Andree glanced at her watch as she emerged from the Metro at the St.-Michel station that evening and noticed that it was almost exactly seven o’clock. With quaint, almost stiff little steps she proceeded across the Place, her eyes lowered with that charmingly unconscious demureness which was a part of her, her thoughts directed inward, as they always seemed to be. She had a gift of detachment; it was possible for her to be in the midst of a crowd, and yet to seem and to be unconscious of the crowd’s proximity or existence. She always seemed grave, with a tiny hint of apprehension, and when, as she rarely did, she raised her eyes to regard some passing individual, it was with a sort of naïve wonder to discover that there was another human being in her neighborhood…. That is how she impressed one. What she was really thinking, how much she saw of what went on about her, nobody ever knew. Kendall, who had studied her every mood, had not the least idea of what her little head busied itself with. She was a dainty mystery to him. She was a dainty mystery to everybody who felt an interest in her.
“Good evening, Mademoiselle Andree,” said a voice in her own language, and she looked up with that childishly startled air which was hers alone. It was Monsieur Robert, smiling with handsome boyishness and with a twinkle of mischief in his eye. She regarded him gravely.
“Good evening, monsieur,” she replied, timidly.
“I have good fortune,” he said. “I have thought of you so often; I have wished to meet you, and, behold! here you are.”
She made no reply, but stood looking at him questioningly.
“Is it permitted to say that mademoiselle is very pretty this evening—as always?… Ah, we were to be friends, do you remember? It was agreed, was it not? And some day we were to talk of many things … of the Académie and the Comédie and of yourself. Was it not so?”
“It is well.” He laughed gaily. “Then shall we talk this evening? You shall dine with me, then…. It is impossible that you are much occupied. Fortune could not be so unkind. You will dine with me and we will talk of those plans of yours?”
She considered a moment unsmilingly, and Monsieur Robert wondered what were her thoughts. It was impossible to guess.
“Yes,” she said, presently.
“There is a café at the corner of the rue Soufflot. Does that please you?”
He took his place at her side and they continued up the boulevard, Andree silent and apparently preoccupied; Monsieur Robert laughing, gay, exerting all his great charm and displaying his high abilities in droll humor. Occasionally Andree looked up at him a moment and smiled, but for the most part she was serious and gave what answers were required of her in monosyllables. They found a table on the sidewalk of the café and gave their orders.
“Mademoiselle desires to enter the Académie?” said he.
“It is not easy to gain admission, which is correct. It is not every one who is fit…. There are the examinations, which are difficult.”
“I have not fear of the examinations, for I have studied very much. It is that—” She hesitated.
“That you have not an influential friend to make the recommendation. Is that it?”
He laughed easily. “Why do you wish to become an actress?”
“Because I must do something—I must find a career, because it is necessary to eat. The stage is very well. I think I can do it; I have always felt I was for the stage.”
“That is very well. One must feel so…. You have the beauty that appeals, yes. You have the youth. You have the intelligence, that is clear. Now, if only you have the talent, the genius—”
“One does not know.”
“Until one makes the attempt, it is true…. But I have a feeling it is there, mademoiselle. Something tells me so. I am sure of it.”
“You are very amiable.”
“No…. No…. It is but the truth…. But there is much hard work. In the Académie one must work until one is ready to drop with fatigue.”
“It is nothing—if one succeeds.”
“True…. And the success is very good. Ah, mademoiselle, I can see the success of you. Behold!… To-day you are not rich, is it not so? You have no fame. But the future—what possibilities are there!… You succeed in entering the Académie. That is possible. You work, you study, you learn…. The teachers see that you have beauty, and they search for the talent…. That is their way, and when they see it to be present they make you work the harder and bestow upon you the extra pains. Oh yes…. I can see it. Then, with good fortune, you take the first prize of all the women, and that makes a place for you on the stage of the Comédie Française. You shall be a comédienne—that is for you…. And then—one day will come the great success….” He stopped suddenly and regarded her.
“Can you not see it? To-day you—you are very charming, but you are merely you. You have nothing, you are nothing. You have a room, perhaps, for which you pay seventy francs a month. Am I not right? You are not happy. You are hidden…. But then comes a wonderful night. You make the great success. Paris is at your feet. Paris adores you…. What does it mean? Ah, mademoiselle, one can scarcely imagine it. It means a career, a great success in life. It means to be adored, to have all that a beautiful woman can desire…. It means applause and the envy of all the world—everything! everything!… What a change! What a wonderful change!”
