In the Days of My Youth
Amelia Ann Blandford Edwards
Part 7 out of 10
"_In the third of these corners pale primroses grow;
Now tell me thy secret, and whisper it low_."
Monsieur Philomene then whispered his secret to Mdlle. Rosalie, and so
on again till it ended with M. Lenoir and Mueller.
"I don't think it is a very amusing game," said Madame Marotte; who,
being deaf, had been left out of the last round, and found it dull.
"It will be more entertaining presently, Madame," shouted Mueller, with a
malicious twinkle about his eyes. "Pray observe the next lines,
Messieurs et Mesdames, and follow my lead as before:--
'_Roses bloom in the fourth; and your secret, my dear,
Which you whisper'd so softly just now in my ear,
I repeat word for word, for the others to hear!_'
Mademoiselle Rosalie (whose pardon I implore!) whispered to me that
Monsieur Philomene dyed his moustache and whiskers."
There was a general murmur of alarm tempered with tittering.
Mademoiselle Rosalie was dumb with confusion. Monsieur Philomene's face
became the color of a full-blown peony. Madame de Montparnasse and
Mdlle. Honoria turned absolutely green.
"_Comment!_" exclaimed one or two voices. "Is everything to be
"Everything, Messieurs et Mesdames," replied
Mueller--"everything--without reservation. I call upon Mdlle. Rosalie to
reveal the secret of Monsieur Philomene."
MDLLE. ROSALIE (_with great promptitude_):--Monsieur Philomene whispered
to me that Honoria was the most disagreeable girl in Paris, Marie the
dullest, and myself the prettiest.
M. PHILOMENE (_in an agony of confusion_):--I beseech you, Mam'selle
Honoria ... I entreat you, Mam'selle Marie, not for an instant to
MDLLE. HONORIA (_drawing herself up and smiling acidly_):--Oh, pray do
not give yourself the trouble to apologize, Monsieur Philomene. Your
opinion, I assure you, is not of the least moment to either of us. Is
But the fair Marie only smiled good-naturedly, and said:--
"I know I am not clever. Monsieur Philomene is quite right; and I am not
at all angry with him."
"But--but, indeed, Mesdemoiselles, I--I--am incapable...." stammered the
luckless tenor, wiping the perspiration from his brow. "I am
"Silence in the circle!" cried Mueller, authoritatively. "Private
civilities are forbidden by the rules of the game. I call Monsieur
Philomene to order, and I demand from him the secret of Madame de
M. Philomene looked even more miserable than before.
"I--I ... but it is an odious position! To betray the confidence of a
lady ... Heavens! I cannot."
"The secret!--the secret!" shouted the others, impatiently.
Madame de Montparnasse pursed up her parchment lips, glared upon us
defiantly, and said:--
"Pray don't hesitate about repeating my words, M'sieur Philomene. I am
not ashamed of them."
M. PHILOMENE (_reluctantly_):--Madame de Montparnasse observed to me
that what she particularly disliked was a mixed society like--like the
present; and that she hoped our friend Madame Marotte would in future be
less indiscriminate in the choice of her acquaintances.
MULLER (_with elaborate courtesy_):--We are all infinitely obliged to
Madame de Montparnasse for her opinion of us--(I speak for the society,
as leader of the circle)--and beg to assure her that we entirely
coincide in her views. It rests with Madame to carry on the game, and to
betray the confidence of Monsieur Dorinet.
MADAME DE MONTPARNASSE (_with obvious satisfaction_):--Monsieur Dorinet
told me that Rosalie Desjardin's legs were ill-made, and that she would
never make a dancer, though she practised from now till doomsday.
M. DORINET (_springing to his feet as if he had been shot_):--Heavens
and earth! Madame de Montparnasse, what have I done that you should so
pervert my words? Mam'selle Rosalie--_ma chere eleve_, believe me,
"Silence in the circle!" shouted Mueller again.
M. DORINET:--But, M'sieur, in simple self-defence....
MULLER:--Self-defence, Monsieur Dorinet, is contrary to the rules of the
game. Revenge only is permitted. Revenge yourself on Madame Desjardins,
whose secret it is your turn to tell.
M. DORINET:--Madame Desjardins drew my attention to the toilette of
Madame de Montparnasse. She said: "_Mon Dieu!_ Monsieur Dorinet, are you
not tired of seeing La Montparnasse in that everlasting old black gown?
My Rosalie says she is in mourning for her ugliness."
MADAME DESJARDINS (_laughing heartily_):--_Eh bien--oui!_ I don't deny
it; and Rosalie's _mot_ was not bad. And now, M'sieur the Englishman
(_turning to me_), it is your turn to be betrayed. Monsieur, whose name
I cannot pronounce, said to me:--"Madame, the French, _selon moi_, are
the best dressed and most _spirituel_ people of Europe. Their very
silence is witty; and if mankind were, by universal consent, to go
without clothes to-morrow, they would wear the primitive costume of Adam
and Eve more elegantly than the rest of the world, and still lead
(_A murmur of approval on the part of the company, who take the
compliment entirely aux serieux_.)
MYSELF (_agreeably conscious of having achieved popularity_):--Our
hostess's deafness having unfortunately excluded her from this part of
the game, I was honored with the confidence of Mdlle. Honoria, who
informed me that she is to make her _debut_ before long at the Theatre
Francais, and hoped that I would take tickets for the occasion.
MDLLE. ROSALIE (_satirically_):--_Brava_, Honoria! What a woman of
business you are!
MDLLE. HONORIA (_affecting not to hear this observation_)--
"_Roses bloom in the fourth, and your secret, my dear,
Which you whispered so softly just now in my ear,
I repeat word for word for the others to hear_."
Marie said to me.... _Tiens_! Marie, don't pull my dress in that way.
You shouldn't have said it, you know, if it won't bear repeating! Marie
said to me that she could have either Monsieur Mueller or Monsieur
Lenoir, by only holding up her finger--but she couldn't make up her mind
which she liked best.
MDLLE. MARIE (_half crying_):--Nay, Honoria--how can you be so--so
unkind ... so spiteful? I--I did not say I could have either M'sieur
Mueller or... or...
M. LENOIR (_with great spirit and good breeding_):--Whether Mademoiselle
used those words or not is of very little importance. The fact remains
the same; and is as old as the world. Beauty has but to will and
MULLER:--Order in the circle! The game waits for Mademoiselle Marie.
"_Roses bloom in the fourth, and your secret_"
M'sieur Lenoir said that--that he admired the color of my dress, and
that blue became me more than lilac.
MULLER: (_coldly_)--_Pardon_, Mademoiselle, but I happened to overhear
what Monsieur Lenoir whispered just now, and those were not his words.
Monsieur Lenoir said, "Look in"... but perhaps Mademoiselle would prefer
me not to repeat more?
MARIE--(_in great confusion_):--As--as you please, M'sieur.
MULLER:--Then, Mademoiselle, I will be discreet, and I will not even
impose a forfeit upon you, as I might do, by the laws of the game. It is
for Monsieur Lenoir to continue.
M. LENOIR:--I do not remember what Monsieur Mueller whispered to me at
the close of the last round.
MULLER (_pointedly_):--_Pardon,_ Monsieur, I should have thought that
M. LENOIR:--It was perfectly unintelligible, and therefore left no
impression on my memory.
MULLER:--Permit me, then, to have the honor of assisting your memory. I
said to you--"Monsieur, if I believed that any modest young woman of my
acquaintance was in danger of being courted by a man of doubtful
character, do you know what I would do? I would hunt that man down with
as little remorse as a ferret hunts down a rat in a drain."
M. LENOIR:--The sentiment does you honor, Monsieur; but I do not see the
MULLER:--Vous ne le trouvez pas, Monsieur?
M. LENOIR--(_with a cold stare, and a scarcely perceptible shrug of the
Here Mdlle. Rosalie broke in with:--"What are we to do next, M'sieur
Mueller? Are we to begin another round, or shall we start a fresh game?"
To which Mueller replied that it must be "_selon le plaisir de ces
dames_;" and put the question to the vote.
But too many plain, unvarnished truths had cropped up in the course of
the last round of my Aunt's Flower Garden; and the ladies were out of
humor. Madame de Montparnasse, frigid, Cyclopian, black as Erebus, found
that it was time to go home; and took her leave, bristling with
gentility. The tragic Honoria stalked majestically after her. Madame
Desjardins, mortally offended with M. Dorinet on the score of Rosalie's
legs, also prepared to be gone; while M. Philomene, convicted of
hair-dye and _brouille_ for ever with "the most disagreeable girl in
Paris," hastened to make his adieux as brief as possible.
"A word in your ear, mon cher Dorinet," whispered he, catching the
little dancing-master by the button-hole. "Isn't it the most unpleasant
party you were ever at in your life?"
The ex-god Scamander held up his hands and eyes.
"_Eh, mon Dieu_!" he replied. "What an evening of disasters! I have lost
my best pupil and my second-best wig!"
In the meanwhile, we went up like the others, and said good-night to our
She, good soul! in her deafness, knew nothing about the horrors of the
evening, and was profuse of her civilities. "So amiable of these
gentlemen to honor her little soiree--so kind of M'sieur Mueller to have
exerted himself to make things go off pleasantly--so sorry we would not
stay half an hour longer," &c., &c.
To all of which Mueller (with a sly grimace expressive of contrition)
replied only by a profound salutation and a rapid retreat. Passing M.
Lenoir without so much as a glance, he paused a moment before Mdlle.
Marie who was standing near the door, and said in a tone audible only to
her and myself:--
"I congratulate you, Mademoiselle, on your admirable talent for
intrigue. I trust, when you look in the usual place and find the
promised letter, it will prove agreeable reading. J'ai l'honneur,
Mademoiselle, de vous saluer."
I saw the girl flush crimson, then turn deadly white, and draw back as
if his hand had struck her a sudden blow. The next moment we were
half-way down the stairs.
"What, in Heaven's name, does all this mean?" I said, when we were once
more in the street.
"It means," replied Mueller fiercely, "that the man's a scoundrel, and
the woman, like all other women, is false."
"Then the whisper you overheard" ...
