In the Days of My Youth
Amelia Ann Blandford Edwards
Part 6 out of 10
"These are all students, of course," I said presently, "and yet, though
I meet a couple of hundred fellows at our hospital lectures, I don't see
a face I know."
"You would find some by this time, I dare say, in the other room,"
replied Mueller. "I brought you in here that you might sit at Voltaire's
table, and eat your steak under the shadow of Voltaire's bust; but this
salon is chiefly frequented by law-students--the other by medical and
art students. Your place, _mon cher_, as well as mine, is in the outer
"That infernal Martial!" groaned one of the domino-players at the other
end of the table. "So ends the seventh game, and here we are still.
_Parbleu!_ Horace, hasn't that absinthe given you an inconvenient amount
"Alas! my friend--don't mention it. And when the absinthe is paid for, I
haven't a sou."
"My own case precisely. What's to be done?"
"Done!" echoed Horace, pathetically. "Shade of Apicius! inspire
me...but, no--he's not listening."
"Hold! I have it. We'll make our wills in one another's favor, and die."
"I should prefer to die when the wind is due East, and the moon at the
full," said Horace, contemplatively.
"True--besides, there is still _la mere_ Gaudissart. Her cutlets are
tough, but her heart is tender. She would not surely refuse to add one
more breakfast to the score!"
Horace shook his head with an air of great despondency.
"There was but one Job," said he, "and he has been dead some time. The
patience of _la mere_ Gaudissart has long since been entirely
"I am not so sure of that. One might appeal to her feelings, you
know--have a presentiment of early death--wipe away a tear... Bah! it is
worth the effort, anyhow."
"It is a forlorn hope, my dear fellow, but, as you say, it is worth the
effort. _Allons donc!_ to the storming of _la mere_ Gaudissart!"
And with this they pushed aside the dominoes, took down their hats,
nodded to Mueller, and went out.
"There go two of the brightest fellows and most improvident scamps in
the whole Quartier," said my companion. "They are both studying for the
bar; both under age; both younger sons of good families; and both
destined, if I am not much mistaken, to rise to eminence by-and-by.
Horace writes for _Figaro_ and the _Petit Journal pour Rire_--Theophile
does _feuilleton_ work--romances, chit-chat, and political
squibs--rubbish, of course; but clever rubbish, and wonderful when one
considers what boys they both are, and what dissipated lives they lead.
The amount of impecuniosity those fellows get through in the course of a
term is something inconceivable. They have often only one decent suit
between them--and sometimes not that. To-day, you see, they are at their
wits' end for a breakfast. They have run their credit dry at Procope and
everywhere else, and are gone now to a miserable little den in the Rue
du Paon, kept by a fat good-natured old soul called _la mere_
Gaudissart. She will perhaps take compassion on their youth and
inexperience, and let them have six sous worth of horsebeef soup, stale
bread, and the day before yesterday's vegetables. Nay, don't look so
pitiful! We poor devils of the Student Quartier hug our Bohemian life,
and exalt it above every other. When we have money, we cannot find
windows enough out of which to fling it--when we have none, we start
upon _la chasse au diner_, and enjoy the pleasures of the chase. We
revel in the extremes of fasting and feasting, and scarcely know which
"I think your friends Horace and Theophile are tolerably clear as to
which _they_ prefer," I remarked, with a smile.
"Bah! they would die of _ennui_ if they had always enough to eat! Think
how it sharpens a man's wits if--given the time, the place, and the
appetite--he has every day to find the credit for his dinners! Show me a
mathematical problem to compare with it as a popular educator of youth!"
"But for young men of genius, like Horace and Theophile..."
"Make yourself quite easy, _mon cher_. A little privation will do them
no kind of harm. They belong to that class of whom it has been said that
'they would borrow money from Harpagon, and find truffles on the raft of
the Medusa.' But hold! we are at the end of our breakfast. What say you?
Shall we take our _demi-tasse_ in the next room, among our
fellow-students of physic and the fine arts?"
A MAN WITH A HISTORY.
The society of the outer salon differed essentially from the society of
the inner salon at the Cafe Procope. It was noisier--it was
shabbier--it was smokier. The conversation in the inner salon was of a
general character on the whole, and, as one caught sentences of it here
and there, seemed for the most part to relate to the literature and news
of the day--to the last important paper in the Revue des Deux Mondes, to
the new drama at the Odeon, or to the article on foreign politics in the
_Journal des Debats_. But in the outer salon the talk was to the last
degree shoppy, and overflowed with the argot of the studios. Some few
medical students were clustered, it is true, in a corner near the door;
but they were so outnumbered by the artists at the upper end of the
room, that these latter seemed to hold complete possession, and behaved
more like the members of a recognised club than the casual customers of
a cafe. They talked from table to table. They called the waiters by
their Christian names. They swaggered up and down the middle of the room
with their hats on their heads, their hands in their pockets, and their
pipes in their mouths, as coolly as if it were the broad walk of the
And the appearance of these gentlemen was not less remarkable than their
deportment. Their hair, their beards, their clothes, were of the wildest
devising. They seemed one and all to have started from a central idea,
that central idea being to look as unlike their fellow-men as possible;
and thence to have diverged into a variety that was nothing short of
infinite. Each man had evidently modelled himself upon his own ideal,
and no two ideals were alike. Some were picturesque, some were
grotesque; and some, it must be admitted, were rather dirty ideals, into
the realization of which no such paltry considerations as those of soap,
water, or brushes were permitted to enter.
Here, for instance, were Roundhead crops and flowing locks of Cavalier
redundancy--steeple-crowned hats, and Roman cloaks draped
bandit-fashion--moustachios frizzed and brushed up the wrong way in the
style of Louis XIV.--pointed beards and slouched hats, after the manner
of Vandyke---patriarchal beards _a la Barbarossa_--open collars, smooth
chins, and long undulating locks of the Raffaelle type--coats, blouses,
paletots of inconceivable cut, and all kinds of unusual colors--in a
word, every eccentricity of clothing, short of fancy costume, in which
it was practicable for men of the nineteenth century to walk abroad and
meet the light of day.
We had no sooner entered this salon, taken possession of a vacant table,
and called for coffee, than my companion was beset by a storm of
"Hola! Mueller, where hast thou been hiding these last few centuries,
"_Tiens!_ Mueller risen from the dead!"
"What news from _la bas,_ old fellow?"
To all which ingenious pleasantries my companion replied in
kind--introducing me at the same time to two or three of the nearest
speakers. One of these, a dark young man got up in the style of a
Byzantine Christ, with straight hair parted down the middle, a
bifurcated beard, and a bare throat, was called Eugene Droz.
Another--big, burly, warm-complexioned, with bright open blue eyes,
curling reddish beard and moustache, slouched hat, black velvet blouse,
immaculate linen, and an abundance of rings, chains, and ornaments--was
made up in excellent imitation of the well-known portrait of Rubens.
This gentleman's name, as I presently learned, was Caesar de Lepany.
When we came in, these two young men, Droz and De Lepany, were
discussing, in enthusiastic but somewhat unintelligible language, the
merits of a certain Monsieur Lemonnier, of whom, although till that
moment ignorant of his name and fame, I at once perceived that he must
be some celebrated _chef de cuisine_.
"He will never surpass that last thing of his," said the Byzantine
youth. "Heavens! How smooth it is! How buttery! How pulpy!"
"Ay--and yet with all that lusciousness of quality, he never wants
piquancy," added De Lepany.
"I think his greens are apt to be a little raw," interposed Mueller,
taking part in the conversation.
"Raw!" echoed the first speaker, indignantly. "_Eh, mon Dieu!_ What can
you be thinking of! They are almost too hot!"
"But they were not so always, Eugene," said he of the Rubens make-up,
with an air of reluctant candor. "It must be admitted that Lemonnier's
greens used formerly to be a trifle--just a trifle--raw. Evidently
Monsieur Mueller does not know how much he has taken to warming them up
of late. Even now, perhaps, his olives are a little cold."
"But then, how juicy his oranges are!" exclaimed young Byzantine.
"True--and when you remember that he never washes--!"
"Ah, _sacredie!_ yes--there is the marvel!"
And Monsieur Eugene Droz held up his hands and eyes with all the
reverent admiration of a true believer for a particularly dirty dervish.
"Who, in Heaven's name, is this unclean individual who used to like his
vegetables underdone, and never washes?" whispered I in Mueller's ear.
"What--Lemonnier! You don't mean to say you never heard of Lemonnier?"
"Never, till now. Is he a cook?"
Mueller gave me a dig in the ribs that took my breath away.
"_Goguenard!_" said he. "Lemonnier's an artist--the foremost man of the
water-color school. But I wouldn't be too funny if I were you. Suppose
you were to burst your jocular vein--there'd be a catastrophe!"
Meanwhile the conversation of Messieurs Droz and Lepany had taken a
fresh turn, and attracted a little circle of listeners, among whom I
observed an eccentric-looking young man with a club-foot, an enormously
long neck, and a head of short, stiff, dusty hair, like the bristles of
"Queroulet!" said Lepany, with a contemptuous flourish of his pipe. "Who
spoke of Queroulet? Bah!--a miserable plodder, destitute of ideality--a
fellow who paints only what he sees, and sees only what is
commonplace--a dull, narrow-souled, unimaginative handicraftsman, to
whom a tree is just a tree; and a man, a man; and a straw, a straw, and
"That's a very low-souled view to take of art, no doubt," croaked in a
grating treble voice the youth with the club-foot; "but if trees and men
and straws are not exactly trees and men and straws, and are not to be
represented as trees and men and straws, may I inquire what else they
are, and how they are to be pictorially treated?"
"They must be ideally treated, Monsieur Valentin," replied Lepany,
"No doubt; but what will they be like when they are ideally treated?
Will they still, to the vulgar eye, be recognisable for trees and men
"I should scarcely have supposed that Monsieur Valentin would jest upon
such a subject as a canon of the art he professes," said Lepany,
becoming more and more dignified.
"I am not jesting," croaked Monsieur Valentin; "but when I hear men of
your school talk so much about the Ideal, I (as a realist) always want
to know what they themselves understand by the phrase."
"Are you asking me for my definition of the Ideal, Monsieur Valentin?"
