Trilby by George du Maurier
Par dela, ne dela la mer Ne s'jay dame ni damoiselle Qui soil en tous biens parfaits telle-- C'est un songe que d'y penser: Dieu! qu'il fait bon la regarder!'
One lovely Monday morning in late September, at about eleven or so, Taffy and the Laird sat in the studio--each opposite his picture, smoking, nursing his knee, and saying nothing. The heaviness of Monday weighed on their spirits more than usual, for the three friends had returned late on the previous night from a week spent at Barbizon and in the forest of Fontainebleau--a heavenly week among the painters; Rousseau, Millet, Corot, Daubigny, let us suppose, and others less known to fame this day. Little Billee, especially, had been fascinated by all this artistic life in blouses and sabots and immense straw hats and panamas, and had sworn to himself and to his friends that he would some day live and the there--painting the forest as it is, and peopling it with beautiful people out of his own fancy--leading a healthy outdoor life of simple wants and lofty aspirations.
At length Taffy said: 'Bother work this morning! I feel much more like a stroll in the Luxembourg Gardens and lunch at the Cafe de l'Odeon, where the omelets are good and the wine isn't blue.'
'The very thing I was thinking of myself,' said the Laird.
So Taffy slipped on his old shooting-jacket and his old Harrow cricket cap, with the peak turned the wrong way, and the Laird put on an old greatcoat of Taffy's that reached to his heels, and a battered straw hat they had found in the studio when they took it; and both sallied forth into the mellow sunshine on the way to Carrel's. For they meant to seduce Little Billee from his work, that he might share in their laziness, greediness, and general demoralisation.
And whom should they meet coming down the narrow turreted Rue Vielle des Trois Mauvais Ladres but Little Billee himself, with an air of general demoralisation so tragic that they were quite alarmed. He had his paint-box and field-easel in one hand and his little valise in the other. He was pale, his hat on the back of his head, his hair starting all at sixes and sevens, like a sick Scotch terrier's.
'Good Lord! what's the matter?' said Taffy.
'Oh! oh! oh! she's sitting at Carrel's!'
'Who's sitting at Carrel's?'
'Trilby! sitting to all those ruffians! There she was, just as I opened the door; I saw her, I tell you! The sight of her was like a blow between the eyes, and I bolted! I shall never go back to that beastly hole again! I'm off to Barbizon, to paint the forest; I was corning round to tell you. Good-bye!...'
'Stop a minute--are you mad?' said Taffy, collaring him. 'Let me go, Taffy--let me go, damn it! I'll come back in a week--but I'm going now! Let me go; do you hear?' 'But look here--I'll go with you.'
'No; I want to be alone--quite alone. Let me go, I tell you!' 'I shan't let you go unless you swear to me, on your honour, that you'll write directly you get there, and every day till you come back. Swear!'
'All right; I swear--honour bright! Now there! Good-bye--good-bye; back on Sunday--good-bye!' And he was off.
'Now, what the devil does all that mean?' asked Taffy, much perturbed.
'I suppose he's shocked at seeing Trilby in that guise, or disguise, or unguise, sitting at Carrel's--he's such an odd little chap. And I must say, I'm surprised at Trilby. It's a bad thing for her when we're away. What could have induced her? She never sat in a studio of that kind before. I thought she only sat to Durien and old Carrel.'
They walked for a while in silence.
'Do you know, I've got a horrid idea that the little fool's in love with her!'
'I've long had a horrid idea that she's in love with him.'
'That would be a very stupid business,' said Taffy.
They walked on, brooding over those two horrid ideas, and the more they brooded, considered, and remembered, the more convinced they became that both were right.
'Here's a pretty kettle of fish!' said the Laird--'and talking of fish, let's go and lunch.'
And so demoralised were they that Taffy ate three omelets without thinking, and the Laird drank two half-bottles of wine, and Taffy three, and they walked about the whole of that afternoon for fear Trilby should come to the studio--and were very unhappy--
This is how Trilby came to sit at Carrel's studio:
Carrel had suddenly taken it into his head that he would spend a week there, and paint a figure among his pupils, that they might see and paint with--and if possible like--him. And he had asked Trilby as a great favour to be the model, and Trilby was so devoted to the great Carrel that she readily consented. So that Monday morning found her there, and Carrel posed her as Ingres's famous figure in his picture called 'La Source,' holding an earthenware pitcher on her shoulder.
And the work began in religious silence. Then in five minutes or so Little Billee came bursting in, and as soon as he caught sight of her he stopped and stood as one petrified, his shoulders up, his eyes staring. Then lifting his arms, he turned and fled.
'Qu'est ce qu'il a done, ce Litrebili?' exclaimed one or two students (for they had turned his English nickname into French).
'Perhaps he's forgotten something,' said another. 'Perhaps he's forgotten to brush his teeth and part his hair!'
'Perhaps he's forgotten to say his prayers!' said Barizel.
'He'll come back, I hope!' exclaimed the master.
And the incident gave rise to no further comment.
But Trilby was much disquieted, and fell to wondering what on earth was the matter.
At first she wondered in French: French of the Quartier Latin. She had not seen Little Billee for a week, and wondered if he were ill. She had looked forward so much to his painting her--painting her beautifully--and hoped he would soon come back, and lose no time.
Then she began to wonder in English--nice clean English of the studio in the Place St. Anatole des Arts--her fadier's English--and suddenly a quick thought pierced her through and through, and made the flesh tingle on her insteps and the backs of her hands, and bathed her brow and temples with sweat.
She had good eyes, and Little Billee had a singularly expressive face.
Could it possibly be that he was shocked at seeing her sitting there?
She knew that he was peculiar in many ways. She remembered that neither he nor Taffy nor the Laird had ever asked her to sit for the figure, though she would have been only too delighted to do so for them. She also remembered how Little Billee had always been silent whenever she alluded to her posing for the 'alto-gedier,' as she called it, and had sometimes looked pained and always very grave.
She turned alternately pale and red, pale and red all over, again and again, as the thought grew up in her--and soon the growing thought became a torment.
This new-born feeling of shame was unendurable--its birth a travail that racked and rent every fibre of her moral being, and she suffered agonies beyond anything she had ever felt in her life.
'What is the matter with you, my child? Are you ill?' asked Carrel, who, like every one else, was very fond of her, and to whom she had sat as a child ('l'Enfance de Psyche,' now in the Luxembourg Gallery, was painted from her).
She shook her head, and the work went on.
Presently she dropped her pitcher, that broke into bits; and putting her two hands to her face she burst into tears and sobs--and there, to the amazement of everybody, she stood crying like a big baby--La source aux larmes?
