F. Berkeley (Frank Berkeley) Smith.

The street of the two friends online

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the Luxembourg Gardens and I passed the same bench where
we used to sit beside the stagnant fountain of the Medicis.

F.B. S


The old Latin Quarter has changed since the good old days
of our tavern friends. My friend the painter, Ransom, and
I find the liveliest centre of Paris around the opera
more amusing nowadays. The old Latin Quarter at least
the old life there is no more, or are we getting older?
Marie laughs when we discuss these things but then Marie
is still young. F. B. S.



IT WAS five o'clock, and the Parisian Bar
was crowded. The talk was in many lan-
guages vibrant, gesticulating talk from Rio
De Janeiro; calm, steel-like talk from wealthy
jockeys; confidential conversation from the last
man in the world to acknowledge he was broke;
blatant speech from florid gentlemen with broad
shoulders, fat stomachs, and an unquenchable

"Hello, Charley! Well, say, can you beat
it? If you're good I'll buy you a drink. Lis-



ten! Did you ever hear the story about -
Hold on, this is a crackajack. Have you heard
it? Boy, take the orders."

The electric fans were whirring at top speed
to get rid of the smoke. Some old gentleman
coughed and declared it was "too hot in here."

"Say, I got a car outside that's a wonder.
Come out to Bellevue, and get some air."

Over the rattle of the cocktail shaker jarred
the talk a steaming bedlam, apropos of
women and horses, and Preferred Pacific, and
General Electric, and the terrible night that,
had passed; and some said "Never again," and
ordered a gin fizz, and squeezed their way to
the stock ticker; and some said: "Did he
went?" and others: "Was you there?" and
"How is the missus?" "Present my regards."
And the smoke was thick, I say, and some were
married, and some were not, and all had lived
the pace.

It was a sort of public club, whose dues were
a franc a drink, and whose membership included
every type, from the soul of honour to the trans-
atlantic crook. Here, too, came daily the re-


tired politician, at rest in a foreign land, and who
spoke of the old days and Tammany Hall with
tears in his eyes. And there was a broken ghost
with a shield of true love tattooed on his gaunt
hand, a blazon containing the flag of the United
States of America intertwined with the Union
Jack, and beneath it the words in blue: " Mag-
gie." His check also had not come. Besides,
it was Paris, that magnet of the world which is
a dangerous place for the man with nothing to
do and Broadway habits.

Somehow the Parisian Bar "made one feel at
home," and there was Paris outside to reel
around in and get late for dinner; and some
buttonholed you and told you the pet stories
of Noah, and you had to roar and say: "Boy,
take the orders," shoulder to shoulder next to
the sober jockeys, and a few sparring partners,
and the faded nobility; the successful business
men, and the fat one whose jewelled rings guar-
anteed his wealth from the Argentine Republic.

And so they steamed, and so they swore, and
most of them told you all about themselves, and
nothing about Her. Briefly, it was a place


where the selfish beast was frankly in his ele-
ment, and you marvelled at the patience of their

Then entered Jason Captain Reginald
Rivers Jason tall, and slim, and soldierly.
You saw that calm courage of his in his clear,
gray eyes, and his breeding in his clean-cut
features. Jason impressed you from the first
as a thoroughbred. From the top of his blond
head to the heels of his immaculately valeted
boots, he convinced you of being the well-bred
young Englishman that he was. His voice was
one of those refined voices that do not jar on the
nerves, for it was soft, pitched low, and the
English he used was fit enough for a printed

He was exceedingly modest, and when he
spoke of himself there was almost a note of
apology in his voice for having done so. One
thing that was most amazing about Jason was
the clear, healthy freshness of his skin, and the
brightness of his eyes. He looked like a man
who went to bed at eight o'clock, and drank
mineral water by preference; whereas, the fact


was, Jason seldom went to bed, and had a
capacity for brandy fizzes that was as amazing
as his memory.

We had met again in the Parisian Bar this
soft May morning, and for the first time I
noticed Jason showed signs of fatigue. There
was just the vestige of a sleepless night about his

"Tired?" I ventured.

He coughed slightly, and said, in his calm,
gentle voice:

"I took a long walk last night."

"Where?" I questioned.

"The stars led me on," he said, smiling, and
added: "I walked halfway around Paris by
way of the fortifications."

"It is a wonder you were not stabbed or
shot," I declared.

