Kendall Ware leaned out of a window of the apartment, looking down at the avenue beneath. He had an unobstructed view of the sidewalk as far as the corner. It was time for Andree to arrive, and he was watching for her. Taxicabs rattled past, a huge camion manufactured in America and driven by an American rumbled along; a French officer, resplendent with gold braid and medals and red trousers, walked by gaily, a beautiful woman on each side; the concierge was sweeping the sidewalk in front of the entrance; a child or two in the inevitable black outer garment or smock played near a bench … and then came Andree. She was all in white, as he loved to see her best. Perhaps it was because she had been all in white when he saw her for the first time. She looked very tiny from his place four stories above the street, and he watched her with something of the tender amusement with which one watches a child when it is unconscious of one’s presence.
Andree approached in a determined, business-like manner. One could tell at once that she had a destination in view. The quaint stiffness of her gait was accentuated by the angle from which he looked at her, as was her slenderness. He watched to see if she would turn her head or allow her eyes to vary from that intent, straight-ahead gaze which seemed to see nothing. They did not vary. She was prim. Prim was the word, he thought…. The white tam was jaunty, but it did not give her an air of jauntiness; instead of doing so it gave quite another impression—that of inexperienced youth, youth untouched by the events of life, youth that had yet to come to a knowledge that there was evil in the world. That was a great deal for a tam-o’-shanter to tell, but somehow it managed to tell it. Ken leaned farther out to watch her as she came directly underneath, wondering if she would glance up at the windows.
She did glance upward, suddenly, as if something had fallen at her feet and startled her. She saw Ken, but she neither smiled nor waved, and dropped her eyes again as quickly as she had raised them. But there was about her then an air of relief, as if she had sighed audibly…. He was there waiting for her eagerly; she had seen it, and her apprehensions, if she had any, were quieted.
Ken listened for her step upon the stairs, but heard no sound until the door-bell rang with a sort of tentative, hesitating ring. It seemed as if she could touch nothing without imparting some character, something of her mood of the moment…. He opened the door and she raised her eyes to his and looked into his face a moment, her face perfectly immobile. She stood very straight and still, her arms stiffly at her sides.
“My dear,” he said, and held out his arms to her.
She smiled shyly, diffidently, as she allowed him to take her in his arms and kiss her. She was not responsive, but seemed rather speculative…. As if she were allowing this thing to happen to see if it were really going to happen…. And then she returned his kiss gravely, as much as to say: “Yes, this can really happen. It is so. I am much relieved.”
“You are triste,” he said, anxiously.
“Mais non…. Mais non….”
“When I have climb’ many stairs I cannot smile…. But I am glad…. Who is here?”
“Oh yes, of course. But Bert won’t be home to dinner.”
“It is well…. Non, non, you mus’ not take my sac. It is ver’ valuable—yes. I mus’ watch it ver’ careful. It has my tickets of the bread.”
“I’ll hang it right here, and your jacket, or whatever you call it…. What have you been doing?”
“I have work beaucoup. Oh, it is ver’ tiresome to work! It is much better jus’ to play all the days…. And you? Have you theenk of me?”
“I do not believe—no, no, not once have you theenk of me. You are ver’ wicked—très-méchante. I shall to weep.”
“I think of you when I wake up, all the morning, at noon, all the afternoon—”
“Non, non, non!…” She was laughing now. “Maybe one leetle theenk—only. But I—oh, I have theenk of you ver’ much. I have theenk you are pas fidèle.”
“I!… Not faithful!”
“Yes.” She nodded her head decidedly.
“Why do you say that? You know I am fidèle.”
“I have see’ you.”
“Oh, you are ver’ wicked…. You deceive me mos’ cruel.” He could not tell if she were serious or if she were teasing him. “Also I am mos’ jalouse. It is thees yo’ng girl—thees yo’ng American girl. I have see’ you with her las’ night.”
“Oh yes. We had dinner together. She has just come back to Paris for a day or two.”
“Oh yes,” she mimicked. “I know thees leetle dinner. She tries to steal you away from me…. You like her more than me. It is so. I see it…. I shall take me a dagger and make her to die—so.” She laughed gaily.
“You don’t really believe I’m unfaithful at all. You’re just making fun of me.”
“Did you bring her here?”
