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A Dog of Flanders, and Other Stories. Ouida, 1839–1908.
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page: 208

III.

NOW before that summer was gone, these two were betrothed to one another, and my little, fair, dead daughter, the Rosebud, all faded and scentless though her half‐opened leaves were, remained always on René’s heart as a tender and treasured relic.

They were betrothed, I say,—not wedded, for they were so terribly poor.

Many a day he, I think, had not so much as a crust to eat; and there passed many weeks when the works on his canvas stood unfinished because he had not wherewithal to buy the oils and the colours to finish them.

René was frightfully poor, indeed; but then, being an artist and a poet, and the lover of a fair and noble woman, and a dreamer of dreams, and a man God‐gifted, he was no longer wretched.

For the life of a painter is beautiful when he is still young, and loves truly, and has a genius in him stronger than calamity, and hears a voice in which he believes say always in his ear, “Fear nothing. Men must believe as I do in thee, one day. And meanwhile—we can wait!”

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And a painter in Paris, even though he starve on a few sous a day, can have so much that is lovely and full of picturesque charm in his daily pursuits: the long, wondrous galleries full of the arts he adores; the “réalité de l’idéal” around him in that perfect world; the slow, sweet, studious hours in the calm wherein all that is great in humanity alone survives; the trance—half adoration, half aspiration, at once desire and despair—before the face of the Mona Lisa; then, without, the streets so glad and so gay in the sweet, living sunshine; the quiver of green leaves among gilded balconies; the groups at every turn about the doors; the glow of colour in market‐ place and peopled square; the quaint gray piles in old historic ways; the stones, from every one of which some voice from the imperishable Past cries out; the green and silent woods, the little leafy villages, the winding waters garden girt; the forest heights, with the city gleaming and golden in the plain;—all these are his.

With these,—and youth,—who shall dare say the painter is not rich—ay, though his board be empty and his cup be dry?

I had not loved Paris,—I, a little imprisoned rose, caged in a clay pot, and seeing nothing but the sky‐line of the roofs. But I grew to love it, hearing from René and from Lili of all the poetry and gladness page: 210 that Paris made possible in their young and burdened lives, and which could have been thus possible in no other city of the earth.

City of Pleasure you have called her, and with truth; but why not also City of the Poor? For what city, like herself, has remembered the poor in her pleasure, and given to them, no less than to the richest, the treasure of her laughing sunlight, of her melodious music, of her gracious hues, of her million flowers, of her shady leaves, of her divine ideals?

Oh, world! when you let Paris die, you let your last youth die with her! Your rich will mourn a paradise deserted, but your poor will have need to weep with tears of blood for the ruin of the sole Eden whose sunlight sought them in their shadow, whose music found them in their loneliness, whose glad green ways were open to their tired feet, whose radiance smiled the sorrow from their aching eyes, and in whose wildest errors and whose vainest dreams their woes and needs were unforgotten.

Well, this little, humble love‐idyl, which grew into being in an attic of Paris, had a tender grace of its own; and I watched it with tenderness, and it seemed to me fresh as the dews of the morning in the midst of the hot stifling world.

They could not marry: he had nothing but famine page: 211 for his wedding‐gift, and all the little that she made was taken for the food and wine of the bedridden old grandam in that religious execution of a filial duty which is so habitual in the French family‐life, that no one dreams of counting it as any virtue.

But they spent their leisure‐time together: they passed their rare holiday hours in each other’s society in the woods which they both loved, or in the public galleries of art; and when the autumn came on apace, and they could no longer sit at their open casements, he still watched the gleam of her pale lamp as a pilgrim the light of a shrine, and she, ere she went to rest, would push ajar the closed shutter and put her pretty fair head into the darkling night and waft him a gentle good‐night, and then go and kneel down by her bed and pray for him and his future before the cross which had been her dead mother’s.

On that bright summer, a hard winter followed. The poor suffered very much; and I, in the closed lattice, knew scarcely which was the worse,— the icy shivering chills of the snow‐burdened air, or the close noxious suffocation of the stove.

I was very sickly and ill, and cared little for my life during that bitter cold weather, when the panes of the lattice were all blocked from week’s end to week’s end with the solid silvery foliage of the frost.

