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- The Beautiful Lady - 3/10 -

At the theatre the frightful badge was removed from my head-top and I was given three hundred francs, the price of my shame, refusing an offer to repeat the performance during the following week. To imagine such a thing made me a choking in my throat, and I left the bureau in some sickness. This increased so much (as I approached the Madeleine, where I wished to mount an omnibus) that I entered a restaurant and drank a small glass of cognac. Then I called for writing-papers and wrote to the good Mother Superior and my dear little nieces at their convent. I enclosed two hundred and fifty francs, which sum I had fallen behind in my payments for their education and sustenance, and I felt a moment's happiness that at least for a while I need not fear that my poor brother's orphans might become objects of charity--a fear which, accompanied by my own hunger, had led me to become the joke of the boulevards.

Feeling rich with my remaining fifty francs, I ordered the waiter to bring me a goulasch and a carafe of blond beer, after the consummation of which I spent an hour in the reading of a newspaper. Can it be credited that the journal of my perusement was the one which may be called the North-American paper of the aristocracies of Europe? Also, it contains some names of the people of the United States at the hotels and elsewhere.

How eagerly I scanned those singular columns! Shall I confess to what purpose? I read the long lists of uncontinental names over and over, but I lingered not at all upon those like "Muriel," "Hermione," "Violet," and "Sibyl," nor over "Balthurst," "Skeffington-Sligo," and "Covering-Legge"; no, my search was for the Sadies and Mamies, the Thompsons, Van Dusens, and Bradys. In that lies my preposterous secret.

You will see to what infatuation those words of pity, that sense of a beautiful presence, had led me. To fall in love must one behold a face? Yes; at thirty. At twenty, when one is something of a poet--No: it is sufficient to see a grey pongee skirt! At fifty, when one is a philosopher--No: it is enough to perceive a soul! I had done both; I had seen the skirt; I had perceived the soul! Therefore, while hungry, I neglected my goulasch to read these lists of names of the United States again and again, only that I might have the thought that one of them--though I knew not which--might be this lady's, and that in so infinitesimal a degree I had been near her again. Will it be estimated extreme imbecility in me when I ventured the additional confession that I felt a great warmth and tenderness toward the possessors of all these names, as being, if not herself, at least her compatriots?

I am now brought to the admission that before to-day I had experienced some prejudices against the inhabitants of the North-American republic, though not on account of great experience of my own. A year previously I had made a disastrous excursion to Monte Carlo in the company of a young gentleman of London who had been for several weeks in New York and Washington and Boston, and appeared to know very much of the country. He was never anything but tired in speaking of it, and told me a great amount. He said many times that in the hotels there was never a concierge or portier to give you information where to discover the best vaudeville; there was no concierge at all! In New York itself, my friend told me, a facchino, or species of porter, or some such good-for-nothing, had said to him, including a slap on the shoulder, "Well, brother, did you receive your delayed luggage correctly?" (In this instance my studies of the North-American idiom lead me to believe that my friend was intentionally truthful in regard to the principalities, but mistaken in his observation of detail.) He declared the recent willingness of the English to take some interest in the United-Statesians to be a mistake; for their were noisy, without real confidence in themselves; they were restless and merely imitative instead of inventive. He told me that he was not exceptional; all Englishmen had thought similarly for fifty or sixty years; therefore, naturally, his opinion carried great weight with me. And myself, to my astonishment, I had often seen parties of these republicans become all ears and whispers when somebody called a prince or a countess passed by. Their reverence for age itself, in anything but a horse, had often surprised me by its artlessness, and of all strange things in the world, I have heard them admire old customs and old families. It was strange to me to listen, when I had believed that their land was the only one where happily no person need worry to remember who had been his great- grandfather.

The greatest of my own had not saved me from the decoration of the past week, yet he was as much mine as he was Antonio Caravacioli's; and Antonio, though impoverished, had his motor- car and dined well, since I happened to see, in my perusal of the journal, that he had been to dinner the evening before at the English Embassy with a great company. "Bravo, Antonio! Find a rich foreign wife if you can, since you cannot do well for yourself at home!" And I could say so honestly, without spite, for all his hatred of me,--because, until I had paid my addition, I was still the possessor of fifty francs!

