ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
Like a man who reenters a closed and darkened house and lies down;
lying there remains conscious of sunlight outside of bird-calls
and the breeze in the trees so had Drene entered into the obscurity
Through the chambers of his brain the twilit corridors where cringed
his bruised and disfigured soul there nothing stirring except the
automatic pulses which never cease.
Sometimes when the sky itself crashes earthward and the world lies
in ruins from horizon to horizon life goes on.
The things that men live through--and live!
But no doubt Death was too busy elsewhere to attend to Drene.
He had become very lean by the time it was all over. Gray glinted
on his temples; gray softened his sandy mustache: youth was finished
as far as he was concerned.
An odd idea persisted in his mind that it had been winter for many
years. And the world thawed out very slowly for him.
But broken trees leaf out and hewed roots sprout; and what he had
so long mistaken for wintry ashes now gleamed warmly like the orange
and gold of early autumn. After a while he began to go about more or
less--little excursions from the dim privacy of mind and soul--and
he found the sun not very gray; and a south wind blowing in the
world once more.
Quair and Guilder were in the studio that day on business; Drene
continued to modify his composition in accordance with Guilder's
suggestions; Quair always curious concerning Drene was becoming
"And listen to me Guilder. What the devil's a woman between
friends?" argued Quair with a malicious side glance at Drene. "You
take my best girl away from me--"
"But I don't" remarked his partner dryly.
"For the sake of argument you do. What happens? Do I raise hell?
No. I merely thank you. Why? Because I don't want her if you can get
her away. That" he added with satisfaction "is philosophy. Isn't
Guilder intervened pleasantly:
"I don't think Drene is particularly interested in philosophy. I'm
sure I'm not. Shut up please."
Drene gravely annoyed continued to pinch bits of modeling wax out
of a round tin box and to stick them all over the sketch he was
Now and then he gave a twirl to the top of his working table which
revolved with a rusty squeak.
"If you two unusually intelligent gentlemen ask me what good a woman
the world--" began Quair.
"But we don't" interrupted Guilder in the temperate voice peculiar
to his negative character.
"Anyway" insisted Quair "here's what I think of 'em--"
"My model yonder" said Drene a slight shrug of contempt "happens
to be feminine and may also be human. Be decent enough to defer the
development of your rather tiresome theory."
The girl on the model-stand laughed outright at the rebuke
stretched her limbs and body and relaxed launching a questioning
glance at Drene.
"All right; rest a bit" said the sculptor smearing the bit of wax
he was pinching over the sketch before him.
He gave another twirl or two to the table wiped his bony fingers on
a handful of cotton waste picked up his empty pipe and blew into
the stem reflectively.
Quair one of the associated architects of the new opera who had
been born a gentleman and looked the perfect bounder sauntered over
to examine the sketch. He was still red from the rebuke he had
Guilder his senior colleague got up from the lounge and walked
over also. Drene fitted the sketch into the roughly designed group
where it belonged and stood aside sucking meditatively on his
After a silence:
"It's all right" said Guilder.
Quair remarked that the group seemed to lack flamboyancy. It is
true however that except for Guilder's habitual restraint the
celebrated firm of architects was inclined to express themselves
flamboyantly and to interpret Renaissance in terms of Baroque.
"She's some girl" added Quair looking at the lithe modeled
figure and then half turning to include the model who had seated
herself on the lounge and was now gazing with interest at the
composition sketched in by Drene for the facade of the new opera.
"Carpeaux and his eternal group--it's the murderous but inevitable
standard of comparison" mused Drene with a whimsical glance at the
photograph on the wall.
"Carpeaux has nothing on this young lady" insisted Quair
flippantly; and he pivoted on his heel and sat down beside the
model. Once or twice the two others consulting before the wax
group heard the girl's light untroubled laughter behind their
backs gaily responsive to Quair's wit. Perhaps Quair's inheritance
had been humor but to some it seemed perilously akin to mother-wit.
The pockets of Guilder's loose ill-fitting clothes bulged with
linen tracings and rolls of blue-prints. He and Drene consulted over
these for a while semi-conscious of Quair's bantering voice and the
girl's easily provoked laughter behind them. And finally:
"All right Guilder" said Drene briefly. And the firm of
celebrated architects prepared to evacuate the studio--Quair
exhibiting symptoms of incipient skylarking in which he was said to
be at his best.
