floor?” Audrey asked once again of the aged concierge
in the Rue d’Aumale. This time she got an
answer. It was the fifth or top floor. Musa
said nothing, permitting himself to be taken about
like a parcel, though with a more graceful passivity.
There was no lift, but at each floor a cushioned seat
for travellers to use and a palm in a coloured pot
in a niche for travellers to gaze upon as they rested.
The quality of the palms, however, deteriorated floor
by floor, and on the fourth and fifth floors the niches
were empty. A broad embroidered bell-pull, twitched,
gave rise to one clanging sound within the abode of
the Foas, and the clanging sound reacted upon a small
dog which yapped loudly and continued to yap until
the visitors had entered and the door been closed
again. Monsieur came out of a room into the small
entrance-hall, accompanied by a considerable noise
of conversation. He beamed his ravishment; he
kissed hands; he helped with the dark blue cloak.
“I brought Monsieur Musa in
my car,” said Audrey. “The weather -”
Monsieur Foa bowed low to Monsieur
Musa, and Monsieur Musa bowed low to Monsieur Foa.
“Monsieur, your accident I hope....”
And so on.
Cloak, overcoat, hat, stick-everything
except the violin case-were thrown pell-mell
on to a piece of furniture in the entrance-hall.
Monsieur Foa, instead of being in evening dress, was
in exactly the same clothes as he had worn at his
first meeting with Audrey.
Madame Foa appeared in the doorway.
She was a slim blonde Italian of pure descent, whereas
only the paternal grandfather of Monsieur Foa had been
Italian. Madame Foa, who had called on Audrey
at the Danube, exhibited the same symptoms of pleasure
as her husband.
“But your friend? But your friend?”
Audrey, being led gradually into the
drawing-room, explained that Miss Ingate had been
prevented at the last moment, etc., etc.
The distinction of Madame Foa’s
simple dress had reassured Audrey to a certain extent,
but the size of the drawing-room disconcerted her again.
She had understood that the house of the Foas was the
real esoteric centre of musical Paris, and she had
prepared herself for vast and luxurious salons, footmen,
fountains of wine, rare flowers, dandies, and the divine
shoulders of operatic sopranos who combined wit with
the most seductive charm. The drawing-room of
the Foas was not as large as her own drawing-room
at the Danube. Still it was full, and double doors
leading to an unseen dining-room at right angles to
its length produced an illusion of space. Some
of the men and some of the women were elegant, and
even very elegant; others were not. Audrey instantly
with her expert eye saw that the pictures on the walls
were of the last correctness, and a few by illustrious
painters. Here and there she could see scrawled
on them “a mon ami, Andre Foa.”
Such phenomena were balm. Everybody in the room
was presented to her, and with the greatest particularity,
and the host and hostess gazed on her as on an idol,
a jewel, an exquisite and startling discovery.
Musa found two men he knew. The conversation was
resumed with energy.
“And now,” said Madame
Foa in English, sitting down intimately beside Audrey,
with a loving gesture, “We will have a little
talk, you and I. I find our friend Madame Piriac met
you last year.”
“Ah! Yes,” murmured
Audrey, fatally struck, but admirably dissembling,
for she was determined to achieve the evening successfully.
“Madame Piriac, will she come to-night?”
“I fear not,” replied Madame Foa.
“She would if she could.”
“I should so like to have seen
her again,” said Audrey eagerly. She was
so relieved at Madame Piriac’s not coming that
she felt she could afford to be eager.
And Monsieur Foa, a little distance
off, threw a sign into the duologue, and called:
“You permit me? Your dress
... Exquise! Exquise! And these pigs of
French persist in saying that the English lack taste!”
He clapped his hand to his forehead in despair of
Then the clanging sound supervened,
and the little fox-terrier yapped, and Monsieur Foa
went out, ejaculating “Ah!” and Madame
Foa went into the doorway. Audrey glanced round
for Musa, but he was out of sight in the dining-room.
Several people turned at once and spoke to her, including
two composers who had probably composed more impossibilities
for amateur pianists than any other two men who ever
lived, and a musical critic with large dark eyes and
an Eastern air, who had come from the Opera very sarcastic
about the Opera. One of the composers asked the
critic whether he had not heard Musa play.
“Yes,” said the critic.
“I heard him in the Ternes Quarter-somewhere.
He plays very agreeably. Madame,” he addressed
Audrey. “I was discussing with these gentlemen
whether it be not possible to define the principle
of beauty in music. Once it is defined, my trade
will be much simplified, you see. What say you?”
How could she discourse on the principle
of beauty in music when she had the whole weight of
the evening on her shoulders? Musa was the whole
weight of the evening. Would he succeed?
She was his mother, his manager, his creator.
He was her handiwork. If he failed she would have
failed. That was her sole interest in him, but
it was an overwhelming interest. When would he
be asked to play? Useless for them to flatter
her about her dress, to treat her like a rarity, if
they offered callous, careless, off-hand remarks,
such as “He plays very agreeably.”
