THE PARTS MEN PLAY
ARTHUR BEVERLEY BAXTER
Author of “Merrie Gentianen," “The Airy Prince,” etc.
Lady Durwent, the commoner wife of an English peer, has two sons, Malcolm and Dick, the latter a headstrong lad a l w a y s i n trouble, and one
daughter, Elise. Finding herself barred from the inner circles of society on account of her plebeian birth, she cultivates unusual people and so in course of time, when Malcolm has grown up and joined the Guards and Dick has been rusticated from College and Elise has become a beautiful, though rebellious young lady, Lady Durwent gires a dinner in honor of a young American author, Austin Selwyn. The latter is attracted by Elise and persuades her to have dinner with him at a West-End restaurant.
CHAPTER VII The Cafe Rouge
MONSIEUR ANTON BEAUCHAMP was the pro-prietor of the Café Rouge in London. Monsieur Anton Beauchamp was once proprietor of the Café Bleu in Paris.
For many years he had cast envious eyes on London. Did not always his guests, those strange blonde people with clothes like blankets, pay his prices without question? Did they not drink bad wine and never add the bill? Pardi! If he could have only English as patrons, madame and himself could purchase that wine-shop in the Boul’ Mich’, and never worry again.
For years the thought of London haunted Anton, and then one day, in a superb moment of decision, he announced his intention of journeying thither. A large entourage followed him to the Gare du Nord, and, with much the same feelings as those of an explorer leaving for the North Pole, he bade a dramatic farewell, and almost missed his train by running back to give a final embrace to Madame Beauchamp.
With no undue mishap he reached London the same night, and next day he lunched at a famous London restaurant. At night he dined at a fashionable establishment in Shaftesbury Avenue. In both places he received ordinary food served without distinction, reckoned up the bill, and found that in each case l'addition was correct— and rushed madly back to Paris, where he sold the Café Bleu, packed up his belongings, and explained matters to his wife, doing all three things simultaneously.
“The dinner,” he exclaimed in a fever of excitement,
“is served so! As a funeral. I order what I like, and the waiter he stands there comme un gendarme, as if it is my name 1 give. ‘Any vegetables?’ demands he. Mon Dieu! As if vegetables they are no more to him than so much so much umbrellas. I say, ‘Garçon, la carte des vins!’ and, quite correct, he hands it me with so many wines he has not got, just as in Paris, but que penses-tul— he permits me to order what wine I choose, so - by myself, ("est terrible! I give him three pennies and say, ‘Garçon, for such stupidity you should pay the whole bill.’ ”
ONSIEUR BEAUCHAMP was a man of shrewdness. He knew he eould not compete with the established solidity of the Trocadero, the Ritz, the Piccadilly, or the garishness of Frascati’s, so he purchased and remodelled an unobtrusive building in an unobtrusive street between Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street, but clear of Soho and its adherents. He decorated the place in a rich red, and arranged some cabinets particuliers upstairs, where, by the screening of a curtain, Madame the Wife and Monsieur the Lover could dine without molestation of vulgar eyes.
Monsieur Beauchamp felt himself a benefactor, a missionary. He argued that the only reason Londoners were not as flirtatious as Parisians was lack of opportunity. He, the proprietor of the Café Rouge, would bring light to the inhabitants of the foggy city. To assist in this philanthropic work he brought with him an excellent cook, who had killed a dyspeptic Cabinet Minister by tempting him with dishes intended only for robust digestions, and three young and ambitious waiters; while madame engaged what unskilled labor was required.
Unobtrusively they opened for business, for he knew that publicity would spoil his chance of success. (Once convince a Londoner that he is one of a select few who know a restaurant and he will stand an hour waiting for a table.) The first customer to enter received such attention that he brought his family the next night. Monsieur Beauchamp issued orders that he should be snubbed. Parbleu! was the Café Rouge for families?
