BEHIND THE BEYOND
* * * * *
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
NONSENSE NOVELS 12mo. Cloth. Net, $1.00
LITERARY LAPSES 12mo. Cloth. Net, $1.25
SUNSHINE SKETCHES 12mo. Cloth. Net, $1.25
JOHN LANE COMPANY PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
* * * * *
BEHIND THE ::: BEYOND :::
And Other Contributions to Human Knowledge
Author of "Nonsense Novels," "Literary ::: Lapses," "Sunshine Sketches," Etc. :::
Illustrated by A. H. Fish
New York: John Lane Company London: John Lane, The Bodley Head Toronto: Bell & Cockburn. Mcmxiii
Copyright, 1913, by The Crowell Publishing Company
Copyright, 1913, by The Century Company
Copyright, 1913, by John Lane Company
BEHIND THE BEYOND 11
I. WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHER 53
II. THE DENTIST AND THE GAS 61
III. MY LOST OPPORTUNITIES 69
IV. MY UNKNOWN FRIEND 74
V. UNDER THE BARBER'S KNIFE 84
I. THE ADVANTAGES OF A POLITE EDUCATION 93
II. THE JOYS OF PHILANTHROPY 104
III. THE SIMPLE LIFE IN PARIS 117
IV. A VISIT TO VERSAILLES 129
V. PARIS AT NIGHT 143
THE RETROACTIVE EXISTENCE OF MR. JUGGINS 159
MAKING A MAGAZINE 169
HOMER AND HUMBUG 185
THE PROLOGUE Frontispiece
TO FACE PAGE
THE CURTAIN RISES 12
THEIR EXPRESSION IS STAMPED WITH DEEP THOUGHT 28
HE KISSES HER ON THE BARE SHOULDER 30
HE TAKES HER IN HIS ARMS 50
"IS IT ME?" 58
I DID GO—I KEPT THE APPOINTMENT 66
HE SHOWED ME A CHURCH THAT I COULD HAVE BOUGHT FOR A HUNDRED THOUSAND 72
I SHALL NOT TRY TO BE QUITE SO EXTRAORDINARILY CLEVER 84
WHEN HE REACHED MY FACE HE LOOKED SEARCHINGLY AT IT 88
THE TAILOR SHRUGGED HIS SHOULDERS 98
SOMETHING IN THE QUIET DIGNITY OF THE YOUNG MAN HELD ME 114
THE PARISIAN DOG 120
PERSONALLY I PLEAD GUILTY TO SOMETHING OF THE SAME SPIRIT 142
THE LADY'S FACE IS AGLOW WITH MORAL ENTHUSIASM 146
MEANWHILE HE HAD BECOME A QUAINT-LOOKING ELDERLY MAN 166
WITH ALL THE LOW CUNNING OF AN AUTHOR STAMPED ON HIS FEATURES 174
BEHIND THE BEYOND
A Modern Problem Play
Act I.—Behind the Beyond
THE curtain rises, disclosing the ushers of the theater still moving up and down the aisles. Cries of "Program!" "Program!" are heard. There is a buzz of brilliant conversation, illuminated with flashes of opera glasses and the rattle of expensive jewelry.
Then suddenly, almost unexpectedly, in fact just as if done, so to speak, by machinery, the lights all over the theater, except on the stage, are extinguished. Absolute silence falls. Here and there is heard the crackle of a shirt front. But there is no other sound.
In this expectant hush, a man in a check tweed suit walks on the stage: only one man, one single man. Because if he had been accompanied by a chorus, that would have been a burlesque; if four citizens in togas had been with him, that would have been Shakespeare; if two Russian soldiers had walked after him, that would have been melodrama. But this is none of these. This is a problem play. So he steps in alone, all alone, and with that absolute finish of step, that ability to walk as if,—how can one express it?—as if he were walking, that betrays the finished actor.
He has, in fact, barely had time to lay down his silk hat, when he is completely betrayed. You can see that he is a finished actor—finished about fifteen years ago. He lays the hat, hollow side up, on the silk hat table on the stage right center—bearing north, northeast, half a point west from the red mica fire on the stage which warms the theater.
All this is done very, very quietly, very impressively. No one in the theater has ever seen a man lay a silk hat on a table before, and so there is a breathless hush. Then he takes off his gloves, one by one, not two or three at a time, and lays them in his hat. The expectancy is almost painful. If he had thrown his gloves into the mica fire it would have been a relief. But he doesn't.
The man on the stage picks up a pile of letters from the letter department of the hat table. There are a great many of these letters, because all his business correspondence, as well as his private letters, are sent here by the General Post Office. Getting his letters in this way at night, he is able to read them like lightning. Some of them he merely holds upside down for a fraction of a second.
Then at last he speaks. It has become absolutely necessary or he wouldn't do it. "So—Sao Paolo risen two—hum—Rio Tinto down again—Moreby anxious, 'better sell for half a million sterling'—hum . . ."
(Did you hear that? Half a million sterling and he takes it just as quietly as that. And it isn't really in the play either. Sao Paolo and Rio Tinto just come in to let you know the sort of man you're dealing with.)
"Lady Gathorne—dinner—Thursday the ninth—lunch with the Ambassador—Friday the tenth."
(And mind you even this is just patter. The Ambassador doesn't come into the play either. He and Lady Gathorne are just put in to let the people in the cheaper seats know the kind of thing they're up against.)
Then the man steps across the stage and presses a button. A bell rings. Even before it has finished ringing, nay, just before it begins to ring, a cardboard door swings aside and a valet enters. You can tell he is a valet because he is dressed in the usual home dress of a stage valet.
He says, "Did you ring, Sir John?"
There is a rustle of programs all over the house. You can hear a buzz of voices say, "He's Sir John Trevor." They're all on to him.
When the valet says, "Did you ring, Sir John," he ought to answer, "No, I merely knocked the bell over to see how it would sound," but he misses it and doesn't say it.
"Has her ladyship come home?"
"Yes, Sir John."
"Has any one been here?"
"Mr. Harding, Sir John."
"Any one else?"
"No, Sir John."
The valet bows and goes out of the cardboard door, and everybody in the theater, or at least everybody in the seats worth over a dollar, knows that there's something strange in the relations of Lady Cicely Trevor and Mr. Harding. You notice—Mr. Harding was there and no one else was there. That's enough in a problem play.
The double door at the back of the stage, used only by the principal characters, is opened and Lady Cicely Trevor enters. She is young and very beautiful, and wears a droopy hat and long slinky clothes which she drags across the stage. She throws down her feather hat and her crepe de what-you-call-it boa on the boa stand. Later on the valet comes in and gathers them up. He is always gathering up things like this on the stage—hats and boas and walking sticks thrown away by the actors,—but nobody notices him. They are his perquisites.
Sir John says to Lady Cicely, "Shall I ring for tea?"
And Lady Cicely says, "Thanks. No," in a weary tone.
This shows that they are the kind of people who can have tea at any time. All through a problem play it is understood that any of the characters may ring for tea and get it. Tea in a problem play is the same as whisky in a melodrama.
Then there ensues a dialogue to this effect: Sir John asks Lady Cicely if she has been out. He might almost have guessed it from her coming in in a hat and cloak, but Sir John is an English baronet.
Lady Cicely says, "Yes, the usual round," and distributes a few details about Duchesses and Princesses, for the general good of the audience.
Then Lady Cicely says to Sir John, "You are going out?"
"To the House, I suppose."
This is very impressive. It doesn't mean, as you might think, the Workhouse, or the White House, or the Station House, or the Bon Marche. It is the name given by people of Lady Cicely's class to the House of Commons.
"Yes. I am extremely sorry. I had hoped I might ask to go with you to the opera. I fear it is impossible—an important sitting—the Ministers will bring down the papers—the Kafoonistan business. The House will probably divide in committee. Gatherson will ask a question. We must stop it at all costs. The fate of the party hangs on it."
Sir John has risen. His manner has changed. His look is altered. You can see him alter it. It is now that of a statesman. The technical details given above have gone to his head. He can't stop.
He goes on: "They will force a closure on the second reading, go into committee, come out of it again, redivide, subdivide and force us to bring down the estimates."
While Sir John speaks, Lady Cicely's manner has been that of utter weariness. She has picked up the London Times and thrown it aside; taken up a copy of Punch and let it fall with a thud to the floor, looked idly at a piece of music and decided, evidently, not to sing it. Sir John runs out of technical terms and stops.
The dialogue has clearly brought out the following points: Sir John is in the House of Commons. Lady Cicely is not. Sir John is twenty-five years older than Lady Cicely. He doesn't see—isn't he a fool, when everybody in the gallery can see it?—that his parliamentary work is meaningless to her, that her life is insufficient. That's it. Lady Cicely is being "starved." All that she has is money, position, clothes, and jewelry. These things starve any woman. They cramp her. That's what makes problem plays.
Lady Cicely speaks, very quietly, "Are you taking Mr. Harding with you?"
"Nothing. I thought perhaps I might ask him to take me to the opera. Puffi is to sing."
"Do, pray do. Take Harding with you by all means. Poor boy, do take him with you."
Sir John pauses. He looks at Lady Cicely very quietly for a moment. He goes on with a slight change in his voice.
"Do you know, Cicely, I've been rather troubled about Harding lately. There's something the matter with the boy, something wrong."
"He seems abstracted, moody—I think, in fact I'm sure that the boy is in love."
Lady Cicely has turned slightly pale. The weariness is out of her manner.
"Trust the instinct of an old man, my dear. There's a woman in it. We old parliamentary hands are very shrewd, you know, even in these things. Some one is playing the devil with Jack—with Harding."
Sir John is now putting on his gloves again and gathering up his parliamentary papers from the parliamentary paper stand on the left.
He cannot see the change in Lady Cicely's face. He is not meant to see it. But even the little girls in the tenth row of the gallery are wise.
He goes on. "Talk to Harding. Get it out of him. You women can do these things. Find out what the trouble is and let me know. I must help him." (A pause. Sir John is speaking almost to himself—and the gallery.) "I promised his mother when she sent him home, sent him to England, that I would."
