In the Days of My Youth
Amelia Ann Blandford Edwards
Part 3 out of 10
young _Chicard_, whose dilapidated outer man sufficiently contradicted
the burthen of his song, shouted with better will than skill, a
_chanson_ of Beranger's, every verse of which ended with:--
"J'ai cinquante ecus,
J'ai cinquante ecus,
J'ai cinquante ecus de rente!"
Having brought this performance to a satisfactory conclusion, the singer
sat down amid great clapping of hands and clattering of glasses, and the
President, with another flourish on the bugle, called upon one Monsieur
Tourterelle. Monsieur Tourterelle was a tall, gaunt, swarthy personage,
who appeared to have cultivated his beard at the expense of his head,
since the former reached nearly to his waist, while the latter was as
bare as a billiard-ball. Preparing himself for the effort with a
wine-glass full of raw cognac, this gentleman leaned back in his chair,
stuck his thumbs into the armholes of his waistcoat, fixed his eyes on
the ceiling, and plunged at once into a doleful ballad about one
Mademoiselle Rosine, and a certain village _aupres de la mer_, which
seemed to be in an indefinite number of verses, and amused no one but
himself. In the midst of this ditty, just as the audience had begun to
testify their impatience by much whispering and shuffling of feet, an
elderly _Chicard_, with a very bald and shiny head, was discovered to
have fallen asleep in the seat next but one to my own; whereupon my
nearest neighbor, a merry-looking young fellow with a profusion of rough
light hair surmounted by a cap of scarlet cloth, forthwith charred a
cork in one of the candles, and decorated the bald head of the sleeper
with a comic countenance and a pair of huge mustachios. An uproarious
burst of laughter was the immediate result, and the singer, interrupted
somewhere about his 18th verse, subsided into offended silence.
"Monsieur Mueller is requested to favor the honorable society with a
song," cried the President, as soon as the tumult had somewhat subsided.
My red-capped neighbor, answering to that name, begged to be excused, on
the score of having pledged his _ut de poitrine_ a week since at the
Mont de Piete, without yet having been able to redeem it. This apology
was received with laughter, hisses, and general incredulity.
"But," he added, "I am willing to relate an adventure that happened to
myself in Rome two winters ago, if my honorable brother _Chicards_ will
be pleased to hear it."
An immense burst of approbation from all but Monsieur Tourterelle and
the bald sleeper, followed this announcement; and so, after a
preliminary _grog au vin_, and another explosive demonstration on the
part of the chairman, Monsieur Mueller thus began:--
THE STUDENT'S STORY.
"When I was in Rome, I lodged in the Via Margutta, which, for the
benefit of those who have not been there, may be described as a street
of studios and stables, crossed at one end by a little roofed gallery
with a single window, like a shabby 'Bridge of Sighs,' A gutter runs
down the middle, interrupted occasionally by heaps of stable-litter; and
the perspective is damaged by rows of linen suspended across the street
at uncertain intervals. The houses in this agreeable thoroughfare are
dingy, dilapidated, and comfortless, and all which are not in use as
stables, are occupied by artists. However, it was a very jolly place,
and I never was happier anywhere in my life. I had but just touched my
little patrimony, and I was acquainted with plenty of pleasant fellows
who used to come down to my rooms at night from the French Academy where
they had been studying all day. Ah, what evenings those were! What
suppers we used to have in from the _Lepre_! What lots of Orvieto we
drank! And what a mountain of empty wicker bottles had to be cleared
away from the little square yard with the solitary lemon-tree at the
back of the house!"
"Come, Mueller--no fond memories!" cried a student in a holland blouse.
"Get on with the story."
"Ay, get on with the story!" echoed several voices.
To which Mueller, who took advantage of the interruption to finish his
_grog au vin_, deigned no reply.
"Well," he continued, "like a good many other fellows who, having
everything to learn and nothing to do, fancy themselves great geniuses
only because they are in Rome, I put a grand brass plate on the door,
testifying to all passers-by that mine was the STUDIO DI HERR FRANZ
MULLER; and, having done this, I believed, of course, that my fortune
was to be made out of hand. Nothing came of it, however. People in
search of Dessoulavy's rooms knocked occasionally to ask their way, and
a few English and Americans dropped in from time to time to stare about
them, after the free-and-easy fashion of foreigners in Rome; but, for
all this, I found no patrons. Thus several months went by, during which
I studied from the life, worked hard at the antique, and relieved the
monotony of study with occasional trips to Frascati, or supper parties
at the Cafe Greco."
"The story! the story!" interrupted a dozen impatient voices.
"All in good time," said Mueller, with provoking indifference. "We are
now coming to it."
And assuming an attitude expressive of mystery, he dropped his voice,
looked round the table, and proceeded:--
"It was on the last evening of the Carnival. It had been raining at
intervals during the day, but held up for a good hour just at dusk, as
if on purpose for the _moccoli_. Scarcely, however, had the guns of St.
Angelo thundered an end to the frolic, when the rain came down again in
torrents, and put out the last tapers that yet lingered along the Corso.
Wet, weary, and splashed from head to foot with mud and tallow, I came
home about seven o'clock, having to dine and dress before going to a
masked-ball in the evening. To light my stove, change my wet clothes,
and make the best of a half-cold _trattore_ dinner, were my first
proceedings; after which, I laid out my costume ready to put on, wrapped
myself in a huge cloak, swallowed a tumbler full of hot cognac and
water, and lay down in front of the fire, determined to have a sound nap
and a thorough warming, before venturing out again that night. I fell
asleep, of course, and never woke till roused by a tremendous peal upon
the studio-bell, about two hours and a half afterwards. More dead than
alive, I started to my feet. The fire had gone out in the stove; the
room was in utter darkness; and the bell still pealed loud enough to
raise the neighborhood.
"'Who's there?' I said, half-opening the door, through which the wind
and rain came rushing. 'And what, in the name of ten thousand devils, do
"'I want an artist,' said my visitor, in Italian. 'Are you one?'
"'I flatter myself that I am,' replied I, still holding the door
"'Can you paint heads?'
"'Heads, figures, landscapes--anything,' said I, with my teeth
chattering like castanets.
"The stranger pushed the door open, walked in without further ceremony,
closed it behind him, and said, in a low, distinct voice:--
"'Could you take the portrait of a dead man?'
"'Of a dead man?' I stammered. 'I--I ... Suppose I strike a light?'
"The stranger laid his hand upon my arm.
"'Not till you have given me an answer,' said he. 'Yes or no? Remember,
you will be paid well for your work.'
"'Well, then--yes,' I replied.
"'And can you do it at once?'
"'Ay, Signore, will you bring your colors, and come with me this
instant--or must I seek some other painter?'
"I thought of the masked-ball, and sighed; but the promise of good
payment, and, above all, the peculiarity of the adventure determined me.
"'Nay, if it is to be done,' said I, 'one time is as good as another.
Let me strike a light, and I will at once pack up my colors and come
"'_Bene_!' said the stranger. 'But be as quick as you can, Signore, for
"I was quick, you may be sure, and yet not so quick but that I found
time to look at my strange visitor. He was a dark, elderly man, dressed
in a suit of plain black, and might have been a clerk, or a tradesman,
or a confidential servant. As soon as I was ready, he took the lead;
conducted me to a carriage which was waiting at the corner of a
neighboring street; took his place respectfully on the opposite seat;
pulled down both the blinds, and gave the word to drive on. I never knew
by what streets we went, or to what part of Rome he took me; but the way
seemed long and intricate. At length, we stopped and alighted. The night
was pitch-dark, and still stormy. I saw before me only the outline of a
large building, indistinct and gloomy, and a small open door dimly
lighted-from within. Hurried across the strip of narrow pavement, and
shut in immediately, I had no time to identify localities--no choice,
except to follow my conductor and blindly pursue the adventure to its
close. Having entered by a back door, we went up and down a labyrinth of
staircases and passages, for the mere purpose, as it seemed, of
bewildering me as much as possible--then paused before an oaken door at
the end of the corridor. Here my conductor signified by a gesture that I
was to precede him.
"It was a large, panelled chamber, richly furnished. A wood fire
smouldered on the hearth--a curtained alcove to the left partly
concealed a bed--a corresponding alcove to the right, fitted with altar
and crucifix, served as an oratory. In the centre of the room stood a
table covered with a cloth. It needed no second glance to tell me what
object lay beneath that cloth, uplifting it in ghastly outline! My
conductor pointed to the table, and asked if there was anything I
needed. To this I replied that I must have more light and more fire, and
so proceeded to disembarrass myself of my cloak, and prepare my palette.
In the meantime, he threw on a log and some pine-cones, and went to
fetch an additional lamp.
"Left alone with the body and impelled by an irresistible impulse, I
rolled back the cloth and saw before me the corpse of a young man in
fancy dress--a magnificent fellow cast in the very mould of strength and
grace, and measuring his six feet, if an inch. The features were
singularly handsome; the brow open and resolute; the hair dark, and
crisp with curls. Looking more closely, I saw that a lock had been
lately cut from the right temple, and found one of the severed hairs
upon the cheek, where it had fallen. The dress was that of a jester of
the middle ages, half scarlet and half white, with a rich belt round the
waist. In this belt, as if in horrible mockery of the dead, was stuck a
tiny baton surmounted by a fool's cap, and hung with silver bells.
Looking down thus upon the body--so young, so beautiful, so evidently
unprepared for death--a conviction of foul play flashed upon me with all
the suddenness and certainty of revelation. Here were no appearances of
disease and no signs of strife. The expression was not that of a man who
had fallen weapon in hand. Neither, however, was it that of one who had
died in the agony of poison. The longer I looked, the more mysterious it
seemed; yet the more I felt assured that there was guilt at the bottom
of the mystery.
"While I was yet under the first confused and shuddering impression of
this doubt, my guide came back with a powerful solar lamp, and, seeing
me stand beside the body, said sharply:--
"'Well, Signore, you look as if you had never seen a dead man before in
all your life!'
"'I have seen plenty,' I replied, 'but never one so young, and so
"'He dropped down quite suddenly,' said he, volunteering the
information, 'and died in a few minutes. 'Then finding that I remained
"'But I am told that it is always so in cases of heart-disease.'
