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            A MEMORY.

            “Ma contrée de dilution n’existe pour aucun
            touriste et jamais guide ou médecin ne la

                             GEO. EECKHOUD.  Kermesses.

            “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the
            fields; let us lodge in the villages.”

                                                      Song of Solomon.

            “. . . . . lo! with a little rod
            I did but touch the honey of romance—
            And must I lose a soul’s inheritance?”

                                                      OSCAR WILDE.

                                          BOOK I.


    The wind and the sunshine. I think of them always
when I whisper to myself her name—the name I loved
best to can her by. To others she was Claire Auriol;
to a privileged few she was Sans-Souci. To myself, and
myself only, she was—ah, Sweet-Heart, no, the word is
ours, and ours only, for ever.

    We ought to have been born gipsies. Certainly we
both loved the sunshine, and the blithe freedom
of nature, with a passion. It was under the trees, under
the deep blue wind-swept sky, that we first realised
each had won from the other a lifetime of joy. True, it
was still winter. The snow lay deep by the hedges, and
we had to slip through many a drift before we reached
the lonely woodland height whither we were bound.
But was there ever snow so livingly white, so lit with
golden glow? Was ever summer sky more gloriously
blue? Was ever spring music sweeter than that exqui-
site midwinter hush, than that deep suspension of breath
before the flood of our joy?

THE PAGANS                                      21

    How poignantly bitter-sweet was our separation so
soon thereafter! You had to rejoin your brother in
Paris, and resume your painting in his studio; and I
had to go to the London I hated so much, there to
write concerning things about which I cared not a straw,
while my heart was full of you, and my eyes saw you
everywhere, and my ears were haunted day and night
by echoes of your voice.

    And oh, what joy it was when at last I had enough
money in hand to be independent of London, if not for
good, at least for a year or so; and when once more I
found myself in Paris. What joy to meet you again:
to find that we had not changed: that it was not all a
dream: that we loved each other more than ever.


    What happy days those were in that bygone spring!
I wonder if ever two people were happier? Yes; we
were, when we left Paris behind us, and went away
together, as light-hearted as the April birds, as free as
the wind itself. But even in Paris, what glad hours we
had! Ah, those Sunday breakfasts at Suresnes, by the
riverside: those idle mornings on the sunlit grass at
Longchamp, or amid the elms and chestnuts of St. Cloud:
those happy days at Fontainebleau or Rambouillet:
those hours on the river when even forlorn Ivry seemed
a lovely and desirable place: those hours, at twilight,
in the Luxembourg Gardens, when the thrush would
sing as, we were sure, never nightingale sang in forest-
glade, or Wood of Broceliande: those hours in the
galleries, above all before our beloved Venus in the
Louvre: ah, beautiful hours, gone for ever, and yet im-
mortal, because of the joy that they knew and whereby
they live and are even now fresh and young and sweet
with their exquisite romance.


    And that day, that golden day, when we said that we
would waste no more of the happy time of youth, but
go away together, and live our life as seemed to us best!

    Can I ever forget how I came round to the studio in
the little Hôtel Soleil du Midi, shining white in the

22                         THE PAGAN REVIEW

sunshine as a chalk cliff, but dappled and splashed all
over with bluish shadows from the great chestnuts of
the Luxembourg Gardens: and how I found you alone,
and in tears, before that too flattering portrait of me
which you had painted so lovingly, through such joyous
hours, with beneath it, in fantastic letters which you
would persist were Old German, but bore no resemblance
to any known caligraphy, the blithe couplet—

                         “Douce nuit et joyeux jour,
                         O Chevalier de bel amour.”

How angry you were with your brother Raoul because he
had told you he did not approve of your free Bohemian
life—because he had mocked your “douces nuits” and
“joyeux jours”—and had told you at last that you
must choose between him and your “chevalier de bel
amour:” the real, not the painted, one.


