The Beautiful Lady
Nothing could have been more painful to my sensitiveness than to
occupy myself, confused with blushes, at the center of the whole
world as a living advertisement of the least amusing ballet in
To be the day's sensation of the boulevards one must possess an
eccentricity of appearance conceived by nothing short of genius;
and my misfortunes had reduced me to present such to all eyes
seeking mirth. It was not that I was one of those people in
uniform who carry placards and strange figures upon their backs,
nor that my coat was of rags; on the contrary, my whole costume
was delicately rich and well chosen, of soft grey and fine linen
(such as you see worn by a marquis in the pe'sage at Auteuil)
according well with my usual air and countenance, sometimes
esteemed to resemble my father's, which were not wanting in
To add to this my duties were not exhausting to the body. I was
required only to sit without a hat from ten of the morning to
midday, and from four until seven in the afternoon, at one of
the small tables under the awning of the Cafe' de la Paix at the
corner of the Place de l'Opera--that is to say, the centre of
the inhabited world. In the morning I drank my coffee, hot in
the cup; in the afternoon I sipped it cold in the glass. I spoke
to no one; not a glance or a gesture of mine passed to attract
Yet I was the centre of that centre of the world. All day the
crowds surrounded me, laughing loudly; all the voyous making
those jokes for which I found no repartee. The pavement was
sometimes blocked; the passing coachmen stood up in their boxes
to look over at me, small infants were elevated on shoulders to
behold me; not the gravest or most sorrowful came by without
stopping to gaze at me and go away with rejoicing faces. The
boulevards rang to their laughter--all Paris laughed!
For seven days I sat there at the appointed times, meeting the
eye of nobody, and lifting my coffee with fingers which trembled
with embarrassment at this too great conspicuosity! Those
mournful hours passed, one by the year, while the idling
bourgeois and the travellers made ridicule; and the rabble
exhausted all effort to draw plays of wit from me.
I have told you that I carried no placard, that my costume was
elegant, my demeanour modest in all degree.
"How, then, this excitement?" would be your disposition to
inquire. "Why this sensation?"
It is very simple. My hair had been shaved off, all over my
ears, leaving only a little above the back of the neck, to give
an appearance of far-reaching baldness, and on my head was
painted, in ah! so brilliant letters of distinctness:
Tous les Soirs
Such was the necessity to which I was at that time reduced! One
has heard that the North Americans invent the most singular
advertising, but I will not believe they surpass the Parisian.
Myself, I say I cannot express my sufferings under the notation
of the crowds that moved about the Cafe' de la Paix! The French
are a terrible people when they laugh sincerely. It is not so
much the amusing things which cause them amusement; it is often
the strange, those contrasts which contain something horrible,
and when they laugh there is too frequently some person who is
uncomfortable or wicked. I am glad that I was born not a
Frenchman; I should regret to be native to a country where they
invent such things as I was doing in the Place de l'Opera; for,
as I tell you, the idea was not mine.
As I sat with my eyes drooping before the gaze of my terrible
and applauding audiences, how I mentally formed cursing words
against the day when my misfortunes led me to apply at the
Theatre Folie-Rouge for work! I had expected an audition and a
role of comedy in the Revue; for, perhaps lacking any experience
of the stage, I am a Neapolitan by birth, though a resident of
the Continent at large since the age of fifteen. All Neapolitans
can act; all are actors; comedians of the greatest, as every
traveller is cognizant. There is a thing in the air of our
beautiful slopes which makes the people of a great instinctive
musicalness and deceptiveness, with passions like those burning
in the old mountain we have there. They are ready to play, to
sing--or to explode, yet, imitating that amusing Vesuvio, they
never do this last when you are in expectancy, or, as a
spectator, hopeful of it.
How could any person wonder, then, that I, finding myself
suddenly destitute in Paris, should apply at the theatres? One
after another, I saw myself no farther than the director's door,
until (having had no more to eat the day preceding than three
green almonds, which I took from a cart while the good female
was not looking) I reached the Folie-Rouge. Here I was
astonished to find a polite reception from the director. It
eventuated that they wished for a person appearing like myself
a person whom they would outfit with clothes of quality in
all parts, whose external presented a gentleman of the great
world, not merely of one the galant-uomini, but who would impart
an air to a table at a cafe' where he might sit and partake. The
contrast of this with the emplacement of the establishment on
his bald head-top was to be the success of the idea. It was
plain that I had no baldness, my hair being very thick and I but
twenty-four years of age, when it was explained that my hair
could be shaved. They asked me to accept, alas! not a part in
the Revue, but a specialty as a sandwich-man. Knowing the
English tongue as I do, I may afford the venturesomeness to play
upon it a little: I asked for bread, and they offered me not a
role, but a sandwich!
It must be undoubted that I possessed not the disposition to
make any fun with my accomplishments during those days that I
spent under the awning of the Cafe' de la Paix. I had consented
to be the advertisement in greatest desperation, and not
considering what the reality would be. Having consented, honour
compelled that I fulfil to the ending. Also, the costume and
outfittings I wore were part of my emolument. They had been
constructed for me by the finest tailor; and though I had
impulses, often, to leap up and fight through the noisy ones
about me and run far to the open country, the very garments I
wore were fetters binding me to remain and suffer. It seemed to
me that the hours were spent not in the centre of a ring of
human persons, but of un-well-made pantaloons and ugly skirts.
Yet all of these pantaloons and skirts had such scrutinous eyes
and expressions of mirth to laugh like demons at my conscious,
burning, painted head; eyes which spread out, astonished at the
sight of me, and peered and winked and grinned from the big
wrinkles above the gaiters of Zouaves, from the red breeches of
the gendarmes, the knickerbockers of the cyclists, the white
ducks of sergents de ville, and the knees of the boulevardiers,
bagged with sitting cross-legged at the little tables. I could
not escape these eyes;--how scornfully they twinkled at me
from the spurred and glittering officers' boots! How with amaze
from the American and English trousers, both turned up and
creased like folded paper, both with some dislike for each other
but for all other trousers more.
It was only at such times when the mortifications to appear so
greatly embarrassed became stronger than the embarrassment
itself that I could by will power force my head to a straight
construction and look out upon my spectators firmly. On the
second day of my ordeal, so facing the laughers, I found myself
facing straight into the monocle of my half-brother and ill-
wisher, Prince Caravacioli.
At this, my agitation was sudden and very great, for there was
no one I wished to prevent perceiving my condition more than
that old Antonio Caravacioli! I had not known that he was in
Paris, but I could have no doubt it was himself: the monocle,
the handsome nose, the toupee', the yellow skin, the dyed-black
moustache, the splendid height--it was indeed Caravacioli! He
was costumed for the automobile, and threw but one glance at me
as he crossed the pavement to his car, which was in waiting.
There was no change, not of the faintest, in that frosted tragic
mask of a countenance, and I was glad to think that he had not
And yet, how strange that I should care, since all his life he
had declined to recognize me as what I was! Ah, I should have
been glad to shout his age, his dyes, his artificialities, to
all the crowd, so to touch him where it would most pain him! For
was he not the vainest man in the whole world? How well I knew
his vulnerable point: the monstrous depth of his vanity in that
pretense of youth which he preserved through superhuman pains
and a genius of a valet, most excellently! I had much to pay
Antonio for myself, more for my father, most for my mother. This
was why that last of all the world I would have wished that old
fortune-hunter to know how far I had been reduced!
Then I rejoiced about that change which my unreal baldness
produced in me, giving me a look of forty years instead of
twenty-four, so that my oldest friend must take at least three
stares to know me. Also, my costume would disguise me from the
few acquaintances I had in Paris (if they chanced to cross the
Seine), as they had only seen me in the shabbiest; while, at my
last meeting with Antonio, I had been as fine in the coat as
Yet my encouragement was not so joyful that my gaze lifted
often. On the very last day, in the afternoon when my
observances were most and noisiest, I lifted my eyes but once
during the final half-hour--but such a one that was!
The edge of that beautiful grey pongee skirt came upon the lid
of my lowered eyelid like a cool shadow over hot sand. A sergent
had just made many of the people move away, so there remained
only a thin ring of the laughing pantaloons about me, when this
divine skirt presented its apparition to me. A pair of North-
American trousers accompanied it, turned up to show the ankle-
bones of a rich pair of stockings; neat, enthusiastic and
humorous, I judged them to be; for, as one may discover, my only
amusement during my martyrdom--if this misery can be said to
possess such alleviatings--had been the study of feet,
pantaloons, and skirts. The trousers in this case detained my
observation no time. They were but the darkest corner of the
chiaroscuro of a Rembrandt--the mellow glow of gold was all
across the grey skirt.
How shall I explain myself, how make myself understood? Shall I
be thought sentimentalistic or but mad when I declare that my
first sight of the grey pongee skirt caused me a thrill of
excitation, of tenderness, and--oh-i-me!--of self-
consciousness more acute than all my former mortifications. It
was so very different from all other skirts that had shown
themselves to me those sad days, and you may understand that,
though the pantaloons far outnumbered the skirts, many hundreds
of the latter had also been objects of my gloomy observation.
This skirt, so unlike those which had passed, presented at once
the qualifications of its superiority. It had been constructed
by an artist, and it was worn by a lady. It did not pine, it did
not droop; there was no more an atom of hanging too much than
there was a portion inflated by flamboyancy; it did not assert
itself; it bore notice without seeking it. Plain but exquisite,
it was that great rarity--goodness made charming.
