In the Days of My Youth
Amelia Ann Blandford Edwards
Part 2 out of 10
your lordship!" I said, laughingly.
"Pshaw! she would displease fifty Corydons if I chose to make her do
so," said Dalrymple, with a smile of conscious power.
"True; but not on her wedding-day."
"Wedding-day or not, I beg to observe that in less than half an hour you
will see me whirling along with my arm round little Phillis's dainty
waist. Now come and see how I do it."
He made his way through the crowd, and I, half curious, half abashed,
went with him. The party was five in number, consisting of the bride and
bridegroom, a rosy, middle-aged peasant woman, evidently the mother of
the bride, and an elderly couple who looked like humble townsfolk, and
were probably related to one or other of the newly-married pair.
Dalrymple opened the attack by stumbling against the mother, and then
overwhelming her with elaborate apologies.
"In these crowded places, Madame," said he, in his fluent French, "one
is scarcely responsible for an impoliteness. I beg ten thousand pardons,
however. I hope I have not hurt you?"
"_Ma foi!_ no, M'sieur. It would take more than that to hurt me!"
"Nor injured your dress, I trust, Madame?"
"_Ah, par exemple_! do I wear muslins or gauzes that they should not
bear touching? No, no, no, M'sieur--thanking you all the same."
"You are very amiable, Madame, to say so."
"You are very polite, M'sieur, to think so much of a trifle."
"Nothing is a trifle, Madame, where a lady is concerned. At least, so we
"Bah! M'sieur is not English?"
"Indeed, Madame, I am."
"_Mais, mon Dieu! c'est incroyable_. Suzette--brother Jacques--Andre, do
you hear this? M'sieur, here, swears that he is English, and yet he
speaks French like one of ourselves! Ah, what a fine thing learning is!"
"I may say with truth, Madame, that I never appreciate the advantages of
education so highly, as when they enable me to converse with ladies who
are not my own countrywomen," said Dalrymple, carrying on the
conversation with as much studied politeness as if his interlocutor had
been a duchess. "But--excuse the observation--you are here, I imagine,
upon a happy occasion?"
The mother laughed, and rubbed her hands.
"_Dame_! one may see that," replied she, "with one's eyes shut! Yes,
M'sieur,--yes--their wedding-day, the dear children--their wedding-day!
They've been betrothed these two years."
"The bride is very like you, Madame," said Dalrymple, gravely. "Your
younger sister, I presume?"
"_Ah, quel farceur_! He takes my daughter for my sister! Suzette, do
you hear this? M'sieur is killing me with laughter!"
And the good lady chuckled, and gasped, and wiped her eyes, and dealt
Dalrymple a playful push between the shoulders, which would have upset
the balance of any less heavy dragoon.
"Your daughter, Madame!" said he. "Allow me to congratulate you. May I
also be permitted to congratulate the bride?" And with this he took off
his hat to Suzette and shook hands with Andre, who looked not
overpleased, and proceeded to introduce me as his friend Monsieur Basil
Arbuthnot, "a young English gentleman, _tres distingue_"
The old lady then said her name was Madame Roquet, and that she rented a
small farm about a mile and a half from Rouen; that Suzette was her only
child; and that she had lost her "blessed man" about eight years ago.
She next introduced the elderly couple as her brother Jacques Robineau
and his wife, and informed us that Jacques was a tailor, and had a shop
opposite the church of St. Maclou, "_la bas_."
To judge of Monsieur Robineau's skill by his outward appearance, I
should have said that he was professionally unsuccessful, and supplied
his own wardrobe from the misfits returned by his customers. He wore a
waistcoat which was considerably too long for him, trousers which were
considerably too short, and a green cloth coat with a high velvet collar
which came up nearly to the tops of his ears. In respect of personal
characteristics, Monsieur Robineau and his wife were the most admirable
contrast imaginable. Monsieur Robineau was short; Madame Robineau was
tall. Monsieur Robineau was as plump and rosy as a robin; Madame
Robineau was pale and bony to behold. Monsieur Robineau looked the soul
of good nature, ready to chirrup over his _grog-au-vin,_ to smoke a pipe
with his neighbor, to cut a harmless joke or enjoy a harmless frolic, as
cheerfully as any little tailor that ever lived; Madame Robineau, on the
contrary, preserved a dreadful dignity, and looked as if she could laugh
at nothing on this side of the grave. Not to consider the question too
curiously, I should have said, at first sight, that Monsieur Robineau
stood in no little awe of his wife, and that Madame Robineau was the
very head and front of their domestic establishment.
It was wonderful and delightful to see how Captain Dalrymple placed
himself on the best of terms with all these good people--how he patted
Robineau on the back and complimented Madame, banished the cloud from
Andre's brow, and summoned a smile to the pretty cheek of Suzette. One
would have thought he had known them for years already, so thoroughly
was he at home with every member of the wedding party.
Presently, he asked Suzette to dance. She blushed scarlet, and cast a
pretty appealing look at her husband and her mother. I could almost
guess what she whispered to the former by the motion of her lips.
"Monsieur Andre will, I am sure, spare Madame for one gallop," said
Dalrymple, with that kind of courtesy which accepts no denial. It was
quite another tone, quite another manner. It was no longer the
persuasive suavity of one who is desirous only to please, but the
politeness of a gentleman to au inferior.
The cloud came back upon Andre's brow, and he hesitated; but Madame
"Spare her!" she exclaimed. "_Dame_! I should think so! She has never
left his arm all day. Here, my child, give me your shawl while you
dance, and bake care not to get too warm, for the evening air is
And so Suzette took off her shawl, and Andre was silenced, and
Dalrymple, in less than the half hour, was actually whirling away with
his arm round little Phillis's dainty waist.
I am afraid that I proved a very indifferent _locum tenens_ for my
brilliant friend, and that the good people thought me exceedingly
stupid. I tried to talk to them, but the language tripped me up at every
turn, and the right words never would come when they were wanted.
Besides, I felt uneasy without knowing exactly why. I could not keep
from watching Dalrymple and Suzette. I could not help noticing how
closely he held her; how he never ceased talking to her; and how the
smiles and blushes chased each other over her pretty face. That I should
have wit enough to observe these things proved that my education was
progressing rapidly; but then, to be sure, I was studying under an
They danced for a long time. So long, that Andre became uneasy, and my
available French was quite exhausted. I was heartily glad when Dalrymple
brought back the little bride at last, flushed and panting, and (himself
as cool as a diplomatist) assisted her with her shawl and resigned her
to the protection of her husband.
"Why hast thou danced so long with that big Englishman?" murmured Andre,
discontentedly. "When _I_ asked thee, thou wast too tired, and now...."
"And now I am so happy to be near thee again," whispered Suzette.
Andre softened directly.
"But to dance for twenty minutes...." began he.
"Ah, but he danced so well, and I am so fond of waltzing, Andre!"
The cloud gathered again, and an impatient reply was coming, when
Dalrymple opportunely invited the whole party to a bowl of punch in an
adjoining arbor, and himself led the way with Madame Roquet. The arbor
was vacant, a waiter was placing the chairs, and the punch was blazing
in the bowl. It had evidently been ordered during one of the pauses in
the dance, that it might be ready to the moment--a little attention
which called forth exclamations of pleasure from both Madame Roquet and
Monsieur Robineau, and touched with something like a gleam of
satisfaction even the grim visage of Monsieur Robineau's wife.
Dalrymple took the head of the table, and stirred the punch into leaping
tongues of blue flame till it looked like a miniature Vesuvius.
"What diabolical-looking stuff!" I exclaimed. "You might, to all
appearance, be Lucifer's own cupbearer."
"A proof that it ought to be devilish good," replied Dalrymple, ladling
it out into the glasses. "Allow me, ladies and gentlemen, to propose the
health, happiness, and prosperity of the bride and bridegroom. May they
never die, and may they be remembered for ever after!"
We all laughed as if this was the best joke we had heard in our lives,
and Dalrymple filled the glasses up again.
"What, in the name of all that's mischievous, can have become of
Sullivan?" said he to me. "I have not caught so much as a glimpse of him
for the last hour."
"When I last saw him, he was dancing."
"Yes, with a pretty little dark-eyed girl in a blue dress. By Jove! that
fellow will be getting into trouble if left to himself!"
"But the girl has her mother with her!"
"All the stronger probability of a scrimmage," replied Dalrymple,
sipping his punch with a covert glance of salutation at Suzette.
"Shall I see if they are among the dancers?"
"Do--but make haste; for the punch is disappearing fast."
I left them, and went back to the platform where the indefatigable
public was now engaged in the performance of quadrilles. Never, surely,
were people so industrious in the pursuit of pleasure! They poussetted,
bowed, curtsied, joined hands, and threaded the mysteries of every
figure, as if their very lives depended on their agility.
"Look at Jean Thomas," said a young girl to her still younger companion.
"He dances like an angel!"
The one thus called upon to admire, looked at Jean Thomas, and sighed.
"He never asks me, by any chance," said she, sadly, "although his mother
and mine are good neighbors. I suppose I don't dance well enough--or
dress well enough," she added, glancing at her friend's gay shawl and
"He has danced with me twice this evening," said the first speaker
triumphantly; "and he danced with me twice last Sunday at the Jardin
d'Armide. Elise says...."
Her voice dropped to a whisper, and I heard no more. It was a passing
glimpse behind the curtain--a peep at one of the many dramas of real
life that are being played for ever around us. Here were all the
elements of romance--love, admiration, vanity, envy. Here was a hero in
humble life--a lady-killer in his own little sphere. He dances with one,
neglects another, and multiplies his conquests with all the
heartlessness of a gentleman.
I wandered round the platform once or twice, scrutinizing the dancers,
but without success. There was no sign of Sullivan, or of his partner,
or of his partner's mother, the _bourgeoise_ with the green fan. I then
went to the grotto of the fortune-teller, but it was full of noisy
rustics; and thence to the lottery hall, where there were plenty of
players, but not those of whom I was in search.
