HotFreeBooks.com
Parisian Points of View
by Ludovic Halevy
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

MASTER-TALES

PARISIAN POINTS OF VIEW

BY LUDOVIC HALEVY

TRANSLATED BY EDITH V.B. MATTHEWS

WITH INTRODUCTION BY BRANDER MATTHEWS



HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON



Copyright, 1894, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

All rights reserved.



CONTENTS

PAGE

INTRODUCTION vii ONLY A WALTZ 3 THE DANCING-MASTER 37 THE CIRCUS CHARGER 49 BLACKY 69 THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN PARIS 83 THE STORY OF A BALL-DRESS 113 THE INSURGENT 137 THE CHINESE AMBASSADOR 147 IN THE EXPRESS 161



INTRODUCTION



THE SHORT STORIES OF M. LUDOVIC HALEVY

To most American readers of fiction I fancy that M. Ludovic Halevy is known chiefly, if not solely, as the author of that most charming of modern French novels, The Abbe Constantin. Some of these readers may have disliked this or that novel of M. Zola's because of its bad moral, and this or that novel of M. Ohnet's because of its bad taste, and all of them were delighted to discover in M. Halevy's interesting and artistic work a story written by a French gentleman for young ladies. Here and there a scoffer might sneer at the tale of the old French priest and the young women from Canada as innocuous and saccharine; but the story of the good Abbe Constantin and of his nephew, and of the girl the nephew loved in spite of her American millions—this story had the rare good fortune of pleasing at once the broad public of indiscriminate readers of fiction and the narrower circle of real lovers of literature. Artificial the atmosphere of the tale might be, but it was with an artifice at once delicate and delicious; and the tale itself won its way into the hearts of the women of America as it had into the hearts of the women of France.

There is even a legend—although how solid a foundation it may have in fact I do not dare to discuss—there is a legend that the lady-superior of a certain convent near Paris was so fascinated by The Abbe Constantin, and so thoroughly convinced of the piety of its author, that she ordered all his other works, receiving in due season the lively volumes wherein are recorded the sayings and doings of Monsieur and Madame Cardinal, and of the two lovely daughters of Monsieur and Madame Cardinal. To note that these very amusing studies of certain aspects of life in a modern capital originally appeared in that extraordinary journal, La Vie Parisienne—now sadly degenerate—is enough to indicate that they are not precisely what the good lady-superior expected to receive. We may not say that La Famille Cardinal is one of the books every gentleman's library should be without; but to appreciate its value requires a far different knowledge of the world and of its wickedness than is needed to understand The Abbe Constantin.

Yet the picture of the good priest and the portraits of the little Cardinals are the work of the same hand, plainly enough. In both of these books, as in Criquette (M. Halevy's only other novel), as in A Marriage for Love, and the twoscore other short stories he has written during the past thirty years, there are the same artistic qualities, the same sharpness of vision, the same gentle irony, the same constructive skill, and the same dramatic touch. It is to be remembered always that the author of L'Abbe Constantin is also the half-author of "Froufrou" and of "Tricoche et Cacolet," as well as of the librettos of "La Belle Helene" and of "La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein."

In the two novels, as in the twoscore short stories and sketches—the contes and the nouvelles which are now spring-like idyls and now wintry episodes, now sombre etchings and now gayly-colored pastels—in all the works of the story-teller we see the firm grasp of the dramatist. The characters speak for themselves; each reveals himself with the swift directness of the personages of a play. They are not talked about and about, for all analysis has been done by the playwright before he rings up the curtain in the first paragraph. And the story unrolls itself, also, as rapidly as does a comedy. The movement is straightforward. There is the cleverness and the ingenuity of the accomplished dramatist, but the construction has the simplicity of the highest skill. The arrangement of incidents is so artistic that it seems inevitable; and no one is ever moved to wonder whether or not the tale might have been better told in different fashion.

Nephew of the composer of "La Juive"—an opera not now heard as often as it deserves, perhaps—and son of a playwright no one of whose productions now survives, M. Halevy grew up in the theatre. At fourteen he was on the free-list of the Opera, the Opera-Comique, and the Odeon. After he left school and went into the civil service his one wish was to write plays, and so to be able to afford to resign his post. In the civil service he had an inside view of French politics, which gave him a distaste for the mere game of government without in any way impairing the vigor of his patriotism; as is proved by certain of the short stones dealing with the war of 1870 and the revolt of the Paris Communists. And while he did his work faithfully, he had spare hours to give to literature. He wrote plays and stories, and they were rejected. The manager of the Odeon declared that one early play of M. Halevy's was exactly suited to the Gymnase, and the manager of the Gymnase protested that it was exactly suited to the Odeon. The editor of a daily journal said that one early tale of M. Halevy's was too brief for a novel, and the editor of a weekly paper said that it was too long for a short story.

In time, of course, his luck turned; he had plays performed and stories published; and at last he met M. Henri Meilhac, and entered on that collaboration of nearly twenty years' duration to which we owe "Froufrou" and "Tricoche et Cacolet," on the one hand, and on the other the books of Offenbach's most brilliant operas—"Barbebleue," for example, and "La Perichole." When this collaboration terminated, shortly before M. Halevy wrote The Abbe Constantin, he gave up writing for the stage. The training of the playwright he could not give up, if he would, nor the intimacy with the manners and customs of the people who live, move, and have their being on the far side of the curtain.

Obviously M. Halevy is fond of the actors and the actresses with whom he spent the years of his manhood. They appear again and again in his tales; and in his treatment of them there is never anything ungentlemanly as there was in M. Jean Richepin's recent volume of theatrical sketches. M. Halevy's liking for the men and women of the stage is deep; and wide is his knowledge of their changing moods. The young Criquette and the old Karikari and the aged Dancing-master—he knows them all thoroughly, and he likes them heartily, and he sympathizes with them cordially. Indeed, nowhere can one find more kindly portraits of the kindly player-folk than in the writings of this half-author of "Froufrou"; it is as though the successful dramatist felt ever grateful towards the partners of his toil, the companions of his struggles. He is not blind to their manifold weaknesses, nor is he the dupe of their easy emotionalism, but he is tolerant of their failings, and towards them, at least, his irony is never mordant.

Irony is one of M. Halevy's chief characteristics, perhaps the chiefest. It is gentle when he deals with the people of the stage—far gentler then than when he is dealing with the people of Society, with fashionable folk, with the aristocracy of wealth. When he is telling us of the young loves of millionaires and of million-heiresses, his touch may seem caressing, but for all its softness the velvet paw has claws none the less. It is amusing to note how often M. Halevy has chosen to tell the tale of love among the very rich. The heroine of The Abbe Constantin is immensely wealthy, as we all know, and immensely wealthy are the heroines of Princesse, of A Grand Marriage, and of In the Express.[A] Sometimes the heroes and the heroines are not only immensely wealthy, they are also of the loftiest birth; such, for instance, are the young couple whose acquaintance we make in the pages of Only a Waltz.

[Footnote A: Perhaps the present writer will be forgiven if he wishes to record here that In the Express (Par le Rapide) was published in Paris only towards the end of 1892, while a tale not wholly unlike it, In the Vestibule Limited, was published in New York in the spring of 1891.]

There is no trace or taint of snobbery in M. Halevy's treatment of all this magnificence; there is none of the vulgarity which marks the pages of Lothair, for example; there is no mean admiration of mean things. There is, on the other hand, no bitterness of scourging satire. He lets us see that all this luxury is a little cloying and perhaps not a little enervating. He suggests (although he takes care never to say it) that perhaps wealth and birth are not really the best the world can offer. The amiable egotism of the hero of In the Express, and the not unkindly selfishness of the heroine of that most Parisian love-story, are set before us without insistence, it is true, but with an irony so keen that even he who runs as he reads may not mistake the author's real opinion of the characters he has evoked.

To say this is to say that M. Halevy's irony is delicate and playful. There is no harshness in his manner and no hatred in his mind. We do not find in his pages any of the pessimism which is perhaps the dominant characteristic of the best French fiction of our time. To M. Halevy, as to every thinking man, life is serious, no doubt, but it need not be taken sadly, or even solemnly. To him life seems still enjoyable, as it must to most of those who have a vivid sense of humor. He is not disillusioned utterly, he is not reduced to the blankness of despair as are so many of the disciples of Flaubert, who are cast into the outer darkness, and who hopelessly revolt against the doom they have brought on themselves.

Indeed, it is Merimee that M. Halevy would hail as his master, and not Flaubert, whom most of his fellow French writers of fiction follow blindly. Now, while the author of Salamnbo was a romanticist turned sour, the author of Carmen was a sentimentalist sheathed in irony. To Gustave Flaubert the world was hideously ugly, and he wished it strangely and splendidly beautiful, and he detested it the more because of his impossible ideal. To Prosper Merimee the world was what it is, to be taken and made the best of, every man keeping himself carefully guarded. Like Merimee, M. Halevy is detached, but he is not disenchanted. His work is more joyous than Merimee's, if not so vigorous and compact, and his delight in it is less disguised. Even in the Cardinal sketches there is nothing that leaves an acrid after-taste, nothing corroding—as there is not seldom in the stronger and sterner short stories of Maupassant.

More than Maupassant or Flaubert or Merimee, is M. Halevy a Parisian. Whether or not the characters of his tale are dwellers in the capital, whether or not the scene of his story is laid in the city by the Seine, the point of view is always Parisian. The Circus Charger did his duty in the stately avenues of a noble country-place, and Blacky performed his task near a rustic water-fall; but the men who record their intelligent actions are Parisians of the strictest sect. Even in the patriotic pieces called forth by the war of 1870, in the Insurgent and in the Chinese Ambassador, it is the siege of Paris and the struggle of the Communists which seem to the author most important. His style even, his swift and limpid prose—the prose which somehow corresponds to the best vers de societe in its brilliancy and buoyancy—is the style of one who lives at the centre of things. Cardinal Newman once said that while Livy and Tacitus and Terence and Seneca wrote Latin, Cicero wrote Roman; so while M. Zola on the one side, and M. Georges Ohnet on the other, may write French, M. Halevy writes Parisian.

