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/ was determined that he should not, at all events,
have time to scrutinize the girl ; I fumbled hastily in
my pocket for my key, but it was entangled in my



Paul de Kock







Copyrighted, 790^-790^, by G. B. &* Sons.



I was strolling along the boulevards one Saturday
evening. I was alone, and in a meditative mood ; con-
trary to my usual custom, I was indulging in some rather
serious reflections on the world and its people, on the
past and the present, on the mind and the body, on
the soul, on thought, chance, fate, and destiny. I
believe, indeed, that I was on the point of turning my
attention to the moon, which was just appearing, and
in which I already saw mountains, lakes, and forests, for
with a little determination one may see in the moon what-
ever one pleases, when, as I was gazing at the sky, I
suddenly collided with a person going in the opposite
direction, whom I had not previously noticed.

" Look where you're going, monsieur; you're very
awkward ! " at once remarked a soft, sweet voice, which
not even anger deprived of its charm. I have always
had a weakness for pleasant voices ; so I instantly de-
scended from the regions to which I had mounted only
for lack of something better to do, and looked at the
person who had addressed me.

It was a girl of sixteen to eighteen years, with a little
cap tied under her chin, a calico dress, and a modest
apron of black mohair. She had every appearance of a



young workgirl who had just finished her day's work
and was on her way home. I made haste to look at her
face: a charming face, on my word! Bright, mischiev-
ous eyes, a tiny nose, fine teeth, black hair, and a most
attractive ensemble; an expressive face, too, and a certain
charming grace in her bearing. I was forced to confess
that I saw no such pretty things in the moon.

The girl had under her arm a pasteboard box, which
I had unwittingly jostled; she refastened the string with
which it was tied, and seemed to apprehend that the con-
tents had suffered from my awkwardness. I lost no time
in apologizing.

" Really, mademoiselle, I am terribly distressed it was
very awkward of me."

" It is certain, monsieur, that if you had looked in
front of you this wouldn't have happened."

" I trust that I have not hurt you ? "

"Me? oh, no! But I'm afraid that my flowers are
crumpled; however, I will fix them all right at home."

"Ah!" said I to myself; "she's a flowermaker; as a
general rule, the young ladies who follow that trade are
not Lucretias ; let us see if I cannot scrape acquaintance
with her."

She replaced her box under her arm, and went her
way. I walked by her side, saying nothing at first. I
have always been rather stupid about beginning gallant
interviews; luckily, when one has once made a start,
the thing goes of itself. However, from time to time I
ventured a word or two :

" Mademoiselle walks very fast. Won't you take my
arm ? I should be delighted to escort you. May I not
be permitted to see you again? Do you go to the theatre
often? I could send you tickets, if you chose. Pray be


careful ; you will surely slip ! " and other polite phrases
of that sort, the conventional thing in nocturnal meetings.

To all this I obtained no reply save :

"Yes, monsieur;" "no, monsieur;" "leave me, I beg
you!" "you are wasting your time;" "don't follow me."

Sometimes she made no reply at all, but tossed her
head impatiently, and crossed to the other side of the
boulevard. But I crossed in her wake ; and after a few
moments of silence, I risked another remark, giving to
my voice the most tender and sentimental inflection

But I began to realize that my chance acquaintance
was shyer than I had at first supposed, and that I might
very well have nothing to show for my long walk, my
little speeches, and my sidelong glances. However, her
resistance augmented my desires; I remembered how
foolish I felt one evening when, thinking that I had fallen
in with an innocent maid, my charmer, when we arrived
at her door, invited me to go up to her room ; and I beg
my readers to believe that I knew too much to accept.
But appearances are so deceptive in Paris ! the shrewd-
est connoisseurs allow themselves to be cozened ; now, I
ought to be a connoisseur, for I have seen a good deal
of the world; and yet, I frequently allow myself to be
taken in.

I made these reflections as I followed my pretty flower
girl. She led me a devilish long way ; we walked the
whole length of Boulevards Montmartre, Poissonniere,
Bonne-Nouvelle ; we passed all the small theatres. " She
lives in the Marais," I thought; "that is plain." We
went through Rue Chariot, Rue de Bretagne, Vieille Rue
du Temple. We went on and on; luckily, the weather
was fine, and I knew that she must stop sooner or later.


