In Search of The Unknown

Robert W. Chambers


That evening, a few minutes before nine o’clock, I descended from a cab in front of No. 8 Rue d’Alouette, and was ushered into a pretty reception-room by an irreproachable servant, who disappeared directly with my card. In a few moments the young Countess came in, exquisite in her silvery dinner-gown, eyes bright,
white arms extended in a charming, impulsive welcome. The touch of her silky fingers thrilled me; I was dumb under the enchantment of her beauty; and I think she understood my silence, for her blue eyes became troubled and the happy parting of her lips changed to a pensive curve. 
          Presently I began to tell her about my bronzed-green feather; at my first word she looked up brightly, almost gratefully, I fancied; and in another moment we were deep in eager discussion of the subject which had first drawn us together. 
          What evidence I possessed to sustain our theory concerning the existence of the ux I hastened to reveal; then, heart beating excitedly, I asked her about the eggs and where they were at present, and whether she believed it possible to bring them to Paris—all these questions in the same breath—which brought a happy light
into her eyes and a delicious ripple of laughter to her lips. 
          “Why, of course it is possible to bring the eggs here,” she cried. “Am I sure? Parbleu! The eggs are already here, monsieur!” 
          “Here!” I exclaimed. “In Paris?” 
          “In Paris? Mais oui; and in my own house— this very house, monsieur. Come, you shall behold them with your own eyes!” 
          Her eyes were brilliant with excitement; impulsively she stretched out her rosy hand. I took it; and she led me quickly back through the drawing-room, through the dining-room, across the butler’s pantry, and into a long, dark hallway. We were almost running now—I keeping tight hold of her soft little hand, she, raising her
gown a trifle, hurrying down the hallway, silken petticoats rustling like a silk banner in the wind. A turn to the right brought us to the cellar-stairs; down we hastened, and then across the cemented floor towards a long, glass-fronted shelf, pierced with steam-pipes. 
          “A match,” she whispered, breathlessly. 
          I struck a wax match and touched it to the gas-burner overhead. 
          Never, never can I forget what that flood of gas-light revealed. In a row stood five large, glass-mounted incubators; behind the glass doors lay, in dormant majesty, five enormous eggs. The eggs were pale-green—lighter, somewhat, than robins’ eggs, but not as pale as herons’ eggs. Each egg appeared to be larger than a
large hogshead, and was partly embedded in bales of cotton-wool. 
          Five little silver thermometers inside the glass doors indicated a temperature of 95? Fahrenheit. I noticed that there was an automatic arrangement connected with the pipes which regulated the temperature. 
          I was too deeply moved for words. Speech seemed superfluous as we stood there, hand in hand, contemplating those gigantic, pale-green eggs. 
          There is something in a silent egg which moves one’s deeper emotions— something solemn in its embryotic inertia, something awesome in its featureless immobility. 
          I know of nothing on earth which is so totally lacking in expression as an egg. The great desert Sphinx, brooding through its veil of sand, has not that tremendous and meaningless dignity which wraps the colorless oval effort of a single domestic hen. 
          I held the hand of the young Countess very tightly. Her fingers closed slightly. Then and there, in the solemn presence of those emotionless eggs, I placed my arm around her supple waist and kissed her. 
          She said nothing. Presently she stooped to observe the thermometer. 
          Naturally, it registered 95? Fahrenheit. 
          “Susanne,” I said, softly. 
          “Oh, we must go up-stairs,” she whispered, breathlessly; and, picking up her silken skirts, she fled up the cellar-stairs. 
          I turned out the gas, with that instinct of economy which early wastefulness has implanted in me, and followed the Countess Suzanne through the suite of rooms and into the small reception-hall where she had first received me. 
          She was sitting on a low divan, head bent, slowly turning a sapphire ring on her finger, round and round. 
          I looked at her romantically, and then— 
          “Please don’t,” she said. 
          The correct reply to this is: 
          “Why not?”—very tenderly spoken. 
          “Because,” she replied, which was also the correct and regular answer. 
          “Suzanne,” I said, slowly and passionately. 
          She turned the sapphire ring on her finger. Presently she tired of this, so I lifted her passive hand very gently and continued turning the sapphire ring on her finger, slowly, to harmonize with the cadence of our unspoken thoughts. 
          Towards midnight I went home, walking with great care through a new street in Paris, paved exclusively with rose-colored blocks of air. 

Go to Chapter Twelve.....