to a quiet hotel in the Rue de Rivoli. There he had a bath, changed his
clothes, and strolled up the Champs Elysees towards the Bois. The sun
had come out and the avenue was crowded with automobiles and carriages.
He walked steadily on until he reached the first of the cafes in the
Bois. He took a chair and watched the crowd. A peculiar sensation of
loneliness oppressed him, a loneliness of which he had been scarcely
conscious during this last month's wanderings among the quiet places.
Paris had seemed so different to him on his last visit. He was
surrounded by friends and people who were anxious to become his
friends. He was in charge of a difficult mission which he was conscious
of conducting with skill. Everywhere he was meeting English people of
his own order, all delighted to see him, all pleased with his notice.
His few days in Paris were merely a change in the kaleidoscope from
London. The life - everything else - was the same. This time he was like
a man cast upon a desert island. He sat at his little table, sipping a
glass of vermouth, and conscious that no man in Paris had fewer
friends. The clubs were closed to him, there were no official visits to
pay, no calls to make, no familiar faces to look for. He was a man who
had had his day, a man disgraced, a man in whom the people had lost
faith, who was dead politically and socially. He thought his position
over carefully from every point of view. It was ruin, utter and
complete. He had disclosed a valuable political secret to a woman who
had not hesitated to make use of it. Nothing could be more ignoble. He
tried to fancy for himself some new life under altered conditions, but
everywhere he seemed to run up against some possibility, some
combination of circumstances which included a share in things which
were absolutely finished. His brain refused to fashion for him the
thought of any life which could leave outside everything which had been
of account to him up till now. Even in London, among the working
classes, it might have been easier. He remembered those few vivid
speeches of Kendricks'. What a gift the man had! Always he seemed to
see big things in life smouldering underneath the lives of these
ordinary people - big things unsuspected, invisible. There was nothing
of the sort to be found here. The only Paris Julien had ever known was
closed to him. Paris the vicious repelled him instinctively. He was
here, he had even looked forward to coming, but now that he had arrived
there was nothing for him to do. After all, he had better have found
some far distant corner in Switzerland or Italy. There was no club for
him to go to, no interest in perusing the newspapers, no visits from
ambassadors to think about. The puzzles of his daily life were ended.
There was nothing for him to do where he was but to eat and to drink
and to sleep!
He lunched at a restaurant of which he had never heard before, and
there, to his anger, almost at the next table, he found Foster. With a
trace of his former imperiousness of manner, he summoned him. The young
man rose, after a moment's hesitation, and obeyed the mandate.
"What are you doing here?" Julien demanded.
"Lunching, sir," the young man replied. "The place has been recommended
to me. I do not know Paris well."
"You lie," Julien declared. "Unless you knew Paris well, you wouldn't
be here for Number 3 Branch. Tell me, are you still watching me?"
"That is a question, Sir Julien, which, as I said before, I am not at
liberty to answer."
Julien drew a little breath between his teeth.
"Look here," he continued, "I want to warn you that I am a bad-tempered
man. You can write home if you like and tell them that you met me
coming out of the German Embassy and the Russian Embassy and the
Italian Embassy, with a list of prices in my hands for different pieces
of information. Is that what you're afraid of, eh?"
"Sir Julien," the young man answered, "I have to make reports only. It
is not my business to question the necessity for them."
Julien laughed. After all, the little man was right.
"Well, perhaps I do need looking after. Is there any particular place
where you would like me to dine? I don't want to bring you out into the
byways if I can help it."
The young man excused himself politely. Julien finished his luncheon
and then took a carriage back to his hotel. He found half-a-dozen
visiting cards in his box and glanced at them eagerly. Every one of
them was from the representative of a newspaper. He tore them into
pieces, left a curt message for their bearers, and went up to his room.
A telegram was lying upon his bureau. He tore it open and read:
Call on Madame Christophor this afternoon.
He frowned and threw the unsigned telegram into a wastepaper-basket.
