Painted Veils by James Huneker

Painted Veils

byJames Huneker

Kobo ebook | October 23, 2014

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THE FIRST GATE

At the first gate, the warder stripped her; he took the high tiara from her head....
I

Until the day of her death Easter never forgot that first night in New York. It was the initial twist of her ship's wheel, and the commonplace happenings which followed her entrance into the Maison Felicé were to give force and direction to her entire life.
The journey from Washington had been stupid. An early November afternoon sky heavy with threatening snow, her nerves tense with expectation, made the girl feel that the big city once reached her troubles would be over; but at Jersey City they began. After a few blunders she reached the 23rd Street ferry and noted the snow falling in the foggy river. Her baggage had been checked to the hotel and she had nothing to do but climb into a hansom and direct the driver to west 25th Street. She made a tentative bargain with the man. Easter was prudent because she had little money. The hotel—it was in reality two old-fashioned houses with high steps and brown stone façades, the conventional residence of the early eighties—did not impress her; besides, it was snowing so thickly that she could hardly distinguish anything, and when she was admitted into the hall the light dazzled her eyes. She felt lonely, timid, uncomfortable. A tall, portly lady saluted her.
"You are Mlle. Esther Brandès? I am Madame Felice." Her room had been engaged for a month ahead through the aid of a common friend. Her heart beat faster when the Frenchwoman politely said:
"I am sorry, Mlle. Brandès. Your room is occupied for a few days. We did not expect you till next week." The look of dismay on the newcomer's face must have appealed, for Madame added:
"But I shall put you in another room, a splendid apartment on the ground floor. You will like it. It will cost you only five dollars a day, tout compris. Do you speak French?" Easter nodded. She was so appalled at the price that she was speechless.
"But—but—" she stammered.
"Yes, I know," continued Madame in her native tongue and more pleasantly, "yes, I know, but it is only for one week and if Mlle. Brandès could see our waiting list!" That settled the matter. She bowed her head and soon a maid had her handbag open in a small bedroom adjoining a large well-furnished room, containing a grand pianoforte. There were three windows at the side. "The piano, it is the property of Monsieur Invern. He is away till next week," said the too confidential gossip. Easter handed her a tip and she bowed herself out. The chandelier gave plenty of light. There were bookcases. Much music. On the walls hung photographs of composers. Evidently the apartment of a musical person. She looked out of a window. An extension with skylights, and a noise of clattering dishes coupled with certain odours, not disagreeable to her nostrils, told her that the cuisine of the establishment was beneath. What she saw was the roof of the dining-room. Maison Felicé was one of those semi-hotels with table d'hôtes so popular in New York two or three decades ago. The cookery was French and notoriously good. Its fame spread to Virginia, where a friend of her mother's had secured, after the funeral of the poor woman, a letter of introduction to Madame Felicé. It was not easy to get into the hotel as a permanent guest.
Easter should have accounted herself lucky. She didn't. She was too miserably homesick for a home that no longer existed to bother about the exclusiveness of an hotel. Her glance traversed the lighted roof of the dining-room, and through the fast dropping snow it was arrested by a gloomy wall. Again her heart sank.

 

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Title:Painted VeilsFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:October 23, 2014Publisher:Boni and LiverightLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN:9990046124871

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