Yes, and she would probably shut the door in my face;
but what did I care? After all, I was simply killing
time; I had not known what to do with myself, and I
had suddenly found an objective point for my stroll. To
be sure, such an objective point is within the reach of
everyone in Paris; and it is easy to provide one's self
with occupation by following the first saucy face one
chances to meet. Indeed, I know many men who do
nothing else, and who neglect their business to do it.
Above all, I notice a large number of government clerks,
who, instead of attending to their duties, are constantly
hunting grisettes, on the pretext of going out to buy
lunch ; to be sure, they go out without their hats, and run
about the city as if they were simply making neighborly
calls; which is very comforting for the departments, as
they are always sure that their clerks are not lost.

But it is not my business to censure the conduct of
other people ; indeed, that would be a most inopportune
thing to do, inasmuch as I am in the very act of setting
a bad example; for, a moment ago, I was meditating
upon the instability of human affairs, and now I am
giving chase to a petticoat that covers the most fragile,
the weakest, the most deceitful, but also the most seduc-
tive, most alluring, most enchanting creature that Nature
has created ! I was losing my head, my imagination was
hard at work, and yet I saw only a foot a dainty one,
'tis true and the beginning of a leg clothed in a modest
black woollen stocking. Ah ! if I might only have seen
the garter! Faith! all things considered, it is much
better to follow a girl, at the risk of having a door shut
in your face, than to try to read the moon, and to weary
one's brain with metaphysics, astronomy, physiology,
and metoposcopy; the deeper one delves into the vague


and the abstract, the less clearly one discovers the
goal and the proof; but, turn your attention to a saucy
face, and you know at once what you wish to accom-
plish ; and in the company of a pretty woman it is easy
to discover the system of nature.

For several minutes I had said nothing to my young
working girl ; I was piqued by her persistent silence ; I
had even slackened my pace, so that she might think
that I had ceased to follow her. But, although I was
some twenty yards distant, I did not lose sight of her.
She stopped, and so did I. She was speaking to some-
one ; I walked toward them. The someone was a young
man. I bit my lips in vexation; but I tried to dis-
tinguish what they were saying, and I overheard the
following dialogue :

" Good-evening, Mademoiselle Caroline ! "

" Good-evening, Monsieur Jules ! "

" You are going home very late."

"We have lots of work, especially on Saturday; and
then I had a box to carry to Rue Richelieu ; that is what
makes me so late."

" What have you got in this box ? "

" A pretty bunch of roses to wear in my cap to-morrow.
I made it myself; it's very stylish, as you'll see. A
clumsy fellow ran into me on the boulevard, and nearly
made me drop it."

At that, I slunk into the passageway in front of which
I had stopped.

" There are some people who never pay any attention
to anything when they're walking."

" I fancy this man was a student ; he was looking at
the sky."

" Did he ask your pardon ?"


" Oh, yes ! But I must leave you ; my aunt's waiting
for me, and she'll give me a scolding."

" I should be very sorry to be the cause of anything
unpleasant happening to you. We shall see each other
to-morrow, shan't we ? "

" Yes, yes ; unless my aunt isn't willing that I should
dance any more. She's so cross ! Have you got tickets
for Tivoli ? "

" Yes, mademoiselle, for four ; I will call for you."

" Early, Monsieur Jules."

" Oh, never fear ! But don't you forget we're to dance
the first contradance together."

" I never forget such things ! "

" Adieu, Mademoiselle Caroline ! "

" Adieu, Monsieur Jules ! "

Monsieur Jules drew nearer to her, and the girl offered
her cheek. I heard a kiss. Parbleu ! it was well worth
while going all the way to Rue des Rosiers to see that !

The young man walked away, singing; the girl went
a few steps farther, then entered a passageway, of which
she closed the door behind her, and I was left standing
in the gutter.

That Jules was evidently her lover ; yes, he had every
appearance of a lover, albeit an honorable one, for I was
certain that he kissed nothing but her cheek ; moreover,
his conversation did not suggest a seducer. To-morrow,
Sunday, they were going to Tivoli, with the aunt, no
doubt, as he had tickets for four. Well, it was evident
that I should have nothing to show for my walk. It
was not the first time, but it was a pity ; for she was
pretty, very pretty ! I examined the house with care.
One can never tell chance may serve one at some time.
The street was dark, the moon being behind a cloud, and


I could not make out the number. But that was of no
importance, for I could recognize the passageway, the
sharp corner, and the awning.

