F. Berkeley (Frank Berkeley) Smith.

The street of the two friends online

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one of the roughest quarters at night in Paris.
The long line of vegetable carts that had crawled


half the night from outlying farms into the city
with their swinging lanterns and their drivers
asleep now stood with the horses out of the
shafts. Tons of cabbages, carrots and potatoes
were heaped in square piles even with the curb-
stones, and groups of men in blue blouses were
talking in low tones about them in the dim light
of the cart lanterns. The air hung heavy with
the reek of vegetables.

"Where are you going, cocker?" cried Therese,
now thoroughly awake.

Either the man was asleep himself, drunk or
misleading her.

"Madame said she wished to go to- the Rue
Delique; this is the shortest way."

"Rue Lepic, I said, stupid Number 19."

"It is understood, Madame," answered the
man muffled in the horse blanket; "then we shall
turn back."

He rattled into a side street, one of a dozen
lying between the market and the Boulevard
Sebastopol, swung through a black slit of a street,
turned into an alley, rumbled through a passage
and emerged into a straight thoroughfare


lined with business houses, and taking another
turn to the left, roused his horse into a smart trot.

It seemed impossible for Therese to keep
awake. The very effort of lifting her eyelids
pained her. When she awoke again she was
beyond the limit of the Rue Vaugirard and
among the ruins of deserted factories. The
horse was running and the man was lashing him.
Therese was awake now very much awake,
with every nerve in her lithe body quivering.
It would have been useless to have jumped out.
Out! Where? In that road where every shadow
might hold a footpad only too glad to have
encountered a pretty woman away from the
assistance of the police? She recalled the
Infant's words. The police seldom ventured out
there, and when they did they walked by fours.

Suddenly the steaming horse stopped. Therese
instinctively sprang to her feet, but the ruffian
on the box was too quick for her.

'Not so fast, my little lady," he leered, thrust-
ing his face close to hers.

" I understand," she said coolly. " Well, what
do you want?"


The eyes of the man glinted for an instant at
the heavy silver and jewelled necklace about her
throat the one the sculptor Targelle had once
fashioned for her, and which Therese wore in his

"That's good merchandise you've got there,
my chicken," he leered. "I don't want that;
I've got plenty of my own. I'm good to my
woman, I am."

Therese grew cold all over; for a moment she
laboured for her breath.

"Ah, zut!" snarled the man, leaning back over
his box. " Who are you, little blanchisseuse, that
you should give yourself the airs of a grande
dame? So you think I have run my good horse
over here for nothing? You might play that on
your prince, but not on me, gamine."

A something akin to the accumulating strength
a leopard feels before springing rose within her.
She was no longer cold; she became hot with
sudden frenzy. The sinews in her lithe body
under this sudden tension of desperation became
like steel. She slipped her hand into her pocket
and wound her slender fingers with a tightening


grip about the handle of her night key, its old-
fashioned steel shank protruding from her
clenched fist. Simultaneously the horse gave a
sudden start and the ruffian hah 3 lost his balance;
the next instant he regained his equilibrium and
his coarse red hand fell like the paw of a bear on
her throat. Then it was that all the pent-up
desperation broke within her. In a frenzy she
struck her assailant a swinging blow that sent
the steel key ripping in a jagged gash from the
eye to the jaw. The horse bolted, and the man,
losing his balance, tumbled from his box. As
he did so his right leg slipped between the spokes
of the wheel.

Therese jumped and was thrown into the ditch
by the roadside from the momentum of the lurch-
ing fiacre. She crawled to her knees. The
fiacre was fast disappearing, swaying away in
zigzags in the gloom of the road, while the ruffian
screamed in agony at every revolution of the
wheel of torture that mercilessly wrenched and
snapped his bones as the frightened horse bolted
on. Presently the man's cries grew fainter and
a bend in the road hid the runaway from view.


Therese staggered painfully to her feet. She
dared not cry out for help in that deserted dis-
trict, where every second shadow might screen
some cut-throat. Keener than the physical
pain and the fever her experience had caused,
was the agony of fear. She trudged on in the
direction of the city limits, the screams of the
man linked to the wheel ringing in her ears.
The man was evidently dead or nearly so.
Should the police chance to discover him mangled
by the roadside they would scour the district for
his assailant. These things terrified her as she
stumbled on. The rough stones in the road cut
through her light slippers into the flesh. There
had been no witness. Would the authorities take
her word for what had happened? Suddenly she
became conscious that she was still gripping the
night key. She looked at it; there was blood upon
it. She dared not throw it away : she felt it better
to explain frankly when the time came. Perhaps
the commissaire de police would believe her.