"Wheel of fortune, Messieurs et Mesdames," said the young lady behind
the counter. "Only fifty centimes each. All prizes, and no blanks--try
your fortune, _monsieur le capitaine!_ Put it once, _monsieur le
capitaine_; once for yourself, and once for madame. Only fifty centimes
each, and the certainty of winning!"
_Monsieur le capitaine_ was a great, rawboned corporal, with a pretty
little maid-servant on his arm. The flattery was not very delicate; but
it succeeded. He threw down a franc. The wheel flew round, the papers
were drawn, and the corporal won a needle-case, and the maid-servant a
cigar-holder. In the midst of the laugh to which this distribution gave
rise, I walked away in the direction of the refreshment stalls. Here
were parties supping substantially, dancers drinking orgeat and
lemonade, and little knots of tradesmen and mechanics sipping beer
ridiculously out of wine-glasses to an accompaniment of cakes and
sweet-biscuits. Still I could see no trace of Mr. Frank Sullivan.
At length I gave up the search in despair, and on my way back
encountered Master Philippe leaning against a tree, and looking
exceedingly helpless and unwell.
"You ate too many eggs, Philippe," said his mother. "I told you so at
"It--it wasn't the eggs," faltered the wretched Philippe. "It was the
"And serve you rightly, too," said his father angrily. "I wish with all
my heart that you had had your favorite oysters as well!"
When I came back to the arbor, I found the little party immensely happy,
and a fresh bowl of punch just placed upon the table. Andre was sitting
next to Suzette, as proud as a king. Madame Roquet, volubly convivial,
was talking to every one. Madame Robineau was silently disposing of all
the biscuits and punch that came in her way. Monsieur Robineau, with his
hat a little pushed back and his thumb in the arm-hole of his waistcoat,
was telling a long story to which nobody listened; while Dalrymple,
sitting on the other side of the bride, was gallantly doing the duties
He looked up--I shook my head, slipped back into my place, and listened
to the tangled threads of conversation going on around me.
"And so," said Monsieur Robineau, proceeding with his story, and staring
down into the bottom of his empty glass, "and so I said to myself,
'Robineau, _mon ami_, take care. One honest man is better than two
rogues; and if thou keepest thine eyes open, the devil himself stands
small chance of cheating thee!' So I buttoned up my coat--this very coat
I have on now, only that I have re-lined and re-cuffed it since then,
and changed the buttons for brass ones; and brass buttons for one's
holiday coat, you know, look so much more _comme il faut_--and said to
"Another glass of punch, Monsieur Robineau," interrupted Dalrymple.
"Thank you, M'sieur, you are very good; well, as I was saying...."
"Ah, bah, brother Jacques!" exclaimed Madame Roquet, impatiently,
"don't give us that old story of the miller and the gray colt, this
evening! We've all heard it a hundred times already. Sing us a song
instead, _mon ami_!"
"I shall be happy to sing, sister Marie," replied Monsieur Robineau,
with somewhat husky dignity, "when I have finished my story. You may
have heard the story before. So may Andre--so may Suzette--so may my
wife. I admit it. But these gentlemen--these gentlemen who have never
heard it, and who have done me the honor...."
"Not to listen to a word of it," said Madame Robineau, sharply. "There,
you are answered, husband. Drink your punch, and hold your tongue."
Monsieur Robineau waved his hand majestically, and assumed a
"Madame Robineau," he said, getting more and more husky, "be so obliging
as to wait till I ask for your advice. With regard to drinking my punch,
I have drunk it--" and here he again stared down into the bottom of his
glass, which was again empty--"and with regard to holding my tongue,
that is my business, and--and...."
"Monsieur Robineau," said Dalrymple, "allow me to offer you some more
"Not another drop, Jacques," said Madame, sternly. "You have had too
Poor Monsieur Robineau, who had put out his glass to be refilled, paused
and looked helplessly at his wife.
"_Mon cher ange_,...." he began; but she shook her head inflexibly, and
Monsieur Robineau submitted with the air of a man who knows that from
the sentence of the supreme court there is no appeal.
"_Dame_!" whispered Madame Roquet, with a confidential attack upon my
ribs that gave me a pain in my side for half an hour after, "my brother
has the heart of a rabbit. He gives way to her in everything--so much
the worse for him. My blessed man, who was a saint of a husband, would
have broken the bowl over my ears if I had dared to interfere between
his glass and his mouth!"
Whereupon Madame Roquet filled her own glass and mine, and Madame
Robineau, less indulgent to her husband than herself, followed
Just at this moment, a confused hubbub of voices, and other sounds
expressive of a _fracas_, broke out in the direction of the trees behind
the orchestra. The dancers deserted their polka, the musicians stopped
fiddling, the noisy supper-party in the next arbor abandoned their cold
chicken and salad, and everybody ran to the scene of action. Dalrymple
was on his feet in a moment; but Suzette held Andre back with both hands
and implored him to stay.
"Some _mauvais sujets_, no doubt, who refuse to pay the score,"
suggested Madame Roquet.
"Or Sullivan, who has got into one of his infernal scrapes," muttered
Dalrymple, with a determined wrench at his moustache. "Come on, anyhow,
and let us see what is the matter!"
So we snatched up our hats and ran out, just as Monsieur Robineau seized
the opportunity to drink another tumbler of punch when his wife was
Following in the direction of the rest, we took one of the paths behind
the orchestra, and came upon a noisy crowd gathered round a wooden
"It's a fight," said one.
"It's a pickpocket," said another.
"Bah! it's only a young fellow who has been making love to a girl,"
exclaimed a third.
We forced our way through, and there we saw Mr. Frank Sullivan with his
hat off, his arms crossed, and his back against the wall, presenting a
dauntless front to the gesticulations and threats of an exceedingly
enraged young man with red hair, who was abusing him furiously. The
amount of temper displayed by this young man was something unparalleled.
He was angry in every one of his limbs. He stamped, he shook his fist,
he shook his head. The very tips of his ears looked scarlet with rage.
Every now and then he faced round to the spectators, and appealed to
them--or to a stout woman with a green fan, who was almost as red and
angry as himself, and who always rushed forward when addressed, and
shook the green fan in Sullivan's face.
"You are an aristocrat!" stormed the young man. "A pampered, insolent
aristocrat! A dog of an Englishman! A _scelerat_! Don't suppose you are
to trample upon us for nothing! We are Frenchmen, you beggarly
islander--Frenchmen, do you hear?"
A growl of sympathetic indignation ran through the crowd, and "_a bas
les aristocrats_--_a bas les Anglais_!" broke out here and there.
"In the devil's name, Sullivan," said Dalrymple, shouldering his way up
to the object of these agreeable menaces, "what have you been after, to
bring this storm about your ears?"
"Pshaw! nothing at all," replied he with a mocking laugh, and a
contemptuous gesture. "I danced with a pretty girl, and treated her to
champagne afterwards. Her mother and brother hunted us out, and spoiled
our flirtation. That's the whole story."
Something in the laugh and gesture--something, too, perhaps in the
language which they could not understand, appeared to give the last
aggravation to both of Sullivan's assailants. I saw the young man raise
his arm to strike--I saw Dalrymple fell him with a blow that would have
stunned an ox--I saw the crowd close in, heard the storm break out on
every side, and, above it all, the deep, strong tones of Dalrymple's
"To the boat, boys! Follow me."
In another moment he had flung himself into the crowd, dealt one or two
sounding blows to left and right, cleared a passage for himself and us,
and sped away down one of the narrow walks leading to the river.
Presently, having taken one or two turnings, none of which seemed to
lead to the spot we sought, we came upon an open space full of piled-up
benches, pyramids of empty bottles, boxes, baskets, and all kinds of
lumber. Here we paused to listen and take breath.
We had left the crowd behind us, but they were still within hearing.
"By Jove!" said Dalrymple, "I don't know which way to go. I believe we
are on the wrong side of the island."
"And I believe they are after us," added Sullivan, peering into the
baskets. "By all that's fortunate, here are the fireworks! Has anybody
got a match? We'll take these with us, and go off in a blaze
The suggestion was no sooner made than adopted. We filled our hats and
pockets with crackers and Catherine-wheels, piled the rest into one
great heap, threw a dozen or so of lighted fusees into the midst of
them, and just as the voices of our pursuers were growing momentarily
louder and nearer, darted away again down a fresh turning, and saw the
river gleaming at the end of it.
"Hurrah! here's a boat," shouted Sullivan, leaping into it, and we after
It was not our boat, but we did not care for that. Ours was at the other
side of the island, far enough away, down by the landing-place. Just as
Dalrymple seized the oars, there burst forth a tremendous explosion. A
column of rockets shot up into the air, and instantly the place was as
light as day. Then a yell of discovery broke forth, and we were seen
almost as soon as we were fairly out of reach. We had secured the only
boat on that side of the island, and three or four of Dalrymple's
powerful strokes had already carried us well into the middle of the
stream. To let off our own store of fireworks--to pitch tokens of our
regard to our friends on the island in the shape of blazing crackers,
which fell sputtering and fizzing into the water half-way between the
boat and the shore--to stand up in the stern and bow politely--finally,
to row away singing "God save the Queen" with all our might, were feats
upon which we prided ourselves very considerably at the time, and the
recollection of which afforded us infinite amusement all the way home.
That evening we all supped together at the Chaval Blane, and of what we
did or said after supper I have but a confused remembrance. I believe
that I tried to smoke a cigar; and it is my impression that I made a
speech, in which I swore eternal friendship to both of my new friends;
but the only circumstance about which I cannot be mistaken is that I
awoke next morning with the worst specimen of headache that had yet come
within the limits of my experience.
* * * * *
DAMON AND PYTHIAS.
I left Rouen the day after my great adventure on the river, and Captain
Dalrymple went with me to the station.
