Musichetta was a charming young woman capable of being terrible.
Having been educated at the high of the Kingdom of Italy, Musichetta had grown up surrounded by the best of roman culture.
She was fluent in Milanese, French, Tuscan and Latin (even if the Tuscan had offended her father quite dearly). She played piano and knew her needlework. She knew how to please, she knew how to dance, she knew how to stay silent. She was charming and everyone knew it.
But having been jostled by the fall of that same Kingdom of Italy, Musichetta had also become more lucid, leaving behind her days as a, although very young then, Milanese socialite.
She had seen her family rise and crumble. She had seen the sublime and the hideousness of politics in her father’s face, and of popular movements in her mother’s eyes when her own brother fell. She had heard the talks and the speeches, she had heard the gunshots and the screams. Way before any of these naive and young French révolutionnaires had dared even dreaming of it.
She had been through it.
Musichetta, all in all, was aware of the frailty that life sustained, and the chaos that dealt the fate and the cards in our hands.
And she didn’t care.
All in all, she was now more than capable of being terrible.
* * *
Which is how, when walking along the streets of the Rue Mondétour, in the Quartier des Halles, you could sometime see a young fair-skinned girl, dark hair somewhat loose in their chignon, looking barely older than her twenties, wearing the latest fashion and talking admirably and mocking meanly everyone and everything she would set her eyes upon.
She was young, but she was headstrong.
Her friends sometimes followed her, amazed at her daring attitude and her behavior, so far off from the one they were taught to have. They were enchanted by her singing voice, made mesmerizing even when speaking the most crude facts of life and death, gracious vowels flowing from her mouth with the nimbleness of her latin native languages.
She was used to walking these streets and these shops alone. She made a game of it, talking back to the working men, eating in the street at noon or just chanting, to the boldest ones, in her agile Milanese tongue, her voice going dark and her eyes filling with mischief, acting like a sorceress, ready to cast any curse on the ones who would dare disturb her too much.
In their ignorance, they sometimes called her the witch, behind her back. She loved it.
She found a refuge, during the harshest day of winter, and the hotest day of summer, at the Corinthe. The restaurant’s owners, Monsieur and Madame Hucheloup, welcomed her, dumbfounded at first, but quickly warmed up to her joyfull character and her ways. She would come in with a pack of playing cards, sometimes dealing them mindlessly, while sometimes someone would ask her for a reading.
She gave them with a laugh, smirking at the stupidity of her customers. She asked for 6 francs. Which those good-natured innocents didn’t mind giving away.
As any young girl in the best part of Paris in the beginning of the century, she had become taken by the fashion of reading cards and fortune telling. She was bored, she had a game of playing cards. It quickly became an escape, to trick the people around her, to create her own world she could finally control.
She had scared her sister one evening,. Her mother had scolded her dearly for that.
So Musichetta started bringing her cards to the Corinthe.
She would play act her spreads, looking sad or astonished when needed, unraveling slowly from the conversation the clues she needed to give her reader the needed answers. She had mastered that art perfectly.
Monsieur Hucheloup loved it. His wife frowned at it. Musichetta always used the francs earned in the restaurant to buy drinks or food from them, to give to the gamins running in the street.
“You shouldn’t make fun of the Fate, dear, that you shouldn’t” Madame Hucheloup kept repeating while giving away the bread to small hungry hands.
Musichetta laughed, along with Monsieur Hucheloup .
Her playing cards had not brought her anything more than a good laugh, and a friend or two. Namely, in the names of Joly and Bossuet. So what could possibly happen
* * *
On that sweet summer day, Musichetta was walking freely, humming under her breath a song her youngest sister had been singing all afternoon the day before, in order to be able to impress upon her galant, at the next reception.
Joly was waiting for her, at the crossroad between the Rue Mondétour and the Rue des Prêcheurs.
He tipped his hat in her direction before offering her his arm. She smiled and kept on walking, ignoring him.
“Really ma chère, it doesn’t give the best impression for you to so bashfully disregard a gentleman’s help” he teased her, adjusting the light scarf around his neck.
“And really, il mio caro, it doesn’t look good for you to be waiting on a lonely girl in such streets. “ He grumbled something about the working men surrounding them, and the children and their disease and whatnot.
“If you want to keep on moralizing, instead of coming to this ungrateful street full of meandering souls and unrepentant temptations you should have stayed on your side of the road. The Rue des Precheurs would have suited you better*” She grinned.