Lady Cicely speaks. "You knew Mr. Harding's mother very well?"
Sir John: "Very well."
"That was long ago, wasn't it?"
"Was she married then?"
"No, not then."
"Here in London?"
"Yes, in London. I was only a barrister then with my way to make and she a famous beauty." (Sir John is speaking with a forced levity that doesn't deceive even the ushers.) "She married Harding of the Guards. They went to India. And there he spent her fortune—and broke her heart." Sir John sighs.
"You have seen her since?"
"She has never written you?"
"Only once. She sent her boy home and wrote to me for help. That was how I took him as my secretary."
"And that was why he came to us in Italy two years ago, just after our marriage."
"Yes, that was why."
"Does Mr. Harding know?"
"That you—knew his mother?"
Sir John shakes his head. "I have never talked with him about his mother's early life."
The stage clock on the mantelpiece begins to strike. Sir John lets it strike up to four or five, and then says, "There, eight o'clock. I must go. I shall be late at the House. Good-by."
He moves over to Lady Cicely and kisses her. There is softness in his manner—such softness that he forgets the bundle of parliamentary papers that he had laid down. Everybody can see that he has forgotten them. They were right there under his very eye.
Sir John goes out.
Lady Cicely stands looking fixedly at the fire. She speaks out loud to herself. "How his voice changed—twenty-five years ago—so long as that—I wonder if Jack knows."
There is heard the ring of a bell off the stage. The valet enters.
"Mr. Harding is downstairs, my lady."
"Show him up, Ransome."
A moment later Mr. Harding enters. He is a narrow young man in a frock coat. His face is weak. It has to be. Mr. Harding is meant to typify weakness. Lady Cicely walks straight to him. She puts her two hands on his shoulders and looks right into his face.
"MY DARLING," she says. Just like that. In capital letters. You can feel the thrill of it run through the orchestra chairs. All the audience look at Mr. Harding, some with opera glasses, others with eyeglasses on sticks. They can see that he is just the sort of ineffectual young man that a starved woman in a problem play goes mad over.
Lady Cicely repeats "My darling" several times. Mr. Harding says "Hush," and tries to disengage himself. She won't let him. He offers to ring for tea. She won't have any. "Oh, Jack," she says. "I can't go on any longer. I can't. When first you loved me, I thought I could. But I can't. It throttles me here—this house, this life, everything——" She has drawn him to a sofa and has sunk down in a wave at his feet. "Do you remember, Jack, when first you came, in Italy, that night, at Amalfi, when we sat on the piazza of the palazzo?" She is looking rapturously into his face.
Mr. Harding says that he does.
"And that day at Fiesole among the orange trees, and Pisa and the Capello de Terisa and the Mona Lisa—Oh, Jack, take me away from all this, take me to the Riviera, among the contadini, where we can stand together with my head on your shoulder just as we did in the Duomo at Milano, or on the piaggia at Verona. Take me to Corfu, to the Campo Santo, to Civita Vecchia, to Para Noia—anywhere——"
Mr. Harding, smothered with her kisses, says, "My dearest, I will, I will." Any man in the audience would do as much. They'd take her to Honolulu.
While she is speaking, Sir John's voice had been heard off the stage. "No, thank you, Ransome, I'll get them myself, I know just where I left them." Sir John enters hurriedly, advances and picks up his papers on the table—turns—and stands——
He sees his wife's attitude and hears her say "Riviera, Amalfi, Orangieri, Contadini and Capello Santo." It is enough. He drops his parliamentary papers. They fall against the fire irons with a crash. These in falling upset a small table with one leg. The ball of wool that is on it falls to the floor. The noise of this disturbs the lovers.
They turn. All three look at one another. For a moment they make a motion as if to ring for tea. Then they stand petrified.
"You!" gasps Lady Cicely. She does this awfully well. Everybody says afterward that it was just splendid when she said "You."
Sir John stands gazing in horror. "Him! My God! He!" Mr. Harding says nothing. He looks very weak.
Lady Cicely unpetrifies first.
She breaks out, speaking through her nostrils. "Yes, I love him, I love him. I'm not ashamed of it. What right have you to deny it me? You gave me nothing. You made me a chattel, a thing——"
You can feel the rustle of indignation through the house at this. To make a woman a thing is the crowning horror of a problem play.
"You starved me here. You throttled me." Lady Cicely takes herself by the neck and throttles herself a little to show how.
"You smothered me. I couldn't breathe—and now I'm going, do you hear, going away, to life, to love, behind the beyond!" She gathers up Mr. Harding (practically) and carries him passionately away. He looks back weakly as he goes.
Sir John has sunk down upon a chair. His face is set.
"Jack," he mutters, "my God, Jack!"
As he sits there, the valet enters with a telegram on a tray.
"A telegram, Sir John."
Sir John (dazed and trying to collect himself), "What?"
"A telegram, sir,—a cablegram."
Sir John takes it, opens it and reads aloud:
"He is dead. My duty is ended. I am coming home—Margaret Harding."
"Margaret coming home. It only needed that—my God."
. . . . . . .
As he says it, the curtain falls.
The lights flick up. There is a great burst of applause. The curtain rises and falls. Lady Cicely and Mr. Harding and Sir John all come out and bow charmingly. There is no trace of worry on their faces, and they hold one another's hands. Then the curtain falls and the orchestra breaks out into a Winter Garden waltz. The boxes buzz with discussion. Some of the people think that Lady Cicely is right in claiming the right to realize herself: others think that before realizing herself she should have developed herself. Others ask indignantly how she could know herself if her husband refused to let her be herself. But everybody feels that the subject is a delicious one.
Those of the people who have seen the play before very kindly explain how it ends, so as to help the rest to enjoy it. But the more serious-minded of the men have risen, very gently, and are sneaking up the aisles. Their expression is stamped with deep thought as if pondering over the play. But their step is as that of leopards on the march, and no one is deceived as to their purpose.
The music continues. The discussion goes on.
* * * * *
The leopards come stealing back. The orchestra boils over in a cadence and stops. The theater is darkened again. The footlights come on with a flash. The curtain silently lifts, and it is—
Act II.—Six Months Later
THE programs rustle. The people look to see where it is. And they find that it is "An Apartment in Paris." Notice that this place which is used in every problem play is just called An Apartment. It is not called Mr. Harding's Apartment, or an Apartment for which Mr. Harding pays the Rent. Not a bit. It is just an Apartment. Even if it were "A Apartment" it would feel easier. But "An Apartment"!! The very words give the audience a delicious shiver of uncomfortableness.
When the curtain rises it discloses a French maid moving about the stage in four-dollar silk stockings. She is setting things on a little table, evidently for supper. She explains this in French as she does it, so as to make it clear.
"Bon! la serviette de monsieur! bon! la serviette de madame, bien—du champagne, bon! langouste aux champignons, bien, bon.—" This is all the French she knows, poor little thing, but langouste aux champignons beats the audience, so she is all right.
Anyway, this supper scene has to come in. It is symbolical. You can't really show Amalfi and Fiesole and the orange trees, so this kind of supper takes their place.
As the maid moves about there is a loud knock at the cardboard door of the apartment. A man in official clothes sticks his head in. He is evidently a postal special messenger because he is all in postal attire with a postal glazed hat.
"Monsieur Arrding?" he says.
"Bon! Une lettre."
"Merci, monsieur." He goes out. The audience feel a thrill of pride at having learned French and being able to follow the intense realism of this dialogue. The maid lays the letter on the supper table.
Just as she does it the door opens and there enter Mr. Harding and Lady Cicely. Yes, them. Both of them. The audience catches it like a flash. They live here.
Lady Cicely throws aside her cloak. There is great gaiety in her manner. Her face is paler. There is a bright spot in each cheek. Her eyes are very bright.
* * * * *
There follows the well-known supper scene. Lady Cicely is very gay. She pours champagne into Mr. Harding's glass. They both drink from it. She asks him if he is a happy boy now. He says he is. She runs her fingers through his hair. He kisses her on the bare shoulder. This is also symbolic.
Lady Cicely rattles on about Amalfi and Fiesole. She asks Mr. Harding if he remembers that night in the olive trees at Santa Clara, with just one thrush singing in the night sky. He says he does. He remembers the very thrush. You can see from the talk that they have been all over Baedeker's guide to the Adriatic.
At times Lady Cicely's animation breaks. She falls into a fit of coughing and presses her hand to her side. Mr. Harding looks at her apprehensively. She says, "It is nothing, silly boy, it will be gone in a moment." It is only because she is so happy.
Then, quite suddenly, she breaks down and falls at Mr. Harding's knees.
"Oh, Jack, Jack, I can't stand it! I can't stand it any longer. It is choking me!"
"My darling, what is it?"
"This, all this, it is choking me—this apartment, these pictures, the French maid, all of it. I can't stand it. I'm being suffocated. Oh, Jack, take me away—take me somewhere where it is quiet, take me to Norway to the great solemn hills and the fjords——"
* * * * *
Then suddenly Mr. Harding sees the letter in its light blue envelope lying on the supper table. It has been lying right beside him for ten minutes. Everybody in the theater could see it and was getting uncomfortable about it. He clutches it and tears it open. There is a hunted look in his face as he reads.
"What is it?"
"My mother—good God, she is coming. She is at the Bristol and is coming here. What can I do?"
Lady Cicely is quiet now.
"Does she know?"
"How did she find you?"
"I don't know. I can't imagine. I knew when I saw in the papers that my father was dead that she would come home. But I kept back the address. I told the solicitors, curse them, to keep it secret."
Mr. Harding paces the stage giving an imitation of a weak man trapped. He keeps muttering, "What can I do?"
Lady Cicely speaks very firmly and proudly. "Jack."
"There is only one thing to do. Tell her."
Mr. Harding, aghast, "Tell her?"
"Yes, tell her about our love, about everything. I am not ashamed. Let her judge me."
Mr. Harding sinks into a chair. He keeps shivering and saying, "I tell you, I can't; I can't. She wouldn't understand." The letter is fluttering in his hand. His face is contemptible. He does it splendidly. Lady Cicely picks the letter from his hand. She reads it aloud, her eyes widening as she reads:
HOTEL BRISTOL, PARIS.
