The King in Yellow – Day 85 of 87

“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–”

“Not idiot,” remonstrated Clifford gently.

“See here,” cried Elliott, “have you the nerve to try to tell me that you are in love again?”

“Again?”

“Yes, again and again and again and–by George have you?”

“This,” observed Clifford sadly, “is serious.”

For a moment Elliott would have laid hands on him, then he laughed from sheer helplessness. “Oh, go on, go on; let’s see, there’s Clémence and Marie Tellec and Cosette and Fifine, Colette, Marie Verdier–”

“All of whom are charming, most charming, but I never was serious–”

“So help me, Moses,” said Elliott, solemnly, “each and every one of those named have separately and in turn torn your heart with anguish and have also made me lose my place at Julian’s in this same manner; each and every one, separately and in turn. Do you deny it?”

“What you say may be founded on facts–in a way–but give me the credit of being faithful to one at a time–”

“Until the next came along.”

“But this,–this is really very different. Elliott, believe me, I am all broken up.”

Then there being nothing else to do, Elliott gnashed his teeth and listened.

“It’s–it’s Rue Barrée.”

“Well,” observed Elliott, with scorn, “if you are moping and moaning over that girl,–the girl who has given you and myself every reason to wish that the ground would open and engulf us,–well, go on!”

“I’m going on,–I don’t care; timidity has fled–”

“Yes, your native timidity.”

“I’m desperate, Elliott. Am I in love? Never, never did I feel so d–n miserable. I can’t sleep; honestly, I’m incapable of eating properly.”

“Same symptoms noticed in the case of Colette.”

“Listen, will you?”

“Hold on a moment, I know the rest by heart. Now let me ask you something. Is it your belief that Rue Barrée is a pure girl?”

“Yes,” said Clifford, turning red.

“Do you love her,–not as you dangle and tiptoe after every pretty inanity–I mean, do you honestly love her?”

“Yes,” said the other doggedly, “I would–”

“Hold on a moment; would you marry her?”

Clifford turned scarlet. “Yes,” he muttered.

“Pleasant news for your family,” growled Elliott in suppressed fury. “‘Dear father, I have just married a charming grisette whom I’m sure you’ll welcome with open arms, in company with her mother, a most estimable and cleanly washlady.’ Good heavens! This seems to have gone a little further than the rest. Thank your stars, young man, that my head is level enough for us both. Still, in this case, I have no fear. Rue Barrée sat on your aspirations in a manner unmistakably final.”

“Rue Barrée,” began Clifford, drawing himself up, but he suddenly ceased, for there where the dappled sunlight glowed in spots of gold, along the sun-flecked path, tripped Rue Barrée. Her gown was spotless, and her big straw hat, tipped a little from the white forehead, threw a shadow across her eyes.

Elliott stood up and bowed. Clifford removed his head-covering with an air so plaintive, so appealing, so utterly humble that Rue Barrée smiled.

The smile was delicious and when Clifford, incapable of sustaining himself on his legs from sheer astonishment, toppled slightly, she smiled again in spite of herself. A few moments later she took a chair on the terrace and drawing a book from her music-roll, turned the pages, found the place, and then placing it open downwards in her lap, sighed a little, smiled a little, and looked out over the city. She had entirely forgotten Foxhall Clifford.

After a while she took up her book again, but instead of reading began to adjust a rose in her corsage. The rose was big and red. It glowed like fire there over her heart, and like fire it warmed her heart, now fluttering under the silken petals. Rue Barrée sighed again. She was very happy. The sky was so blue, the air so soft and perfumed, the sunshine so caressing, and her heart sang within her, sang to the rose in her breast. This is what it sang: “Out of the throng of passers-by, out of the world of yesterday, out of the millions passing, one has turned aside to me.”

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