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René and Lili both suffered greatly: he could only keep warmth in his veins by the stoves of the public libraries, and she lost her work in the box trade after the New Year fairs, and had to eke out as best she might the few francs she had been able to lay back in the old brown pipkin in the closet.

She had, moreover, to sell most of the little things in her garret: her own mattress went, though she kept the bed under her grandmother. But there were two things she would not sell, though for both was she offered money,—they were her mother’s reliques and myself.

She would not, I am sure, have sold the picture, either. But for that no one offered her a centime.

One day, as the last of the winter solstice was passing away, the old woman died.

Lili wept for her sincere and tender tears, though never in my time—nor in any other, I believe, had the poor, old, querulous, paralytic sufferer rewarded her with anything except lamentation and peevish discontent.

Now you will come to me?” murmured her lover, when they had returned from laying the old dead peasant in the quarter of the poor.

Lili drooped her head softly upon his breast.

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“If you wish it!” she whispered, with a whisper as soft as the first low breath of summer.

If he wished it!

A gleam of pale gold sunshine shone through the dulled panes upon my feeble branches; a little timid fly crept out and spread its wings; the bells of the church rang an angelus; a child laughed in the street below; there came a smile of greenness spreading over the boughs of leafless trees; my lover, the wind, returned from the south, fresh from desert and ocean, with the scent of the spice‐groves and palm‐aisles of the east in his breath, and softly unclosing my lattice, murmured to me, “Didst thou think I was faithless? See, I come with the spring!”

So, though I was captive and they two were poor, yet we three were all happy; for love and a new year of promise were with us.

I bore a little snowy blossom (sister to the one which slept lifeless on René’s heart) that spring, whilst yet the swallows were not back from the African gardens, and the first violets were carried in millions through the streets,—the only innocent imperialists that the world has ever seen.

That little winter‐begotten darling of mine was to be Lili’s nuptial‐ flower. She took it so tenderly from me, that it hardly seemed like its death.

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“My little dear rose, who blossoms for me, though I can only cage her in day, and only let her see the sun’s rays between the stacks of the chimneys!” she said softly over me as she kissed me; and when she said that, could I any more grieve for Provence?

“What do they wed upon, those two?” said the old vine to me.

And I answered him, “Hope and dreams.”

“Will those bake bread and feed babes?” said the vine, as he shook his wrinkled tendrils despondcntly in the March air.

We did not ask in the attic.

Summer was nigh at hand, and we loved one another.

René had come to us—we had not gone to him. For our garret was on the sunny, his on the dark, side of the street, and Lili feared the gloom for me and the bird; and she could not bring herself to leave that old red‐leaved creeper who had wound himself so close about the rain‐pipe and the roof, and who could not have been dislodged without being slain.

With the Mardi Gras her trade had returned to her. René, unable to prosecute his grand works, took many of the little boxes in his own hands, and wrought on page: 215 them with all the nameless mystical charm and the exquisite grace of touch which belong to the man who is by nature a great artist. The little trade could not at its best price bring much, but it brought bread; and we were happy.

While he worked at the box‐lids she had leisure for her household labours: when these were done she would draw out her mother’s old Breton distaff, and would sit and spin. When twilight fell they would go forth together to dream under the dewy avenues and the glistening stars, or as often would wait within whilst he played on his mountain flute to the people at the doorways in the street below.

“Is it better to go out and see the stars and the leaves ourselves, or to stay in‐doors and make all these forget the misfortune of not seeing them?” said Lili, on one of those evenings when the warmth and the sunset almost allured her to draw the flute from her husband’s hands and give him his hat instead; and then she looked down into the narrow road, at the opposite houses, at the sewing‐girls stitching by their little windows, at the pale students studying their sickly lore with scalpel and with skeleton, at the hot dusty little children at play on the asphalte sidewalk, at the sorrowful darkened casements behind which she knew beds of sickness or of paralyzed old age were page: 216 hidden—looked at all this from behind my blossoms, and then gave up the open air and the evening stroll that were so dear a pastime to her, and whispered to René, “Play, or they will be disappointed.”

And he played, instead of going to the debating‐club in the room round the corner.

“He has ceased to be a patriot,” grumbled the old vine. “It is always so with every man when once he has loved a woman!”

Myself, I could not see that there was less patriotism in breathing the poetry of sound into the ears of his neighbours than in rousing the passions of hell in the breasts of his brethren.

