In the Days of My Youth
Amelia Ann Blandford Edwards
Part 4 out of 10
amused, and therefore was always amusing. Above all, there was a
spontaneity in his mirth which acted upon others as a perpetual
stimulant. He was in short, what the French call a _bon garcon_, and the
English a capital fellow; easy without assurance, comic without
vulgarity, and, as Sydney Smith wittily hath it--"a great number of
other things without a great number of other things."
Upon Dalrymple, who had been all day silent, abstracted, and unlike his
usual self, this joyous influence acted like a tonic. As entertainer, he
was bound to exert himself, and the exertion did him good. He threw off
his melancholy; and with the help, possibly, of somewhat more than his
usual quantity of wine, entered thoroughly into the passing joyousness
of the hour. What a _recherche_, luxurious extravagant little dinner it
was, that evening at the Maison Doree! We had a charming little room
overlooking the Boulevard, furnished with as much looking-glass,
crimson-velvet, gilding, and arabesque painting as could be got together
within the space of twelve-feet by eight. Our wine came to table in a
silver cooler that Cellini might have wrought. Our meats were served
upon porcelain that would have driven Palissy to despair. We had nothing
that was in season, except game, and everything that was out; which,
by-the-way, appears to be our modern criterion of excellence with
respect to a dinner. Finally, we were waited upon by the most imposing
of waiters--a waiter whose imperturbable gravity was not to be shaken by
any amount of provocation, and whose neckcloth alone was sufficient to
qualify him for the church.
How merry we were! How Mueller tormented that diplomatic waiter! What
stories we told! what puns we made! What brilliant things we said, or
fancied we said, over our Chambertin and Johannisberger! Mueller knew
nothing of the substratum of sadness underlying all that jollity. He
little thought how heavy Dalrymple's strong heart had been that morning.
He had no idea that my friend and I were to part on the morrow, for
months or years, as the case might be--he to carry his unrest hither and
thither through distant lands; I to remain alone in a strange city,
pursuing a distasteful study, and toiling onward to a future without
fascination or hope. But, as the glass seals tell us, "such is life." We
are all mysteries to one another. The pleasant fellow whom I invite to
dinner because he amuses me, carries a scar on his soul which it would
frighten me to see; and he in turn, when he praises my claret, little
dreams of the carking care that poisons it upon my palate, and robs it
of all its aroma. Perhaps the laughter-loving painter himself had his
own little tragedy locked up in some secret corner of the heart that
seemed to beat so lightly under that braided blouse of Palais Royal cut
and Quartier Latin fashion! Who could tell? And of what use would it be,
if it were told? Smiles carry one through the world more agreeably than
tears, and if the skeleton is only kept decently out of sight in its own
unsuspected closet, so much the better for you and me, and society
Dinner over, and the serious waiter dismissed with the dessert and the
empty bottles, we sat by the open window for a long time, sipping our
coffee, smoking our cigars, and watching the busy life of the Boulevard
below. There the shops were all alight and the passers-by more numerous
than by day. Carriages were dashing along, full of opera-goers and
ball-room beauties. On the pavement just under our window were seated
the usual crowd of Boulevard idlers, sipping their _al fresco_ absinthe,
and _grog-au-vin._ In the very next room, divided from us by only a
slender partition, was a noisy party of young men and girls. We could
hear their bursts of merriment, the chinking of their glasses as they
pledged one another, the popping of the champagne corks, and almost the
very jests that passed from lip to lip. Presently a band came and played
at the corner of an adjoining street. All was mirth, all was life, all
was amusement and dissipation both in-doors and out-of-doors, in the
"care-charming" city of Paris on that pleasant September night; and we,
of course, were gay and noisy, like our neighbors. Dalrymple and Mueller
could scarcely be called new acquaintances. They had met some few times
at the _Chicards_, and also, some years before, in Rome. What stories
they told of artists whom they had known! What fun they made of
Academic dons and grave professors high in authority! What pictures they
drew, of life in Rome--in Vienna--in Paris! Though we had no ladies of
our party and were only three in number, I am not sure that the
merry-makers in the next room laughed any louder or oftener than we!
At length the clock on the mantelpiece warned us that it was already
half-past nine, and that we had been three hours at dinner. It was
clearly time to vary the evening's amusement in some way or other, and
the only question was what next to do? Should we go to a billiard-room?
Or to the Salle Valentinois? Or to some of the cheap theatres on the
Boulevard du Temple? Or to the Tableaux Vivants? Or the Cafe des
Aveugles? Or take a drive round by the Champs Elysees in an open fly?
At length Mueller remembered that some fellow-students were giving a
party that evening, and offered to introduce us.
"It is up five pairs of stairs, in the Quartier Latin," said he; "but
thoroughly jolly--all students and grisettes. They'll be delighted
to see us."
This admirable proposition was no sooner made than acted upon; so we
started immediately, and Dalrymple, who seemed to be well acquainted
with the usages of student-life, proposed that we should take with us a
store of sweetmeats for the ladies.
"There subsists," observed he, "a mysterious elective affinity between
the grisette and the chocolate bon-bon. He who can skilfully exhibit the
latter, is almost certain to win the heart of the former. Where the
chocolate fails, however, the _marron glace_ is an infallible specific.
I recommend that we lay in a liberal supply of both weapons."
"Carried by acclamation," said Mueller. "We can buy them on our way, in
the Rue Vivienne. A capital shop; but one that I never patronize--they
give no credit."
Chatting thus, and laughing, we made our way across the Boulevard and
through a net-work of by-streets into the Rue Vivienne, where we laid
siege to a great bon-bon shop--a gigantic depot for dyspepsia at so
much per kilogramme--and there filled our pockets with sweets of every
imaginable flavor and color. This done, a cab conveyed us in something
less than ten minutes across the Pont Neuf to the Quartier Latin.
Mueller's friends were three in number, and all students--one of art, one
of law, and one of medicine. They lodged at the top of a dingy house
near the Odeon, and being very great friends and very near neighbors
were giving this entertainment conjointly. Their names were Gustave,
Jules, and Adrien. Adrien was the artist, and lived in the garret, just
over the heads of Gustave and Jules, which made it very convenient for a
party, and placed a _suite_ of rooms at the disposal of their visitors.
Long before we had achieved the five pairs of stairs, we heard the sound
of voices and the scraping of a violin, and on the fifth landing were
received by a pretty young lady in a coquettish little cap, whom Mueller
familiarly addressed as Annette, and who piloted us into a very small
bed-room which was already full of hats and coats, bonnets, shawls, and
umbrellas. Having added our own paletots and beavers to the general
stock, and having each received a little bit of pasteboard in exchange
for the same, we were shown into the ball-room by Mademoiselle Annette,
who appeared to fill the position of hostess, usher, and general
It was a good-sized room, somewhat low in the ceiling, and brilliantly
lighted with lots of tallow candles in bottles. The furniture had all
been cleared out for the dancers, except a row of benches round the
walls, and a chest of draws in a recess between the windows which served
as a raised platform for the orchestra. The said orchestra consisted of
a violin and accordion, both played by amateurs, with an occasional
_obligato_ on the common comb. As for the guests, they were, as Mueller
had already told us, all students and grisettes--the former wearing
every strange variety of beard and blouse; the latter in pretty
light-colored muslins and bewitching little caps, with the exception of
two who wore flowers in their hair, and belonged to the opera ballet.
They were in the midst of a tremendous galop when we arrived; so we
stood at the door and looked on, and Dalrymple flirted with Mademoiselle
Annette. As soon as the galop was over, two of our hosts came forward to
"The Duke of Dalrymple and the Marquis of Arbuthnot--Messieurs Jules
Charpentier and Gustave Dubois," said Mueller, with the most _degage_ air
in the world.
Monsieur Jules, a tall young man with an enormous false nose of the
regular carnival pattern, and Monsieur Gustave, who was short and stout,
with a visible high-water mark round his throat and wrists, and curious
leather mosaics in his boots, received us very cordially, and did not
appear to be in the least surprised at the magnificence of the
introduction. On the contrary, they shook hands with us; apologized for
the absence of Adrien, who was preparing the supper upstairs; and
offered to find us partners for the next valse. Dalrymple immediately
proposed for the hand of Mademoiselle Annette. Mueller, declining
adventitious aid, wandered among the ladies, making himself universally
agreeable and trusting for a partner to his own unassisted efforts. For
myself, I was indebted to Monsieur Gustave for an introduction to a very
charming young lady whose name was Josephine, and with whom I fell over
head and ears in love without a moment's warning.
She was somewhat under the middle height, slender, supple, rosy-lipped,
and coquettish to distraction. Her pretty mouth dimpled round with
smiles at every word it uttered. Her very eyes laughed. Her hair, which
was more adorned than concealed by a tiny muslin cap that clung by some
unseen agency to the back of her head, was of a soft, warm, wavy brown,
with a woof of gold threading it here and there. Her voice was perhaps a
little loud; her conversation rather childish; her accent such as would
scarcely have passed current in the Faubourg St. Germain--but what of
that? One would be worse than foolish to expect style and cultivation in
a grisette; and had I not had enough to disgust me with both in Madame
de Marignan? What more charming, after all, than youth, beauty, and
lightheartedness? Were Noel and Chapsal of any importance to a mouth
that could not speak without such a smile as Hebe might have envied?
I was, at all events, in no mood to take exception to these little
defects. I am not sure that I did not even regard them in the light of
additional attractions. That which in another I should have called
_bete_, I set down to the score of _naivete_ in Mademoiselle
Josephine. One is not diffident at twenty--by the way, I was now
twenty-one--especially after dining at the Maison Doree.
Mademoiselle Josephine was frankness itself. Before I had enjoyed the
pleasure of her acquaintance for ten minutes, she told me she was an
artificial florist; that her _patronne_ lived in the Rue Menilmontant;
that she went to her work every morning at nine, and left it every
evening at eight; that she lodged _sous les toits_ at No. 70, Rue
Aubry-le-Boucher; that her relations lived at Juvisy; and that she went
to see them now and then on Sundays, when the weather and her funds
"Is the country pretty at Juvisy, Mademoiselle?" I asked, by way of
keeping up the conversation.
