BY GEORGE DU MAURIER
AUTHOR OF "TRILBY" "PETER IBBETSON"
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE AUTHOR
"Apres le plaisir vient la peine; Apres la peine, la vertu"—Anon
NEW YORK HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 1897
By GEORGE DU MAURIER.
TRILBY. Illustrated by the Author. Post 8vo, Cloth, Ornamental, $1 75; Three-quarter Calf, $3 50; Three-quarter Crushed Levant, $4 50.
PETER IBBETSON. With an Introduction by his Cousin, Lady ***** ("Madge Plunket"). Edited and Illustrated by George du Maurier. Post 8vo, Cloth, Ornamental, $1 50; Three-quarter Calf, $3 25; Three-quarter Levant, $4 25.
ENGLISH SOCIETY. Sketched by George du Maurier. With an Introduction by William Dean Howells. Oblong 4to, Cloth, Ornamental, $2 50.
Published BY HARPER & BROTHERS, New York.
Copyright, 1896, 1897, by Harper & Brothers.
All rights reserved.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
PORTRAIT OF GEORGE DU MAURIER Frontispiece INSTITUTION F. BROSSARD 7 THE NEW BOY 11 A LITTLE PEACE-MAKER 17 LOUD RUNSWICK AND ANTOINETTE JOSSELIN 29 "'QUEL AMOUR D'ENFANT!'" 33 "AMIS, LA MATINEE EST BELLE" 51 "TOO MUCH 'MONTE CRISTO,' I'M AFRAID" 55 LE PERE POLYPHEME 71 FANFARONNADE 79 MEROVEE RINGS THE BELL 85 "WEEL MAY THE KEEL ROW" 107 A TERTRE-JOUAN TO THE RESCUE! 113 MADEMOISELLE MARCELINE 115 "'IF HE ONLY KNEW!'" 117 "'MAURICE AU PIQUET!'" 121 "QUAND ON PERD, PAR TRISTE OCCURRENCE," ETC. 127 THREE LITTLE MAIDS FROM SCHOOL (1853) 139 SOLITUDE 149 "'PILE OU FACE—HEADS OR TAILS?'" 153 "A LITTLE WHITE POINT OF INTERROGATION" 159 "'BONJOUR, MONSIEUR BONZIG'" 171 "'DEMI-TASSE—VOILA, M'SIEUR'" 179 PETER THE HERMIT AU PIQUET 187 "THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE" 197 "'A VOUS, MONSIEUR DE LA GARDE!'" 207 "'I AM A VERY ALTERED PERSON!'" 213 "THE MOONLIGHT SONATA" 227 ENTER MR. SCATCHERD 237 BARTY GIVES HIMSELF AWAY 243 SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR 245 "'HELAS! MON JEUNE AMI ...'" 251 "'YOU ASK ME WHY I LOOK SO PALE?'" 277 "'YOU DON'T MEAN TO SAY YOU'RE GOING TO PAINT FOR HIRE!'" 281 "'HE MIGHT HAVE THROWN THE HANDKERCHIEF AS HE PLEASED'" 287 DR. HASENCLEVER AND MRS. BLETCHLEY 305 "'MARTIA, I HAVE DONE MY BEST'" 311 AM RHEIN 315 "'DOES SHE KNOW YOU'RE VERY FOND OF HER?'" 319 "LEAH WAS SUMMONED FROM BELOW" 333 "BETWEEN TWO WELL KNOWN EARLS" 341 "LE DERNIER DES ABENCERRAGES" 345 "SARDONYX" 355 "'RATAPLAN, RATAPLAN'" 359 "'HE PRESENTS ME FIRST TO MADAME JOSSELIN'" 387 "'I DON'T THINK I EVER HEARD HIM MENTION YOUR NAME'" 401 "'I'M A PHILISTINE, AND AM NOT ASHAMED'" 411 "'ZE BRINCESS VOULD BE SO JARMT'" 431 MARTY 453
"BARTY JOSSELIN IS NO MORE...."
When so great a man dies, it is generally found that a tangled growth of more or less contentious literature has already gathered round his name during his lifetime. He has been so written about, so talked about, so riddled with praise or blame, that, to those who have never seen him in the flesh, he has become almost a tradition, a myth—and one runs the risk of losing all clew to his real personality.
This is especially the case with the subject of this biography—one is in danger of forgetting what manner of man he was who has so taught and touched and charmed and amused us, and so happily changed for us the current of our lives.
He has been idealized as an angel, a saint, and a demigod; he has been caricatured as a self-indulgent sensualist, a vulgar Lothario, a buffoon, a joker of practical jokes.
He was in reality the simplest, the most affectionate, and most good-natured of men, the very soul of honor, the best of husbands and fathers and friends, the most fascinating companion that ever lived, and one who kept to the last the freshness and joyous spirits of a school-boy and the heart of a child; one who never said or did an unkind thing; probably never even thought one. Generous and open-handed to a fault, slow to condemn, quick to forgive, and gifted with a power of immediately inspiring affection and keeping it forever after, such as I have never known in any one else, he grew to be (for all his quick-tempered impulsiveness) one of the gentlest and meekest and most humble-minded of men!
On me, a mere prosperous tradesman, and busy politician and man of the world, devolves the delicate and responsible task of being the first to write the life of the greatest literary genius this century has produced, and of revealing the strange secret of that genius, which has lighted up the darkness of these latter times as with a pillar of fire by night.
This extraordinary secret has never been revealed before to any living soul but his wife and myself. And that is one of my qualifications for this great labor of love.
Another is that for fifty years I have known him as never a man can quite have known his fellow-man before—that for all that time he has been more constantly and devotedly loved by me than any man can ever quite have been loved by father, son, brother, or bosom friend.
Good heavens! Barty, man and boy, Barty's wife, their children, their grandchildren, and all that ever concerned them or concerns them still—all this has been the world to me, and ever will be.
He wished me to tell the absolute truth about him, just as I know it; and I look upon the fulfilment of this wish of his as a sacred trust, and would sooner die any shameful death or brave any other dishonor than fail in fulfilling it to the letter.
The responsibility before the world is appalling; and also the difficulty, to a man of such training as mine. I feel already conscious that I am trying to be literary myself, to seek for turns of phrase that I should never have dared to use in talking to Barty, or even in writing to him; that I am not at my ease, in short—not me—but straining every nerve to be on my best behavior; and that's about the worst behavior there is.
Oh! may some kindly light, born of a life's devotion and the happy memories of half a century, lead me to mere naturalness and the use of simple homely words, even my own native telegraphese! that I may haply blunder at length into some fit form of expression which Barty himself might have approved.
One would think that any sincere person who has learnt how to spell his own language should at least be equal to such a modest achievement as this; and yet it is one of the most difficult things in the world!
My life is so full of Barty Josselin that I can hardly be said to have ever had an existence apart from his; and I can think of no easier or better way to tell Barty's history than just telling my own—from the days I first knew him—and in my own way; that is, in the best telegraphese I can manage—picking each precious word with care, just as though I were going to cable it, as soon as written, to Boston or New York, where the love of Barty Josselin shines with even a brighter and warmer glow than here, or even in France; and where the hate of him, the hideous, odious odium theologicum—the saeva indignatio of the Church—that once burned at so white a heat, has burnt itself out at last, and is now as though it had never been, and never could be again.
P. S.—(an after-thought):
And here, in case misfortune should happen to me before this book comes out as a volume, I wish to record my thanks to my old friend Mr. du Maurier for the readiness with which he has promised to undertake, and the conscientiousness with which he will have performed, his share of the work as editor and illustrator.
I also wish to state that it is to my beloved god-daughter, Roberta Beatrix Hay (nee Josselin), that I dedicate this attempt at a biographical sketch of her illustrious father.
"De Paris a Versailles, loo, la, De Paris a Versailles— Il y a de belles allees, Vive le Roi de France! Il y a de belles allees, Vivent les ecoliers!"
One sultry Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1847 I sat at my desk in the junior school-room, or salle d'etudes des petits, of the Institution F. Brossard, Rond-point de l'Avenue de St.-Cloud; or, as it is called now, Avenue du Bois de Boulogne—or, as it was called during the Second Empire, Avenue du Prince Imperial, or else de l'Imperatrice; I'm not sure.
There is not much stability in such French names, I fancy; but their sound is charming, and always gives me the nostalgia of Paris—Royal Paris, Imperial Paris, Republican Paris!... whatever they may call it ten or twelve years hence. Paris is always Paris, and always will be, in spite of the immortal Haussmann, both for those who love it and for those who don't.
All the four windows were open. Two of them, freely and frankly, on to the now deserted play-ground, admitting the fragrance of lime and syringa and lilac, and other odors of a mixed quality.
Two other windows, defended by an elaborate network of iron wire and a formidable array of spiked iron rails beyond, opened on to the Rond-point, or meeting of the cross-roads—one of which led northeast to Paris through the Arc de Triomphe; the other three through woods and fields and country lanes to such quarters of the globe as still remain. The world is wide.
In the middle of this open space a stone fountain sent up a jet of water three feet high, which fell back with a feeble splash into the basin beneath. There was comfort in the sound on such a hot day, and one listened for it half unconsciously; and tried not to hear, instead, Weber's "Invitation a la Valse," which came rippling in intermittent waves from the open window of the distant parloir, where Chardonnet was practising the piano.
"Tum-te-dum-tum-tum ... Tum-te-dum-di, diddle-iddle um!"
e da capo, again and again. Chardonnet was no heaven-born musician.
Monsieur Bonzig—or "le Grand Bonzig," as he was called behind his back—sat at his table on the estrade, correcting the exercises of the eighth class (huitieme), which he coached in Latin and French. It was the lowest class in the school; yet one learnt much in it that was of consequence; not, indeed, that Balbus built a wall—as I'm told we learn over here (a small matter to make such a fuss about, after so many years)—but that the Lord made heaven and earth in six days, and rested on the seventh.
