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Neuf, and up the Rue Dauphine, on through old Paris and the Latin Quarter: at last we reached the summer-garden known as LA GRANDE CHAUMIERE.
LE CHATEAU ROUGE and Mabille may be superior to the Chaumière in ornament, and Ranelagh to the Bois de Boulogne in rank; but I doubt whether there be another place in Paris which exercises a greater fascination upon its habituées. These are for the greater part students, and of course grisettes, with a plentiful sprinkling of ladies and gentlemen of the stamp we had just quitted in the Rue Cadet. The price of admittance is trifling; the grounds beautifully laid out, tastefully decorated, and brilliantly illuminated. Nor are the amusements limited to dancing, smoking and refreshing. There are les montagnes Russes,' the Russian mountains, adown which you roll in a small car with lightning-like rapidity; or as Moore describes it :
There are cars that set out
Go thund'ring, as if you went post to Old Scratch!' The cars of the present day are differently and less affectionately constructed. Beside the Russian mountains, are varieties of tables, where you may play at roulette or billiards Chinoises,' for bonbons and other fancy articles.
We were seated at a table enjoying our cigars. The Pole seemed lost in a torpor of gloomy thought. Suddenly a merry female voice behind me exclaimed:
• Tiens ! — c'est bien lui! What! Monsieur Charles, have you forgotten me?'
* Au contraire, my child, I love you better than ever,' I exelaimed, and then turned round to ascertain who the dear one might be. a decidedly good-looking girl, neatly and plainly dressed. Her countenance wore that mixed expression of refinement and energy, which not unfrequently results from an excellent education and thorough knowledge of the world. Her age might have been twenty, but a certain gravity of demeanor made her appear two years older. Add to this an occasional droll gleam of the eye, indicating the keenest appreciation of the humorous, and you have my new friend exactly. As for recalling or remembering her, the thing was out of the question. But, Mamselle, I inquired, 'where then did I last have the pleasure of meeting you?'
Oh, mon Dieu! has Monsieur then forgotten the little guitar-girl, who sang to him in the Isar Garden at Munich ?'
• Diable!' I exclaimed, fairly taken aback by surprise.
* And the forlorn little English widow, whom you met last autumn at the Cour de Hollande in Mayence ?'
• Why, what sort of an enchantress are you?' I cried. “Yes, indeed, I remember you now!'
• 'Tis n't all yet. You did n't see me, I suppose, at Venice, but I made the landiady give you that nice room; that was my doing.
* But what in the name of all that's mysterious are you then?' I exclaimed.
“I am Annusha Vetjvovsky in Poland; Prygoschee Dutja in Russia; Katarina Röschen in Germany; Victorine in France, and any thing I please every where.
• Well, fair Röschen, (roselet, little rose,) I am a thousand times your debtor for the Venetian room.'
• Du tout, Monsieur ! not at all, Sir. Mon Dieu, I shall never forget seeing the tears come to your eyes in that Munich garden, when I sung the little Austrian song! Ah,' said I, Rose, thou art certainly possessed of great musical talent, and the gentleman over there has an exquisite appreciation of the same.' So when I went round with the shell to collect what God and the company might choose to give, I determined to spare you, as you had already paid with tears. But you called me, and when I came near, because you had no small money, you gave me that pretty little ring: tiens la voilà !!'
With these words she held out the neatest little hand in the world, and showed me the ring, her eyes gleaming with fun, and her mouth puckered up into the most laughably-odd expression man ever beheld. At this instant the Pole raised his head slowly and abstractedly. He had evidently not heard a word of our conversation, nor was he aware of the young girl's presence; but as he rose, he fixed his eyes deeply and earnestly upon her own, exclaiming in Russian :
Prygoschee Dutja — beautiful child -- are you here?' • Da, moy Batiuschka,' (yes, my father,) she replied.
'I have some good news for you, my daughter; but I want my friend here to take part in our joy, and to do that, he must first hear the story of your
life. With this the Pole ordered champagne, bade the wonderful one sit down, and lighted a fresh cigar. After reflecting an instant she be
'I am ignorant as to my parentage or place of birth; I only know that my mother, described as a German lady, left me at the age of three months in charge of a country-woman of hers, whose husband, an old Frenchman, kept a small silk-store in Florence. Their own child dying, the pair adopted me. No one ever appeared to reclaim me, and I lived for ten years happily enough with the old couple. Being naturally quick, I learned French from my papa, German in the broadest Suabian dialect from the old lady, and Italian, of course, from every body. Reading, writing and singing were taught me at a little school near our house.
