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most powerful stimulants known to prolong life
in extreme cases of exhaustion."

"And lapse of memory," he snarled, with the
vestige of a leer, the episode of my meeting
with Marcelle still rankling within him.

"Memories of the heart, Monsieur," I re-
turned quietly, "are of all the most enduring."

There rose to the peculiar pallor of his leaden
cheeks a little blood, that crept up and settled in
the lobes of his coarse ears as the cool voice of a
young girl made me turn.

She came up over the crest of the dunes, fol-
lowed by none other than the prince himself -
a young, clean-cut, sunburned prince in knicker-
bockers, who by preference chose the tracks in
the running sand her little feet had made, and
graciously let her win the race. And now he
nimbly sprang before her, for his little princess



VILLA BY THE SEA 107

was quite out of breath, and, putting out his
hand, he pulled her easily up until she stood safe
on the platform of the summer-house, for she
was slight, and nearly seventeen.

Then she blushed, which was quite as natural
with her as breathing, and nodded a flustered
little attempt at a bow, and brushed back from
the pure oval of her face a stray wisp from her
auburn hair that the sea breeze sent again
across her clear brown eyes eyes as soft and
clear as her fresh young skin, which was as pink
and white as a tea rose.

No wonder Toupin had declared she was
"adorable." She was, and in contrast to her,
the group of seasoned, worldly debris of hu-
manity about the table seemed leathery, and
old, and sodden.

"Hurry, my little sparrow," exclaimed Ma-
dame Toupin sweetly, though her dark eyes were
drinking in the young man.

"A thousand pardons, dear Madame," apolo-
gized Latour, "if we have kept you waiting! It
was my fault, I assure you."

She laid her hand upon his arm.



108 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

"You are forgiven," she said, looking straight
into his eyes, and for an instant I saw her dark
lashes hah* close.

"We went nearly to the point," explained
Lotte. She slipped shyly into a chair, still out of
breath, brushing thedry sand from her white frock.

I could study her at my ease now her child-
like beauty, her delicate features in repose, and
the sensitive, girlish mouth, whose innocent
lips were rosier, and needed neither the crimson
pomade of Madame Toupin nor the stick of
coral of Marcelle's to heighten their colour; and
we were very soon the best of friends, and she
told me eagerly how very far they had gone.

:< You know the wreck?" she asked eagerly.

"Ah, no! I do not," I had to confess.

"But you know the mussel rocks?"
' Yes, yes the mussel rocks I do."

"Well, a long, long way beyond that. And
you know," she confided seriously, "it is quite
dangerous, they say, on account of the quick-
sand." But went on that neither Monsieur
Latour nor she had found any, happily, and that
her feet were not as wet as they looked, for they



VILLA BY THE SEA 109

had gone nearly all the way by the mussel rocks,
at which the clever ears of Madame Toupin
overheard, and she screamed for her maid,
though young Latour and Marcelle assured her
they were dry, at which Villerocque disagreed,
and I with him.

" Nonsense ! " roared Toupin. "At Lotte's age
no one ever caught cold."

Yet, in spite of it, Therese, the maid, came
running with dry shoes and stockings for made-
moiselle. And Lotte put them on with the
skill of unconscious innocence, much to Ville-
rocque's interest as he glanced at her little feet,
rosy with the chill of the sea, and as we con-
tinued to discuss the various dangers of quick-
sands, Lotte and I, and whether golf was hard
to learn, and if I really thought to-morrow would
rain.

I saw that this child's merriment was a verit-
able tour deforce. Had I known fully then what
was in her heart, and had the young man known !
But he did not how could he have known?
They had been gone for two hours, and she had
not dared during all that time to look frankly



110 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

into his eyes, and he, in the good sense of his
twenty-five years, had been timid in what he
said, and still more careful in what he did, being
a well-bred young Frenchman, and wise in his
generation at ease with the demi-monde, and
the personification of shyness and discretion be-
fore a pure young girl.

I had a right in liking young Latour; and
Madame Toupin had not, for I had seen her
eyes devour him, and she grew irritable as she
refilled his glass of Porto under that strange
nervousness of a woman in love who cleverly
grasps every stolen chance to assert it, and suffers
under the hopelessness of indifference.

If Latour saw it, not a gesture or a look of his
revealed it. More likely he had only a vague
inkling of the fact. It is often thus that young
men in the face of love are wholly unconscious
of it. This indifference was torture to Madame
Toupin. Despite her coolness before others,
you saw the truth struggling about the corners
of her tense, nervous mouth tense now even
when she smiled.

