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"Why, Jenny! I-I didn't mean anything," stammered Harry, abashed by this unwonted passion in "gentle Janet's" eyes and voice." Only,"-a returning gleam of mischief in his face as he saw the excitement fade out of hers,-" with that funny little twinkle in the eye, and that fol-de-rol thing perched on top of the head and the waist up to the ears, it does look such an old-fashioned quiz, don't it, now?" holding it out for inspection.
"I dare say," answered Janet, already self-reproachful, as she stroked "her boy's brown curls. "But do you suppose we should look very new-fashioned ourselves fifty years from now, Harry?"
"Ho, you!" cried the saucy boy. "Tell you what, Miss Jen, take you girls as you stand, from the stilts under your feet to the cheese-plates on your heads, and a naturalist fifty years from now wouldn't know what sort of animal he'd got hold of!"
"Is a cheese-plate animal or vegetable, Harry?" asked Janet gravely.
'Animal, I guess,' answered Harry boldly. "You'd think so over at old Gresham's, if you could see-"
"Oh, you horrid boy!" moaned Angie, turning her head on her pillows.
"Come, Harry; I won't have you talk so," said Janet laughingly, as she picked up his slate-pencil.
So Harry returned to arithmetic, and Janet went over to coax poor sickly Angie back into good temper.
The bequest at the time had seemed to Janet an inexhaustible mine of wealth-a kind of Fortunatus's purse which should carry out all her cherished day dreams; it would surround poor Angie with luxuries; it would send Harry to college; it would even form, at least, a nest-egg for that once impossible treasure which Arthur's father made the condition of their happiness. But as time slipped by, she found every dollar, in anticipation at least, a dozen times appropriated, and the treasure become impossible again. She could almost have fancied it all a dream but for the watch which lay before her, a sufficiently solid reminder in its heavy old-fashioned case, the eyes of the miniature winking up at her from the dim enamel. She looked back at it with a smile and then a sigh, then one day remembered suddenly that the prescribed three months had nearly elapsed, and she must not forget to take it with her the next time she went down town with Harry.
Mr. Sandham-a wiry old man, with
black eyes and a polished bald head, on which a velvet skull-cap sat coquettishly askew-received them; looking at her, she noticed, with a singular curiosity as he took the watch from her hand.
"This is a very old acquaintance of mine," he said, as he pressed one spring after another. "A very remarkable, and, indeed, I may say, valuable piece of workmanship. Were you aware of that, Miss Hollister?" he asked with a sudden sharp look at her.
"As a souvenir it is, indeed, very valuable to me," she answered, coloring a little, "but I did not imagine that in itself—"
"Ah, that is because you have probably not studied it as I have. Look at it again now, Miss Hollister, and see if you perceive nothing remarkable."
"It is intricately inlaid," said Janet hesitatingly, as she turned it over, "and the portraits are done with curious exactness, but-"
"To be sure, to be sure, the portraits," put in Mr. Sandham, rubbing his hands with the quick cat-like motion peculiar to him. "There is something curious about the portraits, is there not? Now, what should you say it was, eh, Miss Hollister?" Janet looked doubtfully from his face to the pictured ones and back again.
"Only see the eyes!" continued the old man gleefully; "how they twinkle, as if they were just ready to tell you all about it!"
And truly the two little diamond points in each face, as the old man turned them to the strong light, sparkled and winked as if fairly radiating mystery.
"What would you say?" he went on, "if I were to tell you that each of these concealed a diamond-"
Harry with a sudden confusing ceremoniousness, "it being, I apprehend, of the kind chiefly found in mares' nests, which I have never yet had the fortune to discover. But I was about to remark, that the four eyes conceal four fine diamonds, which, united, form a very pretty little sum indeed. Look, Miss Hollister!" And, pressing a hidden spring as he spoke, the outer case flew aside, revealing a second one within, in which were set two large diamonds, while, on repeating the same action with the other side, similar treasures were there disclosed.
