Infomotions, Inc.Bohemians of the Latin Quarter / Murger, Henry, 1822-1861



Author: Murger, Henry, 1822-1861
Title: Bohemians of the Latin Quarter
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): rodolphe; marcel; schaunard; mimi; musette; colline; mademoiselle mimi; replied rodolphe; monsieur benoit; mademoiselle musette; replied marcel
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Title: Bohemians of the Latin Quarter


Author: Henry Murger



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Language: English

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Note: This book by Henry Murger, originally publised in 1851, was
      the source of two operas titled "La Boheme"--one by Giacomo
      Puccini (1896) and the other by Ruggero Leoncavallo (1897).
      Project Gutenberg also has the original French version of
      the book (Scenes de la vie de boheme); see
      http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/18446.





BOHEMIANS OF THE LATIN QUARTER

by

HENRY MURGER







1888

Vizetelly & Co. London




TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface
Chapter I, How The Bohemian Club Was Formed
Chapter II, A Good Angel
Chapter III, Lenten Loves
Chapter IV, Ali Rodolphe; Or, The Turk Perforce
Chapter V, The Carlovingian Coin
Chapter VI, Mademoiselle Musette
Chapter VII, The Billows of Pactolus
Chapter VIII, The Cost Of a Five Franc Piece
Chapter IX, The White Violets
Chapter X, The Cape of Storms
Chapter XI, A Bohemian Cafe
Chapter XII, A Bohemian "At Home"
Chapter XIII, The House Warming
Chapter XIV, Mademoiselle Mimi
Chapter XV, Donec Gratus
Chapter XVI, The Passage of the Red Sea
Chapter XVII, The Toilette of the Graces
Chapter XVIII, Francine's Muff
Chapter XIX, Musette's Fancies
Chapter XX, Mimi in Fine Feather
Chapter XXI, Romeo and Juliet
Chapter XXII, Epilogue To The Loves Of Rodolphe And Mademoiselle Mimi
Chapter XXIII, Youth Is Fleeting




PREFACE


The Bohemians of whom it is a question in this book have no connection
with the Bohemians whom melodramatists have rendered synonymous with
robbers and assassins. Neither are they recruited from among the
dancing-bear leaders, sword swallowers, gilt watch-guard vendors, street
lottery keepers and a thousand other vague and mysterious professionals
whose main business is to have no business at all, and who are always
ready to turn their hands to anything except good.

The class of Bohemians referred to in this book are not a race of today,
they have existed in all climes and ages, and can claim an illustrious
descent. In ancient Greece, to go no farther back in this genealogy,
there existed a celebrated Bohemian, who lived from hand to mouth round
the fertile country of Ionia, eating the bread of charity, and halting
in the evening to tune beside some hospitable hearth the harmonious lyre
that had sung the loves of Helen and the fall of Troy. Descending the
steps of time modern Bohemia finds ancestors at every artistic and
literary epoch. In the Middle Ages it perpetuates the Homeric tradition
with its minstrels and ballad makers, the children of the gay science,
all the melodious vagabonds of Touraine, all the errant songsters who,
with the beggar's wallet and the trouvere's harp slung at their backs,
traversed, singing as they went, the plains of the beautiful land where
the eglantine of Clemence Isaure flourished.

At the transitional period between the days of chivalry and the dawn of
the Renaissance, Bohemia continued to stroll along all the highways of
the kingdom, and already to some extent about the streets of Paris.
There is Master Pierre Gringoire, friend of the vagrants and foe to
fasting. Lean and famished as a man whose very existence is one long
Lent, he lounges about the town, his nose in the air like a pointer's,
sniffing the odor from kitchen and cook shop. His eyes glittering
with covetous gluttony cause the hams hung outside the pork
butcher's to shrink by merely looking at them, whilst he jingles in
imagination--alas! and not in his pockets--the ten crowns promised him
by the echevins in payment of the pious and devout fare he has composed
for the theater in the hall of the Palais de Justice. Beside the doleful
and melancholy figure of the lover of Esmeralda, the chronicles of
Bohemia can evoke a companion of less ascetic humor and more cheerful
face--Master Francois Villon, par excellence, is this latter, and one
whose poetry, full of imagination, is no doubt on account of those
presentiments which the ancients attributed to their fates, continually
marked by a singular foreboding of the gallows, on which the said Villon
one day nearly swung in a hempen collar for having looked too closely at
the color of the king's crowns. This same Villon, who more than once
outran the watch started in his pursuit, this noisy guest at the dens of
the Rue Pierre Lescot, this spunger at the court of the Duke of Egypt,
this Salvator Rosa of poesy, has strung together elegies the
heartbreaking sentiment and truthful accents of which move the most
pitiless and make them forget the ruffian, the vagabond and the
debauchee, before this muse drowned in her own tears.

Besides, amongst all those whose but little known work has only been
familiar to men for whom French literature does not begin the day when
"Malherbe came," Francois Villon has had the honor of being the most
pillaged, even by the big-wigs of modern Parnassus. They threw
themselves upon the poor man's field and coined glory from his humble
treasure. There are ballads scribbled under a penthouse at the street
corner on a cold day by the Bohemian rhapsodist, stanzas improvised in
the hovel in which the "belle qui fut haultmire" loosened her gilt
girdle to all comers, which now-a-days metamorphosed into dainty
gallantries scented with musk and amber, figure in the armorial bearing
enriched album of some aristocratic Chloris.

But behold the grand century of the Renaissance opens, Michaelangelo
ascends the scaffolds of the Sistine Chapel and watches with anxious air
young Raphael mounting the steps of the Vatican with the cartoon of the
Loggie under his arm. Benvenuto Cellini is meditating his Perseus,
Ghiberti is carving the Baptistery doors at the same time that Donatello
is rearing his marbles on the bridges of the Arno; and whilst the city
of the Medici is staking masterpieces against that of Leo X and
Julius II, Titian and Paul Veronese are rendering the home of Doges
illustrious. Saint Mark's competes with Saint Peter's.

This fever of genius that had broken out suddenly in the Italian
peninsula with epidemic violence spreads its glorious contagion
throughout Europe. Art, the rival of God, strides on, the equal of
kings. Charles V stoops to pick up Titian's brush, and Francis I dances
attendance at the printing office where Etienne Dolet is perhaps
correcting the proofs of "Pantagruel."

Amidst this resurrection of intelligence, Bohemia continued as in the
past to seek, according to Balzac's expression, a bone and a kennel.
Clement Marot, the familiar of the ante-chamber of the Louvre, became,
even before she was a monarch's mistress, the favorite of that fair
Diana, whose smile lit up three reigns. From the boudoir of Diane de
Poitiers, the faithless muse of the poet passed to that of Marguerite de
Valois, a dangerous favor that Marot paid for by imprisonment. Almost
at the same epoch another Bohemian, whose childhood on the shores of
Sorrento had been caressed by the kisses of an epic muse, Tasso, entered
the court of the Duke of Ferrara as Marot had that of Francis I. But
less fortunate than the lover of Diane and Marguerite, the author of
"Jerusalem Delivered" paid with his reason and the loss of his genius
the audacity of his love for a daughter of the house of Este.

The religious contests and political storms that marked the arrival of
Medicis in France did not check the soaring flight of art. At the moment
when a ball struck on the scaffold of the Fontaine des Innocents Jean
Goujon who had found the Pagan chisel of Phidias, Ronsard discovered the
lyre of Pindar and founded, aided by his pleiad, the great French lyric
school. To this school succeeded the reaction of Malherbe and his
fellows, who sought to drive from the French tongue all the exotic
graces that their predecessors had tried to nationalize on Parnassus. It
was a Bohemian, Mathurin Regnier, who was one of the last defenders of
the bulwarks of poetry, assailed by the phalanx of rhetoricians and
grammarians who declared Rabelais barbarous and Montaigne obscure. It
was this same cynic, Mathurin Regnier, who, adding fresh knots to the
satiric whip of Horace, exclaimed, in indignation at the manners of his
day, "Honor is an old saint past praying to."

The roll call of Bohemia during the seventeenth century contains a
portion of the names belonging to the literature of the reigns of Louis
XIII and Louis XIV, it reckons members amongst the wits of the Hotel
Rambouillet, where it takes its share in the production of the
"Guirlande de Julie," it has its entries into the Palais Cardinal, where
it collaborates, in the tragedy of "Marianne," with the poet-minister
who was the Robespierre of the monarchy. It bestrews the couch of Marion
Delorme with madrigals, and woos Ninon de l'Enclos beneath the trees of
the Place Royal; it breakfasts in the morning at the tavern of the
Goinfres or the Epee Royale, and sups in the evening at the table of the
Duc de Joyeuse; it fights duels under a street lamp for the sonnet of
Urania against the sonnet of Job. Bohemia makes love, war, and even
diplomacy, and in its old days, weary of adventures, it turns the Old
and New Testament into poetry, figures on the list of benefices, and
well nourished with fat prebendaryships, seats itself on an episcopal
throne, or a chair of the Academy, founded by one of its children.

It was in the transition period between the sixteenth and eighteenth
centuries that appeared those two lofty geniuses, whom each of the
nations amongst which they lived opposed to one another in their
struggles of literary rivalry. Moliere and Shakespeare, those
illustrious Bohemians, whose fate was too nearly akin.

The most celebrated names of the literature of the eighteenth century
are also to be found in the archives of Bohemia, which, amongst the
glorious ones of this epoch, can cite Jean Jacques Rousseau and
d'Alembert, the foundling of the porch of Notre Dame, and amongst the
obscure, Malfilatre and Gilbert, two overrated reputations, for the
inspiration of the one was but a faint reflection of the weak lyricism
of Jean Baptiste Rousseau, and the inspiration of the other but the
blending of proud impotence with a hatred which had not even the excuse
of initiative and sincerity, since it was only the paid instrument of
party rancour.

We close with this epoch this brief summary of Bohemia in different
ages, a prolegomena besprinkled with illustrious names that we have
purposely placed at the beginning of this work, to put the reader on his
guard against any misapplication he might fall into on encountering the
title of Bohemians; long bestowed upon classes from which those whose
manners and language we have striven to depict hold it an honor to
differ.

Today, as of old, every man who enters on an artistic career, without
any other means of livelihood than his art itself, will be forced to
walk in the paths of Bohemia. The greater number of our contemporaries
who display the noblest blazonry of art have been Bohemians, and amidst
their calm and prosperous glory they often recall, perhaps with regret,
the time when, climbing the verdant slope of youth, they had no other
fortune in the sunshine of their twenty years than courage, which is the
virtue of the young, and hope, which is the wealth of the poor.

For the uneasy reader, for the timorous citizen, for all those for whom
an "i" can never be too plainly dotted in definition, we repeat as an
axiom: "Bohemia is a stage in artistic life; it is the preface to the
Academy, the Hotel Dieu, or the Morgue."

We will add that Bohemia only exists and is only possible in Paris.

We will begin with unknown Bohemians, the largest class. It is made up
of the great family of poor artists, fatally condemned to the law of
incognito, because they cannot or do not know how to obtain a scrap of
publicity, to attest their existence in art, and by showing what they
are already prove what they may some day become. They are the race of
obstinate dreamers for whom art has remained a faith and not a
profession; enthusiastic folk of strong convictions, whom the sight of a
masterpiece is enough to throw into a fever, and whose loyal heart beats
high in presence of all that is beautiful, without asking the name of
the master and the school. This Bohemian is recruited from amongst those
young fellows of whom it is said that they give great hopes, and from
amongst those who realize the hopes given, but who, from carelessness,
timidity, or ignorance of practical life, imagine that everything is
done that can be when the work is completed, and wait for public
admiration and fortune to break in on them by escalade and burglary.
They live, so to say, on the outskirts of life, in isolation and
inertia. Petrified in art, they accept to the very letter the symbolism
of the academical dithyrambic, which places an aureola about the heads
of poets, and, persuaded that they are gleaming in their obscurity, wait
for others to come and seek them out. We used to know a small school
composed of men of this type, so strange, that one finds it hard to
believe in their existence; they styled themselves the disciples of art
for art's sake. According to these simpletons, art for art's sake
consisted of deifying one another, in abstaining from helping chance,
who did not even know their address, and in waiting for pedestals to
come of their own accord and place themselves under them.

It is, as one sees, the ridiculousness of stoicism. Well, then we again
affirm, there exist in the heart of unknown Bohemia, similar beings
whose poverty excites a sympathetic pity which common sense obliges you
to go back on, for if you quietly remark to them that we live in the
nineteenth century, that the five-franc piece is the empress of
humanity, and that boots do not drop already blacked from heaven, they
turn their backs on you and call you a tradesman.

For the rest, they are logical in their mad heroism, they utter neither
cries nor complainings, and passively undergo the obscure and rigorous
fate they make for themselves. They die for the most part, decimated by
that disease to which science does not dare give its real name, want. If
they would, however, many could escape from this fatal _denouement_
which suddenly terminates their life at an age when ordinary life is
only beginning. It would suffice for that for them to make a few
concessions to the stern laws of necessity; for them to know how to
duplicate their being, to have within themselves two natures, the poet
ever dreaming on the lofty summits where the choir of inspired voices
are warbling, and the man, worker-out of his life, able to knead his
daily bread, but this duality which almost always exists among strongly
tempered natures, of whom it is one of the distinctive characteristics,
is not met with amongst the greater number of these young fellows, whom
pride, a bastard pride, has rendered invulnerable to all the advice of
reason. Thus they die young, leaving sometimes behind them a work which
the world admires later on and which it would no doubt have applauded
sooner if it had not remained invisible.

In artistic struggles it is almost the same as in war, the whole of the
glory acquired falls to the leaders; the army shares as its reward the
few lines in a dispatch. As to the soldiers struck down in battle, they
are buried where they fall, and one epitaph serves for twenty thousand
dead.

So, too, the crowd, which always has its eyes fixed on the rising sun,
never lowers its glance towards that underground world where the obscure
workers are struggling; their existence finishes unknown and without
sometimes even having had the consolation of smiling at an accomplished
task, they depart from this life, enwrapped in a shroud of indifference.

There exists in ignored Bohemia another fraction; it is composed of
young fellows who have been deceived, or have deceived themselves. They
mistake a fancy for a vocation, and impelled by a homicidal fatality,
they die, some the victims of a perpetual fit of pride, others
worshippers of a chimera.

The paths of art, so choked and so dangerous, are, despite encumberment
and obstacles, day by day more crowded, and consequently Bohemians were
never more numerous.

If one sought out all the causes that have led to this influx, one might
perhaps come across the following.

Many young fellows have taken the declamations made on the subject of
unfortunate poets and artists quite seriously. The names of Gilbert,
Malfilatre, Chatterton, and Moreau have been too often, too imprudently,
and, above all, too uselessly uttered. The tomb of these unfortunates
has been converted into a pulpit, from whence has been preached the
martyrdom of art and poetry,

    "Farewell mankind, ye stony-hearted host,
     Flint-bosomed earth and sun with frozen ray,
     From out amidst you, solitary ghost
     I glide unseen away."

This despairing song of Victor Escousse, stifled by the pride which had
been implanted in him by a factitious triumph, was for a time the
"Marseillaise" of the volunteers of art who were bent on inscribing
their names on the martyrology of mediocrity.

For these funereal apotheoses, these encomiastic requiems, having all
the attraction of the abyss for weak minds and ambitious vanities, many
of these yielding to this attraction have thought that fatality was the
half of genius; many have dreamt of the hospital bed on which Gilbert
died, hoping that they would become poets, as he did a quarter of an
hour before dying, and believing that it was an obligatory stage in
order to arrive at glory.

Too much blame cannot be attached to these immortal falsehoods, these
deadly paradoxes, which turn aside from the path in which they might
have succeeded so many people who come to a wretched ending in a career
in which they incommode those to whom a true vocation only gives the
right of entering on it.

It is these dangerous preachings, this useless posthumous exaltations,
that have created the ridiculous race of the unappreciated, the whining
poets whose muse has always red eyes and ill-combed locks, and all the
mediocrities of impotence who, doomed to non-publication, call the muse
a harsh stepmother, and art an executioner.

All truly powerful minds have their word to say, and, indeed, utter it
sooner or later. Genius or talent are not unforeseen accidents in
humanity; they have a cause of existence, and for that reason cannot
always remain in obscurity, for, if the crowd does not come to seek
them, they know how to reach it. Genius is the sun, everyone sees it.
Talent is the diamond that may for a long time remain hidden in
obscurity, but which is always perceived by some one. It is, therefore,
wrong to be moved to pity over the lamentations and stock phrases of
that class of intruders and inutilities entered upon an artistic career
in which idleness, debauchery, and parasitism form the foundations of
manners.

Axiom, "Unknown Bohemianism is not a path, it is a blind alley."

Indeed, this life is something that does not lead to anything. It is a
stultified wretchedness, amidst which intelligence dies out like a lamp
in a place without air, in which the heart grows petrified in a fierce
misanthropy, and in which the best natures become the worst. If one has
the misfortune to remain too long and to advance too far in this blind
alley one can no longer get out, or one emerges by dangerous breaches
and only to fall into an adjacent Bohemia, the manners of which belong
to another jurisdiction than that of literary physiology.

We will also cite a singular variety of Bohemians who might be called
amateurs. They are not the least curious. They find in Bohemian life an
existence full of seductions, not to dine every day, to sleep in the
open air on wet nights, and to dress in nankeen in the month of December
seems to them the paradise of human felicity, and to enter it some
abandon the family home, and others the study which leads to an assured
result. They suddenly turn their backs upon an honorable future to seek
the adventure of a hazardous career. But as the most robust cannot stand
a mode of living that would render Hercules consumptive, they soon give
up the game, and, hastening back to the paternal roast joint, marry
their little cousins, set up as a notary in a town of thirty thousand
inhabitants, and by their fireside of an evening have the satisfaction
of relating their artistic misery with the magniloquence of a traveller
narrating a tiger hunt. Others persist and put their self-esteem in it,
but when once they have exhausted those resources of credit which a
young fellow with well-to-do relatives can always find, they are more
wretched than the real Bohemians, who, never having had any other
resources, have at least those of intelligence. We knew one of these
amateur Bohemians who, after having remained three years in Bohemia and
quarrelled with his family, died one morning, and was taken to the
common grave in a pauper's hearse. He had ten thousand francs a year.

It is needless to say that these Bohemians have nothing whatever in
common with art, and that they are the most obscure amongst the least
known of ignored Bohemia.

We now come to the real Bohemia, to that which forms, in part, the
subject of this book. Those who compose it are really amongst those
called by art, and have the chance of being also amongst its elect. This
Bohemia, like the others, bristles with perils, two abysses flank it on
either side--poverty and doubt. But between these two gulfs there is at
least a road leading to a goal which the Bohemians can see with their
eyes, pending the time when they shall touch it with their hand.

It is official Bohemia so-called because those who form part of it have
publicly proved their existence, have signalised their presence in the
world elsewhere than on a census list, have, to employ one of their own
expressions, "their name in the bill," who are known in the literary and
artistic market, and whose products, bearing their stamp, are current
there, at moderate rates it is true.

To arrive at their goal, which is a settled one, all roads serve, and
the Bohemians know how to profit by even the accidents of the route.
Rain or dust, cloud or sunshine, nothing checks these bold adventurers,
whose sins are backed by virtue. Their mind is kept ever on the alert by
their ambition, which sounds a charge in front and urges them to the
assault of the future; incessantly at war with necessity, their
invention always marching with lighted match blows up the obstacle
almost before it incommodes them. Their daily existence is a work of
genius, a daily problem which they always succeed in solving by the aid
of audacious mathematics. They would have forced Harpagon to lend them
money, and have found truffles on the raft of the "Medusa." At need,
too, they know how to practice abstinence with all the virtue of an
anchorite, but if a slice of fortune falls into their hands you will see
them at once mounted on the most ruinous fancies, loving the youngest
and prettiest, drinking the oldest and best, and never finding
sufficient windows to throw their money out of. Then, when their last
crown is dead and buried, they begin to dine again at that table spread
by chance, at which their place is always laid, and, preceded by a pack
of tricks, go poaching on all the callings that have any connection with
art, hunting from morn till night that wild beast called a five-franc
piece.

The Bohemians know everything and go everywhere, according as they have
patent leather pumps or burst boots. They are to be met one day leaning
against the mantel-shelf in a fashionable drawing room, and the next
seated in the arbor of some suburban dancing place. They cannot take ten
steps on the Boulevard without meeting a friend, and thirty, no matter
where, without encountering a creditor.

Bohemians speak amongst themselves a special language borrowed from the
conversation of the studios, the jargon of behind the scenes, and the
discussions of the editor's room. All the eclecticisms of style are met
with in this unheard of idiom, in which apocalyptic phrases jostle cock
and bull stories, in which the rusticity of a popular saying is wedded
to extravagant periods from the same mold in which Cyrano de Bergerac
cast his tirades; in which the paradox, that spoilt child of modern
literature, treats reason as the pantaloon is treated in a pantomime; in
which irony has the intensity of the strongest acids and the skill of
those marksmen who can hit the bull's-eye blindfold; a slang
intelligent, though unintelligible to those who have not its key, and
the audacity of which surpasses that of the freest tongues. This
Bohemian vocabulary is the hell of rhetoric and the paradise of
neologism.

Such is in brief that Bohemian life, badly known to the puritans of
society, decried by the puritans of art, insulted by all the timorous
and jealous mediocrities who cannot find enough of outcries, lies, and
calumnies to drown the voices and the names of those who arrive through
the vestibule to renown by harnessing audacity to their talent.

A life of patience, of courage, in which one cannot fight unless clad in
a strong armour of indifference impervious to the attacks of fools and
the envious, in which one must not, if one would not stumble on the
road, quit for a single moment that pride in oneself which serves as a
leaning staff; a charming and a terrible life, which has conquerors and
its martyrs, and on which one should not enter save in resigning oneself
in advance to submit to the pitiless law _vae victis_.

H. M.




CHAPTER I

HOW THE BOHEMIAN CLUB WAS FORMED


One morning--it was the eighth of April--Alexander Schaunard, who
cultivated the two liberal arts of painting and music, was rudely
awakened by the peal of a neighbouring cock, which served him for an
alarm.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Schaunard, "my feathered clock goes too fast: it
cannot possibly be today yet!" So saying, he leaped precipitately out of
a piece of furniture of his own ingenious contrivance, which, sustaining
the part of bed by night, (sustaining it badly enough too,) did duty by
day for all the rest of the furniture which was absent by reason of the
severe cold for which the past winter had been noted.

To protect himself against the biting north-wind, Schaunard slipped on
in haste a pink satin petticoat with spangled stars, which served him
for dressing-gown. This gay garment had been left at the artist's
lodging, one masked-ball night, by a _folie_, who was fool enough to let
herself be entrapped by the deceitful promises of Schaunard when,
disguised as a marquis, he rattled in his pocket a seducingly sonorous
dozen of crowns--theatrical money punched out of a lead plate and
borrowed of a property-man. Having thus made his home toilette, the
artist proceeded to open his blind and window. A solar ray, like an
arrow of light, flashed suddenly into the room, and compelled him to
open his eyes that were still veiled by the mists of sleep. At the same
moment the clock of a neighbouring church struck five.

"It is the Morn herself!" muttered Schaunard; "astonishing, but"--and he
consulted an almanac nailed to the wall--"not the less a mistake. The
results of science affirm that at this season of the year the sun ought
not to rise till half-past five: it is only five o'clock, and there he
is! A culpable excess of zeal! The luminary is wrong; I shall have to
make a complaint to the longitude-office. However, I must begin to be a
little anxious. Today is the day after yesterday, certainly; and since
yesterday was the seventh, unless old Saturn goes backward, it must be
the eighth of April today. And if I may believe this paper," continued
Schaunard, going to read an official notice-to-quit posted on the wall,
"today, therefore, at twelve precisely, I ought to have evacuated the
premises, and paid into the hands of my landlord, Monsieur Bernard, the
sum of seventy-five francs for three quarters' rent due, which he
demands of me in very bad handwriting. I had hoped--as I always do--that
Providence would take the responsibility of discharging this debt, but
it seems it hasn't had time. Well, I have six hours before me yet. By
making good use of them, perhaps--to work! to work!"

He was preparing to put on an overcoat, originally of a long-haired,
woolly fabric, but now completely bald from age, when suddenly, as if
bitten by a tarantula, he began to execute around the room a polka of
his own composition, which at the public balls had often caused him to
be honoured with the particular attention of the police.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed, "it is surprising how the morning air gives one
ideas! It strikes me that I am on the scent of my air; Let's see." And,
half-dressed as he was, Schaunard seated himself at his piano. After
having waked the sleeping instrument by a terrific hurly-burly of notes,
he began, talking to himself all the while, to hunt over the keys for
the tune he had long been seeking.

"Do, sol, mi, do la, si, do re. Bah! it's as false as Judas, that re!"
and he struck violently on the doubtful note. "We must represent
adroitly the grief of a young person picking to pieces a white daisy
over a blue lake. There's an idea that's not in its infancy! However,
since it is fashion, and you couldn't find a music publisher who would
dare to publish a ballad without a blue lake in it, we must go with the
fashion. Do, sol, mi, do, la, si, do, re! That's not so bad; it gives a
fair idea of a daisy, especially to people well up in botany. La, si,
do, re. Confound that re! Now to make the blue lake intelligible. We
should have something moist, azure, moonlight--for the moon comes in too;
here it is; don't let's forget the swan. Fa, mi, la, sol," continued
Schaunard, rattling over the keys. "Lastly, an adieu of the young girl,
who determines to throw herself into the blue lake, to rejoin her
beloved who is buried under the snow. The catastrophe is not very
perspicuous, but decidedly interesting. We must have something tender,
melancholy. It's coming, it's coming! Here are a dozen bars crying like
Magdalens, enough to split one's heart--Brr, brr!" and Schaunard shivered
in his spangled petticoat, "if it could only split one's wood! There's a
beam in my alcove which bothers me a good deal when I have company at
dinner. I should like to make a fire with it--la, la, re, mi--for I feel
my inspiration coming to me through the medium of a cold in the head. So
much the worse, but it can't be helped. Let us continue to drown our
young girl;" and while his fingers assailed the trembling keys,
Schaunard, with sparkling eyes and straining ears, gave chase to the
melody which, like an impalpable sylph, hovered amid the sonorous mist
which the vibrations of the instrument seemed to let loose in the room.

"Now let us see," he continued, "how my music will fit into my poet's
words;" and he hummed, in voice the reverse of agreeable, this fragment
of verse of the patent comic-opera sort:

    "The fair and youthful maiden,
     As she flung her mantle by,
     Threw a glance with sorrow laden
     Up to the starry sky
     And in the azure waters
     Of the silver-waved lake."

"How is that?" he exclaimed, in transports of just indignation; "the
azure waters of a silver lake! I didn't see that. This poet is an idiot.
I'll bet he never saw a lake, or silver either. A stupid ballad too, in
every way; the length of the lines cramps the music. For the future I
shall compose my verses myself; and without waiting, since I feel in the
humour, I shall manufacture some couplets to adapt my melody to."

So saying, and taking his head between his hands, he assumed the grave
attitude of a man who is having relations with the Muses. After a few
minutes of this sacred intercourse, he had produced one of those strings
of nonsense-verses which the libretti-makers call, not without reason,
monsters, and which they improvise very readily as a ground-work for the
composer's inspiration. Only Schaunard's were no nonsense-verses, but
very good sense, expressing with sufficient clearness the inquietude
awakened in his mind by the rude arrival of that date, the eighth of
April.

Thus they ran:

    "Eight and eight make sixteen just,
     Put down six and carry one:
     My poor soul would be at rest
     Could I only find some one,
     Some honest poor relation,
     Who'd eight hundred francs advance,
     To pay each obligation,
     Whenever I've a chance."

     Chorus

     "And ere the clock on the last and fatal morning
     Should sound mid-day,
     To old Bernard, like a man who needs no warning,
     To old Bernard, like a man who needs no warning,
     To old Bernard, like a man who needs no warning,
     My rent I'd pay!"

"The duece!" exclaimed Schaunard, reading over his composition, "one and
some one--those rhymes are poor enough, but I have no time to make them
richer. Now let us try how the notes will unite with the syllables." And
in his peculiarly frightful nasal tone he recommenced the execution of
his ballad. Satisfied with the result he had just obtained, Schaunard
congratulated himself with an exultant grimace, which mounted over his
nose like a circumflex accent whenever he had occasion to be pleased
with himself. But this triumphant happiness was destined to have no long
duration. Eleven o'clock resounded from the neighbouring steeple. Every
stroke diffused itself through the room in mocking sounds which seemed
to say to the unlucky Schaunard, "Are you ready?"

The artist bounded on his chair. "The time flies like a bird!" he
exclaimed. "I have but three-quarters of an hour left to find my
seventy-five francs and my new lodging. I shall never get them; that
would be too much like magic. Let me see: I give myself five minutes to
find out how to obtain them;" and burying his head between his knees, he
descended into the depths of reflection.

The five minutes elapsed, and Schaunard raised his head without having
found anything which resembled seventy-five francs.

"Decidedly, I have but one way of getting out of this, which is simply
to go away. It is fine weather and my friend Monsieur Chance may be
walking in the sun. He must give me hospitality till I have found the
means of squaring off with Monsieur Bernard."

Having stuffed into the cellar-like pockets of his overcoat all the
articles they would hold, Schaunard tied up some linen in a
handkerchief, and took an affectionate farewell of his home. While
crossing the court, he was suddenly stopped by the porter, who seemed to
be on the watch for him.

"Hallo! Monsieur Schaunard," cried he, blocking up the artist's way,
"don't you remember that this is the eighth of April?"

    "Eight and eight make sixteen just,
     Put down six and carry one,"

hummed Schaunard. "I don't remember anything else."

"You are a little behindhand then with your moving," said the porter;
"it is half-past eleven, and the new tenant to whom your room has been
let may come any minute. You must make haste."

"Let me pass, then," replied Schaunard; "I am going after a cart."

"No doubt, but before moving there is a little formality to be gone
through. I have orders not to let you take away a hair unless you pay
the three quarters due. Are you ready?"

"Why, of course," said Schaunard, making a step forward.

"Well come into my lodge then, and I will give you your receipt."

"I shall take it when I come back."

"But why not at once?" persisted the porter.

"I am going to a money changer's. I have no change."

"Ah, you are going to get change!" replied the other, not at all at his
ease. "Then I will take care of that little parcel under your arm, which
might be in your way."

"Monsieur Porter," exclaimed the artist, with a dignified air, "you
mistrust me, perhaps! Do you think I am carrying away my furniture in a
handkerchief?"

"Excuse me," answered the porter, dropping his tone a little, "but such
are my orders. Monsieur Bernard has expressly charged me not to let you
take away a hair before you have paid."

"But look, will you?" said Schaunard, opening his bundle, "these are not
hairs, they are shirts, and I am taking them to my washerwoman, who
lives next door to the money changer's twenty steps off."

"That alters the case," said the porter, after he had examined the
contents of the bundle. "Would it be impolite, Monsieur Schaunard, to
inquire your new address?"

"Rue de Rivoli!" replied the artist, and having once got outside the
gate, he made off as fast as possible.

"Rue de Rivoli!" muttered the porter, scratching his nose, "it's very
odd they should have let him lodgings in the Rue de Rivoli, and never
come here to ask about him. Very odd, that. At any rate, he can't carry
off his furniture without paying. If only the new tenant don't come
moving in just as Monsieur Schaunard is moving out! That would make a
nice mess! Well, sure enough," he exclaimed, suddenly putting his head
out of his little window, "here he comes, the new tenant!"

In fact, a young man in a white hat, followed by a porter who did not
seem over-burdened by the weight of his load, had just entered the
court. "Is my room ready?" he demanded of the house-porter, who had
stepped out to meet him.

"Not yet, sir, but it will be in a moment. The person who occupies it
has gone after a cart for his things. Meanwhile, sir, you may put your
furniture in the court."

"I am afraid it's going to rain," replied the young man, chewing a
bouquet of violets which he held in his mouth, "My furniture might be
spoiled. My friend," continued he, turning to the man who was behind
him, with something on a trunk which the porter could not exactly make
out, "put that down and go back to my old lodging to fetch the remaining
valuables."

The man ranged along the wall several frames six or seven feet high,
folded together, and apparently being capable of being extended.

"Look here," said the new-comer to his follower, half opening one of the
screens and showing him a rent in the canvas, "what an accident! You
have cracked my grand Venetian glass. Take more care on your second
trip, especially with my library."

"What does he mean by his Venetian glass?" muttered the porter, walking
up and down with an uneasy air before the frames ranged against the
wall. "I don't see any glass. Some joke, no doubt. I only see a screen.
We shall see, at any rate, what he will bring next trip."

"Is your tenant not going to make room for me soon?" inquired the young
man, "it is half-past twelve, and I want to move in."

"He won't be much longer," answered the porter, "but there is no harm
done yet, since your furniture has not come," added he, with a stress on
the concluding words.

As the young man was about to reply, a dragoon entered the court.

"Is this Monsieur Bernard's?" he asked, drawing a letter from a huge
leather portfolio which swung at his side.

"He lives here," replied the porter.

"Here is a letter for him," said the dragoon; "give me a receipt," and
he handed to the porter a bulletin of despatches which the latter
entered his lodge to sign.

"Excuse me for leaving you alone," said he to the young man who was
stalking impatiently about the court, "but this is a letter from the
Minister to my landlord, and I am going to take it up to him."

Monsieur Bernard was just beginning to shave when the porter knocked at
his door.

"What do you want, Durand?"

"Sir," replied the other, lifting his cap, "a soldier has just brought
this for you. It comes from the Ministry." And he handed to Monsieur
Bernard the letter, the envelope of which bore the stamp of the War
Department.

"Heavens!" exclaimed Monsieur Bernard, in such agitation that he all but
cut himself. "From the Minister of War! I am sure it is my nomination as
Knight of the Legion of Honour, which I have long solicited. At last
they have done justice to my good conduct. Here, Durand," said he,
fumbling in his waistcoat-pocket, "here are five francs to drink to my
health. Stay! I haven't my purse about me. Wait, and I will give you the
money in a moment."

The porter was so overcome by this stunning fit of generosity, which was
not at all in accordance with his landlord's ordinary habits, that he
absolutely put on his cap again.

But Monsieur Bernard, who at any other time would have severely
reprimanded this infraction of the laws of social hierarchy, appeared
not to notice it. He put on his spectacles, broke the seal of the
envelope with the respectful anxiety of a vizier receiving a sultan's
firman, and began to read the dispatch. At the first line a frightful
grimace ploughed his fat, monk-like cheeks with crimson furrows, and his
little eyes flashed sparks that seemed ready to set fire to his bushy
wig. In fact, all his features were so turned upside-down that you would
have said his countenance had just suffered a shock of face-quake.

For these were the contents of the letter bearing the ministerial stamp,
brought by a dragoon--orderly, and for which Durand had given the
government a receipt:

     "Friend landlord: Politeness-who, according to ancient mythology,
     is the grandmother of good manners--compels me to inform you that I
     am under the cruel necessity of not conforming to the prevalent
     custom of paying rent--prevalent especially when the rent is due. Up
     to this morning I had cherished the hope of being able to celebrate
     this fair day by the payments of my three quarters. Vain chimera,
     bitter illusion! While I was slumbering on the pillow of
     confidence, ill-luck--what the Greeks call _ananke_--was scattering
     my hopes. The returns on which I counted--times are so bad!-have
     failed, and of the considerable sums which I was to receive I have
     only realised three francs, which were lent me, and I will not
     insult you by the offer of them. Better days will come for our dear
     country and for me. Doubt it not, sir! When they come, I shall fly
     to inform you of their arrival, and to withdraw from your lodgings
     the precious objects which I leave there, putting them under your
     protection and that of the law, which hinders you from selling them
     before the expiration of a year, in case you should be disposed to
     try to do so with the object of obtaining the sum for which you
     stand credited in the ledger of my honesty. I commend to your
     special care my piano, and also the large frame containing sixty
     locks of hair whose different colours run through the whole gamut
     of capillary shades; the scissors of love have stolen them from the
     forehead of the Graces."

     "Therefore, dear sir, and landlord, you may dispose of the roof
     under which I have dwelt. I grant you full authority, and have
     hereto set my hand and seal."

     "ALEXANDER SCHAUNARD"

On finishing this letter, (which the artist had written at the desk of a
friend who was a clerk in the War Office,) Monsieur Bernard indignantly
crushed it in his hand, and as his glance fell on old Durand, who was
waiting for the promised gratification, he roughly demanded what he was
doing.

"Waiting, sir."

"For what?"

"For the present, on account of the good news," stammered the porter.

"Get out, you scoundrel! Do you presume to speak to me with your cap
on?"

"But, sir--"

"Don't you answer me! Get out! No, stay there! We shall go up to the
room of that scamp of an artist who has run off without paying."

"What! Monsieur Schaunard?" ejaculated the porter.

"Yes," cried the landlord with increasing fury, "and if he has carried
away the smallest article, I send you off, straight off!"

"But it can't be," murmured the poor porter, "Monsieur Schaunard has not
run away. He has gone to get change to pay you, and order a cart for his
furniture."

"A cart for his furniture!" exclaimed the other, "run! I'm sure he has
it here. He laid a trap to get you away from your lodge, fool that you
are!"

"Fool that I am! Heaven help me!" cried the porter, all in a tremble
before the thundering wrath of his superior, who hurried him down the
stairs. When they arrived in the court the porter was hailed by the
young man in the white hat.

"Come now! Am I not soon going to be in possession of my lodging? Is
this the eighth of April? Did I hire a room here and pay you a deposit
to bind the bargain? Yes or no?"

"Excuse me, sir," interposed the landlord, "I am at your service.
Durand, I will talk to the gentleman myself. Run up there, that scamp
Schaunard has come back to pack up. If you find him, shut him in, and
then come down again and run for the police."

Old Durand vanished up the staircase.

"Excuse me, sir," continued the landlord, with a bow to the young man
now left alone with him, "to whom have I the honour of speaking?"

"Your new tenant. I have hired a room in the sixth story of this house,
and am beginning to be tired of waiting for my lodging to become
vacant."

"I am very sorry indeed," replied Monsieur Bernard, "there has been a
little difficulty with one of my tenants, the one whom you are to
replace."

"Sir," cried old Durand from a window at the very top of the house,
"Monsieur Schaunard is not here, but his room--stupid!--I mean he has
carried nothing away, not a hair, sir!"

"Very well, come down," replied the landlord. "Have a little patience, I
beg of you," he continued to the young man. "My porter will bring down
to the cellar the furniture in the room of my defaulting tenant, and you
may take possession in half an hour. Beside, your furniture has not come
yet."

"But it has," answered the young man quietly.

Monsieur Bernard looked around, and saw only the large screens which had
already mystified his porter.

"How is this?" he muttered. "I don't see anything."

"Behold!" replied the youth, unfolding the leaves of the frame, and
displaying to the view of the astonished landlord a magnificent interior
of a palace, with jasper columns, bas-reliefs, and paintings of old
masters.

"But your furniture?" demanded Monsieur Bernard.

"Here it is," replied the young man, pointing to the splendid furniture
_painted_ in the palace, which he had bought at a sale of second-hand
theatrical decorations.

"I hope you have some more serious furniture than this," said the
landlord. "You know I must have security for my rent."

"The deuce! Is a palace not sufficient security for the rent of a
garret?"

"No sir, I want real chairs and tables in solid mahogany."

"Alas! Neither gold nor mahogany makes us happy, as for the ancient poet
well says. And I can't bear mahogany; it's too common a wood. Everybody
has it."

"But surely sir, you must have some sort of furniture."

"No, it takes up too much room. You are stuck full of chairs, and have
no place to sit down."

"But at any rate, you have a bed. What do you sleep on?"

"On a good conscience, sir."

"Excuse me, one more question," said the landlord, "What is your
profession?"

At this very moment the young man's porter, returning on his second
trip, entered the court. Among the articles with which his truck was
loaded, an easel occupied a conspicuous position.

"Sir! Sir!!" shrieked old Durance, pointing out the easel to his
landlord, "it's a painter!"

"I was sure he was an artist!" exclaimed the landlord in his turn, the
hair of his wig standing up in affright, "a painter!! And you never
inquired after this person," he continued to his porter, "you didn't
know what he did!"

"He gave me five francs _arrest_," answered the poor fellow, "how could
I suspect--"

"When you have finished," put in the stranger--

"Sir," replied Monsieur Bernard, mounting his spectacles with great
decision, "since you have no furniture, you can't come in. The law
authorizes me to refuse a tenant who brings no security."

"And my word, then?"

"Your word is not furniture, you must go somewhere else. Durance will
give you back your earnest money."

"Oh dear!" exclaimed the porter, in consternation, "I've put it in the
Savings' Bank."

"But consider sir," objected the young man. "I can't find another
lodging in a moment! At least grant me hospitality for a day."

"Go to a hotel!" replied Monsieur Bernard. "By the way," added he,
struck with a sudden idea, "if you like, I can let you a furnished room,
the one you were to occupy, which has the furniture of my defaulting
tenant in it. Only you know that when rooms are let this way, you pay in
advance."

"Well," said the artist, finding he could do no better, "I should like
to know what you are going to ask me for your hole."

"It is a very comfortable lodging, and the rent will be twenty-five
francs a month, considering the circumstances, paid in advance."

"You have said that already, the expression does not deserve being
repeated," said the young man, feeling in his pocket. "Have you change
for five hundred francs?"

"I beg your pardon," quoth the astonished landlord.

"Five hundred, half a thousand; did you never see one before?"
continued the artist, shaking the bank-note in the faces of the landlord
and porter, who fairly lost their balance at the sight.

"You shall have it in a moment, sir," said the now respectful owner of
the house, "there will only be twenty francs to take out, for Durand
will return your deposit."

"He may keep it," replied the artist, "on condition of coming every
morning to tell me the day of the week and month, the quarter of the
moon, the weather it is going to be, and the form of government we are
under."

Old Durand described an angle of ninety degrees forward.

"Yes, my good fellow, you shall serve me for almanac. Meanwhile, help my
porter to bring the things in."

"I shall send you your receipt immediately," said the landlord, and that
very night the painter Marcel was installed in the lodging of the
fugitive Schaunard. During this time the aforesaid Schaunard was beating
his roll-call, as he styled it, through the city.

Schaunard had carried the art of borrowing to the perfection of a
science. Foreseeing the possible necessity of having to _spoil the
foreigners_, he had learned how to ask for five francs in every language
of the world. He had thoroughly studied all the stratagems which specie
employs to escape those who are hunting for it, and knew, better than a
pilot knows the hours of the tide, at what periods it was high or low
water; that is to say, on what days his friends and acquaintances were
accustomed to be in funds. Accordingly, there were houses where his
appearance of a morning made people say, not "Here is Monsieur
Schaunard," but "This is the first or the fifteenth." To facilitate, and
at the same time equalize this species of tax which he was going to
levy, when compelled by necessity, from those who were able to pay it to
him, Schaunard had drawn up by districts and streets an alphabetical
table containing the names of all his acquaintances. Opposite each name
was inscribed the maximum of the sum which the party's finances
authorized the artist to borrow of him, the time when he was flush, and
his dinner hour, as well as his usual bill of fare. Beside this table,
he kept a book, in perfect order, on which he entered the sums lent him,
down to the smallest fraction; for he would never burden himself beyond
a certain amount which was within the fortune of a country relative,
whose heir-apparent he was. As soon as he owed one person twenty francs,
he closed the account and paid him off, even if obliged to borrow for
the purpose of those to whom he owed less. In this way he always kept up
a certain credit which he called his floating debt, and as people knew
that he was accustomed to repay as soon as his means permitted him,
those who could accommodate him were very ready to do so.

But on the present occasion, from eleven in the morning, when he had
started to try and collect the seventy-five francs requisite, up to six
in the afternoon, he had only raised three francs, contributed by three
letters (M., V., and R.) of his famous list. All the rest of the
alphabet, having, like himself, their quarter to pay, had adjourned his
claim indefinitely.

The clock of his stomach sounded the dinner-hour. He was then at the
Maine barrier, where letter U lived. Schaunard mounted to letter U's
room, where he had a knife and fork, when there were such articles on
the premises.

"Where are you going, sir?" asked the porter, stopping him before he had
completed his ascent.

"To Monsieur U," replied the artist.

"He's out."

"And madame?"

"Out too. They told me to say to a friend who was coming to see them
this evening, that they were gone out to dine. In fact, if you are the
gentleman they expected, this is the address they left." It was a scrap
of paper on which his friend U. had written. "We are gone to dine with
Schaunard, No.__, Rue de__. Come for us there."

"Well," said he, going away, "accident does make queer farces
sometimes." Then remembering that there was a little tavern near by,
where he had more than once procured a meal at a not unreasonable rate,
he directed his steps to this establishment, situated in the adjoining
road, and known among the lowest class of artistdom as "Mother Cadet's."
It is a drinking-house which is also an eating-house, and its ordinary
customers are carters of the Orleans railway, singing-ladies of Mont
Parnasse, and juvenile "leads" from the Bobino theatre. During the warm
season the students of the numerous painters' studios which border on
the Luxembourg, the unappreciated and unedited men of the letters, the
writers of leaders in mysterious newspapers, throng to dine at "Mother
Cadet's," which is famous for its rabbit stew, its veritable sour-crout,
and a miled white wine which smacks of flint.

Schaunard sat down in the grove; for so at "Mother Cadet's" they called
the scattered foliage of two or three rickety trees whose sickly boughs
had been trained into a sort of arbor.

"Hang the expense!" said Schaunard to himself, "I have to have a good
blow-out, a regular Belthazzar's feast in private life," and without
more ado, he ordered a bowl of soup, half a plate of sour-crout, and two
half stews, having observed that you get more for two halves than one
whole one.

This extensive order attracted the attention of a young person in white
with a head-dress of orange flowers and ballshoes; a veil of _sham
imitation_ lace streamed down her shoulders, which she had no special
reason to be proud of. She was a _prima donna_ of the Mont Parnasse
theatre, the greenroom of which opens into Mother Cadet's kitchen; she
had come to take a meal between two acts of _Lucia_, and was at that
moment finishing with a small cup of coffee her dinner, composed
exclusively of an artichoke seasoned with oil and vinegar.

"Two stews! Duece take it!" said she, in an aside to the girl who acted
as waiter at the establishment. "That young man feeds himself well. How
much do I owe, Adele?"

"Artichoke four, coffee four, bread one, that makes nine sous."

"There they are," said the singer and off she went humming:

    "This affection Heaven has given."

"Why she is giving us the la!" exclaimed a mysterious personage half
hidden behind a rampart of old books, who was seated at the same table
with Schaunard.

"Giving it!" replied the other, "keeping it, I should say. Just
imagine!" he added, pointing to the vinegar on the plate from which
Lucia had been eating her artichoke, "pickling that falsetto of hers!"

"It is a strong acid, to be sure," added the personage who had first
spoken. "They make some at Orleans which has deservedly a great
reputation."

Schaunard carefully examined this individual, who was thus fishing for a
conversation with him. The fixed stare of his large blue eyes, which
always seemed looking for something, gave his features the character of
happy tranquility which is common among theological students. His face
had a uniform tint of old ivory, except his cheeks, which had a coat, as
it were of brickdust. His mouth seemed to have been sketched by a
student in the rudiments of drawing, whose elbow had been jogged while
he was tracing it. His lips, which pouted almost like a negro's,
disclosed teeth not unlike a stag-hound's and his double-chin reposed
itself upon a white cravat, one of whose points threatened the stars,
while the other was ready to pierce the ground. A torrent of light hair
escaped from under the enormous brim of his well-worn felt-hat. He wore
a hazel-coloured overcoat with a large cape, worn thread-bare and rough
as a grater; from its yawning pockets peeped bundles of manuscripts and
pamphlets. The enjoyment of his sour-crout, which he devoured with
numerous and audible marks of approbation, rendered him heedless of the
scrutiny to which he was subjected, but did not prevent him from
continuing to read an old book open before him, in which he made
marginal notes from time to time with a pencil that he carried behind
his ear.

"Hullo!" cried Schaunard suddenly, making his glass ring with his knife,
"my stew!"

"Sir," said the girl, running up plate in hand, "there is none left,
here is the last, and this gentleman has ordered it." Therewith she
deposited the dish before the man with the books.

"The deuce!" cried Schaunard. There was such an air of melancholy
disappointment in his ejaculation, that the possessor of the books was
moved to the soul by it. He broke down the pile of old works which
formed a barrier between him and Schaunard, and putting the dish in the
centre of the table, said, in his sweetest tones:

"Might I be so bold as to beg you, sir, to share this with me?"

"Sir," replied the artist, "I could not think of depriving you of it."

"Then will you deprive me of the pleasure of being agreeable to you?"

"If you insist, sir," and Schaunard held out his plate.

"Permit me not to give you the head," said the stranger.

"Really sir, I cannot allow you," Schaunard began, but on taking back
his plate he perceived that the other had given him the very piece which
he implied he would keep for himself.

"What is he playing off his politeness on me for?" he muttered to
himself.

"If the head is the most noble part of man," said the stranger, "it is
the least agreeable part of the rabbit. There are many persons who
cannot bear it. I happen to like it very much, however."

"If so," said Schaunard, "I regret exceedingly that you robbed yourself
for me."

"How? Excuse me," quoth he of the books, "I kept the head, as I had the
honor of observing to you."

"Allow me," rejoined Schaunard, thrusting his plate under his nose,
"what part do you call that?"

"Good heavens!" cried the stranger, "what do I see? Another head? It is
a bicephalous rabbit!"

"Buy what?" said Schaunard.

"Cephalous--comes from the Greek. In fact, Baffon (who used to wear
ruffles) cites some cases of this monstrosity. On the whole, I am not
sorry to have eaten a phenomenon."

Thanks to this incident, the conversation was definitely established.
Schaunard, not willing to be behindhand in courtesy, called for an extra
quart of wine. The hero of the books called for a third. Schaunard
treated to salad, the other to dessert. At eight o'clock there were six
empty bottles on the table. As they talked, their natural frankness,
assisted by their libations, had urged them to interchange biographies,
and they knew each other as well as if they had always lived together.
He of the books, after hearing the confidential disclosures of
Schaunard, had informed him that his name was Gustave Colline; he was a
philosopher by profession, and got his living by giving lessons in
rhetoric, mathematics and several other _ics_.

What little money he picked up by his profession was spent in buying
books. His hazel-coloured coat was known to all the stall keepers on the
quay from the Pont de la Concorde to the Pont Saint Michel. What he did
with these books, so numerous that no man's lifetime would have been
long enough to read them, nobody knew, least of all, himself. But this
hobby of his amounted to monomania: when he came home at night without
bringing a musty quarto with him, he would repeat the saying of Titus,
"I have lost a day." His enticing manners, his language, which was a
mosaic of every possible style, and the fearful puns which embellished
his conversation, completely won Schaunard, who demanded on the spot
permission of Colline to add his name to those on the famous list
already mentioned.

They left Mother Cadet's at nine o'clock at night, both fairly primed,
and with the gait of men who have been engaged in close conversation
with sundry bottles.

Colline offered to stand coffee, and Schaunard accepted on condition
that he should be allowed to pay for the accompanying nips of liquor.
They turned into a cafe in the Rue Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, and
bearing on its sign the name of Momus, god of play and pleasure.

At the moment they entered a lively argument broke out between two of
the frequenters of the place. One of them was a young fellow whose face
was hidden by a dense thicket of beard of several distinct shades. By
way of a balance to this wealth of hair on his chin, a precocious
baldness had despoiled his forehead, which was as bare as a billiard
ball. He vainly strove to conceal the nakedness of the land by brushing
forward a tuft of hairs so scanty that they could almost be counted. He
wore a black coat worn at the elbows, and revealing whenever he raised
his arms too high a ventilator under the armpits. His trousers might
have once been black, but his boots, which had never been new, seemed to
have already gone round the world two or three times on the feet of the
Wandering Jew.

Schaunard noticed that his new friend Colline and the young fellow with
the big beard nodded to one another.

"You know the gentleman?" said he to the philosopher.

"Not exactly," replied the latter, "but I meet him sometimes at the
National Library. I believe that he is a literary man."

"He wears the garb of one, at any rate," said Schaunard.

The individual with whom this young fellow was arguing was a man of
forty, foredoomed, by a big head wedged between his shoulders without
any break in the shape of a neck, to the thunderstroke of apoplexy.
Idiocy was written in capital letters on his low forehead, surmounted by
a little black skull-cap. His name was Monsieur Mouton, and he was a
clerk at the town hall of the 4th Arrondissement, where he acted as
registrar of deaths.

"Monsieur Rodolphe," exclaimed he, in the squeaky tones of a eunuch,
shaking the young fellow by a button of his coat which he had laid hold
of. "Do you want to know my opinion? Well, all your newspapers are of no
use whatsoever. Come now, let us put a supposititious case. I am the
father of a family, am I not? Good. I go to the cafe for a game at
dominoes? Follow my argument now."

"Go on," said Rodolphe.

"Well," continued Daddy Mouton, punctuating each of his sentences by a
blow with his fist which made the jugs and glasses on the table rattle
again. "Well, I come across the papers. What do I see? One which says
black when the other says white, and so on and so on. What is all that
to me? I am the father of a family who goes to the cafe--"

"For a game at dominoes," said Rodolphe.

"Every evening," continued Monsieur Mouton. "Well, to put a case--you
understand?"

"Exactly," observed Rodolphe.

"I read an article which is not according to my views. That puts me in a
rage, and I fret my heart out, because you see, Monsieur Rodolphe,
newspapers are all lies. Yes, lies," he screeched in his shrillest
falsetto, "and the journalists are robbers."

"But, Monsieur Mouton--"

"Yes, brigands," continued the clerk. "They are the cause of all our
misfortunes; they brought about the Revolution and its paper money,
witness Murat."

"Excuse me," said Rodolphe, "you mean Marat."

"No, no," resumed Monsieur Mouton, "Murat, for I saw his funeral when I
was quite a child--"

"But I assure you--"

"They even brought you a piece at the Circus about him, so there."

"Exactly," said Rodolphe, "that was Murat."

"Well what else have I been saying for an hour past?" exclaimed the
obstinate Mouton. "Murat, who used to work in a cellar, eh? Well, to put
a case. Were not the Bourbons right to guillotine him, since he had
played the traitor?"

"Guillotine who? Play the traitor to whom?" cried Rodolphe,
button-holing Monsieur Mouton in turn.

"Why Marat."

"No, no, Monsieur Mouton. Murat, let us understand one another, hang it
all!"

"Precisely, Marat, a scoundrel. He betrayed the Emperor in 1815. That is
why I say all the papers are alike," continued Monsieur Mouton,
returning to the original theme of what he called an explanation. "Do
you know what I should like, Monsieur Rodolphe? Well, to put a case. I
should like a good paper. Ah! not too large and not stuffed with
phrases."

"You are exacting," interrupted Rodolphe, "a newspaper without phrases."

"Yes, certainly. Follow my idea?"

"I am trying to."

"A paper which should simply give the state of the King's health and of
the crops. For after all, what is the use of all your papers that no one
can understand? To put a case. I am at the town hall, am I not? I keep
my books; very good. Well, it is just as if someone came to me and said,
'Monsieur Mouton, you enter the deaths--well, do this, do that.' What do
you mean by this and that? Well, it is the same thing with newspapers,"
he wound up with.

"Evidently," said a neighbor who had understood.

And Monsieur Mouton having received the congratulations of some of the
other frequenters of the cafe who shared his opinion, resumed his game
at dominoes.

"I have taught him his place," said he, indicating Rodolphe, who had
returned to the same table at which Schaunard and Colline were seated.

"What a blockhead!" said Rodolphe to the two young fellows.

"He has a fine head, with his eyelids like the hood of a cabriolet, and
his eyes like glass marbles," said Schaunard, pulling out a wonderfully
coloured pipe.

"By Jupiter, sir," said Rodolphe, "that is a very pretty pipe of yours."

"Oh! I have a much finer one I wear in society," replied Schaunard,
carelessly, "pass me some tobacco, Colline."

"Hullo!" said the philosopher, "I have none left."

"Allow me to offer you some," observed Rodolphe, pulling a packet of
tobacco out of his pocket and placing it on the table.

To this civility Colline thought it his duty to respond by an offer of
glasses round.

Rodolphe accepted. The conversation turned on literature. Rodolphe,
questioned as to the profession already revealed by his garb, confessed
his relation with the Muses, and stood a second round of drinks. As the
waiter was going off with the bottle Schaunard requested him to be good
enough to forget it. He had heard the silvery tinkle of a couple of
five-franc pieces in one of Colline's pockets. Rodolphe had soon reached
the same level of expansiveness as the two friends, and poured out his
confidences in turn.

They would no doubt have passed the night at the cafe if they had not
been requested to leave. They had not gone ten steps, which had taken
them a quarter of an hour to accomplish, before they were surprised by a
violent downpour. Colline and Rodolphe lived at opposite ends of Paris,
one on the Ile Saint Louis, and the other at Montmartre.

Schaunard, who had wholly forgotten that he was without a residence,
offered them hospitality.

"Come to my place," said he, "I live close by, we will pass the night in
discussing literature and art."

"You shall play and Rodolphe will recite some of his verses to us," said
Colline.

"Right you are," said Schaunard, "life is short, and we must enjoy
ourselves whilst we can."

Arriving at the house, which Schaunard had some difficulty in
recognizing, he sat down for a moment on a corner-post waiting for
Rodolphe and Colline, who had gone into a wine-shop that was still open
to obtain the primary element of a supper. When they came back,
Schaunard rapped several times at the door, for he vaguely recollected
that the porter had a habit of keeping him waiting. The door at length
opened, and old Durand, half aroused from his first sleep, and no longer
recalling that Schaunard had ceased to be his tenant, did not disturb
himself when the latter called out his name to him.

When they had all three gained the top of the stairs, the ascent of
which had been as lengthy as it was difficult, Schaunard, who was the
foremost, uttered a cry of astonishment at finding the key in the
keyhole of his door.

"What is the matter?" asked Rodolphe.

"I cannot make it out," muttered the other. "I find the key in the door,
though I took it away with me this morning. Ah! we shall see. I put it
in my pocket. Why, confound it, here it is still!" he exclaimed,
displaying a key. "This is witchcraft."

"Phantasmagoria," said Colline.

"Fancy," added Rodolphe.

"But," resumed Schaunard, whose voice betrayed a commencement of alarm,
"do you hear that?"

"What?"

"What?"

"My piano, which is playing of its own accord _do la mi re do, la si sol
re._ Scoundrel of a re, it is still false."

"But it cannot be in your room," said Rodolphe, and he added in a
whisper to Colline, against whom he was leaning heavily, "he is tight."

"So I think. In the first place, it is not a piano at all, it is a
flute."

"But you are screwed too, my dear fellow," observed the poet to the
philosopher, who had sat down on the landing, "it is a violin."

"A vio--, pooh! I say, Schaunard," hiccupped Colline, pulling his friend
by the legs, "here is a joke, this gentleman makes out that it is a
vio--"

"Hang it all," exclaimed Schaunard in the height of terror, "it is
magic."

"Phantasma-goria," howled Colline, letting fall one of the bottles he
held by his hand.

"Fancy," yelled Rodolphe in turn.

In the midst of this uproar the room door suddenly opened, and an
individual holding a triple-branched candlestick in which pink candles
were burning, appeared on the threshold.

"What do you want, gentlemen?" asked he, bowing courteously to the three
friends.

"Good heavens, what am I about? I have made a mistake, this is not my
room," said Schaunard.

"Sir," added Colline and Rodolphe, simultaneously, addressing the person
who had opened the door, "be good enough to excuse our friend, he is as
drunk as three fiddlers."

Suddenly a gleam of lucidity flashed through Schaunard's intoxication,
he read on his door these words written in chalk:

     "I have called three times for my New Year's gift--PHEMIE."

"But it is all right, it is all right, I am indeed at home," he
exclaimed, "here is the visiting card Phemie left me on New Year's Day;
it is really my door."

"Good heavens, sir," said Rodolphe, "I am truly bewildered."

"Believe me, sir," added Colline, "that for my part, I am an active
partner in my friend's confusion."