BRANDER MATTHEWS.



ONLY A WALTZ

"Aunt, dear aunt, don't believe a word of what he is going to tell you. He is preparing to fib, to fib outrageously. If I hadn't interrupted him at the beginning of his talk, he would have told you that he had made up his mind to marry me from his and my earliest childhood."

"Of course!" exclaimed Gontran.

"Of course not," replied Marceline. "He was going to tell you that he was a good little boy, having always loved his little cousin, and that our marriage was a delightful romance of tenderness and sweetness."

"Why, yes, of course," repeated Gontran.

"Nonsense! The truth, Aunt Louise, the real truth, in short, is this, never, never should we have been married if on the 17th of May, 1890, between nine and eleven o'clock, he had not lost 34,000 points at bezique at the club, and if all the boxes had not been sold, that same night, at the Bouffes-Parisiens Theatre."

Gontran began to laugh.

"Oh, you can laugh as much as you please! You know very well that but for this—on what does fate depend?—I should now be married and a duchess, it is true; but Duchess of Courtalin, and not Duchess of Lannilis. Well, perhaps that would have been better! At any rate, I wish to give Aunt Louise the authentic history of our marriage."

"Tell away, if it amuses you," said Gontran.

"Yes, sir, it amuses me. You shall know all, Aunt Louise—all, absolutely all; and I beg you to be judge of our quarrel."

This scene was taking place eight days after Marceline de Lorlauge, at the Church of the Madeleine, before the altar, hidden under a mountain of roses, had answered "yes," with just the right amount of nervousness and emotion (neither too much nor too little, but exactly right), when she was asked if she was willing to take for husband her cousin, Jean Leopold Mathurin Arbert Gontran, Duke of Lannilis.

This marriage had been the great marriage of the season. There had been an absolute crush under the colonnade and against the railings of the church to see the bride walk down those fearful steps of the Madeleine. What an important feat that is! Merely to be beautiful is not all that is needful; it is necessary besides to know how to be beautiful. There is an art about being pretty which requires certain preparations and study. In society, as in the theatre, success rarely comes at once. Mme. de Lannilis had the good-fortune to make her first appearance with decisive success. She was at once quite easily and boldly at home in her beauty; she had only to appear to triumph. Prince Nerins had not a moment's hesitation concerning it, and he it is, as every one knows, who, with general consent, has made himself the distributor of the patents of supreme Parisian elegance; so while the new duchess, beneath the fire of a thousand eyes and behind the ringing staffs, was taking her first steps as a young married woman with calm assurance, Nerins, struck with admiration, was giving way, under the colonnade of the Madeleine, to veritable transports of enthusiasm. He went from group to group repeating:

"She is aerial! There is no other expression for her—aerial! She does not walk, she glides! If she had the fantasy, with one little kick of her heel, she could raise herself lightly over the heads of those two tall fellows with spears, cross the Place de la Concorde, and go and place herself on the pediment of the Chamber of Deputies. Look at her well; that is true beauty, radiant beauty, blazing beauty! She is a goddess, a young goddess! she will reign long, gentlemen—as long as possible."

The young goddess, for the present, did not go farther than Lannilis, in Poitou, to her husband's home—her home—in a mansion that had seen many Duchesses of Lannilis, but never one more charming, and never, it must be said, one more absolutely in love. This little duchess of nineteen was wild about this little duke of twenty-five, who was jealously carrying her off for himself alone to a quiet and solitary retreat.

They had arrived Thursday, the 24th of June, at about two o'clock—on an exquisite night beneath a star-spangled sky—and they were suddenly astounded at receiving a letter from their Aunt Louise, dated July 1:

"Eight days' steady tete-a-tete," she wrote, "is enough, quite enough. Trust to the experience of an old countrywoman, who would be delighted to kiss her little nephew and niece. Don't eat all your love in the bud—keep a little for the future."

Thursday, the 1st of July! Eight days! They had been eight days at Lannilis! It was impossible! They tried to put some order in their reflections. What had they done Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? But all was vague, and became confused in their minds. The days and the nights, and the nights and days. What had they done? It was always the same, same thing; and the same thing had somehow never been the same thing.

They had just loved, loved, loved; and, quite given up to this very wise occupation, they had completely forgotten that near Lannilis, in the old residence of Chatellerault, there was dear old Aunt Louise, who was expecting their first bridal visit—a visit which was due her, for she had the best claim in the world, on account of her eighty-four years, her kindness, and also because of the gift of a magnificent pearl necklace to Marceline.

So it was necessary to be resigned, to leave off dreaming, and to come back to reality; and it was during this visit that, before the old aunt, much amused at the quarrel, this great dispute had abruptly burst forth between the young married couple.

Aunt Louise had accepted the position of arbitrator, and, presiding over the discussion, she had made the two contestants sit down before her in arm-chairs, at a respectful distance. Marceline, before being seated, had already taken the floor.

"Every one agreed upon this point (you know it, Aunt Louise; mamma must often have told you in her letters)—every one was agreed on this point: that there were really only two suitable matches for me—the Duke of Lannilis here present, and the Duke of Courtalin. I had the weakness to prefer him—him over there. Why? I can scarcely tell-a childish habit, doubtless. We had played together when we were no higher than that at being little husband and wife. I had remained faithful to that childhood love, whereas he—"

"Whereas I—"

"All in due season, sir, and you will lose nothing by waiting. However, there were all sorts of good reasons for preferring—the other one, who had a larger fortune and was of more ancient nobility."

"Oh, as to that—in money, maybe, but as to birth—"

"It is indisputable! You are both dukes by patent."

"We in 1663."

"And the Courtalin—"

"In 1666 only."

"Agreed."

"Well, then?"

"Oh, just wait! I am posted on the question; mamma studied it thoroughly when things looked, three months ago, as if I should be Duchess of Courtalin. One morning mamma went to the archives with an old friend of hers, a great historian, who is a member of the Institute. You date from 1663, and the Courtalin from 1666; that is correct. But Louis XIV., in 1672, by a special edict, gave the precedence to the Courtalins; and you have not, I suppose, any idea of disputing what Louis XIV. thought best to do. Now, Aunt Louise, can he?"

"Certainly not."

"But Saint Simon—"

"Oh, let us leave Saint Simon alone; he is prejudice and inaccuracy itself! I know he is on your side, but that doesn't count; but I will, to be agreeable to you, acknowledge that you are better looking and taller than M. de Courtalin—"

"But—"

"Oh, my dear, I begin to see! You are dying for me to tell you that. Well, yes, you are a fairly handsome man; but that is only a very perishable advantage, and you have too much respect for conventionalities to wish to make that equal to the decree of Louis XIV. However, I loved you—I loved you faithfully, tenderly, fondly, stupidly; yes, stupidly, for when I had come out in society, the year before, in April, 1889, at Mme. de Fresnes's ball, when I had allowed my poor, little, thin shoulders to be seen for the first time (I must have been about seventeen), I noticed that the young marriageable men in our set (they are all quoted, noted, and labelled) drew away from me with strange, respectful deference. I appeared to be of no importance or interest, in spite of my name, my dowry, and my eyes. You see, I had singed myself. I had so ridiculously advertised my passion for you that I no longer belonged to myself; I was considered as belonging to you. As soon as I had put on my first long dress, which gave me at once the right to think of marriage and speak of love, I had told all my friends that I loved, and would never love or marry any one but you—you or the convent. Yes, I had come to that! My friends had told their brothers and cousins, who had repeated it to you (just what I wanted), but it put me out of the race. Dare to say, sir, that it is not all true, strictly true!"

"I am saying nothing—?"

"Because you are overcome, crushed by the evidence. You say nothing now, but what did you say last year? Last year! When I think that we could have been married since last year! A year, a whole year lost! And it was so long, and it could have been so short! Well, he was there, at the Fresnes' ball. He condescended to do me the honor of dancing three times with me. I came home intoxicated, absolutely intoxicated with joy. But that great happiness did not last long, for this is what that Gontran the next day said to his friend Robert d'Aigremont, who told his sister Gabrielle, who repeated it to me, that he saw clearly that they wished to marry him to his cousin Marceline. I had, the day before, literally thrown myself into his arms; he had thought right, from pure goodness of heart, to show some pity for the love of the little school-girl, so he had resolved to dance with me; but he had done, quite done—he wouldn't be caught again. He would keep carefully away from coming-out balls; they were too dangerous a form of gayety. Marriage did not tempt him in the least. He had not had enough of a bachelor's life yet—besides, he knew of nothing more absurd than those marriages between cousins. The true pleasure of marriage, he said, must be to put into one's life something new and unexpected, and to call by her first name, all at once, on Tuesday morning, a person whom one didn't so call Monday night. But a person whom one already knew well, where would be the pleasure? He made a movement, Aunt Louise; did you see?"

"I saw—"

"He recognized the phrase."

