"Miss de Maupassant" by Elizabeth Robins (1895)
Miss de Maupassant by C. E. Raimond [Elizabeth Robins]
Hypertext formatting copyright by Joanne E. Gates. Based on the first publication in The New Review, Vol. 13, No. 76 (September 1895). Pagination based on this publication. Elizabeth Robins was not identified as "C. E. Raimond" until 1898. Previous versions of the Robins Web list of Shorter Works may have assigned "Miss De Maupassant" to Below the Salt. However, it was republished from the original New Review publication only in Eclectic Magazine 125: 547-555. See Sue Thomas Bibliography Number 140. The two original printings of "Miss de Maupassant" are New Review 13 (July-Dec 1895): 233-247 (accessed through Google Books) and Eclectic Magazine 125 (1895): 547-555 (accessed through HathiTrust).
THE firm of Merriman and Streake, Publishers, had sustained certain reverses. It was agreed that they had grave ground of complaint against Mr. Soames, not because of the failure of his graceful old-fashioned novel which they had good-humouredly published, but because, albeit the oldest reader in their employ, he had dissuaded them from accepting the two most successful novels of the past year. So the day came when he was formally confronted with the proofs of his inadequacy. The junior partner quoted the rapidly succeeding editions and record-breaking sales of the books his unwisdom had lost to the firm. But the culprit was unimpressed. "I have saved Merriman and Streake," he said, "from the disgrace of seeing their stamp on these vulgar inanities--and I deserve their thanks."
Mr. Streake's rejoinder was to point to a rival firm's book list in The Pall Mall of that afternoon. Under the announcement of the third edition of the last book, was a brilliant array of Press opinions. "A good many people think differently," observed the junior partner. "Of course," said the older reader, "there will always be people who mistake indecency for power, and more who don't know the difference between impertinence and genius," and he gazed vindictively at the MS. he had laid down on the table some minutes before.
Mr. Streake stroked his moustache. "As I've ventured to point out," he said slowly, "we don't publish books solely to raise the literary standard." "No," said the reader stonily, "I keep that in mind." He laid down his report on the last MS. and abruptly took his
departure. Mr. Streake unfolded the paper reflectively. "Very much like the report he made on Phryne's Hour," he thought to himself as he glanced down the brief condemnation. "We'll send that MS. to the new reader and see what he makes of it," he said later to Mr. Merriman. "I'd rather have the opinion of a clever young fellow fresh from the University than of all the fogey men of letters in the kingdom. We'll send Initiation to Johns."
And they did. And Johns sent them in return, a report that was hallelujah from end to end: "This is the biggest thing since Mme. Bovary. You've got hold of a new Flaubert! The fellow knows women like the inside of his pockets, and he has the courage of genius. It's a stupendous book."
"I really must read it myself," thought Mr. Streake. Not that he was a judge of literary values. That was not his business. He performed the far more remunerative office of recognising and selecting what the public would buy. He read Initiation in a whirl of ecstasy. He was glad to hear it was like Flaubert. Not that he had read Flaubert, but that was immaterial. He was glad that Johns (who had enjoyed advantages denied to Thomas Streake) had said Initiation was a work of genius. It was a secondary consideration, but it did count. That the book would sell like hot cakes was a foregone conclusion. That is to say, it would sell if they were allowed to put it on the market. Would the public stand it? The public would flock to it like lambs. They would devour it like wolves. But wouldn't they think it their duty to howl afterwards? That would advertise the book, but if the book was suppressed, of what use the advertisement? Then there was that little inconvenience of the Vigilance Society and criminal prosecution. He would read it again. It seemed more extraordinary than ever. Its calm and colossal audacity left him breathless--staring. "It's a great book," he said to Merriman. "It'll make a fortune-- if they'll stand it."
"They'll stand anything now," said Mr. Merriman. "I'll read it myself." He found that he was too old and too stiff in his mental joints to bear the impact of this new genius. The book floored him--floored, but did not conquer. "It's simply obscene," he said to Streake the next day. "The fellow's a beast."
