Bohemians of the Latin Quarter
by Henry Murger
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"The bravest man cannot struggle against the elements," said the poet, falling back helpless in his chair. "Caeser passed the Rubicon, but he could not have passed the Beresina."

All at once he uttered a cry of joy from the depths of his bear-skin breast, and jumped up so suddenly as to overturn some of his ink on its snowy fur. He had an idea!

Rodolphe drew from beneath his bed a considerable mass of papers, among which were a dozen huge manuscripts of his famous drama, "The Avenger." This drama, on which he had spent two years, had been made, unmade, and remade so often that all the copies together weighed fully fifteen pounds. He put the last version on one side, and dragged the others towards the fireplace.

"I was sure that with patience I should dispose of it somehow," he exclaimed. "What a pretty fagot! If I could have foreseen what would happen, I could have written a prologue, and then I should have more fuel tonight. But one can't foresee everything." He lit some leaves of the manuscript, in the flame of which he thawed his hands. In five minutes the first act of "The Avenger" was over, and Rodolphe had written three verses of his epitaph.

It would be impossible to describe the astonishment of the four winds when they felt fire in the chimney.

"It's an illusion," quoth Boreas, as he amused himself by brushing back the hair of Rodolphe's bear skin.

"Let's blow down the pipe," suggested another wind, "and make the chimney smoke." But just as they were about to plague the poor poet, the south wind perceived Monsieur Arago at a window of the Observatory threatening them with his finger; so they all made off, for fear of being put under arrest. Meanwhile the second act of "The Avenger" was going off with immense success, and Rodolphe had written ten lines. But he only achieved two during the third act.

"I always thought that third act too short," said Rodolphe, "luckily the next one will take longer; there are twenty three scenes in it, including the great one of the throne." As the last flourish of the throne scene went up the chimney in fiery flakes, Rodolphe had only three couplets more to write. "Now for the last act. This is all monologue. It may last five minutes." The catastrophe flashed and smouldered, and Rodolphe in a magnificent transport of poetry had enshrined in lyric stanzas the last words of the illustrious deceased. "There is enough left for a second representation," said he, pushing the remainder of the manuscript under his bed.

At eight o'clock next evening, Mademoiselle Angela entered the ballroom; in her hand was a splendid nosegay of white violets, and among them two budding roses, white also. During the whole night men and women were complimenting the young girl on her bouquet. Angela could not but feel a little grateful to her cousin who had procured this little triumph for her vanity; and perhaps she would have thought more of him but for the gallant persecutions of one of the bride's relatives who had danced several times with her. He was a fair-haired youth, with a magnificent moustache curled up at the ends, to hook innocent hearts. The bouquet had been pulled to pieces by everybody; only two white roses were left. The young man asked Angela for them; she refused—only to forget them after the ball on a bench, whence the young fair-haired youth hastened to take them.

At that moment it was fourteen degrees below freezing point in Rodolphe's belvidere. He was leaning against his window looking out at the lights in the ballroom, where his cousin Angela, who didn't care for him, was dancing.



In the opening month of each of the four seasons there are some terrible epochs, usually about the 1st and the 15th. Rodolphe, who could not witness the approach of one or the other of these two dates without alarm, nicknamed them the Cape of Storms. On these mornings it is not Aurora who opens the portals of the East, but creditors, landlords, bailiffs and their kidney. The day begins with a shower of bills and accounts and winds up with a hailstorm of protests. Dies irae.

Now one morning, it was the 15th of April, Rodolphe was peacefully slumbering—and dreaming that one of his uncles had just bequeathed him a whole province in Peru, the feminine inhabitants included.

Whilst he was wallowing in this imaginary Pacolus, the sound of a key turning in the lock interrupted the heir presumptive just at the most dazzling point of his golden dream.

Rodolphe sat up in bed, his eyes and mind yet heavy with slumber, and looked about him.

He vaguely perceived standing in the middle of his room a man who had just entered.

This early visitor bore a bag slung at his back and a large pocketbook in his hand. He wore a cocked hat and a bluish-grey swallow-tailed coat and seemed very much out of breath from ascending the five flights of stairs. His manners were very affable and his steps sounded as sonorously as that of a money-changer's counter on the march.

Rodolphe was alarmed for a moment, and at the sight of the cocked hat and the coat thought that he had a police officer before him.

But the sight of the tolerably well filled bag made him perceive his mistake.

"Ah! I have it," thought he, "it is something on account of my inheritance, this man comes from the West Indies. But in that case why is he not black?"

And making a sign to the man, he said, pointing to the bag, "I know all about it. Put it down there. Thanks."

The man was a messenger of the Bank of France. He replied to Rodolphe's request by holding before his eyes a small strip of paper covered with writing and figures in various colored inks.

"You want a receipt," said Rodolphe. "That is right. Pass me the pen and ink. There, on the table."

"No, I have come to take money," replied the messenger. "An acceptance for a hundred and fifty francs. It is the 15th of April."

"Ah!" observed Rodolphe, examining the acceptance. "Pay to the order of—— Birmann. It is my tailor. Alas," he added, in melancholy tones casting his eyes alternately upon a frock coat thrown on the bed and upon the acceptance, "causes depart but effects return. What, it is the 15th of April? It is extraordinary, I have not yet had any strawberries this year."

The messenger, weary of delay, left the room, saying to Rodolphe, "You have till four o'clock to pay."

"There is no time like the present," replied Rodolphe. "The humbug," he added regretfully, following the cocked hat with his eyes, "he has taken away his bag."

Rodolphe drew the curtains of his bed and tried to retrace the path to his inheritance, but he made a mistake on the road and proudly entered into a dream in which the manager of the Theatre Francais came hat in hand to ask him for a drama for his theater, and in which he, aware of the customary practice, asked for an advance. But at the very moment when the manager appeared to be willing to comply the sleeper was again half awakened by the entry of a fresh personage, another creature of the 15th.

It was Monsieur Benoit, landlord of the lodging house in which Rodolphe was residing. Monsieur Benoit was at once the landlord, the bootmaker and the money lender of his lodgers. On this morning he exhaled a frightful odor of bad brandy and overdue rent. He carried an empty bag in his hand.

"The deuce," thought Rodolphe, "this is not the manager of the Theater Francais, he would have a white cravat and the bag would be full."

"Good morning, Monsieur Rodolphe," said Monsieur Benoit, approaching the bed.

"Monsieur Benoit! Good morning. What has given me the pleasure of this visit?"

"I have come to remind you that it is the 15th of April."

"Already! How time flies, it is extraordinary, I must see about buying a pair of summer trousers. The 15th of April. Good heavens! I should never have thought of it but for you, Monsieur Benoit. What gratitude I owe you for this!"

"You also owe me a hundred and sixty-two francs," replied Monsieur Benoit, "and it is time this little account was settled."

"I am not in any absolute hurry—do not put yourself out, Monsieur Benoit. I will give you time."

"But," said the landlord, "you have already put me off several times."

"In that case let us come to a settlement, Monsieur Benoit, let us come to a settlement, it is all the same to me today as tomorrow. Besides we are all mortal. Let us come to a settlement."

An amiable smile smoothed the landlord wrinkles and even his empty bag swelled with hope.

"What do I owe you?" asked Rodolphe.

"In the first place, we have three months' rent at twenty-five francs, that makes seventy-five francs."

"Errors excepted," said Rodolphe. "And then?"

"Then three pairs of boots at twenty francs."

"One moment, one moment, Monsieur Benoit, do not let us mix matters, this is no longer to do with the landlord but the bootmaker. I want a separate account. Accounts are a serious thing, we must not get muddled."

"Very good," said Monsieur Benoit, softened by the hope of at length writing "Paid" at the foot of his accounts. "Here is a special bill for the boots. Three pairs of boots at twenty francs, sixty francs."

Rodolphe cast a look of pity on a pair of worn out boots.

"Alas!" he thought, "they could not be worse if they had been worn by the Wandering Jew. Yet it was in running after Marie that they got so worn out. Go on, Monsieur Benoit."

"We were saying sixty francs," replied the latter. "Then money lent, twenty seven francs."

"Stop a bit, Monsieur Benoit. We agreed that each dog would have his kennel. It is as a friend that you lent me money. Therefore, if you please, let us quit the regions of bootmaking and enter those of confidence and friendship which require a separate account. How much does your friendship for me amount to?"

"Twenty seven francs."

"Twenty seven francs. You have purchased a friend cheaply, Monsieur Benoit. In short, we were saying, seventy five, sixty, and twenty seven. That makes altogether—-?"

"A hundred and sixty two francs," said Monsieur Benoit, presenting the three bills.

"A hundred and sixty two francs," observed Rodolphe, "it is extraordinary. What a fine thing arithmetic is. Well, Monsieur Benoit, now that the account is settled we can both rest easy, we know exactly how we stand. Next month I will ask you for a receipt, and as during this time the confidence and friendship you must entertain towards me can only increase, you can, in case it should become necessary, grant me a further delay. However, if the landlord and the bootmaker are inclined to be hasty, I would ask the friend to get them to listen to reason. It is extraordinary, Monsieur Benoit, but every time I think of your triple character as a landlord, a bootmaker, and a friend, I am tempted to believe in the Trinity."

Whilst listening to Rodolphe the landlord had turned at one and the same time red, green, white, and yellow, and at each fresh jest from his lodger that rainbow of anger grew deeper and deeper upon his face.

"Sir," said he, "I do not like to be made game of. I have waited long enough. I give you notice of quit, and unless you let me have some money this evening, I know what I shall have to do."

"Money! money! Am I asking you for money?" said Rodolphe. "Besides, if I had any, I should not give it to you. On a Friday, it would be unlucky."

Monsieur Benoit's wrath grew tempestuous, and if the furniture had not belonged to him he would no doubt have smashed some of it.