"'I turned away without replying, and, having placed the lamp to my
satisfaction, began rapidly sketching in my subject. My instructions
were simple. I was to give the head only; to produce as rapid an effect
with as little labor as possible; to alter nothing; to add nothing; and,
above all, to be ready to leave the house before daybreak. So I set
steadily to work, and my conductor, establishing himself in an
easy-chair by the fire, watched my progress for some time, and then, as
the night advanced, fell profoundly asleep. Thus, hour after hour went
by, and, absorbed in my work, I painted on, unconscious of fatigue--
might almost say with something of a morbid pleasure in the task before
me. The silence within; the raving of the wind and rain without; the
solemn mystery of death, and the still more solemn mystery of crime
which, as I followed out train after train of wild conjectures, grew to
still deeper conviction, had each and all their own gloomy fascination.
Was it not possible, I asked myself, by mere force of will to penetrate
the secret? Was it not possible to study that dead face till the springs
of thought so lately stilled within the stricken brain should vibrate
once more, if only for an instant, as wire vibrates to wire, and sound
to sound! Could I not, by long studying of the passive mouth, compel
some sympathetic revelation of the last word that it uttered, though
that revelation took no outward form, and were communicable to the
apprehension only? Pondering thus, I lost myself in a labyrinth of
fantastic reveries, till the hand and the brain worked independently of
each other--the one swiftly reproducing upon canvas the outer lineaments
of the dead; the other laboring to retrace foregone facts of which no
palpable evidence remained. Thus my work progressed; thus the night
waned; thus the sleeper by the fireside stirred from time to time, or
moaned at intervals in his dreams.
"At length, when many hours had gone by, and I began to be conscious of
the first languor of sleeplessness, I heard, or fancied I heard, a light
sound in the corridor without. I held my breath, and listened. As I
listened, it ceased--was renewed--drew nearer--paused outside the door.
Involuntarily, I rose and looked round for some means of defence, in
case of need. Was I brought here to perpetuate the record of a crime,
and was I, when my task was done, to be silenced in a dungeon, or a
grave? This thought flashed upon me almost before I was conscious of the
horror it involved. At the same moment, I saw the handle of the door
turned slowly and cautiously--then held back--and then, after a brief
pause, the door itself gradually opening."
Here the student paused as if overcome by the recollection of that
moment, and passed his hand nervously across his brow. I took the
liberty of pushing our bottle of Chablis towards him, for which he
thanked me with a nod and a smile, and filled his glass to the brim.
"Well?" cried two or three voices eagerly; my own being one of them.
"The door opened--what then?"
"And a lady entered," he continued. "A lady dressed in black from head
to foot, with a small lamp in her hand. Seeing me, she laid her finger
significantly on her lip, closed the door as cautiously as she had
opened it, and, with the faltering, uncertain steps of one just risen
from a sick-bed, came over to where I had been sitting, and leaned for
support against my chair. She was very pale, very calm, very young and
beautiful, with just that look of passive despair in her face that one
sees in Guido's portrait of Beatrice Cenci. Standing thus, I observed
that she kept her eyes turned from the corpse, and her attention
concentrated on the portrait. So several minutes passed, and neither of
us spoke nor stirred. Then, slowly, shudderingly, she turned, grasped me
by the arm, pointed to the dead form stretched upon the table, and less
with her breath than by the motion of her lips, shaped out the one
"Stunned by this confirmation of my doubts, I could only clasp my hands
in mute horror, and stare helplessly from the lady to the corpse, from
the corpse to the sleeper. Wildly, feverishly, with all her calmness
turned to eager haste, she then bent over the body, tore open the rich
doublet, turned back the shirt, and, without uttering one syllable,
pointed to a tiny puncture just above the region of the heart--a spot so
small, so insignificant, such a mere speck upon the marble, that but for
the pale violet discoloration which spread round it like a halo, I could
scarcely have believed it to be the cause of death. The wound had
evidently bled inwardly, and, being inflicted with some singularly
slender weapon, had closed again so completely as to leave an aperture
no larger than might have been caused by the prick of a needle. While I
was yet examining it, the fire fell together, and my conductor stirred
uneasily in his sleep. To cover the body hastily with the cloth and
resume my seat, was, with me, the instinctive work of a moment; but he
was quiet again the next instant, and breathing heavily. With trembling
hands, my visitor next re-closed the shirt and doublet, replaced the
outer covering, and bending down till her lips almost touched my ear,
"'You have seen it. If called upon to do so, will you swear it?'
"'You will not let yourself be intimidated by threats? nor bribed by
gold? nor lured by promises?
"'Never, so help me Heaven!'
"She looked into my eyes, as if she would read my very soul; then,
before I knew what she was about to do, seized my hand, and pressed it
to her lip.
"'I believe you,' she said. 'I believe, and I thank you. Not a word to
him that you have seen me'--here she pointed to the sleeper by the fire.
'He is faithful; but not to my interests alone. I dare tell you no
more--at all events, not now. Heaven bless and reward you. In this
portrait you give me the only treasure--the only consolation of my
"So saying, she took a ring from her finger, pressed it, without another
word, into my unwilling hand; and, with the same passive dreary look
that her face had worn on first entering took up her lamp again, and
glided from the room.
"How the next hour, or half hour, went by, I know not--except that I sat
before the canvas like one dreaming. Now and then I added a few touches;
but mechanically, and, as it were, in a trance of wonder and dismay. I
had, however, made such good progress before being interrupted, that
when my companion woke and told me it would soon be day and I must make
haste to be gone, the portrait was even more finished than I had myself
hoped to make it in the time. So I packed up my colors and palette
again, and, while I was doing so, observed that he not only drew the
cloth once more over the features of the dead, but concealed the
likeness behind the altar in the oratory, and even restored the chairs
to their old positions against the wall. This done, he extinguished the
solar lamp; put it out of sight; desired me once more to follow him; and
led the way back along the same labyrinth of staircases and corridors by
which he brought me. It was gray dawn as he hurried me into the coach.
The blinds were already down--the door was instantly closed--again we
seemed to be going through an infinite number of streets--again we
stopped, and I found myself at the corner of the Via Margutta.
"'Alight, Signore,' said the stranger, speaking for the first time since
we started. 'Alight--you are but a few yards from your own door. Here
are a hundred scudi; and all that you have now to do, is to forget your
night's work, as if it had never been.'
"With this he closed the carriage-door, the horses dashed on again, and,
before I had time even to see if any arms were blazoned on the panels,
the whole equipage had disappeared.
"And here, strange to say, the adventure ended. I never was called upon
for evidence. I never saw anything more of the stranger, or the lady. I
never heard of any sudden death, or accident, or disappearance having
taken place about that time; and I never even obtained any clue to the
neighborhood of the house in which these things took place. Often and
often afterwards, when I was strolling by night along the streets of
Rome, I lingered before some old palazzo, and fancied that I recognised
the gloomy outline that caught my eye in that hurried transit from the
carriage to the house. Often and often I paused and started, thinking
that I had found at last the very side-door by which I entered. But
these were mere guesses after all. Perhaps that house stood in some
remote quarter of the city where my footsteps never went again--perhaps
in some neighboring street or piazza, where I passed it every day! At
all events, the whole thing vanished like a dream, and, but for the ring
and the hundred scudi, a dream I should by this time believe it to have
been. The scudi, I am sorry to say, were spent within a month--the ring
I have never parted from, and here it is."
Hereupon the student took from his finger a superb ruby set between two
brilliants of inferior size, and allowed it to pass from hand to hand,
all round the table. Exclamations of surprise and admiration,
accompanied by all sorts of conjectures and comments, broke from
"The dead man was the lady's lover," said one. "That is why she wanted
"Of course, and her husband had murdered him," said another.
"Who, then, was the man in black?" asked a third.
"A servant, to be sure. She said, if you remember, that he was faithful;
but not devoted to her interests alone. That meant that he would obey to
the extent of procuring for her the portrait of her lover; but that he
did not choose to betray his master, even though his master was a
"But if so, where was the master?" said the first speaker. "Is it likely
that he would have neglected to conceal the body during all
"Certainly. Nothing more likely, if he were a man of the world, and knew
how to play his game out boldly to the end. Have we not been told that
it was the last night of the Carnival, and what better could he do, to
avert suspicion, than show himself at as many balls as he could visit in
the course of the evening? But really, this ring is magnificent!"
"Superb. The ruby alone must be worth a thousand francs."
"To say nothing of the diamonds, and the setting," observed the next to
whom it was handed.
At length, after having gone nearly the round of the table, the ring
came to a little dark, sagacious-looking man, just one seat beyond
Dalrymple's, who peered at it suspiciously on every side, breathed upon
it, rubbed it bright again upon his coat-sleeve, and, finally, held the
stones up sideways between his eyes and the light.
"Bah!" said he, sending it on with a contemptuous fillip of the
forefinger and thumb. "Glass and paste, _mon ami_. Not worth five francs
of anybody's money."
Mueller, who had been eyeing him all the time with an odd smile lurking
about the corners of his mouth, emptied his last drop of Chablis, turned
the glass over on the table, bottom upwards, and said very coolly:--
"Well, I'm sorry for that; because I gave seven francs for it myself
this morning, in the Palais Royal."
"Bought in the Palais Royal!"
"What does he mean?"
"Mean?" echoed the student, in reply to this chorus of exclamations. "I
mean that I bought it this morning, and gave seven francs for it. It is
not every morning of my life, let me tell you, that I have seven francs
to throw away on my personal appearance."
"But then the ring that the lady took from her finger?"
"And the murder?"
"And the servant in black?"
"And the hundred scudi?"
"One great invention from beginning to end, Messieurs les Chicards, and
being got up expressly for your amusement, I hope you liked it.
_Garcon?_--another _grog au vin_, and sweeter than the last!"
It would be difficult to say whether the Chicards were most disappointed
or delighted at this _denoument_--disappointed at its want of fact, or
delighted with the story-weaving power of Herr Franz Mueller. They
expressed themselves, at all events, with a tumultuous burst of
applause, in the midst of which we rose and left the room. When we once
more came out into the open air, the stars had disappeared and the air
was heavy with the damps of approaching daybreak. Fortunately, we caught
an empty _fiacre_ in the next street and, as we were nearer the Rue du
Faubourg Montmartre than the Chaussee d' Antin, Dalrymple set me
"Adieu, Damon," he said, laughingly, as we shook hands through the
window. "If we don't meet before, come and dine with me next Sunday at
seven o'clock--and don't dream of dreadful murders, if you can help it!"