“Eh?… What’s that? Here? Maude Knox here?”
“And why not? Since you are not fidèle.”
“But you don’t understand. Maude Knox is an American girl. She wouldn’t—I couldn’t—”
“Oh, it is so?… Then these American girls, they do not love. They are stone or wood, is it so?… I do not onderstan’ these American girls.” She was delightfully disgusted. “Sometime I shall cross the ocean to observe these girls. It will be ver’ droll. America mus’ be a ver’ droll, ver’ serious country—where the girls do not love.”
“They do love. Of course they love.”
“Well, then, Why do you make such astonishment when I speak that she comes here?”
He waggled his hand helplessly, and she, perceiving that she was teasing him, put on greater pretense of seriousness.
“Ah, I see,” she said. “The American girl she say, ‘I love,’ and then she enter into the convent…. She goes in the jardin and see the bud about to blossom, and she cover it weeth a veil. Is it not? Oh, such love as thees! It is the love of the ice for the snow.”
“It’s different, Andree. I can’t explain it to you because I can’t explain it to myself.”
“Pouf! Different! Do you theenk I cannot perceive it is different? Oh yes, monsieur. I perceive ver’ clearly … the difference between alive and dead.”
“You’re wrong. American girls can love—”
“How do you know?” she interrupted, impishly.
“—can love,” he persisted, “but all nice American girls marry—”
“To be sure. Ah, marriage—that is ver’ well. There is nothing against marriage. Not in the least. Many people marry, and it is ver’ well. Why not?…”
“I never can make you understand.”
“Nevair…. I cannot to onderstan’ what is not natural. Do you onderstan’ if you see the river ron up the hill? Mais non. To love is to love; to marry is to marry. It is not the same theeng altogether….”
“America is different.”
“You have say that bifore…. It mus’ be the fault of the girls. Oui…. So far as I observe the men they are willing enough…. Perhaps they are so willing bicause at America they are always denied. It is mos’ fortunate for them they come to Paris. Otherwise they would die and not ever have been alive at all.”
“You’re a dear child and I love you and I almost understand what you’re talking about. But you could never understand America—and sometimes I’m glad of it…. And America never will be able to understand you.”
“What would Americans theenk of me if I come to New York?”
“They would think you were very lovely.”
“I do not mean that. I am not lovely. I am ver’ hideous. See, I cover my face bicause you are afraid.”
“Let’s not bother about America—just about us.”
“But I am jalouse. I hate thees American yo’ng girl.”
“For all you say, I theenk she come here las’ night.”
“Now, look here—”
She laughed gaily and ran to the window. “See, I shall jump down and die…. Bon soir, Arlette….”
“Bon soir, mademoiselle. Dîner est servi.”
“It is well…. How does your little granddaughter carry herself?”
“Very well, mademoiselle. Even now she is in the kitchen and very impatient to visit you and Monsieur Ken.”
“She must dine weeth us, mus’ she not, cher ami?”
“Of course. Set a place for her, Arlette. And tell her we shall have some American cakes that I got at the commissary store.”
Arlette beamed with pride and satisfaction and padded about, setting a third place at the table, waggling her head and whispering to herself as she went. Ken and Andree seated themselves, and then Arlette appeared in the door with little Arlette concealed among her skirts. The tiny head, with its birdlike features, peeped out at them timorously.
“Enter, mademoiselle,” said Andree. “See, she has eyes only for Monsieur Ken, is it not? She is my rival…. I shall not dine weeth her. She is ver’ bad and wicked.”
Arlette pushed her granddaughter ahead of her, muttering to her in French.
“Bon soir, monsieur. Bon soir, mademoiselle,” she said in a tiny voice.
“Arlette!” prompted her grandmother, and set her head on one side and made her eyes very large and round while she awaited the result of her prompting. Little Arlette looked at her grandmother, then at Ken and Andree in turn, and said, with the most comical manner of pride in achievement, “Goo’-by, gent’men.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Andree, “she has learned English to make me sad! With these accomplishments she will make short work of me.”
Ken lifted the child into her place and tilted her delicate, fragile, fairy face upward. “You shall give me a kiss and make her very jealous,” he said, whereupon she kissed him, keeping one eye on Andree to observe results, and was much gratified to see her rival cover her face with her hands to hide her grief.