The young fellow who had opened the door could not help laughing.

"If you come into my room for a moment," he replied, "no doubt your
friend, as soon as he has looked around, will see his mistake."

"Willingly."

And the poet and philosopher each taking Schaunard by an arm, led him
into the room, or rather the palace of Marcel, whom no doubt our readers
have recognized.

Schaunard cast his eyes vaguely around him, murmuring, "It is
astonishing how my dwelling is embellished!"

"Well, are you satisfied now?" asked Colline.

But Schaunard having noticed the piano had gone to it, and was playing
scales.

"Here, you fellows, listen to this," said he, striking the notes, "this
is something like, the animal has recognized his master,_ si la sol, fa
mi re._ Ah! wretched re, you are always the same. I told you it was my
instrument."

"He insists on it," said Colline to Rodolphe.

"He insists on it," repeated Rodolphe to Marcel.

"And that," added Schaunard, pointing to the star-adorned petticoat that
was lying on a chair, "it is not an adornment of mine, perhaps? Ah!"

And he looked Marcel straight in the face.

"And this," continued he, unfastening from the wall the notice to quit
already spoken of.

And he began to read, "Therefore Monsieur Schaunard is hereby required
to give up possession of the said premises, and to leave them in
tenantable repair, before noon on the eighth day of April. As witness
the present formal notice to quit, the cost of which is five francs."
"Ha! ha! so I am not the Monsieur Schaunard to whom formal notice to
quit is given at a cost of five francs? And these, again," he continued,
recognizing his slippers on Marcel's feet, "are not those my papouches,
the gift of a beloved hand? It is your turn, sir," said he to Marcel,
"to explain your presence amongst my household goods."

"Gentlemen," replied Marcel, addressing himself more especially to
Colline and Rodolphe, "this gentleman," and he pointed to Schaunard, "is
at home, I admit."

"Ah!" exclaimed Schaunard, "that's lucky."

"But," continued Marcel, "I am at home too."

"But, sir," broke in Rodolphe, "if our friend recognizes--"

"Yes," said Colline, "if our friend--"

"And if on your side you recall that--," added Rodolphe, "how is it
that--"

"Yes," replied his echo Colline, "how is it that--"

"Have the kindness to sit down, gentlemen," replied Marcel, "and I will
explain the mystery to you."

"If we were to liquify the explanation?" risked Colline.

"Over a mouthful of something," added Rodolphe.

The four young fellows sat down to table and attacked a piece of cold
veal which the wine-shop keeper had let them have.

Marcel then explained what had taken place in the morning between
himself and the landlord when he had come to move in.

"Then," observed Rodolphe, "this gentleman is quite right, and we are in
his place?"

"You are at home," said Marcel politely.

But it was a tremendous task to make Schaunard understand what had taken
place. A comical incident served to further complicate the situation.
Schaunard, when looking for something in a sideboard, found the change
of the five hundred franc note that Marcel had handed to Monsieur
Bernard that morning.

"Ah! I was quite sure," he exclaimed, "that Fortune would not desert me.
I remember now that I went out this morning to run after her. On account
of its being quarter-day she must have looked in during my absence. We
crossed one another on the way, that it is. How right I was to leave the
key in my drawer!"

"Delightful madness!" murmured Rodolphe, looking at Schaunard, who was
building up the money in equal piles.

"A dream, a falsehood, such is life," added the philosopher.

Marcel laughed.

An hour later they had all four fallen asleep.

The next day they woke up at noon, and at first seemed very much
surprised to find themselves together. Schaunard, Colline, and Rodolphe
did not appear to recognize one another, and addressed one another as
"sir." Marcel had to remind them that they had come together the evening
before.

At that moment old Durand entered the room.

"Sir," said he to Marcel, "it is the month of April, eighteen hundred
and forty, there is mud in the streets, and His Majesty Louis-Philippe
is still King of France and Navarre. What!" exclaimed the porter on
seeing his former tenant, "Monsieur Schaunard, how did you come here?"

"By the telegraph," replied Schaunard.

"Ah!" replied the porter, "you are still a joker--"

"Durand," said Marcel, "I do not like subordinates mingling in
conversation with me, go to the nearest restaurant and have a breakfast
for four sent up. Here is the bill of fare," he added, handing him a
slip of paper on which he had written it. "Go."

"Gentlemen," continued Marcel, addressing the three young fellows, "you
invited me to supper last night, allow me to offer you a breakfast this
morning, not in my room, but in ours," he added, holding out his hand to
Schaunard.

"Oh! no," said Schaunard sentimentally, "let us never leave one
another."

"That's right, we are very comfortable here," added Colline.

"To leave you for a moment," continued Rodolphe. "Tomorrow the 'Scarf of
Iris,' a fashion paper of which I am editor, appears, and I must go and
correct my proofs; I will be back in an hour."

"The deuce!" said Colline, "that reminds me that I have a lesson to give
to an Indian prince who has come to Paris to learn Arabic."

"Go tomorrow," said Marcel.

"Oh, no!" said the philosopher, "the prince is to pay me today. And then
I must acknowledge to you that this auspicious day would be spoilt for
me if I did not take a stroll amongst the bookstalls."

"But will you come back?" said Schaunard.

"With the swiftness of an arrow launched by a steady hand," replied the
philosopher, who loved eccentric imagery.

And he went out with Rodolphe.

"In point of fact," said Schaunard when left alone with Marcel, "instead
of lolling on the sybarite's pillow, suppose I was to go out to seek
some gold to appease the cupidity of Monsieur Bernard?"

"Then," said Marcel uneasily, "you still mean to move?"

"Hang it," replied Schaunard, "I must, since I have received a formal
notice to quit, at a cost of five francs."

"But," said Marcel, "if you move, shall you take your furniture with
you?"

"I have that idea. I will not leave a hair, as Monsieur Bernard says."

"The deuce! That will be very awkward for me," said Marcel, "since I
have hired your room furnished."

"There now, that's so," replied Schaunard. "Ah! bah," he added in a
melancholy tone, "there is nothing to prove that I shall find my
thousand francs today, tomorrow, or even later on."

"Stop a bit," exclaimed Marcel, "I have an idea."

"Unfold it."

"This is the state of things. Legally, this lodging is mine, since I
have paid a month in advance."

"The lodging, yes, but as to the furniture, if I pay, I can legally take
it away, and if it were possible I would even take it away illegally."

"So that," continued Marcel, "you have furniture and no lodging, and I
have lodging and no furniture."

"That is the position," observed Schaunard.

"This lodging suits me," said Marcel.

"And for my part is has never suited me better," said Schaunard.

"Well then, we can settle this business," resumed Marcel, "stay with me,
I will apply house-room, and you shall supply the furniture."

"And the rent?" said Schaunard.

"Since I have some money just now I will pay it, it will be your turn
next time. Think about it."

"I never think about anything, above all accepting a suggestion which
suits me. Carried unanimously, in point of fact, Painting and Music are
sisters."

"Sisters-in-law," observed Marcel.

At that moment Colline and Rodolphe, who had met one another, came in.

Marcel and Schaunard informed them of their partnership.

"Gentlemen," said Rodolphe, tapping his waistcoat pocket, "I am ready to
stand dinner all round."

"That is just what I was going to have the honour of proposing," said
Colline, taking out a gold coin which he stuck in his eye like a glass.
"My prince gave me this to buy an Arabic grammar, which I have just paid
six sous ready cash for."

"I," said Rodolphe, "have got the cashier of the 'Scarf of Iris' to
advance me thirty francs under the pretext that I wanted it to get
vaccinated."

"It is general pay-day then?" said Schaunard, "there is only myself
unable to stand anything. It is humiliating."

"Meanwhile," said Rodolphe, "I maintain my offer of a dinner."

"So do I," said Colline.

"Very well," said Rodolphe, "we will toss up which shall settle the
bill."

"No," said Schaunard, "I have something far better than that to offer
you as a way of getting over the difficulty."

"Let us have it."

"Rodolphe shall pay for dinner, and Colline shall stand supper."

"That is what I call Solomonic jurisprudence," exclaimed the
philosopher.

"It is worse than Camacho's wedding," added Marcel.

The dinner took place at a Provencal restaurant in the Rue Dauphine,
celebrated for its literary waiters and its "Ayoli." As it was necessary
to leave room for the supper, they ate and drank in moderation. The
acquaintance, begun the evening before between Colline and Schaunard and
later on with Marcel, became more intimate; each of the young fellows
hoisted the flag of his artistic opinions, and all four recognized that
they had like courage and similar hopes. Talking and arguing they
perceived that their sympathies were akin, that they had all the same
knack in that chaff which amuses without hurting, and that the virtues
of youth had not left a vacant spot in their heart, easily stirred by
the sight of the narration of anything noble. All four starting from the
same mark to reach the same goal, they thought that there was something
more than chance in their meeting, and that it might after all be
Providence who thus joined their hands and whispered in their ears the
evangelic motto, which should be the sole charter of humanity, "Love one
another."

At the end of the repast, which closed in somewhat grave mood, Rodolphe
rose to propose a toast to the future, and Colline replied in a short
speech that was not taken from any book, had no pretension to style,
and was merely couched in the good old dialect of simplicity, making
that which is so badly delivered so well understood.

"What a donkey this philosopher is!" murmured Schaunard, whose face was
buried in his glass, "here is he obliging me to put water in my wine."

After dinner they went to take coffee at the Cafe Momus, where they had
already spent the preceding evening. It was from that day that the
establishment in question became uninhabitable by its other frequenters.

After coffee and nips of liqueurs the Bohemian clan, definitely founded,
returned to Marcel's lodging, which took the name of Schaunard's
Elysium. Whilst Colline went to order the supper he had promised, the
others bought squibs, crackers and other pyrotechnic materials, and
before sitting down to table they let off from the windows a magnificent
display of fireworks which turned the whole house topsy-turvey, and
during which the four friends shouted at the top of their voices--

    "Let us celebrate this happy day."

The next morning they again found themselves all four together but
without seeming astonished this time. Before each going about his
business they went together and breakfasted frugally at the Cafe Momus,
where they made an appointment for the evening and where for a long time
they were seen to return daily.

Such are the chief personages who will reappear in the episodes of which
this volume is made up, a volume which is not a romance and has no other
pretension than that set forth on its title-page, for the "Bohemians of
the Latin Quarter" is only a series of social studies, the heroes of
which belong to a class badly judged till now, whose greatest crime is
lack of order, and who can even plead in excuse that this very lack of
order is a necessity of the life they lead.




CHAPTER II

A GOOD ANGEL


Schaunard and Marcel, who had been grinding away valiantly a whole
morning, suddenly struck work.

"Thunder and lightning! I'm hungry!" cried Schaunard. And he added
carelessly, "Do we breakfast today?"

Marcel appeared much astonished at this very inopportune question.

"How long has it been the fashion to breakfast two days running?" he
asked. "And yesterday was Thursday." He finished his reply by tracing
with his mahl-stick the ecclesiastic ordinance:

    "On Friday eat no meat,
     Nor aught resembling it."

Schaunard, finding no answer, returned to his picture, which represented
a plain inhabited by a red tree and a blue tree shaking branches; an
evident allusion to the sweets of friendship, which had a very
philosophical effect.

At this moment the porter knocked; he had brought a letter for Marcel.

"Three sous," said he.

"You are sure?" replied the artist. "Very well, you can owe it to us."

He shut the door in the man's face, and opened the letter. At the first
line, he began to vault around the room like a rope-dancer and thundered
out, at the top of his voice, this romantic ditty, which indicated with
him the highest pitch of ecstasy:

    "There were four juveniles in our street;
     They fell so sick they could not eat;
     They carried them to the hospital!--
     Tal! Tal! Tal! Tal!"

"Oh yes!" said Schaunard, taking him up:

    "They put all four into one big bed,
     Two at the feet and two at the head."

"Think I don't know it?" Marcel continued:

    "There came a sister of Charity--
     Ty! Ty! tee! tee!"

"If you don't stop," said Schaunard, who suspected signs of mental
alienation, "I'll play the allegro of my symphony on 'The Influence of
Blue in the Arts.'" So saying, he approached the piano.

This menace had the effect of a drop of cold water in a boiling fluid.
Marcel grew calm as if by magic. "Look there!" said he, passing the
letter to his friend. It was an invitation to dine with a deputy, an
enlightened patron of the arts in general and Marcel in particular,
since the latter had taken the portrait of his country-house.

"For today," sighed Schaunard. "Unluckily the ticket is not good for
two. But stay! Now I think of it, your deputy is of the government
party; you cannot, you must not accept. Your principles will not permit
you to partake of the bread which has been watered by the tears of the
people."

"Bah!" replied Marcel, "my deputy is a moderate radical; he voted
against the government the other day. Besides, he is going to get me an
order, and he has promised to introduce me in society. Moreover, this
may be Friday as much as it likes; I am famished as Ugolino, and I mean
to dine today. There now!"

"There are other difficulties," continued Schaunard, who could not help
being a little jealous of the good fortune that had fallen to his
friend's lot. "You can't dine out in a red flannel shirt and slippers."

"I shall borrow clothes of Rodolphe or Colline."

"Infatuated youth! Do you forget that this is the twentieth, and at this
time of the month their wardrobe is up to the very top of the spout?"

"Between now and five o'clock this evening I shall find a dress-coat."

"I took three weeks to get one when I went to my cousin's wedding and
that was in January."

"Well, then, I shall go as I am," said Marcel, with a theatrical stride.
"It shall certainly never be said that a miserable question of etiquette
hindered me from making my first step in society."

"Without boots," suggested his friend.

Marcel rushed out in a state of agitation impossible to describe. At the
end of two hours he returned, loaded with a false collar.

"Hardly worth while to run so far for that," said Schaunard. "There was
paper enough to make a dozen."

"But," cried Marcel, tearing his hair, "we must have some
things--confound it!" And he commenced a thorough investigation of every
corner of the two rooms. After an hour's search, he realized a costume
thus composed:

A pair of plaid trousers, a gray hat, a red cravat, a blue waistcoat,
two boots, one black glove, and one glove that had been white.

"That will make two black gloves on a pinch," said Schaunard. "You are
going to look like the solar spectrum in that dress. To be sure, a
colourist such as you are--"

Marcel was trying the boots. Alas! They are both for the same foot! The
artist, in despair, perceived an old boot in a corner which had served
as the receptacle of their empty bladders. He seized upon it.

"From Garrick to Syllable," said his jesting comrade, "one square-toed
and the other round."

"I am going to varnish them and it won't show."

"A good idea! Now you only want the dress-coat."

"Oh!" cried Marcel, biting his fists:

    "To have one would I give ten years of life,
     And this right hand, I tell thee."

They heard another knock at the door. Marcel opened it.

"Monsieur Schaunard?" inquired a stranger, halting on the threshold.

"At your service," replied the painter, inviting him in.

The stranger had one of those honest faces which typify the provincial.

"Sir," said he. "My cousin has often spoke to me of your talent for
portrait painting, and being on the point of making a voyage to the
colonies, whither I am deputed by the sugar refiners of the city of
Nantes, I wish to leave my family something to remember me by. That is
why I am come to see you."

"Holy Providence!" ejaculated Schaunard. "Marcel, a seat for Monsieur--"

"Blancheron," said the new-comer, "Blancheron of Nantes, delegate of the
sugar interest, Ex-Mayor, Captain of the National Guard, and author of a
pamphlet on the sugar question."

"I am highly honoured at having been chosen by you," said the artist,
with a low reverence to the delegate of the refiners. "How do you wish
to have your portrait taken?"

"In miniature," replied Blancheron, "like that," and he pointed to a
portrait in oil, for the delegate was one of that class with whom
everything smaller than the side of a house is miniature. Schaunard had
the measure of his man immediately, especially when the other added that
he wished to be painted with the best colours.

"I never use any other," said the artist. "How large do you wish it to
be?"

"About so big," answered the other, pointing to a kit-cat. "How much
will it be?"

"Sixty francs with the hands, fifty without."

"The deuce it will! My cousin talked of thirty francs."

"It depends on the season. Colours are much dearer at some times of the
year than at others."

"Bless me! It's just like sugar!"

"Precisely."

"Fifty francs then be it."

"You are wrong there; for ten francs more you will have your hands, and
I will put in them your pamphlet on the sugar question, which will have
a very good effect."

"By Jove, you are right!"

"Thunder and lightning!" said Schaunard to himself, "if he goes on so, I
shall burst, and hurt him with one of the pieces."

"Did you see?" whispered Marcel.

"What?"

"He has a black coat."

"I take. Let me manage."

"Well," quoth the delegate, "when do we begin? There is no time to
lose, for I sail soon."

"I have to take a little trip myself the day after tomorrow; so, if you
please, we will begin at once. One good sitting will help us along some
way."

"But it will soon be night, and you can't paint by candle light."

"My room is arranged so that we can work at all hours in it. If you will
take off your coat, and put yourself in position, we will commence."

"Take off my coat! What for?"

"You told me that you intend this portrait for your family."

"Certainly."

"Well, then, you ought to be represented in your at-home dress--in your
dressing gown. It is the custom to be so."

"But I haven't any dressing gown here."

"But I have. The case is provided for," quoth Schaunard, presenting to
his sitter a very ragged garment, so ornamented with paint-marks that
the honest provincial hesitated about setting into it.

"A very odd dress," said he.

"And very valuable. A Turkish vizier gave it to Horace Vernet, and he
gave it to me when he had done with it. I am a pupil of his."

"Are you a pupil of Vernet's?"

"I am proud to be," said the artist. "Wretch that I am!" he muttered to
himself, "I deny my gods and masters!"

"You have reason to be proud, my young friend," replied the delegate
donning the dressing-gown with the illustrious origin.

"Hang up Monsieur Blancheron's coat in the wardrobe," said Schaunard to
his friend, with a significant wink.

"Ain't he too good?" whispered Marcel as he pounced on his prey, and
nodded towards Blancheron. "If you could only keep a piece of him."

"I'll try; but do you dress yourself, and cut. Come back by ten; I will
keep him till then. Above all, bring me something in your pocket."

"I'll bring you a pineapple," said Marcel as he evaporated.

He dressed himself hastily; the dress-coat fit him like a glove. Then he
went out by the second door of the studio.

Schaunard set himself to work. When it was fairly night, Monsieur
Blancheron heard the clock strike six, and remembered that he had not
dined. He informed Schaunard of the fact.

"I am in the same position," said the other, "but to oblige you, I will
go without today, though I had an invitation in the Faubourg St.
Germain. But we can't break off now, it might spoil the resemblance."
And he painted away harder than ever. "By the way," said he, suddenly,
"we can dine without breaking off. There is a capital restaurant
downstairs, which will send us up anything we like." And Schaunard
awaited the effect of his trial of plurals.

"I accept your idea," said Blancheron, "an in return, I hope you will do
me the honor of keeping me company at table."

Schaunard bowed. "Really," said he to himself, "this is a fine fellow--a
very god-send. Will you order the dinner?" he asked his Amphitryon.

"You will oblige me by taking that trouble," replied the other,
politely.

"So much the worse for you, my boy," said the painter as he pitched down
the stairs, four steps at a time. Marching up to the counter, he wrote
out a bill of fare that made the Vatel of the establishment turn pale.

"Claret! Who's to pay for it?"

"Probably not I," said Schaunard, "but an uncle of mine that you will
find up there, a very good judge. So, do your best, and let us have
dinner in half an hour, served on your porcelain."

At eight o'clock, Monsieur Blancheron felt the necessity of pouring into
a friend's ear his idea on the sugar question, and accordingly recited
his pamphlet to Schaunard, who accompanied him on the piano.

At ten, they danced the galop together.

At eleven, they swore never to separate, and to make wills in each
other's favor.

At twelve, Marcel returned, and found them locked in a mutual embrace,
and dissolved in tears. The floor was half an inch deep in fluid--either
from that cause or the liquor that had been spilt. He stumbled against
the table, and remarked the splendid relics of the sumptuous feast. He
tried the bottles, they were utterly empty. He attempted to rouse
Schaunard, but the later menaced him with speedy death, if he tore him
from his friend Blancheron, of whom he was making a pillow.

"Ungrateful wretch!" said Marcel, taking out of his pocket a handful of
nuts, "when I had brought him some dinner!"




CHAPTER III

LENTEN LOVES


One evening in Lent Rodolphe returned home early with the idea of
working. But scarcely had he sat down at his table and dipped his pen in
the ink than he was disturbed by a singular noise. Putting his ear to
the treacherous partition that separated him from the next room, he
listened, and plainly distinguished a dialogue broken by the sound of
kisses and other amourous interruptions.

"The deuce," thought Rodolphe, glancing at his clock, "it is still
early, and my neighbor is a Juliet who usually keeps her Romeo till long
after the lark has sung. I cannot work tonight."

And taking his hat he went out. Handing in his key at the porter's
lodge he found the porter's wife half clasped in the arms of a gallant.
The poor woman was so flustered that it was five minutes before she
could open the latch.

"In point of fact," though Rodolphe, "there are times when porters grow
human again."

Passing through the door he found in its recess a sapper and a cook
exchanging the luck-penny of love.

"Hang it," said Rodolphe, alluding to the warrior and his robust
companion, "here are heretics who scarcely think that we are in Lent."

And he set out for the abode of one of his friends who lived in the
neighborhood.

"If Marcel is at home," he said to himself, "we will pass the evening in
abusing Colline. One must do something."

As he rapped vigorously, the door was partly opened, and a young man,
simply clad in a shirt and an eye-glass, presented himself.

"I cannot receive you," said he to Rodolphe.

"Why not?" asked the latter.

"There," said Marcel, pointing to a feminine head that had just peeped
out from behind a curtain, "there is my answer."

"It is not a pretty one," said Rodolphe, who had just had the door
closed in his face. "Ah!" said he to himself when he got into the
street, "what shall I do? Suppose I call on Colline, we could pass the
time in abusing Marcel."

Passing along the Rue de l'Ouest, usually dark and unfrequented,
Rodolphe made out a shade walking up and down in melancholy fashion, and
muttering in rhyme.

"Ho, ho!" said Rodolphe, "who is this animated sonnet loitering here?
What, Colline!"

"What Rodolphe! Where are you going?"

"To your place."

"You won't find me there."

"What are you doing here?"

"Waiting."

"What are you waiting for?"

"Ah!" said Colline in a tone of raillery, "what can one be waiting for
when one is twenty, when there are stars in the sky and songs in the
air?"

"Speak in prose."

"I am waiting for a girl."

"Good night," said Rodolphe, who went on his way continuing his
monologue. "What," said he, "is it St. Cupid's Day and cannot I take a
step without running up against people in love? It is scandalously
immoral. What are the police about?"

As the gardens of the Luxembourg were still open, Rodolphe passed into
them to shorten his road. Amidst the deserted paths he often saw
flitting before him, as though disturbed by his footsteps, couples
mysteriously interlaced, and seeking, as a poet has remarked, the
two-fold luxury of silence and shade.

"This," said Rodolphe, "is an evening borrowed from a romance." And yet
overcome, despite himself, by a langourous charm, he sat down on a seat
and gazed sentimentally at the moon.

In a short time he was wholly under the spell of a feverish
hallucination. It seemed to him that the gods and heroes in marble who
peopled the garden were quitting their pedestals to make love to the
goddesses and heroines, their neighbors, and he distinctly heard the
great Hercules recite a madrigal to the Vedella, whose tunic appeared to
him to have grown singularly short.

From the seat he occupied he saw the swan of the fountain making its way
towards a nymph of the vicinity.

"Good," thought Rodolphe, who accepted all this mythology, "There is
Jupiter going to keep an appointment with Leda; provided always that the
park keeper does not surprise them."

Then he leaned his forehead on his hand and plunged further into the
flowery thickets of sentiment. But at this sweet moment of his dream
Rodolphe was suddenly awakened by a park keeper, who came up and tapped
him on the shoulder.

"It is closing time, sir," said he.

"That is lucky," thought Rodolphe. "If I had stayed here another five
minutes I should have had more sentiment in my breast than is to be
found on the banks of the Rhine or in Alphonse Karr's romances."

And he hastened from the gardens humming a sentimental ballad that was
for him the _Marseillaise_ of love.

Half an hour later, goodness knows how, he was at the Prado, seated
before a glass of punch and talking with a tall fellow celebrated on
account of his nose, which had the singular privilege of being aquiline
when seen sideways, and a snub when viewed in front. It was a nose that
was not devoid of sharpness, and had a sufficiency of gallant adventures
to be in such a case to give good advice and be useful to its friend.

"So," said Alexander Schaunard, the man with the nose, "you are in
love."

"Yes, my dear fellow, it seized on me, just now, suddenly, like a bad
toothache in the heart."

"Pass me the tobacco," said Alexander.

"Fancy," continued Rodolphe, "for the last two hours I have met nothing
but lovers, men and women in couples. I had the notion of going into the
Luxembourg Gardens, where I saw all manner of phantasmagorias, that
stirred my heart extraordinarily. Ellegies are bursting from me, I bleat
and I coo; I am undergoing a metamorphosis, and am half lamb half turtle
dove. Look at me a bit, I must have wool and feathers."

"What have you been drinking?" said Alexander impatiently, "you are
chaffing me."

"I assure you that I am quite cool," replied Rodolphe. "That is to say,
no. But I will announce to you that I must embrace something. You see,
Alexander, it is not good for man to live alone, in short, you must help
me to find a companion. We will stroll through the ballroom, and the
first girl I point out to you, you must go and tell her that I love
her."

"Why don't you go and tell her yourself?" replied Alexander in his
magnificent nasal bass.

"Eh? my dear fellow," said Rodolphe. "I can assure you that I have quite
forgot how one sets about saying that sort of thing. In all my love
stories it has been my friends who have written the preface, and
sometimes even the _denouement_; I never know how to begin."

"It is enough to know how to end," said Alexander, "but I understand
you. I knew a girl who loved the oboe, perhaps you would suit her."

"Ah!" said Rodolphe. "I should like her to have white gloves and blue
eyes."

"The deuce, blue eyes, I won't say no--but gloves--you know that we
can't have everything at once. However, let us go into the aristocratic
regions."

"There," said Rodolphe, as they entered the saloon favored by the
fashionables of the place, "there is one who seems nice and quiet," and
he pointed out a young girl fairly well dressed who was seated in a
corner.

"Very good," replied Alexander, "keep a little in the background, I am
going to launch the fire-ship of passion for you. When it is necessary
to put in an appearance I will call you."

For ten minutes Alexander conversed with the girl, who from time to time
broke out in a joyous burst of laughter, and ended by casting towards
Rodolphe a smiling glance which said plainly enough, "Come, your
advocate has won the cause."

"Come," said Alexander, "the victory is ours, the little one is no doubt
far from cruel, but put on an air of simplicity to begin with."

"You have no need to recommend me to do that."

"Then give me some tobacco," said Alexander, "and go and sit down beside
her."

"Good heavens," said the young girl when Rodolphe had taken his place by
her side, "how funny you friend is, his voice is like a trumpet."

"That is because he is a musician."

Two hours later Rodolphe and his companion halted in front of a house
in the Rue St. Denis.

"It is here that I live," said the girl.

"Well, my dear Louise, when and where shall I see you again?"

"At your place at eight o'clock tomorrow evening."

"For sure?"

"Here is my pledge," replied Louise, holding up her rosy cheek to
Rodolphe's, who eagerly tasted this ripe fruit of youth and health.

Rodolphe went home perfectly intoxicated.

"Ah!" said he, striding up and down his room, "it can't go off like
that, I must write some verses."

The next morning his porter found in his room some thirty sheets of
paper, at the top of which stretched in solitary majesty of line--

    "Ah; love, oh! love, fair prince of youth."

That morning, contrary to his habits, Rodolphe had risen very early, and
although he had slept very little, he got up at once.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "today is the great day. But then twelve hours to
wait. How shall I fill up these twelve eternities?"

And as his glance fell on his desk he seemed to see his pen wriggle as
though intending to say to him "Work."

"Ah! yes, work indeed! A fig for prose. I won't stop here, it reeks of
ink."

He went off and settled himself in a cafe where he was sure not to meet
any friends.

"They would see that I am in love," he thought, "and shape my ideal for
me in advance."

After a very brief repast he was off to the railway station, and got
into a train. Half an hour later he was in the woods of Ville d'Avray.

Rodolphe strolled about all day, let loose amongst rejuvenated nature,
and only returned to Paris at nightfall.

After having put the temple which was to receive his idol in nature,
Rodolphe arrayed himself for the occasion, greatly regretting not being
able to dress in white.

From seven to eight o'clock he was a prey to the sharp fever of
expectation. A slow torture, that recalled to him the old days and the
old loves which had sweetened them. Then, according to habit, he already
began to dream of an exalted passion, a love affair in ten volumes, a
genuine lyric with moonlight, setting suns, meetings beneath the
willows, jealousies, sighs and all the rest. He was like this every time
chance brought a woman to his door, and not one had left him without
bearing away any aureola about her head and a necklace of tears about
her neck.

"They would prefer new boots or a bonnet," his friend remarked to him.

But Rodolphe persisted, and up to this time the numerous blunders he had
made had not sufficed to cure him. He was always awaiting a woman who
would consent to pose as an idol, an angel in a velvet gown, to whom he
could at his leisure address sonnets written on willow leaves.

At length Rodolphe heard the "holy hour" strike, and as the last stroke
sounded he fancied he saw the Cupid and Psyche surmounting his clock
entwine their alabaster arms about one another. At the same moment two
timid taps were given at the door.

Rodolphe went and opened it. It was Louise.

"You see I have kept my word," said she.

Rodolphe drew the curtain and lit a fresh candle.

During this operation the girl had removed her bonnet and shawl, which
she went and placed on the bed. The dazzling whiteness of the sheets
caused her to smile, and almost to blush.

Louise was rather pleasing than pretty; her fresh colored face presented
an attractive blending of simplicity and archness. It was something like
an outline of Greuze touched up by Gavarni. All her youthful attractions
were cleverly set off by a toilette which, although very simple,
attested in her that innate science of coquetry which all women possess
from their first swaddling clothes to their bridal robe. Louise
appeared besides to have made an especial study of the theory of
attitudes, and assumed before Rodolphe, who examined her with the
artistic eye, a number of seductive poses. Her neatly shod feet were of
satisfactory smallness, even for a romantic lover smitten by Andalusian
or Chinese miniatures. As to her hands, their softness attested
idleness. In fact, for six months past she had no longer any reason to
fear needle pricks. In short, Louise was one of those fickle birds of
passage who from fancy, and often from necessity, make for a day, or
rather a night, their nest in the garrets of the students' quarter, and
remain there willingly for a few days, if one knows how to retain them
by a whim or by some ribbons.

After having chatted for an hour with Louise, Rodolphe showed her, as an
example, the group of Cupid and Psyche.

"Isn't it Paul and Virginia?"

"Yes," replied Rodolphe, who did not want to vex her at the outset by
contradicting her.

"They are very well done," said Louise.

"Alas!" thought Rodolphe, gazing at her, "the poor child is not up to
much as regards literature. I am sure that her only orthography is that
of the heart. I must buy her a dictionary."

However, as Louise complained of her boots incommoding her, he
obligingly helped her to unlace them.

All at once the light went out.

"Hallo!" exclaimed Rodolphe, "who has blown the candle out?"

A joyful burst of laughter replied to him.

A few days later Rodolphe met one of his friends in the street.

"What are you up to?" said the latter. "One no longer sees anything of
you."

"I am studying the poetry of intimacy," replied Rodolphe.

The poor fellow spoke the truth. He sought from Louise more than the
poor girl could give him. An oaten pipe, she had not the strains of a
lyre. She spoke to, so to say, the jargon of love, and Rodolphe
insisted upon speaking the classic language. Thus they scarcely
understood each other.

A week later, at the same ball at which she had found Rodolphe, Louise
met a fair young fellow, who danced with her several times, and at the
close of the entertainment took her home with him.

He was a second year's student. He spoke the prose of pleasure very
fluently, and had good eyes and a well-lined pocket.

Louise asked him for ink and paper, and wrote to Rodolphe a letter
couched as follows:--

     "Do not rekkon on me at all. I sende you a kiss for the last time.
      Good bye.

      Louise."

As Rodolphe was reading this letter on reaching home in the evening, his
light suddenly went out.

"Hallo!" said he, reflectively, "it is the candle I first lit on the
evening that Louise came--it was bound to finish with our union. If I
had known I would have chosen a longer one," he added, in a tone of half
annoyance, half of regret, and he placed his mistress' note in a drawer,
which he sometimes styled the catacomb of his loves.

One day, being at Marcel's, Rodolphe picked up from the ground to light
his pipe with, a scrap of paper on which he recognized his handwriting
and the orthography of Louise.

"I have," said he to his friend, "an autograph of the same person, only
there are two mistakes the less than in yours. Does not that prove that
she loved me better than you?"

"That proves that you are a simpleton," replied Marcel. "White arms and
shoulders have no need of grammar."




CHAPTER IV

ALI RODOLPHE; OR, THE TURK PERFORCE


Ostracized by an inhospitable proprietor, Rodolphe had for some time
been leading a life compared with which the existence of a cloud is
rather stationary. He practiced assiduously the arts of going to bed
without supper, and supping without going to bed. He often dined with
Duke Humphrey, and generally slept at the sign of a clear sky. Still,
amid all these crosses and troubles, two things never forsook him; his
good humor and the manuscript of "The Avenger," a drama which had gone
the rounds of all the theaters in Paris.

One day Rodolphe, who had been jugged for some slight choreographic
extravagances, stumbled upon an uncle of his, one Monetti, a stove maker
and smokey chimney doctor, and sargeant of the National Guard, whom he
had not seen for an age. Touched by his nephew's misfortunes, Uncle
Monetti promised to ameliorate his position. We shall see how, if the
reader is not afraid of mounting six stories.

Take note of the banister, then, and follow. Up we go! Whew! One hundred
and twenty-five steps! Here we are at last. One more step, and we are in
the room; one more yet, and we should be out of it again. It's little,
but high up, with the advantages of good air and a fine prospect.

The furniture is composed of two French stoves, several German ditto,
some ovens on the economic plan, (especially if you never make fire in
them,) a dozen stove pipes, some red clay, some sheet iron, and a whole
host of heating apparatus. We may mention, to complete the inventory, a
hammock suspended from two nails inserted in the wall, a three-legged
garden chair, a candlestick adorned with its _bobeche_, and some other
similar objects of elegant art. As to the second room--that is to say,
the balcony--two dwarf cypresses, in pots, make a park of it for fine
weather.

At the moment of our entry, the occupant of the premises, a young man,
dressed like a Turk of the Comic Opera, is finishing a repast, in which
he shamelessly violates the law of the Prophet. Witness a bone that was
once a ham, and a bottle that has been full of wine. His meal over, the
young Turk stretches himself on the floor in true Eastern style, and
begins carelessly to smoke a _narghile_. While abandoning himself to
this Asiatic luxury, he passes his hand from time to time over the back
of a magnificent Newfoundland dog, who would doubtless respond to its
caresses where he not also in terra cotta, to match the rest of the
furniture.

Suddenly a noise was heard in the entry, and the door opened, admitting
a person who, without saying a word, marched straight to one of the
stoves, which served the purpose of a secretary, opened the stove-door,
and drew out a bundle of papers.

"Hallo!" cried the new-comer, after examining the manuscript
attentively, "the chapter on ventilators not finished yet!"

"Allow me to observe, uncle," replied the Turk, "the chapter on
ventilators is one of the most interesting in your book, and requires to
be studied with care. I am studying it."

"But you miserable fellow, you are always saying that same thing. And
the chapter on stoves--where are you in that?"

"The stoves are going on well, but, by the way, uncle, if you could give
me a little wood, it wouldn't hurt me. It is a little Siberia here. I am
so cold, that I make a thermometer go down below zero by just looking at
it."

"What! you've used up one faggot already?"

"Allow me to remark again, uncle, there are different kinds of faggots,
and yours was the very smallest kind."

"I'll send you an economic log--that keeps the heat."

"Exactly, and doesn't give any."

"Well," said the uncle as he went off, "you shall have a little faggot,
and I must have my chapter on stoves for tomorrow."

"When I have fire, that will inspire me," answered the Turk as he heard
himself locked in.

Were we making a tragedy, this would be the time to bring in a
confidant. Noureddin or Osman he should be called, and he should advance
towards our hero with an air at the same time discreet and patronizing,
to console him for his reverses, by means of these three verses:

    'What saddening grief, my Lord, assails you now?
     Why sits this pallor on your noble brow?
     Does Allah lend your plans no helping hand?
     Or cruel Ali, with severe command,
     Remove to other shores the beauteous dame,
     Who charmed your eyes and set your heart on flame!'

But we are not making a tragedy, so we must do without our confidant,
though he would be very convenient.

Our hero is not what he appears to be. The turban does not make the
Turk. This young man is our friend Rodolphe, entertained by his uncle,
for whom he is drawing up a manual of "The Perfect Chimney Constructor."
In fact, Monsieur Monetti, an enthusiast for his art, had consecrated
his days to this science of chimneys. One day he formed the idea of
drawing up, for the benefit of posterity, a theoretic code of the
principles of that art, in the practice of which he so excelled, and he
had chosen his nephew, as we have seen, to frame the substance of his
ideas in an intelligible form. Rodolphe was found in board, lodging, and
other contingencies, and at the completion of the manual was to receive
a recompense of three hundred francs.

In the beginning, to encourage his nephew, Monetti had generously made
him an advance of fifty francs. But Rodolphe, who had not seen so much
silver together for nearly a year, half crazy, in company with his
money, stayed out three days, and on the fourth came home alone!
Thereupon the uncle, who was in haste to have his "Manual" finished
inasmuch as he hoped to get a patent for it, dreading some new diversion
on his nephew's part, determined to make him work by preventing him from
going out. To this end he carried off his garments, and left him instead
the disguise under which we have seen him. Nevertheless, the famous
"Manual" continued to make very slow progress, for Rodolphe had no
genius whatever for this kind of literature. The uncle avenged himself
for this lazy indifference on the great subject of chimneys by making
his nephew undergo a host of annoyances. Sometimes he cut short his
commons, and frequently stopped the supply of tobacco.

One Sunday, after having sweated blood and ink upon the great chapter of
ventilators, Rodolphe broke the pen, which was burning his fingers, and
went out to walk--in his "park." As if on purpose to plague him, and
excite his envy the more, he could not cast a single look about him
without perceiving the figure of a smoker on every window.

On the gilt balcony of a new house opposite, an exquisite in his
dressing gown was biting off the end of an aristocratic "Pantellas"
cigar. A story above, an artist was sending before him an odorous cloud
of Turkish tobacco from his amber-mouthed pipe. At the window of a
_brasserie_, a fat German was crowning a foaming tankard, and emitting,
with the regularity of a machine, the dense puffs that escaped from his
meershaum. On the other side, a group of workmen were singing as they
passed on their way to the barriers, their "throat-scorchers" between
their teeth. Finally, all the other pedestrians visible in the street
were smoking.

"Woe is me!" sighed Rodolphe, "except myself and my uncle's chimneys,
all creation is smoking at this hour!" And he rested his forehead on the
bar of the balcony, and thought how dreary life was.

Suddenly, a burst of long and musical laughter parted under his feet.
Rodolphe bent forward a little, to discover the source of this volley of
gaiety, and perceived that he had been perceived by the tenant of the
story beneath him, Mademoiselle Sidonia, of the Luxembourg Theater. The
young lady advanced to the front of her balcony, rolling between her
fingers, with the dexterity of a Spaniard, a paper-full of light-colored
tobacco, which she took from a bag of embroidered velvet.

"What a sweet cigar girl it is!" murmured Rodolphe, in an ecstacy of
contemplation.

"Who is this Ali Baba?" thought Mademoiselle Sidonia on her part. And
she meditated on a pretext for engaging in conversation with Rodolphe,
who was himself trying to do the very same.

"Bless me!" cried the lady, as if talking to herself, "what a bore! I've
no matches!"

"Allow me to offer you some, mademoiselle," said Rodolphe, letting fall
on the balcony two or three lucifers rolled up in paper.

"A thousand thanks," replied Sidonia, lighting her cigarette.

"Pray, mademoiselle," continued Rodolphe, "in exchange for the trifling
service which my good angel has permitted me to render you, may I ask
you to do me a favor?"

"Asking already," thought the actress, as she regarded Rodolphe with
more attention. "They say these Turks are fickle, but very agreeable.
Speak sir," she continued, raising her head towards the young man, "what
do you wish?"

"The charity of a little tobacco, mademoiselle, only one pipe. I have
not smoked for two whole days."

"Most willingly, but how? Will you take the trouble to come downstairs?"

"Alas! I can't! I am shut up here, but am still free to employ a very
simple means." He fastened his pipe to a string, and let it glide down to
her balcony, where Sidonia filled it profusely herself. Rodolphe then
proceeded, with much ease and deliberation, to remount his pipe, which
arrived without accident. "Ah, mademoiselle!" he exclaimed, "how much
better this pipe would have seemed, if I could have lighted it at your
eyes!"

It was at least the hundredth edition of this amiable pleasantry, but
Sidonia found it superb for all that, and thought herself bound to
reply, "You flatter me."

"I assure you, mademoiselle, in right-down earnest, I think you
handsomer than all the Three Graces together."

"Decidedly, Ali Baba is very polite," thought Sidonia. "Are you really a
Turk?" she asked Rodolphe.

"Not by profession," he replied, "but by necessity. I am a dramatic
author."

"I am an artist," she replied, then added, "My dear sir and neighbor,
will you do me the honor to dine and spend the evening with me?"

"Alas!" answered Rodolphe, "though your invitation is like opening
heaven to me, it is impossible to accept it. As I had the honor to tell
you, I am shut up here by my uncle, Monsieur Monetti, stove-maker and
chimney doctor, whose secretary I am now."

"You shall dine with me for all that," replied Sidonia. "Listen, I shall
re-enter my room, and tap on the ceiling. Look where I strike and you
will find the traces of a trap which used to be there, and has since
been fastened up. Find the means of removing the piece of wood which
closes the hole, and then, although we are each in our own room, we
shall be as good as together."

Rodolphe went to work at once. In five minutes a communication was
established between the two rooms.

"It is a very little hole," said he, "but there will always be room
enough to pass you my heart."

"Now," said Sidonia, "we will go to dinner. Set your table, and I will
pass you the dishes."

Rodolphe let down his turban by a string, and brought it back laden with
eatables, then the poet and the actress proceeded to dine--on their
respective floors. Rodolphe devoured the pie with his teeth, and Sidonia
with his eyes.

"Thanks to you, mademoiselle," he said, when their repast was finished,
"my stomach is satisfied. Can you not also satisfy the void of my heart,
which has been so long empty?"

"Poor fellow!" said Sidonia, and climbing on a piece of furniture, she
lifted up her hand to Rodolphe's lips, who gloved it with kisses.

"What a pity," he exclaimed, "you can't do as St. Denis, who had the
privilege of carrying his head in his hands!"

To the dinner succeeded a sentimental literary conversation. Rodolphe
spoke of "The Avenger," and Sidonia asked him to read it. Leaning over
the hole, he began declaiming his drama to the actress, who, to hear
better, had put her arm chair on the top of a chest of drawers. She
pronounced "The Avenger" a masterpiece, and having some influence at the
theater, promised Rodolphe to get his piece received.

But at the most interesting moment a step was heard in the entry, about
as light as that of the Commander's ghost in "Don Juan." It was Uncle
Monetti. Rodolphe had only just time to shut the trap.

"Here," said Monetti to his nephew, "this letter has been running after
you for a month."

"Uncle! Uncle!" cried Rodolphe, "I am rich at last! This letter informs
me that I have gained a prize of three hundred francs, given by an
academy of floral games. Quick! my coat and my things! Let me go to
gather my laurels. They await me at the Capitol!"

"And my chapter on ventilators?" said Monetti, coldly.

"I like that! Give me my things, I tell you; I can't go out so!"

"You shall go out when my 'Manual' is finished," quoth the uncle,
shutting up his nephew under lock and key.

Rodolphe, when left alone, did not hesitate on the course to take. He
transformed his quilt into a knotted rope, which he fastened firmly to
his own balcony, and in spite of the risk, descended by this extempore
ladder upon Mademoiselle Sidonia's.

"Who is there?" she cried, on hearing Rodolphe knock at her window.

"Hush!" he replied, "open!"

"What do you want? Who are you?"

"Can you ask? I am the author of 'The Avenger,' come to look for my
heart, which I dropped through the trap into your room."

"Rash youth!" said the actress, "you might have killed yourself!"

"Listen, Sidonia," continued Rodolphe, showing her the letter he just
received. "You see, wealth and glory smile on me, let love do the same!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The following morning, by means of a masculine disguise, which Sidonia
procured for him, Rodolphe was enabled to escape from his uncle's
lodging. He ran to the secretary of the academy of floral games, to
receive a crown of gold sweetbrier, worth three hundred francs, which
lived

    "--as live roses the fairest--
     The space of a day."

A month after, Monsieur Monetti was invited by his nephew to assist at
the first representation of "The Avenger." Thanks to the talent of
Mademoiselle Sidonia, the piece had a run of seventeen nights, and
brought in forty francs to its author.

Some time later--it was in the warm season--Rodolphe lodged in the
Avenue St. Cloud, third tree as you go out of the Bois de Boulogne, on
the fifth branch.




CHAPTER V

THE CARLOVINGIAN COIN


Towards the end of December the messengers of Bidault's agency were
entrusted with the distribution of about a hundred copies of a letter of
invitation, of which we certify that the following to be a true and
genuine copy:--

     -----

     _M.M. Rodolphe and Marcel request the honor of your company on
     Saturday next, Christmas Eve. Fun!_

     _P.S. Life is short!_

                  _PROGRAM OF THE ENTERTAINMENT_

                             _PART I_

     _7 o'clock--Opening of the saloons. Brisk and witty conversation._

     _8.--Appearance of the talented authors of "The Mountain in Labor,"
     comedy refused at the Odeon Theater._

     _8:30.--M. Alexander Schaunard, the eminent virtuoso, will play
     his imitative symphony, "The Influence of Blue in Art," on the
     piano._

     _9.--First reading of the essay on the "Abolition of the penalty of
     tragedy."_

     _9:30.--Philosophical and metaphysical argument between M. Colline,
     hyperphysical philosopher, and M. Schaunard. To avoid any collision
     between the two antagonists, they will both be securely fastened._

     _10.--M. Tristan, master of literature, will narrate his early
     loves, accompanied on the piano by M. Alexander Schaunard._

     _10:30.--Second reading of the essay on the "Abolition of the
     penalty of tragedy."_

     _11.--Narration of a cassowary hunt by a foreign prince._

                             _PART II_

     _Midnight.--M. Marcel, historical painter, will execute with his
     eyes bandaged an impromptu sketch in chalk of the meeting of
     Voltaire and Napolean in the Elyssian Fields. M. Rodolphe will also
     improvise a parallel between the author of Zaire, and the victor of
     Austerlitz._

     _12:30.--M. Gustave Colline, in a decent undress, will give an
     imitation of the athletic games of the 4th Olympiad._

     _1.--Third reading of the essay on the "Abolition of the penalty of
     tragedy," and subscription on behalf of tragic authors who will one
     day find themselves out of employment._

     _2.--Commencement of games and organization of quadrilles to last
     until morning._

     _6.--Sunrise and final chorus._

     _During the whole of entertainment ventilators will be in action._

     _N.B. Anyone attempting to read or recite poetry will be summarily
     ejected and handed over to the police. The guests are equally
     requested not to help themselves to the candle ends._

Two days later, copies of this invitation were circulating among the
lower depths of art and literature, and created a profound sensation.

There were, however, amongst the invited guests, some who cast doubt
upon the splendor of the promises made by the two friends.

"I am very skeptical about it," said one of them. "I have sometimes gone
to Rodolphe's Thursdays in the Rue de la Tour d'Auvergne, when one could
only sit on anything morally, and where all one had to drink was a
little filtered water in eclectic pottery."

"This time," said another, "it is really serious. Marcel has shown me
the program of the fete, and the effect will be magical."

"Will there be any ladies?"

"Yes. Phemie Teinturiere has asked to be queen of the fete and Schaunard
is to bring some ladies of position."

This is in brief the origin of this fete which caused such stupefaction
in the Bohemian world across the water. For about a year past, Marcel
and Rodolphe had announced this sumptuous gala which was always to take
place "next Saturday," but painful circumstances had obliged their
promise to extend over fifty-two weeks, so that they had come to pass of
not being able to take a step without encountering some ironical remark
from one of their friends, amongst whom there were some indiscreet
enough to put forward energetic demand for its fulfillment. The matter
beginning to assume the character of a plague, the two friends resolved
to put an end to it by liquidating the undertaking into which they had
entered. It was thus that they sent out the invitation given above.

"Now," said Rodolphe, "there is no drawing back. We have burnt our
ships, and we have before us just a week to find the hundred francs that
are indispensable to do the thing properly."

"Since we must have them, we shall," replied Marcel.

And with the insolent confidence which they had in luck, the two friends
went to sleep, convinced that their hundred francs were already on the
way, the way of impossibility.

However, as on the day before that appointed for the party, nothing as
of yet had turned up, Rodolphe thought perhaps, be safer to give luck a
helping hand, unless he were to be discredited forever, when the time
came to light up. To facilitate matters the two friends progressively
modified the sumptuosity of the program they had imposed upon
themselves.

And proceeding from modification to modification, after having seriously
reduced the item "cakes," and carefully revised and pruned down the item
"liquors," the total cost was reduced to fifteen francs.

The problem was simplified, but not yet solved.

"Come, come," said Rodolphe, "we must now have recourse to strong
measures, we cannot cry off this time."

"No, that is impossible," replied Marcel.

"How long is it since I have heard the story of the Battle of
Studzianka?"

"About two months."

"Two months, good, that is a decent interval; my uncle will have no
ground for grumbling. I will go tomorrow and hear his account of that
engagement, that will be five francs for certain."

"I," said Marcel, "will go and sell a deserted manor house to old
Medicis. That will make another five francs. If I have time enough to
put in three towers and a mill, it will perhaps run to ten francs, and
our budget will be complete."

And the two friends fell asleep dreaming that the Princess Belgiojoso
begged them to change their reception day, in order not to rob her of
her customary guests.

Awake at dawn, Marcel took a canvas and rapidly set to work to build up
a deserted manor house, an article which he was in the habit of
supplying to a broker of the Place de Carrousel. On his side, Rodolphe
went to pay a visit to his Uncle Monetti, who shone in the story of the
Retreat from Moscow, and to whom Rodolphe accorded five or six times in
course of the year, when matters were really serious, the satisfaction
of narrating his campaigns, in return for a small loan which the veteran
stove maker did not refuse too obstinately when due enthusiasm was
displayed in listening to his narrations.

About two o'clock, Marcel with hanging head and a canvas under his arm,
met on the Place de Carrousel Rodolphe, who was returning from his
uncle's, and whose bearing also presaged ill news.

"Well," asked Marcel, "did you succeed?"

"No, my uncle has gone to Versailles. And you?"

"That beast of a Medicis does not want any more ruined manor houses. He
wants me to do him a Bombardment of Tangiers."

"Our reputations are ruined forever if we do not give this party,"
murmured Rodolphe. "What will my friend, the influential critic, think
if I make him put on a white tie and yellow kids for nothing."

And both went back to the studio, a prey to great uneasiness.

At that moment the clock of a neighbor struck four.

"We have only three hours before us," said Rodolphe despondingly.

"But," said Marcel, going up to his friend, "are you quite sure, certain
sure, that we have no money left anywhere hereabout? Eh?"

"Neither here, nor elsewhere. Where do you suppose it could come from?"

"If we looked under the furniture, in the stuffing of the arm chairs?
They say that the emigrant noblemen used to hide their treasures in the
days of Robespierre. Who can tell? Perhaps our arm chair belonged to an
emigrant nobleman, and besides, it is so hard that the idea has often
occurred to me that it must be stuffed with metal. Will you dissect it?"

"This is mere comedy," replied Rodolphe, in a tone in which severity was
mingled with indulgence.

Suddenly Marcel, who had gone on rummaging in every corner of the
studio, uttered a loud cry of triumph.

"We are saved!" he exclaimed. "I was sure that there was money here.
Behold!" and he showed Rodolphe a coin as large as a crown piece, and
half eaten away by rust and verdigris.

It was a Carlovingian coin of some artistic value. The legend, happily
intact, showed the date of Charlemagne's reign.

"That, that's worth thirty sous," said Rodolphe, with a contemptuous
glance at his friend's find.

"Thirty sous well employed will go a great way," replied Marcel. "With
twelve hundred men Bonaparte made ten thousand Austrians lay down their
arms. Skill can replace numbers. I will go and swap the Carlovingian
crown at Daddy Medicis'. Is there not anything else saleable here?
Suppose I take the plaster cast of the tibia of Jaconowski, the Russian
drum major."

"Take the tibia. But it is a nuisance, there will not be a single
ornament left here."

During Marcel's absence, Rodolphe, his mind made up that that party
should be given in any case, went in search of his friend Colline, the
hyperphysical philosopher, who lived hard by.

"I have come," said he, "to ask you to do me a favor. As host I must
positively have a black swallow-tail, and I have not got one; lend me
yours."

"But," said Colline hesitating, "as a guest I shall want my black
swallow-tail too."

"I will allow you to come in a frock coat."

"That won't do. You know very well I have never had a frock coat."

"Well, then, it can be settled in another way. If needs be, you need not
come to my party, and can lend me your swallow-tail."

"That would be unpleasant. I am on the program, and must not be
lacking."

"There are plenty of other things that will be lacking," said Rodolphe.
"Lend me your black swallow-tail, and if you will come, come as you
like; in your shirt sleeves, you will pass for a faithful servant."

"Oh no!" said Colline, blushing. "I will wear my great coat. But all the
same, it is very unpleasant." And as he saw Rodolphe had already seized
on the famous black swallow-tail, he called out to him, "Stop a bit.
There are some odds and ends in the pockets."

Colline's swallow-tail deserves a word or two. In the first place it was
of a decided blue, and it was from habit that Colline spoke of it as "my
black swallow-tail." And as he was the only one of the band owning a
dress coat, his friends were likewise in the habit of saying, when
speaking of the philosopher's official garment, "Colline's black
swallow-tail." In addition to this, this famous garment had a special
cut, the oddest imaginable. The tails, very long, and attached to a very
short waist, had two pockets, positive gulfs, in which Colline was
accustomed to store some thirty of the volumes which he eternally
carried about with him. This caused his friends to remark that during
the time that the public libraries were closed, savants and literary men
could go and refer to the skirts of Colline's swallow-tail--a library
always open.

That day, extraordinary to relate, Colline's swallow-tail only contained
a quarto volume of Bayle, a treatise on the hyperphysical faculties in
three volumes, a volume of Condillac, two of Swedenborg and Pope's
"Essay on Man." When he had cleared his bookcase-garment, he allowed
Rodolphe to clothe himself in it.

"Hallo!" said the latter, "the left pocket still feels very heavy; you
have left something in it."

"Ah!" exclaimed Colline, "that is so. I forgot to empty the foreign
languages pocket."

And he took out from this two Arabic grammars, a Malay dictionary, and a
stock breeder's manual in Chinese, his favorite reading.

When Rodolphe returned home he found Marcel playing pitch-and-toss with
three five franc pieces. At first Rodolphe refused his friend's
proferred hand--he thought some crime had been committed.

"Let us make haste, let us make haste," said Marcel, "we have the
fifteen francs required. This is how it happened. I met an antiquary at
Medicis'. When he saw the coin he was almost taken ill; it was the only
one wanting in his cabinet. He had sent everywhere to get this vacancy
filled up, and had lost all hope. Thus, when he had thoroughly examined
my Carlovingian crown piece, he did not hesitate for a moment to offer
me five francs for it. Medicis nudged me with his elbow; a look from
him completed the business. He meant, 'share the profits of the sale,
and I will bid against him.' We ran it up to thirty francs. I gave the
Jew fifteen, and here are the rest. Now our guests may come; we are in a
position to dazzle them. Hallo! You have got a swallow-tail!"

"Yes," said Rodolphe, "Colline's swallow-tail." And as he was feeling
for his handkerchief, Rodolphe pulled out a small volume in a Tartar
dialect, overlooked in the foreign literature pocket.

The two friends at once proceeded to make their preparations. The studio
was set in order, a fire kindled in the stove, the stretcher of a
picture, garnished with composite candles, suspended from the ceiling
as a chandelier, and a writing table placed in the middle of the studio
to serve as a rostrum for the orators. The solitary armchair, which was
to be reserved for the influential critic, was placed in front of it,
and upon a table were arranged all the books, romances, poems,
pamphlets, &c., the authors of which were to honor the company with
their presence.

In order to avoid any collision between members of the different schools
of literature, the studio had been, moreover, divided into four
compartments, at the entrance to each of which could be read, on four
hurriedly manufactured placards, the inscriptions--"Poets," "Prose
Writers," "Classic School," and "Romantic School."

The ladies were to occupy a space reserved in the middle of the studio.

"Humph! Chairs are lacking," said Rodolphe.

"Oh!" remarked Marcel, "there are several on the landing, fastened along
the wall. Suppose we were to gather them."

"Certainly, let us gather them by all means," said Rodolphe, starting
off to seize on the chairs, which belonged to some neighbor.

Six o'clock struck: the two friends went off to a hasty dinner, and
returned to light up the saloons. They were themselves dazzled by the
result. At seven o'clock Schaunard arrived, accompanied by three ladies,
who had forgotten their diamonds and their bonnets. One of them wore a
red shawl with black spots. Schaunard pointed out this lady particularly
to Rodolphe.

"She is a woman accustomed to the best society," said he, "an
Englishwoman whom the fall of the Stuarts has driven into exile, she
lives in a modest way by giving lessons in English. Her father was Lord
Chancellor under Cromwell, she told me, so we must be polite with her.
Don't be too familiar."

Numerous footsteps were heard on the stairs. It was the guests arriving.
They seemed astonished to see a fire burning in the stove.

Rodolphe's swallow-tail went to greet the ladies, and kissed their hands
with a grace worthy of the Regency. When there was a score of persons
present, Schaunard asked whether it was not time for a round of drinks.

"Presently," said Marcel. "We are waiting for the arrival of the
influential critic to set fire to the punch."

At eight o'clock the whole of the guests had arrived, and the execution
of the program commenced. Each item was alternated with a round of drink
of some kind, no one ever knew what.

Towards ten o'clock the white waistcoat of the influential critic made
its appearance. He only stayed an hour, and was very sober in the
consumption of refreshments.

At midnight, as there was no more wood, and it was very cold, the guests
who were seated drew lots as to who should cast his chair into the fire.

By one o'clock every one was standing.

Amiable gaiety did not cease to reign amongst the guests. There were no
accidents to be regretted, with the exception of a rent in the foreign
languages pocket of Colline's swallow-tail and a smack in the face given
by Schaunard to the daughter of Cromwell's Lord Chancellor.

This memorable evening was for a week the staple subject of gossip in
the district, and Phemie Teinturiere, who had been the queen of the
fete, was accustomed to remark, when talking it over with her friends,--

"It was awfully fine. There were composite candles, my dear."




CHAPTER VI

MADEMOISELLE MUSETTE


Mademoiselle Musette was a pretty girl of twenty who shortly after her
arrival in Paris had become what many pretty girls become when they
have a neat figure, plenty of coquesttishness, a dash of ambition and
hardly any education. After having for a long time shone as the star of
the supper parties of the Latin Quarter, at which she used to sing in a
voice, still very fresh if not very true, a number of country ditties,
which earned her the nickname under which she has since been
immortalized by one of our neatest rhymsters, Mademoiselle Musette
suddenly left the Rue de la Harpe to go and dwell upon the Cytherean
heights of the Breda district.

She speedily became one of the foremost of the aristocracy of pleasure
and slowly made her way towards that celebrity which consists in being
mentioned in the columns devoted to Parisian gossip, or lithographed at
the printsellers.

