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PAGE 2

Rosa Bonheur
by [?]

She was not a very young woman, nor very pretty–in fact, she was rather plain–but when she leaned out to feed her pet and found a man looking up at her she proved her divine femininity beyond cavil. Was there ever a more womanly action? And I said to myself, “She is not handsome–but God bless her, she is human!”

Details are tiresome–so suffice it to say that next day the birdcage was lowered that I might divide my apple with Dickie (for he was very fond of apple). The second day, when the cage was lowered I not only fed Dickie but wrote a message on the cuttlefish. The third day, there was a note twisted in the wires of the cage inviting me up to tea.

And I went.

* * * * *

There were four girls living up there in one attic-room. Two of these girls were Americans, one English and one French. One of the American girls was round and pink and twenty; the other was older. It was the older one that owned the bird, and invited me up to tea. She met me at the door, and we shook hands like old-time friends. I was introduced to the trinity in a dignified manner, and we were soon chatting in a way that made Dickie envious, and he sang so loudly that one of the girls covered the cage with a black apron.

With four girls I felt perfectly safe, and as for the girls there was not a shadow of a doubt that they were safe, for I am a married man. I knew they must be nice girls, for they had birds and flower-boxes. I knew they had flower-boxes, for twice it so happened that they sprinkled the flowers while I was leaning out of the window wrapped in reverie.

This attic was the most curious room I ever saw. It was large–running clear across the house. It had four gable-windows, and the ceiling sloped down on the sides, so there was danger of bumping your head if you played pussy-wants-a-corner. Each girl had a window that she called her own, and the chintz curtains, made of chiffon (I think it was chiffon), were tied back with different-colored ribbons. This big room was divided in the center by a curtain made of gunny-sack stuff, and this curtain was covered with pictures such as were never seen on land or sea. The walls were papered with brown wrapping-paper, tacked up with brass-headed nails, and this paper was covered with pictures such as were never seen on sea or land.

The girls were all art students, and when they had nothing else to do they worked on the walls, I imagined, just as the Israelites did in Jerusalem years ago. One half of the attic was studio, and this was where the table was set. The other half of the attic had curious chairs and divans and four little iron beds enameled in white and gold, and each bed was so smoothly made up that I asked what they were for. White Pigeon said they were bric-a-brac–that the Attic Philosophers rolled themselves up in the rugs on the floor when they wished to sleep; but I have thought since that White Pigeon was chaffing me.

White Pigeon was the one I saw that first afternoon when I looked up, not down, out, not in. She was from White Pigeon, Michigan, and from the very moment I told her I had a cousin living at Coldwater who was a conductor on the Lake Shore, we were as brother and sister. White Pigeon was thirty or thirty-five, mebbe; she had some gray hairs mixed in with the brown, and at times there was a tinge of melancholy in her laugh and a sort of half-minor key in her voice. I think she had had a Past, but I don’t know for sure.