Bohemians of the Latin Quarter
by Henry Murger
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"Now, then, I am recovered," said she. "I can go into my own room."

He had already opened the door, when she perceived that she was not only forgetting to light her candle, but that she had not the key of her room.

"Silly thing that I am," said she, putting her candle to the flame of the resin taper, "I came in here to get a light, and I was going away without one."

But at the same moment the draft caused by the door and window, both of which had remained open, suddenly blew out the taper, and the two young folk were left in darkness.

"One would think that it was done on purpose," said Francine. "Forgive me sir, for all the trouble I am giving you, and be good enough to strike a light so that I may find my key."

"Certainly mademoiselle," answered Jacques, feeling for the matches.

He had soon found them. But a singular idea flashed across his mind, and he put the matches in his pocket saying, "Dear me, mademoiselle, here is another trouble. I have not a single match here. I used the last when I came in."

"Oh!" said Francine, "after all I can very well find my way without a light, my room is not big enough for me to lose myself in it. But I must have my key. Will you be good enough, sir, to help me to look for it? It must have fallen to the ground."

"Let us look for it, mademoiselle," said Jacques.

And both of them began to seek the lost article in the dark, but as though guided by a common instinct, it happened during this search, that their hands, groping in the same spot, met ten times a minute. And, as they were both equally awkward, they did not find the key.

"The moon, which is hidden just now by the clouds, shines right into the room," said Jacques. "Let us wait a bit; by-and-by it will light up the room and may help us."

And, pending the appearance of the moon, they began to talk. A conversation in the dark, in a little room, on a spring night; a conversation which, at the outset trifling and unimportant, gradually enters on the chapter of personal confidences. You know what that leads to. Language by degrees grows confused, full of reticences; voices are lowered; words alternate with sighs. Hands meeting complete the thought which from the heart ascends to the lips, and—. Seek the conclusion in your recollection, young couples. Do you remember, young man. Do you remember, young lady, you who now walk hand-in-hand, and who, up to two days back, had never seen one another?

At length the moon broke through the clouds, and her bright light flooded the room. Mademoiselle Francine awoke from her reverie uttering a faint cry.

"What is the matter?" asked Jacques, putting his arm around her waist.

"Nothing," murmured Francine. "I thought I heard someone knock."

And, without Jacques noticing it, she pushed the key that she had just noticed under some of the furniture.

She did not want to find it now.

* * * * *

First Reader: I certainly will not let my daughter read this story.

Second Reader: Up till now I have not caught a glimpse of a single hair of Mademoiselle Francine's muff; and, as to the young woman herself, I do not know any better what she is like, whether she is fair or dark.

Patience, readers, patience. I have promised you a muff, and I will give you one later on, as my friend Jacques did to his poor love Francine, who had become his mistress, as I have explained in the line left blank above.

She was fair was Francine, fair and lovely, which is not usual. She had remained ignorant of love until she was twenty, but a vague presentiment of her approaching end counselled her not to delay if she would become acquainted with it.

She met Jacques and loved him. Their connection lasted six months. They had taken one another in the spring; they were parted in the autumn. Francine was consumptive. She knew it and her lover Jacques knew it too; a fortnight after he had taken up with her he had learned it from one of his friends, who was a doctor.

"She will go with the autumn leaves," said the latter.

Francine heard this confidence, and perceived the grief it caused her lover.

"What matters the autumn leaves?" said she, putting the whole of her love into a smile. "What matters the autumn; it is summer, and the leaves are green; let us profit by that, love. When you see me ready to depart from this life, you shall take me in your arms and kiss me, and forbid me to go. I am obedient you know, and I will stay."

And for five months this charming creature passed through the miseries of Bohemian life, a smile and a song on her lips. As to Jacques, he let himself be deluded. His friend often said to him, "Francine is worse, she must be attended to." Then Jacques went all over Paris to obtain the wherewithal for the doctor's prescription, but Francine would not hear of it, and threw the medicine out of the window. At night, when she was seized with a fit of coughing, she would leave the room and go out on the landing, so that Jacques might not hear her.

One day, when they had both gone into the country, Jacques saw a tree the foliage of which was turning to yellow. He gazed sadly at Francine, who was walking slowly and somewhat dreamily.

Francine saw Jacques turn pale and guessed the reason of his pallor.

"You are foolish," said she, kissing him, "we are only in July, it is three months to October, loving one another day and night as we do, we shall double the time we have to spend together. And then, besides, if I feel worse when the leaves turn yellow, we will go and live in a pine forest, the leaves are always green there."

* * * * *

In October Francine was obliged to keep her bed. Jacques' friend attended her. The little room in which they lived was situated at the top of the house and looked into a court, in which there was a tree, which day by day grew barer of foliage. Jacques had put a curtain to the window to hide this tree from the invalid, but Francine insisted on its being drawn back.

"Oh my darling!" said she to Jacques. "I will give you a hundred times more kisses than there are leaves." And she added, "Besides I am much better now. I shall soon be able to go out, but as it will be cold and I do not want to have red hands, you must buy me a muff."

During the whole of her illness this muff was her only dream.

The day before All Saints', seeing Jacques more grief stricken than ever, she wished to give him courage, and to prove to him that she was better she got up.

The doctor arrived at that moment and forced her to go to bed again.

"Jacques," whispered he in the artist's ear, "you must summon up your courage. All is over; Francine is dying."

Jacques burst into tears.

"You may give her whatever she asks for now," continued the doctor, "there is no hope."

Francine heard with her eyes what the doctor had said to her lover.

"Do not listen to him," she exclaimed, holding out her arm to Jacques, "do not listen to him; he is not speaking the truth. We will go out tomorrow—it is All Saints' Day. It will be cold—go buy me a muff, I beg of you. I am afraid of chilblains this winter."

Jacques was going out with his friend, but Francine detained the doctor.

"Go and get my muff," said she to Jacques. "Get a nice one, so that it may last a good while."

When she was alone she said to the doctor.

"Oh sir! I am going to die, and I know it. But before I pass away give me something to give me strength for a night, I beg of you. Make me well for one more night, and let me die afterwards, since God does not wish me to live longer."

As the doctor was doing his best to console her, the wind carried into the room and cast upon the sick girl's bed a yellow leaf, torn from the tree in the little courtyard.

Francine opened the curtain, and saw the tree entirely bare.

"It is the last," said she, putting the leaf under her pillow.

"You will not die until tomorrow," said the doctor. "You have a night before you."

"Ah, what happiness!" exclaimed the poor girl. "A winter's night—it will be a long one."

Jacques came back. He brought a muff with him.

"It is very pretty," said Francine. "I will wear it when I go out."

So passed the night with Jacques.

The next day—All Saints'—about the middle of the day, the death agony seized on her, and her whole body began to quiver.

"My hands are cold," she murmured. "Give me my muff."

And she buried her poor hands in the fur.

"It is the end," said the doctor to Jacques. "Kiss her for the last time."

Jacques pressed his lips to those of his love. At the last moment they wanted to take away her muff, but she clutched it with her hands.

"No, no," she said, "leave it me; it is winter, it is cold. Oh my poor Jacques! My poor Jacques! What will become of you? Oh heavens!"

And the next day Jacques was alone.

First Reader: I told you that this was not a very lively story.

What would you have, reader? We cannot always laugh.

It was the morning of All Saints. Francine was dead.

Two men were watching at the bedside. One of them standing up was the doctor. The other, kneeling beside the bed, was pressing his lips to the dead girl's hands, and seemed to rivet them there in a despairing kiss. It was Jacques, her lover. For more than six hours he had been plunged in a state of heart broken insensibility. An organ playing under the windows had just roused him from it.

This organ was playing a tune that Francine was in the habit of singing of a morning.

One of those mad hopes that are only born out of deep despair flashed across Jacques' mind. He went back a month in the past—to the period when Francine was only sick unto death; he forgot the present, and imagined for a moment that the dead girl was but sleeping, and that she would wake up directly, her mouth full of her morning song.

But the sounds of the organ had not yet died away before Jacques had already come back to the reality. Francine's mouth was eternally closed to all songs, and the smile that her last thought had brought to her lips was fading away from them beneath death's fingers.

"Take courage, Jacques," said the doctor, who was the sculptor's friend.

Jacques rose, and said, looking fixedly at him, "it is over, is it not—there is no longer any hope?"

Without replying to this wild inquiry, Jacques' friend went and drew the curtains of the bed, and then, returning to the sculptor, held out his hand.

"Francine is dead," said he. "We were bound to expect it, though heaven knows that we have done what we could to save her. She was a good girl, Jacques, who loved you very dearly—dearer and better than you loved her yourself, for hers was love alone, while yours held an alloy. Francine is dead, but all is not over yet. We must now think about the steps necessary for her burial. We must set about that together, and we will ask one of the neighbors to keep watch here while we are away."

