The young French authoress piqued his national pride!
"Youth Without Innocence"
by K. Robert Howard
Vol. 1, No. 3, 1956
Bill Dodge, city
reporter for the Midland News, was on his way to meet a French girl at
the Hotel Edgewood. He checked the mimeographed news release in his coat
pocket. It came from the publicity office of the Sapphire publishers and
read in part:
"Literary critics will honor the remarkable young French genius,
Mademoiselle Madelon Chatenay, author of Europe's current best seller,
"Chere Ami," at the Hotel Edgewood's Embassy room this afternoon at 4:30..."
He wondered if she would have an affected snobbishness
of so many Europeans that Americans have no savior faire; that American
men and women were dolts.
He hoped not. He had read her book and liked
it so well he volunteered to review it in the Midland News' Sunday supplement.
"Chere Ami" was a tale of theater personages involved in anguished and
complicated love affairs. Bill found it hard to believe that the author
was only nineteen. How could one so young write so tenderly and perceptively?
Lord, he figured, she must have been not more than eighteen when she started
"I was beginning to think you weren't going
to get here, Bill."
"Hello, Frank. You know that my tastes in
food and women owe first loyalty to the French." Bill was speaking to Frank
Hobart, a former reporter on the Midland News who now handled publicity
and public relations for Sapphire Publishers.
Frank picked a drink off a passing tray, handed
it to Bill, and said, "Follow me," as the two made their way through a
tightly packed chattering cocktail mob who came less than to honor the
French author than to exchange gossip, swill free whiskey, and eat the
dreary hors d'oevres and canapés. Bill always avoided the food.
Frank continued, "Bill, I showed your review
to the Mademoiselle, and she was delighted. It seemed you understand certain
overtones of the various loves that most Americans critics missed."
"See, Frank, that proves how well I understand
the Gallic mind and spirit."
Frank laughed, and introduced Bill to the
young Mademoiselle. Instantly, Bill was pleased that he had pleased her
with his review. She had a small figure, with a miniature pertness. And
though she looked undeniably young--even younger than her nineteen years--her
facial features were sensual: two very black eyes, brows that were stylishly
tapered like darts, and very red lips. She seemed animated by the cocktail
"Mademoiselle, this is Bill Dodge of the Midland
News--the smart one who wrote your best American review."
"Enchanted, Monsieur." She extended her hand
palm down. Bill gave it a firm grip.
Bill moved in close, wanting to know this
young women better. He, a 34-year-old bachelor, generally did not like
women unless they had some sharply outstanding characteristic he found
admirable. He enjoyed dating and the intriguing play and counterplay that
he used to steer women into his bedroom. But he couldn't sleep with just
any woman; he had to have a bond of respect for the fair lady in bed.
"Mademoiselle, I understand that you have
already visited New York and the Atlantic Seaboard before this Midland
visit. How do you like us?"
"What can I say, Monsieur Dodge, everything
is so enormous." her accent had a piquant upswing on the final syllable
of each world.
"How about some general comparisons between
this country and France?"
"I must be very careful in my answer, no?"
she said archly. She and Bill had been pressed closer together by the growing
crowd in the room. In the several moments of this interview, Bill and she
were weighing each other, each sensing that this would be no ordinary interview.
She continued, "Now you cannot ask me about
love, for example. I have not known nor observed American men in love."
Bill grinned. The people around them, absorbed
in other conversations were not paying attention to them. Bill, more and
more, wanted to meet her on his home grounds.
He said, "But how about our food? It seemed
to me that your characters were forever talking about food and restaurants."
"Ah, Monsieur Dodge," she replied, shaking
her head, "some fine restaurants in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia,
but everywhere it is so much not nice." She looked regretfully at the sardine
canapé she held in her hand.
"May I cook for you?"
"You are joking, no?"
"No, let me take you to my apartment, and
I will make for you alone Poulet aux Cepes."
"Cepes, you can get these in Midland?"
"I have these shipped to me from New York."
"Ah, monsieur. You interest me very much already.
But would it not disturb your wife?"
"I am not married, Mademoiselle."
