In and Out – A Tourist Souvenir

A Tourist Souvenir

From the days of the Patriarch Joseph down to those in which we, “the latest seed of time,” have the hap to live, there have been prisoners released, or escaped, to end their days in liberty and honour. Plenty of them have left to posterity the record of their wrongs. Some in song; some in slip-slop; some in words that burn; some in twaddle so anti-phlogistic as well-nigh to make the yawning reader curse the hour of their liberation.

There are, too, names enough of saints in the dismal calendar of prisoners to fling a halo of interest round the mere name of captive. Captives, be it observed, not gaol-birds — I speak without thought of Newgate or petty larceny, Dick Turpin or Jack Sheppard. It may be that the brightest luminaries of that hagiology emerged from the darkness of captivity, only to flash for a moment in the eyes of men, ere they set for ever upon the scaffold.

But there are plenty of stars, of no contemptible magnitude, whose light has come forth to shine undimmed by the damps of the dungeon. Galileo, Tasso, Lovelace, the Prophet Daniel, Lavallette, Baron Trench, the seven bishops, Silvio Pellico — (I have no turn for chronological arrangement) — all managed, somehow or other, to get safely out of durance, and die peaceably in their beds. His Imperial Majesty Louis Napoleon III. spent some portion of his existence in the solitude of Ham. The Baron Poerio is — long may he remain so—an escaped prisoner.

Paulo minora — so am I. And it happened in this wise:

In the year 1847, in the reign of that constitutional French monarch who subsequently retired into private life and a foreign country under the unassuming appellation of Mr. Smith, I was in my youth, and in my first travel, on the Rhine.

Youth, first travel, and the Rhine! Let the reader of experience be grateful, that even on such texts, I abstain from preaching. At Wiesbaden. And at Wiesbaden it happened — no matter how — that I found it necessary to take steps to replenish an exhaust — wanted money, in short. And so, with letters of credit in hand, I betook myself to the bureau of M. Junius Merle, named in that document as the correspondent of the London bankers who undertook the charge of keeping my modest “account.”

My name is — let me see. For the purposes of this narrative my name is Temple, Henry Temple. I am going to lie a little in the matter of names, but, upon my honour, I stop there: all beyond shall be true as gospel. To those who know me, even my pseudonyms will be transparent enough. To those who don’t, no matter.

M. Junius Merle sat behind his counter expectant of custom. Except in the great capitals, bankers’ establishments on the continent are, as travellers know, rarely mounted on the same scale to which we are accustomed at home; and in M. Merle’s bureau, which comprised a space of some twelve feet square, there was no appearance or symptom of a clerk, unless, indeed, Madame Merle, who sat quietly knitting behind the farthest corner of the same (and only) counter, was to be suspected, from what followed, of occasionally assisting her better half in that capacity.

There is, for us English, no disguising our nationality, were we ever so disposed. Before I had got out three syllables of the French harangue, carefully prepared for the exposition of my necessities, M. Merle was down upon me with a few words of indifferent but polite English, and holding out his hand for my letter of credit.

As he read it a curious sort of smile stole over M. Merle’s face. He looked up from the letter at me, and down again from me at the letter, and at last he broke into an audible chuckle. Madame Merle, attracted by a behaviour probably unusual, sidled up to her husband and stole a glance over his shoulder at the credentials which seemed to move his risibility. Strange! the very same curious smile crept over the placid, blonde German countenance of the lady, and she looked at her husband, and he looked at her; and with a simultaneous “Ach! mein Gott! wie sonderbar!” they stood chuckling undisguisedly at each other.

“What the devil are they grinning at?” said I, half aloud, to myself.

Und Sie heissen wahrlich — Ach! I forget! — Dat is your name truly, Heinrich Tempel?” said M. Merle, with the tip of his massively-ringed finger pointed to the line where I appeared so designated.

“Of course it is,” said I. “Is there anything funny in it?”

“Ach! no,” said M. Merle, still with the remnant of a smile, “but we know well here dat name.”

“Indeed. How so?”