Jacques allowed himself to be led away by his friend. They passed the day between the registrar of deaths, the undertaker, and the cemetery. As Jacques had no money, the doctor pawned his watch, a ring, and some clothes, to cover the cost of the funeral, that was fixed for the next day.

They both got in late at night. The neighbor who had been watching tried to make Jacques eat a little.

"Yes," said he. "I will. I am very cold and I shall need a little strength for my work tonight."

The neighbor and the doctor did not understand him.

Jacques sat down at the table and ate a few mouthfuls so hurriedly that he was almost choked. Then he asked for drink. But on lifting his glass to his lips he let it fall. The glass, which broke on the floor, had awakened in the artist's mind a recollection which itself revived his momentary dulled pain. The day on which Francine had called on him for the first time she had felt ill, and he had given her to drink out of this glass. Later, when they were living together, they had regarded it as a love token.

During his rare moments of wealth the artist would buy for his love one or two bottles of the strengthening wine prescribed for her, and it was from this glass that Francine used to sip the liquid whence her love drew a charming gaiety.

Jacques remained for more than half an hour staring without uttering a word at the scattered fragments of this frail and cherished token. It seemed to him that his heart was also broken, and that he could feel the fragments tearing his breast. When he had recovered himself, he picked up the pieces of glass and placed them in a drawer. Then he asked the neighbor to fetch him two candles, and to send up a bucket of water by the porter.

"Do not go away," said he to the doctor, who had no intention of doing so. "I shall want you presently."

The water and the candles were brought and the two friends left alone.

"What do you want to do?" asked the doctor, watching Jacques, who after filling a wooden bowl with water was sprinkling powdered plaster of Paris into it.

"What do I mean to do?" asked the artist, "cannot you guess? I am going to model Francine's head, and as my courage would fail me if I were left alone, you must stay with me."

Jacques then went and drew the curtains of the bed and turned down the sheet that had been pulled up over the dead girl's face. His hand began to tremble and a stifled sob broke from his lips.

"Bring the candles," he cried to his friend, "and come and hold the bowl for me."

One of the candles was placed at the head of the bed so as to shed its light on Francine's face, the other candle was placed at the foot. With a brush dipped in olive oil the artist coated the eye-brows, the eye-lashes and the hair, which he arranged as Francine usually wore it.

"By doing this she will not suffer when we remove the mold," murmured Jacques to himself.

These precautions taken and after arranging the dead girl's head in a favorable position, Jacques began to lay on the plaster in successive coats until the mold had attained the necessary thickness. In a quarter of an hour the operation was over and had been thoroughly successful.

By some strange peculiarity a change had taken place in Francine's face. The blood, which had not had time to become wholly congealed, warmed no doubt by the warmth of the plaster, had flowed to the upper part of the corpse and a rosy tinge gradually showed itself on the dead whiteness of the cheeks and forehead. The eyelids, which had lifted when the mold was removed, revealed the tranquil blue eyes in which a vague intelligence seemed to lurk; from out the lips, parted by the beginning of a smile, there seemed to issue that last word, forgotten during the last farewell, that is only heard by the heart.

Who can affirm that intelligence absolutely ends where insensibility begins? Who can say that the passions fade away and die exactly at the last beat of the heart which they have agitated? Cannot the soul sometimes remain a voluntary captive within the corpse already dressed for the coffin, and note for a moment from the recesses of its fleshly prison house, regrets and tears? Those who depart have so many reasons to mistrust those who remain behind.

At the moment when Jacques sought to preserve her features by the aid of art who knows but that a thought of after life had perhaps returned to awaken Francine in her first slumber of the sleep that knows no end. Perhaps she had remembered the he whom she had just left was an artist at the same time as a lover, that he was both because he could not be one without the other, that for him love was the soul of heart and that if he had loved her so, it was because she had been for him a mistress and a woman, a sentiment in form. And then, perhaps, Francine, wishing to leave Jacques the human form that had become for him an incarnate ideal, had been able though dead and cold already to once more clothe her face with all the radiance of love and with all the graces of youth, to resuscitate the art treasure.

And perhaps too, the poor girl had thought rightly, for there exist among true artists singular Pygmalions who, contrary to the original one, would like to turn their living Galateas to marble.

In presence of the serenity of this face on which the death pangs had no longer left any trace, no one would have believed in the prolonged sufferings that had served as a preface to death. Francine seemed to be continuing a dream of love, and seeing her thus one would have said that she had died of beauty.

The doctor, worn out with fatigue, was asleep in a corner.

As to Jacques, he was again plunged in doubt. His mind beset with hallucinations, persisted in believing that she whom he had loved so well was on the point of awakening, and as faint nervous contractions, due to the recent action of the plaster, broke at intervals the immobility of the corpse, this semblance of life served to maintain Jacques in his blissful illusion, which lasted until morning, when a police official called to verify the death and authorize internment.

Besides, if it needed all the folly of despair to doubt of her death on beholding this beautiful creature, it also needed all the infallibility of science to believe it.

While the neighbor was putting Francine into her shroud, Jacques was led away into the next room, where he found some of his friends who had come to follow the funeral. The Bohemians desisted as regards Jacques, whom, however, they loved in brotherly fashion, from all those consolations which only serve to irritate grief. Without uttering one of those remarks so hard to frame and so painful to listen to, they silently shook their friend by the hand in turn.

"Her death is a great misfortune for Jacques," said one of them.

"Yes," replied the painter Lazare, a strange spirit who had been able at the very outset to conquer all the rebellious impulses of youth by the inflexibility of one set purpose, and in whom the artist had ended by stifling the man, "yes, but it is a misfortune that he incurred voluntarily. Since he knew Francine, Jacques has greatly altered."

"She made him happy," said another.

"Happy," replied Lazare, "what do you call happy? How can you call a passion, which brings a man to the condition in which Jacques is at this moment, happiness? Show him a masterpiece and he would not even turn his eyes to look at it; on a Titian or a Raphael. My mistress is immortal and will never deceive me. She dwells in the Louvre, and her name is Joconde."

While Lazare was about to continue his theories on art and sentiment, it was announced that it was time to start for the church.

After a few prayers the funeral procession moved on to the cemetery. As it was All Souls' Day an immense crowd filled it. Many people turned to look at Jacques walking bareheaded in rear of the hearse.

"Poor fellow," said one, "it is his mother, no doubt."

"It is his father," said another.

"It is his sister," was elsewhere remarked.

A poet, who had come there to study the varying expressions of regret at this festival of recollections celebrated once a year amidst November fogs, alone guessed on seeing him pass that he was following the funeral of his mistress.

When they came to the grave the Bohemians ranged themselves about it bareheaded, Jacques stood close to the edge, his friend the doctor holding him by the arm.

The grave diggers were in a hurry and wanted to get things over quickly.

"There is to be no speechifying," said one of them. "Well, so much the better. Heave, mate, that's it."

The coffin taken out of the hearse was lowered into the grave. One man withdrew the ropes and then with one of his mates took a shovel and began to cast in the earth. The grave was soon filled up. A little wooden cross was planted over it.

In the midst of his sobs the doctor heard Jacques utter this cry of egoism—

"Oh my youth! It is you they are burying."

Jacques belonged to a club styled the Water Drinkers, which seemed to have been founded in imitation of the famous one of the Rue des Quatre-Vents, which is treated of in that fine story "Un Grand Homme de Province." Only there was a great difference between the heroes of the latter circle and the Water Drinkers who, like all imitators, had exaggerated the system they sought to put into practice. This difference will be understood by the fact that in Balzac's book the members of the club end by attaining the object they proposed to themselves, while after several years' existence the club of the Water Drinkers was naturally dissolved by the death of all its members, without the name of anyone of them remaining attached to a work attesting their existence.

During his union with Francine, Jacques' intercourse with the Water Drinkers had become more broken. The necessities of life had obliged the artist to violate certain conditions solemnly signed and sworn by the Water Drinkers the day the club was founded.

Perpetually perched on the stilts of an absurd pride, these young fellows had laid down as a sovereign principle in their association, that they must never abandon the lofty heights of art; that is to say, that despite their mortal poverty, not one of them would make any concession to necessity. Thus the poet Melchior would never have consented to abandon what he called his lyre, to write a commercial prospectus or an electoral address. That was all very well for the poet Rodolphe, a good-for-nothing who was ready to turn his hand to anything, and who never let a five franc piece flit past him without trying to capture it, no matter how. The painter Lazare, a proud wearer of rags, would never have soiled his brushes by painting the portrait of a tailor holding a parrot on his forefinger, as our friend the painter Marcel had once done in exchange for the famous dress coat nicknamed Methuselah, which the hands of each of his sweethearts had starred over with darns. All the while he had been living in communion of thought with the Water Drinkers, the sculptor Jacques had submitted to the tyranny of the club rules; but when he made the acquaintance of Francine, he would not make the poor girl, already ill, share of the regimen he had accepted during his solitude. Jacques' was above all an upright and loyal nature. He went to the president of the club, the exclusive Lazare, and informed him that for the future he would accept any work that would bring him in anything.