"You have my Paris address upon my card," he said, as we walked to and
fro upon the platform. "It's just a bachelor's den, you know--and I
shall be there in about a fortnight or three weeks. Come and look
To which I replied that I was glad to be allowed to do so, and that I
should "look him up" as soon as he came home. And so, with words of
cordial good-will and a hearty shake of the hand, we parted.
Having started late in the evening, I arrived in Paris between four and
five o'clock on a bright midsummer Sunday morning. I was not long
delayed by the customs officers, for I carried but a scant supply of
luggage. Having left this at an hotel, I wandered about till it should
be time for breakfast. After breakfast I meant to dress and call upon
The morning air was clear and cool. The sun shone brilliantly, and was
reflected back with dazzling vividness from long vistas of high white
houses, innumerable windows, and gilded balconies. Theatres, shops,
cafes, and hotels not yet opened, lined the great thoroughfares.
Triumphal arches, columns, parks, palaces, and churches succeeded one
another in apparently endless succession. I passed a lofty pillar
crowned with a conqueror's statue--a palace tragic in history--a modern
Parthenon surrounded by columns, peopled with sculptured friezes, and
approached by a flight of steps extending the whole width of the
building. I went in, for the doors had just been opened, and a
white-haired Sacristan was preparing the seats for matin service. There
were acolytes decorating the altar with fresh flowers, and early
devotees on their knees before the shrine of the Madonna. The gilded
ornaments, the tapers winking in the morning light, the statues, the
paintings, the faint clinging odors of incense, the hushed atmosphere,
the devotional silence, the marble angels kneeling round the altar, all
united to increase my dream of delight. I gazed and gazed again;
wandered round and round; and at last, worn out with excitement and
fatigue, sank into a chair in a distant corner of the Church, and fell
into a heavy sleep. How long it lasted I know not; but the voices of the
choristers and the deep tones of the organ mingled with my dreams. When
I awoke the last worshippers were departing, the music had died into
silence, the wax-lights were being extinguished, and the service
Again I went out into the streets; but all was changed. Where there had
been the silence of early morning there was now the confusion of a great
city. Where there had been closed shutters and deserted thoroughfares,
there was the bustle of life, gayety, business, and pleasure. The shops
blazed with jewels and merchandise; the stonemasons were at work on the
new buildings; the lemonade venders, with their gay reservoirs upon
their backs, were plying a noisy trade; the bill-stickers were papering
boardings and lamp-posts with variegated advertisements; the charlatan,
in his gaudy chariot, was selling pencils and penknives to the
accompaniment of a hand-organ; soldiers were marching to the clangor of
military music; the merchant was in his counting-house, the stock-broker
at the Bourse, and the lounger, whose name is Legion, was sitting in the
open air outside his favorite cafe, drinking chocolate, and yawning over
I thought I must be dreaming. I scarcely believed the evidence of my
eyes. Was this Sunday? Was it possible that in our own little church at
home--in our own little church, where we could hear the birds twittering
outside in every interval of the quiet service--the old familiar faces,
row beyond row, were even now upturned in reverent attention to the
words of the preacher? Prince Bedreddin, transported in his sleep to the
gates of Damascus, could scarcely have opened his eyes upon a foreign
city and a strange people with more incredulous amazement.
I can now scarcely remember how that day of wonders went by. I only know
that I rambled about as in a dream, and am vaguely conscious of having
wandered through the gardens of the Tuilleries; of having found the
Louvre open, and of losing myself among some of the upper galleries; of
lying exhausted upon a bench in the Champs Elysees; of returning by
quays lined with palaces and spanned by noble bridges; of pacing round
and round the enchanted arcades of the Palais Royal; of wondering how
and where I should find my hotel, and of deciding at last that I could
go no farther without dining somehow. Wearied and half stupefied, I
ventured, at length, into one of the large _restaurants_ upon the
Boulevards. Here I found spacious rooms lighted by superb chandeliers
which were again reflected in mirrors that extended from floor to
ceiling. Rows of small tables ran round the rooms, and a double line
down the centre, each laid with its snowy cloth and glittering silver.
It was early when I arrived; so I passed up to the top of the room and
appropriated a small table commanding a view of the great thoroughfare
below. The waiters were slow to serve me; the place filled speedily; and
by the time I had finished my soup, nearly all the tables were occupied.
Here sat a party of officers, bronzed and mustachioed; yonder a group of
laughing girls; a pair of provincials; a family party, children,
governess and all; a stout capitalist, solitary and self content; a
quatuor of rollicking _commis-voyageurs_; an English couple, perplexed
and curious. Amused by the sight of so many faces, listening to the hum
of voices, and watching the flying waiters bearing all kinds of
mysterious dishes, I loitered over my lonely meal, and wished that this
delightful whirl of novelty might last for ever. By and by a gentleman
entered, walked up the whole length of the room in search of a seat,
found my table occupied by only a single person, bowed politely, and
drew his chair opposite mine.
He was a portly man of about forty-five or fifty years of age, with a
broad, calm brow; curling light hair, somewhat worn upon the temples;
and large blue eyes, more keen than tender. His dress was scrupulously
simple, and his hands were immaculately white. He carried an umbrella
little thicker than a walking-stick, and wrote out his list of dishes
with a massive gold pencil. The waiter bowed down before him as if he
were an habitue of the place.
It was not long before we fell into conversation. I do not remember
which spoke first; but we talked of Paris--or rather, I talked and he
listened; for, what with the excitement and fatigue of the day, and what
with the half bottle of champagne which I had magnificently ordered, I
found myself gifted with a sudden flood of words, and ran on, I fear,
not very discreetly.
A few civil rejoinders, a smile, a bow, an assent, a question implied
rather than spoken, sufficed to draw from me the particulars of my
journey. I told everything, from my birthplace and education to my
future plans and prospects; and the stranger, with a frosty humor
twinkling about his eyes, listened politely. He was himself particularly
silent; but he had the art of provoking conversation while quietly
enjoying his own dinner. When this was finished, however, he leaned back
in his chair, sipped his claret, and talked a little more freely.
"And so," said he, in very excellent English, "you have come to Paris to
finish your studies. But have you no fear, young gentleman, that the
attractions of so gay a city may divert your mind from graver subjects?
Do you think that, when every pleasure may be had for the seeking, you
will be content to devote yourself to the dry details of an
"It is not an uninteresting profession," I replied. "I might perhaps
have preferred the church or the law; but having embarked in the study
of medicine, I shall do my best to succeed in it."
The stranger smiled.
"I am glad," he said, "to see you so ambitious. I do not doubt that you
will become a shining light in the brotherhood of Esculapius."
"I hope so," I replied, boldly. "I have studied closer than most men of
my age, already."
He smiled again, coughed doubtfully, and insisted on filling my glass
from his own bottle.
"I only fear," he said, "that you will be too diffident of your own
merits. Now, when you call upon this Doctor....what did you say was
"Cheron," I replied, huskily.
"True, Cheron. Well, when you meet him for the first time you will,
perhaps, be timid, hesitating, and silent. But, believe me, a young man
of your remarkable abilities should be self-possessed. You ought to
inspire him from the beginning with a suitable respect for
"That's precisely the line I mean to take," said I, boastfully.
"I'll--I'll astonish him. I'm afraid of nobody--not I!"
The stranger filled my glass again. His claret must have been very
strong or my head very weak, for it seemed to me, as he did so, that all
the chandeliers were in motion.
"Upon my word," observed he, "you are a young man of infinite spirit."
"And you," I replied, making an effort to bring the glass steadily to my
lips, "you are a capital fellow--a clear-sighted, sensible, capital
fellow. We'll be friends."
He bowed, and said, somewhat coldly,
"I have no doubt that we shall become better acquainted."
"Better acquainted, indeed!--we'll be intimate!" I ejaculated,
affectionately. "I'll introduce you to Dalrymple--you'll like him
excessively. Just the fellow to delight you."
"So I should say," observed the stranger, drily.
"And as for you and myself, we'll--we'll be Damon and ... what's the
other one's name?"
"Pythias," replied my new acquaintance, leaning back in his chair, and
surveying me with a peculiar and very deliberate stare. "Exactly
so--Damon and Pythias! A charming arrangement."
"Bravo! Famous! And now we'll have another bottle of wine."
"Not on my account, I beg," said the gentleman firmly. "My head is not
so cool as yours."
Cool, indeed, and the room whirling round and round, like a teetotum!
"Oh, if you won't, I won't," said I confusedly; "but I--I could--drink
my share of another bottle, I assure you, and not--feel the
"I have no doubt on that point," said my neighbor, gravely; "but our
French wines are deceptive, Mr. Arbuthnot, and you might possibly suffer
some inconvenience to-morrow. You, as a medical man, should understand
the evils of dyspepsia."
"Dy--dy--dyspepsia be hanged," I muttered, dreamily. "Tell me,
friend--by the by, I forget your name. Friend what?"
"Friend Pythias," returned the stranger, drily. "You gave me the name
"Ay, but your real name?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"One name is as good as another," said he, lightly. "Let it be Pythias,
for the present. But you were about to ask me some question?"
"About old Cheron," I said, leaning both elbows on the table, and
speaking very confidentially. "Now tell me, have you--have you any
notion of what he is like? Do you--know--know anything about him?"
"I have heard of him," he replied, intent for the moment on the pattern
of his wine-glass.
"That is a point upon which I could not venture an opinion. You must
ask some more competent judge."
"Come, now," said I, shaking my head, and trying to look knowing;
"you--you know what I mean, well enough. Is he a grim old fellow?
A--a--griffin, you know! Come, is he a gr--r--r--riffin?"
My words had by this time acquired a distressing, self-propelling
tendency, and linked themselves into compounds of twenty and thirty
My _vis-a-vis_ smiled, bit his lip, then laughed a dry, short laugh.
