Arthur Cosslett Smith.

The monk and the dancer online

. (page 1 of 9)
Online LibraryArthur Cosslett SmithThe monk and the dancer → online text (page 1 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook









4 /^-^i ^


Copyright^ 1900, by Charles Scribne/s Sons



•Khadija believes in mb"



The Monk and the Dancer

I. La Trappe


II. Beyond the Walls


III. The Folies-Bergeres


IV. The Abbot


Trot, Trot to Market


The Peach


The Senior Reader


Some Old Families


The Eye of the Harem






AlV^-STt^^XT^^W 'I'l.




V OR three weeks, and well into Lent,
the rain had fallen upon the thirsty soil
of Algeria ; then one night the wind
shifted, and the next day the blazing sun
rode through a cloudless sky.

At the abbey of La Trappe at Staoueli
the monks hailed the coming of spring
with joy. It meant for them the begin-
ning of out-door work, the culture of the
vines, the tending of the T2essn\ or white
roses, from which they extraft the attar,
and the geraniums which furnish the
essence for which the abbey is famous ;
it meant the herding of the cattle and the
sheep in the outlying pastures, the songs
of the birds in the hedges, the rustling of
the grass; it meant the exchange of white-

[ I ]

T!he Monk and the Dancer

washed cells for the open air and the blue

Of the forty monks of La Trappe two
only are permitted to speak; these are the
Abbot and the guest-master, Brother Am-
brose. The others may say "Memento
mori" when they meet each morning,
and may pray. Beyond this they are dumb.
Each spends a few moments of the day in
digging his own grave, and they sleep on
straw, with their coffins for beds. On the
wall of the refeftory is this inscription :
" Sil est dur de vivre a la Trappe^ quil est
doux d'y mourirV' Over each door is the
word ''''Silenced

Just outside the walls of the abbey, by
the great gates, there is a room devoted to
hospitality. Here each day, from ten to
twelve o'clock, food is given to all who
come. Brother Ambrose has charge of
this room, and serves each guest with his
own hands.

On this first morning of spring Brother
Ambrose went to the Abbot and made a


La Trappe

" Father," he said, " this fine day after
the long rain will bring many travellers,
and I am beginning to feel my age. Will
you kindly give me help?"

The Abbot thought a moment, then
pointing through the open window
toward the garden, he asked, "Who is
that among the geraniums?"

Brother Ambrose shaded his eyes with
his hand, and answered, "It is Brother
Angelo. But is he not too young? There
will be many guests, and," he added,
"women as well as men."

The Abbot looked up quickly, a faint
smile upon his lips.

"Ah, Brother Ambrose," he said, "at
what age does one become safe? Send
Brother Angelo to me."

The Abbot saw Brother Ambrose go
down the grass walk toward the scarlet
geraniums. Then he resumed his seat.
Soon there was a knock at the door.

"Enter," said the Abbot. Brother An-
gelo came in.

"Memento mori, father," he said.


The Monk and the Dancer

" I try to," replied the Abbot. Brother
Angelo stared.

" My son," said the Abbot, " how long
have you been with us?"

" Always, father."

"And how old are you, my son?"

"Twenty-two years, father."

The Abbot opened hi^ *3esk and took
out a small red book fastened with a lock.
He selefted a key from those which^-hung
at his girdle and opened the book?

" My son," he said, " Brother Ambrose
is growing old, and I have told him that
you will help him. I intend that you
shall take his place some day. For that
reason you were taught languages. At
present you are not to speak to any of the
guests. Brother Ambrose will attend to
that. Now listen to what I shall read to
you, and ask no questions."

The Abbot turned several pages, and
then read:

" "- Angelo^ Brother, Born April second^ 1 873.
" Baptized the same day and named Charles
" Viaor.


La Trappe

^^ Father, Count Charles Frangois d'Apre-

^^mont. Colonel of the Fourth Chasseurs


^'Mother, Miriam^ an Almee woman of the

" tribe of Ouled Nail, who danced in the cafes

" of Biskra, and who died April third, 1873.

^^ Given to me May first, 1873, ^ his fa-

^Uher, who in the world was my friend, and

" who died in the desert some time in May^


" T^ook the final vows on Easter Monday ^


^^ Signed by me, Richard,

''Abbot of La Trapper'

" I read you this, my son, for you are
going to-day outside of the protefting
walls, and are to catch a glimpse of the
world. Remember how little the world
has done for you. You owe it nothing but
life. You will pay your debt when you
die. Now go to Brother Ambrose."

