IN THE QUARTER
IN THE QUARTER
ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
A printed version of this book is available from Sattre Press
One evening in May 1888 the Cafe des Ecoles was even more crowded
and more noisy than usual. The marble-topped tables were wet with beer
and the din was appalling. Someone shouted to make himself heard.
"Any more news from the Salon?"
"Yes" said Elliott "Thaxton's in with a number three. Rhodes is
out and takes it hard. Clifford's out too and takes it -- "
A voice began to chant:
Je n'sais comment faire
Ma maitresse et mon pere
Le Code et Bullier.
"Drop it! Oh drop it!" growled Rhodes and sent a handful of
billiard chalk at the singer.
Mr Clifford returned a volley of the Cafe spoons and continued:
Mais c'que je trouve de plus bete
C'est qu' i' faut financer
Avec ma belle galette
J'aimerai mieux m'amuser.
Several other voices took up the refrain lamenting the difficulty of
reconciling their filial duties with balls at Bullier's and
protesting that they would rather amuse themselves than consider
financial questions. Rhodes sipped his curacoa sulkily.
"The longer I live in the Latin Quarter" he said to his neighbor
"the less certain I feel about a place of future punishment. It would
be so tame after this." Then reverting to his grievance he added
"The slaughter this year at the Salon is awful."
Reginald Gethryn stirred nervously but did not speak.
"Have a game Rex?" called Clifford waving a cue.
Gethryn shook his head and reaching for a soiled copy of the Figaro
glanced listlessly over its contents. He sighed and turned his paper
impatiently. Rhodes echoed the sigh.
"What's at the theaters?"
"Same as last week excepting at the Gaiete. They've put on `La Belle
"Oh! Belle Helene!" cried Clifford.
Tzing! la! la! Tzing! la! la!
C'est avec ces dames qu' Oreste
Fait danser l'argent de Papa!
Rhodes began to growl again.
"I shouldn't think you'd feel like gibbering that rot tonight."
Clifford smiled sweetly and patted him on the head. "Tzing! la! la!
My shot Elliott?"
"Tzing! la! la!" laughed Thaxton "That's Clifford's biography in
Clifford repeated the refrain and winked impudently at the pretty
bookkeeper behind her railing. She alas! returned it with a blush.
Gethryn rose restlessly and went over to another table where a man
young but older than himself sat looking comfortable.
"Braith" he began trying to speak indifferently "any news of my
The other man finished his beer and then answered carelessly "No."
But catching sight of Gethryn's face he added with a laugh:
"Look here Rex you've got to stop this moping."
"I'm not moping" said Rex coloring up.
"What do you call it then?" Braith spoke with some sharpness but
continued kindly "You know I've been through it all. Ten years ago
when I sent in my first picture I confess to you I suffered the
torments of the damned until -- "
"Until they sent me my card. The color was green."
"But I thought a green card meant `not admitted."'
"It does. I received three in three years."
"Do you mean you were thrown out three years in succession?"
Braith knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "I gave up smoking for
those three years."
Braith filled his pipe tenderly. "I was very poor" he said.
"If I had half your sand!" sighed Rex.
"You have and something more that the rest of us have not. But you
are very young yet."
This time Gethryn colored with surprise and pleasure. In all their
long and close friendship Braith had never before given him any other
encouragement than a cool "Go ahead!"
He continued: "Your curse thus far has been want of steady
application and moreover you're too easily scared. No matter what
happens this time no knocking under!"
"Oh I'm not going to knock under. No more is Clifford it seems"
Rex added with a laugh as Clifford threw down his cue and took a step
of the devil's quadrille.
"Oh! Elliott!" he crowed "what's the matter with you?"
Elliott turned and punched a sleepy waiter in the ribs.
"Emile -- two bocks!"
The waiter jumped up and rubbed his eyes. "What is it monsieur?" he
Elliott repeated the order and they strolled off toward a table. As
Clifford came lounging by Carleton said "I hear you lead with a
number one at the Salon."