" What the devil ! Pray be careful what you're doing !
You just missed throwing that on me! "

An inmate of my charmer's house had opened his
window and emptied a vessel into the street, just as I
was trying to distinguish the color of the wall. Luckily,
I escaped with a few splashes ; but the incident abated
my curiosity, and I left Rue des Rosiers, wiping my coat
tails with my handkerchief.



It was not late when I returned to the boulevard ; the
performances at the small theatres were not yet at an
end. A dozen ticket speculators ran to meet me, offering
to sell me checks.

" There's one more act, monsieur," they shouted in my
ears ; " it's the best of all ; you'll see the duel with a
sword and an axe, the fire, and the ballet. It's a play
that draws all Paris. You can go to any part of the

Unable to resist such urgent solicitations, I bought a
check which entitled me to admission to any part of
the theatre ; but they would only allow me to go into the
pit, or to walk around the corridor. I chose the latter
alternative; as there was but one act to be played, I
could see well enough ; and then, the things that happen


in the auditorium are often more amusing than those
that happen on the stage. I am rather fond of examining
faces, and there are generally some comical ones in at-
tendance upon melodramas; the theatres at which that
class of play is given are, as a general rule, frequented
by the common people and the middle class, who do not
know what it is to conceal their feelings, and who con-
sequently abandon themselves unreservedly to all the
emotion aroused by a scene of love or of remorse.

"Ah! the cur! ah! the blackguard!" exclaimed my
nearest neighbor whenever the tyrant appeared; "he'll
get his finish before long."

I glanced at the speaker; I judged from his hands
and his general aspect that he was a tanner; his eyes
were brighter than those of the actor who played the
traitor and against whom he vociferated loudly at every
instant. In front of me, as I stood behind the seats, I
noticed a laundress who sobbed bitterly as she listened
to the story of the princess's misfortunes, and a small
boy who crouched under the bench to avoid seeing the

" How these good people are enjoying themselves!" I
thought ; " they are not surfeited with the theatre ; they
are absorbed by what is taking place on the stage ;
they don't lose a single word, and for the next week they
will think of nothing but what they have seen to-night.
I will go up to the first tier of boxes ; there is more style
there, but less enjoyment."

Through a glass door I caught sight of a most attract-
ive face ; I gave the box opener the requisite amount of
money, and entered the box, determined to do my utmost
to make up for the time I had wasted with Mademoiselle


The lady, who had seemed a charming creature seen
through the glass, was less charming at close range.
However, she was not unattractive; she had style,
brilliancy, and dash. She was still young; I saw at
once that she was inclined to flirt, and that the appear-
ance of a young man in her box would divert her for a

You will understand, reader, that I was a young man ;
I believe that I have not yet told you so. Later, I will
tell you who I am, and what talents, what attractive and
estimable qualities, I possess ; it will not take long.

A gentleman was seated beside the lady in question ;
he had a commonplace face, but was fashionably dressed
and had distinguished manners. Was he her husband ?
I was inclined to think so, for they hardly spoke to each

I regretted that I had only about half an act to see;
with more time, I might have been able to enter into
conversation, to make myself agreeable, to begin an ac-
quaintance. It seemed to me that I made a favorable
impression ; she bestowed divers very soft glances on me ;
she was seated so that she could look at me without
being seen by her companion. The ladies are so accus-
tomed to that sort of thing, and so expert at it !

"Ah!" I thought; "if ever I marry, I will always sit
behind my wife ; for then Even so ; but if some-
body else sits beside her, can I prevent the feet and knees
from doing as they will ? It is most embarrassing."

" This play isn't so bad," said the lady at last, to her
neighbor ; " the acting here is not at all amiss."

" Yes, yes ; " nothing but yes. Ah ! he was surely
her husband. I listened intently, for she was evidently
speaking for my benefit.


" I was horribly bored last night at the Frangais ; Mars
didn't act. Aren't we going to the Opera to-morrow?
There's to be an extra performance."

" As you please."

"After all, it's too hot for enjoyment at the theatre.
If there wasn't always such a medley in the public gar-
dens on Sunday, I would rather go there than shut
myself up in a theatre. What's your idea?"

