ePub 版

tail." A very snug arrangement, certainly.

Many monkeys use their tails in the same manner, and it is most convenient to them as a fifth prehensile limb, by which they swing and dangle merrily "under the blossom that hangs from the bough." A better arrangement for a fruit-picking animal cannot be imagined, and it is by a simple exaggeration of this power that the very good story of their suspension-bridges, already mentioned, has been made.

The use of the tail as a fly-flap is too well known to need notice.

We count for fables the stories, how the beaver makes, of his flattened and scaly tail, a sledge whereon to drag little burdens, or a trowel, where with to temper and plaster the mud-mortar of his dams, and the walls of his little Venice. Yet we believe its peculiar form is not without some object, and that it, as well as the horizontally flattened tail of the ornithorhynchus, or the vertically flattened tail of the musk-rat, has some use in its owner's subaqueo us

[merged small][graphic][subsumed][subsumed]


I WENT to & with fanche brachialis,

Europe for my health. I

or bronchitis, nobody could tell; and, like the handsome young parsons (except the handsome), who injure their lean white throats with too little lawn around them on preaching occasions, I went out by subscription. That is to say, my aunt -bless that dear old lady-told me to draw on her at sight and out of sight; and away I went.

When I reached Paris, which I did in rather a roundabout course of travel, I was so flush that I thought of introducing a new system of ambulating; get up a semi-locomotive with all the modern improvements-part wheels, part paddles, patent front and back-action, springbottomed, eccentric-turning, submergedpropelling affair-and hiss, whiz, and sputter all over land and water Europe, without trouble of change. But alas! what with those agreeable youths of the Jockey Club, who taught me lansquenet -a little lady of the Academie of Music who guided my inexperienced toes at Bal Mabille-my first charming landlady,


Monda, Josephine, in the Rue Castig

sous in bunches of daily violets-and that pretty, short-jupon'd syren in Boivin's glove-shop, under the arcade, who cost me seven hundred and odd francs in the article of cravats aloneI was fain to tap my aunt's exchequer again at the very outset, as it were, of my hygeia of travel. Albeit, I now began to reform, and resolved to seek a milder climate, advised by my old French doctor, who talked polyglot English, and, in league with the royal pharmaceutist to the British embassy, nearly ruined me with advice, at twenty francs per looking at my tongue, and bottles of variegated fluids to a figure that would soon have consigned me to the Morgue: yet the more immediate cause of my departure from Paris was purely attributable to the police. This was the way it happened:

I was snoozing quite luxuriously one morning in the prettily curtained bed of my apartments in the Rue de Helder, when my garçon gave me a nudge and

told me there was a monsieur wished to see me. I declined, in my sharpest restaurant French, to see or hold speech with any monsieur whatever. "Mais monsieur, il le faut; it is an homme of the police." "What!" I ejaculated. What!" I ejaculated. "Agent de police," said François, in a terrified whisper; "and what has monsieur committed himself in?" "Blessed if I know, but show him in." In stepped, with the footfall of a cat, an accurately dressed gentleman, with mutton chop whiskers, a glossy beaver, and the most delicate straw-colored gloves, who carefully closed the door upon my garçon, and, drawing near with the most polite and graceful manner, said in a low, sweet


"Believe me, monsieur, that I feel desolé to disturb your repose at this unseasonable hour; but I am commanded, by M. Le Prefet of such an arrondissement, to desire an interview when monsieur can make it convenient."

I was sitting bolt upright by this time, and stammered out with some ill-concealed trepidation:

"Comment! Diable, what, pray, does the prefet of that arrondissement want with me? I haven't fired any slugs or bullets at Louis Napoleon; got up a revolution, or corresponded with Louis Blanc; have I? By jingo, I won't go."

"O! mais monsieur, we have laws, here in France, and of a verity M. Le Prefet insists," and so forth, etcetera.

I shall be in Saint Pelagie before night, I thought, and then what will my good aunt think when I cease drawing any more little bills. However, it seemed best to put a bold face on the business, and submit without protest; so, requesting the man in the straw gloves to look over Galignani, which he did avec plaisir, taking snuff the while, I swallowed a hasty cup of chocolate, pulled on my duds, and announced myself all ready.

The garçon regarded me with manifest horror as I passed by, and the venerable concierge chap received my key as if it contained contagion of the worst type.

"Where are we to go?" said I to my elegant conductor, as we reached the porte-cochère.

"Ah! if monsieur pleases, we will mount my coupé, which is but a step off here, at the corner of the Boulevart."