ALL the fencing-rooms in Paris, except two (I don't believe there are more), are on the ground floor, and at the back of a courtyard. No tenant, not even a life-long tenant of a Paris flat (whom custom has made callous to everything, just as eels in time
"You must understand, Miss Hollister," said the jeweler, nodding at Janet's bewildered face, "that the late Mrs. Macdonald was of a cautious temperament-no bad thing in anybody; and having suffered some losses by a bank, she conceived the idea of investing a certain portion of her fortune in such a way as to retain it safe about her own person. She commissioned me to make an inner case for this watch-readily done from its great thickness, as you may observe-in which two diamonds were set on each side, in a position to come directly beneath the eyes, which were then pierced with a hole in each center. This enabled her always to assure herself of their safety, while, by disguising their size, it lessened the risk of robbery. You see? People would hardly take the trouble to steal such a little bit of a diamond as that," said Mr. Sandham smilingly, as he re-adjusted the dull blank sockets again over the embedded jewels, where the tiny central point of light winked up again like the eye of a benevolent witch.
"Aren't you lucky, though, Jenny Wren!" cried Harry, as soon as he was out of the old man's paralyzing presence. "Won't Arthur be glad, though! Now you can be married and no more trouble. What was it Angie said about the money growing again? And it has, just like that old What's-his-name with the purse; only yours is a watch-pocket instead of a purse. I declare it ought to be changed to Fortunata's Pocket!"
come to consider flaying alive a mere superficial titillation-no more), no tenant could stand the clatter and turmoil of a fencingroom over his head. It is nothing but noisy young fellows going in or coming out, marching, retreating, stamping, grinding chalk on
the floor, straightening foils with feet, trying the temper of foils on the floor, and the clink of foils from six in the morning till eleven at night. The only two fencing-rooms which are on the first floor have under them, one a storehouse for pictures, the other a storehouse for books, to contain respectively the overflow of a shop in another street, and of the boxes on the parapet of the river. Need I tell you that the great majority of second-hand booksellers ply their trade on the river's banks? Don't despise them for that! Those wooden boxes are but the shop's till; the bank which contains the capital is in some back street on the ground floor of some court-yard. As the only protest which pictures and books ever make against, even the most unearthly noises, is to fall from their frames, or to tumble from their shelves, their clamor is unheeded. In Paris no remonstrance receives attention, unless it be supported by the authority of the janitor, or of the police commissioner.
It is not easy to imagine more dingy places than these fencing-rooms. There is only one light, tidy one in Paris, and it owes its cleanliness to the circumstance that it belongs to Mons. Ernest Legouvé, the celebrated dramatist. He has a passion for fencing, and has rented the ground floor of the house in which he lives, and which is his property, to the brothers Robert. I suspect he makes a considerable sacrifice of money in renting these rooms as fencingrooms. They are in Rue St. Marc, near the corner of Rue Vivienne, and about a hundred feet from Boulevard Montmartre. No fencing-master could pay the current rents of this quarter. Rumor says Robert finds it hard to meet quarter-day, although Mons. Legouvé has thrown into his hands the place of fencing-master in half the Paris colleges. Again, whenever Mons. Legouvé gives a ball, he converts the fencing-rooms into a theater, where he delights his guests with a dramatic entertainment. These nights must diminish Robert's rent.
The other Paris fencing-rooms have not been painted for a half century. The paper is stained by dust and flies, dampness, smoke, tobacco. The mirrors have lost all powers of reflection. The curtains are faded and threadbare. The floor is checkered, here by water thrown to lay the dust, there by chalk pellets, which are continually crushed under foot to prevent fencers from slipping. Dingy, dirty, every way uninviting as fencing-rooms are, I confess I like to frequent them. On winter nights, when lighted
and filled with ten or fifteen pair of fencers, they are really brilliant. I enjoy them, when (after cudgeling brains all day long to transmute pen, ink, and paper into bread, meat, rent, raiment) I relieve nerves and call upon muscles to be in turn fatigued. How delightful are the weariness of body, the torrents of perspiration wetting flannel and thick wadded buckskin through and through, and the sound, dreamless sleep which follows the long lesson and the longer assault! Then, for a man who must make his bread before he eats it, what economy of time there is in fencing; in an hour it gives one more and better exercise than he may obtain by trudging on foot all day, by boxing for hours, or by rowing all an afternoon. I say nothing about horseback, because that is pre-eminently the best exercise in the world, and because I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and have never been able to put one there. Horses are only for people with silver spoons.
