"Et tous les jours passés
Nous sont comptés comme
les jours heureux!"
THE STREET is not fashionable neither
is it shabby. It is a pariah among streets--a street without a Quarter.
It is generally understood to lie outside the pale of the aristocratic
Avenue de l'Observatoire. The students of the Montparnasse Quarter consider
it swell and will have none of it. The Latin Quarter, from the Luxembourg,
its northern frontier, sneers at its respectability and regards with disfavor
the correctly-costumed students who haunt it. Few strangers go into it.
At times, however, the Latin Quarter students use it as a thoroughfare
between the rue de Rennes and the Bullier, but except for that and the
weekly afternoon visits of parents and guardians of the Convent near the
rue Vavin, the street of Our Lady of the Fields is as quiet as a Passy
boulevard. Perhaps the most respectable portion lies between the rue de
la Grande Chaumière and the rue Vavin, at least this was the conclusion
arrived at by the Reverend Joel Byram, as he rambled through it with Hastings
in charge. To Hastings the street looked pleasant in the bright June weather,
and he had begun to hope for its selection when the Reverend Byram shied
violently at the cross on the Convent opposite.
"Jesuits," he muttered.
"Well," said Hastings wearily, "I
imagine we won't find anything better. You say yourself that vice is triumphant
in Paris, and it seems to me that in every street we find Jesuits or something
After a moment he repeated, "Or
something worse, which of course I would not notice except for your kindness
in warning me."
Dr. Byram sucked in his lips and
looked about him. He was impressed by the evident respectability of the
surroundings. Then, frowning at the Convent he took Hastings' arm and shuffled
across the street to an iron gateway which bore the number 201 bis painted
in white on a blue ground. Below this was a notice printed in English:
1. For porter please oppress once.
2. For Servant please oppress twice.
3. For Parlor please oppress thrice.
Hastings touched the electric button
three times and they were ushered through the garden and into the parlor
by a trim maid. The dining-room door, just beyond, was open, and from the
table in plain view, a stout woman hastily arose and came toward them.
Hastings caught a glimpse of a young man with a big head and several snuffy
old gentlemen at breakfast, before the door closed and the stout woman
waddled into the room, bringing with her an aroma of coffee and a black
"It ees a plaisir to you receive!"
she cried; "Monsieur is Anglish? No? Americain? Of course. My pension it
ees for Americains surtout. Here all spik Angleesh, c'est à dire,
ze personelle; ze sairvants do spik, plus ou moins, a little. I am happy
to have you comme pensionaires----"
"Madame," began Dr. Byram, but was
cut short again.
"Ah, yess, I know, ah! mon Dieu!
you do not spik Frainch but you have come to lairne! My husband does spik
Frainch wiss le pensionaires. We have at ze moment a family Americaine
who learn of my husband Frainch----"
Here the poodle growled at Dr. Byram
and was promptly cuffed by his mistress.
"Veux tu!" she cried, with a slap,
"veux tu! Oh! le vilain, oh! le vilain!"
"Mais, Madame," said Hastings smiling,
"il n'a pas l'air tres féroce."
The poodle fled and his mistress
cried, "Ah, ze accent charming! He does spik already Frainch like a Parisien
Then Dr. Byram managed to get in
a word or two and gathered more or less information in regard to prices.
"It ees a pension serieux; my clientelle
ess of ze best, indeed a pension de famille where one ees at 'ome."
Then they went upstairs to examine
Hastings' future quarters, test the bed-springs and arrange for the weekly
towel allowance. Dr. Byram appeared satisfied.
Madame Marotte accompanied them
to the door and rang for the maid, but as Hastings stepped out into the
gravel walk, his guide and mentor paused a moment and fixed Madame with
his watery eyes.
"You understand," he said, "that
he is a youth of most careful bringing up, and his character and morals
are without a stain. He is young and has never been abroad, never even
seen a large city, and his parents have requested me, as an old family
friend living in Paris, to see that he is placed under good influences.
He is to study art, but on no account would his parents wish him to live
in the Latin Quarter if they knew of the immorality which is rife there."
A sound like the click of a latch
interrupted him and he raised his eyes, but not in time to see the maid
slap the big-headed young man behind the parlor door.
Madame coughed, cast a deadly glance
behind her and then beamed on Dr. Byram.
"It ees well zat he come here. The
pension more serious, il n'en existe pas, eet ees not any!" she announced
So, as there was nothing more to
add, Dr. Byram joined Hastings at the gate.
"I trust," he said, eyeing the Convent,
"that you will make no acquaintances among Jesuits!"
Hastings looked at the Convent until
a pretty girl passed before the gray façade, and then he looked
at her. A young fellow with a paint-box and canvas came swinging along,
stopped before the pretty girl, said something during a brief but vigorous
handshake at which they both laughed, and he went his way, calling back,
"À demain Valentine!" as in the same breath she cried, "À
"Valentine," thought Hastings, "what
a quaint name;" and he started to follow the Reverend Joel Byram who was
shuffling toward the nearest tramway station.
"An' you are pleas wiz Paris, Monsieur,
'Astang?" demanded Madame Marotte the next morning as Hastings came into
the breakfast-room of the pension, rosy from his plunge in the limited
"I am sure I shall like it," he
replied, wondering at his own depression of spirits.
The maid brought him coffee, and
rolls. He returned the vacant glance of the big-headed young man and acknowledged
diffidently the salutes of the snuffy old gentlemen. He did not try to
finish his coffee and sat crumbling a roll, unconscious of the sympathetic
glances of Madame Marotte who had tact enough not to bother him.