The peregrination of the American trousers suddenly stopped as
they caught sight of me, and that precious skirt paused,
precisely in opposition to my little table. I heard a voice,
that to which the skirt pertained. It spoke the English, but not
in the manner of the inhabitants of London, who seem to sing
undistinguishably in their talking, although they are
comprehensible to each other. To an Italian it seems that many
North-Americans and English seek too often the assistance of the
nose in talking, though in different manners, each equally
unagreeable to our ears. The intelligent among our lazzaroni of
Naples, who beg from tourists, imitate this, with the purpose of
reminding the generous traveller of his home, in such a way to
soften his heart. But there is some difference: the Italian, the
Frenchman, or German who learns English sometimes misunderstands
the American: the Englishman he sometimes understands.
This voice that spoke was North-American. Ah, what a voice!
Sweet as the mandolins of Sorento! Clear as the bells of Capri!
To hear it, was like coming upon sight of the almond-blossoms of
Sicily for the first time, or the tulip-fields of Holland. Never
before was such a voice!
"Why did you stop, Rufus?" it said.
"Look!" replied the American trousers; so that I knew the pongee
lady had not observed me of herself.
Instantaneously there was an exclamation, and a pretty grey
parasol, closed, fell at my feet. It is not the pleasantest to
be an object which causes people to be startled when they behold
you; but I blessed the agitation of this lady, for what caused
her parasol to fall from her hand was a start of pity.
"Ah!" she cried. "The poor man!"
She had perceived that I was a gentleman.
I bent myself forward and lifted the parasol, though not my eyes
I could not have looked up into the face above me to be
Caesar! Two hands came down into the circle of my observation;
one of these was that belonging to the trousers, thin, long, and
white; the other was the grey-gloved hand of the lady, and never
had I seen such a hand--the hand of an angel in a suede glove,
as the grey skirt was the mantle of a saint made by Doucet. I
speak of saints and angels; and to the large world these may
sound like cold words.--It is only in Italy where some people
are found to adore them still.
I lifted the parasol toward that glove as I would have moved to
set a candle on an altar. Then, at a thought, I placed it not in
the glove, but in the thin hand of the gentleman. At the same
time the voice of the lady spoke to me--I was to have the joy
of remembering that this voice had spoken four words to me.
"Je vous remercie, monsieur," it said.
"Pas de quoi!" I murmured.
The American trousers in a loud tone made reference in the idiom
to my miserable head: "Did you ever see anything to beat it?"
The beautiful voice answered, and by the gentleness of her
sorrow for me I knew she had no thought that I might understand.
"Come away. It is too pitiful!"
Then the grey skirt and the little round-toed shoes beneath it
passed from my sight, quickly hidden from me by the increasing
crowd; yet I heard the voice a moment more, but fragmentarily:
"Don't you see how ashamed he is, how he must have been starving
before he did that, or that someone dependent on him needed--"
I caught no more, but the sweetness that this beautiful lady
understood and felt for the poor absurd wretch was so great that
I could have wept. I had not seen her face; I had not looked up
--even when she went.
"Who is she?" cried a scoundrel voyous, just as she turned.
"Madame of the parasol? A friend of monsieur of the ornamented
"No. It is the first lady in waiting to his wife, Madame la
Duchesse," answered a second. "She has been sent with an equerry
to demand of monseigneur if he does not wish a little sculpture
upon his dome as well as the colour decorations!"
"'Tis true, my ancient?" another asked of me.
I made no repartee, continuing to sit with my chin dependent
upon my cravat, but with things not the same in my heart as
formerly to the arrival of that grey pongee, the grey glove, and
the beautiful voice.
Since King Charles the Mad, in Paris no one has been completely
free from lunacy while the spring-time is happening. There is
something in the sun and the banks of the Seine. The Parisians
drink sweet and fruity champagne because the good wines are
already in their veins. These Parisians are born intoxicated and
remain so; it is not fair play to require them to be like other
human people. Their deepest feeling is for the arts; and, as
everyone had declared, they are farceurs in their tragedies,
tragic in their comedies. They prepare the last epigram in the
tumbril; they drown themselves with enthusiasm about the
alliance with Russia. In death they are witty; in war they have
poetic spasms; in love they are mad.
The strangest of all this is that it is not only the Parisians
who are the insane ones in Paris; the visitors are none of them
in behaviour as elsewhere. You have only to go there to become
as lunatic as the rest. Many travellers, when they have
departed, remember the events they have caused there as a person
remembers in the morning what he has said and thought in the
moonlight of the night.
In Paris it is moonlight even in the morning; and in Paris one
falls in love even more strangely than by moonlight.
It is a place of glimpses: a veil fluttering from a motor-car, a
little lace handkerchief fallen from a victoria, a figure
crossing a lighted window, a black hat vanishing in the distance
of the avenues of the Tuileries. A young man writes a ballade
and dreams over a bit of lace. Was I not, then, one of the least
extravagant of this mad people? Men have fallen in love with
photographs, those greatest of liars; was I so wild, then, to
adore this grey skirt, this small shoe, this divine glove, the
golden-honey voice--of all in Paris the only one to pity and
to understand? Even to love the mystery of that lady and to
build my dreams upon it?--to love all the more because of the
mystery? Mystery is the last word and the completing charm to a
young man's passion. Few sonnets have been written to wives
whose matrimony is more than five years of age--is it not so?
When my hour was finished and I in liberty to leave that
horrible corner, I pushed out of the crowd and walked down the
boulevard, my hat covering my sin, and went quickly. To be in
love with my mystery, I thought, that was a strange happiness!
It was enough. It was romance! To hear a voice which speaks two
sentences of pity and silver is to have a chime of bells in the
heart. But to have a shaven head is to be a monk! And to have a
shaven head with a sign painted upon it is to be a pariah. Alas!
I was a person whom the Parisians laughed at, not with!
Now that at last my martyrdom was concluded, I had some
shuddering, as when one places in his mouth a morsel of
unexpected flavour. I wondered where I had found the courage to
bear it, and how I had resisted hurling myself into the river,
though, as is known, that is no longer safe, for most of those
who attempt it are at once rescued, arrested, fined, and
imprisoned for throwing bodies into the Seine, which is
At the theatre the frightful badge was removed from my head-top
and I was given three hundred francs, the price of my shame,
refusing an offer to repeat the performance during the following
week. To imagine such a thing made me a choking in my throat,
and I left the bureau in some sickness. This increased so much
(as I approached the Madeleine, where I wished to mount an
omnibus) that I entered a restaurant and drank a small glass of
cognac. Then I called for writing-papers and wrote to the good
Mother Superior and my dear little nieces at their convent. I
enclosed two hundred and fifty francs, which sum I had fallen
behind in my payments for their education and sustenance, and I
felt a moment's happiness that at least for a while I need not
fear that my poor brother's orphans might become objects of
charity--a fear which, accompanied by my own hunger, had led
me to become the joke of the boulevards.
Feeling rich with my remaining fifty francs, I ordered the
waiter to bring me a goulasch and a carafe of blond beer, after
the consummation of which I spent an hour in the reading of a
newspaper. Can it be credited that the journal of my perusement
was the one which may be called the North-American paper of the
aristocracies of Europe? Also, it contains some names of the
people of the United States at the hotels and elsewhere.
How eagerly I scanned those singular columns! Shall I confess to
what purpose? I read the long lists of uncontinental names over
and over, but I lingered not at all upon those like "Muriel,"
"Hermione," "Violet," and "Sibyl," nor over "Balthurst,"
"Skeffington-Sligo," and "Covering-Legge"; no, my search was for
the Sadies and Mamies, the Thompsons, Van Dusens, and Bradys. In
that lies my preposterous secret.
You will see to what infatuation those words of pity, that sense
of a beautiful presence, had led me. To fall in love must one
behold a face? Yes; at thirty. At twenty, when one is something
of a poet--No: it is sufficient to see a grey pongee skirt! At
fifty, when one is a philosopher--No: it is enough to perceive
a soul! I had done both; I had seen the skirt; I had perceived
the soul! Therefore, while hungry, I neglected my goulasch to
read these lists of names of the United States again and again,
only that I might have the thought that one of them--though I
knew not which--might be this lady's, and that in so
infinitesimal a degree I had been near her again. Will it be
estimated extreme imbecility in me when I ventured the
additional confession that I felt a great warmth and tenderness
toward the possessors of all these names, as being, if not
herself, at least her compatriots?