If Toupin saw it he ignored it evidently



VILLA BY THE SEA 111

Monsieur Jacques Latour was not the first
young man Madame Toupin had fallen in love
with. If it was plain enough to Villerocque he
kept it shrewdly to himself, saving it, as he did
a valuable point in a case, until the moment
came when he could launch it to advantage.
As for Marcelle, she was too much of a bonne
file to have betrayed any one, much less an old
comrade of her convent days.

Night was setting as we left the summer-
house and strolled back to the Villa Rose.
Something in Villerocque's attitude made me let
the rest go ahead. I turned slightly, and saw
he was waiting for Lotte, who had forgotten her
shells. Presently she joined him. The night
wind had sprung up, but evidently Villerocque
had misjudged its direction, for I could hear his
hard, low voice far clearer than he dreamed.
His short remark to the little niece made me
catch my breath.

"You are well taken, my little one," said he.
"You are hopelessly in love."

Had he struck the child across the face he
could not have been more brutal. Her lithe



112 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

figure seemed to stop and sway for an instant.
Then I saw the agonized look in her dear, brown
eyes a look of positive terror and without
a word to him she ran swiftly ahead of us into
the Villa Rose, and slammed the door.

He might as well have said: 'You are a
criminal. There is nothing that can save you.
You had better confess. I shall speak to the
judge to give you a light sentence."

I believe I grew pale I do not know; I only
know that I felt the anger leap within me, and
that with it came a peculiar chill and the rush
of a sudden strength, strong enough to have
strangled him; then I pulled myself together,
and passed up the ugly little stoop of the Villa
Rose with its guests.

During dinner that night Madame Toupin
suffered from an "excruciating'* headache,
which won our sincere sympathy ; and she smiled
bravely, and said: "It is nothing, and will
pass," while we ate heartily, and listened to the
easy argot of Marcelle. Frank enough speech
it was, too, for that good girl has a habit of say-
ing anything that enters her blond head, and it



VILLA BY THE SEA 113

was gay enough to-night to have satisfied any
seasoned bohemian, and well larded with "Pense
tu's" and "Fiche moi a la paix!" and similar
indelicate exclamations from Montmartre, in-
terrupted now and then by the common satire
of Villerocque, whose acrid jokes Toupin, with
his red napkin stuffed in the side of his neck to
give his throat fair play, roared over, and young
Latour submitted to with his best manners,
though I saw him now and then wince to him-
self.

He should have known the Toupin household
better; nothing that was said there ever sur-
prised the butler or myself, and as for Lotte
well, a jeune fitte who is permitted to come to
table in France must accept the conversation
as she finds it.

It was nearly ten o'clock when we finished
dinner, and settled down over our cigarettes
and coffee for a game of cards. Then up came
the moon silver, flooding the heavy sea with
its mysterious light and Madame Toupin' s
headache grew rapidly better. Skilfully and
naturally she sent the little sparrow to bed,



114 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

chose a fur wrap of gray squirrel, the same silver-
gray as the beach in the moonlight, and, having
appropriated young Latour, they went out to-
gether into the crisp air, away from the gaudy,
stuffy little salon with its snapping cards.

In less than a quarter of an hour they were
back, Latour enthusiastic over the beauty of
Bel- Air in the moonlight, the hostess of the Villa
Rose looking ten years older beneath a smile and
a dab of rouge.

It was late when the genial laugh of my host,
the grunts of Villerocque, as he grimly studied
the hands dealt him, and the good humour of
Marcelle subsided, and we rose from the card
table.

"Listen, my children!" announced Toupin,
as he rattled the pack into its box. 'To-
morrow ah, you shall see ! Grand fete !
Prodigious fete!" he chuckled. "My fete!
We'll lunch at the Mere Thenard's, at Bonne-
ville; she cooks a lobster that ah, my dears
that is a lobster!" And he blew a kiss to
the ceiling. "Then on to the Pavillion Dore for
dinner. There is a piano we shall dance.



VILLA BY THE SEA 115

Tra ! la ! la ! Eh, my little flirt ? What say you,
hein?" And he began to waltz.

"That * glues,' my old one!" exclaimed Mar-
celle, unconscious of the withering look of dis-
approval from her hostess.

"Charmed!" put in Latour.

Madame Toupin's small mouth closed tight.

"Eh, bien, my good one!" leered Villerocque,
and shrugged his shoulders hi acceptance.

As I passed up the varnished stairs to bed
that night, I stopped to gaze out of a tiny win-
dow on the landing. Down by the white gate
stood Cosette, thinking, in the moonlight, and
I hoped and prayed the two automobiles would
be in running order on the morrow.