Gradually the justification of Monsieur Beauchamp’s policy became evident. Ladies of the Chorus brought their admirers there, and to the former Monsieur Beauchamp paid particular courtesy. Long study of feminine psychology had taught him that, whereas a woman may change her lover, she will not change her favorite café. Therefore, though the man may pay the bill, the woman is the one to please. Artists from Chelsea would come as well to the Café Rouge, celebrating the sale of a picture, and drinking plentifully to the confounding of all art critics. Also, the cabinets particuliers were the scene of some exceedingly expensive and recherché dinners — and almost no one added the bill. When anyone did, Monsieur Beauchamp was mortified, and invariably dismissed the same waiter on the spot—thereby gaining for himself and France a reputation for sterling integrity.
“Ma foi! London may be gray,” thought Monsieur Beauchamp, “but she pays well.”
One November evening Monsieur Anton Beauchamp’s critical eye noted the entrance of a dark-haired young man in well-fitting evening clothes, and with him a young lady whose deep-green cloak and white fur round the shoulders set off to perfection her radiant coloring and wellpoised figure. Monsieur Beauchamp did not hesitate. After all, he was an artist, and subject to inspirations like other men of genius; so, hurrying downstairs, he waved the waiter aside, and greeted them with a bow which almost amounted to virtuosity.
“Bon soir, monsieur et madame.” Ile cast an anxious glance about the café, which was two-thirds filled. “This tabil will do?—Ah, mais non!” He grew indignant at the
very thought. “Pardon, monsieur, that one is very nice_
par ici.--Non, non! Ah perhaps you would like a cab in et pa rti m l i vr‘! ' ’
The sirenic tone of voice and the gesture of his hands indicated the seraphic pleasure to be obtained only in one of those secluded spots.
The American turned inquiringly to the girl.
“When I was here before,” she said, “I was at a table just upstairs to the right. Have you one there, Monsieur Beauchamp?”
Norn d’une pipe! She knew him. And she was beautiful, this English lady. As he personally escorted them upstairs, with the importance of a Lord Chamberlain at a Court function, Monsieur Beauchamp speculated on the flirtatious potentialities of the young woman. If she were only clever enough to be fickle, what a source of profit she might be to the Café Rouge! And was she not in appearance much like Mademoiselle Valerie, for whom a member of the Chamber of Deputies had blown out the brains of Monsieur P - de l’Académie Française?
VX7TTH the assistance of a waiter, he ushered them to a * ’ table almost hidden by a pillar, where a crimsonshaded light sent a soft glow that was guaranteed to make the most of a woman’s eyes. Monsieur Beauchamp with his own hands brought them the menu card, while the waiter stood expectantly, crouched for an immediate start as soon as he received the signal. A small waitress appeared with the butter and rolls, and made her way underneath the arms of the proprietor and the waiter like a tug running round two ocean liners. Monsieur Beauchamp could recommend the Barquettes 'Norvégiennes—No? Madame did not so desire? Of course not. He frowned terrifically at the waiter, who glared ferociously at the diminutive waitress. Morbleu! What imbecile suggested Barquettes Norvégiennes? Monsieur Beauchamp mentioned other dishes as an overture to the meal, waxing increasingly wrathy towards the waiter on each veto. Ah! Monsieur desired Consomme Anton. The proprietor’s face beamed and his arms were outstretched towards heaven. That this gentleman should order Consomme Anton, the soupof which he alone knew the secret, and which had been named after himself! Truly, the life of a restaurateur was not without compensations. He turned on the waiter— but that worthy had darted away to execute the order.
' I 'HE soup appeared. Monsieur Beauchamp stood by with the attitude of an artist watching the hanging of his first painting in the Academy.