"No, old chap," he returned. "No one
troubled me. You see, I love to walk at night.
That is why I have five small apartments in
different quarters, so I can turn in at dawn in
the nearest where I happen to be."

I said nothing, and Jason said:


"It is warm, rather; is it not?"

And I said:

"I shot over a big shoot of an old friend the
other day in Sologne. The heat was fearful.
We were sizzled."

And Jason said:

"I've been to see my dogs. Charming coun-
try out there too lovely for words and the
stars I walked quite all night."

"Dogs with you?" I inquired.

"Yes, God bless them!"

"How many have you acquired?"

"Well, old chap, I must confess to more dogs
than I should have. I've got thirty-two."

"Thirty-two? And you keep thirty-two dogs
and still have enough to eat?"

Jason coughed slightly, and continued gently:

"I dare say I'm a fool to keep so many, but I
found a charming estate one of those little
old chateaux \vith the towers and steep roofs,
and I couldn't resist it. My dogs had not seen
me in a twelvemonth, and they were overjoyed;
rushed pell-mell from my guard's house when I
whistled ; just one short whistle at the gate, and


they came madly rushing to me. You know,
I've got a Scotch terrier, and when the rest of
the troupe followed me that night, the little fel-
low, the Scotch terrier, stuck to my heels; I
thought it was rather nice in him, for we had
quarrelled a twelvemonth before, and, do you
know, I believe he knew he was in the wrong?"

Jason sipped his brandy fizz, threw a coin on
the bar, and I said nothing.

His modesty held him silent.

"Forgive me, old chap," he said at length,
"if I have talked too much. I love dogs. Do
you remember the Comte de Joinville's de-
scription of his wolfhound? You must get that
book. Still better, let me send it to you."

"That's good of you," I said, "but I hate to
borrow books. I never think to return them."

"But I've got a first edition," he insisted.
"I'll tell my solicitor to send it to you. He's
rather conscientious, you see. It's in my library
in London. I haven't seen my house in years,
but I dare say he'll find it. You see, old chap,
something happened the thing you call the
game of love and since then I've never cared


to return. I've taken the Channel steamer sev-
eral times, and balked when it came to ringing
my own doorbell."

"Memory of her?*' I ventured.

" Yes," he said. " I met her in India rather
rough on me. She was the daughter of a maha-

I sipped my fizz, and Jason was silent.

"When were you in India?" I asked, at

"Several times," he replied. "I was born
in China. I like India better, even more than

"Borneo!" I exclaimed. "There's a coun-
try I should like to see."

"Rather amusing Borneo," said Jason.

"And you lived there?"

: 'Yes, among head-hunters, barefooted, for
two years on the open beach. Wonderful
nights, old chap!"

"Tell me more," I said.

"Oh, there isn't much to tell," said Jason.
"Except they were kind to me, and made me
blood-brother of their tribe. I shall never forget


their constant little warfares and their quite
feudal hospitality. They had rites, you know,
and all that sort of thing; and dancing, and
great feasts on the beach."

"And tortures," I added.

"It was done rather too quickly for torture,"
Jason replied, touching the rim of his glass with
the crest ring of his own people.

The more I saw of Jason, the more I grew to
respect that quiet voice of his, and the marvel-
lous stories of his life, which I only obtained
piecemeal, owing to his extreme modesty.
Never had I known his equal, and when this
morning I mentioned, as we stood talking, how
fit he looked, he informed me he had not been
to bed.

"Where have you been?" I ventured indis-

"Down in the markets, old chap. I lend a
hand there once in a while just at dawn.
Last night we unloaded cabbages. Great game,
unloading cabbages, and there are some queer
old characters down in the Halles. The one


drawback, you see, is," he added, after a faint,
nervous cough, and a fresh order for a fizz, "is
that one has to drink absinthe rather bad
absinthe, I should say. Generous chaps, those
big fellows who load the carts."

"And rather insistent, I suppose, that you
should drink with them," I ventured.

"One can't very well refuse," he went on.
"Rather an exciting night last night. We un-
loaded five carts we had to work fast. You
see, everything depends on the hour of the first
sales; often there's barely time."

"And so you did not go to bed at all?"

"No," he said gently. "I went for a ride
in the Bois. I keep my saddle horses there.
I've only two now. You see, old chap, I've
made a bet with myself not to touch my prin-
cipal, and I thought that the four other nags I
had were only a useless expense. It costs rather
dear to keep a horse here, whereas in England
one can have one's horses more or less reason-

"So you sold the four?"