"Drop in on me at the office some time" he suggested to the
youthful model in a gracious tone born of absolute
"For luncheon or dinner?" retorted the girl with smiling audacity.
"You may stay to breakfast also--"
"Oh come on" drawled Guilder taking his colleague's elbow.
The sculptor yawned as Quair went out: then he closed the door then
celebrated firm of architects and wandered back rather aimlessly.
For a while he stood by the great window watching the pigeons on
neighboring roof. Presently he returned to his table withdrew the
dancing figure with its graceful wide flung arms set it upon the
squeaky revolving table once more and studied it yawning at
The girl got up from the sofa behind him went to the model-stand
and mounted it. For a few moments she was busy adjusting her feet to
the chalk marks and blocks. Finally she took the pose. She always
seemed inclined to be more or less vocal while Drene worked; her
voice if untrained was untroubled. Her singing had never bothered
Drene nor until the last few days had he even particularly
noticed her blithe trilling--as a man a field preoccupied is
scarcely aware of the wild birds' gay irrelevancy along the way.
He happened to notice it now and a thought passed through his mind
that the country must be very lovely in the mild spring sunshine.
As he worked the brief visualization of young grass and the faint
blue of skies evoked perhaps by the girl's careless singing made
for his dull concentration subtly pleasant environment.
"May I rest?" she asked at length.
"Certainly if it's necessary."
"I've brought my lunch. It's twelve" she explained.
He glanced at her absently rolling a morsel of wax; then with
slight irritation which ended in a shrug he motioned her to
After all girls like birds were eternally eating. Except for
that and incessant preening existence meant nothing more important
to either species.
He had been busy for a few moments with the group when she said
something to him and he looked around from his abstraction. She was
holding out toward him a chicken sandwich.
When his mind came back from wool gathering he curtly declined the
offer and as an afterthought bestowed upon her a wholly
mechanical smile in recognition of a generosity not welcome.
"Why don't you ever eat luncheon?" she asked.
"Why should I?" he replied preoccupied.
"It's bad for you not to. Besides you are growing thin."
"Is that your final conclusion concerning me Cecile?" he asked
"Won't you please take this sandwich?"
Her outstretched arm more than what she said arrested his drifting
"Why the devil do you want me to eat?" he inquired fishing out his
empty pipe and filling it.
"You smoke too much. It's bad for you. It will do very queer
things to the lining of your stomach if you smoke your luncheon
instead of eating it."
"Is that so?" he said.
"Certainly it's so. Please take this sandwich."
He stood looking at the outstretched arm thinking of other things
and the girl sprang to her feet caught his hand opened the
fingers placed the sandwich on the palm then with a short laugh
as though slightly disconcerted by her own audacity she snatched
the pipe from his left hand and tossed it upon the table. When she
had reseated herself on the lounge beside her pasteboard box of
luncheon she became even more uncertain concerning the result of
what she had done and began to view with rising alarm the steady
gray eyes that were so silently inspecting her.
But after a moment Drene walked over to the sofa seated himself
curiously scrutinized the sandwich which lay across the palm of his
hand then gravely tasted it.
"This will doubtless give me indigestion" he remarked. "Why
Cecile do you squander your wages on nourishment for me?"
"It cost only five cents."
"But why present five cents to me?" "I gave ten to a beggar this
"I don't know."
"Was he grateful?"
"He seemed to be."
"This sandwich is excellent; but if I feel the worse for it I'll
not be very grateful to you." But he continued eating.
"'The woman tempted me'" she quoted glancing at him sideways.
After a moment's survey of her:
"You're one of those bright saucy pretty inexplicable things that
throng this town and occasionally flit through this
"Yes. Nobody looks for anything except mediocrity; you're one of
the surprises. Nobody expects you; nobody can account for you but
you appear now and then here and there anywhere even
everywhere--a pretty sparkle against the gray monotony of life a
momentary flash like a golden moat afloat in sunshine--and what
"What then? What becomes of you? Where do you go? What do you
"I don't know."
"You go somewhere don't you? You change into something don't you?
What happens to you petite Cigale?"
"When the sunshine is turned off and the snow comes."