But perhaps this was my ignorance: I believe that of late years people have grown to hold that the only pure patriotism is, and ought to be, evinced in the most intense and the most brutalized form of one passion—“Envy, eldest born of Hell.”

So these two did some good, and were happy, though more than once it chanced to them to have to go a whole day without tasting food of any sort.

I have said that René had genius—a genius bold, true, impassioned, masterful—such a genius as colours the smallest trifles that it touches. René could no more help putting an ideal grace into those little sweetmeat boxes—which sold at their very highest, page: 217 in the booths of the fairs, at fifty centimes apiece—than we, the roses, can help being fragrant and fair.

Genius has a way of casting its pearls in the dust as we scatter our fragrance to every breeze that blows. Now and then the pearl is caught and treasured, as now and then some solitary creature pauses to smell the sweetness of the air in which we grow, and thanks the God who made us.

But as ninety‐nine roses bloom unthanked for one that is thus remembered, so ninety‐nine of the pearls of genius are trodden to pieces for one that is set on high and crowned with honour.

In the twilight of a dull day a little, feeble, brown old man climbed the staircase and entered our attic with shambling step.

We had no strangers to visit us: who visits the poor? We thought he was an enemy: the poor always do think so, being so little used to strangers.

René drew himself erect, and strove to hide the poverty of his garments, standing by his easel. Lili came to me, and played with my leaves in her tender, caressing fashion.

“You painted this, M. René Claude?” asked the little brown old man.

He held in his hand one of the bonbon boxes, the page: 218 prettiest of them all, with a tambourine‐girl dancing in a wreath of Provence roses. René had copied me with loving fidelity in the flowers, and with a sigh had murmured as he cast the box aside when finished, “That ought to fetch at least a franc!” But he had got no more than the usual two sous for it.

The little old man sat down on the chair which Lili placed for him.

“So they told me, where I bought this. It was at a booth at St. Cloud. Do you know that it is charming?”

René smiled a little sadly: Lili flushed with joy. It was the first praise which she had ever heard given to him.

“You have a great talent,” pursued the little man.

René bowed his handsome haggard face—his mouth quivered a very little: for the first time Hope entered into him.

“Genius, indeed,” said the stranger; and he sauntered a little about and looked at the canvases, and wondered and praised, and said not very much, but said that little so well and so judiciously that it was easy to see he was no mean judge of art, and possibly no slender patron of it.

As Lili stood by me, I saw her colour come and go page: 219 and her breast heave. I too trembled in all my leaves: were recognition and the world’s homage coming to René at last?

“And I have been so afraid always that I had injured, burdened him, clogged his strength in that endless strife!” she murmured below her breath. “O, dear little rose! if only the world can but know his greatness!”

Meanwhile the old man looked through the sketches and studies with which the room was strewed.

“You do not finish your things?” he said abruptly.

René flushed darkly.

“Oil pictures cost money,” he said, briefly, “and—I am very poor.”

Though a peasant’s son, he was very proud: the utterance must have hurt him much.

The stranger took snuff.

“You are a man of singular genius,” he said simply. “You only want to be known to get the prices of Meissonier.”

Meissonier!—the Rothschild of the studios, the artist whose six‐inch canvas would bring the gold value of a Raphael or a Titian!

Lili, breathing fast and white as death with ecstasy, made the sign of the cross on her breast: the delicate brown hand of René shook where it leaned on his easel.

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They were both silent—silent from the intensity of their hope.

“Do you know who I am?” the old man pursued, with a cordial smile.

“I have not that honour,” murmured René.

The stranger, taking his snuff out of a gold box, named a name at which the painter started. It was that of one of the greatest art‐dealers in the whole of Europe; one who at a word could make or mar an artist’s reputation; one whose accuracy of judgment was considered infallible by all connoisseurs, and the passport to whose galleries was to any unknown painting a certain passport also to the fame of men.

“You are a man of singular genius,” repeated the great purchaser, taking his snuff in the middle of the little bare chamber. “It is curious—one always finds genius either in a cellar or in an attic: it never, by any chance, is to be discovered midway on the stairs—never in the mezzanino. But to the point. You have great delicacy of touch, striking originality of idea; a wonderful purity yet bloom in your colour, and an exquisite finish of minutiæ, without any weakness—a combination rare, very rare. That girl yonder feeding white pigeons on the leads of a roof, with an atom of blue sky, and a few vine leaves straying over the parapet—that is perfectly conceived. Finished it page: 221 must be. So must that little study of the beggar‐boy looking through the gilded gates into the rose‐gardens—it is charming, charming. Your price for those?”

