Now commenced a brief period which was, perhaps, to be the happiest of Kendall Ware’s whole life. It was happy because it was free from doubts and questionings. From the depths he had mounted to the heights from which he looked upon a world bathed in sunshine, rich in harvest, beautiful as a world could be beautiful only when it was freed from all evil. He saw everything as good, and it contented him. He ate of the lotus of inexperienced youth, flavored with the pungent spice of sophistry, and the taste of it was sweet in his mouth. Plymouth Rock had sunk beneath its sands, the vestibule of the Presbyterian church had vanished behind the mists of an intervening ocean. He did not think; he only felt and acted—and was happy.
His work was interesting, and he could recognize its value, so he became less dissatisfied with the necessity that held him far behind the battle-line. Not that he was content, rather that he was resigned…. And at the end of the day there was Andree….
There were few evenings which they did not spend together, either by themselves or with Bert and Madeleine, dining at home, at Poccardi’s, at Marty’s, or in interesting, homelike little cafés across the river where excellent food could be had very cheaply. Sometimes they went to the theater or to the music-halls. Sometimes they strolled up and down the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne until they were tired and then sat and talked contentedly on springy iron chairs along the promenade. Once they walked out that street, so crowded of evenings—that street of the ever-changing names—Montmartre, Poissonnière, Nouvelle, St.-Denis, St.-Martin—as far as the Place de la République. It was interesting, if tiresome. More than once Kendall was impressed with the fact that Parisians of a certain class take their pleasures simply and childishly. More than one glaring palace, open at the front, showed rows upon rows of those devices, long extinct in America, before which one could sit or stand with the ends of a rubber tube in one’s ears and listen to such tunes as found favor with him played by phonograph. The popularity of these places surprised him. They were always crowded…. It seemed to him that this was the most crowded thoroughfare in Paris, as well as one of the most questionable. The crowds impressed him as being questionable and bent on questionable errands…. And yet he did not know; he only guessed. So far as his knowledge went, these folk might be the most respectable in all France—all save the numerous soft-voice girls who threaded their way in and out…. And for a mere child, a girl who seemed hardly in her teens, who bit and struggled in the hands of two gendarmes, shrieking in a voice that remained long in Kendall’s ears, “I have the age!… I have the age!… I have the age!…” over and over again….
Madeleine had laughed and shrugged her shoulders with some flippant word of comment, but Kendall looked down at Andree to see her eyes moist and big with pity.
“Pauvre p’tite!… Pauvre p’tite!… It is not she who should be punish’. She have made no wrong…. I theenk it is the crime of poverty. N’est-ce pas? Oh, to be pauvre—it is not well….”
“Yet le bon Dieu permits it,” said Madeleine.
“Non!… Non!… It is not of God, ma’m’selle; it is of man—thees poverty and thees awful theengs…. It mus’ be that tears come often to the eyes of the good God….”
Kendall was affected deeply. She spoke of the good God with such simplicity, with the sort of intimacy which children use. He felt almost a reverence for her…. There was a rightness about her, a simple, unaffected, unconscious goodness, that set her apart and made her different, to him, from all mankind.
“Mignonne!” he whispered, and pressed her arm, and she, looking up shyly into his face, gave answering pressure, and, perhaps, wondered a little.
She was always so, never changing, yet always possessed of that infinite variety of which Shakespeare speaks. But it was a variety which was always Andree. In no mood, in no manifestation, could she be anything but Andree. If she were sad, it was with a sadness peculiar to her, and very lovable; if she were gay, it was with her own gaiety; if she were mischievous, it was with a charming impishness which no other being could have managed. And always she was natural—as natural as the rain that falls or the sun that shines or the breezes that blow…. She was Andree.
“To-morrow is the great fête,” said Andree. “There will be much to see.”
“And I can’t show it to you. I must work in the morning, and in the afternoon I am ordered to go to the front.”
“How long?” she said, quickly.
“But one day. I shall be here again Sunday—and we shall play, eh? We shall have déjeuner together and do something in the afternoon, and find a place to dine….”
“It is well—but you mus’ be ver’ careful. You mus’ not let the boche keel you…. Oh, I should be sad, sad.”
Already Paris was dressing for the American fête-day, the Fourth of July, which, by methods of law, had been made her own national holiday this year. Everywhere were American flags. There was no house in Paris too poor to show some small copy of the Stars and Stripes, for just now Paris was mad about America and Americans … as it had had its day of madness over the Belgians and then the English. Paris is given to such enthusiasms, and at the moment there were men in the service of the great god Propaganda who labored to bring it about that this latest passion should not die and become sudden ashes as the others had done, but rather to persuade it to subside slowly, unnoticeably, leaving a pleasant memory behind….
“The boches will pull something off to-morrow,” said Bert. “You see. They’ll do something to bust up the celebration.”
This was the opinion of the Paris streets—that the Hun would, by some ingenious and disagreeable means, make the fête memorable in the history of the city.
“Maybe it’s just as well I’m going away,” laughed Ken. “So you, Ma’m’selle Pourquoi—you look out for yourself. Don’t you let anything hurt you.”
“Me—pouf!… It could not be. While there is you nothing can happen to me—nothing. I am ver’ safe.”
They tried in vain to persuade a voiture or a taxicab to take them home, but, with that perversity which belongs to the Paris cabby alone, none of them would go. One reason or another was given—the horse was tired, the gasolene supply was depleted, it was the wrong quarter of the city. A large volume, serious or comic, might be written on the habits and moods of these public conveyances of the most charming city in the world. Paris would not be the same without them. While they are one of the irritations, none the less they are of the quaint and pleasant memories of the city, and Kendall could often see himself, as he sat at some future day, retailing to audiences of less traveled Americans than he his adventures with the war-time taxi.
