particularly delighted him) to inquire into the cost of each adornment.
It will be conceived that Muskegon capitol was a frequent and a welcome
ground of talk; I drew him all the plans from memory; and he, with the
aid of a narrow volume full of figures and tables, which answered
(I believe) to the name of Molesworth, and was his constant pocket
companion, would draw up rough estimates and make imaginary offers on
the various contracts. Our Muskegon builders he pronounced a pack of
cormorants; and the congenial subject, together with my knowledge of
architectural terms, the theory of strains, and the prices of materials
in the States, formed a strong bond of union between what might have
been otherwise an ill-assorted pair, and led my grandfather to pronounce
me, with emphasis, "a real intalligent kind of a cheild." Thus a second
time, as you will presently see, the capitol of my native State had
influentially affected the current of my life.
I left Edinburgh, however, with not the least idea that I had done a
stroke of excellent business for myself, and singly delighted to escape
out of a somewhat dreary house and plunge instead into the rainbow city
of Paris. Every man has his own romance; mine clustered exclusively
about the practice of the arts, the life of Latin Quarter students, and
the world of Paris as depicted by that grimy wizard, the author of the
_Comedie Humaine_. I was not disappointed - I could not have been; for
I did not see the facts, I brought them with me ready-made. Z. Marcas
lived next door to me in my ungainly, ill-smelling hotel of the Rue
Racine; I dined at my villainous restaurant with Lousteau and with
Rastignac: if a curricle nearly ran me down at a street-crossing, Maxime
de Trailles would be the driver. I dined, I say, at a poor restaurant
and lived in a poor hotel; and this was not from need, but sentiment.
My father gave me a profuse allowance, and I might have lived (had I
chosen) in the Quartier de l'Etoile and driven to my studies daily.
Had I done so, the glamour must have fled: I should still have been
but Loudon Dodd; whereas now I was a Latin Quarter student, Murger's
successor, living in flesh and blood the life of one of those romances
I had loved to read, to re-read, and to dream over, among the woods of
At this time we were all a little Murger-mad in the Latin Quarter.
The play of the _Vie de Boheme_ (a dreary, snivelling piece) had been
produced at the Odeon, had run an unconscionable time - for Paris, and
revived the freshness of the legend. The same business, you may say,
or there and thereabout, was being privately enacted in consequence in
every garret of the neighbourhood, and a good third of the students
were consciously impersonating Rodolphe or Schaunard to their own
incommunicable satisfaction. Some of us went far, and some farther. I
always looked with awful envy (for instance) on a certain countryman of
my own who had a studio in the Rue Monsieur le Prince, wore boots, and
long hair in a net, and could be seen tramping off, in this guise, to
the worst eating-house of the quarter, followed by a Corsican model, his
mistress, in the conspicuous costume of her race and calling. It takes
some greatness of soul to carry even folly to such heights as these; and
for my own part, I had to content myself by pretending very arduously
to be poor, by wearing a smoking-cap on the streets, and by pursuing,
through a series of misadventures, that extinct mammal, the grisette.
The most grievous part was the eating and the drinking. I was born with
a dainty tooth and a palate for wine; and only a genuine devotion to
romance could have supported me under the cat-civets that I had to
swallow, and the red ink of Bercy I must wash them down withal. Every
now and again, after a hard day at the studio, where I was steadily and
far from unsuccessfully industrious, a wave of distaste would overbear
me; I would slink away from my haunts and companions, indemnify myself
for weeks of self-denial with fine wines and dainty dishes; seated
perhaps on a terrace, perhaps in an arbour in a garden, with a volume
of one of my favourite authors propped open in front of me, and now
consulted awhile, and now forgotten: - so remain, relishing my situation,
till night fell and the lights of the city kindled; and thence stroll
homeward by the riverside, under the moon or stars, in a heaven of
poetry and digestion.