"My dear fellow, your declaration of love is your artistic renunciation. We will remain your friends if you like, but we shall no longer be your partners. Work as you please, for me you are no longer a sculptor, but a plasterer. It is true that you may drink wine, but we who continue to drink our water, and eat our dry bread, will remain artists."

Whatever Lazare might say about it, Jacques remained an artist. But to keep Francine with him he undertook, when he had a chance, any paying work. It is thus that he worked for a long time in the workshop of the ornament maker Romagnesi. Clever in execution and ingenious in invention, Jacques, without relinquishing high art, might have achieved a high reputation in those figure groups that have become one of the chief elements in this commerce. But Jacques was lazy, like all true artists, and a lover after the fashion of poets. Youth in him had awakened tardily but ardent, and, with a presentiment of his approaching end, he had sought to exhaust it in Francine's arms. Thus it happened that good chances of work knocked at his door without Jacques answering, because he would have had to disturb himself, and he found it more comfortable to dream by the light of his beloved's eyes.

When Francine was dead the sculptor went to see his old friends the Water Drinkers again. But Lazare's spirit predominated in this club, in which each of the members lived petrified in the egoism of art. Jacques did not find what he came there in search of. They scarcely understood his despair, which they strove to appease by argument, and seeing this small degree of sympathy, Jacques preferred to isolate his grief rather than see it laid bare by discussion. He broke off, therefore, completely with the Water Drinkers and went away to live alone.

Five or six days after Francine's funeral, Jacques went to a monumental mason of the Montparnasse cemetery and offered to conclude the following bargain with him. The mason was to furnish Francine's grave with a border, which Jacques reserved the right of designing, and in addition to supply the sculptor with a block of white marble. In return for this Jacques would place himself for three months at his disposition, either as a journeyman stone-cutter or sculptor. The monumental mason then had several important orders on hand. He visited Jacques' studio, and in presence of several works begun there, had proof that the chance which gave him the sculptor's services was a lucky one for him. A week later, Francine's grave had a border, in the midst of which the wooden cross had been replaced by a stone one with her name graven on it.

Jacques had luckily to do with an honest fellow who understood that a couple of hundredweight of cast iron, and three square feet of Pyrenean marble were no payment for three months' work by Jacques, whose talent had brought him in several thousand francs. He offered to give the artist a share in the business, but Jacques would not consent. The lack of variety in the subjects for treatment was repugnant to his inventive disposition, besides he had what he wanted, a large block of marble, from the recesses of which he wished to evolve a masterpiece destined for Francine's grave.

At the beginning of spring Jacques' position improved. His friend the doctor put him in relation with a great foreign nobleman who had come to settle in Paris, and who was having a magnificent mansion built in one of the most fashionable districts. Several celebrated artists had been called in to contribute to the luxury of this little palace. A chimney piece was commissioned from Jacques. I can still see his design, it was charming; the whole poetry of winter was expressed in the marble that was to serve as a frame to the flames. Jacques' studio was too small, he asked for and obtained a room in the mansion, as yet uninhabited, to execute his task in. A fairly large sum was even advanced him on the price agreed on for his work. Jacques began by repaying his friend the doctor the money the latter had lent him at Francine's death, then he hurried to the cemetery to cover the earth, beneath which his mistress slept, with flowers.

But spring had been there before him, and on the girl's grave a thousand flowers were springing at hazard amongst the grass. The artist had not the courage to pull them up, for he thought that these flowers might perhaps hold something of his dead love. As the gardener asked him what was to be done with the roses and pansies he had brought with him, Jacques bade him plant them on a neighboring grave, newly dug, the poor grave of some poor creature, without any border and having no other memorial over it than a piece of wood stuck in the ground and surmounted by a crown of flowers in blackened paper, the scant offering of some pauper's grief. Jacques left the cemetery in quite a different frame of mind to what he had entered it. He looked with happy curiosity at the bright spring sunshine, the same that had so often gilded Francine's locks when she ran about the fields culling wildflowers with her white hands. Quite a swarm of pleasant thoughts hummed in his heart. Passing by a little tavern on the outer Boulevard he remembered that one day, being caught by a storm, he had taken shelter there with Francine, and that they had dined there. Jacques went in and had dinner served at the same table. His dessert was served on a plate with a pictorial pattern; he recognized it and remembered that Francine had spent half an hour in guessing the rebus painted on it, and recollected, too, a song sung by her when inspired by the violet hued wine which does not cost much and has more gaiety in it than grapes. But this flood of sweet remembrances recalled his love without reawakening his grief. Accessible to superstition, like all poetical and dreamy intellects, Jacques fancied that it was Francine, who, hearing his step beside her, had wafted him these pleasant remembrances from her grave, and he would not damp them with a tear. He quitted the tavern with firm step, erect head, bright eye, beating heart, and almost a smile on his lips, murmuring as he went along the refrain of Francine's song—

"Love hovers round my dwelling My door must open be."

This refrain in Jacques' mouth was also a recollection, but then it was already a song, and perhaps without suspecting it he took that evening the first step along the road which leads from sorrow to melancholy, and thence onward to forgetfulness. Alas! Whatever one may wish and whatever one may do the eternal and just law of change wills it so.

Even as the flowers, sprung perhaps from Francine, had sprouted on her tomb the sap of youth stirred in the heart of Jacques, in which the remembrance of the old love awoke new aspirations for new ones. Besides Jacques belonged to the race of artists and poets who make passion an instrument of art and poetry, and whose mind only shows activity in proportion as it is set in motion by the motive powers of the heart. With Jacques invention was really the daughter of sentiment, and he put something of himself into the smallest things he did. He perceived that souvenirs no longer sufficed him, and that, like the millstone which wears itself away when corn runs short, his heart was wearing away for want of emotion. Work had no longer any charm for him, his power of invention, of yore feverish and spontaneous, now only awoke after much patient effort. Jacques was discontented, and almost envied the life of his old friends, the Water Drinkers.

He sought to divert himself, held out his hand to pleasure, and made fresh acquaintances. He associated with the poet Rodolphe, whom he had met at a cafe, and each felt a warm sympathy towards the other. Jacques explained his worries, and Rodolphe was not long in understanding their cause.

"My friend," said he, "I know what it is," and tapping him on the chest just over the heart he added, "Quick, you must rekindle the fire there, start a little love affair at once, and ideas will recur to you."

"Ah!" said Jacques. "I loved Francine too dearly."

"It will not hinder you from still always loving her. You will embrace her on another's lips."

"Oh!" said Jacques. "If I could only meet a girl who resembled her."

And he left Rodolphe deep in thought.

* * * * *

Six weeks later Jacques had recovered all his energy, rekindled by the tender glances of a young girl whose name was Marie, and whose somewhat sickly beauty recalled that of poor Francine. Nothing, indeed, could be prettier than this pretty Marie, who was within six weeks of being eighteen years of age, as she never failed to mention. Her love affair with Jacques had its birth by moonlight in the garden of an open air ball, to the strains of a shrill violin, a grunting double bass, and a clarinet that trilled like a blackbird. Jacques met her one evening when gravely walking around the space reserved for the dancers. Seeing him pass stiffly in his eternal black coat buttoned to the throat, the pretty and noisy frequenters of the place, who knew him by sight, used to say amongst themselves, "What is that undertaker doing here? Is there anyone who wants to be buried?"

And Jacques walked on always alone, his heart bleeding within him from the thorns of a remembrance which the orchestra rendered keener by playing a lively quadrille which sounded to his ears as mournful as a De Profundis. It was in the midst of this reverie that he noticed Marie, who was watching him from a corner, and laughing like a wild thing at his gloomy bearing. Jacques raised his eyes and saw this burst of laughter in a pink bonnet within three paces of him. He went up to her and made a few remarks, to which she replied. He offered her his arm for a stroll around the garden which she accepted. He told her that he thought her as beautiful as an angel, and she made him repeat it twice over. He stole some green apples hanging from the trees of the garden for her, and she devoured them eagerly to the accompaniment of that ringing laugh which seemed the burden of her constant mirth. Jacques thought of the Bible, and thought that we should never despair as regards any woman, and still less as regards those who love apples. He took another turn round the garden with the pink bonnet, and it is thus that arriving at the ball alone he did not return from it so.

However, Jacques had not forgotten Francine; bearing in mind Rodolphe's words he kissed her daily on Marie's lips, and wrought in secret at the figure he wished to place on the dead girl's grave.

One day when he received some money Jacques bought a dress for Marie—a black dress. The girl was pleased, only she thought that black was not very lively for summer wear. But Jacques told her that he was very fond of black, and that she would please him by wearing this dress every day. Marie obeyed.

One Saturday Jacques said to her:

"Come early tomorrow, we will go into the country."

"How nice!" said Marie. "I am preparing a surprise for you. You shall see. It will be sunshiny tomorrow."

