evening in May, 1888, the Café des Écoles was even more crowded
and more noisy than usual. The marble-topped tables were wet with beer
and the din was appalling. Someone shouted to make himself heard.
"Any more news from the Salon?"
"Yes," said Elliott, "Thaxton's in with a number three. Rhodes is out and
takes it hard. Clifford's out too, and takes it -- "
A voice began to chant:
Je n'sais comment faire,
Ma maitresse et mon père,
Le Code et Bullier.
"Drop it! Oh, drop it!" growled Rhodes, and sent a handful of billiard
chalk at the singer.
Mr Clifford returned a volley of the Café spoons, and continued:
Mais c'que je trouve
de plus bête,
C'est qu' i' faut financer
Avec ma belle galette,
J'aimerai mieux m'amuser.
Several other voices took up the refrain, lamenting the difficulty of reconciling
their filial duties with balls at Bullier's, and protesting that they would
rather amuse themselves than consider financial questions. Rhodes sipped
his curaçoa sulkily.
"The longer I live in the Latin Quarter," he said to his neighbor, "the
less certain I feel about a place of future punishment. It would be so
tame after this." Then, reverting to his grievance, he added, "The slaughter
this year at the Salon is awful."
Reginald Gethryn stirred nervously but did not speak.
"Have a game, Rex?" called Clifford, waving a cue.
Gethryn shook his head, and reaching for a soiled copy of the Figaro, glanced
listlessly over its contents. He sighed and turned his paper impatiently.
Rhodes echoed the sigh.
"What's at the theaters?"
"Same as last week, excepting at the Gaieté. They've put on `La
Belle Hélène' there."
"Oh! Belle Hélène!" cried Clifford.
Rhodes began to growl again.
Tzing! la! la! Tzing!
C'est avec ces dames qu' Oreste
Fait danser l'argent de Papa!
"I shouldn't think you'd feel like gibbering that rot tonight."
Clifford smiled sweetly and patted him on the head. "Tzing! la! la! My
"Tzing! la! la!" laughed Thaxton, "That's Clifford's biography in three
Clifford repeated the refrain and winked impudently at the pretty bookkeeper
behind her railing. She, alas! returned it with a blush.
Gethryn rose restlessly and went over to another table where a man, young,
but older than himself, sat, looking comfortable.
"Braith," he began, trying to speak indifferently, "any news of my fate?"
The other man finished his beer and then answered carelessly, "No." But
catching sight of Gethryn's face he added, with a laugh:
"Look here, Rex, you've got to stop this moping."
"I'm not moping," said Rex, coloring up.
"What do you call it, then?" Braith spoke with some sharpness, but continued
kindly, "You know I've been through it all. Ten years ago, when I sent
in my first picture, I confess to you I suffered the torments of the damned
until -- "
"Until they sent me my card. The color was green."
"But I thought a green card meant `not admitted."'
"It does. I received three in three years."
"Do you mean you were thrown out three years in succession?"
Braith knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "I gave up smoking for those
Braith filled his pipe tenderly. "I was very poor," he said.
"If I had half your sand!" sighed Rex.
"You have, and something more that the rest of us have not. But you are
very young yet."
This time Gethryn colored with surprise and pleasure. In all their long
and close friendship Braith had never before given him any other encouragement
than a cool, "Go ahead!"
He continued: "Your curse thus far has been want of steady application,
and moreover you're too easily scared. No matter what happens this time,
no knocking under!"
"Oh, I'm not going to knock under. No more is Clifford, it seems," Rex
added with a laugh, as Clifford threw down his cue and took a step of the
"Oh! Elliott!" he crowed, "what's the matter with you?"
Elliott turned and punched a sleepy waiter in the ribs.
"Emile -- two bocks!"
The waiter jumped up and rubbed his eyes. "What is it, monsieur?" he snapped.
Elliott repeated the order and they strolled off toward a table. As Clifford
came lounging by, Carleton said, "I hear you lead with a number one at
"Right, I'm the first to be fired."
"He's calm now," said Elliott, "but you should have seen him yesterday
when the green card came."
"Well, yes. I discoursed a little in several languages."
"After he had used up his English profanity, he called the Jury names in
French, German and Spanish. The German stuck, but came out at last like
a cork out of a bottle -- "
"Or a bung out of a barrel."
"These comparisons are as offensive as they are unjust," said Clifford.
"Quite so," said Braith. "Here's the waiter with your beer."
"What number did you get, Braith?" asked Rhodes, who couldn't keep his
mind off the subject and made no pretense of trying.
"Three," answered Braith.
There was a howl, and all began to talk at once.