I am now brought to the admission that before to-day I had
experienced some prejudices against the inhabitants of the
North-American republic, though not on account of great
experience of my own. A year previously I had made a disastrous
excursion to Monte Carlo in the company of a young gentleman of
London who had been for several weeks in New York and Washington
and Boston, and appeared to know very much of the country. He
was never anything but tired in speaking of it, and told me a
great amount. He said many times that in the hotels there was
never a concierge or portier to give you information where to
discover the best vaudeville; there was no concierge at all! In
New York itself, my friend told me, a facchino, or species of
porter, or some such good-for-nothing, had said to him,
including a slap on the shoulder, "Well, brother, did you
receive your delayed luggage correctly?" (In this instance my
studies of the North-American idiom lead me to believe that my
friend was intentionally truthful in regard to the
principalities, but mistaken in his observation of detail.) He
declared the recent willingness of the English to take some
interest in the United-Statesians to be a mistake; for their
were noisy, without real confidence in themselves; they were
restless and merely imitative instead of inventive. He told me
that he was not exceptional; all Englishmen had thought
similarly for fifty or sixty years; therefore, naturally, his
opinion carried great weight with me. And myself, to my
astonishment, I had often seen parties of these republicans
become all ears and whispers when somebody called a prince or a
countess passed by. Their reverence for age itself, in anything
but a horse, had often surprised me by its artlessness, and of
all strange things in the world, I have heard them admire old
customs and old families. It was strange to me to listen, when I
had believed that their land was the only one where happily no
person need worry to remember who had been his great-
The greatest of my own had not saved me from the decoration of
the past week, yet he was as much mine as he was Antonio
Caravacioli's; and Antonio, though impoverished, had his motor-
car and dined well, since I happened to see, in my perusal of
the journal, that he had been to dinner the evening before at
the English Embassy with a great company. "Bravo, Antonio! Find
a rich foreign wife if you can, since you cannot do well for
yourself at home!" And I could say so honestly, without spite,
for all his hatred of me,--because, until I had paid my
addition, I was still the possessor of fifty francs!
Fifty francs will continue life in the body of a judicial person
a long time in Paris, and combining that knowledge and the good
goulasch, I sought diligently for "Mamies" and "Sadies" with a
revived spirit. I found neither of those adorable names--in
fact, only two such diminutives, which are more charming than
our Italian ones: A Miss Jeanie Archibald Zip and a Miss Fannie
Sooter. None of the names was harmonious with the grey pongee --
in truth, most of them were no prettier (however less
processional) than royal names. I could not please myself that I
had come closer to the rare lady; I must be contented that the
same sky covered us both, that the noise of the same city rang
in her ears as mine.
Yet that was a satisfaction, and to know that it was true gave
me mysterious breathlessness and made me hear fragments of old
songs during my walk that night. I walked very far, under the
trees of the Bois, where I stopped for a few moments to smoke a
cigarette at one of the tables outside, at Armenonville.
None of the laughing women there could be the lady I sought; and
as my refusing to command anything caused the waiter uneasiness,
in spite of my prosperous appearance, I remained but a few
moments, then trudged on, all the long way to the Cafe' de
Madrid, where also she was not.
How did I assure myself of this since I had not seen her face? I
cannot tell you. Perhaps I should not have known her; but that
night I was sure that I should.
Yes, as sure of that as I was sure that she was beautiful!
Early the whole of the next day, endeavoring to look
preoccupied, I haunted the lobbies and vicinity of the most
expensive hotels, unable to do any other thing, but ashamed of
myself that I had not returned to my former task of seeking
employment, although still reassured by possession of two louis
and some silver, I dined well at a one-franc coachman's
restaurant, where my elegance created not the slightest
surprise, and I felt that I might live in this way indefinitely.
However, dreams often conclude abruptly, and two louis always
do, as I found, several days later, when, after paying the rent
for my unspeakable lodging and lending twenty francs to a poor,
bad painter, whom I knew and whose wife was ill, I found myself
with the choice of obtaining funds on my finery or not eating,
either of which I was very loath to do. It is not essential for
me to tell any person that when you seek a position it is better
that you appear not too greatly in need of it; and my former
garments had prejudiced many against me, I fear, because they
had been patched by a friendly concierge. Pantaloons suffer as
terribly as do antiques from too obvious restorations; and while
I was only grateful to the good woman's needle (except upon one
occasion when she forgot to remove it), my costume had reached,
at last, great sympathies for the shade of Praxiteles, feeling
the same melancholy over original intentions so far
misrepresented by renewals.
Therefore I determined to preserve my fineries to the uttermost;
and it was fortunate that I did so; because, after dining, for
three nights upon nothing but looking out of my window, the
fourth morning brought me a letter from my English friend. I had
written to him, asking if he knew of any people who wished to
pay a salary to a young man who knew how to do nothing. I place
his reply in direct annexation:
"Henrietta Street, Cavendish Square, May 14.
"My dear Ansolini,--Why haven't you made some of your
relatives do something? I understand that they do not like you;
neither do my own, but after our crupper at Monte Carlo what
could mine do, except provide? If a few pounds (precious few, I
fear!) be of any service to you, let me know. In the mean time,
if you are serious about a position, I may, preposterously
enough, set you in the way of it. There is an old thundering
Yankee here, whom I met in the States, and who believed me a god
because I am the nephew of my awful uncle, for whose career he
has ever had, it appears, a life-long admiration, sir! Now, by
chance, meeting this person in the street, it developed that he
had need of a man, precisely such a one as you are not: a sober,
tutorish, middle-aged, dissenting parson, to trot about the
Continent tied to a dancing bear. It is the old gentleman's cub,
who is a species of Caliban in fine linen, and who has taken a
few too many liberties in the land of the free. In fact, I
believe he is much a youth of my own kind with similar
admiration for baccarat and good cellars. His father must return
at once, and has decided (the cub's native heath and friends
being too wild) to leave him in charge of a proper guide,
philosopher, courier, chaplain, and friend, if such can be
found, the same required to travel with the cub and keep him out
of mischief. I thought of your letter directly, and I have given
you the most tremendous recommendation--part of it quite true,
I suspect, though I am not a judge of learning. I explained,
however, that you are a master of languages, of elegant though
subdued deportment, and I extolled at length your saintly
habits. Altogether, I fear there may have been too much of the
virtuoso in my interpretation of you; few would have recognized
from it the gentleman who closed a table at Monte Carlo and
afterwards was closed himself in the handsome and spectacular
fashion I remember with both delight and regret. Briefly, I lied
like a master. He almost had me in the matter of your age; it
was important that you should be middle-aged. I swore that you
were at least thirty-eight, but, owing to exemplary habits,
looked very much younger. The cub himself is twenty-four.
"Hence, if you are really serious and determined not to appeal
to your people, call at once upon Mr. Lambert R. Poor, of the
Hotel d'Iena. He is the father, and the cub is with him. The
elder Yankee is primed with my praises of you, and must engage
someone at once, as he sails in a day or two. Go--with my
blessing, an air of piety, and as much age as you can assume.
When the father has departed, throw the cub into the Seine, but
preserve his pocket-book, and we shall have another go at those
infernal tables. Vale! J.G.S."
I found myself smiling--I fear miserably--over this kind
letter, especially at the wonder of my friend that I had not
appealed to my relatives. The only ones who would have liked to
help me, if they had known I needed something, were my two
little nieces who were in my own care; because my father, being
but a poet, had no family, and my mother had lost hers, even her
eldest son, by marrying my father. After that they would have
nothing to do with her, nor were they asked. That rascally old
Antonio was now the head of all the Caravacioli, as was I of my
own outcast branch of our house--that is, of my two little
nieces and myself. It was partly of these poor infants I had
thought when I took what was left of my small inheritance to
Monte Carlo, hoping, since I seemed to be incapable of
increasing it in any other way, that number seventeen and black
would hand me over a fortune as a waiter does wine. Alas! Luck
is not always a fool's servant, and the kind of fortune she
handed me was of that species the waiter brings you in the other
bottle of champagne, the gold of a bubbling brain, lasting an
hour. After this there is always something evil to one's head,
and mine, alas! was shaved.
Half an hour after I had read the letter, the little paper-
flower makers in the attic window across from mine may have seen
me shaving it--without pleasure--again. What else was I to
do? I could not well expect to be given the guardianship of an
erring young man if I presented myself to his parent as a
gentleman who had been sitting at the Cafe' de la Paix with his
head painted. I could not wear my hat through the interview. I
could not exhibit the thick five days' stubble, to appear in
contrast with the heavy fringe that had been spared;--I could
not trim the fringe to the shortness of the stubble; I should
have looked like Pierrot. I had only, then, to remain bald, and,
if I obtained the post, to shave in secret--a harmless and
It was well for me that I came to this determination. I believe
it was the appearance of maturity which my head and dining upon
thoughts lent me, as much as my friend's praises, which created
my success with the amiable Mr. Lambert R. Poor. I witness that
my visit to him provided one of the most astonishing interviews
of my life. He was an instance of those strange beings of the
Western republic, at whom we are perhaps too prone to pass from
one of ourselves to another the secret smile, because of some
little imperfections of manner. It is a type which has grown
more and more familiar to us, yet never less strange: the man in
costly but severe costume, big, with a necessary great
waistcoat, not noticing the loudness of his own voice; as
ignorant of the thousand tiny things which we observe and feel
as he would be careless of them (except for his wife) if he
knew. We laugh at him, sometimes even to his face, and he does
not perceive it. We are a little afraid that he is too large to
see it; hence too large for us to comprehend, and in spite of
our laughter we are always conscious of a force--yes, of a
presence! We jeer slyly, but we respect, fear a little, and
Such was my patron. He met me with a kind greeting, looked at me
very earnestly, but smiling as if he understood my good
intentions, as one understands the friendliness of a capering
poodle, yet in such a way that I could not feel resentment, for
I could see that he looked at almost everyone in the same
My friend had done wonders for me; and I made the best account
of myself that I could, so that within half an hour it was
arranged that I should take charge of his son, with an
honourarium which gave me great rejoicing for my nieces and my
"I think I can pick men," he said, "and I think that you are the
man I want. You're old enough and you've seen enough, and you
know enough to keep one fool boy in order for six months."
