Bohemians of the Latin Quarter
by Henry Murger
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"At last, overcome by fatigue, I sank into a half-sleep. I could still hear Rodolphe sobbing, and I can swear to you, Marcel, that this sobbing went on all night long, and that when day broke and I saw in the bed, in which I had slept for the last time, the lover whom I was going to leave for another's arms, I was terribly frightened to see the havoc wrought by this grief on Rodolphe's face. He got up, like myself, without saying a word, and almost fell flat at the first steps he took, he was so weak and downcast. However, he dressed himself very quickly, and only asked me how matters stood and when I was going to leave. I told him that I did not know. He went off without bidding goodbye or shaking hands. That is how we separated. What a blow it must have been to his heart no longer to find me there on coming home, eh?"

"I was there when Rodolphe came in," said Marcel to Mimi, who was out of breath from speaking so long. "As he was taking his key from the landlady, she said, 'The little one has left.' 'Ah!' replied Rodolphe. 'I am not astonished, I expected it.' And he went up to his room, whither I followed him, fearing some crisis, but nothing occurred. 'As it is too late to go and hire another room this evening we will do so tomorrow morning,' said he, 'we will go together. Now let us see after some dinner.' I thought that he wanted to get drunk, but I was wrong. We dined very quietly at a restaurant where you have sometimes been with him. I had ordered some Beaune to stupefy Rodolphe a bit. 'This was Mimi's favorite wine,' said he, 'we have often drunk it together at this very table. I remember one day she said to me, holding out her glass, which she had already emptied several times, 'Fill up again, it is good for one's bones.' A poor pun, eh? Worthy, at the most, of the mistress of a farce writer. Ah! She could drink pretty fairly.'"

"Seeing that he was inclined to stray along the path of recollection I spoke to him about something else, and then it was no longer a question of you. He spent the whole evening with me and seemed as calm as the Mediterranean. But what astonished me most was, that this calmness was not at all affected. It was genuine indifference. At midnight we went home. 'You seem surprised at my coolness in the position in which I find myself,' said he to me, 'well, let me point out a comparison to you, my dear fellow, it if is commonplace it has, at least, the merit of being accurate. My heart is like a cistern the tap of which has been turned on all night, in the morning not a drop of water is left. My heart is really the same, last night I wept away all the tears that were left me. It is strange, but I thought myself richer in grief, and yet by a single night of suffering I am ruined, cleaned out. On my word of honor it is as I say. Now, in the very bed in which I all but died last night beside a woman who was no more moved than a stone, I shall sleep like a deck laborer after a hard day's work, while she rests her head on the pillow of another.' 'Hambug,' I thought to myself. 'I shall no sooner have left him than he will be dashing his head against the wall.' However, I left Rodolphe alone and went to my own room, but I did not go to bed. At three in the morning I thought I heard a noise in Rodolphe's room and I went down in a hurry, thinking to find him in a desperate fever."

"Well?" said Mimi.

"Well my dear, Rodolphe was sleeping, the bed clothes were quite in order and everything proved that he had soon fallen asleep, and that his slumbers had been calm."

"It is possible," said Mimi, "he was so worn out by the night before, but the next day?"

"The next day Rodolphe came and roused me up early and we went and took rooms in another house, into which we moved the same evening."

"And," asked Mimi, "what did he do on leaving the room we had occupied, what did he say on abandoning the room in which he had loved me so?"

"He packed up his things quietly," replied Marcel, "and as he found in a drawer a pair of thread gloves you had forgotten, as well as two or three of your letters—"

"I know," said Mimi in a tone which seemed to imply, "I forgot them on purpose so that he might have some souvenir of me left! What did he do with them?" she added.

"If I remember rightly," said Marcel, "he threw the letters into the fireplace and the gloves out of the window, but without any theatrical effort, and quite naturally, as one does when one wants to get rid of something useless."

"My dear Monsieur Marcel, I assure you that from the bottom of my heart I hope that this indifference may last. But, once more in all sincerity, I do not believe in such a speedy cure and, in spite of all you tell me, I am convinced that my poet's heart is broken."

"That may be," replied Marcel, taking leave of Mimi, "but unless I may be very much mistaken, the pieces are still good for something."

During this colloquy in a public thoroughfare, Vicomte Paul was awaiting his new mistress, who was behindhand in her appointment, and decidedly disagreeable towards him. He seated himself at her feet and warbled his favorite strain, namely, that she was charming, fair as a lily, gentle as a lamb, but that he loved her above all on account of the beauties of her soul.

"Ah!" thought Mimi, loosening the waves of her dark hair over her snowy shoulders, "my lover Rodolphe, was not so exclusive."

As Marcel had stated, Rodolphe seemed to be radically cured of his love for Mademoiselle Mimi, and three or four days after his separation, the poet reappeared completely metamorphosed. He was attired with an elegance that must have rendered him unrecognizable by his very looking glass. Nothing, indeed, about him seemed to justify the fear that he intended to commit suicide, as Mademoiselle Mimi had started the rumor, with all kinds of hypocritical condolences. Rodolphe was, in fact, quite calm. He listened with unmoved countenance to all the stories told him about the new and sumptuous existence led by his mistress—who took pleasure in keeping him informed on these points—by a young girl who had remained her confidant, and who had occasion to see Rodolphe almost every evening.

"Mimi is very happy with Vicomte Paul," the poet was told. "She seems thoroughly smitten with him, only one thing causes her any uneasiness, she is afraid least you should disturb her tranquillity by coming after her, which by the way, would be dangerous for you, for the vicomte worships his mistress and is a good fencer."

"Oh," said Rodolphe. "She can sleep in peace, I have no wish to go and cast vinegar over the sweetness of her honeymoon. As to her young lover, he can leave his dagger at home like Gastibelza. I have no wish to attempt the life of a young gentleman who has still the happiness of being nursed by illusions."

As they did not fail to carry back to Mimi the way in which her ex-lover received all these details, she on her part did not forget to reply, shrugging her shoulders:

"That is all very well, you will see what will come of it in a day or two."

However, Rodolphe was himself, and more than any one else, astonished at this sudden indifference which, without passing through the usual transitions of sadness and melancholy, had followed the stormy feelings by which he had been stirred only a few days before. Forgetfulness, so slow to come—above all for the virtues of love—that forgetfulness which they summon so loudly and repulse with equal loudness when they feel it approaching, that pitiless consoler that had all at once, and without his being able to defend himself from it, invaded Rodolphe's heart, and the name of the woman he so dearly loved could now be heard without awakening any echo in it. Strange fact; Rodolphe, whose memory was strong enough to recall to mind things that had occurred in the farthest days of his past and beings who had figured in or influenced his most remote existence—Rodolphe could not, whatever efforts he might make, recall with clearness after four days' separation, the features of that mistress who had nearly broken his life between her slender fingers. He could no longer recall the softness of the eyes by the light of which he had so often fallen asleep. He could no longer remember the notes of that voice whose anger and whose caressing utterances had alternately maddened him. A poet, who was a friend of his, and who had not seen him since his absence, met him one evening. Rodolphe seemed busy and preoccupied, he was walking rapidly along the street, twirling his cane.

"Hallo," said the poet, holding out his hand, "so here you are," and he looked curiously at Rodolphe. Seeing that the latter looked somewhat downcast he thought it right to adopt a consoling tone.

"Come, courage, my dear fellow. I know that it is hard, but then it must always have come to this. Better now than later on; in three months you will be quite cured."

"What are you driving at?" said Rodolphe. "I am not ill, my dear fellow."

"Come," said the other, "do not play the braggart. I know the whole story and if I did not, I could read it in your face."

"Take care, you are making a mistake," said Rodolphe, "I am very much annoyed this evening, it is true, but you have not exactly hit on the cause of my annoyance."

"Good, but why defend yourself? It is quite natural. A connection that has lasted a couple of years cannot be broken off so readily."

"Everyone tells me the same thing," said Rodolphe, getting impatient. "Well, upon my honor, you make a mistake, you and the others. I am very vexed, and I look like it, that is possible, but this is the reason why; I was expecting my tailor with a new dress coat today, and he had not come. That is what I am annoyed about."

"Bad, bad," said the other laughing.

"Not at all bad, but good on the contrary, very good, excellent in fact. Follow my argument and you shall see."

"Come," said the poet, "I will listen to you. Just prove to me how any one can in reason look so wretched because a tailor has failed to keep his word. Come, come, I am waiting."

"Well," said Rodolphe, "you know very well that the greatest effects spring from the most trifling causes. I ought this evening to pay a very important visit, and I cannot do so for want of a dress coat. Now do you see it?"

"Not at all. There is up to this no sufficient reason shown for a state of desolation. You are in despair because—-. You are very silly to try to deceive. That is my opinion."

"My friend," said Rodolphe, "you are very opinionated. It is always enough to vex us when we miss happiness, and at any rate pleasure, because it is almost always so much lost for ever, and we are wrong in saying, 'I will make up for it another time.' I will resume; I had an appointment this evening with a lady. I was to meet her at a friend's house, whence I should, perhaps taken her home to mine, if it were nearer than her own, and even if it were not. At this house there was a party. At parties one must wear a dress coat. I have no dress coat. My tailor was to bring me one; he does not do so. I do not go to the party. I do not meet the lady who is, perhaps, met by someone else. I do not see her home either to my place or hers, and she is, perhaps, seen home by another. So as I told you, I have lost an opportunity of happiness and pleasure; hence I am vexed; hence I look so, and quite naturally."

"Very good," said his friend, "with one foot just out of one hell, you want to put the other foot in another; but, my dear fellow, when I met you, you seemed to be waiting for some one."

"So I was."

"But," continued the other, "we are in the neighborhood in which your ex-mistress is living. What is there to prove that you were not waiting for her?"