Very satisfactory and direct answer that, I thought; but, by George, if these

French constabulary people can drive such a neat turn-out as that with the large bay horse, I wouldn't mind going into the service.

Well, off we whirled, round by the Bourse, and into a long quiet street, where the coupé stopped, and out we got. It was at the private entrance to a large public building, where a cuirassier of the Garde was standing, with the bridle of his steed over his arm, leaning on his sabre, with a dispatch sabretache slung at his side. I began to think that I was a prisoner of state and my fate sealed.

The door swung open, and, passing up a flight of steps, my conductor preceded me through a long room, where half a dozen scriveners, with sharp eyes and noses, were seated at tables with grgen cloths, and a couple of burly gendarmes standing at the door. They all eyed me with suspicion, but, becoming reckless, I said bonjour messieurs," with excessive politeness. In return to this salutation, I only received some disjointed grunts. From here I was taken to another and another room-with the same visaged fellows writing like mad, everywhere-until my guide touched a bell, where was inscribed "Bureau du Prefet."


In we went. The room was handsomely furnished with soft carpets and a cheerful fire in the place. At one end was a broad table with the imperial cy. pher embroidered in gold on the corners of the ample cloth, where was seated a round little man eating radishes-of which vegetable there was a big vaseful before him. At his elbow was another smaller table, with a hump-backed youth, with the most fiery fierce eyes I ever beheld in a mortal's head, who was apparently reading reports. "Now for it," I thought; "good-by, aunty." My conductor advanced in front of me, and saying a few words, in a low, soft tone, to the individual devouring radishes, he arose and, crossing his hands-with a radish betwixt his fingers-before him, desired me blandly to be seated. He also observed that it was a fine day. I said it was very fine. It was raining like a cataract. Turning about to Humpy, he whispered something, when Humpy glided out of the room like an ugly shade, but, presently returning, he remarked: "Ils sont la!"

Now, who in the name of mystification was there, or what they had to do with me, I couldn't, for the life of me,

divine; but I naturally presumed, a regiment of the line or a squadron of chasseurs to march me straight to La Force, or, perhaps, the Bagne at Brest. I was resolved, at first, to show fight, and then jump out of the window and make a clean run to the American minister's, wrap myself up in the American flag, and die gloriously; but, upon reflecting that I should break my neck or legs, and may be both, and be caught by that cuirassier of the Garde besides, and reflecting, too, that Eugène Sue had written very exciting accounts of the life in the Paris prisons, and that I might make the acquaintance of a Fleur de Marie or some villain of distinction, I held my peace and remained passive.

All this took place in less than a minute, when the prefet opened the business by saying that it was only natural monsieur should be a little inconvenienced by coming to see him, but truly his time was so much occupied with affairs, he had taken the liberty of asking the pleasure of an interview.

"Bien! monsieur," I ventured to reply, "now I am here, suppose you tell me what you wish with me."

"O! ah! certainly, quite natural. Monsieur Jules, I pray you to proceed de suite with the interrogatories with this young gentleman. Pardon !-thousand pardons, monsieur," continued the prefet, turning to me again with his mouth full of radishes-I, was wishing they might choke him-" you will reply to the questions of my secretary, briefly."

Hereupon, M. Humpy Jules rolled his little table, which was on casters, like a nine-pin ball, straight out at my kneejoints, and, plucking a pen from behind one of his long, thin ears, as if he was a porcupine of literary propensities, he drew paper before him, and, darting a black inky look at me out of his fierce eyes, said, "Ecoutez!"

Listen! By the rascalities of Vidocq, I heard the beat of the fellow's heart. Glancing at a slip of paper written in cypher, without the slightest civility or politeness, his chief all the while munching radishes, and snapping his white teeth, he began my examination.

"Ecoutez! You made the trajet from London to Hamburg, August seventeenth. You pursued the route by Brussels, up the Rhine to Switz, when at Lausanne you met with some abrasions of ribs,"" Yes, collar bone

smashed, too"-"thence you descended into France by the frontier of Bellegarde and passed on to Lyons. There, on the first of October, you formed the acquaintance of Mademoiselle Laure""O! oui, Monsieur Jules, most respectable person"—"and at the Hotel de l'Epée, at Auxerre, you summoned the hotel-keeper before the prefet for extortion"- Pardieu! yes, and made the Italian renegade smart for it, too," I said, getting interested in my own biography; but Humpy never paid the least attention to my interruptions, and went on like the toll of a cracked bell-arriving at Paris, you demeured three days at Hotel Meurice”—“ All the tailors from America there," I again broke in-" then changed your lodgings to the Rue Castiglione, and afterwards to your present apartment in Rue de Helder."