“Yes,” she said, her eyes glowing.
“It means that famous men will compete for your favor. You will be pointed out everywhere, received everywhere…. The papers will speak of your every movement…. You will be happy.”
“Yes,” she said.
Then his manner changed, his enthusiasm seemed to die, and he looked steadily into her face.
“But before it all comes one must enter the Académie.”
“It is so.”
“Mademoiselle, do you want very much to do so?”
“Oh, greatly! greatly!”
“Then it shall be. I guarantee it.”
He leaned over the table, his face serious now, his handsome eyes eager. “If mademoiselle will be kind,” he said.
She looked at him an instant and let her eyes fall.
“Ah,” she said.
“I love you…. I adore you.”
“No,” she replied, with the merest hint of a smile. “It is not so. You do not love me.”
“You are very lovely…. You are poor—you shall be rich. You are unknown—you shall be famous…. And I love you.”
She did not lift her eyes now, but sat very still and looked at her plate. Her face told him nothing; it had not altered its expression of detached gravity—and it intrigued him, made her the more desirable because he could not understand her. Her lips quivered, she closed her eyes and drew a little breath which was almost a sigh.
“It cannot be, monsieur.”
He sat erect, astonished, really astonished.
“You refuse fame and wealth and all that may be yours?”
“It is necessary, monsieur.”
“And why? Why?”
“Because, monsieur, I love, and I am happy…. I am faithful…. I am very happy.”
He stared, unbelieving. Then, “It is the American officer—this Capitaine Ware?”
“You—you throw it all away for him—for this foreigner? You throw away your chance—your career?… It is absurd, impossible!… But look, mademoiselle. These Americans they do not remain. There is the war. To-morrow, the next day, he may be ordered away—he may be sent back to America…. He will go away from you and leave you lonely…. For a week, a month, will you throw away your life? Oh, mademoiselle, think! It would be terrible.”
She smiled. “It is the first happiness I have known…. I love him, monsieur, and he loves me. We are very happy…. Life is not good. It is very bad, but there may be the little moments of happiness, and they are most sweet. Does monsieur understand? There may be grief and loneliness to follow, but those little moments—they are all of life…. Nothing else is to be considered. It is as you say…. It may be a week, a month, but I would not lose it, not for all you promise me…. And I am constant, I am faithful…. If I must buy my little moments with this career, then I shall pay—oh, so happily. Do you not understand? At all events, one can remember them while life lasts…. They will make a long life sweet…. And so, monsieur, it cannot be. I have considered and I have chosen….”
It was at this moment, the moment when Andree was surrendering her future, passing by the call of Fame and closing her ears to the knock of Opportunity, that Kendall Ware glared at her above the bushes that shut in the front of the café…. It was this moment that he saw—a wonderful, a glowing, a superb moment. He saw a miracle, and his eyes were shut so that it was not apparent to him….
Monsieur Robert was silent for a space, during which one might have told the numbers to twenty, and then he arose, very gravely, dignified now, courtly. He lifted Andree’s hand and bowed over it and his lips touched it in token of respect and of honor.
“Mademoiselle,” he said, quietly, “I have said that I love you…. It is true…. I have seen a great thing, a beautiful thing…. I am proud that I have kissed your hand. From this moment I revere two women—my mother and yourself….”
She smiled up at him with that quaint smile of hers, that smile which was half lost child, half banished fairy. “It is nothing …” she said.
“May I walk on with you?” he asked.
She shook her head, and then extended her hand. “Good-by, monsieur,” she said.
He accompanied her to the open walk. “Good-by, mademoiselle,” he said, softly, and stood looking after her until she reached the distant Panthéon and turned the corner. Then he sighed and smiled and shook his head and walked away. “The women of France!…” he said aloud, and there was a hushed wonder in his voice.
Despite Bert Stanley’s crudities and carelessness and boisterousness, he had no mean capacity for friendship. He was fond of Kendall Ware with that sort of friendship which one so often finds in men of his character for others of finer fiber. He did not understand Kendall, nor did he try overly hard to understand him; it was enough that he liked him and rather admired him. Sometimes his attitude toward his friend was of humorous tolerance. He laughed to himself when Ken took some slight affair with gravity and seriousness. He thought Ken was a bit queer and moody. As for himself, he took things as they presented themselves and made the best of it, not inquiring into causes and not caring about results unless there was a possibility of their presenting themselves in too unpleasant fashion.
