" Yes," he assented. He stole a timid glance at her, and looked quickly away. " Oh yes".
" Who was it who gave you my address at last, monsieur? "
" I do not know," he said awkwardly. " It was a man who heard me inquiring. I had immense trouble to find it out".
" It is not a dead secret, however".
" I suppose not—no—but I have no friends in Paris ; I have never been in Paris before. And at the start I did not even know who you were".
" You did not know who I was ? Oh, you had seen something I had posed for? "
" Yes, it was like that. I was anxious to find you, but I did not know your name. And I had no one to help me," he stammered ; "it was enormously difl&cult".
" You are a painter, monsieur Launay? "
" No, mademoiselle".
" Ah, a sculptor ! That interests me still more".
• I am not a sculptor either, mademoiselle," he admitted. " I am a composer".
"A composer?" she echoed. "But—but a composer does not employ models".
" No, mademoiselle, but I beg you not to think my motive impudent," exclaimed the young man, with the first touch of spontaneity that he had shown yet.
" Mysterious merely," she smiled. Her expression offered him encouragement to elucidate the mystery, but nervousness seemed to overcome him again. He was boring her. She exchanged remarks across the room with a lady who wore one of the figured veils then in vogue, under which the victim of fashion appeared to have lost portions of her face.
" Going to feed, Gaby?"
" Yes, my dear, in a minute," she answered.
She saw her correspondent regard the announcement " DINER 3 Fr." His invitation was constrained, and her acceptance listless.
It no doubt surprised the young man to discover that the veiled lady was his guest as well; he must have wondered how it had happened. Also it may have startled him, when he made to fill Gaby's glass from one of the little decanters that stood before them, to learn that she " did not take it " and to see a bottle labelled " Pouilly Fuisse " display itself before he could say " Why ? " for he had not heard it ordered. He heard no order given for the second bottle that he beheld, nor for the tarte aux cerises that graced their repast—a delicacy that was not a feature of the other people's. But though these incidents may have caused him disquietude, since he was far from having an air of wealth, he manifested no objection to them. Gaby allowed that that was gentil. A singularly taciturn host, but an amenable one. And, briefly as he spoke, he yielded continuous attention to her prattle to the lady with the veil. It was queer that the more she prattled, the more despondent he grew. She found him piquing her curiosity.
When a bill for twenty-nine francs fifty was presented to him, after the café filtré and Egyptian cigarettes, Gaby put out her hand for it and knocked off four francs without discussion. " I don't let them make their little mistakes with friends of mine," she told him languidly, rising. " I am going home to get my coat—you can come with me." He accepted her invitation with as scant enthusiasm as she had shown for his own; and by way of a hint, forgetful of her earlier statement, she added, " This place is rotten—it's so noisy and one can't talk".
But he proved no more talkative in the street. One might almost have imagined that the task of explaining his petition for the interview was a duty that he sought to escape.
Her lodging was so close that the doorway took him aback. He followed her up the stairs submissively. She was not impatient for the coat. After lighting the lamp, she lit another of the cigarettes, and sat. The young man stood staring from the window.
" Well, chatterbox? " she said.
He swung round with unexpected vehemence. " I know I look a hopeless idiot," he cried.
" But . . . what an idea ! " Her gesture was all surprised denial.
" I prayed to see you—I said nothing all the evening, I stand like a dummy here. I must tell you why I wrote. But—but it is not so easy as I thought it would be".
" You make me curious".
" Listen," he exclaimed. " I had had two passions in my life—music, and the poetry of Richardiere ! No other poet has meant half—a tithe—so much to me as he. His work inspired me when I was a boy; if I had had the means, I would have taken the journey to Paris just to wait on the pavement and see his face when he went out. When he died- Of course all France mourned his loss, but none but his dearest friends, I think, could have felt as I did. Well, since I have been a man I have made an opera of his Arizath, and I came to Paris last week because there was a prospect of its being produced. Five minutes after I had found a room at an hotel, I was asking my way to the Square d'lena to see the statue to him. I knew nothing about it excepting that it had been erected there—and as I approached it my heart sank: I had always pictured a statue of the man, and I saw merely a bust of him—the statue was of a woman, recalling a verse".
She nodded. " I know. Beauvais kept me posing for three hours and a half without budging, and I had a chilblain that itched like mad on the finger inside the book".
" The disappointment was keen. I almost wished I had not come, for it had been a long walk, and I was very tired. And then, after I had stood looking at the bust, noting how handsome he had been, and thinking of his genius, I looked down at the statue of the woman, and I felt that it would have been worth coming simply to see that. It was so wonderful, so real ! The naturalness of the attitude, the perfection of the toilette—I had never realised that the sculptor's art could do such things; I think I looked for minutes at the slippers. I admired the sleeves, the sweep of the gown, that seemed as if it must be soft to touch; I was amazed by a thousand trifles before my glance lingered on the face. And after my glance lingered on the face I saw nothing else; I could not even move to look at it in profile—it held me fixed".