"You are forgetting your bag," cried Rodolphe after him. "What a business," murmured the young fellow, as he found himself alone. "I would rather tame lions. But," he continued, jumping out of bed and dressing hurriedly, "I cannot stay here. The invasion will continue. I must flee; I must even breakfast. Suppose I go and see Schaunard. I will ask him for some breakfast, and borrow a trifle. A hundred francs will be enough. Yes, I'm off to Schaunard's."

Going downstairs, Rodolphe met Monsieur Benoit, who had received further shocks from his other lodgers, as was attested by his empty bag.

"If any one asks for me, tell them I have gone into the country—to the Alps," said Rodolphe. "Or stay, tell them that I no longer live here."

"I shall tell the truth," murmured Monsieur Benoit, in a very significant tone.

Schaunard was living at Montmartre. It was necessary to go right through Paris. This peregrination was one most dangerous to Rodolphe.

"Today," said he, "the streets are paved with creditors."

However, he did not go along by the outer Boulevards, as he had felt inclined to. A fanciful hope, on the contrary, urged him to follow the perilous itinerary of central Paris. Rodolphe thought that on a day when millions were going about the thoroughfares in the money-cases of bank messengers, it might happen that a thousand franc note, abandoned on the roadside, might lie awaiting its Good Samaritan. Thus he walked slowly along with his eyes on the ground. But he only found two pins.

After a two hours' walk he got to Schaunard's.

"Ah, it's you," said the latter.

"Yes, I have come to ask you for some breakfast."

"Ah, my dear fellow, you come at the wrong time. My mistress has just arrived, and I have not seen her for a fortnight. If you had only called ten minutes earlier."

"Well, have you got a hundred francs to lend me?"

"What! you too!" exclaimed Schaunard, in the height of astonishment. "You have come to ask me for money! You, in the ranks of my enemies!"

"I will pay you back on Monday."

"Or at the Greek Calends. My dear fellow, you surely forget what day it is. I can do nothing for you. But there is no reason to despair; the day is not yet over. You may still meet with Providence, who never gets up before noon."

"Ah!" replied Rodolphe, "Providence has too much to do looking after little birds. I will go and see Marcel."

Marcel was then residing in the Rue de Breda. Rodolphe found him in a very downcast mood, contemplating his great picture that was to represent the passage of the Red Sea.

"What is the matter?" asked Rodolphe, as he entered. "You seem quite in the dumps."

"Alas!" replied the painter, in allegorical language, "for the last fortnight it has been Holy Week."

"Red herrings and black radishes. Good, I remember."

Indeed, Rodolphe's memory was still salt with the remembrance of a time when he had been reduced to the exclusive consumption of the fish in question.

"The deuce," said he, "that is serious. I came to borrow a hundred francs of you."

"A hundred francs," said Marcel. "You are always in the clouds. The idea of coming and asking me for that mythological amount at a period when one is always under the equator of necessity. You must have been taking hashish."

"Alas!" said Rodolphe, "I have not been taking anything at all."

And he left his friend on the banks of the Red Sea.

From noon to four o'clock Rodolphe successively steered for every house of his acquaintance. He went through the forty eight districts of Paris, and covered about eight leagues, but without any success. The influence of the 15th of April made itself feel with equal severity everywhere. However, dinner time was drawing near. But it scarcely appeared that dinner was likely to follow its example, and it seemed to Rodolphe that he was on the raft of the wrecked Medusa.

As he was crossing the Pont Neuf an idea all at once occurred to him.

"Oh! oh!" said he to himself, retracing his steps, "the 15th of April. But I have an invitation to dinner for today."

And fumbling in his pocket, he drew out a printed ticket, running as follows:

Barriere de la Villette, Au Grand Vainqueur. Dining Room to seat 300 people. Anniversary Dinner In Honor of the Birth Of THE HUMANITARIAN MESSIAH April 15, 184- Admit One N.B. Only half a bottle of wine per head

"I do not share the opinions of the disciples of this Messiah," said Rodolphe to himself, "but I will willingly share their repast." And with the swiftness of a bird he covered the distance separating him from the Barriere de la Villette.

When he reached the halls of the Grand Vainqueur, the crowd was enormous. The dining room, seating three hundred, was thronged with five hundred people. A vast horizon of veal and carrots spread itself before the eyes of Rodolphe.

At length they began to serve the soup.

As the guests were carrying their spoons to their lips, five or six people in plain clothes, and several police officers in uniform, pushed into the room, with a commissary of police at their head.

"Gentlemen," said the commissary, "by order of the authorities, this dinner cannot take place. I call upon you to withdraw."

"Oh!" said Rodolphe, retiring with everyone else. "Oh! what a fatality has spoiled my dinner."

He sadly resumed the road to his dwelling, and reached it at about eleven at night.

Monsieur Benoit was awaiting him.

"Ah! it is you," said the landlord. "Have you thought of what I told you this morning? Have you brought me any money?"

"I am to receive some tonight. I will give you some of it tomorrow morning," replied Rodolphe, looking for his key and his candlestick in their accustomed place. He did not find them.

"Monsieur Rodolphe," said the landlord, "I am very sorry, but I have let your room, and I have no other vacant now—you must go somewhere else."

Rodolphe had a lofty soul, and a night in the open air did not alarm him. Besides, in the event of bad weather, he could sleep in a box at the Odeon Theater, as he had already done before. Only he claimed "his property" from Monsieur Benoit, the said property consisting of a bundle of papers.

"That is so," said the landlord. "I have no right to detain those things. They are in the bureau. Come up with me; if the person who has taken your room has not gone to bed, we can go in."

The room had been let during the day to a girl named Mimi, with whom Rodolphe had formerly begun a love duet. They recognized one another at once. Rodolphe began to whisper to Mimi and tenderly squeezed her hand.

"See how it rains," said he, calling attention to the noise of the storm that had just broken overhead.

"Sir," said she, pointing to Rodolphe, "this is the gentleman I was expecting this evening."

"Oh!" said Monsieur Benoit, grinning on the wrong end of his face.

Whilst Mademoiselle Mimi was hurriedly getting ready an improvised supper, midnight struck.

"Ah!" said Rodolphe to himself, "the 15th of April is over. I have at length weathered my Cape of Storms. My dear Mimi," said the young man, taking the pretty girl in his arms and kissing her on the back of the neck, "it would have been impossible for you to have allowed me to be turned out of doors. You have the bump of hospitality."



You shall hear how it came to pass that Carolus Barbemuche, platonist and literary man generally, became a member of the Bohemian Club, in the twenty-fourth year of his age.

At that time, Gustave Colline, the great philosopher, Marcel, the great painter, Schaunard, the great musician, and Rodolphe, the great poet (as they called one another), regularly frequented the Momus Cafe, where they were surnamed "the Four Musqueteers," because they were always seen together. In fact, they came together, went away together, played together, and sometimes didn't pay their shot together, with a unison worthy of the best orchestra.

They chose to meet in a room where forty people might have been accommodated, but they were usually there alone, inasmuch as they had rendered the place uninhabitable by its ordinary frequenters. The chance customer who risked himself in this den, became, from the moment of his entrance, the victim of the terrible four; and, in most cases, made his escape without finishing his newspaper and cup of coffee, seasoned as they were by unheard-of maxims on art, sentiment, and political economy. The conversation of the four comrades was of such a nature that the waiter who served them had become an idiot in the prime of his life.

At length things reached such a point that the landlord lost all patience and came up one night to make a formal statement of his griefs:

"Firstly. Monsieur Rodolphe comes early in the morning to breakfast, and carries off to his room all the papers of the establishment, going so far as to complain if he finds that they have been opened. Consequently, the other customers, cut off from the usual channels of public opinion and intelligence, remain until dinner in utter ignorance of political affairs. The Bosquet party hardly knows the names of the last cabinet."

"Monsieur Rodolphe has even obliged the cafe to subscribe to 'The Beaver,' of which he is chief editor. The master of the establishment at first refused; but as Monsieur Rodolphe and his party kept calling the waiter every half hour, and crying, 'The Beaver! bring us 'The Beaver' some other customers, whose curiosity was excited by these obstinate demands, also asked for 'The Beaver.' So 'The Beaver' was subscribed to—a hatter's journal, which appeared every month, ornamented with a vignette and an article on 'The Philosophy of Hats and other things in general,' by Gustave Colline."

"Secondly. The aforesaid Monsieur Colline, and his friend Monsieur Rodolphe, repose themselves from their intellectual labors by playing backgammon from ten in the morning till midnight and as the establishment possess but one backgammon board, they monopolize that, to the detriment of the other amateurs of the game; and when asked for the board, they only answer, 'Some one is reading it, call tomorrow.' Thus the Bosquet party find themselves reduced to playing piquet, or talking about their old love affairs."

"Thirdly. Monsieur Marcel, forgetting that a cafe is a public place, brings thither his easel, box of colors, and, in short, all the instruments of his art. He even disregards the usages of society as far as to send for models of different sexes; which might shock the morals of the Bosquet party."

"Fourthly. Following the example of his friend, Monsieur Schaunard talks of bringing his piano to the cafe and he has not scrupled to get up a chorus on a motive from his symphony, 'The Influence of Blue in Art.' Monsieur Schaunard has gone farther: he has inserted in the lantern which serves the establishment for sign, a transparency with this inscription:


In consequence of this, the counter aforesaid is besieged every night by a number of badly dressed individuals, wanting to know where you go in."

"Moreover, Monsieur Schaunard gives meetings to a lady calling herself Mademoiselle Phemie, who always forgets to bring her bonnet. Wherefore, Monsieur Bosquet, Jr., has declared that he will never more put foot in an establishment where the laws of nature are thus outraged."

"Fifthly. Not content with being very poor customers, these gentlemen have tried to be still more economical. Under pretence of having caught the mocha of the establishment in improper intercourse with chicory, they have brought a lamp with spirits-of-wine, and make their own coffee, sweetening it with their own sugar; all of which is an insult to the establishment."

