Part 5 out of 5
"I will take them."
"Dieu!" murmured the gardener in a perspiration, "he's madder than most
"Send it with the rest."
The gardener braced himself against the river wall.
"That splendid rose-bush," he began faintly.
"That is a beauty. I believe it is fifty francs--"
He stopped, very red. The gardener relished his confusion. Then a sudden
cool self-possession took the place of his momentary confusion and he held
the gardener with his eye, and bullied him.
"I'll take that bush. Why did not the young lady buy it?"
"Mademoiselle is not wealthy."
"How do you know?"
"_Dame_, I sell her many pansies; pansies are not expensive."
"Those are the pansies she bought?"
"These, Monsieur, the blue and gold."
"Then you intend to send them to her?"
"At mid-day after the market."
"Take this rose-bush with them, and"--here he glared at the
gardener--"don't you dare say from whom they came." The gardener's eyes
were like saucers, but Selby, calm and victorious, said: "Send the others
to the Hotel du Senat, 7 rue de Tournon. I will leave directions with the
Then he buttoned his glove with much dignity and stalked off, but when
well around the corner and hidden from the gardener's view, the conviction
that he was an idiot came home to him in a furious blush. Ten minutes
later he sat in his room in the Hotel du Senat repeating with an imbecile
smile: "What an ass I am, what an ass!"
An hour later found him in the same chair, in the same position, his hat
and gloves still on, his stick in his hand, but he was silent, apparently
lost in contemplation of his boot toes, and his smile was less imbecile
and even a bit retrospective.
About five o'clock that afternoon, the little sad-eyed woman who fills the
position of concierge at the Hotel du Senat held up her hands in amazement
to see a wagon-load of flower-bearing shrubs draw up before the doorway.
She called Joseph, the intemperate garcon, who, while calculating the
value of the flowers in _petits verres_, gloomily disclaimed any knowledge
as to their destination.
"_Voyons_," said the little concierge, "_cherchons la femme_!"
"You?" he suggested.
The little woman stood a moment pensive and then sighed. Joseph caressed
his nose, a nose which for gaudiness could vie with any floral display.
Then the gardener came in, hat in hand, and a few minutes later Selby
stood in the middle of his room, his coat off, his shirt-sleeves rolled
up. The chamber originally contained, besides the furniture, about two
square feet of walking room, and now this was occupied by a cactus. The
bed groaned under crates of pansies, lilies and heliotrope, the lounge was
covered with hyacinths and tulips, and the washstand supported a species
of young tree warranted to bear flowers at some time or other.
Clifford came in a little later, fell over a box of sweet peas, swore a
little, apologized, and then, as the full splendour of the floral _fete_
burst upon him, sat down in astonishment upon a geranium. The geranium was
a wreck, but Selby said, "Don't mind," and glared at the cactus.
"Are you going to give a ball?" demanded Clifford.
"N--no,--I'm very fond of flowers," said Selby, but the statement lacked
"I should imagine so." Then, after a silence, "That's a fine cactus."
Selby contemplated the cactus, touched it with the air of a connoisseur,
and pricked his thumb.
Clifford poked a pansy with his stick. Then Joseph came in with the bill,
announcing the sum total in a loud voice, partly to impress Clifford,
partly to intimidate Selby into disgorging a _pourboire_ which he would
share, if he chose, with the gardener. Clifford tried to pretend that he
had not heard, while Selby paid bill and tribute without a murmur. Then he
lounged back into the room with an attempt at indifference which failed
entirely when he tore his trousers on the cactus.
Clifford made some commonplace remark, lighted a cigarette and looked out
of the window to give Selby a chance. Selby tried to take it, but getting
as far as--"Yes, spring is here at last," froze solid. He looked at the
back of Clifford's head. It expressed volumes. Those little perked-up ears
seemed tingling with suppressed glee. He made a desperate effort to master
the situation, and jumped up to reach for some Russian cigarettes as an
incentive to conversation, but was foiled by the cactus, to whom again he
fell a prey. The last straw was added.