I had hardly closed the door of my bedroom
when a voice called my name from without. I
opened my window.

"A letter for monsieur!" shouted a bare-
footed fisherboy.

"Forme?"

"Yes, Monsieur. The postman, Monsieur
Jacquet, forgot to bring it. It is marked * im-
portant.' Monsieur Jacquet is drunk, Monsieur,



116 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

at the hotel. Monsieur will understand, since
Monsieur Jacquet is drunk!"

"Perfectly, my brave one, perfectly! Slip it
under the door. I'll be down."

And I dropped him a ten-sou piece. He
doffed his fishing cap, slipped the letter under
the front door, and was gone in the moonlight.

A moment later I read the following from my
friend Delacour, at the Cheval Blanc:

Come back at once. American here wants to buy one
of your pictures. Sale looks certain, but he insists on
your showing him where it was painted or we would have
turned the trick for you ourselves, as we need the money.
Are doing our best to hold him until you get here.

"Hurrah!" I whispered.

I felt happy, and already rich. An American
dropped from the sky a miracle a gilded
dream. I mused, elated over this incredible
piece of good news, for never in the history of
the Cheval Blanc had its like happened before.
Good old Delacour, and the rest!

I sprang up the varnished stairs, and rapped
gently at Toupin's door to offer my excuses for
the morrow.



VILLA BY THE SEA 117

Three days later, the car of a certain Ameri-
can whom the crowd at the Cheval Blanc had
held captive in return for his generosity, de-
posited me at the white gate of the Villa Rose.
Not a soul was in sight. The summer-house was
deserted. They were gone, evidently, I thought,
on some all-day fete. I trudged up through the
sand, gained the ugly stoop, entered the Tou-
pins' household by way of the deserted dining
room, and caught sight of Marcelle and Toupin
in the salon, talking earnestly together. So en-
grossed were they that they were unaware of
my arrival.

"Eh, bien!" I cried. "I'm back!"

Marcelle looked up with a naive smile, and
moved toward me, with her hands outstretched
to greet me. Toupin rose out of an armchair
at the sound of my voice.

"Tiens!" he exclaimed, smiling, as he rose.

"What has happened?" I ventured, puzzled
at their strangely subdued manner, for both
seemed to have lost their usual breezy geniality.

Toupin lifted his arms in a gesture that in-
dicated he had nothing to say.



118 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

"Happened, my little one! Ah! la! la!" be-
gan Marcelle, and likewise raised her hands.

"Marcelle will explain," exclaimed Toupin,
and grinned.

"Listen, my little wolf!" began Marcelle.
"It is fortunate, my rabbit, you were not here.
Did you sell your picture?"

"Yes," said I. "But never mind that. Is
anybody hurt? 111? What the devil has hap-
pened? Where's madame?"

Marcelle pointed to the ceiling.

"In bed!"

"Nothing grave, I hope!"

"Ill, in bed!" she repeated, with the vestige
of a smile.

"And Villerocque?"

"Gone! Ah! la! la! If you think he went
pleasantly, cet animal la! In a fury! If you
think it gay to argue seven hours with a brute
like that, who never lets you explain anything.
Ah, zut, alors! I've got enough of Villerocque.
He's gone to Paris. All the better! He can
stay there. It is good you did not remain. It
would have given you a headache. That old



VILLA BY THE SEA 119

bull roaring out his opinions, as if any one cared
a sou for his sacre opinions. But when he began
to attack that child, very well, I showed him my
claws. Parbleu! It is not a sin to be in love, is
it? It is not a reason because Lotte is seven-
teen that she cannot love."

Her voice rose vibrantly, Toupin letting her
continue, with a shrug of approval.

"Very well, when one is seventeen one has a
right to love whom they please. I began earlier
than that I did. Very well, it is done. I
tell you, he could not frighten Latour. Latour
told him to mind his own business! That if he
had asked Lotte to marry him it was their affair,
not his. And if he wanted to be further en-
lightened on the subject he would send his sec-
onds to him any hour he wished. Voila!
That's what he told him. Latour is an excellent
swordsman. Lotte is an orphan. Paul is her
guardian eh, bien! Paul gave his consent to
their marriage."

"Bravo!" I cried, and wrung Toupin's hand.

"Et vail&l" chuckled Toupin. "It's done.
Latour left this morning to tell his mother.



120 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

"Done!" he went on good-naturedly. "Why
not? Latour is an excellent fellow, and he
loves her. My wife is furious. Bah! Louise
will get over it. It is not every day we can
marry a little niece, parbleu! Eh, my little flirt ? ' '
And he patted Marcelle's cheek.

