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Monsieur, Madame, and Bebe -- C By Gustave Droz Characters: 6896

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02

The devil take me if I can remember her name, notwithstanding I dearly loved her, the charming girl!

It is strange how rich we find ourselves when we rummage in old drawers; how many forgotten sighs, how many pretty little trinkets, broken, old-fashioned, and dusty, we come across. But no matter. I was now eighteen, and, upon my honor, very unsuspecting. It was in the arms of that dear-I have her name at the tip of my tongue, it ended in "ine"-it was in her arms, the dear child, that I murmured my first words of love, while I was close to her rounded shoulder, which had a pretty little mole, where I imprinted my first kiss. I adored her, and she returned my affection.

I really think I should have married her, and that cheerfully, I can assure you, if it had not been that on certain details of moral weakness her past life inspired me with doubts, and her present with uneasiness. No man is perfect; I was a trifle jealous.

Well, one evening-it was Christmas eve-I called to take her to supper with a friend of mine whom I esteemed much, and who became an examining magistrate, I do not know where, but he is now dead.

I went upstairs to the room of the sweet girl, and was quite surprised to find her ready to start. She had on, I remember, a square-cut bodice, a little too low to my taste, but it became her so well that when she embraced me I was tempted to say: "I say, pet, suppose we remain here"; but she took my arm, humming a favorite air of hers, and we soon found ourselves in the street.

You have experienced, have you not, this first joy of the youth who at once becomes a man when he has his sweetheart on his arm? He trembles at his boldness, and scents on the morrow the paternal rod; yet all these fears are dissipated in the presence of the ineffable happiness of the moment. He is free, he is a man, he loves, he is loved, he is conscious that he is taking a forward step in life. He would like all Paris to see him thus, yet he is afraid of being recognized; he would give his little finger to grow three hairs on his upper lip, and to have a wrinkle on his brow, to be able to smoke a cigar without being sick, and to polish off a glass of punch without coughing.

When we reached my friend's, the aforesaid examining magistrate, we found a numerous company; from the anteroom we could hear bursts of laughter, noisy conversation, accompanied by the clatter of plate and crockery, which was being placed upon the table. I was a little excited; I knew that I was the youngest of the party, and I was afraid of appearing awkward on that night of revelry. I said to myself: "Old boy, you must face the music, do the grand, and take your liquor like a little man; your sweetheart is here, and her eyes are fixed on you." The idea, however, that I might be ill next morning did indeed trouble me; in my mind's eye, I saw my poor mother bringing me a cup of tea, and weeping over my excesses, but I chased away all such thoughts and really all went well up till suppertime. My sweetheart had been pulled about a little, no doubt; one or two men had even kissed her under my very nose, but I at once set down these details to the profit and loss column, and in all sincerity I was proud and happy.

"My young friends," suddenly exclaimed our host, "it is time to use your forks vigorously. Let us adjourn to the diningroom."

Joyful shouts greeted these words, and, amid great disorder, the guests arra

nged themselves round the table, at each end of which I noticed two plates filled up with those big cigars of which I could not smoke a quarter without having a fit of cold shivers.

"Those cigars will lead to a catastrophe, if I don't use prudence and dissemble," said I to myself.

I do not know how it was, but my sweetheart found herself seated on the left of the host. I did not like that, but what could I say? And then, the said host, with his twenty-five summers, his moustache curled up at the ends, and his self-assurance, seemed to me the most ideal, the most astounding of young devils, and I felt for him a shade of respect.

"Well," he said, with captivating volubility, "you are feeling yourself at home, are you not? You know any guest who feels uncomfortable in his coat may take it off... and the ladies, too. Ha! ha! ha! That's the way to make one's self happy, is it not, my little dears?" And before he had finished laughing he printed a kiss right and left on the necks of his two neighbors, one of whom, as I have already said, was my beloved.

The ill-bred dog! I felt my hair rise on end and my face glow like red-hot iron. For the rest, everybody burst out laughing, and from that moment the supper went on with increased animation.

"My young friends," was the remark of that infernal examining magistrate, "let us attack the cold meat, the sausages, the turkey, the salad; let us at the cakes, the cheese, the oysters, and the grapes; let us attack the whole show. Waiter, draw the corks and we will eat up everything at once, eh, my cherubs? No ceremony, no false delicacy. This is fine fun; it is Oriental, it is splendid. In the centre of Africa everybody acts in this manner. We must introduce poetry into our pleasures. Pass me some cheese with my turkey. Ha! ha! ha! I feel queer, I am wild, I am crazy, am I not, pets?" And he bestowed two more kisses, as before. If I had not been already drunk, upon my honor, I should have made a scene.

I was stupid. Around me they were laughing, shouting, singing, and rattling their plates. A racket of popping corks and breaking glasses buzzed in my ears, but it seemed to me that a cloud had risen between me and the outer world; a veil separated me from the other guests, and, in spite of the evidence of my senses, I thought I was dreaming. I could distinguish, however, though in a confused manner, the animated glances and heightened color of the guests, and, above all, a disorder quite new to me in the toilettes of the ladies. Even my sweetheart appeared to have changed. Suddenly-it was as a flash of lightning-my beloved, my angel, my ideal, she whom that very morning I was ready to marry, leaned toward the examining magistrate and-I still feel the cold shudder-devoured three truffles which were on his plate.

I experienced keen anguish; it seemed to me as if my heart were breaking just then.

Here my recollections cease. What then took place I do not know. All I remember is that some one took me home in a cab. I kept asking: "Where is she? Where? Oh, where?"

I was told that she had left two hours before. The next morning I experienced a keen sense of despair when the truffles of the examining magistrate came back to mind. For a moment I had a vague idea of entering upon holy orders, but time-you know what it is-calmed my troubled breast. But what the devil was her name? It ended in "ine." Indeed, no, I believe it ended in "a."

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