A Few Hours in
Bohemia by Ita
The beauty of this country is that no turbulent sea confines
its borders, nor are martello-towers needed to guard its coast:
no jealous neighbor threatens its frontier, no army oppresses
its citizens, and no king can usurp its throne. Its locality is
hard to define: like the Fata Morgana, it is here to-day and
gone to-morrow, for its territory is the mind of men, and in
extent it is as boundless as thought. Natives of every clime
are enrolled among its freemen, and all lands contain its
representatives, but it is in the picturesque streets of the
older continental cities of Europe, where rambling lodgings and
cheap apartments are many, that the invisible mother-country
founds her colonies. I will tell you how I went and what I saw
Afra was a cosmopolite, and consequently knew Bohemia, its
byways and thoroughfares. If any one could fill the office of
guide thereto, Afra could, and when one evening she rushed into
my room saying, "Come along if you want to go to Bohemia," I
did not hesitate a moment, but made ready for the journey, with
the simple precaution of putting on my bonnet and shawl.
"A cab?" I asked as we moved from the door.
"Who ever heard of entering Bohemia in a cab?" laughed Afra
dryly. "People have been known to drive out in their own
carriages, but they always make their first appearance there on
foot, or at best in an omnibus."
"As you please," I replied, trying to keep pace with her
rapid step, which showed constant practice.
"I wonder you did not propose a balloon," she continued
pettishly. "The gods don't give everything to one person: now,
they give us brains, and they give other
"If you would understand, I—"
"No, you wouldn't. I sha'n't ride in cabs until I can pay
for them myself; meanwhile, I have gros sous enough in my
pocket for an omnibus fare, and if you have the same we will
stop here." At this she entered a bureau, and as I followed I
saw her get some tickets from a man who sat behind a small
counter, and then composedly sit down on a bench while she
said, "We shall have some time to wait for our luxury:" then
showing me the tickets, "Twelve and thirteen: it is a full
night, and all these people ahead of us."
"Is it a lottery?" I asked ignorantly.
"Very much of a lottery," Afra replied grimly—"like
all the ways of Bohemia, remarkably uncertain. You get a ticket
for something in the giving of the Muses, and you wait until
your number is called. The worst of it is, the most unlikely
people are called before you, and some get disgusted and leave:
there goes one out at the door at this moment. Well, he may be
better or he may be worse off than those who finally win: who
knows if any race is worth the running? Still, if you have
courage to hold on, I believe there is no doubt that every one
ultimately gets something." Seeing my perplexity, she twisted
the round tickets between her fingers and added, "Do not be
alarmed: these are only good for a seat in the first empty 'bus
that comes up. The conductor will call out the numbers in
rotation, and if ours is among them we shall go. It is
frightful that you have never ridden in a 'bus before. I wonder
where we should get ideas if we shut ourselves up in cabs and
never walked or were hungry or tired, and thought only of our
own comfort from morning till night? You don't know what you
miss, you poor deluded, unfortunate rich people. I will tell
you of something I saw the other evening; and, as it is worthy
of a name, it shall be called 'The Romance of an Omnibus.'
Listen! isn't that our numbers I heard? Yes: come quick or we
shall lose our chance."
"Well," said I when we had successfully
threaded the crowd and were
"You have no idea of the fitness of things. My story is
pathetic: it will look badly to see you drowned in
tears—people will stare."
"I promise not to cry."
"Oh, if you are one of those stolid, unemotional beings who
are never moved, I sha'n't waste my tale upon you. Wait until
to-morrow: we will get Monsieur C—— to recount, and
you shall hear something worth listening to. He is a regular
troubadour—has the same artless vanity they were known to
possess, their charming simplicity, their gestures, and their
power of investing everything with romance. One is transported
to the Middle Ages while he speaks: no book written on the
subject could so fully give you the flavor of the times. He
recalls Froissart. If you are not affected by C——'s
stories, you had better pretend to be. But that, I am sure,
will not be necessary: a great tragedian was lost when he
became a great painter."