"True. I remember—"

"Ah! but you did not say that phrase only—you said all the others. But that is nothing as yet, Aunt Louise. Do you know what was his principal objection to a marriage with me? Do you know what he told Robert? That he had seen me in evening-dress the night before for the first time, and that I was too thin! Too thin! Ah! that was a cruel blow to me! For it was true. I was thin. The evening after Gabrielle had told me that awful fact, that evening in undressing I looked at my poor little shoulders, with their poor little salt-cellars, and I had a terrible spasm of sorrow—a flood of tears that wouldn't stop—a torrent, a real torrent; and then mamma appeared. I was alone, disrobed, hair flying, studying my shoulders, deploring their meagreness—a true picture of despair! Mamma took me in her arms. 'My angel, my poor dear, what is the matter?' I answered only by sobbing. 'My child, tell me all.' Mamma was very anxious, but I could not speak; tears choked my voice. 'My dearest, do you wish to kill me?' So to reassure mamma I managed to say between my sobs: 'I am too thin, mamma; last night Gontran thought me too thin!' At that mamma began to laugh heartily; but as she was good-humored that evening, after laughing she explained to me that she, at seventeen, had been much thinner than I, and she promised me in the most solemn manner that I should grow stouter. Mamma spoke true; I have fattened up. Will you have the goodness, sir, to declare to our aunt that the salt-cellars have entirely disappeared, and that you cannot have against me, in that respect, any legitimate cause of complaint?"

"I will declare so very willingly; but you will permit me to add—"

"I will permit you no such thing. I have the floor, let me speak; but you will soon have a chance to justify yourself. I intend to put you through a little cross-questioning."

"I'll wait, then—"

"Yes, do. So last spring I began my first campaign. I do not know, Aunt Louise, what the customs were in your time, but I know that to-day, at the present time, the condition of young girls is one of extreme severity. We are kept confined, closely confined, till eighteen, for mamma was very indulgent in bringing me out when I was only seventeen; but mamma is goodness itself, and then she isn't coquettish for a sou—she didn't mind admitting that she had a marriageable daughter. All mothers are not like that, and I know some who are glad to put off the public and official exhibition of their poor children so as to gain a year. At the same time that they race at Longchamps and Chantilly the great fillies of the year, they take from their boxes the great heiresses of the year who are ripe for matrimony, and in a series of white balls given for that purpose, between Easter Sunday and the Grand Prix, they are made to take little trial gallops before connoisseurs. They have to work rapidly and find a buyer before the Grand Prix; for after that all is up, the young girls are packed back to their governesses, dancing-masters, and literary professors. The campaign is over. That is all for the year. They are not seen again, the poor things, till after Lent. So mamma took me last year to a dozen large balls, which were sad and sorrowful for me. He was not there! He didn't wish to marry! He told it to every one insolently, satirically. He would never, never, never marry! He told it to me."

"At your mother's request."

"Yes, that is true. I know since that it was at mamma's petition that he talked that way; she hoped it would prevent my being stubborn in my craze for him."

"Craze!" exclaimed Aunt Louise.

"Excuse me, Aunt Louise, it is a word of to-day."

"And means—"

"It means a sort of unexplainable, absurd, and extravagant love that comes without its being possible to know why—in short, Aunt Louise, exactly the love I have for him."

"Much obliged! But you do not tell everything. You do not say that your mother desired your marriage with Courtalin—"

"Yes, of course; mamma was quite right. M. de Courtalin has a thousand sterling merits that you have not—that you will never have; and then M. de Courtalin had a particularly good point in mamma's eyes: he did not find me too thin, and he asked for my hand in marriage. One day about four o'clock (that was the 2d of June last year) mamma came into my room with an expression on her face I had never seen before. 'My child,' she said—'my dear child!' She had no need to finish; I had understood. M. de Courtalin all the evening before, at the Princess de Viran's, had hovered about me, and the next day his mother had come to declare to mamma that her son knew of nothing more delightful than my face. I answered that I knew of nothing less delightful than M. de Courtalin's face. I added that, besides, I was in no hurry to marry. Mamma tried to make me hear reason. I was going to let slip an admirable chance. The Duke of Courtalin was the target of all the ambitious mothers—a great name, a great position, a great fortune! I should deeply regret some day to have shown such disdain for advantages like these, etc. And to all these things, which were so true and sensible, I could find only one word to say: his name, Gontran, Gontran, Gontran! Gontran or the convent, and the most rigorous one of all, the Carmel, in sackcloth and ashes! Oh, Aunt Louise, do look at him! He listens to all this with an unbearable little air of fatuity."

"You have forbidden me to speak."

"True. Don't speak; but you have deserved a little lesson in modesty and humility. Good gracious! you think perhaps it was for your merits that I chose you, insisted on you. You would be far from the mark, my poor dear. It is, on the contrary, because of your want of merit. Now, as to M. de Courtalin. Why, there is a man of merit! I had, from morning to night, M. de Courtalin's merit dinned into my ears, and that was why I had taken a dislike to him. What I dreaded more than anything for a husband was what is called a superior man; and mamma went the wrong way to work to win me over to her candidate when she said to me: 'He is a very intelligent, very serious, very deep-thinking, and very distinguished man; he has spent his youth honorably; he has been a model son, and would make a model husband.' It made me shiver to hear mamma talk so. I know nothing more awful than people who are always, always right; who, under all circumstances, give evidence of unfailing good sense; who crush us with their superiority. With Gontran I am easy, quite easy. It isn't he who would crush me with his superiority. I do not know much, Aunt Louise, but my ignorance beside his is learning. He had great trouble in getting his baccalaureate. He flunked three times."

"Flunked!" exclaimed Aunt Louise.

"It means failed. He taught me the word. All the queer words I use, Aunt Louise, were taught me by him."

"Come, now—"

"Yes, all. I can see him now, coming to the house one day, and I can hear him say, 'Flunked again!' That was the third time. Then he went and took his examination in the country at a little college at Douai; it was easier, and he passed at last. M. de Courtalin has never been flunked; he is everything that one can be at his age: bachelor, advocate, lawyer, and grave, exact, and severe in his language, and dressed—always in a black frock-coat, with two rows of buttons, always all buttoned—in short, a man of the past. And what a future before him! Already a member of the General Council, and very eloquent, very influential, he will be deputy in three years, and then, when we have a government that people of our class can recognize, minister, ambassador, and I know not what! The highest offices wait for him, and all his ambitions will be legitimate when he has a chance to put his superior talents at the service of the monarchy. That's one of mamma's phrases. Whereas you, my poor Gontran—you will never be anything other than a very funny and very nice old dear, whom I shall lead as I like with my little finger."

"Oh! oh!"

"You will see. Besides, you have seen for eight days."

"The first eight days don't count."

"I will continue, rest assured. I love you, besides. I love you, and do you know why? It is because you are not a man of the past; you are distinctly modern, very modern. Look at him, Aunt Louise. Isn't he very nice, very well turned out, very modern, in fact—I repeat it—in his little pearl-gray suit. He is devoted to his clothes. He consults for hours and hours with his tailor, which delights me, for I intend to consult for hours and hours with my dress-maker. And he will pay the bills without a tremor, for he will be charmed to see me very stylish and very much admired. Ah, we shall make the most brilliant and most giddy little couple! He is modern, I shall be modern, we shall be modern! After three, four, or five weeks (we do not know exactly) dedicated to pure love, we shall take flight towards the country, where one has a good time; and then we shall be talked about, Aunt Louise, we shall be talked about. And now, where was I in my story? I am sure I do not know at all."

"Nor I."

"Nor I."

"Ah, I know. Mme. de Courtalin had come to ask my hand for her honorable son, and when mamma had spoken to me of that I had exclaimed, 'Sooner the convent!' I do not know exactly what mamma said to Mme. de Courtalin—at any rate, I was left alone for the time being. There was a rush to the Grand Prix, and then a general breaking-up. We went to spend a month at Aix-les-Bains for papa's complaint, and then a fortnight here, Aunt Louise; and then, do you remember, you received the confessions of my poor torn heart. Ah! I must say you are the only young member of the family—you were the only one who did not make a long face when I spoke of my love for that rogue. Mamma, however, had preached to you, and you vaunted the advantages of an alliance with Courtalin, but without conviction. I felt that you were at bottom on my side against mamma, and it was so easily explained—mamma could not understand me, whereas you! They think we little girls know nothing, and we know everything. I knew that mamma had made a worldly marriage, which had, however, turned out very well; and you, Aunt Louise, had married for love. You must have battled to get the husband you wished, and you had him, and you resolutely conquered your happiness. Yes, I knew all that; I dared even to allude to those things of the past, and those memories brought a smile to your lips and tears to your eyes. And to-day again, Aunt Louise, there it is, the smile, and there are the tears."

Marceline interrupted her talk, affectionately threw herself on her Aunt Louise's neck, and kissed her with all her heart. She wiped away the tears with kisses, and only the smile remained. Yes, Aunt Louise remembered that she had had hard work to get as husband a certain handsome officer of the Royal Guard, who was there present at the scene, in an old decorated frame, standing up with his helmet on his head in a martial attitude, leaning on the hilt of his cavalry sabre.

He, too, had been modern, that conqueror of the Trocadero, when he entered Madrid in 1822 on the staff of the Duke of Angouleme. And she, too, old Aunt Louise, had been modern, very modern, the day when, from a window of the Palace of the Tuileries, during a military parade, she had murmured this phrase in her mother's ear: "Mamma, there is the one I love."

"Ah, how cowardly we are!" exclaimed Marceline, abruptly, changing her tone. "Yes, how cowardly we are to love them—those, those dreadful men, who know so little how to care for us. I say that for Gontran. What was he doing while I was telling you my sorrows, Aunt Louise? Quite calmly taking a trip around the world. But let him speak now, let him speak, especially as I cannot any more. In all my life I have never made so long a speech. Speak, sir; why were you going round the world?"

"Because your mother, on the morning of the day before you departed for Aix-les-Bains, had had a very long conversation with me."

"And she had said to you?"

