William J. Locke
Part 2 out of 6
"Not very much," said he.
"But I found you admirable," she declared. "Much better than that _espece
de poule mouillee_--I already forget his name--who played last week.
Oh--a wet hen--he was more like a drowned duck. So when I heard a comedian
from Paris was coming, I said: 'I must wait' and Margot and I waited in the
wings--and we laughed. Oh yes, we laughed."
"It's more than the audience did," said the miserable Andrew.
The audience! Of Avignon! She had never played to such an audience in her
her life. They were notorious, these people, all over France. They were so
stupid that before they would laugh you had to tell them a thing was funny,
and then they were so suspicious that they wouldn't laugh for fear of being
All of which, of course, is a libel on the hearty folk of Avignon. But
Elodie was from Marseilles, which naturally has a poor opinion of the other
towns of Provence. She also lied for the comforting of Lackaday.
"They are so unsympathetic," said he, "that I shall not play any more."
She knitted her young brow. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that I play neither to-night nor to-morrow night, nor ever again.
To-morrow I return to Paris."
She regarded him awe-stricken. "You throw up an engagement--just like
that--because the audience doesn't laugh?"
She had heard vague fairy-tales of pampered opera-singers acting with such
Olympian independence; but never a music-hall artist on tour. He must be
very rich and powerful.
Lackaday read the thought behind the wide-open eyes.
"Not quite like that," he admitted honestly. "It did not altogether depend
on myself. You see the _patron_ found that the audience didn't laugh
and the _patronne_ found that my long body spoiled her act--and so--I
go to Paris to-morrow."
She rose from the depths of envying wonder to the heights of pity. She
flashed indignation at the abominable treatment he had received from
the Coincons. She scorched them with her contempt. What right had that
_tortoise_ of a Madame Coincon to put on airs? She had seen better
juggling in a booth at a fair. Her championship warmed Andrew's heart, and
he began to feel less lonely in a dismal and unappreciative world. Longing
for further healing of an artist's wounded vanity he said:
"Tell me frankly. You did see something to admire in my performance?"
"Haven't I always said so? _Tiens_, would you like me to tell
you something? All my life I have loved Auguste in a circus. You know
Auguste--the clown? Well, you reminded me of Auguste and I laughed."
"Until lately I was Auguste--in the Cirque Rocambeau."
She clapped her hands.
"But I have seen you there--when I was quite little--three--four years ago
"Four years," said Andrew looking into the dark backward and abysm of time.
"Yes, I remember you well, now. We're old friends."
"I hope you'll allow me to continue the friendship," said Andrew.
They talked after the way of youth. He narrated his uneventful history. She
added details to the previous sketch of her own career. The afternoon
drew to a close. The restaurant garden emptied; the good folks of Avignon
returned dinnerwards across the bridge. They looked for Margot, but Margot
had disappeared, presumably with her new acquaintance. Elodie sniffed in a
superior manner. If Margot didn't take care, she would be badly caught one
of these days. For herself, no, she had too much character. She wouldn't
walk about the streets with a young man she had only known for five
minutes. She told Andrew so, very seriously, as they strolled over the
They parted, arranging to meet at 10 o'clock when she was free from the
music-hall, at the Cafe des Negociants or the Place de l'Hotel de Ville.
Andrew, shrinking from the table d'hote in the mangy hotel in a narrow back
street where the Merveilleux troupe had their crowded being, dined at a
cheap restaurant near the railway station, and filled in the evening with
aimless wandering up and and down the thronged Avenue de la Gare. Once he
turned off into the quiet moonlit square dominated by the cathedral and the
walls and towers of the Palace of the Popes. The austere beauty of it said
nothing to him. It did not bring calm to a fevered spirit. On the contrary,
it depressed a spirit longing for a little fever, so he went back to the
broad, gay Avenue where all Avignon was taking the air. A girl's sympathy
had reconciled him with his kind.
She came tripping up to him, almost on the stroke of ten, as he sat at the
outside edge of the cafe terrace, awaiting her. The reconciliation was
complete. Like most of the young men there, he too had his maid. They met
as if they had known each other for years. She was full of an evil fellow,
_un gros type_, with a roll of fat at the back of his neck and a great
diamond ring which flashed in the moonlight, who had waited for her at the
stage door and walked by her side, pestering her with his attentions.
"And do you know how I got rid of him? I said: 'Monsieur, I can't walk with
you through the streets on account of my comrades. But I swear to you that
you will find me at the Cafe des Negotiants at a quarter past ten.' And so
I made my escape. Look," said she excitedly, gripping Andrew's arm, "here
She met the eyes of the _gros type_ with the roll of fat and the
diamond ring, who halted somewhat uncertainly in front of the cafe.
Whereupon Andrew rose to his long height of six foot four and, glaring at
the offender, put him to the flight of over-elaborated unconcern. Elodie
"You could have eaten him up alive, _n'est-ce pas_, Andre?"
And Andrew felt the thrill of the successful Squire of Dames. For the rest
of the evening, there was no longer any 'Monsieur' or 'Mademoiselle.' It
was Andre and Elodie.
Yes, he would write to her from Paris, telling her of his fortunes. And
she too would write. The Agence Moignon would always find him. It is
parenthetically to be noted how his afternoon fears of the impermanence of
the Agence Moignon had vanished. Time flew pleasantly. She seemed to have
set herself, her youth and her femininity, to the task of evoking the wide
baby smile on his good-natured though dismal face. It was only on their
homeward way, after midnight, that she mentioned the '_boile_.' There
had been discussions. Some had said this and some had said that. There had
been partisans of the Coincons and partisans of Andre. There was subject
matter for one of the pretty quarrels dear to music-hall folk. But Elodie
summed up the whole matter, with her air of precocious wisdom--a wisdom
gained in the streets and sewing-rooms and cafes-concerts of Marseilles.
"What you do is excellent, _mon cher_; but it is _vieux jeu_. The
circus is not the music-hall. You must be original."
As originality was banned from the circus tradition, he stood still in the
narrow, quiet street and gasped.
"You are so long and thin," she said.
"That has always been against me; it was against me to-day."
"But you could make it so droll," she declared. "And there would be no one
else like you. But you must be by yourself, not with a troupe like the
Merveilleux. _Tiens_," she caught him by the lapels of his jacket and
a passer-by might have surmised a pleading stage in a lovers' discussion,
"I have heard there is a little little man in London--oh, so little, _et
pas du tout joli_."
"I know," said Andrew, "but he is a great artist."
"And so are you," she retorted. "But as this little man gets all the
profit he can out of his littleness--it was _la grosse_ Leonie--the
_brune_, number three, you know--ah, but you haven't seen us--anyhow
she has been in London and was telling me about him this evening--all that
nature has endowed him with he exaggerates--_eh bien!_ Why couldn't
you do the same?"
The street was badly lit with gas; but still he could see the flash in
her dark eyes. He drew himself up and laid both his hands on her thin
"My little Elodie," said he--and by the dim gaslight she could see the
flash of his teeth revealed by his wide smile--"My little Elodie, you have
genius. You have given me an idea that may make my fortune. What can I give
you in return?"
"If you want to show me that you are not ungrateful, you might kiss me,"
A kiss must mean either very much or very little. There are maidens to whom
it signifies a life's consecration. There are men whose blood it fires with
burning passion. There are couples of different sex who jointly consider
their first kiss a matter of supreme importance, and, the temporary rapture
over, at once begin to discuss the possibilities of parental approbation
and the ways and means of matrimony. A kiss may be the very devil of a
thing leading to two or three dozen honourably born grandchildren, or to
suicide, or to celebate addiction to cats, or to eugenic propaganda, or to
perpetual crape and the boredom of a community, or to the fate of Abelard,
or to the Fall of Troy, or to the proud destiny of a William the Conqueror.
I repeat that it is a ticklish thing to go and meddle with it without due
consideration. And in some cases consideration only increases the fortuity
of its results. Volumes could be written on it.
If you think that the kiss exchanged between Andrew and Elodie had any
such immediate sentimental or tragical or heroical consequences you
are mistaken. Andrew responded with all the grace in the world to the
invitation. It was a pleasant and refreshing act. He was grateful for her
companionship, her sympathy, and her inspired counsel. She carried off her
frank comradeship with such an air of virginal innocence, and at the same
time with such unconscious exposure of her half fulfilled womanhood, that
he suffered no temptations of an easy conquest. The kiss therefore evoked
no baser range of emotion. As his head was whirling with an artist's sudden
conception--and, mark you, an artist's conception need no more be a case
of parthenogenesis than that of the physical woman--it had no room for the
higher and subtler and more romantical idealizations of the owner of the
kissed lips. You may put him down for an insensible young egoist. Put him
down for what you will. His embrace was but gratefully fraternal.
As for Elodie, if it were not dangerous--she had the street child's
instinct--what did a kiss or two matter? If one paid all that attention to
a kiss one's life would be a complicated drama of a hundred threads.
"A kiss is nothing"--so ran one of her _obiter dicta_ recorded
somewhere in the manuscript--"unless you feel it in your toes. Then look
Evidently this kiss Elodie did not feel in her toes, for she walked along
carelessly beside him to the door of her hotel, a hostelry possibly a shade
more poverty-stricken in a flag paved by-street, a trifle staler-smelling
than his own, and there put out a friendly hand of dismissal.
"We will write to each other?"
"It is agreed."
"Alors, au revoir."
"Au revoir, Elodie, et merci."
And that was the end of it. Andrew went back to Paris by the first train in
the morning, and Elodie continued to dance in Avignon.
If they had maintained, as they vaguely promised, an intimate
correspondence, it might have developed, according to the laws of the
interchange of sentiment between two young and candid souls, into a
reciprocal expression of the fervid state which the kiss failed to produce.
