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Chapter the Thirteenth
Charles Eames and Charles Sumner-Schurzand Lamar–I Go to Congress–A Heroic Kentuckian–Stephen Foster and His Songs–Music and Theodore Thomas
Chapter the Fourteenth
Henry Adams and the Adams Family–John Hay and Frank Mason–The Three _Mousquetaires_ of Culture–Paris–“The Frenchman”–The South of France
Chapter the Fifteenth
Still the Gay Capital of France–Its Environs–Walewska and De Morny–Thackeray in Paris–A _Pension_ Adventure
Chapter the Sixteenth
Monte Carlo–The European Shrine of Sport and Fashion–Apocryphal Gambling Stories–Leopold, King of the Belgians–An Able and Picturesque Man of Business
Chapter the Seventeenth
A Parisian _Pension_–The Widow of Walewska–Napoleon’s Daughter-in-Law–The Changeless–A Moral and Orderly City
Chapter the Eighteenth
The Grover Cleveland Period–President Arthur and Mr. Blaine–John Chamberlin–The Decrees of Destiny
Chapter the Nineteenth
Mr. Cleveland in the White House–Mr. Bayard in the Department of State–Queer Appointments to Office–The One-Party Power–The End of North and South Sectionalism
Chapter the Twentieth
The Real Grover Cleveland–Two Clevelands Before and After Marriage–A Correspondence and a Break of Personal Relations
Chapter the Twenty-First
Stephen Foster, the Song-Writer–A Friend Comes to the Rescu His Originality–“My Old Kentucky Home” and the “Old Folks at Home”–General Sherman and “Marching Through Georgia”
Chapter the Twenty-Second
Theodore Roosevelt–His Problematic Character–He Offers Me an Appointment–His _Bonhomie_ and Chivalry–Proud of His Rebel Kin
Chapter the Twenty-Third
The Actor and the Journalist–The Newspaper and the State–Joseph Jefferson–His Personal and Artistic Career–Modest Character and Religious Belief
Chapter the Twenty-Fourth
The Writing of Memoirs–Some Characteristics of Carl Shurz–Sam Bowles–Horace White and the Mugwumps
Chapter the Twenty-Fifth
Every Trade Has Its Tricks–I Play One on William McKinley–Far Away Party Politics and Political Issues
Chapter the Twenty-Sixth
A Libel on Mr. Cleveland–His Fondness for Cards–Some Poker Stories–The “Senate Game”–Tom Ochiltree, Senator Allison and General Schenck
Chapter the Twenty-Seventh
The Profession of Journalism–Newspapers and Editors in America–Bennett, Greeley and Raymond–Forney and Dana–The Education of a Journalist
Chapter the Twenty-Eighth
Bullies and Braggarts–Some Kentucky Illustrations–The Old Galt House–The Throckmortons–A Famous Sugeon–“Old Hell’s Delight”
Chapter the Twenty-Ninth
About Political Conventions, State and National–“Old Ben Butler”–His Appearance as a Trouble-Maker in the Democratic National Convention of 1892–Tarifa and the Tariff–Spain as a Frightful Example
Chapter the Thirtieth
The Makers of the Republic–Lincoln, Jefferson, Clay and Webster–The Proposed League of Nations–The Wilsonian Incertitude–The “New Freedom”
Chapter the Thirty-First
The Age of Miracles–A Story of Franklin Pierce–Simon Suggs Billy Sunday–Jefferson Davis and Aaron Burr–Certain Constitutional Shortcomings
Chapter the Thirty-Second
A War Episode–I Meet my Fater–I Marry and Make a Home–The Ups and Downs of Life Lead to a Happy Old Age
Henry Watterson–Fifty Years Ago
Henry Woodfire Grady–One of Mr. Watterson’s “Boys”
Mr. Watterson’s Library at “Mansfield”
A Corner of “Mansfield”–Home of Mr. Watterson
Henry Watterson (Photograph Taken in Florida)
Henry Watterson. From a painting by Louis Mark in the Manhattan Club, New York
Chapter the Thirteenth
Charles Eames and Charles Sumner-Schurzand Lamar–I Go to Congress–A Heroic Kentuckian–Stephen Foster and His Songs–Music and Theodore Thomas
Swift’s definition of “conversation” did not preside over or direct the daily intercourse between Charles Sumner, Charles Eames and Robert J. Walker in the old days in the National Capital. They did not converse. They discoursed. They talked sententiously in portentous essays and learned dissertations. I used to think it great, though I nursed no little dislike of Sumner.
Charles Eames was at the outset of his career a ne’er-do-well New Englander–a Yankee Jack-of-all-trades–kept at the front by an exceedingly clever wife. Through the favor she enjoyed at court he received from Pierce and Buchanan unimportant diplomatic appointments. During their sojourns in Washington their home was a kind of political and literary headquarters. Mrs. Eames had established a salon–the first attempt of the kind made there; and it was altogether a success. Her Sundays evenings were notable, indeed. Whoever was worth seeing, if in town, might usually be found there. Charles Sumner led the procession. He was a most imposing person. Both handsome and distinguished in appearance, he possessed in an eminent degree the Harvard pragmatism–or, shall I say, affectation?–and seemed never happy except on exhibition. He had made a profitable political and personal issue of the Preston Brooks attack. Brooks was an exceeding light weight, but he did for Sumner more than Sumner could ever have done for himself.
In the Charles Eames days Sumner was exceedingly disagreeable to me. Many people, indeed, thought him so. Many years later, in the Greeley campaign of 1872, Schurz brought us together–they had become as very brothers in the Senate–and I found him the reverse of my boyish ill conceptions.
He was a great old man. He was a delightful old man, every inch a statesman, much of a scholar, and something of a hero. I grew in time to be actually fond of him, passed with him entire afternoons and evenings in his library, mourned sincerely when he died, and went with Schurz to Boston, on the occasion when that great German-American delivered the memorial address in honor of the dead Abolitionist.
Of all the public men of that period Carl Schurz most captivated me. When we first came into personal relations, at the Liberal Convention, which assembled at Cincinnati and nominated Greeley and Brown as a presidential ticket, he was just turned forty-three; I, two and thirty. The closest intimacy followed. Our tastes were much alike. Both of us had been educated in music. He played the piano with intelligence and feeling–especially Schumann, Brahms and Mendelssohn, neither of us ever having quite reached the “high jinks” of Wagner.
To me his oratory was wonderful. He spoke to an audience of five or ten thousand as he would have talked to a party of three or six. His style was simple, natural, unstrained; the lucid statement and cogent argument now and again irradiated by a salient passage of satire or a burst of not too eloquent rhetoric.
He was quite knocked out by the nomination of Horace Greeley. For a long time he could not reconcile himself to support the ticket. Horace White and I addressed ourselves to the task of “fetching him into camp”–there being in point of fact nowhere else for him to go–though we had to get up what was called The Fifth Avenue Conference to make a bridge.
Truth to say, Schurz never wholly adjusted himself to political conditions in the United States. He once said to me in one of the querulous moods that sometimes overcame him: “If I should live a hundred years my enemies would still call me a–Dutchman!”
It was Schurz, as I have said, who brought Lamar and me together. The Mississippian had been a Secession Member of Congress when I was a Unionist scribe in the reporters’ gallery. I was a furious partisan in those days and disliked the Secessionists intensely. Of them, Lamar was most aggressive. I later learned that he was very many-sided and accomplished, the most interesting and lovable of men. He and Schurz “froze together,” as, brought together by Schurz, he and I “froze together.” On one side he was a sentimentalist and on the other a philosopher, but on all sides a fighter.
They called him a dreamer. He sprang from a race of chevaliers and scholars. Oddly enough, albeit in his moods a recluse, he was a man of the world; a favorite in society; very much at home in European courts, especially in that of England; the friend of Thackeray, at whose house, when in London, he made his abode. Lady Ritchie–Anne Thackeray–told me many amusing stories of his whimsies. He was a man among brainy men and a lion among clever women.
We had already come to be good friends and constant comrades when the whirligig of time threw us together for a little while in the lower house of Congress. One day he beckoned me over to his seat. He was leaning backward with his hands crossed behind his head.
As I stood in front of him he said: “On the eighth of February, 1858, Mrs. Gwin, of California, gave a fancy dress ball. Mr. Lamar, of Mississippi, a member of Congress, was there. Also a glorious young woman–a vision of beauty and grace–with whom the handsome and distinguished young statesman danced–danced once, twice, thrice, taking her likewise down to supper. He went to bed, turned his face to the wall and dreamed of her. That was twenty years ago. To-day this same Mr. Lamar, after an obscure interregnum, was with Mrs. Lamar looking over Washington for an apartment. In quest of cheap lodging they came to a mean house in a mean quarter, where a poor, wizened, ill-clad woman showed them through the meanly furnished rooms. Of course they would not suffice.
“As they were coming away the great Mr. Lamar said to the poor landlady, ‘Madam, have you lived long in Washington?’ She said all her life. ‘Madam,’ he continued, ‘were you at a fancy dress ball given by Mrs. Senator Gwin of California, the eighth of February, 1858?’ She said she was. ‘Do you remember,’ the statesman, soldier and orator continued, ‘a young and handsome Mississippian, a member of Congress, by the name of Lamar?’ She said she didn’t.”
I rather think that Lamar was the biggest brained of all the men I have met in Washington. He possessed the courage of his convictions. A doctrinaire, there was nothing of the typical doctrinaire, or theorist, about him. He really believed that cotton was king and would compel England to espouse the cause of the South.
Despite his wealth of experience and travel he was not overmuch of a raconteur, but he once told me a good story about his friend Thackeray. The two were driving to a banquet of the Literary Fund, where Dickens was to preside. “Lamar,” said Thackeray, “they say I can’t speak. But if I want to I can speak. I can speak every bit as good as Dickens, and I am going to show you to-night that I can speak almost as good as you.” When the moment arrived Thackeray said never a word. Returning in the cab, both silent, Thackeray suddenly broke forth. “Lamar,” he exclaimed, “don’t you think you have heard the greatest speech to-night that was never delivered?”
Holding office, especially going to Congress, had never entered any wish or scheme of mine. Office seemed to me ever a badge of bondage. I knew too much of the national capital to be allured by its evanescent and lightsome honors. When the opportunity sought me out none of its illusions appealed to me. But after a long uphill fight for personal and political recognition in Kentucky an election put a kind of seal upon the victory I had won and enabled me in a way to triumph over my enemies. I knew that if I accepted the nomination offered me I would get a big popular vote–as I did–and so, one full term, and half a term, incident to the death of the sitting member for the Louisville district being open to me, I took the short term, refusing the long term.