I did not dream of dreadful murders. I dreamt, instead, of Madame de
Marignan, and never woke the next morning till eleven o'clock, just two
hours later than the time at which I should have presented myself at
* * * * *
WHAT IT IS TO BE A CAVALIERE SERVENTE.
"Everye white will have its blacke,
And everye sweet its sowere."
Neither the example of Oscar Dalrymple nor the broadcloth of the great
Michaud, achieved half so much for my education as did the
apprenticeship I was destined to serve to Madame de Marignan. Having
once made up her mind to civilize me, she spared no pains for the
accomplishment of that end, cost what it might to herself--or me. Before
I had been for one week her subject, she taught me how to bow; how to
pick up a pocket-handkerchief; how to present a bouquet; how to hold a
fan; how to pay a compliment; how to turn over the leaves of a
music-book--in short, how to obey and anticipate every imperious wish;
and how to fetch and carry, like a dog. My vassalage began from the very
day when I first ventured to call upon her. Her house was small, but
very elegant, and she received me in a delicious little room overlooking
the Champs Elysees--a very nest of flowers, books, and birds. Before I
had breathed the air of that fatal boudoir for one quarter of an hour, I
was as abjectly her slave as the poodle with the rose-colored collar
which lay curled upon a velvet cushion at her feet.
"I shall elect you my _cavaliere servente_," said she, after I had twice
nervously risen to take my leave within the first half hour, and twice
been desired to remain a little longer. "Will you accept the office?"
I thought it the greatest privilege under heaven. Perhaps I said so.
"The duties of the situation are onerous," added she, "and I ought not
to accept your allegiance without setting them before you. In the first
place, you will have to bring me every new novel of George Sand,
Flaubert, or About, on the day of publication."
"I will move heaven and earth to get them the day before, if that be
all!" I exclaimed.
Madame de Marignan nodded approvingly, and went on telling off my
duties, one by one, upon her pretty fingers.
"You will have to accompany me to the Opera at least twice a week, on
which occasions you will bring me a bouquet--camellias being my
"Were they the flowers that bloom but once in a century," said I, with
more enthusiasm than sense, "they should be yours!"
Madame de Marignan smiled and nodded again.
"When I drive in the Bois, you will sometimes take a seat in my
carriage, and sometimes ride beside it, like an attentive cavalier."
I was just about to avow that I had no horse, when I remembered that I
could borrow Dalrymple's, or hire one, if necessary; so I checked
myself, and bowed.
"When I go to an exhibition," said Madame de Marignan, "it will be your
business to look out the pictures in the catalogue--when I walk, you
will carry my parasol--when I go into a shop, you will take care of my
dog--when I embroider, you will wind off my silks, and look for my
scissors--when I want amusement, you must make me laugh--and when I am
sleepy, you must read to me. In short, my _cavaliere servente_ must be
"Then, like your shadow, Madame," said I, "his place is ever at your
feet, and that is all I desire!"
Madame de Marignan laughed outright, and showed the loveliest little
double row of pearls in all the world.
"Admirable!" said she. "Quite an elegant compliment, and worthy of an
accomplished lady-killer! _Allons_! you are a promising scholar."
"In all that I have dared to say, Madame, I am, at least, sincere," I
added, abashed by the kind of praise.
"Sincere? Of course you are sincere. Who ever doubted it? Nay, to blush
like that is enough to spoil the finest compliment in the world.
There--it is three o'clock, and at half-past I have an engagement, for
which I must now make my _toilette_. Come to-morrow evening to my box at
the _Italiens_, and so adieu. Stay--being my _cavaliere_, I permit you,
at parting, to kiss my hand."
Trembling, breathless, scarcely daring to touch it with mine, I lifted
the soft little hand to my lips, stammered something which was, no
doubt, sufficiently foolish, and hurried away, as if I were treading on
air and breathing sunshine.
All the rest of that day went by in a kind of agreeable delirium. I
walked about, almost without knowledge where I went. I talked, without
exactly knowing what I said. I have some recollection of marching to and
fro among the side-alleys of the Bois de Boulogne, which at that time
was really a woody park, and not a pleasure-garden--of lying under a
tree, and listening to the birds overhead, and indulging myself in some
idiotic romance about love, and solitude, and Madame de Marignan--of
wandering into a _restaurant_ somewhere about seven o'clock, and sitting
down to a dinner for which I had no appetite--of going back, sometime
during the evening, to the Rue Castellane, and walking to and fro on the
opposite side of the way, looking up for ever so long at the darkened
windows where my divinity did not show herself--of coming back to my
lodgings, weary, dusty, and not a bit more sober, somewhere about
eleven o'clock at night, driven to-bed by sheer fatigue, and, even then,
too much in love to go to sleep!
The next day I went through my duties at Dr. Cheron's, and attended an
afternoon lecture at the hospital; but mechanically, like one dreaming.
In the evening I presented myself at the Opera, where Madame de Marignan
received me very graciously, and deigned to accept a superb bouquet for
which I had paid sixteen francs. I found her surrounded by elegant men,
who looked upon me as nobody, and treated me accordingly. Driven to the
back of the box where I could neither speak to her, nor see the stage,
nor achieve even a glimpse of the house, I spent an evening which
certainly fell short of my anticipations. I had, however, the
gratification of seeing my bouquet thrown to Grisi at the end of the
second act, and was permitted the privilege of going in search of Madame
de Marignan's carriage, while somebody else handed her downstairs, and
assisted her with her cloak. A whispered word of thanks, a tiny pressure
of the hand, and the words "come early to-morrow," compensated me,
nevertheless, for every disappointment, and sent me home as blindly
happy as ever.
The next day I called upon her, according to command, and was
transported to the seventh heaven by receiving permission to accompany
her to a morning concert, whereby I missed two lectures, and spent
On the Sunday, having hired a good horse for the occasion, I had the
honor of riding beside her carriage till some better-mounted
acquaintance came to usurp my place and her attention; after which I was
forced to drop behind and bear the eclipse of my glory as
philosophically as I could.
Thus day after day went by, and, for the delusive sake of Madame de
Marignan's bright eyes, I neglected my studies, spent my money, wasted
my time, and incurred the displeasure of Dr. Cheron. Led on from folly
to folly, I was perpetually buoyed up by coquetries which meant nothing,
and as perpetually mortified, disappointed, and neglected. I hoped; I
feared; I fretted; I lost my sleep and my appetite; I felt dissatisfied
with all the world, sometimes blaming myself, and sometimes her--yet
ready to excuse and forgive her at a moment's notice. A boy in
experience even more than in years, I loved with a boy's headlong
passion, and suffered with all a boy's acute susceptibility. I was
intensely sensitive--abashed by a slight, humbled by a glance, and so
easily wounded that there were often times when, seeing myself
forgotten, I could with difficulty drive back the tears that kept rising
to my eyes. On the other hand, I was as easily elated. A kind word, an
encouraging smile, a lingering touch upon my sleeve, was enough at any
time to make me forget all my foregone troubles. How often the mere gift
of a flower sent me home rejoicing! How the tiniest show of preference
set my heart beating! How proud I was if mine was the arm chosen to lead
her to her carriage! How more than happy, if allowed for even one
half-hour in the whole evening to occupy the seat beside her own! To
dangle after her the whole day long--to traverse all Paris on her
errands--to wait upon her pleasure like a slave, and this, too, without
even expecting to be thanked for my devotion, seemed the most natural
thing in the world. She was capricious; but caprice became her. She was
exacting; but her exactions were so coquettish and attractive, that one
would not have wished her more reasonable. She was, at least, ten or
twelve years my senior; but boys proverbially fall in love with women
older than themselves, and this one was in all respects so charming,
that I do not, even now, wonder at my infatuation.
After all, there are few things under heaven more beautiful, or more
touching, than a boy's first love.
Passionate is it as a man's--pure as a woman's--trusting
as a child's--timid, through the very excess of its
unselfishness--chivalrous, as though handed down direct from the days of
old romance--poetical beyond the utterances of the poet. To the
boy-lover, his mistress is only something less than a divinity. He
believes in her truth as in his own; in her purity, as in the sun at
noon. Her practised arts of voice and manner are, in his eyes, the
unstudied graces that spring as naturally from her beauty as the scent
from the flower. Single-hearted himself, it seems impossible that she
whom he adores should trifle with the most sacred sentiment he has ever
known. Conscious of his own devotion, he cannot conceive that his wealth
is poured forth in vain, and that he is but the plaything of her idle
hours. Yet it is so. The boy's first love is almost always misplaced;
seldom rated at its true value; hardly ever productive of anything but
disappointment. Aspirant of the highest mysteries of the soul, he passes
through the ordeal of fire and tears, happy if he keep his faith
unshaken and his heart pure, for the wiser worship hereafter. We all
know this; and few know it better than myself. Yet, with all its
suffering, which of us would choose to obliterate all record of his
first romance? Which of us would be without the memory of its smiles and
tears, its sunshine and its clouds? Not I for one.
A CONTRETEMPS IN A CARRIAGE.
My slavery lasted somewhat longer than three weeks, and less than a
month; and was brought, oddly enough, to an abrupt conclusion. This was
how it happened.
I had, as usual, attended Madame de Marignan one evening to the Opera,
and found myself, also as usual, neglected for a host of others. There
was one man in particular whom I hated, and whom (perhaps because I
hated him) she distinguished rather more than the rest. His name was
Delaroche, and he called himself Monsieur le Comte Delaroche. Most
likely he was a Count---I have no reason to doubt his title; but I chose
to doubt it for mere spite, and because he was loud and conceited, and
wore a little red and green ribbon in his button-hole. He had, besides,
an offensive sense of my youth and his own superiority, which I have
never forgiven to this day. On the particular occasion of which I am
now speaking, this person had made his appearance in Madame de
Marignan's box at the close of the first act, established himself in the
seat behind hers, and there held the lists against all comers during the
remainder of the evening. Everything he said, everything he did,
aggravated me. When he looked through her lorgnette, I loathed him. When
he admired her fan, I longed to thrust it down his throat. When he held
her bouquet to his odious nose (the bouquet that I had given her!) I
felt it would have been justifiable manslaughter to take him up bodily,
and pitch him over into the pit.