For instance, he had seen Kendall thrown into somber mood by a discussion of the unhappy future of hundreds of thousands of French girls deprived of men with whom to marry. Of course it did look a bit tough on the women, Bert thought, but what can you expect? And what could one do about it? He put this thought into words.
“Do about it?” Kendall replied, gloomily. “That’s the devil of it—there’s nothing that can be done about it. They’re just up against it…. Poor devils!”
“Oh, it’ll come out all right somehow,” Bert said, with a shrug. “They’ll find men somewhere.”
“Find men!… There aren’t any men. You can’t take a stick and whittle out men.”
“Then what in thunder is the use worrying about it? It’s so, and that’s all there is to it. No use getting gloomy.”
“But it makes me gloomy. It’s so rotten unfair. It’s horrible. Just think of what it means to them!…”
“Just don’t think about it and you’ll be better off.”
It was this sort of thing that Bert failed to understand. He could imagine a man worrying because he was out of a job, or because he had broken his leg, or because his house was on fire; but why anybody should go out of his way to fuss over something that seemed to him like a rather distant abstraction, he failed to comprehend. But Ken always did it.
Bert could never understand the effect of the sight of Paris on his friend. Of course it was a regular city, different from New York and Chicago, but there was no use to rave about it or to stand on a bridge mooning and looking at a row of buildings. Paris meant a good time of an exotic sort to Bert—and that was all. He was willing to agree that the town was beautiful if anybody insisted, but what was the use of insisting? A town was a town. It wasn’t what a town looked like that made it a good place to be; it was the business opportunities of the town and the opportunities for pleasure when business was over for the day. He went with Kendall to see Notre Dame, and wondered why in the dickens anybody had ever gone to the trouble to hew all those ugly carvings out of stone, or why they should run fringes of them around a church. It was a sort of dingy old place, anyhow…. Now for a regular building, give him the Hôtel de Ville. That was something like, because it might have been the post-office or a railroad station in New York. He would have traded his chance to see all the ramshackle cathedrals in France for one sight of the Woolworth Building. Now there was something! There was some use in going to see that structure! It was capable of astonishing him—but only because it was so lofty. To see it of a spring morning with the hazy sun tipping its golden peak meant nothing to him except looking at a tall building early in the day…. There wasn’t a high building in Paris! But Ken wanted to poke around to see such things as Notre Dame, and if he got pleasure out of it, that was his business.
Nevertheless, Bert saw dimly that Kendall had something admirable which was denied to him. Not that he wanted it especially! He was very well satisfied, but somehow he admired Ken for having it and liked him the better for it…. And Ken was always philosophizing about things, and advancing theories, and worrying about morals, and splitting hairs of right and wrong. To Bert certain things were wrong, and the rest didn’t matter. It was wrong to murder and to steal or to kick a child or to cheat at cards or in any other game. As for the bulk of the rest of the possible acts of man, he saw them as neuter, and not mattering much…. But Ken could get up a moral argument over the way he spread his bread! And these arguments had the power to upset his friend completely, to make him gloomy, to worry him…. It was utter nonsense, but it was a part of Ken and Ken was his friend.
He felt a sort of duty to look after Ken, a responsibility for him. He was actually troubled sometimes by one of Ken’s moods and deliberately thought up means to cheer him…. And now he was really worried. He had never seen Kendall as he had appeared last night. Something out of the ordinary had happened. Most likely it was nothing that the ordinary fellow would think twice about, but the Lord only knew how it would affect Ken. Anyhow, Ken thought he was in some sort of trouble, and Bert was really disturbed. He had wanted to do something about it last night, but Madeleine had prevented, and now he felt rather guilty. Putting on his bathrobe and slippers, he went to Ken’s door and opened it softly. Ken was sitting up in bed, staring out of the window.
“Morning,” said Bert, affably.
“Morning,” replied Kendall, shortly.
“Um!… Cheerful, ain’t you? Say, what’s eating you, anyhow?”
“Nothing, my aunt’s knee-cap! Come through. What’s carried off your goat?”
Kendall did not reply.
“Get up and have breakfast. I hear Arlette in the kitchen. You’ll feel better after you’ve had a bowl of chocolate warming up your tummy.”
“I don’t want any breakfast.”
“Huh?…” Bert was beginning now to be seriously troubled. “Say, what’s the matter, anyhow? Is it Andree?”