He smiled, and when Jason smiles it is a


kindly smile, touched with apology and re-

"I must confess, old fellow, I didn't sell them.
I gave them away," he confessed. "Possibly
you remember four little English girls who
danced at the Folies Bergeres. They were quite
too lovely, but I imagine the life of a theatre is
a little hard. And there happened to be a chap
who knew them, and when he introduced me
I found them quite pale. So I said : * You must
ride, my dears.' 'But we don't know how,
sir!' they said. 'Then you must learn,' I told
them. And I had Briquet, the riding master,
teach them. And I said: 'When you learn,
and Briquet tells me you are quite sure in the
saddle, you shall each have a horse for your
very own."

"By George! That was nice of you," I put
in. "And they learned? And they still ride,
I suppose?"

"Charity is rather difficult," said Jason, after
a pause. "One never knows quite what to do
in giving, you see. Briquet fell in love with the
eldest, and sold the horses, and eloped with her to


Brussels. I've rather blamed myself for my trust
in Briquet. He was rather a rotter, wasn't he? "

Jason paused, and I said "Damn!" out of
sympathy for him.

Now, the more I saw of Jason, I say, the more
I was impressed with his genuineness and his
sincerity. Now and then he would refer to his
several different domiciles scattered over Paris;
and although it was evident, as he was wont to
say, that he sometimes passed the night in one
of them where, as he told me, "everything was
always in readiness, should he turn the key in
the door, and where his caretaker was never
absent," months would often pass during which
he entered none of them. These caretakers,
he told me, he had collected in England. And
he had but one great weakness as far as I could
discover his love of Persian rugs, and he
bought them so that at the end of the month,
for he had an account with three Armenian
rug experts, his rug bill ran higher than his
weekly losses at the races.

"And I believe, old chap," he said, "if I did
not hold myself well in check with a tight rein,


I should be quite ruined in a fortnight. I love
good rugs. They are like old friends. I love
the soft colours. There is, after all, nothing
like a good rug. It has, if I may say so, a per-
sonality of its own. Just like my wolves had."

"Wolves!" I exclaimed.

'Yes," said Jason. "You know I had a
house once close to the Bois, quite in the forest."

"And wolves?"

"Yes," he confessed, "four. There is no more
trusty watchdog in the world than a forest-bred
wolf. They became very much attached to me,
and then there is always a sense of danger, you
know. One nearly killed my gardener, whom
for some strange, and to me wholly unaccount-
able, reason he had taken a violent dislike to."

After Jason made a statement of this kind he
was unusually silent, twisting his blond mous-
tache, and coughing slightly out of a sort of ner-
vous embarrassment for having spoken of himself
at all.

There were hours when the Parisian Bar was
deserted, and as Jason seldom ate anything,


and more seldom went to bed, he found a cer-
tain restful repose when the Parisian Bar was
empty; and so, one night, we sat there during
the empty hours. And no sound broke his
even, quiet voice save the buzz of the electric
fan, and I saw him wince a little as he leaned
over to light a fresh cigarette.

"In pain? "I asked.

"No, old chap, not worth speaking of," he
replied. "It passes quicker than it once did.
It's only an old wound. I had the good luck
to be among the first to enter Peking. But that
is another story. This old keepsake of a bul-
let, if I may call it so, I got getting over a wall
during one of our skirmishes in the Boer War.
Strange to say, I was thrice wounded climb-
ing over obstacles."

I looked up at him with profound respect,
and again marvelled at this remarkable man;
and soon he was chatting briskly an unusual
thing with him about his losses at the races,
which that week had been heavier than usual.

And just then in came Billy Ransom. The
Lord know r s Ransom is quixotic enough, but he's


nothing compared with Jason. Now, Bill and
I have been friends for years. You may re-
member "Tiger Drinking." The salon gave
him a medal for it, and Ransom got lazy after
that, and had his studio cleaned. I had just
mentioned to Jason, as we three sat talking,
Ransom's "Tiger," and Jason declared quietly
that to him the tiger was the king of beasts,
and not the lion.

"I dare say there are those who might differ
with me," he added, "but to me the grace and
beauty of a pure Bengal are a glorious sight."

"Ever seen one wild?" asked Ransom. He
hulked back his big shoulders, and there was
a good-natured twinkle in his blue eye.