A couple of months of it, and the pair, yearning for each other, would have
effected by hook or crook, a delirious meeting, and young Romance would
have had its triumphant way. But to the gods it seemed otherwise. Andrew
wrote, as in grateful duty bound. He wrote again. If she had replied,
he would have written a third time; but as there are few things more
discouraging than a one-sided correspondence, he held his hand. He felt a
touch of disappointment. She was such a warm, friendly little creature,
with a sagacious little head on her--by no means the _tete de linotte_
of so many of her sisters of song and dance. And she had forgotten him. He
shrugged philosophic shoulders. After all, why should she trouble herself
further with so dull a dog? Man-like he did not realize the difficulties
that beset even a sagacious-headed daughter of song and dance in the matter
of literary composition, and the temptation to postpone from day to day the
grappling with them, until the original impulse has spent itself through
sheer procrastination. It is all very well to say that a letter is an easy
thing to write, when letter-writing is a daily habit and you have writing
materials and table all comfortably to hand. But when, like Elodie, you
would have to go into a shop and buy a bottle of ink and a pen and paper
and envelopes and take them up to a tiny hotel bedroom shared with an
untidy, space-usurping colleague, or when you would have to sit at a cafe
table and write under the eyes of a not the least little bit discreet
companion--for even the emancipated daughters of song and dance cannot, in
modesty, show themselves at cafes alone; or when you have to stand up in a
post office--and then there is the paper and envelope difficulty--with a
furious person behind you who wants to send a telegram--Elodie's invariable
habit when she corresponded, on the back of a picture post card, with
her mother; when, in fact, you have before you the unprecedented task of
writing a letter--picture post cards being out of the question--and a
letter whose flawlessness of expression is prescribed by your vanity, or
better by your nice little self-esteem, and you are confronted by such
conditions as are above catalogued, human frailty may be pardoned for
giving it up in despair.
With this apologia for Elodie's unresponsiveness, conscientiously recorded
later by Andrew Lackaday, we will now proceed. The fact remains that they
faded pleasantly and even regretlessly from each other's lives.
There now follow some years, in Lackaday's career, of high endeavour
and fierce struggle. He has taken to heart Elodie's suggestion of the
exploitation of his physical idiosyncracy. He seeks for a formula. In the
meanwhile he gains his livelihood as he can. His powers of mimicry stand
him in good stead. In the outlying cafe-concerts of Paris, unknown to
fashion or the foreigner, he gives imitations of popular idols from Le
Bargy to Polin. But the Ambassadeurs, and the Alcazar d'Ete and the Folies
Marigny and Olympia and such-like stages where fame and fortune are to be
found, will have none of him. Paris, too, gets on his vagabond nerves.
But what is the good of presenting the unsophisticated public of Brest or
Beziers with an imitation of Monsieur le Bargy? As well give them lectures
Sometimes he escapes from mimicry. He conjures, he juggles, he plays
selections from Carmen and Cavaleria Rusticana on a fiddle made out of
a cigar box and a broom-handle. The Provinces accept him with mild
approbation. He tries Paris, the Paris of Menilmontant and the Outer
Boulevards; but Paris, not being amused, prefers his mimicry. He is alone,
mind you. No more Coincon combinations. If he is to be insulted, let the
audience do it, or the vulgar theatre management; not his brother artists.
Away from his imitations he tries to make the most of his grotesque figure.
He invents eccentric costumes; his sleeves reach no further than just
below his elbows, his trouser hems flick his calves; he wears, inveterate
tradition of the circus clown, a ridiculously little hard felt hat on the
top of his shock of carroty hair. He paints his nose red and extends his
grin from ear to ear. He racks his brain to invent novelties in manual
dexterity. For hours a day in his modest _chambre garnie_ in the
Faubourg Saint Denis he practises his tricks. On the dissolution of the
Cirque Rocambeau, where as "Auguste" he had been practically anonymous, he
had unimaginatively adopted the professional name of Andrew-Andre. He is
still Andrew-Andre. There is not much magic about it on a programme. But,
_que voulez-vous?_ It is as effective as many another.
During this period we see him a serious youth, absorbed in his profession,
striving towards success, not for the sake of its rewards in luxurious
living, but for the stamp that it gives to efficiency. The famous
mountebank of Notre Dame did not juggle with greater fervour. Here and
there a woman crosses his path, lingers a little and goes her way. Not
that he is insensible to female charms, for he upbraids himself for
over-susceptibility. But it seems that from the atavistic source whence
he inherited his beautiful hands, there survived in him an instinct which
craved in woman the indefinable quality that he could never meet, the
quality which was common to Melisande and Phedre and Rosalind and Fedora
and the child-wife of David Copperfield. It is, as I have indicated, the
ladies who bid him _bonsoir_. Sometimes he mourns for a day or two,
more often he laughs, welcoming regained freedom. None touches his heart.
Of men, he has acquaintances in plenty, with whom he lives on terms of good
comradeship; but he has scarcely an intimate.
At last he makes a friend--an Englishman, Horatio Bakkus; and this
friendship marks a turning-point in his history.
They met at a cafe-concert in Montmartre, which, like many of its kind, had
an ephemeral existence--the nearest, incidentally, to the real Paris to
which Andrew Lackaday had attained. It tried to appeal to a catholicity of
tastes; to outdo its rivals inscabrousness--did not Farandol and Lizette
Blandy make their names there?--and at the same time to offer to the
purer-minded an innocent entertainment. To the latter both Lackaday,
with his imitations, and Horatio Bakkus, with his sentimental ballads,
contributed. Somehow the mixture failed to please. The one part scared
the virtuous, at the other the deboshed yawned. _La Boite Blanche_
perished of inanition. But during its continuance, Lackaday and Bakkus had
a month's profitable engagement.
They bumped into each other, on their first night, at the stage-door. Each
politely gave way to the other. They walked on together and turned down the
Rue Pigalle and, striking off, reached the Grands Boulevards. The Brasserie
Tourtel enticed them. They entered and sat down to a modest supper,
sandwiches and brown beer.
"I wish," said Andrew, "you would do me the pleasure to speak English with
"Why?" cried the other. "Is my French so villainous?"
"By no means," said Andrew, "but I am an Englishman."
"Then how the devil do you manage to talk both languages like a Frenchman?"
"Why? Is my English then so villainous?"
He mimicked him perfectly. Horatio Bakkus laughed.
"Young man," said he, "I wish I had your gift."
"And I yours."
"It's the rottenest gift a man can be born with," cried Bakkus with
startling vindictiveness. "It turns him into an idle, sentimental,
hypocritical and dissolute hound. If I hadn't been cursed young with a
voice like a Cherub, I should possibly be on the same affable terms with
the Almighty as my brother, the Archdeacon, or profitably paralysing the
intellects of the young like my brother, the preparatory schoolmaster."
He was a lean and rusty man of forty, with long black hair brushed back
over his forehead, and cadaverous cheeks and long upper lip which all the
shaving in the world could not redeem for the blue shade of the strong
black beard which at midnight showed almost black. But for his black,
mocking eyes, he might have been taken for the seedy provincial tragedian
of the old school.
"Young man----" said he.
"My name," said Andrew, "is Lackaday."
"And you don't like people to be familiar and take liberties."
Andrew met the ironical glance. "That is so," said he quietly.
"Then, Mr. Lackaday----"
"You can omit the 'Mr.,'" said Andrew, "if you care to do so."
"You're more English than I thought," smiled Horatio Bakkus.
"I'm proud that you should say so," replied Andrew.
"I was about to remark," said Bakkus, "when you interrupted me, that I
wondered why a young Englishman of obviously decent upbringing should be
pursuing this contemptible form of livelihood."
"I beg your pardon," said Andrew, pausing in the act of conveying to his
mouth a morsel of sandwich. He was puzzled; comrades down on their luck had
cursed the profession for a _sale metier_ and had wished they were
road sweepers; but he had never heard it called contemptible. It was a
totally new conception.
Bakkus repeated his words and added: "It is below the dignity of one made
in God's image."
"I am afraid I do not agree with you," replied Andrew, stiffly. "I was born
in the profession and honourably bred in it and I have known no other and
do not wish to know any other."
"You were born an imitator? It seems rather a narrow scheme of life."
"I was born in a circus, and whatever there could be learned in a circus I
was taught. And it was, as you have guessed, a decent upbringing. By Gum,
it was!" he added, with sudden heat.
"And you're proud of it?"
"I don't see that I've got anything else to be proud of," said Andrew.
"And you must be proud of something?"
"If not you had better be dead," said Andrew.
"Ah!" said Bakkus, and went on with his supper.
Andrew, who had hitherto held himself on the defensive against
impertinence, and was disposed to dislike the cynical attitude of his new
acquaintance, felt himself suddenly disarmed by this "Ah!" Perhaps he had
dealt too cruel a blow at the disillusioned owner of the pretty little
tenor voice in which he could not take very much pride. Bakkus broke a
silence by remarking:
"I envy you your young enthusiasm. You don't think it better we were all
"I should think not!" cried Andrew.
"You say you know all that a circus can teach you. What does that mean? You
can ride bare back and jump through hoops?"
"I learned to do that--for Clown's business," replied Andrew. "But that's
no good to me now. I am a professional juggler and conjurer and trick
musician. I'm also a bit of a gymnast and sufficient of a contortionist to
do eccentric dancing."
Bakkus took a sip of beer, and regarded him with his mocking eyes.
"And you'd sooner keep on throwing up three balls in the air for the rest
of your natural life than just be comfortably dead? I should like to know
your ideas on the point. What's the good of it all? Supposing you're the
most wonderful expert that ever lived--supposing you could keep up fifty
balls in the air at the same time, and could balance fifty billiard cues,
one on top of another, on your nose--what's the good of it?"
Andrew rubbed his head. Such problems had never occurred to him. Old Ben
Flint's philosophy pounded into him, at times literally with a solid and
well-deserved paternal cuff, could be summed up in the eternal dictum:
"That which thou hast to do, do it with all thy might." It was the
beginning and end of his rule of life. He looked not, nor thought of
looking, further. And now came this Schopenhaurian with his question.
"What's the good of it?"
"I suppose I'm an artist, in my way," he replied, modestly.
"Artist?" Bakkus laughed derisively. "Pardon me, but you don't know what
the word means. An artist interprets nature in concrete terms of emotion,
in words, in colour, in sound, in stone--I don't say that he deserves to
live. I could prove to you, if I had time, that Michael Angelo and Dante
and Beethoven were the curses of humanity. Much better dead. But, anyhow,
they were artists. Even I with my tinpot voice singing 'Annie Laurie' and
'The Sands of Dee' and such-like clap-trap which brings a lump in the
throat of the grocer and his wife, am an artist. But you, my dear
fellow--with your fifty billiard cues on top of your nose? There's a devil
of a lot of skill about it of course--but nothing artistic. It means
"Yet if I could perform the feat," said Andrew, "thousands and thousands of
people would come to see me; more likely a million."
"No doubt. But what would be the good of it, when you had done it and they
had seen it? Sheer waste of half your lifetime and a million hours on the
part of the public, which is over forty thousand days, which is over a
hundred years. Fancy a century of the world's energy wasted in seeing you
balance billiard cues on the end of your nose!"
Andrew reflected for a long time, his elbow on the cafe table, his hand
covering his eyes. There must surely be some fallacy in this remorseless
argument which reduced his life's work to almost criminal futility. At last
light reached him. He held out his other hand and raised his head.