Marie spent the night at home finishing a new dress that she had bought out of her savings—a pretty pink dress. And on Sunday she arrived clad in her smart purchase at Jacques' studio.

The artist received her coldly, almost brutally.

"I thought I should please you by making this bright toilette," said Marie, who could not understand his coolness.

"We cannot go into the country today," replied he. "You had better be off. I have some work today."

Marie went home with a full heart. On the way she met a young man who was acquainted with Jacques' story, and who had also paid court to herself.

"Ah! Mademoiselle Marie, so you are no longer in mourning?" said he.

"Mourning?" asked Marie. "For whom?"

"What, did you not know? It is pretty generally known, though, the black dress that Jacques gave you—."

"Well, what of it?" asked Marie.

"It was mourning. Jacques made you wear mourning for Francine."

From that day Jacques saw no more of Marie.

This rupture was unlucky for him. Evil days returned; he had no more work, and fell into such a fearful state of wretchedness that, no longer knowing what would become of him, he begged his friend the doctor to obtain him admission to a hospital. The doctor saw at first glance that this admission would not be difficult to obtain. Jacques, who did not suspect his condition, was on the way to rejoin Francine.

As he could still move about, Jacques begged the superintendent of the hospital to let him have a little unused room, and he had a stand, some tools, and some modelling clay brought there. During the first fortnight he worked at the figure he intended for Francine's grave. It was an angel with outspread wings. This figure, which was Francine's portrait, was never quite finished, for Jacques could soon no longer mount the stairs, and in short time could not leave his bed.

One day the order book fell into his hands, and seeing the things prescribed for himself, he understood that he was lost. He wrote to his family, and sent for Sister Sainte-Genevieve, who looked after him with charitable care.

"Sister," said Jacques, "there is upstairs in the room that was lent me, a little plaster cast. This statuette, which represents an angel, was intended for a tomb, but I had not time to execute it in marble. Yes, I had a fine block—white marble with pink veins. Well, sister, I give you my little statuette for your chapel."

Jacques died a few days later. As the funeral took place on the very day of the opening of the annual exhibition of pictures, the Water Drinkers were not present. "Art before all," said Lazare.

Jacques' family was not a rich one, and he did not have a grave of his own.

He is buried somewhere.


Musette's Fancies

It may be, perhaps, remembered how the painter Marcel sold the Jew Medici his famous picture of "The Passage of the Red Sea," which was destined to serve as the sign of a provision dealer's. On the morrow of this sale, which had been followed by a luxurious dinner stood by the Jew to the Bohemians as a clincher to the bargain, Marcel, Schaunard, Colline, and Rodolphe woke up very late. Still bewildered by the fumes of their intoxication of the day before, at first they no longer remembered what had taken place, and as noon rung out from a neighboring steeple, they all looked at one another with a melancholy smile.

"There goes the bell that piously summons humanity to refresh itself," said Marcel.

"In point of fact," replied Rodolphe, "it is the solemn hour when honest folk enter their dining-room."

"We must try and become honest folk," murmured Colline, whose patron saint was Saint Appetite.

"Ah, milk jug of my nursery!—ah! Four square meals of my childhood, what has become of you?" said Schaunard. "What has become of you?" he repeated, to a soft and melancholy tune.

"To think that at this hour there are in Paris more than a hundred thousand chops on the gridiron," said Marcel.

"And as many steaks," added Rodolphe.

By an ironical contrast, while the four friends were putting to one another the terrible daily problem of how to get their breakfast, the waiters of a restaurant on the lower floor of the house kept shouting out the customers' orders.

"Will those scoundrels never be quiet?" said Marcel. "Every word is like the stroke of a pick, hollowing out my stomach."

"The wind is in the north," said Colline, gravely, pointing to a weathercock on a neighboring roof. "We shall not breakfast today, the elements are opposed to it."

"How so?" inquired Marcel.

"It is an atmospheric phenomenon I have noted," said the philosopher. "A wind from the north almost always means abstinence, as one from the south usually means pleasure and good cheer. It is what philosophy calls a warning from above."

Gustave Colline's fasting jokes were savage ones.

At that moment Schaunard, who had plunged one of his hands into the abyss that served him as a pocket, withdrew it with a yell of pain.

"Help, there is something in my coat!" he cried, trying to free his hand, nipped fast in the claws of a live lobster.

To the cry he had uttered, another one replied. It came from Marcel, who, mechanically putting his hand into his pocket, had there discovered a silver mine that he had forgotten—that is to say, the hundred and fifty francs which Medici had given him the day before in payment for "The Passage of the Red Sea."

Memory returned at the same moment to the Bohemians.

"Bow down, gentlemen," said Marcel, spreading out on the table a pile of five-franc pieces, amongst which glittered some new louis.

"One would think they were alive," said Colline.

"Sweet sounds!" said Schaunard, chinking the gold pieces together.

"How pretty these medals are!" said Rodolphe. "One would take them for fragments of sunshine. If I were a king I would have no other small change, and would have them stamped with my mistress's portrait."

"To think that there is a country where there are mere pebbles," said Schaunard. "The Americans used to give four of them for two sous. I had an ancestor who went to America. He was interred by the savages in their stomachs. It was a misfortune for the family."

"Ah, but where does this animal come from?" inquired Marcel, looking at the lobster which had began to crawl about the room.

"I remember," said Schaunard, "that yesterday I took a turn in Medicis' kitchen, I suppose the reptile accidentally fell into my pocket; these creatures are very short-sighted. Since I have got it," added he, "I should like to keep it. I will tame it and paint it red, it will look livelier. I am sad since Phemie's departure; it will be a companion to me."

"Gentlemen," exclaimed Colline, "notice, I beg of you, that the weathercock has gone round to the south, we shall breakfast."

"I should think so," said Marcel, taking up a gold piece, "here is something we will cook with plenty of sauce."

They proceeded to a long and serious discussion on the bill of fare. Each dish was the subject of an argument and a vote. Omelette souffle, proposed by Schaunard, was anxiously rejected, as were white wines, against which Marcel delivered an oration that brought out his oenophilistic knowledge.

"The first duty of wine is to be red," exclaimed he, "don't talk to me about your white wines."

"But," said Schaunard, "Champagne—"

"Bah! A fashionable cider! An epileptic licorice-water. I would give all the cellars of Epernay and Ai for a single Burgundian cask. Besides, we have neither grisettes to seduce, nor a vaudeville to write. I vote against Champagne."

The program once agreed upon, Schaunard and Colline went to the neighboring restaurant to order the repast.

"Suppose we have some fire," said Marcel.

"As a matter of fact," said Rodolphe, "we should not be doing wrong, the thermometer has been inviting us to it for some time past. Let us have some fire and astonish the fireplace."

He ran out on the landing and called to Colline to have some wood sent in. A few minutes later Schaunard and Colline came up again, followed by a charcoal dealer bearing a heavy bundle of firewood.

As Marcel was looking in a drawer for some spare paper to light the fire, he came by chance across a letter, the handwriting of which made him start, and which he began to read unseen by his friends.

It was a letter in pencil, written by Musette when she was living with Marcel and dated day for day a year ago. It only contained these words:—

"My dear love,

Do not be uneasy about me, I shall be in shortly. I have gone out to warm myself a bit by walking, it is freezing indoors and the wood seller has cut off credit. I broke up the last two rungs of the chair, but they did not burn long enough to cook an egg by. Besides, the wind comes in through the window as if it were at home, and whispers a great deal of bad advice which it would vex you if I were to listen to. I prefer to go out a bit; I shall take a look at the shops. They say that there is some velvet at ten francs a yard. It is incredible, I must see it. I shall be back for dinner.


"Poor girl," said Marcel, putting the letter in his pocket. And he remained for a short time pensive, his head resting on his hands.

At this period the Bohemians had been for some time in a state of widowhood, with the exception of Colline, whose sweetheart, however, had still remained invisible and anonymous.

Phemie herself, Schaunard's amiable companion, had met with a simple soul who had offered her his heart, a suite of mahogany furniture, and a ring with his hair—red hair—in it. However, a fortnight after these gifts, Phemie's lover wanted to take back his heart and his furniture, because he noticed on looking at his mistress's hands that she wore a ring set with hair, but black hair this time, and dared to suspect her of infidelity.

Yet Phemie had not ceased to be virtuous, only as her friends had chaffed her several times about her ring with red hair, she had had it dyed black. The gentleman was so pleased that he bought Phemie a silk dress; it was the first she had ever had. The day she put it on for the first time the poor girl exclaimed:

"Now I can die happy."

As to Musette, she had once more become almost an official personage, and Marcel had not met her for three or four months. As to Mimi, Rodolphe had not heard her even mentioned, save by himself when alone.

"Hallo!" suddenly exclaimed Rodolphe, seeing Marcel squatting dreamily beside the hearth. "Won't the fire light?"

