Au Tonkin je suis parti—
Ah! quel beau pays, mesdames!
C’est l’paradis des p’tites femmes!”
I rose from the chair on my little porch, to go to bed; but I was reminded of something, and called to him.
“Monsieur?” his voice came briskly.
“How often do you see your friend, Jean Ferret, the gardener of Quesnay?”
“Frequently, monsieur. To-morrow morning I could easily carry a message if—”
“That is precisely what I do not wish. And you may as well not mention me at all when you meet him.”
“It is understood. Perfectly.”
“If it is well understood, there will be a beautiful present for a good maitre d’hotel some day.”
“Thank you, monsieur.”
“Good night, Amedee.”
“Good night, monsieur.”
Falling to sleep has always been an intricate matter with me: I liken it to a nightly adventure in an enchanted palace. Weary-limbed and with burning eyelids, after long waiting in the outer court of wakefulness, I enter a dim, cool antechamber where the heavy garment of the body is left behind and where, perhaps, some acquaintance or friend greets me with a familiar speech or a bit of nonsense—or an unseen orchestra may play music that I know. From here I go into a spacious apartment where the air and light are of a fine clarity, for it is the hall of revelations, and in it the secrets of secrets are told, mysteries are resolved, perplexities cleared up, and sometimes I learn what to do about a picture that has bothered me. This is where I would linger, for beyond it I walk among crowding fantasies, delusions, terrors and shame, to a curtain of darkness where they take my memory from me, and I know nothing of my own adventures until I am pushed out of a secret door into the morning sunlight. Amedee was the acquaintance who met me in the antechamber to-night. He remarked that Madame d’Armand was the most beautiful woman in the world, and vanished. And in the hall of revelations I thought that I found a statue of her—but it was veiled. I wished to remove the veil, but a passing stranger stopped and told me laughingly that the veil was all that would ever be revealed of her to me—of her, or any other woman!
I was up with the birds in the morning; had my breakfast with them—a very drowsy-eyed Amedee assisting—and made off for the forest to get the sunrise through the branches, a pack on my back and three sandwiches for lunch in my pocket. I returned only with the failing light of evening, cheerfully tired and ready for a fine dinner and an early bed, both of which the good inn supplied. It was my daily programme; a healthy life “far from the world,” as Amedee said, and I was sorry when the serpent entered and disturbed it, though he was my own. He is a pet of mine; has been with me since my childhood. He leaves me when I live alone, for he loves company, but returns whenever my kind are about me. There are many names for snakes of his breed, but, to deal charitably with myself, I call mine Interest-In-Other-People’s-Affairs.