Finally they were obliged to descend to the Metro, which carried them to the Place de l’Opéra, to change there for the short ride to the Palais Royal, where another change was necessary to carry them to the Étoile. It was late and they were tired.
“Oh, we have make the beaucoup travail—the so great labor thees day,” said Andree, shaking her head. “I have the fatigue…. But it is well to be weary. Are you weary, Monsieur Ken?”
“I am happy,” he said.
“Yes…. Yes…. That is bes’ of all—to be happy. Tell me, when you have gone to the front—will you theenk of me?”
“In the morning, at noon, in the afternoon—”
“Oh, oh!… It is not possible. But sometimes. Once, twice? For I shall be theenking of you always.”
“Do you love me?”
“Yes,” she nodded emphatically, and then—he would have missed it had she omitted it—“and you?”
“More than anybody in the world.”
“More than thees yo’ng American girl?… I have seen her thees day. She is in Paris. Do you know?”
“You must be mistaken, mignonne. Miss Knox is out at the front.”
“It is so…. It is so. I have seen her—thees day. Oh, do you theenk I do not know her? I am ver’ jalouse—mos’ jalouse. She come for take you away from me.”
“Don’t you let her do it,” said Ken happily. “Don’t you dare let her do it.”
“I do not know,” she said, becoming suddenly grave. “You are American—she is American…. Some day…” Then she laughed gaily, impishly. “Mais these American girl, they do not know how to dress. Oh, it is terrible!”
“You mustn’t judge all American women by these uniforms you see in France,” said Bert. “Just now it is the style in America for women to get into something they think are uniforms. I wonder who designed these Y. M. C. A. uniforms, anyhow?… But really, Mademoiselle Andree, our women do know how to dress.”
“I have never seen,” she said, stubbornly. “Also they do not always wear uniforms, but always they wear their feet. Their feet they cannot take off. Mais non. It is too bad. If only they could leave at home their feet.”
Kendall suspected that American women were suffering for the sins of Maude Knox, so he did not rush to their defense. He did not want to think about Maude Knox to-night—he wanted to think of no woman but Andree.
“Méchante!” he whispered.
“It is so—what I say,” she said, severely. “I do not like American women…. I do not like thees girl. She ees ver’ wicked, for she wish to steal you from me.”
The street was very dark. Kendall made youth’s answer to youth’s jealousy. He lifted her slight form in his arms and kissed her until she returned his kisses.
“There,” he said, “you are punished.”
“It ees ver’ nice to be wicked,” she said. “Thees punishment is ver’ well.”
Maude Knox was banished. They two found themselves the sole inhabitants of a brightly glowing world….
Next morning Kendall made his way through early assembling crowds to his office, where he was much occupied until noon, making preparations for his trip to the front. Then he was driven through the holiday-making streets crowded with a populace in holiday humor to the barrière, and thence into the country. On every building waved an American flag, in every buttonhole was a tiny American flag, and the appearance of an American military automobile was the signal for applause and lifting of hats. Small boys shouted as small boys of all countries shout; friendly old gentlemen waved their canes; young women smiled broadly or demurely, invitingly or shyly. Kendall felt as if he were enjoying some sort of a triumph, as if this celebration were for him. The frankness and open-heartedness and courtesy of it were delightful.
They drove rapidly through little villages, between rolling fields cultivated as only the French agriculturist seems to be able to cultivate. The villages, too, were in gala dress and the people in holiday attire. In one place a brief stop was made. Immediately the car was surrounded by children who shouted eagerly for “penny,” for “gu-um,” for “cigarette.” So it was all over France. Let but an American soldier appear and the children of the neighborhood formed a group about him demanding tribute.
Soon the civil inhabitants disappeared. Whole villages were occupied by billeted troops, poilus and colonials, black-skinned men wearing red fezzes and speaking strange tongues who gave to the picture an exotic tint. The countryside swarmed with soldiers en repos, a zone miles deep crowded with the guardians of Paris and of the Channel ports…. Now came forests in whose depths could be caught fleeting glimpses of huge ammunition-dumps, skilfully camouflaged, then a wonderful woods, clean as the floor of a kitchen, a forest of magnificent trees, but as well kept as a Michigan peach-orchard…. Dusk descended, then darkness. The car seemed to be running into a black curtain upon a thread of white cloud. Kendall could not see the length of his nose to one side or the other, but ahead could be discerned that pale cloud avenue, a sort of milky way that disappeared itself into blackness a hundred feet away. He was now upon one of those roads of white chalk, deep with dust which arose in clouds and nestled in the hair and eyebrows and penetrated the very pores of the skin, giving to men the singular appearance of having been carved out of bronze.
Presently the horizon glowed for an instant, as with heat lightning, and glowed again and again. There was a mutter and a grumble ahead which was the distant voice of the guns…. Something burst into flower in the sky far ahead, a vivid rose-blossom, then another and another. It was shrapnel, either our own demanding toll of a prowling German aeroplane or the enemy searching the air for an Allied machine…. The heat lightning became continuous, the roar of the guns a rumble without break, almost a single, sustained note.
Ken was riding in the depths of a sea of blackness. To right and left the eyes encountered an impasse; ahead was only that dim milky way of road and those upsurging lights as the guns answered one another across the desert of No Man’s Land. The car was traveling at breakneck speed. Suddenly came a tremendous snap almost in Ken’s ears, a snap as of a mountain being cracked in twain by giant hands. There was a blinding flash across the road ahead and the air was usurped by the scream of a departing shell. A battery by the roadside had taken up its work of the night. Kendall was in the midst of it now. Guns on both sides cracked and roared; projectiles screamed over his head, and now and then would come that easily distinguishable sound, the bursting of a German shell….