"Really," he said, "I am not in a position to reply to your question;
but upon the whole, I should say that Dr. Cheron was not quite a
griffin. The species, you see, is extinct."
I roared with laughter; vowed I had never heard a better joke in my
life; and repeated his last words over and over, like a degraded idiot
as I was. All at once a sense of deadly faintness came upon me. I turned
hot and cold by turns, and lifting my hand to my head, said, or tried
"We had better go," he replied promptly. "The air will do you good.
Leave me to settle for our dinners, and you shall make it right with me
He did so, and we left the room. Once out in the open air I found myself
unable to stand. He called a _fiacre_; almost lifted me in; took his
place beside me, and asked the name of my hotel.
I had forgotten it; but I knew that it was opposite the railway station,
and that was enough. When we arrived, I was on the verge of
insensibility. I remember that I was led up-stairs by two waiters, and
that the stranger saw me to my room. Then all was darkness and stupor.
THE NEXT MORNING.
"Oh, my Christian ducats!" _Merchant of Venice_.
Gone!--gone!--both gone!--my new gold watch and my purse full of notes
I rang the bell furiously. It was answered by a demure-looking waiter,
with a face like a parroquet.
"Does Monsieur please to require anything?"
"Require anything!" I exclaimed, in the best French I could muster. "I
have been robbed!"
"Yes, of my watch and purse!"
"_Tiens_! Of a watch and purse?" repeated the parroquet, lifting his
eyebrows with an air of well-bred surprise. "_C'est drole."_
"Droll!" I cried, furiously. "Droll, you scoundrel! I'll let you know
whether I think it droll! I'll complain to the authorities! I'll have
the house searched! I'll--I'll...."
I rang the bell again. Two or three more waiters came, and the master of
the hotel. They all treated my communication in the same manner--coolly;
incredulously; but with unruffled politeness.
"Monsieur forgets," urged the master, "that he came back to the hotel
last night in a state of absolute intoxication. Monsieur was accompanied
by a stranger, who was gentlemanly, it it true; but since Monsieur
acknowledges that that stranger was personally unknown to him, Monsieur
may well perceive it would be more reasonable if his suspicions first
pointed in that direction."
Struck by the force of this observation, I flung myself into a chair and
"Has Monsieur no acquaintances in Paris to whom he may apply for
advice?" inquired the landlord.
"None," said I, moodily; "except that I have a letter of introduction
to one Dr. Cheron."
The landlord and his waiters exchanged glances.
"I would respectfully recommend Monsieur to present his letter
immediately," said the former. "Monsieur le Docteur Cheron is a man of
the world--a man of high reputation and sagacity. Monsieur could not do
better than advise with him."
"Call a cab for me," said I, after a long pause. "I will go."
The determination cost me something. Dismayed by the extent of my loss,
racked with headache, languid, pale, and full of remorse for last
night's folly, it needed but this humiliation to complete my misery.
What! appear before my instructor for the first time with such a tale! I
could have bitten my lips through with vexation.
The cab was called. I saw, but would not see, the winks and nods
exchanged behind my back by the grinning waiters. I flung myself into
the vehicle, and soon was once more rattling through the noisy streets.
But those brilliant streets had now lost all their charm for me. I
admired nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing, on the way. I could think
only of my father's anger and the contempt of Dr. Cheron.
Presently the cab stopped before a large wooden gate with two enormous
knockers. One half of this gate was opened by a servant in a sad-colored
livery. I was shown across a broad courtyard, up a flight of lofty
steps, and into a spacious _salon_ plainly furnished.
"Monsieur le Docteur is at present engaged," said the servant, with an
air of profound respect. "Will Monsieur have the goodness to be seated
for a few moments."
I sat down. I rose up. I examined the books upon the table, and the
pictures on the walls. I wished myself "anywhere, anywhere out of the
world," and more than once was on the point of stealing out of the
house, jumping into my cab, and making off without seeing the doctor at
all. One consideration alone prevented me. I had lost all my money, and
had not even a franc left to pay the driver. Presently the door again
opened, the grave footman reappeared, and I heard the dreaded
announcement:--"Monsieur le Docteur will be happy to receive Monsieur in
I followed mechanically. We passed through a passage thickly carpeted,
and paused before a green baize door. This door opened noiselessly, and
I found myself in the great man's presence.
"It gives me pleasure to welcome the son of my old friend John
Arbuthnot," said a clear, and not unfamiliar voice.
I started, looked up, grew red and white, hot and cold, and had not a
syllable to utter in reply.
In Doctor Cheron, I recognised--
The doctor pointed to a chair, looked at his watch, and said:--
"I hope you have had a pleasant journey. Arrived this morning?"
There was not the faintest gleam of recognition on his face. Not a
smile; not a glance; nothing but the easy politeness of a stranger to
"N--not exactly," I faltered. "Yesterday morning, sir."
"Ah, indeed! Spent the day in sight-seeing, I dare say. Admire Paris?"
Too much astonished to speak, I took refuge in a bow.
"Not found any lodgings yet, I presume?" asked the doctor, mending a pen
"N--not yet, sir."
"I concluded so The English do not seek apartments on Sunday. You
observe the day very strictly, no doubt?"
Blushing and confused, I stammered some incoherent words and sat
twirling my hat, the very picture of remorse.
"At what hotel have you put up?" he next inquired, without appearing to
observe my agitation.
"The--the Hotel des Messageries."
"Good, but expensive. You must find a lodging to-day."
I bowed again.
"And, as your father's representative, I must take care that you procure
something suitable, and are not imposed upon. My valet shall go
He rang the bell, and the sad-colored footman appeared on the threshold.
"Desire Brunet to be in readiness to walk out with this gentleman," he
said, briefly, and the servant retired.
"Brunet," he continued, addressing me again, "is faithful and sagacious.
He will instruct you on certain points indispensable to a resident in
Paris, and will see that you are not ill-accommodated or overcharged. A
young man has few wants, and I should infer that a couple of rooms in
some quiet street will be all that you require?"
"I--I am very grateful."
He waved down my thanks with an air of cold but polite authority; took
out his note-book and pencil; (I could have sworn to that massive gold
pencil!) and proceeded to question me.
"Your age, I think," said he, "is twenty-one?"
"Ah--twenty. You desire to be entered upon the list of visiting students
at the Hotel Dieu, to be free of the library and lecture-rooms, and to
be admitted into my public classes?"
"Also, to attend here in my house for private instruction."
He filled in a few words upon a printed form, and handed it to me with
his visiting card.
"You will present these, and your passport, to the secretary at the
hospital," said he, "and will receive in return the requisite tickets of
admission. Your fees have already been paid in, and your name has been
entered. You must see to this matter at once, for the _bureau_ closes
at two o'clock. You will then require the rest of the day for
lodging-seeking, moving, and so forth. To-morrow morning, at nine
o'clock, I shall expect you here."
"Indeed, sir," I murmured, "I am more obliged than...."
"Not in the least," he interrupted, decisively; "your father's son has
every claim upon me. I object to thanks. All that I require from you are
habits of industry, punctuality, and respect. Your father speaks well of
you, and I have no doubt I shall find you all that he represents. Can I
do anything more for you this morning?"
I hesitated; could not bring myself to utter one word of that which I
had come to say; and murmured--
"Nothing more, I thank you, sir."
He looked at me piercingly, paused an instant, and then rang the bell.
"I am about to order my carriage," he said; "and, as I am going in that
direction, I will take you as far as the Hotel Dieu."
"But--but I have a cab at the door," I faltered, remembering, with a
sinking heart, that I had not a sou to pay the driver.
The servant appeared again.
"Let the carriage be brought round immediately, and dismiss this
The man retired, and I heaved a sigh of relief. The doctor bent low over
the papers on his desk, and I fancied for the moment that a faint smile
flitted over his face. Then he took up his hat, and pointed to the door.
"Now, my young friend," he said authoritatively, "we must be gone. Time
is gold. After you."
I bowed and preceded him. His very courtesy was sterner than the
displeasure of another, and I already felt towards him a greater degree
of awe than I should have quite cared to confess. The carriage was
waiting in the courtyard. I placed myself with my back to the horses;
Dr. Cheron flung himself upon the opposite seat; a servant out of livery
sprang up beside the coachman; the great gates were flung open; and we
glided away on the easiest of springs and the softest of cushions.
Dr. Cheron took a newspaper from his pocket, and began to read; so
leaving me to my own uncomfortable reflections.
And, indeed, when I came to consider my position I was almost in
despair. Moneyless, what was to become of me? Watchless and moneyless,
with a bill awaiting me at my hotel, and not a stiver in my pocket
wherewith to pay it.... Miserable pupil of a stern master! luckless son
of a savage father! to whom could I turn for help? Not certainly to Dr.
Cheron, whom I had been ready to accuse, half an hour ago, of having
stolen my watch and purse. Petty larceny and Dr. Cheron! how ludicrously
incongruous! And yet, where was my property? Was the Hotel des
Messageries a den of thieves? And again, how was it that this same Dr.
Cheron looked, and spoke, and acted, as if he had never seen me in his
life till this morning? Was I mad, or dreaming, or both?
The carriage stopped and the door opened.
"Hotel Dieu, M'sieur," said the servant, touching his hat.
Dr. Cheron just raised his eyes from the paper.
"This is your first destination," he said. "I would advise you, on
leaving here, to return to your hotel. There may be letters awaiting
With this he resumed his paper, the carriage rolled away, and I found
myself at the Hotel Dieu, with the servant out of livery standing
respectfully behind me.
Go back to my hotel! Why should I go back? Letters there could be none,
unless at the Poste Restante. I thought this a very unnecessary piece of
advice, rejected it in my own mind, and so went into the hospital
_bureau_, and transacted my business. When I came out again, Brunet
took the lead.
He was an elderly man with a solemn countenance and a mysterious voice.