"Right I'm the first to be fired."
"He's calm now" said Elliott "but you should have seen him
yesterday when the green card came."
"Well yes. I discoursed a little in several languages."
"After he had used up his English profanity he called the Jury names
in French German and Spanish. The German stuck but came out at last
like a cork out of a bottle -- "
"Or a bung out of a barrel."
"These comparisons are as offensive as they are unjust" said
"Quite so" said Braith. "Here's the waiter with your beer."
"What number did you get Braith?" asked Rhodes who couldn't keep
his mind off the subject and made no pretense of trying.
"Three" answered Braith.
There was a howl and all began to talk at once.
"There's justice for you!" "No justice for Americans!" "Serves us
right for our tariff!" "Are Frenchmen going to give us all the
advantages of their schools and honors besides while we do all we can
to keep their pictures out of our markets?"
"No we don't either! Tariff only keeps out the sweepings of the
studios -- "
"If there were no duty on pictures the States would be flooded with
"Take it off!" cried one.
"Make it higher!" shouted another.
"Idiots!" growled Rhodes. "Let 'em flood the country with bad work
as well as good. It will educate the people and the day will come
when all good work will stand an equal chance -- be it French or be it
"True" said Clifford "Let's all have a bock. Where's Rex?"
But Gethryn had slipped out in the confusion. Quitting the Cafe des
Ecoles he sauntered across the street and turning through the Rue de
Vaugirard entered the rue Monsieur le Prince. He crossed the dim
courtyard of his hotel and taking a key and a candle from the lodge
of the Concierge started to mount the six flights to his bedroom and
studio. He felt irritable and fagged and it did not make matters
better when he found on reaching his own door that he had taken the
wrong key. Nor did it ease his mind to fling the key over the
banisters into the silent stone hallway below. He leaned sulkily over
the railing and listened to it ring and clink down into the darkness
and then with a brief but vigorous word he turned and forced in his
door with a crash. Two bull pups which had flown at him with
portentous growls and yelps of menace now gamboled idiotically about
him writhing with anticipation of caresses and a gray and scarlet
parrot rudely awakened launched forth upon a musical effort
resembling the song of a rusty cart-wheel.
"Oh you infernal bird!" murmured the master lighting his candle
with one hand and fondling the pups with the other. "There there
puppies run away!" he added rolling the ecstatic pups into a sort
of dog divan where they curled themselves down at last and subsided
with squirms and wriggles gurgling affection.
Gethryn lighted a lamp and then a cigarette. Then blowing out the
candle he sat down with a sigh. His eyes fell on the parrot. It
annoyed him that the parrot should immediately turn over and look at
him upside down. It also annoyed him that "Satan" an evil-looking
raven was evidently preparing to descend from his perch and worry
"Mrs Gummidge" was the name Clifford had given to a large sad-eyed
white tabby who now lay dozing upon a panther skin.
"Satan!" said Gethryn. The bird checked his sinister preparations
and eyed his master. "Don't" said the young man.
Satan weighed his chances and came to the conclusion that he could
swoop down nip Mrs Gummidge and get back to his bust of Pallas
without being caught. He tried it but his master was too quick for
him and foiled he lay sullenly in Gethryn's hands his two long
claws projecting helplessly between the brown fists of his master.
"Oh you fiend!" muttered Rex taking him toward a wicker basket
which he hated. "Solitary confinement for you my boy."
"Double double toil and trouble" croaked the parrot.
Gethryn started nervously and shut him inside the cage a regal gilt
structure with "Shakespeare" printed over the door. Then replacing
the agitated Gummidge on her panther skin he sat down once more and
lighted another cigarette.
His picture. He could think of nothing else. It was a serious matter
with Gethryn. Admitted to the Salon meant three more years' study in
Paris. Failure and back he must go to New York.