"Although separated from her, special reasons oblige me to live in this neighborhood. But, although neighbors, we are as distant as if she were at one pole and I at the other. Besides, at this particular moment, my ex-mistress is seated at her fireside taking lessons in French grammar from Vicomte Paul, who wishes to bring her back to the paths of virtue by the road of orthography. Good heavens, how he will spoil her! However, that regards himself, now that he is editor-in-chief of her happiness. You see, therefore, that your reflections are absurd, and that, instead of following up the half-effaced traces of my old love, I am on the track of my new one, who is already to some extent my neighbor, and will become yet more so: for I am willing to take all the necessary steps, and if she will take the rest, we shall not be long in coming to an understanding."

"Really," said the poet, "are you in love again already?"

"This is what it is," replied Rodolphe, "my heart resembles those lodgings that are advertised to let as soon as a tenant leaves them. As soon as one love leaves my heart, I put up a bill for another. The locality besides is habitable and in perfect repair."

"And who is this new idol? Where and when did you make her acquaintance?"

"Come," said Rodolphe, "let us go through things in order. When Mimi went away I thought that I should never be in love again in my life, and imagined that my heart was dead of fatigue, exhaustion, whatever you like. It had been beating so long and so fast, too fast, that the thing was probable. In short I believed it dead, quite dead, and thought of burying it like Marlborough. In honor of the occasion I gave a little funeral dinner, to which I invited some of my friends. The guests were to assume a melancholy air, and the bottles had crape around their necks."

"You did not invite me."

"Excuse me, but I did not know your address in that part of cloudland which you inhabit. One of the guests had brought a young lady, a young woman also abandoned a short time before by her lover. She was told my story. It was one of my friends who plays very nicely upon the violoncello of sentiment who did this. He spoke to the young widow of the qualities of my heart, the poor defunct whom we were about to inter, and invited her to drink to its eternal repose. 'Come now,' said she, raising her glass, 'I drink, on the contrary, to its very good health,' and she gave me a look, enough, as they say, to awake the dead. It was indeed the occasion to say so, for she had scarcely finished her toast than I heard my heart singing the O Filii of the Resurrection. What would you have done in my place?"

"A pretty question—what is her name?"

"I do not know yet, I shall only ask her at the moment we sign our lease. I know very well that in the opinion of some people I have overstepped the legal delays, but you see I plead in my own court, and I have granted a dispensation. What I do know is that she brings me as a dowry cheerfulness, which is the health of the soul, and health which is the cheerfulness of the body."

"Is she pretty?"

"Very pretty, especially as regards her complexion; one would say that she made up every morning with Watteau's palate, 'She is fair, and her conquering glances kindle love in every heart.' As witness mine."

"A blonde? You astonish me."

"Yes. I have had enough of ivory and ebony; I am going in for a blonde," and Rodolphe began to skip about as he sang:

"Praises sing unto my sweet, She is fair, Yellow as the ripening wheat Is her hair."

"Poor Mimi," said his friend, "so soon forgotten."

This name cast into Rodolphe's mirthsomeness, suddenly gave another turn to the conversation. Rodolphe took his friend by the arm, and related to him at length the causes of his rupture with Mademoiselle Mimi, the terrors that had awaited him when she had left; how he was in despair because he thought that she had carried off with her all that remained to him of youth and passion, and how two days later he had recognized his mistake on feeling the gunpowder in his heart, though swamped with so many sobs and tears, dry, kindle, and explode at the first look of love cast at him by the first woman he met. He narrated the sudden and imperious invasion of forgetfulness, without his even having summoned it in aid of his grief, and how this grief was dead and buried in the said forgetfulness.

"Is it not a miracle?" said he to the poet, who, knowing by heart and from experience all the painful chapters of shattered loves, replied:

"No, no, my friend, there is no more of a miracle for you than for the rest of us. What has happened to you has happened to myself. The women we love, when they become our mistresses, cease to be for us what they really are. We do not see them only with a lover's eyes, but with a poet's. As a painter throws on the shoulders of a lay figure the imperial purple or the star-spangled robe of a Holy Virgin, so we have always whole stores of glittering mantles and robes of pure white linen which we cast over the shoulders of dull, sulky, or spiteful creatures, and when they have thus assumed the garb in which our ideal loves float before us in our waking dreams, we let ourselves be taken in by this disguise, we incarnate our dream in the first corner, and address her in our language, which she does not understand. However, let this creature at whose feet we live prostrate, tear away herself the dense envelope beneath which we have hidden her, and reveal to us her evil nature and her base instincts; let her place our hands on the spot where her heart should be, but where nothing beats any longer, and has perhaps never beaten; let her open her veil, and show us her faded eyes, pale lips, and haggard features; we replace that veil and exclaim, 'It is not true! It is not true! I love you, and you, too, love me! This white bosom holds a heart that has all its youthfulness; I love you, and you love me! You are beautiful, you are young. At the bottom of all your vices there is love. I love you, and you love me!' Then in the end, always quite in the end, when, after having all very well put triple bandages over our eyes, we see ourselves the dupes of our mistakes, we drive away the wretch who was our idol of yesterday; we take back from her the golden veils of poesy, which, on the morrow, we again cast on the shoulders of some other unknown, who becomes at once an aureola-surrounded idol. That is what we all are—monstrous egoists—who love love for love's sake—you understand me? We sip the divine liquor from the first cup that comes to hand. 'What matter the bottle, so long as we draw intoxication from it?'"

"What you say is as true as that two and two make four," said Rodolphe to the poet.

"Yes," replied the latter, "it is true, and as sad as three quarters of the things that are true. Good night."

Two days later Mademoiselle Mimi learned that Rodolphe had a new mistress. She only asked one thing—whether he kissed her hands as often as he used to kiss her own?

"Quite as often," replied Marcel. "In addition, he is kissing the hairs of her head one after the other, and they are to remain with one another until he has finished."

"Ah!" replied Mimi, passing her hand through her own tresses. "It was lucky he did not think of doing the same with me, or we should have remained together all our lives. Do you think it is really true that he no longer loves me at all?"

"Humph—and you, do you still love him?"

"I! I never loved him in my life."

"Yes, Mimi, yes. You loved him at those moments when a woman's heart changes place. You loved him; do nothing to deny it; it is your justification."

"Bah!" said Mimi, "he loves another now."

"True," said Marcel, "but no matter. Later on the remembrance of you will be to him like the flowers that we place fresh and full of perfume between the leaves of a book, and which long afterwards we find dead, discolored, and faded, but still always preserving a vague perfume of their first freshness."

* * * * *

One evening, when she was humming in a low tone to herself, Vicomte Paul said to Mimi, "What are you singing, dear?"

"The funeral chant of our loves, that my lover Rodolphe has lately composed."

And she began to sing:—

"I have not a sou now, my dear, and the rule In such a case surely is soon to forget, So tearless, for she who would weep is a fool, You'll blot out all mem'ry of me, eh, my pet?

Well, still all the same we have spent as you know Some days that were happy—and each with its night, They did not last long, but, alas, here below, The shortest are ever those we deem most bright."


Romeo and Juliet

Attired like a fashion plate out of his paper, the "Scarf of Iris," with new gloves, polished boots, freshly shaven face, curled hair, waxed moustache, stick in hand, glass in eye, smiling, youthful, altogether nice looking, in such guise our friend, the poet Rodolphe, might have been seen one November evening on the boulevard waiting for a cab to take him home.

Rodolphe waiting for a cab? What cataclysm had then taken place in his existence?

At the very hour that the transformed poet was twirling his moustache, chewing the end of an enormous regalia, and charming the fair sex, one of his friends was also passing down the boulevard. It was the philosopher, Gustave Colline. Rodolphe saw him coming, and at once recognized him; as indeed, who would not who had once seen him? Colline as usual was laden with a dozen volumes. Clad in that immortal hazel overcoat, the durability of which makes one believe that it must have been built by the Romans, and with his head covered by his famous broad brimmed hat, a dome of beaver, beneath which buzzed a swarm of hyperphysical dreams, and which was nicknamed Mambrino's Helmet of Modern Philosophy, Gustave Colline was walking slowly along, chewing the cud of the preface of a book that had already been in the press for the last three months—in his imagination. As he advanced towards the spot where Rodolphe was standing, Colline thought for a moment that he recognized him, but the supreme elegance displayed by the poet threw the philosopher into a state of doubt and uncertainty.

"Rodolphe with gloves and a walking stick. Chimera! Utopia! Mental aberration! Rodolphe curled and oiled; he who has not so much as Father Time. What could I be thinking of? Besides, at this present moment my unfortunate friend is engaged in lamentations, and is composing melancholy verses upon the departure of Mademoiselle Mimi, who, I hear, has thrown him over. Well, for my part, I too, regret the loss of that young woman. She was a dab hand at making coffee, which is the beverage of serious minds. But I trust that Rodolphe will console himself, and soon get another Kettle-holder."

Colline was so delighted with his wretched joke, that he would willingly have applauded it, had not the stern voice of philosophy woke up within him, and put an energetic stop to this perversion of wit.

However, as he halted close to Rodolphe, Colline was forced to yield to evidence. It was certainly Rodolphe, curled, gloved, and with a cane. It was impossible, but it was true.

"Eh! Eh! By Jove!" said Colline. "I am not mistaken. It is you, I am certain."

"So am I," replied Rodolphe.

Colline began to look at his friend, imparting to his countenance the expression pictorially made use of by M. Lebrun, the king's painter in ordinary, to express surprise. But all at once he noted two strange articles with which Rodolphe was laden—firstly, a rope ladder, and secondly, a cage, in which some kind of a bird was fluttering. At this sight, Gustave Colline's physiognomy expressed a sentiment which Monsieur Lebrun, the king's painter in ordinary, forgot to depict in his picture of "The Passions."

"Come," said Rodolphe to his friend, "I see very plainly the curiosity of your mind peeping out through the window of your eyes; and I am going to satisfy it, only, let us quit the public thoroughfare. It is cold enough here to freeze your questions and my answers."

And they both went into a cafe.