One such indulgence led me in the course of my second year into an
adventure which I must relate: indeed, it is the very point I have been
aiming for, since that was what brought me in acquaintance with Jim
Pinkerton. I sat down alone to dinner one October day when the rusty
leaves were falling and scuttling on the boulevard, and the minds of
impressionable men inclined in about an equal degree towards sadness
and conviviality. The restaurant was no great place, but boasted a
considerable cellar and a long printed list of vintages. This I was
perusing with the double zest of a man who is fond of wine and a lover
of beautiful names, when my eye fell (near the end of the card) on that
not very famous or familiar brand, Roussillon. I remembered it was a
wine I had never tasted, ordered a bottle, found it excellent, and when
I had discussed the contents, called (according to my habit) for a final
pint. It appears they did not keep Roussillon in half-bottles. "All
right," said I. "Another bottle." The tables at this eating-house are
close together; and the next thing I can remember, I was in somewhat
loud conversation with my nearest neighbours. From these I must have
gradually extended my attentions; for I have a clear recollection of
gazing about a room in which every chair was half turned round and every
face turned smilingly to mine. I can even remember what I was saying at
the moment; but after twenty years, the embers of shame are still alive;
and I prefer to give your imagination the cue, by simply mentioning that
my muse was the patriotic. It had been my design to adjourn for coffee
in the company of some of these new friends; but I was no sooner on
the sidewalk than I found myself unaccountably alone. The circumstance
scarce surprised me at the time, much less now; but I was somewhat
chagrined a little after to find I had walked into a kiosque. I began to
wonder if I were any the worse for my last bottle, and decided to steady
myself with coffee and brandy. In the Cafe de la Source, where I went
for this restorative, the fountain was playing, and (what greatly
surprised me) the mill and the various mechanical figures on the rockery
appeared to have been freshly repaired and performed the most enchanting
antics. The cafe was extraordinarily hot and bright, with every detail
of a conspicuous clearness, from the faces of the guests to the type of
the newspapers on the tables, and the whole apartment swang to and fro
like a hammock, with an exhilarating motion. For some while I was so
extremely pleased with these particulars that I thought I could never
be weary of beholding them: then dropped of a sudden into a causeless
sadness; and then, with the same swiftness and spontaneity, arrived at
the conclusion that I was drunk and had better get to bed.
It was but a step or two to my hotel, where I got my lighted candle from
the porter and mounted the four flights to my own room. Although I could
not deny that I was drunk, I was at the same time lucidly rational and
practical. I had but one preoccupation - to be up in time on the morrow
for my work; and when I observed the clock on my chimney-piece to have
stopped, I decided to go down stairs again and give directions to the
porter. Leaving the candle burning and my door open, to be a guide to me
on my return, I set forth accordingly. The house was quite dark; but as
there were only the three doors on each landing, it was impossible to
wander, and I had nothing to do but descend the stairs until I saw the
glimmer of the porter's night light. I counted four flights: no porter.
It was possible, of course, that I had reckoned incorrectly; so I went
down another and another, and another, still counting as I went, until
I had reached the preposterous figure of nine flights. It was now quite
clear that I had somehow passed the porter's lodge without remarking
it; indeed, I was, at the lowest figure, five pairs of stairs below
the street, and plunged in the very bowels of the earth. That my hotel
should thus be founded upon catacombs was a discovery of considerable
interest; and if I had not been in a frame of mind entirely
businesslike, I might have continued to explore all night this
subterranean empire. But I was bound I must be up betimes on the next
morning, and for that end it was imperative that I should find the
porter. I faced about accordingly, and counting with painful care,
remounted towards the level of the street. Five, six, and seven flights
I climbed, and still there was no porter. I began to be weary of the
job, and reflecting that I was now close to my own room, decided I
should go to bed. Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen flights
I mounted; and my open door seemed to be as wholly lost to me as the
porter and his floating dip. I remembered that the house stood but
six stories at its highest point, from which it appeared (on the most
moderate computation) I was now three stories higher than the roof. My
original sense of amusement was succeeded by a not unnatural irritation.
"My room has just GOT to be here," said I, and I stepped towards the
door with outspread arms. There was no door and no wall; in place of
either there yawned before me a dark corridor, in which I continued to
advance for some time without encountering the smallest opposition. And
this in a house whose extreme area scantily contained three small rooms,
a narrow landing, and the stair! The thing was manifestly nonsense;
and you will scarcely be surprised to learn that I now began to lose
my temper. At this juncture I perceived a filtering of light along
the floor, stretched forth my hand which encountered the knob of a
door-handle, and without further ceremony entered a room. A young lady
was within; she was going to bed, and her toilet was far advanced, or
the other way about, if you prefer.