The personal income of Reginald Gethryn amounted to the magnificent
sum of two hundred and fifty dollars. To this his aunt Miss Celestia
Gethryn added nine hundred and fifty dollars more. This gave him a
sum of twelve hundred dollars a year to live on and study in Paris. It
was not a large sum but it was princely when compared to the amount
on which many a talented fellow subsists spending his best years in a
foul atmosphere of paint and tobacco ill fed ill clothed scarcely
warmed at all often sick in mind and body attaining his first scant
measure of success just as his overtaxed powers give way.
Gethryn's aunt his only surviving relative had recently written him
one of her ponderous letters. He took it from his pocket and began to
read it again for the fourth time.
You have now been in Paris three years and as yet I have seen no
results. You should be earning your own living but instead you are
still dependent upon me. You are welcome to all the assistance I
can give you in reason but I expect that you will have something
to show for all the money I expend upon you. Why are you not making
a handsome income and a splendid reputation like Mr Spinder?
The artist named was thirty-five and had been in Paris fifteen years.
Gethryn was twenty-two and had been studying three years.
Why are you not doing beautiful things like Mr Mousely? I'm told
he gets a thousand dollars for a little sketch.
Rex groaned. Mr Mousely could neither draw nor paint but he made
stories of babies' deathbeds on squares of canvas with china angels
solidly suspended from the ceiling of the nursery pointing upward
and he gave them titles out of the hymnbook which caused them to be
bought with eagerness by all the members of the congregation to which
his family belonged.
The letter proceeded:
I am told by many reliable persons that three years abroad is more
than enough for a thorough art education. If no results are
attained at the end of that time there is only one of two
conclusions to be drawn. Either you have no talent or you are
wasting your time. I shall wait until the next Salon before I come
to a decision. If then you have a picture accepted and if it shows
no trace of the immorality which is rife in Paris I will continue
your allowance for three years more; this however on condition
that you have a picture in the Salon each year. If you fail again
this year I shall insist upon your coming home at once.
Why Gethryn should want to read this letter four times when one
perusal of it had been more than enough no one least of all himself
could have told. He sat now crushing it in is hand tasting all the
bitterness that is stored up for a sensitive artist tied by fate to an
omniscient Philistine who feeds his body with bread and his soul with
instruction about art and behavior.
Presently he mastered the black mood which came near being too much
for him his face cleared and he leaned back quietly smoking. From
the rug rose a muffled rumbling where Mrs Gummidge dozed in peace. The
clock ticked sharply. A mouse dropped silently from the window curtain
and scuttled away unmarked.
The pups lay in a soft heap. The parrot no longer hung head downward
but rested in his cage in a normal position one eye fixed steadily on
Gethryn the other sheathed in a bluish-white eyelid every wrinkle of
which spoke scorn of men and things.
For some time Gethryn had been half-conscious of a piano sounding on
the floor below. It suddenly struck him now that the apartment under
his which had been long vacant must have found an occupant.
"Idiots!" he grumbled. "Playing at midnight! That will have to
stop. Singing too! We'll see about that!"
The singing continued a girl's voice only passably trained but
certainly fresh and sweet.
Gethryn began to listen reluctantly and ungraciously. There was a
pause. "Now she's going to stop. It's time" he muttered. But the
piano began again -- a short prelude which he knew and the voice was
soon in the midst of the Dream Song from "La Belle Helene."
Gethryn rose and walked to his window threw it open and leaned out.
An April night soft and delicious. The air was heavy with perfume
from the pink and white chestnut blossoms. The roof dripped with
moisture. Far down in the dark court the gas-jets flickered and
flared. From the distance came the softened rumble of a midnight cab
which drawing nearer and nearer and passing the hotel with a
rollicking rattle of wheels and laughing voices died away on the
smooth pavement by the Luxembourg Gardens. The voice had stopped
capriciously in the middle of the song. Gethryn turned back into the
room whistling the air. His eye fell on Satan sitting behind his bars
in crumpled malice.