At ten o'clock the guests began to
come. There were Spaniards from Oran,
Maltese from Bona and the Tunis frontier,
French peasants from the neighboring


'The Monk and the Dancer

farms, an Englishman or two, and a com-
mercial traveller from Lyons. Brother
Angelo scarcely noticed them. He did
what Brother Ambrose bade him do: he
found seats at the tables for the peasants
and their families; he handed about the
fish, the bread, the lentils, and the cheese;
he comforted a crying child; he served
the wine, and all the while he was say-
ing to himself, " My father was Count
d' Apremont, and my mother was Miriam,
the dancing-girl of Biskra."

Just before twelve o'clock, when all
the guests except an Englishman and the
commercial traveller had departed, a car-
riage stopped at the gate; and a moment
after the door opened, and a woman, fol-
lowed by a courier belonging to one of
the hotels at Algiers, entered the room.
She turned, startled by the cheerless ap-
pearance of the place, and was about to go
out, when her eyes met those of Brother
Angelo; then she walked slowly to the
head of the table and took her seat. The
courier sat at the foot. Brother Ambrose


La Trappe

served her, and she made a pretence of
eating. She cast occasional glances at the
young monk, and he never took his eyes
away from her. He stood staring at what
he had never seen before — a beautiful

She was very dark. Her hair was blue-
black, twisted into a heavy knot at the
back of her head, and over her ears two
sharply pointed locks curved up like
sickles on her temples. She wore a little
black hat, such as Spanish bull-fighters
wear, tilted down upon her brows. Her
nose was straight and thin, pinched in
just above the nostrils, which quivered
with each breath. Her lips were full and
red, and her white teeth were small and
shaped like orange seeds. Her hands
were those of the old races, with long
pointed fingers and rosy nails. She wore a
dozen rings, and all were set with emer-
alds. Once she looked about the room,
and saw the Englishman and the com-
mercial traveller; afterward she did not
notice them.


The Monk and the Dancer

When she could no longer make a
pretence of eating she turned to Brother
Ambrose and said, " You have an excel-
lent white wine here, I am told. May I
not taste it?"

"Why not?" replied Brother Am-
brose, and off he went to bring a bottle
from the abbey cellars.

Scarcely had the door closed behind
him, when she turned and looked fairly
at Brother Angelo. He stood as before,
tall and lithe, his closely cut hair curling
about his face, his black eyes sparkling,
his cheeks glowing, his full lips parted,
his hands pressed upon his breast.

" Come here," she said.

He took a step toward her.

"What is your name?" she asked.

He started, and put his finger to his

She laughed, put her hands to her lips,
and threw him a kiss.

"What is your name?" she repeated.

" Memento mori," he gasped.

"How droll!" she said. "That sounds
[8 ]

La T'rappe

like Latin, and I do not know Latin. I
only know my own language, and the
French which I am using. It is not good
French. My accent is very bad. You re-
mind me of a pi61:ure I saw in Florence.
It was of a young man into whom they
had shot arrows. I think they called him
Saint Sebastian. I see that you wear sand-
als. That is good; it gives one a carriage.
The Arabs wear sandals, and they walk
properly. I also wear no heels," and she
put out her little feet. " In the evening,
if I wear slippers, then heels — in the
daytime, no. That is so that I may walk
well. I sent the old man for the wine so
that I might speak to you. He looks
rather cross, but then he is old. It is very
sad to be old. I am twenty. I have nearly
ten years yet. Then I shall marry. It
seems that you are not talking much, but
you are blushing very nicely. I used to
blush when men spoke to me. It is a very
pretty accomplishment, but I have lost
it. Still, if you will come to see me at the
Hotel Saint George, I will try my best


The Monk and the Dancer

to recall it. Will you come? If you intend
to say something nice to me, or to kiss
my hand, you must do it very soon,
before the old man returns with the

"Mademoiselle," said the courier,
"pray be careful. The Abbot is very

"This Abbot," she said, with a laugh,
"if one could only know, is probably
nothing but a man."

Then she turned to Brother Angelo
again, and whispered, "What is your

The blood left his face, and he trem-
bled like a leaf Then he said, "My
father was Count d'Apremont, and my
mother was Miriam, the dancing-girl of
Biskra." And he burst into tears.

There was a crash. Brother Ambrose
stood in the door, and he had dropped
the bottle of white wine.

The Englishman and the commercial
traveller walked down the road together.
"Monsieur," said the latter, "she is al-

La Trappe

most better in real life than on the stage."
"Very clever," said the Englishman.
"Who is she?"

