Kendall was awakened next morning by the sound of some one shuffling about his room. It was a woman, and she was moving toward the door with his shoes in her hand, and for an instant he wondered if he were in the presence of some new sort of burglar. The woman was short and very fat, with a large head scantily covered by that colored hair which does not turn white at sixty. Her face was broad, her nose was broad and had a peculiar and laughable up-tilt, her mouth was broad, and her eyes were very large and kindly. She had one generous double chin and a quite respectable growth of whiskers. Her eyes and her nose were the most notable features. One liked her eyes and one could not help laughing at her nose. As a complete figure she was droll.
She saw that he was awake and grinned timidly.
“Bon jour, monsieur,” she said, and then, waggling his shoes, followed her greeting by a torrent of French in which the word “chaussers” occurred frequently. She spoke very rapidly and was unintelligible to Kendall.
“Arlette?” he asked.
“Oui, je suis Arlette,” she said, with a broad grin of delight, and then scudded through the door suddenly, as if she had been overtaken by a fit of embarrassment.
Kendall got out of bed and called Bert, who was still asleep.
“Hey, somebody’s swiped my shoes!” came presently in a voice of complaint.
“Shut up!” said Kendall, going into his friend’s room. “It’s Arlette. I saw her sneaking out with mine when I woke up.”
“Arlette? … Oh, she’s here, eh? What’s she want with my shoes? I’ve heard these French cooks could—”
But just then Arlette pushed the door open, regardless of the state of her young employers’ toilets, and deposited the shoes on the floor, carefully cleaned and polished.
The boys looked at each other, weighing this event in the light of their experience with American domestics. It was so surprising as to be upsetting.
“Seventy francs a month—including shines,” said Bert.
“And seventy francs is fourteen dollars.”
“And my mother pays her cook twelve a week—and hires another girl to wait on the cook! … Come to France to solve the domestic-servant problem! … I wonder if she bathes us.”
They hurried into their clothes and went to the dining-room, where a great pitcher of chocolate stood in the center of the table, flanked by a pot of jam and a basket of rolls. On each plate was a bowl—not a cup. Arlette entered and stood with her stomach against the table’s edge, whence she looked first at the food and then at her employers. She pointed accusingly at the confiture and said, “Abricot!”
“Apricot, eh? Très-bien.”
“Mais non, messieurs…. Mais non. It is not well…. Oh, the price—it is terrific, it is wicked. Of a surety, you are robbed. We shall have no more. Messieurs les officiers shall not so be robbed. I shall see well to it. But I was directed to procure confiture!” She crossed her pudgy hands on her ample stomach and rolled her eyes to heaven, calling upon Divinity to witness that apricot jam at four francs a jar was a thing to excite horror in any well-regulated and economical mind.
Kendall strove to comfort her, but it was impossible. No quantity of assurances that it was très-bien could remove her mind from the enormity of the cost of that delicacy, and she went out shaking her head and muttering and sniffling a trifle. In a moment she re-entered to ask what was desired for dinner. It was the first and the last time she made such an inquiry. In the future she made suggestions herself, but never did she ask outright what these strange young savages would have to eat.
“Poulet,” said Bert. “Chicken.”
Arlette rested her hands on her hips and stared at him aghast. She repeated the word after him as if unwilling to believe such a thing had been mentioned in her presence. “Poulet? … Poulet? … Non, non, non. But no. It is too dear. The cost, consider the cost! Veal, perhaps, but never pullet.”
“Young ladies are coming and we wish a suitable dinner,” said Bert.
“But pullet—oh no. There shall be a suitable dinner, but there shall not be pullet. It is a thing unthinkable—at the price. Before the war—yes, but now! Mon Dieu! do the American officers consider what price is demanded for pullet?”
The American officers did not, nor did Arlette enlighten them, but she continued stubbornly to refuse to procure it.
Ken shrugged his shoulders. “It looks as if we were going to be henpecked,” he said, ruefully.
Bert laughed. “Anyhow we get no chicken. I wonder if we can have a salad?”
Yes, a salad was thinkable, and even string-beans or cauliflower or peas—but pullet! Arlette’s mind refused to be diverted from pullet.