MY DARLING BOY:
I have found you at last—why have you sought to avoid me? God grant there is nothing wrong. He is dead, the man I taught you to call your father, and I can tell you all now. I am coming to you this instant.
Lady Cicely reads, her eyes widen and her voice chokes with horror.
She advances to him and grips his hand. "What does it mean, Jack, tell me what does it mean?"
"Good God, Cicely, don't speak like that."
"This—these lines—about your father."
"I don't know what it means—I don't care—I hated him, the brute. I'm glad he's dead. I don't care for that. But she's coming here, any minute, and I can't face it."
Lady Cicely, more quietly, "Jack, tell me, did my—did Sir John Trevor ever talk to you about your father?"
"No. He never spoke of him."
"Did he know him?"
"Yes—I think so—long ago. But they were enemies—Trevor challenged him to a duel—over some woman—and he wouldn't fight—the cur."
Lady Cicely (dazed and aghast)—"I—understand—it—now." She recovers herself and speaks quickly.
"Listen. There is time yet. Go to the hotel. Go at once. Tell your mother nothing. Nothing, you understand. Keep her from coming here. Anything, but not that. Ernestine,"—She calls to the maid who reappears for a second—"a taxi—at once."
She hurriedly gets Harding's hat and coat. The stage is full of bustle. There is a great sense of hurry. The audience are in an agony for fear Ernestine is too slow, or calls a four-wheel cab by mistake. If the play is really well put on, you can presently hear the taxi buzzing outside. Mr. Harding goes to kiss Lady Cicely. She puts him from her in horror and hastens him out.
She calls the maid. "Ernestine, quick, put my things, anything, into a valise."
"Madame is going away!"
"Yes, yes, at once."
"Madame will not eat?"
"Madame will not first rest?" (The slow comprehension of these French maids is something exasperating.) "Madame will not await monsieur?
"Madame will not first eat, nor drink—no? Madame will not sleep?"
"No, no—quick, Ernestine. Bring me what I want. Summon a fiacre. I shall be ready in a moment." Lady Cicely passes through a side door into an inner room.
She is scarcely gone when Mrs. Harding enters. She is a woman about forty-five, still very beautiful. She is dressed in deep black.
(The play is now moving very fast. You have to sit tight to follow it all.)
She speaks to Ernestine. "Is this Mr. Harding's apartment?"
"Is he here?" She looks about her.
"No, madame, he is gone this moment in a taxi—to the Hotel Bristol, I heard him say."
Mrs. Harding, faltering. "Is—any one—here?"
"No, madame, no one—milady was here a moment ago. She, too, has gone out." (This is a lie but of course the maid is a French maid.)
"Then it is true—there is some one——" She is just saying this when the bell rings, the door opens and there enters—Sir John Trevor.
"You!" says Mrs. Harding.
"I am too late!" gasps Sir John.
She goes to him tremblingly—"After all these years," she says.
"It is a long time."
"You have not changed."
She has taken his hands and is looking into his face, and she goes on speaking. "I have thought of you so often in all these bitter years—it sustained me even at the worst—and I knew, John, that it was for my sake that you had never married——"
* * * * *
Then, as she goes on talking, the audience realize with a thrill that Mrs. Harding does not know that Sir John married two years ago, that she has come home, as she thought, to the man who loved her, and, more than that, they get another thrill when they realize that Lady Cicely is learning it too. She has pushed the door half open and is standing there unseen, listening. She wears a hat and cloak; there is a folded letter in her hand—her eyes are wide. Mrs. Harding continues:
"And now, John, I want your help, only you can help me, you are so strong—my Jack, I must save him." She looks about the room. Something seems to overcome her. "Oh, John, this place—his being here like this—it seems a judgment on us."
The audience are getting it fast now. And when Mrs. Harding speaks of "our awful moment of folly," "the retribution of our own sins," they grasp it and shiver with the luxury of it.
After that when Mrs. Harding says: "Our wretched boy, we must save him,"—they all know why she says "our."
She goes on more calmly. "I realized. I knew—he is not alone here."
Sir John's voice is quiet, almost hollow. "He is not alone."
"But this woman—can you not deal with her—persuade her—beg her for my sake—bribe her to leave my boy?"
Lady Cicely steps out. "There is no bribe needed. I am going. If I have wronged him, and you, it shall be atoned."
Sir John has given no sign. He is standing stunned. She turns to him. "I have heard and know now. I cannot ask for pity. But when I am gone—when it is over—I want you to give him this letter—and I want you, you two, to—to be as if I had never lived."
She lays the letter in his hand. Then without a sign, Lady Cicely passes out. There is a great stillness in the house. Mrs. Harding has watched Lady Cicely and Sir John in amazement. Sir John has sunk into a chair. She breaks out, "John, for God's sake what does it mean—this woman—speak—there is something awful, I must know."
"Yes, you must know. It is fate. Margaret, you do not know all. Two years ago I married——"
"But this woman, this woman——"
"She is—she was—my wife."
. . . . . . .
And at this moment Harding breaks into the room. "Cicely, Cicely, I was too late——" He sees the others. "Mother," he says in agony, "and you——" He looks about. "Where is she? What is happening? I must know——"
Sir John, as if following a mechanical impulse, has handed Harding the letter. He tears it open and reads:
"Dearest, I am going away, to die. It cannot be long now. The doctor told me to-day. That was why I couldn't speak or explain it to you and was so strange at supper. But I am glad now. Good-by."
Harding turns upon Sir John with the snarl of a wolf. "What have you done? Why have you driven her away? What right had you to her, you devil? I loved her—She was mine——"
He had seized a pointed knife from the supper table. His shoulders are crouched—he is about to spring on Sir John. Mrs. Harding has thrown herself between them.
"Jack, Jack, you mustn't strike."
"Out of the way, I say, I'll——"
"Jack, Jack, you mustn't strike. Can't you understand? Don't you see—what it is. . . ."
"What do you mean—stand back from me."
The knife clatters to the floor. "My God!"
* * * * *
And then the curtain falls—and there's a burst of applause and, in accordance with all the best traditions of the stage, one moment later, Lady Cicely and Mr. Harding and Sir John and Mrs. Harding are all bowing and smiling like anything, and even the little French maid sneaks on in a corner of the stage and simpers.
Then the orchestra plays and the leopards sneak out and the people in the boxes are all talking gayly to show that they're not the least affected. And everybody is wondering how it will come out, or rather how it can possibly come out at all, because some of them explain that it's all wrong, and just as they are making it clear that there shouldn't be any third act, the curtain goes up and it's——
Act III. Three Months Later
THE curtain rises on a drawing-room in Mrs. Harding's house in London. Mrs. Harding is sitting at a table. She is sorting out parcels. There is a great air of quiet about the scene. The third act of a problem play always has to be very quiet. It is like a punctured football with the wind going out of it. The play has to just poof itself out noiselessly.
For instance, this is the way it is done.
Does Mrs. Harding start to talk about Lady Cicely and Jack, and Paris? Not a bit. She is simply looking over the parcels and writing names and talking to herself so that the audience can get the names.
"For the Orphans' Home—poor little things. For the Foundlings' Protection Society. For the Lost Infants' Preservation League" (a deep sigh)—"poor, poor children."
Now what is all this about? What has this to do with the play? Why, don't you see that it is the symbol of philanthropy, of gentleness, of melancholy sadness? The storm is over and there is nothing in Mrs. Harding's heart but pity. Don't you see that she is dressed in deeper black than ever, and do you notice that look on her face—that third-act air—that resignation?
Don't you see that the play is really all over? They're just letting the wind out of it.
A man announces "Sir John Trevor."
Sir John steps in. Mrs. Harding goes to meet him with both hands out.
"My dear, dear friend," she says in rich, sad tones.
Sir John is all in black. He is much aged, but very firm and very quiet. You can feel that he's been spending the morning with the committee of the Homeless Newsboys' League or among the Directorate of the Lost Waifs' Encouragement Association. In fact he begins to talk of these things at once. The people who are not used to third acts are wondering what it is all about. The real playgoers know that this is atmosphere.
"Tea?" says Mrs. Harding, "shall I ring?"
"Pray do," says Sir John. He seats himself with great weariness. The full melancholy of the third act is on him. The tea which has been made for three acts is brought in. They drink it and it begins to go to their heads. The "atmosphere" clears off just a little.
"You have news, I know," says Mrs. Harding, "you have seen him?"
"I have seen him."
"And he is gone?"
"Yes, he has sailed," says Sir John. "He went on board last night, only a few hours after my return to London. I saw him off. Poor Jack. Gatherson has been most kind. They will take him into the embassy at Lima. There, please God, he can begin life again. The Peruvian Ambassador has promised to do all in his power."
Sir John sighs deeply and is silent. This to let the fact soak into the audience that Jack has gone to Peru. Any reasonable person would have known it. Where else could he go to?
"He will do well in Peru," says Mrs. Harding. She is imitating a woman being very brave.
"Yes, I trust so," says Sir John. There is silence again. In fact the whole third act is diluted with thirty per cent. of silence. Presently Mrs. Harding speaks again in a low tone.
"You have other news, I know."
"I have other news."
"Yes. I have been to Switzerland. I have seen the cure—a good man. He has told me all there is to tell. I found him at the hospice, busy with his oeuvre de bienfaisance. He led me to her grave."
Sir John is bowed in deep silence.
Lady Cicely dead! Everybody in the theater gasps. Dead! But what an unfair way to kill her! To face an open death on the stage in fair hand to hand acting is one thing, but this new system of dragging off the characters to Switzerland between the acts, and then returning and saying that they are dead is quite another.
Presently Mrs. Harding speaks, very softly. "And you? You will take up your work here again?"
"No; I am going away."
"Yes, far away. I am going to Kafoonistan."
Mrs. Harding looks at him in pain. "To Kafoonistan?"
"Yes. To Kafoonistan. There's work there for me to do."
. . . . . . .
There is silence again. Then Sir John speaks. "And you? You will settle down here in London?"