René’s worn young face coloured to the brows.

“Monsieur is too good,” he muttered brokenly. “A nameless artist has no price, except—”

“Honour,” murmured Lili, as she moved forward with throbbing heart and dim eyes. “Ah, monsieur, give him a name in Paris! We want nothing else—nothing else!”

“Poor fools!” said the dealer to the snuff‐box.

I heard him—they did not.

“Madame,” he answered aloud, “Paris herself will give him that the first day his first canvas hangs in my galleries. Meanwhile, I must in honesty be permitted to add something more. For each of those little canvases, the girl on the roof and the boy at the gate, I will give you now two thousand francs, and two thousand more when they shall be completed. Provided—”

He paused and glanced musingly at René.

Lili had turned away, and was sobbing for very joy at this undreamed‐of deliverance.

René stood quite still, with his hands crossed on page: 222 the easel and his head bent on his chest. The room, I think, swam round him.

The old man sauntered again a little about the place, looking here and looking there, murmuring certain artistic disquisitions technical and scientific, leaving them time to recover from the intensity of their emotion.

What a noble thing old age was, I thought, living only to give hope to the young in their sorrow, and to release captive talents from the prison of obscurity!

We should leave the little room in the roof, and dwell in some bright quarter where it was all leaves and flowers; and René would be great, and go to dine with princes, and drive a team of belled horses, like a famous painter who had dashed once with his splendid equipage through our narrow passage; and we should see the sky always—as much of it as ever we chose, and Lili would have a garden of her own, all grass, and foliage, and falling waters, in which I should live in the open air all the day long, and make believe that I was in Provenee.

My dreams and my fancies were broken by the sound of the old man’s voice taking up the thread of his discourse once more in front of René.

“I will give you four thousand francs each for those two little canvases,” he repeated. “It is page: 223 a mere pinch of dust to what you will make in six months’ time,—if—if—you hear me?—your name is brought before the public of Paris in my galleries and under my auspices. I suppose you have heard something of what I can do, eh? Well, all I can do I will do for you; for you have a great talent, and without introduction, my friend, you may as well roll up your pictures and burn them in your stove to save charcoal? You know that?”

René indeed knew—none better. Lili turned on the old man her sweet, frank Breton eyes, smiling their radiant gratitude through tenderest tears,

“The saints will reward you, monsieur, in a better world than this,” she murmured softly.

The old man took snuff a little nervously.

“There is one condition I must make,” he said with a trifling hesitation—“one only.”

“Ask of my gratitude what you will,” answered René quickly, while he drew a deep breath of relief and freedom—the breath of one who casts to the ground the weight of a deadly burden.

“It is that you will bind yourself only to paint for me.”

“Certainly.”

René gave the assent with eagerness. Poor fellow! it was a novelty so exquisite to have any one save the rats to paint for. It never dawned upon his thoughts page: 224 that when he stretched his hands out with such passionate desire to touch the hem of the garment of Fortune and catch the gleam of the laurels of Fame, he might be in truth only holding them out to fresh fetters.

“Very well,” said the old man quietly, and he sat down again and looked full in René’s face, and unfolded his views for the artist’s future.

He used many words, and was slow and suave in their utterance, and paused often and long to take out his heavy gold box; but he spoke well. Little by little his meaning gleamed out from the folds of verbiage in which he skilfully enwrapped it.

It was this.

The little valueless drawings on the people’s sweetmeat boxes of gilded cardboard had a grace, a colour, and a beauty in them which had caught, at a fair‐booth in the village of St. Cloud, the ever‐watchful eyes of the great dealer. He had bought half‐a‐dozen of the boxes for a couple of francs. He had said, “Here is what I want.” Wanted for what? Briefly, to produce Petitôt enamels and Fragonard cabinets, and perhaps now and then a Greuze portrait—genuine eighteenth‐century work. There was a rage for it. René would understand?

René’s dark southern eyes lost a little of their new page: 225 lustre of happiness and grew troubled with a sort of cloud of perplexity. He did not seem to understand.

The old man took more snuff, and used phrases clearer still.

