The month passed quickly for Hastings,
and left few definite impressions after it. It did leave some, however.
One was a painful impression of meeting Mr. Bladen on the Boulevard des
Capucines in company with a very pronounced young person whose laugh dismayed
him, and when at last he escaped from the bock he felt as if the whole
boulevard was looking at him, and judging him by his company. Later, an
instinctive conviction regarding the young person with Mr. Bladen sent
the hot blood into his cheek and he returned to the pension in such a miserable
state of mind that Miss Byng was alarmed and advised him to conquer his
homesickness at once.
Another impression was equally vivid.
One Saturday morning feeling lonely, his wanderings about the city brought
him to the Gare St. Lazare. It was early for breakfast, but he entered
the Hotel Terminus and took a table near the window. As he wheeled about
to give his order, a man passing rapidly along the aisle collided with
his head, and looking up to receive the expected apology, he was met instgead
by a slap on the shoulder and a hearty, "what the deuce are you doing here,
old chap?" It was Rowden, who seized him and told him to come along. So,
mildly protesting, he was ushered into a private dining-room where Clifford,
rather red, jumped up from the table and welcomed him with a startled air
which was softened by the unaffected glee of Rowden and the extreme courtesy
of Elliott. The latter presented him to three bewitching girls who welcomed
him so charmingly and seconded Rowden in his demand that Hastings should
make one of the party that he consented at once. While Elliott briefly
outlined the projected excursion to La Roche, Hastings delightedly ate
his omelet, and returned the smiles of encouragement from Cécile
and Colette and Jacqueline. Meantime Clifford in a bland whisper was telling
Rowden what an ass he was. Poor Rowden looked miserable until Elliott,
divining how affairs were turning, frowned on Clifford and found a moment
to let Rowden know that they were all going to make the best of it.
"You shut up," he observed to Clifford,
"it's fate, and that settles it."
"It's Rowden and that settles it,"
murmured Clifford, concealing a grin. For after all he was not Hastings'
wet nurse. So it came about that the train which left the Gare St. Lazare
at 9:15 A.M. stopped a moment in its career towards Havre and desposited
at the red-roofed station of La Roche a merry part, armed with sunshades,
trout rods, and one cane, carried by the non-combatant, Hastings. Then,
when they had established their camp in a grove of sycamores which bordered
the little river Ept, Clifford, the acknowledged master of all that pertained
to sportsmanship, took command.
"You, Rowden," he said, "divide
your flies with Elliott and keep an eye on him or else he'll be trying
to put on a float and sinker. Prevent him by force from grubbing about
Elliott protested, but was forced
to smile in the general laugh.
"You make me ill," he asserted;
do you think this is my first trout?"
"I shall be delighted to see your
first trout," said Clifford, and dodging a fly hook, hurled with intent
to hit, proceeded to sort and equip three slender rods destined to bring
joy and fish to Cécile, Colette, and Jacqueline. With perfect gravity
he ornamented each line with four split shot, a small hook, and a brilliant
"I shall never touch the worms,"
announced Cécile with a shudder.
Jacqueline and Colette hastened
to sustain her, and Hastings pleasantly offered to act in the capacity
of general baiter and taker off of fish. But Cécile, doubtless fascinated
by the gaudy flies in Clifford's book, decided to accept lessons from him
in the true art, and presently disappeared up the Ept with Clifford in
Elliott looked doubtfully at Colette.
"I prefer gudgeons," said that damsel
with decision, "and you and Monsieur Rowden may go away when you please;
may they not, Jacqueline?"
"Certainly," responded Jacqueline.
Elliott, undecided, examined his
rod and reel.
"You've got your reel on wrong side
up," observed Rowden.
Elliott wavered, and stole a glance
"I--I--have almost decided to--er--not
to flip the flies about just now," he began. "There's the pole that Cécile
"Don't call it a pole," corrected
"Rod then," continued Elliott, and
started off in the wake of the two girls, but was promptly collared by
"No you don't! Fancy a man fishing
with a float and sinker when he has a fly rod in his hand! You come along!"