"No. I am going away."
"Yes, back to Balla Walla. I want to be alone. I want to forget. I want to think. I want to try to realize."
"You are going alone?"
"Yes, quite alone. But I shall not feel alone when I get there. The Maharanee will receive me with open arms. And my life will be useful there. The women need me; I will teach them to read, to sew, to sing."
"Mrs. Harding—Margaret—you must not do this. You have sacrificed your life enough—you have the right to live——"
There is emotion in Sir John's tone. It is very rough on him to find his plan of going to Kafoonistan has been outdone by Mrs. Harding's going to Balla Walla. She shakes her head.
"No, no; my life is of no account now. But you, John, you are needed here, the country needs you. Men look to you to lead them."
Mrs. Harding would particularize if she could, but she can't just for the minute remember what it is Sir John can lead them to. Sir John shakes his head.
"No, no; my work lies there in Kafoonistan. There is a man's work to be done there. The tribes are ignorant, uncivilized."
This dialogue goes on for some time. Mrs. Harding keeps shaking her head and saying that Sir John must not go to Kafoonistan, and Sir John says she must not go to Balla Walla. He protests that he wants to work and she claims that she wants to try to think clearly. But it is all a bluff. They are not going. Neither of them. And everybody knows it. Presently Mrs. Harding says:
"You will think of me sometimes?"
"I shall never forget you."
"I'm glad of that."
"Wherever I am, I shall think of you—out there in the deserts, or at night, alone there among the great silent hills with only the stars overhead, I shall think of you. Your face will guide me wherever I am."
He has taken her hand.
"And you," he says, "you will think of me sometimes in Balla Walla?"
"Yes, always. All day while I am with the Maharanee and her women, and at night, the great silent Indian night when all the palace is asleep and there is heard nothing but the sounds of the jungle, the cry of the hyena and the bray of the laughing jackass, I shall seem to hear your voice."
She is much moved. She rises, clenches her hands and then adds, "I have heard it so for five and twenty years."
He has moved to her.
"I cannot let you go, your life lies here—with me—next my heart—I want your help, your love, here inside the beyond."
And as he speaks and takes her in his arms, the curtain sinks upon them, rises, falls, rises, and then sinks again asbestos and all, and the play is over. The lights are on, the audience rises in a body and puts on its wraps. All over the theater you can hear the words "perfectly rotten," "utterly untrue," and so on. The general judgment seems to be that it is a perfectly rotten play, but very strong.
They are saying this as they surge out in great waves of furs and silks, with black crush hats floating on billows of white wraps among the foam of gossamer scarfs. Through it all is the squawk of the motor horn, the call of the taxi numbers and the inrush of the fresh night air.
But just inside the theater, in the office, is a man in a circus waistcoat adding up dollars with a blue pencil, and he knows that the play is all right.
I.—With the Photographer
"I WANT my photograph taken," I said. The photographer looked at me without enthusiasm. He was a drooping man in a gray suit, with the dim eye of a natural scientist. But there is no need to describe him. Everybody knows what a photographer is like.
"Sit there," he said, "and wait."
I waited an hour. I read the Ladies Companion for 1912, the Girls Magazine for 1902 and the Infants Journal for 1888. I began to see that I had done an unwarrantable thing in breaking in on the privacy of this man's scientific pursuits with a face like mine.
After an hour the photographer opened the inner door.
"Come in," he said severely.
I went into the studio.
"Sit down," said the photographer.
I sat down in a beam of sunlight filtered through a sheet of factory cotton hung against a frosted skylight.
The photographer rolled a machine into the middle of the room and crawled into it from behind.
He was only in it a second,—just time enough for one look at me,—and then he was out again, tearing at the cotton sheet and the window panes with a hooked stick, apparently frantic for light and air.
Then he crawled back into the machine again and drew a little black cloth over himself. This time he was very quiet in there. I knew that he was praying and I kept still.
When the photographer came out at last, he looked very grave and shook his head.
"The face is quite wrong," he said.
"I know," I answered quietly; "I have always known it."
"I think," he said, "the face would be better three-quarters full."
"I'm sure it would," I said enthusiastically, for I was glad to find that the man had such a human side to him. "So would yours. In fact," I continued, "how many faces one sees that are apparently hard, narrow, limited, but the minute you get them three-quarters full they get wide, large, almost boundless in——"
But the photographer had ceased to listen. He came over and took my head in his hands and twisted it sideways. I thought he meant to kiss me, and I closed my eyes.
But I was wrong.
He twisted my face as far as it would go and then stood looking at it.
He sighed again.
"I don't like the head," he said.
Then he went back to the machine and took another look.
"Open the mouth a little," he said.
I started to do so.
"Close it," he added quickly.
Then he looked again.
"The ears are bad," he said; "droop them a little more. Thank you. Now the eyes. Roll them in under the lids. Put the hands on the knees, please, and turn the face just a little upward. Yes, that's better. Now just expand the lungs! So! And hump the neck—that's it—and just contract the waist—ha!—and twist the hip up toward the elbow—now! I still don't quite like the face, it's just a trifle too full, but——"
I swung myself round on the stool.
"Stop," I said with emotion but, I think, with dignity. "This face is my face. It is not yours, it is mine. I've lived with it for forty years and I know its faults. I know it's out of drawing. I know it wasn't made for me, but it's my face, the only one I have—" I was conscious of a break in my voice but I went on—"such as it is, I've learned to love it. And this is my mouth, not yours. These ears are mine, and if your machine is too narrow—" Here I started to rise from the seat.
The photographer had pulled a string. The photograph taken. I could see the machine still staggering from the shock.
"I think," said the photographer, pursing his lips in a pleased smile, "that I caught the features just in a moment of animation."
"So!" I said bitingly,—"features, eh? You didn't think I could animate them, I suppose? But let me see the picture."
"Oh, there's nothing to see yet," he said, "I have to develop the negative first. Come back on Saturday and I'll let you see a proof of it."
On Saturday I went back.
The photographer beckoned me in. I thought he seemed quieter and graver than before. I think, too, there was a certain pride in his manner.
He unfolded the proof of a large photograph, and we both looked at it in silence.
"Is it me?" I asked.
"Yes," he said quietly, "it is you," and we went on looking at it.
"The eyes," I said hesitatingly, "don't look very much like mine."
"Oh, no," he answered, "I've retouched them. They come out splendidly, don't they?"
"Fine," I said, "but surely my eyebrows are not like that?"
"No," said the photographer, with a momentary glance at my face, "the eyebrows are removed. We have a process now—the Delphide—for putting in new ones. You'll notice here where we've applied it to carry the hair away from the brow. I don't like the hair low on the skull."
"Oh, you don't, don't you?" I said.
"No," he went on, "I don't care for it. I like to get the hair clear back to the superficies and make out a new brow line."
"What about the mouth?" I said with a bitterness that was lost on the photographer; "is that mine?"
"It's adjusted a little," he said, "yours is too low. I found I couldn't use it."
"The ears, though," I said, "strike me as a good likeness; they're just like mine."
"Yes," said the photographer thoughtfully, "that's so; but I can fix that all right in the print. We have a process now—the Sulphide—for removing the ears entirely. I'll see if——"
"Listen!" I interrupted, drawing myself up and animating my features to their full extent and speaking with a withering scorn that should have blasted the man on the spot. "Listen! I came here for a photograph—a picture—something which (mad though it seems) would have looked like me. I wanted something that would depict my face as Heaven gave it to me, humble though the gift may have been. I wanted something that my friends might keep after my death, to reconcile them to my loss. It seems that I was mistaken. What I wanted is no longer done. Go on, then, with your brutal work. Take your negative, or whatever it is you call it,—dip it in sulphide, bromide, oxide, cowhide,—anything you like,—remove the eyes, correct the mouth, adjust the face, restore the lips, reanimate the necktie and reconstruct the waistcoat. Coat it with an inch of gloss, shade it, emboss it, gild it, till even you acknowledge that it is finished. Then when you have done all that—keep it for yourself and your friends. They may value it. To me it is but a worthless bauble."
I broke into tears and left.
II.—The Dentist and the Gas
"I THINK," said the dentist, stepping outside again, "I'd better give you gas."
Then he moved aside and hummed an air from a light opera while he mixed up cement.
I sat up in my shroud.
"Gas!" I said.
"Yes," he repeated, "gas, or else ether or a sulphuric anesthetic, or else beat you into insensibility with a club, or give you three thousand bolts of electricity."
These may not have been his exact words. But they convey the feeling of them very nicely.
I could see the light of primitive criminality shining behind the man's spectacles.
And to think that this was my fault—the result of my own reckless neglect. I had grown so used to sitting back dozing in my shroud in the dentist's chair, listening to the twittering of the birds outside, my eyes closed in the sweet half sleep of perfect security, that the old apprehensiveness and mental agony had practically all gone.
He didn't hurt me, and I knew it.
I had grown—I know it sounds mad—almost to like him.
For a time I had kept up the appearance of being hurt every few minutes, just as a precaution. Then even that had ceased and I had dropped into vainglorious apathy.
It was this, of course, which had infuriated the dentist. He meant to reassert his power. He knew that nothing but gas could rouse me out of my lethargy and he meant to apply it—either gas or some other powerful pain stimulant.
So, as soon as he said "gas," my senses were alert in a moment.
"When are you going to do it?" I said in horror.
"Right now, if you like," he answered.
His eyes were glittering with what the Germans call Blutlust. All dentists have it.
I could see that if I took my eye off him for a moment he might spring at me, gas in hand, and throttle me.
"No, not now, I can't stay now," I said, "I have an appointment, a whole lot of appointments, urgent ones, the most urgent I ever had." I was unfastening my shroud as I spoke.
"Well, then, to-morrow," said the dentist.
"No," I said, "to-morrow is Saturday. And Saturday is a day when I simply can't take gas. If I take gas, even the least bit of gas on a Saturday, I find it's misunderstood——"
"Monday, I'm afraid, won't do. It's a bad day for me—worse than I can explain."
"Tuesday?" said the dentist.
"Not Tuesday," I answered. "Tuesday is the worst day of all. On Tuesday my church society meets, and I must go to it."