“You might let me see the wine list,” said Selwyn. Monsieur Beauchamp struck an attitude of horror. Had it come to this in the Café Rouge, that a patron mustask for the wine list? Brandishing his arms, he rushed from the table, almost colliding with the little waitress, flew downstairs to the very farthest table near the door, seized a wine card, and puffing generously, arrived with thetrophy at the table, much as Rothschild’s messenger must have reached London with the news that the British, were winning at Waterloo. Having then succeeded in making the American order a red wine when he wanted white, Monsieur Beauchamp withdrew in a state-of histrionic self-satisfaction.
With a smile of relief Selwyn looked across the table at. the girl. Even in the soft glow of the lamp, which made for flattery, it seemed to him that the vivacity of the morning had disappeared, and in its place was the petulance of the previous evening. Her eyes, which seemed when they were riding to have caught something of the alchemy of theskies, were steady and lighter in shade. Again he noticed the suggestion of discontent about the mouth, and theupper lip looked thin and lacking in color.
“It is your turn to-night to be pensive,” she said.
“I was thinking,” he answered, “that it is hardly twentyfour hours since we met, and yet I have as many impressions of you as an ordinary woman would give in'six months. For instance, last night when you entered the room— “But, Mr. Selwyn, any girl knows enough to arrive late when there is no woman within twenty years of her age in the room. The effect is certain.”
There was no humor in her voice, but just a tone of weary, world-wise knowledge. A look of displeasure clouded his face.
“Surely,” he said, “with your qualities and appearance, you don’t need such an elaborate technique.”
“In a world where there is so little that is genuine, why should I debar myself from the pleasure of being a humbug?”
“Come, come,” he said, smiling, “you are not going to join the ranks of England’s detractors?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m certainly, not going to become a professional critic like Stackton Dunckley, who hasn’t even the excuse that he’s an Irishman; or Lucia Carlotti, who hardly ever leaves London because her dinners cost her nothing. But I reserve the right of personal resentment.”
' I 'HEY were interrupted by a waiter, who removed the soup-plates with studied dexterity,and substituted Tronçon de turbotin Duglere; pommes vapeur, the dish which had delivered the fatal blow against the Cabinet Minister’s digestive armor.
“Perhaps I am too personal,” resumed Selwyn after the completion of this task, “but last night one of the impressions I took away with me was your critical attitude towards your surroundings. Then this morning you were so completely—”
“—bewitching,” he said, smiling, “that I thought myself an idiot for the previous night’s opinion. But then this evening—”
“Mr. Selwyn, you are not going to tell me I’m disappointing, and we just finished with the soup?”
More than her words, the forced rapidity with which she spoke nettled him. With bad taste perhaps but still with well-meant sincerity, he was trying to elucidate the personality which hád gripped him; while she, though seemingly having no objection to serving as a study for analysis was constantly thrusting her deflecting sentences in his path. To him words were as clay to the sculptor. When he conversed he liked to choose his theme, then, by adroit use of language, bring his artistry to bear on the subject, accentuating a line here, introducing a note of subtlety elsewhere, amplifying, smoothing, finishing with the veneer of words the construction of his mind. Another quality in her that troubled him was the apparent rigidity of her thoughts. Not once did she give the impression that she was nursing an idea in the lap of her mentality, but always that she had arrived at a conclusion by an instantaneous process, which would' not permit of retraction or expansion. As though by suggestion he could reduce her phrasing to a tempo less quick, his own voice slowed to a drawl.
“Miss Durwent,” he said,
“you are unique among the English girls I have met. I should think that contentment, almost reduced to placidity, is one of their outstanding characteristics.”
“That is because you are a man, and with a stranger we have our company manners on. England is full of bitter, resentful women, but they don’t cry about it. That’s one result of our playing games like boys. We learn not to whine.”
“I suppose the activities of your suffragettes are a sign of this unrest.”
“Yes—though they don’t know what is really the trouble. I do not think women should run the country, but I do feel that we should have something to say about our ordinary day-to-day lives.
Man-made laws are stupid enough, but a man-made society is intolerable. Just a very little wine, please.”
rpOR a moment there was " silence; then she continued: “Oh, I suppose if it were all sifted down I should find that it is largely egotism on my part.”