"There you are," said the painter, setting light to the wood, which began to crackle and flame.

While his friends were sharpening their appetites by getting ready the feast, Marcel had again isolated himself in a corner and was putting the letter he had just found by chance away with some souvenirs that Musette had left him. All at once he remembered the address of a woman who was the intimate friend of his old love.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, loud enough to be overheard. "I know where to find her."

"Find what?" asked Rodolphe. "What are you up to?" he added, seeing the artist getting ready to write.

"Nothing, only an urgent letter I had forgotten," replied Marcel, and he wrote:—

"My dear girl,

I have wealth in my desk, an apoplectic stroke of fortune. We have a big feed simmering, generous wines, and have lit fires like respectable citizens. You should only just see it, as you used to say. Come and pass an hour with us. You will find Rodolphe, Colline and Schaunard. You shall sing to us at dessert, for dessert will not be wanting. While we are there we shall probably remain at table for a week. So do not be afraid of being too late. It is so long since I heard you laugh. Rodolphe will compose madrigals to you, and we will drink all manner of things to our dead and gone loves, with liberty to resuscitate them. Between people like ourselves—the last kiss is never the last. Ah! If it had not been so cold last year you might not have left me. You jilted me for a faggot and because you were afraid of having red hands; you were right. I am no more vexed with you over it this time than over the others, but come and warm yourself while there is a fire. With as many kisses as you like,


This letter finished, Marcel wrote another to Madame Sidonie, Musette's friend, begging her to forward the one enclosed in it. Then he went downstairs to the porter to get him to take the letters. As he was paying him beforehand, the porter noticed a gold coin in the painter's hand, and before starting on his errand went up to inform the landlord, with whom Marcel was behind with his rent.

"Sir," said he, quite out of breath, "the artist on the sixth floor has money. You know the tall fellow who laughs in my face when I take him his bill?"

"Yes," said the landlord, "the one who had the imprudence to borrow money of me to pay me something on account with. He is under notice to quit."

"Yes sir. But he is rolling in gold today. I caught sight of it just now. He is giving a party. It is a good time—"

"You are right," said the landlord. "I will go up and see for myself by-and-by."

Madame Sidonie, who was at home when Marcel's letter was brought, sent on her maid at once with the one intended for Musette.

The latter was then residing in a charming suite of rooms in the Chaussee d'Antin. At the moment Marcel's letter was handed to her, she had company, and, indeed, was going to give a grand dinner party that evening.

"Here is a miracle," she exclaimed, laughing like a mad thing.

"What is it?" asked a handsome young fellow, as stiff as a statuette.

"It is an invitation to dinner," replied the girl. "How well it falls out."

"How badly," said the young man.

"Why so?" asked Musette.

"What, do you think of going?"

"I should think so. Arrange things as you please."

"But, my dear, it is not becoming. You can go another time."

"Ah, that is very good, another time. It is an old acquaintance, Marcel, who invites me to dinner, and that is sufficiently extraordinary for me to go and have a look at it. Another time! But real dinners in that house are as rare as eclipses."

"What, you would break your pledge to us to go and see this individual," said the young man, "and you tell me so—"

"Whom do you want me to tell it to, then? To the Grand Turk? It does not concern him."

"This is strange frankness."

"You know very well that I do nothing like other people."

"But what would you think of me if I let you go, knowing where you are going to? Think a bit, Musette, it is very unbecoming both to you and myself; you must ask this young fellow to excuse you—"

"My dear Monsieur Maurice," said Mademoiselle Musette, in very firm tones, "you knew me before you took up with me, you knew that I was full of whims and fancies, and that no living soul can boast of ever having made me give one up."

"Ask of me whatever you like," said Maurice, "but this! There are fancies and fancies."

"Maurice, I shall go and see Marcel. I am going," she added, putting on her bonnet. "You may leave me if you like, but it is stronger than I am; he is the best fellow in the world, and the only one I have ever loved. If his head had been gold he would have melted it down to give me rings. Poor fellow," said she, showing the letter, "see, as soon as he has a little fire, he invites me to come and warm myself. Ah, if he had not been so idle, and if there had not been so much velvet and silk in the shops! I was very happy with him, he had the gift of making me feel; and it is he who gave me the name of Musette on account of my songs. At any rate, going to see him you may be sure that I shall return to you... unless you shut your door in my face."

"You could not more frankly acknowledge that you do not love me," said the young man.

"Come, my dear Maurice, you are too sensible a man for us to begin a serious argument on that point," rejoined Musette. "You keep me like a fine horse in your stable—and I like you because I love luxury, noise, glitter, and festivity, and that sort of thing; do not let us go in for sentiment, it would be useless and ridiculous."

"At least let me come with you."

"But you would not enjoy yourself at all," said Musette, "and would hinder us from enjoying ourselves. Remember that he will necessarily kiss me."

"Musette," said Maurice. "Have you often found such accommodating people as myself?"

"Viscount," replied Musette, "one day when I was driving in the Champs Elysees with Lord , I met Marcel and his friend Rodolphe, both on foot, both ill dressed, muddy as water-dogs, and smoking pipes. I had not seen Marcel for three months, and it seemed to me as if my heart was going to jump out of the carriage window. I stopped the carriage, and for half an hour I chatted with Marcel before the whole of Paris, filing past in its carriages. Marcel offered me a sou bunch of violets that I fastened in my waistband. When he took leave of me, Lord wanted to call him back to invite him to dinner with us. I kissed him for that. That is my way, my dear Monsieur Maurice, if it does not suit you you should say so at once, and I will take my slippers and my nightcap."

"It is sometimes a good thing to be poor then," said Vicomte Maurice, with a look of envious sadness.

"No, not at all," said Musette. "If Marcel had been rich I should never have left him."

"Go, then," said the young fellow, shaking her by the hand. "You have put your new dress on," he added, "it becomes you splendidly."

"That is so," said Musette. "It is a kind of presentiment I had this morning. Marcel will have the first fruits of it. Goodbye, I am off to taste a little of the bread of gaiety."

Musette was that day wearing a charming toilette. Never had the poem of her youth and beauty been set off by a more seductive binding. Besides, Musette had the instinctive genius of taste. On coming into the world, the first thing she had looked about for had been a looking glass to settle herself in her swaddling clothes by, and before being christened she had already been guilty of the sin of coquetry. At the time when her position was of the humblest, when she was reduced to cotton print frocks, little white caps and kid shoes, she wore in charming style this poor and simple uniform of the grisettes, those pretty girls, half bees, half grasshoppers, who sang at their work all week, only asked God for a little sunshine on Sunday, loved with all their heart, and sometimes threw themselves out of a window.

A breed that is now lost, thanks to the present generation of young fellows, a corrupted and at the same time corrupting race, but, above everything, vain, foolish and brutal. For the sake of uttering spiteful paradoxes, they chaffed these poor girls about their hands, disfigured by the sacred scars of toil, and as a consequence these soon no longer earned even enough to buy almond paste. By degrees they succeeded in inoculating them with their own foolishness and vanity, and then the grisette disappeared. It was then that the lorette sprung up. A hybrid breed of impertinent creatures of mediocre beauty, half flesh, half paint, whose boudoir is a shop in which they sell bits of their heart like slices of roast beef. The majority of these girls who dishonor pleasure, and are the shame of modern gallantry, are not always equal in intelligence to the very birds whose feathers they wear in their bonnets. If by chance they happen to feel, not love nor even a caprice, but a common place desire, it is for some counter jumping mountebank, whom the crowd surrounds and applauds at public balls, and whom the papers, courtiers of all that is ridiculous, render celebrated by their puffs. Although she was obliged to live in this circle Musette had neither its manners nor its ways, she had not the servile cupidity of those creatures who can only read Cocker and only write in figures. She was an intelligent and witty girl, and some drops of the blood of Mansu in her veins and, rebellious to all yokes, she had never been able to help yielding to a fancy, whatever might be the consequences.

Marcel was really the only man she had ever loved. He was at any rate the only one for whose sake she had really suffered, and it had needed all the stubbornness of the instincts that attracted her to all that glittered and jingled to make her leave him. She was twenty, and for her luxury was almost a matter of existence. She might do without it for a time, but she could not give it up completely. Knowing her inconstancy, she had never consented to padlock her heart with an oath of fidelity. She had been ardently loved by many young fellows for whom she had herself felt a strong fancy, and she had always acted towards them with far-sighted probity; the engagements into which she entered were simple, frank and rustic as the love-making of Moliere's peasants. "You want me and I should like you too, shake hands on it and let us enjoy ourselves." A dozen times if she had liked Musette could have secured a good position, which is termed a future, but she did not believe in the future and professed the scepticism of Figaro respecting it.

"Tomorrow," she sometimes remarked, "is an absurdity of the almanac, it is a daily pretext that men have invented in order to put off their business today. Tomorrow may be an earthquake. Today, at any rate, we are on solid ground."

