F. Berkeley (Frank Berkeley) Smith.

The street of the two friends online

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thusiasm will land you some day. Into -
well, I'm making no bones about it into even

"Really," said I, not at all liking Ransom's

"See here, Ransom," I went on slowly,
"we've been good pals in the old quarter for
years ever since we first worked together at
Julian's, ever since the day you handed me, I
remember, a stick of charcoal, and said: 'Try
that. Yours is too soft.' Remember it? No,
you don't believe in Jason. I do. It's sim-
ple, isn't it? And when I believe in any one no
one on this side of the Styx can convince me I am
wrong. I owe my rent, so do you, with the
money we sent Jason to the races with. Don't
worry. Don't worry, I say. Jason' 11 pay, all
right. I'll bet you a very small beer that the
solicitor is on his way now from London with


the amount. That's a princely way of squaring
a debt, and it would be just like Jason to send

The day passed quietly, and neither Ransom
nor I mentioned Jason. We ordered a modest
dinner together at a Bouillon Duval, and spoke
of the prices that had been paid for some pic-
tures, just as if we might have bought them if
the other fellow hadn't.

Three days later we were again in the Pa-
risian Bar - Ransom and I - and just then
Jason came in.

You may not believe this, but "it's quite
true," as Jason says, and Ransom nearly had a
fit, and I was glad. Glad of Jason's arrival,
I mean, and Jason said:

"My dear old chap, I've just been to London."

And I said:

"How are things over there?"

And Jason said:

"Not bad. There's a new show at the
Gayety, and the roast at the Cock and Crown
is better cooked than last year. "


And we said nothing, knowing that the cook-
ing of the English has no seasoning whatever.

"Well!" exclaimed Ransom pompously . "Any
more news?"

And Jason sat down. And he did a thing
which was simply splendid. He deposited nine
hundred francs on the table.

And Ransom said:

"My dear old boy!"

And I said:

"Thank you, old chap."

And Ransom sat there like a millionaire, a
sort of type who lends half a million to a town,
and gives them a library after it. In fact,
Ransom was silent, and for some moments I
think he was knocked out by the blow, and I
said to Jason:

st You've been to London."

And Jason said:


And he continued:. "Met an old friend of
mine. Hadn't seen him for years. Do you
see? A doctor quite a celebrated practi-
tioner with a fellow whom I knew in Africa.


You see, old chap, I've marched across

"Clear across?"

: 'Yes, clear across, from Zanzibar to Boma.

"How many times?" I ventured.


And Ransom said nothing.

"He had had rather a blow, this old friend
of mine," continued Jason. ;< You see, his
youngest daughter disappeared. Yes, she dis-
appeared," repeated Jason.

"How?" I asked naturally.

"Well, it happened in the country southwest
of Boma," Jason went on easily. "She was
the daughter of an old friend of my uncle's, and
we were obliged to question the camp the
servants, and so forth. And, you see, we sifted
the situation to the bottom, and there wasn't
a grain or even mind you, old fellow a
vestige of suspicion on the servants; so we con-
cluded that only a gorilla could have eloped
with her, for there had been one after the plan-
tains near us."

Ransom leaned forward.


"And then?" I ventured, seeing Jason was

"Well, then, old chap," continued Jason,
"the father, you see, and the girl's fiance, and
the governor of the province, and myself,
tracked the beast. Oh, the evidence was con-

Ransom leaned intently on his elbow cyni-
cally; and I lit a fresh cigarette.

"How far?" I asked.

"Two nights and a day," said Jason.

He coughed slightly through embarrassment.

"I hope this doesn't bore you, old chap," he
added, after a moment's hesitation.

"Go on," said I, and Ransom again leaned
forward, half convinced.

"You see, it happened like this," continued
Jason. "The young girl had been taken away
before sundown. She was remarkably pretty
for her years. Half the night we hunted for her,
but to no avail. It was not until daylight that
we struck the fresh trail of a gorilla, leading
southwest through the jungle rather awkward
going on account of the roots, which made a


sort of trellis over the swamp that lay some
fifteen feet below, and which we came often
nearly slipping into.

"Finally, about noon, we managed to get
clear of the swamp, and, still on his track, we
entered a dry forest. Here we could follow the
beast far easier. He was carrying her in his
arms, for I found a bit of her calico dress torn
off in a thorn bush, at a yard's height above his
track; and every now and then we discovered
her tracks places where he had put her down
to rest. One of her feet was bare, the other still
held its shoe. Evidently the gorilla had not
wounded her, for we found no blood. There
have been cases, you know, where they have
been exceedingly careful of their captives.'*

"I can imagine the joy of the father/' I said.