"She had said to me, 'Put a stop to this; marry her or go away, and let her not hear of you again till her marriage.' And as I had for some time been debating whether to take a little trip to Japan, I started for Japan."

"He started for Japan! That goes without saying. You hear him, Aunt Louise; he admits that this time last year he preferred to expatriate himself rather than marry me. So there he was in America, in China, and in Japan. This lasted ten months; from time to time, humbly and timidly, I asked for news of him. He was very well; his last letter was from Shanghai, or Sidney, or Java. For me, not a word, not a remembrance—nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing!"

"I had promised your mother. One day at Yokohama I had bought you a lot of fascinating little things. The box was done up and addressed to you when I remembered my promise. I sent all those Japaneseries to your mother, thinking that you would have your share of the spoil."

"I had nothing at all. The arrival of the box was kept a secret. It would have been necessary to have pronounced your name before me, and mamma didn't wish that. On the other hand, there was always one name on her lips—Courtalin. Still Courtalin, and always Courtalin. He had all qualities, all virtues. Then he had just lost his aunt in Brittany, and he had inherited something. It was thought that he would only have a quarter of the property, and he had had three-quarters. Besides, it was a country-seat, and all around this seat, an admirable domain, sixteen or seventeen hundred hectares. I say it to my shame, Aunt Louise, to my great shame, the thought of giving in came to me; and then, to be absolutely frank, it rather pleased me to become a duchess; so mamma made me out a list of all possible husbands for me, and there was no other duke in the list but M. de Courtalin. There was, of course, the little Count of Limiers, who would be duke some day. But when? His father is forty-five and an athlete, and has an iron constitution. So I was obliged to admit it when I talked it over with mamma in the evening. To be duchess it was necessary to agree on M. de Courtalin. Mamma, however, was perfect, and delightfully gentle. She did not press me, nor treat me harshly, nor torment me; she waited. Only I knew she had said to Mme. de Nelly: 'It will be accomplished, my dear, before the 20th of June. It must be.' Papa was obliged to return to Aix for his complaint. The 20th of June was the date for his departure. I no longer said, 'No, no, no!' with that savage energy of the year before. You see, Gontran, I open my whole heart to you; you will have, I hope, soon the same courage and sincerity."

"You may be sure of it."

"I was waiting, however—I was waiting for his return. I wished to have with him a very serious conversation. It is quite true that I felt like fainting with fear at the mere thought of that explanation; but I was none the less resolved to speak, and I would speak. It seemed to me impossible that he had not thought of me sometimes out there in China and Cochin China. We had always loved each other (till the unhappy day on which I had become marriageable) with a tender and faithful affection! I knew that he would arrive in Paris during the night of the 2d or 3d of April. Very certainly the day after he would come and see us. And so, in fact, towards two o'clock he came. Mamma hadn't finished dressing; I was alone. I ran to him. 'Ah, how glad I am to see you!' and I kissed him with effusion. Then he, very much moved, yes, very much moved, kissed me, and began to say to me such nice and pretty things that I felt my heart melting. Ah, if mamma hadn't come for five minutes—I would only have asked for five minutes!—and how quickly it would have turned into love-making our little explanation!"

"Yes, that is true. The impulse that threw you into my arms was so sincere. Ah, very certainly it was that day, at that moment, that I began to love you. And then I looked at you. You were no longer the same. There was such great and happy change."

"He does not dare say it, Aunt Louise, but I will say it: I had become fatter. Ah, when I think that I might be Duchess of Courtalin if I had remained thin. Those men! Those men! What wretches! But mamma came in, then papa, and then my brother George. No explanation possible! There they all were engaged in an odious conversation on the comparative merits of the English and French boats—the English ones are faster, the food on the French ones is better, etc. It was charming! At the end of an hour Gontran went away, but not without giving me a very tender and eloquent hand-shake. I could wish nothing more speaking than that hand-shake. But mamma, who was observing us attentively, had clearly seen our two hands, after having found a way to say very pleasant things, had had a great deal of trouble in separating. I expected, of course, to see him the next day. Did you come?"

"No."

"And the day after that?"

"No, nor then."

"At last, after three days, mamma took me to the races at the Bois de Boulogne. We arrived, and there at once, two steps from me, I saw him. But no, it was no longer he; frigid greeting, frigid good-day, frigid hand-shake, frigid words, and very few of them—scarcely a few sentences, awkward and embarrassed. Then he was lost in the crowd, and that was all. He did not appear again. I was dumfounded, overcome, crushed."

"But it was your mother who—"

"Yes, I know now; but I did not know that day. Yes, it was mamma. Oh, must I not love mamma to have forgiven her that?"

"She had come to me very early in the morning the day after the very eloquent hand-shake and there, in tears—yes, literally in tears (she was sobbing)—she had appealed to my sense of honor, of delicacy, of integrity. 'You both had,' she said to me, 'yesterday, on seeing each other again after a long absence, a little spasm of emotion. That is all right; but you must stop there, and not prolong this foolishness,' And, just as I was going to protest: 'Oh yes; foolishness!' 'Remember, Marceline's happiness is at stake. You have no right to compromise her. You come back from China all at once, and your abrupt return will break off more sensible, more studied arrangements. M. de Courtalin is thirty-four; he is a man of great knowledge and wisdom. However, I know that that is only a secondary consideration; but love passes away, and money remains, and M. de Courtalin is richer, very much richer, than you. With him Marceline will have quite a grand position. Whereas you, you know how I love you, and I know how worthy you are of being loved. You are charming, charming, charming.' It was your mother who spoke thus."

"I know; I know."

"'Yes, charming; but when I have said that, I have said all. So I will ask you this question, and I expect from you a faithful answer: Have you those solid qualities which alone can make a husband, a true husband? Marceline is a little light-headed, a little frivolous, a little coquettish.' It is always your mother who is speaking."

"I know; I know."

"I was embarrassed, Aunt Louise; it seemed to me that that speech was not without reason. I hadn't a very high idea of myself as a husband, and even now I ask myself—"

"Don't ask yourself anything. Be an affectionate husband, and you will have all the virtues. Nothing simpler, as you see. You can go on."

"Well, your mother was so skilfully persuasive that the day after, at the races, I gave that cold greeting."

"And so I, that same day, on entering the house, threw myself into mamma's arms, exclaiming, 'Yes, I am willing to marry M. de Courtalin!' Ah, how many times between that day and the 16th of May I threw myself into mamma's arms! I did nothing else. Mamma got used to it, and never saw me appear without mechanically opening her arms. 'Yes, I am willing,' and sometimes, 'No, I am not.' But the 'No, I am nots' became fewer and fewer. M. de Courtalin, besides, was perfect; a model of tact, of gentleness, and of resignation. He waited, always in his black frock-coat, always buttoned, with an inexhaustible patience. Mamma was, in short, pledged to Mme. de Courtalin, and I felt the circle tighten round me. The papers announced, in a covert but transparent way, that there was question of an alliance between two families of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and they made it pretty clear that it concerned two important families. I already received vague congratulations, and I dared respond only by vague denials. The morning of the famous 17th of May mamma had said to me, 'Come, my child, don't make a martyr of that poor boy. Since it is to be "yes," for it will be "yes," you know yourself, say "yes" at once.' I had obtained only a miserable respite of twenty-four hours; and things were thus when, still on the 17th of May, mamma and I arrived, a little late (after eleven), at Mme. de Vernieux's, who was giving a ball, a very large ball. I went in, and I had at once the feeling that I must be looking extremely well that evening. They formed into a little hedge along my way, and I heard a little 'oh!' of surprise, and a big 'ah!' of admiration which went straight to my heart. I had had already in society certain successes, but never any as marked as that one. M. de Courtalin came towards me. He wished to engage me for all the waltzes, for all the quadrilles, for the entire evening, for the night, for life. I answered him: 'Later, presently, we will see. I feel a little tired.' The fact was I hadn't the heart to dance. Mamma and I took our seats. A waltz began. Mamma scolded softly: 'Dance with him, my child, I beg.' I didn't listen to her. I was abstractedly looking around the room when suddenly I saw in a corner two eyes fixed, fastened, pinioned on me—two eyes that I well knew, but that I had some difficulty in recognizing, for they were tremendously enlarged by a sort of stupor."

"Say by overwhelming admiration."

"As you please But it is here, Aunt Louise, that my interrogation will begin. Why and how were you there? Where had you dined, Gontran?"

"At the club."

"And what did you intend to do after dinner? Come to Mme. de Vernieux's?"

"No; Robert d'Aigremont and I had meant to go to the Bouffes-Parisiens."

"You did not go? Why?"

"We had telephoned from the club to have a box; all were sold—"

"So you said to Robert—"

"I said to Robert, 'Let's play bezique;' and I was beaten by one of those streaks of bad luck—34,000 points in a dozen games—so thoroughly that towards half-past ten I thought that bezique had lasted long enough—"

"And so—"

"And so—"

"So Robert wished to bring you to Mme. de Vernieux's. And you didn't want to go! If you hadn't come, however, and if there had been a box at the Bouffes-Parisiens, or if you had won at bezique, my marriage with M. de Courtalin would have been publicly announced the next day."

"Yes, but I came; and there I was in the corner looking at you, looking at you, looking at you. It was you, and yet not you—"

"I, immediately on seeing the way you were looking at me, understood that something extraordinary was going to happen. Your eyes shone, burned, blazed!"

"Because I had discovered that you were simply the prettiest woman of the ball, where all the prettiest women of Paris were. Yes, the prettiest, and such shoulders, such shoulders!"

"Ripe! in fact, I was ripe!"

