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The street of the two friends online

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you just the type he or she is, and how they live,


and how much they spend, and what they eat,
and drink, the amount of their income, and the
prospects of marriage of their daughters. Why,
these are things even Madame Dupuy, my con-
cierge in the Rue des Deux Amis, knows, and
Madame Dupuy rarely leaves her loge.

Only when you have spent a score of years
among all classes of Parisians will you appre-
ciate the French heart; their honesty, their in-
born politeness and kindness. It is not at all
surprising are you not one of them? And if
you are not, there are few races whose patience
in explaining can match the Parisian's. No-
where exists such well greased democracy on the
street. The Parisian has no use for the snob
speak the truth to them they will go to
infinite pains to help you. Discretion with them
is a fine art. That is why love is a prime factor
in their civilization, since without discretion
Tamour cannot live. Moreover, the whole
Parisian mind is bent on living to the utmost
within their means.

In these score of years I mention I can truth-
fully say I have never been robbed, not even


at the outset, when I could not speak their lan-
guage, and they were obliged to take much pains
to explain. All they asked in exchange was
politeness, a raised hat, and those three magic
words, Monsieur, Madame, or Mademoiselle,
will open the heart of any Parisian, whether it
be a demi-mondaine or a crusty old Croesus
whose personal fortune has made him conspicu-

Let me drop the curtain upon this well under-
stood Parisian life and its Bohemia, for is it
not the unexpected which always happens?
Are we not, I say, often wrenched from Paradise
and driven out across winter seas to the seat of

The beginning of my second exile this year
came in the form of an imperative cable, and
there was nothing left for me to do but pack my
trunk and sail. A final handshake in the cafe
in the Rue des Deux Amis; another to Madame
Dupuy, a word to the cocher and then the cheer-
less Gare du Nord, the waiting train and those
brave little words of Marie:

"You must not be sad. It is better that you


go, it is your duty. Eh, bien! be happy, accom-
plish your work and come back soon.
Tu sais que je t'aime alors!" And thus the
train slipped away from those faithful black
eyes, for I stood leaning out of the window to
gaze into them as long as I could, until all that
remained of her brave self was the fluttering
speck of a handkerchief. Ah, mon Dieu! It is
not very gay, the life at times. Enfin!
Boulogne, the plunge and roll of the big ship,
the heave and the creaking woodwork for days.
Enfin! the banks of Newfoundland, Sandy Hook,
the grim, welcoming lady with the torch and
the draughty dock at Hoboken. Step lively, gents
and ladies, if you would follow me to the end of
the adventure.

"Here, Jack, this man wants his trunk up-

"Thank you," I said.

"Fifty cents," he barked, as if I had stepped
on his toe.

An hour later I had entered the Bohemia of
New York. Yes, the studio would do. It was
a small box with a skylight on a fifth floor, situ-


ated between the roar of the Elevated and a
spacious park with sparrows, and sparrow cops,
and a mammoth icicle of a tower whose clock
convinced you hourly that time was money.

Now the house itself had once been a private
dwelling and had undergone a real estate opera-
tion. It was as hot as a laundry on the first
floor, where they kept the gas burning fanned by
the steam heat, and as cold as a refrigerator by
the time you reached the top. There was,
moreover a coloured janitor Sam and when
the elevator he ran reached the top floor,
its door generally fell out against my own. It
was a cheap elevator and would have made a
better success as a dumbwaiter. And every-
where, down the narrow corridors and through
the thin walls, echoed the brisk tap! tap! tap of
the typewriter and the rattle of light artillery
in the steam radiators. One of these gilded
disturbers of the peace stood in the corner of
the box I had rented with the skylight. This
small, square room, empty as a glass, save for a
stationery wash basin which kept the radiator
company, was separated from its connecting


mate by a thin door back of which a gentleman
from Upper Silesia dyed ostrich plumes and sold
hair dye by the bottle. His typewriter was
young and lived with her folks.

Thus you may readily understand the intense
artistic atmosphere that permeated the house
from the first floor tailor to the second floor
blond manicure, whose lair contained the flags
of all universities and who left her door ajar, to
the Blue Diamond Embalming Corporation at
the end of her hall, and so on up past the glass-
panelled door of the sheet music man, the theat-
rical agency and the room of the two old maids
who painted teacups. Up, up, past the re-
spective boxes of the comic illustrator, a banjo
professor, a painter, and a slow, heavy-treaded
man with a dominating voice and a gold mine to
sell. He too had a typewriter, which he worked
himself, and a box of cheap cigars to hand
around to those whom he interested in the safest
gold stock this side of the Rockies.