"Sorry, Bill, I have to interrupt you." Frank
Hobart had someone else by the elbow to meet the young author. She and
Bill exchanged brief glances of despair.
Bill said quickly. "I'll be at the Midland
News." She nodded. Bill left.
He had been at his desk for an hour and a
half, writing on newsprint half-sheets the several assignments he had that
day. He was proofing his story on the Mademoiselle, based largely on a
press sheet Frank Hobart prepared, when the telephone rang.
"Monsieur Dodge, we have finished here and
I am famished."
Bill was delighted, since he half-expected
her to get tied up in some Sapphire business. Evidently to a French woman
alone in America, a gourmet's kitchen must look like an oasis in a desert
of generally second-rate American restaurants.
"I will pick you up at the hotel in ten minutes."
His thoughts at the moment were concentrated more on the recipe than the
mademoiselle. He enjoyed thinking about the preparation of good food. He
would have to pick up some chicken at the supermarket. She might like shopping
with him amidst typically American huge neat piles of canned goods.
By the time they reached his apartment, Bill
and she felt very comfortable with each other. She had been briefly caught
in the entry gate at the market and didn't know what to do. Bill rescued
her quickly, and the two had a private joke and an experience to share.
"Oh, Bill, this apartment is charming." She
examined pieces of primitive sculpture which Bill had collected.
"Madelon, come here to the kitchen and keep
me company while I fix the chicken."
"I did not touch a speck of food after you
left, so you must make for me something very good," said Madelon.
"Your confidence flatters me. It won't take
too long. Here, drink this."
"What is it?"
"A vodka gimlet."
"I still ask, what is it?"
Bill laughed. "It's vodka wedded in a tasty
marriage to West Indian lime juice."
"Tres delicieus, mais oui!"
"When you're through with that, there is more
in the shaker." Bill started cutting the chicken on the kitchen board.
"Oh I am so happy I meet you." said Madelon
as she suddenly hugged Bill.
Bill, surprised, said, "Hey, I've got a knife
in my hand." He had never experienced such an immediate intimate feeling
with any girl. She was so completely natural. He felt it proper for him
to lay down the knife and kiss her. Her arms tightened around his neck,
so he kissed her again, deeply.
"Ah, Bill, you are the first American I have
kissed. You are almost as good as a Frenchman."
"Almost?" Bill exploded. "Now listen young
lady," Bill picked up his knife and shook it, "you are insulting my national
as well as personal pride when you say that Frenchmen are better than Americans."
Then they both laughed, united in stronger
feeling of an intimate private relationship. Bill finished cutting the
chicken and sautéed the pieces in the pan. Madelon watched admiringly
as he added the dry white wine and brown stock.
"You can cut the French bread," ordered Bill,
as he put together a green salad.
Bill set the dishes on low tables in the living
room, and piled up cushions on the floor for seating.
"Oh, Bill, what a magnificent idea, eating
on the floor, mais oui!"
The dinner was perfect.
They scattered more cushions on the floor,
both feeling very content as the reclined and sipped cafe noir.
"Madelon, do you mind if I ask you a very
"Ask me, and let me decide whether I shall
"How come you write about love with such knowledge
in your book. You're so young!"
She smiled, put down her demitasse, turned
over to her side, and pressed her body against Bill's.
She closed her eyes when Bill united his lips
with hers and parted them with his tongue. His tongue caressed her lips,
her teeth. the he sucked slightly on either side of her lips.
"What a pleasant kiss, Bill."
"Shall I turn out the lights?"
"No, I like the lights on."
She lay on her back to stare contemplatively
with enormous eyes at the ceiling, and closed them as Bill gently passed
his hand over her breasts. Her nostrils flared and she began to breath
heavily. She made no move when Bill began to unbutton her.
His hand wandered over her dress; her body
squirmed under his touches.
Then she sat up, clasped Bill and placed her
body atop of his; one of her thighs burning between his legs. Her kisses
seemed like quick hot brands. her fingers were all over Bill in a network
of convulsive shudders.
