68 RUE ALFRED DE MUSSET
WAS an evening early in May. The maples
were covered with their little seed-pods, like
the crescents of the Moslem hosts they hung redly
in the evening air. The new leaf-tips of
the poplars shone out like silver blooms.
The mountain-ash-trees stood with their virginal
branches outlined against the filmy rose and grey
of the evening sky, their slender leaves half
open. Everything swam in the hazy light;
the air was full of gold motes; in the sky lay
a few strands of cloud, touched with almost imperceptible
rose. At the upper window of a house in
De Musset Street, Maurice Ruelle looked down upon
the trees covered with the misty light.
His window was high above everything, and the
house itself stood alone on the brow of a little
cliff that commanded miles of broken country.
Maurice was propped up at the window, and had
a shawl thrown about his shoulders. The
room was close; a little wood-fire was dying away
in the open stove. [Page 49]
"Maurice, Maurice, I'm
sick of life. I will be an adventuress."
Maurice turned his head to
look at the speaker. She was seated on the
floor, leaning on her slanted arm, which was thrown
behind her to support her weight.
"Well, my dear sister,
you are ambitious—"
"Don't be bitter, Maurice."
"I'm not bitter; I know
you are ambitious; I am proud of you, you know.
I don't see why you have to nurse me; fate is
cruel to you."
"Oh, but I don't nurse
you, you know that; what's my nursing good for?
I only wish we had money enough to send you away
for these terrible winters, or give you a room
in some fine hospital."
Maurice watched the birds dropping
through the glow. A little maid brought
in candles. Eloise began to walk up and
down the room restlessly.
"Ah, well, we haven't
the money," Maurice sighed.
altogether a matter of money; to me it's a matter
"Well, to me it's hardly
a matter of money or of life."
"Maurice, you must not
think of that; I forbid it. I must do something.
I feel that I can succeed. Look at me, Maurice—tell
She stood with her head thrown
back, and poised lightly, and with a little frown
on her face.
"Superb!" said her
"I know I'll do something
desperate," she said. "I must
live; I was made to." [Page 50]
"Yes, my dear, that is
the difference between us."
"Maurice, how dare you;
I forbid it; I have decided. You will go
south, and I will begin to live. I am going
to stop wishing."
"Well, I have long ago
ceased to wish; wishing was the only passion I
ever had; I have given it up. But I have
not wished for money; sometimes I have wished
He did not finish his sentence;
he only thought of what he had longed for more
than anything else, the love of his beautiful,
impulsive sister. Eloise was dusting her
geranium leaves. Maurice looked from his
window into the tree on which the leaves were
not yet thick enough to hide the old nests.
A short time after this a rather
curious advertisement appeared in one of the city
papers. It read: "Very handsome old
oak furniture. Secretaire with small drawers.
A dower chest and a little table. Each article
richly carved. For particulars call at No.
68 Rue Alfred de Musset, Viger."
Eloise read this advertisement
to her brother.
"What does this mean?"
he asked. "We have no such furniture,
but it is our number true enough. Is this
"Yes, my dear, that is
what it is."
The next day callers in response
to this advertisement began to arrive. Eloise
answered the bell herself. The first was
a rather shabby old man who wore a tall hat and
green glasses. He produced a crumpled clipping
[Page 51] from the paper, and,
smoothing it out, handed it to Eloise.
"I have come to buy this
second-hand furniture," he explained, holding
his hat by the brim. Eloise looked at the
advertisement as if she had never seen it before.
"There must be some mistake,"
she said. "I have no such furniture.:
"I have not mistaken the
number—No. 68 Rue Alfred de Musset."
"Yes, but the printer
must have made a mistake; this is not the place."
Many times that day she had
to give unpromising looking people the same answer.
Every one of them accepted the situation cheerfully;
certainly it must have been a mistake. Three
letters came also with inquiries about the furniture.
One of these Eloise was tempted to answer; but
she resolved to wait a day or two. The next
day no one came at all; but on the next, about
four o'clock in the afternoon, a young man drove
up in a dog-cart. He left his horse, and
walked rapidly through the little garden to the
house. He was a handsome vigorous-looking
youth. He rang somewhat violently; and Eloise
answered the summons. She opened the door
a foot, and the caller could only see a bit of
her white dress.
"I have called to see
the furniture you have advertised," he said.
The door opened slowly, and,
taking this as an invitation to enter, he stepped
into the hall. He could not tell [Page
52] why, but he expected to see an old
woman behind the door; instead he saw a very graceful
girl holding the door-knob between her fingers.
Without a word she preceded him with an air of
shyness, and led the way into the front room.
He glanced about for the furniture; it was evidently
not there. She asked him to be seated.
"My father wanted me to
come out and look at the things you advertised,"
"You are very good, Monsieur."
"Not at all; my father
picks up these things for the house, when they
are really valuable."
"These are very valuable."
She still wore an air of shyness,
and looked abstractedly from the window into a
lilac-bush; she seemed nervous and apprehensive.
"Could you let me see
There was a noise upstairs.
Eloise half started from her chair.
"I beg of you not to speak
He relapsed into a whisper.
"I beg pardon, I was not
conscious of speaking too loudly."