He waited, not wanting to alter her course by any injudicious comment.
“Mr. Selwyn,” she said abruptly, “do you feel that there is a Higher Purpose working through life?"
“Y-yes,” he said, rather startled, “I think there is.”
“SometimesI do,"she went on; “then, again, I think we’re on this earth for no purpose at all. It often strikes me that Some One up above started humanity with a great idea, but lost interest in us.”
“I think,” he said slowly,
“that every man has an instinctive feeling sometime in his life that he is a small part of a great plan that is working somehow towards the light.”
“Yes. It’s a comfortable thought. It’s what makes good Christians enjoy their dinner without worrying too much about the poor.”
He made no answer, though
he was not one who often let an epigram go by without a counter-thrust; but he could see that the girl was struggling towards a sincerity of expression much as a frightened horse crosses a bridge which spans a roaring waterfall, ready to bolt at the first thing that affrights it.
“Mr. Selwyn,” she said—and for the first time her words had something of a lilt and less incision—“do you think women are living the life intended for them?”
“Why not?” he fenced. ,
“Well, it seems to me that when any living creature is placed in the world it is given certain powers to use. You saw this morning how our horses wanted to race, and couldn’t understand our holding them back. A mosquito bites because that’s apparently its job in the world, and it doesn’t know anything else. I was once told that if animals do not use some faculty they possess, in time Nature takes it away from them.”
“You are quite a student of natural history, Miss Dur-
“No—but every now and then Mother unearths a man who teaches us something, like last night.”
He acknowledged the compliment with a slight inclination of his head. The waiter leant expectantly beside
“To descend from the metaphysical to the purely physical,” he said, glancing in some perplexity at the terrific my little brother ‘Boy-blue’
nomenclature of Monsieur Beauchamp's dishes, “do you think we might take a chance on this Poulet reine aux primeurs; salade lorette? I gather that it has something to do with chicken.”
“It’s rather artful of Monsieur Beauchamp to word it so we poor English can get that much, isn't it?”
“Yes. He apparently acts on the principle that a little learning is a common thing.”
Selwyn gave the necessary order to the waiter, a noisy hubbub of laughter from an adjoining cabinet particulier almost drowned his words. There was one woman’s voice that was rasping and sustained with an abandon of vulgarity released by the potency of champagne.
Elise Durwent looked across the table at her companion. “Are you bored with all my talk?” she said. “You. Americans aren’t nearly so candid about such things as Englishmen.”
“On the contrary, Miss Durwent, I am deeply interested. Only, I am a little puzzled as to how you connect the usual functions of animals with woman’s place in the world.” With an air of abstraction she drew some pattern on the table cloth with the prongs of a fork. “I don’t know,” she said dreamily, “that I can apply the argument correctly, but—Mr. Selwyn, when I was a child playing about with -that was a pet name I had for him—I was just as happy to be a girl as he was to be a boy. I think that is true of all children. But ask any woman which she would rather be, a man or a woman, and unless she is trying to make you fall in love with her she will say the former. That is not as it should be, but it’s true. Yet, if we are part of your great plan working towards the light, we’re entitled to the same share in life as you—more, if anything, because we perpetuate life and have more in common with all that it holds than men have. There, that is a long speech for me.”
“Please don’t stop.”
'T'HERE was a howl in a A man’s voice from the noisy cabinet particulier, followed by a laugh from the same woman as before, which set the teeth on edge.
“That woman in there,” she went on, “will partly show what I mean. In the beginning we were both given certain qualities. She has lost her modesty through disuse; I’m losing my womanliness and power and sympathy for the same reason. She’s more candid about it, that’s all. When Dick and I were youngsters I dreamed of life as Casim Baba’s cave full of undiscovered treasures that would be endless. Now I look back upon those days as the only really happy ones I shall ever have.”
“You are how old?” “Twenty-three.”