"Was only this:--'_Look in the usual place, and you will find a
letter_.' Not many words, _mon cher_, but confoundedly comprehensive!
And I who believed that girl to be an angel of candor! I who was within
an ace of falling seriously in love with her! _Sacredie_! what an idiot
I have been!"
"Forget her, my dear fellow," said I. "Wipe her out of your memory
(which I think will not be difficult), and leave her to her fate."
He shook his head.
"No," he said, gloomily, "I won't do that. I'll get to the bottom of
that man's mystery; and if, as I suspect, there's that about his past
life which won't bear the light of day--I'll save her, if I can."
WEARY AND FAR DISTANT.
Twice already, in accordance with my promise to Dalrymple, I had called
upon Madame de Courcelles, and finding her out each time, had left my
card, and gone away disappointed. From Dalrymple himself, although I had
written to him several times, I heard seldom, and always briefly. His
first notes were dated from Berlin, and those succeeding them from
Vienna. He seemed restless, bitter, dissatisfied with himself, and with
the world. Naturally unfit for a lounging, idle life, his active nature,
now that it had to bear up against the irritation of hope deferred,
chafed and fretted for work.
"My sword-arm," he wrote in one of his letters, "is weary of its
holiday. There are times when I long for the smell of gunpowder, and the
thunder of battle. I am sick to death of churches and picture-galleries,
operas, dilettantism, white-kid-glovism, and all the hollow shows and
seemings of society. Sometimes I regret having left the army--at others
I rejoice; for, after all, in these piping times of peace, to be a
soldier is to be a mere painted puppet--a thing of pipe-clay and gold
bullion--an expensive scarecrow--an elegant Guy Fawkes--a sign, not of
what is, but of what has been, and yet may be again. For my part, I care
not to take the livery without the service. Pshaw! will things never
mend! Are the good old times, and the good old international hatreds,
gone by for ever? Shall we never again have a thorough, seasonable,
wholesome, continental war? This place (Vienna) would be worth fighting
for, if one had the chance. I sometimes amuse myself by planning a
siege, when I ride round the fortifications, as is my custom of an
In another, after telling me that he had been reading some books of
travel in Egypt and Central America, he said:--
"Next to a military life I think that of a traveller--a genuine
traveller, who turns his back upon railroads and guides--must be the
most exciting and the most enviable under heaven. Since reading these
books, I dream of the jungle and the desert, and fancy that a
buffalo-hunt must be almost as fine sport as a charge of cavalry. Oh,
what a weary exile this is! I feel as if the very air were stagnant
around me, and I, like the accursed vessel that carried the ancient
As idle as a painted ship,
Upon a painted ocean.'"
Sometimes, though rarely, he mentioned Madame de Courcelles, and then
very guardedly: always as "Madame de Courcelles," and never as his wife.
"That morning," he wrote, "comes back to me with all the vagueness of a
dream--you will know what morning I mean, and why it fills so shadowy a
page in the book of my memory. And it might as well have been a dream,
for aught of present peace or future hope that it has brought me. I
often think that I was selfish when I exacted that pledge from her. I do
not see of what good it can be to either her or me, or in what sense I
can be said to have gained even the power to protect and serve her.
Would that I were rich; or that she and I were poor together, and
dwelling far away in some American wild, under the shade of primeval
trees, the world forgetting; by the world forgot! I should enjoy the
life of a Canadian settler--so free, so rational, so manly. How happy we
might be--she with her children, her garden, her books; I with my dogs,
my gun, my lands! What a curse it is, this spider's web of civilization,
that hems and cramps us in on every side, and from which not all the
armor of common-sense is sufficient to preserve us!"
Sometimes he broke into a strain of forced gayety, more sad, to my
thinking, than the bitterest lamentations could have been.
"I wish to Heaven," he said, in one of his later letters--"I wish to
Heaven I had no heart, and no brain! I wish I was, like some worthy
people I know, a mere human zoophyte, consisting of nothing but a mouth
and a stomach. Only conceive how it must simplify life when once one has
succeeded in making a clean sweep of all those finer emotions which
harass more complicated organisms! Enviable zoophytes, that live only to
digest!--who would not be of the brotherhood?"
In another he wrote:--
"I seem to have lived years in the last five or six weeks, and to have
grown suddenly old and cynical. Some French writer (I think it is
Alphonse Karr) says, 'Nothing in life is really great and good, except
what is not true. Man's greatest treasures are his illusions.' Alas! my
illusions have been dropping from me in showers of late, like withered
leaves in Autumn. The tree will be bare as a gallows ere long, if these
rough winds keep on blowing. If only things would amuse me as of old! If
there was still excitement in play, and forgetfulness in wine, and
novelty in travel! But there is none--and all things alike are 'flat,
stale, and unprofitable,' The truth is, Damon, I want but one thing--and
wanting that, lack all."
Here is one more extract, and it shall be the last:--
"You ask me how I pass my days--in truth, wearily enough. I rise with
the dawn, but that is not very early in September; and I ride for a
couple of hours before breakfast. After breakfast I play billiards in
some public room, consume endless pipes, read the papers, and so on.
Later in the day I scowl through a picture-gallery, or a string of
studios; or take a pull up the river; or start off upon a long, solitary
objectless walk through miles and miles of forest. Then comes
dinner--the inevitable, insufferable, interminable German table-d'hote
dinner--and then there is the evening to be got through somehow! Now and
then I drop in at a theatre, but generally take refuge in some plebeian
Lust Garten or Beer Hall, where amid clouds of tobacco-smoke, one may
listen to the best part-singing and zitter-playing in Europe. And so my
days drag by--who but myself knows how slowly? Truly, Damon, there comes
to every one of us, sooner or later, a time when we say of life as
Christopher Sly said of the comedy--''Tis an excellent piece of work.
Would 'twere done!'"
THE VICOMTE DE CAYLUS.
It was after receiving the last of these letters that I hazarded a third
visit to Madame de Courcelles. This time, I ventured to present myself
at her door about midday, and was at once ushered upstairs into a
drawing-room looking out on the Rue Castellane.
Seeing her open work-table, with the empty chair and footstool beside
it, I thought at the first glance that I was alone in the room, when a
muttered "Sacr-r-r-re! Down, Bijou!" made me aware of a gentleman
extended at full length upon a sofa near the fireplace, and of a
vicious-looking Spitz crouched beneath it.
The gentleman lifted his head from the sofa-cusion; stared at me; bowed
carelessly; got upon his feet; and seizing the poker, lunged savagely at
the fire, as if he had a spite against it, and would have put it out,
if he could. This done, he yawned aloud, flung himself into the nearest
easy-chair, and rang the bell.
"More coals, Henri," he said, imperiously; "and--stop! a bottle of
The servant hesitated.
"I don't think, Monsieur le Vicomte," he said, "that Madame has any
Seltzer-water in the house; but ..."
"Confound you!--you never have anything in the house at the moment one
wants it," interrupted the gentleman, irritably.
"I can send for some, if Monsieur le Vicomte desires it."
"Send for it, then; and remember, when I next ask for it, let there be
some at hand."
"Yes, Monsieur le Vicomte."
"Yes, Monsieur le Vicomte."
"Bid them be quick. I hate to be kept waiting!"
The servant murmured his usual "Yes, Monsieur le Vicomte," and
disappeared; but with a look of such subdued dislike and impatience in
his face, as would scarcely have flattered Monsieur le Vicomte had he
chanced to surprise it.
In the meantime the dog had never ceased growling; whilst I, in default
of something better to do, turned over the leaves of an album, and took
advantage of a neighboring mirror to scrutinize the outward appearance
of this authoritative occupant of Madame de Courcelles' drawing-room.
He was a small, pallid, slender man of about thirty-five or seven years
of age, with delicate, effeminate features, and hair thickly sprinkled
with gray. His fingers, white and taper as a woman's, were covered with
rings. His dress was careless, but that of a gentleman. Glancing at him
even thus furtively, I could not help observing the worn lines about his
temples, the mingled languor and irritability of his every gesture; the
restless suspicion of his eye; the hard curves about his handsome mouth.
"_Mille tonnerres_!" said he, between his teeth "come out, Bijou--come
out, I say!"
The dog came out unwillingly, and changed the growl to a little whine
of apprehension. His master immediately dealt him a smart kick that sent
him crouching to the farther corner of the room, where he hid himself
under a chair.
"I'll teach you to make that noise," muttered he, as he drew his chair
closer to the fire, and bent over it, shiveringly. "A yelping brute,
that would be all the better for hanging."
Having sat thus for a few moments, he seemed to grow restless again,
and, pushing back his chair, rose, looked out of the window, took a turn
or two across the room, and paused at length to take a book from one of
the side-tables. As he did this, our eyes met in the looking-glass;
whereupon he turned hastily back to the window, and stood there
whistling till it occurred to him to ring the bell again.
"Monsieur rang?" said the footman, once more making his appearance at
"_Mort de ma vie_! yes. The Seltzer-water."
"I have sent for it, Monsieur le Vicomte."
"And it is not yet come?"
"Not yet, Monsieur le Vicomte."
He muttered something to himself, and dropped back into the chair before
"Does Madame de Courcelles know that I am here?" he asked, as the
servant, after lingering a moment, was about to leave the room.
"I delivered Monsieur le Vicomte's message, and brought back Madame's
reply," said the man, "half an hour ago."
"True--I had forgotten it. You may go."
The footman closed the door noiselessly, and had no sooner done so than
he was recalled by another impatient peal.
"Here, Henri--have you told Madame de Courcelles that this gentleman is
also waiting to see her?"
"Yes, Monsieur le Vicomte."
"And Madame said she should be down in a few moments."
"_Sacredie_! go back, then, and inquire if...."
"Madame is here."
As the footman moved back respectfully, Madame de Courcelles came into
the room. She was looking perhaps somewhat paler, but, to my thinking,
more charming than ever. Her dark hair was gathered closely round her
head in massive braids, displaying to their utmost advantage all the
delicate curves of her throat and chin; while her rich morning dress,
made of some dark material, and fastened at the throat by a round brooch
of dead gold, fell in loose and ample folds, like the drapery of a Roman
matron. Coming at once to meet me, she extended a cordial hand,
"I had begun to despair of ever seeing you again. Why have you always
come when I was out?"