The commercial traveller stopped
short, and looked hard at his companion.
Finally he said, " Is it possible that mon-
sieur does not know? She is Dolores, the
Spanish dancer. They pay her two thou-
sand francs a night at the Folies-Ber-


1 HAT evening, when Brother Am-
brose had made his report, the Abbot
sat silent for some moments, and then
said, " You are quite sure that he spoke? "
"Quite sure, father."
"And to a woman?"
"To a woman, father," and Brother
Ambrose crossed himself.

"Was she an attraftive person?"
" She was as handsome as the devil."
The Abbot looked up quickly, but
Brother Ambrose was evidently sincere
in his comparison.

[ " ]

'The Monk and the Dancer

" Yes," he continued, " in all the thirty-
years that I have been guest-master I
have never seen one like her. When she
walked up the room she seemed to float
along; there was no movement of her
skirts. There was a faint odor of violets
about her that filled the air. She had a
fashion of half closing her eyes and look-
ing at you through the lashes. There was
that pifture of the repentant Magdalen
which Brother Thomas painted last year,
and which you bade him burn, because,
although it was the Magdalen, it was
not repentant. Well, this woman had that
same look. Her throat — "

"That will do," said the Abbot, "I

The two old men looked at each other
silently. Then Brother Ambrose, shifting
his feet and nervously fingering the beads
of his rosary, said, " Father, when the
spring comes back, when the whole earth
begins to breathe again, when the star-
lings build their nest in the great cross
on the chapel roof, and the scent of the

[ 12 ]

La Trappe

lilacs fills the air, do you never find 'me-
mento mori * hard words to say ? "

The Abbot went to the window, looked
out, came back, and said slowly, "Bro-
ther Ambrose, on such a night as this,
after the manner of men, I fight with
beasts at Ephesus."

"Thank God," said Brother Ambrose,
solemnly, "that I am not the only one.
And now, father," he added, briskly,
" what is to be done with Brother An-

"You may put him in the chapel cell
for to-night," replied the Abbot, "and in
the morning I will fix his penance. You
may leave him his straw, and bring me
the key of the cell."

" Is that all ? " asked Brother Ambrose.

"Yes," replied the Abbot.

Brother Ambrose started for the door.

" Memento mori, father," he said.

The Abbot smiled.

"I will grant you an indulgence to-
night, old friend. Good night."

Brother Ambrose's lips quivered.

[ 13]

T'he Monk and the Dancer

" Good night," he said. And then he
added, "Those words sound very sweet
after thirty years."

In ten minutes he brought the key of
the chapel cell, and the Abbot fastened
it to his girdle.

Brother Ambrose lingered a moment,
and then said, " If it is permitted, father,
I should like you to. say good night once

" Good night," said the Abbot, and
then Brother Ambrose went away.

Left alone, the Abbot sat unconsciously
playing with the keys at his waist, then
rising, he extinguished the single candle
upon his desk, and opening his door,
stepped out upon tne grass walk.

The garden was bathed in moonlight.
On the long lines of almond trees the
white blossoms shone like silver stars.
High on the chapel roof the great iron
cross was silhouetted against the sky, and
the Abbot could see, at the interseftion
of the arms, the starling's nest. He walked
slowly on past the geraniums, their scarlet

[ H]

La Trappe

flowers black in the moonlight, and then
he came to the roses. All about him were
the bending stems, the delicate, fresh
leaves, and the great, white flowers. He
circled with his arms a dozen of the stalks,
brought them close together, and buried
his face in the mass of blossoms. He
breathed in the fragrance with long gasps ;
and then, after a moment, he went on
down the grass walk. At the corner of
the wall was a stone bench, upon which
the leaves of the vines cast delicate shad-
ows. Here he took his seat. Behind him,
trellised on the wall, was a mass of honey-
suckle and jasmine, the perfume of which
saturated the warm air. From the dove-
cote came the soft cooing of the pigeons,
and in the far-off fields he heard the
lowing of the cattle, for even the birds
and the beasts felt the sweet influence of
the spring, and could not sleep.

The Abbot sat motionless for a mo-
ment, overwhelmed by the beauty of the
night, then suddenly he threw himself
upon his knees.

[ 15]

T^he Monk and the Dancer

"O God," he sobbed, "help thy ser-

When he rose, an hour later, his prayer
had been answered, and a sweet smile
played about his lips.

