Edgar Saltus.

Mr. Incoul's Misadventure





I arrived at Biarritz from Paris last night, he explained, and when I learned this morning that there was to be a bull-fight, I was not in a greater hurry to do anything else than to buy a ticket and take the train.

Was it crowded? Blydenburg asked in his florid way.

Rather. It was comfortable enough till we reached Irun, but there I got out for a Spanish cigar, and when I returned, the train was so packed that I was obliged to utilize a first-class ticket in a third-class car. None of the people who lunched at the buffet were able to get back. I suppose three hundred were left. There was almost a riot. The station-master said that Irun was the head of the line, and to reserve a seat one must sit in it. Of course those who had seats were hugely amused at those who had none. One man, a Frenchman, bullied the station-master dreadfully. He said it was every kind of an outrage; that he ought to put on more cars; that he was incompetent; that he was imbecile; that he didnt know his business. Its the law, said the station-master. I dont care that for your law! cried the Frenchman. But the Pr?fet, sir. To blazes with your Pr?fet! But that was too strong. The Frenchman might abuse what he saw fit, but the Pr?fet evidently was sacred. I suppose it was treasonable to speak of him in that style. In any event, the station-master called up a file of soldiers and had the Frenchman led away. The on-lookers were simply frantic with delight. If the Frenchman had only been shot before their eyes it would indeed have been a charming prelude to a bull fight. And then with an air that suggested retrospects of unexpressed regret, he added pensively, I have never seen a man shot.

No? said Milly, boldly; no more have I. Not that I want to, though, she hastened to explain. It must be horrid.

Lenox looked up at her and then his eyes wandered to Maida, and rested caressingly in her own. But the caress was transient. Immediately he turned and busied himself with his plate.

Are you to be in Biarritz long? Mr. Incoul asked. The tone was perfectly courteous, friendly, even, but at the moment from the very abruptness of the question Lenox feared that the caress had been intercepted and something of the mute drama divined. Mentally he arranged Mr. Incoul as one constantly occupied in repeating Jai de bon tabac, tu nen auras pas, and it was his design to disarm that gentleman of any suspicion he might harbor that his good tobacco, in this instance at least, was an envied possession or one over which he would be called to play the sentinel. The r?le of mari sage was frequent enough on the Continent, but few knew better than Lenox Leigh that it is rarely enacted in the States, and his intuitions had told him long before that it was one for which Mr. Incoul was ill adapted. Yet between the mari sage and the suspicionless husband there is a margin, and it was on that margin that Lenox determined that Mr.

Incoul should tread. No, he answered at once, and without any visible sign of preoccupation. No, a day or two at most; I am on my way to Andalucia.

Blydenburg, as usual, was immediately interested. Its very far, isnt it? he panted.

Not so far as it used to be. Nowadays one can go all the way in a sleeping car. Gautier, who discovered it, had to go in a stage-coach, which must have been tedious. But in spite of the railways the place is pretty much the same as it has been ever since the Middle Ages. Even the cholera has been unable to banish the local color. There are trains in Seville precisely as there are steamboats on the Grand Canal. But the sky is the same, and in the Sierra Morena there are still Moors and as yet no advertisements.

You have been there then?

Yes, I was there some years ago. You ought to go yourself. I know of nothing so fabulous in its beauty. It is true I was there in the spring, but the autumn ought not to be a bad time to go. The country is parched perhaps, but then you would hardly camp out.

What do you say, Incoul? Blydenburg asked. Wouldnt you like it? he inquired of Maida.

I could tell better when we get there, she answered; but we might go, she added, looking at her husband.

Why, said Blydenburg, we could see Madrid and Burgos and Valladolid. Its all in the way.

Lenox interrupted him. They are tiresome cities though, and gloomy to a degree. Valladolid and Burgos are like congeries of deserted prisons, Madrid is little different from any other large city. Fuenterrabia, next door here, is a thousand times more interesting. It is Cordova you should visit and Ronda and Granada and Sevilla and Cadix. And, as he uttered the names of these cities, he aromatized each of them with an accent that threw Blydenburg into stupors of admiration. Pronounced in that way they seemed worth visiting indeed.

Which of them do you like the best?

I liked them all, Lenox answered. I liked each of them best.

But which is the most beautiful?

That depends on individual taste. I prefer Ronda, but Grenada, I think, is most admired. If you will let me, I will quote a high authority:


Grenade efface en tout ses rivales; Grenade
Chante plus mollement la molle s?r?nade;
Elle peint ses maisons des plus riches couleurs,
Et lon dit, que les vents suspendent leurs haleines,
Quand, par un soir d?t?, Grenade dans ses plaines,
R?pand ses femmes et ses fleurs.

