And thereupon we both plunged into delighted reminiscence of that city which, as none other, makes immediate friends of all her lovers. For a while the woods faded away, and in that tangled clearing rose the towers of Notre Dame, and the Seine glittered on under its great bridges, and again the world smelled of absinthe, and picturesque madmen gesticulated in clouds of tobacco smoke, and propounded fantastic philosophies amid the rattle of dominoes—and afar off in the street a voice was crying “Haricots verts!” My new friend’s talk had the pathos of spiritual exile, for, as French in blood as a man could be, born in Bordeaux of Provencal parentage, he had lived most of his life in America. The decoration of a rich man’s house in the neighbourhood had brought him thus into my solitude, and, that work completed, he would return to his home in New York.
Meanwhile the morning was going by as we talked, and, putting up his sketch-box, he accepted my invitation to join me at lunch.
Such was the manner of my meeting, in the guise of a trespasser, with the dear friend to whom I had brought the decisive news of the death of Summer, as he was innocently making a salad, in antiquam silvam, on that sad September evening.
SALAD AND MOONSHINE
“Do you remember that first salad you made us, Colin?” I said, as we sat over our coffee, and Colin was filling his little pipe. “A daring work of art, a fantastic tour de force, of apples, and lettuce, and wild strawberries, and I don’t know what else.”
“I believe I mixed in some May-apples, too. It was a great stunt ... well, no more May-apples and strawberries this year,” he finished, with a sigh, and we both sat silently smoking, thinking over the good Summer that was gone.
After our first meeting, Colin had dropped in to see me again from time to time, and when his work at the great house was finished, I had asked him to come and share my solitude. A veritable child of Nature himself, he fitted into my quiet days as silently as a squirrel. So much of his life had been passed out-of-doors with trees and skies, long dream-like days all alone sketching in solitary places, that he seemed as much a part of the woods as though he were a faun, and the lore of the elements, and all natural things—bugs and birds, all wildwood creatures—had passed into him with unconscious absorption. A sort of boyish unconsciousness, indeed, was the keynote and charm of his nature. A less sophisticated creature never followed the mystic calling of art. Fortunately for me, he was not one of those painters who understand and expound their own work. On the contrary, he was a perfect child about it, and painted for no more mysterious reason than that his eye delighted in beautiful natural effects, and that he loved to play with paint and brushes. Though he was undoubtedly sensitive somewhere to the mystic