Presently the road sank below the level of the fields. The car was running between irregular rows of barely discernible lights which appeared to issue from the ground—as indeed they did—glowing from the dugouts of French artillerymen who had burrowed into the banks at the side of the road. The moon began to climb so that objects became dimly visible. The scene was like that of some village of prehistoric cave-dwellers, save for those breaks in the line of dugouts, cunningly covered with nets of camouflage, under which lurked the cannon, muzzles directed toward the foe.
Now they stopped in a battered, deserted village which was headquarters of our Twenty-eighth Infantry, a component of that First Division made up of our old regulars—a body of troops whose name will be famous as long as the history of America shall endure. And there, in an enormous dugout entered through a narrow tunnel some fifty feet in length, Ken found shelter for the night. He traversed the tunnel, descended steps carved out of the stone to a level twenty feet below, and found himself in a warren. Here, notwithstanding the hour of the night, were bustle and activity. Here were offices where sounded the click of typewriters and the staccato of the telephone; here were passages, bedrooms, a dining-room—a veritable maze hewn out of the chalk formation. It was as if Ali Baba’s forty thieves had turned systematic and were carrying on their trade according to modern business methods. Yet men worked here as casually and nonchalantly, accustomed by long habit, as they would have worked in their New York offices….
Kendall was provided with a cot, and, despite the sounds that penetrated here, the sounds of the Fourth of July celebration of the First Division, he slept….
Early in the morning he awoke, then, after some hours spent with the regimental intelligence officer, he walked abroad to see this historic countryside. Far off to the left the glasses showed him that spot which had been Montdidier; almost straight ahead was the grisly, silent crumble known now to the world by the name of Cantigny.
The day was beautiful. It seemed strange, unnatural that the country should be so beautiful as well. Even the gun-pits among which Kendall quickly found himself did not detract from the beauty, for they were almost invisible even at a distance of a few yards, only appearing as low mounds, scarcely differing in color from the surrounding fields. Yet the guns were there under their tents of chicken-wire covered with stained burlap and grasses. Everywhere he looked were these mounds which during the night that had just passed had been uncovered to the sky while shells filled with deadly gas had screamed through intervening miles of air to fall with deadly effect in the German lines…. It had been mustard gas, six thousand rounds of it, he had been told. He was also told it was the first time American gunners had been supplied with that devilishness of war—to celebrate the Fourth…. Now the gun-pits were neat as a New England parlor, guns were brightly polished. Nothing seemed to have happened there.
He stood above and looked down the slope of the valley, a valley of golden fields, a valley which was a miracle of color. Never had Kendall seen such color, acres upon acres of it, nor such a profusion of flowers. Gold and red and white and blue … and peace! That valley had been spread there for some painter—not for a battle-field. It impressed the inherited mysticism in him—he saw a symbolism in it all. The fields blazed with gorgeous tints; rectangles acres in extent were red with poppies, not with a sprinkling of poppies here and there, but as with a snowfall of vivid red. Segregated in an adjoining field were cornflowers, a carpet of blue; and then another field glaring white with some flower that Kendall did not know…. Other fields there were in which the three flowers mingled. The panorama spoke of peace and beauty…. It was as if the war irritated God until He spread this, His own camouflage of peace, to hide the horrors from His down-gazing eyes…. Or perhaps, as of olden times He had set His rainbow in the sky as a promise to the sons of Noah, so now He planted this living rainbow in the fields as a new and more wonderful promise to all the sons of men … a promise that His purposes should nevermore demand another war to devastate the earth….
Before him, knee-deep in poppies, moved half a dozen figures in khaki.
“The boys are gathering flowers for the funeral,” he was told.
“Of the men killed last night….”
Presently, his business completed, he was driving toward Paris, reached Paris in the darkness with a feeling of home-coming and pleasure…. But he was thoughtful, troubled. His sternly believing mother was awake in him, asserting that he had seen with his own eyes a movement of the finger of God—that he had read a sign from Omnipotence. It weighed him down, filled him not with joyous faith, but with Calvinistic gloom to have this assurance that God was actually taking an active interest in His world…. The weight of the knowledge of the existence of a Deity was upon him as it had been upon his stern forebears—the knowledge of the existence of a Deity, stern, forbidding, cruel in his revenges and implacable in his demands … not of such a God as Andree knew—whose eyes might be wet with tears caused by the sufferings of His puppets to whom He had vouchsaved the dubious boon of freedom of action….
He awoke in the morning as one awakes from an impressive dream, with a feeling of heaviness upon him, a consciousness of his personal existence that made him dull company at breakfast. This humor did not pass away, it was rather laid aside for further reference and obscured by the events and anticipations of the day.
“Good trip?” asked Bert.
“Fine! Saw a lot.”
“Wish I could get a crack at it sometime. I haven’t heard a gun go off yet—except in an air raid…. Was anything stirring up there?”
Ken described his experiences of the day and night, and, strangely, from a different viewpoint than that from which he had beheld them. Yesterday the thing had been subjective, symbolical; to-day it was objective. He described the war he had seen as a tourist might describe some interesting scene in a foreign country—and he rather wondered at himself that he could think of it in that manner.
“When do you meet Andree?” Bert asked.
“Eleven o’clock—at the Place de la Concorde. You and Madeleine are coming along?”
“Sure! We’ll pick you up there at eleven.”
“Anything happen here yesterday?”
“Not a thing. The boches disappointed everybody. I went to one of those dinners the crowd at the Union are always piloting a fellow to—this Society of French Homes, or whatever they call it…. Four of us dined with a Madame Lefebvre.”
