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Au Bal Musette
by [?]

Then, on this evening, and every other evening, we went on, back as we had come, round past the other side of Sacre-Coeur, past the statue of the Chevalier who was martyred for refusing to salute a procession (why he refused I have never found out, although I have asked everybody who has ever dined with me at the Cou-Cou) to the Cafe Savoyarde, the broad windows of which look out over pretty much all the Northeast of Paris, over a glittering labyrinth of lights set in an obscure sea of darkness. It was not far from here that Louise and Julien kept house when they were interrupted by Louise’s mother, and it was looking down over these lights that they swore those eternal vows, ending with Louise’s ” C’est une Feerie! ” and Julien’s ” Non, c’est la vie! ” One always remembers these things and feels them at the Savoyarde as keenly as one did sometime in the remote past watching Mary Garden and Leon Beyle from the topmost gallery of the Opera-Comique after an hour and a half wait in the queue for one franc tickets (there were always people turned away from performances of Louise and so it was necessary to be there early; some other operas did not demand such punctuality). There is a terrace outside the Savoyarde, a tiny terrace, with just room for one man, who griddles gaufrettes, and three or four tiny tables with chairs. At one of these we sat that night (just as I had sat so many times before) and sipped our cognac.

It is difficult in an adventure to remember just when the departure comes, when one leaves the past and strides into the future, but I think that moment befell me in this cafe … for it was the first time I had ever seen a cat there. He was a lazy, splendid animal. In New York he would have been an oddity, but in Paris there are many such beasts. Tawny he was and soft to the touch and of a hugeness. He was lying on the bar and as I stroked his coat he purred melifluously…. I stroked his warm fur and thought how I belonged to the mystic band (Gautier, Baudelaire, Merimee, all knew the secrets) of those who are acquainted with cats; it is a feeling of pride we have that differentiates us from the dog lovers, the pride of the appreciation of indifference or of conscious preference. And it was, I think, as I was stroking the cat that my past was smote away from me and I was projected into the adventure for, as I lifted the animal into my arms, the better to feel its warmth and softness, it sprang with strength and unsheathed claws out of my embrace, and soon was back on the bar again, “just as if nothing had happened.” There was blood on my face. Madame, behind the bar, was apologetic but not chastening. ” Il avait peur,” she said. ” Il n’est pas mechant. ” The wound was not deep, and as I bent to pet the cat again he again purred. I had interfered with his habits and, as I discovered later, he had interfered with mine.

We decided to walk down the hill instead of riding down in the finiculaire, down the stairs which form another of the pictures in Louise, with the abutting houses, into the rooms of which one looks, conscious of prying. And you see the old in these interiors, making shoes, or preparing dinner, or the middle-aged going to bed, but the young one never sees in the houses in the summer…. It was early and we decided to dance; I thought of the Moulin de la Galette, which I had visited twice before. The Moulin de la Galette waves its gaunt arms in the air half way up the butte of Montmartre; it serves its purpose as a dance hall of the quarter. One meets the pretty little Montmartroises there and the young artists; the entrance fee is not exorbitant and one may drink a bock. And when I have been there, sitting at a small table facing the somewhat vivid mural decoration which runs the length of one wall, drinking my brown bock, I have remembered the story which Mary Garden once told me, how Albert Carre to celebrate the hundredth–or was it the twenty-fifth?–performance of Louise, gave a dinner there–so near to the scenes he had conceived–to Charpentier and how, surrounded by some of the most notable musicians and poets of France, the composer had suddenly fallen from the table, face downwards; he had starved himself so long to complete his masterpiece that food did not seem to nourish him. It was the end of a brilliant dinner. He was carried away … to the Riviera; some said that he had lost his mind; some said that he was dying. Mary Garden herself did not know, at the time she first sang Louise in America, what had happened to him. But a little later the rumour that he was writing a trilogy was spread about and soon it was a known fact that at least one other part of the trilogy had been written, Julien; that lyric drama was produced and everybody knows the story of its failure. Charpentier, the natural philosopher and the poet of Montmartre, had said everything he had to say in Louise. As for the third play, one has heard nothing about that yet.