* But ah! these fine times did not last long, for one sad day the poor old couple died, leaving me with their magasin to a cruel old wretch of a Frenchman, (a brother of papa's,) who scolded, starved, and beat me, and finally let me run loose in the street. I should soon have been lost for ever, had it not been for a single fortunate incident.
“There was an agreeable, good-looking woman who had rented a little room for a short time in our house. She was by profession a guitar-player and singer, wandering from city to city, singing in the hotels and cafés. She loved me dearly, taught me to play the guitar, and finally begged me
of the horrid old Frenchman, who was glad enough to get rid of me. Under her protection I set forth on my travels.
"My duty was to go round with a shell, after Mona Lisa (such was my new mamma's name) had sung, and collect money. You will naturally suppose, Sir, that this, morally speaking, was as bad a life as the one I had just quitted. On the contrary, Mona Lisa made me behave myself, fed and clothed me well, taught me all she could, and treated me very kindly. Mon Dieu, gentlemen, it is a great mistake to suppose that all travelling players, such as we were, are lost to decency and goodness!
Mona Lisa would never perform in any but the first-class hotels or cafés; there she was less exposed to insult, and was well paid, as her great talent deserved. Occasionally the directors of small theatres or concerts would engage her, but she always escaped as soon as possible, even when well paid. Constraint in any form was terribly irksome to her, and she only seemed happy when roaming about the world, forgetting every thing and herself.
We wandered twice all over Russia and Poland, once as far as Constantinople, and several times through Italy, Germany, Hungary, France and England. What nonsense! I can truly say that there is no country in Europe with which we were not familiar, and very few languages which I did not learn. Is it not true, Batiuschka ?' she suddenly exclaimed, turning to the Pole.
“True enough, moya Dulja,' he replied ; and turning to me, added, “I speak fourteen tongues, but Rosa is my superior in such matters.
"When Mona Lisa had laid by a large sum of money, as she frequently did, we would stop for months together in the large cities, living quietly and respectably. Her greatest delight was to lead me through picturegalleries or churches, and explain to me all that was wonderful or curious in the places we visited. I soon found out that she was highly educated, and had at one time lived in good society. She was often melancholy, and always reserved ; avoided all acquaintance; but oh! what a good, gentle heart she had!
• When Mona Lisa was insulted, as poor strolling singers often are, she was terrible. By her tact and forbearance she generally escaped rough treatment or violence; but I have more than once seen her give the stab to a scelérat.
During our long stay in Munich, Dresden, and several other cities, she had me taught drawing and lace-work. “Remember, Rosa,' she said one day, 'I am a wandering singer; were I a duchess or queen I should in a month leave crown and all for the guitar and our gipsy-life : but thou art born for better things, and I trust that thou wilt some day earn thy bread more respectably. Indeed, Monsieur Charles, I believe that there are few girls in Europe who understand lace-work better than myself. Mona Lisa made me read many books of history and poetry. Sometimes we conversed with great men; sometimes were thrown among the vilest, or were sent away by the police, as vagrants ; sometimes during our long sojourns we found our way into great society, and sometimes slept by the road-side.
“At seventeen years of age I was as accomplished a Bohémienne as ever lived — accomplished, I mean, in all things save vice. But a great and terrible misfortune awaited me. One day in Cracow, poor Mona Lisa fell sick. I watched by her, and wept over her, but in vain.
"I am dying, Rosa,' she said, as I knelt by her bed-side; "thou wilt never see thy poor mamma again: but oh, Rosa, be a good girl as thou always hast been; and if thou lovest poor Mona Lisa, leave this life.
• With these words she died. All that evening I lay in a stupor beside her corpse; but the family found me, aroused me, and hurried it to a careless burial. I was the only one to follow poor Mona Lisa to her grave.
The first shock of grief past, I began to reflect how I should earn my living. I was left with two guitars and three hundred florins; enough to subsist on for a long time, but not for ever. Return to my former life was impossible; for the present I contented myself with seeking for employment in lace-work and drawing, which in Cracow was difficult to obtain, and very poorly paid.