"My head was turned at once. I saw Courtalin manoeuvring and trying to get near you. I understood that there was not a moment to be lost. To reach there ahead of Courtalin I threw myself intrepidly into the midst of the room, among the waltzers, pushing and being pushed. I forged a passage and tore into rags one of the lace flounces of Mme. de Lornans—she hasn't yet forgiven me. But I got there—I got there before Courtalin, and threw myself on you, and took you round your waist (I can still hear your little cry), and I dragged you off."

"Mamma had scarcely time to scream 'Marceline, Marceline!' when I was there no more. He had lifted me off, and carried me away; and we were waltzing wildly, furiously!—oh, what a waltz!—and he was saying to me: 'I love you! I adore you! You are grace and beauty itself! There is only one pretty woman here—you; and it is I who will be your husband. I, do you hear? I, and not another!' And I, quite suffocated with surprise, pleasure, and emotion, allowed myself to be nearly carried by him, but I kept begging him to speak lower. 'Anything you wish; yes, I will be your wife; but take care—you will be heard—you will be heard.'"

"That is what I wished; and I continued, 'I love you! I adore you!'"

"Then I, absolutely breathless: 'Not so fast. I pray, not so fast; I shall fall. I assure you everything is going round, everything is going round. Let us stop.' 'No, no; don't let's stop. Keep on still. If we stop your mother will separate us, and I have still so many things to say to you—so many things, so many things. Swear to me that you will be my wife.' 'Yes, I swear it; but enough, enough—' I was smothering. He heard nothing. He was going, going like a madman. We had become a hurricane, a whirlwind, a cyclone. We caused surprise and fright. No one danced any more, but looked at us. And he held me so close, and his face was so near my face, his lips so near my lips, that all at once I felt myself giving way. I slipped, and let myself into his arms. A cloud passed before my eyes; I could not speak nor think; then blankness. Everything had disappeared before me in a vertigo not too disagreeable, I must say. I had fainted, absolutely fainted."

"The next day our marriage was decided, perfectly decided. Our waltz had caused scandal. That was just what I wanted."

"There, Aunt Louise, is the history of our marriage, and I want to-day to draw this conclusion: it is that I was the first to begin to love, and I shall have, consequently, one day, when it pleases me, the right to stop the first."

"Ah, no, indeed; tell her, Aunt Louise, that she will never have that right—"

A new quarrel threatened to break out.

"This, my children," said the old aunt, "is all I have to say: she did, in truth, start the first to love; but it seems to me, Gontran, that you started all at once at such a great pace that you must have caught up with her."

"Passed her, Aunt Louise."

"Oh no!" exclaimed Marceline.

"Oh yes—"

"Oh no—"

"Well," continued Aunt Louise, "try never to have any other quarrels than that one. Try to walk always in life step by step, side by side, and heart to heart. I have seen many inventions since I was born, and the world is no longer what it was then. But there is one thing to which inventions have made no difference, and never will. That thing you have; keep it. It is love! Love each other, children, as strongly and as long as possible."

And Aunt Louise wept another tear, and smiled on looking at the portrait of the officer of the Royal Guard.



THE DANCING-MASTER



I was dining at the house of some friends, and in the course of the evening the hostess said to me:

"Do you often go to the opera?"

"Yes, very often."

"And do you go behind the scenes?"

"Yes, I go behind."

"Then you can do me a favor. In the ballet department there's an old man called Morin, who is perfectly respectable, it seems. He is the little B——'s dancing-master. He gives excellent lessons. I should like to have him for my little girls, so ask him if he could come twice a week."

I willingly undertook the delicate mission.

The next day, February 17, 1881, about ten in the evening, I arrived at the opera, and went behind the scenes to search for Monsieur Morin. "The Prophet" was being played, and the third act had just begun. On the stage the Anabaptists were singing forcibly:

"Du sang! que Judas succombe! Du sang! Dansons sur leur tombe! Du sang! Voila l'hecatombe Que Dieu nous demande encor!"

Axes were raised over the heads of a crowd of hapless prisoners, who were barons, bishops, monks, and grand ladies. In the wings, balanced on their skates, all the ballet-girls were waiting the right moment to

"Effleurer la glace Sans laisser de trace."

I respectfully begged one of the young Westphalian peasant-girls to point out to me the man named Morin.

"Morin," she replied, "is not one of the skaters. Look, he is on the stage. That's he over there, the one who is doing the bishop; that bishop, you see, who is being pushed and pulled. Wait, he will be off directly."

One of the Anabaptist leaders intervened, however, declaring that the nobles and priests who could pay ransom should be spared. Morin escaped with his life, and I had the honor of being presented to him by the little Westphalian peasant-girl.

He had quite a venerable air, with his long gray beard and his fine purple robe with his large pastoral cross. While he was arranging somewhat his costume, which had been so roughly pulled by those violent Anabaptists, I asked him if he would be willing to give lessons to two young girls of good family.

The pious bishop accepted with alacrity. His price was ten francs an hour.

The little skaters had gone on the stage, and were performing wonderful feats. The wings had suddenly become calm and silent. We gave ourselves up, his Reverence and myself, to a little friendly chat.

"Yes, sir," his Highness said to me, "I give dancing lessons. I have many patrons among the aristocracy and the bankers. I have no reason to complain; and yet one must admit things were better once, much better. Dancing is going out, sir, dancing is going out."

"Is it possible?"

"It is as I have the honor of telling you. Women still learn to dance; but no longer the young men, sir, no longer. Baccarat, races, and the minor theatres—that's what they enjoy. It's a little the fault of the Government."

"How can that be?"

"M. Jules Ferry has recently rearranged the curriculum of the University. He has made certain studies obligatory—modern languages, for instance. I don't blame him for that; the study of modern languages has great advantages. But dancing, sir; nothing has been done for dancing, and it is dancing which ought, after all, to have been made obligatory. There ought to be a dancing-master in every high-school, and a normal-school for dancing with examinations and competitions in dancing. Dancing ought to be studied the same as Latin or Greek. Dancing, too, is a language, and a language that every well-bred man ought to be able to speak. Well, do you know what happens nowadays? Sometimes it happens, sir, that diplomatic posts are given to people who get confused in the figures of a quadrille, and who are incapable of waltzing for two minutes. They know very well that their education is incomplete. Quite lately a young man came to me—a young man of great merit, it seems, except in regard to dancing. He had just been attached to a great embassy. He had never danced in his life—never. Do you understand? Never! It is scarcely to be credited, and yet it is true. That's the way M. Barthelemy-Saint-Hilaire picks them out. Oh, this beard smothers me! Will you permit me?"

"Certainly."

He took off his gray beard, and thus looked much less venerable. He then continued:

"I said to this young man: 'We will try, but it will be hard work. One oughtn't to begin dancing at twenty-eight.' I limbered him up as best I could. I had only two weeks to do it in. I begged him to put off his departure, to obtain a reprieve of three or four months—I could have made something of him. He would not. He went without knowing anything. I often think of him. He will represent us out there; he will represent us very badly; he will not be an honor to his country. Please to remember that he may be called upon to take part in some official quadrille—to dance, for instance, with an archduchess. Well, if he slips up in it, with his archduchess, it will be charming! All this is very sad indeed. I am a Republican, sir, an old Republican, and it is painful to think that the republic is represented by diplomats who cannot distinguish between a change of foot and a simple step. Do you know what is said in foreign courts? 'Why, who are those savages that France sends us?' Yes, that's what they say. The diplomatic corps in the time of the Empire was not brilliant. Oh no; those gentlemen did many foolish things. Oh yes; but still they knew how to dance!"

And the good old bishop, seeing that I listened with much interest, went on with his brilliant improvisation.

"Dancing, sir, is not merely a pleasure, an amusement; no, it is of great social interest. Why, the question of marriage is closely connected with dancing. At present, in France, marriage is languishing. That is proved by statistics. Well, I am convinced that if there are fewer marriages it is because there is less dancing. Consider this first of all, that to know how to dance well, very well, is, for an agreeable young man who is without fortune, a great advantage in society. One of my pupils, sir, has recently married extremely well. He was a very ordinary kind of youth, who had tried everything and had succeeded in nothing; but he was a first-rate waltzer, and he danced away with two millions."

"Two millions!"

"Yes, two millions, and they were two cash millions; she was an orphan, no father nor mother—all that can be dreamed of. He clasped that young lady (she was very plump). Well, in his arms, she felt herself light as a feather. She thought of but one thing—waltzing with him. She was as one wild. He gave her a new sensation, and what is it women desire above all things? To have new sensations, in short, she refused marquises, counts, and millionaires. She wanted him only. She got him, and he was penniless, and his name is Durand. Ah, do not repeat his name; I oughtn't to have told you."

"Don't be afraid."

"After all, you can repeat it; it doesn't matter, it's such a common name. There is public policy in love-matches which cause a rich girl to marry a poor man, or a poor girl to marry a rich man. It sets money circulating, it prevents its remaining in the same place, it keeps capital moving. Well, three-fourths of the love-matches were formerly made by the dance. Now there are short interviews in parlors, in galleries, and at the Opera Comique. They chat; that's all right, but chatting is not sufficient. Wit is something, but not everything. A waltz furnishes much knowledge that conversation cannot. Dress-makers nowadays are so wily. They know how to bring out this point and hide that; they remodel bad figures. They give plumpness and roundness to the thin; they make hips, shoulders—everything, in fact. One doesn't know what to expect, science has made such advances. The eye may be deceived, but the hand of an experienced dancer never! A waltzer with tact knows how to find out the exact truth about things."

"Oh! oh!"

