The King in Yellow – Day 84 of 87

We know Selby,” said Elliott with emphasis.

“Yes,” said Rowden, “he gives receptions with floral decorations and invites Clifford, while we sit on the stairs.”

“Yes, while the youth and beauty of the Quarter revel,” suggested Rowden; then, with sudden misgiving; “Is Odette there?”

“See here,” demanded Elliott, “is Colette there?”

Then he raised his voice in a plaintive howl, “Are you there, Colette, while I’m kicking my heels on these tiles?”

“Clifford is capable of anything,” said Rowden; “his nature is soured since Rue Barrée sat on him.”

Elliott raised his voice: “I say, you fellows, we saw some flowers carried into Rue Barrée’s house at noon.”

“Posies and roses,” specified Rowden.

“Probably for her,” added Elliott, caressing his bulldog.

Clifford turned with sudden suspicion upon Selby. The latter hummed a tune, selected a pair of gloves and, choosing a dozen cigarettes, placed them in a case. Then walking over to the cactus, he deliberately detached a blossom, drew it through his buttonhole, and picking up hat and stick, smiled upon Clifford, at which the latter was mightily troubled.

IV

Monday morning at Julian’s, students fought for places; students with prior claims drove away others who had been anxiously squatting on coveted tabourets since the door was opened in hopes of appropriating them at roll-call; students squabbled over palettes, brushes, portfolios, or rent the air with demands for Ciceri and bread. The former, a dirty ex-model, who had in palmier days posed as Judas, now dispensed stale bread at one sou and made enough to keep himself in cigarettes. Monsieur Julian walked in, smiled a fatherly smile and walked out. His disappearance was followed by the apparition of the clerk, a foxy creature who flitted through the battling hordes in search of prey.

Three men who had not paid dues were caught and summoned. A fourth was scented, followed, outflanked, his retreat towards the door cut off, and finally captured behind the stove. About that time, the revolution assuming an acute form, howls rose for “Jules!”

Jules came, umpired two fights with a sad resignation in his big brown eyes, shook hands with everybody and melted away in the throng, leaving an atmosphere of peace and good-will. The lions sat down with the lambs, the massiers marked the best places for themselves and friends, and, mounting the model stands, opened the roll-calls.

The word was passed, “They begin with C this week.”

They did.

“Clisson!”

Clisson jumped like a flash and marked his name on the floor in chalk before a front seat.

“Caron!”

Caron galloped away to secure his place. Bang! went an easel. “Nom de Dieu!” in French,–”Where in h–l are you goin’!” in English. Crash! a paintbox fell with brushes and all on board. “Dieu de Dieu de–” spat! A blow, a short rush, a clinch and scuffle, and the voice of the massier, stern and reproachful:

“Cochon!”

Then the roll-call was resumed.

“Clifford!”

The massier paused and looked up, one finger between the leaves of the ledger.

“Clifford!”

Clifford was not there. He was about three miles away in a direct line and every instant increased the distance. Not that he was walking fast,–on the contrary, he was strolling with that leisurely gait peculiar to himself. Elliott was beside him and two bulldogs covered the rear. Elliott was reading the “Gil Blas,” from which he seemed to extract amusement, but deeming boisterous mirth unsuitable to Clifford’s state of mind, subdued his amusement to a series of discreet smiles. The latter, moodily aware of this, said nothing, but leading the way into the Luxembourg Gardens installed himself upon a bench by the northern terrace and surveyed the landscape with disfavour. Elliott, according to the Luxembourg regulations, tied the two dogs and then, with an interrogative glance toward his friend, resumed the “Gil Blas” and the discreet smiles.

The day was perfect. The sun hung over Notre Dame, setting the city in a glitter. The tender foliage of the chestnuts cast a shadow over the terrace and flecked the paths and walks with tracery so blue that Clifford might here have found encouragement for his violent “impressions” had he but looked; but as usual in this period of his career, his thoughts were anywhere except in his profession. Around about, the sparrows quarrelled and chattered their courtship songs, the big rosy pigeons sailed from tree to tree, the flies whirled in the sunbeams and the flowers exhaled a thousand perfumes which stirred Clifford with languorous wistfulness. Under this influence he spoke.

“Elliott, you are a true friend–”

“You make me ill,” replied the latter, folding his paper. “It’s just as I thought,–you are tagging after some new petticoat again. And,” he continued wrathfully, “if this is what you’ve kept me away from Julian’s for,–if it’s to fill me up with the perfections of some little idiot–”

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