There were great collectors—dilettanti of houses imperial, and royal, and princely, and noble, of all the grades of greatness—who would give any sum for bonbonnières and tabatières of eighteenth‐century work by anyone of the few famous masters of that time. A genuine, incontestable sweetmeat box from the ateliers of the Louis XIV. or Louis XV. period would fetch almost a fabulous sum. Then again he paused, doubtfully.

René bowed, and his wondering glance said without words, “I know this. But I have no eighteenth‐century work to sell you: if I had, should we starve in an attic?”

His patron coughed a little, looked at Lili, then proceeded to explain still farther.

In René’s talent he had discerned the hues, the grace, the delicacy yet brilliancy, the voluptuousness and the désinvolteure of the best eighteenth‐century work. René doubtless did other and higher things which pleased himself far more than these airy trifles. Well, let him pursue the greater line of art if he page: 226 chose; but he, the old man who spoke, could assure him that nothing would be so lucrative to him as those bacchantes in wreaths of roses and young tambourine‐players gorge au vent dancing in a bed of violets, and beautiful marquises, powdered and jewelled, looking over their fans, which he had painted for those poor little two‐sous boxes of the populace, and the like of which, exquisitely finished on enamel or ivory, set in gold and tortoise‐shell rimmed with pearls and turquoises or opals and diamonds, would deceive the finest connoisseur in Europe into receiving them as—whatever they might be signed and dated,

If René would do some half dozen of these at dictation and a Greuze or Boucher head in a year, not more—more would be perilous—paint and sign them, and produce them with any touches that might be commanded; never ask what became of them when finished, nor recognize them if hereafter he might see them in any illustrious collection,—if René would bind himself to do this, he, the old man who spoke, would buy his other paintings, place them well in his famous galleries, and, using all his influence, would make him in a twelvemonth’s time the most celebrated of all the young painters in Paris.

It was a bargain? Ah, how well it was, he said, to put the best of one’s powers into the most trifling things page: 227 one did! If that poor little two‐sous box had been less lavishly and gracefully decorated, it would never have arrested his eyes in the bonbon‐booth at St. Cloud. The old man paused to take snuff and receive an answer.

René stood motionless.

Lili had sunk into a seat, and was gazing at the tempter with wide‐ open, puzzled, startled eyes. Both were silent.

“It is a bargain?” said the old man again. “Understand me, M. René Claude. You have no risk, absolutely none, and you have the certainty of fair fame and fine fortune in the space of a few years. You will be a great man before you have a gray hair: that comes to very few. I shall not trouble you for more than six dix‐huitième siècle enamels in the year— perhaps for only four. You can spend ten months out of the twelve on your own canvases, making your own name and your own wealth as swiftly as your ambition and impatience can desire. Madame here,” said the acute dealer with a pleasant smile—“Madame here can have a garden sloping on the Seine and a glass‐house of choicest flowers—which I see are her graceful weakness—ere another rose‐season has time to come round, if you choose.”

His voice lingered softly on the three last words.

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The dew stood on René’s forehead, his hands clenched on the easel:

“You wish me—to paint—forgeries of the Petitôt enamels?”

The old man smiled unmoved:

“Chut, chut! Will you paint me little bonbonnières on enamel or porcelain instead of on cardboard? That is all the question. I have said where they go, how they are set: what they are called shall be my affair. You know nothing. The only works of yours which you will be concerned to acknowledge will be your own canvas pictures. What harm can it do any creature? You will gratify a connoisseur or two innocently, and you will meanwhile be at leisure to follow the bent of your own genius, which otherwise—”

He paused: I heard the loud throbs of René’s heart under that cruel temptation.

Lili gazed at his tempter with the same startled terror and bewilderment still dilating her candid eyes with a woeful pain.

“Otherwise,” pursued the old man with merciless tranquillity, “you will never see me any more, my friends. If you try to repeat any story to my hindrance, no one will credit you. I am rich, you are poor. You have a great talent: I shall regret to see it lost, but I shall let it die—so.”

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And he trod very gently on a little gnat that crawled near his foot, and killed it.

A terrible agony gathered in the artist’s face.

“O God!” he cried in his torture, and his eyes went to the canvases against the wall, and then to the face of his wife, with an unutterable yearning desire.

For them, for them,—his genius and his love,this sin which tempted him looked virtue.

