This was originally published in The Atlantic, Volume 120, in 1917.
"Have you ever seen magic advertisements?", asked the Lady in Blue. "Advertisements that read like poetry or a fairy tale and that had all the delicate imagery of sweet and fragile verses?" "Never," said the Gentleman in Gray. "The advertisements I find in our daily papers". "Pray speak," erupted the Lady in Blue. "Rather come here to me and look at this delightful prospectus a French perfumer has sent me. I don't know if his perfumes are perfect but the names he has given them are quite exquisite. They have the true magic of all inspired things they made me dream and smile and wonder.
Here is the first of them Avril en Fleurs (April in Bloom). Don't you feel at once the freshness of young half-opened blossoms and the crinkly softness of baby leaves?" I saw as in a flash the light blue April sky before me with its hurrying white clouds and its unexpected little winds and I felt the whole scent of spring in the air. "Now is that not a magic advertisement? But that is not the best by far.
Here is another perfume with the charming name Le Bon Vieux Temps. Are there more words needed to create for you great grandmother's time with its potpourri jars and its hoopskirts its little elegancies and its faded sweetnesses?
Or here La Voilette de Madame can you give me anything more insinuating and coquettish. And thus I could go through the whole list every name is a little masterpiece.
See this one Le Jardin de Mon Curé?" I smiled under tears when I read it because once I knew such gardens with their wonderful unworldly peace and their sweet and simple old fashioned flowers. Lemon verbena grows there and mignonette and pansies and above all the dear lavender and I have only to shut my eyes to be back in the land of long ago and to see again such a garden lying quietly and full of tranquillity in the mellow light of a late afternoon. But best of all is this one with its true Gallic flourish and esprit its almost elfish roguishness.
Voila Pourquoi J'aimais Rosine. Is this not quite delicious. What better reason could one give for love and what more valid one. Words can never express the inexpressible and if you were to explain your love you would only explain it away but here comes this magician with his marvelous wand gives us a whiff of some irresistible and captivating scent and then with a little bow to his wondering and breathless audience. Voila pourquoi J'aimais Rosine. What could be more explicit and yet what more evasive. He gives his whole secret away without letting it lose one of its mysteries. I must confess that I fell quite in love with the name of this perfume and I shall try to buy it as soon as I go out. Oh never cried the Gentleman in Gray. "Whatever you do don t do that If you were to ask for it at any counter you would certainly be told that they were just out of this particular kind or if by a strange chance it should be there the price would surely be forbidding.
Better give this little prospectus a place among your best beloved books and it will never lose its charm for you. But will mere advertising matter not feel out of place in so elect a company as my books," asked the Lady in Blue. "By no means," replied the Gentleman in Gray, "it will feel absolutely at home and in fact it belongs to all those poets and philosophers and romancers. What they give you is also nothing but magic advertisements. Magic advertisements of a truth that will ever elude you of a beauty you will never behold of a love you will never clasp. They give you charming and tantalizing glimpses of something you can never see or say or touch and yet you feel it is the one the only the true reality.
Magic are these advertisements indeed tinged with the colors of the rainbow sweet voiced like the Song of the Sirens and quite fulfilled with the pathos of things that are too beautiful. And even while you listen to them to the grave and gentle wisdom of your thinkers to the musical passion and melodious playfulness of your poets to the wistfulness and the charm of your romancers you know full well that the things they praise so much and so sweetly will never be yours.
You know that if you were really to go to the poor old Fates who are quite well meaning but who keep only a very ill assorted stock of rather dubious goods and demand of them the one or the other of the items you found in your magic advertisements. They would tell you at once that they have not this particular kind on hand and offer you some substitute that perhaps your intellect might accept as just as good but that will never satisfy your heart. Or if by a strange and marvelous chance you should indeed get what you are asking for you will soon see that the price is forbidding. For the one perfect hour you will have to pay with all the years to come and if you are wise you will refrain from so dangerous a bargain.
If you are wise you will peruse the magic advertisements of your books as you delighted in the little French prospectus but never never will you try to touch this glittering fairy gold with your poor hands. Too soon it would turn ashes and dust." "You are right," said the Lady Blue, "and yet though I agree you nevertheless I shall try to get perfume as I shall try to get all promises of poetry fulfilled by life. Your wisdom after all is limited are just wise enough to be wise whereas I." "Yes?," asked the Gentleman in Gray a shade too eagerly for a philosopher.
Whereas I continued the Lady Blue with a little curtsy possess higher and a more gracious I am wise enough to be foolish. "Is that a promise?" asked the Gentleman in Gray and he took hold both her hands. "No," said the Lady in Blue smilingly withdrawing her hands "it was nothing but a magic advertisement". And with a little pleased laugh she disappeared leaving him alone wit his vain thoughts and idle dreams. "