Colline's eyes remained riveted on the rope ladder as well as the cage, in which the bird, thawed by the atmosphere of the cafe, began to sing in a language unknown to Colline, who was, however, a polyglottist.

"Well then," said the philosopher pointing to the rope ladder, "what is that?"

"A connecting link between my love and me," replied Rodolphe, in lute like accents.

"And that?" asked Colline, pointing to the bird.

"That," said the poet, whose voice grew soft as the summer breeze, "is a clock."

"Tell me without parables—in vile prose, but truly."

"Very well. Have you read Shakespeare?"

"Have I read him? 'To be or not to be?' He was a great philosopher. Yes, I have read him."

"Do your remember Romeo and Juliet?"

"Do I remember?" said Colline, and he began to recite:

"Wilt thou begone? It is not yet day, It was the nightingale, and not the lark."

"I should rather think I remember. But what then?"

"What!" said Rodolphe, pointing to the ladder and the bird. "You do not understand! This is the story: I am in love, my dear fellow, in love with a girl named Juliet."

"Well, what then?" said Colline impatiently.

"This. My new idol being named Juliet, I have hit on a plan. It is to go through Shakespeare's play with her. In the first place, my name is no longer Rodolphe, but Romeo Montague, and you will oblige me by not calling me otherwise. Besides, in order that everyone may know it, I have had some new visiting cards engraved. But that is not all. I shall profit by the fact that we are not in Carnival time to wear a velvet doublet and a sword."

"To kill Tybalt with?" said Colline.

"Exactly," continued Rodolphe. "Finally, this ladder that you see is to enable me to visit my mistress, who, as it happens, has a balcony."

"But the bird, the bird?" said the obstinate Colline.

"Why, this bird, which is a pigeon, is to play the part of the nightingale, and indicate every morning the precise moment when, as I am about to leave her loved arms, my mistress will throw them about my neck and repeat to me in her sweet tones the balcony scene, 'It is not yet near day,' that is to say, 'It is not yet eleven, the streets are muddy, do not go yet, we are comfortable here.' In order to perfect the imitation, I will try to get a nurse, and place her under the orders of my beloved and I hope that the almanac will be kind enough to grant me a little moonlight now and then, when I scale my Juliet's balcony. What do you say to my project, philosopher?"

"It is very fine," said Colline, "but could you also explain to me the mysteries of this splendid outer covering that rendered you unrecognizable? You have become rich, then?"

Rodolphe did not reply, but made a sign to one of the waiters, and carelessly threw down a louis, saying:

"Take for what we have had."

Then he tapped his waistcoat pocket, which gave forth a jingling sound.

"Have you got a bell in your pocket, for it to jingle as loud as that?"

"Only a few louis."

"Louis! In gold?" said Colline, in a voice choked with wonderment. "Let me see what they are like."

After which the two friends parted, Colline to go and relate the opulent ways and new loves of Rodolphe, and the latter to return home.

This took place during the week that had followed the second rupture between Rodolphe and Mademoiselle Mimi. The poet, when he had broken off with his mistress, felt a need of change of air and surroundings, and accompanied by his friend Marcel, he left the gloomy lodging house, the landlord of which saw both him and Marcel depart without overmuch regret. Both, as we have said, sought quarters elsewhere, and hired two rooms in the same house and on the same floor. The room chosen by Rodolphe was incomparably more comfortable than any he had inhabited up till then. There were articles of furniture almost imposing, above all a sofa covered with red stuff, that was intended to imitate velvet, and did not.

There were also on the mantelpiece two china vases, painted with flowers, between an elaborate clock, with fearful ornamentation. Rodolphe put the vases in a cupboard, and when the landlord came to wind up the clock, begged him to do nothing of the kind.

"I am willing to leave the clock on the mantel shelf," said he, "but only as an object of art. It points to midnight—a good hour; let it stick to it. The day it marks five minutes past I will move. A clock," continued Rodolphe, who had never been able to submit to the imperious tyranny of the dial, "is a domestic foe who implacably reckons up to your existence hour by hour and minute by minute, and says to you every moment, 'Here is a fraction of your life gone.' I could not sleep in peace in a room in which there was one of these instruments of torture, in the vicinity of which carelessness and reverie are impossible. A clock, the hands of which stretch to your bed and prick yours whilst you are still plunged in the soft delights of your first awakening. A clock, whose voice cries to you, 'Ting, ting, ting; it is the hour for business. Leave your charming dream, escape from the caresses of your visions, and sometimes of realities. Put on your hat and boots. It is cold, it rains, but go about your business. It is time—ting, ting.' It is quite enough already to have an almanac. Let my clock remain paralyzed, or—-."

Whilst delivering this monologue he was examining his new dwelling, and felt himself moved by the secret uneasiness which one almost always feels when going into a fresh lodging.

"I have noticed," he reflected, "that the places we inhabit exercise a mysterious influence upon our thoughts, and consequently upon our actions. This room is cold and silent as a tomb. If ever mirth reigns here it will be brought in from without, and even then it will not be for long, for laughter will die away without echoes under this low ceiling, cold and white as a snowy sky. Alas! What will my life be like within these four walls?"

However, a few days later this room, erst so sad, was full of light, and rang with joyous sounds, it was the house warming, and numerous bottles explained the lively humor of the guests. Rodolphe allowed himself to be won upon by the contagious good humor of his guests. Isolated in a corner with a young woman who had come there by chance, and whom he had taken possession of, the poet was sonnetteering with her with tongue and hands. Towards the close of the festivities he had obtained a rendezvous for the next day.

"Well!" said he to himself when he was alone, "the evening hasn't been such a bad one. My stay here hasn't begun amiss."

The next day Mademoiselle Juliet called at the appointed hour. The evening was spent only in explanations. Juliet had learned the recent rupture of Rodolphe with the blue eyed girl whom he had so dearly loved; she knew that after having already left her once before Rodolphe had taken her back, and she was afraid of being the victim of a similar reawakening of love.

"You see," said she, with a pretty little pout, "I don't at all care about playing a ridiculous part. I warn you that I am very forward, and once mistress here," and she underlined by a look the meaning she gave to the word, "I remain, and do not give up my place."

Rodolphe summoned all his eloquence to the rescue to convince her that her fears were without foundation, and the girl, having on her side a willingness to be convinced, they ended by coming to an understanding. Only they were no longer at an understanding when midnight struck, for Rodolphe wanted Juliet to stay, and she insisted on going.

"No," she said to him as he persisted in trying to persuade her. "Why be in such a hurry? We shall always arrive in time at what we want to, provided you do not halt on the way. I will return tomorrow."

And she returned thus every evening for a week, to go away in the same way when midnight struck.

This delay did not annoy Rodolphe very much. In matters of love, and even of mere fancy, he was one of that school of travelers who prolong their journey and render it picturesque. The little sentimental preface had for its result to lead on Rodolphe at the outset further than he meant to go. And it was no doubt to lead him to that point at which fancy, ripened by the resistance opposed to it, begins to resemble love, that Mademoiselle Juliet had made use of this stratagem.

At each fresh visit that she paid to Rodolphe, Juliet remarked a more pronounced tone of sincerity in what he said. He felt when she was a little behindhand in keeping her appointment an impatience that delighted her, and he even wrote her letters the language of which was enough to give her hopes that she would speedily become his legitimate mistress.

When Marcel, who was his confidant, once caught sight of one of Rodolphe's epistles, he said to him:

"Is it an exercise of style, or do you really think what you have said here?"

"Yes, I really think it," replied Rodolphe, "and I am even a bit astonished at it: but it is so. I was a week back in a very sad state of mind. The solitude and silence that had so abruptly succeeded the storms and tempests of my old household alarmed me terribly, but Juliet arrived almost at the moment. I heard the sounds of twenty year old laughter ring in my ears. I had before me a rosy face, eyes beaming with smiles, a mouth overflowing with kisses, and I have quietly allowed myself to glide down the hill of fancy that might perhaps lead me on to love. I love to love."

However, Rodolphe was not long in perceiving that it only depended upon himself to bring this little romance to a crisis, and it was than that he had the notion of copying from Shakespeare the scene of the love of Romeo and Juliet. His future mistress had deemed the notion amusing, and agreed to share in the jest.

It was the very evening that the rendezvous was appointed for that Rodolphe met the philosopher Colline, just as he had bought the rope ladder that was to aid him to scale Juliet's balcony. The birdseller to whom he had applied not having a nightingale, Rodolphe replaced it by a pigeon, which he was assured sang every morning at daybreak.

Returned home, the poet reflected that to ascend a rope ladder was not an easy matter, and that it would be a good thing to rehearse the balcony scene, if he would not in addition to the chances of a fall, run the risk of appearing awkward and ridiculous in the eyes of her who was awaiting him. Having fastened his ladder to two nails firmly driven into the ceiling, Rodolphe employed the two hours remaining to him in practicing gymnastics, and after an infinite number of attempts, succeeded in managing after a fashion to get up half a score of rungs.

"Come, that is all right," he said to himself, "I am now sure of my affair and besides, if I stuck half way, 'love would lend me his wings.'"

And laden with his ladder and his pigeon cage, he set out for the abode of Juliet, who lived near. Her room looked into a little garden, and had indeed a balcony. But the room was on the ground floor, and the balcony could be stepped over as easily as possible.

Hence Rodolphe was completely crushed when he perceived this local arrangement, which put to naught his poetical project of an escalade.

"All the same," said he to Juliet, "we can go through the episode of the balcony. Here is a bird that will arouse us tomorrow with his melodious notes, and warn us of the exact moment when we are to part from one another in despair."

And Rodolphe hung up the cage beside the fireplace.

The next day at five in the morning the pigeon was exact to time, and filled the room with a prolonged cooing that would have awakened the two lovers—if they had gone to sleep.

"Well," said Juliet, "this is the moment to go into the balcony and bid one another despairing farewells—what do you think of it?"

"The pigeon is too fast," said Rodolphe. "It is November, and the sun does not rise till noon."