I hadn't been near it, in reality, for three years, but suddenly I felt a longing to attend it.
"On Wednesday," I went on, speaking hurriedly and wildly, "I have another appointment, a swimming club, and on Thursday two appointments, a choral society and a funeral. On Friday I have another funeral. Saturday is market day. Sunday is washing day. Monday is drying day——"
"Hold on," said the dentist, speaking very firmly. "You come to-morrow morning: I'll write the engagement for ten o'clock."
I think it must have been hypnotism.
Before I knew it, I had said "Yes."
I went out.
On the street I met a man I knew.
"Have you ever taken gas from a dentist?" I asked.
"Oh, yes," he said; "it's nothing."
Soon after I met another man.
"Have you ever taken gas?" I asked.
"Oh, certainly," he answered, "it's nothing, nothing at all."
Altogether I asked about fifty people that day about gas, and they all said that it was absolutely nothing. When I said that I was to take it to-morrow, they showed no concern whatever. I looked in their faces for traces of anxiety. There weren't any. They all said that it wouldn't hurt me, that it was nothing.
So then I was glad because I knew that gas was nothing.
It began to seem hardly worth while to keep the appointment. Why go all the way downtown for such a mere nothing?
But I did go.
I kept the appointment.
What followed was such an absolute nothing that I shouldn't bother to relate it except for the sake of my friends.
The dentist was there with two assistants. All three had white coats on, as rigid as naval uniforms.
I forget whether they carried revolvers.
Nothing could exceed their quiet courage. Let me pay them that tribute.
I was laid out in my shroud in a long chair and tied down to it (I think I was tied down; perhaps I was fastened with nails). This part of it was a mere nothing. It simply felt like being tied down by three strong men armed with pinchers.
After that a gas tank and a pump were placed beside me and a set of rubber tubes fastened tight over my mouth and nose. Even those who have never taken gas can realize how ridiculously simple this is.
Then they began pumping in gas. The sensation of this part of it I cannot, unfortunately, recall. It happened that just as they began to administer the gas, I fell asleep. I don't quite know why. Perhaps I was overtired. Perhaps it was the simple home charm of the surroundings, the soft drowsy hum of the gas pump, the twittering of the dentists in the trees—did I say the trees? No; of course they weren't in the trees—imagine dentists in the trees—ha! ha! Here, take off this gaspipe from my face till I laugh—really I just want to laugh—only to laugh——
Well,—that's what it felt like.
Meanwhile they were operating.
Of course I didn't feel it. All I felt was that someone dealt me a powerful blow in the face with a sledgehammer. After that somebody took a pickax and cracked in my jaw with it. That was all.
It was a mere nothing. I felt at the time that a man who objects to a few taps on the face with a pickax is overcritical.
I didn't happen to wake up till they had practically finished. So I really missed the whole thing.
The assistants had gone, and the dentist was mixing up cement and humming airs from light opera just like old times. It made the world seem a bright place.
I went home with no teeth. I only meant them to remove one, but I realized that they had taken them all out. Still it didn't matter.
Not long after I received my bill. I was astounded at the nerve of it! For administering gas, debtor, so much; for removing teeth, debtor, so much;—and so on.
In return I sent in my bill:
DR. WILLIAM JAWS DEBTOR
To mental agony $50.00 To gross lies in regard to the nothingness of gas 100.00 To putting me under gas 50.00 To having fun with me under gas 100.00 To Brilliant Ideas, occurred to me under gas and lost 100.00 ——— Grand Total $400.00
My bill has been contested and is in the hands of a solicitor. The matter will prove, I understand, a test case and will go to the final courts. If the judges have toothache during the trial, I shall win.
III.—My Lost Opportunities
THE other day I took a walk with a real estate man. Out in the suburbs he leaned over the wooden fence of an empty lot and waved his hand at it.
"There's a lot," he said, "that we sold last week for half a million dollars."
"Did you really!" I exclaimed.
"Yes," he said, "and do you know that twenty-five years ago you could have picked that up for fifty thousand!"
"What," I said, "do you mean to say that I could have had all that beautiful grass and those mullin stalks for fifty thousand dollars?"
"You mean that when I was a student at college, feeding on four dollars a week, this opportunity was knocking at the door and I missed it?"
I turned my head away in bitterness as I thought of my own folly. Why had I never happened to walk out this way with fifty thousand dollars in my pocket and buy all this beautiful mud?
The real estate man smiled complacently at my grief.
"I can show you more than that," he said. "Do you see that big stretch of empty ground out there past that last fence?"
"Yes, yes," I said excitedly, "the land with the beautiful tar-paper shack and the withered cedar tree,—the one withered cedar tree,—standing in its lonely isolation and seeming to beckon——"
"Say," he said, "was you ever in the real estate business yourself?"
"No," I answered, "but I have a poetic mind, and I begin to see the poetry, the majesty, of real estate."
"Oh, is that it," he answered. "Well, that land out there,—it's an acre and a half,—was sold yesterday for three million dollars!!"
"For three million dollars, cold."
"Not COLD!" I said, "don't tell me it was cold."
"Yes," went on the real estate man, "and only three years ago you could have come out here and had it for a song!"
"For a song!" I repeated.
Just think of it! And I had missed it! With a voice like mine. If I had known what I know now, I would have come out to that land and sung to it all night. I never knew in the days when I was content with fifteen dollars a week what a hidden gift my voice was. I should have taken up land-singing and made a fortune out of it.
The thought of it saddened me all the way home: and the talk of the real estate man as he went made me feel still worse.
He showed me a church that I could have bought for a hundred thousand and sold now at half a million for a motor garage. If I had started buying churches instead of working on a newspaper, I'd have been rich to-day.
There was a skating rink I could have bought, and a theatre and a fruit store, a beautiful little one-story wooden fruit store, right on a corner, with the darlingest Italian in it that you ever saw. There was the cutest little pet of a cow-stable that I could have turned into an apartment store at a profit of a million,—at the time when I was studying Greek and forgetting it. Oh! the wasted opportunities of life!
And that evening when I got back to the club and talked about it at dinner to my business friends, I found that I had only heard a small part of it.
Real estate! That's nothing! Why they told me that fifteen years ago I could have had all sorts of things,—trunk line railways, sugar refineries, silver mines,—any of them for a song. When I heard it I was half glad I hadn't sung for the land. They told me that there was a time when I could have bought out the Federal Steel Co. for twenty million dollars! And I let it go.
The whole Canadian Pacific Railway, they said, was thrown on the market for fifty millions. I left it there writhing, and didn't pick it up. Sheer lack of confidence! I see now why these men get rich. It's their fine, glorious confidence, that enables them to write out a cheque for fifty million dollars and think nothing of it.
If I wrote a cheque like that, I'd be afraid of going to Sing Sing. But they aren't, and so they get what they deserve.
Forty-five years ago,—a man at the club told me this with almost a sob in his voice,—either Rockefeller or Carnegie could have been bought clean up for a thousand dollars!
Think of it!
Why didn't my father buy them for me, as pets, for my birthday and let me keep them till I grew up?
If I had my life over again, no school or education for me! Not with all this beautiful mud and these tar-paper shacks and corner lot fruit stores lying round! I'd buy out the whole United States and take a chance, a sporting chance, on the rise in values.
IV.—My Unknown Friend
HE STEPPED into the smoking compartment of the Pullman, where I was sitting alone.
He had on a long fur-lined coat, and he carried a fifty-dollar suit case that he put down on the seat.
Then he saw me.
"Well! well!" he said, and recognition broke out all over his face like morning sunlight.
"Well! well!" I repeated.
"By Jove!" he said, shaking hands vigorously, "who would have thought of seeing you?"
"Who, indeed," I thought to myself.
He looked at me more closely.
"You haven't changed a bit," he said.
"Neither have you," said I heartily.
"You may be a little stouter," he went on critically.
"Yes," I said, "a little; but you're stouter yourself."
This of course would help to explain away any undue stoutness on my part.
"No," I continued boldly and firmly, "you look just about the same as ever."
And all the time I was wondering who he was. I didn't know him from Adam; I couldn't recall him a bit. I don't mean that my memory is weak. On the contrary, it is singularly tenacious. True, I find it very hard to remember people's names; very often, too, it is hard for me to recall a face, and frequently I fail to recall a person's appearance, and of course clothes are a thing one doesn't notice. But apart from these details I never forget anybody, and I am proud of it. But when it does happen that a name or face escapes me I never lose my presence of mind. I know just how to deal with the situation. It only needs coolness and intellect, and it all comes right.
My friend sat down.
"It's a long time since we met," he said.
"A long time," I repeated with something of a note of sadness. I wanted him to feel that I, too, had suffered from it.
"But it has gone very quickly."
"Like a flash," I assented cheerfully.
"Strange," he said, "how life goes on and we lose track of people, and things alter. I often think about it. I sometimes wonder," he continued, "where all the old gang are gone to."
"So do I," I said. In fact I was wondering about it at the very moment. I always find in circumstances like these that a man begins sooner or later to talk of the "old gang" or "the boys" or "the crowd." That's where the opportunity comes in to gather who he is.
"Do you ever go back to the old place?" he asked.
"Never," I said, firmly and flatly. This had to be absolute. I felt that once and for all the "old place" must be ruled out of the discussion till I could discover where it was.
"No," he went on, "I suppose you'd hardly care to."
"Not now," I said very gently.
"I understand. I beg your pardon," he said, and there was silence for a few moments.
So far I had scored the first point. There was evidently an old place somewhere to which I would hardly care to go. That was something to build on.
Presently he began again.
"Yes," he said, "I sometimes meet some of the old boys and they begin to talk of you and wonder what you're doing."
"Poor things," I thought, but I didn't say it.
I knew it was time now to make a bold stroke; so I used the method that I always employ. I struck in with great animation.
"Say!" I said, "where's Billy? Do you ever hear anything of Billy now?"
This is really a very safe line. Every old gang has a Billy in it.
"Yes," said my friend, "sure—Billy is ranching out in Montana. I saw him in Chicago last spring,—weighed about two hundred pounds,—you wouldn't know him."