Though it was midsummer and Congress was about to adjourn I went to Washington and was sworn in. A friend of mine, Col. Wake Holman, had made a bet with one of our pals I would be under arrest before I had been twenty-four hours in town, and won it. It happened in this wise: The night of the day when I took my seat there was an all-night session. I knew too well what that meant, and, just from a long tiresome journey, I went to bed and slept soundly till sunrise. Just as I was up and dressing for a stroll about the old, familiar, dearly loved quarter of the town there came an imperative rap upon the door and a voice said: “Get up, colonel, quick! This is a sergeant at arms. There has been a call of the House and I am after you. Everybody is drunk, more or less, and they are noisy to have some fun with you.”
It was even as he said. Everybody, more or less, was drunk–especially the provisional speaker whom Mr. Randall had placed in the chair–and when we arrived and I was led a prisoner down the center aisle pandemonium broke loose.
They had all sorts of fun with me, such as it was. It was moved that I be fined the full amount of my mileage. Then a resolution was offered suspending my membership and sending me under guard to the old Capitol prison. Finally two or three of my friends rescued me and business was allowed to proceed. It was the last day of a very long session and those who were not drunk were worn out.
When I returned home there was a celebration in honor of the bet Wake Holman had won at my expense. Wake was the most attractive and lovable of men, by nature a hero, by profession a “filibuster” and soldier of fortune. At two and twenty he was a private in Col. Humphrey Marshall’s Regiment of Kentucky Riflemen, which reached the scene of hostilities upon the Rio Grande in the midsummer of 1846. He had enlisted from Owen county–“Sweet Owen,” as it used to be called–and came of good stock, his father, Col. Harry Holman, in the days of aboriginal fighting and journalism, a frontier celebrity. Wake’s company, out on a scout, was picked off by the Mexicans, and the distinction between United States soldiers and Texan rebels not being yet clearly established, a drumhead court-martial ordered “the decimation.”
This was a decree that one of every ten of the Yankee captives should be shot. There being a hundred of Marshall’s men, one hundred beans–ninety white and ten black–were put in a hat. Then the company was mustered as on dress parade. Whoso drew a white bean was to be held prisoner of war; whoso drew a black bean was to die.
In the early part of the drawing Wake drew a white bean. Toward the close the turn of a neighbor and comrade from Owen county who had left a wife and baby at home was called. He and Wake were standing together, Holman brushed him aside, walked out in his place and drew his bean. It turned out to be a white one. Twice within the half hour death had looked him in the eye and found no blinking there.
I have seen quite a deal of hardihood, endurance, suffering, in both women and men; splendid courage on the field of action; perfect self-possession in the face of danger; but I rather think that Wake Holman’s exploit that day–next to actually dying for a friend, what can be nobler than being willing to die for him?–is the bravest thing I know or have ever been told of mortal man.
Wake Holman went to Cuba in the Lopez Rebellion of 1851, and fought under Pickett at the Battle of Cardenas. In 1855-56 he was in Nicaragua, with Walker. He commanded a Kentucky regiment of cavalry on the Union side in our War of Sections. After the war he lived the life of a hunter and fisher at his home in Kentucky; a cheery, unambitious, big-brained and big-hearted cherub, whom it would not do to “projeck” with, albeit with entire safety you could pick his pocket; the soul of simplicity and amiability.
To have known him was an education in primal manhood. To sit at his hospitable board, with him at the head of the table, was an inspiration in the genius of life and the art of living. One of his familiars started the joke that when Wake drew the second white bean “he got a peep.” He took it kindly; though in my intimacy with him, extending over thirty years, I never heard him refer to any of his adventures as a soldier.
It was not possible that such a man should provide for his old age. He had little forecast. He knew not the value of money. He had humor, affection and courage. I held him in real love and honor. When the Mexican War Pension Act was passed by Congress I took his papers to General Black, the Commissioner of Pensions, and related this story.
“I have promised Gen. Cerro Gordo Williams,” said General Black, referring to the then senior United States Senator from Kentucky, “that his name shall go first on the roll of these Mexican pensioners. But”–and the General looked beamingly in my face, a bit tearful, and says he: “Wake Holman’s name shall come right after.” And there it is.
I was very carefully and for those times not ignorantly taught in music. Schell, his name was, and they called him “Professor.” He lived over in Georgetown, where he had organized a little group of Prussian refugees into a German club, and from my tenth to my fifteenth year–at first regularly, and then in a desultory way as I came back to Washington City from my school in Philadelphia, he hammered Bach and Handel and Mozart–nothing so modern as Mendelssohn–into my not unwilling nor unreceptive mind, for my bent was in the beginning to compose dramas, and in the end operas.
Adelina Patti was among my child companions. Once in the national capital, when I was 12 years old and Adelina 9, we played together at a charity concert. She had sung “The Last Rose of Summer,” and I had played her brother-in-law’s variation upon “Home, Sweet Home.” The audience was enthusiastic. We were called out again and again. Then we came on the stage together, and the applause increasing I sat down at the keyboard and played an accompaniment with my own interpolations upon “Old Folks At Home,” which I had taught Adelina, and she sang the words. Then they fairly took the roof off.
Once during a sojourn in Paris I was thrown with Christine Nilsson. She was in the heyday of her success at the Theater Lyrique under the patronage of Madame Miolan-Carvalho. One day I said to her: “The time may come when you will be giving concerts.” She was indignant. “Nevertheless,” I continued, “let me teach you a sure encore.” I played her Stephen Foster’s immortal ditty. She was delighted. The sequel was that it served her even a better turn than it had served Adelina Patti.
I played and transposed for the piano most of the melodies of Foster as they were published, they being first produced in public by Christy’s Minstrels.
Stephen Foster was the ne’er-do-well of a good Pennsylvania family. A sister of his had married a brother of James Buchanan. There were two daughters of this marriage, nieces of the President, and when they were visiting the White House we had–shall I dare write it?–high jinks with our nigger-minstrel concerts on the sly.
Will S. Hays, the rival of Foster as a song writer and one of my reporters on the Courier-Journal, told me this story: “Foster,” said he, “was a good deal of what you might call a barroom loafer. He possessed a sweet tenor voice before it was spoiled by drink, and was fond of music, though technically he knew nothing about it. He had a German friend who when he died left him a musical scrapbook, of all sorts of odds and ends of original text. There is where Foster got his melodies. When the scrapbook gave out he gave out.”
I took it as merely the spleen of a rival composer. But many years after in Vienna I heard a concert given over exclusively to the performance of certain posthumous manuscripts of Schubert. Among the rest were selections from an unfinished opera–“Rosemonde,” I think it was called–in which the whole rhythm and movements and parts of the score of Old Folks at Home were the feature.
It was something to have grown up contemporary, as it were, with these songs. Many of them were written in the old Rowan homestead, just outside of Bardstown, Ky., where Louis Philippe lived and taught, and for a season Talleyrand made his abode. The Rowans were notable people. John Rowan, the elder, head of the house, was a famous lawyer, who divided oratorical honors with Henry Clay, and like Clay, was a Senator in Congress; his son, “young John,” as he was called, Stephen Foster’s pal, went as minister to Naples, and fought duels, and was as Bob Acres wanted to be, “a devil of a fellow.” He once told me he had been intimate with Thackeray when they were wild young men in Paris, and that they had both of them known the woman whom Thackeray had taken for the original of Becky Sharp.
The Foster songs quite captivated my boyhood. I could sing a little, as well as play, and learned each of them–especially Old Folks at Home and My Old Kentucky Home–as they appeared. Their contemporary vogue was tremendous. Nothing has since rivalled the popular impression they made, except perhaps the Arthur Sullivan melodies.
Among my ambitions to be a great historian, dramatist, soldier and writer of romance I desired also to be a great musician, especially a great pianist. The bone-felon did the business for this later. But all my life I have been able to thumb the keyboard at least for the children to dance, and it has been a recourse and solace sometimes during intervals of embittered journalism and unprosperous statesmanship.
Theodore Thomas and I used to play duos together. He was a master of the violin before he took to orchestration. We remained the best of friends to the end of his days.
On the slightest provocation, or none, we passed entire nights together. Once after a concert he suddenly exclaimed: “Don’t you think Wagner was a —- fraud?”
A little surprised even by one of his outbreaks, I said: “Wagner may have written some trick music but I hardly think that he was a fraud.”
He reflected a moment. “Well,” he continued, “it may not lie in my mouth to say it–and perhaps I ought not to say it–I know I am most responsible for the Wagner craze–but I consider him a —- fraud.”
He had just come from a long “classic entertainment,” was worn out with travel and worry, and meant nothing of the sort.
After a very tiresome concert when he was railing at the hard lines of a peripatetic musician I said: “Come with me and I will give you a soothing quail and as dry a glass of champagne as you ever had in your life.”
The wine was poured out and he took a sip.
“I don’t call that dry wine,” he crossly said, and took another sip. “My God,” without a pause he continued, “isn’t that great?”
Of course he was impulsive, even impetuous. Beneath his seeming cold exterior and admirable self-control–the discipline of the master artist–lay the moods and tenses of the musical temperament. He knew little or nothing outside of music and did not care to learn. I tried to interest him in politics. It was of no use. First he laughed my suggestions to scorn and then swore like a trooper. German he was, through and through. It was well that he passed away before the world war. Pat Gilmore–“Patrick Sarsfield,” we always called him–was a born politician, and if he had not been a musician he would have been a statesman. I kept the peace between him and Theodore Thomas by an ingenious system of telling all kinds of kind things each had said of the other, my “repetitions” being pure inventions of my own.
Chapter the Fourteenth
Henry Adams and the Adams Family–John Hay and Frank Mason–The Three _Mousquetaires_ of Culture–Paris–“The Frenchman”–The South of France
I have been of late reading The Education of Henry Adams, and it recalls many persons and incidents belonging to the period about which I am now writing. I knew Henry Adams well; first in London, then in Boston and finally throughout his prolonged residence in Washington City. He was an Adams; very definitely an Adams, but, though his ghost may revisit the glimpses of the moon and chide me for saying so, with an English “cut to his jib.”
No three brothers could be more unlike than Charles Francis, John Quincy and Henry Adams. Brooks Adams I did not know. They represented the fourth generation of the brainiest pedigree–that is in continuous line–known to our family history. Henry thought he was a philosopher and tried to be one. He thought he was a man of the world and wanted to be one. He was, in spite of himself, a provincial.