"Oh, M'sieur, it is a real paradise. There are trees and fields, and
there is the Seine close by, and a chateau, and a park, and a church on
a hill, ... _ma foi!_ there is nothing in Paris half so pretty; not even
the Jardin des Plantes!"
"And have you been there lately?"
"Not for eight weeks, at the very least, M'sieur. But then it costs
three francs and a half for the return ticket, and since I quarrelled
"Emile!" said I, quickly. "Who is he?"
"He is a picture-frame maker, M'sieur, and works for a great dealer in
the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre. He was my sweetheart, and he took me out
somewhere every Sunday, till we quarrelled."
"And what did you quarrel about, Mademoiselle?"
My pretty partner laughed and tossed her head.
"Eh, _mon Dieu_! he was jealous."
"Jealous of whom?"
"Of a gentleman--an artist--who wanted to paint me in one of his
pictures. Emile did not like me to go to his _atelier_ so often; and the
gentleman gave me a shawl (such a pretty shawl!) and a canary in a
lovely green and gold cage; and...."
"And Emile objected ?"
"How very unreasonable!"
"That's just what I said, M'sieur."
"And have you never seen him since!"
"Oh, yes--he keeps company now with my cousin Cecile, and she humors him
"And the artist--what of him, Mademoiselle?"
"Oh, I sat to him every day, till his picture was finished. _Il etait
bien gentil_. He took me to the theatre several times, and once to a
fete at Versailles; but that was after Emile and I had broken it off."
"Did you find it tiresome, sitting as a model?"
"_Mais, comme ci, et comme ca_! It was a beautiful dress, and became me
wonderfully. To be sure, it was rather cold!"
"May I ask what character you were supposed to represent, Mademoiselle?"
"He said it was Phryne. I have no idea who she was; but I think she must
have found it very uncomfortable if she always wore sandals, and went
I looked down at her little foot, and thought how pretty it must have
looked in the Greek sandal. I pictured her to myself in the graceful
Greek robe, with a chalice in her hand and her temples crowned with
flowers. What a delicious Phryne! And what a happy fellow Praxiteles
must have been!
"It was a privilege, Mademoiselle, to be allowed to see you in so
charming a costume," I said, pressing her hand tenderly. "I envy that
artist from the bottom of my heart."
Mademoiselle Josephine smiled, and returned the pressure.
"One might borrow it," said she, "for the Bal de l'Opera."
"Ah, Mademoiselle, if I dared only aspire to the honor of conducting
"_Dame_! it is nearly four months to come!"
"True, but in the meantime, Mademoiselle----"
"In the meantime," said the fair Josephine, anticipating my hopes with
all the unembarrassed straightforwardness imaginable, "I shall be
delighted to improve M'sieur's acquaintance."
"Mademoiselle, you make me happy!"
"Besides, M'sieur is an Englishman, and I like the English so much!"
"I am delighted to hear it, Mademoiselle. I hope I shall never give you
cause to alter your opinion."
"Last galop before supper!" shouted Monsieur Jules through, a brass
speaking-trumpet, in order to make use of which he was obliged to hold
up his nose with one hand. "Gentlemen, choose your partners. All couples
to dance till they drop!"
There were a dozen up immediately, amongst whom Dalrymple and
Mademoiselle Annette, and Mueller with one of the ballet ladies, were the
first to start. As for Josephine, she proved to be a damsel of
forty-galop power. She never wanted to rest, and she never cared to
leave off. She did not even look warm when it was over. I wonder to this
day how it was that I did not die on the spot.
When the galop was ended, we all went upstairs to Monsieur Adrien's
garret, where Monsieur Adrien, who had red hair and wore glasses,
received us in person, and made us welcome. Here we found the supper
elegantly laid out on two doors which had been taken off their hinges
for the purpose; but which, being supported from beneath on divers boxes
and chairs of unequal heights, presented a painfully sloping surface,
thereby causing the jellies to look like leaning towers of Pisa, and the
spongecake (which was already professedly tipsy) to assume an air so
unbecomingly convivial that it might almost have been called drunk.
Nobody thought of sitting down, and, if they did, there were no means of
doing so; for Monsieur Adrien's garret was none of the largest, and, as
in a small villa residence we sometimes see the whole house sacrificed
to a winding staircase, so in this instance had the whole room been
sacrificed to the splendor of the supper. For the inconvenience of
standing, we were compensated, however, by the abundance and excellence
of the fare. There were cold chickens, meat-pies, dishes of sliced ham,
pyramids of little Bologna sausages, huge rolls of bread a yard in
length, lobster salad, and cold punch in abundance.
The flirtations at supper were tremendous. In a bachelor establishment
one cannot expect to find every convenience, and on this occasion the
prevailing deficiencies were among the plates and glasses; so those who
had been partners in the dance now became partners in other matters,
eating off the same plate and drinking out of the same tumbler; but this
only made it so much the merrier. By and by somebody volunteered a song,
and somebody else made a speech, and then we went down again to the
ball-room, and dancing recommenced.
The laughter now became louder, and the legs of the guests more vigorous
than ever. The orchestra, too, received an addition to its strength in
the person of a gentleman who, having drunk more cold punch than was
quite consistent with the preservation of his equilibrium, was still
sober enough to oblige us with a spirited accompaniment on the shovel
and tongs, which, with the violin and accordion, and the comb _obligato_
before mentioned, produced a startling effect, and reminded one of
Turkish marches, Pantomime overtures, and the like barbaric music.
In the midst of the first polka, however, we were interrupted by a
succession of furious double knocks on the floor beneath our feet. We
stopped by involuntary consent--dancers, musicians, and all.
"It's our neighbor on the story below," said Monsieur Jules. "He objects
to the dancing."
"Then we'll dance a little heavier, to teach him better taste," said a
student, who had so little hair on his head and so much on his chin,
that he looked as if his face had been turned upside down. "What is the
name of the ridiculous monster?"
"Ladies and gentlemen, let us dance for the edification of Monsieur
Bobinet! Orchestra, strike up, in honor of Monsieur Bobinet! One, two,
three, and away!"
Hereupon we uttered a general hurrah, and dashed off again, like a herd
of young elephants. The knocking ceased, and we thought that Monsieur
Bobinet had resigned himself to his fate, when, just as the polka ended
and the dancers were promenading noisily round and round the room, the
bombardment began afresh; and this time against the very door of the
"_Par exemple_!" cries Monsieur Jules. "The enemy dares to attack us in
our own lines!"
"Bolt the door, and let him knock till he's tired," suggested one.
"Open it suddenly, and deluge him with water!" cried another.
"Tar and feather him!" proposed a third.
In the meantime, Monsieur Bobinet, happily ignorant of these agreeable
schemes for his reception, continued to thunder away upon the outer
panels, accompanying the raps with occasional loud coughs, and hems, and
stampings of the feet.
"Hush! do nothing violent," cried Mueller, scenting a practical joke.
"Let us invite him in, and make fun of him. It will be ever so much
And with this he drove the rest somewhat back and threw open the door,
upon the outer threshold of which, with a stick in one hand and a
bedroom candle in the other, and a flowered dressing-gown tied round his
ample waist by a cord and tassels, stood Monsieur Bobinet.
Mueller received him with a profound bow, and said:--
"Monsieur Bobinet, I believe?"
Monsieur Bobinet, who was very bald, very cross, and very stout, cast
an irritable glance into the room, but, seeing so many people, drew back
"Yes, that is my name, Monsieur. I lodge on the fourth floor...."
"But pray walk in, Monsieur Bobinet," said Mueller, opening the door
still wider and bowing still more profoundly.
"Monsieur," returned the fourth-floor lodger, "I--I only come to
"Whatever the occasion of this honor, Monsieur," pursued the student,
with increasing politeness, "we cannot suffer you to remain on the
landing. Pray do us the favor to walk in."
"Oh, walk in--pray walk in, Monsieur Bobinet," echoed Jules, Gustave,
and Adrien, all together.
The fourth-floor lodger hesitated; took a step forward; thought,
perhaps, that, since we were all so polite, he would do his best to
conciliate us; and, glancing down nervously at his dressing-gown and
"Really, gentlemen, I should have much pleasure, but I am not
"Don't mention it, Monsieur Bobinet," said Mueller. "We are delighted to
receive you. Allow me to disembarrass you of your candle."
"And permit me," said Jules, "to relieve you of your stick."
"Pray, Monsieur Bobinet, do you never dance the polka?" asked Gustave.
"Bring Monsieur Bobinet a glass of cold punch," said Adrien.
"And a plate of lobster salad," added the bearded student.
Monsieur Bobinet, finding the door already closed behind him, looked
round nervously; but encountering only polite and smiling faces,
endeavored to seem at his ease, and to put a good face upon the matter.
"Indeed, gentlemen, I must beg you to excuse me," said he. "I never
drink at night, and I never eat suppers. I only came to request...."
"Nay, Monsieur Bobinet, we cannot suffer you to leave us without taking
a glass of cold punch," pursued Mueller.
"Upon my word," began the lodger, "I dare not...."
"A glass of white wine, then?"
"Or a cup of coffee?"
"Or some home-made lemonade?"
Monsieur Bobinet cast a look of helpless longing towards the door.
"If you really insist, gentlemen," said he, "I will take a cup of
coffee; but indeed...."
"A cup of coffee for Monsieur Bobinet!" shouted Mueller.
"A large cup of coffee for Monsieur Bobinet!" repeated Jules.
"A strong cup of coffee for Monsieur Bobinet!" cried Gustave, following
up the lead of the other two.
The fourth-floor lodger frowned and colored up, beginning to be
suspicious of mischief. Seeing this, Mueller hastened to apologize.
"You must pardon us, Monsieur Bobinet," he said with the most winning
amiability, "if we are all in unusually high spirits to-night. You are
not aware, perhaps, that our friend Monsieur Jules Charpentier was
married this morning, and that we are here in celebration of that happy
event. Allow me to introduce you to the bride."