His manner was oppressively respectful; his address diplomatic; his step
stealthy as a courtier's. When we came to a crossing he bowed, stood
aside, and followed me; then took the lead again; and so on, during a
brisk walk of about half an hour. All at once, I found myself at the
Hotel des Messageries.
"Monsieur's hotel," said the doctor's valet, touching his hat.
"You are mistaken," said I, rather impatiently. "I did not ask to be
brought here. My object this morning is to look for apartments."
"Post in at mid-day, Monsieur," he observed, gravely. "Monsieur's
letters may have arrived."
"I expect none, thank you."
"Monsieur will, nevertheless, permit me to inquire," said the
persevering valet, and glided in before my eyes.
The thing was absurd! Both master and servant insisted that I must have
letters, whether I would, or no! To my amazement, however, Brunet came
back with a small sealed box in his hands.
"No letters have arrived for Monsieur," he said; "but this box was left
with the porter about an hour ago."
I weighed it, shook it, examined the seals, and, going into the public
room, desired Brunet to follow me. There I opened it. It contained a
folded paper, a quantity of wadding, my purse, my roll of bank-notes,
and my watch! On the paper, I read the following words:--
"Learn from the events of last night the value of temperance, the wisdom
of silence, and the danger of chance acquaintanceships. Accept the
lesson, and he by whom it is administered will forget the error."
The paper dropped from my hands and fell upon the floor. The
impenetrable Brunet picked it up, and returned it to me.
"Brunet!" I ejaculated.
"Monsieur?" said he, interrogatively, raising his hand to his forehead
by force of habit, although his hat stood beside him on the floor.
There was not a shadow of meaning in his face--not a quiver to denote
that he knew anything of what had passed. To judge by the stolid
indifference of his manner, one might have supposed that the delivery of
caskets full of watches and valuables was an event of daily occurrence
in the house of Dr. Cheron. His coolness silenced me. I drew a long
breath; hastened to put my watch in my pocket, and lock up my money in
my room; and then went to the master of the hotel, and informed him of
the recovery of my property. He smiled and congratulated me; but he did
not seem to be in the least surprised. I fancied, some how, that matters
were not quite so mysterious to him as they had been to me.
I also fancied that I heard a suspicious roar of laughter as I passed
out into the street.
It was not long before I found such apartments as I required, Piloted by
Brunet through some broad thoroughfares and along part of the
Boulevards, I came upon a cluster of narrow streets branching off
through a massive stone gateway from the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre.
This little nook was called the Cite Bergere. The houses were white and
lofty. Some had courtyards, and all were decorated with pretty iron
balconies and delicately-tinted Venetian shutters. Most of them bore the
announcement--"_Apartements a louer_"--suspended above the door. Outside
one of these houses sat two men with a little table between them. They
were playing at dominoes, and wore the common blue blouse of the
mechanic class. A woman stood by, paring celery, with an infant playing
on the mat inside the door and a cat purring at her feet. It was a
pleasant group. The men looked honest, the woman good-tempered, and the
house exquisitely clean; so the diplomatic Brunet went forward to
negotiate, while I walked up and down outside. There were rooms to be
let on the second, third and fifth floors. The fifth was too high, and
the second too expensive; but the third seemed likely to suit me. The
_suite_ consisted of a bed-room, dressing-room, and tiny _salon_, and
was furnished with the elegant uncomfortableness characteristic of our
French neighbors. Here were floors shiny and carpetless; windows that
objected to open, and drawers that refused to shut; mirrors all round
the walls a set of hanging shelves; an ormolu time piece that struck all
kinds of miscellaneous hours at unexpected times; an abundance of vases
filled with faded artificial flowers; insecure chairs of white and gold;
and a round table that had a way of turning over suddenly like a table
in a pantomime, if you ventured to place anything on any part but the
inlaid star in the centre. Above all, there was a balcony big enough for
a couple of chairs, and some flower-pots, overlooking the street.
I was delighted with everything. In imagination I beheld my balcony
already blooming with roses, and my shelves laden with books. I admired
the white and gold chairs with all my heart, and saw myself reflected in
half a dozen mirrors at once with an innocent pride of ownership which
can only be appreciated by those who have tasted the supreme luxury of
going into chambers for the first time.
"Shall I conclude for Monsieur at twenty francs a week?" murmured the
"Of course," said I, laying the first week's rent upon the table.
And so the thing was done, and, brimful of satisfaction, I went off to
the hotel for my luggage, and moved in immediately.
* * * * *
BROADCLOTH AND CIVILIZATION.
Allowing for my inexperience in the use of the language, I prospered
better than I had expected, and found, to my satisfaction, that I was by
no means behind my French fellow-students in medical knowledge. I passed
through my preliminary examination with credit, and although Dr. Cheron
was careful not to praise me too soon, I had reason to believe that he
was satisfied with my progress. My life, indeed, was now wholly given up
to my work. My country-breeding had made me timid, and the necessity for
speaking a foreign tongue served only to increase my natural reserve; so
that although I lived and studied day after day in the society of some
two or three hundred young men, I yet lived as solitary a life as
Robinson Crusoe in his island. No one sought to know me. No one took a
liking for me. Gay, noisy, chattering fellows that they were, they
passed me by for a "dull and muddy-pated rogue;" voted me
uncompanionable when I was only shy; and, doubtless, quoted me to each
other as a rare specimen of the silent Englishman. I lived, too, quite
out of the students' colony. To me the _Quartier Latin_ (except as I
went to and fro between the Hotel Dieu and the Ecole de Medicine) was a
land unknown; and the student's life--that wonderful _Vie de Boheme_
which furnishes forth half the fiction of the Paris press--a condition
of being, about which I had never even heard. What wonder, then, that I
never arrived at Dr. Cheron's door five minutes behind time, never
missed a lecture, never forgot an appointment? What wonder that, after
dropping moodily into one or two of the theatres, I settled down quite
quietly in my lodgings; gave up my days to study; sauntered about the
lighted alleys of the Champs Elysees in the sweet spring evenings, and,
going home betimes, spent an hour or two with my books, and kept almost
as early hours as in my father's house at Saxonholme?
After I had been living thus for rather longer than three weeks, I made
up my mind one Sunday morning to call at Dalrymple's rooms, and inquire
if he had yet arrived in Paris. It was about eleven o'clock when I
reached the Chaussee d'Antin, and there learned that he was not only
arrived, but at home. Being by this time in possession of the luxury of
a card, I sent one up, and was immediately admitted. I found breakfast
still upon the table; Dalrymple sitting with an open desk and cash-box
before him; and, standing somewhat back, with his elbow resting on the
chimney-piece, a gentleman smoking a cigar. They both looked up as I was
announced, and Dalrymple, welcoming me with a hearty grasp, introduced
this gentleman as Monsieur de Simoncourt.
M. de Simoncourt bowed, knocked the ash from his cigar, and looked as
if he wished me at the Antipodes. Dalrymple was really glad to see me.
"I have been expecting you, Arbuthnot," said he, "for the last week. If
you had not soon beaten up my quarters, I should have tried, somehow, to
find out yours. What have you been about all this time? Where are you
located? What mischief have you been perpetrating since our expedition
to the _guingette_ on the river? Come, you have a thousand things
to tell me!"
M. de Simoncourt looked at his watch--a magnificent affair, decorated
with a costly chain, and a profusion of pendant trifles--and threw the
last-half of his cigar into the fireplace.
"You must excuse me, _mon cher_" said he. "I have at least a dozen calls
to make before dinner."
Dalrymple rose, readily enough, and took a roll of bank-notes from the
"If you are going," he said, "I may as well hand over the price of that
Tilbury. When will they send it home?"
"And I am to pay fifteen hundred franks for it!"
"Just half its value!" observed M. de Simoncourt, with a shrug of his
Dalrymple smiled, counted the notes, and handed them to his friend.
"Fifteen hundred may be half its cost," said he; "but I doubt if I am
paying much less than its full value. Just see that these are right."
M. de Simoncourt ruffled the papers daintily over, and consigned them to
his pocket-book. As he did so, I could not help observing the whiteness
of his hands and the sparkle of a huge brilliant on his little finger.
He was a pale, slender, olive-hued man, with very dark eyes, and
glittering teeth, and a black moustache inclining superciliously upwards
at each corner; somewhat too _nonchalant_, perhaps, in his manner, and
somewhat too profuse in the article of jewellery; but a very elegant
"_Bon_!" said he. "I am glad you have bought it. I would have taken it
myself, had the thing happened a week or two earlier. Poor Duchesne! To
think that he should have come to this, after all!"
"I am sorry for him," said Dalrymple; "but it is a case of wilful ruin.
He made up his mind to go to the devil, and went accordingly. I am only
surprised that the crash came no sooner."
M. de Simoneourt twitched at the supercilious moustache.
"And you think you would not care to take the black mare with the
Tilbury?" said he, negligently.
"No--I have a capital horse, already."
"Hah I--well--'tis almost a pity. The mare is a dead bargain. Shouldn't
wonder if I buy her, after all."
"And yet you don't want her," said Dalrymple.
"Quite true; but one must have a favorite sin, and horseflesh is mine. I
shall ruin myself by it some day--_mort de ma vie!_ By the way, have you
seen my chestnut in harness? No? Then you will be really pleased. Goes
delightfully with the gray, and manages tandem to perfection. _Parbleu!_
I was forgetting--do we meet to-night?"
Dalrymple shook his head, and turned the key in his cash box.
"Not this evening," he replied. I have other engagements."
"Bah! and I promised to go, believing you were sure to be of the party.
St. Pol, I know, will be there, and De Brezy also."
"Chardonnier's parties are charming things in their way," said
Dalrymple, somewhat coldly, "and no man enjoys Burgundy and lansquenet
more heartily than myself; but one might grow to care for nothing else,
and I have no desire to fall into worse habits than those I have
M. de Simoneourt laughed a dry, short laugh, and twitched again at the
"I had no idea you were a philosopher," said he.
