In the Quarter
The first novel by the author of The King in Yellow, featuring many characters from the later book. It is a tale of doomed love set in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
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The chain is forged again. The mists of passion rise
thickly, heavily, and blot out all else forever.
``I am like all the rest -- all the rest. The Paris fever is only cured by death.''
How heavy the smoke was! Gethryn could hardly breathe -- hardly see. He walked away and out into the street. The city was only half awake even yet. After, as it seemed, a long time, he found himself looking at a clock which said a quarter past ten. The winter sunshine slanted now on roof and pane, flooding the western side of the shabby boulevard, dappling the snow with yellow patches. He had stopped in the chilly shadow of a gateway and was looking vacantly about. He saw the sunshine across the street and shivered where he was, and yet he did not leave the shadow. He stood and watched the sparrows taking bold little baths in the puddles of melted snow water. They seemed to enjoy the sunshine, but it was cold in the shade, cold and damp -- and the air was hard to breathe. A policeman sauntered by and eyed him curiously. Rex's face was haggard and pinched. Why had he stood there in the cold for half an hour, without ever changing his weight from one foot to the other?
The policeman spoke at last, civilly:
Gethryn turned his head.
``Is it that Monsieur seeks the train?'' he asked, saluting.
Rex looked up. He had wandered back to the station. He lifted his hat and answered with the politeness dear to French officials.
``Merci, Monsieur!'' It made him cough to speak, and he moved on slowly.
Gethryn would not go home yet. He wanted to be where there was plenty of cool air, and yet he shivered. He drew a deep breath which ended in a pain. How cold the air must be -- to pain the chest like that! And yet, there were women wheeling handcarts full of yellow crocus buds about. He stopped and bought some for Yvonne.
``She will like them,'' he thought. ``Ah!'' -- he turned away, leaving flowers and money. The old flower-woman crossed herself.
No -- he would not go home just yet. The sun shone brightly; men passed, carrying their overcoats on their arms; a steam was rising from the pavements in the Square.
There was a crowd on the Pont au Change. He did not see any face distinctly, but there seemed to be a great many people, leaning over the parapets, looking down the river. He stopped and looked over too. The sun glared on the foul water eddying in and out among the piles and barges. Some men were rowing in a boat, furiously. Another boat followed close. A voice close by Gethryn cried, angrily:
``Dieu! who are you shoving?''
Rex moved aside; as he did so a gamin crowded quickly forward and craned over the edge, shouting, ``Vive le cadavre!''
``Chut!'' said another voice.
``Vive la Mort! Vive la Morgue!'' screamed the wretched little creature.
A policeman boxed his ears and pulled him back. The crowd laughed. The voice that had cried, ``Chut!'' said lower, ``What a little devil, that Rigaud!''
Rex moved slowly on.
In the Court of the Louvre were people enough and to spare. Some of them bowed to him; several called him to turn and join them. He lifted his hat to them all, as if he knew them, but passed on without recognizing a soul. The broad pavements were warm and wet, but the air must have been sharp to hurt his chest so. The great pigeons of the Louvre brushed by him. It seemed as if he felt the beat of their wings on his brains. A shabby-looking fellow asked him for a sou -- and, taking the coin Rex gave him, shuffled off in a hurry; a dog followed him, he stooped and patted it; a horse fell, he went into the street and helped to raise it. He said to a man standing by that the harness was too heavy -- and the man, looking after him as he walked away, told a friend that there was another crazy foreigner.
Soon after this he found himself on the Quai again, and the sun was sinking behind the dome of the Invalides. He decided to go home. He wanted to get warm, and yet it seemed as if the air of a room would stifle him. However, once more he crossed the Seine, and as he turned in at his own gate he met Clifford, who said something, but Rex pushed past without trying to understand what it was.
He climbed the dreary old stairs and came to his silent studio. He sat down by the fireless hearth and gazed at a long, slender glove among the ashes. At his feet her little white satin slippers lay half hidden in the long white fur of the rug.
He felt giddy and weak, and that hard pain in his chest left him no peace. He rose and went into the bedroom. Her ball dress lay where she had thrown it. He flung himself on the bed and buried his face in the rustling silk. A faint odor of violets pervaded it. He thought of the bouquet that had been placed for her at the dinner. Then the flowers reminded him of last summer. He lived over again their gay life -- their excursions to Meudon, Sceaux, Versailles with its warm meadows, and cool, dark forests; Fontainebleau, where they lunched under the trees; St Cloud -- Oh! he remembered their little quarrel there, and how they made it up on the boat at Suresnes afterward.
He rose excitedly and went back into the studio; his cheeks were aflame and his breath came sharp and hard. In a corner, with its face to the wall, stood an old, unfinished portrait of Yvonne, begun after one of those idyllic summer days.
When Braith walked in, after three times knocking, he found Gethryn painting feverishly by the last glimmer of daylight on this portrait. The room was full of shadows, and while they spoke it grew quite dark.
That night Braith sat by his side and listened to his incoherent talk, and Dr White came and said ``Pleuro-pneumonia'' was what ailed him. Braith had his traps fetched from his own place and settled down to nurse him.
|The original text of In the Quarter is in the public domain and we have made it available online for free.|
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