Provincialism is not necessarily rustic, even suburban. There is no provincial quite so provincial as he who has passed his life in great cities. The Parisian boulevardier taken away from the asphalt, the cockney a little off Clapham Common and the Strand, is lost. Henry Adams knew his London and his Paris, his Boston and his Quincy–we must not forget Quincy–well. But he had been born, and had grown up, between the lids of history, and for all his learning and travel he never got very far outside them.
In manner and manners, tone and cast of thought he was English–delightfully English–though he cultivated the cosmopolite. His house in the national capital, facing the Executive Mansion across Lafayette Square–especially during the life of his wife, an adorable woman, who made up in sweetness and tact for some of the qualities lacking in her husband–was an intellectual and high-bred center, a rendezvous for the best ton and the most accepted people. The Adamses may be said to have succeeded the Eameses as leaders in semi-social, semi-literary and semi-political society.
There was a trio–I used to call them the Three Musketeers of Culture–John Hay, Henry Cabot Lodge and Henry Adams. They made an interesting and inseparable trinity–Caleb Cushing, Robert J. Walker and Charles Sumner not more so–and it was worth while to let them have the floor and to hear them talk; Lodge, cool and wary as a politician should be; Hay, helterskelter, the real man of the world crossed on a Western stock; and Adams, something of a literatteur, a statesman and a cynic.
John Randolph Tucker, who when he was in Congress often met Henry at dinners and the like, said to him on the appearance of the early volumes of his History of the United States: “I am not disappointed, for how could an Adams be expected to do justice to a Randolph?”
While he was writing this history Adams said to me: “There is an old villain–next to Andrew Jackson the greatest villain of his time–a Kentuckian–don’t say he was a kinsman of yours!–whose papers, if he left any, I want to see.”
“To whom are you referring?” I asked with mock dignity.
“To John Adair,” he answered.
“Well,” said I, “John Adair married my grandmother’s sister and I can put you in the way of getting whatever you require.”
I have spoken of John Hay as Master of the Revels in the old Sutherland-Delmonico days. Even earlier than that–in London and Paris–an intimacy had been established between us. He married in Cleveland, Ohio, and many years passed before I came up with him again. One day in Whitelaw Reid’s den in the Tribune Building he reappeared, strangely changed–no longer the rosy-cheeked, buoyant boy–an overserious, prematurely old man. I was shocked, and when he had gone Reid, observing this, said: “Oh, Hay will come round all right. He is just now in one of his moods. I picked him up in Piccadilly the other day and by sheer force brought him over.”
When we recall the story of Hay’s life–one weird tragedy after another, from the murder of Lincoln to the murder of McKinley, including the tragic end of two members of his immediate family–there rises in spite of the grandeur that pursued him a single exclamation: “The pity of it!”
This is accentuated by Henry Adams’ Education. Yet the silent courage with which Hay met disaster after disaster must increase both the sympathy and the respect of those who peruse the melancholy pages of that vivid narrative. Toward the end, meeting him on a public occasion, I said: “You work too hard–you are not looking well.”
“I am dying,” said he.
“Yes,” I replied in the way of banter, “you are dying of fame and fortune.”
But I went no further. He was in no mood for the old verbal horseplay.
He looked wan and wizened. Yet there were still several years before him. When he came from Mannheim to Paris it was clear that the end was nigh. I did not see him–he was too ill to see any one–but Frank Mason kept me advised from day to day, and when, a month or two later, having reached home, the news came to us that he was dead we were nowise surprised, and almost consoled by the thought that rest had come at last.
Frank Mason and his wife–“the Masons,” they were commonly called, for Mrs. Mason made a wondrous second to her husband–were from Cleveland, Ohio, she a daughter of Judge Birchard–Jennie Birchard–he a rising young journalist caught in the late seventies by the glitter of a foreign appointment. They ran the gamut of the consular service, beginning with Basel and Marseilles and ending with Frankfurt, Berlin and Paris. Wherever they were their house was a very home–a kind of Yankee shrine–of visiting Americans and militant Americanism.
Years before he was made consul general–in point of fact when he was plain consul at Marseilles–he ran over to Paris for a lark. One day he said to me, “A rich old hayseed uncle of mine has come to town. He has money to burn and he wants to meet you. I have arranged for us to dine with him at the Anglaise to-night and we are to order the dinner–carte blanche.” The rich old uncle to whom I was presented did not have the appearance of a hayseed. On the contrary he was a most distinguished-looking old gentleman. The dinner we ordered was “stunning”–especially the wines. When the bill was presented our host scanned it carefully, scrutinizing each item and making his own addition, altogether “like a thoroughbred.” Frank and I watched him not without a bit of anxiety mixed with contrition. When he had paid the score he said with a smile: “That was rather a steep bill, but we have had rather a good dinner, and now, if you boys know of as good a dance hall we’ll go there and I’ll buy the outfit.”
First and last I have lived much in the erstwhile gay capital of France. It was gayest when the Duke de Morny flourished as King of the Bourse. He was reputed the Emperor’s natural half-brother. The breakdown of the Mexican adventure, which was mostly his, contributed not a little to the final Napoleonic fall. He died of dissipation and disappointment, and under the pseudonym of the Duke de Morra, Daudet celebrated him in “The Nabob.”
De Morny did not live to see the tumble of the house of cards he had built. Next after I saw Paris it was a pitiful wreck indeed; the Hotel de Ville and the Tuileries in flames; the Column gone from the Place Vendome; but later the rise of the Third Republic saw the revival of the unquenchable spirit of the irrepressible French.
Nevertheless I should scarcely be taken for a Parisian. Once, when wandering aimlessly, as one so often does through the Paris streets, one of the touts hanging round the Cafe de la Paix to catch the unwary stranger being a little more importunate than usual, I ordered him to go about his business.
“This is my business,” he impudently answered.
“Get away, I tell you!” I thundered, “I am a Parisian myself!”
He drew a little out of reach of the umbrella I held in my hand, and with a drawl of supreme and very American contempt, exclaimed, “Well, you don’t look it,” and scampered off.
Paris, however, is not all of France. Sometimes I have thought not the best part of it. There is the south of France, with Avignon, the heart of Provence, seat of the French papacy six hundred years ago, the metropolis of Christendom before the Midi was a region–Paris yet a village, and Rome struggling out of the debris of the ages–with Arles and Nimes, and, above all, Tarascon, the home of the immortal Tartarin, for next-door neighbors. They are all hard by Marseilles. But Avignon ever most caught my fancy, for there the nights seem peopled with the ghosts of warriors and cardinals, and there on festal mornings the spirits of Petrarch and his Laura walk abroad, the ramparts, which bade defiance to Goth and Vandal and Saracen hordes, now giving shelter to bats and owls, but the atmosphere laden with legend
_”…tasting of Flora and the country green, Dance and Provencal song and sun-burnt mirth.”_
Something too much of this! Let me not yield to the spell of the picturesque. To recur to matters of fact and get down to prose and the times we live in let us halt a moment on this southerly journey and have a look in upon Lyons, the industrial capital of France, which is directly on the way.
The idiosyncrasy of Lyons is silk. There are two schools of introduction in the art of silk weaving, one of them free to any lad in the city, the other requiring a trifle of matriculation. The first of these witnesses the whole process of fabrication from the reeling of threads to the finishing of dress goods, and the loom painting of pictures. It is most interesting of course, the painstaking its most obvious feature, the individual weaver living with his family upon a wage representing the cost of the barest necessities of life. Again, and ever and ever again, the inequalities of fortune! Where will it end?
The world has tried revolution and it has tried anarchy. Always the survival of the strong, nicknamed by Spencer and his ilk the “fittest.” Ten thousand heads were chopped off during the Terror in France to make room for whom? Not for the many, but the few; though it must be allowed that in some ways the conditions were improved.
Yet here after a hundred years, here in Lyons, faithful, intelligent men struggle for sixty, for forty cents a day, with never a hope beyond! What is to be done about it? Suppose the wealth of the universe were divided per capita, how long would it remain out of the clutches of the Napoleons of finance, only a percentage of whom find ultimately their Waterloo, little to the profit of the poor who spin and delve, who fight and die, in the Grand Army of the Wretched!
We read a deal that is amusing about the southerly Frenchman. He is indeed _sui generis_. Some five and twenty years ago there appeared in Louisville a dapper gentleman, who declared himself a Marseillais, and who subsequently came to be known variously as The Major and The Frenchman. I shall not mention him otherwise in this veracious chronicle, but, looking through the city directory of Marseilles I found an entire page devoted to his name, though all the entries may not have been members of his family. There is no doubt that he was a Marseillais.
Wandering through the streets of the old city, now in a cafe of La Cannebiere and now along a quay of the Old Port, his ghost has often crossed my path and dogged my footsteps, though he has lain in his grave this many a day. I grew to know him very well, to be first amused by him, then to be interested, and in the end to entertain an affection for him.
The Major was a delightful composite of Tartarin of Tarascon and the Brigadier Gerard, with a dash of the Count of Monte Cristo; for when he was flush–which by some odd coincidence happened exactly four times a year–he was as liberal a spendthrift as one could wish to meet anywhere between the little principality of Monaco and the headwaters of the Nile; transparent as a child; idiosyncratic to a degree.
I understand Marseilles better and it has always seemed nearer to me since he was born there and lived there when a boy, and, I much fear me, was driven away, the scapegrace of excellent and wealthy people; not, I feel sure, for any offense that touched the essential parts of his manhood. A gentler, a more upright and harmless creature I never knew in all my life.
I very well recall when he first arrived in the Kentucky metropolis. His attire and raiment were faultless. He wore a rose in his coat, he carried a delicate cane, and a most beautiful woman hung upon his arm. She was his wife. It was a circumstance connected with this lady which led to the after intimacy between him and me. She fell dangerously ill. I had casually met her husband as an all-round man-about-town, and by this token, seeking sympathy on lines of least resistance, he came to me with his sorrow.
I have never seen grief more real and fervid. He swore, on his knees and with tears in his eyes, that if she recovered, if God would give her back to him, he would never again touch a card; for gambling was his passion, and even among amateurs he would have been accounted the softest of soft things. His prayer was answered, she did recover, and he proceeded to fulfill his vow.