"Madame," I said, bending low over the slender fingers, that seemed to
linger kindly in my own, "I have been undeservedly unfortunate."
"Remember for the future," she said, "that I am always at home till
midday, and after five."
Then, turning to her other visitor, she said:--
"_Mon cousin_, allow me to present my friend. Monsieur
Arbuthnot--Monsieur le Vicomte Adrien de Caylus."
I had suspected as much already. Who but he would have dared to assume
these airs of insolence? Who but her suitor and my friend's rival? I had
disliked him at first sight, and now I detested him. Whether it was that
my aversion showed itself in my face, or that Madame de Courcelles's
cordial welcome of myself annoyed him, I know not; but his bow was even
cooler than my own.
"I have been waiting to see you, Helene," said he, looking at his watch,
"for nearly three-quarters of an hour."
"I sent you word, _mon cousin_, that I was finishing a letter for the
foreign post," said Madame de Courcelles, coldly, "and that I could not
Monsieur de Caylus bit his lip and cast an impatient glance in my
"Can you spare me a few moments alone, Helene?" he said.
"Alone, _mon cousin_?"
"Yes, upon a matter of business."
Madame de Courcelles sighed.
"If Monsieur Arbuthnot will be so indulgent as to excuse me for five
minutes," she replied. "This way, _mon cousin_."
So saying, she lifted a dark green curtain, beneath which they passed to
a farther room out of sight and hearing.
They remained a long time away. So long, that I grew weary of waiting,
and, having turned over all the illustrated books upon the table, and
examined every painting on the walls, turned to the window, as the
idler's last resource, and watched the passers-by.
What endless entertainment in the life-tide of a Paris street, even
though but a branch from one of the greater arteries! What color--what
character--what animation--what variety! Every third or fourth man is a
blue-bloused artisan; every tenth, a soldier in a showy uniform. Then
comes the grisette in her white cap; and the lemonade-vender with his
fantastic pagoda, slung like a peep-show across his shoulders; and the
peasant woman from Normandy, with her high-crowned head-dress; and the
abbe, all in black, with his shovel-hat pulled low over his eyes; and
the mountebank selling pencils and lucifer-matches to the music of a
hurdy-gurdy; and the gendarme, who is the terror of street urchins; and
the gamin, who is the torment of the gendarme; and the water-carrier,
with his cart and his cracked bugle; and the elegant ladies and
gentlemen, who look in at shop windows and hire seats at two sous each
in the Champs Elysees; and, of course, the English tourist reading
"Galignani's Guide" as he goes along. Then, perhaps, a regiment marches
past with colors flying and trumpets braying; or a fantastic-looking
funeral goes by, with a hearse like a four-post bed hung with black
velvet and silver; or the peripatetic showman with his company of white
rats establishes himself on the pavement opposite, till admonished to
move on by the sergent de ville. What an ever-shifting panorama! What a
kaleidoscope of color and character! What a study for the humorist, the
painter, the poet!
Thinking thus, and watching the overflowing current as it hurried on
below, I became aware of a smart cab drawn by a showy chestnut, which
dashed round the corner of the street and came down the Rue Castellane
at a pace that caused every head to turn as it went by. Almost before I
had time to do more than observe that it was driven by a moustachioed
and lavender-kidded gentleman, it drew up before the house, and a trim
tiger jumped down, and thundered at the door. At that moment, the
gentleman, taking advantage of the pause to light a cigar, looked up,
and I recognised the black moustache and sinister countenance of
Monsieur de Simoncourt.
"A gentleman for Monsieur le Vicomte," said the servant, drawing back
the green curtain and opening a vista into the room beyond.
"Ask him to come upstairs," said the voice of De Caylus from within.
"I have done so, Monsieur; but he prefers to wait in the cabriolet."
"Pshaw!--confound it!--say that I'm coming."
The servant withdrew.
I then heard the words "perfectly safe investment--present
convenience--unexpected demand," rapidly uttered by Monsieur de Caylus;
and then they both came back; he looked flushed and angry--she calm
"Then I shall call on you again to-morrow, Helene," said he, plucking
nervously at his glove. "You will have had time to reflect. You will see
Madame Courcelles shook her head.
"Reflection will not change my opinion," she said gently.
"Well, shall I send Lejeune to you? He acts as solicitor to the company,
"_Mon cousin_" interposed the lady, "I have already given you my
decision--why pursue the question further? I do not wish to see
Monsieur Lejeune, and I have no speculative tastes whatever."
Monsieur de Caylus, with a suppressed exclamation that sounded like a
curse, rent his glove right in two, and then, as if annoyed at the
self-betrayal, crushed up the fragments in his hand, and
"All women are alike," he said, with an impatient shrug. "They know
nothing of the world, and place no faith in those who are competent to
advise them. I had given you credit, my charming cousin, for
Madame de Courcelles smiled without replying, and caressed the little
dog, which had come out from under the sofa to fondle round her.
"Poor Bijou!" said she. "Pretty Bijou! Do you take good care of him,
"Upon my soul, not I," returned De Caylus, carelessly. "Lecroix feeds
him, I believe, and superintends his general education."
"Who is Lecroix?"
"My valet, courier, body-guard, letter-carrier, and general _factotum_.
A useful vagabond, without whom I should scarcely know my right hand
from my left!"
"Poor Bijou! I fear, then, your chance of being remembered is small
indeed!" said Madame de Courcelles, compassionately.
But Monsieur le Vicomte only whistled to the dog; bowed haughtily to me;
kissed, with an air of easy familiarity, before which she evidently
recoiled, first the hand and then the cheek of his beautiful cousin, and
so left the room. The next moment I saw him spring into the cabriolet,
take his place beside Monsieur de Simoncourt, and drive away, with Bijou
following at a pace that might almost have tried a greyhound.
"My cousin, De Caylus, has lately returned from Algiers on leave of
absence," said Madame de Courcelles, after a few moments of awkward
silence, during which I had not known what to say. "You have heard of
"Yes, Madame, I have heard of Monsieur de Caylus."
"From Captain Dalrymple?
"From Captain Dalrymple, Madame; and in society."
"He is a brave officer," she said, hesitatingly, "and has greatly
distinguished himself in this last campaign."
"So I have heard, Madame."
She looked at me, as if she would fain read how much or how little
Dalrymple had told me.
"You are Captain Dalrymple's friend, Mr. Arbuthnot," she said,
presently, "and I know you have his confidence. You are probably aware
that my present position with regard to Monsieur de Caylus is not only
very painful, but also very difficult."
"Madame, I know it."
"But it is a position of which I have the command, and which no one
understands so well as myself. To attempt to help me, would be to add to
my embarrassments. For this reason it is well that Captain Dalrymple is
not here. His presence just now in Paris could do no good--on the
contrary, would be certain to do harm. Do you follow my meaning,
"I understand what you say, Madame; but...."
"But you do not quite understand why I say it? _Eh bien_, Monsieur, when
you write to Captain Dalrymple.... for you write sometimes, do you not?"
"Then, when you write, say nothing that may add to his anxieties. If you
have reason at any time to suppose that I am importuned to do this or
that; that I am annoyed; that I have my own battle to fight--still, for
his sake as well as for mine, be silent. It _is_ my own battle, and I
know how to fight it."
She smiled sadly.
"Nay," she said, "I have more courage than you would suppose; more
courage and more will. I am fully capable of bearing my own burdens; and
Captain Dalrymple has already enough of his own. Now tell me something
of yourself. You are here, I think, to study medicine. Are you greatly
devoted to your work? Have you many friends?"
"I study, Madame--not always very regularly; and I have one friend."
"No, Madame--a German."
"A fellow-student, I presume."
"No, Madame--an artist."
"And you are very happy here?"
"I have occupations and amusements; therefore, if to be neither idle nor
dull is to be happy. I suppose I am happy."
"Nay," she said quickly, "be sure of it. Do not doubt it. Who asks more
from Fate courts his own destruction."
"But it would be difficult, Madame, to go through life without desiring
something better, something higher--without ambition, for
"Ambition and love!" she repeated, smiling sadly. "There speaks the man.
Ambition first--the aim and end of life; love next--the pleasant adjunct
to success! Ah, beware of both."
"But without either, life would be a desert."
"Life _is_ a desert," she replied, bitterly. "Ambition is its mirage,
ever beckoning, ever receding--love its Dead Sea fruit, fair without and
dust within. You look surprised. You did not expect such gloomy theories
from me--yet I am no cynic. I have lived; I have suffered; I am a
woman--_voila tout_. When you are a few years older, and have trodden
some of the flinty ways of life, you will see the world as I see it."
"It may be so, Madame; but if life is indeed a desert, it is, at all
events, some satisfaction to know that the dwellers in tents become
enamored of their lot, and, content with what the desert has to give,
desire no other. It is only the neophyte who rides after the mirage and
thirsts for the Dead Sea apple."
She smiled again.
"Ah!" she said, "the gifts of the desert are two-fold, and what one gets
depends on what one seeks. For some the wilderness has gifts of
resignation, meditation, peace; for others it has the horse, the tent,
the pipe, the gun, the chase of the panther and antelope. But to go back
to yourself. Life, you say, would be barren without ambition and love.
What is your ambition?"
"Nay, Madame, that is more than I can tell you--more than I know
"If ever I dream dreams, Madame," I interrupted quickly, "my profession
has no share in them. It is a profession I do not love, and which I hope
some day to abandon."
"Your dreams, then?"
I shook my head.
"Vague--unsubstantial--illusory--forgotten as soon as dreamt! How can I
analyze them? How can I describe them? In childhood one says--'I should
like to be a soldier, and conquer the world;' or 'I should like to be a
sailor, and discover new Continents;' or 'I should like to be a poet,
and wear a laurel wreath, like Petrarch and Dante;' but as one gets
older and wiser (conscious, perhaps, of certain latent energies, and
weary of certain present difficulties and restraints), one can only
wait, as best one may, and watch for the rising of that tide whose flood
leads on to fortune."