One day a gentleman with whom she had stayed nearly six months, and who had become wildly in love with her, seriously proposed marriage. Musette burst out laughing in his face at this offer.

"I imprison my liberty in the bonds of matrimony? Never," said she.

"But I pass my time in trembling with fear of losing you."

"It would be worse if I were your wife. Do not let us speak about that any more. Besides, I am not free," she added, thinking no doubt of Marcel.

Thus she passed her youth, her mind caught by every straw blown by the breeze of fancy, causing the happiness of a great many and almost happy herself. Vicomte Maurice, under whose protection she then was, had a great deal of difficulty in accustoming himself to her untamable disposition, intoxicated with freedom, and it was with jealous impatience that he awaited the return of Musette after having seen her start off to Marcel's.

"Will she stay there?" he kept asking himself all the evening.

"Poor Maurice," said Musette to herself on her side. "He thinks it rather hard. Bah! Young men must go through their training."

Then her mind turning suddenly to other things, she began to think of Marcel to whom she was going, and while running over the recollections reawakened by the name of her erst adorer, asked herself by what miracle the table had been spread at his dwelling. She re-read, as she went along, the letter that the artist had written to her, and could not help feeling somewhat saddened by it. But this only lasted a moment. Musette thought aright, that it was less than ever an occasion for grieving, and at that moment a strong wind spring up she exclaimed:

"It is funny, even if I did not want to go to Marcel's, this wind would blow me there."

And she went on hurriedly, happy as a bird returning to its first nest.

All at once snow began to fall heavy. Musette looked for a cab. She could not see one. As she happened to be in the very street in which dwelt her friend Madame Sidonie, the same who had sent on Marcel's letter to her, Musette decided to run in for a few minutes until the weather cleared up sufficiently to enable her to continue her journey.

When Musette entered Madame Sidonie's rooms she found a gathering there. They were going on with a game of lansquenet that had lasted three days.

"Do not disturb yourselves," said Musette. "I have only just popped in for a moment."

"You got Marcel's letter all right?" whispered Madame Sidonie to her.

"Yes, thanks," replied Musette. "I am going to his place, he has asked me to dinner. Will you come with me? You would enjoy yourself."

"No, I can't," said Madame Sidonie, pointing to the card table. "Think of my rent."

"There are six louis," said the banker.

"I'll go two of them," exclaimed Madame Sidonie.

"I am not proud, I'll start at two," replied the banker, who had already dealt several times. "King and ace. I am done for," he continued, dealing the cards. "I am done for, all the kings are out."

"No politics," said a journalist.

"And the ace is the foe of my family," continued the banker, who then turned up another king. "Long live the king! My dear Sidonie, hand me over two louis."

"Put them down," said Sidonie, vexed at her loss.

"That makes four hundred francs you owe me, little one," said the banker. "You would run it up to a thousand. I pass the deal."

Sidonie and Musette were chatting together in a low tone. The game went on.

At about the same time the Bohemians were sitting down to table. During the whole of the repast Marcel seemed uneasy. Everytime a step sounded on the stairs he started.

"What is the matter?" asked Rodolphe of him. "One would think you were expecting someone. Are we not all here?"

But at a look from the artist the poet understood his friend's preoccupation.

"True," he thought, "we are not all here."

Marcel's look meant Musette, Rodolphe's answering glance, Mimi.

"We lack ladies," said Schaunard, all at once.

"Confound it," yelled Colline, "will you hold your tongue with your libertine reflections. It was agreed that we should not speak of love, it turns the sauces."

And the friends continued to drink fuller bumpers, whilst without the snow still fell, and on the hearth the logs flamed brightly, scattering sparks like fireworks.

Just as Rodolphe was thundering out a song which he had found at the bottom of his glass, there came several knocks at the door. Marcel, torpid from incipient drunkenness, leaped up from his chair, and ran to open it. Musette was not there.

A gentleman appeared on the threshold; he was not only bad looking, but his dressing gown was wretchedly made. In his hand he held a slip of paper.

"I am glad to see you so comfortable," he said, looking at the table on which were the remains of a magnificent leg of mutton.

"The landlord!" cried Rodolphe. "Let us receive him with the honors due to his position!" and he commenced beating on his plate with his knife and fork.

Colline handed him a chair, and Marcel cried:

"Come, Schaunard! Pass us a clean glass. You are just in time," he continued to the landlord, "we were going to drink to your health. My friend there, Monsieur Colline, was saying some touching things about you. As you are present, he will begin over again, out of compliment to you. Do begin again, Colline."

"Excuse me, gentlemen," said the landlord, "I don't wish to trouble you, but—-" and he unfolded the paper which he had in his hand.

"What's the document?" asked Marcel.

The landlord, who had cast an inquisitive glance around the room, perceived some gold on the chimney piece.

"It is your receipt," he said hastily, "which I had the honor of sending you once already."

"My faithful memory recalls the circumstance," replied the artist. "It was on Friday, the eighth of the month, at a quarter past twelve."

"It is signed, you see, in due form," said the landlord, "and if it is agreeable to you—"

"I was intending to call upon you," interrupted Marcel. "I have a great deal to talk to you about."

"At your service."

"Oblige me by taking something," continued the painter, forcing a glass of wine on the landlord. "Now, sir," he continued, "you sent me lately a little paper, with a picture of a lady and a pair of scales on it. It was signed Godard."

"The lawyer's name."

"He writes a very bad hand; I had to get my friend here, who understands all sorts of hieroglyphics and foreign languages,"—and he pointed to Colline—"to translate it for me."

"It was a notice to quit; a precautionary measure, according to the rule in such cases."

"Exactly. Now I wanted to have a talk with you about this very notice, for which I should like to substitute a lease. This house suits me. The staircase is clean, the street gay, and some of my friends live near; in short, a thousand reasons attach me to these premises."

"But," and the landlord unfolded his receipt again, "there is that last quarter's rent to pay."

"We shall pay it, sir. Such is our fixed intention."

Nevertheless, the landlord kept his eye glued to the money on the mantelpiece and such was the steady pertinacity of his gaze that the coins seemed to move towards him of themselves.

"I am happy to have come at a time when, without inconveniencing yourself, you can settle this little affair," he said, again producing his receipt to Marcel, who, not being able to parry the assault, again avoided it.

"You have some property in the provinces, I think," he said.

"Very little, very little. A small house and farm in Burgundy; very trifling returns; the tenants pay so badly, and therefore," he added, pushing forward his receipt again, "this small sum comes just in time. Sixty francs, you know."

"Yes," said Marcel, going to the mantelpiece and taking up three pieces of gold. "Sixty, sixty it is," and he placed the money on the table just out of the landlord's reach.

"At last," thought the latter. His countenance lighted up, and he too laid down his receipt on the table.

Schaunard, Colline, and Rodolphe looked anxiously on.

"Well, sir," quoth Marcel, "since you are a Burgundian, you will not be sorry to see a countryman of yours." He opened a bottle of old Macon, and poured out a bumper.

"Ah, perfect!" said the landlord. "Really, I never tasted better."

"An uncle of mine who lives there, sends me a hamper or two occasionally."

The landlord rose, and was stretching out his hand towards the money, when Marcel stopped him again.

"You will not refuse another glass?" said he, pouring one out.

The landlord did not refuse. He drank the second glass, and was once more attempting to possess himself of the money, when Marcel called out:

"Stop! I have an idea. I am rather rich just now, for me. My uncle in Burgundy has sent me something over my usual allowance. Now I may spend this money too fast. Youth has so many temptations, you know. Therefore, if it is all the same to you, I will pay a quarter in advance." He took sixty francs in silver and added them to the three louis which were on the table.

"Then I will give you a receipt for the present quarter," said the landlord. "I have some blank ones in my pocketbook. I will fill it up and date it ahead. After all," thought he, devouring the hundred and twenty francs with his eyes, "this tenant is not so bad."

Meanwhile, the other three Bohemians, not understanding Marcel's diplomacy, remained utterly stupefied.

"But this chimney smokes, which is very disagreeable."

"Why didn't you tell me before? I will send the workmen in tomorrow," answered the landlord, not wishing to be behindhand in this contest of good offices. He filled up the second receipt, pushed the two over to Marcel, and stretched out his hand once more towards the heap of money. "You don't know how timely this sum comes in," he continued, "I have to pay some bills for repairs, and was really quite short of cash."

"Very sorry to have made you wait."

"Oh, it's no matter now! Permit me."—and out went his hand again.

"Permit me," said Marcel. "We haven't finished with this yet. You know the old saying, 'when the wine is drawn—'" and he filled the landlord's glass a third time.

"One must drink it," remarked the other, and he did so.

"Exactly," said the artist, with a wink at his friends, who now understood what he was after.

The landlord's eyes began to twinkle strangely. He wriggled on his chair, began to talk loosely, in all senses of the word, and promised Marcel fabulous repairs and embellishments.