;< Yes," said Jason.

"Where?" I ventured.

"In India with my elephants," added Jason.

" Your elephants?"

"Yes, old chap. One has to have them, you
know. It is quite too dangerous, you see, to
shoot tigers without elephants."

"Gee!" said Ransom. "I never knew you
had hunted tigers. And you got one, eh?"


Jason smiled.

"Wait, let me count," he said slowly. And
he counted on his fingers, interrupting himself
with some unintelligible names of places in the
tiger districts.

"Seventeen," he finally declared.

"Seventeen what?" I inquired.

"Tigers," reph'ed Jason. 'The largest one
I remember killing was upon the estate of a
maharajah, a great friend of my uncle's."

"Tell me more," I demanded, now alive with
interest, though there was a genial curl of doubt
about Ransom's under lip.

"Ah," said Jason, "there isn't much to tell.
Killing tigers is like killing anything else. Be-
sides, with a good elephant if the beast is
getting the better of him, the elephant, you see,
just rolls on him while you hang on."

"Go on!" said Ransom, with a roar of laugh-
ter. "Don't kid me. Why, you'd be killed
when he rolled."

I saw Jason stiffen, grow a little red; and I saw,
too, that Ransom's ill-bred remark had hurt


"None of my elephants have ever hurt me," he
replied simply, after an awkward pause. "My
old Tor, who was my best elephant for three
years, would have sooner been killed than to
have hurt me. Once, when I was obliged to
leave him for a fortnight, he ate nothing for
several days."

"And his joy at seeing you on your return?"
I added, by way of balm to Ransom's affront.

"Rather," said Jason, and I saw the tears
start in his eyes.

Of course, Ransom felt like thirty cents, and
he deserved to.

If you don't like this true story it's no fault
of mine. I'm only trying to tell you about
Jason. To me he's a marvel. To Ransom
well, Ransom is one of those rapins of Mont-
martre who believe in no one. You have only
to look into Jason's eyes, calm and clear as a
spring, to know he is telling the truth.

That is what I told Ransom, and I saw him
hesitate, and then take water; and finally he
agreed I was right. And we three, Jason, and
he, and I, were good friends after that, and I


loved to sit and hear Jason talk in his quiet,
sincere way about episodes and incidents that
many another man would have boasted over in
imagining more than had really happened,
whereas Jason was calm and exact, and had no
imagination whatever, which was proof enough
to me he didn't lie.

Now, the vicissitudes of life are constant ever
among the rich, and a man like Jason, who can
afford to dash across the Channel and back to
dine with friends in London, is not exactly a
pauper, and this is what Jason did every now
and then, for I saw him myself leave the Parisian
Bar in a taxicab to catch the night express twice
to my knowledge, to dine with friends in London.

Naturally, I did not ask with whom, any more
than I would have been indiscreet enough to
inquire the number and street of his various
domiciles. They were purely Jason's affair,
and not mine, and if he did not offer the in-
formation himself, I certainly, as I say, did not
intend to drag it out of him, much as I was in-
terested in this strange man, and convinced, as
I was, of his splendid sincerity.


I believe it happened before three whiskies
and sodas, but when I think of it again, one was
an eggnog that was Ransom's and Jason,
standing between us, and in a hurry to rush to
the races at Longchamps, felt for his pocket-
book. He withdrew his hand from the pocket
of his check suit, and a peculiar calm smile crept
to the corners of his eyes. Oh, only for a second,
but the smile did not escape me.

"What's happened?" I asked.

"Nothing worth thinking over," returned
Jason. " I dare say it was foolish in me to have
carried so large a sum about with me. "

"Gone?" I exclaimed.

; 'Yes," he replied gently.

"Where were you last night?"

"Oh intheHalles."

" Unloading cabbages, of course. "

"No, beets. Last night," he said, turning," last
night was the heaviest I remember in my life. "

"And yet you look as fresh as a young colt
out of a field," I returned.

"How much money did you have with you?"
interrupted Ransom.


"Five or six thousand and odd francs," said
Jason, very quietly.

"Five or six thousand francs!" we exclaimed,

"You lost five or six thousand francs! And
you carried that sum into the Halles, and into
the worst dives I know? It's amazing," I de-

"More foolish than amazing," returned

"Who took it? Have you even a vestige of
an idea?" I ventured.