As early as nine, various individuals rapped
at my ribbed-glass door stray vagabonds
with subscription editions, old women with


wandering minds and vague inquiries, and the
subscription edition well hidden under their
preliminary talk and a bedraggled cape, and as
it was supposed to be a real studio building
there was, of course, the model.

Ah! Sacristi! the model! The models were
privileged and went bumping up in the rattle-
trap of an elevator under Sam's smile and gui-

" Yas, ma'am step right in fifth flo'. Lem-
me see. You is inquirin' fo' de gemman artist?
Yas, dat's right, fifth flo'." But even her rap
was different from the gentle tap of a good com-
rade at my studio door in the Rue des Deux
Amis. It was sharp and insistent, as if she had
found at last the man she had been hunting for
with a gun, and when I opened my door to this
chorus girl fresh from a burlesque company
stranded on the road, and she eyed me shrewdly
beneath her blond wig and asked in her rasping
voice. "Do youse want a model?" I was
again convinced of the absence of charm in my
new found Bohemia.

Ah, yes! They were of varied types, these


"models" - tall and thin, short and fat, blonde,
brunette and peroxide all models, they told
me, and much of their strenuous lives they told
me too, and they had all posed for celebrities in
art whose names and addresses most of them had
gleaned from the Sunday editions; and they con-
fessed to being a model with a naughty twinkle
in their hard, alert eyes, much as if they would
have confided to me:

"I'm the niece of Satan, and if my uncle knew
I was posen' well!"

"Sit down," I said to the chorus girl who had
rapped and entered, "and have a cigarette."

"Gee, it's cold here!" she began. "Say,
listen -

"I'll turn on the steam," I suggested.

"Say, you're all right, I like you," she an-
swered bluntly.

"Ah! what luck! How was the show, I

"A dead one that's right. Say, listen. I
was with Big May's Dainties as fur as Schenec-
tady. Say, listen. What kind er art work do
you do, dearie? I had a swell feller once and


he done some lovely crayon portraits you
know, them crayon portraits? Was you ever
to MacQuire's? Take me out, kid, some night,
will you? And, say, let's go to MacQuire's.
He's got a grand table d'hote. Take me down
to Coney Isle," she quavered into song "/
- want a girl just like the girl that mar-
ried dear old Dad."

There were some serious models, I confess,
models with a definite purpose in life, but I re-
frain from entering into a detailed description
of these ladies, whose ambition in art seemed to
be to find a gold miner or a lonely widower with
more money than he could spend. There were
some even more serious than these. It was
amazing to me how serious they were. These
vestals of beauty and line lived, I was told, in a
sort of seminary and were only allowed out alone
in Bohemia during the day to pose under the

And so the days of my exile slipped by, one by
one, and my neighbour, the comic artist, and I
grew to be good friends, though he seldom smiled,
and I can hear his solemn tread now coming


down the corridor to borrow a match, and when
we were out of matches we kept the hall gas
jet burning. Had he not lived, this bon garcon
in Paris for many years, in Montmartre, in fact,
and knew my own Rue des Deux Amis as well
as he did his pocket?

Poor Remson! He was no longer a Mont-
martrois but a suburbanite with a commuter's
ticket and a fixed salary to supply humour by
the year.

When it grew dark, Remson and I would lock
up and go down to the basement cafe next door,
upon whose second floor they served as early as
three-thirty, for tea Italian cocktails to the
accompaniment of a thin fiddle and a weak harp
- but to the cafe came the painters. Tall were
the schooners topped with foam, and caustic
was the talk on art, for most of them had lived
in Paris and were now, like Remson, in the
strenuous life. Indeed the only one who seemed
to be able to express a calm opinion was Nick,
the bartender, who had once been a barker for a
living picture show and knew art when he saw


I know not why Chance cast me into this
saw-dusted dungeon daily at five, save that it
was next door, and warm. The artistic atmos-
phere within was as hard as an elevated rail-
road. The step from it led to the street, a
ravine draughty as a canon where an ill wind
always blew, and somehow the hands on the
clock on the icicle tower as you left, always beck-
oned toward Broadway.