“He live here, Heinrich Tempel, dree, four, five year. He sheat — vat you call swindel — all the world, and he vanish away sudden, and make at Frankfort the fraudulent bankrupt for — ach I Himmel! sebenty-four tousand gulden!”

I interposed some common-place expression of regret that one bearing my name should have so misconducted himself.

“Vell,” said M. Merle, consolingly, “he vas not you. He do this now seben year since. He live here in all society. He was a man most charming, most delightful. He speak all languages. He have two bankers in your London — how you call them? Berrys and Barker. He was a Jew—”

“I never heard of a Jew so named,” said I. “What was he like?”

“I know not . He was a Jew for all dat. He have at dat time fifty-seben year. A small man, dat wear a perruque, and make trips, des petita pas, de leetel steps ven he valk. Ach, vell!” repeated M. Merle, turning short off to business as a fresh customer entered, and stood awaiting his turn of attention. ”He vas not you. How mush money vill you vant?”

I journeyed with the results of that interview to Frankfort, Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg, down the Rhine again, and up the Moselle to Treves. And all this while, saving that I had mentioned in a letter home the misdeeds of my namesake, and had received, in a reply from my sister, the expression of a hope that I should not be exposed to any annoyance on his account, troubled my head no farther about the former Henry Temple and his rascalities.

It was at the fall of a fine evening on the 22nd September that, travelling solitary in a private “leathern conveniency,” I reached the gates of the old fortified town of Luxembourg, leaving at the entrance my passport, which was there demanded for the first time since my landing at Ostend, and which was returned to me at my hotel, either that night or early the following morning, without a word of comment.

And here I should say a word about this passport. The Foreign Office passes, with which all wise men now travel, were at that time much more expensive and much less used than at present, and mine had been granted by the Belgian Consul in London and duly vise for the countries through which I intended to pass. It contained, of course, a “signalement,” most of whose particulars would have applied as well to anybody else as to myself; but it was, at any rate, strictly correct in stating me to be thirty-one years of age, five feet ten or eleven inches high, and that the colour of my beard, or so much of it as I then wore, was “roussatre.” It had not taken the trouble to notice that I wore spectacles, and bore a slight permanent scar on one cheek. Startling fidelity was never a characteristic of these written likenesses.

Luxembourg — (passport again demanded at the French frontier town of Thionville, and returned with bows and politeness) — Metz, Verdun, Chalons sur Marne, unmolested slept I at each of these places; and early on the 26th of September, descended at the excellent hotel of the Lion d’Or, at Rheims.

On the morning of the 27th, I leaned against the porte-cochere of the hotel, tranquilly smoking my cigar and revolving the means of most speedily and comfortably reaching the crowning attraction of my trip — the yet unvisited Paris. There was no railway. The coupe of the diligence was engaged for three or four days to come. How was I to go? Fate stepped in and moved the adjournment of the debate.

Fate — in the shape of a heavily-moustached “bon gendarme” — who, glancing at me as he passed, to exchange a word or two with the people in the bureau of the hotel, returned, stopped, bowed, and spoke:

“Was he right in supposing that he addressed M. Temple?”

He was.

“M. Henri Temple, perhaps?”

The same.

“Did Monsieur happen to have a passport?”

Of course, Monsieur had one.

“Would Monsieur allow him a sight of it?”

Certainly, if it gave him any satisfaction. Monsieur would step up-stairs and fetch it.

Ah! no; he could not think of it: he would accompany Monsieur. So he did; and I don’t think there was much belonging to Monsieur that did not fall within the range of his observation, during the two minutes which he passed in Monsieur’s apartment.

“Would Monsieur,” he said, when he got my passport,” give himself the trouble to step with him over the way for a little moment?”

Certainly Monsieur would, — though he didn’t a bit understand the meaning of it all.

“De quelle religion etes vous, Monsieur?” said he, as he passed by the glorious west front of the cathedral.

Monsieur was a Protestant of the Church of England. (What the deuce could it matter to the gendarme?)

Monsieur n’est donc pas Juif?”