So frankly he spoke of his son, yet not without affection and
confidence. Before I left, he sent for the youth himself,
Lambert R. Poor, Jr.,--not at all a Caliban, but a most
excellent-appearing, tall gentleman, of astonishingly meek
countenance. He gave me a sad, slow look from his blue eyes at
first; then with a brightening smile he gently shook my hand,
murmuring that he was very glad in the prospect of knowing me
better; after which the parent defined before him, with singular
elaboration, my duties. I was to correct all things in his
behaviour which I considered improper or absurd. I was to
dictate the line of travel, to have a restraining influence upon
expenditures; in brief, to control the young man as a governess
does a child.
To all of his parent's instructions Poor Jr. returned a dutiful
nod and expressed perfect acquiescence. The following day the
elder sailed from Cherbourg, and I took up my quarters with the
It is with the most extreme mortification that I record my
ensuing experiences, for I felt that I could not honourably
accept my salary without earning it by carrying out the parent
Poor's wishes. That first morning I endeavoured to direct my
pupil's steps toward the Musee de Cluny, with the purpose of
inciting him to instructive study; but in the mildest, yet most
immovable manner, he proposed Longchamps and the races as a
substitute, to conclude with dinner at La Cascade and supper at
Maxim's or the Cafe' Blanche, in case we should meet engaging
company. I ventured the vainest efforts to reason with him,
making for myself a very uncomfortable breakfast, though without
effect upon him of any visibility. His air was uninterruptedly
mild and modest; he rarely lifted his eyes, but to my most
earnest argument replied only by ordering more eggs and saying
in a chastened voice:
"Oh no; it is always best to begin school with a vacation. To
I should say at once that through this young man I soon became
an amateur of the remarkable North-American idioms, of humour
and incomparable brevities often more interesting than those
evolved by the thirteen or more dialects of my own Naples. Even
at our first breakfast I began to catch lucid glimpses of the
intention in many of his almost incomprehensible statements. I
was able, even, to penetrate his meaning when he said that
although he was "strong for aged parent," he himself had
suffered much anguish from overwork of the "earnest youth
racquette" in his late travels, and now desired to "create
considerable trouble for Paris."
Naturally, I did not wish to begin by antagonizing my pupil --
an estrangement at the commencement would only lead to his
deceiving me, or a continued quarrel, in which case I should be
of no service to my kind patron, so that after a strained
interval I considered it best to surrender.
We went to Longchamps.
That was my first mistake; the second was to yield to him
concerning the latter part of his programme; but opposition to
Mr. Poor, Jr. had a curious effect of inutility. He had not in
the least the air of obstinacy,--nothing could have been less
like rudeness; he neither frowned not smiled; no, he did not
seem even to be insisting; on the contrary, never have I beheld
a milder countenance, nor heard a pleasanter voice; yet the
young man was so completely baffling in his mysterious way that
I considered him unique to my experience.
Thus, when I urged him not to place large wagers in the pesage,
his whispered reply was strange and simple--"Watch me!" This
he conclusively said as he deposited another thousand-franc
note, which, within a few moments, accrued to the French
Longchamps was but the beginning of a series of days and nights
which wore upon my constitution--not indeed with the intensity
of mortification which my former conspicuosity had engendered,
yet my sorrows were stringent. It is true that I had been, since
the age of seventeen, no stranger to the gaieties and
dissipations afforded by the capitals of Europe; I may say I had
exhausted these, yet always with some degree of quiet, including
intervals of repose. I was tired of all the great foolishnesses
of youth, and had thought myself done with them. Now I found
myself plunged into more uproarious waters than I had ever known
I, who had hoped to begin a life of usefulness and peace, was
forced to dwell in the midst of a riot, pursuing my
There is no need that I should describe those days and nights.
They remain in my memory as a confusion of bad music, crowds,
motor-cars and champagne of which Poor Jr. was a distributing
centre. He could never be persuaded to the Louvre, the
Carnavalet, or the Luxembourg; in truth, he seldom rose in time
to reach the museums, for they usually close at four in the
afternoon. Always with the same inscrutable meekness of
countenance, each night he methodically danced the cake-walk at
Maxim's or one of the Montemarte restaurants, to the cheers of
acquaintances of many nationalities, to whom he offered
libations with prodigal enormity. He carried with him, about the
boulevards at night, in the highly powerful car he had hired,
large parties of strange people, who would loudly sing airs from
the Folie-Rouge (to my unhappy shudderings) all the way from the
fatiguing Bal Bullier to the Cafe' de Paris, where the waiters
soon became affluent.
And how many of those gaily dressed and smiling ladies whose
bright eyes meet yours on the veranda of the Theatre Marigny
were provided with excessive suppers and souvenir fans by the
inexhaustible Poor Jr.! He left a trail of pink hundred-franc
notes behind him, like a running boy dropping paper in the
English game; and he kept showers of gold louis dancing in the
air about him, so that when we entered the various cafes or
"American bars" a cheer (not vocal but to me of perfect
audibility) went up from the hungry and thirsty and borrowing,
and from the attendants. Ah, how tired I was of it, and how I
endeavoured to discover a means to draw him to the museums, and
to Notre Dame and the Pantheon!
And how many times did I unwillingly find myself in the too
enlivening company of those pretty supper-girls, and what
jokings upon his head-top did the poor bald gentleman not
undergo from those same demoiselles with the bright eyes, the
wonderful hats, and the fluffy dresses!
How often among those gay people did I find myself sadly
dreaming of that grey pongee skirt and the beautiful heart that
had understood! Should I ever see that lady? Not, I knew, alas!
in the whirl about Poor Jr.! As soon look for a nun at the Cafe'
For some reason I came to be persuaded that she had left Paris,
that she had gone away; and I pictured her--a little
despairingly--on the borders of Lucerne, with the white Alps
in the sky above her,--or perhaps listening to the evening
songs on the Grand Canal, and I would try to feel the little
rocking of her gondola, making myself dream that I sat at her
feet. Or I could see the grey flicker of the pongee skirt in the
twilight distance of cathedral aisles with a chant sounding from
a chapel; and, so dreaming, I would start spasmodically, to hear
the red-coated orchestra of a cafe' blare out into "Bedelia,"
and awake to the laughter and rouge and blague which that dear
pongee had helped me for a moment to forget!
To all places, Poor Jr., though never unkindly, dragged me with
him, even to make the balloon ascent at the Porte Maillot on a
windy evening. Without embarrassment I confess that I was
terrified, that I clung to the ropes with a clutch which frayed
my gloves, while Poor Jr. leaned back against the side of the
basket and gazed upward at the great swaying ball, with his
hands in his pockets, humming the strange ballad that was his
favourite musical composition:
"The prettiest girl I ever saw
Was sipping cider through a straw-aw-haw!"
In that horrifying basket, scrambling for a foothold while it
swung through arcs that were gulfs, I believed that my sorrows
approached a sudden conclusion, but finding myself again upon
the secure earth, I decided to come to an understanding with the
Accordingly, on the following morning, I entered his apartment
and addresses myself to Poor Jr. as severely as I could (for,
truthfully, in all his follies I had found no ugliness in his
spirit--only a good-natured and inscrutable desire of wild
amusement) reminding him of the authority his father had deputed
to me, and having the venturesomeness to hint that the son
should show some respect to my superior age.
To my consternation he replied by inquiring if I had shaved my
head as yet that morning. I could only drop in a chair,
stammering to know what he meant.
"Didn't you suppose I knew?" he asked, elevating himself
slightly on his elbow from the pillow. "Three weeks ago I left
my aged parent in London and ran over here for a day. I saw you
at the Cafe' de la Paix, and even then I knew that it was
shaved, not naturally bald. When you came here I recognized you
like a shot, and that was why I was glad to accept you as a
guardian. I've enjoyed myself considerably of late, and you've
been the best part of it,--I think you are a wonderation! I
wouldn't have any other governess for the world, but you surpass
the orchestra when you beg me to respect your years! I will bet
you four dollars to a lead franc piece that you are younger than
Imagine the completeness of my dismay! Although he spoke in
tones the most genial, and without unkindness, I felt myself a
man of tatters before him, ashamed to have him know my sorry
secret, hopeless to see all chance of authority over him gone at
once, and with it my opportunity to earn a salary so generous,
for if I could continue to be but an amusement to him and only
part of his deception of Lambert R. Poor, my sense of honour
must be fit for the guillotine indeed.
I had a little struggle with myself, and I think I must have
wiped some amounts of the cold perspiration from my absurd head
before I was able to make an answer. It may be seen what a
coward I was, and how I feared to begin again that search for
employment. At last, however, I was in self-control, so that I
might speak without being afraid that my voice would shake.
"I am sorry," I said. "It seemed to me that my deception would
not cause any harm, and that I might be useful in spite of it --
enough to earn my living. It was on account of my being very
poor; and there are two little children I must take care of. --
Well, at least, it is over now. I have had great shame, but I
must not have greater."
"What do you mean?" he asked me rather sharply.
"I will leave immediately," I said, going to the door. "Since I
am no more than a joke, I can be of no service to your father or
to you; but you must not think that I am so unreasonable as to
be angry with you. A man whom you have beheld reduced to what I
was, at the Cafe' de la Paix, is surely a joke to the whole
world! I will write to your father before I leave the hotel and
explain that I feel myself unqualified--"
"You're going to write to him why you give it up!" he exclaimed.
"I shall make no report of espionage," I answered, with,
perhaps, some bitterness, "and I will leave the letter for you
to read and to send, of yourself. It shall only tell him that as
a man of honour I cannot keep a position for which I have no
I was going to open the door, bidding him adieu, when he called
out to me.