There is to me something very attractive in the appearance of the line which runs all around fencing-rooms, and which is formed of masks bound-these with red, those with green, others with blue, others still with yellow and morocco; the gloves peering through the close meshes of the wired visor, and the foils hanging below in long, slender, tapering, gleaming steel. It gives me pleasure to look at the men in linen trowsers, flannel shirt, and well-wadded buckskin jacket, their eyes glittering like diamonds with the healthy excitement of exercise behind the mask, and their whole person attesting the well-ordered life they lead.. Don Juans and Lotharios are not to be found in fencing-rooms. Physical exercises enforce morality. Nothing I have seen in Paris has struck me more than the absence of everything like impropriety in conversation which I have observed in fencing-rooms. I have never heard an oath, or a coarse expression, or an allusion to women, or an indecent story in them. I have heard but one rude speech, and I have seen but one rude action in them; both were by the same man, and they were punished by such icy silence, their author never repeated them. There is more ceremonious politeness in them than is to be found anywhere else in France. The lesson ended, the pupil invariably says, "I thank you, sir," to the master, or to the provost, if the latter give the lesson. When one would make an assault with another, he always prefers his requests in these words: "Sir, would you be so very
good as to make an assault with me?" He
All are smokers. The pipe is indispensable in a fencing-room. Everybody is reeking with perspiration, and the odor of twelve or fifteen half-naked men in this condition is not suggestive of Jockey Club or patchouli. Tobacco repels all these assaults on the olfactory nerves. I have rarely
seen drink of any kind introduced. In summer beer has occasionally been brought in. I have seen it introduced twice in five years. A naval officer introduced brandy. He and two or three others would sip a thimbleful in a tumbler of water, and the one glass would last during the whole lesson and its sequent assaults. The French are not only temperate, but adverse to expense. Money becomes volatile in the heated atmosphere of Paris, and disappears in invisible vapors through the interstices of the purse and the fingers of the closest fist. Besides, there are rich and poor behind the mask, and the latter would be driven from the fencing-room if habits of expense were notorious; for the French are passionately fond of equality; furthermore, they savagely enforce the rule of paying the score in turn, and he who should allow himself to be treated without once standing the bill, would soon be driven from the room. Speaking of French temperance, I may mention that one evening a gentleman, to illustrate his remarks, said:
"You know how a man feels when he is drunk?"
There were fifteen men present, only one of whom, and he not a Frenchman, could join his experience to the questioner's. This general moderation makes fatal duels rare in France.
Duels take place continually, but one rarely hears of anything except the coffee which follows them. Seconds don't like to be mixed up with a fatal affair. Principals have still more aversion to such duels, especially if in the lottery they think the chances are in favor of drawing the ball. The law officers deal harshly with the seconds of a fatal duel, and, if a heavy fine be inflicted, the family of the fallen rarely feel like adding legal costs to a long funeral bill. A man who has figured as principal in a duel is generally shunned. People are very polite to him, take good care not to offend him, take better care to keep out of his company. Nobody likes to feel in unguarded hours the necessity of being guarded.