"Penses tu, my old one!" replied Marcelle.

Madame Toupin did not appear at dinner.
Lotte sat beside me, grave, happy, radiant,
and twice she called him Jacques, quite as if
she had always called him Jacques, and we
filled our glasses to the little niece, and drank her
health in the good wine, and embraced her on
both cheeks Toupin, and Marcelle, and I.

A year has passed. The Villa Rose is no
longer Toupin's. Within a week after Lotte's
engagement it stood stark and empty on the
dunes, and a sign on the white gate read:
" Villa clLouer."

There had been an upheaval in the Toupin
household. A domestic storm had raged within
the Villa Rose the like of which it had never
experienced. It was the culmination of Ma-



VILLA BY THE SEA 121

dame Toupin's love affairs, as far as that
indulgent philosopher Toupin was concerned.
Madame Toupin must have lost her head to
have chosen the summer-house for a rendezvous
with a certain young lieutenant. It seems that
Toupin chanced to pass at the very moment the
moon shone clear of its scudding clouds, and he
stood there quietly and saw them embrace
again and again.

" Et voila!" he chuckled to himself, and passed
on.

It was the next day that the domestic storm
broke, and Therese, the maid, began packing.
The able Villerocque won his case with his usual
masterful summing up, and the divorce was
given in Toupin's favour.

Sapristi! Had Villerocque only known, but
how could he have?

It was only the other day that I received the
following :

Monsieur Auguste Toupin, director of the chamber of
agriculture, has the honour to invite you to assist at the
marriage of his son, Paul Hippolyte Toupin, ex-deputy



122 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

officer of the Legion of Honor, with Mademoiselle Mar-
celle Valcourt, which will be held at Paris the third of
October, nineteen-ten, at the mayoralty of the Sixteenth
Arrondissement

/ pass that scoundrel Villerocque often as he prowls along
the Boulevard. I saw him only last week. Twice he shot
me a sour glance of recognition. We have long since, how-
ever, ceased to lift our hats to one another. I have a positive
disgust for this diabolical old rogue.

The Villa Rose is still to let. F. B. S.




CHAPTER FOUR
BY THE GRACE OF ALLAH




CHAPTER FOUR

BY THE GRACE OF ALLAH

THE awning shading the long terrace of the
Grande Taverne was being slowly raised,
as the dying sun burned its way to bed back of
the cool green trees of the Luxembourg Gardens,
leaving this paradise of students and their
sweethearts in the dusk and mystery of the soft
spring twilight. A twilight under the spell of
which the heart beat quick; a twilight in which
murmured words were stifled by kisses given
and not stolen; a twilight keen with the savage
fragrance of the oozing ground, of stirring sap

125



126 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

and sturdy buds bursting their bonds, and sweet
with the perfume of the horse-chestnut blossoms
and the lilacs a fragrance of growing things
that filled one's lungs with the drug of spring,
and stirred one's blood like a draught of old wine.
Beneath this rare perfume of spring the night
air lay soft, and the gentle breeze of evening
stirring the topmost leaves of the towering trees,
in which the fat, cooing pigeons were settling
for the night, wafted this fragrance of the old
gardens across the asphalted square, with its
single fountain spraying the backs of a lazy
school of goldfish, and sent it on to mingle with
the more worldly perfumes that lurked beneath
the slowly rising awning the clean scent of
freshly mixed absinthes, of lemons squeezed upon
cracked ice, of stray blue whiffs from cigarettes,
and those subtler perfumes from hidden sachets
tucked somewhere within dainty corsages fresh
from the washerwoman, and through whose lace
interstices gleamed flesh that was young, and
firm, and fair, and now and then the ends of a
narrow ribbon of pink, or of blue to match her
eyes.



BY THE GRACE OF ALLAH 1*7

It was spring, and the world that lay beyond
the Latin Quarter counted but vaguely, like a
distant land one had never seen.

To be young and carefree, with a few francs
still in one's pocket; to have youth, I say, and
to turn the big steel key in the worn lock of one's
studio door at sundown and go forth as I've done
in my own studio in the Rue des Deux Amis for
years where? Ah, we never knew; but across
the gardens of the Luxembourg, and to the ter-
race of the Grande Taverne first, where all of
we bohemians, struggling daily in paint or in
clay, met at sundown for our aperitif, and then
to dine modestly in the gay old tavern, and to
let the night bring whatever adventure it had
not provided ah, that was living !

We were like one big family: Jean and Mar-
celle, Yvonne and Gaston, La Petite Amelie,
Raoul, Valdin and Rose Javet, Marie Celeste,
Claudine, Henriette, Suzanne, and so many
more who came to the terrace nightly.