But what was he to do? He had been taught, or at least he had learned, to do nothing, not even to play poker! I suggested that as running a restaurant was a French prerogative and that as he knew less about cooking than about anything else–we had had a contest or two over the mysteries of a pair of chafing dishes–and as there was not a really good eating place in Louisville, he should set up a restaurant. It was said rather in jest than in earnest; but I was prepared to lend him the money. The next thing I knew, and without asking for a dollar, he had opened The Brunswick.
In those days I saw the Courier-Journal to press, turning night into day, and during a dozen years I took my twelve o’clock supper there. It was thus and from these beginnings that the casual acquaintance between us ripened into intimacy, and that I gradually came into a knowledge of the reserves behind The Major’s buoyant optimism and occasional gasconnade.
He ate and drank sparingly; but he was not proof against the seduction of good company, and he had plenty of it, from William Preston to Joseph Jefferson, with such side lights as Stoddard Johnston, Boyd Winchester, Isaac Caldwell and Proctor Knott, of the Home Guard–very nearly all the celebrities of the day among the outsiders–myself the humble witness and chronicler. He secured an excellent chef, and of course we lived exceedingly well.
The Major’s most obvious peculiarity was that he knew everything and had been everywhere. If pirates were mentioned he flowered out at once into an adventure upon the sea; if bandits, on the land. If it was Wall Street he had a reminiscence and a scheme; if gambling, a hard-luck story and a system. There was no quarter of the globe of which he had not been an inhabitant.
Once the timbered riches of Africa being mentioned, at once the Major gave us a most graphic account of how “the old house”–for thus he designated some commercial establishment, which either had no existence or which he had some reason for not more particularly indicating–had sent him in charge of a rosewood saw mill on the Ganges, and, after many ups and downs, of how the floods had come and swept the plant away; and Rudolph Fink, who was of the party, immediately said, “I can attest the truth of The Major’s story, because my brother Albert and I were in charge of some fishing camps at the mouth of the Ganges at the exact date of the floods, and we caught many of those rosewood logs in our nets as they floated out to sea.”
Augustine’s Terrapin came to be for a while the rage in Philadelphia, and even got as far as New York and Washington, and straightway, The Major declared he could and would make Augustine and his terrapin look “like a monkey.” He proposed to give a dinner.
There were great preparations and expectancy. None of us ate much at luncheon that day. At the appointed hour, we assembled at The Brunswick. I will dismiss the decorations and the preludes except to say that they were Parisian. After a while in full regalia The Major appeared, a train of servants following with a silver tureen. The lid was lifted.
“_Voila!_” says he.
The vision disclosed to our startled eyes was an ocean that looked like bean soup flecked by a few strands of black crape!
The explosion duly arrived from the assembled gourmets, I, myself, I am sorry to say, leading the rebellion.
“I put seeks terrapin in zat soup!” exclaimed The Frenchman, quite losing his usual good English in his excitement.
We reproached him. We denounced him. He was driven from the field. But he bore us no malice. Ten days later he invited us again, and this time Sam Ward himself could have found no fault with the terrapin.
Next afternoon, when I knew The Major was asleep, I slipped back into the kitchen and said to Louis Garnier, the chef: “Is there any of that terrapin left over from last night?”
All unconscious of his treason Louis took me into the pantry and triumphantly showed me three jars bearing the Augustine label and the Philadelphia express tags!
On another occasion a friend of The Major’s, passing The Brunswick and observing some diamond-back shells in the window said, “Major, have you any real live terrapins?”
[Illustration: Henry Woodfin Grady One of Mr. Watterson’s “Boys”.]
“Live!” cried The Frenchman. “Only this morning I open the ice box and they were all dancing the cancan.”
“Major,” persisted the friend, “I’ll go you a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, you cannot show me an actual living terrapin.”
“What do you take me for–confidence man?” The Major retorted. “How you expect an old sport like me to bet upon a certainty?”
“Never mind your ethics. The wager is drink, not money. In any event we shall have the wine.”
“Oh, well,” says The Frenchman, with a shrug and a droll grimace, “if you insist on paying for a bottle of wine come with me.”
He took a lighted candle, and together they went back to the ice box. It was literally filled with diamond backs, and my friend thought he was gone for sure.
“La!” says The Major with triumph, rummaging among the mass of shells with his cane as he held the candle aloft.
“But,” says my friend, ready to surrender, yet taking a last chance, “you told me they were dancing the cancan!”
The Major picked up a terrapin and turned it over in his hand. Quite numb and frozen, the animal within made no sign. Then he stirred the shells about in the box with his cane. Still not a show of life. Of a sudden he stopped, reflected a moment, then looked at his watch.
“Ah,” he murmured. “I quite forget. The terrapin, they are asleep. It is ten-thirty, and the terrapin he regularly go to sleep at ten o’clock by the watch every night.” And without another word he reached for the Veuve Cliquot!
For all his volubility in matters of romance and sentiment The Major was exceeding reticent about his immediate self and his own affairs. His legends referred to the distant of time and place. A certain dignity could not be denied him, and, on occasion, a proper reserve; he rarely mentioned his business–though he worked like a slave, and could not have been making much or any profit–so that there rose the query how he contrived to make both ends meet. Little by little I came into the knowledge that there was a money supply from somewhere; finally, it matters not how, that he had an annuity of forty thousand francs, paid in quarterly installments of ten thousand francs each.
Occasionally he mentioned “the Old House,” and in relating the famous Sophonisba episode late at night, and only in the very fastnesses of the wine cellar, as it were, at the most lachrymose passage he spoke of “l’Oncle Celestin,” with the deepest feeling.
“Did you ever hear The Frenchman tell that story about Sophonisba?” Doctor Stoic, whom on account of his affectation of insensibility we were wont to call Old Adamant, once asked me. “Well, sir, the other night he told it to me, and he was drunk, and he cried, sir; and I was drunk, and I cried too!”
I had known The Frenchman now ten or a dozen years. That he came from Marseilles, that he had served on the Confederate side in the Trans-Mississippi, that he possessed an annuity, that he must have been well-born and reared, that he was simple, yet canny, and in his money dealings scrupulously honest–was all I could be sure of. What had he done to be ashamed about or wish to conceal? In what was he a black sheep, for that he had been one seemed certain? Had the beautiful woman, his wife–a tireless church and charity worker, who lived the life of a recluse and a saint–had she reclaimed him from his former self? I knew that she had been the immediate occasion of his turning over a new leaf. But before her time what had he been, what had he done?
Late one night, when the rain was falling and the streets were empty, I entered The Brunswick. It was empty too. In the farthest corner of the little dining room The Major, his face buried in his hands, laid upon the table in front of him, sat silently weeping. He did not observe my entrance and I seated myself on the opposite side of the table. Presently he looked up, and seeing me, without a word passed me a letter which, all blistered with tears, had brought him to this distressful state. It was a formal French burial summons, with its long list of family names–his among the rest–the envelope, addressed in a lady’s hand–his sister’s, the wife of a nobleman in high military command–the postmark “Lyon.” Uncle Celestin was dead.
Thereafter The Frenchman told me much which I may not recall and must not repeat; for, included in that funeral list were some of the best names in France, Uncle Celestin himself not the least of them.
At last he died, and as mysteriously as he had come his body was taken away, nobody knew when, nobody where, and with it went the beautiful woman, his wife, of whom from that day to this I have never heard a word.
Chapter the Fifteenth
Still the Gay Capital of France–Its Environs–Walewska and De Morny–Thackeray in Paris–A _Pension_ Adventure
Each of the generations thinks itself commonplace. Familiarity breeds equally indifference and contempt. Yet no age of the world has witnessed so much of the drama of life–of the romantic and picturesque–as the age we live in. The years betwixt Agincourt and Waterloo were not more delightfully tragic than the years between Serajevo and Senlis.
The gay capital of France remains the center of the stage and retains the interest of the onlooking universe. All roads lead to Paris as all roads led to Rome. In Dickens’ day “a tale of two cities” could only mean London and Paris then, and ever so unalike. To be brought to date the title would have now to read “three,” or even “four,” cities, New York and Chicago putting in their claims for mundane recognition.
I have been not only something of a traveller, but a diligent student of history and a voracious novel reader, and, once-in-a-while, I get my history and my fiction mixed. This has been especially the case when the hum-drum of the Boulevards has driven me from the fascinations of the Beau Quartier into the by-ways of the Marais and the fastnesses of what was once the Latin Quarter. More than fifty years of intimacy have enabled me to learn many things not commonly known, among them that Paris is the most orderly and moral city in the world, except when, on rare and brief occasions, it has been stirred to its depths.
I have crossed the ocean many times–have lived, not sojourned, on the banks of the Seine, and, as I shall never see the other side again–do not want to see it in its time of sorrow and garb of mourning–I may be forgiven a retrospective pause in this egotistic chronicle. Or, shall I not say, a word or two of affectionate retrogression, though perchance it leads me after the manner of Silas Wegg to drop into poetry and take a turn with a few ghosts into certain of their haunts, when you, dear sir, or madame, or miss, as the case may be, and I were living that “other life,” whereof we remember so little that we cannot recall who we were, or what name we went by, howbeit now-and-then we get a glimpse in dreams, or a “hunch” from the world of spirits, or spirts-and-water, which makes us fancy we might have been Julius Caesar, or Cleopatra–as maybe we were!–or at least Joan of Arc, or Jean Valjean!
Let me repeat that upon no spot of earth has the fable we call existence had so rare a setting and rung up its curtain upon such a succession of performances; has so concentrated human attention upon mundane affairs; has called such a muster roll of stage favorites; has contributed to romance so many heroes and heroines, to history so many signal episodes and personal exploits, to philosophy so much to kindle the craving for vital knowledge, to stir sympathy and to awaken reflection.
Greece and Rome seem but myths of an Age of Fable. They live for us as pictures live, as statues live. What was it I was saying about statues– that they all look alike to me? There are too many of them. They bring the ancients down to us in marble and bronze, not in flesh and blood. We do not really laugh with Terence and Horace, nor weep with AEschylus and Homer. The very nomenclature has a ticket air like tags on a collection of curios in an auction room, droning the dull iteration of a catalogue. There is as little to awaken and inspire in the system of religion and ethics of the pagan world they lived in as in the eyes of the stone effigies that stare blankly upon us in the British Museum, the Uffizi and the Louvre.
We walk the streets of the Eternal City with wonderment, not with pity, the human side quite lost in the archaic. What is Caesar to us, or we to Caesar? Jove’s thunder no longer terrifies, and we look elsewhere than the Medici Venus for the lights o’ love.