"Damn the cactus." This observation was wrung from Selby against his
will,--against his own instinct of self-preservation, but the thorns on
the cactus were long and sharp, and at their repeated prick his pent-up
wrath escaped. It was too late now; it was done, and Clifford had wheeled
"See here, Selby, why the deuce did you buy those flowers?"
"I'm fond of them," said Selby.
"What are you going to do with them? You can't sleep here."
"I could, if you'd help me take the pansies off the bed."
"Where can you put them?"
"Couldn't I give them to the concierge?"
As soon as he said it he regretted it. What in Heaven's name would
Clifford think of him! He had heard the amount of the bill. Would he
believe that he had invested in these luxuries as a timid declaration to
his concierge? And would the Latin Quarter comment upon it in their own
brutal fashion? He dreaded ridicule and he knew Clifford's reputation.
Then somebody knocked.
Selby looked at Clifford with a hunted expression which touched that young
man's heart. It was a confession and at the same time a supplication.
Clifford jumped up, threaded his way through the floral labyrinth, and
putting an eye to the crack of the door, said, "Who the devil is it?"
This graceful style of reception is indigenous to the Quarter.
"It's Elliott," he said, looking back, "and Rowden too, and their
bulldogs." Then he addressed them through the crack.
"Sit down on the stairs; Selby and I are coming out directly."
Discretion is a virtue. The Latin Quarter possesses few, and discretion
seldom figures on the list. They sat down and began to whistle.
Presently Rowden called out, "I smell flowers. They feast within!"
"You ought to know Selby better than that," growled Clifford behind the
door, while the other hurriedly exchanged his torn trousers for others.
"_We_ know Selby," said Elliott with emphasis.
"Yes," said Rowden, "he gives receptions with floral decorations and
invites Clifford, while we sit on the stairs."
"Yes, while the youth and beauty of the Quarter revel," suggested Rowden;
then, with sudden misgiving; "Is Odette there?"
"See here," demanded Elliott, "is Colette there?"
Then he raised his voice in a plaintive howl, "Are you there, Colette,
while I'm kicking my heels on these tiles?"
"Clifford is capable of anything," said Rowden; "his nature is soured
since Rue Barree sat on him."
Elliott raised his voice: "I say, you fellows, we saw some flowers carried
into Rue Barree's house at noon."
"Posies and roses," specified Rowden.
"Probably for her," added Elliott, caressing his bulldog.
Clifford turned with sudden suspicion upon Selby. The latter hummed a
tune, selected a pair of gloves and, choosing a dozen cigarettes, placed
them in a case. Then walking over to the cactus, he deliberately detached
a blossom, drew it through his buttonhole, and picking up hat and stick,
smiled upon Clifford, at which the latter was mightily troubled.
Monday morning at Julian's, students fought for places; students with
prior claims drove away others who had been anxiously squatting on coveted
tabourets since the door was opened in hopes of appropriating them at
roll-call; students squabbled over palettes, brushes, portfolios, or rent
the air with demands for Ciceri and bread. The former, a dirty ex-model,
who had in palmier days posed as Judas, now dispensed stale bread at one
sou and made enough to keep himself in cigarettes. Monsieur Julian walked
in, smiled a fatherly smile and walked out. His disappearance was followed
by the apparition of the clerk, a foxy creature who flitted through the
battling hordes in search of prey.
Three men who had not paid dues were caught and summoned. A fourth was
scented, followed, outflanked, his retreat towards the door cut off, and
finally captured behind the stove. About that time, the revolution
assuming an acute form, howls rose for "Jules!"
Jules came, umpired two fights with a sad resignation in his big brown
eyes, shook hands with everybody and melted away in the throng, leaving an
atmosphere of peace and good-will. The lions sat down with the lambs, the
massiers marked the best places for themselves and friends, and, mounting
the model stands, opened the roll-calls.
