ONE day Mrs. Butler, Dolores, Percy, and several of their
friends went to visit the Latin Quarter--the ancient homes of the Grisettes--a
race rapidly becoming extinct.
"I have always wanted to visit this locality," Dolores
said on her way thither. "It is a phase of Parisian life which has possessed
a curious fascination for me."
"No doubt you have surrounded the Grisettes with a.halo
of romance," answered Percy. "If so, it will vanish utterly as you approach.
What sort of beings do you fancy they are?"
"Physically, lovely sirens : mentally frivolous; morally
lax, owing to their education, no doubt. Just the style of woman to fascinate
a romantic student."
Percy laughed. "That is the prevailing idea," he
said; "but it is wholly unlike the reality, as you will see."
What Dolores saw, were groups of contented looking mothers,
tidy housewives, and comfortable young matrons. Women whose lives were
devoted to their homes and families. Universally neat, and modest in appearance,
but in no case strikingly attractive or beautiful.
"There is every indication here of happy domestic life,"
Percy said. "These women make good true consorts, and contented companions.
They exchange their culinary and housekeeping accomplishments, and their
loyalty, for a little affection, protection and support. On the whole,
they lead a very pleasant sort of existence--while it lasts."
"Their position is far more enviable than that of the
average wife," Dolores responded, "for if they are unhappy in their relations,
they can at least get away; and I have no doubt they receive more devotion
and loyalty than the majority of married women do. The position of the
latter seems to me the more humiliating of the two."
Percy regarded Dolores with a grave expression.
"You are a strange girl," he said. "Yet extreme as you
are in your ideas, there is much truth in what you say. I have very little
respect for the husbands of my acquaintance. And still I believe God meant
each man to possess one mate, and to be true to her in life and death.
That is my ideal of perfect manhood--though an ideal I never expect to
attain. There was a time when I Imagined it possible--but now I live for
the pleasure of the hour, and waste no time in. theories or in moralizing.
Life is too short. But of one thing I am sure, Miss King--positively sure,"
He paused, and she looked up expecting some serious remark. "And that is--that
you are the most charming companion in the world."
On their way back to the Avenue Josephine, they saw a
beautiful girl who had just shot herself in the breast, being conveyed
to the hospital. Her lovely features were distorted with pain, and her
agonizing groans, as they lifted her from the street where she had fallen,
were heartrending to hear. Later, as they sat in Dolores' parlors, they
all fell to discussing suicide.
"Terrible as it may seem," Dolores said, "I really cannot
think it so great a crime as many do. We are never consulted in regard
to coming into this world. Life is thrust upon us, and if, as in the case
of that poor girl, perhaps, it becomes an insupportable burden, I cannot
help thinking God will forgive the suffering soul that lays the burden
down. I have always felt the greatest sympathy for suicides. It is a cowardly
act, I own, yet it is a cowardice I can comprehend and condone. And I think
God will purely be as sympathetic as a mortal."
"You know Dante's description of the Seventh Circle,"
suggested Percy, "and the horrors which await the rash soul of a suicide
"When departs the fierce soul from the body, by itself
Thence torn asunder, to the seventh Gulf
By Minos doomed, into the wood it falls,
No place assigned, but where so ever
Chance hurled it."
"But that was merely the poetic utterance of a visionary
mind," Dolores answered. "No one in these days believes in a God who could
be guilty of such atrocious punishments for sin or error, as Dante describes
: and then I contend that in many instances suicide is not a crime, it
is merely a cowardly act."
"But laying aside the crime of the act, think what an
uncomfortable position the poor soul may find itself in!" suggested Percy.
"To go where we are not wanted or invited, in this world, is a very embarrassing
situation, you know. And to suddenly thrust yourself, without an invitation,
upon the exclusive society of angels--I must say I would not have the courage
to do it."
"Well, of all things," said Madam Volkenburg, "if any
of you ever do commit suicide, never shoot yourselves, or resort to any
disgusting or painful process. I can tell you of a very swift and painless
"What is it ?" they all asked, in chorus, fascinated,
as most of us always are, by a discussion of the horrible.
All but Dolores. She already knew.
"Oh, it is a swift poison," Madam Volkenburg explained.
"My husband, who was a great experimenter in the chemical world, as you
perhaps know, left a package of it among his possessions. It is a white,
brilliant, crystallized substance, and the smallest particle of it, the
moment it mixes with the saliva of the month, and is swallowed, produces
instant death, and there is nothing to indicate poison afterward. It cannot
be detected, and it leaves the body quietly composed as if sudden sleep
had overtaken it."
"Why is it not better known?" some one asked.
"Perhaps it is well known; perhaps many of the sudden
deaths by 'heart disease,' of which we read so often, occur in this way."
"And it will produce, as Madame Volkenburg says, swift
and painless death, at least upon an animal," added Dolores. "When my little
dog was run over by a carriage wheel, and lay crying in terrible pain,
and I knew he must die, I tested the efficacy of this poison upon him.
It ended his agonies instantly."
"And by the way," spoke Madame laughingly, turning to
Dolores, "I gave you enough of the poison to kill ten dogs, or human beings,
either; and you never returned it to me. Since I have heard your views
upon suicide I think I had better take the dangerous drug out of your possession."
"If I were anxious to die, I fancy the absence of that
drug would not prevent me from finding the means of self-destruction,"
Dolores answered, lightly. And at that moment refreshments were served,
and the conversation turned upon more agreeable subjects.
At the expiration of a month--the swiftest month of his
life, it seemed to Percy,--he was obliged to cut loose from this pleasant
circle, and visit London and Berlin, on the business which had really brought
He felt a curious depression of spirits as he entered
the parlors on the Avenue Josephine the evening preceding his departure--a
depression which he was hardly able to explain to himself. Only this might
be his last interview with his charming friends, and "last times" are always
Dolores seemed grave, as she welcomed him, and a little
later she said, with a winning frankness, "I never remember to have felt
so lonely at the thought of any other person's departure in my life, Mr.
