Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
A Novel By GEORGE DU MAURIER
"Hélas! Je sais un chant d'amour,
Triste et gai, tour à tour!"
"Mimi Pinson est une blonde,
Une blonde que l'on connaît;
Elle n'a qu'une robe au monde,
Landérirette! et qu'un bonnet!"
It was a fine, sunny, showery day in April.
The big studio window was open at the top, and let in a pleasant breeze
from the northwest. Things were beginning to look shipshape at last. The
big piano, a semi-grand by Broadwood, had arrived from England by "the
Little Quickness" ("la Petite Vitesse", as the goods trains are called
in France), and lay, freshly tuned, alongside the eastern wall; on the
wall opposite was a panoply of foils, masks, and boxing-gloves.
A trapeze, a knotted rope, and two parallel cords, supporting each a
ring, depended from a huge beam in the ceiling. The walls were of the
usual dull red, relieved by plaster casts of arms and legs and hands and
feet; and Dante's mask, and Michael Angelo's altorilievo of Leda and the
swan, and a centaur and Lapith from the Elgin marbles--on none of these
had the dust as yet had time to settle.
There were also studies in oil from the nude; copies of Titian,
Rembrandt, Velasquez, Rubens, Tintoret, Leonardo da Vinci--none of the
school of Botticelli, Mantegna, and Co.--a firm whose merits had not as
yet been revealed to the many.
Along the walls, at a great height, ran a broad shelf, on which were
other casts in plaster, terra-cotta, imitation bronze; a little Theseus,
a little Venus of Milo, a little discobolus; a little flayed man
threatening high heaven (an act that seemed almost pardonable under the
circumstances!); a lion and a boar by Barye; an anatomical figure of a
horse with only one leg left and no ears; a horse's head from the
pediment of the Parthenon, earless also; and the bust of Clytie, with
her beautiful low brow, her sweet wan gaze, and the ineffable forward
shrug of her dear shoulders that makes her bosom a nest, a rest, a
pillow, a refuge--to be loved and desired forever by generation after
generation of the sons of men.
Near the stove hung a gridiron, a frying-pan, a toasting-fork, and a
pair of bellows. In an adjoining glazed corner cupboard were plates and
glasses, black-handled knives, pewter spoons, and three-pronged steel
forks; a salad-bowl, vinegar cruets, an oil-flask, two mustard-pots
(English and French), and such like things--all scrupulously clean. On
the floor, which had been stained and waxed at considerable cost, lay
two chetah-skins and a large Persian praying-rug. One-half of it,
however (under the trapeze and at the farthest end from the window,
beyond the model throne), was covered with coarse matting, that one
might fence or box without slipping down and splitting one's self in
two, or fall without breaking any bones.
Two other windows of the usual French size and pattern, with shutters to
them and heavy curtains of baize, opened east and west, to let in dawn
or sunset, as the case might be, or haply keep them out. And there were
alcoves, recesses, irregularities, odd little nooks and corners, to be
filled up as time wore on with endless personal knick-knacks, bibelots,
private properties and acquisitions--things that make a place genial,
homelike, and good to remember, and sweet to muse upon (with fond
regret) in after-years.
And an immense divan spread itself in width and length and delightful
thickness just beneath the big north window, the business window--a
divan so immense that three well-fed, well-contented Englishmen could
all lie lazily smoking their pipes on it at once without being in each
other's way, and very often did!
At present one of these Englishmen--a Yorkshireman, by-the-way, called
Taffy (and also the Man of Blood, because he was supposed to be
distantly related to a baronet)--was more energetically engaged.
Bare-armed, and in his shirt and trousers, he was twirling a pair of
Indian clubs round his head. His face was flushed, and he was perspiring
freely and looked fierce. He was a very big young man, fair, with kind
but choleric blue eyes, and the muscles of his brawny arm were strong as
For three years he had borne her Majesty's commission, and had been
through the Crimean campaign without a scratch. He would have been one
of the famous six hundred in the famous charge at Balaklava but for a
sprained ankle (caught playing leapfrog in the trenches), which kept him
in hospital on that momentous day. So that he lost his chance of glory
or the grave, and this humiliating misadventure had sickened him of
soldiering for life, and he never quite got over it. Then, feeling
within himself an irresistible vocation for art, he had sold out; and
here he was in Paris, hard at work, as we see.
[Illustration: TAFFY, ALIAS TALBOT WYNNE]
He was good-looking, with straight features; but I regret to say that,
besides his heavy plunger's mustache, he wore an immense pair of
drooping auburn whiskers, of the kind that used to be called Piccadilly
weepers, and were afterwards affected by Mr. Sothern in Lord Dundreary.
It was a fashion to do so then for such of our gilded youth as could
afford the time (and the hair); the bigger and fairer the whiskers, the
more beautiful was thought the youth! It seems incredible in these days,
when even her Majesty's household brigade go about with smooth cheeks
and lips, like priests or play-actors.
"What's become of all the gold
Used to hang and brush their bosoms ...?"
[Illustration: "THE LAIRD OF COCKPEN"]
Another inmate of this blissful abode--Sandy, the Laird of Cockpen, as
he was called--sat in similarly simple attire at his easel, painting at
a lifelike little picture of a Spanish toreador serenading a lady of
high degree (in broad daylight). He had never been to Spain, but he had
a complete toreador's kit--a bargain which he had picked up for a mere
song in the Boulevard du Temple--and he had hired the guitar. His pipe
was in his mouth--reversed; for it had gone out, and the ashes were
spilled all over his trousers, where holes were often burned in this
Quite gratuitously, and with a pleasing Scotch accent, he began to
"A street there is in Paris famous
For which no rhyme our language yields;
Roo Nerve day Petty Shong its name is--
The New Street of the Little Fields...."
And then, in his keen appreciation of the immortal stanza, he chuckled
audibly, with a face so blithe and merry and well pleased that it did
one good to look at him.
He also had entered life by another door. His parents (good, pious
people in Dundee) had intended that he should be a solicitor, as his
father and grandfather had been before him. And here he was in Paris
famous, painting toreadors, and spouting the "Ballad of the
Bouillabaisse," as he would often do out of sheer lightness of
heart--much oftener, indeed, than he would say his prayers.
Kneeling on the divan, with his elbow on the window-sill, was a third
and much younger youth. The third he was "Little Billee." He had pulled
down the green baize blind, and was looking over the roofs and
chimney-pots of Paris and all about with all his eyes, munching the
while a roll and a savory saveloy, in which there was evidence of much
garlic. He ate with great relish, for he was very hungry; he had been
all the morning at Carrel's studio, drawing from the life.
Little Billee was small and slender, about twenty or twenty-one, and had
a straight white forehead veined with blue, large dark-blue eyes,
delicate, regular features, and coal-black hair. He was also very
graceful and well built, with very small hands and feet, and much better
dressed than his friends, who went out of their way to outdo the
denizens of the quartier latin in careless eccentricity of garb, and
succeeded. And in his winning and handsome face there was just a faint
suggestion of some possible very remote Jewish ancestor--just a tinge of
that strong, sturdy, irrepressible, indomitable, indelible blood which
is of such priceless value in diluted homœopathic doses, like the dry
white Spanish wine called montijo, which is not meant to be taken pure;
but without a judicious admixture of which no sherry can go round the
world and keep its flavor intact; or like the famous bull-dog strain,
which is not beautiful in itself; and yet just for lacking a little of
the same no greyhound can ever hope to be a champion. So, at least, I
have been told by wine-merchants and dog-fanciers--the most veracious
persons that can be. Fortunately for the world, and especially for
ourselves, most of us have in our veins at least a minim of that
precious fluid, whether we know it or show it or not. "Tant pis pour les
As Little Billee munched he also gazed at the busy place below--the
Place St. Anatole des Arts--at the old houses opposite, some of which
were being pulled down, no doubt lest they should fall of their own
sweet will. In the gaps between he would see discolored, old, cracked,
dingy walls, with mysterious windows and rusty iron balconies of great
antiquity--sights that set him dreaming dreams of mediæval French love
and wickedness and crime, bygone mysteries of Paris!
[Illustration: "THE THIRD HE WAS 'LITTLE BILLEE'"]
One gap went right through the block, and gave him a glimpse of the
river, the "Cité," and the ominous old Morgue; a little to the right
rose the gray towers of Notre Dame de Paris into the checkered April
sky. Indeed, the top of nearly all Paris lay before him, with a little
stretch of the imagination on his part; and he gazed with a sense of
novelty, an interest and a pleasure for which he could not have found
any expression in mere language.
Paris! Paris!! Paris!!!
The very name had always been one to conjure with, whether he thought of
it as a mere sound on the lips and in the ear, or as a magical written
or printed word for the eye. And here was the thing itself at last, and
he, he himself, ipsissimus, in the very midst of it, to live there and
learn there as long as he liked, and make himself the great artist he
longed to be.
Then, his meal finished, he lit a pipe, and flung himself on the divan
and sighed deeply, out of the over-full contentment of his heart.
He felt he had never known happiness like this, never even dreamed its
possibility. And yet his life had been a happy one. He was young and
tender, was Little Billee; he had never been to any school, and was
innocent of the world and its wicked ways; innocent of French
especially, and the ways of Paris and its Latin quarter. He had been
brought up and educated at home, had spent his boyhood in London with
his mother and sister, who now lived in Devonshire on somewhat
straitened means. His father, who was dead, had been a clerk in the
He and his two friends, Taffy and the Laird, had taken this studio
together. The Laird slept there, in a small bedroom off the studio.
Taffy had a bedroom at the Hôtel de Seine, in the street of that name.
Little Billee lodged at the Hôtel Corneille, in the Place de l'Odéon.
He looked at his two friends, and wondered if any one, living or dead,
had ever had such a glorious pair of chums as these.
Whatever they did, whatever they said, was simply perfect in his eyes;
they were his guides and philosophers as well as his chums. On the other
hand, Taffy and the Laird were as fond of the boy as they could be.
His absolute belief in all they said and did touched them none the less
that they were conscious of its being somewhat in excess of their
deserts. His almost girlish purity of mind amused and charmed them, and
they did all they could to preserve it, even in the quartier latin,
where purity is apt to go bad if it be kept too long.
[Illustration: "IT DID ONE GOOD TO LOOK AT HIM"]
They loved him for his affectionate disposition, his lively and
caressing ways; and they admired him far more than he ever knew, for
they recognized in him a quickness, a keenness, a delicacy of
perception, in matters of form and color, a mysterious facility and
felicity of execution, a sense of all that was sweet and beautiful in
nature, and a ready power of expressing it, that had not been vouchsafed
to them in any such generous profusion, and which, as they ungrudgingly
admitted to themselves and each other, amounted to true genius.
And when one within the immediate circle of our intimates is gifted in
this abnormal fashion, we either hate or love him for it, in proportion
to the greatness of his gift; according to the way we are built.
So Taffy and the Laird loved Little Billee--loved him very much indeed.
Not but what Little Billee had his faults. For instance, he didn't
interest himself very warmly in other people's pictures. He didn't seem
to care for the Laird's guitar-playing toreador, nor for his serenaded
lady--at all events, he never said anything about them, either in praise
or blame. He looked at Taffy's realisms (for Taffy was a realist) in
silence, and nothing tries true friendship so much as silence of this
But, then, to make up for it, when they all three went to the Louvre, he
didn't seem to trouble much about Titian either, or Rembrandt, or
Velasquez, Rubens, Veronese, or Leonardo. He looked at the people who
looked at the pictures, instead of at the pictures themselves;
especially at the people who copied them, the sometimes charming young
lady painters--and these seemed to him even more charming than they
really were--and he looked a great deal out of the Louvre windows,
where there was much to be seen: more Paris, for instance--Paris, of
which he could never have enough.
But when, surfeited with classical beauty, they all three went and dined
together, and Taffy and the Laird said beautiful things about the old
masters, and quarrelled about them, he listened with deference and rapt
attention, and reverentially agreed with all they said, and afterwards
made the most delightfully funny little pen-and-ink sketches of them,
saying all these beautiful things (which he sent to his mother and
sister at home); so life-like, so real, that you could almost hear the
beautiful things they said; so beautifully drawn that you felt the old
masters couldn't have drawn them better themselves; and so irresistibly
droll that you felt that the old masters could not have drawn them at
all--any more than Milton could have described the quarrel between
Sairey Gamp and Betsy Prig; no one, in short, but Little Billee.
Little Billee took up the "Ballad of the Bouillabaisse" where the Laird
had left it off, and speculated on the future of himself and his
friends, when he should have got to forty years--an almost impossibly
These speculations were interrupted by a loud knock at the door, and two
men came in.
First, a tall, bony individual of any age between thirty and forty-five,
of Jewish aspect, well-featured but sinister. He was very shabby and
dirty, and wore a red béret and a large velveteen cloak, with a big
metal clasp at the collar. His thick, heavy, languid, lustreless black
hair fell down behind his ears on to his shoulders, in that
musicianlike way that is so offensive to the normal Englishman. He had
bold, brilliant black eyes, with long, heavy lids, a thin, sallow face,
and a beard of burnt-up black which grew almost from his under eyelids;
and over it his mustache, a shade lighter, fell in two long spiral
twists. He went by the name of Svengali, and spoke fluent French with a
German accent, and humorous German twists and idioms, and his voice was
very thin and mean and harsh, and often broke into a disagreeable
His companion was a little swarthy young man--a gypsy, possibly--much
pitted with the small-pox, and also very shabby. He had large, soft,
affectionate brown eyes, like a King Charles spaniel. He had small,
nervous, veiny hands, with nails bitten down to the quick, and carried a
fiddle and a fiddlestick under his arm, without a case, as though he had
been playing in the street.
"Ponchour, mes enfants," said Svengali. "Che vous amène mon ami Checko,
qui choue du fiolon gomme un anche!"
Little Billee, who adored all "sweet musicianers," jumped up and made
Gecko as warmly welcome as he could in his early French.
"Ha! le biâno!" exclaimed Svengali, flinging his red béret on it, and
his cloak on the ground. "Ch'espère qu'il est pon, et pien t'accord!"
And sitting down on the music-stool, he ran up and down the scales with
that easy power, that smooth, even crispness of touch, which reveal the
[Illustration: AMONG THE OLD MASTERS]
Then he fell to playing Chopin's impromptu in A flat, so beautifully
that Little Billee's heart went nigh to bursting with suppressed
emotion and delight. He had never heard any music of Chopin's before,
nothing but British provincial home-made music--melodies with
variations, "Annie Laurie," "The Last Rose of Summer," "The Blue Bells
of Scotland;" innocent little motherly and sisterly tinklings, invented
to set the company at their ease on festive evenings, and make all-round
conversation possible for shy people; who fear the unaccompanied sound
of their own voices, and whose genial chatter always leaves off directly
the music ceases.
He never forgot that impromptu, which he was destined to hear again one
day in strange circumstances.
Then Svengali and Gecko made music together, divinely. Little
fragmentary things, sometimes consisting but of a few bars, but these
bars of "such" beauty and meaning! Scraps, snatches, short melodies,
meant to fetch, to charm immediately, or to melt or sadden or madden
just for a moment, and that knew just when to leave off--czardas, gypsy
dances, Hungarian love-plaints, things little known out of eastern
Europe in the fifties of this century, till the Laird and Taffy were
almost as wild in their enthusiasm as Little Billee--a silent enthusiasm
too deep for speech. And when these two great artists left off to smoke,
the three Britishers were too much moved even for that, and there was a
Suddenly there came a loud knuckle-rapping at the outer door, and a
portentous voice of great volume, and that might almost have belonged to
any sex (even an angel's), uttered the British milkman's yodel,"Milk
below!" and before any one could say "Entrez," a strange figure
appeared, framed by the gloom of the little antechamber.
It was the figure of a very tall and fully developed young female, clad
in the gray overcoat of a French infantry soldier, continued netherwards
by a short striped petticoat, beneath which were visible her bare white
ankles and insteps, and slim, straight, rosy heels, clean cut and smooth
as the back of a razor; her toes lost themselves in a huge pair of male
list slippers, which made her drag her feet as she walked.
She bore herself with easy, unembarrassed grace, like a person whose
nerves and muscles are well in tune, whose spirits are high, who has
lived much in the atmosphere of French studios, and feels at home in it.
This strange medley of garments was surmounted by a small bare head with
short, thick, wavy brown hair, and a very healthy young face, which
could scarcely be called quite beautiful at first sight, since the eyes
were too wide apart, the mouth too large, the chin too massive, the
complexion a mass of freckles. Besides, you can never tell how beautiful
(or how ugly) a face may be till you have tried to draw it.
But a small portion of her neck, down by the collar-bone, which just
showed itself between the unbuttoned lapels of her military coat collar,
was of a delicate privetlike whiteness that is never to be found on any
French neck, and very few English ones. Also, she had a very fine brow,
broad and low, with thick level eyebrows much darker than her hair, a
broad, bony, high bridge to her short nose, and her full, broad cheeks
were beautifully modelled. She would have made a singularly handsome
As the creature looked round at the assembled company and flashed her
big white teeth at them in an all-embracing smile of uncommon width and
quite irresistible sweetness, simplicity, and friendly trust, one saw at
a glance that she was out of the common clever, simple, humorous,
honest, brave, and kind, and accustomed to be genially welcomed wherever
she went. Then suddenly closing the door behind her, dropping her smile,
and looking wistful and sweet, with her head on one side and her arms
akimbo, "Ye're all English, now, aren't ye?" she exclaimed. "I heard the
music, and thought I'd just come in for a bit, and pass the time of day:
you don't mind? Trilby, that's my name--Trilby O'Ferrall."
She said this in English, with an accent half Scotch and certain French
intonations, and in a voice so rich and deep and full as almost to
suggest an incipient tenore robusto; and one felt instinctively that it
was a real pity she wasn't a boy, she would have made such a jolly one.
"We're delighted, on the contrary," said Little Billee, and advanced a
chair for her.
But she said, "Oh, don't mind me; go on with the music," and sat herself
down cross-legged on the model-throne near the piano.
As they still looked at her, curious and half embarrassed, she pulled a
paper parcel containing food out of one of the coat-pockets, and
[Illustration: "WISTFUL AND SWEET"]
"I'll just take a bite, if you don't object; I'm a model, you know, and
it's just rung twelve--'the rest.' I'm posing for Durien the sculptor,
on the next floor. I pose to him for the altogether."
"The altogether?" asked Little Billee.
"Yes--"l'ensemble", you know--head, hands, and
feet--everything--especially feet. That's my foot," she said, kicking
off her big slipper and stretching out the limb. "It's the handsomest
foot in all Paris. There's only one in all Paris to match it, and here
it is," and she laughed heartily (like a merry peal of bells), and stuck
out the other.
And in truth they were astonishingly beautiful feet, such as one only
sees in pictures and statues--a true inspiration of shape and color, all
made up of delicate lengths and subtly modulated curves and noble
straightnesses and happy little dimpled arrangements in innocent young
pink and white.
So that Little Billee, who had the quick, prehensile, æsthetic eye, and
knew by the grace of Heaven what the shapes and sizes and colors of
almost every bit of man, woman, or child should be (and so seldom are),
was quite bewildered to find that a real, bare, live human foot could be
such a charming object to look at, and felt that such a base or pedestal
lent quite an antique and Olympian dignity to a figure that seemed just
then rather grotesque in its mixed attire of military overcoat and
female petticoat, and nothing else!
The shape of those lovely slender feet (that were neither large nor
small), fac-similed in dusty, pale plaster of Paris, survives on the
shelves and walls of many a studio throughout the world, and many a
sculptor yet unborn has yet to marvel at their strange perfection, in
For when Dame Nature takes it into her head to do her very best, and
bestow her minutest attention on a mere detail, as happens now and
then--once in a blue moon, perhaps--she makes it uphill work for poor
human art to keep pace with her.
It is a wondrous thing, the human foot--like the human hand; even more
so, perhaps; but, unlike the hand, with which we are so familiar, it is
seldom a thing of beauty in civilized adults who go about in leather
boots or shoes.
So that it is hidden away in disgrace, a thing to be thrust out of sight
and forgotten. It can sometimes be very ugly, indeed--the ugliest thing
there is, even in the fairest and highest and most gifted of her sex;
and then it is of an ugliness to chill and kill romance, and scatter
young love's dream, and almost break the heart.
And all for the sake of a high heel and a ridiculously pointed toe--mean
things, at the best!
Conversely, when Mother Nature has taken extra pains in the building of
it, and proper care or happy chance has kept it free of lamentable
deformations, indurations, and discolorations--all those grewsome
boot-begotten abominations which have made it so generally
unpopular--the sudden sight of it, uncovered, comes as a very rare and
singularly pleasing surprise to the eye that has learned how to see!
Nothing else that Mother Nature has to show, not even the human face
divine, has more subtle power to suggest high physical distinction,
happy evolution, and supreme development; the lordship of man over
beast, the lordship of man over man, the lordship of woman over all!
"En, voilà, de l'éloquence--à propos de bottes!"
Trilby had respected Mother Nature's special gift to herself--had never
worn a leather boot or shoe, had always taken as much care of her feet
as many a fine lady takes of her hands. It was her one coquetry, the
only real vanity she had.
Gecko, his fiddle in one hand and his bow in the other, stared at her in
open-mouthed admiration and delight, as she ate her sandwich of
soldier's bread and "fromage à la crème" quite unconcerned.
When she had finished she licked the tips of her fingers clean of
cheese, and produced a small tobacco-pouch from another military pocket,
and made herself a cigarette, and lit it and smoked it, inhaling the
smoke in large whiffs, filling her lungs with it, and sending it back
through her nostrils, with a look of great beatitude.
Svengali played Schubert's "Rosemonde," and flashed a pair of
languishing black eyes at her with intent to kill.
But she didn't even look his way. She looked at Little Billee, at big
Taffy, at the Laird, at the casts and studies, at the sky, the
chimney-pots over the way, the towers of Notre Dame, just visible from
where she sat.
Only when he finished she exclaimed: "Maïe, aïe! c'est rudement bien
tapé, c'te musique-là! Seulement, c'est pas gai, vous savez! Comment
"It is called the 'Rosemonde' of Schubert, matemoiselle," replied
Svengali. (I will translate.)
[Illustration: THE "ROSEMONDE" OF SCHUBERT]
"And what's that--Rosemonde?" said she.
"Rosemonde was a princess of Cyprus, matemoiselle, and Cyprus is an
"Ah, and Schubert, then--where's that?"
"Schubert is not an island, matemoiselle. Schubert was a compatriot of
mine, and made music, and played the piano, just like me."
"Ah, Schubert was a "monsieur", then. Don't know him; never heard his
"That is a pity, matemoiselle. He had some talent. You like this better,
perhaps," and he strummed,
"Messieurs les étudiants,
S'en vont à la chaumière
Pour y danser le cancan,"
striking wrong notes, and banging out a bass in a different key--a
hideously grotesque performance.
"Yes, I like that better. It's gayer, you know. Is that also composed by
a compatriot of yours?" asked the lady.
"Heaven forbid, matemoiselle."
And the laugh was against Svengali.
But the real fun of it all (if there was any) lay in the fact that she
was perfectly sincere.
"Are you fond of music?" asked Little Billee.
"Oh, ain't I, just!" she replied. "My father sang like a bird. He was a
gentleman and a scholar, my father was. His name was Patrick Michael
O'Ferrall, fellow of Trinity, Cambridge. He used to sing 'Ben Bolt.' Do
you know 'Ben Bolt'?"
"Oh yes, I know it well," said Little Billee. "It's a very pretty
"I can sing it," said Miss O'Ferrall. "Shall I?"
"Oh, certainly, if you will be so kind."
Miss O'Ferrall threw away the end of her cigarette, put her hands on her
knees as she sat cross-legged on the model-throne, and sticking her
elbows well out, she looked up to the ceiling with a tender, sentimental
smile, and sang the touching song,
"Oh, don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?
Sweet Alice, with hair so brown?" etc., etc.
As some things are too sad and too deep for tears, so some things are
too grotesque and too funny for laughter. Of such a kind was Miss
O'Ferrall's performance of "Ben Bolt."
From that capacious mouth and through that high-bridged bony nose there
rolled a volume of breathy sound, not loud, but so immense that it
seemed to come from all round, to be reverberated from every surface in
the studio. She followed more or less the shape of the tune, going up
when it rose and down when it fell, but with such immense intervals
between the notes as were never dreamed of in any mortal melody. It was
as though she could never once have deviated into tune, never once have
hit upon a true note, even by a fluke--in fact, as though she were
absolutely tone-deaf and without ear, although she stuck to the time
She finished her song amid an embarrassing silence. The audience didn't
quite know whether it were meant for fun or seriously. One wondered if
she were not paying out Svengali for his impertinent performance of
"Messieurs les étudiants." If so, it was a capital piece of impromptu
tit-for-tat admirably acted, and a very ugly gleam yellowed the tawny
black of Svengali's big eyes. He was so fond of making fun of others
that he particularly resented being made fun of himself--couldn't endure
that any one should ever have the laugh of "him".
At length Little Billee said: "Thank you so much. It is a capital song."
"Yes," said Miss O'Ferrall. "It's the only song I know, unfortunately.
My father used to sing it, just like that, when he felt jolly after hot
rum and water. It used to make people cry; he used to cry over it
himself. "I" never do. Some people think I can't sing a bit. All I can
say is that I've often had to sing it six or seven times running in
"lots" of studios. I vary it, you know--not the words, but the tune. You
must remember that I've only taken to it lately. Do you know Litolff?
Well, he's a great composer, and he came to Durien's the other day, and
I sang 'Ben Bolt,' and what do you think he said? Why, he said Madame
Alboni couldn't go nearly so high or so low as I did, and that her voice
wasn't half so strong. He gave me his word of honor. He said I breathed
as natural and straight as a baby, and all I want is to get my voice a
little more under control. That's what "he" said."
"Qu'est-ce qu'elle dit?" asked Svengali. And she said it all over again
to him in French--quite French French--of the most colloquial kind. Her
accent was not that of the Comédie Française, nor yet that of the
Faubourg St. Germain, nor yet that of the pavement. It was quaint and
expressive--"funny without being vulgar."
"Barpleu! he was right, Litolff," said Svengali. "I assure you,
matemoiselle, that I have never heard a voice that can equal yours; you
have a talent quite exceptional."
She blushed with pleasure, and the others thought him a "beastly cad"
for poking fun at the poor girl in such a way. And they thought Monsieur
She then got up and shook the crumbs off her coat, and slipped her feet
into Durien's slippers, saying, in English: "Well, I've got to go back.
Life ain't all beer and skittles, and more's the pity; but what's the
odds, so long as you're happy?"
On her way out she stopped before Taffy's picture--a chiffonnier with
his lantern bending over a dust heap. For Taffy was, or thought himself,
a passionate realist in those days. He has changed, and now paints
nothing but King Arthurs and Guineveres and Lancelots and Elaines and
floating Ladies of Shalott.
"That chiffonnier's basket isn't hitched high enough," she remarked.
"How could he tap his pick against the rim and make the rag fall into it
if it's hitched only half-way up his back? And he's got the wrong
sabots, and the wrong lantern; it's "all" wrong."
"Dear me!" said Taffy, turning very red; "you seem to know a lot about
it. It's a pity you don't paint, yourself."
"Ah! now you're cross!" said Miss O'Ferrall. "Oh, maïe, aïe!"
She went to the door and paused, looking round benignly. "What nice
teeth you've all three got. That's because you're Englishmen, I suppose,
and clean them twice a day. I do too. Trilby O'Ferrall, that's my name,
48 Rue des Pousse-Cailloux!--pose pour l'ensemble, quand ça l'amuse!
va-t-en ville, et fait tout ce qui concerne son état! Don't forget.
Thanks all, and good-bye."
"En v'là une orichinale," said Svengali.
"I think she's lovely," said Little Billee, the young and tender. "Oh,
heavens, what angel's feet! It makes me sick to think she sits for the
figure. I'm sure she's quite a lady."
And in five minutes or so, with the point of an old compass, he
scratched in white on the dark red wall a three-quarter profile outline
of Trilby's left foot, which was perhaps the more perfect poem of the
Slight as it was, this little piece of impromptu etching, in its sense
of beauty, in its quick seizing of a peculiar individuality, its subtle
rendering of a strongly received impression, was already the work of a
master. It was Trilby's foot, and nobody else's, nor could have been,
and nobody else but Little Billee could have drawn it in just that
"Qu'est-ce que c'est, 'Ben Bolt'?" inquired Gecko.
Upon which Little Billee was made by Taffy to sit down to the piano and
sing it. He sang it very nicely with his pleasant little throaty English
[Illustration: TRILBY'S LEFT FOOT]
It was solely in order that Little Billee should have opportunities of
practising this graceful accomplishment of his, for his own and his
friends' delectation, that the piano had been sent over from London,
at great cost to Taffy and the Laird. It had belonged to Taffy's mother,
who was dead.
Before he had finished the second verse, Svengali exclaimed: "Mais c'est
tout-à-fait chentil! Allons, Gecko, chouez-nous ça!"
And he put his big hands on the piano, over Little Billee's, pushed him
off the music-stool with his great gaunt body, and, sitting on it
himself, he played a masterly prelude. It was impressive to hear the
complicated richness and volume of the sounds he evoked after Little
Billee's gentle "tink-a-tink."
And Gecko, cuddling lovingly his violin and closing his upturned eyes,
played that simple melody as it had probably never been played
before--such passion, such pathos, such a tone!--and they turned it and
twisted it, and went from one key to another, playing into each other's
hands, Svengali taking the lead; and fugued and canoned and
counterpointed and battle-doored and shuttlecocked it, high and low,
soft and loud, in minor, in pizzicato, and in sordino--adagio, andante,
allegretto, scherzo--and exhausted all its possibilities of beauty; till
their susceptible audience of three was all but crazed with delight and
wonder; and the masterful Ben Bolt, and his over-tender Alice, and his
too submissive friend, and his old schoolmaster so kind and so true, and
his long-dead schoolmates, and the rustic porch and the mill, and the
slab of granite so gray,
"And the dear little nook
By the clear running brook,"
were all magnified into a strange, almost holy poetic dignity and
splendor quite undreamed of by whoever wrote the words and music of that
unsophisticated little song, which has touched so many simple British
hearts that don't know any better--and among them, once, that of the
present scribe--long, long ago!
"Sacrepleu! il choue pien, le Checko, hein?" said Svengali, when they
had brought this wonderful double improvisation to a climax and a close.
"C'est mon élèfe! che le fais chanter sur son fiolon, c'est comme si
c'était "moi" qui chantais! ach! si ch'afais pour teux sous de voix, che
serais le bremier chanteur du monte! I cannot sing!" he continued. (I
will translate him into English, without attempting to translate his
accent, which is a mere matter of judiciously transposing p's and b's,
and t's and d's, and f's and v's, and g's and k's, and turning the soft
French j into sch, and a pretty language into an ugly one.)
"I cannot sing myself, I cannot play the violin, but I can teach--hein,
Gecko? And I have a pupil--hein, Gecko?--la betite Honorine;" and here
he leered all round with a leer that was not engaging. "The world shall
hear of la betite Honorine some day--hein, Gecko? Listen all--this is
how I teach la betite Honorine! Gecko, play me a little accompaniment in
And he pulled out of his pocket a kind of little flexible flageolet (of
his own invention, it seems), which he screwed together and put to his
lips, and on this humble instrument he played "Ben Bolt," while Gecko
accompanied him, using his fiddle as a guitar, his adoring eyes fixed in
reverence on his master.
And it would be impossible to render in any words the deftness, the
distinction, the grace, power, pathos, and passion with which this truly
phenomenal artist executed the poor old twopenny tune on his elastic
penny whistle--for it was little more--such thrilling, vibrating,
piercing tenderness, now loud and full, a shrill scream of anguish, now
soft as a whisper, a mere melodic breath, more human almost than the
human voice itself, a perfection unattainable even by Gecko, a master,
on an instrument which is the acknowledged king of all!