'What is the matter, my poor dear child?' said Carrel, jumping up and helping her off the throne.
'Oh, I don't know--I don't know--I'm ill--very ill--let me go home!'
And with kind solicitude and despatch they helped her on with her clothes, and Carrel sent for a cab and took her home.
And on the way she dropped her head on his shoulder, and wept, and told him all about it as well as she could, and Monsieur Carrel had tears in his eyes too, and wished to Heaven he had never induced her to sit for the figure, either then or at any other time. And pondering deeply and sorrowfully on such terrible responsibility (he had grown- up daughters of his own), he went back to the studio; and in an hour's time they got another model and another pitcher, and went to work again. So the pitcher went to the well once more.
And Trilby, as she lay disconsolate on her bed all that day and all the next, and all the next again, thought of her past life with agonies of shame and remorse that made the pain in her eyes seem as a light and welcome relief. For it came, and tortured worse and lasted longer than it had ever done before. But she soon found, to her miserable bewilderment, that mind-aches are the worst of all.
Then she decided that she must write to one of the trois Angliches, and chose the Laird.
She was more familiar with him than with the other two: it was impossible not to be familiar with the Laird if he liked one, as he was so easy-going and demonstrative, for all that he was such a canny Scot! Then she had nursed him through his illness; she had often hugged and kissed him before the whole studio full of people--and even when alone with him it had always seemed quite natural for her to do so. It was like a child caressing a favourite young uncle or elder brother. And though the good Laird was the least susceptible of mortals, he would often find these innocent blandishments a somewhat trying ordeal! She had never taken such a liberty with Taffy; and as for Little Billee, she would sooner have died!
So she wrote to the Laird. I give her letter without the spelling, which was often faulty, although her nightly readings had much improved it:
'MY dear friend--I am very unhappy. I was sitting at Carrel's, in the Rue des Potirons, and Little Billee came in, and was so shocked and disgusted that he ran away and never came back.
'I saw it all in his face.
'I sat there because M. Carrel asked me to. He has always been very kind to me--M. Carrel--ever since I was a child; and I would do anything to please him, but never that again.
'He was there too.
'I never thought anything about sitting before. I sat first as a child to M. Carrel. Mamma made me, and made me promise not to tell papa, and so I didn't. It soon seemed as natural to sit for people as to run errands for them, or wash and mend their clothes. Papa wouldn't have liked my doing that either, though we wanted the money badly. And so he never knew.
'I have sat for the "altogether" to several other people besides--M. Gerome, Durien, the two Hennequins, and Ernile Baratier; and for the head and hands to lots of people, and for the feet only to Charles Faure, Andre Besson, Mathieu Dumoulin, and Collinet. Nobody else.
'It seemed as natural for me to sit as for a man. Now I see the awful difference.
'And I have done dreadful things besides, as you must know--as all the Quartier knows. Baratier and Besson; but not Durien, though people think so. Nobody else, I swear--except old Monsieur Penque at the beginning, who was mamma's friend.
'It makes me almost the of shame and misery to think of it; for that's not like sitting. I knew how wrong it was all along--and there's no excuse for me, none. Though lots of people do as bad, and nobody in the Quartier seems to think any the worse of them. 'If you and Taffy and Little Billee cut me, I really think I shall go mad and die. Without your friendship I shouldn't care to live a bit. Dear Sandy, I love your little finger better than any man or woman I ever met; and Taffy's and Little Billee's little fingers too. 'What shall I do? I daren't go out for fear of meeting one of you. Will you come and see me?
'I am never going to sit again, not even for the face and hands. I am going back to be a blanchisseuse de fin with my old friend Angele Boisse, who is getting on very well indeed, in the Rue des Cloitres Ste. Petronille.
'You will come and see me, won't you? I shall be in all day till you do. Or else I will meet you somewhere, if you will tell me where and when; or else I will go and see you in the studio, if you are sure to be alone. Please don't keep me waiting long for an answer.
'You don't know what I'm suffering.
'Your ever loving, faithful friend.
She sent this letter by hand, and the Laird came in less than ten minutes after she had sent it; and she hugged and kissed and cried over him so that he was almost ready to cry himself; but he burst out laughing instead--which was better and more in his line, and very much more comforting--and talked to her so nicely and kindly and naturally that by the time he left her humble attic in the Rue des Pousse- Cailloux her very aspect, which had quite shocked him when he first saw her, had almost become what it usually was.
The little room under the leads, with its sloping roof and mansard window, was as scrupulously neat and clean as if its tenant had been a holy sister who taught the noble daughters of France at some Convent of the Sacred Heart. There were nasturtiums and mignonette on the outer window-sill, and convolvulus was trained to climb round the window.
As she sat by his side on the narrow white bed, clasping and stroking his painty, turpentiny hand, and kissing it every five minutes, he talked to her like a father--as he told Taffy afterwards--and scolded her for having been so silly as not to send for him directly, or come to the studio. He said how glad he was, how glad they would all be, that she was going to give up sitting for the figure---not, of course, that there was any real harm in it, but it was better not--and especially how happy it would make them to feel she intended to live straight for the future. Little Billee was to remain at Barbizon for a little while; but she must promise to come and dine with Taffy and himself that very day, and cook the dinner; and when he went back to his picture, 'Les Noces du Toreador'--saying to her as he left, 'a ce soir done, mille sacres tonnerres de nong de Dew!'--he left the happiest woman in the whole Latin Quarter behind him: she had confessed and been forgiven.
And with shame and repentance and confession and forgiveness had come a strange new feeling--that of a dawning self-respect.
Hitherto, for Trilby, self-respect had meant little more than the mere cleanliness of her body, in which she had always revelled; alas! it was one of the conditions of her humble calling. It now meant another kind of cleanliness, and she would luxuriate in it for evermore; and the dreadful past--never to be forgotten by her--should be so lived down as in time, perhaps, to be forgotten by others.
The dinner that evening was a memorable one for Trilby. After she had washed up the knives and forks and plates and dishes, and put them by, she sat and sewed. She wouldn't even smoke her cigarette, it reminded her so of things and scenes she now hated. No more cigarettes for Trilby O'Ferrall.
They all talked of Little Billee. She heard about the way he had been brought up, about his mother and sister, the people he had always lived among. She also heard (and her heart alternately rose and sank as she listened) what his future was likely to be, and how rare his genius was, and how great--if his friends were to be trusted. Fame and Fortune would soon be his--such fame and fortune as fall to the lot of very few--unless anything should happen to spoil his promise and mar his prospects In life, and ruin a splendid career; and the rising of the heart was all for him, the sinking for herself. How could she ever hope to be even the friend of such a man? Might she ever hope to be his servant--his faithful, humble servant?