"Sixthly. Corrupted by the discourse of these gentlemen, the waiter Bergami (so called from his whiskers), forgetting his humble origin and defying all control, has dared to address to the mistress of the house a piece of poetry suggestive of the most improper sentiments; by the irregularity of its style, this letter is recognized as a direct emanation from the pernicious influence of Monsieur Rodolphe and his literature."

"Consequently, in spite of the regret which he feels, the proprietor of the establishment finds himself obliged to request the Colline party to choose some other place for their revolutionary meetings."

Gustave Colline, who was the Cicero of the set, took the floor and demonstrated to the landlord that his complaints were frivolous and unfounded; that they did him great honor in making his establishment a home of intellect; that their departure and that of their friends would be the ruin of his house, which their presence elevated to the rank of a literary and artistic club.

"But," objected the other, "you and those who come to see you call for so little."

"This temperance to which you object," replied Colline, "is an argument in favor of our morals. Moreover, it depends on yourself whether we spend more or not. You have only to open an account with us."

The landlord pretended not to hear this, and demanded some explanation of the incendiary letter addressed by Bergami to his wife. Rodolphe, accused of acting as secretary to the waiter, strenuously asserted his innocence—

"For," said he, "the lady's virtue was a sure barrier—"

The landlord would not repress a smile of pride. Finally, Colline entangled him completely in the folds of his insidious oratory, and everything was arranged, on the conditions that the party should cease making their own coffee, that the establishment should receive "The Beaver" gratis, that Phemie should come in a bonnet, that the backgammon board should be given up to the Bosquets every Sunday from twelve to two, and above all, that no one should ask for tick.

On this basis everything went well for some time.

It was Christmas Eve. The four friends came to the cafe accompanied by their friends of the other sex. There was Marcel's Musette, Rodolphe's new flame, Mimi, a lovely creature, with a voice like a pair of cymbals, and Schaunard's idol, Phemie Teinturiere. That night, Phemie, according to agreement, had her bonnet on. As to Madame Colline that should have been, no one ever saw her; she was always at home, occupied in punctuating her husband's manuscripts. After the coffee, which was on this great occasion escorted by a regiment of small glasses of brandy, they called for punch. The waiter was so little accustomed to the order, that they had to repeat it twice. Phemie, who had never been to such a place before, seemed in a state of ecstacy at drinking out of glasses with feet. Marcel was quarreling with Musette about a new bonnet which he had not given her. Mimi and Rodolphe, who were in their honeymoon, carried on a silent conversation, alternated with suspicious noises. As to Colline, he went about from one to the other, distributing among them all the polite and ornamental phrases which he had picked up in the "Muses' Almanac."

While this joyous company was thus abandoning itself to sport and laughter, a stranger at the bottom of the room, who occupied a table by himself, was observing with extraordinary attention the animated scene before him. For a fortnight or thereabout, he had come thus every night, being the only customer who could stand the terrible row which the club made. The boldest pleasantries had failed to move him; he would remain all the evening, smoking his pipe with mathematical regularity, his eyes fixed as if watching a treasure, and his ears open to all what was said around him. As to his other qualities, he seemed quiet and well off, for he possessed a watch with a gold chain; and one day, Marcel, meeting him at the bar, caught him in the act of changing a louis to pay his score. From that moment, the four friends designated him by the name of "The Capitalist."

Suddenly Schaunard, who had very good eyes, remarked that the glasses were empty.

"Yes," exclaimed Rodolphe, "and this is Christmas Eve! We are good Christians, and ought to have something extra."

"Yes, indeed," added Marcel, "let's call for something supernatural."

"Colline," continued Rodolphe, "ring a little for the waiter."

Colline rang like one possessed.

"What shall we have?" asked Marcel.

Colline made a low bow and pointed to the women.

"It is the business of these ladies to regulate the nature and order of our refreshment."

"I," said Musette, smacking her lips, "should not be afraid of Champagne."

"Are you crazy?" exclaimed Marcel. "Champagne! That isn't wine to begin with."

"So much the worse; I like it, it makes a noise."

"I," said Mimi, with a coaxing look at Rodolphe, "would like some Beaune, in a little basket."

"Have you lost your senses?" said Rodolphe.

"No, but I want to lose them," replied Mimi. The poet was thunderstruck.

"I," said Phemie, dancing herself on the elastic sofa, "would rather have parfait amour; it's good for the stomach."

Schaunard articulated, in a nasal tone, some words which made Phemie tremble on her spring foundation.

"Bah!" said Marcel, recovering himself the first. "Let us spend a hundred francs for this once!"

"Yes," said Rodolphe, "they complain of our not being good customers. Let's astonish them!"

"Ay," said Colline, "let us give ourselves up to the delights of a splendid banquet! Do we not owe passive obedience to these ladies? Love lies on devotion; wine is the essence of pleasure, pleasure the duty of youth; women are flowers and must be moistened. Moisten away! Waiter, waiter!" and Colline hung upon the bell rope with feverish excitement.

Swift as the wind, the waiter came. When he heard talk of Champagne, Burgundy, and various liqueurs, his physiognomy ran through a whole gamut of astonishment. But there was more to come.

"I have a hole in my inside," said Mimi. "I should like some ham."

"And I some sardines, and bread and butter," struck in Musette.

"And I, radishes," quoth Phemie, "and a little meat with them."

"We should have no objection," answered they.

"Waiter!" quoth Colline, gravely, "bring us all that is requisite for a good supper."

The waiter turned all the colors of the rainbow. He descended slowly to the bar, and informed his master of the extraordinary orders he had received.

The landlord took it for a joke; but on a new summons from the bell, he ascended himself and addressed Colline, for whom he had a certain respect. Colline explained to him that they wished to see Christmas in at his house, and that he would oblige them by serving what they had asked for. Momus made no answer, but backed out, twisting his napkin. For a quarter of an hour he held a consultation with his wife, who, thanks to her liberal education at the St. Denis Convent, fortunately had a weakness for arts and letters, and advised him to serve the supper.

"To be sure," said the landlord, "they may have money for once, by chance."

So he told the waiter to take up whatever they asked for, and then plunged into a game of piquet with an old customer. Fatal imprudence!

From ten to twelve the waiter did nothing but run up and downstairs. Every moment he was asked for something more. Musette would eat English fashion, and change her fork at every mouthful. Mimi drank all sorts of wine, in all sorts of glasses. Schaunard had a quenchless Sahara in his throat. Colline played a crossfire with his eyes, and while munching his napkin, as his habit was, kept pinching the leg of the table, which he took for Phemie's knee. Marcel and Rodolphe maintained the stirrups of self-possession, expecting the catastrophe, not without anxiety.

The stranger regarded the scene with grave curiosity; from time to time he opened his mouth as if for a smile; then you might have heard a noise like that of a window which creaks in shutting. It was the stranger laughing to himself.

At a quarter before twelve the bill was sent up. It amounted to the enormous sum of twenty five francs and three-quarters.

"Come," said Marcel, "we will draw lots for who shall go and diplomatize with our host. It is getting serious." They took a set of dominoes; the highest was to go.

Unluckily, the lot fell upon Schaunard, who was an excellent virtuoso, but a very bad ambassador. He arrived, too, at the bar just as the landlord had lost his third game. Momus was in a fearful bad humor, and, at Schaunard's first words, broke out into a violent rage. Schaunard was a good musician, but he had an indifferent temper, and he replied by a double discharge of slang. The dispute grew more and more bitter, till the landlord went upstairs, swearing that he would be paid, and that no one should stir until he was. Colline endeavored to interpose his pacifying oratory; but, on perceiving a napkin which Colline had made lint of, the host's anger redoubled; and to indemnify himself, he actually dared to lay profane hands on the philosopher's hazel overcoat and the ladies' shawls.

A volley of abuse was interchanged by the Bohemians and the irate landlord.

The women talked to one another of their dresses and their conquests.

At this point the stranger abandoned his impassible attitude; gradually he rose, made a step forward, then another, and walked as an ordinary man might do; he approached the landlord, took him aside, and spoke to him in a low tone. Rodolphe and Marcel followed him with their eyes. At length, the host went out, saying to the stranger:

"Certainly, I consent, Monsieur Barbemuche, certainly; arrange it with them yourself."

Monsieur Barbemuche returned to his table to take his hat; put it on, turned around to the right, and in three steps came close to Rodolphe and Marcel. He took off his hat, bowed to the men, waved a salute to the women, pulled out his handkerchief, blew his nose, and began in a feeble voice:

"Gentlemen, excuse the liberty I am about to take. For a long time, I have been burning with desire to make your acquaintance, but have never, till now, found a favorable opportunity. Will you allow me to seize the present one?"

"Certainly, certainly," said Colline. Rodolphe and Marcel bowed, and said nothing. The excessive delicacy of Schaunard came nigh spoiling everything.

"Excuse me, sir," said he briskly, "but you have not the honor of knowing us, and the usages of society forbid—would you be so good as to give me a pipeful of tobacco? In other respects I am of my friends' opinion."

"Gentlemen," continued Barbemuche. "I am a disciple of the fine arts, like yourselves. So far as I have been able to judge from what I have heard of your conversation, our tastes are the same. I have a most eager desire to be a friend of yours, and to be able to find you here every night. The landlord is a brute: but I said a word to him, and you are quite free to go. I trust you will not refuse me the opportunity of finding you here again, by accepting this slight service."

A blush of indignation mounted to Schaunard's face. "He is speculating on our condition," said he. "We cannot accept. He has paid our bill. I will play him at billiards for the twenty five francs and give him points."

Barbemuche accepted his proposition, and had the good sense to lose. This gained him the esteem of the party. They broke up with the understanding that they were to meet next day.

"Now," said Schaunard, "our dignity is saved. We owe him nothing."

"We can almost ask him for another supper," said Colline.