So that the tear which had been so close to the brink of Little Billee's
eye while Gecko was playing now rose and trembled under his eyelid and
spilled itself down his nose; and he had to dissemble and
surreptitiously mop it up with his little finger as he leaned his chin
on his hand, and cough a little husky, unnatural cough--"pour se donner
He had never heard such music as this, never dreamed such music was
possible. He was conscious, while it lasted, that he saw deeper into the
beauty, the sadness of things, the very heart of them, and their
pathetic evanescence, as with a new, inner eye--even into eternity
itself, beyond the veil--a vague cosmic vision that faded when the music
was over, but left an unfading reminiscence of its having been, and a
passionate desire to express the like some day through the plastic
medium of his own beautiful art.
[Illustration: THE FLEXIBLE FLAGEOLET]
When Svengali ended, he leered again on his dumb-struck audience, and
said: "That is how I teach la betite Honorine to sing; that is how I
teach Gecko to play; that is how I teach '"il bel canto"'! It was
lost, the bel canto--but I found it, in a dream--I, and nobody
else--I--Svengali--I--I--"I!" But that is enough of music; let us play
at something else--let us play at this!" he cried, jumping up and
seizing a foil and bending it against the wall.... "Come along, Little
Pillee, and I will show you something more you don't know...."
So Little Billee took off coat and waistcoat, donned mask and glove and
fencing-shoes, and they had an "assault of arms," as it is nobly called
in French, and in which poor Little Billee came off very badly. The
German Pole fenced wildly, but well.
Then it was the Laird's turn, and he came off badly too; so then Taffy
took up the foil, and redeemed the honor of Great Britain, as became a
British hussar and a Man of Blood. For Taffy, by long and assiduous
practice in the best school in Paris (and also by virtue of his native
aptitudes), was a match for any maître d'armes in the whole French army,
and Svengali got "what for."
And when it was time to give up play and settle down to work, others
dropped in--French, English, Swiss, German, American, Greek; curtains
were drawn and shutters opened; the studio was flooded with light--and
the afternoon was healthily spent in athletic and gymnastic exercises
But Little Billee, who had had enough of fencing and gymnastics for the
day, amused himself by filling up with black and white and red
chalk-strokes the outline of Trilby's foot on the wall, lest he should
forget his fresh vision of it, which was still to him as the thing
itself--an absolute reality, born of a mere glance, a mere chance.
Durien came in and looked over his shoulder, and exclaimed: "Tiens! le
pied de Trilby! vous avez fait ça d'après nature?"
"De mémoire, alors?"
"Je vous en fais mon compliment! Vous avez eu la main heureuse. Je
voudrais bien avoir fait ça, moi! C'est un petit chef-d'œuvre que
vous avez fait là--tout bonnement, mon cher! Mais vous élaborez trop. De
grâce, n'y touchez plus!"
And Little Billee was pleased, and touched it no more; for Durien was a
great sculptor, and sincerity itself.
* * * * *
And then--well, I happen to forget what sort of day this particular day
turned into at about six of the clock.
If it was decently fine, the most of them went off to dine at the
Restaurant de la Couronne, kept by the Père Trin, in the Rue de
Monsieur, who gave you of his best to eat and drink for twenty sols
Parisis, or one franc in the coin of the empire. Good distending soups,
omelets that were only too savory, lentils, red and white beans, meat so
dressed and sauced and seasoned that you didn't know whether it were
beef or mutton--flesh, fowl, or good red herring--or even bad, for that
matter--nor very greatly care.
And just the same lettuce, radishes, and cheese of Gruyère or Brie as
you got at the Trois Frères Provençaux (but not the same butter!). And
to wash it all down, generous wine in wooden "brocs"--that stained a
lovely æsthetic blue everything it was spilled over.
[Illustration: THE BRIDGE OF ARTS]
And you hobnobbed with models, male and female, students of law and
medicine, painters and sculptors, workmen and blanchisseuses and
grisettes, and found them very good company, and most improving to your
French, if your French was of the usual British kind, and even to some
of your manners, if these were very British indeed. And the evening was
innocently wound up with billiards, cards, or dominos at the Café du
Luxembourg opposite; or at the Théâtre du Luxembourg, in the Rue de
Madame, to see funny farces with screamingly droll Englishmen in them;
or, still better, at the Jardin Bullier (la Closerie des Lilas), to see
the students dance the cancan, or try and dance it yourself, which is
not so easy as it seems; or, best of all, at the Théâtre de l'Odéon, to
see some piece of classical "repertoire".
Or, if it were not only fine, but a Saturday afternoon into the bargain,
the Laird would put on a necktie and a few other necessary things, and
the three friends would walk arm in arm to Taffy's hotel in the Rue de
Seine, and wait outside till he had made himself as presentable as the
Laird, which did not take very long. And then (Little Billee was always
presentable) they would, arm in arm, the huge Taffy in the middle,
descend the Rue de Seine and cross a bridge to the Cité, and have a look
in at the Morgue. Then back again to the quays on the rive gauche by the
Pont Neuf, to wend their way westward; now on one side to look at the
print and picture shops and the magasins of bric-à-brac, and haply
sometimes buy thereof, now on the other to finger and cheapen the
second-hand books for sale on the parapet, and even pick up one or two
utterly unwanted bargains, never to be read or opened again.
When they reached the Pont des Arts they would cross it, stopping in the
middle to look up the river towards the old Cité and Notre Dame,
eastward, and dream unutterable things, and try to utter them. Then,
turning westward, they would gaze at the glowing sky and all it glowed
upon--the corner of the Tuileries and the Louvre, the many bridges, the
Chamber of Deputies, the golden river narrowing its perspective and
broadening its bed as it went flowing and winding on its way between
Passy and Grenelle to St. Cloud, to Rouen, to the Havre, to England
perhaps--where "they" didn't want to be just then; and they would try
and express themselves to the effect that life was uncommonly well worth
living in that particular city at that particular time of the day and
year and century, at that particular epoch of their own mortal and
Then, still arm in arm and chatting gayly, across the court-yard of the
Louvre, through gilded gates well guarded by reckless imperial Zouaves,
up the arcaded Rue de Rivoli as far as the Rue Castiglione, where they
would stare with greedy eyes at the window of the great corner
pastry-cook, and marvel at the beautiful assortment of bonbons,
pralines, dragées, marrons glacés--saccharine, crystalline substances of
all kinds and colors, as charming to look at as an illumination;
precious stones, delicately frosted sweets, pearls and diamonds so
arranged as to melt in the mouth; especially, at this particular time of
the year, the monstrous Easter-eggs of enchanting hue, enshrined like
costly jewels in caskets of satin and gold; and the Laird, who was well
read in his English classics and liked to show it, would opine that
"they managed these things better in France."
Then across the street by a great gate into the Allée des Feuillants,
and up to the Place de la Concorde--to gaze, but quite without base
envy, at the smart people coming back from the Bois de Boulogne. For
even in Paris "carriage people" have a way of looking bored, of taking
their pleasure sadly, of having nothing to say to each other, as though
the vibration of so many wheels all rolling home the same way every
afternoon had hypnotized them into silence, idiocy, and melancholia.
And our three musketeers of the brush would speculate on the vanity of
wealth and rank and fashion; on the satiety that follows in the wake of
self-indulgence and overtakes it; on the weariness of the pleasures that
become a toil--as if they knew all about it, had found it all out for
themselves, and nobody else had ever found it out before!
Then they found out something else--namely, that the sting of healthy
appetite was becoming intolerable; so they would betake themselves to an
English eating-house in the Rue de la Madeleine (on the left-hand side
near the top), where they would renovate their strength and their
patriotism on British beef and beer, and household bread, and bracing,
biting, stinging yellow mustard, and horseradish, and noble apple-pie,
and Cheshire cheese; and get through as much of these in an hour or so
as they could for talking, talking, talking; such happy talk! as full of
sanguine hope and enthusiasm, of cocksure commendation or condemnation
of all painters, dead or alive, of modest but firm belief in themselves
and each other, as a Paris Easter-egg is full of sweets and pleasantness
(for the young).
And then a stroll on the crowded, well-lighted boulevards, and a bock at
the café there, at a little three-legged marble table right out on the
genial asphalt pavement, still talking nineteen to the dozen.
Then home by dark, old, silent streets and some deserted bridge to their
beloved Latin quarter, the Morgue gleaming cold and still and fatal in
the pale lamplight, and Notre Dame pricking up its watchful twin towers,
which have looked down for so many centuries on so many happy, sanguine,
expansive youths walking arm in arm by twos and threes, and forever
talking, talking, talking....
The Laird and Little Billee would see Taffy safe to the door of his
hôtel garni in the Rue de Seine, where they would find much to say to
each other before they said good-night--so much that Taffy and Little
Billee would see the Laird safe to "his" door, in the Place St. Anatole
des Arts. And then a discussion would arise between Taffy and the Laird
on the immortality of the soul, let us say, or the exact meaning of the
word "gentleman," or the relative merits of Dickens and Thackeray, or
some such recondite and quite unhackneyed theme, and Taffy and the Laird
would escort Little Billee to "his" door, in the Place de l'Odéon, and
he would re-escort them both back again, and so on till any hour you
* * * * *
Or again, if it rained, and Paris through the studio window loomed
lead-colored, with its shiny slate roofs under skies that were ashen and
sober, and the wild west wind made woful music among the chimney-pots,
and little gray waves ran up the river the wrong way, and the Morgue
looked chill and dark and wet, and almost uninviting (even to three
healthy-minded young Britons), they would resolve to dine and spend a
happy evening at home.
[Illustration: "THREE MUSKETEERS OF THE BRUSH"]
Little Billee, taking with him three francs (or even four), would dive
into back streets and buy a yard or so of crusty new bread, well
burned on the flat side, a fillet of beef, a litre of wine, potatoes and
onions, butter, a little cylindrical cheese called "bondon de
Neufchâtel," tender curly lettuce, with chervil, parsley, spring onions,
and other fine herbs, and a pod of garlic, which would be rubbed on a
crust of bread to flavor things with.
Taffy would lay the cloth Englishwise, and also make the salad, for
which, like everybody else I ever met, he had a special receipt of his
own (putting in the oil first and the vinegar after); and indeed his
salads were quite as good as everybody else's.
The Laird, bending over the stove, would cook the onions and beef into a
savory Scotch mess so cunningly that you could not taste the beef for
the onions--nor always the onions for the garlic!
And they would dine far better than at le Père Trin's, far better than
at the English Restaurant in the Rue de la Madeleine--better than
anywhere else on earth!
And after dinner, what coffee, roasted and ground on the spot, what
pipes and cigarettes of "caporal," by the light of the three shaded
lamps, while the rain beat against the big north window, and the wind
went howling round the quaint old mediæval tower at the corner of the
Rue Vieille des Mauvais Ladres (the old street of the bad lepers), and
the damp logs hissed and crackled in the stove!
What jolly talk into the small hours! Thackeray and Dickens again, and
Tennyson and Byron (who was "not dead yet" in those days); and Titian
and Velasquez, and young Millais and Holman Hunt (just out); and
Monsieur Ingres and Monsieur Delacroix, and Balzac and Stendhal and
George Sand; and the good Dumas! and Edgar Allan Poe; and the glory that
was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome....
Good, honest, innocent, artless prattle--not of the wisest, perhaps, nor
redolent of the very highest culture (which, by-the-way, can mar as well
as make), nor leading to any very practical result; but quite
pathetically sweet from the sincerity and fervor of its convictions, a
profound belief in their importance, and a proud trust in their
Oh, happy days and happy nights, sacred to art and friendship! oh, happy
times of careless impecuniosity, and youth and hope and health and
strength and freedom--with all Paris for a playground, and its dear old
unregenerate Latin quarter for a workshop and a home!
And, up to then, no kill-joy complications of love!
No, decidedly no! Little Billee had never known such happiness as
this--never even dreamed of its possibility.
* * * * *
A day or two after this, our opening day, but in the afternoon, when the
fencing and boxing had begun and the trapeze was in full swing, Trilby's
"Milk below!" was sounded at the door, and she appeared--clothed this
time in her right mind, as it seemed: a tall, straight, flat-backed,
square-shouldered, deep-chested, full-bosomed young grisette, in a snowy
frilled cap, a neat black gown and white apron, pretty faded,
well-darned, brown stockings, and well-worn, soft, gray, square-toed
slippers of list, without heels and originally shapeless; but which her
feet, uncompromising and inexorable as boot-trees, had ennobled into
everlasting classic shapeliness, and stamped with an unforgettable
individuality, as does a beautiful hand its well-worn glove--a fact
Little Billee was not slow to perceive, with a curious conscious thrill
that was only half æsthetic.
Then he looked into her freckled face, and met the kind and tender
mirthfulness of her gaze and the plucky frankness of her fine wide smile
with a thrill that was not æsthetic at all (nor the reverse), but all of
the heart. And in one of his quick flashes of intuitive insight he
divined far down beneath the shining surface of those eyes (which seemed
for a moment to reflect only a little image of himself against the sky
beyond the big north window) a well of sweetness; and floating somewhere
in the midst of it the very heart of compassion, generosity, and warm
sisterly love; and under that--alas! at the bottom of all--a thin slimy
layer of sorrow and shame. And just as long as it takes for a tear to
rise and gather and choke itself back again, this sudden revelation
shook his nervous little frame with a pang of pity, and the knightly
wish to help. But he had no time to indulge in such soft emotions.
Trilby was met on her entrance by friendly greetings on all sides.
"Tiens! c'est la grande Trilby!" exclaimed Jules Guinot through his
fencing-mask. "Comment! t'es déjà debout après hier soir? Avons-nous
assez rigolé chez Mathieu, hein? Crénom d'un nom, quelle noce! V'là une
crémaillère qui peut se vanter d'être diantrement bien pendue, j'espère!
Et la petite santé, c'matin?"
"Hé, hé! mon vieux," answered Trilby. "Ça boulotte, apparemment! Et toi?
et Victorine? Comment qu'a s'porte à c't'heure? Elle avait un fier coup
d'chasselas! c'est-y jobard, hein? de s'fich 'paf comme ça d'vant
l'monde! Tiens, v'là, Gontran! ça marche-t-y, Gontran, Zouzou d'mon
[Illustration: TAFFY MAKES THE SALAD]
"Comme sur des roulettes, ma biche!" said Gontran, "alias" l'Zouzou--a
corporal in the Zouaves. "Mais tu t'es donc mise chiffonnière, à
présent? T'as fait banqueroute?"
(For Trilby had a chiffonnier's basket strapped on her back, and carried
a pick and lantern.)
"Mais-z-oui, mon bon!" she said. "Dame! pas d'veine hier soir! t'as bien
vu! Dans la dêche jusqu'aux omoplates, mon pauv' caporal-sous-off! nom
d'un canon--faut bien vivre, s'pas?"
Little Billee's heart sluices had closed during this interchange of
courtesies. He felt it to be of a very slangy kind, because he couldn't
understand a word of it, and he hated slang. All he could make out was
the free use of the "tu" and the "toi," and he knew enough French to
know that this implied a great familiarity, which he misunderstood.
So that Jules Guinot's polite inquiries whether Trilby were none the
worse after Mathieu's house-warming (which was so jolly), Trilby's kind
solicitude about the health of Victorine, who had very foolishly taken a
drop too much on that occasion, Trilby's mock regrets that her own bad
luck at cards had made it necessary that she should retrieve her fallen
fortunes by rag-picking--all these innocent, playful little amenities
(which I have tried to write down just as they were spoken) were couched
in a language that was as Greek to him--and he felt out of it, jealous
"Good-afternoon to you, Mr. Taffy," said Trilby, in English. "I've
brought you these objects of art and virtu to make the peace with you.
They're the real thing, you know. I borrowed 'em from le père Martin,
chiffonnier en gros et en détail, grand officier de la Légion d'Honneur,
membre de l'Institut, et cetera, treize bis, Rue du Puits d'Amour,
rez-de-chaussée, au fond de la cour à gauche, vis-à-vis le
mont-de-piété! He's one of my intimate friends, and--"
"You don't mean to say you're the intimate friend of a "rag-picker"?"
exclaimed the good Taffy.
"Oh yes! Pourquoi pas? I never brag; besides, there ain't any beastly
pride about le père Martin," said Trilby, with a wink. "You'd soon find
that out if "you" were an intimate friend of his. This is how it's put
on. Do you see? If "you"'ll put it on, I'll fasten it for you, and show
you how to hold the lantern and handle the pick. You may come to it
yourself some day, you know. Il ne faut jurer de rien! Père Martin will
pose for you in person, if you like. He's generally disengaged in the
afternoon. He's poor but honest, you know, and very nice and clean;
quite the gentleman. He likes artists, especially English--they pay. His
wife sells bric-à-brac and old masters: Rembrandts from two francs fifty
upwards. They've got a little grandson--a love of a child. I'm his
god-mother. You know French, I suppose?"
"Oh yes," said Taffy, much abashed. "I'm very much obliged to you--very
"Y a pas d'quoi!" said Trilby, divesting herself of her basket and
putting it, with the pick and lantern, in a corner. "Et maintenant, le
temps d'absorber une fine de fin sec [a cigarette] et je m'la brise [I'm
off]. On m'attend à l'Ambassade d'Autriche. Et puis zut! Allez toujours,
mes enfants. En avant la boxe!"
She sat herself down cross-legged on the model-throne, and made herself
a cigarette, and watched the fencing and boxing. Little Billee brought
her a chair, which she refused; so he sat down on it himself by her
side, and talked to her, just as he would have talked to any young lady
at home--about the weather, about Verdi's new opera (which she had never
heard), the impressiveness of Notre Dame, and Victor Hugo's beautiful
romance (which she had never read), the mysterious charm of Leonardo da
Vinci's Lisa Gioconda's smile (which she had never seen)--by all of
which she was no doubt rather tickled and a little embarrassed, perhaps
also a little touched.
Taffy brought her a cup of coffee, and conversed with her in polite
formal French, very well and carefully pronounced; and the Laird tried
to do likewise. "His" French was of that honest English kind that breaks
up the stiffness of even an English party; and his jolly manners were
such as to put an end to all shyness and constraint, and make
Others dropped in from neighboring studios--the usual cosmopolite crew.
It was a perpetual come and go in this particular studio between four
and six in the afternoon.
There were ladies, too, "en cheveux", in caps and bonnets, some of whom
knew Trilby, and thee'd and thou'd with familiar and friendly affection,
while others mademoiselle'd her with distant politeness, and were
mademoiselle'd and madame'd back again. "Absolument comme à l'Ambassade
d'Autriche," as Trilby observed to the Laird, with a British wink that
was by no means ambassadorial.
Then Svengali came and made some of his grandest music, which was as
completely thrown away on Trilby as fireworks on a blind beggar, for all
she held her tongue so piously.
Fencing and boxing and trapezing seemed to be more in her line; and
indeed, to a tone-deaf person, Taffy lunging his full spread with a
foil, in all the splendor of his long, lithe, youthful strength, was a
far gainlier sight than Svengali at the key-board flashing his languid
bold eyes with a sickly smile from one listener to another, as if to
say: "N'est-ce pas que che suis peau! N'est-ce pas que ch'ai tu chénie?
N'est-ce pas que che suis suplime, enfin?"
[Illustration: "THE GLORY THAT WAS GREECE"]
Then enter Durien the sculptor, who had been presented with a baignoire
at the Porte St. Martin to see "La Dame aux Camélias," and he invited
Trilby and another lady to dine with him "au cabaret" and share his box.
So Trilby didn't go to the Austrian embassy after all, as the Laird
observed to Little Billee, with such a good imitation of her wink that
Little Billee was bound to laugh.
But Little Billee was not inclined for fun; a dulness, a sense of
disenchantment, had come over him; as he expressed it to himself, with
"A feeling of sadness and longing
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain."
And the sadness, if he had known, was that all beautiful young women
with kind sweet faces and noble figures and goddess-like extremities
should not be good and pure as they were beautiful; and the longing was
a longing that Trilby could be turned into a young lady--say the vicar's
daughter in a little Devonshire village--his sister's friend and
co-teacher at the Sunday-school; a simple, pure, and pious maiden of
For he adored piety in woman, although he was not pious by any means.
His inarticulate, intuitive perceptions were not of form and color
secrets only, but strove to pierce the veil of deeper mysteries in
impetuous and dogmatic boyish scorn of all received interpretations. For
he flattered himself that he possessed the philosophical and scientific
mind, and piqued himself on thinking clearly, and was intolerant of
That small reserve portion of his ever-active brain which should have
lain fallow while the rest of it was at work or play, perpetually
plagued itself about the mysteries of life and death, and was forever
propounding unanswerable arguments against the Christian belief, through
a kind of inverted sympathy with the believer. Fortunately for his
friends, Little Billee was both shy and discreet, and very tender of
other people's feelings; so he kept all his immature juvenile
agnosticism to himself.
To atone for such ungainly strong-mindedness in one so young and tender,
he was the slave of many little traditional observances which have no
very solid foundation in either science or philosophy. For instance, he
wouldn't walk under a ladder for worlds, nor sit down thirteen to
dinner, nor have his hair cut on a Friday, and was quite upset if he
happened to see the new moon through glass. And he believed in lucky and
unlucky numbers, and dearly loved the sights and scents and sounds of
high-mass in some dim old French cathedral, and found them secretly
Let us hope that he sometimes laughed at himself, if only in his sleeve!
And with all his keenness of insight into life he had a well-brought-up,
middle-class young Englishman's belief in the infallible efficacy of
gentle birth--for gentle he considered his own and Taffy's and the
Laird's, and that of most of the good people he had lived among in
England--all people, in short, whose two parents and four grandparents
had received a liberal education and belonged to the professional class.
And with this belief he combined (or thought he did) a proper democratic
scorn for bloated dukes and lords, and even poor inoffensive baronets,
and all the landed gentry--everybody who was born an inch higher up than
It is a fairly good middle-class social creed, if you can only stick to
it through life in despite of life's experience. It fosters independence
and self-respect, and not a few stodgy practical virtues as well. At all
events, it keeps you out of bad company, which is to be found both above
And all this melancholy preoccupation, on Little Billee's part, from the
momentary gleam and dazzle of a pair of over-perfect feet in an
over-æsthetic eye, too much enamoured of mere form!
Reversing the usual process, he had idealized from the base upward!
Many of us, older and wiser than Little Billee, have seen in lovely
female shapes the outer garment of a lovely female soul. The instinct
which guides us to do this is, perhaps, a right one, more often than
not. But more often than not, also, lovely female shapes are terrible
complicators of the difficulties and dangers of this earthly life,
especially for their owner, and more especially if she be a humble
daughter of the people, poor and ignorant, of a yielding nature, too
quick to love and trust. This is all so true as to be trite--so trite as
to be a common platitude!
A modern teller of tales, most widely (and most justly) popular, tells
us of heroes and heroines who, like Lord Byron's corsair, were linked
with one virtue and a thousand crimes. And so dexterously does he weave
his story that the young person may read it and learn nothing but good.
My poor heroine was the converse of these engaging criminals: she had
all the virtues but one; but the virtue she lacked (the very one of all
that plays the title-role, and gives its generic name to all the rest of
that goodly company) was of such a kind that I have found it impossible
so to tell her history as to make it quite fit and proper reading for
the ubiquitous young person so dear to us all.
Most deeply to my regret. For I had fondly hoped it might one day be
said of me that whatever my other literary shortcomings might be, I at
least had never penned a line which a pure-minded young British mother
might not read aloud to her little blue-eyed babe as it lies sucking its
little bottle in its little bassinet.
Fate has willed it otherwise.
Would indeed that I could duly express poor Trilby's one shortcoming in
some not too familiar medium--in Latin or Greek, let us say--lest the
young person (in this ubiquitousness of hers, for which Heaven be
praised) should happen to pry into these pages when her mother is
looking another way.
Latin and Greek are languages the young person should not be taught to
understand--seeing that they are highly improper languages, deservedly
dead--in which pagan bards who should have known better have sung the
filthy loves of their gods and goddesses.
But at least am I scholar enough to enter one little Latin plea on
Trilby's behalf--the shortest, best, and most beautiful plea I can think
of. It was once used in extenuation and condonation of the frailties of
another poor weak woman, presumably beautiful, and a far worse offender
than Trilby, but who, like Trilby, repented of her ways, and was most
"Quia multum amavit!"
[Illustration: TRILBY'S FOREBEARS]
Whether it be an aggravation of her misdeeds or an extenuating
circumstance, no pressure of want, no temptations of greed or vanity,
had ever been factors in urging Trilby on her downward career after her
first false step in that direction--the result of ignorance, bad advice
(from her mother, of all people in the world), and base betrayal. She
might have lived in guilty splendor had she chosen, but her wants were
few. She had no vanity, and her tastes were of the simplest, and she
earned enough to gratify them all, and to spare.
So she followed love for love's sake only, now and then, as she would
have followed art if she had been a man--capriciously, desultorily, more
in a frolicsome spirit of camaraderie than anything else. Like an
amateur, in short--a distinguished amateur who is too proud to sell his
pictures, but willingly gives one away now and then to some highly
valued and much admiring friend.
Sheer gayety of heart and genial good-fellowship, the difficulty of
saying nay to earnest pleading. She was "bonne camarade et bonne fille"
before everything. Though her heart was not large enough to harbor more
than one light love at a time (even in that Latin quarter of genially
capacious hearts), it had room for many warm friendships; and she was
the warmest, most helpful, and most compassionate of friends, far more
serious and faithful in friendship than in love.
Indeed, she might almost be said to possess a virginal heart, so little
did she know of love's heartaches and raptures and torments and
clingings and jealousies.
With her it was lightly come and lightly go, and never come back again;
as one or two, or perhaps three, picturesque bohemians of the brush or
chisel had found, at some cost to their vanity and self-esteem; perhaps
even to a deeper feeling--who knows?
Trilby's father, as she had said, had been a gentleman, the son of a
famous Dublin physician and friend of George the Fourth's. He had been a
fellow of his college, and had entered holy orders. He also had all the
virtues but one; he was a drunkard, and began to drink quite early in
life. He soon left the Church, and became a classical tutor, and failed
through this besetting sin of his, and fell into disgrace.
Then he went to Paris, and picked up a few English pupils there, and
lost them, and earned a precarious livelihood from hand to mouth,
anyhow; and sank from bad to worse.
And when his worst was about reached, he married the famous tartaned and
tamoshantered bar-maid at the Montagnards Écossais, in the Rue du
Paradis Poissonnière (a very fishy paradise indeed); she was a most
beautiful Highland lassie of low degree, and she managed to support him,
or helped him to support himself, for ten or fifteen years. Trilby was
born to them, and was dragged up in some way--"à la grâce de Dieu!"
Patrick O'Ferrall soon taught his wife to drown all care and
responsibility in his own simple way, and opportunities for doing so
were never lacking to her.
Then he died, and left a posthumous child--born ten months after his
death, alas! and whose birth cost its mother her life.
Then Trilby became a "blanchisseuse de fin", and in two or three years
came to grief through her trust in a friend of her mother's. Then she
became a model besides, and was able to support her little brother, whom
she dearly loved.
At the time this story begins, this small waif and stray was "en
pension" with le père Martin, the rag-picker, and his wife, the dealer
in bric-à-brac and inexpensive old masters. They were very good people,
and had grown fond of the child, who was beautiful to look at, and full
of pretty tricks and pluck and cleverness--a popular favorite in the Rue
du Puits d'Amour and its humble neighborhood.
Trilby, for some freak, always chose to speak of him as her godson, and
as the grandchild of le père et la mère Martin, so that these good
people had almost grown to believe he really belonged to them.
And almost every one else believed that he was the child of Trilby (in
spite of her youth), and she was so fond of him that she didn't mind in
He might have had a worse home.
La mère Martin was pious, or pretended to be; le père Martin was the
reverse. But they were equally good for their kind, and, though coarse
and ignorant and unscrupulous in many ways (as was natural enough), they
were gifted in a very full measure with the saving graces of love and
charity, especially he. And if people are to be judged by their works,
this worthy pair are no doubt both equally well compensated by now for
the trials and struggles of their sordid earthly life.
So much for Trilby's parentage.
And as she sat and wept at Madame Doche's impersonation of la Dame aux
Camélias (with her hand in Durien's) she vaguely remembered, as in a
waking dream, now the noble presence of Taffy as he towered cool and
erect, foil in hand, gallantly waiting for his adversary to breathe,
now the beautiful sensitive face of Little Billee and his deferential
And during the "entr'actes" her heart went out in friendship to the
jolly Scotch Laird of Cockpen, who came out now and then with such
terrible French oaths and abominable expletives (and in the presence of
ladies, too!), without the slightest notion of what they meant.
For the Laird had a quick ear, and a craving to be colloquial and
idiomatic before everything else, and made many awkward and embarrassing
It would be with him as though a polite Frenchman should say to a fair
daughter of Albion, "D---- my eyes, mees, your tea is getting ---- cold;
let me tell that good old ---- of a Jules to bring you another cup."
And so forth, till time and experience taught him better. It is perhaps
well for him that his first experiments in conversational French were
made in the unconventional circle of the Place St. Anatole des Arts.
"Dieu! qu'il fait bon la regarder,
La gracieuse, bonne et belle!
Pour les grands biens qui sont en elle
Chacun est prêt de la louer."
Nobody knew exactly how Svengali lived, and very few knew where (or
why). He occupied a roomy dilapidated garret, au sixième, in the Rue
Tire-Liard; with a truckle-bed and a piano-forte for furniture, and very
He was poor; for in spite of his talent he had not yet made his mark in
Paris. His manners may have been accountable for this. He would either
fawn or bully, and could be grossly impertinent. He had a kind of
cynical humor, which was more offensive than amusing, and always laughed
at the wrong thing, at the wrong time, in the wrong place. And his
laughter was always derisive and full of malice. And his egotism and
conceit were not to be borne; and then he was both tawdry and dirty in
his person; more greasily, mattedly unkempt than even a really
successful pianist has any right to be, even in the best society.
He was not a nice man, and there was no pathos in his poverty--a poverty
that was not honorable, and need not have existed at all; for he was
constantly receiving supplies from his own people in Austria--his old
father and mother, his sisters, his cousins, and his aunts,
hard-working, frugal folk of whom he was the pride and the darling.
He had but one virtue--his love of his art; or, rather, his love of
himself as a master of his art--"the" master; for he despised, or
affected to despise, all other musicians, living or dead--even those
whose work he interpreted so divinely, and pitied them for not hearing
Svengali give utterance to their music, which of course they could not
"Ils safent tous un peu toucher du biâno, mais pas grand'chose!"
He had been the best pianist of his time at the Conservatory in Leipsic;
and, indeed, there was perhaps some excuse for this overweening conceit,
since he was able to lend a quite peculiar individual charm of his own
to any music he played, except the highest and best of all, in which he
He had to draw the line just above Chopin, where he reached his highest
level. It will not do to lend your own quite peculiar individual charm
to Handel and Bach and Beethoven; and Chopin is not bad as a
He had ardently wished to sing, and had studied hard to that end in
Germany, in Italy, in France, with the forlorn hope of evolving from
some inner recess a voice to sing with. But nature had been singularly
harsh to him in this one respect--inexorable. He was absolutely without
voice, beyond the harsh, hoarse, weak raven's croak he used to speak
with, and no method availed to make one for him. But he grew to
understand the human voice as perhaps no one has understood it--before
So in his head he went forever singing, singing, singing, as probably no
human nightingale has ever yet been able to sing out loud for the glory
and delight of his fellow-mortals; making unheard heavenly melody of the
cheapest, trivialest tunes--tunes of the café concert, tunes of the
nursery, the shop-parlor, the guard-room, the school-room, the pothouse,
the slum. There was nothing so humble, so base even, but that his magic
could transform it into the rarest beauty without altering a note. This
seems impossible, I know. But if it didn't, where would the magic come
Whatever of heart or conscience--pity, love, tenderness, manliness,
courage, reverence, charity--endowed him at his birth had been swallowed
up by this one faculty, and nothing of them was left for the common uses
of life. He poured them all into his little flexible flageolet.