“Interesting. Played bridge with three French people, a deputy and two women. None of them spoke a word of English, but we made out pretty well. I won thirty francs…. They were rather upper crust in this town, I guess. Fine house and that sort of thing.”
“I must go to one of those some day,” said Ken, reflectively. “I’ve wondered if we were really seeing Paris—the way the French live.”
“Not if that dinner last night was a sample. I had to lug out all my manners. And the women—they sort of made me feel uncomfortable. Dignified, you know, but very friendly. It was all the family. Old grandmother and her sons and daughters and a few grandchildren. Patriarchal affair.”
“I want to see that sort of thing. People have told me that French family life is beautiful…. One wouldn’t think it to judge from what we’ve seen.”
“I don’t know about the beautiful,” said Bert, and Ken registered a thought that Bert would not be likely to notice domestic beauties, “but there was something fine about it. I liked it…. That old grandmother was bully. They were all so doggone respectful…. And there was a young lieutenant, a grandson—had his face shot away. Nothing left but his mouth and one eye. Wore a big triangular patch over his face. He must have been quite a fellow, though. Had the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor and the Médaille Militaire. Just been married, too—to a mighty nice little girl—one of these home bodies, looked as though. And, by Jove! she acted like she was a heap in love with him. It sort of got me—especially when everybody in the room took the opportunity at some time during the evening to tell me that she never met him until after he was mutilated…. I don’t believe that sort of girl would pick up with a fellow, somehow. And I know mighty well her mother and grandmother never would have. I guess there are all kinds of French people, just the same as there are Americans….”
“Of course,” said Ken, out of his abysmal ignorance. Then, defensively, “Maybe these aristocrats are different from the girls we know, but, I don’t care how they live or how straitlaced they are, they’re no better than Andree…. Andree’s good.”
“Sure,” said Bert, “and you’re dotty…. Meet you at eleven.”
Ken wrote a few letters home, one to his mother in which he went rather to descriptions and very little to personal matters. He spoke little of France and the French, but rather made it appear that he was living in a Paris inhabited exclusively by American soldiers who were all so busy with the war that they had no time to do anything else but work and sleep. He did mention seeing Notre Dame … which was a church, and of undoubted historic interest. It was a very circumspect letter, and not at all confidential…. But it is an undoubted fact that mothers and fathers have to earn by their conduct toward their children those confidences which they seem to fancy are theirs by right. Ken could have told his father anything—everything. But his mother—somehow it was difficult for him to compel himself to make the most trivial disclosure to her. Her attitude toward him and toward the world had created that difficulty. The young are naturally confidential….
Then he went to meet Andree.
One of the delights of Ken’s acquaintance with Andree was that each meeting with her seemed a fresh adventure; there was a sameness about these meetings. Andree always appeared just so, and conducted herself just so. He could foretell with exactitude what her every movement and gesture and word would be when she did appear. But somehow, probably unconsciously, she was able to impart to every rendezvous a freshness, an air of mystery, something elusive and elfin that made them, no matter how often repeated, always alluring, exciting, delightful. Her sudden appearances out of a life of which he knew nothing and her disappearances back into that life lifted this affair above the level of all other affairs, imparting to it something of the occult, giving play to the imagination…. Ken cherished this illusion and, therefore, though often tempted, he asked no questions. Even now he did not know her name—only Andree.
Presently she appeared, just as he knew she would appear, walking very erect, with little steps that seemed almost stiff, her eyes cast downward or staring straight before her and seeming to see nothing whatever. He knew that she would approach within reach of his hand before she gave sign of recognition, and then she would regard him with grave query as if to ascertain if it were really he, and if, as she feared, she was not welcome. And then she would smile timidly, without taking her eyes from his, and shake hands with quaint formality, and ask how he carried himself. If she had changed any particular of it he would have been alarmed, would have felt a sense of loss.
“Bert and Madeleine will meet us here,” he said.
“It is well.” She smiled and nodded. “You have been at the front?”
“You are ver’ fatigué perhaps?”
“No. I had a bully night’s sleep, and I’m ready for anything. We must have a regular party to-day. We’ll paint the town and all the suburbs.”
“Oh, so ver’ fast. I do not onderstan’…. I do not onderstan’. You mus’ speak more slow…. Give me the dictionnaire.”
“It was nothing…. Are you happy?”
“Are you not here?” she said, gravely.
There was something so timid, yet so confident about her, so gentle, so child-womanly, that the realization of it struck Kendall almost with the force of an accusation…. It was the forerunner of self-accusation which might have come then and there, had not Bert and Madeleine turned the corner and waved to them. Immediately the girls were chattering French, after their inevitable formal handshake.
“Where to, children?” asked Bert.
They turned to the girls. “Where are we going?” Ken asked.
“Oh, out of the city. Let us go to the Bois—for the long day.”
“Oui,” agreed Madeleine. “The Bois—every one—tout le monde—make themselves to go to the Bois.”
So, after some difficulty, they persuaded the driver of a voiture to drive them up the Champs Élysées and the length of the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne to the gates of the park. There the cocher drew up to the curb inexorably and stopped without paying the least attention to the protests of the Americans.
“We must get down,” said Andree. “He cannot go inside.”
“But there are voitures inside—lots of them. Why can’t he go in?”
She shrugged her shoulders, but arose, and Madeleine followed her. They knew the way of the Paris coachmen—or it may have been a rule, or an agreement for the division of patronage. At any rate, they got down and paid the absurdly low fare. Then, walking two by two, they entered the famous park.
