“You know her?” asked Andre Maranne.
“Why, yes. Mme. Jenkins, the wife of the Irish doctor. I have had supper at their house this winter.”
“She is my mother.” And the young man added in a lower tone:
“Mme. Maranne made a second marriage with Dr. Jenkins. You are surprised, are you not, to see me in these poor surroundings, while my relatives are living in the midst of luxury? But, you know, the chances of family life sometimes group together natures that differ very widely. My stepfather and I have never been able to understand each other. He wished to make me a doctor, whereas my only taste was for writing. So at last, in order to avoid the continual discussions which were painful to my mother, I preferred to leave the house and plough my furrow alone, without the help of anybody. A rough business. Funds were wanting. The whole fortune has gone to that—to M. Jenkins. The question was to earn a livelihood, and you are aware what a difficult thing that is for people like ourselves, supposed to be well brought-up. To think that among all the accomplishments gained from what we are accustomed to call a complete education, this child’s play was the only thing I could find by which I could hope to earn my bread. A few savings, my own purse, slender like that of most young men, served to buy my first outfit and I installed myself here far away, in the remotest region of Paris, in order not to embarrass my relatives. Between ourselves, I don’t expect to make a fortune out of photography. The first days especially were very difficult. Nobody came, or if by chance some unfortunate wight did mount, I made a failure of him, got on my plate only an image blurred and vague as a phantom. One day, at the very beginning, a wedding-party came up to me, the bride all in white, the bridegroom with a waistcoat—like that! And all the guests in white gloves, which they insisted on keeping on for the portrait on account of the rarity of such an event with them. No, I thought I should go mad. Those black faces, the great white patches made by the dresses, the gloves, the orange-blossoms, the unlucky bride, looking like a queen of Niam-niam under her wreath merging indistinguishably into her hair. And all of them so full of good-will, of encouragements to the artist. I began them over again at least twenty times, and kept them till five o’clock in the evening. And then they only left me because it was time for dinner. Can you imagine that wedding-day passed at a photographer’s?”
While Andre was recounting to him with this good humour the troubles of his life, Paul recalled the tirade of Felicia that day when Bohemians had been mentioned, and all that she had said to Jenkins of their lofty courage, avid of privations and trials. He thought also of Aline’s passion for her beloved Paris, of which he himself was only acquainted, for his part, with the unwholesome eccentricities, while the great