Little Billee spent a month at Barbizon, and when he came back it was with such a brown face that his friends hardly knew him; and he brought with him such studies as made his friends 'sit up.'
The crushing sense of their own hopeless inferiority was lost in wonder at his work, in love and enthusiasm for the workman.
Their Little Billee, so young and tender, so weak of body, so strong of purpose, so warm of heart, so light of hand, so keen and quick and piercing of brain and eye, was their master, to be stuck on a pedestal and looked up to and bowed down to, to be watched and warded and worshipped for evermore.
When Trilby came in from her work at six, and he shook hands with her and said 'Hullo, Trilby!' her face turned pale to the lips, her under lip quivered, and she gazed down at him (for she was among the tallest of her sex) with such a moist, hungry, wide-eyed look of humble craving adoration that the Laird felt his worst fears were realised: and the look little Billee sent up in return filled the manly bosom of Taffy with an equal apprehension.
Then they all four went and dined together at le pere Trin's, and Trilby went back to her blanchisserie defin.
Next day Little Billee took his work to show Carrel, and Carrel invited him to come and finish his picture 'The Pitcher Goes to the Well' at his own private studio--an unheard-of favour, which the boy accepted with a thrill of proud gratitude and affectionate reverence.
So little was seen for some time of Little Billee at the studio in the Place St. Anatole des Arts, and little of Trilby; a blanchisseuse de fin has not many minutes to spare from her irons. But they often met at dinner. And on Sunday mornings Trilby came to repair the Laird's linen and darn his socks and look after his little comforts, as usual, and spend a happy day. And on Sunday afternoons the studio would be as lively as ever, with the fencing and boxing, the piano-playing and fiddling--all as it used to be.
And week by week the friends noticed a gradual and subtle change in Trilby. She was no longer slangy in French, unless it were now and then by a slip of the tongue, no longer so facetious and droll, and yet she seemed even happier than she had ever seemed before.
Also, she grew thinner, especially in the face, where the bones of her cheeks and jaws began to show themselves, and these bones were constructed on such right principles (as were those of her brow and chin and the bridge of her nose) that the improvement was astonishing, almost inexplicable.
Also, she lost her freckles as the summer waned and she herself went less into the open air. And she let her hair grow, and made of it a small knot at the back of her head, and showed her little flat ears, which were charming, and just in the right place, very far back and rather high; Little Billee could not have placed them better himself. Also, her mouth, always too large, took on a firmer and sweeter outline, and her big British teeth were so white and regular that even Frenchmen forgave them their British bigness. And a new soft brightness came into her eyes that no one had ever seen there before. They were stars, just twin gray stars--or rather planets just thrown off by some new sun, for the steady mellow light they gave out was not entirely their own.
Favourite types of beauty change with each succeeding generation. These were the days of Buckner's aristocratic Album beauties, with lofty foreheads, oval faces, little aquiline noses, heart-shaped little mouths, soft dimpled chins, drooping shoulders, and long side ringlets that fell over them--the Lady Arabellas and the Lady Clementinas, Musidoras and Medoras! A type that will perhaps come back to us some day. May the present scribe be dead!
Trilby's type would be indefinately more admired now than in the fifties. Her photograph would be in the shopwindows. Sir Edward Burne- Jones--if I may make so bold as to say so--would perhaps have marked her for his own, in spite of her almost too exuberant joyousness and irrepressible vitality. Rossetti might have evolved another new formula from her; Sir John Millais another old one of the kind that is always new and never sates nor palls--like Clyde, let us say--ever old and ever new as love itself. Trilby's type was in singular contrast to the type Gavarni had made so popular in the Latin Quarter at the period we are writing of, so that those who fell so readily under her charm were rather apt to wonder why. Moreover, she was thought much too tall for her sex, and her day, and her station in life, and especially for the country she lived in. She hardly looked up to a bold gendarme! and a bold gendarme was nearly as tall as a dragon de la garde, who was nearly as tall as an average English policeman. Not that she was a giantess, by any means. She was about as tall as Miss Ellen Terry--and that is a charming height, I think.
One day Taffy remarked to the Laird: 'Hang it! I'm blest if Trilby isn't the handsomest woman I know! She looks like a grande dame masquerading as a grisette--almost like a joyful saint at times. She's lovely! By Jove! I couldn't stand her hugging me as she does you! There'd be a tragedy--say the slaughter of Little Billee.'
'Ah! Taffy, my boy,' rejoined the Laird, 'when those long sisterly arms are round my neck it isn't me she's hugging.'
'And then,' said Taffy, 'what a trump she is! Why, she's as upright and straight and honourable as a man! And what she says to one about one's self is always so pleasant to hear! That's Irish, I suppose. And, what's more, it's always true.'
'Ah, that's Scotch!' said the Laird, and tried to wink at Little Billee, but Little Billee wasn't there.
Even Svengali perceived the strange metamorphosis. 'Ach, Drilpy,' he would say, on a Sunday-afternoon, 'how beautiful you are! It drives me mad! I adore you. I like you thinner; you have such beautiful bones! Why do you not answer my letters? What! you do not read them? You burn them? And yet I--Donnerwetter! I forgot! The grisettes of the Quartier Latin have not learned how to read or write; they have only learned how to dance the cancan with the dirty little pig-dog monkeys they call men. Sacrement! We will teach the little pig-dog monkeys to dance something else some day, we Germans. We will make music for them to dance to! Bourn! bourn! Better than the waiter at the Cafe de la Rotonde, hein? And the grisettes of the Quartier Latin shall pour us out your little white wine--fotre betit fin plane, as your pig-dog monkey of a poet says, your rotten verfluchter De Musset, "who has got such a splendid future behind him!" Bah! What do you know of Monsieur Alfred de Musset? We have got a poet too, my Drilpy. His name is Heinrich Heine. If he's still alive, he lives in Paris, in a little street off the Champs Elysees. He lies in bed all day long, and only sees out of one eye, like the Countess Hahn-Hahn, ha! ha! He adores French grisettes. He married one. Her name is Mathilde, and she has got sussen fussen, like you. He would adore you too, for your beautiful bones; he would like to count them one by one, for he is very playful, like me. And, ach! what a beautiful skeleton you will make! And very soon, too, because you do not smile on your madly- loving Svengali. You burn his letters without reading them! You shall have a nice little mahogany glass case all to yourself in the museum of the Ecole de Medecine, and Svengali shall come in his new fur-lined coat, smoking his big cigar of the Havana, and push the dirty carabins out of the way, and look through the holes of your eyes into your stupid empty skull, and up the nostrils of your high, bony sounding- board of a nose without either a tip or a lip to it, and into the roof of your big mouth, with your thirty-two big English teeth, and between your big ribs into your big chest, where the big leather lungs used to be, and say, "Ach! what a pity she had no more music in her than a big tom-cat!" And then he will look all down your bones to your poor crumbling feet, and say, "Ach! what a fool she was not to answer Svengali's letters!" and the dirty carabins shall--'
'Shut up, you sacred fool, or I'll precious soon spoil your skeleton for you.'