"Remaining all the time, sir, perfectly respectful and perfectly reserved. Good heavens! look at myself, for instance. It is to waltzing that I owe my happiness. Mme. Morin was not then Mme. Morin. I kept my eye on her, but I hesitated. She appeared thin, and—well, I'll admit that to marry a thin woman didn't suit my ideas. You know every one has his ideals. So, sir, I was still hesitating, when one evening, at the wedding of one of my friends, a very capable young man, a deputy manager of a department at the Ministry of Religion, they started a little dance. For the first waltz I asked the one who was to be my companion through life. Immediately I felt in my hand a delightful figure—one of those full but supple figures; and while waltzing, quite enchanted, I was saying to myself, 'She isn't really thin! she isn't really thin!' I took her back to her place after the waltz, and went at once to her mother to ask for her hand, which was granted me. For fourteen years I have been the happiest of men, and perhaps I shouldn't have made that marriage if I hadn't known how to waltz. You see, sir, the results of a waltz?"

"Perfectly."

"That is not all, sir. Thanks to dancing, one discovers not only the agreeable points of a person, the fulness of her figure, the lithesomeness of her waist, but also, in a briskly led waltz, a little examination of the health and constitution of a woman can be had. I remember one evening twelve or so years ago—in the Rue Le Peletier, in the old Opera-house, which has burned down—I was on the stage awaiting my cue for the dance in 'William Tell,' you know, in the third act. Two subscribers were talking quite close to me, in the wings. One of the gentlemen was an old pupil of mine. I have had so many pupils! Without wishing to, I heard scraps of the conversation, and these two sentences struck my ear: 'Well, have you decided?' 'Oh,' replied my pupil, 'I find her very charming, but I have heard that she is weak in the lungs.' Then, sir, I did a very unusual thing for me. I begged pardon for having heard unintentionally, and I said to my old pupil: 'I think I have guessed that a marriage is in question. Will you authorize me to give you a piece of advice—advice drawn from the practice of my profession? Do they allow this young lady to waltz?' You know there are mothers who do not permit—"

"I know, I know."



We had arrived at this point in that interesting conversation when the ballet ended. The bishop and myself were assailed by an actual whirlwind of skaters, and my little Westphalian peasant-girl found me where she had left me.

"I declare!" she said to me, "so you come to confess at the opera? Give him absolution, Morin, and give it to me, too. Now then, come along to the greenroom."

She took my arm, and we went off together, while the excellent Morin, with gravity and dignity beneath his sacred ornaments, withstood the shock of this avalanche of dancers.



THE CIRCUS CHARGER

After George had related how he had been married off at twenty-two by his aunt, the Baroness de Stilb, Paul said: "I was married off by a circus charger. I was very nearly forty years of age, and I felt so peacefully settled in my little bachelor habits that, in the best faith in the world, on all occasions, I swore by the gods never to run the great risk of marriage; but I reckoned without the circus charger.

"It was in the last days of September, 1864. I had just arrived from Baden-Baden, and my intention was to spend only twenty-four hours in Paris. I had invited four or five of my friends—Callieres, Bernheim, Frondeville, and Valreas—to my place in Poitou for the shooting season. They were to come in the first part of October, and it needed a week to put all in order at Roche-Targe. A letter from my overseer awaited me in Paris, and the letter brought disastrous news; the dogs were well, but out of the dozen hunting horses that I had there, five, during my sojourn at Baden, had fallen sick or lame, and I found myself absolutely forced to get new horses.

"I made a tour of the Champs-Elysees sellers, who showed me as hunters a fine collection of broken—down skeletons. Average price, three thousand francs. Roulette had treated me badly of late, and I was neither in the humor, nor had I the funds, to spend in that way seven or eight hundred louis in a morning.

"It was a Wednesday, and Cheri was holding his first autumn sale. I went to the Rue de Ponthieu during the day; and there out of the lot, on chance, without inquiry, blindly, by good-luck, and from the mere declarations of the catalogue—'Excellent hunter, good jumper, has hunted with lady rider,' etc.—I bought eight horses, which only cost me five thousand francs. Out of eight, I said to myself, there will always be four or five who will go, and who will be good enough to serve as remounts.

"Among the horses there was one that I had bought, I must confess, particularly on account of his coat, which was beautiful. The catalogue did not attribute to him any special qualifications for hunting, but limited itself to 'Brutus, riding horse.' He was a large dapple-gray horse, but never, I think, have I seen gray better dappled; the white coat was strewn almost regularly with beautiful black spots, which were well distributed and well marked.

"I left town the next day for Roche-Targe, and the following day, early, they announced to me that the horses had arrived. I at once went down to see them, and my first glance was at Brutus. He had been trotting in my head for forty-eight hours, that devil of a gray horse, and I had a singular desire to know what he was and of what he was capable.

"I had him taken out of the stable first. A groom led him to me with a strap. The horse had long teeth, hollows in the chest, lumpy fetlocks—in short, all the signs of respectable age; but he had powerful shoulders, a large breast, a neck which was both strong and supple, head well held, tail well placed, and an irreproachable back. It wasn't, however, all this that attracted most my attention. What I admired above all was the air with which Brutus looked at me, and with what an attentive, intelligent, and curious eye he followed my movements and gestures. Even my words seemed to interest him singularly; he inclined his head to my side as if to hear me, and, as soon as I had finished speaking, he neighed joyously in answer.

"They showed me successively the seven other horses; I examined them rapidly and absent-mindedly. They were horses like all other horses. Brutus certainly had something in particular, and I was anxious to make in his company a short jaunt in the country. He allowed himself to be saddled, bridled, and mounted like a horse who knows his business, and so we both started in the quietest way in the world.

"I had at first ridden him with the snaffle, and Brutus had gone off at a long easy gait, with rather a stiff neck and projected head; but as soon as I let him feel the curb, he changed with extraordinary rapidity and suppleness, drawing his head back to his breast, and champing his bit noisily; then at the same time he took a short gait, which was light and even, lifting well his feet and striking the sod with the regularity of a pendulum.

"Cheri's catalogue had not lied; the horse was a good rider—too good a rider, in fact. I made him trot, then gallop; the horse at the first suggestion gave me an excellent little trot and an excellent little gallop, but always plunging to the ground and pulling my arms when I tried to lift his head. When I wished to quicken his gait, the horse broke at once. He began to rack in great style, trotting with the fore-feet and galloping with the hind ones. 'Well,' I said to myself, 'I see now; I've bought some old horse of the Saumur or Saint-Cyr school, and it's not on this beast that I'll hunt in eight days.'

"I was about to turn and go home, quite edified as to Brutus's qualities, when the report of a gun was heard twenty yards away in the woods. It was one of my keepers who was shooting a rabbit, and who received some time after a handsome present from my wife for that shot.

"I was then in the centre of the cross-roads, which formed a perfect circle of five or six yards in radius; six long green alleys came to an end at this spot. On hearing the report, Brutus had stopped short, planted himself on his four legs, with ears erect and head raised. I was surprised to find the horse so impressionable. I should have thought that after the brilliant education that very certainly he had received in his youth, Brutus must be an artillery horse, used to gun and cannon. I drew in my legs to urge the horse on, but Brutus didn't move; I spurred him sharply twice, but Brutus didn't move; I whipped him soundly, but Brutus didn't move. I tried to back the horse, to push him to the right, to the left, but I couldn't move him in the slightest degree. Brutus seemed glued to the ground, and yet—don't you dare to laugh, and be assured that my tale is absolutely true—each time that I attempted to put the horse in motion he turned his head and looked at me with an expression which could clearly be read as impatience and surprise; then he would again become as immovable as a statue. There was evidently some misunderstanding between the horse and myself. I saw that in his eyes, and Brutus said to me, with all the clearness he could put in his expression, 'I, as a horse, am doing my duty, and it's you, as a rider, who are not doing yours!'

"I was more puzzled than embarrassed. 'What extraordinary kind of a horse have I bought at Cheri's,' I said to myself, 'and why does he look at me so queerly?' I was, however, going to take strong measures—that is to say, I was preparing to whip him smartly—when another report was heard.

"Then the horse gave a jump. I thought I had the best of it, and, profiting by his bound, I tried to carry him forward with hand and knee. But no; he stopped short after his bound, and again planted himself on the ground more energetically and more resolutely than the first time. Ah, then I grew angry, and my whip came into play; I grasped it firmly and began to strike the horse with all my strength to the right and left. But Brutus, he too lost patience, and, instead of the cold and immovable opposition that at first he had shown, I met with furious retaliations, strange springs, bucking, extraordinary rearing, fantastic whirling; and in the midst of this battle, while the infatuated horse bounded and reared, while I, exasperated, struck with vigor the leather pommel with my broken whip, Brutus still found time to give me glances not only of surprise and impatience, but also of anger and indignation. While I was asking the horse for the obedience which he refused me, it is certain that he expected from me something that I was not doing.

"How did it end? To my shame, to my great shame, I was pitifully unhorsed by an incomparable feat! Brutus understood, I think, that he would not get the better of me by violence, and judged it necessary to try cunning; after a pause which was most certainly a moment of reflection, the horse rose up, head down, upright on his fore-feet, with the skill, the calm, and the perfect equilibrium of a clown who walks on his hands. Thus I tumbled into the sand, which, by good-luck, was thick in that spot.

"I tried to get up. I screamed and fell back ridiculously, flat on my stomach, on my nose. At the slightest movement I felt as though a knife ran through my left leg. It's a slight matter, however—the rupture of a slender sinew; but though slight, the injury was none the less painful. I succeeded, nevertheless, in turning over and sitting up; but just when, while rubbing my eyes, filled with sand, I was beginning to ask myself what in the midst of this tumult had become of my miserable dapple-gray, I saw over my head a large horse's hoof descending. Then this large hoof pressed, with a certain gentleness, however, on my chest, and pushed me delicately back on the ground, on my back this time.