"No, I certainly wouldn't," I murmured to myself.
"And where's Pete?" I said. This was safe ground. There is always a Pete.
"You mean Billy's brother," he said.
"Yes, yes, Billy's brother Pete. I often think of him."
"Oh," answered the unknown man, "old Pete's quite changed,—settled down altogether." Here he began to chuckle, "Why, Pete's married!"
I started to laugh, too. Under these circumstances it is always supposed to be very funny if a man has got married. The notion of old Peter (whoever he is) being married is presumed to be simply killing. I kept on chuckling away quietly at the mere idea of it. I was hoping that I might manage to keep on laughing till the train stopped. I had only fifty miles more to go. It's not hard to laugh for fifty miles if you know how.
But my friend wouldn't be content with it.
"I often meant to write to you," he said, his voice falling to a confidential tone, "especially when I heard of your loss."
I remained quiet. What had I lost? Was it money? And if so, how much? And why had I lost it? I wondered if it had ruined me or only partly ruined me.
"One can never get over a loss like that," he continued solemnly.
Evidently I was plumb ruined. But I said nothing and remained under cover, waiting to draw his fire.
"Yes," the man went on, "death is always sad."
Death! Oh, that was it, was it? I almost hiccoughed with joy. That was easy. Handling a case of death in these conversations is simplicity itself. One has only to sit quiet and wait to find out who is dead.
"Yes," I murmured, "very sad. But it has its other side, too."
"Very true, especially, of course, at that age."
"As you say at that age, and after such a life."
"Strong and bright to the last I suppose," he continued, very sympathetically.
"Yes," I said, falling on sure ground, "able to sit up in bed and smoke within a few days of the end."
"What," he said, perplexed, "did your grandmother——"
My grandmother! That was it, was it?
"Pardon me," I said provoked at my own stupidity; "when I say smoked, I mean able to sit up and be smoked to, a habit she had,—being read to, and being smoked to,—only thing that seemed to compose her——"
As I said this I could hear the rattle and clatter of the train running past the semaphores and switch points and slacking to a stop.
My friend looked quickly out of the window.
His face was agitated.
"Great heavens!" he said, "that's the junction. I've missed my stop. I should have got out at the last station. Say, porter," he called out into the alleyway, "how long do we stop here?"
"Just two minutes, sah," called a voice back. "She's late now, she's makin' up tahm!"
My friend had hopped up now and had pulled out a bunch of keys and was fumbling at the lock of the suit case.
"I'll have to wire back or something," he gasped. "Confound this lock—my money's in the suit case."
My one fear now was that he would fail to get off.
"Here," I said, pulling some money out of my pocket, "don't bother with the lock. Here's money."
"Thanks," he said grabbing the roll of money out of my hand,—in his excitement he took all that I had.—"I'll just have time."
He sprang from the train. I saw him through the window, moving toward the waiting-room. He didn't seem going very fast.
The porters were calling, "All abawd! All abawd." There was the clang of a bell, a hiss of steam, and in a second the train was off.
"Idiot," I thought, "he's missed it;" and there was his fifty-dollar suit case lying on the seat.
I waited, looking out of the window and wondering who the man was, anyway.
Then presently I heard the porter's voice again. He evidently was guiding someone through the car.
"Ah looked all through the kyar for it, sah," he was saying.
"I left it in the seat in the car there behind my wife," said the angry voice of a stranger, a well-dressed man who put his head into the door of the compartment.
Then his face, too, beamed all at once with recognition. But it was not for me. It was for the fifty-dollar valise.
"Ah, there it is," he cried, seizing it and carrying it off.
I sank back in dismay. The "old gang!" Pete's marriage! My grandmother's death! Great heavens! And my money! I saw it all; the other man was "making talk," too, and making it with a purpose.
And next time that I fall into talk with a casual stranger in a car, I shall not try to be quite so extraordinarily clever.
V.—Under the Barber's Knife
"WAS you to the Arena the other night?" said the barber, leaning over me and speaking in his confidential whisper.
"Yes," I said, "I was there."
He saw from this that I could still speak. So he laid another thick wet towel over my face before he spoke again.
"What did you think of the game," he asked.
But he had miscalculated. I could still make a faint sound through the wet towels. He laid three or four more very thick ones over my face and stood with his five finger tips pressed against my face for support. A thick steam rose about me. Through it I could hear the barber's voice and the flick-flack of the razor as he stropped it.
"Yes, sir," he went on in his quiet professional tone, punctuated with the noise of the razor, "I knowed from the start them boys was sure to win,"—flick-flack-flick-flack,—"as soon as I seen the ice that night and seen the get-away them boys made I knowed it,"—flick-flack,—"and just as soon as Jimmy got aholt of the puck——"
This was more than the barber at the next chair could stand.
"Him get de puck," he cried, giving an angry dash with a full brush of soap into the face of the man under him,—"him get ut-dat stiff—why, boys," he said, and he turned appealingly to the eight barbers, who all rested their elbows on the customers' faces while they listened to the rising altercation; even the manicure girl, thrilled to attention, clasped tight the lumpy hand of her client in her white digits and remained motionless,—"why boys, dat feller can't no more play hockey than——"
"See here," said the barber, suddenly and angrily, striking his fist emphatically on the towels that covered my face. "I'll bet you five dollars to one Jimmy can skate rings round any two men in the league."
"Him skate," sneered the other squirting a jet of blinding steam in the face of the client he was treating, "he ain't got no more go in him than dat rag,"—and he slapped a wet towel across his client's face.
All the barbers were excited now. There was a babel of talk from behind each of the eight chairs. "He can't skate;" "He can skate;" "I'll bet you ten."
Already they were losing their tempers, slapping their customers with wet towels and jabbing great brushfuls of soap into their mouths. My barber was leaning over my face with his whole body. In another minute one or the other of them would have been sufficiently provoked to have dealt his customer a blow behind the ear.
Then suddenly there was a hush.
"The boss," said one.
In another minute I could realize, though I couldn't see it, that a majestic figure in a white coat was moving down the line. All was still again except the quiet hum of the mechanical shampoo brush and the soft burble of running water.
The barber began removing the wet towels from my face one by one. He peeled them off with the professional neatness of an Egyptologist unwrapping a mummy. When he reached my face he looked searchingly at it. There was suspicion in his eye.
"Been out of town?" he questioned.
"Yes," I admitted.
"Who's been doing your work?" he asked. This question, from a barber, has no reference to one's daily occupation. It means "who has been shaving you."
I knew it was best to own up. I'd been in the wrong, and I meant to acknowledge it with perfect frankness.
"I've been shaving myself," I said.
My barber stood back from me in contempt. There was a distinct sensation all down the line of barbers. One of them threw a wet rag in a corner with a thud, and another sent a sudden squirt from an atomizer into his customer's eyes as a mark of disgust.
My barber continued to look at me narrowly.
"What razor do you use?" he said.
"A safety razor," I answered.
The barber had begun to dash soap over my face; but he stopped—aghast at what I had said.
A safety razor to a barber is like a red rag to a bull.
"If it was me," he went on, beating lather into me as he spoke, "I wouldn't let one of them things near my face: No, sir: There ain't no safety in them. They tear the hide clean off you—just rake the hair right out by the follicles," as he said this he was illustrating his meaning with jabs of his razor,—"them things just cut a man's face all to pieces," he jabbed a stick of alum against an open cut that he had made,—"And as for cleanliness, for sanitation, for this here hygiene and for germs, I wouldn't have them round me for a fortune."
I said nothing. I knew I had deserved it, and I kept quiet.
The barber gradually subsided. Under other circumstances he would have told me something of the spring training of the baseball clubs, or the last items from the Jacksonville track, or any of those things which a cultivated man loves to hear discussed between breakfast and business. But I was not worth it. As he neared the end of the shaving he spoke again, this time in a confidential, almost yearning, tone.
"Massage?" he said.
"No thank you."
"Shampoo the scalp?" he whispered.
"Singe the hair?" he coaxed.
The barber made one more effort.
"Say," he said in my ear, as a thing concerning himself and me alone, "your hair's pretty well all falling out. You'd better let me just shampoo up the scalp a bit and stop up them follicles or pretty soon you won't—"
"No, thank you," I said, "not to-day."
This was all the barber could stand. He saw that I was just one of those miserable dead-beats who come to a barber shop merely for a shave, and who carry away the scalp and the follicles and all the barber's perquisites as if they belonged to them.
In a second he had me thrown out of the chair.
"Next," he shouted.
As I passed down the line of the barbers, I could see contempt in every eye while they turned on the full clatter of their revolving shampoo brushes and drowned the noise of my miserable exit in the roar of machinery.
I.—The Advantages of a Polite Education
"TAKE it from me," said my friend from Kansas, leaning back in his seat at the Taverne Royale and holding his cigar in his two fingers—"don't talk no French here in Paris. They don't expect it, and they don't seem to understand it."
This man from Kansas, mind you, had a right to speak. He knew French. He had learned French—he told me so himself—good French, at the Fayetteville Classical Academy. Later on he had had the natural method "off" a man from New Orleans. It had cost him "fifty cents a throw." All this I have on his own word. But in France something seemed to go wrong with his French.
"No," he said reflectively, "I guess what most of them speak here is a sort of patois."
When he said it was a patois, I knew just what he meant. It was equivalent to saying that he couldn't understand it.
I had seen him strike patois before. There had been a French steward on the steamer coming over, and the man from Kansas, after a couple of attempts, had said it was no use talking French to that man. He spoke a hopeless patois. There were half a dozen cabin passengers, too, returning to their homes in France. But we soon found from listening to their conversation on deck that what they were speaking was not French but some sort of patois.
It was the same thing coming through Normandy. Patois, everywhere, not a word of French—not a single sentence of the real language, in the way they had it at Fayetteville. We stopped off a day at Rouen to look at the cathedral. A sort of abbot showed us round. Would you believe it, that man spoke patois, straight patois—the very worst kind, and fast. The man from Kansas had spotted it at once. He hadn't listened to more than ten sentences before he recognized it. "Patois," he said.