“Do you hesitate?” said the merciless old man. “Pshaw! whom do you hurt? You give me work as good as that which you imitate, and I call it only by a dead man’s name: who is injured? What harm can there be in humouring the fanaticism of fashion? Choose—I am in haste.”

René hid his face with his hands, so that he should not behold those dear creations of his genius which so cruelly, so innocently, assailed him with a temptation beyond his strength.

“Choose for me—you!” he muttered in his agony to Lili.

Lili, white as death, drew closer to him.

“My René, your heart has chosen,” she murmured through her dry and quivering lips. “You cannot buy honour by a fraud.”

René lifted his head and looked straight in the eyes page: 230 of the man who held the scales of his fate, and could weigh out for his whole life’s portion either fame and fortune or obscurity and famine.

“Sir,” he said slowly, with a bitter tranquil smile about his mouth, “my garret is empty, but it is clean. May I trouble you to leave it as you found it?”

So they were strong to the end, these two famished children of frivolous Paris.

But when the door had closed and shut their tempter out, the revulsion came: they wept those tears of blood which come from the hearts’ depths of those who have seen Hope mock them with a smile a moment, to leave them face to face with Death.

“Poor fools!” sighed the old vine from his corner in the gray, dull twilight of the late autumn day.

Was the vine right?

The air which he had breathed for fifty years through all his dust‐choked leaves and tendrils had been the air off millions of human lungs, corrupted in its passage through millions of human lips, and the thoughts which he thought were those of human wisdom.

The sad day died; the night fell; the lattice was closed; the flute lay untouched.

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A great misery seemed to enfold us. True, we were no worse off than we had been when the same day dawned. But that is the especial cruelty of every tempter always: he touches the innocent closed eyes of his victims with a collyrium which makes the happy blindness of content no longer possible. If the tempted be strong to resist him, the tempter has still his vengeance, for they are never again at peace as they were before that fatal hour in which he showed them all that they were not, all that they might be.

Our stove was not more chill, our garret not more empty; our darkness not more dark amidst the gay, glad, dazzling city; our dusky roof and looming crown that shut the sky out from us not more gloomy and impenetrable than they had been on all those other earlier nights when yet we had been happy. Yet how intensified millionfold seemed cold and loneliness and poverty and darkness, all!—for we had for the first time known what it was to think of riches, of fame, of homage, of light, as possible, and then to lose them all for ever!

I had been resigned for love’s sake to dwell amongst the roofs, seeing not the faces of the stars, nor feeling ever the full glory of the sun; but now——I had dreamed of the fair freedom of garden‐ways and the page: 232 endless light of summer suns on palace terraces, and I drooped and shivered and sickened, and was twice captive and twice exiled; and knew that I was a little nameless, worthless, hapless thing, whose fairest chaplet of blossom no hand would ever gather for a crown.

As with my life, so was it likewise with theirs.

They had been so poor, but they had been so happy: the poverty remained, the joy had flown.

That winter was again very hard, very cold: they suffered greatly.

They could scarcely keep together body and soul, as your strange phrase runs: they went without food sometimes for days and days, and fuel they had scarcely ever.

The bird in his cage was sold: they would not keep the little golden singing thing to starve into silence like themselves.

As for me, I nearly perished of the cold: only the love I bore to Lili kept a little life in my leafless branches.

All that cruel winter‐time they were strong still, those children of Paris.

For they sought no alms, and in their uttermost extremity neither of them ever whispered to the other, “Go seek the tempter: repent, be wise. page: 233 Give not up our lives for a mere phantasy of honour.”

“When the snow is on the ground, and the canvases have to burn in the stove, then you will change your minds and come to me on your knees,” the old wicked, foul spirit had said, mocking them, as he had opened the door of the attic and passed away creaking down the dark stairs.

And I suppose he had reckoned on this; but if he had done so he had reckoned without his host, as your phrase runs: neither René nor Lili ever went to him, either on their knees or in any other wise.

When the spring came we three were still all living—at least their hearts still beat and their lips still drew breath, as my boughs were still green and my roots still clung to the soil. But no more to them or to me did the coming of spring bring, as of old, the real living of life, which is joy.

And my lover the wind wooed me no more, and the birds no more brought me the rose‐whispers of my kindred in Provenee. For even the little pigeon‐hole in the roof had become too costly a home for us, and we dwelt in a den under the stones of the streets, where no light came and scarce a breath of air ever strayed to us.