The word was passed, "They begin with C this week."
Clisson jumped like a flash and marked his name on the floor in chalk
before a front seat.
Caron galloped away to secure his place. Bang! went an easel. "_Nom de
Dieu_!" in French,--"Where in h--l are you goin'!" in English. Crash! a
paintbox fell with brushes and all on board. "_Dieu de Dieu de_--" spat! A
blow, a short rush, a clinch and scuffle, and the voice of the massier,
stern and reproachful:
Then the roll-call was resumed.
The massier paused and looked up, one finger between the leaves of the
Clifford was not there. He was about three miles away in a direct line and
every instant increased the distance. Not that he was walking fast,--on
the contrary, he was strolling with that leisurely gait peculiar to
himself. Elliott was beside him and two bulldogs covered the rear. Elliott
was reading the "Gil Blas," from which he seemed to extract amusement, but
deeming boisterous mirth unsuitable to Clifford's state of mind, subdued
his amusement to a series of discreet smiles. The latter, moodily aware of
this, said nothing, but leading the way into the Luxembourg Gardens
installed himself upon a bench by the northern terrace and surveyed the
landscape with disfavour. Elliott, according to the Luxembourg
regulations, tied the two dogs and then, with an interrogative glance
toward his friend, resumed the "Gil Blas" and the discreet smiles.
The day was perfect. The sun hung over Notre Dame, setting the city in a
glitter. The tender foliage of the chestnuts cast a shadow over the
terrace and flecked the paths and walks with tracery so blue that Clifford
might here have found encouragement for his violent "impressions" had he
but looked; but as usual in this period of his career, his thoughts were
anywhere except in his profession. Around about, the sparrows quarrelled
and chattered their courtship songs, the big rosy pigeons sailed from tree
to tree, the flies whirled in the sunbeams and the flowers exhaled a
thousand perfumes which stirred Clifford with languorous wistfulness.
Under this influence he spoke.
"Elliott, you are a true friend--"
"You make me ill," replied the latter, folding his paper. "It's just as I
thought,--you are tagging after some new petticoat again. And," he
continued wrathfully, "if this is what you've kept me away from Julian's
for,--if it's to fill me up with the perfections of some little idiot--"
"Not idiot," remonstrated Clifford gently.
"See here," cried Elliott, "have you the nerve to try to tell me that you
are in love again?"
"Yes, again and again and again and--by George have you?"
"This," observed Clifford sadly, "is serious."
For a moment Elliott would have laid hands on him, then he laughed from
sheer helplessness. "Oh, go on, go on; let's see, there's Clemence and
Marie Tellec and Cosette and Fifine, Colette, Marie Verdier--"
"All of whom are charming, most charming, but I never was serious--"
"So help me, Moses," said Elliott, solemnly, "each and every one of those
named have separately and in turn torn your heart with anguish and have
also made me lose my place at Julian's in this same manner; each and every
one, separately and in turn. Do you deny it?"
"What you say may be founded on facts--in a way--but give me the credit of
being faithful to one at a time--"
"Until the next came along."
"But this,--this is really very different. Elliott, believe me, I am all
Then there being nothing else to do, Elliott gnashed his teeth and
"It's--it's Rue Barree."
"Well," observed Elliott, with scorn, "if you are moping and moaning over
_that_ girl,--the girl who has given you and myself every reason to wish
that the ground would open and engulf us,--well, go on!"
"I'm going on,--I don't care; timidity has fled--"
"Yes, your native timidity."
"I'm desperate, Elliott. Am I in love? Never, never did I feel so d--n
miserable. I can't sleep; honestly, I'm incapable of eating properly."
"Same symptoms noticed in the case of Colette."
"Listen, will you?"
"Hold on a moment, I know the rest by heart. Now let me ask you something.
Is it your belief that Rue Barree is a pure girl?"
"Yes," said Clifford, turning red.