"Well, if it's not giving you too much trouble--yes."
Lepany, who evidently relished every chance of showing off, fell into a
picturesque attitude and prepared to hold forth. Valentin winked at one
or two of his own clique, and lit a cigar.
"You ask me," began Lepany, "to define the Ideal--in other words, to
define the indefinite, which alas! whether from a metaphysical, a
philosophical, or an aesthetic point of view, is a task transcending
immeasurably my circumscribed powers of expression."
"Gracious heavens!" whispered Mueller in my ear. "He must have been
reared from infancy on words of five syllables!"
"What shall I say?" pursued Lepany. "Shall I say that the Ideal is, as
it were, the Real distilled and sublimated in the alembic of the
imagination? Shall I say that the Ideal is an image projected by the
soul of genius upon the background of the universe? That it is that
dazzling, that unimaginable, that incommunicable goal towards which the
suns in their orbits, the stars in their courses, the spheres with all
their harmonies, have been chaotically tending since time began! Ideal,
say you? Call it ideal, soul, mind, matter, art, eternity,... what are
they all but words? What are words but the weak strivings of the
fettered soul that fain would soar to those empyrean heights where
Truth, and Art, and Beauty are one and indivisible? Shall I say
"My dear fellow, you have said it already--you needn't say it again,"
"Ay; but having said it--having expressed myself, perchance with some
"With the obscurity of Erebus!" said, very deliberately, a fat student
in a blouse.
"Monsieur!" exclaimed De Lepany, measuring the length and breadth of
the fat student with a glance of withering scorn.
The Byzantine was no less indignant.
"Don't heed them, _mon ami_!" he cried, enthusiastically. "Thy
definition is sublime-eloquent!"
"Nay," said Valentin, "we concede that Monsieur de Lepany is sublime; we
recognise with admiration that he is eloquent; but we submit that he is
And having delivered this parting shot, the club-footed realist slipped
his arm through the arm of the fat student, and went off to a distant
table and a game at dominoes.
Then followed an outburst of offended idealism. His own clique crowded
round Lepany as the champion of their school. They shook hands with him.
They embraced him. They fooled him to the top of his bent. Presently,
being not only as good-natured as he was conceited, but (rare phenomenon
in the Quartier Latin!) a rich fellow into the bargain, De Lepany called
for champagne and treated his admirers all around.
In the midst of the chatter and bustle which this incident occasioned, a
pale, earnest-looking man of about five-and-thirty, coming past our
table on his way out of the Cafe, touched Mueller on the arm, bent down,
and said quietly:--
"Mueller, will you do me a favor!"
"A hundred, Monsieur," replied my companion; half rising, and with an
air of unusual respect and alacrity.
"Thanks, one will be enough. Do you see that man yonder, sitting alone
in the corner, with his back to the light?"
"Good--don't look at him again, for fear of attracting his attention. I
have been trying for the last half hour to get a sketch of his head, but
I think he suspected me. Anyhow he moved so often, and so hid his face
with his hands and the newspaper, that I was completely baffled. Now it
is a remarkable head--just the head I have been wanting for my Marshal
Romero--and if, with your rapid pencil and your skill in seizing
expression, you could manage this for me...."
"I will do my best," said Mueller.
"A thousand thanks. I will go now; for when I am gone he will be off his
guard. You will find me in the den up to three o'clock. Adieu."
Saying which, the stranger passed on, and went out.
"That's Flandrin!" said Mueller.
"Really?" I said. "Flandrin! And you know him?"
But in truth I only answered thus to cover my own ignorance; for I knew
little at that time of modern French art, and I had never even heard the
name of Flandrin before.
"Know him!" echoed Mueller. "I should think so. Why, I worked in his
studio for nearly two years."
And then he explained to me that this great painter (great even then,
though as yet appreciated only in certain choice Parisian circles, and
not known out of France) was at work upon a grand historical subject
connected with the Spanish persecutions in the Netherlands--the
execution of Egmont and Horn, in short, in the great square before the
Hotel de Ville in Brussels.
"But the main point now," said Mueller, "is to get the sketch--and how?
Confound the fellow! while he keeps his back to the light and his head
down like that, the thing is impossible. Anyhow I can't do it without an
accomplice. You must help me."
"I! What can I do?"
"Go and sit near him--speak to him--make him look up--keep him, if
possible, for a few minutes in conversation--nothing easier."
"Nothing easier, perhaps, if I were you; but, being only myself, few
things more difficult!"
"Nevertheless, my dear boy, you must try, and at once. Hey
Placed where we were, the stranger was not likely to have observed us;
for we had come into the room from behind the corner in which he was
sitting, and had taken our places at a table which he could not have
seen without shifting his own position. So, thus peremptorily
commanded, I rose; slipped quietly back into the inner salon, made a
pretext of looking at the clock over the door; and came out again, as if
alone and looking for a vacant seat.
The table at which he had placed himself was very small--only just big
enough to stand in a corner and hold a plate and a coffee-cup; but it
was supposed to be large enough for two, and there were evidently two
chairs belonging to it. On one of these, being alone, the stranger had
placed his overcoat and a small black bag. I at once saw and seized my
"Pardon, Monsieur," I said, very civilly, "will you permit me to hang
these things up?"
He looked up, frowned, and said abruptly:--
"That I may occupy this chair."
He glanced round; saw that there was really no other vacant; swept off
the bag and coat with his own hands; hung them on a peg overhead;
dropped back into his former attitude, and went on reading.
"I regret to have given you the trouble, Monsieur," I said, hoping to
pave the way to a conversation.
But a little quick, impatient movement of the hand was his only reply.
He did not even raise his head. He did not even lift his eyes from
I called for a demi-tasse and a cigar; then took out a note-book and
pencil, assumed an air of profound abstraction, and affected to become
absorbed in calculations.
In the meanwhile, I could not resist furtively observing the appearance
of this man whom a great artist had selected as his model for one of the
darkest characters of mediaeval history.
He was rather below than above the middle height; spare and sinewy;
square in the shoulders and deep in the chest; with close-clipped hair
and beard; grizzled moustache; high cheek-bones; stern impassive
features, sharply cut; and deep-set restless eyes, quick and glancing as
the eyes of a monkey. His face, throat, and hands were sunburnt to a
deep copper-color, as if cast in bronze. His age might have been from
forty-five to fifty. He wore a thread-bare frock-coat buttoned to the
chin; a stiff black stock revealing no glimpse of shirt-collar; a
well-worn hat pulled low over his eyes; and trousers of dark blue cloth,
worn very white and shiny at the knees, and strapped tightly down over a
pair of much-mended boots.
The more I looked at him, the less I was surprised that Flandrin should
have been struck by his appearance. There was an air of stern poverty
and iron resolution about the man that arrested one's attention at first
sight. The words "_ancien militaire"_ were written in every furrow of
his face; in every seam and on every button of his shabby clothing. That
he had seen service, missed promotion, suffered unmerited neglect (or,
it might be, merited disgrace), seemed also not unlikely.
Watching him as he sat, half turned away, half hidden by the newspaper
he was reading, one elbow resting on the table, one brown, sinewy hand
supporting his chin and partly concealing his mouth, I told myself that
here, at all events, was a man with a history--perhaps with a very dark
history. What were the secrets of his past? What had he done? What had
he endured? I would give much to know.
My coffee and cigar being brought, I asked for the _Figaro_, and holding
the paper somewhat between the stranger and myself, watched him with
I now began to suspect that he was less interested in his own newspaper
than he appeared to be, and that his profound abstraction, like my own,
was assumed. An indefinable something in the turn of his head seemed to
tell me that his attention was divided between whatever might be going
forward in the room and what he was reading. I cannot describe what that
something was; but it gave me the impression that he was always
listening. When the outer door opened or shut, he stirred uneasily, and
once or twice looked sharply round to see what new-comer entered the
cafe. Was he anxiously expecting some one who did not come? Or was he
dreading the appearance of some one whom he wished to avoid? Might he
not be a political refugee? Might he not be a spy?
"There is nothing of interest in the papers to-day, Monsieur," said,
making another effort to force him into conversation.
He affected not to hear me.
I drew my chair a little nearer, and repeated the observation.
He frowned impatiently, and without looking up, replied:--
"_Eh, mon Dieu_, Monsieur!--when there is a dearth of news!"
"There need not, even so, be a dearth of wit. _Figaro_ is as heavy
to-day as a government leader in the _Moniteur_."
He shrugged his shoulders and moved slightly round, apparently to get a
better light upon what he was reading, but in reality to turn still more
away from me. The gesture of avoidance was so marked, that with the best
will in the world, it would have been impossible for me to address him
again. I therefore relapsed into silence.
Presently I saw a sudden change flash over him.
Now, in turning away from myself, he had faced round towards a narrow
looking-glass panel which reflected part of the opposite side of the
room; and chancing, I suppose, to lift his eyes from the paper, he had
seen something that arrested his attention. His head was still bent; but
I could see that his eyes were riveted upon the mirror. There was
alertness in the tightening of his hand before his mouth--in the
suspension of his breathing.
Then he rose abruptly, brushed past me as if I were not there, and
crossed to where Mueller, sketch-book in hand, was in the very act of
taking his portrait.
I jumped up, almost involuntarily, and followed him. Mueller, with an
unsuccessful effort to conceal his confusion, thrust the book into
"Monsieur," said the stranger, in a low, resolute voice, "I protest
against what you have been doing. You have no right to take my likeness
without my permission."
"Pardon, Monsieur, I--I beg to assure you--" stammered Mueller.
"That you intended no offence? I am willing to suppose so. Give me up
the sketch, and I am content."
"Give up the sketch!" echoed Mueller.
"Nay--but if, as an artist, I have observed that which leads me to
desire a--a memorandum--let us say of the pose and contour of a certain
head," replied Mueller, recovering his self-possession, "it is not likely
that I shall be disposed to part from my memorandum."
"How, Monsieur! you refuse?"
"I am infinitely sorry, but--"
"But you refuse?"
"I certainly cannot comply with Monsieur's request."
The stranger, for all his bronzing, grew pale with rage.
"Do not compel me, Monsieur, to say what I must think of your conduct,
if you persist in this determination," he said fiercely.