"That decides it," he muttered to himself. "I will not call upon Madame
Nevertheless, he changed into calling attire and presently strolled out
once more into the sunshine. From habit he turned into the Champs
Elysees. The sight of a group of acquaintances drove him into a side
street. He walked for a short distance and then paused to see his
whereabouts. He was in the Avenue de St. Paul. He studied the numbers.
Exactly opposite was Number 17. He stood there, gazing at the house,
and at that moment a large automobile glided up to the front door. The
footman sprang down and a lady descended, passing within a few feet of
him. She was tall, very elegant, and her eyes, gaining, perhaps, a
little color from the pallor of her cheeks, were the most beautiful
shade of violet-blue which he had ever seen. She was a woman whom it
was impossible not to notice. Julien stood quite still, watching her.
The footman who had stepped down in advance had rung the bell, and the
postern door already stood open. The lady did not at once enter. She
was looking at Julien. This, then, was Madame Christophor! He was aware
at that moment of two distinct impressions - one was that she knew
perfectly well who he was; the other that at any cost, however _gauche_
it might seem, it was better for him to ignore the faint gleam of
recognition which already lent the dawn of a gracious smile to her
The woman was certainly expecting him to speak. Every second her
hesitation seemed more purposeful. Julien, however, with an effort
which was almost savage, set his teeth and walked on. She looked after
him for a moment and began to laugh softly to herself. Julien walked
steadily on till he had reached the corner of the street. Then he
turned away abruptly and without glancing around. He was angry with
himself, angry at the sound of that faint, musical laugh. He had quite
made up his mind not to call upon Madame Christophor. It would, in
fact, now be impossible. He would never be able to explain his
avoidance of her.
He was in a part of Paris of which he knew nothing, but he walked on
aimlessly, anxious only to escape the vicinity of the clubs and of the
fashionable thoroughfares. Suddenly he was conscious that an automobile
had drawn up close to the curbstone by his side. The footman sprang
lightly down and accosted him.
"Monsieur," he announced, "Madame Christophor has sent her automobile.
She would be happy to receive you at once."
Julien glanced inside the automobile. It was daintily upholstered in
white. A pile of cushions lay on the seat, there was a glove upon the
floor, the faint fragrance of roses seemed to steal out. Almost he
fancied that the woman's face was there, leaning a little towards him,
with the curious smile about the lips, the wonderful eyes glowing into
his. Then he set his teeth.
"You had better inform your mistress," he said, "that there is some
mistake. I have not the honor of the acquaintance of Madame
Christophor. You have followed the wrong person."
The man hesitated. He seemed perplexed.
"But, monsieur," he persisted, "madame pointed you out herself. It was
only because of a block in the roadway that we were not able to catch
you up before. We have, indeed, never lost sight of you."
Julien shook his head. "Pray assure madame," he said, "of my most
respectful regrets. I have not the honor of her acquaintance."
He walked on. The two men sat for a moment on the box of the car,
watching him. Then they turned around and the car disappeared. Julien
jumped into a little carriage and drove back to his hotel. As he passed
through into the office, the clerk leaned forward.
"Monsieur is desired upon the telephone," he announced.
"Who is it?"
The man shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the booth. Julien
hesitated. Then he stepped inside and held the receiver to his ear.
"Who is this?" he asked.
A very slow, musical voice answered him. He never for a moment had a
doubt as to whose it might be.
"Is this Sir Julien Portel?"
"This is Julien Portel," he answered. "Who is it speaking?"
"I am Henriette Christophor," the voice replied. "I had word from
England, Sir Julien Portel, that you were coming to see me."
"I shall do myself that honor," Julien assured her, "before I leave
"You were not polite," the voice continued, "that you did not come this
"Madame," Julien said, "I am not here to make acquaintances. It is true
that I promised to call upon you; I do not know why, I do not know whom
I promised, I do not know for what reason I was asked to come. Since I
have promised, however, and you are kind enough to desire it, I will
"And why not now?" the voice persisted. "You are alone in Paris, are
you not? I have something to say to you, something which is best said
"You will come?" the voice begged. "My automobile will be at your hotel
in ten minutes. You shall come, and if you dislike, after all, to make
that call, you shall drive with me, if you prefer it. Monsieur, if you
"I will be ready," Julien answered.