In private life, verse is difficult of recitation, but Lenox recited well. He made such music of the second line that there came with his voice the sound of guitars; the others he delivered with the vowels full as one hears them at the Com?die, and therewith was a little pantomime so explanatory and suggestive that Blydenburg, whose knowledge of French was of the most rudimentary description, understood it all, and, in consequence, liked the young man the better.

The dinner was done, and they moved out on the terrace. The moon had chased the stars, the Concha glittered with lights, and before the hotel a crowd circled in indolent coils as though wearied with the holiday. There were many people, too, on the terrace, and in passing from the dining-room the little party, either by accident or design, got cut in twain. For the first time since the spring evening, Maida and Lenox were alone. Their solitude, it is true, was public, but that mattered little.

Maida utilized the earliest moment by asking her companion how he got there. You should not have spoken to me, she added, before he could have answered.

Maida!

No, you must go, you

But I only came to find you, he whispered.

To find me? How did you know where I was?

The Morning News told me. I was in Paris, on my way to Baden, for I heard you were there, and then, of course, when I saw in the paper that you were here, I followed after.

Then you are not going to Andalucia?

No, not unless you do.

The girl wrung her hand. Oh, Lenox, do go away!

I cant, nor do you wish it. You must let me see you. I will come to you to-morrow he has an excellent voice, not so full as Gayarr?s, but his method is better.

Mr. Incoul had suddenly approached them, and as suddenly Lenoxs tone had changed. To all intents and purposes he was relating the merits of a tenor.

The carriage is here, said Maidas husband, we must be going; I am sorry we cant offer you a seat, Mr. Leigh, we are a trifle crowded as it is.

Thank you, you are very kind. The train will take me safely enough.

He walked with them to the carriage, and aided Maida to enter it. Karl, who had been standing at the door, mounted to the box. When all were seated, Mr. Incoul added: You must come and see us.

Yes, come and see us, too, Blydenburg echoed. By the way, where are you stopping?

I shall be glad to do so, Lenox answered; I am at the Grand. He raised his hat and wished them a pleasant drive. The moon was shining full in his face, and Miss Blydenburg thought him even handsomer than Mazzantini. His good wishes were answered in chorus, Karl nudged the driver, and in a moment the carriage swept by and left him standing in the road.

What a nice, frank fellow he is, Blydenburg began; so different from the general run of young New Yorkers. There, I forgot to tell him I knew his sister; I am sorry, it would have seemed sort of friendly, made him feel more at home, dont you think? Not but that he seemed perfectly at his ease as it was. I wonder why he doesnt marry? None of those Leighs have money, have they? He could pick up an heiress, though, in no time, if he wanted to. Perhaps he prefers to be a bachelor. If he does I dont blame him a bit, a good-looking young fellow

And so the amiable gentleman rambled on. After a while finding that the reins of conversation were solely in his own hands, he took the fullest advantage of his position and discoursed at length on the bull fight, its history, its possibilities, the games of the Romans, how they fared under the Goths, what improvements came with the Moors, and wound up by suggesting an immediate visit to Fuenterrabia.

For the moment no enthusiasm was manifested. Mr. Incoul admitted that he would like to go, but the ladies said nothing, and presently the two men planned a little excursion by themselves.

Miss Blydenburg had made herself comfortable and fallen into a doze, but Maida sat watching the retreating uplands with unseeing eyes. Her thoughts had wandered, the visible was lost to her. Who knows what women see or the dreams and regrets that may come to the most matter-of-fact? Not long ago at the opera, in a little Italian town, the historian noticed an old lady, one who looked anything but sentimental, for that matter rather fierce than otherwise, but who, when Cherubino had sung his enchanting song, brushed away a furtive and unexpected tear. Voi che sapete indeed! Perhaps to her own cost she had learned and was grieving dumbly then over some ashes that the strain had stirred, and it is not impossible that as Maida sat watching the retreating uplands her own thoughts had circled back to an earlier summer when first she learned what Love might be.