Mueller smiled, but made no reply.
"You absolutely refuse to yield up the sketch?"
"Then, Monsieur, _c'est une infamie_--_et vous etes un lache_!"
But the last word had scarcely hissed past his lips before Mueller dashed
his coffee dregs full in the stranger's face.
In one second, the table was upset--blows were exchanged--Mueller, pinned
against the wall with his adversary's hands upon his throat, was
striking out with the desperation of a man whose strength is
overmatched--and the whole room was in a tumult.
In vain I attempted to fling myself between them. In vain the waiters
rushed to and fro, imploring "ces Messieurs" to interpose. In vain a
stout man pushed his way through the bystanders, exclaiming angrily:--
"Desist, Messieurs! Desist, in the name of the law! I am the proprietor
of this establishment--I forbid this brawling--I will have you both
arrested! Messieurs, do you hear?"
Suddenly the flush of rage faded out of Mueller's face. He gasped--became
livid. Lepany, Droz, myself, and one or two others, flew at the stranger
and dragged him forcibly back.
"Assassin!" I cried, "would you murder him?"
He flung us off, as a baited bull flings off a pack of curs. For myself,
though I received only a backhanded blow on the chest, I staggered as if
I had been struck with a sledgehammer.
Mueller, half-fainting, dropped into a chair.
There was a tramp and clatter at the door--a swaying and parting of the
"Here are the sergents de ville!" cried a trembling waiter.
"He attacked me first," gasped Mueller. "He has half strangled me."
"_Qu'est ce que ca me fait_!" shouted the enraged proprietor. "You are a
couple of _canaille_! You have made a scandal in my Cafe. Sergents,
arrest both these gentlemen!"
The police--there were two of them, with their big cocked hats on their
heads and their long sabres by their sides--pushed through the circle of
spectators. The first laid his hand on Mueller's shoulder; the second was
about to lay his hand on mine, but I drew back.
"Which is the other?" said he, looking round.
"_Sacredie_!" stammered the proprietor, "he was here--there--not a
"_Diable_!" said the sergent de ville, stroking his moustache, and
staring fiercely about him. "Did no one see him go?"
There was a chorus of exclamations--a rush to the inner salon--to the
door--to the street. But the stranger was nowhere in sight; and, which
was still more incomprehensible, no one had seen him go!
"_Mais, mon Dieu_!" exclaimed the proprietor, mopping his head and face
violently with his pocket-handkerchief, "was the man a ghost, that he
should vanish into the air?"
"_Parbleu_! a ghost with muscles of iron," said Mueller. "Talk of the
strength of a madman--he has the strength of a whole lunatic asylum!"
"He gave me a most confounded blow in the ribs, anyhow!" said Lepany.
"And nearly broke my arm," added Eugene Droz.
"And has given me a pain in my chest for a week," said I, in chorus.
"If he wasn't a ghost," observed the fat student sententiously, "he must
certainly be the devil."
The sergents de ville grinned.
"Do we, then, arrest this gentleman?" asked the taller and bigger of the
two, his hand still upon my friend's shoulder.
But Mueller laughed and shook his head.
"What!" said he, "arrest a man for resisting the devil? Nonsense, _mes
amis_, you ought to canonize me. What says Monsieur le proprietaire?"
Monsieur the proprietor smiled.
"I am willing to let the matter drop," he replied, "on the understanding
that Monsieur Mueller was not really the first offender."
"_Foi d'honneur_! He insulted me--I threw some coffee in his face--he
flung himself upon me like a tiger, and almost choked me, as all here
witnessed. And for what? Because I did him the honor to make a rough
pencilling of his ugly face ... _Mille tonnerres_!--the fellow has
stolen my sketch-book!"
FANCIES ABOUT FACES.
The sketch-book was undoubtedly gone, and the stranger had undoubtedly
taken it. How he took it, and how he vanished, remained a mystery.
The aspect of affairs, meanwhile, was materially changed. Mueller no
longer stood in the position of a leniently-treated offender. He had
become accuser, and plaintiff. A grave breach of the law had been
committed, and he was the victim of a bold and skilful _tour de main_.
The police shook their heads, twirled their moustaches, and looked wise.
It was a case of premeditated assault--in short, of robbery with
violence. It must be inquired into--reported, of course, at
head-quarters, without loss of time. Would Monsieur be pleased to
describe the stolen sketch-book? An oblong, green volume, secured by an
elastic band; contains sketches in pencil and water-colors; value
uncertain--Good. And the accused ... would Monsieur also be pleased to
describe the person of the accused? His probable age, for instance; his
height; the color of his hair, eyes, and beard? Good again. Lastly,
Monsieur's own name and address, exactly and in full. _Tres-bon._ It
might, perhaps, be necessary for Monsieur to enter a formal deposition
to-morrow morning at the Prefecture of Police, in which case due notice
would be given.
Whereupon he who seemed to be chief of the twain, having entered
Mueller's replies in a greasy pocket-book of stupendous dimensions, which
he seemed to wear like a cuirass under the breast of his uniform,
proceeded to interrogate the proprietor and waiters.
Was the accused an habitual frequenter of the cafe?--No. Did they
remember ever to have seen him there before?--No. Should they recognise
him if they saw him again? To this question the answers were doubtful.
One waiter thought he should recognise the man; another was not sure;
and Monsieur the proprietor admitted that he had himself been too angry
to observe anything or anybody very minutely.
Finally, having made themselves of as much importance and asked as many
questions as possible, the sergents de ville condescended to accept a
couple of-petits verres a-piece, and then, with much lifting of cocked
hats and clattering of sabres, departed.
Most of the students had ere this dropped off by twos and threes, and
were gone to their day's work, or pleasure--to return again in equal
force about five in the afternoon. Of those that remained, some five or
six came up when the police were gone, and began chatting about the
robbery. When they learned that Flandrin had desired to have a sketch of
the man's head; when Mueller described his features, and I his obstinate
reserve and semi-military air, their excitement knew no bounds. Each had
immediately his own conjecture to offer. He was a political spy, and
therefore fearful lest his portrait should be recognised. He was a
conspirator of the Fieschi school. He was Mazzini in person.
In the midst of the discussion, a sudden recollection flashed upon me.
"A clue! a clue!" I shouted triumphantly. "He left his coat and black
bag hanging up in the corner!"
Followed by the others, I ran to the spot where I had been sitting
before the affray began. But my exultation was shortlived. Coat and bag,
like their owner, had disappeared.
Mueller thrust his hands into his pockets, shook his head, and whistled
"I shall never see my sketch-book again, _parbleu!_" said he. "The man
who could not only take it out of my breast-pocket, but also in the very
teeth of the police, secure his property and escape unseen, is a master
of his profession. Our friends in the cocked hats have no chance
"And Flandrin, who is expecting the sketch," said I; "what of him?"
Mueller shrugged his shoulders.
"Next to being beaten," growled he, "there's nothing I hate like
confessing it. However, it has to be done--so the sooner the better.
Would you like to come with me? You'll see his studio."
I was only too glad to accompany him; for to me, as to most of us, there
was ever a nameless charm in the picturesque litter of an artist's
studio. Mueller's own studio, however, was as yet the only one I had
seen. He laughed when I said this.
"If your only notion of a studio is derived from that specimen," said
he, "you will he agreeably surprised by the contrast. He calls his place
a 'den,' but that's a metaphor. Mine is a howling wilderness."
Arriving presently at a large house at the bottom of a courtyard in the
Rue Vaugirard, he knocked at a small side-door bearing a tiny brass
plate not much larger than a visiting-card, on which was
The door opened by some invisible means from within, and we entered a
passage dimly lighted by a painted glass door at the farther end. My
companion led the way down this passage, through the door, and into a
small garden containing some three or four old trees, a rustic seat, a
sun-dial on an antique-looking fragment of a broken column, and a little
weed-grown pond about the size of an ordinary drawing-room table,
surrounded by artificial rock-work.
At the farther extremity of this garden, filling the whole space from
wall to wall, and occupying as much ground as must have been equal to
half the original enclosure, stood a large, new, windowless building, in
shape exactly like a barn, lighted from a huge skylight in the roof, and
entered by a small door in one corner. I did not need to be told that
this was the studio.
But if the outside was like a barn, the inside was like a beautiful
mediaeval interior by Cattermole--an interior abounding in rich and
costly detail; in heavy crimson draperies, precious old Italian
cabinets, damascened armor, carved chairs with upright backs and twisted
legs, old paintings in massive Florentine frames, and strange quaint
pieces of Elizabethan furniture, like buffets, with open shelves full of
rare and artistic things--bronzes, ivory carvings, unwieldy Majolica
jars, and lovely goblets of antique Venetian glass laced with spiral
ornaments of blue and crimson and that dark emerald green of which the
secret is now lost for ever.
Then, besides all these things, there were great folios leaning piled
against the walls, one over the other; and Persian rugs of many colors
lying here and there about the floor; and down in one corner I observed
a heap of little models, useful, no doubt, as accessories in
pictures--gondolas, frigates, foreign-looking carts, a tiny sedan chair,
and the like.
But the main interest of the scene concentrated itself in the unfinished
picture, the hired model (a brawny fellow in a close-fitting suit of
black, leaning on a huge two-handed sword), and the artist in his
holland blouse, with the palette and brushes in his hand.
It was a very large picture, and stood on a monster easel, somewhat
towards the end of the studio. The light from above poured full upon the
canvas, while beyond lay a background of shadow. Much of the subject was
as yet only indicated, but enough was already there to tell the tragic
story and display the power of the painter. There, high above the heads
of the mounted guards and the assembled spectators, rose the scaffold,
hung with black. Egmont, wearing a crimson tabard, a short black cloak
embroidered with gold, and a hat ornamented with black and white plumes,
stood in a haughty attitude, as if facing the square and the people. Two
other figures, apparently of an ecclesiastic and a Spanish general,
partly in outline, partly laid in with flat color, were placed to the
right of the principal character. The headsman stood behind, leaning
upon his sword. The slender spire of the Hotel de Ville, surmounted by
its gilded archangel glittering in the morning sun, rose high against a
sky of cloudless blue; while all around was seen the well-known square
with its sculptured gables and decorated facades--every roof, window,
and balcony crowded with spectators.