"Look here!" he said, and he jumped out of bed in his pajamas
and came quickly, and held out his hand. "Look here, Ansolini,
don't take it that way. I know you've had pretty hard times, and
if you'll stay, I'll get good. I'll go to the Louvre with you
this afternoon; we'll dine at one of the Duval restaurants, and
go to that new religious tragedy afterwards. If you like, we'll
leave Paris to-morrow. There's a little too much movement here,
maybe. For God's sake, let your hair grow, and we'll go down to
Italy and study bones and ruins and delight the aged parent! --
It's all right, isn't it?"
I shook the hand of that kind Poor Jr. with a feeling in my
heart that kept me from saying how greatly I thanked him--and
I was sure that I could do anything for him in the world!
Three days later saw us on the pretty waters of Lake Leman, in
the bright weather when Mont Blanc heaves his great bare
shoulders of ice miles into the blue sky, with no mist-cloak
Sailing that lake in the cool morning, what a contrast to the
champagne houpla nights of Paris! And how docile was my pupil!
He suffered me to lead him through the Castle of Chillon like a
new-born lamb, and even would not play the little horses in the
Kursaal at Geneva, although, perhaps, that was because the
stakes were not high enough to interest him. He was nearly
always silent, and, from the moment of our departure from Paris,
had fallen into dreamfulness, such as would come over myself at
the thought of the beautiful lady. It touched my heart to find
how he was ready with acquiescence to the slightest suggestion
of mine, and, if it had been the season, I am almost credulous
that I could have conducted him to Baireuth to hear Parsifal!
There were times when his mood of gentle sorrow was so like mine
that I wondered if he, too, knew a grey pongee skirt. I wondered
over this so much, and so marvellingly, also, because of the
change in him, that at last I asked him.
We had gone to Lucerne; it was clear moonlight, and we smoked on
our little balcony at the Schweitzerhof, puffing our small
clouds in the enormous face of the strangest panorama of the
world, that august disturbation of the earth by gods in battle,
left to be a land of tragic fables since before Pilate was
there, and remaining the same after William Tell was not. I sat
looking up at the mountains, and he leaned on the rail, looking
down at the lake. Somewhere a woman was singing from Pagliacci,
and I slowly arrived at a consciousness that I had sighed aloud
once or twice, not so much sadly, as of longing to see that
lady, and that my companion had permitted similar sounds to
escape him, but more mournfully. It was then that I asked him,
in earnestness, yet with the manner of making a joke, if he did
not think often of some one in North America.
"Do you believe that could be, and I making the disturbance I
did in Paris?" he returned.
"Yes," I told him, "if you are trying to forget her."
"I should think it might look more as if I were trying to forget
that I wasn't good enough for her and that she knew it!"
He spoke in a voice which he would have made full of ease --
"off-hand," as they say; but he failed to do so.
"That was the case?" I pressed him, you see, but smilingly.
"Looks a good deal like it," he replied, smoking much at once.
"So? But that is good for you, my friend!"
"Probably." He paused, smoking still more, and then said, "It's
a benefit I could get on just as well without."
"She is in North America?"
"No; over here."
"Ah! Then we will go where she is. That will be even better for
you! Where is she?"
"I don't know. She asked me not to follow her. Somebody else is
The young man's voice was steady, and his face, as usual, showed
no emotion, but I should have been an Italian for nothing had I
not understood quickly. So I waited for a little while, then
spoke of old Pilatus out there in the sky, and we went to bed
very late, for it was out last night in Lucerne.
Two days later we roared our way out of the gloomy St. Gotthard
and wound down the pass, out into the sunshine of Italy, into
that broad plain of mulberries where the silkworms weave to
enrich the proud Milanese. Ah, those Milanese! They are like the
people of Turin, and look down upon us of Naples; they find us
only amusing, because our minds and movements are too quick for
them to understand. I have no respect for the Milanese, except
for three things: they have a cathedral, a picture, and a dead
We came to our hotel in the soft twilight, with the air so balmy
one wished to rise and float in it. This was the hour for the
Cathedral; therefore, leaving Leonardo and his fresco for the
to-morrow, I conducted my uncomplaining ward forth, and through
that big arcade of which the people are so proud, to the Duomo.
Poor Jr. showed few signs of life as we stood before that
immenseness; he said patiently that it resembled the postals,
and followed me inside the portals with languor.
It was all grey hollowness in the vast place. The windows showed
not any colour nor light; the splendid pillars soared up into
the air and disappeared as if they mounted to heights of
invisibility in the sky at night. Very far away, at the other
end of the church it seemed, one lamp was burning, high over the
transept. One could not see the chains of support nor the roof
above it; it seemed a great star, but so much all alone. We
walked down the long aisle to stand nearer to it, the darkness
growing deeper as we advanced. When we came almost beneath, both
of us gazing upward, my companion unwittingly stumbled against a
lady who was standing silently looking up at this light, and who
had failed to notice our approach. The contact was severe enough
to dislodge from her hand her folded parasol, for which I began
There was a hurried sentence of excusation from Poor Jr.,
followed by moments of silence before she replied. Then I heard
her voice in startled exclamation:
"Rufus, it is never you?"
He called out, almost loudly,
Then I knew that it was the second time I had lifted a parasol
from the ground for the lady of the grey pongee and did not see
her face; but this time I placed it in her own hand; for my head
bore no shame upon it now.
In the surprise of encountering Poor Jr. I do not think she
noticed that she took the parasol or was conscious of my
presence, and it was but too secure that my young friend had
forgotten that I lived. I think, in truth, I should have
forgotten it myself, if it had not been for the leaping of my
Ah, that foolish dream of mine had proven true: I knew her, I
knew her, unmistaking, without doubt or hesitancy--and in the
dark! How should I know at the mere sound of her voice? I think
I knew before she spoke!
Poor Jr. had taken a step toward her as she fell back; I could
only see the two figures as two shadows upon shadow, while for
them I had melted altogether and was forgotten.
"You think I have followed you," he cried, "but you have no
right to think it. It was an accident and you've got to believe
"I believe you," she answered gently. "Why should I not?"
"I suppose you want me to clear out again," he went on, "and I
will; but I don't see why."
Her voice answered him out of the shadow: "It is only you who
make a reason why. I'd give anything to be friends with you;
you've always known that."
"Why can't we be?" he said, sharply and loudly. "I've changed a
great deal. I'm very sensible, and I'll never bother you again
-- that other way. Why shouldn't I see a little of you?"
I heard her laugh then--happily, it seemed to me,--and I
thought I perceived her to extend her hand to him, and that he
shook it briefly, in his fashion, as if it had been the hand of
a man and not that of the beautiful lady.
"You know I should like nothing better in the world--since you
tell me what you do," she answered.
"And the other man?" he asked her, with the same hinting of
sharpness in his tone. "Is that all settled?"
"Almost. Would you like me to tell you?"
"Only a little--please!"
His voice had dropped, and he spoke very quietly, which
startlingly caused me to realize what I was doing. I went out of
hearing then, very softly. Is it creible that I found myself
trembling when I reached the twilit piazza? It is true, and I
knew that never, for one moment, since that tragic, divine day
of her pity, had I wholly despaired of beholding her again; that
in my most sorrowful time there had always been a little, little
morsel of certain knowledge that I should some day be near her
And now, so much was easily revealed to me: it was to see her
that the good Lambert R. Poor Jr., had come to Paris, preceding
my patron; it was he who had passed with her on the last day of
my shame, and whom she had addressed by his central name of
Rufus, and it was to his hand that I had restored her parasol.
I was to look upon her face at last--I knew it--and to speak
with her. Ah, yes, I did tremble! It was not because I feared
she might recognize her poor slave of the painted head-top, nor
that Poor Jr. would tell her. I knew him now too well to think
he would do that, had I been even that other of whom he had
spoken, for he was a brave, good boy, that Poor Jr. No, it was a
trembling of another kind--something I do not know how to
explain to those who have not trembled in the same way; and I
came alone to my room in the hotel, still trembling a little and
having strange quickness of breathing in my chest.
I did not make any light; I did not wish it, for the precious
darkness of the Cathedral remained with me--magic darkness in
which I beheld floating clouds made of the dust of gold and
vanishing melodies. Any person who knows of these singular
things comprehends how little of them can be told; but to those
people who do not know of them, it may appear all great
foolishness. Such people are either too young, and they must
wait, or too old--they have forgotten!
It was an hour afterward, and Poor Jr. had knocked twice at my
door, when I lighted the room and opened it to him. He came in,
excitedly flushed, and, instead of taking a chair, began to walk
quickly up and down the floor.
"I'm afraid I forgot all about you, Ansolini," he said, "but
that girl I ran into is a--a Miss Landry, whom I have known a
I put my hand on his shoulder for a moment and said:
"I think I am not so dull, my friend!"
He made a blue flash at me with his eyes, then smiled and shook
"Yes, you are right," he answered, re-beginning his fast pace
over the carpet. "It was she that I meant in Lucerne--I don't
see why I should not tell you. In Paris she said she didn't want
me to see her again until I could be--freiendly--the old way
instead of something considerably different, which I'd grown
to be. Well, I've just told her not only that I'd behave like a
friend, but that I'd changed and felt like one. Pretty much of a
lie that was!" He laighed, without any amusement. "But it was
successful, and I suppose I can keep it up. At any rate we're
going over to Venice with her and her mother to-morrow.
