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Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 online

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that we may walk there without a chaperon? I should have thought
seclusion made a place more dangerous, allowing that there be any danger
at all. - In America, Mr. Farquhar, your escort would be enough for us,
and the fact that Amy is your sister would give a sort of double
security to your protection."

"Oh, dear Miss Leare - " began Amy.

"Hermie, Amy - Hermione, which is English and American for Tasso's
Erminia. - Do you like my name, Mr. Farquhar? We have strange names in
America, English people are pleased to say. - Victor!" she went on,
calling to the chasseur without pausing for any reply, "stop at some
place where they sell candy. Mr. Farquhar will get out and buy us some."

Obediently to her order, we stopped at a confectioner's. I was directed
to put my hand into the carriage-pocket, where I should find some
"loose change," kept there for candy and the hurdy-gurdy boys. Then I
was directed to go into the "store" and choose a pound of all sorts of
"mixed candy."

I had not more than made myself intelligible to a young person behind
the counter when the carriage-door was opened and both the girls came
in, Miss Hermione declaring that she knew I should be embarrassed by the
multitude of "sweeties," and that I should need their experience to know
what I was about.

With dawdling, laughing and good-comradeship we chose our bonbons, and
getting back into the barouche we proceeded to crunch them as we drove
on to Monceaux. It was like being children over again, with a slight
sense of being out of bounds. I had never seen confectionery eaten
wholesale in that fashion. Such bonbons were expensive, too. Trained in
the personal economy of English middle-class life, it would never have
occurred to me to buy several francs' worth of sugar-plums and to eat
them by the handful. But as the fair American sat before me, smiling,
laughing, petting Amy and saying fascinating impertinences to myself, I
thought I had never seen so bewitching a creature. Her frame, though
_svelte_ and admirably proportioned, gave me an idea of vigor and
strength not commonly associated at that time with the girls of America.
Her complexion, too, was healthy: she was not so highly colored as an
English country girl, but her skin was bright and clear. Her face was a
perfect oval, her hair glossy and dark, her eyes expressive hazel. Her
points were all good: her ears, her hands, her feet, her upper lip and
nostrils showed blood, and the daintiness and taste of her rich dress
seemed to denote her good taste and fine breeding. My sisters, could not
tie their bonnet-strings as she tied hers, nor were their dresses
anything like hers in freshness, fit or daintiness of trimming.

We alighted at last at old Monceaux, and walked about its solemn alleys.
Sometimes Miss Leare talked sense, and talked it well. Those were
exciting days in Paris. It was February, 1848, and a great crisis was
nearer at hand in politics than we suspected; besides which there had
been several events in private life which had increased the general
excitement of the period - notably the murder of Marshal Sebastiani's
daughter, the poor duchesse de Praslin. Hermione could talk of these
things with great spirit, but sometimes relapsed into her grown-up
childishness. She talked, too, with animation of the freedom and
happiness of her American girlhood. My sister Amy had always taken life
_au grand sérieux_; Ellen was a little too prompt to flirt with officers
and gay young men, and needed repression; Lætitia went in for
book-learning, and measured every one by what she called their
"educational opportunities." My sisters were as different as possible
from this butterfly creature, who seemed to sip interest and amusement
out of everything.

At the end of two hours we drove back to Mrs. Leare's hôtel, which was
opposite our own apartment in the Rue Neuve de Berri, the hôtel that a
few weeks later was occupied by Prince Jerome. Here Hermione insisted
upon our coming in while the carriage drove to the dentist's for her
mother.

The reception-rooms in Mrs. Leare's hôtel were very showy. They were
filled with buhl and knick-knacks gathered on all parts of the
Continent, and lavishly displayed, not always in good keeping. A little
sister, Claribel, came running up to us when we entered, and clung
fondly to Hermione, who sat down at the Erard grand piano and sang to
us, without suggestion, a gay little French song. She was taking
lessons, Amy afterward told me, of the master most in vogue in Paris and
of all others the most expensive. Amy, who could sing well herself,
disparaged Hermione's voice to me, and sighed as she thought of the
waste of those inestimable lessons.

Then Miss Hermione lifted the top of an ormolu box on the chimney-piece
of a boudoir and showed Amy and me, under the rose as it were, some
cigarettes, with a laugh. "Mamma's," she said: "she has a _faiblesse_
that way."