Fifty francs will continue life in the body of a judicial person a long time in Paris, and combining that knowledge and the good goulasch, I sought diligently for "Mamies" and "Sadies" with a revived spirit. I found neither of those adorable names--in fact, only two such diminutives, which are more charming than our Italian ones: A Miss Jeanie Archibald Zip and a Miss Fannie Sooter. None of the names was harmonious with the grey pongee -- in truth, most of them were no prettier (however less processional) than royal names. I could not please myself that I had come closer to the rare lady; I must be contented that the same sky covered us both, that the noise of the same city rang in her ears as mine.

Yet that was a satisfaction, and to know that it was true gave me mysterious breathlessness and made me hear fragments of old songs during my walk that night. I walked very far, under the trees of the Bois, where I stopped for a few moments to smoke a cigarette at one of the tables outside, at Armenonville.

None of the laughing women there could be the lady I sought; and as my refusing to command anything caused the waiter uneasiness, in spite of my prosperous appearance, I remained but a few moments, then trudged on, all the long way to the Cafe' de Madrid, where also she was not.

How did I assure myself of this since I had not seen her face? I cannot tell you. Perhaps I should not have known her; but that night I was sure that I should.

Yes, as sure of that as I was sure that she was beautiful!

Chapter Three

Early the whole of the next day, endeavoring to look preoccupied, I haunted the lobbies and vicinity of the most expensive hotels, unable to do any other thing, but ashamed of myself that I had not returned to my former task of seeking employment, although still reassured by possession of two louis and some silver, I dined well at a one-franc coachman's restaurant, where my elegance created not the slightest surprise, and I felt that I might live in this way indefinitely.

However, dreams often conclude abruptly, and two louis always do, as I found, several days later, when, after paying the rent for my unspeakable lodging and lending twenty francs to a poor, bad painter, whom I knew and whose wife was ill, I found myself with the choice of obtaining funds on my finery or not eating, either of which I was very loath to do. It is not essential for me to tell any person that when you seek a position it is better that you appear not too greatly in need of it; and my former garments had prejudiced many against me, I fear, because they had been patched by a friendly concierge. Pantaloons suffer as terribly as do antiques from too obvious restorations; and while I was only grateful to the good woman's needle (except upon one occasion when she forgot to remove it), my costume had reached, at last, great sympathies for the shade of Praxiteles, feeling the same melancholy over original intentions so far misrepresented by renewals.

Therefore I determined to preserve my fineries to the uttermost; and it was fortunate that I did so; because, after dining, for three nights upon nothing but looking out of my window, the fourth morning brought me a letter from my English friend. I had written to him, asking if he knew of any people who wished to pay a salary to a young man who knew how to do nothing. I place his reply in direct annexation:

"Henrietta Street, Cavendish Square, May 14.

"My dear Ansolini,--Why haven't you made some of your relatives do something? I understand that they do not like you; neither do my own, but after our crupper at Monte Carlo what could mine do, except provide? If a few pounds (precious few, I fear!) be of any service to you, let me know. In the mean time, if you are serious about a position, I may, preposterously enough, set you in the way of it. There is an old thundering Yankee here, whom I met in the States, and who believed me a god because I am the nephew of my awful uncle, for whose career he has ever had, it appears, a life-long admiration, sir! Now, by chance, meeting this person in the street, it developed that he had need of a man, precisely such a one as you are not: a sober, tutorish, middle-aged, dissenting parson, to trot about the Continent tied to a dancing bear. It is the old gentleman's cub, who is a species of Caliban in fine linen, and who has taken a few too many liberties in the land of the free. In fact, I believe he is much a youth of my own kind with similar admiration for baccarat and good cellars. His father must return at once, and has decided (the cub's native heath and friends being too wild) to leave him in charge of a proper guide, philosopher, courier, chaplain, and friend, if such can be found, the same required to travel with the cub and keep him out of mischief. I thought of your letter directly, and I have given you the most tremendous recommendation--part of it quite true, I suspect, though I am not a judge of learning. I explained, however, that you are a master of languages, of elegant though subdued deportment, and I extolled at length your saintly habits. Altogether, I fear there may have been too much of the virtuoso in my interpretation of you; few would have recognized from it the gentleman who closed a table at Monte Carlo and afterwards was closed himself in the handsome and spectacular fashion I remember with both delight and regret. Briefly, I lied like a master. He almost had me in the matter of your age; it

The Beautiful Lady - 3/10

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