Svengali playing Chopin on the piano-forte, even (or especially)
Svengali playing "Ben Bolt" on that penny whistle of his, was as one of
the heavenly host.
[Illustration: "AS BAD AS THEY MAKE 'EM"]
Svengali walking up and down the earth seeking whom he might cheat,
betray, exploit, borrow money from, make brutal fun of, bully if he
dared, cringe to if he must--man, woman, child, or dog--was about as bad
as they make 'em.
To earn a few pence when he couldn't borrow them he played
accompaniments at café concerts, and even then he gave offence; for in
his contempt for the singer he would play too loud, and embroider his
accompaniments with brilliant improvisations of his own, and lift his
hands on high and bring them down with a bang in the sentimental parts,
and shake his dirty mane and shrug his shoulders, and smile and leer at
the audience, and do all he could to attract their attention to himself.
He also gave a few music lessons (not at ladies' schools, let us hope),
for which he was not well paid, presumably, since he was always without
the sou, always borrowing money, that he never paid back, and exhausting
the pockets and the patience of one acquaintance after another.
He had but two friends. There was Gecko, who lived in a little garret
close by in the Impasse des Ramoneurs, and who was second violin in the
orchestra of the Gymnase, and shared his humble earnings with his
master, to whom, indeed, he owed his great talent, not yet revealed to
Svengali's other friend and pupil was (or rather had been) the
mysterious Honorine, of whose conquest he was much given to boast,
hinting that she was "une jeune femme du monde." This was not the case.
Mademoiselle Honorine Cahen (better known in the quartier latin as Mimi
la Salope) was a dirty, drabby little dolly-mop of a Jewess, a model for
the figure--a very humble person indeed, socially.
She was, however, of a very lively disposition, and had a charming
voice, and a natural gift of singing so sweetly that you forgot her
accent, which was that of the "tout ce qu'il y a de plus canaille."
She used to sit at Carrel's, and during the pose she would sing. When
Little Billee first heard her he was so fascinated that "it made him
sick to think she sat for the figure"--an effect, by-the-way, that was
always produced upon him by all specially attractive figure models of
the gentler sex, for he had a reverence for woman. And before everything
else, he had for the singing woman an absolute worship. He was
especially thrall to the contralto--the deep low voice that breaks and
changes in the middle and soars all at once into a magnified angelic boy
treble. It pierced through his ears to his heart, and stirred his very
He had once heard Madame Alboni, and it had been an epoch in his life;
he would have been an easy prey to the sirens! Even beauty paled before
the lovely female voice singing in the middle of the note--the
nightingale killed the bird-of-paradise.
I need hardly say that poor Mimi la Salope had not the voice of Madame
Alboni, nor the art; but it was a beautiful voice of its little kind,
always in the very middle of the note, and her artless art had its quick
She sang little songs of Béranger's--"Grand'mère, parlez-nous de lui!"
or "T'en souviens-tu? disait un capitaine--" or "Enfants, c'est moi qui
suis Lisette!" and such like pretty things, that almost brought the
tears to Little Billee's easily moistened eyes.
But soon she would sing little songs that were not by Béranger--little
songs with slang words Little Billee hadn't French enough to understand;
but from the kind of laughter with which the points were received by
the "rapins" in Carrel's studio he guessed these little songs were vile,
though the touching little voice was as that of the seraphim still; and
he knew the pang of disenchantment and vicarious shame.
Svengali had heard her sing at the Brasserie des Porcherons in the Rue
du Crapaud-volant, and had volunteered to teach her; and she went to see
him in his garret, and he played to her, and leered and ogled, and
flashed his bold, black, beady Jew's eyes into hers, and she straightway
mentally prostrated herself in reverence and adoration before this
dazzling specimen of her race.
So that her sordid, mercenary little gutter-draggled soul was filled
with the sight and the sound of him, as of a lordly, godlike,
shawm-playing, cymbal-banging hero and prophet of the Lord God of
Israel--David and Saul in one!
And then he set himself to teach her--kindly and patiently at first,
calling her sweet little pet names--his "Rose of Sharon," his "pearl of
Pabylon," his "cazelle-eyed liddle Cherusalem skylark"--and promised her
that she should be the queen of the nightingales.
But before he could teach her anything he had to unteach her all she
knew; her breathing, the production of her voice, its emission--everything
was wrong. She worked indefatigably to please him, and soon succeeded in
forgetting all the pretty little sympathetic tricks of voice and
phrasing Mother Nature had taught her.
[Illustration: "A VOICE HE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND"]
But though she had an exquisite ear, she had no real musical
intelligence--no intelligence of any kind except about sous and
centimes; she was as stupid as a little downy owl, and her voice was
just a light native warble, a throstle's pipe, all in the head and nose
and throat (a voice he "didn't" understand, for once), a thing of mere
youth and health and bloom and high spirits--like her beauty, such as it
was--"beauté du diable, beauté damnée".
She did her very best, and practised all she could in this new way, and
sang herself hoarse: she scarcely ate or slept for practising. He grew
harsh and impatient and coldly severe, and of coarse she loved him all
the more; and the more she loved him the more nervous she got and the
worse she sang. Her voice cracked; her ear became demoralized; her
attempts to vocalize grew almost as comical as Trilby's. So that he lost
his temper completely, and called her terrible names, and pinched and
punched her with his big bony hands till she wept worse than Niobe, and
borrowed money of her--five-franc pieces, even francs and
demifrancs--which he never paid her back; and browbeat and bullied and
ballyragged her till she went quite mad for love of him, and would have
jumped out of his sixth-floor window to give him a moment's pleasure!
He did not ask her to do this--it never occurred to him, and would have
given him no pleasure to speak of. But one fine Sabbath morning (a
Saturday, of course) he took her by the shoulders and chucked her, neck
and crop, out of his garret, with the threat that if she ever dared to
show her face there again he would denounce her to the police--an awful
threat to the likes of poor Mimi la Salope!
"For where did all those five-franc pieces come from--"hein?"--with
which she had tried to pay for all the singing-lessons that had been
thrown away upon her? Not from merely sitting to painters--"hein?""
Thus the little gazelle-eyed Jerusalem skylark went back to her native
streets again--a mere mud-lark of the Paris slums--her wings clipped,
her spirit quenched and broken, and with no more singing left in her
than a common or garden sparrow--not so much!
And so, no more of "la betite Honorine!"
* * * * *
The morning after this adventure Svengali woke up in his garret with a
tremendous longing to spend a happy day; for it was a Sunday, and a very
He made a long arm and reached his waistcoat and trousers off the floor,
and emptied the contents of their pockets on to his tattered blanket; no
silver, no gold, only a few sous and two-sou pieces, just enough to pay
for a meagre "premier déjeuner"!
He had cleared out Gecko the day before, and spent the proceeds (ten
francs, at least) in one night's riotous living--pleasures in which
Gecko had had no share; and he could think of no one to borrow money
from but Little Billee, Taffy, and the Laird, whom he had neglected and
left untapped for days.
So he slipped into his clothes, and looked at himself in what remained
of a little zinc mirror, and found that his forehead left little to be
desired, but that his eyes and temples were decidedly grimy. Wherefore,
he poured a little water out of a little jug into a little basin, and,
twisting the corner of his pocket-handkerchief round his dirty
forefinger, he delicately dipped it, and removed the offending stains.
His fingers, he thought, would do very well for another day or two as
they were; he ran them through his matted black mane, pushed it behind
his ears, and gave it the twist he liked (and that was so much disliked
by his English friends). Then he put on his béret and his velveteen
cloak, and went forth into the sunny streets, with a sense of the
fragrance and freedom and pleasantness of Sunday morning in Paris in the
month of May.
He found Little Billee sitting in a zinc hip-bath, busy with soap and
sponge; and was so tickled and interested by the sight that he quite
forgot for the moment what he had come for.
"Himmel! Why the devil are you doing that?" he asked, in his
"Doing "what"?" asked Little Billee, in his French of
"Sitting in water and playing with a cake of soap and a sponge!"
"Why, to try and get myself "clean", I suppose!"
"Ach! And how the devil did you get yourself "dirty", then?"
To this Little Billee found no immediate answer, and went on with his
ablution after the hissing, splashing, energetic fashion of Englishmen;
and Svengali laughed loud and long at the spectacle of a little
Englishman trying to get himself clean--"tâchant de se nettoyer!"
When such cleanliness had been attained as was possible under the
circumstances, Svengali begged for the loan of two hundred francs, and
Little Billee gave him a five-franc piece.
Content with this, "faute de mieux", the German asked him when he would
be trying to get himself clean again, as he would much like to come and
see him do it.
"Demang mattang, à votre sairveece!" said Little Billee, with a
""What!! Monday too!!" Gott in Himmel! you try to get yourself clean
And he laughed himself out of the room, out of the house, out of the
Place de l'Odéon--all the way to the Rue de Seine, where dwelt the "Man
of Blood," whom he meant to propitiate with the story of that original,
Little Billee, trying to get himself clean--that he might borrow another
five-franc piece, or perhaps two.
[Illustration: "AND SO, NO MORE."]
As the reader will no doubt anticipate, he found Taffy in his bath too,
and fell to laughing with such convulsive laughter, such twistings,
screwings, and doublings of himself up, such pointings of his dirty
forefinger at the huge naked Briton, that Taffy was offended, and all
but lost his temper.
"What the devil are you cackling at, sacred head of pig that you are?
Do you want to be pitched out of that window into the Rue de Seine? You
filthy black Hebrew sweep! Just you wait a bit; "I'll" wash your head
And Taffy jumped out of his bath, such a towering figure of righteous
Herculean wrath that Svengali was appalled, and fled.
"Donnerwetter!" he exclaimed, as he tumbled down the narrow staircase of
the Hôtel de Seine; "what for a thick head! what for a pig-dog! what for
a rotten, brutal, verfluchter kerl of an Englander!"
Then he paused for thought.
"Now will I go to that Scottish Englander, in the Place St. Anatole des
Arts, for that other five-franc piece. But first will I wait a little
while till he has perhaps finished trying to get himself clean."
So he breakfasted at the crèmerie Souchet, in the Rue Clopin-Clopant,
and, feeling quite safe again, he laughed and laughed till his very
sides were sore.
Two Englanders in one day--as naked as your hand!--a big one and a
little one, trying to get themselves clean!
He rather flattered himself he'd scored off those two Englanders.
After all, he was right perhaps, from his point of view: you can get as
dirty in a week as in a lifetime, so what's the use of taking such a lot
of trouble? Besides, so long as you are clean enough to suit your kind,
to be any cleaner would be priggish and pedantic, and get you disliked.
Just as Svengali was about to knock at the Laird's door, Trilby came
down-stairs from Durien's, very unlike herself. Her eyes were red with
weeping, and there were great black rings round them; she was pale under
"Fous afez du chacrin, matemoiselle?" asked he.
She told him that she had neuralgia in her eyes, a thing she was subject
to; that the pain was maddening, and generally lasted twenty-four hours.
"Perhaps I can cure you; come in here with me."
The Laird's ablutions (if he had indulged in any that morning) were
evidently over for the day. He was breakfasting on a roll and butter,
and coffee of his own brewing. He was deeply distressed at the sight of
poor Trilby's sufferings, and offered whiskey and coffee and gingernuts,
which she would not touch.
Svengali told her to sit down on the divan, and sat opposite to her, and
bade her look him well in the white of the eyes.
"Recartez-moi pien tans le planc tes yeux."
Then he made little passes and counterpasses on her forehead and temples
and down her cheek and neck. Soon her eyes closed and her face grew
placid. After a while, a quarter of an hour perhaps, he asked her if she
"Oh! presque plus du tout, monsieur--c'est le ciel."
In a few minutes more he asked the Laird if he knew German.
"Just enough to understand," said the Laird (who had spent a year in
Düsseldorf), and Svengali said to him in German: "See, she sleeps not,
but she shall not open her eyes. Ask her."
"Are you asleep, Miss Trilby?" asked the Laird.
"Then open your eyes and look at me."
She strained her eyes, but could not, and said so.
Then Svengali said, again in German, "She shall not open her mouth. Ask
[Illustration: "'TWO ENGLANDERS IN ONE DAY'"]
"Why couldn't you open your eyes. Miss Trilby?" She strained to open her
mouth and speak, but in vain. "She shall not rise from the divan. Ask
her." But Trilby was spellbound, and could not move.
"I will now set her free," said Svengali.
And, lo! she got up and waved her arms, and cried, "Vive la Prusse! me
v'là guérie!" and in her gratitude she kissed Svengali's hand; and he
leered, and showed his big brown teeth and the yellow whites at the top
of his big black eyes, and drew his breath with a hiss.
"Now I'll go to Durien's and sit. How can I thank you, monsieur? You
have taken all my pain away."
"Yes, matemoiselle. I have got it myself; it is in my elbows. But I love
it, because it comes from you. Every time you have pain you shall come
to me, 12 Rue Tire-Liard, au sixième au-dessus de l'entresol, and I will
cure you and take your pain myself--"
"Oh, you are too good!" and in her high spirits she turned round on her
heel and uttered her portentous war-cry, "Milk below!" The very rafters
rang with it, and the piano gave out a solemn response.
"What is that you say, matemoiselle?"
"Oh! it's what the milkmen say in England."
"It is a wonderful cry, matemoiselle--wunderschön! It comes straight
through the heart; it has its roots in the stomach, and blossoms into
music on the lips like the voice of Madame Alboni--voce sulle labbre! It
is good production--c'est un cri du cœur!"
Trilby blushed with pride and pleasure.
"Yes, matemoiselle! I only know one person in the whole world who can
produce the voice so well as you! I give you my word of honor."
"Who is it, monsieur--yourself?"
"Ach, no, matemoiselle; I have not that privilege. I have unfortunately
no voice to produce.... It is a waiter at the Café de la Rotonde, in the
Palais Royal; when you call for coffee, he says 'Boum!' in basso
profondo. Tiefstimme--F. moll below the line--it is phenomenal! It is
like a cannon--a cannon also has very good production, matemoiselle.
They pay him for it a thousand francs a year, because he brings many
customers to the Café de la Rotonde, where the coffee isn't very good.
When he dies they will search all France for another, and then all
Germany, where the good big waiters come from--and the cannons--but they
will not find him, and the Café de la Rotonde will be bankrupt--unless
you will consent to take his place. Will you permit that I shall look
into your mouth, matemoiselle?"
She opened her mouth wide, and he looked into it.
"Himmel! the roof of your mouth is like the dome of the Panthéon; there
is room in it for 'toutes les gloires de la France,' and a little to
spare! The entrance to your throat is like the middle porch of St.
Sulpice when the doors are open for the faithful on All-Saints' day; and
not one tooth is missing--thirty-two British teeth as white as milk and
as big as knuckle-bones! and your little tongue is scooped out like the
leaf of a pink peony, and the bridge of your nose is like the belly of a
Stradivarius--what a sounding-board! and inside your beautiful big chest
the lungs are made of leather! and your breath, it embalms--like the
breath of a beautiful white heifer fed on the buttercups, and daisies of
the Vaterland! and you have a quick, soft, susceptible heart, a heart of
gold, matemoiselle--all that sees itself in your face!
[Illustration: "'HIMMEL! THE ROOF OF YOUR MOUTH'"]
"'Votre cœur est un luth suspendu!
Aussitôt qu'on le touche, il résonne....'
What a pity you have not also the musical organization!"
"Oh, but I "have", monsieur; you heard me sing 'Ben Bolt,' didn't you?
What makes you say that?"
Svengali was confused for a moment. Then he said: "When I play the
'Rosemonde' of Schubert, matemoiselle, you look another way and smoke a
cigarette.... You look at the big Taffy, at the Little Billee, at the
pictures on the walls, or out of window, at the sky, the chimney-pots of
Notre Dame de Paris; you do not look at Svengali!--Svengali, who looks
at you with all his eyes, and plays you the 'Rosemonde' of Schubert!"
"Oh, maïe, aïe!" exclaimed Trilby; "you "do" use lovely language!"
"But never mind, matemoiselle; when your pain arrives, then shall you
come once more to Svengali, and he shall take it away from you, and keep
it himself for a soufenir of you when you are gone. And when you have it
no more, he shall play you the 'Rosemonde' of Schubert, all alone for
you; and then, 'Messieurs les étutiants, montez à la chaumière!' ...
because it is gayer! "And you shall see nothing, hear nothing, think of
nothing but Svengali, Svengali, Svengali!""
Here he felt his peroration to be so happy and effective that he thought
it well to go at once and make a good exit. So he bent over Trilby's
shapely freckled hand and kissed it, and bowed himself out of the room,
without even borrowing his five-franc piece.
"He's a rum 'un, ain't he?" said Trilby. "He reminds me of a big hungry
spider, and makes me feel like a fly! But he's cured my pain! he's cured
my pain! Ah! you don't know what my pain is when it comes!"
"I wouldn't have much to do with him, all the same!" said the Laird.
"I'd sooner have any pain than have it cured in that unnatural way, and
by such a man as that! He's a bad fellow, Svengali--I'm sure of it! He
mesmerized you; that's what it is--mesmerism! I've often heard of it,
but never seen it done before. They get you into their power, and just
make you do any blessed thing they please--lie, murder, steal--anything!
and kill yourself into the bargain when they've done with you! It's just
too terrible to think of!"
So spake the Laird, earnestly, solemnly, surprised out of his usual
self, and most painfully impressed--and his own impressiveness grew upon
him and impressed him still more. He loomed quite prophetic.
Cold shivers went down Trilby's back as she listened. She had a
singularly impressionable nature, as was shown by her quick and ready
susceptibility to Svengali's hypnotic influence. And all that day, as
she posed for Durien (to whom she did not mention her adventure), she
was haunted by the memory of Svengali's big eyes and the touch of his
soft, dirty finger-tips on her face; and her fear and her repulsion grew
And "Svengali, Svengali, Svengali!" went ringing in her head and ears
till it became an obsession, a dirge, a knell, an unendurable burden,
almost as hard to bear as the pain in her eyes.
""Svengali, Svengali, Svengali!""
At last she asked Durien if he knew him.
"Parbleu! Si je connais Svengali!"
"Quest-ce que t'en penses?"
"Quand il sera mort, ça fera une fameuse crapule de moins!"
Carrel's atelier (or painting-school) was in the Rue Notre Dame des
Potirons St. Michel, at the end of a large court-yard, where there were
many large dirty windows facing north, and each window let the light of
heaven into a large dirty studio.
The largest of these studios, and the dirtiest, was Carrel's, where some
thirty or forty art students drew and painted from the nude model every
day but Sunday from eight till twelve, and for two hours in the
afternoon, except on Saturdays, when the afternoon was devoted to
much-needed Augean sweepings and cleanings.
One week the model was male, the next female, and so on, alternating
throughout the year.
A stove, a model-throne, stools, boxes, some fifty strongly built low
chairs with backs, a couple of score easels and many drawing-boards,
completed the mobilier.
The bare walls were adorned with endless caricatures--"des charges"--in
charcoal and white chalk; and also the scrapings of many palettes--a
polychromous decoration not unpleasing.
[Illustration: "'ÇA FERA UNE FAMEUSE CRAPULE DE MOINS'"]
For the freedom of the studio and the use of the model each student paid
ten francs a month to the massier, or senior student, the responsible
bellwether of the flock; besides this, it was expected of you, on your
entrance or initiation, that you should pay for your footing--your
"bienvenue"--some thirty, forty, or fifty francs, to be spent on cakes
and rum punch all round.
Every Friday Monsieur Carrel, a great artist, and also a stately,
well-dressed, and most courteous gentleman (duly decorated with the red
rosette of the Legion of Honor), came for two or three hours and went
the round, spending a few minutes at each drawing-board or easel--ten
or even twelve when the pupil was an industrious and promising one.
He did this for love, not money, and deserved all the reverence with
which he inspired this somewhat irreverent and most unruly company,
which was made up of all sorts.
Graybeards who had been drawing and painting there for thirty years and
more, and remembered other masters than Carrel, and who could draw and
paint a torso almost as well as Titian or Velasquez--almost, but not
quite--and who could never do anything else, and were fixtures at
Carrel's for life.
Younger men who in a year or two, or three or five, or ten or twenty,
were bound to make their mark, and perhaps follow in the footsteps of
the master; others as conspicuously singled out for failure and future
mischance--for the hospital, the garret, the river, the Morgue, or,
worse, the traveller's bag, the road, or even the paternal counter.
Irresponsible boys, mere rapins, all laugh and chaff and
mischief--"blague et bagout Parisien"; little lords of misrule--wits,
butts, bullies; the idle and industrious apprentice, the good and the
bad, the clean and the dirty (especially the latter)--all more or less
animated by a certain "esprit de corps", and working very happily and
genially together, on the whole, and always willing to help each other
with sincere artistic counsel if it were asked for seriously, though it
was not always couched in terms very flattering to one's self-love.
Before Little Billee became one of this band of brothers he had been
working for three or four years in a London art school, drawing and
painting from the life; he had also worked from the antique in the
British Museum--so that he was no novice.
As he made his début at Carrel's one Monday morning he felt somewhat shy
and ill at ease. He had studied French most earnestly at home in
England, and could read it pretty well, and even write it and speak it
after a fashion; but he spoke it with much difficulty, and found studio
French a different language altogether from the formal and polite
language he had been at such pains to learn. Ollendorff does not cater
for the quartier latin. Acting on Taffy's advice--for Taffy had worked
under Carrel--Little Billee handed sixty francs to the massier for his
"bienvenue"--a lordly sum--and this liberality made a most favorable
impression, and went far to destroy any little prejudice that might have
been caused by the daintiness of his dress, the cleanliness of his
person, and the politeness of his manners. A place was assigned to him,
and an easel and a board; for he elected to stand at his work and begin
with a chalk drawing. The model (a male) was posed, and work began in
silence. Monday morning is always rather sulky everywhere (except
perhaps in judee). During the ten minutes' rest three or four students
came and looked at Little Billee's beginnings, and saw at a glance that
he thoroughly well knew what he was about, and respected him for it.
Nature had given him a singularly light hand--or rather two, for he was
ambidextrous, and could use both with equal skill; and a few months'
practice at a London life school had quite cured him of that
purposeless indecision of touch which often characterizes the prentice
hand for years of apprenticeship, and remains with the amateur for life.
The lightest and most careless of his pencil strokes had a precision
that was inimitable, and a charm that specially belonged to him, and was
easy to recognize at a glance. His touch on either canvas or paper was
like Svengali's on the key-board--unique.
As the morning ripened little attempts at conversation were made--little
breakings of the ice of silence. It was Lambert, a youth with a
singularly facetious face, who first woke the stillness with the
following uncalled-for remarks in English very badly pronounced:
"Av you seen my fahzere's ole shoes?"
"I av not seen your fahzere's ole shoes."
Then, after a pause:
"Av you seen my fahzere's ole 'at?"
"I av not seen your fahzere's old 'at!"
Presently another said, "Je trouve qu'il a une jolie tête, l'Anglais."
But I will put it all into English:
"I find that he has a pretty head--the Englishman! What say "you",
"Yes; but why has he got eyes like brandy-balls, two a penny?"
"Because he's an Englishman!"
"Yes; but why has he got a mouth like a guinea-pig, with two big teeth
in front like the double blank at dominos?"
"Because he's an Englishman!"
[Illustration: "'AV YOU SEEN MY FAHZERE'S OLE SHOES?'"]
"Yes; but why has he got a back without any bend in it, as if he'd
swallowed the Colonne Vendôme as far up as the battle of Austerlitz?"
"Because he's an Englishman!"
And so on, till all the supposed characteristics of Little Billee's
outer man were exhausted. Then:
""I" should like to know if the Englishman says his prayers before going
"Ask him yourself!"
""I" should like to know if the Englishman has sisters; and if so, how
old and how many and what sex."
"Ask him yourself!"
""I" should like to know the detailed and circumstantial history of the
Englishman's first love, and how he lost his innocence!"
"Ask him," etc., etc., etc.
Little Billee, conscious that he was the object of conversation, grew
somewhat nervous. Soon he was addressed directly.
"Dites donc, l'Anglais?"
"Kwaw?" said Little Billee.
"Avez-vous une sœur?"
"Est-ce qu'elle vous ressemble?"
"C'est bien dommage! Est-ce qu'elle dit ses prières, le soir, en se
A fierce look came into Little Billee's eyes and a redness to his
cheeks, and this particular form of overture to friendship was
Presently Lambert said, "Si nous mettions l'Anglais à l'échelle?"
Little Billee, who had been warned, knew what this ordeal meant.
They tied you to a ladder, and carried you in procession up and down the
court-yard, and if you were nasty about it they put you under the pump.
During the next rest it was explained to him that he must submit to this
indignity, and the ladder (which was used for reaching the high shelves
round the studio) was got ready.
Little Billee smiled a singularly winning smile, and suffered himself to
be bound with such good-humor that they voted it wasn't amusing, and
unbound him, and he escaped the ordeal by ladder.
Taffy had also escaped, but in another way. When they tried to seize him
he took up the first "rapin" that came to hand, and, using him as a kind
of club, he swung him about so freely and knocked down so many students
and easels and drawing-boards with him, and made such a terrific rumpus,
that the whole studio had to cry for "pax!" Then he performed feats of
strength of such a surprising kind that the memory of him remained in
Carrel's studio for years, and he became a legend, a tradition, a myth!
It is now said (in what still remains of the quartier latin) that he was
seven feet high, and used to juggle with the massier and model as with a
pair of billiard balls, using only his left hand!
To return to Little Billee. When it struck twelve, the cakes and rum
punch arrived--a very goodly sight that put every one in a good temper.
The cakes were of three kinds--Babas, Madeleines, and Savarins--three
sous apiece, fourpence half-penny the set of three. No nicer cakes are
made in France, and they are as good in the quartier latin as anywhere
else; no nicer cakes are made in the whole world, that I know of. You
must begin with the Madeleine, which is rich and rather heavy; then the
Baba; and finish up with the Savarin, which is shaped like a ring, very
light, and flavored with rum. And then you must really leave off.
The rum punch was tepid, very sweet, and not a bit too strong.
They dragged the model-throne into the middle, and a chair was put on
for Little Billee, who dispensed his hospitality in a very polite and
attractive manner, helping the massier first, and then the other
graybeards in the order of their grayness, and so on down to the model.
Presently, just as he was about to help himself, he was asked to sing
them an English song. After a little pressing he sang them a song about
a gay cavalier who went to serenade his mistress (and a ladder of ropes,
and a pair of masculine gloves that didn't belong to the gay cavalier,
but which he found in his lady's bower)--a poor sort of song, but it was
the nearest approach to a comic song he knew. There are four verses to
it, and each verse is rather long. It does not sound at all funny to a
French audience, and even with an English one Little Billee was not good
at comic songs.
[Illustration: TAFFY À L'ÉCHELLE!]
He was, however, much applauded at the end of each verse. When he had
finished, he was asked if he were "quite" sure there wasn't any more of
it, and they expressed a deep regret; and then each student, straddling
on his little thick-set chair as on a horse, and clasping the back of it
in both hands, galloped round Little Billee's throne quite
seriously--the strangest procession he had ever seen. It made him laugh
till he cried, so that he couldn't eat or drink.
Then he served more punch and cake all round; and just as he was going
to begin himself, Papelard said:
"Say, you others, I find that the Englishman has something of truly
distinguished in the voice, something of sympathetic, of
touching--something of "je ne sais quoi"!"
Bouchardy: "Yes, yes--something of "je ne sais quoi"! That's the very
phrase--n'est-ce pas, vous autres, that is a good phrase that Papelard
has just invented to describe the voice of the Englishman. He is very
Chorus: "Perfect, perfect; he has the genius of characterization,
Papelard. Dites donc, l'Anglais! once more that beautiful song--hein?
Nous vous en prions tous."
Little Billee willingly sang it again, with even greater applause, and
again they galloped, but the other way round and faster, so that Little
Billee became quite hysterical, and laughed till his sides ached.
Then Dubosc: "I find there is something of very capitous and exciting in
English music--of very stimulating. And you, Bouchardy?"
Bouchardy: "Oh, me! It is above all the "words" that I admire; they have
something of passionate, of romantic--'ze-ese glâ-âves, zese
glâ-âves--zey do not belong to me.' I don't know what that means, but I
love that sort of--of--of--"je ne sais quoi", in short! Just "once"
more, l'Anglais; only "once", the "four" couplets."
So he sang it a third time, all four verses, while they leisurely ate
and drank and smoked and looked at each other, nodding solemn
commendation of certain phrases in the song: "Très bien!" "Très bien!"
"Ah! voilà qui est bien réussi!" "Épatant, ça!" "Très fin!" etc., etc.
For, stimulated by success, and rising to the occasion, he did his very
utmost to surpass himself in emphasis of gesture and accent and
histrionic drollery--heedless of the fact that not one of his listeners
had the slightest notion what his song was about.
It was a sorry performance.
And it was not till he had sung it four times that he discovered the
whole thing was an elaborate impromptu farce, of which he was the butt,
and that of all his royal spread not a crumb or a drop was left for
It was the old fable of the fox and the crow! And to do him justice, he
laughed as heartily as any one, as if he thoroughly enjoyed the
joke--and when you take jokes in that way people soon leave off poking
fun at you. It is almost as good as being very big, like Taffy, and
having a choleric blue eye!
Such was Little Billee's first experience of Carrel's studio, where he
spent many happy mornings and made many good friends.
No more popular student had ever worked there within the memory of the
grayest graybeards; none more amiable, more genial, more cheerful,
self-respecting, considerate, and polite, and certainly none with
greater gifts for art.
Carrel would devote at least fifteen minutes to him, and invited him
often to his own private studio. And often, on the fourth and fifth day
of the week, a group of admiring students would be gathered by his easel
watching him as he worked.
"C'est un rude lapin, l'Anglais! au moins il sait son orthographe en
peinture, ce coco-là!"
Such was the verdict on Little Billee at Carrel's studio; and I can
conceive no loftier praise.
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
Young as she was (seventeen or eighteen, or thereabouts), and also
tender (like Little Billee), Trilby had singularly clear and quick
perceptions in all matters that concerned her tastes, fancies, or
affections, and thoroughly knew her own mind, and never lost much time
in making it up.
On the occasion of her first visit to the studio in the Place St.
Anatole des Arts, it took her just five minutes to decide that it was
quite the nicest, homeliest, genialest, jolliest studio in the whole
quartier latin, or out of it, and its three inhabitants, individually
and collectively, were more to her taste than any one else she had ever
[Illustration: "THE FOX AND THE CROW"]
In the first place, they were English, and she loved to hear her
mother-tongue and speak it. It awoke all manner of tender recollections,
sweet reminiscences of her childhood, her parents, her old home--such a
home as it was--or, rather, such homes; for there had been many
flittings from one poor nest to another. The O'Ferralls had been as
birds on the bough.
She had loved her parents very dearly; and, indeed, with all their
faults, they had many endearing qualities--the qualities that so often
go with those particular faults--charm, geniality, kindness, warmth of
heart, the constant wish to please, the generosity that comes before
justice, and lends its last sixpence and forgets to pay its debts!
She knew other English and American artists, and had sat to them
frequently for the head and hands; but none of these, for general
agreeableness of aspect or manner, could compare in her mind with the
stalwart and magnificent Taffy, the jolly fat Laird of Cockpen, the
refined, sympathetic, and elegant Little Billee; and she resolved that
she would see as much of them as she could, that she would make herself
at home in that particular studio, and necessary to its "locataires";
and, without being the least bit vain or self-conscious, she had no
doubts whatever of her power to please--to make herself both useful and
ornamental if it suited her purpose to do so.
Her first step in this direction was to borrow Père Martin's basket and
lantern and pick (he had more than one set of these trade properties)
for the use of Taffy, whom she feared she might have offended by the
freedom of her comments on his picture.
