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TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN



TOLD IN
A FRENCH GARDEN

AUGUST, 1914



BY

Mildred Aldrich

Author of
A Hilltop on the Ma me"




BOSTON

SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
1916



Copyright, 1916
BY MILDRED ALDRICH



Second Printing, October, iqzb
Third Printing, October, iqib

Fourth Printing, October, iqito
Fifth Printing, October, 79/6
Sixth Printing, October, 79/6
Seventh Printing, October, iqib

Eighth Printing, December, iqib



Jlrlntrro

S. J. PAKKHILL & Co., BOSTON, U.S.A.



TO

F. E. C.

a prince of comrades and a royal
friend, whose quaint humor
gladdened the days of my early
struggle, and whose unfailing
faith inspired me in later days
to turn a smiling face to Fate



64,



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

INTRODUCTION 3

How We Came into the Garden

I THE YOUNGSTER S STORY ... 29

It Happened at Midnight The
Tale of a Bride s New Home

II THE TRAINED NURSE S STORY . 45

The Son of Josephine The Tale
of a Foundling

III THE CRITIC S STORY .... 60

Twas in the Indian Summer
The Tale of an Actress

IV THE DOCTOR S STORY .... 83

As One Dreams The Tale of
an Adolescent

V THE SCULPTOR S STORY ... 96

Unto This End The Tale of a
Virgin

VI THE DIVORCEE S STORY . . .135

One Woman s Philosophy The
Tale of a Modern Wife



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

VII THE LAWYER S STORY . . . .166

The Night Before the Wedding
The Tale of a Bride-Elect

VIII THE JOURNALIST S STORY . . . 188

In a Railway Station The Tale
of a Dancer

IX THE VIOLINIST S STORY . . .221

The Soul of the Song The Tale
of a Fiancee

X EPILOGUE 259

Adieu How We Went Out of
the Garden



TOLD IN A FRENCH
GARDEN



TOLD IN A FRENCH
GARDEN

INTRODUCTION

HOW WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

IT was by a strange irony of Fate that
we found ourselves reunited for a sum
mer s outing, in a French garden, in July,
1914.

With the exception of the Youngster,
we had hardly met since the days of our
youth.

We were a party of unattached people,
six men, two women, your humble serv
ant, and the Youngster, who was an out
sider.

With the exception of the latter, we
had all gone to school or college or danc
ing class together, and kept up a sort of
superficial acquaintance ever since that
sort of relation in which people know
something of one another s opinions and

[ 3 ]



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

absolutely nothing of one another s real
lives.

There was the Doctor, who had studied
long in Germany, and become an authority
on mental diseases, developed a distaste
for therapeutics, and a passion for research
and the laboratory. There was the Law
yer, who knew international law as he
knew his Greek alphabet, and hated a
court room. There was the Violinist, who
was known the world over in musical sets,
everywhere, except in the concert room.
There w as the Journalist, who had trav
elled into almost as many queer places as
Richard Burton, seen more wars, and fol
lowed more callings. There was the
Sculptor, the fame of whose greater father
had almost paralyzed a pair of good
modeller s hands. There was the Critic,
whose friends believed that in him the
world had lost a great romancer, but
whom a combination of hunger and lazi
ness, and a proneness to think that nothing
not genius was worth while, had con
demned to be a mere breadwinner, but a
breadwinner who squeezed a lot out of
life, and who fervently believed that in his
next incarnation he would really be " it."
Then there was " Me," and of the other

[4]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

two women one was a Trained Nurse,
and the other a Divorcee, and well,
none of us really knew just what she had
become, but we knew that she was very
rich, and very handsome, and had a lean
ing toward some sort of new religion. As
for the Youngster he was the son of an
old chum of the Doctor his ward, in
fact and his hobby was flying.

Our reunion, after so many years, was
a rather pretty story.

In the summer of 1913, the Doctor and
the Divorcee, who had lost sight of one
another for twenty years, met by chance
in Paris. Her ex-husband had been a col
lege friend of the Doctor. They saw a
great deal of one another in the lazy way
that people who really love France, and
are done sightseeing, can do.