Where the placid little Ept flows
down between the thickets to the Seine, a grassy bank shadows the haunt
of the gudgeon, and on this bank sat Colette and Jacqueline and chattered
and laughed and watched the swerving of the scarlet quills, while Hastings,
his hat over his eyes, his head on a bank of moss, listened to their soft
voices and gallantly unhooked the small and indignant gudgeon when a flash
of a rod and a half suppressed scream announced a catch. The sunlight filtered
through the leafy thickets awaking to song the forest birds. Magpies on
spotless black and white flirted past, alighting near by with a hop and
bound and twitch of the tail. Blue and white jays with rosy breasts shrieked
through the trees, and a low-sailing hawk wheeled among the fields of ripening
wheat, putting to flight flocks of twittering hedge birds.
Across the Seine a gull dropped
on the water like a plume. The air was pure and still. Scarcely a leaf
moved. Sounds from a distant farm came faintly, the shrill cock-crow and
dull baying. Now and then a steam-tug with big raking smoke-pipe, bearing
the name, "Guève 27," ploughed up the river dragging its interminable
train of barges, or a sailboat dropped down with the current toward sleepy
A faint fresh odor of earth and
water hung in the air, and through the sunlight, orange-tipped butterflies
danced above the marsh grass, soft velvety butterflies flapped through
the mossy woods.
Hastings was thinking of Valentine.
It was two o'clock when Elliott strolled back, and frankly admitted that
he had eluded Rowden, sat down beside Colette and prepared to doze with
"Where are your trout?" said Colette
"They still live," murmured Elliott
and went fast asleep.
Rowden returned shortly after, and
casting a scornful glance at the slumbering one, displayed three crimson-flocked
"And that," smiled Hastings lazily,
"that is the holy end to which the faithful plod,--the slaughter of these
small fish with a bit of silk and feather."
Rowden disdained to answer him.
Colette caught another gudgeon and awoke Elliott who protested and gazed
about for the lunch baskets, as Clifford and Cécile came up demanding
instant refreshment. Cécile's skirts were soaked, and her gloves
torn but she was happy, and Clifford, dragging out a two pound trout, stood
still to receive the applause of the company.
"Where the deuce did you get that,"
Cécile, wet and enthusiastic,
recounted the battle, and then Clifford eulogized her powers with the fly,
and, in proof, produced from his creel a defunct chub, which, he observed,
just missed being a trout.
They were all very merry at luncheon
and Hastings was voted "charming." He enjoyed it immensely,--only it seemed
to him at moments that flirtation went further in France than in Millbrook,
Connecticut, and he thought that Cécile might be a little less enthusiastic
about Clifford, that perhaps it would be quire as well if Jacqueline sat
further away from Rowden and that possibly Colette could have, for a moment,
at least, taken her eyes from Elliott's face. Still he enjoyed it--except
when his thoughts drifted to Valentine and then he felt that he was very
far away from her. La Roche is at least an hour and a half from Paris.
It is also true that he felt a happiness, a quick heart-beat when, at eight
o'clock that night the train which bore them from La Roche rolled into
the Gare St. Lazare and he was once more in the city of Valentine.
"Good-night," they said, pressing
around him. "You must come with us next time!"
He promised, and watched them, two
by two, drift into the darkening city, and stood so long that, when again
he raised his eyes, the vast Boulevard was twinkling with gasjets through
which the electric lights stared like moons.
It was with another quick heart-beat
that he awoke next morning, for his first thought was of Valentine.
The sun already gilded the towers
of Notre Dame, the clatter of workmen's sabots awoke sharp echoes in the
street below, and across the way a blackbird in a pink almond tree was
going into an ecstasy of trills.
He determined to awake Clifford
for a brisk walk in the country, hoping later to beguile that gentleman
into the American church for his soul's sake. He found Alfred the gimlet-eyed,
washing the asphalt walk which led to the studio.