Then, at once, the truth flashed upon me. I was supposed to be my namesake, of whom M. Junius Merle had told me at Wiesbaden.

“Aha,” said I, “maintenant j’y suis. La chose commence a s’expliquer!”

The thing was too absurd, and I laughed in the gendarme’s face. He smiled, too, but not heartily; and the fact that I laughed seemed to puzzle him hugely.

“Par ici, Monsieur! Donnez-vous la peine de passer!”

And through a little door in a little street we entered a little room, where, busily writing at a table, and apparently with no mind to be interrupted, sat a little dry wiry man, of rather more than middle age, — no other as I afterwards learned than M. Mongrolle (I give his real name), judge of some court or other, and, I suppose, the proper person to attend to such cases as mine in the absence of the Substitut du Procureur du Roi, who happened that day to be out A la chasse.

M. Mongrolle wrote on for a few moments without apparent consciousness of my presence; and then, pushing his papers slightly aside and impatiently turning round to me, as to a sort of bore to whom he was obliged to attend, and of whom he meant to get rid as quickly as possible, demanded shortly, “Well, sir, what have you got to say?”

“To what?” said I. “What am I called on to answer?”

The charge was shortly stated — swindling to a considerably larger extent than M. Merle had mentioned.

“You have heard?”

“Yes.”

“Your name is Henri Temple?”

“Yes.”

“What have you to say?”

“Simply that I am not the Henri Temple in question.”

He looked at a paper which he held in his hand, and at me.

Mais le signalement est le votre!”

inandout

Would he allow me to look at it for a moment? — He complied, but not with the best grace in the world. In was in MS., on part of a sheet of ordinary writing-paper, and had been forwarded from Luxembourg.

I glanced rapidly over it. In a few particulars, the colour of the eyes and the average (moyen) size of nose and mouth, the signalement agreed with my own; but I took the liberty, after narrating what had passed between me and M. Merle, of observing to M. Mongrolle that there was an important difference in height between me and the person therein described; that the latter was set down as a person “qui doit etre Israelite,” of fifty-one, not thirty-one, years of age; “qui portait une perruque grise, et qui faisait des petits pas en marchant.”

M. Mongrolle evidently had not time to see the weight of my objections. The difference of twenty years in age did not matter a pin — “ne faisait rien,” — it was very easy to cast off a perruque, or to affect a particular style of walking. The difference in height and the Israelitish physiognomy were arguments which M. Mongrolle did not condescend to combat at all. He treated them with contemptuous silence, only repeating obstinately, “Le signalement est le votre.”

Things began to look serious. I called M. Mongrolle’s attention to the date of my passport, compared with that of the fraudulent bankruptcy; to the signatures of two German bankers already attached to my letter of credit. I offered to produce all the bills of all the hotels at which I had slept, including Wiesbaden and Frankfort, to show that the good people at those places had enjoyed ample opportunities of recognising their victimiser, if I were indeed he.

It did not occur to me at the moment to add, as was the fact, that my name, “Henry Temple, Esq.,” was painted at full length on my portmanteau, in letters so large and white as to have frequently elicited jocular remark from fellow-travellers, and that such a tempting of recognition was hardly the act of one who had anything to fear from the consequences. It would not have aided me, had I thought of it. I might as well have whistled jigs to a milestone.

M. Mongrolle had no intention of examining anything save the Luxembourg signalement.

Le nom est le votre! le signalement est le votre!” shrieked the now somewhat excited magistrate, persisting manfully in his lie: “You must be detained!”

“Am I then,” said I, innocently, “to consider myself as under surveillance?”

“Of course,” said M. Mongrolle, curtly, and turning to his interrupted writing.

“Pig-headed old fool!” muttered I, as I emerged from the bureau. ” Well! It’s only a policeman in the distance, for a day or two, after all!”

In five minutes from that time I was in the Public Prison of the good city of Rheims, with the gendarme, the gaoler, the gaoler’s wife and daughter, and two or three smaller officials of the House of Durance clustering round me in the lobby!