Joly tapped his cane to his nose, walking beside her, side-stepping a running little girl. “You are not as lonely as you think you are, ma chere”.
Musichetta laughed. “Do you think I even tried for this one?” She turned back to him, doe-eyes big and mouth slightly parted, in an impression of pure candidness.
Her companion laughed. “You play well the blessed innocent, but maybe stop playing it and start acting it, you would earn more deference from the gentlemen around you than you currently do.” He chided.
“You know quite well that I couldn’t care less for the attention of those people. And I gain it quite enough with my readings, I can do without it, otherwise.” She answered smugly.
They had approached the Corinthe. Musichetta sent a wave to Madame Hucheloup, who shook her head at her but gave her a smile nonetheless. Joly saluted the owner before hurrying behind her up the stairs, to the first floor of the restaurant.
They had a bottle of wine, the both of them. And they talked.
Musichetta huffed under her breath as she helped herself to more wine. They had been talking about the life, and Joly, as always, had to bring up his Révolution.
“You are being stupid and superstitious. For a scientific mind, you are rather pathetic Jolly I have to say” she told her friend.
Joly took hold of her hands, stopping their incessant dealing with the cards. He hoped she would see what he saw, he had been trying so hard for so long.
“Don’t be mean, Musichetta. You know everything could change. God, your life could change.”
Her life. As if she ever had one.
“Don’t talk about things you don’t know.” She stated coldly.
Her mother was already pressuring her again to agree to a suitable party. Her father had told her if she said no to the next man, he would say yes for her, because making a spectacle of herself in the lowest part of Paris was one thing, but in front ot the entire noblesse was another. She could spit in his face all she wanted, he had already shown her he wasn’t afraid of pressuring her, if necessary.
Joly kept stroking her hands.
Angrily, she tried to disloge him. Joly resisted.
“You know, deep down, I know it and you know it too. Don’t hide Musichetta. We both want that Révolution to succeed.” A night, once, in the dark of his bedroom and the enchantment of a candle. Of a possible futur. A possible life.
That was too much.
With a strong shake of her arms towards her, her wineglass got caught in her jewelry and spilled what was left of the drink on the table. Musichetta, in her surprise, let go of her cards.
They fell on the wine, soaking up the beverage.
Joly let go of her, and watched with a sight as she tried to get her cards to safety.
“For Progress, Musichetta. And it will succeed.” Joly declared, fire in his eyes.
“And what is progress exactly ?” She hissed at him. “Progress in what? The democratic system is that it ? So that more of you young foolish men will control the state in their favor. You might be open-minded, but don’t be naive, most of you are just here to take what they can. Stop making a fool of yourself. Your democracy will never be a true democracy. And how dare you think you know better than anyone else about how their lives should be run and what they should do with it. You talk about workers, women, what a laugh! Your discourse is no better than the one of the imperialist and the royalists. You know why ? Because you don’t ask their opinions.” The men who talked to her on the street, before going back inside the factories. The kids, following them inside. Her friends, pressured into marriage, with no identity on their own.
She was wiping her cards on her dress, fretting. One night, why oh why, one night -
“Ah!” She smirked when she looked up, seeing the betrayed look on Joly’s face. “You became a parrot my poor Joly, since you found your way into that group of supposed friends of yours. Don’t look at me like that, yes, you parrot. Joly, even Bossuet is starting to sound like this. Bossuet ! It’s quite unimpressive in my opinion.” Their debates, at night, by the light of the candles. Creating the world, every night, every night, but going to sleep having done none of it.
“ Stop.” He whispered. “You are just being terrible now. Progress is what we need, and the only way we can get it is through change.” Joly stood straight in his chair, almost looming over her.
“Yes, I am. Being terrible.” She settled back in her chair, lounging, dealing her cards leisurely, trying to look detached. “ Because apparently no one was bold enough to tell you soon enough of the mistakes you are making.” She gathered her cards before spreading them in a circle in front of her. The wine was still spreading on the table, but at this point -
“You talk of revolution, of changing lives. But which ones? Yours first. And then, oh sure, the lives of the working men.”
While talking, her left hand was hovering over the circle of cards, fingers moving nimbly.
“And how exactly do you plan on doing that when you will be killing or harassing their employers? They will be out of work by the end of your revolution, worse off than they were going in, because none of you have any inkling on how to run a business and worse, you are not prepared to fend off the vultures waiting for any opportunity to rise to the throne of the previous kings.”
Her brother-in-law, drinking at the window of his house, talking of salaries and rent and funds. Numbers numbers numbers while Musichetta only saw men and women and children.