"Might I ask how and when and where I am to meet this
"At the garden-party."
"In what way am I to get there?"
"By strategy. There is a little reunion to-night of what may
be called female Bohemians. They are going to settle the
preliminaries of this party, and if you happen to be present
they will invite you; not that they particularly care for your
company, but because, as I said, you happen to be there. Only
don't get yourself into a mess by tramping on any one's
"Have they corns?"
"Yes, on every inch of surface: they are dreadfully
thin-skinned. But they hate sham even more than a hard knock,
and are quicker than a police-officer in detecting it; so be
careful not to talk about anything you are ignorant of."
"Give me a few rules, and I promise to conduct myself
"Well, don't be snobbish and patronize them, and don't look
shocked at any strange opinions you hear, nor act as if you
were at an animal show and were wondering what would happen
next. Be sure not to assent when you see they wish to argue,
and don't argue when they expect acquiescence. If any of them
speak in broken English, and you can't for the life of you
understand, don't ask them to repeat, but answer immediately,
for you can imagine when one has taken pains to learn a foreign
language one likes it to be appreciated, and don't—But
here we are. In short, make yourself at home, as if you had
been there all your life."
"Afra," I said, laying my hand on her arm as she took to her
swift pace again, "perhaps I had better go home: I am afraid I
can't—I think—that is—"
"Nonsense! as if you could not get on after all those hints!
Anyway, you cannot return alone, and I am unable to go with
you. Make up your mind to blunder, and do it. There was an
amateur visited the studio about three months ago: her
absurdities have lasted us for laughing material ever since. As
she is getting rather stale, you can take her place. This is
the house: come in."
With this doubtful prospect in view I followed my peremptory
guide from the narrow street into what appeared to be a
spacious court, but as the only light it received was from a
blinking candle in the window of the conciergerie, I could not
determine. After exchanging some cabalistic sentences with a
toothless old woman, the proprietor of the candle, Afra turned
to the right, and walking a few steps came to a door opening on
a stairway, which we mounted. I can think of nothing black
enough for comparison with the darkness surrounding us. At last
a faint glimmer showed an old lamp standing in a corner of a
hall bare and carpetless. A series of doors flanked the place,
looking to my unaccustomed eyes all alike, but Afra without a
moment's hesitation went to one of them and knocked. It was
opened by a lady, who smiled and said, "Enter. You are just in
time: school is over and the model about going."
I found myself in a high-ceiled room, at one end of which
was suspended a row of perhaps a dozen lamps. Here, at least,
there was-no lack of light: it
required some moments to
accustom our eyes to the sudden contrast. The yellow blaze
was directed by reflectors into the space immediately
beneath the lamps, which left the rest of the room
pleasantly tempered. Some easels, a few chairs and screens,
plaster casts on shelves, sketches in all stages of progress
on the wall, a tea-kettle singing over a bright fire in a
stove, and a curtain enclosing a corner used as a bedroom,
completed the list of furniture. It was a night-school for
lady artists. The class had finished for the evening, and a
number of the students were moving about or seated near the
fire, talking in an unlimited number of languages.
I was given several random introductions, and did my best to
follow Afra's directions; but there was an indescribable
quaintness about the appearance and manners of my new
acquaintance that made it difficult not to stare. I found,
however, that little notice was taken of me, as a lively
discussion was being carried on over a study of an arm and hand
which one of them was holding up for inspection.
"It is a style I should call the lantern," said she. "The
redness of the flesh can only be accounted for on the
supposition that a light is shining through it."
"I should call it raw beef," remarked another.
