often
the last touching glance of Helia with her beautiful sad eyes. Pity
mingled with his tenderness.

  [Illustration: Helia and her “Professor”]

Phil went on his way through Paris and London and across the ocean
to New York, and then on to the sunny South and his old ancestral
mansion on the Chesapeake. But nothing, neither terrapin-catching
nor duck-shooting nor horseback-riding through the country, could
efface his childhood’s first love, which only grew in solitude. How he
regretted that he had not taken part in the game when the little Helia
invited him with a smile—that he had not kissed her through her brown
curls!

Phil came back to France to go on with his studies. Helia was already a
grown girl when he saw her again. The circus was being advertised, and
great posters with the name of Helia placarded the walls.

With what impatience Phil awaited her! He was to see her again. He
passed hours in the open square where the circus was being set up in
the disorder of wagons and poles and canvas, peering anxiously into the
circus-wagons.

The circus was in a single tent. The artistes for changing their
costumes had rude dressing-rooms amid the confusion of circus
properties underneath the benches on which the public sat.

One evening Helia had finished dressing by the light of a candle when
she heard a noise above her head. She saw the bunting beneath the
benches lifted, and a little bunch of flowers fell on her shoulder.
She nearly cried out with surprise. During her turn they often threw
oranges and flowers to her—that was commonplace; but these flowers!

As soon as she came into the ring she looked at the benches above her
dressing-room. She fancied she recognized there the one whom she had
seen when she was playing Wolf—how long ago!

     “Le Roy fait battre le tambour
     Pour appeler ses dames.”

(Phil took his banjo from the wall behind the sofa. In a low voice he
murmured the old song, which he had not forgotten, to the air played by
the band when it announced Helia’s entrance into the ring:

     “Le Roy fait battre le tambour
     Pour appeler ses dames,...
     Et la première qu’il a vue
     Lui a ravi son âme.”

     (“The King has the drum beat
     To call out his ladies,...
     And the first one he sees
     Steals away his soul.”)

All the memories of the past rose up in Helia at the familiar air.)

       *       *       *       *       *

At that time she was living inside a courtyard where the circus people
put up their wagons. There was a stable for the horses and an inn for
the men. Through the great gate of the courtyard the circus was in full
sight, out in the public square.

One evening it was raining. Helia was at the gate and, caught by the
rain, hesitated to go on. All at once Phil came up. She recognized him,
and both were so moved that they said only the simplest things to each
other.

“Thanks for your bouquet,” said Helia.

“Mademoiselle,” Phil began.

“I remember you very well,” Helia went on; “I knew you a long time ago.
Why did you not play Wolf with us?”

“Because that man made you go in,” Phil answered.

“Ah, yes! true,” said Helia.

Phil feared she would hear the beating of his heart. He tried to put an
end to their embarrassment, so he chattered about the rain and the bad
weather.

“Mademoiselle, you must forgive me—I have no umbrella!” he said.

“That’s no matter,” said Helia. “Accompany me to the circus. Wait a
bit—here’s what we want!”

On the wall beside them there hung a circus-poster. She took it, lifted
it with one hand above her head, while Phil held the other end; and the
two under one shelter crossed the square.

“Shall I see you again, mademoiselle?” Phil asked, when they had
reached the circus.

“Surely—in the courtyard yonder by the wagons—or here in the evening.”

Phil left her without speaking further. Soon, through the canvas, he
heard the air that announced her turn:

     “Marquis, t’es bien plus heureux que moi
       D’avoir femme si belle;
     Si tu voulais me l’accorder
       Je me chargerai d’elle!”

     (“Marquis, you’re happier than I
       Because your wife’s so pretty;
     If you’ll give her up to me,
       Willingly’ll take her!”)

The days that followed were for Helia the sunny corner of her sad
childhood. When she saw Phil she was happy—and she saw him every day!
The very difficulty of meeting added charm to the adventure.

They saw each other in the courtyard of the inn.

Helia had the care of many things. A baby—Sœurette (Little Sister),
held on to her skirts, and Helia gave a mother’s care to the child.
She busied herself also with the linen drying on the clothes-lines; she
scattered grain before the chickens which were tied by their legs; she
sewed at her bodices or at her little performance-slippers; or else she
would be coming back from market with a great loaf of bread under her
arm and provisions in her basket. Always she was charming. Her least
movement was full of grace.

When Phil could not speak with Helia he would press her hand as he
passed. Then he would watch her from afar. Unconsciously they fell
greatly in love with each other—he because he found her so pathetic,
she because he was so timid and so handsome. From a few words picked
up here and there, and from a talk with the clown at a café, Phil
had come to know something of Helia’s story—for she never spoke of
it herself, through pride. Or was it a woman’s shame in her desire to
show to the one she loved only what was fair? Yet she had nothing to
conceal,—pretty, sweet, valiant Helia!

Her story?

Helia was her circus name. Her real name Phil did not learn. She was
not the daughter of Cemetery the clown, although she called herself so;
she was only his trained pupil.

Her father was a gentleman of Arles who became a widower with two
daughters on his hands,—Helia and Sœurette,—one much older than the
other. He fell in love with a circus-rider, and a terrible life began
for him, with tours across Europe, and marriage with the woman, who
ruled him with a rod of iron. The little daughters went with him, for
he had no family other than relatives far removed. Then ruin came.
A circus whose director and backer he had become, and into which he
had put all his money, failed. He died, abandoned by every one, and
leaving his two little girls to the care of Cemetery, who had been his
circus-manager. Cemetery, harsh and honest, adopted the children and
determined to make artistes of them. He at once began the training of
the elder, and Helia grew up under him for master. “You shall do it
or die!” Cemetery used to say when teaching her to perform. To those
who represented to him that the profession was already encumbered,
he answered: “There is always room on top! Beauty is well—talent is
better. To work!”

Such was the story of Helia.

When Phil asked her about it, Helia did not answer, but only smiled
faintly.

But Phil knew that she was unhappy, and his love for her went on
growing. He dreamed a thousand chivalrous schemes—each madder than the
one before. He felt within him the passion and daring resolution of
the Longuevilles, his ancestors. He had also inherited their zeal for
virtue. He would tear Helia away from her rough life. He would educate
her—he would make her fit to be his companion. He explained his ideas
to Helia. At first they amused her, but when she saw how sincere he
was, she ended by believing them.

Helia went out rarely—scarcely more than from the inn to the circus.
She would have liked to meet Phil oftener. When evening came, in
her dressing-room under the benches, she donned her costume quickly
and received her friend. It was easy for him to enter without being
remarked. On the outside there were wagons which left only a narrow
passage. It was where the canvas of the circus-tent joined; he had only
to pull it aside to enter. Then he was at once in the dressing-room
inclosed by boards and fragments of carpets worn out by generations of
tumblers.

Phil would sit on a trunk while Helia combed her beautiful hair in
front of a broken mirror. It never came to their minds that there could
be anything wrong in what they were doing. They had long talks. Helia
spoke of her profession and described her exercises.

“I am going to do the high leap. I spring and catch the bar—I get my
balance, standing on my hands—and then I go off with a somersault!
The high leap, Phil, you could learn in a month—you who are afraid of
nothing!”

Phil would listen, and then interrupt her gently and speak of all sorts
of things, opening new horizons before her; and Helia was happy and
glad to learn.

“What beautiful arms!” said Phil one evening, as she was soaping them
in a basin of cold water.

“And I take care of them!” answered Helia, “_songe donc_, Phil! (They
were already using the familiar French “thou” to each other.) Just
think; every evening I owe my life to these arms! When I do the flying
trapeze they mustn’t miss their hold. I should be crushed on the
benches,—think of it!—and I have to smile all the same.”

  [Illustration: Phil courting Helia in the Yard]

As she dried her arms, Phil raised his eyes and saw, near the shoulder,
a brown stain on the white skin.

“That’s nothing,” said Helia; “I knocked against a post.”

Phil looked at her closely.

“You’ve been crying again to-day! But I—I’m not afraid of Cemetery,”
he went on. “I’ll go for him to-morrow and punch his face. I won’t have
him touching you any more. First of all, he hasn’t the right! and I’ll
forbid him.”

But Helia shook her head: “No!” She added: “I’ll attend to that! I
belong to you now—not to him! There he comes,” she said suddenly. “Go
away—and not a word, whatever happens!”

Above the noise of the band and of the public, Helia had heard
Cemetery’s voice. Phil had just time to get away.

“Are you going to come when you are called?” the man said.

At a glance, from Helia’s emotion, from certain noises he had heard, he
guessed the truth. But he was far from thinking of Phil. He suspected
that some circus man was paying court to her.

Phil, from the outside, heard this dialogue.

“You were not alone?”

“No!”

“There was a man here?”

Helia did not answer.

“Wait a bit,” said Cemetery. “I’ll teach you—”

“Don’t touch me—I forbid you!”

Phil looked through a rent in the canvas.

Helia stood transfigured, superb with energy. She was no longer a child
driven by cuffs and blows; she was the young woman awakened by love,
conscious of her rights and her duties. Phil’s soul was in her. Helia
spoke in a low tone, and her attitude was so calm that the man stopped
in amazement.

“_Hein!_ what is it?” he stammered.

“Leave this room!” said Helia, “or I will have the police arrest you.
You have no right over me! From to-day you shall keep your hands off
me! Leave the room,” she repeated.

As if her gesture had the power of a charm, the man went out, dumb with
surprise and raising his elbow as if to protect himself.

Phil was filled with enthusiasm at the sight of Helia’s
self-deliverance. His counsels had fallen on good ground. He had
awakened in Helia a spirit of independence, and this made him feel an
increase of responsibility.

At midnight, while the artistes were supping at the inn, Phil saw
Helia in the shadow of the wagons. It was there that he met her
henceforth, for after this he went no more to the dressing-room. Their
conversations took place in the peace of night; they said a thousand
things to each other, talking, like children, of whatever passed
through their heads, drifting with the current which bore both onward.

“I don’t like the career they have chosen for me,” said Phil! “they
want me to be a diplomat. Later on I wish to be an artist—a painter or
sculptor; a painter, I think. My guardian will never be willing. But
never mind! I will go to Paris—I will make my way by myself!”

“Who knows if I shall ever see you again!” said Helia. “What will
become of me?”

“Helia, you shall come to me as soon as I have earned money.”

“Paris,” said Helia, dreamily. “You will be all alone there when you
arrive. Ah! if I only knew some one! At any rate, I will give you the
address of a hotel for artistes where I have been myself with Cemetery,
and a letter for Suzanne, whom I knew at school. Suzanne is an actress.
We write to each other sometimes.”

Ah, what adieus were theirs the evening before the separation! How
Helia trembled when Phil kissed her—and what promises he made her!

       *       *       *       *       *

Sinking back in the sofa-cushions, Helia and Phil stared vaguely before
them at the Morgana picture. The perfume of Miss Rowrer’s violets
reached them, light and subtle; and the minutes passed in silence. Then
Phil sang in an undertone:

     “Adieu, ma mie, adieu, mon cœur,
       Adieu, mon espérance!...
     Puisque il me faut servir le roi,
       Séparons-nous d’ensemble.”

     (“Farewell, my love, farewell, my heart,
       Farewell, all my hope!...
     And since I must serve my king,
       We must separate from each other!”)

He put aside the banjo and began talking with Helia, asking questions
about her present life.

“How long have you been in Paris, Helia? A short time only?”

Helia, who was astonished, was on the point of replying: “Why, I wrote
you.” She remained silent, however. The sumptuous studio—the visits of
monseigneurs and beautiful young ladies—how different it was from the
Phil of other days, the Phil of the circus, the student who had been
devoted to her later on in Paris! Why not a word of their life then,
of their idyl of the Louvre roof-garden? etc.... He did not even speak
of all that; his remembrance seemed to be at an end. This, then, was
all he found to say to her after more than a year of separation—he who
could not live without her, who had said it a hundred times.

“Where are you living?” asked Phil. “At the Hôtel des Artistes, where
I went when I came to Paris? I left it on the advice of Suzanne, your
great actress,” Phil went on, smilingly.

“Ah, Phil! I thought her a great actress,” said Helia. “She was the
only person I knew in Paris. Oh, if I could have been more useful to
you, I would have been! No,” she began again, quickly, “I am not living
there; but I keep Cemetery there.”

“Cemetery!” replied Phil.

“The poor fellow has grown old—he is out of work; I pay for his room
until he can find an engagement.”

“What, Cemetery, that brute?”

“He made me an artiste!” Helia replied, bravely.

“And your little sister?” continued Phil,—“Sœurette, you called
her—what has become of her? Do you keep her with you?”

“Yes,” said Helia. “My father’s family claimed her, but it was a
little late, was it not? I have kept her, thanks to several friends—M.
Socrate, the poet, among the rest.”

“Socrate!” said Phil. “I know a person of that name. It can’t be the
same—mine is a painter.”

“So is mine.”

“He is a sculptor also,” added Phil.

“It must be the same man,” said Helia.

“Impossible!” thought Phil. “Socrate a friend of Helia! How can they
have met?”

Phil thought of the life of Helia in circuses and music-halls—the
coarse environment where art touches elbows with shamelessness. “What
influences have been around her,” he thought in sadness, “during all
this time in which I have not seen her?”

“Socrate does many kind little things for me,” Helia went on. “He posts
my letters and makes himself useful. He’s a man who will be celebrated
some day; oh, you will see!”

So spoke Helia, in the spirit of loyalty. In reality she cared little
enough for Socrate; but it pleased her to let Phil think that she
cared for him. So much the worse if Phil should be vexed! Had _he_ been
afraid to give pain? Since she has been in the studio he has not once
kissed her!

Helia rose to go away.

“Then it’s for to-morrow, Phil?”

Phil begged her to stay.

“No; I will come back,” said Helia, “and we’ll pose to-morrow. I have
so many things to do to-day—my costumer, my director, a new apparatus
to try—I must hurry.”

“Phil has forgotten me,” said Helia to herself. “It had to come—I am
nothing to him now!”

As she passed out of the door she was aware of the perfume of the
violets which Miss Rowrer had let fall.



CHAPTER IV

WHEN PHIL CAME TO PARIS


As Helia felt, Phil was, indeed, no longer the same. This was no more
the Phil who had loved her in the old days.

When the Phil who did not go into “society,” and knew neither duke nor
Miss Rowrer,—when that Phil came to Paris, after parting from Helia in
the courtyard near the circus, he hastened to the Hôtel des Artistes,
of which Helia had told him, treasuring in his pocket her letter that
recommended him to Suzanne. Evening was falling, the street was dark,
the house somber. _Maillots_ were drying at windows. An invisible
musical clown was picking out on his bottles lugubrious tunes. But Phil
thought of Helia, and was gay.

That night he slept little. He was in a hurry for the morning, in
order that he might carry Helia’s letter to Mlle. Suzanne. He flung his
window wide, and heard Paris murmuring in the dark.

“Your name and profession,” said the landlady next morning, as he came
down. Phil signed the register, writing underneath:

“Artist-painter.”

“Artist-painter,” said the landlady. “I should have liked that trade.”

“It’s not a bad one,” Phil said.

“But very difficult,” replied the landlady. “We lately had a painter
here—a very famous one; he painted with his feet. He used to tell me
the hardest thing about it is to balance yourself on your hands while
you are painting! Ah, monsieur, the public no longer appreciates the
fine arts. If I were you, at your age, I’d learn to walk on a ball.”

“I’ll tell that to Mlle. Suzanne,” Phil said to himself. “She must be
a real artiste—Mlle. Suzanne. And then we’ll talk about Helia!”

He thought he should never get to Mlle. Suzanne, the city was so
enormous. He was meditating what he should say to her, when, all of a
sudden, the cab began jolting over an atrocious stretch of pavement.
Phil stuck his head through the window just as the cab drew up at the
end of a blind alley.

“Say, _cocher_,” said Phil, “I think you’ve made a mistake.”

“_Penses-tu, bébé!_” murmured the cabman.

“What do you say?”

“I say it’s all right.”

Phil got out. There were heads at all the windows; the cab had made a
stir in the little street.

“Perhaps she saw me come,” thought Phil, as he went into the house.

It was the right address, but Mlle. Suzanne was not at home.

  [Illustration: Phil arrives at the Hotel]

“You’ll find Mlle. Suzanne in the Boulevard de Vaugirard, Number 13
_bis_. You go this way, turn to the right, then to the left; there’s a
door with plaster in front of it. Then ask for Mlle. Suzanne.”

Phil paid the cabman and set off on foot. He walked to the right,
then to the left, and found himself in the Boulevard de Vaugirard, at
that time of day deserted. Turning again to the left, he saw a heap of
plaster with a door behind it. Phil knocked timidly.

“_Entrez!_” cried a voice of thunder.

Phil had just time to pull down his cuffs. There was no time to push up
his cravat. “Come in!”—said in such a tone allowed of no delay.

He entered. It was an astonishing place, heaped up with mud, a chaos
of clay and plaster. There were buckets filled with dirty water,
sprinklers, hammers, pieces of old iron.

“Where am I?” thought Phil. “This must be a school for sculpture done
with the feet! Have I made a mistake?”

“Why don’t you come in?” roared the voice. “This side! Don’t upset my
statue! Look out for my ‘Fraternity’! _Troun de Diou!_ don’t tread on
my potatoes!”

Phil passed over all obstacles and came into the presence of the giant
of the place. He was a short, thick-set creature, whose gaping shirt
showed a breast as hairy as a monkey’s back. With his fingers he was
kneading clay, and he raised furious eyes to Phil. Behind him a little
monsieur lay stretched on a lounge, playing with his monocle; but where
was Suzanne?

“Monsieur—excuse me! I have made a mistake!” Phil stammered.

“No harm done!” said the hairy one, mollified by Phil’s correct dress
and high standing collar; and he added: “At your service, monsieur!”

Phil showed his letter. “I thought I should find here Mlle. Suzanne, an
actress,” he said.

“Suzanne! It’s me!” cried a gay voice from the ceiling.

Phil looked up in the air. A charming blonde with bare arms and
feet, in a white waist and black petticoat, was seated on top of a
scaffolding, looking at Phil with laughing eyes.

“Mlle. Suzanne, my model!” said the man.

“Let’s have the letter!” Suzanne cried.

“Catch!” said the sculptor, tossing up to her the envelop weighted with
a piece of clay.

“Well, I’m going!” said the little monsieur with the monocle.

“Wait! don’t go!” Suzanne cried, with her letter in her hand. “Let’s
be correct. Messieurs, I present to you Monsieur Phil, a young
Englishman—”

“American,” rectified Phil.

“A friend of one of my friends—the famous Helia—it’s too long to
explain. M. Caracal, who writes in the—the—what-do-you-call-it—well,
no matter—And Poufaille, sculptor, pupil of Boudin. There, the
introductions are made!”

“Monsieur—”

“Monsieur—”

“Monsieur—”

There were three bows.

“Ah! so you are an American and a painter,” Caracal said to Phil.
“_Tiens! tiens! tiens!_ I thought there were only pork-packers in that
country. _Salut, messieurs!_”

Before Phil could answer a word, Caracal had straddled over the rough
model of “Fraternity,” jumped across the potatoes, and gone out,
slamming the door behind him.

“He’s not polite—M. Caracal,” Suzanne remarked; “but you English don’t
care!”

“I am an American!”

“Well, then, M. l’Américain, what are you waiting for? Give me your
hand and help me down!”

But she was on the ground before Phil could assist her.

“Oh, my good Helia!” said Suzanne. “How glad I am she is so happy!”

“The friends of our friends are _our_ friends,” bawled Poufaille, as
he patted Phil on the shoulder with his great hairy hand. “Sit down,
Monsieur Phil.”

Phil sat down, much encouraged by their welcome.

Suzanne went and came lightly, moving things about. She took a
cigarette, lighted it, and threw it away. He saw her approach the stove
and raise the cover of the pot. A bubbling noise came from it.

“Make yourself at home,” said Poufaille. Phil profited by the
permission to look around him. A hunk of bread was lying on the model’s
table. In an empty plate a fork fraternized with a pipe. The shelves
on the wall were encumbered with rude canvases and rough models. The
sculptor was smoothing down his clay. The scene did not attract the
young American.

“Mademoiselle,” he said, preparing to retire, “I will pay you a visit
at the Impasse de Vaugirard.”

“So as not to find me? You’ll be taking something for your cold, sure!”

“But, mademoiselle, I—I haven’t a cold!”

There was an explosion of laughter. Suzanne choked and Poufaille
bellowed with joy.

“Ah _ça_,” Suzanne cackled. “_Hou! hou!_ but—_hou, hou!_ Helia taught
you nothing, then?”

Phil stood amazed, with his hat in his hand.

“He’s nice, all the same, _l’Angliche_—we can’t let him go away
alone—something would happen to him!” said Suzanne. “Put down your
hat,” she added, “and lunch with us!”

“Of course, of course!” shouted Poufaille.

“Now be polite, Monsieur Phil,” Suzanne went on: “sit there and act as
if you were in society. Help me peel my potatoes!”

“Certainly!” Phil answered.-

And so it was that Phil, seated on a block of plaster, was initiated by
Suzanne into the _belles manières Parisiennes_.

“You must take off only the skins of the potatoes, like this!” she
said, while posting him in the picturesque slang of the quarter.

“And to take something for your cold when you haven’t a cold?” Phil
asked.

“That means to be caught,” Suzanne answered. “_Dame!_ in Paris wit runs
the streets!”

“Then this morning,” said Phil, “this morning when a lady advised me to
give up art and learn to walk on a ball—it was to take something for my
cold, was it?”

  [Illustration: “Hammering the clay with a terrific blow of his fist”]

“For sure!” replied Suzanne.

A noise started them. It was Poufaille working himself up to a fit of
anger. “_Troun de Diou!_ She was right, that lady of yours!” he cried,
hammering the clay with a terrific blow of his fist.

“Hello!” Phil said in a fright; “is he going crazy?”

The sculptor’s eyes were out of his head. With formidable blows he was
flattening the bust, shouting _rinforzando_: “Right a hundred times
over—a thousand times, a million times!”

“What’s the matter, M. Poufaille?” asked Phil, rising.

“What’s the matter? To think that those pigs of the jury refused my
statue of ‘Fraternity’ for the Salon! You understand my indignation,”
said Poufaille, taking Phil by the lapel of his coat. “Do you
understand? _Hein!_ do you understand?”

“I—I—I—understand your indignation—I—I share it,” Phil answered between
the shakes.

“It’s enough to set one crazy!” shouted Poufaille; “but—_sacré mille
tonnerres_!—Phil, take off your collar; the sight of you with that
instrument of torture chokes me!”

“Well, if that’s all that’s needed to calm you!” Phil answered, and
with a turn of the hand he pulled off cravat and collar.

“_À la bonne heure!_ I breathe!” said Poufaille.

“_Mon petit_ Poufaille, where’s the salt?” Suzanne asked, without
paying the slightest heed to the sculptor’s rage.

“There,” answered Poufaille, “in the tobacco-jar.”

“And now, to dinner!” Suzanne called. “Here’s pig’s rump ragout!”

“To dinner!” shouted Poufaille.

“To dinner!” repeated Phil.

During the meal Phil, who had had a French lesson from Suzanne, tried
to give her a lesson in geography. He spoke of America. But Suzanne
declared that all those names hurt her head. And besides, she didn’t
believe a word of it.

“Let’s talk of love instead,” she said. “Are you greatly in love with
my friend Helia?”

Phil blushed.

“She is so pretty,” Suzanne continued; “and she’s not been spoiled,
I can tell you! All the more merit in her to be good—she’s worth more
than all of us together!—not to speak of her being pretty—pretty! That
doesn’t hurt anything, does it, Monsieur Phil?”

Phil smiled.

“Oh, if I were a man!” Suzanne declared, enthusiastically, “I’d make
a fool of myself for Helia! Tell me all about her,” she went on.
“Love-stories are so amusing!”

Phil told about the little Saint John, the lamb, the game of Wolf,
the poster-umbrella, the dressing-room under the benches, and his last
interview with Helia, when she had given him the address of the Hôtel
des Artistes and his letter of introduction.

Suzanne drank in his words, turn by turn moved to tenderness or
laughter.

“Oh, it does me good to hear it! There’s love for you!” she cried,
putting her hand to her heart with a gesture of the stage.

“I see that you are an actress,” Phil observed.

“An actress? I? _Penses-tu, bébé?_ I appeared once in a _cabaret
artistique_—it disgusted me with the theater for the rest of my life!”

“You forget that you play the Muse at our reunion,” Poufaille
interrupted.

“Oh, yes! the Muse,” Suzanne replied. “You see, Phil, since they bore
themselves to death in Paris, those from each province meet together
and give balls and receptions and lectures and what not; and they give
dinners, too—and sing to the sound of the hurdy-gurdy.”

“I’m the hurdy-gurdy!” cried Poufaille.

“And I’m the one that sings,” added Suzanne. “I eat garlic that day and
improvise in _patois_—and every one thinks I belong to his province.
_Et aïe donc, et vive la joie!_”

“_Et vive la joie!_” took up Phil.

They were now a trio of friends.

“By the way, _mon cher_, where do you live?” asked Poufaille, who was
already saying “thou” to him and calling him _mon cher_ and _mon vieux_
without knowing either his name or address. Phil told the hotel he was
at.

“_Allons donc!_ but that’s a quarter of the _arrivés_!” Poufaille
said scornfully; “you have only bourgeois in that quarter, medal-men,
members of the jury—the pigs! You’re done for if you stay there!”

“You mustn’t stay there a day longer!” declared Suzanne. “Come over
here; we’ll present you to the _copains_ [comrades].”

Hesitation was impossible.

“All right,” Phil said, as he put on his collar and cravat. “I will
leave to-day.”

“Will you come to my house?” Suzanne asked. “No ceremony, you know!
I’ll bring you a mattress.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Phil.

“Or else here,” said Poufaille. “You can sleep in the corner beside the
potatoes, _hein_? Will that do?”

“No, thanks,” said Phil; “I’ll see you again to-morrow! _Au revoir!_”

The same evening, having found a room, Phil left his hotel.



CHAPTER V

AN INITIATION INTO ART


The next day Phil returned his new friends’ hospitality by taking them
to lunch.

“Where are we going?” Suzanne asked.

“Where you wish,” answered Phil.

“To Mère Michel’s, then.”

Suzanne delighted in this restaurant. The food was bad, but there
was laughter. Sometimes messieurs with high hats invited her to chic
places. Suzanne would refuse the chic restaurants and take them to Mère
Michel’s, where their hats brought out thunders of applause.

Phil had a Derby hat and so received a more modest welcome. For that
matter, few people were there when they arrived. Poufaille did the
honors of the place.

“Do you see those two photos on the wall, Phil? That—hum!—that’s
mine, my two statues—‘Liberty,’ ‘Fraternity.’ Do you see this photo
in the frame? _Salut!_ That means a year’s credit—it’s from Lionsot, a
Prix-de-Rome man; he paid Mère Michel with an autograph dedication at
the base of his ‘Light-Footed Achilles.’”

“_Cours après!_” laughed Suzanne.

Meanwhile the customers kept coming in, some with canvases and
paint-boxes, others with only their long hair and unkempt beards.

“That one’s a painter—that one a sculptor—and that a musician,” said
Poufaille. “The empty place, there in the corner, is the place of
Socrate, a _type épatant_! Musician, sculptor, painter, and poet, and
philosopher—a whole world in himself!”

“Ah!” uttered Phil, respectfully, as he looked at the empty place.

Nothing was heard for a time but the rattle of knives and forks;
then there was a great deal of laughter, with cries that punctuated
conversations on art. Heads were turned for a few entrances. A pretty
model with a cloud of gauze for a scarf was greeted with “Kiss, kiss!”
An old man with a gilt band round his cap only called forth howls.

“Eh! you old Gaul!”

“_Vieux coq!_”

“Your ‘kiss, kiss,’ makes me laugh,” said the old man. “Do you know
to-day what ‘kiss, kiss,’ means? Oh, yes! in the old days women fell in
love—under the Empire!”

“_Ta bouche, bébé!_”

“_Ferme ça_ [shut up]!”

“He is the inspector of the Louvre roofs,” Poufaille said to Phil. “I
am well acquainted with him. I see him every day.”

Phil opened his eyes wide; everything was new to him. From his seat he
had also a view of the bar alongside. While Mère Michel served in the
room of the artistes, Père Michel stretched out his immense bulk behind
the counter.

“That man he’s serving is the lackey of the Duke of Morgania,” observed
Suzanne.

“Does the Duke of Morgania live near here?” Phil interrupted. He had
read the name in the newspapers.

“Almost opposite,” Suzanne answered.

“Ah!” Phil said, with the same shade of respect which he had shown
before the empty seat of Socrate, never dreaming that he would one day
be the friend of both the _grand seigneur_ and the poet-philosopher.

Just then Socrate entered. Poufaille nudged Phil with his elbow.
Phil looked. He saw Socrate seat himself in his corner, call the
_garçon_, order three or four dishes and a liter of wine, hurriedly,
at haphazard, like a man overwhelmed with thought and with no time to
lose.

“He’s begun a work on the Louvre—something tremendous!” Poufaille
informed Phil.

“What is it like?” Phil asked.

“No one knows!”

Phil examined the man who seemed to be carrying the weight of a world.

His skull was nearly bald, his forehead bulging out, his hair about
his ears, while his beard half hid a grimace; his eye was alert and
sagacious.

“He does resemble him, though,” Phil observed.

“Resembles whom?” said Poufaille.

“Socrates the ancient.”

“So there was another?” Poufaille asked.

When his meal was over, Socrate arose, sad-mannered and dignified.

“He’s going over to the Café des Deux Magots,” said Poufaille. “Let’s
go too—you’ll see him nearer.”

The Deux Magots was the rendezvous of different bands—the Band of
Cherche-Midi (look out for twelve o’clock!), made up of rich Americans
playing Bohemia and frequenting the Deux Magots in appropriate costume;
the band of the Red-headed Goat, artists who despised art and occupied
themselves with socialism; and there were others besides.

No one went to the Deux Magots for its coffee—they went there for
Socrate and Caracal. There could be heard Socrate, musician, painter,
and poet, speaking of high art; the new men drank in his words.

One day, in his enthusiasm, Charley, the millionaire Bohemian, proposed
to take him to America to give lectures on “The Artistic Atmosphere”—by
Jove!

“Are there any cafés in America?” Socrate asked.

“_Hélas, non!_”

“Then I stay where I am,” replied Socrate, the man of manly decisions;
“when America has cafés I’ll go over—not before. _Arrangez-vous!_”

“You’re great, by Jove!” cried Charley.

Socrate dazzled the young. He talked of everything, social questions
included.

“The distribution of wealth is badly made,” he said. “You have genius
and no money—and you’ll be obliged to work, to produce and to sell!
To sell, do you understand? To cheapen yourself, to prostitute your
genius! In society as I dream of it, the artist, freed from material
bonds, would soar in serene heights.”

  [Illustration: Socrate at Deux Magots]

Socrate cited the example of Lionsot, the Prix-de-Rome man, the
sculptor of “Light-footed Achilles.” “He had the Prix de Rome—he has
turned out badly! Yet there was good in him: to pay a wretched debt for
food with an artistic autograph—that was noble!”

Most of them, in fact, acted like the famous Lionsot—for example,
whenever Mère Michel demanded her money.

Caracal, who was not so deep but more brilliant, enjoyed a different
prestige.

First of all, he lived in the Grands Quartiers, in a house with an
elevator! so it was said. And while the others ate at Mère Michel’s,
Caracal would be supping at Montmartre—_suprême élégance_!

Besides, he wrote in the newspapers. For a little article, for one’s
name cited in the “Tocsin”—how low would not one stoop to obtain such
a favor!

“‘Oysters and Melons,’ still life by X——,” or else “‘Old Tree-trunk,’
landscape by Z——”; and Z—— and X—— would march off together into
immortality.

Caracal, behind his monocle, observed the different bands, in his heart
deriding every one. He cross-questioned the comrades, and composed his
newspaper _chroniques_ on the café table.

“_Eh bien!_ anything for my paper? A nice little scandal? Something
strong?”

“I’ve got something new,” the good-natured Poufaille would say; “at my
house, in the courtyard, a woman has been found dead.”

“Bravo! Young? pretty?”

“No, old.”

“And dead—how?” Caracal asked. “From drink?”

“No, of starvation. She was keeping alive the four children of a
neighbor who was palsied; and she killed herself working.”

“Old and poor! but that’s not interesting; it’s only tiresome!”

And he went on with the conversation, in which music, poetry, love,
sculpture, and crime made a horrible mixture.

Phil, coming up from the province, was made gloomy by all this
noise. These never-ending dissertations made his head turn. It was
the invasion of his brain by a world whose existence he had never
suspected, of whose virtues and vices he had no idea.

When his work was over, the _copains_ took walks with him through Paris
and showed him such “Parisian” places as the Rue Mouffetard and the Rue
Saint-Médard.

Paris proper did not count; you had to cross its whole width and
go as far as Montmartre to become really Parisian. All had a single
ambition—to be the painter of the wretchedly poor, and of street-women,
an easy art brought into fashion by a few noisy successes. They
initiated Phil to _their_ Paris, to the Paris of the _fosses aux
lions_, of leprous quays, of rag-pickers’ alleys, where children played
hide-and-seek behind heaps of refuse. When Phil wished to go and dream
by the banks of the Seine, they led him to the banks of the Bièvre,
stinking like a charnel-house.

“_Hein!_ Don’t you see it’s beautiful in color?” they said to him.
Phil acknowledged, as he sniffed, that the Bièvre diffused an “artistic
atmosphere.”

The truth is, Phil soon had enough of such loafing. Of course, he
wasn’t a genius like the others—nothing came to him easily. An organism
like Socrate, painter-poet-philosopher, was incomprehensible to him.
Such a man, doing a colossal work on the Louvre and studying the
social question in cafés, seemed great to him. As for himself, he was
conscious that he had not such gifts. For him work was necessary, a
great deal of work, and he set himself to it resolutely: studies at
the life-class, sketches in the street, libraries, museums—he went
everywhere and did a little of everything. He prepared ardently for
his admission to the studio; he frequented the schools and appeared but
seldom at the Deux Magots.

Socrate, isolated in pipe-smoke like a god in a cloud, condescended to
take an interest in him.

“You work too much, young man! Look out! Think less of the material
side and trust to inspiration. Work is good. Glory is better. Think of
glory, young man!”

“_Hélas!_” Phil thought; “how can you have glory without work?”

He had it a few days later—the glory which was dear to the heart of
Socrate.

It was the day of his reception to the studio. He had only to give
his family name, first name, and particulars to be asked to get up on
a table—“Step lively _et plus vite que ça_!”—and to see around him a
howling crowd, armed with brushes and palettes, shouting: “Philidor!”

“An American speaking French—where did you come from? _En voilà un
drôle de type!_”

“My—my ancestors were French,” said Phil.

“An American who has ancestors!”

“Philidor de Longueville—” stammered Phil.

“Philidor! Philidor!”

“Sing us something!”

“Take off your clothes!”

Phil began undressing.

“Step lively _et plus vite que ça_!”

Fifty savages were howling, yelling, laughing, and hissing around him.

“Enough! enough!”

“Encore! encore!”

“Paint him blue!”

“No, no!”

“Yes, yes!”

Phil was already stripped to the waist, facing the great window in
full light. At his feet the confused mass of students was hushed—they
stood in a circle around him. He heard their approving murmurs as they
admired his thoroughbred muscles, his broad shoulders, the nervous
slenderness of his waist.

“Bravo, l’Américain! There’s a man who’s built! You’d say he was an
antique—_c’est un costeau_—he’ll be a great boy! I wouldn’t want him
to punch me—he’s a good fellow, too! Enough! enough! Dress yourself,
Philidor! A _Ban_ for Philidor!”

     “Pan! pan! pan! pan! pan!
           Pan! pan!”

Thus Phil made acquaintance with the intoxication of glory.

Profiting by the moment of silence, a grave voice arose.

“The welcome!”

Phil, over the heads, saw amid the smoke a bearded face under a great
bald forehead.

“Socrate has just come in,” a pupil said to Phil. “Socrate, an
astonishing man—painter-poet!”

  [Illustration: “Stripped to the waist”]

“I know Socrate,” Phil said with pride.

“The welcome!” Socrate repeated.

“_C’est ça!_ That’s it, the welcome!” the whole hall cried.

“That means you must pay the drinks for the studio,” the pupil
explained. “It’s the custom here.”

“Messieurs, whenever you wish,” said Phil.

“At the Deux Magots and at once,” Socrate insisted, like a man
accustomed to prompt decisions.

Phil dressed himself, and all went out into the streets, _en route_ for
the Deux Magots. Socrate, the glory of the studio, leader of men, and
genius—Socrate himself gave his arm to Phil.

“Say, young man,” whispered Socrate, who was master of himself in any
crowd, “you couldn’t lend me twenty francs?”

After this glorious day Phil’s existence seemed flat. From his
childhood he had been accustomed to free air, to liberty in great
spaces; and now he had to live a cloistered life, shut up in himself,
but with work, it is true, for distraction. He worked sadly and alone.

In front of his window, on the other side of the Seine, stretched
the Louvre. Beyond, far away, above the smoke of Paris, the church
of the Sacré-Cœur lifted its Oriental dome. To the right was the Pont
Neuf with the point of the island of the Cité and Notre Dame; to the
left was the greenery of the Tuileries, the Grand Palais, the Arc de
Triomphe.

Now and then Suzanne came. But Suzanne was far from being Helia. Her
frivolity made Phil shy, though her babbling talk amused him. She kept
Phil posted, telling him all the important news.

Poufaille, for example, was surely going to give up sculpture and
become a painter—l’Institut would have to look out for itself! They had
rejected his statue. “_Eh bien_, they’ll see! And then, paintings sell
better!” added Suzanne.

“Does he sell his paintings?” Phil asked with astonishment. “What does
he do for a living?”

“He has something to do at the Louvre, I believe,” Suzanne said. But
she immediately became silent and bit her lip.

“A copy, of course—ornaments for a _plafond_?” Phil asked.

“I believe so,” Suzanne answered, fearing to say too much.

“There is some secret,” Phil thought.

But the very day she told him all this his door opened suddenly and
Poufaille entered with a furious air.

“Ah, the pigs!” he cried, shaking his fist toward the Louvre; and he
threw into a corner a tool which Phil took at first for a sculptor’s
instrument. It was a spade.

“What’s that?” asked Phil. “What’s the matter?”

“That’s my spade; and the matter is they are pigs!”

“Have they taken your _plafond_ away from you?” Phil asked on a chance.

“What _plafond_?” Poufaille cried. “They’re trying to keep me from
cultivating my potatoes!”

“Potatoes?” exclaimed Phil.

“Phil doesn’t know about it,” Suzanne said to Poufaille.

  [Illustration: “‘They are pigs!’”]

“_Eh bien—tant pis_—it’s a secret,” Poufaille cried; “but I’m going to
tell it. And, besides, a secret chokes me, like your collars!”

“If it’s a secret, I don’t want to know it,” Phil answered.

“_Si, si!_ You must. I’ll tell it to you—under seal of secrecy! See
here,” Poufaille went on; “I’m gardener at the Louvre!”

“Nothing wonderful in that,” Phil said, as he looked across the Seine
at the flower-beds and green turf at the foot of the Louvre façade.

“Not there,” Poufaille explained. “Not down there—but up yonder! I’m
gardener of the Louvre roofs!”

Looking where Poufaille pointed, Phil perceived, high, high up against
the blue sky, tufts of greenery actually growing above that part of the
Louvre Palace. He knew there were a few roof-gardens in Paris; but he
had never noticed this one.

“Now you understand!” Poufaille said, with gesticulation. “There’s no
means of keeping up an understanding with them! It has ended by wearing
me out. Always roses, iris, and gillyflowers, and gillyflowers, iris,
and roses. That sort of stuff won’t fill my stomach! I wanted to plant
potatoes. I could live on them! But they’ve refused permission—and I
tell you, they’re pigs!”

“But they—who are they?”

“Eh! They—when I say ‘they’ I mean _him_!”

“Well, who is he?”

“The old guardian of the Louvre roofs.”

“Ah, yes,” said Phil; “I saw him at Mère Michel’s. And so you’re his
gardener?”

“I am—that is, I was!”

An idea came to Phil. He was stifled in his room; he might have—up
there, close by—a garden to himself.

“_Dis donc_, old Poufaille, what if they gave me the gardener’s place?”

“That could be done easily; but I warn you—you’ll have no right to
cultivate potatoes!”

“I’ll be content with flowers.”

“What eccentricity!” Poufaille exclaimed, in the height of
astonishment. “Ah, you’re very American!”



CHAPTER VI

THE HANGING GARDENS OF PARIS


Henceforth Phil had glorious days. Poufaille, whom he made his
assistant gardener, dug and watered and trimmed the alleys. It
increased Phil’s expenses, but what a pleasure for him, after work, to
pursue his dreams as he walked amid the flowers!

Long months had gone by since Phil’s reception into the studio. He
had passed through many trials since then, and known discouragements
and dogged labor and the joy of progress. Should he walk on a ball to
earn his bread or hold the globe in his hand like a Cæsar? An effort,
and then another, and an effort once more! The periods of want did not
discourage him. Still he had a sad existence, and his only amusement
was to come up here and breathe the pure air.

The garden of the Louvre, on top of Perrault’s colonnade, was a
resting-place for the pigeons in their flight over Paris. They lighted
there in bands, heedless of Phil and Poufaille. But one day the birds
were all a-flutter. The hanging garden had its Semiramis—Helia!

Phil, while they held their dismayed flight above him, sat at the feet
of Helia, who looked down and smiled at him. To the young girl it was a
strange place. For thirty years the inspector of the Louvre roofs—the
same man whom Phil had already seen at Mère Michel’s—had been making
this garden, bringing up little by little the earth in which the plants
grew, and the pebbles which covered the alleys. Boxes hidden among
the foliage held great shrubs; the perfume of iris and gillyflower, of
mignonette and roses, breathed from the flower-beds. Hanging over the
borders were ripening currants and peaches and apples; and laurels gave
their purple flowers. A whole row of statues and busts outlined the
plots. Helia pointed to the busts.

“The one who looks like a circus-rider with his big mustaches—who is
he?”

“Napoleon III,” Phil answered.

“And that other with his hair brushed up to a point like a clown?”

“That is Louis-Philippe.”

“And this one? and that one?”

Phil went on explaining his aërial paradise.

“This is Grévy, that is Carnot; here is M. Thiers—these are all
official busts. When the government changes they pack them off to the
attic, and the inspector has put them here to ornament his garden.”

“And this arm-chair on which I am sitting, with all its gilding rubbed
off? Is that official also?” Helia asked, examining the wood, carved
with palms, and the red velvet embroidered with the attributes of Law
and Justice.

“It’s a relic of the Revolution of ’48,” answered Phil; “we found it
only lately in the attic—it was King Louis-Philippe’s throne.”

“A king’s throne!” Helia said, jumping up. “How can you think of it for
a poor girl like me? You would be better in it, Phil. Seat yourself; I
wish you to—I command you!” she said, imitating what she considered the
royal tone.

“Well, since you wish it—”

“Yes; it’s your place—and here is mine,” she added, as she seated
herself at Phil’s feet. “Stay there, Phil—leave me at your feet. I am
so happy!”

Happy! She could not have found words to express it all! For months
and months and months she had thought of Phil every day and every
hour—Phil, friend of her childhood and youth, who had loved her well,
who would have protected her against Cemetery—Phil, her hero! And now
she saw him again; he was there before her, her head was resting on his
knees, in the calm of the beautiful day. How could she have told her
happiness?

Phil, on his arrival in Paris, had thought less about Helia at
first, overburdened as he was with all his new impressions; but the
environment in which he lived was not pleasant to him. His illusions
had been cast to earth; he was in an abyss of temptations from which
he could not, like Suzanne, free himself by a smile or a shrug. But he
soon regained possession of himself; he made of Helia an ideal. He knew
no young girl of his own sphere, and he took refuge in the thought of
Helia as in a place of safety. She personified his innocent youth. Phil
still had in him the old Puritan austerity—he whose family Bible showed
on its margin this proud device written in faded ink by some persecuted
ancestor: “No judge but God, no woman but the wife!” He was grateful to
Helia because her remembrance protected him; because she seemed to him
always so pure.

Accordingly, when Helia came back, with the superb confidence of youth
which believes in the everlastingness of things, Phil looked on her
again with joy. In spite of the rude life she was leading, she was more
modest and charming than ever; and she was so beautiful! Helia came
into Phil’s life at a dangerous moment—an accomplice of the sun and the
fragrance of roses.

“How beautiful she is!” Phil thought, as he looked at her faultless
features and her eyes, in which a flame seemed burning.

“How handsome you are!” Helia said to him, scanning his firm expression
and look of frankness.

They talked of one thing and another, thinking of each other all the
while; or else they remained without speaking, he on his throne, she
at his feet, their gaze lost in the tumultuous, motionless ocean of
houses.

Paris was around them with its muffled murmur. At the height where they
were, a pigeon’s cooing subdued the noise of three million human beings;
at their feet carriages filled the streets, moving on ceaselessly, like
a silent river. Helia looked to the horizon before her. First of all
she descried, among the trees of the Quai de Conti, on the other side
of the Seine, Phil’s little window. That was her first halting-place.
La Monnaie (the Mint), with all its millions on one side, and the
Institut (the palace of the Academy), with its Immortals, on the other,
interested her less. For her they were simply side-pieces, setting
Phil’s attic in relief. Just behind, over an immensity of roofs, the
Palais du Luxembourg served as a background. Farther still, to right
and left and everywhere, even in the distant blue, could be seen
cupolas and spires, towers and domes. The church of the Sacré-Cœur
rose above this ocean like a cliff at whose foot the smoke beat up like
waves.

“How beautiful it is! Oh, Phil, is it not beautiful? And how happy I
am!” said Helia.

In those first days the strangeness of the place intimidated her;
even the busts took from the privacy of the spot. But she soon came
to look on them as old friends, treating them as equals, as sovereign
to sovereign. When Phil was painting and herself posing for him, she
would tranquilly disembarrass herself of her collar and place it on the
shoulders of Napoleon III and crown the blessed head of Louis-Philippe
with her flowery hat. She sat on the old throne, and presided without
ceremony over the assembled monarchs.

The little garden seemed immense to her, for it held their happiness.
In reality, it occupied only one angle of the middle pediment above the
colonnade which looks toward Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.

From that corner, flat as a Russian steppe, stretched the immense
oblong of the zinc roofs which surround the court of the Louvre,
forming a desert six hundred yards long by thirty wide. Farther on,
pointed roofs and _pavillons_ and deep gutters invited to adventure,
and they amused themselves in exploring their domain.

Especially the side toward the river attracted them. They went along
the balustrade above the Place Saint-Germain, and turned to the right
above the Quai du Louvre. An enormous piece of decoration, composed of
bucklers and lances and fasces of piled arms sculptured in the stone,
terminated the flat roof, like an army watching over the frontier of
their empire. They went down a little iron ladder across the Galerie
des Bijoux and turned to the left above the Galerie d’Apollon. Helia
followed hesitatingly; it seemed to her that the whole city was looking
at them.

In reality, no one could see her. They were shut off from the Seine by
the leafy tree-tops; only the cries of children playing on the lawns
came up to them, mingled with the twittering of sparrows. The next
moment they found themselves in gutters deep as the beds of rivers.
They discovered peaceable corners which the old kings of France seemed
to have built expressly for themselves. At times they might have
thought themselves in gardens of stone.

There were lofty chimneys profusely carved with garlands; the leaves of
acanthus and laurel and oak were interlaced with strange flowers, among
which laughed the loves and satyrs of the Renaissance. Cornucopias
poured at their feet their marble fruits; and goddesses, standing
against the blue sky, trumpeted through their shells the happiness of
their loves.

In the distance their own garden seemed like an oasis of greenery.
After long reveries it was sweet to them to come back and breathe the
air of its roses and to hear the birds twitter in the shrubbery of
their paradise.

Helia, since she had made Phil’s acquaintance, blushed for her
ignorance. She had given to reading all the time left her by her
exercises; there was in her something else than superb physical
beauty. Sometimes, with the blood in her face and glad to be alive,
after scaling with an acrobat’s agility the obstacles of the roof,
she would stop and ask Phil questions which showed a thoughtful mind.
She listened to his replies with attention, little by little ridding
herself of the common speech and narrow views of her trade.

“Say, Phil,” she remarked to him one day as they were looking out over
the great courtyard of the Louvre beneath them, “Blondin would have
crossed that, dancing on a tight-rope! I believe I could do it, too,”
she added, so light and strong did she feel. But she soon saw that such
ideas were not pleasing to Phil: he loved her in spite of her being a
circus-girl and not because she was one.

At once she spoke of other things.

“No one ever taught me anything, Phil; teach me, you who speak so well.”

Phil was radiant. Encouraged by her desire to know, he willingly became
her educator and poured out his knowledge for her. He modeled Helia’s
mind on his own. She belonged to him more and more. She thought like
him, through him, for him. Her maiden intelligence gave itself up to
him. Phil was grateful to her for the progress she was making. A look
from her limpid eyes, a grasp of her hand, were his sweet reward. They
moved him more deeply than words of love could have done; and more and
more Helia grew to be a part of him. Phil talked to her of Paris and of
the persons he knew there. Helia answered with her clear good sense.

“The dirty banks of the Bièvre—what an idea—when the Seine is so pretty
at Saint-Cloud! But perhaps ugliness is easier to paint?”

“Perhaps,” said Phil. “That must be the reason.” “As for me,” Helia
said, “I’m only an ignorant girl—I love beautiful things!”

“Look, Phil, what is that we see down there?” she said one day, as she
was leaning over a skylight.

Phil looked; they were just above one of the halls of the Egyptian
Museum, and they saw strange objects beneath them—statues of gods,
mummies of kings, a pell-mell of fallen grandeur. A squatting Sphinx
lifted its head and stared at them. Through the dusty glass they might
have thought they were looking into an entire past, engulfed in the
depths of the sea. A broken column spoke of the crumbling of temples, a
mutilated god of the overthrow of altars, a dun-colored sarcophagus of
the heaping up of the sand beneath desert winds. Phil explained these
dead things to Helia and gave them life.

“Ah,” Helia said, “what happiness it is to know!”

They were alone, half kneeling on the roof, their heads bent toward
the skylight; around them Paris murmured like an ocean. They could
have imagined themselves the survivors of a world destroyed—the only
woman and the only man escaped from the cataclysm, while the mysterious
Sphinx raised its head as if to say: “Love! for life passes as a
dream!”

Phil and Helia arose in silence and came back to their oasis, while
above them, in the blue sky, the doves pursued one another.

  [Illustration: On the Roofs of the Louvre]

“Look at the birds,” said Helia. “Come quick and give them their grain.”

The doves, as free as those of St. Mark’s or of the Guildhall, had
quickly accustomed themselves to her, and the presence of Helia did not
trouble them.

It was a pleasure to Phil to see Helia in the midst of their cooings
and the beating of their wings. They came to eat from her hand. As one
of them lighted on her shoulder, Helia had an inspiration. She took the
dove and gave a long kiss to its wings.

“Here, Phil! Do like me!” she said, presenting the other wing to him.
“And now, fly away!” she added, letting loose the bird, who in its
flight seemed to sow Paris with kisses.

And so the days passed. It was usually in the afternoons that they met.
In the mornings Phil worked and Helia studied at home or else rehearsed
at the circus. Poufaille took care of the garden. The inspector made
his rounds, and sometimes, in the afternoon, watched Helia and Phil
from his hiding-place behind a bush.

The old man “of my time” confessed that lovers still existed, and that
these were real and kissed each other as they did in “his time” under
the Third Empire. But usually they were alone. Suzanne came only now
and then to pick a rose.

“What bears you are!” she said as she looked at Phil and Helia. “How
can you stay in this desert, with nothing but flowers and flowers, and
pigeons and pigeons? You’ll not come to the Bon Marché? Good-by, then!”
And she would go tumbling down the stairs.

Phil painted a few studies from Helia. She posed for her portrait
amid the flowers. Sometimes, in hours of discouragement, when his work
went badly and his future seemed doubtful and the struggle became too
painful, Phil would dream as he looked at Helia.

“I will take her out of the life she is leading,” he said to himself.
“I’ve promised her! I will tear her from her surroundings; I will make
a cultivated woman of her yet. It is God who has led her to cross my
path. I—I—”

And for a long time he would remain lost in thought.

In truth, it was a serious moment for him. Phil was too young, too much
left to himself, to be content for any length of time with this simple
rôle of friendship. He was caught at his own game; and, seeing her
day by day more beautiful and good, it seemed to him that he could no
longer live without her.

What, then? Should he play with love, taking it for a toy? Should
he fashion her heart only to break it? No! The blood which his veins
inherited forbade him such meanness. He would have despised himself as
if he had been the dust of Sodom.

Should he marry her, then?