The walks near the entrance were crowded, but as they penetrated the city’s playground the congestion became less dense. But it did seem as if Madeleine were right, that all the world had come to the Bois that day. Every seat, and they were scattered about generously, was occupied. Back among the trees family parties had preempted shady glades and were spreading lunches. Buxom young women played battledore with poilus on permission, or engaged in what they seriously believed to be tennis with the most profound earnestness. This tennis delighted Bert, who insisted upon stopping to watch more than one game. The players had no nets—only rackets and a ball. With these they placed themselves sometimes as much as twenty feet apart and then lobbed the ball back and forth with such a seriousness and intensity that it seemed they were playing for life itself…. Children were everywhere, and stout old ladies who drowsed and lean old men who had taken off their coats and were tormented by insects…. Out on the pavements men and women and children rode furiously by on bicycles, all crouching apprehensively over their handlebars and pedaling for dear life…. Youths in French uniforms made vigorous and unashamed love to their sweethearts…. It was very hot.
A few minutes’ walk brought them to the lake, steaming with the heat of the day, its surface churned by the unskilled oars of pleasure-seekers. On the opposite shore was a dense crowd packed about a booth, awaiting their turns to go upon the water and suffer. Two or three huge bateaux capable of seating a score of people made little voyages up and down, each propelled by one sweating, coatless individual who pulled the enormous weight at such terrific speed that a circuit of the pond might have been made in an hour. The passengers sat packed together in blissful enjoyment…. Those who took rowboats seemed to have a positive genius for loading them in such a way as to make them unmanageable. In the middle was an elderly man, very stout, with two young girls. One girl rowed while her companions sat as far into the bow as possible, lifting the stern high in the air, and making any progress except a sort of whirligig motion impossible. There were collisions, shouts, laughter, screams—and an intolerable heat. But the crowd was happy as only a Parisian crowd can be happy. They had not the least fear of making themselves appear absurd; they went about their pleasure in a determined, do-or-die spirit, and everybody was so satisfied, so happy, so charming that Ken was delighted and tried to tell Andree how pleased he was by aid of French, English, and the dictionary, but only succeeding in bewildering the young lady utterly…. He had a suspicion that both Andree and Madeleine looked at those boats longingly, but with characteristic American terror of making himself look ridiculous he would not have gone upon that water if they had fallen on their knees to plead with him….
After a time they managed by bribery and cajolery to persuade a cocher to drive them about the park and an hour or two later got down near to a toy railroad with a tiny engine which pulled crowded trains along a child’s track. Bert, whose inhibitions were less pronounced than Ken’s, insisted upon riding. The girls boarded the train as a matter of course, with no trace of self-consciousness, but as they bowled along past crowds that waved and pointed and laughed, Ken felt like the father of all idiots…. Finally they arrived at the zoo, which Andree insisted upon inspecting.
The cages in the zoo which attracted the crowds contained dogs! Indeed, dogs were the backbone and almost the sum total of the animals to be seen. They were caged like bears and ran around and around behind their iron bars with the ceaseless gait of wolves. It rather revolted Kendall, especially to see a beautiful English setter in such an environment. There were setters, Danes, bulls, fox-terriers—and the crowds stood and stared and gasped and exclaimed as if they gazed at the behemoth of Holy Writ….
But it was all fascinating to Ken, all different and strange. Here was France again! He was seeing something foreign, not of the Middle West, and it was droll and incomprehensible to him. He did not speculate on what your Frenchman might have thought of a Sunday crowd at Coney Island or the Bronx Zoo or in Belle Isle Park in his own Detroit…. He reveled in it, drinking in eagerly the sensation that he was in another world peopled by incomprehensible beings who functioned in an incomprehensible manner.
Here at least was none of the depression and woe of war…. Had it not been for the presence of uniforms, one would have forgotten war. Ken wondered if these people had been able to forget it—and then reflected that some of these that he saw might be killed before another dawn by bombs dropped upon their sleeping homes from ruthless German aeroplanes…. All was lightness and joyousness now; in a few hours every individual here might be cowering in a cellar, damp with the sweat of fear of imminent slaughter….
They dined expensively at a table under the trees and near to a fountain, and Andree exclaimed at the extravagance of it and declared that for days to come they must satisfy their hunger on bread and water…. They were very gay and very young. For that one day all cares and apprehensions had taken flight; they simply did what occurred to them, and the word responsibility was scratched from their vocabularies.
After a time they found a pleasant spot among the trees and sat down to rest, for such a day is very tiring.
“Thees day has been ver’ well,” said Andree, nodding her head three times by way of punctuation.
“I wish all days were like it,” Madeleine said in French.
Andree regarded her gravely a moment, then shook her head emphatically. “No. It would not be well. The days like thees day are ver’ nice bicause they are seldom. To-day is for nothing but only happiness—yes. But it is not possible to be so happy to-day if we are not ver’ unhappy some other day.”
“Do you think that unhappiness makes happiness?” said Bert, with a laugh.
“But yes, monsieur. If there is not sadness there is no joy. It is of a truthfulness. Certainement. How do you know you are happy? It is bicause you theenk of days when you are ver’ miserable, and thees day is so different from that day. If all days shall be like to-day, then we shall be—how do you say?—we shall be bored.”
“But if one is very miserable after he has been happy?” said Ken.
Andree looked at him quickly as if trying to penetrate to the thought that prompted the question.
“It is well,” she said, softly. “On the unhappy day you theenk often of the happy day—it makes the unhappiness to be less. After many, many days one may forget the unhappiness. The good God has made it a law. The sorrow it becomes not so sharp. Even the ver’ greatest grief becomes jus’ a theeng to be remembered. But a happiness! Oh, my friend, that live forever. A happiness cannot be made to fade. Always it live and always it is ver’ beautiful and makes itself to give other happiness…. That is why,” she said, softly, to Ken, “that I have not great fear to love you. Do you see?… W’en it is ended, thees love of ours, it will be ver’ sad, but the sadness it will become soft and make itself to fade after many year. The happiness, such happiness as thees ver’ day, it will be always….”