Then, as often as she felt it to be discreet, she sounded her war-cry at
the studio door and went in and made kind inquiries, and, sitting
cross-legged on the model-throne, ate her bread and cheese and smoked
her cigarette and "passed the time of day," as she chose to call it;
telling them all such news of the quartier as had come within her own
immediate ken. She was always full of little stories of other studios,
which, to do her justice, were always good-natured, and probably
true--quite so, as far as she was concerned; she was the most literal
person alive; and she told all these "ragots, cancans, et potins
d'atelier" in a quaint and amusing manner. The slightest look of gravity
or boredom on one of those three faces, and she made herself scarce at
She soon found opportunities for usefulness also. If a costume were
wanted, for instance, she knew where to borrow it, or hire it or buy it
cheaper than any one anywhere else. She procured stuffs for them at cost
price, as it seemed, and made them into draperies and female garments of
any kind that was wanted, and sat in them for the toreador's sweetheart
(she made the mantilla herself), for Taffy's starving dress-maker about
to throw herself into the Seine, for Little Billee's studies of the
beautiful French peasant girl in his picture, now so famous, called "The
Pitcher Goes to the Well."
Then she darned their socks and mended their clothes, and got all their
washing done properly and cheaply at her friend Madame Boisse's, in the
Rue des Cloîtres Ste. Pétronille.
And then again, when they were hard up and wanted a good round sum of
money for some little pleasure excursion, such as a trip to
Fontainebleau or Barbizon for two or three days, it was she who took
their watches and scarf-pins and things to the Mount of Piety in the
Street of the Well of Love (where dwelt "ma tante," which is French for
"my uncle" in this connection), in order to raise the necessary funds.
[Illustration: THE LATIN QUARTER]
She was, of course, most liberally paid for all these little services,
rendered with such pleasure and good-will--far too liberally, she
thought. She would have been really happier doing them for love.
Thus in a very short time she became a "persona gratissima"--a sunny and
ever welcome vision of health and grace and liveliness and unalterable
good-humor, always ready to take any trouble to please her beloved
"Angliches," as they were called by Madame Vinard, the handsome
shrill-voiced "concierge", who was almost jealous; for she was devoted
to the Angliches too--and so was Monsieur Vinard--and so were the little
She knew when to talk and when to laugh and when to hold her tongue; and
the sight of her sitting cross-legged on the model-throne darning the
Laird's socks or sewing buttons on his shirts or repairing the
smoke-holes in his trousers was so pleasant that it was painted by all
three. One of these sketches (in water-color, by Little Billee) sold the
other day at Christie's for a sum so large that I hardly dare to mention
it. It was done in an afternoon.
Sometimes on a rainy day, when it was decided they should dine at home,
she would fetch the food and cook it, and lay the cloth, and even make
the salad. She was a better saladist than Taffy, a better cook than the
Laird, a better caterer than Little Billee. And she would be invited to
take her share in the banquet. And on these occasions her tremulous
happiness was so immense that it would be quite pathetic to see--almost
painful; and their three British hearts were touched by thoughts of all
the loneliness and homelessness, the expatriation, the half-conscious
loss of caste, that all this eager childish clinging revealed.
And that is why (no doubt) that with all this familiar intimacy there
was never any hint of gallantry or flirtation in any shape or form
whatever--bonne camaraderie, voilà tout. Had she been Little Billee's
sister she could not have been treated with more real respect. And her
deep gratitude for this unwonted compliment transcended any passion she
had ever felt. As the good Lafontaine so prettily says,
"Ces animaux vivaient entre eux comme cousins;
Cette union si douce, et presque fraternelle,
Edifiait tous les voisins!"
And then their talk! It was to her as the talk of the gods in Olympus,
save that it was easier to understand, and she could always understand
it. For she was a very intelligent person, in spite of her wofully
neglected education, and most ambitious to learn--a new ambition for
So they lent her books--English books: Dickens, Thackeray, Walter
Scott--which she devoured in the silence of the night, the solitude of
her little attic in the Rue des Pousse-Cailloux, and new worlds were
revealed to her. She grew more English every day; and that was a good
Trilby speaking English and Trilby speaking French were two different
beings. Trilby's English was more or less that of her father, a
highly-educated man; her mother, who was a Scotch woman, although an
uneducated one, had none of the ungainliness that mars the speech of so
many English women in that humble rank--no droppings of the h, no
broadening of the o's and a's.
[Illustration: CUISINE BOURGEOISE EN BOHÈME]
Trilby's French was that of the quartier latin--droll, slangy, piquant,
quaint, picturesque--quite the reverse of ungainly, but in which there
was scarcely a turn of phrase that would not stamp the speaker as
being hopelessly, emphatically "no lady!" Though it was funny without
being vulgar, it was perhaps a little "too" funny!
And she handled her knife and fork in the dainty English way, as no
doubt her father had done--and his; and, indeed, when alone with them
she was so absolutely "like a lady" that it seemed quite odd (though
very seductive) to see her in a grisette's cap and dress and apron. So
much for her English training.
But enter a Frenchman or two, and a transformation effected itself
immediately--a new incarnation of Trilbyness--so droll and amusing that
it was difficult to decide which of her two incarnations was the most
It must be admitted that she had her faults--like Little Billee.
For instance, she would be miserably jealous of any other woman who came
to the studio, to sit or scrub or sweep or do anything else, even of the
dirty tipsy old hag who sat for Taffy's "found drowned"--"as if she
couldn't have sat for it herself!"
And then she would be cross and sulky, but not for long--an injured
martyr, soon ready to forgive and be forgiven.
She would give up any sitting to come and sit to her three English
friends. Even Durien had serious cause for complaint.
Then her affection was exacting: she always wanted to be told one was
fond of her, and she dearly loved her own way, even in the sewing on of
buttons and the darning of socks, which was innocent enough. But when
it came to the cutting and fashioning of garments for a toreador's
bride, it was a nuisance not to be borne!
"What could "she" know of toreadors' brides and their wedding-dresses?"
the Laird would indignantly ask--as if he were a toreador himself; and
this was the aggravating side of her irrepressible Trilbyness.
In the caressing, demonstrative tenderness of her friendship she "made
the soft eyes" at all three indiscriminately. But sometimes Little
Billee would look up from his work as she was sitting to Taffy or the
Laird, and find her gray eyes fixed on him with an all-enfolding gaze,
so piercingly, penetratingly, unutterably sweet and kind and tender,
such a brooding, dovelike look of soft and warm solicitude, that he
would feel a flutter at his heart, and his hand would shake so that he
could not paint; and in a waking dream he would remember that his mother
had often looked at him like that when he was a small boy, and she a
beautiful young woman untouched by care or sorrow; and the tear that
always lay in readiness so close to the corner of Little Billee's eye
would find it very difficult to keep itself in its proper place--unshed.
And at such moments the thought that Trilby sat for the figure would go
through him like a knife.
She did not sit promiscuously to anybody who asked, it is true. But she
still sat to Durien; to the great Gérôme; to M. Carrel, who scarcely
used any other model.
It was poor Trilby's sad distinction that she surpassed all other models
as Calypso surpassed her nymphs; and whether by long habit, or through
some obtuseness in her nature, or lack of imagination, she was equally
unconscious of self with her clothes on or without! Truly, she could be
naked and unashamed--in this respect an absolute savage.
[Illustration: "THE SOFT EYES"]
She would have ridden through Coventry, like Lady Godiva--but without
giving it a thought beyond wondering why the streets were empty and the
shops closed and the blinds pulled down--would even have looked up to
Peeping Tom's shutter with a friendly nod, had she known he was behind
In fact, she was absolutely without that kind of shame, as she was
without any kind of fear. But she was destined soon to know both fear
And here it would not be amiss for me to state a fact well known to all
painters and sculptors who have used the nude model (except a few senile
pretenders, whose purity, not being of the right sort, has gone rank
from too much watching), namely, that nothing is so chaste as nudity.
Venus herself, as she drops her garments and steps on to the
model-throne, leaves behind her on the floor every weapon in her armory
by which she can pierce to the grosser passions of man. The more perfect
her unveiled beauty, the more keenly it appeals to his higher instincts.
And where her beauty fails (as it almost always does somewhere in the
Venuses who sit for hire), the failure is so lamentably conspicuous in
the studio light--the fierce light that beats on this particular
throne--that Don Juan himself, who has not got to paint, were fain to
hide his eyes in sorrow and disenchantment, and fly to other climes.
All beauty is sexless in the eyes of the artist at his work--the beauty
of man, the beauty of woman, the heavenly beauty of the child, which is
the sweetest and best of all.
Indeed it is woman, lovely woman, whose beauty falls the shortest, for
sheer lack of proper physical training.
As for Trilby, G----, to whom she sat for his Phryne, once told me that
the sight of her thus was a thing to melt Sir Galahad, and sober
Silenus, and chasten Jove himself--a thing to Quixotize a modern French
masher! I can well believe him. For myself, I only speak of Trilby as I
have seen her--clothed and in her right mind. She never sat to me for
any Phryne, never bared herself to me, nor did I ever dream of asking
her. I would as soon have asked the Queen of Spain to let me paint her
legs! But I have worked from many female models in many countries, some
of them the best of their kind. I have also, like Svengali, seen Taffy
"trying to get himself clean," either at home or in the swimming-baths
of the Seine; and never a sitting woman among them all who could match
for grace or finish or splendor of outward form that mighty Yorkshireman
sitting in his tub, or sunning himself, like Ilyssus, at the Bains Henri
Quatre, or taking his running header "à la hussarde", off the
spring-board at the Bains Deligny, with a group of wondering Frenchmen
Up he shot himself into mid-air with a sounding double downward kick,
parabolically; then, turning a splendid semi-demi-summersault against
the sky, down he came headlong, his body straight and stiff as an arrow,
and made his clean hole in the water without splash or sound, to
reappear a hundred yards farther on!
"Sac à papier! quel gaillard que cet Anglais, hein?"
"A-t-on jamais vu un torse pareil!"
"Et les bras, donc!"
"Et les jambes, nom d'un tonnerre!"
"Mâtin! J'aimerais mieux être en colère contre lui qu'il ne soit en
colère contre moi!" etc., etc., etc.
* * * * *
Omne ignotum pro magnifico!
If our climate were such that we could go about without any clothes on,
we probably should; in which case, although we should still murder and
lie and steal and bear false witness against our neighbor, and break the
Sabbath day and take the Lord's name in vain, much deplorable wickedness
of another kind would cease to exist for sheer lack of mystery; and
Christianity would be relieved of its hardest task in this sinful world,
and Venus Aphrodite ("alias" Aselgeia) would have to go a-begging along
with the tailors and dress-makers and boot-makers, and perhaps our
bodies and limbs would be as those of the Theseus and Venus of Milo; who
was no Venus, except in good looks!
At all events, there would be no cunning, cruel deceptions, no artful
taking in of artless inexperience, no unduly hurried waking-up from
Love's young dream, no handing down to posterity of hidden uglinesses
and weaknesses, and worse!
And also many a flower, now born to blush unseen, would be reclaimed
from its desert, and suffered to hold its own, and flaunt away with the
best in the inner garden of roses!
And here let me humbly apologize to the casual reader for the length and
possible irrelevancy of this digression, and for its subject. To those
who may find matter for sincere disapprobation or even grave offence in
a thing that has always seemed to me so simple, so commonplace, as to be
hardly worth talking or writing about, I can only plead a sincerity
equal to theirs, and as deep a love and reverence for the gracious,
goodly shape that God is said to have made after His own image for
inscrutable purposes of His own.
Nor, indeed, am I pleading for such a subversive and revolutionary
measure as the wholesale abolition of clothes, being the chilliest of
mortals, and quite unlike Mr. Theseus or Mr. Ilyssus either.
* * * * *
Sometimes Trilby would bring her little brother to the studio in the
Place St. Anatole des Arts, in his "beaux habits de Pâques," his hair
well curled and pomatumed, his hands and face well washed.
He was a very engaging little mortal. The Laird would fill his pockets
full of Scotch goodies, and paint him as a little Spaniard in "Le Fils
du Toreador," a sweet little Spaniard with blue eyes, and curly locks
as light as tow, and a complexion of milk and roses, in singular and
piquant contrast to his swarthy progenitor.
Taffy would use him as an Indian club or a dumb-bell, to the child's
infinite delight, and swing him on the trapeze, and teach him "la boxe."
And the sweetness and fun of his shrill, happy, infantile laughter
(which was like an echo of Trilby's, only an octave higher) so moved and
touched and tickled one that Taffy had to look quite fierce, so he might
hide the strange delight of tenderness that somehow filled his manly
bosom at the mere sound of it (lest Little Billee and the Laird should
think him goody-goody); and the fiercer Taffy looked, the less this
small mite was afraid of him.
Little Billee made a beautiful water-color sketch of him, just as he
was, and gave it to Trilby, who gave it to le père Martin, who gave it
to his wife with strict injunctions not to sell it as an old master.
Alas! it "is" an old master now, and Heaven only knows who has got it!
Those were happy days for Trilby's little brother, happy days for
Trilby, who was immensely fond of him, and very proud. And the happiest
day of all was when Trois Angliches took Trilby and Jeannot (for so the
mite was called) to spend the Sunday in the woods at Meudon, and
breakfast and dine at the garde champêtre's. Swings, peep-shows,
donkey-rides; shooting at a mark with cross-bows and little pellets of
clay, and smashing little plaster figures and winning macaroons; losing
one's self in the beautiful forest; catching newts and tadpoles and
young frogs; making music on mirlitons. Trilby singing "Ben Bolt" into a
mirliton was a thing to be remembered, whether one would or no!
Trilby on this occasion came out in a new character, "en demoiselle",
with a little black bonnet, and a gray jacket of her own making.
To look at (but for her loose, square-toed, heelless silk boots laced up
the inner side), she might have been the daughter of an English
dean--until she undertook to teach the Laird some favorite cancan steps.
And then the Laird himself, it must be admitted, no longer looked like
the son of a worthy, God-fearing, Sabbath-keeping Scotch solicitor.
This was after dinner, in the garden, at "la loge du garde champêtre."
Taffy and Jeannot and Little Billee made the necessary music on their
mirlitons, and the dancing soon became general, with plenty also to look
on, for the garde had many customers who dined there on summer Sundays.
It is no exaggeration to say that Trilby was far and away the belle of
that particular ball, and there have been worse balls in much finer
company, and far plainer women!
Trilby lightly dancing the cancan (there are cancans and cancans) was a
singularly gainly and seductive person--"et vera incessu patuit dea"!
Here, again, she was funny without being vulgar. And for mere grace
(even in the cancan), she was the forerunner of Miss Kate Vaughan; and,
for sheer fun, the precursor of Miss Nelly Farren!
And the Laird, trying to dance after her ("dongsong le konkong," as he
called it), was too funny for words; and if genuine popular success is a
true test of humor, no greater humorist ever danced a "pas seul".
[Illustration: "'VOILÀ L'ESPAYCE DE HOM KER JER SWEE!'"]
What Englishmen could do in France during the fifties, and yet manage to
preserve their self-respect, and even the respect of their respectable
"Voilà l'espayce de hom ker jer swee!" said the Laird, every time he
bowed in acknowledgment of the applause that greeted his performance of
various solo steps of his own--Scotch reels and sword-dances that come
Then, one fine day, the Laird fell ill, and the doctor had to be sent
for, and he ordered a nurse. But Trilby would hear of no nurses, not
even a Sister of Charity! She did all the nursing herself, and never
slept a wink for three successive days and nights.
On the third day the Laird was out of all danger, the delirium was past,
and the doctor found poor Trilby fast asleep by the bedside.
Madame Vinard, at the bedroom door, put her finger to her lips, and
whispered: "Quel bonheur! il est sauvé, M. le Docteur; écoutez! il dit
ses prières en Anglais, ce brave garçon!"
The good old doctor, who didn't understand a word of English, listened,
and heard the Laird's voice, weak and low, but quite clear, and full of
heart-felt fervor, intoning, solemnly:
"'Green herbs, red peppers, mussels, saffron,
Soles, onions, garlic, roach, and dace--
All these you eat at Terré's Tavern
In that one dish of bouillabaisse!'"
"Ah! mais c'est très bien de sa part, ce brave jeune homme! rendre
grâces au ciel comme cela, quand le danger est passé! très bien, très
Sceptic and Voltairian as he was, and not the friend of prayer, the good
doctor was touched, for he was old, and therefore kind and tolerant, and
And afterwards he said such sweet things to Trilby about it all, and
about her admirable care of his patient, that she positively wept with
delight--like sweet Alice with hair so brown, whenever Ben Bolt gave her
All this sounds very goody-goody, but it's true.
So it will be easily understood how the trois Angliches came in time to
feel for Trilby quite a peculiar regard, and looked forward with
sorrowful forebodings to the day when this singular and pleasant little
quartet would have to be broken up, each of them to spread his wings and
fly away on his own account, and poor Trilby to be left behind all by
herself. They would even frame little plans whereby she might better
herself in life, and avoid the many snares and pitfalls that would beset
her lonely path in the quartier latin when they were gone.
Trilby never thought of such things as these; she took short views of
life, and troubled herself about no morrows.
There was, however, one jarring figure in her little fool's paradise, a
baleful and most ominous figure that constantly crossed her path, and
came between her and the sun, and threw its shadow over her, and that
He also was a frequent visitor at the studio in the Place St. Anatole,
where much was forgiven him for the sake of his music, especially when
he came with Gecko and they made music together. But it soon became
apparent that they did not come there to play to the three Angliches: it
was to see Trilby, whom they both had taken it into their heads to
adore, each in a different fashion:
Gecko, with a humble, doglike worship that expressed itself in mute,
pathetic deference and looks of lowly self-depreciation, of apology for
his own unworthy existence, as though the only requital he would ever
dare to dream of were a word of decent politeness, a glance of tolerance
or good-will--a mere bone to a dog.
Svengali was a bolder wooer. When he cringed, it was with a mock
humility full of sardonic threats; when he was playful, it was with a
terrible playfulness, like that of a cat with a mouse--a weird ungainly
cat, and most unclean; a sticky, haunting, long, lean, uncanny, black
spider-cat, if there is such an animal outside a bad dream.
It was a great grievance to him that she had suffered from no more pains
in her eyes. She had; but preferred to endure them rather than seek
relief from him.
So he would playfully try to mesmerize her with his glance, and sidle up
nearer and nearer to her, making passes and counter-passes, with stern
command in his eyes, till she would shake and shiver and almost sicken
with fear, and all but feel the spell come over her, as in a nightmare,
and rouse herself with a great effort and escape.
If Taffy were there he would interfere with a friendly "Now then, old
fellow, none of that!" and a jolly slap on the back, which would make
Svengali cough for an hour, and paralyze his mesmeric powers for a week.
Svengali had a stroke of good-fortune. He played at three grand
concerts with Gecko, and had a well-deserved success. He even gave a
concert of his own, which made a furor, and blossomed out into beautiful
and costly clothes of quite original color and shape and pattern, so
that people would turn round and stare at him in the street--a thing he
loved. He felt his fortune was secure, and ran into debt with tailors,
hatters, shoemakers, jewellers, but paid none of his old debts to his
friends. His pockets were always full of printed slips--things that had
been written about him in the papers--and he would read them aloud to
everybody he knew, especially to Trilby, as she sat darning socks on the
model-throne while the fencing and boxing were in train. And he would
lay his fame and his fortune at her feet, on condition that she should
share her life with him.
"Ach, himmel, Drilpy!" he would say, "you don't know what it is to be a
great pianist like me--hein! What is your Little Billee, with his
stinking oil-bladders, sitting mum in his corner, his mahlstick and his
palette in one hand, and his twiddling little footle pig's-hair brush in
the other! What noise does "he" make? When his little fool of a picture
is finished he will send it to London, and they will hang it on a wall
with a lot of others, all in a line, like recruits called out for
inspection, and the yawning public will walk by in procession and
inspect, and say 'damn!' Svengali will go to London "himself". Ha! ha!
He will be all alone on a platform, and play as nobody else can play;
and hundreds of beautiful Engländerinnen will see and hear and go mad
with love for him--Prinzessen, Comtessen, Serene English Altessen. They
will soon lose their Serenity and their Highness when they hear
Svengali! They will invite him to their palaces, and pay him a thousand
francs to play for them; and after, he will loll in the best arm-chair,
and they will sit all round him on footstools, and bring him tea and gin
and küchen and marrons glacés, and lean over him and fan him--for he is
tired after playing them for a thousand francs of Chopin! Ha, ha! I know
all about it--hein?
"And he will not look at them, even! He will look inward, at his own
dream--and his dream will be about Drilpy--to lay his talent, his glory,
his thousand francs at her beautiful white feet!
"Their stupid, big, fat, tow-headed, putty-nosed husbands will be mad
with jealousy, and long to box him, but they will be afraid. Ach! those
beautiful Anglaises! they will think it an honor to mend his shirts, to
sew buttons on his pantaloons; to darn his socks, as you are doing now
for that sacred imbecile of a Scotchman who is always trying to paint
toreadors, or that sweating, pig-headed bullock of an Englander who is
always trying to get himself dirty and then to get himself clean
again!--"e da capo!"
"Himmel! what big socks are those! what potato-sacks!
"Look at your Taffy! what is he good for but to bang great musicians on
the back with his big bear's paw! He finds that droll, the bullock!...
[Illustration: TIT FOR TAT]
"Look at your Frenchmen there--your damned conceited verfluchte pig-dogs
of Frenchmen--Durien, Barizel, Bouchardy! What can a Frenchman talk of,
hein? Only himself, and run down everybody else! His vanity makes me
sick! He always thinks the world is talking about "him", the fool! He
forgets that there's a fellow called "Svengali" for the world to talk
about! I tell you, Drilpy, it is about "me" the world is talking--me and
nobody else--me, me, me!
"Listen what they say in the "Figaro"" (reads it).
"What do you think of that, hein? What would your Durien say if people
wrote of "him" like that?
"But you are not listening, sapperment! great big she-fool that you
are--sheep's-head! Dummkopf! Donnerwetter! you are looking at the
chimney-pots when Svengali is talking! Look a little lower down between
the houses, on the other side of the river! There is a little ugly gray
building there, and inside are eight slanting slabs of brass, all of a
row, like beds in a school dormitory, and one fine day you shall lie
asleep on one of those slabs--you, Drilpy, who would not listen to
Svengali, and therefore lost him!... And over the middle of you will be
a little leather apron, and over your head a little brass tap, and all
day long and all night the cold water shall trickle, trickle, trickle
all the way down your beautiful white body to your beautiful white feet
till they turn green, and your poor, damp, draggled, muddy rags will
hang above you from the ceiling for your friends to know you by; drip,
drip, drip! But you will have no friends....
"And people of all sorts, strangers, will stare at you through the big
plate-glass windows--Englanders, chiffonniers, painters and sculptors,
workmen, pioupious, old hags of washer-women--and say, 'Ah! what a
beautiful woman was that! Look at her! She ought to be rolling in her
carriage and pair!' And just then who should come by, rolling in his
carriage and pair, smothered in furs, and smoking a big cigar of the
Havana, but Svengali, who will jump out, and push the canaille aside,
and say, 'Ha! ha! that is la grande Drilpy, who would not listen to
Svengali, but looked at the chimney-pots when he told her of his manly
"Hi! damn it, Svengali, what the devil are you talking to Trilby about?
You're making her sick; can't you see? Leave off, and go to the piano,
man, or I'll come and slap you on the back again!"
Thus would that sweating, pig-headed bullock of an Englander stop
Svengali's love-making and release Trilby from bad quarters of an hour.
Then Svengali, who had a wholesome dread of the pig-headed bullock,
would go to the piano and make impossible discords, and say: "Dear
Drilpy, come and sing 'Pen Polt'! I am thirsting for those so beautiful
chest notes! Come!"
Poor Trilby needed little pressing when she was asked to sing, and would
go through her lamentable performance, to the great discomfort of Little
Billee. It lost nothing of its grotesqueness from Svengali's
accompaniment, which was a triumph of cacophony, and he would encourage
her--"Très pien, très pien, ça y est!"
When it was over, Svengali would test her ear, as he called it, and
strike the C in the middle and then the F just above, and ask which was
the highest; and she would declare they were both exactly the same. It
was only when he struck a note in the bass and another in the treble
that she could perceive any difference, and said that the first sounded
like père Martin blowing up his wife, and the second like her little
godson trying to make the peace between them.
She was quite tone-deaf, and didn't know it; and he would pay her
extravagant compliments on her musical talent, till Taffy would say:
"Look here, Svengali, let's hear "you" sing a song!"
And he would tickle him so masterfully under the ribs that the creature
howled and became quite hysterical.
Then Svengali would vent his love of teasing on Little Billee, and pin
"his" arms behind his back and swing him round, saying: "Himmel! what's
this for an arm? It's like a girl's!"
"It's strong enough to paint!" said Little Billee.
"And what's this for a leg? It's like a mahlstick!"
"It's strong enough to kick, if you don't leave off!"
And Little Billee, the young and tender, would let out his little heel
and kick the German's shins; and just as the German was going to
retaliate, big Taffy would pin "his" arms and make him sing another
song, more discordant than Trilby's--for he didn't dream of kicking
Taffy; of that you may be sure!
Such was Svengali--only to be endured for the sake of his music--always
ready to vex, frighten, bully, or torment anybody or anything smaller
and weaker than himself--from a woman or a child to a mouse or a fly.
"Par deçà, ne dela la mer
Ne sçay dame ni damoiselle
Qui soit en tous biens parfaits telle--
C'est un songe que d'y penser:
Dieu! qu'il fait bon la regarder!"
One lovely Monday morning in late September, at about eleven or so,
Taffy and the Laird sat in the studio--each opposite his picture,
smoking, nursing his knee, and saying nothing. The heaviness of Monday
weighed on their spirits more than usual, for the three friends had
returned late on the previous night from a week spent at Barbizon and in
the forest of Fontainebleau--a heavenly week among the painters:
Rousseau, Millet, Corot, Daubigny, let us suppose, and others less known
to fame this day. Little Billee, especially, had been fascinated by all
this artistic life in blouses and sabots and immense straw hats and
panamas, and had sworn to himself and to his friends that he would some
day live and die there--painting, the forest as it is, and peopling it
with beautiful people out of his own fancy--leading a healthy out-door
life of simple wants and lofty aspirations.
At length Taffy said: "Bother work this morning! I feel much more like a
stroll in the Luxembourg Gardens and lunch at the Café de l'Odéon, where
the omelets are good and the wine isn't blue."
"The very thing I was thinking of myself," said the Laird.
[Illustration: THE HAPPY LIFE]
So Taffy slipped on his old shooting-jacket and his old Harrow cricket
cap, with the peak turned the wrong way, and the Laird put on an old
great-coat of Taffy's that reached to his heels, and a battered straw
hat they had found in the studio when they took it; and both sallied
forth into the mellow sunshine on the way to Carrel's. For they meant to
seduce Little Billee from his work, that he might share in their
laziness, greediness, and general demoralization.
And whom should they meet coming down the narrow turreted old Rue
Vieille des Mauvais Ladres but Little Billee himself, with an air of
general demoralization so tragic that they were quite alarmed. He had
his paint-box and field-easel in one hand and his little valise in the
other. He was pale, his hat on the back of his head, his hair staring
all at sixes and sevens, like a sick Scotch terrier's.
"Good Lord! what's the matter?" said Taffy.
"Oh! oh! oh! she's sitting at Carrel's!"
"Who's sitting at Carrel's?"
"Trilby! sitting to all those ruffians! There she was, just as I opened
the door; I saw her, I tell you! The sight of her was like a blow
between the eyes, and I bolted! I shall never go back to that beastly
hole again! I'm off to Barbizon, to paint the forest; I was coming round
to tell you. Good-bye!..."
"Stop a minute--are you mad?" said Taffy, collaring him.
"Let me go, Taffy--let me go, damn it! I'll come back in a week--but I'm
going now! Let me go; do you hear?"
"But look here--I'll go with you."
"No; I want to be alone--quite alone. Let me go, I tell you!"
"I sha'n't let you go unless you swear to me, on your honor, that you'll
write directly, you get there, and every day till you come back. Swear!"
"All right; I swear--honor bright! Now there! Good-bye--good-bye; back
on Sunday--good-bye!" And he was off.
"Now, what the devil does all that mean?" asked Taffy, much perturbed.
"I suppose he's shocked at seeing Trilby in that guise, or disguise, or
unguise, sitting at Carrel's--he's such an odd little chap. And I must
say, I'm surprised at Trilby. It's a bad thing for her when we're away.
What could have induced her? She never sat in a studio of that kind
before. I thought she only sat to Durien and old Carrel."
They walked for a while in silence.
"Do you know, I've got a horrid idea that the little fool's in love with
"I've long had a horrid idea that "she's" in love with "him"."
"That would be a very stupid business," said Taffy.
They walked on, brooding over those two horrid ideas, and the more they
brooded, considered, and remembered, the more convinced they became that
both were right.
"Here's a pretty kettle of fish!" said the Laird--"and talking of fish,
let's go and lunch."
And so demoralized were they that Taffy ate three omelets without
thinking, and the Laird drank two half-bottles of wine, and Taffy three,
and they walked about the whole of that afternoon for fear Trilby should
come to the studio--and were very unhappy.
* * * * *
This is how Trilby came to sit at Carrel's studio:
Carrel had suddenly taken it into his head that he would spend a week
there, and paint a figure among his pupils, that they might see and
paint with--and if possible like--him. And he had asked Trilby as a
great favor to be the model, and Trilby was so devoted to the great
Carrel that she readily consented. So that Monday morning found her
there, and Carrel posed her as Ingres's famous figure in his picture
called "La Source," holding a stone pitcher on her shoulder.
[Illustration: "'LET ME GO, TAFFY ...'"]
And the work began in religious silence. Then in five minutes or so
Little Billee came bursting in, and as soon as he caught sight of her he
stopped and stood as one petrified, his shoulders up, his eyes staring.
Then lifting his arms, he turned and fled.
"Qu'est ce qu'il a donc, ce Litrebili?" exclaimed one or two students
(for they had turned his English nickname into French).
"Perhaps he's forgotten something," said another. "Perhaps he's
forgotten to brush his teeth and part his hair!"
"Perhaps he's forgotten to say his prayers!" said Barizel.
"He'll come back, I hope!" exclaimed the master.
And the incident gave rise to no further comment.
But Trilby was much disquieted, and fell to wondering what on earth was
At first she wondered in French: French of the quartier latin. She had
not seen Little Billee for a week, and wondered if he were ill. She had
looked forward so much to his painting her--painting her
beautifully--and hoped he would soon come back, and lose no time.
Then she began to wonder in English--nice clean English of the studio in
the Place St. Anatole des Arts--her father's English--and suddenly a
quick thought pierced her through and through, and made the flesh tingle
on her insteps and the backs of her hands, and bathed her brow and
temples with sweat.
She had good eyes, and Little Billee had a singularly expressive face.
Could it possibly be that he was "shocked" at seeing her sitting there?
She knew that he was peculiar in many ways. She remembered that neither
he nor Taffy nor the Laird had ever asked her to sit for the figure,
though she would have been only too delighted to do so for them. She
also remembered how Little Billee had always been silent whenever she
alluded to her posing for the "altogether," as she called it, and had
sometimes looked pained and always very grave.
She turned alternately pale and red, pale and red all over, again and
again, as the thought grew up in her--and soon the growing thought
became a torment.
[Illustration: "'QU'EST CE QU'IL A DONC, CE LITREBILI?'"]
This new-born feeling of shame was unendurable--its birth a travail that
racked and rent every fibre of her moral being, and she suffered agonies
beyond anything she had ever felt in her life.
"What is the matter with you, my child? Are you ill?" asked Carrel,
who, like every one else, was very fond of her, and to whom she had sat
as a child ("l'Enfance de Psyché," now in the Luxembourg Gallery, was
painted from her).
She shook her head, and the work went on.
Presently she dropped her pitcher, that broke into bits; and putting her
two hands to her face she burst into tears and sobs--and there, to the
amazement of everybody, she stood crying like a big baby--"La source aux
"What "is" the matter, my poor dear child?" said Carrel, jumping up and
helping her off the throne.
