was falling steadily. The sparrows huddled under the eaves, or hopped disconsolately
along the windowsills, uttering short, ill-tempered chirps. The wind was
rising, blowing in quick, sharp gusts and sweeping the forest of rain spears,
rank upon rank, in mad dashes against the glass-roofed studio.
Gethryn, curled up in a corner of his sofa, listlessly watched the showers
of pink and white blossoms which whirled and eddied down from the rocking
chestnuts, falling into the windy court in little heaps. One or two stiff-legged
flies crawled rheumatically along the window glass, only to fall on their
backs and lie there buzzing.
The two bull pups had silently watched the antics of these maudlin creatures,
but their interest changed to indignation when one sodden insect attempted
a final ascent and fell noisily upon the floor under their very noses.
Then they rose as one dog and leaped madly upon the intruder, or meant
to; but being pups, and uncertain in their estimation of distances, they
brought up with startled yelps against the wall. Gethryn took them in his
arms, where they found consolation in chewing the buttons off his coat.
The parrot had driven the raven nearly crazy by turning upside down and
staring at him for fifteen minutes of insulting silence. Mrs Gummidge was
engaged in a matronly and sedate toilet, interrupting herself now and then
to bestow a critical glance upon the parrot. She heartily approved of his
attitude toward the raven, and although the old cynic cared nothing for
Mrs Gummidge's opinion, he found a sour satisfaction in warning her of
her enemy's hostile intentions. This he always did with a croak, causing
Mrs Gummidge to look up just in time, and the raven to hop back disconcerted.
The rain beat a constant tattoo on the roof, and this, mingling with the
drowsy purr of the cat, who was now marching to and fro with tail erect
in front of Gethryn, exercised a soothing influence, and presently a snore
so shocked the parrot that he felt obliged to relieve his mind by a series
of intricate gymnastics upon his perch.
Gethryn was roused by a violent hammering on his door. The room had grown
dark, and night had come on while he slept.
"All right -- coming," he shouted, groping his way across the room. Slipping
the bolt, he opened the door and looked out, but could see nothing in the
dark hallway. Then he felt himself seized and hugged and dragged back into
his studio, where he was treated to a heavy slap on the shoulder. Then
someone struck a match and presently, by the light of a candle, he saw
Clifford and Elliott, and farther back in the shade another form which
he thought he knew.
Clifford began, "Here you are! We thought you were dead -- killed through
my infernal fooling." He turned very red, and stammered, "Tell him, Elliott."
"Why, you see," said Elliott, "we've been hunting for you high and low
since the fight yesterday afternoon. Clifford was nearly crazy. He said
it was his fault. We went to the Morgue and then to the hospitals, and
finally to the police -- " A knock interrupted him, and a policeman appeared
at the door.
Clifford looked sheepish.
"The young gentleman who is missing -- this is his room?" inquired the
"Oh, he's found -- he's all right," said Clifford, hurriedly. The officer
"Here he is," said Elliott, pointing to Rex.
The man transferred his stare to Gethryn, but did not offer to move.
"I am the supposed deceased," laughed Rex, with a little bow.
"But how am I to know?" said the officer.
"Why, here I am."
"But," said the man, suspiciously, "I want to know how I am to know?"
"Nonsense," said Elliott, laughing.
"But, Monsieur," expostulated the officer, politely.
"This is Reginald Gethryn, artist, I tell you!"
The policeman shrugged his shoulders. He was noncommittal and very polite.
"Messieurs," he said, "my orders are to lock up this room."
"But it's my room, I can't spare my room," laughed Gethryn. "From whom
did you take your orders?"
"From Monsieur the Prefect of the Seine."
"Oh, it is all right, then," said Gethryn. "Take a seat."
He went to his desk, wrote a hasty note, and then called the man. "Read
that, if you please, Monsieur Sergeant de Ville."
The man's eyes grew round. "Certainly, Monsieur, I will take the note to
the Prefect," he said; "Monsieur will pardon the intrusion."