He (Monsieur Bonzig) seemed hot and weary, as well he might, and sighed, and looked up every now and then to mop his brow and think. And as he gazed into the green and azure depths beyond the north window, his dark brown eyes quivered and vibrated from side to side through his spectacles with a queer quick tremolo, such as I have never seen in any eyes but his.
About five-and-twenty boys sat at their desks; boys of all ages between seven and fourteen—many with closely cropped hair, "a la malcontent," like nice little innocent convicts; and nearly all in blouses, mostly blue; some with their garments loosely flowing; others confined at the waist by a tricolored ceinture de gymnastique, so deep and stiff it almost amounted to stays.
As for the boys themselves, some were energetic and industrious—some listless and lazy and lolling, and quite languid with the heat—some fidgety and restless, on the lookout for excitement of any kind: a cab or carriage raising the dust on its way to the Bois—a water-cart laying it (there were no hydrants then); a courier bearing royal despatches, or a mounted orderly; the Passy omnibus, to or fro every ten or twelve minutes; the marchand de coco with his bell; a regiment of the line with its band; a chorus of peripatetic Orpheonistes—a swallow, a butterfly, a humblebee; a far-off balloon, oh, joy!—any sight or sound to relieve the tedium of those two mortal school-hours that dragged their weary lengths from half past one till half past three—every day but Sunday and Thursday.
(Even now I find the early afternoon a little trying to wear through without a nap, say from two to four.)
At 3.30 there would come a half-hour's interval of play, and then the class of French literature from four till dinner-time at six—a class that was more than endurable on account of the liveliness and charm of Monsieur Durosier, who journeyed all the way from the College de France every Saturday afternoon in June and July to tell us boys of the quatrieme all about Villon and Ronsard, and Marot and Charles d'Orleans (exceptis excipiendis, of course), and other pleasant people who didn't deal in Greek or Latin or mathematics, and knew better than to trouble themselves overmuch about formal French grammar and niggling French prosody.
Besides, everything was pleasant on a Saturday afternoon on account of the nearness of the day of days—
"And that's the day that comes between The Saturday and Monday"....
I had just finished translating my twenty lines of Virgil—
"Infandum, regina, jubes renovare," etc.
Oh, crimini, but it was hot! and how I disliked the pious AEneas! I couldn't have hated him worse if I'd been poor Dido's favorite younger brother (not mentioned by Publius Vergilius Maro, if I remember).
Palaiseau, who sat next to me, had a cold in his head, and kept sniffing in a manner that got on my nerves.
"Mouche-toi donc, animal!" I whispered; "tu me degoutes, a la fin!"
Palaiseau always sniffed, whether he had a cold or not.
"Taisez-vous, Maurice—ou je vous donne cent vers a copier!" said M. Bonzig, and his eyes quiveringly glittered through his glasses as he fixed me.
Palaiseau, in his brief triumph, sniffed louder.
"Palaiseau," said Monsieur Bonzig, "si vous vous serviez de votre mouchoir—hein? Je crois que cela ne generait personne!" (If you were to use your pocket-handkerchief—eh? I don't think it would inconvenience anybody!)
At this there was a general titter all round, which was immediately suppressed, as in a court of law; and Palaiseau reluctantly and noisily did as he was told.
In front of me that dishonest little sneak Rapaud, with a tall parapet of books before him to serve as a screen, one hand shading his eyes, and an inkless pen in the other, was scratching his copy-book with noisy earnestness, as if time were too short for all he had to write about the pious AEneas's recitative, while he surreptitiously read the Comte de Monte Cristo, which lay open in his lap—just at the part where the body, sewn up in a sack, was going to be hurled into the Mediterranean. I knew the page well. There was a splash of red ink on it.
It made my blood boil with virtuous indignation to watch him, and I coughed and hemmed again and again to attract his attention, for his back was nearly towards me. He heard me perfectly, but took no notice whatever, the deceitful little beast. He was to have given up Monte Cristo to me at half-past two, and here it was twenty minutes to three! Besides which, it was my Monte Cristo, bought with my own small savings, and smuggled into school by me at great risk to myself.
"Maurice!" said M. Bonzig.
"Oui, m'sieur!" said I. I will translate:
"You shall conjugate and copy out for me forty times the compound verb, 'I cough without necessity to distract the attention of my comrade Rapaud from his Latin exercise!'"
"Moi, m'sieur?" I ask, innocently.
Just then there was a clatter by the fountain, and the shrill small pipe of D'Aurigny, the youngest boy in the school, exclaimed:
"He! He! Oh la la! Le Roi qui passe!"
And we all jumped up, and stood on forms, and craned our necks to see Louis Philippe I. and his Queen drive quickly by in their big blue carriage and four, with their two blue-and-silver liveried outriders trotting in front, on their way from St.-Cloud to the Tuileries.
"Sponde! Selancy! fermez les fenetres, ou je vous mets tous au pain sec pour un mois!" thundered M. Bonzig, who did not approve of kings and queens—an appalling threat which appalled nobody, for when he forgot to forget he always relented; for instance, he quite forgot to insist on that formidable compound verb of mine.
Suddenly the door of the school-room flew open, and the tall, portly figure of Monsieur Brossard appeared, leading by the wrist a very fair-haired boy of thirteen or so, dressed in an Eton jacket and light blue trousers, with a white chimney-pot silk hat, which he carried in his hand—an English boy, evidently; but of an aspect so singularly agreeable one didn't need to be English one's self to warm towards him at once.
"Monsieur Bonzig, and gentlemen!" said the head master (in French, of course). "Here is the new boy; he calls himself Bartholomiou Josselin. He is English, but he knows French as well as you. I hope you will find in him a good comrade, honorable and frank and brave, and that he will find the same in you.—Maurice!" (that was me).
"I specially recommend Josselin to you."
"Yes, you; he is of your age, and one of your compatriots. Don't forget."
"And now, Josselin, take that vacant desk, which will be yours henceforth. You will find the necessary books and copy-books inside; you will be in the fifth class, under Monsieur Dumollard. You will occupy yourself with the study of Cornelius Nepos, the commentaries of Caesar, and Xenophon's retreat of the ten thousand. Soyez diligent et attentif, mon ami; a plus tard!"
He gave the boy a friendly pat on the cheek and left the room.
Josselin walked to his desk and sat down, between d'Adhemar and Laferte, both of whom were en cinquieme. He pulled a Caesar out of his desk and tried to read it. He became an object of passionate interest to the whole school-room, till M. Bonzig said:
"The first who lifts his eyes from his desk to stare at 'le nouveau' shall be au piquet for half an hour!" (To be au piquet is to stand with your back to a tree for part of the following play-time; and the play-time which was to follow would last just thirty minutes.)
Presently I looked up, in spite of piquet, and caught the new boy's eye, which was large and blue and soft, and very sad and sentimental, and looked as if he were thinking of his mammy, as I did constantly of mine during my first week at Brossard's, three years before.
Soon, however, that sad eye slowly winked at me, with an expression so droll that I all but laughed aloud.
Then its owner felt in the inner breast pocket of his Eton jacket with great care, and delicately drew forth by the tail a very fat white mouse, that seemed quite tame, and ran up his arm to his wide shirt collar, and tried to burrow there; and the boys began to interest themselves breathlessly in this engaging little quadruped.
M. Bonzig looked up again, furious; but his spectacles had grown misty from the heat and he couldn't see, and he wiped them; and meanwhile the mouse was quickly smuggled back to its former nest.
Josselin drew a large clean pocket-handkerchief from his trousers and buried his head in his desk, and there was silence.
So strummed, over and over again, poor Chardonnet in his remote parlor—he was getting tired.
I have heard "L'Invitation a la Valse" many hundreds of times since then, and in many countries, but never that bar without thinking of Josselin and his little white mouse.
"Fermez votre pupitre, Josselin," said M. Bonzig, after a few minutes.
Josselin shut his desk and beamed genially at the usher.
"What book have you got there, Josselin—Caesar or Cornelius Nepos?"
Josselin held the book with its title-page open for M. Bonzig to read.
"Are you dumb, Josselin? Can't you speak?"
Josselin tried to speak, but uttered no sound.
"Josselin, come here—opposite me."
Josselin came and stood opposite M. Bonzig and made a nice little bow.
"What have you got in your mouth, Josselin—chocolate?—barley-sugar?—caoutchouc?—or an India-rubber ball?"
Josselin shrugged his shoulders and looked pensive, but spoke never a word.
"Open quick the mouth, Josselin!"
And Monsieur Bonzig, leaning over the table, deftly put his thumb and forefinger between the boy's lips, and drew forth slowly a large white pocket-handkerchief, which seemed never to end, and threw it on the floor with solemn dignity.
The whole school-room was convulsed with laughter.
"Josselin—leave the room—you will be severely punished, as you deserve—you are a vulgar buffoon—a jo-crisse—a paltoquet, a mountebank! Go, petit polisson—go!"
The polisson picked up his pocket-handkerchief and went—quite quietly, with simple manly grace; and that's the first I ever saw of Barty Josselin—and it was some fifty years ago.
* * * * *
At 3.30 the bell sounded for the half-hour's recreation, and the boys came out to play.
Josselin was sitting alone on a bench, thoughtful, with his hand in the inner breast pocket of his Eton jacket.
M. Bonzig went straight to him, buttoned up and severe—his eyes dancing, and glancing from right to left through his spectacles; and Josselin stood up very politely.
"Sit down!" said M. Bonzig; and sat beside him, and talked to him with grim austerity for ten minutes or more, and the boy seemed very penitent and sorry.
Presently he drew forth from his pocket his white mouse, and showed it to the long usher, who looked at it with great seeming interest for a long time, and finally took it into the palm of his own hand—where it stood on its hind legs—and stroked it with his little finger.