" It makes no difference to me."

The lady made an impatient gesture. The gentleman
did not notice it, but moved nearer the front of the box.
I rose to look at the scenery, and my hand happened
to come in contact with the lady's arm, but she did not

"These theatres are wretchedly ventilated; there's a
very unpleasant odor here," she said, after a moment.

I thought of my coat tails, which, in truth, smelt any-
thing but sweet. I could not help smiling, but I instantly
offered her a smelling bottle. She accepted it, and when
she returned it did not seem offended because I pressed
the hand with which she presented it to me.

At that moment the curtain fell.

" The devil ! " I muttered to myself; " what a shame !
I came too late. Mademoiselle Caroline is responsible
for it. But what am I saying ? If it had not been for
her, I should still be on Boulevard Montmartre, gazing
at the stars ; it was because I followed her that I came
in here to see the last act ; and by running after a grisette
I have fallen in with a petite-mcutresse who perhaps is in-
ferior to the grisette ! How one thing leads to another !
It was because something was thrown on my coat that
this lady complained of the unpleasant odor, and that I
offered her my smelling bottle and squeezed her hand.


After this, who will tell me that there is no such thing
as fate ? If I should make this gentleman a cuckold, it
would certainly be the fault of Mademoiselle Caroline,
who refused to listen to me."

We left the box. I assisted my neighbor to climb
over the benches, which were stationary for the con-
venience of the public. But the husband took her arm,
and I was obliged to fall behind.

"Shall I follow, or shall I not follow ? "Such was
the question I asked myself as I descended the stair-
case. After what had happened to me so short a time
before, I ought to have kept quiet the rest of the even-
ing; but I was twenty-four years old, I loved the fair
sex passionately; moreover, my last mistress had just
proved unfaithful to me, indeed, it was that fact which
was responsible for my melancholy meditations, and a
young man who has a strong flavor of sentiment in his
makeup cannot exist without a passion. Unquestionably
I was

We were no sooner on the boulevard than they crossed
the sidewalk to the curbstone.

"Aha!" I said to myself; "they are going to take a
carriage; I'll just listen to what they tell the driver, and
in that way I can learn the address without putting
myself to any trouble."

But it was decreed that I should be disappointed again
in my plans. They walked to a dainty vis-a-vis and called
Andre ; a footman ran to them, opened the door, and
assisted monsieur and madame to enter.

My self-esteem received a still sharper prick ; a woman
who had a carriage of her own ! Here was a conquest
that merited the expenditure of some little time and
trouble. I determined to follow madame's carriage not


on foot; that would be too fatiguing! it might do if she
were in a cab ; but with private horses why, I should
have inflammation of the lungs ! I spied a cabriolet, which
was just what I wanted. The other carriage was driving
away, so I lost no time.

"Hi, cocker!"

" Get in, monsieur."

" I am in."

" Where are we going, bourgeois ? "

" Follow that carriage just ahead of us, and you shall
have a good pourboire."

The rascal did not need it; I saw that he was already
tipsy. I wished then that I had taken another, but it was
too late to change. He lashed his emaciated horse with all
his strength ; the infernal beast broke into a gallop of des-
peration, and sometimes outstripped the private carriage.

" Look out ! " I said to my driver ; " don't whip it so
hard ; let's not have an accident."

" Don't you be afraid, bourgeois, I know my business ;
you see, I haven't been driving a cab twenty years with-
out finding out what driving means. You're with some
friends in the green fiacre yonder ; very good ! I propose
to have you get there ahead of 'em."

"But I did not tell you that I was with anybody; I
want you to follow that carriage ; if you pass it, how can
you follow it ? "

" I tell you, bourgeois, that they're a-following us ; I'll
show 'em that my horse is worth two of theirs. When
Belotte's waked up, there's no stopping her."

" Morbleu ! you go too fast ! We have passed the
carriage ; where is it now ? "

"Ah! they're trying to catch up with us; but the
coachman's mad. I'm driving you all right, bourgeois."


" But stop stop, I tell you ! "

" Have we got there ? "

" Yes, yes ! we've got there."

" Damme ! you see, Belotte's got her second wind, and
she's a good one to go, I tell you. Ho ! ho ! here you
are, master. Where shall I knock ? "

" Nowhere."

