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Au Bal Musette
by [?]

This night, I say, had been as the others. The Cou-Cou is (and in this respect it is not exceptional in Paris) safe to return to if you have found it to your liking in years gone by. Perhaps some day the small boy of the place will be grown up. He is a real enfant terrible. It is his pleasure to tutoyer the guests, to amuse himself by pretending to serve them, only to bring the wrong dishes, or none at all. If you call to him he is deaf. Any hope of revanche is abandoned in the reflection of the super-retaliations he himself conceives. One young man who expresses himself freely on the subject of Pietro receives a plate of hot soup down the back of his neck, followed immediately by a ” Pardon, Monsieur,” said not without respect. But where might Pietro’s father be? He is in the kitchen cooking and if you find your dinner coming too slowly at the hands of the distracted maid servants, who also have to put up with Pietro, go into the kitchen, passing under the little vine-clad porch wherein you may discover a pair of lovers, and help yourself. And if you find some one else’s dinner more to your liking than your own take that off the stove instead. At the Cou-Cou you pay for what you eat, not for what you order. And the Signora, Pietro’s mother? That unhappy woman usually stands in front of the door, where she interferes with the passage of the girls going for food. She wrings her hands and moans, ” Mon Dieu, quel monde! ” with the idea that she is helping vastly in the manipulation of the machinery of the place.

And the monde; who goes there? It is not too chic, this monde, and yet it is surely not bourgeois; if one does not recognize M. Rodin or M. Georges Feydeau, yet there are compensations…. The girls who come attended by bearded companions, are unusually pretty; one sees them afterwards at the bars and bals if one does not go to the Abbaye or Pages…. It makes a very pleasant picture, the Place du Calvaire towards nine o’clock on a summer night when tiny lights with pink globes are placed on the tables. The little square twinkles with them and the couples at the tables become very gay, and sometimes sentimental. And when the pink lights appear a small boy in blue trousers comes along to light the street lamp. Then the urchins gather on the wall which hedges in the garden on the fourth side of the square and chatter, chatter, chatter, about all the things that French boys chatter about. Naturally they have a good deal to say about the people who are eating.

I have described the Cou-Cou as it was this night and as it has been all the nights during the past eight summers that I have been there. The dinner too is always the same. It is served a la carte, but one is not given much choice. There is always a potage, always spaghetti, always chicken and a salad, always a lobster, and zabaglione if one wants it. The wine–it is called chianti –is tolerable. And the addition is made upon a slate with a piece of white chalk. ” Qu’est-ce que monsieur a mange? ” Sometimes it is very difficult to remember, but it is necessary. Such honesty compels an exertion. It is all added up and for the two of us on this evening, or any other evening, it may come to nine francs, which is not much to pay for a good dinner.