"I assure you Johns compares him to Flaubert."
"Flaubert's a beast."
"O very well. I only wish the woods were full of them."
"But Flaubert isn't such a beast as this man."
"I told you this fellow had gone one better."
"That scene about the--you know--that's impossible."
"You think so? Perhaps he'd cut that."
"And the last chapter. I never read anything like it in my life."
"I told you we'd got hold of a big thing."
"It's my impression it's too big to hold. Too big and too slippery."
"What if I can get him to cut out some of the--a--most original passages?"
"O well, if he'll do that, we might consider it, I suppose. But I don't believe--"
"I shall have to run down to the Isle of Wight this week end. I'll go and talk to him."
The next morning Mr. Streake wired, R.P.: "Phil Raglan, 4, Cottage Crescent, Ventnor.--Have read Initiation with interest. Will you dine with me Royal Hotel Ventnor to-morrow, eight.--Thomas Streake." The reply came back before luncheon: "Sorry unable to dine. Hope to see you here Sunday after eleven.--Raglan."
Mr. Streake arrived at 4, Cottage Crescent, at a quarter past the hour. He mused upon the unpretending haunts of greatness, while he waited for admittance. He decided off-hand that the man who wrote Initiation had certainly not always lived in the Isle of Wight in a rose-covered cottage. He must have gone the pace, and squandered brilliantly a brilliant inheritance. His wild extravagances had landed him at last at 4, Cottage Crescent. "For the fellow evidently knows society through and through," thought Mr. Streake, who knew only his own small corner of scribbling Bohemia.
"Mr. Raglan?" he inquired of the servant as she turned her ear to him. The old woman favoured him with the keen sidelong glance of the deaf. "Are you Mr. Streake, sir?" she asked, watching his lips. "Yes," replied the visitor. "This way, sir." She opened the second door on the left of the small passage. "Mr. Streake," she announced.
The publisher entered a bright little room, lined with books, and fitted up like a miniature library. Two women sat by the window which overlooked a small garden behind the house. They both rose. The elder came forward. "Mr. Streake," she acknowledged languidly, "we are glad you could come. My daughter."
"I have only a left hand to offer you," said the girl with soft self-
possession. Mr. Streake stared with admiration at the exquisite little person before him. She was like a Dresden China Shepherdess. But she had no crook, and her right hand rested in a sling.
"O, you've had an accident," ejaculated the publisher, with unconscious familiarity.
"Only sprained my wrist," she smiled bewitchingly. They sat down. The Shepherdess framed her loveliness in the rose-wreathed window. The mother sat in a weary attitude on the small sofa, and coughed. Her face was pale, and what cheerful persons call "intellectual." But so much was evident: she was an invalid with a Roman nose.
"What a charming spot," said Mr. Streake, apparently looking at the curly brown head of the little Shepherdess.
"Yes," said the girl, turning round and looking out of the window; "I think our roses have never been so beautiful before." The voice was musical, caressing. It had that beguiling quality of pretty childishness, which many men find more irresistible than a beautiful face.
Mr. Streake's intimate acquaintance with women was more or less confined to the sturdy members of his own family circle, and the dashing creatures who write books, or review them. He was quickly hypnotised by the rose-leaf daintiness of the slim little person before him. She might be seventeen, and certainly Phil Raglan, whether father or brother, had in her a heroine fit to stimulate the most fastidious fancy. She wore a white frock with a kind of lace "pinafore"--(or so the observant Streake described it afterwards to Mrs. Streake)--and her slender wrist tinkled with bangles, whenever she moved the one free hand.
"What fine weather we are having now all over England," the publisher ventured, turning to the elder woman.
"Y-Yes," she said vaguely, "very fine"; and she regarded her daughter with dreamy adoration.