    Is it all a dream? How well I remember how beauti-
ful she looked, as she stood before the easel which held
my portrait, her palette and brushes lying on a low
paint-daubed table beside her, her hands clasped as
they hung despondingly before her. Let me essay her
portrait, though there is no fear that I can flatter her,
dear heart, as she flattered me. Tall she was, and grace-
ful as a mountain-ash, or as a wild deer, or as a wave
upon the sea, or any other beautiful thing that one
loves to look upon for its exquisiteness of poise and
movement. It was this characteristic, I think, that first
made me liken her in my mind to a flower; and that
was the origin of a name I often called her by, and that
she loved to hear, White Flower. Not that, in a sense,
the word “white” was literally apt. She was not blonde,
and her skin, though fair and soft, was in keeping with
the rich dark of her hair and sweeping eyebrows and
long lashes. Paler than ivory, it was touched with a
delicious brown, the kiss of sunshine and fresh air; and
yet was so sensitive that it would redden at a moment—
a flush so lovely and blossom-like that her beauty be-
came at once bewilderingly enhanced by it. White,
certainly, were the teeth that gleamed like hawthorn-

THE PAGANS                                      23

buds behind the wild roses of her curved lips, and pink
and white the small sensitive ears that clung like
swallows under the eaves of her shadowy hair: but
lovely as dusk was she otherwise. Her lustrous dark
hair, that looked quite black at night, had a crisp and
a wave in it that caught all manner of wandering lights ;
so that, in full sunlight, and sometimes by firelight or
even lampiight, it seemed as though shot with bronze.
It rose in an upward wave from her broad white brow,
and was gathered together in a bewitching mass behind
in a way that I am sure was hers only. Her features
were more southern than northern in their classic sweep
and cut, and yet, northerner that I am, I loved them
the more for certain delicious inconsistencies and irregu-
larities. Her face, indeed, might almost have been
thought too square-set about the lower part but for
the loveliness of the general contour and the redeeming
sweetness and beauty of the mouth. Her eyes—those
eyes which have so often thrilled me beyond words,
those deep lustrous springs into which I have gazed so
often, fascinated by the strange joy, the strange longing,
a longing that was often pathos, and by the still stranger
melancholy that I could never quite divine, and of which
Claire herself was mostly unconscious—her eyes are in-
describable. They varied from a rich velvety darkness,
like the colour of midsummer twilight on cloudless eves,
when the hour is still what in the north they call “the
edge o’ dark,” to a clear brown-grey or grey-brown, of
that indeterminate light and sparkle one sees in moun-
tain streams that wimple over sunny shallows of moss
and pebbles. In certain lights they had that lustrous
green ray which has ever been beloved by poets and
painters. Lovely, mysterious eyes they were at all times;
though possibly none felt their mystery save myself, for
they were clear and fresh as the sunlit sea, as daring
as a flashing sword, as dauntless as a martyr’s before
the affront of death. Even in the drawing, even in
the photograph of her that I have before me now, I
find this quality of mysterious unfathomableness. It is,
indeed, more obvious there—in the photograph pre-
eminently—than it was in life. Even a stranger look-
ing upon this phantom-face might wonder what manner

24                         THE PAGAN REVIEW

of girl, or woman, the original actually was; whether a
bright or a sombre spirit dwelt in those darkly reticent

    The poise of her head, the rhythmic sway and carriage
of her body, every motion, every gesture, made a fresh
delight for all who looked at her. I have travelled much,
and seen the peasant-women of Italy and Greece, but
have never elsewhere so realised the poetry of human
motion. Claire might have served a sculptor as an ideal
model of Youth. She was slight in figure, and yet so
lithe and strong that she could outwalk and even out-
climb many a robust man. Whether we tramped many
miles together, or rambled through woods or by river-
sides, we never seemed to tire, till all at once we felt
the wish or need of rest. Certainly we never tired each
other. I think this was due to our absolute fitness for
each other. All lovers say that each was made for the
other, but in the nature of things there must be few
who are such counterparts as Claire and I were. In
everything. from temperament to height, she was to me
all that the eyes of the soul and the eyes of the body
desired in deep comradeship and love.