However Mademoiselle Musette was an exception to the women amongst whom
she lived. Of a nature instinctively elegant and poetical, like all
women who are really such, she loved luxury and the many enjoyments
which it procures; her coquetry warmly coveted all that was handsome and
distinguished; a daughter of the people, she would not have been in any
way out of her element amidst the most regal sumptuosity. But
Mademoiselle Musette, who was young and pretty, had never consented to
be the mistress of any man who was not like herself young and handsome.
She had been known bravely to refuse the magnificient offers of an old
man so rich that he was styled the Peru of the Chaussee d'Antin, and who
had offered a golden ladder to the gratification of her fancies.
Intelligent and witty, she had also a repugnance for fools and
simpletons, whatever might be their age, their title and their name.

Musette, therefore, was an honest and pretty girl, who in love adopted
half of Champfort's famous amphoris, "Love is the interchange of two
caprices." Thus her connection had never been preceded by one of those
shameful bargains which dishonor modern gallantry. As she herself said,
Musette played fair and insisted that she should receive full change for
her sincerity.

But if her fancies were lively and spontaneous, they were never durable
enough to reach the height of a passion. And the excessive mobility of
her caprices, the little care she took to look at the purse and the
boots of those who wished to be considered amongst them, brought about a
corresponding mobility in her existence which was a perpetual
alternation of blue broughams and omnibuses, first floors and fifth
stories, silken gowns and cotton frocks. Oh cleaning girl! Living poem
of youth with ringing laugh and joyous song! Tender heart beating for
one and all beneath your half-open bodice! Ah Mademoiselle Musette,
sister of Bernette and Mimi Pinson, it would need the pen of Alfred de
Musset to fitly narrate your careless and vagabond course amidst the
flowery paths of youth; and he would certainly have celebrated you, if
like me, he had heard you sing in your pretty false notes, this couplet
from one of your favorite ditties:

    "It was a day in Spring
     When love I strove to sing
     Unto a nut brown maid.
     O'er face as fair as dawn
     Cast a bewitching shade,"

The story we are about to tell is one of the most charming in the life
of this charming adventuress who wore so many green gowns.

At a time when she was the mistress of a young Counsellor of State, who
had gallantly placed in her hands the key of his ancestral coffers,
Mademoiselle Musette was in the habit of receiving once a week in her
pretty drawing room in the Rue de la Bruyere. These evenings resembled
most Parisian evenings, with the difference that people amused
themselves. When there was not enough room they sat on one another's
knees, and it often happened that the same glass served for two.
Rodolphe, who was a friend of Musette and never anything more than a
friend, without either of them knowing why--Rodolphe asked leave to
bring his friend, the painter Marcel.

"A young fellow of talent," he added, "for whom the future is
embroidering his Academician's coat."

"Bring him," said Musette.

The evening they were to go together to Musette's Rodolphe called on
Marcel to fetch him. The artist was at his toilet.

"What!" said Rodolphe, "you are going into society in a colored shirt?"

"Does that shock custom?" observed Marcel quietly.

"Shock custom, it stuns it."

"The deuce," said Marcel, looking at his shirt, which displayed a
pattern of boars pursued by dogs, on a blue ground. "I have not another
here. Oh! Bah! So much the worse, I will put on a collar, and as
'Methuselah' buttons to the neck no one will see the color of my lines."

"What!" said Rodolphe uneasy, "you are going to wear 'Methuselah'?"

"Alas!" replied Marcel, "I must, God wills it and my tailor too; besides
it has a new set of buttons and I have just touched it up with ivory
black."

"Methuselah" was merely Marcel's dress coat. He called it so because it
was the oldest garment of his wardrobe. "Methuselah" was cut in the
fashion of four years' before and was, besides of a hideous green, but
Marcel declared that it looked black by candlelight.

In five minutes Marcel was dressed, he was attired in the most perfect
bad taste, the get-up of an art student going into society.

M. Casimir Bonjour will never be so surprised the day he learns his
election as a member of the Institute as were Rodolphe and Marcel on
reaching Mademoiselle Musette's.

This is the reason for their astonishment: Mademoiselle Musette who for
some time past had fallen out with her lover the Counsellor of State,
had been abandoned by him at a very critical juncture. Legal proceedings
having been taken by her creditors and her landlord, her furniture had
been seized and carried down into the courtyard in order to be taken
away and sold on the following day. Despite this incident Mademoiselle
Musette had not for a moment the idea of giving her guests the slip and
did not put off her party. She had the courtyard arranged as a drawing
room, spread a carpet on the pavement, prepared everything as usual,
dressed to receive company, and invited all the tenants to her little
entertainment, towards which Heaven contributed its illumination.

This jest had immense success, never had Musette's evenings displayed
such go and gaiety; they were still dancing and singing when the porters
came to take away furniture and carpets and the company was obliged to
withdraw.

Musette bowed her guests out, singing:

    "They will laugh long and loud, tralala,
     At my Thursday night's crowd
     They will laugh long and loud, tralala."

Marcel and Rodolphe alone remained with Musette, who ascended to her
room where there was nothing left but the bed.

"Ah, but my adventure is no longer such a lively one after all," said
Musette. "I shall have to take up my quarters out of doors."

"Oh madame!" said Marcel, "if I had the gifts of Plutus I should like to
offer you a temple finer than that of Solomon, but--"

"You are not Plutus. All the same I thank you for your good intentions.
Ah!" she added, glancing around the room, "I was getting bored here, and
then the furniture was old. I had had it nearly six months. But that is
not all, after the dance one should sup."

"Let us sup-pose," said Marcel, who had an itch of punning, above all
in the morning, when he was terrible.

As Rodolphe had gained some money at the lansquenet played during the
evening, he carried off Musette and Marcel to a restaurant which was
just opening.

After breakfast, the three, who had no inclination for sleep, spoke of
finishing the day in the country, and as they found themselves close to
the railway station they got into the first train that started, which
landed them at Saint Germain.

During the whole of the night of the party and all of the rest of the
day Marcel, who was gunpowder which a single glance sufficed to kindle,
had been violently smitten by Mademoiselle Musette and paid her
"highly-colored court," as he put it to Rodolphe. He even went so far as
to propose to the pretty girl to buy her furniture handsomer than the
last with the result of the sale of his famous picture, "The Passage of
the Red Sea." Hence the artist saw with pain the moment arrive when it
became necessary to part from Musette, who whilst allowing him to kiss
her hands, neck and sundry other accessories, gently repulsed him every
time that he tried to violently burgle her heart.

On reaching Paris, Rodolphe left his friend with the girl, who asked the
artist to see her to her door.

"Will you allow me to call on you?" asked Marcel, "I will paint your
portrait."

"My dear fellow," replied she, "I cannot give you my address, since
tomorrow I may no longer have one, but I will call and see you, and I
will mend your coat, which has a hole so big that one could shoot the
moon through it."

"I will await your coming like that of the messiah," said Marcel.

"Not quite so long," said Musette, laughing.

"What a charming girl," said Marcel to himself, as he slowly walked
away. "She is the Goddess of Mirth. I will make two holes in my coat."

He had not gone twenty paces before he felt himself tapped on the
shoulder. It was Mademoiselle Musette.

"My dear Monsieur Marcel," said she, "are you a true knight?"

"I am. 'Rubens and my lady,' that is my motto."

"Well then, hearken to my woes and pity take, most noble sir," returned
Musette, who was slightly tinged with literature, although she murdered
grammar in fine style, "the landlord has taken away the key of my room
and it is eleven o'clock at night. Do you understand?"

"I understand," said Marcel, offering Musette his arm. He took her to
his studio on the Quai aux Fleurs.

Musette was hardly able to keep awake, but she still had strength
enough to say to Marcel, taking him by the hand, "You remember what you
have promised?"

"Oh Musette! charming creature!" said the artist in a somewhat moved
tone, "you are here beneath a hospitable roof, sleep in peace. Good
night, I am off."

"Why so?" said Musette, her eyes half closed. "I am not afraid, I can
assure you. In the first place, there are two rooms. I will sleep on
your sofa."

"My sofa is too hard to sleep on, it is stuffed with carded pebbles. I
will give you hospitality here, and ask it for myself from a friend who
lives on the same landing. It will be more prudent," said he. "I usually
keep my word, but I am twenty-two and you are eighteen, Musette,--and I
am off. Good night."

The next morning at eight o'clock Marcel entered her room with a pot of
flowers that he had gone and bought in the market. He found Musette, who
had thrown herself fully dressed on the bed, and was still sleeping. At
the noise made by him she woke, and held out her hand.

"What a good fellow," said she.

"Good fellow," repeated Marcel, "is not that a term of ridicule?"

"Oh!" exclaimed Musette, "why should you say that to me? It is not nice.
Instead of saying spiteful things offer me that pretty pot of flowers."

"It is, indeed, for you that I have brought them up," said Marcel. "Take
it, and in return for my hospitality sing me one of your songs, the echo
of my garret may perhaps retain something of your voice, and I shall
still hear you after you have departed."

"Oh! so you want to show me the door?" said Musette. "Listen, Marcel, I
do not beat about the bush to say what my thoughts are. You like me and
I like you. It is not love, but it is perhaps its seed. Well, I am not
going away, I am going to stop here, and I shall stay here as long as
the flowers you have just given me remain unfaded."

"Ah!" exclaimed Marcel, "they will fade in a couple of days. If I had
known I would have bought immortelles."

       *       *       *       *       *

For a fortnight Musette and Marcel lived together, and led, although
often without money, the most charming life in the world. Musette felt
for the artist an affection which had nothing in common with her
preceding passions, and Marcel began to fear that he was seriously in
love with his mistress. Ignorant that she herself was very much afraid
of being equally smitten, he glanced every morning at the condition of
the flowers, the death of which was to bring about the severance of
their connection, and found it very difficult to account for their
continued freshness. But he soon had a key to the mystery. One night,
waking up, he no longer found Musette beside him. He rose, hastened into
the next room, and perceived his mistress, who profited nightly by his
slumbers to water the flowers and hinder them from perishing.




CHAPTER VII

THE BILLOWS OF PACTOLUS


It was the nineteenth of March, 184--. Should Rodolphe reach the age of
Methuselah, he will never forget the date; for it was on that day, at
three in the afternoon, that our friend issued from a banker's where he
had just received five hundred francs in current and sounding specie.

The first use Rodolphe made of this slice of Peru which had fallen into
his pocket was not to pay his debts, inasmuch as he had sworn to himself
to practice economy and go to no extra expense. He had a fixed idea on
this subject, and declared that before thinking of superfluities, one
ought to provide for necessaries. Therefore it was that he paid none of
his creditors, and bought a Turkish pipe which he had long coveted.

Armed with this purchase, he directed his steps towards the lodging of
his friend Marcel, who had for some time given him shelter. As he
entered Marcel's studio, Rodolphe's pockets rang like a village-steeple
on a grand holiday. On hearing this unusual sound, Marcel supposed it
was one of his neighbors, a great speculator, counting his profits on
'Change, and muttered, "There's that impertinent fellow next door
beginning his music again! If this is to go on, I shall give notice to
the landlord. It's impossible to work with such a noise. It tempts one
to quit one's condition of poor artist and turn robber, forty times
over."

So, never suspecting that it was his friend Rodolphe changed into a
Croesus, Marcel again set to work on his "Passage of the Red Sea," which
had been on his easel nearly three years.

Rodolphe, who had not yet spoken, meditating an experiment which he was
about to make on his friend, said to himself, "We shall laugh in a
minute. Won't it be fun?" and he let fall a five-franc piece on the
floor.

Marcel raised his eyes and looked at Rodolphe, who was as grave as an
article in the "Revue des deux Mondes." Then he picked up the piece of
money with a well-satisfied air, and made a courteous salute to it; for,
vagabond artist as he was, he understood the usages of society, and was
very civil to strangers. Knowing, moreover, that Rodolphe had gone out
to look for money, Marcel, seeing that his friend had succeeded in his
operations, contented himself with admiring the result, without
inquiring by what means it had been obtained. Accordingly, he went to
work again without speaking, and finished drowning an Egyptian in the
waves of the Red Sea. As he was terminating this homicide, Rodolphe let
fall another piece, laughing in his sleeve at the face the painter was
going to make.

At the sonorous sound of the metal, Marcel bounded up as if he had
received an electric shock, and cried, "What! Number two!"

A third piece rolled on the floor, then another, then one more; finally
a whole quadrille of five-franc pieces were dancing in the room.

Marcel began to show evident signs of mental alienation; and Rodolphe
laughed like the pit of a Parisian theatre at the first representation
of a very tragical tragedy. Suddenly, and without any warning, he
plunged both hands into his pockets, and the money rushed out in a
supernatural steeple-chase. It was an inundation of Pactolus; it was
Jupiter entering Danae's chamber.

Marcel remained silent, motionless, with a fixed stare; his astonishment
was gradually operating upon him a transformation similar to that which
the untimely curiosity of Lott's wife brought upon her: by the time that
Rodolphe had thrown his last hundred francs on the floor, the painter
was petrified all down one side of his body.

Rodolphe laughed and laughed. Compared with his stormy mirth, the
thunder of an orchestra of sax-horns would have been no more than the
crying of a child at the breast.

Stunned, strangled, stupefied by his emotions, Marcel thought himself in
a dream. To drive away the nightmare, he bit his finger till he brought
blood, and almost made himself scream with pain. He then perceived that,
though trampling upon money, he was perfectly awake. Like a personage in
a tragedy, he ejaculated:

"Can I believe my eyes?" and then seizing Rodolphe's hand, he added,
"Explain to me this mystery."

"Did I explain it 'twould be one no more."

"Come, now!"

"This gold is the fruit of the sweat of my brow," said Rodolphe, picking
up the money and arranging it on the table. He then went a few steps and
looked respectfully at the five hundred francs ranged in heaps, thinking
to himself, "Now then, my dreams will be realized!"

"There cannot be much less than six thousand francs there," thought
Marcel to himself, as he regarded the silver which trembled on the
table. "I've an idea! I shall ask Rodolphe to buy my 'Passage of the Red
Sea.'"

All at once Rodolphe put himself into a theatrical attitude, and, with
great solemnity of voice and gesture, addressed the artist:

"Listen to me, Marcel: the fortune which has dazzled your eyes is not
the product of vile maneuvers; I have not sold my pen; I am rich, but
honest. This gold, bestowed by a generous hand, I have sworn to use in
laboriously acquiring a serious position--such as a virtuous man should
occupy. Labor is the most scared of duties--."

"And the horse, the noblest of animals," interrupted Marcel.

"Bah! where did you get that sermon? Been through a course of good
sense, no doubt."

"Interrupt me not," replied Rodolphe, "and truce to your railleries.
They will be blunted against the buckler of invulnerable resolution in
which I am from this moment clad."

"That will do for prologue. Now the conclusion."

"This is my design. No longer embarrassed about the material wants of
life, I am going seriously to work. First of all, I renounce my vagabond
existence: I shall dress like other people, set up a black coat, and go
to evening parties. If you are willing to follow in my footsteps, we
will continue to live together but you must adopt my program. The
strictest economy will preside over our life. By proper management we
have before us three months' work without any preoccupation. But we must
be economical."

"My dear fellow," said Marcel, "economy is a science only practicable
for rich people. You and I, therefore, are ignorant of its first
elements. However, by making an outlay of six francs we can have the
works of Monsieur Jean-Baptiste Say, a very distinguished economist, who
will perhaps teach us how to practice the art. Hallo! You have a Turkish
pipe there!"

"Yes, I bought it for twenty-five francs."

"How is that! You talk of economy, and give twenty-five francs for a
pipe!"

"And this is an economy. I used to break a two-sous pipe every day, and
at the end of the year that came to a great deal more."

"True, I should never have thought of that."

They heard a neighboring clock strike six.

"Let us have dinner at once," said Rodolphe. "I mean to begin from
tonight. Talking of dinner, it occurs to me that we lose much valuable
time every day in cooking ours; now time is money, so we must economize
it. From this day we will dine out."

"Yes," said Marcel, "there is a capital restaurant twenty steps off.
It's rather dear, but not far to go, so we shall gain in time what we
lose in money."

"We will go there today," said Rodolphe, "but tomorrow or next day we
will adopt a still more economical plan. Instead of going to the
restaurant, we will hire a cook."

"No, no," put in Marcel, "we will hire a servant to be cook and
everything. Just see the immense advantages which will result from it.
First of all, our rooms will be always in order; he will clean our
boots, go on errands, wash my brushes; I will even try and give him a
taste of the fine arts, and make him grind colors. In this way, we shall
save at least six hours a day."

Five minutes after, the two friends were installed in one of the little
rooms of the restaurant, and continuing their schemes of economy.

"We must get an intelligent lad," said Rodolphe, "if he has a sprinkling
of spelling, I will teach him to write articles, and make an editor of
him."

"That will be his resource for his old age," said Marcel, adding up the
bill. "Well, this is dear, rather! Fifteen francs! We used both to dine
for a franc and a half."

"Yes," replied Rodolphe, "but then we dined so badly that we were
obliged to sup at night. So, on the whole, it is an economy."

"You always have the best of the argument," muttered the convinced
artist. "Shall we work tonight?"

"No, indeed! I shall go to see my uncle. He is a good fellow, and will
give me good advice when I tell him my new position. And you, Marcel?"

"I shall go to Medicis to ask him if he has any restorations of pictures
to give me. By the way, give me five francs."

"For what?"

"To cross the Pont des Arts."

"Two sous to cross a bridge when you can go over another for nothing!
That is a useless expense; and, though an inconsiderable one, is a
violation of our rule."

"I am wrong, to be sure," said Marcel. "I will take a cab and go by the
Pont Neuf."

So the two friends quitted each other in opposite directions, but
somehow the different roads brought them to the same place, and they
didn't go home till morning.

Two days after, Rodolphe and Marcel were completely metamorphosed.
Dressed like two bridegrooms of the best society, they were so elegant,
and neat, and shining, that they hardly recognized each other when they
met in the street. Still their system of economy was in full blast,
though it was not without much difficulty that their "organization of
labor" had been realized. They had taken a servant; a big fellow
thirty-four years old, of Swiss descent, and about as clever as an
average donkey.

But Baptiste was not born to be a servant; he had a soul above his
business; and if one of his masters gave him a parcel to carry, he
blushed with indignation, and sent it by porter. However, he had some
merits; for instance, he could hash hare well and his first profession
having been that of distiller, he passed much of his time--or his
masters', rather--in trying to invent a new kind of liniment; he also
succeeded in the preparation of lamp-black. But where he was unrivalled
was in smoking Marcel's cigars and lighting them with Rodolphe's
manuscripts.

One day Marcel wanted to put Baptiste into costume, and make him sit for
Pharaoh in his "Passage of the Red Sea." To this proposition Baptiste
replied by a flat refusal, and demanded his wages.

"Very well," said Marcel, "I will settle with you tonight."

When Rodolphe returned, his friends declared that they must send away
Baptiste. "He is of no use to us at all."

"No, indeed--only an ornament, and not much of that."

"Awfully stupid."

"And equally lazy."

"We must turn him off."

"Let us!"

"Still, he has some good points. He hashes hare very well."

"And the lamp-black! He is a very Raphael for that."

"Yes, but that's all he is good for. We lose time arguing with him."

"He keeps us from working."

"He is the cause of my 'Passage' not being finished in time for the
Exhibition. He wouldn't sit for Pharaoh."

"Thanks to him, I couldn't finish my article in time. He wouldn't go to
the public library and hunt up the notes I wanted."

"He is ruining us."

"Decidedly we can't keep him."

"Send him away then! But we must pay him."

"That we'll do. Give me the money, and I will settle accounts with
him."

"Money! But it is not I who keeps the purse, but you."

"Not at all! It is you who are charged with the financial department."

"But I assure you," said Marcel, "I have no money."

"Can there be no more? It is impossible! We can't have spent five
hundred francs in eight days, especially living with the most rigid
economy as we have done, and confining ourselves to absolute
necessaries: [absolute superfluities, he should have said]. We must
look over our accounts; and we shall find where the mistake is."

"Yes, but we shan't find where the money is. However, let us see the
account-book, at any rate."

And this is the way they kept their accounts which had been begun under
the auspices of Saint Economy:

_"March 19. Received 500 francs. Paid, a Turkish pipe, 25 fr.; dinner,
15 fr.; sundries, 40 fr."_

"What are those sundries?" asked Rodolphe of Marcel, who was reading.

"You know very well," replied the other, "that night when we didn't go
home till morning. We saved fuel and candles by that."

"Well, afterwards?"

_"March 20. Breakfast, 1 fr. 50 c.; tobacco, 20 c.; dinner, 2 fr.; an
opera glass, 2 fr. 50 c._--that goes to your account. What did you want
a glass for? You see perfectly well."

"You know I had to give an account of the Exhibition in the 'Scarf of
Iris.' It is impossible to criticize paintings without a glass. The
expense is quite legitimate. Well?--"

"A bamboo cane--"

"Ah, that goes to your account," said Rodolphe. "You didn't want a
cane."

"That was all we spent the 20th," was Marcel's only answer. "The 21st we
breakfasted out, dined out, and supped out."

"We ought not to have spent much that day."

"Not much, in fact--hardly thirty francs."

"But what for?"

"I don't know; it's marked sundries."

"Vague and treacherous heading!"

"'21st. (The day that Baptiste came.) _5 francs to him on account of his
wages. 50 centimes to the organ man.'"_

"23rd. Nothing set down. 24th, ditto. Two good days!"

_"'25th. Baptiste, on account, 3 fr._ It seems to me we give him money
very often," said Marcel, by way of reflection.

"There will be less owing to him," said Rodolphe. "Go on!"

_"'26th. Sundries, useful in an artistic point of view, 36 fr.'"_

"What did we buy that was useful? I don't recollect. What can it have
been?"

"You don't remember! The day we went to the top of Notre Dame for a
bird's-eye view of Paris."

"But it costs only eight sous to go up the tower."

"Yes, but then we went to dine at Saint Germain after we came down."

"Clear as mud!"

"27th. Nothing to set down."

"Good! There's economy for you."

_"'28th. Baptiste, on account, 6 fr.'"_

"Now this time I am sure we owe Baptiste nothing more. Perhaps he is
even in our debt. We must see."

"29th. Nothing set down, except the beginning of an article on 'Social
Morals.'"

"30th. Ah! We had company at dinner--heavy expenses the 30th, 55 fr.
31st.--that's today--we have spent nothing yet. You see," continued
Marcel, "the account has been kept very carefully, and the total does
not reach five hundred francs."

"Then there ought to be money in the drawer."

"We can see," said Marcel, opening it.

"Anything there?"

"Yes, a spider."

    "A spider in the morning
     Of sorrow is a warning," hummed Rodolphe.

"Where the deuce has all the money gone?" exclaimed Marcel, totally
upset at the sight of the empty drawer.

"Very simple," replied Rodolphe. "Baptiste has had it all."

"Stop a minute!" cried Marcel, rummaging in the drawer, where he
perceived a paper. "The bill for last quarter's rent!"

"How did it come there?"

"And paid, too," added Marcel. "You paid the landlord, then!"

"Me! Come now!" said Rodolphe.

"But what means--"

"But I assure you--"

"Oh, what can be this mystery?" sang the two in chorus to the final air
of "The White Lady."

Baptiste, who loved music, came running in at once. Marcel showed him
the paper.

"Ah, yes," said Baptiste carelessly, "I forgot to tell you. The landlord
came this morning while you were out. I paid him, to save him the
trouble of coming back."

"Where did you find the money?"

"I took it out of the open drawer. I thought, sir, you had left it open
on purpose, and forgot to tell me to pay him, so I did just as if you
had told me."

"Baptiste!" said Marcel, in a white heat, "you have gone beyond your
orders. From this day you cease to form part of our household. Take off
your livery!"

Baptiste took off the glazed leather cap which composed his livery, and
handed it to Marcel.

"Very well," said the latter, "now you may go."

"And my wages?"

"Wages? You scamp! You have had fourteen francs in a little more than a
week. What do you do with so much money? Do you keep a dancer?"

"A rope dancer?" suggested Rodolphe.

"Then I am to be left," said the unhappy domestic, "without a covering
for my head!"

"Take your livery," said Marcel, moved in spite of himself, and he
restored the cap to Baptiste.

"Yet it is that wretch who has wrecked our fortunes," said Rodolphe,
seeing poor Baptiste go out. "Where shall we dine today?"

"We shall know tomorrow," replied Marcel.




CHAPTER VIII

THE COST OF A FIVE FRANC PIECE


One Saturday evening, at a time when he had not yet gone into
housekeeping with Mademoiselle Mimi, who will shortly make her
appearance, Rodolphe made the acquaintance at the table d'hote he
frequented of a ladies' wardrobe keeper, named Mademoiselle Laure.
Having learned that he was editor of "The Scarf of Iris" and of "The
Beaver," two fashion papers, the milliner, in hope of getting her goods
puffed, commenced a series of significant provocations. To these
provocations Rodolphe replied by a pyrotechnical display of madrigals,
sufficient to make Benserade, Voiture, and all other dealers in the
fireworks of gallantry jealous; and at the end of the dinner,
Mademoiselle Laure, having learned that he was a poet, gave him clearly
to understand that she was not indisposed to accept him as her Petrarch.
She even, without circumlocution, made an appointment with him for the
next day.

"By Jove," said Rodolphe to himself, as he saw Mademoiselle Laure home,
"this is certainly a very amiable young person. She seems to me to have
a good grammar and a tolerably extensive wardrobe. I am quite disposed
to make her happy."

On reaching the door of her house, Mademoiselle Laure relinquished
Rodolphe's arm, thanking him for the trouble he had taken in
accompanying her to such a remote locality.

"Oh! madame," replied Rodolphe, bowing to the ground, "I should like you
to have lived at Moscow or the islands of the Sound, in order to have
had the pleasure of being your escort the longer."

"That would be rather far," said Laure, affectedly.

"We could have gone by way of the Boulevards, madame," said Rodolphe.
"Allow me to kiss you hand in the shape of your cheek," he added,
kissing his companion on the lips before Laure could make any
resistance.

"Oh sir!" she exclaimed, "you go too fast."

"It is to reach my destination sooner," said Rodolphe. "In love, the
first stages should be ridden at a gallop."

"What a funny fellow," though the milliner, as she entered her dwelling.

"A pretty girl," said Rodolphe, as he walked away.

Returning home, he went to bed at once, and had the most delightful
dreams. He saw himself at balls, theaters, and public promenades with
Mademoiselle Laure on his arm, clad in dresses more magnificent than
those of the girl with the ass's skin of the fairy tale.

The next morning at eleven o'clock, according to habit, Rodolphe got up.
His first thought was for Mademoiselle Laure.

"She is a very well mannered woman," he murmured, "I feel sure that she
was brought up at Saint Denis. I shall at length realize the happiness
of having a mistress who is not pitted with the small-pox. Decidedly I
will make sacrifices for her. I will go and draw my screw at 'The Scarf
of Iris.' I will buy some gloves, and I will take Laure to dinner at a
restaurant where table napkins are in use. My coat is not up to much,"
said he as he dressed himself, "but, bah! black is good wear."

And he went out to go to the office of "The Scarf of Iris."

Crossing the street he came across an omnibus, on the side of which was
pasted a bill, with the words, "Display of Fountains at Versailles,
today, Sunday."

A thunderbolt falling at Rodolphe's feet would not have produced a
deeper impression upon him than the sight of this bill.

"Today, Sunday! I had forgotten it," he exclaimed. "I shall not be able
to get any money. Today, Sunday!!! All the spare coin in Paris is on its
way to Versailles."

However, impelled by one of those fabulous hopes to which a man always
clings, Rodolphe hurried to the office of the paper, reckoning that some
happy chance might have taken the cashier there.

Monsieur Boniface had, indeed, looked in for a moment, but had left at
once.

"For Versailles," said the office messenger to Rodolphe.

"Come," said Rodolphe, "it is all over!... But let me see," he thought,
"my appointment is for this evening. It is noon, so I have five hours to
find five francs in--twenty sous an hour, like the horses in the Bois du
Boulogne. Forward."

As he found himself in a neighborhood where the journalist, whom he
styled the influential critic, resided, Rodolphe thought of having a try
at him.

"I am sure to find him in," said he, as he ascended the stairs, "it is
the day he writes his criticism--there is no fear of his being out. I
will borrow five francs of him."

"Hallo! it's you, is it?" said the journalist, on seeing Rodolphe. "You
come at the right moment. I have a slight service to ask of you."

"How lucky it falls out," thought the editor of "The Scarf of Iris."

"Were you at the Odeon Theater last night?"

"I am always at the Odeon."

"You have seen the new piece, then?"

"Who else would have seen it? I am the Odeon audience."

"That is true," said the critic, "you are one of the caryatides of the
theater. It is even rumored that it is you who finds the money for its
subvention. Well, that is what I want of you, a summary of the plot of
the new piece."

"That is easy, I have the memory of a creditor."

"Whom is this piece by?" asked the critic of Rodolphe, whilst the latter
was writing.

"A gentleman."

"It cannot be up to much."

"Well, it is not as strong as a Turk."

"Then it cannot be very robust. The Turks, you see, have usurped a
reputation for strength. Besides, there are no longer any Turks except
at masked balls and in the Champs-Elysees where they sell dates. One of
my friends knows the East and he assures me that all the natives of it
were born in the Rue Coquenard."

"That is smart," said Rodolphe.

"You think so?" observed the critic, "I will put it in my article."

"Here is my analysis of the piece, it is to the point," resumed
Rodolphe.

"Yes, but it is short."

"By putting in dashes and developing your critical opinion it will fill
some space."

"I have scarcely time, my dear fellow, and then my critical opinion will
not fill enough space either."

"You can stick in an adjective at every third word."

"Cannot you tail on to your analysis a little, or rather a long
criticism of the piece, eh?" asked the critic.

"Humph," said Rodolphe. "I have certainly some opinions upon tragedy,
but I have printed them three times in 'The Beaver' and 'The Scarf of
Iris.'"

"No matter, how many lines do your opinions fill?"

"Forty lines."

"The deuce, you have strong opinions. Well, lend me your forty lines."

"Good," thought Rodolphe, "if I turn out twenty francs' worth of copy
for him he cannot refuse me five. I must warn you," said he to the
critic, "that my opinions are not quite novel. They are rather worn at
the elbows. Before printing them I yelled them in every cafe in Paris,
there is not a waiter who does not know them by heart."

"What does that matter to me? You surely do not know me. Is there
anything new in the world except virtue?"

"Here you are," said Rodolphe, as he finished.

"Thunder and tempests, there is still nearly a column wanting. How is
this chasm to be filled?" exclaimed the critic. "Since you are here
supply me with some paradoxes."

"I have not any about me," said Rodolphe, "though I can lend you some.
Only they are not mine, I bought them for half a franc from one of my
friends who was in distress. They have seen very little use as yet."

"Very good," said the critic.

"Ah!" said Rodolphe to himself, setting to write again. "I shall
certainly ask him for ten francs, just now paradoxes are as dear as
partridges." And he wrote some thirty lines containing nonsense about
pianos, goldfish and Rhine wine, which was called toilet wine just as
we speak of toilet vinegar.

"It is very good," said the critic. "Now do me the favor to add that the
place where one meets more honest folk than anywhere else is the
galleys."

"Why?"

"To fill a couple of lines. Good, now it is finished," said the
influential critic, summoning his servant to take the article to the
printers.

"And now," thought Rodolphe, "let us strike home." And he gravely
proposed his request.

"Ah! my dear fellow," said the critic, "I have not a sou in the place.
Lolette ruins me in pommade, and just now she stripped me of my last
copper to go to Versailles and see the Nereids and the brazen monsters
spout forth the floods."

"To Versailles. But it is an epidemic!" exclaimed Rodolphe.

"But why do you want money?"

"That is my story," replied Rodolphe, "I have at five this evening an
appointment with a lady, a very well bred lady who never goes out save
in an omnibus. I wish to unite my fortunes with hers for a few days, and
it appears to me the right thing to enable her to take the pleasures of
this life. For dinner, dances, &c., &c., I must have five francs, and if
I do not find them French literature is dishonoured in my person."

"Why don't you borrow the sum of the lady herself?" exclaimed the
critic.

"The first time of meeting, it is hardly possible. Only you can get me
out of this fix."

"By all the mummies of Egypt I give you my word of honor that I have not
enough to buy a sou pipe. However, I have some books that you can sell."

"Impossible today, Mother Mansut's, Lebigre's, and all the shops on the
quays and in the Rue Saint Jacques are closed. What books are they?
Volumes of poetry with a portrait of the author in spectacles? But such
things never sell."

"Unless the author is criminally convicted," said the critic. "Wait a
bit, here are some romances and some concert tickets. By setting about
it skillfully you may, perhaps, make money of them."

"I would rather have something else, a pair of trowsers, for instance."

"Come," said the critic, "take this copy of Bossuet and this plaster
cast of Monsieur Odilon Barrot. On my word of honor, it is the widow's
mite."

"I see that you are doing your best," said Rodolphe. "I will take away
these treasures, but if I get thirty sous out of them I shall regard it
as the thirteenth labor of Hercules."

After having covered about four leagues Rodolphe, by the aid of an
eloquence of which he had the secret on great occasions, succeeded in
getting his washerwoman to lend him two francs on the volumes of poetry,
the romances and the bust of Monsieur Barrot.

"Come," said he, as he recrossed the Seine, "here is the sauce, now I
must find the dish itself. Suppose I go to my uncle."

Half an hour later he was at his Uncle Monetti's, who read upon his
nephew's face what was the matter. Hence he put himself on guard and
forestalled any request by a series of complaints, such as:

"Times are hard, bread is dear, debtors do not pay up, rents are
terribly high, commerce decaying, &c., &c.," all the hypocritical litany
of shopkeepers.

"Would you believe it," said the uncle, "that I have been forced to
borrow money from my shopman to meet a bill?"

"You should have sent to me," said Rodolphe. "I would have lent it you,
I received two hundred francs three days ago."

"Thanks, my lad," said the uncle, "but you have need of your fortune.
Ah! whilst you are here, you might, you who write such a good hand, copy
out some bills for me that I want to send out."

"My five francs are going to cost me dear," said Rodolphe to himself,
setting about the task, which he condensed.

"My dear uncle," said he to Monetti, "I know how fond you are of music
and I have brought you some concert tickets."

"You are very kind, my boy. Will you stay to dinner?"

"Thanks, uncle, but I am expected at dinner in the Faubourg Saint
Germain, indeed, I am rather put out about it for I have not time to run
home and get the money to buy gloves."

"You have no gloves, shall I lend you mine?" said his uncle.

"Thanks, we do not take the same size, only you would greatly oblige me
by the loan of--"

"Twenty nine sous to buy a pair? Certainly, my boy, here you are. When
one goes into society one should be well dressed. Better be envied than
pitied, as your aunt used to say. Come, I see you are getting on in the
world, so much the better. I would have given you more," he went on,
"but it is all I have in the till. I should have to go upstairs and I
cannot leave the shop, customers drop in every moment."

"You were saying that business was not flourishing?"

Uncle Monetti pretended not to hear, and said to his nephew who was
pocketing the twenty nine sous:

"Do not be in a hurry about repayment."

"What a screw," said Rodolphe, bolting. "Ah!" he continued, "there are
still thirty-one sous lacking. Where am I to find them? I know, let's be
off to the crossroads of Providence."

This was the name bestowed by Rodolphe on the most central point in
Paris, that is to say, the Palais Royal, a spot where it is almost
impossible to remain ten minutes without meeting ten people of one's
acquaintance, creditors above all. Rodolphe therefore went and stationed
himself at the entrance to the Palais Royal. This time Providence was
long in coming. At last Rodolphe caught sight of it. Providence had a
white hat, a green coat, and a gold headed cane--a well dressed
Providence.

It was a rich and obliging fellow, although a phalansterian.

"I am delighted to see you," said he to Rodolphe, "come and walk a
little way with me; we can have a talk."

"So I am to have the infliction of the phalanstere," murmured Rodolphe,
suffering himself to be led away from the wearer of the white hat, who,
indeed, phalanstered him to the utmost.

As they drew near the Pont des Arts Rodolphe said to his companion--

"I must leave you, not having sufficient to pay the toll."

"Nonsense," said the other, catching hold of Rodolphe and throwing two
sous to the toll keeper.

"This is the right moment," thought the editor of "The Scarf of Iris,"
as they crossed the bridge. Arrived at the further end in front of the
clock of the Institute, Rodolphe stopped short, pointed to the dial
with a despairing gesture, and exclaimed:--

"Confound it all, a quarter to five! I am done for."

"What is the matter?" cried his astonished friend.

"The matter is," said Rodolphe, "that, thanks to your dragging me here
in spite of myself, I have missed an appointment."

"An important one?"

"I should think so; money that I was to call for at five o'clock
at--Batignolles. I shall never be able to get there. Hang it; what am I
to do?"

"Why," said the phalansterian, "nothing is simpler; come home with me
and I will lend you some."

"Impossible, you live at Montrouge, and I have business at six o'clock
at the Chaussee d'Antin. Confound it."

"I have a trifle about me," said Providence, timidly, "but it is very
little."

"If I had enough to take a cab I might get to Batignolles in time."

"Here is the contents of my purse, my dear fellow, thirty one sous."

"Give it to me at once, that I may bolt," said Rodolphe, who had just
heard five o'clock strike, and who hastened off to keep his appointment.

"It has been hard to get," said he, counting out his money. "A hundred
sous exactly. At last I am supplied, and Laure will see that she has to
do with a man who knows how to do things properly. I won't take a
centime home this evening. We must rehabilitate literature, and prove
that its votaries only need money to be wealthy."

Rodolphe found Mademoiselle Laure at the trysting place.

"Good," said he, "for punctuality she is a feminine chronometer."

He spent the evening with her, and bravely melted down his five francs
in the crucible of prodigality. Mademoiselle Laure was charmed with his
manners, and was good enough only to notice that Rodolphe had not
escorted her home at the moment when he was ushering her into his own
room.

"I am committing a fault," said she. "Do not make me repent of it by the
ingratitude which is characteristic of your sex."

"Madame," said Rodolphe, "I am known for my constancy. It is such that
all my friends are astonished at my fidelity, and have nicknamed me the
General Bertrand of Love."




CHAPTER IX

THE WHITE VIOLETS


About this time Rodolphe was very much in love with his cousin Angela,
who couldn't bear him; and the thermometer was twelve degrees below
freezing point.

Mademoiselle Angela was the daughter of Monsieur Monetti, the chimney
doctor, of whom we have already had occasion to speak. She was eighteen
years old, and had just come from Burgundy, where she lived five years
with a relative who was to leave her all her property. This relative was
an old lady who had never been young apparently--certainly never
handsome, but had always been very ill-natured, although--or perhaps
because--very superstitious. Angela, who at her departure was a charming
child, and promised to be a charming girl, came back at the end of the
five years a pretty enough young lady, but cold, dry, and uninteresting.
Her secluded provincial life, and the narrow and bigoted education she
had received, had filled her mind with vulgar prejudices, shrunk her
imagination, and converted her heart into a sort of organ, limited to
fulfilling its function of physical balance wheel. You might say that
she had holy water in her veins instead of blood. She received her
cousin with an icy reserve; and he lost his time whenever he attempted
to touch the chord of her recollections--recollections of the time when
they had sketched out that flirtation in the Paul-and-Virginia style
which is traditional between cousins of different sexes. Still Rodolphe
was very much in love with his cousin Angela, who couldn't bear him; and
learning one day that the young lady was going shortly to the wedding
ball of one of her friends, he made bold to promise Angela a bouquet of
violets for the ball. And after asking permission of her father, Angela
accepted her cousin's gallant offer--always on condition that the
violets should be white.

Overjoyed at his cousin's amiability, Rodolphe danced and sang his way
back to Mount St. Bernard, as he called his lodging--why will be seen
presently. As he passed by a florist's in crossing the Palais Royal, he
saw some white violets in the showcase, and was curious enough to ask
their price. A presentable bouquet could not be had for less than ten
francs; there were some that cost more.

"The deuce!" exclaimed Rodolphe, "ten francs! and only eight days to
find this fortune! It will be a hard pull, but never mind, my cousin
shall have her flowers."

This happened in the time of Rodolphe's literary genesis, as the
transcendentalists would say. His only income at that period was an
allowance of fifteen francs a month, made him by a friend, who, after
living a long while in Paris as a poet, had, by the help of influential
acquaintances, gained the mastership of a provincial school. Rodolphe,
who was the child of prodigality, always spent his allowance in four
days; and, not choosing to abandon his holy but not very profitable
profession of elegiac poet, lived for the rest of the month on the rare
droppings from the basket of Providence. This long Lent had no terrors
for him; he passed through it gaily, thanks to his stoical temperament
and to the imaginary treasures which he expended every day while
waiting for the first of the month, that Easter which terminated his
fast. He lived at this time at the very top of one of the loftiest
houses in Paris. His room was shaped like a belvidere, and was a
delicious habitation in summer, but from October to April a perfect
little Kamschatka. The four cardinal winds which penetrated by the four
windows,--there was one on each of the four sides--made fearful music in
it throughout the cold seasons. Then in irony as it were, there was a
huge fireplace, the immense chimney of which seemed a gate of honor
reserved for Boreas and his retinue. On the first attack of cold,
Rodolphe had recourse to an original system of warming; he cut up
successively what little furniture he had, and at the end of a week his
stock was considerably abridged; in fact, he had only a bed and two
chairs left; it should be remarked that these items were insured against
fire by their nature, being of iron. This manner of heating himself he
called _moving up the chimney_.

It was January, and the thermometer, which indicated twelve degrees
below freezing point on the Spectacle Quay, would have stood two or
three lower if moved to the belvidere, which Rodolphe called
indifferently Mount St. Bernard, Spitzenberg, and Siberia.

The night when he promised his cousin the white violets, he was seized
with a great rage on returning home; the four cardinal winds, in playing
puss-in-the-corner round his chamber, had broken a pane of glass--the
third time in a fortnight. After exploding in a volley of frantic
imprecations upon Eolus and all his family, and plugging up the breach
with a friend's portrait, Rodolphe lay down, dressed as he was, between
his two mattresses, and dreamed of white violets all night.

At the end of five days, Rodolphe had found nothing to help him toward
realizing his dreams. He must have the bouquet the day after tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the thermometer fell still lower, and the luckless poet was
ready to despair as he thought the violets might have risen higher.
Finally his good angel had pity on him, and came to his relief as
follows.

One morning, Rodolphe went to take his chance of getting a breakfast
from his friend Marcel the painter, and found him conversing with a
woman in mourning. It was a widow who had just lost her husband, and who
wanted to know how much it would cost to paint on the tomb which she had
erected, a man's hand, with this inscription beneath:

    "I WAIT FOR HER TO WHOM MY FAITH WAS PLIGHTED."

To get the work at a cheaper rate, she observed to the artist that when
she was called to rejoin her husband, he would have another hand to
paint--her hand with a bracelet on the wrist and the supplementary line
beneath:

    "AT LENGTH, BEHOLD US THUS ONCE MORE UNITED."

"I shall put this clause in my will," she said, "and require that the
task be intrusted to you."

"In that case, madame," replied the artist, "I will do it at the price
you offer--but only in the hope of seeing your hand. Don't go and forget
me in your will."

"I should like to have this as soon as possible," said the disconsolate
one, "nevertheless, take your time to do it well and don't forget the
scar on the thumb. I want a living hand."

"Don't be afraid, madame, it shall be a speaking one," said Marcel, as
he bowed the widow out. But hardly had she crossed the threshold when
she returned, saying, "I have one more thing to ask you, sir: I should
like to have inscribed on my husband's tomb something in verse which
would tell of his good conduct and his last words. Is that good style?"

"Very good style--they call that an epitaph--the very best style."

"You don't know anyone who would do that for me cheap? There is my
neighbor Monsieur Guerin, the public writer, but he asks the clothes off
my back."

Here Rodolphe looked at Marcel, who understood him at once.

"Madame," said the artist, pointing to Rodolphe, "a happy fortune has
conducted hither the very person who can be of service to you in this
mournful juncture. This gentleman is a renowned poet; you couldn't find
a better one."

"I want something very melancholy," said the widow, "and the spelling
all right."

"Madame," replied Marcel, "my friend spells like a book. He had all the
prizes at school."

"Indeed!" said the widow, "my grand-nephew had just had a prize too; he
is only seven years old."

"A very forward child, madame."

"But are you sure that the gentleman can make very melancholy verses?"

"No one better, madame, for he has undergone much sorrow in his life.
The papers always find fault with his verses for being too melancholy."

"What!" cried the widow, "do they talk about him in the papers? He must
know quite as much, then, as Monsieur Guerin, the public writer."

"And a great deal more. Apply to him, madame, and you will not repent of
it."

After having explained to Rodolphe the sort of inscription in verse
which she wished to place on her husband's tomb, the widow agreed to
give Rodolphe ten francs if it suited her--only she must have it very
soon. The poet promised she should have it the very next day.

"Oh good genius of Artemisia!" cried Rodolphe as the widow disappeared.
"I promise you that you shall be suited--full allowance of melancholy
lyrics, better got up than a duchess, orthography and all. Good old
lady! May Heaven reward you with a life of a hundred and seven
years--equal to that of a good brandy!"

"I object," said Marcel.

"That's true," said Rodolphe, "I forgot that you have her hand to paint,
and that so long a life would make you lose money." And lifting his
hands he gravely ejaculated, "Heaven, do not grant my prayer! Ah!" he
continued, "I was in jolly good luck to come here."

"By the way," asked Marcel, "what did you want?"

"I recollect--and now especially that I have to pass the night in making
these verses, I cannot do without what I came to ask you for, namely,
first, some dinner; secondly, tobacco and a candle; thirdly, your
polar-bear costume."

"To go to the masked ball?"

"No, indeed, but as you see me here, I am as much frozen up as the grand
army in retreat from Russia. Certainly my green frock-coat and
Scotch-plaid trowsers are very pretty, but much too summery; they would
do to live under the equator; but for one who lodges near the pole, as I
do, a white bear skin is more suitable; indeed I may say necessary."

"Take the fur!" said Marcel, "it's a good idea; warm as a dish of
charcoal; you will be like a roll in an oven in it."

Rodolphe was already inside the animal's skin.

"Now," said he, "the thermometer is going to be really mad."

"Are you going out so?" said Marcel to his friend, after they had
finished an ambiguous repast served in a penny dish.

"I just am," replied Rodolphe. "Do you think I care for public opinion?
Besides, today is the beginning of carnival."

He went half over Paris with all the gravity of the beast whose skin he
occupied. Only on passing before a thermometer in an optician's window
he couldn't help taking a sight at it.

Having returned home not without causing great terror to his porter,
Rodolphe lit his candle, carefully surrounding it with an extempore
shade of paper to guard it against the malice of the winds, and set to
work at once. But he was not long in perceiving that if his body was
almost entirely protected from the cold, his hands were not; a terrible
numbness seized his fingers which let the pen fall.

"The bravest man cannot struggle against the elements," said the poet,
falling back helpless in his chair. "Caeser passed the Rubicon, but he
could not have passed the Beresina."

All at once he uttered a cry of joy from the depths of his bear-skin
breast, and jumped up so suddenly as to overturn some of his ink on its
snowy fur. He had an idea!

Rodolphe drew from beneath his bed a considerable mass of papers, among
which were a dozen huge manuscripts of his famous drama, "The Avenger."
This drama, on which he had spent two years, had been made, unmade, and
remade so often that all the copies together weighed fully fifteen
pounds. He put the last version on one side, and dragged the others
towards the fireplace.

"I was sure that with patience I should dispose of it somehow," he
exclaimed. "What a pretty fagot! If I could have foreseen what would
happen, I could have written a prologue, and then I should have more
fuel tonight. But one can't foresee everything." He lit some leaves of
the manuscript, in the flame of which he thawed his hands. In five
minutes the first act of "The Avenger" was over, and Rodolphe had
written three verses of his epitaph.

It would be impossible to describe the astonishment of the four winds
when they felt fire in the chimney.

"It's an illusion," quoth Boreas, as he amused himself by brushing back
the hair of Rodolphe's bear skin.

"Let's blow down the pipe," suggested another wind, "and make the
chimney smoke." But just as they were about to plague the poor poet, the
south wind perceived Monsieur Arago at a window of the Observatory
threatening them with his finger; so they all made off, for fear of
being put under arrest. Meanwhile the second act of "The Avenger" was
going off with immense success, and Rodolphe had written ten lines. But
he only achieved two during the third act.

"I always thought that third act too short," said Rodolphe, "luckily the
next one will take longer; there are twenty three scenes in it,
including the great one of the throne." As the last flourish of the
throne scene went up the chimney in fiery flakes, Rodolphe had only
three couplets more to write. "Now for the last act. This is all
monologue. It may last five minutes." The catastrophe flashed and
smouldered, and Rodolphe in a magnificent transport of poetry had
enshrined in lyric stanzas the last words of the illustrious deceased.
"There is enough left for a second representation," said he, pushing the
remainder of the manuscript under his bed.

At eight o'clock next evening, Mademoiselle Angela entered the ballroom;
in her hand was a splendid nosegay of white violets, and among them two
budding roses, white also. During the whole night men and women were
complimenting the young girl on her bouquet. Angela could not but feel a
little grateful to her cousin who had procured this little triumph for
her vanity; and perhaps she would have thought more of him but for the
gallant persecutions of one of the bride's relatives who had danced
several times with her. He was a fair-haired youth, with a magnificent
moustache curled up at the ends, to hook innocent hearts. The bouquet
had been pulled to pieces by everybody; only two white roses were left.
The young man asked Angela for them; she refused--only to forget them
after the ball on a bench, whence the young fair-haired youth hastened
to take them.

At that moment it was fourteen degrees below freezing point in
Rodolphe's belvidere. He was leaning against his window looking out at
the lights in the ballroom, where his cousin Angela, who didn't care for
him, was dancing.




CHAPTER X

THE CAPE OF STORMS


In the opening month of each of the four seasons there are some
terrible epochs, usually about the 1st and the 15th. Rodolphe, who could
not witness the approach of one or the other of these two dates without
alarm, nicknamed them the Cape of Storms. On these mornings it is not
Aurora who opens the portals of the East, but creditors, landlords,
bailiffs and their kidney. The day begins with a shower of bills and
accounts and winds up with a hailstorm of protests. _Dies irae_.

Now one morning, it was the 15th of April, Rodolphe was peacefully
slumbering--and dreaming that one of his uncles had just bequeathed him
a whole province in Peru, the feminine inhabitants included.

Whilst he was wallowing in this imaginary Pacolus, the sound of a key
turning in the lock interrupted the heir presumptive just at the most
dazzling point of his golden dream.

Rodolphe sat up in bed, his eyes and mind yet heavy with slumber, and
looked about him.

He vaguely perceived standing in the middle of his room a man who had
just entered.

This early visitor bore a bag slung at his back and a large pocketbook
in his hand. He wore a cocked hat and a bluish-grey swallow-tailed coat
and seemed very much out of breath from ascending the five flights of
stairs. His manners were very affable and his steps sounded as
sonorously as that of a money-changer's counter on the march.

Rodolphe was alarmed for a moment, and at the sight of the cocked hat
and the coat thought that he had a police officer before him.

But the sight of the tolerably well filled bag made him perceive his
mistake.

"Ah! I have it," thought he, "it is something on account of my
inheritance, this man comes from the West Indies. But in that case why
is he not black?"

And making a sign to the man, he said, pointing to the bag, "I know all
about it. Put it down there. Thanks."

The man was a messenger of the Bank of France. He replied to Rodolphe's
request by holding before his eyes a small strip of paper covered with
writing and figures in various colored inks.

"You want a receipt," said Rodolphe. "That is right. Pass me the pen
and ink. There, on the table."

"No, I have come to take money," replied the messenger. "An acceptance
for a hundred and fifty francs. It is the 15th of April."

"Ah!" observed Rodolphe, examining the acceptance. "Pay to the order
of---- Birmann. It is my tailor. Alas," he added, in melancholy tones
casting his eyes alternately upon a frock coat thrown on the bed and
upon the acceptance, "causes depart but effects return. What, it is the
15th of April? It is extraordinary, I have not yet had any strawberries
this year."

The messenger, weary of delay, left the room, saying to Rodolphe, "You
have till four o'clock to pay."

"There is no time like the present," replied Rodolphe. "The humbug," he
added regretfully, following the cocked hat with his eyes, "he has taken
away his bag."

Rodolphe drew the curtains of his bed and tried to retrace the path to
his inheritance, but he made a mistake on the road and proudly entered
into a dream in which the manager of the Theatre Francais came hat in
hand to ask him for a drama for his theater, and in which he, aware of
the customary practice, asked for an advance. But at the very moment
when the manager appeared to be willing to comply the sleeper was again
half awakened by the entry of a fresh personage, another creature of the
15th.

It was Monsieur Benoit, landlord of the lodging house in which Rodolphe
was residing. Monsieur Benoit was at once the landlord, the bootmaker
and the money lender of his lodgers. On this morning he exhaled a
frightful odor of bad brandy and overdue rent. He carried an empty bag
in his hand.

"The deuce," thought Rodolphe, "this is not the manager of the Theater
Francais, he would have a white cravat and the bag would be full."

"Good morning, Monsieur Rodolphe," said Monsieur Benoit, approaching the
bed.

"Monsieur Benoit! Good morning. What has given me the pleasure of this
visit?"

"I have come to remind you that it is the 15th of April."

"Already! How time flies, it is extraordinary, I must see about buying a
pair of summer trousers. The 15th of April. Good heavens! I should never
have thought of it but for you, Monsieur Benoit. What gratitude I owe
you for this!"

"You also owe me a hundred and sixty-two francs," replied Monsieur
Benoit, "and it is time this little account was settled."

"I am not in any absolute hurry--do not put yourself out, Monsieur
Benoit. I will give you time."

"But," said the landlord, "you have already put me off several times."

"In that case let us come to a settlement, Monsieur Benoit, let us come
to a settlement, it is all the same to me today as tomorrow. Besides we
are all mortal. Let us come to a settlement."

An amiable smile smoothed the landlord wrinkles and even his empty bag
swelled with hope.

"What do I owe you?" asked Rodolphe.

"In the first place, we have three months' rent at twenty-five francs,
that makes seventy-five francs."

"Errors excepted," said Rodolphe. "And then?"

"Then three pairs of boots at twenty francs."

"One moment, one moment, Monsieur Benoit, do not let us mix matters,
this is no longer to do with the landlord but the bootmaker. I want a
separate account. Accounts are a serious thing, we must not get
muddled."

"Very good," said Monsieur Benoit, softened by the hope of at length
writing "Paid" at the foot of his accounts. "Here is a special bill for
the boots. Three pairs of boots at twenty francs, sixty francs."

Rodolphe cast a look of pity on a pair of worn out boots.

"Alas!" he thought, "they could not be worse if they had been worn by
the Wandering Jew. Yet it was in running after Marie that they got so
worn out. Go on, Monsieur Benoit."

"We were saying sixty francs," replied the latter. "Then money lent,
twenty seven francs."

"Stop a bit, Monsieur Benoit. We agreed that each dog would have his
kennel. It is as a friend that you lent me money. Therefore, if you
please, let us quit the regions of bootmaking and enter those of
confidence and friendship which require a separate account. How much
does your friendship for me amount to?"

"Twenty seven francs."

"Twenty seven francs. You have purchased a friend cheaply, Monsieur
Benoit. In short, we were saying, seventy five, sixty, and twenty
seven. That makes altogether---?"

"A hundred and sixty two francs," said Monsieur Benoit, presenting the
three bills.

"A hundred and sixty two francs," observed Rodolphe, "it is
extraordinary. What a fine thing arithmetic is. Well, Monsieur Benoit,
now that the account is settled we can both rest easy, we know exactly
how we stand. Next month I will ask you for a receipt, and as during
this time the confidence and friendship you must entertain towards me
can only increase, you can, in case it should become necessary, grant me
a further delay. However, if the landlord and the bootmaker are
inclined to be hasty, I would ask the friend to get them to listen to
reason. It is extraordinary, Monsieur Benoit, but every time I think of
your triple character as a landlord, a bootmaker, and a friend, I am
tempted to believe in the Trinity."

Whilst listening to Rodolphe the landlord had turned at one and the same
time red, green, white, and yellow, and at each fresh jest from his
lodger that rainbow of anger grew deeper and deeper upon his face.

"Sir," said he, "I do not like to be made game of. I have waited long
enough. I give you notice of quit, and unless you let me have some
money this evening, I know what I shall have to do."

"Money! money! Am I asking you for money?" said Rodolphe. "Besides, if I
had any, I should not give it to you. On a Friday, it would be unlucky."

Monsieur Benoit's wrath grew tempestuous, and if the furniture had not
belonged to him he would no doubt have smashed some of it.

"You are forgetting your bag," cried Rodolphe after him. "What a
business," murmured the young fellow, as he found himself alone. "I
would rather tame lions. But," he continued, jumping out of bed and
dressing hurriedly, "I cannot stay here. The invasion will continue. I
must flee; I must even breakfast. Suppose I go and see Schaunard. I will
ask him for some breakfast, and borrow a trifle. A hundred francs will
be enough. Yes, I'm off to Schaunard's."

Going downstairs, Rodolphe met Monsieur Benoit, who had received further
shocks from his other lodgers, as was attested by his empty bag.

"If any one asks for me, tell them I have gone into the country--to the
Alps," said Rodolphe. "Or stay, tell them that I no longer live here."

"I shall tell the truth," murmured Monsieur Benoit, in a very
significant tone.

Schaunard was living at Montmartre. It was necessary to go right through
Paris. This peregrination was one most dangerous to Rodolphe.

"Today," said he, "the streets are paved with creditors."

However, he did not go along by the outer Boulevards, as he had felt
inclined to. A fanciful hope, on the contrary, urged him to follow the
perilous itinerary of central Paris. Rodolphe thought that on a day when
millions were going about the thoroughfares in the money-cases of bank
messengers, it might happen that a thousand franc note, abandoned on the
roadside, might lie awaiting its Good Samaritan. Thus he walked slowly
along with his eyes on the ground. But he only found two pins.

After a two hours' walk he got to Schaunard's.

"Ah, it's you," said the latter.

"Yes, I have come to ask you for some breakfast."

"Ah, my dear fellow, you come at the wrong time. My mistress has just
arrived, and I have not seen her for a fortnight. If you had only called
ten minutes earlier."

"Well, have you got a hundred francs to lend me?"

"What! you too!" exclaimed Schaunard, in the height of astonishment.
"You have come to ask me for money! You, in the ranks of my enemies!"

"I will pay you back on Monday."

"Or at the Greek Calends. My dear fellow, you surely forget what day it
is. I can do nothing for you. But there is no reason to despair; the
day is not yet over. You may still meet with Providence, who never gets
up before noon."

"Ah!" replied Rodolphe, "Providence has too much to do looking after
little birds. I will go and see Marcel."

Marcel was then residing in the Rue de Breda. Rodolphe found him in a
very downcast mood, contemplating his great picture that was to
represent the passage of the Red Sea.

"What is the matter?" asked Rodolphe, as he entered. "You seem quite in
the dumps."

"Alas!" replied the painter, in allegorical language, "for the last
fortnight it has been Holy Week."

"Red herrings and black radishes. Good, I remember."

Indeed, Rodolphe's memory was still salt with the remembrance of a time
when he had been reduced to the exclusive consumption of the fish in
question.

"The deuce," said he, "that is serious. I came to borrow a hundred
francs of you."

"A hundred francs," said Marcel. "You are always in the clouds. The idea
of coming and asking me for that mythological amount at a period when
one is always under the equator of necessity. You must have been taking
hashish."

"Alas!" said Rodolphe, "I have not been taking anything at all."

And he left his friend on the banks of the Red Sea.

From noon to four o'clock Rodolphe successively steered for every house
of his acquaintance. He went through the forty eight districts of Paris,
and covered about eight leagues, but without any success. The influence
of the 15th of April made itself feel with equal severity everywhere.
However, dinner time was drawing near. But it scarcely appeared that
dinner was likely to follow its example, and it seemed to Rodolphe that
he was on the raft of the wrecked Medusa.

As he was crossing the Pont Neuf an idea all at once occurred to him.

"Oh! oh!" said he to himself, retracing his steps, "the 15th of April.
But I have an invitation to dinner for today."