“I’ve just been a damn fool, that’s all.”
“Ought to be used to it,” said Bert, flippantly, and then, more seriously, “Say, you don’t mean to say that you’ve gone and went and fallen in love with her, or anything like that?”
“Look here,” Ken said, morosely, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I do,” said Bert, with a grin, “so we’re going to talk. I’m the biggest, and I can doggone well hold you while we thrash it out. Now tell it to your uncle. Are you in love with Andree?”
“I—I don’t know.”
“That means you are…. What about it? Say, you don’t mean you’re worrying about marrying her, do you?”
Ken laughed unpleasantly. “I wouldn’t marry her if she was the last woman on earth. I never want to see her again. I never want to think about her again.”
“Huh! Had a row, eh?”
Bert glowered at his friend a minute. “I don’t know whether you are interested or not, but you give me an acute pain. Why in blazes can’t you go along and have a good time like a fellow ought to without always landing into the middle of something that fusses you all up? You think too darn much…. Now there’s Madeleine and I—you don’t see me doing any worrying or scrapping, do you? Well!… Nor falling in love. You bet you don’t! When I fall in love it will be with some American girl, and then I’ll settle down and raise a family and wear slippers in the evening. But now I’m out to have what fun is going before I get my style cramped. I like Madeleine and she likes me…. That’s all. I’m giving her a good time, and she’s a good fellow—but that’s all there is to it. She knows it and I know it, and there you are. I saw to that right at the start-off. I told her. You bet I did! I said to her, ‘Now look here, young lady, we’re just playing, understand. There’s nothing serious about this. I’m going back to America some day, and when I do, it’s good-by.’ And she feels the same way about it…. And that’s the only system.”
Arlette came shuffling into the room after Kendall’s shoes and responded to Bert’s greeting with a grin and a bob of her head.
“Arlette,” said Bert, “Monsieur Ken’s in love. You’ve had experience, eh? What’s to be done about it?”
“Eh?… In love!… Mon Dieu! What does one do about it? One makes nothing. Either one is in love or one is not…. I have been in love.” She wagged her head sagely.
“I knew it. I could tell it just by looking at you. What did you do?”
“I married … and now I have grandchildren, and love is no more for me…. But I remember it, messieurs…. Yes, yes, I often think of it. Is that not droll?” Again she waggled her head.
“But Monsieur Ken is in love and he doesn’t seem to like it.”
“It happens so,” she said. “There is both joy and sorrow. But monsieur is loved in return. I have perceived it. Why, then, is he not joyous?”
“You tell the answer. I don’t know.”
“He loves Mademoiselle Andree; Mademoiselle Andree loves him. She is very pretty, very sweet…. Well, then?” She made a gesture with her arms as if to say that the thing was beyond human comprehension.
“All the Americans are mad,” said Bert in French, employing the phrase of the streets.
“It is true,” said Arlette, nodding. “I have seen it.”
“And when they are in love they are madder than ever.”
“It may well be believed.”
“Oh, get out and leave me alone, both of you,” Ken said, morosely.
“Nothing of the sort. Explain carefully the difficulty to Arlette and me. We are the council of experts.”
“It’s nothing—except that I was a fool to get mixed up in this kind of a thing. It’s rotten.”
“It’s his conscience, Arlette,” said Bert, with mock impressiveness.
“When the conscience makes to interfere in a matter of love,” said Arlette, “it means either that one is not in love at all or that one is jealous. Love, messieurs, is its own conscience.”
“Madeleine said you were jealous last night. Two experts agree…. Jealous! Um!…”
“I’m not jealous, you gibbering idiot. I—It’s just that I thought Andree was something and find she’s not…. It’s the whole idea over here. I thought it was right—and it’s rotten. I was losing my balance. I thought wrong could be right.”
“It never can be when the other fellow does it,” said Bert, with more acuteness than usual. “Then you’re not worrying about marrying Andree? And you have discovered that you’re being very wicked, and so you’re in the dumps, and you’re figuring on calling the whole thing off and living a noble and austere life. Huh!… What happened last night? You can’t fool your uncle. You got a letter from home, and then something happened. What was it?”
“I saw Andree with that actor.”
“Mon Dieu!” exclaimed Arlette, and she passed off, as though frightened, to her kitchen.
“You saw them together? Where?”
“In a café?”
“And you—Oh, say—all this cat-fit is because you saw Andree in a café with another man! Get out!”