Unfinished though it was, I saw at once that I was brought face to face
with what would some day be a famous work of art. The figures were
grandly grouped; the heads were noble; the sky was full of air; the
action of the whole scene informed with life and motion.
I stood admiring and silent, while Mueller told his tale, and Flandrin
paused in his work to listen.
"It is horribly unlucky," said he. "I had not been able to find a
portrait of Romero and, _faute de mieux_, have been trying for days
past to invent the right sort of head for him--of course, without
success. You never saw such a heap of failures! But as for that man at
the cafe, if Providence had especially created him for my purpose, he
could not have answered it better."
"I believe I am as sorry as you can possibly be," said Mueller.
"Then you are very sorry indeed," replied the painter; and he looked
even more disappointment than he expressed.
"I'm afraid I can't do it," said Mueller, after a moment's silence; "but
if you'll give me a pencil and a piece of paper, and credit me with the
will in default of the deed, I will try to sketch the head from memory."
"Ah? if you can only do that! Here is a drawing block--choose what
pencils you prefer--or here are crayons, if you like them better."
Mueller took the pencils and block, perched himself on the corner of a
table, and began. Flandrin, breathless with expectation, looked over his
shoulder. Even the model (in the grim character of Egmont's executioner)
laid aside his two-handed sword, and came round for a peep.
"Bravo! that's just his nose and brow," said Flandrin, as Mueller's rapid
hand flew over the paper. "Yes--the likeness comes with every touch ...
and the eyes, so keen and furtive. ... Nay, that eyelid should be a
little more depressed at the corner.... Yes, yes--just so. Admirable!
There!--don't attempt to work it up. The least thing might mar the
likeness. My dear fellow, what a service you have rendered me!"
"_Quatre-vingt mille diables_!" ejaculated the model, his eyes riveted
upon the sketch.
Mueller laughed and looked.
"_Tiens_! Guichet," said he, "is that meant for a compliment?"
"Where did you see him?" asked the model, pointing down at the sketch.
"Why? Do you know him?"
"Where did you see him, I say?" repeated Guichet, impatiently.
He was a rough fellow, and garnished every other sentence with an oath;
but he did not mean to be uncivil.
"At the Cafe Procope."
"About an hour ago. But again, I repeat--do you know him?"
"Do I know him? _Tonnerre de Dieu_!"
"Then who and what is he?"
The model stroked his beard; shook his head; declined to answer.
"Bah!" said he, gloomily, "I may have seen him, or I may be mistaken.
'Tis not my affair."
"I suspect Guichet knows something against this interesting stranger,"
laughed Flandrin. "Come, Guichet, out with it! We are among friends."
But Guichet again looked at the drawing, and again shook his head.
"I'm no judge of pictures, messieurs," said he. "I'm only a poor devil
of a model. How can I pretend to know a man from such a _griffonage_
And, taking up his big sword again, he retreated to his former post over
against the picture. We all saw that he was resolved to say no more.
Flandrin, delighted with Mueller's sketch, put it, with many thanks and
praises, carefully away in one of the great folios against the wall.
"You have no idea, _mon cher_ Mueller," he said, "of what value it is to
me. I was in despair about the thing till I saw that fellow this morning
in the Cafe; and he looked as if he had stepped out of the Middle Ages
on purpose for me. It is quite a mediaeval face--if you know what I mean
by a mediaeval face."
"I think I do," said Mueller. "You mean that there was a moyen-age type,
as there was a classical type, and as there is a modern type."
"Just so; and therein lies the main difficulty that we historical
painters have to encounter. When we cannot find portraits of our
characters, we are driven to invent faces for them--and who can invent
what he never sees? Invention must be based on some kind of experience;
and to study old portraits is not enough for our purpose, except we
frankly make use of them as portraits. We cannot generalize upon them,
so as to resuscitate a vanished type."
"But then has it really vanished?" said Mueller. "And how can we know for
certain that the mediaeval type did actually differ from the type we see
before us every day?"
"By simple and direct proof--by studying the epochs of portrait
painting. Take Holbein's heads, for instance. Were not the people of his
time grimmer, harder-visaged, altogether more unbeautiful than the
people of ours? Take Petitot's and Sir Peter Lely's. Can you doubt that
the characteristics of their period were entirely different? Do you
suppose that either race would look as we look, if resuscitated and
clothed in the fashion of to-day?"
"I am not at all sure that we should observe any difference," said
"And I feel sure we should observe the greatest," replied Flandrin,
striding up and down the studio, and speaking with great animation. "I
believe, as regards the men and women of Holbein's time, that their
faces were more lined than ours; their eyes, as a rule, smaller--their
mouths wider--their eyebrows more scanty--their ears larger--their
figures more ungainly. And in like manner, I believe the men and women
of the seventeenth century to have been more fleshy than either
Holbein's people or ourselves; to have had rounder cheeks, eyes more
prominent and heavy-lidded, shorter noses, more prominent chins, and
lips of a fuller and more voluptuous mould."
"Still we can't be certain how much of all this may be owing to the mere
mannerisms of successive schools of art," urged Mueller, sticking
manfully to his own opinion. "Where will you find a more decided
mannerist than Holbein? And because he was the first portrait-painter of
his day, was he not reproduced with all his faults of literalness and
dryness by a legion of imitators? So with Sir Peter Lely, with Petitot,
with Vandyck, with every great artist who painted kings and queens and
court beauties. Then, again, a certain style of beauty becomes the rage,
and-a skilful painter flatters each fair sitter in turn by bringing up
her features, or her expression, or the color of her hair, as near as
possible to the fashionable standard. And further, there is the dress of
a period to be taken into account. Think of the family likeness that
pervades the flowing wigs of the courts of Louis Quatorze and Charles
the Second--see what powder did a hundred years ago to equalize
Flandrin shook his head.
"Ingenious, _mon garcon_" said he; "ingenious, but unsound The cut of a
fair lady's bodice never yet altered the shape of her nose; neither was
it the fashion of their furred surtouts that made Erasmus and Sir Thomas
More as like as twins. What you call the 'mannerism' of Holbein is only
his way of looking at his fellow-creatures. He and Sir Antonio More were
the most faithful of portrait-painters. They didn't know how to flatter.
They painted exactly what they saw--no more, and no less; so that every
head they have left us is a chapter in the history of the Middle Ages.
The race--depend on't--the race was unbeautiful; and not even the
picturesque dress of the period (which, according to your theory, should
have helped to make the wearers of it more attractive) could soften one
jot of their plainness."
"I can't bring myself to believe that we were all so ugly--French,
English, and Germans alike--only a couple of centuries ago,"
"That is to say, you prefer to believe that Holbein, and Lucas Cranach,
and Sir Antonio More, and all their school, were mannerists. Nonsense,
my dear fellow--nonsense! _It is Nature who is the mannerist_. She loves
to turn out a certain generation after a particular pattern; and when
she is tired of that pattern, she invents another. Her fancies last, on
the average about, a hundred years. Sometimes she changes the type quite
abruptly; sometimes modifies it by gentle, yet always perceptible,
degrees. And who shall say what her secret processes are? Education,
travel, intermarriage with foreigners, the introduction of new kinds of
food) the adoption of new habits, may each and all have something to do
with these successive changes; but of one point at least we may be
certain--and that is, that we painters are not responsible for her
caprices. Our mission is to interpret Dame Nature more or less
faithfully, according to our powers; but beyond interpretation we cannot
go. And now (for you know I am as full of speculations as an
experimental philosopher) I will tell you another conclusion I have come
to with regard to this subject; and that is that national types were
less distinctive in mediaeval times than in ours. The French, English,
Flemish, and Dutch of the Middle Ages, as we see them in their
portraits, are curiously alike in all outward characteristics. The
courtiers of Francis the First and their (James, and the lords and
ladies of the court of Henry the Eighth, resemble each other as people
of one nation. Their features are, as it were, cast in one mould. So
also with the courts of Louis Quatorze and Charles the Second. As for
the regular French face of to-day, with its broad cheek-bones and high
temples running far up into the hair on either side, that type does not
make its appearance till close upon the advent of the Reign of Terror.
But enough! I shall weary you with theories, and wear out the patience
of our friend Guichet, who is sufficiently tired already with waiting
for a head that never comes to be cut off as it ought. Adieu--adieu.
Come soon again, and see how I get on with Marshal Romero."
Thus dismissed, we took our leave and left the painter to his work.
"An extraordinary man!" said Mueller, as we passed out again through the
neglected garden and paused for a moment to look at some half-dozen fat
gold and silver fish that were swimming lazily about the little pond. "A
man made up of contradictions--abounding in energy, yet at the same time
the dreamiest of speculators. An original thinker, too; but wanting that
basis which alone makes original thinking of any permanent value."
"But," said I, "he is evidently an educated man."
"Yes--educated as most artists are educated; but Flandrin has as strong
a bent for science as for art, and deserved something better. Five years
at a German university would have made of him one of the most remarkable
men of his time. What did you think of his theory of faces?"
"I know nothing of the subject, and cannot form a judgment; but it
sounded as if it might be true."
"Yes--just that. It may be true, and it may not. If true, then for my
own part I should like to pursue his theory a step further, and trace
the operation of these secret processes by means of which
I am, happily, such a much better-looking fellow than my
great-great-great-great-grandfather of two hundred years ago. What, for
instance, has the introduction of the potato done for the noses
Chatting thus, we walked back as far as the corner of the Rue Racine,
where we parted; I to attend a lecture at the Ecole de Medecine, and
Mueller to go home to his studio in the Rue Clovis.
* * * * *
RETURNED WITH THANKS.
A week or two had thus gone by since the dreadful evening at the Opera
Comique, and all this time I had neither seen nor heard more of the fair
Josephine. My acquaintance with Franz Mueller and the life of the
Quartier Latin had, on the contrary, progressed rapidly. Just as the
affair of the Opera had dealt a final blow to my romance _a la grisette_
on the one hand, so had the excursion to Courbevoie, the visit to the
Ecole de Natation, and the adventure of the Cafe Procope, fostered my
intimacy with the artist on the other. We were both young, somewhat
short of money, and brimful of fun. Each, too, had a certain substratum
of earnestness underlying the mere surface-gayety of his character.