"I hope you will pardon this intrusion," said I; "but my room is No. 12,
and something has gone wrong with this blamed house."
She looked at me a moment; and then, "If you will step outside for a
moment, I will take you there," says she.
Thus, with perfect composure on both sides, the matter was arranged.
I waited a while outside her door. Presently she rejoined me, in a
dressing-gown, took my hand, led me up another flight, which made the
fourth above the level of the roof, and shut me into my own room, where
(being quite weary after these contraordinary explorations) I turned in,
and slumbered like a child.
I tell you the thing calmly, as it appeared to me to pass; but the next
day, when I awoke and put memory in the witness-box, I could not conceal
from myself that the tale presented a good many improbable features.
I had no mind for the studio, after all, and went instead to the
Luxembourg gardens, there, among the sparrows and the statues and the
falling leaves, to cool and clear my head. It is a garden I have always
loved. You sit there in a public place of history and fiction. Barras
and Fouche have looked from these windows. Lousteau and de Banville (one
as real as the other) have rhymed upon these benches. The city tramples
by without the railings to a lively measure; and within and about you,
trees rustle, children and sparrows utter their small cries, and the
statues look on forever. Here, then, in a seat opposite the gallery
entrance, I set to work on the events of the last night, to disengage
(if it were possible) truth from fiction.
The house, by daylight, had proved to be six stories high, the same as
ever. I could find, with all my architectural experience, no room in its
altitude for those interminable stairways, no width between its walls
for that long corridor, where I had tramped at night. And there was yet
a greater difficulty. I had read somewhere an aphorism that everything
may be false to itself save human nature. A house might elongate or
enlarge itself - or seem to do so to a gentleman who had been dining.
The ocean might dry up, the rocks melt in the sun, the stars fall from
heaven like autumn apples; and there was nothing in these incidents
to boggle the philosopher. But the case of the young lady stood upon a
different foundation. Girls were not good enough, or not good that way,
or else they were too good. I was ready to accept any of these views:
all pointed to the same conclusion, which I was thus already on the
point of reaching, when a fresh argument occurred, and instantly
confirmed it. I could remember the exact words we had each said; and I
had spoken, and she had replied, in English. Plainly, then, the whole
affair was an illusion: catacombs, and stairs, and charitable lady, all
were equally the stuff of dreams.
I had just come to this determination, when there blew a flaw of wind
through the autumnal gardens; the dead leaves showered down, and a
flight of sparrows, thick as a snowfall, wheeled above my head with
sudden pipings. This agreeable bustle was the affair of a moment, but it
startled me from the abstraction into which I had fallen like a summons.
I sat briskly up, and as I did so, my eyes rested on the figure of a
lady in a brown jacket and carrying a paint-box. By her side walked a
fellow some years older than myself, with an easel under his arm; and
alike by their course and cargo I might judge they were bound for the
gallery, where the lady was, doubtless, engaged upon some copying.
You can imagine my surprise when I recognized in her the heroine of my
adventure. To put the matter beyond question, our eyes met, and she,
seeing herself remembered and recalling the trim in which I had
last beheld her, looked swiftly on the ground with just a shadow of
I could not tell you to-day if she were plain or pretty; but she had
behaved with so much good sense, and I had cut so poor a figure in
her presence, that I became instantly fired with the desire to display
myself in a more favorable light. The young man besides was possibly her
brother; brothers are apt to be hasty, theirs being a part in which
it is possible, at a comparatively early age, to assume the dignity
of manhood; and it occurred to me it might be wise to forestall all
possible complications by an apology.
On this reasoning I drew near to the gallery door, and had hardly got in
position before the young man came out. Thus it was that I came face to
face with my third destiny; for my career has been entirely shaped
by these three elements, - my father, the capitol of Muskegon, and my
friend, Jim Pinkerton. As for the young lady with whom my mind was at
the moment chiefly occupied, I was never to hear more of her from that
day forward: an excellent example of the Blind Man's Buff that we call
CHAPTER III. TO INTRODUCE MR. PINKERTON.