At length the performance came to a close, and M. Delaroche, having
taken upon himself to arrange Madame de Marignan's cloak, carry Madame
de Marignan's fan, and put Madame de Marignan's opera-glass into its
morocco case, completed his officiousness by offering his arm and
conducting her into the lobby, whilst I, outwardly indifferent but
inwardly boiling, dropped behind, and consigned him silently to all the
torments of the seven circles.
It was an oppressive autumnal night without a star in the sky, and so
still that one might have carried a lighted taper through the streets.
Finding it thus warm, Madame de Marignan proposed walking down the line
of carriages, instead of waiting till her own came up; and so she and M.
Delaroche led the way and I followed. Having found the carriage, he
assisted her in, placed her fan and bouquet on the opposite seat,
lingered a moment at the open door, and had the unparalleled audacity to
raise her hand to his lips at parting. As for me, I stood proudly back,
and lifted my hat.
"_Comment_!" she said, holding out her hand--the pretty, ungloved hand
that had just been kissed--"is that your good night?"
I bowed over the hand, I would not have touched it with my lips at that
moment for all the wealth of Paris.
"You are coming to me to-morrow morning at twelve?" she murmured
"If Madame desires it."
"Of course I desire it. I am going to Auteuil, to look at a house for a
friend--and to Pignot's for some flowers--and to Lubin's for some
scent--and to a host of places. What should I do without you? Nay, why
that grave face? Have I done anything to offend you?"
"Madame, I--I confess that--"
"That you are jealous of that absurd Delaroche, who is so much in love
with himself that he has no place in his heart for any one else! _Fi
donc!_ I am ashamed of you. There--adieu, twelve to-morrow!"
And with this she laughed, waved her hand, gave the signal to drive on,
and left me looking after the carriage, still irritated but already
I then sauntered moodily on, thinking of my tyrant, and her caprices,
and her beauty. Her smile, for instance; surely it was the sweetest
smile in the world--if only she were less lavish of it! Then, what a
delicious little hand--if mine were the only lips permitted to kiss it!
Why was she so charming?--or why, being so charming, need she prize the
attentions of every _flaneur_ who had only enough wit to admire her? Was
I not a fool to believe that she cared more for my devotion than for
another's! Did I believe it? Yes ... no ... sometimes. But then that
"sometimes" was only when under the immediate influence of her presence.
She fascinated me; but she would fascinate a hundred others in precisely
the same way. It was true that she accepted from me more devotion, more
worship, more time, more outward and visible homage than from any other.
Was I not her _Cavaliere servente?_ Did she not accept my bouquets? Did
she not say the other day, when I gave her that volume of Tennyson, that
she loved all that was English for my sake? Surely, I was worse than
ungrateful, when, having so much, I was still dissatisfied! Why was I
not the happiest fellow in Paris? Why .....
My meditations were here interrupted by a sudden flash of very vivid
lightning, followed by a low muttering of distant thunder. I paused, and
looked round. The sky was darker than ever, and though the air was
singularly stagnant, I could hear among the uppermost leaves of the tall
trees that stealthy rustling that generally precedes a storm.
Unfortunately for myself, I had not felt disposed to go home at once on
leaving the theatre; but, being restless alike in mind and body, had
struck down through the Place Vendome and up the Rue de Rivoli,
intending to come home by a circuitous route. At this precise moment I
found myself in the middle of the Place de la Concorde, with Cleopatra's
needle towering above my head, the lamps in the Champs Elysees twinkling
in long chains of light through the blank darkness before me, and no
vehicle anywhere in sight. To be caught in a heavy shower, was not,
certainly, an agreeable prospect for one who had just emerged from the
opera in the thinnest of boots and the lightest of folding hats, with
neither umbrella nor paletot of proof; so, having given a hasty glance
in every direction from which a cab might be expected, I took valiantly
to my heels, and made straight for the Madeleine.
Long before I had accomplished half the distance, however, another flash
announced the quick coming of the tempest, and the first premonitory
drops began to plash down heavily upon the pavement. Still I ran on,
thinking that I should find a cab in the Place de la Madeleine; but the
Place de la Madeleine was empty. Even the cafe at the corner was closed.
Even the omnibus office was shut up, and the red lamp above the door
What was I to do now? Panting and breathless, I leaned up against a
doorway, and resigned myself to fate. Stay, what was that file of
carriages, dimly seen through the rain which was now coming down in
earnest? It was in a private street opening off at the back of the
Madeleine--a street in which I could remember no public stand. Perhaps
there was an evening party at one of the large houses lower down, and,
if so, I might surely find a not wholly incorruptible cabman, who would
consent for a liberal _pourboire_ to drive me home and keep his fare
waiting, if need were, for one little half-hour! At all events it was
worth trying for; so away I darted again, with the wind whistling about
my ears, and the rain driving in my face.
But my troubles were not to be so speedily ended. Among the ten or
fifteen equipages which I found drawn up in file, there was not one
hackney vehicle. They were private carriages, and all, therefore,
Did I say inaccessible?
A bold idea occurred to me. The rain was so heavy that it could scarcely
be expected to last many minutes. The carriage at the very end of the
line was not likely to be the first called; and, even if it were, one
could spring out in a moment, if necessary. In short, the very daring of
the deed was as attractive as the shelter! I made my way swiftly down
the line. The last carriage was a neat little brougham, and the
coachman, with his hat pulled down over his eyes, and his collar drawn
up about his ears, was too much absorbed in taking care of himself and
his horses to pay much attention to a foot-passenger. I passed boldly
by--doubled back stealthily on my own steps--looked round
cautiously--opened the door, and glided in.
It was a delightfully comfortable little vehicle--cushioned, soft,
yielding, and pervaded by a delicate perfume of eglantine. Wondering who
the owner might be--if she was young--if she was pretty--if she was
married, or single, or a widow--I settled myself in the darkest corner
of the carriage, intending only to remain there till the rain had
abated. Thus I fell, as fate would have it--first into a profound
reverie, and then into a still profounder sleep. How long this sleep may
have lasted I know not. I only remember becoming slowly conscious of a
gentle movement, which, without awaking, partly roused me; of a check to
that movement, which brought my thoughts suddenly to the surface; of a
stream of light--of an open door--a crowded hall--a lady waiting to come
out, and a little crowd of attentive beaux surrounding her!
I comprehended my position in an instant, and the impossibility of
extricating myself from it. To get out next the house was to brave
detection; whilst at the other side I found myself blocked in by
carriages. Escape was now hopeless! I turned hot and cold; I shrank
back; I would have gone through the bottom of the carriage, if I could.
At this moment, to my horror, the footman opened the door. I gave myself
up for lost, and, in a sudden access of desperation, was on the point of
rushing out _coute que coute_, when the lady ran forward; sprang lightly
in; recoiled; and uttered a little breathless cry of surprise and
"_Mon Dieu_, Madame! what is it? Are you hurt?" cried two or three of
the gentlemen, running out, bareheaded, to her assistance.
But, to my amazement, she unfastened her cloak, and threw it over me in
such a manner as to leave me completely hidden beneath the folds.
"Oh, nothing, thank you!--I only caught my foot in my cloak. I am really
quite ashamed to have alarmed you! A thousand thanks--good-night."
And so, with something of a slight tremor in her voice, the lady drew up
the window. The next instant the carriage moved on.
And now, what was to be done? I blessed the accident which rendered me
invisible; but, at the same time, asked myself how it was to end.
Should I wait till she reached her own door, and then, still feigning
sleep, allow myself to be discovered? Or should I take the bull by the
horns, and reveal myself? If the latter, would she scream, or faint, or
go into hysterics? Then, again, supposing she resumed her cloak ... a
cold damp broke out upon my forehead at the mere thought! All at once,
just as these questions flashed across my mind, the lady drew the mantle
aside, and said:--
"How imprudent of you to hide in my carriage?"
I could not believe my ears.
"Suppose any of those people had caught sight of you ... why, it would
have been all over Paris to-morrow! Happily, I had the presence of mind
to cover you with my cloak; otherwise ... but there, Monsieur, I have a
great mind to be very angry with you!"
It was now clear that I was mistaken for some one else. Fortunately the
carriage-lamps were unlit, the windows still blurred with rain, and the
night intensely dark; so, feeling like a wretch reprieved on the
scaffold, I shrank farther and farther into the corner, glad to favor a
mistake which promised some hope of escape.
"_Eh bien_!" said the lady, half tenderly, half reproachfully; "have you
nothing to say to me?"
Say to her, indeed! What could I say to her? Would not my voice betray
"Ah," she continued, without waiting for a reply; "you are ashamed of
the cruel scene of this morning! Well, since you have not allowed the
night to pass without seeking a reconciliation, I suppose I must
I thought, at this point, that I could not do better than press her
hand, which was exquisitely soft and small--softer and smaller than even
Madame de Marignan's.
"Naughty Hippolyte!" murmured my companion. "Confess, now, that you were
I sighed heavily, and caressed the little hand with both of mine.
"And are you very penitent?"
I expressed my penitence by another prodigious sigh, and ventured, this
time, to kiss the tips of the dainty fingers.
"_Ciel_!" exclaimed the lady. "You have shaved off your beard! What can
have induced you to do such a thing?"
My beard, indeed! Alas! I would have given any money for even a
moustache! However, the fatal moment was come when I must speak.
"_Mon cher ange_," I began, trying a hoarse whisper, "I--I--the fact
"A bet indeed! The idea of sacrificing such a handsome beard for a mere
bet! I never heard of anything so foolish. But how hoarse you are,
"All within the last hour," whispered I. "I was caught in the storm,
just now, and ..."
"And have taken cold, for my sake! Alas! my poor, dear friend, why did
you wait to speak to me? Why did you not go home at once, and change
your clothes? Your sleeve, I declare, is still quite damp! Hippolyte, if
you fall ill, I shall never forgive myself!"
I kissed her hand again. It was much pleasanter than whispering, and
expressed all that was necessary.
"But you have not once asked after poor Bibi!" exclaimed my companion,
after a momentary silence. "Poor, dear Bibi, who has been suffering from
a martyrdom with her cough all the afternoon!"