And fumbling in his pocket, he drew out a printed ticket, running as
follows:

+------------------------------------------------------+
|                                                      |
|               Barriere de la Villette,               |
|                 Au Grand Vainqueur.                  |
|            Dining Room to seat 300 people.           |
|                                                      |
|                    ____________                      |
|                                                      |
|                 Anniversary Dinner                   |
|              In Honor of the Birth Of                |
|                                                      |
|              THE HUMANITARIAN MESSIAH                |
|                                                      |
|                   April 15, 184-                     |
|                                                      |
|                     _______                          |
|                                                      |
|                     Admit One                        |
|     N.B.--Only half a bottle of wine per head        |
+------------------------------------------------------+

"I do not share the opinions of the disciples of this Messiah," said
Rodolphe to himself, "but I will willingly share their repast." And with
the swiftness of a bird he covered the distance separating him from the
Barriere de la Villette.

When he reached the halls of the Grand Vainqueur, the crowd was
enormous. The dining room, seating three hundred, was thronged with
five hundred people. A vast horizon of veal and carrots spread itself
before the eyes of Rodolphe.

At length they began to serve the soup.

As the guests were carrying their spoons to their lips, five or six
people in plain clothes, and several police officers in uniform, pushed
into the room, with a commissary of police at their head.

"Gentlemen," said the commissary, "by order of the authorities, this
dinner cannot take place. I call upon you to withdraw."

"Oh!" said Rodolphe, retiring with everyone else. "Oh! what a fatality
has spoiled my dinner."

He sadly resumed the road to his dwelling, and reached it at about
eleven at night.

Monsieur Benoit was awaiting him.

"Ah! it is you," said the landlord. "Have you thought of what I told you
this morning? Have you brought me any money?"

"I am to receive some tonight. I will give you some of it tomorrow
morning," replied Rodolphe, looking for his key and his candlestick in
their accustomed place. He did not find them.

"Monsieur Rodolphe," said the landlord, "I am very sorry, but I have let
your room, and I have no other vacant now--you must go somewhere else."

Rodolphe had a lofty soul, and a night in the open air did not alarm
him. Besides, in the event of bad weather, he could sleep in a box at
the Odeon Theater, as he had already done before. Only he claimed "his
property" from Monsieur Benoit, the said property consisting of a
bundle of papers.

"That is so," said the landlord. "I have no right to detain those
things. They are in the bureau. Come up with me; if the person who has
taken your room has not gone to bed, we can go in."

The room had been let during the day to a girl named Mimi, with whom
Rodolphe had formerly begun a love duet. They recognized one another at
once. Rodolphe began to whisper to Mimi and tenderly squeezed her hand.

"See how it rains," said he, calling attention to the noise of the storm
that had just broken overhead.

"Sir," said she, pointing to Rodolphe, "this is the gentleman I was
expecting this evening."

"Oh!" said Monsieur Benoit, grinning on the wrong end of his face.

Whilst Mademoiselle Mimi was hurriedly getting ready an improvised
supper, midnight struck.

"Ah!" said Rodolphe to himself, "the 15th of April is over. I have at
length weathered my Cape of Storms. My dear Mimi," said the young man,
taking the pretty girl in his arms and kissing her on the back of the
neck, "it would have been impossible for you to have allowed me to be
turned out of doors. You have the bump of hospitality."




CHAPTER XI

A BOHEMIAN CAFE


You shall hear how it came to pass that Carolus Barbemuche, platonist
and literary man generally, became a member of the Bohemian Club, in the
twenty-fourth year of his age.

At that time, Gustave Colline, the great philosopher, Marcel, the great
painter, Schaunard, the great musician, and Rodolphe, the great poet (as
they called one another), regularly frequented the Momus Cafe, where
they were surnamed "the Four Musqueteers," because they were always seen
together. In fact, they came together, went away together, played
together, and sometimes didn't pay their shot together, with a unison
worthy of the best orchestra.

They chose to meet in a room where forty people might have been
accommodated, but they were usually there alone, inasmuch as they had
rendered the place uninhabitable by its ordinary frequenters. The chance
customer who risked himself in this den, became, from the moment of his
entrance, the victim of the terrible four; and, in most cases, made his
escape without finishing his newspaper and cup of coffee, seasoned as
they were by unheard-of maxims on art, sentiment, and political economy.
The conversation of the four comrades was of such a nature that the
waiter who served them had become an idiot in the prime of his life.

At length things reached such a point that the landlord lost all
patience and came up one night to make a formal statement of his griefs:

"Firstly. Monsieur Rodolphe comes early in the morning to breakfast, and
carries off to his room all the papers of the establishment, going so
far as to complain if he finds that they have been opened. Consequently,
the other customers, cut off from the usual channels of public opinion
and intelligence, remain until dinner in utter ignorance of political
affairs. The Bosquet party hardly knows the names of the last cabinet."

"Monsieur Rodolphe has even obliged the cafe to subscribe to 'The
Beaver,' of which he is chief editor. The master of the establishment at
first refused; but as Monsieur Rodolphe and his party kept calling the
waiter every half hour, and crying, 'The Beaver! bring us 'The Beaver'
some other customers, whose curiosity was excited by these obstinate
demands, also asked for 'The Beaver.' So 'The Beaver' was subscribed
to--a hatter's journal, which appeared every month, ornamented with a
vignette and an article on 'The Philosophy of Hats and other things in
general,' by Gustave Colline."

"Secondly. The aforesaid Monsieur Colline, and his friend Monsieur
Rodolphe, repose themselves from their intellectual labors by playing
backgammon from ten in the morning till midnight and as the
establishment possess but one backgammon board, they monopolize that, to
the detriment of the other amateurs of the game; and when asked for the
board, they only answer, 'Some one is reading it, call tomorrow.' Thus
the Bosquet party find themselves reduced to playing piquet, or talking
about their old love affairs."

"Thirdly. Monsieur Marcel, forgetting that a cafe is a public place,
brings thither his easel, box of colors, and, in short, all the
instruments of his art. He even disregards the usages of society as far
as to send for models of different sexes; which might shock the morals
of the Bosquet party."

"Fourthly. Following the example of his friend, Monsieur Schaunard talks
of bringing his piano to the cafe and he has not scrupled to get up a
chorus on a motive from his symphony, 'The Influence of Blue in Art.'
Monsieur Schaunard has gone farther: he has inserted in the lantern
which serves the establishment for sign, a transparency with this
inscription:

     'COURSE OF MUSIC, VOCAL AND INSTRUMENTAL,
                 FOR BOTH SEXES,
                     GRATIS.
             APPLY AT THE COUNTER.'

In consequence of this, the counter aforesaid is besieged every night by
a number of badly dressed individuals, wanting to know where you go in."

"Moreover, Monsieur Schaunard gives meetings to a lady calling herself
Mademoiselle Phemie, who always forgets to bring her bonnet. Wherefore,
Monsieur Bosquet, Jr., has declared that he will never more put foot in
an establishment where the laws of nature are thus outraged."

"Fifthly. Not content with being very poor customers, these gentlemen
have tried to be still more economical. Under pretence of having caught
the mocha of the establishment in improper intercourse with chicory,
they have brought a lamp with spirits-of-wine, and make their own
coffee, sweetening it with their own sugar; all of which is an insult to
the establishment."

"Sixthly. Corrupted by the discourse of these gentlemen, the waiter
Bergami (so called from his whiskers), forgetting his humble origin and
defying all control, has dared to address to the mistress of the house
a piece of poetry suggestive of the most improper sentiments; by the
irregularity of its style, this letter is recognized as a direct
emanation from the pernicious influence of Monsieur Rodolphe and his
literature."

"Consequently, in spite of the regret which he feels, the proprietor of
the establishment finds himself obliged to request the Colline party to
choose some other place for their revolutionary meetings."

Gustave Colline, who was the Cicero of the set, took the floor and
demonstrated to the landlord that his complaints were frivolous and
unfounded; that they did him great honor in making his establishment a
home of intellect; that their departure and that of their friends would
be the ruin of his house, which their presence elevated to the rank of a
literary and artistic club.

"But," objected the other, "you and those who come to see you call for
so little."

"This temperance to which you object," replied Colline, "is an argument
in favor of our morals. Moreover, it depends on yourself whether we
spend more or not. You have only to open an account with us."

The landlord pretended not to hear this, and demanded some explanation
of the incendiary letter addressed by Bergami to his wife. Rodolphe,
accused of acting as secretary to the waiter, strenuously asserted his
innocence--

"For," said he, "the lady's virtue was a sure barrier--"

The landlord would not repress a smile of pride. Finally, Colline
entangled him completely in the folds of his insidious oratory, and
everything was arranged, on the conditions that the party should cease
making their own coffee, that the establishment should receive "The
Beaver" gratis, that Phemie should come in a bonnet, that the backgammon
board should be given up to the Bosquets every Sunday from twelve to
two, and above all, that no one should ask for tick.

On this basis everything went well for some time.

It was Christmas Eve. The four friends came to the cafe accompanied by
their friends of the other sex. There was Marcel's Musette, Rodolphe's
new flame, Mimi, a lovely creature, with a voice like a pair of cymbals,
and Schaunard's idol, Phemie Teinturiere. That night, Phemie, according
to agreement, had her bonnet on. As to Madame Colline that should have
been, no one ever saw her; she was always at home, occupied in
punctuating her husband's manuscripts. After the coffee, which was on
this great occasion escorted by a regiment of small glasses of brandy,
they called for punch. The waiter was so little accustomed to the order,
that they had to repeat it twice. Phemie, who had never been to such a
place before, seemed in a state of ecstacy at drinking out of glasses
with feet. Marcel was quarreling with Musette about a new bonnet which
he had not given her. Mimi and Rodolphe, who were in their honeymoon,
carried on a silent conversation, alternated with suspicious noises. As
to Colline, he went about from one to the other, distributing among them
all the polite and ornamental phrases which he had picked up in the
"Muses' Almanac."

While this joyous company was thus abandoning itself to sport and
laughter, a stranger at the bottom of the room, who occupied a table by
himself, was observing with extraordinary attention the animated scene
before him. For a fortnight or thereabout, he had come thus every night,
being the only customer who could stand the terrible row which the club
made. The boldest pleasantries had failed to move him; he would remain
all the evening, smoking his pipe with mathematical regularity, his eyes
fixed as if watching a treasure, and his ears open to all what was said
around him. As to his other qualities, he seemed quiet and well off, for
he possessed a watch with a gold chain; and one day, Marcel, meeting
him at the bar, caught him in the act of changing a louis to pay his
score. From that moment, the four friends designated him by the name of
"The Capitalist."

Suddenly Schaunard, who had very good eyes, remarked that the glasses
were empty.

"Yes," exclaimed Rodolphe, "and this is Christmas Eve! We are good
Christians, and ought to have something extra."

"Yes, indeed," added Marcel, "let's call for something supernatural."

"Colline," continued Rodolphe, "ring a little for the waiter."

Colline rang like one possessed.

"What shall we have?" asked Marcel.

Colline made a low bow and pointed to the women.

"It is the business of these ladies to regulate the nature and order of
our refreshment."

"I," said Musette, smacking her lips, "should not be afraid of
Champagne."

"Are you crazy?" exclaimed Marcel. "Champagne! That isn't wine to begin
with."

"So much the worse; I like it, it makes a noise."

"I," said Mimi, with a coaxing look at Rodolphe, "would like some
Beaune, in a little basket."

"Have you lost your senses?" said Rodolphe.

"No, but I want to lose them," replied Mimi. The poet was thunderstruck.

"I," said Phemie, dancing herself on the elastic sofa, "would rather
have parfait amour; it's good for the stomach."

Schaunard articulated, in a nasal tone, some words which made Phemie
tremble on her spring foundation.

"Bah!" said Marcel, recovering himself the first. "Let us spend a
hundred francs for this once!"

"Yes," said Rodolphe, "they complain of our not being good customers.
Let's astonish them!"

"Ay," said Colline, "let us give ourselves up to the delights of a
splendid banquet! Do we not owe passive obedience to these ladies? Love
lies on devotion; wine is the essence of pleasure, pleasure the duty of
youth; women are flowers and must be moistened. Moisten away! Waiter,
waiter!" and Colline hung upon the bell rope with feverish excitement.

Swift as the wind, the waiter came. When he heard talk of Champagne,
Burgundy, and various liqueurs, his physiognomy ran through a whole
gamut of astonishment. But there was more to come.

"I have a hole in my inside," said Mimi. "I should like some ham."

"And I some sardines, and bread and butter," struck in Musette.

"And I, radishes," quoth Phemie, "and a little meat with them."

"We should have no objection," answered they.

"Waiter!" quoth Colline, gravely, "bring us all that is requisite for a
good supper."

The waiter turned all the colors of the rainbow. He descended slowly to
the bar, and informed his master of the extraordinary orders he had
received.

The landlord took it for a joke; but on a new summons from the bell, he
ascended himself and addressed Colline, for whom he had a certain
respect. Colline explained to him that they wished to see Christmas in
at his house, and that he would oblige them by serving what they had
asked for. Momus made no answer, but backed out, twisting his napkin.
For a quarter of an hour he held a consultation with his wife, who,
thanks to her liberal education at the St. Denis Convent, fortunately
had a weakness for arts and letters, and advised him to serve the
supper.

"To be sure," said the landlord, "they may have money for once, by
chance."

So he told the waiter to take up whatever they asked for, and then
plunged into a game of piquet with an old customer. Fatal imprudence!

From ten to twelve the waiter did nothing but run up and downstairs.
Every moment he was asked for something more. Musette would eat English
fashion, and change her fork at every mouthful. Mimi drank all sorts of
wine, in all sorts of glasses. Schaunard had a quenchless Sahara in his
throat. Colline played a crossfire with his eyes, and while munching his
napkin, as his habit was, kept pinching the leg of the table, which he
took for Phemie's knee. Marcel and Rodolphe maintained the stirrups of
self-possession, expecting the catastrophe, not without anxiety.

The stranger regarded the scene with grave curiosity; from time to time
he opened his mouth as if for a smile; then you might have heard a
noise like that of a window which creaks in shutting. It was the
stranger laughing to himself.

At a quarter before twelve the bill was sent up. It amounted to the
enormous sum of twenty five francs and three-quarters.

"Come," said Marcel, "we will draw lots for who shall go and diplomatize
with our host. It is getting serious." They took a set of dominoes; the
highest was to go.

Unluckily, the lot fell upon Schaunard, who was an excellent virtuoso,
but a very bad ambassador. He arrived, too, at the bar just as the
landlord had lost his third game. Momus was in a fearful bad humor, and,
at Schaunard's first words, broke out into a violent rage. Schaunard was
a good musician, but he had an indifferent temper, and he replied by a
double discharge of slang. The dispute grew more and more bitter, till
the landlord went upstairs, swearing that he would be paid, and that no
one should stir until he was. Colline endeavored to interpose his
pacifying oratory; but, on perceiving a napkin which Colline had made
lint of, the host's anger redoubled; and to indemnify himself, he
actually dared to lay profane hands on the philosopher's hazel overcoat
and the ladies' shawls.

A volley of abuse was interchanged by the Bohemians and the irate
landlord.

The women talked to one another of their dresses and their conquests.

At this point the stranger abandoned his impassible attitude; gradually
he rose, made a step forward, then another, and walked as an ordinary
man might do; he approached the landlord, took him aside, and spoke to
him in a low tone. Rodolphe and Marcel followed him with their eyes. At
length, the host went out, saying to the stranger:

"Certainly, I consent, Monsieur Barbemuche, certainly; arrange it with
them yourself."

Monsieur Barbemuche returned to his table to take his hat; put it on,
turned around to the right, and in three steps came close to Rodolphe
and Marcel. He took off his hat, bowed to the men, waved a salute to the
women, pulled out his handkerchief, blew his nose, and began in a feeble
voice:

"Gentlemen, excuse the liberty I am about to take. For a long time, I
have been burning with desire to make your acquaintance, but have never,
till now, found a favorable opportunity. Will you allow me to seize the
present one?"

"Certainly, certainly," said Colline. Rodolphe and Marcel bowed, and
said nothing. The excessive delicacy of Schaunard came nigh spoiling
everything.

"Excuse me, sir," said he briskly, "but you have not the honor of
knowing us, and the usages of society forbid--would you be so good as to
give me a pipeful of tobacco? In other respects I am of my friends'
opinion."

"Gentlemen," continued Barbemuche. "I am a disciple of the fine arts,
like yourselves. So far as I have been able to judge from what I have
heard of your conversation, our tastes are the same. I have a most eager
desire to be a friend of yours, and to be able to find you here every
night. The landlord is a brute: but I said a word to him, and you are
quite free to go. I trust you will not refuse me the opportunity of
finding you here again, by accepting this slight service."

A blush of indignation mounted to Schaunard's face. "He is speculating
on our condition," said he. "We cannot accept. He has paid our bill. I
will play him at billiards for the twenty five francs and give him
points."

Barbemuche accepted his proposition, and had the good sense to lose.
This gained him the esteem of the party. They broke up with the
understanding that they were to meet next day.

"Now," said Schaunard, "our dignity is saved. We owe him nothing."

"We can almost ask him for another supper," said Colline.




CHAPTER XII

A BOHEMIAN "AT HOME"


The night when he paid out of his own purse for the supper consumed at
the cafe, Barbemuche managed to make Colline accompany him. Since his
first presence at the meetings of the four friends whom he had relieved
from their embarrassing position, Carolus had especially remarked
Gustave, and already felt an attractive sympathy for this Socrates
whose Plato he was destined to become. It was for this reason he had
chosen him to be his introducer. On the way, Barbemuche proposed that
they should enter a cafe which was still open, and take something to
drink. Not only did Colline refuse, but he doubled his speed in passing
the cafe, and carefully pulled down his hyperphysic hat over his face.

"But why won't you come in?" politely asked the other.

"I have my reasons," replied Colline. "There is a barmaid in that
establishment who is very much addicted to the exact sciences, and I
could not help having a long discussion with her, to avoid which I
never pass through this street at noon, or any other time of day. To
tell you the truth," added he innocently, "I once lived with Marcel in
this neighborhood."

"Still I should be very glad to offer you a glass of punch, and have a
few minutes' talk with you. Is there no other place in the vicinity
where you could step in without being hindered by any mathematical
difficulties?" asked Barbemuche, who thought it a good opportunity for
saying something very clever.

Colline mused an instant. "There is a little place here," he said,
pointing to a wine shop, "where I stand on a better footing."

Barbemuche made a face, and seemed to hesitate. "Is it a respectable
place?" he demanded.

His cold and reserved attitude, his limited conversation, his discreet
smile, and especially his watch chain with charms on it, all led Colline
to suppose that Barbemuche was a clerk in some embassy, and that he
feared to compromise himself by going into some wine shop.

"There is no danger of anyone seeing us," said he. "All the diplomatic
body is in bed by this time."

Barbemuche made up his mind to go in, though at the bottom of his heart
he would have given a good deal for a false nose. For greater security,
he insisted on having a private room, and took care to fasten a napkin
before the glass door of it. These precautions taken, he appeared more
at ease, and called for a bowl of punch. Excited a little by the
generous beverage, Barbemuche became more communicative, and, after
giving some autobiographical details, made bold to express the hope he
had conceived of being personally admitted a member of the Bohemian
Club, for the accomplishment of which ambitious design he solicited the
aid of Colline.

Colline replied that, for his part, he was entirely at the service of
Barbemuche, but, nevertheless, he could make no positive promise. "I
assure you of my vote," said he. "But I cannot take it upon me to
dispose of those of my comrades."

"But," asked Barbemuche, "for what reasons could they refuse to admit me
among them?"

Colline put down the glass which he was just lifting to his mouth, and,
in a very serious tone, addressed the rash Carolus, saying, "You
cultivate the fine arts?"

"I labor humble in those noble fields of intelligence," replied the
other, who felt bound to hang out the colors of his style.

Colline found the phrase well turned, and bowed in acknowledgment.

"You understand music?" he continued.

"I have played on the bass-viol."

"A very philosophical instrument. Then, if you understand music, you
also understand that one cannot, without violation of the laws of
harmony, introduce a fifth performer into a quartet; it would cease to
be a quartet."

"Exactly, and become a quintet."

"A quintet, very well, now attend to me. You understand astronomy?"

"A little, I'm a bachelor of arts."

"There is a little song about that," said Colline. "'Dear bachelor, says
Lisette'--I have forgotten the tune. Well then, you know that there are
four cardinal points. Now suppose there were to turn up a fifth cardinal
point, all the harmony of nature would be upset. What they call a
cataclysm--you understand?"

"I am waiting for the conclusion," said Carolus, whose intelligence
began to be a little shaky.

"The conclusion--yes, that is the end of the argument, as death is the
end of life, and marriage of love. Well, my dear sir, I and my friends
are accustomed to live together, and we fear to impair, by the
introduction of another person, the harmony which reigns in our habits,
opinions, tastes, and dispositions. To speak frankly, we are going to
be, some day, the four cardinal points of contemporary art; accustomed
to this idea, it would annoy us to see a fifth point."

"Nevertheless," suggested Carolus, "where you are four it is easy to be
five."

"Yes, but then we cease to be four."

"The objection is a trivial one."

"There is nothing trivial in this world; little brooks make great
rivers; little syllables make big verses; the very mountains are made of
grains of sand--so says 'The Wisdom of Nations,' of which there is a
copy on the quay--tell me, my dear sir, which is the furrow that you
usually follow in the noble fields of intelligence?"

"The great philosophers and the classic authors are my models. I live
upon their study. 'Telemachus' first inspired the consuming passion I
feel."

"'Telemachus'--there are lots of him on the quay," said Colline. "You
can find him there at any time. I have bought him for five sous--a
second-hand copy--I would consent to part with it to oblige you. In
other respects, it is a great work; very well got up, considering the
age."

"Yes, sir," said Carolus. "I aspire to high philosophy and sound
literature. According to my idea, art is a priesthood--."

"Yes, yes," said Colline. "There's a song about that too," and he began
to hum....

    "Art's a priesthood, art's a priesthood,"

to the air of the drinking song in "Robert the Devil."

"I say, then, that art being a solemn mission, writers ought, above all
things--"

"Excuse me," said Colline, who heard one of the small hours striking,
"but it's getting to be tomorrow morning very fast."

"It is late, in fact," said Carolus. "Let us go."

"Do you live far off?"

"Rue Royale St. Honore, No. 10."

Colline had once had occasion to visit this house, and remembered that
it was a splendid private mansion.

"I will mention you to my friends," said he to Carolus on parting, "and
you may be sure that I shall use all my influence to make them favorably
disposed to you. Ah, let me give you one piece of advice."

"Go on," said the other.

"Be very amiable and polite to Mademoiselles Mimi, Musette and Phemie;
these ladies exercise an authority over my friends, and by managing to
bring their mistresses' influence to bear upon them you will contrive
far more easily to obtain what you require from Marcel, Schaunard and
Rodolphe."

"I'll try," said Carolus.

Next day, Colline tumbled in upon the Bohemian association. It was the
hour of breakfast, and for a wonder, breakfast had come with the hour.
The three couples were at table, feasting on artichokes and pepper
sauce.

"The deuce!" exclaimed the philosopher. "This can't last, or the world
would come to an end. I arrive," he continued, "as the ambassador of the
generous mortal whom we met last night."

"Can he be sending already to ask for his money again?" said Marcel.

"It has nothing to do with that," replied Colline. "This young man
wishes to be one of us; to have stock in our society, and share the
profits, of course."

The three men raised their heads and looked at one another.

"That's all," concluded Colline. "Now the question is open."

"What is the social position of your principal?" asked Rodolphe.

"He is no principal of mine," answered the other. "Last night he begged
me to accompany him, and overflowed me with attentions and good liquor
for a while. But I have retained my independence."

"Good," said Schaunard.

"Sketch us some leading features of his character," said Marcel.

"Grandeur of soul, austerity of manners, afraid to go into wine shops,
bachelor of arts, candid as a transparency, plays on the bass-viol, is
disposed to change a five franc piece occasionally."

"Good again!" said Schaunard.

"What are his hopes?"

"As I told you already, his ambition knows no bounds; he aspires to be
'hail-fellow-well-met' with us."

"That is to say," answered Marcel, "he wishes to speculate upon us, and
to be seen riding in our carriages."

"What is his profession?" asked Rodolphe.

"Yes," said Marcel, "what does he play on?"

"Literature and mixed philosophy. He calls art a priesthood."

"A priesthood!" cried Rodolphe, in terror.

"So he says."

"And what is his road in literature?"

"He goes after 'Telemachus'."

"Very good," said Schaunard, eating the seed of his artichoke.

"Very good! You dummy!" broke our Marcel. "I advise you not to say that
in the street."

Schaunard relieved his annoyance at this reproof by kicking Phemie under
the table for taking some of his sauce.

"Once more," said Rodolphe. "What is his condition in the world? What
does he live on, and where does he live? And what is his name?"

"His station is honorable. He is professor of everything in a rich
family. His name is Carolus Barbemuche. He spends his income in
luxurious living and dwells in the Rue Royale."

"Furnished lodging?"

"No, there is real furniture."

"I claim the floor," said Marcel. "To me it is evident that Colline has
been corrupted. He has already sold his vote for so many drinks. Don't
interrupt me! (Colline was rising to protest.) You shall have your
turn. Colline, mercenary soul that he is, has presented to you this
stranger under an aspect too favorable to be true. I told you before; I
see through this person's designs. He wants to speculate on us. He says
to himself, 'Here are some chaps making their way. I must get into their
pockets. I shall arrive with them at the goal of fame.'"

"Bravo!" quoth Schaunard, "have you any more sauce there?"

"No," replied Rodolphe, "the edition is out of print."

"Looking at the question from another point of view," continued Marcel,
"this insidious mortal whom Colline patronizes, perhaps aspires to our
intimacy only from the most culpable motives. Gentlemen, we are not
alone here!" continued the orator, with an eloquent look at the women.
"And Colline's client, smuggling himself into our circle under the cloak
of literature, may perchance be but a vile seducer. Reflect! For one, I
vote against his reception."

"I demand the floor," said Rodolphe, "only for a correction. In his
remarkable extemporary speech, Marcel has said that this Carolus, with
the view of dishonoring us, wished to introduce himself under the cloak
of literature."

"A Parliamentary figure."

"A very bad figure; literature has no cloak!"

"Having made a report, as chairman of committee," resumed Colline,
rising, "I maintain the conclusions therein embodied. The jealousy which
consumes him disturbs the reason of our friend Marcel; the great artist
is beside himself."

"Order!" cried Marcel.

"So much so, that, able designer as he is, he has just introduced into
his speech a figure the incorrectness of which has been ably pointed out
by the talented orator who preceded me."

"Colline is an ass!" shouted Marcel, with a bang of his fist on the
table that caused a lively sensation among the plates. "Colline knows
nothing in an affair of sentiment; he is incompetent to judge of such
matters; he has an old book in place of a heart."

Prolonged laughter from Schaunard. During the row, Colline kept gravely
adjusting the folds of his white cravat as if to make way for the
torrents of eloquence contained beneath them. When silence was
reestablished, he thus continued:

"Gentlemen, I intend with one word to banish from your minds the
chimerical apprehensions which the suspicions of Marcel may have
engendered in them respecting Carolus."

"Oh, yes!" said Marcel ironically.

"It will be as easy as that," continued Colline, blowing the match with
which he had lighted his pipe.

"Go on! Go on!" cried Schaunard, Rodolphe, and the women together.

"Gentlemen! Although I have been personally and violently attacked in
this meeting, although I have been accused of selling for base liquors
the influence which I possess; secure in a good conscience I shall not
deign to reply to those assaults on my probity, my loyalty, my morality.
[Sensation.] But there is one thing which I will have respected. [Here
the orator, endeavoring to lay his hand on his heart, gave himself a rap
in the stomach.] My well tried and well known prudence has been called
in question. I have been accused of wishing to introduce among you a
person whose intentions were hostile to your happiness--in matters of
sentiment. This supposition is an insult to the virtue of these
ladies--nay more, an insult to their good taste. Carolus Barbemuche is
decidedly ugly." [Visible denial on the face of Phemie; noise under the
table; it is Schaunard kicking her by way of correcting her compromising
frankness.]

"But," proceeded Colline, "what will reduce to powder the contemptible
argument with which my opponent has armed himself against Carolus by
taking advantage of your terrors, is the fact that the said Carolus is a
Platonist." [Sensation among the men; uproar among the women.]

This declaration of Colline's produced a reaction in favor of Carolus.
The philosopher wished to improve the effect of his eloquent and adroit
defense.

"Now then," he continued, "I do not see what well founded prejudices can
exist against this young man, who, after all, has rendered us a service.
As to myself, who am accused of acting thoughtlessly in wishing to
introduce him among us, I consider this opinion an insult to my dignity.
I have acted in the affair with the wisdom of the serpent; if a formal
vote does not maintain me this character for prudence, I offer my
resignation."

"Do you make it a cabinet question?" asked Marcel.

"I do."

The three consulted, and agreed by common consent to restore to the
philosopher that high reputation for prudence which he claimed. Colline
then gave the floor to Marcel, who, somewhat relieved of his prejudices,
declared that he might perhaps favor the adoption of the report. But
before the decisive and final vote which should open to Carolus the
intimacy of the club, he put to the meeting this amendment:

     "WHEREAS, the introduction of a new member into our society is a
      grave matter, and a stranger might bring with him some elements of
      discord through ignorance of the habits, tempers, and opinions of
      his comrades,

      RESOLVED, that each member shall pass a say with the said Carolus,
      and investigate his manner of life, tastes, literary capacity, and
      wardrobe. The members shall afterward communicate their several
      impressions, and ballot on his admission accordingly. Moreover,
      before complete admission, the said Carolus shall undergo a
      noviciate of one month, during which time he shall not have the
      right to call us by our first names or take our arm in the street.
      On the day of reception, a splendid banquet shall be given at the
      expense of the new member, at a cost of not less than twelve
      francs."

This amendment was adopted by three votes against one. The same night
Colline went to the cafe early on purpose to be the first to see
Carolus. He had not long to wait for him. Barbemuche soon appeared,
carrying in his hand three huge bouquets of roses.

"Hullo!" cried the astonished Colline. "What do you mean to do with that
garden?"

"I remember what you told me yesterday. Your friends will doubtless
come with their ladies, and it is on their account that I bring these
flowers--very handsome ones."

"That they are; they must have cost fifteen sous, at least."

"In the month of December! If you said fifteen francs you would have
come nearer."

"Heavens!" cried Colline, "three crowns for these simple gifts of flora!
You must be related to the Cordilleras. Well my dear sir, that is
fifteen francs which we must throw out of the window."

It was Barbemuche's turn to be astonished. Colline related the jealous
suspicions with which Marcel had inspired his friends, and informed
Carolus of the violent discussion which had taken place between them
that morning on the subject of his admission.

"I protested," said Colline, "that your intentions were the purest, but
there was strong opposition nevertheless. Beware of renewing these
suspicions by much politeness to the ladies; and to begin, let us put
these bouquets out of the way." He took the roses and hid them in a
cupboard. "But this is not all," he resumed. "Before connecting
themselves intimately with you, these gentlemen desire to make a
private examination, each for himself, of your character, tastes, etc."

Then, lest Barbemuche might do something to shock his friends, Colline
rapidly sketched a moral portrait of each of them. "Contrive to agree
with them separately," added the philosopher, "and they will end by all
liking you."

Carolus agreed to everything. The three friends soon arrived with their
friends of the other sex. Rodolphe was polite to Carolus, Schaunard
familiar with him, while Marcel remained cold. Carolus forced himself to
be gay and amiable with the men and indifferent to the women. When they
broke up for the night, he asked Rodolphe to dine with him the next day,
and to come as early as noon. The poet accepted, saying to himself,
"Good! I am to begin the inquiry, then."

Next morning at the hour appointed, he called on Carolus, who did indeed
live in a very handsome private house, where he occupied a sufficiently
comfortable room. But Rodolphe was surprised to find at that time of day
the shutters closed, the curtains drawn, and two lighted candles on the
table. He asked Barbemuche the reason.

"Study," replied the other, "is the child of mystery and silence."

They sat down and talked. At the end of an hour, Carolus, with infinite
oratorial address, brought in a phrase which, despite its humble form,
was neither more nor less than a summons made to Rodolphe to hear a
little work, the fruit of Barbemuche's vigils.

The poet saw himself caught. Curious, however, to learn the color of the
other's style, he bowed politely, assured him that he was enchanted,
that Carolus did not wait for him to finish the sentence. He ran to bolt
the door, and then took up a small memorandum book, the thinness of
which brought a smile of satisfaction to the poet's face.

"Is that the manuscript of your work?" he asked.

"No," replied Carolus. "It is the catalog of my manuscripts and I am
looking for the one which you will allow me to read you. Here it is:
'Don Lopez or Fatality No. 14.' It's on the third shelf," and he
proceeded to open a small closet in which Rodolphe perceived, with
terror, a great quantity of manuscripts. Carolus took out one of these,
shut the closet, and seated himself in front of the poet.

Rodolphe cast a glance at one of the four piles of elephant paper of
which the work was composed. "Come," said he to himself, "it's not in
verse, but it's called 'Don Lopez.'"

Carolus began to read:

"On a cold winter night, two cavaliers, enveloped in large cloaks, and
mounted on sluggish mules, were making their way side by side over one
of the roads which traverse the frightful solitudes of the Sierra
Morena."

"May the Lord have mercy on me!" ejaculated Rodolphe mentally.

Carolus continued to read his first chapter, written in the style above
throughout. Rodolphe listened vaguely, and tried to devise some means of
escape.

"There is the window, but it's fastened; and beside, we are in the
fourth story. Ah, now I understand all these precautions."

"What do you think of my first chapter?" asked Carolus. "Do not spare
any criticism, I beg of you."

Rodolphe thought he remembered having heard some scraps of philosophical
declamation upon suicide, put forth by the hero of the romance, Don
Lopez, to wit; so he replied at hazard:

"The grand figure of Don Lopez is conscientiously studied; it reminds me
of 'Savoyard Vicar's Confession of Faith;' the description of Don
Alvar's mule pleases me exceedingly; it is like a sketch of Gericault's.
There are good lines in the landscape; as to the thoughts, they are
seeds of Rousseau planted in the soil of Lesage. Only allow me to make
one observation: you use too many stops, and you work the word
henceforward too hard. It is a good word, and gives color, but should
not be abused."

Carolus took up a second pile of paper, and repeated the title "Don
Lopez or, Fatality."

"I knew a Don Lopez once," said Rodolphe. "He used to sell cigarettes
and Bayonne chocolate. Perhaps he was a relative of your man. Go on."

At the conclusion of the second chapter, the poet interrupted his host:

"Don't you feel your throat a little dry?" he inquired.

"Not at all," replied Carolus. "We are coming to the history of
Inesilla."

"I am very curious to hear it, nevertheless, if you are tired--"

"Chapter third!" enunciated Carolus in a voice that gave no signs of
fatigue.

Rodolphe took a careful survey of Barbemuche and perceived that he had a
short neck and a ruddy complexion. "I have one hope left," thought the
poet on making this discovery. "He may have an attack of apoplexy."

"Will you be so good as to tell me what you think of the love scene?"

Carolus looked at Rodolphe to observe in his face what effect the
dialogue produced upon him. The poet was bending forward on his chair,
with his neck stretched out in the attitude of one who is listening for
some distant sound.

"What's the matter with you?"

"Hist!" said Rodolphe, "don't you hear? I thought somebody cried fire!
Suppose we go and see."

Carolus listened an instant but heard nothing.

"It must have been a ringing in my ears," said the other. "Go on, Don
Alvar interests me exceedingly; he is a noble youth."

Carolus continued with all the music that he could put into his voice:

"Oh Inesilla! Whatever thou art, angel or demon; and whatever be thy
country, my life is thine, and thee will follow, be it to heaven or
hell!"

Someone knocked at the door.

"It's my porter," said Barbemuche, half opening the door.

It was indeed the porter with a letter. "What an unlucky chance!" cried
Carolus, after he had perused it. "We must put off our reading until some
other time. I have to go out immediately. If you please, we will execute
this little commission together, as it is nothing private, and then we
can come back to dinner."

"There," thought Rodolphe, "is a letter that has fallen from heaven. I
recognize the seal of Providence."

When he rejoined the comrades that night, the poet was interrogated by
Marcel and Schaunard.

"Did he treat you well?" they asked.

"Yes, but I paid dear for it."

"How? Did Carolus make you pay?" demanded Schaunard with rising choler.

"He read a novel at me, inside of which the people are named Don Lopez
and Don Alvar; and the tenors call their mistresses 'angel,' or
'demon.'"

"How shocking!" cried the Bohemians, in chorus.

"But otherwise," said Colline, "literature apart, what is your opinion
of him?"

"A very nice young man. You can judge for yourselves; Carolus means to
treat us all in turn; he invites Schaunard to breakfast with him
tomorrow. Only look out for the closet with the manuscripts in it."

Schaunard was punctual and went to work with the minuteness of an
auctioneer taking an inventory, or a sheriff levying an execution.
Accordingly he came back full of notes; he had studied Carolus chiefly
in respect of movables and worldly goods.

"This Barbemuche," he said, on being asked his opinion, "is a lump of
good qualities. He knows the names of all the wines that were ever
invented, and made me eat more nice things than my aunt ever did on her
birthday. He is on very good terms with the tailors in the Rue
Vivienne, and the bootmakers of the Passage des Panoramas; and I have
observed that he is nearly our size, so that, in case of need, we can
lend him our clothes. His habits are less austere than Colline chose to
represent them; he went wherever I pleased to take him, and gave me
breakfast in two acts, the second of which went off in a tavern by the
fish market where I am known for some Carnival orgies. Well, Carolus
went in there as any ordinary mortal might, and that's all. Marcel goes
tomorrow."

Carolus knew that Marcel was the one who had made the most objections to
his reception. Accordingly, he treated him with particular attention,
and especially won his heart by holding out the hope of procuring him
some sitters in the family of his pupil. When it came to Marcel's turn
to make his report, there were no traces of his original hostility to
Carolus.

On the fourth day, Colline informed Barbemuche that he was admitted, but
under conditions. "You have a number of vulgar habits," he said, "which
must be reformed."

"I shall do my best to imitate you," said Carolus.

During the whole time of his noviciate the Platonic philosopher kept
company with the Bohemians continually, and was thus enabled to study
their habits more thoroughly, not without being very much astonished at
times. One morning, Colline came to see him with a joyful face.

"My dear fellow," he said, "it's all over; you are now definitely one of
us. It only remains to fix the day and the place of the grand
entertainment; I have come to talk with you about it."

"That can be arranged with perfect ease," said Carolus. "The parents of
my pupil are out of town; the young viscount, whose mentor I am, will
lend us the apartments for an evening, only we must invite him to the
party."

"That will be very nice," replied Colline. "We will open to him the
vistas of literature; but do you think he will consent?"

"I am sure of it."

"Then it only remains to fix the day."

"We will settle that tonight at the cafe."

Carolus then went to find his pupil and announced to him that he had
just been elected into a distinguished society of literary men and
artists, and that he was going to give a dinner, followed by a little
party, to celebrate his admission. He therefore proposed to him to make
him one of the guests. "And since you cannot be out late," added
Carolus, "and the entertainment may last some time, it will be for our
convenience to have it here. Your servant Francois knows how to hold his
tongue; your parents will know nothing of it; and you will have made
acquaintance with some of the cleverest people in Paris, artists and
authors."

"In print?" asked the youth.

"Certainly, one of them edits 'The Scarf of Iris,' which your mother
takes in. They are very distinguished persons, almost celebrities,
intimate friends of mine, and their wives are charming."

"Will there be some women?" asked Viscount Paul.

"Delightful ones," returned Carolus.

"Oh, dear master, I thank you. The entertainment shall certainly take
place here. All the lustres shall be lit up, and I will have the
wrappers taken off the furniture."

That night at the cafe, Barbemuche announced that the party would come
off next Saturday. The Bohemians told their mistresses to think about
their toilettes.

"Do not forget," said they, "that we are going into the real drawing
rooms. Therefore, make ready; a rich but simple costume."

And from that day all the neighborhood was informed that Mademoiselles
Phemie, Mimi, and Musette were going into society.

On the morning of the festivity, Colline, Schaunard, Marcel, and
Rodolphe called, in a body, on Barbemuche, who looked astonished to see
them so early.

"Has anything happened which will oblige us to put it off?" he asked
with some anxiety.

"Yes--that is, no," said Colline. "This is how we are placed. Among
ourselves we never stand on ceremony, but when we are to meet strangers,
we wish to preserve a certain decorum."

"Well?" said the other.

"Well," continued Colline, "since we are to meet tonight, the young
gentleman to whom we are indebted for the rooms, out of respect to him
and to ourselves, we come simply to ask you if you cannot lend us some
becoming toggery. It is almost impossible, you see, for us to enter this
gorgeous roof in frock-coats and colored trousers."

"But," said Carolus, "I have not black clothes for all of you."

"We will make do with what you have," said Colline.

"Suit yourselves then," said Carolus, opening a well-furnished wardrobe.

"What an arsenal of elegancies!" said Marcel.

"Three hats!" exclaimed Schaunard, in ecstasy. "Can a man want three
hats when he had but one head?"

"And the boots!" said Rodolphe, "only look!"

"What a number of boots!" howled Colline.

In a twinkling of an eye each had selected a complete equipment.

"Till this evening," said they, taking leave of Barbemuche. "The ladies
intend to be most dazzling."

"But," said Barbemuche, casting a glance at the emptied wardrobe. "You
have left me nothing. What am I to wear?"

"Ah, it's different with you," said Rodolphe. "You are the master of the
house; you need not stand upon etiquette."

"But I have only my dressing gown and slippers, flannel waistcoat and
trousers with stocking feet. You have taken everything."

"Never mind; we excuse you beforehand," replied the four.

A very good dinner was served at six. The company arrived, Marcel
limping and out of humor. The young viscount rushed up to the ladies and
led them to the best seats. Mimi was dressed with fanciful elegance;
Musette got up with seductive taste; Phemie looked like a stained glass
window, and hardly dared sit down.

The dinner lasted two hours and a half, and was delightfully lively. The
young viscount, who sat next to Mimi, kept treading on her foot. Phemie
took twice of every dish. Schaunard was in clover. Rodolphe improvised
sonnets and broke glasses in marking the rhyme. Colline talked to
Marcel, who remained sulky.

"What is the matter with you?" asked the philosopher.

"My feet are in torture; this Carolus has boots like a woman's."

"He must be given to understand that, for the future, some of his shoes
are to be made a little larger. Be easy, I will see to it. But now to
the drawing room, where the coffee and liquers await us."

The revelry recommenced with increased noise. Schaunard seated himself
at the piano and executed, with immense spirit, his new symphony, "The
Death of the Damsel." To this succeeded the characteristic piece of "The
Creditor's March," which was twice encored, and two chords of the piano
were broken.

Marcel was still morose, and replied to the complaints and
expostulations of Carolus:

"My dear sir, we shall never be intimate friends, and for this reason:
Physical differences are almost always the certain sign of a moral
difference; on this point philosophy and medicine agree."

"Well?" said Carolus.

"Well," continued Marcel, showing his feet, "your boots, infinitely too
small for me, indicate a radical difference of temper and character; in
other respects, your little party has been charming."

At one in the morning the guests took leave, and zig-zagged homeward.
Barbemuche felt very ill, and made incoherent harangues to his pupil,
who, for his part, was dreaming of Mademoiselle Mimi's blue eyes.




CHAPTER XIII

THE HOUSE WARMING


This took place some time after the union of the poet Rodolphe and
Mademoiselle Mimi. For a week the whole of the Bohemian brotherhood
were grievously perturbed by the disappearance of Rodolphe, who had
suddenly become invisible. They had sought for him in all his customary
haunts, and had everywhere been met by the same reply--

"We have not seen him for a week."

Gustave Colline above all was very uneasy, and for the following reason.
A few days previously he had handed to Rodolphe a highly philosophical
article, which the latter was to insert in the columns of "The Beaver,"
the organ of the hat trade, of which he was editor. Had this
philosophical article burst upon the gaze of astonished Europe? Such
was the query put to himself by the astonished Colline, and this anxiety
will be understood when it is explained that the philosopher had never
yet had the honor of appearing in print, and that he was consumed by the
desire of seeing what effect would be produced by his prose in pica. To
procure himself this gratification he had already expended six francs in
visiting all the reading rooms of Paris without being able to find "The
Beaver" in any one of them. Not being able to stand it any longer,
Colline swore to himself that he would not take a moment's rest until he
had laid hands on the undiscoverable editor of this paper.

Aided by chances which it would take too long to tell in detail, the
philosopher was able to keep his word. Within two days he learned
Rodolphe's abiding place and called on him there at six in the morning.

Rodolphe was then residing in a lodging house in a deserted street
situated in the Faubourg Saint Germain, and was perched on the fifth
floor because there was not a sixth. When Colline came to his door there
was no key in the lock outside. He knocked for ten minutes without
obtaining any answer from within; the din he made at this early hour
attracted the attention of even the porter, who came to ask him to be
quiet.

"You see very well that the gentleman is asleep," said he.

"That is why I want to wake him up," replied Colline, knocking again.

"He does not want to answer then," replied the porter, placing before
Rodolphe's door a pair of patent leather boots and a pair of lady's
boots that he had just cleaned.

"Wait a bit though," observed Colline, examining the masculine and
feminine foot gear. "New patent leathers! I must have made a mistake; it
cannot be here."

"Yes, by the way," said the porter, "whom do you want?"

"A woman's boots!" continued Colline, speaking to himself, and thinking
of his friends austere manners, "Yes, certainly I must have made a
mistake. This is not Rodolphe's room."

"I beg your pardon, sir, it is."

"You must be making a mistake, my good man."

"What do you mean?"

"Decidedly you must be making a mistake," said Colline, pointing to the
patent leather boots. "What are those?"

"Those are Monsieur Rodolphe's boots. What is there to be wondered at in
that?"

"And these?" asked Colline, pointing to the lady's boots. "Are they
Monsieur Rodolphe's too?"

"Those are his wife's," said the porter.

"His wife's!" exclaimed Colline in a tone of stupefaction. "Ah! The
voluptuary, that is why he will not open the door."

"Well," said the porter, "he is free to do as he likes about that, sir.
If you will leave me your name I will let him know you called."

"No," said Colline. "Now that I know where to find him I will call
again."

And he at once went off to tell the important news to his friends.

Rodolphe's patent leathers were generally considered to be a fable due
to Colline's wealth of imagination, and it was unanimously declared that
his mistress was a paradox.

This paradox was, however, a truism, for that very evening Marcel
received a letter collectively addressed to the whole of the set. It was
as follows:--

"Monsieur and Madame Rodolphe, literati, beg you to favor them with your
company at dinner tomorrow evening at five o'clock sharp."

"N.B.--There will be plates."

"Gentlemen," said Marcel, when communicating the letter to his comrades,
"the news is confirmed, Rodolphe has really a mistress; further he
invites us to dinner, and the postscript promises crockery. I will not
conceal from you that this last paragraph seems to me a lyrical
exaggeration, but we shall see."

The following day at the hour named, Marcel, Gustave Colline, and
Alexander Schaunard, keen set as on the last day of Lent, went to
Rodolphe's, whom they found playing with a sandy haired cat, whilst a
young woman was laying the table.

"Gentlemen," said Rodolphe, shaking his friends' hands and indicating
the young lady, "allow me to introduce you to the mistress of the
household."

"You are the household, are you not?" said Colline, who had a mania for
this kind of joke.

"Mimi," replied Rodolphe, "I present my best friends; now go and get the
soup ready."

"Oh madame," said Alexander Schaunard, hastening towards Mimi, "you are
as fresh as a wild flower."

After having satisfied himself that there were really plates on the
table, Schaunard asked what they were going to have to eat. He even
carried his curiosity so far as to lift up the covers of the stewpans in
which the dinner was cooking. The presence of a lobster produced a
lively impression upon him.

As to Colline, he had drawn Rodolphe aside to ask about his
philosophical article.

"My dear fellow, it is at the printer's. 'The Beaver' appears next
Thursday."

We give up the task of depicting the philosopher's delight.

"Gentlemen," said Rodolphe to his friends. "I ask your pardon for
leaving you so long without any news of me, but I was spending my
honeymoon." And he narrated the story of his union with the charming
creature who had brought him as a dowry her eighteen years and a half,
two porcelain cups, and a sandy haired cat named Mimi, like herself.

"Come, gentlemen," said Rodolphe, "we are going to celebrate my house
warming. I forewarn you, though, that we are about to have merely a
family repast; truffles will be replaced by frank cordiality."

Indeed, that amiable goddess did not cease to reign amongst the guests,
who found, however, that the so-called frugal repast did not lack a
certain amplitude. Rodolphe, indeed, had spread himself out. Colline
called attention to the fact that the plates were changed, and declared
aloud that Mademoiselle Mimi was worthy of the azure scarf with which
the empresses of the cooking stove were adorned, a phrase which was
Greek to the young girl, and which Rodolphe translated by telling her
"that she would make a capital Cordon Bleu."

The appearance on the scene of the lobster caused universal admiration.
Under the pretext that he had studied natural history, Schaunard
suggested that he should carve it. He even profited by this circumstance
to break a knife and to take the largest helping for himself, which
excited general indignation. But Schaunard had no self respect, above
all in the matter of lobsters, and as there was still a portion left, he
had the audacity to put it on one side, saying that he would do for a
model for a still life piece he had on hand.

Indulgent friendship feigned to believe this fiction, but fruit of
immoderate gluttony.

As to Colline he reserved his sympathies for the dessert, and was even
obstinate enough to cruelly refuse the share of a tipsy cake against a
ticket of admission to the orangery of Versailles offered to him by
Schaunard.

At this point conversation began to get lively. To three bottles with
red seals succeeded three bottles with green seals, in the midst of
which shortly appeared one which by its neck topped with a silver
helmet, was recognized as belonging to the Royal Champagne Regiment--a
fantastic Champagne vintaged by Saint Ouen, and sold in Paris at two
francs the bottle as bankrupt's stock, so the vendor asserted.

But it is not the district that makes the wine, and our Bohemians
accepted as the authentic growth of Ai the liquor that was served out to
them in the appropriate glasses, and despite the scant degree of
vivacity shown by the cork in popping from its prison, went into
ecstacies over the excellence of the vintage on seeing the quality of
the froth. Schaunard summoned up all his remaining self-possession to
make a mistake as regards glasses, and help himself to that of Colline,
who kept gravely dipping his biscuit in the mustard pot as he explained
to Mademoiselle Mimi the philosophical article that was to appear in
"The Beaver." All at once he grew pale, and asked leave to go to the
window and look at the sunset, although it was ten o'clock at night, and
the sun had set long ago.

"It is a pity the Champagne is not iced," said Schaunard, again trying
to substitute his empty glass for the full one of his neighbor, an
attempt this time without success.

"Madame," observed Colline, who had ceased to take the fresh air, to
Mimi, "Champagne is iced with ice. Ice is formed by the condensation of
water, in Latin aqua. Water freezes at two degrees, and there are four
seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter, which was the cause of the
retreat from Moscow."

All at once Colline suddenly slapped Rodolphe on the shoulder, and in a
thick voice that seemed to mash all the syllables together, said to
him--

"Tomorrow is Thursday, is it not?"

"No," replied Rodolphe. "Tomorrow is Sunday."

"Thursday."

"No, I tell you. Tomorrow is Sunday."

"Sunday!" said Colline, wagging his head, "not a bit of it, it is
Thursday."

And he fell asleep, making a mold for a cast of his face in the cream
cheese that was before him in his plate.

"What is he harping about Thursday?" observed Marcel.

"Ah, I have it!" said Rodolphe, who began to understand the persistency
of the philosopher, tormented by a fixed idea, "it is on account of his
article in 'The Beaver.' Listen, he is dreaming of it aloud."

"Good," said Schaunard. "He shall not have any coffee, eh, madame?"

"By the way," said Rodolphe, "pour out the coffee, Mimi."

The latter was about to rise, when Colline, who had recovered a little
self possession, caught her around the waist and whispered
confidentially in her ear:

"Madame, the coffee plant is a native of Arabia, where it was discovered
by a goat. Its use expanded to Europe. Voltaire used to drink seventy
cups a day. I like mine without sugar, but very hot."

"Good heavens! What a learned man!" thought Mimi as she brought the
coffee and pipes.

However time was getting on, midnight had long since struck, and
Rodolphe sought to make his guests understand that it was time for them
to withdraw. Marcel, who retained all his senses, got up to go.

But Schaunard perceived that there was still some brandy in a bottle,
and declared that it could not be midnight so long as there was any
left. As to Colline, he was sitting astride his chair and murmuring in a
low voice:

"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday."

"Hang it all," said Rodolphe, greatly embarrassed, "I cannot give them
quarters here tonight; formerly it was all very well, but now it is
another thing," he added, looking at Mimi, whose softly kindling eyes
seemed to appeal for solitude for their two selves. "What is to be
done? Give me a bit of advice, Marcel. Invent a trick to get rid of
them."

"No, I won't invent," replied Marcel, "but I will imitate. I remember a
play in which a sharp servant manages to get rid of three rascals as
drunk as Silenus who are at his master's."

"I recollect it," said Rodolphe, "it is in 'Kean.' Indeed, the situation
is the same."

"Well," said Marcel, "we will see if the stage holds the glass up to
human nature. Stop a bit, we will begin with Schaunard. Here, I say,
Schaunard."

"Eh? What is it?" replied the latter, who seemed to be floating in the
elysium of mild intoxication.

"There is nothing more to drink here, and we are all thirsty."

"Yes," said Schaunard, "bottles are so small."

"Well," continued Marcel, "Rodolphe has decided that we shall pass the
night here, but we must go and get something before the shops are
shut."

"My grocer lives at the corner of the street," said Rodolphe. "Do you
mind going there, Schaunard? You can fetch two bottles of rum, to be put
down to me."

"Oh! yes, certainly," said Schaunard, making a mistake in his greatcoat
and taking that of Colline, who was tracing figures on the table cloth
with his knife.

"One," said Marcel, when Schaunard had gone. "Now let us tackle Colline,
that will be a harder job. Ah! an idea. Hi, hi, Colline," he continued,
shaking the philosopher.

"What? what? what is it?"

"Schaunard has just gone, and has taken your hazel overcoat by mistake."

Colline glanced round again, and perceived indeed in the place of his
garment, Schaunard's little plaid overcoat. A sudden idea flashed across
his mind and filled him with uneasiness. Colline, according to his
custom, had been book-hunting during the day, and had bought for fifteen
sous a Finnish grammar and a little novel of Nisard's entitled "The
Milkwoman's Funeral." These two acquisitions were accompanied by seven
or eight volumes of philosophy that he had always about him as an
arsenal whence to draw reasons in case of an argument. The idea of this
library being in the hands of Schaunard threw him into a cold
perspiration.

"The wretch!" exclaimed Colline, "what did he take my greatcoat for?"

"It was by mistake."

"But my books. He may put them to some improper purpose."

"Do not be afraid, he will not read them," said Rodolphe.

"No, but I know him; he is capable of lighting his pipe with them."

"If you are uneasy you can catch him up," said Rodolphe. "He has only
just this moment gone out, you will overtake him at the street door."

"Certainly I will overtake him," replied Colline, putting on his hat,
the brim of which was so broad that tea for six people might have been
served upon it.

"Two," said Marcel to Rodolphe, "now you are free. I am off, and I will
tell the porter not to open the outer door if anyone knocks."

"Goodnight and thanks," said Rodolphe.

As he was showing his friend out Rodolphe heard on the staircase a
prolonged mew, to which his carroty cat replied by another, whilst
trying at the same time to slip out adroitly by the half-opened door.

"Poor Romeo!" said Rodolphe, "there is his Juliet calling him. Come, off
with you," he added opening the door to the enamored beast, who made a
single leap down the stairs into its lover's arms.

Left alone with his mistress, who standing before the glass was curling
her hair in a charmingly provocative attitude, Rodolphe approached Mimi
and passed his arms around her. Then, like a musician, who before
commencing a piece, strikes a series of notes to assure himself of the
capacity of the instrument, Rodolphe drew Mimi onto his knee, and
printed on her shoulder a long and sonorous kiss, which imparted a
sudden vibration to the frame of the youthful beauty.

The instrument was in tune.




CHAPTER XIV

MADEMOISELLE MIMI


Oh! my friend Rodolphe, what has happened to change you thus? Am I to
believe the rumors that are current, and that this misfortune has broken
down to such a degree your robust philosophy? How can I, the historian
in ordinary of your Bohemian epic, so full of joyous bursts of
laughter, narrate in a sufficiently melancholy tone the painful
adventure which casts a veil over your constant gaiety, and suddenly
checks the ringing flow of your paradoxes?

Oh! Rodolphe, my friend, I admit that the evil is serious, but there,
really it is not worthwhile throwing oneself into the water about it. So
I invite you to bury the past as soon as possible. Shun above all the
solitude peopled with phantoms who would help to render your regrets
eternal. Shun the silence where the echoes of recollection would still
be full of your past joys and sorrows. Cast boldly to all the winds of
forgetfulness the name you have so fondly cherished, and with it all
that still remains to you of her who bore it. Curls pressed by lips mad
with desire, a Venice flask in which there still lurks a remainder of
perfume, which at this moment it would be more dangerous for you to
breathe than all the poisons in the world. To the fire with the flowers,
the flowers of gauze, silk and velvet, the white geraniums, the anemones
empurpled by the blood of Adonis, the blue forget-me-nots and all those
charming bouquets that she put together in the far off days of your
brief happiness. Then I loved her too, your Mimi, and saw no danger in
your loving her. But follow my advice--to the fire with the ribbons, the
pretty pink, blue, and yellow ribbons which she wore round her neck to
attract the eye; to the fire with the lace, the caps, the veils and all
the coquettish trifles with which she bedecked herself to go
love-making with Monsieur Cesar, Monsieur Jerome, Monsieur Charles, or
any other gallant in the calendar, whilst you were awaiting her at your
window, shivering from the wintry blast. To the fire, Rodolphe, and
without pity, with all that belonged to her and could still speak to you
of her; to the fire with the love letters. Ah! here is one of them, and
your tears have bedewed it like a fountain. Oh! my unhappy friend!

     "As you have not come in, I am going out to call on my aunt. I have
      taken what money there was for a cab."

     "Lucille."

That evening, oh! Rodolphe, you had, do you not recollect, to go without
your dinner, and you called on me and let off a volley of jests which
fully attested your tranquillity of mind. For you believed Lucille was
at her aunt's, and if I had not told you that she was with Monsieur
Cesar or with an actor of the Montparnasse Theater, you would have cut
my throat! To the fire, too, with this other note, which has all the
laconic affection of the first.

"I am gone out to order some boots, you must find the money for me to
go and fetch them tomorrow."

Ah! my friend, those boots have danced many quadrilles in which you did
not figure as a partner. To the flames with all these remembrances and
to the winds with their ashes.

But in the first place, oh Rodolphe! for the love of humanity and the
reputation of "The Scarf of Iris" and "The Beaver," resume the reins of
good taste that you have egotistically dropped during your sufferings,
or else horrible things may happen for which you will be responsible. We
may go back to leg-of-mutton sleeves and frilled trousers, and some fine
day see hats come into fashion which would afflict the universe and
call down the wrath of heaven.

