“That goes for nothing,” Louis answered. “Where I live, there always I make my native city. I have lived in Vienna and Berlin, Budapest and Palermo, Florence and London. It is not an affair of the place. Yet of all these, if one seeks it, there is most distraction to be found here. Monsieur does not agree with me,” he added, glancing into my face. “There is one thing more which I would tell him. Perhaps it is the explanation. Paris, the very home of happiness and gayety, is also the loneliest and the saddest city in the world for those who go alone.”
“There is truth in what you say, Louis,” I admitted.
“The very fact,” he continued slowly, “that all the world amuses itself, all the world is gay here, makes the solitude of the unfortunate who has no companion a thing more triste, more keenly to be felt. Monsieur is alone?”
“I am alone,” I admitted, “except for the companions of chance whom one meets everywhere.”
We had been walking for some time slowly side by side, and we came now to a standstill. Louis held up his hand and called a taximeter.
“Monsieur goes somewhere to sup, without a doubt,” he remarked.
I remained upon the pavement.
“Really, I don’t know,” I answered undecidedly. “There is a great deal of truth in what you have been saying. A man alone here, especially at night, seems to be looked upon as a sort of pariah. Women laugh at him, men pity him. It is only the Englishman, they think, who would do so foolish a thing.”
Louis hesitated. There was a peculiar smile at the corners of his lips which I did not quite understand.
“If monsieur would honor me,” he said apologetically, “I am going to-night to visit one or perhaps two of the smallest restaurants up in the Montmartre. They are by way of being fashionable now, and they tell me that there is an Homard Speciale with a new sauce which must be tasted at the Abbaye.”
All the apology in Louis’ tone was wasted. It troubled me not in the least that my companion should be a maitre d’hotel. I did not hesitate for a second.
“I’ll come with pleasure, Louis,” I said, “on condition that I am host. It is very good of you to take pity upon me. We will take this taximeter, shall we?”
Louis bowed. Once more I fancied that there was something in his face which I did not altogether understand.
“It is an honor, monsieur,” he said. “We will start, then, with the Abbaye.”
A CAFE IN PARIS