"I was greatly discouraged; and feeling incapable of another effort, I remained in that position, continuing to ask myself what sort of a horse I had bought at Cheri's, closing my eyes, and awaiting death.

"Suddenly I heard a curious trampling around me; a quantity of little hard things struck me on the face. I opened my eyes, and perceived Brutus, who, with his fore-feet and hind-legs, was trying with incredible activity and prodigious skill to bury me in the sand. He was doing his best, poor beast, and from time to time he stopped to gaze at his work; then, raising his head, he neighed and began his work again. That lasted for a good three or four minutes, after which Brutus, judging me doubtless sufficiently interred, placed himself very respectfully on his knees before my tomb—on his knees, literally on his knees! He was saying, I suppose, a little prayer. I looked at him. It interested me extremely.

"His prayer finished, Brutus made a slight bow, went off a few steps, stopped, then, beginning to gallop, made at least twenty times the circuit of the open space in the middle of which he had buried me. Brutus galloped very well, with even stride, head well held, on the right foot, making around me a perfect circle. I followed him with my eyes, but it made me uneasy to see him go round and round and round. I had the strength to cry 'Stop! stop!' The horse stopped and seemed embarrassed, without doubt asking himself what there was still to be done; but he perceived my hat, which in my fall had got separated from me, and at once made a new resolution: he walked straight to the hat, seized it in his teeth, and galloped off, this time by one of the six alleys that led from my tomb.

"Brutus got farther and farther away, and disappeared; I remained alone. I was puzzled, positively puzzled. I shook off the little coating of dust which covered me, and without getting up, by the help of my two arms and right leg—to move my left leg was not to be thought of—I succeeded in dragging myself to a little grassy slope on the edge of one of the alleys. Once there, I could sit down, after a fashion, and I began to shout with all the strength of my lungs, 'Hi, there! hi! hi, there!' No answer. The woods were absolutely deserted and still. The only thing to be done was to wait till some one passed by to aid me.

"For half an hour I had been in that hateful position when I perceived in the distance, at the very end of the same alley by which he had gone off, Brutus coming back, with the same long gallop he had used in going. A great cloud of dust accompanied the horse. Little by little, in that cloud, I perceived a tiny carriage—a pony-carriage; then in that little pony-carriage a woman, who drove herself, and behind the woman a small groom.

"A few moments later Brutus, covered with foam, stopped before me, let my hat drop at my feet and neighed, as though to say, 'I've done my duty; here is help.' But I no longer bothered myself about Brutus and the explanations that he made me. My only thoughts were for the fairy who was to relieve me, and who, after lightly jumping from her little carriage, was coming quickly towards me. Besides, she, too, was examining me curiously, and all at once we both exclaimed, at the same time:

"'Mme. de Noriolis!'

"'M. de La Roche-Targe!'

"A little while ago George spoke to us of his aunt, and mentioned how she had married him quite young, at one stroke, without giving him time to reflect or breathe. I, too, have an aunt, and between us for a number of years there has been a perpetual battle. 'Marry.' 'I don't want to marry.' 'Do you want young girls? There is Mademoiselle A, Mademoiselle B, Mademoiselle C.' 'I don't want to marry.' 'Do you want widows? There is Madame D, Madame E, Madame F.' 'I don't want to marry.'

"Mme. de Noriolis figured always in the first rank in the series of widows, and I noticed that my aunt put stress, with evident favoritism, on all the good points and advantages that I should find in that marriage. She didn't have to tell me that Mme. de Noriolis was very pretty—any one could see that; or that she was very rich—I knew it already. But she explained to me that M. de Noriolis was an idiot, who had had the merit of making his wife perfectly miserable, and that thus it would be very easy for the second husband to make himself very much loved.

"Then, when she had discoursed at length on the virtues, graces, and merits of Mme. de Noriolis, my aunt, who is clever and knows my weakness, pulled out of her desk a topographical map, and spread it out with care on the table.

"It was the map of the district of Chatellerault, a very correct and minute map, that my aunt had gone herself to the military station to buy, with the view of convincing me that I ought to marry Mme. de Noriolis. The places of Noriolis and of La Roche-Targe were scarcely three kilometers apart in that map. My aunt, with her own hands, had drawn a line of red ink, and slily united the two places, and she forced me to look at her little red line, saying to me, 'Two thousand acres without a break, when the places of Noriolis and La Roche-Targe are united; what a chance for a hunter!'

"I closed my eyes, so strong was the temptation, and repeated my refrain, 'I don't want to marry.' But I was afraid, seriously afraid; and when I met Mme. de Noriolis I always saw her surrounded, as by a halo, by the little red line of my aunt, and I said to myself: 'A charming, and clever, and sensible woman, whose first husband was an idiot, and this and that, and two thousand acres without a break. Run away, wretch, run away, since you don't wish to marry.'

"And I ran away! But this time by what means could I run away? I was there, miserable, in the grass, covered with sand, with my hair in disorder, my clothes in rags, and my unfortunate leg stiff. And Mme. de Noriolis came nearer, looking spick and span—always in the halo of the little red line—and said to me:

"'You, M. de La Roche-Targe, is it you? What are you doing there? What has happened to you?'

"I frankly confessed my fall.

"'At least you are not wounded?'

"'No, no, I'm not wounded. I've something the matter with that leg; but it's nothing serious, I know.'

"'And what horse played you that trick?'

"'Why, this one.'

"And I pointed out Brutus to Mme. de Noriolis. Brutus was there, quite near us, untied, peacefully crunching little tufts of broom.

"'What, that one, that brave horse? Oh, he has well made up for his faults, I assure you. I will tell you about it, but later on. You must first get home, and at once.'

"'I can't walk a step.'

"'But I am going to take you back myself, at the risk of compromising you.'

"And she called Bob, her little groom, and taking me gently by the arm, while Bob took me by the other, she made me get into her carriage; five minutes later we were bowling off, both of us, in the direction of La Roche-Targe: she, holding the reins and driving the pony with a light hand; I, looking at her, feeling troubled, confused, embarrassed, ridiculous, and stupid. We were alone in the carriage. Bob was commissioned to bring Brutus, who, very docile, had allowed himself to be taken.

"'Lie down,' Mme. de Noriolis said to me; 'keep your leg straight; I am going to drive you slowly so as to avoid bumps.'

"In short, she made a lot of little amiable and pleasant remarks; then, when she saw me well settled, she said:

"'Tell me how you came to fall, and then I will tell you how I happened to come to your aid. It seems to me this horse story must be queer.'

"I began my tale; but as soon as I spoke of Brutus's efforts to unhorse me, and the two reports of the gun, she exclaimed:

"'I understand, I understand. You have bought a circus charger.'

"'A circus charger!'

"'Why, yes; that's it, and that explains everything. You have seen twenty times at the Circus of the Empress the performance of the circus charger—the light-cavalryman who enters the arena on a gray horse, then the Arabs come and shoot at the cavalryman, who is wounded and falls; and as you didn't fall, the horse, indignant and not understanding how you could so far forget your part, threw you on the ground. And when you were on the ground, what did the horse do?'

"I related Brutus's little work in burying me suitably.

"'The circus charger,' she continued; 'still the circus charger. He sees his master wounded, the Arabs could come back and finish him, and so what does the horse do? He buries the cavalryman. Then goes off galloping, didn't he?'

"'Yes, on a hard gallop,'

"'Carrying the flag, which is not to fall into the hands of the Arabs.'

"'It's my hat that he took.'

"'He took what he could. And where does the circus charger gallop to?'

"'Ah! I know, I know,' I exclaimed, in my turn, 'he goes to get the sutler.'

"'Precisely. He goes to get the sutler; and the sutler to-day, if you please, is I, Countess of Noriolis. Your big gray horse galloped into my grounds. I was standing on the porch, putting on my gloves and ready to step into my carriage, when the stablemen came running, upon seeing that horse arrive saddled and bridled, without a rider, and a hat in his mouth. They tried to catch him, but he shunned them and escaped, and came straight to the porch, falling on his knees before me. The men approached, and once more tried to catch him; but he got up, galloped away, stopped by the gate of the grounds, turned around, and looked at me. He called to me—I assure you, he called to me. I told the men not to bother about the horse any more. Then I jumped into my carriage and started; the horse rushed into the woods; post-haste I followed him by paths that were not always intended for carriages; but still I followed him, and I arrived and found you.'

"At the moment Mme. de Noriolis was speaking those last words the carriage received a tremendous shock from behind; then we saw in the air Brutus's head, which was held there upright as though by a miracle. For it was again Brutus. Mounted by Bob, he had followed the carriage for several minutes, and seeing that the back seat of the little pony-carriage was unoccupied, he had, like a true artist, cleverly seized the moment to give us a new proof of his talent in executing the most brilliant of his former performances. In one jump he had placed his fore-feet on the carriage, then, that done, he quietly continued trotting on his two hind-legs. Bob, distracted, with his body thrown over and his head thrown back, was making vain attempts to put the horse back on his four legs.

"As to Mme. de Noriolis, she was so well frightened, that, letting the reins drop from her hands, she had simply thrown herself in my arms. Her adorable little head had rolled hap-hazard on my shoulder, and my lips just touched her hair. With my left hand I tried to recover the reins, with my right I supported Mme. de Noriolis; my leg hurt me frightfully, and I was seized with a queer feeling of confusion.

"It was thus that Mme. de Noriolis made her first entry into La Roche-Targe.

"When she returned there, one evening at midnight, six weeks later, having during the day become Mme. de La Roche-Targe, she said:

"'What is life, after all? Nothing like this would have happened if you hadn't bought the circus charger.'"