The night when he paid out of his own purse for the supper consumed at the cafe, Barbemuche managed to make Colline accompany him. Since his first presence at the meetings of the four friends whom he had relieved from their embarrassing position, Carolus had especially remarked Gustave, and already felt an attractive sympathy for this Socrates whose Plato he was destined to become. It was for this reason he had chosen him to be his introducer. On the way, Barbemuche proposed that they should enter a cafe which was still open, and take something to drink. Not only did Colline refuse, but he doubled his speed in passing the cafe, and carefully pulled down his hyperphysic hat over his face.

"But why won't you come in?" politely asked the other.

"I have my reasons," replied Colline. "There is a barmaid in that establishment who is very much addicted to the exact sciences, and I could not help having a long discussion with her, to avoid which I never pass through this street at noon, or any other time of day. To tell you the truth," added he innocently, "I once lived with Marcel in this neighborhood."

"Still I should be very glad to offer you a glass of punch, and have a few minutes' talk with you. Is there no other place in the vicinity where you could step in without being hindered by any mathematical difficulties?" asked Barbemuche, who thought it a good opportunity for saying something very clever.

Colline mused an instant. "There is a little place here," he said, pointing to a wine shop, "where I stand on a better footing."

Barbemuche made a face, and seemed to hesitate. "Is it a respectable place?" he demanded.

His cold and reserved attitude, his limited conversation, his discreet smile, and especially his watch chain with charms on it, all led Colline to suppose that Barbemuche was a clerk in some embassy, and that he feared to compromise himself by going into some wine shop.

"There is no danger of anyone seeing us," said he. "All the diplomatic body is in bed by this time."

Barbemuche made up his mind to go in, though at the bottom of his heart he would have given a good deal for a false nose. For greater security, he insisted on having a private room, and took care to fasten a napkin before the glass door of it. These precautions taken, he appeared more at ease, and called for a bowl of punch. Excited a little by the generous beverage, Barbemuche became more communicative, and, after giving some autobiographical details, made bold to express the hope he had conceived of being personally admitted a member of the Bohemian Club, for the accomplishment of which ambitious design he solicited the aid of Colline.

Colline replied that, for his part, he was entirely at the service of Barbemuche, but, nevertheless, he could make no positive promise. "I assure you of my vote," said he. "But I cannot take it upon me to dispose of those of my comrades."

"But," asked Barbemuche, "for what reasons could they refuse to admit me among them?"

Colline put down the glass which he was just lifting to his mouth, and, in a very serious tone, addressed the rash Carolus, saying, "You cultivate the fine arts?"

"I labor humble in those noble fields of intelligence," replied the other, who felt bound to hang out the colors of his style.

Colline found the phrase well turned, and bowed in acknowledgment.

"You understand music?" he continued.

"I have played on the bass-viol."

"A very philosophical instrument. Then, if you understand music, you also understand that one cannot, without violation of the laws of harmony, introduce a fifth performer into a quartet; it would cease to be a quartet."

"Exactly, and become a quintet."

"A quintet, very well, now attend to me. You understand astronomy?"

"A little, I'm a bachelor of arts."

"There is a little song about that," said Colline. "'Dear bachelor, says Lisette'—I have forgotten the tune. Well then, you know that there are four cardinal points. Now suppose there were to turn up a fifth cardinal point, all the harmony of nature would be upset. What they call a cataclysm—you understand?"

"I am waiting for the conclusion," said Carolus, whose intelligence began to be a little shaky.

"The conclusion—yes, that is the end of the argument, as death is the end of life, and marriage of love. Well, my dear sir, I and my friends are accustomed to live together, and we fear to impair, by the introduction of another person, the harmony which reigns in our habits, opinions, tastes, and dispositions. To speak frankly, we are going to be, some day, the four cardinal points of contemporary art; accustomed to this idea, it would annoy us to see a fifth point."

"Nevertheless," suggested Carolus, "where you are four it is easy to be five."

"Yes, but then we cease to be four."

"The objection is a trivial one."

"There is nothing trivial in this world; little brooks make great rivers; little syllables make big verses; the very mountains are made of grains of sand—so says 'The Wisdom of Nations,' of which there is a copy on the quay—tell me, my dear sir, which is the furrow that you usually follow in the noble fields of intelligence?"

"The great philosophers and the classic authors are my models. I live upon their study. 'Telemachus' first inspired the consuming passion I feel."

"'Telemachus'—there are lots of him on the quay," said Colline. "You can find him there at any time. I have bought him for five sous—a second-hand copy—I would consent to part with it to oblige you. In other respects, it is a great work; very well got up, considering the age."

"Yes, sir," said Carolus. "I aspire to high philosophy and sound literature. According to my idea, art is a priesthood—."

"Yes, yes," said Colline. "There's a song about that too," and he began to hum....

"Art's a priesthood, art's a priesthood,"

to the air of the drinking song in "Robert the Devil."

"I say, then, that art being a solemn mission, writers ought, above all things—"

"Excuse me," said Colline, who heard one of the small hours striking, "but it's getting to be tomorrow morning very fast."

"It is late, in fact," said Carolus. "Let us go."

"Do you live far off?"

"Rue Royale St. Honore, No. 10."

Colline had once had occasion to visit this house, and remembered that it was a splendid private mansion.

"I will mention you to my friends," said he to Carolus on parting, "and you may be sure that I shall use all my influence to make them favorably disposed to you. Ah, let me give you one piece of advice."

"Go on," said the other.

"Be very amiable and polite to Mademoiselles Mimi, Musette and Phemie; these ladies exercise an authority over my friends, and by managing to bring their mistresses' influence to bear upon them you will contrive far more easily to obtain what you require from Marcel, Schaunard and Rodolphe."

"I'll try," said Carolus.

Next day, Colline tumbled in upon the Bohemian association. It was the hour of breakfast, and for a wonder, breakfast had come with the hour. The three couples were at table, feasting on artichokes and pepper sauce.

"The deuce!" exclaimed the philosopher. "This can't last, or the world would come to an end. I arrive," he continued, "as the ambassador of the generous mortal whom we met last night."

"Can he be sending already to ask for his money again?" said Marcel.

"It has nothing to do with that," replied Colline. "This young man wishes to be one of us; to have stock in our society, and share the profits, of course."

The three men raised their heads and looked at one another.

"That's all," concluded Colline. "Now the question is open."

"What is the social position of your principal?" asked Rodolphe.

"He is no principal of mine," answered the other. "Last night he begged me to accompany him, and overflowed me with attentions and good liquor for a while. But I have retained my independence."

"Good," said Schaunard.

"Sketch us some leading features of his character," said Marcel.

"Grandeur of soul, austerity of manners, afraid to go into wine shops, bachelor of arts, candid as a transparency, plays on the bass-viol, is disposed to change a five franc piece occasionally."

"Good again!" said Schaunard.

"What are his hopes?"

"As I told you already, his ambition knows no bounds; he aspires to be 'hail-fellow-well-met' with us."

"That is to say," answered Marcel, "he wishes to speculate upon us, and to be seen riding in our carriages."

"What is his profession?" asked Rodolphe.

"Yes," said Marcel, "what does he play on?"

"Literature and mixed philosophy. He calls art a priesthood."

"A priesthood!" cried Rodolphe, in terror.

"So he says."

"And what is his road in literature?"

"He goes after 'Telemachus'."

"Very good," said Schaunard, eating the seed of his artichoke.

"Very good! You dummy!" broke our Marcel. "I advise you not to say that in the street."

Schaunard relieved his annoyance at this reproof by kicking Phemie under the table for taking some of his sauce.

"Once more," said Rodolphe. "What is his condition in the world? What does he live on, and where does he live? And what is his name?"

"His station is honorable. He is professor of everything in a rich family. His name is Carolus Barbemuche. He spends his income in luxurious living and dwells in the Rue Royale."

"Furnished lodging?"

"No, there is real furniture."

"I claim the floor," said Marcel. "To me it is evident that Colline has been corrupted. He has already sold his vote for so many drinks. Don't interrupt me! (Colline was rising to protest.) You shall have your turn. Colline, mercenary soul that he is, has presented to you this stranger under an aspect too favorable to be true. I told you before; I see through this person's designs. He wants to speculate on us. He says to himself, 'Here are some chaps making their way. I must get into their pockets. I shall arrive with them at the goal of fame.'"

"Bravo!" quoth Schaunard, "have you any more sauce there?"

"No," replied Rodolphe, "the edition is out of print."

"Looking at the question from another point of view," continued Marcel, "this insidious mortal whom Colline patronizes, perhaps aspires to our intimacy only from the most culpable motives. Gentlemen, we are not alone here!" continued the orator, with an eloquent look at the women. "And Colline's client, smuggling himself into our circle under the cloak of literature, may perchance be but a vile seducer. Reflect! For one, I vote against his reception."

"I demand the floor," said Rodolphe, "only for a correction. In his remarkable extemporary speech, Marcel has said that this Carolus, with the view of dishonoring us, wished to introduce himself under the cloak of literature."

"A Parliamentary figure."

"A very bad figure; literature has no cloak!"

"Having made a report, as chairman of committee," resumed Colline, rising, "I maintain the conclusions therein embodied. The jealousy which consumes him disturbs the reason of our friend Marcel; the great artist is beside himself."

"Order!" cried Marcel.

"So much so, that, able designer as he is, he has just introduced into his speech a figure the incorrectness of which has been ably pointed out by the talented orator who preceded me."

"Colline is an ass!" shouted Marcel, with a bang of his fist on the table that caused a lively sensation among the plates. "Colline knows nothing in an affair of sentiment; he is incompetent to judge of such matters; he has an old book in place of a heart."

Prolonged laughter from Schaunard. During the row, Colline kept gravely adjusting the folds of his white cravat as if to make way for the torrents of eloquence contained beneath them. When silence was reestablished, he thus continued:

"Gentlemen, I intend with one word to banish from your minds the chimerical apprehensions which the suspicions of Marcel may have engendered in them respecting Carolus."

"Oh, yes!" said Marcel ironically.

"It will be as easy as that," continued Colline, blowing the match with which he had lighted his pipe.