"All the same," said Juliet, "I am going to get up."


"I feel quite empty, and I will not hide from you the fact that I could very well eat a mouthfull."

"The agreement that prevails in our sympathies is astonishing. I am awfully hungry too," said Rodolphe, also rising and hurriedly slipping on his clothes.

Juliet had already lit a fire, and was looking in her sideboard to see whether she could find anything. Rodolphe helped her in this search.

"Hullo," said he, "onions."

"And some bacon," said Juliet.

"Some butter."


Alas! That was all.

During the search the pigeon, a careless optimist, was singing on its perch.

Romeo looked at Juliet, Juliet looked at Romeo, and both looked at the pigeon.

They did not say anything, but the fate of the pigeon-clock was settled. Even if he had appealed it would have been useless, hunger is such a cruel counsellor.

Rodolphe had lit some charcoal, and was turning bacon in the spluttering butter with a solemn air.

Juliet was peeling onions in a melancholy attitude.

The pigeon was still singing, it was the song of the swan.

To these lamentations was joined the spluttering of the butter in the stew pan.

Five minutes later the butter was still spluttering, but the pigeon sang no longer.

Romeo and Juliet grilled their clock.

"He had a nice voice," said Juliet sitting down to table.

"He is very tender," said Rodolphe, carving his alarum, nicely browned.

The two lovers looked at one another, and each surprised a tear in the other's eye.

Hypocrites, it was the onions that made them weep.


Epilogue To The Loves Of Rodolphe And Mademoiselle Mimi

Shortly after his final rupture with Mademoiselle Mimi, who had left him, as may be remembered, to ride in the carriage of Vicomte Paul, the poet Rodolphe had sought to divert his thoughts by taking a new mistress.

She was the same blonde for whom we have seen him masquerading as Romeo. But this union, which was on the one part only a matter of spite, and on the other one of fancy, could not last long. The girl was after all only a light of love, warbling to perfection the gamut of trickery, witty enough to note the wit of others and to make use of it on occasion, and with only enough heart to feel heartburn when she had eaten too much. Add to this unbridled self-esteem and a ferocious coquetry, which would have impelled her to prefer a broken leg for her lover rather than a flounce the less to her dress, or a faded ribbon to her bonnet. A commonplace creature of doubtful beauty, endowed by nature with every evil instinct, and yet seductive from certain points of view and at certain times. She was not long in perceiving that Rodolphe had only taken her to help him forget the absent, whom she made him on the contrary regret, for his old love had never been so noisy and so lively in his heart.

One day Juliet, Rodolphe's new mistress, was talking about her lover, the poet, with a medical student who was courting her. The student replied,—

"My dear child, that fellow only makes use of you as they use nitrate to cauterize wounds. He wants to cauterize his heart and nerve. You are very wrong to bother yourself about being faithful to him."

"Ah, ah!" cried the girl, breaking into a laugh. "Do you really think that I put myself out about him?"

And that very evening she gave the student a proof to the contrary.

Thanks to the indiscretion of one of those officious friends who are unable to retain unpublished news capable of vexing you, Rodolphe soon got wind of the matter, and made it a pretext for breaking off with his temporary mistress.

He then shut himself up in positive solitude, in which all the flitter-mice of ennui soon came and nested, and he called work to his aid but in vain. Every evening, after wasting as much perspiration over the job as he did in ink, he produced a score of lines in which some old idea, as worn out as the Wandering Jew, and vilely clad in rags cribbed from the literary dust heap, danced clumsily on the tight rope of paradox. On reading through these lines Rodolphe was as bewildered as a man who sees nettles spring up in a bed in which he thought he had planted roses. He would then tear up the paper, on which he had just scattered this chaplet of absurdities, and trample it under foot in a rage.

"Come," said he, striking himself on the chest just above the heart, "the cord is broken, there is nothing but to resign ourselves to it."

And as for some time past a like failure followed all his attempts at work, he was seized with one of those fits of depression which shake the most stubborn pride and cloud the most lucid intellects. Nothing is indeed more terrible than these hidden struggles that sometimes take place between the self-willed artist and his rebellious art. Nothing is more moving than these fits of rage alternating with invocation, in turn supplicating or imperative, addressed to a disdainful or fugitive muse.

The most violent human anguish, the deepest wounds to the quick of the heart, do not cause suffering approaching that which one feels in these hours of doubt and impatience, so frequent for those who give themselves up to the dangerous calling of imagination.

To these violent crises succeeded painful fits of depression. Rodolphe would then remain for whole hours as though petrified in a state of stupefied immobility. His elbows upon the table, his eyes fixed upon the luminous patch made by the rays of the lamp falling upon the sheet of paper,—the battlefield on which his mind was vanquished daily, and on which his pen had become foundered in its attempts to pursue the unattainable idea—he saw slowly defile before him, like the figures of dissolving views with which the children are amused, fantastic pictures which unfolded before him the panorama of his past. It was at first the laborious days in which each hour marked the accomplishment of some task, the studious nights spent in tete-a-tete with the muse who came to adorn with her fairy visions his solitary and patient poverty. And he remembered then with envy the pride of skill that intoxicated him of yore when he had completed the task imposed on him by his will.

"Oh, nothing is equal to you!" he exclaimed. "Voluptuous fatigues of labor which render the mattresses of idleness so sweet. Not the satisfaction of self-esteem nor the feverish slumbers stifled beneath the heavy drapery of mysterious alcoves equals that calm and honest joy, that legitimate self satisfaction which work bestows on the laborer as a first salary."

And with eyes still fixed on these visions which continued to retrace for him the scenes of bygone days, he once more ascended the six flights of stairs of all the garrets in which his adventurous existence had been spent, in which the Muse, his only love in those days, a faithful and persevering sweetheart had always followed him, living happily with poverty and never breaking off her song of hope. But, lo, in the midst of this regular and tranquil life there suddenly appears a woman's face, and seeing her enter the dwelling where she had been until then sole queen and mistress, the poet's Muse rose sadly and gave place to the new-comer in whom she had divined a rival. Rodolphe hesitated a moment between the Muse to whom his look seemed to say, "Stay," whilst a gesture addressed to the stranger said, "Come."

And how could he repulse her, this charming creature who came to him armed with all the seductions of a beauty at its dawn? Tiny mouth and rosy lips, speaking in bold and simple language, full of coaxing promises. How refuse his hand to this little white one, delicately veined with blue, that was held out to him full of caresses? How say, "Get you gone," to these eighteen years, the presence of which already filled the home with a perfume of youth and gaiety? And then with her sweet voice, tenderly thrilling, she sang the cavatina of temptation so well. With her bright and sparkling eyes she said so clearly, "I am love," with her lips, where kisses nestled, "I am pleasure," with her whole being, in short, "I am happiness," that Rodolphe let himself be caught by them. And, besides, was not this young girl after all real and living poetry, had he not owed her his freshest inspirations, had she not often initiated him into enthusiasms which bore him so far afield in the ether of reverie that he lost sight of all things of earth? If he had suffered deeply on account of her, was not this suffering the expiation of the immense joys she had bestowed upon him? Was it not the ordinary vengeance of human fate which forbids absolute happiness as an impiety? If the law of Christianity forgives those who have much loved, it is because they have also much suffered, and terrestrial love never became a divine passion save on condition of being purified by tears. As one grows intoxicated by breathing the odor of faded roses, Rodolphe again became so by reviving in recollection that past life in which every day brought about a fresh elegy, a terrible drama, or a grotesque comedy. He went through all the phases of his strange love from their honeymoon to the domestic storms that had brought about their last rupture, he recalled all the tricks of his ex-mistress, repeated all her witty sayings. He saw her going to and fro about their little household, humming her favorite song, and facing with the same careless gaiety good or evil days.

And in the end he arrived at the conclusion that common sense was always wrong in love affairs. What, indeed, had he gained by their rupture? At the time when he was living with Mimi she deceived him, it was true, but if he was aware of this it was his fault after all that he was so, and because he gave himself infinite pains to become aware of it, because he passed his time on the alert for proofs, and himself sharpened the daggers which he plunged into his heart. Besides, was not Mimi clever enough to prove to him at need that he was mistaken? And then for whose sake was she false to him? It was generally a shawl or a bonnet—for the sake of things and not men. That calm, that tranquillity which he had hoped for on separating from his mistress, had he found them again after her departure? Alas, no! There was only herself the less in the house. Of old his grief could find vent, he could break into abuse, or representations—he could show all he suffered and excite the pity of her who caused his sufferings. But now his grief was solitary, his jealousy had become madness, for formerly he could at any rate, when he suspected anything, hinder Mimi from going out, keep her beside him in his possession, and now he might meet her in the street on the arm of her new lover, and must turn aside to let her pass, happy no doubt, and bent upon pleasure.

This wretched life lasted three or four months. By degrees he recovered his calmness. Marcel, who had undertaken a long journey to drive Musette out of his mind, returned to Paris, and again came to live with Rodolphe. They consoled one another.

One Sunday, crossing the Luxembourg Gardens, Rodolphe met Mimi resplendently dressed. She was going to a public ball. She nodded to him, to which he responded by a bow. This meeting gave him a great shock, but his emotion was less painful than usual. He walked about for a little while in the gardens, and then returned home. When Marcel came in that evening he found him at work.

"What!" said Marcel, leaning over his shoulder. "You are working—verses?"

"Yes," replied Rodolphe cheerfully, "I believe that the machine will still work. During the last four hours I have once more found the go of bygone time, I have seen Mimi."

"Ah!" said Marcel uneasily. "On what terms are you?"

"Do not be afraid," said Rodolphe, "we only bowed to one another. It went no further than that."

"Really and truly?" asked Marcel.

"Really and truly. It is all over between us, I feel it; but if I can get to work again I forgive her."

"If it is so completely finished," said Marcel, who had read through Rodolphe's verses, "why do you write verses about her?"

"Alas!" replied the poet, "I take my poetry where I can find it."