Afterwards, we'll see them in Naples just before they sail."
"To Venice with them!" I could not repress crying out.
"Yes; we join parties for two days," he said, and stopped at a
window and looked out attentively at nothing before he went on:
"It won't be very long, and I don't suppose it will ever happen
again. The other man is to meet them in Rome. He's a countryman
of yours, and I believe--I believe it's--about--settled!"
He pronounced these last words in an even voice, but how slowly!
Not more slowly than the construction of my own response, which
I heard myself making:
"This countryman of mine--who is he?"
"One of your kind of Kentucky Colonels," Poor Jr. laughed
mournfully. At first I did not understand; then it came to me
that he had sometimes previously spoken in that idiom of the
nobles, and that it had been his custom to address one of his
Parisian followers, a vicomte, as "Colonel."
"What is his name?"
"I can't pronounce it, and I don't know how to spell it," he
answered. "And that doesn't bring me to the verge of the grave!
I can bear to forget it, at least until we get to Naples!"
He turned and went to the door, saying, cheerfully: "Well, old
horse-thief" (such had come to be his name for me sometimes, and
it was pleasant to hear), "we must be dressing. They're at this
hotel, and we dine with them to-night."
How can I tell of the lady of the pongee--now that I beheld
her? Do you think that, when she came that night to the salon
where we were awaiting her, I hesitated to lift my eyes to her
face because of a fear that it would not be so beautiful as the
misty sweet face I had dreamed would be hers? Ah, no! It was the
beauty which was in her heart that had made me hers; yet I knew
that she was beautiful. She was fair, that is all I can tell. I
cannot tell of her eyes, her height, her mouth; I saw her
through those clouds of the dust of gold--she was all glamour
and light. It was to be seen that everyone fell in love with her
at once; that the chef d'orchestre came and played to her; and
the waiters--you should have observed them!--made silly,
tender faces through the great groves of flowers with which Poor
Jr. had covered the table. It was most difficult for me to
address her, to call her "Miss Landry." It seemed impossible
that she should have a name, or that I should speak to her
except as "you."
Even, I cannot tell very much of her mother, except that she was
adorable because of her adorable relationship. She was florid,
perhaps, and her conversation was of commonplaces and echoes,
like my own, for I could not talk. It was Poor Jr. who made the
talking, and in spite of the spell that was on me, I found
myself full of admiration and sorrow for that brave fellow. He
was all gaieties and little stories in a way I had never heard
before; he kept us in quiet laughter; in a word, he was
charming. The beautiful lady seemed content to listen with the
greatest pleasure. She talked very little, except to encourage
the young man to continue. I do not think she was brilliant, as
they call it, or witty. She was much more than that in her
comprehension, in her kindness--her beautiful kindness!
She spoke only once directly to me, except for the little things
one must say. "I am almost sure I have met you, Signor
I felt myself burning up and knew that the conflagration was
visible. So frightful a blush cannot be prevented by will-power,
and I felt it continuing in hot waves long after Poor Jr. had
effected salvation for me by a small joke upon my
Little sleep visited me that night. The darkness of my room was
luminous and my closed eyes became painters, painting so
radiantly with divine colours--painters of wonderful portraits
of this lady. Gallery after gallery swam before me, and the
morning brought only more!
What a ride it was to Venice that day! What magical airs we rode
through, and what a thieving old trickster was time, as he
always becomes when one wishes hours to be long! I think Poor
Jr. had made himself forget everything except that he was with
her and that he must be a friend. He committed a thousand
ridiculousnesses at the stations; he filled one side of the
compartment with the pretty chianti-bottles, with terrible
cakes, and with fruits and flowers; he never ceased his joking,
which had no tiresomeness in it, and he made the little journey
one of continuing, happy laughter.
And that evening another of my foolish dreams came true! I sat
in a gondola with the lady of the grey pongee to hear the
singing on the Grand Canal;--not, it is true, at her feet, but
upon a little chair beside her mother. It was my place--to be,
as I had been all day, escort to the mother, and guide and
courier for that small party. Contented enough was I to accept
it! How could I have hoped that the Most Blessed Mother would
grant me so much nearness as that? It was not happiness that I
felt, but something so much more precious, as though my heart-
strings were the strings of a harp, and sad, beautiful arpeggios
ran over them.
I could not speak much that evening, nor could Poor Jr. We were
very silent and listened to the singing, our gondola just
touching the others on each side, those in turn touching others,
so that a musician from the barge could cross from one to
another, presenting the hat for contributions. In spite of this
extreme propinquity, I feared the collector would fall into the
water when he received the offering of Poor Jr. It was
"Gra-a-az', Mi-lor! Graz'!" a hundred times, with bows and
grateful smiles indeed!
It is the one place in the world where you listen to a bad voice
with pleasure, and none of the voices are good--they are harsh
and worn with the night-singing--yet all are beautiful because
they are enchanted.
They sang some of our own Neapolitan songs that night, and last
of all the loveliest of all, "La Luna Nova." It was to the
cadence of it that our gondoliers moved us out of the throng,
and it still drifted on the water as we swung, far down, into
sight of the lights of the Ledo:
"Luna d'ar-gen-to fal-lo so-gnar--
Ba-cia-lo in fron-te non lo de-star. . . ."
Not so sweetly came those measures as the low voice of the
beautiful lady speaking them.
"One could never forget it, never!" she said. "I might hear it a
thousand other times and forget them, but never this first
I perceived that Poor Jr. turned his face abruptly toward hers
at this, but he said nothing, by which I understood not only his
wisdom but his forbearance.
"Strangely enough," she went on, slowly, "that song reminded me
of something in Paris. Do you remember"--she turned to Poor
Jr.--"that poor man we saw in front of the Cafe' de la Paix
with the sign painted upon his head?"
Ah, the good-night, with its friendly cloak! The good, kind
"I remember," he answered, with some shortness. "A little
"I don't know what made it," she said, "I can't account for it,
but I've been thinking of him all through that last song."
Perhaps not so strange, since one may know how wildly that poor
devil had been thinking of her!
"I've thought of him so often," the gentle voice went on. "I
felt so sorry for him. I never felt sorrier for any one in my
life. I was sorry for the poor, thin cab-horses in Paris, but I
was sorrier for him. I think it was the saddest sight I ever
saw. Do you suppose he still has to do that, Rufus?"
"No, no," he answered, in haste. "He'd stopped before I left.
He's all right, I imagine. Here's the Danieli."
She fastened a shawl more closely about her mother, whom I, with
a ringing in my ears, was trying to help up the stone steps.
"Rufus, I hope," the sweet voice continued, so gently,--"I
hope he's found something to do that's very grand! Don't you?
Something to make up to him for doing that!"
She had not the faintest dream that it was I. It was just her
The next afternoon Venice was a bleak and empty setting, the
jewel gone. How vacant it looked, how vacant it was! We made not
any effort to penetrate the galleries; I had no heart to urge my
friend. For us the whole of Venice had become one bridge of
sighs, and we sat in the shade of the piazza, not watching the
pigeons, and listening very little to the music. There are times
when St. Mark's seems to glare at you with Byzantine cruelty,
and Venice is too hot and too cold. So it was then. Evening
found us staring out at the Adriatic from the terrace of a cafe'
on the Ledo, our coffee cold before us. Never was a greater
difference than that in my companion from the previous day. Yet
he was not silent. He talked of her continually, having found
that he could talk of her to me--though certainly he did not
know why it was or how. He told me, as we sat by the grey-
growing sea, that she had spoken of me.
"She liked you, she liked you very much," he said. "She told me
she liked you because you were quiet and melancholy. Oh Lord,
though, she likes everyone, I suppose! I believe I'd have a
better chance with her if I hadn't always known her. I'm afraid
that this damn Italian--I beg your pardon, Ansolini!--"
"Ah, no," I answered. "It is sometimes well said."
"I'm afraid his picturesqueness as a Kentucky Colonel appeals to
her too much. And then he is new to her--a new type. She only
met him in Paris, and he had done some things in the Abyssinian
"What is his rank?" I asked.
"He's a prince. Cheap down this way; aren't they? I only hope"
--and Poor Jr. made a groan--"it isn't going to be the old
story--and that he'll be good to her if he gets her."
"Then it is not yet a betrothal?"
"Not yet. Mrs. Landry told me that Alice had liked him well
enough to promise she'd give him her answer before she sailed,
and that it was going to be yes. She herself said it was almost
settled. That was just her way of breaking it to me, I fear."
"You have given up, my friend?"
"What else can I do? I can't go on following her, keeping up
this play at second cousin, and she won't have anything else.
Ever since I grew up she's been rather sorrowful over me because
I didn't do anything but try to amuse myself--that was one of
the reasons she couldn't care for me, she said, when I asked
her. Now this fellow wins, who hasn't done anything either,
except his one campaign. It's not that I ought to have her, but
while I suppose it's a real fascination, I'm afraid there's a
little glitter about being a princess. Even the best of our
girls haven't got over that yet. Ah, well, about me she's right.
I've been a pretty worthless sort. She's right. I've thought it
all over. Three days before they sail we'll go down to Naples
and hear the last word, and whatever it is we'll see them off on
the 'Princess Irene.' Then you and I'll come north and sail by
the first boat from Cherbourg.
"I--I?" I stammered.
"Yes," he said. "I'm going to make the aged parent shout with
unmanly glee. I'm going to ask him to take me on as a hand.