"It is a shame, mademoiselle!" began the model in an injured
tone. She had been tying on her bonnet before a bit of
looking-glass she had taken from her pocket. "Does my arm look
like that?" Here she indignantly drew up her sleeve and held
out that dimpled member, meanwhile gazing wrathfully at the
sketch. "It ought not to be allowed. The silver tones of my
flesh are entirely lost; and see how you have caricatured the
elegance of my beautiful hand. Will not some one help
mademoiselle to put it right before my reputation is
"Jeanne, a model is not a critic," said the author of the
drawing, coming forward and grasping the canvas with no gentle
hand.—"Ladies, if you wish to find fault, turn to your
own studies. That proportion is frightful"—she pointed to
different sketches as she spoke—"that ear is too large;
and, madame, if you take a crust of paint like yours for
freedom of touch, I pity you."
This dispute was by no means the last during the evening.
Opinions seemed to be plentiful in Bohemia, each individual
being furnished with a set of her own on every subject
broached; and as no diffidence was shown in putting them forth,
the company quarreled with great good-nature and evident
enjoyment. A pot of tea was then brewed by the owner of the
studio, who had been English before she became Bohemian, and
the beverage was handed round in tea-cups which, like the
opinions of the guests, differed widely from each other. In the
silence that attended this diversion Afra took the floor and
said, "How about the garden-party to the country? Who is
Several spoke, and one asked, "Shall we take lunch with
"No, something will be provided for us there."
"So much the better. When are we to meet, and where?"
"Twelve o'clock, midday, at ——."
"What messieurs are going?"
"Quite a number—a tenor from the Grand Opera, and the
leader of the orchestra, who is a magnificent violinist; that
new Spanish painter who plays the guitar divinely; a
poet—that is, he has written some pretty
songs—besides plenty more."
"That promises well."
"You will bring your friend?" and the speaker nodded her
head toward me.
"I shall be delighted: I am so curious to see those
eccentric—" Here a warning glance from Afra stopped
But the lady only laughed and said, "You will see
eccentricity enough to-morrow, if that is what you want. People
who devote their minds to great objects have no time to think
of little things. You had better see that Afra has on her
bonnet or she will go without one."
"Nonsense!" replied Afra.—"Miss," this to the owner of
the studio, who was so called in honor of her English birth,
"are you ever troubled by the ghost of that young painter who hung
himself up there?"
"Those who have occasion to commit suicide are not likely to
come back: they have had enough of this world," said the
"Did some one really die here?" I asked.
"Yes, really;" and Afra mimicked my tone of horror. "You
know, a Bohemian is at home anywhere, so a change of country
don't affect him much. If we find a place disagreeable, we
"Was he insane?"
"Not more than the rest of us, but you can't
understand the feeling that would induce a man to do such a
thing. This young fellow painted a picture: he put his mind,
his soul, himself, into it, and sent it to the Exhibition. It
was rejected—that is, he was rejected—and he came
here and died. They found him suspended from that beam where
the lamps hang now."
"I thought your Bohemia was so gay?"
"So it is, but the brightest light makes the deepest
The conversation went on. These ladies discussed politics,
literature, art and society with absolute confidence. One of
the topics was Alfred de Musset. The Englishwoman was praising
the English Alfred, when a pale-faced girl, who up to this
moment had been intently reading, oblivious of all about her,
closed her book with a snap (it was a much-worn edition of one
of the classics, bought for a few sous on the quay) and broke
out with—"Your Tennyson is childish. His King Arthur puts
me in mind of our Louis Philippe and his umbrella. Did you know
Louis carried an umbrella with him when he was obliged to fly
from Paris? One would have looked well held over Arthur's
dragon helmet that disagreeable night he left the queen to go
and fight his nephew. But perhaps Guinevere had lent it to
Launcelot, and even the best friends, alas! do not return
umbrellas. Your poet writes in white kid gloves, and thinks in
them too. Imagine the magnificent rush and struggle of those
ancient days, the ecstasy of battle, the intensity of life, and
then read your Tennyson's milk-and-water tales, with their
modern English-ménage feelings. Arthur would have been much
more likely to give his wife a beating, as did the hero of the
Nibelungen Lied, than that high-flown lecture; and it
would have done the Guinevere of that time more good."