Just beyond her now, close to the road, lay a
squatter's settlement. From a ramshackle
window a light shone out. Therese slunk by


this hovel in the shadow of a factory wall. As
she did so for some moments her heart again
seemed to stop beating. There were men inside
the cabin; she could hear their oaths and laughter.
The remaining hovels in the group lay tucked
away in small truck gardens. These low shanties,
patched with stray boards and roofed with odds
and ends of the scrap heap, were notorious shel-
ter for a colony of Apaches, part of a vicious
band smoked out of their stronghold on the
outskirts of Menilmontant, where they had lived
the year before in a deserted quarry. The girl
moved on as in a nightmare.

Therese's high-heeled slippers were now in
ribbons; a little farther on she discarded them,
then turned back, picked them up and put them
in her pocket. It was easier than stumbling in
them, and she dared not leave them as a clue.

With the fast approaching daylight a new
terror seized her. To be found by the police in
the pitiful plight she was in meant arrest. Hei
thoughts came incoherently now. Her head
seemed on fire; yet there was one dominating
longing above all others, and that was to reach


the Infant's studio. She had regained the Rue
Vaugirard now, clenching her teeth to stifle the
pain; vaguely she followed it block after block
until she reached the side street in which the
Infant lived. Twice she hid in an alleyway to
avoid the passing police.

Half an hour later Therese found herself at
the doorway leading to the Infant's studio.

Madame Martin, his sleepy concierge, having
opened the front door by pulling a cord sus-
pended above her bed, had not even questioned
the tired, broken voice of the intruder. Therese
crawled slowly up the narrow stairs leading to
the Infant's door and grasped the bell cord, then
fell unconscious beside the door.

And there he found her her whom he really
loved. She dimly realized the warmth of his
strong arms as he carried her and placed her up-
on his bed and Madame Martin weeping -
and the quiet doctor giving that good soul orders ;
and for weeks she lay in the Infant's bed and the
Infant bunked on the divan in Davidge's studio
during the odd hours when she fell asleep and
released his hand.


Almost any sunny afternoon if you chance to
cross the Luxembourg Gardens you will see in
the shadow of a statue, close to the fountain, a
laughing little girl playing hoople with an Eng-
lish nurse; and not very far away sits a slender
mother with her hair in a bandeau, reading.
Sometimes the Infant joins his wife after work
and they remain until the drum taps to close the
gates. The Infant has been very successful.
He has a new studio now in the Rue des Dames
- a big studio with a sunny apartment above
and plenty of room for Therese and the baby.
Davidge painted the frieze in madame's boudoir
as a wedding present. Davidge is a good fellow
at heart, and since he received the decoration of
the Legion d'Honneur he is getting quite dig-
nified and his cynicism is a thing of the past.

In a corner over the divan, in the shadow of
the big skylight downstairs, hangs a framed clip-
ping from Le Matin, dated five years ago :

The agents of police, Grenard and Ravonneaux, dis-
covered at daylight yesterday morning in a ditch in a
deserted quarter on the outskirts of the Rue Vaugirard
one named Jean Martin, cocker de fiacre, face gashed,


internal injuries and leg broken. Crime? Or accident?
At the Hospital Cochin; condition desperate. Monsieur
Bouvais, the sympathetic commissaire de police, has opened
an inquiry.

The Baby is now engaged. They are to be married in
June. It seems incredible Sapristi! how the years
glide by. Davidge and I are invited to the wedding. The
first thing he did when he heard the news was to go over to the
cracked mirror over his easel and gaze at himself for some
moments, while the Infant, her father and myself, watched
him. He was wondering why he looked so old. F. B. S.


From my kitchen vrindow in the Rue des Deux Amis in
Montmartre I can see up the street as far as the passage Henri
Vittiers. I can also see the Cafe Jean Baptist, where I some-
times dine. It was there I first met the hero of this story.

F. B. S.



IN MONTMARTRE a man does not become
notorious at a single bound; a familiar char-
acter, a "type," whom every one knows and
hails in passing, takes years to produce.