"Don't mention it," said Rex, smiling, and slipped a franc into his big
red fist. The officer pocketed it with a demure "Merci, Monsieur," and
presently the clank of his bayonet died away on the stairs.
"Well," said Elliott, "you're found." Clifford was beginning again with
self-reproaches and self-abasement, but Rex broke in: "You fellows are
awfully good -- I do assure you I appreciate it. But I wasn't in any more
danger than the rest of you. What about Thaxton and the Colossus and Carleton?"
He grew anxious as he named them.
"We all got off with no trouble at all, only we missed you -- and then
the troops fired, and they chased us over the bridge and scattered us in
the Quarter, and we all drifted one by one into the Café des Écoles.
And then you didn't come, and we waited till after dinner, and finally
came here to find your door locked -- "
"Oh!" burst out Clifford, "I tell you, Rex -- damn it! I will express my
"No, you won't," said Rex; "drop 'em, old boy, don't express 'em. Here
we are -- that's enough, isn't it, Shakespeare?"
The bird had climbed to Gethryn's shoulder and was cocking his eye fondly
at Clifford. They were dear friends. Once he had walked up Clifford's arm
and had grabbed him by the ear, for which Clifford, more in sorrow than
in anger, soaked him in cold water. Since that, their mutual understanding
had been perfect.
"Where are you going to, you old fiend?" said Clifford, tickling the parrot's
"Hell!" shrieked the bird.
"Good Heavens! I never taught him that," said Gethryn.
Clifford smiled, without committing himself.
"But where were you, Rex?" asked Elliott.
Rex flushed. "Hullo," cried Clifford, "here's Reginald blushing. If I didn't
know him better I'd swear there's a woman in it." The dark figure at the
end of the room rose and walked swiftly over, and Rex saw that it was Braith,
as he had supposed.
"I swear I forgot him," laughed Elliott. "What a queer bird you are, Braith,
squatting over there as silent as a stuffed owl!"
"He has been walking his legs off after you," began Clifford, but Braith
cut him short with a brusque --
"Where were you, Rex?"
Gethryn winced. "I'd rather -- I think" -- he began, slowly --
"Excuse me -- it's not my business," growled Braith, throwing himself into
a seat and beginning to rub Mrs Gummidge the wrong way. "Confound the cat!"
he added, examining some red parallel lines which suddenly decorated the
back of his hand.
"She won't stand rubbing the wrong way," said Rex, smiling uneasily.
"Like the rest of us," said Elliott.
"More fool he who tries it," said Braith, and looked at Gethryn with an
affectionate smile that made him turn redder than before.
"Rex," began Clifford again, with that fine tact for which he was celebrated,
"own up! You spent last night warbling under the windows of Lisette."
"Or Frisette," said Elliott, "or Cosette."
"Or Babette, Lisette, Frisette, Cosette, Babette!" chanted the two young
men in a sort of catch.
Braith so seldom swore, that the round oath with which he broke into their
vocal exercises stopped them through sheer astonishment. But Clifford,
determined on self-assertion and loving an argument, especially out of
season, turned on Braith and began:
"Why should not Youth love?"
"Love! Bah!" said Braith.
"Why Bah?" he persisted, stimulated by the disgust of Braith. "Now if a
man -- take Elliott, for example -- "
"Take yourself," cried the other.
"Well -- myself, for example. Suppose when my hours of weary toil are over
-- returning to my lonely cell, I encounter the blue eyes of Ninette on
the way, or the brown eyes of Cosette, or perhaps the black eyes of --
Braith stamped impatiently.
"Lisette," said Clifford, sweetly. "Why should I not refresh my drooping
spirits by adoring Lisette -- Cos--- "
"Oh, come, you said that before," said Gethryn. "You're getting to be a
"You at least can no longer reproach me," said the other, with a quick
look that increased Gethryn's embarrassment.