“Very well, then,” Bert said. “Whatever you want, Arlette. You’re the boss. But get enough for four.”
Arlette turned around and made for the door again, but paused on the threshold to turn and stare at them unbelievingly and to utter in a voice of anguish the word, “Poulet.” She said it as one might say bubonic plague.
As Kendall left the dining-room and went for his cap he saw a tiny, big-eyed face suddenly whisk out of sight around the corner of the hall which led to the kitchen. It had been the merest glimpse, such as a believing mortal might hope some day to catch of a fairy.
“Hey, there!” he called in English, for he had a way with children and children had a way with him. There was no response, so he gave chase. The fairy had scudded into the kitchen, and was standing close to Arlette, concealing herself in the old woman’s ample skirts. Arlette gazed at him with some apprehension as he came into the little kitchen, wondering, doubtless, what these barbarians would do to her for bringing a child into their lair, but a sight of his face reassured her, and she smiled a bit dubiously and placed her pudgy hand on the little girl’s head.
Kendall got down on one knee and held out his hand gravely. “Bon jour, mademoiselle,” he said.
“Bon jour, monsieur,” she said, with the cunningest little lisp, her face very sober and a little frightened, and she shook hands with him primly.
“How is your husband and all the family?” Ken asked.
Her eyes opened wide—blue and sweet they were—and she looked up at Arlette before replying. “But, monsieur, I have not yet a husband.”
“No…. That is bad. You must find a husband. What, at your age? Oh là, là, là, là! And what is mademoiselle’s age?”
“Eight years, monsieur.”
He shook his head. “And no husband…. Would you like an American husband, mademoiselle?”
“Oh yes, monsieur. The Americans they are very nice.”
She was the tiniest of mites with such a creamy-pink complexion as Ken had never seen. Her face was oval and beautiful, with a fairy-like childish beauty that deserved to be immortalized by some master of the brush and canvas. He looked from her to Arlette and was unwilling to admit a relationship between them or the possibility that this sprite could ever grow with the weight of years and labor to resemble the old woman. He wanted to kiss her; he wanted to kiss her on those little lips, parted a trifle now in her interest, but usually resting so lightly the one upon the other with the merest pursing which seemed to say they were made for kisses. He drew her to him, and she came diffidently, but not bashfully, and he lifted her to his knee. She seemed almost to be without weight.
“How do you name yourself?” he asked.
“Arlette,” she said.
“My granddaughter,” Arlette explained. “Her father is a prisoner of war in Germany—in consequence of which her mother is dead….”
“Pauvre Mignonne,” he said, and drew her close to him.
She looked up into his face briefly, and then, for the first time, she smiled.
“You will come often to see me,” he said. “We must be friends—and then, who knows, but I may have to take you to America with me. You have no husband; I have no wife. I shall, perhaps, ask your grandmother for your hand.”
“Yes, monsieur, I shall come often if monsieur permits…. And I shall sing for monsieur.”
“I shall like that. And now let me see your hand. Something is the matter with it.” He examined her palm gravely, then placed a franc upon it and closed her fingers tightly. “There, that will cure it, I think…. And you will not forget me—and you will think about going back to America with me?”
“Yes, monsieur,” she said, very gravely.
Kendall rejoined Bert and they walked together to the Étoile and down the Champs Élysées to the hotel which sheltered the huge office staff of the American Expeditionary Force in Paris.
“I hope everything goes off right to-night,” said Kendall, who was still a trifle dubious despite Andree’s expressed desire to meet Bert and his friend.
“Sure. We’ll make it a regular party,” Bert said, confidently. “What’s worrying you?”
“You never can tell how strange girls will get on together.”
“Fiddlesticks!… Madeleine will get on with anybody. See you at the house at seven.”
Promptly at seven Kendall was awaiting Andree at the entrance to the Metro in the Place de la Concorde, and promptly at the hour she appeared, walking leisurely, as she always seemed to do, and with an air of not seeing him at all until she was very close to him, an air which he came to associate with their meetings. There was something diffident about it, something modest and maidenly that he liked…. Then she would pause, always hesitatingly, as if she rather doubted her welcome, and look up into his face without the vestige of a smile, expecting him to extend his hand, and then she would shake hands very gravely. It was always so.