Durand, as I feel at yours. You have been such an addition to our circle;
you are such a bon comrade; just what a brother would be, I fancy.
How I shall miss you!"
"But I am not your brother, you know," Percy said, and
he wanted to add, "And therefore the association has its dangers." He left
it unsaid, however, thinking she would understand his simple assertion.
But she did not. She was a woman with a hobby, which precluded
the thought of marriage. And she was a cold woman by nature. Knowing that
Mr. Durand fully understood and respected her views, she could see no danger
in his companionship. She was very lonely at the thought of his departure.
He was her ideal friend, lost as soon as found.
"It has been a charming month in Bohemia," Percy continued.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed it--it is unlike any thing I have ever experienced
before. I have had my fill of conventional society, and I have drained
the cup of reckless pleasures; but this charming mixture of refinement,
esprit and abandon, has been a new element to me."
"Apropos to your reference to a month in Bohemia,"
said Dolores, "I believe Mr. Orton has written a poem on Bohemia, which
he has kindly promised to deliver this evening. Mr. Orton, will you favor
"I was not aware that you were a poet, Mr. Orton," Percy
remarked, as the young man arose, and began to affect the bashful-school-girl
"Sir," said the journalist, turning a stern look upon
Percy, and speaking in a sepulchral tone, "I am all that is bad; a newspaper
man, a poet, and--" pointing toward the piano, "the worst remains to be
told; I am a pianist." And then, quickly changing his expression
and voice, he recited in the most admirable manner the following verses
Bohemia, o'er thy unatlassed borders
How many cross, with half-reluctant feet,
And unformed fears of dangers and disorders.
To find delights, more wholesome and more sweet
Than ever yet were known to the "elite."
Herein can dwell no pretence and no seeming;
No stilted pride thrives in this atmosphere,
Which stimulates a tendency to dreaming.
The shores of the ideal world, from here,
Seem sometimes to be tangible and near.
"We have no use for formal codes of fashion;
No "Etiquette of Courts'' we emulate;
We know it needs sincerity and passion
To carry out the plans of God, or fate;
We do not strive to seem inanimate.
We call no time lost that we give to pleasure;
Life's hurrying river speeds to Death's great sea;
We cast out no vain plummet-line to measure
Imagined depths of that unknown To Be,
But grasp the Now, and fill it, full of glee.
All creeds have room here, and we all together
Devoutly worship at Art's sacred shrine;
But he who dwells once in thy golden weather,
Bohemia--sweet, lovely land of mine--
Can find no joy outside thy border-line.
"That is just the fear which disturbs my heart, as I am
about to cross the border-line and go back to the common-place world,"
sighed Percy, when the applause which succeeded the recitation died away.
''I doubt my ability to enjoy anything, after this delightful experience."
"Well, now," said Homer Orton, "in response to the encore
I ought to have received, I will give you a few verses appropriate to that
situation, my clear fellow. If you commit them to memory, they may serve
to help you in those dark hours of mental and spiritual pain which come
to every man--the morning after the club supper. They are called--
Because of the fullness of what I had,
All that I have seems poor and vain.
If I had not been happy, I were not sad--
Tho' my salt is savorless, why complain?
From the ripe perfection of what was mine,
All that is mine seems worse than naught;
Yet I know, as I sit in the dark, and pine,
No cup could be drained which had not been fraught.
From the throb and thrill of a day that was,
The day that now is seems dull with gloom;
Yet I bear the dullness and darkness, because
'Tis but the reaction of glow and bloom.
From the royal feast that of old was spread,
I am starved on the diet that now is mine;
Yet, I could not turn hungry from water and bread,
If I had not been sated on fruit and wine.
"Speaking of Bohemia," Dolores said, "with all its charms,
I do not believe I am a Bohemian by nature. I am really fond of ceremonies
and imposing forms. I enjoy the most impressive services in divine worship.
Had I been reared in the Roman Church, I would have made one of its most
devout members. I like conventional life, but I do not like the people
I meet in those circles."
"And yet," Percy answered, "it is generally supposed that
in exclusive circles one finds all that is choice."
"But it is a great mistake," continued Dolores. "It may
be true that whatever is choice is always exclusive; but whatever is exclusive
is not always choice. One finds so little variety in the people one meets
in the so-called best society anywhere. They are all after one pattern,
and society does not tolerate individual tastes and ideas, you know. So
you see I am obliged to select my congenial friends as I may, and create
a Bohemian of my own."
"Which immediately becomes a Paradise," her listener answered
"Don't," ejaculated Dolores with a pained expression,
"it sounds so like--well, so like other men."
"And am I not like other men?'' Percy asked, smiling and
secretly pleased. Nothing flatters a man's vanity more than being told
he is not like other men. "I never imagined myself to be a distinct type."
"But you are; or at least you have seemed so to me. And
that is why I have liked you so well."
"Then you do like me?"
Dolores met his gaze without a blush or tremor, frankly,
"I do not think I ever met any man before, whom I so thoroughly
liked and respected," she said. "You are my ideal friend."
"Then, perhaps you will consent to correspond with me
occasionally," Percy suggested. "I should have gone away not daring to
ask the favor, believing myself only one of the many on whom you bestowed
your hospitality, but for your kind speech." As he sat in his room that
night, Percy puzzled his brains, trying to analyze Dolores King's manner
and words, and state of mind toward him.
"She is either the most perfect actress, or the coldest
and most passionless woman. on earth," he said, "incapable of any strong
emotion. Or else--or else--she likes me better than she knows. At all events,
it is fortunate for both, that I am going away."