    Then the charm of her blithe, brave spirit! How
often have I called her Sunshine; how often Dawn, and
Morning? For she was ever to me the living symbol,
nay, the perfect incarnation of the joy and beauty of
life. I have never met any woman so fearless; few so
self-reliant, so sunnily joyous while so easily wrought to
intense feeling.

    We were happy in our recognition of the fact that
we could be, as we latterly were, all in all to each
other; that each was for the other the supreme lure,
the summoning joy, in the maze of life.


    When I entered the little studio that day, in the for-
saken but sunny and charming old hotel where Claire
and Victor Auriol lived, I knew at once that something
was far wrong; for Sans-Souci, as she was called by
intimate acquaintances among her artist friends, was
the last person to give way to tears on a slight excuse.
For tears there were in those beautiful eyes, though

THE PAGANS                                      25

but one or two had fallen from the long lashes. In a
few words she told me all.

    Victor was tired of living with her, and had sought
many excuses recently to justify his ill-mannered hints.
Though both were artists, no two persons could be more
unlike. He was rigid, formal, conventional; without
intellectual breadth or even sympathy; with coarse, if
not actually depraved, tastes, which he possessed and
tantalised rather than gratified. When, a year or two
before I first met them, during what I called my literary
apprenticeship in Paris (though I am afraid I haunted
the book-shelves on the left bank of the Seine, and,
above all, the librairie of Léon Vanier, that literary
sponsor of so many of les jeunes, much more than more
academic resorts), their father had followed to the grave
their Irish mother—and Marcel Auriol was himself, I
should add, half English, or rather Scottish, despite his
French name—and left his two children a moderate
competency. But the conditions of the heritage were
unfair; for while the annual income of six thousand
francs was to be looked upon as equally between Victor
and Claire so long as they lived together, Claire was to
have but two thousand if she married, and only one
thousand if this marriage were not one approved of by
her brother, or if she voluntarily lived apart trom him.
Now, as it happened, Victor had a lust of gold that
blunted his sense of honour, and he was eager to part
from his sister, in whose company be was ever uneasy,
and to appropriate the lion’s share of the inheritance.
To do him justice, he might have acted otherwise if
Claire had been different from what he knew her. He
comforted his conscience with the sophistries that
Claire’s drawings were more saleable than his own, and
that therefore she did not need the money so much
as he did; that she was beautiful, and would certainly
make a good match; that he was really meeting her
half-way, since her great craving was for independence.

    Still, it was with a certain bitterness, perhaps even a
certain clinging regret, that Sans-Souci (a name, by the
way, her brother hated) had listened to him that morn-
ing, when he had given his ultimatum. She was, he
demanded, to go with him to the little house at Sceaux

26                         THE PAGAN REVIEW

he thought of taking, and there to act as housekeeper;
to be content with this life, and to give up once and for
all her Bohemian ways; and, above all, to see no more,
and to have no further communication with, “that
arrogant and offensive Scot, Wilfrid Traquair, kinsman
though he be”—in other words, the present writer!
All this was but a mean way of forcing Claire’s hand.
Victor Auriol knew well that she would refuse to accede
to his demands; and though she was not blind to his
intent she disdainfully refused to plead or argue for
her rights.

    And the end of it was that they had agreed to part.
Victor had, with convenient suddenness, decided to give
up the Sceaux house and to remain in the Hôtel Soleil
du Midi. With a promptness that betrayed how calcu-
lated everything had been, he explained to his sister
that by her own folly she would hencetorth be entitled
to but one thousand francs annually; and that, in view
of all the circumstances, the separation must be a com-
plete one. In other words, Claire was to go; with the
consciousness that the manner of her going, her imme-
diate destination, and her future movements were alike
matters of indifferent moment to her brother.