And now the moment is come to relate the loves of our friend Rodolphe
and Mimi. It was just as he was turned four and twenty that Rodolphe was
suddenly smitten with the passion that had such an influence upon his
life. At the time he met Mimi he was leading that broken and fantastic
existence that we have tried to describe in the preceding chapters of
this book. He was certainly one of the gayest endurers of poverty in the
world of Bohemia. When in course of the day he had made a poor dinner
and a smart remark, he walked more proudly in his black coat (pleading
for help through every gaping seam) along the pavement that often
promised to be his only resting place for the night, than an emperor in
his purple robe. In the group amongst whom Rodolphe lived, they
affected, after a fashion common enough amongst some young fellows, to
treat love as a thing of luxury, a pretext for jesting. Gustave Colline,
who had for a long time past been in intimate relations with a waistcoat
maker, whom he was rendering deformed in mind and body by obliging her
to sit day and night copying the manuscripts of his philosophical works,
asserted that love was a kind of purgative, good to take at the
beginning of each season in order to get rid of humors. Amidst all these
false sceptics Rodolphe was the only one who dared to talk of love with
some reverence, and when they had the misfortune to let him harp on
this string, he would go on for an hour plaintively wurbling elegies on
the happiness of being loved, the deep blue of the peaceful lake, the
song of the breeze, the harmony of the stars, &c., &c. This mania had
caused him to be nicknamed the harmonica by Schaunard. Marcel had also
made on this subject a very neat remark when, alluding to the
Teutonically sentimental tirades of Rodolphe and to his premature
calvity, he called him the bald forget-me-not. The real truth was this.
Rodolphe then seriously believed he had done with all things of youth
and love; he insolently chanted a _De profundis_ over his heart, which
he thought dead when it was only silent, yet still ready to awake, still
accessible to joy, and more susceptible than ever to all the sweet pangs
that he no longer hoped for, and that were now driving him to despair.
You would have it, Rodolphe, and we shall not pity you, for the disease
from which you are suffering is one of those we long for most, above all
when we know that we are cured of it forever.

Rodolphe then met Mimi, whom he had formerly known when she was the
mistress of one of his friends; and he made her his own. There was at
first a great outcry amongst Rodolphe's friends when they learned of
this union, but as Mademoiselle Mimi was very taking, not at all
prudish, and could stand tobacco smoke and literary conversations
without a headache, they became accustomed to her and treated her as a
comrade. Mimi was a charming girl, and especially adapted for both the
plastic and poetical sympathies of Rodolphe. She was twenty two years of
age, small, delicate, and arch. Her face seemed the first sketch of an
aristocratic countenance, but her features, extremely fine in outline,
and as it were, softly lit up by the light of her clear blue eyes, wore,
at certain moments of weariness or ill-humor, an expression of almost
savage brutality, in which a physiologist would perhaps have recognized
the indication of profound egotism or great insensibility. But hers was
usually a charming head, with a fresh and youthful smile and glances
either tender or full of imperious coquetry. The blood of youth flowed
warm and rapid in her veins, and imparted rosy tints to her transparent
skin of camellia-like whiteness. This unhealthy beauty captivated
Rodolphe, and he often during the night spent hours in covering with
kisses the pale forehead of his slumbering mistress, whose humid and
weary eyes shone half-closed beneath the curtain of her magnificent
brown hair. But what contributed above all to make Rodolphe madly in
love with Mademoiselle Mimi were her hands, which in spite of household
cares, she managed to keep as white as those of the Goddess of Idleness.
However, these hands so frail, so tiny, so soft to the lips; these
child-like hands in which Rodolphe had placed his once more awakened
heart; these white hands of Mademoiselle Mimi were soon to rend that
heart with their rosy nails.

At the end of a month Rodolphe began to perceive that he was wedded to
a thunderstorm, and that his mistress had one great fault. She was a
"gadabout," as they say, and spent a great part of her time amongst the
kept women of the neighborhood, whose acquaintance she had made. The
result that Rodolphe had feared, when he perceived the relations
contracted by his mistress, soon took place. The variable opulence of
some of her new friends caused a forest of ambitious ideas to spring up
in the mind of Mademoiselle Mimi, who up until then had only had modest
tastes, and was content with the necessaries of life that Rodolphe did
his best to procure for her. Mimi began to dream of silks, velvets, and
lace. And, despite Rodolphe's prohibition, she continued to frequent
these women, who were all of one mind in persuading her to break off
with the Bohemian who could not even give her a hundred and fifty francs
to buy a stuff dress.

"Pretty as you are," said her advisers, "you can easily secure a better
position. You have only to look for it."

And Mademoiselle Mimi began to look. A witness of her frequent absences,
clumsily accounted for, Rodolphe entered upon the painful track of
suspicion. But as soon as he felt himself on the trail of some proof of
infidelity, he eagerly drew a bandage over his eyes in order to see
nothing. However, a strange, jealous, fantastic, quarrelsome love which
the girl did not understand, because she then only felt for Rodolphe
that lukewarm attachment resulting from habit. Besides, half of her
heart had already been expended over her first love, and the other half
was still full of the remembrance of her first lover.

Eight months passed by in this fashion, good and evil days alternating.
During this period Rodolphe was a score of times on the point of
separating from Mademoiselle Mimi, who had for him all the clumsy
cruelties of the woman who does not love. Properly speaking, this life
had become a hell for both. But Rodolphe had grown accustomed to these
daily struggles, and dreaded nothing so much as a cessation of this
state of things; for he felt that with it would cease forever the fever
and agitations of youth that he had not felt for so long. And then, if
everything must be told, there were hours in which Mademoiselle Mimi
knew how to make Rodolphe forget all the suspicions that were tearing at
his heart. There were moments when she caused him to bend like a child
at her knee beneath the charm of her blue eyes--the poet to whom she had
given back his lost poetry--the young man to whom she had restored his
youth, and who, thanks to her, was once more beneath love's equator. Two
or three times a month, amidst these stormy quarrels, Rodolphe and Mimi
halted with one accord at the verdant oasis of a night of love, and for
whole hours would give himself up to addressing her in that charming yet
absurd language that passion improvises in its hour of delirium. Mimi
listened calmly at first, rather astonished than moved, but, in the end,
the enthusiastic eloquence of Rodolphe, by turns tender, lively, and
melancholy, won on her by degrees. She felt the ice of indifference that
numbed her heart melt at the contact of the love; she would throw
herself on Rodolphe's breast, and tell him by kisses all that she was
unable to tell him in words. And dawn surprised them thus enlaced
together--eyes fixed on eyes, hands clasped in hands--whilst their moist
and burning lips were still murmuring that immortal word "that for five
thousand years has lingered nightly on lovers' lips."

But the next day the most futile pretext brought about a quarrel, and
love alarmed fled again for some time.

In the end, however, Rodolphe perceived that if he did not take care the
white hands of Mademoiselle Mimi would lead him to an abyss in which he
would leave his future and his youth. For a moment stern reason spoke in
him more strongly than love, and he convinced himself by strong
arguments, backed up by proofs, that his mistress did not love him. He
went so far as to say to himself, that the hours of love she granted him
were nothing but a mere sensual caprice such as married women feel for
their husbands when they long for a cashmere shawl or a new dress, or
when their lover is away, in accordance with the proverb that half a
loaf is better than no bread. In short, Rodolphe could forgive his
mistress everything except not being loved. He therefore took a supreme
resolution, and announced to Mademoiselle Mimi that she would have to
look out for another lover. Mimi began to laugh and to utter bravados.
In the end, seeing that Rodolphe was firm in his resolve, and greeted
her with extreme calmness when she returned home after a day and a night
spent out of the house, she began to grow a little uneasy in face of
this firmness, to which she was not accustomed. She was then charming
for two or three days. But her lover did not go back on what he had
said, and contented himself with asking whether she had found anyone.

"I have not even looked," she replied.

However, she had looked, and even before Rodolphe had advised her to do
so. In a fortnight she had made two essays. One of her friends had
helped her, and had at first procured her the acquaintance of a very
tender youth, who had unfolded before Mimi's eyes a horizon of Indian
cashmeres and suites of furniture in rosewood. But in the opinion of
Mimi herself this young schoolboy, who might be very good at algebra,
was not very advanced in the art of love, and as she did not like
undertaking education, she left her amorous novice on the lurch, with
his cashmeres still browsing on the plains of Tibet, and his rosewood
furniture still growing in the forests of the New World.

The schoolboy was soon replaced by a Breton gentleman, with whom Mimi
was soon rapidly smitten, and she had no need to pray long before
becoming his nominal countess.

Despite his mistress's protestations, Rodolphe had wind of some
intrigue. He wanted to know exactly how matters stood, and one morning,
after a night during which Mademoiselle Mimi had not returned, hastened
to the place where he suspected her to be. There he was able to strike
home at his heart with one of those proofs to which one must give
credence in spite of oneself. He saw Mademoiselle Mimi, with two eyes
encircled with an aureola of satisfied voluptuousness, leaving the
residence in which she had acquired her title of nobility, on the arm of
her new lord and master, who, to tell the truth, appeared far less proud
of her new conquest than Paris after the rape of Helen.

On seeing her lover appear, Mademoiselle Mimi seemed somewhat surprised.
She came up to him, and for five minutes they talked very quietly
together. They then parted, each on their separate way. Their separation
was agreed upon.

Rodolphe returned home, and spent the day in packing up all the things
belonging to his mistress.

During the day that followed his divorce, he received the visit of
several friends, and announced to them what had happened. Every one
congratulated him on this event as on a piece of great good fortune.

"We will aid you, oh poet!" said one of those who had been the most
frequent spectator of the annoyances Mademoiselle Mimi had made Rodolphe
undergo, "we will help you to free your heart from the clutches of this
evil creature. In a little while you will be cured, and quite ready to
rove with another Mimi along the green lanes of Aulnay and
Fontenay-aux-Roses."

Rodolphe swore that he had forever done with regrets and despair. He
even let himself be led away to the Bal Mabille, when his dilapidated
get-up did scant honor to "The Scarf of Iris," his editorship of which
procured him free admission to this garden of elegance and pleasure.
There Rodolphe met some fresh friends, with whom he began to drink. He
related to them his woes an unheard of luxury of imaginative style, and
for an hour was perfectly dazzling with liveliness and go. "Alas!" said
the painter Marcel, as he listened to the flood of irony pouring from
his friend's lips, "Rodolphe is too lively, far too lively."

"He is charming," replied a young woman to whom Rodolphe had just
offered a bouquet, "and although he is very badly got up I would
willingly compromise myself by dancing with him if he would invite me."

Two seconds later Rodolphe, who had overheard her, was at her feet,
enveloping his invitation in a speech, scented with all the musk and
benjamin of a gallantry at eighty degrees Richelieu. The lady was
confounded by the language sparkling with dazzling adjectives and
phrases modelled on those in vogue during the Regency, and the
invitation was accepted.

Rodolphe was as ignorant of the elements of dancing as of the rule of
three. But he was impelled by an extraordinary audacity. He did not
hesitate, but improvised a dance unknown to all bygone choreography. It
was a step the originality of which obtained an incredible success, and
that has been celebrated under the title of "regrets and sighs." It was
all very well for the three thousand jets of gas to blink at him,
Rodolphe went on at it all the same, and continued to pour out a flood
of novel madrigals to his partner.

"Well," said Marcel, "this is incredible. Rodolphe reminds me of a
drunken man rolling amongst broken glass."

"At any rate he has got hold of a deuced fine woman," said another,
seeing Rodolphe about to leave with his partner.

"Won't you say good night?" cried Marcel after him.

Rodolphe came back to the artist and held out his hand, it was cold and
damp as a wet stone.

Rodolphe's companion was a strapping Normandy wench, whose native
rusticity had promptly acquired an aristocratic tinge amidst the
elegancies of Parisian luxury and an idle life. She was styled Madame
Seraphine, and was for the time being mistress of an incarnate
rheumatism in the shape of a peer of France, who gave her fifty louis a
month, which she shared with a counter-jumper who gave her nothing but
hard knocks. Rodolphe had pleased her, she hoped that he would not think
of giving her anything, and took him off home with her.

"Lucille," said she to her waiting maid, "I am not at home to anyone."
And passing into her bedroom, she came out ten minutes later, in a
special costume. She found Rodolphe dumb and motionless, for since he
had come in he had been plunged, despite himself, into a gloom full of
silent sobs.

"Why you no longer look at me or speak to me!" said the astonished
Seraphine.

"Come," said Rodolphe to himself, lifting his head. "Let us look at her,
but only for the sake of art."

"And then what a sight met his eyes," as Raoul says in "The Huguenots."

Seraphine was admirable beautiful. Her splendid figure, cleverly set off
by the cut of her solitary garment, showed itself provocatively through
the half-transparent material. All the imperious fever of desire woke
afresh in Rodolphe's veins. A warm mist mounted to his brain. He looked
at Seraphine otherwise than from a purely aesthetic point of view and
took the pretty girl's hands in his own. They were divine hands, and
might have been wrought by the purest chisels of Grecian statuary.
Rodolphe felt these admirable hands tremble in his own, and feeling less
and less of an art critic, he drew towards him Seraphine, whose face was
already tinged with that flush which is the aurora of voluptuousness.

"This creature is a true instrument of pleasure, a real Stradivarius of
love, and one on which I would willingly play a tune," thought Rodolphe,
as he heard the fair creature's heart beating a hurried charge in a very
distinct fashion.

At that moment there was a violent ring at the door of the rooms.

"Lucile, Lucile," cried Seraphine to the waiting maid, "do not let
anyone in, say I am not home yet."

At the name of Lucile uttered twice, Rodolphe rose.

"I do not wish to incommode you in any way, madame," said he. "Besides,
I must take my leave, it is late and I live a long way off. Good
evening."

"What! You are going?" exclaimed Seraphine, augmenting the fire of her
glances. "Why, why should you go? I am free, you can stay."

"Impossible," replied Rodolphe, "I am expecting one of my relatives who
is coming from Terra del Fuego this evening, and he would disinherit me
if he did not find me waiting to receive him. Good evening, madame."

And he quitted the room hurriedly. The servant went to light him out.
Rodolphe accidentally cast his eye on her. She was a delicate looking
girl, with slow movements; her extremely pale face offered a charming
contrast to her dark and naturally curling hair, whilst her blue eyes
resembled two sickly stars.

"Oh phantom!" exclaimed Rodolphe, shrinking from one who bore the name
and the face of his mistress. "Away, what would you with me?" And he
rushed down the stairs.

"Why, madame," said the lady's maid, returning to her mistress's room.
"The young fellow is mad."

"Say rather that he is a fool," claimed the exasperated Seraphine. "Oh!"
she continued, "this will teach me to show kindness. If only that brute
of a Leon had the sense to drop in now!"

Leon was the gentleman whose love carried a whip.

Rodolphe ran home without waiting to take breath. Going upstairs he
found his carroty-haired cat giving vent to piteous mewings. For two
nights already it has thus been vainly summoning its faithless love, an
agora Manon Lescaut, who had started on a campaign of gallantry on the
house-tops adjacent.

"Poor beast," said Rodolphe, "you have been deceived. Your Mimi has
jilted you like mine has jilted me. Bah! Let us console ourselves. You
see, my poor fellow, the hearts of women and she-cats are abysses that
neither men nor toms will ever fathom."

When he entered his room, although it was fearfully hot, Rodolphe seemed
to feel a cloak of ice about his shoulders. It was the chill of
solitude, that terrible nocturnal solitude that nothing disturbs. He lit
his candle and then perceived the ravaged room. The gaping drawers in
the furniture showed empty, and from floor to ceiling sadness filled the
little room that seemed to Rodolphe vaster than a desert. Stepping
forward he struck his foot against the parcels containing the things
belonging to Mademoiselle Mimi, and he felt an impulse of joy to find
that she had not yet come to fetch them as she had told him in the
morning she would do. Rodolphe felt that, despite all his struggles, the
moment of reaction was at hand, and readily divined that a cruel night
was to expiate all the bitter mirth that he had dispensed in the course
of the evening. However, he hoped that his body, worn out with fatigue,
would sink to sleep before the reawakening of the sorrows so long pent
back in his heart.

As he approached the couch, and on drawing back the curtains saw the bed
that had not been disturbed for two days, the pillows placed side by
side, beneath one of which still peeped out the trimming of a woman's
night cap, Rodolphe felt his heart gripped in the pitiless vice of that
desolate grief that cannot burst forth. He fell at the foot of the bed,
buried his face in his hands, and, after having cast a glance round the
desolate room, exclaimed:

"Oh! Little Mimi, joy of my home, is it really true that you are gone,
that I have driven you away, and that I shall never see you again, my
God. Oh! Pretty brown curly head that has slept so long on this spot,
will you never come back to sleep here again? Oh! Little white hands
with the blue veins, little white hands to whom I had affianced my lips,
have you too received my last kiss?"

And Rodolphe, in delirious intoxication, plunged his head amongst the
pillows, still impregnated with the perfume of his love's hair. From the
depth of the alcove he seemed to see emerge the ghosts of the sweet
nights he had passed with his young mistress. He heard clear and
sonorous, amidst the nocturnal silence, the open-hearted laugh of
Mademoiselle Mimi, and he thought of the charming and contagious gaiety
with which she had been able so many times to make him forget all the
troubles and all the hardships of their hazardous existence.

Throughout the night he kept passing in review the eight months that he
had just spent with this girl, who had never loved him perhaps, but
whose tender lies had restored to Rodolphe's heart its youth and
virility.

Dawn surprised him at the moment when, conquered by fatigue, he had just
closed his eyes, red from the tears shed during the night. A doleful and
terrible vigil, yet such a one as even the most sneering and sceptical
amongst us may find in the depths of their past.

When his friends called on him in the morning they were alarmed at the
sight of Rodolphe, whose face bore the traces of all the anguish that
had awaited him during his vigil in the Gethsemane of love.

"Good!" said Marcel, "I was sure of it; it is his mirth of yesterday
that has turned in his heart. Things must not go on like this."

And in concert with two or three comrades he began a series of privately
indiscreet revelations respecting Mademoiselle Mimi, every word of which
pierced like a thorn in Rodolphe's heart. His friends "proved" to him
that all the time his mistress had tricked him like a simpleton at home
and abroad, and that this fair creature, pale as the angel of phthisis,
was a casket filled with evil sentiments and ferocious instincts.

One and another they thus took it in turns at the task they had set
themselves, which was to bring Rodolphe to that point at which soured
love turns to contempt; but this object was only half attained. The
poet's despair turned to wrath. He threw himself in a rage upon the
packages which he had done up the day before, and after having put on
one side all the objects that his mistress had in her possession when
she came to him, kept all those he had given her during their union,
that is to say, by far the greater number, and, above all, the articles
connected with the toilette to which Mademoiselle Mimi was attached by
all the fibers of a coquetry that had of late become insatiable.

Mademoiselle Mimi called in course of the next day to take away her
things. Rodolphe was at home and alone. It needed all his powers of self
esteem to keep him from throwing himself upon his mistress's neck. He
gave her a reception full of silent insult, and Mademoiselle Mimi
replied by those cold and keen scoffs that drive the weakest and most
timid to show their teeth. In face of the contempt with which his
mistress flagellated him with insolent hardihood, Rodolphe's anger broke
out fearfully and brutally. For a moment Mimi, white with terror, asked
herself whether she would escape from his hands alive. At the cries she
uttered some neighbors rushed in and dragged her out of Rodolphe's room.

Two days later a female friend of Mimi came to ask Rodolphe whether he
would give up the things he had kept.

"No," he replied.

And he got his mistress's messenger to talk about her. She informed him
that Mimi was in a very unfortunate condition, and that she would soon
find herself without a lodging.

"And the lover of whom she is so fond?"

"Oh!" replied Amelie, the friend in question, "the young fellow has no
intention of taking her for his mistress. He has been keeping another
for a long time past, and he does not seem to trouble much about Mimi,
who is living at my expense, which causes me a great deal of
embarrassment."

"Let her do as she can," said Rodolphe. "She would have it,--it is no
affair of mine."

And he began to sing madrigals to Mademoiselle Amelie, and persuaded her
that she was the prettiest woman in the world.

Amelie informed Mimi of her interview with Rodolphe.

"What did he say? What is he doing? Did he speak to you about me?" asked
Mimi.

"Not at all; you are already forgotten, my dear. Rodolphe has a fresh
mistress, and he has bought her a superb outfit, for he has received a
great deal of money, and is himself dressed like a prince. He is a very
amiable fellow, and said a lot of nice things to me."

"I know what all that means," thought Mimi.

Every day Mademoiselle Amelie called to see Rodolphe on some pretext or
other, and however much the latter tried he could not help speaking of
Mimi to her.

"She is very lively," replied her friend, "and does not seem to trouble
herself about her position. Besides she declares that she will come back
to you whenever she chooses, without making any advances and merely for
the sake of vexing your friends."

"Very good," said Rodolphe, "let her come and we shall see."

And he began to pay court to Amelie, who went off to tell everything to
Mimi, and to assure her that Rodolphe was very much in love with
herself.

"He kissed me again on the hand and the neck; see it is quite red," said
she. "He wants to take me to a dance tomorrow."

"My dear friend," said Mimi, rather vexed, "I see what you are driving
at, to make me believe that Rodolphe is in love with you and thinks no
more about me. But you are wasting your time both for him and me."

The fact was that Rodolphe only showed himself amiable towards Amelie
to get her to call on him the oftener, and to have the opportunity of
speaking to her about his mistress. But with a Machiavelism that had
perhaps its object, and whilst perceiving very well that Rodolphe still
loved Mimi, and that the latter was not indisposed to rejoin him, Amelie
strove, by ingeniously inventive reports, to fend off everything that
might serve to draw the pair together again.

The day on which she was to go to the ball Amelie called in the morning
to ask Rodolphe whether the engagement still held good.

"Yes," he replied, "I do not want to miss the opportunity of being the
cavalier of the most beautiful woman of the day."

Amelie assumed the coquettish air that she had put on the occasion of
her solitary appearance at a suburban theater as fourth chambermaid, and
promised to be ready that evening.

"By the way," said Rodolphe, "tell Mademoiselle Mimi that if she will be
guilty of an infidelity to her lover in my favor, and come and pass a
night with me, I will give her up all her things."

Amelie executed Rodolphe's commission, and gave to his words quite
another meaning than that which she had guessed they bore.

"Your Rodolphe is a rather base fellow," said she to Mimi. "His proposal
is infamous. He wishes by this step to make you descend to the rank of
the vilest creatures, and if you go to him not only will he not give you
your things, but he will show you up as a jest to all his comrades. It
is a plot arranged amongst them."

"I will not go," said Mimi, and as she saw Amelie engaged in preparing
her toilette, she asked her whether she was going to the ball.

"Yes," replied the other.

"With Rodolphe?"

"Yes, he is to wait for me this evening twenty yards or so from here."

"I wish you joy," said Mimi, and seeing the hour of the appointment
approach, she hurried off to Mademoiselle Amelie's lover, and informed
him that the latter was engaged in a little scheme to deceive him with
her own old lover.

The gentleman, jealous as a tiger and brutal to boot, called at once on
Mademoiselle Amelie, and announced that he would like her to spend the
evening in his company.

At eight o'clock Mimi flew to the spot at which Rodolphe was to meet
Amelie. She saw her lover pacing up and down after the fashion of a man
waiting for some one, and twice passed close to him without daring to
address him. Rodolphe was very well dressed that evening, and the
violent crises through which he had passed during the week had imparted
great character on his face. Mimi was singularly moved. At length she
made up her mind to speak to him. Rodolphe received her without anger,
and asked how she was, after which he inquired as to the motive that had
brought her to him, in mild voice, in which there was an effort to
check a note of sadness.

"It is bad news that I come to bring you. Mademoiselle Amelie cannot
come to the ball with you. Her lover is keeping her."

"I shall go to the ball alone, then."

Here Mademoiselle Mimi feigned to stumble, and leaned against Rodolphe's
shoulder. He took her arm and proposed to escort her home.

"No," said Mimi. "I am living with Amelie, and as her lover is there I
cannot go in until he has left."

"Listen to me, then," said the poet. "I made a proposal to you today
through Mademoiselle Amelie. Did she transmit it to you?"

"Yes," said Mimi, "but in terms which, even after what has happened, I
could not credit. No, Rodolphe, I could not believe that, despite all
that you might have to reproach me with, you thought me so worthless as
to accept such a bargain."

"You did not understand me, or the message has been badly conveyed to
you. My offer holds good," said Rodolphe. "It is nine o'clock. You still
have three hours for reflection. The door will be unlocked until
midnight. Good night. Farewell, or--till we meet again."

"Farewell, then," said Mimi, in trembling tones.

And they separated. Rodolphe went home and threw himself, without
undressing, upon his bed. At half past eleven, Mademoiselle Mimi entered
his room.

"I have come to ask your hospitality," said she. "Amelie's lover has
stayed with her, and I cannot get in."

They talked together until three in the morning--an explanatory
conversation which grew gradually more familiar.

At four o'clock their candle went out. Rodolphe wanted to light another.

"No," said Mimi, "it is not worth the trouble. It is quite time to go to
bed."

Five minutes later her pretty brown curly head had once more resumed its
place on the pillow, and in a voice full of affection she invited
Rodolphe's lips to feast on her little white hand with their blue veins,
the pearly pallor of which vied with the whiteness of the sheets.
Rodolphe did not light the candle.

In the morning Rodolphe got up first, and pointing out several packages
to Mimi, said to her, very gently, "There is what belongs to you. You
can take it away. I keep my word."

"Oh!" said Mimi. "I am very tired, you see, and I cannot carry all these
heavy parcels away at once. I would rather call again."

And when she was dressed she only took a collar and a pair of cuffs.

"I will take away the rest by degrees," she added, smiling.

"Come," said Rodolphe, "take away all or take away none, and let there
be an end of it."

"Let it, on the contrary, begin again, and, above all, let it last,"
said Mimi, kissing Rodolphe.

After breakfasting together they started off for a day in the country.
Crossing the Luxembourg gardens Rodolphe met a great poet who had always
received him with charming kindness. Out of respect for the
conventionalities Rodolphe was about to pretend not to see him but the
poet did not give him time, and passing by him greeted him with a
friendly gesture and his companion with a smile.

"Who is that gentleman?" asked Mimi.

Rodolphe answered her by mentioning a name which made her blush with
pleasure and pride.

"Oh!" said Rodolphe. "Our meeting with the poet who has sung of love so
well is a good omen, and will bring luck to our reconciliation."

"I do love you," said Mimi, squeezing his hand, although they were in
the midst of the crowd.

"Alas!" thought Rodolphe. "Which is better; to allow oneself always to
be deceived through believing, or never to believe for fear of always
being deceived?"




CHAPTER XV

Donec Gratus


We have told how the painter Marcel made the acquaintance of
Mademoiselle Musette. United one morning by the ministry of caprice, the
registrar of the district, they had fancied, as often happens, that
their union did not extend to their hearts. But one evening when, after
a violent quarrel, they resolved to leave one another on the spot, they
perceived that their hands, which they had joined in a farewell clasp,
would no longer quit one another. Almost in spite of themselves fancy
had become love. Both, half laughingly, acknowledged it.

"This is very serious. What has happened to us?" said Marcel. "What the
deuce have we been up to?"

"Oh!" replied Musette. "We must have been clumsy over it. We did not
take enough precautions."

"What is the matter?" asked Rodolphe, who had become Marcel's neighbor,
entering the room.

"The matter is," replied Marcel, "that this lady and myself have just
made a pretty discovery. We are in love with one another. We must have
been attacked by the complaint whilst asleep."

"Oh oh! I don't think that it was whilst you were asleep," observed
Rodolphe. "But what proves that you are in love with one another?
Possibly you exaggerate the danger."

"We cannot bear one another," said Marcel.

"And we cannot leave one another," added Musette.

"There, my children, your business is plain. Each has tried to play
cunning, and both have lost. It is the story of Mimi and myself. We
shall soon have run through two almanacs quarrelling day and night. It
is by that system that marriages are rendered eternal. Wed a 'yes' to a
'no,' and you obtain the union of Philemon and Baucis. Your domestic
interior will soon match mine, and if Schaunard and Phemie come and live
in the house, as they have threatened, our trio of establishments will
render it a very pleasant place of residence."

At that moment Gustave Colline came in. He was informed of the accident
that had befallen Musette and Marcel.

"Well, philosopher," said the latter, "what do you think of this?"

Colline rubbed the hat that served him for a roof, and murmured, "I felt
sure of it beforehand. Love is a game of chance. He who plays at bowls
may expect rubbers. It is not good for man to live alone."

That evening, on returning home, Rodolphe said to Mimi--

"There is something new. Musette dotes on Marcel, and will not leave
him."

"Poor girl!" replied Mimi. "She who has such a good appetite, too."

"And on his side, Marcel is hard and fast in love with Musette."

"Poor fellow!" said Mimi. "He who is so jealous."

"That is true," observed Rodolphe. "He and I are pupils of Othello."

Shortly afterwards the households of Rodolphe and Marcel were reinforced
by the household of Schaunard, the musician, moving into the house with
Phemie Teinturiere.

From that day all the other inhabitants slept upon a volcano, and at
quarter day sent in a unanimous notice of their intention to move to the
landlord.

Indeed, hardly a day passed without a storm breaking out in one of these
households. Now it was Mimi and Rodolphe who, no longer having strength
to speak, continued their conversation with the aid of such missiles as
came under their hands. But more frequently it was Schaunard addressing
a few observations to the melancholy Phemie with the end of a walking
stick. As to Marcel and Musette, their arguments were carried on in
private sittings; they took at least the precaution to close their
doors and windows.

If by chance peace reigned in the three households, the other lodgers
were not the less victims of this temporary concord. The indiscretion of
partition walls allowed all the secrets of Bohemian family life to
transpire, and initiated them, in spite of themselves, into all its
mysteries. Thus more than one neighbor preferred the _casus belli_ to
the ratification of treaties of peace.

It was, in truth, a singular life that was led for six months. The most
loyal fraternity was practiced without any fuss in this circle, in
which everything was for all, and good or evil fortune shared.

There were in the month certain days of splendor, when no one would have
gone out without gloves--days of enjoyment, when dinner lasted all day
long. There were others when one would have almost gone to Court without
boots; Lenten days, when, after going without breakfast in common, they
failed to dine together, or managed by economic combination to furnish
forth one of those repasts at which plates and knives were "resting," as
Mademoiselle Mimi put it, in theatrical parlance.

But the wonderful thing is that this partnership, in which there were
three young and pretty women, no shadow of discord was found amongst
the men. They often yielded to the most futile fancies of their
mistresses, but not one of them would have hesitated for a moment
between the mistress and the friend.

Love is born above all from spontaneity--it is an improvisation.
Friendship, on the contrary, is, so to say, built up. It is a sentiment
that progresses with circumspection. It is the egoism of the mind,
whilst love is the egoism of the heart.

The Bohemians had known one another for six years. This long period of
time spent in a daily intimacy had, without altering the well-defined
individuality of each, brought about between them a concord of ideas--a
unity which they would not have found elsewhere. They had manners that
were their own, a tongue amongst themselves to which strangers would not
have been able to find the key. Those who did not know them very well
called their freedom of manner cynicism. It was however, only frankness.
With minds impatient of imposed control, they all hated what was false,
and despised what was low. Accused of exaggerated vanity, they replied
by proudly unfurling the program of their ambition, and, conscious of
their worth, held no false estimate of themselves.

During the number of years that they had followed the same life
together, though often placed in rivalry by the necessities of their
profession, they had never let go one another's hands, and had passed
without heeding them over personal questions of self-esteem whenever an
attempt had been made to raise these between them in order to disunite
them. Besides, they each esteemed one another at their right worth, and
pride, which is the counter poison of envy, preserved them from all
petty professional jealousy.

However, after six months of life in common, an epidemic of divorce
suddenly seized on the various households.

Schaunard opened the ball. One day he perceived that Phemie Teinturiere
had one knee better shaped than the other, and as his was an austere
purism as regards plastics, he sent Phemie about her business, giving
her as a souvenir the cane with which he had addressed such frequent
remarks to her. Then he went back to live with a relative who offered
him free quarters.

A fortnight later Mimi left Rodolphe to step into the carriage of the
young Vicomte Paul, the ex-pupil of Carolus Barbemuche, who had promised
her dresses to her heart's desire.

After Mimi it was Musette who went off, and returned with a grand
flourish of trumpets amongst the aristocracy of the world of gallantry
which she had left to follow Marcel.

This separation took place without quarrel, shock or premeditation. Born
of a fancy that had become love, this union was broken off by another
fancy.

One evening during the carnival, at the masked ball at the Opera,
whither she had gone with Marcel, Mimi, Musette had for her _vis-a-vis_
in a quadrille a young man who had formerly courted her. They recognized
one another, and, whilst dancing exchanged a few words.
Unintentionally, perhaps, whilst informing the young man of her present
condition in life, she may have dropped a word of regret as to her past
one. At any rate, at the end of the quadrille Musette made a mistake,
and instead of giving her hand to Marcel, who was her partner, give it
to her _vis-a-vis_, who led her off, and disappeared with her in the
crowd.

Marcel looked for her, feeling somewhat uneasy. In an hour's time he
found her on the young man's arm; she was coming out of the Cafe de
l'Opera, humming a tune. On catching sight of Marcel, who had stationed
himself in a corner with folded arms, she made him a sign of farewell,
saying--"I shall be back."

"That is to say, 'Do not expect me,'" translated Marcel.

He was jealous but logical, and knew Musette, hence he did not wait for
her, but went home with a full heart and an empty stomach. He looked
into the cupboard to see whether there were not a few scraps to eat, and
perceived a bit of stale bread as hard as granite and a skeleton-like
red herring.

"I cannot fight against truffles," he thought. "At any rate, Musette
will have some supper."

And after passing his handkerchief over his eyes under pretext of wiping
his nose, he went to bed.

Two days later Musette woke up in a boudoir with rose-covered hangings.
A blue brougham was at her door, and all the fairies of fashion had been
summoned to lay their wonders at her feet. Musette was charming, and her
youth seemed yet further rejuvenated in this elegant setting. Then she
began her old life again, was present at every festivity, and
re-conquered her celebrity. She was spoken of everywhere--in the lobbies
of the Bourse, and even at the parliamentary refreshment bars. As to her
new lover, Monsieur Alexis, he was a charming young fellow. He often
complained to Musette of her being somewhat frivolous and inattentive
when he spoke to her of his love. Then Musette would look at him
laughingly, and say--

"What would you have, my dear fellow? I stayed six months with a man who
fed me on salad and soup without butter, who dressed me in a cotton
gown, and usually took me to the Odeon because he was not well off. As
love costs nothing, and as I was wildly in love with this monster, we
expended a great deal of it together. I have scarcely anything but its
crumbs left. Pick them up, I do no hinder you. Besides, I have not
deceived you about it; if ribbons were not so dear I should still be
with my painter. As to my heart, since I have worn an eighty franc
corset I do not hear it, and I am very much afraid that I have left it
in one of Marcel's drawers."

The disappearance of the three Bohemian households was the occasion of a
festival in the house they had inhabited. As a token of rejoicing the
landlord gave a grand dinner, and the lodgers lit up their windows.

Rodolphe and Marcel went to live together. Each had taken a new idol
whose name they were not exactly acquainted with. Sometimes it happened
that one spoke of Musette and the other of Mimi, and then they had a
whole evening of it. They recalled to one another their old life, the
songs of Musette and the songs of Mimi, nights passed without sleep,
idle mornings, and dinners only partaken of in dreams. One by one they
hummed over in these recolletive ducts all the bygone hours, and they
usually wound up by saying that after all they were still happy to find
themselves together, their feet on the fender, stirring the December
log, smoking their pipes, and having as a pretext for open conversation
between them that which they whispered to themselves when alone--that
they had dearly loved these beings who had vanished, bearing away with
them a part of their youth, and that perhaps they loved them still.

One evening when passing along the Boulevard, Marcel perceived a few
paces ahead of him a young lady who, in alighting from a cab, exposed
the lower part of a white stocking of admirable shape. The very driver
himself devoured with his eyes this charming gratification in excess of
his fare.

"By Jove," said Marcel. "That is a neat leg, I should like to offer it
my arm. Come, now, how shall I manage to accord it? Ha! I have it--it is
a fairly novel plan. Excuse me, madame," continued he, approaching the
fair unknown, whose face at the outset he could not at first get a full
view of, "but you have not by chance found my handkerchief?"

"Yes, sir," replied the young lady, "here it is." And she placed in
Marcel's hand a handkerchief she had been holding in her own.

The artist rolled into an abyss of astonishment.

But all at once a burst of laughter full in his face recalled him to
himself. By this joyous outbreak he recognized his old love.

It was Mademoiselle Musette.

"Ah!" she exclaimed. "Monsieur Marcel in quest of gallant adventures.
What do you think of this one, eh? It does not lack fun."

"I think it endurable," replied Marcel.

"Where are you going so late in this region?" asked Musette.

"I am going into that edifice," said the artist, pointing to a little
theater where he was on the free list.

"For the sake of art?"

"No, for the sake of Laura."

"Who is Laura?" continued Musette, whose eyes shot forth notes of
interrogation.

Marcel kept up the tone.

"She is a chimera whom I am pursuing, and who plays here."

And he pretended to pull out an imaginary shirt frill.

"You are very witty this evening," said Musette.

"And you very curious," observed Marcel.

"Do no speak so loud, everyone can hear us, and they will take us for
two lovers quarrelling."

"It would not be the first time that that happened," said Marcel.

Musette read a challenge in this sentence, and quickly replied, "And it
will not perhaps be the last, eh?"

Her words were plain, they whizzed past Marcel's ear like a bullet.

"Splendors of heaven," said he, looking up at the stars, "you are
witness that it is not I who opened fire. Quick, my armor."

From that moment the firing began.

It was now only a question of finding some appropriate pretext to bring
about an agreement between these two fancies that had just woke up again
so lively.

As they walked along, Musette kept looking at Marcel, and Marcel kept
looking at Musette. They did not speak, but their eyes, those
plenipotentiaries of the heart, often met. After a quarter of an hour's
diplomacy this congress of glances had tacitly settled the matter. There
was nothing to be done save to ratify it.

The interrupted conversation was renewed.

"Candidly now," said Musette to Marcel, "where were you going just now?"

"I told you, to see Laura."

"Is she pretty?"

"Her mouth is a nest of smiles."

"Oh! I know all that sort of thing."

"But you yourself," said Marcel, "whence came you on the wings of this
four-wheeler?"

"I came back from the railway station where I had been to see off
Alexis, who is going on a visit to his family."

"What sort of man is Alexis?"

In turn Musette sketched a charming portrait of her present lover.
Whilst walking along Marcel and Musette continued thus on the open
Boulevard the comedy of reawakening love. With the same simplicity, in
turn tender and jesting, they went verse by verse through that immortal
ode in which Horace and Lydia extol with such grace the charms of their
new loves, and end by adding a postscript to their old ones. As they
reached the corner of the street a rather strong picket of soldiers
suddenly issued from it.

Musette struck an attitude of alarm, and clutching hold of Marcel's arm
said, "Ah! Good heavens! Look there, soldiers; there is going to be
another revolution. Let us bolt off, I am awfully afraid. See me
indoors."

"But where shall we go?" asked Marcel.

"To my place," said Musette. "You shall see how nice it is. I invite you
to supper. We will talk politics."

"No," replied Marcel, who thought of Monsieur Alexis. "I will not go to
your place, despite your offer of a supper. I do not like to drink my
wine out of another's glass."

Musette was silent in face of this refusal. Then through the mist of her
recollections she saw the poor home of the artist, for Marcel had not
become a millionaire. She had an idea, and profiting by meeting another
picket she manifested fresh alarm.

"They are going to fight," she exclaimed. "I shall never dare go home.
Marcel, my dear fellow, take me to one of my lady friends, who must be
living in your neighborhood."

As they were crossing the Pont Neuf Musette broke into a laugh.

"What is it?" asked Marcel.

"Nothing," replied Musette, "only I remember that my friend has moved.
She is living at Batignolles."

On seeing Marcel and Musette arrive arm in arm Rodolphe was not
astonished.

"It is always so," said he, "with these badly buried loves."




CHAPTER XVI

The Passage of the Red Sea


For five or six years Marcel had worked at the famous painting which (he
said) represented the Passage of the Red Sea; and for five or six years,
this masterpiece of color had been obstinately refused by the jury. In
fact, by dint of going and returning so many times from the artist's
study to the Exhibition, and from the Exhibition to the study, the
picture knew the road to the Louvre well enough to have gone thither of
itself, if it had been put on wheels. Marcel, who had repainted the
canvas ten times over, from top to bottom, attributed to personal
hostility on the part of the jury the ostracism which annually repulsed
him from the large saloon; nevertheless he was not totally discouraged
by the obstinate rejection which greeted him at every Exhibition. He was
comfortably established in the persuasion that his picture was, on a
somewhat smaller scale, the pendant required by "The Marriage of Cana,"
that gigantic masterpiece whose astonishing brilliancy the dust of three
centuries has not been able to tarnish. Accordingly, every year at the
epoch of the Exhibition, Marcel sent his great work to the jury of
examiners; only, to deceive them, he would change some details of his
picture, and the title of it, without disturbing the general
composition.

Thus, it came before the jury once, under the name of "The Passage of
the Rubicon," but Pharaoh, badly disguised under the mantle of Caeser,
was recognized and rejected with all the honors due him. Next year,
Marcel threw a coat of white over the foreground, to imitate snow,
planted a fir tree in one corner, and dressing an Egyptian like a
grenadier of the Imperial Guard, christened his picture, "The Passage
of the Beresina."

But the jury had wiped its glasses that day, and were not to be duped by
this new stratagem. It recognized the pertinacious picture by a
thundering big pie-bald horse that was prancing on top of a wave of the
Red Sea. The skin of this horse served Marcel for all his experiments in
coloring; he used to call it, familiarly, his "synoptic table of fine
tones," because it reproduced the most varied combinations of color,
with the different plays of light and shade. Once again, however, the
jury could not find black balls enough to refuse "The Passage of
Beresina."

"Very well," said Marcel, "I thought so! Next year, I shall send it
under the title of 'The Passage of the Panoramas.'"

    "They're going to be jolly caught--caught!"

sang Schaunard to a new air of his own composition; a terrible air, like
a gamut of thunder-claps, the accompaniment whereof was a terror to all
pianos within hearing.

"How can they refuse it, without all the vermilion of my Red Sea
mounting to their cheeks, and covering them with the blush of shame?"
ejaculated the artist, as he gazed on his picture. "When I think that
there is five hundred francs' worth of color there, and at least a
million of genius, without counting my lovely youth, now as bald as my
old hat! But they shan't get the better of me! Till my dying day, I will
send them my picture. It shall be engraved on their memories."

"The surest way of ever having it engraved," said Colline, in a
plaintive tone, and then added to himself, "very neat, that; I shall
repeat it in society!"

Marcel continued his imprecations, which Schaunard continued to put to
music.

"Ah they won't admit me! The government pays them, lodges them, and
gives them decorations, on purpose to refuse me once a year; every first
of March! I see their idea! I see it clearly! They want to make me burn
my brushes. They hope that when my Red Sea is refused, I will throw
myself out of the window of despair. But they little know the heart of
man, if they think to take me thus. I will not wait for the opening of
the Exhibition. From today, my work shall be a picture of Damocles,
eternally suspended over their existence. I will send it once a week to
each of them, at his home in the bosom of his family; in the very heart
of his private life. It shall trouble their domestic joys; they shall
find their roasts burnt, their wines sour, and their wives bitter! They
will grow mad rapidly, and go to the Institute in strait-waistcoats. Ha!
Ha! The thought consoles me."

Some days later, when Marcel had already forgotten his terrible plans of
vengeance against his persecutors, he received a visit from Father
Medicis. So the club called a Jew, named Salomon, who at that time was
well known to all the vagabond of art and literature, and had continual
transactions with them. Father Medicis traded in all sorts of trumpery.
He sold complete sets of furniture from twelve francs up to five
thousand; he bought everything, and knew how to dispose of it again, at
a profit. Proudhon's bank of exchange was nothing in comparison with the
system practiced by Medicis, who possessed the genius of traffic to a
degree at which the ablest of his religion had never before arrived. His
shop was a fairy region where you found anything you wished for. Every
product of nature, every creation of art; whatever issued from the
bowels of the earth or the head of man, was an object of commerce for
him. His business included everything; literally everything that exists;
he even trafficked in the ideal. He bought ideas to sell or speculate in
them. Known to all literary men and all artists, intimate with the
palette and familiar with the desk, he was the very Asmodeus of the
arts. He would sell you cigars for a column of your newspaper, slippers
for a sonnet, fresh fish for paradoxes; he would talk, for so much an
hour, with the people who furnished fashionable gossip to the journals.
He would procure you places for the debates in the Chambers, and
invitations to parties. He lodged wandering artistlings by the day,
week, or month, taking for pay, copies of the pictures in the Louvre.
The green room had no mysteries for him. He would get your pieces into
the theater, or yourself into the boudoir of an actress. He had a copy
of the "Almanac of Twenty Five Thousand Addresses" in his head, and knew
the names, residences, and secrets of all celebrities, even those who
were not celebrated.

A few pages copied from his waste book, will give a better idea of the
universality of his operations than the most copious explanation could.

                      "March 20, 184--."

"Sold to M. L----, antiquary, the compass which Archimedes used at the
siege of Syracuse. 75 fr.

Bought of M. V----, journalist, the entire works, uncut, of M. X----,
Member of the Academy. 10 fr.

Sold to the same, a criticism of the complete works of M. X----, of the
Academy. 30 fr.

Bought of M. R----, literary man, a critical article on the complete
works of M. Y----, of the Academy. 10 fr., plus half a cwt. of charcoal
and 4 lbs. of coffee.

Sold to M. Y----, of the Academy, a laudatory review (twelve columns) of
his complete works. 250 fr.

Sold to M. G----, a porcelain vase which had belonged to Madame Dubarry.
18 fr.

Bought of little D----, her hair. 15 fr.

Bought of M. B----, a lot of articles on Society, and the last three
mistakes in spelling made by the Prefect of the Seine. 6 fr, plus a pair
of Naples shoes.

Sold to Mdlle. O----, a flaxen head of hair. 120 fr.

Bought of M. M----, historical painter, a series of humorous designs. 25
fr.

Informed M. Ferdinand the time when Mme. la Baronne de T---- goes to
mass, and let him for the day the little room in the Faubourg
Montmartre: together 30 fr.

Bought of M. J----, artist, a portrait of M. Isidore as Apollo. 6 fr.

Sold to Mdlle R---- a pair of lobsters and six pair of gloves. 36 fr.
Received 3 fr.

For the same, procured a credit of six months with Mme. Z----,
dressmaker. (Price not settled.)

Procured for Mme. Z----, dressmaker, the custom of Mdlle. R----.
Received for this three yards of velvet, and three yards of lace.

Bought of M. R----, literary man, a claim of 120 fr. against
the----newspaper. 5 fr., plus 2 lbs. of tobacco.

Sold M. Ferdinand two love letters. 12 fr.

Sold M. Isidore his portrait as Apollo. 30 fr.

Bought of M. M----, a cwt. and a half of his work, entitled 'Submarine
Revolutions.' 15 fr.

Lent Mme la Comtesse de G---- a service of Dresden china. 20 fr.

Bought of M. G----, journalist, fifty-two lines in his article of town
talk. 100 fr., plus a set of chimney ornaments.

Sold to Messrs. O---- and Co., fifty-two lines in the town talk of
the----. 300 fr., plus two sets of chimney ornaments.

Let to Mdlle. S. G---- a bed and a brougham for the day (nothing). See
Mdlle. S. G----'s account in private ledger, folios 26 and 27.

Bought of M. Gustave C--- a treatise on the flax and linen trade. 50
fr., and a rare edition of Josephus.

Sold Mdlle. S. G---- a complete set of new furniture. 5000 fr.

For the same, paid an apothecary's bill. 75 fr.

For the same, paid a milkman's bill. 3 fr. 85 c."

Those quotations show what an extensive range the operations of the Jew
Medici covered. It may be added, that although some articles of his
commerce were decidedly illicit, he had never got himself into any
trouble.

The Jew comprehended, on his entrance, that he had come at a favorable
time. In fact, the four friends were at that moment in council, under
the auspices of a ferocious appetite, discussing the grave question of
meat and drink. It was a Sunday at the end of the month--sinister day.

The arrival of Medicis was therefore hailed by a joyous chorus, for they
knew that he was too saving of his time to spend it in visits of polite
ceremony; his presence announced business.

"Good evening, gentlemen!" said the Jew. "How are you all?"

"Colline!" said Rodolphe, who was studying the horizontal line at full
length on his bed. "Do the hospitable. Give our guest a chair; a guest
is sacred. I salute Abraham in you," added he.

Colline took an arm chair about as soft as iron, and shoved it towards
the Jew, saying:

"Suppose, for once, you were Cinna, (you _are_ a great sinner, you
know), and take this seat."

"Oh, oh, oh!" shouted the others, looking at the floor to see if it
would not open and swallow up the philosopher. Meanwhile the Jew let
himself fall into the arm chair, and was just going to cry out at its
hardness, when he remembered that it was one which he himself had sold
to Colline for a deputy's speech. As the Jew sat down, his pockets
re-echoed with a silvery sound; melodious symphony, which threw the four
friends into a reverie of delight.

"The accompaniment seems pretty," said Rodolphe aside to Marcel. "Now
for the air!"

"Monsieur Marcel," said Medicis, "I have merely come to make your
fortune; that is to say, I offer you a superb opportunity of making your
entry into the artistic world. Art, you know, is a barren route, of
which glory is the oasis."

"Father Medicis," cried Marcel, on the tenter-hooks of impatience, "in
the name of your revered patron, St. Fifty-percent, be brief!"

"Here it is," continued Medicis, "a rich amateur, who is collecting a
gallery destined to make the tour of Europe, has charged me to procure
him a series of remarkable works. I come to offer you admission into
this museum--in a word, to buy your 'Passage of the Red Sea.'"

"Money down?" asked Marcel.

"Specie," replied the Jew, making the orchestra pockets strike up.

"Do you accept this serious offer?" asked Colline.

"Of course I do!" shouted Rodolphe, "don't you see, you wretch, that he
is talking of 'tin'? Is there nothing sacred for you, atheist that you
are?"

Colline mounted on a table and assumed the attitude of Harpocrates, the
God of Silence.

"Push on, Medicis!" said Marcel, exhibiting his picture. "I wish to
leave you the honor of fixing the price of this work, which is above all
price."

The Jew placed on the table a hundred and fifty francs in new coin.

"Well, what more?" said Marcel, "that's only the prologue."

"Monsieur Marcel," replied the Jew, "you know that my first offer is my
last. I shall add nothing. Reflect, a hundred and fifty francs; that is
a sum, it is!"

"A very small sum," said the artist. "There is that much worth of cobalt
in my Pharaoh's robe. Make it a round sum, at any rate! Square it off;
say two hundred!"

"I won't add a sou!" said Medicis. "But I stand dinner for the company,
wine to any extent."

"Going, going, going!" shouted Colline, with three blows of his fist on
the table, "no one speaks?--gone!"

"Well it's a bargain!" said Marcel.

"I will send for the picture tomorrow," said the Jew, "and now,
gentlemen, to dinner!"

The four friends descended the staircase, singing the chorus of "The
Huguenots"--"_A table! A table!_"

Medicis treated the Bohemians in a really magnificent way, and gave them
their choice of a number of dishes, which until then were completely
unknown to them. Henceforward hot lobster ceased to be a myth with
Schaunard, who contracted a passion for it that bordered on delirium.
The four friends departed from the gorgeous banquet as drunk as a
vintage-day. Marcel's intoxication was near having the most deplorable
consequences. In passing by his tailor's, at two in the morning, he
absolutely wanted to wake up his creditor, and pay him the hundred and
fifty francs on account. A ray of reason which flashed across the mind
of Colline, stopped the artist on the border of this precipice.

A week after, Marcel discovered in what gallery his picture had been
placed. While passing through the Faubourg St. Honore, he stopped in the
midst of a group which seemed to regard with curiosity a sign that was
being put up over a shop door. The sign was neither more nor less than
Marcel's picture, which Medicis had sold to a grocer. Only "the Passage
of the Red Sea" had undergone one more alteration, and been given one
more new name. It had received the addition of a steamboat and was
called "the Harbor of Marseilles." The curious bystanders were bestowing
on it a flattering ovation. Marcel returned home in ecstacy at his
triumph, muttering to himself, _Vox populi, voz Dei_.




CHAPTER XVII

The Toilette of the Graces


Mademoiselle Mimi, who was accustomed to sleep far into the day, woke up
one morning at ten o'clock, and was greatly surprised not to find
Rodolphe beside her, nor even in the room. The preceding night, before
falling to sleep, she had, however, seen him at his desk, preparing to
spend the night over a piece of literary work which had been ordered of
him, and in the completion of which Mimi was especially interested. In
fact, the poet had given his companion hopes that out of the fruit of
his labors he would purchase a certain summer gown, that she had noticed
one day at the "Deux Magots," a famous drapery establishment, to the
window of which Mimi's coquetry used very frequently to pay its
devotions. Hence, ever since the work in question had been begun, Mimi
had been greatly interested in its progress. She would often come up to
Rodolphe whilst he was writing, and leaning her head on his shoulder
would say to him in serious tones--

"Well, is my dress getting on?"

"There is already enough for a sleeve, so be easy," replied Rodolphe.

One night having heard Rodolphe snap his fingers, which usually meant
that he was satisfied with his work, Mimi suddenly sat up in bed and
passing her head through the curtains said, "Is my dress finished?"

"There," replied Rodolphe, showing her four large sheets of paper,
covered with closely written lines. "I have just finished the body."

"How nice," said Mimi. "Then there is only the skirt now left to do. How
many pages like that are wanted for the skirt?"

"That depends; but as you are not tall, with ten pages of fifty lines
each, and eight words to the line, we can get a decent skirt."

"I am not very tall, it is true," said Mimi seriously, "but it must not
look as if we had skimped the stuff. Dresses are worn full, and I should
like nice large folds so that it may rustle as I walk."

"Very good," replied Rodolphe, seriously. "I will squeeze another word
in each line and we shall manage the rustling." Mimi fell asleep again
quite satisfied.

As she had been guilty of the imprudence of speaking of the nice dress
that Rodolphe was engaged in making for her to Mademoiselles Musette and
Phemie, these two young persons had not failed to inform Messieurs
Marcel and Schaunard of their friend's generosity towards his mistress,
and these confidences had been followed by unequivocal challenges to
follow the example set by the poet.

"That is to say," added Mademoiselle Musette, pulling Marcel's
moustache, "that if things go on like this a week longer I shall be
obliged to borrow a pair of your trousers to go out in."

"I am owed eleven francs by a good house," replied Marcel. "If I get it
in I will devote it to buying you a fashionable fig leaf."

"And I," said Phemie to Schaunard, "my gown is in ribbons."

Schaunard took three sous from his pocket and gave them to his mistress,
saying, "Here is enough to buy a needle and thread with. Mend your gown,
that will instruct and amuse you at the same time, _utile dulci_."

Nevertheless, in a council kept very secret, Marcel and Schaunard agreed
with Rodolphe that each of them should endeavor to satisfy the
justifiable coquetry of their mistresses.

"These poor girls," said Rodolphe, "a trifle suffices to adorn them,
but then they must have this trifle. Latterly fine arts and literature
have been flourishing; we are earning almost as much as street porters."

"It is true that I ought not to complain," broke in Marcel. "The fine
arts are in a most healthy condition, one might believe oneself under
the sway of Leo the Tenth."

"In point of fact," said Rodolphe. "Musette tells me that for the last
week you have started off every morning and do not get home till about
eight in the evening. Have you really got something to do?"

"My dear fellow, a superb job that Medicis got me. I am painting at the
Ave Maria barracks. Eight grenadiers have ordered their portraits at six
francs a head taken all round, likenesses guaranteed for a year, like a
watch. I hope to get the whole regiment. I had the idea, on my own part,
of decking out Musette when Medicis pays me, for it is with him I do
business and not my models."

"As to me," observed Schaunard carelessly, "although it may not look
like it, I have two hundred francs lying idle."

"The deuce, let us stir them up," said Rodolphe.

"In two or three days I count on drawing them," replied Schaunard. "I do
not conceal from you that on doing so I intend to give a free rein to
some of my passions. There is, above all, at the second hand clothes
shop close by a nankeen jacket and a hunting horn, that have for a long
time caught my eye. I shall certainly present myself with them."

"But," added Marcel and Rodolphe together, "where do you hope to draw
this amount of capital from?"

"Hearken gentlemen," said Schaunard, putting on a serious air, and
sitting down between his two friends, "we must not hide from one
another that before becoming members of the Institute and ratepayers, we
have still a great deal of rye bread to eat, and that daily bread is
hard to get. On the other hand, we are not alone; as heaven has created
us sensitive to love, each of us has chosen to share his lot."

"Which is little," interrupted Marcel.

"But," continued Schaunard, "whilst living with the strictest economy,
it is difficult when one has nothing to put anything on one side, above
all if one's appetite is always larger than one's plate."

"What are you driving at?" asked Rodolphe.

"This," resumed Schaunard, "that in our present situation we should all
be wrong to play the haughty when a chance offers itself, even outside
our art, of putting a figure in front of the cypher that constitutes our
capital."

"Well!" said Marcel, "which of us can you reproach with playing the
haughty. Great painter as I shall be some day, have I not consented to
devote my brush to the pictorial reproduction of French soldiers, who
pay me out of their scanty pocket money? It seems to me that I am not
afraid to descend the ladder of my future greatness."

"And I," said Rodolphe, "do not you know that for the past fortnight I
have been writing a medico-chirurgical epic for a celebrated dentist,
who has hired my inspiration at fifteen sous the dozen lines, about half
the price of oysters? However, I do not blush; rather than let my muse
remain idle, I would willingly put a railway guide into verse. When one
has a lyre it is meant to be made use of. And then Mimi has a burning
thirst for boots."

"Then," said Schaunard, "you will not be offended with me when you know
the source of that Pactolus, the overflowing of which I am awaiting."

The following is the history of Schaunard's two hundred francs:--

About a fortnight before he had gone into the shop of a music publisher
who had promised to procure him amongst his customers' pupils for
pianoforte lessons or pianofortes to tune.

"By Jove!" said the publisher, on seeing him enter the shop, "you are
just in time. A gentleman has been here who wants a pianist; he is an
Englishman, and will probably pay well. Are you really a good one?"

Schaunard reflected that a modest air might injure him in the
publisher's estimation. Indeed, a modest musician, and especially a
modest pianist, is a rare creation. Accordingly, he replied boldly:

"I am a first rate one; if I only had a lung gone, long hair and a black
coat, I should be famous as the sun in the heavens; and instead of
asking me eight hundred francs to engrave my composition 'The Death of
the Damsel,' you would come on your knees to offer me three thousand for
it on a silver plate."

The person whose address Schaunard took was an Englishman, named Birne.
The musician was first received by a servant in blue, who handed him
over to a servant in green, who passed him on to a servant in black, who
introduced him into a drawing room, where he found himself face to face
with a Briton coiled up in an attitude which made him resemble Hamlet
mediating on human nothingness. Schaunard was about to explain the
reason of his presence, when a sudden volley of shrill cries cut short
his speech. These horrid and ear piercing sounds proceeded from a parrot
hung out on the balcony of the story below.

"Oh! That beast, that beast!" exclaimed the Englishman, with a bound on
his arm chair, "it will kill me."

Thereupon the bird began to repeat its vocabulary, much more extensive
than that of ordinary Pollies; and Schaunard stood stupefied when he
heard the animal, prompted by a female voice, reciting the speech of
Theramenes with all the professional intonations.

This parrot was the favorite of an actress who was then a great favorite
herself, and very much the rage--in her own boudoir. She was one of
those women who, no one knows why, was quoted at fancy prices on the
'Change of dissipation, and whose names are inscribed on the bills of
fare of young noblemen's suppers, where they form the living dessert. It
gives a Christian standing now-a-days to be seen with one of these
Pagans, who often have nothing of antiquity about them except their
age. When they are handsome, there is no such great harm after all; the
worst one risks is to sleep on straw in return for making them sleep on
rosewood. But when their beauty is bought by the ounce at the
perfumer's, and will not stand three drops of water on a rag; then their
wit consists in a couplet of a farce, and their talent lies in the hand
of the _claqueur_, it is hard indeed to understand how respectable men
with good names, ordinary sense, and decent coats, can let themselves be
carried away by a common place passion for these most mercenary
creatures.

