Mr. Incoul's Misadventureскачать книгу бесплатно
After a fr?hst?ck of coffee and honey, to which the inn-keeper, out of compliment to the nationality of his guest, had added an ear of green corn – a combination, be it said, that no one but a German could have imagined – Mr. Incoul went in search of his friend.
He had questioned Karl, and the courier had spoken of Ostend with such enthusiasm that his employer suspected him of some personal interest in the place and struck it at once from the list of possible resorts which he had been devising. On the subject of other bains de mer the man was less communicative. There was, he said, nothing attractive about Travemunde, except the name; Scheveningen was apt to be chilly; Trouville he rather favored, but to his thinking Ostend was preferable.
When the courier had gone Mr. Incoul ran his eye down a mental map of the coast of France, and just as it reached the Spanish frontier he remembered that some one in his hearing had recently sounded the attractions of Biarritz. On that seaboard he ultimately decided, and it was with the idea that Blydenburg might go further and fare worse that he sought his friend and suggested the advantages of a trip to the Basque country.
Mr. Blydenburg had few objections to make. He had taken very kindly to the consumption of beer, but beer had not agreed with him, and he admitted, did he stay in Baden, that, in spite of the ill effects, he would still be unable to resist the allurements of that insidious beverage. “Act like a man, then,” said Mr. Incoul, encouragingly; “act like a man and flee from it.”
There was no gainsaying the value of this advice, but between its adoption and a journey to Biarritz the margin was wide. “It is true,” he said, reflectively, “I could study the language at the fountain-head.” (Mr. Blydenburg, it may be explained, was a gentleman who plumed himself on his familiarity with recondite tongues, but one whose knowledge of the languages that are current in polite society was such as is gleaned from the appendices of guide-books.)
Mr. Incoul nodded approvingly, “Certainly there would be no difficulty about that.”
Blydenburg looked at him musingly for a moment and nodded, too. “The name Biarritz,” he said, “comes, I am inclined to believe, from bi haritz – two oaks. Minucius thinks that it comes from bi harri – two rocks; but I have detected Minucius in certain errors which has made me wary of accepting his opinion. For instance, he claims that the Basques are descendants of the Ph?nicians. Nothing could be more preposterous. They are purely Iberian, and probably the most ancient race in Europe. Why, you would be surprised” —
Mr. Incoul interrupted him cruelly – “I often am,” he said; “now tell me, will you be ready this afternoon?”
“The laundress has just taken my things.”
“Send after them, then. I make no doubt that there you can find another on the Bay of Biscay.”
“I wonder what Biscay comes from? bi scai, two currents, perhaps.
Yes, of course, I will be ready.” And as his friend moved away, he pursed his lips abstractedly and made a note of the derivation.
A courier aiding, the journey from Baden to Biarritz can be accomplished without loss of life or reason. It partakes something of the character of a zigzag, the connections are seldom convenient, the wayside inns are not of the best, but if people go abroad to be uncomfortable, what more can the heart desire? The Incoul-Blydenburg party, impeded by Karl, a body-servant, and two maids, received their allotted share of discomfort with the very best grace in the world. They reached Bayonne after five days, not, it is true, of consecutive motion, but of such consecutive heat that they were glad to descend at the station of that excitable little city and in the fresh night air drive in open carriages over the few kilometres that remained to be traversed.
It was many hours before the journey was sufficiently a part of the past to enable the travelers to look about them, but on the evening succeeding their arrival, after a dinner on the verandah of the Continental, they sat with much contentment of spirit enjoying the intermittent showers of summer stars and the boom and rustle of the waves. Baden was unregretted. To the left, high above, on the summit of a projecting eminence, the white and illuminated Casino glittered like an ?rian palace. To the right was the gardened quadrangle of the former Empress of the French, in the air was the scent of seaweed and before them the Infinite.
“It’s quite good enough for me,” Blydenburg confided to his companions, and the confidence in its inelegant terseness conveyed the sentiments of them all.
A week passed without bringing with it any incident worthy of record. In the mornings they met at the Moorish Pavilion which stands on the shore and there lounged or bathed. Maida’s beauty necessarily attracted much attention, and when she issued in a floating wrapper from the sedan-chair in which she allowed herself to be carried from the Pavilion to the sea, a number of amateurs who stood each day just out of reach of the waves, expressed their admiration in winning gutturals.
She was, assuredly, very beautiful, particularly so in comparison with the powdered sallowness of the ladies from Spain, and when, with a breezy gesture of her own, she tossed her wrap to the bather and with sandaled feet and a white and clinging costume of serge she stepped to the water there was one on-looker who bethought him of a nymph of the ?gean Sea. She was a good swimmer, as the American girl often is, and she breasted and dived through the wonderful waves with an intrepidity such as the accompanying baigneur had been rarely called upon to restrain.