“But,” said Ken, suddenly depressed and thoughtful, “isn’t there a sorrow so great that it cannot be endured?”
“Oh yes, yes! But that is terrible. I have thought many times of such a sorrow. There is only one like that. It is to love ver’ much and trust ver’ much and be ver’ much happy, and then, one day, to know that one has been deceive’ entirely. To know that the friend one love’ was on’y making to pretend and did not himself love…. That one could not bear…. Then all the little moments of happiness with him would make themselves to be black and wicked … and one must die….”
Kendall lifted her hand and touched it with his lips and looked into her eyes. “I do not know what will come, mignonne … but whatever does come, it must not be that…. See, I am speaking the truth so that you may remember it always…. I love you.”
For a moment she returned his gaze gravely, then into her dark-shadowed eyes came a glow that was real happiness, her lips smiled and she leaned a little toward him.
“I believe,” she said, softly, “and it is ver’ well….”
Kendall had paid little attention to Andree’s assertion that she had seen Maude Knox in Paris, yet on Monday he received a petit bleu from her informing him that she was again at the Hôtel Wagram and would be delighted to have him call that evening if he were free. At his first reading of the note Maude Knox seemed to him an intrusion. Somehow be rather resented her existence because, subconsciously, he knew that association with her was going to be disquieting. It would give rise to argument within himself and to speculations upon the future which he would have liked to avoid. He was satisfied and as happy as he had ever been in his life—and Maude was a complication. If Maude Knox had been less important in his life he would have welcomed her more heartily.
However, as he thought more and more of her presence, he found himself desiring greatly to see her. There was something sympathetic and dependable about her, something that he could understand and approve. She was American, thoroughly American. Yes, by all means, he wished to see her, but he would hold himself in restraint. They should not become at all personal, and he would watch the conversation carefully to see that it did not turn any unexpected corners or wander down lanes ending in disagreeable obstacles to be cleared.
“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be decent to her,” he told himself, speciously. “She’s probably lonesome, and we are both Americans….” He remembered the hour or so he had spent with her in Montreuil, and how he had come away from her in a state of perplexity, wondering if it were possible for a man to love two women at the same time…. “It isn’t that,” he told himself. “I love Andree and nobody but Andree … but that’s no reason I shouldn’t see Maude. Anyhow, she’ll be here only a day or so….”
The truth of the matter was that, without realizing it, Kendall did not trust himself. He was afraid that a thing might happen which he was in a queer sort of way half willing should happen—that he might fall in love with Maude Knox or that he might realize in her presence that he actually was in love with her. It was a singular position. Undoubtedly he loved Andree—but how? That he did not ask himself. He loved her, he had a sort of reverence for her, and he had besides a real friendship for her, but—He would inevitably have reached that but if he had allowed himself to analyze his love for her…. A man may have one child and love it with a love which he fancies is boundless and exclusive. He may believe that every fraction of the love he has to give belongs to that child, and he may resent the coming of a second child and look upon it as an interloper. But very shortly he finds himself loving the new-comer not one whit less than the first-born…. If love can become miraculous in this manner—inexhaustible like the loaves and fishes—with respect to children, cannot it be the same with respect to women? Kendall had seen the first develop in the case of a friend, had heard the friend speak in confidence before the coming of his second child, and had observed him after the passage of a few weeks. He took it as the basis of an argument and, using it as a stepping-stone, reached a conclusion which was disturbing … but not lacking in a certain allurement…. And what of countries where there are plural marriages? How in the case of a man lawfully possessed of more than one wife? Does such a man love all, or only one, or none?…
It was in this uncertain frame of mind that he went to the Wagram and called Maude Knox’s room on the rather difficult house telephone.
“Captain Ware!…” said her voice. “I hardly expected you, but it’s good of you to have come. I’ll be right down.”
She appeared presently, not in her uniform, but in such a dress as she might have worn at home in America when going out for the evening with a young gentleman.
“What are you doing in Paris?” he demanded. “I thought you were busy being the queen of the doughboys.”
“The division’s being moved, I don’t know where, and I was sent in to wait for orders. Some of our men marched on the Fourth.”
“I suppose it seems good to get back into the world again.”
“Anybody can be in Paris,” she said. “I’ve been having the time of my life—and, really, I think I was some good. I believe I was. The men liked to have me there.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Do I understand that you are taking me to dinner?”
“You do. Where shall it be?”
“Anywhere, so long as there is food I don’t have to cook myself…. I’ve been living on things out of cans—except when the officers’ mess had something particularly good and sent some over.”
“It hasn’t hurt you a bit…. You look mighty well.” He was thinking that she did look very well, indeed. Not exactly beautiful, but satisfyingly good-looking—the way he liked to see a girl look. A fellow might be proud to be seen with her. She showed class….
“How about the Continental?” he asked.
“I’d like it. I’ve never eaten there.”
They passed out of the hotel and strolled up the rue de Rivoli to the rue Royale, and then dodged careless taxi-cabs to cross the broad avenue which stretched with an air of pride to the face of the Madeleine. Two or three American officers were loitering about the entrance to the Continental, and Ken experienced a sense of satisfaction as he became conscious of their surreptitious stares of admiration at his companion…. They traversed the court and entered the big dining-room which stretched along the rue de Rivoli and through whose windows one may look out upon the Place de la Concorde and across the river to the Palais Legislatif. The occupants of the room were mostly Americans—officers, officials of the Red Cross, and women of that organization and the Y. M. C. A.
“What have you been doing? Tell me all the news,” Maude said, as they seated themselves at a table close to the windows.