"Let him talk his talk of bewitching grisettes, and gay students," said
Braith, more angry than Rex had ever seen him. "He's never content except
when he's dangling after some fool worse than himself. Damn this `Bohemian
love' rot! I've been here longer than you have, Clifford," he said, suddenly
softening and turning half apologetically to the latter, who nodded to
intimate that he hadn't taken offense. "I've seen all that shabby romance
turn into such reality as you wouldn't like to face. I've seen promising
lives go out in ruin and disgrace -- here in this very street -- in this
very house -- lives that started exactly on the lines that you are finding
so mighty pleasant just now."
Clifford was in danger of being silenced. That would never do.
"Papa Braith," he smiled, "is it that you too have been through the mill?
Shall I present your compliments to the miller? I'm going. Come, Elliott."
Elliott took up his hat and followed.
"Braith," he said, "we'll drink your health as we go through the mill."
"Remember that the mill grinds slowly but surely," said Braith.
"He speaks in parables," laughed Clifford, halfway downstairs, and the
two took up the catch they had improvised, singing, "Lisette -- Cosette
-- Ninette -- " in thirds more or less out of tune, until Gethryn shut
the door on the last echoes that came up from the hall below.
Gethryn came back and sat down, and Braith took a seat beside him, but
neither spoke. Braith had his pipe and Rex his cigarette.
When the former was ready, he began to speak. He could not conceal the
effort it cost him, but that wore away after he had been talking a while.
"Rex," he began, "when I say that we are friends, I mean, for my own part,
that you are more to me than any man alive; and now I am going to tell
you my story. Don't interrupt me. I have only just courage enough; if any
of it oozes out, I may not be able to go on. Well, I have been through
the mill. Clifford was right. They say it is a phase through which all
men must pass. I say, must or not, if you pass through it you don't come
out without a stain. You're never the same man after. Don't imagine I mean
that I was brutally dissolute. I don't want you to think worse of me than
I deserve. I kept a clean tongue in my head -- always. So do you. I never
got drunk -- neither do you. I kept a distance between myself and the women
whom those fellows were celebrating in song just now -- so do you. How
much is due in both of us to principle, and how much to fastidiousness,
Rex? I found out for myself at last, and perhaps your turn will not be
long in coming. After avoiding entanglements for just three years -- "
He looked at Rex, who dropped his head -- "I gave in to a temptation as
coarse, vulgar and silly as any I had ever despised. Why? Heaven knows.
She was as vulgar a leech as ever fastened on a calf like myself. But I
didn't think so then. I was wildly in love with her. She said she was madly
in love with me." Braith made a grimace of such disgust that Rex would
have laughed, only he saw in time that it was self-disgust which made Braith's
mouth look so set and hard.
"I wanted to marry her. She wouldn't marry me. I was not rich, but what
she said was: `One hates one's husband.' When I say vulgar, I don't mean
she had vulgar manners. She was as pretty and trim and clever -- as the
rest of them. An artist, if he sees all that really exists, sometimes also
sees things which have no existence at all. Of these were the qualities
with which I invested her -- the moral and mental correspondencies to her
blonde skin and supple figure. She justified my perspicacity one day by
leaving me for a loathsome little Jew. The last time I heard of her she
had been turned out of a gambling hell in his company. His name is Emanuel
Pick. Is not this a shabby romance? Is it not enough to make a self-respecting
man hang his head -- to know that he has once found pleasure in the society
of the mistress of Mr Emanuel Pick?"
A long silence followed, during which the two men smoked, looking in opposite
directions. At last Braith reached over and shook the ashes out of his
pipe. Rex lighted a fresh cigarette at the same time, and their eyes met
with a look of mutual confidence and goodwill. Braith spoke again, firmly
"God keep you out of the mire, Rex; you're all right thus far. But it is
my solemn belief that an affair of that kind would be your ruin as an artist;
as a man."
"The Quarter doesn't regard things in that light," said Gethryn, trying
hard to laugh off the weight that oppressed him.
"The Quarter is a law unto itself. Be a law unto yourself, Rex -- Good
night, old chap."
"Good night, Braith," said Gethryn slowly.