The actress in question was one of these belles of the day. She called
herself Delores, and professed to be a Spaniard, although she was born
in that Parisian Andalusia known as the Rue Coquenard. From there to the
Rue de Provence is about ten minute's walk, but it had cost her seven
years to make the transit. Her prosperity had begun with the decline of
her personal charms. She had a horse the day when her first false tooth
was inserted, and a pair the day of her second. Now she was living at a
great rate, lodging in a palace, driving four horses on holidays, and
giving balls to which all Paris came--the "all Paris" of these
ladies--that is to say, that collection of lazy seekers after jokes and
scandal; the "all Paris" that plays lansquenet; the sluggards of head
and hand, who kill their own time and other people's; the writers who
turn literary men to get some use out of the feather which nature placed
on their backs; the bullies of the revel, the clipped and sweated
gentlemen, the chevaliers of doubtful orders, all the vagabonds of
kid-glove-dom, that come from God knows where, and go back tither again
some day; all the marked and remarked notorieties; all those daughters
of Eve who retail what they once sold wholesale; all that race of
beings, corrupt from their cradle to their coffin, whom one sees on
first nights at the theater, with Golconda on foreheads and Thibet on
their shoulders, and for whom, notwithstanding, bloom the first violets
of spring and the first passions of youth--all this world which the
chronicles of gossip call "all Paris," was received by Delores who owned
the parrot aforesaid.

This bird, celebrated for its oratorical talents among all the
neighbors, had gradually become the terror of the nearest. Hung out on
the balcony, it made a pulpit of its perch and spouted interminable
harangues from morning to night. It had learned certain parliamentary
topics from some political friends of the mistress, and was very strong
on the sugar question. It knew all the actress's repertory by heart, and
declaimed it well enough to have been her substitute, in case of
indisposition. Moreover, as she was rather polyglot in her flirtations,
and received visitors from all parts of the world, the parrot spoke all
languages, and would sometimes let out a _lingua Franca_ of oaths
enough to shock the sailors to whom "Vert-Vert" owed his profitable
education. The company of this bird, which might be instructive and
amusing for ten minutes, became a positive torture when prolonged. The
neighbors had often complained; the actress insolently disregarded their
complaints. Two or three other tenants of the house, respectable fathers
of families, indignant at the scandalous state of morals into which they
were initiated by the indiscretions of the parrot, had given warning to
the landlord. But the actress had got on his weak side; whoever might
go, she stayed.

The Englishman whose sitting room Schaunard now entered, had suffered
with patience for three months. One day he concealed his fury, which
was ready to explode, under a full dress suit and sent in his card to
Mademoiselle Dolores.

When she beheld him enter, arrayed almost as he would have been to
present himself before Queen Victoria, she at first thought it must be
Hoffmann, in his part of Lord Spleen; and wishing to be civil to a
fellow artist, she offered him some breakfast.

The Englishman understood French. He had learned it in twenty five
lessons from a Spanish refugee. Accordingly he replied:

"I accept your invitation on condition of our eating this disagreeable
bird," and he pointed to the cage of the parrot, who, having smelled an
Englishman, saluted him by whistling "God Save the King."

Dolores thought her neighbor was quizzing her, and was beginning to get
angry, when Mr. Birne added:

"As I am very rich, I will buy the animal. Put your price on it."

Dolores answered that she valued the bird, and liked it, and would not
wish to see it pass into the hands of another.

"Oh, it's not in my hands I want to put it," replied the Englishman,
"But under my feet--so--," and he pointed to the heels of his boots.

Dolores shuddered with indignation and would probably have broken out,
when she perceived on the Englishman's finger a ring, the diamond of
which represented an income of twenty five hundred francs. The discovery
was like a shower bath to her rage. She reflected that it might be
imprudent to quarrel with a man who carried fifty thousand francs on his
little finger.

"Well, sir," she said, "as poor Coco annoys you, I will put him in a
back room, where you cannot hear him."

The Englishman made a gesture of satisfaction.

"However," added he, pointing once more to his boots, "I should have
preferred--."

"Don't be afraid. Where I mean to put him it will be impossible for him
to trouble milord."

"Oh! I am not a lord; only an esquire."

With that, Mr. Birne was retiring, after a very low bow, when Delores,
who never neglected her interests, took up a small pocket from a work
table and said:

"Tonight sir, is my benefit at the theater. I am to play in three
pieces. Will you allow me to offer you some box tickets? The price has
been but very slightly raised." And she put a dozen boxes into the
Briton's hand.

"After showing myself so prompt to oblige him," thought she, "he cannot
refuse, if he is a gentleman, and if he sees me play in my pink costume,
who knows? He is very ugly, to be sure, and very sad looking, but he
might furnish me the means of going to England without being sea sick."

The Englishman having taken the tickets, had their purport explained to
him a second time. He then asked the price.

"The boxes are sixty francs each, and there are ten there, but no
hurry," said added, seeing the Englishman take out his pocketbook. "I
hope that as we are neighbors, this is not the last time I shall have
the honor of a visit from you."

"I do not like to run up bills," replied Mr. Birne and drawing from the
pocketbook a thousand franc note, he laid it on the table and slid the
tickets into his pockets.

"I will give you change," said Dolores, opening a little drawer.

"Never mind," said the Englishman, "the rest will do for a drink," and
he went off leaving Dolores thunder struck at his last words.

"For a drink!" she exclaimed. "What a clown! I will send him back his
money."

But her neighbor's rudeness had only irritated the epidermis of her
vanity; reflection calmed her. She thought that a thousand francs made a
very nice "pile," after all, and that she had already put up with
impertinences at a cheaper rate.

"Bah!" she said to herself. "It won't do to be so proud. No one was by,
and this is my washerwoman's mouth. And this Englishman speaks so badly,
perhaps he only means to pay me a compliment."

So she pocketed her bank note joyfully.

But that night after the theater she returned home furious. Mr. Birne
had made no use of the tickets, and the ten boxes had remained vacant.

Thus on appearing on the stage, the unfortunate _beneficiaire_ read on
the countenances of her lady friends, the delight they felt at seeing
the house so badly filled. She even heard an actress of her acquaintance
say to another, as she pointed to the empty boxes, "Poor Dolores, she
has only planted one stage box."

"True, the boxes are scarcely occupied," was the rejoinder.

"The stalls, too, are empty."

"Well, when they see her name on the bill, it acts on the house like an
air pump."

"Hence, what an idea to put up the price of the seats!"

"A fine benefit. I will bet that the takings would not fill a money box
or the foot of a stocking."

"Ah! There she is in her famous red velvet costume."

"She looks like a lobster."

"How much did you make out of your last benefit?" said another actress
to her companion.

"The house was full, my dear, and it was a first night; chairs in the
gangway were worth a louis. But I only got six francs; my milliner had
all the rest. If I was not afraid of chilblains, I would go to Saint
Petersburg."

"What, you are not yet thirty, and are already thinking of doing your
Russia?"

"What would you have?" said the other, and she added, "and you, is your
benefit soon coming on?"

"In a fortnight, I have already three thousand francs worth of tickets
taken, without counting my young fellows from Saint Cyr."

"Hallo, the stalls are going out."

"It is because Dolores is singing."

In fact, Dolores, as red in the face as her costume, was warbling her
verses with a vinegary voice. Just as she was getting though it with
difficulty, two bouquets fell at her feet, thrown by two actresses, her
dear friends, who advanced to the front of their box, exclaiming--:

"Bravo, Dolores!"

The fury of the latter may be readily imagined. Thus, on returning home,
although it was the middle of the night, she opened the window and woke
up Coco, who woke up the honest Mr. Birne, who had dropped off to sleep
on the faith of her promise.

From that day war was declared between the actress and the Englishman; a
war to the knife, without truce or repose, the parties engaged in which
recoiled before no expense or trouble. The parrot took finishing lessons
in English and abused his neighbor all day in it, and in his shrillest
falsetto. It was something awful. Dolores suffered from it herself, but
she hoped that one day or other Mr. Birne would give warning. It was on
that she had set her heart. The Englishman, on his part, began by
establishing a school of drummers in his drawing room, but the police
interfered. He then set up a pistol gallery; his servants riddled fifty
cards a day. Again the commissary of police interposed, showing him an
article in the municipal code, which forbids the usage of firearms
indoors. Mr. Birne stopped firing, but a week after, Dolores found it
was raining in her room. The landlord went to visit Mr. Birne, and found
him taking saltwater baths in his drawing room. This room, which was
very large, had been lined all round with sheets of metal, and had had
all the doors fastened up. Into this extempore pond some hundred pails
of water were poured, and a few tons of salt were added to them. It was
a small edition of the sea. Nothing was lacking, not even fishes. Mr.
Birne bathed there everyday, descending into it by an opening made in
the upper panel of the center door. Before long an ancient and fish-like
smell pervaded the neighborhood, and Dolores had half an inch of water
in her bedroom.

The landlord grew furious and threatened Mr. Birne with an action for
damages done to his property.

"Have I not a right," asked the Englishman, "to bathe in my rooms?"

"Not in that way, sir."

"Very well, if I have no right to, I won't," said the Briton, full of
respect for the laws of the country in which he lived. "It's a pity; I
enjoyed it very much."

That very night he had his ocean drained off. It was full time: there
was already an oyster bed forming on the floor.

However, Mr. Birne had not given up the contest. He was only seeking
some legal means of continuing his singular warfare, which was "nuts" to
all the Paris loungers, for the adventure had been blazed about in the
lobbies of the theaters and other public places. Dolores felt equally
bound to come triumphant out of the contest. Not a few bets were made
upon it.

It was then that Mr. Birne thought of the piano as an instrument of
warfare. It was not so bad an idea, the most disagreeable of instruments
being well capable of contending against the most disagreeable of birds.
As soon as this lucky thought occurred to him, he hastened to put it
into execution, hired a piano, and inquired for a pianist. The pianist,
it will be remembered, was our friend Schaunard. The Englishman
recounted to him his sufferings from the parrot, and what he had already
done to come to terms with the actress.

"But milord," said Schaunard, "there is a sure way to rid yourself of
this creature--parsley. The chemists are unanimous in declaring that
this culinary plant is prussic acid to such birds. Chop up a little
parsley, and shake it out of the window on Coco's cage, and the creature
will die as certainly as if Pope Alexander VI had invited it to dinner."

"I thought of that myself," said the Englishman, "but the beast is taken
good care of. The piano is surer."

Schaunard looked at the other without catching his meaning at once.

"See here," resumed the Englishman, "the actress and her animal always
sleep till twelve. Follow my reasoning--"

"Go on. I am at the heels of it."

"I intend to disturb their sleep. The law of the country authorizes me
to make music from morning to night. Do you understand?"

"But that will not be so disagreeable to her, if she hears me play the
piano all day--for nothing, too. I am a first-rate hand, if I only had a
lung gone--."

"Exactly, but I don't want you to make good music. You must only strike
on your instrument thus," trying a scale, "and always the same thing
without pity, only one scale. I understand medicine a little; that
drives people mad. They will both go mad; that is what I look for. Come,
Mr. Musician, to work at once. You shall be well paid."

"And so," said Schaunard, who had recounted the above details to his
friends, "this is what I have been doing for the last fortnight. One
scale continually from seven in the morning till dark. It is not exactly
serious art. But then the Englishman pays me two hundred francs a month
for my noise; it would be cutting one's throat to refuse such a
windfall. I accepted, and in two or three days I take my first month's
money."

It was after those mutual confidences that the three friends agreed
amongst themselves to profit by the general accession of wealth to give
their mistresses the spring outfit that the coquetry of each of them had
been wishing for so long. It was further agreed that whoever pocketed
his money first should wait for the others, so that the purchases should
be made at the same time, and that Mademoiselle Mimi, Musette, and
Phemie should enjoy the pleasure of casting their old skins, as
Schaunard put it, together.

Well, two or three days after this council Rodolphe came in first; his
dental poem had been paid for; it weighed in eighty francs. The next
day Marcel drew from Medicis the price of eighteen corporal's
likenesses, at six francs each.

Marcel and Rodolphe had all the difficulty in the world to hide their
good fortune.

"It seems to me that I sweat gold," said the poet.

"It is the same with me," said Marcel. "If Schaunard delays much longer,
it would be impossible for me to continue to play the part of the
anonymous Croesus."

But the very next morning saw Schaunard arrive, splendidly attired in a
bright yellow nankeen jacket.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Phemie, dazzled on seeing her lover so
elegantly got up, "where did you find that jacket?"

"I found it amongst my papers," replied the musician, making a sign to
his two friends to follow him. "I have drawn the coin," said he, when
they were alone. "Behold it," and he displayed a handful of gold.

"Well," exclaimed Marcel, "forward, let us sack the shops. How happy
Musette will be."

"How pleased Mimi will be," added Rodolphe. "Come, are you coming
Schaunard?"

"Allow me to reflect," replied the musician. "In decking out these
ladies with the thousand caprices of fashion, we shall perhaps be guilty
of a mistake. Think on it. Are you not afraid that when they resemble
the engravings in 'The Scarf of Iris,' these splendors will exercise a
deplorable influence upon their characters, and does it suit young
fellows like us to behave towards women as if we were aged and wrinkled
dotards? It is not that I hesitate about sacrificing fifteen or eighteen
francs to dress Phemie; but I tremble. When she has a new bonnet she
will not even recognize me, perhaps. She looks so well with only a
flower in her hair. What do you think about it, philosopher?" broke off
Schaunard, addressing Colline, who had come in within the last few
minutes.

"Ingratitude is the offspring of kindness," observed the philosopher.

"On the other hand," continued Schaunard, "when your mistresses are well
dressed, what sort of figure will you cut beside them in your
dilapidated costumes? You will look like their waiting maids. I do not
speak for myself," he broke off, drawing himself up in his nankeen
jacket, "for thank heaven, I could go anywhere now."

However, despite the spirit of opposition shown by Schaunard, it was
once more agreed that the next day all the shops of the neighborhood
should be ransacked to the advantage of the ladies.

And, indeed, the next day, at the very moment that we have seen, at the
beginning of this chapter, Mademoiselle Mimi wakes up very much
astonished at Rodolphe's absence, the poet and his two friends were
ascending the stairs, accompanied by a shopman from the Deux Magots and
a milliner with specimens. Schaunard, who had bought the famous hunting
horn, marched before them playing the overture to "The Caravan."

Musette and Phemie, summoned by Mimi, who was living on the lower floor,
descended the stairs with the swiftness of avalanches on hearing the
news that the bonnets and dresses had been brought for them. Seeing this
poor wealth spread out before them, the three women went almost mad with
joy. Mimi was seized with a fit of hysterical laughter, and skipped
about like a kid, waving a barege scarf. Musette threw her arms around
Marcel's neck, with a little green boot in each hand, which she smote
together like cymbals. Phemie looked at Schaunard and sobbed. She could
only say, "Oh Alexander, Alexander!"

"There is no danger of her refusing the presents of Artaxerxes,"
murmured Colline the philosopher.

After the first outbursts of joy were over, when the choices had been
made and the bills settled, Rodolphe announced to the three girls that
they would have to make arrangements to try on their new things the next
morning.

"We will go into the country," said he.

"A fine thing to make a fuss of," exclaimed Musette. "It is not the
first time that I have bought, cut out, sewn together, and worn a dress
the same day. Besides, we have the night before us, too. We shall be
ready, shall we not, ladies?"

"Oh yes! We shall be ready," exclaimed Mimi and Phemie together.

They at once set to work, and for sixteen hours did not lay aside
scissors or needle.

The next day was the first of May. The Easter bells had rung in the
resurrection of spring a few days before, and she had come eager and
joyful. She came, as the German ballad says, light-hearted as the young
lover who is going to plant a maypole before the window of his
betrothed. She painted the sky blue, the trees green, and all things in
bright colors. She aroused the torpid sun, who was sleeping in his bed
of mists, his head resting on the snow leaden clouds that served him as
a pillow, and cried to him, "Hi! Hi! My friend, time is up, and I am
here; quick to work. Put on your fine dress of fresh rays without
further delay, and show yourself at once on your balcony to announce my
arrival."

Upon which the sun had indeed set out, and was marching along as proud
and haughty as some great lord of the court. The swallows, returned from
their Eastern pilgrimage, filled the air with their flight, the may
whitened the bushes, the violets scented the woods, in which the birds
were leaving their nests each with a roll of music under its wings. It
was spring indeed, the true spring of poets and lovers, and not the
spring of the almanac maker--an ugly spring with a red nose and frozen
fingers, which still keeps poor folk shivering at the chimney corner
when the last ashes of the last log have long since burnt out. The balmy
breeze swept through the transparent atmosphere and scattered throughout
the city the first scent of the surrounding country. The rays of the
sun, bright and warm, tapped at the windows. To the invalid they cried,
"open, we are health," and at the garret of the young girl bending
towards her mirror, innocent first love of the most innocent, they said,
"open darling, that we may light up your beauty. We are the messengers
of fine weather. You can now put on your cotton frock and your straw
hat, and lace your smart boots; the groves in which folk foot it are
decked with bright new flowers, and the violins are tuning for the
Sunday dance. Good morning, my dear!"

When the angelus rang out from the neighboring church, the three hard
working coquettes, who had had scarcely time to sleep a few hours, were
already before their looking glasses, giving their final glance at
their new attire.

They were all three charming, dressed alike, and wearing on their faces
the same glow of satisfaction imparted by the realization of a long
cherished wish.

Musette was, above all, dazzlingly beautiful.

"I have never felt so happy," said she to Marcel. "It seems to me that
God has put into this hour all the happiness of my life, and I am afraid
that there will be no more left me. Ah bah! When there is no more left,
there will still be some more. We have the receipt for making it," she
added, gaily kissing him.

As to Phemie, one thing vexed her.

"I am very fond of green grass and the little birds," said she, "but in
the country one never meets anyone, and there will be no one to see my
pretty bonnet and my nice dress. Suppose we went into the country on the
Boulevards?"

At eight in the morning the whole street was in commotion, due to the
blasts from Schaunard's horn giving the signal to start. All the
neighbors were at their windows to see the Bohemians go by. Colline, who
was of the party, brought up the rear, carrying the ladies' parasols. An
hour later the whole of the joyous band were scattered about the fields
at Fontenay-aux-Roses.

When they returned home, very late at night, Colline, who during the day
had discharged the duties of treasurer, stated that they had omitted to
spend six francs, and placed this balance on the table.

"What shall we do with it?" asked Marcel.

"Suppose we invest it in Government stock," said Schaunard.




CHAPTER XVIII

Francine's Muff


Among the true Bohemians of the real Bohemia I used to know one, named
Jacques D. He was a sculptor, and gave promise of great talent. But
poverty did not give him time to fulfill this promise. He died of
debility in March, 184-, at the Saint Louis Hospital, on bed No. 14 in
the Sainte Victoria ward.

I made the acquaintance of Jacques at the hospital, when I was detained
there myself by a long illness. Jacques had, as I have said, the makings
of a great talent, and yet he was quite unassuming about it. During the
two months I spent in his company, and during which he felt himself
cradled in the arms of Death, I never once heard him complain or give
himself up to those lamentations which render the unappreciated artist
so ridiculous. He died without attitudinizing. His death brings to my
mind, too, one of the most horrible scenes I ever saw in that
caravanserai of human sufferings. His father, informed of the event,
came to reclaim the body, and for a long time haggled over giving the
thirty-six francs demanded by the hospital authorities. He also haggled
over the funeral service, and so persistently that they ended by
knocking off six francs. At the moment of putting the corpse into the
coffin, the male nurse took off the hospital sheet, and asked one of the
deceased's friends who was there for money for a shroud. The poor devil,
who had not a sou, went to Jacques' father, who got into a fearful rage,
and asked when they would finish bothering him.

The sister of charity, who was present at this horrible discussion, cast
a glance at the corpse, and uttered these simple and feeling words:

"Oh! sir, you cannot have him buried like that, poor fellow, it is so
cold. Give him at least a shirt, that he may not arrive quite naked
before his God."

The father gave five francs to the friend to get a shirt, but
recommended him to go to a wardrobe shop in the Rue Grace-aux-Belles,
where they sold second-hand linen.

"It will be cheaper there," said he.

This cruelty on the part of Jacques' father was explained to me later
on. He was furious because his son had chosen an artistic career, and
his anger remained unappeased even in the presence of a coffin.

But I am not very far from Mademoiselle Francine and her muff. I will
return to them. Mademoiselle Francine was the first and only mistress of
Jacques, who did not die very old, for he was scarcely three and twenty
when his father would have had him laid naked in the earth. The story of
his love was told me by Jacques himself when he was No. 14 and I was No.
16 in the Sainte Victoire ward--an ugly spot to die in.

Ah reader! Before I begin this story, which would be a touching one if I
could tell it as it was told to me by my friend Jacques, let me take a
pull or two at the old clay pipe he gave me on the day that the doctor
forbade its use by him. Yet at night, when the male nurse was asleep, my
friend Jacques would borrow his pipe with a little tobacco from me. It
is so wearisome at night in those vast wards, when one suffers and
cannot sleep.

"Only two or three whiffs," he would say, and I would let him have it;
and Sister Sainte-Genevieve did not seem to notice the smoke when she
made her round. Ah, good sister! How kind you were, and how beautiful
you looked, too, when you came to sprinkle us with holy water. We could
see you approaching, walking slowly along the gloomy aisles, draped in
your white veil, which fell in such graceful folds, and which our friend
Jacques admired so much. Ah kind sister! You were the Beatrice of that
Inferno. So sweet were your consolations that we were always complaining
in order to be consoled by you. If my friend Jacques had not died one
snowy day he would have carved you a nice little Virgin Mary to put in
your cell, good Sister Sainte-Genevieve.

 Well, and the muff? I do not see anything of the muff.

_Another Reader_: And Mademoiselle Francine, where about is she, then?

_First Reader_: This story is not very lively.

_Second Reader_: We shall see further on.

I really beg your pardon, gentlemen, it is my friend Jacques' pipe that
has led me away into these digressions. But, besides, I am not pledged
to make you laugh. Times are not always gay in Bohemia.

Jacques and Francine had met in a house in the Rue de la
Tour-d'Auvergne, into which they had both moved at the same time at the
April quarter.

The artist and the young girl were a week without entering on those
neighborly relations which are almost always forced on one when dwelling
on the same floor. However, without having exchanged a word, they were
already acquainted with one another. Francine knew that her neighbor was
a poor devil of an artist, and Jacques had learned that his was a little
seamstress who had quitted her family to escape the ill-usage of a
stepmother. She accomplished miracles of economy to make both ends meet,
and, as she had never known pleasure, had no longing for it. This is
how the pair came under the common law of partition walls. One evening
in April, Jacques came home worn out with fatigue, fasting since
morning, and profoundly sad with one of those vague sadnesses which have
no precise cause, and which seize on you anywhere and at all times; a
kind of apoplexy of the heart to which poor wretches living alone are
especially subject. Jacques, who felt stifling in his narrow room,
opened the window to breathe a little. The evening was a fine one, and
the setting sun displayed its melancholy splendors above the hills of
Montmartre. Jacques remained pensively at his window listening to the
winged chorus of spring harmony which added to his sadness. Seeing a
raven fly by uttering a croak, he thought of the days when ravens
brought food to Elijah, the pious recluse, and reflected that these
birds were no longer so charitable. Then, not being able to stand it any
longer, he closed his window, drew the curtain, and, as he had not the
wherewithal to buy oil for his lamp, lit a resin taper that he had
brought back from a trip to the Grande-Chartreuse. Sadder than ever he
filled his pipe.

"Luckily, I still have enough tobacco to hide the pistol," murmured he,
and he began to smoke.

My friend Jacques must have been very sad that evening to think about
hiding the pistol. It was his supreme resource on great crises, and was
usually pretty successful. The plan was as follows. Jacques smoked
tobacco on which he used to sprinkle a few drops of laudanum, and he
would smoke until the cloud of smoke from his pipe became thick enough
to veil from him all the objects in his little room, and, above all, a
pistol hanging on the wall. It was a matter of half a score pipes. By
the time the pistol was wholly invisible it almost always happened that
the smoke and the laudanum combined would send Jacques off to sleep, and
it also often happened that his sadness left him at the commencement of
his dreams.

But on this particular evening he had used up all his tobacco; the
pistol was completely hidden, and yet Jacques was still bitterly sad.
That evening, on the contrary Mademoiselle Francine was extremely
light-hearted when she came home, and like Jacques' sadness, her
light-heartedness was without cause. It was one of those joys that come
from heaven, and that God scatters amongst good hearts. So Mademoiselle
Francine was in a good temper, and sang to herself as she came upstairs.
But as she was going to open her door a puff of wind, coming through the
open staircase window, suddenly blew out her candle.

"Oh, what a nuisance!" exclaimed the girl, "six flights of stairs to go
down and up again."

But, noticing the light coming from under Jacques' door, the instinct of
idleness grafted on a feeling of curiosity, advised her to go and ask
the artist for a light. "It is a service daily rendered among
neighbors," thought she, "and there is nothing compromising about it."

She tapped twice, therefore, at the door, and Jacques opened it,
somewhat surprised at this late visit. But scarcely had she taken a step
into the room than the smoke that filled it suddenly choked her, and,
before she was able to speak a word, she sank fainting into a chair,
dropping her candle and her room door key onto the ground. It was
midnight, and everyone in the house was asleep. Jacques thought it
better not to call for help. He was afraid, in the first place, of
compromising his neighbor. He contented himself, therefore, with opening
the window to let in a little fresh air, and, after having sprinkled a
few drops of water on the girl's face, saw her open her eyes and by
degrees come to herself. When, at the end of five minutes' time, she had
wholly recovered consciousness, Francine explained the motive that had
brought her into the artist's room, and made many excuses for what had
happened.

"Now, then, I am recovered," said she. "I can go into my own room."

He had already opened the door, when she perceived that she was not
only forgetting to light her candle, but that she had not the key of her
room.

"Silly thing that I am," said she, putting her candle to the flame of
the resin taper, "I came in here to get a light, and I was going away
without one."

But at the same moment the draft caused by the door and window, both of
which had remained open, suddenly blew out the taper, and the two young
folk were left in darkness.

"One would think that it was done on purpose," said Francine. "Forgive
me sir, for all the trouble I am giving you, and be good enough to
strike a light so that I may find my key."

"Certainly mademoiselle," answered Jacques, feeling for the matches.

He had soon found them. But a singular idea flashed across his mind, and
he put the matches in his pocket saying, "Dear me, mademoiselle, here is
another trouble. I have not a single match here. I used the last when I
came in."

"Oh!" said Francine, "after all I can very well find my way without a
light, my room is not big enough for me to lose myself in it. But I must
have my key. Will you be good enough, sir, to help me to look for it? It
must have fallen to the ground."

"Let us look for it, mademoiselle," said Jacques.

And both of them began to seek the lost article in the dark, but as
though guided by a common instinct, it happened during this search, that
their hands, groping in the same spot, met ten times a minute. And, as
they were both equally awkward, they did not find the key.

"The moon, which is hidden just now by the clouds, shines right into the
room," said Jacques. "Let us wait a bit; by-and-by it will light up the
room and may help us."

And, pending the appearance of the moon, they began to talk. A
conversation in the dark, in a little room, on a spring night; a
conversation which, at the outset trifling and unimportant, gradually
enters on the chapter of personal confidences. You know what that leads
to. Language by degrees grows confused, full of reticences; voices are
lowered; words alternate with sighs. Hands meeting complete the thought
which from the heart ascends to the lips, and--. Seek the conclusion in
your recollection, young couples. Do you remember, young man. Do you
remember, young lady, you who now walk hand-in-hand, and who, up to two
days back, had never seen one another?

At length the moon broke through the clouds, and her bright light
flooded the room. Mademoiselle Francine awoke from her reverie uttering
a faint cry.

"What is the matter?" asked Jacques, putting his arm around her waist.

"Nothing," murmured Francine. "I thought I heard someone knock."

And, without Jacques noticing it, she pushed the key that she had just
noticed under some of the furniture.

She did not want to find it now.

       *       *       *       *       *

_First Reader_: I certainly will not let my daughter read this story.

_Second Reader_: Up till now I have not caught a glimpse of a single
hair of Mademoiselle Francine's muff; and, as to the young woman
herself, I do not know any better what she is like, whether she is fair
or dark.

Patience, readers, patience. I have promised you a muff, and I will give
you one later on, as my friend Jacques did to his poor love Francine,
who had become his mistress, as I have explained in the line left blank
above.

She was fair was Francine, fair and lovely, which is not usual. She had
remained ignorant of love until she was twenty, but a vague presentiment
of her approaching end counselled her not to delay if she would become
acquainted with it.

She met Jacques and loved him. Their connection lasted six months. They
had taken one another in the spring; they were parted in the autumn.
Francine was consumptive. She knew it and her lover Jacques knew it too;
a fortnight after he had taken up with her he had learned it from one of
his friends, who was a doctor.

"She will go with the autumn leaves," said the latter.

Francine heard this confidence, and perceived the grief it caused her
lover.

"What matters the autumn leaves?" said she, putting the whole of her
love into a smile. "What matters the autumn; it is summer, and the
leaves are green; let us profit by that, love. When you see me ready to
depart from this life, you shall take me in your arms and kiss me, and
forbid me to go. I am obedient you know, and I will stay."

And for five months this charming creature passed through the miseries
of Bohemian life, a smile and a song on her lips. As to Jacques, he let
himself be deluded. His friend often said to him, "Francine is worse,
she must be attended to." Then Jacques went all over Paris to obtain
the wherewithal for the doctor's prescription, but Francine would not
hear of it, and threw the medicine out of the window. At night, when she
was seized with a fit of coughing, she would leave the room and go out
on the landing, so that Jacques might not hear her.

One day, when they had both gone into the country, Jacques saw a tree
the foliage of which was turning to yellow. He gazed sadly at Francine,
who was walking slowly and somewhat dreamily.

Francine saw Jacques turn pale and guessed the reason of his pallor.

"You are foolish," said she, kissing him, "we are only in July, it is
three months to October, loving one another day and night as we do, we
shall double the time we have to spend together. And then, besides, if I
feel worse when the leaves turn yellow, we will go and live in a pine
forest, the leaves are always green there."

       *       *       *       *       *

In October Francine was obliged to keep her bed. Jacques' friend
attended her. The little room in which they lived was situated at the
top of the house and looked into a court, in which there was a tree,
which day by day grew barer of foliage. Jacques had put a curtain to the
window to hide this tree from the invalid, but Francine insisted on its
being drawn back.

"Oh my darling!" said she to Jacques. "I will give you a hundred times
more kisses than there are leaves." And she added, "Besides I am much
better now. I shall soon be able to go out, but as it will be cold and I
do not want to have red hands, you must buy me a muff."

During the whole of her illness this muff was her only dream.

The day before All Saints', seeing Jacques more grief stricken than
ever, she wished to give him courage, and to prove to him that she was
better she got up.

The doctor arrived at that moment and forced her to go to bed again.

"Jacques," whispered he in the artist's ear, "you must summon up your
courage. All is over; Francine is dying."

Jacques burst into tears.

"You may give her whatever she asks for now," continued the doctor,
"there is no hope."

Francine heard with her eyes what the doctor had said to her lover.

"Do not listen to him," she exclaimed, holding out her arm to Jacques,
"do not listen to him; he is not speaking the truth. We will go out
tomorrow--it is All Saints' Day. It will be cold--go buy me a muff, I beg
of you. I am afraid of chilblains this winter."

Jacques was going out with his friend, but Francine detained the doctor.

"Go and get my muff," said she to Jacques. "Get a nice one, so that it
may last a good while."

When she was alone she said to the doctor.

"Oh sir! I am going to die, and I know it. But before I pass away give
me something to give me strength for a night, I beg of you. Make me well
for one more night, and let me die afterwards, since God does not wish
me to live longer."

As the doctor was doing his best to console her, the wind carried into
the room and cast upon the sick girl's bed a yellow leaf, torn from the
tree in the little courtyard.

Francine opened the curtain, and saw the tree entirely bare.

"It is the last," said she, putting the leaf under her pillow.

"You will not die until tomorrow," said the doctor. "You have a night
before you."

"Ah, what happiness!" exclaimed the poor girl. "A winter's night--it
will be a long one."

Jacques came back. He brought a muff with him.

"It is very pretty," said Francine. "I will wear it when I go out."

So passed the night with Jacques.

The next day--All Saints'--about the middle of the day, the death agony
seized on her, and her whole body began to quiver.

"My hands are cold," she murmured. "Give me my muff."

And she buried her poor hands in the fur.

"It is the end," said the doctor to Jacques. "Kiss her for the last
time."

Jacques pressed his lips to those of his love. At the last moment they
wanted to take away her muff, but she clutched it with her hands.

"No, no," she said, "leave it me; it is winter, it is cold. Oh my poor
Jacques! My poor Jacques! What will become of you? Oh heavens!"

And the next day Jacques was alone.

_First Reader_: I told you that this was not a very lively story.

What would you have, reader? We cannot always laugh.

It was the morning of All Saints. Francine was dead.

Two men were watching at the bedside. One of them standing up was the
doctor. The other, kneeling beside the bed, was pressing his lips to the
dead girl's hands, and seemed to rivet them there in a despairing kiss.
It was Jacques, her lover. For more than six hours he had been plunged
in a state of heart broken insensibility. An organ playing under the
windows had just roused him from it.

This organ was playing a tune that Francine was in the habit of singing
of a morning.

One of those mad hopes that are only born out of deep despair flashed
across Jacques' mind. He went back a month in the past--to the period
when Francine was only sick unto death; he forgot the present, and
imagined for a moment that the dead girl was but sleeping, and that she
would wake up directly, her mouth full of her morning song.

But the sounds of the organ had not yet died away before Jacques had
already come back to the reality. Francine's mouth was eternally closed
to all songs, and the smile that her last thought had brought to her
lips was fading away from them beneath death's fingers.

"Take courage, Jacques," said the doctor, who was the sculptor's friend.

Jacques rose, and said, looking fixedly at him, "it is over, is it
not--there is no longer any hope?"

Without replying to this wild inquiry, Jacques' friend went and drew the
curtains of the bed, and then, returning to the sculptor, held out his
hand.

"Francine is dead," said he. "We were bound to expect it, though heaven
knows that we have done what we could to save her. She was a good girl,
Jacques, who loved you very dearly--dearer and better than you loved her
yourself, for hers was love alone, while yours held an alloy. Francine
is dead, but all is not over yet. We must now think about the steps
necessary for her burial. We must set about that together, and we will
ask one of the neighbors to keep watch here while we are away."

Jacques allowed himself to be led away by his friend. They passed the
day between the registrar of deaths, the undertaker, and the cemetery.
As Jacques had no money, the doctor pawned his watch, a ring, and some
clothes, to cover the cost of the funeral, that was fixed for the next
day.

They both got in late at night. The neighbor who had been watching tried
to make Jacques eat a little.

"Yes," said he. "I will. I am very cold and I shall need a little
strength for my work tonight."

The neighbor and the doctor did not understand him.

Jacques sat down at the table and ate a few mouthfuls so hurriedly that
he was almost choked. Then he asked for drink. But on lifting his glass
to his lips he let it fall. The glass, which broke on the floor, had
awakened in the artist's mind a recollection which itself revived his
momentary dulled pain. The day on which Francine had called on him for
the first time she had felt ill, and he had given her to drink out of
this glass. Later, when they were living together, they had regarded it
as a love token.

During his rare moments of wealth the artist would buy for his love one
or two bottles of the strengthening wine prescribed for her, and it was
from this glass that Francine used to sip the liquid whence her love
drew a charming gaiety.

Jacques remained for more than half an hour staring without uttering a
word at the scattered fragments of this frail and cherished token. It
seemed to him that his heart was also broken, and that he could feel
the fragments tearing his breast. When he had recovered himself, he
picked up the pieces of glass and placed them in a drawer. Then he asked
the neighbor to fetch him two candles, and to send up a bucket of water
by the porter.

"Do not go away," said he to the doctor, who had no intention of doing
so. "I shall want you presently."

The water and the candles were brought and the two friends left alone.

"What do you want to do?" asked the doctor, watching Jacques, who after
filling a wooden bowl with water was sprinkling powdered plaster of
Paris into it.

"What do I mean to do?" asked the artist, "cannot you guess? I am going
to model Francine's head, and as my courage would fail me if I were left
alone, you must stay with me."

Jacques then went and drew the curtains of the bed and turned down the
sheet that had been pulled up over the dead girl's face. His hand began
to tremble and a stifled sob broke from his lips.

"Bring the candles," he cried to his friend, "and come and hold the
bowl for me."

One of the candles was placed at the head of the bed so as to shed its
light on Francine's face, the other candle was placed at the foot. With
a brush dipped in olive oil the artist coated the eye-brows, the
eye-lashes and the hair, which he arranged as Francine usually wore it.

"By doing this she will not suffer when we remove the mold," murmured
Jacques to himself.

These precautions taken and after arranging the dead girl's head in a
favorable position, Jacques began to lay on the plaster in successive
coats until the mold had attained the necessary thickness. In a quarter
of an hour the operation was over and had been thoroughly successful.

By some strange peculiarity a change had taken place in Francine's face.
The blood, which had not had time to become wholly congealed, warmed no
doubt by the warmth of the plaster, had flowed to the upper part of the
corpse and a rosy tinge gradually showed itself on the dead whiteness of
the cheeks and forehead. The eyelids, which had lifted when the mold was
removed, revealed the tranquil blue eyes in which a vague intelligence
seemed to lurk; from out the lips, parted by the beginning of a smile,
there seemed to issue that last word, forgotten during the last
farewell, that is only heard by the heart.

Who can affirm that intelligence absolutely ends where insensibility
begins? Who can say that the passions fade away and die exactly at the
last beat of the heart which they have agitated? Cannot the soul
sometimes remain a voluntary captive within the corpse already dressed
for the coffin, and note for a moment from the recesses of its fleshly
prison house, regrets and tears? Those who depart have so many reasons
to mistrust those who remain behind.

At the moment when Jacques sought to preserve her features by the aid
of art who knows but that a thought of after life had perhaps returned
to awaken Francine in her first slumber of the sleep that knows no end.
Perhaps she had remembered the he whom she had just left was an artist
at the same time as a lover, that he was both because he could not be
one without the other, that for him love was the soul of heart and that
if he had loved her so, it was because she had been for him a mistress
and a woman, a sentiment in form. And then, perhaps, Francine, wishing
to leave Jacques the human form that had become for him an incarnate
ideal, had been able though dead and cold already to once more clothe
her face with all the radiance of love and with all the graces of youth,
to resuscitate the art treasure.

And perhaps too, the poor girl had thought rightly, for there exist
among true artists singular Pygmalions who, contrary to the original
one, would like to turn their living Galateas to marble.

In presence of the serenity of this face on which the death pangs had no
longer left any trace, no one would have believed in the prolonged
sufferings that had served as a preface to death. Francine seemed to be
continuing a dream of love, and seeing her thus one would have said that
she had died of beauty.

The doctor, worn out with fatigue, was asleep in a corner.

As to Jacques, he was again plunged in doubt. His mind beset with
hallucinations, persisted in believing that she whom he had loved so
well was on the point of awakening, and as faint nervous contractions,
due to the recent action of the plaster, broke at intervals the
immobility of the corpse, this semblance of life served to maintain
Jacques in his blissful illusion, which lasted until morning, when a
police official called to verify the death and authorize internment.

Besides, if it needed all the folly of despair to doubt of her death on
beholding this beautiful creature, it also needed all the infallibility
of science to believe it.

While the neighbor was putting Francine into her shroud, Jacques was led
away into the next room, where he found some of his friends who had come
to follow the funeral. The Bohemians desisted as regards Jacques, whom,
however, they loved in brotherly fashion, from all those consolations
which only serve to irritate grief. Without uttering one of those
remarks so hard to frame and so painful to listen to, they silently
shook their friend by the hand in turn.

"Her death is a great misfortune for Jacques," said one of them.

"Yes," replied the painter Lazare, a strange spirit who had been able at
the very outset to conquer all the rebellious impulses of youth by the
inflexibility of one set purpose, and in whom the artist had ended by
stifling the man, "yes, but it is a misfortune that he incurred
voluntarily. Since he knew Francine, Jacques has greatly altered."

"She made him happy," said another.

"Happy," replied Lazare, "what do you call happy? How can you call a
passion, which brings a man to the condition in which Jacques is at this
moment, happiness? Show him a masterpiece and he would not even turn
his eyes to look at it; on a Titian or a Raphael. My mistress is
immortal and will never deceive me. She dwells in the Louvre, and her
name is Joconde."

While Lazare was about to continue his theories on art and sentiment, it
was announced that it was time to start for the church.

After a few prayers the funeral procession moved on to the cemetery. As
it was All Souls' Day an immense crowd filled it. Many people turned to
look at Jacques walking bareheaded in rear of the hearse.

"Poor fellow," said one, "it is his mother, no doubt."

"It is his father," said another.

"It is his sister," was elsewhere remarked.

A poet, who had come there to study the varying expressions of regret at
this festival of recollections celebrated once a year amidst November
fogs, alone guessed on seeing him pass that he was following the funeral
of his mistress.

When they came to the grave the Bohemians ranged themselves about it
bareheaded, Jacques stood close to the edge, his friend the doctor
holding him by the arm.

The grave diggers were in a hurry and wanted to get things over quickly.

"There is to be no speechifying," said one of them. "Well, so much the
better. Heave, mate, that's it."

The coffin taken out of the hearse was lowered into the grave. One man
withdrew the ropes and then with one of his mates took a shovel and
began to cast in the earth. The grave was soon filled up. A little
wooden cross was planted over it.

In the midst of his sobs the doctor heard Jacques utter this cry of
egoism--

"Oh my youth! It is you they are burying."

Jacques belonged to a club styled the Water Drinkers, which seemed to
have been founded in imitation of the famous one of the Rue des
Quatre-Vents, which is treated of in that fine story _"Un Grand Homme de
Province."_ Only there was a great difference between the heroes of the
latter circle and the Water Drinkers who, like all imitators, had
exaggerated the system they sought to put into practice. This difference
will be understood by the fact that in Balzac's book the members of the
club end by attaining the object they proposed to themselves, while
after several years' existence the club of the Water Drinkers was
naturally dissolved by the death of all its members, without the name of
anyone of them remaining attached to a work attesting their existence.

During his union with Francine, Jacques' intercourse with the Water
Drinkers had become more broken. The necessities of life had obliged the
artist to violate certain conditions solemnly signed and sworn by the
Water Drinkers the day the club was founded.

Perpetually perched on the stilts of an absurd pride, these young
fellows had laid down as a sovereign principle in their association,
that they must never abandon the lofty heights of art; that is to say,
that despite their mortal poverty, not one of them would make any
concession to necessity. Thus the poet Melchior would never have
consented to abandon what he called his lyre, to write a commercial
prospectus or an electoral address. That was all very well for the poet
Rodolphe, a good-for-nothing who was ready to turn his hand to anything,
and who never let a five franc piece flit past him without trying to
capture it, no matter how. The painter Lazare, a proud wearer of rags,
would never have soiled his brushes by painting the portrait of a tailor
holding a parrot on his forefinger, as our friend the painter Marcel had
once done in exchange for the famous dress coat nicknamed Methuselah,
which the hands of each of his sweethearts had starred over with darns.
All the while he had been living in communion of thought with the Water
Drinkers, the sculptor Jacques had submitted to the tyranny of the club
rules; but when he made the acquaintance of Francine, he would not make
the poor girl, already ill, share of the regimen he had accepted during
his solitude. Jacques' was above all an upright and loyal nature. He
went to the president of the club, the exclusive Lazare, and informed
him that for the future he would accept any work that would bring him
in anything.

"My dear fellow, your declaration of love is your artistic renunciation.
We will remain your friends if you like, but we shall no longer be your
partners. Work as you please, for me you are no longer a sculptor, but a
plasterer. It is true that you may drink wine, but we who continue to
drink our water, and eat our dry bread, will remain artists."

Whatever Lazare might say about it, Jacques remained an artist. But to
keep Francine with him he undertook, when he had a chance, any paying
work. It is thus that he worked for a long time in the workshop of the
ornament maker Romagnesi. Clever in execution and ingenious in
invention, Jacques, without relinquishing high art, might have achieved
a high reputation in those figure groups that have become one of the
chief elements in this commerce. But Jacques was lazy, like all true
artists, and a lover after the fashion of poets. Youth in him had
awakened tardily but ardent, and, with a presentiment of his approaching
end, he had sought to exhaust it in Francine's arms. Thus it happened
that good chances of work knocked at his door without Jacques answering,
because he would have had to disturb himself, and he found it more
comfortable to dream by the light of his beloved's eyes.

When Francine was dead the sculptor went to see his old friends the
Water Drinkers again. But Lazare's spirit predominated in this club, in
which each of the members lived petrified in the egoism of art. Jacques
did not find what he came there in search of. They scarcely understood
his despair, which they strove to appease by argument, and seeing this
small degree of sympathy, Jacques preferred to isolate his grief rather
than see it laid bare by discussion. He broke off, therefore, completely
with the Water Drinkers and went away to live alone.

Five or six days after Francine's funeral, Jacques went to a monumental
mason of the Montparnasse cemetery and offered to conclude the following
bargain with him. The mason was to furnish Francine's grave with a
border, which Jacques reserved the right of designing, and in addition
to supply the sculptor with a block of white marble. In return for this
Jacques would place himself for three months at his disposition, either
as a journeyman stone-cutter or sculptor. The monumental mason then had
several important orders on hand. He visited Jacques' studio, and in
presence of several works begun there, had proof that the chance which
gave him the sculptor's services was a lucky one for him. A week later,
Francine's grave had a border, in the midst of which the wooden cross
had been replaced by a stone one with her name graven on it.

Jacques had luckily to do with an honest fellow who understood that a
couple of hundredweight of cast iron, and three square feet of Pyrenean
marble were no payment for three months' work by Jacques, whose talent
had brought him in several thousand francs. He offered to give the
artist a share in the business, but Jacques would not consent. The lack
of variety in the subjects for treatment was repugnant to his inventive
disposition, besides he had what he wanted, a large block of marble,
from the recesses of which he wished to evolve a masterpiece destined
for Francine's grave.

At the beginning of spring Jacques' position improved. His friend the
doctor put him in relation with a great foreign nobleman who had come to
settle in Paris, and who was having a magnificent mansion built in one
of the most fashionable districts. Several celebrated artists had been
called in to contribute to the luxury of this little palace. A chimney
piece was commissioned from Jacques. I can still see his design, it was
charming; the whole poetry of winter was expressed in the marble that
was to serve as a frame to the flames. Jacques' studio was too small, he
asked for and obtained a room in the mansion, as yet uninhabited, to
execute his task in. A fairly large sum was even advanced him on the
price agreed on for his work. Jacques began by repaying his friend the
doctor the money the latter had lent him at Francine's death, then he
hurried to the cemetery to cover the earth, beneath which his mistress
slept, with flowers.

But spring had been there before him, and on the girl's grave a thousand
flowers were springing at hazard amongst the grass. The artist had not
the courage to pull them up, for he thought that these flowers might
perhaps hold something of his dead love. As the gardener asked him what
was to be done with the roses and pansies he had brought with him,
Jacques bade him plant them on a neighboring grave, newly dug, the poor
grave of some poor creature, without any border and having no other
memorial over it than a piece of wood stuck in the ground and surmounted
by a crown of flowers in blackened paper, the scant offering of some
pauper's grief. Jacques left the cemetery in quite a different frame of
mind to what he had entered it. He looked with happy curiosity at the
bright spring sunshine, the same that had so often gilded Francine's
locks when she ran about the fields culling wildflowers with her white
hands. Quite a swarm of pleasant thoughts hummed in his heart. Passing
by a little tavern on the outer Boulevard he remembered that one day,
being caught by a storm, he had taken shelter there with Francine, and
that they had dined there. Jacques went in and had dinner served at the
same table. His dessert was served on a plate with a pictorial pattern;
he recognized it and remembered that Francine had spent half an hour in
guessing the rebus painted on it, and recollected, too, a song sung by
her when inspired by the violet hued wine which does not cost much and
has more gaiety in it than grapes. But this flood of sweet remembrances
recalled his love without reawakening his grief. Accessible to
superstition, like all poetical and dreamy intellects, Jacques fancied
that it was Francine, who, hearing his step beside her, had wafted him
these pleasant remembrances from her grave, and he would not damp them
with a tear. He quitted the tavern with firm step, erect head, bright
eye, beating heart, and almost a smile on his lips, murmuring as he went
along the refrain of Francine's song--

       "Love hovers round my dwelling
        My door must open be."

This refrain in Jacques' mouth was also a recollection, but then it was
already a song, and perhaps without suspecting it he took that evening
the first step along the road which leads from sorrow to melancholy, and
thence onward to forgetfulness. Alas! Whatever one may wish and whatever
one may do the eternal and just law of change wills it so.

Even as the flowers, sprung perhaps from Francine, had sprouted on her
tomb the sap of youth stirred in the heart of Jacques, in which the
remembrance of the old love awoke new aspirations for new ones. Besides
Jacques belonged to the race of artists and poets who make passion an
instrument of art and poetry, and whose mind only shows activity in
proportion as it is set in motion by the motive powers of the heart.
With Jacques invention was really the daughter of sentiment, and he put
something of himself into the smallest things he did. He perceived that
souvenirs no longer sufficed him, and that, like the millstone which
wears itself away when corn runs short, his heart was wearing away for
want of emotion. Work had no longer any charm for him, his power of
invention, of yore feverish and spontaneous, now only awoke after much
patient effort. Jacques was discontented, and almost envied the life of
his old friends, the Water Drinkers.

He sought to divert himself, held out his hand to pleasure, and made
fresh acquaintances. He associated with the poet Rodolphe, whom he had
met at a cafe, and each felt a warm sympathy towards the other. Jacques
explained his worries, and Rodolphe was not long in understanding their
cause.

"My friend," said he, "I know what it is," and tapping him on the chest
just over the heart he added, "Quick, you must rekindle the fire there,
start a little love affair at once, and ideas will recur to you."

"Ah!" said Jacques. "I loved Francine too dearly."

"It will not hinder you from still always loving her. You will embrace
her on another's lips."

"Oh!" said Jacques. "If I could only meet a girl who resembled her."

And he left Rodolphe deep in thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

Six weeks later Jacques had recovered all his energy, rekindled by the
tender glances of a young girl whose name was Marie, and whose somewhat
sickly beauty recalled that of poor Francine. Nothing, indeed, could be
prettier than this pretty Marie, who was within six weeks of being
eighteen years of age, as she never failed to mention. Her love affair
with Jacques had its birth by moonlight in the garden of an open air
ball, to the strains of a shrill violin, a grunting double bass, and a
clarinet that trilled like a blackbird. Jacques met her one evening when
gravely walking around the space reserved for the dancers. Seeing him
pass stiffly in his eternal black coat buttoned to the throat, the
pretty and noisy frequenters of the place, who knew him by sight, used
to say amongst themselves, "What is that undertaker doing here? Is there
anyone who wants to be buried?"

And Jacques walked on always alone, his heart bleeding within him from
the thorns of a remembrance which the orchestra rendered keener by
playing a lively quadrille which sounded to his ears as mournful as a
_De Profundis_. It was in the midst of this reverie that he noticed
Marie, who was watching him from a corner, and laughing like a wild
thing at his gloomy bearing. Jacques raised his eyes and saw this burst
of laughter in a pink bonnet within three paces of him. He went up to
her and made a few remarks, to which she replied. He offered her his arm
for a stroll around the garden which she accepted. He told her that he
thought her as beautiful as an angel, and she made him repeat it twice
over. He stole some green apples hanging from the trees of the garden
for her, and she devoured them eagerly to the accompaniment of that
ringing laugh which seemed the burden of her constant mirth. Jacques
thought of the Bible, and thought that we should never despair as
regards any woman, and still less as regards those who love apples. He
took another turn round the garden with the pink bonnet, and it is thus
that arriving at the ball alone he did not return from it so.

However, Jacques had not forgotten Francine; bearing in mind Rodolphe's
words he kissed her daily on Marie's lips, and wrought in secret at the
figure he wished to place on the dead girl's grave.

One day when he received some money Jacques bought a dress for Marie--a
black dress. The girl was pleased, only she thought that black was not
very lively for summer wear. But Jacques told her that he was very fond
of black, and that she would please him by wearing this dress every day.
Marie obeyed.

One Saturday Jacques said to her:

"Come early tomorrow, we will go into the country."

"How nice!" said Marie. "I am preparing a surprise for you. You shall
see. It will be sunshiny tomorrow."

Marie spent the night at home finishing a new dress that she had bought
out of her savings--a pretty pink dress. And on Sunday she arrived clad
in her smart purchase at Jacques' studio.

The artist received her coldly, almost brutally.

"I thought I should please you by making this bright toilette," said
Marie, who could not understand his coolness.

"We cannot go into the country today," replied he. "You had better be
off. I have some work today."

Marie went home with a full heart. On the way she met a young man who
was acquainted with Jacques' story, and who had also paid court to
herself.

"Ah! Mademoiselle Marie, so you are no longer in mourning?" said he.

"Mourning?" asked Marie. "For whom?"

"What, did you not know? It is pretty generally known, though, the
black dress that Jacques gave you--."

"Well, what of it?" asked Marie.

"It was mourning. Jacques made you wear mourning for Francine."

From that day Jacques saw no more of Marie.

This rupture was unlucky for him. Evil days returned; he had no more
work, and fell into such a fearful state of wretchedness that, no longer
knowing what would become of him, he begged his friend the doctor to
obtain him admission to a hospital. The doctor saw at first glance that
this admission would not be difficult to obtain. Jacques, who did not
suspect his condition, was on the way to rejoin Francine.

As he could still move about, Jacques begged the superintendent of the
hospital to let him have a little unused room, and he had a stand, some
tools, and some modelling clay brought there. During the first fortnight
he worked at the figure he intended for Francine's grave. It was an
angel with outspread wings. This figure, which was Francine's portrait,
was never quite finished, for Jacques could soon no longer mount the
stairs, and in short time could not leave his bed.

One day the order book fell into his hands, and seeing the things
prescribed for himself, he understood that he was lost. He wrote to his
family, and sent for Sister Sainte-Genevieve, who looked after him with
charitable care.

"Sister," said Jacques, "there is upstairs in the room that was lent me,
a little plaster cast. This statuette, which represents an angel, was
intended for a tomb, but I had not time to execute it in marble. Yes, I
had a fine block--white marble with pink veins. Well, sister, I give you
my little statuette for your chapel."

Jacques died a few days later. As the funeral took place on the very day
of the opening of the annual exhibition of pictures, the Water Drinkers
were not present. "Art before all," said Lazare.

Jacques' family was not a rich one, and he did not have a grave of his
own.

He is buried somewhere.




CHAPTER XIX

Musette's Fancies


It may be, perhaps, remembered how the painter Marcel sold the Jew
Medici his famous picture of "The Passage of the Red Sea," which was
destined to serve as the sign of a provision dealer's. On the morrow of
this sale, which had been followed by a luxurious dinner stood by the
Jew to the Bohemians as a clincher to the bargain, Marcel, Schaunard,
Colline, and Rodolphe woke up very late. Still bewildered by the fumes
of their intoxication of the day before, at first they no longer
remembered what had taken place, and as noon rung out from a neighboring
steeple, they all looked at one another with a melancholy smile.

"There goes the bell that piously summons humanity to refresh itself,"
said Marcel.

"In point of fact," replied Rodolphe, "it is the solemn hour when honest
folk enter their dining-room."

"We must try and become honest folk," murmured Colline, whose patron
saint was Saint Appetite.

"Ah, milk jug of my nursery!--ah! Four square meals of my childhood,
what has become of you?" said Schaunard. "What has become of you?" he
repeated, to a soft and melancholy tune.

"To think that at this hour there are in Paris more than a hundred
thousand chops on the gridiron," said Marcel.

"And as many steaks," added Rodolphe.

By an ironical contrast, while the four friends were putting to one
another the terrible daily problem of how to get their breakfast, the
waiters of a restaurant on the lower floor of the house kept shouting
out the customers' orders.

"Will those scoundrels never be quiet?" said Marcel. "Every word is like
the stroke of a pick, hollowing out my stomach."

"The wind is in the north," said Colline, gravely, pointing to a
weathercock on a neighboring roof. "We shall not breakfast today, the
elements are opposed to it."

"How so?" inquired Marcel.

"It is an atmospheric phenomenon I have noted," said the philosopher. "A
wind from the north almost always means abstinence, as one from the
south usually means pleasure and good cheer. It is what philosophy calls
a warning from above."

Gustave Colline's fasting jokes were savage ones.

At that moment Schaunard, who had plunged one of his hands into the
abyss that served him as a pocket, withdrew it with a yell of pain.

"Help, there is something in my coat!" he cried, trying to free his
hand, nipped fast in the claws of a live lobster.

To the cry he had uttered, another one replied. It came from Marcel,
who, mechanically putting his hand into his pocket, had there discovered
a silver mine that he had forgotten--that is to say, the hundred and
fifty francs which Medici had given him the day before in payment for
"The Passage of the Red Sea."

Memory returned at the same moment to the Bohemians.

"Bow down, gentlemen," said Marcel, spreading out on the table a pile of
five-franc pieces, amongst which glittered some new louis.

"One would think they were alive," said Colline.

"Sweet sounds!" said Schaunard, chinking the gold pieces together.

"How pretty these medals are!" said Rodolphe. "One would take them for
fragments of sunshine. If I were a king I would have no other small
change, and would have them stamped with my mistress's portrait."

"To think that there is a country where there are mere pebbles," said
Schaunard. "The Americans used to give four of them for two sous. I had
an ancestor who went to America. He was interred by the savages in their
stomachs. It was a misfortune for the family."

"Ah, but where does this animal come from?" inquired Marcel, looking at
the lobster which had began to crawl about the room.

"I remember," said Schaunard, "that yesterday I took a turn in Medicis'
kitchen, I suppose the reptile accidentally fell into my pocket; these
creatures are very short-sighted. Since I have got it," added he, "I
should like to keep it. I will tame it and paint it red, it will look
livelier. I am sad since Phemie's departure; it will be a companion to
me."

"Gentlemen," exclaimed Colline, "notice, I beg of you, that the
weathercock has gone round to the south, we shall breakfast."

"I should think so," said Marcel, taking up a gold piece, "here is
something we will cook with plenty of sauce."

They proceeded to a long and serious discussion on the bill of fare.
Each dish was the subject of an argument and a vote. Omelette souffle,
proposed by Schaunard, was anxiously rejected, as were white wines,
against which Marcel delivered an oration that brought out his
oenophilistic knowledge.

"The first duty of wine is to be red," exclaimed he, "don't talk to me
about your white wines."

"But," said Schaunard, "Champagne--"

"Bah! A fashionable cider! An epileptic licorice-water. I would give all
the cellars of Epernay and Ai for a single Burgundian cask. Besides, we
have neither grisettes to seduce, nor a vaudeville to write. I vote
against Champagne."

The program once agreed upon, Schaunard and Colline went to the
neighboring restaurant to order the repast.

"Suppose we have some fire," said Marcel.

"As a matter of fact," said Rodolphe, "we should not be doing wrong, the
thermometer has been inviting us to it for some time past. Let us have
some fire and astonish the fireplace."

He ran out on the landing and called to Colline to have some wood sent
in. A few minutes later Schaunard and Colline came up again, followed by
a charcoal dealer bearing a heavy bundle of firewood.

As Marcel was looking in a drawer for some spare paper to light the
fire, he came by chance across a letter, the handwriting of which made
him start, and which he began to read unseen by his friends.

It was a letter in pencil, written by Musette when she was living with
Marcel and dated day for day a year ago. It only contained these
words:--

     "My dear love,

      Do not be uneasy about me, I shall be in shortly. I have gone out
      to warm myself a bit by walking, it is freezing indoors and the
      wood seller has cut off credit. I broke up the last two rungs of
      the chair, but they did not burn long enough to cook an egg by.
      Besides, the wind comes in through the window as if it were at
      home, and whispers a great deal of bad advice which it would vex
      you if I were to listen to. I prefer to go out a bit; I shall take
      a look at the shops. They say that there is some velvet at ten
      francs a yard. It is incredible, I must see it. I shall be back
      for dinner.

      Musette"

"Poor girl," said Marcel, putting the letter in his pocket. And he
remained for a short time pensive, his head resting on his hands.