One day it occurred to them to take a
day s trip into the country, as unattached
people now and then can do. They might
have gone out in a car but they chose
the railroad, with a walk at the end on
the principle that no one can know and
love a country who does not press its
earth beneath his feet, the Doctor
would probably have said, " lay his head
upon its bosom. " By an accident thev j

[ 5 1



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

missed a train they found themselves at
sunset of a beautiful day in a small village,
and with no possible way of getting back
to Paris that night unless they chose to
walk fifteen miles to the nearest railway
junction. After a long day s tramp that
seemed too much of a good thing.

So they looked about to find a shelter
for the night. The village it was only
a hamlet had no hotel, no cafe, even.
Finally an old peasant said that old Mother
Servin a widow living a mile up the
road had a big house, lived alone, and
could take them in, if she wanted to,
he could not say that she would.

It seemed to them worth trying, so they
started off in high spirits to tramp another
mile, deciding that, if worse became worst
well the night was warm they
could sleep by the roadside under the stars.

It was near the hour when it should
have been dark but in France at that
season one can almost read out of doors
until nine when they found the place.
With some delay the gate in the stone wall
was opened, and they were face to face
with the old widow.

It was a long argument, but the Doctor
had a winning way, and at the end they
[ 6 ]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

were taken in, more, they were fed in
the big clean kitchen, and then each was
sheltered in a huge room, with cement
floor, scrupulously clean, with the quaint
old furniture and the queer appointments
of a French farmhouse.

The next morning, when the Doctor
threw open the heavy wooden shutters to
his window, he gave a whistle of delight
to find himself looking out into what
seemed to be a French Paradise and
better than that he had never asked.

It was a wilderness. Way off in the
distance he got glimpses of broken walls
with all kinds of green things creeping and
climbing, and hanging on for life. Inside
the walls there was a riot of flowers
hollyhocks and giroflees, dahlias and phlox,
poppies and huge daisies, and roses every
where, even climbing old tree trunks, and
sprawling all over the garden front of the
rambling house. The edges of the paths
had green borders that told of Corbeil
d Argent in midwinter, and violets in
early spring. He leaned out and looked
along the house. It was just a jumble of
all sorts of buildings which had evidently
been added at different times. It seemed
to be on half a dozen elevations, and no

[ 7 ]



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

two windows were of the same size, while
here and there an outside staircase led up
into a loft.

Once he had taken it in he dressed like
a flash he could not get out into that
garden quickly enough, to pray the Widow
to serve coffee under a huge tree in the
centre of the garden, about the trunk of
which a rude table had been built, and it
was there that the Divorcee found him
when she came out, simply glowing with
enthusiasm the house, the garden, the
Widow, the day everything was per
fect.

While they were taking their coffee,
poured from the earthen jug, in the thick
old Rouen cups, the Divorcee said:

" How I d love to own a place like this.
No one would ever dream of building such
a house. It has taken centuries of accu
mulated needs to expand it into being. If
one tried to do the thing all at once it
would look too on-purpose. This place
looks like a happy combination of circum
stances which could not help itself."

" Well, why not? It might be possible
to have just this. Let s ask the Widow."

So, when they were sitting over their
cigarettes, and the old woman was clear-
I 8 ]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

ing the table, the Doctor looked her over,
and considered the road of approach.

She was a rugged old woman, well on
toward eighty, with a bronzed, weather
worn face, abundant coarse gray hair, a
heavy shapeless figure, but a firm bearing,
in spite of her rounded back. As far as
they could see, they were alone on the
place with her. The Doctor decided to
jump right into the subject.

" Mother," he said, " I suppose you
don t want to sell this place? "

The old woman eyed him a moment
with her sharp dark eyes.

" But, yes, Monsieur she replied. " I
should like it very well, only it is not pos
sible. No one would be willing to pay
my price. Oh, no, no one. No, indeed."

" Well," said the Doctor, " how do you
know that? What is the price? Is it
permitted to ask? "

The old woman hesitated, started to
speak changed her mind, and turned
away, muttering. " Oh, no, Monsieur,
it is not worth the trouble no one will
ever pay my price."

The Doctor jumped up, laughing, ran
after her, took her by the arm, and led
her back to the table.

[ 9 1



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

" Now, come, come, Mother," he re
marked, " let us hear the price at any rate.
I am so curious."