"Rather!" said Jason. "I never knew a
pluckier chap than the fiance. I don't think he
spoke more than a dozen words during the two
days and a night we followed on the beast's
track. He just bucked up, mind you. I dare
say I could not have been as brave as that under
the circumstances. She was a beautiful girl,


dark eyes, and hair that reached almost to her

"Go on!" I said, half brusquely, for I was ab-
sorbed in this strange story of Jason's. In fact,
spellbound and eager for the denouement.

"And you got him? And the girl was she
still alive?" inquired Ransom.

:< Yes," said Jason simply, "though she was in
a dead faint. The beast was squatting before
her as we crept up, and peeped through the am-
bush we had chosen. He had tied her to a tree,
stripping the centre of a peculiar big leaf from
which he made a cord that is strong as elastic;
and there he sat in adoration before his captive.
He had been careful when he carried her not to
touch with his great hands her flesh. She wore,
you see, a simple calico^ gown."

"Of what colour?" I asked.

"White," said Jason, coughing slightly.
"We gave the fiance the first shot. The beast
fell forward on to his great chest, and, strange to
say, he died with his eyes riveted on the girl.
She was unconscious when we released her, and
more or less in a coma for a week; but the gorilla


had fed her and given her water, releasing her at
noon for exercise, and at night, that she might
sleep. She told us everything that had hap-
pened how careful he was not to wound her.
He was an old male, almost as tall as the average
man. I felt sorry for the poor old beast when
our shots struck him."

"Jason," I said, "you're amazing!"

"Well, you see, old chap, life is rather strange,
isn't it?" And he smiled.

Ransom took his leave.

He had to abruptly, and he held the guf-
faw struggling up within him until he reached
the door and slammed it back of him.

As the door closed on Ransom, I said:

"Do you know what I think of you? I'm
convinced you're a born liar. Those different
apartments of yours all bosh ! Where do you
really live?"

Jason's smile widened.

" In a small hotel. I'm quiet there for my work."

"Work?" I exclaimed.

;< Yes, work ! You see, old boy, I have to work.
I'm a short-story writer, and I believe in


"In trying it on the dog, eh?" I interrupted.
"So you chose me?"

"I dare say we won't quarrel over it, old
chap," he replied.

"Nonsense!" I said. "But the gorilla epi-

"Oh, the gorilla story is true," said Jason, and
I saw a look in his eyes as if I had wounded his

"Forgive me, old boy," said I. "I did not
mean to doubt you for an instant."

Jason knocked at my door only yesterday, so Marie told
me. He's a dead shot. I know this, for I shot with him
last October below Orleans in Sologne. He made three
separate doubles on partridges a magnificent perfor-
mance considering the high wind. The best gun in
France the Count C could not have done better; I be-
lieve in Jason.


It was late this winter night when an irresistible desire
seized me to see life. I had been hard at work all day in my
studio beneath the roofs in the Rue des Deux Amis. So I got
out of my paint-stained corduroys, and late as it was got into a
dress coat and headed for Maxim's. F. B. S.



MAXIM'S was ablaze with light. As I left
the chill fog outside this raw midwinter
morning an hour old, and entered the warmth
and gayety within, the vermilion-coated gypsy
band swung into a spirited waltz a waltz ftiat
made one's midnight blood tingle.

"Pardon, Monsieur, s'il vous plait!" A vet-
eran waiter, hurrying with a silver bowl
of crushed ice and caviar, skilfully avoided
my elbow. At the table beyond, a Russian
archduke a towering giant with a blond



beard crashed his glass of champagne to the

The suave maUre d'hotel apologized. He had
served in St. Petersburg.

I strolled on down the corridor lively with late
suppers; past tables gay with jewelled beauty;
past fair arms, fair necks, and the easy laughter
of women forced to the rescue of their duller,
white waistcoated escorts. Young men blase at
twenty -three, old men young at sixty, immacu-
lately valeted old roues, connoisseurs of pleasure
at threescore and ten. On past smiles that lied,
smiles that told, the faint clean chink of gold,
given kisses and the impulsive pressure of idle
hands; past Beauty and her Beast, petty quarrels
and conspicuous forgivings; and now past the
band and into the generous square supper room
beyond, animated with the flash of froufrous,
silken ankles, and the glide of trim-slippered feet
impelled by that throbbing, irresistible waltz.