At this period the Bohemians had been for some time in a state of
widowhood, with the exception of Colline, whose sweetheart, however, had
still remained invisible and anonymous.

Phemie herself, Schaunard's amiable companion, had met with a simple
soul who had offered her his heart, a suite of mahogany furniture, and
a ring with his hair--red hair--in it. However, a fortnight after these
gifts, Phemie's lover wanted to take back his heart and his furniture,
because he noticed on looking at his mistress's hands that she wore a
ring set with hair, but black hair this time, and dared to suspect her
of infidelity.

Yet Phemie had not ceased to be virtuous, only as her friends had
chaffed her several times about her ring with red hair, she had had it
dyed black. The gentleman was so pleased that he bought Phemie a silk
dress; it was the first she had ever had. The day she put it on for the
first time the poor girl exclaimed:

"Now I can die happy."

As to Musette, she had once more become almost an official personage,
and Marcel had not met her for three or four months. As to Mimi,
Rodolphe had not heard her even mentioned, save by himself when alone.

"Hallo!" suddenly exclaimed Rodolphe, seeing Marcel squatting dreamily
beside the hearth. "Won't the fire light?"

"There you are," said the painter, setting light to the wood, which
began to crackle and flame.

While his friends were sharpening their appetites by getting ready the
feast, Marcel had again isolated himself in a corner and was putting the
letter he had just found by chance away with some souvenirs that Musette
had left him. All at once he remembered the address of a woman who was
the intimate friend of his old love.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, loud enough to be overheard. "I know where to find
her."

"Find what?" asked Rodolphe. "What are you up to?" he added, seeing the
artist getting ready to write.

"Nothing, only an urgent letter I had forgotten," replied Marcel, and he
wrote:--

     "My dear girl,

      I have wealth in my desk, an apoplectic stroke of fortune. We have
      a big feed simmering, generous wines, and have lit fires like
      respectable citizens. You should only just see it, as you used to
      say. Come and pass an hour with us. You will find Rodolphe, Colline
      and Schaunard. You shall sing to us at dessert, for dessert will
      not be wanting. While we are there we shall probably remain at
      table for a week. So do not be afraid of being too late. It is so
      long since I heard you laugh. Rodolphe will compose madrigals to
      you, and we will drink all manner of things to our dead and gone
      loves, with liberty to resuscitate them. Between people like
      ourselves--the last kiss is never the last. Ah! If it had not been
      so cold last year you might not have left me. You jilted me for a
      faggot and because you were afraid of having red hands; you were
      right. I am no more vexed with you over it this time than over the
       others, but come and warm yourself while there is a fire. With as
      many kisses as you like,

      Marcel."

This letter finished, Marcel wrote another to Madame Sidonie, Musette's
friend, begging her to forward the one enclosed in it. Then he went
downstairs to the porter to get him to take the letters. As he was
paying him beforehand, the porter noticed a gold coin in the painter's
hand, and before starting on his errand went up to inform the landlord,
with whom Marcel was behind with his rent.

"Sir," said he, quite out of breath, "the artist on the sixth floor has
money. You know the tall fellow who laughs in my face when I take him
his bill?"

"Yes," said the landlord, "the one who had the imprudence to borrow
money of me to pay me something on account with. He is under notice to
quit."

"Yes sir. But he is rolling in gold today. I caught sight of it just
now. He is giving a party. It is a good time--"

"You are right," said the landlord. "I will go up and see for myself
by-and-by."

Madame Sidonie, who was at home when Marcel's letter was brought, sent
on her maid at once with the one intended for Musette.

The latter was then residing in a charming suite of rooms in the
Chaussee d'Antin. At the moment Marcel's letter was handed to her, she
had company, and, indeed, was going to give a grand dinner party that
evening.

"Here is a miracle," she exclaimed, laughing like a mad thing.

"What is it?" asked a handsome young fellow, as stiff as a statuette.

"It is an invitation to dinner," replied the girl. "How well it falls
out."

"How badly," said the young man.

"Why so?" asked Musette.

"What, do you think of going?"

"I should think so. Arrange things as you please."

"But, my dear, it is not becoming. You can go another time."

"Ah, that is very good, another time. It is an old acquaintance, Marcel,
who invites me to dinner, and that is sufficiently extraordinary for me
to go and have a look at it. Another time! But real dinners in that
house are as rare as eclipses."

"What, you would break your pledge to us to go and see this
individual," said the young man, "and you tell me so--"

"Whom do you want me to tell it to, then? To the Grand Turk? It does not
concern him."

"This is strange frankness."

"You know very well that I do nothing like other people."

"But what would you think of me if I let you go, knowing where you are
going to? Think a bit, Musette, it is very unbecoming both to you and
myself; you must ask this young fellow to excuse you--"

"My dear Monsieur Maurice," said Mademoiselle Musette, in very firm
tones, "you knew me before you took up with me, you knew that I was full
of whims and fancies, and that no living soul can boast of ever having
made me give one up."

"Ask of me whatever you like," said Maurice, "but this! There are
fancies and fancies."

"Maurice, I shall go and see Marcel. I am going," she added, putting on
her bonnet. "You may leave me if you like, but it is stronger than I
am; he is the best fellow in the world, and the only one I have ever
loved. If his head had been gold he would have melted it down to give me
rings. Poor fellow," said she, showing the letter, "see, as soon as he
has a little fire, he invites me to come and warm myself. Ah, if he had
not been so idle, and if there had not been so much velvet and silk in
the shops! I was very happy with him, he had the gift of making me feel;
and it is he who gave me the name of Musette on account of my songs. At
any rate, going to see him you may be sure that I shall return to you...
unless you shut your door in my face."

"You could not more frankly acknowledge that you do not love me," said
the young man.

"Come, my dear Maurice, you are too sensible a man for us to begin a
serious argument on that point," rejoined Musette. "You keep me like a
fine horse in your stable--and I like you because I love luxury, noise,
glitter, and festivity, and that sort of thing; do not let us go in for
sentiment, it would be useless and ridiculous."

"At least let me come with you."

"But you would not enjoy yourself at all," said Musette, "and would
hinder us from enjoying ourselves. Remember that he will necessarily
kiss me."

"Musette," said Maurice. "Have you often found such accommodating people
as myself?"

"Viscount," replied Musette, "one day when I was driving in the Champs
Elysees with Lord _____, I met Marcel and his friend Rodolphe, both on
foot, both ill dressed, muddy as water-dogs, and smoking pipes. I had
not seen Marcel for three months, and it seemed to me as if my heart was
going to jump out of the carriage window. I stopped the carriage, and
for half an hour I chatted with Marcel before the whole of Paris,
filing past in its carriages. Marcel offered me a sou bunch of violets
that I fastened in my waistband. When he took leave of me, Lord _____
wanted to call him back to invite him to dinner with us. I kissed him
for that. That is my way, my dear Monsieur Maurice, if it does not suit
you you should say so at once, and I will take my slippers and my
nightcap."

"It is sometimes a good thing to be poor then," said Vicomte Maurice,
with a look of envious sadness.

"No, not at all," said Musette. "If Marcel had been rich I should never
have left him."

"Go, then," said the young fellow, shaking her by the hand. "You have
put your new dress on," he added, "it becomes you splendidly."

"That is so," said Musette. "It is a kind of presentiment I had this
morning. Marcel will have the first fruits of it. Goodbye, I am off to
taste a little of the bread of gaiety."

Musette was that day wearing a charming toilette. Never had the poem of
her youth and beauty been set off by a more seductive binding. Besides,
Musette had the instinctive genius of taste. On coming into the world,
the first thing she had looked about for had been a looking glass to
settle herself in her swaddling clothes by, and before being christened
she had already been guilty of the sin of coquetry. At the time when her
position was of the humblest, when she was reduced to cotton print
frocks, little white caps and kid shoes, she wore in charming style this
poor and simple uniform of the grisettes, those pretty girls, half bees,
half grasshoppers, who sang at their work all week, only asked God for a
little sunshine on Sunday, loved with all their heart, and sometimes
threw themselves out of a window.

A breed that is now lost, thanks to the present generation of young
fellows, a corrupted and at the same time corrupting race, but, above
everything, vain, foolish and brutal. For the sake of uttering spiteful
paradoxes, they chaffed these poor girls about their hands, disfigured
by the sacred scars of toil, and as a consequence these soon no longer
earned even enough to buy almond paste. By degrees they succeeded in
inoculating them with their own foolishness and vanity, and then the
grisette disappeared. It was then that the lorette sprung up. A hybrid
breed of impertinent creatures of mediocre beauty, half flesh, half
paint, whose boudoir is a shop in which they sell bits of their heart
like slices of roast beef. The majority of these girls who dishonor
pleasure, and are the shame of modern gallantry, are not always equal in
intelligence to the very birds whose feathers they wear in their
bonnets. If by chance they happen to feel, not love nor even a caprice,
but a common place desire, it is for some counter jumping mountebank,
whom the crowd surrounds and applauds at public balls, and whom the
papers, courtiers of all that is ridiculous, render celebrated by their
puffs. Although she was obliged to live in this circle Musette had
neither its manners nor its ways, she had not the servile cupidity of
those creatures who can only read Cocker and only write in figures. She
was an intelligent and witty girl, and some drops of the blood of Mansu
in her veins and, rebellious to all yokes, she had never been able to
help yielding to a fancy, whatever might be the consequences.

Marcel was really the only man she had ever loved. He was at any rate
the only one for whose sake she had really suffered, and it had needed
all the stubbornness of the instincts that attracted her to all that
glittered and jingled to make her leave him. She was twenty, and for her
luxury was almost a matter of existence. She might do without it for a
time, but she could not give it up completely. Knowing her inconstancy,
she had never consented to padlock her heart with an oath of fidelity.
She had been ardently loved by many young fellows for whom she had
herself felt a strong fancy, and she had always acted towards them with
far-sighted probity; the engagements into which she entered were simple,
frank and rustic as the love-making of Moliere's peasants. "You want me
and I should like you too, shake hands on it and let us enjoy
ourselves." A dozen times if she had liked Musette could have secured a
good position, which is termed a future, but she did not believe in the
future and professed the scepticism of Figaro respecting it.

"Tomorrow," she sometimes remarked, "is an absurdity of the almanac, it
is a daily pretext that men have invented in order to put off their
business today. Tomorrow may be an earthquake. Today, at any rate, we
are on solid ground."

One day a gentleman with whom she had stayed nearly six months, and who
had become wildly in love with her, seriously proposed marriage.
Musette burst out laughing in his face at this offer.

"I imprison my liberty in the bonds of matrimony? Never," said she.

"But I pass my time in trembling with fear of losing you."

"It would be worse if I were your wife. Do not let us speak about that
any more. Besides, I am not free," she added, thinking no doubt of
Marcel.

Thus she passed her youth, her mind caught by every straw blown by the
breeze of fancy, causing the happiness of a great many and almost happy
herself. Vicomte Maurice, under whose protection she then was, had a
great deal of difficulty in accustoming himself to her untamable
disposition, intoxicated with freedom, and it was with jealous
impatience that he awaited the return of Musette after having seen her
start off to Marcel's.

"Will she stay there?" he kept asking himself all the evening.

"Poor Maurice," said Musette to herself on her side. "He thinks it
rather hard. Bah! Young men must go through their training."

Then her mind turning suddenly to other things, she began to think of
Marcel to whom she was going, and while running over the recollections
reawakened by the name of her erst adorer, asked herself by what miracle
the table had been spread at his dwelling. She re-read, as she went
along, the letter that the artist had written to her, and could not help
feeling somewhat saddened by it. But this only lasted a moment. Musette
thought aright, that it was less than ever an occasion for grieving, and
at that moment a strong wind spring up she exclaimed:

"It is funny, even if I did not want to go to Marcel's, this wind would
blow me there."

And she went on hurriedly, happy as a bird returning to its first nest.

All at once snow began to fall heavy. Musette looked for a cab. She
could not see one. As she happened to be in the very street in which
dwelt her friend Madame Sidonie, the same who had sent on Marcel's
letter to her, Musette decided to run in for a few minutes until the
weather cleared up sufficiently to enable her to continue her journey.

When Musette entered Madame Sidonie's rooms she found a gathering there.
They were going on with a game of lansquenet that had lasted three
days.

"Do not disturb yourselves," said Musette. "I have only just popped in
for a moment."

"You got Marcel's letter all right?" whispered Madame Sidonie to her.

"Yes, thanks," replied Musette. "I am going to his place, he has asked
me to dinner. Will you come with me? You would enjoy yourself."

"No, I can't," said Madame Sidonie, pointing to the card table. "Think
of my rent."

"There are six louis," said the banker.

"I'll go two of them," exclaimed Madame Sidonie.

"I am not proud, I'll start at two," replied the banker, who had already
dealt several times. "King and ace. I am done for," he continued,
dealing the cards. "I am done for, all the kings are out."

"No politics," said a journalist.

"And the ace is the foe of my family," continued the banker, who then
turned up another king. "Long live the king! My dear Sidonie, hand me
over two louis."

"Put them down," said Sidonie, vexed at her loss.

"That makes four hundred francs you owe me, little one," said the
banker. "You would run it up to a thousand. I pass the deal."

Sidonie and Musette were chatting together in a low tone. The game went
on.

At about the same time the Bohemians were sitting down to table. During
the whole of the repast Marcel seemed uneasy. Everytime a step sounded
on the stairs he started.

"What is the matter?" asked Rodolphe of him. "One would think you were
expecting someone. Are we not all here?"

But at a look from the artist the poet understood his friend's
preoccupation.

"True," he thought, "we are not all here."

Marcel's look meant Musette, Rodolphe's answering glance, Mimi.

"We lack ladies," said Schaunard, all at once.

"Confound it," yelled Colline, "will you hold your tongue with your
libertine reflections. It was agreed that we should not speak of love,
it turns the sauces."

And the friends continued to drink fuller bumpers, whilst without the
snow still fell, and on the hearth the logs flamed brightly, scattering
sparks like fireworks.

Just as Rodolphe was thundering out a song which he had found at the
bottom of his glass, there came several knocks at the door. Marcel,
torpid from incipient drunkenness, leaped up from his chair, and ran to
open it. Musette was not there.

A gentleman appeared on the threshold; he was not only bad looking, but
his dressing gown was wretchedly made. In his hand he held a slip of
paper.

"I am glad to see you so comfortable," he said, looking at the table on
which were the remains of a magnificent leg of mutton.

"The landlord!" cried Rodolphe. "Let us receive him with the honors due
to his position!" and he commenced beating on his plate with his knife
and fork.

Colline handed him a chair, and Marcel cried:

"Come, Schaunard! Pass us a clean glass. You are just in time," he
continued to the landlord, "we were going to drink to your health. My
friend there, Monsieur Colline, was saying some touching things about
you. As you are present, he will begin over again, out of compliment to
you. Do begin again, Colline."

"Excuse me, gentlemen," said the landlord, "I don't wish to trouble you,
but---" and he unfolded the paper which he had in his hand.

"What's the document?" asked Marcel.

The landlord, who had cast an inquisitive glance around the room,
perceived some gold on the chimney piece.

"It is your receipt," he said hastily, "which I had the honor of
sending you once already."

"My faithful memory recalls the circumstance," replied the artist. "It
was on Friday, the eighth of the month, at a quarter past twelve."

"It is signed, you see, in due form," said the landlord, "and if it is
agreeable to you--"

"I was intending to call upon you," interrupted Marcel. "I have a great
deal to talk to you about."

"At your service."

"Oblige me by taking something," continued the painter, forcing a glass
of wine on the landlord. "Now, sir," he continued, "you sent me lately a
little paper, with a picture of a lady and a pair of scales on it. It
was signed Godard."

"The lawyer's name."

"He writes a very bad hand; I had to get my friend here, who understands
all sorts of hieroglyphics and foreign languages,"--and he pointed to
Colline--"to translate it for me."

"It was a notice to quit; a precautionary measure, according to the rule
in such cases."

"Exactly. Now I wanted to have a talk with you about this very notice,
for which I should like to substitute a lease. This house suits me. The
staircase is clean, the street gay, and some of my friends live near; in
short, a thousand reasons attach me to these premises."

"But," and the landlord unfolded his receipt again, "there is that last
quarter's rent to pay."

"We shall pay it, sir. Such is our fixed intention."

Nevertheless, the landlord kept his eye glued to the money on the
mantelpiece and such was the steady pertinacity of his gaze that the
coins seemed to move towards him of themselves.

"I am happy to have come at a time when, without inconveniencing
yourself, you can settle this little affair," he said, again producing
his receipt to Marcel, who, not being able to parry the assault, again
avoided it.

"You have some property in the provinces, I think," he said.

"Very little, very little. A small house and farm in Burgundy; very
trifling returns; the tenants pay so badly, and therefore," he added,
pushing forward his receipt again, "this small sum comes just in time.
Sixty francs, you know."

"Yes," said Marcel, going to the mantelpiece and taking up three pieces
of gold. "Sixty, sixty it is," and he placed the money on the table just
out of the landlord's reach.

"At last," thought the latter. His countenance lighted up, and he too
laid down his receipt on the table.

Schaunard, Colline, and Rodolphe looked anxiously on.

"Well, sir," quoth Marcel, "since you are a Burgundian, you will not be
sorry to see a countryman of yours." He opened a bottle of old Macon,
and poured out a bumper.

"Ah, perfect!" said the landlord. "Really, I never tasted better."

"An uncle of mine who lives there, sends me a hamper or two
occasionally."

The landlord rose, and was stretching out his hand towards the money,
when Marcel stopped him again.

"You will not refuse another glass?" said he, pouring one out.

The landlord did not refuse. He drank the second glass, and was once
more attempting to possess himself of the money, when Marcel called out:

"Stop! I have an idea. I am rather rich just now, for me. My uncle in
Burgundy has sent me something over my usual allowance. Now I may spend
this money too fast. Youth has so many temptations, you know. Therefore,
if it is all the same to you, I will pay a quarter in advance." He took
sixty francs in silver and added them to the three louis which were on
the table.

"Then I will give you a receipt for the present quarter," said the
landlord. "I have some blank ones in my pocketbook. I will fill it up
and date it ahead. After all," thought he, devouring the hundred and
twenty francs with his eyes, "this tenant is not so bad."

Meanwhile, the other three Bohemians, not understanding Marcel's
diplomacy, remained utterly stupefied.

"But this chimney smokes, which is very disagreeable."

"Why didn't you tell me before? I will send the workmen in tomorrow,"
answered the landlord, not wishing to be behindhand in this contest of
good offices. He filled up the second receipt, pushed the two over to
Marcel, and stretched out his hand once more towards the heap of money.
"You don't know how timely this sum comes in," he continued, "I have to
pay some bills for repairs, and was really quite short of cash."

"Very sorry to have made you wait."

"Oh, it's no matter now! Permit me."--and out went his hand again.

"Permit me," said Marcel. "We haven't finished with this yet. You know
the old saying, 'when the wine is drawn--'" and he filled the landlord's
glass a third time.

"One must drink it," remarked the other, and he did so.

"Exactly," said the artist, with a wink at his friends, who now
understood what he was after.

The landlord's eyes began to twinkle strangely. He wriggled on his
chair, began to talk loosely, in all senses of the word, and promised
Marcel fabulous repairs and embellishments.

"Bring up the big guns," said the artist aside to the poet. Rodolphe
passed along a bottle of rum.

After the first glass the landlord sang a ditty, which absolutely made
Schaunard blush.

After the second, he lamented his conjugal infelicity. His wife's name
being Helen, he compared himself to Menelaus.

After the third, he had an attack of philosophy, and threw up such
aphorisms as these:

"Life is a river."

"Happiness depends not on wealth."

"Man is a transitory creature."

"Love is a pleasant feeling."

Finally, he made Schaunard his confidant, and related to him how he had
"Put into mahogany" a damsel named Euphemia. Of this young person and
her loving simplicity he drew so detailed a portrait, that Schaunard
began to be assailed by a fearful suspicion, which suspicion was reduced
to a certainty when the landlord showed him a letter.

"Cruel woman!" cried the musician, as he beheld the signature. "It is
like a dagger in my heart."

"What is the matter!" exclaimed the Bohemians, astonished at this
language.

"See," said Schaunard, "this letter is from Phemie. See the blot that
serves her for a signature."

And he handed round the letter of his ex-mistress, which began with the
words, "My dear old pet."

"I am her dear old pet," said the landlord, vainly trying to rise from
his chair.

"Good," said Marcel, who was watching him. "He has cast anchor."

"Phemie, cruel Phemie," murmured Schaunard. "You have wounded me
deeply."

"I have furnished a little apartment for her at 12, Rue Coquenard," said
the landlord. "Pretty, very pretty. It cost me lots of money. But such
love is beyond price and I have twenty thousand francs a year. She asks
me for money in her letter. Poor little dear, she shall have this," and
he stretched out his hand for the money--"hallo! Where is it?" he added
in astonishment feeling on the table. The money had disappeared.

"It is impossible for a moral man to become an accomplice in such
wickedness," said Marcel. "My conscience forbids me to pay money to this
old profligate. I shall not pay my rent, but my conscience will at any
rate be clear. What morals, and in a bald headed man too."

By this time the landlord was completely gone, and talked at random to
the bottles. He had been there nearly two hours, when his wife, alarmed
at his prolonged absence, sent the maid after him. On seeing her master
in such a state, she set up a shriek, and asked, "what are they doing
to him?"

"Nothing," answered Marcel. "He came a few minutes ago to ask for the
rent. As we had no money we begged for time."

"But he's been and got drunk," said the servant.

"Very likely," replied Rodolphe. "Most of that was done before he came
here. He told us that he had been arranging his cellar."

"And he had so completely lost his head," added Colline, "that he
wanted to leave the receipt without the money."

"Give these to his wife," said Marcel, handing over the receipts. "We
are honest folk, and do not wish to take advantage of his condition."

"Good heavens! What will madame say?" exclaimed the maid, leading, or
rather dragging off her master, who had a very imperfect idea of the use
of his legs.

"So much for him!" ejaculated Marcel.

"He has smelt money," said Rodolphe. "He will come again tomorrow."

"When he does, I will threaten to tell his wife about Phemie and he will
give us time enough."

When the landlord had been got outside, the four friends went on smoking
and drinking. Marcel alone retained a glimmer of lucidity in his
intoxication. From time to time, at the slightest sound on the
staircase, he ran and opened the door. But those who were coming up
always halted at one of the lower landings, and then the artist would
slowly return to his place by the fireside. Midnight struck, and Musette
had not come.

"After all," thought Marcel, "perhaps she was not in when my letter
arrived. She will find it when she gets home tonight, and she will come
tomorrow. We shall still have a fire. It is impossible for her not to
come. Tomorrow."

And he fell asleep by the fire.

At the very moment that Marcel fell asleep dreaming of her, Mademoiselle
Musette was leaving the residence of her friend Madame Sidonie, where
she had been staying up till then. Musette was not alone, a young man
accompanied her. A carriage was waiting at the door. They got into it
and went off at full speed.

The game at lansquenet was still going on in Madame Sidonie's room.

"Where is Musette?" said someone all at once.

"Where is young Seraphin?" said another.

Madame Sidonie began to laugh.

"They had just gone off together," said she. "It is a funny story. What
a strange being Musette is. Just fancy...." And she informed the company
how Musette, after almost quarreling with Vicomte Maurice and starting
off to find Marcel, had stepped in there by chance and met with young
Seraphin.

"I suspected something was up," she continued. "I had an eye on them all
the evening. He is very sharp, that youngster. In short, they have gone
off on the quiet, and it would take a sharp one to catch them up. All
the same, it is very funny when one thinks how fond Musette is of her
Marcel."

"If she is so fond of him, what is the use of Seraphin, almost a lad,
and who had never had a mistress?" said a young fellow.

"She wants to teach him to read, perhaps," said the journalist, who was
very stupid when he had been losing.

"All the same," said Sidonie, "what does she want with Seraphin when she
is in love with Marcel? That is what gets over me."

       *       *       *       *       *

For five days the Bohemians went on leading the happiest life in the
world without stirring out. They remained at table from morning till
night. An admired disorder reigned in the room which was filled with a
Pantagruelic atmosphere. On a regular bed of oyster shells reposed an
army of empty bottles of every size and shape. The table was laden with
fragments of every description, and a forest of wood blazed in the
fireplace.

On the sixth day Colline, who was director of ceremonies, drew up, as
was his wont every morning, the bill of fare for breakfast, lunch,
dinner, and supper, and submitted it to the approval of his friends, who
each initialed it in token of approbation.

But when Colline opened the drawer that served as a cashbox, in order to
take the money necessary for the day's consumption, he started back and
became as pale as Banquo's ghost.

"What is the matter?" inquired the others, carelessly.

"The matter is that there are only thirty sous left," replied the
philosopher.

"The deuce. That will cause some modification in our bill of fare.
Well, thirty sous carefully laid out--. All the same it will be
difficult to run to truffles," said the others.

A few minutes later the table was spread. There were three dishes most
symmetrically arranged--a dish of herrings, a dish of potatoes, and a
dish of cheese.

On the hearth smoldered two little brands as big as one's fist.

Snow was still falling without.

The four Bohemians sat down to table and gravely unfolded their napkins.

"It is strange," said Marcel, "this herring has a flavor of pheasant."

"That is due to the way in which I cooked it," replied Colline. "The
herring has never been properly appreciated."

At that moment a joyous song rose on the staircase, and a knock came at
the door. Marcel, who had not been able to help shuddering, ran to open
it.

Musette threw her arms round his neck and held him in an embrace for
five minutes. Marcel felt her tremble in his arms.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"I am cold," said Musette, mechanically drawing near the fireplace.

"Ah!" said Marcel. "And we had such a rattling good fire."

"Yes," said Musette, glancing at the remains of the five days'
festivity, "I have come too late."

"Why?" said Marcel.

"Why?" said Musette, blushing slightly.

She sat down on Marcel's knee. She was still shivering, and her hands
were blue.

"You were not free, then," whispered Marcel.

"I, not free!" exclaimed the girl. "Ah Marcel! If I were seated amongst
the stars in Paradise and you made me a sign to come down to you I
should do so. I, not free!"

She began to shiver again.

"There are five chairs here," said Rodolphe, "which is an odd number,
without reckoning that the fifth is of a ridiculous shape."

And breaking the chair against the wall, he threw the fragments into the
fireplace. The fire suddenly burst forth again in a bright and merry
flame, then making a sign to Colline and Schaunard, the poet took them
off with him.

"Where are you going?" asked Marcel.

"To buy some tobacco," they replied.

"At Havana," added Schaunard, with a sign of intelligence to Marcel, who
thanked him with a look.

"Why did you not come sooner?" he asked Musette when they were alone
together.

"It is true, I am rather behindhand."

"Five days to cross the Pont Neuf. You must have gone round by the
Pyrenees?"

Musette bowed her head and was silent.

"Ah, naughty girl," said the artist, sadly tapping his hand lightly on
his mistress' breast, "what have you got inside here?"

"You know very well," she retorted quickly.

"But what have you been doing since I wrote to you?"

"Do not question me," said Musette, kissing him several times. "Do not
ask me anything, but let me warm myself beside you. You see I put on my
best dress to come. Poor Maurice, he could not understand it when I set
off to come here, but it was stronger than myself, so I started. The
fire is nice," she added, holding out her little hand to the flames, "I
will stay with you till tomorrow if you like."

"It will be very cold here," said Marcel, "and we have nothing for
dinner. You have come too late," he repeated.

"Ah, bah!" said Musette. "It will be all the more like old times."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rodolphe, Colline, and Schaunard, took twenty-four hours to get their
tobacco. When they returned to the house Marcel was alone.

After an absence of six days Vicomte Maurice saw Musette return.

He did not in any way reproach her, and only asked her why she seemed
sad.

"I quarreled with Marcel," said she. "We parted badly."

"And yet, who knows," said Maurice. "But you will again return to him."

"What would you?" asked Musette. "I need to breathe the air of that life
from time to time. My life is like a song, each of my loves is a verse,
but Marcel is the refrain."




CHAPTER XX

Mimi In Fine Feather


"No, no, no, you are no longer Lisette! No, no, no, you are no longer
Mimi. You are today, my lady the viscomtess, the day after tomorrow you
may, perhaps, be your grace the duchess; the doorway of your dreams has
at length been thrown wide open before you, and you have passed through
it victorious and triumphant. I felt certain you would end up by doing
so, some night or other. It was bound to be; besides, your white hands
were made for idleness, and for a long time past have called for the
ring of some aristocratic alliance. At length you have a coat of arms.
But, we still prefer the one which youth gave to your beauty, when your
blue eyes and your pale face seemed to quarter azure on a lily field.
Noble or serf, you are ever charming, and I readily recognized you when
you passed by in the street the other evening, with rapid and well-shod
foot, aiding the wind with your gloved hand in lifting the skirts of
your new dress, partly in order not to let it be soiled, but a great
deal more in order to show your embroidered petticoats and open-worked
stockings. You had on a wonderful bonnet, and even seemed plunged in
deep perplexity on the subject of the veil of costly lace which floated
over this bonnet. A very serious trouble indeed, for it was a question
of deciding which was best and most advantageous to your coquetry, to
wear this veil up or down. By wearing it down, you risked not being
recognized by those of your friends whom you might meet, and who
certainly would have passed by you ten times without suspecting that
this costly envelope hid Mademoiselle Mimi. On the other hand, by
wearing this veil up, it was it that risked escaping notice, and in that
case, what was the good of having it? You had cleverly solved the
difficulty by alternately raising and lowering at every tenth step; this
wonderful tissue, woven no doubt, in that country of spiders, called
Flanders, and which of itself cost more than the whole of your former
wardrobe."

"Ah, Mimi! Forgive me--I should say, ah, vicomtess! I was quite right,
you see, when I said to you: 'Patience, do not despair, the future is
big with cashmere shawls, glittering jewels, supper parties, and the
like.' You would not believe me, incredulous one. Well, my predictions
are, however, realized, and I am worth as much, I hope, as your 'Ladies'
Oracle,' a little octavo sorcerer you bought for five sous at a
bookstall on the Pont Neuf, and which you wearied with external
questions. Again, I ask, was I not right in my prophecies; and would you
believe me now, if I tell you that you will not stop at this? If I told
you that listening, I can hear faintly in the depths of your future,
the tramp and neighing of the horses harnessed to blue brougham, driven
by a powdered coachmen, who lets down the steps, saying, 'Where to
madam?' Would you believe me if I told you, too, that later on--ah, as
late as possible, I trust--attaining the object of a long cherished
ambition, you will have a table d'hote at Belleville Batignolles, and
will be courted by the old soldiers and bygone dandies who will come
there to play lansquenet or baccarat on the sly? But, before arriving at
this period, when the sun of your youth shall have already declined,
believe me, my dear child, you will wear out many yards of silk and
velvet, many inheritances, no doubt, will be melted down in the
crucibles of your fancies, many flowers will fade about your head, many
beneath your feet, and you will change your coat of arms many times. On
your head will glitter in turn the coronets of baroness, countess, and
marchioness, you will take for your motto, 'Inconstancy,' and you will,
according to caprice or to necessity, satisfy each in turn, or even all
at once, all the numerous adorers who will range themselves in the
ante-chamber of your heart as people do at the door of a theater at
which a popular piece is being played. Go on then, go straight onward,
your mind lightened of recollections which have been replaced by
ambition; go, the road is broad, and we hope it will long be smooth to
your feet, but we hope, above all, that all these sumptuosities, these
fine toilettes, may not too soon become the shroud in which your
liveliness will be buried."

Thus spoke the painter Marcel to Mademoiselle Mimi, whom he had met
three or four days after her second divorce from the poet Rodolphe.
Although he was obliged to veil the raillery with which he besprinkled
her horoscope, Mademoiselle Mimi was not the dupe of Marcel's fine
words, and understood perfectly well that with little respect for her
new title, he was chaffing her to bits.

"You are cruel towards me, Marcel," said Mademoiselle Mimi, "it is
wrong. I was always very friendly with you when I was Rodolphe's
mistress, and if I have left him, it was, after all, his fault. It was
he who packed me off in a hurry, and, besides, how did he behave to me
during the last few days I spent with him. I was very unhappy, I can
tell you. You do not know what a man Rodolphe was; a mixture of anger
and jealousy, who killed me by bits. He loved me, I know, but his love
was as dangerous as a loaded gun. What a life I led for six months. Ah,
Marcel! I do not want to make myself out better than I am, but I
suffered a great deal with Rodolphe; you know it too, very well. It is
not poverty that made me leave him, no I assure you I had grown
accustomed to it, and I repeat it was he who sent me away. He trampled
on my self-esteem; he told me that he no longer loved me; that I must
get another lover. He even went so far as to indicate a young man who
was courting me, and by his taunts, he served to bring me and this
young man together. I went with him as much out of spite as from
necessity, for I did not love him. You know very well yourself that I do
not care for such very young fellows. They are as wearisome and
sentimental as harmonicas. Well, what is done is done. I do not regret
it, and I would do the same over again. Now that he no longer has me
with him, and knows me to be happy with another, Rodolphe is furious and
very unhappy. I know someone who met him the other day; his eyes were
quite red. That does not astonish me. I felt quite sure it would come to
this, and that he would run after me, but you can tell him that he will
only lose his time, and that this time it is quite in earnest and for
good. Is it long since you saw him, Marcel and is it true that he is
much altered?" inquired Mimi in quite another tone.

"He is greatly altered indeed," replied Marcel.

"He is grieving, that is certain, but what am I to do? So much the worse
for him, he would have it so. It had to come to an end somehow. Try to
console him."

"Oh!" answered Marcel quickly. "The worst of the job is over. Do not
disturb yourself about it, Mimi."

"You are not telling the truth, my dear fellow," said Mimi, with an
ironical little pout. "Rodolphe will not be so quickly consoled as all
that. If you knew what a state he was in the night before I left. It was
a Friday, I would not stay that night at my new lover's because I am
superstitious, and Friday is an unlucky day."

"You are wrong, Mimi, in love affairs Friday is a lucky day; the
ancients called it Dies Veneris."

"I do not know Latin," said Mademoiselle Mimi, continuing her narration.
"I was coming back then from Paul's and found Rodolphe waiting for me in
the street. It was late, past midnight, and I was hungry for I had had
no dinner. I asked Rodolphe to go and get something for supper. He came
back half an hour later, he had run about a great deal to get nothing
worth speaking of, some bread, wine, sardines, cheese, and an apple
tart. I had gone to bed during his absence, and he laid the table beside
the bed. I pretended not to notice him, but I could see him plainly, he
was pale as death. He shuddered and walked about the room like a man who
does not know what he wants to do. He noticed several packages of
clothes on the floor in one corner. The sight of them seemed to annoy
him, and he placed the screen in front of them in order not to see them.
When all was ready we began to sup, he tried to make me drink, but I was
no longer hungry or thirsty, and my heart was quite full. He was cold,
for we had nothing to make a fire of, and one could hear the wind
whistling in the chimney. It was very sad. Rodolphe looked at me, his
eyes were fixed; he put his hand in mine and I felt it tremble, it was
burning and icy all at once. 'This is the funeral supper of our loves,'
he said to me in a low tone. I did not answer, but I had not the courage
to withdraw my hand from his. 'I am sleepy,' said I at last, 'it is
late, let us go to sleep.' Rodolphe looked at me. I had tied one of his
handkerchiefs about my head on account of the cold. He took it off
without saying a word. 'Why do you want to take that off?' said I. 'I am
cold.' 'Oh, Mimi!' said he. 'I beg of you, it will not matter to you, to
put on your little striped cap for tonight.' It was a nightcap of
striped cotton, white and brown. Rodolphe was very fond of seeing me in
this cap, it reminded him of several nights of happiness, for that was
how we counted our happy days. When I thought it was the last time that
I should sleep beside him I dared not refuse to satisfy this fancy of
his. I got up and hunted out my striped cap that was at the bottom of
one of my packages."

"Out of forgetfulness I forgot to replace the screen. Rodolphe noticed
it and hid the packages just as he had already done before. 'Good
night,' said he. 'Good night,' I answered. I thought that he was going
to kiss me and I should not have hindered him, but he only took my hand,
which he carried to his lips. You know, Marcel, how fond he was of
kissing my hands. I heard his teeth chatter and I felt his body as cold
as marble. He still held my hand and he laid his head on my shoulder,
which was soon quite wet. Rodolphe was in a fearful state. He bit the
sheets to avoid crying out, but I could plainly hear his stifled sobs
and I still felt his tears flowing on my shoulder, which was first
scalded and then chilled. At that moment I needed all my courage and I
did need it, I can tell you. I had only to say a word, I had only to
turn my head, and my lips would have met those of Rodolphe, and we
should have made it up once more. Ah! For a moment I really thought that
he was going to die in my arms, or that, at least, he would go mad, as
he almost did once before, you remember? I felt I was going to yield, I
was going to recant first, I was going to clasp him in my arms, for
really one must have been utterly heartless to remain insensible to such
grief. But I recollected the words he had said to me the day before,
'You have no spirit if you stay with me, for I no longer love you,' Ah!
As I recalled those bitter words I would have seen Rodolphe ready to
die, and if it had only needed a kiss from me to save him, I would have
turned away my lips and let him perish."

"At last, overcome by fatigue, I sank into a half-sleep. I could still
hear Rodolphe sobbing, and I can swear to you, Marcel, that this sobbing
went on all night long, and that when day broke and I saw in the bed, in
which I had slept for the last time, the lover whom I was going to
leave for another's arms, I was terribly frightened to see the havoc
wrought by this grief on Rodolphe's face. He got up, like myself,
without saying a word, and almost fell flat at the first steps he took,
he was so weak and downcast. However, he dressed himself very quickly,
and only asked me how matters stood and when I was going to leave. I
told him that I did not know. He went off without bidding goodbye or
shaking hands. That is how we separated. What a blow it must have been
to his heart no longer to find me there on coming home, eh?"

"I was there when Rodolphe came in," said Marcel to Mimi, who was out of
breath from speaking so long. "As he was taking his key from the
landlady, she said, 'The little one has left.' 'Ah!' replied Rodolphe.
'I am not astonished, I expected it.' And he went up to his room,
whither I followed him, fearing some crisis, but nothing occurred. 'As
it is too late to go and hire another room this evening we will do so
tomorrow morning,' said he, 'we will go together. Now let us see after
some dinner.' I thought that he wanted to get drunk, but I was wrong. We
dined very quietly at a restaurant where you have sometimes been with
him. I had ordered some Beaune to stupefy Rodolphe a bit. 'This was
Mimi's favorite wine,' said he, 'we have often drunk it together at this
very table. I remember one day she said to me, holding out her glass,
which she had already emptied several times, 'Fill up again, it is good
for one's bones.' A poor pun, eh? Worthy, at the most, of the mistress
of a farce writer. Ah! She could drink pretty fairly.'"

"Seeing that he was inclined to stray along the path of recollection I
spoke to him about something else, and then it was no longer a question
of you. He spent the whole evening with me and seemed as calm as the
Mediterranean. But what astonished me most was, that this calmness was
not at all affected. It was genuine indifference. At midnight we went
home. 'You seem surprised at my coolness in the position in which I find
myself,' said he to me, 'well, let me point out a comparison to you, my
dear fellow, it if is commonplace it has, at least, the merit of being
accurate. My heart is like a cistern the tap of which has been turned
on all night, in the morning not a drop of water is left. My heart is
really the same, last night I wept away all the tears that were left me.
It is strange, but I thought myself richer in grief, and yet by a single
night of suffering I am ruined, cleaned out. On my word of honor it is
as I say. Now, in the very bed in which I all but died last night beside
a woman who was no more moved than a stone, I shall sleep like a deck
laborer after a hard day's work, while she rests her head on the pillow
of another.' 'Hambug,' I thought to myself. 'I shall no sooner have left
him than he will be dashing his head against the wall.' However, I left
Rodolphe alone and went to my own room, but I did not go to bed. At
three in the morning I thought I heard a noise in Rodolphe's room and I
went down in a hurry, thinking to find him in a desperate fever."

"Well?" said Mimi.

"Well my dear, Rodolphe was sleeping, the bed clothes were quite in
order and everything proved that he had soon fallen asleep, and that his
slumbers had been calm."

"It is possible," said Mimi, "he was so worn out by the night before,
but the next day?"

"The next day Rodolphe came and roused me up early and we went and took
rooms in another house, into which we moved the same evening."

"And," asked Mimi, "what did he do on leaving the room we had occupied,
what did he say on abandoning the room in which he had loved me so?"

"He packed up his things quietly," replied Marcel, "and as he found in a
drawer a pair of thread gloves you had forgotten, as well as two or
three of your letters--"

"I know," said Mimi in a tone which seemed to imply, "I forgot them on
purpose so that he might have some souvenir of me left! What did he do
with them?" she added.

"If I remember rightly," said Marcel, "he threw the letters into the
fireplace and the gloves out of the window, but without any theatrical
effort, and quite naturally, as one does when one wants to get rid of
something useless."

"My dear Monsieur Marcel, I assure you that from the bottom of my heart
I hope that this indifference may last. But, once more in all sincerity,
I do not believe in such a speedy cure and, in spite of all you tell me,
I am convinced that my poet's heart is broken."

"That may be," replied Marcel, taking leave of Mimi, "but unless I may
be very much mistaken, the pieces are still good for something."

During this colloquy in a public thoroughfare, Vicomte Paul was awaiting
his new mistress, who was behindhand in her appointment, and decidedly
disagreeable towards him. He seated himself at her feet and warbled his
favorite strain, namely, that she was charming, fair as a lily, gentle
as a lamb, but that he loved her above all on account of the beauties of
her soul.

"Ah!" thought Mimi, loosening the waves of her dark hair over her snowy
shoulders, "my lover Rodolphe, was not so exclusive."

As Marcel had stated, Rodolphe seemed to be radically cured of his love
for Mademoiselle Mimi, and three or four days after his separation, the
poet reappeared completely metamorphosed. He was attired with an
elegance that must have rendered him unrecognizable by his very looking
glass. Nothing, indeed, about him seemed to justify the fear that he
intended to commit suicide, as Mademoiselle Mimi had started the rumor,
with all kinds of hypocritical condolences. Rodolphe was, in fact, quite
calm. He listened with unmoved countenance to all the stories told him
about the new and sumptuous existence led by his mistress--who took
pleasure in keeping him informed on these points--by a young girl who
had remained her confidant, and who had occasion to see Rodolphe almost
every evening.

"Mimi is very happy with Vicomte Paul," the poet was told. "She seems
thoroughly smitten with him, only one thing causes her any uneasiness,
she is afraid least you should disturb her tranquillity by coming after
her, which by the way, would be dangerous for you, for the vicomte
worships his mistress and is a good fencer."

"Oh," said Rodolphe. "She can sleep in peace, I have no wish to go and
cast vinegar over the sweetness of her honeymoon. As to her young
lover, he can leave his dagger at home like Gastibelza. I have no wish
to attempt the life of a young gentleman who has still the happiness of
being nursed by illusions."

As they did not fail to carry back to Mimi the way in which her ex-lover
received all these details, she on her part did not forget to reply,
shrugging her shoulders:

"That is all very well, you will see what will come of it in a day or
two."

However, Rodolphe was himself, and more than any one else, astonished at
this sudden indifference which, without passing through the usual
transitions of sadness and melancholy, had followed the stormy feelings
by which he had been stirred only a few days before. Forgetfulness, so
slow to come--above all for the virtues of love--that forgetfulness
which they summon so loudly and repulse with equal loudness when they
feel it approaching, that pitiless consoler that had all at once, and
without his being able to defend himself from it, invaded Rodolphe's
heart, and the name of the woman he so dearly loved could now be heard
without awakening any echo in it. Strange fact; Rodolphe, whose memory
was strong enough to recall to mind things that had occurred in the
farthest days of his past and beings who had figured in or influenced
his most remote existence--Rodolphe could not, whatever efforts he might
make, recall with clearness after four days' separation, the features of
that mistress who had nearly broken his life between her slender
fingers. He could no longer recall the softness of the eyes by the light
of which he had so often fallen asleep. He could no longer remember the
notes of that voice whose anger and whose caressing utterances had
alternately maddened him. A poet, who was a friend of his, and who had
not seen him since his absence, met him one evening. Rodolphe seemed
busy and preoccupied, he was walking rapidly along the street, twirling
his cane.

"Hallo," said the poet, holding out his hand, "so here you are," and he
looked curiously at Rodolphe. Seeing that the latter looked somewhat
downcast he thought it right to adopt a consoling tone.

"Come, courage, my dear fellow. I know that it is hard, but then it must
always have come to this. Better now than later on; in three months you
will be quite cured."

"What are you driving at?" said Rodolphe. "I am not ill, my dear
fellow."

"Come," said the other, "do not play the braggart. I know the whole
story and if I did not, I could read it in your face."

"Take care, you are making a mistake," said Rodolphe, "I am very much
annoyed this evening, it is true, but you have not exactly hit on the
cause of my annoyance."

"Good, but why defend yourself? It is quite natural. A connection that
has lasted a couple of years cannot be broken off so readily."

"Everyone tells me the same thing," said Rodolphe, getting impatient.
"Well, upon my honor, you make a mistake, you and the others. I am very
vexed, and I look like it, that is possible, but this is the reason why;
I was expecting my tailor with a new dress coat today, and he had not
come. That is what I am annoyed about."

"Bad, bad," said the other laughing.

"Not at all bad, but good on the contrary, very good, excellent in fact.
Follow my argument and you shall see."

"Come," said the poet, "I will listen to you. Just prove to me how any
one can in reason look so wretched because a tailor has failed to keep
his word. Come, come, I am waiting."

"Well," said Rodolphe, "you know very well that the greatest effects
spring from the most trifling causes. I ought this evening to pay a very
important visit, and I cannot do so for want of a dress coat. Now do you
see it?"

"Not at all. There is up to this no sufficient reason shown for a state
of desolation. You are in despair because---. You are very silly to try
to deceive. That is my opinion."

"My friend," said Rodolphe, "you are very opinionated. It is always
enough to vex us when we miss happiness, and at any rate pleasure,
because it is almost always so much lost for ever, and we are wrong in
saying, 'I will make up for it another time.' I will resume; I had an
appointment this evening with a lady. I was to meet her at a friend's
house, whence I should, perhaps taken her home to mine, if it were
nearer than her own, and even if it were not. At this house there was a
party. At parties one must wear a dress coat. I have no dress coat. My
tailor was to bring me one; he does not do so. I do not go to the party.
I do not meet the lady who is, perhaps, met by someone else. I do not
see her home either to my place or hers, and she is, perhaps, seen home
by another. So as I told you, I have lost an opportunity of happiness
and pleasure; hence I am vexed; hence I look so, and quite naturally."

"Very good," said his friend, "with one foot just out of one hell, you
want to put the other foot in another; but, my dear fellow, when I met
you, you seemed to be waiting for some one."

"So I was."

"But," continued the other, "we are in the neighborhood in which your
ex-mistress is living. What is there to prove that you were not waiting
for her?"

"Although separated from her, special reasons oblige me to live in this
neighborhood. But, although neighbors, we are as distant as if she were
at one pole and I at the other. Besides, at this particular moment, my
ex-mistress is seated at her fireside taking lessons in French grammar
from Vicomte Paul, who wishes to bring her back to the paths of virtue
by the road of orthography. Good heavens, how he will spoil her!
However, that regards himself, now that he is editor-in-chief of her
happiness. You see, therefore, that your reflections are absurd, and
that, instead of following up the half-effaced traces of my old love, I
am on the track of my new one, who is already to some extent my
neighbor, and will become yet more so: for I am willing to take all the
necessary steps, and if she will take the rest, we shall not be long in
coming to an understanding."

"Really," said the poet, "are you in love again already?"

"This is what it is," replied Rodolphe, "my heart resembles those
lodgings that are advertised to let as soon as a tenant leaves them. As
soon as one love leaves my heart, I put up a bill for another. The
locality besides is habitable and in perfect repair."

"And who is this new idol? Where and when did you make her
acquaintance?"

"Come," said Rodolphe, "let us go through things in order. When Mimi
went away I thought that I should never be in love again in my life, and
imagined that my heart was dead of fatigue, exhaustion, whatever you
like. It had been beating so long and so fast, too fast, that the thing
was probable. In short I believed it dead, quite dead, and thought of
burying it like Marlborough. In honor of the occasion I gave a little
funeral dinner, to which I invited some of my friends. The guests were
to assume a melancholy air, and the bottles had crape around their
necks."

"You did not invite me."

"Excuse me, but I did not know your address in that part of cloudland
which you inhabit. One of the guests had brought a young lady, a young
woman also abandoned a short time before by her lover. She was told my
story. It was one of my friends who plays very nicely upon the
violoncello of sentiment who did this. He spoke to the young widow of
the qualities of my heart, the poor defunct whom we were about to inter,
and invited her to drink to its eternal repose. 'Come now,' said she,
raising her glass, 'I drink, on the contrary, to its very good health,'
and she gave me a look, enough, as they say, to awake the dead. It was
indeed the occasion to say so, for she had scarcely finished her toast
than I heard my heart singing the _O Filii_ of the Resurrection. What
would you have done in my place?"

"A pretty question--what is her name?"

"I do not know yet, I shall only ask her at the moment we sign our
lease. I know very well that in the opinion of some people I have
overstepped the legal delays, but you see I plead in my own court, and I
have granted a dispensation. What I do know is that she brings me as a
dowry cheerfulness, which is the health of the soul, and health which
is the cheerfulness of the body."

"Is she pretty?"

"Very pretty, especially as regards her complexion; one would say that
she made up every morning with Watteau's palate, 'She is fair, and her
conquering glances kindle love in every heart.' As witness mine."

"A blonde? You astonish me."

"Yes. I have had enough of ivory and ebony; I am going in for a
blonde," and Rodolphe began to skip about as he sang:

    "Praises sing unto my sweet,
     She is fair,
     Yellow as the ripening wheat
     Is her hair."

"Poor Mimi," said his friend, "so soon forgotten."

This name cast into Rodolphe's mirthsomeness, suddenly gave another turn
to the conversation. Rodolphe took his friend by the arm, and related to
him at length the causes of his rupture with Mademoiselle Mimi, the
terrors that had awaited him when she had left; how he was in despair
because he thought that she had carried off with her all that remained
to him of youth and passion, and how two days later he had recognized
his mistake on feeling the gunpowder in his heart, though swamped with
so many sobs and tears, dry, kindle, and explode at the first look of
love cast at him by the first woman he met. He narrated the sudden and
imperious invasion of forgetfulness, without his even having summoned it
in aid of his grief, and how this grief was dead and buried in the said
forgetfulness.

"Is it not a miracle?" said he to the poet, who, knowing by heart and
from experience all the painful chapters of shattered loves, replied:

"No, no, my friend, there is no more of a miracle for you than for the
rest of us. What has happened to you has happened to myself. The women
we love, when they become our mistresses, cease to be for us what they
really are. We do not see them only with a lover's eyes, but with a
poet's. As a painter throws on the shoulders of a lay figure the
imperial purple or the star-spangled robe of a Holy Virgin, so we have
always whole stores of glittering mantles and robes of pure white linen
which we cast over the shoulders of dull, sulky, or spiteful creatures,
and when they have thus assumed the garb in which our ideal loves float
before us in our waking dreams, we let ourselves be taken in by this
disguise, we incarnate our dream in the first corner, and address her
in our language, which she does not understand. However, let this
creature at whose feet we live prostrate, tear away herself the dense
envelope beneath which we have hidden her, and reveal to us her evil
nature and her base instincts; let her place our hands on the spot where
her heart should be, but where nothing beats any longer, and has perhaps
never beaten; let her open her veil, and show us her faded eyes, pale
lips, and haggard features; we replace that veil and exclaim, 'It is not
true! It is not true! I love you, and you, too, love me! This white
bosom holds a heart that has all its youthfulness; I love you, and you
love me! You are beautiful, you are young. At the bottom of all your
vices there is love. I love you, and you love me!' Then in the end,
always quite in the end, when, after having all very well put triple
bandages over our eyes, we see ourselves the dupes of our mistakes, we
drive away the wretch who was our idol of yesterday; we take back from
her the golden veils of poesy, which, on the morrow, we again cast on
the shoulders of some other unknown, who becomes at once an
aureola-surrounded idol. That is what we all are--monstrous egoists--who
love love for love's sake--you understand me? We sip the divine liquor
from the first cup that comes to hand. 'What matter the bottle, so long
as we draw intoxication from it?'"

"What you say is as true as that two and two make four," said Rodolphe
to the poet.

"Yes," replied the latter, "it is true, and as sad as three quarters of
the things that are true. Good night."

Two days later Mademoiselle Mimi learned that Rodolphe had a new
mistress. She only asked one thing--whether he kissed her hands as often
as he used to kiss her own?

"Quite as often," replied Marcel. "In addition, he is kissing the hairs
of her head one after the other, and they are to remain with one another
until he has finished."

"Ah!" replied Mimi, passing her hand through her own tresses. "It was
lucky he did not think of doing the same with me, or we should have
remained together all our lives. Do you think it is really true that he
no longer loves me at all?"

"Humph--and you, do you still love him?"

"I! I never loved him in my life."

"Yes, Mimi, yes. You loved him at those moments when a woman's heart
changes place. You loved him; do nothing to deny it; it is your
justification."

"Bah!" said Mimi, "he loves another now."

"True," said Marcel, "but no matter. Later on the remembrance of you
will be to him like the flowers that we place fresh and full of perfume
between the leaves of a book, and which long afterwards we find dead,
discolored, and faded, but still always preserving a vague perfume of
their first freshness."

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening, when she was humming in a low tone to herself, Vicomte Paul
said to Mimi, "What are you singing, dear?"

"The funeral chant of our loves, that my lover Rodolphe has lately
composed."

And she began to sing:--

    "I have not a sou now, my dear, and the rule
     In such a case surely is soon to forget,
     So tearless, for she who would weep is a fool,
     You'll blot out all mem'ry of me, eh, my pet?

     Well, still all the same we have spent as you know
     Some days that were happy--and each with its night,
     They did not last long, but, alas, here below,
     The shortest are ever those we deem most bright."




CHAPTER XXI

Romeo and Juliet


Attired like a fashion plate out of his paper, the "Scarf of Iris," with
new gloves, polished boots, freshly shaven face, curled hair, waxed
moustache, stick in hand, glass in eye, smiling, youthful, altogether
nice looking, in such guise our friend, the poet Rodolphe, might have
been seen one November evening on the boulevard waiting for a cab to
take him home.

Rodolphe waiting for a cab? What cataclysm had then taken place in his
existence?

At the very hour that the transformed poet was twirling his moustache,
chewing the end of an enormous regalia, and charming the fair sex, one
of his friends was also passing down the boulevard. It was the
philosopher, Gustave Colline. Rodolphe saw him coming, and at once
recognized him; as indeed, who would not who had once seen him? Colline
as usual was laden with a dozen volumes. Clad in that immortal hazel
overcoat, the durability of which makes one believe that it must have
been built by the Romans, and with his head covered by his famous broad
brimmed hat, a dome of beaver, beneath which buzzed a swarm of
hyperphysical dreams, and which was nicknamed Mambrino's Helmet of
Modern Philosophy, Gustave Colline was walking slowly along, chewing the
cud of the preface of a book that had already been in the press for the
last three months--in his imagination. As he advanced towards the spot
where Rodolphe was standing, Colline thought for a moment that he
recognized him, but the supreme elegance displayed by the poet threw the
philosopher into a state of doubt and uncertainty.

"Rodolphe with gloves and a walking stick. Chimera! Utopia! Mental
aberration! Rodolphe curled and oiled; he who has not so much as Father
Time. What could I be thinking of? Besides, at this present moment my
unfortunate friend is engaged in lamentations, and is composing
melancholy verses upon the departure of Mademoiselle Mimi, who, I hear,
has thrown him over. Well, for my part, I too, regret the loss of that
young woman. She was a dab hand at making coffee, which is the beverage
of serious minds. But I trust that Rodolphe will console himself, and
soon get another Kettle-holder."

Colline was so delighted with his wretched joke, that he would willingly
have applauded it, had not the stern voice of philosophy woke up within
him, and put an energetic stop to this perversion of wit.

However, as he halted close to Rodolphe, Colline was forced to yield to
evidence. It was certainly Rodolphe, curled, gloved, and with a cane. It
was impossible, but it was true.

"Eh! Eh! By Jove!" said Colline. "I am not mistaken. It is you, I am
certain."

"So am I," replied Rodolphe.

Colline began to look at his friend, imparting to his countenance the
expression pictorially made use of by M. Lebrun, the king's painter in
ordinary, to express surprise. But all at once he noted two strange
articles with which Rodolphe was laden--firstly, a rope ladder, and
secondly, a cage, in which some kind of a bird was fluttering. At this
sight, Gustave Colline's physiognomy expressed a sentiment which
Monsieur Lebrun, the king's painter in ordinary, forgot to depict in his
picture of "The Passions."

"Come," said Rodolphe to his friend, "I see very plainly the curiosity
of your mind peeping out through the window of your eyes; and I am going
to satisfy it, only, let us quit the public thoroughfare. It is cold
enough here to freeze your questions and my answers."

And they both went into a cafe.

Colline's eyes remained riveted on the rope ladder as well as the cage,
in which the bird, thawed by the atmosphere of the cafe, began to sing
in a language unknown to Colline, who was, however, a polyglottist.

"Well then," said the philosopher pointing to the rope ladder, "what is
that?"

"A connecting link between my love and me," replied Rodolphe, in lute
like accents.

"And that?" asked Colline, pointing to the bird.

"That," said the poet, whose voice grew soft as the summer breeze, "is a
clock."

"Tell me without parables--in vile prose, but truly."

"Very well. Have you read Shakespeare?"

"Have I read him? 'To be or not to be?' He was a great philosopher. Yes,
I have read him."

"Do your remember _Romeo and Juliet_?"

"Do I remember?" said Colline, and he began to recite:

    "Wilt thou begone? It is not yet day,
     It was the nightingale, and not the lark."

"I should rather think I remember. But what then?"

"What!" said Rodolphe, pointing to the ladder and the bird. "You do not
understand! This is the story: I am in love, my dear fellow, in love
with a girl named Juliet."

"Well, what then?" said Colline impatiently.

"This. My new idol being named Juliet, I have hit on a plan. It is to go
through Shakespeare's play with her. In the first place, my name is no
longer Rodolphe, but Romeo Montague, and you will oblige me by not
calling me otherwise. Besides, in order that everyone may know it, I
have had some new visiting cards engraved. But that is not all. I shall
profit by the fact that we are not in Carnival time to wear a velvet
doublet and a sword."

"To kill Tybalt with?" said Colline.

"Exactly," continued Rodolphe. "Finally, this ladder that you see is to
enable me to visit my mistress, who, as it happens, has a balcony."

"But the bird, the bird?" said the obstinate Colline.

"Why, this bird, which is a pigeon, is to play the part of the
nightingale, and indicate every morning the precise moment when, as I am
about to leave her loved arms, my mistress will throw them about my neck
and repeat to me in her sweet tones the balcony scene, 'It is not yet
near day,' that is to say, 'It is not yet eleven, the streets are muddy,
do not go yet, we are comfortable here.' In order to perfect the
imitation, I will try to get a nurse, and place her under the orders of
my beloved and I hope that the almanac will be kind enough to grant me a
little moonlight now and then, when I scale my Juliet's balcony. What do
you say to my project, philosopher?"

"It is very fine," said Colline, "but could you also explain to me the
mysteries of this splendid outer covering that rendered you
unrecognizable? You have become rich, then?"

Rodolphe did not reply, but made a sign to one of the waiters, and
carelessly threw down a louis, saying:

"Take for what we have had."

Then he tapped his waistcoat pocket, which gave forth a jingling sound.

"Have you got a bell in your pocket, for it to jingle as loud as that?"

"Only a few louis."

"Louis! In gold?" said Colline, in a voice choked with wonderment. "Let
me see what they are like."

After which the two friends parted, Colline to go and relate the opulent
ways and new loves of Rodolphe, and the latter to return home.