"Oh, Hermione! you don't?" cried Amy.

"No, _I_ don't," said Hermione more gravely.

I was so amused by her, so fascinated, so completely at my ease with
her, that I could have stayed on without taking note of time had not Amy
remembered that it was our dinner-hour. We took our leave, and met Mrs.
Leare on the staircase ascending to her apartment. She greeted Amy with
as much effusion as was compatible with her ideas of fashion, and said
she was "right glad" to hear we had been passing the morning with
Hermione.

"I wish you would come very often. I like her to see English girls: you
do her so much good, Amy. - Mr. Farquhar, we shall hope to see you often
too. I have a little reception here every Sunday evening."

With that she continued her course up stairs, and we descended to the
porte-cochère.

She was a faded woman, "dressed to death," as Amy phrased it, and none
of my people had a good word for her.

"The Leares are rolling in riches, I believe," remarked my father, "and
an American who is rich has no hereditary obligations to absorb his
wealth, so that it becomes all 'spending-money,' as Miss Hermione says.
The head of the family - King Leare I call him - stays at home in some
sort of a counting-room in New York and makes money, giving Mrs. Leare
and Miss Hermione _carte blanche_ to spend it on any follies they
please. I never heard anything exactly wrong concerning Mrs. Leare, but
she does not seem to me the woman to be trusted with that very nice
young daughter. I feel great pity for Miss Leare."

"Miss Leare has plenty of sense and character," said my mother: "I do
not think her mother's queer surroundings seem to affect her in any way.
She moves among the Frenchmen, Poles and Italians of her mother's court
like that lady Shakespeare - or was it Spenser? - wrote about among the
fauns and satyrs. With all her American freedom she avoids improprieties
by instinct. I have no fears for her future if she marries the right
man."

"Indeed, mamma," said Amy, "I wish she would keep more strictly within
the limit of the proprieties. She makes me nervous all the time we are
together."

"My dear, you never heard her breathe a really unbecoming word or saw
her do an immodest thing?" said my mother interrogatively.

"Oh no, of course not," said Amy.

"They say Mrs. Leare wants to marry her to that Neapolitan marquis who
is so often there," put in Ellen. "_On dit_, she will have a _dot_ of
two millions of francs, or, as they call it, half a million of dollars."

"Such a rumor," I broke in, rather annoyed by this turn in the
conversation, "may well buy her the right to be a marchioness if she
will."

"Indeed it won't, then," said Ellen sharply, "for she thinks Americans
should not 'fix' themselves permanently abroad. She says she means to
marry one of her own folks, as she calls her countrymen."

"She knows an infinite variety of things, and has had all kinds of
masters," sighed Lætitia: "she speaks all the languages in Europe. I
believe Americans have a peculiar facility for pronunciation, like the
Russians, and she learned at her school in America philosophy, rhetoric,
logic, Latin, algebra, chemistry."

"I wonder she should be so sweet a woman," said my father. "She seems a
good girl - I never took her for a learned one - but her mother is a fool,
and I should think her father must be that or worse. I wonder what he
can be like? It seems to an Englishman so strange that a man should stay
at home alone for years, and suffer his wife and family to travel all
over the Continent without protection."

Though my father, mother and sisters declined the Sunday invitation of
Mrs. Leare, I went to her reception. The guests were nearly all
Italians, Poles, Spaniards or Frenchmen. There was no Englishman
present, but myself, and only one or two Americans. I felt at once how
out of place my mother, the country matron, and my father, _ce
respectable viellard,_ would have been in such a circle. But Mrs.
Leare's guests were not the _jeunesse dorée_ nor the dubious nobility I
had expected to meet in her _salon_. The Frenchmen among them were all
men whose names were familiar in French political circles - men of
revolutionary tendencies and of advanced opinions. I afterward
discovered they had taken advantage of Mrs. Leare's desire to be the
head of a salon to use her rooms as a convenient rendezvous. It was safe
ground on which to simmer their revolutionary cauldron. It was seething
and bubbling that night, although neither the Leares nor myself were
aware of what was brewing. The talk was all about the Banquets,
especially the impending reform banquet in the Rue Chaillot. The
gentlemen present were not exactly conspirators: they were for the most
part political reformers, who, being cut off from the usual modes of
expressing themselves through a recognized parliamentary opposition or
by the medium of petition, had devised a system of political banquets,
some fifty of which had already been held in the departments, and they
were now engaged in getting one up in Paris in the Twelfth
arrondissement.