Toilettes of point lace, of silk, and of satin.
Blonde and brunette, rubies and pearls, white
teeth and scarlet lips, warm, lithe arms and
slender waists. The passing scent of violet and


mignonette. The odour of lily of the valley,
emeralds, dimples, and faultless sapphires all
whirling, eddying before the tables that seemed
to circle in turn before the eyes of the dancers
moving in a veil of aroma from fragrant havanas
and gold-tipped cigarettes. Eyes that gleamed,
and dreamed, and gleamed again in the game of
love; and grew devilishly bright under the spell
of sparkling, stinging golden wine, burning cold.

And a great wave of joy surged through me as
I took my seat and unfolded a spotless napkin,
for I saw that the world was still alive.

The waltz ended in a wail of strings. Fran-
gois, the mattre d'hotel with the smug smile of a
priest, bent an attentive ear for my order pad
and pencil in hand.

"A dozen Ostend, Frangois."

"Bien, Monsieur."

"And then a partridge en cocotte. You will
please see that there is a little thin, crisp bacon
of the English with the mushrooms."

"It is well understood, Monsieur."

"And a salad of endives with the partridge."

"Bien, Monsieur."


"Then we shall see for the rest."

" Tres bien, Monsieur. Monsieur is alone?*'

I nodded.

"Sec or demi-sec?"

"Brut, nineteen hundred."

He nodded, and was gone.

A moment later,, as I sat watching the entry of
three monocled youths and a slim blond woman
in an ermine opera cloak, I was conscious of a fair
white hand and arm stretched across my table.

"Bonjour/" came a frank, clear voice, and I
looked up.

"Natka!" I exclaimed as I grasped the fair
white hand a shapely, aristocratic hand with-
out a jewel.

"Ah! You nice Natka!"

I would have said more in my enthusiasm, but
she checked me with her eyes; and, as she seated
herself beside me at the vacant table to the right
touching mine, I caught sight of her companion.
As for his name it does not matter. He was
healthy, this young American, broad-shouldered
and sun-tanned; and his genial, clean-shaven
face suggested wealth and leisure.


As she unfolded her napkin, she leaned toward
him, and whispered something in his sunburned
ear, evidently in explanation of our meeting. He
nodded good-naturedly in reply, his elbows on
the table as he scanned the menu. Again Natka
turned to me, her clear, fearless, gray eyes study-
ing, for a moment, my own, and my own taking
in at a glance her handsome features the
sheen of her auburn air, and her tall, gracious
figure,which seemed to have been poured into her
gown of creamy rose point lace, adorned with a
single blood-red rose. The gown of a lady they
are rare.

"Ah! That is nice," she said, with a look of
ager interest. "You have made a success.
The wise little supper of a prince. Am I not
right?" She laughed deliciously. "I saw you
order it." She laid her hand with a friendly
pressure on my arm. "And I have seen last
year one of your pictures," she continued, with a
touch of friendly pride. "In a window on the
Rue Lafitte. They do not put one's pictures
alone in a window unless one has made a success."

"Success, my dear Natka? Oh, a very


modest one, I assure you," I laughed in return,
somewhat embarrassed. "No, the truth is, I
have just sold a picture. The one you saw in
the window came back, and so I dropped in here
to rinse my eyes. We poor painters crave the
sight of luxury now and then; the spectacle of
expense once in a while. It is as gay here as
ever. I'm glad of that. Who is the girl in

She raised her clear gray eyes where my own
indicated, and gazed across the smoke-veiled

"The little one with black hair and the white


"It is La Belle Adele. She is with Cora de
Neville and the young Marquis de Tallefont.
You must have seen De Neville at the Folies
Marigny. She trains a prg with a little gilt whip.
It is quite stupid. You see young Tallefont
everywhere. His uncle is very rich. He is a
very horrid old man." And she turned to her
companion as my oysters and champagne were


I had not seen Natka in months; indeed, not
since the Bal des QuatV Arts. She was strik-
ingly beautiful that night, for she wore the black
lace wedding costume of a Russian girl, with a
curious peasant's headdress of jewels, barbaric
rings, and her bare feet in sandals; and explained
to me that the gown itself was an heirloom from
her native Moscow.

It was the night we trundled Bardeau's little
model - - I forget her name, and only remember
her good humour from the Porte Maillot to
the entrance of the ball in a wheelbarrow. The
same morning, we savages of the Stone Age
and our captives went in swimming after the
ball in the fountain of the Rond Point.