“You have made much work to-day?… You are fatigué?” she asked.
“But, no…. And you?”
“I have been—what do you say?—ennuyée?”
“Yes, yes, bored…. Have you thought of me?”
He had intended to be most circumspect, to make no repetitions of his half-joking declaration of their last meeting, but with her delightful presence beside him, with that half-veiled, appealing glance from her darkly shadowed eyes, good resolutions were forgotten.
“I’ve thought of nothing else,” he said, and was near to the truth.
“But no”—she shook her head childishly—“you have not thought of me at all. It is not possible.”
“I thought of you when I got up, I thought of you all the morning, I thought of you at noon and all the afternoon—and I am thinking of you now.”
She laughed quietly. The drollery of his protestation pleased her and made her gay. Thereafter it became a formula, a sort of ritual. She would ask him if he had thought of her, and he would recite, “When I got up, all the morning, at noon, all the afternoon,” and always she would laugh as if it were very new and very funny and very delightful.
“Where do we go?” she said, as he took his place by her side.
“To dine with Arlette.”
“With Arlette!… Who is thees Arlette?”
“My cook,” he said.
“At your apartment?”
“I do not know….”
“Bert and Madeleine are coming, too. You said you wanted to know them.”
“Yes…. Yes…. I will know them. And this yo’ng girl, this Madeleine, does your friend love her?”
He spread his hands and shrugged his shoulders. “How should I know?”
“He has not told you?… He is your friend and he has not told you?”
“Have you told him about me?”
“A little; not much.”
“Mademoiselle Pourquoi!… Oh, because you were none of his business.”
“Oh, I do not onderstan’, I do not onderstan’.” She clasped hands together with mock despair, and with the cunningest expression of bafflement on her face. “I do not onderstan’…. It ees ver’ difficult, ver’ difficult.”
“Shall we take the Metro or a taxi?”
“The Metro, of a certainty. It arrives, does it not? And the taxi—oh, it is very dear.”
“You’re a great little economist,” he said, laughingly, but nevertheless wonderingly. American girls had never been so careful to choose the less expensive of two methods.
As they were descending into the Metro they came suddenly face to face with Maude Knox, and Kendall felt himself blushing hotly, and was ashamed of himself for it, so he blushed even more hotly than before. He stopped determinedly, and held Andree’s arm.
“Miss Knox,” he said, “I want you to meet Mademoiselle—” He hesitated, for he did not know Andree’s family name. This piece of ignorance had never presented itself to him before. She had been Andree to him, and nothing more. She had needed no other name. “I want you to meet Mademoiselle Andree,” he finished, rather defiantly.
The girls looked at each other, Miss Knox with a humorous twinkle in her eye, but nevertheless with a glint of keen appraisal; Andree rather timidly, as if she would like to hide behind Kendall as little Arlette had hidden behind her grandmother’s skirts that morning, and peer out big-eyed at this woman of another race.
Maude Knox extended her hand. “Delighted,” she said, and smiled.
“Mademoiselle is very agreeable,” said Andree, but she did not smile; instead she studied Miss Knox’s face intently and very gravely.
“There’s our train,” said Kendall, at a loss how otherwise to proceed with the conversation, and he snatched Andree away before another word could be exchanged. Maude Knox stood looking after them with a smile that had in it a hint of something that was not humor, that mingled curiosity with pique.
Andree and Kendall alighted from the Metro at the Étoile and walked to the apartment. He was rather taken aback to see the concierge sweeping the walk in front of the entrance, for he had hoped subconsciously to smuggle Andree in without being seen. He could hardly have explained this had he been asked. But he need not have been apprehensive. The concierge stopped, peered at Andree keenly for a second, then smiled and bade them good day. Kendall did not know it, but Andree had been inspected and had passed the inspection handsomely. Andree, however, was well aware of it.
Bert and Madeleine had not arrived, and Kendall showed Andree into their salon with something of a flourish. She stood looking about her at the massive gilt furniture, at the large bronze statue of Diana with a bent arrow in her hand which stood on a pedestal in a corner, and at a bronze monstrosity depicting Ceres which, half life size, overweighted the mantel. Her little nose was curling.