" Well," said the Widow, " it is like
this. I would like to get for it what my
brother paid for it, when he bought it at
the death of my father it was to settle
with the rest of the heirs we were eight
then. They are all dead but me. But
no, no one will ever pay that price, so I
may as well let it go to my niece. She is
the last. She doesn t need it. She has
land enough. The cultivator has a hard
time these days. It is as much as I can
do to make the old place feed me and pay
the taxes, and I am getting old. But no
one will ever pay the price, and what will
my brother think of me when the bon Dieu
calls me, if I sell it for less than he paid?
As for that, I don t know what he ll say
to me for selling it at all. But I am get
ting old to live here alone all alone.
But no one will ever pay the price. So I
may as well die here, and then my brother
can t blame me. But it is lonely now, and
I am growing too old. Besides, I don t
suppose you want to buy it. What would
a gentleman do with this? "

"Well," said the Doctor, "I don t
[ 10 ]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

really know what a gentleman would do
with it," and he added, under his breath,
in English, " but I know mighty well what
this fellow could do with it, if he could
get it," and he lighted a fresh cigarette.

The keen old eyes had watched his face.

" I don t suppose you want to buy it? "
she persisted.

" Well," responded the Doctor, " how
can a poor man like me say, if you don t
care to name your price, and unless that
price is within reason? "

After some minutes of hesitation the
old woman drew a deep breath. Well,"
she said, with the determination of one
who expected to be scoffed at, " I won t
take a sou less than my brother paid."

" Come on, Mother," said the Doctor,
"what did your brother pay? No non
sense, you know."

" Well, if you must know it was FIVE
THOUSAND FRANCS, and I can t and won t
sell it for less. There, now ! "

There was a long silence.

The Doctor and his companion avoided
one another s eyes. After a while, he
said in an undertone, in English: " By
Jove, I m going to buy it."

" No, no," remonstrated his companion,



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

her eyes gazing down the garden vista to
where the wistaria and clematis and flam
ing trumpet flower flaunted on the old
wall. " I am going to have it I thought
of it first. I want it."

u So do I," laughed the Doctor.
" Never wanted anything more in all my
life."

" For how long," she asked, " would a
rover like you want this? "

" Rover yourself ! And you? Besides
what difference does it make how long I
want it since I want it now? I want
to give a party haven t given a party
since since Class Day."

The Divorcee sighed. Still gazing
down the garden she said quietly : " How
well I remember ninety-two ! "

Then there was another silence before
she turned to him suddenly: " See here
all this is very irregular so, that be
ing the case why shouldn t we buy it to
gether? We know each other. Neither
of us will ever stay here long. One sum
mer apiece will satisfy us, though it is
lovely. Be a sport. We ll draw lots as
to who is to have the first party."

The Doctor waved the old woman
away. Her keen eyes watched too sharply.

[ 12 ]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

Then, with their elbows on the table,
they had a long and heated argument.
Probably there were more things touched
on than the garden. Who knows? At
the end of it the Divorcee walked away
down that garden vista, and the old woman
was called and the Doctor took her at her
word. And out of that arrangement
emerged the scheme which resulted in our
finding ourselves, a year later, within the
old walls of that French garden.

Of course a year s work had been done
on the interior, and Doctor and Divorcee
had scoured the department for old furni
ture. Water had been brought a great
distance, a garage had been built with serv
ants quarters over it there were no
servants in the house, but the look of
the place, we were assured, had not been
changed, and both Doctor and Divorcee
declared that they had had the year of
their lives. Well, if they had, the place
showed it.

But, as Fate would have it, the second
night we sat down to dinner in that gar
den, news had come of the assassination
of Franz Ferdinand-Charles-Louis Joseph-
Marie d Autriche-Este, whom the tragic
death of Prince Rudolphe, almost exactly

[ 13 ]



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

twenty-four years and six months earlier
to a day, had made Crown Prince of Aus
tria-Hungary and the tone of our
gathering was changed. From that day
the party threatened to become a little
Bedlam, and the garden a rostrum.