“I go to America with him,” she said to Andree. “I do not know if it is America of the North or America of the South. It does not matter. I am to be his wife.”
“Ah, already you are American,” said Andree, slyly. “You theenk only of marry.”
“And we shall live in a toy-shop and eat nothing but candy,” said Ken.
“Americans are very rich,” observed little Arlette. “My grandmother has told it to me—and that I must teach my husband that it is wicked to be careless with one’s money…. We shall not dine upon pullet.”
“You see what it is to marry,” said Andree. “Already you are denied what you desire…. I theenk mademoiselle makes a marriage of money.”
“It is not a marriage of money, is it, mignonne? No. It is for true love you marry me, is it not?”
“Oh yes, yes! I love monsieur very much.”
“But what is to become of me? I, too, love monsieur ver’ much,” said Andree.
Arlette observed her gravely and pondered. “You, too, shall be his wife, mademoiselle,” she said.
“Ah … it seems I was wrong. After all, little Arlette is not wholly American.”
The dinner was finished and Ken carried little Arlette into the salon on his shoulder. She cuddled between him and Andree on the sofa, insisted upon holding his hand, and looked at Andree with calculating eye.
“Have you no new chansons, petite?” asked Ken.
“Oui, monsieur.” And she stood up with a most serious air, taking her position just so and smoothing down her skirts. Then she tilted up her little chin and, with her eyes fixed gravely on Ken’s face, she sang a song of many verses while her grandmother stood in the door and bobbed and grinned and made signs of a great satisfaction…. It was not like a child singing, Ken thought, but like some playfellow of elves and fairies. There were about her a daintiness, an ethereal quality, a purity which was something more than merely human and of the flesh…. He wondered what life held for her; wondered if Andree might not have been just such a child with just such characteristics as she. He thought it possible … for Andree retained some of those characteristics even now.
He lifted the child in his arms and kissed her, and Arlette took her away.
“You must come often,” Ken said, “because we are to be married.”
“Yes, monsieur. That is understood…. It was America of the North, was it not?”
“I shall remember…. Bon soir, monsieur. Bon soir, mademoiselle.” And she was gone.
“I have many rivals,” said Andree. “It is not well.”
“There is only one you, mignonne.”
“But yes, there is only one me, but there are many others. Little Arlette, thees yo’ng American girl…. I wish to know thees yo’ng American girl. I will meet her.” She nodded her head several times. “You will have her come here or we shall dine together.”
“Oh, what is thees you say? I do not onderstan’. Give me the dictionnaire.”
“The dictionary won’t help. I mean I won’t do it.”
“There you are again. Pourquoi…. Toujours pourquoi.”
“It is well to ask why many times. If one does not ask why, then many unpleasant theengs may happen. If one asks why—then one knows and can weigh the results. N’est-ce pas? I like to know where I am marching.”
“I don’t want you to meet Miss Knox, because you would not understand each other at all.”
“I theenk we would. But I shall meet her jus’ the same. … She is the kind of girl Americans marry. I wish to study why.”
“She would be studying you, too.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Of course. One woman always studies another. It is natural…. I do not know why, unless it is to determine if the woman can take one’s lover away, or if one can take the woman’s lover away from her…. I theenk that is it.”
“But suppose you didn’t want the woman’s lover?”
“That is of no importance. It is still ver’ well to be able to say to oneself that it would be possible to take that woman’s lover if it was desired.”
“1 don’t like to hear you talk like that!”
“Pourquoi?” Andree’s eyes were big with surprise.
“It doesn’t sound nice…. It sounds—oh, it doesn’t sound like you.”
She put her cheek against his. “Then I will not say it if you do not like…. I do not want any other man. I want only you…. Do you love me?”
“No, I do not believe. You love this yo’ng American girl because she theenks only of marry…. You will marry thees yo’ng girl.”
“I’m not going to marry anybody.”
“Americans always do. It is the law of the country. You have said it.”
“You know I love you.”
“I am afraid bicause of thees yo’ng girl.”
“Nonsense. I can’t marry anybody, Andree. All I have in the world is my captain’s pay. Nobody can tell how long the war will last, nor how long I will be held in the service after it is over—and when I am discharged … well, what then? I don’t know. There’s nothing to look forward to but war … just this and nothing else.”