"_Attendez_. I must say in French what has come into my mind. Surely
I am an artist according to your definition. I interpret nature, the
marvellous human mechanism in terms of emotion--the emotion of wonder. The
balance of fifty billiard cues gives the million people the same catch at
the throat as the song or the picture, and they lose themselves for an hour
in a new revelation of the possibilities of existence, and so I save the
world a hundred years of the sorrow and care of life."
Bakkus looked at him approvingly. "Good," said he. "Very good. Thank God,
I've at last come across a man with a brain that isn't atrophied for want
of use. I love talking for talking's sake--good talk--don't you?"
"I cannot say that I do," replied Andrew honestly, "I have never thought of
"But you must, my dear Lackaday. You have no idea how it stimulates your
intellect. It crystallizes your own vague ideas and sends you away with the
comforting conviction of what a damned fool the other fellow is. It's the
cheapest recreation in the world--when you can get it. And it doesn't
matter whether you're in purple and fine linen or in rags or in the greasy
dress-suit of a cafe-concert singer." He beckoned the waiter. "Shall we
They parted outside and went their respective ways. The next night they
again supped together, and the night after that, until it became a habit.
In his long talks with the idle and cynical tenor, Andrew learned many
Now, parenthetically, certain facts in the previous career of Andrew
Lackaday have to be noted.
Madame Flint had brought him up nominally in the Roman Catholic Faith,
which owing to his peripatetic existence was a very nebulous affair without
much real meaning; and Ben Flint, taking more pains, had reared him in
a sturdy Lancashire Fear of God and Duty towards his Neighbour and Duty
towards himself, and had given him the Golden Rule above mentioned. Ben had
also seen to his elementary education, so that the _regime du participe
passe_ had no difficulties for him, and Racine and Bossuet were not
empty names, seeing that he had learned by heart extracts from the writings
of these immortals in his school primer. That they conveyed little to him
but a sense of paralysing boredom is neither here nor there. And Ben Flint,
most worthy and pertinacious of Britons, for the fourteen impressionable
years during which he was the arbiter of young Andrew's destiny, never for
an hour allowed him to forget that he was an Englishman. That Andrew should
talk French, his stepmother tongue, to all the outside world was a matter
of necessity. But if he addressed a word of French to him, Ben Flint, there
was the devil to pay. And if he picked up from the English stable hands
vulgarisms and debased vowel sounds, Ben Flint had the genius to compel
"My father," writes Lackaday--for as such he always regarded Ben
Flint--"was the most remarkable man I have ever known. That he loved me
with his whole nature I never doubted and I worshipped the ground on which
he trod. But he was remorseless in his enforcement of obedience. Looking
back, I am lost in wonder at his achievement."
Still, even Ben Flint could not do everything. The eternal precepts of
morality, the colloquial practice of English speech, the ineradicable
principles of English birth and patriotism, the elementary though thorough
French education, the intensive physical training in all phases of circus
life, took every hour that Ben Flint could spare from his strenuous
professional career as a vagabond circus clown. I who knew Ben Flint, and
drank of his wisdom gained in many lands, have been disposed to wonder why
he did not empty it to broaden the intellectual and aesthetic horizon of his
adopted son. But on thinking over the matter--how could he? He had spent
all his time in filling up the boy with essentials. Just at that time when
Andrew might have profited by the strong, rough intellectuality that had
so greatly attracted me as a young man, Ben Flint died. In the realm of
gymnasts, jugglers, circus-riders, dancers in which Andrew had thence found
his being, there was no one to replace the mellow old English clown, who
travelled around with Sterne and Montaigne and Shakespeare and Bunyan and
the Bible, as the only books of his permanent library. Such knowledge as
he possessed of the myriad activities of the great world outside his
professional circle he had picked up in aimless and desultory reading.
In Horatio Bakkus, therefore, Andrew met for the first time a human being
interested in the intellectual aspect of life; one who advanced outrageous
propositions just for the joy of supporting them and of refuting
counter-arguments; one, in fact, who, to his initial amazement,
could juggle with ideas as he juggled with concrete objects. In this
companionship he found an unknown stimulus. He would bid his friend adieu
and go away, his brain catching feverishly at elusive theories and new
conceptions. Sometimes he went off thrilled with a sense of intellectual
triumph. He had beaten his adversary. He had maintained his simple moral
faith against ingenious sophistry. He realized himself as a thinking being,
impelled by a new force to furnish himself with satisfying reasons for
conduct. It was through Horatio Bakkus that he discovered The Venus of Milo
and Marcus Aurelius and Longchamps races....
From the last he derived the most immediate benefit.
"If you've never been to a race-meeting," said Bakkus, "you've missed one
of the elementary opportunities of a liberal education. Nowhere else can
you have such a chance of studying human imbecility, knavery and greed. You
can also glut your eyes with the spectacle of useless men, expensive women,
and astounded, sensitive animals."
"I prefer," replied Andrew, with his wide grin, "to keep my faith in
mankind and horses."
"And I," said Bakkus, "love to realize myself for what I really am, an
imbecile, a knave, and a useless craver of money for which I've not had the
indignity of working. It soothes me to feel that for all my heritage of
culture I am nothing more or less than one of the rabble-rout. I've backed
horses ever since I was a boy and in my time I've had a pure delight in
pawning my underwear in order to do so."
"It seems to be the height of folly," said sober Andrew.
Bakkus regarded him with his melancholy mocking eyes.
"To paraphrase a remark of yours on the occasion of our first meeting--if a
man is not a fool in something he were better dead. At any rate let me show
you this fool's playground."
So Andrew assented. They went to Longchamps, humbly, on foot, mingling with
the Paris crowd. Bakkus wore a sun-stained brown and white check suit and
an old grey bowler hat and carried a pair of racing-glasses slung across
his shoulders, all of which transformed his aspect from that, in evening
dress, of the broken old tragedian to that of the bookmaker's tout rejected
of honest bookmaking men. As for Andrew, he made no change in his ordinary
modest ill-fitting tweeds, of which the sleeves were never long enough; and
his long red neck mounted high above the white of his collar and his straw
hat was, as usual, clamped on the carroty thatch of his hair. For them no
tickets for stands, lawn or enclosure. The far off gaily dressed crowd in
these exclusive demesnes shimmered before Andrew's vision as remote as some
radiant planetary choir. The stir on the field, however, excited him. The
sun shone through a clear air on this late meeting of the season, investing
it with an air of innocent holiday gaiety which stultified Bakkus's bleak
description. And Andrew's great height overtopping the crowd afforded him a
fair view of the course.
Bakkus came steeped in horse-lore and confidently prophetic. To the
admiration of Andrew he ran through the entries for each race, analysing
their histories, summarizing their form, and picking out dead certainties
with an esoteric knowledge derived from dark and mysterious sources. Andrew
followed him to the booths of the _Pari Mutuel_, and betting his
modest five franc piece, on each of the first two events, found Bakkus
infallible. But on looking down the list of entries for the great race of
the day he was startled to find a name which he had only once met with
before and which he had all but forgotten. It was "Elodie."
"My friend," said Bakkus, "now is the time to make a bold bid for a sure
fortune. There is a horse called Goffredo who is quoted in the sacred inner
ring of those that know at 8 to 1. I have information withheld from this
boor rabble, that he will win, and that he will come out at about 15 to 1.
I shall therefore invest my five louis in the certain hope of seventy-five
beautiful golden coins clinking into my hand. Come thou and do likewise."
"I'm going to back Elodie," said Andrew.
Bakkus stared at him. "Elodie--that ambulatory assemblage of cat's meat!
Why she has never been placed in a race in her life. Look at her." He
pulled Andrew as near the railings as they could get and soon picked her
out of the eight or nine cantering down the straight--a sleek, mild,
contented bay whose ambling gentleness was greeted with a murmur of
derision. "Did you ever see such a cow?"
"I like the look of her," said Andrew.
"Why--in the name of----"
"She looks as if she would be kind to children," replied Andrew.
They rushed quickly to the _Pari Mutuel_. Bakkus paid his five louis
for his Goffredo ticket. He turned to seek Andrew, but Andrew had gone. In
a moment or two they met among the scurrying swarm about the booths.
"What have you done?"
"I've put a louis on Elodie," said Andrew.
"The next time I want to give you a happy day I'll take you to the Young
Men's Christian Association," said Bakkus witheringly.
"Let us see the race," said Andrew.
They paid a franc apiece for a stand on a bench and watched as much of the
race as they could see. And Bakkus forgot to share his glasses with Andrew,
who caught now and then an uncomprehending sight of coloured dots on moving
objects and gaped in equally uncomprehensible bewilderment when the racing
streak flashed home up the straight. A strange cry, not of gladness but
of wonder, burst from the great crowd. Andrew turned to Bakkus, who, with
glasses lowered, was looking at him with hollow eyes from which the mockery
"What's the matter?" asked Andrew.
"The matter? Your running nightmare has won. Why the devil couldn't you
have given me the tip? You must have known something. No one could play
such a game without knowing. It's damned unfriendly."
"Believe me, I had no tip," Andrew protested. "I never heard of the beast
"Then why the blazes did you pick her out?"
"Ah!" said Andrew. Then realizing that his philosophical and paradoxical
friend was in sordid earnest he said mildly:
"There was a girl of that name who once brought me good luck."
The gambler, alive to superstitious intuitions, repented immediately of his
"That's worth all the tips in the world. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I don't wear my heart upon my sleeve," replied Andrew.
So peace was made. They joined the thin crowd round their booth of the
_Pari Mutuel_, mainly composed of place winners, and when the placards
of the odds went up, Bakkus gripped his companion's arm.
"My God! A hundred and three to one. Why didn't you plank on your last
"I'm very well content with two thousand francs," said Andrew. "It's
something against a rainy day."
They reached the _guichet_ and Andrew drew his money.
"Suppose the impossible animal hadn't won--you would have been rather
"No," Andrew replied, after a moment's thought. "I should have regarded my
louis as a tribute to the memory of one who did me a great service."
"I believe," said Bakkus, "that if I could only turn sentimentalist, I
should make my fortune."
"Let us go and find a drink," said Andrew.
For the second time Elodie brought him luck. This time in the shape of a
hundred and three louis, a goodly sum when one has to live from hand to
mouth. And the time came, at the end of their engagement at _La Boite
Blanche_, when they lost even that precarious method of existence.
For the first time in his life Andrew spent a month in vain search for
employment. Dead season Paris had more variety artists than it knew what to
do with. The provinces, so the rehabilitated Moignon and his confreres, the
other agents, declared, in terms varying from apologetic stupor to frank
brutality, had no use for Andrew-Andre and his unique entertainment.
"But what shall I do?" asked the anxious Andre.