"Oh, I don't know--I don't know--I'm ill--very ill--let me go home!"
And with kind solicitude and despatch they helped her on with her
clothes, and Carrel sent for a cab and took her home.
And on the way she dropped her head on his shoulder, and wept, and told
him all about it as well as she could, and Monsieur Carrel had tears in
his eyes too, and wished to Heaven he had never induced her to sit for
the figure, either then or at any other time. And pondering deeply and
sorrowfully on such terrible responsibility (he had grown-up daughters
of his own), he went back to the studio; and in an hour's time they got
another model and another pitcher, and went to work again.
* * * * *
And Trilby, as she lay disconsolate on her bed all that day and all the
next, and all the next again, thought of her past life with agonies of
shame and remorse that made the pain in her eyes seem as a light and
welcome relief. For it came, and tortured worse and lasted longer than
it had ever done before. But she soon found, to her miserable
bewilderment, that mind-aches are the worst of all.
Then she decided that she must write to one of the trois Angliches, and
chose the Laird.
She was more familiar with him than with the other two: it was
impossible not to be familiar with the Laird if he liked one, as he was
so easy-going and demonstrative, for all that he was such a canny Scot!
Then she had nursed him through his illness; she had often hugged and
kissed him before the whole studio full of people--and even when alone
with him it had always seemed quite natural for her to do so. It was
like a child caressing a favorite young uncle or elder brother. And
though the good Laird was the least susceptible of mortals, he would
often find these innocent blandishments a somewhat trying ordeal! She
had never taken such a liberty with Taffy; and as for Little Billee, she
would sooner have died!
So she wrote to the Laird. I give her letter without the spelling, which
was often faulty, although her nightly readings had much improved it:
"MY DEAR FRIEND,--I am very unhappy. I was sitting at Carrel's, in
the Rue des Potirons, and Little Billee came in, and was so shocked
and disgusted that he ran away and never came back.
"I saw it all in his face.
"I sat there because M. Carrel asked me to. He has always been very
kind to me--M. Carrel--ever since I was a child; and I would do
anything to please him, but never "that" again.
"He was there too.
"I never thought anything about sitting before. I sat first as a
child to M. Carrel. Mamma made me, and made me promise not to tell
papa, and so I didn't. It soon seemed as natural to sit for people
as to run errands for them, or wash and mend their clothes. Papa
wouldn't have liked my doing that either, though we wanted the
money badly. And so he never knew.
"I have sat for the altogether to several other people besides--M.
Gérôme, Durien, the two Hennequins, and Émile Baratier; and for the
head and hands to lots of people, and for the feet only to Charles
Faure, André Besson, Mathieu Dumoulin, and Collinet. Nobody else.
"It seemed as natural for me to sit as for a man. Now I see the
"And I have done dreadful things besides, as you must know--as all
the quartier knows. Baratier and Besson; but not Durien, though
people think so. Nobody else, I swear--except old Monsieur Penque
at the beginning, who was mamma's friend.
"It makes me almost die of shame and misery to think of it; for
that's not like sitting. I knew how wrong it was all along--and
there's no excuse for me, none. Though lots of people do as bad,
and nobody in the quartier seems to think any the worse of them.
"If you and Taffy and Little Billee cut me, I really think I shall
go mad and die. Without your friendship I shouldn't care to live a
bit. Dear Sandy, I love your little finger better than any man or
woman I ever met; and Taffy's and Little Billee's little fingers
"What shall I do? I daren't go out for fear of meeting one of you.
Will you come and see me?
"I am never going to sit again, not even for the face and hands. I
am going back to be a "blanchisseuse de fin" with my old friend
Angèle Boisse, who is getting on very well indeed, in the Rue des
Cloîtres Ste. Pétronille.
"You "will" come and see me, won't you? I shall be in all day till
you do. Or else I will meet you somewhere, if you will tell me
where and when; or else I will go and see you in the studio, if you
are sure to be alone. Please don't keep me waiting long for an
"You don't know what I'm suffering.
"Your ever-loving, faithful friend,
She sent this letter by hand, and the Laird came in less than ten
minutes after she had sent it; and she hugged and kissed and cried over
him so that he was almost ready to cry himself; but he burst out
laughing instead--which was better and more in his line, and very much
more comforting--and talked to her so nicely and kindly and naturally
that by the time he left her humble attic in the Rue des Pousse-Cailloux
her very aspect, which had quite shocked him when he first saw her, had
almost become what it usually was.
The little room under the leads, with its sloping roof and mansard
window, was as scrupulously neat and clean as if its tenant had been a
holy sister who taught the noble daughters of France at some Convent of
the Sacred Heart. There were nasturtiums and mignonette on the outer
window-sill, and convolvulus was trained to climb round the window.
As she sat by his side on the narrow white bed, clasping and stroking
his painty, turpentiny hand, and kissing it every five minutes, he
talked to her like a father--as he told Taffy afterwards--and scolded
her for having been so silly as not to send for him directly, or come to
the studio. He said how glad he was, how glad they would all be, that
she was going to give up sitting for the figure--not, of course, that
there was any real harm in it, but it was better not--and especially how
happy it would make them to feel she intended to live straight for the
future. Little Billee was to remain at Barbizon for a little while; but
she must promise to come and dine with Taffy and himself that very day,
and cook the dinner; and when he went back to his picture, "Les Noces du
Toréador"--saying to her as he left, "à ce soir donc, mille sacrés
tonnerres de nong de Dew!"--he left the happiest woman in the whole
Latin quarter behind him: she had confessed and been forgiven.
And with shame and repentance and confession and forgiveness had come a
strange new feeling--that of a dawning self-respect.
Hitherto, for Trilby, self-respect had meant little more than the mere
cleanliness of her body, in which she had always revelled; alas! it was
one of the conditions of her humble calling. It now meant another kind
of cleanliness, and she would luxuriate in it for evermore; and the
dreadful past--never to be forgotten by her--should be so lived down as
in time, perhaps, to be forgotten by others.
The dinner that evening was a memorable one for Trilby. After she had
washed up the knives and forks and plates and dishes, and put them by,
she sat and sewed. She wouldn't even smoke her cigarette, it reminded
her so of things and scenes she now hated. No more cigarettes for Trilby
They all talked of Little Billee. She heard about the way he had been
brought up, about his mother and sister, the people he had always lived
among. She also heard (and her heart alternately rose and sank as she
listened) what his future was likely to be, and how rare his genius was,
and how great--if his friends were to be trusted. Fame and fortune would
soon be his--such fame and fortune as fell to the lot of very
few--unless anything should happen to spoil his promise and mar his
prospects in life, and ruin a splendid career; and the rising of the
heart was all for him, the sinking for herself. How could she ever hope
to be even the friend of such a man? Might she ever hope to be his
servant--his faithful, humble servant?
* * * * *
Little Billee spent a month at Barbizon, and when he came back it was
with such a brown face that his friends hardly knew him; and he brought
with him such studies as made his friends "sit up."
The crushing sense of their own hopeless inferiority was lost in wonder
at his work, in love and enthusiasm for the workman.
Their Little Billee, so young and tender, so weak of body, so strong of
purpose, so warm of heart, so light of hand, so keen and quick and
piercing of brain and eye, was their master, to be stuck on a pedestal
and looked up to and bowed down to, to be watched and warded and
worshipped for evermore.
When Trilby came in from her work at six, and he shook hands with her
and said "Hullo, Trilby!" her face turned pale to the lips, her
under-lip quivered, and she gazed down at him (for she was among the
tallest of her sex) with such a moist, hungry, wide-eyed look of humble
craving adoration that the Laird felt his worst fears were realized, and
the look Little Billee sent up in return filled the manly bosom of Taffy
with an equal apprehension.
Then they all four went and dined together at le père Trin's, and Trilby
went back to her "blanchisserie de fin".
Next day Little Billee took his work to show Carrel, and Carrel invited
him to come and finish his picture "The Pitcher Goes to the Well" at his
own private studio--an unheard-of favor, which the boy accepted with a
thrill of proud gratitude and affectionate reverence.
So little was seen for some time of Little Billee at the studio in the
Place St. Anatole des Arts, and little of Trilby; a "blanchisseuse de
fin" has not many minutes to spare from her irons. But they often met at
dinner. And on Sunday mornings Trilby came to repair the Laird's linen
and darn his socks and look after his little comforts, as usual, and
spend a happy day. And on Sunday afternoons the studio would be as
lively as ever, with the fencing and boxing, the piano-playing and
fiddling--all as it used to be.
And week by week the friends noticed a gradual and subtle change in
Trilby. She was no longer slangy in French, unless it were now and then
by a slip of the tongue, no longer so facetious and droll, and yet she
seemed even happier than she had ever seemed before.
Also, she grew thinner, especially in the face, where the bones of her
cheeks and jaw began to show themselves, and these bones were
constructed on such right principles (as were those of her brow and chin
and the bridge of her nose) that the improvement was astonishing, almost
Also, she lost her freckles as the summer waned and she herself went
less into the open air. And she let her hair grow, and made of it a
small knot at the back of her head, and showed her little flat ears,
which were charming, and just in the right place, very far back and
rather high; Little Billee could not have placed them better himself.
Also, her mouth, always too large, took on a firmer and sweeter outline,
and her big British teeth were so white and even that even Frenchmen
forgave them their British bigness. And a new soft brightness came into
her eyes that no one had ever seen there before. They were stars, just
twin gray stars--or rather planets just thrown off by some new sun, for
the steady mellow light they gave out was not entirely their own.
Favorite types of beauty change with each succeeding generation. These
were the days of Buckner's aristocratic Album beauties, with lofty
foreheads, oval faces, little aquiline noses, heart-shaped little
mouths, soft dimpled chins, drooping shoulders, and long side ringlets
that fell over them--the Lady Arabellas and the Lady Clementinas,
Musidoras and Medoras! A type that will perhaps come back to us some
May the present scribe be dead!
Trilby's type would be infinitely more admired now than in the fifties.
Her photograph would be in the shop-windows. Sir Edward Burne-Jones--if
I may make so bold as to say so--would perhaps have marked her for his
own, in spite of her almost too exuberant joyousness and irrepressible
vitality. Rossetti might have evolved another new formula from her; Sir
John Millais another old one of the kind that is always new and never
sates nor palls--like Clytie, let us say--ever old and ever new as love
Trilby's type was in singular contrast to the type Gavarni had made so
popular in the Latin quarter at the period we are writing of, so that
those who fell so readily under her charm were rather apt to wonder why.
Moreover, she was thought much too tall for her sex, and her day, and
her station in life, and especially for the country she lived in. She
hardly looked up to a bold gendarme! and a bold gendarme was nearly as
tall as a "dragon de la garde," who was nearly as tall as an average
English policeman. Not that she was a giantess, by any means. She was
about as tall as Miss Ellen Terry--and that is a charming height, "I"
[Illustration: "ALL AS IT USED TO BE"]
One day Taffy remarked to the Laird: "Hang it! I'm blest if Trilby isn't
the handsomest woman I know! She looks like a grande dame masquerading
as a grisette--almost like a joyful saint at times. She's lovely! By
Jove! I couldn't stand her hugging me as she does you! There'd be a
tragedy--say the slaughter of Little Billee."
"Ah! Taffy, my boy," rejoined the Laird, "when those long sisterly arms
are round my neck it isn't "me" she's hugging."
"And then," said Taffy, "what a trump she is! Why, she's as upright and
straight and honorable as a man! And what she says to one about one's
self is always so pleasant to hear! That's Irish, I suppose. And, what's
more, it's always true."
"Ah, that's Scotch!" said the Laird, and tried to wink at Little Billee,
but Little Billee wasn't there.
[Illustration: "TWIN GRAY STARS"]
Even Svengali perceived the strange metamorphosis. "Ach, Drilpy," he
would say, on a Sunday afternoon, "how beautiful you are! It drives me
mad! I adore you. I like you thinner; you have such beautiful bones! Why
do you not answer my letters? What! you do not "read" them? You "burn"
them? And yet I--Donnerwetter! I forgot! The grisettes of the quartier
latin have not learned how to read or write; they have only learned how
to dance the cancan with the dirty little pig-dog monkeys they call men.
Sacrement! We will teach the little pig-dog monkeys to dance something
else some day, we Germans. We will make music for them to dance to!
Boum! boum! Better than the waiter at the Café de la Rotonde, hein? And
the grisettes of the quartier latin shall pour us out your little white
wine--'fotre betit fin planc,' as your pig-dog monkey of a poet says,
your rotten verfluchter De Musset, 'who has got such a splendid future
behind him'! Bah! What do "you" know of Monsieur Alfred de Musset? We
have got a poet too, my Drilpy. His name is Heinrich Heine. If he's
still alive, he lives in Paris, in a little street off the Champs
Élysées. He lies in bed all day long, and only sees out of one eye, like
the Countess Hahn-Hahn, ha! ha! He adores French grisettes. He married
one. Her name is Mathilde, and she has got süssen füssen, like you. He
would adore you too, for your beautiful bones; he would like to count
them one by one, for he is very playful, like me. And, ach! what a
beautiful skeleton you will make! And very soon, too, because you do not
smile on your madly-loving Svengali. You burn his letters without
reading them! You shall have a nice little mahogany glass case all to
yourself in the museum of the École de Médecine, and Svengali shall come
in his new fur-lined coat, smoking his big cigar of the Havana, and push
the dirty carabins out of the way, and look through the holes of your
eyes into your stupid empty skull, and up the nostrils of your high bony
sounding-board of a nose without either a tip or a lip to it, and into
the roof of your big mouth, with your thirty-two big English teeth, and
between your big ribs into your big chest, where the big leather lungs
used to be, and say, 'Ach! what a pity she had no more music in her than
a big tomcat!' And then he will look all down your bones to your poor
crumbling feet, and say, 'Ach! what a fool she was not to answer
Svengali's letters!' and the dirty carabins shall--"
"Shut up, you sacred fool, or I'll precious soon spoil "your" skeleton
Thus the short-tempered Taffy, who had been listening.
Then Svengali, scowling, would play Chopin's funeral march more divinely
than ever; and where the pretty, soft part comes in, he would whisper to
Trilby, "That is Svengali coming to look at you in your little mahogany
And here let me say that these vicious imaginations of Svengali's, which
look so tame in English print, sounded much more ghastly in French,
pronounced with a Hebrew-German accent, and uttered in his hoarse,
rasping, nasal, throaty rook's caw, his big yellow teeth baring
themselves in a mongrel canine snarl, his heavy upper eyelids drooping
over his insolent black eyes.
Besides which, as he played the lovely melody he would go through a
ghoulish pantomime, as though he were taking stock of the different
bones in her skeleton with greedy but discriminating approval. And when
he came down to the feet, he was almost droll in the intensity of his
terrible realism. But Trilby did not appreciate this exquisite fooling,
and felt cold all over.
He seemed to her a dread, powerful demon, who, but for Taffy (who alone
could hold him in check), oppressed and weighed on her like an
incubus--and she dreamed of him oftener than she dreamed of Taffy, the
Laird, or even Little Billee!
* * * * *
Thus pleasantly and smoothly, and without much change or adventure,
things went on till Christmastime.
Little Billee seldom spoke of Trilby, or Trilby of him. Work went on
every morning at the studio in the Place St. Anatole des Arts, and
pictures were begun and finished--little pictures that didn't take long
to paint--the Laird's Spanish bull-fighting scenes, in which the bull
never appeared, and which he sent to his native Dundee and sold there;
Taffy's tragic little dramas of life in the slums of Paris--starvings,
drownings--suicides by charcoal and poison--which he sent everywhere,
but did not sell.
[Illustration: "AN INCUBUS"]
Little Billee was painting all this time at Carrel's studio--his private
one--and seemed preoccupied and happy when they all met at mealtime, and
less talkative even than usual.
He had always been the least talkative of the three; more prone to
listen, and no doubt to think the more.
In the afternoon people came and went as usual, and boxed and fenced and
did gymnastic feats, and felt Taffy's biceps, which by this time
equalled Mr. Sandow's!
Some of these people were very pleasant and remarkable, and have become
famous since then in England, France, America--or have died, or married,
and come to grief or glory in other ways. It is the Ballad of the
Bouillabaisse all over again!
It might be worth while my trying to sketch some of the more noteworthy,
now that my story is slowing for a while--like a French train when the
engine-driver sees a long curved tunnel in front of him, as I do--and no
light at the other end!
My humble attempts at characterization might be useful as "mémoires pour
servir" to future biographers. Besides, there are other reasons, as the
reader will soon discover.
There was Durien, for instance--Trilby's especial French adorer, "pour
le bon motif!" a son of the people, a splendid sculptor, a very fine
character in every way--so perfect, indeed, that there is less to say
about him than any of the others--modest, earnest, simple, frugal,
chaste, and of untiring industry; living for his art, and perhaps also a
little for Trilby, whom he would have been only too glad to marry. He
was Pygmalion; she was his Galatea--a Galatea whose marble heart would
never beat for "him"!
Durien's house is now the finest in the Parc Monceau; his wife and
daughters are the best-dressed women in Paris, and he one of the
happiest of men; but he will never quite forget poor Galatea:
"La belle aux pieds d'albâtre--aux deux talons de rose!"
* * * * *
Then there was Vincent, a Yankee medical student, who could both work
He is now one of the greatest oculists in the world, and Europeans cross
the Atlantic to consult him. He can still play, and when he crosses the
Atlantic himself for that purpose he has to travel incognito like a
royalty, lest his play should be marred by work. And his daughters are
so beautiful and accomplished that British dukes have sighed after them
in vain. Indeed, these fair young ladies spend their autumn holiday in
refusing the British aristocracy. We are told so in the society papers,
and I can quite believe it. Love is not always blind; and if he is,
Vincent is the man to cure him.
In those days he prescribed for us all round, and punched and
stethoscoped us, and looked at our tongues for love, and told us what to
eat, drink, and avoid, and even where to go for it.
For instance: late one night Little Billee woke up in a cold sweat, and
thought himself a dying man--he had felt seedy all day and taken no
food; so he dressed and dragged himself to Vincent's hotel, and woke him
up, and said, "Oh, Vincent, Vincent! I'm a dying man!" and all but
fainted on his bed. Vincent felt him all over with the greatest care,
and asked him many questions. Then, looking at his watch, he delivered
himself thus: "Humph! 3.30! rather late--but still--look here, Little
Billee--do you know the Halle, on the other side of the water, where
they sell vegetables?"
"Oh yes! yes! What vegetable shall I--"
"Listen! On the north side are two restaurants, Bordier and Baratte.
They remain open all night. Now go straight off to one of those tuck
shops, and tuck in as big a supper as you possibly can. Some people
prefer Baratte. I prefer Bordier myself. Perhaps you'd better try
Bordier first and Baratte after. At all events, lose no time; so off you
Thus he saved Little Billee from an early grave.
* * * * *
Then there was the Greek, a boy of only sixteen, but six feet high, and
looking ten years older than he was, and able to smoke even stronger
tobacco than Taffy himself, and color pipes divinely; he was a great
favorite in the Place St. Anatole, for his "bonhomie", his niceness, his
warm geniality. He was the capitalist of this select circle (and nobly
lavish of his capital). He went by the name of Poluphloisboiospaleapologos
Petrilopetrolicoconose--for so he was christened by the Laird--because
his real name was thought much too long and much too lovely for the
quartier latin, and reminded one of the Isles of Greece--where burning
Sappho loved and sang.
What was he learning in the Latin quarter? French? He spoke French like
a native! Nobody knows. But when his Paris friends transferred their
bohemia to London, where were they ever made happier and more at home
than in his lordly parental abode--or fed with nicer things?
[Illustration: THE CAPITALIST AND THE SWELL]
That abode is now his, and lordlier than ever, as becomes the dwelling
of a millionaire and city magnate; and its gray-bearded owner is as
genial, as jolly, and as hospitable as in the old Paris days, but he no
longer colors pipes.
* * * * *
Then there was Carnegie, fresh from Balliol, redolent of the 'varsity.
He intended himself then for the diplomatic service, and came to Paris
to learn French as it is spoke; and spent most of his time with his
fashionable English friends on the right side of the river, and the rest
with Taffy, the Laird, and Little Billee on the left. Perhaps that is
why he has not become an ambassador. He is now only a rural dean, and
speaks the worst French I know, and speaks it wherever and whenever he
It serves him right, I think.
He was fond of lords, and knew some (at least, he gave one that
impression), and often talked of them, and dressed so beautifully that
even Little Billee was abashed in his presence. Only Taffy, in his
threadbare out-at-elbow shooting-jacket and cricket cap, and the Laird,
in his tattered straw hat and Taffy's old overcoat down to his heels,
dared to walk arm in arm with him--nay, insisted on doing so--as they
listened to the band in the Luxembourg Gardens.
And his whiskers were even longer and thicker and more golden than
Taffy's own. But the mere sight of a boxing-glove made him sick.
* * * * *
Then there was the yellow-haired Antony, a Swiss--the idle apprentice,
le "roi des truands," as we called him--to whom everything was
forgiven, as to François Villon, "à cause de ses gentillesses" surely,
for all his reprehensible pranks, the gentlest and most lovable creature
that ever lived in bohemia, or out of it.
Always in debt, like Svengali--for he had no more notion of the value of
money than a humming-bird, and gave away in reckless generosity to
friends what in strictness belonged to his endless creditors--like
Svengali, humorous, witty, and a most exquisite and original artist, and
also somewhat eccentric in his attire (though scrupulously clean), so
that people would stare at him as he walked along--a thing that always
gave him dire offence! But unlike Svengali, full of delicacy,
refinement, and distinction of mind and manner--void of any
self-conceit--and, in spite of the irregularities of his life, the very
soul of truth and honor, as gentle as he was chivalrous and brave--the
warmest, stanchest, sincerest, most unselfish friend in the world; and,
as long as his purse was full, the best and drollest boon companion in
the world--but that was not forever!
When the money was gone, then would Antony hie him to some beggarly
attic in some lost Parisian slum, and write his own epitaph in lovely
French or German verse--or even English (for he was an astounding
linguist); and, telling himself that he was forsaken by family, friends,
and mistress alike, look out of his casement over the Paris chimney-pots
for the last time, and listen once more to "the harmonies of nature," as
he called it--and "aspire towards the infinite," and bewail "the cruel
deceptions of his life"--and finally lay himself down to die of sheer
And as he lay and waited for his release that was so long in coming, he
would beguile the weary hours by mumbling a crust "watered with his own
salt tears," and decorating his epitaph with fanciful designs of the
most exquisite humor, pathos, and beauty--these illustrated epitaphs of
the young Antony, of which there exists a goodly number, are now
priceless, as all collectors know all over the world.
Fainter and fainter would he grow--and finally, on the third day or
thereabouts, a remittance would reach him from some long-suffering
sister or aunt in far Lausanne--or else the fickle mistress or faithless
friend (who had been looking for him all over Paris) would discover his
hiding-place, the beautiful epitaph would be walked off in triumph to le
père Marcas in the Rue du Ghette and sold for twenty, fifty, a hundred
francs--and then "Vogue la galére!" And back again to bohemia, dear
bohemia and all its joys, as long as the money lasted ... "e poi, da
And now that his name is a household word in two hemispheres, and he
himself an honor and a glory to the land he has adopted as his own, he
loves to remember all this and look back from the lofty pinnacle on
which he sits perched up aloft to the impecunious days of his idle
apprenticeship--"le bon temps où l'on était si malheureux!"
And with all that Quixotic dignity of his, so famous is he as a wit that
when he jokes (and he is always joking) people laugh first, and then ask
what he was joking about. And you can even make your own mild funniments
raise a roar by merely prefacing them "as Antony once said!"
The present scribe has often done so.
And if by a happy fluke you should some day hit upon a really good thing
of your own--good enough to be quoted--be sure it will come back to you
after many days prefaced "as Antony once said."
And these jokes are so good-natured that you almost resent their being
made at anybody's expense but your own--never from Antony
"The aimless jest that striking has caused pain,
The idle word that he'd wish back again!"
Indeed, in spite of his success, I don't suppose he ever made an enemy
in his life.
And here, let me add (lest there be any doubt as to his identity), that
he is now tall and stout and strikingly handsome, though rather
bald--and such an aristocrat in bearing, aspect, and manner that you
would take him for a blue-blooded descendant of the crusaders instead of
the son of a respectable burgher in Lausanne.
* * * * *
Then there was Lorrimer, the industrious apprentice, who is now also
well-pinnacled on high; himself a pillar of the Royal Academy--probably,
if he lives long enough, its future president--the duly knighted or
baroneted Lord Mayor of "all the plastic arts" (except one or two
perhaps, here and there, that are not altogether without some
May this not be for many, many years! Lorrimer himself would be the
first to say so!
Tall, thin, red-haired, and well-favored, he was a most eager, earnest,
and painstaking young enthusiast, of precocious culture, who read
improving books, and did not share in the amusements of the quartier
latin, but spent his evenings at home with Handel, Michael Angelo, and
Dante, on the respectable side of the river. Also, he went into good
society sometimes, with a dress-coat on, and a white tie, and his hair
parted in the middle!
But in spite of these blemishes on his otherwise exemplary record as an
art student, he was the most delightful companion--the most
affectionate, helpful, and sympathetic of friends. May he live long and
Enthusiast as he was, he could only worship one god at a time. It was
either Michael Angelo, Phidias, Paul Veronese, Tintoret, Raphael, or
Titian--never a modern--moderns didn't exist! And so thoroughgoing was
he in his worship, and so persistent in voicing it, that he made those
immortals quite unpopular in the Place St. Anatole des Arts. We grew to
dread their very names. Each of them would last him a couple of months
or so; then he would give us a month's holiday, and take up another.
Antony did not think much of Lorrimer in those days, nor Lorrimer of
him, for all they were such good friends. And neither of them thought
much of Little Billee, whose pinnacle (of pure unadulterated fame) is
now the highest of all--the highest probably that can be for a mere
painter of pictures!
And what is so nice about Lorrimer, now that he is a graybeard, an
academician, an accomplished man of the world and society, is that he
admires Antony's genius more than he can say--and reads Mr. Rudyard
Kipling's delightful stories as well as Dante's "Inferno"--and can
listen with delight to the lovely songs of Signor Tosti, who has not
precisely founded himself on Handel--can even scream with laughter at a
comic song--even a nigger melody--so, at least, that it but be sung in
well-bred and distinguished company--for Lorrimer is no bohemian.
"Shoo, fly! don'tcher bother me!
For I belong to the Comp'ny G!"
Both these famous men are happily (and most beautifully)
married--grandfathers, for all I know--and "move in the very best
society" (Lorrimer always, I'm told; Antony now and then); "la haute,"
as it used to be called in French bohemia--meaning dukes and lords and
even royalties, I suppose, and those who love them and whom they love.
That "is" the best society, isn't it? At all events, we are assured it
used to be; but that must have been before the present scribe (a meek
and somewhat innocent outsider) had been privileged to see it with his
own little eye.
And when they happen to meet there (Antony and Lorrimer, I mean), I
don't expect they rush very wildly into each other's arms, or talk very
fluently about old times. Nor do I suppose their wives are very
intimate. None of our wives are. Not even Taffy's and the Laird's.
Oh, Orestes! Oh, Pylades!
Oh, ye impecunious, unpinnacled young inseparables of eighteen,
nineteen, twenty, even twenty-five, who share each other's thoughts and
purses, and wear each other's clothes, and swear each other's oaths,
and smoke each other's pipes, and respect each other's lights o' love,
and keep each other's secrets, and tell each other's jokes, and pawn
each other's watches and merrymake together on the proceeds, and sit all
night by each other's bedsides in sickness, and comfort each other in
sorrow and disappointment with silent, manly sympathy--"wait till you
get to forty year!"
Wait even till each or either of you gets himself a little pinnacle of
his own--be it ever so humble!
Nay, wait till either or each of you gets himself a wife!
History goes on repeating itself, and so do novels, and this is a
platitude, and there's nothing new under the sun.
May too cecee (as the idiomatic Laird would say, in the language he
adores)--may too cecee ay nee eecee nee láh!
* * * * *
Then there was Dodor, the handsome young dragon de la garde--a full
private, if you please, with a beardless face, and damask-rosy cheeks,
and a small waist, and narrow feet like a lady's, and who, strange to
say, spoke English just like an Englishman.
And his friend Gontran, "alias" l'Zouzou--a corporal in the Zouaves.
Both of these worthies had met Taffy in the Crimea, and frequented the
studios in the quartier latin, where they adored (and were adored by)
the grisettes and models, especially Trilby.
Both of them were distinguished for being the worst subjects ("les plus
mauvais sujets") of their respective regiments; yet both were special
favorites not only with their fellow-rankers, but with those in command,
from their colonels downward.
Both were in the habit of being promoted to the rank of corporal or
brigadier, and degraded to the rank of private next day for general
misconduct, the result of a too exuberant delight in their promotion.
Neither of them knew fear, envy, malice, temper, or low spirits; ever
said or did an ill-natured thing; ever even thought one; ever had an
enemy but himself. Both had the best or the worst manners going,
according to their company, whose manners they reflected; they were true
Both were always ready to share their last ten-sou piece (not that they
ever seemed to have one) with each other or anybody else, or anybody
else's last ten-sou piece with you; to offer you a friend's cigar; to
invite you to dine with any friend they had; to fight with you, or for
you, at a moment's notice. And they made up for all the anxiety,
tribulation, shame, and sorrow they caused at home by the endless fun
and amusement they gave to all outside.
It was a pretty dance they led; but our three friends of the Place St.
Anatole (who hadn't got to pay the pipers) loved them both, especially
One fine Sunday afternoon Little Billee found himself studying life and
character in that most delightful and festive scene la Fête de St.
Cloud, and met Dodor and l'Zouzou there, who hailed him with delight,
"Nous allons joliment jubiler, nom d'une pipe!" and insisted on his
joining in their amusements and paying for them--roundabouts, swings,
the giant, the dwarf, the strong man, the fat woman--to whom they made
love and were taken too seriously, and turned out--the menagerie of wild
beasts, whom they teased and aggravated till the police had to
interfere. Also "al fresco" dances, where their cancan step was of the
wildest and most unbridled character, till a sous-officier or a gendarme
came in sight, and then they danced quite mincingly and demurely, "en
maître d'école", as they called it, to the huge delight of an immense
and ever-increasing crowd, and the disgust of all truly respectable men.
They also insisted on Little Billee's walking between them, arm in arm,
and talking to them in English whenever they saw coming towards them a
respectable English family with daughters. It was the dragoon's delight
to get himself stared at by fair daughters of Albion for speaking as
good English as themselves--a rare accomplishment in a French
trooper--and Zouzou's happiness to be thought English too, though the
only English he knew was the phrase "I will not! I will not!" which he
had picked up in the Crimea, and repeated over and over again when he
came within ear-shot of a pretty English girl.
Little Billee was not happy in these circumstances. He was no snob. But
he was a respectably brought-up young Briton of the higher middle class,
and it was not quite pleasant for him to be seen (by fair countrywomen
of his own) walking arm in arm on a Sunday afternoon with a couple of
French private soldiers, and uncommonly rowdy ones at that.
[Illustration: "'I WILL NOT! I WILL NOT!'"]
Later, they came back to Paris together on the top of an omnibus,
among a very proletarian crowd, and there the two facetious warriors
immediately made themselves pleasant all round and became very popular,
especially with the women and children; but not, I regret to say,
through the propriety, refinement, and discretion of their behavior.
Little Billee resolved that he would not go a-pleasuring with them any
However, they stuck to him through thick and thin, and insisted on
escorting him all the way back to the quartier latin, by the Pont de la
Concorde and the Rue de Lille in the Faubourg St. Germain.