" I will do it this very night," he said
to himself, and then he went swiftly up
the grass walk. He did not enter his own
room, but passed through the cloisters to
a door near the chapel wall. He opened
this door, went in, and closed it after him.
He was then in a small passage which led
to the barred door of the chapel cell. It
was perfe6lly dark, but the Abbot put his
hand on the wall and felt his way to the
end of the passage.

" My son ? " he whispered.

There was no answer, but the Abbot
heard a rustling in the straw.

" My son," he said, his voice trembling,
"what I read to thee this morning was
all true, except that thy father did not
die in the desert. He is alive and is here.
I am Charles Fran9ois d'Apremont. I am
thy father."

[ i6]

La Trappe

There was no reply.

The Abbot put his hands upon the
barred door, and it swung open. The lock
was broken. With a cry he entered the
cell. He felt the straw under his feet, and
he heard a rat scamper out into the pas-
sage. The cell was empty.

The Abbot went quickly out through
the cloisters, across the wide courtyard,
where the fountain was casting jets of sil-
ver in the moonlight, and on down the
paved walk to the great gates. He found
them locked and barred as usual ; but as
he was turning away, he saw projefting
from the shadow of the further gate-post
the foot of a ladder. Then his heart failed
him utterly, for he knew that he had lost
his son.

He went slowly to the ladder, and trip-
ping on his robe, he mounted step after
step, until he could see the world sur-
rounding the great wall which for more
than twenty years had bounded his hori-

He saw the white road stretching away

[ 17]

The Monk and the Dancer

to Algiers, and the long lines of eucalyp-
tus trees which bordered it and cast their
shadows across it. He saw cultivated fields
and patches of woodland, and far off in
the distance he caught the twinkle of a
light in the window of a shepherd's hut.
As he gazed at these things, so strange
and yet so well known, there surged from
his heart to his mind the memories of the
world. He saw himself at the head of his
regiment ; he heard the neighing of the
horses, and he saw the glint of the moon-
light on the sabres and the buckles ; he
heard the bugles ; he saw the fierce skir-
mish in the desert ; he saw the mosques
and the citadel of Biskra; and then —
ah, then he saw Miriam the dancing-girl
coming to meet him under the palm trees.
He waved his hand toward the distant
city, and whispered, " Farewell, my son !
God keep thee ! "

[ i8]


JLT was ten o'clock when Brother An-
gelo stepped from the ladder to the cop-
ing of the wall, hung by his hands for
an instant, and then dropped softly into
the world.

He knew four languages, his breviary,
and how to tend geraniums; otherwise he
was as much a child as when, twenty-two
years before, an officer of the Chasseurs
had brought him in his arms to LaTrappe
and the great gates had closed upon them

But his ignorance did not occur to him
as he shortened his robe on one side to the
knee and started down the moonlit road
toward Algiers. He walked smoothly and
swiftly, like the Arabs, with his head held
high and his arms swinging easily. In two
hours he came to Sidi Ferruch, and as he
passed the barracks a sentinel called from
the shadow of the gate, '^Qui vive?''

[ 19]

T^he Monk and the Dancer

" Memento mori," replied Brother An-
gelo, and passed swiftly on. Soon he came
to the lighthouse of Cape Caxine and for
the first time saw the sea and heard the
clamor of the surf. Then he passed the old
Moorish fort at Point Pescade, and fur-
ther on, he went through Saint Eugene,
where the villas stood white and silent in
the moonlight.

It was two o'clock in the morning when
he reached Mustapha Superieur and saw
the lights of the city and harbor beneath
him. He had made the eighteen miles in
four hours, and turning off from the road,
he lay down under a mimosa tree to wait
for the lazy sun.

About six o'clock the concierge of the
Hotel Saint George came out of the side
entrance, looked up to the sky, stretched
his arms, yawned, and kicked a dog that
came to greet him. Soon the courier who
had been at La Trappe the preceding day
joined him.

"How is mademoiselle?" asked the

[ 20]

Beyond the Walls

"Well enough," replied the courier,
"but I am glad to be through with her.
Yesterday she made a fool of a young monk
at the monastery, and Brother Ambrose
caught him at it. It 's a chance if they let
me in the next time I go. Such as she
spoil business. She pays well, but I am
glad that she is leaving. She takes the
steamer this evening for Naples."

"Her maid tells me," said the con-
cierge, "that she has made fools of many.
A bull-fighter in Seville was the first one.
He started her. Then she took to dancing
and the men flocked after her. They say
the Prince of — "

"Mother of Heaven!" exclaimed the
courier, " Here 's the monk."