Mr. Streake began to feel conscious of a growing embarrassment. Why had the author of Initiation turned him over to these charming but irrelevant ladies? "I'm afraid I have called too early for Mr. Raglan," he suggested, turning again to the anæmic woman on the sofa.
"For Mr. Raglan?" she said, with a slight start. "Mr. Raglan--my husband"--she looked over helplessly at the girl. "We lost my father some years ago," said the Dresden China Shepherdess with
soft promptitude. "We are not business women, but we are glad to talk the book over with you."
Streake felt himself blushing--or going through some unusual and uncomfortable phase of bodily temperature. "I--a--I," he looked appealingly towards the elder lady. "Did Mr. Raglan leave an executor with whom I could--a--?" "I am his executor," said Mrs. Raglan with some surprise.
"O! it was not merely terms that I hoped to see the author of Initiation. I--there are other things--I--I suppose--a--pardon me, but have you read your husband's novel?"
The Dresden China Shepherdess broke into a low peal of laughter. "Do you mean to say," she asked, "you thought a man wrote Initiation?
Mr. Streake stared speechless. "You mean to say," he faltered, looking at the Roman nose with a new respect--"you mean to say--?"
"My daughter is the writer of the family," said the lady proudly (Mr. Streake clutched the arms of his chair.) "Since there are things you wish to discuss, I'll leave you"; and Mrs. Raglan smothered a cough in her handkerchief as she got up.
"No! no! I assure you--nothing at all--nothing--that is--that--that--I beg you not to leave us." His agitation was unmistakable. He kept repeating to himself Merriman's opinion of the last chapter and "that scene about the--you know." "I--I only wanted to learn," he turned desperately to the little Shepherdess, "how, if--in case--what your views are on the subject of--of-- formât--. Initiation is too long for a single volume of my 'Fin-de-siècle Series'--and it isn't long enough for the old regulation three volumes."
"O!" said the Shepherdess indulgently; "you want me to make it longer?"
"Well--a--I was thinking it might be--a--with some advantage it might be shortened by a chapter or two."
"O no!" she ejaculated, with a new note in her voice.
"Now Philippa, darling," admonished her mother timidly, "perhaps Mr. Streake knows best."
"It's impossible! Quite impossible. You couldn't cut my book: it would bleed to death."
"I thought--you are very young, and--I was only suggesting--"
"Well, now, you've read it, Mr. Streake," she said in the voice of a dove. "What is there in Initiation that we could afford to cut?"
The poor man hesitated. He realised of a sudden that the room was oppressively hot.
"Shall we go over the manuscript together?" the cooing voice went on.
"Well--I think perhaps--" Mr. Streake struggled inarticulately with his feelings. The girl rose and went to the writing-table.
"If you are going to work you mustn't be disturbed," said Mrs. Raglan in a hushed voice, as she too got up.
"But I assure you"--Mr. Streake sprang to his feet.
"Phil can never write with me in the room," she said, looking reverently at her offspring. The girl was deftly undoing a parcel with one hand. "You always cough," said Phil, without looking up.
"I know, my dear." She pressed her handkerchief to her lips again, and held out a thin hand to the publisher.
"But the fact is"--he made a clutch at his hat--"I haven't time this morning to go into the matter. Besides, that can be attended to later--if--if we come to terms."
"O!" said the girl slowly, pushing the MS. away from her. "Do you mean you haven't made up your mind to publish my book?" There was a delicate scorn in her face that seemed to Streake to put him to instant disadvantage. As she stood now, with the light falling sideways on her face, it was plain she was not seventeen. "Nearer five and twenty," the publisher commented silently, "but deuced good-looking." However, he was a man of business. Dimples and pinafores were all very well, but--"I wired you, you remember, that Initiation interested me, and that it would be just at well to--a--"
"Yes," said the girl, her full lips parting in a pretty childish smile; "I was sorry I couldn't dine." She looked ruefully down at her bandaged arm. Mr. Streake wondered if she would have accepted his invitation, had she not been physically disabled. "You mean," she continued in melting tones, "first of all we must discuss what my book is worth?" And both ladies sat down.