"There's justice for you!" "No justice for Americans!" "Serves us right
for our tariff!" "Are Frenchmen going to give us all the advantages of
their schools and honors besides while we do all we can to keep their pictures
out of our markets?"
"No, we don't, either! Tariff only keeps out the sweepings of the studios
"If there were no duty on pictures the States would be flooded with trash."
"Take it off!" cried one.
"Make it higher!" shouted another.
"Idiots!" growled Rhodes. "Let 'em flood the country with bad work as well
as good. It will educate the people, and the day will come when all good
work will stand an equal chance -- be it French or be it American."
"True," said Clifford, "Let's all have a bock. Where's Rex?"
But Gethryn had slipped out in the confusion. Quitting the Café
des Écoles, he sauntered across the street, and turning through
the Rue de Vaugirard, entered the rue Monsieur le Prince. He crossed the
dim courtyard of his hôtel, and taking a key and a candle from the
lodge of the Concierge, started to mount the six flights to his bedroom
and studio. He felt irritable and fagged, and it did not make matters better
when he found, on reaching his own door, that he had taken the wrong key.
Nor did it ease his mind to fling the key over the banisters into the silent
stone hallway below. He leaned sulkily over the railing and listened to
it ring and clink down into the darkness, and then, with a brief but vigorous
word, he turned and forced in his door with a crash. Two bull pups which
had flown at him with portentous growls and yelps of menace now gamboled
idiotically about him, writhing with anticipation of caresses, and a gray
and scarlet parrot, rudely awakened, launched forth upon a musical effort
resembling the song of a rusty cart-wheel.
"Oh, you infernal bird!" murmured the master, lighting his candle with
one hand and fondling the pups with the other. "There, there, puppies,
run away!" he added, rolling the ecstatic pups into a sort of dog divan,
where they curled themselves down at last and subsided with squirms and
wriggles, gurgling affection.
Gethryn lighted a lamp and then a cigarette. Then, blowing out the candle,
he sat down with a sigh. His eyes fell on the parrot. It annoyed him that
the parrot should immediately turn over and look at him upside down. It
also annoyed him that "Satan," an evil-looking raven, was evidently preparing
to descend from his perch and worry "Mrs Gummidge."
"Mrs Gummidge" was the name Clifford had given to a large sad-eyed white
tabby who now lay dozing upon a panther skin.
"Satan!" said Gethryn. The bird checked his sinister preparations and eyed
his master. "Don't," said the young man.
Satan weighed his chances and came to the conclusion that he could swoop
down, nip Mrs Gummidge, and get back to his bust of Pallas without being
caught. He tried it, but his master was too quick for him, and foiled,
he lay sullenly in Gethryn's hands, his two long claws projecting helplessly
between the brown fists of his master.
"Oh, you fiend!" muttered Rex, taking him toward a wicker basket, which
he hated. "Solitary confinement for you, my boy."
"Double, double, toil and trouble," croaked the parrot.
Gethryn started nervously and shut him inside the cage, a regal gilt structure
with "Shakespeare" printed over the door. Then, replacing the agitated
Gummidge on her panther skin, he sat down once more and lighted another
His picture. He could think of nothing else. It was a serious matter with
Gethryn. Admitted to the Salon meant three more years' study in Paris.
Failure, and back he must go to New York.
The personal income of Reginald Gethryn amounted to the magnificent sum
of two hundred and fifty dollars. To this, his aunt, Miss Celestia Gethryn,
added nine hundred and fifty dollars more. This gave him a sum of twelve
hundred dollars a year to live on and study in Paris. It was not a large
sum, but it was princely when compared to the amount on which many a talented
fellow subsists, spending his best years in a foul atmosphere of paint
and tobacco, ill fed, ill clothed, scarcely warmed at all, often sick in
mind and body, attaining his first scant measure of success just as his
overtaxed powers give way.
Gethryn's aunt, his only surviving relative, had recently written him one
of her ponderous letters. He took it from his pocket and began to read
it again, for the fourth time. You have now been in Paris three years,
and as yet I have seen no results. You should be earning your own living,
but instead you are still dependent upon me. You are welcome to all the
assistance I can give you, in reason, but I expect that you will have something
to show for all the money I expend upon you. Why are you not making a handsome
income and a splendid reputation, like Mr Spinder?
The artist named was thirty-five and had been in Paris fifteen years.
Gethryn was twenty-two and had been studying three years.
Why are you not doing beautiful things, like Mr Mousely? I'm told he gets
a thousand dollars for a little sketch.
Rex groaned. Mr Mousely could neither draw nor paint, but he made stories
of babies' deathbeds on squares of canvas with china angels solidly suspended
from the ceiling of the nursery, pointing upward, and he gave them titles
out of the hymnbook, which caused them to be bought with eagerness by all
the members of the congregation to which his family belonged.