CHAPTER IX.
MR. INCOUL DINES IN SPAIN

On the morrow Mr. Blydenburg consulted his guide-books. The descriptions of Fuenterrabia were vague but alluring. The streets, he learned, were narrow; the roofs met; the houses were black with age; the doors were heavy with armorials; the windows barred in short, a medi?val burg that slept on a blue gulf and let Time limp by unmarked. Among the inhabitants were some, he found, who accommodated travelers. The inns, it is true, were unstarred, but the names were so rich in suggestion that the neglect was not noticed. Mr. Blydenburg had never passed a night in Spain, and he felt that he would like to do so. This desire he succeeded in awakening in Mr. Incoul, and together they agreed to take an afternoon train, explore the town, pass the evening at the Casino and return to Biarritz the next morning. The programme thus arranged was put into immediate execution; two days after the bull fight they were again on their way to the frontier, and, as the train passed out of the station on its southern journey, Maida and Lenox Leigh were preparing for a stroll on the sands.

There is at Biarritz a division of the shore which, starting from the ruins of a corsairs castle, extends on to Saint-Jean-de-Luz. It is known as the C?te des Basques. On one side are the cliffs, on the other the sea, and between the two is a broad avenue which almost disappears when the tide is high. The sand is fine as face powder, nuance Rachel, packed hard. From the cliffs the view is delicious: in the distance are the mountains curving and melting in the haze; below, the ocean, spangled at the edges, is of a milky blue. Seen from the shore, the sea has the color of absinthe, an opalescent green, entangled and fringed with films of white; here the mountains escape in the perspective, and as the sun sinks the cliffs glitter. At times the sky is flecked with little clouds that dwindle and fade into spirals of pink; at others great masses rise sheer against the horizon, as might the bastions of Titan homes; and again are gigantic cathedrals, their spires lost in azure, their turrets swooning in excesses of vermilion grace. The only sound is from the waves, but few come to listen. The C?te des Basques is not fashionable with the summer colony; it is merely beautiful and solitary.

It was on the downs that Maida and Lenox first chose to walk, but after a while a sloping descent invited them to the shore below. Soon they rounded a projecting cliff, and Biarritz was hidden from them. The background was chalk festooned with green; afar were the purple outlines of the Pyrenees, and before them the ocean murmured its temptations of couch and of tomb.

They had been talking earnestly with the egotism of people to whom everything save self is landscape. The encircling beauty in which they walked had not left them unimpressed, yet the influence had been remote and undiscerned; the effect had been that of accessories. But now they were silent, for the wonder of the scene was upon them.

Presently Maida, finding a stone conveniently placed, sat down on the sand and used the stone for a back. Lenox threw himself at her feet. From the downs above there came now and then the slumberous tinkle of a bell, but so faintly that it fused with the rustle of the waves; no one heard it save a little girl who was tending cattle and who knew by the tinkle where each of her charges browsed. She was a ragged child, barefooted and not very wise; she was afraid of strangers with the vague fear that children have. And at times during the summer, when tourists crossed the downs where her cattle were, she would hide till they had passed.

On this afternoon she had been occupying herself with blades of grass, which she threw in the air and watched float down to the shore below, but at last she had wearied of this amusement and was about to turn and bully the cows in the shrill little voice which was hers, when Maida and her companion appeared on the scene. The child felt almost secure; nothing but a bird could reach her from the shore and of birds she had no fear, and so, being curious and not very much afraid, she watched the couple with timid, inquisitive eyes.

For a long time she watched and for a long time they remained motionless in the positions which they had first chosen. At times the sound of their voices reached her. She wished she were a little nearer that she might hear what they said. She had never seen people sit on the beach before, though she had heard that people sometimes did so, all night, too, and that they were called smugglers. But somehow the people beneath her did not seem to belong to that category. For a moment she thought that they might be guarding the coast, and at that thought an inherent instinctive fear of officials beat in her small breast. She had indeed heard of female smugglers; there was her own aunt, for instance; but no, she had never heard of a coast-guard in womans clothes. That idea had to be dismissed, and so she wondered and watched until she forgot all about them, and turned her attention to a white sail in the open.

The white sail fainted in sheets of cobalt. The sun which had neared the horizon was dying in throes of crimson and gamboge. It was time she knew to drive the cattle home. She stood up and brushed her hair aside, and as she did so, her eyes fell again on the couple below. The man had moved; he was not lying as he had been with his back to the bluff; he was kneeling by his companion, her head was on his shoulder, her arms were about his neck, and his mouth was close to hers. The little maid smiled knowingly; she had seen others in much the same attitude; the mystery was dissolved; they were neither guards nor smugglers they were lovers; and she ran on at once through the bramble and called shrilly to the cows.