And turning to one of the ballet ladies, he led her forward with
exceeding gravity, and presented her to Monsieur Bobinet as Madame
The fourth-floor lodger bowed, and went through the usual
congratulations. In the meantime, some of the others had prepared a mock
sofa by means of two chairs set somewhat wide apart, with a shawl thrown
over the whole to conceal the space between. Upon one of these chairs
sat a certain young lady named Louise, and upon the other Mam'selle
Josephine. As soon as it was ready, Muller, who had been only waiting
for it, affected to observe for the first time that Monsieur Bobinet was
"_Mon Dieu_!" he exclaimed, "has no one offered our visitor a chair?
Monsieur Bobinet, I beg a thousand pardons. Pray do us the favor to be
seated. Your coffee will be here immediately, and these ladies on the
sofa will be delighted to make room for you."
"Oh yes, pray be seated, Monsieur Bobinet," cried the two girls. "We
shall be charmed to make room for Monsieur Bobinet!"
More than ever confused and uncomfortable, poor Monsieur Bobinet bowed;
sat down upon the treacherous space between the two chairs; went through
immediately; and presented the soles of his slippers to the company in
the least picturesque manner imaginable. This involuntary performance
was greeted with a shout of wild delight.
"Bravo, Monsieur Bobinet!"
"_Vive_ Monsieur Bobinet!"
"Three cheers for Monsieur Bobinet!"
Scarlet with rage, the fourth-floor lodger sprang to his feet and made a
rush to the door; but he was hemmed in immediately. In vain he stormed;
in vain he swore. We joined hands; we called for music; we danced round
him; we sang; and at last, having fairly bumped and thumped and hustled
him till we were tired, pushed him out on the landing, and left him
to his fate.
After this interlude, the mirth grew fast and furious. _Valse_ succeeded
_valse_, and galop followed galop, till the orchestra declared they
could play no longer, and the gentleman with the shovel and tongs
collapsed in a corner of the room and went to sleep with his head in the
coal-scuttle. Then the ballet-ladies were prevailed upon to favor us
with a _pas de deux_; after which Mueller sang a comic song with a
chorus, in which everybody joined; and then the orchestra was bribed
with hot brandy-and-water, and dancing commenced again. By this time the
visitors began to drop away in twos and threes, and even the fair
Josephine, to whom I had never ceased paying the most devoted attention,
declared she could not stir another step. As for Dalrymple, he had
disappeared during supper, without a word of leave-taking to any one.
Matters being at this pass, I looked at my watch, and found that it was
already half-past six o'clock; so, having bade good-night, or rather
good-morning, to Messieurs Jules, Gustave, and Adrien, and having, with
great difficulty, discovered my own coat and hat among the miscellaneous
collection in the adjoining bed-room, I prepared to escort Mademoiselle
Josephine to her home.
"Going already?" said Mueller, encountering us on the landing, with a
roll in one hand and a Bologna sausage in the other.
"Already! Why, my dear fellow, it is nearly seven o'clock!"
"_Qu'importe_? Come up to the supper-room and have some breakfast!"
"Not for the world!"
"Well, _chacun a son gout_. I am as hungry as a hunter."
"Can I not take you any part of your way?"
"No, thank you. I am a Quartier Latinist, _pur sang_, and lodge only a
street or two off. Stay, here is my address. Come and see me--you can't
think how glad I shall be!"
"Indeed, I will come---and here is my card in exchange. Good-night, Herr
"Good-night, Marquis of Arbuthnot. Mademoiselle Josephine, _au
So we shook hands and parted, and I saw my innamorata home to her
residence at No. 70, Rue Aubry le Boucher, which opened upon the Marche
des Innocents. She fell asleep upon my shoulder in the cab, and was only
just sufficiently awake when I left her, to accept all the _marrons
glaces_ that yet remained in the pockets of my paletot, and to remind me
that I had promised to take her out next Sunday for a drive in the
country, and a dinner at the Moulin Rouge.
The fountain in the middle of the Marche was now sparkling in the
sunshine like a shower of diamonds, and the business of the market was
already at its height. The shops in the neighboring streets were opening
fast. The "iron tongue" of St. Eustache was calling the devout to early
prayer. Fagged as I was, I felt that a walk through the fresh air would
do me good; so I dismissed the cab, and reached my lodgings just as the
sleepy _concierge_ had turned out to sweep the hall, and open the
establishment for the day. When I came down again two hours later,
after a nap and a bath, I found a _commissionnaire_ waiting for me.
"_Tiens_!" said Madame Bouisse (Madame Bouisse was the wife of the
_concierge_). "_V'la_! here is M'sieur Arbuthnot."
The man touched his cap, and handed me a letter.
"I was told to deliver it into no hands but those of M'sieur himself,"
The address was in Dalrymple's writing. I tore the envelope open. It
contained only a card, on the back of which, scrawled hastily in pencil,
were the following words:
"To have said good-bye would have made our parting none the lighter. By
the time you decipher this hieroglyphic I shall be some miles on my way:
Address Hotel de Russie, Berlin. Adieu, Damon; God bless you. O.D."
"How long is it since this letter was given to you?" said I, without
taking my eyes from the card.
The _commissionnaire_ made no reply. I repeated the question, looked up
impatiently, and found that the man was already gone.
THE CHATEAU DE SAINTE AULAIRE.
"Mark yon old mansion frowning through the trees,
Whose hollow turret wooes the whistling breeze."
My acquaintance with Mademoiselle Josephine progressed rapidly;
although, to confess the truth, I soon found myself much less deeply in
love than I had at first supposed. For this disenchantment, fate and
myself were alone to blame. It was not her fault if I had invested her
with a thousand imaginary perfections; nor mine if the spell was broken
as soon as I discovered my mistake.
Too impatient to wait till Sunday, I made my way on Saturday afternoon
to Rue Aubry-le-Boucher. I persuaded myself that I was bound to call on
her, in order to conclude our arrangements for the following day. At all
events, I argued, she might forget the engagement, or believe that I had
forgotten it. So I went, taking with me a magnificent bouquet, and an
embroidered satin bag full of _marrons glaces_.
My divinity lived, as she had told me, _sous les toits_--and _sous les
toits_, up seven flights of very steep and dirty stairs, I found her. It
was a large attic with a sloping roof, overlooking a bristling expanse
of chimney-pots, and commanding the twin towers of Notre Dame. There
were some colored prints of battles and shipwrecks wafered to the walls;
a couple of flower-pots in the narrow space between the window-ledge and
the coping outside; a dingy canary in a wire cage; a rival mechanical
cuckoo in a Dutch clock in the corner; a little bed with striped
hangings; a rush-bottomed _prie-dieu_ chair in front of a plain black
crucifix, over which drooped a faded branch of consecrated palm; and
some few articles of household furniture of the humblest description. In
all this there was nothing vulgar. Under other circumstances I might,
perhaps, have even elicited somewhat of grace and poetry from these
simple materials. But conceive what it was to see them through an
atmosphere of warm white steam that left an objectionable clamminess on
the backs of the chairs and caused even the door-handle to burst into a
tepid perspiration. Conceive what it was to behold my adored one
standing in the middle of the room, up to her elbows in soap-suds,
washing out the very dress in which she was to appear on the morrow....
Good taste defend us! Could anything be more cruelly calculated to
disturb the tender tenor of a lover's dreams? Fancy what Leander would
have felt, if, after swimming across the Hellespont, he had surprised
Hero at the washing-tub! Imagine Romeo's feelings, if he had scaled the
orchard-walls only to find Juliet helping to hang out the family linen!
The worst of it was that my lovely Josephine was not in the least
embarrassed. She evidently regarded the washing-tub as a desirable
piece of furniture, and was not even conscious that the act of "soaping
in," was an unromantic occupation!
Such was the severity of this first blow that I pleaded an engagement,
presented my offerings (how dreadfully inappropriate they seemed!), and
hurried away to a lecture on _materia medica_ at the _Ecole Pratique_;
that being a good, congenial, dismal entertainment for the evening!
Sunday came with the sunrise, and at midday, true as the clock of St.
Eustache, I knocked once more at the door of the _mansarde_ where my
Josephine dwelt. This time, my visit being anticipated, I found her
dressed to receive me. She looked more fresh and charming than ever; and
the lilac muslin which I had seen in the washing-tub some eighteen or
twenty hours before, became her to perfection. So did her pretty green
shawl, pinned closely at the throat and worn as only a French-woman
would have known how to wear it. So did the white camellia and the
moss-rose buds which she had taken out of my bouquet, and fastened at
What I was not prepared for, however, was her cap. I had forgotten that
your Parisian grisette would no more dream of wearing a bonnet than
of crowning her head with feathers and adorning her countenance with
war-paint. It had totally escaped me that I, a bashful Englishman of
twenty-one, nervously sensitive to ridicule and gifted by nature with
but little of the spirit of social defiance, must in broad daylight make
my appearance in the streets of Paris, accompanied by a bonnetless
grisette! What should I do, if I met Dr. Cheron? or Madame de
Courcelles? or, worse than all, Madame de Marignan? My obvious resource
was to take her in whatever direction we should be least likely to meet
any of my acquaintances. Where, oh fate! might that obscurity be found
which had suddenly become the dearest object of my desires?
 The grisette of twenty years ago, _bien entendu_. I am writing, be
it remembered, of "The days of my youth."
"_Eh bien_, Monsieur Basil," said Josephine, when my first compliments
had been paid. "I am quite ready. Where are we going?"
"We shall dine, _mon cher ange_," said I, absently, "at--let me
"At the Moulin Rouge," interrupted she. "But that is six hours to come.
In the meantime--"
"In the meantime? Ay, in the meantime...what a delightful day for the
time of year!"
"Shall it be Versailles?" suggested Josephine.
Josephine opened her large eyes.
"_Mon Dieu!_" said she. "What is there so very dreadful in Versailles?"
I made no reply. I was passing all the suburbs in review before my
mind's eye,--Bellevue, Enghien, Fontenay-aux-Roses, St. Germains,
Sceaux; even Fontainebleau and Compiegne.
The grisette pouted, and glanced at the clock.
"If Monsieur is as slow to start as he is to answer," said she, "we
shall not get beyond the barriers to-day."
At this moment, I remembered to have heard of Montlhery as a place where
there was a forest and a feudal ruin; also, which was more to the
purpose, as lying at least six-and-twenty miles south of Paris.