For a week he worked at this little poem. When he had finished it he read it to Marcel, who expressed himself satisfied with it, and who encouraged Rodolphe to utilize in other ways the poetical vein that had come back to him.

"For," remarked he, "it was not worth while leaving Mimi if you are always to live under her shadow. After all, though," he continued, smiling, "instead of lecturing others, I should do well to lecture myself, for my heart is still full of Musette. Well, after all, perhaps we shall not always be young fellows in love with such imps."

"Alas!" said Rodolphe, "there is no need to say in one's youth, 'Be off with you.'"

"That is true," observed Marcel, "but there are days on which I feel I should like to be a respectable old fellow, a member of the Institute, decorated with several orders, and, having done with the Musettes of this circle of society; the devil fly away with me if I would return to it. And you," he continued, laughing, "would you like to be sixty?"

"Today," replied Rodolphe, "I would rather have sixty francs."

A few days later, Mademoiselle Mimi having gone into a cafe with young Vicomte Paul, opened a magazine, in which the verses Rodolphe had written on her were printed.

"Good," said she, laughing at first, "here is my friend Rodolphe saying nasty things of me in the papers."

But when she finished the verses she remained intent and thoughtful. Vicomte Paul guessing that she was thinking of Rodolphe, sought to divert her attention.

"I will buy you a pair of earrings," said he.

"Ah!" said Mimi, "you have money, you have."

"And a Leghorn straw hat," continued the viscount.

"No," said Mimi. "If you want to please me, buy me this."

And she showed him the magazine in which she had just been reading Rodolphe's poetry.

"Oh! As to that, no," said the viscount, vexed.

"Very well," said Mimi coldly. "I will buy it myself with money I will earn. In point of fact, I would rather that it was not with yours."

And for two days Mimi went back to her old flower maker's workrooms, where she earned enough to buy this number. She learned Rodolphe's poetry by heart, and, to annoy Vicomte Paul, repeated it all day long to her friends. The verses were as follows:

WHEN I was seeking where to pledge my truth Chance brought me face to face with you one day; once I offered you my heart, my youth, "Do with them what you will," I dared to say.

But "what you would," was cruel, dear; alas! The youth I trusted with you is no more: The heart is shattered like a fallen glass, And the wind sings a funeral mass On the deserted chamber floor, Where he who loved you ne'er may pass.

Between us now, my dear, 'tis all UP, I am a spectre and a phantom you, Our love is dead and buried; if you agree, We'll sing around its tombstone dirges due.

But let us take an air in a low key, Lest we should strain our voices, more or less; Some solemn minor, free from flourishes; I'll take the bass, sing you the melody.

Mi, re, mi, do, re, la,—ah! not that song! Hearing the song that once you used to sing My heart would palpitate—though dead so long— And, at the De Profundis, upward spring.

Do, mi, fa, sol, mi, do,—this other brings Back to the mind a valse of long ago, The fife's shrill laughter mocked the sounding strings That wept their notes of crystal to the bow.

Sol, do, do, si, si, la,—ah! stay your hand! This is the air we sang last year in chorus, With Germans shouting for their fatherland In Meudon woods, while summer's moon stood o'er us.

Well, well, we will not sing nor speculate, But—since we know they never more may be— On our lost loves, without a grudge or hate, Drop, while we smile, a final memory.

What times we had up there; do you remember? When on your window panes the rain would stream, And, seated by the fire, in dark December, I felt your eyes inspire me many a dream.

The live coal crackled, kindling with the heat, The kettle sang, melodious and sedate, A music for the visionary feet Of salamanders leaping in the grate:

Languid and lazy, with an unread book, You scarcely tried to keep your lids apart, While to my youthful love new growth I took, Kissing your hands and yielding you my heart.

In merely entering one night believe, One felt a scent of love and gaiety, Which filled our little room from morn to eve, For fortune loved our hospitality.

And winter went: then, through the open sash, Spring flew, to say the year's long night was done; We heard the call, and ran with impulse rash In the green country side to meet the sun.

It was the Friday of the Holy Week, The weather, for a wonder, mild and fair; From hill to valley, and from plain to peak, We wandered long, delighting in the air.

At length, exhausted by the pilgrimage, We found a sort of natural divan, Whence we could view the landscape, or engage Our eyes in rapture on the heaven's wide span.

Hand clasped in hand, shoulder on shoulder laid, With sense of something ventured, something missed, Our two lips parted, each; no word was said, And silently we kissed.

Around us blue-bell and shy violet Their simple incense seemed to wave on high; Surely we saw, with glances heavenward set, God smiling from his azure balcony.

"Love on!" he seemed to say, "I make more sweet The road of life you are to wander by, Spreading the velvet moss beneath your feet; Kiss, if you will; I shall not play the spy."

Love on, love on! In murmurs of the breeze, In limpid stream, and in the woodland screen That burgeons fresh in the renovated green, In stars, in flowers, and music of the trees,

Love on, love on! But if my golden sun, My spring, that comes once more to gladden earth, If these should move your breasts to grateful mirth, I ask no thanksgiving, your kiss is one.

A month passed by; and, when the roses bloomed In beds that we had planted in the spring, When least of all I thought my love was doomed, You cast it from you like a noisome thing.

Not that your scorn was all reserved for me, It flies about the world by fits and starts; Your changeful fancy fits impartially From knave of diamonds to knave of hearts.

And now you are happy, with a brilliant suite Of bowing slaves and insincere gallants; Go where you will, you see them at your feet; A bed of perfumed posies round you flaunts:

The Ball's your garden: an admiring globe Of lovers rolls about the lit saloon, And, at the rustling of your silken robe, The pack, in chorus, bay you like the moon.

Shod in the softness of a supple boot Which Cinderella would have found too small, One scarcely sees your little pointed foot Flash in the flashing circle of the Ball.

Shod in the softness of a supple boot Which Cinderella would have found too small, One scarcely sees your little pointed foot Flash in the flashing circle of the Ball.

In the soft baths that indolence has brought Your once brown hands have got the ivory white, The pallor of the lily which has caught The silver moonbeam of a summer night:

On your white arm half clouded, and half clear, Pearls shine in bracelets made of chiselled gold; On your trim waist a shawl of true Cashmere Aesthetically falls in waving fold:

Honiton point and costly Mechlin lace, With gothic guipure of a creamy white— The matchless cobwebs of long vanished days— Combine to make your presence rich and bright.

But I preferred a simpler guise than that, Your frock of muslin or plain calico, Simple adornments, with a veilless hat, Boots, black or grey, a collar white and low.

The splendor your admirers now adore Will never bring me back my ancient heats; And you are dead and buried, all the more For the silk shroud where heart no longer beats.

So when I worked at this funereal dirge, Where grief for a lost lifetime stands confessed, I wore a clerk's costume of sable serge, Though not gold eye glasses or pleated vest.

My penholder was wrapped in mournful crape, The paper with black lines was bordered round On which I labored to provide escape For love's last memory hidden in the ground.

And now, when all the heart that I can save Is used to furnish forth its epitaph. Gay as a sexton digging his own grave I burst into a wild and frantic laugh;

A laugh engendered by a mocking vein; The pen I grasped was trembling as I wrote; And even while I laughed, a scalding rain Of tears turned all the writing to a blot.

It was the 24th of December, and that evening the Latin Quarter bore a special aspect. Since four o'clock in the afternoon the pawnbroking establishments and the shops of the second hand clothes dealers and booksellers had been encumbered by a noisy crowd, who, later in the evening, took the ham and beef shops, cook shops, and grocers by assault. The shopmen, even if they had had a hundred arms, like Briareus, would not have sufficed to serve the customers who struggled with one another for provisions. At the baker's they formed a string as in times of dearth. The wine shop keepers got rid of the produce of three vintages, and a clever statistician would have found it difficult to reckon up the number of knuckles of ham and of sausages which were sold at the famous shop of Borel, in the Rue Dauphine. In this one evening Daddy Cretaine, nicknamed Petit-Pain, exhausted eighteen editions of his cakes. All night long sounds of rejoicing broke out from the lodging houses, the windows of which were brilliantly lit up, and an atmosphere of revelry filled the district.

The old festival of Christmas Eve was being celebrated.

That evening, towards ten o'clock, Marcel and Rodolphe were proceeding homeward somewhat sadly. Passing up the Rue Dauphine they noticed a great crowd in the shop of a provision dealer, and halted a moment before the window. Tantalized by the sight of the toothsome gastronomic products, the two Bohemians resembled, during this contemplation, that person in a Spanish romance who caused hams to shrink only by looking at them.

"That is called a truffled turkey," said Marcel, pointing to a splendid bird, showing through its rosy and transparent skin the Perigordian tubercles with which it was stuffed. "I have seen impious folk eat it without first going down on their knees before it," added the painter, casting upon the turkey looks capable of roasting it.

"And what do you think of that modest leg of salt marsh mutton?" asked Rodolphe. "What fine coloring! One might think it was just unhooked from that butcher's shop in one of Jordaen's pictures. Such a leg of mutton is the favorite dish of the gods, and of my godmother Madame Chandelier."

"Look at those fish!" resumed Marcel, pointing to some trout. "They are the most expert swimmers of the aquatic race. Those little creatures, without any appearance of pretension, could, however, make a fortune by the exhibition of their skill; fancy, they can swim up a perpendicular waterfall as easily as we should accept an invitation to supper. I have almost had a chance of tasting them."

"And down there—those large golden fruit, the foliage of which resembles a trophy of savage sabre blades! They are called pineapples, and are the pippins of the tropics."

"That is a matter of indifference to me," said Marcel. "So far as fruits are concerned, I prefer that piece of beef, that ham, or that simple gammon of bacon, cuirassed with jelly as transparent as amber."

"You are right," replied Rodolphe. "Ham is the friend of man, when he has one. However, I would not repulse that pheasant."

"I should think not; it is the dish of crowned heads."

