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A MAKER OF HISTORY – Chapter 2

Exactly a week later, at five minutes after midnight, Guy Poynton, in evening dress, entered the Cafe Montmartre, in Paris. He made his way through the heterogeneous little crowd of men and women who were drinking at the bar, past the scarlet-coated orchestra, into the inner room, where the tables were laid for supper. Monsieur Albert, satisfied with the appearance of his new client, led him at once to a small table, submitted the wine card, and summoned a waiter. With some difficulty, as his French was very little better than his German, he ordered supper, and then lighting a cigarette, leaned back against the wall and looked around to see if he could discover any English or Americans. The room was only moderately full, for the hour was a little early for this quarter of Paris. Nevertheless, he was quick to appreciate a certain spirit of Bohemianism which pleased him. Every one talked to his neighbor. An American from the further end of the room raised his glass and drank his health. A pretty fair-haired girl leaned over from her table and smiled at him. “Monsieur like talk with me, eh?” “English?” he asked. “No. De Wien!” He shook his head smilingly. “We shouldn’t get on,” he declared. “Can’t speak the language.” She raised her eyebrows with a protesting gesture, but he looked away and opened an illustrated paper by his side. He turned over the pages idly enough at first, but suddenly paused. He whistled softly to himself and stared at the two photographs which filled the sheet. “By Jove!” he said softly to himself. There was the rustling of skirts close to his table. An unmistakably English voice addressed him. “Is it anything very interesting? Do show me!” He looked up. Mademoiselle Flossie, pleased with his appearance, had paused on her way down the room. “Come and sit down, and I’ll show it you!” he said, rising. “You’re English, aren’t you?” Mademoiselle Flossie waved a temporary adieu to her friends and accepted the invitation. He poured her out a glass of wine. “Stay and have supper with me,” he begged. “I must be off soon, but I’m tired of being alone. This is my last night, thank goodness.” “All right!” she answered gayly. “I must go back to my friends directly afterwards.” “Order what you like,” he begged. “I can’t make these chaps understand me.” She laughed, and called the waiter. “And now show me what you were looking at in that paper,” she insisted. He pointed to the two photographs. “I saw those two together only a week ago,” he said. “Want to hear about it?” She looked startled for a moment, and a little incredulous. “Yes, go on!” she said. He told her the story. She listened with an interest which surprised him. Once or twice when he looked up he fancied that the lady from Vienna was also doing her best to listen. When he had finished their supper had arrived. “I think,” she said, as she helped herself to _hors d’oeuvre_, “that you were very fortunate to get away.” He laughed carelessly. “The joke of it is,” he said, “I’ve been followed all the way here. One fellow, who pretended he got in at Strasburg, was trying to talk to me all the time, but I saw him sneak in at Vienna, and I wasn’t having any. I say, do you come here every evening?” “Very often,” she answered. “I dance at the Comique, and then we generally go to Maxim’s to supper, and up here afterwards. I’ll introduce you to my friends afterwards, if you like, and we’ll all sit together. If you’re very good I’ll dance to you!” “Delighted,” he answered, “if they speak English. I’m sick of trying to make people understand my rotten French.” She nodded. “They speak English all right. I wish that horrid Viennese girl wouldn’t try to listen to every word we say.” He smiled. “She wanted me to sit at her table,” he remarked. Mademoiselle Flossie looked at him warningly, and dropped her voice. “Better be careful!” she whispered. “They say she’s a spy!” “On my track very likely,” he declared with a grin. She threw herself back in her seat and laughed. “Conceited! Why should any one want to be on your track? Come and see me dance at the Comique to-morrow night.” “Can’t,” he declared. “My sister’s coming over from England.” “Stupid!” “Oh, I’ll come one night,” he declared. “Order some coffee, won’t you–and what liqueurs?” “I’ll go and fetch my friends,” she declared, rising. “We’ll all have coffee together.” “Who are they?” he asked. She pointed to a little group down the room–two men and a woman. The men