"Nor am I. I am a _mauvais sujet_--_mauvais_ enough, already, without
seeking to become worse."
"Well, adieu--I will see to this affair of the Tilbury, and desire them
to let you have it by noon to-morrow."
"A thousand thanks. I am ashamed that you have so much trouble in the
matter. _Au revoir_."
Whereupon M. de Simoncourt honored me with a passing bow, and took his
departure. Being near the window, I saw him spring into an elegant
cabriolet, and drive off with the showiest of high horses and the
tiniest of tigers.
He was no sooner gone than Dalrymple took me by the shoulders, placed me
in an easy chair, poured out a couple of glasses of hock, and said:--
"Now, then, my young friend, your news or your life! Out with it, every
word, as you hope to be forgiven!"
I had but little to tell, and for that little, found myself, as I had
anticipated, heartily laughed at. My adventure at the restaurant, my
unlucky meeting with Dr. Cheron, and the history of my interview with
him next morning, delighted Dalrymple beyond measure.
Nothing would satisfy him, after this, but to call me Damon, to tease me
continually about Doctor Pythias, and to remind me at every turn of the
desirableness of Arcadian friendships.
"And so, Damon," said he, "you go nowhere, see nothing, and know nobody.
This sort of life will never do for you! I must take you out--introduce
you--get you an _entree_ into society, before I leave Paris."
"I should be heartily glad to visit at one or two private houses," I
replied. "To spend the winter in this place without knowing a soul,
would be something frightful."
Dalrymple looked at me half laughingly, half compassionately.
"Before I do it, however," said he, "you must look a little less like a
savage, and more like a tame Christian. You must have your hair cut, and
learn to tie your cravat properly. Do you possess an evening suit?"
Blushing to the tips of my ears, I not only confessed that I was
destitute of that desirable outfit, but also that I had never yet in all
my life had occasion to wear it.
"I am glad of it; for now you are sure to be well fitted. Your tailor,
depend on it, is your great civilizer, and a well-made suit of clothes
is in itself a liberal education. I'll take you to Michaud--my own
especial purveyor. He is a great artist. With so many yards of superfine
black cloth, he will give you the tone of good society and the exterior
of a gentleman. In short, he will do for you in eight or ten hours more
than I could do in as many years."
"Pray introduce me at once to this illustrious man," I exclaimed
laughingly, "and let me do him homage!"
"You will have to pay heavily for the honor," said Dalrymple. "Of that I
give you notice."
"No matter. I am willing to pay heavily for the tone of good society and
the exterior of a gentleman."
"Very good. Take a book, then, or a cigar, and amuse yourself for five
minutes while I write a note. That done, you may command me for as long
as you please."
I took the first book that came, and finding it to be a history of the
horse, amused myself, instead, by observing the aspect of Dalrymple's
Rooms are eloquent biographies. They betray at once if the owner be
careless or orderly, studious or idle, vulgar or refined. Flowers on the
table, engravings on the walls, indicate refinement and taste; while a
well-filled book-case says more in favor of its possessor than the most
elaborate letter of recommendation. Dalrymple's room was a monograph of
himself. Careless, luxurious, disorderly, crammed with all sorts of
costly things, and characterized by a sort of reckless elegance, it
expressed, as I interpreted it, the very history of the man. Rich
hangings; luxurious carpets; walls covered with paintings; cabinets of
bronze and rare porcelain; a statuette of Rachel beside a bust of Homer;
a book-case full of French novels with a sprinkling of Shakespeare and
Horace; a stand of foreign arms; a lamp from Pompeii; a silver casket
full of cigars; tables piled up with newspapers, letters, pipes,
riding-whips, faded bouquets, and all kinds of miscellaneous
rubbish--such were my friend's surroundings; and such, had I speculated
upon them beforehand, I should have expected to find them. Dalrymple, in
the meanwhile, despatched his letter with characteristic rapidity. His
pen rushed over the paper like a dragoon charge, nor was once laid aside
till both letter and address were finished. Just as he was sealing it, a
note was brought to him by his servant--a slender, narrow, perfumed
note, written on creamy paper, and adorned on the envelope with an
elaborate cypher in gold and colors. Had I lived in the world of society
for the last hundred seasons, I could not have interpreted the
appearance of that note more sagaciously.
"It is from a lady," said I to myself. Then seeing Dalrymple tear up his
own letter immediately after reading it, and begin another, I added,
still in my own mind--"And it is from the lady to whom he was writing."
Presently he paused, laid his pen aside, and said:--
"Arbuthnot, would you like to go with me to-morrow evening to one or two
"Can your Civilizer provide me with my evening suit in time?"
"He? The great Michaud? Why, he would equip you for this evening, if it
"In that case, I shall be very glad."
"_Bon!_ I will call for you at ten o'clock; so do not forget to leave me
Whereupon he resumed his letter. When it was written, he returned to the
"Then I will take you to-morrow night," said he, "to a reception at
Madame Rachel's. Hers is the most beautiful house in Paris. I know fifty
men who would give their ears to be admitted to her _salons_."
Even in the wilds of Saxonholme I had heard and read of the great
_tragedienne_ whose wealth vied with the Rothschilds, and whose
diamonds might have graced a crown. I had looked forward to the
probability of beholding her from afar off, if she was ever to be seen
on the boards of the Theatre Francais; but to be admitted to her
presence--received in her house--introduced to her in person ... it
seemed ever so much too good to be true!
Dalrymple smiled good-naturedly, and put my thanks aside.
"It is a great sight," said he, "and nothing more. She will bow to
you--she may not even speak; and she would pass you the next morning
without remembering that she had ever seen you in her life. Actresses
are a race apart, my dear fellow, and care for no one who is neither
rich nor famous."
"I never imagined," said I, half annoyed, "that she would take any
notice of me at all. Even a bow from such a woman is an event to be
"Having received that bow, then," continued Dalrymple, "and having
enjoyed the ineffable satisfaction of returning it, you can go on with
me to the house of a lady close by, who receives every Monday evening.
At her _soirees_ you will meet pleasant and refined people, and having
been once introduced by me, you will, I have no doubt, find the house
open to you for the future."
"That would, indeed, be a privilege. Who is this lady?"
"Her name," said Dalrymple, with an involuntary glance at the little
note upon his desk, "is Madame de Courcelles. She is a very charming and
I decided in my own mind that Madame de Courcelles was the writer of
"Is she married?" was my next question.
"She is a widow," replied Dalrymple. "Monsieur de Courcelles was many
years older than his wife, and held office as a cabinet minister during
the greater part of the reign of Louis Phillippe. He has been dead these
four or five years."
"Then she is rich?"
"No--not rich; but sufficiently independent."
"Not handsome, either; but graceful, and very fascinating."
Graceful, fascinating, independent, and a widow! Coupling these facts
with the correspondence which I believed I had detected, I grouped them
into a little romance, and laid out my friend's future career as
confidently as if it had depended only on myself to marry him out of
hand, and make all parties happy.
Dalrymple sat musing for a moment, with his chin resting on his hands
and his eyes fixed on the desk. Then shaking back his hair as if he
would shake back his thoughts with it, he started suddenly to his feet
and said, laughingly:--
"Now, young Damon, to Michaud's--to Michaud's, with what speed we may!
Farewell to 'Tempe and the vales of Arcady,' and hey for civilization,
and a swallow-tailed coat!"
I noticed, however, that before we left the room, he put the little note
tenderly away in a drawer of his desk, and locked it with a tiny gold
key that hung upon his watch-chain.
I MAKE MY DEBUT IN SOCIETY.
At ten o'clock on Monday evening, Dalrymple called for me, and by ten
o'clock, thanks to the great Michaud and other men of genius, I
presented a faultless exterior. My friend walked round me with a candle,
and then sat down and examined me critically.
"By Jove!" said he, "I don't believe I should have known you! You are a
living testimony to the science of tailoring. I shall call on Michaud,
to-morrow, and pay my tribute of admiration."
"I am very uncomfortable," said I, ruefully.
"Uncomfortable! nonsense--Michaud's customers don't know the meaning of
"But he has not made me a single pocket!"
"And what of that? Do you suppose the great Michaud would spoil the fit
of a masterpiece for your convenience?"
"What am I to do with my pocket-handkerchief?"
"Michaud's customers never need pocket-handkerchiefs."
"And then my trousers..."
"Unreasonable Juvenile, what of the trousers?"
"They are so tight that I dare not sit down in them."
"Barbarian! Michaud's customers never sit down in society."
"And my boots are so small that I can hardly endure them."
"Very becoming to the foot," said Dalyrmple, with exasperating
"And my collar is so stiff that it almost cuts my throat."
"Makes you hold your head up," said Dalrymple, "and leaves you no
inducement to commit suicide."
I could not help laughing, despite my discomfort.
"Job himself never had such a comforter!" I exclaimed.
"It would be a downright pleasure to quarrel with you."
"Put on your hat instead, and let us delay no longer," replied my
friend. "My cab is waiting."
So we went down, and in another moment were driving through the lighted
streets. I should hardly have chosen to confess how my heart beat when,
on turning an angle of the Rue Trudon, our cab fell into the rear of
three or four other carriages, passed into a courtyard crowded with
arriving and departing vehicles, and drew up before an open door, whence
a broad stream of light flowed out to meet us. A couple of footmen
received us in a hall lighted by torches and decorated with stands of
antique armor. From the centre of this hall sprang a Gothic staircase,
so light, so richly sculptured, so full of niches and statues, slender
columns, foliated capitals, and delicate ornamentation of every kind,
that it looked a very blossoming of the stone. Following Dalrymple up
this superb staircase and through a vestibule of carved oak, I next
found myself in a room that might have been the scene of Plato's
symposium. Here were walls painted in classic fresco; windows curtained
with draperies of chocolate and amber; chairs and couches of ebony,
carved in antique fashion; Etruscan amphorae; vases and paterae of
terracotta; exquisite lamps, statuettes and candelabra in rare green
bronze; and curious parti-colored busts of philosophers and heroes, in
all kinds of variegated marbles. Powdered footmen serving modern coffee
seemed here like anachronisms in livery. In such a room one should have
been waited on by boys crowned with roses, and have partaken only of
classic dishes--of Venafran olives or oysters from the Lucrine lake,
washed down with Massic, or Chian, or honeyed Falernian.