She picked a card in a flourish, placing it on her left.
“Then, you do talk about Patria and the great future of France don’t you. Let me give it to you. “
She picked up another card, showing it to Joly’s nose. He was faced with a rather too jovial Fool for his liking. He was gripping his hat in his laps.
“Your France is nothing more than a conceptual idea, which has no meaning if you reach the borders. It’s frail, and it’s falling apart at the seams. Go back to where you came from my dear, and ask the people there what they would think of your parisian revolution. They mean nothing to you, barely the workforce you write about in your pamphlet because they are not under your nose but days away, burning under the sun to feed your marvelous capital.” She spitted at the card, setting it right in front of her, letting her right hand pick a last card.
“And your patria ! I have never met a woman so well-liked by a group of men ! You praise her, and her fertility, and her strenght, but you don’t even look at the women you pass by in the street. The ones who are on their knees for days on end -”
“You are being crude Musichetta” frowned Joly, fidgeting with his hat in his hands, looking around as if scared anyone would hear them. Would hear her speak like that.
“And you cannot get your mind out of the gutter can you ? See, even talking about women, the only way you see them is sexually, while I am talking about the domestics who scrub the floors of your rooms while you’re out for the day, fantasizing about your country and the power you will have in it.”
She mindlessly swiped a card to her right, not letting Joly out of her glare.
“Do you know why you only think of women this way?Because no woman is allowed in your meeting. And the only women you boys talk about are the one you bed. Tell me I’m not right, Joly.” She smirked. “ You can talk about equality how you want, but I don’t see it anywhere in your actions, poor school boys that you are, the lot of you.”
She finished, shaking her hands and wringing her hands, the air huming under her palms.
She looked straight at him, uncaring of the wine spilling down the table onto her dress, onto her shoes. “Your revolution is an half-formed theoretical idea.Just like every over one before it.”
“I will give to you one thing though, you are quite naive in your beliefs.” She smiled kindly at him, her voice slowing down, and putting her hands on his. “But for the records, Joly, I believe more in the power of this cartomancy spread than I ever will in any revolution which dares to think it is worth more than the people it is supposed to protect.”
Joly suddenly rose to his feet, leaving his hat on the table to gather his jacket with a scowl on his face.
“I know it’s hard to hear about Joly. But I’ve seen it, while you were spending your young days learning your French history, and talking with your friends of the Capitale, I grew up in the middle of the creation of an Empire. I’ve met idealists. But I’ve also met politicians, and opportunists. And these, these, are a disease you cannot fight just by changing the political system.” She kept her calming tone; not wanting to come to a dire conflict.
Joly looked at her with anger in his eyes “Musichetta, there is a reason why women are not allowed in our meetings. And it’s because they know how to twist words instead of speaking truthfully. You just reminded me why I never asked to have you brought in.” He stated coldly before turning his back to her and leaving the room.
Musichetta sighed, before calling meaningly after him. “ You cannot even face your own faillures, can you Joly?” He didn’t answer. But stopped. A breath.
“That was too much coming from me, Musichetta. Please, accept my apologies. You owe me one too, but I believe you will give it to me after our revolution succeeded. ” He said, calmly, leaving without waiting for her answer. And purposefully closing the door of the first floor behind him.
She looked down.
Her cards were a mess. She saw Joly’s hat on the side of the table. She picked it up, playing around with it before setting it on the chair next to her, so that it wouldn’t get soaked through. Her poor boy.
With another sight, she absentmindedly looked at her spread. She felt- strange to say the least. A headache had been building behind her eyes for a while. With Joly leaving, she realised how tired she felt. From their debate, but for him, too. She wanted to make him realise how he was throwing away his life, his mind, his talent. He was a good man, but too easily swayed by the well-crafted speech of an eloquent and charismatic leader. She remembered her uncle, always a head in a book, always theoretically speaking, daydreaming, who had been killed in the Parliament.
She closed her eyes, a sway overtaking her suddenly. Her left hand closed on a card, and a shock came up her fingers. She gasped, opening her eyes. She looked at her hand, the fingers red at the tips as if burned. The card -
It was the Past.
Musichetta had never believed in her spreads. But then again, she had never done one for herself, had she?
She was ... afraid, somewhat.
Her hand trembling slightly before touching the back of the card. She touched it quickly, afraid of feeling the burn again, while scowdling herself for being superstitious.