At that time, in a population of thirty-five millions, there were but a
quarter of a million of French voters, and as in France all places (from
that of a railroad guard to a seat on the bench) were disposed of by the
government, it was very easy for ministers to control the legislature. A
reform, really needed in the franchise, was the object proposed to
themselves by the original heads of the Revolution of 1848, though when
they had set their ball in motion they could neither control it nor keep
up with it as it rolled downward.

The prevalent idea in Mrs. Leare's salon was that the banquet of the Rue
Chaillot would go off quietly, that the prefect of police would protest,
and that the affair would then pass into the law-courts, where it would
remain until all interest in the subject had passed away. One was
sensible, however, that there was a general feeling of excitement in the
atmosphere. Paris swarmed with troops, evidently under stricter
discipline than usual. People looked into each other's faces
interrogatively and read the daily papers with an anxious air.

Though I did not at the time fully appreciate what I saw, I was struck
by the business-like character of the men about me. The guests, I
thought, took very little notice of the lady of the house. I did not
then suspect that they were using her hospitality for their own
purposes, and that they felt secure in her total incapacity to
understand what they were doing. She, meantime, intent on filling her
reception-rooms with celebrities and titled persons, was charmed to have
collected so many distinguished men around her.

Hermione appeared bewildered, uncomfortable and restless, like a
spectator on the edge of a great crowd. "There are too many strangers
here to-night," she said: "mamma and I do not know one half of them.
They have been brought here by their friends. To have a salon is mamma's
ambition, but this is not my idea of it. I feel as if we were out of
place among these men, who talk to each other and hardly notice us at
all."

We sat together and exchanged our thoughts in whispers. It was one of
those crowds that create a solitude for lovers. Not that we talked
sentiment or that we were lovers. We conversed about the excitements of
the day - of the Leste affair, in which the king and the king's ministry
were accused of protecting dishonesty; of the Beauvallon and
D'Equivilley duel and the Praslin murder, in connection with both of
which the royal family and the ministry were popularly accused of
protecting criminals - and at last the conversation strayed away from
France to Hermione's own girlhood. She told me of her happy country home
in Maryland with her grandmother, and sighed. I asked her if she was
going to the English ball to be given on Wednesday night at the
beautiful Jardin d'Hiver in the Champs Élysées.

"I suppose so," she replied, "but I don't care for large assemblies: I
feel afraid of the men I meet. I wish your mother could chaperon me: it
would be much nicer to be with her than with my own. Mamma understands
nothing about looking after me; she wants to have a good time herself,
and I am only in her way. Do you know, Mr. Farquhar, I have a theory
that when women have missed anything they ought to have enjoyed in early
life, they always want to go back and pick it up. Mamma had no pleasures
in her youth, no attentions, no gayety. If I am to be chaperoned, I like
the real thing. If I were at home in Maryland, where my father came
from, I should need no one to protect me: _you_ could take me to the
ball."

"I, Miss Hermione?"

"Yes, you. You would call for me, and wait till I was ready to come
down. Then you and I would go _alone_," she added, enjoying my look of
incredulity. "It is the custom: no harm could come of it," she added.
"We would walk to our ball."

"No harm in the case that you have supposed, but in some other cases - "

"You suppose a good deal," she interrupted. "You suppose a girl without
self-respect or good sense, and perhaps a man without honor. Here, of
course, things cannot be like that. Society seems founded upon different
ideas from those prevalent with us about men and women. _Here_, I admit,
a girl finds comfort and protection and ease of mind in a good chaperon.
Yet it seemed strange to me to put on leading-strings when I came out
here: I had been used to take care of myself for so many years."

"Why, Miss Leare," I said, laughing, "you cannot have been many years in
society."

"I am twenty," she said frankly, "and we came to Europe about three
years ago. But before that time I had been in company a good deal. Not
in the city, for I was not 'out,' but in the hotels at Newport, at the
Springs and in the country. In America one has but to do what one knows
is kind and right, and no one will think evil: here one may do, without
suspecting it, so many compromising things."