Straight-rye Jones was one of these.

None of us knew exactly where he came from
in America. "Out West from God's own coun-
try," he used to say, and swear with enthusiasm
over the memory. He possessed a strength and
a constitution that were amazing. There was
in his back, his arms, his deep chest, his broad



shoulders, and his legs, the strength of a young
bull, and in his heart lay his ever-ready good
nature. His eyes were blue and generally blood-
shot; his hair was a tawny, dull blond, and so
seldom cut that it fell below the collar of his coat.
Hatless, it blew wild as hemp in the wind. In
the cafe, he brushed it back with his hand. His
shapeless features, clean-shaven at intervals, the
broad forehead, the flat nose, and the bulldog
jaw were freckled like his big, coarse hands. His
voice had a certain huskiness about it, and was
pitched low and easy, like his laugh. He wore
the wide corduroy trousers of the Parisian work-
man, and in winter wooden sabots and a cowboy

When he lapsed from the language of Western
America into the argot of Montmartre, he still
retained his favourite exclamations from Mon-
tana. These gave a certain ginger to his raw

His days he spent in a small cafe tucked under
the "Hotel of the Abyssinians and Madame de
Pompadour Reunited," a stale cafe, always smell-
ing of yesterday, and in which the most conspic-


uous touch of cleanliness was the neatly raked
strip of sand next to the worn billiard table.

His nights he passed in bars about the markets
where any one but Straight-rye Jones would
have had a knife driven into his back in less than
a week. It was his good-natured grin, his reck-
lessness, and his colossal strength that saved
him, and gave him a safe passport in and out of
these dives about the "Halles" frequented by
Apaches, by criminals, and their still more dan-
gerous sweethearts.

They welcomed Straight-rye Jones among
them as they would have welcomed one of their
own. Often when a quick fight occurred they
were glad he was there. He was a whirlwind in
a fight, drunk or sober, and he was never cold
sober, save at short intervals during the day.
He used to come back to the cafe under the
"Abyssinians and Madame de Pompadour
Reunited," and tell us about the last "scrap."

"I was settin' talkin* to a girl," he would
drawl, with a grin, "and in come a couple of
them butchers from La Villette."

And then would follow the exclamations from


Montana, whose elimination is one of the diffi-
culties in writing this story, as Straight-rye
Jones's vocabulary without them is limited,
though I never heard him swear before a lady or
a child. And once, when he was blind drunk,
he had sense enough to hide behind a tree when
the two children of Delacour passed.

No one ever spoke ill of Straight-rye Jones.

I have known him to sober up for three days
in order to take these two small children of
Delacour's to the shady square which lies be-
tween the Rue Turgot and the Boulevard Clichy.
He had a great fondness for children, and they
were safe with him.

Had you chanced to pass now and then on
some sunny spring afternoon, you might have
seen him sitting on one of the public benches -
his sombrero pushed back on his head a child
on each faded corduroy knee, telling them stories.
The story about the phantom wolf the "Injuns"
trapped, for the little boy; and for the little girl,
the story of the fairy who lived in the trunk of
the tree, and gave every little girl everything
she asked for.


"She was a good un," he'd laugh low and ex-
plain. "She wa'n't never known to refuse
candies an' them little rockin'-hosses an'
an' them stare-eyed dolls what kin say * popper'
and 'mommer' -maybe if youse was to hev
asked her fer less see one er them little
them little kitchuns. Pshaw ! I'd er oughter
thought er that, hedn't I? One er them little
kitchuns, whar yer kin cook and weigh and shut
the door of the stove tight. Waal, she wa'n't
never known to refuse."

And he'd laugh that low, easy laugh of Mon-
tana that reminds you of the cool twilight, free-
dom, and a fresh horse. Yes, Straight-rye Jones
was fond of children.

And after such an afternoon with Delacour's,
which happened only once in a while, for he had
to prepare for it and tell Delacour in advance,
he'd take the little boy and the little girl back to
Delacour's studio, from which their mamma had

Then Straight-rye Jones would shamble slowly
back to the stale cafe beneath Madame de Pom-
padour and the ancient tribes reunited, where


we painters met before dinner for our aperitif -
his eyes scanning in a dream the edge of the
gutter, until it led him half consciously to the
door, and he turned in to drink.

