Kendall stood a moment looking after Andree until the blackness of the boulevard swallowed her up. He was exhilarated. The girl had had a tonic effect upon him; the incident was not an incident, but an adventure, and he tingled with it…. He wondered why. He wondered why he wanted to see her again when he had not cared whether or not he saw again any of the other girls he had talked to. He hoped she would appear next evening as she had promised … and then he felt a twinge of apprehension. The twinge was not an inheritance from his father.
If he did see her again—then what? Would he see her again and still again, and what were the meetings to lead to? What sort of affair was he getting mixed into?… He felt a sense of naughtiness, and, when he tried to discover why he should feel naughty, he was unable to say. Certainly there had been nothing in the least to warrant it in any word or action of the evening. But Andree was French—and she lived in the Latin Quarter…. What was he getting himself into, anyhow?
The part of his being inherited from his mother was in the ascendant. She suspected anything she did not understand. Because she did not understand it she believed something wicked must lurk in it somewhere…. He remembered how he had once dug a cave in a vacant lot next his home and how his mother had almost gone into one of her “tantrums” over it. She could not understand why a boy should want to burrow into the earth. It must be some squalid desire for wicked concealment on her son’s part. She almost convinced him that it was a sin for a boy to dig a cave, just as she had almost succeeded in making him believe that so many of his other perfectly natural desires and impulses and doings were wicked…. She had a way of connecting everything with sex, and she suspected sex above everything else in the world. It was her nightmare. It was a squalid, wicked sort of a thing, to be thought of only in terms of aversion. Always she had hammered this into him, and though he could not quite believe her, he never quite outgrew her point of view. In this moment he knew exactly how she would regard his meeting with Andree.
Then his father came to his rescue—his father, whose dominant note was tolerance and a sweet inability to see evil, or, if he saw it, to see palliation of it, or even a vein of goodness running through it. His father never suspected anything or anybody. His father had never suspected him. Somehow that had always been very wonderful to him, because his mother had impressed it upon him that he was a person always under suspicion. He knew exactly how his father would regard Andree and what he would say and do. He could hear his father saying it and see him doing it. His father would have patted Andree on the shoulder and smiled. He would have said, “She’s a pretty little thing, isn’t she?” Then he would have proposed taking Andree and his son for an ice-cream soda. His father always did that—for ice-cream soda or candy. And then he would have whispered in Kendall’s ear: “Got enough money, son? ’Cause if you hain’t—”
Kendall wondered if it were better to see wickedness in everything and sometimes to be justified by finding it, or to see wickedness in nothing at all, and sometimes to be disappointed by having it suddenly thrust upon one.
He walked slowly toward the Place St.-Michel and there descended into the Metro. His antagonistic inheritances struggled within him, and his youth and his youthful desire for the joys of life took sides with his father. In one moment he determined he would never see Andree again, and then he would call himself an idiot and ask what harm could possibly come from it…. If ever he had seen a “nice” girl, Andree was nice. Well, then?… But he was disturbed, and had not been able to conquer his disturbance when he entered the Union. There he found Bert Stanley waiting for him.
“Here comes the wicked old man,” Bert saluted him. “What you been up to, with me away? Have I got to keep my eye on you every minute?”
“Just walking around,” said Kendall. Some young men would have wanted to tell about Andree and to discuss her, but not he.
“Let’s split a bottle of beer…. Say, I heard about an apartment to let—up near the Étoile. What say to having a look at it to-morrow?”
“I heard it was three hundred francs—and we’re paying that much here for one room with two beds.”
“Sounds good, but I don’t know. Anyhow, we can look it over.”
“’Tisn’t far from the office. We can walk over at noon.”
Kendall yawned. “Let’s go to bed,” he suggested.
“What’s the use? There’ll be an air raid to-night. Better to sit up than just to get nicely asleep and have to roll out. I never get to sleep again.”
Kendall persisted and walked up to his room, where he was soon in bed, but not to sleep. He was excited and restless. He wanted to sleep, not to think, but his mind persisted in its activity, and his thoughts became incisive, whitely clear as one’s thoughts do of sleepless nights. It was rather the sensation of being subjected to a blinding light which hurt the brain…. It was not alone of Andree that he thought. He could concentrate on nothing, but kept running down cul-de-sacs of memories and speculations and plans which overlapped and confused one another maddeningly. He would shut his eyes and try to curtain off his mind so that no thought could penetrate, but it was not to be done, so he tossed and rolled and submitted…. Just around the corner of every avenue his thoughts followed Andree, lay in wait. Before he knew it he was building air-castles about her….
