“This person was a tourist?” I asked, after a pause during which Amedee seemed peacefully unaware of the rather concentrated gaze I had fixed upon him. “Of a kind. In speaking he employed many peculiar expressions, more like a thief of a Parisian cabman than of the polite world.”
“The devil he did!” said I. “Did he tell you why he wished to see the whole house? Did he contemplate taking rooms here?”
“No, monsieur, it appears that his interest was historical. At first I should not have taken him for a man of learning, yet he gave me a great piece of information; a thing quite new to me, though I have lived here so many years. We are distinguished in history, it seems, and at one time both William the Conqueror and that brave Jeanne d’Arc—”
I interrupted sharply, dropping my cigar and leaning across the table:
“How was this person dressed?”
“Monsieur, he was very much the pedestrian.”
And so, for that evening, we had something to talk about besides “that other monsieur”; indeed, we found our subject so absorbing that I forgot to ask Amedee whether it was he or Jean Ferret who had prefixed the “de” to “Armand.”
The cat that fell from the top of the Washington monument, and scampered off unhurt was killed by a dog at the next corner. Thus a certain painter-man, winged with canvases and easel, might have been seen to depart hurriedly from a poppy-sprinkled field, an infuriated Norman stallion in close attendance, and to fly safely over a stone wall of good height, only to turn his ankle upon an unconsidered pebble, some ten paces farther on; the nose of the stallion projected over the wall, snorting joy thereat. The ankle was one which had turned aforetime; it was an old weakness: moreover, it was mine. I was the painter-man.
I could count on little less than a week of idleness within the confines of Les Trois Pigeons; and reclining among cushions in a wicker long-chair looking out from my pavilion upon the drowsy garden on a hot noontide, I did not much care. It was cooler indoors, comfortable enough; the open door framed the courtyard where pigeons were strutting on the gravel walks between flower-beds. Beyond, and thrown deeper into the perspective by the outer frame of the great archway, road and fields and forest fringes were revealed, lying tremulously in the hot sunshine. The foreground gained a human (though not lively) interest from the ample figure of our maitre d’hotel reposing in a rustic chair which had enjoyed the shade of an arbour about an hour earlier, when first occupied, but now stood in the broiling sun. At times Amedee’s upper eyelids lifted as much as the sixteenth of an inch, and he made a hazy gesture as if to wave the sun away, or, when the table-cloth upon his left arm slid slowly earthward, he adjusted it with a petulant jerk, without material interruption to his siesta. Meanwhile Glouglou, rolling and smoking cigarettes in the shade of a clump of lilac, watched with button eyes the noddings of his superior, and, at the cost of some convulsive writhings, constrained himself to silent laughter.