From the shade of beach chairs, large and covered like wicker tents, her husband and the Blydenburgs would watch her prowess, and when, after a final ride on the crest of some great billow, she would be tossed breathless and deliciously disheveled into the steadying arms of the bather, the amateurs were almost tempted to applaud.
In the afternoons there were drives and excursions. One day to Bayonne along the white, hard road that skirts the Chambre d’Amour, through the peace and quiet of Aiglet and on through kilometres of pines to the Adour, a river so beautiful in itself that all the ingenuity of man has been unable to make it wholly hideous, and thence by its banks to the outlying gardens of the city.
On other days they would loiter on the cliffs that overhang the C?te des Basques, or push on to Bidart, a chromatic village where the inhabitants are so silent that one might fancy them enchanted by the mellow marvels of their afternoons.
But of all other places Maida preferred Saint Jean-de-Luz. It lies near the frontier on a bay of the tenderest blue, and for background it has the hazy amethyst of the neighborly Pyrenees. The houses are rainbows of blended colors; from the open door-ways the passer, now and then, catches a whiff of rancid oil, the smell of victuals cooked in fat, from a mouldering square a cathedral casts an unexpected chill, but otherwise the town is charming, warm and very bright. On the shore stands an inn and next to it a toy casino.
To this exotic resort the little party drove one afternoon. It had been originally arranged to pass the day there, but on the day for which the excursion was planned, a Course Landaise was announced at Biarritz, and it was then decided that they should first view the course and dine afterwards at Saint Jean. At first both Maida and Miss Blydenburg refused to attend the performance and it was not until they were assured that it was a bull-fight for ladies in which there was no shedding of blood that they consented to be present. The spectacle which they then witnessed was voted most agreeable. The bulls, which turned out to be heifers, very lithe and excitable, were housed in boxed stalls, which bore their respective names: Isabel, Rosa, Paquita, Adelaide, Carlota and Sofia. The ring itself was an improvised arrangement constructed in a great racquet court. The spectators, according to their means, found seats on either side, the poorer in the sun and the more wealthy in the shaded Tribune d’Honneur. After a premonitory blare from municipal brass the quadrille entered the arena. They were a good-looking set of men, more plainly dressed than their bloodier brothers of Spain, and very agile. Two of them carrying long poles stationed themselves at the sides, one, armed with a barb laid himself down a few feet from Isabel’s door, and a fourth threw his soft hat in the middle of the ring, put his feet in it and stood expectant. In a moment a latch was drawn, Isabel leaped from her stall, bounded over the prostrate form that pricked her on her way and made a straight rush for the motionless figure in the centre of the ring. When she reached him he was in the air and over her with his feet still in the hat. Isabel was bewildered, instead of goring a man she had run her horns into empty space and in her annoyance she turned viciously at one of the pole-bearing gentlemen who vaulted over her as easily as were he crossing a gutter, but in vaulting the pole slipped from him, and amid the applause of the audience Isabel chased him across the ring to a high fence opposite, and to which he rose like a bird with Isabel’s horns on his heels. There was more of this amusement, and then Isabel, a trifle tired, was lured back to her box; Rosa was loosed and the performance repeated.
The escapes seemed so hairbreadth that Mr. Blydenburg announced his intention of witnessing a genuine bull fight, and on the way to Saint Jean urged his companions to accompany him over the border and view the real article. “There is one announced for next Sunday,” he said, “at San Sebastian, a stone’s throw from here.” The appetite of all had been whetted, and during the rest of the drive, Mr. Blydenburg discoursed on the subject with such learning and enthusiasm that even his daughter consented to forget her Sabbath principles and make one of the projected party.
When the meal was done, they went into the toy Casino. There was a band playing at one end of the hall, the which was so narrow that the director had been obliged to select thin musicians, and beyond was a paperless reading-room, a vague caf?, a dwarf theatre, and a salle-de-jeu in white and gamboge. In the latter division, where the high life of Saint Jean had assembled, stood a table that resembled a roulette. In its centre were miniature revolving bulls, which immediately attracted Mr. Blydenburg’s attention, and on the green baize were painted the names of cities.
“Banderilla! Ruego! Sevilla!” the croupier called, as the party entered. In one hand he held a rake, with which he possessed himself of the stakes of those who had lost, and with the other hand he tossed out coin to those who had won. The machinery was again set in motion, and when the impulse had ceased to act he called out anew, “Espada! Nero! Madrid!”