“Oh,” she said in disappointment, “thees is not good. No, no. It is ver’ bad.”
“It is sort of fussy,” said Kendall, more than half afraid that she would take fright at so much wretched taste on exhibition and refuse to remain. She seemed of a mind to beat a retreat. “But don’t blame me for it,” he hastened to say. “It isn’t my furniture, you know. This is a furnished apartment—meublé, you know. I don’t like these gimcracks any better than you do, but I couldn’t help it.”
She continued to shake her head dolefully; then her eyes spied a sort of throne between the windows, a fearful example of what a piece of furniture can be, and clapped her hands with childish delight. “Oh, it ees for me. See!” She ran to it and seated herself on the threadbare seat, her tiny feet dangling above the floor. “Behold!… Regard me!… I am a queen, is it not? You have not the manners. It is that you should kneel. Here … at once.”
Laughingly he humored her whim and, dropping on one knee, he lifted her hand to his lips. She laughed delightedly. Then she stepped down. “Come. I shall see the rest. You shall show me.” And she insisted upon being shown over the apartment, making little sounds of approval or disapproval as she went, and finally they reached the kitchen where Arlette was busy over the stove.
“Bon soir, madame,” said Andree.
“Bon soir, mademoiselle,” Arlette replied, and swiftly scrutinized this young woman whom her master was bringing into his home. It was a frank appraisal, for Arlette felt a sort of responsibility for these strange, rather boisterous, difficult-to-understand, but kindly young savages of whom she had taken charge. Then she smiled and released a flood of French upon Andree, who smiled and chattered back at her. Kendall caught only a word here and there, so rapidly did they speak, but it was evident to him that they approved of each other, and there was something very pleasing to him in that. He felt that Arlette would not have approved of everybody.
Presently they returned to the salon and Andree said, seriously: “She is well. I am satisfied. She is of a trustworthiness. Yes….”
“I don’t know what I’d do if she hadn’t suited you,” said Kendall, with a chuckle.
“Oh, I do not onderstan’…. I do not onderstan’. And why does your left eye laugh when your right does not? It ees ver’ fonny.” She pointed. “Oh, see! It is laugh! It is laugh!”
He wrinkled his nose at her, so bold and familiar had he become, and she pretended anger.
“You make grimace at me. It is not good. Why do you make grimace?” Then her mood changed. “Thees American girl—she is your friend?”
“You love her. I know it…. You love her.”
“You see her often—and you love her.”
“I didn’t know she was in Paris until last night, and I certainly don’t love her.” She had withdrawn into herself and become a stranger to him. It startled him, frightened him, not so much because she had withdrawn herself from him, for he guessed that it was mostly pretense, but because he had a glimpse of what it would mean to him if she should withdraw herself utterly. “I don’t love anybody but you,” he said, and he said it without wishing or intending to say it.
“No,” she said, decidedly. “It ees not possible. You mock me.”
Before he could enter upon protestations Bert opened the outer door and handed a young woman into the apartment. Kendall could see that she was tall and rather slight, but that was all. He was anxious for her to appear, first out of curiosity, but principally to be reassured as to Andree’s reception of the stranger.
In a moment Bert appeared in the door with the girl at his side, both laughing as at some joke which had just been uttered.
“Hello, children!” Bert said, a trifle noisily. “Mademoiselle Andree, is it not?” He advanced and took the hand which she held out to him primly while she studied his face with a calm, inscrutable expression. “Mademoiselle Andree, Monsieur Ken, this is Mademoiselle Madeleine.”
Both shook hands with the laughing girl, Andree still with that restraint which was always hers at a first meeting, Kendall with relief, for he liked Madeleine’s looks. She was taller than Andree by inches, and not at all beautiful as Andree was beautiful. The key-note of her character at first glance seemed to be joyousness, a lightness of heart, good nature. Her mouth was rather broad, but not displeasingly so, for it was always showing her white teeth through a smile that seemed to be the commencement of a laugh. She was always laughing, always moving her body or her hands as if the young life that was in her could not be still…. And yet there was a shrewd look about her eyes which advertised that here was no empty head, but a capable young person indeed…. She was a distinct blonde, with hair which seemed always just on the point of being disordered, yet which never seemed to lose control of itself and become disordered. Later Kendall wondered if Madeleine and her hair were not very much alike in character.