There are many reasons why duels rarelyend fatally. All the gunsmiths keep pistols warranted not to hit a barn door at ten paces. They are grooved all sorts of ways; they are made so light that the least load of powder sends them to the skies; the trigger is made so hard the hand pulls the pistol higher than even the skies; the hammer is weighted and has such a powerful spring the barrel is knocked down. More
over, the seconds always take care to overload, that the pistol, no matter how carefully aimed, may bounce over the object. Lastly, but by no means leastly, there is the emotion inseparable from a maiden appearance in the part of target for an enemy's loaded pistol. It is incredible how fast eyelids will snap under these circumstances. Frenchmen are averse to duels with pistols, because this weapon is too "brutal" and too uncertain. The sword is as delicate as a housewife's needle, and is completely under command. It is not only the desire to end the duel with the first blood which makes encounters with swords so rarely fatal. It is impossible for the inexperienced to conceive the difference the fencer finds between fencing in a room and fencing out of doors. The pistol-shooter discovers something of the same sort when he abandons the gallery for the field. In the former, floor, ceiling and walls unconsciously guide hand and eye; he stands, as it were, at one end of a tube and shoots at a target placed near the other end. When in the field he aims at a tree, he is scarcely able to cover it. This also is one of the reasons why duels with pistols are so rarely fatal. The man who, for the first time, fences out of doors, literally sees nothing, and this phrase does not express the, singular sensation. Antagonist, foils, scene everything vanishes, and one feels as if he were a dwarfed Liliputian gazing on vacancy. He who, in a balloon out of sight of earth, leans over the car and gazes into the blue depths beneath him, must feel some such sensation.
Again, few men can hold and fence with a foil for ten consecutive minutes. The severe exercise exhausts them. When one takes up a dueling sword, one feels as if he had a giant's club in hand. In two minutes he can scarcely keep it up. When he parries, it seems to drop to the horizon, carried away by the vis inertia. To thrust is still worse; imagine a man thrusting with a giant's club-so it feels. Now the art of the fencer may be said to lie in doing two things adroitly-never letting the point of his sword go beyond the sides of his bodyand moving his sword only with his hand, never with his arm. Judge how difficult it is to fulfill these conditions when one has in hand a weapon which feels like a club. Some fencers use the dueling sword, or rather a sort of sword heavier than the dueling sword, whenever they take lessons, or give assault, to accustom themselves to its weight. It is, however, too expensive for ordinary
persons. Broken foils are a heavy burden, while they cost only forty cents a piece; the fencer sometimes breaks three or four new ones in as many minutes, if he falls on a bad "run" of foils; and, as the more foils. that are broken, the more money the master makes (he pays fifteen or twenty cents for them), he is particular only about their bad quality. Three or four dollars' worth of foils are broken every month by the most careful fencer. I have seen men break sixteen dollars' worth a month. Pupils not only pay for all they break, but for all the master breaks fencing with them, and he takes care to shatter as many as he thinks the pupil will pay for without grumbling, or without ceasing to take lessons. Fencing swords cost two dollars each; and such a fine levied on every broken blade makes fencing an expensive amusement.
One of the most absurd scenes I have ever witnessed in a fencing-room is the appear: ance of a fellow who has stumbled or been pushed into a duel, and who never in. his life saw a foil except in a gunsmith's window.
There is a current notion that every fencing-master has a secret, by which the most adroit adversary may be vanquished by the rawest man who ever took sword in hand for the first time. Everybody has heard tell of the most experienced swordsmen being killed by novices. There is no foundation for such nonsense. The only way in which this deed could possibly be done would be, that the neophyte did but hold his sword out straight, and the first-rate swordsman spitted himself on it. As fencers know this course of action is always taken by novices, the former are on their guard against it. The action of stretching forth the sword puts it absolutely in the power of the antagonist, and nothing is easier than to take possession of it and inflict a mortal wound on its holder. True, a novice, who actively attacks his opponent, does embarrass the latter. Everybody knows we all have our handwriting, and our gait, and our style. The police are able to detect the perpetrator of a crime (if it be committed by a notorious criminal) by the manner in which it was done. Each rogue has his style. It is just so in fencing. Each man has his method, his logic, and a master of fencing easily sees a few minutes after the combat begins what is the logic of his adversary. There is only a given number of things. which can be done, and, after a few feints, an expert swordsman detects the order in