"My dear Mademoiselle Josephine," I said, "forgive me. I have planned an
excursion which I am sure will please you infinitely better than a mere
common-place trip to Versailles. Versailles, on Sunday, is vulgar. You
have heard, of course, of Montlhery--one of the most interesting places
"I have read a romance called _The Tower of Montlhery"_ said Josephine.
"And that tower--that historical and interesting tower--is still
standing! How delightful to wander among the ruins--to recall the
stirring events which caused it to be besieged in the reign of--of
either Louis the Eleventh, or Louis the Fourteenth; I don't remember
which, and it doesn't signify--to explore the picturesque village, and
ramble through the adjoining woods of St. Genevieve--to visit..."
"I wonder if we shall find any donkeys to ride," interrupted Josephine,
upon whom my eloquence was taking the desired effect.
"Donkeys!" I exclaimed, drawing, I am ashamed to say, upon my
imagination. "Of course--hundreds of them!"
"_Ah, ca_! Then the sooner we go the better. Stay, I must just lock my
door, and leave word with my neighbor on the next floor that I am gone
out for the day,"
So she locked the door and left the message, and we started. I was
fortunate enough to find a close cab at the corner of the _marche_--she
would have preferred an open one, but I overruled that objection on the
score of time--and before very long we were seated in the cushioned
fauteuils of a first-class compartment on the Orleans Railway, and
speeding away towards Montlhery.
It was with no trifling sense of relief that I found the place really
picturesque, when we arrived. We had, it is true, to put up with a
comfortless drive of three or four miles in a primitive, jolting, yellow
omnibus, which crawled at stated hours of the day between the town and
the station; but that was a minor evil, and we made the best of it.
First of all, we strolled through the village--the clean, white, sunny
village, where the people were sitting outside their doors playing at
dominoes, and the cocks and hens were walking about like privileged
inhabitants of the market-place. Then we had luncheon at the _auberge_
of the "Lion d'Or." Then we looked in at the little church (still
smelling of incense from the last service) with its curious old
altar-piece and monumental brasses. Then we peeped through the iron gate
of the melancholy _cimetiere_, which was full of black crosses and
wreaths of _immortelles_. Last of all, we went to see the ruin, which
stood on the summit of a steep and solitary rock in the midst of a vast
level plain. It proved to be a round keep of gigantic strength and
height, approached by two courtyards and surrounded by the weed-grown
and fragmentary traces of an extensive stronghold, nothing of which now
remained save a few broken walls, three or four embrasured loopholes, an
ancient well of incalculable depth, and the rusted teeth of a formidable
portcullis. Here we paused awhile to rest and admire the view; while
Josephine, pleased as a child on a holiday, flung pebbles into the well,
ate sugar-plums, and amused herself with my pocket-telescope.
"_Regardez_!" she cried, "there is the dome of the Pantheon. I am sure
it is the Pantheon--and to the right, far away, I see a town!--little
white houses, and a steeple. And there goes a steamer on the river--and
there is the railway and the railway station, and the long road by which
we came in the omnibus. Oh, how nice it is, Monsieur Basil, to look
through a telescope!"
"Do me the favor, _ma belle_, to accept it--for my sake," said I,
thankful to find her so easily entertained. I was lying in a shady angle
of old wall, puffing away at a cigar, with my hat over my eyes, and the
soles of my boots levelled at the view. It is difficult to smoke and
make love at the same time; and I preferred the tobacco.
Josephine was enchanted, and thanked me in a thousand pretty, foolish
phrases. She declared she saw ever so much farther and clearer with the
glass, now that it was her own. She looked at me through it, and
insisted that I should look at her. She picked out all sorts of
marvellous objects, at all sorts of incredible distances. In short, she
prattled and chattered till I forgot all about the washing-tub, and
again began to think her quite charming. Presently we heard wandering
sounds of music among the trees at the foot of the hill--sounds as of a
violin and bagpipes; now coming with the wind from the west, now dying
away to the north, now bursting out afresh more merrily than ever, and
leading off towards the village.
"_Tiens_! that must be a wedding!" said Josephine, drumming with her
little feet against the side of the old well on which she was sitting.
"A wedding! what connection subsists, pray, between the bonds of
matrimony, and a tune on the bagpipes?"
"I don't know what you mean by bagpipes--I only know that when people
get married in the country, they go about with the musicians playing
before them. What you hear yonder is a violin and a _cornemuse_."
"A _cornemuse!_" I repeated. "What's that?"
"Oh, country music. A thing you blow into with your mouth, and play upon
with your fingers, and squeeze under your arm--like this."
"Then it's the same thing, _ma chere_," said I. "A bagpipes and a
_cornemuse_--a _cornemuse_ and bagpipes. Both of them national, popular,
"I'm so fond of music," said Josephine.
Not wishing to object to her tastes, and believing that this observation
related to the music then audible, I made no reply.
"And I have never been to an opera," added she.
I was still silent, though from another motive.
"You will take me one night to the Italiens, or the Opera Comique, will
you not, Monsieur Basil?" pursued she, determined not to lose her
I had now no resource but to promise; which I did, very reluctantly.
"You would enjoy the Opera Comique far more than the Italiens," said I,
remembering that Madame de Marignan had a box at the Italiens, and
rapidly weighing the chances for and against the possibility of
recognition. "At the first they sing in French--at the last,
"Ah, bah! I should prefer the French," replied she, falling at once into
the snare. "When shall it be--this week?"
"Ye--es; one evening this week."
"Well, let me see--we had better wait, and consult the advertisements."
"_Dame_! never mind the advertisements. Let it be Tuesday."
"Because it is soon; and because I can get away early on Tuesdays if I
I had, plainly, no chance of escape.
"You would not prefer to see the great military piece at the Porte St.
Martin?" I suggested. "There are three hundred real soldiers in it, and
they fire real cannon."
"Not I! I have been to the Porte St. Martin, over and over again. Emile
knew one of the scene-painter's assistants, and used to get tickets two
or three times a month."
"Then it shall be the Opera Comique," said I, with a sigh.
"And on Tuesday evening next."
"On Tuesday evening next."
At this moment the piping and fiddling broke out afresh, and Josephine,
who had scarcely taken the little telescope from her eye all the time,
exclaimed that she saw the wedding party going through the market-place
of the town.
"There they are--the musicians first; the bride and bridegroom next; and
eight friends, all two and two! There will be a dance, depend on it! Let
us go down to the town, and hear all about it! Perhaps they might invite
us to join them--who knows?"
"But you would not dance before dinner?"
"_Eh, mon Dieu_! I would dance before breakfast, if I had the chance.
Come along. If we do not make haste, we may miss them."
I rose, feeling, and I daresay, looking, like a martyr; and we went down
again into the town.
There we inquired of the first person who seemed likely to know--he was
a dapper hairdresser, standing at his shop-door with his hands in his
apron pockets and a comb behind his ear--and were told that the
wedding-party had just passed through the village, on their way to the
Chateau of Saint Aulaire.
"The Chateau of St. Aulaire!" said Josephine. "What are they going to do
there? What is there to see?"
"It is an ancient mansion, Mademoiselle, much visited by strangers,"
replied the hairdresser with exceeding politeness. "Worthy of
Mademoiselle's distinguished attention--and Monsieur's. Contains old
furniture, old paintings, old china--stands in an extensive park--one of
the lions of this neighborhood, Mademoiselle--also Monsieur."
"To whom does it belong?" I asked, somewhat interested in this account.
"That, Monsieur, is a question difficult to answer," replied the fluent
hairdresser, running his fingers through his locks and dispersing a
gentle odor of rose-oil. "It was formerly the property of the ancient
family of Saint Aulaire. The last Marquis de Saint Aulaire, with his
wife and family, were guillotined in 1793. Some say that the young heir
was saved; and an individual asserting himself to be that heir did
actually put forward a claim to the estate, some twenty, or
five-and-twenty years ago, but lost his cause for want of sufficient
proof. In the meantime, it had passed into the hands of a wealthy
republican family, descended, it is said, from General Dumouriez. This
family held it till within the last four years, when two or three fresh
claimants came forward; so that it is now the object of a lawsuit which
may last till every brick of it falls to ruin, and every tree about it
withers away. At present, a man and his wife have charge of the place,
and visitors are permitted to see it any day between twelve and four."
"I should like to see the old place," said I.
"And I should like to see how the bride is dressed," said Josephine,
"and if the bridegroom is handsome."
"Well, let us go--not forgetting to thank Monsieur _le Perruquier_ for
his polite information."
Monsieur _le Perruquier_ fell into what dancing-masters call the first
position, and bowed elaborately.
"Most welcome, Mademoiselle--and Monsieur," said he. "Straight up the
road--past the orchard about a quarter of a mile--old iron gates--can't
miss it. Good-afternoon, Mademoiselle--also Monsieur."
Following his directions, we came presently to the gates, which were
rusty and broken-hinged, with traces of old gilding still showing
faintly here and there upon their battered scrolls and bosses. One of
them was standing open, and had evidently been standing so for years;
while the other had as evidently been long closed, so that the deep
grass had grown rankly all about it, and the very bolt was crusted over
with a yellow lichen. Between the two, an ordinary wooden hurdle had
been put up, and this hurdle was opened for us by a little blue-bloused
urchin in a pair of huge _sabots_, who, thinking we belonged to the
bridal party, pointed up the dusky avenue, and said, with a grin:--
"_Tout droit, M'sieur--ils sont passes par la!_"
_Par la_, "under the shade of melancholy boughs," we went accordingly.