"Monsieur Elliott?" he replied to
the perfunctory inquiry, "je ne sais pas."
"And Monsieur Clifford,"--began
Hastings somewhat astonished.
"Monsieur Clifford," said the concierge
with fine irony, "will be pleased to see you, as he retired early; in fact
he has just come in."
Hastings hesitated while the concierge
pronounced a fiery eulogy on people who never stayed out all night and
then came battering at the lodge gate during hours which even a gendarme
held sacred to sleep. He also discourse eloquently upon the beauties of
temperance, and took an ostentatious draught from the fountain in the court.
"I do not think I will come in,"
"Pardon, Monsieur," growled the
concierge, "perhaps it would be well to see Monsieur Clifford. He possibly
needs aid. Me he drives forth with hair-brushes and boots. It is a mercy
if he has not set fire to something with his candle." Hastings hesitated
for an instant, but swallowing his dislike of such a mission, walked slowly
through the ivy-covered alley and across the inner garden to the studio.
He knocked. Perfect silence. Then he knocked again and this time something
struck the door from within with a crush.
"That," said the concierge, "was
a boot." He fitted his duplicate key into the lock and ushered Hastings
in. Clifford, in disordered evening dress, sat on the rug in the middle
of the room. He held in his hand a shoe, and did not appear astonished
to see Hastings.
"Good-morning, do you use Pears'
soap?" he inquired with a vague wave of his hand and a vaguer smile.
Hastings' heart sank. "For Heaven's
sake," he said; "Clifford, go to bed."
"Not while that--that Alfred pokes
his shaggy head in here an' I have a shoe left."
Hastings blew out the candle, picked
up Clifford's hat and cane, and said, with an emotion he could not conceal,
"this is terrible, Clifford,--I--never knew you did this sort of thing."
"Well, I do," said Clifford.
"Where is Elliott?"
"Ole chap," returned Clifford, becoming
maudlin, "Providence which feeds--feeds--er--sparrows an' that sort of
thing watcheth over the intemperate wanderer----"
"Where is Elliott?"
But Clifford only wagged his head
and waved his arm about. "He's out there,--somewhere about." Then suddenly
feeling a desire to see his missing chum, lifted up his voice and howled
Hastings, thoroughly shocked, sat
down in the lounge without a word. Presently, after shedding several scalding
tears, Clifford brightened up and rose with great precaution.
"Ole chap," he observed, "do you
want to see er--er miracle? Well, here goes. I'm goin' to begin."
He paused, beaming at vacancy.
"Er miracle," he repeated.
Hastings supposed he was alluding
to the miracle of his keeping his balance and said nothing.
"I'm goin' to bed," he announced,
"poor ole Clifford's goin' to bed, an' that's er miracle!"
And he did with a nice calculation
of distance and equilibrium which would have rung enthusiastic yells of
applause from Elliott had he been there to assist en connaisseur. But he
was not. He had not yet reached the studio. He was on his way, however,
and smiled with magnificent condescension on Hastings, who, half an hour
later, found him reclining upon a bench in the Luxembourg. He permitted
himself to be aroused, dusted and escorted to the gate. Here, however,
he refused all further assistance, and bestowing a patronizing bow upon
Hastings, steered a tolerably true course for the rue Vavin.
Hastings watched him out of sight,
and then slowly retraced his steps toward the fountain. At first he felt
gloomy and depressed, but gradually the clear air of the morning lifted
the pressure from his heart, and he sat down on the marble seat under the
shadow of the winged god.
The air was fresh and sweet with
perfume from the orange flowers. Everywhere pigeons were bathing, dashing
the water over their iris-hued breasts, flashing in and out of the spray
or nestling almost to the neck along the polished basin. The sparrows,
too, were abroad in force, soaking their dust-colored feathers in the limpid
pool and chirping with might and main. Under the sycamores which surround
the duck pond opposite the fountain of Marie de Medici, the waterfowl cropped
the herbage, or waddled in rows down the bank to embark on some solemn
Butterflies, somewhat lame from
a chilly night's repose under the lilac leaves, crawled over and over the
white phlox, or took a rheumatic flight toward some sun-warmed shrub. The
bees were already busy among the heliotrope and one or two great gray flies
with brick-colored eyes sat in a spot of sunlight beside the marble seat,
or chased each other about, only to return again to the spot of sunshine
and rub their forelegs, exulting.