Some half-dozen gentlemen, chatting over their coffee, bowed to
Dalrymple when we came in. They were talking of the war in Algiers, and
especially of the gallantry of a certain Vicomte de Caylus, in whose
deeds they seemed to take a more than ordinary interest.
"Rode single-handed right through the enemy's camp," said a bronzed,
elderly man, with a short, gray beard.
"And escaped without a scratch," added another, with a tiny red ribbon
at his button-hole.
"He comes of a gallant stock," said a third. "I remember his father at
Austerlitz--literally cut to pieces at the head of his squadron."
"You are speaking of de Caylus," said Dalrymple. "What news of him from
"This--that having volunteered to carry some important despatches to
head-quarters, he preferred riding by night through Abd-el-Kader's camp,
to taking a _detour_ by the mountains," replied the first speaker.
"A wild piece of boyish daring," said Dalrymple, somewhat drily. "I
presume he did not return by the same road?"
"I should think not. It would have been certain death a second time!"
"And this happened how long since?"
"About a fortnight ago. But we shall soon know all particulars from
"Yes, he has obtained leave of absence--is, perhaps, by this time in
Dalrymple set down his cup untasted, and turned away.
"Come, Arbuthnot," he said, hastily, "I must introduce you to Madame
We passed through a small antechamber, and into a brilliant _salon_, the
very reverse of antique. Here all was light and color. Here were
hangings of flowered chintz; fantastic divans; lounge-chairs of every
conceivable shape and hue; great Indian jars; richly framed drawings;
stands of exotic plants; Chinese cages, filled with valuable birds from
distant climes; folios of engravings; and, above all, a large cabinet in
marqueterie, crowded with bronzes, Chinese carvings, pastille burners,
fans, medals, Dresden groups, Sevres vases, Venetian glass, Asiatic
idols, and all kinds of precious trifles in tortoise-shall, mother
o'-pearl, malachite, onyx, lapis lazuli, jasper, ivory, and mosaic. In
this room, sitting, standing, turning over engravings, or grouped here
and there on sofas and divans, were some twenty-five or thirty
gentlemen, all busily engaged in conversation. Saluting some of these by
a passing bow, my friend led the way straight through this _salon_ and
into a larger one immediately beyond it.
"This," he said, "is one of the most beautiful rooms in Paris. Look
round and tell me if you recognise, among all her votaries, the
I looked round, bewildered.
"Recognise!" I echoed. "I should not recognise my own father at this
moment. I feel like Abou Hassan in the palace of the Caliph."
"Or like Christopher Sly, when he wakes in the nobleman's bedchamber,"
said Dalrymple; "though I should ask your pardon for the comparison. But
see what it is to be an actress with forty-two thousand francs of salary
per week. See these panels painted by Muller--this chandelier by
Deniere, of which no copy exists--this bust of Napoleon by Canova--these
hangings of purple and gold--this ceiling all carved and gilded, than
which Versailles contains nothing more elaborate. _Allons donc_! have
you nothing to say in admiration of so much splendor?"
I shook my head.
"What can I say? Is this the house of an actress, or the palace of a
prince? But stay--that pale woman yonder, all in white, with a plain
gold circlet on her head--who is she?"
"Phedre herself," replied Dalrymple. "Follow me, and be introduced."
She was sitting in a large fauteuil of purple velvet. One foot rested on
a stool richly carved and gilt; one arm rested negligently on a table
covered with curious foreign weapons. In her right hand she held a
singular poignard, the blade of which was damascened with gold, while
the handle, made of bronze and exquisitely modelled, represented a tiny
human skeleton. With this ghastly toy she kept playing as she spoke,
apparently unconscious of its grim significance. She was surrounded by
some ten or a dozen distinguished-looking men, most of whom were
profusely _decore_. They made way courteously at our approach. Dalrymple
then presented me. I made my bow, was graciously received, and dropped
modestly into the rear.
"I began to think that Captain Dalrymple had forsworn Paris," said
Rachel, still toying with the skeleton dagger. "It is surely a year
since I last had this pleasure?"
"Nay, Madame, you flatter me," said Dalrymple. "I have been absent only
"Then, you see, I have measured your absence by my loss."
Dalrymple bowed profoundly.
Rachel turned to a young man behind her chair.
"Monsieur le Prince," said she, "do you know what is rumored in the
_foyer_ of the Francais? That you have offered me your hand!"
"I offer you both my hands, in applause, Madame, every night of your
performance," replied the gentleman so addressed.
She smiled and made a feint at him with the dagger.
"Excellent!" said she. "One is not enough for a tragedian But where is
"I have been looking for him all the evening," said a tall man, with an
iron-gray beard. "He told me he was coming; but authors are capricious
beings--the slaves of the pen."
"True; he lives by his pen--others die by it," said Rachel bitterly. "By
the way, has any one seen Scribe's new Vaudeville?"
"I have," replied a bald little gentleman with a red and green ribbon in
"And your verdict?"
"The plot is not ill-conceived; but Scribe is only godfather to the
piece. It is almost entirely written by Duverger, his _collaborateur_."
"The life of a _collaborateur_," said Rachel, "is one long act of
self-abnegation. Another takes all the honor--he all the labor. Thus
soldiers fall, and their generals reap the glory."
"A _collaborateur_," said a cynical-looking man who had not yet spoken,
"is a hackney vehicle which one hires on the road to fame, and dismisses
at the end of the journey."
"Sometimes without paying the fare," added a gentleman who had till now
been examining, weapon by weapon, all the curious poignards and pistols
on the table. "But what is this singular ornament?"
And he held up what appeared to be a large bone, perforated in several
The bald little man with the red and green ribbon uttered an exclamation
"It is a tibia!" said he, examining it through his double eye-glass.
"And what of that?" laughed Rachel. "Is it so wonderful to find one leg
in a collection of arms? However, not to puzzle you, I may as well
acknowledge that it was brought to me from Rome by a learned Italian,
and is a curious antique. The Romans made flutes of the leg-bones of
their enemies, and this is one of them."
"A melodious barbarism!" exclaimed one.
"Puts a 'stop,' at all events, to the enemy's flight!" said another.
"Almost as good as drinking out of his skull," added a third.
"Or as eating him, _tout de bon_," said Rachel.
"There must be a certain satisfaction in cannibalism," observed the
cynic who had spoken before. "There are people upon whom one would sup
"As, for instance, critics, who are our natural enemies," said Rachel.
"_C'est a dire_, if critics were not too sour to be eaten."
"Nay, with the sweet sauce of vengeance!"
"You speak feelingly, Monsieur de Musset. I am almost sorry, for your
sake, that cannibalism is out of fashion!"
"It is one of the penalties of civilization," replied de Musset, with a
shrug. "Besides, one would not wish to be an epicure."
Dalrymple, who had been listening somewhat disdainfully to this skirmish
of words, here touched me on the arm and turned away.
"Don't you hate this sort of high-pressure talk?" he said, impatiently.
"I was just thinking it so brilliant."
"Pshaw!--conversational fireworks--every speaker bent on eclipsing every
other speaker. It's an artificial atmosphere, my dear Damon--a sort of
forcing-house for good things; and I hate forced witticisms, as I hate
forced peas. But have you had enough of it? Or has this feast of reason
taken away your appetite for simpler fare?"
"If you mean, am I ready to go with you to Madame de Courcelles'--yes."
"_A la bonne heure_!"
"But you are not going away without taking leave of Madame Rachel?"
"Unquestionably. Leave-taking is a custom more honored in the breach
than the observance."
"But isn't that very impolite?"
"_Ingenu!_ Do you know that society ignores everything disagreeable? A
leave-taker sets an unpleasant example, disturbs the harmony of things,
and reminds others of their watches. Besides, he suggests unwelcome
possibilities. Perhaps he finds the party dull; or, worse still, he may
be going to one that is pleasanter."
By this time we were again rattling along the Boulevard. The theatres
were ablaze with lights. The road was full of carriages. The _trottoir_
was almost as populous as at noon. The idlers outside the _cafes_ were
still eating their ices and sipping their _eau-sucre_ as though, instead
of being past eleven at night, it was scarcely eleven in the morning. In
a few minutes, we had once more turned aside out of the great
thoroughfare, and stopped at a private house in a quiet street. A
carriage driving off, a cab drawing up behind our own, open windows with
drawn blinds, upon which were profiled passing shadows of the guests
within, and the ringing tones of a soprano voice, accompanied by a
piano, gave sufficient indication of a party, and had served to attract
a little crowd of soldiers and _gamins_ about the doorway.
Having left our over-coats with a servant, we were ushered upstairs,
and, as the song was not yet ended, slipped in unannounced and stationed
ourselves just between two crowded drawing-rooms, where, sheltered by
the folds of a muslin curtain, we could see all that was going on in
both. I observed, at a glance, that I was now in a society altogether
unlike that which I had just left.
At Rachel's there were present only two ladies besides herself, and
those were members of her own family. Here I found at least an equal
proportion of both sexes. At Rachel's a princely magnificence reigned.
Here the rooms were elegant, but simple; the paintings choice but few;
the ornaments costly, but in no unnecessary profusion.
"It is just the difference between taste and display," said Dalrymple.
"Rachel is an actress, and Madame de Courcelles is a lady. Rachel
exhibits her riches as an Indian chief exhibits the scalps of his
victims--Madame de Courcelles adorns her house with no other view than
to make it attractive to her friends."