Far away on either side stretched dim vistas of neglected park-land,
deep with coarse grass and weeds and, where the trees stood thickest,
all choked with a brambly undergrowth. After about a quarter of a mile
of this dreary avenue, we came to a broad area of several acres laid out
in the Italian style with fountains and terraces, at the upper end of
which stood the house--a feudal, _moyen-age_ French chateau, with
irregular wings, steep slated roofings, innumerable windows, and
fantastic steeple-topped turrets sheeted with lead and capped with
grotesque gilded weathercocks. The principal front had been repaired in
the style of the Renaissance and decorated with little foliated
entablatures above the doors and windows; whilst a double flight of
steps leading up to a grand entrance on the level of the first story,
like the famous double staircase of Fontainebleau, had been patched on
in the very centre, to the manifest disfigurement of the building. Most
of the windows were shuttered up, and as we drew nearer, the general
evidences of desolation became more apparent. The steps of the terraces
were covered with patches of brown and golden moss. The stone urns were
some of them fallen in the deep grass, and some broken. There were gaps
in the rich balustrade here and there; and the two great fountains on
either side of the lower terrace had long since ceased to fling up
their feathery columns towards the sun. In the middle of one a broken
Pan, noseless and armless, turned up a stony face of mute appeal, as if
imploring us to free him from the parasitic jungle of aquatic plants
which flourished rankly round him in the basin. In the other, a stalwart
river-god with his finger on his lip, seemed listening for the music of
those waters which now scarcely stirred amid the tangled weeds that
clustered at his feet.
Passing all these, passing also the flower-beds choked with brambles and
long waving grasses, and the once quaintly-clipped myrtle and box-trees,
all flinging out fantastic arms of later growth, we came to the upper
terrace, which was paved in curious patterns of stars and arabesques,
with stones alternately round and flat. Here a good-humored, cleanly
peasant woman came clattering out in her _sabots_ from a side-door, key
in hand, preceded us up the double flight of steps, unlocked the great
door, and admitted us.
The interior, like the front, had been modernized about a hundred and
fifty years before, and resembled a little formal Versailles or
miniature Fontainebleau. Dismantled halls paved with white marble;
panelled ante-chambers an inch deep in dust; dismal _salons_ adorned
with Renaissance arabesques and huge looking-glasses, cracked and
mildewed, and mended with pasted seams of blue paper; boudoirs with
faded Watteau panellings; corridors with painted ceilings where
mythological divinities, marvellously foreshortened on a sky-blue
ground, were seen surrounded by rose-colored Cupids and garlanded with
ribbons and flowers; innumerable bed-rooms, some containing grim
catafalques of beds with gilded cornices and funereal plumes, some
empty, some full of stored-up furniture fast going to decay--all these
in endless number we traversed, conducted by the good-tempered
_concierge_, whose heavy _sabots_ awakened ghostly echoes from floor
At length, through an ante-chamber lined with a double file of grim old
family portraits--some so blackened with age and dust as to be totally
indistinguishable, and others bulging hideously out of their frames--we
came to the library, a really noble room, lofty, panelled with walnut
wood, floored with polished oak, and looking over a wide expanse of
level country. Long ranges of empty book-shelves fenced in with broken
wire-work ran round the walls. The painted ceiling represented, as
usual, the heavens and some pagan divinities. A dumb old time-piece,
originally constructed to tell the months, the days of the year, and the
hours, stood on a massive corner bracket near the door. Long antique
mirrors in heavy black frames reached from floor to ceiling between each
of the windows; and in the centre of the room, piled all together and
festooned with a thick drapery of cobwebs, stood a dozen or so of old
carved chairs, screens, and foot-stools, rich with velvet, brocade, and
gilded leather, but now looking as if a touch would crumble them to
dust. Over the great carved fireplace, however, hung a painting upon
which my attention became riveted as soon as I entered the room--a
painting yellow with age; covered with those minute cracks which are
like wrinkles on the face of antique art, coated with dust, and yet so
singularly attractive that, having once noticed it, I looked at
It was the half-length portrait of a young lady in the costume of the
reign of Louis XVI. One hand rested on a stone urn; the other was raised
to her bosom, holding a thin blue scarf that seemed to flutter in the
wind. Her dress was of white satin, cut low and square, with a stomacher
of lace and pearls. She also wore pearls in her hair, on her white arms,
and on her whiter neck. Thus much for the mere adjuncts; as for the
face--ah, how can I ever describe that pale, perfect, tender face, with
its waving brown hair and soft brown eyes, and that steadfast perpetual
smile that seemed to light the eyes from within, and to dwell in the
corners of the lips without parting or moving them? It was like a face
seen in a dream, or the imperfect image which seems to come between us
and the page when we read of Imogen asleep.
"Who was this lady?" I asked, eagerly.
The _concierge_ nodded and rubbed her hands.
"Aha! M'sieur," said she, "'tis the best painting in the chateau, as
folks tell me. M'sieur is a connoisseur."
"But do you know whose portrait it is?"
"To be sure I do, M'sieur. It's the portrait of the last Marquise--the
one who was guillotined, poor soul, with her husband, in--let me
"What an exquisite creature! Look, Josephine, did you ever see anything
"Beautiful!" repeated the grisette, with a sidelong glance at one of the
mirrors. "Beautiful, with such a coiffure and such a bodice! _Ciel!_ how
"But her face, Josephine!"
"What of her face? I'm sure it's plain enough."
"Plain! Good heavens! what..."
But it was not worth while to argue upon it. I pulled out one of the old
chairs, and so climbed near enough to dust the surface of the painting
with my handkerchief.
"I wish I could buy it!" I exclaimed.
Josephine burst into a loud laugh.
"_Grand Dieu_!" said she, half pettishly, "if you are so much in love
with it as all that, I dare say it would not be difficult!"
The _concierge_ shook her head.
"Everything on this estate is locked up," said she. "Nothing can be
sold, nothing given away, nothing even repaired, till the _proces_
I sighed, and came down reluctantly from my perch. Josephine was visibly
impatient. She had seen the wedding-party going down one of the walks at
the back of the house; and the _concierge_ was waiting to let us out. I
drew her aside, and slipped a liberal gratuity into her hand.
"If I were to come down here some day with a friend of mine who is a
painter," I whispered, "would you have any objection, Madame, to allow
him to make a little sketch of that portrait?"
The _concierge_ looked into her palm, and seeing the value of the coin,
smiled, hesitated, put her finger to her lip, and said:--
"_Ma foi_, M'sieur, I believe I have no business to allow it; but--to
oblige a gentleman like you--if there was nobody about--"
I nodded. We understood each other sufficiently, and no more was needed.
Once out of the house, Medemoiselle Josephine pouted, and took upon
herself to be sulky--a disposition which was by no means lessened when,
after traversing the park in various directions in search of the bridal
company, we found that they had gone out long ago by a gate at the other
side of the estate, and were by this time piping, most probably, in the
It was now five o'clock; so we hastened back through the village, cast a
last glance at the grim old tower on its steep solitude, consigned
ourselves to the yellow omnibus, and in due time were once more flying
along the iron road towards Paris. The rapid motion, the dignity of
occupying a first-class seat, and, above all, the prospects of an
excellent dinner, soon brought my fair companion round again, and by the
time we reached the Moulin Rouge, she was all vivacity and good temper.
The less I say about that dinner the better. I am humiliated when I
recall all that I suffered, and all that she did. I blush even now when
I remember how she blew upon her soup, put her knife in her mouth, and
picked her teeth with her shawl-pin. What possessed her that she would
persist in calling the waiter "Monsieur?" And why, in Heaven's name,
need she have clapped her hands when I ordered the champagne? To say
that I had no appetite--that I wished myself at the antipodes--that I
longed to sink into my boots, to smother the waiter, or to do anything
equally desperate and unreasonable, is to express but a tithe of the
anguish I endured. I bore it, however, in silence, little dreaming what
a much heavier trial was yet in store for me.
I FALL A SACRIFICE TO MRS. GRUNDY.
"A word with you, if you please, Basil Arbuthnot," said Dr. Cheron,
"when you have finished copying those prescriptions."
Dr. Cheron was standing with his feet firmly planted in the tiger-skin
rug and his back to the fireplace. I was busy writing at the study
table, and glancing anxiously from time to time at the skeleton clock
upon the chimney-piece; for it was getting on fast towards five, and at
half-past six I was to take Josephine to the Opera Comique. As perverse
fortune would have it, the Doctor had this afternoon given me more
desk-work than usual, and I began to doubt whether I should be able to
dine, dress, and reach the theatre in time if he detained me
"But you need be in no haste," he added, looking at his watch. "That is
to say, upon my account."
I bowed nervously--I was always nervous in his presence--and tried to
write faster than ever; but, feeling his cold blue eye upon me, made a
blot, smeared it with my sleeve, left one word out, wrote another twice
over, and was continually tripped up by my pen, which sputtered
hideously and covered the page with florid passages in little round
spots, which only needed tails to become crotchets and quavers. At
length, just as the clock struck the hour, I finished my task and laid
aside my pen.
Dr. Cheron coughed preparatorily.
"It is some time," said he, "since you have given me any news of your
father. Do you often hear from him?"
"Not very often, sir," I replied. "About once in every three weeks. He
Dr. Cheron took a packet of papers from his breast-pocket, and ruffling
them over, said, somewhat indifferently:--
"Very true--very true. His notes are brief and few; but always to the
purpose. I heard from him this morning."
"Yes--here is his letter. It encloses a remittance of seventy-five
pounds; fifty of which are for you. The remaining twenty-five being
reserved for the defrayal of your expenses at the Ecole de Medecine and
the Ecole Pratique."
I was delighted.
"Both are made payable through my banker," continued Dr. Cheron, "and I
am to take charge of your share till you require it; which cannot be
just yet, as I understand from this letter that your father supplied you
with the sum of one hundred and five pounds on leaving England."
My delight went down to zero.
"Does my father say that I am not to have it now, sir?" I asked,
"He says, as I have already told you, that it is to be yours when you
"And if I require it very shortly, sir--in fact, if I require it now?"
"You ought not to require it now," replied the Doctor, with a cold,
scrutinizing stare. "You ought not to have spent one hundred and five
pounds in five months."
I looked down in silence. I had more than spent it long since; and I had
to thank Madame de Marignan for the facility with which it had flown. It
was not to be denied that my course of lessons in practical politeness
had been somewhat expensive.
"How have you spent it?" asked Dr. Cheron, never removing his eyes from
I might have answered, in bouquets, opera stalls, and riding horses; in
dress coats, tight boots, and white kid gloves; in new books, new music,
bon-bons, cabs, perfumery, and the like inexcusable follies. But I held
my tongue instead, and said nothing.