Thus the short-tempered Taffy, who had been listening.
Then Svengali, scowling, would play Chopin's funeral march more divinely than ever; and where the pretty soft part comes in, he would whisper to Trilby, 'That is Svengali coming to look at you in your little mahogany glass case!'
And here let me say that these vicious imaginations of Svengali's, which look so tame in English print, sounded much more ghastly in French, pronounced with a Hebrew-German accent, and uttered in his hoarse, rasping, nasal, throaty rook's caw, his big yellow teeth baring themselves in a mongrel canine snarl, his heavy upper eyelids drooping over his insolent black eyes.
Besides which, as he played the lovely melody he would go through a ghoulish pantomime, as though he were taking stock of the different bones in her skeleton with greedy but discriminating approval. And when he came down to the feet, he was almost droll in the intensity of his terrible realism. But Trilby did not appreciate his exquisite fooling, and felt cold all over.
He seemed to her a dread powerful demon, who, but for Taffy (who alone could hold him in check), oppressed and weighed on her like an incubus--and she dreamed of him oftener than she dreamed of Taffy, the Laird, or even Little Billee!
Thus pleasantly and smoothly, and without much change or adventure, things went on till Christmas-time.
Little Billee seldom spoke of Trilby, or Trilby of him. Work went on every morning at the studio in the Place St. Anatole des Arts, and pictures were begun and finished--little pictures that didn't take long to paint--the Laird's Spanish bull-fighting scenes, in which the bull never appeared, and which he sent to his native Dundee and sold there; Taffy's tragic little dramas of life in the slums of Paris--- starvings, drownings--suicides by charcoal and poison--which he sent everywhere, but did not sell.
Little Billee was painting all this time at Carrel's studio--his private one--and seemed preoccupied and happy when they all met at meal-time, and less talkative even than usual.
He had always been the least talkative of the three; more prone to listen, and no doubt to think the more.
In the afternoon people came and went as usual, and boxed and fenced and did gymnastic feats, and felt Taffy's biceps, which by this time equalled Mr. Sandow's!
Some of these people were very pleasant and remarkable, and have become famous since then in England, France, America--or have died, or married, and come to grief or glory in other ways. It is the Ballad of the Bouillabaisse all over again!
It might be worth while my trying to sketch some of the more noteworthy, now that my story is slowing for a while--like a French train when the engine-driver sees a long curved tunnel in front of him, as I do--and no light at the other end!
My humble attempts at characterisation might be useful as memoires pour servir to future biographers. Besides, there are other reasons, as the reader will soon discover.
There was Durien, for instance--Trilby's especial French adorer, pour le ban motif a son of the people, a splendid sculptor, a very fine character in every way--so perfect, indeed, that there is less to say about him than any of the others--modest, earnest, simple, frugal, chaste, and of untiring industry; living for his art, and perhaps also a little for Trilby, whom he would have been only too glad to marry. He was Pygmalion; she was his Galatea--a Galatea whose marble heart would never beat for him!
Durien's house is now the finest in the Pare Monceau; his wife and daughters are the best-dressed women in Paris, and he one of the happiest of men; but he will never quite forget poor Galatea: 'La belle aux pieds d'albatre--aux deux talons de rose!' Then there was Vincent, a Yankee medical student, who could both work and play.
He is now one of the greatest oculists in the world, and Europeans cross the Atlantic to consult him. He can still play, and when he crosses the Atlantic himself for that purpose he has to travel incognito like a royalty, lest his play should be marred by work. And his daughters are so beautiful and accomplished that British dukes have sighed after them in vain. Indeed, these fair young ladies spend their autumn holiday in refusing the British aristocracy. We are told so in the society papers, and I can quite believe it. Love is not always blind; and if he is, Vincent is the man to cure him.
In those days he prescribed for us all round, and punched and stethoscoped us, and looked at our tongues for love, and told us what to eat, drink, and avoid, and even where to go for it.
For instance: late one night Little Billee woke up in a cold sweat, and thought himself a dying man--he had felt seedy all day and taken no food; so he dressed and dragged himself to Vincent's hotel, and woke him up, and said, 'Oh, Vincent, Vincent! I'm a dying man!' and all but fainted on his bed. Vincent felt him all over with the greatest care, and asked him many questions. Then, looking at his watch, he delivered himself thus: 'Humph! 3.30! rather late--but still--look here, Little Billee--do you know the Halle, on the other side of the water, where they sell vegetables?'
'Oh yes! yes! What vegetable shall I--'
'Listen! On the north side are two restaurants--Bordier and Baratte. They remain open all night. Now go straight off to one of those tuck shops, and tuck in as big a supper as you possibly can. Some people prefer Baratte. I prefer Bordier myself. Perhaps you'd better try Bordier first and Baratte after. At all events, lose no time; so off you go!'
Thus he saved Little Billee from an early grave.
Then there was the Greek, a boy of only sixteen, but six feet high, and looking ten years older than he was, and able to smoke even stronger tobacco than Taffy himself, and colour pipes divinely; he was a great favourite in the Place St. Anatole, for his bonhommie, his niceness, his warm geniality. He was the capitalist of this select circle (and nobly lavish of his capital). He went by the name of Poluphloisboiospaleapologos Petrilopetrolicoconose--for so he was christened by the Laird--because his real name was thought much too long; and much too lovely for the Quartier Latin, and reminded one too much of the Isles of Greece--where burning Sappho loved and sang.
What was he learning in the Latin Quarter? French? He spoke French like a native! Nobody knows. But when his Paris friends transferred their Bohemia to London, where were they ever made happier and more at home than in his lordly parental abode--or fed with nicer things?
That abode is now his, and lordlier than ever, as becomes the dwelling of a millionaire and city magnate; and its gray-bearded owner is as genial, as jolly, and as hospitable as in the old Paris days, but he no longer colours pipes.