“With that particular man. You know what Jacques said about him…. You know Andree wants to get into the Conservatoire and on the stage. I introduced them—”
“More fool you,” said Bert, succinctly.
“It was plain enough. She could use him. She needed his influence—so—Oh, what’s the use? I don’t want to talk about it.”
Bert thought that Ken’s view was altogether likely. And why not? But he conceived it to be his duty to argue against it in his friend’s interest. “Just a case of plain, or garden, jealousy. Nothing to it. You see them together in a café and jump to conclusions. Didn’t hang around to see where they went?”
“Made up your mind with a snap—and then, because you were jealous, and it looked as if your nose was out of joint, you hollered sour grapes. In a second it all got to be immoral and naughty—and you’re worked up to a state of mind…. If this actor had never come along, and if Andree had loved you alone and all that, would it have been wrong?… Of course not, and you know it.”
Ken did not reply, but he had an uncomfortable feeling that Bert was right.
“You’d better give her a chance to explain—or did you burst in on the party and rear and tear all over the place?”
“They never knew I saw them.”
“Then, old son, you’d better let Andree tell you about it. Madeleine says she loves you and Arlette says she loves you—and, believe me, they’re experts.”
“If she loves me, and then would do such a thing, it’s all the worse…. I’ll never see her again.”
“Well, if your mind’s made up, there’s the end of the whole thing. Get up and eat and forget it…. The river’s full of fish.”
“You don’t think I’d try it again. Never!… I’ve been a fool, and a rotten fool…. I fooled myself into thinking one could do this kind of thing and not be wrong. I got it into my head that our ideas of morals in America were old-fashioned and narrow and absurd, and that the French were right.”
“Of course you’d have to philosophize about it.”
“Well, I’m through now. I’ve got what was coming to me—and right on top of it there was a letter from mother.”
“I’ll bet I know the kind. I’ve stayed at your house, you know.”
“Do you think—” Ken bit his lips and stopped.
“No, and I’m not going to. I’m satisfied. What’s the use wasting energy thinking when it doesn’t earn you anything? You got a jolt and a sermon, and between them they’ve given you a mental twister…. After we’ve walked down to the office you’ll feel better, son…. Get up before I haul you out.”
Kendall got heavily out of bed while Bert returned to his own room to dress. When one is Kendall Ware’s age the morning should be the pleasantest part of the day, and usually it is so. One does not arise weary and irritable, but joyously, looking forward to the day that is coming…. This morning Ken left his bed like a man of sixty whose digestion has become the primary consideration of his life, and who is not fit to enter human society before noon. He had not slept well, his head was heavy—and he despised himself. At any rate, he fancied he despised himself, which makes for the same result. There was the sharp grief of youth as well, and one does not wisely who belittles the griefs of youth. It seems to be true that the energies which make youth wonderful give of their strength to the pain that youth can feel…. Now he was certain he had loved Andree and he had never experienced anything that compared with the distress and chagrin at his discovery that he had loved an unworthy object. He had idealized Andree, had made of her something more than human, something above the laws of humanity, mystic, of the stuff of which fairies are made, and she had been proved dross and himself a self-deluded fool…. He was bitter against himself and her. His thoughts made him well worthy to accept a high place in the company of those who gathered in the vestibule of his church at home….
He approached the table without appetite, and Arlette, when she brought in the pitcher of chocolate, eyed him sidewise and askance, and waddled out, shaking her head uneasily. He could hear her muttering to herself, and it annoyed him, because he knew she was troubled about him. Bert had chosen to leave him alone and to let the thing run its course, so the breakfast was a silent one. They put on their overseas caps and descended the stairs without a word.
In the passageway the concierge was waiting for them with the friendly smile which had always made his returnings to the apartment seem more like homecomings. She rested on her broom and wished them good morning.
“Your national fête is but a few days away,” she said. “It is made a national fête for us also—this fourth day of July. All Paris—all France will make it a day the like of which has not been seen. I hear this on all sides…. It is a pleasure to me to have American officers in this house. I am envied. I speak only the truth. Therefore I hope messieurs the American officers will procure for me flags of their country to hang from their windows. It will be an honor. Will messieurs see to this matter?”
“Yes, indeed,” said Bert. “I’ll get them for you to-day.”
“Many thanks,” she said, and returned to her sweeping.
“Nice old lady,” said Bert. “They’re all nice. Cordial lot—these French people…. I wonder how we would act in America if we had a couple of millions of foreign soldiers planted down on us. Mostly we’re disagreeable to strangers.”