Dr. Cheron looked again at his watch.
"Have you kept any entries of your expenses since you came to Paris?"
"Not with--with any regularity, sir," I replied.
He took out his pencil-case and pocket-book.
"Let us try, then," said he, "to make an average calculation of what
they might be in five months."
I began to feel very uncomfortable.
"I believe your father paid your travelling expenses?"
I bowed affirmatively.
"Leaving you the clear sum of one hundred and five pounds." I bowed
"Allowing, then, for your rent--which is, I believe, twenty francs per
week," said he, entering the figures as he went on, "there will be four
hundred francs spent in five months. For your living, say thirty francs
per week, which makes six hundred. For your clothing, seventy-five per
month, which makes three hundred and seventy-five, and ought to be quite
enough for a young man of moderate tastes. For your washing and
firewood, perhaps forty per month, which makes two hundred--and for your
incidental expenses, say fifteen per week, which makes three hundred. We
thus arrive at a total of one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five
francs, which, reduced to English money at the average standard of
twenty-five francs to the sovereign, represents the exact sum of
seventy-five pounds. Do I make myself understood?"
I bowed for the third time.
"Of the original one hundred and five pounds, we now have thirty not
accounted for. May I ask how much of that surplus you have left?"
"About--not more than--than a hundred and twenty francs," I replied,
stripping the feathers off all the pens in succession, without
"Have you any debts?"
"A--a couple of months' rent, I believe, sir."
"Is that all?"
Dr. Cheron frowned, and looked again at his watch.
"Be good enough, Mr. Arbuthnot," he said, "to spare me this amount of
useless interrogation by at once stating the nature and amount of
"I--I cannot positively state the amount, sir," I said, absurdly trying
to get the paper-weight into my waistcoat pocket, and then putting it
down in great confusion. "I--I have an account at Monceau's in the Rue
"I beg your pardon," interrupted Dr. Cheron: "but who is Monceau?"
"Monceau's--Monceau's livery-stables, sir."
Dr. Cheron slightly raised his eye-brows, and entered the name.
"And at Lavoisier's, on the Boulevard Poissonniere--"
"What is sold, pray, at Lavoisier's?"
"Gloves, perfumes, hosiery, ready-made linen..."
"Enough--you can proceed."
"I have also a bill at--at Barbet's, in the Passage de l'Opera."
"And Barbet is--?"
"A--a florist!" I replied, very reluctantly.
"Humph!--a florist!" observed Dr. Cheron, again transfixing me with the
cold, blue eye. "To what amount do you suppose you are indebted to
I looked down, and became utterly unintelligible.
"I--I fear, more than--than--"
"A hundred? A hundred and fifty? Two hundred?"
"About two hundred, I suppose, sir," I said desperately.
"Two hundred francs--that is to say, eight pounds English--to your
florist! Really, Mr. Arbuthnot, you must be singularly fond of flowers!"
I looked down in silence.
"Have you a conservatory attached to your rooms?"
The skeleton clock struck the half hour.
"Excuse me, sir," I said, driven now to the last extremity, "but--but I
have an engagement which--in short, I will, if you please, make out a
list of--of these items, ascertaining the correct amount of each; and
when once paid, I will endeavor--I mean, it is my earnest desire, to--to
limit my expenditure strictly to--in short, to study economy for the
future. If, in the meantime, you will have the goodness to
"One word, young man. Will the fifty pounds cover your debts?"
"Quite, sir, I am confident."
"And leave you something in hand for your current expenses?"
"Indeed, I fear very little."
"In that case what will you do?"
This was a terrible question, and one for which I could find no answer.
"Write to your father for another remittance--eh?"
"I--upon my word, I dare not, sir," I faltered.
"Then you would go in debt again?"
"I really fear--even with the strictest economy--I--"
"Be so obliging as to let me have your seat," said Dr. Cheron, thrusting
the obnoxious note-book into his pocket and taking my place at the desk,
from which he brought out a couple of cards, and a printed paper.
"This ticket," said he, "admits the holder to the anatomical course for
the term now beginning, and this to the lectures at the Ecole Pratique.
Both are in my gift. The first is worth two hundred francs, and the
second two hundred and fifty. I ought, perhaps, in strict justice, to
bestow them upon some needy and deserving individual: however, to save
you from debt, or a very unpleasant alternative, I will fill them in
with your name, and, when you bring me all your bills receipted, I will
transfer to your account the four hundred and fifty francs which I must,
otherwise, have paid for your courses out of the remittance forwarded by
your father for that purpose. Understand, however, that I must first
have the receipts, and that I expect you, on the word of a gentleman,
to commit no more follies, and to contract no more debts."
"Oh, sir!" I exclaimed, "how can I ever--"
"No thanks, I beg," interposed Dr. Cheron. "Prove your gratitude by your
conduct; do not trouble yourself to talk about it."
"Indeed, sir, you may depend--"
"And no promises either, if you please. I attach no kind of value to
them. Stay--here is my check for the fifty pounds forwarded by your
father. With that sum extricate yourself from debt. You know the rest."
Hereupon Dr. Cheron replaced the cards and the printed form,
double-locked his desk, and, with a slight gesture of the hand, frigidly
I left the house quite chopfallen. I was relieved, it is true, from the
incubus of debt; but then how small a figure I had cut in the eyes of
Dr. Cheron! Besides, I was small for the second time--reproved for the
second time--lectured, helped, put down, and poohpoohed, for the second
time! Could I have peeped at myself just then through the wrong end of a
telescope, I vow I could not have looked smaller in my own eyes.
I had no time to dine; so I despatched a cup of coffee and a roll on my
way home, and went hungry to the theatre.
Josephine was got up with immense splendor for this occasion; greatly to
her own satisfaction and my disappointment. Having hired a small private
box in the least conspicuous part of the theatre, I had committed the
cowardly mistake of endeavoring to transform my grisette into a woman of
fashion. I had bought her a pink and white opera cloak, a pretty little
fan, a pair of white kid gloves, and a bouquet. With these she wore a
decent white muslin dress furnished out of the limited resources of her
own wardrobe, and a wreath of pink roses, the work of her own clever
fingers. Thus equipped, she was far less pretty than in her coquettish
little every-day cap, and looked, I regret to say, more like an
_ouvriere_ than ever. Aggravating above all else, however, was her own
undisguised delight in her appearance.
"Are my flowers all right? Is my dress tumbled? Is the hood of my cloak
in the middle of my back?" were the questions she addressed to me every
moment. In the ante-room she took advantage of each mirror we passed. In
the lobby I caught her trying to look at her own back. When we reached
our box she pulled her chair to the very centre of it, and sat there as
if she expected to be admired by the whole audience.
"My dear Josephine," I remonstrated, "sit back here, facing the stage.
You will see much better--besides, it is your proper seat, being the
only lady in the box."
"Ah, _mon Dieu!_ then I cannot see the house--and how pretty it is! Ever
so much prettier than the Gaiete, or the Porte St. Martin!"
"You can see the house by peeping behind the curtain."
"As if I were ashamed to be seen! _Par exemple_!"
"Nay, as you please. I only advise you according to custom and fashion."
Josephine pouted, and unwillingly conceded a couple of inches.
"I wish I had brought the little telescope you gave me last Sunday,"
said she, presently. "There is a gentleman with one down there in
"A telescope at the opera--the gods forbid! Here, however, is my
opera-glass, if you like to use it."
Josephine turned it over curiously, and peeped first through one tube
and then through the other.
"Which ought I to look through?" asked she.
"Both, of course."
"Both! How can I?"
"Why thus--as you look through a pair of spectacles."
"_Ciel!_ I can't manage that! I can never look through anything without
covering up one eye with my hand."
"Then I think you had better be contented with your own charming eyes,
_ma belle_" said I, nervously. "How do you like your bouquet?"
Josephine sniffed at it as if she were taking snuff, and pronounced it
perfect. Just then the opera began. I withdrew into the shade, and
Josephine was silenced for a while in admiration of the scenery and the
dresses. By and by, she began to yawn.
"Ah, _mon Dieu!_" said she, "when will they have done singing? I have
not heard a word all this time."
"But everything is sung, _ma chere_, in an opera."
"What do you mean? Is there no play?"
"This is the play; only instead of speaking their words, they sing
Josephine shrugged her shoulders.
"Ah, bah!" said she. "How stupid! I had rather have seen the _Closerie
des Genets_ at the Graiete, if that is to be the case the whole evening.
Oh, dear! there is such a pretty lady come into the opposite box, in
such a beautiful blue _glace_, trimmed with black velvet and lace!"
"Hush! you must not talk while they are singing!"
"_Tiens!_ it is no pleasure to come out and be dumb. But do just see the
lady in the opposite box! She looks exactly as if she had walked out of
"My dear child, I don't care one pin to look at her," said I, preferring
to keep as much out of sight as possible. "To admire your pretty face is
enough for me."
Josephine squeezed my hand affectionately.
"That is just as Emile used to talk to me," said she.
I felt by no means flattered.
"_Regardez done!_" said she, pulling me by the sleeve, just as I was
standing up, a little behind her chair, looking at the stage. "That lady
in the blue _glace_ never takes her eyes from our box! She points us out
to the gentleman who is with her--do look!"
I turned my glass in the direction to which she pointed, and recognised
Madame de Marignan!
I turned hot and cold, red and white, all in one moment, and shrank back
like a snail that has been touched, or a sea-anemone at the first dig of
"Does she know you?" asked Josephine.
"I--I--probably--that is to say--I have met her in society."
"And who is the gentleman?"
That was just what I was wondering. It was not Delaroche. It was no one
whom I had ever seen before. It was a short, fat, pale man, with a bald
head, and a ribbon in his button-hole.
"Is he her husband?" pursued Josephine.
The suggestion flashed upon me like a revelation. Had I not heard that
M. de Marignan was coming home from Algiers? Of course it was he. No
doubt of it. A little vulgar, fat, bald man.... Pshaw, just the sort of
a husband that she deserved!
"How she looks at me!" said Josephine.
I felt myself blush, so to speak, from head to foot.