"Go on! Go on!" cried Schaunard, Rodolphe, and the women together.

"Gentlemen! Although I have been personally and violently attacked in this meeting, although I have been accused of selling for base liquors the influence which I possess; secure in a good conscience I shall not deign to reply to those assaults on my probity, my loyalty, my morality. [Sensation.] But there is one thing which I will have respected. [Here the orator, endeavoring to lay his hand on his heart, gave himself a rap in the stomach.] My well tried and well known prudence has been called in question. I have been accused of wishing to introduce among you a person whose intentions were hostile to your happiness—in matters of sentiment. This supposition is an insult to the virtue of these ladies—nay more, an insult to their good taste. Carolus Barbemuche is decidedly ugly." [Visible denial on the face of Phemie; noise under the table; it is Schaunard kicking her by way of correcting her compromising frankness.]

"But," proceeded Colline, "what will reduce to powder the contemptible argument with which my opponent has armed himself against Carolus by taking advantage of your terrors, is the fact that the said Carolus is a Platonist." [Sensation among the men; uproar among the women.]

This declaration of Colline's produced a reaction in favor of Carolus. The philosopher wished to improve the effect of his eloquent and adroit defense.

"Now then," he continued, "I do not see what well founded prejudices can exist against this young man, who, after all, has rendered us a service. As to myself, who am accused of acting thoughtlessly in wishing to introduce him among us, I consider this opinion an insult to my dignity. I have acted in the affair with the wisdom of the serpent; if a formal vote does not maintain me this character for prudence, I offer my resignation."

"Do you make it a cabinet question?" asked Marcel.

"I do."

The three consulted, and agreed by common consent to restore to the philosopher that high reputation for prudence which he claimed. Colline then gave the floor to Marcel, who, somewhat relieved of his prejudices, declared that he might perhaps favor the adoption of the report. But before the decisive and final vote which should open to Carolus the intimacy of the club, he put to the meeting this amendment:

"WHEREAS, the introduction of a new member into our society is a grave matter, and a stranger might bring with him some elements of discord through ignorance of the habits, tempers, and opinions of his comrades,

RESOLVED, that each member shall pass a say with the said Carolus, and investigate his manner of life, tastes, literary capacity, and wardrobe. The members shall afterward communicate their several impressions, and ballot on his admission accordingly. Moreover, before complete admission, the said Carolus shall undergo a noviciate of one month, during which time he shall not have the right to call us by our first names or take our arm in the street. On the day of reception, a splendid banquet shall be given at the expense of the new member, at a cost of not less than twelve francs."

This amendment was adopted by three votes against one. The same night Colline went to the cafe early on purpose to be the first to see Carolus. He had not long to wait for him. Barbemuche soon appeared, carrying in his hand three huge bouquets of roses.

"Hullo!" cried the astonished Colline. "What do you mean to do with that garden?"

"I remember what you told me yesterday. Your friends will doubtless come with their ladies, and it is on their account that I bring these flowers—very handsome ones."

"That they are; they must have cost fifteen sous, at least."

"In the month of December! If you said fifteen francs you would have come nearer."

"Heavens!" cried Colline, "three crowns for these simple gifts of flora! You must be related to the Cordilleras. Well my dear sir, that is fifteen francs which we must throw out of the window."

It was Barbemuche's turn to be astonished. Colline related the jealous suspicions with which Marcel had inspired his friends, and informed Carolus of the violent discussion which had taken place between them that morning on the subject of his admission.

"I protested," said Colline, "that your intentions were the purest, but there was strong opposition nevertheless. Beware of renewing these suspicions by much politeness to the ladies; and to begin, let us put these bouquets out of the way." He took the roses and hid them in a cupboard. "But this is not all," he resumed. "Before connecting themselves intimately with you, these gentlemen desire to make a private examination, each for himself, of your character, tastes, etc."

Then, lest Barbemuche might do something to shock his friends, Colline rapidly sketched a moral portrait of each of them. "Contrive to agree with them separately," added the philosopher, "and they will end by all liking you."

Carolus agreed to everything. The three friends soon arrived with their friends of the other sex. Rodolphe was polite to Carolus, Schaunard familiar with him, while Marcel remained cold. Carolus forced himself to be gay and amiable with the men and indifferent to the women. When they broke up for the night, he asked Rodolphe to dine with him the next day, and to come as early as noon. The poet accepted, saying to himself, "Good! I am to begin the inquiry, then."

Next morning at the hour appointed, he called on Carolus, who did indeed live in a very handsome private house, where he occupied a sufficiently comfortable room. But Rodolphe was surprised to find at that time of day the shutters closed, the curtains drawn, and two lighted candles on the table. He asked Barbemuche the reason.

"Study," replied the other, "is the child of mystery and silence."

They sat down and talked. At the end of an hour, Carolus, with infinite oratorial address, brought in a phrase which, despite its humble form, was neither more nor less than a summons made to Rodolphe to hear a little work, the fruit of Barbemuche's vigils.

The poet saw himself caught. Curious, however, to learn the color of the other's style, he bowed politely, assured him that he was enchanted, that Carolus did not wait for him to finish the sentence. He ran to bolt the door, and then took up a small memorandum book, the thinness of which brought a smile of satisfaction to the poet's face.

"Is that the manuscript of your work?" he asked.

"No," replied Carolus. "It is the catalog of my manuscripts and I am looking for the one which you will allow me to read you. Here it is: 'Don Lopez or Fatality No. 14.' It's on the third shelf," and he proceeded to open a small closet in which Rodolphe perceived, with terror, a great quantity of manuscripts. Carolus took out one of these, shut the closet, and seated himself in front of the poet.

Rodolphe cast a glance at one of the four piles of elephant paper of which the work was composed. "Come," said he to himself, "it's not in verse, but it's called 'Don Lopez.'"

Carolus began to read:

"On a cold winter night, two cavaliers, enveloped in large cloaks, and mounted on sluggish mules, were making their way side by side over one of the roads which traverse the frightful solitudes of the Sierra Morena."

"May the Lord have mercy on me!" ejaculated Rodolphe mentally.

Carolus continued to read his first chapter, written in the style above throughout. Rodolphe listened vaguely, and tried to devise some means of escape.

"There is the window, but it's fastened; and beside, we are in the fourth story. Ah, now I understand all these precautions."

"What do you think of my first chapter?" asked Carolus. "Do not spare any criticism, I beg of you."

Rodolphe thought he remembered having heard some scraps of philosophical declamation upon suicide, put forth by the hero of the romance, Don Lopez, to wit; so he replied at hazard:

"The grand figure of Don Lopez is conscientiously studied; it reminds me of 'Savoyard Vicar's Confession of Faith;' the description of Don Alvar's mule pleases me exceedingly; it is like a sketch of Gericault's. There are good lines in the landscape; as to the thoughts, they are seeds of Rousseau planted in the soil of Lesage. Only allow me to make one observation: you use too many stops, and you work the word henceforward too hard. It is a good word, and gives color, but should not be abused."

Carolus took up a second pile of paper, and repeated the title "Don Lopez or, Fatality."

"I knew a Don Lopez once," said Rodolphe. "He used to sell cigarettes and Bayonne chocolate. Perhaps he was a relative of your man. Go on."

At the conclusion of the second chapter, the poet interrupted his host:

"Don't you feel your throat a little dry?" he inquired.

"Not at all," replied Carolus. "We are coming to the history of Inesilla."

"I am very curious to hear it, nevertheless, if you are tired—"

"Chapter third!" enunciated Carolus in a voice that gave no signs of fatigue.

Rodolphe took a careful survey of Barbemuche and perceived that he had a short neck and a ruddy complexion. "I have one hope left," thought the poet on making this discovery. "He may have an attack of apoplexy."

"Will you be so good as to tell me what you think of the love scene?"

Carolus looked at Rodolphe to observe in his face what effect the dialogue produced upon him. The poet was bending forward on his chair, with his neck stretched out in the attitude of one who is listening for some distant sound.

"What's the matter with you?"

"Hist!" said Rodolphe, "don't you hear? I thought somebody cried fire! Suppose we go and see."

Carolus listened an instant but heard nothing.

"It must have been a ringing in my ears," said the other. "Go on, Don Alvar interests me exceedingly; he is a noble youth."

Carolus continued with all the music that he could put into his voice:

"Oh Inesilla! Whatever thou art, angel or demon; and whatever be thy country, my life is thine, and thee will follow, be it to heaven or hell!"

Someone knocked at the door.

"It's my porter," said Barbemuche, half opening the door.

It was indeed the porter with a letter. "What an unlucky chance!" cried Carolus, after he had perused it. "We must put off our reading until some other time. I have to go out immediately. If you please, we will execute this little commission together, as it is nothing private, and then we can come back to dinner."

"There," thought Rodolphe, "is a letter that has fallen from heaven. I recognize the seal of Providence."

When he rejoined the comrades that night, the poet was interrogated by Marcel and Schaunard.

"Did he treat you well?" they asked.

"Yes, but I paid dear for it."

"How? Did Carolus make you pay?" demanded Schaunard with rising choler.

"He read a novel at me, inside of which the people are named Don Lopez and Don Alvar; and the tenors call their mistresses 'angel,' or 'demon.'"

"How shocking!" cried the Bohemians, in chorus.

"But otherwise," said Colline, "literature apart, what is your opinion of him?"

"A very nice young man. You can judge for yourselves; Carolus means to treat us all in turn; he invites Schaunard to breakfast with him tomorrow. Only look out for the closet with the manuscripts in it."

Schaunard was punctual and went to work with the minuteness of an auctioneer taking an inventory, or a sheriff levying an execution. Accordingly he came back full of notes; he had studied Carolus chiefly in respect of movables and worldly goods.