He hung up the receiver and walked out into the hall. He was angry with
himself because only an hour ago he had told himself that he would not
make that call. He was angry, too, because the fact of his making it or
not making it had assumed a ridiculous importance in his eyes.
He walked to the bar and filled his case with cigarettes. Then he took
up a monthly magazine and read. His own official resignation was dealt
with in a political article of some significance. It interested him
curiously. One sentence in particular he read several times:
It is not our desire to play the alarmist, but we would point out to
Great Britain that she may at any time within the next few weeks be
called upon to face a situation of great gravity, and we cannot help
expressing our regret that when that time comes the country should be
deprived of the advice, sound judgment and experience of a man who,
notwithstanding his youth, has already made his mark in European
Julien flung the paper down. What that situation might be he knew,
perhaps, better than any man!
The porter hurried up to him.
"There is a lady outside who inquires for monsieur," he announced.
She held out an ungloved hand to him as he stepped up to the
automobile. Having gained her ends, she was disposed to be merciful.
"This is very kind of you, Sir Julien," she murmured. "I really was
most anxious to have you visit me. Will you step in, please, and drive
with me a little way? One converses so easily and it would perhaps
amuse you more than to sit in my rooms."
"You are very thoughtful," Julien replied. "I will come, with pleasure,
if I may."
He seated himself by her side.
"You must put your stick and gloves in the rack there," she continued,
"and make yourself quite comfortable. We drive a short distance into
the country, if you do not mind."
"I am entirely at your service," he answered.
He was firmly determined to remain wholly unimpressed by whatever she
said or did, yet, even in those first few moments, the sweetness of her
voice and the delicate correctness of her English sounded like music to
him. There was a suspicion of accent, too, which puzzled him.
"We are not altogether strangers, you know," she went on. "I have seen
you before several times. I think the last time that you were in Paris
you sat in a box at Auteuil with some friends of mine."
Somehow or other, he was conscious of a certain embarrassment. He was
not at his best with this woman, and he found it hard, almost
impossible, to escape from commonplaces.
"It was my misfortune that I did not see you," he remarked. "My visit
was rather a momentous one. I dare say I paid less attention than usual
to my surroundings."
"Tell me," she asked, "it was my little friend Emilie, was it not, who
persuaded you to come and see me?"
"It was a little girl with whose name, even, I was unacquainted,"
Julien replied. "I must admit that I scarcely took her request
seriously. I could not conceive anything which you might have to say
which could justify the intrusion of a perfect stranger."
"But you," she reminded him, "are not a perfect stranger. You have been
a public man. You see, I am not afraid of hurting you because I think
that you will soon get over that little sensitiveness. I know all about
you - everything. You trusted a woman. Ah! monsieur, it is dangerous,
"Madame," he said, looking into her wonderful eyes, "one makes that
mistake once, perhaps, in a lifetime - never again."
"The woman who deceives," she sighed, "makes it so difficult for all
those who come after! I suppose already in your mind I figure as a sort
of adventuress, is it not so?"
"Certainly, madame," he answered calmly. "It never occurred to me to
doubt but that you were something of the sort."
She half closed her eyes and laughed softly to herself, moving her head
like a child, as though from sheer pleasure.
"It is delicious, this frankness!" she exclaimed. "Ah! what a pity that
you did not come before that other woman had destroyed all your faith!
We might, perhaps, have been friends. Who can tell?"
"It is possible," he assented.
"So you believe that I am an adventuress," she continued. "You think
that I sent for you probably to try and steal one by one all those
wonderful secrets which I suppose you have stored up at the back of
your head. One cannot be Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
without knowing things. Keep them to yourself, Sir Julien. I ask you no
"Then why," he demanded, "did you insist upon this visit from me, and
why did the little manicurist, who is a perfect stranger to me, insist
also that I should come to you?"
She smiled, and looked down at her hands for a moment.
"Now if I answer all your questions, Sir Julien," she said, "you will
have no more curiosity left, and when your curiosity is gone, perhaps
some measure of your interest may go, too. Can you not bring yourself
to believe that I may have had personal reasons for desiring your
"Madame," he answered, "no! I cannot bring myself to believe that."