“I-I only know what I like.”
One of the composers jumped up excitedly:
“Voila Madame has said
the final word. You hear me, the final word, the
most profound. Argue as you will, perfect the
art of criticism to no matter what point, and you
will never get beyond the final word of Madame.”
The critic shrugged his shoulders,
and with a smile bowed to the ravishing utterer of
last words on the most baffling of subjects. This
fluttered person soon perceived that she had been
mistaken in supposing that the room was full.
The clanging sound kept recurring, the dog kept barking,
and new guests continually poured into the room, thereby
proving that it was not full. All comers were
introduced to Audrey, whose head was a dizzy riot of
strange names. Then at last a girl sang, and was
applauded. Madame Foa played for her. “Now,”
thought Audrey, “they will ask Musa.”
Then one of the composers played the piano, his themes
punctuated by the clanging sound and by the dog.
The room was asphyxiating, but no one except Audrey
seemed to be inconvenienced. Then several guests
rang in quick succession.
“Madame!” the suave and
ardent voice of Foa could be heard in the entrance-hall.
“And thou, Roussel ... Ippolita, Ippolita!”
he called to his wife. “It is Roussel.”
Audrey did not turn her head.
She could not. But presently Roussel, in a blue
suit with a wonderful flowing bow of a black necktie
in crepe de Chine, was led before her.
And Musa was led before Roussel. Audrey, from
nervousness, was moved to relate the history of Musa’s
accident to Roussel.
The moment had arrived. Roussel
sat down to the piano. Musa tuned his fiddle.
“From what appears,” murmured
Monsieur Foa to nobody in particular, with an ecstatic
expectant smile on his face, “this Musa is all
that is most amazing.”
Then, in the silence, the clanging
sound was renewed, and the fox-terrier reacted.
“Andre, my friend,” cried
Madame Foa, skipping into the hall. “Will
you do me the pleasure of exterminating this dog?”
Delicate osculatory explosions and
pretty exclamations in the hall! The hostess
was encountering an old friend. There was also
a man’s deep English voice. Then a hush.
The man’s voice produced a very strange effect
upon Audrey. Roussel began to play. Musa
held his bow aloft. Creeping steps in the doorway
made Audrey look round. A lady smiled and bowed
to her. It was Madame Piriac, resplendent and
Musa played the Caprice. Audrey
did not hear him, partly because the vision of Madame
Piriac, and the man’s deep voice, had extremely
perturbed her, and partly because she was so desperately
anxious for Musa’s triumph. She had decided
that she could make his triumph here the prelude to
tremendous things. When he had finished she held
The applause, after an instant, was
sudden and extremely cordial. Monsieur Foa loudly
clapped, smiling at Audrey. Roussel patted Musa
on the back and chattered to him fondly. On each
side of her Audrey could catch murmured exclamations
of delight. Musa himself was certainly pleased
and happy.... He had played at Foa’s, where
it was absolutely essential to play if one intended
to conquer Paris and to prove one’s pretensions;
and he had found favour with this satiated and fastidious
“Ouf!" sighed the musical
critic Orientally lounging on a chair. “Andre,
has it occurred to you that we are expiring for want
A window was opened, and a shiver
went through the assembly.
The clanging sounded again, but no
dog, for the dog had been exterminated.
“Dauphin, my old pig!”
Foa’s greeting from the entrance floated into
the drawing-room, and then a very impressed:
“Mademoiselle” from Madame Foa.
“What?” cried Dauphin.
“Musa has played? He played well? So
much the better. What did I tell you?”
And he entered the drawing-room with
the satisfied air of having fed Musa from infancy
and also of having taught him all he knew about the
Madame Foa followed him, and with
her was Miss Ingate, gorgeous and blushing. The
whole company was now on its feet and moving about.
Miss Ingate scuttered to Audrey.
“Well,” she whispered.
“Here I am. I came partly to satisfy that
hysterical Elise, and Monsieur Dauphin met me on the
stairs. But really I came because I’ve
had another letter from Miss Nickall. She’s
been and got her arm broken in a street row.
I knew those policemen would do it one day. I
always said they would.”
But Audrey seemed not to be listening.
With a side-long gaze she saw Madame Piriac talking
with a middle-aged Englishman, whose back alone was
visible to her. Madame Piriac laughed and vanished
out of sight into the dining-room. The Englishman
turned and met Audrey’s glance.
Abruptly leaving Miss Ingate, Audrey
walked straight up to the Englishman.
“Good evening,” she said
in a low voice. “What is your name?”
“Gilman,” he answered,
with a laugh. “I only this instant recognised
“Well, Mr. Gilman,” said
Audrey, “will you oblige me very much by not
recognising me? I want us to be introduced.
I am most particularly anxious that no one should
know I’m the same girl who helped you to jump
off your yacht at Lousey Hard last year.”
And she moved quickly away.