It was really a relief to him when the alerte sounded. He said to himself that he would not get up, and composed himself to wait. In a quarter of an hour the barrage started, sporadically at first, then worked itself up to a fury of sound such as he had never heard before. It sounded nearer, more menacing. Really, cannon might have been going off in the street below his window. So imminent did the sound become that Kendall got out of bed, not frightened, exactly, but impressed. He considered that there was nothing above his head but the roof. Half determined to dress and go down, he fumbled for the light-button and turned it before he remembered that there would be no light, that all light was turned off at its source with the sounding of the alerte…. In his pajamas he went to the windows which opened out on the little balcony which overlooked the Palais Royal, and stood there looking off toward the east, where the firing was most furious…. Over his head he could hear the angry humming of aeroplanes, and wondered uneasily if they were defenders or hostile bombers. Tremendous detonations rattled the windows and rocked the buildings, and these, he fancied, were falling bombs. The sky was alight with up-leaping flares from the mouths of the cannon and from shells bursting high above the city, searching the heavens for flitting Gothas…. Then came a series of tremendous upheavals which seemed to his tingling nerves to be almost at hand…. And then the sky was red with flames which uprose and spread and glanced and billowed over the tops of the buildings. Metallic fragments rattled on the roof of the Palais Royal, fifty feet away, and on the roof of his hotel and in the streets below. Kendall ducked inside, for he knew this was falling shrapnel from the defensive barrage…. For the first time he was seeing a real air raid, a serious raid, and one that was meeting with success. Already a tremendous fire had been started, and what might not follow?… It was enough to shake one’s nerves, for the individual is so helpless! All one can do at such a time is to hope and to argue that Paris is large and a bomb small; that the chances of a bomb falling where one happens to be are almost infinitesimal.
The sound came very near indeed. Kendall could not see what caused this, but it was an anti-aircraft gun mounted on a truck which had come to a stop at an open space at the mouth of the Avenue de l’Opéra and was industriously blazing away at the moon…. Kendall wished he were dressed and down-stairs with company at hand; he would even have consented to descend into an abri, an experience which had not so far been his. He wondered what an abri looked like. At any rate, there were plenty of them, for nearly every building in Paris was defaced by a poster announcing, “Abri, 30 places…. Abri, 60 places.”
The sound, the terrific crashings and retchings and tearing bursts of tremendous potentiality, gradually ebbed, then surged up with renewed vigor for a time, then subsided again, and, after a series of fitful outbursts, ceased…. But the light which glowed and danced over the roofs from the distant Faubourg St.-Antoine silhouetting the tangle of chimney-pots on the Palais Royal did not subside. The fire burned on….
Kendall returned to bed—and slept.
If that raid had made Kendall Ware fearful, what had it done to the teeming populations of the Faubourg St.-Antoine, to the closely packed poor who massed about the Bastille, and to the eastward of this monument to an event that owed its being to their own ancestors, to those who used to dwell in St.-Antoine, mother of revolutions!
Next noon Bert Stanley and Kendall lunched at a table on the sidewalk of a little café on the Place de Ternes and then walked down the Boulevard de Courcelles a few hundred feet or so to the number that had been given Bert as a place where a desirable furnished apartment was to let.
They entered through an archway and rang the bell of the concierge’s apartment. A pleasant, motherly, smiling old woman came to the door and bowed them in. It was not difficult to make her understand that they were in search of an appartement meublé, whereupon she jangled a huge bunch of keys and invited them to follow her up four flights of stairs, and ushered them into the rooms that were for hire…. The apartment of five rooms was to be had for three hundred francs a month, with twenty francs extra for the concierge. Yes, a cook could be obtained, and madame would undertake to have her on hand when needed. Her wages would be seventy francs a month. Everything was very easy.
“Where is the bath?” asked Kendall.
“Oh, monsieur, we have a bath. Of a surety. It is but three blocks away….”
So it was arranged. They were to move in when they desired, and they left the building feeling quite like family men and proprietors. They discussed the apartment from all angles and were exceedingly pleased with themselves for accomplishing it….
“All France needs,” said Bert, quoting some epigrammatic American friend, “is open plumbing to make it the greatest country in the world.”