"Do you love her,--not as you dangle and tiptoe after every pretty
inanity--I mean, do you honestly love her?"
"Yes," said the other doggedly, "I would--"
"Hold on a moment; would you marry her?"
Clifford turned scarlet. "Yes," he muttered.
"Pleasant news for your family," growled Elliott in suppressed fury.
"'Dear father, I have just married a charming grisette whom I'm sure
you'll welcome with open arms, in company with her mother, a most
estimable and cleanly washlady.' Good heavens! This seems to have gone a
little further than the rest. Thank your stars, young man, that my head is
level enough for us both. Still, in this case, I have no fear. Rue Barree
sat on your aspirations in a manner unmistakably final."
"Rue Barree," began Clifford, drawing himself up, but he suddenly ceased,
for there where the dappled sunlight glowed in spots of gold, along the
sun-flecked path, tripped Rue Barree. Her gown was spotless, and her big
straw hat, tipped a little from the white forehead, threw a shadow across
Elliott stood up and bowed. Clifford removed his head-covering with an air
so plaintive, so appealing, so utterly humble that Rue Barree smiled.
The smile was delicious and when Clifford, incapable of sustaining himself
on his legs from sheer astonishment, toppled slightly, she smiled again in
spite of herself. A few moments later she took a chair on the terrace and
drawing a book from her music-roll, turned the pages, found the place, and
then placing it open downwards in her lap, sighed a little, smiled a
little, and looked out over the city. She had entirely forgotten Foxhall
After a while she took up her book again, but instead of reading began to
adjust a rose in her corsage. The rose was big and red. It glowed like
fire there over her heart, and like fire it warmed her heart, now
fluttering under the silken petals. Rue Barree sighed again. She was very
happy. The sky was so blue, the air so soft and perfumed, the sunshine so
caressing, and her heart sang within her, sang to the rose in her breast.
This is what it sang: "Out of the throng of passers-by, out of the world
of yesterday, out of the millions passing, one has turned aside to me."
So her heart sang under his rose on her breast. Then two big
mouse-coloured pigeons came whistling by and alighted on the terrace,
where they bowed and strutted and bobbed and turned until Rue Barree
laughed in delight, and looking up beheld Clifford before her. His hat was
in his hand and his face was wreathed in a series of appealing smiles
which would have touched the heart of a Bengal tiger.
For an instant Rue Barree frowned, then she looked curiously at Clifford,
then when she saw the resemblance between his bows and the bobbing
pigeons, in spite of herself, her lips parted in the most bewitching
laugh. Was this Rue Barree? So changed, so changed that she did not know
herself; but oh! that song in her heart which drowned all else, which
trembled on her lips, struggling for utterance, which rippled forth in a
laugh at nothing,--at a strutting pigeon,--and Mr. Clifford.
"And you think, because I return the salute of the students in the
Quarter, that you may be received in particular as a friend? I do not know
you, Monsieur, but vanity is man's other name;--be content, Monsieur
Vanity, I shall be punctilious--oh, most punctilious in returning your
"But I beg--I implore you to let me render you that homage which has so
"Oh dear; I don't care for homage."
"Let me only be permitted to speak to you now and then,--occasionally--very
"And if _you_, why not another?"
"Not at all,--I will be discretion itself."
Her eyes were very clear, and Clifford winced for a moment, but only for a
moment. Then the devil of recklessness seizing him, he sat down and
offered himself, soul and body, goods and chattels. And all the time he
knew he was a fool and that infatuation is not love, and that each word he
uttered bound him in honour from which there was no escape. And all the
time Elliott was scowling down on the fountain plaza and savagely checking
both bulldogs from their desire to rush to Clifford's rescue,--for even
they felt there was something wrong, as Elliott stormed within himself and
When Clifford finished, he finished in a glow of excitement, but Rue
Barree's response was long in coming and his ardour cooled while the
situation slowly assumed its just proportions. Then regret began to creep
in, but he put that aside and broke out again in protestations. At the
first word Rue Barree checked him.