The sentries paced briskly before
the painted boxes, pausing at times to look toward the guard-house for
They came at last, with a shuffle
of feet and click of bayonets, the word was passed, the relief fell out,
and away they went, crunch, crunch, across the gravel.
A mellow chime floated from the
clock-tower of the palace, the deep bell of St. Sulpice, echoed the stroke.
Hastings sat dreaming in the shadow of the god, and while he mused, somebody
came and sat down beside him. At first he did not raise his head. It was
only when she spoke that he sprang up.
"You! At this hour?"
"I was restless, I could not sleep."
Then in a low happy voice--"and you! at this hour?"
"I--I slept, but the sun awoke me."
"I could not sleep," she said, and
her eyes seemed, for a moment, touched with an indefinable shadow. Then,
smiling, "I am so glad--I seemed to know you were coming. Don't laugh,
I believe in dreams."
"Did you really dream of,--of my
"I think I was awake when I dreamed
it," she admitted. Then for a time they were mute, acknowledging by silence
the happiness of being together. And after all their silence was eloquent,
for faint smiles, and glances born of their thoughts, crossed and recrossed,
until lips moved and words were formed, which seemed almost superfluous.
What they said was not very profound. Perhaps the most valuable jewel that
fell from Hastings' lips bore direct reference to breakfast.
"I have not yet had my chocolate,"
she confessed, "but what a material man you are."
"Valentine," he said impulsively,
"I wish,--I do wish that you would,--just for this once,--give me the whole
day,--just for this once."
"Oh dear," she smiled, "not only
material but selfish."
"Not selfish, hungry," he said,
looking at her.
"A cannibal too, oh dear!"
"Will you, Valentine?"
"But my chocolate----"
"Take it with me."
"Together, at St. Cloud."
"But I can't----"
"Together,--all day,--all day long;
will you Valentine?"
She was silent.
"Only for this once."
Again that indefinable shadow fell
across her eyes, and when it was gone she sighed. "Yes,--together, only
for this once."
"All day?" he said, doubting his
"All day," she smiled, "and oh,
I am so hungry."
He laughed, enchanted.
"What a material young lady it is."
On the Boulevard St. Michel there
is a Crémerie painted white and blue outside, and neat and clean
as a whistle inside. The auburn-haired young woman who speaks French like
a native, and rejoices in the name of Murphy, smiled at them as they entered,
and tossing a fresh napkin over the zinc tête-à-tête
table, whisked before them two cups of chocolate and a basket full of crisp,
The primrose-colored pats of butter
each stamped with a shamrock in relief, seemed saturated with the fragrance
of Normandy pastures.
"How delicious," they said in the
same breath, and then laughed at the coincidence.
"With but a single thought," he
"How absurd," she cried with cheeks
all rosy, "I'm thinking I'd like a croisson."
"So am I," he replied triumphant,
"that proves it."
Then they had a quarrel; she accusing
him of behavior unworthy of a child in arms, and he denying it, and bringing
counter charges, until Mademoiselle Murphy laughed in sympathy, and the
last croisson was eaten under a flag of truce. Then they rose, and she
took his arm with a bright nod to Mlle. Murphy, who cried them a merry:
"Bonjour, Madame! bonjour, Monsieur!" and watched them hail a passing cab
and drive away. "Dieu! qu'il est beau," she sighed, adding after a moment,
"Do they be married, I dunno,--ma foi ils ont bien l'air."