"This Barbemuche," he said, on being asked his opinion, "is a lump of good qualities. He knows the names of all the wines that were ever invented, and made me eat more nice things than my aunt ever did on her birthday. He is on very good terms with the tailors in the Rue Vivienne, and the bootmakers of the Passage des Panoramas; and I have observed that he is nearly our size, so that, in case of need, we can lend him our clothes. His habits are less austere than Colline chose to represent them; he went wherever I pleased to take him, and gave me breakfast in two acts, the second of which went off in a tavern by the fish market where I am known for some Carnival orgies. Well, Carolus went in there as any ordinary mortal might, and that's all. Marcel goes tomorrow."

Carolus knew that Marcel was the one who had made the most objections to his reception. Accordingly, he treated him with particular attention, and especially won his heart by holding out the hope of procuring him some sitters in the family of his pupil. When it came to Marcel's turn to make his report, there were no traces of his original hostility to Carolus.

On the fourth day, Colline informed Barbemuche that he was admitted, but under conditions. "You have a number of vulgar habits," he said, "which must be reformed."

"I shall do my best to imitate you," said Carolus.

During the whole time of his noviciate the Platonic philosopher kept company with the Bohemians continually, and was thus enabled to study their habits more thoroughly, not without being very much astonished at times. One morning, Colline came to see him with a joyful face.

"My dear fellow," he said, "it's all over; you are now definitely one of us. It only remains to fix the day and the place of the grand entertainment; I have come to talk with you about it."

"That can be arranged with perfect ease," said Carolus. "The parents of my pupil are out of town; the young viscount, whose mentor I am, will lend us the apartments for an evening, only we must invite him to the party."

"That will be very nice," replied Colline. "We will open to him the vistas of literature; but do you think he will consent?"

"I am sure of it."

"Then it only remains to fix the day."

"We will settle that tonight at the cafe."

Carolus then went to find his pupil and announced to him that he had just been elected into a distinguished society of literary men and artists, and that he was going to give a dinner, followed by a little party, to celebrate his admission. He therefore proposed to him to make him one of the guests. "And since you cannot be out late," added Carolus, "and the entertainment may last some time, it will be for our convenience to have it here. Your servant Francois knows how to hold his tongue; your parents will know nothing of it; and you will have made acquaintance with some of the cleverest people in Paris, artists and authors."

"In print?" asked the youth.

"Certainly, one of them edits 'The Scarf of Iris,' which your mother takes in. They are very distinguished persons, almost celebrities, intimate friends of mine, and their wives are charming."

"Will there be some women?" asked Viscount Paul.

"Delightful ones," returned Carolus.

"Oh, dear master, I thank you. The entertainment shall certainly take place here. All the lustres shall be lit up, and I will have the wrappers taken off the furniture."

That night at the cafe, Barbemuche announced that the party would come off next Saturday. The Bohemians told their mistresses to think about their toilettes.

"Do not forget," said they, "that we are going into the real drawing rooms. Therefore, make ready; a rich but simple costume."

And from that day all the neighborhood was informed that Mademoiselles Phemie, Mimi, and Musette were going into society.

On the morning of the festivity, Colline, Schaunard, Marcel, and Rodolphe called, in a body, on Barbemuche, who looked astonished to see them so early.

"Has anything happened which will oblige us to put it off?" he asked with some anxiety.

"Yes—that is, no," said Colline. "This is how we are placed. Among ourselves we never stand on ceremony, but when we are to meet strangers, we wish to preserve a certain decorum."

"Well?" said the other.

"Well," continued Colline, "since we are to meet tonight, the young gentleman to whom we are indebted for the rooms, out of respect to him and to ourselves, we come simply to ask you if you cannot lend us some becoming toggery. It is almost impossible, you see, for us to enter this gorgeous roof in frock-coats and colored trousers."

"But," said Carolus, "I have not black clothes for all of you."

"We will make do with what you have," said Colline.

"Suit yourselves then," said Carolus, opening a well-furnished wardrobe.

"What an arsenal of elegancies!" said Marcel.

"Three hats!" exclaimed Schaunard, in ecstasy. "Can a man want three hats when he had but one head?"

"And the boots!" said Rodolphe, "only look!"

"What a number of boots!" howled Colline.

In a twinkling of an eye each had selected a complete equipment.

"Till this evening," said they, taking leave of Barbemuche. "The ladies intend to be most dazzling."

"But," said Barbemuche, casting a glance at the emptied wardrobe. "You have left me nothing. What am I to wear?"

"Ah, it's different with you," said Rodolphe. "You are the master of the house; you need not stand upon etiquette."

"But I have only my dressing gown and slippers, flannel waistcoat and trousers with stocking feet. You have taken everything."

"Never mind; we excuse you beforehand," replied the four.

A very good dinner was served at six. The company arrived, Marcel limping and out of humor. The young viscount rushed up to the ladies and led them to the best seats. Mimi was dressed with fanciful elegance; Musette got up with seductive taste; Phemie looked like a stained glass window, and hardly dared sit down.

The dinner lasted two hours and a half, and was delightfully lively. The young viscount, who sat next to Mimi, kept treading on her foot. Phemie took twice of every dish. Schaunard was in clover. Rodolphe improvised sonnets and broke glasses in marking the rhyme. Colline talked to Marcel, who remained sulky.

"What is the matter with you?" asked the philosopher.

"My feet are in torture; this Carolus has boots like a woman's."

"He must be given to understand that, for the future, some of his shoes are to be made a little larger. Be easy, I will see to it. But now to the drawing room, where the coffee and liquers await us."

The revelry recommenced with increased noise. Schaunard seated himself at the piano and executed, with immense spirit, his new symphony, "The Death of the Damsel." To this succeeded the characteristic piece of "The Creditor's March," which was twice encored, and two chords of the piano were broken.

Marcel was still morose, and replied to the complaints and expostulations of Carolus:

"My dear sir, we shall never be intimate friends, and for this reason: Physical differences are almost always the certain sign of a moral difference; on this point philosophy and medicine agree."

"Well?" said Carolus.

"Well," continued Marcel, showing his feet, "your boots, infinitely too small for me, indicate a radical difference of temper and character; in other respects, your little party has been charming."

At one in the morning the guests took leave, and zig-zagged homeward. Barbemuche felt very ill, and made incoherent harangues to his pupil, who, for his part, was dreaming of Mademoiselle Mimi's blue eyes.



This took place some time after the union of the poet Rodolphe and Mademoiselle Mimi. For a week the whole of the Bohemian brotherhood were grievously perturbed by the disappearance of Rodolphe, who had suddenly become invisible. They had sought for him in all his customary haunts, and had everywhere been met by the same reply—

"We have not seen him for a week."

Gustave Colline above all was very uneasy, and for the following reason. A few days previously he had handed to Rodolphe a highly philosophical article, which the latter was to insert in the columns of "The Beaver," the organ of the hat trade, of which he was editor. Had this philosophical article burst upon the gaze of astonished Europe? Such was the query put to himself by the astonished Colline, and this anxiety will be understood when it is explained that the philosopher had never yet had the honor of appearing in print, and that he was consumed by the desire of seeing what effect would be produced by his prose in pica. To procure himself this gratification he had already expended six francs in visiting all the reading rooms of Paris without being able to find "The Beaver" in any one of them. Not being able to stand it any longer, Colline swore to himself that he would not take a moment's rest until he had laid hands on the undiscoverable editor of this paper.

Aided by chances which it would take too long to tell in detail, the philosopher was able to keep his word. Within two days he learned Rodolphe's abiding place and called on him there at six in the morning.

Rodolphe was then residing in a lodging house in a deserted street situated in the Faubourg Saint Germain, and was perched on the fifth floor because there was not a sixth. When Colline came to his door there was no key in the lock outside. He knocked for ten minutes without obtaining any answer from within; the din he made at this early hour attracted the attention of even the porter, who came to ask him to be quiet.

"You see very well that the gentleman is asleep," said he.

"That is why I want to wake him up," replied Colline, knocking again.

"He does not want to answer then," replied the porter, placing before Rodolphe's door a pair of patent leather boots and a pair of lady's boots that he had just cleaned.

"Wait a bit though," observed Colline, examining the masculine and feminine foot gear. "New patent leathers! I must have made a mistake; it cannot be here."

"Yes, by the way," said the porter, "whom do you want?"

"A woman's boots!" continued Colline, speaking to himself, and thinking of his friends austere manners, "Yes, certainly I must have made a mistake. This is not Rodolphe's room."

"I beg your pardon, sir, it is."

"You must be making a mistake, my good man."

"What do you mean?"

"Decidedly you must be making a mistake," said Colline, pointing to the patent leather boots. "What are those?"

"Those are Monsieur Rodolphe's boots. What is there to be wondered at in that?"

"And these?" asked Colline, pointing to the lady's boots. "Are they Monsieur Rodolphe's too?"

"Those are his wife's," said the porter.

"His wife's!" exclaimed Colline in a tone of stupefaction. "Ah! The voluptuary, that is why he will not open the door."

"Well," said the porter, "he is free to do as he likes about that, sir. If you will leave me your name I will let him know you called."

"No," said Colline. "Now that I know where to find him I will call again."

And he at once went off to tell the important news to his friends.

Rodolphe's patent leathers were generally considered to be a fable due to Colline's wealth of imagination, and it was unanimously declared that his mistress was a paradox.

This paradox was, however, a truism, for that very evening Marcel received a letter collectively addressed to the whole of the set. It was as follows:—

"Monsieur and Madame Rodolphe, literati, beg you to favor them with your company at dinner tomorrow evening at five o'clock sharp."

"N.B.—There will be plates."

"Gentlemen," said Marcel, when communicating the letter to his comrades, "the news is confirmed, Rodolphe has really a mistress; further he invites us to dinner, and the postscript promises crockery. I will not conceal from you that this last paragraph seems to me a lyrical exaggeration, but we shall see."

The following day at the hour named, Marcel, Gustave Colline, and Alexander Schaunard, keen set as on the last day of Lent, went to Rodolphe's, whom they found playing with a sandy haired cat, whilst a young woman was laying the table.