Little Billee loved the Faubourg St. Germain, especially the Rue de
Lille. He was fond of gazing at the magnificent old mansions, the
"hôtels" of the old French noblesse, or rather the outside walls
thereof, the grand sculptured portals with the armorial bearings and the
splendid old historic names above them--Hôtel de This, Hôtel de That,
Rohan-Chabot, Montmorency, La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, La Tour
He would forget himself in romantic dreams of past and forgotten French
chivalry which these glorious names called up; for he knew a little of
French history, loving to read Froissart and Saint-Simon and the genial
Halting opposite one of the finest and oldest of all these gateways, his
especial favorite, labelled "Hôtel de la Rochemartel" in letters of
faded gold over a ducal coronet and a huge escutcheon of stone, he began
to descant upon its architectural beauties and noble proportions to
""Parbleu!"" said l'Zouzou, ""connu", "farceur!" why, I was "born"
there, on the 6th of March, 1834, at 5.30 in the morning. Lucky day for
"Born there? what do you mean--in the porter's lodge?"
At this juncture the two great gates rolled back, a liveried Suisse
appeared, and an open carriage and pair came out, and in it were two
elderly ladies and a younger one.
[Illustration: DODOR IN HIS GLORY]
To Little Billee's indignation, the two incorrigible warriors made the
military salute, and the three ladies bowed stiffly and gravely.
And then (to Little Billee's horror this time) one of them happened to
look back, and Zouzou actually kissed his hand to her.
"Do you "know" that lady?" asked Little Billee, very sternly.
""Parbleu! si je la connais!" Why, it's my mother! Isn't she nice? She's
rather cross with me just now."
"Your "mother"! Why, what do you mean? What on earth would your mother
be doing in that big carriage and at that big house?"
""Parbleu, farceur!" She lives there!"
""Lives" there! Why, who and what is she, your mother?"
"The Duchesse de la Rochemartel, "parbleu!" and that's my sister; and
that's my aunt, Princess de Chevagné-Bauffremont! She's the '"patronne"'
of that "chic" equipage. She's a millionaire, my aunt Chevagné!"
"Well, I never! What's "your" name, then?"
"Oh, "my" name! Hang it--let me see!
Well--Gontran-Xavier--François--Marie--Joseph d'Amaury--Brissac de
Roncesvaulx de la Rochemartel-Boisségur, at your service!"
"Quite correct!" said Dodor; ""l'enfant dit vrai!""
"Well--I--never! And what's "your" name, Dodor?"
"Oh! I'm only a humble individual, and answer to the one-horse name of
Théodore Rigolot de Lafarce. But Zouzou's an awful swell, you know--his
brother's the Duke!"
[Illustration: HÔTEL DE LA ROCHEMARTEL]
Little Billee was no snob. But he was a respectably brought-up young
Briton of the higher middle class, and these revelations, which he could
not but believe, astounded him so that he could hardly speak. Much as he
flattered himself that he scorned the bloated aristocracy, titles are
titles--even French titles!--and when it comes to dukes and princesses
who live in houses like the Hôtel de la Rochemartel ...!
It's enough to take a respectably brought-up young Briton's breath away!
When he saw Taffy that evening, he exclaimed: "I say, Zouzou's mother's
"Yes--the Duchesse de la Rochemartel-Boisségur."
"You never told me!"
"You never asked me. It's one of the greatest names in France. They're
very poor, I believe."
"Poor! You should see the house they live in!"
"I've been there, to dinner; and the dinner wasn't very good. They let a
great part of it, and live mostly in the country. The Duke is Zouzou's
brother; very unlike Zouzou; he's consumptive and unmarried, and the
most respectable man in Paris. Zouzou will be the Duke some day."
"And Dodor--he's a swell, too, I suppose--he says he's "de" something or
"Yes--Rigolot de Lafarce. I've no doubt he descends from the Crusaders,
too; the name seems to favor it, anyhow; and such lots of them do in
this country. His mother was English, and bore the worthy name of Brown.
He was at school in England; that's why he speaks English so well--and
behaves so badly, perhaps! He's got a very beautiful sister, married to
a man in the 60th Rifles--Jack Reeve, a son of Lord Reevely's; a selfish
sort of chap. I don't suppose he gets on very well with his
brother-in-law. Poor Dodor! His sister's about the only living thing he
cares for--except Zouzou."
* * * * *
I wonder if the bland and genial Monsieur Théodore--"notre Sieur
Théodore"--now junior partner in the great haberdashery firm of
"Passefil et Rigolot," on the Boulevard des Capucines, and a pillar of
the English chapel in the Rue Marbœuf, is very hard on his employés
and employées if they are a little late at their counters on a Monday
I wonder if that stuck-up, stingy, stodgy, communard-shooting,
church-going, time-serving, place-hunting, pious-eyed, pompous old prig,
martinet, and philistine, Monsieur le Maréchal-Duc de la
Rochemartel-Boisségur, ever tells Madame la Maréchale-Duchesse ("née"
Hunks, of Chicago) how once upon a time Dodor and he--
We will tell no tales out of school.
The present scribe is no snob. He is a respectably brought-up old Briton
of the higher middle-class--at least, he flatters himself so. And he
writes for just such old philistines as himself, who date from a time
when titles were not thought so cheap as to-day. Alas! all reverence for
all that is high and time-honored and beautiful seems at a discount.
So he has kept his blackguard ducal Zouave for the bouquet of this
little show--the final "bonne bouche" in his bohemian "menu"--that he
may make it palatable to those who only look upon the good old quartier
latin (now no more to speak of) as a very low, common, vulgar quarter
indeed, deservedly swept away, where misters the students (shocking
bounders and cads) had nothing better to do, day and night, than mount
up to a horrid place called the thatched house--"la chaumière"--
"Pour y danser le cancan
Ou le Robert Macaire--
La nuit comme le jour ...
Et youp! youp! youp!
Tra la la la la ... la la la!"
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
Christmas was drawing near.
There were days when the whole quartier latin would veil its iniquities
under fogs almost worthy of the Thames Valley between London Bridge and
Westminster, and out of the studio window the prospect was a dreary
blank. No morgue! no towers of Notre Dame! not even the chimney-pots
over the way--not even the little mediæval toy turret at the corner of
the Rue Vieille des Mauvais Ladres, Little Billee's delight!
The stove had to be crammed till its sides grew a dull deep red before
one's fingers could hold a brush or squeeze a bladder; one had to box or
fence at nine in the morning, that one might recover from the cold bath,
and get warm for the rest of the day!
Taffy and the Laird grew pensive and dreamy, childlike and bland; and
when they talked it was generally about Christmas at home in merry
England and the distant land of cakes, and how good it was to be there
at such a time--hunting, shooting, curling, and endless carouse!
It was Ho! for the jolly West Riding, and Hey! for the bonnets of Bonnie
Dundee, till they grew quite homesick, and wanted to start by the very
They didn't do anything so foolish. They wrote over to friends in London
for the biggest turkey, the biggest plum-pudding, that could be got for
love or money, with mince-pies, and holly and mistletoe, and sturdy,
short, thick English sausages, half a Stilton cheese, and a sirloin of
beef--two sirloins, in case one should not be enough.
For they meant to have a Homeric feast in the studio on Christmas
Day--Taffy, the Laird, and Little Billee--and invite all the delightful
chums I have been trying to describe; and that is just why I tried to
describe them--Durien, Vincent, Antony, Lorrimer, Carnegie,
Petrolicoconose, l'Zouzou, and Dodor!
The cooking and waiting should be done by Trilby, her friend Angèle
Boisse, M. et Mme. Vinard, and such little Vinards as could be trusted
with glass and crockery and mince-pies; and if that was not enough, they
would also cook themselves and wait upon each other.
When dinner should be over, supper was to follow with scarcely any
interval to speak of; and to partake of this other guests should be
bidden--Svengali and Gecko, and perhaps one or two more. No ladies!
For, as the unsusceptible Laird expressed it, in the language of a
gillie he had once met at a servants' dance in a Highland country-house,
"Them wimmen spiles the ball!"
Elaborate cards of invitation were sent out, in the designing and
ornamentation of which the Laird and Taffy exhausted all their fancy
(Little Billee had no time).
Wines and spirits and English beers were procured at great cost from M.
E. Delevingne's, in the Rue St. Honoré, and liqueurs of every
description--chartreuse, curaçoa, ratafia de cassis, and anisette; no
expense was spared.
Also, truffled galantines of turkey, tongues, hams, rillettes de Tours,
pâtés de foie gras, "fromage d'Italie" (which has nothing to do with
cheese), saucissons d'Arles et de Lyon, with and without garlic, cold
jellies peppery and salt--everything that French charcutiers and their
wives can make out of French pigs, or any other animal whatever, beast,
bird, or fowl (even cats and rats), for the supper; and sweet jellies,
and cakes, and sweetmeats, and confections of all kinds, from the famous
pastry-cook at the corner of the Rue Castiglione.
Mouths went watering all day long in joyful anticipation. They water
somewhat sadly now at the mere remembrance of these delicious
things--the mere immediate sight or scent of which in these degenerate
latter days would no longer avail to promote any such delectable
secretion. Hélas! ahimè! ach weh! ay de mi! eheu! ??µ??--in
point of fact, "alas"!
That is the very exclamation I wanted.
[Illustration: CHRISTMAS EVE]
Christmas Eve came round. The pieces of resistance and plum-pudding
and mince-pies had not yet arrived from London--but there was plenty of
Les trois Angliches dined at le père Trin's, as usual, and played
billiards and dominos at the Café du Luxembourg, and possessed their
souls in patience till it was time to go and hear the midnight mass at
the Madeleine, where Roucouly, the great barytone of the Opéra Comique,
was retained to sing Adam's famous Noël.
The whole quartier seemed alive with the réveillon. It was a clear,
frosty night, with a splendid moon just past the full, and most
exhilarating was the walk along the quays on the Rive Gauche, over the
Pont de la Concorde and across the Place thereof, and up the thronged
Rue de la Madeleine to the massive Parthenaic place of worship that
always has such a pagan, worldly look of smug and prosperous modernity.
They struggled manfully, and found standing and kneeling room among that
fervent crowd, and heard the impressive service with mixed feelings, as
became true Britons of very advanced liberal and religious opinions; not
with the unmixed contempt of the proper British Orthodox (who were there
in full force, one may be sure).
But their susceptible hearts soon melted at the beautiful music, and in
mere sensuous "attendrissement" they were quickly in unison with all the
For as the clock struck twelve out pealed the organ, and up rose the
finest voice in France:
"Minuit, Chrétiens! c'est l'heure solennelle
Où l'Homme-Dieu descendit parmi nous!"
And a wave of religious emotion rolled over Little Billee and submerged
him; swept him off his little legs, swept him out of his little self,
drowned him in a great seething surge of love--love of his kind, love of
love, love of life, love of death, love of all that is and ever was and
ever will be--a very large order indeed, even for Little Billee.
[Illustration: "'ALLONS GLYCÈRE! ROUGIS MON VERRE....'"]
And it seemed to him that he stretched out his arms for love to one
figure especially beloved beyond all the rest--one figure erect on high
with arms outstretched to him, in more than common fellowship of need;
not the sorrowful figure crowned with thorns, for it was in the likeness
of a woman; but never that of the Virgin Mother of Our Lord.
It was Trilby, Trilby, Trilby! a poor fallen sinner and waif all but
lost amid the scum of the most corrupt city on earth. Trilby weak and
mortal like himself, and in woful want of pardon! and in her gray
dovelike eyes he saw the shining of so great a love that he was abashed;
for well he knew that all that love was his, and would be his forever,
come what would or could.
"Peuple, debout! Chante ta délivrance!
"Noël! Noël! Voici le Rédempteur!""
So sang and rang and pealed and echoed the big, deep, metallic barytone
bass--above the organ, above the incense, above everything else in the
world--till the very universe seemed to shake with the rolling thunder
of that great message of love and forgiveness!
Thus at least felt Little Billee, whose way it was to magnify and
exaggerate all things under the subtle stimulus of sound, and the
singing human voice had especially strange power to penetrate into his
inmost depths--even the voice of man!
And what voice but the deepest and gravest and grandest there is can
give worthy utterance to such a message as that, the epitome, the
abstract, the very essence of all collective humanity's wisdom at its
Little Billee reached the Hôtel Corneille that night in a very exalted
frame of mind indeed, the loftiest, lowliest mood of all.
Now see what sport we are of trivial, base, ignoble earthly things!
Sitting on the door-step and smoking two cigars at once he found Ribot,
one of his fellow-lodgers, whose room was just under his own. Ribot was
so tipsy that he could not ring. But he could still sing, and did so at
the top of his voice. It was not the Noël of Adam that he sang. He had
not spent his réveillon in any church.
With the help of a sleepy waiter, Little Billee got the bacchanalian
into his room and lit his candle for him, and, disengaging himself from
his maudlin embraces, left him to wallow in solitude.
As he lay awake in his bed, trying to recall the deep and high emotions
of the evening, he heard the tipsy hog below tumbling about his room and
still trying to sing his senseless ditty:
Rougis mon verre
Du jus divin dont mon cœur est toujours jaloux ...
Et puis à table,
Enivrons-nous (hic) Les g-glougloux sont des rendezvous!"...
Then the song ceased for a while, and soon there were other sounds, as
on a Channel steamer. Glougloux indeed!
Then the fear arose in Little Billee's mind lest the drunken beast
should set fire to his bedroom curtains. All heavenly visions were
chased away for the night....
Our hero, half-crazed with fear, disgust, and irritation, lay wide
awake, his nostrils on the watch for the smell of burning chintz or
muslin, and wondered how an educated man--for Ribot was a
law-student--could ever make such a filthy beast of himself as that! It
was a scandal--a disgrace; it was not to be borne; there should be no
forgiveness for such as Ribot--not even on Christmas Day! He would
complain to Madame Paul, the patronne; he would have Ribot turned out
into the street; he would leave the hotel himself the very next morning!
At last he fell asleep, thinking of all he would do; and thus,
ridiculously and ignominiously for Little Billee, ended the réveillon.
Next morning he complained to Madame Paul; and though he did not give
her warning, nor even insist on the expulsion of Ribot (who, as he heard
with a hard heart, was "bien malade ce matin"), he expressed himself
very severely on the conduct of that gentleman, and on the dangers from
fire that might arise from a tipsy man being trusted alone in a small
bedroom with chintz curtains and a lighted candle. If it hadn't been for
himself, he told her, Ribot would have slept on the door-step, and serve
him right! He was really grand in his virtuous indignation, in spite of
his imperfect French; and Madame Paul was deeply contrite for her
peccant lodger, and profuse in her apologies; and Little Billee began
his twenty-first Christmas Day like a Pharisee, thanking his star that
he was not as Ribot!
Qui ne peux revenir,
Tourment de ma pensée,
Que n'ay-je, en te perdant, perdu le souvenir!"
Mid-day had struck. The expected hamper had not turned up in the Place
St. Anatole des Arts.
All Madame Vinard's kitchen battery was in readiness; Trilby and Madame
Angèle Boisse were in the studio, their sleeves turned up, and ready to
At twelve the trois Angliches and the two fair blanchisseuses sat down
to lunch in a very anxious frame of mind, and finished a pâté de foie
gras and two bottles of Burgundy between them, such was their
The guests had been invited for six o'clock.
Most elaborately they laid the cloth on the table they had borrowed from
the Hôtel de Seine, and settled who was to sit next to whom, and then
unsettled it, and quarrelled over it--Trilby, as was her wont in such
matters, assuming an authority that did not rightly belong to her, and
of course getting her own way in the end.
And that, as the Laird remarked, was her confounded Trilbyness.
Two o'clock--three--four--but no hamper! Darkness had almost set in. It
was simply maddening. They knelt on the divan, with their elbows on the
window-sill, and watched the street lamps popping into life along the
quays--and looked out through the gathering dusk for the van from the
Chemin de Fer du Nord--and gloomily thought of the Morgue, which they
could still make out across the river.
At length the Laird and Trilby went off in a cab to the station--a long
drive--and, lo! before they came back the long-expected hamper arrived,
at six o'clock.
And with it Durien, Vincent, Antony, Lorrimer, Carnegie,
Petrolicoconose, Dodor, and l'Zouzou--the last two in uniform, as usual.
And suddenly the studio, which had been so silent, dark, and dull, with
Taffy and Little Billee sitting hopeless and despondent round the
stove, became a scene of the noisiest, busiest, and cheerfulest
animation. The three big lamps were lit, and all the Chinese lanterns.
The pieces of resistance and the pudding were whisked off by Trilby,
Angèle, and Madame Vinard to other regions--the porter's lodge and
Durien's studio (which had been lent for the purpose); and every one was
pressed into the preparations for the banquet. There was plenty for idle
hands to do. Sausages to be fried for the turkey, stuffing made, and
sauces, salads mixed, and punch--holly hung in festoons all round and
about--a thousand things. Everybody was so clever and good-humored that
nobody got in anybody's way--not even Carnegie, who was in evening dress
(to the Laird's delight). So they made him do the scullion's
work--cleaning, rinsing, peeling, etc.
The cooking of the dinner was almost better fun than the eating of it.
And though there were so many cooks, not even the broth was spoiled
(cockaleekie, from a receipt of the Laird's).
It was ten o'clock before they sat down to that most memorable repast.
Zouzou and Dodor, who had been the most useful and energetic of all its
cooks, apparently quite forgot they were due at their respective
barracks at that very moment: they had only been able to obtain "la
permission de dix heures." If they remembered it, the certainty that
next day Zouzou would be reduced to the ranks for the fifth time, and
Dodor confined to his barracks for a month, did not trouble them in the
The waiting was as good as the cooking. The handsome, quick,
authoritative Madame Vinard was in a dozen places at once, and openly
prompted, rebuked, and ballyragged her husband into a proper smartness.
The pretty little Madame Angèle moved about as deftly and as quietly as
a mouse; which of course did not prevent them both from genially joining
in the general conversation whenever it wandered into French.
Trilby, tall, graceful, and stately, and also swift of action, though
more like Juno or Diana than Hebe, devoted herself more especially to
her own particular favorites--Durien, Taffy, the Laird, Little
Billee--and Dodor and Zouzou, whom she loved, and tutoyé'd en bonne
camarade as she served them with all there was of the choicest.
The two little Vinards did their little best--they scrupulously
respected the mince-pies, and only broke two bottles of oil and one of
Harvey sauce, which made their mother furious. To console them, the
Laird took one of them on each knee and gave them of his share of
plum-pudding and many other unaccustomed good things, so bad for their
little French tumtums.
The genteel Carnegie had never been at such a queer scene in his life.
It opened his mind--and Dodor and Zouzou, between whom he sat (the Laird
thought it would do him good to sit between a private soldier and a
humble corporal), taught him more French than he had learned during the
three months he had spent in Paris. It was a specialty of theirs. It was
more colloquial than what is generally used in diplomatic circles, and
stuck longer in the memory; but it hasn't interfered with his preferment
in the Church.
He quite unbent. He was the first to volunteer a song (without being
asked) when the pipes and cigars were lit, and after the usual toasts
had been drunk--her Majesty's health, Tennyson, Thackeray, and Dickens;
and John Leech.
He sang, with a very cracked and rather hiccupy voice, his only song (it
seems)--an English one, of which the burden, he explained, was French:
"Veeverler veeverler veeverler vee
And Zouzou and Dodor complimented him so profusely on his French accent
that he was with difficulty prevented from singing it all over again.
Then everybody sang in rotation.
The Laird, with a capital barytone, sang
"Hie diddle Dee for the Lowlands low,"
which was encored.
Little Billee sang "Little Billee."
"Old Joe kicking up behind and afore.
And the yaller gal a-kicking up behind old Joe."
A capital song, with words of quite a masterly scansion.
Antony sang "Le Sire de Framboisy." Enthusiastic encore.
Lorrimer, inspired no doubt by the occasion, sang the "Hallelujah
Chorus," and accompanied himself on the piano, but failed to obtain an
"Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment;
Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie...."
It was his favorite song, and one of the beautiful songs of the world,
and he sang it very well--and it became popular in the quartier latin
The Greek couldn't sing, and very wisely didn't.
Zouzou sang capitally a capital song in praise of "le vin à quat' sous!"
Taffy, in a voice like a high wind (and with a very good imitation of
the Yorkshire brogue), sang a Somersetshire hunting-ditty, ending:
"Of this 'ere song should I be axed the reason for to show,
I don't exactly know, I don't exactly know!
But all my fancy dwells upon Nancy,
And I sing Tally-ho!"
It is a quite superexcellent ditty, and haunts my memory to this day;
and one felt sure that Nancy was a dear and a sweet, wherever she lived,
and when. So Taffy was encored twice--once for her sake, once for his
[Illustration: "MY SISTER DEAR"]
And finally, to the surprise of all, the bold dragoon sang (in English)
"My Sister Dear," out of "Masaniello", with such pathos, and in a voice
so sweet and high and well in tune, that his audience felt almost weepy
in the midst of their jollification, and grew quite sentimental, as
Englishmen abroad are apt to do when they are rather tipsy and hear
pretty music, and think of their dear sisters across the sea, or their
friends' dear sisters.
Madame Vinard interrupted her Christmas dinner on the model-throne to
listen, and wept and wiped her eyes quite openly, and remarked to Madame
Boisse, who stood modestly close by: "Il est gentil tout plein, ce
dragon! Mon Dieu! comme il chante bien! Il est Angliche aussi, il
paraît. Ils sont joliment bien élevés, tous ces Angliches--tous plus
gentils les uns que les autres! et quant à Monsieur Litrebili, on lui
donnerait le bon Dieu sans confession!"
And Madame Boisse agreed.
Then Svengali and Gecko came, and the table had to be laid and decorated
anew, for it was supper-time.
Supper was even jollier than dinner, which had taken off the keen edge
of the appetites, so that every one talked at once--the true test of a
successful supper--except when Antony told some of his experiences of
bohemia; for instance, how, after staying at home all day for a month to
avoid his creditors, he became reckless one Sunday morning, and went to
the Bains Deligny, and jumped into a deep part by mistake, and was saved
from a watery grave by a bold swimmer, who turned out to be his
boot-maker, Satory, to whom he owed sixty francs--of all his duns the
one he dreaded the most--and who didn't let him go in a hurry.
Whereupon Svengali remarked that he also owed sixty francs to
Satory--"Mais comme che ne me baigne chamais, che n'ai rien à
Whereupon there was such a laugh that Svengali felt he had scored off
Antony at last and had a prettier wit. He flattered himself that he'd
got the laugh of Antony "this" time.
And after supper Svengali and Gecko made such lovely music that
everybody was sobered and athirst again, and the punch-bowl, wreathed
with holly and mistletoe, was placed in the middle of the table, and
clean glasses set all round it.
[Illustration: A DUCAL FRENCH FIGHTING-COCK]
Then Dodor and l'Zouzou stood up to dance with Trilby and Madame Angèle,
and executed a series of cancan steps, which, though they were so
inimitably droll that they had each and all to be encored, were such
that not one of them need have brought the blush of shame to the cheek
Then the Laird danced a sword-dance over two T squares and broke them
both. And Taffy, baring his mighty arms to the admiring gaze of all, did
dumb-bell exercises, with Little Billee for a dumb-bell, and all but
dropped him into the punch-bowl; and tried to cut a pewter ladle in two
with Dodor's sabre, and sent it through the window; and this made him
cross, so that he abused French sabres, and said they were made of worse
pewter than even French ladles; and the Laird sententiously opined that
they managed these things better in England, and winked at Little
Then they played at "cock-fighting," with their wrists tied across their
shins, and a broomstick thrust in between; thus manacled, you are placed
opposite your antagonist, and try to upset him with your feet, and he
you. It is a very good game. The cuirassier and the Zouave playing at
this got so angry, and were so irresistibly funny a sight, that the
shouts of laughter could be heard on the other side of the river, so
that a sergent de ville came in and civilly requested them not to make
so much noise. They were disturbing the whole quartier, he said, and
there was quite a "rassemblement" outside. So they made him tipsy, and
also another policeman, who came to look after his comrade, and yet
another; and these guardians of the peace of Paris were trussed and made
to play at cock-fighting, and were still funnier than the two soldiers,
and laughed louder and made more noise than any one else, so that Madame
Vinard had to remonstrate with them; till they got too tipsy to speak,
and fell fast asleep, and were laid next to each other behind the
The "fin de siècle" reader, disgusted at the thought of such an orgy as
I have been trying to describe, must remember that it happened in the
fifties, when men calling themselves gentlemen, and being called so,
still wrenched off door-knockers and came back drunk from the Derby, and
even drank too much after dinner before joining the ladies, as is all
duly chronicled and set down in John Leech's immortal pictures of life
and character out of "Punch".
* * * * *
Then M. and Mme. Vinard and Trilby and Angèle Boisse bade the company
good-night, Trilby being the last of them to leave.
Little Billee took her to the top of the staircase, and there he said to
"Trilby, I have asked you nineteen times, and you have refused. Trilby,
once more, on Christmas night, for the twentieth time--"will" you marry
me? If not, I leave Paris to-morrow morning, and never come back. I
swear it on my word of honor!"
Trilby turned very pale, and leaned her back against the wall, and
covered her face with her hands.
Little Billee pulled them away.
"Answer me, Trilby!"
"God forgive me, "yes!"" said Trilby, and she ran down-stairs, weeping.
* * * * *
It was now very late.
It soon became evident that Little Billee was in extraordinary high
spirits--in an abnormal state of excitement.
He challenged Svengali to spar, and made his nose bleed, and frightened
him out of his sardonic wits. He performed wonderful and quite
unsuspected feats of strength. He swore eternal friendship to Dodor and
Zouzou, and filled their glasses again and again, and also (in his
innocence) his own, and trinquéd with them many times running. They were
the last to leave (except the three helpless policemen); and at about
five or six in the morning, to his surprise, he found himself walking
between Dodor and Zouzou by a late windy moonlight in the Rue Vieille
des Mauvais Ladres, now on one side of the frozen gutter, now on the
other, now in the middle of it, stopping them now and then to tell them
how jolly they were and how dearly he loved them.
Presently his hat flew away, and went rolling and skipping and bounding
up the narrow street, and they discovered that as soon as they let each
other go to run after it, they all three sat down.
So Dodor and Little Billee remained sitting, with their arms round each
other's necks and their feet in the gutter, while Zouzou went after the
hat on all fours, and caught it, and brought it back in his mouth like a
tipsy retriever. Little Billee wept for sheer love and gratitude, and
called him a cary"hat"ide (in English), and laughed loudly at his own
wit, which was quite thrown away on Zouzou! "No man ever "had" such
dear, dear frenge! no man ever "was" s'happy!"
After sitting for a while in love and amity, they managed to get up on
their feet again, each helping the other; and in some never-to-be-remembered
way they reached the Hôtel Corneille.
[Illustration: "'ANSWER ME, TRILBY!'"]
There they sat little Billee on the door-step and rang the bell, and
seeing some one coming up the Place de l'Odéon, and fearing he might be
a sergent de ville, they bid Little Billee a most affectionate but hasty
farewell, kissing him on both cheeks in French fashion, and contriving
to get themselves round the corner and out of sight.
Little Billee tried to sing Zouzou's drinking-song:
"Quoi de plus doux
Que les glougloux--
Les glougloux du vin à quat' sous...."
The stranger came up. Fortunately, it was no sergent de ville, but
Ribot, just back from a Christmas-tree and a little family dance at his
aunt's, Madame Kolb (the Alsacian banker's wife, in the Rue de la
[Illustration: A CARY"HAT"IDE]
Next morning poor Little Billee was dreadfully ill.
He had passed a terrible night. His bed had heaved like the ocean, with
oceanic results. He had forgotten to put out his candle, but fortunately
Ribot had blown it out for him, after putting him to bed and tucking him
up like a real good Samaritan.
And next morning, when Madame Paul brought him a cup of tisane de
chiendent (which does not happen to mean a hair of the dog that bit
him), she was kind, but very severe on the dangers and disgrace of
intoxication, and talked to him like a mother.
"If it had not been for kind Monsieur Ribot" (she told him), "the
door-step would have been your portion; and who could say you didn't
deserve it? And then think of the dangers of fire from a tipsy man all
alone in a small bedroom with chintz curtains and a lighted candle!"
"Ribot was kind enough to blow out my candle," said Little Billee,
"Ah, Dame!" said Madame Paul, with much meaning--"au moins il a "bon
cœur", Monsieur Ribot!"
And the crulest sting of all was when the good-natured and incorrigibly
festive Ribot came and sat by his bedside, and was kind and tenderly
sympathetic, and got him a pick-me-up from the chemist's (unbeknown to
"Credieu! vous vous êtes crânement bien amusé, hier soir! quelle bosse,
hein! je parie que c'était plus drôle que chez ma tante Kolb!"
All of which, of course, it is unnecessary to translate; except,
perhaps, the word "bosse," which stands for "noce," which stands for a
"jolly good spree."
In all his innocent little life Little Billee had never dreamed of such
humiliation as this--such ignominious depths of shame and misery and
remorse! He did not care to live. He had but one longing: that Trilby,
dear Trilby, kind Trilby, would come and pillow his head on her
beautiful white English bosom, and lay her soft, cool, tender hand on
his aching brow, and there let him go to sleep, and sleeping, die!
He slept and slept, with no better rest for his aching brow than the
pillow of his bed in the Hôtel Corneille, and failed to die this time.
And when, after some forty-eight hours or so, he had quite slept off the
fumes of that memorable Christmas debauch, he found that a sad thing had
happened to him, and a strange!
It was as though a tarnishing breath had swept over the reminiscent
mirror of his mind and left a little film behind it, so that no past
thing he wished to see therein was reflected with quite the old pristine
clearness. As though the keen, quick, razorlike edge of his power to
reach and re-evoke the by-gone charm and glamour and essence of things
had been blunted and coarsened. As though the bloom of that special joy,
the gift he unconsciously had of recalling past emotions and sensations
and situations, and making them actual once more by a mere effort of the
will, had been brushed away.
And he never recovered the full use of that most precious faculty, the
boon of youth and happy childhood, and which he had once possessed,
without knowing it, in such singular and exceptional completeness. He
was to lose other precious faculties of his over-rich and complex
nature--to be pruned and clipped and thinned--that his one supreme
faculty of painting might have elbow-room to reach its fullest, or else
you would never have seen the wood for the trees (or "vice versa"--which
[Illustration: "'LES GLOUGLOUX DU VIN À QUAT' SOUS....'"]
On New-year's Day Taffy and the Laird were at their work in the studio,
when there was a knock at the door, and Monsieur Vinard, cap in hand,
respectfully introduced a pair of visitors, an English lady and
The gentleman was a clergyman, small, thin, round-shouldered, with a
long neck; weak-eyed and dryly polite. The lady was middle-aged, though
still young looking; very pretty, with gray hair; very well dressed;
very small, full of nervous energy, with tiny hands and feet. It was
Little Billee's mother; and the clergyman, the Rev. Thomas Bagot, was
Their faces were full of trouble--so much so that the two painters did
not even apologize for the carelessness of their attire, or for the odor
of tobacco that filled the room. Little Billee's mother recognized the
two painters at a glance, from the sketches and descriptions of which
her son's letters were always full.
They all sat down.
After a moment's embarrassed silence, Mrs. Bagot exclaimed, addressing
Taffy: "Mr. Wynne, we are in terrible distress of mind. I don't know if
my son has told you, but on Christmas Day he engaged himself to be
"To--be--"married!"" exclaimed Taffy and the Laird, for whom this was
"Yes--to be married to a Miss Trilby O'Ferrall, who, from what he
implies, is in quite a different position in life to himself. Do you
know the lady, Mr. Wynne?"
"Oh yes! I know her very well indeed; we "all" know her."
"Is she English?"
"She's an English subject, I believe."
"Is she a Protestant or a Roman Catholic?" inquired the clergyman.
"A--a--upon my word, I really don't know!"
"You know her very well indeed, and you "don't"--"know"--"that", Mr.
Wynne!" exclaimed Mr. Bagot.
"Is she a "lady", Mr. Wynne?" asked Mrs. Bagot, somewhat impatiently, as
if that were a much more important matter.
By this time the Laird had managed to basely desert his friend; had got
himself into his bedroom, and from thence, by another door, into the
street and away.