Then there was Carnegie, fresh from Balliol, redolent of the Varsity. He intended himself then for the diplomatic service, and came to Paris to learn French as it is spoke; and spent most of his time with his fashionable English friends on the right side of the river, and the rest with Taffy, the Laird, and Little Billee on the left. Perhaps that is why he has not become an ambassador. He is now only a rural dean, and speaks the worst French I know, and speaks it wherever and whenever he can.
It serves him right, I think.
He was fond of lords, and knew some (at least, he gave one that impression), and often talked of them, and dressed so beautifully that even Little Billee was abashed in his presence. Only Taffy, in his threadbare, out-at-elbow shooting-jacket and cricket-cap, and the Laird, in his tattered straw hat and Taffy's old overcoat down to his heels, dared to walk arm-in-arm with him--nay, insisted on doing so--- as they listened to the band in the Luxembourg Gardens.
And his whiskers were even longer and thicker and more golden than Taffy's own. But the mere sight of a boxing-glove made him sick.
Then there was the yellow-haired Antony, a Swiss--the idle apprentice, le roi des truands, as we called him--to whom everything was forgiven, as to Francois Villon, a cause de ses gentillesses--surely, for all his reprehensible pranks, the gentlest and most lovable creature that ever lived in Bohemia, or out of it.
Always in debt, like Svengali, for he had no more notion of the value of money than a humming-bird, and gave away in reckless generosity to friends what in strictness belonged to his endless creditors; like Svengali, humorous, witty, and a most exquisite and original artist, and also somewhat eccentric in his attire (though scrupulously clean), so that people would stare at him as he walked along--a thing that always gave him dire offence! But, unlike Svengali, full of delicacy, refinement, and distinction of mind and manner, void of any self- conceit; and, in spite of the irregularities of his life, the very soul of truth and honour, as gentle as he was chivalrous and brave; the warmest, staunchest, sincerest, most unselfish friend in the world; and, as long as his purse was full, the best and drollest boon companion in the world--but that was not for ever!
When the money was gone, then would Antony hie him to some beggarly attic in some lost Parisian slum, and write his own epitaph in lovely French or German verse or even English (for he was an astounding linguist); and telling himself that he was forsaken by family, friends, and mistress alike, look out of his casement over the Paris chimney-pots for the last time, and listen once more to 'the harmonies of nature,' as he called it, and 'aspire towards the infinite,' and bewail 'the cruel deceptions of his life,' and finally lay himself down to the of sheer starvation.
And as he lay and waited for his release, that was so long in coming, he would beguile the weary hours by mumbling a crust 'watered with his own salt tears,' and decorating his epitaph with fanciful designs of the most exquisite humour, pathos, and beauty; these early illustrated epitaphs of the young Antony, of which there still exist a goodly number, are now priceless, as all collectors know all over the world.
Fainter and fainter would he grow, and finally, on the third day or thereabouts, a remittance would reach him from some long-suffering sister or aunt in far Lausanne; or else the fickle mistress or faithless friend (who had been looking for him all over Paris) would discover his hiding-place, the beautiful epitaph would be walked off in triumph to le pere Marcas in the Rue du Ghette and sold for twenty, fifty, a hundred francs; and then vogue la galere! and back again to Bohemia, dear Bohemia and all its joys, as long as the money lasted...e poi, da capo!
And now that his name is a household word in two hemispheres, and he himself an honour and a glory to the land he has adopted as his own, he loves to remember all this, and look back from the lofty pinnacle on which he sits perched up aloft to the impecunious days of his idle apprenticeship--le ban temps oil Von etait si malheureux!
And with all that Quixotic dignity of his, so famous is he as a wit that when he jokes (and he is always joking), people laugh first, and then ask what he was joking about, and you can make your own mild funniments raise a roar by merely prefacing them 'as Antony once said!'
The present scribe has often done 'so. And if by a happy fluke you should some day hit upon a really good thing of your own--good enough to be quoted--be sure it will come back to you after many days prefaced 'as Antony once said!'
And these jokes are so good-natured that you almost resent their being made at anybody's expense but your own! Never from Antony:
'The aimless jest that striking has caused pain.
The idle word that he'd wish back again!'
Indeed, in spite of his success, I don't suppose he ever made an enemy in his life.
And here let me add (lest there be any doubt as to his identity) that he is now tall and stout and strikingly handsome, though rather bald; and such an aristocrat in bearing, aspect, and manner, that you would take him for a blue-blooded descendant of theCrusaders instead of the son of a respectable burgher in Lausanne.
Then there was Lorrimer, the industrious apprentice, who is now also well pinnacled on high; himself a pillar of the Royal Academy--- probably, if he lives long enough, its future president--the duly knighted or baroneted Lord Mayor of 'all the plastic arts' (except one or two perhaps, here and there, that are not altogether without some importance).
May this not be for many, many years! Lorrimer himself would be the first to say so!
Tall, thin, redhaired, and well-favoured, he was a most eager, earnest, and painstaking young enthusiast, of precocious culture, who read improving books, and did not share in the amusements of the Quartier Latin, but spent his evenings at home with Handel, Michael Angelo, and Dante, on the respectable side of the river. Also, he went into good society sometimes, with dress-coat on, and a white tie, and his hair parted in the middle!
But in spite of these blemishes on his otherwise exemplary record as an art student, he was the most delightful companion--the most affectionate, helpful, and sympathetic of friends. May he live long and prosper!
Enthusiast as he was, he could only worship one god at a time. It was either Michael Angelo, Phidias, Paul Veronese, Tintoret, Raphael, or Titian--never a modern--moderns didn't exist! And so thoroughgoing was he in his worship, and so persistent in voicing it, that he made those immortals quite unpopular in the Place St. Anatole des Arts. We grew to dread their very names. Each of them would last him a couple of months or so; then he would give us a month's holiday, and take up another.
Antony did not think much of Lorrimer in those days, nor Lorrimer of him, for all they were such good friends. And neither of them thought much of Little Billee, whose pinnacle (of pure unadulterated fame) is now the highest of all--the highest probably that can be for a mere painter of pictures!
And what is so nice about Lorrimer, now that he is a graybeard, an Academician, an accomplished man of the world and society, is that he admires Antony's genius more than he can say--and reads Mr. Rudyard Kipling's delightful stories as well as Dante's Inferno--and can listen with delight to the lovely songs of Signer Tosti, who has not precisely founded himself on Handel--can even scream with laughter at a comic song--even a nigger melody--so, at least, that it but be sung in well-bred and distinguished company--for Lorrimer is no Bohemian.