Ken did not answer. He was staring straight before him and thinking, thinking, thinking. His thoughts were intolerant thoughts, uncharitable, narrow. It was of thoughts such as his, persisted in until they become habitual, that are born the hanging of witches and the burning of martyrs…. They were not natural to him, and they filled him with discomfort and restlessness. He had a vague sense that he was being not altogether fair, and that he was condemning the whole because of a fault in a part. All France must not necessarily be evil because Andree had proved to be faithless, but he was declaring it to be evil. There was no good in it; there was no good in anything except the ruthless bigotry which had taken possession of him. There was no God but Puritanism, and Narrowness was its prophet….
They reached the Élysées Palace Hotel in which were their offices. He had not enjoyed his walk; there had been none of that pleasure which always before he derived from the great open stretches and wide boulevards of Paris. Beauty had ceased to exist or to signify…. He had a sensation of being shriveled up and dried—of lifelessness, and his thoughts seemed to rub against one another like sand-paper…. He saw it all as the unpleasant process of a moral awakening; it was not that; it was the disgruntlement of a youth over a love-affair gone awry….
“Hope it wears off during the day,” said Bert.
Ken only grunted, and turned up the stairs.
It was a futile day and he was glad when it came to an end. It was not until he was hanging his cap on the hall tree that he remembered Andree was to come—to come there to dine this evening. He paused with hand in mid-air as he recalled how they had made the plan. Hereafter she was not to meet him at the Metro, but would come directly to the apartment. It would be better, and there was something exquisitely attractive about it. He had been very happy. Her lips had been close to his as she had given her promise to come there to him; the perfume of her had been in his nostrils, and in that maddening way of perfumes it returned now unasked and undesired. It was almost as if she were there, close to him, but invisible. He remembered that she had lain in his arms at the moment, smiling, sweet, a marvelous creature to be treasured with a great tenderness…. And she had gone from that to a meeting with another man—to purchase material success at the price of spurious love!…
What should he do? He did not want to see her, felt that he could not undergo the ordeal of seeing her…. He snatched his cap and turned to the door, only to replace it again on the hall tree and to stand wavering, undecided…. He did not know it, would not admit it, but his heart cried out to see her, to feel the delight of her presence…. He despised her, but he loved her…. As one does at such moments, he sought refuge in sophistry. It was necessary for him to see her this last single time. He must tell her that he had detected her infamy and, with harsh words, cast her out of his life. He told himself that this was both appropriate and essential…. Yes, he would allow her to come and would admit her—and then—and then she should hear the truth, the bald truth. She should hear what a decent man thought of such behavior as hers…. Not that it would benefit her or change a character that could be guilty of the thing of which she was guilty…. But he had to accuse her…. It was the desire, the cruel desire, which comes to every man at some moment, for some cause, to inflict agony on the one he most loves….
Kendall glanced at his watch. It wanted fifteen minutes to seven, the hour at which Andree would arrive, so he went into the salon, there to pace up and down, restlessly composing dignified but biting speeches one after the other and forgetting them as soon as composed…. Bert entered and spoke to him, but Kendall only growled, and Bert passed into his own room with a shrug. From the door to the window Kendall paced, and from the window to the door, to and fro, with rapid, excited stride. As the moment of Andree’s arrival neared, his thoughts became less coherent and himself more apprehensive. He felt that it was his duty to be very angry, so he worked himself up to anger…. Then came a soft, timid rap at the door.
He strode into the hall and flung the door open savagely. There stood Andree, fragile, lovely, appealing, her face turned up to his with that wistful question which it always wore when they first met. She looked so dainty, so small, so sweet!… Her eyes met his and waited a moment for his smile of welcome before they smiled. Always she seemed to be afraid—afraid that she would not read welcome in his eyes. He remembered it, and her look accused him. He stood silent, staring. Her lips parted at the strangeness of his manner and he saw astonishment grow in her dark-shaded eyes…. He found the rage up to which he had worked himself slipping away from him; as he looked down at her it even seemed impossible to believe that she was not all he had thought her to be. There was an innocence, a trustfulness about her.
“Come in, mademoiselle,” he said, coldly, stepping back to permit her to pass.
She entered slowly, diffidently. He could see that she was surprised, hurt by his manner, and a feeling of guilt overtook him. She stopped near him and turned expectantly…. He understood. He was expected to act the lover; she was awaiting his lover-like greeting…. He discovered how much bolder and more resolute one may be in anticipation than at the required moment.