With this I rose to take my leave. Madame de Courcelles smiled and put
out her hand.
"Come often," she said; "and come at the hours when I am at home. I
shall always be glad to see you. Above all, remember my caution--not a
word to Captain Dalrymple, either now or at any other time."
"Madame, you may rely upon me. One thing I ask, however, as the reward
of my discretion."
"And that one thing?"
"Permission, Madame, to serve you in any capacity, however humble--in
any strait where a brother might interfere, or a faithful retainer lay
down his life in your service."
With a sweet earnestness that made my heart beat and my cheeks glow, she
thanked and promised me.
"I shall look upon you henceforth," she said, "as my knight _sans peur
et sans reproche_."
Heaven knows that not all the lessons of all the moralists that ever
wrote or preached since the world began, could just then have done me
half such good service as did those simple words. They came at the
moment when I most needed them--when I had almost lost my taste for
society, and was sliding day by day into habits of more confirmed
idleness and Bohemianism. They roused me. They made a man of me. They
recalled me to higher aims, "purer manners, nobler laws." They clothed
me, so to speak, in the _toga virilis_ of a generous devotion. They made
me long to prove myself "_sans peur_," to merit the "_sans reproche."_
They marked an era in my life never to be forgotten or effaced.
Let it not be thought for one moment that I loved her--or fancied I
loved her. No, not so far as one heart-beat would carry me; but I was
proud to possess her confidence and her friendship. Was she not
Dalrymple's wife, and had not he asked me to watch over and protect her?
Nay, had she not called me her knight and accepted my fealty?
Nothing perhaps, is so invaluable to a young man on entering life as the
friendship of a pure-minded and highly-cultivated woman who, removed too
far above him to be regarded with passion, is yet beautiful enough to
engage his admiration; whose good opinion becomes the measure of his own
self-respect; and whose confidence is a sacred trust only to be parted
from with loss of life or honor.
Such an influence upon myself at this time was the friendship of Madame
de Courcelles. I went out from her presence that morning morally
stronger than before, and at each repetition of my visit I found her
influence strengthen and increase. Sometimes I met Monsieur de Caylus,
on which occasions my stay was ever of the briefest; but I most
frequently found her alone, and then our talk was of books, of art, of
culture, of all those high and stirring things that alike move the
sympathies of the educated woman and rouse the enthusiasm of the young
man. She became interested in me; at first for Dalrymple's sake, and
by-and-by, however little I deserved it, for my own--and she showed
that interest in many ways inexpressibly valuable to me then and
thenceforth. She took pains to educate my taste; opened to me hitherto
unknown avenues of study; led me to explore "fresh fields and pastures
new," to which, but for her help, I might not have found my way for many
a year to come. My reading, till now, had been almost wholly English or
classical; she sent me to the old French literature--to the _Chansons de
Geste_; to the metrical romances of the Trouveres; to the Chronicles of
Froissart, Monstrelet, and Philip de Comines, and to the poets and
dramatists that immediately succeeded them.
These books opened a new world to me; and, having daily access to two
fine public libraries, I plunged at once into a course of new and
delightful reading, ranging over all that fertile tract of song and
history that begins far away in the morning land of mediaeval romance,
and leads on, century after century, to the new era that began with the
With what avidity I devoured those picturesque old chronicles--those
autobiographies--those poems, and satires, and plays that I now read for
the first time! What evenings I spent with St. Simon, and De Thou, and
Charlotte de Baviere! How I relished Voltaire! How I laughed over
Moliere! How I revelled in Montaigne! Most of all, however, I loved the
quaint lore of the earlier literature:--
"Old legends of the monkish page,
Traditions of the saint and sage,
Tales that have the rime of age,
And Chronicles of Eld."
Nor was this all. I had hitherto loved art as a child or a savage might
love it, ignorantly, half-blindly, without any knowledge of its
principles, its purposes, or its history. But Madame de Courcelles put
into my hands certain books that opened my eyes to a thousand wonders
unseen before. The works of Vasari, Nibby, Winkelman and Lessing, the
aesthetic writings of Goethe and the Schlegels, awakened in me, one
after the other, fresher and deeper revelations of beauty.
I wandered through the galleries of the Louvre like one newly gifted
with sight. I haunted the Venus of Milo and the Diane Chasseresse like
another Pygmalion. The more I admired, the more I found to admire. The
more I comprehended, the more I found there remained for me to
comprehend. I recognised in art the Sphinx whose enigma is never solved.
I learned, for the first time, that poetry may be committed to
imperishable marble, and steeped in unfading colors. By degrees, as I
followed in the footsteps of great thinkers, my insight became keener
and my perceptions more refined. The symbolism of art evolved itself, as
it were, from below the surface; and instead of beholding in paintings
and statues mere studies of outward beauty, I came to know them as
exponents of thought--as efforts after ideal truth--as aspirations
which, because of their divineness, can never be wholly expressed; but
whose suggestiveness is more eloquent than all the eloquence of words.
Thus a great change came upon my life--imperceptibly at first, and by
gradual degrees; but deeply and surely. To apply myself to the study of
medicine became daily more difficult and more distasteful to me. The
boisterous pleasures of the Quartier Latin lost their charm for me. Day
by day I gave myself up more and more passionately to the cultivation of
my taste for poetry and art. I filled my little sitting-room with casts
after the antique. I bought some good engravings for my walls, and hung
up a copy of the Madonna di San Sisto above the table at which I wrote
and read. All day long, wherever I might be--at the hospital, in the
lecture-room, in the laboratory--I kept looking longingly forward to the
quiet evening by-and-by when, with shaded lamp and curtained window, I
should again take up the studies of the night before.
Thus new aims opened out before me, and my thoughts flowed into channels
ever wider and deeper. Already the first effervescence of youth seemed
to have died off the surface of my life, as the "beaded bubbles" die off
the surface of champagne. I had tried society, and wearied of it. I had
tried Bohemia, and found it almost as empty as the Chaussee d'Autin.
And now that life which from boyhood I had ever looked upon as the
happiest on earth, the life of the student, was mine. Could I have
devoted it wholly and undividedly to those pursuits which were fast
becoming to me as the life of my life, I would not have exchanged my lot
for all the wealth of the Rothschilds. Somewhat indolent, perhaps, by
nature, indifferent to achieve, ambitious only to acquire, I asked
nothing better than a life given up to the worship of all that is
beautiful in art, to the acquisition of knowledge, and to the
development of taste. Would the time ever come when I might realize my
dream? Ah! who could tell? In the meanwhile ... well, in the meanwhile,
here was Paris--here were books, museums, galleries, schools, golden
opportunities which, once past, might never come again. So I reasoned;
so time went on; so I lived, plodding on by day in the Ecole de
Medecine, but, when evening came, resuming my studies at the leaf turned
down the night before, and, like the visionary in "The Pilgrims of the
Rhine," taking up my dream-life at the point where I had been
* * * * *
GUICHET THE MODEL.
To the man who lives alone and walks about with his eyes open, the mere
bricks and mortar of a great city are instinct with character. Buildings
become to him like living creatures. The streets tell him tales. For
him, the house-fronts are written over with hieroglyphics which, to the
passing crowd, are either unseen or without meaning. Fallen grandeur,
pretentious gentility, decent poverty, the infamy that wears a brazen
front, and the crime that burrows in darkness--he knows them all at a
glance. The patched window, the dingy blind, the shattered doorstep, the
pot of mignonette on the garret ledge, are to him as significant as the
lines and wrinkles on a human face. He grows to like some houses and to
dislike others, almost without knowing why--just as one grows to like
or dislike certain faces in the parks and clubs. I remember now, as well
as if it were yesterday, how, during the first weeks of my life in
Paris, I fell in love at first sight with a wee _maisonnette_ at the
corner of a certain street overlooking the Luxembourg gardens--a tiny
little house, with soft-looking blue silk window-curtains, and
cream-colored jalousies, and boxes of red and white geraniums at all the
windows. I never knew who lived in that sunny little nest; I never saw a
face at any of those windows; yet I used to go out of my way in the
summer evenings to look at it, as one might go to look at a beautiful
woman behind a stall in the market-place, or at a Madonna in a
At the time about which I write, there was probably no city in Europe of
which the street-scenery was so interesting as that of Paris. I have
already described the Quartier Latin, joyous, fantastic, out-at-elbows;
a world in itself and by itself; unlike anything else in Paris or
elsewhere. But there were other districts in the great city--now swept
away and forgotten--as characteristic in their way as the Quartier
Latin. There was the He de Saint Louis, for instance--a _Campo Santo_ of
decayed nobility--lonely, silent, fallen upon evil days, and haunted
here and there by ghosts of departed Marquises and Abbes of the _vieille
ecole_. There was the debateable land to the rear of the Invalides and
the Champ de Mars. There was the Faubourg St. Germain, fast falling into
the sere and yellow leaf, and going the way of the Ile de Saint Louis.
There was the neighborhood of the Boulevart d'Aulnay, and the Rue de la
Roquette, ghastly with the trades of death; a whole Quartier of
monumental sculptors, makers of iron crosses, weavers of funereal
chaplets, and wholesale coffin-factors. And beside and apart from all
this, there were (as in all great cities) districts of evil report and
obscure topography--lost islets of crime, round which flowed and circled
the daily tide of Paris life; flowed and circled, yet never penetrated.
A dark arch here and there--the mouth of a foul alley--a riverside vista
of gloom and squalor, marked the entrance to these Alsatias. Such an
Alsatia was the Rue Pierre Lescot, the Rue Sans Nom, and many more than
I can now remember--streets into which no sane man would venture after
nightfall without the escort of the police.
Into the border land of such a neighborhood--a certain congeries of
obscure and labyrinthine streets to the rear of the old Halles--I
accompanied Franz Mueller one wintry afternoon, about an hour before
sunset, and perhaps some ten days after our evening in the Rue du
Faubourg St. Denis. We were bound on an expedition of discovery, and the
object of our journey was to find the habitat of Guichet the model.
"I am determined to get to the bottom of this Lenoir business," said
Mueller, doggedly; "and if the police won't help me, I must help myself."