In the earlier days it did not make so
much difference. The talk was good.
We were a travelled group, and what with
reminiscences of people and places, and
the scandal of courts, it was far from be
ing dull. But as the days went on, and
the war clouds began to gather, the over
charged air seemed to get on the nerves
of the entire group, and instead of the
peaceful summer we had counted upon,
every one of us seemed to live in his own
particular kind of fever. Every one of
us, down to the Youngster, had fixed ideas,
deep-set theories, and convictions as differ
ent as our characters, our lives, our call
ings, and our faiths. We were all Cos
mopolitan Americans, but ready to spread
the Eagle, if necessary, and all of us,
except the Violinist, of New England
extraction, which means really of English
blood, and that will show when the screws
are put on. We had never thought of the
Violinist as not one of us, but he was really

[ 14 ]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

of Polish origin. His great-grandfather
had been a companion of Adam Czartor-
iski in the uprising of 1830, and had gone
to the States when the amnesty was not
extended to his chief after that rebellion,
Poland s last, had been stamped out.

As well as I can remember it was the
night of August 6th that the first serious
dispute arose. England had declared
war. All our male servants had left us
except two American chauffeurs, and a
couple of old outside men. Two of our
four cars, and all our horses but one had
been requisitioned. That did not upset
us. We had taken on the wives of some
of the men, among them Angele, the pretty
wife of one of the French chauffeurs, and
her two-months-old baby into the bargain.
We still had two cars, that, at a pinch,
would carry the party, and we still had one
mount in case of necessity.

The question arose as to whether we
should break up and make for the nearest
port while we could, or " stick it out."
It had been finally agreed not to evacuate
yet. One does not often get such a
chance to see a country at war, and we
were all ardent spectators, and all unat
tached. I imagine not one of us had at

[ 15 ]



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

that time any idea of being useful the
stupendousness of it all had not dawned
on any of us unless it was the Doctor.

But after the decision of " stick " had
been passed unanimously, the Critic, who
was a bit of a sentimentalist, and if he
were anything else was a Norman Angel-
lite, stuck his hands in his pockets, and
remarked: "After all, it is perfectly safe
to stay, especially now that England is
coming in."

" You think so? " said the Doctor.

" Sure," smiled the Critic. " The Ger
mans will never cross the French frontier
this time. This is not 1870."

u Won t they, and isn t it? " replied the
Doctor sharply.

" They never can get by Verdun and
Belfort."

" Never said they could," remarked the
Doctor, with a tone as near to a sneer as
a good-natured host can allow himself.
" But they ll invade fast enough. I know
what I am talking about."

" You don t mean to tell me," said the
Critic, " that a nation like Germany
I m talking now about the people, the
country that has been the hot bed of Social
ism, will stand for a war of invasion? "
[ 16 ]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

That started the Doctor off. He flayed
the theorists, the people who reasoned
with their emotions and not their brains,
the mob that looked at externals, and
never saw the fires beneath, the throng
that was unable to understand anything
outside its own horizon, the mass that pre
tended to read the history of the world,
and because it changed its clothes imagined
that it had changed its spirit.

" Why, I ve lived in Germany," he
cried. " I was educated there. I know
them. I have the misfortune to under
stand them. They ll stick together and
Socialism go hang as long as there is a
hope of victory. The Confederation was
cemented in the blood of victory. It can
only be dissolved in the blood of defeat.
They are a great, a well-disciplined, and
an obedient people."

" One would think you admired them
and their military system," remarked the
Critic, a bit crest-fallen at the attack.

" I may not, but I ll tell you one sure
thing if you want a good circus you ve got
to train your animals. The Kaiser has
been a corking ringmaster."

Of course this got a laugh, and though
both Critic and Journalist tried to strike

[ 17 ]



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

fire again with words like " democracy "
and " civilization," the Doctor had cooled
down, and nothing could stir him again
that night.

Still the discord had been sown. I sup
pose the dinner-table talk was only a
sample of what was going on, in that
month, all over the world. It did not help
matters that as the days went on we all
realized that the Doctor had been right
that France was to be invaded, not across
her own proper frontier, but across unpro
tected Belgium. This seemed so atrocious
to most of us that indignation could only
express itself in abuse. There was not a
night that the dinner-table talk was not
bitter. You see the Doctor did not expect
the world ever to be perfect did not
know that he wanted it to be believed
in the struggle. On the other hand the
Critic, and in a certain sense the Journalist,
in spite of their experiences, were more or
less Utopian, and the Sculptor and the
Violinist purely spectators.

No need to go into the details of the
heated arguments. They were only the
echo of what all the world, that had
cradled itself into the belief that a great
war among the great nations had become,
[ 18 ]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

for economic as well as humanitarian rea
sons, impossible, were, I imagine, at this
time saying.