Mr. Blydenburg was thoroughly interested. In the residue of twenty-five French lessons, which he had learned in his boyhood from a German, he made bold to demand information.
“It’s the neatest game in the world,” the croupier replied; “six for one on the cities, even on the colors, even on banderilla or espada, and twenty for one on Frascuelo.” And, as he gave the latter information, he pointed to a little figure armed with a sword, which was supposed to represent that famous matador. “The minimum,” he added, obligingly, “is fifty centimes; the maximum, forty sous.”
“I’ll go Frascuelo,” said Blydenburg, and suiting the action to the word, he placed a coin on the table. Maida, meanwhile, had put money on everything – cities, colors, banderilla, espada, and Frascuelo as well. To the surprise of every one, but most to that of the croupier, Frascuelo won. Maida saw twenty francs swept from her and forty returned. Blydenburg, who had played a closer game, received forty also, but he lost nothing, and he beamed as joyously as had the University of Copenhagen crowned an essay of his own manufacture.
It was by means of these mild amusements that the first week of their sojourn was helped away. Through the kindness of an international acquaintance, Mr. Incoul had been made welcome at the Cercle de Biarritz, and in that charming summer club, where there is much high play and perfect informality, he had become acquainted with a Spaniard, the Marquis of Zunzarraga.
One day when the latter gentleman had wearied of the columns of the Epoca and Mr. Incoul, and sought in vain for some refreshment from Galignani, they drew their chairs together and exchanged cigarettes.
In answer to the question which is addressed to every new-comer, Mr. Incoul expressed himself pleased with the country, adding that were not hotel life always distasteful he would be glad to remain on indefinitely.
“You might take a villa,” the marquis suggested. To this Mr. Incoul made no reply. The nobleman fluttered his fingers a moment and then said, “take mine, you can have it, servants and all.”
The Villa Zunzarraga was near the hotel and its airy architecture had already attracted Mr. Incoul’s eye. It was a modern improvement on a feudal ch?teau, there were turreted wings in which the machicoulis were replaced by astragals and a broad and double stairway of marble led up to the main entrance.
“If you have nothing better to do to-day,” the marquis continued, “go in and take a look at it. I have never rented it before, but this summer the marquesa is with the queen, my mistress, and I would be glad to have it off my hands.”
After consulting Maida in regard to her wishes, Mr. Incoul determined to act on the suggestion, and that afternoon they went together to view the villa. In its appointments there was little fault to be found. There was no vestibule, unless, indeed, the entrance hall, which was large enough to accommodate a small cotillon, could be so considered; on the right were reception-rooms, to the left a dining-room, all facing the sea, while at the rear, overlooking a quiet garden that seemed to extend indefinitely and lose itself in the lilac fringes of the tamaris, was a library. On the floor above were bed and sitting rooms. In one wing were the offices, kitchen and servants’ quarters, in another was the coach-house and stables.
Under the guidance of the host, Mr. Incoul went to explore the place, while Maida remained in the library. It was a satisfactory room, lined on three sides with low, well-filled book-cases, the windows were doors and extended nearly to the ceiling, but the light fell through pink awnings under which was a verandah, with steps that led to the garden below. From the walls hung selections of Goya’s Proverbios and Tauromaquia, a series of nightmares in black and white. Among them was a picture of a lake of blood haunted by evil spirits; a vertiginous flight of phantoms more horrible than any Dor? ever saw; a reunion of sorcerers with cats for steeds; women tearing teeth from the mouths of the gibbeted; a confusion of demons and incubes; a disordered dance of delirious manolas; caricatures that held the soul of Hoffmann; the disembowelment of fantastic chulos; horses tossed by bulls with chimerical horns; but best of all, a skeleton leaning with a leer from the tomb and scrawling on it the significant legend, Nada, nothing.
In one corner, on a pedestal, there glittered a Buddha, the legs crossed and a smile of indolent apathy on its imbecile features. Behind it was a giant crucifix with arms outstretched like the wings of woe.
Maida wandered from book-case to book-case, examining the contents with incurious eye. The titles were strange to her and new. In one division were the works of Archilaus, Albert le Grand, Raymond Lulle, Armand de Villenova, Nostradamus, and Paracelsus, the masters of occult science. Another was given up to Spanish literature. There were the poems of Berceo, the romancero of the church; the codex of Alphonso X., the Justinian of medi?val Spain; El Tesoro, a work on alchemy by the same royal hand and the Conquista d’ultramar. There was the Libro de consejos, by Sanchez IV.; and Bicerro, the armorial of the nobility, by his son, Alphonso XI. Therewith was a collection of verse of the troubadours, the songs of Aimeric de Bellinsi, Foulque de Lunel, Carbonel, Nat de Tours, and Riquier, the last of the knight-errants. Then came the poems of Juan de Mena, the Dante of Castille; the Rabelaisian relaxations of the Archbishop of Hita; the cancionero of Ausias March, that of Baena, of Stu?iga, and that of Ixar.