"A lady?" said Taffy; "a--it so much depends upon what that word exactly
means, you know; things are so--a--so different here. Her father was a
gentleman, I believe--a fellow of Trinity, Cambridge--and a clergyman,
if "that" means anything!... he was unfortunate and all
that--a--intemperate, I fear, and not successful in life. He has been
dead six or seven years."
"And her mother?"
"I really know very little about her mother, except that she was very
handsome, I believe, and of inferior social rank to her husband. She's
also dead; she died soon after him."
"What is the young lady, then? An English governess, or something of
"Oh, no, no--a--nothing of "that" sort," said Taffy (and inwardly, "You
coward--you cad of a Scotch thief of a sneak of a Laird--to leave all
this to me!").
"What? Has she independent means of her own, then?"
"A--not that I know of; I should even say, decidedly not!"
"What "is" she, then? She's at least respectable, I hope!"
"At present she's a--a blanchisseuse de fin--that is considered
"Why, that's a washer-woman, isn't it?"
"Well--rather better than that, perhaps--"de fin", you know!--things are
so different in Paris! I don't think you'd say she was very much like a
washer-woman--to look at!"
"Is she so good-looking, then?"
"Oh yes; extremely so. You may well say that--very beautiful,
indeed--about that, at least, there is no doubt whatever!"
"And of unblemished character?"
Taffy, red and perspiring as if he were going through his Indian-club
exercise, was silent--and his face expressed a miserable perplexity. But
nothing could equal the anxious misery of those two maternal eyes, so
wistfully fixed on his.
After some seconds of a most painful stillness, the lady said, "Can't
you--oh, "can't" you give me an answer, Mr. Wynne?"
"Oh, Mrs. Bagot, you have placed me in a terrible position! I--I love
your son just as if he were my own brother! This engagement is a
complete surprise to me--a most painful surprise! I'd thought of many
possible things, but never of "that!" I cannot--I really "must" not
conceal from you that it would be an unfortunate marriage for your
son--from a--a worldly point of view, you know--although both I and
McAllister have a very deep and warm regard for poor Trilby
O'Ferrall--indeed, a great admiration and affection and respect! She
was once a model."
"A "model", Mr. Wynne? What "sort" of a model--there are models and
models, of course."
[Illustration: "'IS SHE A "LADY", MR. WYNNE?'"]
"Well, a model of every sort, in every possible sense of the word--head,
hands, feet, everything!"
"A model for the "figure?""
"Oh, my God! my God! my God!" cried Mrs. Bagot--and she got up and
walked up and down the studio in a most terrible state of agitation,
her brother-in-law following her and begging her to control herself. Her
exclamations seemed to shock him, and she didn't seem to care.
"Oh, Mr. Wynne! Mr. Wynne! If you only "knew" what my son is to me--to
all of us--always has been! He has been with us all his life, till he
came to this wicked, accursed city! My poor husband would never hear of
his going to any school, for fear of all the harm he might learn there.
My son was as innocent and pure-minded as any girl, Mr. Wynne--I could
have trusted him anywhere--and that's why I gave way and allowed him to
come "here", of all places in the world--all alone. Oh! I should have
come with him! Fool--fool--fool that I was!...
"Oh, Mr. Wynne, he won't see either his mother or his uncle! I found a
letter from him at the hotel, saying he'd left Paris--and I don't even
know where he's gone!... Can't "you", can't Mr. McAllister, do
"anything" to avert this miserable disaster? You don't know how he loves
you both--you should see his letters to me and to his sister! they are
always full of you!"
"Indeed, Mrs. Bagot--you can count on McAllister and me for doing
everything in our power! But it is of no use our trying to influence
your son--I feel quite sure of "that"! It is to "her" we must make our
"Oh, Mr. Wynne! to a washer-woman--a figure model--and Heaven knows what
besides! and with such a chance as this!"
"Mrs. Bagot, you don't know her? She may have been all that. But
strange as it may seem to you--and seems to me, for that matter--she's
a--she's--upon my word of honor, I really think she's about the best
woman I ever met--the most unselfish--the most--"
"Ah! She's a "beautiful" woman--I can well see "that!""
"She has a beautiful nature, Mrs. Bagot--you may believe me or not, as
you like--and it is to that I shall make my appeal, as your son's
friend, who has his interests at heart. And let me tell you that deeply
as I grieve for you in your present distress, my grief and concern for
her are far greater!"
"What! grief for her if she marries my son!"
"No, indeed--but if she refuses to marry him. She may not do so, of
course--but my instinct tells me she will!"
"Oh! Mr. Wynne, is that likely?"
"I will do my best to make it so--with such an utter trust in her
unselfish goodness of heart and her passionate affection for your son
"How do you know she has all this passionate affection for him?"
"Oh, McAllister and I have long guessed it--though we never thought this
particular thing would come of it. I think, perhaps, that first of all
you ought to see her yourself--you would get quite a new idea of what
she really is--you would be surprised, I assure you."
Mrs. Bagot shrugged her shoulders impatiently, and there was silence for
a minute or two.
And then, just as in a play, Trilby's "Milk below!" was sounded at the
door, and Trilby came into the little antechamber, and seeing
strangers, was about to turn back. She was dressed as a grisette, in her
Sunday gown and pretty white cap (for it was New-year's Day), and
looking her very best.
Taffy called out, "Come in, Trilby!"
And Trilby came into the studio.
As soon as she saw Mrs. Bagot's face she stopped short--erect, her
shoulders a little high, her mouth a little open, her eyes wide with
fright--and pale to the lips--a pathetic, yet commanding, magnificent,
and most distinguished apparition, in spite of her humble attire.
The little lady got up and walked straight to her, and looked up into
her face, that seemed to tower so. Trilby breathed hard.
At length Mrs. Bagot said, in her high accents, "You are Miss Trilby
"Oh yes--yes--I am Trilby O'Ferrall, and you are Mrs. Bagot; I can see
A new tone had come into her large, deep, soft voice, so tragic, so
touching, so strangely in accord with the whole aspect just then--so
strangely in accord with the whole situation--that Taffy felt his cheeks
and lips turn cold, and his big spine thrill and tickle all down his
"Oh yes; you are very, very beautiful--there's no doubt about "that"!
You wish to marry my son?"
"I've refused to marry him nineteen times for his own sake; he will tell
you so himself. I am not the right person for him to marry. I know that.
On Christmas night he asked me for the twentieth time; he swore he would
leave Paris next day forever if I refused him. I hadn't the courage. I
was weak, you see! It was a dreadful mistake."
"Are you so fond of him?"
""Fond" of him? Aren't "you"?"
"I'm his mother, my good girl!"
To this Trilby seemed to have nothing to say.
"You have just said yourself you are not a fit wife for him. If you are
so "fond" of him, will you ruin him by marrying him; drag him down;
prevent him from getting on in life; separate him from his sister, his
family, his friends?"
[Illustration: "'"FOND" OF HIM? AREN'T "YOU"?'"]
Trilby turned her miserable eyes to Taffy's miserable face, and said,
"Will it really be all that, Taffy?"
"Oh, Trilby, things have got all wrong, and can't be righted! I'm afraid
it might be so. Dear Trilby--I can't tell you what I feel--but I can't
tell you lies, you know!"
"Oh no--Taffy--you don't tell lies!"
Then Trilby began to tremble very much, and Taffy tried to make her sit
down, but she wouldn't. Mrs. Bagot looked up into her face, herself
breathless with keen suspense and cruel anxiety--almost imploring.
Trilby looked down at Mrs. Bagot very kindly, put out her shaking hand,
and said; "Good-bye, Mrs. Bagot. I will not marry your son. I "promise"
you. I will never see him again."
Mrs. Bagot caught and clasped her hand and tried to kiss it, and said:
"Don't go yet, my dear good girl. I want to talk to you. I want to tell
you how deeply I--"
"Good-bye, Mrs. Bagot," said Trilby, once more; and, disengaging her
hand, she walked swiftly out of the room.
Mrs. Bagot seemed stupefied, and only half content with her quick
"She will not marry your son, Mrs. Bagot. I only wish to God she'd marry
"Oh, Mr. Wynne!" said Mrs. Bagot, and burst into tears.
"Ah!" exclaimed the clergyman, with a feebly satirical smile and a
little cough and sniff that were not sympathetic, "now if "that" could
be arranged--and I've no doubt there wouldn't be much opposition on the
part of the lady" (here he made a little complimentary bow), "it would
be a very desirable thing all round!"
"It's tremendously good of you, I'm sure--to interest yourself in "my"
humble affairs," said Taffy. "Look here, sir--I'm not a great genius
like your nephew--and it doesn't much matter to any one but myself what
I make of my life--but I can assure you that if Trilby's heart were set
on me as it is on him, I would gladly cast in my lot with hers for life.
She's one in a thousand. She's the one sinner that repenteth, you know!"
"Ah, yes--to be sure!--to be sure! I know all about that; still, facts
are facts, and the world is the world, and we've got to live in it,"
said Mr. Bagot, whose satirical smile had died away under the gleam of
Taffy's choleric blue eye.
Then said the good Taffy, frowning down on the parson (who looked mean
and foolish, as people can sometimes do even with right on their side):
"And now, Mr. Bagot--I can't tell you how very keenly I have suffered
during this--a--this most painful interview--on account of my very deep
regard for Trilby O'Ferrall. I congratulate you and your sister-in-law
on its complete success. I also feel very deeply for your nephew. I'm
not sure that he has not lost more than he will gain by--a--by
the--a--the success of this--a--this interview, in short!"
Taffy's eloquence was exhausted, and his quick temper was getting the
better of him.
Then Mrs. Bagot, drying her eyes, came and took his hand in a very
charming and simple manner, and said: "Mr. Wynne, I think I know what
you are feeling just now. You must try and make some allowance for us.
You will, I am sure, when we are gone, and you have had time to think a
little. As for that noble and beautiful girl, I only wish that she were
such that my son "could" marry her--in her past life, I mean. It is not
her humble rank that would frighten me; "pray" believe that I am quite
sincere in this--and don't think too hardly of your friend's mother.
Think of all I shall have to go through with my poor son--who is deeply
in love--and no wonder! and who has won the love of such a woman as
that! and who cannot see at present how fatal to him such a marriage
would be. I can see all the charm and believe in all the goodness, in
spite of all. And, oh, how beautiful she is, and what a voice! All that
counts for so much, doesn't it? I cannot tell you how I grieve for her.
I can make no amends--who could, for such a thing? There are no amends,
and I shall not even try. I will only write and tell her all I think and
feel. You will forgive us, won't you?"
And in the quick, impulsive warmth and grace and sincerity of her manner
as she said all this, Mrs. Bagot was so absurdly like Little Billee that
it touched big Taffy's heart, and he would have forgiven anything, and
there was nothing to forgive.
"Oh, Mrs. Bagot, there's no question of forgiveness. Good heavens! it is
all so unfortunate, you know! Nobody's to blame that I can see.
Good-bye, Mrs. Bagot; good-bye, sir," and so saying, he saw them down to
their "remise," in which sat a singularly pretty young lady of seventeen
or so, pale and anxious, and so like Little Billee that it was quite
funny, and touched big Taffy's heart again.
* * * * *
When Trilby went out into the court-yard in the Place St. Anatole des
Arts, she saw Miss Bagot looking out of the carriage window, and in the
young lady's face, as she caught her eye, an expression of sweet
surprise and sympathetic admiration, with lifted eyebrows and parted
lips--just such a look as she had often got from Little Billee! She knew
her for his sister at once. It was a sharp pang.
[Illustration: "SO LIKE LITTLE BILLEE"]
She turned away, saying to herself: "Oh no; I will not separate him from
his sister, his family, his friends! That would "never" do! "That's"
Feeling a little dazed, and wishing to think, she turned up the Rue
Vieille des Mauvais Ladres, which was always deserted at this hour. It
was empty but for a solitary figure sitting on a post, with its legs
dangling, its hands in its trousers-pockets, an inverted pipe in its
mouth, a tattered straw hat on the back of its head, and a long gray
coat down to its heels. It was the Laird.
As soon as he saw her he jumped off his post and came to her, saying:
"Oh, Trilby--what's it all about? I couldn't stand it! I ran away!
Little Billee's mother's there!"
"Yes, Sandy dear, I've just seen her."
"Well, what's up?"
"I've promised her never to see Little Billee any more. I was foolish
enough to promise to marry him. I refused many times these last three
months, and then he said he'd leave Paris and never come back, and so,
like a fool, I gave way. I've offered to live with him and take care of
him and be his servant--to be everything he wished but his wife! But he
wouldn't hear of it. Dear, dear Little Billee! he's an angel--and I'll
take precious good care no harm shall ever come to him through me! I
shall leave this hateful place and go and live in the country: I suppose
I must manage to get through life somehow. I know of some poor people
who were once very fond of me, and I could live with them and help them
and keep myself. The difficulty is about Jeannot. I thought it all out
before it came to this. I was well prepared, you see."
She smiled in a forlorn sort of way, with her upper lip drawn tight
against her teeth, as if some one were pulling her back by the lobes of
"Oh! but Trilby--what shall we do without you? Taffy and I, you know!
You've become one of us!"
"Now how good and kind of you to say that!" exclaimed poor Trilby, her
eyes filling. "Why, that's just all I lived for, till all this happened.
But it can't be any more now, can it? Everything is changed for me--the
very sky seems different. Ah! Durien's little song--'"Plaisir
d'amour--chagrin d'amour"!' it's all quite true, isn't it? I shall start
immediately, and take Jeannot with me, I think."
"But where do you think of going?"
"Ah! I mayn't tell you that, Sandy dear--not for a long time! Think of
all the trouble there'd be-- Well, there's no time to be lost. I must
take the bull by the horns."
She tried to laugh, and took him by his big side-whiskers and kissed him
on the eyes and mouth, and her tears fell on his face.
Then, feeling unable to speak, she nodded farewell, and walked quickly
up the narrow winding street. When she came to the first bend she turned
round and waved her hand, and kissed it two or three times, and then
The Laird stared for several minutes up the empty
thoroughfare--wretched, full of sorrow and compassion. Then he filled
himself another pipe and lit it, and hitched himself on to another post,
and sat there dangling his legs and kicking his heels, and waited for
the Bagots' cab to depart, that he might go up and face the righteous
wrath of Taffy like a man, and bear up against his bitter reproaches for
cowardice and desertion before the foe.
* * * * *
Next morning Taffy received two letters: one, a very long one, was from
Mrs. Bagot. He read it twice over, and was forced to acknowledge that it
was a very good letter--the letter of a clever, warm-hearted woman, but
a woman also whose son was to her as the very apple of her eye. One felt
she was ready to flay her dearest friend alive in order to make Little
Billee a pair of gloves out of the skin, if he wanted a pair; but one
also felt she would be genuinely sorry for the friend. Taffy's own
mother had been a little like that, and he missed her every day of his
Full justice was done by Mrs. Bagot to all Trilby's qualities of head
and heart and person; but at the same time she pointed out, with all the
cunning and ingeniously casuistic logic of her sex, when it takes to
special pleading (even when it has right on its side), what the
consequences of such a marriage must inevitably be in a few years--even
sooner! The quick disenchantment, the life-long regret, on both sides!
He could not have found a word to controvert her arguments, save perhaps
in his own private belief that Trilby and Little Billee were both
exceptional people; and how could he hope to know Little Billee's nature
better than the boy's own mother!
And if he had been the boy's elder brother in blood, as he already was
in art and affection, would he, should he, could he have given his
fraternal sanction to such a match?
Both as his friend and his brother he felt it was out of the question.
The other letter was from Trilby, in her bold, careless handwriting,
that sprawled all over the page, and her occasionally imperfect
spelling. It ran thus:
[Illustration: "'I MUST TAKE THE BULL BY THE HORNS'"]
"MY DEAR, DEAR TAFFY,--This is to say good-bye. I'm going away, to
put an end to all this misery, for which nobody's to blame but
"The very moment after I'd said "yes" to Little Billee I knew
perfectly well what a stupid fool I was, and I've been ashamed of
myself ever since. I had a miserable week, I can tell you. I knew
how it would all turn out.
"I am dreadfully unhappy, but not half so unhappy as if I married
him and he were ever to regret it and be ashamed of me; and of
course he would, really, even if he didn't show it--good and kind
as he is--an angel!
"Besides--of course I could never be a lady--how could I?--though I
ought to have been one, I suppose. But everything seems to have
gone wrong with me, though I never found it out before--and it
can't be righted!
"I am going away with Jeannot. I've been neglecting him shamefully.
I mean to make up for it all now.
"You mustn't try and find out where I am going; I know you won't if
I beg you, nor any one else. It would make everything so much
harder for me.
"Angèle knows; she has promised me not to tell. I should like to
have a line from you very much. If you send it to her she will send
it on to me.
"Dear Taffy, next to Little Billee, I love you and the Laird better
than any one else in the whole world. I've never known real
happiness till I met you. You have changed me into another
person--you and Sandy and Little Billee.
"Oh, it "has" been a jolly time, though it didn't last long. It
will have to do for me for life. So good-bye. I shall never, never
forget; and remain, with dearest love,
"Your ever faithful and most affectionate friend,
"P.S.--When it has all blown over and settled again, if it ever
does, I shall come back to Paris, perhaps, and see you again some
The good Taffy pondered deeply over this letter--read it half a dozen
times at least; and then he kissed it, and put it back into its envelope
and locked it up.
He knew what very deep anguish underlay this somewhat trivial expression
of her sorrow.
He guessed how Trilby, so childishly impulsive and demonstrative in the
ordinary intercourse of friendship, would be more reticent than most
women in such a case as this.
He wrote to her warmly, affectionately, at great length, and sent the
letter as she had told him.
The Laird also wrote a long letter full of tenderly worded friendship
and sincere regard. Both expressed their hope and belief that they would
soon see her again, when the first bitterness of her grief would be
over, and that the old pleasant relations would be renewed.
And then, feeling wretched, they went and silently lunched together at
the Café de l'Odéon, where the omelets were good and the wine wasn't
Late that evening they sat together in the studio, reading. They found
they could not talk to each other very readily without Little Billee to
listen--three's company sometimes and two's none!
Suddenly there was a tremendous getting up the dark stairs outside in a
violent hurry, and Little Billee burst into the room like a small
whirlwind--haggard, out of breath, almost speechless at first with
"Trilby? where is she?... what's become of her?... She's run away ...
oh! She's written me such a letter!... We were to have been married ...
at the Embassy ... my mother ... she's been meddling; and that cursed
old ass ... that beast ... my uncle!... They've been here! I know all
about it.... Why didn't you stick up for her?..."
"I did ... as well as I could. Sandy couldn't stand it, and cut."
""You" stuck up for her ... "you"--why, you agreed with my mother that
she oughtn't to marry me--you--you false friend--you.... Why, she's an
angel--far too good for the likes of "me" ... you know she is. As ... as
for her social position and all that, what degrading rot! Her father was
as much a gentleman as mine ... besides ... what the devil do I care for
her father?... it's "her" I want--"her"--"her"--"her", I tell you.... I
can't "live" without her.... I must have her "back"--I must have her
"back" ... do you "hear"? We were to have lived together at Barbizon ...
all our lives--and I was to have painted stunning pictures ... like
those other fellows there. Who cares for "their" social position, I
should like to know ... or that of their wives? "Damn" social
position!... we've often said so--over and over again. An artist's life
should be "away" from the world--above all that meanness and paltriness
... all in his work. Social position, indeed! Over and over again we've
said what fetid, bestial rot it all was--a thing to make one sick and
shut one's self away from the world.... Why say one thing and act
another?... Love comes before all--love levels all--love and art ... and
beauty--before such beauty as Trilby's rank doesn't exist. Such rank as
mine, too! Good God! I'll never paint another stroke till I've got her
back ... never, never, I tell you--I can't--I won't!..."
[Illustration: "'TRILBY! WHERE IS SHE?'"]
And so the poor boy went on, tearing and raving about in his rampage,
knocking over chairs and easels, stammering and shrieking, mad with
They tried to reason with him, to make him listen, to point out that it
was not her social position alone that unfitted her to be his wife and
the mother of his children, etc.
It was no good. He grew more and more uncontrollable, became almost
unintelligible, he stammered so--a pitiable sight and pitiable to hear.
"Oh! oh! good heavens! are you so precious immaculate, you two, that you
should throw stones at poor Trilby! What a shame, what a hideous shame
it is that there should be one law for the woman and another for the
man!... poor weak women--poor, soft, affectionate things that beasts of
men are always running after and pestering and ruining and trampling
underfoot.... Oh! oh! it makes me sick--it makes me sick!" And finally
he gasped and screamed and fell down in a fit on the floor.
The doctor was sent for; Taffy went in a cab to the Hôtel de Lille et
d'Albion to fetch his mother; and poor Little Billee, quite unconscious,
was undressed by Sandy and Madame Vinard and put into the Laird's bed.
The doctor came, and not long after Mrs. Bagot and her daughter. It was
a serious case. Another doctor was called in. Beds were got and made up
in the studio for the two grief-stricken ladies, and thus closed the eve
of what was to have been poor Little Billee's wedding-day, it seems.
Little Billee's attack appears to have been a kind of epileptic seizure.
It ended in brain-fever and other complications--a long and tedious
illness. It was many weeks before he was out of danger, and his
convalescence was long and tedious too.
His nature seemed changed. He lay languid and listless--never even
mentioned Trilby, except once to ask if she had come back, and if any
one knew where she was, and if she had been written to.
She had not, it appears. Mrs. Bagot had thought it was better not, and
Taffy and the Laird agreed with her that no good could come of writing.
Mrs. Bagot felt bitterly against the woman who had been the cause of all
this trouble, and bitterly against herself for her injustice. It was an
unhappy time for everybody.
* * * * *
There was more unhappiness still to come.
One day in February Madame Angèle Boisse called on Taffy and the Laird
in the temporary studio where they worked. She was in terrible
[Illustration: LA SŒUR DE LITREBILI]
Trilby's little brother had died of scarlet-fever and was buried, and
Trilby had left her hiding-place the day after the funeral and had never
come back, and this was a week ago. She and Jeannot had been living at a
village called Vibraye, in la Sarthe, lodging with some poor people she
knew--she washing and working with her needle till her brother fell ill.
She had never left his bedside for a moment, night or day, and when he
died her grief was so terrible that people thought she would go out of
her mind; and the day after he was buried she was not to be found
anywhere--she had disappeared, taking nothing with her, not even her
clothes--simply vanished and left no sign, no message of any kind.
All the ponds had been searched--all the wells, and the small stream
that flows through Vibraye--and the old forest.
Taffy went to Vibraye, cross-examined everybody he could, communicated
with the Paris police, but with no result, and every afternoon, with a
beating heart, he went to the Morgue....
* * * * *
The news was of course kept from Little Billee. There was no difficulty
about this. He never asked a question, hardly ever spoke.
When he first got up and was carried into the studio he asked for his
picture "The Pitcher Goes to the Well," and looked at it for a while,
and then shrugged his shoulders and laughed--a miserable sort of laugh,
painful to hear--the laugh of a cold old man, who laughs so as not to
cry! Then he looked at his mother and sister, and saw the sad havoc that
grief and anxiety had wrought in them.
It seemed to him, as in a bad dream, that he had been mad for many
years--a cause of endless sickening terror and distress; and that his
poor weak wandering wits had come back at last, bringing in their train
cruel remorse, and the remembrance of all the patient love and kindness
that had been lavished on him for many years! His sweet sister--his
dear, long-suffering mother! what had really happened to make them look
And taking them both in his feeble arms, he fell a-weeping, quite
desperately and for a long time.
And when his weeping-fit was over, when he had quite wept himself out,
he fell asleep.
[Illustration: "HE FELL A-WEEPING, QUITE DESPERATELY"]
And when he awoke he was conscious that another sad thing had happened
to him, and that for some mysterious cause his power of loving had not
come back with his wandering wits--had been left behind--and it seemed
to him that it was gone for ever and ever--would never come back
again--not even his love for his mother and sister, not even his love
for Trilby--where all "that" had once been was a void, a gap, a
Truly, if Trilby had suffered much, she had also been the innocent cause
of terrible suffering. Poor Mrs. Bagot, in her heart, could not forgive
I feel this is getting to be quite a sad story, and that it is high time
to cut this part of it short.
As the warmer weather came, and Little Billee got stronger, the studio
became more pleasant. The ladies' beds were removed to another studio on
the next landing, which was vacant, and the friends came to see Little
Billee, and make it more lively for him and his sister.
As for Taffy and the Laird, they had already long been to Mrs. Bagot as
a pair of crutches, without whose invaluable help she could never have
held herself upright to pick her way in all this maze of trouble.
Then M. Carrel came every day to chat with his favorite pupil and
gladden Mrs. Bagot's heart. And also Durien, Carnegie, Petrolicoconose,
Vincent, Antony, Lorrimer, Dodor, and l'Zouzou; Mrs. Bagot thought the
last two irresistible, when she had once been satisfied that they were
"gentlemen," in spite of appearances. And, indeed, they showed
themselves to great advantage; and though they were so much the opposite
to Little Billee in everything, she felt almost maternal towards them,
and gave them innocent, good, motherly advice, which they swallowed
"avec attendrissement", not even stealing a look at each other. And they
held Mrs. Bagot's wool, and listened to Miss Bagot's sacred music with
upturned pious eyes, and mealy mouths that butter wouldn't melt in!
It is good to be a soldier and a detrimental; you touch the hearts of
women and charm them--old and young, high or low (excepting, perhaps, a
few worldly mothers of marriageable daughters). They take the sticking
of your tongue in the cheek for the wearing of your heart on the sleeve.
Indeed, good women all over the world, and ever since it began, have
loved to be bamboozled by these genial, roistering dare-devils, who
haven't got a penny to bless themselves with (which is so touching), and
are supposed to carry their lives in their hands, even in piping times
of peace. Nay, even a few rare "bad" women sometimes, such women as the
best and wisest of us are often ready to sell our souls for!
"A lightsome eye, a soldier's mien,
A feather of the blue,
A doublet of the Lincoln green--
No more of me you knew,
No more of me you knew...."
As if that wasn't enough, and to spare!
Little Billee could hardly realize that these two polite and gentle and
sympathetic sons of Mars were the lively grigs who had made themselves
so pleasant all round, and in such a singular manner, on the top of that
St. Cloud omnibus; and he admired how they added hypocrisy to their
Svengali had gone back to Germany, it seemed, with his pockets fall of
napoleons and big Havana cigars, and wrapped in an immense fur-lined
coat, which he meant to wear all through the summer. But little Gecko
often came with his violin and made lovely music, and that seemed to do
Little Billee more good than anything else.
It made him realize in his brain all the love he could no longer feel in
his heart. The sweet melodic phrase, rendered by a master, was as
wholesome, refreshing balm to him while it lasted--or as manna in the
wilderness. It was the one good thing within his reach, never to be
taken from him as long as his ear-drums remained and he could hear a
Poor Gecko treated the two English ladies "de bas en haut" as if they
had been goddesses, even when they accompanied him on the piano! He
begged their pardon for every wrong note they struck, and adopted their
"tempi"--that is the proper technical term, I believe--and turned
scherzos and allegrettos into funeral dirges to please them; and agreed
with them, poor little traitor, that it all sounded much better like
O Beethoven! O Mozart! did you turn in your graves?
Then, on fine afternoons, Little Billee was taken for drives to the Bois
de Boulogne with his mother and sister in an open fly, and generally
Taffy as a fourth; to Passy, Auteuil, Boulogne, St. Cloud, Meudon--there
are many charming places within an easy drive of Paris.
[Illustration: "THE SWEET MELODIC PHRASE"]
And sometimes Taffy or the Laird would escort Mrs. and Miss Bagot to the
Luxembourg Gallery, the Louvre, the Palais Royal--to the Comédie
Française once or twice; and on Sundays, now and then, to the English
chapel in the Rue Marbœuf. It was all very pleasant; and Miss Bagot
looks back on the days of her brother's convalescence as among the
happiest in her life.
And they would all five dine together in the studio, with Madame Vinard
to wait, and her mother (a cordon bleu) for cook; and the whole aspect
of the place was changed and made fragrant, sweet, and charming by all
this new feminine invasion and occupation.
And what is sweeter to watch than the dawn and growth of love's young
dream, when strength and beauty meet together by the couch of a beloved
Of course the sympathetic reader will foresee how readily the stalwart
Taffy fell a victim to the charms of his friend's sweet sister, and how
she grew to return his more than brotherly regard! and how, one lovely
evening, just as March was going out like a lamb (to make room for the
first of April), little Billee joined their hands together, and gave
them his brotherly blessing!
As a matter of fact, however, nothing of this kind happened. Nothing
ever happens but the "un"foreseen. Pazienza!
* * * * *
Then at length one day--it was a fine, sunny, showery day in April,
by-the-bye, and the big studio window was open at the top and let in a
pleasant breeze from the northwest, just as when our little story
began--a railway omnibus drew up at the porte cochère in the Place St.
Anatole des Arts, and carried away to the station of the Chemin de Fer
du Nord Little Billee and his mother and sister, and all their
belongings (the famous picture had gone before); and Taffy and the Laird
rode with them, their faces very long, to see the last of the dear
people, and of the train that was to bear them away from Paris; and
Little Billee, with his quick, prehensile, æsthetic eye, took many a
long and wistful parting gaze at many a French thing he loved, from the
gray towers of Notre Dame downward--Heaven only knew when he might see
them again!--so he tried to get their aspect well by heart, that he
might have the better store of beloved shape and color memories to chew
the cud of when his lost powers of loving and remembering clearly should
come back, and he lay awake at night and listened to the wash of the
Atlantic along the beautiful red sandstone coast at home.
He had a faint hope that he should feel sorry at parting with Taffy and
But when the time came for saying good-bye he couldn't feel sorry in the
least, for all he tried and strained so hard!
So he thanked them so earnestly and profusely for all their kindness and
patience and sympathy (as did also his mother and sister) that their
hearts were too full to speak, and their manner was quite gruff--it was
a way they had when they were deeply moved and didn't want to show it.
And as he gazed out of the carriage window at their two forlorn figures
looking after him when the train steamed out of the station, his sorrow
at not feeling sorry made him look so haggard and so woe-begone that
they could scarcely bear the sight of him departing without them, and
almost felt as if they must follow by the next train, and go and cheer
him up in Devonshire, and themselves too.
They did not yield to this amiable weakness. Sorrowfully, arm in arm,
with trailing umbrellas, they recrossed the river, and found their way
to the Café de l'Odéon, where they ate many omelets in silence, and
dejectedly drank of the best they could get, and were very sad indeed.
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
Nearly five years have elapsed since we bade farewell and "au revoir" to
Taffy and the Laird at the Paris station of the Chemin de Fer du Nord,
and wished Little Billee and his mother and sister Godspeed on their way
to Devonshire, where the poor sufferer was to rest and lie fallow for a
few months, and recruit his lost strength and energy, that he might
follow up his first and well-deserved success, which perhaps contributed
just a little to his recovery.
Many of my readers will remember his splendid début at the Royal Academy
in Trafalgar Square with that now so famous canvas "The Pitcher Goes to
the Well," and how it was sold three times over on the morning of the
private view, the third time for a thousand pounds--just five times what
he got for it himself. And that was thought a large sum in those days
for a beginner's picture, two feet by four.
[Illustration: "SORROWFULLY, ARM IN ARM"]
I am well aware that such a vulgar test is no criterion whatever of a
picture's real merit. But this picture is well known to all the world by
this time, and sold only last year at Christy's (more than thirty-six
years after it was painted) for three thousand pounds.
Thirty-six years! That goes a long way to redeem even three thousand
pounds of all their cumulative vulgarity.
"The Pitcher" is now in the National Gallery, with that other canvas by
the same hand, "The Moon-Dial." There they hang together for all who
care to see them, his first and his last--the blossom and the fruit.
He had not long to live himself, and it was his good-fortune, so rare
among those whose work is destined to live forever, that he succeeded at
his first go-off.
And his success was of the best and most flattering kind.
It began high up, where it should, among the masters of his own craft.