" Ha ! ha ! not a sign of a fiacre anywhere ! Didn't I
tell you that you'd arrive ahead of the others ? You see,
it's a whim of mine to pass everything on the road."

I alighted from the cabriolet and looked all about ; no
sign of a carriage ; we had lost it. I was frantic ; and I
had to listen to the appeals of my drunken driver, who
wanted his pourboire. I was tempted to break his whip
over his back ; but I restrained myself and adopted the
quickest method, which was to pay him and dismiss him.

"When you want a good driver and a good horse,
bourgeois, I'm your man, you see ; you'll always find me
on Place Taitbout, near Torchoni's in the swell quarter.
Ask for Francois ; I'm as well known as the clown."

"All right; I'll remember."

The villain drove away at last, and I was left alone in
a street which was entirely unfamiliar to me. It was
getting late, and, as I had no desire to pass the night
walking the streets, I tried to discover my whereabouts !
After walking some distance I found myself at a spot
which I recognized; I was on Rue des Martyrs, near
the Montmartre barrier. Luckily, I lived on Rue Saint-
Florentin, and to get there I had simply to walk down
the hill. So I started, reflecting as I walked. It was a
fitting occasion for reflection, and I had plenty of time.
But my reverie was again interrupted by outcries. As
the Quartier des Porcherons is not frequented by the


most select society, and as I was nowise inclined to seek
a third adventure at the Grand Salon, I quickened my
pace, in order to avoid unpleasant encounters.

But the noise continued ; I heard cries and oaths and
blows. Women were calling for the police, the magis-
trate, and all the constituted authorities of the quarter ;
men were pushing and striking one another and throw-
ing one another into the gutter. Windows were thrown
open, and heads appeared enveloped in nightcaps ; they
listened and laughed and conversed from window to
window, asking what the trouble was ; but they refrained
from going down into the street, because it is not prudent
to meddle in a quarrel after dark.

The open windows and the faces surmounted by night-
caps reminded me of my little mishap on Rue des Rosiers.
I no longer walked, but flew ! fancying that I was pursued
by fatality. But I heard someone running behind me;
I turned into a street to the right ; the footsteps followed
me. At last I stopped to recover my breath, and in a
moment my pursuer overtook me and grasped my arm.




" O monsieur ! save me ! take me with you ! protect
me from that horrible Beauvisage,who swore he'd take me
away from anyone. Just hear how he's beating Cadet
Finemouche, who's a good fighter himself! My sister
was no fool ; she skipped as soon as the fists began to
play, and left me to carry the whole thing on my back ;
and perhaps she'll go and tell my mother bad stories
about me! I haven't anybody but you to help me,
monsieur; if you won't, I'm a lost girl."

While my waylayer recited her story, pausing only to
wipe away the tears with the back of her hand, I looked
at my new acquaintance and tried to distinguish her
features by the dim light of a street lamp.

Her language and her dress speedily informed me
what manner of person I had to deal with : a loose red
gown, caught in at the waist with a black velvet scarf; a
round cap with a broad lace border; a colored necker-
chief, tied in front, with a large cross a la Jeannette rest-
ing upon it. Mistake in this instance was impossible : it
was perfectly evident that I had before me a marchande
a eventaire* or one of those hucksters whose booths
surround the cemetery of the Innocents.

My first thought was to see if she was pretty; I
found that she was very good-looking indeed. Her eyes,

* That is to say, a huckster, or peddler, who goes from place to place
with her wares displayed on a tray hung from her shoulders.


although filled with tears, had a sincere, innocent expres-
sion which made her interesting at first sight; her little
pout, her grieved air, were softened now and then by a
smile addressed to me ; and that smile, which the most
accomplished coquette could not have made more attract-
ive, disclosed two rows of the whitest teeth, unspoiled by
enamel, coral, and all the powders of the perfumer.

However, despite my new acquaintance's beauty, I was
very reluctant to retain her arm, which she had passed
through mine. Surely, with such charming features, she
could not deal in fish or meat. I was morally certain
that she sold flowers; but I did not choose to take a
flower girl for my mistress; at the most, I might, if

Online LibraryPaul de KockNovels by Paul de Kock (Volume 11) → online text (page 1 of 28)