And as, continuing on their way, they met joyful processions proceeding homewards, to do honor to Momus, Bacchus, Comus, and all the other divinities with names ending in "us," they asked themselves who was the Gamacho whose wedding was being celebrated with such a profusion of victuals.

Marcel was the first who recollected the date and its festival.

"It is Christmas Eve," said he.

"Do you remember last year's?" inquired Rodolphe.

"Yes," replied Marcel. "At Momus's. It was Barbemuche who stood treat. I should never have thought that a delicate girl like Phemie could have held so much sausage."

"What a pity that Momus has cut off our credit," said Rodolphe.

"Alas," said Marcel, "calendars succeed but do not resemble one another."

"Would not you like to keep Christmas Eve?" asked Rodolphe.

"With whom and with what?" inquired the painter.

"With me."

"And the coin?"

"Wait a moment," said Rodolphe, "I will go into the cafe, where I know some people who play high. I will borrow a few sesterces from some favorite of fortune, and I will get something to wash down a sardine or a pig's trotter."

"Go," said Marcel. "I am as hungry as a dog. I will wait for you here," Rodolphe went into the cafe where he knew several people. A gentleman who had just won three hundred francs at cards made a regular treat of lending the poet a forty sous piece, which he handed over with that ill humor caused by the fever of play. At another time and elsewhere than at a card-table, he would very likely have been good for forty francs.

"Well?" inquired Marcel, on seeing Rodolphe return.

"Here are the takings," said the poet, showing the money.

"A bite and a sup," said Marcel.

With this small sum they were however able to obtain bread, wine, cold meat, tobacco, fire and light.

They returned home to the lodging-house in which each had a separate room. Marcel's, which also served him as a studio, being the larger, was chosen as the banquetting hall, and the two friends set about the preparations for their feast there.

But to the little table at which they were seated, beside a fireplace in which the damp logs burned away without flame or heat, came a melancholy guest, the phantom of the vanished past.

They remained for an hour at least, silent, and thoughtful, but no doubt preoccupied by the same idea and striving to hide it. It was Marcel who first broke silence.

"Come," said he to Rodolphe, "this is not what we promised ourselves."

"What do you mean?" asked Rodolphe.

"Oh!" replied Marcel. "Do not try to pretend with me now. You are thinking of that which should be forgotten and I too, by Jove, I do not deny it."


"Well, it must be for the last time. To the devil with recollections that make wine taste sour and render us miserable when everybody else are amusing themselves," exclaimed Marcel, alluding to the joyful shouts coming from the rooms adjoining theirs. "Come, let us think of something else, and let this be the last time."

"That is what we always say and yet—," said Rodolphe, falling anew into the reverie.

"And yet we are continually going back to it," resumed Marcel. "That is because instead of frankly seeking to forget, we make the most trivial things a pretext to recall remembrances, which is due above all to the fact that we persist in living amidst the same surroundings in which the beings who have so long been our torment lived. We are less the slaves of passion than of habit. It is this captivity that must be escaped from, or we shall wear ourselves out in a ridiculous and shameful slavery. Well, the past is past, we must break the ties that still bind us to it. The hour has come to go forward without looking backward; we have had our share of youth, carelessness, and paradox. All these are very fine—a very pretty novel could be written on them; but this comedy of amourous follies, this loss of time, of days wasted with the prodigality of people who believe they have an eternity to spend—all this must have an end. It is no longer possible for us to continue to live much longer on the outskirts of society—on the outskirts of life almost—under the penalty of justifying the contempt felt for us, and of despising ourselves. For, after all, is it a life we lead? And are not the independence, the freedom of mannerism of which we boast so loudly, very mediocre advantages? True liberty consists of being able to dispense with the aid of others, and to exist by oneself, and have we got to that? No, the first scoundrel, whose name we would not bear for five minutes, avenges himself for our jests, and becomes our lord and master the day on which we borrow from him five francs, which he lends us after having made us dispense the worth of a hundred and fifty in ruses or in humiliations. For my part, I have had enough of it. Poetry does not alone exist in disorderly living, touch-and-go happiness, loves that last as long as a bedroom candle, more or less eccentric revolts against those prejudices which will eternally rule the world, for it is easier to upset a dynasty than a custom, however ridiculous it may be. It is not enough to wear a summer coat in December to have talent; one can be a real poet or artist whilst going about well shod and eating three meals a day. Whatever one may say, and whatever one may do, if one wants to attain anything one must always take the commonplace way. This speech may astonish you, friend Rodolphe; you may say that I am breaking my idols, you will call me corrupted; and yet what I tell you is the expression of my sincere wishes. Despite myself, a slow and salutary metamorphosis has taken place within me; reason has entered my mind—burglariously, if you like, and perhaps against my will, but it has got in at last—and has proved to me that I was on a wrong track, and that it would be at once ridiculous and dangerous to persevere in it. Indeed, what will happen if we continue this monotonous and idle vagabondage? We shall get to thirty, unknown, isolated, disgusted with all things and with ourselves, full of envy towards all those whom we see reach their goal, whatever it may be, and obliged, in order to live, to have recourse to shameful parasitism. Do not imagine that this is a fancy picture I have conjured up especially to frighten you. The future does not systematically appear to be all black, but neither does it all rose colored; I see it clearly as it is. Up till now the life we have led has been forced upon us—we had the excuse of necessity. Now we are no longer to be excused, and if we do not re-enter the world, it will be voluntarily, for the obstacles against which we have had to struggle no longer exist."

"I say," said Rodolphe, "what are you driving at? Why and wherefore this lecture?"

"You thoroughly understand me," replied Marcel, in the same serious tones. "Just now I saw you, like myself, assailed by recollections that made you regret the past. You were thinking of Mimi and I was thinking of Musette. Like me, you would have liked to have had your mistress beside you. Well, I tell you that we ought neither of us to think of these creatures; that we were not created and sent into the world solely to sacrifice our existence to these commonplace Manon Lescaut's, and that the Chevalier Desgrieux, who is so fine, so true, and so poetical, is only saved from being ridiculous by his youth and the illusions he cherishes. At twenty he can follow his mistress to America without ceasing to be interesting, but at twenty-five he would have shown Manon the door, and would have been right. It is all very well to talk; we are old, my dear fellow; we have lived too fast, our hearts are cracked, and no longer ring truly; one cannot be in love with a Musette or a Mimi for three years with impunity. For me it is all over, and I wish to be thoroughly divorced from her remembrance. I am now going to commit to the flames some trifles that she has left me during her various stays, and which oblige me to think of her when I come across them."

And Marcel, who had risen, went and took from a drawer a little cardboard box in which were the souvenirs of Musette—a faded bouquet, a sash, a bit of ribbon, and some letters.

"Come," said he to the poet, "follow my example, Rodolphe."

"Very well, then," said the latter, making an effort, "you are right. I too will make an end of it with that girl with the white hands."

And, rising suddenly, he went and fetched a small packet containing souvenirs of Mimi of much the same kind as those of which Marcel was silently making an inventory.

"This comes in handy," murmured the painter. "This trumpery will help us to rekindle the fire which is going out."

"Indeed," said Rodolphe, "it is cold enough here to hatch polar bears."

"Come," said Marcel, "let us burn in a duet. There goes Musette's prose; it blazes like punch. She was very fond of punch. Come Rodolphe, attention!"

And for some minutes they alternately emptied into the fire, which blazed clear and noisily, the reliquaries of their past love.

"Poor Musette!" murmured Marcel to himself, looking at the last object remaining in his hands.

It was a little faded bouquet of wildflowers.

"Poor Musette, she was very pretty though, and she loved me dearly, is it not so, little bouquet? Her heart told you so the day she wore you at her waist. Poor little bouquet, you seem to be pleading for mercy; well, yes; but on one condition; it is that you will never speak to me of her any more, never, never!"

And profiting by a moment when he thought himself unnoticed by Rodolphe, he slipped the bouquet into his breast pocket.

"So much the worse, it is stronger than I am. I am cheating," thought the painter.

And as he cast a furtive glance towards Rodolphe, he saw the poet, who had come to the end of his auto-da-fe, putting quietly into his own pocket, after having tenderly kissed it, a little night cap that had belonged to Mimi.

"Come," muttered Marcel, "he is as great a coward as I am."

At the very moment that Rodolphe was about to return to his room to go to bed, there were two little taps at Marcel's door.

"Who the deuce can it be at this time of night?" said the painter, going to open it.

A cry of astonishment burst from him when he had done so.

It was Mimi.

As the room was very dark Rodolphe did not at first recognize his mistress, and only distinguishing a woman, he thought that it was some passing conquest of his friend's, and out of discretion prepared to withdraw.

"I am disturbing you," said Mimi, who had remained on the threshold.

At her voice Rodolphe dropped on his chair as though thunderstruck.

"Good evening," said Mimi, coming up to him and shaking him by the hand which he allowed her to take mechanically.

"What the deuce brings you here and at this time of night?" asked Marcel.

"I was very cold," said Mimi shivering. "I saw a light in your room as I was passing along the street, and although it was very late I came up."

She was still shivering, her voice had a cristalline sonority that pierced Rodolphe's heart like a funeral knell, and filled it with a mournful alarm. He looked at her more attentively. It was no longer Mimi, but her ghost.

Marcel made her sit down beside the fire.

Mimi smiled at the sight of the flame dancing merrily on the hearth.

"It is very nice," said she, holding out her poor hands blue with cold. "By the way, Monsieur Marcel, you do not know why I have called on you?"

"No, indeed."

"Well," said Mimi, "I simply came to ask you whether you could get them to let me a room here. I have just been turned out of my lodgings because I owe a month's rent and I do not know where to go to."

"The deuce!" said Marcel, shaking his head, "we are not in very good odor with our landlord and our recommendation would be a most unfortunate one, my poor girl."

"What is to be done then?" said Mimi. "The fact is I have nowhere to go."

"Ah!" said Marcel. "You are no longer a viscountess, then?"

"Good heavens, no! Not at all."

"But since when?"