Again she laughed.
"I think," she declared, "that it is your candor which makes you
Englishmen so attractive. Do you believe that I am a dangerous person,
He looked at her coldly and dispassionately.
"I think," he decided, "that you might be very dangerous indeed to a
"But not to you?"
"Certainly not to me," he admitted. "As you have already told me, it is
within your knowledge that I am paying the price for having trusted a
"It is a fine sort of ruin, after all. Not to trust is generally proof
of a mean and doubting disposition."
"You are probably right, madame," he agreed. "Is it permitted to remind
you that we have been together for some time and you have not yet
enlightened me as to your reasons for seeking my acquaintance?"
"Can't you believe that it was a whim?" she asked.
"Remember that I saw you when you were here before," she persisted.
"I have no recollection of having met you."
"Yet I can tell you nearly all that you did on that last visit of
yours. You dined one night at the Embassy, one night at the Travelers'
Club with a party of four, one night with the Minister - Courcelles. You
were two hours with him on the afternoon of the day you dined with him.
You managed to snatch an hour at the races and to lunch at the Pre
Catelan on your way. You lunched, I believe, with Monsieur le Duc de
St. Simon and his friends."
"Your knowledge of my movements," he declared, "is very flattering. It
suggests an interest in me, I admit, but I have yet to be convinced
that that interest is in any way personal."
She looked at him from under the lids of her eyes.
"What is it, Sir Julien, that you possess, then, which you fear that I
He returned her gaze boldly. "I am a discarded Minister," he said. "I
might reasonably be supposed to be suffering from a sense of wrong. Why
should it not occur to a clever woman like you that it might be a
favorable moment to obtain a little information concerning one or two
political problems of some importance? Are you interested in such
She leaned back in her seat and laughed. He sat and watched her.
Distinctly she was, in certain ways, the most beautiful woman he had
ever seen. It was true that she was pale and that her neck was a trifle
thin, but her face was so aristocratic and yet so piquant, the color of
her eyes so delightful, her mouth so soft and yet so humorous. She laid
her hand upon his arm.
"Oh! my dear, dear Englishman," she exclaimed, "Heaven indeed has sent
you to me that I should not die of ennui! You do not know who I am - I,
"I have no idea who you are," he assured her. "I have never seen you
before. I know of no other name than the one by which I was told to ask
She leaned a little closer to him.
"Come," she said, "you see me for what I am. I shall not rob you, I
shall not drug you, I shall not try to tear secrets out of your throat
by any medieval methods. We are neither of us of the order of those who
seek adventures in vulgar fashion and expect always a vulgar
termination. Can't we be friends for a time - companions? Paris is an
empty city for me just now. And for you - you must avoid those whom you
know. It follows that you must be lonely. Let me show you my Paris."
Julien looked steadfastly out at the country, at the flying hedges, the
tall avenues of poplar trees in the distance, the clumsy farm wagon
coming across the hayfield, the blue-petticoated women who marched by
its side - anywhere to escape for a moment or two from her eyes. It was
absurd that he should feel even this faint interest in her proposition!
It was only a month since the blow had fallen, only a month since the
girl to whom he had been engaged had sent him away with a sigh and a
little handshake. It was only a month since life lay in splinters
around him. It was much too soon to feel the slightest interest in the
things which she was proposing!
"Madame Christophor," he said, "you are very kind, but I tell you
frankly that I should accept your proposition with more pleasure if you
had been of my own sex."
"You have become a woman-hater?"
"I cannot trust a woman," he answered coldly. "All the time I have the
feeling of insecurity. I fear that it must sound ungallant if I tell
you what is the sober truth - that your sex for the present has lost all
charm for me."
She closed her eyes. Perhaps from behind the mask of her still face she
was laughing at him!