The letter proceeded:
I am told by many reliable
persons that three years abroad is more than enough for a thorough art
education. If no results are attained at the end of that time, there is
only one of two conclusions to be drawn. Either you have no talent, or
you are wasting your time. I shall wait until the next Salon before I come
to a decision. If then you have a picture accepted and if it shows no trace
of the immorality which is rife in Paris, I will continue your allowance
for three years more; this, however, on condition that you have a picture
in the Salon each year. If you fail again this year, I shall insist upon
your coming home at once.
Why Gethryn should want to read this letter four times, when one perusal
of it had been more than enough, no one, least of all himself, could have
told. He sat now crushing it in is hand, tasting all the bitterness that
is stored up for a sensitive artist tied by fate to an omniscient Philistine
who feeds his body with bread and his soul with instruction about art and
Presently he mastered the black mood which came near being too much for
him, his face cleared and he leaned back, quietly smoking. From the rug
rose a muffled rumbling where Mrs Gummidge dozed in peace. The clock ticked
sharply. A mouse dropped silently from the window curtain and scuttled
The pups lay in a soft heap. The parrot no longer hung head downward, but
rested in his cage in a normal position, one eye fixed steadily on Gethryn,
the other sheathed in a bluish-white eyelid, every wrinkle of which spoke
scorn of men and things.
For some time Gethryn had been half-conscious of a piano sounding on the
floor below. It suddenly struck him now that the apartment under his, which
had been long vacant, must have found an occupant.
"Idiots!" he grumbled. "Playing at midnight! That will have to stop. Singing
too! We'll see about that!"
The singing continued, a girl's voice, only passably trained, but certainly
fresh and sweet.
Gethryn began to listen, reluctantly and ungraciously. There was a pause.
Now she's going to stop. It's time," he muttered. But the piano began again
-- a short prelude which he knew, and the voice was soon in the midst of
the Dream Song from "La Belle Hélène."
Gethryn rose and walked to his window, threw it open and leaned out. An
April night, soft and delicious. The air was heavy with perfume from the
pink and white chestnut blossoms. The roof dripped with moisture. Far down
in the dark court the gas-jets flickered and flared. From the distance
came the softened rumble of a midnight cab, which, drawing nearer and nearer
and passing the hôtel with a rollicking rattle of wheels and laughing
voices, died away on the smooth pavement by the Luxembourg Gardens. The
voice had stopped capriciously in the middle of the song. Gethryn turned
back into the room whistling the air. His eye fell on Satan sitting behind
his bars in crumpled malice.
"Poor old chap," laughed the master, "want to come out and hop around a
bit? Here, Gummidge, we'll remove temptation out of his way," and he lifted
the docile tabby, who increased the timbre of her song to an ecstatic squeal
at his touch, and opening his bedroom door, gently deposited her on his
softest blankets. He then reinstated the raven on his bust of Pallas, and
Satan watched him from thence warily as he fussed about the studio, sorting
brushes, scraping a neglected palette, taking down a dressing gown, drawing
on a pair of easy slippers, opening his door and depositing his boots outside.
When he returned the music had begun again.
"What on earth does she mean by singing at a quarter to one o'clock?" he
thought, and went once more to the window. "Why -- that is really beautiful."
Oui! c'est un rêve, Oui! c'est un rêve doux d'amour.
La nuit lui prête son mystère,
Il doit finir -- il doit finir avec le jour.
The song of Hélène ceased. Gethryn leaned out and gazed down
at the lighted windows under his. Suddenly the light went out. He heard
someone open the window, and straining his eyes, could just discern the
dim outline of a head and shoulders, unmistakably those of a girl. She
had perched herself on the windowsill. Presently she began to hum the air,
then to sing it softly. Gethryn waited until the words came again:
Oui, c'est un rêve --
and then struck in with a very sweet baritone:
Oui, c'est un rêve --
She never moved, but her voice swelled out fresh and clear in answer to
his, and a really charming duet came to a delightful finish. Then she looked
up. Gethryn was reckless now.
"Shall it be, then, only a dream?" he laughed. Was it his fate that made
him lean out and whisper, "Is it, then, only a dream, Hélène?"
There was nothing but the rustling of the chestnut branches to answer his
folly. Not another sound. He was half inclined to shut his window and go
in, well satisfied with the silence and beginning to feel sleepy. All at
once from below came a faint laugh, and as he leaned out he caught the
"Paris, Hélène bids you good night!"
"Ah, Belle Hélène!" -- he began, but was cut short by the
violent opening of a window opposite.
"Bon dieu de bon dieu!" howled an injured gentleman. "To sleep is impossible,
tas d'imbeciles! -- "
And Hélène's window closed with a snap.