She stroked his hand reflectively. “It is well,” she said, after a moment. “While there is war you shall be here. We shall theenk of nothing else…. Après la guerre”—she made a little gesture with both hands—“then we shall see…. I theenk you will be fidèle w’ile it is that you remain in France. I am satisfy—for now.”
“You don’t believe I love you.”
She mused, and then with that characteristic gesture of poking downward with her index finger she said: “I theenk many things. I theenk that I know jus’ one kind of love, and it ees love, it ees for all time and for all thing’. It ees for marry or for not marry. But I theenk you have two kinds of love—oui. Perhaps it ees américain—the custom of the country. One love for pleasure and—how do you say?—one love for business…. Listen, my friend. Do the pleasure love and the business love never come at the same time and for the same yo’ng girl? Eh?”
“I have never loved anybody but you.” He paused. “You know all about such things, mignonne. Is it possible for a woman to love two men at the same time—or for a man to love two women at the same time?”
She laughed. “It ees the las’ half of the question you wish for to have answer…. I theenk it ees different weeth man and woman. The woman she love only one. She give all…. The man—maybe. It ees ver’ difficult. But I theenk if there ees one large love that it ees all…. And I theenk, Monsieur Ken, that one day you go away and leave me solitaire. Oh, I shall to weep.” She clenched her fists and dug them into her eyes, and then laughed up at him. “See, I am ver’ triste…. You mus’ make me to be joyous.”
She was right, he thought. There could be but one love, one great love. How could he think otherwise, for was she not there, close beside him, her breath upon his cheek, her wonderful eyes turning up to his face every now and then with that inquiring, wondering, speculating glance that spoke to his heart? … One love, marvelous, sweet, good. He could even pause to assert its virtue…. Maude Knox became very dim, intangible. Andree was here, present, living—in all the mystery of her and all the foreign allurement…. This was love. This was an amazing sweetness without which his life would be immeasurably the poorer. It was a permanent thing—could not be uprooted at a moment’s notice. He knew that it had altered, was altering, his whole life, and he was glad. Whatever might come of it, he was glad…. Something had been given to him which would remain a miraculous possession so long as light entered his eyes or reason blossomed in his soul….
“Andree,” he said, tremulously. “Andree….”
She sighed with content. “I am ver’ happy,” she replied. “Ever’thing is ver’ well….”
Paris awoke to the 14th of July—Bastille Day—without knowing that, as it had marked the beginning of the end of the ancien régime, it was now to mark the last hour of the peril of France. It was fitting that this great national fête should bring to an end the days when the boche was to be feared, and that to-morrow was to see the beginning of the end. But Paris did not know. The air was heavy with portent; events impended…. There was present in every heart the apprehension that the unthinkable might happen, and that their beloved city might, within a period of days, fall into the hands of the enemy…. Bastille Day was the last day of the reign of fear…. The event was still on the knees of the gods; Paris could not read the future, but it could make holiday with destruction at its door. The heart of Paris was steadfast…. Its fortitude was on the eve of its reward.
Paris did not know that to-morrow the boche would lunge at its throat, throwing a weight into the thrust that it had never been able to throw before; nor did Paris know that its armies and its allies would receive that thrust without faltering, and would hurl upon it such rain of fire and steel as would crush it to the ground futile and staggering…. Paris did not know, nor did the brain of any human being know, that but three days must pass before that man of infinite patience and courage who was generalissimo of the forces which barred the path of the Hun would make his first mighty stride toward victory, a stride which should become a steady march, never flagging, never stopping, until his armies should have won the precious right to march with heads erect under that great pile which dominates their city—the Arc de Triomphe.
It was such events which impended on this 14th of July….
Kendall Ware and Andree had chosen the Place des Ternes as the most advantageous point from which to see the parade, and though it was raining a trifle when they started out, with skies which promised a drizzly day, they were not to be deterred. The little concrete oval which is the meeting-place of the Boulevard de Courcelles, the Avenue de Wagram, the Avenue des Ternes, and the rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré was already crowded. People splashed about in its shallow puddles and jostled one another between its flower-booths, which were doing a thriving business. The parade was already passing with martial music and amid much clapping of hands, but less shouting than would have obtained in an American city.
