Zut and Other Parisians/A Latter-Day Lucifer
A Latter-Day Lucifer
The distance between them is far less than is commonly supposed. In fact, they are separated only by a parti-wall. But there is a vast difference in their exteriors, Heaven being gay with silver paint and stucco cherubs, and illuminated by a huge arc-light with a white globe, and Hell all red, with a monster’s grinning mouth for entrance, and a ruby lamp.
The two cabarets stand on the boulevard de Clichy, side by side, and, when one is passing through Paris on a Cook ticket, good for a two weeks’ stay, one is taken by an obliging friend of the Colony to see them, and so is enabled to return to the States with the pleasing conviction of having had a glimpse of the true life of Montmartre, — the which is so artistic, and Bohemian, and all that.
It is something, as every one knows, to be an angel in Le Ciel; but it is also something, as every one does not know, to be a demon in L’Enfer. Aside from the sentiment of the thing, it is all the same, harps and halos or horns and hoofs. The clientèle of both places is, for the most part, étrangère, and what is certain is that an American never counts the little money one gives him in change, and that an Englishman disputes it anyway, so that, in the beginning, one might as well be wrong as right, and that a German is unable to tell a louis from a new sou. And a pourboire is a pourboire, whether intentional or otherwise. That is why Maxime Perrot felt himself to be a remarkably fortunate person when, one evening in June, he was suddenly transformed into an angel, as a result of his intimacy with Gustave Robine.
Gustave was two metres twelve in height, which is something so astonishing in itself that it is not to be wondered at that, for more than a year, he had filled the eminent position of guardian of the gate of Le Ciel, and was much in favor with the management, because of the attention he attracted from the clients. Also, he kept his eyes open, and, moreover, he owed Maxime fifty francs. So, when one of the angels abruptly married a rich widow, and departed for Maisons-Laffitte, to live on her ample rentes, Gustave mentioned the name of his friend and creditor for the vacancy, and, the next day, Maxime became one of the personnel of Heaven, with a fresh pair of wings and new pink fleshings.
Maxime was short and slender, in all except his feet, which were long and large, so long and large, indeed, that he was called l’L Majuscule — the Capital L — by his intimates, and fully merited the nickname when viewed in profile, standing. His experiences in life had been diverse, for, as he himself was wont to say, he cared less for an existence without variety than does a fish for an apple. He had driven a voiture de remise, gorgeous in a green cockade and doeskin breeches: he had been collector for the Banque de France, dismissed, let charity say not why: and garçon de restaurant, racing to and fro, with a mammoth tray balanced on one upright arm, like a human umbrella: and camelot, hoarsely crying “La Patrie!” in front of the boulevard cafés: and, finally, valet de chambre to Captain the Honorable Michael Douglas, military attaché to the British Embassy. It was in the last capacity that he had learned English, which now he spoke, said Gustave, like a veritable Goddem. That was not the least of the new angel’s qualifications. To be sure, it was against all reason that the sales anglais should, under any circumstances, achieve an entrée into Heaven, but then there were many incongruities in connection with Le Ciel, and the fact remained that three out of five of the clients spoke Angliche, and an angel who could reply to them in their own ignoble argot was, without doubt, an invaluable acquisition.
It cannot be denied that Maxime made a good beginning in Heaven. He entered upon his new duties modestly, and spent a full half-hour of the early evening cleaning the long table in the main hall, dusting the surrounding stools of gold, upon which the chosen were to sit, and assisting his fellow angels in polishing the liqueur glasses. And it so happened that the first to enter that night was Major Amos E. Cogswell, of the United States Army, who had spent three weeks in Paris at the age of twenty-two, and distinguished himself by demanding, on his second arrival, the way to the Jardin Mabille. With the Major were his two nieces, and their attendant swains, John Selfridge Appleby and P. Hamilton Beck, the latter in narrow-brimmed straw hats, which resembled lids of Japanese tea-pots, and dog-skin walking gloves, turned back at the wrists. The party entered with an air of bravado, and were heard to remark that this was it, — whatever that might mean. It was Maxime’s opportunity, and he improved it to the utmost, seating the newcomers around the head of the table, and demanding, “Ces messieurs désirent?” as if completely oblivious to the fact that they were anything but bred-in-the-bone boulevardiers. For there was need of precaution. It is an inexplicable thing about these English that one is charmed to be addressed in his own tongue, and the next is insulted. It pays to feel one’s way.