Soon Josselin produced a small box of chocolate drops, which he opened and offered to M. Bonzig, who took one and put it in his mouth, and seemed to like it. Then they got up and walked to and fro together, and the usher put his arm round the boy's shoulder, and there was peace and good-will between them; and before they parted Josselin had intrusted his white mouse to "le grand Bonzig"—who intrusted it to Mlle. Marceline, the head lingere, a very kind and handsome person, who found for it a comfortable home in an old bonbon-box lined with blue satin, where it had a large family and fed on the best, and lived happily ever after.
But things did not go smoothly for Josselin all that Saturday afternoon. When Bonzig left, the boys gathered round "le nouveau," large and small, and asked questions. And just before the bell sounded for French literature, I saw him defending himself with his two British fists against Dugit, a big boy with whiskers, who had him by the collar and was kicking him to rights. It seems that Dugit had called him, in would-be English, "Pretty voman," and this had so offended him that he had hit the whiskered one straight in the eye.
Then French literature for the quatrieme till six; then dinner for all—soup, boiled beef (not salt), lentils; and Gruyere cheese, quite two ounces each; then French rounders till half past seven; then lesson preparation (with Monte Cristos in one's lap, or Mysteries of Paris, or Wandering Jews) till nine.
Then, ding-dang-dong, and, at the sleepy usher's nod, a sleepy boy would rise and recite the perfunctory evening prayer in a dull singsong voice—beginning, "Notre Pere, qui etes aux cieux, vous dont le regard scrutateur penetre jusque dans les replis les plus profonds de nos coeurs," etc., etc., and ending, "au nom du Pere, du Fils, et du St. Esprit, ainsi soit-il!"
And then, bed—Josselin in my dormitory, but a long way off, between d'Adhemar and Laferte; while Palaiseau snorted and sniffed himself to sleep in the bed next mine, and Rapaud still tried to read the immortal works of the elder Dumas by the light of a little oil-lamp six yards off, suspended from a nail in the blank wall over the chimney-piece.
* * * * *
The Institution F. Brossard was a very expensive private school, just twice as expensive as the most expensive of the Parisian public schools—Ste.-Barbe, Francois Premier, Louis-le-Grand, etc.
These great colleges, which were good enough for the sons of Louis Philippe, were not thought good enough for me by my dear mother, who was Irish, and whose only brother had been at Eton, and was now captain in an English cavalry regiment—so she had aristocratic notions. It used to be rather an Irish failing in those days.
My father, James Maurice, also English (and a little Scotch), and by no means an aristocrat, was junior partner in the great firm of Vougeot-Conti et Cie., wine merchants, Dijon. And at Dijon I had spent much of my childhood, and been to a day school there, and led a very happy life indeed.
Then I was sent to Brossard's school, in the Avenue de St.-Cloud, Paris, where I was again very happy, and fond of (nearly) everybody, from the splendid head master and his handsome son, Monsieur Merovee, down to Antoine and Francisque, the men-servants, and Pere Jaurion, the concierge, and his wife, who sold croquets and pains d'epices and "blom-boudingues," and sucre-d'orge and nougat and pate de guimauve; also pralines, dragees, and gray sandy cakes of chocolate a penny apiece; and gave one unlimited credit; and never dunned one, unless bribed to do so by parents, so as to impress on us small boys a proper horror of debt.
Whatever principles I have held through life on this important subject I set down to a private interview my mother had with le pere et la mere Jaurion, to whom I had run in debt five francs during the horrible winter of '47-8. They made my life a hideous burden to me for a whole summer term, and I have never owed any one a penny since.
The Institution consisted of four separate buildings, or "corps de logis."
In the middle, dominating the situation, was a Greco-Roman pavilion, with a handsome Doric portico elevated ten or twelve feet above the ground, on a large, handsome terrace paved with asphalt and shaded by horse-chestnut trees. Under this noble esplanade, and ventilating themselves into it, were the kitchen and offices and pantry, and also the refectory—a long room, furnished with two parallel tables, covered at the top by a greenish oil-cloth spotted all over with small black disks; and alongside of these tables were wooden forms for the boys to sit together at meat—"la table des grands," "la table des petits," each big enough for thirty boys and three or four masters. M. Brossard and his family breakfasted and dined apart, in their own private dining-room, close by.
In this big refectory, three times daily, at 7.30 in the morning, at noon, and at 6 P.M., boys and masters took their quotidian sustenance quite informally, without any laying of cloths or saying of grace either before or after; one ate there to live—one did not live merely to eat, at the Pension Brossard.
Breakfast consisted of a thick soup, rich in dark-hued garden produce, and a large hunk of bread—except on Thursdays, when a pat of butter was served out to each boy instead of that Spartan broth—that "brouet noir des Lacedemoniens," as we called it.
Everybody who has lived in France knows how good French butter can often be—and French bread. We triturated each our pat with rock-salt and made a round ball of it, and dug a hole in our hunk to put it in, and ate it in the play-ground with clasp-knives, making it last as long as we could.
This, and the half-holiday in the afternoon, made Thursday a day to be marked with a white stone. When you are up at five in summer, at half past five in the winter, and have had an hour and a half or two hours' preparation before your first meal at 7.30, French bread-and-butter is not a bad thing to break your fast with.
Then, from eight till twelve, class—Latin, Greek, French, English, German—and mathematics and geometry—history, geography, chemistry, Physics—everything that you must get to know before you can hope to obtain your degree of Bachelor of Letters or Sciences, or be admitted to the Polytechnic School, or the Normal, or the Central, or that of Mines, or that of Roads and Bridges, or the Military School of St. Cyr, or the Naval School of the Borda. All this was fifty years ago; of course names of schools may have changed, and even the sciences themselves.
Then, at twelve, the second breakfast, meat (or salt fish on Fridays), a dish of vegetables, lentils, red or white beans, salad, potatoes, etc.; a dessert, which consisted of fruit or cheese, or a French pudding. This banquet over, a master would stand up in his place and call for silence, and read out loud the list of boys who were to be kept in during the play-hour that followed:
"A la retenue, Messieurs Maurice, Rapaud, de Villars, Jolivet, Sponde," etc. Then play till 1.30; and very good play, too; rounders, which are better and far more complicated in France than in England; "barres"; "barres traversieres," as rough a game as football; fly the garter, or "la raie," etc., etc., according to the season. And then afternoon study, at the summons of that dreadful bell whose music was so sweet when it rang the hour for meals or recreation or sleep—so hideously discordant at 5.30 on a foggy December Monday morning.
Altogether eleven hours work daily and four hours play, and sleep from nine till five or half past; I find this leaves half an hour unaccounted for, so I must have made a mistake somewhere. But it all happened fifty years ago, so it's not of much consequence now.
Probably they have changed all that in France by this time, and made school life a little easier there, especially for nice little English boys—and nice little French boys too. I hope so, very much; for French boys can be as nice as any, especially at such institutions as F. Brossard's, if there are any left.
Most of my comrades, aged from seven to nineteen or twenty, were the sons of well-to-do fathers—soldiers, sailors, rentiers, owners of land, public officials, in professions or business or trade. A dozen or so were of aristocratic descent—three or four very great swells indeed; for instance, two marquises (one of whom spoke English, having an English mother); a count bearing a string of beautiful names a thousand years old, and even more—for they were constantly turning up in the Classe d'Histoire de France au moyen age; a Belgian viscount of immense wealth and immense good-nature; and several very rich Jews, who were neither very clever nor very stupid, but, as a rule, rather popular.
Then we had a few of humble station—the son of the woman who washed for us; Jules, the natural son of a brave old caporal in the trente-septieme legere (a countryman of M. Brossard's), who was not well off—so I suspect his son was taught and fed for nothing—the Brossards were very liberal; Filosel, the only child of a small retail hosier in the Rue St.-Denis (who thought no sacrifice too great to keep his son at such a first-rate private school), and others.
During the seven years I spent at Brossard's I never once heard paternal wealth (or the want of it) or paternal rank or position alluded to by master, pupil, or servant—especially never a word or an allusion that could have given a moment's umbrage to the most sensitive little only son of a well-to-do West End cheese-monger that ever got smuggled into a private suburban boarding-school kept "for the sons of gentlemen only," and was so chaffed and bullied there that his father had to take him away, and send him to Eton instead, where the "sons of gentlemen" have better manners, it seems; or even to France, where "the sons of gentlemen" have the best manners of all—or used to have before a certain 2d of December—as distinctly I remember; nous avons change tout cela!
The head master was a famous republican, and after February, '48, was elected a "representant du peuple" for the Dauphine, and sat in the Chamber of Deputies—for a very short time, alas!
So I fancy that the titled and particled boys—"les nobles"—were of families that had drifted away from the lily and white flag of their loyal ancestors—from Rome and the Pope and the past.
Anyhow, none of our young nobles, when at home, seemed to live in the noble Faubourg across the river, and there were no clericals or ultramontanes among us, high or low—we were all red, white, and blue in equal and impartial combination. All this par parenthese.
On the asphalt terrace also, but separated from the head master's classic habitation by a small square space, was the lingerie, managed by Mlle. Marceline and her two subordinates, Constance and Felicite; and beneath this, le pere et la mere Jaurion sold their cheap goodies, and jealously guarded the gates that secluded us from the wicked world outside—where women are, and merchants of tobacco, and cafes where you can sip the opalescent absinthe, and libraries where you can buy books more diverting than the Adventures of Telemachus!
On the opposite, or western, side was the gymnastic ground, enclosed in a wire fence, but free of access at all times—a place of paramount importance in all French schools, public and private.
From the doors of the refectory the general playground sloped gently down northwards to the Rond-point, where it was bounded by double gates of wood and iron that were always shut; and on each hither side of these rose an oblong dwelling of red brick, two stories high, and capable of accommodating thirty boys, sleeping or waking, at work or rest or play; for in bad weather we played indoors, or tried to, chess, draughts, backgammon, and the like—even blind-man's-buff (Colin Maillard)—even puss in the corner (aux quatre coins!).