were French, one middle-aged and one young, dark, immaculate, and with the slightly bored air affected by young Frenchmen of fashion; the woman was strikingly handsome and magnificently dressed. They were quite the most distinguished-looking people in the room. “If you think they’ll come,” he remarked doubtfully. “Aren’t we rather comfortable as we are?” She made her way between the tables. “Oh, they’ll come,” she declared. “They’re pals!” She floated down the room with a cigarette in her mouth, very graceful in her airy muslin skirts and large hat. Guy followed her admiringly with his eyes. The Viennese lady suddenly tore off a corner of her menu and scribbled something quickly. She passed it over to Guy. “Read!” she said imperatively. He nodded, and opened it. “_Prenez garde!_” he said slowly. Then he looked at her and shook his head. She was making signs to him to destroy her message, and he at once did so. “Don’t understand!” he said. “Sorry!” Mademoiselle Flossie was laughing and talking with her friends. Presently they rose, and came across the room with her. Guy stood up and bowed. The introductions were informal, but he felt his insular prejudices a little shattered by the delightful ease with which these two Frenchmen accepted the situation. Their breeding was as obvious as their bonhomie. The table was speedily rearranged to find places for them all. “Your friends will take coffee with me, Mademoiselle,” Guy said. “Do be hostess, please. My attempts at French will only amuse everybody.” The elder of the two Frenchmen, whom the waiter addressed as Monsieur le Baron, and every one else as Louis, held up his hand. “With pleasure!” he declared, “later on. Just now it is too early. We will celebrate _l’entente cordiale. Garcon_, a magnum of Pommery, _un neu frappe_! I know you will forgive the liberty,” he said, smiling at Guy. “This bottle is vowed. Flossie has smiled for the first time for three evenings.” She threw a paper fan at him, and sat down again by Guy. “Do tell him the story you told me,” she whispered in his ear. “Louis, listen!” Guy retold his story. Monsieur le Baron listened intently. So did the lady who had accompanied him. Guy felt that he told it very well, but for the second time he omitted all mention of that missing sheet of paper which had come into his possession. Monsieur le Baron was obviously much interested. “You are quite sure–of the two men?” he asked quietly. “Quite!” Guy answered confidently. “One was—-” Madame–Flossie’s friend–dropped a wineglass. Monsieur le Baron raised his hand. “No names,” he said. “It is better not. We understand. A most interesting adventure, Monsieur Poynton, and–to your health!” The wine was good, and the fun of the place itself went almost to the head. Always there were newcomers who passed down the room amidst a chorus of greetings, always the gayest of music. Then amidst cheers Flossie and another friend whom she called from a distant table danced a cake-walk–danced very gracefully, and with a marvellous display of rainbow skirts. She came back breathless, and threw herself down by Guy’s side. “Give me some more wine!” she panted. “How close the place is!” The younger Frenchman, who had scarcely spoken, leaned over. “An idea!” he exclaimed. “My automobile is outside. I will drive you all round the city. Monsieur Poynton shall see Paris undressed. Afterwards we will go to Louis’ rooms and make his man cook us a dejeuner Anglais_.” Flossie stood up and laughed. “Who’ll lend me a coat?” she cried. “I’ve nothing but a lace mantle.” “Plenty of Frenchmen in the car,” the young Frenchman cried. “Are we all agreed? Good! Garcon, l’addition!” “And mine,” Guy ordered. The women departed for their wraps. Guy and the two Frenchmen filled their pockets with cigarettes. When the bills came Guy found that his own was a trifle, and Monsieur Louis waved aside all protest. “We are hosts to-night, my young friend,” he declared with charming insistence. “Another time you shall have your turn. You must come round to the club to-morrow, and we will arrange for some sport. _Allons!_” They crowded out together amidst a chorus of farewells. Guy took Flossie’s arm going down the stairs. “I say, I’m awfully obliged to you for introducing me to your friends,” he declared. “I’m having a ripping time!” She laughed. “Oh, they’re all right,” she declared. “Mind my skirts!” “I say, what does ‘_prenez garde_’ mean?” he asked. “‘Take care.’ Why?” He laughed again. “Nothing!”

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