Now, who the deuce was Bibi? She might be a baby. Or--who could
tell?--she might be a poodle? On this point, however, I was left
uninformed; for my unknown friend, who, luckily, seemed fond of talking
and had a great deal to say, launched off into another topic
"After all," said she, "I should have been wrong not to go to the party!
My uncle was evidently pleased with my compliance; and it is not wise to
vex one's rich uncles, if one can help it--is it, Hippolyte!"
I pressed her hand again.
"Besides, Monsieur Delaroche was not there. He was not even invited; so
you see how far they were from laying matchmaking plots, and how
groundless were all your fears and reproaches!"
Monsieur Delaroche! Could this be the Delaroche of my special aversion?
I pressed her hand again, more closely, more tenderly, and listened for
what might come next.
"Well, it is all over now! And will you promise _never, never, never_ to
be jealous again? Then, to be jealous of such a creature as that
ridiculous Delaroche--a man who knows nothing--who can think and talk
only of his own absurd self!--a man who has not even wit enough to see
that every one laughs at him!"
I was delighted. I longed to embrace her on the spot! Was there ever
such a charming, sensible, lively creature?
"Besides, the coxcomb is just now devoting himself, body and soul (such
as they are!) to that insufferable little _intriguante_, Madame de
Marignan. He is to be seen with her in every drawing-room and theatre
throughout Paris. For my part, I am amazed that a woman of the world
should suffer herself to be compromised to that extent--especially one
so experienced in these _affaires du coeur_."
Madame de Marignan! Compromised--experienced--_intriguante_! I felt as
if I were choking.
"To be sure, there is that poor English lad whom she drags about with
her, to play propriety," continued she; "but do you suppose the world is
blinded by so shallow an artifice?"
"What English lad?" I asked, startled out of all sense of precaution,
and desperately resolved to know the worst.
"What English lad? Why, Hippolyte, you are more stupid than ever! I
pointed him out to you the other night at the Comedie Francaise--a pale,
handsome boy, of about nineteen or twenty, with brown curling hair, and
very fine eyes, which were riveted on Madame de Marignan the whole
evening. Poor fellow! I cannot help pitying him."
"Then--then, you think she really does not love him?" I said. And this
time my voice was hoarse enough, without any need of feigning.
"Love him! Ridiculous! What does such a woman understand by love?
Certainly neither the sentiment nor the poetry of it! Tush, Hippolyte! I
do not wish to be censorious; but every one knows that ever since M. de
Marignan has been away in Algiers, that woman has had, not one devoted
admirer, but a dozen; and now that her husband is coming back...."
"Coming back! ... her husband!" I echoed, half rising in my place, and
falling back again, as if stunned. "Good heavens! is she not a widow?"
It was now the lady's turn to be startled.
"A widow!" she repeated. "Why, you know as well as I that--_Dieu_! To
whom I am speaking?"
"Madame," I said, as steadily as my agitation would let me, "I beg you
not to be alarmed. I am not, it is true, the person whom you have
supposed; but--Nay, I implore you...."
She here uttered a quick cry, and darted forward for the check-string.
Arresting her hand half way, respectfully but firmly, I went on:--
"How I came here, I will explain presently. I am a gentleman; and upon
the word of a gentleman, Madame, am innocent of any desire to offend or
alarm you. Can you--will you--hear me for one moment?"
"I appear, sir, to have no alternative," replied she, trembling like a
"I might have left you undeceived, Madame. I might have extricated
myself from, this painful position undiscovered--but for some words
which just escaped your lips; some words so nearly concerning the--the
honor and happiness of--of.... in short, I lost my presence of mind. I
now implore you to tell me if all that you have just been saying of
Madame de Marignan is strictly true."
"Who are you, sir, that you should dare to surprise confidences intended
for another, and by what right do you question me?" said the lady,
"By no right, Madame," I replied, fairly breaking into sobs, and burying
my face in my hands. "I can only appeal to your compassion. I am that
For a moment there was silence. My companion was the first to speak.
"Poor boy!" she said; and her voice, now, was gentle and compassionate.
"You have been rudely undeceived. Did Madame de Marignan pass herself
off upon you for a widow?"
"She never named her husband to me--I believed that she was free. I
fancied he had been dead for years. She knew that was my impression."
"And you would have married her--actually married her?"
"I--I--hardly dared to hope...."
"_Ciel_! it is almost beyond belief. And you never inquired into her
"Never. Why should I?"
"Monsieur de Marignan holds a government appointment in Algiers, and has
been absent more than four years. He is, I understand, expected back
shortly, on leave of absence."
I conquered my agitation by a supreme effort.
"Madame," I said, "I thank you. It now only remains for me to explain my
intrusion. I can do so in half a dozen words. Caught in the storm and
unable to find a conveyance, I sought shelter in this carriage, which
being the last on the file, offered the only refuge of which I could
avail myself unobserved. While waiting for the tempest to abate, I fell
asleep; and but for the chance which led you to mistake me for another,
I must have been discovered when you entered the carriage."
"Then, finding yourself so mistaken, Monsieur, would it not have been
more honorable to undeceive me than to usurp a conversation which...."
"Madame, I dared not. I feared to alarm you--I hoped to find some means
of escape, and...."
"_Mon Dieu_! what means? How are you to escape as it is? How leave the
carriage without being seen by my servants?"
I had not thought of this, nor of the dilemma in which my presence must
"I can open the door softly," said I, "and jump out unperceived."
"Impossible, at the pace we are going! You would break your neck."
I shook my head, and laughed bitterly.
"Have no fear of that, Madame," I said. "Those who least value their
necks never happen to break them. See, I can spring out as we pass the
next turning, and be out of sight in a moment."
"Indeed, I will not permit it. Oh, dear! we have already reached the
Faubourg St. Germain. Stay--I have an idea I Do you know what o'clock
"I don't know how long I may have slept; but I think it must be quite
"_Bien_! The Countess de Blois has a ball to-night, and her visitors are
sure not to disperse before four or five. My sister is there. I will
send in to ask if she has yet gone home, and when the carriage stops you
can slip out. Here is the Rue de Bac, and the door of her hotel is yet
surrounded with equipages."
And with this, she let down a front window, desired the coachman to
stop, leaned forward so as to hide me completely, and sent in her
footman with the message. When the man had fairly entered the hall, she
turned to me and said:--
"Now, Monsieur, fly! It is your only chance."
"I go, Madame; but before going, suffer me to assure you that I know
neither your name, nor that of the person for whom you mistook me--that
I have no idea of your place of residence--that I should not know you if
I saw you again to-morrow--in short, that you are to me as entirely a
stranger as if this adventure had never happened."
"Monsieur, I thank you for the assurance; but I see the servant
returning. Pray, begone!"
I sprang out without another word, and, never once looking back, darted
down a neighboring street and waited in the shadow of a doorway till I
thought the carriage must be out of sight.
The night was now fine, the moon was up, and the sky was full of stars.
But I heeded nothing, save my own perplexed and painful thoughts.
Absorbed in these, I followed the course of the Rue du Bac till I came
to the Pont National. There my steps were arrested by the sight of the
eddying river, the long gleaming front of the Louvre, the quaint,
glistening gables of the Tuilleries, the far-reaching trees of the
Champs Elysees all silvered in the soft, uncertain moonlight. It was a
most calm and beautiful picture; and I stood for a long time leaning
against the parapet of the bridge, and looking dreamily at the scene
before me. Then I heard the quarters chime from belfry to belfry all
over the quiet city, and found that it was half-past three o'clock.
Presently a patrol of _gendarmes_ went by, and, finding that they paused
and looked at me suspiciously, I turned away, and bent my steps
By the time I reached the Cite Bergere it was past four, and the early
market-carts were already rumbling along the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre.
Going up wearily to my apartments, I found a note waiting for me in
Dalrymple's handwriting. It ran thus:--
"MY DEAR DAMON:--
"Do you know that it is nearly a month since I last saw you? Do you know
that I have called twice at your lodgings without finding you at home? I
hear of you as having been constantly seen, of late, in the society of a
very pretty woman of our acquaintance; but I confess that I do not
desire to see you go to the devil entirely without the friendly
I read the note twice. I could scarcely believe that I had so neglected
my only friend. Had I been mad? Or a fool?--or both? Too anxious and
unhappy to sleep, and too tired to sit up, I lit my lamp, threw myself
upon the bed, and there lay repenting my wasted hours, my misplaced love
and my egregious folly, till morning came with its sunshine and its
traffic, and found me a "wiser," if not a "better man."
"Half-past seven!" exclaimed I to myself, as I jumped up and plunged my
head into a basin of cold water. "Dr. Cheron shall see me before nine
this morning. I'll call on Dalrymple at luncheon time; at three, I must
get back for the afternoon lecture; and in the evening--in the evening,
by Jove! Madame de Marignan must be content with her adorable Delaroche,
for the deuce a bit of her humble servant will she ever see again!"
And away I went presently along the sunny streets, humming to myself
those saucy and wholesome lines of good Sir Walter Raleigh's:--
"Shall I like a hermit dwell
On a rock, or in a cell,
Calling home the smallest part
That is missing of my heart,
To bestow it where I may
Meet a rival every day?
If she undervalues me,
What care I how fair she be?"
THE WIDOW OF A MINISTER OF FINANCE.
"You are just in time, Arbuthnot, to do me a service," said Dalrymple,
looking up from his desk as I went in, and reaching out his hand to me
over a barricade of books and papers.
"Then I am very glad I have come," I replied. "But what confusion is
this? Are you going anywhere?"
"Yes--to perdition. There, kick that rubbish out of your way and sit
Never very orderly, Dalrymple's rooms were this time in as terrible a
litter as can well be conceived. The table was piled high with bills,
old letters, books, cigars, gloves, card-cases, and pamphlets. The
carpet was strewn with portmanteaus, hat-cases, travelling-straps, old
luggage labels, railway wrappers, and the like. The chairs and sofas
were laden with wearing apparel. As for Dalrymple himself, he looked
haggard and weary, as though the last four weeks had laid four years
upon his shoulders.
"You look ill," I said clearing a corner of the sofa for my own
accommodation; "or _ennuye_, which is much the same thing. What is the
matter? And what can I do for you?"
"The matter is that I am going abroad," said he, with his chin resting
moodily in his two palms and his elbows on the table.