'Shoo, fly! don'tcher bother me!
For I belong to the Comp'ny G!'
Both these famous men are happily (and most beautifully) married--- grandfathers for all I know--and 'move in the very best society' (Lorrimer always, I'm told; Antony now and then); la haute, as it used to be called in French Bohemia--meaning dukes and lords and even royalties, I suppose, and those who love them, and whom they love!
That is the best society, isn't it? At all events, we are assured it used to be; but that must have been before the present scribe (a meek and somewhat innocent outsider) had been privileged to see it with his own little eye.
And when they happen to meet there (Antony and Lorrimer, I mean), I don't expect they rush very wildly into each other's arms, or talk very fluently about old times. Nor do I suppose their wives are very intimate. None of our wives are. Not even Taffy's and the Laird's.
Oh, Orestes! Oh, Pylades!
Oh, ye impecunious, unpinnacled young inseparables of eighteen, nineteen, twenty, even twenty-five, who share each other's thoughts and purses, and wear each other's clothes, and swear each other's oaths, and smoke each other's pipes, and respect each other's lights o' love, and keep each other's secrets, and tell each other's jokes, and pawn each other's watches and merrymake together on the proceeds, and sit all night by each other's bedsides in sickness, and comfort each other in sorrow and disappointment with silent, manly sympathy-- 'wait till you get to forty year!'
Wait even till each or either of you gets himself a little pinnacle of his own--be it ever so humble!
Nay, wait till either or each of you gets himself a wife!
History goes on repeating itself, and so do novels, and this is a platitude, and there's nothing new under the sun.
May too cecee (as the idiomatic Laird would say in the language he adores)--may too cecee ay nee eecee nee lah!
Then there was Dodor, the handsome young dragon de la garde--a full private, if you please, with a beardless face, and damask-rosy cheeks, and a small waist, and narrow feet like a lady's, and who, strange to say, spoke English just like an Englishman.
And his friend Gontran, alias l'Zouzou--a corporal In the Zouaves.
Both of these worthies had met Taffy in the Crimea, and frequented the studios in the Quartier Latin, where they adored (and were adored by) the grisettes and models, especially Trilby.
Both of them were distinguished for being the worst subjects (les plus mauvais garnements) of their respective regiments; yet both were special favourites not only with their fellow-rankers, but with those in command, from their colonels downward.
Both were in the habit of being promoted to the rank of corporal or brigadier, and degraded to the rank of private next day for general misconduct, the result of a too exuberant delight in their promotion.
Neither of them knew fear, envy, malice, temper, or low spirits; ever said or did an ill-natured thing; ever even thought one; ever had an enemy but himself. Both had the best or the worst manners going, according to their company, whose manners they reflected; they were true chameleons!
Both were always ready to share their last ten-sou piece (not that they ever seemed to have one) with each other or anybody else, or anybody else's last ten-sou piece with you; to offer you a friend's cigar; to invite you to dine with any friend they had; to fight with you, or for you, at a moment's notice. And they made up for all the anxiety, tribulation, and sorrow they caused at home by the endless fun and amusement they gave to all outside.
It was a pretty dance they led; but our three friends of the Place St. Anatole (who hadn't got to pay the pipers) loved them both, especially Dodor.
One fine Sunday afternoon Little Billee found himself studying life and character in that most delightful and festive scene la Fete de St. Cloud, and met Dodor and l'Zouzou there, who hailed him with delight, saying:
'Nous aliens joliment jubiler, nom d'une pipe!' and insisted on his joining in their amusements and paying for them--roundabouts, swings, the giant, the dwarf, the strong man, the fat woman--to whom they made love and were taken too seriously, and turned out--the menagerie of wild beasts, whom they teased and aggravated till the police had to Interfere. Also alfresco dances, where their cancan step was of the wildest and most unbridled character, till a sous-offkier or a gendarme came in sight, and then they danced quite mincingly and demurely, en maitre d'ecole, as they called it, to the huge delight of an immense and ever-increasing crowd, and the disgust of all truly respectable men.
They also insisted on Little Billee's walking between them, arm-in- arm, and talking to them in English whenever they saw coming towards them a respectable English family with daughters. It was the dragoon's delight to get himself stared at by fair daughters of Albion for speaking as good English as themselves--a rare accomplishment in a French trooper--and Zouzou's happiness to be thought English too, though the only English he knew was the phrase, 'I will not! I will not!' which he had picked up in the Crimea, and repeated over and over again when he came within ear-shot of a pretty English girl.
Little Billee was not happy in these circumstances. He was no snob. But he was a respectably-brought-up young Briton of the higher middle class, and it was not quite pleasant for him to be seen (by fair country-women of his own) walking arm-in-arm on a Sunday afternoon with a couple of French private soldiers, and uncommonly rowdy ones at that.
Later, they came back to Paris together on the top of an omnibus, among a very proletarian crowd; and there the two facetious warriors immediately made themselves pleasant all round and became very popular, especially with the women and children; but not, I regret to say, through the propriety, refinement, and discretion of their behaviour. Little Billee resolved that he would not go a-pleasuring with them any more.
However, they stuck to him through thick and thin, and insisted on escorting him all the way back to the Quartier Latin by the Pont de la Concorde and the Rue de Lille in the Faubourg St. Germain.
Little Billee loved the Faubourg St. Germain, especially the Rue de Lille. He was fond of gazing at the magnificent old mansions, the hotels of the old French noblesse, or rather the outside walls thereof, the grand sculptured portals with the armorial bearings and the splendid old historic names above them--Hotel de This, Hotel de That, Rohan-Chabot, Montmorency, La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, La Tour d'Auvergne.
He would forget himself in romantic dreams of past and forgotten French chivalry which these glorious names called up; for he knew a little of French history, loving to read Froissart and Saint Simon and the genial Brantome.
Halting opposite one of the finest and oldest of all these gateways, his especial favourite, labelled 'Hotel de la Rochemarte' in letters of faded gold over a ducal coronet and a huge escutcheon of stone, he began to descant upon its architectural beauties and noble proportions to l'Zouzou.
'Parbleu!' said l'Zouzou, 'connu, farceur! why, I was born there, on the 6th of March 1834, at 5.30 in the morning. Lucky day for France-- hein?'
'Born there? what do you mean--in the porter's lodge?'
At this juncture the two great gates rolled back, a liveried Suisse appeared, and an open carriage and pair came out, and in it were two elderly ladies and a younger one.
To Little Billee's indignation, the two incorrigible warriors made the military salute, and the three ladies bowed stiffly and gravely.