"I thank you," she said, speaking very gravely. "No man has ever before
offered me marriage." She turned and looked out over the city. After a
while she spoke again. "You offer me a great deal. I am alone, I have
nothing, I am nothing." She turned again and looked at Paris, brilliant,
fair, in the sunshine of a perfect day. He followed her eyes.
"Oh," she murmured, "it is hard,--hard to work always--always alone with
never a friend you can have in honour, and the love that is offered means
the streets, the boulevard--when passion is dead. I know it,--_we_ know
it,--we others who have nothing,--have no one, and who give ourselves,
unquestioning--when we love,--yes, unquestioning--heart and soul, knowing
She touched the rose at her breast. For a moment she seemed to forget him,
then quietly--"I thank you, I am very grateful." She opened the book and,
plucking a petal from the rose, dropped it between the leaves. Then
looking up she said gently, "I cannot accept."
It took Clifford a month to entirely recover, although at the end of the
first week he was pronounced convalescent by Elliott, who was an
authority, and his convalescence was aided by the cordiality with which
Rue Barree acknowledged his solemn salutes. Forty times a day he blessed
Rue Barree for her refusal, and thanked his lucky stars, and at the same
time, oh, wondrous heart of ours!--he suffered the tortures of the
Elliott was annoyed, partly by Clifford's reticence, partly by the
unexplainable thaw in the frigidity of Rue Barree. At their frequent
encounters, when she, tripping along the rue de Seine, with music-roll and
big straw hat would pass Clifford and his familiars steering an easterly
course to the Cafe Vachette, and at the respectful uncovering of the band
would colour and smile at Clifford, Elliott's slumbering suspicions awoke.
But he never found out anything, and finally gave it up as beyond his
comprehension, merely qualifying Clifford as an idiot and reserving his
opinion of Rue Barree. And all this time Selby was jealous. At first he
refused to acknowledge it to himself, and cut the studio for a day in the
country, but the woods and fields of course aggravated his case, and the
brooks babbled of Rue Barree and the mowers calling to each other across
the meadow ended in a quavering "Rue Bar-ree-e!" That day spent in the
country made him angry for a week, and he worked sulkily at Julian's, all
the time tormented by a desire to know where Clifford was and what he
might be doing. This culminated in an erratic stroll on Sunday which ended
at the flower-market on the Pont au Change, began again, was gloomily
extended to the morgue, and again ended at the marble bridge. It would
never do, and Selby felt it, so he went to see Clifford, who was
convalescing on mint juleps in his garden.
They sat down together and discussed morals and human happiness, and each
found the other most entertaining, only Selby failed to pump Clifford, to
the other's unfeigned amusement. But the juleps spread balm on the sting
of jealousy, and trickled hope to the blighted, and when Selby said he
must go, Clifford went too, and when Selby, not to be outdone, insisted on
accompanying Clifford back to his door, Clifford determined to see Selby
back half way, and then finding it hard to part, they decided to dine
together and "flit." To flit, a verb applied to Clifford's nocturnal
prowls, expressed, perhaps, as well as anything, the gaiety proposed.
Dinner was ordered at Mignon's, and while Selby interviewed the chef,
Clifford kept a fatherly eye on the butler. The dinner was a success, or
was of the sort generally termed a success. Toward the dessert Selby heard
some one say as at a great distance, "Kid Selby, drunk as a lord."