A Seven of Heart. Musichetta smiled softly. Wishfull thinking, her sister had told her. Daydreaming. Her Joly. And her Bossuet. Musichetta closed her eyes, leaving her hand tickling on the card, letting herself go into the feeling of memories.
Bossuet was slowly directing his steps towards the profession of a lawyer; he was pursuing his law studies after the manner of Bahorel. Bossuet had not much domicile, sometimes none at all. He lodged now with one, now with another, most often with Joly. Joly was studying medicine. He was two years younger than Bossuet.
Joly was the “malade imaginaire” junior. What he had won in medicine was to be more of an invalid than a doctor. At three and twenty he thought himself a valetudinarian, and passed his life in inspecting his tongue in the mirror. He affirmed that man becomes magnetic like a needle, and in his chamber he placed his bed with its head to the south, and the foot to the north, so that, at night, the circulation of his blood might not be interfered with by the great electric current of the globe. During thunder storms, he felt his pulse. Otherwise, he was the gayest of them all. All these young, maniacal, puny, merry incoherences lived in harmony together, and the result was an eccentric and agreeable being whom his comrades, who were prodigal of winged consonants, called Jolllly. “You may fly away on the four L’s,” Jean Prouvaire said to him. ( L in french sounds like Aile, the wing )
Joly had a trick of touching his nose with the tip of his cane, which is an indication of a sagacious mind.
All these young men who differed so greatly, and who, on the whole, can only be discussed seriously, held the same religion: Progress.
Musichetta opened her eyes, frowning. Why -
She looked down at the card. The tickling was coming up her arm slowly. She wanted to move her hand, take it away but-
Something prevented her. She didn’t want to, really – she needed to, but she couldn’t. Or maybe she didn’t want to, yes she just didn’t want to. She didn’t need to.
She could. But she didn’t want to. She sensed a shift in the air around her. As if it was becoming more stifling. Her arm felt useless, and loaded at her side. As if taken by quicksands.
A weary feeling in her heart was spreading quickly too, coming to meet the tinkling in her left arm at the shoulder. Her heart gave a beat. A laboured breath. Her arm wouldn’t move.
Why had she seen Bahorel? And why had she heard Jean Prouvaire speaking to Joly? She had seen him, from afar yes, but had never heard him speak had she – the air felt humid too suddenly.
She wanted to get up. To gather her cards and stop playing around. She felt sweat pooling at her back and under her breast. A drop ran down her throat, as if to reach her heart. Another one slicked down slowly to her ankle. Her head looked up at the ceiling, she was breathing heavily. She felt like falling, she was drowning in dry air-
It was going too far, scaring herself like that in this small room.
She scowled again. “Musichetta, you are being stupid, poor girl” She wanted to say. But her voice wouldn’t come out. Her lungs didn’t react as she needed them to. Had she been too optimist with her corsage this morning? It has been known to happen -
A cloud passed outside. The room became dark, quickly.
Musichetta looked at the cards again, her head swaying. A hand on her stomach, feeling her breath.The wine, staining her cream-colored summer dress, felt dense and velvety under her touch.
A knock resounded, her vision became white.
A screech -
A gasp escaped her paling lips, her head falling down to her breast. She felt like she was drifting, trying to come up to the surface but lost in the circles of waves surrounding her. Her eyes were watering. A pulse, steady and quick, resounding around her, enveloping her -
Her hand on a card. The first one discarded to the side, in the wine. And this one-
The Fool reversed. Le coup du sort**.
Her eyes widened. She felt herself falling backwards again, a hand on her shoulder, her eyes closing again-
But all of a sudden, she breathed. Her head stopped spinning. Calm. Just calm.
She saw the room around her, as it was, under a sweet light. She felt weak and torned but safe, finally back. The Corinthe. Her table. The warm wood under her hand. The ray of sunshine hitting the weak walls of the first floor.
Her hand on the second card, trembling slightly; she looked at the Fool.
Smiling at her, reversed in his mischief, and his doom. She thought, naive of her, that he hadn’t succeeded in his parade. She wanted to crumple that sickening card, show him who was the Mistress here. Who had mastered the cards and the fate and the game.
She almost smiled. She was stupid.
But then - she felt a gust of wind, too fresh, too prickly to be from a summer mid-day. The door to the first floor opened. A vertigo, intense overtook her. The sun became too white, too cold. Her eyes glazed over the table. The door, it had not been closed, before had it – or – all breath left her. She couldn’t move -
Footfalls. Too many of them. A military cadence. Three persons. The screetching of wood on wood, an explosion of male voices. The clinking of glasses and silverware. A prickling sensation slithered up her spine, spidery fingers encircling her lungs and enclosing her throat. The fool smiled and smiled and -
Musichetta looked up.