She was going too fast for Bill. He stopped
her. "Here, let me undress you," Bill offered. He finished the unbuttoning,
and helped her slip off the dress. She wore no bra, just a thin full length
undergarment. She bent and picked it up at the hem and lifted it up over
her head. She held it in front of her, while she stood completely naked
before Bill. She smiled, then threw the skirt in Bill's face. It was warm
with the heat of her body and smelled pleasantly from the perfume of her
She had a slightly mocking expression on her
face. her body appeared so young, so narrow of hip. She walked up to Bill,
and stood against him. "You're almost as good," she taunted.
He took a firm grasp of the back of her neck
and thrust his tongue so deeply into her mouth that she gasped with surprise.
He leaned his naked leg on her thighs; they felt warm. She slipped down
to the soft cushions onto he floor. While his hands worked deftly on all
parts of her body, he moved his tongue along her neck, her ears, her arms.
Her breath came more rapidly through open lips and she murmured unintelligible
French expressions. A moaning writhing woman had an inflaming effect on
He trembled. With all his strength he strained
himself against her. She had now the feverish look of love-thristy women
whose wild bodies seem consumed by an ever palpitating ardor. her hands
too were engaged in a prodigious activity of touches...
* * *
Bill put on his shorts and heated up some more
cafe noirs. He placed the cups on the floor beside her and sat down.
"How fair is thy love
Bill asked, "Original?"
How good are thy caresses!
How much better than wine!
Thine odor pleases me better than all spices;
Thy lips drop as the honeycomb;
Honey and milk are under my tongue."
"No, my dear, Pierre Louys."
He liked her breasts; they were not ponderously
large, rather smallish warm sweet breasts.
She followed his gaze and confessed, "American
men seem to prefer such enormous breasts that I should feel inadequate."
"No, they're just right, so properly firm,"
Bill said encouragingly.
"I like these. When I am alone I play with
them, I give them pleasure. I want to kiss them. Kiss them, my dear. Kiss
them for me."
Bill did, and a new surge of energy pulsated
through Madelon's body. Her quick transfiguration astonished him. She threw
her head back over the cushion, and her hair streamed out. There was the
fury of a goddess in her body; her whole being was transported in great
convulsive movements. her fingers scratched Bill's back. "Vite, vite,"
When did she discover the true wonders of
love? She said at fifteen! Lord, thought Bill, with her unquenchable fires
she is going to have material for a full set of encyclopedia before she
On another day Bill looked back to this night
with amazement. Her arching shivering body knew no limits. Bill could not
refuse; he wanted to make her take back the word "almost." He tried out
every variation he knew, and in turn learned a few things from this most
knowledgeable French girl. After the fourth time, they left the
floor and went to his bedroom to continue. Finally, exhausted, he fell
asleep. He thought she would too; she gave out a long sob, tore at the
bed sheets, and her burning face fell on his neck and she lay quiet.
In the morning Bill awakened and reached across
to clasp her hand and join the battle again to make her take back the word
She had left. Bill looked at his watch; it
was 8. She must have gotten up very early. Bill felt chagrined that he
slept so soundly that he didn't hear her, and worse because he had not
made her reconsider her invidious comparison with French men. She did not
leave a note. What the hell, Bill said to himself critically, did you expect
an ode to Bill Dodge for accomplishments in love?
How dare he compare himself to the men in
her novel! They probably actually existed, and she probably drained them
He called the hotel and found that she had
In the newsroom of the Midland, he stopped
to look over the morning assignments on the city editor's desk.
"Oh, Bill, Frank Hobart was by with some pictures
taken at the French girl's reception, and he left an envelope for you,"
said the editor.
Bill noticed his name written in a precise
continental script. Madelon. He tore open the envelope, read the note and
smiled. He said to the puzzled city editor, "Star and Stripes Forever!"
He tucked the note into his pocket and decided
he would save it. Madelon, the Mademoiselle Chatenay had written: "You
were fine even in sleep. Yes, I tried you, but you didn't know it. What
greater test can there be than that. You, Monsieur Bill, are not 'almost,'
you are 'better'. And may I add, my dearest, you are definitely
to be included in my next book. You will be the American, such a
great and strong American."
Bill had no memory of that final test of fire,
but he felt that that was irrelevant and accepted the accolade like a proud
American, and walked to his desk, whistling, "Star and Stripes Forever."