All the class-rooms and school-rooms were on the ground-floor; above, the dormitories and masters' rooms.
These two buildings were symmetrical; one held the boys over fourteen, from the third class up to the first; the other (into the "salle d'etudes" of which the reader has already been admitted), the boys from the fourth down to the eighth, or lowest, form of all—just the reverse of an English school.
On either side of the play-ground were narrow strips of garden cultivated by boys whose tastes lay that way, and small arbors overgrown with convolvulus and other creepers—snug little verdant retreats, where one fed the mind on literature not sanctioned by the authorities, and smoked cigarettes of caporal, and even colored pipes, and was sick without fear of detection (piquait son renard sans crainte d'etre colle).
Finally, behind Pere Brossard's Ciceronian Villa, on the south, was a handsome garden (we called it Tusculum); a green flowery pleasaunce reserved for the head master's married daughter (Madame Germain) and her family—good people with whom we had nothing to do.
Would I could subjoin a ground-plan of the Institution F. Brossard, where Barty Josselin spent four such happy years, and was so universally and singularly popular!
Why should I take such pains about all this, and dwell so laboriously on all these minute details?
Firstly, because it all concerns Josselin and the story of his life—and I am so proud and happy to be the biographer of such a man, at his own often expressed desire, that I hardly know where to leave off and what to leave out. Also, this is quite a new trade for me, who have only dealt hitherto in foreign wines, and British party politics, and bimetallism—and can only write in telegraphese!
Secondly, because I find it such a keen personal joy to evoke and follow out, and realize to myself by means of pen and pencil, all these personal reminiscences; and with such a capital excuse for prolixity!
At the top of every page I have to pull myself together to remind myself that it is not of the Right Honorable Sir Robert Maurice, Bart., M.P., that I am telling the tale—any one can do that—but of a certain Englishman who wrote Sardonyx, to the everlasting joy and pride of the land of his fathers—and of a certain Frenchman who wrote Berthe aux grands pieds, and moved his mother-country to such delight of tears and tender laughter as it had never known before.
Dear me! the boys who lived and learnt at Brossard's school fifty years ago, and the masters who taught there (peace to their ashes!), are far more to my taste than the actual human beings among whom my dull existence of business and politics and society is mostly spent in these days. The school must have broken up somewhere about the early fifties. The stuccoed Doric dwelling was long since replaced by an important stone mansion, in a very different style of architecture—the abode of a wealthy banker—and this again, later, by a palace many stories high. The two school-houses in red brick are no more; the play-ground grew into a luxuriant garden, where a dozen very tall trees overtopped the rest; from their evident age and their position in regard to each other they must have been old friends of mine grown out of all knowledge.
I saw them only twenty years ago, from the top of a Passy omnibus, and recognized every one of them. I went from the Arc de Triomphe to Passy and back quite a dozen times, on purpose—once for each tree! It touched me to think how often the author of Sardonyx has stood leaning his back against one of those giants—au piquet!
They are now no more; and Passy omnibuses no longer ply up and down the Allee du Bois de Boulogne, which is now an avenue of palaces.
An umbrageous lane that led from the Rond-point to Chaillot (that very forgettable, and by me quite forgotten, quarter) separated the Institution F. Brossard from the Pensionnat Melanie Jalabert—a beautiful pseudo-Gothic castle which was tenanted for a while by Prince de Carabas-Chenonceaux after Mlle. Jalabert had broken up her ladies' school in 1849.
My mother boarded and lodged there, with my little sister, in the summer of 1847. There were one or two other English lady boarders, half-pupils—much younger than my mother—indeed, they may be alive now. If they are, and this should happen to meet their eye, may I ask them to remember kindly the Irish wife of the Scotch merchant of French wines who supplied them with the innocent vintage of Macon (ah! who knows that innocence better than I?), and his pretty little daughter who played the piano so nicely; may I beg them also not to think it necessary to communicate with me on the subject, or, if they do, not to expect an answer?
One night Mlle. Jalabert gave a small dance, and Merovee Brossard was invited, and also half a dozen of his favorite pupils, and a fair-haired English boy of thirteen danced with the beautiful Miss ——.
They came to grief and fell together in a heap on the slippery floor; but no bones were broken, and there was much good-natured laughter at their expense. If Miss —— (that was) is still among the quick, and remembers, it may interest her to know that that fair-haired English boy's name was no less than Bartholomew Josselin; and that another English boy, somewhat thick-set and stumpy, and not much to look at, held her in deep love, admiration, and awe—and has not forgotten!
If I happen to mention this, it is not with a view of tempting her into any correspondence about this little episode of bygone years, should this ever meet her eye.
The Sunday morning that followed Barty's debut at Brossard's the boys went to church in the Rue de l'Eglise, Passy—and he with them, for he had been brought up a Roman Catholic. And I went round to Mlle. Jalabert's to see my mother and sister.
I told them all about the new boy, and they were much interested. Suddenly my mother exclaimed:
"Bartholomew Josselin? why, dear me! that must be Lord Runswick's son—Lord Runswick, who was the eldest son of the present Marquis of Whitby. He was in the 17th lancers with your uncle Charles, who was very fond of him. He left the army twenty years ago, and married Lady Selina Jobhouse—and his wife went mad. Then he fell in love with the famous Antoinette Josselin at the 'Bouffes,' and wanted so much to marry her that he tried to get a divorce; it was tried in the House of Lords, I believe; but he didn't succeed—so they—a—well—they contracted a—a morganatic marriage, you know; and your friend was born. And poor Lord Runswick was killed in a duel about a dog, when his son was two years old; and his mother left the stage, and—"
Just here the beautiful Miss —— came in with her sister, and there was no more of Josselin's family history; and I forgot all about it for the day. For I passionately loved the beautiful Miss ——; I was just thirteen!
But next morning I said to him at breakfast, in English,
"Wasn't your father killed in a duel?"
"Yes," said Barty, looking grave.
"Wasn't he called Lord Runswick?"
"Yes," said Barty, looking graver still.
"Then why are you called Josselin?"
"Ask no questions and you'll get no lies," said Barty, looking very grave indeed—and I dropped the subject.
And here I may as well rapidly go through the well-known story of his birth and early childhood.
His father, Lord Runswick, fell desperately in love with the beautiful Antoinette Josselin after his own wife had gone hopelessly mad. He failed to obtain a divorce, naturally; Antoinette was as much in love with him, and they lived together as man and wife, and Barty was born. They were said to be the handsomest couple in Paris, and immensely popular among all who knew them, though of course society did not open its doors to la belle Madame de Ronsvic, as she was called.
She was the daughter of poor fisher-folk in Le Pollet, Dieppe. I, with Barty for a guide, have seen the lowly dwelling where her infancy and childhood were spent, and which Barty remembered well, and also such of her kin as was still alive in 1870, and felt it was good to come of such a race, humble as they were. They were physically splendid people, almost as splendid as Barty himself; and, as I was told by many who knew them well, as good to know and live with as they were good to look at—all that was easy to see—and their manners were delightful.
When Antoinette was twelve, she went to stay in Paris with her uncle and aunt, who were concierges to Prince Scorchakoff in the Rue du Faubourg St.-Honore; next door, or next door but one, to the Elysee Bourbon, as it was called then. And there the Princess took a fancy to her, and had her carefully educated, especially in music; for the child had a charming voice and a great musical talent, besides being beautiful to the eye—gifts which her son inherited.
Then she became for three or four years a pupil at the Conservatoire, and finally went on the stage, and was soon one of the most brilliant stars of the Parisian theatre at its most brilliant period.
Then she met the handsome English lord, who was forty, and they fell in love with each other, and all happened as I have told.
In the spring of 1837 Lord Runswick was killed in a duel by Lieutenant Rondelis, of the deuxieme Spahis. Antoinette's dog had jumped up to play with the lieutenant, who struck it with his cane (for he was "en pekin," it appears—in mufti); and Lord Runswick laid his own cane across the Frenchman's back; and next morning they fought with swords, by the Mare aux Biches, in the Bois de Boulogne—a little secluded, sedgy pool, hardly more than six inches deep and six yards across. Barty and I have often skated there as boys.
The Englishman was run through at the first lunge, and fell dead on the spot.
A few years ago Barty met the son of the man who killed Lord Runswick—it was at the French Embassy in Albert Gate. They were introduced to each other, and M. Rondelis told Barty how his own father's life had been poisoned by sorrow and remorse at having had "la main si malheureuse" on that fatal morning by the Mare aux Biches.
Poor Antoinette, mad with grief, left the stage, and went with her little boy to live in the Pollet, near her parents. Three years later she died there, of typhus, and Barty was left an orphan and penniless; for Lord Runswick had been poor, and lived beyond his means, and died in debt.
Lord Archibald Rohan, a favorite younger brother of Runswick's (not the heir), came to Dieppe from Dover (where he was quartered with his regiment, the 7th Royal Fusileers) to see the boy, and took a fancy to him, and brought him back to Dover to show his wife, who was also French—a daughter of the old Gascon family of Lonlay-Savignac, who had gone into trade (chocolate) and become immensely rich. They (the Rohans) had been married eight years, and had as yet no children of their own. Lady Archibald was delighted with the child, who was quite beautiful. She fell in love with the little creature at the first sight of him—and fed him, on the evening of his arrival, with crumpets and buttered toast. And in return he danced "La Dieppoise" for her, and sang her a little ungrammatical ditty in praise of wine and women. It began:
"Beuvons, beuvons, beuvons donc De ce vin le meilleur du monde ... Beuvons, beuvons, beuvons donc De ce vin, car il est tres-bon! Si je n'en beuvions pas, J'aurions la pepi-e! Ce qui me...."
I have forgotten the rest—indeed, I am not quite sure that it is fit for the drawing-room!