The excursionists, meanwhile, had reached Hendaye and had been ferried across the stream that flows between it and Fuenterrabia. At the landing they were met by a gentleman in green and red who muttered some inquiry. The boatman undid the straps of the valise which they bore, and this rite accomplished, the gentleman in green and red looked idly in them and turned as idly away. The boatman shouldered the valises again, and started for the inn.

Mr. Incoul and his friend were both men to whom the visible world exists and they followed with lingering surprise. They ascended a sudden slope, bordered on one side by a high white wall in which lizards played, and which they assumed was the wall of some monastery, but which they learned from the boatman concealed a gambling-house, and soon entered a small grass-grown plaza. To the right was a church, immense, austere; to the left were some mildewed dwellings; from an upper window a man with a crimson turban looked down with indifferent eyes and abruptly a bird sang.

From the plaza they entered the main street and soon were at the inn. Mr. Incoul and Blydenburg were both men to whom the visible world exists, but they were also men to whom the material world has much significance. In the hall of the inn a chicken and two turkeys clucked with fearless composure. The public room was small, close and full of insects. At a rickety table an old man, puffy and scornful, was quarreling with himself on the subject of a peseta which he held in his hand. The inn-keeper, a frowsy female, emerged from some remoter den, eyed them with unmollifiable suspicion and disappeared.

We cant stop here, said Blydenburg with the air of a man denying the feasibility of a trip to the moon.

On inquiry they learned that the town contained nothing better. At the Casino there were roulette tables, but no beds. Travelers usually stopped at Hendaye or at Irun.

Then we will go back to Biarritz.

They sent their valises on again to the landing place and then set out in search of Objects of Interest. The palace of Charlemagne scowled at them in a tottering, impotent way. When they attempted to enter the church, a chill caught them neck and crop and forced them back. For some time they wandered about in an aimless, unguided fashion, yet whatever direction they chose that direction fed them firmly back to the landing place. At last they entered the Casino.

The grounds were charming, a trifle unkempt perhaps, the walks were not free from weeds, but the air was as heavy with the odor of flowers as a perfumery shop in Bond street. In one alley, in a bower of trees, was a row of tables; the covers were white and the glassware unexceptionable.

We could dine here, Blydenburg said in a self-examining way. A pretty girl of the manola type, dressed like a soubrette in a vaudeville, approached and decorated his lapel with a tube-rose. We certainly can dine here, he repeated.

The girl seemed to divine the meaning of his words. Ciertamente, Caballero, she lisped.

Mr. Blydenburg had never been called Caballero before, and he liked it. What do you say, Incoul? he asked.

I am willing, order it now if you care to.

But the ordering was not easy. Mr. Blydenburg had never studied pantomime, and his gestures were more indicative of a patient describing a toothache to a dentist than of an American citizen ordering an evening meal. Kayry-Oostay, he repeated, and then from some abyss of memory he called to his aid detached phrases in German.

The girl laughed blithely. Her mouth was like a pomegranate cut in twain. She took a thin book bound in morocco from the table and handed it to the unhappy gentleman. It was, he found, a list of dishes and of wines. In his excitement, he pointed one after another to three different soups, and then waving the book at the girl as who should say, I leave the rest to you, he dared Mr. Incoul to go into the Casino and break the bank for an appetizer.

The Casino, a low building of leprous white, stood in the centre of the garden. At the door, a lackey, in frayed, ill-fitting livery, took their sticks and gave them numbered checks in exchange. The gambling-room was on the floor above, and occupied the entire length of the house. There, about a roulette table, a dozen men were seated playing in a cheap and vicious way for small stakes. They looked exactly what they were, and nothing worse can be said of them. A den of thieves in a miniature paradise, thought Mr. Blydenburg, and his fancy was so pleasured with the phrase that he determined to write a letter to the Evening Post, in which, with that for title, he would give a description of Fuenterrabia. He found a seat and began to play. Mr. Incoul looked on for a moment and then sought the reading-room. When he returned Blydenburg had a heap of counters before him.

I have won all that! he exclaimed exultingly. He looked at his watch, it was after seven. He cashed the counters and together they went down again to the garden.

The dinner was ready. They had one soup, not three, and other dishes of which no particular mention is necessary. But therewith was a bottle of Val de Pe?as, a wine so delicious that a temperance lecturer suffering from hydrophobia would have drunk of it. The manola with the pomegranate mouth fluttered near them, and toward the close of the meal Mr. Blydenburg chucked her under the chin. Nice girl that, he announced complacently.





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