But his fame filtered quickly down to those immediately beneath, and
through these to wider circles. And there was quite enough of opposition
and vilification and coarse abuse of him to clear it of any suspicion of
cheapness or evanescence. What better antiseptic can there be than the
philistine's deep hate? What sweeter, fresher, wholesomer music than the
sound of his voice when he doth so furiously rage?
Yes! That is "good production." As Svengali would have said, "C'est un
cri du cœur!"
And then, when popular acclaim brings the great dealers and the big
cheques, up rises the printed howl of the duffer, the disappointed one,
the "wounded thing with an angry cry"--the prosperous and happy bagman
that "should" have been, who has given up all for art, and finds he
can't paint and make himself a name, after all, and never will, so falls
to writing about those who can--and what writing!
To write in hissing dispraise of our more successful fellow-craftsman,
and of those who admire him! that is not a clean or pretty trade. It
seems, alas! an easy one, and it gives pleasure to so many. It does not
even want good grammar. But it pays--well enough even to start and run a
magazine with, instead of scholarship and taste and talent! humor,
sense, wit, and wisdom! It is something like the purveying of
pornographic pictures: some of us look at them and laugh, and even buy.
To be a purchaser is bad enough; but to be the purveyor thereof--ugh!
A poor devil of a cracked soprano (are there such people still?) who has
been turned out of the Pope's choir because he can't sing in tune,
"after all"!--think of him yelling and squeaking his treble rage at
Poor, lost, beardless nondescript! why not fly to other climes, where at
least thou might'st hide from us thy woful crack, and keep thy miserable
secret to thyself! Are there no harems still left in Stamboul for the
likes of thee to sweep and clean, no women's beds to make and slops to
empty, and doors and windows to bar--and tales to carry, and the pasha's
confidence and favor and protection to win? Even "that" is a better
trade than pandering for hire to the basest instinct of all--the dirty
pleasure we feel (some of us) in seeing mud and dead cats and rotten
eggs flung at those we cannot but admire--and secretly envy!
All of which eloquence means that Little Billee was pitched into right
and left, as well as overpraised. And it all rolled off him like water
off a duck's back, both praise and blame.
* * * * *
It was a happy summer for Mrs. Bagot, a sweet compensation for all the
anguish of the winter that had gone before, with her two beloved
children together under her wing, and all the world (for her) ringing
with the praise of her boy, the apple of her eye, so providentially
rescued from the very jaws of death, and from other dangers almost as
terrible to her fiercely jealous maternal heart.
And his affection for her "seemed" to grow with his returning health;
but, alas! he was never again to be quite the same light-hearted,
innocent, expansive lad he had been before that fatal year spent in
One chapter of his life was closed, never to be reopened, never to be
spoken of again by him to her, by her to him. She could neither forgive
nor forget. She could but be silent.
Otherwise he was pleasant and sweet to live with, and everything was
done to make his life at home as sweet and pleasant as a loving mother
could--as could a most charming sister--and others' sisters who were
charming too, and much disposed to worship at the shrine of this young
celebrity, who woke up one morning in their little village to find
himself famous, and bore his blushing honors so meekly. And among them
the vicar's daughter, his sister's friend and co-teacher at the
Sunday-school, "a simple, pure, and pious maiden of gentle birth,"
everything he once thought a young lady should be; and her name it was
Alice, and she was sweet, and her hair was brown--as brown!...
And if he no longer found the simple country pleasures, the junketings
and picnics, the garden-parties and innocent little musical evenings,
quite so exciting as of old, he never showed it.
Indeed, there was much that he did not show, and that his mother and
sister tried in vain to guess--many things.
And among them one thing that constantly preoccupied and distressed
him--the numbness of his affections. He could be as easily demonstrative
to his mother and sister as though nothing had ever happened to
him--from the mere force of a sweet old habit--even more so, out of
sheer gratitude and compunction.
But, alas! he felt that in his heart he could no longer care for them in
the least!--nor for Taffy, nor the Laird, nor for himself; not even for
Trilby, of whom he constantly thought, but without emotion; and of whose
strange disappearance he had been told, and the story had been confirmed
in all its details by Angèle Boisse, to whom he had written.
It was as though some part of his brain where his affections were seated
had been paralyzed, while all the rest of it was as keen and as active
as ever. He felt like some poor live bird or beast or reptile, a part
of whose cerebrum (or cerebellum, or whatever it is) had been dug out by
the vivisector for experimental purposes; and the strongest emotional
feeling he seemed capable of was his anxiety and alarm about this
curious symptom, and his concern as to whether he ought to mention it or
He did not do so, for fear of causing distress, hoping that it would
pass away in time, and redoubled his caresses to his mother and sister,
and clung to them more than ever; and became more considerate of others
in manner, word, and deed than he had ever been before, as though by
constantly assuming the virtue he had no longer he would gradually coax
it back again. There was no trouble he would not take to give pleasure
to the humblest.
Also, his vanity about himself had become as nothing, and he missed it
almost as much as his affection.
Yet he told himself over and over again that he was a great artist, and
that he would spare no pains to make himself a greater. But that was no
merit of his own.
2+2=4, also 2×2=4; that peculiarity was no reason why 4 should be
conceited; for what was 4 but a result, either way?
Well, he was like 4--just an inevitable result of circumstances over
which he had no control--a mere product or sum; and though he meant to
make himself as big a 4 as he could (to cultivate his peculiar
"fourness"), he could no longer feel the old conceit and
self-complacency; and they had been a joy, and it was hard to do without
At the bottom of it all was a vague, disquieting unhappiness, a constant
And it seemed to him, and much to his distress, that such mild
unhappiness would be the greatest he could ever feel henceforward--but
that, such as it was, it would never leave him, and that his moral
existence would be for evermore one long, gray, gloomy blank--the
glimmer of twilight--never glad, confident morning again!
So much for Little Billee's convalescence.
Then one day in the late autumn he spread his wings and flew away to
London, which was very ready with open arms to welcome William Bagot,
the already famous painter, "alias" Little Billee!
"Then the mortal coldness of the Soul like death itself comes down;
It cannot feel for others' woes, it dare not dream its own;
That heavy chill has frozen o'er the fountain of our tears,
And, though the eye may sparkle yet, 'tis where the ice appears.
"Though wit may flash from fluent lips, and mirth distract the breast,
Through midnight hours that yield no more their former hope of rest:
'Tis but as ivy leaves around a ruined turret wreathe,
All green and wildly fresh without, but worn and gray beneath."
When Taffy and the Laird went back to the studio in the Place St.
Anatole des Arts, and resumed their ordinary life there, it was with a
sense of desolation and dull bereavement beyond anything they could have
imagined; and this did not seem to lessen as the time wore on.
They realized for the first time how keen and penetrating and
unintermittent had been the charm of those two central figures--Trilby
and Little Billee--and how hard it was to live without them, after such
intimacy as had been theirs.
"Oh, it "has" been a jolly time, though it didn't last long!" So Trilby
had written in her farewell letter to Taffy; and these words were true
for Taffy and the Laird as well as for her.
And that is the worst of those dear people who have charm: they are so
terrible to do without, when once you have got accustomed to them and
all their ways.
And when, besides being charming, they are simple, clever, affectionate,
constant, and sincere, like Trilby and Little Billee! Then the
lamentable hole their disappearance makes is not to be filled up! And
when they are full of genius, like Little Billee--and like Trilby, funny
without being vulgar! For so she always seemed to the Laird and Taffy,
even in French (in spite of her Gallic audacities of thought, speech,
All seemed to have suffered change. The very boxing and fencing were
gone through perfunctorily, for mere health's sake; and a thin layer of
adipose deposit began to soften the outlines of the hills and dales on
Taffy's mighty forearm.
Dodor and l'Zouzou no longer came so often, now that the charming Little
Billee and his charming mother and still more charming sister had gone
away--nor Carnegie, nor Antony, nor Lorrimer, nor Vincent, nor the
Greek. Gecko never came at all. Even Svengali was missed, little as he
had been liked. It is a dismal and sulky looking piece of furniture, a
grand-piano that nobody ever plays--with all its sound and its souvenirs
locked up inside--a kind of mausoleum! a lop-sided coffin--trestles and
So it went back to London by the "little quickness," just as it had
Thus Taffy and the Laird grew quite sad and mopy, and lunched at the
Café de l'Odéon every day--till the goodness of the omelets palled, and
the redness of the wine there got on their nerves and into their heads
and faces, and made them sleepy till dinner-time. And then, waking up,
they dressed respectably, and dined expensively, "like gentlemen," in
the Palais Royal, or the Passage Choiseul, or the Passage des
Panoramas--for three francs, three francs fifty, even five francs a
head, and half a franc to the waiter!--and went to the theatre almost
every night, on that side of the water--and more often than not they
took a cab home, each smoking a Panatella, which costs twenty-five
Then they feebly drifted into quite decent society--like Lorrimer and
Carnegie--with dress-coats and white ties on, and their hair parted in
the middle and down the back of the head, and brought over the ears in a
bunch at each side, as was the English fashion in those days; and
subscribed to "Galignani's Messenger"; and had themselves proposed and
seconded for the Cercle Anglais in the Rue Sainte-n'y touche, a circle
of British philistines of the very deepest dye; and went to hear divine
service on Sunday mornings in the Rue Marbœuf!
Indeed, by the end of the summer they had sunk into such depths of
demoralization that they felt they must really have a change; and
decided on giving up the studio in the Place St. Anatole des Arts, and
leaving Paris for good; and going to settle for the winter in
Düsseldorf, which is a very pleasant place for English painters who do
not wish to overwork themselves--as the Laird well knew, having spent a
It ended in Taffy's going to Antwerp for the Kermesse, to paint the
Flemish drunkard of our time just as he really is; and the Laird's going
to Spain, so that he might study toreadors from the life.
I may as well state here that the Laird's toreador pictures, which had
had quite a vogue in Scotland as long as he had been content to paint
them in the Place St. Anatole des Arts, quite ceased to please (or sell)
after he had been to Seville and Madrid; so he took to painting Roman
cardinals and Neapolitan pifferari from the depths of his
consciousness--and was so successful that he made up his mind he would
never spoil his market by going to Italy!
So he went and painted his cardinals and his pifferari in Algiers; and
Taffy joined him there, and painted Algerian Jews--just as they really
are (and didn't sell them); and then they spent a year in Munich, and
then a year in Düsseldorf, and a winter in Cairo, and so on.
And all this time Taffy, who took everything "au grand
sérieux"--especially the claims and obligations of
friendship--corresponded regularly with Little Billee, who wrote him
long and amusing letters back again, and had plenty to say about his
life in London--which was a series of triumphs, artistic and social--and
you would have thought from his letters, modest though they were, that
no happier young man, or more elate, was to be found anywhere in the
It was a good time in England, just then, for young artists of promise;
a time of evolution, revolution, change, and development--of the
founding of new schools and the crumbling away of old ones--a keen
struggle for existence--a surviving of the fit--a preparation, let us
hope, for the ultimate survival of the fittest.
And among the many glories of this particular period two names stand out
very conspicuously--for the immediate and (so far) lasting fame their
bearers achieved, and the wide influence they exerted, and continue to
The world will not easily forget Frederic Walker and William Bagot,
those two singularly gifted boys, whom it soon became the fashion to
bracket together, to compare and to contrast, as one compares and
contrasts Thackeray and Dickens, Carlyle and Macaulay, Tennyson and
Browning--a futile though pleasant practice, of which the temptations
Yet why compare the lily and the rose?
These two young masters had the genius and the luck to be the
progenitors of much of the best art-work that has been done in England
during the last thirty years, in oils, in water-color, in black and
They were both essentially English and of their own time; both
absolutely original, receiving their impressions straight from nature
itself; uninfluenced by any school, ancient or modern, they founded
schools instead of following any, and each was a law unto himself, and a
law-giver unto many others.
[Illustration: FRED WALKER]
Both were equally great in whatever they attempted--landscape, figures,
birds, beasts, or fishes. Who does not remember the fish-monger's shop
by F. Walker, or W. Bagot's little piebald piglings, and their venerable
black mother, and their immense, fat, wallowing pink papa? An ineffable
charm of poetry and refinement, of pathos and sympathy and delicate
humor combined, an incomparable ease and grace and felicity of
workmanship belong to each; and yet in their work are they not as wide
apart as the poles; each complete in himself and yet a complement to the
And, oddly enough, they were both singularly alike in aspect--both small
and slight, though beautifully made, with tiny hands and feet; always
arrayed as the lilies of the field, for all they toiled and spun so
arduously; both had regularly featured faces of a noble cast and most
winning character; both had the best and simplest manners in the world,
and a way of getting themselves much and quickly and permanently
"Que la terre leur soit légère!"
And who can say that the fame of one is greater than the other's!
Their pinnacles are twin, I venture to believe--of just an equal height
and width and thickness, like their bodies in this life; but unlike
their frail bodies in one respect: no taller pinnacles are to be seen,
methinks, in all the garden of the deathless dead painters of our time,
and none more built to last!
* * * * *
But it is not with the art of Little Billee, nor with his fame as a
painter, that we are chiefly concerned in this unpretending little tale,
except in so far as they have some bearing on his character and his
"I should like to know the detailed history of the Englishman's first
love, and how he lost his innocence!"
"Ask him yourself!"
Thus Papelard and Bouchardy, on the morning of Little Billee's first
appearance at Carrel's studio, in the Rue des Potirons St. Michel.
And that is the question the present scribe is doing his little best to
* * * * *
A good-looking, famous, well-bred, and well-dressed youth finds that
London Society opens its doors very readily; he hasn't long to knock;
and it would be difficult to find a youth more fortunately situated,
handsomer, more famous, better dressed or better bred, more seemingly
happy and successful, with more attractive qualities and more condonable
faults, than Little Billee, as Taffy and the Laird found him when they
came to London after their four or five years in foreign parts--their
He had a fine studio and a handsome suite of rooms in Fitzroy Square.
Beautiful specimens of his unfinished work, endless studies, hung on his
studio walls. Everything else was as nice as it could be--the furniture,
the bibelots, and bric-à-brac, the artistic foreign and Eastern
knick-knacks and draperies and hangings and curtains and rugs--the
semi-grand piano by Collard & Collard.
That immortal canvas, the "Moon-Dial" (just begun, and already
commissioned by Moses Lyon, the famous picture-dealer), lay on his
No man worked harder and with teeth more clinched than Little Billee
when he was at work--none rested or played more discreetly when it was
time to rest or play.
[Illustration: PLATONIC LOVE]
The glass on his mantel-piece was full of cards of invitation,
reminders, pretty mauve and pink and lilac-scented notes; nor were
coronets wanting on many of these hospitable little missives. He had
quite overcome his fancied aversion for bloated dukes and lords and the
rest (we all do sooner or later, if things go well with us); especially
for their wives and sisters and daughters and female cousins; even their
mothers and aunts. In point of fact, and in spite of his tender years,
he was in some danger (for his art) of developing into that type adored
by sympathetic women who haven't got much to do: the friend, the tame
cat, the platonic lover (with many loves)--the squire of dames, the
trusty one, of whom husbands and brothers have no fear!--the delicate,
harmless dilettante of Eros--the dainty shepherd who dwells "dans le
pays du tendre!"--and stops there!
The woman flatters and the man confides--and there is no danger
whatever, I'm told--and I am glad!
One man loves his fiddle (or, alas! his neighbor's sometimes) for all
the melodies he can wake from it--it is but a selfish love!
Another, who is no fiddler, may love a fiddle too; for its symmetry, its
neatness, its color--its delicate grainings, the lovely lines and curves
of its back and front--for its own sake, so to speak. He may have a
whole galleryful of fiddles to love in this innocent way--a harem!--and
yet not know a single note of music, or even care to hear one. He will
dust them and stroke them, and take them down and try to put them in
tune--pizzicato!--and put them back again, and call them ever such sweet
little pet names: viol, viola, viola d'amore, viol di gamba, violino
mio! and breathe his little troubles into them, and they will give back
inaudible little murmurs in sympathetic response, like a damp Æolian
harp; but he will never draw a bow across the strings, nor wake a single
And who shall say he is not wise in his generation? It is but an
old-fashioned philistine notion that fiddles were only made to be played
on--the fiddles themselves are beginning to resent it; and rightly, I
In this harmless fashion Little Billee was friends with more than one
fine lady "de par le monde".
Indeed, he had been reproached by his more bohemian brothers of the
brush for being something of a tuft-hunter--most unjustly. But nothing
gives such keen offence to our unsuccessful brother, bohemian or
bourgeois, as our sudden intimacy with the so-called great, the little
lords and ladies of this little world! Not even our fame and success,
and all the joy and pride they bring us, are so hard to condone--so
imbittering, so humiliating, to the jealous fraternal heart.
Alas! poor humanity--that the mere countenance of our betters (if they
"are" our betters!) should be thought so priceless a boon, so consummate
an achievement, so crowning a glory, as all that!
"A dirty bit of orange-peel,
The stump of a cigar--
Once trod on by a princely heel,
How beautiful they are!"
Little Billee was no tuft-hunter--he was the tuft-hunted, or had been.
No one of his kind was ever more persistently, resolutely, hospitably
harried than this young "hare with many friends" by people of rank and
And at first he thought them most charming; as they so often are, these
graceful, gracious, gay, good-natured stoics and barbarians, whose
manners are as easy and simple as their morals--but how much
better!--and who, at least, have this charm, that they can wallow in
untold gold (when they happen to possess it) without ever seeming to
stink of the same: yes, they bear wealth gracefully--and the want of it
more gracefully still! and these are pretty accomplishments that have
yet to be learned by our new aristocracy of the shop and counting-house,
Jew or gentile, which is everywhere elbowing its irresistible way to
the top and front of everything, both here and abroad.
Then he discovered that, much as you might be with them, you could never
be "of" them, unless perchance you managed to hook on by marrying one of
their ugly ducklings--their failures--their remnants! and even then life
isn't all beer and skittles for a rank outsider, I'm told! Then he
discovered that he didn't want to be of them in the least; especially at
such a cost as that! and that to be very much with them was apt to pall,
like everything else.
Also, he found that they were very mixed; good, bad, and
indifferent--and not always very dainty or select in their
predilections, since they took unto their bosoms such queer outsiders
(just for the sake of being amused a little while) that their capricious
favor ceased to be an honor and a glory--if it ever was! And, then,
Indeed, he found, or thought he found, that they could be just as
clever, as liberal, as polite or refined--as narrow, insolent,
swaggering, coarse, and vulgar--as handsome, as ugly--as graceful, as
ungainly--as modest or conceited, as any other upper class of the
community--and, indeed, some lower ones!
Beautiful young women, who had been taught how to paint pretty little
landscapes (with an ivy-mantled ruin in the middle distance), talked
technically of painting to him, "de pair à pair", as though they were
quite on the same artistic level, and didn't mind admitting it, in spite
of the social gulf between.
Hideous old frumps (osseous or obese, yet with unduly bared neck, and
shoulders that made him sick) patronized him and gave him good advice,
and told him to emulate Mr. Buckner both in his genius and his
manners--since Mr. Buckner was the only "gentleman" who ever painted for
hire; and they promised him, in time, an equal success!
Here and there some sweet old darling specially enslaved him by her
kindness, grace, knowledge of life, and tender womanly sympathy, like
the dowager Lady Chiselhurst--or some sweet young one, like the lovely
Duchess of Towers, by her beauty, wit, good-humor, and sisterly interest
in all he did, and who in some vague, distant manner constantly reminded
him of Trilby, although she was such a great and fashionable lady!
But just such darlings, old or young, were to be found, with still
higher ideals, in less exalted spheres; and were easier of access, with
no impassable gulf between--spheres where there was no patronizing,
nothing but deference and warm appreciation and delicate flattery, from
men and women alike--and where the aged Venuses, whose prime was of the
days of Waterloo, went with their historical remains duly shrouded, like
ivy-mantled ruins (and in the middle distance!).
[Illustration: "DARLINGS, OLD OR YOUNG"]
So he actually grew tired of the great before they had time to tire of
him--incredible as it may seem, and against nature; and this saved him
many a heart-burning; and he ceased to be seen at fashionable drums or
gatherings of any kind, except in one or two houses where he was
especially liked and made welcome for his own sake; such as Lord
Chiselhurst's in Piccadilly, where the "Moon-Dial" found a home for a
few years, before going to its last home and final resting-place in the
National Gallery (R. I. P.); or Baron Stoppenheim's in Cavendish Square,
where many lovely little water-colors signed W. B. occupied places of
honor on gorgeously gilded walls; or the gorgeously gilded bachelor
rooms of Mr. Moses Lyon, the picture-dealer in Upper Conduit Street--for
Little Billee (I much grieve to say it of a hero of romance) was an
excellent man of business. That infinitesimal dose of the good old
Oriental blood kept him straight, and not only made him stick to his
last through thick and thin, but also to those whose foot his last was
found to match (for he couldn't or wouldn't alter his last).
He loved to make as much money as he could, that he might spend it
royally in pretty gifts to his mother and sister, whom it was his
pleasure to load in this way, and whose circumstances had been very much
altered by his quick success. There was never a more generous son or
brother than Little Billee of the clouded heart, that couldn't love any
* * * * *
As a set-off to all these splendors, it was also his pleasure now and
again to study London life at its lower end--the eastest end of all.
Whitechapel, the Minories, the Docks, Ratcliffe Highway, Rotherhithe,
soon got to know him well, and he found much to interest him and much to
like among their denizens, and made as many friends there among
ship-carpenters, excisemen, longshoremen, jack-tars, and what not, as in
Bayswater and Belgravia (or Bloomsbury).
He was especially fond of frequenting sing-songs, or "free-and-easys,"
where good, hard-working fellows met of an evening to relax and smoke
and drink and sing--round a table well loaded with steaming tumblers and
pewter pots, at one end of which sits Mr. Chairman in all his glory, and
at the other "Mr. Vice." They are open to any one who can afford a pipe,
a screw of tobacco, and a pint of beer, and who is willing to do his
best and sing a song.
[Illustration: "THE MOON-DIAL"]
No introduction is needed; as soon as any one has seated himself and
made himself comfortable, Mr. Chairman taps the table with his long clay
pipe, begs for silence, and says to his vis-à-vis: "Mr. Vice, it strikes
me as the gen'l'man as is just come in 'as got a singing face. Per'aps,
Mr. Vice, you'll be so very kind as juster harsk the aforesaid gen'l'man
to oblige us with a 'armony."
Mr. Vice then puts it to the new-comer, who, thus appealed to, simulates
a modest surprise, and finally professes his willingness, like Mr.
Barkis; then, clearing his throat a good many times, looks up to the
ceiling, and after one or two unsuccessful starts in different keys,
bravely sings "Kathleen Mavourneen," let us say--perhaps in a touchingly
sweet tenor voice:
"Kathleen Mavourneen, the gry dawn is brykin',
The 'orn of the 'unter is 'eard on the 'ill." ...
And Little Billee didn't mind the dropping of all these aitches if the
voice was sympathetic and well in tune, and the sentiment simple,
tender, and sincere.
Or else, with a good rolling jingo bass, it was,
"'Earts o' hoak are our ships; 'earts o' hoak are our men;
And we'll fight and we'll conkwer agen and agen!"
And no imperfection of accent, in Little Billee's estimation, subtracted
one jot from the manly British pluck that found expression in these
noble sentiments--nor added one tittle to their swaggering, blatant, and
idiotically aggressive vulgarity!
Well, the song finishes with general applause all round. Then the
chairman says, "Your 'ealth and song, sir!" And drinks, and all do the
Then Mr. Vice asks, "What shall we 'ave the pleasure of saying, sir,
after that very nice 'armony?"
[Illustration: THE CHAIRMAN]
And the blushing vocalist, if he knows the ropes, replies, "A roast
leg o' mutton in Newgate, and nobody to eat it!" Or else, "May 'im as is
going up the 'ill o' prosperity never meet a friend coming down!" Or
else, "'Ere's to 'er as shares our sorrers and doubles our joys!" Or
else, "'Ere's to 'er as shares our joys and doubles our expenses!" and
More drink, more applause, and many 'ear, 'ears. And Mr. Vice says to
the singer: "You call, sir. Will you be so good as to call on some other
gen'l'man for a 'armony?" And so the evening goes on.
And nobody was more quickly popular at such gatherings, or sang better
songs, or proposed more touching sentiments, or filled either chair or
vice-chair with more grace and dignity than Little Billee. Not even
Dodor or l'Zouzou could have beaten him at that.
And he was as happy, as genial, and polite, as much at his ease, in
these humble gatherings as in the gilded saloons of the great, where
grand-pianos are, and hired accompanists, and highly-paid singers, and a
good deal of talk while they sing.
So his powers of quick, wide, universal sympathy grew and grew, and made
up to him a little for his lost power of being specially fond of special
individuals. For he made no close friends among men, and ruthlessly
snubbed all attempts at intimacy--all advances towards an affection
which he felt he could not return; and more than one enthusiastic
admirer of his talent and his charm was forced to acknowledge that, with
all his gifts, he seemed heartless and capricious; as ready to drop you
as he had been to take you up.
He loved to be wherever he could meet his kind, high or low; and felt as
happy on a penny steamer as on the yacht of a millionaire--on the
crowded knife-board of an omnibus as on the box-seat of a nobleman's
drag--happier; he liked to feel the warm contact of his fellow-man at
either shoulder and at his back, and didn't object to a little honest
grime! And I think all this genial caressing love of his kind, this
depth and breath of human sympathy, are patent in all his work.
On the whole, however, he came to prefer for society that of the best
and cleverest of his own class--those who live and prevail by the
professional exercise of their own specially trained and highly educated
wits, the skilled workmen of the brain--from the Lord Chief-Justice of
England downward--the salt of the earth, in his opinion: and stuck to
There is no class so genial and sympathetic as "our own", in the
long-run--even if it be but the criminal class! none where the welcome
is likely to be so genuine and sincere, so easy to win, so difficult to
outstay, if we be but decently pleasant and successful; none where the
memory of us will be kept so green (if we leave any memory at all!).
So Little Billee found it expedient, when he wanted rest and play, to
seek them at the houses of those whose rest and play were like his
own--little halts in a seeming happy life-journey, full of toil and
strain and endeavor; oases of sweet water and cooling shade, where the
food was good and plentiful, though the tents might not be of cloth of
gold; where the talk was of something more to his taste than court or
sport or narrow party politics; the new beauty; the coming match of the
season; the coming ducal conversion to Rome; the last elopement in high
life--the next! and where the music was that of the greatest
music-makers that can be, who found rest and play in making better music
for love than they ever made for hire--and were listened to as they
should be, with understanding and religious silence, and all the fervent
gratitude they deserved.
There were several such houses in London then--and are still--thank
Heaven! And Little Billee had his little billet there--and there he was
wont to drown himself in waves of lovely sound, or streams of clever
talk, or rivers of sweet feminine adulation, seas! oceans!--a somewhat
relaxing bath!--and forget for a while his everlasting chronic plague of
heart-insensibility, which no doctor could explain or cure, and to which
he was becoming gradually resigned--as one does to deafness or blindness
or locomotor ataxia--for it had lasted nearly five years! But now and
again, during sleep, and in a blissful dream, the lost power of
loving--of loving mother, sister, friend--would be restored to him; just
as with a blind man who sometimes dreams he has recovered his sight; and
the joy of it would wake him to the sad reality: till he got to know,
even in his dream, that he was only dreaming, after all, whenever that
priceless boon seemed to be his own once more--and did his utmost not to
wake. And these were nights to be marked with a white stone, and
And nowhere was he happier than at the houses of the great surgeons and
physicians who interested themselves in his strange disease. When the
Little Billees of this world fall ill, the great surgeons and physicians
(like the great singers and musicians) do better for them, out of mere
love and kindness, than for the princes of the earth, who pay them
thousand-guinea fees and load them with honors.
* * * * *
And of all these notable London houses none was pleasanter than that of
Cornelys the great sculptor, and Little Billee was such a favorite in
that house that he was able to take his friends Taffy and the Laird
there the very day they came to London.
First of all they dined together at a delightful little Franco-Italian
pothouse near Leicester Square, where they had bouillabaisse (imagine
the Laird's delight), and spaghetti, and a poulet rôti, which is "such"
a different affair from a roast fowl! and salad, which Taffy was allowed
to make and mix himself; and they all smoked just where they sat, the
moment they had swallowed their food--as had been their way in the good
old Paris days.
That dinner was a happy one for Taffy and the Laird, with their Little
Billee apparently unchanged--as demonstrative, as genial, and caressing
as ever, and with no swagger to speak of; and with so many things to
talk about that were new to them, and of such delightful interest! They
also had much to say--but they didn't say very much about Paris, for
fear of waking up Heaven knows what sleeping dogs!
And every now and again, in the midst of all this pleasant foregathering
and communion of long-parted friends, the pangs of Little Billee's
miserable mind-malady would shoot through him like poisoned arrows.
He would catch himself thinking how fat and fussy and serious about
trifles Taffy had become; and what a shiftless, feckless, futile duffer
was the Laird; and how greedy they both were, and how red and coarse
their ears and gills and cheeks grew as they fed, and how shiny their
faces; and how little he would care, try as he might, if they both fell
down dead under the table! And this would make him behave more
caressingly to them, more genially and demonstratively than ever--for he
knew it was all a grewsome physical ailment of his own, which he could
no more help than a cataract in his eye!
Then, catching sight of his own face and form in a mirror, he would
curse himself for a puny, misbegotten shrimp, an imp--an abortion--no
bigger, by the side of the herculean Taffy or the burly Laird of
Cockpen, than six-pennorth o' half-pence: a wretched little overrated
follower of a poor trivial craft--a mere light amuser! For what did
pictures matter, or whether they were good or bad, except to the
triflers who painted them, the dealers who sold them, the idle,
uneducated, purse-proud fools who bought them and stuck them up on their
walls because they were told!
And he felt that if a dynamite shell were beneath the table where they
sat, and its fuse were smoking under their very noses, he would neither
wish to warn his friends nor move himself. He didn't care a d----!
And all this made him so lively and brilliant in his talk, so
fascinating and droll and witty, that Taffy and the Laird wondered at
the improvement success and the experience of life had wrought in him,
and marvelled at the happiness of his lot, and almost found it in their
warm, affectionate hearts to feel a touch of envy!
[Illustration: A HAPPY DINNER]
Oddly enough, in a brief flash of silence, "entre la poire et le
fromage," they heard a foreigner at an adjoining table (one of a very
noisy group) exclaim: "Mais quand je vous dis que j'l'ai entendue, moi,
la Svengali! et même qu'elle a chanté l'Impromptu de Chopin absolument
comme si c'était un piano qu'on jouait! voyons!..."
"Farceur! la bonne blague!" said another--and then the conversation
became so noisily general it was no good listening any more.
"Svengali! how funny that name should turn up! I wonder what's become of
"our" Svengali, by-the-way?" observed Taffy.
"I remember "his" playing Chopin's Impromptu," said Little Billee; "what
a singular coincidence!"
There were to be more coincidences that night; it never rains them but
So our three friends finished their coffee and liqueured up, and went to
Cornelys's, three in a hansom--
A-smokin' their poipes and cigyars."
Sir Louis Cornelys, as everybody knows, lives in a palace on Campden
Hill, a house of many windows; and whichever window he looks out of, he
sees his own garden and very little else. In spite of his eighty years,
he works as hard as ever, and his hand has lost but little of its
cunning. But he no longer gives those splendid parties that made him
almost as famous a host as he was an artist.
[Illustration: "A-SMOKIN' THEIR POIPES AND CIGYARS"]
When his beautiful wife died he shut himself up from the world; and
now he never stirs out of his house and grounds except to fulfil his
duties at the Royal Academy and dine once a year with the Queen.
It was very different in the early sixties. There was no pleasanter or
more festive house than his in London, winter or summer--no lordlier
host than he--no more irresistible hostesses than Lady Cornelys and her
lovely daughters; and if ever music had a right to call itself divine,
it was there you heard it--on late Saturday nights during the London
season--when the foreign birds of song
♥ FINE AREA VOCALIZZATA CON READSPEAKER
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