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- In the Quarter - 1/39 -


In the Quarter

by Robert W. Chambers

In the Quarter was first published in 1894 and the text is in the public domain. The transcription was done by William McClain, 2003.

A printed version of this book is available from Sattre Press http://itq.sattre-press.com/

One

One evening in May, 1888, the Café des Écoles was even more crowded and more noisy than usual. The marble-topped tables were wet with beer and the din was appalling. Someone shouted to make himself heard.

"Any more news from the Salon?"

"Yes," said Elliott, "Thaxton's in with a number three. Rhodes is out and takes it hard. Clifford's out too, and takes it -- "

A voice began to chant:

Je n'sais comment faire, Comment concillier Ma maitresse et mon père, Le Code et Bullier.

"Drop it! Oh, drop it!" growled Rhodes, and sent a handful of billiard chalk at the singer.

Mr Clifford returned a volley of the Café spoons, and continued:

Mais c'que je trouve de plus bête, C'est qu' i' faut financer Avec ma belle galette, J'aimerai mieux m'amuser.

Several other voices took up the refrain, lamenting the difficulty of reconciling their filial duties with balls at Bullier's, and protesting that they would rather amuse themselves than consider financial questions. Rhodes sipped his curaçoa sulkily.

"The longer I live in the Latin Quarter," he said to his neighbor, "the less certain I feel about a place of future punishment. It would be so tame after this." Then, reverting to his grievance, he added, "The slaughter this year at the Salon is awful."

Reginald Gethryn stirred nervously but did not speak.

"Have a game, Rex?" called Clifford, waving a cue.

Gethryn shook his head, and reaching for a soiled copy of the Figaro, glanced listlessly over its contents. He sighed and turned his paper impatiently. Rhodes echoed the sigh.

"What's at the theaters?"

"Same as last week, excepting at the Gaieté. They've put on `La Belle Hélène' there."

"Oh! Belle Hélène!" cried Clifford.

Tzing! la! la! Tzing! la! la! C'est avec ces dames qu' Oreste Fait danser l'argent de Papa!

Rhodes began to growl again.

"I shouldn't think you'd feel like gibbering that rot tonight."

Clifford smiled sweetly and patted him on the head. "Tzing! la! la! My shot, Elliott?"

"Tzing! la! la!" laughed Thaxton, "That's Clifford's biography in three words."

Clifford repeated the refrain and winked impudently at the pretty bookkeeper behind her railing. She, alas! returned it with a blush.

Gethryn rose restlessly and went over to another table where a man, young, but older than himself, sat, looking comfortable.

"Braith," he began, trying to speak indifferently, "any news of my fate?"

The other man finished his beer and then answered carelessly, "No." But catching sight of Gethryn's face he added, with a laugh:

"Look here, Rex, you've got to stop this moping."

"I'm not moping," said Rex, coloring up.

"What do you call it, then?" Braith spoke with some sharpness, but continued kindly, "You know I've been through it all. Ten years ago, when I sent in my first picture, I confess to you I suffered the torments of the damned until -- "

"Until?"

"Until they sent me my card. The color was green."

"But I thought a green card meant `not admitted."'

"It does. I received three in three years."

"Do you mean you were thrown out three years in succession?"

Braith knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "I gave up smoking for those three years."

"You?"

Braith filled his pipe tenderly. "I was very poor," he said.

"If I had half your sand!" sighed Rex.

"You have, and something more that the rest of us have not. But you are very young yet."

This time Gethryn colored with surprise and pleasure. In all their long and close friendship Braith had never before given him any other encouragement than a cool, "Go ahead!"

He continued: "Your curse thus far has been want of steady application, and moreover you're too easily scared. No matter what happens this time, no knocking under!"

"Oh, I'm not going to knock under. No more is Clifford, it seems," Rex added with a laugh, as Clifford threw down his cue and took a step of the devil's quadrille.

"Oh! Elliott!" he crowed, "what's the matter with you?"

Elliott turned and punched a sleepy waiter in the ribs.

"Emile -- two bocks!"

The waiter jumped up and rubbed his eyes. "What is it, monsieur?" he snapped.

Elliott repeated the order and they strolled off toward a table. As Clifford came lounging by, Carleton said, "I hear you lead with a number one at the Salon."

"Right, I'm the first to be fired."

"He's calm now," said Elliott, "but you should have seen him yesterday when the green card came."

"Well, yes. I discoursed a little in several languages."

"After he had used up his English profanity, he called the Jury names in French, German and Spanish. The German stuck, but came out at last like a cork out of a bottle -- "

"Or a bung out of a barrel."

"These comparisons are as offensive as they are unjust," said Clifford.

"Quite so," said Braith. "Here's the waiter with your beer."

"What number did you get, Braith?" asked Rhodes, who couldn't keep his mind off the subject and made no pretense of trying.

"Three," answered Braith.

There was a howl, and all began to talk at once.

"There's justice for you!" "No justice for Americans!" "Serves us right for our tariff!" "Are Frenchmen going to give us all the advantages of their schools and honors besides while we do all we can to keep their pictures out of our markets?"

"No, we don't, either! Tariff only keeps out the sweepings of the studios -- "

"If there were no duty on pictures the States would be flooded with trash."

"Take it off!" cried one.

"Make it higher!" shouted another.

"Idiots!" growled Rhodes. "Let 'em flood the country with bad work as well as good. It will educate the people, and the day will come when all good work will stand an equal chance -- be it French or be it American."

"True," said Clifford, "Let's all have a bock. Where's Rex?"

But Gethryn had slipped out in the confusion. Quitting the Café des


In the Quarter - 1/39

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