“What does he say?” said Major Cogswell, turning, helplessly, to P. Hamilton Beck, who had taken French II. at Columbia.
“Wants us to name the drinks,” responded that accomplished young gentleman.
“Spik Ingliss?” put in l’L Majuscule, deploying the skirmishers of his vocabulary.
“Tchure!” said Mr. Beck.
“Ah!” replied Maxime, much gratified, “zen v’at eest? Vat veel de zaintlemans aff?”
“Cream de mint,” said the Major, promptly, and, his companions agreeing with alacrity, Mr. Beck again undertook the rôle of interpreter.
“Sank cream de mint,” he commanded, holding up his left hand, wide-spread, “et toute suite.”
And, in a surprisingly brief space of time, five infinitesimal glasses of the green liqueur stood before them.
“Mais avec du glace,” remonstrated Mr. Beck.
“What’s that; what’s that?” inquired the Major anxiously, as the glasses were as suddenly removed by the abashed Maxime.
“Oh, ice, that’s all,” replied the other. “These chaps don’t know what’s what. Leave ’em to me. One has to know how to handle ’em.”
Following the entrance of the Americans, the cabaret had gradually filled. The majority of the places at the long table were occupied now by a curious assemblage of sensation-seekers, — Germans in little cloth hats of dark green, with a curled feather cropping up behind, Englishmen in tweeds and traveling-caps, with visors fore and aft, American architects from the Quartier, so well disguised by slouch felts, pointed beards, and baggy trousers, that only a nasal tang in their slangy French betrayed their nationality, and a sprinkling of Frenchmen, each clasping the hand of a grisette. Already the high-priest of Le Ciel was in his gilded pulpit, delivering an oration thickly sown with “mes sœurs” and “mes frères” and “chers bénis,” at which strangers and Parisians alike laughed uproariously, and all for one good reason — because the Frenchmen understood! Maxime returned, bringing the five liqueurs in larger glasses with chopped ice. The head angel made the round of the table, carrying, on a pole, the gilded image of a pig, and a pseudo-sexton stood leaning on the rail of a celestial stairway leading to the second floor, sprinkling the assemblage with so-called holy water from a colored brush. It was all very French, very conventional, — or unconventional, according to the point of view of the spectator, — very sacrilegious from any point of view.
With that curious instinct of womanhood which seems to recognize the indelicate, even in unfamiliar surroundings, even in an unknown tongue, the younger Miss Cogswell leaned forward suddenly and touched the Major on the hand.
“Let us go,” she said.
“Yes!” agreed Appleby, buttoning his coat, “let’s be moving. What do you say? Let’s go to Hell — I mean,” he added, with a blush, “let’s try the other cabaret.”
The Major agreed with a sigh of relief. He had understood nothing of the mummery going on about him, but he was possessed by the conviction that in some way his party was the butt of the occasion, and had kept looking around abruptly, in hope of catching the angels giggling behind his back.
“Will you ask the waiter how much I owe?” He appealed to Beck.
Maxime picked these two essential words out of the rapid phrase like a squirrel snapping a peanut from its shell. He had not been garçon at the Café Américain for nothing, Maxime. His countenance assumed an expression of beatific innocence as he looked over the Major’s head, at the high-priest in the gilded pulpit.
“Tain francs,” he observed, mildly.
This was a tide in the affairs of P. Hamilton Beck which, plainly, must be taken at the flood. The elder Miss Cogswell was looking at him expectantly, and Heaven had, of a sudden, grown very still. He leaped into the breach with all the eloquence accumulated during eight months of French II.