On the broad stairs of that huge hotel which the United States Expeditionary Force has taken over for its headquarters in Paris Bert stopped suddenly.
“I can’t help you move in to-night,” he said. “But there isn’t much to do. Get a taxi to take up our boxes and bedding-rolls. I’m going to be busy.”
“So am I,” said Kendall, Andree recalled to his mind after she had been absent from it since morning.
“Huh!” grunted Bert. “Same one you were with last night?”
“Go chase yourself,” said Kendall.
“If it is,” Bert continued, “we might make a mixed quartet of it. Dinner and then promenade avec. Eh?”
Kendall hesitated. It sounded pleasant, but he was not sure Andree would like it—and he was not sure about the sort of girl Bert might have chosen for a companion. Andree, he had made up his mind, was not the sort of girl who would take up with anybody.
“Nothing doing,” he said.
“Who’s your girl?” Kendall countered.
“Girl I’ve known quite awhile. Cashier in a shop…. Say, what you getting at, anyhow? Madeleine’s a darn nice girl, I’m here to tell the world. Looks it, too. I’d just as soon take her over to the Y. M. C. A. and introduce her to the head guy—and she’d get past, too.”
“I don’t know…. I don’t know Andree very well. She might not like it.”
“Rats!” Bert said, scornfully. “They might as well get acquainted one time as another.”
Kendall wasn’t so sure of that. He saw no reason why the girls should ever get acquainted. In short, he didn’t follow Bert’s reasoning nor comprehend the point he made.
“We can move in to-morrow,” Kendall said, and there was an end of it.
It was a long afternoon for Capt. Kendall Ware, but at last he found his day’s work at an end and himself in the street. He went into a café for a hurried meal and then took the Metro to the Place St.-Michel, arriving there a good half-hour ahead of the appointed time. He took a seat at a sidewalk table in a café from which he could watch the fountain, and ordered a glass of coffee into which he squirted saccharin from a bottle with a nozzle like those used by American barbers to put bay rum on one’s hair. At ten minutes past seven he was fearful Andree did not mean to keep her appointment. At a quarter past he was sure of it…. And she was not due until half past. He was to learn that she was one of those persons who are never ahead of time, who never hurry, but who may always be depended upon to arrive eventually.
It was almost exactly seven-thirty when he saw her coming across the Place. At first he did not recognize her, for he had been expecting that white suit topped by its cunning tam-o-’shanter; but she was not in white this evening. Her dress was of some light summer material and she wore a dark tam. He never saw her wear anything but a tam…. She looked more slender, younger, than before. Why, she seemed to be nothing but a child! He knew she saw him, but she did not seem to see him, for she came forward sedately, with those staid little steps of hers until she was almost at arm’s-length. Then she looked up and smiled.
Again he found that difficulty in opening the conversation, in organizing his French for action, and she—she seemed to have forgotten her English. But each was glad to see the other. He tried to tell her he was glad to see her, but made frightful work of his attempt to pronounce the word joyeux. It necessitated resort to the dictionary—and immediately awkwardness was dispelled.
“I have worked so—so—hard. All the day.”
She held out her book. It was a volume of Racine. “I have been studying.” She opened it to show him. “Regard this so long part. It is necessary for me to learn it. You do not know Racine…. You do not know this play. Oh, it is very sad, very tragique. But it is very beautiful….”
“What are you learning all that for?”
“I must…. I must learn many things. It is for the examination. I must to enter into the Académie. First I must pass the examination. If I can succeed to enter into the Académie, then I shall some day go onto the stage of the Comédie Française and be a great actress and make much money, and you shall sit and clap your hands. I shall then come to New York like Madame Bernhardt, for there is much money, and you shall be proud I am your friend. N’est-ce pas? But it is very difficile to enter the Académie. One must know a famous actor or musician to recommend one…. Do you know actors and musicians in Paris?”
“You must to meet these actor, then, and know him well, so you will say to him, ‘Recommend my friend to the Académie.’ It is very necessary.” She looked up at him and smiled gaily at her little joke, which was uttered half in seriousness.
“So you’re an actress, are you?” An actress! It rather startled him. He had ideas about actresses—American actresses! But a French actress!…
“Non…. Non…. Non…. I am nothing. I am a young girl only, me. But I must do something. I have to live, is it not? Yes…. Then to be the actress in the Comédie Française is to be well.”