"You have no case for the police," I replied.
"So says the _chef de bureau_; but I am of the opposite opinion.
However, I shall make my case out clearly enough before long. This
Guichet can help me, if he will. He knows Lenoir, and he knows something
against him; that is clear. You saw how cautious he was the other day.
The difficulty will be to make him speak."
"I doubt if you will succeed."
"I don't, _mon cher_. But we shall see. Then, again, I have another line
of evidence open to me. You remember that orange-colored rosette in the
"Certainly I do."
"Well, now, I happen, by the merest chance, to know what that rosette
means. It is the ribbon of the third order of the Golden Palm of
Mozambique--a Portuguese decoration. They give it to diplomatic
officials, eminent civilians, distinguished foreigners, and the like. I
know a fellow who has it, and who belongs to the Portuguese Legation
here. _Eh bien!_ I went to him the other day, and asked him about our
said friend--how he came by it, who he is, where he comes from, and so
forth. My Portuguese repeats the name--elevates his eyebrows--in short,
has never heard of such a person. Then he pulls down a big book from a
shelf in the secretary's room--turns to a page headed 'Golden Palm of
Mozambique'--runs his finger along the list of names--shakes his head,
and informs me that no Lenoir is, or ever has been, received into the
order. What do you say to that, now?"
"It is just what I should have expected; but still it is not a ease for
the police. It concerns the Portuguese minister; and the Portuguese
minister is by no means likely to take any trouble about the matter. But
why waste all this time and care? If I were you, I would let the thing
drop. It is not worth the cost."
Mueller looked grave.
"I would drop it this moment," he said, "if--if it were not for the
"Who is still less worth the cost,"
"I know it," he replied, impatiently. "She has a pretty, sentimental
Madonna face; a sweet voice; a gentle manner--_et voila tout_. I'm not
the least bit in love with her now. I might have been. I might have
committed some great folly for her sake; but that danger is past, _Dieu
merci!_ I couldn't love a girl I couldn't trust, and that girl is a
flirt. A flirt of the worst sort, too--demure, serious, conventional.
No, no; my fancy for the fair Marie has evaporated; but, for all that, I
don't relish the thought of what her fate might be if linked for life to
an unscrupulous scoundrel like Lenoir. I must do what I can, my dear
fellow--I must do what I can."
We had by this time rounded the Halles, and were threading our way
through one gloomy by-street after another. The air was chill, the sky
low and rainy; and already the yellow glow of an oil-lamp might be seen
gleaming through the inner darkness of some of the smaller shops.
Meanwhile, the dusk seemed to gather at our heels, and to thicken at
"You are sure you know your way?" I asked presently, seeing Mueller look
up at the name at the corner of the street.
"Why, yes; I think I do," he answered, doubtfully.
"Why not inquire of that man just ahead?" I suggested.
He was a square-built, burly, shabby-looking fellow, and was striding
along so fast that we had to quicken our pace in order to come up with
him. All at once Mueller fell back, laid his hand on my arm, and said:--
"Stop! It is Guichet himself. Let him go on, and we'll follow."
So we dropped into the rear and followed him. He turned presently to the
right, and preceded us down a long and horribly ill-favored street, full
of mean cabarets and lodging-houses of the poorest class, where, painted
in red letters on broken lamps above the doors, or printed on cards
wafered against the window-panes, one saw at almost every other house,
the words, "_Ici on loge la nuit_." At the end of this thoroughfare our
unconscious guide plunged into a still darker and fouler _impasse_, hung
across from side to side with rows of dingy linen, and ornamented in the
centre with a mound of decaying cabbage-leaves, potato-parings,
oyster-shells, and the like. Here he made for a large tumble-down house
that closed the alley at the farther end, and, still followed by
ourselves, went in at an open doorway, and up a public staircase dimly
lighted by a flickering oil-lamp at every landing. At his own door he
paused, and just as he had turned the key, Mueller accosted him.
"Is that you, Guichet?" he said. "Why, you are the very man I want! If I
had come ten minutes sooner, I should have missed you."
"Is it M'sieur Mueller?" said Guichet, bending his heavy brows and
staring at us in the gloom of the landing.
"Ay, and with me the friend you saw the other day. So, this is your den?
May we come in?"
He had been standing till now with his hand on the key and the closed
door at his back, evidently not intending to admit us; but thus asked,
he pushed the door open, and said, somewhat ungraciously:--
"It is just that, M'sieur Mueller--a den; not fit for gentlemen like you.
But you can go in, if you please."
We did not wait for a second invitation, but went in immediately. It was
a long, low, dark room, with a pale gleam of fading daylight struggling
in through a tiny window at the farther end. We could see nothing at
first but this gleam; and it was not till Guichet had raked out the wood
ashes on the hearth, and blown them into a red glow with his breath,
that we could distinguish the form or position of anything in the room.
Then, by the flicker of the fire, we saw a low truckle-bed close under
the window; a kind of bruised and battered seaman's chest in the middle
of the room; a heap of firewood in one corner; a pile of old
packing-cases; old sail-cloth, old iron, and all kinds of rubbish in
another; a few pots and pans over the fire-place; and a dilapidated
stool or two standing about the room. Avoiding these latter, we set
ourselves down upon the edge of the chest; while Guichet, having by this
time lit a piece of candle-end in a tin sconce against the wall, stood
before us with folded arms, and stared at us in silence.
"I want to know, Guichet, if you can give me some sittings," said
Mueller, by way of opening the conversation.
"Depends on when, M'sieur Mueller," growled the model.
"Well--next week, for the whole week."
Guichet shook his head. He was engaged to Monsieur Flandrin _la bas_,
for the next month, from twelve to three daily, and had only his
mornings and evenings to dispose of; in proof of which he pulled out a
greasy note-book and showed where the agreement was formally entered.
Mueller made a grimace of disappointment.
"That man's head takes a deal of cutting off, _mon ami_," he said.
"Aren't you tired of playing executioner so long?"
"Not I, M'sieur! It's all the same to me--executioner or victim, saint
Mueller, laughing, offered him a cigar.
"You've posed for some queer characters in your time, Guichet," said he.
"But you've not been a model all your life?"
"Perhaps not, M'sieur."
"You've been a sailor once upon a time, haven't you?"
The model looked up quickly.
"How did you know that?" he said, frowning.
"By a number of little things--by this, for instance," replied Mueller,
kicking his heels against the sea-chest; "by certain words you make use
of now and then; by the way you walk; by the way you tie your cravat.
_Que diable_! you look at me as if you took me for a sorcerer!"
The model shook his head.
"I don't understand it," he said, slowly.
"Nay, I could tell you more than that if I liked," said Mueller, with an
air of mystery.
"Ay, about yourself, and others."
Guichet, having just lighted his cigar, forgot to put it to his lips.
"What others?" he asked, with a look half of dull bewilderment and half
Mueller shrugged his shoulders.
"Pshaw!" said he; "I know more than you think I know, Guichet. There's
our friend, you know--he of whom I made the head t'other day ... you
The model, still looking at him, made no answer.
"Why didn't you say at once where you had met him, and all the rest of
it, _mon vieux_? You might have been sure I should find out for myself,
sooner or later."
The model turned abruptly towards the fire-place, and, leaning his head
against the mantel-shelf, stood with his back towards us, looking down
into the fire.
"You ask me why I did not tell you at once?" he said, very slowly.
"Why not? Because--because when a man has begun to lead an honest life,
and has gone on leading an honest life, as I have, for years, he is glad
to put the past behind him--to forget it, and all belonging to it. How
was I to guess you knew anything about--about that place _la bas_?"
"And why should I not know about it?" replied Mueller, flashing a rapid
glance at me.
Guichet was silent.
"What if I tell you that I am particularly interested in--that place _la
"Well, that may be. People used to come sometimes, I remember--artists
and writers, and so on."
"But I don't remember to have ever seen you, M'sieur Mueller."
"You did not observe me, _mon cher_--or it may have been before, or
after your time."
"Yes, that's true," replied Guichet, ponderingly. "How long ago was it,
Mueller glanced at me again. His game, hitherto so easy, was beginning to
"Eh, _mon Dieu_!" he said, indifferently, "how can I tell? I have
knocked about too much, now here, now there, in the course of my life,
to remember in what particular year this or that event may have
happened. I am not good at dates, and never was."
"But you remember seeing me there?"
"Have I not said so?"
Guichet took a couple of turns about the room. He looked flushed and
"There is one thing I should like to know," he said, abruptly. "Where
was I? What was I doing when you saw me?"
Mueller was at fault now, for the first time.
"Where were you?" he repeated. "Why, there--where we said just now. _La
"No, no--that's not what I mean. Was I .... was I in the uniform of the
The color rushed into Mueller's face as, flashing a glance of exultation
at me, he replied:--
"Assuredly, _mon ami_. In that, and no other."
The model drew a deep breath.
"And Bras de Fer?" he said. "Was he working in the quarries ?"
"Bras de Fer! Was that the name he went by in those days?"
"Ay--Bras de Fer--_alias_ Coupe-gorge--_alias_ Triphot--_alias_
Lenoir--_alias_ a hundred other names. Bras de Fer was the one he went
by at Toulon--and a real devil he was in the Bagnes! He escaped three
times, and was twice caught and brought back again. The third time he
killed one sentry, injured another for life, and got clear off. That was
five years ago, and I left soon after. I suppose, if you saw him in
Paris the other day, he has kept clear of Toulon ever since."
"But was he in for life?" said Mueller, eagerly.
"_Travaux forces a perpetuite_," replied Guichet, touching his own
shoulder significantly with the thumb of his right hand.
Mueller sprang to his feet.
"Enough," he said. "That is all I wanted to know. Guichet, _mon cher_, I
am your debtor for life. We will talk about the sittings when you have
more time to dispose of. Adieu."
"But, M'sieur Mueller, you won't get me into trouble!" exclaimed the
model, eagerly. "You won't make any use of my words?"
"Why, supposing I went direct to the Prefecture, what trouble could I
possibly get you into, _mon ami?_" replied Mueller.
The model looked down in silence.