“Mon foi, non! cream de mint coute seulement un franc la verre dans les établissements plus chers. Il ne faut pas nous voler, parceque nous sont étrangeres!”
“What’s that; what’s that?” said the Major.
“He’s trying to rob us,” explained Beck, much excited. “Says it’s ten francs. It can’t possibly be more than five, and it ought to be two francs fifty.”
The Major immediately became purple with indignation.
“But, God bless my soul!” he exclaimed, “the rascal understands English as well as any one of us. What’s the use of wasting your French on him?”
He swung round upon his stool, and fixed an eye, which was celebrated in the 32d Regular Infantry, upon l’L Majuscule. That worthy surveyed with unfeigned astonishment this very angry, red-faced foreigner, who looked as if he was about to devour him, body and bones. He had not the most remote conception of the effect which his flaxen wig, and his ridiculous wings, and his short pleated tunic, and his pink tights, and his huge feet in their gilded sandals, produced upon the Major; and his attempt at extortion was strictly in line with the traditions of the place. Certainly, it was all very puzzling.
“You ape!” said the Major furiously, finding his breath. “You pinky-panky little scoundrel! You an angel? Why you’re not even shaved! You get two francs fifty, that’s what you get, and not a red cent of porbwure either, you Christmas-tree image!”
The exact phrasing of these remarks was somewhat lost upon Maxime, but the general trend of the Major’s meaning was quite unmistakable. Nevertheless, when one had been valet de chambre to Captain the Honorable Michael Douglas, one was not routed by a few emphatic words. So Maxime shrugged his shoulders apologetically, and reiterated his “Tain francs.”
“Damn it, sir, no!” thundered the Major. “And don’t pretend you can’t understand me. I’m a short-tempered man, sir, and — and” —
He pounded with his fist upon the table, seeking a fitting expression of his rage, until the little liqueur glasses danced like kernels of popping corn. But young Appleby leaned toward him and laid a hand on his arm. He was big and square-shouldered, was Appleby, and, only the year before, he had performed prodigies with the hammer and the shot in the Intercollegiate Games; but his eyes were very blue and gentle, and he spoke with extreme mildness.
“Don’t let us have any trouble here, sir,” he said. “It isn’t as if we were alone. We have the girls with us, you know. Leave the beggar two francs fifty, and we’ll go on to the next place.”
Now the Major, with all his fiery temper, was an ardent lover of discipline, and he recognized reason in Appleby’s words. So, after an instant, he deposited the amount upon the table, rose to his full height, with his eye still riveted on Maxime, and then, followed by the others, stalked majestically toward the door.
But for one circumstance, the Americans had never gone unmolested past Maxime’s fellow-angels, and, in particular, the towering form of Gustave Robine. Maxime himself was astounded that no celestial hand was stretched out to bar their progress. What he did not understand was that, while one may enter Le Ciel on the strength of an accomplishment not possessed by the other immortals, the achievement does not necessarily imply that one is persona grata in their eyes, or, in the least degree, sure of their support. The management was responsible for Maxime, and the edict had gone forth that the Angliches were to be turned over to him. But obedience to this command did not go hand in hand with approval thereof. The high-priest and the sexton and all the angels had looked on sourly, as he appropriated the Major’s party, for it is the Americans who give the largest pourboires; and, although they did not wholly comprehend the dispute which had arisen, it was evident that the linguistic angel had met with disaster at the very outset, and they were proportionately gratified. So, when Maxime glanced about in search of succor, he found himself abandoned in his discomfiture. The other angels were smiling broadly, and nudging each other with their pink elbows; the high-priest, with his fat hands on the pulpit’s edge, was looking down at him with a grin; the sexton above his head waved his brush to and fro and chanted, “Ora pro nobis!” in a high, whining voice. A French student at the further end of the table said “Roulé!” and his companion laughed shrilly. Even Gustave, at the door, was leaning on his halberd and chuckling, for he had not forgotten that Maxime, once sure of his position, had demanded repayment of the fifty francs.