Mueller was enthusiastic for art; I for poetry; and both for liberty. I
fear, when I look back upon them, that we talked a deal of nonsense
about Brutus, and the Rights of Man, and the noble savage, and all that
sort of thing, in those hot-headed days of our youth. It was a form of
political measles that the young men of that time were quite as liable
to as the young men of our own; and, living as we then were in the heart
of the most revolutionary city in Europe, I do not well see how we could
have escaped the infection. Mueller (who took it worse than I did, and
was very rabid indeed when I first knew him) belonged just then not only
to the honorable brotherhood of Les Chicards, but also to a small
debating club that met twice a week in a private room at the back of an
obscure Estaminet in the Rue de la Harpe. The members of this club were
mostly art-students, and some, like himself, Chicards--generous,
turbulent, high-spirited boys, with more enthusiasm than brains, and a
flow of words wholly out of proportion to the bulk of their ideas. As I
came to know him more intimately, I used sometimes to go there with
Mueller, after our cheap dinner in the Quartier and our evening stroll
along the Boulevards or the Champs Elysees; and I am bound to admit that
I never, before or since, heard quite so much nonsense of the
declamatory sort as on those memorable occasions. I did not think it
nonsense then, however. I admired it with all my heart; applauded the
nursery eloquence of these sucking Mirabeaus and Camille Desmoulins as
frantically as their own vanity could desire; and was even secretly
chagrined that my own French was not yet fluent enough to enable me to
take part in their discussions.
In the meanwhile, my debts were paid; and, having dropped out of society
when I fell out of love with Madame de Marignan, I no longer overspent
my allowance. I bought no more bouquets, paid for no more opera-stalls,
and hired no more prancing steeds at seven francs the hour. I bade adieu
to picture-galleries, flower-shows, morning concerts, dress boots, white
kid gloves, elaborate shirt-fronts, and all the vanities of the
fashionable world. In a word, I renounced the Faubourg St. Germain for
the Quartier Latin, and applied myself to such work and such pleasures
as pertained to the locality. If, after a long day at Dr. Cheron's, or
the Hotel Dieu, or the Ecole de Medecine, I did waste a few hours now
and then, I, at least, wasted them cheaply. Cheaply, but oh, so
pleasantly! Ah me! those nights at the debating club, those evenings at
the Chicards, those student's balls at the Chaumiere, those third-class
trips to Versailles and Fontainebleau, those one-franc pit seats at the
Gaiete and the Palais Royal, those little suppers at Pompon's and
Flicoteau's--how delightful they were! How joyous! How free from care!
And even when we made up a party and treated the ladies (for to treat
the ladies is _de rigueur_ in the code of Quartier Latin etiquette), how
little it still cost, and what a world of merriment we had for
It was well for me, too, and a source of much inward satisfaction, that
my love-affair with Mademoiselle Josephine had faded and died a natural
death. We never made up that quarrel of the Opera Comique, and I had not
desired that we should make it up. On the contrary, I was exceedingly
glad of the opportunity of withdrawing my attentions; so I wrote her a
polite little note, in which I expressed my regret that our tastes were
so dissimilar and our paths in life so far apart; wished her every
happiness; assured her that I should ever remember her with friendly
regard; and signed my name with a tremendous flourish at the bottom of
the second page. With the note, however, I sent her a raised pie and a
red and green shawl, of which I begged her acceptance in token of amity;
and as neither of those gifts was returned, I concluded that she ate the
one and wore the other, and that there was peace between us.
But the scales of fortune as they go up for one, go down for another.
This man's luck is balanced by that man's ruin--Orestes falls sick, and
Pylades returns from Kissingen cured of his lumbago--old Croesus dies,
and little Miss Kilmansegg comes into the world with a golden spoon in
her mouth, So it fell out with Franz Mueller and myself. As I happily
steered clear of Charybdis, he drifted into Scylla--in other words, just
as I recovered from my second attack of the tender passion, he caught
the epidemic and fancied himself in love with the fair Marie.
I say "fancied," because his way of falling in love was so unlike my
way, that I could scarcely believe it to be the same complaint. It
affected neither his appetite, nor his spirits, nor his wardrobe. He
made as many puns and smoked as many pipes as usual. He did not even buy
a new hat. If, in fact, he had not told me himself, I should never have
guessed that anything whatever was the matter with him.
It came out one day when he was pressing me to go with him to a certain
tea-party at Madame Marotte's, in the Rue St. Denis.
"You see," said he, "it is _la petite_ Marie's fete; and the party's in
her honor; and they'd be so proud if we both went to it; and--and, upon
my soul, I'm awfully fond of that little girl"....
"Of Marie Marotte?"
"You are not serious," I said.
"I am as serious," he replied, "as a dancing dervish."
And then, for I suppose I looked incredulous, he went on to justify
"She's very good," he said, "and very pretty. Quite a Madonna face, to
"You may see a dozen such Madonna faces among the nurses in the
Luxembourg Gardens, every afternoon of your life," said I.
"Oh, if you come to that, every woman is like every other woman, up to a
"_Les femmes se suivent et se ressemblent toujours_," said I, parodying
a well-known apothegm.
"Precisely, but then they wear their rue, or cause you to wear yours,
'with a difference.' This girl, however, escapes the monotony of her sex
by one or two peculiarities:--she has not a bit of art about her, nor a
shred of coquetry. She is as simple and as straightforward as an
Arcadian. She doesn't even know when she is being made love to, or
understand what you mean, when you pay her a compliment."
"Then she's a phenomenon--and what man in his senses would fall in love
with a phenomenon?"
"Every man, _mon cher enfant_, who falls in love at all! The woman we
worship is always a phenomenon, whether of beauty, or grace, or
virtue--till we find her out; and then, probably, she becomes a
phenomenon of deceit, or slovenliness, or bad temper! And now, to return
to the point we started from--will you go with me to Madame Marotte's
tea-party to-morrow evening at eight? Don't say 'No,' there's a
"I'll certainly not say No, if you particularly want me to say Yes," I
"Prythee, no buts! Let it be Yes, and the thing is settled. So--here we
are. Won't you come in and smoke a pipe with me? I've a bottle of
capital Rhenish in the cupboard."
We had met near the Odeon, and, as our roads lay in the same direction,
had gone on walking and talking till we came to Mueller's own door in the
Rue Clovis. I accepted the invitation, and followed him in. The
_portiere_, a sour-looking, bent old woman with a very dirty duster tied
about her head, hobbled out from her little dark den at the foot of the
stairs, and handed him the key of his apartment.
"_Tiens_!" said she, "wait a moment--there's a parcel for you, M'sieur
And so, hobbling back again, she brought out a small flat brown
paper-packet sealed at both ends.
"Ah, I see--from the Emperor!" said Mueller. "Did he bring it himself,
Madame Duphot, or did he send it by the Archbishop of Paris?"
A faint grin flitted over the little old woman's withered face.
"Get along with you, M'sieur Mueller," she said. "You're always playing
the _farceur_! The parcel was brought by a man who looked like a
"And nobody has called?"
"Nobody, except M'sieur Richard."
"Monsieur Richard's visits are always gratifying and delightful--may
the _diable_ fly away with him!" said Mueller. "What did dear Monsieur
Richard want to-day, Madame Duphot?"
"He wanted to see you, and the third-floor gentleman also--about the
"Dear Richard! What an admirable memory he has for dates! Did he leave
any message, Madame Duphot?"
The old woman looked at me, and hesitated.
"He says, M'sieur Mueller--he says ..."
"Nay, this gentleman is a friend--you may speak out. What does our
beloved and respected _proprietaire_ say, Madame Duphot?"
"He says, if you don't both of you pay up the arrears by midday on
Sunday next, he'll seize your goods, and turn you into the street."
"Ah, I always said he was the nicest man I knew!" observed Mueller,
gravely. "Anything else, Madame Duphot?"
"Only this, Monsieur Mueller--that if you didn't go quietly, he'd take
your windows out of the frames and your doors off the hinges."
"_Comment_! He bade you give me that message, the miserable old son of a
spider! _Quatre-vingt mille plats de diables aux truffes_! Take my
windows out of the frames, indeed! Let him try, Madame Duphot--that's
all--let him try!"
And with this, Mueller, in a towering rage, led the way upstairs,
muttering volleys of the most extraordinary and eccentric oaths of his
own invention, and leaving the little old _portiere_ grinning
maliciously in the hall.
"But can't you pay him?" said I.
"Whether I can, or can't, it seems I must," he replied, kicking open the
door of his studio as viciously as if it were the corporeal frame of
Monsieur Richard. "The only question is--how? At the present moment, I
haven't five francs in the till."
"Nor have I more than twenty. How much is it?"
"A hundred and sixty--worse luck!"
"Haven't the Tapottes paid for any of their ancestors yet?"
"Confound it!--yes; they've paid for a Marshal of France and a Farmer
General, which are all I've yet finished and sent home. But there was
the washerwoman, and the _traiteur_, and the artist's colorman, and,
_enfin_, the devil to pay--and the money's gone, somehow!"
"I've only just cleared myself from a lot of debts," I said, ruefully,
"and I daren't ask either my father or Dr. Cheron for an advance just at
present. What is to be done?"
"Oh, I don't know. I must raise the money somehow. I must sell
something--there's my copy of Titian's 'Pietro Aretino.' It's worth
eighty francs, if only for a sign. And there's a Madonna and Child after
Andrea del Sarto, worth a fortune to any enterprising sage-femme with
artistic proclivities. I'll try what Nebuchadnezzar will do for me."
"And who, in the name of all that's Israelitish, is Nebuchadnezzar?"
"Nebuchadnezzar, my dear Arbuthnot, is a worthy Shylock of my
acquaintance--a gentleman well known to Bohemia--one who buys and sells
whatever is purchasable and saleable on the face of the globe, from a
ship of war to a comic paragraph in the _Charivari_. He deals in
bric-a-brac, sermons, government sinecures, pugs, false hair, light
literature, patent medicines, and the fine arts. He lives in the Place
des Victoires. Would you like to be introduced to him?"
"Well, then, be here by eight to-morrow morning, and I'll take you with
me. After nine he goes out, or is only visible to buyers. Here's my
bottle of Rhenish--genuine Assmanshauser. Are you hungry?"