"Bonjourl Cava?"

"Ettaif"

How many of these cheery greetings came



128 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

from brave little hearts, from which emanated
an esprit a spirit of camaraderie as sincere
as a religion. They were honest, for they never
stole. They were brave, for they never de-
manded. They were discreet, with that inborn
sense of discretion and contentment which
Anglo-Saxon women are ignorant of. They
possessed nothing, yet they gave with an un-
selfish generosity unknown to the rich. They
were proud not of themselves, but of any
good fortune that came to those whom they
loved.

When Raoul obtained an honourable mention
for his salon picture, Celeste's pride was a
revelation, and they lived to love and be loved
in turn.

To have one say: "She is a good comrade,"
meant more to them than to say: "She is a
princess."

She had entered the Taverne an hour before
any of us had reached the terrace this evening
in spring.

A total stranger, even to that veteran gar-
c/w de cafe, Francois, whose memory was colos-



BY THE GRACE OF ALLAH 129

sal. She made a strange little figure, sitting
alone, before the latest copy of "Le Rire" and
a coffee cream.

In the corner she had chosen, it was nearly
dark, for the cavernous old room within, with
its gilded ceiling, was never lighted until its
tables began to fill for dinner; yet, from where I
sat on the terrace, close to the open window, I
could see her plainly. There is a certain lumi-
nosity about beauty which lends a distinction
to its details in shadow.

She was small the figure of a child rounded
into womanhood, that point of exquisite de-
velopment which only occurs once in a lifetime.
There was about her whole person an air of grace,
of gentleness and contentment. Neither was
she ill at ease, for she raised her dark eyes
calmly now and then toward the open door,
and turned the gay pages of "Le Rire 9 ' with her
small, dimpled hands, smiling to herself with
the eagerness of a child devouring a picture
book.

I noticed, too, that her face was of that pure
oval one sees in Oriental women, and that its



130 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

tint was olive, and of a rare translucence.
When she smiled, two little dimples appeared
close to her small mouth, which, when open,
revealed her pearly teeth. Her hair, which
she wore in a bandeau neatly drawn over the
tips of her little ears, was of a soft, dark brown,
deeper than auburn, and shaded by a simple hat
of the same black velvet as her dress, which was
perfectly plain, and buttoned with many little
buttons down the front all the way down, I
could see, to her small feet, which did not quite
reach the floor. The same velvet had served,
too, to make an old-fashioned reticule which lay
upon the table beside her gloves, trimmed at
the wrists with a narrow binding of the same
cloth. What more could the velvet have done?
Had she not used every vestige of it wisely and
well?

One feels a certain respect before such charm-
ing economy. It seemed to reveal to me some-
thing of her character. Hah* an hour passed,
every minute of which I fully expected some one
luckier than myself would arrive and offer his
apologies for his lateness. Still no one came,



BY THE GRACE OF ALLAH 131

and she being well hidden from the gaze of the
terrace, few even were aware of her presence.

An irresistible desire seized me to speak to her
- this strange little olive beauty ! Her small
hands were a delight to watch they and the
pure contour of her features and yet I dared
not move. We bohemians are, either by nature
or experience, more discreet in speaking to a
girl alone than are many others.

I motioned to Frangois. It seems she had
arrived over two hours ago, and only addressed
him with the single word, "Ca/e," which she
pronounced with a strange accent. Cream, he
had ventured, pointing to the spout of the coffee-
pot's mate, and she had nodded.

"Then I brought madame ( Le Hire?" added
this veteran waiter. "It is better when ladies
who are not of the Taverne wish to be alone."

He had barely finished speaking when she
raised her head, and, to my surprise, our eyes
met she meeting my gaze steadily. She
did not smile, just looked at me with a certain
childlike curiosity in which there were both con-
fidence and respect. I could resist no longer.



132 THE STREET OF THE TWO FRIENDS

I got up, descended the three steps into the
Taverne, and, crossing to her corner, stood be-
fore her, and lifted my hat.

"Forgive me," I said; "will you be good
enough to pose for me? A thousand pardons.
You are alone, is it not so? . And for so long -

and a stranger ' These stupid, tactless

sentences rushed from me with hurried unreason-
ing, but, to my joy, she looked up and smiled -
ah, such a gentle smile! I w T aited for her to
speak. The clear olive of her cheeks flushed a
little; then she shrugged her shoulders helplessly.


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Online LibraryF. Berkeley (Frank Berkeley) SmithThe street of the two friends → online text (page 5 of 16)