“I?… Working as usual, and there isn’t any news. Never come to the war if you want news of the war. I knew a lot more about it when I was back in Detroit than I do in Paris.”
“Our division was full of rumors of a big American offensive.”
“And Paris is full of rumors of a big German offensive. It was to have started on the fourth of July, but now it has been postponed to the fourteenth—Bastille Day…. You can hear anything.”
“I think something is going to happen. The Blue Devils are up the other side of Meaux. I’ve seen them. Everybody tells me their presence is a sign that something is going to happen.”
“Frankly, I don’t believe it. If anything comes I think it will be a German attack. I don’t look for the Allies to do much before spring—”
“When our aeroplanes get here?” she interjected. “My! but our boys have grumbled about aeroplanes. It makes them irritable to see German planes buzzing around.”
“Don’t blame them. There are rumors about aeroplanes, too. A poilu asked me the other day if it was true that we had twenty thousand of them over here.”
The conversation was following a matter-of-fact, commonplace, impersonal lane—just such a way as Ken had determined it should follow. Yet he was dissatisfied with it. He felt that it lacked something, and that, consequently, Maude and himself were not getting the most out of each other’s company. He had resolved not to talk about himself nor about Maude nor about the sentiments they inspired in each other, but he found himself wanting to do so. The staple, as well as the most absorbing, topic for any young person is himself. It becomes doubly absorbing if two young persons can join and discuss themselves and their reactions to each other…. Maude seemed a trifle bored, he thought. Then, suddenly and with a touch of impatience, she said:
“What has been happening to you?… And that pretty little girl? What was her name?”
She, too, seemed to desire to alter the character of the conversation.
Nothing had been happening to him—at least that he could tell her about. He insisted that life had been a dull affair of work and sleep for him.
“Nonsense! I’m interested…. Oh, I remember her name—it was Andree. Tell me about Andree.”
“She’s a mighty nice little girl. I see her every now and then.”
“Every now and then,” she mocked. “When did you see her last?”
“And before that?”
“I was away for a few days.”
“But you saw her the night before you went away?”
“And if I hadn’t interfered you’d have seen her to-night.”
“No—we had no engagement for to-night.”
She laughed. “You’re not especially subtle. Are you really in love with this girl?… Do tell me all about her. I know I’m prying and curious—but—Oh, I’m just curious about her.”
“I—there’s nothing to tell.”
“There must be. How is she different from us American girls? She seemed very attractive—and sweet.”
“She says the difference between French and American girls is that you don’t know how to dress your feet,” he said, with an uneasy laugh. It rather pleased him that Maude looked blank an instant and then made an evident effort to look at her footgear. “Do you want to go to the Casino or some other place to-night?”
“Not until I’ve found out more about your friend. You know I liked her looks very much…. Why can’t I meet her? She wouldn’t be jealous, would she? You did introduce her, you know. Can’t we have a little party—the three of us?”
“No,” he said, with flat finality in his voice.
He did not want to reply, did not know what to reply. The reason that he did not even want to put into definite thought was that Maude ought not to meet Andree—because Andree was to him what she was…. Maude was an American girl, a compatriot living under the laws of the Medes and the Persians, and it would not be proper for her to associate with Andree.
“Why?” she repeated. “You said she was nice.” She accented the nice. “If you don’t let me meet her I shall think she isn’t nice at all—and a great many other things.”
“She is nice,” he said, sullenly. “She’s good…. You wouldn’t understand her. I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody who was as good as Andree—really good…. But …”
“I think I understand,” she said, slowly. “It was really what I wanted to know.” She frowned a trifle and became thoughtful. Then: “You know I said before that—that I didn’t blame these girls…. It’s the war—and their men being killed—and—Well, there’s something in the air…. I don’t suppose I shall ever understand them, or be able to see as they see—but I’m—well, I have a lot of sympathy…. A great many of us are going to look at things more broadly when we get home to America. We had never come into contact with other standards and other ways of trying for happiness…. I know I’m talking in a muddle, but I hope you understand. What I mean is that I wouldn’t object to meeting Andree….”
“In Paris,” said Ken.
“In Paris? What do you mean?”
“Would you be willing to meet her in New York or Cleveland or Chicago?”
She wrinkled her brows. “Honestly, I don’t know.”
“Here she would be just one of the sights of France—an experience. Well, I’m not going to have her on exhibition, like Notre Dame.”
“It isn’t that. It isn’t curiosity…. Really, I don’t know just what it is, but I want to be acquainted with her. I think it is so I can find out if it is really true that she—that she can live as she does and still be—nice.”
“I tell you she is nice.”
“But you are in love with her? Aren’t you in love with her? Somehow that makes a difference. It would seem sordid and inexcusable if you weren’t.”
“I am very fond of her.”
“Do you love her?”
“Yes,” he said, desperately.
She was just picking up her fork. At his words it dropped and her lips compressed, but he did not notice. Perhaps he would have attached no significance to these signals if he had noticed, because he was fully occupied in thinking about himself. He had never taken time to consider Maude Knox’s possible feelings toward himself, although he had more than once tried in an inconclusive way to assay his own sentiments toward Maude. Not that he was exceptionally selfish or self-centered. He was only at that stage in his relations with Maude when he was trying to make out what those relations might develop into. Until a young man is fairly sure he wants a young woman very much he does not start to worry about whether she will want him.
And Maude … she had advanced a trifle farther than Ken, perhaps. Ken had attracted her from the first, and, peculiarly enough, the rather open mystery of his affair with Andree had made him a more striking figure, if not more desirable. It had accented him…. She had never confessed to herself that she wanted to establish proprietary rights in Ken, but she did realize that he was of some importance to her. He was the one individual in Paris that she had been anxious to see. When she had been ordered to Paris her first thought had been that she would see Ken. These things were only indicative. They proved nothing to her…. But when she heard Ken baldly admit that he loved Andree she was close to proof. Undoubtedly it had been a shock and an unpleasant shock. Ken was more important to her than she had supposed. She was glad that the waiter appeared at that moment with the viande, for it gave her an excuse for silence and attention to her plate.