“Do not take off your things,” he said, striving to keep his voice steady and emotionless. “Will you come in here?”
She obeyed silently, with a silence that came from sudden apprehension. He followed her and stood before her, searching for words with which to begin, and she, her face grave and a little sad, as was its custom, stood very still, but once or twice her eyes turned upward quickly to read his face. The speeches he had prepared against this moment had hidden themselves away, and he was left with an uncomfortable feeling of inadequacy to the event. He hesitated; the silence became unsupportable, and he began with sudden harshness, a harshness that a little frightened himself when he heard it.
“I never intended to see you again,” he said, “but I forgot you were coming here to-night.” He spoke in English, rapidly, but she understood him, for her eyes lifted now and remained fixed on his own, dark, frightened, appealing. He looked into them and turned hastily away. There was a magic in them that he feared; they seemed so pure, so honest…. Her lips parted a little, but she did not speak.
“I loved you,” he said, hoarsely, “and I trusted you…. I thought you were good and honest. I trusted you, do you understand? Trusted you and believed in you.” Words were coming more easily now, and with facility in speech returned what he fancied to be his righteous anger. “I was a fool…. I thought that you, even brought up in this city, in this way of life, could be good and faithful…. You fooled me—I should have known better. It was my own fault…. But I’ve got my lesson. I’ve seen. I know now…. I loved you—I was all ready to love you—but I despise you…. Do you understand? I despise you. You are bad—bad. You said you loved me and you gave me your love—and it was all a lie…. How many other men are you telling the same thing? Is every day given to somebody?” He was bitter now, cruelly bitter.
She did not speak, but stared up at him as though she did not believe, at least as if she did not understand. Her face was pitiful in its surprise and pain. Motionless, without movement or gesture, she stood and looked up into his face as a dog might look into the face of his master, knowing that master is about to shoot him to death.
“I never want to see you again. I want to forget you. I wish I could forget that I ever saw you and all that has happened. Probably it doesn’t matter to you. Maybe you don’t see any harm in what you’ve done—but it was squalid and contemptible.”
His voice rose with his anger and she shrank back from him. Bert, startled, came hurrying into the room and stopped with amazement.
“Ken,” he exclaimed, “easy … easy. What’s all this?”
“Please go away, Bert…. I’m telling her what I think of her…. Go away.”
Bert looked curiously at Andree, who did not move her eyes from Kendall’s face, and then he shook his head.
“No need to shout,” he said. “You’re excited, old man.” He turned to Andree. “You mustn’t mind him. He’s wrought up about something.”
Andree did not appear to notice that Bert was present.
He laid his hand on Kendall’s arm. “Come along,” he said. “Don’t say something you’ll be sorry for…. If you want Andree to go away, I’ll take her…. Come on into your room.” He was really apprehensive, for Kendall’s eyes glowed somberly, his face was convulsed with toxic emotion.
Ken shook off his friend’s hand. “Leave me be…. This is my affair.” He pointed to the door. “Go!…” he said to Andree, his voice quivering. “You don’t know what you’ve done—what miserable thing you’ve done…. I despise you…. I despise you….”
Bert stepped forward and touched her arm. “You’d better go, I guess,” he said in a low tone. “Ken’s pretty excited. Let me take you down.” His voice was sympathetic.
Andree did not move. “Oh, I do not onderstan’…. I do not onderstan’ …” she said, like a frightened child.
“Don’t lie,” said Kendall, furiously. “Go!… And never come back…. I’ll never see you again.”
She stood an instant more, her eyes seeking his, demanding of his. Then, very slowly, very quietly, without sob or even a quiver of her dainty lips, she turned and walked to the door. There she paused and turned to look at him again, rather drooping, hopeless, appealing…. “Oh, it is not well…. I do not onderstan’,” she said.
Kendall turned his back…. In another instant the door had opened and closed and Andree was gone. He stood with hands clenched, experiencing a certain unholy satisfaction. He had done the thing thoroughly. He had finished it. He had told her what he thought of her, and he was rid of her forever.
Presently Bert returned. He walked up to his friend with a grim look upon his usually nonchalant face. “That was pretty average brutal,” he said. “Maybe it’s good Presbyterian to do that sort of thing…. If it is, I thank God I’m a heathen…. That poor little kid! Did you see her face?…”
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