"Two months ago, already."

"Have you been playing tricks on the viscount, then?"

"No," said she, glancing at Rodolphe, who had taken his place in the darkest corner of the room, "the viscount kicked up a row with me on account of some verses that were written about me. We quarrelled, and I sent him about his business. He is a nice skin flint, I can tell you."

"But," said Marcel, "he had rigged you out very finely, judging by what I saw the day I met you."

"Well," said Mimi, "would you believe it, that he took everything away from me when I left him, and I have since heard that he raffled all my clothes at a wretched table d'hote where he used to take me to dine. He is wealthy enough, though, and yet with all his fortune he is as miserly as a clay fireball and as stupid as an owl. He would not allow me to drink wine without water, and made me fast on Fridays. Would you believe it, he wanted me to wear black stockings, because they did not want washing as often as white ones. You have no idea of it, he worried me nicely I can tell you. I can well say that I did my share of purgatory with him."

"And does he know your present situation?" asked Marcel.

"I have not seen him since and I do not want to," replied Mimi. "It makes me sick when I think of him. I would rather die of hunger than ask him for a sou."

"But," said Marcel, "since you left him you have not been living alone."

"Yes, I assure you, Monsieur Marcel," exclaimed Mimi quickly. "I have been working to earn my living, only as artificial flower making was not a very flourishing business I took up another. I sit to painters. If you have any jobs to give me," she added gaily.

And having noticed a movement on the part of Rodolphe, whom she did not take her eyes off whilst talking to his friend, Mimi went on:

"Ah, but I only sit for head and hands. I have plenty to do, and I am owed money by two or three, I shall have some in a couple of days, it is only for that interval that I want to find a lodging. When I get the money I shall go back to my own. Ah!" said she, looking at the table, which was still laden with the preparation for the modest feast which the two friends had scarcely touched, "you were going to have supper?"

"No," said Marcel, "we are not hungry."

"You are very lucky," said Mimi simply.

At this remark Rodolphe felt a horrible pang in his heart, he made a sign to Marcel, which the latter understood.

"By the way," said the artist, "since you are here Mimi, you must take pot luck with us. We were going to keep Christmas Eve, and then—why—we began to think of other things."

"Then I have come at the right moment," said Mimi, casting an almost famished glance at the food on the table. "I have had no dinner," she whispered to the artist, so as not to be heard by Rodolphe, who was gnawing his handkerchief to keep him from bursting into sobs.

"Draw up, Rodolphe," said Marcel to his friend, "we will all three have supper together."

"No," said the poet remaining in his corner.

"Are you angry, Rodolphe, that I have come here?" asked Mimi gently. "Where could I go to?"

"No, Mimi," replied Rodolphe, "only I am grieved to see you like this."

"It is my own fault, Rodolphe, I do not complain, what is done is done, so think no more about it than I do. Cannot you still be my friend, because you have been something else? You can, can you not? Well then, do not frown on me, and come and sit down at the table with us."

She rose to take him by the hand, but was so weak, that she could not take a step, and sank back into her chair.

"The heat has dazed me," she said, "I cannot stand."

"Come," said Marcel to Rodolphe, "come and join us."

The poet drew up to the table, and began to eat with them. Mimi was very lively.

"My dear girl, it is impossible for us to get you a room in the house."

"I must go away then," said she, trying to rise.

"No, no," said Marcel. "I have another way of arranging things, you can stay in my room, and I will go and sleep with Rodolphe."

"It will put you out very much, I am afraid," said Mimi, "but it will not be for long, only a couple of days."

"It will not put us out at all in that case," replied Marcel, "so it is understood, you are at home here, and we are going to Rodolphe's room. Good night, Mimi, sleep well."

"Thanks," said she, holding out her hand to Marcel and Rodolphe, who moved away together.

"Do you want to lock yourself in?" asked Marcel as he got to the door.

"Why?" said Mimi, looking at Rodolphe, "I am not afraid."

When the two friends were alone in Rodolphe's room, which was on the same floor, Marcel abruptly said to his friend, "Well, what are you going to do now?"

"I do not know," stammered Rodolphe.

"Come, do not shilly-shally, go and join Mimi! If you do, I prophecy that tomorrow you will be living together again."

"If it were Musette who had returned, what would you do?" inquired Rodolphe of his friend.

"If it were Musette that was in the next room," replied Marcel, "well, frankly, I believe that I should not have been in this one for a quarter of an hour past."

"Well," said Rodolphe, "I will be more courageous than you, I shall stay here."

"We shall see that," said Marcel, who had already got into bed. "Are you coming to bed?"

"Certainly," replied Rodolphe.

But in the middle of the night, Marcel waking up, perceived that Rodolphe had left him.

In the morning, he went and tapped discreetly at the door of the room in which Mimi was.

"Come in," said she, and on seeing him, she made a sign to him to speak low in order not to wake Rodolphe who was asleep. He was seated in an arm chair, which he had drawn up to the side of the bed, his head resting on a pillow beside that of Mimi.

"It is like that that you passed the night?" said Marcel in great astonishment.

"Yes," replied the girl.

Rodolphe woke up all at once, and after kissing Mimi, held out his hand to Marcel, who seemed greatly puzzled.

"I am going to find some money for breakfast," said he to the painter. "You will keep Mimi company."

"Well," asked Marcel of the girl when they were alone together, "what took place last night?"

"Very sad things," said Mimi. "Rodolphe still loves me."

"I know that very well."

"Yes, you wanted to separate him from me. I am not angry about it, Marcel, you were quite right, I have done no good to the poor fellow."

"And you," asked Marcel, "do you still love him?"

"Do I love him?" said she, clasping her hands. "It is that that tortures me. I am greatly changed, my friend, and it needed but little time for that."

"Well, now he loves you, you love him and you cannot do without one another, come together again and try and remain."

"It is impossible," said Mimi.

"Why?" inquired Marcel. "Certainly it would be more sensible for you to separate, but as for your not meeting again, you would have to be a thousand leagues from one another."

"In a little while I shall be further off than that."

"What do you mean?"

"Do not speak of it to Rodolphe, it would cause him too much pain, but I am going away forever."

"But whither?"

"Look here, Marcel," said Mimi sobbing, "look."

And lifting up the sheet of the bed a little she showed the artist her shoulders, neck and arms.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Marcel mournfully, "poor girl."

"Is it not true, my friend, that I do not deceive myself and that I am soon going to die."

"But how did you get into such a state in so short a time?"

"Ah!" replied Mimi, "with the life I have been leading for the past two months it is not astonishing; nights spent in tears, days passed in posing in studios without any fire, poor living, grief, and then you do not know all, I tried to poison myself with Eau de Javelle. I was saved but not for long as you see. Besides I have never been very strong, in short it is my fault, if I had remained quietly with Rodolphe I should not be like this. Poor fellow, here I am again upon his hands, but it will not be for long, the last dress he will give me will be all white, Marcel, and I shall be buried in it. Ah! If you knew how I suffer because I am going to die. Rodolphe knows that I am ill, he remained for over an hour without speaking last night when he saw my arms and shoulders so thin. He no longer recognized his Mimi. Alas! My very looking glass does not know me. Ah! All the same I was pretty and he did love me. Oh, God!" she exclaimed, burying her face in Marcel's hands. "I am going to leave you and Rodolphe too, oh God!" and sobs choked her voice.

"Come, Mimi," said Marcel, "never despair, you will get well, you only want care and rest."

"Ah, no!" said Mimi. "It is all over, I feel it. I have no longer any strength, and when I came here last night it took me over an hour to get up the stairs. If I found a woman here I should have gone down by way of the window. However, he was free since we were no longer together, but you see, Marcel, I was sure he loved me still. It was on account of that," she said, bursting into tears, "it is on account of that that I do not want to die at once, but it is all over with me. He must be very good, poor fellow, to take me back after all the pain I have given him. Ah! God is not just, since he does not leave me only the time to make Rodolphe forget the grief I caused him. He does not know the state in which I am. I would not have him lie beside me, for I feel as if the earthworms were already devouring my body. We passed the night in weeping and talking of old times. Ah! How sad it is, my friend, to see behind one the happiness one has formerly passed by without noticing it. I feel as if I had fire in my chest, and when I move my limbs it seems as if they were going to snap. Hand me my dress, I want to cut the cards to see whether Rodolphe will bring in any money. I should like to have a good breakfast with you, like we used to; that would not hurt me. God cannot make me worse than I am. See," she added, showing Marcel the pack of cards she had cut, "Spades—it is the color of death. Clubs," she added more gaily, "yes we shall have some money."

Marcel did not know what to say in presence of the lucid delirium of this poor creature, who already felt, as she said, the worms of the grave.

In an hour's time Rodolphe was back. He was accompanied by Schaunard and Gustave Colline. The musician wore a summer jacket. He had sold his winter suit to lend money to Rodolphe on learning that Mimi was ill. Colline on his side had gone and sold some books. If he could have got anyone to buy one of his arms or legs he would have agreed to the bargain rather than part with his cherished volumes. But Schaunard had pointed out to him that nothing could be done with his arms or his legs.

Mimi strove to recover her gaiety to greet her old friends.

"I am no longer naughty," said she to them, "and Rodolphe has forgiven me. If he will keep me with him I will wear wooden shoes and a mob-cap, it is all the same to me. Silk is certainly not good for my health," she added with a frightful smile.

At Marcel's suggestion, Rodolphe had sent for one of his friends who had just passed as a doctor. It was the same who had formerly attended Francine. When he came they left him alone with Mimi.

Rodolphe, informed by Marcel, was already aware of the danger run by his mistress. When the doctor had spoken to Mimi, he said to Rodolphe: "You cannot keep her here. Save for a miracle she is doomed. You must send her to the hospital. I will give you a letter for La Pitie. I know one of the house surgeons there; she will be well looked after. If she lasts till the spring we may perhaps pull her through, but if she stays here she will be dead in a week."

"I shall never dare propose it to her," said Rodolphe.