All this was sufficiently intolerable, but a real disaster, more terrible than mere ridicule, confronted Maxime. The crême de menthe was, as a matter of fact, one franc a glass, and it was out of his pocket that the deficit would have to be made good. As this tragic thought smote him full and fair, he bounded forward past the other angels, dodged nimbly under Gustave’s outstretched arm, charged through the swinging doors, and emerged with a shout upon the boulevard de Clichy.
The Major’s party had paused before the entrance of L’Enfer, while Beck parleyed with the courteous demon in scarlet tights who kept the door, and the others stood by, sublimely unconscious of the none too complimentary comments of a half score of cochers and boulevard loungers who surrounded them. Into the midst of this assemblage swooped l’L Majuscule, his flaxen wig awry, his wings bobbing wildly on his shoulders, and his white tunic fluttering in the wind. Blind to consequences, he darted upon the unsuspecting Major, and seized him furiously by the coat.
“Eh! vieille saucisse!” he exclaimed. “Tu te fiches de moi — quoi?”
Now John Appleby had never enjoyed the advantages of French II., which shed such effulgence upon his classmate, but he knew the answer to this question, none the less. It had been taught him in the boxing-room of his athletic club, and it was surprisingly conclusive when applied to the under jaw of an infuriated angel. The ruby and white arc-lights before the cabarets suddenly joined in a mad waltz, the cabarets themselves turned upside down, the cochers and loungers swooped into the air like pigeons, a passing tram leaped into the trees on the further side of the driveway and disappeared, and, from somewhere, a factory whistle came close up to Maxime’s side and said, “Oo-oo-ooo-oooo!” in his ear.
He came to himself slowly. There was an acrid taste in his mouth, and this, upon investigation, proved to be boulevard mud. There was something fuzzy gripped tightly in his right hand, and this presently resolved itself into his wings. Then he saw his feet, which were elevated above the level of his head, by reason of being on the curb, while the rest of his person was in the gutter. Then the mammoth red face of a cocher bulged out of the night, close to his own, and a voice said, —
“Have you harm, angel?”
Then he remembered, sat up, and looked around.
On the boulevard de Clichy, spectators grow out of the ground, spontaneously, when there is an excuse for their presence. A hundred or more now surrounded Maxime, with open mouths, and staring eyes that slid to and fro from his prostrate form to the faces of an agent and a vehement gentleman in a frock coat and a flat-brimmed huit reflets, who were disputing violently. In the crowd were all the other angels, and the better part of those who had been seated at the table of Heaven. The sexton, brush in hand, was gaping over the agent’s shoulder, the high-priest was explaining the affair, with much elaboration, to all who would listen to him, and above the rest towered the face of Gustave Robine, still smiling blandly. The only unconcerned figure in sight was that of a courteous demon in scarlet tights, who was staring up at the sky from the doorway of L’Enfer. For Beck had slipped a gold piece into his hand, — as the Major and his party hurried inside, dragging the protesting Appleby by the arm, — and he knew how to keep his counsel. After all, the sanctity of hospitality must be respected, even in Hell.
“But no, I tell you, but no!” exclaimed the gentleman of the huit reflets, who was none other than the manager of Heaven.
“It is equal to me! It is equal to me!” stormed the agent. “I saw it, do you hear? He was struck, and the law does not allow — They went in there” —
He made a motion, as if to thrust the other aside and plunge toward the entrance of L’Enfer. But the manager of Heaven was not to be thus outdone. He was determined that the incident should be considered closed; and for this there were reasons. It was but the beginning of the tourist season, and the foreign clientele must not be antagonized. A paragraph in the “Matin,” a sensational article in the “Herald” of to-morrow, and the Angliches would believe that the Cabaret du Ciel was no safe place for foreigners to enter. In agonized imagination he saw the gate receipts of Heaven dwindling, disappearing. It were better, far better, to sacrifice Maxime. He grasped the agent by the arm, and pointed to the fallen angel, who was still seated in the gutter, collecting his scattered wits, with a vacant stare.