Here M. Jules paused a second, and, reaching over with his ears to the prefet, without, however, removing his gaze from me, he whispered a few words. Whereupon the prefet glanced over the paper, smiled, bit a radish, said, “Oui, certainement,” when Humpy resumed :

"The mode of life that monsieur has passed in Paris has been gay. His medical attendant recommends light diversion. Monsieur frequents the opera, the clubs, and dances the can-can at Ranelach. Last Tuesday week monsieur attended mademoiselle"-" Most respectable young person," I again jerked in, fearful lest the entire examination, after my incarceration, would meet the eyes of my aunt in the American journals-" attended mademoiselle to Versailles to see the grand waters play, from where he returned in the evening and supped at the Maison Dorée. On Wednesday"-but it is needless to recapitulate all this sharp secretary told me of my life, habits, and associations, until I fairly made up my mind that he was the Diable Boiteux himself, and I looked under the table to see if he was not fitted with hoofs instead of varnished boots. Coming at last, however, to a full stop, and glaring at me ferociously, while the points of his ears inclined towards me like a pair of horns, he said:

"Attendez! Monsieur Henri Auguste Veese!"

I gave a start; for it was the first time I had heard my middle name since I learned to talk, and, at the same time,

caught up a steel pen for aggressive purposes, in readiness to pick M. Humpy's sharp eyes out of his head. He was not in any way disconcerted, however, by this demonstration, and merely waved me to be seated again by a gentle movement of his finger.

M. Henri Auguste Veese, you will devote exact attention to what follows, and reply to the foot of the letter."

"Be entirely exact, monsieur," murmured likewise the chief, as he suapped another brittle vegetable between his incisors, and looked towards me with considerable interest.

[ocr errors]

"On Sunday last you dined at the Café Anglais." I nodded. " Monday, Monday, you gave a breakfast to some ladies and gentlemen in the Passage Choiseul, and assisted at the coulisse of the Varieties Theatre in the evening." Nod. Tuesday, monsieur dined by himself at Véry's of the Palais Royal." Both waited for my answer. "Do you comprehend?" I was getting out of patience now, and said recklessly, "I don't know whether I did or not, I go partant, everywhere, sometimes in this quarter, and sometimes on the other side of the Seine."


But, monsieur, your attention one moment. You had potage Julienne, saumon à la crême, bottle of Baume, et cetera, voila! your addition. Tuesday, December sixteenth, sum total, thirteen francs, twenty-five centimes," presenting the very note I had received from the dame de comptoir at Véry's.

Without a moment's hesitation, my persecutor continued: " Perhaps Monsieur Veese will have the goodness to recollect that he hung his hat on a hook by the window, and a gentleman with two ladies removed the hat for the ladies' shawls, and monsieur had some words with the gentleman, and exchanged cards!"

“O! yes, quite true, now I remember, that gentleman was the Count de Noyeau, and he promised to send his friend-some other count-to me the next morning, but he didn't come; so I thought-"


"Précisément!" said the prefet, biting a radish and smiling, though his secretary never relaxed a line of his weazen face, but, pen-in-hand, looked black ink at me. Précisément! Monsieur Henri; but can you recognize that M. le Count de Noyeau and those ladies were you to see them under a different aspect and toilette?"


Assuredly, monsieur, I rarely forget a face; besides, this was so recent an occurrence that I shall hardly fail. But, prefet," I said, becoming decidedly reckless and familiar, "understand that I decline to betray any gentleman for exchanging cards with me; it would be méchant, you know; not if you take me to the Place de Grève.”

"Bah! mon garçon! You betray no gentleman; be tranquil." He rang a bell on his table, and immediately a green baize door opened noiselessly and an aiguletted gendarme appeared.

"A vos ordres," said that functionary. "Desire those individuals to present themselves." Then, turning to me, the prefet said: "Retire, if you please, behind that screen by the window."

In a few seconds, I beheld, from my point of observation, a man and two females enter the bureau, and seat themselves on a sofa. Instantly I recognized my adversary, the count, together with the pretty dames I had encountered at the restaurant, though, instead of the elegant soigné toilettes they wore on that occasion, and the rare combination of breloques attached to the time-keeper of their attendant, they were quite shabby and chiffonées in common stuffs, and the count looked seedy in soiled boots and a dirty cap.


The prefet snapped up the last of the radishes, and, while his face changed from its habitual smile, to a cold, stern, searching expression, he said, in a harsh, precise tone : Monsieur and mesdames, you have caused me infinite trouble, but peste! I shall have the satisfaction of taking some little care of you for the future."