And then (to Little Billee's horror this time) one of them happened to look back, and Zouzou actually kissed his hand to her.
'Do you know that lady?' asked Little Billee, very sternly.
'Pat bleu! si je la connais! Why, it's my mother! Isn't she nice? She's rather cross with me just now.'
Why, what do you mean? What on earth would your mother be doing in that big carriage and at that big house?'
She lives there!'
'Lives there? Why, who and what is she, your mother?'
'The Duchesse de la Rochemartel, parbleu! and that's my sister; and that's my aunt, Princesse de Chevagne-Bauffremont! She's the "patronne" of that chic equipage. She's a millionaire, my aunt Chevagne!'
'Well--I-never! What's your name, then?'
'Oh, my name! Hang it--let me see! Well--Gontran--Xavier--Francois-- Marie--Joseph d'Amaury de Brissac de Roncesvaulx de la Rochemartel- Boissegur, at your service!' 'Quite correct!' said Dodor; Tenfant ditvrai!' 'Well--I--never! And what's your name, Dodor?' 'Oh! I'm only a humble individual, and answer to the one-horse name of Theodore Rigolot de Lafarce. But Zouzou's an awful swell, you know--his brother's the Duke!'
Little Billee was no snob. But he was a respectably-brought-up young Briton of the higher middle class, and these revelations, which he could not but believe, astounded him so that he could hardly speak. Much as he flattered himself that he scorned the bloated aristocracy, titles are titles--even French tides!--and when it comes to dukes and princesses who live in houses like the Hotel de la Rochemartel...!
It's enough to take a respectably-brought-up young Briton's breath away.
When he saw Taffy that evening, he exclaimed: 'I say, Zouzou's mother's a duchess!'
'Yes--the Duchesse de la Rochemartel-Boissegur.'
'You never told me!'
'You never asked me. It's one of the greatest names in France. They're very poor, I believe.'
'Poor! You should see the house they live in!'
'I've been there, to dinner; and the dinner wasn't very good. They let a great part of it, and live mostly in the country. The Duke is Zouzou's brother; very unlike Zouzou; he's consumptive and unmarried, and the most respectable man in Paris. Zouzou will be the Duke some day.'
'And Dodor--he's a swell, too, I suppose--he says he's de something or other!'
'Yes--Rigolot de Lafarce. I've no doubt he descends from the Crusaders too; the name seems to favour it, anyhow; and such lots of them do in this country. His mother was English, and bore the worthy name of Brown. He was at school in England; that's why he speaks English so well--and behaves so badly, perhaps! He's got a very beautiful sister, married to a man in the 60th Rifles--Jack Reeve, a son of Lord Reevely's; a selfish sort of chap. I don't suppose he gets on very well with his brother-in-law. Poor Dodor! His sister's about the only living thing he cares for--except Zouzou.'
I wonder if the bland and genial Monsieur Theodore--'notre Sieur Theodore'--now junior partner in the great haberdashery firm of 'Passefil et Rigolot,' on the Boulevard des Capucines, and a pillar of the English chapel in the Rue Marboeuf, is very hard on his employes and employees if they are a little late at their counters on a Monday morning?
I wonder if that stuck-up, stingy, stodgy, communards-hooting, church- going, time-serving, place-hunting, pious-eyed, pompous old prig, martinet, and philistine, Monsieur le Marechal-Duc de la Rochemartel- Boissegur, ever tells Madame la Marechale-Duchesse (ne'e Hunks, of Chicago) how once upon a time Dodor and he--
We will tell no tales out of school.
The present scribe is no snob. He is a respectably-brought-up old Briton of the higher middle class--at least, he flatters himself so. And he writes for just such old philistines as himself, who date from a time when titles were not thought so cheap as to-day. Alas! all reverence for all that is high and time-honoured and beautiful seems at a discount.
So he has kept his blackguard ducal Zouave for the bouquet of this little show--the final bonne bouche in his Bohemian menu---that he may make it palatable to those who only look upon the good old. Quartier Latin (now no more to speak of) as a very low, common, vulgar quarter indeed, deservedly swept away, where misters the students (shocking bounders and cads) had nothing better to do, day and night, than mount up to a horrid place called the thatched house--la chaumiere--
'Pour y danser le cancan
Ou le Robert Macaire--
La nuit comme le jour . ..
Et youp! youp! youp!
Tra la la la la ... la la la!'
Christmas was drawing near.
There were days when the whole Quartier Latin would veil its iniquities under fogs almost worthy of the Thames Valley between London Bridge and Westminster, and out of the studio window the prospect was a dreary blank. No Morgue! no towers of Notre Dame! not even the chimney-pots over the way--not even the little mediaeval toy turret at the corner of the Rue Vieille des Trois Mauvais Ladres, Little Billee's delight!
The stove had to be crammed till its sides grew a dull deep red before one's fingers could hold a brush or squeeze a bladder; one had to box or fence at nine in the morning, that one might recover from the cold bath, and get warm for the rest of the day!
Taffy and the Laird grew pensive and dreamy, child-like and bland; and when they talked it was generally about Christmas at home in Merry England and the distant Land of Cakes, and how good it was to be there at such a time--hunting, shooting, curling, and endless carouse!
It was Ho! for the jolly West Riding, and Hey! for the bonnets of Bonnie Dundee, till they grew quite homesick, and wanted to start by the very next train.
They didn't do anything so foolish. They wrote over to friends in London for the biggest Turkey, the biggest plum-pudding, that could be got for love or money, with mince-pies, and holly and mistletoe, and sturdy, short, thick English sausages; half a Stilton cheese, and a sirloin of beef--two sirloins, in case one should not be enough.
For they meant to have a Homeric feast in the studio on Christmas Day--Taffy, the Laird, and Little Billee--and invite all the delightful chums I have been trying to describe; and that is just why I tried to describe them--Durien, Vincent, Antony, Lorrimer, Carnegie, Petrolicoconose, I'Zouzou, and Dodor!
The cooking and waiting should be done by Trilby, her friend Angele Boisse, M. et Mme. Vinard, and such little Vinards as could be trusted with glass and crockery and mince-pies; and if that was not enough, they would also cook themselves, and wait upon each other.
When dinner should be over, supper was to follow with scarcely any interval to speak of; and to partake of this other guests should be bidden--Svengali and Gecko, and perhaps one or two more. No ladies'.
For, as the unsusceptible Laird expressed it, in the language of a gillie he had once met at a servant's dance in a Highland country- house, 'Them wimmen spiles the ball!'