Poor Remson! He had known Paradise,
this good comrade, and when, as we often did,
sit smoking in the winter twilight in his studio
or mine, he told me much of his old days; of his
two years at Julian's, of the balls, of his fa-
vourite cafe in the Rue Fontaine, of his comfort-
able old studio in the Rue Navarin, of friends
and memories, and he spoke of Her with a cer-
tain reverence; of the days and weeks when he
lay ill and she nursed him, of the day he bought
Her the parasol, of the lazy summer days when
they used to take the swift little steamer for a
few sous to St. Cloud, where they lay all day in
the forest and ate the good lunch they had
brought with them. How he had taught Her to


draw and paint a little; how she had encouraged
him in his work; of her pride in his first suc-
cesses, of her content, of her economy. Then
he, too, was summoned into exile.

"But you'll go back, old boy, some day," I

"Allans! un pen de courage, mon vieux."

He shrugged his shoulders and there crept
into his calm melancholy features a resigned

"I must stick to the job," said he. "I'm
under contract. It's no joke," he added grimly,
then he paused and gazed absently in the dusk
at the glowing end of his fat Turkish cigarette.
"I wonder what has become of Annette?" he
said simply.

"Young when you left?" I asked.

" Nineteen a little over. I remember her
birthday. It was the last day we went to St.
Cloud." He looked up suddenly. "A week
later I sailed."


"No. Annette worked on corsets in the Rue
Fontaine for a woman. Lord ! I can't re-


member her name. Hold on ! Dupon - - Du-
bois- -"

"Stop!" I interrupted. "Dutois Jeanne

"By George, that's it!" he exclaimed.
"Jeanne Dutois."

"Tall blonde little shop next to the
butcher's?" I ventured.

"Well, say why, yes little shop next to
the butcher's, between the butcher's and the
grocery. How the devil

"I pass it daily," I said. "I remember it
because I often glance within, simply because
there is a trim little person within who is
worth glancing at. She's generally sewing next
to the window. I've never seen such a pair of
brown eyes or such a pure little profile, half

"Half Italian!" exclaimed Remson, "and-
and brown eyesf"

He shot forward in his chair and gripped me
by the shoulders.

"Did you notice her hands?" he asked ex-


"Yes, I did. They were the first things that
attracted my attention.


"Like a child's, and beautifully modelled."

Remson sprang to his feet, his hands thrust
in his pockets. For some moments he paced
the floor in silence, then he turned and faced me.
"I've got enough of this!" Remson cried.
"Enough, do you hear? By God! I've got
enough. I'm going back."

"There is not a shadow of a doubt you think
that it was Annette I saw?"

His whole face became radiant.

"And she's still there she's still there," he
mused; "and I thought well, you know I
thought I should never see her again and
she's still there. Bless her little heart. See
here," he declared, "I'm going back. You've
got to come too; we'll go back together." He
stood there in the dusk trembling with excite-
ment. "I've got enough now in the bank," he
continued, "and I'll make the rest when it's
gone, just as we always did. Say you'll go.
Haven't you got enough of this?"


" Done ! " said I. " But your contract ? "

"I'll fix that," he broke out savagely, "any-
way they like, but I'll fix it. Don't you worry
- they'll forget me and anything I ever did for
'em in forty -eight hours."

He sprang for the door, opened it, crossed the
narrow corridor and kept his thumb on the eleva-
tor button until I heard Sam bawling up the shaft :

"Comin', sah, comin'!"

"Go down," commanded Remson to that
grinning servitor, "and tell Nick to send up a
bottle of Extra Dry."

"Yas, sah."

"And Sam- -"

"Yas, sah!"

: 'You can tell the agent of this superb prop-
erty to hang out a neatly painted sign to-
morrow 'Two studios to let, steam heat,
running water, and electric light."

Nine days later the Noordam dropped anchor
in the golden mist off Boulogne and the small
iron door in her side opened to receive the gang-
plank of her tender.


There were two telegrams handed to Remson
and myself. Remson's came straight from the
heart of a little Parisienne who sits as she sews
close to the window of a little shop in the Rue
Fontaine. Its contents are not for you; it was
strictly for Remson.

Mine? Oh, mine you shall read. It ran as
follows, this blue strip:

"Welcome! Dinner waiting at Vautrin's!"
Ah, non! why not give it in its original :

"Amities! Poingez de main mille baisers
- diner ce soir chez Vautrin" and was signed.


Old friends, old loves, old memories, in the
land we live in called Bohemia, where the heart


never grows old. The nest beneath the roofs

- work, and the trim step upon the stairs -
silence and the friendly knock.


"Tienst c'esttoi?"

And so I settle down to my old life once more,
in the Street of the Two Friends.




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