One evening my landlord, who was a good-natured, but not, morally speaking, very strict soul, came to me and said, “ Miss Annusha, I will do you a good turn. A wealthy English family has just rented my first floor, and begged me to find them a nice young lady to teach their children French and music. Now no one need tell them that you came here on foot singing, and as you evidently know the ways of the great world, behold there is a place ready cut out for you.'
*I at once accepted the situation, resolving at some time to make my new employers aware of the life I had previously led ; but I had very little occasion to trouble myself about that. Mon Dieu ! Monsieur Charles, never in all your life did you meet with such queer, droll, careless, good-natured souls. There was papa and mamma, uncle John, the eldest Rudolph, and three daughters. They were wealthy, refined, and well-educated people of the middle class, and in a social, practical way, a set of thorough democrats Parents and children were all intimate friends, all on a par. They tried at first to treat me as a governess, but it was not in their nature : I was soon called only by my first name; had the same clothes and money as the young ladies, and was only required to teach a little and make myself agreeable. Such lovers of fun as they were! They began the day with jokes, and ended with amusements. They never went to England, but spent their life, as many English families do, all over the continent.
My knowledge of language, music, and the perpetual flow of anecdote with which my wanderings had supplied me, made me a general favorite. In a very short time I perfected myself in the English language.
One fine morning in Zurich, Mr. Rudolph made love to me, popped the question, and ran off to get pa's permission and order luncheon. Mamma and the sisters looked a little grave; such a mésalliance startled even them ; but when uncle John, for whom I was corresponding secretary and dragoman-general, (the good old man could never learn any tongue but English,) adroitly suggested that this was the only way to retain.me always among them, and that he would like to know for his part — he would — whether such an absurdity was to be tolerated as the idea of losing me,' they all yielded, and I became the fiancée of the bravest, best-hearted, handsomest young man in the world.
"We were to be married in a year, but Rudolph, with all the impatience of youth, and I, with all the impatience of prudence, naturally desired to shorten the time. He was about to start for Paris on business, and began his preparations by betting large sums at dinner with papa and uncle John, and silk dresses with the girls, that he would run off with me and be married within a week. Which he brought to pass by going into the street, before dinner was fairly concluded, carrying my trunk down stairs. I ran out to bring him to coffee, and off we rode.
We were to have been married in Paris. But at Cologne a great, a terrible misfortune awaited me.'
Here she paused; but the Pole, for whom she appeared to entertain a mysteriously uncontrollable awe or reverence, which contrasted strangely with her reckless manner, smiled and bade her proceed.
"Batiuschka, there, in addition to his other mysterious movements, always has been, always is, and I suppose always will be, up to the eyes in all manner of politics, plots, and revolutionary intrigues. I have many a time aided him in messages, interviews, and the like. Ah! Monsieur, who was it carried letters to you when in prison at Trieste? This was when I strolled with the guitar. And when I met him in Basle, a few days before my elopement, he visited in our family, and privately begged me, in the name of the good cause, to carry a small package of revolutionary pamphlets, printed in Switzerland, to a member of the Harmonie Gesellschaft, in Heidelberg. All such publications were strictly contraband in Germavy. This bundle I put in my coffre, and thought no more of, until we reached Heidelberg: there I could not find it, and it lay perdue until nosed out by a thief of a Prussian douanier, who had been set on my track by some villanous spy of the police. Diable ! if we only had him here !
The slight, but quintessentially ferocious gleam of Miss Annusha Rosa's eyes, and the quiver of her lip at this instant, clearly indicated that Mr. Rudolph had, beyond all doubt, selected for his bride a young lady of very decided energy, and powerful mind. But infinitely more terrible was the quiet smile of my Pole, at the mention of that word so intensely hateful to all aspiring liberals — A SPY OF THE POLICE!'
Yes, they entered our rooms when Rudolph was absent, they broke open every thing, and cast me into prison. There I lay for three weeks, and only regained my liberty to learn that Rudolph had left the city, after having been informed that I was arrested for theft and smuggling; that I had been for years an abandoned stroller, lost to all decency, and criminal to the last degree.
I did not attempt to seek Rudolph, or vindicate myself. Even if I could have cleared up my previous life in his eyes, the fact of my smuggling the packet would appear to him a piece of cruelty, of keeping secrets even at the time of marriage. Though God knows, gentlemen, I had not thought twice about the matter, so trifling did such an affair appear to me. I did not in fact mention it to him, for fear it might be annoying.