She wondered if this feeling were jealousy…. Then she repeated to herself, “He loves this girl,” and refused to believe it, and then was doubtful, and then was afraid…. Other aspects of the affair did not present themselves to her then—only the fact that this man, who might have been, whom she wanted to be, something to her, was in love with another woman, an alien, a Frenchwoman. Then she asserted to herself, “It’s only an affair….” There was some comfort and promise in this.
She looked up suddenly. “What are you going to do, Ken?” she asked. “Are you going to marry her?”
He stammered, hesitated. This was very disquieting. She had no right to ask such a question. “I—I’ve never thought about marriage—in connection with Andree,” he said. He was almost honest in his statement. They two had been living in the present, had eaten of the lotus, and the future was only a vague time that might have to be faced when it arrived. He had been living in a world which was not a world of reality. It had been a species of imaginary world into which practical matters like marriage do not obtrude.
“You don’t think of—of settling in France? I hear some of the men say they want to.”
“No.” He was certain of that. America was his home, and the homing instinct was strong in him. He was a citizen of the United States, and it seemed unnatural and impossible for him to give up that citizenship. To do so appeared to him to be in the same category as divorcing a wife, a thing which seemed incredible to him. But to leave America permanently, to become a citizen of some other country, seemed more impossible than divorce. It was simply an act so absurd as to be beyond consideration. This was not patriotism, but a habit of mind. He was an American, and it was a natural impossibility to become anything else—that was it.
“Then, if you married her, you would take her home?”
“Let’s not talk about it,” he said, uncomfortably, for this opened up a field of disagreeable apprehensions that he did not want to undertake. “We’re talking too much about me. Let’s talk about something else.”
“But I want to talk about you…. I’m afraid—afraid you’re getting into an entanglement that will be—a bad thing for you…. If you do marry this girl and take her home, what will your people say? How will your friends receive her?… Because the story would leak out. It would be sure to leak out. People know about you. Your chum knows, and others know….”
“Andree is good,” he said, “and it doesn’t make any difference what people think.”
“Not in Paris. But in America it would make a lot of difference…. She would be whispered about and talked about—and people might—might refuse to receive her.”
He was angry now. “People are rotten and narrow. Andree is better than all of them put together. What do I care for what they say or think?”
“You would care a great deal—and so would she. She would soon find out what people were thinking. Here she may be able to go along and believe that she is not doing anything wrong. Mind, I don’t say she is bad. I’m almost able to sympathize with her. If I weren’t your friend, if I didn’t know you, and this were all happening to a stranger, I’m sure I should be able to understand and not to blame her…. As it is, I’m truly sorry for her…. But I do know you, and that makes it seem different. Things are always different when they strike close to home….”
“I suppose so.”
“Well, she would find herself in a different world, a world that lives in a different way, and that world would make her feel as if she had done wrong, and she would be very unhappy….”
“I don’t believe it. Not if I were with her.”
“But you—when you get home you will think differently about this…. You wouldn’t marry an American girl who had—done as Andree has done…. Would you?”
He thought briefly. “No,” he said, honestly.
“So, if you married her, you would begin to think about that some day…. You would…. And you would wonder what she had done before she met you—if—if you had been the only man she ever loved. Don’t you see?…”
“I don’t see. I know her. You don’t know her at all. You don’t know how sweet and gentle and decent she is. You don’t know how she thinks…. She is wonderful….” He was loyal, at least, and she could not help being glad of it. Loyalty was a quality she especially admired.
“She may be all of that, Ken, but it wouldn’t matter. Other people wouldn’t know it and wouldn’t believe it…. Your mother …”
His mother!… He knew what his mother would think and what his mother would do. If he took Andree home his mother would be suspicious of her because she was French. Then, if the story should leak out, or a hint of it should be sent to do its slinking work, his mother would hate Andree—no less. She would make it her business to eliminate Andree and to render her life unendurable.
With unconscious strategy he made a counterattack. “And you,” he said, “would you marry a man who had—had that sort of an experience?”
She looked up at him suddenly to determine if there were anything personal in this question, but could not make up her mind.
“I—I don’t know…. I—I’ve never imagined—”
“Of course not…. But you might have to imagine it. Suppose you were in love with a man—suppose you were in love with me”—she concealed a gasp at his clumsiness—“would you marry me?”
She tried to protect herself, and said, with a forced laugh, “Am I to consider this as a proposal?”
He disregarded her flippancy. “I suppose I shall marry some day, and if it isn’t Andree—if it is some American girl like you—what will she think? I want to know. You have asked me a lot of questions, and that sort of gives me the right to ask you this one: Would you marry me?”
“I can’t answer—now. I don’t know…. I don’t think so…. I should have to think….”
He regarded her. Mentally he paid her the compliment of thinking that she was a splendid type. He could not help thinking that she was just such a girl as he would like to marry and to live with always. She exerted an attraction that drew him toward her strongly…. A wife! She would be a splendid wife, a wife that his mother would receive joyfully, about whom there could not be the slightest question…. He wondered if she liked him at all—and that was a sign and a portent. Suddenly the answer to her question became of large importance to him. He leaned over the table and looked into her eyes—and saw her cheeks color under his gaze.
“I wish you would think,” he said, slowly, “and tell me what you think—” Then he added something he had not at all intended to say: “And tell me if it is possible for a man to love two girls at the same time….”