"Going abroad! Where?"
"I don't know--
'Anywhere, anywhere, out of the world.'
It's of very little consequence whether I betake myself to the East or
to the West; eat rice in the tropics, or drink train-oil at the Pole."
"But have you no settled projects?"
"And don't care what becomes of you?"
"Not in the least."
"Then, in Heaven's name, what has happened?"
"The very thing that, three weeks ago, would have made me the happiest
fellow in Christendom. What are you going to do to-morrow?"
"Nothing, beyond my ordinary routine of medical study."
"Humph! Could you get a whole holiday, for once?"
I remembered how many I had taken of late, and felt ashamed of the
readiness with which I replied:--
"Oh yes! easily."
"Well, then, I want you to spend the day with me. It will be, perhaps,
my last in Paris for many a month, or even many a year. I ... Pshaw! I
may as well say it, and have done with it. I am going to be married."
"Married!" I exclaimed, in blank amazement; for it was the last thing I
should have guessed.
Dalrymple tugged away at his moustache with both hands, as was his habit
when perplexed or troubled, and nodded gloomily. "To whom?"
"To Madame de Courcelles."
"And are you not very happy?"
"Happy! I am the most miserable dog unhanged?"
I was more at fault now than ever.
"I ... judging from trifles which some would perhaps scarcely have
observed," I said, hesitatingly, "I--I thought you were interested in
Madame de Courcelles?"
"Interested!" cried he, pushing back his chair and springing to his
feet, as if the word had stung him. "By heaven! I love that woman as I
never loved in my life."
"Then why ..."
"I'll tell you why--or, at least, I will tell you as much as I may--as I
can; for the affair is hers, and not mine. She has a cousin--curse
him!--to whom she was betrothed from childhood. His estates adjoined
hers; family interests were concerned in their union; and the parents on
both sides arranged matters. When, however, Monsieur de Courcelles fell
in love with her--a man much older than herself, but possessed of great
wealth and immense political influence--her father did not hesitate to
send the cousin to the deuce and marry his daughter to the Minister of
Finance. The cousin, it seems, was then a wild young fellow; not
particularly in love with her himself; and not at all inconsolable for
her loss. When, however, Monsieur de Courcelles was good enough to die
(which he had the bad taste to do very hastily, and without making, by
any means, the splendid provision for his widow which he had promised),
our friend, the cousin, comes forward again. By this time he is enough
man of the world to appreciate the value of land--more especially as he
has sold, mortgaged, played the mischief with nearly every acre of his
own. He pleads the old engagement, and, as he is pleased to call it, the
old love. Madame de Courcelles is a young widow, very solitary, with no
one to love, no object to live for, and no experience of the world. Her
pity is easily awaked; and the result is that she not only accepts the
cousin, but lends him large sums of money; suffers the title-deeds of
her estates to go into the hands of his lawyer; and is formally
betrothed to him before the eyes of all Paris!"
"Who is this man? Where is he?" I asked, eagerly.
"He is an officer of Chasseurs, now serving with his regiment in
Algiers--a daring, dashing, reckless fellow; heartless and dissipated
enough; but a splendid soldier. However, having committed her property
to his hands, and suffered her name to be associated publicly with his,
Madame de Courcelles, during his absence in Algiers, has done me the
honor to prefer me. I have the first real love of her life, and the
short and long of it is, that we are to be privately married to-morrow."
"And why privately?"
"Ah, there's the pity of it! There's the disappointment and the
"Can't Madame de Courcelles write and tell this man that she loves
somebody else better?"
"Confound it! no. The fellow has her too much in his power, and, if he
chose to be dishonest, could half ruin her. At all events she is afraid
of him; and I ... I am as helpless as a child in the matter. If I were a
rich man, I would snap my fingers at him; but how can I, with a paltry
eight hundred a year, provide for that woman? Pshaw! If I could but
settle it with a pair of hair-triggers and twenty paces of turf, I'd
leave little work for the lawyers!"
"Well, then, what is to be done?"
"Only this," replied he, striding impatiently to and fro, like a caged
lion; "I must just bear with my helplessness, and leave the remedy to
those who can oppose skill to skill, and lawyer to lawyer."
"At all events, you marry the lady."
"Ay--I marry the lady; but I start to-morrow night for Berlin, _en
route_ for anywhere that chance may lead me."
"Without her. Do you suppose that I would stay in Paris--her
husband--and live apart from her? Meet her, like an ordinary
acquaintance? See others admiring her? Be content to lounge in and out
of her _soirees_, or ride beside her carriage now and then, as you or
fifty others might do? Perhaps, have even to endure the presence of De
Caylus himself? _Merci_! Any number of miles, whether of land or sea,
were better than a martyrdom like that!"
"De Caylus!" I repeated. "Where have I heard that name?"
"You may have heard of it in a hundred places," replied my friend. "As I
said before, the man is a gallant soldier, and does gallant things. But
to return to the present question--may I depend on you to-morrow? For we
must have a witness, and our witness must be both discreet and silent."
"On my silence and discretion you may rely absolutely."
"And you can be here by nine?"
"By daybreak, if you please."
"I won't tax you to that extent. Nine will do quite well."
"Adieu, then, till nine."
"Adieu, and thank you."
With this I left him, somewhat relieved to find that I had escaped all
cross-examination on the score of Madame Marignan.
"De Caylus!" I again repeated to myself, as I took my rapid way to the
Hotel Dieu. "De Caylus! why, surely, it must have been that evening at
Madame de Courcelles'...."
And then I recollected that De Caylus was the name of that officer who
was said to have ridden by night, and single-handed, through the heart
of the enemy's camp, somewhere in Algiers.
A MARRIAGE NOT "A LA MODE."
The marriage took place in a little out-of-the-way Protestant chapel
beyond the barriers, at about a quarter before ten o'clock the next
morning. Dalrymple and I were there first; and Madame de Courcelles,
having, in order to avoid observation, come part of the distance in a
cab and part on foot, arrived a few minutes later. She was very pale,
and looked almost like a _religieuse_, with her black veil tied closely
under her chin, and a dark violet dress, which might have passed for
mourning. She gave her hand to Dalrymple without speaking; then knelt
down at the communion-table, and so remained till we had all taken our
places. As for Dalrymple, he had even less color than she, but held his
head up haughtily, and betrayed no sign of the conflict within.
It was a melancholy little chapel, dusty and neglected, full of black
and white funereal tablets, and damp as a vault. We shivered as we stood
about the altar; the clergyman's teeth chattered as he began the
marriage service; and the echoes of our responses reverberated forlornly
up among the gothic rafters overhead. Even the sunbeams struggled sadly
and palely down the upper windows, and the chill wind whistled in when
the door was opened, bringing with it a moan of coming rain.
The ceremony over, the books signed in the vestry, and the clergyman,
clerk, and pew-opener duly remunerated for their services, we prepared
to be gone. For a couple of moments, Dalrymple and his bride stood apart
in the shadow of the porch. I saw him take the hand on which he had just
placed the ring, and look down upon it tenderly, wistfully--I saw him
bend lower, and lower, whispering what no other ears might hear--saw
their lips meet for one brief instant. Then the lady's veil was lowered;
she turned hastily away; and Dalrymple was left standing in the
"By Heaven!" said he, grasping my hand as though he would crush it.
"This is hard to bear."
I but returned the pressure of his hand; for I knew not with what words
to comfort him. Thus we lingered for some minutes in silence, till the
clergyman, having put off his surplice, passed us with a bow and went
out; and the pew-opener, after pretending to polish the door-handle with
her apron, and otherwise waiting about with an air of fidgety
politeness, dropped a civil curtsey, and begged to remind us that the
chapel must now be closed.
Dalrymple started and shook himself like a water-dog, as if he would so
shake off "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."
"_Rex est qui metuit nihil_!" said he; "but I am a sovereign in bad
circumstances, for all that. Heigho! Care will kill a cat. What shall we
do with ourselves, old fellow, for the rest of the day?"
"I hardly know. Would you like to go into the country?"
"Nothing better. The air perhaps would exorcise some of these
"What say you to St. Germains? It looks as if it must rain before night;
yet there is the forest and...."
"Excellent! We can do as we like, with nobody to stare at us; and I am
in a horribly uncivilized frame of mind this morning."
With this, we turned once more toward Paris, and, jumping into the first
cab that came by, were driven to the station. It happened that a train
was then about to start; so we were off immediately.
There were no other passengers in the carriage, so Dalrymple infringed
the company's mandate by lighting a cigar, and I, finding him
disinclined for talk, did the same thing, and watched the passing
country. Flat and uninteresting at first, it consisted of a mere sandy
plain, treeless, hedgeless, and imperfectly cultivated with struggling
strips of corn and vegetables. By and by came a line of stunted
pollards, a hamlet, and a little dreary cemetery. Then the landscape
improved. The straight line of the horizon broke into gentle
undulations; the Seine, studded with islets, wound through the
meadow-land at our feet; and a lofty viaduct carried us from height to
height across the eddying river. Then we passed into the close green
shade of a forest, which opened every here and there into long vistas,
yielding glimpses of
"--verdurous glooms, and winding mossy ways."
Through this wood the line continued to run till we reached our
destination. Here our first few steps brought us out upon the Place,
directly facing the old red and black chateau of St. Germain-en-Laye.
Leaving this and the little dull town behind us, we loitered for some
time about the broad walks of the park, and then passed on into the
forest. Although it was neither Sunday nor a fete-day, there were
pleasure parties gipseying under trees--Parisian cockneys riding
raw-boned steeds--pony-chaises full of laughing grisettes dashing up and
down the broad roads that pierce the wood in various directions--old
women selling cakes and lemonade--workmen gambling with half-pence on
the smooth turf by the wayside--_bonnes_, comely and important, with
their little charges playing round them, and their busy fingers plying
the knitting-needles as they walked--young ladies sketching trees, and
prudent governesses reading novels close by; in short, all the life and
variety of a favorite suburban resort on an ordinarily fine day about
the beginning of autumn.