Elaborate cards of invitation were sent out, in the designing and ornamentation of which the Laird and Taffy exhausted all their fancy (Little Billee had no time).
Wines and spirits and English beers were procured at great cost from M. E. Delevingne's, in the Rue St. Honore, and liqueurs of every description--chartreuse, curaroa, ratafia de cassis, and anisette; no expense was spared.
Also, truffled galantines of turkey, tongues, hams, rillettes de Tours, pates de foie gras, frontage d'ltalie (which has nothing to do with cheese), saucissons d'Arles et de Lyon, with and without garlic, cold jellies peppery and salt--everything that French charcutiers and their wives can make out of French pigs, or any other animal whatever, beast, bird, or fowl (even cats and rats), for the supper; and sweet jellies, and cakes, and sweetmeats, and confections of all kinds, from the famous pastry-cook at the corner of the Rue Castiglione. Mouths went watering all day long in joyful anticipation They water somewhat sadly now at the mere remembrance of these delicious things--the mere immediate sight or scent of which in these degenerate latter days would no longer avail to promote any such delectable secretion. Helas! ahime! ach weh! ay de mi! eheu! o'l--in point of fact, alas!
That is the very exclamation I wanted.
Christmas Eve came round. The pieces of resistance and plum-pudding and mince-pies had not yet arrived from London--but there was plenty of time.
Les trois Angliches dined at le pere Trin's, as usual, and played billiards and dominoes at the Cafe du Luxembourg, and possessed their souls in patience till it was time to go and hear the midnight mass at the Madeleine, where Roucouly, the great baritone of the Opera Comique, was retained to sing Adam's famous Noel.
The whole Quartier seemed alive with the reveillon. It was a clear, frosty night, with a splendid moon just past the full, and most exhilarating was the walk along the quays on the Rive Gauche, over the Pont de la Concorde and across the Place thereof, and up the thronged Rue de la Madeleine to the massive Parthenaic place of worship that always has such a pagan, worldly look of smug and prosperous modernity.
They struggled manfully, and found standing and kneeling room among that fervent crowd, and heard the impressive service with mixed feelings, as became true Britons of very advanced liberal and religious opinions; not with the unmixed contempt of the proper British Orthodox (who were there in full force, one may be sure).
But their susceptible hearts soon melted at the beautiful music, and in mere sensuous attendrissement they were quickly in unison with all the rest.
For as the clock struck twelve out pealed the organ, and up rose the finest voice in France:
'Minuit, Chretiens! c'est l'heure solennelle
Ou l'Homme-Dieu descendit parmi nous!'
And a wave of religious emotion rolled over Little Billee and submerged him; swept him off his little legs, swept him out of his little self, drowned him in a great seething surge of love--love of his kind, love of love, love of life, love of death, love of all that is and ever was and ever will be--a very large order indeed, even for Little Billee.
And it seemed to him that he stretched out his arms for love to one figure especially beloved beyond all the rest--one figure erect on high with arms outstretched to him, in more than common fellowship of need; not the sorrowful figure crowned with thorns, for it was in the likeness of a woman; but never that of the Virgin Mother of Our Lord.
It was Trilby, Trilby, Trilby! a poor fallen sinner and waif all but lost amid the scum of the most corrupt city on earth. Trilby weak and mortal like himself, and in woeful want of pardon! and in her gray dove-like eyes he saw the shining of so great a love that he was abashed; for well he knew that all that love was his, and would be his for ever, come what would or could.
'Peuple, debout! Chante ta delivrance!
Noel! Noel! Void le Redempteur!'
So sang and rang and pealed and echoed the big, deep, metallic baritone bass--above the organ, above the incense, above everything else in the world--till the very universe seemed to shake with the rolling thunder of that great message of love and forgiveness!
Thus at least felt Little Billee, whose way it was to magnify and exaggerate all things under the subtle stimulus of sound, and the singing human voice had especially strange power to penetrate into his inmost depths--even the voice of man!
And what voice but the deepest and gravest and grandest there is can give wordy utterance to such a message as that, the epitome, the abstract, the very essence of all collective humanity's wisdom at its best!
Little Billee reached the Hotel Corneille that night in a very exalted frame of mind indeed; the loftiest, lowliest mood of all.
Now see what sport we are of trivial, base, ignoble earthly things!
Sitting on the doorstep, and smoking two cigars at once he found Ribot, one of his fellow-lodgers, whose room was just under his own. Ribot was so tipsy that he could not ring. But he could still sing, and did so at the top of his voice. It was not the Noel of Adam that he sang. He had not spent his reveillon in any church.
With the help of a sleepy waiter, Little Billee got the bacchanalian into his room and lit his candle for him, and, disengaging himself from his maudlin embraces, left him to wallow in solitude.
As he lay awake in his bed, trying to recall the deep and high emotions of the evening, he heard the tipsy hog below tumbling about his room and still trying to sing his senseless ditty:
Rougis mon verre
Du jus divin dont mon coeur est toujours jaloux...
Et puis a table.
Bacchante aimable! Enivrons-nous (hie)
Les g'glougloux sont des rendezvous!...'
Then the song ceased for a while, and soon there were other sounds, as on a Channel steamer. Glougloux indeed!
Then the fear arose in Little Billee's mind lest the drunken beast should set fire to his bedroom curtains. All heavenly visions were chased away for the night...
Our hero, half crazed with fear, disgust, and irritation, lay wide awake, his nostrils on the watch for the smell of burning chintz or muslin, and wondered how an educated man--for Ribot was a law-student could ever make such a filthy beast of himself as that! It was a scandal--a disgrace; it was not to be borne; there should be no forgiveness for such as Ribot--not even on Christmas Day! He would complain to Madame Paul, the patronne; he would have Ribot turned out into the street; he would leave the hotel himself the very next morning! At last he fell asleep, thinking of all he would do; and thus, ridiculously and ignominiously for Little Billee, ended the reveillon.
Next morning he complained to Madame Paul; and though he did not give her warning, nor even insist on the expulsion of Ribot (who, as he heard with a hard heart, was bien malade ce matin), he expressed himself very severely on the conduct of that gentleman, and on the dangers from fire that might arise from a tipsy man being trusted alone in a small bedroom with chintz curtains and a lighted candle. If it hadn't been for himself, he told her, Ribot would have slept on the doorstep, and serve him right! He was really grand in his virtuous indignation, in spite of his imperfect French; and Madame Paul was deeply contrite for her peccant lodger, and profuse in her apologies; and Little Billee began his twenty-first Christmas Day like a Pharisee thanking his star that he was not as Ribot!