"Bring up the big guns," said the artist aside to the poet. Rodolphe passed along a bottle of rum.

After the first glass the landlord sang a ditty, which absolutely made Schaunard blush.

After the second, he lamented his conjugal infelicity. His wife's name being Helen, he compared himself to Menelaus.

After the third, he had an attack of philosophy, and threw up such aphorisms as these:

"Life is a river."

"Happiness depends not on wealth."

"Man is a transitory creature."

"Love is a pleasant feeling."

Finally, he made Schaunard his confidant, and related to him how he had "Put into mahogany" a damsel named Euphemia. Of this young person and her loving simplicity he drew so detailed a portrait, that Schaunard began to be assailed by a fearful suspicion, which suspicion was reduced to a certainty when the landlord showed him a letter.

"Cruel woman!" cried the musician, as he beheld the signature. "It is like a dagger in my heart."

"What is the matter!" exclaimed the Bohemians, astonished at this language.

"See," said Schaunard, "this letter is from Phemie. See the blot that serves her for a signature."

And he handed round the letter of his ex-mistress, which began with the words, "My dear old pet."

"I am her dear old pet," said the landlord, vainly trying to rise from his chair.

"Good," said Marcel, who was watching him. "He has cast anchor."

"Phemie, cruel Phemie," murmured Schaunard. "You have wounded me deeply."

"I have furnished a little apartment for her at 12, Rue Coquenard," said the landlord. "Pretty, very pretty. It cost me lots of money. But such love is beyond price and I have twenty thousand francs a year. She asks me for money in her letter. Poor little dear, she shall have this," and he stretched out his hand for the money—"hallo! Where is it?" he added in astonishment feeling on the table. The money had disappeared.

"It is impossible for a moral man to become an accomplice in such wickedness," said Marcel. "My conscience forbids me to pay money to this old profligate. I shall not pay my rent, but my conscience will at any rate be clear. What morals, and in a bald headed man too."

By this time the landlord was completely gone, and talked at random to the bottles. He had been there nearly two hours, when his wife, alarmed at his prolonged absence, sent the maid after him. On seeing her master in such a state, she set up a shriek, and asked, "what are they doing to him?"

"Nothing," answered Marcel. "He came a few minutes ago to ask for the rent. As we had no money we begged for time."

"But he's been and got drunk," said the servant.

"Very likely," replied Rodolphe. "Most of that was done before he came here. He told us that he had been arranging his cellar."

"And he had so completely lost his head," added Colline, "that he wanted to leave the receipt without the money."

"Give these to his wife," said Marcel, handing over the receipts. "We are honest folk, and do not wish to take advantage of his condition."

"Good heavens! What will madame say?" exclaimed the maid, leading, or rather dragging off her master, who had a very imperfect idea of the use of his legs.

"So much for him!" ejaculated Marcel.

"He has smelt money," said Rodolphe. "He will come again tomorrow."

"When he does, I will threaten to tell his wife about Phemie and he will give us time enough."

When the landlord had been got outside, the four friends went on smoking and drinking. Marcel alone retained a glimmer of lucidity in his intoxication. From time to time, at the slightest sound on the staircase, he ran and opened the door. But those who were coming up always halted at one of the lower landings, and then the artist would slowly return to his place by the fireside. Midnight struck, and Musette had not come.

"After all," thought Marcel, "perhaps she was not in when my letter arrived. She will find it when she gets home tonight, and she will come tomorrow. We shall still have a fire. It is impossible for her not to come. Tomorrow."

And he fell asleep by the fire.

At the very moment that Marcel fell asleep dreaming of her, Mademoiselle Musette was leaving the residence of her friend Madame Sidonie, where she had been staying up till then. Musette was not alone, a young man accompanied her. A carriage was waiting at the door. They got into it and went off at full speed.

The game at lansquenet was still going on in Madame Sidonie's room.

"Where is Musette?" said someone all at once.

"Where is young Seraphin?" said another.

Madame Sidonie began to laugh.

"They had just gone off together," said she. "It is a funny story. What a strange being Musette is. Just fancy...." And she informed the company how Musette, after almost quarreling with Vicomte Maurice and starting off to find Marcel, had stepped in there by chance and met with young Seraphin.

"I suspected something was up," she continued. "I had an eye on them all the evening. He is very sharp, that youngster. In short, they have gone off on the quiet, and it would take a sharp one to catch them up. All the same, it is very funny when one thinks how fond Musette is of her Marcel."

"If she is so fond of him, what is the use of Seraphin, almost a lad, and who had never had a mistress?" said a young fellow.

"She wants to teach him to read, perhaps," said the journalist, who was very stupid when he had been losing.

"All the same," said Sidonie, "what does she want with Seraphin when she is in love with Marcel? That is what gets over me."

* * * * *

For five days the Bohemians went on leading the happiest life in the world without stirring out. They remained at table from morning till night. An admired disorder reigned in the room which was filled with a Pantagruelic atmosphere. On a regular bed of oyster shells reposed an army of empty bottles of every size and shape. The table was laden with fragments of every description, and a forest of wood blazed in the fireplace.

On the sixth day Colline, who was director of ceremonies, drew up, as was his wont every morning, the bill of fare for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper, and submitted it to the approval of his friends, who each initialed it in token of approbation.

But when Colline opened the drawer that served as a cashbox, in order to take the money necessary for the day's consumption, he started back and became as pale as Banquo's ghost.

"What is the matter?" inquired the others, carelessly.

"The matter is that there are only thirty sous left," replied the philosopher.

"The deuce. That will cause some modification in our bill of fare. Well, thirty sous carefully laid out—. All the same it will be difficult to run to truffles," said the others.

A few minutes later the table was spread. There were three dishes most symmetrically arranged—a dish of herrings, a dish of potatoes, and a dish of cheese.

On the hearth smoldered two little brands as big as one's fist.

Snow was still falling without.

The four Bohemians sat down to table and gravely unfolded their napkins.

"It is strange," said Marcel, "this herring has a flavor of pheasant."

"That is due to the way in which I cooked it," replied Colline. "The herring has never been properly appreciated."

At that moment a joyous song rose on the staircase, and a knock came at the door. Marcel, who had not been able to help shuddering, ran to open it.

Musette threw her arms round his neck and held him in an embrace for five minutes. Marcel felt her tremble in his arms.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"I am cold," said Musette, mechanically drawing near the fireplace.

"Ah!" said Marcel. "And we had such a rattling good fire."

"Yes," said Musette, glancing at the remains of the five days' festivity, "I have come too late."

"Why?" said Marcel.

"Why?" said Musette, blushing slightly.

She sat down on Marcel's knee. She was still shivering, and her hands were blue.

"You were not free, then," whispered Marcel.

"I, not free!" exclaimed the girl. "Ah Marcel! If I were seated amongst the stars in Paradise and you made me a sign to come down to you I should do so. I, not free!"

She began to shiver again.

"There are five chairs here," said Rodolphe, "which is an odd number, without reckoning that the fifth is of a ridiculous shape."

And breaking the chair against the wall, he threw the fragments into the fireplace. The fire suddenly burst forth again in a bright and merry flame, then making a sign to Colline and Schaunard, the poet took them off with him.

"Where are you going?" asked Marcel.

"To buy some tobacco," they replied.

"At Havana," added Schaunard, with a sign of intelligence to Marcel, who thanked him with a look.

"Why did you not come sooner?" he asked Musette when they were alone together.

"It is true, I am rather behindhand."

"Five days to cross the Pont Neuf. You must have gone round by the Pyrenees?"

Musette bowed her head and was silent.

"Ah, naughty girl," said the artist, sadly tapping his hand lightly on his mistress' breast, "what have you got inside here?"

"You know very well," she retorted quickly.

"But what have you been doing since I wrote to you?"

"Do not question me," said Musette, kissing him several times. "Do not ask me anything, but let me warm myself beside you. You see I put on my best dress to come. Poor Maurice, he could not understand it when I set off to come here, but it was stronger than myself, so I started. The fire is nice," she added, holding out her little hand to the flames, "I will stay with you till tomorrow if you like."

"It will be very cold here," said Marcel, "and we have nothing for dinner. You have come too late," he repeated.

"Ah, bah!" said Musette. "It will be all the more like old times."

* * * * *

Rodolphe, Colline, and Schaunard, took twenty-four hours to get their tobacco. When they returned to the house Marcel was alone.

After an absence of six days Vicomte Maurice saw Musette return.

He did not in any way reproach her, and only asked her why she seemed sad.

"I quarreled with Marcel," said she. "We parted badly."

"And yet, who knows," said Maurice. "But you will again return to him."

"What would you?" asked Musette. "I need to breathe the air of that life from time to time. My life is like a song, each of my loves is a verse, but Marcel is the refrain."