Of course, it's fine to be able to detect patois like this. It's impressive. The mere fact that you know the word patois shows that you must be mighty well educated.
Here in Paris it was the same way. Everybody that the man from Kansas tried—waiters, hotel clerks, shop people—all spoke patois. An educated person couldn't follow it.
On the whole, I think the advice of the man from Kansas is good. When you come to Paris, leave French behind. You don't need it, and they don't expect it of you.
In any case, you soon learn from experience not to use it.
If you try to, this is what happens. You summon a waiter to you and you say to him very slowly, syllable by syllable, so as to give him every chance in case he's not an educated man:
"Bringez moi de la soupe, de la fish, de la roast pork et de la fromage."
And he answers:
"Yes, sir, roast pork, sir, and a little bacon on the side?"
That waiter was raised in Illinois.
Or suppose you stop a man on the street and you say to him:
"Musshoo, s'il vous plait, which is la direction pour aller a le Palais Royal?"
And he answers:
"Well, I tell you, I'm something of a stranger here myself, but I guess it's straight down there a piece."
Now it's no use speculating whether that man comes from Dordogne Inferieure or from Auvergne-sur-les-Puits because he doesn't.
On the other hand, you may strike a real Frenchman—there are some even in Paris. I met one the other day in trying to find my way about, and I asked him:
"Musshoo, s'il vous plait, which is la direction pour aller a Thomas Cook & Son?"
I said: "Thank you so much! I had half suspected it myself." But I didn't really know what he meant.
So I have come to make it a rule never to use French unless driven to it. Thus, for example, I had a tremendous linguistic struggle in a French tailors shop.
There was a sign in the window to the effect that "completes" might be had "for a hundred." It seemed a chance not to be missed. Moreover, the same sign said that English and German were spoken.
So I went in. True to my usual principle of ignoring the French language, I said to the head man:
"You speak English?"
He shrugged his shoulders, spread out his hands and looked at the clock on the wall.
"Presently," he said.
"Oh," I said, "you'll speak it presently. That's splendid. But why not speak it right away?"
The tailor again looked at the clock with a despairing shrug.
"At twelve o'clock," he said.
"Come now," I said, "be fair about this. I don't want to wait an hour and a half for you to begin to talk. Let's get at it right now."
But he was obdurate. He merely shook his head and repeated:
"Speak English at twelve o'clock."
Judging that he must be under a vow of abstinence during the morning, I tried another idea.
"Allemand?" I asked, "German, Deutsch, eh! speak that?"
Again the French tailor shook his head, this time with great decision.
"Not till four o'clock," he said.
This was evidently final. He might be lax enough to talk English at noon, but he refused point-blank to talk German till he had his full strength.
I was just wondering whether there wasn't some common sense in this after all, when the solution of it struck me.
"Ah!" I said, speaking in French, "tres bong! there is somebody who comes at twelve, quelqu'un qui vient a midi, who can talk English."
"Precisement," said the tailor, wreathed in smiles and waving his tape coquettishly about his neck.
"You flirt!" I said, "but let's get to business. I want a suit, un soot, un complete, complet, comprenez-vous, veston, gilet, une pair de panteloon—everything—do you get it?"
The tailor was now all animation.
"Ah, certainement," he said, "monsieur desires a fantasy, une fantaisie, is it not?"
A fantasy! Good heavens!
The man had evidently got the idea from my naming so many things that I wanted a suit for a fancy dress carnival.
"Fantasy nothing!" I said—"pas de fantaisie! un soot anglais"—here an idea struck me and I tapped myself on the chest—"like this," I said, "comme ceci."
"Bon," said the tailor, now perfectly satisfied, "une fantaisie comme porte monsieur."
Here I got mad.
"Blast you," I said, "this is not a fantaisie. Do you take me for a dragon-fly, or what? Now come, let's get this fantaisie business cleared up. This is what I want"—and here I put my hand on a roll of very quiet grey cloth on the counter.
"Tres bien," said the tailor, "une fantaisie."
I stared at him.
"Is that a fantaisie?"
"Now," I said, "let's go into it further," and I touched another piece of plain pepper and salt stuff of the kind that is called in the simple and refined language of my own country, gents' panting.
"Une fantaisie," said the French tailor.
"Well," I said, "you've got more imagination than I have."
Then I touched a piece of purple blue that would have been almost too loud for a Carolina nigger.
"Is this a fantaisie?"
The tailor shrugged his shoulders.
"Ah, non," he said in deprecating tones.
"Tell me," I said, speaking in French, "just exactly what it is you call a fantasy."
The tailor burst into a perfect paroxysm of French, gesticulating and waving his tape as he put the sentences over the plate one after another. It was fast pitching, but I took them every one, and I got him.
What he meant was that any single colour or combination of single colours—for instance, a pair of sky blue breeches with pink insertion behind—is not regarded by a French tailor as a fantaisie or fancy. But any mingled colour, such as the ordinary drab grey of the business man is a fantaisie of the daintiest kind. To the eye of a Parisian tailor, a Quakers' meeting is a glittering panorama of fantaisies, whereas a negro ball at midnight in a yellow room with a band in scarlet, is a plain, simple scene.
I thanked him. Then I said:
"Measure me, mesurez-moi, passez le tape line autour de moi."
He did it.
I don't know what it is they measure you in, whether in centimetres or cubic feet or what it is. But the effect is appalling.
The tailor runs his tape round your neck and calls "sixty!" Then he puts it round the lower part of the back—at the major circumference, you understand,—and shouts, "a hundred and fifty!"
It sounded a record breaker. I felt that there should have been a burst of applause. But, to tell the truth, I have friends—quiet sedentary men in the professoriate—who would easily hit up four or five hundred on the same scale.
Then came the last item.
"Now," I said, "when will this 'complete' be ready?"
"Ah, monsieur," said the tailor, with winsome softness, "we are very busy, crushed, ecrases with commands! Give us time, don't hurry us!"
"Well," I said, "how long do you want?"
"Ah, monsieur," he pleaded, "give us four days!"
I never moved an eyelash.
"What!" I said indignantly, "four days! Monstrous! Let me have this whole complete fantasy in one day or I won't buy it."
"Ah, monsieur, three days?"
"No," I said, "make it two days."
"Two days and a half, monsieur."
"Two days and a quarter," I said; "give it me the day after to-morrow at three o'clock in the morning."
"Ah, monsieur, ten o'clock."
"Make it ten minutes to ten and it's a go," I said.
"Bon," said the tailor.
He kept his word. I am wearing the fantaisie as I write. For a fantaisie, it is fairly quiet, except that it has three pockets on each side outside, and a rolled back collar suitable for the throat of an opera singer, and as many buttons as a harem skirt. Beyond that, it's a first-class, steady, reliable, quiet, religious fantaisie, such as any retired French ballet master might be proud to wear.
II.—The Joys of Philanthropy
"GOOD-MORNING," said the valet de chambre, as I stepped from my room.
"Good-morning," I answered. "Pray accept twenty-five centimes."
"Good-morning, sir," said the maitre d'hotel, as I passed down the corridor, "a lovely morning, sir."
"So lovely," I replied, "that I must at once ask you to accept forty-five centimes on the strength of it."
"A beautiful day, monsieur," said the head waiter, rubbing his hands, "I trust that monsieur has slept well."
"So well," I answered, "that monsieur must absolutely insist on your accepting seventy-five centimes on the spot. Come, don't deny me. This is personal matter. Every time I sleep I simply have to give money away."
"Monsieur is most kind."
Kind? I should think not. If the valet de chambre and the maitre d'hotel and the chef de service and the others of the ten men needed to supply me with fifteen cents worth of coffee, could read my heart, they would find it an abyss of the blackest hatred.
Yet they take their handful of coppers—great grown men dressed up in monkey suits of black at eight in the morning—and bow double for it.
If they tell you it is a warm morning, you must give them two cents. If you ask the time, it costs you two cents. If you want a real genuine burst of conversation, it costs anywhere from a cent to a cent and a half a word.
Such is Paris all day long. Tip, tip, tip, till the brain is weary, not with the cost of it, but with the arithmetical strain.
No pleasure is perfect. Every rose has its thorn. The thorn of the Parisian holiday-maker is the perpetual necessity of handing out small gratuities to a set of overgrown flunkies too lazy to split wood.
Not that the amount of the tips, all added together, is anything serious. No rational man would grudge it if it could be presented in a bill as a lump sum at breakfast time every morning and done with for the day.
But the incessant necessity of handing out small tips of graded amounts gets on one's nerves. It is necessary in Paris to go round with enough money of different denominations in one's pocket to start a bank—gold and paper notes for serious purchases, and with them a huge dead weight of great silver pieces, five franc bits as large as a Quaker's shoebuckle, and a jingling mass of coppers in a side pocket. These one must distribute as extras to cabmen, waiters, news-vendors, beggars, anybody and everybody in fact that one has anything to do with.
The whole mass of the coppers carried only amounts perhaps to twenty-five cents in honest Canadian money. But the silly system of the French currency makes the case appear worse than it is, and gives one the impression of being a walking treasury.
Morning, noon, and night the visitor is perpetually putting his hand into his side pocket and pulling out coppers. He drips coppers all day in an unending stream. You enter a French theatre. You buy a programme, fifty centimes, and ten more to the man who sells it. You hand your coat and cane to an aged harpy, who presides over what is called the vestiaire, pay her twenty-five centimes and give her ten. You are shown to your seat by another old fairy in dingy black (she has a French name, but I forget it) and give her twenty centimes. Just think of the silly business of it. Your ticket, if it is a good seat in a good theatre, has cost you about three dollars and a half. One would almost think the theatre could afford to throw in eight cents worth of harpies for the sake of international good will.