A group of men passed near them; it seemed to him that he shook hands and
laughed a great deal, and that everybody was very witty. There was
Clifford opposite swearing undying confidence in his chum Selby, and there
seemed to be others there, either seated beside them or continually
passing with the swish of skirts on the polished floor. The perfume of
roses, the rustle of fans, the touch of rounded arms and the laughter grew
vaguer and vaguer. The room seemed enveloped in mist. Then, all in a
moment each object stood out painfully distinct, only forms and visages
were distorted and voices piercing. He drew himself up, calm, grave, for
the moment master of himself, but very drunk. He knew he was drunk, and
was as guarded and alert, as keenly suspicious of himself as he would have
been of a thief at his elbow. His self-command enabled Clifford to hold
his head safely under some running water, and repair to the street
considerably the worse for wear, but never suspecting that his companion
was drunk. For a time he kept his self-command. His face was only a bit
paler, a bit tighter than usual; he was only a trifle slower and more
fastidious in his speech. It was midnight when he left Clifford peacefully
slumbering in somebody's arm-chair, with a long suede glove dangling in
his hand and a plumy boa twisted about his neck to protect his throat from
drafts. He walked through the hall and down the stairs, and found himself
on the sidewalk in a quarter he did not know. Mechanically he looked up at
the name of the street. The name was not familiar. He turned and steered
his course toward some lights clustered at the end of the street. They
proved farther away than he had anticipated, and after a long quest he
came to the conclusion that his eyes had been mysteriously removed from
their proper places and had been reset on either side of his head like
those of a bird. It grieved him to think of the inconvenience this
transformation might occasion him, and he attempted to cock up his head,
hen-like, to test the mobility of his neck. Then an immense despair stole
over him,--tears gathered in the tear-ducts, his heart melted, and he
collided with a tree. This shocked him into comprehension; he stifled the
violent tenderness in his breast, picked up his hat and moved on more
briskly. His mouth was white and drawn, his teeth tightly clinched. He
held his course pretty well and strayed but little, and after an
apparently interminable length of time found himself passing a line of
cabs. The brilliant lamps, red, yellow, and green annoyed him, and he felt
it might be pleasant to demolish them with his cane, but mastering this
impulse he passed on. Later an idea struck him that it would save fatigue
to take a cab, and he started back with that intention, but the cabs
seemed already so far away and the lanterns were so bright and confusing
that he gave it up, and pulling himself together looked around.
A shadow, a mass, huge, undefined, rose to his right. He recognized the
Arc de Triomphe and gravely shook his cane at it. Its size annoyed him. He
felt it was too big. Then he heard something fall clattering to the
pavement and thought probably it was his cane but it didn't much matter.
When he had mastered himself and regained control of his right leg, which
betrayed symptoms of insubordination, he found himself traversing the
Place de la Concorde at a pace which threatened to land him at the
Madeleine. This would never do. He turned sharply to the right and
crossing the bridge passed the Palais Bourbon at a trot and wheeled into
the Boulevard St. Germain. He got on well enough although the size of the
War Office struck him as a personal insult, and he missed his cane, which
it would have been pleasant to drag along the iron railings as he passed.
It occurred to him, however, to substitute his hat, but when he found it
he forgot what he wanted it for and replaced it upon his head with
gravity. Then he was obliged to battle with a violent inclination to sit
down and weep. This lasted until he came to the rue de Rennes, but there
he became absorbed in contemplating the dragon on the balcony overhanging
the Cour du Dragon, and time slipped away until he remembered vaguely that
he had no business there, and marched off again. It was slow work. The
inclination to sit down and weep had given place to a desire for solitary
and deep reflection. Here his right leg forgot its obedience and attacking
the left, outflanked it and brought him up against a wooden board which
seemed to bar his path. He tried to walk around it, but found the street
closed. He tried to push it over, and found he couldn't. Then he noticed a
red lantern standing on a pile of paving-stones inside the barrier. This
was pleasant. How was he to get home if the boulevard was blocked? But he
was not on the boulevard. His treacherous right leg had beguiled him into
a detour, for there, behind him lay the boulevard with its endless line of