“Helia is devotedness itself, tenderness, grace,” he thought; “her
poverty is the sister of my own: we are equal. And yet, no! it is
impossible, really! I cannot marry Helia—a circus-girl!”

But this objection disappeared before the lofty, frank, luminous look
of Helia and the candor of her smile.

And still the days passed on. It was splendid weather. Never had they
so appreciated their little oasis, where there was always some breeze
while at their feet the city was stifling in the dull heat; though even
they themselves were sometimes almost overcome by it.

One afternoon Phil stuck up his canvas in the tool-shed and stretched
himself in the shade near Helia. They talked of a thousand things or
were silent for a time, clasping each other’s hands. Suddenly Phil
jumped up.

“Let us go!” he said. “It is time. We never stayed so late.”

But they found the door closed.

The guardian, no doubt, had glanced around the oasis, and, seeing no
one, had closed the door and gone down.

“He must have thought we had gone away,” said Phil. “We are prisoners
till to-morrow!”

“What an adventure!” said Helia. Both laughed heartily.

Their supper was delightful. Poufaille would have regretted there was
no garlic or potatoes; but there were strawberries, and two cakes which
Phil had brought for lunch, and good fresh water instead of wine. They
had never eaten better; it was as charming as child’s play. Helia cut
the fruits, dividing the oranges and arranging the parts on leaves from
the bushes. To drink, she dipped the glass in a bucket of water at her
side.

“Here, Phil, drink!” she said, as she offered him the glass.

“You first!” answered Phil.

Helia touched her lips to the water, and Phil drank off the glass.

“It’s better than champagne,” he said.

“Here, Phil, here’s a beautiful strawberry!”

“Taste it first!” said Phil.

Helia put the berry between her lips, and Phil took it from her with a
kiss. The child’s play was growing dangerous.

“_Marchons!_ Now let’s take a walk!” said Phil.

“_C’est ça!_ Let’s climb our Himalaya!” cried Helia.

This was the name they had given to the Pavilion Sully, which lifts its
enormous bulk between the Louvre courtyard and the Cour du Carrousel.
It was the culminating-point of the roof. But the excursion was
impossible in full daylight; they would have been seen from below; by
night no one could see them.

They passed through their wilderness and, following the roof on the
other side, came to the foot of the _pavillon_. There, in the shadow of
a chimney as big as a tower, iron steps had been placed along the dome
from bottom to top, and an iron rod at the side served as a hand-rail.

“_En route!_” said Phil.

The ascent, which was at first straight up, curved little by little
over the round dome; then there was again a straight-up ascent along
the crown of the dome; and when this was passed they were at the top.
Helia followed without difficulty—it was nothing for her.

They were on their Himalaya. To right and left opened the abysses of
the courtyards below, and on every side the immense roofs with their
humps and turrets and projections stood out black as ebony against the
glow of Paris. Lights sparkled above and below—in the heavens and from
the city, which seemed another heaven at their feet.

La Villette, the Trocadéro, Montrouge, and the Bastille lighted up
their constellations. The Champs-Élysées stretched out like a comet.
Montmartre shone palely along the horizon like a far-off nebula;
the great circle of the boulevards belted the city with a Milky Way.
High up among the stars the Eiffel Tower lifted its torch, like the
pole-star.

“How grand it all is!” said Helia. She was on the wide parapet, and her
hair, loosened as she climbed up, floated in the wind; her breast rose
and fell as she caught her breath again. A thousand broken lights came
to them where they stood amid the stars. You might have said they were
Youth and Love in the center of the universe.

“How beautiful you are!” said Phil.

“Let us go down,” said Helia.

But as they climbed down there was a sudden cry. A rusty step yielded
under Phil’s weight, and, letting go the hand-rail, he glided toward
the abyss.

Without losing her head, with the rapidity and cool decision of a
trained acrobat, stretching out one arm and holding hard with the
other, and with her breast flat against the wounding rungs, Helia by a
mighty effort grasped Phil’s wrist as he slid past her. The hand-rail
held firm, and Phil was saved. Then they came back again to their
oasis.

“Without you I should have been lost,” said Phil.

“Oh, no!” Helia answered, laughing bravely. “We were almost down, close
to the roof; you would have had a slide, that’s all!”

Phil was moved to tears.

“Come, pull yourself together,” Helia said, “and then to supper!”

She reached out her hand and took an apple gracefully and offered it to
Phil.

“Here, eat!”

Her simple gesture in offering him the apple had, to Phil’s mind,
something grandly Biblical in it, and the idea overpowered him. As she
held out her hand Phil saw that it was bleeding, and exclaimed with
anxiety.

“It is nothing,” she answered; “it was just now—perhaps while I was
holding on to the railing.”

With infinite respect he put his lips to the wound—and suddenly he
seemed to be drinking love at its source; the fire ran through his
veins; he seized Helia with both arms and kissed her full on the mouth,
crushing his lips against hers!

“Helia, I love you! I love you, and you shall be my wife!”

“Your wife! Alas, a poor girl like me! How can you think of it, Phil?”

“And I will serve you on my knees!” said Phil.

He pressed Helia to his heart, and the girl wept for joy. Phil drank
the tears on her cheeks, and murmured words of love—with Heaven as
witness.



CHAPTER VII

A RUDE AWAKENING


Now followed a time of struggle and want; but Phil supported his trials
gaily, and gave the same enthusiasm to his work which he had given to
his love.

At the school Phil was successful. The walls of his room became covered
with sketches,—life studies, landscapes, compositions,—and more and
more studies of Helia, studies without end, all adorably graceful,
and showing at once the artist and the lover. All the phases of their
existence were there, from the little Saint John, and the girl mending
her _maillot_ on the steps of the circus-wagon, to the present Helia,
the beautiful young woman whom he had decided to make his companion for
life.

It was without fear that Phil felt this increase of responsibility. It
was even necessary that Helia should use all her authority over him to
persuade him to let her go where her engagements called her. He was
too poor to pay her forfeits, and he consented. Soon Helia was to go
abroad. This would be the last time they should separate; Phil swore
it. When Helia should come back, it would be for always. And what a
woman he would make of her! Helia should be his masterpiece.

The portrait he had painted from her would be worth a Salon
medal,—his master assured him so,—and that would bring him out of his
difficulties. Orders would doubtless follow; but, while waiting, he
would have to live. Phil here and there sold a few little paintings.
Sometimes he had to run all over Paris to accomplish this; but he told
Helia where he was going, and they would come back arm in arm like
brother and sister, while her smile scattered all his cares to the
winds.

His troubles had their reward in great happiness. There were vases full
of flowers upon his table and pretty curtains at his window; and, on
his birthday, Helia, with a bouquet, gave him a kiss into which she put
all the friendship and gratitude with which her heart was filled.

There were also more substantial joys. They had even as a supreme hope
a chicken tied by the leg in a corner of the room. They had intended
fattening it. Helia dreamed of a banquet to which she would invite
Poufaille and Suzanne; but the chicken was not ready. The banquet was
put off, and the day now came when Helia was to go away.

Phil experienced the sadness of farewells at a railway station on the
crowded platform; there was the grasping of hands, the promises to
write, and the anguish of seeing the train disappear in the night.

He came back overcome with grief. For the first time the poverty of his
room overwhelmed him; the paper falling from the walls, his sketches
fading upon them, all was somber and desolate in spite of the flowers
on the table and the curtains at the window.

He had never noticed it before, for Helia’s presence had absorbed him
wholly. Now he realized that he was living in an attic and he blushed
at his poverty.

Was he to fritter away his life in this way? How could he—man that he
was—endure this? With all his desire he had not been able to keep in
Paris the young girl he loved—to tear her from her wandering life and
marry her. He, so free and strong, could not rid himself of these bonds
of poverty? He swore that he would be free even though he should kill
himself with work.



CHAPTER VIII

THE END OF THE GUITAR


One effort and then another, and little by little Phil freed himself.
So far his health could stand it. He had glimpses of better days. Along
with his will his talent also grew strong. His progress was rapid; step
by step he mounted upward; and the horizon grew wider before him.

The day when it was certain that Phil would have his Salon medal,
Socrate drank off his absinthe savagely and declared:

“That fellow is lost!”

In a few words he put the case before the comrades.

Phil, the Phil they had known as such a “seeker,” with so much
personality, was knuckling down! He was turning bourgeois—he was going
to have his medal! In other words, he was down on his knees to tickle
the soles of the feet of the old bonzes of the Academy!

“That’s no artist! not what I call an artist!” Socrate went on. And it
was plain from the fashion in which Socrate ordered another absinthe
that he, at least, would never come to terms! Good old Poufaille was
dumb with admiration.

“What a pity Phil’s not here!” he thought.

  [Illustration: “‘Only put your soul into it!’”]

A few days later he ran across Phil, who looked tired.

“You’re lost, you know; you’re in a bad way!” Poufaille said to him as
soon as he saw him; and he added mysteriously: “You ought to go to see
Socrate—such a wonderful man, _mon cher_!”

“Come on,” answered Phil, who wanted a walk.

They found Socrate at the café, smoking his pipe and talking art. Half
hidden in a cloud of smoke, he raised his head and looked at Phil.

“You’re doing things that please. Look out—take care! You ought to do
powerful things! Take any subject at all—a bottle, a pumpkin, if you
wish! it doesn’t matter—only put your soul into it!”

“Put my soul into a bottle!” said Phil, amused.

Socrate did not admit any discussion of his pronouncements, and struck
Phil dumb with a glance.

“I tell you, you must paint with your soul!”

“But I always do my best!” Phil said.

“_Peuh!_ your best!” Socrate had an expression of unspeakable pity for
Phil’s best.

Caracal now and then put in a brief appearance at the Deux Magots,
looking from Phil to Socrate and laughing to himself.

“Socrate is right; you ought to do high art! It would be very funny—you
who are lucky enough to be the lover—”

“What?” cried Phil.

“—of an acrobat! There’s inspiration for you! The trapeze is high art;
it soars—very high!”

“Another word and I’ll knock you down!” was Phil’s answer.

“Calm yourself, _mon cher_! calm yourself!”

But Phil meanwhile was changing visibly. The life he had been leading
for some time had worn him out. He now worked less and less, and came
more and more under the influence of Socrate. He expended his energy
at the café, and in his turn traced out masterpieces on the table. He
explained his ideas to Socrate, and discussed them until the landlord
turned out the gas and wiped off the masterpieces with his napkin.

“Phil will go far!” Socrate said as he clapped him on the shoulder,
adding like a truly superior man:

“You haven’t twenty francs about you?”

One day Socrate brought with him, wrapped up in a newspaper, an object
which he laid on the bench.

“My guitar,” he said.

Socrate’s guitar! Every one was acquainted with it. Socrate,
painter-poet-philosopher, was a musician as well. He “heard colors” and
“saw sounds.” He had undertaken a gigantic work—to set the Louvre to
music and make colors perceptible to the ear.

He took notes on the spot, colored photographs, and then came home and
played them on his guitar with the hand of a genius. Violet was _si_;
he made sol out of blue; green was a _fa_—and so on up to red, which
was _do_.

Phil looked at the guitar with respect; and Socrate had an idea.

“_Tiens!_” he said with a noble air; “take my guitar. It has sounded
the ‘Mona Lisa’—it has played Rubens and Raphael! It has thrilled with
beauty; it contains the Louvre! My soul has vibrated within it! Do a
masterpiece with it! Show on your canvas all that it holds! Take it!
Carry it away with you!”

And Phil had taken away the guitar.

“All right,” he said the next day, “I will do a masterpiece. They shall
see if I am an artist or a pork-packer.”

He resolved to “hatch a masterpiece” from this guitar which had
thrilled with the soul of Socrate. From that time he went out no
longer. He passed whole days in his room, distracted only by the
cackling of the chicken in its corner, that brought him back to the
realities of life.

“Ah, ha! You’re hungry, are you?” he said, as he threw the chicken some
crumbs. Then he looked at the guitar as if he would say: “We’ll have it
out together!”

Phil struggled. He dreamed and pondered, and hunted all sorts of
material for his sketches. He went to the Louvre to study pictures that
had guitars in them.

“The old masters knew nothing about guitars,” Phil said one evening at
the café. Even the comrades laughed at this.

“How’s the guitar? Does it go?” they asked him.

They spoke only of guitars—guitar this and guitar that—as if all the
_estudiantinas_ of all the Spains had met together at the Deux Magots.

“It will drive me crazy!” said Phil.

“You will produce a masterpiece,” replied Socrate.

One evening Phil came in radiant. “I have it!” he cried.

He explained his idea. Women had been painted in the moonlight, in the
sunlight, and in the light of flames. _Eh bien!_ he, Phil, would light
his woman with reflections from a guitar!

“You see, I have a woman’s head in shadow,” Phil explained to Socrate,
as he made lines with his pencil on the table; “and the guitar itself
is lighted up by a ray from heaven—do you understand? Music, an echo of
heaven, enlightens our sad humanity!”

“Bravo!” exclaimed Socrate.

Poufaille, in his emotion, pressed Phil’s hand.

“I’ll give you a write-up!” said Caracal; “something really good.”
But he added to himself: “So you’re painting echoes from heaven,
pork-packer that you are!”

Phil, under the guidance of Socrate, began his picture. It was hard to
set himself again to real work after so many months of doing nothing.
He exhausted his strength and spirits over his canvas. He ate next to
nothing and grew thin visibly; he lived merely a life of the brain.

“Oh, if I could only have a great success and get rich,” he said to
himself, “I would have Helia come back!”

He wrote long letters to her. Helia’s replies breathed love and the
lofty confidence she had in him. At the bottom of the page there was
always a circle traced with a pen, and to this he touched his lips.

It was Helia whom he was painting in the background of his picture—a
Helia illuminated by a strange light like a vision.

But Phil, worn out and bloodless, no longer had the strength to fix
her features on canvas. He was all the time beginning over again,
floundering in his powerlessness.

Every now and then Socrate came to see him and borrowed his last piece
of money: “You haven’t five francs about you?—and this old overcoat,
lend it to me till to-morrow!

“_Tiens!_ a chicken!” Socrate went on, continuing his inspection; and
he winked at Phil and made a gesture of wringing the fowl’s neck—“like
that! _couïc!_” Then he looked at the picture.

“It doesn’t go,” Socrate said, rubbing his hands.

At other times the picture seemed to go better.

“Look out! You’re going too fast!” Socrate said, in a fright at the
idea that his guitar might be brought back to him and that he might no
longer have a pretext to come and borrow five francs or an overcoat.
Suzanne also paid Phil visits. He often spoke to her of Helia.

“You’re always thinking about her!” Suzanne said, as she lighted
a cigarette, taking two or three puffs and throwing it away with a
_pouah_!

“Well, you must be in love with Helia!” she continued. “I had no idea
of it! It won’t last, _mon cher_!”

She looked at him with mocking eyes.

“What do you mean by that?” Phil asked.

“Oh, I don’t mean to offend you, Monsieur Phil. I believe you’re
sincere!”

“You think I’m sincere!”

“My dear Phil, I’ve seen men dragging themselves at my knees,—do you
hear? dragging themselves at my knees with tears in their eyes,—men who
wouldn’t look at me now!”

“I’m not that kind,” said Phil.

“So much the better!” said Suzanne, becoming suddenly grave. “I’m happy
for Helia’s sake—very happy, because she thinks so, too!”

Phil took up his palette; but Suzanne could not stay quiet.

“Say, Monsieur Phil, how good you are, all the same!”

“I? Why?”

“You don’t see they’re making fun of you?”

“Who?”

“Why, Caracal’s set—Socrate among the rest,” Suzanne answered.

“I don’t believe it,” Phil said. “Socrate is an enthusiast, but he’s a
real artist!”

“_Penses-tu, bébé!_” Suzanne murmured to herself. Then, passing before
the glass, with a twist of her finger she put a lock of hair in place
and went out.

Phil seldom had such visits. For the most part of the time he was
alone in front of his picture which did not go. There was no end to his
fumbling efforts. There were always parts to be done over—and he never
succeeded in doing them right.

Socrate arrived one fine evening with his hands in his pockets.

“I’m coming to live with you!” he said. “Landlords are idiots, on my
word! Talent and thought never count with them. It’s dough they want.
If it weren’t for you I’d have to sleep out of doors!”

He sat down on a chair and added: “You’re willing?”

“Certainly,” Phil said, as he drew a mattress near the stove. “You can
sleep there for the present. We’ll see later on.”

From that day an infernal life began for Phil. Socrate, stretched out
by the stove, worried him with advice and made him begin the same thing
twenty times over; he encumbered the room, smoking like a locomotive
or sleeping until noon. When the thinker’s ferocious snoring quite
deafened Phil, he would whistle gently to stop it. But a steamer’s
siren would not have awakened Socrate. Then Phil, in his exasperation,
would shake him by the shoulder.

“Let me be! I am thinking of something—hum—something,” Socrate would
stammer; and the sleeper would begin “thinking” again. It was a
continual torture. Phil, moreover, was so weak that he could not even
get angry.

One morning Suzanne came in with her arms loaded down with mistletoe
and packages. “My friends, to-morrow is Christmas day,” she said, as
she entered.

“Ah!” Phil answered.

“What—ah?” Suzanne took him up. “Didn’t you know it, then?”

“No,” said Phil, who was now only a shadow of himself, living on
mechanically from day to day.

“But didn’t you see,” asked Suzanne, “this pretty Christmas card that
Helia sent you from London?”

“Ah, yes!” said Phil; “true!”

“Phil is sick,” thought Suzanne, “and very sick! He’s losing his
memory. It’s high time that Helia came back!”

“Let me prepare the feast,” she said next day. “You’ll see what it will
be! Men don’t understand such things! Phil, let me do it, will you?
I’ve invited Poufaille. We shall be four at table. There is a fork for
each of us!”

“I don’t eat much,” Phil answered.

“Socrate will eat for you, Monsieur Phil,” said Suzanne. She added: “I
have a favor to ask you first: I don’t want you to kill the chicken!”

“But we shall have nothing else for the meal,” said Phil.

“Oh, Monsieur Phil, let her live! She’s so amusing! She would follow me
in the street, and people would take her for a dog. But wouldn’t they
laugh!”

“What a child you are!” Phil said.

“And then I’ll like you so much for it, and I’ll make you a nice
salad,” Suzanne went on, “and I’ll get four sous’ worth of fried
potatoes.”

“Granted!”

Just then they heard a _couïc_, and Socrate threw the chicken with its
neck wrung at the feet of Suzanne.

“Enough sentimentality,” he said.

Seeing the turn things were taking, Socrate, who was not willing to
miss his meal, had slyly stretched out his hand, seized the chicken,
and put an end to it.

“Oh, you wretch!” cried Suzanne.

“Bah! the chicken had to end by being eaten,” Phil said; “let’s not
quarrel for that!”

Suzanne made everything ready. She cleared the table of paints and
palette, spread the cloth and dishes deftly, and sang as she did the
cooking. Poufaille came in, bringing a cheese made of goat’s milk and
garlic which he had received that morning from his village.

  [Illustration: “He encumbered the room”]

“What smells like that? _Pouah!_” Suzanne cried.

“Do you mean my cheese?” said Poufaille, in a pet.

The time had come. With emotion Suzanne placed the chicken on the table.

“Your chicken isn’t cooked; you’re not much on cooking!” cried
Poufaille, who had not forgiven the insult to his cheese.

“I don’t know how to cook, don’t I?” Suzanne exclaimed; “and I don’t
understand salads, either? No, perhaps, _hein!_”

Socrate, with his nose in his plate, ate like an ogre, disdainful of
idle quarrels.

“The salad?” Phil said, to keep up the gaiety. “Your salad has a little
too much vinegar.”

“My salad spoiled—oh, insolents! It’s worth while taking trouble to
please you!” And Suzanne began weeping, or a pretense of weeping. But,
suddenly losing her temper, she seized the frying-pan with a “_Tiens!
tiens, donc! et aïe donc!_ This will teach you!” and while chicken and
salad flew across the floor, bang! she threw the pan full tilt into the
painted guitar. Phil’s picture was rent in twain.

“Oh, forgive me!” Suzanne cried.

All had passed as quick as lightning. Suzanne was at Phil’s knees,
weeping, begging pardon—oh! how could she have done it, she who knew
all the trouble he had taken? And she kept on repeating in her despair:
“Oh, Phil, forgive me!”

Phil said not a word; he was pale as death. Poufaille had fallen
backward, and, sitting on his cheese, which had fallen under him,
looked in turn at Phil and Suzanne. Socrate was thunderstruck.

“Oh, forgive me, Phil, forgive me!” Suzanne went on repeating.

But she did not finish. To her terror, she saw Phil arise, turn, and
fall headlong.



CHAPTER IX

ALAS! POOR HELIA!


Phil had been struck down by a rush of blood to the brain. For a long
time he had been living as in a dream. His fits of absent-mindedness
had already amazed Suzanne. Too artificial a life, constant
exasperation, his fierce persistence at work which was beyond his
present strength, and the ravages of a fixed idea had prepared him for
brain-fever. The ruin of his guitar picture was the last blow.

Suzanne quickly drove Socrate out of the room, and took the mattress
which was lying on the floor and put it back in its place. She hastily
made the bed, and then, with the help of Poufaille, placed Phil on it.
He was still without motion, pale and bloodless, like a dead man.

Suzanne ran to the Charité Hôpital. She was acquainted with some of
the young hospital doctors, and she explained the case as well as
she could. One of them followed her to Phil’s studio and made a long
examination of him. As soon as he entered the disordered room with its
tale of want, the young doctor understood all; he had already cared for
victims like this of the ideal.

Phil came back to life and moaned feebly.

“He is not dead!” Suzanne said.

“People don’t die like that!” the doctor replied, continuing his
examination. “Tell me how it happened.”

Suzanne told the doctor everything.

“It is as I thought,” he said. “We’ll pull him out of it. But, first
of all, take away all those canvases—put the room in order; and
those portraits of a young girl, always the same one, there along the
wall—take them all away! You must deliver him from that vision when he
comes back to himself!”

“But he can’t live without her,” Suzanne said.

The doctor smiled sadly.

“If he only remembers her!” he murmured. “No lesion; long overdoing
followed by anemia, too strong emotion, and doubtless some fixed idea,”
the young doctor rambled on as he looked at the portraits of Helia
which Poufaille was taking down. “It’s a kind of intoxication of the
nervous system—a railway brain, as it were; we’ll give him things to
build him up, and rest and silence in the meantime.”

“Doc—doctor!” Poufaille stammered, livid with fear, “is the disease
catching?”

“No fear!” the doctor answered, as he glanced at the hairy face of
Poufaille, with its crimson health. “It only comes from exaggerated
intellectual functions.”

“Oh, I’m better already!” said Poufaille, reassured.

Phil was delirious for a week.

His mind, sunk in abysses of sleep, made obscure efforts to come
back to the light of day. Sometimes an ocean of forgetfulness rolled
him in its waves. Sometimes great flashes of light illuminated his
consciousness in its least details and gave to his dreams the hard
relief of marble.

Oftenest he simply wandered, mingling Helia and Suzanne, seeing in
his nightmare guitars, yellow on one side and blue on the other, like
worlds lighted up at once by sun and moon—a whole skyful of guitars,
amid which, motionless, the skull of the poet-painter-sculptor-musician
thought constantly, never sleeping—until the thought burned like a
red-hot iron, and then Phil put his hand to his own burning forehead
and asked for something to drink.

But there was some one to anticipate his wish. A gentle hand raised his
head on the pillow and an anxious face bent over him, seeking to read
his eyes, now dulled, and now brilliant with the light of fever.

“Is it Helia?” Phil asked.

“It is I!” Helia answered. “Don’t speak—rest! You must rest!”

Yes, Helia had come back. Suzanne, in her belief that Phil was on the
point of dying, had not been able to resist the impulse to write to
her. It did not occur to Helia to ask if the disease was catching. She
gave up everything. She paid her forfeit, took her leave of absence,
her own good money going to pay another attraction as a substitute.
Nearly all her savings went in this way—but she heeded it not. Nothing
in the world would have held her back. She had to be with Phil. She
alone had the right to tend him. Another with her own betrothed in time
of danger? No!

Helia nursed him night and day. Suzanne helped her, and Poufaille did
the errands, going for food to Mère Michel’s and for scuttles of coal
to the _charbonnier_. From morning to night his heavy shoes shook the
staircase.

“Why don’t you give him wine?” he said, as he looked at the sick man.

“Why not goat’s-milk cheese?” retorted Suzanne. “Will you keep silence,
_grand nigaud_? Go and get some wood!”

“And the money to buy it with?”

“Here!” Helia said.

With what joy Helia watched Phil’s progress toward health!

“Dear, dear friend, my little Saint John,” Phil said to her. “How can
I ever thank you for all you are doing for me!”

He kissed her hand or put it to his burning forehead. Once he rose up
and looked around the room saying: “Who is there?”

“It is I—Helia!”

“Who is Helia?”

“Helia, your friend—your Helia; I am here with Suzanne!”

“Out, wretches!” And he fell back exhausted.

“Leave him alone,” said the young doctor. “In a fortnight he will be on
his feet and I’ll send him to the country.”

Helia, who was forced to depart, went away. Her leave was over.
Besides, she had no more money. Phil grew better and better. At first
he was surprised to find his room so changed.

“Where are my pictures?” he asked. “What have you done with them?”

“We’ve put them one side—you can see them later,” answered Suzanne.

“What were they about?” inquired Phil. “Anyway, it’s all the same to
me!”

The young doctor, with the good-fellowship that binds students
together, accompanied him to a public sanatorium not far from Paris.
From that moment Phil changed visibly. He who had been so anemic in the
vitiated atmosphere of his studio, with his nose always over his oils
and colors, and his eyes fixed on the canvas, in Socrate’s company, had
now abundance of pure air and walks through the open fields. He felt
himself reborn, although his head was a little empty and his body stiff
and sore like one just taken from the torture-rack. But good food and
quiet did wonders for him. He had an excellent constitution, made for
work and struggle, and it came up again.

With a beefsteak an idea would arrive; and with a glass of wine joy
entered his heart. His blood, renewed, gave him new feelings. He had
again become a man, after the illness in which his youth had been
shipwrecked.

Helia, anxious to see him, came back one day. How difficult it had
been for her—slave to her profession as she was, and still bound to it
for many months! Never mind—she came! Phil was better, Phil was cured.
She would have his first smile; he would be her Phil in health as in
sickness. But at the gate of the sanatorium a magnificent guardian,
adorned with brass buttons and a gilt-banded cap, stopped her. It was
society closing its doors to the intrusion of vagabonds. This man of
law and order asked Helia why, how, in whose name, by what right, she
wished to see Phil, and he refused the favor to her, the mountebank
who—had one ever seen the like?—pretended to be his betrothed!

       *       *       *       *       *

Phil came back to Paris cured. Strength and the daring of courage
returned with him. His long rest seemed to have increased his energy
tenfold. He went forth from his past as one escapes from a prison,
without even looking backward. The young doctor had guessed only too
truly: Phil had forgotten many things!

Phil, who had received some unexpected money from his uncle in
Virginia, now changed his _quartier_, and set himself up in better
style; and the Salon medal gave him his start. His professor made him
acquainted with the Duke of Morgania, who ordered from him the great
decorative picture of Morgana. The Comtesse de Donjeon asked his aid
for her charity sale.

One effort and then another, and this time Phil would reach the goal.
He had one of those happy dispositions which attract luck as the magnet
attracts iron filings. He was ready; life was open before him like
slack water at sea; there was only wanting to him a good breeze to
swell his sail.

From what side was it to blow?

  [Illustration: “A magnificent guardian stopped her”]



CHAPTER X

MISS ETHEL ROWRER OF CHICAGO


The breeze blew from the West.

Miss Ethel Rowrer, daughter of the great Redmount Rowrer, had just
arrived in Paris. She was preceded by the fame of her father, the
famous Chicagoan, a business Napoleon. From his office, the center
of a network of telegraph and telephone lines, he communicated with
the financial universe; and his tremendous toil was building up a
world-wide fortune. He thought himself poor, for he had not yet reached
the billion mark; but his fame grew. Ethel adored this father. She
was proud that men spoke of him. She felt herself a part in his glory;
but, really, she could have wished people should pay less attention to
herself. Every day the society papers devoted space to her.

“Yesterday evening, Miss Ethel Rowrer, daughter of the famous
_milliardaire_, was present at the opera”—and so forth; and there
followed a description of her dress.

“To-morrow, Miss Ethel Rowrer, daughter of the famous _milliardaire_,
accompanied by her grandmother, will be present at the horse show.”

They told how she passed her day; people learned that she had tried
on gowns at Paquin’s, chosen a hat at Stagg’s, eaten chocolates at
Marquis’s—while in reality she had stayed at home with “grandma.”

All this gossip annoyed her. One day, however, she laughed heartily.
She learned from a paper her intention of buying the tomb of Richard
the Lion-hearted to make a bench of it in her hall at Chicago. This
earned for Ethel a newspaper article, grave and patriotic.

“Foreigners, touch not our illustrious dead!” was the journalist’s
conclusion in the evening “Tocsin.”

Richard the Lion-hearted went the rounds of the head-lines of the Paris
yellow press. Then, one fine day, the papers spoke of an interview of
the ex-Empress Eugénie with Miss Ethel Rowrer, daughter of the famous
_milliardaire_, R. K. Rowrer. Vieillecloche, in his “Tocsin,” had seen
and heard everything. He accused America of mixing itself up with
French politics. Miss Ethel did not read the article, otherwise she
might have gathered that the “Tocsin” was very ill-informed. That she
had seen the empress was true, but there had been no word of politics.

The empress was making a short stay in Paris, as she did every year.
Her sorrows had given the former sovereign the love of retirement. She
passed her days by her window at the hotel, sometimes looking sadly
toward the empty place where the Tuileries had been.

“I see by the paper that Miss Ethel Rowrer is in Paris,” the empress
said one day to her _dame de compagnie_. “Is it the granddaughter of
the Rowrer I knew? The emperor had great esteem for him; I remember
him well. Mr. Rowrer was charged by the government at Washington
with a report on the Exposition of 1867. My husband loved to look
into everything himself. Social questions were near to his heart,
and it happened that in the evenings he would receive Mr. Rowrer in
his private cabinet. The extreme simplicity and moral robustness of
the man struck the emperor. He found him full of new ideas which he
would have wished to apply in France. I was present at one of their
conversations. My little son was playing around them. _Ma chère ami_,”
Eugénie continued, “I remember it as if it were yesterday. I beg of you
to find out if Miss Rowrer is the granddaughter of that man.” The next
day she learned that this was the fact.

“I should have been astonished if it were not so,” said Eugénie. “The
emperor foresaw the success of Mr. Rowrer; he knew men.” She at once
made known to Miss Rowrer that she would be happy to receive her; and
Ethel came. Entering, she saw but one thing: in an arm-chair by the
window a lady, with her head covered by a black mantilla, sat in the
clear sunlight like a dark figure of sorrow.

“Madame,” said the lady in waiting, “I present to you Miss Ethel
Rowrer.”

Ethel saw the dark figure rise from the chair.

“Thank you for coming!” Eugénie said. “I am glad when people come to
see me,” and she held out her hand.

Ethel bore the hand to her lips and bowed with a grace which charmed
Eugénie.

“Be seated, Miss Rowrer,” said the empress; “here, beside me,” and she
pointed with the slender hand of an aged woman to a seat.

Ethel sat down. She was in the presence of Eugénie de Guzman and
Porto-Carrero, Countess of Teba, Marquise of Mopa and Kirkpatrick,
Empress of the French—Eugénie the beautiful, the beloved; and it was an
old lady warming herself in the sun and looking around timidly.

“How happy I am, madame,” said Ethel, “to thank you for the kindnesses
shown long ago to my grandfather! His Majesty the Emperor loaded him
with favors.”

The empress was greatly touched by the sincere accents of Ethel and her
faithful remembrance. No one thanked her, now that she was nothing; and
this daughter of a _milliardaire_ had not forgotten slight kindnesses
done long ago to her grandfather.

“I thank you,” she said. “The emperor had great esteem for your
grandfather; he liked to talk with him. Mr. Rowrer was a remarkable
man—rather, he was a man!” added the empress, who had seen so many who
were not men.

Ethel blushed with pleasure. Newspaper head-lines constantly made sport
of her family, and here was the one-time arbitress of Europe glorifying
her grandfather and saying to her “I thank you!”

Then they chatted for a while. Eugénie admired this young girl in her
simple elegance and superb health. At the court itself she had never
seen a figure more princess-like and radiant.

“When I was a little girl,” Ethel said, “my grandfather often spoke to
us of those days of glory.”

At the word “glory” Eugénie interrupted her.

  [Illustration: Miss Ethel and Empress Eugénie]

“Miss Rowrer,” she said, pointing with her hand toward the Tuileries,
“see what remains of it. There is nothing left. All has passed, all
has changed around me. This was once my Paris. It is now yours. I say
yours, for, don’t you see, mademoiselle, the true sovereigns are young
girls like you with their grace and health? To you the world belongs.
Ah, what happiness it is to be young!”

There was a moment of silence. The _dame de compagnie_ was arranging
flowers in a vase. The empress sat dreaming. Did she see again the
eighteen years of power wherein she held in her hand the scepter of
France? Or the palace which had been destroyed, crumbled into dust,
leaving not a wrack behind? Did she think of Miss Rowrer, to-day’s
young queen, who came to pay her tribute of respect to the royalty of
other days? of the conquering force which this young girl represented,
the supreme outcome of an ambitious race? of the temptations without
number which would assail a creature so spoiled by fate?

Ethel made a motion to take her leave. The empress rose painfully.

“Madame,” Ethel began.

“Allow me; I wish to accompany you,” Eugénie insisted. “Your visit has
done me good.”

She leaned lightly on Miss Rowrer’s shoulder as she crossed the room.

“Miss Rowrer, I am going to tell you a great secret,” said the
empress, as she was taking leave; “but one must have been an empress
to appreciate it rightly. It is this: remain always simple and artless
as you were at fifteen. That is the secret of happiness; there is no
other, believe me! Adieu, mademoiselle. I wish you all happiness in
life.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Ethel retained through life the vision of this woman in her mourning
garments, with the white hair crowning her forehead. She recalled her
gentle voice, her refined features—still resembling the portraits of
other days, but without the adorable smile.

“Our people,” Ethel said to her grandmother, “interest themselves only
in Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe. I wish to make a
collection concerning the Empress Eugénie—photographs, statuettes. And
I will take back to Chicago her portrait in oils. I’ll have it done
here in Paris under my direction. Who is this Phil who, they say, has
so much talent, and has painted so fine a portrait for the Salon—a
young girl seated among flowers with doves around her? Cecilia Beaux
admires it immensely. He has had a second medal, I believe—he has
everything he needs to succeed; and he is an American, they say, and
poor and ambitious.”

“He is poor and ambitious? Give him a chance,” replied grandma.



CHAPTER XI

AN APARTMENT IN THE LATIN QUARTER


Nothing remained for Ethel but to meet her artist. An opportunity soon
offered itself at the Comtesse de Donjeon’s five-o’clock tea, at which
she was often present.

Ethel, first of all, had looked for an apartment for her own
convenience; the hotel, thanks to Vieillecloche, was becoming
intolerable.

“Foreigners, stay at home!” the “Tocsin” printed. “Remember the night
of the 13th March, 1871, of the day of November 22, 1876. Respect the
verdict of the 363. Tremble! The people is bristling its mane of the
16th May, and bares its claws of the 14th July!”

“We’d have done better to stay in Chicago,” said grandma.

At first the torrent of carriages and automobiles and bicycles flowing
day and night before her window had amused Ethel. But soon she tired of
it. There were, indeed, theaters and parks, and visits to dressmakers
and society calls. But the theaters were impossible, the parks were
only parks after all, the visits to dressmakers were anything but
amusing—it’s so easy to buy! and as to society, Ethel wished to rest a
little—for a change!

“To speak four languages, including my own, to play three instruments,
including the harp, which only needs passable arms—all that doesn’t
count. I must go to painting again. Oh, I wish I could have a picture
on the line and a Salon medal! I wish I could do a work on La Salle’s
explorations, at the Bibliothèque Nationale! What would I not give to
write like Princess Troubetzkoi or paint like Cecilia Beaux! I am tired
of all this idleness. I wish to work; I wish to be something by myself,
and not merely the daughter of papa. I wish that—Grandma! let’s go to
the Latin Quarter! I will be just a student girl living with her good
grandmother while she studies art!”

“Let’s go, then, to the Latin Quarter, Ethel,” said grandma, who would
have followed Ethel to the end of the world. “We shall be as well off
there as here—or let’s go back to America if you wish; for my part I
prefer new countries!”

“But the Latin Quarter shall be new for you! You shall see how we’ll
amuse ourselves,” said Ethel, kissing her grandmother.

So they looked for a place in the Latin Quarter. They set off early,
and, walking under the great trees of the Luxembourg, or leaning on the
balustrades, looked at the palace and the flower-beds of the gardens.

There were bare-legged babies; nurses beribboned from neck to heel;
soldiers in red trousers; a priest in a black gown; gardeners in wooden
shoes; young girls without hats; students with hats flat-brimmed;
everything gave them the feeling that they were abroad, far, far away.
Such specimens of the pigmy races which vegetate in old countries
amused grandma, and the garden pleased her greatly.

“This is like Douglas Park—except that it hasn’t any ornamental mound.
Do you remember, Ethel, that globe of earth with continents and seas
colored on it in different flowers, and our glorious flag made of white
and red pinks and blue corn-flowers?”

“Oh, grandma, for heaven’s sake!” said Ethel.

“And yet it’s not bad here,” continued grandma. “The people are so
gay! the soldiers’ trousers are too short, and the gardener has wooden
shoes; but they look gay; why, I wonder?”

At the beginning they did not venture into the Latin Quarter without
some emotion. On the strength of what they had read and seen at the
theater they expected moss-grown houses with flowers in the windows,
and streets resounding with song, where students and grisettes danced
the _cancan_. Grandma soon got over her mistake, after a narrow escape
from being crushed by a tram-car in a thoroughfare which was for all
the world like State Street.

“It’s not so bad as I thought,” she said enthusiastically. “It reminds
me of Chicago.”

In their visits they went up and down an endless number of stairways.
Often grandma stayed below, leaving Ethel to visit the apartments.

“Houses without elevators!” said grandma; “Ethel must be crazy!”

She waited for Ethel in deep courtyards or sat in concierges’ lodges,
near stoves where cabbage-soup was bubbling. More than once, while
she was alone in the lodge, some one would come and ask information
from her, taking her for the concierge. Once a butcher’s boy, with his
basket of meat on his arm, opened the door.

“_B’jour_, m’am; what will M’am Gibbon have to-day—_culotte de veau_?”

But he ran away in a fright at the sight of Mrs. Rowrer staring at him
without answering. Such incidents helped grandma to pass the time.

It was while crossing the Rue Servandoni that they at last found their
apartment. An atmosphere of peace seemed to issue forth from the old
façade with its immense windows. By the open door they could see a
wide stone staircase with a railing of wrought iron. A great tree
shaded the silent courtyard. The placard was out: “Apartment to Let.”
So they entered. The apartment was at once magnificent and simple, all
in white, with lines of gold, and carved doors surmounted by painted
panels.

The street itself had a certain air of tranquil distinction. One of its
extremities seemed barred by the austere walls of the old Luxembourg
Palace, and the other by the enormous apse of St. Sulpice, with its
statue of St. Paul upright on a pedestal between two columns.

“My favorite saint!” said Ethel, who did not believe in cold and
passionless perfection, but in struggles for the best, with tears
undoing faults. “St. Paul himself keeps guard over the end of the
street! How happy we shall be here, grandma! And we’ll heat ourselves
with wood fires and be lighted with candles,” she added with the joy of
a child.

“We’ve found a real gem of an apartment,” Ethel said to the Comtesse de
Donjeon, that very evening at her “five”-o’clock, which was at four.
“Imagine, madame, a door covered with carving, through which you go
underneath Medusa heads and cornucopias. We shall burn oil-lamps and
candles; that will make us wish to wear flounces and dress our hair _à
la belle poule_—”

“And to play ‘_Il pleut, bergère_’ on a spinet!” the countess
interrupted. “Where did you discover such a gem of an apartment!”

“In the Rue Servandoni,” said Ethel.

“I know,” said the countess; “it’s near St. Sulpice. And, by the
way, dear Miss Rowrer, if you wish any bric-à-brac to furnish your
shelves, I can recommend you a precious man, a great connoisseur and a
distinguished critic, a journalist of the good cause—M. Caracal.”

“Thank you so much, madame! M. Caracal would be very useful to me,”
Miss Rowrer had answered.

“He’s a friend of the Duke of Morgania and of your fellow-countryman,
Mr. Phil Longwill, whom you are acquainted with, perhaps.”

“Only by name,” Ethel said.

“The duke and Mr. Longwill are coming here to-day, I believe. I will
present them to you if you wish.”

They were in the great salon in the half-darkness of the silken
curtains. Although it was broad daylight outside, lighted lamps shed a
yellow glow and sparkled amid the glass of the chandeliers and the gold
frames of paintings. A valet announced two ladies—“Mme. and Mlle. de
Grojean!” The countess hastened toward them.

Ethel was looking vaguely into the depths of the room. Two other
visitors came in, talking together like friends.

“His Highness the Duke of Morgania.

“Monsieur Phil Longwill!”



CHAPTER XII

ETHEL’S IDEA OF A MAN


As a consequence of their meeting, Ethel became Phil’s pupil. Having
made his acquaintance at the Comtesse de Donjeon’s, she gave him a
“chance,” as grandma had told her to do. She ordered from him two
pictures according to ideas of her own: first, Eugénie young and
beautiful, present in the emperor’s cabinet at the reception of Rowrer,
the grandfather; then Miss Rowrer had him paint Eugénie aged and
broken, seated by the window and looking far away on the empty Place
of the Tuileries. Better and better satisfied, she ordered from him
grandma’s and her own portrait. These orders were enough to “launch”
Phil, as they say, and brought him other orders from the society
frequented by Miss Rowrer.

Ethel, before she came to Phil, had been working in the École des
Beaux-Arts; but there the studio seemed gloomy to her and she stifled
in it. Moreover, she was already rather tired of the Latin Quarter on
account of her fellow-countrymen whom she met there.

She had a grudge against some of them for imitating and even
exaggerating the most foolish faults of a certain class of students.
She did not approve their wearing their hair like a horse’s mane,
their velvet trousers and knit-woolen jackets, and their way of
carrying around with them boxes and brushes and canvases as if they
were sign-painters. And when she saw them seated on the curbstone
_terrasses_ before cafés, drinking in public and spitting everywhere
and puffing the smoke of their cigarettes into the faces of the
passers-by, it exasperated her. She had a desire to call out to them:
“Up! and go to work!”

As she did not like the art academies of the Quarter, she decided for
Phil’s studio. She had another reason for doing this. The École des
Beaux-Arts was too near, and Ethel needed exercise. In spite of the
enormous distance to Phil’s studio, she always went to it on foot—“to
keep myself in training,” she said. She came back the same way—to give
herself an appetite. Thus every morning she had four hours’ work and
two hours’ walk—just to keep “in shape.”

Ethel, one morning, was at the studio with Mlle. Yvonne de Grojean.
The model’s rest was over and they were beginning work again. The
concierge—the old man “of my time” and former inspector of the Louvre
roofs—mounted the table and posed before the girls dressed as a
Louis Quinze marquis. There was a pushing about of easels and chairs,
palettes were taken up, and at once the model was beset with remarks:

“Model—the head!”

“Model—the foot!”

“Model—smile!”

At this formal injunction the concierge bridled up, distorted his eyes,
twisted his lips, and swelled out his neck like a goiter.

Ethel and Mlle. Yvonne were not working from the Louis Quinze model.
Helia posed for them in a corner of the studio—the corner of “still
life.” She happened to be free that morning, as the figure of Morgana
which Phil was painting from her was nearly finished. Helia had come
down to the pupils’ studio to please Ethel, who greatly desired to do
a head of the Madonna from her.

Ethel and Mlle. Yvonne chatted together as they added touches to their
water-colors. Ethel was relating to her friend, Yvonne de Grojean, the
visit she had paid some time before to Phil’s private studio, where she
had seen the Duke of Morgania. She had also described the magnificent
decorative painting which Phil was finishing for the duke.

Their conversation was punctuated here and there by the remarks cried
out around them to the Louis Quinze marquis:

“Model—the eye!”

“Model—the mouth!”

“Really,” said Ethel, “that concierge is incorrigible. Why does he
persist in _not_ looking like the students’ drawings?”

Mlle. de Grojean at Ethel’s side laughed heartily.

“How droll you are!”

Helia smiled in spite of herself.

“The papers keep me in good humor,” Ethel answered. “I venture
there’s something in them again about Richard the Lion-hearted,” she
continued, pointing to a paper on the chair. “All sorts of bargains are
offered to me ever since that story—usually old mummies. No; there is
nothing about Richard to-day,” Ethel remarked, as she ran through the
head-lines. But she received her “pin-prick” all the same. In an open
letter some one attacked American society and the lack of solidity in
its family ties—signed, “H. Ochsenmaulsalatsfabrikant.” This annoyed
Miss Rowrer more than personal attack. She was amazed that people could
have such thoughts about her country.

“In your country,” was the conclusion of the Salatsfabrikant, “the
young men run after money and the young women after titles.”

“Personally I had the idea that titles were running after me,” thought
Ethel, who had had reasons for believing so during the three months in
which the duke had been paying her court.

She had already forgotten the open letter, but she kept on thinking of
the subject it had started up in her mind.

Ah, certainly not! Titles were not to be her aim in life. Most of
all, since her visit to the empress, she had promised herself to give
worldly grandeurs only the esteem they deserve. A title! A title no
more takes from a man’s qualities than it adds to them. The main thing
for a man is, not to be a duke or prince; it is, first and foremost—to
be a man!

Mlle. Yvonne was also painting a Madonna’s head from Helia. She wished
to make a medallion of it as a present for her mother. Helia took
pleasure in posing for these girls who were so kind to her.

Ethel, after seeing Helia at Phil’s the day after the Quat’z-Arts Ball,
had met her several times, and felt a very sincere sympathy for her.
She seemed to her to be “the right sort of girl.”

She had even proposed to send her to Chicago as a professor of physical
training in the Women’s University founded by her father. The situation
was brilliant, her future would be assured, and she would probably make
a very good marriage before long. Helia thanked her effusively—but
something kept her in Paris; and she added: “Paris alone gives the
consecration to artistes!”

Ethel knew that Helia was preparing a number which was to make a
sensation. Meanwhile, she had her little sister, and, so it seemed, was
paying for the old clown Cemetery out of pure goodness of soul. For the
time being she was pinched for money. Ethel would have been happy to
do her a kindness; but she knew that Helia would never accept anything
under any form whatsoever, not even a gift to Sœurette. A smile, yes!
a kind word, yes! an obligation, no!

It was the same with Suzanne, the model who sometimes posed for pupils,
and whose acquaintance Ethel had also made. This simplicity of manners,
which was at the foundation of their race, touched Ethel. She pardoned
the “pigmies” many things for the sake of these brave little hearts. An
acrobat and a model—what matters it? Character is everything!

“Model—time! Rest!”

There was a noise of palettes laid aside and pupils rising in their
places. The old marquis telescoped his neck into his laces and came
down from the table.

“You who are collecting mummies,” Yvonne de Grojean said, laughing, to
Ethel, “you ought to add the concierge; he is a type!”

“Don’t laugh, Yvonne,” said Ethel; “he would do very well in our hall
in Chicago; he’d give it an air of the old régime; there are heaps of
men like that in princely anterooms.”

Painting was over and they were now talking in the still-life corner.
Of the other students some were walking two by two, some were standing,
and others seated on the high stools; and some were grouped about
Mlle. Yvonne and Ethel, who was, in a way, their leader, by the social
position she held, and the prestige of her name. All around her they
conversed as in a parlor, amusing themselves with a passing broil
between the English Miss Arabella and Mlle. Yvonne.

“England should not allow it!” Miss Arabella had exclaimed, speaking of
some performance of French politics.

“French affairs concern us alone!” Mlle. Yvonne, usually so timid, had
retorted, as she raised her head whereon her hair was rolled like a
helmet.

Miss Rozenkrantz, a Swede with spectacles, made peace, as if by chance,
with her explanation of a new association in Stockholm—the “Women’s
Anti-Marriage League.”

“What are its articles?” Miss Rowrer asked.

“Absolute indifference to men—woman by herself in all and for
all—meetings—lectures to girls—mutual aid—unions.”

  [Illustration: “Ethel, who was their leader”]

Conversation followed in which the Anti-Marriage League was discussed.
On such subjects Mlle. Yvonne did not speak. She listened with
astonishment to these young women from the countries of the North
talking among themselves of things on which she never touched: marriage
and anti-marriage—leagues—clubs—of all this she was ignorant.

Mlle. Yvonne was passing two months in Paris. It was the Comtesse de
Donjeon, a friend of the Grojean family, who had introduced her to Miss
Rowrer. The two young women were unlike both in education and ideas—and
they at once became great friends. But Mlle. Yvonne was shortly to
return to her old tranquil, provincial home, and she was enjoying her
last weeks in Paris. To-day, especially, she was delighted to hear them
talking freely before her, and, most of all, about marriage. For her it
was the escapade of a school-girl looking over the wall at the fruits
of a forbidden garden.

One thing, however, was troubling her. Her mother had not come back, as
she always did, to take her home. Doubtless there was some unforeseen
hindrance. She confided her disquiet to Ethel.

“Don’t worry; your mother will come. And even if she does not, you can
go away alone, I suppose.”

“What!” said Yvonne, “cross Paris all alone? You wouldn’t think of it!”

“But I do it!”

“That is true,” Yvonne said, blushing.

They were speaking in a low tone; the others were not listening, but
surrounded Miss Rozenkrantz.

“What is more natural than to go about alone?” Ethel said to Yvonne.
“What harm is there, _voyons_? You slander your fellow-countrymen—the
men of Paris are not tigers, I imagine. What danger is there?”

“Oh, none,” Yvonne admitted; “but they are said to be so gallant!”

“Gallant! An ill-bred fellow accosts you in the street and you say he
is gallant?”

“Not exactly, no,” Yvonne hastened to say; “it’s just the contrary.”

“Men such as that,” said Ethel, “are not men—that’s all!”

There was a moment of silence.

“Men who are not men—that must be another of Miss Ethel’s
pleasantries,” thought Yvonne.

Ethel looked at her water-color, throwing back her shoulders to
judge better of the effect. What she did not understand was that a
young woman like Yvonne should accommodate herself to such a state of
affairs—Yvonne, who but now, during the squabble with Miss Arabella,
had the decided air of some Gaulish Amazon. Why should she be so
timid with regard to such insolent dogs? She felt really a lofty and
protecting pity for this sister of an old country, nice as she was.

“Men such as that!” she began again, in a tone of contempt.

“Such as what?” Yvonne timidly asked. “Do you mean workmen, men with
blouses—those of whom you were just speaking—those who are not—”

“Who said anything like that?” replied Ethel. “Dress has nothing to do
with it.”

“It’s their profession, then?” Yvonne asked again; “or is it
nationality? The Englishman is different from the Frenchman—the
German—”

“Ochsenmaulsalatsfabrikant!” Ethel interrupted.

“All go to make up so many different types, I know,” Mlle. Yvonne
continued.

“It’s nothing of all that!” said Ethel, seriously. “When I say _a man_
I speak neither of an officer nor of a lawyer nor of a doctor nor
a workman nor a prince. Rich or poor, German, English, or French—it
doesn’t matter!”

The students had gathered round. They asked one another what Miss
Rowrer meant—who, then, is the _rara avis_ that is neither this nor
that—not a workman, not a prince?

Helia kept silence and listened. Which man? She had known one who
seemed to her frank and loyal, and gave her his word; and then—then he
had forgotten it! What meaning, then, was there in Miss Rowrer’s words?
But she understood perfectly, and she blushed for Phil when Ethel, to
signify those qualities of uprightness, equity, and honor—that respect
for one’s word once given—which she meant by “man,” repeated in a tone
of deepest conviction:

“I say A MAN!”



PART II

MORE THAN QUEEN



CHAPTER I

WANTED—A DUCHESS!


As he had himself said to Ethel the day of his visit to Phil’s studio,
Conrad di Tagliaferro, Duke of Morgania, was much to be pitied—he had
to quit Paris!

The duke reveled in the life of the Boulevard, losing himself amid the
crowd, climbing to the tops of omnibuses, taking a cab to the opera,
getting himself spoken of in the society news of the papers. He was
seen everywhere,—in salons and at the theater, at the clubs and at the
races. There was no ceremony for him, and he had no cares. Arriving in
Paris he put aside all the duties of his position as you might leave
a coat in the cloak-room. When he accepted a friend’s invitation he
always insisted that there should be no questions of etiquette.