"Comment ?" exclaimed the count, with an air of extreme and virtuous in

dignation. "Does M. Le Prefet presume to suspect for a moment". "Mon Dieu!" "Quel horreur!" uttered both the ladies in a breath.

"Bah!" sneered the prefet. "Monsieur Henri, approach you." I, accordingly, issued from my retreat. "Do you recognize these individuals?" "Oui, monsieur, this is the Count de Noyeau, and those are the dames whom I met at Véry's."

"Quel mensonge!" screamed those nymphs, "what a liar of a young man ; c'est ridicule! it is astonishing. 11 m'embête." As for the count, he looked at me savagely, and merely muttered

betwixt his set teeth,Take care! my little cat."

[ocr errors]

It is enough." said the prefet, with a sardonic grin, "the Count de Noyeau and mesdames the countesses will retire."

After they had gone, the prefet, resuming his pleasant smile, and crossing his fat hands, and making the most polished bow imaginable, turned to me and said, "Adieu, monsieur ! adieu! remercie bien."

Now, in all this interview, I was so strangely bewildered, at first by the fearful dread lest I should be taken to prison for life, and then at the wonderful knowledge possessed by the police, of the minutiae of my biographical existence, that I presumed, as a matter of course, the finale would be another gendarme to pop in and lug me off after the count; so I waited expectantly for the myrmidons of the police with hand-cuffs and a pair of scissors to cut my hair, and otherwise array me for the public works.

66 Adieu! Monsieur Veese, très obligé," again remarked the prefet, as he looked at his watch and glanced at me with some surprise.

"Very well, monsieur," I replied, "quite at your disposition; where am I to go?"

[ocr errors]

Chez vous, monsieur, or anywhere you please."

"Home!" I shouted; "then I pray you tell me what, in the name of a thousand thunders, you brought me here for?"

The potential prefet laughed outright, and even Humpy smiled, when the former touched me on the shoulder and said: "Ah! truly you are in ignorance. Ah! oui! Well, then, my boy, you will understand that, for many months. there have been serious robberies of silver plate at various cafés in the city, which were effected in a skillful manner, by replacing the good by spurious metal. Eh bien! in consequence, we placed agents at all the elegant restaurants of the arrondissement, and one day we found that, from a range of tables at Véry's, a similar loss had been sustained. We knew pretty well the habitués of that estabĴishment, with some few exceptions," here he smiled; "but the forks, spoons, etcetera, were missing from tables in the vicinity of which several suspicious individuals had dined. So you see, mon

sieur, we made some little inquiries about you-all very simple-the waiter overheard the little conversation regarding the hat-your addition of dinner was found on the table-your passport-your banker-reports from Lyons and Auxerre-some slight surveillance in Paris, and so forth, and so forth, told us all"--here the amiable prefet smiled again-"and of course it was clear you were not a person capable of doing wrong. So we turned our attention to the individuals whose acquaintance you have made; they are persons very well known to the police, but unfortunately we had no one, not even the waiters at Véry's, who could identify them on the day named. But, happily," concluded the prefet, as he again consulted his watch, "you have accomplished the justice and voila! monsieur, c'est tout."


"Monsieur Le Prefet of whatever your arrondissement may be, and you, M. Jules," said I, seizing my hat with a heart relieved of sorrow, you have ruined my appetite for breakfast; but I won't stay any longer in a ville where everybody can tell, a fortnight after breakfast, what I am going to have for dinner; so I shall leave Paris by express train to-night."

[ocr errors]

Soyez tranquille, my infant," returned the prefet, laughing, "perhaps a change of air will be of infinite service, but, mon dieu! what will mademoiselle--"

I heard no more, but, dashing through the door, and out through the scriveners' saloons, passing the gendarmes and the cuirassier of the Garde, I trotted home, ordered François to pack me up, and, only making a hasty visit to the Place Saint George to sign my name to a little document addressed to my aunt, I went rolling away from Paris.

I had, of course, given up my rather extravagant notions of constructing a private steam-boat and locomotive affair for my own special accommodation, for one of the precise stipendiaries at my banker's hinted to me that it would be advisable to make some little economies, and, therefore, I began my new system of reform. To carry out this principle, I floated gayly down the Saone in a miraculously small boat, only had burgundy thrice a day and champagne twice at night; for I was in the wine districts, and the last advice the doctor gave me, for the last twenty francs I gave him, was to try

« 上一頁繼續 »