"Poor old chap" laughed the master "want to come out and hop
around a bit? Here Gummidge we'll remove temptation out of his
way" and he lifted the docile tabby who increased the timbre of her
song to an ecstatic squeal at his touch and opening his bedroom door
gently deposited her on his softest blankets. He then reinstated the
raven on his bust of Pallas and Satan watched him from thence warily
as he fussed about the studio sorting brushes scraping a neglected
palette taking down a dressing gown drawing on a pair of easy
slippers opening his door and depositing his boots outside. When he
returned the music had begun again.
"What on earth does she mean by singing at a quarter to one
o'clock?" he thought and went once more to the window. "Why -- that
is really beautiful."
Oui! c'est un reve Oui! c'est un reve doux d'amour.
La nuit lui prete son mystere
Il doit finir -- il doit finir avec le jour.
The song of Helene ceased. Gethryn leaned out and gazed down at the
lighted windows under his. Suddenly the light went out. He heard
someone open the window and straining his eyes could just discern
the dim outline of a head and shoulders unmistakably those of a girl.
She had perched herself on the windowsill. Presently she began to hum
the air then to sing it softly. Gethryn waited until the words came
Oui c'est un reve --
and then struck in with a very sweet baritone:
Oui c'est un reve --
She never moved but her voice swelled out fresh and clear in answer
to his and a really charming duet came to a delightful finish. Then
she looked up. Gethryn was reckless now.
"Shall it be then only a dream?" he laughed. Was it his fate that
made him lean out and whisper "Is it then only a dream Helene?"
There was nothing but the rustling of the chestnut branches to answer
his folly. Not another sound. He was half inclined to shut his window
and go in well satisfied with the silence and beginning to feel
sleepy. All at once from below came a faint laugh and as he leaned
out he caught the words:
"Paris Helene bids you good night!"
"Ah Belle Helene!" -- he began but was cut short by the violent
opening of a window opposite.
"Bon dieu de bon dieu!" howled an injured gentleman. "To sleep is
impossible tas d'imbeciles! -- "
And Helene's window closed with a snap.
The day broke hot and stifling. The first sunbeams which chased the
fog from bridge and street also drove the mists from the cool thickets
of the Luxembourg Garden and revealed groups of dragoons picketed in
"Dragoons in the Luxembourg!" cried the gamins to each other. "What
But even the gamins did not know -- yet.
At the great Ateliers of Messieurs Bouguereau and Lefebvre the first
day of the week is the busiest -- and so this being Monday the
studios were crowded.
The heat was suffocating. The walls smeared with the refuse of a
hundred palettes fairly sizzled as they gave off a sickly odor of
paint and turpentine. Only two poses had been completed but the tired
models stood or sat glistening with perspiration. The men drew and
painted many of them stripped to the waist. The air was heavy with
tobacco smoke and the respiration of some two hundred students of half
as many nationalities.
"Dieu! quel chaleur!" gasped a fat little Frenchman mopping his
clipped head and breathing hard.
"Clifford" he inquired in English "ees eet zat you haf a so great
-- a -- heat chez vous?"
Clifford glanced up from his easel. "Heat in New York? My dear
Deschamps this is nothing."
The other eyed him suspiciously.
"You know New York is the capital of Galveston?" said Clifford
slapping on a brush full of color and leaning back to look at it.
The Frenchman didn't know but he nodded.
"Well that's very far south. We suffer -- yes we suffer but our
poor poultry suffer more."
"Ze -- ze pooltree? Wat eez zat?"
"In summer the fire engines are detailed to throw water on the hens
to keep their feathers from singeing. Singeing spoils the flavor."
The Frenchman growled.
"One of our national institutions is the `Hen's Mutual Fire Insurance
Company' supported by the Government" added Clifford.
"That is why" put in Rhodes lazily dabbing at his canvas "why we