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Au Bal Musette
by [?]

But on this evening the Moulin de la Galette was closed and then I remembered that it was open on Thursday and this was Wednesday. Is it Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday that the Moulin de la Galette is open? I think so. By this time we were determined to dance; but where? We had no desire to go to some stupid place, common to tourists, no such place as the Bal Tabarin lured us; nor did the Grelot in the Place Blanche, for we had been there a night or two before. The Elysee Montmartre (celebrated by George Moore) would be closed. Its patron followed the schedule of days adopted for the Galette…. To chance I turn in such dilemmas…. I consulted a small boy, who, with his companion, had been good enough to guide us through many winding streets to the Moulin. Certainly he knew of a bal. Would monsieur care to visit a bal musette ? His companion was horrified. I caught the phrase ” mal frequente.” Our curiosity was aroused and we gave the signal to advance.

There were two grounds for my personal curiosity beyond the more obvious ones. I seemed to remember to have read somewhere that the ladies of the court of Louis XIV played the musette, which is French for bag-pipe. It was the fashionable instrument of an epoch and the musettes played by the grandes dames were elaborately decorated. The word in time slunk into the dictionaries of musical terms as descriptive of a drone bass. Many of Gluck’s ballet airs bear the title, Musette. Perhaps the bass was even performed on a bag-pipe…. ” Mal frequente ” in Parisian argot has a variety of significations; in this particular instance it suggested apaches to me. A bal, for instance, attended by cocottes, mannequins, or modeles, could not be described as mal frequente unless one were speaking to a boarding school miss, for all the public bals in Paris are so attended. No, the words spoken to me, in this connection, could only mean apaches. The confusion of epochs began to invite my interest and I wondered, in my mind’s eye, how a Louis XIV apache would dress, how he would be represented at a costume ball, and a picture of a ragged silk-betrousered person, flaunting a plaid-bellied instrument came to mind. An imagination often leads one violently astray.

The two urchins were marching us through street after street, one of them whistling that pleasing tune, Le lendemain elle etait souriante. Dark passage ways intervened between us and our destination: we threaded them. The cobble stones of the underfoot were not easy to walk on for my companion, shod in high-heels from the Place Vendome…. The urchins amused each other and us by capers on the way. They could have made our speed walking on their hands, and they accomplished at least a third of the journey this way. Of course, I deluged them with large round five and ten centimes pieces.

We arrived at last before a door in a short street near the Gare du Nord. Was it the Rue Jessaint? I do not know, for when, a year later, I attempted to re-find this bal it had disappeared…. We could hear the hum of the pipes for some paces before we turned the corner into the street, and never have pipes sounded in my ears with such a shrill significance of being somewhere they ought not to be, never but once, and that was when I had heard the piper who accompanies the dinner of the Governor of the Bahamas in Nassau. Marching round the porch of the Governor’s Villa he played The Blue Bells of Scotland and God Save the King, but, hearing the sound from a distance through the interstices of the cocoa-palm fronds in the hot tropical night, I could only think of a Hindoo blowing the pipes in India, the charming of snakes…. So, as we turned the corner into the Rue Jessaint, I seemed to catch a faint glimpse of a scene on the lawn at Versailles…. Louis XIV–it was the epoch of Cinderella!