"You are a brave man. You do not fear the vengeance of Bras de Fer, or
"No, M'sieur---it's not that."
"What is it, then?"
"Pshaw, man! Speak up."
"It is not that you would get me personally into trouble, M'sieur
Mueller," said Guichet, slowly. "I am no coward, I hope--a coward would
make a bad Garde Chiourme at Toulon, I fancy. And I'm not an escaped
_forcat_. But--but, you see, I've worked my way into a connection here
in Paris, and I've made myself a good name among the artists, and ...
and I hold to that good name above everything in the world."
"Naturally--rightly. But what has that to do with Lenoir?"
"Ah, M'sieur Mueller, if you knew more about me, you would not need
telling how much it has to do with him! I was not always a Garde
Chiourme at Toulon. I was promoted to it after a time, for good conduct,
you know, and that sort of thing. But--but I began differently--I began
by wearing the prison dress, and working in the quarries."
"My good fellow," said Mueller, gently, "I half suspected this--I am not
surprised; and I respect you for having redeemed that past in the way
you have redeemed it."
"Thank you, M'sieur Mueller; but you see, redeemed or unredeemed, I'd
rather be lying at the bottom of the Seine than have it rise up
against me now,"
"We are men of honor," said Mueller, "and your secret is safe with us."
"Not if you go to the Prefecture and inform against Bras de Fer on my
words," exclaimed the model, eagerly. "How can I appear against
him--Guichet the model--Guichet the Garde Chiourme--Guichet the
_forcat?_ M'sieur Mueller, I could never hold my head up again. It would
be the ruin of me."
"You shall not appear against him, and it shall not be the ruin of you.
Guichet," said Mueller. "That I promise you. Only assure me that what you
have said is strictly correct--that Bras de Fer and Lenoir are one and
the same person--an escaped _forcat_, condemned for life to
"That's as true, M'sieur Mueller, as that God is in heaven," said the
"Then I can prove it without your testimony--I can prove it by simply
summoning any of the Toulon authorities to identify him."
"Or by stripping his shirt off his back, and showing the brand on his
left shoulder," said Guichet. "There you'll find it, T.F. as large as
life--and if it don't show at first, just you hit him a sharp blow with
the flat of your hand, M'sieur Mueller, and it will start out as red and
fresh as if it had been done only six months ago. _Parbleu!_ I remember
the day he came in, and the look in his face when the hot iron hissed
into his flesh! They roar like bulls, for the most part; but he never
flinched or spoke. He just turned a shade paler under the tan, and
that was all."
"Do you remember what his crime was?" asked Mueller
Guichet shook his head.
"Not distinctly," he said. "I only know that he was in for a good deal,
and had a lot of things proved against him on his trial. But you can
find all that out for yourself, easily enough. He was tried in Paris,
about fourteen years ago, and it's all in print, if you only know where
to look for it."
"Then I'll find it, if I have to wade through half the Bibliotheque
Nationale!" said Mueller. "Adieu, Guichet--you have done me a great
service, and you may be sure I will do nothing to betray you. Let us
shake hands upon it."
The color rushed into the model's swarthy cheeks.
"_Comment_, M'sieur Mueller!" he said, hesitatingly. "You offer to shake
hands with me--after what I have told you?"
"Ten times more willing than before, _mon ami_," said Mueller. "Did I not
tell you just now that I respected you for having redeemed that past,
and shall I not give my hand where I give my respect?"
The model grasped his outstretched hand with a vehemence that made
Mueller wince again.
"Thank you," he said, in a low, deep voice. "Thank you. Death of my
life! M'sieur Mueller, I'd go to the galleys again for you, after
this--if you asked me."
"Agreed. Only when I do ask you, it shall be to pay a visit of ceremony
to Monsieur Bras de Fer, when he is safely lodged again at Toulon with a
chain round his leg, and a cannon-ball at the end of it."
And with this Mueller turned away laughingly, and I followed him down the
"By Jove!" he said, "what a grip the fellow gave me! I'd as soon shake
hands with the Commendatore in Don Giovanni."
NUMBER TWO HUNDRED AND SEVEN.
Mueller, when he so confidently proposed to visit Bras de Fer in his
future retirement at Toulon, believed that he had only to lodge his
information with the proper authorities, and see the whole affair
settled out of hand. He had not taken the bureaucratic system into
consideration; and he had forgotten how little positive evidence he had
to offer. It was no easier then than now to inspire the official mind
with either insight or decision; and the police of Paris, inasmuch as
they in no wise differed from the police of to-day, yesterday, or
to-morrow, were slow to understand, slow to believe, and slower still
An escaped convict? Monsieur le Chef du Bureau, upon whom we took the
liberty of waiting the next morning, could scarcely take in the bare
possibility of such a fact. An escaped convict? Bah! no convict could
possibly escape under the present admirable system. _Comment_! He
effected his escape some years ago? How many years ago? In what yard, in
what ward, under what number was he entered in the official books? For
what offence was he convicted? Had Monsieur seen him at Toulon?--and was
Monsieur prepared to swear that Lenoir and Bras de Fer were one and the
same person? How! Monsieur proposed to identify a certain individual,
and yet was incapable of replying to these questions! Would Monsieur be
pleased to state upon what grounds he undertook to denounce the said
individual, and what proof he was prepared to produce in confirmation
of the same?
To all which official catechizing, Mueller, who (wanting Guichet's
testimony) had nothing but his intense personal conviction to put
forward, could only reply that he was ready to pledge himself to the
accuracy of his information; and that if Monsieur the Chef du Bureau
would be at the pains to call in any Toulon official of a few years'
standing, he would undoubtedly find that the person now described as
calling himself Lenoir, and the person commonly known in the Bagnes as
Bras de Fer, were indeed "one and the same."
Whereupon Monsieur le Chef--a pompous personage, with a bald head and a
white moustache--shrugged his shoulders, smiled incredulously, had the
honor to point out to Monsieur that the Government could by no means be
at the expense of conveying an inspector from Toulon to Paris on so
shadowy and unsupported a statement, and politely bowed us out.
Thus rebuffed, Mueller began to despair of present success; whilst I, in
default of any brighter idea, proposed that he should take legal advice
on the subject. So we went to a certain avocat, in a little street
adjoining the Ecole de Droit, and there purchased as much wisdom as
might be bought for the sum of five francs sterling.
The avocat, happily, was fertile in suggestions. This, he said, was not
a case for a witness. Here was no question of appearing before a court.
With the foregone offences of either Lenoir or Bras de Fer, we had
nothing to do; and to convict them of such offences formed no part of
our plan. We only sought to show that Lenoir and Bras de Fer were in
truth "one and the same person," and we could only do so upon the
authority of some third party who had seen both. Now Monsieur Mueller had
seen Lenoir, but not Bras de Fer; and Guichet had seen Bras de Fer, but
not Lenoir. Here, then, was the real difficulty; and here, he hoped, its
obvious solution. Let Guichet be taken to some place where, being
himself unseen, he may obtain a glimpse of Lenoir. This done, he can, in
a private interview of two minutes, state his conviction to Monsieur the
Chef de Bureau--_voila tout_! If, however, the said Guichet can be
persuaded by no considerations either of interest or justice, then
another very simple course remains open. Every newly-arrived convict in
every penal establishment throughout France is photographed on his
entrance into the Bagne, and these photographs are duly preserved for
purposes of identification like the present. Supposing therefore Bras de
Fer had not escaped from Toulon before the introduction of this system,
his portrait would exist in the official books to this day, and might
doubtless be obtained, if proper application were made through an
Armed with this information, and knowing that any attempt to induce
Guichet to move further in the matter would be useless, we then went
back to the Bureau, and with much difficulty succeeded in persuading M.
le Chef to send to Toulon for the photograph. This done, we could only
wait and be patient.
Briefly, then, we did wait and were patient--though the last condition
was not easy; for even I, who was by no means disposed to sympathize
with Mueller in his solicitude for the fair Marie, could not but feel a
strange contagion of excitement in this _chasse au forcat_. And so a
week or ten days went by, till one memorable afternoon, when Mueller came
rushing round to my rooms in hot haste, about an hour before the time
when we usually met to go to dinner, and greeted me with--
"Good news, _mon vieux_! good news! The photograph has come--and I have
been to the Bureau to see it--and I have identified my man--and he will
be arrested to-night, as surely as that he carries T.F. on his
"You are certain he is the same?" I said.
"As certain as I am of my own face when I see it in the looking-glass."
And then he went on to say that a party of soldiers were to be in
readiness a couple of hours hence, in a shop commanding Madame Marot's
door; that he, Mueller, was to be there to watch with them till Lenoir
either came out from or went into the house; and that as soon as he
pointed him out to the sergeant in command, he was to be arrested, put
into a cab waiting for the purpose, and conveyed to La Roquette.
Behold us, then, at the time prescribed, lounging in the doorway of a
small shop adjoining the private entrance to Madame Marot's house; our
hands in our pockets; our cigars in our mouths; our whole attitude
expressive of idleness and unconcern. The wintry evening has closed in
rapidly. The street is bright with lamps, and busy with passers-by. The
shop behind us is quite dark--so dark that not the keenest observer
passing by could detect the dusky group of soldiers sitting on the
counter within, or the gleaming of the musket-barrels which rest between
their knees. The sergeant in command, a restless, black-eyed,
intelligent little Gascon, about five feet four in height, with a
revolver stuck in his belt, paces impatiently to and fro, and whistles
softly between his teeth. The men, four in number, whisper together from
time to time, or swing their feet in silence.
Thus the minutes go by heavily; for it is weary work waiting in this
way, uncertain how long the watch may last, and not daring to relax the
vigilance of eye and ear for a single moment. It may be for an hour, or
for many hours, or it may be for only a few minutes-who can tell? Of
Lenoir's daily haunts and habits we know nothing. All we do know is that
he is wont to be out all day, sometimes returning only to dress and go
out again; sometimes not coming home till very late at night; sometimes
absenting himself for a day and a night, or two days and two nights
together. With this uncertain prospect before us, therefore, we wait and
watch, and watch and wait, counting the hours as they strike, and
scanning every face that gleams past in the lamplight.