"Ah, mon Dieu! quel amour d'enfant! Oh! gardons-le!" cried my lady, and they kept him.
I can imagine the scene. Indeed, Lady Archibald has described it to me, and Barty remembered it well. It was his earliest English recollection, and he has loved buttered toast and crumpets ever since—as well as women and wine. And thus he was adopted by the Archibald Rohans. They got him an English governess and a pony; and in two years he went to a day school in Dover, kept by a Miss Stone, who is actually alive at present and remembers him well; and so he became quite a little English boy, but kept up his French through Lady Archibald, who was passionately devoted to him, although by this time she had a little daughter of her own, whom Barty always looked upon as his sister, and who is now dead. (She became Lord Frognal's wife—he died in 1870—and she afterwards married Mr. Justice Robertson.)
Barty's French grandfather and grandmother came over from Dieppe once a year to see him, and were well pleased with the happy condition, of his new life; and the more Lord and Lady Archibald saw of these grandparents of his, the more pleased they were that he had become the child of their adoption. For they were first-rate people to descend from, these simple toilers of the sea; better, perhaps, caeteris paribus, than even the Rohans themselves.
All this early phase of little Josselin's life seems to have been singularly happy. Every year at Christmas he went with the Rohans to Castle Rohan in Yorkshire, where his English grandfather lived, the Marquis of Whitby—and where he was petted and made much of by all the members, young and old (especially female), of that very ancient family, which had originally come from Brittany in France, as the name shows; but were not millionaires, and never had been.
Often, too, they went to Paris—and in 1847 Colonel Lord Archibald sold out, and they elected to go and live there, in the Rue du Bac; and Barty was sent to the Institution F. Brossard, where he was soon destined to become the most popular boy, with boys and masters alike, that had ever been in the school (in any school, I should think), in spite of conduct that was too often the reverse of exemplary.
Indeed, even from his early boyhood he was the most extraordinarily gifted creature I have ever known, or even heard of; a kind of spontaneous humorous Crichton, to whom all things came easily—and life itself as an uncommonly good joke. During that summer term of 1847 I did not see very much of him. He was in the class below mine, and took up with Laferte and little Bussy-Rabutin, who were first-rate boys, and laughed at everything he said, and worshipped him. So did everybody else, sooner or later; indeed, it soon became evident that he was a most exceptional little person.
In the first place, his beauty was absolutely angelic, as will be readily believed by all who have known him since. The mere sight of him as a boy made people pity his father and mother for being dead!
Then he had a charming gift of singing little French and English ditties, comic or touching, with his delightful fresh young pipe, and accompanying himself quite nicely on either piano or guitar without really knowing a note of music. Then he could draw caricatures that we boys thought inimitable, much funnier than Cham's or Bertall's or Gavarni's, and collected and treasured up. I have dozens of them now—they make me laugh still, and bring back memories of which the charm is indescribable; and their pathos, to me!
And then how funny he was himself, without effort, and with a fun that never failed! He was a born buffoon of the graceful kind—more whelp or kitten than monkey—ever playing the fool, in and out of season, but somehow always a propos; and French boys love a boy for that more than anything else; or did, in those days.
Such very simple buffooneries as they were, too—that gave him (and us) such stupendous delight!
For instance—he is sitting at evening study between Bussy-Rabutin and Laferte; M. Bonzig is usher for the evening.
At 8.30 Bussy-Rabutin gives way; in a whisper he informs Barty that he means to take a nap ("piquer un chien"), with his Gradus opened before him, and his hand supporting his weary brow as though in deep study. "But," says he—
"If Bonzig finds me out (si Bonzig me colle), give me a gentle nudge!"
"All right!" says Barty—and off goes Bussy-Rabutin into his snooze.
8.45.—Poor fat little Laferte falls into a snooze too, after giving Barty just the same commission—to nudge him directly he's found out from the chaire.
8.55.—Intense silence; everybody hard at work. Even Bonzig is satisfied with the deep stillness and studious recueillement that brood over the scene—steady pens going—quick turning over of leaves of the Gradus ad Parnassum. Suddenly Barty sticks out his elbows and nudges both his neighbors at once, and both jump up, exclaiming, in a loud voice:
"Non, m'sieur, je n'dors pas. J'travaille."
Sensation. Even Bonzig laughs—and Barty is happy for a week.
Or else, again—a new usher, Monsieur Goupillon (from Gascony) is on duty in the school-room during afternoon school. He has a peculiar way of saying "oe, vo!" instead of "oui, vous!" to any boy who says "moi, m'sieur?" on being found fault with; and perceiving this, Barty manages to be found fault with every five minutes, and always says "moi, m'sieur?" so as to elicit the "oe, vo!" that gives him such delight.
At length M. Goupillon says,
"Josselin, if you force me to say 'oe, vo!' to you once more, you shall be a la retenue for a week!"
"Moi, m'sieur?" says Josselin, quite innocently.
"Oe, vo!" shouts M. Goupillon, glaring with all his might, but quite unconscious that Barty has earned the threatened punishment! And again Barty is happy for a week. And so are we.
Such was Barty's humor, as a boy—mere drivel—but of such a kind that even his butts were fond of him. He would make M. Bonzig laugh in the middle of his severest penal sentences, and thus demoralize the whole school-room and set a shocking example, and be ordered a la porte of the salle d'etudes—an exile which was quite to his taste; for he would go straight off to the lingerie and entertain Mlle. Marceline and Constance and Felicite (who all three adored him) with comic songs and break-downs of his own invention, and imitations of everybody in the school. He was a born histrion—a kind of French Arthur Roberts—but very beautiful to the female eye, and also always dear to the female heart—a most delightful gift of God!
Then he was constantly being sent for when boys' friends and parents came to see them, that he might sing and play the fool and show off his tricks, and so forth. It was one of M. Merovee's greatest delights to put him through his paces. The message "on demande Monsieur Josselin au parloir" would be brought down once or twice a week, sometimes even in class or school room, and became quite a by-word in the school; and many of the masters thought it a mistake and a pity. But Barty by no means disliked being made much of and showing off in this genial manner.
He could turn le pere Brossard round his little finger, and Merovee too. Whenever an extra holiday was to be begged for, or a favor obtained for any one, or the severity of a pensum mitigated, Barty was the messenger, and seldom failed.
His constitution, inherited from a long line of frugal seafaring Norman ancestors (not to mention another long line of well-fed, well-bred Yorkshire Squires), was magnificent. His spirits never failed. He could see the satellites of Jupiter with the naked eye; this was often tested by M. Dumollard, maitre de mathematiques (et de cosmographie), who had a telescope, which, with a little good-will on the gazer's part, made Jupiter look as big as the moon, and its moons like stars of the first magnitude.
His sense of hearing was also exceptionally keen. He could hear a watch tick in the next room, and perceive very high sounds to which ordinary human ears are deaf (this was found out later); and when we played blind-man's-buff on a rainy day, he could, blindfolded, tell every boy he caught hold of—not by feeling him all over like the rest of us, but by the mere smell of his hair, or his hands, or his blouse! No wonder he was so much more alive than the rest of us! According to the amiable, modest, polite, delicately humorous, and even tolerant and considerate Professor Max Nordau, this perfection of the olfactory sense proclaims poor Barty a degenerate! I only wish there were a few more like him, and that I were a little more like him myself!
By-the-way, how proud young Germany must feel of its enlightened Max, and how fond of him, to be sure! Mes compliments!
But the most astounding thing of all (it seems incredible, but all the world knows it by this time, and it will be accounted for later on) is that at certain times and seasons Barty knew by an infallible instinct where the north was, to a point. Most of my readers will remember his extraordinary evidence as a witness in the "Rangoon" trial, and how this power was tested in open court, and how important were the issues involved, and how he refused to give any explanation of a gift so extraordinary.
It was often tried at school by blindfolding him, and turning him round and round till he was giddy, and asking him to point out where the north pole was, or the north star, and seven or eight times out of ten the answer was unerringly right. When he failed, he knew beforehand that for the time being he had lost the power, but could never say why. Little Doctor Larcher could never get over his surprise at this strange phenomenon, nor explain it, and often brought some scientific friend from Paris to test it, who was equally nonplussed.
When cross-examined, Barty would merely say:
"Quelquefois je sais—quelquefois je ne sais pas—mais quand je sais, je sais, et il n'y a pas a s'y tromper!"
Indeed, on one occasion that I remember well, a very strange thing happened; he not only pointed out the north with absolute accuracy, as he stood carefully blindfolded in the gymnastic ground, after having been turned and twisted again and again—but, still blindfolded, he vaulted the wire fence and ran round to the refectory door which served as the home at rounders, all of us following; and there he danced a surprising dance of his own invention, that he called "La Paladine," the most humorously graceful and grotesque exhibition I ever saw; and then, taking a ball out of his pocket, he shouted: "A l'amandier!" and threw the ball. Straight and swift it flew, and hit the almond-tree, which was quite twenty yards off; and after this he ran round the yard from base to base, as at "la balle au camp," till he reached the camp again.
"If ever he goes blind," said the wondering M. Merovee, "he'll never need a dog to lead him about."
"He must have some special friend above!" said Madame Germain (Merovee's sister, who was looking on).
Prophetic words! I have never forgotten them, nor the tear that glistened in each of her kind eyes as she spoke. She was a deeply religious and very emotional person, and loved Barty almost as if he were a child of her own.
Such women have strange intuitions.
Barty was often asked to repeat this astonishing performance before sceptical people—parents of boys, visitors, etc.—who had been told of it, and who believed he could not have been properly blindfolded; but he could never be induced to do so.
There was no mistake about the blindfolding—I helped in it myself; and he afterwards told me the whole thing was "aussi simple que bonjour" if once he felt the north—for then, with his back to the refectory door, he knew exactly the position and distance of every tree from where he was.