She was as fascinating to-night as ever. The
same Natka, the same good comrade whose in-
telligence alone was a delight, for, like many
Russian women, she had at twenty-six years of
age acquired a fluent knowledge of English,
spoke French as well as a Parisienne, Italian
enough to have satisfied a poet of Verona, and
once, when a certain Spanish Don the friend
of a Russian nobleman, the brother of the giant


who had crashed his glass to the floor came
to Paris, he insisted that Natka could not be
purely Russian, and must have had a Spanish
grandmother, for, as he explained, "her Sevillian
accent was remarkable."

The young American now craned his neck with
a nervous grin, and for an instant our eyes met
in forced recognition. Then he rose at Natka's
bidding, and we were duly presented. As we
reached over to shake hands, he grew quite red,
and said genially :

"Glad to meet you. Won't you join us?
Here, gar-son, take the orders."

But I alluded to my own supper forthcoming;
and mentioned to him that the Baroness Natka
Karezoff and I were old friends.

" Baroness ! " he blurted out, the grin widening.
"Say, Bill, don't kid me."

There ensued an awkward second a pause;
and we drank each other's healths from our own
separate bottles. After all, if he did not know
the truth about Natka Karezoff, I did. Even
an instant later, when the maitre d'hdtel ad-
dressed her as "Madame La Baronne," and the


archduke, still in the best half of his Cossack
exhilaration, stopped as he passed their table,
straightened soberly and bowed, it failed to
enlighten the one who had christened me Bill.

His geniality grew as he drained his wine; and
there flashed a twinkle in his blue eye as he
leaned over toward me.

"Bill," he confided, "I've got a thirst rare
enough to preserve in the Louvre, sailing that
slick old yacht of mine all day. Me for the sea,
all right, Natka' 11 tell you. Say, but we made
her hump fine and dandy. Quite a blow, girl,
eh? For an amateur, but she's game, Natka
is," he added, as the cellarman in his black apron
refilled his glass, crushing down a fresh quart in
its cooler. "All game, my boy," he declared,
with a pat of pride on her exquisite shoulder.
"Thinks nothing of standing to the wheel her-
self on a two-hour watch. Slipped her back
into Boulogne last night all by her little lone-
some, and not a reef in her. My sailing master
says to me, says he: 'There ain't one woman
in a million like mad am.' You'd orter seen
the Nargeala hustle. She flew, all right. Natka


was at the wheel. My sailing master called it
epatante when we got into the lee of the break-
water. See here, you speak French. What's

"Out of sight," I explained.

"Good word, epatante out of sight! Gee!
He hit it!"

Natka laughed, not being able to grasp my
translation of slang.

"Well, I guess," he continued reminiscently,
kindling a fresh cigarette over the match Natka
held for him. "Bad hole round that break-
water. Whole tide of the Channel runs through
there like hell. Lots of rocks, son! Lots of
rocks! Orter see Natka in tarpaulins. Say,
she's great! Stands up and takes the salt, salt
breeze! Well, say, can you beat it? And nary
a whimper. Eh, girlie? Nary a whimper.
More oysters, Natka? Say, you're all right."

The lifted her eyes to a passing waiter.

"A dozen of Ostend quick!"

* ' Bien, Madame. ' '

"No, my friend," Natka laughed, "you must
not get the ideas exaggerated of my bravery. I


did very little, really. It is he who is brave,"
she confided in my ear. "Ah! It is fine to be
able to rely on some one in an emergency. Not
to fear, and to know what to do. Had it not
been for him in the big storm off Trouville
very well, I saw that. I was there. It was not
gay. He was magnificent. He knew the Nar-
geala better than his crew."

" How long have you been over? " he asked me,
filling her glass, the wine seething over her pro-
testing fingers.

"About sixteen years," I returned.

" You don't say! Say, Bill, if I'd been stowed
away in this insane asylum for sixteen years, a
free 'bus would take you to and fro to see the
pansies growing over Willie's grave by now.
Chicago for me on the long run! We got every-
thing there they got here only better."

