“What, I go to one of your conferences! Not I, cher poete. Keep your mysteries for your youthful disciples.” She looked at Ermentrude, who did not lower her eyes—she was triumphant now. Perhaps he might say something before they parted. He did not, but the princess did.
“Beware, young America, of my Superman! You remember the story of the ape with the mirror!”
Ermentrude flushed with mortification. This princess was decidedly rude at times. But she kept her temper and thanked the lady for a unique evening. Her exquisite youth and grace pleased the terrible old woman, who then varied her warning.
“Beware,” she called out in comical accents as they slowly descended the naked marble staircase, “of the Sleeping Princess!”
The American girl looked over her shoulder.
“I don’t think your Superman has a mirror at all.”
“Yes, but his princess holds one for him!” was the jesting reply.
The carriage door slammed. They rolled homeward, and Ermentrude suffered from a desperate sense of the unachieved. The princess had been impertinent, the Keroulans rather banal. Mrs. Sheldam watched her charge’s face in the intermittent lights of the Rue de Rivoli.
“I think your poet a bore,” she essayed. Then she shook her husband—they had reached their hotel.
It was the garden of a poet, she declared, as, with the Keroulans and her aunt, Ermentrude sat and slowly fanned herself, watching the Bois de Boulogne, which foamed like a cascade of green opposite this pretty little house in Neuilly. The day was warm and the drive, despite the shaded, watered avenues, a dusty, fatiguing one. Mrs. Sheldam had, doubtfully, it is true, suggested the bourgeois comfort of the Metropolitain, but she was frowned on by her enthusiastic niece. What! ride underground in such weather? So they arrived at the poet’s not in the best of humour, for Mrs. Sheldam had quietly chidden her charge on the score of her “flightiness.” These foreign celebrities were well enough in their way, but—! And now Ermentrude, instead of looking Octave Keroulan in the face, preferred the vista of the pale blue sky, awash with a scattered, fleecy white cloud, the rolling edges of which echoed the dazzling sunshine. The garden was not large, its few trees were of ample girth, and their shadows most satisfying to eyes weary of the city’s bright, hard surfaces. There were no sentimental plaster casts to disturb the soft harmonies of this walled-in retreat, and if Ermentrude preferred to regard with obstinacy unusual in her mobile temperament the picture of Paris below them, it was because she felt that Keroulan was literally staring at her.