"It's all nonsense about my going blind and being able to do without a dog"—he added; "I should be just as helpless as any other blind man, unless I was in a place I knew as well as my own pocket—like this play-ground! Besides, I sha'n't go blind; nothing will ever happen to my eyes—they're the strongest and best in the whole school!"
He said this exultingly, dilating his nostrils and chest; and looked proudly up and around, like Ajax defying the lightning.
"But what do you feel when you feel the north, Barty—a kind of tingling?" I asked.
"Oh—I feel where it is—as if I'd got a mariner's compass trembling inside my stomach—and as if I wasn't afraid of anybody or anything in the world—as if I could go and have my head chopped off and not care a fig."
"Ah, well—I can't make it out—I give it up," I exclaimed.
"So do I," exclaims Barty.
"But tell me, Barty," I whispered, "have you—have you really got a—a—special friend above?"
"Ask no questions and you'll get no lies," said Barty, and winked at me one eye after the other—and went about his business. And I about mine.
Thus it is hardly to be wondered at that the spirit of this extraordinary boy seemed to pervade the Pension F. Brossard, almost from the day he came to the day he left it—a slender stripling over six feet high, beautiful as Apollo but, alas! without his degree, and not an incipient hair on his lip or chin!
Of course the boy had his faults. He had a tremendous appetite, and was rather greedy—so was I, for that matter—and we were good customers to la mere Jaurion; especially he, for he always had lots of pocket-money, and was fond of standing treat all round. Yet, strange to say, he had such a loathing of meat that soon by special favoritism a separate dish of eggs and milk and succulent vegetables was cooked expressly for him—a savory mess that made all our mouths water merely to see and smell it, and filled us with envy, it was so good. Aglae the cook took care of that!
"C'etait pour Monsieur Josselin!"
And of this he would eat as much as three ordinary boys could eat of anything in the world.
Then he was quick-tempered and impulsive, and in frequent fights—in which he generally came off second best; for he was fond of fighting with bigger boys than himself. Victor or vanquished, he never bore malice—nor woke it in others, which is worse. But he would slap a face almost as soon as look at it, on rather slight provocation, I'm afraid—especially if it were an inch or two higher up than his own. And he was fond of showing off, and always wanted to throw farther and jump higher and run faster than any one else. Not, indeed, that he ever wished to mentally excel, or particularly admired those who did!
Also, he was apt to judge folk too much by their mere outward appearance and manner, and not very fond of dull, ugly, commonplace people—the very people, unfortunately, who were fondest of him; he really detested them, almost as much as they detest each other, in spite of many sterling qualities of the heart and head they sometimes possess. And yet he was their victim through life—for he was very soft, and never had the heart to snub the deadliest bores he ever writhed under, even undeserving ones! Like ——, or ——, or the Bishop of ——, or Lord Justice ——, or General ——, or Admiral ——, or the Duke of ——, etc., etc.
And he very unjustly disliked people of the bourgeois type—the respectable middle class, quorum pars magna fui! Especially if we were very well off and successful, and thought ourselves of some consequence (as we now very often are, I beg to say), and showed it (as, I'm afraid, we sometimes do). He preferred the commonest artisan to M. Jourdain, the bourgeois gentilhomme, who was a very decent fellow, after all, and at least clean in his habits, and didn't use bad language or beat his wife!
Poor dear Barty! what would have become of all those priceless copyrights and royalties and what not if his old school-fellow hadn't been a man of business? And where would Barty himself have been without his wife, who came from that very class?
And his admiration for an extremely good-looking person, even of his own sex, even a scavenger or a dustman, was almost snobbish. It was like a well-bred, well-educated Englishman's frank fondness for a noble lord.
And next to physical beauty he admired great physical strength; and I sometimes think that it is to my possession of this single gift I owe some of the warm friendship I feel sure he always bore me; for though he was a strong man, and topped me by an inch or two, I was stronger still—as a cart-horse is stronger than a racer.
For his own personal appearance, of which he always took the greatest care, he had a naive admiration that he did not disguise. His candor in this respect was comical; yet, strange to say, he was really without vanity.
When he was in the Guards he would tell you quite frankly he was "the handsomest chap in all the Household Brigade, bar three"—just as he would tell you he was twenty last birthday. And the fun of it was that the three exceptions he was good enough to make, splendid fellows as they were, seemed as satyrs to Hyperion when compared with Barty Josselin. One (F. Pepys) was three or four inches taller, it is true, being six foot seven or eight—a giant. The two others had immense whiskers, which Barty openly envied, but could not emulate—and the mustache with which he would have been quite decently endowed in time was not permitted in an infantry regiment.
To return to the Pension Brossard, and Barty the school-boy:
He adored Monsieur Merovee because he was big and strong and handsome—not because he was one of the best fellows that ever lived. He disliked Monsieur Durosier, whom we were all so fond of, because he had a slight squint and a receding chin.
As for the Anglophobe, Monsieur Dumollard, who made no secret of his hatred and contempt for perfidious Albion....
"Dis donc, Josselin!" says Maurice, in English or French, as the case might be, "why don't you like Monsieur Dumollard? Eh? He always favors you more than any other chap in the school. I suppose you dislike him because he hates the English so, and always runs them down before you and me—and says they're all traitors and sneaks and hypocrites and bullies and cowards and liars and snobs; and we can't answer him, because he's the mathematical master!"
"Ma foi, non!" says Josselin—"c'est pas pour ca!"
"Pourquoi, alors?" says Maurice (that's me).
"C'est parce qu'il a le pied bourgeois et la jambe canaille!" says Barty. (It's because he's got common legs and vulgar feet.)
And that's about the lowest and meanest thing I ever heard him say in his life.
Also, he was not always very sympathetic, as a boy, when one was sick or sorry or out of sorts, for he had never been ill in his life, never known an ache or a pain—except once the mumps, which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy—and couldn't realize suffering of any kind, except such suffering as most school-boys all over the world are often fond of inflicting on dumb animals: this drove him frantic, and led to many a licking by bigger boys. I remember several such scenes—one especially.
One frosty morning in January, '48, just after breakfast, Jolivet trois (tertius) put a sparrow into his squirrel's cage, and the squirrel caught it in its claws, and cracked its skull like a nut and sucked its brain, while the poor bird still made a desperate struggle for life, and there was much laughter.
There was also, in consequence, a quick fight between Jolivet and Josselin; in which Barty got the worst, as usual—his foe was two years older, and quite an inch taller.
Afterwards, as the licked one sat on the edge of a small stone tank full of water and dabbed his swollen eye with a wet pocket-handkerchief, M. Dumollard, the mathematical master, made cheap fun of Britannic sentimentality about animals, and told us how the English noblesse were privileged to beat their wives with sticks no thicker than their ankles, and sell them "au rabais" in the horse-market of Smissfeld; and that they paid men to box each other to death on the stage of Drury Lane, and all that—deplorable things that we all know and are sorry for and ashamed, but cannot put a stop to.
The boys laughed, of course; they always did when Dumollard tried to be funny, "and many a joke had he," although his wit never degenerated into mere humor.
But they were so fond of Barty that they forgave him his insular affectation; some even helped him to dab his sore eye; among them Jolivet trois himself, who was a very good-natured chap, and very good-looking into the bargain; and he had received from Barty a sore eye too—gallice, "un pochon"—scholastice, "un oeil au beurre noir!"
By-the-way, I fought with Jolivet once—about AEsop's fables! He said that AEsop was a lame poet of Lacedaemon—I, that AEsop was a little hunchback Armenian Jew; and I stuck to it. It was a Sunday afternoon, on the terrace by the lingerie.
He kicked as hard as he could, so I had to kick too. Mlle. Marceline ran out with Constance and Felicite and tried to separate us, and got kicked by both (unintentionally, of course). Then up came Pere Jaurion and kicked me! And they all took Jolivet's part, and said I was in the wrong, because I was English! What did they know about AEsop! So we made it up, and went in Jaurion's loge and stood each other a blomboudingue on tick—and called Jaurion bad names.
"Comme c'est bete, de s'battre, hein?" said Jolivet, and I agreed with him. I don't know which of us really got the worst of it, for we hadn't disfigured each other in the least—and that's the best of kicking. Anyhow he was two years older than I, and three or four inches taller; so I'm glad, on the whole, that that small battle was interrupted.
It is really not for brag that I have lugged in this story—at least, I hope not. One never quite knows.
To go back to Barty: he was the most generous boy in the school. If I may paraphrase an old saying, he really didn't seem to know the difference betwixt tuum et meum. Everything he had, books, clothes, pocket-money—even agate marbles, those priceless possessions to a French school-boy—seemed to be also everybody else's who chose. I came across a very characteristic letter of his the other day, written from the Pension Brossard to his favorite aunt, Lady Caroline Grey (one of the Rohans), who adored him. It begins:
"My Dear Aunt Caroline,—Thank you so much for the magnifying-glass, which is not only magnifying, but magnifique. Don't trouble to send any more gingerbread-nuts, as the boys are getting rather tired of them, especially Laferte and Bussy-Rabutin. I think we should all like some Scotch marmalade," etc., etc.
And though fond of romancing a little now and then, and embellishing a good story, he was absolutely truthful in important matters, and to be relied upon implicitly.
He seemed also to be quite without the sense of physical fear—a kind of callousness.
Such, roughly, was the boy who lived to write the Motes in a Moonbeam and La quatrieme Dimension before he was thirty; and such, roughly, he remained through life, except for one thing: he grew to be the very soul of passionate and compassionate sympathy, as who doesn't feel who has ever read a page of his work, or even had speech with him for half an hour?
Whatever weaknesses he yielded to when he grew to man's estate are such as the world only too readily condones in many a famous man less tempted than Josselin was inevitably bound to be through life. Men of the Josselin type (there are not many—he stands pretty much alone) can scarcely be expected to journey from adolescence to middle age with that impeccable decorum which I—and no doubt many of my masculine readers—have found it so easy to achieve, and find it now so pleasant to remember and get credit for. Let us think of The Footprints of Aurora, or Etoiles mortes, or Dejanire et Dalila, or even Les Trepassees de Francois Villon!