"It is not that, but—I
cannot explain." She ended abruptly.
"You see," she said, hesitatingly, "I
wish you had come yesterday."
"Have you promised them
to someone else?"
"No, not at all; but yesterday
it might have been possible, today it is impossible
to show it to you." [Page 53]
"When can I see it?"
"I am unfortunate—I cannot
say when. It is my brother's—but it must
An expression of slight distress
crossed her face.
"Does he not want it sold?"
"Monsieur, I beg of you
not to question me; I am in great perplexity."
She continued, after a moment's pause, "You
have rarely seen things so exquisite; the secretaire
has a secret cabinet, the chest is carved with
a scene of nymphs in a wood; the table is a beautiful
little table." She figured these articles
in the air with an imaginative wave of her hand.
The young man began to regard her with some interest;
he remarked to himself that she was a lovely girl.
"I'm sorry my call is
inopportune, I will come again." He
left his card on the table.
"Perhaps when you come
again it will be more convenient," she said,
following him at some distance to the door.
He opened it himself, and went down the steps;
as he looked back it was slowly shutting, and
he caught a glimpse of her delicate white dress
as it closed. Eloise took up the card.
The name was Pierre Pechito. She knew the
name; it was borne by one of the richest of the
city merchants. She took the card up to
Maurice. He held it in his emaciated fingers.
"Is this the end of Chapter
One?" he asked. "Well, he may
never come back; and what will you do with him
if he does come back?" [Page 54]
"Oh, he will come; as
for the rest, we must succeed. But there
is one thing, Maurice, you must be the invisible
ogre; you must rage about here as wildly as you
can, while I am working out our destiny downstairs."
"My destiny?" he
asked, with a falling touch of sadness in his
A few days after this Pierre
returned. "May I come in?" he
asked, as Eloise held the door open hesitatingly.
"If you wish, Monsieur."
They sat a moment silently in the parlour.
Eloise, commencing hurriedly but determinedly,
"in this life everything is uncertain; so
much depends upon mere circumstances, which are
too obscure for us to control. I am willing
to show you the furniture, but how much depends
upon that!" She rose with the air of
a heroine, and led the way to the foot of the
stairs. Pierre followed. She had ascended
three steps, and he had his hand on the newel
post, when there was a crash in the room above.
Eloise turned suddenly and leaned against the
banister, glancing up the stairs, and extending
her hand to keep Pierre back. "Monsieur,
for the love of heaven do not come on, go back—go
back into the room, I beg of you."
"I am leaving you in danger,
"I am accustomed to it.
I beg of you." She accompanied these
words with an imploring gesture. Pierre
went into the room, where he paced up and down.
The noise increased in violence, and then ceased
altogether. [Page 55] Eloise
returned to the room; she leaned from the window,
breathing convulsively; she plucked one of the
half-grown lilac leaves and bit it through and
"Yet the furniture must
be sold," she said aloud. Pierre took
a step toward her.
"Mademoiselle, you are
in distress. May I not help you? I
am able to. You can command me."
"Alas, Monsieur, you mean
I can command your wealth." Pierre
was profoundly moved at the sorrow in her girlish
"I mean I would help you;
I want to do what I can for you."
"Let us go no farther,"
she said, with her eyes fixed on the floor.
"I must not come into your happy life."
There was a trace of bitterness in her tone.
"I have undertaken to
buy the furniture," he said, with a smile.
"I will not give up so soon."
"Maurice, Maurice, you
are a splendid ogre!" said Eloise, throwing
open the door.
"It is terrible exhausting,"
he said, with a faint smile.
When Pierre came next it was
raining quietly through a silver haze; the little
maid opened the door a moment later Eloise came
into the room. When she spoke her voice
sounded restrained; and to Pierre she seemed completely
"I have deceived you,"
she commenced, without prelude, "there is
no furniture to sell." To all his questions
or remonstrances she gave him this answer, as
if she were afraid to trust herself to other words,
standing with [Page 56] her eyes
cast to the floor, and an expressionless face.
But when she seemed the most distant, as if she
could not recede further, she burst into tears.
Pierre hurried toward her—"Mademoiselle,
I cannot address you by name; you cannot deceive
me; you are in great distress. I beg you
not to think of the furniture; it is not necessary
that these things of wood should trouble you further;
today I did not come to see it, I came to see
"Oh, Monsieur," she
sobbed, "you must never come here again,
"Make no mistake, I will
come, at least until I can help you, until I know
your story." He gained her hand.
"Monsieur, I cannot accept
your assistance; but your kindness demands my
She told it. She was
a lovely girl caught in a net of circumstances.
She was an orphan. Her parents had left
her and her brother a little money—too little
to live on—they existed. Her brother was
a cripple—how often had she wished she was dead—he
was wicked. She hinted at unkindness, at
tyranny. It was necessary to sell these
heirlooms. (Here Pierre pressed her hand,
"You could not deceive me," he said.)
But he would not hear of it. Her life was
intolerable—but she must live it to the end—to
the end. "If I could have deceived
you, Monsieur, I would have done so."
A smile shimmered through her tears. Pierre
pressed her hand; she softly drew it away.