"Gentlemen," said Rodolphe, shaking his friends' hands and indicating the young lady, "allow me to introduce you to the mistress of the household."

"You are the household, are you not?" said Colline, who had a mania for this kind of joke.

"Mimi," replied Rodolphe, "I present my best friends; now go and get the soup ready."

"Oh madame," said Alexander Schaunard, hastening towards Mimi, "you are as fresh as a wild flower."

After having satisfied himself that there were really plates on the table, Schaunard asked what they were going to have to eat. He even carried his curiosity so far as to lift up the covers of the stewpans in which the dinner was cooking. The presence of a lobster produced a lively impression upon him.

As to Colline, he had drawn Rodolphe aside to ask about his philosophical article.

"My dear fellow, it is at the printer's. 'The Beaver' appears next Thursday."

We give up the task of depicting the philosopher's delight.

"Gentlemen," said Rodolphe to his friends. "I ask your pardon for leaving you so long without any news of me, but I was spending my honeymoon." And he narrated the story of his union with the charming creature who had brought him as a dowry her eighteen years and a half, two porcelain cups, and a sandy haired cat named Mimi, like herself.

"Come, gentlemen," said Rodolphe, "we are going to celebrate my house warming. I forewarn you, though, that we are about to have merely a family repast; truffles will be replaced by frank cordiality."

Indeed, that amiable goddess did not cease to reign amongst the guests, who found, however, that the so-called frugal repast did not lack a certain amplitude. Rodolphe, indeed, had spread himself out. Colline called attention to the fact that the plates were changed, and declared aloud that Mademoiselle Mimi was worthy of the azure scarf with which the empresses of the cooking stove were adorned, a phrase which was Greek to the young girl, and which Rodolphe translated by telling her "that she would make a capital Cordon Bleu."

The appearance on the scene of the lobster caused universal admiration. Under the pretext that he had studied natural history, Schaunard suggested that he should carve it. He even profited by this circumstance to break a knife and to take the largest helping for himself, which excited general indignation. But Schaunard had no self respect, above all in the matter of lobsters, and as there was still a portion left, he had the audacity to put it on one side, saying that he would do for a model for a still life piece he had on hand.

Indulgent friendship feigned to believe this fiction, but fruit of immoderate gluttony.

As to Colline he reserved his sympathies for the dessert, and was even obstinate enough to cruelly refuse the share of a tipsy cake against a ticket of admission to the orangery of Versailles offered to him by Schaunard.

At this point conversation began to get lively. To three bottles with red seals succeeded three bottles with green seals, in the midst of which shortly appeared one which by its neck topped with a silver helmet, was recognized as belonging to the Royal Champagne Regiment—a fantastic Champagne vintaged by Saint Ouen, and sold in Paris at two francs the bottle as bankrupt's stock, so the vendor asserted.

But it is not the district that makes the wine, and our Bohemians accepted as the authentic growth of Ai the liquor that was served out to them in the appropriate glasses, and despite the scant degree of vivacity shown by the cork in popping from its prison, went into ecstacies over the excellence of the vintage on seeing the quality of the froth. Schaunard summoned up all his remaining self-possession to make a mistake as regards glasses, and help himself to that of Colline, who kept gravely dipping his biscuit in the mustard pot as he explained to Mademoiselle Mimi the philosophical article that was to appear in "The Beaver." All at once he grew pale, and asked leave to go to the window and look at the sunset, although it was ten o'clock at night, and the sun had set long ago.

"It is a pity the Champagne is not iced," said Schaunard, again trying to substitute his empty glass for the full one of his neighbor, an attempt this time without success.

"Madame," observed Colline, who had ceased to take the fresh air, to Mimi, "Champagne is iced with ice. Ice is formed by the condensation of water, in Latin aqua. Water freezes at two degrees, and there are four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter, which was the cause of the retreat from Moscow."

All at once Colline suddenly slapped Rodolphe on the shoulder, and in a thick voice that seemed to mash all the syllables together, said to him—

"Tomorrow is Thursday, is it not?"

"No," replied Rodolphe. "Tomorrow is Sunday."


"No, I tell you. Tomorrow is Sunday."

"Sunday!" said Colline, wagging his head, "not a bit of it, it is Thursday."

And he fell asleep, making a mold for a cast of his face in the cream cheese that was before him in his plate.

"What is he harping about Thursday?" observed Marcel.

"Ah, I have it!" said Rodolphe, who began to understand the persistency of the philosopher, tormented by a fixed idea, "it is on account of his article in 'The Beaver.' Listen, he is dreaming of it aloud."

"Good," said Schaunard. "He shall not have any coffee, eh, madame?"

"By the way," said Rodolphe, "pour out the coffee, Mimi."

The latter was about to rise, when Colline, who had recovered a little self possession, caught her around the waist and whispered confidentially in her ear:

"Madame, the coffee plant is a native of Arabia, where it was discovered by a goat. Its use expanded to Europe. Voltaire used to drink seventy cups a day. I like mine without sugar, but very hot."

"Good heavens! What a learned man!" thought Mimi as she brought the coffee and pipes.

However time was getting on, midnight had long since struck, and Rodolphe sought to make his guests understand that it was time for them to withdraw. Marcel, who retained all his senses, got up to go.

But Schaunard perceived that there was still some brandy in a bottle, and declared that it could not be midnight so long as there was any left. As to Colline, he was sitting astride his chair and murmuring in a low voice:

"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday."

"Hang it all," said Rodolphe, greatly embarrassed, "I cannot give them quarters here tonight; formerly it was all very well, but now it is another thing," he added, looking at Mimi, whose softly kindling eyes seemed to appeal for solitude for their two selves. "What is to be done? Give me a bit of advice, Marcel. Invent a trick to get rid of them."

"No, I won't invent," replied Marcel, "but I will imitate. I remember a play in which a sharp servant manages to get rid of three rascals as drunk as Silenus who are at his master's."

"I recollect it," said Rodolphe, "it is in 'Kean.' Indeed, the situation is the same."

"Well," said Marcel, "we will see if the stage holds the glass up to human nature. Stop a bit, we will begin with Schaunard. Here, I say, Schaunard."

"Eh? What is it?" replied the latter, who seemed to be floating in the elysium of mild intoxication.

"There is nothing more to drink here, and we are all thirsty."

"Yes," said Schaunard, "bottles are so small."

"Well," continued Marcel, "Rodolphe has decided that we shall pass the night here, but we must go and get something before the shops are shut."

"My grocer lives at the corner of the street," said Rodolphe. "Do you mind going there, Schaunard? You can fetch two bottles of rum, to be put down to me."

"Oh! yes, certainly," said Schaunard, making a mistake in his greatcoat and taking that of Colline, who was tracing figures on the table cloth with his knife.

"One," said Marcel, when Schaunard had gone. "Now let us tackle Colline, that will be a harder job. Ah! an idea. Hi, hi, Colline," he continued, shaking the philosopher.

"What? what? what is it?"

"Schaunard has just gone, and has taken your hazel overcoat by mistake."

Colline glanced round again, and perceived indeed in the place of his garment, Schaunard's little plaid overcoat. A sudden idea flashed across his mind and filled him with uneasiness. Colline, according to his custom, had been book-hunting during the day, and had bought for fifteen sous a Finnish grammar and a little novel of Nisard's entitled "The Milkwoman's Funeral." These two acquisitions were accompanied by seven or eight volumes of philosophy that he had always about him as an arsenal whence to draw reasons in case of an argument. The idea of this library being in the hands of Schaunard threw him into a cold perspiration.

"The wretch!" exclaimed Colline, "what did he take my greatcoat for?"

"It was by mistake."

"But my books. He may put them to some improper purpose."

"Do not be afraid, he will not read them," said Rodolphe.

"No, but I know him; he is capable of lighting his pipe with them."

"If you are uneasy you can catch him up," said Rodolphe. "He has only just this moment gone out, you will overtake him at the street door."

"Certainly I will overtake him," replied Colline, putting on his hat, the brim of which was so broad that tea for six people might have been served upon it.

"Two," said Marcel to Rodolphe, "now you are free. I am off, and I will tell the porter not to open the outer door if anyone knocks."

"Goodnight and thanks," said Rodolphe.

As he was showing his friend out Rodolphe heard on the staircase a prolonged mew, to which his carroty cat replied by another, whilst trying at the same time to slip out adroitly by the half-opened door.

"Poor Romeo!" said Rodolphe, "there is his Juliet calling him. Come, off with you," he added opening the door to the enamored beast, who made a single leap down the stairs into its lover's arms.

Left alone with his mistress, who standing before the glass was curling her hair in a charmingly provocative attitude, Rodolphe approached Mimi and passed his arms around her. Then, like a musician, who before commencing a piece, strikes a series of notes to assure himself of the capacity of the instrument, Rodolphe drew Mimi onto his knee, and printed on her shoulder a long and sonorous kiss, which imparted a sudden vibration to the frame of the youthful beauty.

The instrument was in tune.



Oh! my friend Rodolphe, what has happened to change you thus? Am I to believe the rumors that are current, and that this misfortune has broken down to such a degree your robust philosophy? How can I, the historian in ordinary of your Bohemian epic, so full of joyous bursts of laughter, narrate in a sufficiently melancholy tone the painful adventure which casts a veil over your constant gaiety, and suddenly checks the ringing flow of your paradoxes?