Mimi In Fine Feather

"No, no, no, you are no longer Lisette! No, no, no, you are no longer Mimi. You are today, my lady the viscomtess, the day after tomorrow you may, perhaps, be your grace the duchess; the doorway of your dreams has at length been thrown wide open before you, and you have passed through it victorious and triumphant. I felt certain you would end up by doing so, some night or other. It was bound to be; besides, your white hands were made for idleness, and for a long time past have called for the ring of some aristocratic alliance. At length you have a coat of arms. But, we still prefer the one which youth gave to your beauty, when your blue eyes and your pale face seemed to quarter azure on a lily field. Noble or serf, you are ever charming, and I readily recognized you when you passed by in the street the other evening, with rapid and well-shod foot, aiding the wind with your gloved hand in lifting the skirts of your new dress, partly in order not to let it be soiled, but a great deal more in order to show your embroidered petticoats and open-worked stockings. You had on a wonderful bonnet, and even seemed plunged in deep perplexity on the subject of the veil of costly lace which floated over this bonnet. A very serious trouble indeed, for it was a question of deciding which was best and most advantageous to your coquetry, to wear this veil up or down. By wearing it down, you risked not being recognized by those of your friends whom you might meet, and who certainly would have passed by you ten times without suspecting that this costly envelope hid Mademoiselle Mimi. On the other hand, by wearing this veil up, it was it that risked escaping notice, and in that case, what was the good of having it? You had cleverly solved the difficulty by alternately raising and lowering at every tenth step; this wonderful tissue, woven no doubt, in that country of spiders, called Flanders, and which of itself cost more than the whole of your former wardrobe."

"Ah, Mimi! Forgive me—I should say, ah, vicomtess! I was quite right, you see, when I said to you: 'Patience, do not despair, the future is big with cashmere shawls, glittering jewels, supper parties, and the like.' You would not believe me, incredulous one. Well, my predictions are, however, realized, and I am worth as much, I hope, as your 'Ladies' Oracle,' a little octavo sorcerer you bought for five sous at a bookstall on the Pont Neuf, and which you wearied with external questions. Again, I ask, was I not right in my prophecies; and would you believe me now, if I tell you that you will not stop at this? If I told you that listening, I can hear faintly in the depths of your future, the tramp and neighing of the horses harnessed to blue brougham, driven by a powdered coachmen, who lets down the steps, saying, 'Where to madam?' Would you believe me if I told you, too, that later on—ah, as late as possible, I trust—attaining the object of a long cherished ambition, you will have a table d'hote at Belleville Batignolles, and will be courted by the old soldiers and bygone dandies who will come there to play lansquenet or baccarat on the sly? But, before arriving at this period, when the sun of your youth shall have already declined, believe me, my dear child, you will wear out many yards of silk and velvet, many inheritances, no doubt, will be melted down in the crucibles of your fancies, many flowers will fade about your head, many beneath your feet, and you will change your coat of arms many times. On your head will glitter in turn the coronets of baroness, countess, and marchioness, you will take for your motto, 'Inconstancy,' and you will, according to caprice or to necessity, satisfy each in turn, or even all at once, all the numerous adorers who will range themselves in the ante-chamber of your heart as people do at the door of a theater at which a popular piece is being played. Go on then, go straight onward, your mind lightened of recollections which have been replaced by ambition; go, the road is broad, and we hope it will long be smooth to your feet, but we hope, above all, that all these sumptuosities, these fine toilettes, may not too soon become the shroud in which your liveliness will be buried."

Thus spoke the painter Marcel to Mademoiselle Mimi, whom he had met three or four days after her second divorce from the poet Rodolphe. Although he was obliged to veil the raillery with which he besprinkled her horoscope, Mademoiselle Mimi was not the dupe of Marcel's fine words, and understood perfectly well that with little respect for her new title, he was chaffing her to bits.

"You are cruel towards me, Marcel," said Mademoiselle Mimi, "it is wrong. I was always very friendly with you when I was Rodolphe's mistress, and if I have left him, it was, after all, his fault. It was he who packed me off in a hurry, and, besides, how did he behave to me during the last few days I spent with him. I was very unhappy, I can tell you. You do not know what a man Rodolphe was; a mixture of anger and jealousy, who killed me by bits. He loved me, I know, but his love was as dangerous as a loaded gun. What a life I led for six months. Ah, Marcel! I do not want to make myself out better than I am, but I suffered a great deal with Rodolphe; you know it too, very well. It is not poverty that made me leave him, no I assure you I had grown accustomed to it, and I repeat it was he who sent me away. He trampled on my self-esteem; he told me that he no longer loved me; that I must get another lover. He even went so far as to indicate a young man who was courting me, and by his taunts, he served to bring me and this young man together. I went with him as much out of spite as from necessity, for I did not love him. You know very well yourself that I do not care for such very young fellows. They are as wearisome and sentimental as harmonicas. Well, what is done is done. I do not regret it, and I would do the same over again. Now that he no longer has me with him, and knows me to be happy with another, Rodolphe is furious and very unhappy. I know someone who met him the other day; his eyes were quite red. That does not astonish me. I felt quite sure it would come to this, and that he would run after me, but you can tell him that he will only lose his time, and that this time it is quite in earnest and for good. Is it long since you saw him, Marcel and is it true that he is much altered?" inquired Mimi in quite another tone.

"He is greatly altered indeed," replied Marcel.

"He is grieving, that is certain, but what am I to do? So much the worse for him, he would have it so. It had to come to an end somehow. Try to console him."

"Oh!" answered Marcel quickly. "The worst of the job is over. Do not disturb yourself about it, Mimi."

"You are not telling the truth, my dear fellow," said Mimi, with an ironical little pout. "Rodolphe will not be so quickly consoled as all that. If you knew what a state he was in the night before I left. It was a Friday, I would not stay that night at my new lover's because I am superstitious, and Friday is an unlucky day."

"You are wrong, Mimi, in love affairs Friday is a lucky day; the ancients called it Dies Veneris."

"I do not know Latin," said Mademoiselle Mimi, continuing her narration. "I was coming back then from Paul's and found Rodolphe waiting for me in the street. It was late, past midnight, and I was hungry for I had had no dinner. I asked Rodolphe to go and get something for supper. He came back half an hour later, he had run about a great deal to get nothing worth speaking of, some bread, wine, sardines, cheese, and an apple tart. I had gone to bed during his absence, and he laid the table beside the bed. I pretended not to notice him, but I could see him plainly, he was pale as death. He shuddered and walked about the room like a man who does not know what he wants to do. He noticed several packages of clothes on the floor in one corner. The sight of them seemed to annoy him, and he placed the screen in front of them in order not to see them. When all was ready we began to sup, he tried to make me drink, but I was no longer hungry or thirsty, and my heart was quite full. He was cold, for we had nothing to make a fire of, and one could hear the wind whistling in the chimney. It was very sad. Rodolphe looked at me, his eyes were fixed; he put his hand in mine and I felt it tremble, it was burning and icy all at once. 'This is the funeral supper of our loves,' he said to me in a low tone. I did not answer, but I had not the courage to withdraw my hand from his. 'I am sleepy,' said I at last, 'it is late, let us go to sleep.' Rodolphe looked at me. I had tied one of his handkerchiefs about my head on account of the cold. He took it off without saying a word. 'Why do you want to take that off?' said I. 'I am cold.' 'Oh, Mimi!' said he. 'I beg of you, it will not matter to you, to put on your little striped cap for tonight.' It was a nightcap of striped cotton, white and brown. Rodolphe was very fond of seeing me in this cap, it reminded him of several nights of happiness, for that was how we counted our happy days. When I thought it was the last time that I should sleep beside him I dared not refuse to satisfy this fancy of his. I got up and hunted out my striped cap that was at the bottom of one of my packages."

"Out of forgetfulness I forgot to replace the screen. Rodolphe noticed it and hid the packages just as he had already done before. 'Good night,' said he. 'Good night,' I answered. I thought that he was going to kiss me and I should not have hindered him, but he only took my hand, which he carried to his lips. You know, Marcel, how fond he was of kissing my hands. I heard his teeth chatter and I felt his body as cold as marble. He still held my hand and he laid his head on my shoulder, which was soon quite wet. Rodolphe was in a fearful state. He bit the sheets to avoid crying out, but I could plainly hear his stifled sobs and I still felt his tears flowing on my shoulder, which was first scalded and then chilled. At that moment I needed all my courage and I did need it, I can tell you. I had only to say a word, I had only to turn my head, and my lips would have met those of Rodolphe, and we should have made it up once more. Ah! For a moment I really thought that he was going to die in my arms, or that, at least, he would go mad, as he almost did once before, you remember? I felt I was going to yield, I was going to recant first, I was going to clasp him in my arms, for really one must have been utterly heartless to remain insensible to such grief. But I recollected the words he had said to me the day before, 'You have no spirit if you stay with me, for I no longer love you,' Ah! As I recalled those bitter words I would have seen Rodolphe ready to die, and if it had only needed a kiss from me to save him, I would have turned away my lips and let him perish."

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