As nearly as I can remember it was on
August 2Oth that the climax came. Liege
had fallen. The English Expedition had
landed, and was marching on Belgium.
A victorious German army had goose-
stepped into defenseless Brussels, and was
sweeping out toward the French frontier.
The French advance into Alsace had been
a blunder.

The Doctor remarked that " the Eng
lish had landed twelve days too late," and
the Journalist drew a graphic, and purely
imaginary, picture of the pathos of the
Belgians straining their eyes in vain to the
West for the coming of the men in khaki,
and unfortunately he let himself expatiate
a bit on German methods.

The spark touched the Doctor off.

" By Jove," he said, " all you sentimen
talists read the History of the World with
your intellects in your breeches pockets.
War is not a game for babies. It is war
it is not sport. You chaps think war
can be prevented. All I ask you is why
hasn t it been prevented? In every gen
eration that we know anything about there

c 19 ]



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

have been some pretty fine men who have
been of your opinion Erasmus for one,
and how many others? But since the
generations have contented themselves
with talking, and not talked war out of the
problem, why, I can t see, for my part,
that Germany s way is not as good as any.
She is in to win, and so are all the rest of
them. Schools of War are like the
Schools of Art you chaps talk so much
about it does not make much difference
what school one belongs to the only im
portant thing is making good."

" One would think," said the Journalist,
" that you liked such a war."

;< Well, I don t even know that I can
deny that. I would not deliberately
choose it. But I am willing to accept it,
and I am not a bit sentimental about it.
I am not even sure that it was not needed.
The world has let the Kaiser sit twenty-
five years on a throne announcing himself
as God s anointed. His pretensions
have been treated seriously by all the
democracies of the world. What for?
Purely for personal gain. We have come
to a pass where there is little a man won t
do for personal gain. The business of
the world, and its diplomacy, have all be-

[ 20 ]



How WE CAML INTO THE GARDEN

come so complicated and corrupt that a
large percentage of the brains of honest
mankind are little willing to touch either.
We need shaking up all of us. If
nothing can make man realize that he was
not born to be merely happy and get rich,
or to have a fine old time, why, such a
complete upheaval as this seems to me to
be necessary, and for me if this war can
rip off, with its shrapnel, the selfishness
with which prosperity has encrusted the
lucky: if it can explode our false values
with its bombs: if it can break down our
absurd pretensions with its cannon, all I
can say is that Germany will have done
missionary work for the whole world
herself included."

Before he had done, we were all on our
feet shouting at him, all but the Lawyer,
who smiled into his coffee cup.

" Why," cried the Critic, in anger, " one
would think you held a brief for them ! "

" I do NOT/ snapped the Doctor, " but
I don t dislike them any more than I do
well," catching himself up with a laugh,
" lots of other people."

" And you mean to tell me," said the
gentle voice of the Divorcee at his elbow,
" that you calmly face the idea of the hun-

C 21 ]



TOLD IN A FRENCH GARDEN

dreds of thousands of men, well and
strong to-day dead to-morrow, the
thought of the mothers who have borne
their sons in pain, and bred them in love,
only to fling them before the cannon? "

" For what, after all, are we born?"
said the Doctor. " Where we die, or
when is a trifle, since die we must. But
why we die and how is vital. It is not
only vital to the man that goes it is
vital to the race. It is the struggle, it is
the fight, which, no matter what form it
takes, makes life worth living. Men
struggle for money. Financiers strangle
one another at the Bourse. People look
on and applaud, in spite of themselves.
That is exciting. It is not uplifting. But
for men just like you and me to march out
to face death for an idea, for honor, for
duty, that very fact ennobles the race."

" Ah," said the Lawyer, " I see. The
Doctor enjoys the drama of life, but he
does not enjoy the purely domestic drama."

" And out of all this," said the Trained
Nurse, in her level voice, " you are leaving
the Almighty. He gave us a world full
of beauty, full of work, full of interest,
and he gave us capacities to enjoy it, and
endowed us with emotions which make it

[ 22 ]



How WE CAME INTO THE GARDEN

worth while to live and to die. He gave
us simple laws they are clear enough
they mark sharply the line between good
and evil. He left us absolutely free to
choose. And behold what man has made


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