He'll take you, too. He uses something like a thousand Italians,
and a man to manage them who can talk to them like a Dutch uncle
is what he has always needed. He liked you, and he'll be glad to
He was a good friend, that Poor Jr., you see, and I shook the
hand that he offered me very hard, knowing how great would have
been his embarrassment had I embraced him in our own fashion.
"And perhaps you will sail on the 'Princess Irene,' after all,"
"No," he shook his head sadly, "it will not happen. I have not
been worth it."
That Naples of mine is like a soiled coronet of white gems,
sparkling only from far away. But I love it altogether, near or
far, and my heart would have leaped to return to it for its own
sake, but to come to it as we did, knowing that the only lady in
the world was there. . . . Again, this is one of those things I
possess no knowledge how to tell, and that those who know do
know. How I had longed for the time to come, how I had feared
it, how I had made pictures of it!
Yet I feared not so much as my friend, for he had a dim, small
hope, and I had none. How could I have? I--a man whose head
had been painted? I--for whom her great heart had sorrowed as
for the thin, beaten cab-horses of Paris! Hope? All I could hope
was that she might never know, and I be left with some little
shred of dignity in her eyes!
Who cannot see that it was for my friend to fear? At times, with
him, it was despair, but of that brave kind one loves to see --
never a quiver of the lip, no winking of the eyes to keep tears
back. And I, although of a people who express everything in
every way, I understood what passed within him and found time to
sorrow for him.
Most of all, I sorrowed for him as we waited for her on the
terrace of the Bertolini, that perch on the cliff so high that
even the noises of the town are dulled and mingle with the sound
of the thick surf far below.
Across the city, and beyond, we saw, from the terrace, the old
mountain of the warm heart, smoking amiably, and the lights of
Torre del Greco at its feet, and there, across the bay, I
beheld, as I had nightly so long ago, the lamps of Castellamare,
of Sorrento; then, after a stretch of water, a twinkling which
was Capri. How good it was to know that all these had not taken
advantage of my long absence to run away and vanish, as I had
half feared they would. Those who have lived here love them
well; and it was a happy thought that the beautiful lady knew
them now, and shared them. I had never known quite all their
loveliness until I felt that she knew it too. This was something
that I must never tell her--yet what happiness there was in
I stood close to the railing, with a rambling gaze over this
enchanted earth and sea and sky, while my friend walked
nervously up and down behind me. We had come to Naples in the
late afternoon, and had found a note from Mrs. Landry at our
hotel, asking us for dinner. Poor Jr. had not spoken more than
twice since he had read me this kind invitation, but now I heard
a low exclamation from him, which let me know who was
approaching; and that foolish trembling got hold of me again as
Mrs. Landry came first, with outstretched hand, making some talk
excusing delay; and, after a few paces, followed the loveliest
of all the world. Beside her, in silhouette against the white
window lights of the hotel, I saw the very long, thin figure of
a man, which, even before I recognized it, carried a certain
ominousness to my mind.
Mrs. Landry, in spite of her florid contentedness, had sometimes
a fluttering appearance of trivial agitations.
"The Prince came down from Rome this morning," she said
nervously, and I saw my friend throw back his head like a man
who declines the eye-bandage when they are going to shoot him.
"He is dining with us. I know you will be glad to meet him."
The beautiful lady took Poor Jr.'s hand, more than he hers, for
he seemed dazed, in spite of the straight way he stood, and it
was easy to behold how white his face was. She made the
presentation of us both at the same time, and as the other man
came into the light, my mouth dropped open with wonder at the
singular chances which the littleness of our world brings about.
"Prince Caravacioli, Mr. Poor. And this is Signor Ansolini."
It was my half-brother, that old Antonio!
Never lived any person with more possession of himself than
Antonio; he bowed to each of us with the utmost amiability; and
for expression--all one saw of it was a little streak of light
in his eye-glass.
"It is yourself, Raffaele?" he said to me, in the politest
manner, in our own tongue, the others thinking it some
commonplace, and I knew by his voice that the meeting was as
surprising and as exasperating to him as to me.
Sometimes dazzling flashes of light explode across the eyes of
blind people. Such a thing happened to my own, now, in the
darkness. I found myself hot all over with a certain rashness
that came to me. I felt that anything was possible if I would
but dare enough.
"I am able to see that it is the same yourself!" I answered, and
made the faintest eye-turn toward Miss Landry. Simultaneously
bowing, I let my hand fall upon my pocket--a language which he
understood, and for which (the Blessed Mother be thanked!) he
perceived that I meant to offer battle immediately, though at
that moment he offered me an open smile of benevolence. He knew
nothing of my new cause for war; there was enough of the old!
The others were observing us.
"You have met?" asked the gentle voice of Miss Landry. "You know
"Exceedingly!" I answered, bowing low to her.
"The dinner is waiting in our own salon," said Mrs. Landry,
interrupting. She led the way with Antonio to an open door on
the terrace where servants were attending, and such a forest of
flowers on the table and about the room as almost to cause her
escort to stagger; for I knew, when I caught sight of them, that
he had never been wise enough to send them. Neither had Poor Jr.
done it out of wisdom, but because of his large way of
performing everything, and his wish that loveliest things should
be a background for that lady.
Alas for him! Those great jars of perfume, orchids and hyacinths
and roses, almost shut her away from his vision. We were at a
small round table, and she directly in opposition to him. Upon
her right was Antonio, and my heart grew cold to see how she
listened to him.
For Antonio could talk. At that time he spoke English even
better than I, though without some knowledge of the North-
American idiom which my travels with Poor Jr. had given me. He
was one of those splendid egoists who seem to talk in modesty,
to keep themselves behind scenes, yet who, when the curtain
falls, are discovered to be the heroes, after all, though shown
in so delicate a fashion that the audience flatters itself in
And how practical was this fellow, how many years he had been
developing his fascinations! I was the only person of that small
company who could have a suspicion that his moustache was dyed,
that his hair was toupee, or that hints of his real age were
scorpions and adders to him. I should not have thought it, if I
had not known it. Here was my advantage: I had known his
monstrous vanity all my life.
So he talked of himself in his various surreptitious ways until
coffee came, Miss Landry listening eagerly, and my poor friend
making no effort; for what were his quiet United States
absurdities compared to the whole-world gaieties and Abyssinian
adventures of this Othello, particularly for a young girl to
whom Antonio's type was unfamiliar? For the first time I saw my
young man's brave front desert him. His mouth drooped, and his
eyes had an appearance of having gazed long at a bright light. I
saw that he, unhappy one, was at last too sure what her answer
For myself, I said very little--I waited. I hoped and believed
Antonio would attack me in his clever, disguised way, for he had
always hated me and my dead brother, and he had never failed to
prove himself too skilful for us. In my expectancy of his
assault there was no mistake. I comprehended Antonio very well,
and I knew that he feared I might seek to do him an injury,
particularly after my inspired speech and gesture upon the
terrace. Also, I felt that he would, if possible, anticipate my
attempt and strike first. I was willing; for I thought myself in
possession of his vulnerable point--never dreaming that he
might know my own!
At last when he, with the coffee and cigarettes, took the knife
in his hand, he placed a veil over the point. He began,
laughingly, with the picture of a pickpocket he had helped to
catch in London. London was greatly inhabited by pickpockets,
according to Antonio's declaration. Yet, he continued, it was
nothing in comparison to Paris. Paris was the rendezvous, the
world's home, for the criminals, adventurers, and rascals if the
world, English, Spanish, South-Americans, North-Americans,--
and even Italians! One must beware of people one had met in
"Of course," he concluded, with a most amiable smile, "there are
many good people there also. That is not to be forgotten. If I
should dare to make a risk on such a trifle, for instance, I
would lay wager that you"--he nodded toward Poor Jr.--"made
the acquaintance of Ansolini in Paris?"
This was of the greatest ugliness in its underneath
significance, though the manner was disarming. Antonio's smile
was so cheerful, his eye-glass so twinkling, that none of them
could have been sure he truly meant anything harmful of me,
though Poor Jr. looked up, puzzled and frowning.
Before he could answer I pulled myself altogether, as they say,
and leaned forward, resting my elbows upon the table. "It is
true," and I tried to smile as amiably as Antonio. "These
coincidences occur. You meet all the great frauds of the world
in Paris. Was it not there"--I turned to Mrs. Landry--"that
you met the young Prince here?"
At this there was no mistaking that the others perceived. The
secret battle had begun and was not secret. I saw a wild gleam
in Poor Jr.'s eyes, as if he comprehended that strange things
were to come; but, ah, the face of distress and wonder upon Mrs.
Landry, who beheld the peace of both a Prince and a dinner
assailed; and, alas! the strange and hurt surprise that came
from the lady of the pongee! Let me not be a boastful fellow,
but I had borne her pity and had adored it--I could face her
wonder, even her scorn.
It was in the flash of her look that I saw my great chance and
what I must try to do. Knowing Antonio, it was as if I saw her
falling into the deep water and caught just one contemptuous
glance from her before the waves hid her. But how much juster
should that contempt have been if I had not tried to save her!
As for that old Antonio, he might have known enough to beware. I
had been timid with him always, and he counted on it now, but a
man who has shown a painted head-top to the people of Paris will
dare a great deal.
"As the Prince says," replied Mrs. Landry, with many flutters,
"one meets only the most agreeable people in Paris!"