"As a Greek girl covers her head with sequins to show the amount of her
fortune, and an English girl puts a rose in her hair for grace and
beauty only," said I, fancying that I had made rather a clever
observation. I was therefore considerably disappointed when Dalrymple
merely said, "just so."
The lady in the larger room here finished her song and returned to her
seat, amid a shower of _bravas_.
"She sings exquisitely," said I, following her with my eyes.
"And so she ought," replied my friend. "She is the Countess Rossi, whom
you may have heard of as Mademoiselle Sontag."
"What! the celebrated Sontag?" I exclaimed.
"The same. And the gentleman to whom she is now speaking is no less
famous a person than the author of _Pelham_."
I was as much delighted as a rustic at a menagerie, and Dalrymple,
seeing this, continued to point out one celebrity after another till I
began no longer to remember which was which. Thus Lamartine, Horace
Vernet, Scribe, Baron Humboldt, Miss Bremer, Arago, Auber, and Sir Edwin
Landseer, were successively indicated, and I thought myself one of the
most fortunate fellows in Paris, only to be allowed to look upon them.
"I suppose the spirit of lion-hunting is an original instinct," I said,
presently. "Call it vulgar excitement, if you will; but I must confess
that to see these people, and to be able to write about them to my
father, is just the most delightful thing that has happened to me since
I left home."
"Call things by their right names, Damon," said Dalrymple,
good-naturedly. "If you were a _parvenu_ giving a party, and wanted all
these fine folks to be seen at your house, that would be lion-hunting;
but being whom and what you are, it is hero-worship--a disease peculiar
to the young; wholesome and inevitable, like the measles."
"What have I done," said a charming voice close by, "that Captain
Dalrymple will not even deign to look upon me?"
The charming voice proceeded from the still more charming lips of an
exceedingly pretty brunette in a dress of light green silk, fastened
here and there with bouquets of rosebuds. Plump, rosy, black-haired,
bright-eyed, bewilderingly coquettish, this lady might have been about
thirty years of age, and seemed by no means unconscious of her powers of
"I implore a thousand pardons, Madame...." began my friend.
"_Comment_! A thousand pardons for a single offence!" exclaimed the
lady. "What an unreasonable culprit!"
To which she added, quite audibly, though behind the temporary shelter
of her fan:--
"Who is this _beau garcon_ whom you seem to have brought with you?"
I turned aside, affecting not to hear the question; but could not help
listening, nevertheless. Of Dalrymple's reply, however, I caught but
my own name.
"So much the better," observed the lady. "I delight in civilizing
handsome boys. Introduce him."
Dalrymple tapped me on the arm.
"Madame de Marignan permits me to introduce you, _mon ami_," said he.
"Mr. Basil Arbuthnot--Madame de Marignan."
I bowed profoundly--all the more profoundly because I felt myself
blushing to the eyes, and would not for the universe have been suspected
of overhearing the preceding conversation; nor was my timidity
alleviated when Dalrymple announced his intention of going in search of
Madame de Courcelles, and of leaving me in the care of Madame
"Now, Damon, make the most of your opportunities," whispered he, as he
passed by. "_Vogue la galere_!"
_Vogue la galere_, indeed! As if I had anything to do with the _galere_,
except to sit down in it, the most helpless of galley-slaves, and
blindly submit to the gyves and chains of Madame de Marignan, who,
regarding me as the lawful captive of her bow and spear, carried me off
at once to a vacant _causeuse_ in a distant corner.
To send me in search of a footstool, to make me hold her fan, to
overwhelm me with questions and bewilder me with a thousand coquetries,
were the immediate proceedings of Madame de Marignan. A consummate
tactician, she succeeded, before a quarter of an hour had gone by, in
putting me at my ease, and in drawing from me everything that I had to
tell--all my past; all my prospects for the future; the name and
condition of my father; a description of Saxonholme, and the very date
of my birth. Then she criticized all the ladies in the room, which only
drew my attention more admiringly upon herself; and she quizzed all the
young men, whereby I felt indirectly flattered, without exactly knowing
why; and she praised Dalrymple in terms for which I could have embraced
her on the spot had she been ten times less pretty, and ten times less
I was an easy victim, after all, and scarcely worth the powder and shot
of an experienced _franc-tireur;_ but Madame de Marignan, according to
her own confession, had a taste for civilizing "handsome boys," and as I
may, perhaps, have come under that category a good many years ago, the
little victory amused her! By the time, at all events, that Dalrymple
returned to tell me it was past one o'clock in the morning, and I must
be introduced to the mistress of the house before leaving, my head was
as completely turned as that of old Time himself.
"Past one!" I exclaimed. "Impossible! We cannot have been here half-an
At which neither Dalrymple nor Madame de Marignan could forbear smiling.
"I hope our acquaintance is not to end here, monsieur," said Madame de
Marignan. "I live in the Rue Castellane, and am at home to my friends
every Wednesday evening."
I bowed almost to my boots.
"And to my intimates, every morning from twelve to two," she added very
softly, with a dimpled smile that went straight to my heart, and set it
beating like the paddle-wheels of a steamer.
I stammered some incoherent thanks, bowed again, nearly upset a servant
with a tray of ices, and, covered with confusion, followed Dalrymple
into the farther room. Here I was introduced to Madame de Courcelles, a
pale, aristocratic woman some few years younger than Madame de Marignan,
and received a gracious invitation to all her Monday receptions. But I
was much less interested in Madame de Courcelles than I should have been
a couple of hours before. I scarcely looked at her, and five minutes
after I was out of her presence, could not have told whether she was
fair or dark, if my life had depended on it!
"What say you to walking home?" said Dalrymple, as we went down stairs.
"It is a superb night, and the fresh air would be delightful after these
I assented gladly; so we dismissed the cab, and went out, arm-in-arm,
along a labyrinth of quiet streets lighted by gas-lamps few and far
between, and traversed only by a few homeward-bound pedestrians.
Emerging presently at the back of the Madeleine, we paused for a moment
to admire the noble building by moonlight; then struck across the Marche
aux Fleurs and took our way along the Boulevard.
"Are you tired, Damon?" said Dalrymple presently.
"Not in the least," I replied, with my head full of Madame de Marignan.
"Would you like to look in at an artists' club close by here, where I
have the _entree?_--queer place enough, but amusing to a stranger."
"Yes, very much."
"Come along, then; but first button up your overcoat to the throat, and
tie this colored scarf round your neck. See, I do the same. Now take off
your gloves--that's it. And give your hat the least possible inclination
to the left ear. You may turn up the bottoms of your trousers, if you
like--anything to look a little slangy."
"Is that necessary?"
"Indispensable--at all events in the honorable society of _Les
"_Les Chicards_!" I repeated. "What are they?"
"It is the name of the club, and means--Heaven only knows what! for
Greek or Latin root it has none, and record of it there exists not,
unless in the dictionary of Argot. And yet if you were an old Parisian
and had matriculated for the last dozen years at the Bal de l'Opera, you
would know the illustrious Chicard by sight as familiarly as Punch, or
Paul Pry, or Pierrot. He is a gravely comic personage with a bandage
over one eye, a battered hat considerably inclining to the back of his
head, a coat with a high collar and long tails, and a _tout ensemble_
indescribably seedy--something between a street preacher and a
travelling showman. But here we are. Take care how you come down, and
mind your head."
Having turned aside some few minutes before into the Rue St. Honore, we
had thence diverged down a narrow street with a gutter running along the
middle and no foot-pavements on either side. The houses seemed to be
nearly all shops, some few of which, for the retailing of
_charbonnerie_, stale vegetables, uninviting cooked meats, and so forth,
were still open; but that before which we halted was closely shuttered
up, with only a private door open at the side, lighted by a single
oil-lamp. Following my friend for a couple of yards along the dim
passage within, I became aware of strange sounds, proceeding apparently
from the bowels of the earth, and found myself at the head of a steep
staircase, down which it was necessary to proceed with my body bent
almost double, in consequence of the close proximity of the ceiling and
the steps. At the foot of this staircase came another dim passage and
another oil-lamp over a low door, at which Dalrymple paused a moment
before entering. The sounds which I had heard above now resolved
themselves into their component parts, consisting of roars of laughter,
snatches of songs, clinkings of glasses, and thumpings of bottles upon
tables, to the accompaniment of a deep bass hum of conversation, all of
which prepared me to find a very merry company within.
THE HONORABLE SOCIETY OF LES CHICARDS.
"When a set of men find themselves agree in any particular,
though never so trivial, they establish themselves into a
kind of fraternity, and meet once or twice a
It was a long, low room lighted by gas, with a table reaching from end
to end. Round about this table, in various stages of conviviality and
conversation, were seated some thirty or forty men, capped, bearded, and
eccentric-looking, with all kinds of queer blouses and wonderful heads
of hair. Dropping into a couple of vacant chairs at the lower end of
this table, we called for a bottle of Chablis, lit our cigars, and fell
in with the general business of the evening. At the top, dimly visible
through a dense fog of tobacco smoke, sat a stout man in a green coat
fastened by a belt round the waist. He was evidently the President, and,
instead of a hammer, had a small bugle lying by his side, which he blew
from time to time to enforce silence.
Somewhat perplexed by the general aspect of the club, I turned to my
companion for an explanation.
"Is it possible," I asked, "that these amazing individuals are all
artists and gentlemen?"
"Artists, every one," replied Dalrymple; "but as to their claim to be
gentlemen, I won't undertake to establish it. After all, the _Chicards_
are not first-rate men."
"What are they, then?"
"Oh, the Helots of the profession--hewers of wood engravings, and
drawers of water-colors, with a sprinkling of daguerreotypists, and
academy students. But hush--somebody is going to sing!"
And now, heralded by a convulsive flourish from the President's bugle, a
Back to Full Books