Similarly, in your hotel, you ring the bell and there appears the valet de chambre, dressed in a red waistcoat and a coat effect of black taffeta. You tell him that you want a bath. "Bien, monsieur!" He will fetch the maitre d'hotel. Oh, he will, will he, how good of him, but really one can't witness such kindness on his part without begging him to accept a twenty-five centime remembrance. "Merci bien, monsieur." The maitre d'hotel comes. He is a noble looking person who wears a dress suit at eight o'clock in the morning with patent leather shoes of the kind that I have always wanted but am still unable to afford. Yet I know from experience that the man merely lives and breathes at fifty centimes a breath. For fifty centimes he'll bow low enough to crack himself. If you gave him a franc, he'd lie down on the floor and lick your boots. I know he would; I've seen them do it.
So when the news comes that you propose to take a bath, he's right along side of you in a minute, all civility. Mind you, in a really French hotel, one with what is called the old French atmosphere, taking a bath is quite an event, and the maitre d'hotel sees a dead sure fifty centimes in it, with perhaps an extra ten centimes if times are good. That is to say, he may clear anything from ten to twelve cents on the transaction. A bath, monsieur? Nothing more simple, this moment, tout de suite, right off, he will at once give orders for it. So you give him eleven cents and he then tells the hotel harpy, dressed in black, like the theatre harpies, to get the bath and she goes and gets it. She was there, of course, all the time, right in the corridor, and heard all that proceeded, but she doesn't "enter into her functions" until the valet de chambre tells the maitre d'hotel and the maitre d'hotel informs her officially of the coming event.
She gets the bath. What does she do? Why, merely opens the door of the bathroom, which wasn't locked, and turns on the water. But, of course, no man with any chivalry in him could allow a harpy to be put to all that labour without pressing her to accept three cents as a mark of personal appreciation.
Thus the maitre d'hotel and the valet de chambre and the harpy go on all day, from six in the morning when they first "enter into functions" until heaven knows when at night when they leave off, and they keep gathering in two cents and three cents and even five cents at a time. Then presently, I suppose, they go off and spend it in their own way. The maitre d'hotel transformed into a cheap Parisian with a dragon-fly coat and a sixty cent panama, dances gaily at the Bal Wagram, and himself hands out coppers to the musicians, and gives a one cent tip to a lower order of maitre d'hotel. The harpy goes forth, and with other harpies absorbs red wine and indescribable cheese at eleven at night in a crowded little cafe on the crowded sidewalk of a street about as wide as a wagon. She tips the waiter who serves her at the rate of one cent per half hour of attendance, and he, I suppose, later on tips someone else, and so on endlessly.
In this way about fifty thousand people in Paris eke out a livelihood by tipping one another.
The worst part of the tipping system is that very often the knowledge that tips are expected and the uncertainty of their amount, causes one to forego a great number of things that might otherwise be enjoyable.
I brought with me to Paris, for example, a letter of introduction to the President of the Republic. I don't say this in any boasting spirit. A university professor can always get all the letters of introduction that he wants. Everyone knows that he is too simple to make any commercial use of them. But I never presented this letter to the President. What was the use? It wouldn't have been worth it. He would have expected a tip, and of course in his case it would have had to be a liberal one, twenty-five cents straight out. Perhaps, too, some of his ministers would have strolled in, as soon as they saw a stranger, on the chance of picking up something. Put it as three ministers at fifteen cents each, that's forty-five cents or a total of seventy cents for ten minutes' talk with the French Government. It's not worth it.
In all Paris, I only found one place where tipping is absolutely out of the question. That was at the British Embassy. There they don't allow it. Not only the clerks and the secretaries, but even the Ambassador himself is forbidden to take so much as the smallest gratuity.
And they live up to it.
That is why I still feel proud of having made an exception to the rule.
I went there because the present ambassador is a personal friend of mine. I hadn't known this till I went to Paris, and I may say in fairness that we are friends no longer: as soon as I came away, our friendship seemed to have ceased.
I will make no secret of the matter. I wanted permission to read in the National Library in Paris. All Frenchmen are allowed to read there and, in addition, all the personal friends of the foreign ambassadors. By a convenient fiction, everybody is the friend of this ambassador, and is given a letter to prove it, provided he will call at the Embassy and get it. That is how I came to be a friend of the British Ambassador. Whether our friendship will ripen into anything warmer and closer, it is not for me to say.
But I went to the Embassy.
The young man that I dealt with was, I think, a secretary. He was—I could see it at once—that perfect thing called an English gentleman. I have seldom seen, outside of baseball circles, so considerate a manner. He took my card, and from sheer considerateness left me alone for half an hour. Then he came back for a moment and said it was a glorious day. I had heard this phrase so often in Paris that I reached into my pocket for ten cents. But something in the quiet dignity of the young man held me back. So I merely answered that it was indeed a glorious day, and that the crops would soon head out nicely if we got this sunshine, provided there wasn't dew enough to start the rust, in which case I was afraid that if an early frost set in we might be badly fooled. He said "indeed," and asked me if I had read the last London Weekly Times. I said that I had not seen the last one; but that I had read one about a year ago and that it seemed one of the most sparkling things I had ever read; I had simply roared over it from cover to cover.
He looked pleased and went away.
When he came back, he had the letter of commendation in his hand.
Would you believe it? The civility of it! They had printed the letter, every word of it—except my own name—and it explained all about the ambassador and me being close friends, and told of his desire to have me read in the National Library.
I took the letter, and I knew of course that the moment had come to do something handsome for the young man. But he looked so calm that I still hesitated.
I took ten cents out of my pocket and held it where the light could glitter from every point of its surface full in his face.
And I said——
"My dear young friend, I hope I don't insult you. You are, I can see it, an English gentleman. Your manner betrays it. I, too, though I may seem only what I am, had I not been brought up in Toronto, might have been like you. But enough of this weakness,—will you take ten cents?"
He hesitated. He looked all round. I could see that he was making a great effort. The spirit of Paris battled against his better nature. He was tempted, but he didn't fall.
"I'm sorry, sir," he said. "I'd like to take it, but I'm afraid I mustn't."
"Young man," I said, "I respect your feelings. You have done me a service. If you ever fall into want and need a position in the Canadian Cabinet, or a seat in our Senate, let me know at once."
I left him.
Then by an odd chance, as I passed to the outer door, there was the British Ambassador himself. He was standing beside the door waiting to open it. There was no mistaking him. I could tell by his cocked hat and brass buttons and the brass chain across his chest that it was the Ambassador. The way in which he swung the door back and removed his hat showed him a trained diplomat.
The moment had come. I still held my ten cents.
"My lord," I said, "I understand your position as the only man in Paris who must not accept a tip, but I insist."
I slipped the money into his hand.
"Thank'ee kindly, sir," said the Ambassador.
Diplomatically speaking, the incident was closed.
III.—The Simple Life in Paris
PARIS—at least the Paris of luxury and fashion—is a childless city. Its streets are thronged all day with a crowd that passes in endless succession but with never a child among them. You may stand on the boulevards and count a thousand grown-up persons for one child that goes by.
The case, of course, is not so extreme in the quieter parts of the city. I have seen children, sometimes two or three together, in the Champs Elysees. In the garden of the Tuileries I once saw six all in a group. They seemed to be playing. A passer-by succeeded in getting a snapshot of them without driving them away. In the poorer districts, there are any quantity of children, even enough to sell, but in the Paris of the rich, the child is conspicuous by its absence. The foreign visitors come without their children. The true Parisian lady has pretty well gone out of the business.
Here and there you may see driving past with its mother in an open barouche, or parading the Rue de la Paix on the hand of its nurse, the doll-like substitute for old-time infancy, the fashionable Parisian child. As far as the sex can be determined by looking at it, it is generally a girl. It is dressed in the height of fashion. A huge picture hat reaches out in all directions from its head. Long gloves encase its little arms to prevent it from making a free use of them. A dainty coat of powder on its face preserves it from the distorting effect of a smile. Its little hundred dollar frock reaches down in a sweet simplicity of outline. It has a belt that runs round its thighs to divide it into two harmonious parts. Below that are bare pink legs ending in little silk socks at a dollar an inch and wee slippers clasped with a simple emerald buckle. Therein, of course, the child only obeys the reigning fashion. Simplicity,—so I am informed by the last number of La Mode Parisienne,—is the dominant note of Parisian dress to-day,—simplicity, plainness, freedom from all display. A French lady wears in her hair at the Opera a single, simple tiara bound with a plain row of solitaire diamonds. It is so exquisitely simple in its outline that you can see the single diamonds sticking out from it and can count up the price of each. The Parisian gentleman wears in his button-hole merely a single orchid,—not half a dozen,—and pins his necktie with one plain, ordinary ruby, set in a perfectly unostentatious sunburst of sapphires. There is no doubt of the superiority of this Parisian simplicity. To me, when it broke upon me in reading La Mode Parisienne, it came as a kind of inspiration. I took away the stuffy black ribbon with its stupidly elaborate knot from my Canadian Christie hat and wound a single black ostrich feather about it fastened with just the plainest silver aigrette. When I had put that on and pinned a piece of old lace to the tail of my coat with just one safety pin, I walked the street with the quiet dignity of a person whose one idea is not to be conspicuous.
But this is a digression. The child, I was saying, wears about two hundred worth of visible clothing upon it; and I believe that if you were to take it up by its ten-dollar slipper and hold it upside down, you would see about fifty dollars more. The French child has been converted into an elaborately dressed doll. It is altogether a thing of show, an appendage of its fashionably dressed mother, with frock and parasol to match. It is no longer a child, but a living toy or plaything.
Even on these terms the child is not a success. It has a rival who is rapidly beating it off the ground. This is the Parisian dog. As an implement of fashion, as a set-off to the fair sex, as the recipient of ecstatic kisses and ravishing hugs, the Parisian dog can give the child forty points in a hundred and win out. It can dress better, look more intelligent, behave better, bark better,—in fact, the child is simply not in it.
This is why, I suppose, in the world of Parisian luxury, the dog is ousting the infant altogether. You will see, as I said, no children on the boulevards and avenues. You will see dogs by the hundred. Every motor or open barouche that passes up the Champs Elysees, with its little white cloud of fluffy parasols and garden-hats, has a dainty, beribboned dog sitting among its occupants: in every avenue and promenade you will see hundreds of clipped poodles and toy spaniels; in all the fashionable churches you will see dogs bowed at their devotions.