The band broke into a two-step, and again
the room was in a whirl. Presently they left
me to dance, and, on their return, the archduke
stopped to chat with Natka in Russian, and he
roared with laughter over something, and bowed
to us formally in recognition as he took his leave,


much to the relief of the one who had called me

"He is very tall, is he not? " said Natka, turn-
ing to me. "Good old Romanoff! He was so
good to my peasants poor people. In my
country house near Moscow, you know what I
did? Very well. I had built a large room for
my peasants a sort of great hall, and with
big fires at each end, and long tables of good
clean wood. Do you not love the smell of clean,
fresh wood? I adore it! And there they could
come and have a good dinner when they pleased
whole families. Ah, it is not easy for them;
they are so cruelly poor, and so ignorant; and in
winter it is terrible always the snow. They
are like overgrown, unhappy, children. And
they are so grateful."

"And the house near Moscow?" I ventured,
pressing her hand in reverence.

"Ah, my dear friend ! "

She shrugged her shoulders, and a little sigh
escaped her.

"Gone," she said simply. "My dogs, too.
I should not have minded the house. There is


an end to everything that is dear, that becomes
dear. But my dogs, they were my children."

For an instant she lowered her fair head, cover-
ing her eyes with her white, ringless hands the
hands that had steered the Nargeala safe into
port. Then she turned to amuse the one who
had called me Bill.

Presently she turned to me, and said softly:

"My house? Very well. An old friend of
mine was in great trouble, so many rubles he lost
at that stupid gambling. No, you don't know
him. His mother was old, and his sister very
sad, for she wished what you say? to be

And, without waiting for me to reply, she
turned again to her companion, and helped him
to a fresh slice of pate de foie gras.

For some moments they talked earnestly to-
gether. She was radiant now, and I saw he was
happy in his genial, democratic way.

I could not help being convinced that he was
a good chap; and, in comparison to the blase
types and seasoned viveurs in the room, far more
to be relied upon. He who was plain-spoken,


sincere, and generous to a fault qualities, I
knew, which appealed to Natka and without
a vestige of pose about him; that artificial varnish
which any Latin woman of the world accepts as
skin deep. In case of real trouble, I should have
chosen the Chicagoan.

Maxim's was now full; and, with the breaking
of the fog-chilled dawn without, it grew more and
more hilarious; and there was some dancing at
four-thirty that did not happen at two.

It was the hour evidently that Natka had
been waiting for. Her sudden change of manner
piqued my curiosity. She ran her eyes over the
room, and seemed satisfied. It was the hour
when what becomes of the remaining gold louis
in one's pocket does not much matter.

Was she, like the girl in green, going to dance
on her table? She could dance, when the mood
seized her, with all the inborn grace and fire of
a Russian. It would not have surprised me,
knowing her impulsive temperament. But she
soon dispelled my presentiment, for she spoke
quietly to a passing waiter, who returned with
a plate and napkin. What next? I wondered,


as she skilfully folded the napkin in the form
of a slipper, placed it on the plate, and, without
a word, rose from her seat; the one who had
called me Bill staring at her as soberly as he

"Natka!" I exclaimed, my hand on her arm.
"What are you going to do? Come, dear, sit

But she only smiled, and said quite seriously:
"Don't move, either of you."

And I, despite my puzzled wondering, drew
aside my table from her own to let her pass.

"Natka!" I repeated, and so did he; but she
paid no heed to either of us, and crossed the

Then, to my amazement, beginning at the
farthermost table in the corner, she made the
round of Maxim's with her plate. The few
words she addressed to each table were inaudible
to me; but I could hear her clear "Thank you"
as francs and louis were slipped within the dam-
ask slipper. She continued down one side and
up the other of the corridor, and so on back to
our side of the big room.


The slipper was coming our way now a
golden slipper, shaded by four crinkled bank-
notes of the Bank of France.

"Well, I'll be durned!" muttered the sun-
burned one from Chicago. He had grown as red
as a poppy, and the collar of his dress shirt had
wilted from perspiration.

The golden slipper was now between us.

"It is for the little maid of Lucille Davries,
who has been frightfully burned," Natka ex-

Without a word, the one who called me Bill
felt in the pocket of his piquet waistcoat, ex-
tracted a hundred franc note, and tucked it in
the slipper.

'Thank you," she said, and turned to me.

I made a mental note of my bill, and con-
tributed the remainder in my possession, modest
as it was. Then followed our questioning as she
regained her seat between us.

"Whose maid did you say? How burned?"

"By an alcohol lamp," Natka explained rap-
idly, as she poured the contents of the slipper
into her jewelled purse and snapped the clasp

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Online LibraryF. Berkeley (Frank Berkeley) SmithThe street of the two friends → online text (page 8 of 16)