In the Square d'lena, which teems with little Parisians in charge of English nurses, Vera Simpson wheeled the baby-carriage to a bench on fine mornings, and exchanged patriotic sentiments with her compeers. When disparagement of France flagged, Vera Simpson occasionally observed. So as she always entered the square at the same end and nearly always chose the same bench, she observed the eccentric proceedings of a young man who took to coming every morning to stare at the statue on the opposite grass plot. After standing before it as if he were glued there, the young man would reverse one of the chairs that faced the path in an orderly line, and then sit mooning at the statue, with his back to everybody, for nearly an hour. It was, Miss Simpson surmised, a statue to a departed Frenchy. She had never approached it to ascertain what name it bore, and could see nothing about the thing to account for the fellow's taking such stock of it. Some time before he had appeared for nine days in succession, she and her circle had nicknamed him the " rum 'un".
On the tenth day, instead of the young man, a woman went to the statue, and stood before it just 66 as stupidly and as long as the man had done. The most comical bit was that, when she turned away at last, it was seen that the statue had been making the woman cry. After that, neither of the funny pair came back to the Square d'I£na; but as Vera Simpson chooses the same bench still, she sometimes recalls their queerness and, before her mind wanders, tries again to guess their game. This was the game that Vera Simpson tries to guess.
Gaby Dupuy was wishing that the summer were over; she was a model. Not one of the wretched models that wait at the corner of the boulevards Raspail and Montparnasse on Mondays, to crave the vote of students in academies; she went by appointment to the ateliers of the successful. But now the painters and the sculptors were all at the seaside, and her appointment book had shown no sitting for ever so long.
Gaby's qualities had never placed her among the stars of her profession. Nobody had ever said of her, as a great man said of one of the most celebrated of models, that he had only to reproduce her faithfully; still less could it be asserted that she had the genius to penetrate an artist's purport and present the pose that was eluding him. But if she had neither the beauty of a Sarah Brown, nor the intuition of a Dubosc, her face possessed a certain attractiveness, and she could achieve the expression demanded of her when it was laboriously explained.
Once upon a time her face had been more attractive still; Gaby wasn't so young as she used to be.
While the woman was regretting that her scanty provision for the dreaded summer would not allow her a more adequate menu, she received a letter. A stranger, who signed himself Jacques Launay, earnestly desired an interview. He wrote that, being unfamiliar with Paris, he had had great difficulty in ascertaining her address, and added that, as his stay in the capital was drawing to a close, he would deeply appreciate the favour of an early reply. Her eyebrows climbed as she saw that, in lieu of requiring her to betake herself to his studio, he " begged for the privilege of calling upon her at any hour that she might find convenient." Probably, though, as a provincial, he hadn't got a studio here. Still, what deference ! he had written to her as if she were of the ancienne noblesse.
But if he hadn't a studio, where did he expect her to pose? Did he want her to go to him in the country ? Yes, that must be it. Flute ! Gaby didn't think it would be good enough—the end of the dead season was in sight at last, and in Paris she would often be booked for two studios a day. Nevertheless she was eager to hear what he had to say for himself. She answered that he could see her at seven o'clock the following evening at the Paradis des Artistes, round the corner. To meet him at a restaurant, she reflected, would at least ensure his asking her to have something to drink; and as the tables would be laid, by seven o'clock, he might even spring to a meal.
The Paradis des Artistes was a small establishment where, for three francs, one found a homely dinner, inclusive of wine, and a cripple who wore a red jacket, to look like a Tzigane, and chanted to a mandoline. The " artistes " were chiefly models, and the lesser lights of a cafe-concert. As most of the company knew one another, and the proprietress called many of the ladies by their Christian names, and played piquet with them between midnight and 2 a.m., the tone of the restaurant was as informal as a family party. When Gaby arrived, the only person present whom she had never seen there before was a young man, who sat at a table near the door, solitary and seemingly expectant. Their gaze met, but although he looked undecided, he did not salute her. Then, as she was greeted by acquaintances, somebody cried, " Gaby, comment va? " and the young man's head was turned again. If he was her correspondent, it was rather odd that he didn't know her when he saw her. But she gave him another opportunity. . . . He approached with marked hesitation.
" Mademoiselle Gabrielle Dupuy? "
" Mais oui, monsieur," she said, smiling graciously. " It is monsieur Launay? "
" Oh, mademoiselle, it is most kind of you ! " faltered the stranger. His confusion was extraordinary, considering his age, for he could not have been less than eight- or nine-and-twenty. They stood mute for some seconds. As he remained too much embarrassed to suggest her taking a seat at his table, " I hope I have not kept you waiting ? " she asked, carelessly moving towards it.
They sat down now, and the waitress, whose tone was informal too, whisked over with, " And for mademoiselle Dupuy ? "
" Give me a glass of madère, Louise," she said.
Still the young man seemed unable to find his tongue, and she went on :
" I am afraid this place was rather out of the way for you? But I have got into the habit of dropping in here about this time; and it is cosy and one can talk".