“_Sans cérémonie_—it’s understood,” and he would add in Parisian slang,
“_au hazard de la fourchette_ [pot-luck]!”

However, there was a “but.” His people pestered him from afar in the
shape of two voivodes who had been delegated by his nobles, and who
followed him even to his late suppers like some twofold Banquo specter.
These delegates were in Paris to urge his return. The duke had been
lucky enough to avoid them until now; but their mere presence said
clearly enough that things were going wrong in Morgania.

Since the fabulous days of Morgana the unity of this little warlike
people had always been kept at its frontier, beneath the shadow of its
great red banner with the white cross facing barbarism; and it was from
that side the storm was muttering once again.

There were grave reports from Macedonia. Houses were being burned and
convoys pillaged. All the villages from Kassovo to Monastir were in
ebullition. Bands of bashi-bazouks had come as far as the Drina. It
would be necessary to go back. The duke saw it clearly—great events
were preparing.

“You were present, I believe,” the duke said to Caracal, “when I spoke
at Phil’s place of the old sorceress, who is a prophetess for some
and a saint for others, and has more influence in the country than
all the journalists in the world could have. This old woman predicts
the future. I assure you, Caracal, she foretells astonishing things,
absolutely amazing, and I myself have seen them realized many times
over. Just now she is upsetting the country with talk about the return
of Morgana.”

“But there’s no harm in that,” Caracal remarked.

“She excites the people, and it will end in war, that’s all!” answered
the duke, gravely. “Ah! the prophetess and her prophecies—they are a
load upon my back, I can tell you!”

“Why don’t you shut her up in a madhouse?”

“That’s more easily said than done,” observed the duke. “An old
woman adored by an entire people—you may not believe me, but—I assure
you—she’s stronger than I!”

Caracal looked at the duke to see if he was in earnest. But a duke’s
psychology was entirely beyond his ken, subtle observer as he was.
The duke’s animosity against the sorceress had a look of embroilment
between sovereigns.

While the prospect of all these troubles alienated the duke from
Morgania, so a creature dear to his heart attracted him homeward. This
was his only child, his son, the little Duke Adalbert. All the duke’s
affections were centered upon this son, after the death of the duchess.
It had not been a happy marriage. First of all, his wife had made him
take a dislike to his people. She was an Austrian archduchess—more than
an aristocrat, an Olympian; and the fall from the elegance of Vienna
life to severe duties in Morgania filled her with bitterness. She
detested her subjects, and they paid her back the compliment. Never had
a duchess been so unpopular.

Until then,—not to speak of the heroine who had founded the glory of
the house,—all the duchesses had had the gift of pleasing the people,
perhaps because most of them were themselves sprung from the people.
Love’s fancies had reigned in the house of Tagliaferro, and, thanks
to such spontaneousness of feeling, misalliances had not been rare.
Just as at the Austrian court Archduke Henry, the emperor’s nephew,
had espoused a dancing-girl who became Baroness Weideck, and before
him Archduke John had married the pretty Anna Plochel, a postmaster’s
daughter, so the Dukes of Morgania, with aristocratic loftiness, chose
their consorts wherever it seemed good to them.

Such duchesses the people of Morgania preferred to all others. It was
very important for the future of the house that she who was to succeed
the mother of Adalbert should possess all those qualities which make a
woman adorable—goodness, beauty, and valor.

In Morgania, where diplomatic refinements were unknown, there was
needed a young woman of new blood, bringing energy with her, and able
to revive confidence. There had been such in the ancestry of Duke
Conrad—heroines sprung from the people, daughters of the mountain or
the plain.

“You shall see their statues,” the duke said one day to Ethel, who had
come with her grandmother to see his collections—“that is, if you do
me the honor of stopping in Morgania when you make your Mediterranean
yacht tour.”

“It is a promise,” said Ethel.

“It will interest you, Miss Rowrer, to visit my stronghold. It
is one of the most ancient in Europe. The donjon at the entrance
is formidable. It was in 1221, when he returned from the Crusade
of Honorius III and Andrew II, King of Hungary, that my ancestor,
Enguerrand, had it built, along with the great hall used for the
people’s assemblages; for, to procure the necessary resources of his
expedition, he had been obliged to enfranchise the serfs.”

“He did well,” observed grandma.

“He could not have done better,” the duke replied. “Moreover, there
came out of it the Hall, which is a masterpiece.”

“The Hall, doubtless, is decorated with the arms and armor of the
epoch?—that will interest me greatly.”

“There are neither cuirasses nor gauntlets,” answered the duke;
“neither helmets nor the armor of knights on horseback, as in the
Tower of London or the Invalides in Paris. But such as it is, it will
interest you even more. It has something that will go straight to your
heart.”

“Really?” Ethel asked. “And what can that be?”

“This,” the duke went on. “The Walhalla of Bavaria has been built to
German heroes; our Hall is built to the glory, not of the heroes, but
of the heroines of Morgania. My ancestor, Enguerrand, consecrated his
Hall to the glorification of our women.”

“Ah!” Ethel exclaimed, deeply interested.

“A great idea!” said grandma. “America ought to have a hall like that
at Lincoln Park. We have our heroines, too—it would be full in little
time!”

“Madame Rowrer is right,” said the duke. “To be a heroine there is
no need to fight, sword in hand; the fulfilment of the civil and
moral virtues makes heroines, and devotedness and love have their own
martyrs. But I am going to show you an old engraving of the Hall.”

The duke rose and searched in a portfolio.

“Two characteristic features,” he continued, “strike one in feudalism:
individual energy and improvement in the condition of women. When Duke
Enguerrand went forth to look for war and adventures, my ancestress,
Bertha, remained in Morgania as the duke’s representative, clothed with
the right of administering justice, and charged, during his absence,
with the defense and honor of the country. Such sovereign power often
gave to the women of that time virtues which they had no opportunity of
exercising otherwise.

“When the knights and men-at-arms were gone to the Holy Land, only the
women remained at home. Then Hungary was invaded by the Mongols, who
ravaged everything down to the Adriatic. Morgania was on the point of
perishing; but Bertha the Horsewoman, as the people called her ever
after, scoured the country the whole winter long, leading convoys, and
bringing in supplies from Italy and mercenaries from Germany. Thus she
repelled the Mongols and saved Morgania from invasion, and the people
from famine.

“When the duke came back he found Morgania in mourning, for the duchess
had died at her task. Saint Morgana, the heroic ancestress, already had
her altars. The duke wished to consecrate the glory of the others as
well; and he built the Hall so that henceforth the people might gather
around their images under the saint’s protection. Dying he expressed
a wish that his descendants should dedicate the Hall to the glory of
their women. Here is the engraving,” the duke said, turning toward Miss
Rowrer and grandma.

  [Illustration: “‘Here is the engraving’”]

“Indeed,” said Ethel, “all this interests me tremendously. So your
ancestor Enguerrand was the creator of women’s rights!”

Ethel and grandma examined the engraving. It represented an octagonal
hall of somber and massive aspect. The eight segments of the vaulted
roof were separated by stone ribbing that met in a fleuron, from which
hung an immense chandelier. The arches rested on eight columns. Between
two of these a solid wall had been built; it was covered with vestiges
of ancient painting. Stone steps mounted up to this wall, making a
platform on which there was a bench of carved wood.

“Let me be your guide,” said the duke. “This large wooden bench
against the wall between the two columns is the ducal throne. The
stuffs and cushions which cover it were brought from Tyre and Sidon by
Enguerrand.”

“That is very beautiful,” Ethel interrupted, “but it is your
heroines that interest me most—where are they in all this? Bertha the
Horsewoman, where is she?”

“Here—this statue,” the duke replied. “As you see, there are three
statues facing each other—first Bertha, then Thilda, the duchess who
killed Sultan Murad at Kroja with her own hand, and then Rhodaïs the
Slave. The fourth pedestal is still empty.”

“Was there a slave in your ancestry?” Ethel asked. “It is the name you
apply to Rhodaïs.”

“She was the daughter of a simple voivode,” said the duke. “She
accompanied to Venice the daughter of the King of Hungary, whose
kingdom had partly fallen under the power of the Turks. But they
were attacked by an Ottoman galley and every one was massacred except
Rhodaïs. As she trampled the Crescent under foot they chained her to
the rowers’ bench, from which she escaped only by a shipwreck. She
came back to Morgania, had the duke buy a galley in Venice, chose a
crew of hardy corsairs, and began a war without mercy against the Turks
who infested the coast. She put herself at the service of Don Juan of
Austria at the battle of Lepanto. My ancestor, Hugh XIII, made her his
duchess, and Philip II of Spain, as a recompense of her valor, gave her
the hereditary title, unknown till then, of Lady Knight of Malta.”

“That was a woman!” Ethel said. “With a duchess like Rhodaïs a people
could not perish! But Morgana, the fairy, the saint, in whose honor the
Hall was built—I do not see her?”

“On the contrary, she is everywhere. She lights up the Hall with her
rays,” the duke replied. “This engraving does not give the entrance
portal which overlooks city and sea and country. This portal was made
at Enguerrand’s return. It is like the entrance to an enchanted palace;
and by its magnificence and delicate ornamentation contrasts with the
general severity of the Hall. As in Gothic churches this portal sets
far back into the interior. An immense stained-glass window overlooks
it; and from this light falls in floods through one of the sides of the
vaulted roof, which was purposely suppressed.”

“I understand,” Ethel said. “Face to face with the ducal throne, your
ancestress Morgana dominates everything!”

“Yes,” continued the duke; “at eventide the setting sun enters the
interior of the Hall through this window, which represents the glorious
martyrdom of Morgana. You would say that her blood threw crimson stains
upon the throne itself and the glow of her miracle lighted up the whole
hall.”

“What about the fresco which has left traces on the wall behind the
throne? Was it, too, of some warlike deed?” Ethel asked.

“No; this one represented the legend of Morgana rising from the sea
and bringing in her arms what should be the fortune of Morgania. What
was it she was bringing in her arms? I know not. Morgana, it appears,
was represented in the fresco issuing from the sea, and covered with
seaweed.”

“Just as in the picture of Monsieur Phil,” remarked Ethel.

“Exactly so,” said the duke. “It was the moment I chose; and your
fellow-countryman has reconstructed it. In my next trip to Morgania
Monsieur Phil is to come to the castle and finish his picture on the
spot. Before then I shall have time to search through the archives, and
perhaps I shall find what it was Morgana was bringing in her arms.”

Thereupon Miss Rowrer and grandma went away. The duke remained alone.
He retired to his study—a den plastered with sporting photographs—and
sinking on a sofa lighted a cigarette and began dreaming as he followed
the light smoke with his eye.

“Morgana—she who was to come forth from the sea bringing fortune and
happiness in her arms—is it not Miss Rowrer landing in her yacht before
the castle? She, too, comes from the setting sun. She, too, brings
fortune. She, too, would be adored by the people. What a strange
coincidence! The old sorceress is not so crazy after all,” the duke
said to himself, “and there is nothing impossible in it! Whatever may
be the personal qualities and fabulous fortune of Miss Rowrer, a Duke
Tagliaferro is her equal. Through me she would be Duchess of Morgania,
Protectress of the Skipetars, Lady Knight of Malta, Princess of Kroja,
Queen of Antioch in the Holy Land, allied to the court of Prussia, and
cousin of the Hapsburgs. There is not an older nor a nobler house in
Europe.”

It made the duke’s head swim only to think of it. He was a descendant
of Hugh, the Frankish chief to whom Theodosius had given one of his
twelve duchies of the West, and since that time nothing—not even
Attila’s torrent, nor the Turks, nor Charles the V, nor so many
famines, nor so many wars—nothing had ever struck the sword from the
hands of his ancestors—nothing save the anger of the people against
Duke Adhemar, who was driven from the throne because he had delivered
up Morgana!

_I will maintain by the sword!_ This proud device had never proved
false, as the old iron-bound archives could witness. The duke felt
weary—weary with all the weariness and old with all the age of all his
ancestors; and his fingers had scarcely the strength to knock the ashes
from his cigarette.

What a youth his inheritance of glory had won for him! How he had
envied in other days the little peasants who ran barefoot along the
beach, whereas he, brought up by sad-faced priests in the old feudal
castle, was less free than a slave. Then came his marriage, which had
been settled for him for reasons of state, and the death of his father,
which gave him the administration of the duchy—an ungrateful task. No!
He had not lived! Enough of the gloomy palace and rude peasants! He
wished to live and to be amused—to be young for once in his life. He
would know happiness, at least!

The duke gazed at the blue curls of smoke floating as aimlessly as
himself. He had not even hoped for a marriage like this with Miss
Rowrer, having all the advantages of a royal marriage, without any of
its inconveniences. She would be one of the richest and most brilliant
sovereigns of Europe.

Never had life appeared sweeter to him than now. He was buoyed up with
hope and illusions. There was this marriage for the near future, and
meanwhile he could enjoy the little time he still had to pass in Paris.
This evening, for instance, he was to go with Caracal and meet Helia
behind the scenes of the Nouveau-Cirque. Perhaps he was thinking more
than he ought of Helia, but he wished to thank her before his departure
for having posed as Morgana.

A lackey broke in upon his reverie, handing the duke two
cartes-de-visite on a silver plate.

“Zrnitschka!”

“Bjelopawlitji!”

“The devil!” said the duke. “My two voivodes—my two kill-joys!”

Ah! those two sad-faced “ambassadors of the sorceress”—would they never
cease harassing him? The valet spoke:

“The gentlemen wish to have the honor of presenting their homage to
monseigneur.”

“Yes; I am acquainted with their homage,” the duke said, below his
voice, as he drew out his watch. “Half-past six, and Caracal is waiting
for me—and Helia, whom I have to see—”

“What answer shall I give these gentlemen?” asked the valet.

“How do I know!” answered the duke, vexed at being troubled while
thinking of so many things. “Tell them—oh, tell them I am having a
political interview—a tête-à-tête with the representative of a great
power!”



CHAPTER II

A PARISIAN DÉBUT


The duke, imposing and superb, was present; and Caracal, with his
monocle in his eye, was beside him. It was the first night of Helia.
If it had been a common first night at the Théâtre Français, the duke
would have thought himself dishonored by appearing before the second
act. But he wished to offer a rose to Helia, and so he, a gentleman,
had committed and made Caracal commit an unheard-of thing—they had
dined between seven and eight so as to arrive on time.

“You are interested in behind the scenes? Your presence greatly honors
us, monseigneur,” said the director of the Cirque as he passed by them.

Was he interested? He was more than that—he was enthralled.

First of all, Caracal suggested it was very chic to have the air of
paying court to Helia, who to-morrow would be celebrated as a star.
This would give an irresistible Don Juan mark to his ducal title.

“That will help me with Miss Rowrer,” thought the duke, who was pupil
and plaything of the clever Caracal. There was a single shadow in his
picture—Phil was not there!

Phil was to accompany Miss Rowrer to the American Club Exhibition; but
this touched the duke—oh, so very slightly. Miss Rowrer had a great
esteem for Phil, but pshaw! a poor devil of an artist was no rival
for him, a duke with his duchy, descended from fairies and queens and
saints! Against all this what could avail her innocent flirtation with
Phil?

The public had not yet come and the hall was empty. Here and there the
electric globes were lighting up; but the duke and Caracal beheld a
sight which helped them to pass the time. The sensational equestrienne,
the Marquesa de Guerrera, was coming down the steps, enameled and
rouged and resplendent with diamonds. Monseigneur gallantly held her
stirrup as she painfully climbed upon her horse. She dashed out on the
track in front of the empty benches for a short rehearsal. She asked
for the orchestra and the lights, to accustom her horse to the noise
and glitter. She was afraid he would take fright. She trembled at his
slightest shying.

“Take away that white paper—that program on the bench; take it away!
And do you applaud!” the Marquesa called to the stable-boys who
approached the ring.

“Applaud! to accustom him to the bravos!”

The horse began turning like a great mechanical plaything with a doll
on its back.

“The horse does all the work!” said Suzanne behind the duke. She had
just arrived with Helia and Sœurette, Helia’s little sister.

  [Illustration: “Giving the Flower to the Child”]

“No, I assure you,” said Helia, “_haute école_ riding is difficult!”

The duke turned.

“How do you do, mesdemoiselles?” he said, lifting his hat.

“Monseigneur—” Helia began.

“Oh, monsieur,” Sœurette broke in, “it’s for me, isn’t it?—the pretty
rose?”

“Why—why—yes!” the duke answered, giving the flower to the child.

He remarked Helia’s surprise. She seemed troubled by his visit. It had
been the affair of a moment, but it was sufficient to hinder the duke,
who was no apt pupil of Caracal, from giving the rose to Helia.

“You lack nerve!” Caracal whispered in his ear.

“It will come!” answered monseigneur.

“I see the duke and Caracal,” Helia said to herself; “but Phil is not
here! It’s not very nice of him.”

The public was coming in. The equestrienne left off rehearsing, with
her hat over one ear.

“Come, we have to get ready,” said Helia. “Au revoir, messieurs!”

The benches were filling up. Against the dark shadows of the boxes
fans waved to and fro. The duke straightened up in the respectful space
which his title of monseigneur left around him. Near him was Cemetery,
the clown, waiting for Helia, whom he was to accompany in the ring. He
shook the yellow tresses of his wig and groaned constantly, complaining
of his aches and speaking of a return to his box to rub himself with
camphorated alcohol.

“Do you want me to go with you—I’ll rub you!” the duke said, Parisian
to the finger-tips, and hoping, if he rubbed the old clown’s spine,
that he would redeem in Caracal’s eyes the rose given to Sœurette.

“No, thank you, monseigneur. There is nothing to be done,” said the old
clown; “I, too, was famous, and now I’m only an old dog—ah!”

But no one listened to him.

The show began. In the ring the blond hair and doll face of Louise
Bingel whirled to the music of the orchestra, as she leaned over to
apply the whip to her horse’s neck with many a “Go!” and “Up!”

The public talked as it looked through the program. The real show
was to come later. It was not the “Gallinaro Family, somersaults,
bravourturnerin, tapis-tumblers,” nor “Miss Soho, the world’s greatest
I-don’t-know-what,” nor “Princess Colibri and her Prince-Consort”—no!
that which attracted the public was, first and foremost, Helia.
Discreet notes in the papers had given hopes that there would be
something “never seen before.” Some said she was a young girl of good
family, whom an irresistible vocation had drawn to the circus. Details,
too, were given of her career—in contradiction with one another, of
course.

What was not known, though, was how Helia had been working for months.
She was going to try a daring feat. Even the costume was to be new. To
her the nudity of the maillot seemed brutal.

  [Illustration: Cemetery]

“Beauty is well, talent is better!” Cemetery, her professor in other
days, used to say; and she wished to be applauded for her art and not
for her beauty. Her wonderful gymnastic knowledge gave her the right to
attempt the feat.

She thought in gestures. She had in her the inborn love of grace and
physical force. With graceful movement she summed up a thousand things
which she could not have said; and she had the idea of reviving the
acrobatics of the ancients, just as others have reconstructed the songs
of old times, and the dance through the ages. One day at the Louvre she
had seen on a Greek vase an artistic dance which struck her. She had
spoken of it to Phil while posing for Morgana—for Helia saw Phil often.

In spite of all, she loved to be near him, and though Phil might
forget, on her side she felt her love for him only increase. She was
one of those proud hearts which love but once. In spite of all, she
believed in the sacredness of a sworn promise. Phil would come back to
her! Besides, Phil was a precious help in the work she was undertaking.
Together they consulted the “Recherches Historiques et Critiques sur
les Mimes et Pantomimes du Seigneur de Rivery.” Her head was full of
neurobatie, scheunobatie, and acrobatie. She dreamed of gymnastics and
the dance. She studied her movements in Phil’s studio, in the evening,
after his work.

He had a jointed lay-figure which she put in the proper poses, seeking
for effects in its curving and bending back. She cut out little
costumes and tried them on it. She went to the Library, and looked
through the boxes of the booksellers along the Quais. The instinct of
the beautiful guided her. She composed her number as she might compose
a poem.

The reverse of a Roman medal and an old engraving representing the
Genoese who descended the towers of Notre Dame, torch in hand, to
offer a crown to Queen Isabeau suggested ideas to her. A biography of
Madame Saqui, who was called the first acrobat of the empire, and whom
Napoleon entitled _mon enragée_, was very useful to her.

“Plato,” Phil said to her one day when they were studying together,
“Plato contends that gymnastics give grace to the movements of the
body, of which we ought to think even before adorning the mind.”

“Plato is wrong,” was Helia’s answer.

But she proved that he was right by the moral energy which physical
training had developed in her. For months she studied without let-up,
mastering rebellious muscles, beginning again, twenty times over, the
same thing, setting to work with all her heart and all her courage,
with clenched teeth and eyes shining with the pride of will. There was
despair in her mad energy.

“But you will kill yourself, Helia,” Phil said to her.

“Nonsense!” said Helia. “I will die or do it!”

“In other days,” she thought in her simplicity, “Phil did not like to
hear me speaking of my trade; but who knows?—he may change if I become
a _grande artiste_.”

That evening she was to present to the public the outcome of her
efforts.

Suzanne, in the dress of a pretty little Pierrette, was already in
the ring. With her usual go she was showing off trained rabbits. They
jumped through hoops, climbed up on her, and ate seeds from her hand.
It made a little interlude before Helia’s number.

At the entrance of the stables clowns and firemen, reporters and men of
sport made up a guard of honor. There was even an impresario from New
York, who spoke to Suzanne when she came out.

“Brava, mademoiselle! Ah! if you only knew how to sing!”

“If I only knew how to sing!—_Je t’écoute!_”

“Brava! brava! You’ll have a success in New York! You’ll come on the
stage, they’ll ask you if you know how to sing—and you’ll answer—how
was it you said it?”

“_Je t’écoute_ [I hear you].”

“That’s it! You must also bring in a little can-can—do you know how to
dance?”

“There’s a question for you!” And with the point of her elegant foot
Suzanne, scarcely seeming to touch it, sent the shining silk hat of the
impresario rolling on the ground.

“Brava! Perfect!” the impresario cried in an ecstasy of joy. “I’ve
found what I’m looking for—a typical French girl!”

There was silence. In the luminous void of the circus, high up in
the air there were shining things in nickel—trapezes—and a rope was
stretched down to the ring.

The orchestra burst forth. Helia kissed Sœurette and passed out with
a run before the duke and Caracal. Her mantle, left hanging as if by
chance, gave a glimpse of a rosy shoulder. On the threshold of the ring
she stopped and threw off the mantle. It was like the unveiling of a
statue.

She wore the short tunic of the dancers of Pergamus. The clinging stuff
was fastened at the shoulder and hung to a point on each side, leaving
arms and neck and the upper part of the breast uncovered; a light skirt
fell straight to the ankles.

Helia looked at the public long enough to smile and bow. Then, with
a quick spring, she leaped to the tightly stretched rope, and with
agile bare feet climbed up its incline to the platform in front of her
trapeze. The light brought out the whiteness of her skin and her red
cheeks, and glittered back from a little star-shaped jewel in the black
hair above her forehead.

There was a murmur of sympathy. The public applauded and cried:
“Brava!” Helia had done nothing yet, but the audience was already won.
The orchestra, after a moment’s silence, suddenly broke forth and Helia
began.

At first, to accustom the public to the notion of the movements, she
leaped upright on the trapeze, which swung over to the platform. This
had been foreseen. The three trapezes in their swing almost touched
each other. They were hung from light steel tubes and oscillated like
a single mechanism, without break or twist.

Helia, with infinite grace, went through a few exercises. It was the
Waking of the Goddess—the first astonished gestures of a statue called
to life by the inspiration of a Pygmalion. Then she let herself fall as
if overcome by dizziness, grasped the bar as she slipped down without
apparent shock, and—almost before the folds of her gown could fall back
gracefully—she was again on the trapeze, magnificent and at her ease.
She balanced herself gently and gave a backward leap to the platform.

The public broke forth in applause. It felt itself in the presence of a
healthy and robust art. This was no acrobat limited to one single task,
with legs heavy by dint of walking on the ball, or shoulders by walking
on the hands. But here was the accomplished gymnast—the all-round
artiste, with her muscles obedient and supple. In her they acclaimed
the poetry of the body and the melody of movement.

To give Helia a moment’s rest, Cemetery entered, stumbled at the
entrance of the ring, fell on his nose, rolled over, and pulled
himself up by the rope. His pantomime expressed delight and fear at the
spectacle, high above him, of this creature of light and beauty. His
pursed-up mouth and rounded eyes had the look of weeping. He walked out
scratching his wig.

The public laughed.

Helia made a sign and looked to the trapezes oscillating. Suddenly, to
a joyous strain, she leaped forward. The orchestra seemed to uphold
her in her flight. Nothing could be more graceful than the pose of
her skirt, which fluttered from her ankles like a pair of wings. Then
Helia leaped to the second trapeze just as the two bars almost touched.
Her hand grasped the steel tube with a sudden effort, which her art
concealed. Then, letting go, she continued her dizzy balancing and
leaped to the third trapeze, as calm as Fortune on her Wheel. She had
crossed the entire space of the circus at a single flight and fallen
upright on the other platform just as a wingless Victory finds rest on
the pediment of a temple.

“Hurrah! Brava! brava!”

Helia cast a look of triumph on the crowd.

“What an artiste!” the duke murmured. Could this really be she who but
a moment ago was talking like any comrade—this prodigy who was holding
the hall enthralled, and bringing in a crush to the door all the stable
crowd and artistes, gentlemen in evening dress, and the whole tumult of
clowns?

Sœurette looked at her “big sister” in wonder and delight, while her
lips seemed to murmur a prayer. Cemetery entered the ring again to
proclaim the distress of man and his unrealizable desires. He jumped
up to the rope, climbed a yard or two, and fell back flat on the
ground. _Poum!_ Come on! the goddess seemed to say to him. He tried
again, but from the height of his Olympus the leader of the orchestra
thundered him down with a stroke of the bass-drum, and he fell
again—_poum!_—remaining on his back with his four limbs wriggling in
the air. Then he dragged himself away, broken and bruised, with halting
leg and rubbing his shoulder, while above him Helia appeared as an
apparition, a shining form rid of the heaviness of the flesh.

  [Illustration: At the Circus]

Her art astonished the public. There was no perceptible effort,—_Jarret
lâchés_, high leaps, whirls,—there was nothing of all that. She gave
the sensation of the “something never seen before.” Merely by the way
in which she touched her trapeze with the point of her bare feet, one
felt that she was free from rules—inventive, a genius. It was youth and
beauty, scorn of danger, and courage holding spellbound the crowd below
her.

Her artistic intelligence profited even by obstacles. Thus Helia
disdained the net; but the law imposed it. She found a means of making
it serve her own purposes.

Just as she was ending, a globe was passed up to her, and she placed
it on the bar. Then she stood upright on it, in the vast oscillations
of the trapeze. She was like a goddess soaring in space with the earth
under her feet.

Then Helia stopped motionless.

The orchestra ceased; the lights were extinguished; and suddenly, like
a star falling in the night, Helia fell down to the net.

There was a moment’s anguish, and then the lights and
orchestra—lightning and thunder—began again, as in a storm. Helia was
on the ground, offering, with a gesture, her heart to the crowd.

She was called back again and again. Bouquets were thrown to her—the
public would have her out once more! At last she retired, worn out,
and, putting off her stage-smile, she shook hands all round.

“There’ll be no bouquets left for the marquesa,” Suzanne said. “But her
horse may be accustomed, by this time, to the bravos!”

“You must be tired, Mademoiselle Helia?” the duke asked.

“It’s my trade,” said Helia. “We smile to the public all the same; it
would not be nice to show that it is work!”

And, with a gracious salutation to the duke, she went back to her
dressing-room.

“You haven’t invited her to supper!” Caracal remarked to the duke, when
she had gone.

“I didn’t think of it!”

“Are you going to wait till she comes down?”

“No,” said the duke, intimidated. “I shall see her later, I hope. Your
valet must attend to it. Let’s go now. There’s nothing to see after
Helia!”



CHAPTER III

PHIL, CHAMPION OF MISS ROWRER


“I’ll send her some flowers to-morrow,” the duke said, once they were
outside.

“Monseigneur,” replied Caracal, “allow me to tell you, you’ve been
below the mark all through!”

“That’s so!” agreed monseigneur.

“For a reigning duke,” Caracal went on, “a grand seigneur, a Parisian
in soul, to have such timidity! It was worth while dining at impossible
hours and passing evenings with a rheumatic clown, to wind up in
nothing!”

“I shall have my revenge!” the duke said. “This evening I did not—dare.”

“And the reason is this,” Caracal continued: “you’re in love with
Helia!”

“I!”

“Yes, monseigneur.”

“What an idea!”

Just then Caracal passed into the two-colored light of an apothecary’s
shop, red on one side and green on the other; his single eye-glass
darted a fantastic reflection on the duke. He might have been twin
brother to Mephistopheles.

“What a devil of a man!” thought the duke; “you can hide nothing from
him. He might easily be right!”

Caracal had not astonished him. In love? Perhaps he was, since others
were noticing it. It is true that Caracal was not exactly “others,”
powerful psychologist and searcher of hearts and brains as he was. But
even Caracal would have to confess himself beaten by a Duke of Morgania
parading with a circus star—that would be Parisian enough! He would
no longer accuse him of inheriting the prejudices of Morgania, nor of
believing in the predictions of the mad old witch!

The duke blushed at his own scruples. He envied Caracal’s effrontery.

“It is true,” he said to himself, “I have been below the mark all
through. For a grand seigneur like me to be as timid as a college-boy
is absurd. Helia ought to be for me simply an episode—a pastime—and
nothing more.”

All these ideas had come to him while he was lighting his cigarette,
and Caracal, red and green, was darting on him the reflection of his
monocle.

“In love with Helia?” the duke said aloud, flattered that Caracal had
such an opinion of him, “_ma foi_, why not?”

“You are quite right,” answered Caracal. “It will increase your
prestige. Besides, you’ll see her at supper. My valet will hand her the
invitation. Helia would rather go off alone, but she will come with us.
Phil will be of the party, too!”

“Well, come along! We have an hour to wait. Let’s go in somewhere,”
said the duke.

They were just coming into the Place Blanche. A café, through its open
doors, wrapped them round with the smell of alcohol. Before them a
red-winged mill seemed grinding fire and flame. Beyond, streets went
climbing up Montmartre, mountain of guano. Right and left, along the
Boulevard, incredible dens held out their blazing signs in line, like
the “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” of monstrous nights.

“Here is a cabaret artistique; let’s go in,” said Caracal; “it’s
immense!”

“Come on!” assented the duke.

The atmosphere, as of a den of animals, caught them by the throat. The
conversations were deafening, but the voice of the proprietor rose
above the clamor. He welcomed visitors, even ladies, with a torrent
of insults. It was the height of chic to receive his avalanche of
insolence with a smiling face.

“What do these two carrion come for?” he cried, pointing to Caracal and
the duke, who, in his surprise, was on the point of getting angry, to
the great joy of the public.

“Let’s sit in this corner; we can talk better,” Caracal said to him,
as much at his ease in this asphyxiating air as a fish in water. They
sat down and the brutal voice and the clamors of the public found
occupation elsewhere.

“Talk?” asked the duke. “What in the world should we talk about here?”

“About Helia,” answered Caracal; “here’s to your amours, monseigneur!”
And he raised the glass which a waiter, dressed like an Academician,
had brought him.

“Caracal!” said the duke, laughing, “we no longer live in the times
when kings espoused shepherdesses.”

“But dukes, monseigneur, still pay their court to danseuses,” Caracal
went on. “It’s a tendency of the aristocracy.”

“Why?” asked the duke.

“Because the common run of men, when they court a woman, make account
of what others think of her; whereas a grand seigneur doesn’t care for
the opinion of the public and chooses what pleases him.”

“That’s true!” said the duke.

“I can cite you a dozen examples,” Caracal continued. “There’s Clotilde
Loisset, the circus-rider, who is an Hungarian princess to-day; Chelli,
the danseuse, married to a Russian count who is Minister of State;
Lord Billy, betrothed to an equilibrist; the Countess of Landsfeldt,
Baroness Rosenthal—you know well who they were. And you see what they
are now, thanks to the caprice of some Highness! Grandees, monseigneur,
are like those kings who acknowledge no rank but that which they
themselves create.”

“Well said, Caracal!”

The duke, when his first surprise had passed, found it amusing to talk
confidentially in such a moral pig-pen. It was so amusing, even, that
he forgot to ask himself what possible interest Caracal could have to
see him in love with Helia.

“Will you come now, Caracal? Phil must be waiting for us.”

“Helia, too!” said Caracal.

They left the place.

“We are leaving just as it is becoming interesting,” Caracal sighed.
“It’s over there we are to meet,” he added, pointing to the terrace of
a café inundated with light.

They had not gone twenty steps before a voice called to them. It was
Phil’s.

“Good evening, Monsieur le Duc! Good evening, M. Caracal!”

“Good evening, Phil!” answered Caracal. “_Eh bien?_ How’s your American
Club exposition? Interesting? Painting in the grand style? American
painting, eh! eh! done by machinery, of course? I don’t say that for
you, _cher ami_!”

“And how is your novel, ‘The House of Glass’?” retorted Phil, leaving
painting for literature. “You were just now in search of human
documents. Don’t say no; I saw you! You’re always thinking about it?”

“Always, my dear friend, always! But what makes you think so?”

“Because you were looking in the gutter,” said Phil.

Caracal made a grimace; but when they got to the café his self-love
had a satisfaction which brought back his smiles. Before the terrace,
encumbered with people, his valet was awaiting him, telegrams in hand.
This valet was a part of his pride of life; a good fellow employed in
a shop all day long, and free in the evening. Caracal dressed him up
in a tail coat with gilt buttons, and a high hat, and had him bring his
correspondence to the café every night, as if he were a man overwhelmed
with invitations and billets-doux.

“Mademoiselle Helia will not come this evening,” the valet announced.

“Why not?” Caracal asked, interrupting the reading of his despatches,
which he had good reasons for knowing by heart.

“Mademoiselle Helia did not say why. Mademoiselle only said that she
would not come. She has gone out with M. Socrate.”

“Very well!” said Caracal, dismissing his valet.

“With Socrate! Poor Helia!” thought Phil.

“Well, messieurs, it will be less gay without a lady,” Caracal
observed; “but since we are here, let’s do Montmartre, will you?”

“Come with us,” said the duke.

So all three “did” Montmartre.

Caracal knew it all thoroughly. The cabaret was his home. He entered
offhand; he had his own manner of opening the door and bidding a
friendly good day to the proprietor amid the tables.

“There’s Caracal!” These words, pronounced in the smoke of these little
cafés by some _décadent_ accompanied by a painted girl, swelled his
heart with pride. Even the duke envied him this quasi-royalty which
Paris confers on its elect.

Caracal loved the cabaret _rosses_, where some rickety little monsieur
advances on the platform, opens his snarling mouth and, hammering his
words that not a syllable may be lost, narrates his little nastiness to
the public.

“It’s a new school,” Caracal explained. “Much more advanced than the
_décadents_! It’s educating the public up to itself little by little.
It has taken frankly for its flag the exact word in all its crudity.”

“Say, rather, the dirty word,” said Phil.

Wherever they went there was the same atmosphere of infection. You
would have said that, camping in modern Paris, there was a _ville
chaude_ of the Middle Ages, where “_vérolez très précieux_” made high
festival with ribald companions. The look of the places was repulsive.
In one they were served by mock galley-slaves dragging their chains
behind them. In another there were grave-diggers, and they sat by
coffins, and green flames burned inside of skulls.

“You, fever-patient, what do you take?” the waiter said to the
customer; “and you, consumptive? What do you drink, moribund?”

And then the fever-patient or the moribund—some ruddy young man from
Scotland—would answer timidly: “_Oune bock_.”

“That gives a high idea of Paris,” Phil said, as they went out. To
him it all seemed stupid. What a contrast for him, after an evening
passed with Ethel, were these pestiferous dives with their brute
public, like pigs at the fattening! The pitiful sight recalled to him
the weak-willed days of the past, the evenings at the Deux Magots, the
masterpieces drawn in pencil on café tables and wiped off with a rag.

Caracal made a study of the different cabarets, preferring this one to
that and drawing a dilettante’s distinctions between their poets and
singers.

“Such an one enunciates well. Have you heard his ballad of ‘The
Drunkard and the Rotting Dog’? That is art!”

And with an elegant gesture he fixed the monocle in his eye. Phil
examined Caracal and tried to discern in his face the low instincts,
the hatreds, the thumb-marks of degeneracy. He saw nothing but
self-satisfaction.

They had arrived at The Pustule, the latest _cabaret artistique_.

“Let’s go in!” Caracal proposed. “It shall be the last.”

“I shall leave you afterward,” said Phil.

They entered. A blonde girl, with a thin, colorless voice and childish
gestures and little smirks, was singing:

     “Les bosquets du Bois d’Boulogne
     Ous’ qu’on fait Zizi pan pan!”

Her place was taken by a _chansonnier rosse_, fat and bald. This one
began at once, in an aggressive tone, a political satire. What? there
was a couplet against Americans—Richard the Lion-hearted again, and
then a direct allusion to a certain American miss—in this sewer!

  [Illustration: “Phil rose up, pale with anger”]

Phil rose up, pale with anger. He would have smashed things, and shut
the mouth of the fat brute bellowing on the stage; but suddenly he
thought that he might compromise Miss Rowrer. He sat down, clenching
his fist.

“I’d like to know who writes such infamous songs!” he said to Caracal.

“Bah, never mind! Calm yourself!” Caracal answered, with sudden
uneasiness. “Never mind; it’s not worth while. No one understands!”

“What a set of fools!” Phil went on. “I’m going away; I choke here!”

“We’ll go with you,” added the Duke of Morgania.

A moment later Phil took his leave of the duke and Caracal, to return
home. From the other side of the street he saw Caracal gesticulating
and explaining modern art to the duke. Fragmentary sentences reached
his ear: “_Chansonniers rosses_—off with all masks—the future of
poetry—poetry _voyez-vous_—just like the rose, sprouts from the
dunghill.”



CHAPTER IV

’TWIXT DOG AND POET


Phil went his way, leaving the duke and Caracal behind him.

He was angry with himself for having come. Especially he was frightened
at the feeling which had just been urging him to punish the singer on
the stage. There was something more in it than the natural indignation
of an upright heart in presence of a low action. He felt it a hundred
times more than he would have done for a personal insult. He stood
forth revealed to himself as the champion of Miss Rowrer.

On the whole, the verses were stupid rather than malignant; but it had
been stronger than he—an explosion, in a way, of a growing passion. He
resolved to stop short on this dangerous descent and not allow himself
to be lured on by an impossible love, the very thought of which seemed
to him worthy of blame.

Phil was not content with his evening, so well begun and so ill ended.

“They’ll not catch me again doing Montmartre with Caracal and the
duke,” he said to himself. “I was wrong to go there to-night. I have
become certain that Helia is letting herself be courted by Socrate.
To have come down like that—she whom I knew so reserved and sweet!
And I know something else, too. I have to stop flirting with Miss
Rowrer—perhaps even stop seeing her, poor fool that I am!”

And Phil went his way with lowered head, absorbed in his own
reflections.

Phil’s idea was right so far as Miss Rowrer was concerned. He might
really have been in danger. But he was mistaken in his appreciation
of Helia, for she had not quit the circus with Socrate. Socrate
had followed her, that was all—Suzanne having taken away Sœurette
immediately after the departure of the duke and Caracal. Helia, worn
out with fatigue, went away much later on the arm of old Cemetery.

She was full of deference for the man who had made her an artiste,
and she accompanied him back to his hotel. Socrate walked alongside,
without the least emotion at the sight of this Antigone protecting her
Œdipus; rather, he was furious that she should lose her time with such
a doddard; but he had nothing to say about it! Helia would not have
understood, and Socrate remembered spitefully that the duke and Caracal
were cooling their heels in vain expectation of her.

Afterward Socrate saw her home. He had so many things to say to
her—things he dared not utter.

However, at the moment of taking leave he expressed a wish to go in, in
order to speak more freely.

“No, thank you!” said Helia; “you would wake Sœurette, who is already
in bed.”

“But—”

“Besides, you have your own work.” And she shut the door in his face.

Socrate, in a rage, remained outside. What he could not say this
evening he would say to-morrow; so be it! But that he—Socrate, poet,
thinker, painter, sculptor, and musician—should be so treated by this
little mountebank—what a humiliation! He felt that he wanted to break
something. A wandering dog passed by, and with all his strength he gave
him a kick in the ribs.

“There, put that in your pocket!”

“And you take that!” And Socrate received a heavy blow, with which he
rolled to the ground.

It seemed to him as he fell that he flung out his arms to protect
himself, and that his fist came in contact with a head. When he was
stretched out on the pavement he saw standing on the curbstone a
man, motionless and looking at him. They were both in the light of a
street-lamp. Suddenly Socrate recognized Phil.

In fact, Phil had been coming down the street just as Socrate kicked
the poor animal. In his indignation Phil punished the brute, and then
immediately recognized in him Socrate, who, of course, so he thought,
was coming from Helia.

Socrate would have jumped on Phil, but he had neither knife nor
revolver. So he remained on the pavement, crazy with impotent rage.
Phil, remaining calm, picked up his hat, which had fallen in the
scuffle. He waited. But as the thinker contented himself with groaning,
he went his way without even a look behind.

“Helia! Helia!” he thought within himself, “that you should receive
such a creature!”

  [Illustration: “Suddenly Socrate recognized Phil”]



CHAPTER V

LITTLE SISTER OF A STAR


The next day Helia was still sleeping when Sœurette aroused her. The
little one was trotting along the carpet in her bare feet, talking and
laughing to herself in the sunny room. It was her great happiness in
the morning to be up first and take her big sister by surprise. She
climbed on the bed and awoke her with a good kiss on the cheek.

“Ah, how you frightened me!” cried Helia, pretending fear.

Sœurette burst into laughter.

“Let me lie beside you; I’ll let you sleep!”

“Are you sleeping?” the little one asked a moment later. “Ah, you see,
you’re not sleeping. _Eh bien!_ tell me a story!”

“You know,” replied Helia, “if you’re not good you sha’n’t do the
trapeze to-day.”

This threat quieted Sœurette.

Helia did not wish to make a gymnast of her. Ah, no! She dreamed of
other things for her—anything except that! But she had taught her a few
turns to develop her, and the little girl took the greatest pleasure in
it.

Soon, won by the warmth of the bed, Sœurette fell asleep. Helia arose
gently and finished waking herself with an invigorating bath in cold
water. Then she put on her great peignoir, tying the girdle around
her waist. To keep herself supple she went through two or three of
her flections, bending herself backward, forward, turning her bust on
her haunches, breathing again and again long and deep. The sleeves of
her peignoir flew loose as she raised her arms, like a statuette from
Tanagra come to life.

Then she finished dressing, for she hated wrappers, in which the body
grows soft. She put on her apron, and made tea in the samovar which
Phil had given her, just as he had given Suzanne a splendid salad-bowl.
Tea was Helia’s triumph, as Suzanne’s was salad; there was no disputing
it!

The concierge brought up the fresh bread, the butter, and buns;
and she cut her _tartines_ thinking of other things. She would put
aside savings for Sœurette. She would teach her; have her taught the
piano—she scarcely knew what—but not her own trade! The beginnings were
too hard; yet if it had not been for her profession would she ever have
known Phil? It would have been better not, perhaps; who knows? She owed
him great joy—and grief as well! To think that he had not come to see
her first night at the _Cirque_!

The idea came to her that she might never live out her love-romance
to the end, and her heart swelled within her. But with a gesture she
put away these haunting thoughts, and finished preparing the bread and
butter. When the breakfast was ready she awoke her little sister.

“Up, and quickly, dear one! the tea is ready!”

Sœurette jumped from the bed, stuck her little feet into her big
sister’s slippers, and did not linger playing on the carpet.

Seated on a chair made higher by a great book which she would go
to turning over presently, she already had her nose in her cup. Her
favorite doll, Glanrhyd, was at Phil’s studio; he was to repaint the
face, which had been damaged by a fall. Other dolls were lying on
the floor, but they were not Glanrhyd! Glanrhyd had been given her by
Helia, who had cherished it ever since her own childhood. In spite of
its absence, Sœurette was greatly preoccupied with her bread and butter
and tea. She had scarcely the time to smile at her big sister and ask
her questions.

“What is that—that medal?”

Helia had just been taking out of her trunk and hanging on the wall
mementos of her life, to which she was much attached. Her little sister
was not acquainted with these objects.

“And that, and that?” Sœurette ran on, pointing to a gilt-paper wreath,
to a group of gymnasts with Helia in the foreground, to still other
things.

“And that?” she added, pointing to the photograph of a young girl
seated on a kind of throne with a young man at her feet.

“It’s you and Phil!” Sœurette remarked.

“That might be,” answered Helia. “Eat in peace, and keep quiet!”

“No; tell me first what that is?” Sœurette asked, pointing to another
photograph. “Barracks in a garden?”

“It’s not barracks, Sœurette; it’s the palace of the Duchess of
Glanrhyd, near London.”

“Is it the doll’s palace?”

“No,” Helia said; “but the duchess gave me the doll.”

“Do you know the duchess?”

“When I was in England long ago I played in her park at a benefit for
the Society for the Protection of Children and Prevention of Cruelty to
the Weak.”

“Oh, what is that, tell me—the protection of children?” Sœurette
demanded.

“I can’t explain to you; you would not understand.”

Helia looked at the photograph and remembered the day. “I will send you
a pretty present,” the duchess had said to her, caressing her with her
gloved hand. And, in fact, to Kennington Avenue, where Helia was then
living with Cemetery, they brought her a magnificent doll and pounds of
bonbons; but Helia enjoyed neither them nor the doll.

“It will fatten you!” Cemetery said, as he locked up the bonbons.
“There is no strength in them.” He put the doll in a cupboard, adding:
“You have no time to play, either, except on Sunday. Come, to work!”

“Say, big sister,” asked Sœurette, who was finishing her bun, “what is
cruelty to children? And is there cruelty to big persons? Tell me!”

“Come and kiss me. You will know later on; and now, go and play!”

“Say, big sister, Glanrhyd doesn’t come back. Must I write to her?”

“Write if you wish, darling.”

  [Illustration: “‘To whom shall I write?’”]

This was quite an affair. Sœurette prepared her table behind a screen
in the “doll’s room”; but the paper was too large—Glanrhyd would never
be able to read it. Helia had to cut it down to the proper size. At
last, having got seated, Sœurette, by way of introduction, stuck out
her tongue, rolled her head from right to left, and began.

“Well, Sœurette is busy,” Helia said to herself. “She will leave me a
little peace.”

“Say, big sister, does a doll answer?”

“I don’t think so,” said Helia.

“Will Monsieur Phil answer?” Sœurette asked.

“Let Monsieur Phil alone. He has something else to do!”

“But, big sister, it used to be always Phil here and Phil there; you
weren’t afraid to speak of him!”

“Well, I won’t have it!” Helia replied after a moment’s silence.

“Why?”

“Because—”

“To whom shall I write, then?”

“I don’t know, my darling.”

Sœurette reflected for a moment, biting her penholder.

“How do you write ‘Little Jesus’—say? Is it one word or two words?”

“Good!” thought Helia. “Now she’s writing to the Little Jesus.”

But some one came to divert their attention. There was a knock at the
door, and Socrate came in with a cheek red and limping slightly.

Helia asked what was the matter.

“Oh, last evening, after leaving you, I had a fall. It is nothing,”
Socrate hastened to say, not wishing to tell of his affair with Phil;
and for a good reason.

“You must have hit something hard,” Helia said.

“Oh!” Socrate went on, in a rage at his red cheek and limping leg, “oh,
why are you always spoiling that little girl? Cakes and dolls! Cakes
only fatten her, and dolls are good only for Sunday!”

Helia was struck by the remark which brought back word for word
Cemetery’s observations. It was of no importance, of course; it was one
of Socrate’s jokes—the proof was that he was smiling. But it displeased
Helia, who had become very reserved with him, and distrusted him a
little. She esteemed him only for the nature of his work. It seemed to
Helia that by taking interest in an “intelligence” she redeemed in some
way the roughness of her trade as a gymnast. She raised herself in her
own eyes. So she helped Socrate, half through charity and half out of
pride.

Socrate, knowing Helia’s goodness, looked forward to the time when he
should have supplanted in her heart the remembrance of Phil. But he
soon discovered Helia’s real feelings, and was all the angrier because
he had to hide his wrath. When he described to her the plan of his next
poem, or the picture that he was always “going to do,” he was thinking
all the while of other things than his pictures and poems.

What! He was not to be the husband of Helia? She was to marry some one
else? And he, Socrate, would not have the signing of contracts with her
directors, the discussing of prices, and the pocketing of the money?
Some one else was to enjoy all that?

What a pleasant life his would be if he should marry Helia! Oh, it
was very simple. First of all, he’d set Sœurette to work, steady!
They might give her bonbons and dolls; they would all go under lock
and key, and then—to work! In the morning, while he would go to the
café and take his eye-opener, Helia and the little one would do their
dumb-bells, to get under way for rehearsal. And then—_ouste!_—three
hours’ exercise in the morning, and three in the afternoon. Then
he would show what was in him! He would encourage with a gesture or
threaten with a look; sometimes he might let fall a “Very good” for
Helia, or “It doesn’t go; begin again!” for the little one. In his
conception of himself as professor he had always a cigar between his
teeth, diamond buttons on his cuffs turned up to the elbows, and all
around him papers and notices talking of the glory of this wife of
his—the star.

To think that he was not to be Helia’s husband! The very idea made him
turn over in his head all sorts of sinister projects.

Socrate tried to be friendly with Sœurette.

“Good day, Mlle. Princesse! Will you kiss me, Mlle. Princesse?”

“No!” Sœurette answered. “Your red cheek makes me afraid. You look like
a bogy man!”

“Now, now, Sœurette!” Helia said. “Be polite, darling. M. Socrate fell
down; it wasn’t his fault. Don’t you know that poets walk along looking
at the stars?”

“Not at the stars, but at one star, Mlle. Helia. You know the one I
mean!”

“Now you are here, Socrate, you can do me a favor,” Helia interrupted,
not even listening to his compliments. “First, throw these letters for
me into the waste-basket.”

“Must I throw that of Mlle. la Princesse also? What is she writing
there? Can I see?”

“No!” Sœurette answered.

“Is it a secret? Well, I won’t insist,” Socrate said, and straightway
stretched his neck over the screen and read:

     “To the Little Jesus: They say, Little Jesus, that up
     there in heaven you have a wonderful bazaar, with all the
     playthings which are in all the earth and some that are not.
     There is no doubt of it, Little Jesus, is there? Well, then,
     cure Glanrhyd and send me a little white dog—a curly one that
     barks. I’d like to have a doll dressed for her wedding, and
     a little china table service; and let it be pretty—very, very
     pretty!”

“A letter to Little Jesus?” Socrate thought to himself. “There’s a
letter which won’t be delivered!”

Meanwhile Helia was reading her morning’s mail. There was nothing new
in it; she had received hundreds of such letters. “Mademoiselle, pardon
me, if I dare—” “Mademoiselle, will you allow an admirer of your talent
and your beauty—” And so on, and so forth.

Helia did not even read them through to the end. She blushed, not with
shame, but with pity for such foolish adorers.

“Do they take me for a toy? Into the basket!” And she held out the
letters to Socrate.

“Why, she is crazy!” Socrate thought. “All these letters—they’d be
magnificent for blackmailing!”

“You do wrong to destroy them!” Socrate said aloud. “Some of them are,
perhaps, in earnest.”

“How is that?” Helia said, looking at him. “What do you mean?”

“I—why—”

Helia’s uprightness disarmed him. She would never understand anything!
Was it possible to be so naïve? Socrate was exasperated by it.

“By dint of shutting yourself out from everybody, you’ll soon have no
more friends,” he said, trying to be insinuating. “Who knows if there’s
not a letter from the duke there?”

“And what then?” Helia said, as she arose.

“He is, perhaps, your best friend,” Socrate answered. “A powerful
protector like him—”

“What!”

“Of course, next to Monsieur Phil,” he went on, with the perspiration
starting out on his forehead. “But Monsieur Phil is too busy! They
say, even—” And Socrate hunted for a word with which to end his
embarrassment, and he had to be inventive and prompt.

“What is it they say?” Helia asked.

“That he is going to marry.”

Helia had too great a habit of controlling her nerves, too much mastery
of herself, and too much pride, to show her pain. Socrate had not the
pleasure of seeing her turn pale. She appeared to be taken up with
Sœurette, in her corner.

“Of course,” was Helia’s reply. “And now do this errand for me, will
you, Socrate? Here is the money,” she added, explaining what she
wished. “Pay—and keep what’s left over.”

She accompanied him to the door. Her limbs were trembling and she
seemed to walk on cotton. There was a roaring in her ears. She turned
and fell into a chair.