"Wait, _mon cher_, we shall soon well arrange it," said Moignon.
"?" pantomimed the other agents, with shrugged shoulders and helplessly
And it happened too that Bakkus, the sweet ballad-monger, found himself on
the same rocks of unemployment.
"I have," said he, one evening, when the stranded pair were sitting
outside a horrid little liquor retreat with a zinc bar in the Faubourg
Saint-Denis--the luxury of _consommations_ at sixty centimes on the
Grands Boulevards had faded from their dreams--"I have, my dear friend,
just enough to carry me on for a fortnight."
"And I too," said Andrew.
"But your hundred louis at Longchamps?"
"They're put away," said Andrew.
"Thank God," said Bakkus.
Andrew detected a lack of altruism in the pious note of praise. He did not
love Bakkus to such a pitch of brotherly affection as would warrant his
relieving him of responsibility for self support. He had already fed Bakkus
for three days.
"They're put away," he repeated.
"Bring them out of darkness into the light of day," said Bakkus. "What are
talents in a napkin? You are a capitalist--I am a man with ideas. May I
order another of this _mastroquet's_ bowel-gripping absinthes in order
to expound a scheme? Thank you, my dear Lackaday. _Oui, encore une_.
Tell me have you ever been to England?"
"No," said Lackaday.
"Have you ever heard of Pierrots?"
"On the stage--masked balls--yes."
"But real Pierrots who make money?"
"In England? What do you mean?"
"There is in England a blatant, vulgar, unimaginative, hideous institution
known as the Seaside."
"Well?" said Andrew.
The dingy proprietor of the "Zingue" brought out the absinthe. Bakkus
arranged the perforated spoon, carrying its lump of sugar over the glass
and began to drop the water from the decanter.
"If you will bear with me for a minute or two, until the sugar's melted,
I'll tell you all about it."
It was a successful combination. Bakkus sang his ballads and an occasional
humorous song of the moment to Andrew's accompaniment on mandolin or
one-stringed violin, and Andrew conjured and juggled comically, using
Bakkus as his dull-witted foil. A complete little performance, the patter
and business artistically thought out and perfectly rehearsed. They wore
the conventional Pierrot costume with whited faces and black skull caps.
Bakkus, familiar with English customs, had undertaken to attend to the
business side of their establishment on the sands of the great West Coast
resort, Andrew providing the capital out of his famous hundred louis. But
it came almost imperceptibly to pass that Andrew made all the arrangements,
drove the bargains and kept an accurate account of their varying finances.
"You'll never be a soldier of fortune, my dear fellow," said Bakkus once,
when, returning homewards, he had wished to dip his hand into the leather
bag containing the day's takings in order to supply himself lavishly with
"It's the very last thing I want to be," replied Andrew, hugging the bag
tight under his long arm.
"You're bourgeois to your finger-tips, your ideal of happiness is a meek
female in a parlour and half a dozen food-sodden brats."
Andrew hunched his shoulders good-naturedly at the taunt. A home, and wife
and offspring seemed rather desirable of attainment.
"You've lots of money in your pocket to pay for a drink," said he. "It's
mere perversity that makes you want to touch the takings. We haven't
"Perversity is the only thing that makes this rotten life worth living,"
It was his perversity, thus exemplified, which compelled Andrew to
constitute himself the business manager of the firm. He had a sedate,
inexorable way with him, a grotesque dignity, to which, for all his gibes,
Bakkus instinctively submitted. Bakkus might provide ideas, but it was the
lank and youthful Andrew who saw to their rigid execution.
"You've no more soul than a Prussian drill sergeant," Bakkus would say.
"And you've no more notion of business than a Swiss Admiral," Andrew would
"Who invented this elegant and disgustingly humiliating entertainment?"
Andrew would laugh and give him all the credit. But when Bakkus, in the
morning, clamouring against insane punctuality, and demanding another
hour's sloth, refused to leave his bed, he came up against an
incomprehensible force, and, entirely against his will, found himself on
the stroke of eleven ready to begin the performance on the sands. Sometimes
he felt an almost irresistible desire to kick Andrew, so mild and gentle,
with his eternal idiotic grin; but he knew in his heart that Andrew was not
one of the idiots whom people kicked with impunity. He lashed him, instead,
with his tongue, which Andrew, within limits, did not mind a bit. To
Bakkus, however, Andrew owed the conception of their adventure. He also
owed to him the name of the combination, and also the name which was to be
professionally his for the rest of his stage career.
It all proceeded from the miraculous winning of the mare Elodie. Bakkus had
made some indiscreet remark concerning her namesake. Andrew, quick in his
dignity, had made a curt answer. Ironical Bakkus began to hum the old
_Il etait une bergere
Et ron, ron, ron, petit patapon_.
Suddenly he stopped.
"By George! I have it! The names that will _epater_ the English
bourgeois. Ron-ron-ron and Petit Patapon. I'll be Ron-ron-ron and you'll be
dear little Patapon."
As the English seaside public, however, when he came to think of it, have
never heard of the shepherdess who guarded her muttons and still less of
the refrain which illustrated her history, he realized that the names as
they stood would be ineffective. Ron-ron and Patapon therefore would they
be. But Andrew, remembering Elodie's wise counsel, stuck to the "petit."
His French instinct guiding him, he rejected Patapon. Bakkus found Ron-ron
an unmeaning appellation. At last they settled it. They printed it out in
THE GREAT PATAPON AND LITTLE PATOU
So it came to pass that a board thus inscribed in front of their simple
installation on the sands advertised their presence.
Now, Lackaday in his manuscript relates this English episode, not so much
as an appeal to pity for the straits to which he was reduced, although he
winces at its precarious mountebankery, and his sensitive and respectable
soul revolts at going round with the mendicant's hat and thanking old women
and children for pennies, as in order to correlate certain influences and
coincidences in his career. Elodie seems to haunt him. So he narrates what
seems to be another trivial incident.
Andrew was a lusty swimmer. In the old circus summer days Ben Flint had
seen to that. Whenever the Cirque Rocambeau pitched its tent by sea or
lake, Ben Flint threw young Andrew into the water. So now every morning,
before the world was awake, did Andrew go down to the sea. Once, a week
after their arrival, did he, by some magnetic power, drag the protesting
Bakkus from his bed and march him down, from the modest lodgings in a
by-street, to the sea front and the bathing-machines. Magnetic force may
bring a man to the water, but it can't make him go in. Bakkus looked at the
cold grey water--it was a cloudy morning--took counsel with himself and,
sitting on the sands, refused to budge from the lesser misery of the windy
shore. He smoked the pipe of disquiet on an empty stomach for the half-hour
during which Andrew expended unnecessary effort in progressing through many
miles in an element alien to man. In the cold and sickly wretchedness of a
cutting wind, he cursed Andrew with erudite elaboration. But when Andrew
eventually landed, his dripping bathing-suit clinging close to his gigantic
and bony figure, appearing to derisive eyes like the skin covered fossil of
a prehistoric monster of a man, his bushy hair clotted, like ruddy seaweed,
over his staring, ugly face, Bakkus forgot his woes and rolled on his back
convulsed with vulgar but inextinguishable laughter.
"My God!" he cried later, when summoned by an angry Andrew to explain his
impolite hilarity. "You're the funniest thing on the earth. Why hide the
light of your frame under a bushel of clothing? My dear boy, I'm talking
sense"--this was at a hitherto unfriendly breakfast-table--"You've got
an extraordinary physique. If I laughed, like a rude beast, for which I
apologize, the public would laugh. There's money in it. Skin tights and
your hair made use of, why--you've got 'em laughing before you even begin
a bit of business. Why the devil don't you take advantage of your physical
peculiarities? Look here, don't get cross. This is what I mean."
He pulled out a pencil and, pushing aside plates and dishes, began to
sketch on the table-cloth with his superficial artistic facility. Andrew
watched him, the frown of anger giving way to the knitted brow of interest.
As the drawing reached completion, he thought again of Elodie and her sage
counsel. Was this her mental conception which he had been striving for
years to realize? He did not find the ideal incongruous with his lingering
sense of romance. He could take a humorous view of anything but his
profession. That was sacred. Everything did he devote to it, from his soul
to his skinny legs and arms. So that, when Bakkus had finished, and leaned
back to admire his work, Andrew drew a deep breath, and his eyes shone as
if he had received an inspiration from on High. He saw himself as in an
There he was, self-exaggeratingly true to life, inordinately high,
inordinately thin, clad in tights that reached to a waistband beneath his
armpits giving him miraculous length of leg, a low-cut collar accentuating
his length of neck, his hair twisted up on end to a fine point.
"And I could pad the feet of the tights and wear high heels that would
give me another couple of inches," he cried excitedly. "By Gum!" said he,
clutching Bakkus's shoulder, a rare act of demonstrativeness, "what a thing
it is to have imagination."
"Ah!" said Bakkus, "what a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How
infinite in faculty! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in
action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals!"
"What the devil do you mean?" asked Andrew.
Bakkus waved a hand towards the drawing.
"If only I had your application," said he, "I should make a great name as
an illustrator of Hamlet."
"One of these days," said Andrew, the frown of anger returning to his brow,
"I'll throw you out of the window."
"Provided it is not, as now, on the ground floor, you would be committing
an act of the loftiest altruism."
Andrew returned to his forgotten breakfast, and poured out a cup of tepid
"What would you suggest--just plain black or red--Mephisto--or stripes?"
He was full of the realization of the Elodesque idea. His brain became
a gushing fount of inspiration. Hundreds of grotesque possibilities of
business, hitherto rendered ineffective by flapping costume, appeared in
fascinating bubbles. He thought and spoke of nothing else.
"Once I denied you the rank of artist," said Bakkus. "I retract. I
apologize. No one but an artist would inflict on another human being such
"But it's your idea, bless you, which I'm carrying out, with all the
gratitude in the world."
"If you want to reap the tortures of the damned," retorted Bakkus, "just
you be a benefactor."
Andrew shrugged his shoulders. That was the way of Horatio Bakkus, perhaps
the first of his fellow-creatures whom he had deliberately set out to
study, for hitherto he had met only simple folk, good men and true or
uncomplicated fools and knaves, and the paradoxical humour of his friend
had been a puzzling novelty demanding comprehension; the first, therefore,
who put him on the track of the observation of the twists of human
character and the knowledge of men. That was the way of Bakkus. An idea was
but a toy which he tired of like a child and impatiently broke to bits.
Only a week before he had come to Andrew:
"My dear fellow, I've got a song. I'm going to write it, set it and sing it
myself. It begins:--
_I crept into the halls of sleep
And watched the dreams go by._
I'll give you the accompaniment in a day or two and we'll try it on the
dog. It's a damned sight too good for them--but no matter."