"Good Heavens! my dear girl," I exclaimed, "take your elbows off the
front of the box!"
Josephine complied, with a pettish little grimace.
"And, for mercy's sake, don't hold your head as if you feared it would
"It is the flowers," said she. "They tickle the back of my neck,
whenever I move my head. I am much more comfortable in my cap."
"Never mind. Make the best of it, and listen to this song."
It was the great tenor ballad of the evening. The house was profoundly
silent; the first wandering chords of a harp were heard behind the
scenes; and Duprez began. In the very midst of one of his finest and
tenderest _sostenuto_ passages, Josephine sneezed--and such a sneeze!
you might have heard it out in the lobbies. An audible titter ran round
the house. I saw Madame de Marignan cover her face with her
handkerchief, and yield to an irrepressible fit of laughter. As for the
tenor, he cast a withering glance up at the box, and made a marked pause
before resuming his song. Merciful powers! what crime had I committed
that I should be visited with such a punishment as this?
"Wretched girl!" I exclaimed, savagely, "what have you done?"
"Done, _mon ami!_" said Josephine, innocently. "Why, I fear I have taken
I groaned aloud.
"Taken cold!" I muttered to myself. "Would to Heaven you had taken
"_Qu'est ce que c'est?"_ asked she.
But it was not worth while to reply. I gave myself up to my fate. I
determined to remonstrate no more. I flung myself on a seat at the back
of the box, and made up my mind to bear all that might yet be in store
for me. When she openly ate a stick of _sucre d'orge_ after this, I said
nothing. When she applauded with both hands, I endured in silence. At
length the performance came to a close and the curtain fell. Madame de
Marignan had left before the last act, so I ran no danger of
encountering her on the way out; but I was profoundly miserable,
nevertheless. As for Josephine, she, poor child, had not enjoyed her
evening at all, and was naturally out of temper. We quarrelled
tremendously in the cab, and parted without having made it up. It was
all my own fault. How could I be such a fool as to suppose that, with a
few shreds and patches of finery, I could make a fine lady of
* * * * *
HIGH ART IN THE QUARTIER LATIN.
"But, my dear fellow, what else could you have expected? You took
Mam'selle Josephine to the _Opera Comique. Eh bien!_ you might as well
have taken an oyster up Mount Vesuvius. Our fair friend was out of her
element. _Voila tout_."
"Confound her and her element!" I exclaimed with a groan. "What the
deuce _is_ her element--the Quartier Latin?"
"The Quartier Latin is to some extent her habitat--but then Mam'selle
Josephine belongs to a genus of which you, _cher_ Monsieur Arbuthnot,
are deplorably ignorant--the genus grisette. The grisette from a certain
point of view is the _chef-d'oeuvre_ of Parisian industry; the bouquet
of Parisian civilization. She is indigenous to the _mansarde_ and the
_pave_--bears no transplantation--flourishes in _the premiere balconie_,
the suburban _guingette_, and the Salle Valentinois; but degenerates at
a higher elevation. To improve her is to spoil her. In her white cap and
muslin gown, the Parisian grisette is simply delicious. In a smart
bonnet, a Cashmere and a brougham, she is simply detestable. Fine
clothes vulgarize her. Fine surroundings demoralize her. Lodged on the
sixth story, rich in the possession of a cuckoo-clock, a canary, half a
dozen pots of mignonette, and some bits of cheap furniture in imitation
mahogany, she has every virtue and every fault that is charming in
woman--childlike gaiety; coquetry; thoughtless generosity; the readiest
laugh, the readiest tear, and the warmest heart in the world. Transplant
her to the Chaussee d'Antin, instil the taste for diamonds, truffles,
and Veuve Clicquot, and you poison her whole nature. She becomes false,
cruel, greedy, prodigal of your money, parsimonious of her own--a
vampire--a ghoul--the hideous thing we call in polite parlance a _Fille
Thus, with much gravity and emphasis, spoke Herr Franz Mueller, lying on
his back upon a very ricketty sofa, and smoking like a steam-engine. A
cup of half-cold coffee, and a bottle of rum three parts emptied stood
beside him on the floor. These were the remains of his breakfast; for it
was yet early in the morning of the day following my great misadventure
at the Opera Comique, and I had sought him out at his lodgings in the
Rue Clovis at an hour when the Quartier Latin was for the most part
"Josephine, at all events, is not of the stuff that _Filles de Marbre_
are made of," I said, smiling.
"Perhaps not--_mais, que voulez-vous?_ We are what we are. A grisette
makes a bad fine lady. A fine lady would make a still worse grisette.
The Archbishopric of Paris is a most repectable and desirable
preferment; but your humble servant, for instance, would hardly suit
"And the moral of this learned and perspicuous discourse?"
"_Tiens_! the moral, is--keep our fair friend in her place. Remember
that a dinner at thirty sous in the Palais Royal, or a fete with
fireworks at Mabille, will give her ten times more pleasure than the
daintiest repast you could order at the Maison Doree, or the choicest
night of the season at either opera house. And how should it be
otherwise? One must understand a thing to be able to enjoy it; and I'll
be sworn Mam'selle Josephine was infinitely more bored last night than
Our conversation, or rather his monologue, was here interrupted by the
ringing of the outer bell.
The artist sat up, took his pipe from his lips, and looked considerably
"_Mille tonnerres_!" said he in a low tone. "Who can it be?... so early
in the day ... not yet ten o'clock ... it is very mysterious."
"It is only mysterious," said I, "as long as you don't open the door.
Shall I answer the bell?"
"No--yes--wait a moment ... suppose it is that demon, my landlord, or
that archfiend, my tailor--then you must say ... holy St. Nicholas! you
must say I am in bed with small-pox, or that I've broken out suddenly
into homicidal delirium, and you're my keeper."
"Unfortunately I should not know either of your princes of darkness at
"True--and it might be Dupont, who owes me thirty francs, and swore by
the bones of his aunt (an excellent person, who keeps an estaminet in
the Place St. Sulpice) that he would pay me this week. _Diable_! there
goes the bell again."
"It would perhaps be safest," I suggested, "to let M. or N. ring on till
he is tired of the exercise."
"But conceive the horrid possibility of letting thirty francs ring
themselves out of patience! No, _mon ami_--I will dare the worst that
may happen. Wait here for me--I will answer the door myself,"
Now it should be explained that Mueller's apartments consisted of three
rooms. First, a small outer chamber which he dignified with the title of
Salle d'Attente, but which, as it was mainly furnished with old boots,
umbrellas and walking-sticks, and contained, by way of accommodation for
visitors only a three-legged stool and a door-mat, would have been more
fitly designated as the hall. Between this Salle d'Attente and the den
in which he slept, ate, smoked, and received his friends, lay the
studio--once a stately salon, now a wilderness of litter and
dilapidation. On one side you beheld three windows closely boarded up,
with strips of newspaper pasted over the cracks to exclude every gleam
of day. Overhead yawned a huge, dusty skylight, to make way for which a
fine old painted ceiling had been ruthlessly knocked away. On the walls
were pinned and pasted all sorts of rough sketches and studies in color
and crayon. In one corner lolled a despondent-looking lay-figure in a
moth-eaten Spanish cloak; in another lay a heap of plaster-casts,
gigantic hands and feet, broken-nosed masks of the Apollo, the Laocoon,
the Hercules Farnese, and other foreigners of distinction. Upon the
chimney-piece were displayed a pair of foils, a lute, a skull, an
antique German drinking-mug, and several very modern empty bottles. In
the middle of the room stood two large easels, a divan, a round table,
and three or four chairs; while the floor was thickly strewn with empty
color-tubes, bits of painting-rag, corks, cigar-ends, and all kinds of
All these things I had observed as I passed in; for this, be it
remembered, was my first visit to Mueller in his own territory.
I heard him go through the studio and close the door behind him, and
then I heard him open the door upon the public staircase. Presently he
came back, shutting the door behind him as before.
"My dear fellow," he exclaimed, breathlessly, "you have brought luck
with you! What do you think? A sitter--positively, a sitter! Wants to be
sketched in at once--_Vive la France_!"
"Man or woman? Young or old? Plain or pretty?"
"Elderly half-length, feminine gender--Madame Tapotte. They are both
there, Monsieur and Madame Excellent couple--redolent of the
country--husband bucolic, adipose, auriferous--wife arrayed in all her
glory, like the Queen of Sheba. I left them in the Salle d'Attente--told
them I had a sitter--time immensely occupied--half-lengths furiously in
demand ... _Will_ you oblige me by performing the part for a few
minutes, just to carry out the idea?"
"The part of sitter."
"Oh, with pleasure," I replied, laughing. "Do with me what you please,"
"You don't mind? Come! you are the best fellow in the world. Now, if
you'll sit in that arm-chair facing the light--head a little thrown
back, arms folded, chin up ... Capital! You don't know what an effect
this will have upon the provincial mind!"
"But you're not going to let them in! You have no portrait of me to be
at work upon!"
"My dear fellow, I've dozens of half-finished studies, any one of which
will answer the purpose. _Voila_! here is the very thing."
And snatching up a canvas that had been standing till now with its face
to the wall, he flourished it triumphantly before my eyes, and placed it
on the easel.
"Heavens and earth!" I exclaimed, "that's a copy of the Titian in the
Louvre--the 'Young Man with the Glove!'"
"What of that? Our Tapottes will never find out the difference. By the
way, I told them you were a great English Milord, so please keep up the
"I will try to do credit to the peerage."
"And if you would not mind throwing in a word of English every now and
then ... a little Goddam, for instance.. . Eh?"
I laughed and shook my head.
"I will pose for you as Milord with all the pleasure in life," I said;
"only I cannot undertake to pose for the traditional Milord of the
Bouffes Parisiens! However, I will speak some English, and, if you like,
I'll know no French."
"No, no--_diable_! you must know a little, or I can't exchange a word
with you. But very little--the less the better. And now I'll let
They came; Madame first--tall, buxom, large-featured, fresh-colored,
radiant in flowers, lace, and Palais Royal jewelry; then
Monsieur--short, fat, bald, rosy and smiling, with a huge frill to his
shirt-front and a nankeen waistcoat.