“All right, eh?” said Bert, proudly, patting Madeleine’s shoulder.
She threw him a laughing, affectionate glance, and in another instant she and Andree were chattering to each other with a rapidity which was not only astonishing, but utterly unintelligible to the boys. If Andree spoke with bewildering rapidity, what could one say of Madeleine? Kendall laughed.
“Mademoiselle Mitrailleuse,” he said, and it was a name that clung, for it was so apt. She was a veritable machine-gun, shooting out words with a rapidity almost incredible.
Arlette appeared in the door of the dining-room and announced that dinner was served. The quartet of young people took their places at table, and Kendall began serving a wonderful pea soup from a big bowl while Arlette stood in the door with hands folded across her stomach, watching anxiously and shooting quick glances at Madeleine.
“It is soup,” she said, suddenly, and then darted out of sight with startling abruptness.
The soup was followed by meat, which Arlette placed on the table with something like a flourish, then stepped back and addressed Andree.
“Veal,” she said. “Oh, mademoiselle, the meats are too dear. It is not my fault…. Perhaps this will be tough. Who knows?” She paused anxiously to look first at Bert and then at Ken, who was carving.
“It’s all right, Arlette,” he assured her, but she was not satisfied, remaining as close to the table as she could press and watching with an expression of the most comical anxiety while Ken cut off a morsel and put it in his mouth. She then, apparently, calculated the difficulty he encountered in mastication, her jaws working a trifle as if to aid in the process, and presently uttered a deep sigh of relief. According to her judgment, Ken had not chewed too laboriously and the meat was satisfactory. Only then did she retreat to the kitchen.
“She is very droll,” said Madeleine, restraining her laughter with difficulty.
“She is very well,” said Andree, nodding her head prettily, “but also she is droll.”
“Monsieur Bert also is droll,” said Madeleine, reaching out to bestow a little pat upon Bert’s hand.
“All Americans are droll,” said Andree, solemnly.
“Tous les Américains sont fous,” said Ken, quoting a saying of Paris, which adored Americans at the moment and delighted in their peculiarities and their absurdities, and laughed at them as one laughs at the antics of children, deciding, as its dictum had it, that all the Americans were mad.
The viande was served alone, as is the French custom, without a vegetable, but with a delicious sauce which the girls, disdaining butter, sopped from their plates with their bread—not at all a manifestation of ill-breeding, but the proper and natural and habitual method of eating.
Ken turned to Andree. “I met your actor for you last night,” he said.
“You have known an actor?… What actor?”
“Monsieur Robert, of the Comédie Française. Do you know him?”
“I have seen him. He is a very good actor—and very handsome, n’est-ce pas? Have you spoke of me?”
“No, my dear. Give a fellow time.”
“But you must, you must…. It is ver’ nécessaire—oh, you do not know how ver’ nécessaire. It is my need to enter into the Académie, and he must help me. You will know him better.” It was a command. “You will then make me to know him.”
“I should say not…. He’s too handsome. I’m not going to take any such chance as that—I should say not.”
“Because I should be jealous,” he said.
“Non, non, non!… You do not care. You only say….”
“How am I going to convince you?”
“I do not know. It is not possible…. I will not believe.”
Ken turned despairingly to Madeleine. “She refuses to believe that I love her. How shall I make her believe?”
Madeleine laughed at him. “How should I know?… It is for you to do. It is a thing easy of accomplishment.”
“Is it easy to make her love me, too?”
“French girls are not cold,” she said, in the most matter-of-fact way imaginable.
“He loves an American girl…. I have seen her this night—yes. She is not beautiful. American girls do not know how to dress.” Andree shook her head and frowned at Ken.
Arlette appeared presently with the vegetable, which she named and waited to see approved, and afterward with the salad and a like procedure. When the fruit appeared she made no observation, but asked, calmly, as if it were the most natural question in the world, “Petit déjeuner for four?”