Suddenly there was a crash in the room above;
a light shower of dry whitewash was thrown down
around them; the sound of an inhuman voice came
feebly down the [Page 57] stairs.
"I must go, do not detain me," she cried,
as Pierre tried to intercept her. He endeavoured
to hold her at the foot of the stairs. "Do
not go, I beg of you." She turned sweetly
toward him. "I must go; it is my duty;
you do yours." The tears were not yet
dry on her eyelids. Pierre watched her flutter
upstairs like a dove flying into a hawk's nest.
His pulses were pounding at his wrists.
"I wish I knew what my duty was," he
said to himself. As he left the house he
glanced up at the window, a handkerchief dropped
down; he pressed it to his lips and thrust it
into his bosom. When he was out of sight
he examined it. It was a dainty thing of
the most delicate fabric; in one corner were the
words, "Eloise Ruelle."
Eloise found Maurice almost
fainting with his exertion. When he recovered,
"Is the game worth the
"Well, we will see."
"Eloise, you have been
"I cry easily, I do everything
Maurice turned away and gazed
from the window. The rain was so fine it
seemed to be a rising mist; the trees were hidden,
like plants in the bottom of the sea; somewhere
the sun was shining, for there was a silver bar
in the mist.
Pierre was not slow in coming
again; but, instead of seeing Eloise, he had a
note thrust into his hand by the little serving-maid.
It ran: "I cannot see you. He
forbids it. Who could have told that our
last word was 'good-bye.' If I could have
spoken again I would have [Page 58] thanked
you. How can I ever do so now? Adieu."
Reading this on the step, he scrawled hurriedly
on a leaf of his note-book: "I would not
have you thank me, but I must see you again.
Your risk is great, but I will be here tomorrow
night; we will have the darkness, and all I ask
is ten minutes. Is it too much?"
He gave the note to the maid,
who shut the door. The house looked absolutely
sphinx-like as he walked away from it.
The next night was moist with
a touch of frost. A little smoke from burning
leaves hung in the air with a pungent odour.
The scent of the lilacs fell with the wind when
it moved. Eloise was muffled picturesquely
in a cloak. Pierre was holding her hand,
which she had not reclaimed. "I have
dared everything to come," she said softly.
"You are brave, braver
than I was to ask you."
"You know my story.
You are the only one."
"That binds us."
"How can I thank you?"
"You must not try, I have
Just then a burning brand was
hurled from the window; it fell into the lilac-tree
where it devoured a cone of blossom and withered
the leaves around it. It threw up a little
springing flame which danced a light on Eloise,
who had cowered into a corner by the steps, with
her hand over her eyes. Pierre went to her.
"Tell me," he said, "what does
"Oh," she moaned,
"he suspects we are here; he [Page
59] always has a fire on the hottest
nights, and he is throwing the sticks out."
This led Pierre to expect another one. He
caught her by the arm.
"You must come out of
danger," he said, "one might fall on
your dress." The brand was glowing
in spots. He tore it out of the bush and
trampled on it. They went to the other side
of the steps. It was the season of quick
growth. In one day thousands of violets
had lit their little tips of yellow fire in the
tangle of the underwood; in one day the tulips
were moulded into fragile cups of flame burning
steadily in the sunlight; in one day the lilacs
had burst their little clove-like blooms, and
were crowding in the dark-green leaves.
Pierre was saying excitedly:
"Listen to me. This thing cannot go
further. I love you, I am yours. I
must protect you. You cannot deny me."
Eloise tried to stop him with an imploring gesture.
"No," he cried, "you must hear
me! you must be mine! I will take you away
"Oh, do not tempt me!"
cried Eloise. "I must stay here.
I cannot leave him."
"You must leave him.
What hold has he upon you? I will never
let you go back to this torment—never. Eloise,"
he continued seriously, "sometimes we have
to decide in a moment the things of a life-time.
This is such a moment. Before I pluck this
blossom," he said, leaning down to a dwarf
lilac-bush bearing one bloom, "I want you
to promise to be my wife." A moment
later he had plucked the flower, but had dropped
it, and had caught [Page 60] Eloise
in his arms. She stifled a cry, and gave
herself to him.
cried Eloise, "look at me, I am triumphant!"
He hardly looked at her; he was cowering over
the fire, which had smouldered away, and in which
the ashes were fluttering about like moths.
"I have done what you
asked, that is all," he said, with an effort.
"But is everything to
me; I will never forget you, Maurice, no matter
how powerful I may become."
"Alas! you need not remember
me for long. Perhaps I will have what I
wanted here, in some other star."
A few evenings later Eloise drew the door after
her: "Hush!" she said, "the least
noise will disturb him." She hesitated,
and left the door ajar.
"Do you regret?"
"No, but I am leaving
"Yes, even the old furniture;
if it had not been for that I would never have
known you," he said.
She listened for a moment,
and then shut the door softly on the empty house:
Maurice had gone to the hospital that afternoon;
the little maid had been discharged.
"But," she said,
holding Pierre's arm and leaning away from him
with her sweet smile, "I have also gained
The next moment they had gone
This was the beginning of her
career. [Page 61]