Phil was to marry! Everything seemed crumbling around her, her dreams
for the future, her castles in Spain, burying her in their ruins. Ah,
she could never recover from such a blow! In vain had she been long
awaiting it; she would never have believed it possible that Phil, so
gentle and good, would do her such harm! For him, too, she had, then,
been but a toy! He had amused himself with her! He had sworn marriage
to her, and because she was poor and needed to work,—at a trade which
she had not chosen, oh, no!—because she earned her living in a circus,
they had the right to look down on her! So she belonged to the public!
They could buy a ticket at the door and talk love to her between the
acts for a pastime, while oaths—yes, oaths taking Heaven for witness,
the oaths which were sworn to her—did not count!

Helia pronounced the last words aloud in a tone of indignation.
Sœurette looked up. She saw her big sister put her head in her hands
and weep silently.

For some time she had found that her sister was no longer the same.
Her child’s memory recalled to her a Helia full of joy and talking
always of Phil; a Helia who drew a circle with her pen at the end of
her letters, after applying her lips to the spot; a Helia who told her
beautiful stories and played and danced her in her arms, which were
so firm and gentle that she would have cast herself into them from a
belfry with closed eyes.

Sœurette tried to understand. Her little brain divined something
without knowing exactly what. First, they did not often see Monsieur
Phil. He was always very kind to her, Monsieur Phil,—and yet every
time her big sister saw him she was sad afterward. Why? Socrate, too,
made Helia sad. She was in trouble when he went away. What had he been
saying to her? And Phil, especially, what had he been doing to her big
sister?

Helia raised her head. She was as worn out as after her most violent
efforts. The suffering calmed her revolted pride. Sœurette saw her lie
back in her chair and close her eyes as if to sleep. But Helia did not
sleep. During those moments she saw again her entire life—the gloomy
childhood in which she could count her happy days, and then her youth,
in which Phil had loved her. Had she acted wrongly? What had she done
that could displease him? Perhaps it was a mistake to keep on in her
trade; but how was she to live? Phil was to have taken her out of it,
and he had not done so. And she meanwhile had been so proud to be an
artiste, believing that she would become his equal, poor fool that
she had been! Yes, it must be that! Phil, the student, was her equal:
the Phil who was now tasting glory was not. Then that other young girl
had come, so beautiful and good and rich, everybody said; and surely
amiable, and smelling of violets!

“No! no! no! It is not possible!” Helia murmured as she sat upright
in her chair. “No! I know Phil—he is a man! If he had done that, he
would turn away his head when he sees me, or he would come to ask my
forgiveness on his knees. But after the oath which he had sworn me, to
act like that—without shame and without remorse—no! Socrate is lying!”

Sœurette said nothing. Her instinct told her that all this did not
concern her; that her business was to keep quiet, and that big sisters
have cares which she could not understand. But she saw that Helia was
in trouble, in great trouble; and Sœurette wished to see her full
of joy, as she had once been. Her good little heart had a touching
inspiration. She drew a mark across her letter and ended it up as
follows:

     “Little Jesus, keep your playthings for the poor, but tell
     Phil to be good to my big sister, who used to play all the
     while and tell me stories. Make him to be not so wicked, for
     she cries often when she speaks about him. I put my kiss here
     for you, Little Jesus.”

And Sœurette did as she had seen Helia do: before slipping the letter
into the envelop she placed a kiss at the end of it, and made a circle
with her pen all around the spot.



CHAPTER VI

THE OLD, OLD STORY


An automobile, with Miss Rowrer’s brother Will conducting it himself,
was rolling slowly along. Will had just arrived from America, to rest
in France from the worries of business. He had bought for his sister
this magnificent “forty-horse-power” machine; and, with a chauffeur
to indicate the way for him, he had the pleasure of taking Ethel and
grandma for a ride through Paris. That day, on the seats behind him,
there were his sister and grandma, and, facing them, the Duke of
Morgania alone.

“Oh, there’s Monsieur Phil!” Miss Rowrer said, as the auto stopped at
a crossing thronged with hucksters and good-wives in morning undress.

“Good day, Monsieur Phil!”

Phil was on the sidewalk, two steps from Miss Rowrer. He was in his
studio dress, a short coat over his sweater. He had come out to buy
something and was going home with a package done up in paper in his
hand. Hearing his name, he raised his head, recognized Miss Rowrer,
bowed, and then approached in visible embarrassment. The vizor of his
cap ill concealed the eye which Socrate had chanced to blacken with his
fist the night before.

“Our friend Phil does his own marketing,” Ethel said, laughing. “He is
right. I’ve heard from the Hon. Mr. Charley that nothing is equal to a
good beefsteak as a plaster for a black eye.”

“Well, I suppose I must tell you,” said Phil, not wishing that Miss
Rowrer should think he had fought with a lamp-post. “This is how
it happened: I got it last night while punishing a rough fellow for
ill-treating a poor dog.”

“Really? Then get in here with us, I beg of you,” said Ethel.

Phil excused himself,—his dress, his black eye.

“You’re all right as you are,” Ethel replied. “You’ll really oblige me
by coming with us”—and she seated him beside the duke.

“Your dress doesn’t trouble us, since it pleases you,” she
continued. “Be yourself, and look out at the world from the neck of a
sweater—there’ll always be people enough to look loftily over a choker.
If I were a man I would always defend the weak and pay no attention to
the rest. You’re all right as you are, Monsieur Phil.”

  [Illustration: “He approached in visible embarrassment”]

Phil listened to Ethel with intense satisfaction. The duke chatted
with grandma. The good-fellowship which he saw growing up between Miss
Rowrer and Phil did not bother him. It was only the ordinary relations
between an American girl and boy—only the friendship of fellow country
people. The duke had for Phil that distant regard which nobles by race
have for professionals. To handle a tool, even such as the painter’s
brush or sculptor’s chisel,—to do something with one’s hands, be it
even a masterpiece,—lowers a man somewhat in their consideration.
Consequently Phil might defend strong or weak, or dog-martyrs, if it
amused him—it was a matter of no importance. The duke gave himself
up to the noble occupation of a cicerone of mark, who knew his Paris
thoroughly; and, as they passed, he pointed out the monuments to
grandma.

Phil, on his side, talked with Ethel _en camarade_, as the duke
said. What a pleasure such talks were to him! Where were now his fine
resolutions no longer to make himself the champion of Miss Rowrer,
and even to stop seeing her? He drifted along under the charm of her
words. From the day when, in the duke’s company, he had first met her
at the Comtesse de Donjeon’s, he had become one of the faithful at
her tea-parties. He often went to the Rue Servandoni; and, after the
commission for the empress’s portrait and Ethel’s entrance as a pupil
in his studio, they had had the most friendly relations.

Phil told her stories from bohemia that amused her. He narrated his
adventures in the provinces, including the little Saint John, with
his arrival in Paris and his visit to Poufaille and Suzanne; the
“comrades,” and Socrate, and the Deux-Magots; his reception at the
studio; and the welcome on the model’s table; and many other things
besides. But he said little about Helia’s stay in Paris when he was
a student. For that matter, he thought of it seldom; his memory was a
mist concerning it—it all seemed so far away to him.

With what pity he recalled the environment in which he had lived!
There were all his chance friends. Suzanne, who was really good, and
skeptical only because she had seen too early the bad side of life.
Poufaille was too simple; to have made an intimate friend of him would
have been to tie a cannon-ball to one’s leg. Charley was too much of a
bluffer. As to Helia—ah, Helia! He was grateful to her from the bottom
of his heart for the simple love which he had once had for her—a love
whose remembrance had protected him all through his first years in
Paris. For him it had been a romance, without reproach, candid and
loyal, and not a passion that would follow him through life like a
remorse. His romance—Phil was sure of it—had nothing in it that was not
noble. Yes, Helia would always have a place apart in his heart; she
would be a sweet memory. Forever, all through his life, she would be
his friend and he would forever be a brother to her.

But time had passed. Helia herself had changed. He saw it clearly
during her visit to him in his studio on the morrow of the
Quat’z-Arts Ball. Ah, how far away were the days when she had been his
sweetheart—how many things had passed since then! Now Ethel ruled in
his life. He felt himself very little in her presence. For her he had
the same admiration which Helia once had for him.

Miss Rowrer was the first society girl whom he had known; for he
had led a solitary life in the Chesapeake manor, and in Europe his
over-timidity had always held him socially aloof. During his years as
a student he had neither opportunity nor leisure. It was only now that
he began to understand the charm of the social world. The instincts
of his good breeding were awakened. Life seemed beginning for him; he
felt like a man back from exile. Contact with Miss Rowrer refined him,
and even his art was idealized. It was no longer physical beauty alone
which attracted him: there was the moral side; for Ethel put character
far above talent, and the two together above everything else.

After this automobile ride which his black eye had earned for him,
others followed. Usually Will, the brother, was himself the conductor,
as a matter of prudence. That intoxication of speed which gives weak
minds the illusion of energy was unknown to him. Once, however, he got
into the auto with them and allowed the mechanician to take charge.
It was a day when Mme. de Grojean and Mlle. Yvonne, her daughter, had
accepted the invitation to take a ride with them. After that Mlle.
Yvonne and her mother returned to their province, so that the most part
of the time Ethel and grandma had the company only of the duke or Phil,
and now and then of M. Caracal.

They saw Auteuil and Chantilly, and took part in an automobile gymkhana
for polo at the Bois de Boulogne. At the Longchamps races Miss Rowrer,
like a great favorite, was the target of the field-glasses. It was
there she met Charley, faultlessly correct, having stripped himself
for the day of his bohemian clothes. Charley, who knew Ethel, passed in
vain near her again and again to have her recognize him.

The automobilists were seen everywhere from Versailles to Vincennes.
The trip around the world was too commonplace. They made the trip
around Paris, passing its fifty-seven gates, past its ten railways,
its two waterways, through its two forests and more than thirty
_quartiers_, which sum up the luxury and industries of all the cities
of the world—London at La Râpée, Chicago at La Villette, Antwerp at the
Canal de l’Ourcq.

At St. Denis Caracal gave them the history of what they were seeing.
He showed them the effigies of kings mutilated in the Revolution, at
the time when Choisy-le-Roi changed its name to Choisy-sur-Seine and
Montmorency to Etienne, since there were no longer kings or nobles—“two
things they would have done better to keep,” the duke observed.

“They would probably still be here if they had been worth keeping,”
answered Ethel.

They dined in a tree at Robinson and rode on donkeys at
Romainville. The outings of Parisians in villages with charming
names—Marne-la-Coquette, Fontenay-aux-Roses, Les Lilas—were pleasing to
Ethel.

“Space opens up ideas! You will find it so, Monsieur le Duc, and you
too, Phil, if you do us the pleasure to hunt the moose on our Canadian
lands. How free one feels there—not a hedge, not a barrier between us
and the north pole!”

Caracal, for his part, cared little about space. He regretted the days
when the Boulevard was the only promenade. Tramways and railroads
seemed to him high treason against Paris—something like an invasion
of the coarse air of fields and woods into the artistic atmosphere of
cafés.

“No, no!” Miss Rowrer answered. “Leave things as they are—a little pure
air does no harm.”

“To be sure!” said grandma.

Caracal refused to be consoled.

“If this goes on,” he said, “Paris will soon be Paris no longer—that
something indefinable and apart; that hothouse which has made us the
neurasthenic and dislocated skipjacks that we are.”

“Well, if that’s your manner of loving Paris!” Ethel said, laughing.
“Really, you see things worse than they are!”

Caracal, perceiving he was on the wrong tack, stopped short.

“Just the contrary, you ought to be glad for something that is worth
more than hygiene—moral health,” Miss Rowrer continued. “Why should
people stay piled together when there is so much empty space around?
Tempers are embittered and bodies weakened. Give it space and air
and your Paris will cease to be what you would wish it to remain—a
hothouse full of dislocated skipjacks and _neurasthéniques_—such as our
up-to-date people are, according to you.”

“That’s a good one on Caracal,” thought Phil to himself.

Will, who was not conducting the auto that day, interrupted Ethel. He
spoke little, but he thought and then went straight to the point.

“Let us pardon Frenchmen because of Frenchwomen,” he said.

“You are right, Will,” replied Ethel. “I admire Frenchwomen—they
seem so superior to the men; for among the men there are some so
mean. Think of Vieillecloche printing such outrageous things in his
newspaper! Really, in his place I should be ashamed of myself! Who is
Vieillecloche, anyway?”

“He’s a remarkable duelist,” answered Caracal. “There are already five
dead men in his trail.”

“What a coward!” said Ethel. “I would wager that if he were hit with a
check, he would apologize to us!”

“Oh, let him alone!” said Will. “He does us no harm—the barking dog
doesn’t bite.”

“He’s annoying, all the same.”

“If it were my own case I would silence him!” Caracal declared.

“But could you do it?” asked Ethel. “It would be very kind of you
to do so. I can’t go anywhere at all without hearing ‘Richard the
Lion-hearted’ with smiles all around me. It haunts me. It almost spoils
my stay in Paris. Can you rid me of it, Monsieur Caracal?”

“I shall do so!” declared Caracal.

“I thank you!” said Miss Rowrer.

Caracal had just had a bright thought. He knew his friend Vieillecloche
would do whatever he wished, since the blackmailing scheme against the
Rowrers had not succeeded and no check had come or would come to close
his mouth. It would be just as well to look for something else. Caracal
would have himself attacked—he would turn aside the storm to himself
by taking up the defense of foreigners, to the apparent indignation
of Vieillecloche. In this noble combat against calumny he would stand
forth as a hero in the eyes of Ethel, like a St. George slaying the
dragon. The duke and Phil would have to look out for themselves. He
would know how to cover them with ridicule—them and their Helia—in some
good little newspaper _chronique_, sweet as honey, which Ethel might
read. For that matter, Phil had already a shot in his wing—he would
find it out in a few days and remember his cow painting!

“I will arrange all that this evening with Vieillecloche,” thought
Caracal. “I shall be well able to pay for a service like that if I
marry Miss Ethel.” Then aloud: “I shall do so—you can count on me, Miss
Rowrer!”

All this was but one of a thousand incidents of their trips.

“I have heard of _le dernier salon où l’on cause_ [the last salon for
conversation],” Ethel remarked. “I suppose it has disappeared, it is
so long since people began talking about it. Well, our auto takes its
place—it is the first auto _où l’on cause_.”

“When one listens to you, Miss Rowrer, one can say that wit runs the
streets,” added Caracal, gallantly.

Every moment some new observation sprang, bringing out individual
character.

For instance, a cab passed them noisily, the horse pounding along the
street and the driver lashing him.

“What a noise!” Will said. “Why are people so obstinate with their
hippomobiles? Why not put rubber on the wheels first, and then on the
horses’ shoes?”

Will calculated the chances of a company to be organized for this
purpose—so many horses in Europe, so many horseshoes rubbered,
investment of capital so much, revenue so much.

“They are ’way behind,” said grandma. “What an idea, to be driven about
in such dust-boxes!”

“What a picture to make!” said Phil. “That horse just now reared under
the rein with a movement as superb as any of the Parthenon. Behind
him was that theatrical poster representing a woman with her hair
floating—with her and the horse you might imagine a troupe of Amazons
under the blue sky of Greece! Only artists can enjoy things. They know
how to see!”

“The poor beast has lost a shoe, and the collar wounds him and the
cabman lashes him,” Ethel interrupted. “Poor animal, it makes me ill to
see him!”

Phil thought to himself, “That is what I ought to have seen!”

Apart from these excursions, he gave to Miss Rowrer, also, whatever
leisure was left him by his great picture of Morgana. At her request,
he accompanied her with Will and grandma in their visits to museums and
to the shops where they wished to buy pictures of the masters for their
palace on the Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

Will had first visited the artists’ studios, thinking he would find
there a world free from the atmosphere of business. But the landscape
man tried to get him away from the portrait-painter, and professional
jealousy showed its teeth. They tried to pass off their “old stock”
on him; they spoke only of money. “For such a price I will do so and
so.” “If it is larger it will be dearer.” “A landscape without trees is
worth so much—with trees, twice as much!”

“If I’ve got to talk business,” Will thought, “I’d rather do it with
business men”; and he left the artists alone.

  [Illustration: Poufaille’s Goods Ready for Auction]

He liked best to choose for himself at the Hôtel Drouot—that big
collecting-sewer of art, rolling pell-mell in its dusty waves
masterpieces and daubs. The salesrooms, heaped from ceiling to floor,
gave him the feeling that he might sometime make a discovery there like
the cock who found pearls in a dunghill.

“What horrors!” Will said one day, as they were passing in front of a
hall full of plaster statues and unframed paintings. “It must be from
the studio of some poor devil whom they are selling out at auction.”

There were casts from nature—arms and legs and feet; there were
formless sketches, canvases hung on the wall; for some, it was
impossible to see what they represented, as they had been hung head
downward. There was a tub, some bottles, a few chairs, a mattress,
and a rickety table, all heaped up in a corner. Two monstrous statues
seemed to keep watch over the confusion. On the pedestal of one was
inscribed “Liberty,” and she raised arms and head furiously; the
second, “Fraternity,” lay on the ground in fragments, turning enormous
haunches to the public.

“What are those mastodons there?” Will asked.

“That,” said Phil, with surprise, “that must be from a sculptor
whose name is Poufaille; yes, look at the sign over the door—_Vente
Poufaille_.”

“Poor Poufaille!” said Phil to himself; “he must have been unable to
pay his rent—the landlord has come down on him. If I had known, I might
have helped; but it is so long since I have seen him.”

What he saw recalled the day when he entered the sculptor’s place on
his arrival in Paris. He remembered the gay laughter of Suzanne from
the top of her ladder, and the pork fried with garlic. Those statues,
those pictures worthy to figure in a collection of horrors,—how
much more ugly and more lamentable still it all seemed to him in the
presence of the crowd of indifferent passers-by!

“Poufaille?” Ethel asked with interest. “Is it the Poufaille of
whom you used to tell me? Why, he has no talent; he’d do better as a
farmer.”

The sale began and they heard the auctioneer above the confusion of the
throng: “Magnificent statues—‘Liberty’—‘Fraternity’—give me a bid!”

“Forty sous!”

“Forty sous? There’s half a ton of plaster there! Come, now, a higher
bid!”

A silence, and then some one called, “Fifty sous!”

“Bid it up a thousand francs, Will!” Ethel said to her brother.

“Really, now, Ethel,” Will answered, “even at fifty sous it’s dear.
I’ll buy something else from M. Poufaille, some other time.”

So many years of toil and want, and all his poor dreams of the future
soon to be scattered and ground to mortar—yet Poufaille was right! He
had followed his dream, he had tried his fortune; it had tumbled to
the ground, but what a beautiful dream it had been all the same! And
Phil thought, with a thrill at his heart, that there was one thing
which justified every effort; one thing which broke down distinctions
and made a poor artist the equal of a reigning duke, of a king even;
something which would put him on a level with Ethel; something which he
would reach, had he to kill himself in the struggle for it!

Ethel came up to Phil as they were going out of the hall.

“Tell me, Phil, what can induce a man like Poufaille to try art? Isn’t
it sheer folly?”

“No, Miss Rowrer. It is true Poufaille has not succeeded, but that
matters little. He has tried to reach the only thing which makes life
worth living.”

“What is that, Phil?”

“Fame!”



CHAPTER VII

CARACAL’S NARROW ESCAPE


“À bas Caracal!”

“Vive Vieillecloche!”

Phil, who was reading a newspaper as he passed along, looked up with
astonishment.

He was in front of the entrance of a music-hall. On a strip of cotton
cloth he read, in huge letters, “PUNCH d’INDIGNATION!” The name of
Vieillecloche was displayed everywhere, mingled with the flags which
covered a good half of the theatrical posters of acrobats, jugglers,
and clowns.

“The flag covers the goods!” Phil said, as he saw this assemblage of
patriotism and fakery. “Vieillecloche is at his old tricks; what a
humbug!”

Phil stopped. Confused imprecations against impostors and grafters came
to his ears between the bang! bang! of the door, pushed one way or the
other by the public and clanging back into its place.

Bang! “Vive Vieillecloche!”

Bang! “À bas!” Bang! “Traitors! Sold out!” Bang! “À bas Caracal!” Bang!
bang!

“Hello!” said Phil. “‘À bas Caracal’? What does that mean? I must go
in.”

He entered.

Bang! It was the door slamming after Phil. He had now a right to the
indignation and to the punch.

To tell the truth, there was little indignation in the hall, but a
great deal of drinking and still more laughter. The public was made
up of the idlers of the quarter, who had come to be amused. There
were stable-boys and grooms in their great wooden shoes. The hall was
infected with the smell of rum and tobacco. The voices, which but now
had reached Phil’s ear in broken cries, rolled uninterruptedly. There
was a continuous torrent of _à bas!_ and _vive!_ mingled with coarse
wit and the clink of glasses. On the stage, mastering the tumult,
Vieillecloche was speaking.

“Vive Vieillecloche!”

“Hear! hear!”

Bang!

The flights of oratory were lost amid the noise.

“Only yesterday,” Vieillecloche was saying, as he raised his voice,
“not satisfied with attacking the majesty of universal suffrage,
forgetful of the famous night of the 13th of March, foreigners feared
not to brave the lion-people in its den! They banded together to
despoil us of our dead—to soil the majesty of the tomb where our great
ancestors—” Bang! said the door, cutting the discourse, “—ancestors
sleep their eternal sleep! Do you not hear, O people, beneath the
earth Richard the Lion-hearted roaring with wrath and shame? And to
think there are French pens that treat us as visionaries—us who point
out such attacks—and that pretend that we are wanting in courtesy
by accusing our passing guests of an imaginary crime! This vile pen,
citizens, I deliver it up to your indignant scorn. It is Caracal!”

“À bas Caracal!”

“Oho! I understand,” Phil said to himself. “Caracal has taken up the
defense of the foreigners, as he promised Miss Rowrer the other day.”

“Eh bien!” Vieillecloche went on, “it shall not be said that Caracal
has appealed in vain to our courtesy when he asks us to cease our
political campaign against such foreigners, among whom there are
ladies and even a young girl. We shall speak no more of Richard the
Lion-hearted! All that is a blunder, a visionary’s dream, a groundless
accusation. So be it! They ask for definite facts and not for vague
accusations. Here is a definite fact! I accuse, formally, an American
of stealing our ideas and stifling under the power of his cursed gold
the outburst of a young genius, the hope of our glorious national
art. They come to pillage even in their calm retreats, and to deprive
of their labor the sons of the soil—_les autochtones!_—hum!—_les
autochtones!_” (The word intoxicated Vieillecloche and he sent it
bounding like a rubber ball.) “Yes, citizens! He has signed his work
with a false name, he has picked the lock of our national museums, and,
like a cuckoo, he has deposited in the bosom of glory the egg which he
has not laid! And you suffer that, O people? Do you not feel the blush
of shame mounting to your cheek? Take your clubs, Parisians—” and so he
went on and on.

Vieillecloche in his haranguing embroidered his theme with violent
gestures which sent the skirts of his coat flying around his thin body.

  [Illustration: The Punch d’Indignation]

Phil was not sorry to have come. The inventions of this crank amused
him, most of all when the orator, rising to higher flights, brought out
personal facts so as “to enter into the domain of practical things.”
Vieillecloche calmed down. The storm-tossed skirts of his coat fell. He
was no longer the roaring tribune of the people: he was the statesman,
speaking calmly and coolly. He held one hand between the buttons of his
waistcoat, and the other behind his back, like Napoleon. To begin with,
according to him, these facts would never have taken place if they had
only listened to him.

A quarter of an hour of counsels followed, in which there were
insurrections and barricades, blood and glory, and _à bas!_ and _vive!_

“But if the sword remains in the scabbard,” Vieillecloche concluded,
“let the people, at least, console despoiled genius with their songs;
let the old Gaulish gaiety inflict its avenging laugh on the robber of
its glory!”

As Vieillecloche retired amid ironic applause, a long-haired poet came
out on the platform and a hurdy-gurdy ground out despairingly such an
air as goats dance to. Phil looked at the furious grinder and gave a
cry of astonishment: “Poufaille!”

“What is Poufaille doing here? And why does he look so furious?” Phil
asked himself, as he saw the sculptor’s wrathful head leaning over the
hurdy-gurdy whose crank he turned with rage.

Bing! bing!

“After all,” thought Phil, “there is nothing strange in Poufaille being
here. Artists belong to all sorts of provincial and Parisian societies,
as if they were really children of the soil, so as to get orders. He
might as well grind out a tune at an indignation meeting as Suzanne do
the Muse of the South at the Pig’s-Rump Dinner.”

Phil also knew that the “Poets of the Landes” or the “Broom-flower”
were only too happy to make themselves heard by a Parisian public, and
would not miss an occasion for avenging genius despoiled by cowards,
and for declaiming in its honor to the accompaniment of a hurdy-gurdy
or bagpipes.

So it was a very simple thing that Poufaille should have offered his
services. Meanwhile Vieillecloche had sat down after many a handshake
with the notabilities of the committee. It was now the turn of the
poet.

The singer on the platform gesticulated to his Norman patois, more
monotonous than the fall of rain, while the air of the hurdy-gurdy,
piercing and thrilling, filled the hall like a continued wailing from
a herd of kids.

“Enough!” cried the public; “be done, _fouchtri!_”

“To the door!”

“Enough! enough!”

“Silence, François!”

“Ta bouche, bébé!”

“Stow it! I say! _pétrusquin!_”

It was the _Parigot_ wit replying to the wit of the provinces. The
people had indeed arisen, but not as Vieillecloche would have wished.
Instead of tearing up the paving-stones in honor of misunderstood
Genius, and casting out the robbers of Glory, they were content to
finish the punch and laugh in the face of the poet who bored them with
his doggerel.

Besides, all these questions of signatures to pictures, of museum locks
picked, and of Richard the Lion-hearted interested nobody.

But the banging of the door now began covering the bing! bing! of the
tune. The public was going out in a mass. Vieillecloche tried to keep
them by new flights of oratory which had no echo. Phil foresaw that
the fierce tribune of the people would soon be making his prophetic
gestures and proclaiming the eternal glory of the _autochtones_ alone
with his hurdy-gurdy, like St. Anthony with his pig. So Phil went away,
followed to the very street by the exasperated grinding of the crank.

“What madness!” Phil said to himself. “Poufaille is certainly earning
his money. He puts as much heat into it as if some one had stolen his
own share of glory.” Poufaille a despoiled young genius! Phil, at the
very idea, could not refrain from laughter.

“I must wait for him here,” he thought; “I shall see him when he comes
out.”

He walked back and forth, but Poufaille did not come out. Still, Phil
lost nothing by waiting. A final bang of the door made him turn his
head and—what did he see but, arm in arm and laughing and talking
together as gay as school-boys, Vieillecloche with Caracal!

“Well, I never! That’s too much!” Phil said, as he followed them with
his eyes, trying to gather from their gestures the meaning of their
conversation.

Vieillecloche lifted his hands, as if to show that they were empty.
Caracal spoke low to him. Vieillecloche nodded approvingly.

“Those fine fellows must be preparing some stroke of business,” Phil
said to himself, strongly interested. “Who knows if I do not play
a part in it? It may be my turn—and Miss Ethel will no longer hear
of Richard the Lion-hearted. The attacks will now fall on Caracal.
Bravo! But perhaps Miss Ethel will not be displeased to learn of the
friendship between Caracal and Vieillecloche. One might have supposed
they would not be quite so thick! I don’t understand it,” was Phil’s
conclusion. Moreover, he was accustomed never to take seriously what
Caracal said or did.

“Besides,” Phil added, “Poufaille must know what is going on. I have
not seen him come out, but he will tell me to-night.” So he determined
to dine at Mère Michel’s, where he would have a chance of seeing
Poufaille.

For a long time he had not met the _copains_—they had almost become
strangers to him. The talk about art and the masterpieces traced with a
burnt match on grimy tables no longer interested him. He felt himself
out of place in the environment, but he wished to see Poufaille that
very evening. To begin with, he would have the pleasure of offering his
services to the poor devil, who could not be very rich, to judge from
the sale at the Hôtel Drouot a few days before. Phil would find some
delicate means of being useful to him. Who knows if he would ever see
him again? It would be like a farewell to his own past. So Phil went to
Mère Michel’s.

His past mounted up to his brain. It seemed to rise up whole and
entire before him when, near the Boulevard, in a narrow street, he
saw the painted canvas and fixtures deposited at the stage entrance
of a circus. The damp courtyard, the frayed walls, the store-rooms of
stage-properties, the theater’s insides—all that was a little of his
own past.

It was himself, again, whom he elbowed in the Boulevard beside the
Café des Artistes, where women with red tresses topped with feathers
were drinking from little glasses with ill-shaven messieurs, showing
each other photographs and programs, and signing engagements with
fingers stiff with rings. Phil could hear their technical slang:
_Chiqué-dèche—purée-j’te fais une bleue en cinq secs!_ “Garçon, two
absinthes, and get a move on you, _bougre d’andouille_!”

Strolling artists offered to do his portrait for two sous. A bohemian
imitated an _ocarina_ by swelling out his cheeks. A contortionist
spread his little carpet and dislocated himself on the sidewalk.

“Do you like my trade?” he said to Phil, who stood looking at him. “If
you do, I’ll hire you!”

“What a world it is, all the same! And to think that once I loved it
all,” Phil thought, as he turned away.

Farther on there was a restaurant still celebrated for the reason that,
long ago, my Lord l’Arsouille had supped there with Cora Pearl. As
Phil passed in front of it, he saw the staircase decorated with green
palms, and he thought he recognized Helia going up,—it was her hat
and cloak,—and, lifting his eyes, Phil saw, at the window above, the
profile of the Duke of Morgania. Phil lowered his head and went his
way pensively, leaving behind him the restaurant full of fragrance and
lights, wherein the beautiful butterflies of the night were coming to
burn their wings.

To escape from these mournful visions, Phil called up the remembrance
of Ethel. The remainder of his way he traversed without noticing the
distance. He had already passed the Seine and gone under the vault of
the Institut, following a quiet old street. A moment later he was at
Mère Michel’s. A volley of enthusiastic cries welcomed him. Phil asked
himself if he were not the plaything of a dream.

“Vive Phil! Hurrah for Phil! Bravo, Phil! A _ban_ for Phil!”

“_Pan! pan! pan! pan! pan!_”

“It must be my tall hat,” thought Phil, and he took it off with a quick
movement. The welcome doubled its noise.

“Vive Phil!”

“Hurrah!”

“Am I dreaming?” Phil asked himself, “or are these men crazy?” They
were all crowding round him, patting him on the back and shaking his
hand.

“Old Phil!”

“Good old Phil!”

“My best compliments, old comrade!”

“Compliments for what? Whose compliments?” Phil asked in a daze.

“But for your picture, of course!”

“What picture?”

“Your picture in the Luxembourg. Haven’t you read the papers?”

You could have “knocked Phil over with a feather.” They were telling
him he had a picture in the Luxembourg, and he was the only one not to
know it! Surely they must be amusing themselves with him—they must have
got up a practical joke. So he went away, ill disposed for a _rigolade_
after the events of the day.

He had not gone ten steps when he stumbled on Poufaille; but it was
Poufaille cold and sinister, a Northern Poufaille as it were, closer
buttoned up than Vieillecloche in his rôle as statesman.

“How goes it?” Phil said cordially, holding out his hand.

Poufaille did not budge.

“What’s the matter?” said Phil. “You’re giving me the cold shoulder! Is
everybody losing his head? You won’t take my hand, good old Poufaille!”

“I am no longer your good old Poufaille!”

“But what have I done?” Phil asked.

“What have you done?” Poufaille burst out, unable to restrain himself
longer. “I’ll tell you what you’ve done. You’ve stolen my share of
glory—you sign pictures which were painted by me! I’ve seen my cows
in the Luxembourg, signed by your name—the picture into which I put my
whole soul!”

If lightning had fallen at Phil’s feet he would have been less
surprised. So he was the robber cuckoo and Poufaille was the young
genius! Now he understood the meaning of the “Punch d’Indignation.”

“That’s what you’ve done to me!” Poufaille cried, quite beside himself.
“You would hinder me from flying with my own wings. I had something
here” (and Poufaille gave himself a tremendous blow on the forehead),
“I had something here—and you robbed me of it!”

“Your cows—” Phil began in distress, “it was a joke I wanted to play
on Caracal. I bought the picture and signed it—that is true. But was it
yours? I didn’t know it.”

“You didn’t know it! Doesn’t one know the mark of the lion?”

“My good Poufaille, let me explain it to you—let me—” Phil all but
stammered; (it was not easy to tell Poufaille that his picture had been
used as a scarecrow)—“let me explain it to you.”

“We’ll have the explanation in public,” Poufaille shouted.

“Only let me tell you, my dear Poufaille—”

But Poufaille would listen to nothing. He only knew that he was
perishing of hunger while another was stealing his glory. In his
rage fragments of the speech came back to him in chance words: “_Les
autochtones!_—young genius—you have deposited in the bosom of glory an
_autochtone’s_ egg—do you understand?—an _autochtone’s_ egg!”

“Poufaille,” Phil said gravely, “if I have done you wrong, I swear it
was not done wilfully. How much do you think your cows are worth? I’ll
give you whatever you ask.”

“Money!” Poufaille answered indignantly. “You dare offer me money to
purchase my silence!”

“Listen to me, I beseech you!”

“No! I am going to tell them all about it inside there!” and Poufaille,
terrible and furious, entered Mère Michel’s.

It was now Phil’s turn to be angry—not against the poor simpleton
Poufaille, but Caracal should pay for this! “What will Miss Rowrer
think of me with this story of a forged signature?” Phil said to
himself.

The idea that his name figured on a picture in the collection of daubs
which form the foreign hall of the Luxembourg Museum—and that just
when he dreamed he was sure of fame! At the very thought he clenched
his fists with fury. So Caracal had bewitched the Fine Arts Commission
into accepting such a horror!—or perhaps they were willing to discredit
American art by presenting to the public a wretched work bought for
a few sous in a junk-shop! And now he, Phil, was to suffer shipwreck
from the ridiculousness of it, while Ethel would laugh! What could be
Caracal’s aim? With a flash it came to him that the abominable critic
wished to make him grotesque and odious at the same time.

“Ah, Caracal,” Phil said to himself, “you are mistaken this time. You
shall pay for all this!”

A sudden idea came to him: “What if I should go and punch his head!”

He knew he should find Caracal at home at that hour. It was the day
before the feuilleton, impertinent and familiar, which he was in
the habit of signing “A Parisian,” or the _chronique scandaleuse_ of
courts by an “Old Diplomat,” alternating with art criticisms signed
“Caracal.” A cab happened to be passing. Phil hailed it, called out the
address to the driver, and—_en route_! What streets he took, through
what quarters, Phil did not know. He knew only that the critic was
going to have a bad quarter of an hour. He must have from him a frank
explanation, without dodging or subterfuge. This time there would be
no duel carried on by winking the eye and shrugging the shoulder. Phil
stiffened his arm as the cab stopped short. He jumped to the ground and
with three steps reached the concierge’s lodge.

“M. Caracal, if you please?”

“Seventh floor, last door—on the court!”

Phil ran quickly up the stairs. A thick carpet deadened his steps, and
he could hear, behind the doors, the sound of pianos or the laughter
of children. He imagined to himself the pleasant homes with their lamps
surrounded by a circle of golden heads.

“Good, simple, good people!” Phil thought. “Perhaps it is from you
that Caracal takes his studies for ‘The House of Glass’—wolf in the
sheepfold that he is!”

The thought increased his anger. He went up and up. At last he was
going to see that apartment of Caracal’s which no one ever entered. No
doubt it would be insolent in its luxury and have a big valet in the
anteroom and invaluable pictures which this grafter of the press must
have extorted for his collection of art works, of which he was always
talking in his articles.

Seventh floor, last door! It must be there. Phil had reached it. There
was no bell! Phil knocked, but there was no reply. The key had been
forgotten in the door, and he entered. On a table a small lamp shed
its light over papers and books. There were other books on the ground
and on chairs—perhaps the encyclopedia from which Caracal drew his
weekly erudition. In the half-obscurity, farther back, Phil saw a brass
bedstead like a child’s couch. Beside it, on a chest of drawers, there
were garments carefully folded and a hat protected from the dust by
a newspaper. On the floor were shoes beside a blacking-brush. On the
chimneypiece there was a photograph in which an old lady held the hand
of an old gentleman. Everything in the room was neatly ordered and
touching in its simplicity.

“I must have mistaken the floor,” Phil said to himself. “This is not
the apartment of an arbiter of society elegance.”

He was on the point of retreating when, on a sofa near him in the
shadow, some one moved, and he seemed to hear a sob. Phil started back
and the figure on the sofa came into full light. It was Caracal asleep.
There was an expression of sadness on his face and tears were on his
cheeks—the cheeks which Phil had always seen smirking with a convulsive
sneer.

Caracal, when he came home, must have thrown himself on the sofa worn
out with his day’s work. The calm which had come over his features
showed that he had dropped off to sleep in some sad and gentle dream.
Phil, in spite of himself, looked up to the chimneypiece where the old
lady and the old gentleman seemed watching over their child—yes, yes,
Phil was sure of it now, from the sadness on the face of Caracal. He
must have gone back to his childhood; perhaps, in his dreams, he heard
the beloved voices which had long since become silent. A sob from
Caracal made Phil tremble again—a dull, deep sob like the sigh of a
dying man. One would have said that his whole life was rising up before
him—his heart’s bitterness, humiliations undergone and illusions fled,
the success of others and regrets for his own ill-doing.

Phil felt his anger fade away. He divined all the wretchedness of
his life, so full of meanness and bluff. Asleep, the poor creature,
overcome by his distress, seemed sacred to him. He went out without
noise.

“Old Caracal,” he murmured, “I’ll leave you to your dream—that shall be
your punishment.”



CHAPTER VIII

A QUEEN FOR KINGS


Poufaille, seated on a high stool, was copying in the Louvre Gallery.
Since his share of glory had been stolen from him, he had become as
downcast as a caged lion from whom his quarter of meat has been taken.
Poor Poufaille! Everything fell to pieces in his hands. His studio had
been dispersed at auction; “Liberty” and “Fraternity” had been sold for
nothing, not even for enough to pay up the garlic- and potato-seller.
And his cows were in the Luxembourg under another name! What reasons
for sadness! He did not even listen to Suzanne, babbling near him on
a lower seat. He was timidly copying the goat and kids of Paul Potter.
The company of such good animals consoled him a little for that of men.

He was a touching sight, with the veins in his forehead swollen by his
effort, exhausting himself in the handling of brushes and paint-knives,
which were things too delicate for his big hairy hands made for the
plow and the wine-press.

Nothing could amuse him. Yet Suzanne lifted toward him her laughing
face and told her funniest stories. One was an adventure of the other
evening, when she had taken Helia’s hat and cloak to go and sup with
the duke. _Mon Dieu!_ how she had laughed. At the thought of it she
still held her sides, careless of the stares of the public.

“I wish you had been there, my little Poufaille, when I went up the
stairs. They bowed to me as if I were a queen—_ah, mais oui!_ I made
myself as fine as I could and I had Helia’s hat and cloak. If Phil had
seen me he might have thought it was Helia.

“_Eh bien! quoi!_” Suzanne exclaimed, interrupting herself to look at
Poufaille. “What do you mean by grinding your teeth when I speak of
Phil? One would say you were going to eat some one up. Phil doesn’t
hear us, you know; he is up there with Helia, who is posing for him
in what they used to call their oasis—the garden, you know, where
you wanted to grow potatoes. Oh, forgive me, my little Poufaille,
I didn’t wish to hurt your feelings,” Suzanne added quickly, as she
saw Poufaille clenching his fist at the remembrance of the rejected
potatoes, as painful to him as the stolen share of glory. Poufaille
went back to work with a heavy sigh.

“Besides,” Suzanne went on, “you know I’m not so stuck on Phil myself
any more, and I wish he were here, to tell him what I think of his way
of acting toward Helia. I wouldn’t hide the truth from him; and I’d
like to know if he’d answer as he used to do in his attic—‘I’m not that
kind of a man!’ Ah!” Suzanne continued, “you’re all the same, you men!
You’re not worth the rope to hang you!”

Poufaille sighed as if his heart were breaking. He kept on painting his
goat and kids.

“I wish you had been there when the garçon brought me in,” Suzanne
began again, to finish her story. “Imagine a table all spread with
fruits and flowers and lights; and whom do I see coming toward me but
the duke, in evening clothes, leaning over and kissing my hand. I had
my veil down and he did not recognize me—it was Helia he was waiting
for; the duke had invited her with a little note, very well expressed,
you know, such as dukes know how to write. When Helia had opened the
note she asked me to go and present her excuses. You can imagine I took
the opportunity—I whom you see before you. I had supped before that
with smart people, but with a duke never! What would you have done,
Poufaille? That humbug of a Caracal once told me I should have to get
down on my knees when I spoke to him. Well, I just took off my veil
and said: ‘Cuckoo! It’s me! You’re waiting for Helia, but she begs to
be excused!’ Would you think men could be so odd? My little Poufaille,
Helia’s stock went up with him at once. I could see it by the way he
spoke of her. But never mind that; he was very amiable and kept me
to dinner. I didn’t wish to, but he insisted so—and it’s a very chic
place, that restaurant. Then all at once there was a squabble at the
door and I saw two bears coming in!—I mean two men like bears, bowing
to the ground to the duke and calling him monseigneur. They spoke of
lots of things—that they had just come from the monseigneur’s house;
that they had been told monseigneur was in diplomatic consultation—_et
patati et patata_—and then there was Turkey and Morgania and I
don’t know what all. The duke had a very embarrassed look—‘my dear
Zrnitschka—Bjelopawlitji—my dear minister—’

“Ministers—those two bears! I was bursting! And, on my word, I believe
the duke presented me as the diplomatic agent! After that there was
dinner and jokes and songs, and the duke brewed a champagne salad,
while I tickled the two bears under the chin to make them swallow
brandied cherries.”

Suzanne spoke in vain. Poufaille kept the fated look of a man who has
been grazed by glory as it passes. He lifted his head sullenly and then
let it fall again on his breast, as if crushed.

“Attention!” suddenly cried Suzanne, who was looking down the gallery.
“Here are serious customers—Miss Rowrer and Mme. Rowrer, Mr. Will, the
duke, and Caracal. I’m sure they’re going to visit Phil up there in his
oasis. Helia isn’t expecting such an honor!”

Miss Rowrer and her party came on, a compact group among the scattered
visitors. Ethel was listening absently to Caracal. Grandma was
examining the crowd. The duke was winking at the pictures, while Will
looked at the parquet floor.

Caracal seemed delighted. Besides his opportunity to shine by telling
off names and dates, he was also going to show the party one of the
hanging gardens of Paris. Presently he would explain the very _modus
operandi_ for making such blooming terraces—fine sand, tar, gravel, and
earth.

“You know, Miss Rowrer, you go to the Louvre Gardens up a staircase.”

  [Illustration: Suzanne and Poufaille at the Louvre]

“Awful!” said grandma.

“A winding staircase cut in the thickness of the wall.”

“Really! Oh, how nice that is!” said Ethel, to whom these little
details gave the sensation of being abroad. She forgave the lack of an
elevator, as long as the staircase was winding and cut in the thickness
of the wall—something impossible to find in her own country.

“It’s a kind of Jacob’s ladder that will take us up to Paradise,”
Caracal continued. “A real Paradise, where I myself have known an Adam
and Eve, known them personally, intimately!”

“Oh, M. Caracal, don’t talk of that now,” Miss Rowrer said, “but tell
me what this picture is.”

Caracal explained the picture, regretting that Ethel did not question
him about the Adam and Eve he had known in the Paradise.

Poufaille, who had lifted his head, lowered it quickly. The party was
just in front of him, all looking at his picture. He had heard Caracal
say to Miss Rowrer: “An artist, a great artist, with a brain, but no
luck! It is incredible, his lack of luck—I could tell you a story—”

But Caracal was interrupted by grandma, who noticed the frayed cravat
and worn shoes of Poufaille, and pointed him out to Will. Caracal
presented Poufaille, who nearly fell from his high stool. The duke
bowed. Ethel greeted him cordially, as well as Suzanne, at whom the
duke did not even look.

“That’s the way of the world!” Suzanne thought within herself.

“Do you really wish me to buy such a daub?” Will said in an aside to
grandma, after judging, at a glance, the “Goat and the Kids.”

“Poor devil! he is in rags,” Ethel murmured.

“All right,” Will answered; “it’s frightful, but I’ll send it to my
farm in Texas—it will give them a poor idea of grazing in the old
country!”

Poufaille felt his legs tremble under him, and thought all the torrents
of Pactolus were pouring down upon him when Will, taking his leave,
gave him in advance the money for the order.

“Au revoir, Mlle. Suzanne! M. Poufaille, au revoir!” Miss Rowrer said,
not a little flattered to know, not a Charley, but a real and genuine
bohemian.

With a final bow, Poufaille watched the party going away, in utter
amazement at the possession of so much money.

“Vive la joie—and fried potatoes!” Suzanne said, by way of moral.

Soon Ethel and grandma, Will, the duke, and Caracal were lost in the
distance.

“You would think Caracal was the chief of the party,” Suzanne remarked
to Poufaille; “only look—you see nothing but him!”

Indeed, Caracal, who at first was abashed at not being allowed to
tell the story of Adam and Eve, nor that of the false signature of
the Luxembourg, became doubly amiable, and fished for compliments
because of his courageous behavior toward Vieillecloche, a man with
five corpses in his trail. Meanwhile, he went on explaining, endlessly,
the pictures of the old masters. He greeted them as friends; he
spoke familiarly of the painters, called them by their first names
and their nicknames—the old Breughel—the young Teniers—“Van Ryn” for
Rembrandt—and so on.

He told over the jokes about the Louvre Museum. It was a national
lounge, heated in winter and the place for a siesta in summer. He
attacked the curators, who were incompetent, to his thinking; and he
cited the forged art objects bought for their weight in gold, crowns
and coins and jewels, and the famous Holbein on a mahogany panel—the
Louvre’s pride up to the day when, scratching it on the back, the words
appeared: “Flor de Habaña—Lawyers’ Club Brand”!

The duke passed along heedlessly. The Louvre for him was, most of all,
a place in which you can talk amid sumptuous decoration. His only real
interest in painting was in the hall of the Italian primitives, before
the St. Morgana of Botticelli.

“St. Morgana, my ancestress,” he said to Miss Rowrer.

He drew himself up as he pointed to the saint, amid the choir
of angels, in a sky of gold above a fantastic landscape, where
architecture and monuments were piled together. He seemed moved,
especially when he explained to Miss Rowrer that he should definitively
be obliged to go back to Morgania, that grave events were on the way,
and that only the other evening he had had a diplomatic interview with
his people’s delegates.

Miss Rowrer liked him better, with this air of one convinced of his own
importance and duties, than when he was making fun of himself with the
skeptical tone which she abhorred. Just as she was glad to know a real
and genuine bohemian, so she was delighted to walk with the scion of
a legendary family, whose ancestress figured in the Louvre, painted by
Botticelli, surrounded by angels in a golden sky. She found it amusing
to take the arm of a man in whose pedigree there was the equal of the
White Lady of Potsdam and the Cavalier of Hatfield House. It was all so
un-American and exciting.

She was also really at her ease in the Louvre among these old royal
personages. She pleased herself in the midst of history and polished
courts. Her intelligence revealed to her their grandeur.

“I like sincere men who are faithful to their traditions,” she said.
“There is a noble side to it all which I understand.”

She admired the effete generations who had heaped here, to the very
ceiling, royal escutcheons and chimeras and victories.

“There is something great in it,” she said; “you feel the conviction
of it. Compare it with the frightful style which artists bungle with
nowadays! The beautiful has had its time here; it is our turn now,
in our great Republic! Faith in traditions—that is what produces
masterpieces! Whether royalty, as in the old times, or the Republic, as
with us—I recognize only that.”

“But there is a golden mean,” the duke said, conciliatingly.

“Away with the golden mean, with cowardly compromises and satisfied
selfishness, with falsehood and insincerity. We must be one thing or
another—loyalty before all else!”

Grandma and Will approved this.

“Ah!” the duke thought to himself, struck by Miss Rowrer’s accents of
conviction, “it wouldn’t be well to fail in one’s words to this lady!”

“This is a Signorelli,” Caracal explained, pointing out a picture;
“this is a Filippo Lippi; this is a Pinturicchio.”

“Say, M. Caracal, if we stop at every picture of the Quattro Cento we
shall never reach Paradise. Where is your winding staircase?”

There were halls after halls, marbles and gilding, the Salon Carré, and
galleries with resplendent jewels; marble for the pavement, and then
parquetry shining like a smooth lake, and pictures, and pictures again.
The copyists were up on their ladders in galleries, which heap together
civilizations that have disappeared, statues of gods and the mummies
of kings, decayed grandeur pell-mell with fragments of columns and open
tombs and women’s jewels. And there was the crouching sphinx seeming to
take them to witness that all things pass like a dream.

Miss Rowrer and the duke walked together. In front were grandma
and Will and Caracal. The duke sought to understand Miss Rowrer’s
ideas, which seemed contradictory to him. How was he to reconcile her
admiration both for republic and royalty?

“Miss Rowrer,” the duke began, “your theories are contrary to progress.
Your extreme loyalty implies a government which is unchangeable.”

“Not at all!” Ethel answered. “Greatness is in the constant effort
toward progress; it is the pursuit of the best. A people’s loyalty
toward its king is very beautiful.”

“_Eh bien_, then!” the duke replied.

“I told you my way of looking at things the day we visited St. Denis,”
Ethel continued. “But you forget one thing—the king’s loyalty to his
people!”

They were leaving the gallery and walking ever onward. They saw a
monumental staircase under a vault as high as a cathedral apse, and
then there were more halls, with marbles and gilding and galleries,
never ending.

“But where is your Paradise?” Miss Rowrer asked.

“It is here,” answered Caracal.

He gave a glance at the guardian who was pacing up and down the hall,
and Will slipped a heavy _pourboire_ into the man’s hand.

“Is Monsieur Phil up there?”

“The former gardener? Yes. Go up.” Lifting a piece of tapestry at
the corner of a wall, a little door appeared—it was the door of the
staircase.

“Go ahead, M. Caracal; show us the way!” Ethel said.

Caracal, proud to lead, showed them the way up. They went on, turning
round and round in single file, the staircase being wide enough for
nothing else.

“This reminds me of going up the Monument in London,” Ethel said.

“And me of the corkscrew in the Mammoth Cave,” said grandma.

“Only a few more steps,” said Caracal, as he opened the door giving on
the roof.

The light was dazzling. Great clouds floated high in a sky that was
sweet and calm. Across the branches of the garden they looked on Paris,
bathed in sun. The great city stretched out from horizon to horizon
and, vibrating with the heat, seemed to wave like a sea. Grandma,
Ethel, and Will, as well as the duke, stopped short. While the distant
view was full of grandeur, the nearer scene was just as charming. There
were shaded alleys, and under the oleanders and apple- and pear-trees,
currants and strawberries were ripening. Caracal was already beginning
his explanations.

“The green spots you see over there are the hanging gardens of the
Rue de Valois. If we were a little higher up we could see those of the
Automobile Club of the Place de la Concorde. This is the way they make
them—first a layer of Norway tar, then fine sand, and then gravel—”

“M. Caracal,” Ethel interrupted, “you are right; this is a real
Paradise!”

“And over there you have Adam and Eve,” Caracal said, pointing amid the
greenery to where Phil was painting Helia, posed in an old arm-chair
half hidden by climbing plants.

“That is what is best in the Louvre,” Ethel said to the group, looking
at Helia. “Let us greet her Majesty Beauty!”

Phil had just caught sight of Ethel and her party. He hurriedly laid
down his palette and came forward. Helia saw them also, and arose and
bowed. Ethel recognized her and spoke with a friendly manner. They
looked at each other in that peculiar way which women have of taking
each other’s measure,—it was like a mute dialogue between Beauty and
Culture. But Beauty—poor Helia—lowered her eyes. She became humble and
acknowledged herself vanquished.

For Helia no longer had any hope. She understood, she saw with fright
the ever-growing distance between herself and Phil. Ah, no! Phil was
no longer the same; he was above her, far above, among the rich and
powerful; and he would continue his upward march, while she, Helia,
would, little by little, go downwards.

She had agreed to pose for him that day—it was the decisive test. It
had cost her much to do it. Phil, after all, ought to know what his
conscience told him to do; but she did not wish there should be any
fault on her part. She had never had the courage to say to herself it
was all over, until this day, which she was passing alone with him. She
had come to see if he would remember—if the trees in bloom amid their
oasis would recall anything to him. She counted on the complicity of
the blue sky and the fragrance of roses. But the day had passed, under
the splendid heavens, and they had not, as in other days, gathered
fruit from the trees or picked flowers from the parterres. Phil had
been good-natured, but he was like a friend and nothing more. Phil—she
saw it clearly—Phil would be a stranger for her to-morrow. Who knows?
The time might come when he would forget even her name.