Ken edged Andree as near to the street as he could. For him it was easy to look over the heads of the people and to see the marching soldiers, but little Andree might as well have been at home across the river. She could see nothing, and there was no box nor chair to be had.
“Shall I lift you up?” he asked.
“Mais non. You cannot. I am of such a largeness!… But I shall see.”
“I’ll sit you on my shoulder and tell folks you are my granddaughter,” he said.
“Regardez!” She took a small rectangular mirror from her sac and held it before his eyes. Then she turned her back on the parade and, holding the mirror at an angle above her head, looked into it with quaint intentness.
“Oh, I see!” she exclaimed. “Behol’, the parade it marches in the glass.”
Ken laughed, but he was a trifle annoyed and embarrassed. Andree herself, he thought, was so natural, so herself, that she would have not the least thought in the world of making herself ridiculous or conspicuous, but this absurd makeshift of hers would certainly attract the attention of the crowd—and nobody knew what a Parisian crowd might do. He hesitated, looked about him uncomfortably, and decided to hold his peace. It was well, for within a radius of thirty feet a dozen men and women were doing exactly as Andree did. They had come prepared. Each of them stood facing away from the procession, a mirror held above the heads of the crowd, and it was with difficulty Kendall restrained his laughter. Their expressions were all so eager, so interested. It was absurd. With all that was going on behind them, they peered as if bewitched into rectangles of glass, and shouted, or lowered their mirrors to clap their hands just as if they were seeing living soldiers instead of tiny reflections….
The crowd interested him more than the marching men. There was a good-natured simplicity, a lack of reserve, a childishness about them, yet there were a bigness, a pathos, and a grandeur in their bearing…. Boys and young men mounted into trees; couples carrying bouquets scurried up and down the line, seeking a point where they might penetrate to the street; here was a woman weeping and smiling at once. She was in black…. And everywhere flowers! Now and then a girl would run out from the curb to hand a blossom to some poilu or Italian or Englishman or Portuguese…. Every French soldier marched with a smile and with a posy nodding from the muzzle of his gun. The street was thick with flowers and the air rained flowers.
The Americans passed. In their guns were no blossoms, on their tunics were no bouquets. They marched very stiffly, erect, business-like, with eyes to the front. The French had shuffled by jovially with nods and smiles. One could tell they had seen the war and were marching men, but there was no stiffness, no rigidity. They were like the defense of their great general—elastic. The Italians grinned cheerfully; so did the Portuguese; even the English were somewhat relaxed—but all these had known four years of war…. The Americans, marching like one man, like a splendid machine, seemed, somehow, sterner, of more warlike stuff. They struck the eye and won the applause of the multitude…. But they were of no sterner stuff, nor would they have asserted themselves to be better fighting-men than the sturdy poilus or the wiry Tommies…. They were younger—that was what impressed one. Their youth cried aloud…. Amid those soldiers of France and England and Italy and Belgium they looked like boys—and yet their age might not have been greater than these others—for the others had seen four years of war…. But they were splendid, these young men from another world, and the heart of Paris went out to them….
A hand touched Kendall’s arm and he turned.
“Why, Maude!” he exclaimed, and shot a startled glance toward Andree.
She had not seen, but was peering into her mirror.
“How glad you are to see me!” She laughed. “Really, I’ve nothing catching. What’s the matter?…” She glanced about and saw Andree. “Oh!” she said. “I’m glad. I wanted to know her.”
“I told you—” he began; but it was Andree who interrupted.
“Bon jour, Mademoiselle Knox,” she said, gravely. “We have met one little time.”
“Yes, indeed, and I have wanted so much to meet you again. I have told Mr. Ware….”
“And I, too, have wanted to know you. I have said it to him, yes, many times. I have said that I shall to know thees Miss Maude Knox—but”—she shrugged her shoulders—“les Américains are droll…. He would not.”
“He can’t help himself now, can he? Now that we know we want to be acquainted with each other, there’s nothing he can do about it.”
“Oh, I do not onderstan’. You speak trop vite, mademoiselle. My English it is of the worst.”
“And my French is non-existent. But that doesn’t matter in the least, does it? We shall get on.”
For those girls there was now something of much greater importance than the parade, and they promptly forgot it. Maude moved over to Andree’s side and they began the sort of conversation that women use when they are appraising each other with serious intention. Ken listened uneasily. There was nothing he could do. This thing that he had desired not to happen had happened, and that was all there was to it. He pretended to watch the parade, but his mind was concentrated on what the girls were saying. The girls appeared to have forgotten him as well as the marching men.
