ABOUT five o'clock that afternoon,
the little sad-eyed woman who fills the position of concierge at the Hôtel
du Sénat, held up her hands in amazement to see a wagon-load of
flower-bearing shrubs draw up before the doorway. She called Joseph, the
intemperate garçon who, while calculating the value of the flowers
in petit verres, gloomily disclaimed any knowledge as to their destination.
"Voyons," said the little
concierge, "cherchons la fermme!"
"You?" he suggested.
The little woman stood a moment
pensive and then sighed. Joseph caressed his nose, a nose which for gaudiness
could vie with any floral display.
Then the gardener came in, hat in
hand, and a few minutes later Selby stood in the middle of his room, his
coat off, his shirt-sleeves rolled up. The chamber originally contained,
besides the furniture, about two square feet of walking room, and now this
was occupied by a cactus. The bed groaned under crates of pansies, lilies
and heliotrope, the lounge was covered with hyacinths and tulips, and the
washstand supported a species of young tree warranted to bear flowers at
some time or other.
Clifford came in a little later,
fell over a box of sweet peas, swore a little, apologized, and then as
the full splendor of the floral fête burst upon him, sat down
in astonishment upon a geranium. The geranium was a wreck, but Selby said,
" don't mind," and glared at the cactus.
"Are you going to give a ball?"
"N---no,---I'm very fond of flowers,"
said Selby, but the statement lacked enthusiasm.
"I should imagine so." Then, after
a silence, "That's a fine cactus."
Selby contemplated the cactus, touched
it with the air of a connaisseur, and pricked his thumb.
Clifford poked a pansy with his
stick. Then Joseph came in with the bill, announcing the sum total in a
loud voice, partly to impress Clifford, partly to intimidate Selby into
disgorging a pourboire which he would share if he chose, with the
gardener. Clifford tried to pretend that he had not heard, while Selby
paid bill and tribute without a murmur. Then he lounged back into the room
with an attempt at indifference which failed entirely when he tore his
trousers on the cactus.
Clifford made some commonplace remark,
lighted a cigarette and looked out of the window to give Selby a chance.
Selby tried to take it, but getting as far as---"Yes, spring is here at
last," froze solid. He looked at the back of Clifford's head. It expressed
volumes. Those little perked up ears seemed tingling with suppressed glee.
He made a desperate effort to master the situation, and jumped up to reach
for some Russian cigarettes as an incentive to conversation, but was foiled
by the cactus to whom again he fell a prey. The last straw was added.
"Damn the cactus." This observation
was wrung from Selby against his, will,---against his own instinct of self-preservation,
but the thorns on the cactus were~long and sharp and at their repeated
prick, his pent-up wrath escaped. It was too late now; it was done, and
Clifford had wheeled around.
"See here, Selby, why the deuce
did you buy those flowers ?"
"I'm fond of them," said Selby.
"What are you going to do with them?
You can't sleep here."
"I could, if you'd help me take
the pansies off the bed."
"Where can you put them?"
"Couldn't I give them to the concierge?"
As soon as he said it he regretted
it. What in Heaven's name would Clifford think of him! He had heard the
amount of the bill. Would he believe that he had invested in these luxuries
as a timid declaration to his concierge? And would the Latin Quarter comment
upon it in their own brutal fashion? He dreaded riclicule, and he knew
Then somebody knocked.
Selby looked at Clifford with a
hunted expression which touched that young man's heart. It was a confession
and at the same time a supplication. Clifford jumped up, threaded his way
through the floral labyrinth, and putting an eye to the crack of the door,
said, "Who the devil is it?"
This graceful style of reception
is indigenous to the Quarter.
"It's Elliott," he said looking
back, "and Rowden, too, and their bulldogs." Then he addressed them through
"Sit down on the stairs; Selby and
I are coming out directly."
Discretion is a virtue. The Latin
Quarter possesses few, and discretion seldom figures on the list. They
sat down and began to whistle.
Presently Rowden called out, "I
smell flowers. They feast within!"
"You ought to know Selby better
than that," growled Clifford behind the door, while the other hurriedly
exchanged his torn trousers for others.
"We know Selby," said Elliott
"Yes," said Rowden, "he gives receptions
with floral decorations and invites Clifford, while we sit on the stairs."
"Yes, while the youth and beauty
of the Quarter revel," suggested Rowden; then, with sudden misgiving, "Is
"See here," demanded Elliott, "is
Then he raised his voice in a plaintive
howl, "Are you there, Colette, while I'm kicking my heels on these tiles?"
"Clifford is capable of anything,"
said Rowden; "his nature is soured since Rue Barrée sat on him."
Elliott raised his voice; "I say,
you fellows, we saw some flowers carried into Rue Barrée's house
"Posies and roses," specified Rowden.
"Probably for her," added Elliott,
caressing his bulldog.
Clifford turned with sudden suspicion
upon Selby. The latter hummed a tune, selected a pair of gloves and, choosing
a dozen cigarettes, placed them in a case. Then walking over to the cactus,
he deliberately detached a blossom, drew it through his buttonhole and
picking up hat and stick, smiled upon Clifford, at which the latter was
End of PART THREE..... GO TO PART