Helia acknowledged that it was possible when she looked at Miss Rowrer,
who drew near and began chatting with Phil. What charm there was in
her words! Helia was never tired of listening to her. She felt no
jealousy of Ethel, whose goodness saved her from envy. She admired her
in silence. Sometimes, like a lightning flash, she seemed to understand
the abyss which separated them, and then everything reëntered the
shadow. No—she did not know; everything escaped her grasp in that
sphere of life, more inaccessible to her than the white clouds up in
the depths of the azure. What had she with which to struggle against
this young girl, so brilliant and so playful, before whom Phil and the
duke were content to seem little? And then, she was so rich!

But Helia blushed for herself and quickly cast away any thoughts of
Miss Rowrer’s wealth. Since she could not help loving Phil, she at
least would not cease giving him her esteem. She looked in a sort of
fear at Miss Rowrer, of whom so much was said, and who seemed so simple
and gay. What could she do against so many advantages—she, Helia, who
had only her beauty? And perhaps Phil found her ugly now!

“What are you painting?” Ethel asked Phil. “I suppose I may look.”

“Miss Rowrer, I beg you,” Phil answered, “give me your advice.”

Miss Rowrer squinted with her eye, measured and made a few professional
gestures, probably the only thing she retained from her art studies
among so many social duties. She remarked a few things, showing refined
tastes, and then looked at Helia as a connoisseur.

She admired her noble profile, like that of a marble Venus, her full
neck and bare arms, and the sumptuous thickness of her hair over
shoulders which would have thrown Phidias into despair.

“What success a young girl like that would have in society—if she
belonged to society—” thought Miss Rowrer. “Ought not beauty like that
to overcome all social distinctions?”

Helia appeared to Miss Rowrer as the splendid flowering of the Louvre,
personifying in herself all the masterpieces heaped up beneath their
feet—all that men have loved and made divine in marble or on canvas.
At her feet roses and fuchsias breathed forth their fragrance, sweet as
the Attic breeze.

“What you are doing there, Monsieur Phil, is very fine—a magnificent
study,” Miss Rowrer said. “But it is not up to the model. Is it,
Monsieur le Duc?”

The duke assented.

“Tell me, Monsieur Phil,” Miss Rowrer continued, “what is that thing on
the ground, with your palette on top of it?”

She pointed to one of the busts which lined the walks.

“Those are busts,” Phil began.

“Yes, but of whom?” Ethel asked.

“Imperial and presidential busts,” Phil explained, “Napoleon III,
Charles X, Louis Philippe.”

“Really,” Miss Rowrer said, with amusement; “only think, each bust
represents a revolution. They are sovereigns who no longer pleased—let
them be an example to you, monseigneur,” she added, laughing. “This
is not Paradise, then, but the other place—each of these busts is a
paving-stone of good intentions!”

“And that, Phil, that old arm-chair which has lost its gilding?
Mademoiselle Helia, who was in it just now, looked, with these busts at
her feet, like a sovereign surrounded by the dwarfs of the court. What
is that old arm-chair?”

  [Illustration: Ethel and the Royal Throne]

“A throne, Miss Rowrer!”

“Now you are laughing at me!”

“Not at all.”

“The throne of some fairy king?”

“The throne of King Louis Philippe,” answered Phil. In a few words he
explained how it happened to be there in the company of the busts.

“It is not a very comfortable seat,” grandma remarked.

“They’d make a better one than that at Grand Rapids,” Will added.

“Will you try it, Miss Rowrer?” Caracal hastened to ask. “Be seated on
the throne; you might believe yourself a queen.”

“Ah! that’s all the same to me,” said Miss Rowrer.

“The queen you are worthy to be,” Caracal corrected, by way of
compliment. “You would not have ill become Louis Philippe’s throne, I
imagine.”

“I hope not, indeed,” Ethel replied. “What! that bourgeois king, that
king of the golden mean, who was neither brave nor cowardly, without
vice as without virtue, flat, like a pancake; an old wolf turned
shepherd? And I could sit on a throne and fancy myself the consort of
that imitation goodman, be queen of such a king? Even for his kingdom,
I would not!”

Helia looked at Miss Rowrer as she prodded with her parasol the worn
velvet of the throne. She thought of her own half hesitation to sit
down in it the first time she came to the oasis, and how she had
answered Phil: “A king’s throne! You wouldn’t think of it—a poor girl
like me!” To her it had seemed a sort of sacrilege, whereas Miss
Rowrer, quite the contrary, turned her back on it with disdain and
walked away, saying to the duke and Phil:

“Louis Philippe was possibly a king, but at any rate he was not a man!
The people did well to cast him out.”

And Helia asked herself in amazement: “Who is this Miss Rowrer that
judges kings and would refuse them their kingdoms? Is she, then, more
than a queen?”



PART III

YOUTHFUL FOLLIES



CHAPTER I

TEUFF-TEUFF! TEUFF! BRRR!


We should need words from the old, old time, worn from long use, to
give an idea of Mme. de Grojean’s house in her little corner of the
provinces. It was typical of its kind and just the opposite of any
truly Parisian corner. The latter would have been a populous, noisy
street, with odors from the markets, from horses, from tobacco. The
former was a deserted street, where you could hear sparrows chattering
on the housetops and breathe the fragrance of mignonette and new-mown
hay.

The house of Mme. de Grojean—“grand’mère,” as Yvonne called her—formed
the angle of a street on a very provincial place. It was on an open
space, in the middle of which a water-jet, long since dry, marked on
its basin a turning shadow like a sun-dial.

The house and garden wall formed one of the sides of the place as far
as the river, which was crossed by a bridge; and, beyond, the plain
stretched out.

Place and house, and trees overhanging the wall, and the street where
grass grew between the paving-stones—all had the look of having always
been there, of being there forever,—changeless as the hills of the
horizon. But worthiest of description was the salon where grand’mère
with her daughter and her granddaughter Yvonne were seated in the dim
light, amid tapestries of old silk and brown furniture, with glints of
brass and portraits in their frames.

Grand’mère sat squarely back in her wheeled chair, knitting a pair
of stockings. The younger Mme. de Grojean was looking through a
fashion-paper. Yvonne, by the half-opened blinds, glanced from time to
time out on the place while continuing her work. Her little table was
encumbered with ribbons and light stuffs. She was finishing a gown,
with a heap of patterns around her; and her little scissors traveled
slowly through the muslin.

“It’s this ribbon that gives me trouble,” Yvonne said, half aloud, as
if speaking to herself. “Why, this ribbon should go on the right!” she
went on, with a comical air of surprise.

“By no means, my daughter!” Mme. de Grojean protested.

“Yes, yes! I assure you. Look at the fashion-paper. I must find out for
myself,” Yvonne concluded gravely, with her chin in her hand and her
eyes fixed on the engraving. “I shall have to ask Cousin Henri, who was
present at the last ball of the prefecture.”

“Yvonne,” said the grandmother, stopping her knitting, “Yvonne, really,
you have nothing but dresses in your head. Rather than lose your time
on such trifles, you’d do better to finish picking the lint for the
soldiers.”

“Grand’mère, here’s the circus coming!” Yvonne interrupted suddenly, as
she looked out on the place.

  [Illustration: Watching the Arrival of the Rowrers]

“Those mountebanks?” grand’mère said, looking in her turn. “They are
coming to the fair, just as they do every year. It must be they—I can
tell by the dust they make. Only the big drum is lacking to make it
complete.”

In fact, an odd-looking vehicle had drawn up in the place. It was an
immense auto, like a top-carriage behind and torpedo-like in front.
In the carriage part two ladies were seated; two men occupied the
torpedo-end. They wore big smoked glasses, which made them look like
frogs, while the enormous auto, spitting and snorting, shook up its
passengers, and rattled the canes and umbrellas in the wicker basket
behind.

“It is near four o’clock,” grand’mère said, consulting the familiar
shadow of the water-jet. “They must be crazy to be exposing themselves
to the heat; but such people fear nothing.”

“They’re brought up to rough it,” Yvonne remarked.

“But people are saluting them, on my word,” grand’mère said. “There
is the _adjoint_, who must be there for the license; and there’s Mme.
Riçois also, and others besides. It looks as if they were personal
acquaintances; they are shaking hands!”

Grand’mère in astonishment saw the ladies in the carriage-end part
holding out their hands like princesses. One of them, the younger, got
down and moved about to stir herself. As far as could be seen at that
distance, between dust and sun, she was dressed in a light silk, very
becoming in color. The plaits of the skirt molded her form, and fell to
a level with the ground. Her head, enveloped in a cloud of gauze, was
not to be seen.

“Where will elegance end, my poor Yvonne?” said grand’mère. “There’s a
gown worth five times as much as your ball-dress.”

“Oh, here are the horses!” Yvonne cried, pointing to magnificent
animals which grooms were leading by the bridle from the direction of
the railway station. As they passed by the auto the young girl went up
to one of them, patted him on the neck, and, putting her hand in her
pocket, gave him a lump of sugar.

“She must be the circus-rider,” Yvonne guessed.

On the place there was now a little group of curious onlookers drawing
near. The proprietor of the Lion d’Or made himself important. They
could imagine him at that distance saying: “The Lion d’Or is the
tourists’ rendezvous—every one puts up at my place—every one. I do
this—I have that—”

He had not the time to finish before the young girl had quickly climbed
back into the auto, given orders to the groom, pointed to the inn, and
made a sign of farewell to everybody.

Teuff-teuff! teuff! The auto swung into movement—teuff-teuff! brrrr!
and off it went at high speed.

“Bon voyage!” grand’mère wished them. “How can people be allowed to
race about like that! and all these do-nothings who salute them,—they
couldn’t be more polite to ambassadors!”

No doubt it was an event. Every one along the road stared at the
disappearing column of dust.

“It’s a strange world,” said grand’mère. “But here comes Mme. Riçois;
she may tell us something about them.”

  [Illustration: The Arrival of the Rowrers]

Grand’mère had scarcely finished when the bonne opened the salon door
and announced Mme. Riçois, the banker’s wife, a little woman all fire
and motion, alert and dimpled and forever laughing.

“My compliments, dear Mme. Riçois. You have fine acquaintances!”
grand’mère began. “You can tell us, I suppose, what has been turning
our place upside down.”

“But you ought to know,” Mme. Riçois answered; “Yvonne is better
acquainted with them than I am.”

“Yvonne is acquainted with them?” grand’mère asked severely. “Who are
they?”

“The Rowrers.”

“Goodness gracious!” cried grand’mère, “in all this dust—and in such
heat?”

“The Rowrers—what luck!” Yvonne cried. “I shall see Miss Ethel again;
and I did not recognize her! All those dusters and masks and veils—they
didn’t wear anything like that in Paris the day I went in their auto,
with Mr. Will Rowrer to conduct us.”

“Are they going to stay in our town?” Mme. de Grojean asked.

“For several weeks, it seems.”

“Where are they stopping?” grand’mère asked. “At the Hôtel de France or
at the Hôtel d’Eurôpe?”

“They are not at a hotel,” answered Mme. Riçois, with an important air,
as one having a great piece of news to communicate.

“Where are they going, then?” grand’mère persisted.

“To nobody’s house.”

“But where are they going to sleep? Not in the fields, I suppose?”

“Exactly-in the fields,” Mme. Riçois said, looking in turn at
grand’mère, Mme. de Grojean, and Yvonne, to enjoy their astonishment.

“You mean a house in the country?” grand’mère said. “What house?”

“No house,” Mme. Riçois answered.

“Not in the open air, I suppose?”

“Exactly; in the open air!”

The effect which Mme. Riçois had missed with “the fields” was produced
by her “open air.”

“Is it possible!” grand’mère said, as she let her knitting fall.
“People as rich as that sleep out of doors?”

“Rich!” observed Mme. Riçois. “They could buy the town and turn it into
wheat-fields!”

“Then they must be crazy!”

“For that matter,” Mme. Riçois went on, “when I say that they sleep out
of doors—”

“Do tell us—you’re laughing at us!”

“No, no! Let me explain. They are going to sleep out of doors, but
under tents—camping out, they call it in America. I know all about it.
My husband has been in correspondence with the Rowrers and has had all
the arrangements to make. The Comtesse de Donjeon asked them to come to
her château for the summer. Miss Rowrer simply begged the comtesse to
put at her disposal a corner of her estate, the most deserted and the
most picturesque. She has taken the part she wished and set up her camp
in it. She wanted to have it a surprise, and that is why I kept it a
secret. It seems that camping out is delightful and Miss Rowrer intends
starting the fashion of it in France.”

“Poor France!” grand’mère exclaimed. “We needed only that! It’s just
like the automobiles. I’d rather be dragged about all my life in a
cripple’s go-cart than get into one.”

“Not I!” said Yvonne. “I should love going in an auto!”

“Yvonne!” expostulated grand’mère.

Yvonne was silent, but thought, all the same, how delightful it would
be to go here and there in the country and live under one’s tent, by
the bank of the river, along with Ethel. She listened absently to the
remainder of the conversation, and looked far away at the highroad,
golden with dust and with the green grass beside it.

Grand’mère took up the discourse.

“What is camping out, anyway?”

“Oh, it’s all very simple,” Mme. Riçois answered. “I have heard my
husband talking about it.”

“And I have heard Miss Ethel,” said Yvonne. “She describes it so well!”

“But explain it to me,” grand’mère said.

They gave her an explanation, in all its details, of camping out and
summer touring and fishing, of chaperons and boys and girls.

“What!” grand’mère cried, “young men and young girls go camping out
like that in the woods for weeks together, simply accompanied by a
chaperon, and you consider that proper?”

“_Ma foi_, yes,” said Mme. Riçois. “I should have been delighted with
anything of the kind.”

Yvonne kept silence, but she asked herself what harm there could be in
walking through the country with Monsieur Will or Monsieur Phil. Miss
Ethel did it—why should not she?

“So that is what you call progress,” grand’mère observed.
“Milliardaires making their horses travel by express train and lodging
them at the hotel, while they themselves wander along the highroads
and sleep out of doors like vagabonds—you must acknowledge it does not
sound well!”

“Perhaps you like that kind of thing better,” Mme. Riçois retorted,
pointing to the place.

An omnibus was driving up from the station, loaded with trunks and
packages, with its horses prancing heavily. A traveler, with a single
glass in his eye, was looking out.

The emotion aroused by the auto had scarcely calmed down. People were
standing in the place in front of the hotel, which the last of the
Rowrers’ horses had just entered. A few curious faces were still to be
seen at the windows. The traveler, evidently thinking that all this was
in his honor, bowed all around in his satisfaction at their welcome.
As he got out of the omnibus at the Lion d’Or, amiable smiles were
awaiting him—a politeness which he repaid with a nod, as if to say,
“Greatly flattered, believe me!”

“Him I recognize,” said Yvonne. “I saw him two or three times in Paris.
That is M. Caracal.”

But grand’mère no longer listened. She had returned to her knitting.
The place no longer interested her; too many people were passing
there. All this movement annoyed her. Why do not people stay at home?
Meanwhile Caracal’s manœuvers were amusing Yvonne.

“Poor M. Caracal,” she thought; “there he is, politely bowing to every
one. Really, he seems persuaded that they’ve all come out to welcome
him! If he knew that it was all for horses and an auto, his vanity as
a writer would be wounded.”

Yvonne sympathized with him, but she could not help being amused at the
sight of Caracal jumping about like a puppet, giving orders about his
trunks, and at last, when the crowd had seen enough of him, entering
the Lion d’Or behind the Rowrers’ horses.



CHAPTER II

IN CAMP


Grand’mère de Grojean was talking about camping out, with many an
“_est-ce possible!_” and “_Grand Dieu!_” and Mademoiselle Yvonne was
looking at the dust in the distance, while Miss Rowrer and grandma were
already inspecting their camping-ground.

“How well off we shall be here, Ethel!” grandma said. “What a capital
idea! We shall breathe freely and, in spite of being in an old country,
we shall have new experiences. I like new things!”

It was in full July. For several weeks Miss Rowrer had had the
intention of quitting Paris. First of all, it was hot, and there was
nothing to see, now that the Grand Prix race had been run. Besides, the
national holiday of the Fourteenth of July was drawing near, and then
the sovereign people dance and eat and drink in the street, which is
really too common!

“Let us hurry away!” Miss Rowrer said. “Let us not take back to America
a bad opinion of France. We must not judge it by Paris. Let us go
and see France at home—away from dust and dances and noise, away from
_punch d’indignation_. The countess has invited us to pass the summer
in her château; with her leave, we’ll pass it in her park. Let me
arrange it.”

Miss Rowrer had chosen a hill from which you could see the whole
country-side. Then she sent for a house-furnisher, told him her plans,
saying: “I want this—and this—and this.” The tradesman remonstrated:
“But, mademoiselle, that is never done!” She finished by making him
understand, all the same, by dint of repeating, “I wish this! and this!
and this!” At last, without any one knowing it except M. Riçois, who
paid the bills, the camp was set up.

Several square tents, with a flooring of boards, had been raised amid
the trees. When the door-flaps were drawn back, Japanese mats were
to be seen, and, behind dainty screens, little brass bedsteads and
rocking-chairs and toilet furniture.

The tent for Will and Phil had its beds concealed under Algerian
rugs, which made lounges for the daytime. It served as a smoking-room
for the dining-tent, which was set up alongside very simply, with
an abundance of flowers in rustic vases. Farther back, hidden in the
shrubbery, were the kitchen and offices. Near by there was an immense
water-butt, ingeniously made to furnish each tent with an inexhaustible
supply of fresh water. There was also a tent for the auto and for the
saddle-horses, when needed.

“It is perfect, Ethel!” grandma said, looking around.

“I am well pleased with it, my dear grandma,” Ethel acknowledged.
“It is not as good as Tent City, on Coronado Beach at San Diego,” she
added, laughing, “but we shall be more at home here and the view is
superb. How do you find it, Phil? Will, are you pleased?” And she waved
her hand to the horizon.

From their hilltop, across the river which wound below, they saw
an immense plain. Its calm beauty impressed Ethel, fresh from noisy
Paris. France had never seemed so large to her. Among the trees there
were bell-towers rising above red roofs, and here and there high
factory-chimneys crested with smoke. It was “the province,” wide and
active and silent.

In the distance, fields stretched away to the horizon. It was like an
immense sea, with waves forever motionless. Wagons moved across it and
boats glided along the waters of the river, and on the roads and in the
fields members of the human ant-hill were stirring everywhere.

“It is beautiful,” Phil said, “and I am grateful to you for having
invited me. Here I shall paint from nature, and you, Miss Rowrer, ought
to do delightful water-colors.”

“What do you think of my landscape, Will?” Ethel asked her brother, who
was examining the auto.

“It’s all right—there’s something wrong with my carbureter,” answered
Will. “I’ll have to see to it at once. I’ll look at the landscape
later.”

“That’s just like Will!” Ethel remarked. “You talk landscape to him and
he answers with carbureters and floaters and all the rest. If you only
listened to him you’d think him the most earth-bound of mechanicians.
And in his heart he is a poet—yes, a poet! He has a little blue flower
in his heart; perhaps it’s a forget-me-not!”

“The dinner-bell is ringing,” observed Will.

“Well, let’s to table!” Ethel said. “There’s nothing like forty miles
an hour to give one an appetite.”

The dinner was delicious. There were the country dishes—_soupe
blanchie_, artichokes and beans, an eel in bouillon, stewed chicken
and a salad, an ice and the fritters of the province. The middle of
the table was decorated with a magnificent bouquet of roses, while all
around were wild flowers of the fields. The cook hired by Mme. Riçois
had done things well,—too well, indeed. Over and above the flowers, the
table was furnished with as many bottles as in an inn.

“Take away those bottles of wine that litter up the table,” Ethel said
to the valet.

“But, mademoiselle, what are you going to drink?” asked the cook, who
was standing near.

“We shall drink water—with ice in it.”

“Water—with ice!”

“At every meal,” Miss Rowrer added.

“But after your ice-cream—to warm up the stomach?”

“Ice-water!” said Ethel.

Over the cook’s face there crept an expression of terror and pity.
To console her, Ethel complimented her cookery, but the smile had
vanished from the good woman’s lips until they asked her recipe for the
fritters.

“I’ll take it back to Chicago with me,” said grandma. “We’ll give a
german, and we’ll have pastry just like that on the sideboard. It will
be a novelty.”

Ethel, after the meal, pretended to light a cigarette, to put the men
at their ease. Will picked out a cigar, and Phil, who patterned himself
after Miss Rowrer, took a whiff at a cigarette and threw it away. Then
he picked up his banjo.

“Play us the ‘Arkansaw Traveler’!” grandma asked. “The very turn of the
tune makes me wish to dance.”

Ethel spoke up: “What if we should map out our time for the two months
we are to spend here? We have, first, the invitation from the countess
and her friends—there are a _rallye-paper_ and a _chasse à courre_.”

“The hunt is much later—a few days before we leave for Morgania,”
observed Will.

“The good duke!” said Ethel; “it seems things are not going at all well
in his country. Who knows? By the time we get to Morgania there may be
neither duke nor duchy!”

“I’d rather be a trapper in the far West than a duke in such a
country,” said grandma.

“As for me,” said Phil, stopping short the “Arkansaw Traveler,” which
he had been strumming lightly, “my picture is already there and I must
put it up and retouch it on the spot. I shall go, whatever happens.”

“Bravo!” Ethel answered. “‘Whatever happens’! That’s talking! One ought
to know what one has to do, and then do it, whatever happens! But that
has nothing to do with our camp,” she went on, as she poured out a
lemon squash. We must see the Grojeans. I do hope dear Yvonne will come
and sketch with me; and we must visit the country fair,—they tell me it
is very curious. And then there will be our excursions, and photographs
for our albums; and I must take a good deal of exercise. There are so
many things to see that we shall have no time to bore ourselves.”

The next day they completed the setting up of the camp. Ethel
christened it “Camp Rosemont,” looked over it with the eye of the
master, and arranged everything for the meals. She had a flag-pole
planted for the Stars and Stripes. The rumor ran through the country
that circus people had come and were camping under a tent in the open.
Curious villagers came and looked on from a distance, stretching out
their necks.

“Let the children come!” Ethel said. She stuffed them with sweetmeats,
spreading bread and butter with jelly for them with her own hands.
The little girls amused her most, with their braided hair and simple
gowns and little wooden shoes. She met an inborn politeness in them—the
refinement of ancient days; they curtsied to her.

“You’d say they were fresh from the company of princesses,” was Ethel’s
appreciation. True enough, their games, the _volant_, the _grâces_,
the dancing in a round, and the songs, in which they spoke of ladies
and princes and knights, all told of the olden time of joust and
tournament.

“How nice you all are,” Ethel said to them. “Will you come often? You
are not afraid of me?”

“Oh, no, mademoiselle!”

“Bring your little playmates. I shall always have cakes for you.”

“Oh, no, mademoiselle!”

“What! You do not wish to eat my cakes?”

“Oh, not every day! Our parents would scold us! But you can tell us
nice stories, and then you might give us tickets for the circus. You
must look pretty when you go riding horseback.”

“So you think I’m a circus-rider?”

“That’s what people say.”

“Well, they are mistaken. I am,—I am”—Ethel did not find it easy to
say just what she was. She could not say, “I am a painter,” or, “I am
a musician.” So she contented herself with saying, “I am an American!”

“America—that is a country. Is it farther than Paris?”

“Oh, yes!”

“My papa has a machine to mow hay which comes from Chicago. Is that a
city? Is it as big as the city yonder?”

“It is as big as all that!” Ethel said, opening her arms to the
boundless horizon. “And three times as high as the tallest tree.”

“My papa has been in Buenos Aires. Perhaps you saw him there?”

“Never.”

“You were never bitten by serpents?”

“Never.”

“Does everybody in your country sleep under tents as you do?”

“No; but in big, big houses.”

“That must be fine.”

“I’ll show you pictures, children, and tell you stories of my country
and pretty stories of yours, too. Do you love your country very much?”

“France? Oh, yes!”

  [Illustration: Ethel and the Little Peasant Girls]

“You are right, darlings, and I love it also. It is a beautiful
country, which we all love in America. But we sha’n’t be friends any
longer if you won’t eat my cakes.”

“Oh, yes, mademoiselle!”

Ringing laughter followed, and they ate the cakes, and there were
games, and dances in which there was something of the majestic minuet
and something of the light gavotte.

“It does me good to see how happy they are,” Ethel said to herself.
“Oh, how I should like to have all the world happy forever!”

They were to visit the Grojeans later, when everything should be
finished at the camp. The countess had not yet arrived at her château,
and Ethel profited by this to explore the country round about. Phil and
Will, and even Caracal, who was living at the hotel, from time to time
accompanied them. They made sketches and water-colors and talked over
their impressions. In her walks Ethel wore a gray serge skirt adorned
with large plaits, a bolero of the same stuff edged with white, silk
shirt-waist, and a white straw hat; and with that she went up hill and
down dale with the readiness of a college boy.

They saw France at home. The endless parceling out of properties and
labor astonished them. Every one was half peasant and half workman,
and had his own house and fields and vineyards. Thanks to the spirit of
saving, want was unknown; and the variety of work made anything like a
dead season impossible. When the workshop closed its doors, the workman
took up his spade and cultivated his garden.

“I had no idea of anything like this,” Will said, with deep interest.
What a rest for him, who had just left Chicago and the business strife,
to find himself in the open country, where everything smiled around
him!

Sometimes they met a wedding-party on the way—the bride in white, the
groom in black, the old men in their blouses. A fiddler, the village
barber, marched at the head, scraping out airs of the good old time.

They talked with housewives who were twirling their spindles on the
threshold. They were asked to enter, and saw the great chimney with
its fire-dogs, on which the soup was heating, and the dresser with
its colored crockery shining in the shadow. Chickens pecked at their
feet. When Phil and Will sat down at the old oaken table to taste the
_piquette_ (light wine) a familiar magpie perched on their shoulders
and asked its share.

Issuing forth, they met the “priest-eater” of the village offering a
pinch of snuff to Monsieur le Curé. Boys were coming back from school,
shouting and rattling military marches on imaginary drums. For the
girls were dancing and the boys playing their soldier-games, just as in
the days of yore, when only the brave deserved the fair.

On the village signs, names and trades bore witness to the antiquity of
the race and the power of its traditions.

“What dignity there is in this people!” Ethel said to Will. “See the
old goodman there, with his spade on his shoulder, how he saluted us as
he passed by. Our people would think it servility, but it is far from
that; it is like the refined greeting of a marquis who does the honors
of his land.”

Will thought long over this. All these villages were the same now as
they had been in other days. They had always been the refuge of simple
ideas, and brave hearts had been born and had died in them, content to
consider the smoke of the horizon only from afar. These lowly lives had
passed between the old church and the little cemetery on the hill, with
its cypresses among the tombs.

“Yes, here we breathe to the full filial piety and the reverence of
forefathers,” Ethel said. “There is something good in all that, you
know. You are right, M. Caracal, to prepare a romance on this country
life. It’s a beautiful subject and full of striking pictures. Look at
that village before us, with its gardens cut by a network of hedges and
walls, and at the roofs pressed one against the other as if they were
afraid of the horizon, and the smoke mounting straight up to the sky.”

“But all that smells of the stable,” Caracal murmured, “the
country—_pouah_!”

“It doesn’t smell so strong as your Montmartre cafés,” Phil whispered
in his ear.

For his part, Phil was living strange days. The valley and hill and the
woods he looked at mechanically, thinking of Miss Rowrer the while. The
deep charm of the young woman possessed him more and more; he no longer
tried to resist it. She had taken possession of him without knowing
it. Her mind was large, cosmopolitan, human. All Phil’s happiness was
now in being at her disposition, in living near her, and seeing and
hearing her. He felt that he grew morally in her presence, and he was
more in love with her soul than with her beauty. When he walked through
the country with her, he fancied that Columbia herself was at his side,
explaining France to him.

The feeling of his littleness in her presence gave him pain. He could
not imagine himself letting her know what he felt, either by word or
gesture—he would never dare. She was too immensely rich. Ah! if he
only could, he would give all the riches of the world that she might be
poor!

It was especially when evening came, with its melancholy, that such
thoughts arose in him. One night, after dinner, Phil, to please
grandma, took his banjo and played the “Arkansaw Traveler.” The perfume
of roses filled the tent, which was lighted dimly. The raised canvas
showed a cloudless sky; the stars were rising and the crystal notes of
the banjo were lost in the great silence.

“What a beautiful night!” said Ethel, “and how calm! It is like the
infinite.”

“But what are we in it all?” said Phil. “In a hundred years nothing of
all this will remain; a new mankind will take the place of our own. We
count no more than the flower or the drop of water.”

“No,” Miss Rowrer answered; “I am more than a drop of water, and more
than a blade of grass. How, Phil, can you speak that way? As for me,
there are times when I feel myself the equal of the whole world.”

“Miss Rowrer,” said Phil, “the whole world itself is nothing to the
infinite.”

  [Illustration: Phil Listening to Ethel]

“And I say,” replied the young girl, “that the end and aim of this
whole boundless universe is the production and development of the soul,
or, if you prefer it that way, of consciousness in man’s perishable
body. How do you know that Alfred Russel Wallace is not right when he
supposes the earth to be the center of the universe? The Bible always
said so. What if science should prove it?”

“Frankly, now,” remarked Will, who was smoking a bad cigar (and yet the
brand bore his name—it was enough to disgust one with earthly grandeur)
“frankly now, Ethel, can you suppose these little creatures that we
are—”

“But I will not be a little creature!” cried Ethel. “The telescope
seems to show that there is no such thing as an infinity of suns.
Limited as they must be in number, they only form what is called a
globular agglomeration, concentric with the Milky Way. I read that
the other day. Our solar system is in the center of this agglomeration
and so in the center of the Milky Way, which we see around us like a
circle. And beyond, there is, perhaps, nothing at all. Our solar system
is, then, in the center of the material universe; and this earth of
ours—that which is nothing to the infinite, according to Phil—on the
contrary, occupies so privileged a place near its central sun that here
only, it is probable, life can have been developed and man created, and
so the whole universe must have its fulfilment in us! What do you think
of such a theory? I had rather believe that than be only a flower or a
drop of water,” Ethel concluded, as she arose.

From his corner in the shadow Phil saw her, in the full light of the
lamp, standing out luminous against the dark horizon as if mingled with
the stars. He admired her superb self-confidence—why should he doubt
himself? He vowed that before their departure for Morgania he would
let Miss Rowrer know his feelings for her. Perhaps she suspected them
a little. No matter, he would tell her! As an extreme limit, so much
did he feel the need of binding himself, he fixed the time for his
declaration at the stag hunt.



CHAPTER III

GRAND’MÈRE VERSUS GRANDMA


“I thought the Grojeans were absent—their house has been all the time
shut up,” Caracal said to Ethel; “but I caught sight of them yesterday.
They must be back.”

“We’ll go to-day and invite them to tennis,” Ethel said. “It will give
so much pleasure to Mademoiselle Yvonne—and perhaps Will might be glad
to see her again,” Ethel added to herself.

In the afternoon the auto, in all its splendor, flew along the way to
the home of the Grojeans.

Caracal was delighted. Miss Rowrer had been very gracious to him.
He would have gone oftener to Camp Rosemont, but he had been content
to shine from afar on account of the drafts and mosquitos under the
accursed tents. He kept to his lodgings at the Lion d’Or, a little inn
full of flies and smelling of cabbage-soup.

“What a beautiful road this is!” Ethel observed. “You would say it was
an avenue in a park, everything has such a refined air, so prinked and
pretty, with its flowers set here and there!”

Every one was impressed by the gardens of flowers and the finished,
distinguished look of everything. Will had the deepest enjoyment of
it. His head may have been full of business, he may have handled his
millions in his sleep, but he felt himself taken by this provincial
charm. His love for it was the love of that which contrasts with
one’s self. When he saw the hills crowned with oak and the inclosures
bordered with roses, the variegated fields alive with vine and corn, a
sweet country and a strong one, whose people greeted him with smiles,
he seemed to forget all care, to be reading a poem.

“Will,” Ethel remarked, “is in love with France.”

Caracal kept his impressions to himself. A loftier anxiety was weighing
on him: “The House of Glass” was about to appear. It was a thunderbolt
which would soon burst and he would be famous; and, after the town, the
country should have its turn! His work should be the life-encyclopedia
of our day. He already had notes on the mosquitos, remarks on the
grunting of pigs in their sties and the smells of the manure-heap. His
novel would begin well.

“Tell me, M. Caracal,” Ethel chanced to ask just as he was thinking of
all this, “have you found a title for your novel on country life which
we were talking about the other day?”

“I am hunting for one, Miss Rowrer,” answered Caracal.

“I hope every one will be allowed to read it, even young girls,” she
went on.

“Ah—” Caracal interrupted.

“Good!” Ethel said, “why should unpleasant things be written? Very
dirty things some authors write, so I hear it said. I don’t understand
this fouling of one’s own nest.”

Caracal hid his chagrin. To him a novel for the “young person”—a
“proper” novel—was the lowest term of contempt. No, his would not be
a rose-colored romance; it would be something that had been lived,
thrilling with human passion, bleeding and fierce, even if it smelled
of the stable and dung-hill—ah!—and he turned his Mephistophelian
eye-glass toward the horizon.

A writer for young persons! The indignation which dictated his
verses to Juvenal made Caracal find a title for his romance. “Let’s
see,” he thought. “In fact, what title shall I give it? It must be
something suggestive. For the city I have ‘The House of Glass’; would
‘The Pigsty’ do for the country? No, they’d say it was a treatise on
breeding. ‘The Rose on the Dung-Hill’? No, they’d say it was poetry.
‘Dung-Hill’ alone is too short. ‘Worms from the Dung-Hill’—that’s the
thing! comparing the country to a vast manure-heap with worms crawling
through it.”

Secretly satisfied with this stroke of his genius, Caracal rubbed his
hands.

As they drew near the town, the houses, scattered at first and amid
gardens, became more numerous. The camping-party now jolted over the
“King’s Pavement.” At a distance, above the low roofs, the spires of a
church were seen. All at once they came out in the place where a few
days before, through the blinds, when the sun-fountain marked four
o’clock, the Grojeans had watched their passing by.

“The Grojean house?” A person standing near answered their inquiry: “It
is the great doorway beyond there opening on the place.”

Brrr! and the auto was in front of the house.

There was a great door, studded with big iron nails, and a little
wicket, with a grating in front of it, opening in the thickness of
the wood. The front of the house, smooth and with drawn blinds, had
a venerable look. The stroke of the knocker resounded long, as if
re-echoing through an empty house. A moment passed.

They had time to notice the fine grass which grew between the stones of
the walk and the foot of the wall, and the old escutcheon carved above
the door.

“It is the Grojeans’ coat of arms,” Ethel explained in a low voice.
“They belonged to the old _noblesse de robe_. One grandfather was a
presiding judge, another was a chancellor.”

Just then the noise of the bolt was heard, the heavy door opened, and
Mlle. de Grojean welcomed them on the threshold.

“I am delighted! What a pleasant surprise! You must excuse me for
receiving you as I am. The servants have gone out and I was at work.”

“But you are charming as you are!” answered Ethel.

Mlle. Yvonne was certainly very pretty in her bib and apron, with her
graceful neck issuing from the wide white collar, and her refined head,
with its hair rolled like a helmet above it.

“Do come in!” she exclaimed.

The hallway, paved with marble, and with its lofty ceiling, surprised
them by its coolness. To right and left there were double doors. At
one side rose a great stone staircase with an iron railing and without
carpet. On the wall there were a few old pictures, and these, with two
benches of the time of Charles X, formed the furniture of the hall. At
the foot, through a glass door, there was a view on a terrace leading
down to the garden.

“Grand’mère, here are my Paris friends,” Mlle. Yvonne said, as she
brought the party into the salon: “Mme. Rowrer, Miss Rowrer, Monsieur
William, Monsieur Phil Longwill.”

Caracal kept himself to one side, smiling as if it were understood that
he, a celebrated man, was superior to these poor children of the soil.

“M. Caracal, of Paris,” Miss Rowrer said, presenting him. “M. Caracal
has come to study the country. He is preparing a book.”

“Ah! Monsieur is a professor of agriculture. You are welcome,
monsieur,” grand’mère said, with simplicity, leaving Caracal to
that isolation which is the lot of psychologues once they leave the
Boulevard.

“I shall surely put you into my novel!” Caracal muttered to himself, in
his vexation.

“If I had known, I would have taken the covers from the chairs,” said
Mlle. Yvonne. “But sit down all the same, I beg of you. Mama will be
very glad to see you. She is coming back. I will go fetch her.”

“Don’t mind, Yvonne,” said Ethel; “we will wait. You know,” she added,
“everything is delightful to us here.”

There was the same dim light on the silken hangings and the furniture,
reflecting its brasses. The air was fine and sweet, like the fragrance
of the caskets of our grandmothers in family store-rooms. Through the
windows, half open on the garden, they could hear the song of birds
amid the groves.

Mme. de Grojean now came in. The chairs were moved from their formal
rows and every one sat down. Conversation began.

The perfectly natural manners and air of high distinction of Mlle.
Yvonne and Mme. de Grojean, found in the midst of their domestic
occupations, were a pleasure to Will.

“You were working at this water-color?” Ethel asked of Mlle. Yvonne.

“No. I’m going to send that to a charity bazaar; but I was working at
this.”

“This muslin gown?”

“Not just now,” said Yvonne, “I was scraping lint.”

“Lint! For what?”

“Why, for some expedition they are preparing; for the next war.”

Will and Ethel were in admiration at such simplicity of life, in which
young girls sewed at their own muslin gowns for the yearly ball, and
varied their employment by picking lint for the next war.

“Just imagine!” Ethel said to herself. “I pitied her in Paris because
she never went anywhere! Quite the contrary, she must have been having
a thoroughly good time. Those days must have been regular escapades, an
excess of liberty, compared to this life of work and obscure duties.”

She looked in turn at Yvonne, in her high spirits, at her mother,
who was so self-effacing, and at the rigid, conservative, severe
grandmother.

“Have you many amusements here?” Ethel asked. “A theater, books, fine
walks?”

“Oh!” answered Yvonne, “we hardly go to the theater—once or twice a
year, perhaps—and we receive few books, we have so little time to read.
But amusements are not wanting, I assure you. Sometimes I go to market,
and there’s the care of the house, with preserves to make; there are
the garden and the fruits. We must have an eye to everything.”

“Yvonne is very whimsical, too,” said grand’mère; “she wanted some
canary birds! Nowadays, young girls have nothing but pleasure in their
heads!”

“But birds are so amusing,” replied Yvonne. “Just now,” she added, “we
are in a hurry with our gift to the soldiers—there are lint, preserves
and tobacco and liqueurs, and linen to send them. We have a committee
here, and we occupy ourselves with it at our monthly meetings. And when
it isn’t that, it’s something else. My cousin Henri accompanies me at
the piano, or I read French history or some treatise on education. I
haven’t a minute to myself, especially here, because grand’mère is the
president of the committee.”

“Alas! what a different idea of the Frenchwoman psychological novelists
have been giving!” was Phil’s thought as he looked at Caracal, with his
monocle glistening in the shadow.

“In your place, madame,” said grandma, speaking directly to grand’mère,
“I’d start a committee for general disarmament.”

Mme. de Grojean opened her eyes wide. Ethel, who saw the effect which
had been produced, hastened to say, “Grandma is joking.”

“Not at all, Ethel,” replied grandma. “The country is very pretty, with
its flowers and its soldiers; but I prefer our Western plains, and I’d
give all the military music in the world for our peaceful tunes.”

Grand’mère and grandma were face to face; they formed a perfect
contrast to each other.

Grandma seemed to have in her clear eyes the sheen of the sea and of
the prairies, where new dawns had arisen for her. Incredible energy
could be read on her nervous features. One would have said that she
was still young and active, and full of ambition; and, if she was
able to talk with grand’mère, it was because during the past months
she had begun again to speak and read French with as much ardor as
a school-girl. She did not feel herself growing old so long as she
improved herself. She detested things which never changed, homes too
shut in, too hushed a silence, and too passive obedience. Leaning
forward, she looked into the eyes of grand’mère. The latter was the
majestic representative of changeless things, of tradition that must
not be touched. Of what use is it to learn so much, since all sin comes
from knowledge? And why change, since all through the centuries men
have gone to war, while women stayed at home and spun.

Seated squarely back in her arm-chair, she looked like a tower of the
Middle Ages, ready for the assault. She prepared her batteries and took
from her arsenal replies a thousand years old, with which to overwhelm
the assailant. To grandma asking, “Why not change?” grand’mère would
answer, “What use to change?”

She had the proverbs of her ancestors all in line. Against the taste
for travel she could throw this bomb: “Each in his place!” She would
stifle the spirit of adventure with “A rolling stone gathers no moss!”
Against the pursuit of progress her ammunition was ready: “The better
is the enemy of the good.” And the daring ones who would attempt to
climb up, in the name of modern ambition and equality for all, would
receive from her mitrailleuse: “There was a frog who tried to become as
big as an ox, and who burst in the endeavor!”

Last of all, if the enemy should really force a way into the
stronghold, she had the crushing reply: “_Ça ne se fait pas_ [It isn’t
done]!”

But grandma was not to be intimidated, and her best argument was Ethel
herself.

“In America,” said grandma, “we haven’t the same idea of education.
It’s the young girl’s Paradise!”

“But I am very happy here,” Yvonne said, smiling.

“Ignorance is bliss,” grandma thought to herself.

“With us,” Ethel said aloud, “a young girl like Yvonne, who has a taste
for painting, would go to Paris to study.”

“Ah! _Seigneur!_ how could you imagine my going to live in Paris at my
age!” exclaimed Yvonne’s mother.

“But you would remain here,” grandma said. “Your daughter would go
alone.”

“_Est-il possible!_” grand’mère exclaimed.

“It is so pleasant,” grandma went on, “to have the whole world before
you; it is so exciting to be in the strife and to feel one’s self alive
at twenty. It is done every day with us and we are none the worse for
it. On the contrary—”

“That I can see,” grand’mère admitted, looking at Ethel. Grand’mère
found her charming, and could not understand how a young girl brought
up with such liberty should be so nice.

Grandma continued: “The will ought to develop itself freely, just like
the body. Women must know how to deliberate, to be fit companions for
strong men; and a young girl ought to have some experience of life to
make her way later and to choose her husband.”

“To choose a husband!” grand’mère cried; “but I suppose that is the
parents’ concern?”

“Well, I declare!” was the answer of grandma, who did not declare often.

Yvonne was beginning to ask herself whether, since they were talking
of husbands, they would not, quite by chance, send her to look for
something which had been forgotten on the garden bench.

Ethel, to get away from the subject, spoke up: “Mme. de Grojean, I have
a great favor to ask of you.”

“I grant it in advance,” said Mme. Grojean.

“It is this,” said Ethel. “We are camping in the grounds of the
Comtesse de Donjeon. Oh! the establishment is quite simple, and more
agreeable than a hotel, I assure you. We go fishing and walking and
painting; we play the banjo. It is so pleasant to live in the open air,
and I would be so glad if Yvonne could come with us. We should amuse
ourselves so much.”

  [Illustration: “They went down into the garden”]

“And it would be so good to have these young people around me,” grandma
added. “I love life and movement.”

“We shall go about the country in our auto,” Ethel continued. “We shall
get up picnics, we shall have impromptu plays, with lanterns, when we
have guests of an evening; and I count on Yvonne, Mme. de Grojean. It
is granted in advance!”

“I should like it, if mama pleases,” ventured Yvonne, with a blush of
pleasure.

“It is for grand’mère to decide, my dear Yvonne. Ask grand’mère. I am
willing, if she is.”

The judge was about to pronounce. She meditated a moment. Mme. Rowrer
and Miss Ethel were very kind, it was true. But would they always be
present to look after Yvonne? Might not Yvonne sometimes go out alone
with Monsieur William or Monsieur Phil? Her granddaughter walking with
men! She hesitated no longer.

“It is impossible,” she said. “I thank you very much, Mlle. Rowrer, but
it is impossible.”

The judge had pronounced, without appeal!

“Ah!” thought Ethel, “I understand how a young girl in France should
take the husband they choose for her with eyes shut. It is to her own
interest to escape from such family tyranny.”

“But we shall go to see Miss Ethel?” Yvonne asked.

“Oh, certainly! We shall go to pass an afternoon with you,” Mme. de
Grojean said, encouraged by an indulgent smile from grand’mère, who,
seated squarely in her arm-chair, murmured between her lips:

“Ah! how insatiable for pleasure young people are nowadays! As if birds
and flowers in the garden were not enough! Soon we shall have girls
playing like boys; they will talk of the theater and sport, of tennis
and bicycles—horror!”

Yvonne, gay as usual, and without any expression of bitterness, spoke
low with her grandmother.

“Grand’mère, what if I should prepare a light collation for our
visitors?”

“You are right, my child,” said grand’mère; “here is the key of the
preserve pantry.”

Every one was now talking. A visitor had just made her appearance—Mme.
Riçois, the banker’s wife, alert and dimpling, as usual. Phil, Will,
and Mme. de Grojean talked pleasantly together. Caracal, with an air
of great importance, talked of bric-à-brac to Mme. Riçois. Grand’mère
and grandma made peace together. They found an admirable common ground
of interest. Grand’mère showed grandma, who looked at them like a
connoisseur, the photographs of her grandchildren, boys and girls,
and grand-nephews and -nieces. Grandma gave grand’mère a recipe for
home-made pie.

“The collation is ready,” Yvonne said, as she opened from without one
of the long windows on the terrace. Her joyful voice sounded through
the salon as the floods of light came in with the perfume of mignonette
and roses.

“Grand’mère,” Yvonne went on, “I have spread the collation under the
arbor by the waterside. Is that right?”

“You have done well, my child,” said grand’mère.

Mlle. Yvonne smiled with pride, like a soldier receiving his general’s
compliment. Without any more ado, they all crossed the terrace and went
down into the garden. It stretched out with straight alleys bordered
by cut box; and at each side thick trees isolated it from the rest of
the world. In the center there was a little basin of rockwork. At the
bottom of the garden, along the riverside, a trellis-work formed a
shady arbor—a nook of dainty freshness. As they went down to it Yvonne
threw bread-crumbs to the goldfish in the basin, and then showed her
flower-borders, in which the blue and white and red blossoms were like
a tricolor flag.

“I water them myself,” said Yvonne.

The table was spread under a trellis covered with honeysuckle. There
were biscuits and preserves, fruits, cool water, liqueurs and wine and
beer—all set out in perfect taste.

Yvonne served every one.

“Did you prepare all this yourself?” Ethel asked, in wonder. “And you
also found time to adorn the table with flowers—you are a real fairy!”

A balustrade, over which ivy was growing, separated them from the
river. On the other side of the water there spread out a vast plain, in
which factory-chimneys were smoking.

“Only look at the contrast!” Ethel said, pointing to the plain across
the river. “You would say it was America; while here, in this old
garden, surrounded by walls, with Yvonne beside her flower-beds and
all these savory fruits and beautiful golden grapes on their palings,
I seem to be looking at old France!”

“Here’s to France!” Will said, lifting his glass, full of clear water.

“To America!” Yvonne replied, pouring out for herself a little white
wine.

“To our alliance!” said the alert and dimpling Mme. Riçois, as she
tossed down her glass of champagne, while the rest of the party,
including grandma and grand’mère, gaily attacked the cakes and fruits.

“It’s understood, then, isn’t it, madame?” Ethel said to grand’mère,
“we can count on Yvonne for an afternoon, and, if you are willing, we
shall go together to see the fair.”

“It is understood,” answered grand’mère; “and we will go into the
booths and the circus, too—and you must come also, Mme. Riçois. It will
be a fête-day for us!”

“With pleasure,” said Mme. Riçois, filling her glass again in honor of
the alliance.



CHAPTER IV

THROUGH THE COUNTRY FAIR


The camping-party and the Grojeans were doing the fair. At the foot
of the platform, before the circus door, an open-mouthed circle
listened to the girl-clown dressed as Pierrette. All around, under
the burning sun, tents had been set up, painted in bright colors.
Groaning trombones proclaimed the wrestlers and the bearded woman.
Other mountebanks farther on attracted the public toward their own
side-shows. To the notes of an orchestrion, wooden horses turned
rigidly against a cotton-print background, spangled with mirrors.
Cries and laughter were heard above all the rumbling of the drums. Far
and wide rose the discordant noise, especially that of the market for
domestic animals, where the high “do” of squealing pigs quite mastered
the muffled bass of the oxen.

Everywhere there was something to see. But the Pierrette was so pretty
that the public disdained the rest and thronged around her, fascinated
by her air of good-fellowship, and her young, fresh laughter.

“Now’s the time! Now’s the time!” the Pierrette cried, while, behind
her on the platform, circus-riders and clowns, and the master in
person, Signor Perbaccho, listened gravely to her. “Come in! Come in!
Let us show you an animal that has been well trained—but not without
difficulty, for he is stupid enough to make soup of smoked beetles!

“Oh, you needn’t think it just happened!” the Pierrette ran on, making
gestures with her stick. “To begin with, such animals exist only in
Paris—Paris on the Seine, you understand; a big village where all the
pebbles are diamonds and the trees are gold, but you don’t dig potatoes
there! To live there your loafers have to become sculptors and painters
and musicians. Their heads are as empty as their stomachs! Mesdames
et messieurs, I am going to show you one of those animals. Don’t throw
him anything, I beseech you—no bread-crusts, no cabbage-leaves; he ate
yesterday! Attention! Here he comes! Come hither, my fly-killer! Come
when you are called.”

There were bursts of laughter as the Pierrette stretched out her arm
and seized a man by the ear, whirling him around and bringing him,
ashamed enough, to face the public. She might have been a marquise
disguised as a soubrette, playing in comedy with a clumsy rustic. The
man turned red as a tomato.

“Have you made your bread-winner shine to-day? Did you scrub it with
pumice powder? Answer!” said the Pierrette.

“Yes!” grunted the man, shaking his head like a bear.

“Let’s see!”

The man took off his hat, showing a skull of dazzling whiteness,
shining above his hairy brown face like a piece of crockery on a
cocoanut.

  [Illustration: Suzanne and Poufaille at the Country Fair]

“Bow to the honorable company!” said the Pierrette. “Not so low! if
they see your skull that way, they’ll think your breeches are torn at
the knee. Now, stand up! To work, old fly-killer!

“Mesdames et messieurs,” the Pierrette said, pretending to roll up her
sleeves and get her stick ready, “it’s not so easy as that to kill
flies—unless your breath has alcohol enough in it to make them fall
in a fit! As for me, I have discovered the means, without drinking, to
rid myself of the treacherous gluttonous flies! Do you want my recipe?
Here it is. You take a bald-headed man, very delicately—there! like
that!—you spread on a layer of molasses and bird-lime, and then flies
and wasps, mosquitos and gnats, every insect with a sucker, will light
down on the human fly-trap; and then,—then, mesdames,—I address my
words to you!—you take a broomstick and hit hard where the molasses is
thickest! There! like that! _Aïe donc! vlan! pan!_ till the flies are a
jelly—_pan! pan!_—hit him again! that’s the way to kill flies and treat
men as they deserve—with a broomstick—_et aïe donc_!”

“What! Suzanne and Poufaille!” exclaimed Phil, getting nearer the
platform. The camping-party, followed by the Grojeans, joined him
just as Poufaille, covered with molasses and shame, escaped from
his executioner and dived back behind the canvas. Suzanne, full of
excitement from her bastinade, stamped her feet, and with voice and
gesture invited the public to come up and buy their places. High above
the noise of the band her piercing voice called out the program:

“Riding of the _haute école_ by the celebrated Perbaccho! The dance of
the sylphs by Mademoiselle Suzanne, pupil of the famous Helia! Hercules
O’Poufaille, of the family of O’Poufailles! Come in! Come in!”

Phil was greatly astonished. He had not seen Poufaille since the
evening when the latter, with his eyes starting from his head, had cast
at him the terrible accusation—“You have stolen from me my share of
glory!”

“So he’s made himself a Hercules of the fair,” thought Phil, “and he’s
made his name Irish! What a fall for an _autochtone_!”

“Phil,” asked Ethel, who had stopped in front of the Pierrette,
“wouldn’t you say it was Suzanne? And here on the poster is
O’Poufaille—it must be M. Poufaille! Decidedly, Tout-Paris has given
itself a rendezvous in the provinces!”

“What—do you know those people?” grand’mère asked of Ethel. “I suppose
you saw them in some circus!”

“I saw them in Paris—at the Louvre and at Monsieur Phil’s studio. They
are good, brave hearts. Suzanne has posed for me and so did the famous
Helia, whose portrait Yvonne did.”

“Impossible!”