Andrew was interested. The lines had a little touch of poetry. He refrained
for some time from breaking through the gossamer web of the poet's fancy.
At last, however, as he heard nothing further, he made delicate enquiries.
"Song?" cried Bakkus. "What song? That meaningless bit of moonshine
ineptitude I quoted the other day? I have far more use for my intellect
than degrading it to such criminal prostitution."
Yes, he was beginning to know his Bakkus. His absorption in his new
character was not entirely egotistic. Both his own intelligence and his
professional experience told him that here, as he had worked out-the
business in his mind, was an entirely novel attraction. In his young
enthusiasm he saw hundreds crowding round the pitch on the sands. It was as
much to Bakkus's interest as to his own that the new show should succeed.
And even before he had procured the costume from Covent Garden, Bakkus
professed intolerable boredom. He shrugged his shoulders. Bored or not,
Bakkus should go through with it. So again under the younger man's
leadership Bakkus led the strenuous life of rehearsal.
It took quite a day for their fame to spread. On the second day they
attracted crowds. Money poured in upon them. Little Patou, like a
double-tailed serpent rearing himself upright on his tail tips, appeared
at first a creature remote, of some antediluvian race--until he talked
a familiar, disarming patter with his human, disarming grin. The Great
Patapon, contrary to jealous anticipation, saw himself welcomed as a
contrast and received more than his usual meed of applause. This satisfied,
for the time, his singer's vanity which he professed so greatly to despise.
They entered on a spell of halcyon days.
The brilliant sunny season petered out in hopeless September, raw and
chill. A week had passed without the possibility of an audience. Said
"Of all the loathsome spots in a noisome universe this is the most
purulent. In order to keep up our rudimentary self-respect we have done
our best to veil our personal identity as images of the Almighty from the
higher promenades of the vulgar. Our sole associates have been the blatant
frequenters of evil smelling bars. We've not exchanged a word with a
creature approaching our intellectual calibre. I am beginning to conceive
for you the bitter hatred that one of a pair of castaways has for the
other; and you must regard me with feelings of equal abhorrence."
"By no means," replied Andrew. "You provide me with occupation, and that
As the occupation for the dismal week had mainly consisted in dragging a
cursing Bakkus away from public-house whisky on damp and detested walks,
and in imperturbably manoeuvring him out of an idle--and potentially
vicious--intrigue with the landlady's pretty and rather silly daughter, his
reply brought a tragic scowl to Bakkus's face.
"There are times when I lie awake, inventing lingering deaths for you. You
occupy yourself too much with my affairs. It's time our partnership in this
degrading mountebankery should cease."
"Until it does, it's going to be efficient," said Andrew. "It's a come down
for both of us to play on the sands and pass the hat round. I hate it as
much as you do, but we've done it honourably and decently--and we'll end up
in the same way."
"We end now," said Bakkus, staring out of their cheap lodging house
sitting-room window at the dismal rain that veiled the row of cheap lodging
Andrew made a stride across the room, seized his shoulder and twisted him
"What about our bookings next month?"
For their success had brought them an offer of a month certain from a
northern Palladium syndicate, with prospects of an extended tour.
"Dust and ashes," said Bakkus.
"You may be dust," cried Andrew hotly, "but I'm damned if I'm ashes."
Bakkus bit and lighted a cheap cigar and threw himself on the dilapidated
sofa. "No, my dear fellow, if it comes to that, I'm the ashes. Dead! With
never a recrudescent Phoenix to rise up out of them. You're the dust, the
merry sport of the winds of heaven."
"Don't talk foolishness," said Andrew.
"Was there ever a man living who used his breath for any other purpose?"
"Then," said Andrew, "your talk about breaking up the partnership is mere
"It is and it isn't," replied Bakkus. "Although I hate you, I love you.
You'll find the same paradoxical sentimental relationship in most cases
between man and wife. I love you, and I wish you well, my dear boy. I
should like to see you Merry-Andrew yourself to the top of the Merry-Andrew
tree. But for insisting on my accompanying you on that uncomfortable and
strenuous ascent, without very much glory to myself, I frankly detest you."
"That doesn't matter a bit to me," said Andrew. "You've got to carry out
Bakkus sighed. "Need I? What's a contract? I say I am willing to perform
vocal and other antics for so many shillings a week. When I come to think
of it, my soul revolts at the sale of itself for so many shillings a week
to perform actions utterly at variance with its aspirations. As a matter of
fact I am tired. Thanks to my brain and your physical cooperation, I have
my pockets full of money. I can afford a holiday. I long for bodily sloth,
for the ragged intellectual companionship that only Paris can give me, for
the resumption of study of the philosophy of the excellent Henri Bergson,
for the absinthe that brings forgetfulness, for the Tanagra figured,
broad-mouthed, snub-nosed shrew that fills every day with potential
"Oh that's it, is it?" cried Andrew, with a glare in his usually mild
eyes and his ugly jaw set. They had had many passages at arms. Bakkus's
sophistical rhetoric against Andrew's steady common sense; and they had
sharpened Andrew's wit. But never before had they come to a serious
quarrel. Feeling his power he had hitherto exercised it with humorous
effectiveness. But now the situation appeared entirely devoid of humour. He
was coldly and sternly angry.
"That's the beginning and end of the whole thing? It all comes down to a
worthless little Montmartroise? For a little thing of _rien du tout,_
the artist, the philosopher, the English public school man will throw over
his friend, his partner, his signed word, his honour? _Mon Dieu!_ Well
go--I can easily--No, I'll not say what I have in my mind."
Bakkus turned over on his side, facing his adversary, his under arm
outstretched, the cigar in his fingers.
"I love to see youth perspiring--especially with noble rage. It does it
good, discharges the black humours of the body. If I could perspire more
freely I should be singing in Grand Opera."
"You can break your contract and I'll do without you," cried the furious
"I'm not going to break the contract, my young friend," replied Bakkus,
peering at him through lowered eyelids. "When did I say such a thing? We
end the damp and dripping folly of the sands."
"We don't," said Andrew.
"As you will," said Bakkus. "Again I prophesy that you'll be drilling
awkward squads in barrack yards before you've done. It's all you're fit
Andrew smiled or grinned with closed lips. It was his grim smile, many
years afterwards to become familiar to larger bodies of men than awkward
squads. Once more he had won his little victory.
So peace was made. They finished up the miserable fag end of the season
and with modest success carried out their month's contract in the northern
towns. But even Andrew's drastic leadership could not prevail on Bakkus's
indolence to sign an extension. Montmartre called him. An engagement. He
also spoke vaguely of singing lessons. Now that Parisians had returned to
Paris, he could not afford to lose his connections. With cynical frankness
he also confessed his disinclination to be recognized in a music-hall Punch
and Judy show by his brother the Archdeacon.
"Archdeacons," said Andrew--he had a confused idea of their prelatical
status, "don't go to music-halls."
"They do in this country," said Bakkus. "They're everywhere. They infest
the air like microbes. You only have to open your mouth and you get your
lungs filled with them. It's a pestilential country and I've done with it."
"All right," replied Andrew, "I'll run the show on my own."
But the Palladium syndicate, willing to book "The Great Patapon and Little
Patou" for a further term, declined to rebook Little Patou by himself.
He returned to Paris, where he found Bakkus wallowing in absinthe and
"We might have made our fortune in England," said he.
Said Bakkus coolly sipping his absinthe, "I have no desire to make my
fortune. Have you?"
"I should like to make my name and a big position," replied Andrew.
"And I, my young friend? As the fag end of the comet's tail should I have
made my name and a big position? Ah egotist! Egotist! Sublime egotist! The
true artist using human souls as the rungs of his ladder! Well, go your
ways. I have no reproach against you. Now that I'm out of your barrack
square, my heart is overflowing with love for you. You have ever a friend
in Horatio Bakkus. When you fall on evil days and you haven't a sou in your
pocket, come to me--and you'll always find an inspiration."
"I wish you would give me one now," said Andrew, who had spent a fruitless
morning at the Agence Moignon.
"You want a foil, an intelligent creature who will play up to you--a
creature far more intelligent than I am. A dog. Buy a dog. A poodle."
"By Gum!" cried Andrew, "I believe you're right again."
"I'm never wrong," said Bakkus. "Garcon!" He summoned the waiter and waved
his hand towards the little accusing pile of saucers. "Monsieur always pays
for my inspirations."
We behold Petit Patou now definitely launched on his career. Why the
execution of Bakkus's (literally) cynical suggestion should have met with
instant success, neither he nor Andrew nor Prepimpin, the poodle, nor
anyone under heaven had the faintest idea. Perhaps Prepimpin had something
to do with it. He was young, excellently trained, and expensive. As to the
methods of his training Andrew made no enquiries. Better not. But, brought
up in the merciful school of Ben Flint, in which Billy the pig had many
successors, both porcine and canine, he had expert knowledge of what kind
firmness on the part of the master and sheer love on that of the animal
Prepimpin went through his repertoire with the punctilio of the barrack
square deprecated by Bakkus.
"I buy him," said Andrew. "_Viens, mon ami_."
Prepimpin cast an oblique glance at his old master.
"_Va-t-en_," said the latter.
"_Allons_" said Andrew with a caressing touch on the dog's head.
Prepimpin's topaz eyes gazed full into his new lord's. He wagged the tuft
at the end of his shaven tail. Andrew knelt down, planted his fingers in
the lion shagginess of mane above his ears and said in the French which
"We're going to be good friends, eh? You're not going to play me any dirty
tricks? You're going to be a good and very faithful colleague?"
"You mustn't spoil him," said the vendor, foreseeing, according to his
lights, possible future recriminations.
Andrew, still kneeling, loosed his hold on the dog, who forthwith put both
paws on his shoulder and tried to lick the averted human face.
"I've trained animals since I was two years old, Monsieur Berguinan. Please
tell me something that I don't know." He rose. "_Alors_, Prepimpin, we
belong to each other. _Viens_."
The dog followed him joyously. The miracle beyond human explanation was
accomplished, the love at first sight between man and dog.