    It was then and there, in that sunny studio, with the
white doves fluttering their wings on the wide green
sill beside the open window, that Sans-Souci and I
decided to fulfil one of our happy dreams and go away

    It was on the morrow following this decision of ours
that Sans-Souci said good-bye (and, as it happened, a
lifelong farewell) to her brother. She had packed up
all her few belongings that she cared to keep, and sent
them to the care of a friend in the Rue Grégoire de
Tours, that narrow, inconspicuous byway from the great
Boulevard St. Germain, so well known to the poorer stu-
dents and artists of the neighbourhood. When I reached
the court of the Hôtel Soleil du Midi I saw her standing
there, talking quietly to the concierge as if she were
about to go forth only to return again, as of yore.

    I was too glad, too wildly elated, to express anything
of the overmastering happiness that I felt in seeing her
there, alone, and ready to go forth with me—in the

THE PAGANS                                      27

recognition that the past night, so interminable in its
sleepless anxiety, was not a fantastic dream.

    “Where are your things, Claire?” was all that I said,
in a low and somewhat constrained voice: “I mean
your bag, or whatever you have.”

    She looked at me half surprisedly with her clear,
steadfast eyes, as she replied, quite simply and naturally,
and as though the concierge were not beside us:

    “Why, Will, dear, I did as we arranged, and sent them
to Pierre Vicaire’s, near the Pont des Arts. You said
you would do the same, and that we would call there on
our way to the hirondelle for Charenton.”

    “Of course, of course,” I muttered confusedly, and
half turned as if eager to go—as indeed I was, particu-
larly as I had just caught sight of Victor Auriol’s dark,
forbidding face behind a thin lace curtain at one of the

    With a low laugh, sweet as the sound of rain after a
drought, Sans-Souci slipped her hand into mine.

    “At last—at last,” she breathed in a thrilling whisper,
while her dear eyes shone with a strange light. Then,
turning, and waving her hand to the concierge, she bade
him a blithe good-bye.

    “Au revoir—adieu—adieu, M. Bonnard. Do not wait
too long before thou takest that little inn in Barbizon
that you dream of! Adieu!

    “Aha!” cried the man, with a roguish smile: “mon-
sieur et madame contemplent une mariage au treizième

    But just as by a side glance I noticed the slight flush
in Claire’s face, M. Bonnard’s wife handed me a note on
my passing her open doorway. I guessed rather than
knew that it was from Victor Auriol. It was addressed
in the following fantastic fashion:—

                        Á Monsieur Wilfrid Traquair,
                                    of God-knows-Where.

    A hearty shout of laughter from Sans-Souci and my-
self must have reached his ears. Just before we emerged
upon the street, I glanced back and saw him abruptly

28                         THE PAGAN REVIEW

withdraw his face from behind the lace curtain at the
open window. The contents of the note ran thus:

    “MONSIEUR: That my sister has chosen to unite
herself with a beggarly Scot is her pitiable misfortune:
that she has done so without even the decent veil of
marriage is her enormity and my disgrace. Henceforth
I know as little of the one as of the other, and I beg
you to understand that neither you nor the young
woman need ever expect the slightest tolerance, much
less practical countenance, from me. You are both at
liberty to hold, and carry out, the atrocious opinions (for
I will not flatter you by calling them convictions) upon
marriage which you entertain or profess to entertain: I,
equally, am at liberty to abstain from the contagion of
such unpleasant company, and to insist henceforth upon
an insurmountable barrier between it and myself.
                                                      “VICTOR MARIE AURIOL.”

    The next moment we had hailed and sprung into a
little open voiture, and in another minute had lost sight
of the Hôtel Soleil du Midi. Outcasts we were, but two
more joyous pagans never laughed in the sunlight, two
happier waifs never more fearlessly and blithely went
forth into the green world.

                                                                 WILLAND DREEME.

                                       (To be continued.)

MLA citation:

Dreeme, Willand [William Sharp]. “The Pagans: a Romance.” The Pagan Review, vol. 1, August 1892, pp. 20-28. The Pagan Review Digital Edition, edited by Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2010. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021.