Then let us look at Rajon's etching of Watts's portrait of him (the original is my own to look at whenever I like, and that is pretty often). And then let us not throw too many big stones, or too hard, at Barty Josselin.
Well, the summer term of 1847 wore smoothly to its close—a happy "trimestre" during which the Institution F. Brossard reached the high-water mark of its prosperity.
There were sixty boys to be taught, and six house-masters to teach them, besides a few highly paid outsiders for special classes—such as the lively M. Durosier for French literature, and M. le Professeur Martineau for the higher mathematics, and so forth; and crammers and coachers for St.-Cyr, the Polytechnic School, the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees.
Also fencing-masters, gymnastic masters, a Dutch master who taught us German and Italian—an Irish master with a lovely brogue who taught us English. Shall I ever forget the blessed day when ten or twelve of us were presented with an Ivanhoe apiece as a class-book, or how Barty and I and Bonneville (who knew English) devoured the immortal story in less than a week—to the disgust of Rapaud, who refused to believe that we could possibly know such a beastly tongue as English well enough to read an English book for mere pleasure—on our desks in play-time, or on our laps in school, en cachette! "Quelle sacree pose!"
He soon mislaid his own copy, did Rapaud; just as he mislaid my Monte Cristo and Jolivet's illustrated Wandering Jew—and it was always:
"Dis donc, Maurice!—prete-moi ton Ivanhoe!" (with an accent on the e), whenever he had to construe his twenty lines of Valtere Scott—and what a hash he made of them!
Sometimes M. Brossard himself would come, smoking his big meerschaum, and help the English class during preparation, and put us up to a thing or two worth knowing.
"Rapaud, comment dit-on 'pouvoir' en anglais?"
"Sais pas, m'sieur!"
"Comment, petit cretin, tu ne sais pas!"
And Rapaud would receive a pincee tordue—a "twisted pinch"—on the back of his arm to quicken his memory.
"Oh, la, la!" he would howl—"je n' sais pas!"
"Et toi, Maurice?"
"Ca se dit 'to be able,' m'sieur!" I would say.
"Mais non, mon ami—tu oublies ta langue natale—ca se dit, 'to can'! Maintenant, comment dirais-tu en anglais, 'je voudrais pouvoir'?"
"Je dirais, 'I would like to be able.'"
"Comment, encore! petit cancre! allons—tu es Anglais—tu sais bien que tu dirais, 'I vould vill to can'!"
Then M. Brossard turns to Barty: "A ton tour, Josselin!"
"Moi, m'sieur?" says Barty.
"Oui, toi!—comment dirais-tu, 'je pourrais vouloir'?"
"Je dirais 'I vould can to vill,'" says Barty, quite unabashed.
"A la bonne heure! au moins tu sais ta langue, toi!" says Pere Brossard, and pats him on the cheek; while Barty winks at me, the wink of successful time-serving hypocrisy, and Bonneville writhes with suppressed delight.
What lives most in my remembrance of that summer is the lovely weather we had, and the joy of the Passy swimming-bath every Thursday and Sunday from two till five or six; it comes back to me even now in heavenly dreams by night. I swim with giant side-strokes all round the Ile des Cygnes between Passy and Grenelle, where the Ecole de Natation was moored for the summer months.
Round and round the isle I go, up stream and down, and dive and float and wallow with bliss there is no telling—till the waters all dry up and disappear, and I am left wading in weeds and mud and drift and drought and desolation, and wake up shivering—and such is life.
As for Barty, he was all but amphibious, and reminded me of the seal at the Jardin des Plantes. He really seemed to spend most of the afternoon under water, coming up to breathe now and then at unexpected moments, with a stone in his mouth that he had picked up from the slimy bottom ten or twelve feet below—or a weed—or a dead mussel.
"Laissons les regrets et les pleurs A la vieillesse; Jeunes, il faut cueillir les fleurs De la jeunesse!"—Baif.
Sometimes we spent the Sunday morning in Paris, Barty and I—in picture-galleries and museums and wax-figure shows, churches and cemeteries, and the Hotel Cluny and the Baths of Julian the Apostate—or the Jardin des Plantes, or the Morgue, or the knackers' yards at Montfaucon—or lovely slums. Then a swim at the Bains Deligny. Then lunch at some restaurant on the Quai Voltaire, or in the Quartier Latin. Then to some cafe on the Boulevards, drinking our demi-tasse and our chasse-cafe, and smoking our cigarettes like men, and picking our teeth like gentlemen of France.
Once after lunch at Vachette's with Berquin (who was seventeen) and Bonneville (the marquis who had got an English mother), we were sitting outside the Cafe des Varietes, in the midst of a crowd of consommateurs, and tasting to the full the joy of being alive, when a poor woman came up with a guitar, and tried to sing "Le petit mousse noir," a song Barty knew quite well—but she couldn't sing a bit, and nobody listened.
"Allons, Josselin, chante-nous ca!" said Berquin.
And Bonneville jumped up, and took the woman's guitar from her, and forced it into Josselin's hands, while the crowd became much interested and began to applaud.
Thus encouraged, Barty, who never in all his life knew what it is to be shy, stood up and piped away like a bird; and when he had finished the story of the little black cabin-boy who sings in the maintop halliards, the applause was so tremendous that he had to stand up on a chair and sing another, and yet another.
"Ecoute-moi bien, ma Fleurette!" and "Amis, la matinee est belle!" (from La Muette de Portici), while the pavement outside the Varietes was rendered quite impassable by the crowd that had gathered round to look and listen—and who all joined in the chorus:
"Conduis ta barque avec prudence, Pecheur! parle bas! Jette tes filets en silence Pecheur! parle bas! Et le roi des mers ne nous echappera pas!" (bis).
and the applause was deafening.
Meanwhile Bonneville and Berquin went round with the hat and gathered quite a considerable sum, in which there seemed to be almost as much silver as copper—and actually two five-franc pieces and an English half-sovereign! The poor woman wept with gratitude at coming into such a fortune, and insisted on kissing Barty's hand. Indeed it was a quite wonderful ovation, considering how unmistakably British was Barty's appearance, and how unpopular we were in France just then!
He had his new shiny black silk chimney-pot hat on, and his Eton jacket, with the wide shirt collar. Berquin, in a tightly fitting double-breasted brown cloth swallow-tailed coat with brass buttons, yellow nankin bell-mouthed trousers strapped over varnished boots, butter-colored gloves, a blue satin stock, and a very tall hairy hat with a wide curly brim, looked such an out-and-out young gentleman of France that we were all proud of being seen in his company—especially young de Bonneville, who was still in mourning for his father and wore a crape band round his arm, and a common cloth cap with a leather peak, and thick blucher boots; though he was quite sixteen, and already had a little black mustache like an eyebrow, and inhaled the smoke of his cigarette without coughing and quite naturally, and ordered the waiters about just as if he already wore the uniform of the Ecole St.-Cyr, for which he destined himself (and was not disappointed. He should be a marshal of France by now—perhaps he is).
Then we went to the Cafe Mulhouse on the Boulevard des Italiens (on the "Boul. des It.," as we called it, to be in the fashion)—that we might gaze at Senor Joaquin Eliezegui, the Spanish giant, who was eight feet high and a trifle over (or under—I forget which): he told us himself. Barty had a passion for gazing at very tall men; like Frederic the Great (or was it his Majesty's royal father?).
Then we went to the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, where, in a painted wooden shed, a most beautiful Circassian slave, miraculously rescued from some abominable seraglio in Constantinople, sold pen'orths of "galette du gymnase." On her raven hair she wore a silk turban all over sequins, silver and gold, with a yashmak that fell down behind, leaving her adorable face exposed: she had an amber vest of silk, embroidered with pearls as big as walnuts, and Turkish pantalettes—what her slippers were we couldn't see, but they must have been lovely, like all the rest of her. Barty had a passion for gazing at very beautiful female faces—like his father before him.
There was a regular queue of postulants to see this heavenly Eastern houri and buy her confection, which is very like Scotch butter-cake, but not so digestible; and even more filling at the price. And three of us sat on a bench, while three times running Barty took his place in that procession—soldiers, sailors, workmen, chiffonniers, people of all sorts, women as many as men—all of them hungry for galette, but hungrier still for a good humanizing stare at a beautiful female face; and he made the slow and toilsome journey to the little wooden booth three times—and brought us each a pen'orth on each return journey; and the third time, Katidjah (such was her sweet Oriental name) leaned forward over her counter and kissed him on both cheeks, and whispered in his ear (in English—and with the accent of Stratford-atte-Bowe):
"You little duck! your name is Brown, I know!"
And he came away, his face pale with conflicting emotions, and told us!
How excited we were! Bonneville (who spoke English quite well) went for a pen'orth on his own account, and said: "My name's Brown too, Miss Katidjah!" But he didn't get a kiss.
(She soon after married a Mr. ——, of ——, the well-known —— Of ——shire, in ——land. She may be alive now.)
Then to the Palais Royal, to dine at the "Diner Europeen" with M. Berquin pere, a famous engineer; and finally to stalls at the "Francais" to see the two first acts of Le Cid; and this was rather an anticlimax—for we had too much "Cid" at the Institution F. Brossard already!
And then, at last, to the omnibus station in the Rue de Rivoli, whence the "Accelerees" (en correspondence avec les Constantines) started for Passy every ten minutes; and thus, up the gas-lighted Champs-Elysees, and by the Arc de Triomphe, to the Rond-point de l'Avenue de St.-Cloud; tired out, but happy—happy—happy comme on ne l'est plus!
Before the school broke up for the holidays there were very severe examinations—but no "distribution de prix"; we were above that kind of thing at Brossard's, just as we were above wearing a uniform or taking in day boarders.