"And what is your Alfred, Anita?"
"He is divine."
"After the heathen pattern. He dipped his pen in mire."
"What is mire?—water and earth. What are
we?—water and earth. Mire is humanity, and holds in
itself not only the roots of the tree, but the germ of the
flower. A poet who is too delicate to plant his thought in
earth must be content to give it but the life of a parasite: it
can have no separate existence of its own."
"But one need not be bad to be great."
"Nor need one be good to be great," returned Anita
sarcastically. "Alfred de Musset was a peculiar type of a
peculiar time. He did not imagine: he felt, he lived, he was
himself, and was original, like a new variety of flower or a
new species of insect. Tennyson has gleaned from everybody's
fields: our Alfred gathered only from his own. The one is made,
the other is born."
"Come away," said Afra impatiently: "no one can speak while
Anita is on her hobby. Besides, I must get home early to trim a
bonnet for to-morrow;" and without more leavetaking than a
"Good-evening," which included every one, we found ourselves in
"Who is Anita?" I asked.
"She is nobody just now: what she will be remains to be
seen. Her family wish her to be an artist: she wishes to adopt
the stage as a profession, and is studying for it sub
rosa. Did you ever see a more tragic face?"
"Poor thing!" I involuntarily exclaimed.
"Don't pity her," said Afra, more seriously than she had yet
spoken. "The best gift that can be bestowed upon a mortal is a
strong natural inclination for any particular life and the
opportunity of following it. The man or woman who has that can use the wheel of
Fate for a spinning-wheel."
The next morning at the appointed time I met Afra at the
station. "How do I look?" she asked, standing up for my
inspection as soon as I appeared in sight, at the same time
regarding as much of her dress as it was possible for her to
see. But before I could reply the satisfied expression of her
face changed: an unpleasant discovery had been made. "I have
shoes on that are not mates," she exclaimed—"cloth and
leather: that looks rather queer, doesn't it? Do you think it
will be noticed? I could not decide which pair to wear, and put
on one of each to see the effect: afterward I forgot them. Now,
I suppose that would be thought eccentric, though any one might
make the same mistake. It shows I have two pairs of shoes," she
added more cheerfully, "and they are both black. How is my
The bonnet was black velvet, and we were in midsummer. The
material, however, was skillfully draped with a veil, and a
profusion of pink flowers gave it a seasonable air. A crimson
bow was also tied at her neck; she complacently remarked that
"pink and crimson harmonize beautifully;" and others of the
party arriving at that moment, I was saved the trouble of
making a polite answer.
The ride through ripening grain-fields and moss-thatched
hamlets need not be described; suffice it to say, it was France
and June. An omnibus was waiting at the station where we
dismounted: it carried us near, but not to, our destination.
After leaving it we walked through the streets of a low-roofed
village, then followed a path bordered with wild mignonette and
apple trees that wound up the side of a hill covered with
vineyards. A couple of chattering magpies ran before us, an
invisible cuckoo was heard between snatches of Italian melody
warbled by the tenor sotto voce and the little company
overflowed with gayety.
The house we arrived at looked as if it might be a castle in
the air materialized—pointed windows hidden in ivy,
through which you saw the chintz-covered walls of the interior;
turrets on the roof and a stair-tower; odd nooks for pigeons
and cattle; the color a weather-toned red, met by gray roofs,
green trees and blue sky. We passed through it to the quaint
garden: rows of dwarf pears bordered its paths, and trellises
and walls supported nectarines and vines, with sunshine and
shadow caressing the half-ripe fruit.
The shady spaces were occupied by guests who had arrived
before us, and we saw with pleasure that ceremony had not been
invited to attend. The host's kindly manner was sufficient to
put the company at once at ease. We wandered at will from group
to group, listening or conversing: introductions were sometimes
given, but more often not.