Not so with Paris. There the unbroken line of five hundred years–semi-modern years, marking a longer period than we commonly ascribe to Athens or Rome–beginning with the exit of this our own world from the dark ages into the partial light of the middle ages, and continuing thence through the struggle of man toward achievement–tells us a tale more consecutive and thrilling, more varied and instructive, than may be found in all the pages of all the chroniclers and poets of the civilizations which vibrated between the Bosphorus and the Tiber, to yield at last to triumphant Barbarism swooping down from Tyrol crag and Alpine height, from the fastnesses of the Rhine and the Rhone, to swallow luxury and culture. Refinement had done its perfect work. It had emasculated man and unsexed woman and brought her to the front as a political force, even as it is trying to do now.
The Paris of Balzac and Dumas, of De Musset and Hugo–even of Thackeray–could still be seen when I first went there. Though our age is as full of all that makes for the future of poetry and romance, it does not contemporaneously lend itself to sentimental abstraction. Yet it is hard to separate fact and fiction here; to decide between the true and the false; to pluck from the haze with which time has enveloped them, and to distinguish the puppets of actual flesh and blood who lived and moved and had their being, and the phantoms of imagination called into life and given each its local habitation and its name by the poet’s pen working its immemorial spell upon the reader’s credulity.
To me D’Artagnan is rather more vital than Richelieu. Hugo’s imps and Balzac’s bullies dance down the stage and shut from the view the tax-collectors and the court favorites. The mousquetaires crowd the field marshals off the scene. There is something real in Quasimodo, in Caesar de Birotteau, in Robert Macaire, something mythical in Mazarin, in the Regent and in Jean Lass. Even here, in faraway Kentucky, I can shut my eyes and see the Lady of Dreams as plainly as if she were coming out of the Bristol or the Ritz to step into her automobile, while the Grande Mademoiselle is merely a cloud of clothes and words that for me mean nothing at all.
I once passed a week, day by day, roaming through the Musee Carnavalet. Madame de Sevigne had an apartment and held her salon there for nearly twenty years. Hard by is the house where the Marquise de Brinvilliers–a gentle, blue-eyed thing they tell us–a poor, insane creature she must have been–disseminated poison and death, and, just across and beyond the Place des Vosges, the Hotel de Sens, whither Queen Margot took her doll-rags and did her spriting after she and Henri Quatre had agreed no longer to slide down the same cellar door. There is in the Museum a death-mask, colored and exceeding life-like, taken the day after Ravaillac delivered the finishing knife-thrust in the Rue de Ferronnerie, which represents the Bearnais as anything but a tamer of hearts. He was a fighter, however, from Wayback, and I dare say Dumas’ narrative is quite as authentic as any.
One can scarce wonder that men like Hugo and Balzac chose this quarter of the town to live in–and Rachael, too!–it having given such frequent shelter to so many of their fantastic creations, having been the real abode of a train of gallants and bravos, of saints and harlots from the days of Diane de Poitiers to the days of Pompadour and du Barry, and of statesmen and prelates likewise from Sully to Necker, from Colbert to Turgot.
I speak of the Marais as I might speak of Madison Square, or Hyde Park–as a well-known local section–yet how few Americans who have gone to Paris have ever heard of it. It is in the eastern division of the town. One finds it a curious circumstance that so many if not most of the great cities somehow started with the rising, gradually to migrate toward the setting sun.
When I first wandered about Paris there was little west of the Arch of Stars except groves and meadows. Neuilly and Passy were distant villages. Auteuil was a safe retreat for lovers and debtors, with comic opera villas nestled in high-walled gardens. To Auteuil Armand Duval and his Camille hied away for their short-lived idyl. In those days there was a lovely lane called Marguerite Gautier, with a dovecote pointed out as the very “rustic dwelling” so pathetically sung in Verdi’s tuneful score and tenderly described in the original Dumas text. The Boulevard Montmorenci long ago plowed the shrines of romance out of the knowledge of the living, and a part of the Longchamps racecourse occupies the spot whither impecunious poets and adventure-seeking wives repaired to escape the insistence of cruel bailiffs and the spies of suspicious and monotonous husbands.
Tempus fugit! I used to read Thackeray’s Paris Sketches with a kind of awe. The Thirties and the Forties, reincarnated and inspired by his glowing spirit, seemed clad in translucent garments, like the figures in the Nibelungenlied, weird, remote, glorified. I once lived in the street “for which no rhyme our language yields,” next door to a pastry shop that claimed to have furnished the mise en scene for the “Ballad of Bouillabaisse,” and I often followed the trail of Louis Dominic Cartouche “down that lonely and crooked byway that, setting forth from a palace yard, led finally to the rear gate of a den of thieves.” Ah, well-a-day! I have known my Paris now twice as long as Thackeray knew his Paris, and my Paris has been as interesting as his Paris, for it includes the Empire, the Siege and the Republic.
I knew and sat for months at table with Comtesse Walewska, widow of the bastard son of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Duke de Morny was rather a person in his way and Gambetta was no slouch, as Titmarsh would himself agree. I knew them both. The Mexican scheme, which was going to make every Frenchman rich, was even more picturesque and tragical than the Mississippi bubble. There were lively times round about the last of the Sixties and the early Seventies. The Terror lasted longer, but it was not much more lurid than the Commune; the Hotel de Ville and the Tuileries in flames, the column gone from the Place Vendome, when I got there just after the siege. The regions of the beautiful Opera House and of the venerable Notre Dame they told me had been but yesterday running streams of blood. At the corner of the Rue de la Paix and the Rue Dannou (they called it then the Rue St. Augustine) thirty men, women, and boys were one forenoon stood against the wall and shot, volley upon volley, to death. In the Sacristy of the Cathedral over against the Morgue and the Hotel Dieu, they exhibit the gore-stained vestments of three archbishops of Paris murdered within as many decades.
Thackeray came to Paris when a very young man. He was for painting pictures, not for writing books, and he retained his artistic yearnings if not ambitions long after he had become a great and famous man of letters. It was in Paris that he married his wife, and in Paris that the melancholy finale came to pass; one of the most heartbreaking chapters in literary history.
His little girls lived here with their grandparents. The elder of them relates how she was once taken up some flights of stairs by the Countess X to the apartment of a frail young man to whom the Countess was carrying a basket of fruit; and how the frail young man insisted, against the protest of the Countess, upon sitting at the piano and playing; and of how they came out again, the eyes of the Countess streaming with tears, and of her saying, as they drove away, “Never, never forget, my child, as long as you live, that you have heard Chopin play.” It was in one of the lubberly houses of the Place Vendome that the poet of the keyboard died a few days later. Just around the corner, in the Rue du Mont Thabor, died Alfred de Musset. A brass plate marks the house.
May I not here transcribe that verse of the famous “Ballad of Bouillabaisse,” which I have never been able to recite, or read aloud, and part of which I may at length take to myself:
_”Ah me, how quick the days are flitting! I mind me of a time that’s gone,
When here I’d sit, as now I’m sitting In this same place–but not alone–
A fair young form was nestled near me, A dear, dear face looked fondly up,
And sweetly spoke and smiled to hear me, There’s no one now to share my cup.”_
The writer of these lines a cynic! Nonsense. When will the world learn to discriminate?
It is impossible to speak of Paris without giving a foremost place in the memorial retrospect to the Bois de Boulogne, the Parisian’s Coney Island. I recall that I passed the final Sunday of my last Parisian sojourn just before the outbreak of the World War with a beloved family party in the joyous old Common. There is none like it in the world, uniting the urban to the rural with such surpassing grace as perpetually to convey a double sensation of pleasure; primal in its simplicity, superb in its setting; in the variety and brilliancy of the life which, upon sunny afternoons, takes possession of it and makes it a cross between a parade and a paradise.
There was a time when, rather far away for foot travel, the Bois might be considered a driving park for the rich. It fairly blazed with the ostentatious splendor of the Second Empire; the shoddy Duke with his shady retinue, in gilded coach-and-four; the world-famous courtesan, bedizened with costly jewels and quite as well known as the Empress; the favorites of the Tuileries, the Comedie Francaise, the Opera, the Jardin Mabille, forming an unceasing and dazzling line of many-sided frivolity from the Port de Ville to the Port St. Cloud, circling round La Bagatelle and ranging about the Cafe Cascade, a human tiara of diamonds, a moving bouquet of laces and rubies, of silks and satins and emeralds and sapphires. Those were the days when the Due de Morny, half if not full brother of the Emperor, ruled as king of the Bourse, and Cora Pearl, a clever and not at all good-looking Irish girl gone wrong, reigned as Queen of the Demimonde.
All this went by the board years ago. Everywhere, more or less, electricity has obliterated distinctions of rank and wealth. It has circumvented lovers and annihilated romance. The Republic ousted the bogus nobility. The subways and the tram cars connect the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes so closely that the poorest may make himself at home in either or both.
The automobile, too, oddly enough, is proving a very leveller. The crowd recognizes nobody amid the hurly-burly of coupes, pony-carts, and taxicabs, each trying to pass the other. The conglomeration of personalities effaces the identity alike of the statesman and the artist, the savant and the cyprian. No six-inch rules hedge the shade of the trees and limit the glory of the grass. The _ouvrier_ can bring his brood and his basket and have his picnic where he pleases. The pastry cook and his chere amie, the coiffeur and his grisette can spoon by the lake-side as long as the moonlight lasts, and longer if they list, with never a gendarme to say them nay, or a rude voice out of the depths hoarsely to declaim, “allez!” The Bois de Boulogne is literally and absolutely a playground, the playground of the people, and this last Sunday of mine, not fewer than half a million of Parisians were making it their own.
Half of these encircled the Longchamps racecourse. The other half were shared by the boats upon the lagoons and the bosky dells under the summer sky and the cafes and the restaurants with which the Bois abounds. Our party, having exhausted the humors of the drive, repaired to Pre Catalan. Aside from the “two old brides” who are always in evidence on such occasions, there was a veritable “young couple,” exceedingly pretty to look at, and delightfully in love! That sort of thing is not so uncommon in Paris as cynics affect to think.
If it be true, as the witty Frenchman observes, that “gambling is the recreation of gentlemen and the passion of fools,” it is equally true that love is a game where every player wins if he sticks to it and is loyal to it. Just as credit is the foundation of business is love both the asset and the trade-mark of happiness. To see it is to believe it, and–though a little cash in hand is needful to both–where either is wanting, look out for sheriffs and scandals.