"Yes," said Jason. "A little girl in Qua-
vous'. You know Quavous' cafe, next to the
fish market. You see, old chap, she was cry-
ing, and I felt sorry for her."

"And, somehow, her head found a resting
place on your shoulder."

; 'Yes," said Jason frankly. "I felt sorry for

"While she felt for your pocketbook," said

"I dare say that is what occurred," confessed


"And you are not going to the police?" ex-
claimed Ransom, in surprise.

"It would only get her into trouble," said
Jason. "One must be tolerant in life with
those who are unfortunate. Besides, their life
is hard enough."

"Say," said Ransom, "you're a noble per-
son, and I like you, but you take the cake!
She'll have a carriage, a gown from the Rue de
la Paix, and an apartment near the Bois by

"It was a sum one of my solicitors had
brought me from an estate over in Sussex," ex-
plained Jason, "and he came quite late to my
hotel, just as I was going out last night. And I
thought nothing more about it, and put it into
my pocket. Can you see? After all, it doesn't
matter. I should more than probably have lost
it to-day on the races. It is a little awkward,
isn't it, being Saturday, and the bank closed?"
I looked at Ransom, and one of those mental
telegrams passed between us. Jason was too
good a fellow to refuse. He accepted the mod-
est sum we managed to produce between us.


"If it wasn't, you see, old chap, that Don't
Worry is going to run to-day, I'll be hanged if
I'd go near the races. He comes from a good
stable. Do you know, I've known that horse
since he was a colt."

There crept again that calm gleam in his clear
eyes, and the corners of his mouth winked in a
smile as he scribbled a receipt for the nine hun-
dred francs we had given him. Not a bad sum
to rake up from the pockets of two painters, but
both Ransom and I had just been paid ac-
tually paid for a picture and we tore up the
receipt, and sprinkled the bits over Jason's
immaculate derby hat, which made Jason flush
a little, and finally burst out laughing, a thing
which he seldom did, not wishing to jar "those
who might be sad about him with mirth which
might be unwelcome and unseemly at the mo-
ment to those who might be sad."

That is about the way Jason expressed it to
me one day when we were discussing considera-
tion to others, and his quiet, unassuming punc-
tiliousness in this respect was charming. You
see, Jason was a gentleman, born and bred.


And so he went off to the races, and the re-
ceipt lay in bits where he had stood. For who
could take a receipt from a thoroughbred like

Both Ransom and I felt relieved; neither of
us is used to carrying around large sums. We,
too, might have met a tearful lady in distress,
and, besides, giving it to Jason was like putting
it into the bank. We knew it was safe, and
would be returned to us promptly.

The following day, Sunday, Jason disappeared.

Ransom came into my studio with a short
note from Jason, saying he had been suddenly
called to London on a matter of selling one of
his kennels of terriers. Ransom was quite wor-
ried. He even went so far as to call Jason a
Munchausen, which was foolish in Ransom, be-
cause he should have been more observant, and
have well, frankly, Ransom never expected
to get his money back, but I did. It seems a
hard thing to say, but those were almost his
very words. I cursed Ransom. I said:

"Old boy, you should have more knowledge
of character than not to know Jason is a thor-


oughbred. Don't you know he's got seven
separate apartments in Paris, dogs and horses
where he wills?"

"But where does he live?" asked Ransom
earnestly, and so point-blank that I halted in
my enthusiasm.

"Well, I can't tell you exactly where he lives,"
said I. "I've never been indiscreet enough to
inquire, but I'll bet you the interior of the par-
ticular home he chooses for a day or a fortnight
is the home of a gentleman. You heard what
he said about his rugs? His favourite rugs are
with him, mark my word, and he has a hobby
for early editions, and stained glass, and -

"Have you finished?" interrupted Ransom.

"I tell you!" and he banged his fist on the
table so that the bottle of bubbling soda top-
pled and reeled up steady.

"He's a liar!" shouted Ransom. "To my
mind, our money's gone."

"Hold on," I said, "that's too strong.
Didn't he say he'd given orders to his solicitor
to forward it from London?"

Ransom looked at me with a pitying glance.


"Solicitor," he half sneered. "Yes, like hell
he has! Solicitors after him, but not his own.
Oh, you. You are extraordinary. Who don't
you believe in? Who don't you, by gad? Very
well, you'll see where your confidence and en-

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Online LibraryF. Berkeley (Frank Berkeley) SmithThe street of the two friends → online text (page 7 of 16)