"I don't know Mr. Drene." She broke her chocolate cake into halves
and laid one on his knee.
"Thanks for further temptation" he said grimly.
"You are welcome. It's good isn't it?"
"Excellent. Adam liked the apple too. But it raised hell with
She laughed shot a direct glance at him and began to nibble her
cake with her eyes still fixed on him.
Once or twice he encountered her gaze but his own always wandered
"You think a great deal don't you?" she remarked.
"I try not to--too much."
"What?" he asked swallowing the last morsel of cake.
She shrugged her shoulders:
"What's the advantage of thinking?"
He considered her reply for a moment her blue and rather childish
eyes and the very pure oval of her face. Then his attention flagged
as usual--was wandering--when she sighed very lightly so that he
scarcely heard it--merely noticed it sufficiently to conclude that
as usual there was the inevitable hard luck story afloat in her
vicinity and that he lacked the interest to listen to it.
"Thinking" she said "is a luxury to a tranquil mind and a
punishment to a troubled one. So I try not to."
It was a moment or two before it occurred to him that the girl had
uttered an unconscious epigram.
"It sounded like somebody--probably Montaigne. Was it?" he inquired.
"I don't know what you mean."
"Oh. Then it wasn't. You're a funny little girl aren't you?"
He looked into her very clear eyes now brightly blue with
intelligent perception of his not too civil badinage.
"And sometimes" he went on "you're funny when you don't intend to
"You are too Mr. Drene."
"Didn't you know it?"
A dull color tinted his cheek bones.
"No" he said "I didn't know it."
"But you are. For instance you don't walk; you stalk. You do what
novelists make their gloomy heroes do--you stride. It's rather
"Really. And do you find my movements comic?"
She was a trifle scared now but she laughed her breathless
"You are really very dramatic--a perfect story-book man. But you
know sometimes they are funny when the author doesn't intend them
to be. . . . Please don't be angry."
Why the impudence of a model should have irritated him he was at a
loss to understand--unless there lurked under that impudence a trace
of unflattering truth.
As he sat looking at her all at once and in an unexpected flash of
selfillumination he realized that habit had made of him an actor;
that for a while--a long while--a space of time he could not at the
moment conveniently compute--he had been playing a role merely
because he had become accustomed to it.
Disaster had cast him for a part. For a long while he had been that
part. Now he was still playing it from sheer force of habit. His
tragedy had really become only the shadow of a memory. Already he
had emerged from that shadow into the everyday outer world. But he
had forgotten that he still wore a somber makeup and costume which
in the sunshine might appear grotesque. No wonder the world thought
Glancing up from a perplexed and chagrined meditation he caught her
eye--and found it penitent troubled and anxious.
"You're quite right" he said smiling easily and naturally; "I am
unintentionally funny. And I really didn't know it--didn't suspect
it--until this moment."
"Oh" she said quickly. "I didn't mean--I know you are often
"You are! Anybody can see--and you really do not seem to be very
old either--when you smile--"
"I'm not very old" he said amused. "I'm not unhappy either. If I
ever was the truth is that I've almost forgotten by this time what
it was all about--"
"A woman" she quoted "between friends"--and checked herself
frightened that she had dared interpret Quair's malice.
He changed countenance at that; the dull red of anger clouded his
"Oh" she faltered "I was not saucy only sorry. . . . I have been
sorry for you so long--"
"Who intimated to you that a woman ever played any part in my
"It's generally supposed. I don't know anything more than that.
But I've been--sorry. Love is a very dreadful thing" she said under
"Is it?" he asked controlling a sudden desire to laugh.
"Don't you think so?"
"I have not thought of it that way recently. . . . I haven't
thought about it at all--for some years. . . . Have you?" he added
trying to speak gravely.
"Oh yes. I have thought of it" she admitted.
"And you conclude it to be a rather dreadful business?"
"Yes it is."
"Oh I don't know. A girl usually loves the wrong man. To be poor
is always bad enough but to be in love too is really very
dreadful. It usually finishes us--you know."
"Are you in love?" he inquired managing to repress his amusement.
"I could be. I know that much." She went to the sink turned on the
water washed her hands and stood with dripping fingers looking
about for a towel.
"I'll get you one" he said. When he brought it she laughed and