The stranger, I have said, was some years older than myself: a man of a
good stature, a very lively face, cordial, agitated manners, and a gray
eye as active as a fowl's.
"May I have a word with you?" said I.
"My dear sir," he replied, "I don't know what it can be about, but you
may have a hundred if you like."
"You have just left the side of a young lady," I continued, "towards
whom I was led (very unintentionally) into the appearance of an offence.
To speak to herself would be only to renew her embarrassment, and I
seize the occasion of making my apology, and declaring my respect, to
one of my own sex who is her friend, and perhaps," I added, with a bow,
"her natural protector."
"You are a countryman of mine; I know it!" he cried: "I am sure of it
by your delicacy to a lady. You do her no more than justice. I was
introduced to her the other night at tea, in the apartment of some
people, friends of mine; and meeting her again this morning, I could not
do less than carry her easel for her. My dear sir, what is your name?"
I was disappointed to find he had so little bond with my young lady;
and but that it was I who had sought the acquaintance, might have been
tempted to retreat. At the same time, something in the stranger's eye
"My name," said I, "is Loudon Dodd; I am a student of sculpture here
"Of sculpture?" he cried, as though that would have been his last
conjecture. "Mine is James Pinkerton; I am delighted to have the
pleasure of your acquaintance."
"Pinkerton!" it was now my turn to exclaim. "Are you Broken-Stool
He admitted his identity with a laugh of boyish delight; and indeed any
young man in the quarter might have been proud to own a sobriquet thus
In order to explain the name, I must here digress into a chapter of
the history of manners in the nineteenth century, very well worth
commemoration for its own sake. In some of the studios at that date,
the hazing of new pupils was both barbarous and obscene. Two incidents,
following one on the heels of the other tended to produce an advance in
civilization by the means (as so commonly happens) of a passing appeal
to savage standards. The first was the arrival of a little gentleman
from Armenia. He had a fez upon his head and (what nobody counted on) a
dagger in his pocket. The hazing was set about in the customary style,
and, perhaps in virtue of the victim's head-gear, even more boisterously
than usual. He bore it at first with an inviting patience; but upon one
of the students proceeding to an unpardonable freedom, plucked out
his knife and suddenly plunged it in the belly of the jester. This
gentleman, I am pleased to say, passed months upon a bed of sickness,
before he was in a position to resume his studies. The second incident
was that which had earned Pinkerton his reputation. In a crowded studio,
while some very filthy brutalities were being practised on a trembling
debutant, a tall, pale fellow sprang from his stool and (without the
smallest preface or explanation) sang out, "All English and Americans to
clear the shop!" Our race is brutal, but not filthy; and the summons
was nobly responded to. Every Anglo-Saxon student seized his stool; in
a moment the studio was full of bloody coxcombs, the French fleeing in
disorder for the door, the victim liberated and amazed. In this feat of
arms, both English-speaking nations covered themselves with glory;
but I am proud to claim the author of the whole for an American, and
a patriotic American at that, being the same gentleman who had
subsequently to be held down in the bottom of a box during a performance
of _L'Oncle Sam_, sobbing at intervals, "My country! O my country!"
While yet another (my new acquaintance, Pinkerton) was supposed to have
made the most conspicuous figure in the actual battle. At one blow, he
had broken his own stool, and sent the largest of his opponents back
foremost through what we used to call a "conscientious nude." It appears
that, in the continuation of his flight, this fallen warrior issued on
the boulevard still framed in the burst canvas.
It will be understood how much talk the incident aroused in the
students' quarter, and that I was highly gratified to make the
acquaintance of my famous countryman. It chanced I was to see more of
the quixotic side of his character before the morning was done; for as
we continued to stroll together, I found myself near the studio of a
young Frenchman whose work I had promised to examine, and in the fashion
of the quarter carried up Pinkerton along with me. Some of my comrades
of this date were pretty obnoxious fellows. I could almost always admire
and respect the grown-up practitioners of art in Paris; but many of
those who were still in a state of pupilage were sorry specimens, so
much so that I used often to wonder where the painters came from, and
where the brutes of students went to. A similar mystery hangs over the
intermediate stages of the medical profession, and must have perplexed
the least observant. The ruffian, at least, whom I now carried Pinkerton
to visit, was one of the most crapulous in the quarter. He turned
out for our delectation a huge "crust" (as we used to call it) of St.