Ken was acutely apprehensive, but of what he was apprehensive he did not know. The thought that Andree and Maude were together, chatting, becoming acquainted, seemed to him very threatening. He had been in a holiday humor, but that humor was gone. He frowned and was conscious of both irritation and depression. It was not right for them to meet. Something was sure to come of it.
It was not at all that he felt that Andree was not a fit companion for Maude Knox. That was not it. He was not ashamed of Andree, and, strangely enough, when one considers his temperament and the hereditary impulses which stirred within him, he was not ashamed of his relations with her. It was an intangible apprehension, a feeling that one woman whom he knew he loved and another woman with whom he might be in love could not meet without unpleasant results to him.
There was curiosity, too, which grew stronger. More than once he had compared Andree with Maude Knox when neither was present, but now they were together, at his side, under his eyes…. He edged away a trifle with elaborate unconsciousness, and presently reached a point from which he could study the girls with covert glances.
It was not so much their appearances that he compared as it was their selves as he knew them, and as they were indicated by what met the eye. He was trying to arrive at a knowledge of what each girl meant in his life, what she could contribute to his life. Perhaps this was wholly selfish, but choice must ever be selfish. It is after choice is made that one may be generous and self-denying.
The contrast between Andree and Maude was so extreme that they seemed to have nothing in common but their sex, and as Ken considered he saw they had not even this in common. At least their conception of it and of its duties and possibilities and obligations and uses were as different as the color of their eyes or the expressions of their faces. One could not see Andree without being conscious that she was a woman, of the femininity of her, and that the chief business of her life was to be the complement of some man. The first emotion that Andree excited was tenderness…. As one looked at Maude Knox his first thought was comradeship, followed by a mental note that she would be reliable, capable of taking care of herself. Maude was not beautiful, but she was pretty, with a clean-cut, boyish prettiness that spoke of health of mind and of body. She was not the sort a man would fall in love with at first sight, but rather one who would first be admired and then loved…. Andree would be loved first, then admired as the sweetness of herself unfolded under the urging of love. Andree was fragile. Ken looked at her lips, perfectly drawn, delicate, sensitive—her most eloquent feature. They were lips to kiss, lips to give kisses. There, perhaps, stood the chief difference between these girls and their attitude toward life: that Andree would give, give, give—asked no other happiness but to give of herself and her sweetness and her tenderness and her love—while Maude would demand an exchange. She, too, could love, but always there would be inhibitions and reservations. She would take thought of practical matters, be efficient in love and marriage. Not that she would be selfish, Ken felt sure, but that she would see to it her relations with the man she loved would be well organized and stabilized. She would be a wife and a comrade to the man she married, and perhaps a dominant force; Andree would be wife and sweetheart, with no thought of dominating, but only of giving, of adding to the happiness of the man she loved.
If love were cruel to Andree, and the man she worshiped unkind, she would fade silently, withdraw into herself, and suffer; Maude would have suffered, but she would have faced the matter and held her own. It would be possible for Maude to go through life alone; that Andree should do so was utterly unthinkable. This was, perhaps, because Andree thought of herself only as a woman, and as a woman whose life must be bound up with the life of some man. Maude Knox thought of herself as an individual, a distinct entity with rights and purposes which must not be invaded or interfered with.
A man might expect help, encouragement, even dynamic career from Maude Knox. He might expect a wonderful fidelity from her. She would take an interest in his life and would want to have a finger in the shaping of his destiny. Andree would play her part in his life less obtrusively, but perhaps as powerfully by keeping alive his love and by lavishing her love upon him. She would ask nothing, demand nothing except a continuance of love and a lavishment of tenderness. So long as love endured she would follow him to the highest success without taking any great thought of that success, or she would have descended with him to the depths of failure without bewailing that failure—for success to her meant but one thing, and that thing was love.