Now, in the manuscript there is much about Prepimpin. Lackaday, generally
so precise, has let himself go over the love and intelligence of this most
human of animals. To read him you would think that Prepimpin invented his
own stage business and rehearsed Petit Patou. As a record of dog and man
sympathy it is of remarkable interest; it has indeed a touch of rare
beauty; but as it is a detailed history of Prepimpin rather than an account
of a phase in the career of Andrew Lackaday, I must wring my feelings and
do no more than make a passing reference to their long and, from my point
of view, somewhat monotonous partnership. It sheds, however, a light on
the young manhood of this earnest mountebank. It reveals a loneliness
ill-becoming his years--a loneliness of soul and heart of which he appears
to be unconscious. Again, we have here and there the fleeting shadow of a
petticoat. In Stockholm--during these years he went far afield--he fancies
himself in love with one Vera Karynska of vague Mid-European nationality,
who belongs to a troupe of acrobats. Vera has blue eyes, a deeply
sentimental nature, and, alas! an unsympathetic husband who, to Andrew's
young disgust depends on her for material support, seeing that every
evening he and various other brutes of the tribe form an inverted pyramid
with Vera's amazonian shoulders as the apex. He is making up a besotted
mind to say, "Fly with me," when the Karinski troupe vanishes Moscow-wards
and an inexorable contract drives him to Dantzic. In that ancient town,
looking into the faithful and ironical eyes of Prepimpin, he thanks God he
did not make a fool of himself.
You see, he succeeds. If you credited his modesty, you would think that
Prepimpin made Petit Patou. _Quod est absurdum_. But the psychological
fact remains that Andrew Lackaday needed some magnetic contact with another
individuality, animal or human, to exhibit his qualities. There, in
counselling splendid isolation, Elodie Figasso, the little Marseilles
gutter fairy was wrong. She saw, clearly enough, that, subordinated to
others, with no chance of developing his one personality he must fail.
But she did not perceive--and poor child, how could she?--that given the
dominating influence over any combination, even over one poodle dog, he
held the key of success.
So we see him, the born leader, unconscious of his powers for lack of
opportunity, instinctively craving their exercise for his own spiritual
and moral evolution, and employing them in the benign mastery of the dog
They were happy years of bourgeois vagabondage. At first he felt the young
artist's soreness that, with the exception of rare, sporadic engagements,
neither London nor Paris would have him. Once he appeared at the Empire,
in Leicester Square, an early turn, and kept on breaking bits of his heart
every day, for a week, when the curtain went down in the thin applause that
is worse than silence.
"Prepimpin felt it," he writes, "even more than I did. He would follow me
off, with his head bowed down and his tail-tuft sweeping the floor, so that
I could have wept over his humiliation."
Why the great capitals fail to be amused is a perpetual mystery to Andrew
Lackaday. Prepimpin and he give them the newest things they can think of.
After weeks and weeks of patient rehearsal, they bring a new trick to
perfection. It is the _clou_ of their performance for a week's
engagement at the Paris Folies-Bergere. After a conjuring act, he retires.
Comes on again immediately, Petit Patou, apparently seven foot high, in
the green silk tights reaching to the arm-pit waist, a low frill round his
neck, his hair up to a point, a perpetual grin painted on his face. On the
other side enters Prepimpin on hind legs, bearing an immense envelope.
Petit Patou opens it--shows the audience an invitation to a ball.
"Ah! dress me, Prepimpin."
The dog pulls a hidden string and Petit Patou is clad in a bottle green
dress-coat. Prepimpin barks and dances his delight.
"But _nom d'un chien_, I can't go to a ball without a hat."
Prepimpin bolts to the wings and returns with an opera hat.
"And a stick."
Prepimpin brings the stick.
"And a cigar."
Prepimpin rushes to a little table at the back of the stage and on his hind
legs offers a box of cigars to his master, who selects one and lights it.
He begins the old juggler's trick of the three objects. The dog sits on his
haunches and watches him. There is patter in which the audience is given
to understand that Prepimpin, who glances from time to time over the
footlights, with a shake of his leonine mane, is bored to death by his
master's idiocy. At last the hat descends on Petit Patou's head, the
crook-handled stick falls on his arm, and he looks about in a dazed way for
the cigar, and then he sees Prepimpin, who has caught it, swaggering off on
his hind legs, the still lighted cigar in his mouth.
"No," writes Lackaday, "it was a failure. Poor Prepimpin and I left Paris
with our tails between our legs. We were to start a tour at Bordeaux.
'_Mon pauvre ami_,' said I, on the journey--Prepimpin never suffered
the indignity of a dog cage--'There is only one thing to be done. It is you
who will be going to the ball and will juggle with the three objects, and
I who will catch the cigar in my mouth.' But it was not to be. At Bordeaux
and all through the tour we had a _succes fou_."
Thus Andrew washed his hands of Paris and London and going where he was
appreciated roved the world in quiet contentment. He was young, rather
scrupulously efficient within his limits, than ambitious, and of modest
wants, sober habits, and of a studious disposition which his friendship
with Horatio Bakkus had both awakened and stimulated. Homeless from birth
he never knew the nostalgia which grips even the most deliberately vagrant
of men. As his ultimate goal he had indeed a vague dream of a home with
wife and children--one of these days in the future, when he had put by
enough money to justify such luxuries. And then there was the wife to find.
In a wife sewing by lamp-light between a red-covered round table and
the fire, a flaxen haired cherub by her side--for so did his ingenuous
inexperience picture domestic happiness--he required the dominating
characteristic of angelic placidity. Perhaps his foster-mother and the
comfort Ben Flint found in her mild and phlegmatic devotion had something
to do with it.
In his manuscript he tries to explain--and flounders about in a
psychological bog--that his ideal woman and his ideal wife are two totally
different conceptions. The woman who could satisfy all his romantic
imaginings was the Princesse Lointaine--the Highest Common Factor of the
ladies I have already mentioned--Melisande, Phedre, Rosalind, Fedora, and
Dora Copperfield--it is at this stage that he mentions them by name, having
extended his literary horizon. Her he did not see sewing, in ox-eyed
serenity, by a round table covered with a red cloth. With Her it was a
totally different affair. It was a matter of spring and kisses and a
perfect spiritual companionship.... As I have said, he gets into a terrible
muddle. Anyhow, between the two conflicting ideals, he does not fall to the
ground of vulgar amours. At the risk of tedium I feel bound to insist on
this aspect of his life. For in the errant cosmopolitan world in which he,
irresponsible and now well salaried bachelor had his being, he was thrown
into the free and easy comradeship of hundreds of attractive women, as free
and irresponsible as himself. He lived in a sea of temptation. On the other
hand, I should be doing as virile a creature as ever walked a great wrong
if I presented him to you under the guise of a Joseph Andrews. He had his
laughter and his champagne and his kisses on the wing. But it was:
"We'll meet again one of these days."
"One of these days when our paths cross again."
And so--in effect--_Bon soir_.
It is difficult to compress into a page or two the history of several
years. But that is what I have to do.
He is not wandering all the time over France, or flashing meteor-like about
Europe. He has periods of repose, enforced and otherwise. But his position
being ensured, he has no anxieties. Paris is his headquarters. He lives
still in his old _hotel meuble_ in the Faubourg Saint-Denis. But
instead of one furnished room on the fifth floor, he can afford an
apartment, salon, salle a manger, bedrooms, cabinet de toilette, on the
prosperous second, which he retains all the year round. And Petit Patou can
now stride through the waiting crowd in Moignon's antechamber and enter the
sacred office, cigar in mouth, and with a "look here, _mon vieux_,"
put the fear of God into him. Petit Patou and Prepimpin, the idols of the
Provinces, have arrived.
In Paris, when their presences coincide, he continues to consort with
Bakkus, whose exquisite little tenor voice still affords him a means
of livelihood. In fact Bakkus has had a renewed lease of professional
activity. He sings at watering places, at palace hotels; which involves the
physical activity which he abhors.
"Bound to this Ixion wheel of perpetual motion," says he, "I suffer
tortures unimagined even by the High Gods. Compared with it our degrading
experience on the sands seven years ago was a blissful idyll."
"By Gum!" says Andrew, "seven years ago. Who would have thought it?"
"Yes, who?" scowled the pessimist, now getting grey and more gaunt of blue,
ill-shaven cheek. "To me it is seven aeons of Promethean damnation."
"To me it seems only yesterday," says Andrew.
"It's because you have no brain," says Bakkus.
But they are good friends. Away from Paris they carry on a fairly regular
correspondence. Such of Bakkus's letters as Lackaday has kept and as I have
read, are literary gems with--always--a perverse and wilful flaw ... like
the man's life.
* * * * *
From Paris, after this particular meeting with Bakkus, Andrew once more
goes on tour with Prepimpin. But a Prepimpin grown old, and, though
pathetically eager, already past effective work. Nine years of strenuous
toil are as much as any dog can stand. Rheumatism twinged the hind legs
of Prepimpin. Desire for slumber stupefied his sense of duty. He could no
longer catch the lighted cigar and swagger off with it in his mouth, across
"And yet, I'm sure," writes Lackaday, "that every time I cut his business,
it nearly broke his heart. And it had come to Prepimpin's business being
cut down to an insignificant minimum. I could, of course, have got another
dog. But it would have broken his heart altogether. And one doesn't
break the hearts of creatures like Prepimpin. I managed to arrange the
performance, at last, so that he should think he was doing a devil of a
Then the end came. It was on the Bridge of Avignon, which, if you will
remember, Lackaday superstitiously regards as a spot fraught with his
Fate had not taken him to the town since his last disastrous appearance. No
one recognized in the Petit Patou of provincial fame the lank failure
of many years ago. Besides, this time, he played not at the wretched
music-hall without the walls, but at the splendid Palace of Varieties in
the Boulevard de la Gare. He was a star--_en vedette_, and he had
a dressing-room to himself. He stayed at the Hotel d'Europe, the famous
hostelry by the great entrance gates. To avoid complication, he went
everywhere now as Monsieur Patou. Folks passing by the open courtyard of
the hotel where he might be taking the air, pointed him out to one another.
"_Le voila--Petit Patou_"
It was in the middle of his week's engagement--once more in summer time. He
lunched, saw to Prepimpin's meal, smoked the cheap cigar of content, and
then, crossing the noisy little flagged square, went through the gates,
Prepimpin at his heels, and made his way across the dusty road to the
bridge. The work-a-day folk, on that week-day afternoon, had all returned
to their hives in the town, and the pathways of the bridge contained but
In the roadway, too, there was but lazy life, an occasional omnibus, the
queer old diligence of Provence with its great covered hood in the midst of
which sat the driver amid a cluster of peasants, hidden like the queen bee
by the swarm, a bullock cart bringing hay into the city, a tradesman's
cart, a lumbering wine waggon, with its three great white horses and great
barrels. Nothing hurried in the hot sunshine. The Rhone, very low, flowed
sluggishly. Only now and then did a screeching, dust-whirling projectile of
a motor-car hurl itself across this bridge of drowsy leisure.
Andrew leaned over the parapet, finding rest in a mild melancholy, his
thoughts chiefly occupied with the decay of Prepimpin who sat by his heels
gazing at the roadway, occupied possibly by the same sere reflections.
