The girl shook her head, and, with a sudden movement, slipped her arm out of this madman’s and dived away like a swallow through the pavement traffic. Fiorsen stood still and laughed with his head thrown back. The second time to-day. She had slipped from his grasp. Passers looked at him, amazed. The ugly devils! And with a grimace, he turned out of Piccadilly, past St. James’s Church, making for Bury Street. They wouldn’t let him in, of course—not they! But he would look at the windows; they had flower-boxes—flower-boxes! And, suddenly, he groaned aloud—he had thought of Gyp’s figure busy among the flowers at home. Missing the right turning, he came in at the bottom of the street. A fiddler in the gutter was scraping away on an old violin. Fiorsen stopped to listen. Poor devil! “Pagliacci!” Going up to the man—dark, lame, very shabby, he took out some silver, and put his other hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Brother,” he said, “lend me your fiddle. Here’s money for you. Come; lend it to me. I am a great violinist.”
“Ah! Vraiment! Voyons! Donnez—un instant—vous verrez.”
The fiddler, doubting but hypnotized, handed him the fiddle; his dark face changed when he saw this stranger fling it up to his shoulder and the ways of his fingers with bow and strings. Fiorsen had begun to walk up the street, his eyes searching for the flower-boxes. He saw them, stopped, and began playing “Che faro?” He played it wonderfully on that poor fiddle; and the fiddler, who had followed at his elbow, stood watching him, uneasy, envious, but a little entranced. Sapristi! This tall, pale monsieur with the strange face and the eyes that looked drunk and the hollow chest, played like an angel! Ah, but it was not so easy as all that to make money in the streets of this sacred town! You might play like forty angels and not a copper! He had begun another tune—like little pluckings at your heart—tres joli—tout a fait ecoeurant! Ah, there it was—a monsieur as usual closing the window, drawing the curtains! Always same thing! The violin and the bow were thrust back into his hands; and the tall strange monsieur was off as if devils were after him—not badly drunk, that one! And not a sou thrown down! With an uneasy feeling that he had been involved in something that he did not understand, the lame, dark fiddler limped his way round the nearest corner, and for two streets at least did not stop. Then, counting the silver Fiorsen had put into his hand and carefully examining his fiddle, he used the word, “Bigre!” and started for home.