I admitted that I was not unconscious of a sensation akin to appetite.
He gazed steadfastly into the cupboard, and shook his head.
"A box of sardines," he said, gloomily, "nearly empty. Half a loaf,
evidently disinterred from Pompeii. An inch of Lyons sausage, saved
from the ark; the remains of a bottle of fish sauce, and a pot of
currant jelly. What will you have?"
I decided for the relics of Pompeii and the deluge, and we sat down to
discuss those curious delicacies. Having no corkscrew, we knocked off
the neck of the bottle, and being short of glasses, drank our wine out
"But you have never opened your parcel all this time," I said presently.
"It may be full of _billets de banque_--who can tell?"
"That's true," said Mueller; and broke the seals.
"By all the Gods of Olympus!" he shouted, holding up a small oblong
volume bound in dark green cloth. "My sketch-book!"
He opened it, and a slip of paper fell out. On this slip of paper were
written, in a very neat, small hand, the words, "_Returned with
thanks_;" but the page that contained the sketch made in the Cafe
Procope was missing.
* * * * *
AN EVENING PARTY AMONG THE PETIT-BOURGEOISIE.
Madame Marotte, as I have already mentioned more than once, lived in the
Rue du Faubourg St. Denis; which, as all the world knows, is a
prolongation of the Rue St. Denis--just as the Rue St. Denis was, in my
time, a transpontine continuation of the old Rue de la Harpe. Beginning
at the Place du Chatelet as the Rue St. Denis, opening at its farther
end on the Boulevart St. Denis and passing under the triumphal arch of
Louis le Grand (called the Porte St. Denis), it there becomes first the
Rue du Faubourg St. Denis, and then the interminable Grande Route du St.
Denis which drags its slow length along all the way to the famous Abbey
The Rue du Faubourg St. Denis is a changed street now, and widens out,
prim, white, and glittering, towards the new barrier and the new Rond
Point. But in the dear old days of which I tell, it was the sloppiest,
worst-paved, worst-lighted, noisiest, narrowest, and most crowded of all
the great Paris thoroughfares north of the Seine. All the country
traffic from Chantilly and Compiegne came lumbering this way into the
city; diligences, omnibuses, wagons, fiacres, water-carts, and all kinds
of vehicles thronged and blocked the street perpetually; and the sound
of wheels ceased neither by night nor by day. The foot-pavements of the
Rue du Faubourg St. Denis, too, were always muddy, be the weather what
it might; and the gutters were always full of stagnant pools. An
ever-changing, never-failing stream of rustics from the country,
workpeople from the factories of the _banlieu,_ grisettes, commercial
travellers, porters, commissionaires, and _gamins_ of all ages here
flowed to and fro. Itinerant venders of cakes, lemonade, cocoa,
chickweed, _allumettes_, pincushions, six-bladed penknives, and
never-pointed pencils filled the air with their cries, and made both day
and night hideous. You could not walk a dozen yards at any time without
falling down a yawning cellar-trap, or being run over by a porter with a
huge load upon his head, or getting splashed from head to foot by the
sudden pulling-up of some cart in the gutter beside you.
It was among the peculiarities of the Rue du Faubourg St. Denis that
everybody was always in a hurry, and that nobody was ever seen to look
in at the shop-windows. The shops, indeed, might as well have had no
windows, since there were no loungers to profit by them. Every house,
nevertheless, was a shop, and every shop had its window. These windows,
however, were for the most part of that kind before which the passer-by
rarely cares to linger; for the commerce of the Rue du Faubourg St.
Denis was of that steady, unpretending, money-making sort that despises
mere shop-front attractions. Grocers, stationers, corn-chandlers,
printers, cutlers, leather-sellers, and such other inelegant trades,
here most did congregate; and to the wearied wayfarer toiling along the
dead level of this dreary pave, it was quite a relief to come upon even
an artistically-arranged _Magasin de Charcuterie_, with its rows of
glazed tongues, mighty Lyons sausages, yellow _terrines_ of Strasbourg
pies, fantastically shaped pickle-jars, and pyramids of silvery
It was at number One Hundred and Two in this agreeable thoroughfare that
my friend's innamorata resided with her maternal aunt, the worthy relict
of Monsieur Jacques Marotte, umbrella-maker, deceased. Thither,
accordingly, we wended our miry way, Mueller and I, after dining together
at one of our accustomed haunts on the evening following the events
related in my last chapter. The day had been dull and drizzly, and the
evening had turned out duller and more drizzly still. We had not had
rain for some time, and the weather had been (as it often is in Paris in
October) oppressively hot; and now that the rain had come, it did not
seem to cool the air at all, but rather to load it with vapors, and make
the heat less endurable than before.
Having toiled all the way up from the Rue de la Harpe on the farther
bank of the Seine, and having forded the passage of the Arch of Louis le
Grand, we were very wet and muddy indeed, very much out of breath, and
very melancholy objects to behold.
"It's dreadful to think of going into any house in this condition,
Mueller," said I, glancing down ruefully at the state of my boots, and
having just received a copious spattering of mud all down the left side
of my person. "What is to be done?"
"We've only to go to a boot-cleaning and brushing-up shop," replied
Mueller. "There's sure to be one close by somewhere."
"A boot-cleaning and brushing-up shop!" I echoed.
"What--didn't you know there were lots of them, all over Paris? Have you
never noticed places that look like shops, with ground glass windows
instead of shop-fronts, on which are painted up the words, '_cirage des
"Never, that I can remember."
"Then be grateful to me for a piece of very useful information! Suppose
we turn down this by-street--it's mostly to the seclusion of by-streets
and passages that our bashful sex retires to renovate its boots and its
I followed him, and in the course of a few minutes we found the sort of
place of which we were in search. It consisted of one large, long room,
like a shop without goods, counters, or shelves. A single narrow bench
ran all round the walls, raised on a sort of wooden platform about three
feet in width and three feet from the ground. Seated upon this bench,
somewhat uncomfortably, as it seemed, with their backs against the wall,
sat some ten or a dozen men and boys, each with an attendant shoeblack
kneeling before him, brushing away vigorously. Two or three other
customers, standing up in the middle of the shop, like horses in the
hands of the groom, were having their coats brushed instead of their
boots. Of those present, some looked like young shopmen, some were of
the _ouvrier_ class, and one or two looked like respectable small
tradesmen and fathers of families. The younger men were evidently
smartening up for an hour or two at some cheap ball or Cafe-Concert, now
that the warehouse was closed, and the day's work was over.
Our boots being presently brought up to the highest degree of polish,
and our garments cleansed of every disfiguring speck, we paid a few sous
apiece and turned out again into the streets. Happily, we had not far to
go. A short cut brought us into the midst of the Rue de Faubourg St.
Denis, and within a few yards of a gloomy-looking little shop with the
words "_Veuve Marotte_" painted up over the window, and a huge red and
white umbrella dangling over the door. A small boy in a shiny black
apron was at that moment putting up the shutters; the windows of the
front room over the shop were brightly lit from within; and a little old
gentleman in goloshes and a large blue cloak with a curly collar, was
just going in at the private door. We meekly followed him, and hung up
our hats and overcoats, as he did, in the passage.
"After you, Messieurs," said the little old gentleman, skipping politely
back, and flourishing his hand in the direction of the stairs.
We protested vehemently against this arrangement, and fought quite a
skirmish of civilities at the foot of the stairs.
"I am at home here, Messieurs," said the little old gentleman, who, now
that he was divested of hat, cloak, and goloshes, appeared in a flaxen
_toupet_, an antiquated blue coat with brass buttons, a profusely
frilled shirt, and low-cut shoes with silver buckles. "I am an old
friend of the family--a friend of fifty years. I hold myself privileged
to do the honors, Messieurs;--a friend of fifty years may claim to have
With this he smirked, bowed, and backed against the wall, so that we
were obliged to precede him. When we reached the landing, however, he
(being evidently an old gentleman of uncommon politeness and agility)
sprang forward, held open the door for us, and insisted on ushering
It was a narrow, long-shaped room, the size of the shop, with two
windows looking upon the street; a tiny square of carpet in the middle
of the floor; boards highly waxed and polished; a tea-table squeezed up
in one corner; a somewhat ancient-looking, spindle-legged cottage piano
behind the door; a mirror and an ornamental clock over the mantelpiece;
and a few French lithographs, colored in imitation of crayon drawings,
hanging against the walls.
Madame Marotte, very deaf and fussy, in a cap with white ribbons, came
forward to receive us. Mademoiselle Marie, sitting between two other
young women of her own age, hung her head, and took no notice of
The rest of the party consisted of a gentleman and two old ladies. The
gentleman (a plump, black-whiskered elderly Cupid, with a vast expanse
of shirt-front like an immense white ace of hearts, and a rose in his
button-hole) was standing on the hearth-rug in a graceful attitude, with
one hand resting on his hip, and the other under his coat-tails. Of the
two old ladies, who seemed as if expressly created by nature to serve as
foils to one another, one was very fat and rosy, in a red silk gown and
a kind of black velvet hat trimmed with white marabout feathers and
Roman pearls; while the other was tall, gaunt, and pale, with a long
nose, a long upper lip, and supernaturally long yellow teeth. She wore a
black gown, black cotton gloves, and a black velvet band across her
forehead, fastened in the centre with a black and gold clasp containing
a ghastly representation of a human eye, apparently purblind--which gave
this lady the air of a serious Cyclops.
Madame Marotte was profuse of thanks, welcomes, apologies, and curtseys.
It was so good of these gentlemen to come so far--and in such unpleasant
weather, too! But would not these Messieurs give themselves the trouble
to be seated? And would they prefer tea or coffee--for both were on the
table? And where was Marie? Marie, whose _fete_-day it was, and who
should have come forward to welcome these gentlemen, and thank them for
the honor of their company!
Thus summoned, Mademoiselle Marie emerged from between the two young
women, and curtsied demurely.
In the meanwhile, the little old gentleman who had ushered as in was
bustling about the room, shaking hands with every one, and complimenting
"Ah, Madame Desjardins," he said, addressing the stout lady in the hat,
"enchanted to see you back from the sea-side!--you and your charming
daughter. I do not know which looks the more young and blooming."