Presently the flea-catching antics of a ragged mongrel in the middle of the
roadway disturbed Prepimpin's sense of the afternoon's decorum. He rose
and with stiff dignity stalked towards him. He stood nose to nose with the
mongrel, his tufted tail in straight defiance up in the air.
Then suddenly there was a rush and a roar and a yell of voices--and the
scrunch of swiftly applied brakes. Andrew turned round and saw a great
touring car filled with men and women--and the men were jumping out. And
he saw a mongrel dog racing away for dear life. And then at last he saw a
black mass stretched upon the ground. With horror in his heart he rushed
and threw himself down by the dog's body. He was dead. He had solved the
problem--_solverat ambulando_. Andrew heard English voices around him;
he raised a ghastly face.
"You brutes, you have killed my dog."
He scarcely heard the explanations, the apologies. The dog seeing the car
far off, had cleared himself. Then without warning he had flung himself
suicidally in the path of the car. What could they do now by way of amends?
The leader of the little company of tourists, a clean-shaven, florid
man, obviously well bred and greatly distressed, drew a card from his
"I am staying a couple of days at the Hotel Luxembourg at Nimes--I know
that nothing can pay for a dog one loves--but--"
"Oh, no, no, no," said Andrew waving aside the card.
"Can we take the dog anywhere for you?"
"You're very kind," said Andrew, "but the kindest thing is to leave me
He bent down again and took Prepimpin in his arms and strode with him
through the group of motorists and the little clamouring crowd that had
gathered round. One of the former, a girl in a blue motor veil, ran after
him and touched his arm. Her eyes were full of tears.
"It breaks my heart to see you like that. Oh can't I do anything for you?"
Andrew looked at her. Through all his stunning grief he had a dim vision of
the Princesse Lointaine. He said in an uncertain voice:
"You have given me your very sweet sympathy. You can't do more."
She made a little helpless gesture and turned and joined her companions,
who went on their way to Nimes. Andrew carried the bleeding body of
Prepimpin, and there was that in his face which forbade the idle to trail
indiscreetly about his path. He strode on, staring ahead, and did not
notice a woman by the pylon of the bridge who, as he passed, gave a
bewildered gasp, and after a few undecided moments, followed him at a
distance. He went, carrying the dog, up the dirty river bank outside the
walls, where there was comparative solitude, and sat down on a stone seat,
and laid Prepimpin on the ground. He broke down and cried. For seven years
the dog's life and his had been inextricably interwoven. Not only had they
shared bed and board as many a good man and dog have done, but they had
shared the serious affairs of life, its triumphs, its disillusions. And
Prepimpin was all that he had to love in the wide world.
"_Pardon, monsieur_," said a voice.
He looked up and saw the woman who had followed him. She was dark, of the
loose build of the woman predisposed to stoutness who had grown thin, and
she had kind eyes in which pain seemed to hold in check the promise of
laughter and only an animal wistfulness lingered. Her lips were pinched
and her face was thin and careworn. And yet she was young--obviously under
thirty. Her movements retained all the lissomeness of youth. Although
dressed more or less according to the fashion of the year, she looked poor.
Yet there was not so much of threadbare poverty in her attire, as lack of
interest--or pathetic incongruity; the coat and skirt too heavy for the
sultry day; the cheap straw hat trimmed with uncared for roses; the soiled
white gloves with an unmended finger tip.
"Madame?" said he.
And as he saw it, the woman's face and form became vaguely familiar. He
had seen her somewhere. But in the last few years he had seen thousands of
"You have had a great misfortune, monsieur?"
"That is true, madame."
She sat on the bench beside him.
"_Vous pleurez_. You must have loved him very much."
It was not a stranger speaking to him. Otherwise, he would have risen and,
as politely as anguished nerves allowed, would have told her to go to the
devil. She made no intrusion on his grief. Her voice fell with familiar
comfort on his ear. He was vaguely conscious of her right to offer
sympathy. He regarded her, grateful but perplexed.
"You don't recognize me? _Enfin_, why should you?" She shrugged
her shoulders. "We only met for a few hours many years ago--here in
Avignon--but we were good friends."
Then Andrew drew a deep breath and turned swiftly round on the bench and
shot out both his hands.
"_Mon Dieu!_ Elodie!"
She smiled sadly.
"Ah," said she, "I'm glad you remember."
They sat awhile and talked of the tragedy, the dead Prepimpin, at once a
link and a barrier between them, lying at their feet. Her ready sympathy
brought her near; but while the dog lay there, mangled and bloody, he could
think of nothing else. It was Elodie who suggested immediate and decent
burial. Why should he not go to the hotel for a workman and a spade?
He smiled. "You always seem to come to my help in time of trouble. But
while I am absent, what will happen to him?"
"I will guard him, my friend," said Elodie.
He marched off. In a few minutes he came back accompanied by one of the
hotel baggage porters. The grave, on the waste land by the Rhone, was
quickly dug, and Prepimpin covered over for ever with the kindly earth. As
soon as the body was hidden, Andrew turned away, the tears in his eyes.
"And now," said he, "let us sit somewhere else and you shall tell me about
yourself. I have been selfish."
The tale she had to tell was very old and very sad. She did not begin
it, however, until, drawing off her old gloves, for coolness' sake, she
disclosed a wedding ring on her finger. His eye caught it at once.
"Why, you are married."
"Yes," she said, "I am married."
"You don't speak in the tone of a happy woman."
She shrugged hopeless shoulders. "A woman isn't happy with a _goujat_
for a husband."
Now a _goujat_ is a word for which scoundrel, and miscreant, are but
weak translations. It denotes lowest depths of infamy.
Andrew frowned terribly. "He ill-treats you?"
"He did. But that is past. Fortunately I am alone. He has deserted me."
"Thank God, no," replied Elodie.
And then it all came out in the unrestrained torrent of the south. She had
been an honest girl, in spite of a thousand temptations. When Andre met
her, she was as pure as any young girl in a convent. It wasn't that she was
ignorant. Oh no. The girl who had gone through the workrooms of Marseilles
and the music-halls of France and could retain virginal innocence would
be either a Blessed Saint or an idiot. It was knowledge that had kept her
straight; knowledge and pride. She was not for sale. _Grand Dieu_, no!
And love? If a man's love fell short of the desire for marriage, well, it
didn't amount to a row of pins. Besides, even where there could be a love
quite true without the possibility of marriage, she had seen enough of the
world to know the unhappinesses that could happen to women. No. Andre must
not think she was cold or prudish. She had set out to be merely reasonable.
To Andre the girl's apology for preserving her chastity seemed perfectly
natural. In her world it was somewhat of an eccentric feat.
"_Et puis, enfin._" And then, at last, came the conquering male, a
singer in a light opera touring company in the chorus of which she was
engaged. He was young, handsome--played secondary parts; one of the great
ones, in fact, in her limited theatrical hierarchy. He fell in love with
her. She, flattered, responded. Of course, he suggested setting up house
together, then and there. But she had her aforesaid little principles.
His infatuation, however, was such that he consented to run the terrific
gauntlet of French matrimonial procedure. Why people in France go to the
nerve-racking trouble of getting married Heaven only knows. Camels can
gallop much more easily through needles' eyes. Anybody can be born in
France, anybody can die; against these phenomena the form-multiplying and
ream-writing _Ad-min-is-tra-tion_ is powerless. But when you come to
the intermediate business of world population, then bureaucracy steps in
and plays the very devil. Elodie and Raoul Marescaux desired to be married.
In England they would have got a special license, or gone to a registry
office, and the thing would have been over. But in France, Monsieur and
Madame Marescaux, and Madame Figasso, and the _huissier_ Boudin, who
insisted on coming forward although he was not legally united to Madame,
and lawyers representing each family, were set all agog, and there
were meetings and quarrels, and delays--Elodie had not a cent to her
dowry--which of course was the stumbling-block--with the final result that
nothing was done which might not have been done at once, namely, that the
pair were doubly married--once by Monsieur le Maire and then by Monsieur le
For a few months she was happy. Then the handsome Raoul became enamoured of
a fresh face. Then Elodie fell ill, oh, so ill, they thought she was going
to die. And during her illness and slow recovery Raoul became enamoured
of every fresh face he saw. A procession. If it had been one, said Elodie
philosophically, she could perhaps have arranged matters. But they had been
endless. And what little beauty she had her illness had taken away, so
her only weapon was gone; and Raoul jeered at her and openly flaunted his
infidelities in her presence. When she used beyond a certain point the
ready tongue with which Providence had endowed her, she was soundly beaten.
"_Le goujat!_" cried Andrew. Ah! It was a life of hell. But they had
kept nominally together, in the same companies, she singing in the chorus,
he playing his second roles. And then there came a day when he obtained
an engagement in the Opera at Buenos Ayres. She was to accompany him. Her
berth was booked, her luggage packed. He said to her, "I have to go away
for a day or two on business. Meet me at the boat train for Havre on
Wednesday." She went to the Gare St. Lazare on Wednesday to find that the
boat train had gone on Tuesday. _Un sale tour_--eh? Did ever anyone
hear of such a dirty trick? And later she learned that her berth was
occupied by a little modiste of the Place de la Madeleine with whom he had
That was two years ago. Since then she had not heard of him; and she wished
never to hear of him again.
"And you have been supporting yourself all the time, on the stage?"
"Yes, I have lived. But it has been hard. My illness affected my voice. No
one wants me very much. But still"--she smiled wanly--"I can manage. And
now, you. I saw you yesterday at the Palace. They know me there and give me
my _entree_. You have had a _beau succes_. You are famous. I am
Modestly he depreciated the fame, but acknowledged the success which was
due to her encouragement. He told her of the racehorse Elodie and his lucky
inspiration. For the first time she laughed and clapped her hands.
"Oh, I am flattered! Yes, and greatly touched. Now I know that you have
remembered me. But if the horse had lost wouldn't you have pested against
Andrew replied soberly: "I could not possibly have lost. I knew it would
win, just as I know that five minutes hence the sun will continue to shine.
I had faith in your star, Elodie."
"My star--it's not worth very much, my star."
"It has been to me," said Andrew.
They talked on. By dint of questioning she learned most of his not
over-eventful history. He told her of Horatio Bakkus, and of the season
on the sands, when first he realized her original idea of exploiting his
figure; of Prepimpin in his prime and their wanderings about Europe. And
now alas! there was no longer a Prepimpin.
"But how will you give the performance this evening without him?" she
He shrugged his shoulders. He had not given a thought to that yet. It was
the loss of his friend that wrung his heart.
