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Purification-by Robert  Barr-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:Purification

Written by:Robert  Barr

Category:Short stories, Mystery

Page 1:

Eugene Caspilier sat at one of the metal tables of the Cafe Egalite, allowing the water from the carafe to filter slowly through a lump of sugar and a perforated spoon into his glass of absinthe. It was not an expression of discontent that was to be seen on the face of Caspilier, but rather a fleeting shade of unhappiness which showed he was a man to whom the world was being unkind. On the opposite side of the little round table sat his friend and sympathising companion, Henri Lacour. He sipped his absinthe slowly, as absinthe should be sipped, and it was evident that he was deeply concerned with the problem that confronted his comrade.

“Why, in Heaven’s name, did you marry her? That, surely, was not necessary.”

Eugene shrugged his shoulders. The shrug said plainly, “Why, indeed? Ask me an easier one.”

For some moments there was silence between the two. Absinthe is not a liquor to be drunk hastily, or even to be talked over too much in the drinking. Henri did not seem to expect any other reply than the expressive shrug, and each man consumed his beverage dreamily, while the absinthe, in return for this thoughtful consideration, spread over them its benign influence, gradually lifting from their minds all care and worry, dispersing the mental clouds that hover over all men at times, thinning the fog until it disappeared, rather than rolling the vapour away, as the warm sun dissipates into invisibility the opaque morning mists, leaving nothing but clear air, all round, and a blue sky overhead.

“A man must live,” said Caspilier at last; “and the profession of decadent poet is not a lucrative one. Of course there is undying fame in the future, but then we must have our absinthe in the present. Why did I marry her, you ask? I was the victim of my environment. I must write poetry; to write poetry, I must live; to live, I must have money; to get money, I was forced to marry. Valdoreme is one of the best pastry-cooks in Paris; is it my fault, then, that the Parisians have a greater love for pastry than for poetry? Am I to blame that her wares are more sought for at her shop than are mine at the booksellers’? I would willingly have shared the income of the shop with her without the folly of marriage, but Valdoreme has strange, barbaric notions which were not overturnable by civilised reason. Still my action was not wholly mercenary, nor indeed mainly so. There was a rhythm about her name that pleased me. Then she is a Russian, and my country and hers were at that moment in each other’s arms, so I proposed to Valdoreme that we follow the national example. But, alas! Henri, my friend, I find that even ten years’ residence in Paris will not eliminate the savage from the nature of a Russian. In spite of the name that sounds like the soft flow of a rich mellow wine, my wife is little better than a barbarian. When I told her about Tenise, she acted like a mad woman– drove me into the streets.”

“But why did you tell her about Tenise?”

“Pourquoi? How I hate that word! Why! Why!! Why!!! It dogs one’s actions like a bloodhound, eternally yelping for a reason. It seems to me that a11 my life I have had to account to an inquiring why. I don’t know why I told her; it did not appear to be a matter requiring any thought or consideration. I spoke merely because Tenise came into my mind at the moment. But after that, the deluge; I shudder when I think of it.”

“Again the why?” said the poet’s friend. “Why not cease to think of conciliating your wife? Russians are unreasoning aborigines. Why not take up life in a simple poetic way with Tenise, and avoid the Rue de Russie altogether?”

Caspilier sighed gently. Here fate struck him hard. “Alas! my friend, it is impossible. Tenise is an artist’s model, and those brutes of painters who get such prices for their daubs, pay her so little each week that her wages would hardly keep me in food and drink. My paper, pens, and ink I can get at the cafes, but how am I to clothe myself? If Valdoreme would but make us a small allowance, we could be so happy. Valdoreme is madame, as I have so often told her, and she owes me something for that; but she actually thinks that because a man is married he should come dutifully home like a bourgeois grocer. She has no poetry, no sense of the needs of a literary man, in her nature.”

Lacour sorrowfully admitted that the situation had its embarrassments. The first glass of absinthe did not show clearly how they were to be met, but the second brought bravery with it, and he nobly offered to beard the Russian lioness in her den, explain the view Paris took of her unjustifiable conduct, and, if possible, bring her to reason.

Caspilier’s emotion overcame him, and he wept silently, while his friend, in eloquent language, told how famous authors, whose names were France’s proudest possession, had been forgiven by their wives for slight lapses from strict domesticity, and these instances, he said, he would recount to Madame Valdoreme, and so induce her to follow such illustrious examples.

The two comrades embraced and separated; the friend to use his influence and powers of persuasion with Valdoreme; the husband to tell Tenise how blessed they were in having such a friend to intercede for them; for Tenise, bright little Parisienne that she was, bore no malice against the unreasonable wife of her lover.

Henri Lacour paused opposite the pastry-shop on the Rue de Russie that bore the name of “Valdoreme” over the temptingly filled windows. Madame Caspilier had not changed the title of her well-known shop when she gave up her own name. Lacour caught sight of her serving her customers, and he thought she looked more like a Russian princess than a shopkeeper. He wondered now at the preference of his friend for the petite black-haired model. Valdoreme did not seem more than twenty; she was large, and strikingly handsome, with abundant auburn hair that was almost red. Her beautifully moulded chin denoted perhaps too much firmness, and was in striking contrast to the weakness of her husband’s lower face. Lacour almost trembled as she seemed to flash one look directly at him, and, for a moment, he feared she had seen him loitering before the window. Her eyes were large, of a limpid amber colour, but deep within them smouldered a fire that Lacour felt he would not care to see blaze up. His task now wore a different aspect from what it had worn in front of the Cafe Egalite. Hesitating a moment, he passed the shop, and, stopping at a neighbouring cafe, ordered another glass of absinthe. It is astonishing how rapidly the genial influence of this stimulant departs!

Fortified once again, he resolved to act before his courage had time to evaporate, and so, goading himself on with the thought that no man should be afraid to meet any woman, be she Russian or civilised, he entered the shop, making his most polite bow to Madame Caspilier.

“I have come, madame,” he began, “as the friend of your husband, to talk with you regarding his affairs.”

“Ah!” said Valdoreme; and Henri saw with dismay the fires deep down in her eyes rekindle. But she merely gave some instructions to an assistant, and, turning to Lacour, asked him to be so good as to follow her.

She led him through the shop and up a stair at the back, throwing open a door on the first floor. Lacour entered a neat drawing-room, with windows opening out upon the street. Madame Caspilier seated herself at a table, resting her elbow upon it, shading her eyes with her hand, and yet Lacour felt them searching his very soul.

“Sit down,” she said. “You are my husband’s friend. What have you to say?”

Filed in: Mystery, Short Stories

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