Leaving the frequented routes to the right, we turned into one of the
many hundred tracks that diverge in every direction from the beaten
roads, and wandered deeper and deeper into the green shades and
solitudes of the forest. Pausing, presently, to rest, Dalrymple threw
himself at full length on the mossy ground, with his hands clasping the
back of his head, and his hat over his eyes; whilst I found a luxurious
arm-chair in the gnarled roots of a lichen-tufted elm. Thus we remained
for a considerable time puffing away at our cigars in that sociable
silence which may almost claim to be an unique privilege of masculine
friendship. Women cannot sit together for long without talking; men can
enjoy each other's companionship for hours with scarcely the interchange
of an idea.
Meanwhile, I watched the squirrels up in the beech-trees and the dancing
of the green leaves against the sky; and thought dreamily of home, of my
father, of the far past, and the possible future. I asked myself how,
when my term of study came to an end, I should ever again endure the old
home-life at Saxonholme? How settle down for life as my father's
partner, conforming myself to his prejudices, obeying all the demands of
his imperious temper, and accepting for evermore the monotonous routine
of a provincial practice! It was an intolerable prospect, but no less
inevitable than intolerable. Pondering thus, I sighed heavily, and the
sigh roused Dalrymple's attention.
"Why, Damon," said he, turning over on his elbow, and pushing up his
hat to the level of his eyes, "what's the matter with you?"
"Oh, nothing--at least, nothing new."
"Well, new or old, what is it? A man must be either in debt, or in love,
when he sighs in that way. You look as melancholy as Werter redivivus!"
"I--I ought not to be melancholy, I suppose; for I was thinking of
Dalrymple's face and voice softened immediately.
"Poor boy!" he said, throwing away the end of his cigar, "yours is not a
bright home, I fear. You told me, I think, that you had lost
"And you have no sisters?"
"None. I am an only child."
"Your father, however, is living?"
"Yes, my father lives. He is a rough-tempered, eccentric man;
misanthropic, but clever; kind enough, and generous enough, in his own
strange way. Still--"
--"I dread the life that lies before me! I dread the life without
society, without ambition, without change--the dull house--the bounded
sphere of action--the bondage.... But of what use is it to trouble you
with these things?"
"This use, that it does you good to tell, and me to listen. Sympathy,
like mercy, blesseth him that gives and him that takes; and if I cannot
actually help you, I am, at all events, thankful to be taken out of
myself. Go on--tell me more of your prospects. Have you no acquaintance
at Saxonholme whose society will make the place pleasant to you? No
boyish friends? No pretty cousins? No first-loves, from amongst whom to
choose a wife in time to come?"
I shook my head sadly.
"Did I not tell you that my father was a misanthrope? He visits no one,
unless professionally. We have no friends and no relations."
"Humph! that's awkward. However, it leaves you free to choose your own
friends, when you go back. A medical man need never be without a
visiting connection. His very profession puts a thousand opportunities
in his way."
"That is true; but--"
"I am not fond of the profession. I have never liked it. I would give
much to relinquish it altogether."
Dalrymple gave utterance to a prolonged and very dismal whistle.
"This," said he gravely, "is the most serious part of the business. To
live in a dull place is bad enough--to live with dull people is bad
enough; but to have one's thoughts perpetually occupied with an
uncongenial subject, and one's energies devoted to an uncongenial
pursuit, is just misery, and nothing short of it! In fact 'tis a moral
injustice, and one that no man should be required to endure."
"Yet I must endure it."
"Because it is too late to do otherwise."
"It is never too late to repair an evil, or an error."
"Unless the repairing of it involved a worse evil, or a more fatal
error! No--I must not dream now of turning aside from the path that has
been chosen for me. Too much time and too much money have been given to
the thing for that;--I must let it take its course. There's no help
"But, confound it, lad! you'd better follow the fife and drum, or go
before the mast, than give up your life to a profession you hate!"
"Hate is a strong word," I replied. "I do not actually hate it--at all
events I must try to make the best of it, if only for my father's sake.
His heart is set on making a physician of me, and I dare not
Dalrymple looked at me fixedly, and then fell back into his old
"Heigho!" he said, pulling his hat once more over his eyes, "I was a
disobedient son. My father intended me for the Church; I was expelled
from College for fighting a duel before I was twenty, and then, sooner
than go home disgraced, enlisted as a private soldier in a cavalry corps
bound for foreign service. Luckily, they found me out before the ship
sailed, and made the best of a bad bargain by purchasing me a cornetcy
in a dragoon regiment. I would not advise you to be disobedient, Damon.
My experience in that line has been bitter enough,"
"How so? You escaped a profession for which you were disinclined, and
entered one for which you had every qualification."
"Ay; but think of the cursed _esclandre_--first the duel, then the
expulsion, then my disappearance for two months ... My mother was in bad
health at the time, too; and I, her favorite son--I--in short, the
anxiety was too much for her. She--she died before I had been six weeks
in the regiment. There! we won't talk of it. It's the one subject
His voice faltered, and he broke off abruptly.
"I wish you were going with me to Berlin," said he, after a long silence
which I had not attempted to interrupt.
"I wish with all my heart that I were!"
"And yet," he added, "I am glad on--on her account, that you remain in
Paris. You will call upon her sometimes, Arbuthnot?"
"If Madame De Cour.... I mean, if Mrs. Dalrymple will permit me."
An involuntary smile flitted across his lips--the first I had seen there
all the day.
"She will be glad--grateful. She knows that I value you, and she has
proof that I trust you. You are the only possessor of our secret."
"It is as safe with me," I said, "as if I were dead, and in my grave."
"I know it, old fellow. Well--you will see her sometimes. You will write
to me, and tell me how she is looking. If--if she were to fall ill, you
would not conceal it from me? and in case of any emergency--any
annoyance arising from De Caylus ..."
"Were she my own sister," I said, earnestly, "she would not find me
readier to assist or defend her. Of this, Dalrymple, be assured."
"Thank you," he said, and stretched up his hand to me. "I do believe you
are true--though there are few men, and still fewer women, of whom I
should like to say as much. By the way, Arbuthnot, beware of that little
flirt, Madame de Marignan. She has charming eyes, but no more heart than
a vampire. Besides, an entanglement with a married woman!... _cela ne se
peut pas, mon cher_. You are too young to venture on such dangerous
ground, and too inexperienced."
I smiled--perhaps somewhat bitterly--for the wound was still fresh, and
I could not help wincing when any hand came near it.
"You are right," I replied. "Madame de Marignan is a dangerous woman;
but dangerous for me no longer. However, I have paid rather dearly for
And with this, I told him the whole story from beginning to end,
confessing all my follies without reservation. Surprised, amused,
sometimes unable to repress a smile, sometimes genuinely compassionate,
he heard my narrative through, accompanying it from time to time with
muttered comments and ejaculations, none of which were very flattering
to Madame de Marignan. When I had done, he sprang to his feet, laid his
hand heavily upon my shoulder, and said:--
"Damon, there are a great many disagreeable things in life which wise
people say are good for us, and for which they tell us we ought to be
grateful in proportion to our discomfort. For my own part, however, I am
no optimist. I am not fond of mortifying the flesh, and the eloquence of
Socrates would fail to persuade me that a carbuncle was a cheerful
companion, or the gout an ailment to be ardently desired. Yet, for all
this, I cannot say that I look upon your adventure in the light of a
misfortune. You have lost time, spent money, and endured a considerable
amount of aggravation; but you have, on the other hand, acquired ease
of manner, facility of conversation, and just that necessary polish
which fits a man for society. Come! you have received a valuable lesson
both in morals and manners; so farewell to Madame de Marignan, and let
us write _Pour acquit_ against the score!"
Willing enough to accept this cheerful view, I flourished an imaginary
autograph upon the air with the end of my cane, and laughingly dismissed
We then strolled back through the wood, treading the soft moss under our
feet, startling the brown lizards from our path and the squirrels from
the lower branches of the great trees, and, now and then, surprising a
plump little green frog, which went skipping away into the long grass,
like an animated emerald. Coming back to the gardens, we next lingered
for some time upon the terrace, admiring the superb panorama of
undulating woodland and cultivated champaign, which, seen through the
golden haze of afternoon, stretched out in glory to the remotest
horizon. To our right stood the prison-like chateau, flinging back the
sunset from its innumerable casements, and seeming to drink in the warm
glow at every pore of its old, red bricks. To our left, all lighted up
against the sky, rose the lofty tree-tops of the forest which we had
just quitted. Our shadows stretched behind us across the level terrace,
like the shadows of giants. Involuntarily, we dropped our voices. It
would have seemed almost like profanity to speak aloud while the first
influence of that scene was upon us.
Going on presently towards the verge of the terrace, we came upon an
artist who, with his camp-stool under his arm, and his portfolio at his
feet, was, like ourselves, taking a last look at the sunset before going
away. As we approached, he turned and recognised us. It was Herr Franz
Mueller, the story-telling student of the _Chicards_ club.
"Good-afternoon, gentlemen," said he, lifting his red cap, and letting
it fall back again a little on one side. "We do not see many such
sunsets in the course of the summer."
"Indeed, no," replied Dalrymple; "and ere long the autumn tints will be
creeping over the landscape, and the whole scene will assume a different
character. Have you been sketching in the forest?"
"No--I have been making a study of the chateau and terrace from this
point, with the landscape beyond. It is for an historical subject which
I have laid out for my winter's work."
And with this, he good-naturedly opened his folio and took out the
sketch, which was a tolerably large one, and represented the scene under
much the same conditions of light as we now saw it.
"I shall have a group of figures here," he said, pointing to a spot on
the terrace, "and a more distant one there; with a sprinkling of dogs
and, perhaps, a head or two at an open window of the chateau. I shall
also add a flag flying on the turret, yonder."
"A scene, I suppose, from the life of Louis the Thirteenth," I
"No--I mean it for the exiled court of James the Second," replied he.
"And I shall bring in the King, and Mary of Modena, and the Prince their
son, who was afterwards the Pretender."
"It is a good subject," said Dalrymple. "You will of course find
excellent portraits of all these people at Versailles; and a lively
description of their court, mode of life, and so forth, if my memory
serves me correctly, in the tales of Anthony, Count Hamilton. But with
all this, I dare say, you are better acquainted than I."
"_Parbleu!_ not I," said the student, shouldering his camp-stool as if
it were a musket, and slinging his portfolio by a strap across his back;
"therefore, I am all the more obliged to you for the information. My
reading is neither very extensive nor very useful; and as for my
library, I could pack it all into a hat-case any day, and find room for
a few other trifles at the same time. Here is the author I chiefly
study. He is my constant companion, and, like myself, looks somewhat the
worse for wear."