So the first hour goes by, and the second. Ten o'clock strikes. The
traffic in the street begins perceptibly to diminish. Shops close here
and there (Madame Marot's shutters have been put up by the boy in the
oilskin apron more than an hour ago), and the _chiffonnier_, sure herald
of the quieter hours of the night, flits by with rake and lanthorn,
observant of the gutters.
The soldiers on' the counter yawn audibly from time to time; and the
sergeant, who is naturally of an impatient disposition, exclaims, for
the twentieth time, with an inexhaustible variety, however, in the
choice of expletives:--
"_Mais; nom de deux cent mille petards_! will this man of ours never
To which inquiry, though not directly addressed to myself, I reply, as I
have already replied once or twice before, that he may come immediately,
or that he may not come for hours; and that all we can do is to wait and
be patient. In the midst of which explanation, Mueller suddenly lays his
hand on my arm, makes a sign to the sergeant, and peers eagerly down
There is a man coming up quickly on the opposite side of the way. For
myself, I could recognise no one at such a distance, especially by
night; but Mueller's keener eye, made keener still by jealousy,
identifies him at a glance.
It is Lenoir.
He wears a frock coat closely buttoned, and comes on with a light, rapid
step, suspecting nothing. The sergeant gives the word--the soldiers
spring to their feet--I draw back into the gloom of the shop-and only
Mueller remains, smoking his cigarette and lounging against the
Then Lenoir crosses over, and Mueller, affecting to observe him for the
first time, looks up, and without lifting his hat, says loudly:--
"_Comment_! have I the honor of saluting Monsieur Lenoir?"
Whereupon Lenoir, thrown off his guard by the suddenness of the address,
hesitates--seems about to reply--checks himself--quickens his pace, and
passes without a word.
The next instant he is surrounded. The butt ends of four muskets rattle
on the pavement--the sergeant's hand is on his shoulder--the sergeant's
voice rings in his ear.
"Number two hundred and seven, you are my prisoner!"
THE END OF BRAS BE FER.
LENOIR's first impulse was to struggle in silence; then, finding escape
hopeless, he folded his arms and submitted.
"So, it is Monsieur Mueller who has done me this service," he said
coldly; but with a flash in his eye like the sudden glint in the eye of
a cobra di capello. "I will take care not to be unmindful of the
Then, turning impatiently upon the sergeant:--
"Have you no carriage at hand?" he said, sharply; "or do you want to
collect a crowd in the street?"
The cab, however, which had been waiting a few doors lower down, drove
up while he was speaking. The sergeant hurried him in; the half-dozen
loiterers who had already gathered about us pressed eagerly forward; two
of the soldiers and the sergeant got inside; Mueller and I scrambled up
beside the driver; word was given "to the Prefecture of Police;" and we
drove rapidly away down the Rue du Faubourg St. Denis, through the arch
of Louis Quatorze, out upon the bright noisy Boulevard, and on through
thoroughfares as brilliant and crowded as at midday, towards the quays
and the river.
Arrived at the Quai des Ortevres, we alighted at the Prefecture, and
were conducted through a series of ante-rooms and corridors into the
presence of the same bald-headed Chef de Bureau whom we had seen on each
previous occasion. He looked up as we came in, pressed the spring of a
small bell that stood upon his desk, and growled something in the ear of
a clerk who answered the summons.
"Sergeant," he said, pompously, "bring the prisoner under the
Lenoir, without waiting to be brought, took a couple of steps forward,
and placed himself in the light.
Monsieur le Chef then took out his double eye-glass, and proceeded to
compare Lenoir's face, feature by feature, with a photograph which he
took out of his pocket-book for the purpose.
"Are you prepared, Monsieur," he said, addressing Mueller for the first
time--"are you, I say, prepared to identify the prisoner upon oath?"
"Within certain limitations--yes," replied Mueller.
"Certain limitations!" exclaimed the Chef, testily. "What do you mean by
'certain limitations?' Here is the man whom you accuse, and here is the
photograph. Are you, I repeat, prepared to make your deposition before
Monsieur le Prefet that they are one and the same person?"
"I am neither more nor less prepared, Monsieur," said Mueller, "than you
are; or than Monsieur le Prefet, when he has the opportunity of judging.
As I have already had the honor of informing you, I saw the prisoner for
the first time about two months since. Having reason to believe that he
was living in Paris under an assumed name, and wearing a decoration to
which he had no right, I prosecuted certain inquiries about him. The
result of those inquiries led me to conclude that he was an escaped
convict from the Bagnes of Toulon. Never having seen him at Toulon, I
was unable to prove this fact without assistance. You, Monsieur, have
furnished that assistance, and the proof is now in your hand. It only
remains for Monsieur le Prefet and yourself to decide upon its value."
"Give me the photograph, Monsieur Marmot," said a pale little man in
blue spectacles, who had come in unobserved from a door behind us, while
Mueller was speaking.
The bald-headed Chef jumped up with great alacrity, bowed like a second
Sir Pertinax, and handed over the photograph.
"The peculiar difficulty of this case, Monsieur le Prefet" ... he began.
The Prefet waved his hand.
"Thanks, Monsieur Marmot," he said, "I know all the particulars of this
case. You need not trouble to explain them. So this is the photograph
forwarded from Toulon. Well--well! Sergeant, strip the prisoner's
A sudden quiver shot over Lenoir's face at this order, and his cheek
blenched under the tan; but he neither spoke nor resisted. The next
moment his coat and waistcoat were lying on the ground; his shirt, torn
in the rough handling, was hanging round his loins, and he stood before
us naked to the waist, lean, brown, muscular--a torso of an athlete done
We pressed round eagerly. Monsieur le Chef put up his double eye-glass;
Monsier le Prefet took off his blue spectacles.
"So--so," he said, pointing with the end of his glasses towards a
whitish, indefinite kind of scar on Lenoir's left shoulder, "here is a
mark like a burn. Is this the brand?"
The sergeant nodded.
"V'la, M'sieur le Prefet!" he said, and struck the spot smartly with
his open palm. Instantly the smitten place turned livid, while from the
midst of it, like the handwriting on the wall, the fatal letters T. F.
sprang out in characters of fire.
Lenoir flashed a savage glance upon us, and checked the imprecation that
rose to his lips. Monsieur le Prefet, with a little nod of satisfaction,
put on his glasses again, went over to the table, took out a printed
form from a certain drawer, dipped a pen in the ink, and said:--
"Sergeant, you will take this order, and convey Number Two Hundred and
Seven to the Bicetre, there to remain till Thursday next, when he will
be drafted back to Toulon by the convict train, which leaves two hours
after midnight. Monsieur Mueller, the Government is indebted to you for
the assistance you have rendered the executive in this matter. You are
probably aware that the prisoner is a notorious criminal, guilty of one
proved murder, and several cases of forgery, card-sharping, and the
like. The Government is also indebted to Monsieur Marmot" (here he
inclined his head to the bald-headed Chef), "who has acted with his
usual zeal and intelligence."
Monsieur Marmot, murmuring profuse thanks, bowed and bowed again, and
followed Monsieur le Prefet obsequiously to the door. On the threshold,
the great little man paused, turned, and said very quietly: "You
understand, sergeant, this prisoner does _not_ escape again;" and so
vanished; leaving Monsieur Marmot still bowing in the doorway.
Then the sergeant hurried on Lenoir's coat and waistcoat, clapped a pair
of handcuffs on his wrists, thrust his hat on his head, and prepared to
be gone; Monsieur, the bald-headed, looking on, meanwhile, with the
utmost complacency, as if taking to himself all the merit of discovery
"Pardon, Messieurs," said the serjeant, when all was ready. "Pardon--but
here is a fellow for whom I am responsible now, and who must be strictly
looked after. I shall have to put a gendarme on the box from here to the
Bicetre, instead of you two gentlemen."
"All right, _mon ami_" said Mueller. "I suppose we should not have been
admitted if we had gone with you?"
"Nay, I could pass you in, Messieurs, if you cared to see the affair to
the end, and followed in another _fiacre_."
So we said we would see it to the end, and following the prisoner and
his guard through all the rooms and corridors by which we had come,
picked up a second cab on the Quai des Orfevres, just outside the
Prefecture of Police.
It was now close upon midnight. The sky was flecked with driving clouds.
The moon had just risen above the towers of Notre Dame. The quays were
silent and deserted. The river hurried along, swirling and turbulent.
The sergeant's cab led the way, and the driver, instead of turning back
towards the Pont Neuf, followed the line of the quays along the southern
bank of the Ile de la Cite; passing the Morgue--a mass of sinister
shadow; passing the Hotel Dieu; traversing the Parvis Notre Dame; and
making for the long bridge, then called the Pont Louis Philippe, which
connects the two river islands with the northern half of Paris.
"It is a wild-looking night," said Mueller, as we drove under the
mountainous shadow of Notre Dame and came out again in sight of
"And it is a wild business to be out upon," I added. "I wonder if this
is the end of it?"
The words were scarcely past my lips when the door of the cab ahead flew
suddenly open, and a swift something, more like a shadow than a man,
darted across the moonlight, sprang upon the parapet of the bridge, and
In an instant we were all out--all rushing to and fro--all shouting--all
wild with surprise and confusion.
"One man to the Pont d'Arcole!" thundered the sergeant, running along
the perapet, revolver in hand. "One to the Quai Bourbon--one to the Pont
de la Cite! Watch up stream and down! The moment he shows his head above
"But, in Heaven's name, how did he escape?" exclaimed Mueller.
"_Grand Dieu_! who can tell--unless he is the very devil?" cried the
sergeant, distractedly. "The handcuffs were on the floor, the door was
open, and he was gone in a breath! Hold! What's that?"
The soldier on the Pont de la Cite gave a shout and fired. There was a
splash--a plunge--a rush to the opposite parapet.
"There he goes!"
"He has dived again!"
"Look--look yonder--between the floating bath and the bank!"