Another book-case was filled with the French poets, from Villon to Soulary. The editions were delicious, a pleasure to hold, and many of them bore the imprint of Lemerre. Among them was the Fleurs du Mal, an unexpurgated copy, and by it were the poems of Baudelaire’s decadent descendants, Paul Verlaine and Mallarm?.
There were other book-cases, and of these there was one of which the door was locked. In it were Justine and Juliette, by the Marquis de Sade; the works of Piron; the works of Beroalde de Verville; a copy of Mercius; a copy of Th?r?se Philosophe; the De Arcanis Amoris; Mirabeau’s Rideau lev?; Gamaini, by Alfred de Musset and George Sand; Boccaccio; the Heptameron; Paphian Days; Cr?billon’s Sopha; the Erotika Biblion; the Satyricon of Petronius; an illustrated catalogue of the Naples Museum; Voltaire’s Pucelle; a work or two of Diderot’s; Maiseroy’s Deux Amies; the Clouds; the Cur?e; everything, in fact, from Aristophanes to Zola.
The collection was meaningless to Maida, and she turned aside and went out on the verandah. Below, on the gravel walk, was a cat with a tail like a banner, and a neck furred like a ruff. Maida crumpled a bit of paper and threw it down. The cat jumped at it at once, toyed with it for a moment, and then, sliding backwards with a crab-like movement, its back arched, and its ears drawn down, it caught a glimpse of Maida’s unfamiliar figure, and fled to the bushes with a shriek of feigned terror. A servant passed, and ignorant of Maida’s presence, apostrophized the retreating feline as a loafer and a liar.
A moment later Mr. Incoul and the marquis reappeared.
“I have been admiring your Angora,” Maida said, “but I fear I startled it.”
The marquis rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. “It is a wonderful animal,” he answered, “but it is not an Angora, it is a Thibetian cat, and though it does not talk, at least it converses. It is so odd in its ways that I called it Mistigris, as one might a familiar spirit, but my children prefer Ti-Mi; they think it more Thibetian, I fancy.” He coughed slightly and looking at the points of his fingers, he added, “I will leave it with you of course.”
And then Maida understood that the matter was settled and that the house was hers.
WHAT MAY BE SEEN FROM A PALCO
The installation was accomplished without difficulty. The marquis migrated to other shores and it took Maida but a short time to discover the pleasures of being luxuriously housed. The apartment which she selected for herself was composed of four rooms; there was a sitting-room in an angle with windows overlooking the sea and others that gave on a quiet street which skirted one wing of the villa. Next to it was a bed-room also overlooking the street, while back of that, on the garden side, was a bath and a dressing-room. A wide hall that was like a haunt of echoes separated these rooms from those of her husband.
Through the street, which was too steep to be much of a thoroughfare, there came each morning the clinging strain of a pastoral melody, and a pipe-playing goat-herd would pass leading his black, long-haired flock to the doors of those who bought the milk. When he had gone the silence was stirred by another sound, a call that rose and fell with exquisite sweetness and died away in infinite vibrations: it came from a little old woman, toothless and bent, who, with summer in her voice, hawked crisp gold bread of crescent shape, vaunting its delicacy in birdlike trills. There were other venders who announced their wares in similar ways, and one, a fisher, chaunted a low and mournful measure which he must have caught from the sea.
It was pleasant to be waked in this wise, Maida thought, and as she lay in her great bed of odorous wood, she listened to the calls, and when they had passed, the boom and retreating rustle of the waves occupied and lulled her. In such moments the thoughts that visited her were impermanent and fleeting. She made no effort to stay them, preferring the vague to the outlined, watching the changes and transformations of fancy as though her soul and she were separate, as were her mind a landscape, some
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs d?guisements fantasques.
The room was an accomplice of her languor. The windows were curtained with filmy yellow. Before them were miniature balconies filled with flowers, and as the sun rose the light filtered through flesh-colored awnings striated with ochre. The floor was a mosaic of variegated and lacquered wood. On either side of the bed were silk rugs, sea green and pink, seductive to the foot; the ceiling was a summer sky at dawn, a fresco in cinnabar and smalt.скачать книгу бесплатно
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