lamps,--and here, what was this narrow dilapidated street piled up with
earth and mortar and heaps of stone? He looked up. Written in staring
black letters on the barrier was
He sat down. Two policemen whom he knew came by and advised him to get up,
but he argued the question from a standpoint of personal taste, and they
passed on, laughing. For he was at that moment absorbed in a problem. It
was, how to see Rue Barree. She was somewhere or other in that big house
with the iron balconies, and the door was locked, but what of that? The
simple idea struck him to shout until she came. This idea was replaced by
another equally lucid,--to hammer on the door until she came; but finally
rejecting both of these as too uncertain, he decided to climb into the
balcony, and opening a window politely inquire for Rue Barree. There was
but one lighted window in the house that he could see. It was on the
second floor, and toward this he cast his eyes. Then mounting the wooden
barrier and clambering over the piles of stones, he reached the sidewalk
and looked up at the facade for a foothold. It seemed impossible. But a
sudden fury seized him, a blind, drunken obstinacy, and the blood rushed
to his head, leaping, beating in his ears like the dull thunder of an
ocean. He set his teeth, and springing at a window-sill, dragged himself
up and hung to the iron bars. Then reason fled; there surged in his brain
the sound of many voices, his heart leaped up beating a mad tattoo, and
gripping at cornice and ledge he worked his way along the facade, clung to
pipes and shutters, and dragged himself up, over and into the balcony by
the lighted window. His hat fell off and rolled against the pane. For a
moment he leaned breathless against the railing--then the window was
slowly opened from within.
They stared at each other for some time. Presently the girl took two
unsteady steps back into the room. He saw her face,--all crimsoned
now,--he saw her sink into a chair by the lamplit table, and without a
word he followed her into the room, closing the big door-like panes behind
him. Then they looked at each other in silence.
The room was small and white; everything was white about it,--the
curtained bed, the little wash-stand in the corner, the bare walls, the
china lamp,--and his own face,--had he known it, but the face and neck of
Rue were surging in the colour that dyed the blossoming rose-tree there on
the hearth beside her. It did not occur to him to speak. She seemed not to
expect it. His mind was struggling with the impressions of the room. The
whiteness, the extreme purity of everything occupied him--began to trouble
him. As his eye became accustomed to the light, other objects grew from
the surroundings and took their places in the circle of lamplight. There
was a piano and a coal-scuttle and a little iron trunk and a bath-tub.
Then there was a row of wooden pegs against the door, with a white chintz
curtain covering the clothes underneath. On the bed lay an umbrella and a
big straw hat, and on the table, a music-roll unfurled, an ink-stand, and
sheets of ruled paper. Behind him stood a wardrobe faced with a mirror,
but somehow he did not care to see his own face just then. He was
The girl sat looking at him without a word. Her face was expressionless,
yet the lips at times trembled almost imperceptibly. Her eyes, so
wonderfully blue in the daylight, seemed dark and soft as velvet, and the
colour on her neck deepened and whitened with every breath. She seemed
smaller and more slender than when he had seen her in the street, and
there was now something in the curve of her cheek almost infantine. When
at last he turned and caught his own reflection in the mirror behind him,
a shock passed through him as though he had seen a shameful thing, and his
clouded mind and his clouded thoughts grew clearer. For a moment their
eyes met then his sought the floor, his lips tightened, and the struggle
within him bowed his head and strained every nerve to the breaking. And
now it was over, for the voice within had spoken. He listened, dully
interested but already knowing the end,--indeed it little mattered;--the
end would always be the same for him;--he understood now--always the same
for him, and he listened, dully interested, to a voice which grew within
him. After a while he stood up, and she rose at once, one small hand
resting on the table. Presently he opened the window, picked up his hat,
and shut it again. Then he went over to the rosebush and touched the
blossoms with his face. One was standing in a glass of water on the table
and mechanically the girl drew it out, pressed it with her lips and laid
it on the table beside him. He took it without a word and crossing the
room, opened the door. The landing was dark and silent, but the girl
lifted the lamp and gliding past him slipped down the polished stairs to
the hallway. Then unchaining the bolts, she drew open the iron wicket.
Through this he passed with his rose.