Breakfast for four! It was dropping a thunderbolt on Kendall’s plate. He was shocked. He was frightened, and shot a quick glance at Andree and Madeleine. Andree was sipping her wine and appeared not to have heard; if she had heard she was not disturbed nor shocked nor angered. Madeleine was laughing.
“Arlette est très-méchante—Arlette is very naughty,” she said.
Bert shouted with laughter as at some superlative witticism, and both the girls looked at him rather surprised. Then Madeleine laughed a bit, as one laughs who does not quite see the point. Kendall watched Andree in consternation. What would she do? What would she say? What would she think?… She did nothing, said nothing, apparently thought nothing, but pared a banana with quaint intensity as if a banana were a strange and interesting fruit. She seemed always to be interested in her food with a sort of naïve curiosity and a very real appetite. Her appetite seemed to Kendall to be the only material thing about her. The rest was mystery, dainty, rather elfin, mystery…. And here was a new mystery—her attitude of unconcern in face of Arlette’s faux pas. Why, the question had not touched her at all! It might as well not have been asked…. Or, in this strange country, was it possible that the cuisinière always expected her master’s feminine guests to remain for breakfast as well as dinner? He wondered….
“Will they take Paris—the boches?” Andree asked, suddenly.
The Germans had broken across the Chemin des Dames and were rushing headlong toward the Marne. News was filtering through only in driblets. Paris was uneasy. One saw nondescript vehicles, piled with trunks and hampers, making haste for the railroad stations, as frightened inhabitants betook themselves to the country. Nobody knew what would happen, but for months the fortune had been bad—and Paris was asking if it had reached its worst.
“Of course not,” said Bert, dogmatically.
“But they are very strong—they have great numbers.”
“There are the Americans,” said Madeleine.
“To be sure—the Americans. But they are in Lorraine. The journals say they are in Lorraine.”
“You will see,” said Madeleine, for she had more than her share of Paris’s enthusiasm for its newest ally.
“Don’t you worry. The boches are going to get themselves thrashed…. Paris!…” Bert shrugged his shoulders disdainfully.
“You really think they can be beaten?”
“And the war will end?… When will it end?”
“In a year.” Bert was very confident.
“Oh, a year—so long…. Monsieur Bert, it is terrible, this war. One hardly remembers when it was not. We are so tired of it. The women are so tired of it…. It makes me sad—sad. Everybody suffers.” Andree’s eyes grew bigger and blacker, and her wistful mouth became more wistful.
“It is true,” said Madeleine. “I have an aunt who lives in the country—in a very little village. Before the war were thirty families and fifty men. I was there two years ago. The men were all at the front—all…. But the fields were planted and the harvests reaped. It was the women. They labored for the men…. I was there again—it was a month ago…. The fields were not planted. Matters were bad. It was not beautiful, and all was neglected…. The women no longer worked. And why? Ah, it was because there was no longer a reason for them to work…. There were no men to come home to those fields…. Of the fifty who went to the war, fifty were dead…. Forever it will be a village without men!…”
There was a silence. Every one was feeling the weight of the calamities of war…. Then Madeleine laughed, but it was a laugh without her customary gay, careless ring. “This is the last generation of the French,” she said, half mockingly. “Our men are gone…. You shall see. The next generation will be what? Look you. It will be English, Belgian, Italian, American, Moroccan, Chinese….”
“For example!” exclaimed Andree.
“It is so,” affirmed Madeleine.
“Already the government offers one five hundred francs for a son…. I think the government is satisfied if it is half French, is it not?”
“A son is a son,” said Andree.
“To become a soldier when he is a man—and fight the boches!”
“There will be no more wars,” said Bert. “When we are through with this one nobody will ever have to fight the boches again.”
“If one could believe,” Andree said, in a low voice.