“Look you,” he said, persuasively, “this tripe, this species of onion, this example of an eel, is the cause of all. It is I who know, n’est ce pas? being his patron. Eh b’en, I assure you that it is a drunkard of the most abandoned. Thirteen times in the dozen, one finds him in the fog, rigid as the Obelisk, bon Dieu! not merely lit, voyons, but flaming, — as full as Robespierre’s donkey, — asphyxiated! It is not a man, sac à papier! It is a sponge — but a sponge, do you understand? — a pompier! He dries glasses — poof! — like that! Il lave sa gueule là-dedans, nothing less!”
“Bravo!” said Gustave Robine, and all the angels applauded. The agent paused, doubtful of what course to pursue, overwhelmed by this burst of eloquence, and Top-Hat, perceiving the impression he had made, addressed himself to Maxime.
“Waffle!” he cried, contemptuously. “Cream of a tart! Thou wast there, then, the day of the distribution, O stupid as thy feet! And who art thou, let us hear, to find thyself in a position to apply kicks to the clients? If thou wert employed at La Villette, where they slaughter pigs, sacred stove, thy first blow would be suicide!”
He rose, in a majestic sweep, to the pinnacle of supreme courtesy.
“Monsieur le marquis has, perhaps, hurt himself, stumbling by accident? Is it permitted to the obedient servitor of monsieur le marquis to inquire if monsieur le marquis has sustained any damage by reason of his deplorable mischance?”
He descended, in a graceful curve, to the depths of utter scorn.
“Animal low of ceiling! Camel! Gourd! Ancient senator! Gas-jet! Shut thy mouth, or I jump within!”
And he paused, — breathless, but triumphant.
It was magnificent! In the annals of Heaven there was record of no such climax of vituperation. The angels surveyed their patron with undisguised admiration. Even the agent touched the visor of his cap.
“Monsieur,” he said, “I yield the field to you. Your vocabulary is unrivaled — unless by General Cambronne!”
“Monsieur, you flatter me,” replied the other, with a bow.
Some one had helped l’L Majuscule to his feet, and he stood there, a preposterous figure, in soiled pink tights, holding out his wings, with his huge feet turned in like a pigeon’s.
“Monsieur le directeur” — he began.
“He speaks!” cried Huit Reflets, whirling around and addressing the throng. “He dares to speak, this bad sou, this oyster! He does not comprehend that he is discharged. He counts that I am about to resign in his favor! Ah, non, it is too much!”
He flung himself about again, facing Maxime.
“Well, then,” he added with forced calm, “thou art put at the door, is it clear? Take thy rags from yonder, and begone!”
“Mais, monsieur” —
“Oh!” cried the director, flinging his arms upward; and immediately vanished within the silver gates of Heaven, followed by his personnel, with the fallen angel bringing up the rear.
Half an hour later, having exchanged his celestial raiment for his former earthly garb, Monsieur Perrot sat in solitary state at a table in the café Cyrano, and pondered the details of a project of revenge. The idea had come to him suddenly, like an inspiration, on seeing the nonchalant demon at the portals of L’Enfer, but it required arranging, elaboration. A man who made one blunder was but human, but a man who made two in succession — that was a mere root of celery! So l’L Majuscule thought hard. And when the will is so earnest, it is strange if the way be not forthcoming. At midnight he arose with a sigh of satisfaction, and took his way homeward, smiling.
It was barely eight o’clock, the following evening, when Maxime entered L’Enfer. He was tastefully dressed in an excessively checked suit and a silk hat, and he wore a full black beard and spectacles, and rolled his r’s in speaking, in the fashion of the South. The demon at the door, unsuspecting, greeted him effusively as “cher damné,” and piloted him to a table at the further end of the cabaret. The table had a ground-glass top, through which shone electric lights which kept changing mysteriously from green to red and back again, and the whole interior of L’Enfer was of imitation rock, diversified by grinning faces. It was very artistic, and, what was better, very dark. Maxime was unnecessarily mistrustful of his false beard.