"Does the instinct that you speak of to be kind and right always guide
the young American lady?"

"I suppose so - so far as I know. It _must_. She walks by it, and sets
her feet down firmly. Here I feel all the time as if I were walking
among traps blindfolded."

The ball of the Jardin d'Hiver in the Champs Élysées was a superb
success. The immense glass-house was fitted up for dancing, and all went
merry as a marriage-bell, with a crater about to open under our feet, as
at the duchess of Richmond's ball at Brussels.

Miss Leare was there, but quiet and dignified. There was not the
smallest touch of vulgarity about her. The coarse readiness to accept
publicity which distinguishes the underbred woman, whether in England or
America, the desire to show off a foreign emancipation from what appear
ridiculous French rules, were not in her.

Yet she might have amused herself as she liked with complete impunity,
for Mrs. Leare appeared to leave her entirely alone. I danced with her
as often as she would permit me, and my heart was no longer in my own
possession when I put-her into her carriage about dawn.

Two or three days after I called, but the ladies were not in, so that
except at church at the Hôtel Marboeuf on Sunday morning I saw nothing
of Miss Hermione. Monday, February 21st, was sunny and bright. The
public excitement was such that an unusual number of working-men were
keeping their St. Crispin. The soldiers, however, were confined to their
quarters: not a uniform was to be seen abroad. Our night had been
disturbed by the continuous rumble of carts and carriages.

"Is it a fine day for the banquet?" I heard Amy say as our maid opened
her windows on Tuesday morning.

"There is to be no banquet," was the answer. "_Voyez done_ the
proclamation posted on the door of the barrack at the corner of the Rue
Chaillot."

I sprang from my bed and looked out of my window. A strange change had
taken place in the teeming little caserne at the corner. Instead of the
usual groups of well-behaved boy-soldiers in rough uniforms, the barrack
looked deserted, and its lower windows had been closed up to their top
panes with bags of hay and mattresses. Not a soldier, not even a sentry,
was to be seen.

I dressed myself and went out to collect news. The carts that had
disturbed us during the night had been not only employed in removing all
preparations for the banquet, but in taking every loose paving-stone out
of the way. I found the Place de la Madeleine full of people, all
looking up at the house of Odillon Barrot, asking "What next?" and "What
shall we do?" Odillon Barrot was the hero of the moment - literally _of
the moment_. In forty-eight hours from that time his name had faded from
the page of history. In the Place de la Concorde there was more
excitement, for threats were being made to cross the bridge and to
insult the Chambers. The Pont de l'Institut, notwithstanding the efforts
of the garde municipale or mounted police, was greatly crowded. A party
of dragoons, on sorrel ponies barely fourteen hands high, rode up and
began to clear the bridge, but gently and gradually. The crowd was
retiring as fast as its numbers would permit, when some of the municipal
guard rode through the ranks of the dragoons and set themselves, with
ill-judged roughness, to accelerate the operation. The crowd grew angry,
and stones began to be thrown at the guard and soldiers.

Growing anxious for the women I had left in the Rue Neuve de Berri, I
returned home by side-streets. A crowd had collected on the Champs
Élysées about thirty yards from the corner of our street, and was
forming a barricade. All were shouting, all gesticulating. Citadines at
full speed were driving out of reach of requisition; horses were going
off disencumbered of their vehicles; the driver of a remise was seated
astride his animal, the long flaps of his driving-coat covering it from
neck to tail; a noble elm was being hewn down by hatchets and even
common knives. An omnibus, the remise, a few barrels and dining-tables,
a dozen yards of _pave_ torn up by eager hands, a sentry-box, some
benches and the tree, formed the barricade. _Gamins_ and _blouses_
worked at it. The respectables looked on and did not trouble the
workers. Suddenly there was a general stampede among them. A squadron of
about fifty dragoons charged up the Champs Élysées. One old
peasant-woman in a scanty yellow-and-black skirt, which she twitched
above her knees, led the retreat. But soon they stopped and turned
again, while the dragoons rode slowly back, breathing their horses.
Nobody was angry, for nobody had been hurt, but they were frightened
enough.