Kendall was disturbed. It was within his power to be sympathetic, to feel deeply, to know pain because another was suffering pain. He wished this subject had not arisen and he wanted to have it changed … because the plight of the women—especially the young women, the marriageable girls of France—was making itself apparent to him. Millions of them, and no men to marry them! It was appalling. It was appalling that they should realize it, and the consequences of their realization were appalling…. Life was denied them; the fullness and beauty and the joys and sufferings of womanhood were denied them. He wondered, with his Middle-Western conscience, if one could really blame them for snatching what little minutes of living came in their way. He wondered if the conventional—in these terrible circumstances—could be the right. Would the morals of Plymouth Rock answer in this emergency?… And then came the inevitable question, What are morals?… His mother could not answer this question for him to his satisfaction, nor could his father—with all his father’s leniency. One had to see the thing to comprehend it, and neither of his parents had seen. For the first time he asked himself if the conventions, the cut-and-dried rules of living under which he had grown to manhood, really sprang, full-armed, from the will of Deity, or if they were evolved by expediency…. It was deep speculation for one of his equipment, and dangerous speculation for a young man set down as he was set down among manners strange and customs so divergent—and in such an emergency.
He moved back his chair. “Let’s go in the other room,” he said, “and—and suppose we talk about something besides the war.”
“It makes you sad?” Andree said, and looked at him with a strange expression of sympathy, of understanding—of—of something that made her seem nearer to him, less mysterious, more human than she had ever seemed before. “Come … we shall talk awhile and then I must go to my house, because it is ver’ nécessaire for me to lift up at an early hour.”
Kendall laughed. “Lift up?…” The literal translation uttered so soberly was exquisitely funny, made more so by Andree’s solemn little face.
“It is fonnee? For example! And what should one say?”
“Get up,” said Ken.
“It is not well…. I shall say lift up.”
“You may say whatever you want to—mignonne,” he said, with a sudden access of tenderness.
“Mignonne!…” She looked up at him and smiled timidly. “It is ver’ pretty—for you to call me so. It is ver’ well.”
Madeleine was singing now. She always sang, Kendall discovered, mostly popular chansons. And Andree joined. It was that song dear to the poilu—“Madelon”—with its catchy air, its characteristic Frenchness. Madeleine sang gaily, carelessly, Andree seriously and without a smile…. Then the girls chattered with each other, becoming acquainted, while the young men smoked and tried to edge into the conversation, or to catch a stray word here and there. At last Andree rose.
“You must take me to my house.” she said.
“It is ver’ nécessaire.”
“Coming?” Ken said to Bert, who cast a sidewise glance at Madeleine, and said: “No. We don’t go your way, anyhow…. See you later.”
So Kendall and Andree said good night and went down the stairs, counting the flights gaily, he offering to become an elevator to carry her down if she became tired, and she demanding that he do so at once, without delay. “Your friend, he is a high yo’ng man,” she said, suddenly.
And that became a joke between them. Ever after that they referred to Bert, not by name, but as the “high yo’ng man.” When people begin to have private jokes between just themselves they are getting on very well indeed….
Once more he took her to the Place St.-Michel and a little way up the Boulevard. There she dismissed him, but they lingered with their good nights. She seemed very gentle, very desirable, very sweet…. He was not afraid of her as he had been before. Some sort of message had traveled between them…. Kendall took the hand she extended, then he drew her to him and kissed her. She submitted, but did not return his kiss.
“When?” he asked.
“The day following to-morrow. Place de la Concorde. Metro. Sept heures.”
It was becoming a part of their ritual. And then she disappeared into the darkness—whither, he did not know; back into that mystery which was her life, from which she emerged from time to time as mysteriously as she disappeared…. He was impressed by this mystery tonight. He did not know her name—only Andree. She was a sort of apparition that manifested itself daintily, primly, conducted itself bewitchingly, and withdrew itself into the unknown….
He took the Metro back to the Étoile and walked home. The light was burning in the hall. When he hung his hat on the hall tree he found it still encumbered by Madeleine’s hat and jacket….
Kendall went to bed in a frame of mind…. Madeleine had seemed such a nice girl. She was a nice girl. Why, Andree had liked her…. His mother in him was shocked, affronted. Yet, somehow, Kendall was not so shocked as he expected himself to be. He didn’t know how he felt … his thoughts were a turmoil, and he kept repeating to himself, “She is a nice girl … she is a nice girl,…” as one who is bewildered in the presence of some incomprehensible phenomenon….
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