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De Amicitia
by [?]


They were walking home from the theatre.

‘Well, Mr White,’ said Valentia, ‘I think it was just fine.’

‘It was magnificent!’ replied Mr White.

And they were separated for a moment by the crowd, streaming up from the Francais towards the Opera and the Boulevards.

‘I think, if you don’t mind,’ she said, ‘I’ll take your arm, so that we shouldn’t get lost.’

He gave her his arm, and they walked through the Louvre and over the river on their way to the Latin Quarter.

Valentia was an art student and Ferdinand White was a poet. Ferdinand considered Valentia the only woman who had ever been able to paint, and Valentia told Ferdinand that he was the only man she had met who knew anything about Art without being himself an artist. On her arrival in Paris, a year before, she had immediately inscribed herself, at the offices of the New York Herald, Valentia Stewart, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. She settled down in a respectable pension, and within a week was painting vigorously. Ferdinand White arrived from Oxford at about the same time, hired a dirty room in a shabby hotel, ate his meals at cheap restaurants in the Boulevard St Michel, read Stephen Mallarme, and flattered himself that he was leading ‘la vie de Boheme.’

After two months, the Fates brought the pair together, and Ferdinand began to take his meals at Valentia’s pension. They went to the museums together; and in the Sculpture Gallery at the Louvre, Ferdinand would discourse on ancient Greece in general and on Plato in particular, while among the pictures Valentia would lecture on tones and values and chiaroscuro. Ferdinand renounced Ruskin and all his works; Valentia read the Symposium. Frequently in the evening they went to the theatre; sometimes to the Francais, but more often to the Odeon; and after the performance they would discuss the play, its art, its technique–above all, its ethics. Ferdinand explained the piece he had in contemplation, and Valentia talked of the picture she meant to paint for next year’s Salon; and the lady told her friends that her companion was the cleverest man she had met in her life, while he told his that she was the only really sympathetic and intelligent girl he had ever known. Thus were united in bonds of amity, Great Britain on the one side and the United States of America and Ireland on the other.

But when Ferdinand spoke of Valentia to the few Frenchmen he knew, they asked him,–

‘But this Miss Stewart–is she pretty?’

‘Certainly–in her American way; a long face, with the hair parted in the middle and hanging over the nape of the neck. Her mouth is quite classic.’

‘And have you never kissed the classic mouth?’

‘I? Never!’

‘Has she a good figure?’


‘And yet–Oh, you English!’ And they smiled and shrugged their shoulders as they said, ‘How English!’

‘But, my good fellow,’ cried Ferdinand, in execrable French, ‘you don’t understand. We are friends, the best of friends.’

They shrugged their shoulders more despairingly than ever.


They stood on the bridge and looked at the water and the dark masses of the houses on the Latin side, with the twin towers of Notre Dame rising dimly behind them. Ferdinand thought of the Thames at night, with the barges gliding slowly down, and the twinkling of the lights along the Embankment.

‘It must be a little like that in Holland,’ she said, ‘but without the lights and with greater stillness.’

‘When do you start?’

She had been making preparations for spending the summer in a little village near Amsterdam, to paint.

‘I can’t go now,’ cried Valentia. ‘Corrie Sayles is going home, and there’s no one else I can go with. And I can’t go alone. Where are you going?’

‘I? I have no plans…. I never make plans.’

They paused, looking at the reflections in the water. Then she said,–

‘I don’t see why you shouldn’t come to Holland with me!’