At one table some ladies and gentlemen were playing the
artistic game of "five points." A more difficult pastime was
never invented. The materials necessary are simply a piece of
paper and a pencil: it is their use that is extraordinary. A
person puts five dots on the paper in whatever position fancy
may dictate: on this slight foundation another is expected to
design a figure, the puzzle being to include all the marks
given. One that I saw had four of the dots placed unusually
close together, and the fifth in a distant corner: this latter,
in the opinion of the lookers-on, would surely prove
refractory. After some moments of consideration, with pencil
suspended and eye attentive, the artist commenced drawing. In
ten minutes the sketch was finished. It was an angel: her
upturned head took in the highest of the group of dots; one
hand hanging by her side the next; a knee the third; and the
flowing hem of her robe the fourth; but the fifth in the
corner—what could reach it? With a touch of the pencil
the angel's other hand appeared flinging up a censer attached
to a long chain, which struck the solitary dot like a shot amid
acclamations. To show that he did not consider the feat a
tour de force, the artist turned the paper, and taking
the same marks drew a devil in an entirely different attitude,
the difficult point being reached by his pitchfork.
This gave rise to a learned
discussion as to whether the devil's emblematic pitchfork
was not a descendant of Neptune's trident, which I did not
stay to hear, as Afra whispered she wanted to present me to
Monsieur C——, and I was taken to a gentleman of
no great height, but of such wondrous width that Nature must
have formed him in a most generous mood.
"You are American?" said this wide man to me as I was
introduced, and without waiting for a reply went on: "I like
your country-people: they admire frankly. Show them a picture,
they exclaim, 'Beautiful! magnificent! lovely! exquisite! name
your price;' and they buy it. Here the public look and look.
'Not bad,' they say, 'but the color is from Veronese, and that
attitude is surely Raphael's. What a mine that man's genius has
been to ambitious but less gifted artists!' and so they go on.
I wish they would let the dead rest in peace. Are you
acquainted with Mr. B—— of New York?"
I was obliged to say "No."
"I wish to send a message to him," he continued grandly:
"tell him that I paint now for him alone."
"You are court-painter to Mr. B——," I remarked
"Don't speak of courts," he exclaimed pettishly. "I was to
have painted the baptism of the prince imperial for the state:
it gave me no end of annoyance, and in the end was never
"I understood that you insisted on painting the little
prince nude, after the Rubens manner, and that was one ground
of objection to the design," said Afra.
"The baby would have had on plenty of clothes: one of his
dresses was sent from the Tuileries for Monsieur
C—— to paint, and I sewed a rosette on it myself."
This from the painter's wife.
"A countryman of yours sat for the head of a young priest at
the ceremony. He had a fine countenance: he was studying art
with me at the time, and has since been professor of drawing at
your Naval Academy. Teaching is a sad trade—Pegasus
dragging the plough."
"At least, your other great picture brought you nothing but
"The public have since repented of being so good to me.
Then, they could not say enough in my favor: now, if a person
asks what I am doing, every one repeats like a parrot,
'C—— doesn't paint, C—— doesn't paint.'
I have heard it so often that I begin to believe it myself, and
when I am asked join the general cry, 'C—— doesn't
I laughed, thinking this a joke, but I soon found that
though C—— might be cynical, sarcastic or bitter,
though he might excite unintentional laughter by his remarks,
he was too sensitive a man to take any but a serious view of
life. The imperfections of the world excited his disgust, his
anger, never his mirth.
"Ah but, monsieur," said Afra, "you should be satisfied, and
leave some little honor for the rest of us to gather. The
stories one hears of your youth are like fairy-tales."