Pre Catalan, once a pasture for cows with a pretty kiosk for the sale of milk, has latterly had a tea-room big enough to seat a thousand, not counting the groves which I have seen grow up about it thickly dotted with booths and tables, where some thousands more may regale themselves. That Sunday it was never so glowing with animation and color. As it makes one happy to see others happy it makes one adore his own land to witness that which makes other lands great.
I have not loved Paris as a Parisian, but as an American; perhaps it is a stretch of words to say I love Paris at all. I used to love to go there and to behold the majesty of France. I have always liked to mark the startling contrasts of light and shade. I have always known what all the world now knows, that beneath the gayety of the French there burns a patriotic and consuming fire, a high sense of public honor; a fine spirit of self-sacrifice along with the sometimes too aggressive spirit of freedom. In 1873 I saw them two blocks long and three files deep upon the Rue St. Honore press up to the Bank of France, old women and old men with their little all tied in handkerchiefs and stockings to take up the tribute required by Bismarck to rid the soil of the detested German. They did it. Alone they did it–the French people–the hard-working, frugal, loyal commonalty of France–without asking the loan of a sou from the world outside.
Writing of that last Sunday in the Bois de Boulogne, I find by recurring to the record that I said: “There is a deal more of good than bad in every Nation. I take off my hat to the French. But, I have had my fling and I am quite ready to go home. Even amid the gayety and the glare, the splendor of color and light, the Hungarian band wafting to the greenery and the stars the strains of the delicious waltz, La Veuve Joyeuse her very self–yea, many of her–tapping the time at many adjacent tables, the song that fills my heart is ‘Hame, Hame, Hame!–Hame to my ain countree.’ Yet, to come again, d’ye mind? I should be loath to say good-by forever to the Bois de Boulogne. I want to come back to Paris. I always want to come back to Paris. One needs not to make an apology or give a reason.
“We turn rather sadly away from Pre Catalan and the Cafe Cascade. We glide adown the flower-bordered path and out from the clusters of Chinese lanterns, and leave the twinkling groves to their music and merry-making. Yonder behind us, like a sentinel, rises Mont Valerien. Before us glimmer the lamps of uncountable coaches, as our own, veering toward the city, the moon just topping the tower of St. Jacques de la Boucherie and silver-plating the bronze figures upon the Arch of Stars.
“We enter the Port Maillot. We turn into the Avenue du Bois. Presently we shall sweep with the rest through the Champs Elysees and on to the ocean of the infinite, the heart of the mystery we call Life, nowhere so condensed, so palpable, so appealing. Roll the screen away! The shades of Clovis and Genevieve may be seen hand-in-hand with the shades of Martel and Pepin, taking the round of the ghost-walk between St. Denis and St. Germain, now le Balafre and again Navarre, now the assassins of the Ligue and now the assassins of the Terror, to keep them company. Nor yet quite all on murder bent, some on pleasure; the Knights and Ladies of the Cloth of Gold and the hosts of the Renaissance: Cyrano de Bergerac and Francois Villon leading the ragamuffin procession; the jades of the Fronde, Longueville, Chevreuse and fair-haired Anne of Austria; and Ninon, too, and Manon; and the never-to-be-forgotten Four, ‘one for all and all for one;’ Cagliostro and Monte Cristo; on the side, Rabelais taking notes and laughing under his cowl. Catherine de Medici and Robespierre slinking away, poor, guilty things, into the pale twilight of the Dawn!
“Names! Names! Only names? I am not just so sure about that. In any event, what a roll call! We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded by a sleep; the selfsame sleep which these, our living dead men and women in steel armor and gauzy muslins, in silken hose and sock and buskin, epaulettes and top boots, brocades and buff facings, have endured so long and know so well!
“If I should die in Paris I should expect them–or some of them–to meet me at the barriers and to say, ‘Behold, the wickedness that was done in the world, the cruelty and the wrong, dwelt in the body, not in the soul of man, which freed from its foul incasement, purified and made eternal by the hand of death, shall see both the glory and the hand of God!'”
It was not to be. I shall not die in Paris. I shall never come again. Neither shall I make apology for this long quotation by myself from myself, for am I not inditing an autobiography, so called?
Chapter the Sixteenth
Monte Carlo–The European Shrine of Sport and Fashion–Apocryphal Gambling Stories–Leopold, King of the Belgians–An Able and Picturesque Man of Business
Having disported ourselves in and about Paris, next in order comes a journey to the South of France–that is to the Riviera–by geography the main circle of the Mediterranean Sea, by proclamation Cannes, Nice, and Mentone, by actual fact and count, Monte Carlo–even the swells adopting a certain hypocrisy as due to virtue.
Whilst Monte Carlo is chiefly, I might say exclusively, identified in the general mind with gambling, and was indeed at the outset but a gambling resort, it long ago outgrew the limits of the Casino, becoming a Mecca of the world of fashion as well as the world of sport. Half the ruling sovereigns of Europe and all the leaders of European swelldom, the more prosperous of the demi-mondaines and no end of the merely rich of every land, congregate there and thereabouts. At the top of the season the show of opulence and impudence is bewildering.
The little principality of Monaco is hardly bigger than the Cabbage Patch of the renowned Mrs. Wiggs. It is, however, more happily situate. Nestled under the heights of La Condamine and Tete de Chien and looking across a sheltered bay upon the wide and blue Mediterranean, it has better protection against the winds of the North than Nice, or Cannes, or Mentone. It is an appanage–in point of fact the only estate–remaining to the once powerful Grimaldi family.
In the early days of land-piracy Old Man Grimaldi held his own with Old Man Hohenzollern and Old Man Hapsburg. The Savoys and the Bourbons were kith and kin. But in the long run of Freebooting the Grimaldis did not keep up with the procession. How they retained even this remnant of inherited brigandage and self-appointed royalty, I do not know. They are here under leave of the Powers and the especial protection, strange to say, of the French Republic.
Something over fifty years ago, being hard-up for cash, the Grimaldi of the period fell under the wiles of an ingenious Alsatian gambler, Guerlac by name, who foresaw that Baden-Baden and Hombourg were approaching their finish and that the sports must look elsewhere for their living, the idle rich for their sport. This tiny “enclave” in French territory presented many advantages over the German Dukedoms. It was an independent sovereignty issuing its own coins and postage stamps. It was in proud possession of a half-dozen policemen which it called its “army.” It was paradisaic in beauty and climate. Its “ruler” was as poor as Job’s turkey, but by no means as proud as Lucifer.
The bargain was struck. The gambler smote the rock of Monte Carlo as with a wand of enchantment and a stream of plenty burst forth. The mountain-side responded to the touch. It chortled in its glee and blossomed as the rose.
The region known as the Riviera comprises, as I have said, the whole land-circle of the Mediterranean Sea. But, as generally written and understood, it stands for the shoreline between Marseilles and Genoa. The two cities are connected by the Corniche Road, built by the First Napoleon, who learned the need of it when he made his Italian campaign, and the modern railway, the distance 260 miles, two-thirds of the way through France, the residue through Italy, and all of it surpassing fine.
The climate is very like that of Southern Florida. But as in Florida they have the “Nor’westers” and the “Nor’easters,” on the Riviera they have the “mistral.” In Europe there is no perfect winter weather north of Spain, as in the United States none north of Cuba.
I have often thought that Havana might be made a dangerous rival of Monte Carlo under the one-man power, exercising its despotism with benignant intelligence and spending its income honestly upon the development of both the city and the island. The motley populace would probably be none the worse for it. The Government could upon a liberal tariff collect not less than thirty-five millions of annual revenue. Twenty-five of these millions would suffice for its own support. Ten millions a year laid out upon harbors, roadways and internal improvements in general would within ten years make the Queen of the Antilles the garden spot and playground of Christendom. They would build a Casino to outshine even the architectural miracles of Charles Garnier. Then would Havana put Cairo out of business and give the Prince of Monaco a run for his money.
With the opening of every Monte Carlo season the newspapers used to tell of the colossal winnings of purely imaginary players. Sometimes the favored child of chance was a Russian, sometimes an Englishman, sometimes an American. He was usually a myth, of course. As Mrs. Prig observed to Mrs. Camp, “there never was no sich person.”
Charles Garnier, the Parisian architect, came and built the Casino, next to the Library of Congress at Washington and the Grand Opera House at Paris the most beautiful building in the world, with incomparable gardens and commanding esplanades to set it off and display it. Around it palatial hotels and private mansions and villas sprang into existence. Within it a gold-making wheel of fortune fabricated the wherewithal. Old Man Grimaldi in his wildest dreams of land-piracy–even Old Man Hohenzollern, or Old Man Hapsburg–never conceived the like.
There is no poverty, no want, no taxes–not any sign of dilapidation or squalor anywhere in the principality of Monaco. Yet the “people,” so called, have been known to lapse into a state of discontent. They sometimes “yearned for freedom.” Too well fed and cared for, too rid of dirt and debt, too flourishing, they “riz.” Prosperity grew monotonous. They even had the nerve to demand a “Constitution.”
The reigning Prince was what Yellowplush would call “a scientific gent.” His son and heir, however, had not his head in the clouds, being in point of fact of the earth earthly, and, of consequence, more popular than his father. He came down from the Castle on the hill to the marketplace in the town and says he: “What do you galoots want, anyhow?”
First, their “rights.” Then a change in the commander-in-chief of the army, which had grown from six to sixteen. Finally, a Board of Aldermen and a Common Council.
“Is that all?” says his Royal Highness. They said it was. “Then,” says he, “take it, mes enfants, and bless you!”
So, all went well again. The toy sovereignty began to rattle around in its own conceit, the “people” regarded themselves, and wished to be regarded, as a chartered Democracy. The little gim-crack economic system experienced the joys of reform. A “New Nationalism” was established in the brewery down by the railway station and a reciprocity treaty was negotiated between the Casino and Vanity Fair, witnessing the introduction of two roulette tables and an extra brazier for cigar stumps.
But the Prince of Monaco stood on one point. He would have no Committee on Credentials. He told me once that he had heard of Tom Reed and Champ Clark and Uncle Joe Cannon, but that he preferred Uncle Joe. He would, and he did, name his own committees both in the Board of Aldermen and the Common Council. Thus, for the time being, “insurgency” was quelled. And once more serenely sat the Castle on the hill hard by the Cathedral. Calmly again flowed the waters in the harbor. More and more the autos honked outside the Casino. Within “the little ball ever goes merrily round,” and according to the croupiers and the society reporters “the gentleman wins and the poor gambler loses!”