He was rather relieved. There is a difference between being an actress and desiring to be one. He had an inspiration. “Maybe you would like to go to the Comédie Française to-night,” he said.
She clapped her hands. “But yes—yes. Let us hurry. It is already late and we shall miss something.”
They went to an adjacent bus-stand, where Andree tore two numbers from a packet fastened to a post. The bus appeared, passengers alighted, and the conductress began calling off numbers. Only those were allowed to mount whose numbers were called, for overcrowding is not permitted. The bus rolled away without them, but presently another appeared, their numbers were called, and in ten minutes they were walking down the Avenue de l’Opéra toward the theater.
Kendall bought seats, the most expensive in the house, and they entered, mounting the broad stairway to the gallery, where they permitted themselves to be shown into a species of box by an attendant. The play was just commencing.
“Do you onderstan’ it?” Andree asked.
“Not enough to do any good.”
“Then I shall explain it to you.” And as the action progressed she pattered on with explanations and observations very cunningly and charmingly. “You see thees ol’ man? He is in love with thees yo’ng girl. But she—she does not love him. It is ver’ sad. Thees yo’ng man who is ver’ handsome, she loves him.” Suddenly she turned to him and asked: “Are men in America—oh, how do you say—what is the word? Fidèle. Do you know fidèle?”
“Faithful—constant—is that it?”
“Yes. Are American men so?”
“Why—generally, I guess.”
She shook her head somberly. “Frenchmen are not. They are most infidèle. It is ver’ sad.”
“How about French girls?”
“Oh, some are fidèle and some not. Some Frenchmen are fidèle. The poor. Oui. It is the rich men and women who are not fidèle.”
“Are you rich?”
She laughed. “No, I am ver’ fidèle.”
“So the poor folks always marry and are faithful?” he asked, with real curiosity.
“Oh, they are faithful. Not always do they marry. No. Sometimes they are too poor, sometimes they do not want to, but they are fidèle. But yes. Do young men and young girls in America always marry?”
“It is very strange. Not so in France. No.”
“A young man love a young girl, and a young girl love a young man…. They marry, maybe. That is well. But maybe they do not marry. It is expensive to marry. Then they see each other very often and he gives her money so she can live…. That is well, because they are fidèle.”
Kendall gasped mentally. What would Detroit, what would his mother think of such a theory of life as this? How would they regard a mode of living which places fidelity over the solemn forms of marriage? Here was a people who apparently valued love and fidelity more than marriage licenses and wedding-rings!… It sounded very naughty to Kendall. Also it made him think. His mother and his father tried to function in him simultaneously and made a chaos of his thoughts….
The play continued. “Oh, you should onderstan’ French better. You must speak it well, well!” she exclaimed. “Then I can read poems to you. Do you know French poetry?”
He laughed. “I know one poem,” he said.
“Tell it to me.”
“Je vous aime,
Je vous adore,
Que voulez-vous encore?”
She turned to look full in his face, her lovely, childish eyes alight with mischief. “It is not a poem,” she said; “it is a declaration.”
“Exactly,” he said, half seriously.
“Oh no, no, no! You do not love me…. It ees not possible. No. You do not know me enough yet.”
Without thought he made the leap. “Of course I do. How could I help it?… Don’t you love me?” He talked to her as he would talk to a child.
“I do not know—yet. I have not known you. We shall see.”
She was perfectly serene and perfectly serious. It startled him. “By Jove!” he said to himself, “things move rapidly in this country.” He was right. France has a way of omitting unessentials and of disregarding shams and subterfuges. If there is a destination to arrive at, France does not walk around the block to reach it, but cuts straight across.
“You are sure you are not married?” she said. “You tell the truth?”
“I’m not, and I’m not going to be,” he said, decidedly. At least he would put an end to any such speculations.
“Pourquoi?” There it was again, that direct, troublesome why.
“Because I don’t like it. I don’t want to be married.”
She nodded. Apparently the reason was perfectly good and sufficient to her. She directed her attention to the play.
“Now,” she said, “thees ol’ man he has make love to thees yo’ng girl. Also he has promise her much money, and she will love him.”
“I don’t like that,” he said. “I can see, maybe, why people should love each other and all that, but the money part of it! I don’t like that at all. That isn’t—good.”
“Pourquoi? It is that a girl must live. She must eat. Because she loves must she starve?”