The cab swung around the rue de
Medici, turned into the rue de Vaugirard, followed it to where it crosses
the rue de Rennes, and taking that noisy thoroughfare, drew up before the
Gare Montparnasse. They were just in time for a train and scampered up
the stairway and out to the cars as the last note from the starting gong
rang through the arched station. The guard slammed the door of their compartment,
a whistle sounded, answered by a screech from the locomotive, and the long
train glided from the station, faster, faster, and sped out into the morning
sunshine. The summer wind blew in their faces from the open window, and
sent the soft hair dancing on the girl's forehead.
"We have the compartment to ourselves,"
She leaned against the cushioned
windowseat, her eyes bright and wide open, her lips parted. The wind lifted
her hat, and fluttered the ribbons under her chin. With a quick movement
she untied them and drawing a long hat pin from her hat, laid it down on
the seat beside her. The train was flying.
The color surged in her cheeks and
with each quick-drawn breath, her breast rose and fell under the cluster
of lilies at her throat. Trees, houses, ponds, danced past, cut by a mist
of telegraph poles.
"Faster! Faster!" she cried.
His eyes never left her, but hers,
wide open and blue as the summer sky, seemed fixed on something far ahead,--something
which came no nearer, but fled before them as they fled.
Was it the horizon, cut now by the
grim fortress on the hill, now by the cross of a country chapel? Was it
the summer moon, ghost-like, slipping through the vaguer blue above?
"Faster! Faster!" she cried.
Her parted lips burned scarlet.
The car shook and shivered and the
fields streamed by like an emerald torrent. He caught the excitement and
his face glowed.
"Oh," she cried, and with an unconscious
movement caught his hand, drawing him to the window beside her. "Look!
lean out with me!"
He only saw her lips move; her voice
was drowned in the roar of a trestle, but his hand close din hers and he
clung to the sill. The wind whistled in their ears. "Not so far out, Valentine,
take care!" he gasped.
Below, through the ties of the trestle,
a broad river flashed into view and out again, as the train thundered along
a tunnel, and away once more through the freshet of green fields. The wind
roared about them. The girl was leaning far out from the window, and he
caught her by the waist, crying, "Not too far!" but she only murmured,
"Faster! faster! away out of the city, out of the land, faster, faster!
away out of the world!"
"What are you saying all to yourself,"
he said, but his voice was broken, and the wind whirled it back into his
She heard him, and, turning from
the window looked down at his arm about her. Then she raised her eyes to
his. The car shook and the windows rattled. They were dashing through a
forest now, and the sun swept the dewy branches with running flashes of
fire. He looked into her troubled eyes; he drew her to him and kissed the
half-parted lips, and she cried out, a bitter, hopeless cry. "--Not that--not
But he held her close and strong,
whispering words of honest love and passion, and when she sobbed--"Not
that--not that--I have promised! You must--you must know--I am--not--worthy----"
In the purity of his own heart her words were, to him, meaningless then,
meaningless forever after. Presently her voice ceased, and her head rested
on his breast. He leaned against the window, his ears swept by the furious
wind, his heart in a joyous tumult. The forest was passed, and the sun
slipped from behind the trees, flooding the earth again with brightness.
She raised her eyes and looked out into the world from the window. Then
she began to speak, but her voice was faint and he bent his head close
to hers and listened. "I cannot turn from you; I am too weak. You were
long ago my master--master of my heart and soul. I have broken my word
to one who trusted me, but I have told you all,--what matters the rest?"
He smiled at her innocence and she worshipped his. She spoke again: "Take
me or cast me away;--what matters it? Now with a word you can kill me,
and it might be easier to die than to look upon happiness as great as mine."
He took her in his arms; "Hush,
what are you saying? Look,--look out at the sunlight, the meadows and the
streams. We shall be very happy in so bright a world."
She turned to the sunlight. From
the window, the world below seemed very fair to her.
Trembling with happiness, she sighed:
"Is this the world? Then I have never known it."
"Nor have I, God forgive me," he
Perhaps it was our gentle Lady of
the Fields who forgave them both.