Mueller introduced them with much ceremony and many apologies.
"Permit me, milord," he said, "to present Monsieur and Madame
Tapotte--Monsieur and Madame Tapotte; Milord Smithfield."
I rose and bowed with the gravity becoming my rank.
"I have explained to milord," continued Mueller, addressing himself
partly to the new-comers, partly to me, and chiefly to the study on the
easel, "that having no second room in which to invite Monsieur and
Madame to repose themselves, I am compelled to ask them into the
studio--where, however, his lordship is so very kind as to say that they
are welcome." (Hereupon Madame Tapotte curtsied again, and Monsieur
ducked his bald head, and I returned their salutations with the same
dignity as before.) "If Monsieur and Madame will be pleased to take
seats, however, his lordship's sitting will be ended in about ten
minutes. _Mille pardons_, the face, milord, a little more to the right.
Thank you--thank you very much. And if you will do me the favor to look
at me ... for the expression of the eye--just so--thank you! A most
important point, milord, is the expression of the eye. When I say the
expression, I mean the fire, the sparkle, the liquidity ... _enfin_ the
Here he affected to put in some touches with immense delicacy--then
retreated a couple of yards, the better to contemplate his work--pursed
up his mouth--ran his fingers through his hair--shaded his eyes with his
hand--went back and put in another touch--again retreated--again put in
a touch; and so on some three or four times successively.
Meanwhile Monsieur and Madame Tapotte were fidgeting upon their chairs
in respectful silence. Every now and then they exchanged glances of
wonder and admiration. They were evidently dying to compare my august
features with my portrait, but dared not take the liberty of rising. At
length the lady's curiosity could hold out no longer.
"_Ah, mon Dieu_!" she said; "but it must be very fatiguing to sit so
long in the same position. And to paint.... _Oiel!_ what practice! what
perseverance! what patience! _Avec permission_, M'sieur..."
And with this she sidled up to Mueller's elbow, leaving Monsieur Tapotte
thunderstruck at her audacity.
Then for a moment she stood silent; but during that moment the eager,
apologetic smile vanished suddenly out of her face, and was succeeded by
an expression of blank disappointment.
"_Tiens_!" she said bluntly. "I don't see one bit of likeness."
I turned hot from head to foot, but Mueller's serene effrontery was equal
to the occasion.
"I dare say not, Madame," he replied, coolly. "I dare say not. This
portrait is not intended to be like."
Madame Tapotte's eyes and mouth opened simultaneously.
"_Comment_!" she exclaimed.
"I should be extremely sorry," continued Mueller, loftily, "and his
lordship would be extremely sorry, if there were too much resemblance."
"But a--a likeness--it seems to me, should at all events be--like,"
stammered Madame Tapotte, utterly bewildered.
"And if M'sieur is to paint my wife," added Monsieur Tapotte, who had by
this time joined the group at the easel, "I--I..._Dame_! it must be a
good deal more like than this."
Mueller drew himself up with an air of great dignity.
"Sir," he said, "if Madame does me the honor to sit to me for her
portrait--for her _own_ portrait, observe--I flatter myself the
resemblance will be overwhelming. But you must permit me to inform you
that Milord Smithfield is not sitting for his own portrait."
The Tapottes looked at each other in a state bordering on stupefaction.
"His lordship," continued Mueller, "is sitting for the portrait of one of
his illustrious ancestors--a nobleman of the period of Queen Elizabeth."
Tapotte _mari_ scratched his head, and smiled feebly.
"_Parbleu_!" said he, "_mais c'est bien drole, ca_!"
The artist shrugged his shoulders.
"It so happens," said he, "that his lordship's gallery at Smithfield
Castle has unhappily been more than half destroyed by fire. Two
centuries of family portraits reduced to ashes! Terrible misfortune!
Only one way of repairing the loss--that is of partially repairing it. I
do my best. I read the family records--I study the history of the
period--his lordship sits to me daily--I endeavor to give a certain
amount of family likeness; sometimes more, you observe, sometimes less
... enormous responsibility, Monsieur Tapotte!"
"The taste for family portraits," continued Mueller, still touching up
the Titian, "is a very natural one--and is on the increase. Many
gentlemen of--of somewhat recent wealth, come to me for their
"_Foi d'honneur_. Few persons, however, are as conscientious as his
lordship in the matter of family resemblance. They mostly buy up their
forefathers ready-made--adopt them, christen them, and ask no
Monsieur and Madame Tapotte exchanged glances.
"_Tiens, mon ami_, why should we not have an ancestor or two, as well
as other folks," suggested the lady, in a very audible whisper.
Monsieur shook his head, and muttered something about the expense.
"There is no harm, at all events," urged madame, "in asking the price."
"My charge for gallery portraits, madame, varies from sixty to a hundred
francs," said Mueller.
"Heavens! how dear! Why, my own portrait is to be only fifty."
"Sixty, Madame, if we put in the hands and the jewelry," said Mueller,
"_Eh bien_!--sixty. But for these other things.... bah! _ils sont
"_Pardon_, madame! The elegancies and superfluities of life are, by a
just rule of political economy, expensive. It is right that they should
be so; as it is right that the necessaries of life should be within the
reach of the poorest. Bread, for instance, is strictly necessary, and
should be cheap. A great-grandfather, on the contrary, is an elegant
superfluity, and may be put up at a high figure."
"There is some truth in that," murmured Monsieur Tapotte.
"Besides, in the present instance, one also pays for antiquity."
"_C'est juste--C'est juste_."
"At the same time," continued Mueller, "if Monsieur Tapotte were to honor
me with a commission for, say, half a dozen family portraits, I would
endeavor to put them in at forty francs apiece--including, at that very
low price, a Revolutionary Deputy, a beauty of the Louis Quinze period,
and a Marshal of France."
"_Tiens_! that's a fair offer enough," said madame. "What say you, _mon
But Monsieur Tapotte, being a cautious man, would say nothing hastily.
He coughed, looked doubtful, declined to commit himself to an opinion,
and presently drew off into a corner for the purpose of holding a
whispered consultation with his wife.
Meanwhile Mueller laid aside his brushes and palette, informed me with a
profound bow that my lordship had honored him by sitting as long as was
strictly necessary, and requested my opinion upon the progress of
I praised it rapturously. You would have thought, to hear me, that for
drawing, breadth, finish, color, composition, chiaroscuro, and every
other merit that a painting could possess, this particular
_chef-d'oeuvre_ excelled all the masterpieces of Europe.
Mueller bowed, and bowed, and bowed, like a Chinaman at a visit of
ceremony; He was more than proud; he was overwhelmed, _accable_, et
caetera, et caetera.
The Tapottes left off whispering, and listened breathlessly.
"He is evidently a great painter, _not' jeune homme_!" said Madame in
one of her large whispers.
To which Monsieur replied as audibly:--"_Ca se voit, ma femme--sacre nom
"Milford will do me the favor to sit again on Friday?" said Mueller, as I
took up my hat and gloves.
I replied with infinite condescension that I would endeavor to do so. I
then made the stiffest of stiff bows to the excellent Tapottes, and,
ushered to the door by Mueller, took my departure majestically in the
character of Lord Smithfield.
THE QUARTIER LATIN.
The dear old Quartier Latin of my time--the Quartier Latin of Balzac, of
Beranger, of Henry Murger---the Quartier Latin where Franz Mueller had
his studio; where Messieurs Gustave; Jules, and Adrien gave their
unparalleled _soirees dansantes_; where I first met my ex-flame
Josephine--exists no longer. It has been improved off the face of the
earth, and with it such a gay bizarre, improvident world of youth and
folly as shall never again be met together on the banks of the Seine.
Ah me! how well I remember that dingy, delightful Arcadia--the Rue de la
Vieille Boucherie, narrow, noisy, crowded, with projecting upper stories
and Gothic pent-house roofs--the Rue de la Parcheminerie, unchanged
since the Middle Ages--the Rue St. Jacques, steep, interminable,
dilapidated; with its dingy cabarets, its brasseries, its cheap
restaurants, its grimy shop windows filled with colored prints, with
cooked meats, with tobacco, old books, and old clothes; its ancient
colleges and hospitals, time-worn and weather-beaten, frowning down upon
the busy thoroughfare and breaking the squalid line of shops; its grim
old hotels swarming with lodgers, floor above floor, from the cobblers
in the cellars to the grisettes in the attics! Then again, the gloomy
old Place St. Michel, its abundant fountain ever flowing, ever
surrounded by water-carts and water-carriers, by women with pails, and
bare-footed street urchins, and thirsty drovers drinking out of iron
cups chained to the wall. And then, too, the Rue de la Harpe....
I close my eyes, and the strange, precipitous, picturesque, decrepit old
street, with its busy, surging crowd, its street-cries, its
street-music, and its indescribable union of gloom and gayety, rises
from its ashes. Here, grand old dilapidated mansions with shattered
stone-carvings, delicate wrought-iron balconies all rust-eaten and
broken, and windows in which every other pane is cracked or patched,
alternate with more modern but still more ruinous houses, some leaning
this way, some that, some with bulging upper stories, some with doorways
sunk below the level of the pavement. Yonder, gloomy and grim, stands
the College of Saint Louis. Dark alleys open off here and there from the
main thoroughfare, and narrow side streets, steep as flights of steps.
Low sheds and open stalls cling, limpet-like, to every available nook
and corner. An endless procession of trucks, wagons, water-carts, and
fiacres rumbles perpetually by. Here people live at their windows and in
the doorways--the women talking from balcony to balcony, the men
smoking, reading, playing at dominoes. Here too are more cafes and
cabarets, open-air stalls for the sale of fried fish, and cheap
restaurants for workmen and students, where, for a sum equivalent to
sevenpence half-penny English, the Quartier Latin regales itself upon
meats and drinks of dark and enigmatical origin. Close at hand is the
Place and College of the Sorbonne--silent in the midst of noisy life,
solitary in the heart of the most crowded quarter of Paris. A sombre
mediaeval gloom pervades that ancient quadrangle; scant tufts of sickly
grass grow here and there in the interstices of the pavement; the dust
of centuries crust those long rows of windows never opened. A little
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