There the uncompleted canvases on which the painter page: 234 whom Lili loved had tried to write his title to the immortality of fame, were at last finished—finished,—for the rats ate them.

All this while we lived—the man whose genius and misery were hell on earth; the woman whose very purity and perfectness of love were her direst torture; and I, the little white flower born of the sun and the dew, of fragrance and freedom, to whom every moment of this blindness, this suffocation, this starvation, this stench of putrid odours, this horrible roar of the street above, was a moment worse than any pang of death.

Away there in Provence so many a fair rose‐sister of mine bowed her glad, proud, innocent head with anguish and shuddering terrors to the sharp summons of the severing knife that cut in twain her life, whilst I—I, on and on—was forced to keep so much of life as lies in the capacity to suffer and to love in vain.

So much was left to them: no more.

“Let us compel Death to remember us, since even Death forgets us!” René murmured once in his despair to her.

But Lili had pressed her famished lips to his: “Nay, dear, wait: God will remember us even yet, I think.”

It was her faith. And of her faith she was justified at last.

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There came a ghastlier season yet, a time of horror insupportable—of ceaseless sound beside which the roar of the mere traffic of the streets would have seemed silence—a stench beside which the sulphur smoke and the gas fumes of a previous time would have been as some sweet fresh woodland air—a famine beside which the daily hunger of the poor was remembered as the abundance of a feast—a cold beside which the chillness of the scant fuel and empty braziers of other winters were recalled as the warmth of summer—a darkness only lit by the red flame of burning houses—a solitude only broken by the companionship of woe and sickness and despair—a suffocation only changed by a rush of air strong with the scent of blood, of putridity, of the million living plague‐stricken, of the million dead lying unburied.

For there was War.

Of year or day or hour I knew nothing. It was always the same blackness as of night; the same horror of sound, of scent, of cold; the same misery; the same torture. I suppose that the sun was quenched, that the birds were dumb, that the winds were stilled for ever—that all the world was dead: I do not know. They called it the Siege of Paris. I suppose that they meant the Revolt of Hell.

Yet Lili lived, and I: in that dread darkness we had page: 236 lost René—we saw his face no more. Yet he could not be in his grave, I knew, for Lili, clasping my barren branches to her breast, would murmur, “Whilst he still lives I will live—yes, yes, yes!”

And she did live—so long, so long!—on a few draughts of water and a few husks of grain.

I knew that it was long, for full a hundred times she muttered aloud, “Another day? O God!—how long? how long?”

At last in the darkness a human hand was stretched to her, close beside me.

A foul and fierce light, the light of flame, was somewhere on the air above us, and at that moment glowed through the horrid gloom we dwelt in in the bowels of the earth. I saw the hand and what it held to her: it was a stranger’s, and it held the little colourless dead rosebud, my sweetest blossom, that had lain ever upon René’s heart.

She took it—she who had given it as her first love‐gift. She was mute. In the glare of the flame that quivered through the darkness I saw her standing quite erect and very still.

The voice of a stranger thrilled through the din from the world above.

“He fought as only patriots can,” it said softly and as through tears. “I was beside him. He fell with page: 237 Regnault in the sortie yesterday. He could not speak: he had only strength to give me this for you. Be comforted: he has died for Paris.”

On Lili’s face there came once more the radiance of a perfect peace, a glory pure and endless as the glory of the sun.

“Great in death!” she murmured. “My love, my love, I come!”

I lost her in the darkness.

I heard a voice above me say that life had left her lips as the dead rose touched them.

What more is there for me to tell?

I live, since to breathe, and to feel pain, and to desire vainly, and to suffer always, are surest proofs of life.

I live, since that stranger’s hand which brought my little dead blossom as the message of farewell, had pity on me and brought me away from that living grave. But the pity was vain: I died the only death that had any power to hurt me when the human heart I loved grew still for ever.

The light of the full day now shines on me; the shadows are cool, the dews are welcome: they speak around me of the coming of spring, and in the silence of the dawns I hear from the woods without the piping of the nesting birds; but for me the summer can never page: 238 more return—for me the sun can never again be shining—for me the greenest garden world is barren as a desert.

For I am only a little rose, but I am in exile and France is desolate.

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