"You are so gentle and sympathetic. Why is it that no woman has loved you?"
"Perhaps because I've not found a woman I could love," said he.
She did not pursue the subject, but sighed and looked somewhat drearily in
front of her. It was then that he became aware of the cruel treatment that
the years had inflicted on her youth. He knew that she was under thirty,
yet she looked older. The colour had gone from her olive skin, leaving it
sallow; her cheeks were drawn; haggard lines appeared beneath her eyes;
her cheekbones and chin were prominent. It struck him that she might be
fighting a hard battle against poverty. She looked underfed. He asked her.
"Have you an engagement here in Avignon?"
She shook her head. No, she was resting.
"How long have you been out?"
She couldn't tell. Many weeks. And prospects for the immediate future? The
Tournee Tardieu was coming next Monday to Avignon. She knew the manager.
Possibly he would give her a short engagement.
"And if he doesn't?"
"I will arrange," said Elodie with a show of bravery.
Andrew frowned again, and his mild blue eyes narrowed keenly. He stretched
out his arm and put his delicate fingers on her hand.
"You have given me your help and sympathy. Do you refuse mine? Why does
your pride forbid you to tell me that you are in great distress?"
"What would be the good?" she replied with averted face. "How could you
help me? Money? Oh no. I would sooner fling myself in the river."
"You're talking foolishness," said he. "You know that you are in debt for
your little room, and that the _proprietaire_ won't let you stay much
longer. You know that you have not sufficient food. You know that you have
had nothing to-day but a bit of bread and a cup of coffee, if you have had
The corners of her mouth worked pathetically. In spite of heroic effort, a
sob came into her throat and tears into her eyes. Then she broke down and
Yes, it was true. She had but a few sous in the world. No other clothes but
those she wore. Oh, she was ashamed, ashamed that he should guess. If she
had not been weak, he would have gone away and never have known. And so on,
and so forth. The situation was plain as day to Andrew. Elodie, if not his
guardian angel, at any rate his mascot, was down and out. While she was
crying, he slipped, unperceived, a hundred-franc note into the side pocket
of her jacket. At all events she should have a roof over her head and food
to eat for the next few days, until he could devise some plan for her
future welfare. Her future welfare! For all his generous impulses, it gave
him cause for cold thought. How the deuce could a wandering, even though
successful, young mountebank assure the future of a forlorn and untalented
"_Voyons, chere amie_," said he comfortingly, "all is not yet lost. If
the theatre does not give you a livelihood, we might try something else. I
have my little savings. I could easily lend you enough to buy a _petit
commerce_, a little business. You could repay me, bit by bit, at your
convenience. _Tiens!_ Didn't you tell me you were apprenticed to a
But Elodie was hopeless. All that she had learned as a child she had
forgotten. She was fit for nothing but posturing on the stage. If Andre
could get her a good engagement, that was all the aid she would accept.
Andrew looked at his watch. The afternoon had sped with magical rapidity.
He reflected that not only must he dine, but he must think over and
rehearse the evening's performance with Prepimpin's part cut out. He dared
not improvise before the public. He rose with the apologetic explanation--
"My little Elodie," said he, as they walked along the battlemented city
walls towards the great gate, "have courage. Come to the Palace to-night. I
will arrange that you shall have a loge. You only have to ask for it. And
after my turn, you shall meet me, as long ago, at the Cafe des Negociants,
and we shall sup together and talk of your affairs."
She meekly consented. And when they parted at the entrance to the Hotel
d'Europe, he said:
"If I do not ask you to dine, it is because I have to think and work. You
understand? But in your pocket you will find _de quoi bien diner. Au
revoir, chere amie_."
He put out his hand. She held it, while her eyes, tragically large and
dark, searched his with painful intensity.
"Tell me," she said, "is it better that I should come and see you to-night
or that I should throw myself over the bridge into the Rhone?"
"If you meet me to-night," said Andrew, "you will still be alive, which,
after all, is a very good thing."
"_Je viendrai,_" said Elodie.
"The devil!" said Andrew, entering the courtyard of the hotel, and wiping a
perspiring brow, "here am I faced with a pretty responsibility!"
Experience enabled him to give a satisfactory performance; and his manager
prepared his path by announcing the unhappy end of Prepimpin and craving
the indulgence of the audience. But Andrew passed a heartbroken hour at the
music-hall. In his dressing-room were neatly stored the dog's wardrobe and
properties--the gay ribbons, the harness, the little yellow silk hat which
he wore with such a swaggering air, the little basket carried over his
front paw into which he would sweep various objects when his master's back
was turned, the drinking dish labelled "Dog" ... He suffered almost a human
bereavement. And then, the audience, for this night, was kind. But, as
conscientious artist, he was sensitively aware of makeshift. A great
element of his success lay in the fact that he had trained the dog to
appear the more clever of the two, to score off his pretended clumsiness
and to complete his tricks. For years he had left uncultivated the art of
being funny by himself. Without Prepimpin he felt lost, like a man in a
sculling race with only one oar. He took off his make-up and dressed,
a very much worried man. Of course he could obtain another trained dog
without much difficulty, and the special training would not take long;
but he would have to love the animal in order to establish that perfect
partnership which was essential to his performance. And how could he love
any other dog than Prepimpin? He felt that he would hate the well-meaning
but pretentious hound. He went out filled with anxieties and repugnances.
Elodie was waiting for him by the stage door. She said:
"You got out of the difficulty marvellously."
"But it was nothing like the performance you saw yesterday."
"_Ah non_" she replied frankly.
"_Voila_," said he, dejectedly.
They walked, almost in silence, along the Avenue de la Gare, thronged,
as it was at the time of their first meeting, with the good citizens
of Avignon, taking the air of the sultry summer evening. She told him
afterwards that she felt absurdly small and insignificant trotting by the
side of his gaunt height, a feeling which she had not experienced years
before when their relative positions were reversed. But now she regarded
him as a kind of stricken god; and womanlike she was conscious of haggard
face and shrunken bosom, whereas before, she had stepped beside him proud
of the ripe fulness of her youth.
Whither the commonplace adventure was leading them neither knew. For his
part pity compelled superstitious sentiment to the payment, in some vague
manner, of a long-standing obligation. She had also given him very rare
sympathy that afternoon, and he was grateful. But things ended there, in a
sort of blind alley.
For her part, she let herself go with the current of destiny into which, by
strange hazard, she had drifted. She had the humility which is the fiercest
form of pride. Although she clung desperately to him, as to the spar that
alone could save her from drowning, although the feminine within her was
drawn to his kind and simple manliness, and although her heart was touched
by his grief at the loss of the dog, yet never for a moment did she count
upon the ordinary romantic _denouement_ of such a situation. The
idea came involuntarily into her mind. Into the mind of what woman of her
upbringing would not the idea come? But she banished it savagely. Who was
she, waste rag of a woman, to attract a man? And even had she retained the
vivid beauty and plenitude of her maidenhood, it would have been just the
same. Elodie Figasso had never sold herself. No. All that side of things
was out of the question. She wished, however, that he was less of an
enigmatic, though kindly, sphinx.
Over their modest supper of sandwiches and Cotes du Rhone wine, in an
inside corner of the Cafe des Negociants--it was all the cafe could
offer, and besides she swore to a plentiful dinner--they discussed their
respective forlorn positions. Adroitly she tacked away from her own
concerns towards his particular dilemma. If he shrank from training another
dog and yet distrusted a solo performance, what was he going to do? Take a
partner like his friend--she forgot the name--yes, Bakkus, on whom perhaps
he couldn't rely, and who naturally would demand half his salary?
"Never again," Andrew declared, feeling better after a draught of old
Hermitage. "The only thing I can think of is to engage a competent
Then Elodie's swift brain conceived a daring idea.
"You would have to train the assistant."
"Of course. But," he added in a dismal tone, "most of the assistants I
have seen are abysmally stupid. They are dummies. They give nothing of
themselves, for the performer to act up to."
"In fact," said Elodie, trying hard to steady her voice, "you want someone
entirely in sympathy with you, who can meet you half-way--like Prepimpin."
"Precisely," said Andrew. "But where can I find a human Prepimpin?"
She abandoned knife and fork and, with both arms resting on the table,
looked across at him, and it suddenly struck him that her great dark eyes,
intelligent and submissive, were very much like the eyes of Prepimpin. And
so, womanlike, she conveyed the Idea from her brain to his.
He said very thoughtfully, "I wonder--"
"What have you done on the stage? What can you do? Tell me. Unfortunately I
have never seen you."
She could sing--not well now, because her voice had suffered--but still she
sang true. She had a musical ear. She could accompany anyone on the piano,
_pas trop mal_. She could dance. Oh, to that she owed her first
engagement. She had also learned to play the castagnettes and the
tambourine, _a l'Espagnole_. And she was accustomed to discipline....
As she proceeded with the unexciting catalogue of her accomplishments she
lost self-control, and her eyes burned and her lips quivered and her voice
shook in unison with the beatings of a desperately anxious heart. Our
Andrew, although an artist dead set on perfection and a shrewd man of
business, was young, pitiful and generous. The pleading dog's look in
Elodie's eyes was too much for him. He felt powerless to resist. His brain
worked swiftly, devising all kinds of artistic possibilities. Besides, was
not Fate accomplishing itself by presenting this solution of both their
"I wonder whether you would care to try the experiment?"
With an effort of feminine duplicity she put on a puzzled and ingenuous
He was somewhat taken aback: surely he must have misinterpreted her
pleading. From the dispenser of fortune, he became the seeker of favours.
"I know it's not much of a position to offer you," said he, almost
apologetically, "but if you care to accept it----"
"Of your assistant?" she asked, as though the idea had never entered her
"Why, yes. If you will consent to a month of very hard work. You would
have to learn a little elementary juggling. You would have to give me
instantaneous replies in act and speech. But if you would give yourself up
to me I could teach you."
"But, _mon pauvre Andre_," she said, with an astonished air, "this is
the last thing I ever dreamed of. I am so ignorant. I should put you to
"Oh no, you wouldn't," said he, confidently. "I know my business. Wait.
_Les affaires sont les affaires_. I should have to give you a little
contract. Let us see. For the remainder of my tour--ten weeks--ten francs a
day with hotel _en pension_ and railway fares."
To Elodie, independent waif in theatre-land, this was wealth beyond her
dreams. She stretched both hands across the table.
"Do you mean that? It is true? And, if I please you, you will keep me
"Why not?" said Andrew. "And, if you show talent, we may come to a better
arrangement for the next tour."
"And if I show no talent at all?"
He made a deprecating gesture and grinned in his charming way. But Elodie's
intuition taught her that there was the stern purpose of a man behind the
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