“You will grow less cynical as you grow older,” he said, from the altitude of twenty -
“I agree," she said. “As, unlike the Japanese, we haven’t the moral courage of suicide, I shall get used to the idea of being an Englishman’s wife: of living in a calm routine of sport, bridge, week-ends, and small-talk e n ter t ai n i n g
people who boro you, and in turn helping to bore those who entertain you. In time I’ll forget that I was born, as most women are, with a fine percept ion of life's subtleties, and settle down to living year in and year out with no change except that each season you’re less attractive and more petty. After a while I shall even get to like the. cab level of being an Eng,
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man’s wife, and if I see any girl thinking as I do now, I’ll know what a little fool she is. That's what happens to us—we get used to things. Those of us who don’t either get a divorce, or go to the devil, or just live out our little farce. It is a real tragedy of English life that women are losing through disuse the qualities that were given them. That is why an American like you comes here and says we do not edit ourselves cleverly.” The rapid succession of sentences came to an end, and the color which had mounted to her cheeks slowly subsided.
“T FEEL,” he said, “that I can only vaguely understand what you mean. But is it not possible that you are looking at it too much' from the standpoint of an individualist?”
“Women are all individualists,” she broke in; “or they are until society breaks their spirit. This lumping of people into generations and tuning your son’s brain to the same pitch as his medieval ancestor’s doesn’t interest women—that’s man’s performance. The great thing about a woman is her own life, isn’t it? And the great event in a woman’s life is when she has a child—because it’s hers. This class and family stuff comes from men, because their names are perpetuated, not ours. There is no snobbery equal to men’s; it is more noticeable with women, because it isn’t instinctive with them, and they have to talk to show it.”
“Then,” said Selwyn, “in addition to an Irish Rebellion, we may look for one from English Women?”
“Yes, I don’t know when, but it will
He produced a cigarette-case. “Would you care for a cigarette now?” he asked. “No, thanks. But you smoke.”
“Poor England!” he said in pretended seriousness, tapping the table with the end of the cigarette, “with two revolutions on her hands, and neither party knowing what it wants.”
“We may not know what we want,” she said, “but, as an Irishman said the other day, ‘We won’t be satisfied till we get it.’ If the rebellion of our women doesn’t come, I prophesy that in a couple of thousand years, when the supermen inhabit the earth, they will find a sort of land mermaid with an expressionless face, perpetually going through the motion of dealing cards or drinking tea. Then some old fogy will spend ten years in research, and pronounce her an excellent example of the extinct race Femina Anglica.”
“As one of the tyrants who wishes you well,” said Selwyn, after a laugh in which she joined, “may I be permitted to know what women want—or think they want?” “Mr. Selwyn, revolutions never come from people who think. That is why they are so terrible. The unhappiness of so many English women comes from the life which does not demand or permit the use of half the powers they possess. Nor does it satisfy half their longings. Such a condition produces either stagnation or revolution. Our ultimatum is—give us a life which demands all our resources and permits" women unlimited opportunity for self-development.”
“And if the men cannot do this?”
“The women will have to take charge.” “And when does the ultimatum ex-
She shrugged her shoulders.
“When will the next great earthquake be?”
THE noise of the party in the cabinet particulier had been growing apace with the reinforcement of champagne-bottles. The strident laughter of the women dominated the lower level of men’s voices, and there was a constant clinking of glasses, punctuated by the. occasional drawing of a cork, which always whipped the gaiety to a feverish pitch. Monsieur Beauchamp rubbed his hands rather anxiously. He would have preferred a little more intrigue and not quite so much noise. But, then, was it not a testimony to his wine?— and certainly there would be an excellent bill.
One of the men in the party called on someone for a song. There was a hammering on the table, a promise of a kiss in a girl’s voice that trailed off into a tipsy giggle, the sound of shuffling chairs and accompanying hilarity as the singer was apparently hoisted on to the table. There came a crash of breaking glass as his foot collided with some dinner-tilings.