"Well--a--not just that--I--Mr. Merriman and I are 'interested,' as I wired you. Initiation is your first book, I suppose?"
"O no!" said the girl.
"You haven't published under your own name, have you?"
"I've never published at all. But Initiation is my third long book."
"I see. And the other ones--are they--a--are they at all like this one?"
"Not so likely to be popular, I think."
"Indeed? What is your opinion?" Streake turned to Mrs. Raglan.
"My mother doesn't care for literature," said the girl kindly.
The elder lady looked a little ruffled. "You see I am ill a great deal," she said hurriedly. "Straining the eyes is so bad for the head, and Phil has written so many books. It would be impossible for me to read all her stories."
"Dear, you haven't read one for years."
"Not to the end." She patted her mother's thin hand, and smiled a heavenly pardon.
"You see," Mrs. Raglan turned nervously to the visitor, "my daughter has written ever since she was a child--long before her father sent her to Rouen."
"O, you've lived in France?" His glance swept both ladies.
"I haven't," said Mrs. Raglan, "I don't understand the language, and it would have been awkward. But Mr. Raglan did. These are all his books."
Streake followed her glance round the little room. He observed for the first time that the books seemed to have foreign titles, while a good proportion of them were in the familiar yellow uniform, "quite impudently French"--even in eyes unable to read them. "You went to school in France?" he asked the pinafored authoress.
"Yes, I was at the Convent of the Sacré-Coeur for four years."
"Really! Then I suppose you're a great student."
"O, yes! I don't see how she stands it," said the mother solicitously. "But genius is not subject to the laws that govern most people," she added, like one who carefully cons a lesson.
"I suppose you read a great deal of fiction," Mr. Streake observed, studying the girl. She looked up at him with slightly narrowed eyes. "Not very much," she said demurely, "I haven't time." She closed her free hand over the little gold heart that hung from a necklace of seed coral, and all the bangles tinkled as they slid up her arm. "You can't expect those who write to spend their time reading other people," she said with dignity.
"No, I suppose not." Mr. Streake's tone was apologetic. "I only thought--now and then in a leisure hour--"
"In my leisure hours I observe life," said the Shepherdess.
"I see." Mr. Streake was deeply impressed. "It may interest you to know," the girl went on in the manner of the seasoned celebrity helping along a halting interviewer--"I suppose I'm the only person you've ever met who has never read a line of Thackeray or Dickens, or any of that old lot."
"Really! how very interesting. But I suppose you've dipped into--Thomas Hardy, for instance?"
"Once I began a book of his. But that sort of thing doesn't interest me." Her long lashes drooped wearily. "Hardy is so obvious."
"O! you prefer Meredith?"
"Heavens, no! You see if one is born with a sensitive feeling for style one must take care of it. I remember once, travelling from Rouen to Paris some one left Beauchamp's Career behind him in the carriage. I read one chapter, and for weeks after I was not myself. It made me quite ill. I felt as if I had swallowed a sackful of sand and thistles. But perhaps Mr. Meredith is a friend of yours?"
"No--O no! We don't go in much for that kind of thing."
"I hardly thought it likely," she smiled graciously.
"My daughter reads French works," Mrs. Raglan observed with pride. "She's very like her father. He was one of the Suffolk Raglans."
"Indeed!" said Mr. Streake. "Your daughter reminds us of Flaubert."
"Flaubert!" the girl ejaculated, dropping the small gold heart in the folds of her pinafore. "I hope I'm not like Flaubert. I don't propose to exhaust myself in one book, and then go mad if I'm found guilty of a double genitive."
"No--no!" agreed the publisher glancing at the young lady's mother to see what the deuce a "double genitive" was. Streake's impression was that the phrase was daring if not unfilial.
"I've been told," continued the girl suavely, "that I'm very like Maupassant."