"I spoke to her about it," replied the doctor, "and she agreed. Tomorrow I will send you the order of admission to La Pitie."

"My dear," said Mimi to Rodolphe, "the doctor is right; you cannot nurse me here. At the hospital they may perhaps cure me, you must send me there. Ah! You see I do so long to live now, that I would be willing to end my days with one hand in a raging fire and the other in yours. Besides, you will come and see me. You must not grieve, I shall be well taken care of: the doctor told me so. You get chicken at the hospital and they have fires there. Whilst I am taking care of myself there, you will work to earn money, and when I am cured I will come back and live with you. I have plenty of hope now. I shall come back as pretty as I used to be. I was very ill in the days before I knew you, and I was cured. Yet I was not happy in those days, I might just as well have died. Now that I have found you again and that we can be happy, they will cure me again, for I shall fight hard against my illness. I will drink all the nasty things they give me, and if death seizes on me it will be by force. Give me the looking glass: it seems to me that I have little color in my cheeks. Yes," said she, looking at herself in the glass, "my color is coming back, and my hands, see, they are still pretty; kiss me once more, it will not be the last time, my poor darling," she added, clasping Rodolphe round the neck, and burying his face in her loosened tresses.

Before leaving for the hospital, she wanted her friends the Bohemians to stay and pass the evening with her.

"Make me laugh," said she, "cheerfulness is health to me. It is that wet blanket of a viscount made me ill. Fancy, he wanted to make me learn orthography; what the deuce should I have done with it? And his friends, what a set! A regular poultry yard, of which the viscount was the peacock. He marked his linen himself. If he ever marries I am sure that it will be he who will suckle the children."

Nothing could be more heart breaking than the almost posthumous gaiety of poor Mimi. All the Bohemians made painful efforts to hide their tears and continue the conversation in the jesting tone started by the unfortunate girl, for whom fate was so swiftly spinning the linen of her last garment.

The next morning Rodolphe received the order of admission to the hospital. Mimi could not walk, she had to be carried down to the cab. During the journey she suffered horribly from the jolts of the vehicle. Admist all her sufferings the last thing that dies in woman, coquetry, still survived; two or three times she had the cab stopped before the drapers' shops to look at the display in the windows.

On entering the ward indicated in the letter of admission Mimi felt a terrible pang at her heart, something within her told her that it was between these bare and leprous walls that her life was to end. She exerted the whole of the will left her to hide the mournful impression that had chilled her.

When she was put to bed she gave Rodolphe a final kiss and bid him goodbye, bidding him come and see her the next Sunday which was a visitors' day.

"It does not smell very nice here," said she to him, "bring me some flowers, some violets, there are still some about."

"Yes," said Rodolphe, "goodbye till Sunday."

And he drew together the curtains of her bed. On hearing the departing steps of her lover, Mimi was suddenly seized with an almost delirious attack of fever. She suddenly opened the curtains, and leaning half out of bed, cried in a voice broken with tears:

"Rodolphe, take me home, I want to go away."

The sister of charity hastened to her and tried to calm her.

"Oh!" said Mimi, "I am going to die here."

On Sunday morning, the day he was to go and see Mimi, Rodolphe remembered that he had promised her some violets. With poetic and loving superstition he went on foot in horrible weather to look for the flowers his sweetheart had asked him for, in the woods of Aulnay and Fontenay, where he had so often been with her. The country, so lively and joyful in the sunshine of the bright days of June and July, he found chill and dreary. For two hours he beat the snow covered thickets, lifting the bushes with a stick, and ended by finding a few tiny blossoms, and as it happened, in a part of the wood bordering the Le Plessis pool, which had been their favorite spot when they came into the country.

Passing through the village of Chatillon to get back to Paris, Rodolphe met in the square before the church a baptismal procession, in which he recognized one of his friends who was the godfather, with a singer from the opera.

"What the deuce are you doing here?" asked the friend, very much surprised to see Rodolphe in those parts.

The poet told him what had happened.

The young fellow, who had known Mimi, was greatly saddened at this story, and feeling in his pocket took out a bag of christening sweetmeats and handed it to Rodolphe.

"Poor Mimi, give her this from me and tell her I will come and see her."

"Come quickly, then, if you would come in time," said Rodolphe, as he left him.

When Rodolphe got to the hospital, Mimi, who could not move, threw her arms about him in a look.

"Ah, there are my flowers!" said she, with the smile of satisfied desire.

Rodolphe related his pilgrimage into that part of the country that had been the paradise of their loves.

"Dear flowers," said the poor girl, kissing the violets. The sweetmeats greatly pleased her too. "I am not quite forgotten, then. The young fellows are good. Ah! I love all your friends," said she to Rodolphe.

This interview was almost merry. Schaunard and Colline had rejoined Rodolphe. The nurses had almost to turn them out, for they had overstayed visiting time.

"Goodbye," said Mimi. "Thursday without fail, and come early."

The following day on coming home at night, Rodolphe received a letter from a medical student, a dresser at the hospital, to whose care he had recommended the invalid. The letter only contained these words:—

"My dear friend, I have very bad news for you. No. 8 is dead. This morning on going through the ward I found her bed vacant."

Rodolphe dropped on to a chair and did not shed a tear. When Marcel came in later he found his friend in the same stupefied attitude. With a gesture the poet showed him the latter.

"Poor girl!" said Marcel.

"It is strange," said Rodolphe, putting his hand to his heart; "I feel nothing here. Was my love killed on learning that Mimi was to die?"

"Who knows?" murmured the painter.

Mimi's death caused great mourning amongst the Bohemians.

A week later Rodolphe met in the street the dresser who had informed him of his mistress's death.

"Ah, my dear Rodolphe!" said he, hastening up to the poet. "Forgive me the pain I caused you by my heedlessness."

"What do you mean?" asked Rodolphe in astonishment.

"What," replied the dresser, "you do not know? You have not seen her again?"

"Seen whom?" exclaimed Rodolphe.

"Her, Mimi."

"What?" said the poet, turning deadly pale.

"I made a mistake. When I wrote you that terrible news I was the victim of an error. This is how it was. I had been away from the hospital for a couple of days. When I returned, on going the rounds with the surgeons, I found Mimi's bed empty. I asked the sister of charity what had become of the patient, and she told me that she had died during the night. This is what had happened. During my absence Mimi had been moved to another ward. In No. 8 bed, which she left, they put another woman who died the same day. That will explain the mistake into which I fell. The day after that on which I wrote to you, I found Mimi in the next ward. Your absence had put her in a terrible state; she gave me a letter for you and I took it on to your place at once."

"Good God!" said Rodolphe. "Since I thought Mimi dead I have not dared to go home. I have been sleeping here and there at friends' places. Mimi alive! Good heavens! What must she think of my absence? Poor girl, poor girl! How is she? When did you see her last?"

"The day before yesterday. She was neither better nor worse, but very uneasy; she fancies you must be ill."

"Let us go to La Pitie at once," said Rodolphe, "that I may see her."

"Stop here for a moment," said the dresser, when they reached the entrance to the hospital, "I will go and ask the house surgeon for permission for you to enter."

Rodolphe waited in the hall for a quarter of an hour. When the dresser returned he took him by the hand and said these words:

"My friend, suppose that the letter I wrote to you a week ago was true?"

"What!" exclaimed Rodolphe, leaning against a pillar, "Mimi—"

"This morning at four o'clock."

"Take me to the amphitheatre," said Rodolphe, "that I may see her."

"She is no longer there," said the dresser. And pointing out to the poet a large van which was in the courtyard drawn up before a building above which was inscribed, "Amphiteatre," he added, "she is there."

It was indeed the vehicle in which the corpses that are unclaimed are taken to their pauper's grave.

"Goodbye," said Rodolphe to the dresser.

"Would you like me to come with you a bit?" suggested the latter.

"No," said Rodolphe, turning away, "I need to be alone."



A year after Mimi's death Rodolphe and Marcel, who had not quitted one another, celebrated by a festival their entrance into the official world. Marcel, who had at length secured admission to the annual exhibition of pictures, had had two paintings hung, one of which had been bought by a rich Englishman, formerly Musette's protector. With the product of this sale, and also of a Government order, Marcel had partly paid off his past debts. He had furnished decent rooms, and had a real studio. Almost at the same time Schaunard and Rodolphe came before the public who bestow fame and fortune—the one with an album of airs that were sung at all the concerts, and which gave him the commencement of a reputation; the other with a book that occupied the critics for a month. As to Barbemuche he had long since given up Bohemianism. Gustave Colline had inherited money and made a good marriage. He gave evening parties with music and light refreshments.

One evening Rodolphe, seated in his own armchair with his feet on his own rug, saw Marcel come in quite flurried.

"You do not know what has just happened to me," said he.

"No," replied the poet. "I know that I have been to your place, that you were at home, and that you would not answer the door."

"Yes, I heard you. But guess who was with me."

"How do I know?"

"Musette, who burst upon me last evening like a bombshell, got up as a debardeur."

"Musette! You have once more found Musette!" said Rodolphe, in a tone of regret.

"Do not be alarmed. Hostilities were not resumed. Musette came to pass with me her last night of Bohemianism."


"She is going to be married."

"Bah!" said Rodolphe. "Who is the victim?"

"A postmaster who was her last lover's guardian; a queer sort of fellow, it would seem. Musette said to him, 'My dear sir, before definitely giving you my hand and going to the registrar's I want to drink my last glass of Champagne, dance my last quadrille, and embrace for the last time my lover, Marcel, who is now a gentleman, like everybody else is seems.' And for a week the dear creature has been looking for me. Hence it was that she burst upon me last evening, just at the moment I was thinking of her. Ah, my friend! Altogether we had a sad night of it. It was not at all the same thing it used to be, not at all. We were like some wretched copy of a masterpiece? I have even written on the subject of this last separation a little ballad which I will whine out to you if you will allow me," and Marcel began to chant the following verses:—


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