"And they are true," replied the artist with evident
enjoyment. "In those days I was pointed out to people when I
walked the street; which, by the way, gave rise to an odd
incident. A gentleman thought he had seen me in a crowd, but he
had taken an older and taller man for the great painter. He
believed big pictures were painted by big men, and I had not
then my present circumference. This gentleman sent me an
invitation to dine with him. On the day appointed I arrived at
the house, and was met at the door by my host, a look of
surprise and annoyance on his face which he tried to conceal by
a low bow, at the same time asking politely, 'How is your
father?'—'Very well, thank you,' I returned, although I
could not understand why my father's health should be a matter
of interest to him.—'You have come to tell me of some
catastrophe which prevents his attendance here
to-day?'—'Not at all: I have come to dine with you,
according to this invitation.' Here I pulled out the card,
which I happened to have in my pocket.—'Are you the
person here addressed?' he said, staring at me.—'I
am'.—'I beg your pardon, there is a mistake: I meant it
for your father, the painter of the
"Décadence des Romains."'—'I am the painter of the
"Décadence," but I am not my father.'—'You ought to be
an older man.'—'I should have been, monsieur, had I
been born sooner.'—At that moment a friend,
overhearing the conversation and divining the cause, came
and explained to my wonder-struck host that I was really the
artist in question. With many apologies I was led into a
hall adorned with floral arches in my honor, next to a
beautiful salon, likewise decorated, and finally we reached
the dining-room, which was arranged to represent my picture.
Columns wreathed with flowers supported the roof; flowers
festooned the white table-linen and adorned the antique
vessels that covered it; couches of different colored silk
were laid after the Roman fashion for the guests to recline
upon; and lovely women dressed in costly Roman costumes,
their heads crowned with flowers, were placed in the
attitudes that you will see on my celebrated canvas. Was it
not a graceful tribute to my genius?"
"If a Frenchman wants to pay a compliment, he never uses one
that has done duty before, but invents something new," said
"What are you painting now, monsieur?" I asked.
"A series of pictures called 'Pierrot the Clown.' He
succeeds in tricking the world in every station of life. I am
just finishing his deathbed. All his friends are weeping about
him: the doctor feels his pulse and gives some learned name to
the disease—doctors know so much—while hidden
everywhere around the room are empty bottles. The drunken clown
plays with even death for a mask."
"I thought he painted such romantic pictures," said I to
Afra as we turned from the master.
"So he does: there is one in his studio now. A girl clad in
gray and shadow—open-air shade which in his hands is so
clear and luminous. She walks along a garden-path, her head
bent down, dreaming as she goes, and unconsciously nearing a
half-open gateway, through which the sunshine is streaming.
Above the rustic gate two doves are billing and cooing. You
feel sure the girl is about to pass through this typical,
sunshiny, invitingly half-open door; and—what is
Just then we were called to lunch, a plentiful but not
luxurious repast. There was no lack of lively repartees and
anecdotes, and we had speeches and songs afterward. I wonder if
I ever heard "'Tis better to laugh than be sighing" given with
more zest than on that day? One could easily imagine that it
was such an occasion as this that had inspired it.
Lunch being over, Monsieur C—— was asked to
relate one of his own stories. I cannot give it entire, but the
plot was this: A pilgrim, whom he called poor Jacques, hearing
much of heaven, set out to find his way to the blessed abode,
with only a little dog to accompany him on the journey. As he
went he met many of his contemporaries, who had made what a
walker would style but poor time. The allusions to well-known
peculiarities in the various people and their occupation in the
other life caused much amusement. For instance, Ingres the
painter was seated by the roadside playing Rossini's music on
the violin, on which instrument he was a great proficient. But
he was known to detest the Italian's music before he started
heavenward: his taste must then have grown en route.