Saying which, he produced from one of his pockets a little, greasy,
dog-eared volume of Beranger, about the size of a small snuff-box, and
began singing aloud, to a very cheerful air, a song of which a certain
faithless Mademoiselle Lisette was the heroine, and of which the refrain
"_Lisette! ma Lisette,
Tu m'as trompe toujours;
Je veux, Lisette,
Boire a nos amours_."
To this accompaniment we walked back through the gardens to the railway
station, where, being a quarter of an hour too soon, our companion
amused himself by "chaffing," questioning, contradicting, and otherwise
ingeniously tormenting the check-takers and porters of the
establishment. One pompous official, in particular, became so helplessly
indignant that he retired into a little office overlooking the platform,
and was heard to swear fluently, all by himself, for several minutes.
The time having expired and the doors being opened, we passed out with
the rest of the home-going Parisians, and were about to take our places,
when Mueller, climbing like a cat to the roof-seats on the top of the
second-class carriages, beckoned us to follow.
"Who would be shut up with ten fat people and a baby, when fresh air can
be breathed, and tobacco smoked, for precisely the same fare?" asked he.
"You don't mean to say that you came down to St. Germains in one of the
"Yes, we did," I replied; "but we had it to ourselves."
"So much the worse. Man is a gregarious animal, and woman also--which
proves Zimmerman to have been neither, and accounts for the brotherhood
of _Les Chicards_. Would you like to see how that old gentleman looks
when he is angry?"
"Which? The one in the opposite corner?"
"Well, that depends on circumstances. Why do you ask?"
"Because I'll engage to satisfy your curiosity in less than ten
"Oh, no, don't affront him," said I. "We shall only have a scene."
"I won't affront him. I promise not to utter a syllable, either
offensive or defensive."
"Leave him alone, then, poor devil!"
"Nonsense! If he chooses to be annoyed, that's his business, and not
mine. Now, you'll see."
And Mueller, alert for mischief, stared fixedly at the old gentleman in
the opposite corner for some minutes--then sighed--roused himself as if
from a profound reverie--seized his portfolio--took out a pencil and
sketch-book--mended the pencil with an elaborate show of fastidiousness
and deliberation--stared again--drew a deep breath--turned somewhat
aside, as if anxious to conceal his object, and began sketching rapidly.
Now and then he paused; stole a furtive glance over his shoulder; bit
his lip; rubbed out; corrected; glanced again; and then went on rapidly
In the meanwhile the old gentleman, who was somewhat red and irascible,
began to get seriously uncomfortable. He frowned, fidgeted, coughed,
buttoned and unbuttoned his coat, and jealously watched every proceeding
of his tormentor. A general smile dawned upon the faces of the rest of
the travellers. The priest over the way pinched his lips together, and
looked down demurely. The two girls, next to the priest, tittered behind
their handkerchiefs. The young man with the blue cravat sucked the top
of his cane, and winked openly at his companions, both of whom were
cracking nuts, and flinging the shells down the embankment. Presently
Mueller threw his head back, held the drawing off, still studiously
keeping the back of it towards the rest of the passengers; looked at it
with half-closed eyes; stole another exceedingly cautious glance at his
victim; and then, affecting for the first time to find himself observed,
made a vast show of pretending to sketch the country through which we
The old gentleman could stand it no longer.
"Monsieur," said he, angrily. "Monsieur, I will thank you not to take my
portrait. I object to it. Monsieur."
"Charming distance," said Mueller, addressing himself to me "Wants
interest, however, in the foreground. That's a picturesque tree yonder,
is it not?"
The old gentleman struck his umbrella sharply on the floor.
"It's of no use, Monsieur," he exclaimed, getting more red and excited.
"You are taking my portrait, and I object to it. I know you are taking
Mueller looked up dreamily.
"I beg your pardon, Monsieur," said he. "Did you speak?'
"Yes, Monsieur. I did speak. I repeat that you shall not take my
"Your portrait, Monsieur?"
"Yes, my portrait!"
"But, Monsieur," remonstrated the artist, with an air of mingled candor
and surprise, "I never dreamed of taking your portrait!"
"_Sacre non_!" shouted the old gentleman, with another rap of the
umbrella. "I saw you do it! Everybody saw you do It!"
"Nay, if Monsieur will but do me the honor to believe that I was simply
sketching from nature, as the train...."
"An impudent subterfuge, sir!" interrupted the old gentleman. "An
impudent subterfuge, and nothing less!"
Mueller drew himself up with immense dignity.
"Monsieur," he said, haughtily, "that is an expression which I must
request you to retract. I have already assured you, on the word of a
"A gentleman, indeed! A pretty gentleman! He takes my portrait, and...."
"I have not taken your portrait, Monsieur."
"Good heavens!" cried the old gentleman, looking round, "was ever such
assurance! Did not every one present see him in the act? I appeal to
every one--to you, Monsieur--to you, Mesdames,--to you, reverend
father,--did you not all see this person taking my portrait?"
"Nay, then, if it must come to this," said Mueller, "let the sketch be
evidence, and let these ladies and gentlemen decide whether it is really
the portrait of Monsieur--and if they think it like?"
Saying which, he held up the book, and displayed a head, sketched, it is
true, with admirable spirit and cleverness, but--the head of an ass,
with a thistle in its mouth!
A simultaneous explosion of mirth followed. Even the priest laughed till
the tears ran down his cheeks, and Dalrymple, heavy-hearted as he was,
could not help joining in the general shout. As for the old gentleman,
the victim of this elaborate practical joke, he glared at us all round,
swore that it was a premeditated insult from beginning to end, and,
swelling with suppressed rage, flung himself back into his corner, and
looked resolutely in the opposite direction.
By this time we were half-way to Paris, and the student, satisfied with
his success, packed up his folio, brought out a great meerschaum with a
snaky tube, and smoked like a factory-chimney.
When we alighted, it was nearly five o'clock.
"What shall we do next?" said Dalrymple, pulling drearily at his
moustache. "I am so deuced dull to-day that I am ashamed to ask anybody
to do me the charity to dine with me--especially a _bon garcon_ like
"Don't be ashamed," said the student, laughingly, "I would dine with
Pluto himself, if the dishes were good and my appetite as sharp
"_Allons_, then! Where shall we go; to the _Trois Freres_, or the
_Moulin Rouge_, or the _Maison Doree_?"
"The _Trois Freres_" said Mueller, with the air of one who deliberates on
the fate of nations, "has the disadvantage of being situated in the
Palais Royal, where the band still continues to play at half-past five
every afternoon. Now, music should come on with the sweets and the
champagne. It is not appropriate with soup or fish, and it distracts
one's attention if injudiciously administered with the made dishes,"
"True. Then shall we try the _Moulin Rouge_?"
Mueller shook his head.
"At the _Moulin Rouge_" said he, gravely, "one can breakfast well; but
their dinners are stereotyped. For the last ten years they have not
added a new dish to their _carte_; and the discovery of a new dish, says
Brillat Savarin, is of more importance to the human race than the
discovery of a new planet. No--I should not vote for the
"Well, then, Vefours, Very's, the Cafe Anglais?"
"Vefours is traditional; the Cafe Anglais is infested with English; and
at Very's, which is otherwise a meritorious establishment, one's
digestion is disturbed by the sight of omnivorous provincials, who drink
champagne with the _roti_, and eat melon at dessert."
Dalrymple laughed outright.
"At this rate," said he, "we shall get no dinner at all! What is to
become of us, if neither Very's, nor the _Trois Freres_, nor the _Moulin
Rouge_, nor the _Maison Doree_...."
"_Halte-la!"_ interrupted the student, theatrically; "for by my halidom,
sirs, I said not a syllable in disparagement of the house yelept Doree!
Is it not there that we eat of the crab of Bordeaux, succulent and
roseate? Is it not there that we drink of Veuve Cliquot the costly, and
of that Johannisberger, to which all other hocks are vinegar and water?
Never let it be said that Franz Mueller, being of sound mind and body,
did less than justice to the reputation of the _Maison Doree_."
"To the _Maison Doree_, then," said Dalrymple, "with what speed and
appetite we may! By Jove! Herr Franz, you are a _connoisseur_ in the
matter of dining."
"A man who for twenty-nine days out of every thirty pays his sixty-five
centimes for two dishes at a student's Restaurant in the Quartier Latin,
knows better than most people where to go for a good dinner when he has
the chance," said Mueller, philosophically. "The ragouts of the
Temple--the _arlequins_ of the _Cite_--the fried fish of the Odeon
arcades--the unknown hashes of the _guingettes_, and the 'funeral baked
meats' of the Palais Royal, are all familiar to my pocket and my palate.
I do not scruple to confess that in cases of desperate emergency, I have
even availed myself of the advantages of _Le hasard_."
"_Le hasard_." said I. "What is that?"
"_Le hasard de la fourchette_," replied the student, "is the resort of
the vagabond, the _gamin_, and the _chiffonier_. It lies down by the
river-side, near the Halles, and consists of nothing but a shed, a fire,
and a caldron. In this caldron a seething sea of oleaginous liquid
conceals an infinite variety of animal and vegetable substances. The
arrangements of the establishment are beautifully simple. The votary
pays his five centimes and is armed by the presiding genius of the place
with a huge two-pronged iron fork. This fork he plunges in once;--he may
get a calf's foot, or a potato, or a sheep's head, or a carrot, or a
cabbage, or nothing, as fate and the fork direct. All men are gamblers
in some way or another, and _Le hasard_ is a game of gastronomic chance.
But from the ridiculous to the sublime, it is but a step--and while
talking of _Le hasard_ behold, we have arrived at the _Maison Doree_."
A DINNER AT THE MAISON DOREE AND AN EVENING PARTY IN THE QUARTIER LATIN.
The most genial of companions was our new acquaintance, Franz Mueller,
the art-student. Light-hearted, buoyant, unassuming, he gave his animal
spirits full play, and was the life of our little dinner. He had more
natural gayety than generally belongs to the German character, and his
good-temper was inexhaustible. He enjoyed everything; he made the best
of everything; he saw food for laughter in everything. He was always
Back to Full Books