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The Country Of Elusion
by [?]

The cunning writer will choose an indefinable subject, for he can then set down his theory of what it is; and next, at length, his conception of what it is not–and lo! his paper is covered. Therefore let us follow the prolix and unmapable trail into that mooted country, Bohemia.

Grainger, sub-editor of Doc’s Magazine, closed his roll-top desk, put on his hat, walked into the hall, punched the “down” button, and waited for the elevator.

Grainger’s day had been trying. The chief had tried to ruin the magazine a dozen times by going against Grainger’s ideas for running it. A lady whose grandfather had fought with McClellan had brought a portfolio of poems in person.

Grainger was curator of the Lion’s House of the magazine. That day he had “lunched” an Arctic explorer, a short-story writer, and the famous conductor of a slaughter-house expose. Consequently his mind was in a whirl of icebergs, Maupassant, and trichinosis.

But there was a surcease and a recourse; there was Bohemia. He would seek distraction there; and, let’s see–he would call by for Mary Adrian.

Half an hour later he threaded his way like a Brazilian orchid- hunter through the palm forest in the tiled entrance hall of the “Idealia” apartment-house. One day the christeners of apartment- houses and the cognominators of sleeping-cars will meet, and there will be some jealous and sanguinary knifing.

The clerk breathed Grainger’s name so languidly into the house telephone that it seemed it must surely drop, from sheer inertia, down to the janitor’s regions. But, at length, it soared dilatorily up to Miss Adrian’s ear. Certainly, Mr. Grainger was to come up immediately.

A colored maid with an Eliza-crossing-the-ice expression opened the door of the apartment for him. Grainger walked sideways down the narrow hall. A bunch of burnt umber hair and a sea-green eye appeared in the crack of a door. A long, white, undraped arm came out, barring the way.

“So glad you came, Ricky, instead of any of the others,” said the eye. “Light a cigarette and give it to me. Going to take me to dinner? Fine. Go into the front room till I finish dressing. But don’t sit in your usual chair. There’s pie in it–Meringue. Kappelman threw it at Reeves last evening while he was reciting. Sophy has just come to straighten up. Is it lit? Thanks. There’s Scotch on the mantel–oh, no, it isn’t,–that’s chartreuse. Ask Sophy to find you some. I won’t be long.”

Grainger escaped the meringue. As he waited his spirits sank, still lower. The atmosphere of the room was as vapid as a zephyr wandering over a Vesuvian lava-bed. Relics of some feast lay about the room, scattered in places where even a prowling cat would have been surprised to find them. A straggling cluster of deep red roses in a marmalade jar bowed their heads over tobacco ashes and unwashed goblets. A chafing-dish stood on the piano; a leaf of sheet music supported a stack of sandwiches in a chair. Mary came in, dressed and radiant. Her gown was of that thin, black fabric whose name through the change of a single vowel seems to summon visions ranging between the extremes of man’s experience. Spelled with an “^e” it belongs to Gallic witchery and diaphanous dreams; with an “e” it drapes lamentation and woe.

That evening they went to the Cafe Andre. And, as people would confide to you in a whisper that Andre’s was the only truly Bohemian restaurant in town, it may be well to follow them.

Andre began his professional career as a waiter in a Bowery ten-cent eating-house. Had you seen him there you would have called him tough–to yourself.

Not aloud, for he would have “soaked” you as quickly as he would have soaked his thumb in your coffee. He saved money and started a basement table d’hote in Eighth (or Ninth) Street. One afternoon Andre drank too much absinthe. He announced to his startled family that he was the Grand Llama of Thibet, therefore requiring an empty audience hall in which to be worshiped. He moved all the tables and chairs from the restaurant into the back yard, wrapped a red table- cloth around himself, and sat on a step-ladder for a throne. When the diners began to arrive, madame, in a flurry of despair, laid cloths and ushered them, trembling, outside. Between the tables clothes-lines were stretched, bearing the family wash. A party of Bohemia hunters greeted the artistic innovation with shrieks and acclamations of delight. That week’s washing was not taken in for two years. When Andre came to his senses he had the menu printed on stiffly starched cuffs, and served the ices in little wooden tubs. Next he took down his sign and darkened the front of the house. When you went there to dine you fumbled for an electric button and pressed it. A lookout slid open a panel in the door, looked at you suspiciously, and asked if you were acquainted with Senator Herodotus Q. McMilligan, of the Chickasaw Nation. If you were, you were admitted and allowed to dine. If you were not, you were admitted and allowed to dine. There you have one of the abiding principles of Bohemia. When Andre had accumulated $20,000 he moved up-town, near Broadway, in the fierce light that beats upon the thrown-down. There we find him and leave him, with customers in pearls and automobile veils, striving to catch his excellently graduated nod of recognition.