Maude was the ideal wife in a partnership of man and wife as Americans have come to look upon that relation. The vestibule of the Presbyterian church would receive Maude with fulsome compliments and would congratulate Ken upon making a wise selection. Everybody would say that he had won a splendid wife … and it would be true. She was a typical American wife—that is to say, she embodied those things which Americans have set as their ideals of wifehood…. He wondered what the vestibule would say of Andree, even granting that Andree’s conception of virtue were the American conception. He could not imagine, though he could well imagine the stir she would create. She would be too beautiful—so beautiful as to excite righteous suspicion. She would be beautiful in a foreign sort of way, and therefore a sinful sort of way. The vestibule would never forgive her because she had lived in Paris and because she did not pronounce English as well as it did—through its nose. They would never be able to see into her heart nor to understand the marvel of her goodness…. She was as far outside their experience as she was actually outside Ken’s experience, who studied her hourly, but never understood her and never would understand her…. She would always be a mystery and an anomaly to him. She would always be to him a creature who was guilty according to his inherited conscience and yet escaped the accusation or the stain of guilt. She was bad, yet she was wholly good.
He said this to himself, and then hotly denied it. She was not bad. In his heart he knew she was not bad, and he knew as well that he had never approached a soul which was as clean, as unselfish, as purely tender as hers…. Maude Knox was good, too, capable of unselfishness and fine tenderness. But she could never accomplish what Andree had accomplished. She could never do as Andree did and retain her purity…. He did not realize that this was because Maude herself would have believed herself to have lost her purity.
For Kendall the matter marched back to the attitude he had absorbed from his mother—that relations between the sexes were wicked in themselves and could never be anything else, but that by some miraculous quality belonging to a formula pronounced by a parson it became permissible for designated couples to practise wickedness without fear of punishment. The wickedness remained, but the formula remitted the punishment. That was his mother’s belief…. She had been bitterly ashamed when Kendall became evident, because he was testimony to the world that she had been guilty….
Ken realized that he was getting himself into a state of mind, that he was reviving those disturbing thoughts which had such power to make him miserable … and he had been very happy with Andree. He had loved his happiness, and now he wanted it to persist. It had been something new in his life, very precious, very wonderful … and he was not willing that it should be dimmed.
He stepped behind the girls and spoke.
Andree turned and smiled. “You shall go away,” she said. “We do not need you. You shall watch the parade while Miss Knox and myself make thees ver’ interesting talk. Yes?”
“What are you and Miss Knox talking about?”
“What should we be talking about?” asked Maude. “About ourselves, of course.”
“It is ver’ nice subjec’,” said Andree, with an impish twinkle.
“Let me come in. Talk about me, and I’ll listen.”
“Pouf!… You! If we talk about you, then you are ver’ angry.”
“Bicause we shall say the truth, and men want only to be praised. N’est-ce pas?… Oh, all men are greedy for praise. Oh, là là là là.”
“There, Captain Ware. Will you behave now?”
Ken laughed. “Andree is always very disagreeable. I don’t see how I endure her.”
She nodded. “Yes. I am mos’ disagree-able.” She accented the last syllable quaintly. “It is bicause I do not like you.”
“Mademoiselle is very much interested in America,” said Maude.
“And Monsieur le capitaine he tell me so ver’ leetle.”
“America is a large country. It has a hundred million of population. The Woolworth Building is sixty stories high. Everybody owns an automobile and goes to the movies. Baseball is the national game….”
“And ever’ man ees marry and ees faithful to his wife,” interrupted Andree, “and all are ver’ sérieux and mos’ religious, and they are asham’ when they love. I know! I have study monsieur.” She laughed with childish gaiety. “Oh, mademoiselle, it mus’ be ver’ droll…. Regard them—they are born, these Americans, they become ver’ rich, they marry, they die—but they never live. It is that I believe they are afraid to live….”
“Yes, mademoiselle,” said Maude, “you have hit on something there. We are afraid to live, all of us. We want to live. We want a great happiness, but we are afraid of it. You can’t understand us better than we can understand you…. You have learned to live and be unafraid. We have not learned to get the best out of life, and our greatest terror is of our neighbors’ tongues…. It has been wonderful for me to come to your country and to see….”
“And has mademoiselle really seen?” asked Andree, her eyes on Maude’s face.
Maude hesitated. “I have tried to see, and I think I have understood a little. I have changed. I am not the same…. No, I am not the same girl at all who landed in France a few months ago.”
“May one ask what mademoiselle have see’?”