At this early hour, he was the only visitor. An obliging demon supplied him with a green chartreuse, and, upon invitation, procured another for himself, and took the opposite seat.
The conversation, which began with commonplaces, soon assumed a more intimate tone. Monsieur, it appeared, was from Toulouse, but this was not his first visit to L’Enfer. In fact, a place so amusing — what? He never missed it when he came to Paris.
Oh, but monsieur was too good!
No, on the contrary, it was for his own pleasure. It suited him to a marvel, blague à part! And often, he had had a curious fancy — to be a demon himself, imagine! To serve in the cabaret for just one evening, by way of variety — for, as for himself, he gave less for a life without variety than did a fish for an apple. That was the reason he had sometimes thought of applying to the management for permission to — but then, of course, the idea was fantastic, and, without doubt, quite impossible.
Oh, quite impossible, monsieur!
But, after all, why not? Not the management, naturally. That was out of the question, it went without saying. But an obliging demon, perhaps — a bon type, who understood these eccentricities, as a man of the world — one who would consent to a brief illness — for one night only and who would provide a substitute, in the person of monsieur! Fantastic — what? — rigolo, mon Dieu! — very rigolo, and, of course, quite impossible.
In some mysterious fashion a louis suddenly made its appearance on the illuminated table.
Oh, quite impossible, monsieur! Evidently, affairs did not arrange themselves like that. Monsieur must understand that the pourboires which one gained in Hell were enormous — but enormous! It would be to throw away a fortune, to give up one’s place for an entire evening. For forty francs, perhaps — but then it was certain that monsieur would not care —
There was a tiny click upon the table-top, and the one louis had become two. A most surprising place, L’Enfer!
Ah! But in addition, there were details to be arranged, and one could not talk with frankness in the cabaret.
The doors at the further end swung open, and the demon of the gate made his appearance, ushering in a group of tourists. Maxime substituted two francs for the two louis, and rose.
“That for the liqueurs, my friend,” he said, “and what you say is true. The café Cyrano is a better place for talking. At midnight.”
Fifty-seven francs. The project had cost him fifty-seven francs, said the fallen angel to himself, as, twenty-four hours later, he dusted an illuminated table. What with his beard, and his spectacles, and two chartreuses in L’Enfer, and six demis at the café Cyrano — for the conference had been long — and, finally, the bribe to the obliging demon, revenge had cost him fifty-seven francs and it was not yet complete! But the prospects therefor were fair. He chuckled silently, with his eyes on the parti-wall which divided Hell from Heaven. It was eleven o’clock.
Suddenly there was a stir in the cabaret. A voice was calling, “This way, chers damnés, to the Hall of the Infernal Visions!” and the clients were rising from their tables, and crowding out like sheep through a narrow door to the right. Almost immediately the place was empty, save for the fallen angel and two other demons, clearing away the liqueur glasses, and setting the stools in place. It was the dreamt-of moment. Maxime walked carelessly toward the door.
In Le Ciel, the long table was full from end to end. The high-priest in his pulpit was delivering his accustomed discourse with extreme satisfaction, and the head angel making the round of the room, bearing the golden pig upon the pole. The angels, each in his place, abode the moment of the clients’ exodus into the Hall of the Celestial Visions, which was coincident with the semi-hourly harvest of pourboires. In particular, their eyes were fixed upon a party of American tourists, under direction of a uniformed guide. These were worthy of comment, and received it. It appeared that the thin lady with the loose cloth costume was an empty bed ticking. There were other remarks, but this, from Gustave Robine, was the most successful. However, there were the pourboires to be considered, so the angels spoke in whispers.