To illustrate, I recall when on a certain season the lucky sport of print and fancy was an Englishman. In one of those farragos of stupidity and inaccuracy which are syndicated and sent from abroad to America, I found the following piece with the stuff and nonsense habitually worked off on the American press as “foreign correspondence”:
“Now and then the newspapers report authentic instances of large sums having been won at the gaming tables at Monte Carlo. One of the most fortunate players at Monte Carlo for a long time past has been a Mr. Darnbrough, an Englishman, whose remarkable run of luck had furnished the morsels of gossip in the capitals of Continental Europe recently.
“If reports are true, he left the place with the snug sum of more than 1,000,000 francs to the good as the result of a month’s play. But this, I hear, did not represent all of Mr. Darnbrough’s winnings. The story goes that on the opening day of his play he staked 24,000 francs, winning all along the line. Emboldened by his success, he continued playing, winning again and again with marvelous luck. At one period, it is said, his credit balance amounted to no less than 1,850,000 francs; but from that moment Dame Fortune ceased to smile upon him. He lost steadily from 200,000 to 300,000 francs a day, until, recognizing that luck had turned against him, he had sufficient strength of will to turn his back on the tables and strike for home with the very substantial winnings that still remained.
“On another occasion a well-known London stock broker walked off with little short of L40,000. This remarkable performance occasioned no small amount of excitement in the gambling rooms, as such an unusual incident does invariably.
“Bent on making a ‘plunge,’ he went from one table to another, placing the maximum stake on the same number. Strange to relate, at each table the same number won, and it was his number. Recognizing that this perhaps might be his lucky day, the player wended his way to the trente-et-quarante room and put the maximum on three of the tables there. To his amazement, he discovered that there also he had been so fortunate as to select the winning number.
“The head croupier confided to a friend of the writer who happened to be present that that day had been the worst in the history of the Monaco bank for years. He it was also who mentioned the amount won by the fortunate Londoner, as given above.”
It is prudent of the space-writers to ascribe such “information” as this to “the head croupier,” because it is precisely the like that such an authority would give out. People upon the spot know that nothing of the kind happened, and that no person of that name had appeared upon the scene. The story on the face of it bears to the knowing its own refutation, being absurd in every detail. As if conscious of this, the author proceeds to quality it in the following:
“It is a well-known fact that one of the most successful players at the Monte Carlo tables was Wells, who as the once popular music-hall song put it, ‘broke the bank’ there. He was at the zenith of his fame, about twenty years ago, when his escapades–and winnings–were talked about widely and envied in European sporting circles and among the demi-monde.
“In ten days, it was said, he made upward of L35,000 clear winnings at the tables after starting with the modest capital of L400. It must not be forgotten, however, that at his trial later Wells denied this, stating that all he had made was L7,000 at four consecutive sittings. He made the statement that, even so, he had been a loser in the end.
“The reader may take his choice of the two statements, but among frequenters of the rooms at Monte Carlo it is generally considered impossible to amass large winnings without risking large stakes. Even then the chances are 1,000 to 1 in favor of the bank. Yet occasionally there are winnings running into four or five figures, and to human beings the possibility of chance constitutes an irresistible fascination.
“Only a few years ago a young American was credited with having risen from the tables $75,000 richer than when first he had sat down. It was his first visit to Monte Carlo and he had not come with any system to break the bank or with any ‘get-rich-quick’ idea. For the novelty of the thing he risked about $4,000, and lost it all in one fell swoop without turning a hair. Then he ‘plunged’ with double that amount, but the best part of that, too, went the same way. Nothing daunted, he next ventured $10,000. This time fickle fortune favored him. He played on with growing confidence and when his winnings amounted to the respectable sum of $75,000 he had the good sense to quit and to leave the place despite the temptation to continue.”
The “man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo,” and gave occasion for the song, was not named “Wells” and he was not an Englishman. He was an American. I knew him well and soon after the event had from his own lips the whole story.
He came to Monte Carlo with a good deal of money won at draw-poker in a club at Paris and went away richer by some 100,000 francs (about $20,000) than he came.
The catch-line of the song is misleading. There is no such thing as “breaking the bank at Monte Carlo.” This particular player won so fast upon two or three “spins” that the table at which he played had to suspend until it could be replenished by another “bank,” perhaps ten minutes in point of time. There used to be some twenty tables. Just how one man could play at more than one of them at one time a “foreign correspondent,” but only a “foreign correspondent,” might explain to the satisfaction of the horse-marines.
I very much doubt whether any player ever won more than 100,000 francs at a single sitting. To do even that he must plunge like a ship in a hurricane. There is, of course, a saving limit set by the Casino Company upon the play. It is to the interest of the Casino to cultivate the idea, and the letter writers are willing tools. Not only at Monte Carlo, but everywhere, in dearth of news, gambling stories come cheap and easy. And the cheaper the story the bigger the play. “The Jedge raised him two thousand dollars. The Colonel raised him back ten thousand more. Both of ’em stood pat. The Jedge bet him a hundred thousand. The Colonel called. ‘What you got?’ says he. ‘Ace high,’ says the Jedge; ‘what you got?’ ‘Pair o’ deuces,’ says the Colonel.”
Assuredly the “play” in the Casino is entirely fair. It could hardly be otherwise with such crowds of players at the tables, often covering the whole “layout.” But there is no such thing as “honest gambling.” The “house” must have “the best of it.” A famous American gambler, when I had referred to one of his guild, lately deceased, as “an honest gambler,” said to me: “What do you mean by ‘an honest gambler’?”
“A gambler who will not take unfair advantage!” I answered.
“Well,” said he, “the gambler must have his advantage, because gambling is his livelihood. He must fit himself for its profitable pursuit by learning all the tricks of trade like other artists and artificers. With him it is win or starve.”
Among the variegate crowds that thronged the highways and byways of Monte Carlo in those days there was no single figure more observed and striking than that of Leopold the Second, King of the Belgians. He had a bungalow overlooking the sea where he lived three months of the year like a country gentleman. Although I have made it a rule to avoid courts and courtiers, an event brought me into acquaintance with this best abused man in Europe, enabling me to form my own estimate of his very interesting personality.
He was not at all what his enemies represented him to be, a sot, a gambler and a roue. In appearance a benignant burgomaster, tall and stalwart; in manner and voice very gentle, he should be described as first of all a man of business. His weakness was rather for money than women. Speaking of the most famous of the Parisian dancers with whom his name had been scandalously associated, he told me that he had never met her but once in his life, and that after the newspaper gossips had been busy for years with their alleged love affair. “I kissed her hand,” he related, “and bade her adieu, saying, ‘Ah, ma’mselle, you and I have indeed reason to congratulate ourselves.'”
It was the Congo business that lay at the bottom of the abuse of Leopold. Henry Stanley had put him up to this. It turned out a gold mine, and then two streams of defamation were let loose; one from the covetous commercial standpoint and the other from the humanitarian. Between them, seeking to drive him out, they depicted him as a monster of cruelty and depravity.
A King must be an anchorite to escape calumny, and Leopold was not an anchorite. I asked him why I never saw him in the Casino. “Play,” he answered, “does not interest me. Besides, I do not enjoy being talked about. Nor do I think the game they play there quite fair.”
“In what way do you consider it unfair, your Majesty?” I asked.
“In the zero,” he replied. “At the Brussels Casino I do not allow them to have a zero. Come and see me and I will show you a perfectly equal chance for your money, to win or lose.”
Years after I was in Brussels. Leopold had gone to his account and his nephew, Albert, had come to the throne. There was not a roulette table in the Casino, but there was one conveniently adjacent thereto, managed by a clique of New York gamblers, which had both a single “and a double O,” and, as appeared when the municipality made a descent upon the place, was ingeniously wired to throw the ball wherever the presiding coupier wanted it to go.
I do not believe, however, that Leopold was a party to this, or could have had any knowledge of it. He was a skillful, not a dishonest, business man, who showed his foresight when he listened to Stanley and took him under his wing. If the Congo had turned out worthless nobody would ever have heard of the delinquencies of the King of the Belgians.
Chapter the Seventeenth
A Parisian _Pension_–The Widow of Walewska–Napoleon’s Daughter-in-Law–The Changeless–A Moral and Orderly City
I have said that I knew the widow of Walewska, the natural son of Napoleon Bonaparte by the Polish countess he picked up in Warsaw, who followed him to Paris; and thereby hangs a tale which may not be without interest.
In each of our many sojourns in Paris my wife and I had taken an apartment, living the while in the restaurants, at first the cheaper, like the Cafe de Progress and the Duval places; then the Boeuf a la Mode, the Cafe Voisin and the Cafe Anglais, with Champoux’s, in the Place de la Bourse, for a regular luncheon resort.
At length, the children something more than half grown, I said: “We have never tried a Paris _pension_.”
So with a half dozen recommended addresses we set out on a house hunt. We had not gone far when our search was rewarded by a veritable find. This was on the Avenue de Courcelles, not far from the Pare Monceau; newly furnished; reasonable charges; the lady manager a beautiful well-mannered woman, half Scotch and half French.
We moved in. When dinner was called the boarders assembled in the very elegant drawing-room. Madame presented us to Baron —-. Then followed introductions to Madame la Duchesse and Madame la Princesse and Madame la Comtesse. Then the folding doors opened and dinner was announced.
The baron sat at the center of the table. The meal consisted of eight or ten courses, served as if at a private house, and of surpassing quality. During the three months that we remained there was no evidence of a boarding house. It appeared an aristocratic family into which we had been hospitably admitted. The baron was a delightful person. Madame la Duchesse was the mother of Madame la Princesse, and both were charming. The Comtesse, the Napoleonic widow, was at first a little formal, but she came round after we had got acquainted, and, when we took our departure, it was like leaving a veritable domestic circle.
Years after we had the sequel. The baron, a poor young nobleman, had come into a little money. He thought to make it breed. He had an equally poor Scotch cousin, who undertook to play hostess. Both the Duchess and the Countess were his kinswomen. How could such a menage last?
He lost his all. What became of our fellow-lodgers I never learned, but the venture coming to naught, the last I heard of the beautiful high-bred lady manager, she was serving as a stewardess on an ocean liner. Nothing, however, could exceed the luxury, the felicity and the good company of those memorable three months _chez l’Avenue de Courcelles, Pare Monceau_.
We never tried a _pension_ again. We chose a delightful hotel in the Rue de Castiglione off the Rue de Rivoli, and remained there as fixtures until we were reckoned the oldest inhabitants. But we never deserted the dear old Boeuf a la Mode, which we lived to see one of the most flourishing and popular places in Paris.
In the old days there was a little hotel on the Rue Dannou, midway between the Rue de la Paix and what later along became the Avenue de l’Opera, called the Hotel d’Orient. It was conducted by a certain Madame Hougenin, whose family had held the lease for more than a hundred years, and was typical of what the comfort-seeking visitor, somewhat initiate, might find before the modern tourist onrush overflowed all bounds and effaced the ancient landmarks–or should I say townmarks?–making a resort instead of a home of the gay French capital. The d’Orient was delightfully comfortable and fabulously cheap.
The wayfarer entered a darksome passage that led to an inner court. There were on the four sides of this seven or eight stories pierced by many windows. There was never a lift, or what we Americans call an elevator. If you wanted to go up you walked up; and after dark your single illuminant was candlelight. The service could hardly be recommended, but cleanliness herself could find no fault with the beds and bedding; nor any queer people about; changeless; as still and stationary as a nook in the Rockies.
A young girl might dwell there year in and year out in perfect safety–many young girls did so–madame a kind of duenna. The food–for it was a _pension_–was all a gourmet could desire. And the wine!
I was lunching with an old Parisian friend.
“What do you think of this vintage?” says he.
“Very good,” I answered. “Come and dine with me to-morrow and I will give you the mate to it.”
“What–at the d’Orient?”
“Yes, at the d’Orient.”
Nevertheless, he came. When the wine was poured out he took a sip.
“By —-!” he exclaimed. “That is good, isn’t it? I wonder where they got it? And how?”
During the week after we had it every day. Then no more. The headwaiter, with many apologies, explained that he had found those few bottles in a forgotten bin, where they had lain for years, and he begged a thousand pardons of monsieur, but we had drunk them all–_rien du plus_–no more. I might add that precisely the same thing happened to me at the Hotel Continental. Indeed, it is not uncommon with the French caravansaries to keep a little extra good wine in stock for those who can distinguish between an _ordinaire_ and a _superieur_, and are willing to pay the price.
“See Naples and die,” say the Italians. “See Paris and live,” say the French. Old friends, who have been over and back, have been of late telling me that Paris, having woefully suffered, is nowise the Paris it was, and as the provisional offspring of four years of desolating war I can well believe them. But a year or two of peace, and the city will rise again, as after the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, which laid upon it a sufficiently blighting hand. In spite of fickle fortune and its many ups and downs it is, and will ever remain, “Paris, the Changeless.”
I never saw the town so much itself as just before the beginning of the world war. I took my departure in the early summer of that fateful year and left all things booming–not a sign or trace that there had ever been aught but boundless happiness and prosperity. It is hard, the saying has it, to keep a squirrel on the ground, and surely Paris is the squirrel among cities. The season just ended had been, everybody declared, uncommonly successful from the standpoints alike of the hotels and cafes, the shop folk and their patrons, not to mention the purely pleasure-seeking throng. People seemed loaded with money and giddy to spend it.
The headwaiter at Voisin’s told me this: “Mr. Barnes, of New York, ordered a dinner, carte blanche, for twelve.
“‘Now,’ says he, ‘garcon, have everything bang up, and here’s seventy-five francs for a starter.’
“The dinner was bang up. Everybody hilarious. Mr. Barnes immensely pleased. When he came to pay his bill, which was a corker, he made no objection.
“‘Garcon,’ says he, ‘if I ask you a question will you tell me the truth?’
“‘_Oui, monsieur; certainement._’
“Well, how much was the largest tip you ever received?”
“Seventy-five francs, monsieur.”
“‘Very well; here are 100 francs.’
“Then, after a pause for the waiter to digest his joy and express a proper sense of gratitude and wonder, Mr. Barnes came to time with: ‘Do you remember who was the idiot that paid you the seventy-five francs?’
“‘Oh, yes, monsieur. It was you.'”
It has occurred to me that of late years–I mean the years immediately before 1914–Paris has been rather more bent upon adapting itself to human and moral as well as scientific progress. There has certainly been less debauchery visible to the naked eye. I was assured that the patronage had so fallen away from the Moulin Rouge that they were planning to turn it into a decent theater. Nor during my sojourn did anybody in my hearing so much as mention the Dead Rat. I doubt whether it is still in existence.
The last time I was in Maxim’s–quite a dozen years ago now–a young woman sat next to me whose story could be read in her face. She was a pretty thing not five and twenty, still blooming, with iron-gray hair. It had turned in a night, I was told. She had recently come from Baltimore and knew no more what she was doing or whither she was drifting than a baby. The old, old story: a comfortable home and a good husband; even a child or two; a scoundrel, a scandal, an elopement, and the inevitable desertion. Left without a dollar in the streets of Paris. She was under convoy of a noted procuress.
“A duke or the morgue,” she whimpered, “in six months.”
Three months sufficed. They dragged all that remained of her out of the Seine, and then the whole of the pitiful disgrace and tragedy came out.
If ever I indite a volume to be entitled Adventures in Paris it will contain not a line to feed any prurient fancy, but will embrace the record of many little journeys between the Coiffeur and the Marche des Fleurs, with maybe an excursion among the cemeteries and the restaurants.
Each city is as one makes it for himself. Paris has contributed greatly to my appreciation, and perhaps my knowledge, of history and literature and art and life. I have seen it in all its aspects; under the empire, when the Due de Morny was king of the Bourse and Mexico was to make every Frenchman rich; after the commune and the siege, when the Hotel de Ville was in ruins, the palace of the Tuileries still aflame, the column gone from the Place Vendome, and everything a blight and waste; and I have marked it rise from its ashes, grandly, proudly, and like a queen come to her own again, resume its primacy as the only complete metropolis in all the universe.
There is no denying it. No city can approach Paris in structural unity and regality, in things brilliant and beautiful, in buoyancy, variety, charm and creature comfort. Drunkenness, of the kind familiar to London and New York, is invisible to Paris. The brandy and absinthe habit has been greatly exaggerated. In truth, everywhere in Europe the use of intoxicants is on the decline. They are, for the first time in France, stimulated partly by the alarming adulteration of French wines, rigorously applying and enforcing the pure-food laws.
As a consequence, there is a palpable and decided improvement of the vintage of the Garonne and the Champagne country. One may get a good glass of wine now without impoverishing himself. As men drink wine, and as the wine is pure, they fall away from stronger drink. I have always considered, with Jefferson, the brewery in America an excellent temperance society. That which works otherwise is the dive which too often the brewery fathers. They are drinking more beer in France–even making a fairly good beer. And then–
But gracious, this is getting upon things controversial, and if there is anything in this world that I do hybominate, it is controversy!
Few of the wondrous changes which the Age of Miracles has wrought in my day and generation exceeded those of ocean travel. The modern liner is but a moving palace. Between the ports of the Old World and the ports of the new the transit is so uneventful as to grow monotonous. There are no more adventures on the high seas. The ocean is a thoroughfare, the crossing a ferry. My experience forty years ago upon one of the ancient tubs which have been supplanted by these liners would make queer reading to the latter-day tourist, taking, let us say, any one of the steamers of any one of the leading transatlantic companies. The difference in the appointments of the William Penn of 1865 and the star boats of 1914 is indescribable. It seems a fairy tale to think of a palm garden where the ladies dress for dinner, a Hungarian band which plays for them whilst they dine, and a sky parlor where they go after dinner for their coffee and what not; a tea-room for the five-o’clockers; and except in excessive weather scarcely any motion at all. It is this palm garden which most appeals to a certain lady of my very intimate acquaintance who had made many crossings and never gone to her meals–sick from shore to shore–until the gods ordained for her a watery, winery, flowery paradise–where the billows ceased from troubling and a woman could appear at her best. Since then she has sailed many times, lodged a la Waldorf-Astoria to eat her victuals and sip her wine with perfect contentment. Coming ashore from our last crossing a friend found her in the Red Room of that hostel just as she had been sitting the evening before on shipboard.
“Seems hardly any motion at all,” she said, looking about her and fancying herself still at sea, as well she might.
Chapter the Eighteenth
The Grover Cleveland Period–President Arthur and Mr. Blaine–John Chamberlin–The Decrees of Destiny
What may be called the Grover Cleveland period of American politics began with the election of that extraordinary person–another man of destiny–to the governorship of New York. Nominated, as it were, by chance, he carried the State by an unprecedented majority. That was not because of his popularity, but that an incredible number of Republican voters refused to support their party ticket and stayed away from the polls. The Blaine-Conkling feud, inflamed by the murder of Garfield, had rent the party of Lincoln and Grant asunder. Arthur, a Conkling leader, had succeeded to the presidency.
If any human agency could have sealed the breach he might have done it. No man, however, can achieve the impossible. The case was hopeless.
Arthur was a man of surpassing sweetness and grace. As handsome as Pierce, as affable as McKinley, he was a more experienced and dextrous politician than either. He had been put on the ticket with Garfield to placate Conkling. All sorts of stories to his discredit were told during the ensuing campaign. The Democrats made him out a tricky and typical “New York politician.” In point of fact he was a many-sided, accomplished man who had a taking way of adjusting all conditions and adapting himself to all companies.
With a sister as charming and tactful as he for head of his domestic fabric, the White House bloomed again. He possessed the knack of surrounding himself with all sorts of agreeable people. Frederick Frelinghuysen was Secretary of State and Robert Lincoln, continued from the Garfield Cabinet, Secretary of War. Then there were three irresistibles: Walter Gresham, Frank Hatton and “Ben” Brewster. His home contingent–“Clint” Wheeler, “Steve” French, and “Jake” Hess–pictured as “ward heelers”–were, in reality, efficient and all-around, companionable men, capable and loyal.
I was sent by the Associated Press to Washington on a fool’s errand–that is, to get an act of Congress extending copyright to the news of the association–and, remaining the entire session, my business to meet the official great and to make myself acceptable, I came into a certain intimacy with the Administration circle, having long had friendly relations with the President. In all my life I have never passed so delightful and useless a winter.
Very early in the action I found that my mission involved a serious and vexed question–nothing less than the creation of a new property–and I proceeded warily. Through my uncle, Stanley Matthews, I interested the members of the Supreme Court. The Attorney General, a great lawyer and an old Philadelphia friend, was at my call and elbow. The Joint Library Committee of Congress, to which the measure must go, was with me. Yet somehow the scheme lagged.