Barty didn't come off very well in this competition; but he came off anyhow much better than I, who had failed to be "diligent and attentive"—too much Monte Cristo, I'm afraid.
At all events Barty got five marks for English History, because he remembered a good deal about Richard Coeur de Lion, and John, and Friar Tuck, and Robin Hood, and especially one Cedric the Saxon, a historical personage of whom the examiner (a decorated gentleman from the College de France) had never even heard!
* * * * *
And then (to the tune of "Au clair de la lune"):
"Vivent les vacances— Denique tandem; Et les penitences— Habebunt finem! Les pions intraitables, Vultu Barbaro, S'en iront aux diables, Gaudio nostro."
N.B.—The accent is always on the last syllable in French Latin—and pion means an usher.
Barty went to Yorkshire with the Rohans, and I spent most of my holidays with my mother and sister (and the beautiful Miss ——) at Mademoiselle Jalabert's, next door—coming back to school for most of my meals, and at night to sleep, with a whole dormitory to myself, and no dreadful bell at five in the morning; and so much time to spare that I never found any leisure for my holiday task, that skeleton at the feast; no more did Jules, the sergeant's son; no more did Caillard, who spent his vacation at Brossard's because his parents lived in Russia, and his "correspondant" in Paris was ill.
The only master who remained behind was Bonzig, who passed his time painting ships and sailors, in oil-colors; it was a passion with him: corvettes, brigantines, British whalers, fishing-smacks, revenue-cutters, feluccas, caiques, even Chinese junks—all was fish that came to his net. He got them all from La France Maritime, an illustrated periodical much in vogue at Brossard's; and also his storms and his calms, his rocks and piers and light-houses—for he had never seen the sea he was so fond of. He took us every morning to the Passy swimming-baths, and in the afternoon for long walks in Paris, and all about and around, and especially to the Musee de Marine at the Louvre, that we might gaze with him at the beautiful models of three-deckers.
He evidently pitied our forlorn condition, and told us delightful stories about seafaring life, like Mr. Clark Russell's; and how he, some day, hoped to see the ocean for himself before he died—and with his own eyes.
I really don't know how Jules and Caillard would have got through the hideous ennui of that idle September without him. Even I, with my mother and sister and the beautiful Miss —— within such easy reach, found time hang heavily at times. One can't be always reading, even Alexandre Dumas; nor always loafing about, even in Paris, by one's self (Jules and Caillard were not allowed outside the gates without Bonzig); and beautiful English girls of eighteen, like Miss ——s, don't always want a small boy dangling after them, and show it sometimes; which I thought very hard.
It was almost a relief when school began again in October, and the boys came back with their wonderful stories of the good time they had all had (especially some of the big boys, who were "en rhetorique et en philosophie")—and all the game that had fallen to their guns—wild-boars, roebucks, cerfs-dix-cors, and what not; of perilous swims in stormy seas—tremendous adventures in fishing-smacks on moonlight nights (it seemed that the moon had been at the full all through those wonderful six weeks); rides ventre a terre on mettlesome Arab steeds through gloomy wolf-haunted forests with charming female cousins; flirtations and "good fortunes" with beautiful but not happily married women in old mediaeval castle keeps. Toujours au clair de la lune! They didn't believe each other in the least, these gay young romancers—nor expect to be believed themselves; but it was very exciting all the same; and they listened, and were listened to in turn, without a gesture of incredulity—nor even a smile! And we small boys held our tongues in reverence and awe.
When Josselin came back he had wondrous things to tell too—but so preposterous that they disbelieved him quite openly, and told him so. How in London he had seen a poor woman so tipsy in the street that she had to be carried away by two policemen on a stretcher. How he had seen brewers' dray-horses nearly six feet high at the shoulder—and one or two of them with a heavy cavalry mustache drooping from its upper lip.
How he had been presented to the Lord Mayor of London, and even shaken hands with him, in Leadenhall Market, and that his Lordship was quite plainly dressed; and how English Lord Mayors were not necessarily "hommes du monde," nor always hand in glove with Queen Victoria!
But they forgave him all his mendacity for the sake of a new accomplishment he had brought back with him, and which beat all his others. He could actually turn a somersault backwards with all the ease and finish of a professional acrobat. How he got to do this I don't know. It must have been natural to him and he never found it out before; he was always good at gymnastics—and all things that required grace and agility more than absolute strength.
Also he brought back with him (from Leadenhall Market, no doubt) a gigantic horned owl, fairly tame—and with eyes that reminded us of le grand Bonzig's.
School began, and with it the long evenings with an hour's play by lamp-light in the warm salle d'etudes; and the cold lamp-lit ninety minutes' preparation on an empty stomach, after the short perfunctory morning prayer—which didn't differ much from the evening one.
Barty was still en cinquieme, at the top! and I at the tail of the class immediately above—so near and yet so far! so I did not have many chances of improving my acquaintance with him that term; for he still stuck to Laferte and Bussy-Rabutin—they were inseparable, those three.
At mid-day play-time the weather was too cold for anything but games, which were endless in their variety and excitement; it would take a chapter to describe them.
It is a mistake to think that French school-boys are (or were) worse off than ours in this. I will not say that any one French game is quite so good as cricket or football for a permanency. But I remember a great many that are very nearly so.
Indeed, French rounders (la balle au camp) seems to me the best game that ever was—on account of the quick rush and struggle of the fielders to get home when an inside boy is hit between the bases, lest he should pick the ball up in time to hit one of them with it before the camp is reached; in which case there is a most exciting scrimmage for the ball, etc., etc.
Barty was good at all games, especially la balle au camp. I used to envy the graceful, easy way he threw the ball—so quick and straight it seemed to have no curve at all in its trajectory: and how it bounded off the boy it nearly always hit between the shoulders!
At evening, play in the school-room, besides draughts and chess and backgammon; M. Bonzig, when de service, would tell us thrilling stories, with "la suite au prochain numero" when the bell rang at 7.30; a long series that lasted through the winter of '47-'48. Le Tueur de Daims, Le Lac Ontario, Le Dernier des Mohicans, Les Pionniers, La Prairie—by one Fenimore Coupere; all of which he had read in M. Defauconpret's admirable translations. I have read some of them in their native American since then, myself. I loved them always—but they seemed to lack some of the terror, the freshness, and the charm his fluent utterance and solemn nasal voice put into them as he sat and smoked his endless cigarettes with his back against the big stone stove, and his eyes dancing sideways through his glasses. Never did that "ding-dang-dong" sound more hateful than when le grand Bonzig was telling the tale of Bas-de-cuir's doings, from his innocent youth to his noble and Pathetic death by sunset, with his ever-faithful and still-serviceable but no longer deadly rifle (the friend of sixty years) lying across his knees. I quote from memory; what a gun that was!
Then on Thursdays, long walks, two by two, in Paris, with Bonzig or Dumollard; or else in the Bois to play rounders or prisoners' base in a clearing, or skate on the Mare aux Biches, which was always so hard to find in the dense thicket ... poor Lord Runswick! He found it once too often!
La Mare d'Auteuil was too deep, and too popular with "la flotte de Passy," as we called the Passy voyous, big and small, who came there in their hundreds—to slide and pick up quarrels with well-dressed and respectable school-boys. Liberte—egalite—fraternite! ou la mort! Vive la republique! (This, by-the-way, applies to the winter that came next.)
So time wore on with us gently; through the short vacation at New-year's day till the 23d or 24th of February, when the Revolution broke out, and Louis Philippe premier had to fly for his life. It was a very troublous time, and the school for a whole week was in a state of quite heavenly demoralization! Ten times a day, or in the dead of night, the drum would beat le rappel or la generale. A warm wet wind was blowing—the most violent wind I can remember that was not an absolute gale. It didn't rain, but the clouds hurried across the sky all day long, and the tops of the trees tried to bend themselves in two; and their leafless boughs and black broken twigs littered the deserted playground—for we all sat on the parapet of the terrace by the lingerie; boys and servants, le pere et la mere Jaurion, Mlle. Marceline and the rest, looking towards Paris—all feeling bound to each other by a common danger, like wild beasts in a flood. Dear me! I'm out of breath from sheer pleasure in the remembrance.
One night we had to sleep on the floor for fear of stray bullets; and that was a fearful joy never to be forgotten—it almost kept us awake! Peering out of the school-room windows at dusk, we saw great fires, three or four at a time. Suburban retreats of the over-wealthy, in full conflagration; and all day the rattle of distant musketry and the boom of cannon a long way off, near Montmartre and Montfaucon, kept us alive.
Most of the boys went home, and some of them never came back—and from that day the school began to slowly decline. Pere Brossard—an ancient "Brigand de la Loire," as the republicans of his youth were called—was elected a representative of his native town at the Chamber of Deputies; and possibly that did the school more harm than good—ne sutor ultra crepidam! as he was so fond of impressing on us!
However, we went on pretty much as usual through spring and summer—with occasional alarms (which we loved), and beatings of le rappel—till the July insurrection broke out.
My mother and sister had left Mlle. Jalabert's, and now lived with my father near the Boulevard Montmartre. And when the fighting was at its height they came to fetch me home, and invited Barty, for the Rohans were away from Paris. So home we walked, quite leisurely, on a lovely peaceful summer evening, while the muskets rattled and the cannons roared round us, but at a proper distance; women picking linen for lint and chatting genially the while at shop doors and porter's lodge-gates; and a piquet of soldiers at the corner of every street, who felt us all over for hidden cartridges before they let us through; it was all entrancing! The subtle scent of gunpowder was in the air—the most suggestive smell there can be. Even now, here in England, the night of the fifth of November never comes round but I am pleasantly reminded of the days when I was "en pleine revolution" in the streets of Paris with my father and mother, and Barty and my little sister—and genial piou-pious made such a Conscientious examination of our garments. Nothing brings back the past like a sound or a smell—even those of a penny squib!