Of a sudden, the calm of Heaven was broken by an appalling sound, something midway between a shriek and a bark, and on the end of the table nearest the door appeared a terrible form, black-bearded and all in scarlet, with two long feathers nodding from his cap, and a polished two-pronged pitchfork brandished in one upraised hand. An instant he paused, superbly statuesque, his eyes blazing, an incarnation of demoniac fury. And, as if the sensation produced by his dramatic entrance were not sufficient, the newcomer received unexpected support from the thin lady in loose cloth costume, who, upon his appearance, promptly exclaimed “Good land!” and fell backward off her stool upon the floor.
Then Bedlam broke loose. The doorway of Le Ciel is less than a metre in width, and when a score of affrighted tourists, and seven angels, and six French students with their grisettes, and a high-priest, and two corpulent Germans, and a sexton, and Gustave Robine are suddenly and simultaneously imbued with a desire to sample the air of the boulevard de Clichy, confusion is apt to result. There were shrieks and groans, protestations, oaths in three languages, a wild chaos of legs and arms, wings, white tunics, traveling caps, tweed suits, and golden stools, and over all pranced the crimson form of the invader, whirling up and down the table with unearthly cries, and kicking the liqueur glasses and little saucers in every direction. They were all agreed, both mortals and celestials, in believing him a madman, and agreed, also, in thinking the pavement of the boulevard a thing greatly to be desired. The demon paused presently, and watched them struggling in a frenzied mass about the door, and then he vanished as abruptly as he had appeared.
For l’L Majuscule had not wasted the early hours of the evening in L’Enfer, and he knew now that the rear entrances of Heaven and Hell gave upon a common court, full of barrels, and empty bottles, and discarded properties, and even as the panic he had created was at its height, he had made the circuit, and was bustling into his original disguise.
The doorkeeper of L’Enfer, on the outlook for clients, had stared in stupefaction as Maxime, in his demon’s garb, darted past him and plunged into the entrance of Le Ciel, and when, a moment later, his ears were startled by the pandemonium inside the rival cabaret, he had first, with commendable presence of mind, shouted “Au feu! A l’assassin! Au secours!” to his fellows in L’Enfer, and then repeated the cry at the top of his lungs on the curb of the boulevard. So it was that the clients and personnel of Heaven and Hell reached the sidewalk almost simultaneously. Gustave, halberd in hand, came full upon a demon barring his path, and, mistaking him for the original intruder, fell upon him furiously. Other demons came to their companion’s aid, other angels to Gustave’s, and immediately fourscore individuals were battling desperately, without knowing or caring why. Agents appeared as if by magic, screaming for reinforcement, and pulling fainting women out of the mêlée by their heads and heels. Spectators ran up by hundreds, and formed a rampart around the fray. And, to add chaos to confusion, a detachment of sapeurs-pompiers presently drove up in a red wagon, their horn hee-hawing like an impatient donkey. Last of all, a thin gentleman with preposterously large feet, black-bearded, spectacled, and wearing an excessively checked suit, came calmly out of L’Enfer, shouldered his way to a position of vantage in the throng, and stood, smiling down upon the havoc.
Peace was restored. But a half dozen of the combatants were already in the hands of the police, and were hurried away to the poste, protesting volubly. Among these were Gustave Robine, in a pitiful state of demoralization, and the doorkeeper of L’Enfer, and the director of Le Ciel, with his huits reflets, crushed to an unrecognizable mass, clutched desperately in his hand.
Then every second person in the crowd explained to his neighbor how it all occurred, and, among others, a stalwart workingman proceeded to enlighten the spectacled gentleman at his side.
“It appears there was a madman,” he said. “Bon sang! What places, these cabarets — what infected boxes, name of a dog!”
“Ah, ça!” replied the other, rolling his r’s in speaking, in the fashion of the South, and leering at the back of the struggling director. “But then such an affair is in the chapter of variety, and as for me, I care less for a life without variety than does a fish for an apple!”