"Paris!" I exclaimed. "Ah, that home of ingenuity! How they
paint there! How they live, and how they dye--their beards!"
You see how the poor Ansolini played the buffoon. I knew they
feared it was wine, I had been so silent until now; but I did
not care, I was beyond care.
"Our young Prince speaks truly," I cried, raising my voice. "He
is wise beyond his years, this youth! He will be great when he
reaches middle age, for he knows Paris and understands North
America! Like myself, he is grateful that the people of your
continent enrich our own! We need all that you can give us!
Where should we be--any of us" (I raised my voice still louder
and waved my hand to Antonio),--"where should we be, either of
us" (and I bowed to the others) "without you?"
Mrs. Landry rose with precipitousness, and the beautiful lady,
very red, followed. Antonio, unmistakably stung with the
scorpions I had set upon him, sprang to the door, the palest
yellow man I have ever beheld, and let the ladies pass before
The next moment I was left alone with Poor Jr. and his hyacinth
For several minutes neither of us spoke. Then I looked up to
meet my friend's gaze of perturbation.
A waiter was proffering cigars. I took one, and waved Poor Jr.'s
hand away from the box of which the waiter made offering.
"Do not remain!" I whispered, and I saw his sad perplexity. "I
know her answer has not been given. Will you present him his
chance to receive it--just when her sympathy must be stronger
for him, since she will think he has had to bear rudeness?"
He went out of the door quickly.
I dod not smoke. I pretended to, while the waiters made the
arrangements of the table and took themselves off. I sat there a
long, long time waiting for Antonio to do what I hoped I had
betrayed him to do.
It befell at last.
Poor Jr. came to the door and spoke in his steady voice.
"Ansolini, will you come out here a moment?"
Then I knew that I had succeeded, had made Antonio afraid that I
would do the thing he himself, in a panic, had already done --
speak evil of another privately.
As I reached the door I heard him call out foolishly, "But Mr.
Poor, I beg you--"
Poor Jr. put his hand on my shoulder, and we walked out into the
dark of the terrace. Antonio was leaning against the railing,
the beautiful lady standing near. Mrs. Landry had sunk into a
chair beside her daughter. No other people were upon the
"Prince Caravacioli has been speaking of you," said Poor Jr.,
"Ah?" said I.
"I listened to what he said; then I told him that you were my
friend, and that I considered it fair that you should hear what
he had to say. I will repeat what he said, Ansolini. If I
mistake anything, he can interrupt me."
Antonio laughed, and in such a way, so sincerely, so gaily, that
I was frightened.
"Very good!" he cried. "I am content. Repeat all."
"He began," Poor Jr. went on, quietly, though his hand gripped
my shoulder to almost painfulness,--"he began by saying to
these ladies, in my presence, that we should be careful not to
pick up chance strangers to dine, in Italy, and--and he went
on to give me a repetition of his friendly warning about Paris.
He hinted things for a while, until I asked him to say what he
knew of you. Then he said he knew all about you; that you were
an outcast, a left-handed member of his own family, an
"It is finished, my friend," I said, interrupting him, and gazed
with all my soul upon the beautiful lady. Her face was as white
as Antonio's or that of my friend, or as my own must have been.
She strained her eyes at me fixedly; I saw the tears standing
still in them, and I knew the moment had come.
"This Caravacioli is my half-brother," I said.
Antonio laughed again. "Of what kind!"
Oh, he went on so easily to his betrayal, not knowing the
United-Statesians and their sentiment, as I did.
"We had the same mother," I continued, as quietly as I could.
"Twenty years after this young--this somewhat young--Prince
was born she divorced his father, Caravacioli, and married a
poor poet, whose bust you can see on the Pincian in Rome, though
he died in the cheapest hotel in Sienna when my true brother and
I were children. This young Prince would have nothing to do with
my mother after her second marriage and--"
"Marriage!" Antonio laughed pleasantly again. He was admirable.
"This is an old tale which the hastiness of our American friend
has forced us to rehearse. The marriage was never recognized by
the Vatican, and there was not twenty years--"
"Antonio, it is the age which troubles you, after all!" I said,
and laughed heartily, loudly, and a long time, in the most good-
natured way, not to be undone as an actor.
"Twenty years," I repeated. "But what of it? Some of the best
men in the world use dyes and false--"
At this his temper went away from him suddenly and completely. I
had struck the right point indeed!
"You cammorrista!" he cried, and became only himself, his hands
gesturing and flying, all his pleasant manner gone. "Why should
we listen one second more to such a fisherman! The very seiners
of the bay who sell dried sea-horses to the tourists are better
gentlemen than you. You can shrug your shoulders! I saw you in
Paris, though you thought I did not! Oh, I saw you well! Ah! At
the Cafe de la Paiz!"
At this I cried out suddenly. The sting and surprise of it were
more than I could bear. In my shame I would even have tried to
drown his voice with babblings but after this one cry I could
not speak for a while. He went on triumphantly:
"This rascal, my dear ladies, who has persuaded you to ask him
to dinner, this camel who claims to be my excellent brother, he,
for a few francs, in Paris, shaved his head and showed it for a
week to the people with an advertisement painted upon it of the
worst ballet in Paris. This is the gentleman with whom you ask
Caravacioli to dine!"
It was beyond my expectation, so astonishing and so cruel that I
could only look at him for a moment or two. I felt as one who
dreams himself falling forever. Then I stepped forward and
spoke, in thickness of voice, being unable to lift my head:
"Again it is true what he says. I was that man of the painted
head. I had my true brother's little daughters to care for. They
were at the convent, and I owed for them. It was also partly for
myself, because I was hungry. I could find not any other way,
and so--but that is all."
I turned and went stumblingly away from them.
In my agony that she should know, I could do nothing but seek
greater darkness. I felt myself beaten, dizzy with beatings.
That thing which I had done in Paris discredited me. A man whose
head-top had borne an advertisement of the Folie-Rouge to think
he could be making a combat with the Prince Caravacioli!
Leaning over the railing in the darkest corner of the terrace, I
felt my hand grasped secondarily by that good friend of mine.
"God bless you!" whispered Poor Jr.
"On my soul, I believe he's done himself. Listen!"
I turned. That beautiful lady had stepped out into the light
from the salon door. I could see her face shining, and her eyes
--ah me, how glorious they were! Antonio followed her.
"But wait," he cried pitifully.
"Not for you!" she answered, and that voice of hers, always
before so gentle, rang out as the Roman trumpets once rang from
this same cliff. "Not for you! I saw him there with his painted
head and I understood! You saw him there, and you did nothing to
help him! And the two little children--your nieces, too,--
and he your brother!"
Then my heart melted and I found myself choking, for the
beautiful lady was weeping.
"Not for you, Prince Caravacioli," she cried, through her tears,
--"Not for you!"
All of the beggars in Naples, I think, all of the flower-girls
and boys, I am sure, and all the wandering serenaders, I will
swear, were under our windows at the Vesuve, from six o'clock on
the morning the "Princess Irene" sailed; and there need be no
wonder when it is known that Poor Jr. had thrown handfuls of
silver and five-lire notes from our balcony to strolling
orchestras and singers for two nights before.
They wakened us with "Addio, la bella Napoli, addio, addio!"
sung to the departing benefactor. When he had completed his
toilet and his coffee, he showed himself on the balcony to them
for a moment. Ah! What a resounding cheer for the signore, the
great North-American nobleman! And how it swelled to a
magnificent thundering when another largess of his came flying
down among them!
Who could have reproved him? Not Raffaele Ansolini, who was on
his knees over the bags and rugs! I think I even made some
prolongation of that position, for I was far from assured of my
countenance, that bright morning.
I was not to sail in the "Princess Irene" with those dear
friends. Ah no! I had told them that I must go back to Paris to
say good-bye to my little nieces and sail from Boulogne--and I
am sure they believed that was my reason. I had even arranged to
go away upon a train which would make it not possible for me to
drive to the dock with them. I did not wish to see the boat
carry them away from me.
And so the farewells were said in the street in all that crowd.
Poor Jr. and I were waiting at the door when the carriage
galloped up. How the crowd rushed to see that lady whom it bore
to us, blushing and laughing! Clouds of gold-dust came before my
eyes again; she wore once more that ineffable grey pongee!
Servants ran forward with the effects of Poor Jr. and we both
sprang toward the carriage.
A flower-girl was offering a great basket of loose violets. Poor
Jr. seized it and threw them like a blue rain over the two
A hundred bouquets showered into the carriage, and my friend's
silver went out in another shower to meet them.
"Addio, la bella Napoli!" came from the singers and the violins,
but I cried to them for "La Luna Nova."
"Good-bye--for a little while--good-bye!"
I knew how well my friend liked me, because he shook my hand
with his head turned away. Then the grey glove of the beautiful
lady touched my shoulder--the lightest touch in all the world
--as I stood close to the carriage while Poor Jr. climbed in.
"Good-bye. Thank you--and God bless you!" she said, in a low
voice. And I knew for what she thanked me.
The driver cracked his whip like an honest Neapolitan. The
horses sprang forward. "Addio, addio!"
I sang with the musicians, waving and waving and waving my
handkerchief to the departing carriage.
Now I saw my friend lean over and take the beautiful lady by the
hand, and together they stood up in the carriage and waved their
handkerchiefs to me. Then, but not because they had passed out
of sight, I could see them not any longer.
They were so good--that kind Poor Jr. and the beautiful lady;
they seemed like dear children--as if they had been my own