BLACKY

"Don't be alarmed, sir; you won't miss the train. For the last fifteen years I've been carrying travellers to the station, and I've never yet missed a train! Think of that, sir; never!"

"But—"

"Oh, don't look at your watch. There is one thing you don't know and that you must learn, and that your watch will never be able to tell you—that is, that the train is always a quarter of an hour late. Such a thing as the train's being on time has never happened."

Such a thing happened that day, however, for the train was on time, and so I missed it. My driver was furious.

"You should warn us," he said to the station-master, "if your trains are suddenly going to start at the right hour. Who ever saw the like!"

And he turned to one or two of the porters for witnesses.

"Did you ever see such a thing? I don't wish to appear blamable before the gentleman. A train on time—on time! You know it's the first time it has ever happened."

There was a general cry of "Yes, indeed; usually there's some delay." But, for all that, I had none the less three long hours to pass in a very desolate village (in the Canton of Vaud) shut in by two sad-looking mountains, which had their little topknots covered with snow.

But how kill three hours? In my turn I now asked advice, and again there was a chorus of "Go see the Caldron; that's the only sight to be seen in this part of the country." "And where is this Caldron?" On the mountain, to the right, half way up; but the path was a little complicated, and I was advised to take a guide; and there, over there in that white cottage with green blinds, I would find the best guide there was about here, an honest man—Old Simon.

So I went and knocked at the door of the little house.

An old woman opened it.

"Simon, the guide?"

"Yes, right here; but—if it's to go to the Caldron—"

"It is to go to the Caldron."

"Well, Simon hasn't been very well since morning; he hasn't much strength, and he can't go out. But don't worry yourself; there is some one who can replace him—there is Blacky."

"All right, let it be Blacky, then."

"Only I must tell you that Blacky isn't a person."

"Not a person?"

"No, he's our dog."

"A dog? What do you mean?"

"Yes, Blacky; and he will guide you very well—quite as well as my husband. He is in the habit of—"

"In the habit?"

"Certainly; for years and years Simon took him along, so he learned the different places, and now he does very well all by himself. He has often taken travellers, and we have always been complimented about him. As for intelligence, don't be afraid—he has as much as you or I. He needs only speech, but speech isn't required. If it was to show a monument, now—why, yes, for then it would be necessary to give some account and know the historical dates; but here there are only the beauties of nature. Take Blacky, and it will be cheaper also; my husband would cost three francs, whereas Blacky is only thirty sous, and he will show you as much for thirty sous as my husband would for three francs."

"Very well; and where is Blacky?"

"He is resting in the sun, in the garden. Already this morning he has taken some English people to the Caldron. Shall I call him?"

"Yes, call him."

"Blacky! Blacky!"

He came with a leap through the window. He was a rather ugly-looking little dog, with long frizzy hair, all mussed; he wasn't much to look at, but he had, however, about him a certain air of gravity, resolution, and importance. His first glance was at me—a clear, searching, confident look that took me in from head to toe, and that seemed to say, "It's a traveller, and he wants to see the Caldron."

One train missed sufficed me for that day, and I was particularly anxious not to lay myself open to another such experience, so I explained to the good woman that I had only three hours for my visit to the Caldron.

"Oh, I know," she said; "you wish to take the four-o'clock train. Don't be alarmed; Blacky will bring you back in time. Now then, Blacky, off with you; hurry up!"

But Blacky didn't seem at all disposed to mind. He stayed there motionless, looking at his mistress with a certain uneasiness.

"Ah, how stupid of me!" said the old woman. "I forgot the sugar;" and she went to get four pieces of sugar from a drawer, and gave them to me, saying: "That's why he wouldn't start; you had no sugar. You see, Blacky, the gentleman has the sugar. Now then, run along with you, sir, to the Caldron! to the Caldron! to the Caldron!"

She repeated these last words three times, slowly and distinctly, and during that time I was closely examining Blacky. He acknowledged the words of his mistress with little movements of the head, which rapidly became more emphatic, and towards the end he evinced some temper and impatience. They could be interpreted thus: "Yes, yes, to the Caldron—I understand. The gentleman has the pieces of sugar, and we are going to the Caldron—it's settled. Do you take me for a fool?"

And, without waiting for Mme. Simon's third "To the Caldron!" Blacky, evidently hurt, turned tail, came and placed himself in front of me, and by his look showed me the door, which told me as plainly as a dog can tell, "Now then, come along, you!"

I meekly followed him. We two started, he in front, I behind. In this manner we went through the entire village. The children who were playing in the street recognized my guide.

"Hello, Blacky! good-morning, Blacky!" They wanted to play with the dog, but he turned his head with a disdainful air—the air of a dog who hasn't the time to answer himself, and who is doing his duty and earning thirty sous. One of the children exclaimed:

"Leave him alone; don't you see he is taking the gentleman to the Caldron? Good-day, sir!"

And all repeated, laughing, "Good-day, sir!"

I smiled rather awkwardly; I am sure I felt embarrassed, even a little humiliated. I was, in fact, under the lead of that animal. He, for the present, was my master. He knew where he was going; I did not. I was in a hurry to get out of the village and find myself alone with Blacky and face to face with the beauties of nature that he had been commissioned to show me.

These beauties of nature were, at the beginning, a fearfully hot and dusty road, on which the sun fell with full force. The dog walked with a brisk step, and I was getting tired following him. I tried to slacken his gait. "Come, I say, Blacky, my friend, not so quickly." But Blacky turned a deaf ear, and continued, without listening to me, his little trot. He was taken suddenly with a real fit of anger when I wished to sit down in the corner of a field, under a tree that gave a meagre shade. He barked furiously, and cast on me outraged looks; evidently what I was doing was against the rule. He was not in the habit of stopping there, and his barks were so piercing and annoying that I rose to continue on my way. Blacky became calm at once, and walked placidly in front of me—I had understood him, and he was satisfied.

Shortly afterwards we entered a delightful path, in full blossom, shady, sweet-smelling, and filled with freshness and the murmur of springs. Blacky immediately entered the wood, took to his heels, and disappeared in the little footway. I followed, slightly out of breath, and had not gone a hundred steps when I found Blacky waiting for me, with head erect and bright eyes, in a clearing enlivened by the tinkle of a tiny cascade. There was there an old rustic bench, and Blacky looked impatiently from me to the seat and from the seat to me. I was beginning to understand Blacky's language.

"There now," he said to me, "here is indeed a place to rest in. It's nice and cool here; but you were so stupid, you wanted to stop in the sun. Come on, now; sit down; you really can sit down. I will allow you."

I stopped, sat down, and lit a cigar, and came near offering one to Blacky; perhaps he smoked. But I thought he would prefer a piece of sugar. He caught it on the fly very cleverly, and crunched it with enjoyment. Then he lay down and took a nap at my feet. He was evidently accustomed to a little siesta at this place.

He slept barely ten minutes I was, however, perfectly easy, for Blacky began to inspire me with absolute confidence, and I was determined to obey him blindly. He got up, stretched himself, and threw me a glance that meant, "Come along, my friend, come along." And, like two old friends, we set off slowly. Blacky was enjoying the silence and the sweetness of the place. On the road, previously, being in a hurry, he had walked with an abrupt, sturdy, hurried step—he was walking to get there; but now, refreshed and revived, Blacky was walking for the pleasure of a promenade in one of the prettiest paths in the Canton of Vaud.

Presently a side path appeared, leading off to the left; there was a short hesitation on the part of Blacky, who reflected, and then passed it, continuing on his way straight ahead, but not without some doubt and uncertainty in his manner. Then he stopped; he must have made some mistake. Yes; for he retraced his steps, and we took the turning to the left, which, at the end of a hundred feet, led into an open circular space, and Blacky, with his nose in the air, invited me to contemplate the highly respectable height of the lofty rocks which formed this circle. When Blacky thought I had seen sufficient, he turned around, and we went on again in the path through the woods. Blacky had forgotten to show me the circle of rocks—a slight error quickly repaired.

The road soon became very mountainous, broken, and difficult, and I advanced slowly and with many precautions. As to Blacky, he sprang lightly from rock to rock, but did not forsake me. He waited and fixed his eyes on me with the most touching solicitude. At last I began to hear a rushing of water; Blacky commenced barking joyously.

"Courage!" he said to me; "courage! We are nearly there; you will soon see the Caldron."

It was in truth the Caldron. From a short height a modest stream fell, splashing and rebounding on a large rock slightly hollowed. I should never have been consoled for such a steep climb to see such a small sight if I had not had brave little Blacky for a companion. He, at least, was much more interesting and marvellous than the Caldron. On either side of the fall, in little Swiss chalets, were two dairy-maids; one was a blonde and the other a brunette; both were in their national dress, and were eagerly on the lookout for my coming, standing on the door-steps of their tiny houses—little wooden boxes, seemingly cut out by machine.

It seemed to me that the blonde had very pretty eyes, and I had already taken several steps towards her when Blacky began to bark emphatically, and resolutely barred the way. Could he have a preference for the dark one? I walked in the other direction. That was it; Blacky calmed down as though by enchantment when he saw me seated at a table in front of the house of his young protegee. I asked for a cup of milk; Blacky's friend entered her little toy house, and Blacky slipped in at her feet. Through a half-open window I followed him with my eyes. The wretch! He was waited upon before I was. He it was who first had his large bowl of milk. He had sold himself! After which, with white drops on his mustache, Blacky came to keep me company and look at me drink my milk. I gave him a piece of sugar, and both of us, absolutely satisfied with each other, filled our lungs with the sharp air of the mountain. We were at a height of about three or four hundred yards. It was a delightful half-hour.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse