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No. IV.-Monsieur Cr-mi-ux to M. Green. “ Sar,—You shall not understand my letter, verefore I write you in your natural tong. You vill be a Fr-nchm-n, you vill be an Angl-shman. God dam, de two tings is not possible. Eider you must cut off your behind or cut off your before, obliterate de past or grasp a firm hold of de future. Fr-nce admit of no division. She does not permit to a Fr-nch citizen he shall at de same time be a citizen of anoder country. For to be a Fr-nchm- -n so much the more must you not be an Angl-shman. You cannot be an Angl-sh Green and a Fr-nch Green ; once at a time is enough. De present state of affairs in Fr-nce vould make so a man as yourself very velcome, he would find himself at home in dem, but to become one of us you must renounce every oder consideration. Ve like nobody else, nobody else like us.
“ A. CR-MI-ux." “You're pretty near the truth there, Mr. Creamy-ox,” exclaimed Podder, when I read this letter to him, “ there's devilish little to like in you.”
I had been very much of the same mind ever since my application was rejected, but I was too shrewd a diplomatist to admit the fact even to my humble friend. But in the meantime I had not abandoned the cause of liberty, in spite of her wearing a mob-cap ; on the contrary, I had thrown myself more vigorously than ever into her arms.
'I had hardly despatched “ No. 3,” to its destination when the waiter came up to inform me that a person desired to speak to me. Citizen Gouache, my acquaintance of the previous evening. He saluted me with rep-bl-can simplicity.
“ Eh bien ! mon vieux,-comment ça va ?”
“ Et Pod-derre aussi ?” continued the citizen, with great familiarity, driving a small cane against my friend's ribs ; then, without waiting for any reply, he threw himself on a sofa, stretched himself at full length, crossed his feet, folded his arms, and looking me full in the face, came at once to the object of his visit.
“About that picture which you bought yesterday,” said he, “the nation wants to exhibit it for some time longer, in order to improve the public mind, but, as I mentioned before, I should be glad to have the money down" (so Tibbins renders the words “argent comptant”), " being rather short of cash.”
“Certainly," I replied, “it makes no difference to me whether I pay for it sooner or later. Just hand me my writing-desk, Podder. How
you say; oh, mill frongs, let me see, that's forty pound, ha! ha!" said I, in an under tone, laughing in my sleeve at the idea, a Salvator for forty pound! What fools the London picture-dealers are not to come to the L-vre and buy up the whole lot. I'm sorry I didn't bring more money with me, but I can easily get a letter of credit
, or, he would take my bill.” This was said with an eye to the other gems, which the citizen told me were at his disposal; however, I did not press the subject just then, not wishing to appear too anxious. Gouache the amount he had named, and as I did not wish to drive too hard a bargain with a man who had sold me, dirt cheap, a first-rate master, I threw in, in silver, the difference of exchange according to the
I dare say
rate I had paid the day before. The brave citizen's eyes sparkled as I handed him over the cash, and when I put my note-case containing the remainder of my Fr—nch money into my breast-coat, he shot a glance in that direction, as much as to say he knew that I had a noble heart. I must not forget to remark that Gouache honestly wrote me a receipt of which the following is a literal copy :
“resu de mons. joliegrinne la some de mil fr.: moienant un tabbleau espozé au louve, no. 7684, paisage et briggans, dans le genre de salvator Rosa.”
“ This will stamp its authenticity,” said I, as I locked up the document.
To obtain his money was not, however, the sole purpose of the citizen's visit; he evidently wished to perform his promise of introducing us to his club, and as it was now broad daylight, the “Central Society of Blue Cut-throats" did not-even in Podder's ears-sound so dreadful as it had done at midnight.
After a few words of private conference with my secretary, I told Gouacke we were willing to accompany him, and accordingly we set forth. We had scarcely crossed to the north side of the Boulevard Italien, when I heard a dull, heavy sound behind me, like the tramp of many feet. I turned, and at the distance of a few hundred yards saw the front of a dense column of men approaching ; they carried banners of divers colours, and, as they drew nearer, began to sing in that melodious strain which is so peculiar to the Fr-nch, and distinguishes them from all other nations. I inquired the meaning of this procession.
“ Ce sont des ouvriers," said Gouache.
“Where are they going to work ?" I asked. “ Is there any new public edifice the course of erection ?"
“ Je crois bien," he replied, somewhat emphatically,—“they are going to the Hôtel-de-Ville."
“Why,” replied I, “ the Peckham deputation of which you behold the members in my friend Podder and myself, have not long returned from it, I didn't observe that the building was unfinished.”
Every thing is unfinished,” answered Gouache, with a gloomy brow, as long as any thing remains to be done. A true citizen,-a man who loves his country, - ought never to be contented; he has the right to go on changing till he gets all he wants. If he does not like what he built up yesterday, he is perfectly justified in throwing it down to-day.”
“ And what do these gentlemen require at present?"
think it fair-do you think it reasonable—that men who have hitherto had to toil for their daily bread, and who could barely find time to spend what they earned, should be thrown upon their own resources in this manner ? What is the use, I should like to know, of giving them double pay, and then telling them they are to do nothing ? No! if the g-v-rom-nt chooses to take away their work, they must supply them with amusement; if not, they will amuse themselves after their own fashion. The object of this attroupement is to compel the M-n-ster of the Int-r-or to organise a perpetual national fête, classical one day, romantic the next, to decree that every citizen who likes it shall ride in his own carriage, dine at whatever restaurant he pleases, appear in any costume that gratifies him, smoke the best cigars, drink the finest wine, and go to the spectacle every evening, -all at the expense of the state! I have not said any thing about illuminations and fireworks, because they are a matter of taste, and many of those who are now passing before us prefer an impromptu blaze to ordinary pyrotechnics. A house on fire, here and there, with half-a-dozen families in each, gives a piquancy to a display of that sort which a ministerial decree might spoil, for I question very much whether he could induce the inmates of the houses indicated to remain at home for the occasion."
“What you observe," I remarked, “ appears perfectly just. The 1-1–1-tion was made wholly in the interests of the people, and if the people don't get what they want, they must go on r-v-1-nising until they do. The more you knock a thing to pieces, the more simple become the elements out of which to reconstruct it; for, after all, every thing is made out of some raw material.”
Gouache appeared to appreciate the profound philosophy of this observation, and the crowd having, by this time, passed by, we continued our walk as far as the Boulevard M-ntm-rtre, where we turned off at the Rue Gr-nge B—t—lière, and taking the Rue C-det on our way, entered the Rue Bl—eu, where the Coupe Gorge Club held its séances permanentes.
It was a grim-looking house which the members had chosen, the lower part being a good deal bespattered with mud (the celebrated boue de P-ris, very fashionable in rev-l-tionary times) and the upper part seriously dilapidated ; wherever the windows were visible the glass was nearly all broken, but the closed shutters concealed them chiefly ; a narrow porte cochère opened into the street, and was flanked on one side by the shop of a dealer in vegetables and charcoal, and on the other by that of a marchand de vin, where might be had, by the litre, the delicious Burgundy (that N-p-leon was so fond of) which is of so delicate a quality that it will not keep more than four-and-tirenty hours, and what remains of the quantity tapped one day is invariably thrown the next morning into the gutter, where it serves the chiffoniers for breakfast, who, on this account, call it their gouter. This fact, of which I was previously not aware, was communicated to me en passant by citizen Gouache while we were knocking at the door for admission. Thrice he raised the ponderous iron ring and thrice he let it fall, pausing about ten seconds between each stroke. At the last vibration a small trap was slid aside, and a deep voice demanded who knocked ? Gouache replied, "Le Requin." The trap flew back to its place, the porter within pulled the cordon, and the door, yielding to our pressure, we entered and closed it behind us.
We then saw the person who had just spoken ; he was a stout man wearing a very tight dress — a jacket and pantaloons--of light blue, but the most singular part of his costume was a sort of helmet made in the shape of a fish's head, the mouth of which was open, and displayed no less than six formidable rows of sharp, pointed teeth.
Podder was completely taken aback by this apparition, and, I own, I was myself rather startled by it, but I carried it off with an 0. Smith kind of laugh, and pointing to the disguised individual, clearly showed that I understood what was meant, by simply uttering the word “Poison!”
The Fr-ch (as I have frequently had occasion to observe before) are slow of comprehension, and Gouache made answer,
“Pas du tout,---you mistake, we do not poison here, we bite our
enemies; the Coupegorges bleus call themselves also 'Requins,' and woe be to all who get between their teeth!"
As I never keep myself in suspense any longer than I can help it, I immediately referred to my pocket edition of Tibbins, and found that “ requin” meant a shark, so that I was perfectly right in using the word “poison. ** These fellows call themselves sharks,'" I whispered to Podder.
"Do they?" answered he ; “well, for once in their lives, then, they're honest. They are sharks, every man jack of 'em! If it hadn't been for his teeth, I should have thought this fat fellow here was dressed up for the part of cod's-head and shoulders !"
“ It is the custom of the clubs of P-ris, like those of Lyếns," interposed Gouache, "to take emblematic names ; for instance, there are the
Scarlet Mountaineers,' commanded by a citizen with the pseudonyme of · Fire-cauldron ;' the Voraces' by another called “Break-ribs ;' the
Death Sappers,' by one named Capuchin's Beard ;' and the Dromedaries,' by citizen Leopard.'”
This, which I afterwards found to be perfectly true (for I read of it in Galignani's Messenger), I communicated at once to Podder, who, in his John Bullish way, observed,
“ I recommend the whole of 'em to unite and call themselves jackasses,' in which case I shall be very happy to be their captain, and take the name of Thick-stick;' a parcel of d-d fools,—why they can't even murder each other without some tomfoolery!"
“ Podder," returned I, "your language is harsh-unnecessarily so ; respect the customs of a great nation ; liberty is worshipped after various fashions! In Fr-nce the invariable rule is to take it-"
I was cut short in my observation by an abrupt exclamation from Gouache, requesting us to follow him into the club. The stout citizen with the shark's head opened a side door, and we entered a narrow passage, Gouache leading the way, and the aforesaid blue individual bringing up the rear.
At the end of the passage, which was a very long one, we stopped at a door, against which our leader rapped with his knuckles in the manner already described, and after a hum of voices had suddenly ceased, the same formal introduction took place. We then found ourselves in a room of large dimensions, dimly lit by some half-dozen long blue tapers fixed in blue sconces round the walls, which were hung with a dingy blue calico, and produced a very ghastly effect. In this chamber were assembled about thirty persons, all dressed in the national blouse, and wearing red handkerchiefs round their throats and red scarfs round their waists ; they also had on caps of liberty, which I was glad to see, as I was prepared to fraternise, and before leaving the hotel had put in my pocket a couple of those I brought from London, one for Podder and one for myself. Chairs and benches were scattered about the saloon, but very few of the members were seated ; the greater part were assembled in knots of three or four, as if they had been recently engaged in some very animated discussion, which our arrival had suspended. One person only, who was seated in a high-backed fauteuil on a slightly elevated platform, in front of which was a desk with writing materials, wore the emblamatic shark's head; this was the president of the Society of Blue Cut-throats. He was a tall gaunt man, with very long arms and great bony hands, of such peculiar ugliness that, at the very first moment I saw them, I was convinced they were old acquaintances, though who
their owner was I could not bring myself to recollect. His face being covered, made all recognition impossible, if, indeed, I was right in my conjecture that we bad encountered before. I fatter myself, if his features had been fairly exposed, it would have been a difficult matter to deceive me as to his identity.
I have already said that there was a sudden silence as we entered. It was broken by Gouache, who, moving two or three steps forward, addressed the chair.
“ Citizen president,” he said, “in the name of the r-p-bl-c, one and indivisible, I present to you two candidates for admission to the Club of Blue Cut-throats."
“Whence come they ?" demanded the president, in a hollow voice, an effect which was heightened, perhaps, by his peculiar head-gear.
“ D'Outre-Manche,” was the reply, and, laconic as it was, it caused a visible sensation in the assembly; a rapid murmur arose, the cabalistic word “sacré” was heard to hiss through the apartment, and several members thrust their hands hastily into their blouses as if they were searching for some concealed weapon. I looked at Podder, who returned my glance; I saw that he blenched not; my own sang-froid was perfect.
“ Alors, ce sont des God-dams ?” interrogated the president. “Comme vous avez dit, citoyen,” answered Gouache.
The president turned towards us, and through the large apertures where the shark's eyes should have been I saw his own gleaming orbs steadily fixed on my countenance.
“ Your names ?” he asked, addressing me. I answered for my secretary, to whom the greater part of what had taken place was perfectly unintelligible, with the exception of one word which sounded rather familiarly to his ears.
“ Cette citoyenne," said I, with dignified emphasis, “est Peregrine Podder,-moi, Jolly Green!"
There was a convulsive movement of the shark's lower jaw as I spoke the long, bony fingers were rapidly interlaced, and a low chuckling sound issued from the head. It was, I imagined, a suppressed welcome which the solemnity of the occasion prevented from more overtly declaring itself. I was confirmed in this opinion by what followed.
“ Vous êtes les bien-venus," returned the citizen chair," approach, and receive the fraternal grasp.”
I advanced, and held out my right hand, which the president seized, and wrung it with an energy which, gratifying as it was to my feelings, brought tears into my eyes; the same greeting was extended to Podder, who did not, however, bear it so heroically as I, but, snatching away his hand, uttered a brief exclamation and doubled his fists as if he were about to retaliate with a blow, which he might have been rash enough to administer had I not restrained the movement.
“Attention, citizens,” exclaimed President “Tête de Requin,” agitating a kind of dustman's bell ; “ before we proceed to the order of the daythe appropriation of the money in the B-nk of Fr—nce—let us make our estimable friends welcome.”
The members, at these words, drew near, but the president, waving his hand, checked the advance, and signed to Gouache to approach him. Caparisoned as he was, it was difficult for him to speak sotto voce, and, in rather a hoarse whisper, I heard him utter the word “Garni ?”