There was practical France speaking, and France, in spite of temperament, in spite of surface excitability and eccentricity, is eminently practical—especially your France of the poorer sort. France may jump, but she jumps with her eyes open, and with a pretty sure knowledge of where she will fall…. The play moved on to its climax, Andree translating, but little translation was necessary, for the pantomime carried the story.
“It will be better for you to see a tragedy,” said Andree. “This is comédie. The actors speak fast in comédie; in tragedy they speak more slow.” She showed him how tragic actors speak, and it was deliciously funny.
Then came the climax in which “thees ol’ man” took “thees yo’ng girl” to the railway station and delivered her into the hands of her youthful lover. Andree was in tears. The magnificent acting affected Kendall himself, touched his emotions. He felt Andree’s hand move spontaneously to touch his arm as though in sympathy with the bereaved and forsaken old man, and Kendall took her little fingers in his palm and patted them very much as he would have stroked the hand of a weeping child…. She was so fragile, so childlike, so nice. He regarded her covertly, wondering what was going on under that curly black hair … assuring himself that it was impossible for any one to think of anything but sweetness in connection with her. Yet she was a mystery. He was incapable of understanding her, and never came to understand her. A mystery she always remained to him—but a sweet mystery, a dainty mystery, a mystery never touched by unworthy things or thoughts…. And that was another mystery which he might one day understand dimly. He might come to a height from which his vision would be so clear that he could understand that she was good with that natural goodness which comes from God … not with that conventional, rule-of-thumb goodness which is a product of narrow beliefs and set dogmas. Kendall was good himself, but he was not capable of attaining to a goodness such as Andree’s, for he could never approach her naturalness, the instinct which was in her for following always a path upon which God could smile, even if men should frown…. Doubtless the frowns of men weigh but little in the judgments of God….
They left the theater silently, the emotions evoked by the drama still moving them and drawing them together. He felt a great tenderness for her and almost fancied he was in love. It was a fair imitation. Whatever it was, it was not bad, but good. He would not be the worse, but the better, for having experienced it.
“My friend and I have rented an apartment,” he said, suddenly.
“Your friend? What is his name?”
“You will live together?”
“I will know him then…. You shall show him to me.”
“If you like.”
“Where is thees apartment?”
He told her.
“Is it very grand?” She used the word in the French, not the English signification.
“Two bedrooms, dining-room, salon. It is very comfortable. We shall move in to-morrow—and we’re going to have a cook.”
“Cook? What is cook?”
Again recourse must be had to the dictionary, and there followed a lesson in pronouncing the rather difficult word cuisinière.
“Has thees friend, this Monsieur Stanley, a friend—like me?”
“I think so.”
“You do not know? You have not seen her?”
“That is droll…. And thees cook?”
“I haven’t seen her.”
“I must come to see thees apartment and thees cook. I must know how much you pay, and if it is too much…. Ah, you shall have a dinner and she shall cook, and I shall be there, and your friend, thees Monsieur Stanley, and his friend. We shall know each other.”
“I don’t know,” he said, doubtfully, thinking of the proprieties and wondering what the concierge would say if he were to give a dinner such as she suggested. His acquaintance with concierges was limited.
Again they were walking up the dark Boulevard St.-Michel, and again she would not permit him to accompany her to her door. “Good night…. It was ver’ nice, and I think you are ver’ nice—perhaps.”
“But you don’t love me?” he asked, trifling with destiny without intention, as young men will trifle.
“I do not know—yet…. I do not know you. And you do not love me. Oh no, no! It is not possible. You make fun of me. I can see you make grimace even in the dark.”
“When do we play together again?”
“Soon…. I cannot see you to-morrow, but the day after—yes…. It is not a good place to meet, the Place St.-Michel. It is far. No, it shall be the Metro, Place de la Concorde, at sept heures.”
“Yes…. And you will not fail?”
He was of a mind to kiss her good night as he had kissed American girls whom he had taken home from parties and with whom he had played about, but he hesitated. He didn’t want to spoil things, to make her take fright and disappear. She was becoming too much a delightful element in his life for him to take a chance of losing her now…. And while he hesitated she was gone.
As mysteriously as she appeared out of the mazes of the enormous city she disappeared into them again, and Bert was apprehensive lest she fail to reappear. He need not have been apprehensive. There is in life a thread of fate, of destiny, which attaches one person to another, so that, even though they separate to the ends of the earth, they will be drawn together again at some spot in some hour…. Destiny had woven a strand between Andree and Kendall….
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