He preferred the corner table in the alcove,
although he sometimes sat at a smaller one
provided with a single chair next to the billiard
table when he was broke.

; 'You ain't never knowed what it is to love,"
he once said to me. : 'You ain't never had no
sweetheart what you really loved, and if you
had er had why, we was goin' to be married -
and she throwed you down? Well! You ain't
never loved; and if you had er loved you'd er
been down and out like me. Look at me! "

His voice grew thick, and he stared at his
half-empty glass of sour straight rye, and ran
his freckled hand through his long, dull hair
wearily, pushing it back from his eyes.

" I ain't worth nothin' nothin'l " He began
to cry through nervous depression, his big hands
in a tremble. "No," he added slowly, "you
ain't never truly loved."

And he drained his glass with a gulp, shivered,


shoved the empty glass from him, and felt in his
trousers pocket to see if he still had enough to
pay for his next and mine, which he insisted on,
backed up by the persuasion of Montana.

No one inquired where he lived, and, since he
never mentioned his domicile, we were too dis-
creet to ask, for he disappeared often for days
and weeks, although it was certain that at one
time he lived at the butt end of an alley off the
Boulevard Clichy, in a two-story box provided
with a pair of stairs, and whose beckoning light
over the entrance at night spelled "Hotel." It
was quite a lively alley, and as sad as a sewer; a
sort of sinister ravine off the gay highway for
lost souls to wait in. There are such glimpses of
purgatory on earth.

It was safer to keep to the middle of this alley,
although sometimes Straight-rye Jones stumbled
and lurched along its narrow sidewalk in the
dark, and reached his domicile alive. It must,
however, be said that it had its note of respect-
ability a stable for honest fiacre horses nearly
opposite the "Hotel."

He came to the cafe steadily after these sudden


disappearances, wedged in the corner alcove next
to the worn billiard table; and to-day he sat talk-
ing to a stranger a tall, slim girl, with the skin
of a Creole, though there was not a drop of
French blood in her veins, and whose whole life
was as false as the pendant pearls in her ears.
Her fingers were tapering and long a fact
which Besagon, the painter, whose satire is
caustic, explained were given her for a purpose,
since she was a born thief.

"Just as nature provides the ape," continued
Besagon, "with the ability to grasp with the
thumb and forefinger."

Besagon is quite a zoologist.

She inveigled herself into our midst with cat-
like ingenuity, and with the same feline intel-
ligence she chose the corner in the alcove as her
own, and refused to budge; and for two days be-
came a sensation with the story of her life a
spy in the Japanese war, special correspondent
to a New York daily, and now broke, with Mont-
martre as her home and her jewels in the Mont
De Piete.

At the end of a week only Straight-rye Jones


listened to her, and they drank hard together,
for she was too timid to become a model, owing
to her father being a judge of the supreme court
and her sister-in-law an English duchess. But
she could "write," she said, "poetry," and "if
she could only write her life no, honest
listen, dearie."

And here she touched me for a bond of sym-
pathy, but I bit not, for she was more dangerous
than a bottle of strychnine.

"I'm a gypsy," she confessed at last, with a
sob, "and I'm sorry I've lied to you boys."

Whereat Straight-rye Jones laid a heavy paw
gently on her cold-creamed neck.

"You're a slick kid," said he, "and too tall
for your age."

He rolled her a fresh cigarette, for she smoked
furiously whenever it was possible, and borrowed
tobacco right and left this girl whom we called
"La Tzigane," on account of her "gypsy" blood.

The cafe beneath the hotel of the savage tribes
and the grande dame reunited prospered in its
own stale way on bad liquor and popularity; but
Straight-rye Jones under La Tzigane's evil eye


became hopeless. There were days when he
begged for poison. There were days and nights
when he lay in the Hospital Bichat on the verge
of delirium tremens. There were days when he
had them, and lay strapped to a cot; yet none of
these crises seemed to hurt him to an apparent

During these forced absences La Tzigane sat
alone. Now and then she went out to the hos-
pital to see him, and to borrow.

It was the fourth day after he returned to the
cafe sober, with a clear eye and a sane brain,
and a firm decision to leave drink alone that
she insisted on his drinking her health.

In a week he was back again at Bichat; and
when again he returned, he forgave La Tzigane,
as he forgave everybody. He, like the good fairy
in the tree, "wa'n't never known to refuse."