“Why, yes, grand’mère,” Yvonne said. “That head of a Madonna—the
miniature which you keep on your prie-dieu, don’t you know?—Mlle. Helia
posed for it.”

“A Madonna copied from devils like that?” gasped grand’mère, amazed at
the Pierrette’s gesticulations on the platform. “What! you bring such
people into your house! You are not afraid?”

“I?” answered Ethel; “no fear at all! I would give them the key of my
desk! Mme. Grojean, only ask Monsieur Phil, who knows them better than
I. Every one earns his living as he can. Each one has his trade—and God
for us all!”

“When you go to see them—for I hope you are going to see them,” Ethel
continued, speaking to Phil, “remember me to them, and you will oblige
me much! If M. Poufaille still has a picture to sell, I will buy it.
Poor M. Poufaille!” she added. “After all, he might have succeeded, who
knows? It is all such a question of chance!”

Phil, in his heart, did not care much about seeing Poufaille again;
what sort of a welcome was there in store for him? But he could not
explain all that to Miss Rowrer; and, besides, her desires were orders
for him—and then, he would come to Poufaille bearing the gifts of
Artaxerxes; that would calm him, no doubt.

“I do not blush for my friends, Miss Rowrer,” Phil said. “I will go
this instant. The good fellow will be very glad to have your order.”

“We shall see you later,” answered Ethel.

The camping-party continued its stroll through the fair in two
distinct groups. Behind were grandma and grand’mère, talking familiarly
together. The piping-time of peace had come with currant-syrup under
the arbor by the riverside. Mme. Riçois, full of smiles, fat and
dimpling, came and went like a diplomatic valise between the group
ahead,—Ethel, Yvonne, and Will,—and the group behind, grandma and
grand’mère. These two elegant groups formed a phalanx, bannered by
parasols, in the midst of the crowd in blue blouses.

They went along the principal part of the fair, a sort of central
alley, which the circus blocked at one end, whereas, at the other end,
under dusty trees, the show of domestic animals was lined up. From all
parts arose a continuous confusion of sounds, like the murmur of the
sea.

“What a noise!” grand’mère exclaimed. She was accustomed to her silent
house, between the deserted place and the garden with its clipped
yew-trees. “But there’s no harm in passing by such a Jericho now and
then—it disgusts you with noise for a year to come!”

Just then Mme. Riçois came up, breathing hard.

“Oh, no! It’s too funny! I never saw Yvonne amuse herself so much. Ah!
how gay these young people are! Do you know what M. Rowrer has been
telling us? He declares that the country, even on a fair-day like this,
soothes his nerves. Miss Rowrer is of the same opinion; they are as
merry as children.”

“Perhaps they are too merry,” grand’mère thought to herself. “What an
idea of my daughter’s to stay at the house for her preserves, and to
leave me alone to look after Yvonne. Really, she chose her time well;
was it so necessary for Yvonne to come here and admire the fronts
of the booths? Ah! nowadays young people never have their fill of
pleasure!”

To calm her conscience, grand’mère said to herself that it was all
right for once, but that it should not happen again. Mme. Riçois spoke
the truth. They were amusing themselves very much there in front—a
great deal too much for grand’mère. Will was as gay as a boy let loose
from school.

In comparison with such a provincial fête, Chicago, as he remembered
it, made on him the effect of a machine-shop full of the noise of
steam-hammers. Taking out his watch, he thought how at that very hour
he might have been at the Stock Exchange, worried with business, in
the midst of frenzied outcries and distorted faces; whereas, here there
were only smiles and gaiety. Every one seemed happy, even the poorest;
and the tumult was that of good-fellowship. Joyous vine-dressers were
buying baskets for their grapes. Farther along, waffles were frying.
Here they were selling cooked sausages; and expansive mouths were
emptying their glasses or biting into loaves of bread.

“Here are people,” Will said, “who know how to amuse themselves.”

“Is it a secret, monsieur?” asked Yvonne.

“To be content with what one has,” answered Will. “You have a French
proverb about it: ‘_S’il n’y en a pas, il n’en faut pas_’ [‘What you
can’t have, you don’t need’]—and that is right—don’t you think so,
mademoiselle?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Yvonne; “you seem to know the French people
better than I.”

The rare charm of Mlle. de Grojean, her innate simplicity and inherited
refinement, seemed to Will like the perfect expression of all he loved
in France. He, who was so taciturn, would have talked on for hours only
to see the manner, at once coquettish and reserved, with which Yvonne
listened to him.

“My impression of France is this,” said Will: “it is holiday every day,
and the next day you begin again.”

“You see everything in rose-color, M. Rowrer,” Yvonne remarked.

“No,” said Ethel, who, in her walks around the camp, had often visited
the poor—“no, it’s not all the time holiday for everybody.”

“I know that, too,” Will replied; “life is as hard here as anywhere
else; but it is the only country where you can give yourself the
illusion that it is easy.”

They had come to the end of the central alley. Followed by grand’mère
and grandma, they had passed by the Pretty Shepherdess of the Alps—a
woman of formidable proportions painted on canvas, in company with
three white goats, not far from the booth of the bearded woman. Just
there the group behind would have lost the forward group, if it had
not been for Mme. Riçois, who elbowed her way with energy through the
crowd, which, at this spot, pressed together like the current in a
narrow strait. An immense lottery-wheel was turning with a noise like
the wind.

The day drew on, and the peasants were already leading away their
cattle. They went along in single file, in front of their yoked oxen,
slow as a procession. The dust they raised settled on the trees in
white powder.

“You may say what you please, Will,” Ethel continued; “it may be all
very peaceable if you compare it with the Stock Exchange, but it’s not
so compared with Camp Rosemont.”

“We shall go to see you soon,” said Mlle. Yvonne; “you know that every
one is talking about it in the town. They tell wonders of it!”

“I am sorry you cannot come to stay with us, Yvonne. I so wish you had
been there the other day. I got up an open-air lunch for the village
children; and the way they played and laughed! We wound up everything
by dancing a great round. Sometimes autos come; and you’d almost think
you were at a gymkhana of the Bois de Boulogne. Then I’ve begun my
water-colors again. If you would come, Yvonne, we’d make Suzanne pose
in her costume as a Pierrette.”

“_Ce diable!_ That’s what grand’mère would say. She’d never be willing!”

“But we should be with you, you know—no ugly man—”

“With an exception for me, I hope?” Will put in.

“And if Suzanne or Helia should pose, after all, what harm could there
be?” continued Ethel. “I know very well there are prejudices,—and don’t
let’s be too severe on them; prejudice is the counterfeit brother of
good sense; hump-backed and with horns, sometimes even without pity.
Think of Helia, who wears a more than royal or imperial mantle—beauty!
It is impossible that so much beauty should not go along with virtue
also; and yet, no!—_un diable_, Mme. de Grojean would say!”

“Ah!—in such a profession!” said Yvonne.

“Ah!” said Ethel; “if Helia were an actress or a singer, she would wear
crowns and recite high-sounding verses; and the poets would give her
prestige in real life. But she has neither diamonds nor jewels; with
her full complement of arms, she is only a Venus de Milo in a silk
maillot!”

“You are jesting, Ethel,” said Will. “You are not going to compare
gymnastics with dramatic art?”

“Why not? Do you know anything more beautiful than a beautiful gesture?
What comedy, what drama can moralize us more than beauty which makes
us blush for our own ugliness, and for our poor limbs, like consumptive
chickens or stuffed turkeys! It is the training-school of the will and
of energy.”

“If she were beautiful as Venus,” Will retorted, “I’d never choose for
a wife an acrobat, offering me her heart with a triple high leap.”

“Of course,” said Ethel, “and you would be right; each one in his own
sphere. That is one of the conditions of happiness, and society with us
has intangible laws which only the unclassed and the _blasé_ venture to
break. We do not live in the East, where slaves become queens,—not even
in Morgania, a country of icons and superstition; in such countries
anything is natural, the only rule being the good pleasure of the
master. After all, it is one prejudice instead of another!”

Phil now came to find them. He had recognized them, from a distance, in
the crowd, by the shimmering of their parasols. He recounted to Ethel
his interview with Poufaille. He looked delighted; everything must have
passed off well.

“There are prejudices everywhere,” Ethel went on. “Yourself, Yvonne—do
you never stand out against prejudice? I will take Monsieur Phil for
witness.”

“In what, please?” Yvonne asked.

“For one example, in walking with us among hundreds of men,—those
fearful men of whom you spoke with such terror in Phil’s studio; don’t
you remember?”

“Oh,” said Yvonne, looking around her indifferently, “these good
country people in their blue blouses? It was not that I meant, Miss
Ethel.”

“Then men in blue blouses are not men?” Ethel answered, laughing. “It’s
like women in maillots,—they don’t count! What do you think, Phil?”



CHAPTER V

A BANQUET ON THE SAWDUST


Poufaille and Phil were now friends again—really they had been so for
some time, ever since the day when Phil had taken to Poufaille Ethel’s
order for a picture. Poufaille was incapable of nursing wrath, and
received Phil with open arms. The two _copains_ squeezed each other’s
hands.

“Good old Phil!” Poufaille exclaimed; and Phil answered: “Good old
Poufaille!”

And they did not speak once of their old quarrel until the day when the
artistes had their banquet in the ring of the circus itself.

Phil had a great deal of amusement that day. Suzanne beggared
description, and Poufaille was a show in himself, standing up, glass in
hand, and singing the glory of the vintage. With a gesture, he snatched
his collar from his shirt.

“It chokes me! I can’t give the trills!” he said, for the trills were
the strong point of this garlic-eater and roller of _r_’s from the
South. So he thundered out his song in honor of wine and vine, of vats
and presses, and of the good hot blood of the good old wine-drinkers.
Around the table all the voices took up the refrain, but they could
not drown the terrible voice of Poufaille, which rumbled and rolled,
covering all the rest as the noise of thunder covers the twittering of
sparrows.

     “Buveurs de vin—couchez dans la poussière
               Ces buveurs de bière!”

     (“Wine drinkers, throw down in the dust
               All drinkers of beer!”)

Scornful laughter shook his sides, and he struggled to give his
good-natured voice a diabolical, biting tone, as he repeated, looking
at Phil:

     “Ces buveurs de bière!”

Poufaille, excited by the wine, had a look of fury. But when he had
finished, his shaggy eyebrows grew peaceful, and a smile spread all at
once over his big, good-natured face.

“You’re not angry at me, I hope?” he said to Phil, patting him on the
shoulder. “What I said about beer-drinkers does not vex you—_hein_?”

“It doesn’t touch me,” answered Phil, “for I only drink water!”

“True, so you do, poor fellow!” Poufaille said in a tone of pity. “Good
old Phil!”

“Good old Poufaille,” Phil replied, “sing whatever you wish; we sha’n’t
quarrel for that!”

Poufaille was reassured, filled up his glass, and emptied it at a
draught.

“Look out,” said Phil, “you’ll drink too much.”

“Let me be; I need it,” Poufaille answered; and it was almost with a
gesture of despair that he filled his glass again. Those around them,
also, were not drinking water. Phil had done things on a large scale.
He had ordered champagne—as much champagne as they wished. A full glass
was offered to Poufaille, but he refused it.

“Champagne? _Pouah!_ That is a wine for foreigners!” he explained.
“Give me good old red wine—and let me drink till my thirst is
quenched!”

On the table—or rather on the jumping-board of the circus, which
stood on props with its chalk-powder giving the illusion of a white
cloth—there was a mass of dishes and plates and empty bottles. It had
been spread in the very middle of the ring—in the good odor of sawdust.
Around the table, seated on the chairs of equilibrists, or on the
stools of hand-balancers, were the circus artistes and a few invited
guests. They had laughed a great deal during the banquet, before the
time came for the songs and toasts.

“We all look as if we had the plague!” Suzanne said, by way of
appetizer, pointing to the color of the faces under the green reflected
light of the tent. Thereupon Poufaille grew livid, in his constant
terror of the most imaginary ailments—stoppage of the blood, wind,
stiff neck, plague, and cholera.

“Shut off the draughts of air!” he cried, “we’ll all get our death!”

He all but fainted with fear as he saw, in front of him, his plate
rising up in the air without his touching it.

“My plate! my plate is going away!” he stammered, in terror.

  [Illustration: The Banquet in the Ring of the Circus]

“Oh! what is the matter?” Suzanne cried. “I can’t understand it—perhaps
a snake has got loose from the menagerie next door!”

“Help! Help!” Poufaille sputtered, ready to faint.

“What are you afraid of?” said Perbaccho, the master of the show.
“Don’t you see that it is only Suzanne playing tricks on you?”

“Oh, it’s all right, then!” Poufaille said, recovering his assurance.
“She’s been playing me all sorts of tricks lately—not counting the
strokes of the broomstick!”

In fact, Suzanne had brought out her whole repertory of practical
jokes—liquids that flame up, powder which, thrown into a ragout, crawls
about in the shape of a worm, pasteboard mice that run across the
table, papier-mâché fruits and cheeses, and paste sweetmeats. The lunch
was one long burst of laughter.

When the dessert came Perbaccho, the master, arose, glass in hand.

“To the health of Monsieur Phil!” he said.

“Here’s to his health!” repeated the guests around the jumping-board.

“Vive Monsieur Phil!” said the children, who were sitting farther on,
at a little table with spangled velvet fringe, on which, during his
performances, the juggler placed his balls and knives. Sœurette was
there; Helia had brought her, although she was too great an artiste to
show herself at Perbaccho’s circus. She had come to the country to be
near Suzanne and to rest.

“Dear friends,” Perbaccho went on, in the same voice with which he
announced his Grrrand Representations, “the time has come to thank
Monsieur Phil for the great and numerous services which he has
rendered us. [Applause.] Now that Monsieur Phil is going to leave us,
we do not wish to let him depart without saying to him—hum, hum—how
grateful we are for his having been willing to put his talents at our
disposition. [“Bravo!”] Hum, hum—although Monsieur Phil has not yet
set up for himself in the fairs, nevertheless he is a real artiste;
and the delighted public looks with great pleasure—I will even say with
enchantment—at the portrait which decorates our platform and represents
Mademoiselle Suzanne of the O’Poufaille Family!”

“Vive la joie!” Suzanne began.

“Hear! hear!”

“Also Monsieur Poufaille’s portrait in his exercises of strength.”

“Bravo!” cried Poufaille, squeezing Phil’s hand hard enough to crush it.

“Mesdames et messieurs,” Perbaccho continued, “my modest establishment
does not permit me to offer Phil, the artiste, that salary to which
he has a right to pretend; but let not that prevent us from drinking
his health. Come now, mesdames et messieurs, here’s to the health of
Monsieur Phil!”

It was not a thing which had to be repeated; every one drank to Phil’s
health; and Phil returned thanks.

Phil enjoyed the popularity he had won by his friendliness to such
good people. It was true—to please Suzanne, he had done her portrait
with a few hours’ work. Yet Suzanne did not welcome him, as she had
done in the old times, with a “Good day, Phil! Roll me a cigarette,
_mon petit_!” Even her monkeyshines ceased in his presence; this was
something he did not understand. He had also painted Poufaille as a
Hercules, lifting enormous weights. Moreover, he had rendered light
services to all this little world of the fair. He had his recompense.
He had entered most intimately into the life of the little world.
His album had been enriched by any number of sketches and types, by
picturesque interiors as somber and stirring with life as those of
Rembrandt. He had daring foreshortenings of gymnasts at the trapeze, of
handsome boys and pretty girls with muscles like antique statues.

Every one admired the strength and address with which a simple amateur
like Phil handled the dumb-bells or climbed the smooth rope. They were
only astonished that, with a talent like his, he did not open a place
for himself to do portraits at four or five francs apiece—that would
bring him in a good day’s earnings; and this would not include the
pupils who would be with him from time to time—they had seen some of
them at the fair with him. He might open a permanent Beauty Exhibition;
there was that big blonde, especially—but they never spoke to him about
that. They were completely ignorant of whom he was or whom his friends
were. Suzanne, flighty as she was, was discretion itself on this point,
and there was no danger of Poufaille talking when Suzanne forbade him.
No one suspected that the big blonde was rich enough to buy up the
circus and its artistes with it, and Signor Perbaccho to boot, as well
as all the side-shows and the whole fair, and the houses round about
the fair. They did not even know her name. As to Phil, when they met
him in the circus-tent, or with the wrestlers, making his sketches,
they treated him like any other comrade.

The Rowrers’ yacht was to sail for Morgania in a few days, taking
away the whole party, after two months at Camp Rosemont. Before his
departure Phil wished to give pleasure to Poufaille and his friends by
this luncheon with him. They yielded to his insistence, and accepted
without ceremony. It gave him little trouble, and he brought his box
and canvas to finish a study near by in the fields. This was a present
he wished to offer to Ethel, and it reminded him of the pastimes of
other days.

On the morrow, during the hunt—on the morrow, he had promised, he
had sworn it to himself, and the moment was drawing near—no power in
the world could hinder him—and yet how anxious he was! He was already
in a fever and occupied himself with this lunch only to distract his
thoughts, to prove to himself that he was calm and reasonable, that he
had not lost his head. He looked at the groups around the jumping-board
which had been turned into a table, and thought of the morrow. He
surprised himself repeating in a low tone: “To-morrow!”

“What are you giving us with your ‘To-morrow’?” asked Poufaille, who
overheard it. “Perhaps to-morrow others and not we shall be drinking
the wine. I know no to-morrow but to-day! I tell you it’s drinking
water that makes you sad and dreamy.”

“And you—is it wine that makes you so gay?” Phil retorted.

“Well, I have little reason to be gay,” Poufaille replied. “If I drink,
it is to stun myself. See here, do you want me to tell you?—but what
use would it be! He who lives will see. By the way, you know that Helia
has come back with Sœurette. She’s in town for a few days.”

“What!” Phil exclaimed; “how is it she is not here?”

“She was tired,” replied Poufaille. “But, _entre nous_, Phil, you’d
just as lief she shouldn’t be here—eh?”

“But why?” Phil asked.

Poufaille was on the point of speaking, but some one at the end of the
table called out with all his might:

     “Farine! farine!
     Embrassez votre voisine!”

It was the gallant refrain which winds up rustic feasts. Around the
board all the women lent themselves with good grace to the custom.
Poufaille devoured Suzanne with his eyes.

“Here’s your time,” Phil said to him. “What are you waiting for? Kiss
her now, kiss her; she owes you as much as that!”

“Kiss her?” Poufaille said, looking at Phil gloomily. “Are you making
fun of me? She hasn’t let me kiss her for more than a month; she’s
furious against every one—against myself!”

“Oh, now!” said Phil, “Suzanne furious? She wouldn’t be so gay.”

“I tell you she is; and I can see it. Do you think it gives me pleasure
to take the blows of a broomstick on my head? The stick is light, it
is true, and I have a false pigskin skull; but never mind! is that a
trade? You knew me and you knew her. I was the creator of ‘Liberty’ and
‘Fraternity’; and now you see what I am—a fly-killer! It’s flattering,
_hein_? To be a fly-killer when I feel within myself the soul of a
lion!”

“Keep up your hopes,” Phil answered; “all that will change.”

“‘Keep up your hopes’! But you know nothing about it,” Poufaille
hurried on with his tragic voice; “oh, Suzanne strikes hard with her
_aïe donc_! But the hardest is that I should pay up for others. Oh,
yes; I receive blows which ought to have been for you!”

“For me?” Phil gasped.

“Yes, for you—which ought to have been for you—for you—you hear?” and
Poufaille shook Phil by the coat collar. “I tell you, it’s your fault!”

“You must be crazy,” Phil answered. “What have I done?”

“What have you done?” Poufaille continued, in the excitement of his
glass of rum. “Do you want to know what you have done? I am going
to tell you what you have done—to me! You have stolen my share of
happiness!”

“Has that taken hold of you again?” said Phil. “I thought it was
over—all this nonsense about stealing glory.”

“It isn’t glory, I tell you! It’s happiness!”

Phil and Poufaille were speaking low, and no one heard them. Suzanne
had sat down, and every one was accustomed to Poufaille’s gestures. No
one paid any attention.

“Good Poufaille, dear old Poufaille, I am sorry to give you pain, old
man,” Phil said pleasantly, as he took away the bottle.

“No; it’s not worth while,” Poufaille said sadly; “I shall drink no
more. Only follow what I say,—do you follow? Do you know why I am not
married?”

“No,” said Phil, putting the bottle beyond reach.

“It is because _you_ are not married.”

“Indeed!” said Phil. “So, my good Poufaille, you wish to marry me off
like that?”

“Yes; as you swore you would do!” answered Poufaille.

“To whom?”

“To Helia!”

“Speak lower!” Phil said, disquieted.

But even if they had talked louder, no one would have caught a word.
Conversation was general around the board. The kissing was finished,
and they were smoking cigarettes. The men talked horses, balancing,
feats of strength; the ladies talked dress, spangled maillots, gauze
skirts.

Phil and Poufaille, at their end of the table, were as free to converse
as if they had been alone. Poufaille now bent over Phil, as if to tell
him a secret.

“Yes; you swore it!” he continued. “And Suzanne concludes from it
that the best of men are worth nothing at all—that men are windmills
for lying. When I tell her I love her, that I’ll make her happy—when
I swear to her that I cannot live without her, she turns on her heel,
saying: ‘That’s all humbug!’ and that she can trust no one, not me more
than you; that it costs nothing to get down on one’s knees; that our
promises and oaths ought to be stuffed down our throats; and that the
way you treated Helia was a shame—”

“Speak lower!” said Phil.

“—that you had promised her marriage,” Poufaille kept on; “that
you loved her madly; that if need had been you would have taken God
to witness; that you had sworn to her she should be your wife, and
that you could not live without her. And, besides, it was no sudden
stroke—you had known her for years, you had long loved her. And all
at once, without any one knowing why, just because you earn a little
money and have talent, while she is only a poor acrobat,—suddenly,
without reason, you know her no longer; and if you should meet her in
the street, you would turn your head. That’s what Suzanne says; and she
has more head than all of us—and more heart, too!”

Poufaille looked toward Suzanne with a sigh. Then he went on again:
“Oh, Phil, I should never have told you all this; but, _ma foi_, it was
choking me! I’m not one of your Northern folks, to keep a secret. To me
it’s like a starched collar—I must pull it off! Now give me a glass of
wine!”

Phil hesitated.

“Pour it out, I tell you,” Poufaille insisted. “I have a fever. It
calms me; and, after all, there’s truth in wine!”

Phil poured out a full glass, which Poufaille emptied.

“Ah, yes, yes!” he went on again, wanderingly, as he put his glass down
on the table; “when I think that without these stories she would have
been my wife—and now she will not be, for when she says No, it means
no! She may be gay to look at, but she’s sad at heart. She has heaps
of ideas that turn my blood. On my honor, I believe she will end in a
convent! What! Phil, I laugh also; but I have no desire to laugh. It’s
only by habit, you know; I feel more like weeping. And as to all those
stories about glory which bothered me, how stupid one is to curdle
one’s blood for so little! But my happiness is gone forever; I shall
never marry Suzanne, never, never!”

Poufaille’s gestures emphasized his words; his fist came down heavily
upon the table.

“Eh, over there! don’t break anything,” Suzanne cried. “Poufaille,
you’re losing your head!”

“Yes, I’m losing it—I mean no!” answered Poufaille. “I’m only telling
a story.”

“That’s no reason for getting into a rage,” Suzanne answered pleasantly.

“Yes, it is a reason,” Poufaille murmured. “There is reason to get into
a rage—and break things!”

“Calm yourself; be quiet,” said Phil, who now regretted that he had
come.

“Bah!” he thought; “is it worth my while listening to drunken
maunderings?” But the hour for breaking up was near.

Phil stayed on, however, and Poufaille kept on talking.

“Ah!” he said, crossing his arms and looking Phil in the face; “after
all, why didn’t you marry her? Yes, why? You loved Helia, and no one
can say anything against her. You agree with me about that, I suppose?”

Phil did not answer.

“Dear old Phil,” Poufaille insisted strongly, “you can’t deny it? We
shouldn’t be friends otherwise, you know.”

“I alone must be judge of that,” Phil said.

“No!” Poufaille said; “that’s your new way of looking at things;
but I tell you, there’s not a woman in the world above her—do you
understand?—not one! I tell you—not one!”

Phil frowned.

“I’m not making any allusions,” said Poufaille.

“I should hope not,” said Phil.

“I am only telling you the truth,” Poufaille declared; “and I am glad
to have said it. I can breathe better now. It’s true! It turned my
blood to hear Suzanne telling it, with Helia so sad. When I think that
you used to be so rigid about such things—and now you act just like the
others! What’s the difference between you and Socrate? For a man who is
always quoting the Bible and setting himself up as an example—you’re a
bad one, that’s all!”

Phil turned pale.

“Poufaille is drunk,” he thought. “I’d best go away.”

But he stayed on; and Poufaille kept on talking; and Phil listened,
in spite of himself, unmoved to all appearance, but deeply touched at
bottom, for he could not say to Poufaille: “You are lying! It is false!
I promised nothing!”

“Yes,” Poufaille continued, in a low voice, making sure that no one
was listening—“yes, I know what you might say: Helia’s surroundings,
Socrate,—I know not what. You have suspected her, that I do know!
Suzanne has told me. Our good Helia, who would give her life for you—if
she only gives money to a beggar you suspect her for it; for Socrate
is a beggar—a beggar she keeps alive out of pure charity, just as she
helps Cemetery, simply because he is old and cannot work. But you know
that as well as I.”

“But the duke,” Phil spoke up. “I saw Helia—”

“You saw Suzanne! Ah, I’ve blamed Suzanne often enough for it
since—what an idea in her to go to take supper with the duke! I’d
rather she would strike me with the broomstick!”

“And yet,” Phil began.

“It’s true the duke was greatly taken with her,” Poufaille continued;
“she had only a word to say and he would have offered her anything. She
never accepted a thing—not even a flower!”

“Ah!” said Phil.

“You see,” Poufaille went on, “you don’t care much to meet Helia—you
have your own reasons for it—for she is here, you know!”

Phil raised his head, as if he expected to see the canvas of the
circus-tent open and Helia appear there looking at him. But there was
no one save the artistes rising from the table and taking away the
things. They were even removing the board, so as to leave the ring
free. In the stables they were preparing the horses for rehearsal.
He could hear the harness rattling, and the whips snapping. The ring,
which had been so gay, suddenly became gloomy. Phil frankly regretted
that he had come. He had a single thought,—how to get away. Taking
up his color-box and canvas, he said good day to every one, and shook
Poufaille’s hand.

“You’re going away?” Poufaille said. “You haven’t a grudge against me,
I hope—it was too much for me!”

“I have nothing against you, old Poufaille.”

“Shall we see you again soon?”

“Who knows!” answered Phil; adding within himself: “Perhaps never!”

As he went out he cast a farewell look on the empty benches, on
the white ladder and great globe, on the saddles and the maillots
which were drying, and on the clowns’ costumes. They were like old
acquaintances whom he should see no more.



CHAPTER VI

WAS POUFAILLE RIGHT?


Once outside, Phil breathed easier. It seemed to him that the open air
was driving away his nightmare, as the sun drives the darkness before
it.

“Poufaille is either crazy or drunk,” he said to himself, as he went
through the fair with his paint-box in his hand. “Suzanne won’t
have him! I have nothing to do with it! Is that a reason to take
tragically a childish love-making? And why should Suzanne interfere?
Helia has never even breathed a word of it to me, and I’ve seen her
often enough since. Surely, love must be muddling Poufaille’s brain,
if it is not the blows of the broomstick. He forgets that I am no
longer the little boy to whom Suzanne was a great actress, Poufaille
a great sculptor, Caracal a great psychologist, and Socrate a
painter-poet-thinker-philosopher! There’s been a change since then—and
I alone am judge of it.”

Phil acknowledged to himself that he had been a little troubled.
Poufaille, with all his simplicity, was candor itself, and incapable of
lying. Yes,—Phil repeated it over as if it gave him relief: Poufaille
was drunk; the least beer-drinker would see ten wine-drinkers like that
under the table! He did Poufaille too much honor by listening to him;
and Suzanne was a scatterbrain. Leave Suzanne her salad, and Poufaille
his pig’s-rump and garlic and wine! Leave every one to his own trade,
and let them stop minding his affairs! Think of it! Now that he was
a man, just when he had fallen in love with a young girl whom no one
could approach, unless with a pure conscience—it was now that Poufaille
would bring him down to the ground, reproaching him with having proved
false to an oath,—with having been cowardly and mean, as if he had
taken up with Helia to amuse himself with her and then cast her away!
Poufaille, stupid and drunken, had said as much!

The absurdity of the idea, even more than the open air and gay
sunlight, drove from his memory the sculptor’s idle tales.

Phil hastened his steps, for he wished to finish the little picture
which he had in his box. It was a nook of the landscape out beyond
the last scattering houses of the town—a charming spot which they had
discovered one day in the automobile. It was a place which had greatly
pleased Miss Ethel.

She had said: “There are spots which you see for the first time, and
yet they impress you like old friends. Would it not be delightful to
have a little cottage here, and take care of one’s own flowers. But no!
one must have autos and horses—Longchamps and Epsom and Haymarket—ah!
what fools these mortals be!”

The snorting forty-horse-power machine bore them afar while she was
still building her little cottage.

“If I were a painter,” she added, “that is what I would paint. With the
simplest subject you can make a masterpiece. This nook has pleased me,
and I shall come back to it, be sure!”

Phil said nothing at the time; but he determined to paint the nook
which had pleased Ethel so much, and to give the picture to her as a
surprise before they left for Morgania.

Phil passed through the parts of the town which were between the open
country and the fair. They were like the outskirts of other towns, with
little boxes of houses and grimy wine-shops, and with great bare spaces
where goats, the cows of the poor man, bleated despairingly. Just
beyond was the full, open country. He approached the spot chosen by
Miss Ethel. The noise of the town was no longer heard; before him were
the gently rising hills crossed by flowering hedges and great leafy
groves, in which the birds were playing.

Phil set up his easel in a shady spot, where Ethel had lingered. It was
by a hedge above a slope leading down to a footpath. He opened his box,
prepared his colors, and set to work. At times he leaned back to judge
better the effect of the whole picture. At times he bent over to put in
a touch; and as he painted, he let his mind wander as it would.

He could not help thinking of the morrow—of the _chasse à courre_, the
mounted deer-hunt with dogs, with which the Comtesse de Donjeon was
honoring the camping-party. It seemed to him that he was already there,
taking in all its details. Even his costume occupied his mind—the
Chantilly boots, the full white breeches, the double-breasted coat, the
high felt hat—the things which constitute the true huntsman’s costume.
It would become him well; and how charming she would be, with her blond
hair under the three-cornered marquise hat!

Phil already fancied himself hearing the joyful notes of the
hunting-horn, and watching the unrestrained galloping beneath the great
trees,—a vision of the Middle Ages, with plumed knights and gentle
ladies on their palfreys. Oh! there was one gentle lady who would
follow the hunt with him,—and, lover as he was, Phil thought there
would be monstrous daring in his wish to offer Miss Rowrer a nosegay
of wild flowers,—for certainly she would see his trouble of soul, and
he would betray himself as he offered it. Miss Rowrer could not be
offended, of course! she had been too much courted in society not to
allow a little of it in the country. It was the business of bores in
society life; but supposing she saw what he meant, would she deign to
encourage him?

  [Illustration: Phil Watching Helia and Socrate]

All this preoccupied Phil, as he put the finishing touches to his
landscape. The place inclined to reverie. While he was there, scarcely
two or three persons had passed along the road below. They could not
see him; it would be necessary to climb up the slope and break through
the hawthorn hedge. For two hours Phil had been working. He had reached
the time, so dangerous for the artist, when a few strokes too much
spoil the picture. He resolved to leave it as it was, without any
working up, in all its freshness of first inspiration. He was preparing
to close his box and fold his easel before going back to Camp Rosemont;
but two persons appeared in the lane below. He gave them no more
attention than he had given to others. It seemed to him that a man was
speaking, and a woman replying. He did not see them; but when they came
near him he recognized their voices.

He stopped motionless and listened again, thinking he must have been
mistaken. He leaned over and looked through the branches of the hedge.
It was indeed they—Helia and Socrate.

Phil felt a chill at his heart. He would like to have had Poufaille
there for a moment—only for a moment—yet no! he would be the only
witness! He would see falling away before him, dropping to the dust,
petal by petal, the flower of his childish love. He was going to hear
Helia talking sweetly, arm in arm, with the painter-thinker. His little
Saint John of other days, so pure and simple, he would hear her; but,
ah, how he wished that he was not there, that he could not hear!

But he heard everything. Bits of conversation mounted up to him as if
torn asunder by the thorns of the hedge.

“Listen to me!” Socrate was saying.

“I know what you are going to say,” answered Helia. “Begone!—I have
told you—no!”

“Yet you were so good to me,” continued the tearful voice of Socrate,
using the familiar “thou.”

“Socrate, I tell you once again, you are to say ‘you’ when you speak
to me,” Helia interrupted firmly. “Any one listening to you might think
you had rights over me!”

“But no one is listening!”

“I hear you!”

There was a moment of silence. They had stopped and Phil looked at
them. He was astounded by the change in Socrate. His beard was unkempt,
and he lowered his head with an air at once humble and aggressive. He
spoke to Helia with looks which he tried to render touching. On his
ragged garments were bits of straw, as if he had slept in a stack. It
was clear that Socrate had been wandering around the neighborhood for
several days, waiting for Helia. He must have met her by chance and,
yielding to his entreaties, she had followed him to have, alone with
him, a final explanation.

Helia was pale, tired from her journey, as Poufaille had said. Her
black eyes shone feverishly. In her modest black gown she seemed to
Phil more beautiful than ever, and more refined. She scarcely turned
her head toward Socrate; and her glance at him was that of scornful
pity.

“You who were so good to me,” the tearful voice went on.

“Too good, it is true!” answered Helia. “I saw your wretchedness,—that
you were starving,—and I believed in your genius. I would have been
proud to help a poet,—to have had something to do, no matter how
little, with the production of a masterpiece. I sinned by pride; I
thought I could lift myself in the eyes of others—especially in _his_
eyes,” she added slowly. “I thought I was acting for the best; I was
wrong!”

“Why were you wrong?”

“It is wrong to aid one who does nothing!”

“Ah!” replied the man, with his look of a beaten dog, “it is not
my fault if I have not fulfilled my dream. Society is pitiless to
thinkers! Those who march to a lofty goal are disdained by the common
herd!”

Socrate, as he spoke, clenched his fist. Phil could see his fingers
working spasmodically—ah! if he could only strangle the whole world!
Helia did not let her eyes fall so low. She fixed them on the face of
Socrate, scorning his impotent gestures.

“Silence! You are only grotesque!”

“Be it so, I have made a mistake,” the voice went on. “But I can
make amends for my wrong-doing. Ah! if you only were willing—if you
were willing, I could make you happy. I would occupy myself with your
affairs; you should be rid of every care. You would have a sure friend,
and I, too,—I would become an artiste!”

“You—an artiste!”

She drew herself up to her full height and looked at the great empty
forehead, at the chicken-necked and round-shouldered Socrate, at his
sallow skin, his moral hideousness, this rag of a painter and poet and
thinker and philosopher.

“An artiste—you! Why, you would not be capable even to show a shaved
bear, or a sick dog, or a two-headed calf! Oh, I know you! You’d like
to be a professor and train Sœurette with strokes of the whip, if
you were allowed! And you’d always be there at my side, to steer me
through life like a devoted friend, would you? Just as you used to do
before. And when I think that people may have said as much, and perhaps
believed that I was your—friend,—and when I remember that you advised
me to frequent the company of a rich duke and forget the friend of my
childhood,—when I think of all that, it is enough to make me die of
shame!”

Socrate gnashed his teeth.

“So it’s the friend of your childhood, is it?—always he?”

“Always he!” said Helia, simply.

“Yet you know—I have told you—that he loves another.”

“I know it.”

“And that he no longer cares for you.”

“I shall believe it when he tells me so himself,” was Helia’s answer.

Socrate put his hands to his head, as if to say: “Can one be such a
fool!”

“But, really,” he said aloud, “since you love him so much, why do you
not use the weapons you have to bring him back to you?”

“Weapons!”

“His letters!”

“You are a miserable fellow! See—here are his letters!” And Helia took
from her breast a few yellowed envelopes. “They might, indeed, fall
into the hands of a wretch like you.” And opening them, she tore the
pages in small pieces.

“But there’s a fortune in them for you!” gasped Socrate. “You don’t
know what you are doing!”

“There’s what I care for such a fortune!” said Helia; and she opened
wide her hand. It might have been a flight of white butterflies. The
light breeze scattered the fragments on every side. Some seemed to
hesitate, as if issuing from a warm nest, and then mounted upward,
whirling around in space. Others fell on the hedge. All these poor
little things which had been promises of love, and held in themselves
an entire youth, were scattered at once by a breath from heaven.

“Yet I loved them well,” she said. “Only it is better so.”

Then, speaking to Socrate, she added proudly: “I will not have him love
me for fear,—I wish him to love me for love’s sake!”

Blushing for shame, she turned her back to Socrate, and walked away
without a look behind. The man began following her. She turned back a
last time, stopped him with an imperious gesture, and disappeared in
the lane.

Socrate, in his fury, growled like a wolf. Phil saw him turn his head
rapidly, to make sure there was no one near, and then put his hand
quickly to his pocket, as if to take out a knife. But no doubt what
he sought was not there; and his hand came forth empty—luckily for
Socrate, since Phil would have leaped the hedge with a bound and fallen
on him like a thunderbolt. Then Socrate disappeared among the trees
with a furtive look.

Phil remained alone. He put everything in order, folding his things
together, and went away. He felt a sort of embarrassment—a shame that
made him hurry his footsteps as if to flee from himself.

Was Poufaille right? Phil passed his hand across his forehead. A
thousand things came back to him now; a bright light was thrown on the
abyss where his youth had perished. The flight of the white butterflies
had been a seed of remembrance to him—the remembrance of the love of
his boyhood. Had it been the romantic passion of an ignorant heart? No;
there had been broken promises and contempt of oaths!

Well, even in such a case, drunken Poufaille had exaggerated; Helia
was more reasonable. She must understand that it was impossible.
She could not deceive herself to such a degree, nor keep on pursuing
imaginations never to be realized. Her own words, “I shall believe it
when he tells me so himself,” were a confession. She would submit to
the inevitable. How was she going to take the final rupture? Phil, in
his heart, trembled to think of it, but it had to be! He would tell her
everything; he would take back the word he had given. He would speak
to her, lowering his eyes, hunting for his words; low, as when one begs
for forgiveness. Never mind, he would tell her! He would act as with a
somnambulist, commanding: “Awake! it was a dream!”

Yes; Helia would understand, without need of insisting. They would part
with a loyal shake of the hand, like the good friends they were, and
would follow separate destinies.

Phil walked on, without looking behind, like one escaping. He felt
easier in his mind. No, there was not such a tragedy in it all as
Poufaille had led him to foresee. Things would go on simply, Phil mused
within himself. For him it was the time of slanting sophisms which
issue from the folds of the heart like crabs from under a rock. He was
more sincere and manly when he put aside with a gesture all his anguish
and uncertainty and, setting his jaw, lifted his head as he said to
himself: “It is too late! Fate has willed it; all society would be on
my side; they would say I was right. Even if Helia’s tears should flow,
even if I should see in her eyes a mute malediction for the slayer of
her illusions, I could do no otherwise; it is too late!”

Phil breathed deeply, as if his breast had been lightened of a heavy
load. He looked around him with the air of a man to whom the future
belongs.

Lowering his eyes, he saw upon his shoulder one of the poor little
fragments of torn letters. Phil threw it from him with a snap of his
finger.



CHAPTER VII

“A TRUE HEART LOVES BUT ONCE”


The day for which Phil had waited so impatiently was come at last—the
day of the _chasse à courre_. Ethel left the hunt and came back alone
to the glade where grandma, a little tired and seated in the great
break, was waiting for the return of the hunters. She got down from
her horse and tossed the reins to a valet. The sun lighted up the tops
of the lofty trees, leaving all the rest in the shade. From afar they
heard the voices of the hounds. The hunting-horn filled the forest with
a far-away melody.

“Poor little doe!” said Ethel, “it is nearly an hour since she left
the thicket, followed by the hounds. She must be by this time in
the pretty valley I christened the other day the Forest of Arden—you
remember?—when I was reading there Shakspere’s ‘As You Like It.’ They
must have lost the scent—her mate is leading the dogs away from her,
no doubt. But it is not for that I have come back, grandma. I wish to
speak with you.”

“Why don’t you follow the hunt?” grandma asked. “Has anything happened
to you, Ethel?”

“Nothing at all, grandma. My horse was in splendid form, and I, too;
but, while taking a ditch, she lost a shoe. She’s limping a little,
I think. And then—and then I couldn’t see you alone yesterday at the
château, and I have something to say to you. But let us not stay here;
they might overhear us,” Ethel added, glancing at the lackeys, who
were loading into a van the champagne-baskets and other remains of the
picnic.

“I will get down,” said grandma. Leaning on Ethel’s arm, she got out of
the break and they crossed the open space.

“Let us go over there,” Ethel said, pointing to one of those graceful
edifices called _nymphées_, which are the necessary ornament of every
self-respecting park. It consisted of a bench, green with the mold of
time and surrounded by a colonnade covered with moss and ivy. It gave
this corner of the forest a mythological note. It was like one of those
rustic shrines where, in the shadow of the sacred grove, goddesses were
appeased by the offering of victims.

“Who would not say this is a scene of Shakspere’s fancy?” said Ethel.
“Listen to the hunting-horn—you might believe you were in an enchanted
forest. But,” she added, as grandma sat down, “there is no question now
of Will the Great, but only of our own dear Will, and of Mlle. Yvonne.”

“She’s very nice,” said grandma. “She’ll profit a great deal by your
company, between Will and you. From being a doll, Yvonne will soon
become a woman.”

“Mlle. Yvonne is already a woman—a true one,” Ethel went on, gravely.
“She has an upright mind and a strong and resolute heart; and I love
her.”

“She’s going to marry Will?” grandma exclaimed, starting up. “That dear
little Yvonne?”

“No, grandma, Yvonne will never be Will’s wife. She has refused.”

“What did I say?” grandma replied. “She’s a doll—she doesn’t know what
she wants! Does a young girl let herself be buried alive like that?
Why shouldn’t she show herself as she is and say: ‘I will!’ when her
happiness is at stake? She has much in common with Will, I am sure. But
in this country no one dares to say what she thinks; people don’t look
each other squarely in the face. If you wish, Ethel, we’ll leave for
America to-morrow!”

“Wait a bit, grandma, and then you’ll love Yvonne with all your heart.”

“After what she has done? Never!”

“Because of what she has done? Sit down again, grandma, and I will tell
you everything.”

“You will waste your breath, Ethel.”

“Wait,” Ethel continued. “Will was very much taken with Yvonne—I am
sure that now he would be much more so if he were only allowed. The
fact that he has been refused shows him so much better the woman he is
losing. It has been a revelation to us. He was conquered by Yvonne as
Desdemona by Othello. In a way he pitied the young girl’s lot—it was
so childish; there was so little society for her. One ball a year,—a
poor little ball, next to nothing,—a life passed in the dim light of
curtains half drawn, near a deserted street, the strong contrast with
Will’s stormy life in Chicago.”

“That is real life!” said grandma.

“Well,” Ethel continued, “everything took hold of Will, just as a man
deafened with the noise of machinery loves the murmur of bees.”

“Oh, it is France Will’s in love with,” grandma said. “It was his auto
journey from Paris and our excursions round the camp that he was going
to marry—it’s only a fancy already passed.”

“No; it will never pass!” answered Ethel. “It is true all his
impressions were personified in Yvonne; but she shows such sterling
qualities that she has no need to personify anything to be loved.”

“You must tell me everything, Ethel,” said grandma.

“This is the way it happened. Of course, it was impossible for Will to
speak alone with Yvonne, especially on such subjects. Besides, he never
had the opportunity; and then—it isn’t done! In France, when a young
man sees a young girl that pleases him, he asks her parents for her;
and her parents accept or refuse.”

“How dreadful!” said grandma.

“Will,” Ethel kept on, “was speaking about it one day to Mme. Riçois.”

“Mme. Riçois? What has she got to do with it?”

“Why, everything, grandma; everything! If it had not been for Mme.
Riçois we should have gone off to Morgania without anything being
decided. Will passed his young days between our mines in Montana and
the Chicago Stock Exchange, and never had time to be in love. Mme.
Riçois opened his eyes. I ought to tell you that she is the most
inveterate marrier of the town.”

“A marrier? I thought she was a banker’s wife!”

“Oh, she has to do something,” replied Ethel. “Mme. Riçois makes
matches to please herself. The little woman delights in it. I can
imagine her embroidering on her sleeve, like an officer’s stripes, the
number of marriages she has brought about.”

“How dreadful!” said grandma.

“She and Will are great friends. Would you believe it, grandma?—last
month she said to him point-blank: ‘Mr. Rowrer, I must find a match
for you!’ Will only laughed. ‘Now, don’t say No!’ Mme. Riçois added
mysteriously; ‘I have a great scheme in my head.’ ‘What is your
scheme?’ Will asked, more and more amused. ‘But you mustn’t tell
anybody! I wish to bring about a Franco-American alliance!’ Will didn’t
answer, but I saw he understood, for I was present.”

“And what then?” asked grandma.

“Naturally they began talking about marriage. Mme. Riçois told us
how she takes hold of the matter; the measures she takes for the
parents: ‘I’ve found a young man who is quite in your line; this is
his situation.’ Thereupon a family council is held, and the young
girl is consulted as a matter of form. Oh, there’s a whole minute and
complicated diplomacy.”

“And yet it would be so simple for the young folks to explain matters
to each other!” grandma exclaimed.

“That is what Will answered; but Mme. Riçois objected that this is
never done. I thought as much, but I know France. It was quite new
to Will; and he kept repeating: ‘Is it possible? Is it possible? For
my part, I’d like to be better acquainted with the girl I marry! I
shall certainly never get married in France.’ Then Mme. Riçois spoke
up: ‘The main thing is that you should please the parents.’ ‘But
it’s the young girl I want to please, and to know if I am pleasing
her,’ Will said obstinately. ‘M. Rowrer,’ Mme. Riçois said, ‘I have
made twenty marriages and they’re all happy; and I myself married my
husband without being acquainted with him. That was thirty years ago,
and our honeymoon is not over yet!’ ‘Perhaps she is right,’ Will said
when Mme. Riçois was gone. ‘Marriages seem to me as happy here as
anywhere. Different countries have different manners, but at bottom
they’re all the same.’ I’m persuaded, grandma, that from that day the
Franco-American alliance began. I mean that the remembrance of Mlle.
Yvonne was crystallized in his heart.”

While Ethel was speaking the shadows had grown darker beneath the
trees. A purple haze softened the outlines of the glade. There was deep
silence, with now and then an echo of the hunting-horns, light as the
humming of a fly. Again the hunt found its way, and the doe, abandoned
by her cowardly mate, turned back toward her haunts. Soon the hallali
would push her to the thicket from which she had started, and where, at
the end of her strength, she would take shelter to die.

“Listen,” Ethel said to grandma, “Will, Phil, and every one are out
there, forgetful of care and trouble, chasing to its death a poor,
innocent animal. Isn’t it sad?” Then, taking up her interrupted
conversation, she continued: “From that day, especially, Will thought
of Mlle. Yvonne. He saw her again several times and fell more and more
under her charm, in spite of their commonplace interviews. Each time
he discovered new qualities in her. When I praised her, Will was glad
to listen; and Mme. Riçois was always after him with the scheme of
the alliance. You can imagine that it didn’t please Will much to be
obliged to win the parents in order to get the girl. Well! he won over
everybody. As to grand’mère, who is the Egeria of the family, the one
that decides difficult cases without appeal from her judgment—”

“Grand’mère said no for Yvonne?” grandma asked.

“Grand’mère said yes!”

“But if mother and grandmother, uncles and aunts, and Mme. Riçois say
yes, who is it says no?”

“Yvonne says no.”

“Well, I declare!” grandma exclaimed, in amazement. It was not the
first time she had declared since she was in France, but never with
such energy. In her voice there were astonishment and anger and
admiration and, most of all, curiosity.

“How did it happen, Ethel? Tell me all!” and she turned her face toward
her granddaughter with an expression of anxiety.

“Ah!” Ethel replied, “who would ever suspect that Yvonne had a romance
in her life?”

“A romance in Yvonne’s life! What are you telling me, Ethel? Watched
as she is, a romance! It must have been with another doll!—when she was
ten years old—or when she was playing husband and wife with some child
of her own age!”

“Exactly so,” Ethel answered, with a serious look. “Listen! Yesterday
I went in the auto to the Grojeans’, to say good day as I passed. I
suspected nothing. Everything was shut up, as usual. I knocked and was
let in. The door of the salon opened, and Yvonne, who had recognized my
voice, came toward me with outstretched hands, and said: ‘Oh, it’s you!
How glad I am! Come in!’”

Grandma was immensely interested, and listened, with her eyes fixed
on those of Ethel, with a scarcely perceptible movement of her lips,
as if, in her anxiety to lose nothing, she were repeating the words to
herself.

“By the way in which Yvonne took my hand,” Ethel went on, in a low
voice, “I understood something was happening. The Grojean ladies were
there, silent and much embarrassed, and there was Mme. Riçois, as red
as possible. I looked at Yvonne. ‘My dear friend,’ Yvonne said to me,
‘I am glad you came. Perhaps you know what is going on. For me it’s my
first news of it. They have just told me of a great scheme,—an offer
so honorable and so flattering—’ That moment, grandma, I understood
they had just communicated to Yvonne Will’s intentions. By the way in
which the ladies listened to Yvonne, I also learned that she had not
yet given her answer. She was going to speak in my presence.

“‘The offer is so flattering,’ Yvonne said, looking me squarely in the
face, ‘and I should have been so very happy to call you my sister;
the marriage would overwhelm every one here with joy’ (I had only
to look at the beaming faces to see that they expected Yvonne to say
‘I accept’)—‘the marriage would overwhelm us all with joy; but there
is some one—one only—who would have too great pain from it. I am not
free—I have given my word to another!’

“I wish you had been there, grandma, to judge of the consternation
caused by the word ‘another’! Mme. de Grojean arose, pale as death.

“‘Yvonne, you have given your word to another? Without your mother
knowing it? To whom? Answer!’

“‘To my cousin Henri,’ answered Yvonne.

“Mme. de Grojean breathed again: ‘To your cousin Henri! But he is only
a child-sweetheart, my dear daughter; every one has that in her life.
Now you must act like a woman. That was not in earnest. Henri will give
you back your word!’

“‘But I shall not take it back!’ said Yvonne.

“‘What are you thinking of! Your cousin Henri—nothing but an employee
at the Riçois bank, with no substantial situation and with no future;
do you compare him with Monsieur Rowrer, for whom, besides, you have a
sentiment? Avow it!—it is nothing to blush for.’

“‘I do not blush for it,’ Yvonne said; ‘but I have a sentiment for
Henri also; and, moreover, he has my word. If he is not rich, he will
work. Monsieur Rowrer is too rich! What an opinion Henri would have
of me if he thought I would marry another just because he is worth
millions, and would abandon him because he is poor! Surely he would
believe so! I would never dare look him in the face. Henri counts on
me,—I shall be his wife!’”

“Oh, brave little Yvonne!” said grandma. “Did she say that?”

“Yes, grandma, she said that; and she was radiant with beauty as she
said it, I can assure you. ‘My dear Ethel,’ she told me afterward, ‘you
see there is nothing to wound Monsieur Rowrer’s self-love. Tell him I
have the greatest esteem for him, and would have been so glad to call
you my sister, Ethel. But what would you have done in my place?’

“Yvonne must have seen in my looks how deeply I was moved, and how much
I admired her.”

“What about the family council—what did it say?” grandma asked.

“‘Is that your final decision?’ Mme. de Grojean demanded of Yvonne.

“‘It is my final decision,’ said Yvonne.

“‘Come, then, Yvonne, and be happy!’ and the mother pressed her to her
bosom.”

“But the grandmother—that terrible grand’mère?”

“Grand’mère kissed Yvonne on the forehead, and said to her, ‘You’ve
done well, my child,’—and then I came away. That is all, grandma.”

The evening was creeping over the forest. The high clumps of trees
stood out in somber masses against the deep sky. Ethel and grandma had
completely forgotten the hunt; but the sound of the horns drew near.
The exhausted doe was returning, followed close by the hounds.

“Let us go away; the dew is falling,” grandma said pensively. “Let us
go back to the breaks; the hunters will soon be here.”

“Go on alone, grandma; I will wait for them here. I shall return to the
château on horseback.”

Ethel remained on the stone bench. When she separated herself from the
hunt the branch of a tree in a narrow alley had ruffled her hair. She
took off her hat, to put it in order. She was just finishing, when a
hunter, who had doubtless left his horse at the rendezvous and seemed
to be looking for some one, crossed the glade and passed before her.