"Do you think I don't understand that a little?" she murmured. "Never
mind, for to-night, at least, I will be sexless. You can believe that I
am a man. I think you will find that I can talk to you about most of
the things that men know of. Politics we will leave alone. You would
mistrust me at once. Art - I can tell you of our modern French painters;
I can tell you about these two wonderful Russians who are painting in
their studio here; I can tell you what to look for at the new
exhibitions, what studios to visit - I can take you to them, if you
will. Or old Paris - does that interest you? Have you ever seen it
properly? I know my old Paris very well indeed. Or would you rather
talk of books? There have been many years when I have done little else
but read. Tell me that we may be companions for a time. You have
nothing to lose, indeed, and I have so much to gain."
"Madame," Julien replied, "I do not trust you. You are doubtless an
agreeable companion, and as such I am willing to spend a short time
with you. This is an ungracious acceptance of your suggestion, but it
is the best I am capable of."
She clapped her hands.
"It is something, after all," she declared, "and let me tell you this,
my friend," she added, leaning over. "You have been frank with me. You
have told me that you hated my sex, that you distrusted us all. Very
well, I will share your frankness. I will tell you this. Neither am I
any friend of your sex. I, too, have my grievance. I, too, have
something in my heart of which I cannot speak, which, when I think of
it, makes me hate every male creature that walks the earth. Perhaps
with that in my heart and what you have in yours, we may meet and pass
and meet again and pass, and do one another no harm. Is that finished?"
"By all means," he agreed.
Her expression changed.
"Come," she said, "now you shall see that I have begun my plots. I have
brought you away from Paris into the country places. For what, I
wonder? Are you terrified?"
"Not in the least," he assured her.
"Brave fellow! Perhaps when you know the truth, your heart will shake
with fear. You are going to dine in a country restaurant."
"That does not terrify me in the least," he replied, smiling. "I think
that it will be charming."
"It is a tiny place," she told him, "not very well known as yet; soon,
I fear, likely to become fashionable. One sits at little tables on a
lawn of the darkest green. If the sun shines, an umbrella of pink and
white holland shades us. Quite close is the river and a field of
buttercups. There are flowers in the garden, and so many shrubs that
one can be almost alone. And behind, an old inn. They cook simply, but
the trout comes from the river, and it is cool."
"It sounds delightful," Julien admitted; "but, madame, indeed it is I
who must be host."
She shook her head.
"On the contrary, it is by subtlety that I have brought you here and
that I claim to be the giver of the feast. You see, you dine with me
to-night. You must ask me back again. It is the custom of your country,
is it not?"
He smiled. The automobile had turned in now up a short drive, and
stopped before a long, low building. Down in the gardens they could see
fairylights swinging in the faint breeze. A short man, with
close-cropped hair and a fierce black moustache and imperial, came
hastening out to greet them. When he recognized Madame Christophor, he
"Monsieur Leon," she said, "I bring an Englishman to try your river
trout. You must give me a table near that great tree of lilac that
smells so sweetly. I order nothing - you understand? But you must
remember that monsieur is English. He will want his champagne dry and
his brandy very old. Is it not so, my friend? Now I will give you into
charge of _monsieur le proprietaire_ here. He shall show you where you
can drink a little _aperitif_, if you will. He shall show you, too,
where to find me presently."
A trim maid came hurrying up and took possession of Madame Christophor.
Julien followed his guide into a small reception room, all pink and
"If monsieur desires to wash," the proprietor explained, "he passes
beyond there. And for an _aperitif?_"
"I will take anything you send me," Julien declared. "What is the name
of this place, monsieur?"
"They call it the Maison Leon d'Or, monsieur," the man replied. "It is
my own idea - a country house I purchased once for myself, but found it
too far, alas! from Paris. In the fine weather we could, if we chose,
have half Paris here. When the cold days come, there is nobody.
He departed and Julien strolled to the window. In the portion of the
gardens over which he looked were smaller tables, set out simply for
those who desired to take their coffee and liqueurs or _aperitif_ out
of doors. Julien glanced out idly enough at the little group of people
dotted about here and there. Then his face suddenly darkened. At a
table within a few yards of where he stood were seated Foster and a man
whose back was turned towards him.
Julien's first impulse was to retire out of sight, for the window was