Maude answered, speaking slowly and feeling her way: “When I left America I thought I was broad-minded and tolerant. My father had brought me up to be less narrow-minded than most girls…. He is a professor of philosophy. But I have found out that I was very narrow-minded indeed. I could see only one side, and that was the viewpoint of those among whom I was brought up. The thing I have come to see is that my home town was right in setting up its own standards and in maintaining them—because those standards were best for my home town…. But I have found out that other towns and countries have an equal right to set up their own standards and arrange their own modes of living. I think I can believe now that a thing which is very wrong in Terre Haute, Indiana, may be right in Paris or London or Rome, and that a thing which may be right in Terre Haute may be wrong in Venice.”
“I onderstan’,” said Andree, gravely. “The theeng you mean to say is thees, is it not? That an act it become’ wrong when we theenk it is wrong? But if one city theenk it is right, then it is right for that city? N’est-ce pas?”
“Yes, something very like that.”
“Is that an answer to the question I asked you at dinner a few days ago?” Ken asked.
Andree looked at him quickly.
Maude paused a moment before she replied; then she shook her head. “No,” she said, “that is more complex…. If you were a Parisian I think I could answer, yes, without hesitation. But you are an American, who, possibly, should cling to American standards, no matter where you find yourself…. It is different…. No, I don’t know what the answer is—yet.”
“And thees question?” asked Andree, directly.
It was something like this that Kendall had feared from a meeting between Andree and Maude, that some subject such as this would spring up, that he would be subjected to embarrassment and discomfort. He was embarrassed now because he fancied Maude would be embarrassed and because he feared Andree, in her child-like frankness, might say something which would shock Maude’s American prudery. He did not make use of the word prudery, but the state of mind for which it stood was in his thoughts. He flushed and was about to attempt some stammered diversion, but Maude answered, perfectly calm and without hesitation.
“Captain Ware asked me if I would ever marry a man who had had an affair with another girl.”
“Ah….” said Andree. Then: “And why not, mademoiselle? What has that to do weeth the marriage? It was a silly question, was it not?”
Ken regarded her anxiously, but she gave no sign that she had attached any significance to his question other than a faint note in the long-drawn “Ah….” with which she had heard it stated.
“Yes, it was a ver’ silly question,” Andree repeated, “for if it ees not then there shall nevair be any marriages at all.”
“I don’t know….” said Maude.
“Perhaps it ees bicause mademoiselle ees ver’ yo’ng and does not know the worl’,” said Andree, with an air of age and wisdom.
“No. It is something in myself. I resent the idea.”
“Then there is but one hope for mademoiselle…. She mus’ marry the monk.”
“Now, listen here,” said Ken, bruskly. “This—this—Oh, darn it all, let’s talk about something else.”
Andree laughed gaily and pointed a finger of ridicule at him. “Oh, see! We have frighten’ him…. He is ver’ droll. Sometime’ he is same theeng as yo’ng girl jus’ from the convent…. But he is ver’ good, mademoiselle,” she said, suddenly and seriously. “He is mos’ good and gentle and kind, and I love him ver’ much.”
Maude touched Andree’s hand, and her eyes were not guiltless of moisture. “I am sure you do, dear,” she said, “and he must love you very dearly, too.”
Ken felt that the situation demanded something of him; that if he did not prove himself adequate to the demand he would sink in his own estimation and take a lower place in the regard of both the girls. It was awkward. No situation could be more awkward, but a thing was required of him if he desired to be true to himself and worthy of the love that Andree had given him.
“By God! I do!” he said, desperately, and had his reward in the depths of the smile which came into Andree’s eyes….
There threatened to come an uncomfortable pause, but Andree averted it.
“Monsieur Ken and I go soon for the déjeuner. Mademoiselle, of course, comes also.”
“I wish I might,” said Maude, her voice a trifle dulled and her eyes not altogether happy. “But I promised to help out in the club on the Avenue Montaigne…. And I must be going.” She looked at her wrist watch. “Indeed I must. I can cross the street now…. Good-by, Captain Ware. Good-by, mademoiselle.”
“Au revoir,” said Andree, holding out her hand. “We mus’ meet again. There are many theengs we mus’ speak of.”
Maude looked down into Andree’s dark-shadowed black eyes and smiled. “Yes,” she said, “we must speak of many things….”
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