"O--ah!--Mau'--'m--indeed! You prefer him?"
"Well, I used to read him now and then--on long journeys and that kind of thing, when there was nothing else to do. But I've given it up."
"Yes, some one frightened me once by saying I was getting to write so much like him."
"You didn't care for that?"
"Well, one doesn't want to be a mere imitation--does one?"
"No, certainly not."
Plainly the girl was a genius, but at this moment she was more like an enchanting little school-girl than ever. She pushed back her soft brown curls and brought her hand round under her chin. She rested the dimple in her pink little palm and asked in a voice of silver: "Tell me what you think of my last chapter, Mr. Streake?"
The good man gasped at the recollection, and struggled out of his low wicker-chair. "It's wonderful--wonderful," he said fervently, but not knowing quite where to look. "Good-bye, Mrs. Raglan. I will write some time next week. Good-bye." He took the fragile hand of the young authoress. "Are you ever in London?"
"No. The climate doesn't suit my mother. I never go anywhere without my mother. Good-bye."
When Streake met Merriman on Monday morning, he overflowed with enthusiasm about the New Genius. He described her in such terms that Merriman chuckled, and made would-be humorous speeches at Streake's expense. But the junior partner was too well pleased with himself and his "find" to care.
"I'm not surprised your Miss de Maupassant has broken her wrist writing Initiation," said Merriman, interrupting a flow of eloquence. "But the main thing is, will she cut out all that part that isn't fit for publication?"
Streake felt a secret annoyance at his partner's coarseness. "What did she say," Merriman went on, "about that scene of the --?" "She didn't mention it," interrupted Streake with an accent of indignation.
"Well, what did she mention?"
"I've told you we talked about Flaubert and Mau--, the man that writes so like her, and about her being four years in a convent."
"You mean to say you didn't discuss her book with her?"
"No. I--we talked of other things."
"Didn't even tell her we couldn't have that last chapter?"
"No," said Streake, a little angrily. "You don't think she'd discuss that kind of thing with a perfect stranger."
It had been decided that Streake should write a carefully-worded letter to the author of Initiation, explaining as delicately as possible certain obstacles in the way of publishing that work in its present form. He laboured long and devotedly over the epistle, and then, with an outburst of ingenious profanity, gave up the job.
Merriman must do it. Merriman did. "How's that?" he asked after scribbling away for five minutes. The image of the little Shepherdess rose before Streake's eyes as he read. He turned cold at Merriman's brutality of exposition.
"No, for God's sake. That'll never do. I'd rather go and see her myself than send that."
Merriman's reply was accompanied with a prolonged chuckle. "Yes, you get over such a lot of ground that way. Nothing like it."
But Streake was not to be laughed out of running down to Ventnor again on Saturday. It was five o'clock. "Mrs. Raglan's ill with one of her headaches," said the deaf servant as she led the way to the little room. "But Miss Phil can see you." She opened the door. "Miss Phil" had apparently been standing there ever since the previous Sunday. Her arm still hung in a sling; the gold heart still nestled in the folds of her white pinafore. "How do you do?" Her voice and her bangles tinkled welcome.
They sat down. "Tea, please," she said, as the old woman shut the door. And Miss Phil nestled back in the chair in the inimitable fashion of the kitten-woman. Let it be understood by the fair, that this accomplishment of subtly caressing and yielding to the arms of a chair, or a sofa nook, is not to be attained by the athletic lady. Her spine has lost the art. It is for ever incompatible with riding the bicycle. Streake regarded Miss de Maupassant with a sense of quickening. "I had given up expecting to hear from you," she said softly.
"Well, you see"--he shifted his position in the creaking wicker-chair--"it is difficult to--One personal interview is better than twenty letters."
The girl looked at him attentively. He fancied she repressed a smile. Something in her covert satisfaction made him remember that in her leisure moments she "observed life." He creaked uncomfortably in his low seat, and then said almost brusquely: "The fact is I wrote you a letter on Monday."