At this moment, stealing from a porte-cochère where she had taken refuge
during the fright and _sauve gui peut_, came a figure wrapped in dark
drapery. Could it be possible? Hermione Leare! In a moment I was at her
side. She was very pale and breathless, and she was glad to take my arm.
"What brings you here?" I whispered.

"Our servants have all run away: they think mamma is compromised.
Victor, our chasseur, broke open mamma's secretary and took his wages.
She is almost beside herself. She wanted to send a letter to the post,
and as it is steamer-day I thought papa had better know that thus far
nothing has happened to us. There was nobody to take the letter: I said
I would put it in the box in the Rue Ponthieu."

"And did you post it?"

"No: I could not get to the Rue Ponthieu. They were firing down the
street, and now I dare not."

"Trust it to me, Miss Leare, and promise me to send for me if you have
any more such errands. You must never run such risks again."

"I have to be the man of the family," she answered, almost with an
apologetic air.

"Do not say that again. I shall come over three times a day while this
thing lasts to see if you have any commissions."

She smiled and pressed my hand as she turned into her own porte-cochère.
Frightened servants and their friends were in the porter's lodge, who
gazed after her with exclamations as she went up the common stair.

The remainder of that day passed with very little fighting. Up to that
time it had been a riot apropos of a change of ministry, but in the
night the secret societies met and flung aside the previous question.

When we awoke on Wednesday morning, February 23d, we were struck by the
strange quiet of the streets. No provisions entered Paris through the
barrier, no vehicles nor venders of small wares. The absolute silence,
save when "Mourir pour la Patrie" sounded hoarsely in the distance, was
as strange as it was unexpected. I had always connected an insurrection
with noise. It was rumored that Guizot the Unpopular had been dismissed,
and that Count Mole, a man of half measures, had been called to the
king's councils. The affair looked to me as if it were going to die out
for want of fuel. But I was mistaken: the blouses, who had not had one
gun to a hundred the day before, had been all night arming themselves by
domiciliary requisitions. The national guard was not believed to be
firm.

The night before, an hour after I had parted with Miss Hermione, I had
made an attempt to see her and Mrs. Leare, without any success. Not even
bribery would induce the concierge to let me in. His orders were
peremptory: "_Pas un seul, monsieur, personne_" - madame received nobody.

Early on Wednesday morning I again presented myself: the ladies were not
visible. Later in the day I called again, and was again refused. But
several times Amy had seen Hermione at a window, and they had made signs
across the street to one another. I began to understand that Mrs. Leare
was overwhelmed by the responsibility she had incurred in opening her
salon to men whom she now perceived to have been conspirators, and that
she was obstinately determined not to compromise herself further by
giving admittance to any one.

Our bonne had been able to ascertain from the concierge of the Leare
house that madame was hysterical, and could hardly be controlled by
mademoiselle.

I was in the streets till five o'clock on Wednesday, when, concluding
all was over, I came home, intending to make another effort to see the
Leares, and if possible to take Miss Hermione, with Ellen and Lætitia,
to view the debris of the two days' fight - to let them get their first
glimpse of real war in the Place de la Concorde, where a regiment was
littering down its horses for the night, and a peep into the closed
gardens of the Tuileries.

When I got up to our rooms I found my sisters at a window overlooking
the courtyard of Mrs. Leare's hotel, and they all cried out with one
voice, "Mrs. Leare's carriage is just ready to drive away."

I looked. A travelling-equipage stood in the courtyard. On it the
concierge was hoisting trunks, and into it was being heaped a
promiscuous variety of knick-knackery and wearing apparel. A country
postilion - who, but for his dirt, would have looked more like a
character in a comedy than a real live, serviceable post-boy - was
standing in carpet slippers (having divested himself of his boots of
office) harnessing three undersized gray Normandy mares to an elegant
travelling-carriage.

Hermione herself, Claribel her little sister, Mrs. Leare and the old
colored nurse got quickly in. Mrs. Leare was in tears, with her head
muffled in a yard or two of green _barège_, then the distinctive mark of
a travelling American woman. The child's-nurse had long gold ear-drops
and a head-dress of red bandanna. There was not a man of any kind with
them except the postilion. The concierge opened the gates of the
courtyard.

"Stop! stop!" I cried, and rushed down our own staircase and out of our
front door.

As I ran past their entrance a woman put a paper into my hand. I had no


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Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 → online text (page 8 of 20)