Stephen, wallowing in red upon his belly in an exhausted receiver, and
a crowd of Hebrews in blue, green, and yellow, pelting him - apparently
with buns; and while we gazed upon this contrivance, regaled us with
a piece of his own recent biography, of which his mind was still very
full, and which he seemed to fancy, represented him in a heroic posture.
I was one of those cosmopolitan Americans, who accept the world (whether
at home or abroad) as they find it, and whose favourite part is that
of the spectator; yet even I was listening with ill-suppressed disgust,
when I was aware of a violent plucking at my sleeve.
"Is he saying he kicked her down stairs?" asked Pinkerton, white as St.
"Yes," said I: "his discarded mistress; and then he pelted her with
stones. I suppose that's what gave him the idea for his picture. He has
just been alleging the pathetic excuse that she was old enough to be his
Something like a sob broke from Pinkerton. "Tell him," he gasped - "I
can't speak this language, though I understand a little; I never had any
proper education - tell him I'm going to punch his head."
"For God's sake, do nothing of the sort!" I cried. "They don't
understand that sort of thing here." And I tried to bundle him out.
"Tell him first what we think of him," he objected. "Let me tell him
what he looks in the eyes of a pure-minded American"
"Leave that to me," said I, thrusting Pinkerton clear through the door.
"Qu'est-ce qu'il a?" inquired the student.
 "What's the matter with him?"
"Monsieur se sent mal au coeur d'avoir trop regarde votre croute,"
said I, and made my escape, scarce with dignity, at Pinkerton's heels.
 "The gentleman is sick at his stomach from having looked too long at
"What did you say to him?" he asked.
"The only thing that he could feel," was my reply.
After this scene, the freedom with which I had ejected my new
acquaintance, and the precipitation with which I had followed him, the
least I could do was to propose luncheon. I have forgot the name of the
place to which I led him, nothing loath; it was on the far side of the
Luxembourg at least, with a garden behind, where we were speedily set
face to face at table, and began to dig into each other's history
and character, like terriers after rabbits, according to the approved
fashion of youth.
Pinkerton's parents were from the old country; there too, I incidentally
gathered, he had himself been born, though it was a circumstance he
seemed prone to forget. Whether he had run away, or his father had
turned him out, I never fathomed; but about the age of twelve, he was
thrown upon his own resources. A travelling tin-type photographer picked
him up, like a haw out of a hedgerow, on a wayside in New Jersey; took
a fancy to the urchin; carried him on with him in his wandering life;
taught him all he knew himself - to take tin-types (as well as I can make
out) and doubt the Scriptures; and died at last in Ohio at the corner
of a road. "He was a grand specimen," cried Pinkerton; "I wish you could
have seen him, Mr. Dodd. He had an appearance of magnanimity that used
to remind me of the patriarchs." On the death of this random protector,
the boy inherited the plant and continued the business. "It was a life
I could have chosen, Mr. Dodd!" he cried. "I have been in all the finest
scenes of that magnificent continent that we were born to be the heirs
of. I wish you could see my collection of tin-types; I wish I had them
here. They were taken for my own pleasure and to be a memento; and they
show Nature in her grandest as well as her gentlest moments." As he
tramped the Western States and Territories, taking tin-types, the boy
was continually getting hold of books, good, bad, and indifferent,
popular and abstruse, from the novels of Sylvanus Cobb to Euclid's
Elements, both of which I found (to my almost equal wonder) he had
managed to peruse: he was taking stock by the way, of the people, the
products, and the country, with an eye unusually observant and a
memory unusually retentive; and he was collecting for himself a body of
magnanimous and semi-intellectual nonsense, which he supposed to be the
natural thoughts and to contain the whole duty of the born American.