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Grey Roses   By: (1861-1905)

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By the same Author

The Cardinal's Snuff Box Comedies and Errors The Lady Paramount Mademoiselle Miss

John Lane, The Bodley Head, London John Lane Company, New York Fifth Edition Presswork by the University Press John Wilson and Son · Cambridge, U.S.A.


'Yes, the conception was a rose, but the achievement is a rose grown grey.' PARASCHKINE












I woke up very gradually this morning, and it took me a little while to bethink myself where I had slept that it had not been in my own room in the Cromwell Road. I lay a bed, with eyes half closed, drowsily look looking forward to the usual procession of sober hued London hours, and, for the moment, quite forgot the journey of yesterday, and how it had left me in Paris, a guest in the smart new house of my old friend, Nina Childe. Indeed, it was not until somebody tapped on my door, and I roused myself to call out 'Come in,' that I noticed the strangeness of the wall paper, and then, after an instant of perplexity, suddenly remembered. Oh, with a wonderful lightening of the spirit, I can tell you.

A white capped, brisk young woman, with a fresh coloured, wholesome peasant face, came in, bearing a tray Jeanne, Nina's femme de chambre.

'Bonjour, monsieur,' she cried cheerily. 'I bring monsieur his coffee.' And her announcement was followed by a fragrance the softly sung response of the coffee sprite. Her tray, with its pretty freight of silver and linen, primrose butter, and gently browned pain de gruau, she set down on the table at my elbow; then she crossed the room and drew back the window curtains, making the rings tinkle crisply on the metal rods, and letting in a gush of dazzling sunshine. From where I lay I could see the house fronts opposite glow pearly grey in shadow, and the crest of the slate roofs sharply print itself on the sky, like a black line on a sheet of scintillant blue velvet. Yet, a few minutes ago, I had been fancying myself in the Cromwell Road.

Jeanne, gathering up my scattered garments, to take them off and brush them, inquired, by the way, if monsieur had passed a comfortable night.

'As the chambermaid makes your bed, so must you lie in it,' I answered. 'And you know whether my bed was smoothly made.'

Jeanne smiled indulgently. But her next remark did it imply that she found me rusty? 'Here's a long time that you haven't been in Paris.'

'Yes,' I admitted; 'not since May, and now we're in November.'

'We have changed things a little, have we not?' she demanded, with a gesture that left the room, and included the house, the street, the quarter.

'In effect,' assented I.

'Monsieur desires his hot water?' she asked, abruptly irrelevant.

But I could be, or at least seem, abruptly irrelevant too. 'Mademoiselle is she up?'

'Ah, yes, monsieur. Mademoiselle has been up since eight. She awaits you in the salon. La voilà qui joue,' she added, pointing to the floor.

Nina had begun to play scales in the room below.

'Then you may bring me my hot water,' I said.


The scales continued while I was dressing, and many desultory reminiscences of the player, and vague reflections upon the unlikelihood of her adventures, went flitting through my mind to their rhythm. Here she was, scarcely turned thirty, beautiful, brilliant, rich in her own right, as free in all respects to follow her own will as any man could be, with Camille happily at her side, a well grown, rosy, merry miss of twelve, here was Nina, thus, to day; and yet, a mere little ten years ago, I remembered her ... ah, in a very different plight indeed. True, she has got no more than her deserts; she has paid for her success, every pennyweight of it, in hard work and self denial. But one is so expectant, here below, to see Fortune capricious, that, when for once in a way she bestows her favours where they are merited, one can't help feeling rather dazed... Continue reading book >>

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