“Monsieur Phil!” Ethel said, rising.

Phil turned his head toward her. Ethel stood upright in the ruined
colonnade. Her blond hair shone bright against the dark background
of ivy-covered rock. With her black gown, she might have been a nymph
in mourning, staying some passing wanderer, in the depths of a sacred
grove.

  [Illustration: “Ethel stood upright in the ruined colonnade”]

Phil was dazzled. He knew he should find her at this place, for he
had seen her leave the hunt near the spot of the hallali. He wished
to see Ethel. He had gathered in haste a nosegay of wild flowers to
offer her. Miss Rowrer was to see that he had come back for her,—that
he had gathered the flowers for her, that he was thinking of her. She
might, too, see his emotion when he should offer his simple gift. She
would thank him. He would say he knew not what,—but she would know! He
had sworn to himself to act; the time had come. Nature herself pushed
him forward. There was gladness in this beautiful evening. The wind
stirred the lofty trees and Phil listened to the hunting-horn as the
soldier sharpens his courage by the rolling of the drums. He advanced
respectfully toward Ethel, hiding the flowers with which he wished to
surprise her.

“You have something on your mind, Monsieur Phil,” Ethel said.

“Is it as plain as that?” Phil asked, in an uncertain voice.

Like a true lover, he thought he could already read in her face the
feelings which moved himself. He was almost sorry to have come. He
would have been glad to escape, and he tried to hide his trouble by
indifferent remarks.

“You, Miss Rowrer, are radiant this evening.”

“It is because I am so happy, Monsieur Phil. Oh, so happy!”

“The evening is so fine,” Phil began; “you—”

“I saw yesterday something finer and sweeter than all that,” Ethel
interrupted, with a gesture which took in the forest and the sumptuous
sky. “I saw some one yesterday repulse with disdain a fortune, to
remain faithful to a childhood love.”

Phil stopped short.

“It was a young girl,” Ethel went on, slowly, as if to communicate
to him her own conviction,—“a young girl who believes in the sanctity
of promises made when one is young, when the heart is as clear as the
sky,—a young girl who believes in loyalty to her word once given, and
to oaths exchanged later, when she knew what she was doing—at the age
when one still sees in love only love itself.”

“It might be for me and Helia!” Phil thought. “Yet, she knows nothing
about it.”

“That is why I look radiant,” Ethel continued. “Ah, it refreshes me
after what we see so often,—vile hearts and cowardly consciences.”

“This is my punishment,” thought Phil.

In full daylight, Ethel would certainly have noticed his fearful
pallor. He stammered out: “One is not always master of his own heart!”

“A true heart,” replied Ethel, “loves but once. There are not different
oaths for each different age of life.”

All this was a lightning-flash to Phil’s soul. Ethel had never seemed
more friendly to him, and she was radiant and gay. But he no longer
thought of her. He was face to face with himself.

“Yet, in spite of one’s self,” Phil answered, in a hesitating voice,
“the sacrifice of first love may be made to a later one—it sometimes
happens.”

“It happens every day,” said Ethel; “money talks!”

Phil let his nosegay of wild-flowers fall behind him to the ground.

“I won’t keep you, Monsieur Phil,” she said, believing that she
was preventing him from taking part in the hallali. “Go, now!” she
continued pleasantly, “they’re only waiting for you to cut the doe’s
throat—listen, they’re sounding the death!”

Indeed, the forest near them was full of a rising tumult; lackeys were
carrying torches; cries and calls were heard, and the barking of the
hounds grew savage. The poor doe had come back to her sleeping-place
to die. There was despair in her gasp; and the flaring horns set up the
triumphal song of the hallali.

“Really, Phil, I do not wish to deprive you of such pleasure. Go. But
you had something in your hand just now—some flowers, I think. Put them
on this bench. You will find them when you return.”

“I have nothing, Miss Ethel,” Phil answered, showing his empty hands.

Every word Ethel had said wounded him cruelly, though he felt sure she
knew nothing of his relations with Helia. It seemed to him they applied
to his own troubles. They thrilled him to the bottom of his heart.

He plunged into the night of the forest, toward the blood-red glow
lighting up the slaughter.



PART IV

CONSCIENCE



CHAPTER I

ON THE BLUE SEA


A blue sea—a blue sky. The yacht was sailing under deep azure,
reflected back by calm waters. It was unlike the jolts and staccato
teuf-teuf of the automobile; it was gentle as the swinging of a balloon
in the open heavens. The furrow of foam behind the yacht was like a
trail of clouds.

On the promenade-deck, in the shade of the big deck-house, grandma,
Ethel, and Will were taking the air, stretched out in bamboo chairs.
Through the open door books and newspapers could be seen on the table,
and in the corners of the salon baskets of beautiful flowers were
disposed. The sea breeze mingled with the smell of roses. Near the
yacht’s prow a band was playing softly. Among the crew there were
musicians by trade,—old sailors of the navy bands. They were training
themselves for gala-days later on—in Sicily, in Greece, in Morgania.
Their low notes reached the group at the stern like a murmur of distant
voices. Ethel looked abstractedly across the sea to the horizon.
She was thinking of the country she had left behind—of the mists and
gardens where the leaves fall in autumn; of the countries she was yet
to see, with their blue archipelagos, whose white minarets seem milky
pearls set in sapphire.

She was almost overwhelmed with remembrances. She thought of those
shores where poets sang of gods and heroes; of that sea which had
reflected, in turn, fable and faith, where the galley of St. Paul
crossed the meandering track of Ulysses’s bark. She found exquisite
delight in this legendary past. She fancied to herself Cleopatra and
Dido and Morgana, queens who were all but goddesses, and the Roman
matrons, borne across the waves to the sound of lutes, with their
jesters and their scribes. At her side, Will and grandma were chatting
quietly.

“You are a good boy,” grandma said. “I am glad you got my telegram in
time to put an elevator in the yacht;—perhaps the reason I like new
things is because I am growing old.”

“Not at all, grandma,” interrupted Ethel. “What is stupider than to go
climbing up-stairs? It is the least esthetic of all movements.”

“That was my idea!” said grandma.

“And the wireless telegraph was mine,” said Will.

Will had himself supervised the building of his yacht, to make it a
model of its type. He deserved a Nobel prize for the practical way in
which he had foreseen everything. But its nautical qualities, and the
rigidity of its double steel shell were as nothing in comparison with
its interior comfort.

The yacht could have held two hundred passengers, and it accommodated
only ten. Its furnishings and arrangements were sumptuous. The
deck-house was a hundred feet long. In front were a card-room and the
apartments of the captain; all the rest was taken for great cabins,
each with its boudoir and bath-room.

Through the music-room, where the breath of the open sea brought
to grandma, Ethel, and Will the smell of the roses, they would go
down to the great hall wainscoted in unvarnished cedar, which framed
decorative panels. Farther on in the suite of rooms was the library,
with its wide, red-leather sofas. Above the shelves twelve caryatids,
in yellow marble, upheld the plinth. There were radiators for heat
and ventilators for coolness, with telephones and electric buttons
everywhere. Their bells gave a thrill of life from end to end of the
yacht.

Ethel was on the point of ringing for her maid, when Suzanne appeared.
She brought the plaids, fearing the evening freshness might incommode
Mme. Rowrer or Miss Rowrer.

“Suzanne,” Ethel said, while she was putting a plaid over her
shoulders, “I don’t see Monsieur Phil. Perhaps he is showing the yacht
to Mademoiselle Helia.”

“No; Monsieur Phil is not showing the yacht. Monsieur Phil is giving a
lemon to M. Caracal to suck. M. Caracal suffers martyrdom. The sighs
of M. Caracal rend one’s heart. Mademoiselle Helia is in her cabin,
reading.”

Suzanne, since she had become a soubrette, said “Mademoiselle” when
she spoke of Helia. She had perfect tact; she was the ideal soubrette.
She had accepted eagerly Ethel’s offer to accompany her to Morgania.
The life she was leading with Perbaccho wearied her; and then, to hear
Poufaille always repeating the same thing over,—to be always knocking
on the same skull at the same hours,—she was tired of it all.

Will at first intended to take Poufaille along to help the cook, but
he prudently gave up the project when he heard Poufaille explaining
his ideas on pig’s-rump and garlic, and goat’s-milk cheese. So Suzanne
not only escaped from Poufaille for the present, but she served
Miss Rowrer, whom she adored; and, moreover, she followed Helia and
Phil. She guessed that something had lately passed between them. She
was devoured by curiosity to know how the romance would end. Was it
possible that Phil, who formerly had been so good and upright, could
have changed to such a degree? A hundred times over she had been called
to be a witness to his love and a confidante of his oaths. Ah, men,
men! for them the broomstick—_et aïe donc_!

“Tell me,” Ethel said, “is Mademoiselle Helia glad, now that she has
come? I had Monsieur Phil invite her, and she refused at first. I had
to insist myself, and almost get angry, to make her accept.”

“Oh, yes, Mademoiselle Helia is very glad!” and Suzanne, having
arranged the plaids, lifted to Miss Rowrer eyes in which she might have
read infinite gratitude for so much goodness.

“I need you, Helia,” Ethel had urged; “you know it well! I count on you
for my lessons in physical culture, and you know I’ve got it in my head
to take you to my father’s university. There are charming young girls
there, and you will teach them how to be strong and beautiful. Besides,
the voyage will do so much good to Sœurette. Come—you’ll be at home!”

Helia had accepted. To travel with Phil would be to lengthen her
torture; but, at least, she would see him.

At first, amid all these marble statues and bronze reliefs, Helia
felt herself intimidated, habituated as she was to the coarsely
painted scene-canvases and papier-mâché bronzes. But Ethel treated
her as an equal—Ethel, who had the art to be respected without being
unapproachable.

“Ask them to come up,” Ethel said to Suzanne. “It’s the finest hour of
the day.”

The sea was mild. Great clouds were climbing above the horizon, while
an enormous sun was slowly setting in splendor of molten gold.

“The duke was right,” Ethel said to Will. “From the point of view of
Paris the legend of Morgana might seem ridiculous, but here, in the
grandeur of such scene-setting, even the supernatural seems normal.
How far away are the ant-hills of Paris and London! Only think how
somewhere people are agitating themselves in fog and smoke, while we
are sailing straight for dreamland and—isn’t it curious?—a duchy with
sorceresses and fairies in its history, where legends a thousand years
old still move the people. I wish to believe in it—I wish to see the
return of Morgana!”

     “Keep thy flight to the West, bold sailor;
     The land thou seekest shall arise,
     Even though it existed not,
     From the depths of the waves to welcome thee.”

It was Phil, who arrived ahead of Caracal. He had heard Ethel, and
capped her thought with verses from Schiller.

“How is your patient, Monsieur Phil?” asked Ethel; “how is M. Caracal?
Seasickness is a sad affair; even animals suffer from it—the ox, the
ass, the hog, the monkey—”

“And especially man,” said Caracal, following Phil.

Caracal thanked Miss Rowrer. He was better. The responsibility of the
old French politeness weighed on Caracal. He went through his most
graceful manners, lifting his little finger in the air, and smiling and
scraping his foot. And then—_crac_! a diving bow, with his lip turned
up, to kiss one’s hand—or to bite it.

He wore a faultless suit, and an artistic cravat, which the wind
swelled out like a banner. He redoubled his politeness to grandma, a
sure means, in his mind, to win her granddaughter. He hummed to himself
a music-hall refrain:

     “Pour avoir la fille
     Aimable et gentille,
     C’est à la maman
     Qu’il faut d’abord faire des compliments!”

     (“To gain the daughter,
         Sweet and pretty,
     To the old mother
         Sing your ditty!”)

He rhymed sonnets to Miss Rowrer, and trotted out his erudition,
working up his Baedeker in his cabin, and astonishing every one by his
qualifications as a cicerone.

“M. Caracal would make an ideal courier,” thought grandma.

Caracal, out of the tail of his eye, glanced at the books on the
salon table. “The House of Glass,” which had just appeared before
their departure, lay, uncut, under a pile of magazines. Caracal was a
little annoyed; but, with an author’s pride, he hesitated to call Miss
Rowrer’s attention again to his own novel.

“A wireless for Miss Rowrer.” The captain’s boy approached, with his
cap off and a paper in his hand.

“Where does it come from?” Ethel asked.

“From a ship off there.”

Ethel instinctively lifted her eyes to the mast, which seemed to be
throwing out its feelers into space. Then she opened the paper and
read:

     Captain _Far East_ en route New York wishes good journey to
     Captain _Columbia_. R. K. Rowrer’s orders to put himself at
     disposition of yacht. Bad news from Morgania—land excursions
     dangerous. Any message for New York.

Ethel arose. One point appeared on the horizon and then another.

“It’s the _Far East_ and the _Far West_,” said Will. “They’ve been
carrying bridge iron to Africa for the Cape-to-Cairo railway, and
machinery for the Nyanza ferry-boat company. They belong to pa.”

“Really!” said Ethel, looking at the two ships coming into sight along
the horizon.

“Boy!” she called, giving him the answer:

     Sailing straight for Morgania—danger adds to attraction. Our
     love to dear old pa!

Ethel, with her sea-glass, could observe the ships saluting the yacht;
the flags tumbled at the mizzen.

She felt a thrill of pride. Roman matrons and Cleopatras and Didos,
slowly dragged over the sea by their chained galley-slaves, what were
they beside her? How much better it was to live nowadays! She felt
herself more powerful than they had ever been. Space seemed bringing
her the salutes of the East and of the distant West. She remained
standing until the ships were lost to sight in the evening mists.

They were cruising along the Italian coast, visiting now one spot and
now another. Sometimes there were cool streets bordered with palaces
whose windows were without glass. The presence of the yachting-party
drew swarms of _ragazzi_, boys and girls, more importunate than Jersey
mosquitos, and harassing them for _baiocchi_ and _madonne_.

Again, there were islands which from afar were like bouquets of
flowers, and from near smelled of cheese and fried fish and garlic.
Capri, with the sea like a liquid sky at its feet, lifted its houses
along terraces like shelves. It was nothing but a going up and coming
down.

“This is a perpendicular country,” was Ethel’s observation. “We are
like flies walking along a wall.”

On the days when there was no climbing of the islands that sink
abruptly to the sea, the party could look at them from the deck or the
library, as they passed. Ethel took the opportunity for her physical
training, or put herself out of breath on a stationary bicycle, like
those on which the travelers on the trans-Siberian line get the rust
from their legs.

“You’ll tire yourself, Miss Rowrer,” Helia said to her, when she saw
what ardor she displayed.

“No, no!” said Ethel, “just show me how to do it.”

Helia went through a few movements with consummate ease. There was no
getting out of breath, no swelling of veins—neck and shoulders and arms
were smooth as marble; for exercise only developed in her the exquisite
purity of her form.

“Oh, Helia!” Ethel added, “show me how I can have a neck and shoulders
and arms like yours.”

During these short training lessons her friendship for Helia grew; and
it is possible Ethel’s only ambition was to have arms like Helia. But
it was not such an ambition which the press had been attributing to her
for some time back. For the newspapers were always talking about her.
When the yacht entered the smallest port, it drew more attention than
a war squadron. The cabbage-leaf papers of Calabria and Sicily all had
something to say of Miss Rowrer. They spoke of her as a wild woman,
because she had bought and saved from death the dog whom the natives
were asphyxiating, in honor of foreign tourists, amid the noxious gases
of a sulphur grotto. Then they had a story of some hermit on a cliff,
whom she wished, so it seemed, to take to Chicago to have him bless her
father’s stock-yard from the top of a sky-scraper!

“What fools!” said Will. “They’d do better to put glass in their
windows and cultivate their _nespoli_ and _pomidoro_ than lose their
time in such silliness. It’s true that time is not worth much in a
country where Stromboli and Vesuvius take the place of our Pittsburgs
and Homesteads—where there’s nothing smoking on the horizon except some
old volcano!”

Yet the yachting-party found pleasure in the halts when, for a change,
they went to dine at the hotels. The rushing down-stairs of the clerks
and porters and maîtres-d’hôtel, who got suddenly into rank and waited
for their orders, amused them. For the landlords their landing was a
signal to make all the hay they could while the sun was shining.

Not the cabbage-leaf papers alone, but the great journals also, printed
Ethel’s name. At least, she concluded this must be the case one day
when she remained on board while Will and the others visited the museum
at Palermo. Ethel had letters to write and sat herself down near the
music-room under an awning. The yacht was moored beside a great steamer
for tourists. Without being seen she could hear, above her head, the
talk of these cosmopolitan people, familiar with the Pyramids and the
Acropolis, the Smyrna bazaars and Monte Carlo. The whole international
swarm knew the Columbia by name. On the steamer they were talking
travel and trade and the weather. Ethel heard her name pronounced along
with the rest. They were discussing her probable marriage with the Duke
of Morgania—“a glorious name in Europe.” “Do you know what Chartered is
quoted at on the Stock Exchange?” “They’ll be a magnificent couple!”
“The big Pyramid is seven hundred feet less than the Eiffel Tower.”
“She’d be a charming duchess!” “The best chance Morgania ever had!”

  [Illustration: “She dreamed under a sky studded with stars”]

Then all the voices were lost in the siren’s wailing, long drawn out.
The steamer shook itself gently, and issued from the port, leaving
Ethel in a reverie.

“Reigning duchess! Queen of Antioch! Lady Knight of Malta!” All
this—she acknowledged it to herself—had already passed through her
brain. It had even amused her to see how timid the duke was in her
presence. She had to say but a word,—not even that,—merely to encourage
him with a smile, to see him at her feet. But the newspapers were in
too great a hurry. They spoke of something that was not yet decided.
She would see; she had never so well appreciated her power as since her
departure from Marseilles. Everybody in the world seemed to know her.
True enough, across the Red Sea and India and Japan,—everywhere, to the
other side of the earth, as far as ’Frisco, it would have been just the
same.

The voyage continued tranquilly. Villages at the foot of the rugged
Calabrian cliffs saw the yacht passing by, white upon the blue sea, or
at night shining with lights like a meteor.

At that hour, most of all after dinner, it was pleasant on the bridge.
Will walked backward and forward, and smoked his cigar. Grandma, half
asleep, looked at the sea, which reminded her of her Western prairies.
At her side, to give her pleasure, Phil picked his banjo. Caracal was
bored; he had verified the fact that no one had yet opened his book.

Ethel had other things to do. Stretched out in her bamboo chair, she
dreamed under a sky studded with stars.



CHAPTER II

ETHEL’S VICTORY


Phil, ever since the day of the hunt, had also been living in a dream.

He was sure that Ethel knew nothing of his past. He even suspected
the events to which she had alluded, for he knew Will’s story well.
Moreover, she had since then shown herself more amiable than ever to
him. He might have thought himself more encouraged than ever to pay
her court and to forget Helia more and more. But just the contrary
happened. Within himself he felt a passion storm going on, with sudden
illumination of vivid lightning flashes. Then all sank back into
shadow.

He no longer dared look Helia in the face. Under Ethel’s clear eyes his
conscience had awakened.

One evening, weary of the ideas that beset him, Phil had thrown himself
on a sofa in the music-room, when he saw Ethel enter, seat herself, and
absently take up a book which chanced to be lying there. She cut one
page and looked through it, two pages, ten pages. Then, suddenly, she
arose angrily. Phil was astounded.

“Do you understand?” Ethel asked him. “He dares to offer me this filthy
book with the author’s compliments! I have only read a few lines, and
it nauseates me.”

“Of what book are you speaking, Miss Rowrer?” Phil asked.

“Of ‘The House of Glass,’ which Caracal has dared to offer me.” And
Ethel showed Phil the volume, with its modern-style cover decorated by
creeping plants and monkeys’ tails.

“Would you believe it?” Ethel continued. “The poor fool is trying to be
gallant with me. Every day he composes a sonnet in my honor. There’s no
great harm in that; but since he is the author of ‘The House of Glass,’
it has another meaning. Here, Phil, take the book, I beg of you, and
throw it overboard. But, wait a minute, we’ll throw to-day’s sonnet
with it. Only give me time to open the envelop—you’ll see how grotesque
it is.”

Ethel opened the envelop, but she had scarcely glanced through the
letter it contained when she grew pale with wrath and pride.

“What an outrage!” she exclaimed, in her fury. “See, Phil, Caracal made
a mistake in addressing his envelop. He has sent the sonnet on to Paris
and put here, instead of it, a letter to Vieillecloche. Richard the
Lion-hearted! Those attacks which vexed me so,—they came from him. He
has a family arrangement for it with Vieillecloche. Look, Phil, read,
read! What do you think of that? Is it not infamous? He attacks us for
pay!”

Phil was indignant. The letter left no possible doubt. He already could
see Caracal disembarked in a hurry at the first port, and going down
the gangway crushed by his shame.

“But he also attacked you once, Phil. How is it you didn’t pull his
ears?”

“That was my great desire!” answered Phil.

“But you did not do it!”

“Let me tell you—”

“You did not do it!”

Phil, without changing a detail, told the whole story—the rage which
had pushed him on to hunt for Caracal, and his feelings at sight
of the poor creature a prey to his own dreams, with anguish on his
tear-stained face.

“That is why I did not do it, Miss Rowrer,” said Phil.

“Ah!” Ethel exclaimed, as she looked at Phil.

There was a moment of silence.

“Throw book and letter into the sea,” Ethel concluded. “And, I beseech
you, not a word of all this to any one!”

  [Illustration: “She arose angrily”]

Phil went away, and Ethel remained alone. Within her there was
something like a hurricane. What! those men, those man-monkeys who had
been harassing her ever since she came to Paris,—it was all to make her
buy their silence. How infamous! It humiliated her to see such obscure
names mixed up with her life. And one of them was under obligations to
her, living under her roof and sitting at her table! And it was he who
offered her a book which might have been written by a drunken ape! Ah!
if she had only known of his special talents, he would not be there
now—that public malefactor, that little round-shouldered wretch, who
dared to write her sonnets! What should she do with Caracal? Abandon
him on a desert island? Or simply throw him into the water? No, not
that. Hang him to the mast like a pirate? Come, now—she would not
trouble her brain hunting condign punishments for him. She left the
music-room, and walked on the deck; and at last, as if to wind up her
long monologue with herself, she concluded: “Caracal is crazy!”

This idea, which put anger to one side and left room for pity, restored
to Ethel her self-possession. “I will deal with him later on,” she
said.

The immense distance between herself and such a man appeared to
her all at once. Caracal seemed very little to her. And what moral
wretchedness! All his energy was aimed at obtaining money, and he did
not even succeed! And how punished he would be some day, when he should
see his bad actions taking root and growing, and their poison doing its
work.

Could she even understand the case? Who could ever know the extreme
need, the passions which urge on a man like Caracal? Perhaps his was
not consummate vice; perhaps he would repent some day. He was poor and
alone, and she was powerful and rich, and perhaps might be a reigning
duchess to-morrow—if she would only say yes with a nod. Yet here she
was allowing herself to be embittered by the snarling of a poor fool. A
queen, and she could not pardon! Phil had been more generous and humane
than she!

She made a great effort to conquer her remorseless attitude—and won.



CHAPTER III

A CASTLE OF THE ADRIATIC


When the yacht moored in front of the ducal castle of Morgania, Morgana
was surely absent, for no fantastic mirage welcomed their coming. Out
of courtesy to the duke, a salvo of cannon was fired from the yacht;
and the salute was returned, shot by shot, from the bastion.

“Poor duke!” said grandma. “We are making him waste his powder!”

The yachting-party witnessed, indeed, a grand spectacle. It was the
country itself, with the forests in its valleys and its uplands ragged
with wild rocks. You could imagine paths winding around precipices, and
rivulets falling down the crags like shining swords. High up and far
away, with its base lost in the mist and its summit lighted by the rays
of the sun, the Kutsch-kom Mountain closed in the horizon.

The port was at the end of a gulf, with two gigantic cliffs reaching
out at the sides. The yachting-party was still fresh from their view of
the white terraces of the Achilleion of Corfu, with its marble statues
and its orange-trees; and they looked with astonishment at this corner
full of shadows, with the thousand-year-old castle perched upon its
rock. It was seated on lofty and solid buttresses. A rampart flanked
by thick bastions defended it; and stunted box-trees stretched over it
their dark branches. Behind, wide, deep passages led up to battlemented
towers.

At its feet the little city interlaced its narrow streets. You felt
that it was builded in feudal times, and had been constructed under the
master’s eye, and by his orders. Later, it had pushed back its walls
and extended into the plain. A dike by the beach, strewn with fallen
boulders, sheltered it against the sea. A road up an embankment, broken
by intervals of steps, led up from the city to the castle. Everything
seemed weighted down with the years,—the Byzantine domes of churches,
Oriental minarets, Frankish towers; everywhere you felt the succession
of the ages.

“It is a romantic country,” said Ethel. “There is no need of a mirage
to believe one’s self in the heart of the Middle Ages. We have only to
look at the setting of the scene to be transported centuries back. All
these old things must reek with superstition. If you stayed here long,
Will, you, too, would end by believing in Morgana. See,” added Ethel,
as amused as a child, “see, she is smiling at us! That shining point up
there, above the Gothic portal—it is Morgana’s window,—the window the
duke was telling us about,—do you remember, grandma? Up there, in the
tower front!”

Everybody looked where she was pointing, but just then the reflection
of the sun’s rays disappeared, and the window was quenched in shadow.

The bells of the city, ringing the Angelus in the evening calm, sounded
like a salutation to Morgana. They had seen Loreto and its Casa Santa,
brought thither by angels; the cathedral church of San Ciriaco, in
Ancona, once a temple of Venus; Ravenna, where the heroine Amalberga
was deified; Venice, protected by its winged lions. So, after their
long cruise in this sea of legend, they came well prepared to study
the people’s superstitions and the folk-lore of Morgania. They tasted,
in anticipation, the pleasure of seeing the daily life of the castle,
wherein there had been no change for centuries.

Every one seemed to have important things to do. On the morrow Phil
was to put his Morgana picture in place, and retouch it on the spot.
Ethel and Will were to go on an excursion. Caracal would delve into
ducal archives. Grandma was already _blasé_ on these cities of pigmies,
wherein music takes the place of the noise of foundries, and where men
sleep with their heads in the shade and their feet in the sun while
they digest their garlic. Grandma would remain on deck and look at
Morgania over her glasses.

“I hope, M. Caracal, you will write a book on Morgania and its
folk-lore,” said Ethel. “You would find pathetic things into which this
people must have put their love and faith. It would be a rest after the
cruel studies which you devote, it seems, to modern society.”

In her manner of speaking to Caracal, it was perceptible that Ethel
wished to be merciful. That evening when she had discovered everything,
Phil hardly dared come up on deck; but the next day he was greatly
surprised to find Ethel as smiling as ever, and Caracal amiable
as usual. Ethel was even talking with interest to Caracal, asking
questions and seeming to study the man.

From the dining-room, through the port-holes, they could see the
gray mass of towers. A few lights were shining along the hills; and
beyond stretched away a great wall of rocks and the somber woods. The
yachting-party admired the grandeur of the landscape as they ate their
peach ice-cream.

“I want to see the sorceress,” said Ethel, “provided they don’t
accuse me of wishing to take her off to America like Richard the
Lion-hearted.”

“As for me,” said Helia, “I should dearly like to see the defile where
Morgana stopped the invasion.”

“We shall go together,” answered Ethel; “and I hope the gentlemen will
accompany us. For me, it is a place of pilgrimage; it will do us good
to compare our useless lives with that of the heroine. We shall gather
from it resolution to be brave and energetic, without prejudice, of
course, to our right to cry out for the least little ache. Never mind;
for a few hours we shall have understood what duty is.”

“But duty doesn’t always mean that one should fight,” said Phil. “It
takes other forms as well.”

“It always consists in fighting,” said Ethel; “but not always against
some one else—oftenest it is against ourselves.”

“There is no one slain in that case,” remarked Caracal. “The blows we
strike ourselves are never mortal—we are careful to strike with the
flat of the blade!”

“That’s the way they punish cowards,” said Ethel.

They were interrupted by a lackey announcing the coming of the Duke of
Morgania.

They had just finished dining, and they went up on deck to receive the
duke. Helia and Sœurette retired.

Without, everything was in shadow. A dense crowd thronged the jetty.
The searchlight of the yacht threw its rays upon the shore and brought
out here and there white minarets and roofs and domes. A swarm of
people—men, women, and children—half blinded by the light, stared at
the yacht. The shining of their eyes could be seen; here there was
the glitter of a poniard-handle, and there the glow of silver buckles.
There were men in great drugget cloaks over their white fustanelle, and
women clad in long red garments, which fell straight as on figures in
shrines. Anxious faces might be seen, with scared expressions; and from
the crowd, pressed together like a herd, mounted up a confused murmur.

The word of command was heard; and there was a sound of oars striking
the water. A small boat came alongside, a rope was thrown out, and the
ladder lowered; and Monseigneur, the Duke of Morgania, came up. The
light fell full upon him. The duke bowed respectfully to the ladies,
and shook the men by the hand, like a boon companion.

“I’m not putting you out too much, I hope?”

“We are delighted to see you,” said grandma. “Come into the music-room.”

“Don’t be alarmed, monseigneur; we shall not have music!” added Ethel.

“You are right,” said the duke; “no music is worth the sound of
friendly voices. How happy I am to see you again! I thank you for
coming,—I seem to be leaving my exile.”

The descendant of Morgana and of Rhodaïs offered his arm to grandma, to
enter the salon. As soon as they were seated, conversation began, as if
they had left each other but the day before; it was familiar and gay,
as among members of the same social world.

“What is the news in Paris?”

“We do not come from there. Talk to us about the sorceress,” said Ethel.

“On the contrary, let us not speak of her! The country is upside down;
every one is losing his head. I should not be astonished if, to-morrow,
when the people see you, they should all cry, ‘Morgana!’”

“Why, that would amuse me immensely!” said Ethel. “How is it possible
for you to be bored in such a country? It must be always interesting.”

“Oh, very, very interesting!” said the duke. “But I should prefer
something else.”

“And yet, to lead the people!—and then, what about your
heroines,—Morgana and Rhodaïs and Bertha,—all those valiant women?”

“Ah! that’s what we need nowadays,” said the duke. “Perhaps one valiant
woman like those ancestors of mine would save Morgania!”

“Is Morgania threatened to that degree?” asked Ethel. “We were counting
on long excursions into the interior.”

“You come at a bad time for that, Miss Rowrer!”

In a few words he gave an impressive description of the state of the
country. Everywhere was the expectation of war, with all its disquiet.
Fields were uncultivated, and the region of the Moratscha was already
all but emptied of its inhabitants. Bands of fugitives were coming in
every day, with a pitiful procession of Christians, chased from Albania
by the Turks. “You speak of excursions to the Castellum. I greatly
fear you’d not be able to do water-color sketches there. At most you
might take kodak shots at brutes always ready to fire on strangers and
pillage them. The state of things is insupportable. However, I will
have you accompanied by a squad of soldiers.”

“How will it all end?” Phil asked.

“I count on the aid of the Great Powers,” said the duke.

Will and Phil could not help smiling. The duke himself watched the
smoke of his cigar with an enigmatic air. Perhaps he saw in it the
image of the stability and fixity of design of the Great Powers.

“Don’t count too much on them,” said Will.

“Meanwhile,” the duke added, “you must consider yourselves quite
safe in my stronghold, where I shall be greatly honored to offer you
hospitality. Your rooms will be as large as churches, and you shall
have an immense stone staircase for yourselves alone.”

“You must be kind enough to excuse me, Monsieur le Duc,” said grandma.

“Well, Morgania is yours!” the duke answered, as he rose to take his
departure. “I shall be only too happy to be useful to you,—you must
dispose of me at your pleasure!”

As the duke crossed the threshold, he saw Sœurette running by.

“I know that child,” said the duke.

“And her sister also!” Ethel said, repressing a smile, for Parisian
gossip had informed her of the duke’s admiration for Helia. “She is on
board, traveling with us.”

“Let her, too, come to the castle,” said the duke. “The little girl
will be charming company for my son; his life is not any too gay, and
with these continual troubles the future is still darker for a ducal
heir.”

“Poor child!” said grandma.

The duke, before he left them, insisted again on the danger of
excursions. He was getting ready to go down when Helia appeared,
looking for Sœurette.

“Mlle. Helia,” said the duke, “I am happy to see you again,” and he
bowed to her with his perfect tact.

Helia had heard the end of the conversation. She came just as the duke
was speaking of a possible invasion.

“And you, Mlle. Helia,” he added, with a smiling air of protection,
“what would you do if you were attacked? You know there is going to be
fighting in our country.”

“That’s very easily settled, monseigneur,” Helia said, with a voice in
which there was a thrill as of self-sacrifice. “If there’s question of
fighting, I will do my part!”

“What an Amazon!” the duke said, looking at Helia with a smile. “So if
the occasion demanded you would do like my ancestresses: you’d sleep
on the mountainside, in the snow and rain night and day, to give an
example!”

“Yes, monseigneur,” said Helia.

The duke made his final bows, with a diplomatic sense of degrees
answering to the differences of rank between grandma and Ethel and
Helia, and then went down to his boat, which was rowed rapidly away.

There was not a cheer on the shore for the duke. A dull silence
reigned on the jetty, broken only by confused expressions of anxiety.
Fingers pointed to the yacht, as if to say, “What is it?” No doubt they
imagined it to be some powerful envoy of the great nations. Meanwhile
the duke disappeared in the night.

The searchlight wavered for a moment, and then fell on the castle. The
people on the jetty were no longer visible, lost in the shadow. But
the murmur of the crowd was still heard, and a dim reflected light gave
the city a phantasmal look, while beyond might be divined the deserted
country, the mountains and valleys.

“I don’t understand the duke,” said Ethel, in a low voice. “He should
be thrilled at the thought of recreating a people. The duke must be
wanting in resolution. I seem to see him in his castle regulating
questions of etiquette, brightening up a little the faded gilt of
his stage-setting, and regretting Paris—a stranger to his people’s
aspirations. Yet how many things are to be done here—wretchedness to
console, ignorance to enlighten! In his place I would never have waited
for them to come to fetch me back from Paris.”

  [Illustration: The Searchlight on the Castle]

Ethel suddenly interrupted herself. “See!” she called to Will and
grandma, “see, Morgana smiles to us again! See the light yonder, behind
Helia!”

Just then the searchlight illumined the top of the Gothic portal. The
Morgana window glittered through the night.

“Do not stir, I entreat you!” Ethel said to Helia. “The window throws
a halo around you!”

Indeed, they could see the dark profile of Helia in relief against
the glittering background. She was superb, standing upright, with her
head raised proudly, and one hand grasping a ratline of the mast. She
looked as if she were wielding an immense lance, like a warrior-woman
of heroic days.



CHAPTER IV

THE LITTLE DUKE


The next day, as they entered the Hall of the Ancestors, grandma
dropped the duke’s arm to seat herself in a great chair. But the chair
was in carved wood and very hard. Decidedly, this was a feudal castle,
and much less comfortable than a Chicago home.

Ethel thanked the little Adalbert with a big kiss. The child,
accompanied by his father, had been the guide of Ethel and grandma. He
had climbed up and down steps too high for him; but Ethel gave him her
hand; and the child explained and mentioned names, as he showed mosaics
and statues in the crypt. “My grandfather, Amalfrid IX, my ancestor
Enguerrand, Lady Rhodaïs, Bertha, St. Morgana”;—one would have said he
was the familiar genius of the place, a little wandering soul of the
dead, doing to the living the honors of the past.

When they issued forth from these gloomy vaults, Adalbert hastened to
go off and play with Sœurette behind the pillars of the great hall.

For some days the place was the scene of constant festivity. The
noise of laughter was heard; there was talk and the movement of life,
and roses garnished the vases. Servants carried back and forth cakes
and fruits. At times, beneath the arches, there rolled an uncertain
harmony,—it was Ethel trying the old piano.

What a change for Adalbert, who was used to being alone with his aged
tutor. Until then his walks along the ramparts, amid the box-trees
twisted by the wind, had been his chief amusement. How often he had
wished to go down and untie the old boat moored at the foot of the
wall, and sail out into the bay!

But the duke, with all his frequent traveling, had the child whom
he adored looked after with the greatest care. It was the last of
his race,—their last hope. If the child should die, to which of his
powerful neighbors would the duchy fall as a prey? So the child grew up
in the old castle with the portraits of his forefathers looking down
at him; and his imagination awoke to the recital of ancient legends.
In his dreams by night he saw gentle visions bending over him. Now, all
had grown alive, and the visions were realities. There were big friends
to dance him on their knees; there was a kind old fairy speaking softly
to him in a foreign tongue. Two young maidens, more beautiful than
those of his dreams, took him in their arms; and for playmates he had a
delightful little girl who taught him games and called him Monseigneur.
Ethel looked at Adalbert playing with Sœurette; the child was bright
and gay, and she complimented the duke.

“It is because your visit gives him such pleasure,” said the duke,—“as
much as to me, were it possible! I don’t know what he will do when you
go away,—poor Adalbert! He will be very sorry.”

Ethel looked thoughtful. The duke leaned over the back of her chair,
and, so as to be heard by her alone, spoke slowly:

“It will be his apprenticeship in life. Separation from what one loves
most in the world—that is where everything ends; and yet, perhaps—”

Ethel did not answer, but remained with her head resting on her hand.
She understood quite well what the duke wished to say. She looked
aimlessly before her, thinking of all that she had seen, of all these
parade-rooms and _chambres d’honneur_, and the gloomy stairways. The
gallery, adorned with portraits and suits of heavy armor, haunted
her. The donjons and courtyards, the bastions and the moat and rusty
drawbridge,—she saw it all in her mind. In the old time, on festive
days, what a grand air it must all have had, with the heralds’
trumpets, with banqueting and tournaments, where fair duchesses crowned
those who vanquished! Or, again, at the home-coming from the wars, when
the Lady Knight of Malta, Queen of Antioch, saluted with her sword the
torn banners! What a magnificent opportunity there would be to bring
this all back to sight, if she should make Morgania live again with her
millions! The castle could be made the most princely abode in Europe.
But she wished to know more of Duke Conrad. She wished to judge of him
without being dazzled by his titles. She was not to marry ancestors,
but a husband whom she might love!

  [Illustration: Visiting the Castle]

“Your castle is as big as a mountain,” she said to the duke; “you go up
and go down. I am now in full training for my excursion to the Roman
ruins, and to that not less venerable ruin, the sorceress. When shall
we go, monseigneur?”

“Presently,” said the duke, as he pointed to packages and luggage by
the door of the hall. “But if I were you, I would not go to Drina,” he
added earnestly.

“Do you fear for the escort which accompanies us?” said Ethel, with a
smile.

“No; but if harm should come to you, what grief for me!” replied the
duke.

“Nothing will happen to us!” said Ethel. “And then, can you imagine
me going back to Chicago without having had a single kodak-shot at
brigands from nature?”

“I am unable to accompany you, and I regret it,” said the duke. “I
have to make an inspection of the coast, and I ought also to receive a
delegation of the people.”

“We shall go alone,” said Ethel. “St. Morgana will protect us.”

Something happened which greatly amused Ethel and grandma; and the
duke himself could not help smiling. Adalbert broke off his play with
Sœurette, and came running to his father. He looked in turn at the
Morgana of the picture and at Helia, who was sitting near it. The great
canvas, illuminated by the stained-glass window, harmonized splendidly
with the hall. At the distance where Ethel and the duke were placed,
there was nothing to hide the view of the painting. They saw all its
details, even the crowd which Phil had depicted along the shore; it
might have been the same crowd which thronged the jetty the evening of
the yacht’s arrival, when the booming of the cannon drew the people to
the sea.

But the crowd in Phil’s picture was more animated and gay. Instead
of the gloom of discouragement, it seemed transfigured by hope. It
acclaimed the heroine; Rhodaïs and Bertha and Thilda, with swords in
their hands, appeared amid the clouds. Everything in the magnificent
picture was strange and supernatural.

The child had just been struck by the resemblance between the model and
the portrait of Morgana; his astonishment was touching, as he looked
from one to the other. He asked himself if the ancient legends were not
realized at last! if Morgana herself had not risen again from the past,
to be painted by Phil.

“My father,” said the child to the duke, “is it really Morgana? Tell
me!”

“What a child!” answered the duke, taking him in his arms to kiss him.
“He believes that Mlle. Helia is Morgana.” And he looked at Ethel as if
to say, “I know full well who Morgana is—it is you!”



CHAPTER V

VISITING THE SORCERESS


The conveyance and escort for Ethel, with Suzanne and Helia, were
awaiting them at the other side of the city. There were also horses
for Will and Phil. Sœurette was to remain behind, to keep company with
the little Monseigneur. Grandma returned to the yacht, quite out of
sympathy with living in old castles which have plenty of stairways but
no elevators.

Ethel had already seen the city; yet she had an ever new pleasure
in these comings and goings. Her inquisitiveness was satisfied to
the full. She was making studies of a population as ignorant as it
was unknown, anchored to its old-time customs, and closed in by its
mountains, like monks within their cloisters. Yet beneath all this
torpor one could feel unconquerable pride and love of vengeance and of
glory.

These motionless shopkeepers would sell you a pair of slippers or a
whole outfit of pistols and daggers for the belt. All these warlike
accoutrements were amusements to Ethel; she found them even on the
porter who peacefully brought her packages from the hall of the throne
to the carriage.

As soon as they had come down from the castle, after turning back a
last time to salute the duke, whom etiquette bound to the ramparts,
along with Caracal, the party entering the town seemed passing through
a haunt of brigands. Pieces of basket-work hung before the shops.
Suspended on nails in the shade were the bridles of horses, shining
with brass, and red leather saddles, and swords. Savage eyes looked out
to see them go by.

The season for heavy siestas had passed. All the day long the crowd
thronged the street. Shepherds, clad in hairy goatskins and shod with
leather sandals, mingled with soldiers, at whose side was slung long
Albanian rifles. They talked politics as they drank their coffee.

Others displayed the cylindric turban, the knit silken girdle, and
the dagger-sheath of brass. Women with knit boots, and dressed in
scarlet embroidered with arabesques, sang to the accompaniment of
the guzla—that lyre with its single string made of twisted hair. They
droned out a psalmody of mountaineers, recalling the ancient glories of
their country.

Adalbert’s tutor, who accompanied the party, translated and explained
the songs.

     The blood sprang to the cheeks of the impetuous queen;
     Then every soldier satisfied his vengeance;
           None like Morgana!

     Swift and daring she struck this one and pierced that one!
     Ah, she poured out to her enemies a bitter drink!
           Thus they all perished!

Everywhere the impassioned looks and voices of the crowd made them feel
that war was near. All these peasants, coming from different regions,
were stirred by a common desire—to see the return of the heroic days
when Morgana and Rhodaïs and the great ancestresses had led the people
to victory.

Every one in the street drew aside as the party passed. The rumor had
run that a queen was to visit the duke—a young maiden from unknown
lands beyond the sea, where the sun sets. Which one was it? Ethel or
Helia? Perhaps both? The people were in admiration at their noble air.
Women grown prematurely old in the harsh labor of the fields were in
ecstasy at their beauty. To them the two young girls seemed of a higher
race, like that of the saints and heroines in the stained-glass windows
of their churches; they followed them with their eyes, and took up
again their chants in honor of Morgana.

Morgana was the universal inspiration; she was everywhere. In the back
of gloomy shops icons were to be seen—St. Morgana, with the Virgin,
dimly lighted by a burning float. There was something touching in the
faith which this people had in their national legends.

Ethel appreciated the silence of the crowd on the jetty that evening
when the duke quitted the yacht. No; his people did not recognize
themselves in him. They still had a certain respect for him, for the
sake of his glorious ancestors; but the people were prepared to abandon
him, and to take shelter in their dreams.

One would have said that the power of the state was no longer in the
ducal castle, but far away by the spurs of the Kutsch-kom Mountain,
where lived the sorceress, the primitive oracle of her race. They paid
no attention to their effeminate master, and listened only to this
ancestral voice, that foretold national happiness.

“Phil,” said Ethel, “you know the proverb, ‘When you are in Rome, do
as the Romans do.’ It’s a useless recommendation, for we can’t help
doing it. But even if we don’t act like this people, we are rather
Morganian in our thoughts, are we not? And it is the women who interest
me chiefly,” Ethel continued. “It is their heroines whose remembrance
fills the people with a hope beyond realization. And yet—what if it
should be realized? We can never be certain.”

Phil was silent,—Helia was at his side.

“You look a little tired,” Ethel said to her.

Phil took Helia’s arm; and they walked together, talking little, making
indifferent remarks to each other, each alone with his own innermost
thoughts. They were leaving the weavers’ street for that of the
armorers.

“There is enough here to cut the throats of a nation!” Phil could not
help observing.

They were between the lines of shops. The sun’s rays fell straight
down, striking flashes from the niello work of the rifles, from the
ivory of the Albanese pistols, and from the clusters of daggers hanging
from their hooks. They were of every form and size: the Malay creese,
curved zigzag like a lightning-flash; Venetian stilettos, as pointed
as a bee’s sting; and others pierced with holes, for their amalgam of
arsenic and grease, looking like blotches. Besides the slender, elegant
blade to be worn at the garter, there were horn-handled knives, real
bandits’ weapons, made to stick into the back.

  [Illustration: “‘Does the sight of so many weapons make you nervous?’”]

Phil thought of the landscape he had painted for Ethel when he had
come from the circus, and of the man who had sought for a knife in his
pocket, threatening Helia from a distance.

That very moment, as if some mysterious sympathy had been set up
between Helia and himself, he felt the young girl’s arm tremble in his
own. Helia pressed against him in a movement of unreasoned fear.

“What is the matter, Helia?” he asked. “Does the sight of so many
weapons make you nervous?”

“No, it is not that,” said Helia, looking at the market-place thronged
with people.

“What are you looking at?” Phil insisted. “Has any one frightened you?
Do me the honor to fear nothing when on my arm, Helia!”

“Oh! I am afraid of nothing,” answered Helia. “Forgive me! it was
surprise. I thought I saw some one, recognized some one; but no, I must
be crazy—”

“You have seen some one? Whom?”

Helia was on the point of answering, “Socrate!” but she did not
pronounce the name. Already he had been spoken of too much between
her and Phil. Besides, she no longer could see the man. Yet she would
have sworn that but now, there, behind that group, she had beheld
the flat face of Socrate looking at her stealthily. It must have been
an illusion. Was she now going to meet Socrate everywhere? Already,
on board the yacht, one evening when she was looking from the deck
into the boiler-room, she thought she had seen him in the red rays of
the fires with his eyes lifted toward her, shining from a face black
with coal-dust. Surely, it must have been because, when they left
Marseilles, Suzanne burst into laughter, saying: “See the stokers they
are taking on! There is one who looks like Socrate!”

“Do you wish me to find out?” Phil asked.

“No; remain here, Phil—here, at my side. It was just an idea I had—but
do not leave me,” she added, pressing against him once more.

“A woman’s idea!” thought Phil. “I can understand it, in this country
where they sell daggers in clusters as they sell bananas with us.”

The attention of both was drawn away by a change of scene. They
had left the city behind them and were already in the open country.
Peasants were driving their mules or pushing carts, with children
perched upon bundles of straw and packs of rags. They were coming to
augment the tumult of those who had taken to the city for refuge.

“It seems to me we are going the wrong way,” said Ethel, laughing;
“every one is turning his back to us.”

“Why, we’ve just started,” said Phil. “We must go on now to the end.”

“Of course,” Ethel said, in delight; “and it’s so exciting! I’d go
through fire and flames to see something really new. Come, here are our
horses waiting for us!”

“What luck!” cried Suzanne, “we are going to see a sorceress—b-r-r-r-r!
it sends a shiver down one’s back to think of it!”

This childish outburst put everybody in good humor. Will and Phil
mounted their horses. Ethel, Helia, and Suzanne seated themselves on
the benches or the luggage in the conveyance; and the escort started
off.

They went straight into the mountains. Except the guides and two
soldiers in the picturesque costumes of the klephts,—white gaiters and
short jacket, like that of a bull-fighter, with a fustanelle shirt,—no
one accompanied the tourists. The tutor had gone back to Adalbert.
There was no danger as far as the convent of Semavat Evi, or “House
of Heaven,” and there a larger escort was awaiting them and would
accompany them to the frontier. Ethel asked herself in what condition
she would reach the place, so shockingly rough was the road. Suzanne,
seated on a valise which she named her _strapontin_ (an aisle-seat in
a theater), was having immense fun.

“It’s just like a scene in the Chatelet Theater,” she said, pointing
to the landscape where the huge castle overlooked the old city huddled
together at its feet, with the yacht anchored out in the blue sea. She
shook with laughter as the wheel passed over a projecting rock and all
but overthrew the conveyance.

Ethel and Helia looked at the two soldiers marching ahead. The flapping
of their fustanelle skirts, when they leaped over the gutters, gave
them the air of two ballet-dancers. The contrast between their brigand
heads and the collection of weapons at their belts, and their long,
white, agile legs was so comic that Ethel and Helia did not perceive
they were going along beside a precipice. The cultivated land was
passed, and they could see only tufts of thorny shrubs. Suzanne alone
gave a note of gaiety to the bleak landscape. Ethel let her talk on,
without listening, and soon Suzanne was silent, conquered like the
others by the melancholy sight.

The horizon broadened around them, rising up on either side. Below,
the plains stretched out far as the eye could reach. The road was
like a thread lying along the ground. By this road, at their feet,
they would come back from the excursion. Ethel looked with interest
at this pathway of so many invasions. The rude mountaineers of Albania
had followed it to the sea, and more than once invaders had filled it
with the flashing of their swords. Who could know whether Morgania was
not to pass again through such a period of disaster? There was now no
living wall to stay the waves.

The wagon went up and up in endless turnings. Suddenly, as they crossed
a plateau where ragged grass was growing, a chant arose, monotonous and
solemn, and repeated by the echoes. On every side they seemed to hear
lamentations and groans issuing forth from the earth or falling from
the clouds.

“Where are we?” asked Ethel, stirred from her reverie. “I see no one.”

“It is the shepherds over there,” said Helia.

Ethel perceived, in the midst of a lean flock, beside a fire whose
smoke mounted straight upward, a group of shepherds singing. It was
one of the _prismés_ which they sing from one mountain to the other.
Ethel was greatly impressed by these spontaneous chants of the desert.
In them, hoarse cries alternated with sharp, high cadences and a
quickening measure. An impression of grandeur was left behind by this
singing in the solitude. Ethel thought with pity of the old untuned
piano in the castle, and of the sound of the banjo, thin as the humming
of flies among the massive pillars of the throne-room. The castle
itself,—what was it compared with these huge natural towers overlooking
the road, with their giant steps made of rocks that had slid down?—or
to these ravines, like somber courtyards,—to these measureless caverns
opening like vaults, in the depths of which the schist rock shone like
stained-glass windows? And still they mounted up, turning around these
strongholds of a country made for liberty. They were approaching the
grotto of the sorceress.

A joyful burst of laughter drew Ethel from her reverie. Behind her,
seated astride a package, Suzanne was in an ecstasy of delight.

“The ballet!—oh, Miss Rowrer, the ballet is beginning—look at the
_danseuses_!”

Suzanne was choking, stuffing her handkerchief into her mouth not to
let herself be heard.

The two soldiers, won by the music’s enthusiasm, were leaping in
time with sharp cries, now squatting to earth and now brandishing
their rifles, swaying right and left, and twirling their legs while
their fustanella skirts stood out straight. Like monkeys drunk with
cocoa-milk, they gave inarticulate cries—“Yoo! yoo!”

“Encore!” cried Suzanne.

“My kodak!” said Ethel.

“I’m sitting on it!” said Suzanne; “I can hear it crack!”

All their gaiety had come back. Ethel felt the need of shaking off the
mysterious influence that had been depressing her since they set out.

“Really, I’m too simple,” she said; “I shall wind up by believing in
their sorceress. Poor old woman, who will sell us four-leaved clover
against thunder, coral horns against the evil eye, fetishes and
prayer-mills and garlic _pommade_.”

“How happy Poufaille would be here!” thought Suzanne.

“What a journey!” Ethel continued. “What roads! I am all shaken up! At
least they ought to build a narrow-gage railroad in such a country!”
she said to Will, who had come up with her.

“It wouldn’t pay,” said Will. “But if I owned these mountains I’d take
the ore out of them.”

“Mademoiselle would be very good if she would ask for me a toad’s-hair
chaplet,” Suzanne said, in a low tone.

“Ask? From whom? From my brother?”

“No! From the old sorceress!”

“But toads haven’t hair, Suzanne!”

“It was M. Caracal told me.”

“Oh, if you’re going to believe all that he says—”

“Poor old woman!” observed Will, “living in such a hole, stuck to her
rock like an oyster in its shell!”

“That doesn’t prevent her consulting the stars and occupying herself
with Jupiter, and knowing a hundred and ten ways of foretelling the
future.”