(Critics might object to this supposition.) However, Jacques
was anxious to push on, and spent little time listening. But he
was a good-hearted man, and, though he would not delay for his
own amusement, he could not refuse to stop when fellow-pilgrims
asked him for assistance. Little children were continually
straying from the path, and without Jacques and his little dog
would inevitably have been lost. Feeble old people were
standing looking with despair at some obstacle that without
Jacques's friendly arm they would have found it impossible to
pass. Young men who never looked where they were walking were
continually calling on him for a hand to help them out of the
ditch where they had fallen; and young girls—well, one
would have supposed they had never been given feet of their own
to walk with, from the trouble they were to poor Jacques. The
worst of it was, that when all these good
people were well over their troubles they called Jacques a
simpleton for his pains, and refused to have any intercourse
with him, giving him the worst side of the road and laughing
at his old-fashioned staff and scrip, and even at his little
dog, to which they gave many a sly kick. Nor was it any
wonder, for there were many in the company robed in silk,
wearing precious stones and with well-filled wallets by
their sides. Jacques was but human, and often he wished he
had never set out for heaven at all in such company; but
even in their bitterest moods neither Jacques nor the little
dog could ever hear a cry of distress without forgetting all
unkindness and rushing at once to the rescue.
These labors exhausted Jacques's strength: the little dog,
too, was worn to a shadow, and so timid from ill-treatment that
it was only when some great occasion called out his mettle that
you saw what a noble little dog-heart he had. He did his best
to comfort his master, but when Jacques's sandals were worn out
and his cloak in rags, and when he looked forward and saw
nothing yet of the holy city in view, though he still tried to
go forward, Nature gave way: he sank to the ground, and the
little dog licked his hands in vain to awaken him.
There is a band of angels who each night descend the holy
mount whereon is built the city, in search of such pilgrims as
have failed through fatigue to reach the gate. They are clothed
in robes woven of good deeds, which never lose their lustre,
for they are renewed every day. It was this company which found
Jacques in his swoon by the roadside. One gently touched his
tired body, and more than the vigor of youth leapt through his
veins. Another whispered "Come," and he rose and walked with
them. As he moved on with eyes abashed, thinking of the rents
in his garments and regretting their poverty, he noticed that
they too were changed, and were as bright as those of his
companions. "Who has done this?" he said, venturing to address
the one that walked at his right hand. "You wore them always,"
he answered with an angelic smile, "but it is this light which
shows their beauty;" and he pointed to that which streamed from
the celestial walls.
There was much applause. I saw Afra wipe a tear from her
eye; only, a thin-faced individual who sat near me whispered
that it was too long. The delicacy and pathos of expression and
language it is impossible to give, and, though old in form, the
story was skillfully new in incident; nor must I forget that
the little dog slipped through the eternal gate with his
master. Some one asked the troubadour why he did not write it
out. He shook his head and threw up his hands as he replied, "I
wrote one book and gave it to a literary man for correction.
You should have seen the manuscript when he sent it home: not a
page but was scarred and cut. He called that 'style.' Now, what
did I want with style? I wanted to write as I talked."
"Certainly," said one. "What did you do?"
"I quickly put Monsieur le Rédacteur's style out of my book;
then I published it. George Sand promised to write the preface,
but some busybody told her that I was attacking the whole
world, so she would have nothing to do with it. She was misled:
I blamed nothing in my book but what deserved censure."
Having heard this excellent representation of the ancient
minstrel, we were shortly given a touch of the modern usurper
of the name. A gentleman was present who in the many turns of
Fortune's wheel had once found himself a follower of the
burnt-cork persuasion. He gave us a negro melody with a lively
accompaniment on the guitar. A melancholy Spanish song
followed. The company again dispersed into congenial groups,
and in the long twilight you heard the murmur of voices broken
by occasional snatches of melody or the nightingale's song.
"And what do you think of Bohemia?" asked Afra as we
returned that night.
"It is different from what I expected. They are refined,
and, though frank, never rude. I
Afra laughed: "You had unconsciously thought them a set of
sharpers; but there is a great difference between living by
your brains and living by your wits. My dear, you have broken
bread with giants to-day: such men live in another world that
they may rule this one."