Presently a maid entered with a
tray on which was balanced two bowls of chocolate, and the snuffy old gentlemen
leered at her ankles. The maid deposited the chocolate at a table near
the window and smiled at Hastings. Then a thin young lady, followed by
her counterpart in all except years, marched into the room and took the
table near the window. They were evidently American, but Hastings, if he
expected any sign of recognition, was disappointed. To be ignored by compatriots
intensified his depression. He fumbled with his knife and looked at his
The thin young lady was talkative
enough. She was quite aware of Hastings' presence, ready to be flattered
if he looked at her, but on the other hand she felt her superiority for
she had been three weeks in Paris and he, it was easy to see, had not yet
unpacked his steam-trunk.
Her conversation was complacent.
She argued with her mother upon the relative merits of the Louvre and the
Bon Marché but her mother's part of the discussion was mostly confined
to the observation, "Why, Susie!"
The snuffy old gentlemen had left
the room in a body, outwardly polite and inwardly raging. The could not
endure the Americans, who filled the room with their chatter.
The big-headed young man looked
after them with a knowing cough, murmuring, "Gay old birds!"
To this Mr. Bladen smiled and said,
"They've had their day," in a tone which implied that he was not having
"And that's why they all have baggy
eyes," cried the girl. "I think it's a shame for young gentlemen----"
"Why, Susie," said the mother, and
the conversation lagged.
After a while Mr. Bladen threw down
the "Petit Journal," which he daily studied at the expense of the house,
and turning to Hastings started to make himself agreeable. He began by
saying, "I see you are an American."
To this brilliant and original opening,
Hastings, deadly homesick, replied gratefully, and the conversation was
judiciously nourished by observations from Miss Susie Byng distinctly addressed
to Mr. Bladen. In the course of events Miss Susie, forgetting to address
herself exclusively to Mr. Bladen, and Hastings replying to her general
question, the entente cordiale was established, and Susie and her mother
extended a protectorate over what was clearly neutral territory.
"Mr. Hastings, you must not desert
the pension every evening as Mr. Bladen does. Paris is an awful place for
young gentlemen, and Mr. Bladen is a horrid cynic."
Mr. Bladen looked gratified.
Hastings answered, "I shall be at
the studio all day, and I imagine I shall be glad enough to come back at
Mr. Bladen, who, at a salary of
fifteen dollars a week, acted as agent for the Pewly Manufacturing Company
of Troy, N.Y., smiled a skeptical smile and withdrew to keep an appointment
with a customer on the Boulevard Magenta.
Hastings walked into the garden
with Mrs. Byng and Susie, and, at their invitation, sat down in the shade
before the iron gate.
The chestnut trees still bore their
fragrant spikes of pink and white and the bees hummed among the roses,
trellised on the white-walled house.
A faint freshness was in the air.
The watering carts moved up and down the streets, and a clear stream bubbled
over the spotless gutters of the rue de la Grande Chaumière. The
sparrows were merry along the curbstones, taking bath after bath in the
water and ruffling their feathers with delight. In a walled garden across
the street a pair of blackbirds whistled among the almond trees.
Hastings swallowed the lump in his
throat, for the song of the birds and the ripple of water in a Paris gutter
brought back to him the sunny meadows of Millbrook.
"That's a blackbird," observed Miss
Byng; "see him there on the bush with pink blossoms. He's all black except
his bill, and that looks as if it had been dipped in an omelet, as some
"Why, Susie!" said Mrs. Byng.
"That garden belongs to a studio
inhabited by two Americans," continued the girl serenely, "and I often
see them pass. They seem to need a great many models, mostly young and
"Perhaps they prefer painting that
kind, but I don't see why they should invite five, with three more young
gentlemen, and all get into two cabs and drive away singing. This street,"
she continued, "is dull. There is nothing to see except the garden and
a glimpse of the Boulevard Montparnasse through the rue de la Grande Chaumière.
No one ever passes except a policeman. There is a convent on the corner."
"I thought it was a Jesuit College,"
began Hastings, but was at once overwhelmed with a Baedecker description
of the place, ending with, "on one side stand the palatial hotels of Jean
Paul Laurens and Guillaume Bouguereau, and opposite, in the little Passage
Stanislas, Carolus Duran paints the masterpieces which charm the world."
The blackbird burst into a ripple
of golden throaty notes, and from some distant green spot in the city,
an unknown wild-bird answered with a frenzy of liquid trills until the
sparrows paused in their ablutions to look up with restless chirps.
Then a butterfly came and sat on
a cluster of heliotrope and waved his crimson-banded wings in the hot sunshine.
Hastings knew him for a friend and before his eyes there came a vision
of tall mullins and scented milkweed alive with painted wings, a vision
of a white house and woodbine-covered piazza,--a glimpse of a man reading
and a woman leaning over the pansy bed,--and his heart was full. He was
startled a moment later by Miss Byng.
"I believe you are homesick!" Hastings
blushed. Miss Byng looked at him with a sympathetic sigh and continued:
"Whenever I felt homesick at first I used to go with mamma and walk in
the Luxembourg Gardens. I don't know why it is but those old-fashioned
gardens seem to bring me nearer home than anything in this artificial city."
"But they are full of marble statues,"
said Mrs. Byng mildly, "I don't see the resemblance myself."
"Where is the Luxembourg?" inquired
Hastings after a silence.
"Come with me to the gate," said
Miss Byng. He rose and followed her, and she pointed out the rue Vavin
at the foot of the street.
"You pass by the convent to the
right," she smiled; and Hastings went.
End of Part One... Go on
to Part Two...