Then, turning to the grim lady in black:--
"And I am charmed to pay my homage to Madame de Montparnasse. I had the
pleasure of being present at the brilliant _debut_ of Madame's gifted
daughter the other evening at the private performance of the pupils of
the Conservatoire. Mademoiselle Honoria inherits the _grand air_,
Madame, from yourself."
Then, to the plump gentleman with the shirt-front:--
"And Monsieur Philomene!--this is indeed a privilege and a pleasure. Bad
weather, Monsieur Philomene, for the voice!"
Then, to the two girls:--
"Mesdemoiselles--Achille Dorinet prostrates himself at the feet of
youth, beauty, and talent! Mademoiselle Honoria, I salute in you the
future Empress of the tragic stage. Mademoiselle Rosalie, modesty
forbids me to extol the acquired graces of even my most promising pupil;
but I may be permitted to adore in you the graces of nature."
While I was listening to these scraps of salutation, Mueller was
murmuring tender nothings in the ear of the fair Marie, and Madame
Marotte was pouring out the coffee.
Monsieur Achille Dorinet, having gone the round of the company, next
addressed himself to me.
"Permit me, Monsieur," he said, bringing his heels together and
punctuating his sentences with little bows, "permit me, in the absence
of a master of the ceremonies, to introduce myself--Achille Dorinet,
Achille Dorinet, whose name may not, perhaps, be wholly unknown to you
in connection with the past glories of the classical ballet. Achille
Dorinet, formerly _premier sujet_ of the Opera Francais--now principal
choreographic professor at the Conservatoire Imperiale de Musique. I
have had the honor, Monsieur, of dancing at Erfurth before their
Imperial Majesties the Emperors Napoleon and Alexander, and a host of
minor sovereigns. Those, Monsieur, were the high and palmy days of the
art. We performed a ballet descriptive of the siege of Troy, and I
undertook the part of a river god--the god Scamander, _en effet_. The
great ladies of the court, Monsieur, were graciously pleased to admire
my proportions as the god Scamander. I wore a girdle of sedges, a wreath
of water-lilies, and a scarf of blue and silver. I have reason to
believe that the costume became me."
"Sir," I replied gravely, "I do not doubt it."
"It is a noble art, Monsieur, _l'art de la dame_" said the former
_premier sujet_, with a sigh; "but it is on the decline. Of the grand
style of fifty years ago, only myself and tradition remain."
"Monsieur was, doubtless, a contemporary of Vestris, the famous dancer,"
"The illustrious Vestris, Monsieur," said the little old gentleman,
"was, next to Louis the Fourteenth, the greatest of Frenchmen. I am
proud to own myself his disciple, as well as his contemporary."
"Why next to Louis the Fourteenth, Monsieur Dorinet?" I asked, keeping
my countenance with difficulty. "Why not next to Napoleon the First, who
was a still greater conqueror?"
"But no dancer, Monsieur!" replied the ex-god Scamander, with a kind of
half pirouette; "whereas the Grand Monarque was the finest dancer of
Madame Marotte had by this time supplied all her guests with tea and
coffee, while Monsieur Philomene went round with the cakes and bread and
butter. Madame Desjardins spread her pocket-handkerchief on her lap--a
pocket-handkerchief the size of a small table-cloth. Madame de
Montparnasse, more mindful of her gentility, removed to a corner of the
tea-table, and ate her bread and butter in her black cotton gloves.
"We hope we have another bachelor by-and-by," said Madame Marotte,
addressing herself to the young ladies, who looked down and giggled. "A
charming man, mesdemoiselles, and quite the gentleman--our _locataire_,
M'sieur Lenoir. You know him, M'sieur Dorinet--pray tell these
demoiselles what a charming man M'sieur Lenoir is!"
The little dancing-master bowed, coughed, smiled, and looked somewhat
"Monsieur Lenoir is no doubt a man of much information," he said,
hesitatingly; "a traveller--a reader--a gentleman--oh! yes, certainly a
gentleman. But to say that he is a--a charming man ... well, perhaps the
ladies are the best judges of such nice questions. What says
Thus applied to, the fair Marie became suddenly crimson, and had not a
word to reply with. Monsieur Dorinet stared. The young ladies tittered.
Madame Marotte, deaf as a post and serenely unconscious, smiled, nodded,
and said "Ah, yes, yes--didn't I tell you so?"
"Monsieur Dorinet has, I fear, asked an indiscreet question," said
Mueller, boiling over with jealousy.
"I--I have not observed Monsieur Lenoir sufficiently to--to form an
opinion," faltered Marie, ready to cry with vexation.
Mueller glared at her reproachfully, turned on his heel, and came over to
where I was standing.
"You saw how she blushed?" he said in a fierce whisper. "_Sacredie_!
I'll bet my head she's an arrant flirt. Who, in the name of all the
fiends, is this lodger she's been carrying on with? A lodger, too--oh!
the artful puss!"
At this awkward moment, Monsieur Dorinet, with considerable tact, asked
Monsieur Philomene for a song; and Monsieur Philomene (who as I
afterwards learned was a favorite tenor at fifth-rate concerts) was
graciously pleased to comply.
Not, however, without a little preliminary coquetry, after the manner of
tenors. First he feared he was hoarse; then struck a note or two on the
piano, and tried his falsetto; then asked for a glass of water; and
finally begged that one of the young ladies would be so amiable as to
Mademoiselle Honoria, inheriting rigidity from the maternal Cyclops,
drew herself up and declined stiffly; but the other, whom the
dancing-master had called Rosalie, got up directly and said she would
do her best.
"Only," she added, blushing, "I play so badly!"
Monsieur Philomene was provided with two copies of his song--one for the
accompanyist and one for himself; then, standing well away from the
piano with his face to the audience, he balanced his music in his hand,
made his little professional bow, coughed, ran his fingers through his
hair, and assumed an expression of tender melancholy.
"One--two--three," began Mdlle. Rosalie, her little fat fingers
staggering helplessly among the first cadenzas of the symphony.
"One--two--three. One" ...
Monsieur Philomene interrupted with a wave of the hand, as if conducting
"Pardon, Mademoiselle," he said, "not quite so fast, if you please!
Andantino--andantino--one--two--three ... Just so! A thousand thanks!"
Again Mdlle. Rosalie attacked the symphony. Again Monsieur Philomene
cleared his voice, and suffered a pensive languor to cloud his
"_Revenez, revenez, beaux jours de mon enfance,_"
he began, in a small, tremulous, fluty voice.
"They'll have a long road to travel back, _parbleu_!" muttered Mueller.
"_De votre aspect riant charmer ma souvenance_!"
Here Mdlle. Rosalie struck a wrong chord, became involved in hopeless
difficulties, and gasped audibly.
Monsieur Philomene darted a withering glance at her, and went on:--
"_Mon coeur; mon pauvre coeur_" ...
More wrong chords, and a smothered "_mille pardons_!" from Mdlle.
"_Mon coeur, mon pauvre coeur a la tristesse en proie,
En fouillant le passe"...._
A dead stop on the part of Mdlle. Rosalie.
_"En fouillant le passe_"....
repeated the tenor, with the utmost severity of emphasis.
"_Mais, mon Dieu_, Rosalie! what are you doing?" cried Madame
Desjardins, angrily. "Why don't you go on?"
Mdlle. Rosalie burst into a flood of tears.
"I--I can't!" she sobbed. "It's so--so very difficult--and"...
Madame Desjardins flung up her hands in despair.
"_Ciel_!" she cried, "and I have been paying three francs a lesson for
you, Mademoiselle, twice a week for the last six years!"
"_Fi done_, Mademoiselle! I am ashamed of you. Make a curtsey to
Monsieur Philomene this moment, and beg his pardon; for you have spoiled
his beautiful song!"
But Monsieur Philomene would hear of no such expiation. His soul, to
use his own eloquent language, recoiled from it with horror! The
accompaniment, _a vrai dire_, was not easy, and _la bien aimable_
Mam'selle Rosalie had most kindly done her best with it. _Allons
donc!_--on condition that no more should be said on the subject,
Monsieur Philomene would volunteer to sing a little unaccompanied
romance of his own composition--a mere _bagatelle_; but a tribute to
"_les beaux yeux de ces cheres dames_!"
So Mam'selle Rosalie wiped away her tears, and Madame Desjardins
smoothed her ruffled feathers, and Monsieur Philomene warbled a
plaintive little ditty in which "_coeur_" rhymed to "_peur_" and
"_amours_" to "_toujours_" and "_le sort_" to "_la mort_" in quite the
usual way; so giving great satisfaction to all present, but most,
perhaps, to himself.
And now, hospitably anxious that each of her guests should have a chance
of achieving distinction, Madame Marotte invited Mdlle. Honoria to favor
the company with a dramatic recitation.
Mdlle. Honoria hesitated; exchanged glances with the Cyclops; and, in
order to enhance the value of her performance, began raising all kinds
of difficulties. There was no stage, for instance; and there were no
footlights; but M. Dorinet met these objections by proposing to range
all the seats at one end of the room, and to divide the stage off by a
row of lighted candles.
"But it is so difficult to render a dramatic scene without an
interlocutor!" said the young lady.
"What is it you require, _ma chere demoiselle?_" asked Madame Marotte.
"I have no interlocutor," said Mdlle. Honoria.
"No what, my love?"
"No interlocutor," repeated Mdlle. Honoria, at the top of her voice.
"Dear! dear! what a pity! Can't we send the boy for it? Marie, my child,
bid Jacques run to Madame de Montparnasse's _appartement_ in the
But Madame Marotte's voice was lost in the confusion; for Monsieur
Dorinet was already deep in the arrangement of the room, and we were all
helping to move the furniture. As for Mademoiselle's last difficulty,
the little dancing-master met that by offering to read whatever was
necessary to carry on the scene.
And now, the stage being cleared, the audience placed, and Monsieur
Dorinet provided with a volume of Corneille, Mademoiselle Honoria
proceeded to drape herself in an old red shawl belonging to
The scene selected is the fifth of the fourth act of Horace, where
Camille, meeting her only surviving brother, upbraids him with the death
Mam'selle Honoria, as Camille, with clasped hands and tragic expression,
stalks in a slow and stately manner towards the footlights.