“A hundred and ten ways—that’s a great deal,” replied Will. “Which is
the best of them all?”

“Let’s count on our fingers,” said Ethel. “I’ll begin. Aëromancy, by
the air; aleuromancy, by flour; telomancy, by arrows—”

“—Dactylomancy, by the fingers; chiromancy, by the hand; podomancy, by
the feet!” continued Phil.

“Hydromancy, by water,” Ethel began again. “Rhabdomancy, by sticks—”

“That’s for Poufaille,” thought Suzanne. “_Vive la rhabdomancie!_”

Just then the horses stopped, and the driver turned to the tourists,
saying a few words in a low tone of voice and pointing with his finger
to a recess in the rock. They had reached their journey’s end. All was
silent. Ethel, Helia, and Suzanne descended from the vehicle, and Will
and Phil leaped from their horses.

The spot was a wild one. Before them the whole country lay
outstretched. Behind them mountains were heaped together. The wind
blew, tossing the horses’ manes; and the great passing clouds seemed to
issue forth from the mountain.

The visitors took a few steps forward and saw a black hole. It was the
cavern. A rough statue of Morgana, virgin and martyr, was carved in
the living rock. There were heaps of votive offerings around it—little
figures of children and birds, veils and women’s girdles, daggers and
flowers and fruits, and the red cake which betrothed ones break before
marriage. A peasant woman at her prayers, prostrate on the rock at the
saint’s feet, was praying with the energy of despair, and calling for
vengeance.

The visitors kept on advancing, half regretting that they had come.
What were they to say to the sorceress? Ethel, greatly moved, took
Phil’s arm. It seemed to her that her own lot was to be decided. She
felt her heart beating as they advanced to the grotto. Helia was at her
side. Will was behind with Suzanne. They came to the opening and leaned
forward, but saw nothing.

Little by little their eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. They
could distinguish, uncertainly, in the depths, eyes that shone—and
then a figure, huddled together on a bed of rushes, looking at them,
motionless, with her finger to her mouth, like a statue of silence! The
eyes, fixed in turn on each of them, suddenly rested upon Helia with a
strange glow.

“Oh, how she looks at me!” Helia said, seizing Ethel’s arm. “Oh, _mon
Dieu_, if she only will not speak! Let us go away; I entreat you, let
us go away! I am afraid!”

They started back, and felt relieved when they were out of sight of the
sinister eyes.

“Let us go,” said Ethel.

At the feet of St. Morgana, the suppliant one was now praying as in an
ecstasy.



CHAPTER VI

THE FIGHT


MISS ETHEL ROWRER TO MLLE. DE GROJEAN

     “On board the _Columbia_.

“You’ll have to hang yourself, my valorous Yvonne, for we have had
our battle without you! The truth is, we have narrowly escaped being
spitted and roasted. That’s a promising beginning, isn’t it? Grand’mère
will be delighted that you were not there; but you will regret it if
you read my letter to the end. I say ‘if,’ for it’s a whole history.
Excuse my writing feverishly, on the gallop; I am in a hurry to
tell you. I promised you an adventure in Morgania—and here is one.
Only I am not its heroine, alas! For it is a story of heroism, and
that of the purest. As for me, I feel the need of crying aloud my
admiration for that noble young girl. Are you curious? It is Helia;
you understand—Helia! You remember her? She was one of those who ‘don’t
count’!

“I come to the facts.

“We have left Semavat Eli—a Heavenly House, wherein we were eaten up
by vermin, and served by good monks who amused themselves teaching
thrushes to whistle. The next day, from early morning, as soon as they
had let us down,—by the window, if you please, in great wicker baskets
(for in this country monasteries have no doors),—Suzanne seated herself
on my kodak, Helia and I on our valises, Will and Phil straddled their
horses, and—forward, march! over pointed rocks to Thermopylæ! that is,
to their Thermopylæ, which is the defile of the Moratscha. It was a
kind of pilgrimage we were doing—five in all, not counting our escort
of ballet-dancers, who were waiting for us at the monastery. By that,
I mean soldiers with fustanelle skirts, armed to the teeth, very white
teeth in black faces, quite like wolves!

“The evening before we’d climbed up all the way to see the sorceress—I
ought to say the prophetess, and you must not laugh, I entreat you, for
it would give me pain. I was never so affected in my life. From that
place to Semavat Eli the country is flat, except for the horrible road.
After that, we had to go down and down to the defile along the river
Drina. We crossed impetuous torrents where there was not enough water
for a water-color sketch, and forests dry as firewood, all bristling
with thorns, so that we could not go near without leaving bits of
our gowns. It was the abomination of desolation,—and down we came,
down and down toward the plain; and through the plain we came back.
For that matter there is nothing to see but ill-cultivated fields and
dilapidated houses.

“It is a country where there are no locks. The duke told me so, to give
me an idea of his people’s honesty. Suzanne, who is an amusing child,
says that doors without locks are the invention of poor countries; and
that there are no thieves where there is nothing to steal.

  [Illustration: Helia facing the Assailants]

“At noon we stopped. We ate and rested, and our soldiers sang
and danced; and then we were off again. There were more impetuous
watercourses of gravel and pebble. There were shepherds watching
their goats, and red-haired women carrying burdens on their heads, and
looking at us with wide-open mouths. We were near the spot.

“Imagine a wild gorge. It was the meeting of two ways, from the
mountain and from the plain. Farther along was the river Drina, with
its old bridge. That is the end of Morgania, which is protected by its
mountains, with this defile, like Thermopylæ, as its only entrance.
But, you will ask me, what about Helia?

“Patience!

“We had all got down, leaving the horses and wagons in the shade of
the defile. I had a fixed idea that I would go to the middle of the
frontier bridge, which belongs half to Christ and half to Mohammed, and
that I would also visit the Roman ruin and the little Christian village
farther on, which has a little belfry like a minaret.

“But as we drew near there were loud cries, and a headlong flight of
peasants, their features distorted with fright as they ran past us.
Then there was the fire and smoke of a fusillade, the tocsin sounding,
and then more cries,—frightful cries,—the howling of hunted beasts,
piercing the ear like a knife.

“It was all so sudden that we didn’t know what to do. We all spoke at
once: ‘What is it?’ ‘What shall we do?’ ‘Shall we defend ourselves?’
‘The soldiers!’

“There were no soldiers—fled—out of sight! We could barely see their
white ballet-skirts leaping away in every direction. We were going
to have our throats cut like sheep! I remember how at that moment
the frightened crowd rushed upon the bridge, and bore us back with
it toward the defile. Phil grasped my arm and said to Helia and me:
‘Don’t be afraid; I’m with you!’ There was such fire in his eyes that
I felt reassured. We went back toward the wagon, and I shut my eyes
and stuffed my fingers in my ears, letting pass the waves of howling
creatures,—men, women, and children,—who climbed up on the wagon or
slipped beneath it, some leaping up only to fall back with convulsed
features, struck down by the bullets!

“I heard Will say to me, ‘Turks!’ I opened my eyes. Horsemen were
riding here and there through the plain, striking right and left with
their sabers. Men on foot were advancing, singing harshly. I heard a
general discharge, and then pitiful cries. The wagon turned crosswise
of the defile. One of our horses reared and the other fell heavily;
all the luggage tumbled—the way was blocked! We were sheltered by the
wagon as behind a barricade, pell-mell with the fugitives. Helia had
not followed us—she was not there!

“‘Helia is lost!’ Phil said to me. Pressed by the crowd as he was, he
could not disengage himself to go to her aid. Through an opening in the
wagon I saw her standing alone. She had not had time to take shelter
with us. Bullets were whistling on every side. I no longer knew what I
was doing. These were not comic-opera Turks, with gourds for helmets,
and dressed in gilded rags. They were men armed with rifles and
daggers. Everywhere there were the dead, everywhere there was blood. It
was frightful!

“The bullets became fewer—the enemy had taken to their swords, and
we were without arms, pressed upon by the crowd which clung to our
garments.

“Oh, never shall I forget what I then saw. Helia, as I have said, was
alone, facing our assailants. There she remained! She had snatched
from one of the fugitives an enormous club. The enemy drew near. A Turk
came upon her and was already stretching out his hand to seize her by
the hair, when Helia whirled the club, bringing it down on the man and
splitting his skull! He fell and Helia put her foot on him.

“As the man was falling Helia seized his rifle and put it quickly to
her shoulder. We heard two reports, and two more of the enemy went
down.

“All this passed in no time at all. Helia seemed like a supernatural
being. As she remained standing upright, the attack wavered. The
Turks were terror-stricken at this young maiden whose throat they had
expected to cut as they passed by, and who handled these heavy weapons
as if she were playing with them. I heard Helia call to us; but we
could not stir. I wept with rage. How I wished to be beside her! She
whirled the rifle by the end of its barrel; and with a terrific blow
brought down the breech on the head of one who seemed the leader.
They fell back for a moment. Meanwhile we did not remain idle; and
the peasants had pulled themselves together. Phil and I, as soon as we
had got ourselves loose, jumped on the wagon, after picking up rifles.
Will brought back the soldiers; and when the Turks, mad with rage, and
sword in hand, came rushing back upon Helia—who awaited them without
flinching—they were welcomed with a discharge of bullets which stopped
them short. Our fears were over. The Turks fled, our bullets striking
them in their backs, and the peasants pursuing them with sticks and
stones. In a moment the bridge was free. Phil had not quitted me for an
instant. He was always between me and the enemy, and superbly cool. I
asked him, ‘What is the matter with Helia? She seems to be looking for
death!’ It is certain there was something like despair in her terrible
intrepidity. Phil did not answer. He seemed more moved than herself.
Just then I had no time to go into the question; all of us were safe
and sound; that was the main thing. The Turks had fled away, and would
not soon return. We gathered up the wounded. Suzanne was everywhere
at once, with a bottle in her hand. ‘_Qui veut la goutte, les enfants?
Voilà la petite cantinière!_’ [‘Who wants a drink, children? Here’s the
cantinière!’] The bells of the Christian village rang joyously, and the
cry was taken up, and grew louder and louder: ‘Morgana! Morgana!’ Helia
was borne in triumph. Women knelt down as she passed. The brave girl
was bleeding a little; and they gathered the drops of blood on pieces
torn from her gown, like the relics of a saint. For me, I was happy
beyond expression. I kissed her cheeks and cried: ‘Morgana!’

“‘What! you, too, Miss Ethel! But I have done nothing!’ answered Helia.
‘I did my part, that was all.’

  [Illustration: The Return to the City]

“Wagons came from the village, and we put the wounded into them. One
who spoke Italian told us the story. The Albanian Moslems for a long
time had been threatening the Christians. They demanded a thousand
Turkish pounds. They were refused, and raided the village on the day of
a marriage, when every one was at the feast. They were going to invade
the district of Morgania where the victims were taking refuge; but this
young girl had saved everything!

“Helia had her gown all torn, and so they threw over her shoulders the
mantle of the village bride. Upon her disheveled hair they placed the
red symbolic head-dress, with its golden tassels.

“Helia’s cart was at the head of the convoy, and the other wagons
followed, filled with the wounded. Phil galloped along on an Albanian
horse with red-and-white trappings. Will remained in the village,
to organize the resistance. I went back to the city with Suzanne, on
Helia’s cart.

“It was a triumphal march. All these poor people and ourselves, whom
she had saved from massacre, had eyes only for her. But she had no air
of happiness! She had a slight wound in the forehead. From time to time
a drop of blood fell on her gown and made a red stain. This streak of
blood marked her out to the crowd. The cheers redoubled, and little
children threw kisses toward her. She was indifferent to it all, and
looked only at the little red stain.

“‘Oh, my pretty gown,’ she said, ‘my pretty bridal gown is ruined!’

“The road through the valley is much shorter than that over the
mountain. We were to get to the city by night, just before day-dawn.
Oh, what a vision, never to be forgotten, was that night journey!
You cannot believe how quickly the tidings traveled, in this country
without telegraphs or railroad. Horsemen went galloping before us. When
we passed through a village there were cries of joy and men dancing by
the light of torches. Priests bearing golden crosses blessed us as we
passed. Helia’s exploits grew from mouth to mouth, and this explained
the ever-increasing enthusiasm. She had killed eight enemies with her
own hand, had stopped the invasion and saved the convoy from massacre!
At Gradiska she had killed twenty, and at Kolo more still.

“‘You will see,’ Helia said to me; ‘by the time we get to the city I
shall have killed the Grand Vizir and the Sultan!’

“Our escort kept on growing. It was grand when we entered the city.
Helia had been hoping to find every one asleep. You would have thought
you were going into a bee-hive! They wished to carry Helia in triumph
to the castle. But the duke was not there—he was off on the excursion
along the coast. The people will never pardon him for not having been
present to share their joy and cheer the heroine.

“To wind up: I don’t know how we did it, but we got back to the yacht
all the same, broken and bruised and delighted, deafened by the cries,
and blinded by the lights.

“Every one is resting except myself. I cannot stay quiet, and I profit
by my sleeplessness to write you. Well, what did I tell you? Are you
not sorry to have missed a thing like that? And I will have other
things to tell you when I have the pleasure to see you again, my dear
Yvonne....

“P.S. The heavens are mixing themselves up in the event. You have heard
of the Fata Morgana—that wonderful mirage effect along the coast of
the Adriatic (it comes from the evaporation of hot air in the lower
layers, changing refraction to reflection, and so forth, and so forth;
but people here simply attribute it to a fairy’s enchantments).

“However that may be, I am finishing this letter just as the sun is
rising, and the sky is marvelous. I am looking at great streaks of
blood and crumbling towers and golden crowns—all changing form every
moment. You can see in it what you wish; but, always, it is beautiful.”



CHAPTER VII

THE FATEFUL DAY BEGINS


Ethel finished her letter, and went up on deck to find grandma. A
splendid day was appearing, with its marvelous light flooding space.
Morgana was building her palaces in the heavenly azure. Golden darts
across battlemented clouds were driving away the birds of night. The
sun rose up, enormous in size. In front of the yacht the city, with
its minarets and domes, showed like a vision of the Orient. The castle,
scarcely outlined, seemed floating above the waters.

“Brave Helia! the heavens are celebrating her—how splendid the mirage
is, grandma!” said Ethel.

“You see, Ethel,” Mrs. Rowrer remarked, “mirages are not easily
appreciated with glasses. At my age I perceive rather the chill of the
mist.”

“My dear grandma!” said Ethel, as she kissed her, “don’t you think
that what Helia did was simply grand? Even with your glasses you can
distinguish heroism. Helia is what I call a woman! When I think that I
might have done it—what would I not give to be in her place, grandma!”

“Are you jealous, Ethel?”

“Oh, grandma!”

No; Ethel was not jealous. But for the last few days nothing had gone
well with her. She was not like Helia, who had so many reasons to
be joyful—and who yet was sad. Ethel had genuine cares. First, she
had not risen to the mark like Helia; next—and oh, what a grudge she
had against Will for it!—when she saw the poor refugees without food
or shelter, she remarked to her brother how much wretchedness there
was to comfort, that something ought to be done. It would even be an
acknowledgment of the duke’s hospitality.

“It’s already done!” was Will’s answer. “I cabled from the city
yesterday; one of our freight steamers will quit Odessa at once with
grain and food.”

“There I am!” Ethel said, in comic despair.

Ethel looked far off at the city and castle, for the yacht had taken to
the open on account of drifting currents. She was thinking of Morgania.
The manner in which the duke would understand his duty under the
present circumstances would be a standard by which to judge the man.

That the duke had stayed on in Paris when he ought to have been in
Morgania—that she could willingly forgive, since it was for her that
he stayed. But that now he should be brave, loyal to his people, with
a burning zeal for progress and all that is good—that would be more
pleasing to her than all his attentions.

“What is the matter, grandma? You have something on your mind,” said
Ethel to her grandmother, who was looking toward the mountains.

“It is nothing,” said grandma. “I was thinking of Will, who is over
there, and fearing some accident might happen to him.”

“Just now he risks nothing,” said Ethel. “It is all enthusiasm among
the people. Will is to take the most pressing measures. The enemy is
sure to return, but the duke will be ready—unless he wastes too much
time.”

They heard the stroke of oars, and a small boat came alongside.

“I’m sure it’s the duke coming to congratulate us,” said Ethel. “He
must have returned—and you’ll see, grandma, he will thank me for saving
Morgania, and will put his heart at my feet! He will say the people
wish me, that they are crying for me! Watch him, grandma, when I tell
him that it is not I, it is Helia! You’ll see his expression: ‘Helia!
hum—hum—charming, very charming, but, really—’”

“You judge the duke wrongly, Ethel.”

“She’s right, all the same!” thought Suzanne.

“The duke knows what he’s about, grandma! But it is not he,” she said,
looking over at the boat. “They are two—in long coats! That’s not local
color.”

“They are my two bears—Zrnitschka, Bjelopawlitji! _Sauve qui peut!_”
Suzanne muttered to herself.

It was, indeed, the two delegates. They had been chosen because they
were accustomed to diplomatic missions; and, moreover, they spoke
French.

They came up—bent themselves double.

They presented the duke’s excuses. “Monseigneur was unable to come—he
was presiding at the Assembly of Notables with Monseigneur Adalbert.”

  [Illustration: The Delegates]

“Ah, by the way,” said grandma, “how is the little fellow? and
Sœurette?”

“Monseigneur Adalbert is well—and the little girl also. They’re playing
together on the terrace all the time.”

Then the delegates explained their mission. They had come to invite
the heroine to land in the evening. The people were preparing a monster
welcome for her. Immense crowds were coming in from all parts. Nothing
like it had been seen in the memory of man. Monseigneur, the duke,
would remain to give orders, that all might be worthy of the expected
guest. The duke begged Miss Rowrer to be present with him afterward at
the reception in the throne-room—and he laid his heart at her feet.

“There—just as I thought!” was Ethel’s reflection. “The duke believes
it was I!”

Ethel turned to Suzanne: “Ask Mlle. Helia—or, rather, no! it’s useless
to ask her; she would not come—I know her! But she will not refuse it
to me as a service,” she argued within herself, “we will go together,
with Helia at the head. She shall have her triumph this evening.”

Suzanne showed signs of trouble. The delegates had recognized her and
bowed low. The name “Helia” struck them. It came back with the memories
of their strange diplomatic soirée.

“What is the matter?” Ethel asked Suzanne, sharply. “Do you know them?”

“No—that is—yes!” answered Suzanne.

“Really, is it yes or no?”

“_Eh bien_, yes.”

“Where did you see them? At Paris?—at the duke’s place?”

“At the duke’s—yes—that is—no! It was one evening when Mademoiselle
Helia—”

“Do they know Helia?”

“No!—or, rather—”

“Or rather yes?” interrupted Ethel.

“I am trying to tell you—”

“Good—you’ll tell me later.”

The delegates thought they were talking of the evening reception.

“Messieurs,” Ethel said to them, “it is understood. Thank the duke—I
shall be there at the appointed hour.”

The delegates bowed, and Ethel accompanied them to the rail.

“Be careful not to fall, M. Zrnitschka, M. Bjelopawlitji! See,
messieurs,” she added, pointing to a tarpaulin which they were
arranging at the yacht’s side, “that is a bath-room—it’s a tropical
invention. The tarpaulin is held by bars stretched out on the top of
the water and making a rigid square. It’s a genuine bath-tub, five
meters long and wide, and four feet deep. That does not prevent me from
jumping over it when I wish, and I take a little turn in the open. That
is the real bath-tub for me!” And she pointed to the sea.

Ethel could not keep her face straight at the frightened look of the
delegates, who kept on bowing and bowing as they clambered down the
steps.

“What ought I to say?” Suzanne was thinking within herself. She would
have to tell all the stories about the duke and Helia, and perhaps
about Phil,—“and I who don’t know how to lie!”

Ethel quietly took her seat by grandma, without speaking to Suzanne of
anything at all.

“It’s Helia’s day,” she thought. “It would be bad taste to crush the
brave young girl with my dresses when she has only simple things.”

“Very well, Suzanne,” Ethel said aloud. “I do not need you for the
present. See that everything is ready for this evening—a simple
street-gown.”

Ethel’s curiosity, however, had been excited. What could there have
been in common between the duke and Helia and Suzanne? She now
remembered a few passing words. Caracal had finally told her his
story of the Louvre gardener, and Adam and Eve. She recalled his
expressions. Phil never spoke to her of Helia, although he recounted
willingly the adventures of his youth. Against this were his occasional
embarrassment, certain hidden allusions, and his salon portrait of the
young girl in the midst of flowers surrounded by a flight of doves;
and then, why should Phil, only yesterday, have dropped his eyes and
blushed at the mad bravery of Helia? Did he, then, know the secret of
it?

It was not pleasant to Ethel to go into such questions. Helia’s
melancholy, and her daring, her seeking for death when she was only
twenty—it was not natural! Miss Rowrer did not need to know more. She
understood all, so she believed.



CHAPTER VIII

FATA MORGANA TO THE RESCUE!


Later in the day Suzanne appeared, and timidly begged Miss Rowrer to
excuse her. “Mademoiselle Helia has gone from the tarpaulin—she is
swimming straight for the cliff. If Miss Rowrer would be good enough to
go on deck, perhaps Mademoiselle Helia—” As for her, Suzanne, she could
do nothing—she had called in vain.

Miss Rowrer followed Suzanne, but Helia was already far away.

“She would not listen to me,” said Suzanne. “I don’t know what came
over her.”

“But where is she going?”

“To the rocks off there, Miss Rowrer.”

Suzanne pointed to the shoals on which the sea was breaking.

“Well,” Ethel said, to quiet Suzanne, “Helia is not lost. If I had been
on the deck I would have asked her not to do it. But one who swims as
she does has nothing to fear. I only hope she won’t delay, so as to be
back in time for the evening’s reception.”

“If only she comes back!”

“Oh, now! it’s only child’s play for her,” said Miss Rowrer, following
with her glass Helia’s movements.

For any one else than Helia the undertaking would have been hazardous,
because of the eddies among the rocks. She might also hit against some
point just hidden beneath the water. There was a striking contrast
between the immense cliff and the almost imperceptible swimmer, who was
going farther and farther away.

The marvelous sky had become more magnificent still. The sea was
resplendent, and now and then a luminous wake showed behind Helia; and
then it would suddenly be quenched in the blackness of the shoal water.

“How little Helia seems in all that immensity!” Ethel said to Phil, who
had joined her.

“She has reached the rocks—she is going up them,” said Phil.

“Oh! never fear for her; I understand what urges her on: it is still
that love of danger which made her heroic yesterday. Have no fear for
Helia,” Ethel said to Suzanne, as she gave her the glass. “If I thought
there was the least danger, I would send out the boat; but I think
she—she wishes to be alone; we will respect her desire.”

That day Ethel had a thousand things to do: letters to write; her
preparations for the evening; to choose the music which was to be
played on board during the reception on land. Especially there was an
old-time melody which she had heard Helia singing in a low voice in
her cabin. Ethel had a muffled rehearsal of it in the forecastle. She
wished to keep it as a surprise for Helia in the evening, when she
should enter the throne-room. She counted greatly on the effect; the
music would come in waves mingled with the sea-breeze, filling the
night with harmony and encircling Helia with her favorite melody. There
were also flowers to bring and other orders to give.

While they were thus making ready her triumph, Helia, who was now
stretched out on the seaweed amid the rocks, dreamed, with her mind
far away. The effort she had made and the coolness of the water had
calmed her. The ardent light shone on her damp neck and arms as on
rose-colored marble. The wet bathing-dress clung to her round limbs,
and her heavy hair rolled over her shoulders. She was like a dreaming
Naiad clinging to the sharp rocks above a sunken Atlantis.

All around her the sky heaped up tumultuous splendor. Fata Morgana was
disporting herself in the burning mists.

Helia looked at the glowing apotheosis so far above her, as
inaccessible as her dream. Then her eyes fell to the craggy ruins so
much more in harmony with her thoughts. The green light upon the sea
was reflected in her clear eyes. Beneath the transparent waters she
could perceive a strange vegetation gently waving its leaves. Ah, how
well one might rest down there, lying on the golden sands amid flowers
which seemed alive!

Suddenly Helia blushed for herself—no! away with the ugly thought! All
her pride revolted against it. Really, she was going mad! This idle,
artificial life had been gnawing at her ever since she had come on the
yacht. What was she doing with these happy ones of the earth, in the
midst of their luxury? She saw clearly that Phil and Miss Rowrer were
made for each other. No, she would not go to America to be exposed
to such continual torture as the sight of their love would be—to see
Phil living serenely on, without remorse and without regret. She must
escape as soon as possible from him, and go back to her dressing-room,
smelling of patchouli, and adorned with its broken mirror. There, at
least, she would feel at home!

Helia, with her eyes fixed upon the sea, was building a hundred
schemes. First of all, one thing was certain. She would now dare to
attempt feats which she had never done before—which no one had ever
done before. She might break her neck—well, it would be dying on the
field of honor!

Her success should be dazzling. She would conquer New York, London,
and Berlin. They would cover her with flowers, which she would crush
beneath her feet as she retired behind the scenes. She would turn her
back on the hall thundering with bravos, and would answer to her calls
not by a flip-flap entrance like some peasant mountebank! No, she
would find some unheard-of feat to make the hall grow pale with fright.
Ah! she was not good for love; they would see what she was worth for
terror!

Her brain went on inventing exercises and seeing movements,
composing sensational numbers. She would have all the managers at
her feet—Barrasford, in England, and Krokowski, in St. Petersburg. At
Moscow the Boyards should offer her diamonds, and she would throw them
back into their faces! She would be an artiste, only an artiste, the
greatest artiste of all time! She would not be of those who are afraid
to spoil their beauty or tear their maillots at the trapeze. She would
have the number preceded by orchestral silences, suddenly breaking like
a thunder-storm. She alone would do more than all the others, more than
the Alexes and the Hanlons, more than fifty Leamy sisters. And on the
tight-rope she would do more than the Omers, on her hands more than
Bartholdi, on the carpet more than the Kremos or Scheffers! She could
see herself, to the roaring of the band, with the crowd beneath her
feet—the crowd of lying mouths, of soft and cowardly hearts; and she
would cast at them a look of scorn while taking her flight to the roof.

She would have posters on all the walls in the least village
town—a Gymnast, in England; a Gymnasiarque, in France; in
Germany, a Bravourturnerin,—great posters to dazzle the
Ochsenmaulsalatsfabrikanten! That would be fortune and glory! Oh, what
a dog’s life! How could a man like Phil live with falsehood in his
heart, and never a word of excuse? She would have given him up, she
would have understood! She was not made for him; so be it. Phil could
not give Miss Rowrer a rival like Helia—no! He had only to ask her
pardon to obtain it—a kind word, and a kiss, and good-by. But no! there
was not even that. Ah, Phil, Phil; he did not even take the trouble to
give her back her word!

  [Illustration: “‘Help me!’ he cried”]

Helia’s fever had passed, and her dreams were calmed. She felt herself
very lowly and little, crushed at the foot of the cliff—herself like
a bit of jetsam amid the broken fragments of the rock. She dipped her
hand in the water and amused herself by letting it run out between her
fingers in a shining shower. Or, again, she plunged her arms to the
bottom, tearing up the sea-flowers, the dainty algæ, and placing them
in her hair, mingling them with the unbound tresses. Then she bent
over, to look at herself in the water, like a child.

“I am really like the Morgana in Phil’s picture,” she thought.

Meanwhile, even in the little creek where Helia was looking at herself,
the water had grown less calm, and a current was rushing out to the
open sea. Helia stood, stretched her limbs, and looked at the yacht.

“Come!” she said to herself, “_en route!_ It is time to go!”

She was just taking her spring when she stopped short, listening.
Uncertain cries were borne in to her on the breeze. They came from the
shore. All that part of the bay, and the castle itself, were hidden
from her by a wall of cliffs.

“What can be the matter?” she asked herself. “Are those cries of
distress?”

Just then, a little boat with a child for its sole passenger floated
out before her, amid the shoals, borne on by the ebbing current.

The child had let drop the oars. He was holding with both hands to the
boat’s gunwale and looking out to sea with his eyes dilated with fear.

“Help me!” he cried.

It was the little Duke Adalbert.

The boy had been kept awake the night before by the cries of “Morgana!”
Confounding reality with legend, he had resolved to go to the yacht
which was in the bay; and there he would see once more that beautiful
maiden whom Phil had painted. He came down to the foot of the castle,
and loosened the boat from the old ring in the wall to which it was
fastened. Alone he set out to the open sea. They had seen him too late;
the current had seized the boat, and the little duke was lost!

Just then a violent shock capsized the boat on a rock almost level
with the surface and threw the child into the water. As he disappeared
beneath the foam he lifted his arms to heaven with a supreme appeal:
“St. Morgana, save me!”

“Adalbert, Monseigneur Adalbert!” cried Helia, recognizing him, “fear
nothing, I am here!”

It was the affair of a moment, and with a daring dive, in which she
risked dashing herself against a rock, Helia grasped the boy beneath
the waves and brought him back, fainting, to the light of day.

“What anxiety they must be having on shore!” thought Helia. “What must
be the duke’s despair! They must think the child is drowned, that there
is no possible remedy; perhaps there is not a single boat in the port!
Now, then, Helia, courage! You’ve done harder things than this in your
life. Into the sea and take back monseigneur!”

Helia was standing on the rock, with the boy in her arms. At a
glance, she saw that the water of the different currents was colored
differently. That which came from the shore was muddy and yellow
with sand; that from the deep sea was dark green. Into this, without
hesitation, Helia threw herself, holding Adalbert on one arm, and
swimming with the other, in superb effort.

As soon as she had turned the cliff, she saw the crowd on the shore,
close to the water, very far away. They, too, now saw her, for a great
cry reached her ear. It strengthened and comforted her.

She was crossing an eddy full of seaweed torn away by the currents,
from which she could issue with difficulty. If the boy had come to
himself, they would both have been lost. Luckily, he remained inert,
with his head on Helia’s shoulder. Slowly she disengaged herself and
kept on her way toward the shore.

Now there was a deep silence. She could see the multitude nearer. She
could distinguish details—women praying on their knees, and groups
crowding toward the sea. They ought to come out to her, instead of
remaining there motionless! But everybody seemed struck powerless by
amazement. The setting sun behind her was doubtless dazzling their
eyes, for a strange glow, all red and gold, lighted up the city.
Weariness overwhelmed her,—could she ever reach the shore? The child’s
weight exhausted Helia. Truly, the people must be stupid not to come
out to her. Could no one see that she was tired—that all her strength
had been taken—that she could do no more?

Soon she felt the sand beneath her feet. She was still far from the
shore, but the beach sank away very slowly, and, half walking and half
swimming, she kept advancing. Now it was easier for her; the water was
only breast-high. She advanced steadily, lifting Adalbert in her arms
as if to say: “He is saved! Here he is! Come and take him!”

But while she kept on advancing, no one came toward her.

“What is the matter with them?” thought Helia. “They do not stir—they
are recoiling even, as I go toward them. What is it frightens them so?”

Instinctively, Helia turned her head. She saw only the waste sea
and the great marvelous sky, with its depths of purple and gold, and
immense crimson cloud forming an arch above her.

When Helia first appeared, the people had given a great cry, and then
there was silence. A thrill ran through the multitude. “Who is coming
thus from the open sea? What wonderful being have our cries of terror
awakened?”

They saw the superb maiden issuing from the waves and bringing back in
her arms the little Duke Adalbert, Morgania’s hope. What if it were
she—Morgana!—bringing back fortune and the future? Would it not be
the complete accomplishing of the prophecy at the date announced and
foretold?

Helia was moved at the terrified aspect of the people, with their mute
faces fixed upon her, with their ecstatic eyes. The crowd drew aside at
her approach, and a great empty circle opened wide around her.

Helia stopped. The water reached her knees. At this spot the sea was as
placid as a lake, and the beach was as smooth as a floor. Only two or
three moss-grown rocks lifted their heads above the water. Helia would
have shown herself in a maillot unhesitatingly before a million men,
but she was greatly embarrassed where she was, half naked, and with her
wet costume clinging to her body.

Seeing that no one came to her assistance, she placed the little duke
gently on the mossy rock and took her resolution. She would return
to the yacht by the current leading out to sea. She was again fit and
rested by her walk over the sands. Moreover, rid of the child’s weight,
it would be no more than play for her.

Helia, with her eyes fixed on the crowd, pointed to the child with her
hand, and retired slowly backward. When the water reached her waist she
swam out vigorously toward the yacht. The dazzling sun still kindled
the sea, flooding everything with its flames of crimson. They could
not see her from the shore in such a rush of splendor from heaven;
and while she went on and on, just as the sun was sinking below the
horizon, an immense clamor came out to her, magnified by the echoes,
like mysterious voices issuing from plains and mountains.

It was the people on the shore acclaiming Morgana!



CHAPTER IX

STRICKEN IN TRIUMPH


Helia was far away, swimming toward the yacht, before the duke came
down from the castle where he was presiding at the reception of the
notables. At the time when the child was carried away by the current
no one dared tell the duke the terrible news; but now the cries of
enthusiasm grew and grew. Adalbert was saved! When the father clasped
his child in his arms upon the beach, he all but fainted with joy.

Adalbert, coming out of his swoon, kissed his father, and looked around
him to find some one. The people cried: “Miracle!” As for the duke, he
did not see where the miracle was. Only Miss Rowrer, so he thought,
could have had the pluck to do yesterday’s deed at the Drina; and
she alone would be capable of taking the bay for her bath-tub, as the
delegates had told him. No doubt she had been on some rock near the
place where Adalbert’s boat had capsized.

What means had he for acknowledging the immense service she had now
rendered him? It was a unique occasion, and the duke resolved to
grasp it for expressing his gratitude to Miss Rowrer. Listening to his
heart, rather than to his reason, he bound himself by oaths to do so in
presence of his people.

“I know not who it is that yesterday saved hundreds of my subjects; I
know not who it is that but now has saved my son. Never has a duchess
done so much for our country. We might think it was Morgana herself,
whom our legends have announced. Please God she may be free and may
deign to accept my hand and share my throne. We have need of so valiant
a duchess!”

The notables took up the acclaim: “Long live the duchess! Long live
Morgana!”

The people continued thronging the beach, waiting for the coming of the
“duchess,” as they already called her, and talking over the words of
the duke, who in a moment’s time had won back his popularity.

When their first emotion had passed, this rude populace understood full
well that Morgana and the beautiful heroine of the Drina must be one
of the foreigners come lately from beyond the seas in the white ship.
They repeated over to each other how much the country already owed her.
Legends began to form about her. They spoke of a coming distribution of
food and clothing to the crowd of refugees. One might have thought she
had come expressly to fulfil the people’s desire and stir them with new
hope. The duke saw all this enthusiasm for the “foreign lady” running
onward like a flame; and his heart swelled with joy. A whole people
would express his love and speak for him, crying from the depths of
their hearts: “We love you! Be our duchess!”

And he, the duke, as he had sworn in presence of his assembled people,
would say to Miss Rowrer: “You have saved my country and my son: will
you not stay in Morgania, to be the pride and the happiness of my
house?”

The events upon the Drina, and that mysterious sympathy which grows
in popular crises, had shaken the whole country. The prophecies of
the sorceress had been realized point by point. Even in the remotest
mountains the shepherds spoke among themselves of this woman, so young
and beautiful, who was invulnerable, and whose heroism had repulsed the
enemy. The villages were excited; and men reached the city with their
rifles on their shoulders. Everywhere, it was one long acclamation for
Morgana. The peddlers of pious pictures went here and there with icons
in their mules’ harness and singing in her honor heroic _prismés_. As
if every one were waiting for coming events, the mountain tracks and
paths across the plain were filled on every side with an enthusiastic
crowd.

That very evening the duke was to receive the “duchess” amid
his people’s acclaim. Great bonfires were to be lighted on the
mountain-peaks at the moment of her disembarking, and from one mountain
to the other, by signal from the city, the flames should announce her
coming. The sorceress, in the depths of her grotto, should see at her
feet the night flaming up like the dawn.

  [Illustration: “The peddler of pious pictures”]

On the beach, where Morgana had brought the fainting boy, they built up
hastily a rough landing-place. They wished her coming to be at the very
spot where she had appeared in her glory; and they strewed leaves and
flowers along the way which she should follow to the Hall of Ancestors.
Never had so violent and sudden a movement upset Morgania. The acclaim
which would salute the “Lady” would be irresistible. It would issue
from the whole people; and the duke, swept on by a current stronger
than himself, would only have to let events find a way for themselves.

Everybody was stirred, even Caracal, who was in the company of the
duke, when a cannon-shot, as had been agreed, announced from the castle
the arrival of the boat bringing the “duchess.” The crowd stood in rows
on each side of the way. The duke, at the head of the body of notables,
stood alone.

Behind him the voivodes, in their glittering costume, formed their
lines, belted for war and sword in hand.

After the duke’s words of welcome, the heroic maiden was to pass
beneath an archway of these swords crossed above her, like Maria
Theresa between her Magyars; and, as she issued from beneath their
deadly glitter, joyous hymns would break forth, and little children
strew flowers before her as a symbol of days of happiness after days
of battle. Then would begin the triumphal march toward the Hall of the
Throne.

All hearts were beating, for now they could perceive the boat coming
toward them. Caracal fixed his monocle, like the powerful and subtle
observer that he was, and made ready to note everything.

Religious silence took the place of the tumult of voices. They could
see distinctly in the boat two young women holding each other by the
hand. Each of them was dressed with great simplicity: it was Helia and
Ethel. The light of the torches flashed vividly upon them. They seemed
to rise out of the night; and when the sailors lifted their oars to
disembark them on the landing where the duke was waiting, there was not
a gesture, not a cry. The people heeded only them. No attention was
given to the two personages following them, a young girl and a young
man—Suzanne and Phil.

The duke bowed low before Ethel, taking her hand with an impassioned
and reverent gesture. Then he spoke. Those who were near him could hear
his voice tremble.

“How am I to thank you, Miss Rowrer, you who have saved my son!
Morgania also owes you everything; without you I know the villayets
of Albania would have arisen. Everything was ready to crush us! But
the defeat of the enemy, exaggerated from mouth to mouth, has taken
on proportions of a disaster! You have done what, before you, my
ancestresses, Thilda, Rhodaïs, and Bertha, did; and like Morgana
herself you have brought back in your arms the luck of Morgania, my son
Adalbert! Behold all this people: for them you are she whom our legends
of a thousand years announce! Miss Rowrer, I owe you everything;
my whole life will not be sufficient for the acknowledgment of your
services!”

“Monseigneur,” interrupted Ethel, in a grave voice, “the heroine, the
valiant woman, she who expected no recompense, who knew the danger and
coolly faced it, she whom your legends announce, and who has saved your
people and your child: it is not I—it is Helia!”

And taking Helia by the hand, Miss Rowrer made her pass in front of
her, while she herself stood modestly back.

“Ah!” gasped the duke.

There was a little of everything in his “Ah!” A man falling from a
balloon must utter such an “Ah!” when he crashes against the ground.

Meanwhile, twice the cheers burst forth. Hymns of welcome were intoned,
for silence had been kept till then. The duke had appeared to be
addressing himself to both the young girls. The people did not know
exactly which one might be the duchess; but their enthusiasm knew no
bounds all the same. A great eddy pushed the crowd in a mass along
the way to the castle, amid the blare of trumpets and rattling of
rifle-shots. The voivodes formed the archway of steel above the heads
of the duke and Helia, followed by Ethel. Endless cheering saluted
them: “Long live the duke! Long live the duchess! Long live Morgana!”

“Well!” thought Caracal, “this is getting to be amusing. I had thought
all my chances lost, but they are coming back. Miss Ethel is still
free! Helia a duchess! Well, stranger things have been seen; but all
the same it is funny. After my ‘House of Glass’ and ‘Worms from a
Dung-hill’ I shall study from nature a ducal marriage and make it a
_roman à clef_! I shall write up every class of society—bourgeois,
peasants, and princes! He certainly will marry her: you can’t trifle
with an oath among such a population of fools; there are currents you
can’t stem.”

And so Caracal shouted louder than the others: “Long live Morgana! Long
live the duchess!” Then he offered his arm to Miss Rowrer, who refused
it!

“What are they crying ‘Long live the duchess!’ for?” she asked Caracal,
as they issued from beneath the steel arch, surrounded by children
who wafted kisses toward them and bombarded them with flowers. Caracal
recounted the oath which had been taken in presence of the people, and
before God. The duke had sworn to offer the heroine his titles and his
throne.

“Poor duke!” thought Ethel; “he really believed it was I—otherwise he
would have sworn to nothing. Well, let it be so! We shall see if an
oath is a sacred thing, or if women are only dolls for amusement. We
shall see if the duke is a man!”

Ethel now knew the whole story. On the yacht, that very evening, she
had chanced to hear Helia talking with Suzanne. Their few words had
been a revelation to her. She had already imagined what now she knew.
The cow painting in the Luxembourg, the whole little combination
invented by Caracal, all the coarse horse-play—ah! if Phil thought she
was going to think less of him because of it, how mistaken he was! All
that was about as important to her as Mr. Charley’s hair, brushed like
a horse’s mane, and his velvet trousers—less than nothing at all! But
Phil had other reasons to blush for himself, indeed. She understood his
embarrassed air when he spoke of Helia. That he should promise marriage
with an oath, should give hopes of happiness to Helia and lift her
above her position, and then thrust her back into her hard life—that
Phil, a Christian and an American, should do a thing like that!
Ethel also knew the duke’s love-making to Helia. Poor Helia! simply a
plaything for those two men!

  [Illustration: “The duke stood alone”]

She looked with admiration at the splendid couple before her,—the duke
and Helia,—without a glance at the two men beside her—Phil and Caracal.

Helia was superb. The red lights, shaken by the wind, illuminated
her. The popular enthusiasm was beyond description; the crowd pressed
forward behind the torch-bearers along the way. They touched her
garments like the relics of a saint. The women lifted up their children
to make them see Morgana. Young girls sang in chorus, while young men
twirled their sabers aloft in warlike rhythm.

All at once, above the crowd, far away in the mountains flames arose;
the bonfires blazed up on each side of the bay and over the cliffs. An
immense blaze, like a giant torch, threw great shadows and blinding
streaks of light over the city. Its glow appeared through the night,
leaping over space from peak to peak, to the far horizon, where it
mingled with the stars.

Helia and Ethel were amazed at the grandeur of the sight, and at
the loving ardor of the crowd, in whose eyes, too, the flame seemed
burning. Their own beauty struck everybody; surely the new duchess
would be the most popular that Morgania had ever known, to judge from
the delirious enthusiasm let loose by her presence.

“What has taken hold of them?” thought Helia. “One might say I had done
something extraordinary.”

Helia for a moment was separated from Ethel. Beyond them the way,
lonely and bare, mounted up to the castle. Guards watched over the
approach. High above them the stained-glass window of Morgana reflected
glitteringly the torches and bonfires. In a few steps more Helia,
on the duke’s arm, would leave the people behind her and mount up,
followed by the nobles, to the Hall of Ancestors.

But just then there was a great rush forward, and as Helia, in real
fright at this wild enthusiasm, pressed against the duke, she felt a
sharp pain between her shoulders. She gave a little cry, and struggled
toward the open space before her; but her breath failed and she fell.

“Oh, the coward!” she murmured. “He would never have dared strike me to
my face!”

“What is the matter?” the duke said, grasping her in his arms, “you are
bleeding!”

“Oh! what has happened?” asked Ethel, who came up at this moment,
followed by Suzanne. “Helia! what has happened to you?”

“He has killed me!” said Helia.

“It is he who has done it!” cried Suzanne, with a terrible look,
searching for some one in the crowd.

“He—who?”

“Socrate!”

It was indeed Socrate. But he was no longer there. He had already
disappeared into the shadow, seized by avenging hands, mangled by a
people’s fury, trampled under foot into blood and mud!

Helia had guessed rightly. Socrate had come on board the _Columbia_
at Marseilles, where they had hastily taken on firemen. Under the
exasperation of want, he took this occasion to follow Helia. He had
learned as he prowled around the circus that she was going to Morgania
on Miss Rowrer’s yacht, and he was not the man to let go his prey.

The events of the last day above all else had stirred him to fury.
Helia a duchess! Helia in grandeur, while he, the misunderstood genius,
should drag out his life in an attic! Ah! you will not be mine? Then
you shall be no one’s! He had seized the occasion and planted his knife
between Helia’s shoulders.

“Helia!” sobbed Suzanne. “Do you hear me? Answer!”

But Helia did not. The duke and Phil, terrified, bore her to the
throne-room. The torches cast a tragic light upon the group. Immense
shadows lengthened themselves out before them. The duke and Phil,
bearing Helia, slowly advanced. The hall opened high before them,
lighted dimly.



CHAPTER X

“ON YOUR KNEES!”


They laid Helia down at the foot of Phil’s picture, on the great
ancestral throne on which the duke had hoped to seat himself beside
Miss Rowrer. The iron candelabrum, hanging from the arch, lighted the
hall. But Morgana’s stained window, more than all the rest, blazed with
sanguinary flashes. This time it was not the sunset, as the duke had
described it to Miss Rowrer, when he showed her the engraving in Paris;
it was the light of torches and of the giant bonfire shining through it
from without. The heroic statues, Thilda, Rhodaïs the Slave, and Bertha
the Horsewoman, seemed to live again beneath the glow. The flashes of
light from the window seemed to make them palpitate. One would have
said that joy swelled their marble breasts when Helia, whose bodice
had been undone, and whose wounds were bandaged, opened her eyes and
breathed freely as she asked: “Where am I?”

“Oh, what a fright you’ve given us!” said Suzanne; “but now you’re
saved. Do you suffer?”

Helia was not suffering. To die was nothing,—but to fall, struck from
behind by such a man!

“If you had been there, Phil,” Helia said, speaking low, “you would
have protected me, would you not? Oh, with you I should fear nothing.
Give me your hand and stay with me!”

Phil, with downcast eyes full of tears, took her hand.

“Look me in the face; why do you lower your eyes, Phil?” she said, so
that he alone could hear her. She added, with an indescribable regret
in her voice: “Have I ever reproached you? Look me in the face, as in
the old days! I wish you to be happy. I do not wish you to be sad!”

From the city came a confused murmur, like the noise of the sea; and
then there were long moments of silence. The nobles had not dared
to enter the hall. The people’s deep anxiety was making itself felt.
Suzanne, meanwhile, was arranging the cushions under Helia’s head. The
duke had gone a little away.

“Yes,” he was saying to himself, “Miss Rowrer will understand the
sacrifice I am making for her. I fail in my word, it is true, but she
will be grateful to me for not having made Helia her rival. As to the
people, Miss Rowrer’s millions will make them forget my perjury.”

Ethel, with Caracal at her elbow, gave to a servant the basin of water
and bloody cloths. Impassive as the marble ancestresses, she turned her
clear eyes on Phil and the duke.

“Phil,” Helia continued, as she pressed his hand, “you promised me
once—do you remember?—when you loved me, in the old days? I understand,
many things have passed since; and you are no longer the same man. Come
here, Phil, nearer, nearer! I want to tell a secret in your ear. I have
loved only you, Phil; every day I have waited for you, and you never
came! I was mad, I know; it was impossible! But when one is young one
is ignorant—and I believed you! Now you love another. Phil, I forgive
you; but leave your hand in mine.”

Phil was silent and red with shame. Ah, indeed, he remembered! Helia
felt his heart beating in the hand which pressed her own. An intense
emotion overpowered him. He had the fearful calm which goes before
a storm. Neither the duke nor Phil spoke, motionless, by the side of
Helia, who was resting tranquilly, while they made a room ready for
her.

“You can get up and go to it by yourself,” said Suzanne. “You’re safe.
You haven’t lost much blood—Socrate’s blow missed!”

“What!” murmured Ethel. “Our heroic Helia is going to die in the
presence of these two men who loved her, without one of them asking her
pardon for their false oaths?”

“They accuse me of being cynical, but I should be more loyal than
that,” said Caracal, with his gaze fixed on Ethel.

“Look at your work, M. Caracal,” Ethel replied, in a low tone of
contempt. “Those two men are your pupils. The duke, who will not see
that the fortune of nations is courage and respect for promises—and
Phil, whom I thought more noble,—look at him, blushing with shame,
lowering his eyes,—these are the men according to your heart! They
are the men who consider woman a plaything, and abandon her when she
ceases to please! I forgive you your Richard the Lion-hearted, your
blackmailing, and your infamies, but look at the result of your bad
example and ignoble theories! When you threw Helia at Socrate that you
might study passion cheaply, without knowing it you put the dagger in
the assassin’s hand. Helia struck down from behind,—it is your work!
The duke, forgetful of duty and aiming at Helia for his mistress, it
is your work! Phil, with his false promises, is worthy of you! Two
men spoiled, one assassin, and a dying woman—look at your work, M.
Caracal!”

The “subtle observer,” a poor human rag blown down by a breath,
collapsed into a chair.

The great window still threw its burning glow upon the throne. The
marble ancestors, dimly lighted, seemed to lift their heads to curse
the feeble duke. They formed a circle round the hall and the throne
where Helia was resting—Helia, brave as Rhodaïs, intrepid as Thilda,
invulnerable as Bertha—Helia, the Morgana announced and foretold. The
duke was pale and grave. He looked at Helia, and then turned his head
toward Ethel.

All at once Ethel saw Helia rise upon her elbow, with one hand
convulsively grasping that of Phil, and the other signing to listen.
Through the half-open door floated a far-away melody, so weak, so far
away—Phil felt its thrill in his heart.

     Le roi fait battre le tambour
     Pour appeler ses dames,
     Et la première qu’il a vue
     Lui a ravi son âme.

     The king had the drum beat
     To call out his ladies—
     And the first one he sees
     Steals away his soul.

It seemed to come with the sea-breeze from beyond the murmurs of the
land. It was the music of the yacht playing the air chosen by Ethel,
that air which Helia hummed when she was alone. Ethel had foreseen the
hour when Helia would be entering the throne-room. The music from the
yacht was to greet her triumph. Now it seemed to be soothing her agony.

“Listen, Phil, listen!” said Helia; “do you remember?”

Phil remembered all and saw all once more—his first love, the little
Saint John, the Louvre paradise, all his promises! His youth blossomed
in his heart.

In his breast rose a flame which burned away every selfish thought.
Yes, he had promised! Helia had lived in that only hope; he had let her
fall from the height of her dream! He had shut off the future from her.
He had dug a pit with his selfishness, and pushed Helia into it when
she ceased to please! He had turned his back on her despair!

It seemed to him that a giant hand was bending him low before Helia and
a voice was saying: “Down on your knees!”

Quickly, quickly and low, as one might confess a crime, Phil spoke:

“Yes, I was wrong—yes, I promised. I ask pardon, Helia! How I shall
thank God if he will let you live, that I may blot out my fault!”

“Oh, Phil!” murmured Helia.

“I love you still,” said Phil; “and you shall be my wife. You will see
how happy we shall be—Helia, forgive me!”

  [Illustration: “‘My people await their duchess’”]

“Let me kiss your lips!” said Helia.

Ethel had drawn near, followed by Caracal. There was a strange light in
her eyes.

“See,” she said to Caracal. “Glory to those who are struck down by the
light like St. Paul. There is joy in heaven for the repenting sinner!”

“Will you ever pardon me?” stammered Caracal.

“Perhaps; tears wash away many things,” added Ethel, remembering how
Phil had already pardoned Caracal because he had seen him weeping.

“That is a man worth loving, a rare thing,” Ethel thought as she looked
at Phil. Helia now was sitting up; the wound no longer bled.

“How happy I am!” said Helia.

She wept with joy. Phil was at her knees as in the old days. “Listen,”
she said, “it is our tune of the old times, Phil! I seem still to be
there!”

Phil kissed her hands to hide his tears.

“Phil,” said Helia, with a timid look at Ethel, and in a tone so low
that it could come only from the heart, “tell me, Phil, am I really fit
to be your wife?”

The door opened slowly, a bright light burst into the hall. It was the
voivodes coming for information. If a misfortune had happened to one
of the maidens, perhaps to their duchess, when they were on the spot,
sword in hand to form a sheltering arch above her—what a shame it would
be for them! If the duchess was dying, they would pray for her on their
knees. They approached in silence. The duke had drawn near Ethel.

“I love you!” he said, speaking low. “See what I have done for you! I
swore—but I thought it was you. There is still time. My people await
their duchess. Shall it be you, Miss Rowrer?”

The duke held out his hand in an attitude of deepest respect.

Miss Rowrer stopped him short with a gesture. She had judged the
two men. This ruler who would not keep his oath, sworn in the name
of his ancestors—he should never be husband of hers. To her titles
were nothing, character was all. Calm as Justice, with her eyes fixed
straight on the duke, she pointed with her hand to Phil, kneeling
beside Helia, and said:

“That is a Man!”





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fata Morgana - A Romance of Art Student Life in Paris" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home