Monsieur Beauchamp winced, but consoled himself with the reflection that he could charge what he wished for the damage. The voices were hushed at the order of the singer, who was trying to .enunciate the title of his song.
“I shall shing,” he said, with considerable difficulty, “ ‘Moon, Moon, Boo— (hie)—Booful Moon,’ composhed by myself at the early age of sheven months. It ish very pash—pashesh—it ish very shad, so, if ye have tearsh, pre—(hie) —pare to shed ’em now.”
There was loud applause, which the singer interrupted by commencing to sing in a bass voice that broke into falsetto with such frequency that it was difficult to tell which voice was the natural one. He started off the verse very stoutly, but was growing rather maudlin, when, reaching the chorus, he seemed to take on a new lease of vitality and bellowed quite lustily:
“Moon, Moon, boo-oo-oo-ooful Moon, Shining reshplendantly, raliantan’ tenderly; Moon, Moon, boo-oo—(hie)—booful Moon— Tell her I shy for her, tell her I die for her, Booful, BOO-OO-ooful Moon.”
“Now then,_ fellow Athenians, chorush, chorush!” With an indescribable medley of discordant howling the party broke into a series of “Moon, Moon, boo-oo-ooful Moon,” which came to an abrupt ending as the singer fell back, apparently unconscious, in the arms of his friends. There was a murmuring of voices, and a waiter was sent for some water to revive the young
Considerably disgusted at the ending to the incident, Selwyn, who had turned to look towards the cabinet particulier, once more sought his companion’s eyes.
Her face was white; there was not a vestige of color in the cheeks.
“Miss Durwent,” he gasped, “you are not well.”
“I am quite well,” she answered quickly, but her voice was weak and quivering. “I—I thought I recognized the singer’s oice. That was all.”
' 1 'HE curtain of the cabinet particulier was drawn aside, and two youths in evening-dress emerged, supporting between them the dishevelled singer, who was miserably drunk, and whose hat almost completely obscured his right eye. They were followed by three girls with untidy hair, whose flushed, rouged faces had been made grotesque by clumsy dabs of pow-
The singer’s hat fell off, and Monsieur Beauchamp, who was hovering about with the bill, had just stooped to recover it, when Selwyn heard a suppressed cry of pain from Elise Durwent. Thrusting her chair away from her, she made for the emerging party and halted them at the top of the stairway.
“Dick,” she said breathlessly. “Dick!”
The drunken youth raised his heavy eyelids and looked with bewildered eyes at his sister. One of the girls tried to laugh, but there was something in the insane lightness of his eyes and the agony of hers that stifled the ribaldry in its birth. His face was as pale as hers, a pallor that was accentuated by dark hair, matted impotently over his forehead. But there was a careless, debonair charm about the fellow that made him stand out apart from the other revellers.
“Hello, sis!” he muttered, trying to pull himself together. “My li’l sister Elise— friends of mine here—forget their names, but jolly good fellosh—and ladies too; nice li’l ladies—”
“Bravo, Durwent!” cried one of his friends, emitting a dismal howl of encouragement.
“Dick! Boy-blue!” The breathy intensity of her voice seemed to rouse some latent manhood in her brother. He stiffened his shoulders and threw off his two supporting friends—a manoeuvre which enabled Monsieur Beauchamp to present his trifling bill to the more sober of the two. “Why aren’t you at Cambridge?”
“Advice of eonshul,” he muttered. “Refushe to answer.” He shook his head solemnly from side to side.
With a swift gesture she turned to the American. “This is my brother,” she said, “and I know where his rooms are in town. If you will bring my cloak, I’ll get him to my car and take him home.”
(To be Continued).
IN NEXT ISSUE
Among the contributors will be the following well-known writers: Agnes C. Lout, Pelham Grenville W ode house, Basil King, Jancy Canuck, Arthur Beverley Baxter and C. II'. Stephens.