(Breathless suspense of the audience.)
M. Dorinet, who should begin by vaunting his victory over the Curiatii,
stops to put on his glasses, finds it difficult to read with all the
candles on the ground, and mutters something about the smallness of
Mdlle. Honoria, not to keep the audience waiting, surveys the ex-god
Seamander with a countenance expressive of horror; starts; and takes a
turn across the stage.
"_Ma soeur,_" begins M. Dorinet, holding the book very much on one side,
so as to catch the light upon the page, "_ma soeur, voici le bras_"....
"Ah, Heaven! my dear Mademoiselle, take care of the candles!" cries
Madame Marotte in a shrill whisper.
... "_le bras qui venge nos deux freres,
Le bras qui rompt le cours de nos destins contraires,
Qui nous rend"_...
Here he lost his place; stammered; and recovered it with difficulty.
_"Qui nous rend maitres d'Albe"_....
Madame Marotte groans aloud in an agony of apprehension
"_Ah, mon Dieu!_" she exclaims, gaspingly, "if they didn't flare so, it
wouldn't be half so dangerous!"
Here M. Dorinet dropped his book, and stooping to pick up the book,
dropped his spectacles.
"I think," said Mdlle. Honoria, indignantly, "we had better begin again.
Monsieur Dorinet, pray read with the help of a candle _this_ time!"
And, with an angry toss of her head, Mdlle. Honoria went up the stage,
put on her tragedy face again, and prepared once more to stalk down to
Monsieur Dorinet, in the meanwhile, had snatched up a candle, readjusted
his spectacles, and found his place.
"_Ma soeur_" he began again, holding the book close to his eyes and the
candle just under his nose, and nodding vehemently with every
"_Ma soeur, voici le bras qui venge nos deux freres,
Le bras qui rompt le cours de nos destins contraires,
Qui nous rend maitres d'Albe_" ...
A piercing scream from Madame Marotte, a general cry on the part of the
audience, and a strong smell of burning, brought the dancing-master to a
sudden stop. He looked round, bewildered.
"Your wig! Your wig's on fire!" cried every one at once.
Monsieur Dorinet clapped his hand to his head, which was now adorned
with a rapidly-spreading glory; burned his fingers; and cut a
"Save him! save him!" yelled Madame Marotte.
But almost before the words were out of her mouth, Mueller, clearing the
candles at a bound, had rushed to the rescue, scalped Monsieur Dorinet
by a _tour de main_, cast the blazing wig upon the floor, and trampled
out the fire.
Then followed a roar of "inextinguishable laughter," in which, however,
neither the tragic Camille nor the luckless Horace joined.
"Heavens and earth!" murmured the little dancing-master, ruefully
surveying the ruins of his blonde peruke. And then he put his hand to
his head, which was as bald as an egg.
In the meanwhile Mdlle. Honoria, who had not yet succeeded in uttering a
syllable of her part, took no pains to dissemble her annoyance; and was
only pacified at last by a happy proposal on the part of Monsieur
Philomene, who suggested that "this gifted demoiselle" should be
entreated to favor the society with a soliloquy.
Thus invited, she draped herself again, stalked down to the footlights
for the third time, and in a high, shrill voice, with every variety of
artificial emphasis and studied gesture, recited Voltaire's famous
"Death of Coligny," from the _Henriade_.
In the midst of this performance, just at that point when the assassins
are described as falling upon their knees before their victim, the door
of the room was softly opened, and another guest slipped in unseen
behind us. Slipped in, indeed, so quietly that (the backs of the
audience being turned that way) no one seemed to hear, and no one looked
round but myself.
Brief as was that glance, and all in the shade as he stood, I recognised
It was the mysterious stranger of the Cafe Procope.
MY AUNT'S FLOWER GARDEN.
Having despatched the venerable Coligny much to her own satisfaction and
apparently to the satisfaction of her hearers, Mdlle. Honoria returned
to private life; Messieurs Philomene and Dorinet removed the footlights;
the audience once more dispersed itself about the room; and Madame
Marotte welcomed the new-comer as Monsieur Lenoir.
"_Monsieur est bien aimable_," she said, nodding and smiling, and, with
tremulous hands, smoothing down the front of her black silk gown. "I had
told these young ladies that we hoped for the honor of Monsieur's
society. Will Monsieur permit me to introduce him?"
"With pleasure, Madame Marotte."
And M. Lenoir--white cravatted, white kid-gloved, hat in hand, perfectly
well-dressed in full evening black, and wearing a small orange-colored
rosette at his button-hole--bowed, glanced round the room, and, though
his eyes undoubtedly took in both Mueller and myself, looked as if he had
never seen either of us in his life.
I< saw Mueller start, and the color fly into his face.
"By Heaven!" he exclaimed, "it is--it must be ... look at him,
Arbuthnot! If that isn't the man who stole my sketch-book, I'll eat
"It _is_ the man," I replied. "I recognised him ten minutes ago, when he
first came in."
"You are certain?"
"And yet--there is something different!"
There _was_ something different; but, at the same time, much that was
identical. There was the same strange, inscrutable look, the same
bronzed complexion, the same military bearing. M. Lenoir, it was true,
was well, and even elegantly dressed; whereas, the stranger of the Cafe
Procope bore all the outward stigmata of penury; but that was not all.
There was yet "something different." The one looked like a man who had
done, or suffered, a wrong in his time; who had an old quarrel with the
world; and who only sought to hide himself, his poverty, and his bitter
pride from the observation of his fellow men. The other stood before us
dignified, _decore_, self-possessed, a man not only of the world, but
apparently no stranger to that small section of it called "the great
world." In a word, the man of the Cafe, sunken, sullen, threadbare as he
was, would have been almost less out of his proper place in Madame
Marotte's society of small trades-people and minor professionals, than
was M. Lenoir with his _grand air_ and his orange-colored ribbon.
"It's the same man," said Mueller; "the same, beyond a doubt. The more I
look at him, the more confident I am."
"And the more I look at him," said I, "the more doubtful I get."
Madame Marotte, meanwhile, had introduced M. Lenoir to the two
Conservatoire pupils and their mammas; Monsieur Dorinet had proposed
some "_petits jeux_;" and Monsieur Philomene was helping him to
re-arrange the chairs--this time in a circle.
"Take your places, Messieurs et Mesdames--take your places!" cried
Monsieur Dorinet, who had by this time resumed his wig, singed as it
was, and shorn of its fair proportions. "What game shall we play at?"
"_Pied de Boeuf_" "_Colin Maillard_" and other games were successively
proposed and rejected.
"We have a game in Alsace called 'My Aunt's Flower Garden'" said Mueller.
"Does any one know it?"
"'My Aunt's Flower Garden?'" repeated Monsieur Dorinet. "I never heard
"It sounds pretty," said Mdlle. Rosalie.
"Will M'sieur teach it to us, if it is not very difficult?" suggested
Mdlle. Rosalie's mamma.
"With pleasure, Madame. It is not a bad game--and it is extremely easy.
We will sit in a circle, if you please--the chairs as they are placed
will do quite well."
We were just about to take our places when Madame Marotte seized the
opportunity to introduce Mueller and myself to M. Lenoir.
"We have met before, Monsieur," said Mueller, pointedly.
"I am ashamed to confess, Monsieur, that I do not remember to have had
that pleasure," replied M. Lenoir, somewhat stiffly.
"And yet, Monsieur, it was but the other day," persisted Mueller.
"Monsieur, I can but reiterate my regret."
"At the Cafe Procope."
M. Lenoir stared coldly, slightly shrugged his shoulders, and said,
with the air of one who repudiates a discreditable charge:--
"Monsieur, I do not frequent the Cafe Procope."
"If Monsieur Mueller is to teach us the game, Monsieur Mueller must begin
it!" said Monsieur Dorinet.
"At once," replied Mueller, taking his place in the circle.
As ill-luck would have it (the rest of us being already seated), there
were but two chairs left; so that M. Lenoir and Mueller had to sit
side by side.
"I begin with my left-hand neighbor," said Mueller, addressing himself
with a bow to Mdlle. Rosalie; "and the circle will please to repeat
after me:--'I have the four corners of my Aunt's Flower Garden
thee, and lov'd thee, and ne'er can forget._'"
MDLLE. ROSALIE _to_ M. PHILOMENE.--I have the four corners of my Aunt's
Flower Garden for sale--
thee, and lov'd thee, and ne'er can forget._'
M. PHILOMENE _to_ MADAME DE MONTPARNASSE.--I have the four corners of my
Aunt's Flower Garden, etc., etc.
MADAME DE MONTPARNASSE _to_ M. DORINET.--I have the four corners of my
Aunt's Flower Garden, etc., etc.
Monsieur Dorinet repeats the formula to Madame Desjardins; Madame
Desjardins passes it on to me; I proclaim it at the top of my voice to
Madame Marotte; Madame Marotte transfers it to Mdlle. Honoria; Mdlle.
Honoria delivers it to the fair Marie; the fair Marie tells it to M.
Lenoir, and the first round is completed.
Mueller resumes the lead :--
"_In the second grow heartsease and wild eglantine;
Fair exchange is no theft--for my heart, give me thine_."
MDLLE. ROSALIE _to_ M. PHILOMENE:--
"_In the second grow heartsease and wild eglantine;
Fair exchange is no theft--for my heart, give me thine_."
M. PHILOMENE _to_ MDLLE. DE MONTPARNASSE:--
"_In the second grow heartsease_," &c., &c.
And so on again, till the second round is done. Then Mueller began
"_In the third of these corners pale primroses grow;
Now tell me thy secret, and whisper it low_."
Mdlle. Rosalie was about to repeat these lines as before; but he stopped
"No, Mademoiselle, not till you have told me the secret."
"The secret, M'sieur? What secret?"
"Nay, Mademoiselle, how can I tell that till you have told me? You must
whisper something to me--something very secret, which you would not wish
any one else to hear--before you repeat the lines. And when you repeat
them, Monsieur Philomene must whisper his secret to you--and so on
through the circle."
Mdlle. Rosalie hesitated, smiled, whispered something in Mueller's ear,
and went on with:--
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