"On Monday! I never got it."
"No, I tore it up."
A new animation shone in her face. "Really! I believe the only letters worth reading are those that aren't sent."
"You're very kind." Streake beamed. He was certain she had paid him a compliment. He was making himself interesting to this young genius, with the keen unerring eye for character, and instinctive--appalling--understanding of men. How had she arrived at that "last chapter"? Can imagination walk that perilous road alone? Or was this surface decorum a bit of clever playing? Was she--? In any case he was "seeing life" too.
"What did you say in your letter?" she asked. "Something very rash?" She smiled in a way that went to his head like wine. He creaked out of his chair, and walked to the open window. "Whether the letter was rash," he said, turning and facing her, "depends on the kind of person you are."
"O!" She followed him, smiling, and stood at the other side of the window, leaning daintily against the red curtain.
"I wish I knew you better," said Streake fervently.
"So do I." She drew her small forefinger along the window-sill, making invisible patterns.
"I could advise you so much better."
"O! advise!" She smiled up at him with the most provocative air in the world. He recalled one of the "steep" scenes in Initiation, and his head, unused to these high altitudes, began to swim.
"You need a friend," he said, "someone who has your interests at heart." He drew a step nearer. Miss de Maupassant melted into the folds of the curtain, and stared out at him coldly.
"Someone to manage your affairs," he said, feeling unaccountably snubbed. (This was not the way the lady behaved in Initiation.) "Someone who has your confidence, and the privilege of plain speaking."
"I don't mind any amount of plain speaking." He did not catch the illuminating emphasis--he only saw the smile. It drew him closer to the enveloping red curtain.
"Be careful!" she said sharply, and all the bangles rang minute alarums.
"What is it?" He started back.
"You accidentally jarred my elbow--that's all!"
"I beg your pardon."
"You can't imagine how painful my arm is," she smiled apologetically.
"O I'm so sorry!"--and he looked it.
"I can't think why we don't have our tea." She crossed the room, and rang. Streake returned to the wicker-chair, a sadder and a wiser man. "It is quite true I do need a friend," said Miss de Maupassant, curling down in her corner once more. "I need someone to realise my capacities, and help me to make the most of them. By-and-bye I shall have plenty to believe in me." Streake agreed, a trifle gloomily. "But it's now that someone can really help me, as you say. I wonder if you are going to be my friend?" she inquired, with an air so fetching that Streake revived a little. However, he wasn't going to fall into the same trap again.
"As I was saying," he resumed in his business manner, "you do need someone to advise you. Someone who can speak plainly to you without offence."
"Exactly," she nodded.
"You may not like my taking the liberty--I don't know if you know, but I'm a married man."
She stared, and bit her lip enigmatically. Streake felt it was a blow to her. "I hope," she said politely, "I hope Mrs. Streake is quite well?"
"O--a--thank you--Yes. What I meant to say was, being a family man, I needn't hesitate--"
"No--no--pray don't hesitate."
But he did. "I like married men," she said encouragingly, as though she were owning to exotic tastes. "Bachelors are so self-conscious."
"O you find that?"
"Well, you can't make a friend of an unmarried man. He's always thinking the girl may have designs."
"Just so." Streake saw the advantage of his position. Plainly he was the person predestined to be guide, philosopher, and friend to this gifted young charmer.
"In the other case," said the girl slowly, "it is usually the married man who has the designs."
"You have a very low opinion of human nature." Streake spoke with severity. He felt his honour impugned.
"I said usually," repeated Miss de Maupassant calmly, as the tea came in.
"Since you recommend plain speaking," said Streake, when the old woman had retired, "I had better say at once that we can publish your book only on certain conditions."
"And those conditions?" She handed him his cup, and pushed the milk and sugar towards him across the naked tray.
"That you accept certain alterations suggested by our reader."