This took place during the week that had followed the second rupture
between Rodolphe and Mademoiselle Mimi. The poet, when he had broken off
with his mistress, felt a need of change of air and surroundings, and
accompanied by his friend Marcel, he left the gloomy lodging house, the
landlord of which saw both him and Marcel depart without overmuch
regret. Both, as we have said, sought quarters elsewhere, and hired two
rooms in the same house and on the same floor. The room chosen by
Rodolphe was incomparably more comfortable than any he had inhabited up
till then. There were articles of furniture almost imposing, above all a
sofa covered with red stuff, that was intended to imitate velvet, and
did not.

There were also on the mantelpiece two china vases, painted with
flowers, between an elaborate clock, with fearful ornamentation.
Rodolphe put the vases in a cupboard, and when the landlord came to wind
up the clock, begged him to do nothing of the kind.

"I am willing to leave the clock on the mantel shelf," said he, "but
only as an object of art. It points to midnight--a good hour; let it
stick to it. The day it marks five minutes past I will move. A clock,"
continued Rodolphe, who had never been able to submit to the imperious
tyranny of the dial, "is a domestic foe who implacably reckons up to
your existence hour by hour and minute by minute, and says to you every
moment, 'Here is a fraction of your life gone.' I could not sleep in
peace in a room in which there was one of these instruments of torture,
in the vicinity of which carelessness and reverie are impossible. A
clock, the hands of which stretch to your bed and prick yours whilst you
are still plunged in the soft delights of your first awakening. A clock,
whose voice cries to you, 'Ting, ting, ting; it is the hour for
business. Leave your charming dream, escape from the caresses of your
visions, and sometimes of realities. Put on your hat and boots. It is
cold, it rains, but go about your business. It is time--ting, ting.' It
is quite enough already to have an almanac. Let my clock remain
paralyzed, or---."

Whilst delivering this monologue he was examining his new dwelling, and
felt himself moved by the secret uneasiness which one almost always
feels when going into a fresh lodging.

"I have noticed," he reflected, "that the places we inhabit exercise a
mysterious influence upon our thoughts, and consequently upon our
actions. This room is cold and silent as a tomb. If ever mirth reigns
here it will be brought in from without, and even then it will not be
for long, for laughter will die away without echoes under this low
ceiling, cold and white as a snowy sky. Alas! What will my life be like
within these four walls?"

However, a few days later this room, erst so sad, was full of light, and
rang with joyous sounds, it was the house warming, and numerous bottles
explained the lively humor of the guests. Rodolphe allowed himself to be
won upon by the contagious good humor of his guests. Isolated in a
corner with a young woman who had come there by chance, and whom he had
taken possession of, the poet was sonnetteering with her with tongue and
hands. Towards the close of the festivities he had obtained a rendezvous
for the next day.

"Well!" said he to himself when he was alone, "the evening hasn't been
such a bad one. My stay here hasn't begun amiss."

The next day Mademoiselle Juliet called at the appointed hour. The
evening was spent only in explanations. Juliet had learned the recent
rupture of Rodolphe with the blue eyed girl whom he had so dearly loved;
she knew that after having already left her once before Rodolphe had
taken her back, and she was afraid of being the victim of a similar
reawakening of love.

"You see," said she, with a pretty little pout, "I don't at all care
about playing a ridiculous part. I warn you that I am very forward, and
once _mistress_ here," and she underlined by a look the meaning she gave
to the word, "I remain, and do not give up my place."

Rodolphe summoned all his eloquence to the rescue to convince her that
her fears were without foundation, and the girl, having on her side a
willingness to be convinced, they ended by coming to an understanding.
Only they were no longer at an understanding when midnight struck, for
Rodolphe wanted Juliet to stay, and she insisted on going.

"No," she said to him as he persisted in trying to persuade her. "Why be
in such a hurry? We shall always arrive in time at what we want to,
provided you do not halt on the way. I will return tomorrow."

And she returned thus every evening for a week, to go away in the same
way when midnight struck.

This delay did not annoy Rodolphe very much. In matters of love, and
even of mere fancy, he was one of that school of travelers who prolong
their journey and render it picturesque. The little sentimental preface
had for its result to lead on Rodolphe at the outset further than he
meant to go. And it was no doubt to lead him to that point at which
fancy, ripened by the resistance opposed to it, begins to resemble love,
that Mademoiselle Juliet had made use of this stratagem.

At each fresh visit that she paid to Rodolphe, Juliet remarked a more
pronounced tone of sincerity in what he said. He felt when she was a
little behindhand in keeping her appointment an impatience that
delighted her, and he even wrote her letters the language of which was
enough to give her hopes that she would speedily become his legitimate
mistress.

When Marcel, who was his confidant, once caught sight of one of
Rodolphe's epistles, he said to him:

"Is it an exercise of style, or do you really think what you have said
here?"

"Yes, I really think it," replied Rodolphe, "and I am even a bit
astonished at it: but it is so. I was a week back in a very sad state of
mind. The solitude and silence that had so abruptly succeeded the storms
and tempests of my old household alarmed me terribly, but Juliet arrived
almost at the moment. I heard the sounds of twenty year old laughter
ring in my ears. I had before me a rosy face, eyes beaming with smiles,
a mouth overflowing with kisses, and I have quietly allowed myself to
glide down the hill of fancy that might perhaps lead me on to love. I
love to love."

However, Rodolphe was not long in perceiving that it only depended upon
himself to bring this little romance to a crisis, and it was than that
he had the notion of copying from Shakespeare the scene of the love of
_Romeo and Juliet_. His future mistress had deemed the notion amusing, and
agreed to share in the jest.

It was the very evening that the rendezvous was appointed for that
Rodolphe met the philosopher Colline, just as he had bought the rope
ladder that was to aid him to scale Juliet's balcony. The birdseller to
whom he had applied not having a nightingale, Rodolphe replaced it by a
pigeon, which he was assured sang every morning at daybreak.

Returned home, the poet reflected that to ascend a rope ladder was not
an easy matter, and that it would be a good thing to rehearse the
balcony scene, if he would not in addition to the chances of a fall, run
the risk of appearing awkward and ridiculous in the eyes of her who was
awaiting him. Having fastened his ladder to two nails firmly driven into
the ceiling, Rodolphe employed the two hours remaining to him in
practicing gymnastics, and after an infinite number of attempts,
succeeded in managing after a fashion to get up half a score of rungs.

"Come, that is all right," he said to himself, "I am now sure of my
affair and besides, if I stuck half way, 'love would lend me his
wings.'"

And laden with his ladder and his pigeon cage, he set out for the abode
of Juliet, who lived near. Her room looked into a little garden, and had
indeed a balcony. But the room was on the ground floor, and the balcony
could be stepped over as easily as possible.

Hence Rodolphe was completely crushed when he perceived this local
arrangement, which put to naught his poetical project of an escalade.

"All the same," said he to Juliet, "we can go through the episode of the
balcony. Here is a bird that will arouse us tomorrow with his melodious
notes, and warn us of the exact moment when we are to part from one
another in despair."

And Rodolphe hung up the cage beside the fireplace.

The next day at five in the morning the pigeon was exact to time, and
filled the room with a prolonged cooing that would have awakened the two
lovers--if they had gone to sleep.

"Well," said Juliet, "this is the moment to go into the balcony and bid
one another despairing farewells--what do you think of it?"

"The pigeon is too fast," said Rodolphe. "It is November, and the sun
does not rise till noon."

"All the same," said Juliet, "I am going to get up."

"Why?"

"I feel quite empty, and I will not hide from you the fact that I could
very well eat a mouthfull."

"The agreement that prevails in our sympathies is astonishing. I am
awfully hungry too," said Rodolphe, also rising and hurriedly slipping
on his clothes.

Juliet had already lit a fire, and was looking in her sideboard to see
whether she could find anything. Rodolphe helped her in this search.

"Hullo," said he, "onions."

"And some bacon," said Juliet.

"Some butter."

"Bread."

Alas! That was all.

During the search the pigeon, a careless optimist, was singing on its
perch.

Romeo looked at Juliet, Juliet looked at Romeo, and both looked at the
pigeon.

They did not say anything, but the fate of the pigeon-clock was settled.
Even if he had appealed it would have been useless, hunger is such a
cruel counsellor.

Rodolphe had lit some charcoal, and was turning bacon in the spluttering
butter with a solemn air.

Juliet was peeling onions in a melancholy attitude.

The pigeon was still singing, it was the song of the swan.

To these lamentations was joined the spluttering of the butter in the
stew pan.

Five minutes later the butter was still spluttering, but the pigeon sang
no longer.

Romeo and Juliet grilled their clock.

"He had a nice voice," said Juliet sitting down to table.

"He is very tender," said Rodolphe, carving his alarum, nicely browned.

The two lovers looked at one another, and each surprised a tear in the
other's eye.

Hypocrites, it was the onions that made them weep.




CHAPTER XXII

Epilogue To The Loves Of Rodolphe And Mademoiselle Mimi


Shortly after his final rupture with Mademoiselle Mimi, who had left
him, as may be remembered, to ride in the carriage of Vicomte Paul, the
poet Rodolphe had sought to divert his thoughts by taking a new
mistress.

She was the same blonde for whom we have seen him masquerading as Romeo.
But this union, which was on the one part only a matter of spite, and on
the other one of fancy, could not last long. The girl was after all
only a light of love, warbling to perfection the gamut of trickery,
witty enough to note the wit of others and to make use of it on
occasion, and with only enough heart to feel heartburn when she had
eaten too much. Add to this unbridled self-esteem and a ferocious
coquetry, which would have impelled her to prefer a broken leg for her
lover rather than a flounce the less to her dress, or a faded ribbon to
her bonnet. A commonplace creature of doubtful beauty, endowed by nature
with every evil instinct, and yet seductive from certain points of view
and at certain times. She was not long in perceiving that Rodolphe had
only taken her to help him forget the absent, whom she made him on the
contrary regret, for his old love had never been so noisy and so lively
in his heart.

One day Juliet, Rodolphe's new mistress, was talking about her lover,
the poet, with a medical student who was courting her. The student
replied,--

"My dear child, that fellow only makes use of you as they use nitrate to
cauterize wounds. He wants to cauterize his heart and nerve. You are
very wrong to bother yourself about being faithful to him."

"Ah, ah!" cried the girl, breaking into a laugh. "Do you really think
that I put myself out about him?"

And that very evening she gave the student a proof to the contrary.

Thanks to the indiscretion of one of those officious friends who are
unable to retain unpublished news capable of vexing you, Rodolphe soon
got wind of the matter, and made it a pretext for breaking off with his
temporary mistress.

He then shut himself up in positive solitude, in which all the
flitter-mice of _ennui_ soon came and nested, and he called work to his
aid but in vain. Every evening, after wasting as much perspiration over
the job as he did in ink, he produced a score of lines in which some old
idea, as worn out as the Wandering Jew, and vilely clad in rags cribbed
from the literary dust heap, danced clumsily on the tight rope of
paradox. On reading through these lines Rodolphe was as bewildered as a
man who sees nettles spring up in a bed in which he thought he had
planted roses. He would then tear up the paper, on which he had just
scattered this chaplet of absurdities, and trample it under foot in a
rage.

"Come," said he, striking himself on the chest just above the heart,
"the cord is broken, there is nothing but to resign ourselves to it."

And as for some time past a like failure followed all his attempts at
work, he was seized with one of those fits of depression which shake the
most stubborn pride and cloud the most lucid intellects. Nothing is
indeed more terrible than these hidden struggles that sometimes take
place between the self-willed artist and his rebellious art. Nothing is
more moving than these fits of rage alternating with invocation, in turn
supplicating or imperative, addressed to a disdainful or fugitive muse.

The most violent human anguish, the deepest wounds to the quick of the
heart, do not cause suffering approaching that which one feels in these
hours of doubt and impatience, so frequent for those who give
themselves up to the dangerous calling of imagination.

To these violent crises succeeded painful fits of depression. Rodolphe
would then remain for whole hours as though petrified in a state of
stupefied immobility. His elbows upon the table, his eyes fixed upon the
luminous patch made by the rays of the lamp falling upon the sheet of
paper,--the battlefield on which his mind was vanquished daily, and on
which his pen had become foundered in its attempts to pursue the
unattainable idea--he saw slowly defile before him, like the figures of
dissolving views with which the children are amused, fantastic pictures
which unfolded before him the panorama of his past. It was at first the
laborious days in which each hour marked the accomplishment of some
task, the studious nights spent in _tete-a-tete_ with the muse who came
to adorn with her fairy visions his solitary and patient poverty. And he
remembered then with envy the pride of skill that intoxicated him of
yore when he had completed the task imposed on him by his will.

"Oh, nothing is equal to you!" he exclaimed. "Voluptuous fatigues of
labor which render the mattresses of idleness so sweet. Not the
satisfaction of self-esteem nor the feverish slumbers stifled beneath
the heavy drapery of mysterious alcoves equals that calm and honest joy,
that legitimate self satisfaction which work bestows on the laborer as
a first salary."

And with eyes still fixed on these visions which continued to retrace
for him the scenes of bygone days, he once more ascended the six flights
of stairs of all the garrets in which his adventurous existence had been
spent, in which the Muse, his only love in those days, a faithful and
persevering sweetheart had always followed him, living happily with
poverty and never breaking off her song of hope. But, lo, in the midst
of this regular and tranquil life there suddenly appears a woman's face,
and seeing her enter the dwelling where she had been until then sole
queen and mistress, the poet's Muse rose sadly and gave place to the
new-comer in whom she had divined a rival. Rodolphe hesitated a moment
between the Muse to whom his look seemed to say, "Stay," whilst a
gesture addressed to the stranger said, "Come."

And how could he repulse her, this charming creature who came to him
armed with all the seductions of a beauty at its dawn? Tiny mouth and
rosy lips, speaking in bold and simple language, full of coaxing
promises. How refuse his hand to this little white one, delicately
veined with blue, that was held out to him full of caresses? How say,
"Get you gone," to these eighteen years, the presence of which already
filled the home with a perfume of youth and gaiety? And then with her
sweet voice, tenderly thrilling, she sang the cavatina of temptation so
well. With her bright and sparkling eyes she said so clearly, "I am
love," with her lips, where kisses nestled, "I am pleasure," with her
whole being, in short, "I am happiness," that Rodolphe let himself be
caught by them. And, besides, was not this young girl after all real and
living poetry, had he not owed her his freshest inspirations, had she
not often initiated him into enthusiasms which bore him so far afield in
the ether of reverie that he lost sight of all things of earth? If he
had suffered deeply on account of her, was not this suffering the
expiation of the immense joys she had bestowed upon him? Was it not the
ordinary vengeance of human fate which forbids absolute happiness as an
impiety? If the law of Christianity forgives those who have much loved,
it is because they have also much suffered, and terrestrial love never
became a divine passion save on condition of being purified by tears. As
one grows intoxicated by breathing the odor of faded roses, Rodolphe
again became so by reviving in recollection that past life in which
every day brought about a fresh elegy, a terrible drama, or a grotesque
comedy. He went through all the phases of his strange love from their
honeymoon to the domestic storms that had brought about their last
rupture, he recalled all the tricks of his ex-mistress, repeated all her
witty sayings. He saw her going to and fro about their little household,
humming her favorite song, and facing with the same careless gaiety good
or evil days.

And in the end he arrived at the conclusion that common sense was always
wrong in love affairs. What, indeed, had he gained by their rupture? At
the time when he was living with Mimi she deceived him, it was true, but
if he was aware of this it was his fault after all that he was so, and
because he gave himself infinite pains to become aware of it, because he
passed his time on the alert for proofs, and himself sharpened the
daggers which he plunged into his heart. Besides, was not Mimi clever
enough to prove to him at need that he was mistaken? And then for whose
sake was she false to him? It was generally a shawl or a bonnet--for the
sake of things and not men. That calm, that tranquillity which he had
hoped for on separating from his mistress, had he found them again
after her departure? Alas, no! There was only herself the less in the
house. Of old his grief could find vent, he could break into abuse, or
representations--he could show all he suffered and excite the pity of
her who caused his sufferings. But now his grief was solitary, his
jealousy had become madness, for formerly he could at any rate, when he
suspected anything, hinder Mimi from going out, keep her beside him in
his possession, and now he might meet her in the street on the arm of
her new lover, and must turn aside to let her pass, happy no doubt, and
bent upon pleasure.

This wretched life lasted three or four months. By degrees he recovered
his calmness. Marcel, who had undertaken a long journey to drive Musette
out of his mind, returned to Paris, and again came to live with
Rodolphe. They consoled one another.

One Sunday, crossing the Luxembourg Gardens, Rodolphe met Mimi
resplendently dressed. She was going to a public ball. She nodded to
him, to which he responded by a bow. This meeting gave him a great
shock, but his emotion was less painful than usual. He walked about for
a little while in the gardens, and then returned home. When Marcel came
in that evening he found him at work.

"What!" said Marcel, leaning over his shoulder. "You are
working--verses?"

"Yes," replied Rodolphe cheerfully, "I believe that the machine will
still work. During the last four hours I have once more found the go of
bygone time, I have seen Mimi."

"Ah!" said Marcel uneasily. "On what terms are you?"

"Do not be afraid," said Rodolphe, "we only bowed to one another. It
went no further than that."

"Really and truly?" asked Marcel.

"Really and truly. It is all over between us, I feel it; but if I can
get to work again I forgive her."

"If it is so completely finished," said Marcel, who had read through
Rodolphe's verses, "why do you write verses about her?"

"Alas!" replied the poet, "I take my poetry where I can find it."

For a week he worked at this little poem. When he had finished it he
read it to Marcel, who expressed himself satisfied with it, and who
encouraged Rodolphe to utilize in other ways the poetical vein that had
come back to him.

"For," remarked he, "it was not worth while leaving Mimi if you are
always to live under her shadow. After all, though," he continued,
smiling, "instead of lecturing others, I should do well to lecture
myself, for my heart is still full of Musette. Well, after all, perhaps
we shall not always be young fellows in love with such imps."

"Alas!" said Rodolphe, "there is no need to say in one's youth, 'Be off
with you.'"

"That is true," observed Marcel, "but there are days on which I feel I
should like to be a respectable old fellow, a member of the Institute,
decorated with several orders, and, having done with the Musettes of
this circle of society; the devil fly away with me if I would return to
it. And you," he continued, laughing, "would you like to be sixty?"

"Today," replied Rodolphe, "I would rather have sixty francs."

A few days later, Mademoiselle Mimi having gone into a cafe with young
Vicomte Paul, opened a magazine, in which the verses Rodolphe had
written on her were printed.

"Good," said she, laughing at first, "here is my friend Rodolphe saying
nasty things of me in the papers."

But when she finished the verses she remained intent and thoughtful.
Vicomte Paul guessing that she was thinking of Rodolphe, sought to
divert her attention.

"I will buy you a pair of earrings," said he.

"Ah!" said Mimi, "you have money, you have."

"And a Leghorn straw hat," continued the viscount.

"No," said Mimi. "If you want to please me, buy me this."

And she showed him the magazine in which she had just been reading
Rodolphe's poetry.

"Oh! As to that, no," said the viscount, vexed.

"Very well," said Mimi coldly. "I will buy it myself with money I will
earn. In point of fact, I would rather that it was not with yours."

And for two days Mimi went back to her old flower maker's workrooms,
where she earned enough to buy this number. She learned Rodolphe's
poetry by heart, and, to annoy Vicomte Paul, repeated it all day long to
her friends. The verses were as follows:

            WHEN I was seeking where to pledge my truth
            Chance brought me face to face with you one day;
            once I offered you my heart, my youth,
            "Do with them what you will," I dared to say.

            But "what you would," was cruel, dear; alas!
            The youth I trusted with you is no more:
            The heart is shattered like a fallen glass,
            And the wind sings a funeral mass
            On the deserted chamber floor,
            Where he who loved you ne'er may pass.

            Between us now, my dear, 'tis all UP,
            I am a spectre and a phantom you,
            Our love is dead and buried; if you agree,
            We'll sing around its tombstone dirges due.

            But let us take an air in a low key,
            Lest we should strain our voices, more or less;
            Some solemn minor, free from flourishes;
            I'll take the bass, sing you the melody.

            Mi, re, mi, do, re, la,--ah! not that song!
            Hearing the song that once you used to sing
            My heart would palpitate--though dead so long--
            And, at the _De Profundis_, upward spring.

            Do, mi, fa, sol, mi, do,--this other brings
            Back to the mind a valse of long ago,
            The fife's shrill laughter mocked the sounding strings
            That wept their notes of crystal to the bow.

            Sol, do, do, si, si, la,--ah! stay your hand!
            This is the air we sang last year in chorus,
            With Germans shouting for their fatherland
            In Meudon woods, while summer's moon stood o'er us.

            Well, well, we will not sing nor speculate,
            But--since we know they never more may be--
            On our lost loves, without a grudge or hate,
            Drop, while we smile, a final memory.

            What times we had up there; do you remember?
            When on your window panes the rain would stream,
            And, seated by the fire, in dark December,
            I felt your eyes inspire me many a dream.

            The live coal crackled, kindling with the heat,
            The kettle sang, melodious and sedate,
            A music for the visionary feet
            Of salamanders leaping in the grate:

            Languid and lazy, with an unread book,
            You scarcely tried to keep your lids apart,
            While to my youthful love new growth I took,
            Kissing your hands and yielding you my heart.

            In merely entering one night believe,
            One felt a scent of love and gaiety,
            Which filled our little room from morn to eve,
            For fortune loved our hospitality.

            And winter went: then, through the open sash,
            Spring flew, to say the year's long night was done;
            We heard the call, and ran with impulse rash
            In the green country side to meet the sun.

            It was the Friday of the Holy Week,
            The weather, for a wonder, mild and fair;
            From hill to valley, and from plain to peak,
            We wandered long, delighting in the air.

            At length, exhausted by the pilgrimage,
            We found a sort of natural divan,
            Whence we could view the landscape, or engage
            Our eyes in rapture on the heaven's wide span.

            Hand clasped in hand, shoulder on shoulder laid,
            With sense of something ventured, something missed,
            Our two lips parted, each; no word was said,
            And silently we kissed.

            Around us blue-bell and shy violet
            Their simple incense seemed to wave on high;
            Surely we saw, with glances heavenward set,
            God smiling from his azure balcony.

            "Love on!" he seemed to say, "I make more sweet
            The road of life you are to wander by,
            Spreading the velvet moss beneath your feet;
            Kiss, if you will; I shall not play the spy."

            Love on, love on! In murmurs of the breeze,
            In limpid stream, and in the woodland screen
            That burgeons fresh in the renovated green,
            In stars, in flowers, and music of the trees,

            Love on, love on! But if my golden sun,
            My spring, that comes once more to gladden earth,
            If these should move your breasts to grateful mirth,
            I ask no thanksgiving, your kiss is one.

            A month passed by; and, when the roses bloomed
            In beds that we had planted in the spring,
            When least of all I thought my love was doomed,
            You cast it from you like a noisome thing.

            Not that your scorn was all reserved for me,
            It flies about the world by fits and starts;
            Your changeful fancy fits impartially
            From knave of diamonds to knave of hearts.

            And now you are happy, with a brilliant suite
            Of bowing slaves and insincere gallants;
            Go where you will, you see them at your feet;
            A bed of perfumed posies round you flaunts:

            The Ball's your garden: an admiring globe
            Of lovers rolls about the lit saloon,
            And, at the rustling of your silken robe,
            The pack, in chorus, bay you like the moon.

            Shod in the softness of a supple boot
            Which Cinderella would have found too small,
            One scarcely sees your little pointed foot
            Flash in the flashing circle of the Ball.

            Shod in the softness of a supple boot
            Which Cinderella would have found too small,
            One scarcely sees your little pointed foot
            Flash in the flashing circle of the Ball.

            In the soft baths that indolence has brought
            Your once brown hands have got the ivory white,
            The pallor of the lily which has caught
            The silver moonbeam of a summer night:

            On your white arm half clouded, and half clear,
            Pearls shine in bracelets made of chiselled gold;
            On your trim waist a shawl of true Cashmere
            Aesthetically falls in waving fold:

            Honiton point and costly Mechlin lace,
            With gothic guipure of a creamy white--
            The matchless cobwebs of long vanished days--
            Combine to make your presence rich and bright.

            But I preferred a simpler guise than that,
            Your frock of muslin or plain calico,
            Simple adornments, with a veilless hat,
            Boots, black or grey, a collar white and low.

            The splendor your admirers now adore
            Will never bring me back my ancient heats;
            And you are dead and buried, all the more
            For the silk shroud where heart no longer beats.

            So when I worked at this funereal dirge,
            Where grief for a lost lifetime stands confessed,
            I wore a clerk's costume of sable serge,
            Though not gold eye glasses or pleated vest.

            My penholder was wrapped in mournful crape,
            The paper with black lines was bordered round
            On which I labored to provide escape
            For love's last memory hidden in the ground.

            And now, when all the heart that I can save
            Is used to furnish forth its epitaph.
            Gay as a sexton digging his own grave
            I burst into a wild and frantic laugh;

            A laugh engendered by a mocking vein;
            The pen I grasped was trembling as I wrote;
            And even while I laughed, a scalding rain
            Of tears turned all the writing to a blot.

It was the 24th of December, and that evening the Latin Quarter bore a
special aspect. Since four o'clock in the afternoon the pawnbroking
establishments and the shops of the second hand clothes dealers and
booksellers had been encumbered by a noisy crowd, who, later in the
evening, took the ham and beef shops, cook shops, and grocers by
assault. The shopmen, even if they had had a hundred arms, like
Briareus, would not have sufficed to serve the customers who struggled
with one another for provisions. At the baker's they formed a string as
in times of dearth. The wine shop keepers got rid of the produce of
three vintages, and a clever statistician would have found it difficult
to reckon up the number of knuckles of ham and of sausages which were
sold at the famous shop of Borel, in the Rue Dauphine. In this one
evening Daddy Cretaine, nicknamed Petit-Pain, exhausted eighteen
editions of his cakes. All night long sounds of rejoicing broke out from
the lodging houses, the windows of which were brilliantly lit up, and an
atmosphere of revelry filled the district.

The old festival of Christmas Eve was being celebrated.

That evening, towards ten o'clock, Marcel and Rodolphe were proceeding
homeward somewhat sadly. Passing up the Rue Dauphine they noticed a
great crowd in the shop of a provision dealer, and halted a moment
before the window. Tantalized by the sight of the toothsome gastronomic
products, the two Bohemians resembled, during this contemplation, that
person in a Spanish romance who caused hams to shrink only by looking at
them.

"That is called a truffled turkey," said Marcel, pointing to a splendid
bird, showing through its rosy and transparent skin the Perigordian
tubercles with which it was stuffed. "I have seen impious folk eat it
without first going down on their knees before it," added the painter,
casting upon the turkey looks capable of roasting it.

"And what do you think of that modest leg of salt marsh mutton?" asked
Rodolphe. "What fine coloring! One might think it was just unhooked from
that butcher's shop in one of Jordaen's pictures. Such a leg of mutton
is the favorite dish of the gods, and of my godmother Madame
Chandelier."

"Look at those fish!" resumed Marcel, pointing to some trout. "They are
the most expert swimmers of the aquatic race. Those little creatures,
without any appearance of pretension, could, however, make a fortune by
the exhibition of their skill; fancy, they can swim up a perpendicular
waterfall as easily as we should accept an invitation to supper. I have
almost had a chance of tasting them."

"And down there--those large golden fruit, the foliage of which
resembles a trophy of savage sabre blades! They are called pineapples,
and are the pippins of the tropics."

"That is a matter of indifference to me," said Marcel. "So far as fruits
are concerned, I prefer that piece of beef, that ham, or that simple
gammon of bacon, cuirassed with jelly as transparent as amber."

"You are right," replied Rodolphe. "Ham is the friend of man, when he
has one. However, I would not repulse that pheasant."

"I should think not; it is the dish of crowned heads."

And as, continuing on their way, they met joyful processions proceeding
homewards, to do honor to Momus, Bacchus, Comus, and all the other
divinities with names ending in "us," they asked themselves who was the
Gamacho whose wedding was being celebrated with such a profusion of
victuals.

Marcel was the first who recollected the date and its festival.

"It is Christmas Eve," said he.

"Do you remember last year's?" inquired Rodolphe.

"Yes," replied Marcel. "At Momus's. It was Barbemuche who stood treat. I
should never have thought that a delicate girl like Phemie could have
held so much sausage."

"What a pity that Momus has cut off our credit," said Rodolphe.

"Alas," said Marcel, "calendars succeed but do not resemble one
another."

"Would not you like to keep Christmas Eve?" asked Rodolphe.

"With whom and with what?" inquired the painter.

"With me."

"And the coin?"

"Wait a moment," said Rodolphe, "I will go into the cafe, where I know
some people who play high. I will borrow a few sesterces from some
favorite of fortune, and I will get something to wash down a sardine or
a pig's trotter."

"Go," said Marcel. "I am as hungry as a dog. I will wait for you here,"
Rodolphe went into the cafe where he knew several people. A gentleman
who had just won three hundred francs at cards made a regular treat of
lending the poet a forty sous piece, which he handed over with that ill
humor caused by the fever of play. At another time and elsewhere than
at a card-table, he would very likely have been good for forty francs.

"Well?" inquired Marcel, on seeing Rodolphe return.

"Here are the takings," said the poet, showing the money.

"A bite and a sup," said Marcel.

With this small sum they were however able to obtain bread, wine, cold
meat, tobacco, fire and light.

They returned home to the lodging-house in which each had a separate
room. Marcel's, which also served him as a studio, being the larger, was
chosen as the banquetting hall, and the two friends set about the
preparations for their feast there.

But to the little table at which they were seated, beside a fireplace in
which the damp logs burned away without flame or heat, came a melancholy
guest, the phantom of the vanished past.

They remained for an hour at least, silent, and thoughtful, but no doubt
preoccupied by the same idea and striving to hide it. It was Marcel who
first broke silence.

"Come," said he to Rodolphe, "this is not what we promised ourselves."

"What do you mean?" asked Rodolphe.

"Oh!" replied Marcel. "Do not try to pretend with me now. You are
thinking of that which should be forgotten and I too, by Jove, I do not
deny it."

"Well?"

"Well, it must be for the last time. To the devil with recollections
that make wine taste sour and render us miserable when everybody else
are amusing themselves," exclaimed Marcel, alluding to the joyful shouts
coming from the rooms adjoining theirs. "Come, let us think of something
else, and let this be the last time."

"That is what we always say and yet--," said Rodolphe, falling anew into
the reverie.

"And yet we are continually going back to it," resumed Marcel. "That is
because instead of frankly seeking to forget, we make the most trivial
things a pretext to recall remembrances, which is due above all to the
fact that we persist in living amidst the same surroundings in which the
beings who have so long been our torment lived. We are less the slaves
of passion than of habit. It is this captivity that must be escaped
from, or we shall wear ourselves out in a ridiculous and shameful
slavery. Well, the past is past, we must break the ties that still bind
us to it. The hour has come to go forward without looking backward; we
have had our share of youth, carelessness, and paradox. All these are
very fine--a very pretty novel could be written on them; but this comedy
of amourous follies, this loss of time, of days wasted with the
prodigality of people who believe they have an eternity to spend--all
this must have an end. It is no longer possible for us to continue to
live much longer on the outskirts of society--on the outskirts of life
almost--under the penalty of justifying the contempt felt for us, and of
despising ourselves. For, after all, is it a life we lead? And are not
the independence, the freedom of mannerism of which we boast so loudly,
very mediocre advantages? True liberty consists of being able to
dispense with the aid of others, and to exist by oneself, and have we
got to that? No, the first scoundrel, whose name we would not bear for
five minutes, avenges himself for our jests, and becomes our lord and
master the day on which we borrow from him five francs, which he lends
us after having made us dispense the worth of a hundred and fifty in
ruses or in humiliations. For my part, I have had enough of it. Poetry
does not alone exist in disorderly living, touch-and-go happiness, loves
that last as long as a bedroom candle, more or less eccentric revolts
against those prejudices which will eternally rule the world, for it is
easier to upset a dynasty than a custom, however ridiculous it may be.
It is not enough to wear a summer coat in December to have talent; one
can be a real poet or artist whilst going about well shod and eating
three meals a day. Whatever one may say, and whatever one may do, if one
wants to attain anything one must always take the commonplace way. This
speech may astonish you, friend Rodolphe; you may say that I am breaking
my idols, you will call me corrupted; and yet what I tell you is the
expression of my sincere wishes. Despite myself, a slow and salutary
metamorphosis has taken place within me; reason has entered my
mind--burglariously, if you like, and perhaps against my will, but it
has got in at last--and has proved to me that I was on a wrong track,
and that it would be at once ridiculous and dangerous to persevere in
it. Indeed, what will happen if we continue this monotonous and idle
vagabondage? We shall get to thirty, unknown, isolated, disgusted with
all things and with ourselves, full of envy towards all those whom we
see reach their goal, whatever it may be, and obliged, in order to live,
to have recourse to shameful parasitism. Do not imagine that this is a
fancy picture I have conjured up especially to frighten you. The future
does not systematically appear to be all black, but neither does it all
rose colored; I see it clearly as it is. Up till now the life we have
led has been forced upon us--we had the excuse of necessity. Now we are
no longer to be excused, and if we do not re-enter the world, it will be
voluntarily, for the obstacles against which we have had to struggle no
longer exist."

"I say," said Rodolphe, "what are you driving at? Why and wherefore this
lecture?"

"You thoroughly understand me," replied Marcel, in the same serious
tones. "Just now I saw you, like myself, assailed by recollections that
made you regret the past. You were thinking of Mimi and I was thinking
of Musette. Like me, you would have liked to have had your mistress
beside you. Well, I tell you that we ought neither of us to think of
these creatures; that we were not created and sent into the world solely
to sacrifice our existence to these commonplace Manon Lescaut's, and
that the Chevalier Desgrieux, who is so fine, so true, and so poetical,
is only saved from being ridiculous by his youth and the illusions he
cherishes. At twenty he can follow his mistress to America without
ceasing to be interesting, but at twenty-five he would have shown Manon
the door, and would have been right. It is all very well to talk; we are
old, my dear fellow; we have lived too fast, our hearts are cracked, and
no longer ring truly; one cannot be in love with a Musette or a Mimi
for three years with impunity. For me it is all over, and I wish to be
thoroughly divorced from her remembrance. I am now going to commit to
the flames some trifles that she has left me during her various stays,
and which oblige me to think of her when I come across them."

And Marcel, who had risen, went and took from a drawer a little
cardboard box in which were the souvenirs of Musette--a faded bouquet, a
sash, a bit of ribbon, and some letters.

"Come," said he to the poet, "follow my example, Rodolphe."

"Very well, then," said the latter, making an effort, "you are right. I
too will make an end of it with that girl with the white hands."

And, rising suddenly, he went and fetched a small packet containing
souvenirs of Mimi of much the same kind as those of which Marcel was
silently making an inventory.

"This comes in handy," murmured the painter. "This trumpery will help us
to rekindle the fire which is going out."

"Indeed," said Rodolphe, "it is cold enough here to hatch polar bears."

"Come," said Marcel, "let us burn in a duet. There goes Musette's prose;
it blazes like punch. She was very fond of punch. Come Rodolphe,
attention!"

And for some minutes they alternately emptied into the fire, which
blazed clear and noisily, the reliquaries of their past love.

"Poor Musette!" murmured Marcel to himself, looking at the last object
remaining in his hands.

It was a little faded bouquet of wildflowers.

"Poor Musette, she was very pretty though, and she loved me dearly, is
it not so, little bouquet? Her heart told you so the day she wore you at
her waist. Poor little bouquet, you seem to be pleading for mercy; well,
yes; but on one condition; it is that you will never speak to me of her
any more, never, never!"

And profiting by a moment when he thought himself unnoticed by Rodolphe,
he slipped the bouquet into his breast pocket.

"So much the worse, it is stronger than I am. I am cheating," thought
the painter.

And as he cast a furtive glance towards Rodolphe, he saw the poet, who
had come to the end of his auto-da-fe, putting quietly into his own
pocket, after having tenderly kissed it, a little night cap that had
belonged to Mimi.

"Come," muttered Marcel, "he is as great a coward as I am."

At the very moment that Rodolphe was about to return to his room to go
to bed, there were two little taps at Marcel's door.

"Who the deuce can it be at this time of night?" said the painter, going
to open it.

A cry of astonishment burst from him when he had done so.

It was Mimi.

As the room was very dark Rodolphe did not at first recognize his
mistress, and only distinguishing a woman, he thought that it was some
passing conquest of his friend's, and out of discretion prepared to
withdraw.

"I am disturbing you," said Mimi, who had remained on the threshold.

At her voice Rodolphe dropped on his chair as though thunderstruck.

"Good evening," said Mimi, coming up to him and shaking him by the hand
which he allowed her to take mechanically.

"What the deuce brings you here and at this time of night?" asked
Marcel.

"I was very cold," said Mimi shivering. "I saw a light in your room as
I was passing along the street, and although it was very late I came
up."

She was still shivering, her voice had a cristalline sonority that
pierced Rodolphe's heart like a funeral knell, and filled it with a
mournful alarm. He looked at her more attentively. It was no longer
Mimi, but her ghost.

Marcel made her sit down beside the fire.

Mimi smiled at the sight of the flame dancing merrily on the hearth.

"It is very nice," said she, holding out her poor hands blue with cold.
"By the way, Monsieur Marcel, you do not know why I have called on you?"

"No, indeed."

"Well," said Mimi, "I simply came to ask you whether you could get them
to let me a room here. I have just been turned out of my lodgings
because I owe a month's rent and I do not know where to go to."

"The deuce!" said Marcel, shaking his head, "we are not in very good
odor with our landlord and our recommendation would be a most
unfortunate one, my poor girl."

"What is to be done then?" said Mimi. "The fact is I have nowhere to
go."

"Ah!" said Marcel. "You are no longer a viscountess, then?"

"Good heavens, no! Not at all."

"But since when?"

"Two months ago, already."

"Have you been playing tricks on the viscount, then?"

"No," said she, glancing at Rodolphe, who had taken his place in the
darkest corner of the room, "the viscount kicked up a row with me on
account of some verses that were written about me. We quarrelled, and I
sent him about his business. He is a nice skin flint, I can tell you."

"But," said Marcel, "he had rigged you out very finely, judging by what
I saw the day I met you."

"Well," said Mimi, "would you believe it, that he took everything away
from me when I left him, and I have since heard that he raffled all my
clothes at a wretched table d'hote where he used to take me to dine. He
is wealthy enough, though, and yet with all his fortune he is as miserly
as a clay fireball and as stupid as an owl. He would not allow me to
drink wine without water, and made me fast on Fridays. Would you believe
it, he wanted me to wear black stockings, because they did not want
washing as often as white ones. You have no idea of it, he worried me
nicely I can tell you. I can well say that I did my share of purgatory
with him."

"And does he know your present situation?" asked Marcel.

"I have not seen him since and I do not want to," replied Mimi. "It
makes me sick when I think of him. I would rather die of hunger than ask
him for a sou."

"But," said Marcel, "since you left him you have not been living alone."

"Yes, I assure you, Monsieur Marcel," exclaimed Mimi quickly. "I have
been working to earn my living, only as artificial flower making was not
a very flourishing business I took up another. I sit to painters. If you
have any jobs to give me," she added gaily.

And having noticed a movement on the part of Rodolphe, whom she did not
take her eyes off whilst talking to his friend, Mimi went on:

"Ah, but I only sit for head and hands. I have plenty to do, and I am
owed money by two or three, I shall have some in a couple of days, it is
only for that interval that I want to find a lodging. When I get the
money I shall go back to my own. Ah!" said she, looking at the table,
which was still laden with the preparation for the modest feast which
the two friends had scarcely touched, "you were going to have supper?"

"No," said Marcel, "we are not hungry."

"You are very lucky," said Mimi simply.

At this remark Rodolphe felt a horrible pang in his heart, he made a
sign to Marcel, which the latter understood.

"By the way," said the artist, "since you are here Mimi, you must take
pot luck with us. We were going to keep Christmas Eve, and then--why--we
began to think of other things."

"Then I have come at the right moment," said Mimi, casting an almost
famished glance at the food on the table. "I have had no dinner," she
whispered to the artist, so as not to be heard by Rodolphe, who was
gnawing his handkerchief to keep him from bursting into sobs.

"Draw up, Rodolphe," said Marcel to his friend, "we will all three have
supper together."

"No," said the poet remaining in his corner.

"Are you angry, Rodolphe, that I have come here?" asked Mimi gently.
"Where could I go to?"

"No, Mimi," replied Rodolphe, "only I am grieved to see you like this."

"It is my own fault, Rodolphe, I do not complain, what is done is done,
so think no more about it than I do. Cannot you still be my friend,
because you have been something else? You can, can you not? Well then,
do not frown on me, and come and sit down at the table with us."

She rose to take him by the hand, but was so weak, that she could not
take a step, and sank back into her chair.

"The heat has dazed me," she said, "I cannot stand."

"Come," said Marcel to Rodolphe, "come and join us."

The poet drew up to the table, and began to eat with them. Mimi was very
lively.

"My dear girl, it is impossible for us to get you a room in the house."

"I must go away then," said she, trying to rise.

"No, no," said Marcel. "I have another way of arranging things, you can
stay in my room, and I will go and sleep with Rodolphe."

"It will put you out very much, I am afraid," said Mimi, "but it will
not be for long, only a couple of days."

"It will not put us out at all in that case," replied Marcel, "so it is
understood, you are at home here, and we are going to Rodolphe's room.
Good night, Mimi, sleep well."

"Thanks," said she, holding out her hand to Marcel and Rodolphe, who
moved away together.

"Do you want to lock yourself in?" asked Marcel as he got to the door.

"Why?" said Mimi, looking at Rodolphe, "I am not afraid."

When the two friends were alone in Rodolphe's room, which was on the
same floor, Marcel abruptly said to his friend, "Well, what are you
going to do now?"

"I do not know," stammered Rodolphe.

"Come, do not shilly-shally, go and join Mimi! If you do, I prophecy
that tomorrow you will be living together again."

"If it were Musette who had returned, what would you do?" inquired
Rodolphe of his friend.

"If it were Musette that was in the next room," replied Marcel, "well,
frankly, I believe that I should not have been in this one for a quarter
of an hour past."

"Well," said Rodolphe, "I will be more courageous than you, I shall
stay here."

"We shall see that," said Marcel, who had already got into bed. "Are you
coming to bed?"

"Certainly," replied Rodolphe.

But in the middle of the night, Marcel waking up, perceived that
Rodolphe had left him.

In the morning, he went and tapped discreetly at the door of the room in
which Mimi was.

"Come in," said she, and on seeing him, she made a sign to him to speak
low in order not to wake Rodolphe who was asleep. He was seated in an
arm chair, which he had drawn up to the side of the bed, his head
resting on a pillow beside that of Mimi.

"It is like that that you passed the night?" said Marcel in great
astonishment.

"Yes," replied the girl.

Rodolphe woke up all at once, and after kissing Mimi, held out his hand
to Marcel, who seemed greatly puzzled.

"I am going to find some money for breakfast," said he to the painter.
"You will keep Mimi company."

"Well," asked Marcel of the girl when they were alone together, "what
took place last night?"

"Very sad things," said Mimi. "Rodolphe still loves me."

"I know that very well."

"Yes, you wanted to separate him from me. I am not angry about it,
Marcel, you were quite right, I have done no good to the poor fellow."

"And you," asked Marcel, "do you still love him?"

"Do I love him?" said she, clasping her hands. "It is that that tortures
me. I am greatly changed, my friend, and it needed but little time for
that."

"Well, now he loves you, you love him and you cannot do without one
another, come together again and try and remain."

"It is impossible," said Mimi.

"Why?" inquired Marcel. "Certainly it would be more sensible for you to
separate, but as for your not meeting again, you would have to be a
thousand leagues from one another."

"In a little while I shall be further off than that."

"What do you mean?"

"Do not speak of it to Rodolphe, it would cause him too much pain, but I
am going away forever."

"But whither?"

"Look here, Marcel," said Mimi sobbing, "look."

And lifting up the sheet of the bed a little she showed the artist her
shoulders, neck and arms.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Marcel mournfully, "poor girl."

"Is it not true, my friend, that I do not deceive myself and that I am
soon going to die."

"But how did you get into such a state in so short a time?"

"Ah!" replied Mimi, "with the life I have been leading for the past two
months it is not astonishing; nights spent in tears, days passed in
posing in studios without any fire, poor living, grief, and then you do
not know all, I tried to poison myself with Eau de Javelle. I was saved
but not for long as you see. Besides I have never been very strong, in
short it is my fault, if I had remained quietly with Rodolphe I should
not be like this. Poor fellow, here I am again upon his hands, but it
will not be for long, the last dress he will give me will be all white,
Marcel, and I shall be buried in it. Ah! If you knew how I suffer
because I am going to die. Rodolphe knows that I am ill, he remained for
over an hour without speaking last night when he saw my arms and
shoulders so thin. He no longer recognized his Mimi. Alas! My very
looking glass does not know me. Ah! All the same I was pretty and he did
love me. Oh, God!" she exclaimed, burying her face in Marcel's hands. "I
am going to leave you and Rodolphe too, oh God!" and sobs choked her
voice.

"Come, Mimi," said Marcel, "never despair, you will get well, you only
want care and rest."

"Ah, no!" said Mimi. "It is all over, I feel it. I have no longer any
strength, and when I came here last night it took me over an hour to get
up the stairs. If I found a woman here I should have gone down by way of
the window. However, he was free since we were no longer together, but
you see, Marcel, I was sure he loved me still. It was on account of
that," she said, bursting into tears, "it is on account of that that I
do not want to die at once, but it is all over with me. He must be very
good, poor fellow, to take me back after all the pain I have given him.
Ah! God is not just, since he does not leave me only the time to make
Rodolphe forget the grief I caused him. He does not know the state in
which I am. I would not have him lie beside me, for I feel as if the
earthworms were already devouring my body. We passed the night in
weeping and talking of old times. Ah! How sad it is, my friend, to see
behind one the happiness one has formerly passed by without noticing it.
I feel as if I had fire in my chest, and when I move my limbs it seems
as if they were going to snap. Hand me my dress, I want to cut the cards
to see whether Rodolphe will bring in any money. I should like to have a
good breakfast with you, like we used to; that would not hurt me. God
cannot make me worse than I am. See," she added, showing Marcel the pack
of cards she had cut, "Spades--it is the color of death. Clubs," she
added more gaily, "yes we shall have some money."

Marcel did not know what to say in presence of the lucid delirium of
this poor creature, who already felt, as she said, the worms of the
grave.

In an hour's time Rodolphe was back. He was accompanied by Schaunard and
Gustave Colline. The musician wore a summer jacket. He had sold his
winter suit to lend money to Rodolphe on learning that Mimi was ill.
Colline on his side had gone and sold some books. If he could have got
anyone to buy one of his arms or legs he would have agreed to the
bargain rather than part with his cherished volumes. But Schaunard had
pointed out to him that nothing could be done with his arms or his
legs.

Mimi strove to recover her gaiety to greet her old friends.

"I am no longer naughty," said she to them, "and Rodolphe has forgiven
me. If he will keep me with him I will wear wooden shoes and a mob-cap,
it is all the same to me. Silk is certainly not good for my health," she
added with a frightful smile.

At Marcel's suggestion, Rodolphe had sent for one of his friends who had
just passed as a doctor. It was the same who had formerly attended
Francine. When he came they left him alone with Mimi.

Rodolphe, informed by Marcel, was already aware of the danger run by his
mistress. When the doctor had spoken to Mimi, he said to Rodolphe: "You
cannot keep her here. Save for a miracle she is doomed. You must send
her to the hospital. I will give you a letter for La Pitie. I know one
of the house surgeons there; she will be well looked after. If she
lasts till the spring we may perhaps pull her through, but if she stays
here she will be dead in a week."

"I shall never dare propose it to her," said Rodolphe.

"I spoke to her about it," replied the doctor, "and she agreed. Tomorrow
I will send you the order of admission to La Pitie."

"My dear," said Mimi to Rodolphe, "the doctor is right; you cannot nurse
me here. At the hospital they may perhaps cure me, you must send me
there. Ah! You see I do so long to live now, that I would be willing to
end my days with one hand in a raging fire and the other in yours.
Besides, you will come and see me. You must not grieve, I shall be well
taken care of: the doctor told me so. You get chicken at the hospital
and they have fires there. Whilst I am taking care of myself there, you
will work to earn money, and when I am cured I will come back and live
with you. I have plenty of hope now. I shall come back as pretty as I
used to be. I was very ill in the days before I knew you, and I was
cured. Yet I was not happy in those days, I might just as well have
died. Now that I have found you again and that we can be happy, they
will cure me again, for I shall fight hard against my illness. I will
drink all the nasty things they give me, and if death seizes on me it
will be by force. Give me the looking glass: it seems to me that I have
little color in my cheeks. Yes," said she, looking at herself in the
glass, "my color is coming back, and my hands, see, they are still
pretty; kiss me once more, it will not be the last time, my poor
darling," she added, clasping Rodolphe round the neck, and burying his
face in her loosened tresses.

Before leaving for the hospital, she wanted her friends the Bohemians to
stay and pass the evening with her.

"Make me laugh," said she, "cheerfulness is health to me. It is that wet
blanket of a viscount made me ill. Fancy, he wanted to make me learn
orthography; what the deuce should I have done with it? And his friends,
what a set! A regular poultry yard, of which the viscount was the
peacock. He marked his linen himself. If he ever marries I am sure that
it will be he who will suckle the children."

Nothing could be more heart breaking than the almost posthumous gaiety
of poor Mimi. All the Bohemians made painful efforts to hide their tears
and continue the conversation in the jesting tone started by the
unfortunate girl, for whom fate was so swiftly spinning the linen of her
last garment.

The next morning Rodolphe received the order of admission to the
hospital. Mimi could not walk, she had to be carried down to the cab.
During the journey she suffered horribly from the jolts of the vehicle.
Admist all her sufferings the last thing that dies in woman, coquetry,
still survived; two or three times she had the cab stopped before the
drapers' shops to look at the display in the windows.

On entering the ward indicated in the letter of admission Mimi felt a
terrible pang at her heart, something within her told her that it was
between these bare and leprous walls that her life was to end. She
exerted the whole of the will left her to hide the mournful impression
that had chilled her.

When she was put to bed she gave Rodolphe a final kiss and bid him
goodbye, bidding him come and see her the next Sunday which was a
visitors' day.

"It does not smell very nice here," said she to him, "bring me some
flowers, some violets, there are still some about."

"Yes," said Rodolphe, "goodbye till Sunday."

And he drew together the curtains of her bed. On hearing the departing
steps of her lover, Mimi was suddenly seized with an almost delirious
attack of fever. She suddenly opened the curtains, and leaning half out
of bed, cried in a voice broken with tears:

"Rodolphe, take me home, I want to go away."

The sister of charity hastened to her and tried to calm her.

"Oh!" said Mimi, "I am going to die here."

On Sunday morning, the day he was to go and see Mimi, Rodolphe
remembered that he had promised her some violets. With poetic and loving
superstition he went on foot in horrible weather to look for the flowers
his sweetheart had asked him for, in the woods of Aulnay and Fontenay,
where he had so often been with her. The country, so lively and joyful
in the sunshine of the bright days of June and July, he found chill and
dreary. For two hours he beat the snow covered thickets, lifting the
bushes with a stick, and ended by finding a few tiny blossoms, and as it
happened, in a part of the wood bordering the Le Plessis pool, which had
been their favorite spot when they came into the country.

Passing through the village of Chatillon to get back to Paris, Rodolphe
met in the square before the church a baptismal procession, in which he
recognized one of his friends who was the godfather, with a singer from
the opera.

"What the deuce are you doing here?" asked the friend, very much
surprised to see Rodolphe in those parts.

The poet told him what had happened.

The young fellow, who had known Mimi, was greatly saddened at this
story, and feeling in his pocket took out a bag of christening
sweetmeats and handed it to Rodolphe.

"Poor Mimi, give her this from me and tell her I will come and see
her."

"Come quickly, then, if you would come in time," said Rodolphe, as he
left him.

When Rodolphe got to the hospital, Mimi, who could not move, threw her
arms about him in a look.

"Ah, there are my flowers!" said she, with the smile of satisfied
desire.

Rodolphe related his pilgrimage into that part of the country that had
been the paradise of their loves.

"Dear flowers," said the poor girl, kissing the violets. The sweetmeats
greatly pleased her too. "I am not quite forgotten, then. The young
fellows are good. Ah! I love all your friends," said she to Rodolphe.

This interview was almost merry. Schaunard and Colline had rejoined
Rodolphe. The nurses had almost to turn them out, for they had
overstayed visiting time.

"Goodbye," said Mimi. "Thursday without fail, and come early."

The following day on coming home at night, Rodolphe received a letter
from a medical student, a dresser at the hospital, to whose care he had
recommended the invalid. The letter only contained these words:--

"My dear friend, I have very bad news for you. No. 8 is dead. This
morning on going through the ward I found her bed vacant."

Rodolphe dropped on to a chair and did not shed a tear. When Marcel came
in later he found his friend in the same stupefied attitude. With a
gesture the poet showed him the latter.

"Poor girl!" said Marcel.

"It is strange," said Rodolphe, putting his hand to his heart; "I feel
nothing here. Was my love killed on learning that Mimi was to die?"

"Who knows?" murmured the painter.

Mimi's death caused great mourning amongst the Bohemians.

A week later Rodolphe met in the street the dresser who had informed him
of his mistress's death.

"Ah, my dear Rodolphe!" said he, hastening up to the poet. "Forgive me
the pain I caused you by my heedlessness."

"What do you mean?" asked Rodolphe in astonishment.

"What," replied the dresser, "you do not know? You have not seen her
again?"

"Seen whom?" exclaimed Rodolphe.

"Her, Mimi."

"What?" said the poet, turning deadly pale.

"I made a mistake. When I wrote you that terrible news I was the victim
of an error. This is how it was. I had been away from the hospital for a
couple of days. When I returned, on going the rounds with the surgeons,
I found Mimi's bed empty. I asked the sister of charity what had become
of the patient, and she told me that she had died during the night. This
is what had happened. During my absence Mimi had been moved to another
ward. In No. 8 bed, which she left, they put another woman who died the
same day. That will explain the mistake into which I fell. The day after
that on which I wrote to you, I found Mimi in the next ward. Your
absence had put her in a terrible state; she gave me a letter for you
and I took it on to your place at once."

"Good God!" said Rodolphe. "Since I thought Mimi dead I have not dared
to go home. I have been sleeping here and there at friends' places. Mimi
alive! Good heavens! What must she think of my absence? Poor girl, poor
girl! How is she? When did you see her last?"

"The day before yesterday. She was neither better nor worse, but very
uneasy; she fancies you must be ill."

"Let us go to La Pitie at once," said Rodolphe, "that I may see her."

"Stop here for a moment," said the dresser, when they reached the
entrance to the hospital, "I will go and ask the house surgeon for
permission for you to enter."

Rodolphe waited in the hall for a quarter of an hour. When the dresser
returned he took him by the hand and said these words:

"My friend, suppose that the letter I wrote to you a week ago was true?"

"What!" exclaimed Rodolphe, leaning against a pillar, "Mimi--"

"This morning at four o'clock."

"Take me to the amphitheatre," said Rodolphe, "that I may see her."

"She is no longer there," said the dresser. And pointing out to the poet
a large van which was in the courtyard drawn up before a building above
which was inscribed, "Amphiteatre," he added, "she is there."

It was indeed the vehicle in which the corpses that are unclaimed are
taken to their pauper's grave.

"Goodbye," said Rodolphe to the dresser.

"Would you like me to come with you a bit?" suggested the latter.

"No," said Rodolphe, turning away, "I need to be alone."




CHAPTER XXIII

YOUTH IS FLEETING


A year after Mimi's death Rodolphe and Marcel, who had not quitted one
another, celebrated by a festival their entrance into the official
world. Marcel, who had at length secured admission to the annual
exhibition of pictures, had had two paintings hung, one of which had
been bought by a rich Englishman, formerly Musette's protector. With the
product of this sale, and also of a Government order, Marcel had partly
paid off his past debts. He had furnished decent rooms, and had a real
studio. Almost at the same time Schaunard and Rodolphe came before the
public who bestow fame and fortune--the one with an album of airs that
were sung at all the concerts, and which gave him the commencement of a
reputation; the other with a book that occupied the critics for a month.
As to Barbemuche he had long since given up Bohemianism. Gustave Colline
had inherited money and made a good marriage. He gave evening parties
with music and light refreshments.

One evening Rodolphe, seated in his own armchair with his feet on his
own rug, saw Marcel come in quite flurried.

"You do not know what has just happened to me," said he.

"No," replied the poet. "I know that I have been to your place, that you
were at home, and that you would not answer the door."

"Yes, I heard you. But guess who was with me."

"How do I know?"

"Musette, who burst upon me last evening like a bombshell, got up as a
_debardeur_."

"Musette! You have once more found Musette!" said Rodolphe, in a tone of
regret.

"Do not be alarmed. Hostilities were not resumed. Musette came to pass
with me her last night of Bohemianism."

"What?"

"She is going to be married."

"Bah!" said Rodolphe. "Who is the victim?"

"A postmaster who was her last lover's guardian; a queer sort of fellow,
it would seem. Musette said to him, 'My dear sir, before definitely
giving you my hand and going to the registrar's I want to drink my last
glass of Champagne, dance my last quadrille, and embrace for the last
time my lover, Marcel, who is now a gentleman, like everybody else is
seems.' And for a week the dear creature has been looking for me. Hence
it was that she burst upon me last evening, just at the moment I was
thinking of her. Ah, my friend! Altogether we had a sad night of it. It
was not at all the same thing it used to be, not at all. We were like
some wretched copy of a masterpiece? I have even written on the subject
of this last separation a little ballad which I will whine out to you if
you will allow me," and Marcel began to chant the following verses:--

        I saw a swallow yesterday,
        He brought Spring's promise to the air;
        "Remember her," he seemed to say,
        "Who loved you when she'd time to spare;"
        And all the day I sate before
        The almanac of yonder year,
        When I did nothing but adore,
        And you were pleased to hold me dear.

        But do not think my love is dead,
        Or to forget you I begin.

        If you sought entry to my shed
        My heart would leap to let you in:
        Since at your name it trembles still--
        Muse of oblivious fantasy!--
        Return and share, if share you will,
        Joy's consecrated bread with me.

        The decorations of the nest
        Which saw our mutual ardor burn,
        Already seem to wear their best
        At the mere hope of return.
        Come, see if you can recognize
        Things your departure reft of glee,
        The bed, the glass of extra size,
        In which you often drank for me.

        You shall resume the plain white gown
        You used to look so nice in, then;
        On Sunday we can still run down
        To wander in the woods again.
        Beneath the bower, at evening,
        Again we'll drink the liquid bright
        In which your song would dip its wing
        Before in air it took to flight.

        Musette, who has at last confessed
        The carnival of life was gone,
        Came back, one morning, to the nest
        Whence, like a wild bird, she had flown:
        But, while I kissed the fugitive,
        My heart no more emotion knew,
        For, she had ceased, for me, to live,
        And "You," she said, "no more are you."

        "Heart of my heart!" I answered, "Go!
        We cannot call the dead love back;
        Best let it lie, interred, below
        The tombstone of the almanac
        Perhaps a spirit that remembers
        The happy time it notes for me
        May find some day among its embers
        Of a lost Paradise the key."

"Well," said Marcel, when he had finished, "you may feel reassured now,
my love for Musette is dead and buried here," he added ironically,
indicating the manuscript of the poem.

"Poor lad," said Rodolphe, "your wit is fighting a duel with your
heart, take care it does not kill it."

"That is already lifeless," replied the painter, "we are done for, old
fellow, we are dead and buried. Youth is fleeting! Where are you going
to dine this evening?"

"If you like," said Rodolphe, "we will go and dine for twelve sous at
our old restaurant in the Rue du Four, where they have plates of huge
crockery, and where we used to feel so hungry when we had done dinner."

"No," replied Marcel, "I am quite willing to look back at that past, but
it must be through the medium of a bottle of good wine and sitting in a
comfortable armchair. What would you, I am corrupted. I only care for
what is good!"



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