Oh! Rodolphe, my friend, I admit that the evil is serious, but there, really it is not worthwhile throwing oneself into the water about it. So I invite you to bury the past as soon as possible. Shun above all the solitude peopled with phantoms who would help to render your regrets eternal. Shun the silence where the echoes of recollection would still be full of your past joys and sorrows. Cast boldly to all the winds of forgetfulness the name you have so fondly cherished, and with it all that still remains to you of her who bore it. Curls pressed by lips mad with desire, a Venice flask in which there still lurks a remainder of perfume, which at this moment it would be more dangerous for you to breathe than all the poisons in the world. To the fire with the flowers, the flowers of gauze, silk and velvet, the white geraniums, the anemones empurpled by the blood of Adonis, the blue forget-me-nots and all those charming bouquets that she put together in the far off days of your brief happiness. Then I loved her too, your Mimi, and saw no danger in your loving her. But follow my advice—to the fire with the ribbons, the pretty pink, blue, and yellow ribbons which she wore round her neck to attract the eye; to the fire with the lace, the caps, the veils and all the coquettish trifles with which she bedecked herself to go love-making with Monsieur Cesar, Monsieur Jerome, Monsieur Charles, or any other gallant in the calendar, whilst you were awaiting her at your window, shivering from the wintry blast. To the fire, Rodolphe, and without pity, with all that belonged to her and could still speak to you of her; to the fire with the love letters. Ah! here is one of them, and your tears have bedewed it like a fountain. Oh! my unhappy friend!

"As you have not come in, I am going out to call on my aunt. I have taken what money there was for a cab."


That evening, oh! Rodolphe, you had, do you not recollect, to go without your dinner, and you called on me and let off a volley of jests which fully attested your tranquillity of mind. For you believed Lucille was at her aunt's, and if I had not told you that she was with Monsieur Cesar or with an actor of the Montparnasse Theater, you would have cut my throat! To the fire, too, with this other note, which has all the laconic affection of the first.

"I am gone out to order some boots, you must find the money for me to go and fetch them tomorrow."

Ah! my friend, those boots have danced many quadrilles in which you did not figure as a partner. To the flames with all these remembrances and to the winds with their ashes.

But in the first place, oh Rodolphe! for the love of humanity and the reputation of "The Scarf of Iris" and "The Beaver," resume the reins of good taste that you have egotistically dropped during your sufferings, or else horrible things may happen for which you will be responsible. We may go back to leg-of-mutton sleeves and frilled trousers, and some fine day see hats come into fashion which would afflict the universe and call down the wrath of heaven.

And now the moment is come to relate the loves of our friend Rodolphe and Mimi. It was just as he was turned four and twenty that Rodolphe was suddenly smitten with the passion that had such an influence upon his life. At the time he met Mimi he was leading that broken and fantastic existence that we have tried to describe in the preceding chapters of this book. He was certainly one of the gayest endurers of poverty in the world of Bohemia. When in course of the day he had made a poor dinner and a smart remark, he walked more proudly in his black coat (pleading for help through every gaping seam) along the pavement that often promised to be his only resting place for the night, than an emperor in his purple robe. In the group amongst whom Rodolphe lived, they affected, after a fashion common enough amongst some young fellows, to treat love as a thing of luxury, a pretext for jesting. Gustave Colline, who had for a long time past been in intimate relations with a waistcoat maker, whom he was rendering deformed in mind and body by obliging her to sit day and night copying the manuscripts of his philosophical works, asserted that love was a kind of purgative, good to take at the beginning of each season in order to get rid of humors. Amidst all these false sceptics Rodolphe was the only one who dared to talk of love with some reverence, and when they had the misfortune to let him harp on this string, he would go on for an hour plaintively wurbling elegies on the happiness of being loved, the deep blue of the peaceful lake, the song of the breeze, the harmony of the stars, &c., &c. This mania had caused him to be nicknamed the harmonica by Schaunard. Marcel had also made on this subject a very neat remark when, alluding to the Teutonically sentimental tirades of Rodolphe and to his premature calvity, he called him the bald forget-me-not. The real truth was this. Rodolphe then seriously believed he had done with all things of youth and love; he insolently chanted a De profundis over his heart, which he thought dead when it was only silent, yet still ready to awake, still accessible to joy, and more susceptible than ever to all the sweet pangs that he no longer hoped for, and that were now driving him to despair. You would have it, Rodolphe, and we shall not pity you, for the disease from which you are suffering is one of those we long for most, above all when we know that we are cured of it forever.

Rodolphe then met Mimi, whom he had formerly known when she was the mistress of one of his friends; and he made her his own. There was at first a great outcry amongst Rodolphe's friends when they learned of this union, but as Mademoiselle Mimi was very taking, not at all prudish, and could stand tobacco smoke and literary conversations without a headache, they became accustomed to her and treated her as a comrade. Mimi was a charming girl, and especially adapted for both the plastic and poetical sympathies of Rodolphe. She was twenty two years of age, small, delicate, and arch. Her face seemed the first sketch of an aristocratic countenance, but her features, extremely fine in outline, and as it were, softly lit up by the light of her clear blue eyes, wore, at certain moments of weariness or ill-humor, an expression of almost savage brutality, in which a physiologist would perhaps have recognized the indication of profound egotism or great insensibility. But hers was usually a charming head, with a fresh and youthful smile and glances either tender or full of imperious coquetry. The blood of youth flowed warm and rapid in her veins, and imparted rosy tints to her transparent skin of camellia-like whiteness. This unhealthy beauty captivated Rodolphe, and he often during the night spent hours in covering with kisses the pale forehead of his slumbering mistress, whose humid and weary eyes shone half-closed beneath the curtain of her magnificent brown hair. But what contributed above all to make Rodolphe madly in love with Mademoiselle Mimi were her hands, which in spite of household cares, she managed to keep as white as those of the Goddess of Idleness. However, these hands so frail, so tiny, so soft to the lips; these child-like hands in which Rodolphe had placed his once more awakened heart; these white hands of Mademoiselle Mimi were soon to rend that heart with their rosy nails.

At the end of a month Rodolphe began to perceive that he was wedded to a thunderstorm, and that his mistress had one great fault. She was a "gadabout," as they say, and spent a great part of her time amongst the kept women of the neighborhood, whose acquaintance she had made. The result that Rodolphe had feared, when he perceived the relations contracted by his mistress, soon took place. The variable opulence of some of her new friends caused a forest of ambitious ideas to spring up in the mind of Mademoiselle Mimi, who up until then had only had modest tastes, and was content with the necessaries of life that Rodolphe did his best to procure for her. Mimi began to dream of silks, velvets, and lace. And, despite Rodolphe's prohibition, she continued to frequent these women, who were all of one mind in persuading her to break off with the Bohemian who could not even give her a hundred and fifty francs to buy a stuff dress.

"Pretty as you are," said her advisers, "you can easily secure a better position. You have only to look for it."

And Mademoiselle Mimi began to look. A witness of her frequent absences, clumsily accounted for, Rodolphe entered upon the painful track of suspicion. But as soon as he felt himself on the trail of some proof of infidelity, he eagerly drew a bandage over his eyes in order to see nothing. However, a strange, jealous, fantastic, quarrelsome love which the girl did not understand, because she then only felt for Rodolphe that lukewarm attachment resulting from habit. Besides, half of her heart had already been expended over her first love, and the other half was still full of the remembrance of her first lover.

Eight months passed by in this fashion, good and evil days alternating. During this period Rodolphe was a score of times on the point of separating from Mademoiselle Mimi, who had for him all the clumsy cruelties of the woman who does not love. Properly speaking, this life had become a hell for both. But Rodolphe had grown accustomed to these daily struggles, and dreaded nothing so much as a cessation of this state of things; for he felt that with it would cease forever the fever and agitations of youth that he had not felt for so long. And then, if everything must be told, there were hours in which Mademoiselle Mimi knew how to make Rodolphe forget all the suspicions that were tearing at his heart. There were moments when she caused him to bend like a child at her knee beneath the charm of her blue eyes—the poet to whom she had given back his lost poetry—the young man to whom she had restored his youth, and who, thanks to her, was once more beneath love's equator. Two or three times a month, amidst these stormy quarrels, Rodolphe and Mimi halted with one accord at the verdant oasis of a night of love, and for whole hours would give himself up to addressing her in that charming yet absurd language that passion improvises in its hour of delirium. Mimi listened calmly at first, rather astonished than moved, but, in the end, the enthusiastic eloquence of Rodolphe, by turns tender, lively, and melancholy, won on her by degrees. She felt the ice of indifference that numbed her heart melt at the contact of the love; she would throw herself on Rodolphe's breast, and tell him by kisses all that she was unable to tell him in words. And dawn surprised them thus enlaced together—eyes fixed on eyes, hands clasped in hands—whilst their moist and burning lips were still murmuring that immortal word "that for five thousand years has lingered nightly on lovers' lips."

But the next day the most futile pretext brought about a quarrel, and love alarmed fled again for some time.

In the end, however, Rodolphe perceived that if he did not take care the white hands of Mademoiselle Mimi would lead him to an abyss in which he would leave his future and his youth. For a moment stern reason spoke in him more strongly than love, and he convinced himself by strong arguments, backed up by proofs, that his mistress did not love him. He went so far as to say to himself, that the hours of love she granted him were nothing but a mere sensual caprice such as married women feel for their husbands when they long for a cashmere shawl or a new dress, or when their lover is away, in accordance with the proverb that half a loaf is better than no bread. In short, Rodolphe could forgive his mistress everything except not being loved. He therefore took a supreme resolution, and announced to Mademoiselle Mimi that she would have to look out for another lover. Mimi began to laugh and to utter bravados. In the end, seeing that Rodolphe was firm in his resolve, and greeted her with extreme calmness when she returned home after a day and a night spent out of the house, she began to grow a little uneasy in face of this firmness, to which she was not accustomed. She was then charming for two or three days. But her lover did not go back on what he had said, and contented himself with asking whether she had found anyone.

"I have not even looked," she replied.

However, she had looked, and even before Rodolphe had advised her to do so. In a fortnight she had made two essays. One of her friends had helped her, and had at first procured her the acquaintance of a very tender youth, who had unfolded before Mimi's eyes a horizon of Indian cashmeres and suites of furniture in rosewood. But in the opinion of Mimi herself this young schoolboy, who might be very good at algebra, was not very advanced in the art of love, and as she did not like undertaking education, she left her amorous novice on the lurch, with his cashmeres still browsing on the plains of Tibet, and his rosewood furniture still growing in the forests of the New World.

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