Grantaire was attacking his second bottle and, possibly, his second harangue, when a new personage emerged from the square aperture of the stairs. It was a boy less than ten years of age, ragged, very small, yellow, with an odd phiz, a vivacious eye, an enormous amount of hair drenched with rain, and wearing a contented air.
The child unhesitatingly making his choice among the three, addressed himself to Laigle de Meaux.
“Are you Monsieur Bossuet?”
“That is my nickname,” replied Laigle. “What do you want with me?”
“This. A tall blonde fellow on the boulevard said to me: ‘Do you know Mother Hucheloup?’ I said: ‘Yes, Rue Chanvrerie, the old man’s widow;’ he said to me: ‘Go there. There you will find M. Bossuet. Tell him from me: “A B C”.’ It’s a joke that they’re playing on you, isn’t it. He gave me ten sous.”
“A B C, that is to say: the burial of Lamarque.”
“The tall blonde,” remarked Grantaire, “is Enjolras, who is sending you a warning.”
“Shall we go?” ejaculated Bossuet.
“It’s raiding,” said Joly. “I have sworn to go through fire, but not through water. I don’t wand to ged a gold.”
“I shall stay here,” said Grantaire. “I prefer a breakfast to a hearse.”
“Conclusion: we remain,” said Laigle. “Well, then, let us drink. Besides, we might miss the funeral without missing the riot.”
“Ah! the riot, I am with you!” cried Joly.
Laigle rubbed his hands.
She tried to scream, tried to get her voice working. She wanted Joly; Joly to notice; Joly to wake her up, she needed someone- anyone – a hand on her shoulder, or two
The air felt stiffling around her, her eyes were watering from the heat and the pain, inside, so much pain inside after the hope so much
A dull noise – talking again and again and again
Her left hand gripped the table, her nails scratching the dark dirty wood. She felt herself drifting yet again, and, fighting the water and the air and the fire overwhelming her, her hand dragged itself across the tabletop, to the last card. The fool had smiled that ugly smile.
But the future
The tickling was reaching her heart, her hand almost numb. She almost cried at the amount of strength turning the card required from her. She felt out of breath. Her eyes were glued to the last piece of paper, half-scared, half-hopeful. Dying slowly, inside, her heartbeat slow and unsteady, and unsure, for the very first time in her young hopeful naive life.
She turned the card, slowly, felling like she was hauling along a great weight.
The card, crawling along the wood, came to her, wicked and burning. She turned it and suddenly wanted to cry out.
Ten of Spades, dripping red down its side – victim and martyrdom all at once,
The noise rushed to her ears as her eyes became obsessed with the red trails on the card, rivers flowing freely down down down
She felt herself being dragged. Down. Again.
And a hand on her cheek
Forty-three insurgents, among whom were Enjolras, Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Bossuet, Joly, Bahorel, and Gavroche, were kneeling inside the large barricade, with their heads on a level with the crest of the barrier, the barrels of their guns and carbines aimed on the stones as though at loop-holes, attentive, mute, ready to fire.
A ragged breath clogged up her throat. Her head was swinging, flashes darting around her vision. Her eyes were lost, her head, heavy, fell back. She felt hands pressing on her from all sides. She tasted dust and smoke and blood so much blood
Courfeyrac, Enjolras, Jean Prouvaire, Combeferre, Joly, Bahorel, Bossuet, and all the rest ran tumultuously from the wine-shop. It was almost too late. They saw a glistening density of bayonets undulating above the barricade.
Blood so much blood, on her hands and in his eyes, on their faces and in their hearts, so much -
A final assault was there attempted, and this assault succeeded.
A scream tore its way up her lungs and her throat.
The last card fell down, slowly and fatefully coming to rest at her Mistress’ feet.
Musichetta soon followed, crumbling forward in her seat, under the distressed eyes of Joly who had in vain been trying to get her back to her senses. Madame Hucheloup was coming up with a glass of water for his friend.
Joly looked at Musichetta, scared and helpless, feeling her beating pulse, too quick, a rabit, too much. If it hadn’t been for his hat -
Time was lost. She felt herself touching reality in various spaces and places. A discarded room, dust in the air, in between a smile and a smirk, she saw Madame Hucheloup giving her a small glass, to wake her up. It burned down her throat, but she couldn’t be sure, with the smoke up her lungs and the fire still breathing inside her throat. The smell oh dear lord the smell of burning powder, and burning ashes and human flesh and despair and -
She felt sick. She felt sore. She felt spent.