Miss de Maupassant drew herself up and her pinafore down. "And what are these alterations?"
"You will receive the MS. Monday with the changes marked." She took in her breath sharply. "We don't ask you to make any radical change--only a few cuts." Disdain deepened round the full red lips as she asked with dignity: "Who is your reader?"
"O--a--a man we have great confidence in."
"Is he a littérateur?"
"O he's a very clever fellow."
"What has he written?"
"You see, we have all read your book. It doesn't depend on any one opinion."
She eyed the publisher with ill-disguised scorn. "And do you 'all' usually do this kind of thing for your authors?"
"Well--a--all books are not like Initiation."
"No!!!" she breathed along a scornful crescendo.
"Frankly, there are things in Initiation that the public won't stand."
"Then let the public skip if it can't stand."
"That's just what it won't do. We are running a great risk in publishing your story at all." She opened wide her heaven-blue eyes. "They stand this kind of thing in France," he quoted, "but here--" He shook his head.
"What 'kind of thing' do you mean?"
"Well--a--" Streake looked into his saucer. "Your last chapter, for instance."
"What's wrong with my last chapter?" He stirred the dregs in the bottom of his cup. "You said you liked it."
"It's wonderful--very fine indeed."
"Then why not publish it?"
"The critics would be awfully down on you."
"The critics!" She threw her curly head softly back and laughed. "You haven't got such a thing in this country."
"Not got any critics!" Streake stared.
"Not one!" she said gaily. "As for the book reviewers--" She shrugged, under her pinafore.
"They might say unpleasant things," Streake hastened to observe: "things that would be disagreeable for a lady to hear."
"I wouldn't hear them! I know better than to listen. Have some more tea?"
"No, thank you. You mustn't mind if I tell you that the papers would be sure to say Initiation was immoral."
"I'd just as soon they'd say that as anything else." (Streake felt that his Initiation was only beginning.) "The mere fact," she went on calmly, "the mere fact that they bring in the question of morals, shows how little they understand Art. They might as well bother us about Bi-metallism."
"Yes, but still--"
"Isn't it time for English Letters to be cut loose from the British Matron's apron-string?" (Streake seemed to consider the proposal.) "Why is Art so flourishing in France?" the Shepherdess asked. (Streake couldn't on the spur of the moment say why it was.) "Do you suppose we shall ever have great novelists in England while publishers are so timid? Who dares to write his best?"
"Well--one 'did,' you know."
"Exactly. I do, and see the result!" She threw out her little hand despairingly.
"What are your other books like?"
She shook her curls. "Farther away from the dull English fairy-tale than even Initiation. Plainly the bourgeois British reader and I won't agree. I look life in the face--as Maupassant did."
There was a loud double knock at the outer door. "If you don't publish Initiation," she exclaimed in a fresh access of scorn--"I tell you frankly it's been to every publisher in London--if you don't do it, I'll have it translated into French."
The old woman came in with a telegram. "Why, it's for you," said the Dresden Shepherdess, handing the yellow envelope across the tray. Streake tore it open and read:--" Johns has found story of 'Initiation' in obscure French novel. All the striking part sheer plagiarism.--Merriman." He read the message twice, and folded it carefully.
"I'm afraid you have bad news," said Miss de Maupassant gently.
"Yes--at least--O it doesn't matter." He put the telegram in his pocket. "No answer, thank you." The old woman vanished. "A--you were saying?" said Streake vaguely.
"That if you didn't take my book, I'd bring it out in Paris."
"That would be very daring." He looked at her steadily. The liquid blue of her eyes was cloudless and untroubled. He drew out his watch. "Ha! I'm late. Good-bye, I'll write you finally about your book on Monday." It was a hurried leave-taking. Miss de Maupassant clasped her heart of gold, and said a wistful good-bye. For one moment Streake wavered. Then he turned and fled.
He permitted Merriman to dictate the letter that went back with the MS. on Monday.
C. E. RAIMOND.