It was May. The air was soft with a kindly
warmth. Straight-rye Jones sat on a bench
along the Boulevard Clichy, basking in the good
sunshine. It was nearly noon, and the sordid
boulevard was alive with its morning marketing


from the pushcarts, and noisy with their owners
crying their wares. From where he sat he could
glance up the steep Rue Lepic, alive with market
carts and choked with a slowly moving human
stream of women in wrappers their dyed hair
in pigtails or curl papers women who had
gone to bed with the dawn, and were up to bar-
gain for a cabbage or half a rabbit.

Along the Boulevard Clichy the debris and
filth of the night were being swept out of the all-
night supper places and the cabarets stale,
black holes, that only a few hours before had been
glittering in electricity and alive with the senti-
mental waltz and the popping cork.

In broad daylight, after its feverish, wide-open
nights, during which its worn paint and tinsel
are disguised by light and life, Montmartre
shows its cheap carcass; its illusion is laid bare.
It is as if the lid of a dance hall was lifted, the sun-
light let in; and one looked down upon the flimsy
scenery and the rubbish and dust beneath.

He could see, too, from where he sat, the red
windmill of the Moulin Rouge still in day-
light, for it only grinds at night. It, too, was


being swept out; and an electrician in a pair of
blue overalls was up on a ladder mending its
coloured lights.

On the terrace of the cafes lounged pale, collar-
less gentlemen, also forced temporarily out of bed
for an early absinthe. They were, for the most
part, idle criminals whom one does not awk-
wardly jostle in a crowd without politely begging
their pardon. They are unusually polite under
these circumstances. There is nothing that
touches the pride of a thief more than to be
treated like a gentleman.

Straight-rye Jones saw nothing of these things
- they were too familiar to him. He sat hat-
less, his chjn in his hands, absorbed in thought,
gazing absently at a sparrow bolder than its
mates who had hopped near him.

" Come here, you durned, cunnin' little cuss,"
he drawled softly; and he felt in his pockets for
the remnant of his breakfast, a stale roll. " Thar !
I ain't er goin' to hurt ye."

He crushed the roll against the bench with his
hand. The bird fluttered away in fright that
panic which is the forerunner of confidence -


wheeled in the air, and fluttered down to his feet,
to fill himself well with the crumbs.

For a long while Straight-rye Jones sat im-
movable, thinking. A temperament such as his
is capable of extremes. Often the greatest
strength is born of the greatest weakness. It is
the even temperament which is so often capable
of nothing.

Slowly an idea developed in his brain an
idea that had occurred to him before, but which
to him appeared so vast and difficult that its
development seemed hopeless. The warm sun-
shine stimulated him. It possessed, this sunny
noon, the quieting stimulant of a drink. It was
a new sensation to Straight-rye Jones. The idea
developed itself in the clear sunlight into a vast
plan of absorbing importance.

"I'm a-goin' to move," he muttered to him-
self, "out whar the air is fresher. Yes, I got to.
It ain't no use in trying it here. I'd give in afore
a week. It's too near the old game."

He began to think seriously of a place called
the Hornet's Nest, out near the slaughter-houses,
close to the fortifications, where rent was cheap.


He knew some butchers and some painters who
lived out there. It was a long tramp from the
heart of Montmartre. This in itself he con-
sidered a help. He was like a drowning man
grasping at a straw, yet with a certain half-
delirious confidence that he could swim. It does
not take long for a man in this condition to make
up his mind.

He thought, too, of the two children of Dela-
cour's, and vaguely of La Tzigane.

Then slowly he extracted from an inside pocket
a small packet enveloped in three thicknesses of
newspaper and tightly bound with a string. Al-
though it was his habit to feel often whether it
was safe, he had not examined it for a long while.
He fumbled at the knots, bit the string through
twice with his corn-like teeth, and opened the
wrapper carefully. It contained six letters still
in their envelopes. From the fifth he drew a
faded kodak.

It was that of a young girl with fair hair, in a
short riding skirt. She was standing in the wind
at the corner of a ranch house. The only thing
distinguishable in her features were her dimpled


chin and her smile. The rest was blotted in the

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Online LibraryF. Berkeley (Frank Berkeley) SmithThe street of the two friends → online text (page 13 of 16)