She opened her eyes.
Joly was kneeling in front of her, his hands rubbing her left trembling one, searching her face with anxious eyes. She could see beside him their table, and the spent glass of wine which had soaked up her game of cards. And his hat.
She could feel Madame Hucheloup standing at her back, her old and strong palms resting on her covered shoulders, huming besides her ears for her to come back
– to come back to them.
Joly’s eyes lighted up as he saw her watching him with more intent now.
“Ma douce, ma belle” he whispered, relief blooming in his voice, wishful thinking “Come back to us”
Musichetta felt doused in cold water.
Come back to us, he was saying, come back, doomed -
“Musichetta?” asked Joly, watching her face go blank.
And as he reached a hand up to her pale cheek, she flinched back into Madame Hucheloup, before slapping Joly with all her strenght.
The poor young man fell back on the floor, hard, holding his cheek in surprise. Madame Hucheloup gasped and stepped back.
Musichetta’s eyes were swimming again.
“How dare you” she rasped, her voice used and raw, but for the scream still lodged in her heart, a scream which would never leave her “How dare you ask me to come back to you when you will never come back to me”
She didn’t care. For once she didn’t care.
With Joly, still down with the force of the slap, Musichetta stood up, surprinsingly steady, gathered her wet cards, finished the wine at the bottom of her overturned glass, in a last salute! to those stupid stupid boys.
She walked purposefully to the entrance, barely stopping at the top of the stairs to thank Madame Hucheloup, before leaving, head held high and face set. Her eyes were not crying, not yet.
She would never come back there.
Madame Hucheloup was still trying to make sense of what she had just seen, from such a lovely sweet thing, to slap a loved-one just like that, out of nowhere.
“ The young girls of these days, my poor boy, and with such games, no wonder they become so folish...” she was lamenting.
Joly was up, standing by the table, a hand still resting on his red cheek.
“They are headstrong, Madame, and yet still susceptible, it’s the curse of our times” he replied.
Musichetta was a willful woman. But even he, who had been sharing his time with her for a year now, couldn’t make heads or tails of this – this madness. As he retrieved his hat from the table, he caught a flash of a card, turned face down, by the chair.
He collected it with his handkerchief, quickly dismissing the soaked ten of spades to an inside pocket of his jacket. He would give it back to her, the next time they would see each other.
He offered Madame Hucheloup , for the form, to help clean the space. She, as any good business owner, refused with rough dignity, telling him to go after his sweetheart before she endangered herself any further in those dangerous Parisians streets. Who could leave such a young girl alone to walk around in such a neighboorhood . Even more so after causing such a scene.
Joly didn’t follow Musichetta.
He decided, with a sight, to go to the Musain. She was a charming young woman capable of being terrible after all. They would get over it, as they had before.
He tapped his pocket with his cane and went away.
Musichetta went to her bedroom, discarding in a locked cupboard the cards.
And the Fool, even hidden, kept on smiling.
Three days later, at the Corinthe.
In the angle opposite Grantaire, Joly and Bahorel were playing dominoes, and talking of love.
“You are in luck, that you are,” Joly was saying. “You have a mistress who is always laughing.”
“That is a fault of hers,” returned Bahorel. “One’s mistress does wrong to laugh. That encourages one to deceive her. To see her gay removes your remorse; if you see her sad, your conscience pricks you.”
“Ingrate! a woman who laughs is such a good thing! And you never quarrel!”
“That is because of the treaty which we have made. On forming our little Holy Alliance we assigned ourselves each our frontier, which we never cross. What is situated on the side of winter belongs to Vaud, on the side of the wind to Gex. Hence the peace.”
“Peace is happiness digesting.”
“And you, Jolllly, where do you stand in your entanglement with Mamselle—you know whom I mean?”
“She sulks at me with cruel patience.”
“Yet you are a lover to soften the heart with gauntness.”
“In your place, I would let her alone.”
“That is easy enough to say.”
“And to do. Is not her name Musichetta?”
“Yes. Ah! my poor Bahorel, she is a superb girl, very literary, with tiny feet, little hands, she dresses well, and is white and dimpled, with the eyes of a fortune-teller.
And Musichetta was crying.
(Do not tempt the cards, unless you are willing to face their truths.)