Brother Angelo came swiftly up the
driveway, a mass of yellow mimosa blos-
soms in his hand.

" I have arrived," he said to the courier.

" So I perceive," replied the latter.

"Where is she?" asked Brother An-

" She is where I should be if the world

[21 ]

The Monk and the Dancer

were rightly managed," said the courier ;
"she is in bed."

" Is she ill ? It is past six o'clock."

Just then a buxom young woman came
onto the terrace.

"There is her maid," replied the cou-
rier ; " ask her."

For the second time in his life Brother
Angelo spoke to a woman.

" Tell me," he said eagerly, " is she ill ?
She told me to come, and I got over the
wall while the rest were at complines.
Will you not tell her that I am here ? "

The young woman looked at him in

" Perhaps," he said, " you do not under-
stand French. I speak also Spanish, Eng-
lish, and Arabic."

" You speak plainly enough," said the
maid, "but I was wondering what there
was for me in all this. The little Jew
chocolate-maker in Paris gave me fifty
napoleons for one of mademoiselle's old
slippers. The English milord used to pay
postage in gold for every note I delivered,

Beyond the Walls

and the Abbe Guilbert gave me absolu-
tion and a kiss each time I let him in at
the servants' door. What will you offer ?
We leave this evening, so I am obliged to
speak frankly. What will you give f "

" Alas," said Brother Angelo, " I have
nothing in the world but these," and he
held out the mimosa blossoms.

" It is not business," said the maid, after
a pause, " but perhaps you will make it up
to me later," and snatching the flowers
from his hands, she ran into the house.

Presently she came out again and whis-
pered, so that the concierge should not
hear her, " I put the flowers where she
will be sure to see them. I will let you
know when she wakes. It will be several
hours yet. Go down by the fountain in the
garden and wait for me."

She looked at him fixedly for a moment
and said, " So you climbed the wall, did
you ? Good, that is the kind she likes."
Then going, she turned her head and ad-
ded, "That is the kind that all women


The Monk and the Dancer

Brother Angelo went down the terrace
into the garden and after some search
found the fountain, which was hidden
among the trees. He loosened his robe
at the throat, turned it back, and plunged
his head into the cold water. He took oiF
his sandals and bathed his feet, and then,
fresh and glowing, his crisp hair curling
even more closely about his temples, he
began to wait. Just then a neighboring
clock struck seven, and unconsciously he
repeated the office of "prime." Every day
since he could remember he had said those
words at this hour, sometimes with tears,
sometimes with reverent joy, always with
his whole heart. But that was ages ago ;
nearly twenty-four hours ; before he had
seen her ; before his prayers were turned
from the worship of an invisible God to
the adoration of a visible goddess. He
thought of his broken vows without re-
gret. Why had the Abbot and Brother
Ambrose deceived him all these years ?
Why had they taught him that the world
was something to hide away from f He


Beyond the Walls

looked about him and saw that it was
good. Why had they talked so much of
divine love when human love was at their
very gates? Why had they taught him
four languages, but never a word fit to
speak to the woman he was soon to see
again ?

He felt a hand upon his shoulder.

"Come/' said the maid, "you are
lucky. She is awake, and it is not yet
nine o'clock."

He followed her through the garden
to the side entrance. They went up one
flight of stairs, and then she opened a door
and motioned to him. He put his hands
to his heart and entered. It was a sitting-
room, draped and furnished in the Moor-
ish fashion. A little table between the
windows was covered with a white cloth
and a breakfast service for two persons.
There were some trunks in the room, and
the disorder which denotes either a re-
cent arrival or an early departure. On the
floor lay a woman's glove. Brother An-
gelo picked it up. It was the first glove


T^he Monk and the Dancer

he had ever seen, but he quickly divined
its use. He spread it upon his palm, smiled
at its littleness, and then, blushing like a
girl, raised it to his lips.

A faint noise startled him and he turned
quickly. The curtains of the door leading
to the next room were parted ; and be-
tween them, dressed in white, with yel-
low mimosa blossoms at her bosom, stood

"Count d'Apremont," she said, "you
do me great honor ; " and stepping for-
ward she let the curtains fall behind her.

For a moment they stood silent, then
he said, " What is your name ? "

She put her finger to her lips, cast down
her eyes, and whispered, "Memento

" What is your name ? " he asked again.

"My mother," she replied, "was a

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryArthur Cosslett SmithThe monk and the dancer → online text (page 1 of 9)