The sergeant stood motionless, his revolver ready cocked--the water
swirled and eddied, eddied and parted--a dark dot rose for a second to
Three shots fired at the same moment (one by the sergeant, two by the
soldiers) rang sharply through the air, and were echoed with startling
suddenness again and again from the buttressed walls of Notre Dame. Ere
the last echo had died away, or the last faint smoke-wreath had faded,
two boats were pulling to the spot, and all the quays were alive with a
fast-gathering crowd. The sergeant beckoned to the gendarme who had come
upon the box.
"Bid the boatmen drag the river just here between the two bridges," he
said, "and bring the body up to the Prefecture." Then, turning to Mueller
and myself, "I am sorry to trouble you again, Messieurs," he said, "but
I must ask you to come back once more to the Quai des Orfevres, to
depose to the facts which have just happened."
"But is the man shot, or has he escaped?" asked a breathless bystander.
"Both," said the sergeant, with a grim smile, replacing his revolver in
his belt. "He has escaped Toulon; but he has gone to the bottom of the
Seine with something like six ounces of lead in his skull."
THE ENIGMA OF THE THIRD STORY.
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?--MARLOWE.
In Paris, a lodging-house (or, as they prefer to style it, a _hotel
meuble_) is a little town in itself; a beehive swarming from basement to
attic; a miniature model of the great world beyond, with all its loves
and hatreds, jealousies, aspirations, and struggles. Like that world, it
contains several grades of society, but with this difference, that those
who therein occupy the loftiest position are held in the lowest
estimation. Thus, the fifth-floor lodgers turn up their noses at the
inhabitants of the attics; while the fifth-floor is in its turn scorned
by the fourth, and the fourth is despised by the third, and the third by
the second, down to the magnificent dwellers on _the premier etage_, who
live in majestic disdain of everybody above or beneath them, from the
grisettes in the garret, to the _concierge_ who has care of the cellars.
The house in which I lived in the Cite Bergere was, in fact, a double
house, and contained no fewer than thirty tenants, some of whom had
wives, children, and servants. It consisted of six floors, and each
floor contained from eight to ten rooms. These were let in single
chambers, or in suites, as the case might be; and on the outer doors
opening round the landings were painted the names, or affixed the
visiting-cards, of the dwellers within. My own third-floor neighbors
were four in number. To my left lived a certain Monsieur and Madame
Lemercier, a retired couple from Alsace. Opposite their door, on the
other side of the well staircase, dwelt one Monsieur Cliquot, an elderly
_employe_ in some public office; next to him, Signor Milanesi, an
Italian refugee who played in the orchestra at the _Varietes_ every
night, was given to practising the violoncello by day, and wore as much
hair about his face as a Skye-terrier. Lastly, in the apartment to my
right, resided a lady, upon whose door was nailed a small visiting-card
engraved with these words:--
MLLE. HORTENSE DUFRESNOY.
_Teacher of Languages_.
I had resided in the house for months before I ever beheld this
Mademoiselle Hortense Dufresnoy. When I did at last encounter her upon
the stairs one dusk autumnal evening, she wore a thick black veil, and,
darting past me like a bird on the wing, disappeared down the staircase
in fewer moments than I take to write it. I scarcely observed her at the
time. I had no more curiosity to learn whether the face under that veil
was pretty or plain than I cared to know whether the veil itself was
Shetland or Chantilly. At that time Paris was yet new to me: Madame de
Marignan's evil influence was about me; and, occupied as my time and
thoughts were with unprofitable matters, I took no heed of my
fellow-lodgers. Save, indeed, when the groans of that much-tortured
violoncello woke me in the morning to an unwelcome consciousness of the
vicinity of Signor Milanesi, I should scarcely have remembered that I
was not the only inhabitant of the third story.
Now, however, that I spent all my evenings in my own quiet room, I
became, by imperceptible degrees, interested in the unseen inhabitant of
the adjoining apartment. Sometimes, when the house was so still that the
very turning of the page sounded unnaturally loud, and the mere falling
of a cinder startled me, I heard her in her chamber, singing softly to
herself. Every night I saw the light from her window streaming out over
the balcony and touching the evergreens with a midnight glow. Often and
often, when it was so late that even I had given up study and gone to
bed, I heard her reading aloud, or pacing to and fro to the measure of
her own recitations. Listen as I would, I could only make out that these
recitations were poetical fragments--I could only distinguish a certain
chanted metre, the chiming of an occasional rhyme, the rising and
falling of a voice more than commonly melodious.
This vague interest gave place by-and-by to active curiosity. I resolved
to question Madame Bouisse, the _concierge_; and as she, good soul!
loved gossip not wisely, but too well, I soon knew all the little she
had to tell.
Mademoiselle Hortense, it appeared, was the enigma of the third story.
She had resided in the house for more than two years. She earned her
living by her labor; went out teaching all the day; sat up at night,
studying and writing; had no friends; received no visitors; was as
industrious as a bee, and as proud as a princess. Books and flowers were
her only friends, and her only luxuries. Poor as she was, she was
continually filling her shelves with the former, and supplying her
balcony with the latter. She lived frugally, drank no wine, was
singularly silent and reserved, and "like a real lady," said the fat
_concierge_, "paid her rent to the minute."
This, and no more, had Madame Bouisse to tell. I had sought her in her
own little retreat at the foot of the public staircase. It was a very
wet afternoon, and under pretext of drying my boots by the fire, I
stayed to make conversation and elicit what information I could. Now
Madame Bouisse's sanctuary was a queer, dark, stuffy little cupboard
devoted to many heterogeneous uses, and it "served her for parlor,
kitchen, and all." In one corner stood that famous article of furniture
which became "a bed by night, a chest of drawers by day." Adjoining the
bed was the fireplace; near the fireplace stood a corner cupboard filled
with crockery and surmounted by a grand ormolu clock, singularly at
variance with the rest of the articles. A table, a warming-pan, and a
couple of chairs completed the furniture of the room, which, with all
its contents, could scarcely have measured more than eight feet square.
On a shelf inside the door stood thirty flat candlesticks; and on a row
of nails just beneath them, hung two and twenty bright brass
chamber-door keys--whereby an apt arithmetician might have divined that
exactly two-and-twenty lodgers were out in the rain, and only eight
housed comfortably within doors.
"And how old should you suppose this lady to be?" I asked, leaning idly
against the table whereon Madame Bouisse was preparing an unsavory dish
of veal and garlic.
The _concierge_ shrugged her ponderous shoulders.
"Ah, bah, M'sieur, I am no judge of age," said she.
"Well--is she pretty?"
"I am no judge of beauty, either," grinned Madame Bouisse.
"But, my dear soul," I expostulated, "you have eyes!"
"Yours are younger than mine, _mon enfant_," retorted the fat
_concierge_; "and, as I see Mam'selle Hortense coming up to the door,
I'd advise you to make use of them for yourself."
And there, sure enough, was a tall and slender girl, dressed all in
black, pausing to close up her umbrella at the threshold of the outer
doorway. A porter followed her, carrying a heavy parcel. Having
deposited this in the passage, he touched his cap and stated his charge.
The young lady took out her purse, turned over the coins, shook her
head, and finally came up to Madame's little sanctuary.
"Will you be so obliging, Madame Bouisse," she said, "as to lend me a
piece of ten sous? I have no small change left in my purse."
How shall I describe her? If I say that she was not particularly
beautiful, I do her less than justice; for she was beautiful, with a
pale, grave, serious beauty, unlike the ordinary beauty of woman. But
even this, her beauty of feature, and color, and form, was eclipsed and
overborne by that "true beauty of the soul" which outshines all other,
as the sun puts out the stars.
There was in her face--or, perhaps, rather in her expression--an
indefinable something that came upon me almost like a memory. Had I seen
that face in some forgotten dream of long ago? Brown-haired was she, and
pale, with a brow "as chaste ice, as pure as snow," and eyes--
"In whose orb a shadow lies,
Like the dusk in evening skies!"
Eyes lit from within, large, clear, lustrous, with a meaning in them so
profound and serious that it was almost sorrowful,--like the eyes of
Giotto's saints and Cimabue's Madonnas.
But I cannot describe her--
"For oh, her looks had something excellent That wants a name!"
I can only look back upon her with "my mind's eye," trying to see her as
I saw her then for the first time, and striving to recall my first
Madame Bouisse, meanwhile, searched in all the corners of her ample
pockets, turned out her table-drawer, dived into the recesses of her
husband's empty garments, and peeped into every ornament upon the
chimney-piece; but in vain. There was no such thing as a ten-sous piece
to be found.
"Pray, M'sieur Basil," said she, "have you one?"
"One what?" I ejaculated, startled out of my reverie.
"Why, a ten-sous piece, to be sure. Don't you see that Mam'selle
Hortense is waiting in her wet shoes, and that I have been hunting for
the last five minutes, and can't find one anywhere?"
Blushing like a school-boy, and stammering some unintelligible excuse, I
pulled out a handful of francs and half-francs, and produced the
"_Dame_!" said the _concierge_. "This comes of using one's eyes too
well, my young Monsieur. Hem! I'm not so blind but that I can see as far
as my neighbors."
Mademoiselle Hortense had fortunately gone back to settle with the
porter, so this observation passed unheard. The man being dismissed, she
came back, carrying the parcel. It was evidently heavy, and she put it
down on the nearest chair.
"I fear, Madame Bouisse," she said, "that I must ask you to help me with
this. I am not strong enough to carry it upstairs."
More alert this time, I took a step in advance, and offered my services.
"Will Mademoiselle permit me to take it?" I said. "I am going
"Many thanks," she said, reluctantly, "but...."
"But Madame Bouisse is busy," I urged, "and the _pot au feu_ will spoil
if she leaves it on the fire."
The fat _concierge_ nodded, and patted me on the shoulder.
"Let him carry the parcel, Mam'selle Hortense," she chuckled. "Let him
carry it. M'sieur is your neighbor, and neighbors should be neighborly.
Besides," she added, in an audible aside, "he is a _bon garcon_--an
Englishman--and a book-student like yourself."
The young lady bent her head, civilly, but proudly. Compelled, as it
seemed, to accept my help, she evidently wished to show me that I must
nevertheless put forward no claim to further intercourse--not even on
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