The face was, indeed, one to fall in love with at first sight.
Those sentiments that take such sudden possession of young men were
now dominating my curiosity. My audacity faltered before her; and I
felt that my presence in this room was probably an impertinence.
This point she quickly settled, for the same very sweet voice I had
heard before, now said coldly, and this time in French, "Monsieur
cannot be aware but that this apartment is not public."
I bowed very low, faltered some apologies, and backed to the
I suppose I looked penitent, and embarrassed. I certainly felt
so; for the lady said, by way it seemed of softening matters, "I am
happy, however, to have an opportunity of again thanking Monsieur
for the assistance, so prompt and effectual, which he had the
goodness to render us today."
It was more the altered tone in which it was spoken, than the
speech itself, that encouraged me. It was also true that she need
not have recognized me; and if she had, she certainly was not
obliged to thank me over again.
All this was indescribably flattering, and all the more so that
it followed so quickly on her slight reproof. The tone in which she
spoke had become low and timid, and I observed that she turned her
head quickly towards a second door of the room; I fancied that the
gentleman in the black wig, a jealous husband perhaps, might
reappear through it. Almost at the same moment, a voice at once
reedy and nasal was heard snarling some directions to a servant,
and evidently approaching. It was the voice that had thanked me so
profusely, from the carriage windows, about an hour before.
"Monsieur will have the goodness to retire," said the lady, in a
tone that resembled entreaty, at the same time gently waving her
hand toward the door through which I had entered. Bowing again very
low, I stepped back, and closed the door.
I ran down the stairs, very much elated. I saw the host of the
Belle Étoile which, as I said, was the sign and designation of my
I described the apartment I had just quitted, said I liked it,
and asked whether I could have it.
He was extremely troubled, but that apartment and two adjoining
rooms were engaged.
"People of distinction."
"But who are they? They must have names or titles."
"Undoubtedly, Monsieur, but such a stream is rolling into Paris,
that we have ceased to inquire the names or titles of our guests—we
designate them simply by the rooms they occupy."
"What stay do they make?"
"Even that, Monsieur, I cannot answer. It does not interest us.
Our rooms, while this continues, can never be, for a moment,
"I should have liked those rooms so much! Is one of them a
"Yes, sir, and Monsieur will observe that people do not usually
engage bedrooms unless they mean to stay the night."
"Well, I can, I suppose, have some rooms, any, I don't care in
what part of the house?"
"Certainly, Monsieur can have two apartments. They are the last
at present disengaged."
I took them instantly.
It was plain these people meant to make a stay here; at least
they would not go till morning. I began to feel that I was all but
engaged in an adventure.
I took possession of my rooms, and looked out of the window,
which I found commanded the inn-yard. Many horses were being
liberated from the traces, hot and weary, and others fresh from the
stables being put to. A great many vehicles—some private carriages,
others, like mine, of that public class which is equivalent to our
old English post-chaise, were standing on the pavement, waiting
their turn for relays. Fussy servants were to-ing and fro-ing, and
idle ones lounging or laughing, and the scene, on the whole, was
animated and amusing.
Among these objects, I thought I recognized the traveling
carriage, and one of the servants of the "persons of distinction"
about whom I was, just then, so profoundly interested.
I therefore ran down the stairs, made my way to the back door;
and so, behold me, in a moment, upon the uneven pavement, among all
these sights and sounds which in such a place attend upon a period
of extraordinary crush and traffic. By this time the sun was near
its setting, and threw its golden beams on the red brick chimneys
of the offices, and made the two barrels, that figured as
pigeon-houses, on the tops of poles, look as if they were on fire.
Everything in this light becomes picturesque; and things interest
us which, in the sober grey of morning, are dull enough.
After a little search I lighted upon the very carriage of which
I was in quest. A servant was locking one of the doors, for it was
made with the security of lock and key. I paused near, looking at
the panel of the door.
"A very pretty device that red stork!" I observed, pointing to
the shield on the door, "and no doubt indicates a distinguished
The servant looked at me for a moment, as he placed the little
key in his pocket, and said with a slightly sarcastic bow and
smile, "Monsieur is at liberty to conjecture."
Nothing daunted, I forthwith administered that laxative which,
on occasion, acts so happily upon the tongue—I mean a "tip."
The servant looked at the Napoleon in his hand, and then in my
face, with a sincere expression of surprise. "Monsieur is very
"Not worth mentioning—who are the lady and gentleman who came
here in this carriage, and whom, you may remember, I and my servant
assisted today in an emergency, when their horses had come to the
"They are the Count, and the young lady we call the Countess—but
I know not, she may be his daughter."
"Can you tell me where they live?"
"Upon my honor, Monsieur, I am unable—I know not."
"Not know where your master lives! Surely you know something
more about him than his name?"
"Nothing worth relating, Monsieur; in fact, I was hired in
Brussels, on the very day they started. Monsieur Picard, my
fellow-servant, Monsieur the Comte's gentleman, he has been years
in his service, and knows everything; but he never speaks except to
communicate an order. From him I have learned nothing. We are going
to Paris, however, and there I shall speedily pick up all about
them. At present I am as ignorant of all that as Monsieur
"And where is Monsieur Picard?"
"He has gone to the cutler's to get his razors set. But I do not
think he will tell anything."
This was a poor harvest for my golden sowing. The man, I think,
spoke truth, and would honestly have betrayed the secrets of the
family, if he had possessed any. I took my leave politely; and
mounting the stairs again, I found myself once more in my room.
Forthwith I summoned my servant. Though I had brought him with
me from England, he was a native of France—a useful fellow, sharp,
bustling, and, of course, quite familiar with the ways and tricks
of his countrymen.
"St. Clair, shut the door; come here. I can't rest till I have
made out something about those people of rank who have got the
apartments under mine. Here are fifteen francs; make out the
servants we assisted today have them to a petit souper,
and come back and tell me their entire history. I have, this
moment, seen one of them who knows nothing, and has communicated
it. The other, whose name I forget, is the unknown nobleman's
valet, and knows everything. Him you must pump. It is, of course,
the venerable peer, and not the young lady who accompanies him,
that interests me—you understand? Begone! fly! and return with all
the details I sigh for, and every circumstance that can possibly
It was a commission which admirably suited the tastes and
spirits of my worthy St. Clair, to whom, you will have observed, I
had accustomed myself to talk with the peculiar familiarity which
the old French comedy establishes between master and valet.
I am sure he laughed at me in secret; but nothing could be more
polite and deferential.
With several wise looks, nods and shrugs, he withdrew; and
looking down from my window, I saw him with incredible quickness
enter the yard, where I soon lost sight of him among the