No wonder. I was such a novelty. They had not caught an Englishman since the coronation of Charles X., when an English clergyman who came to witness the ceremony, with a passport not altogether en regle, was unceremoniously lodged in this same prison, being allowed as a favour, to witness, through a grating, the procession on its way to the Cathedral.

My portmanteau and dressing-case were fetched from my hotel, and carefully examined by the gendarme and the gaoler, M. Bernard (I give that worthy man’s real name), before they were allowed to be removed to the apartment destined to my use. I think the scrutiny satisfied the gendarme that they had caught the wrong bird. He had evidently had his doubts all along; but, from that moment forward, he treated me like a friend whom he felt to be ill-used, and whom he would be glad to help if he could. M. Bernard was astonished chiefly at the amount of my wardrobe.

“My God! has he got shirts enough?” he ejaculated, as my stock of body-linen was unfolded, piece by piece, before his wondering eyes.

At the top of the prison, with barred windows on the outer side, “giving” on to the Place in front of the Cathedral, and with a series of numbered doors on the inner-side affording entrance to a corresponding range of cells, more or less closetlike, runs a long corridor, extending from end to end of the building.

I was formally installed in No. 12, a stone-walled and floored room of some twelve feet by ten, containing simply a coarse truckle-bed, fairly clean, a rush-bottomed chair, and a small deal table. My door, I was told, would be locked from 8 P. M. till 8 A. M., but between those hours, free use of the corridor outside was allowed to me.

I had not been there a quarter of an hour before every man, woman, and child, connected with the service of the establishment, had been to see me, and “take my likeness.” But without a grain or shadow of roughness or incivility. A slightly puzzled expression, half of doubt, half of sympathy; and from most a kindly word or two.

Though I say it, who should not, I did behave like a Briton. I flatter myself that our insular reputation for sangfroid lost nothing in my hands. Excessively astonished I certainly was; but, — I know not why, —trifles at-home, the absence of the “Times” at breakfast, or some similar nothing, have often discomposed my temper more seriously than did this really serious misfortune. I was as cool as a cucumber.

I unpacked, I arranged my dressing and writing materials; in ten minutes, I had given my four stone walls an air of positive comfort, and as Auguste, the turnkey, and Suzanne, the prison housemaid, were looking on, I whistled carelessly as I worked. Auguste and Suzanne could make nothing of me, and went their way down stairs, much marvelling.

As soon as I was left alone, I set to work to write. I wrote to the English Foreign Secretary, to our Ambassador at Paris, to M. Junius Merle at Wiesbaden, to all sorts of people besides. Much good all my writing did me!

Then, feeling that I had done all that could be done at the moment, I came out tranquilly to take the air in the corridor; and, lo! there was balm in Gilead, I was not even alone. Three other houses in my street were tenanted; and their occupants, who had evidently been discussing the new arrival, and watching for his appearance, lost no time in making my acquaintance.

Two old men and a young one. The last was an avocat, named — no! never mind his name. How shall I delicately state the offence which had brought him there? He had broken part of the tenth commandment, and the whole of the seventh; and he was indignant beyond measure with his prosecutor, who had not called him out, like a gentleman, and given him a chance of breaking the sixth into the bargain!

Le lache! he had preferred, like a canaille as he was, to resort to civil revenges; and my friend had to “dree his weird,” where I found him, for the term of six calendar months, while the fair and frail partner in his offence spent a similar period in similar seclusion on the opposite side of the establishment. We had not been acquainted ten minutes before he told me the whole of this story.

He could not endure that a “gentilhomme Anglais,” as Monsieur evidently was, should for a moment suppose him to be a mere petty-larceny villain. He had, he said, “beaucoup etudie l’Anglais;” and when I produced, for his edification, a fragment of the “Times” which I happened to have with me, he recognised it at once.

“Ah yays, I know him! de Timmess!”

He was not a bad fellow at bottom; vain enough, though, and as poor as Job: eking out his prison-pittance by a little “feuilleton” penny-a-lining.

The first old man was a journeyman tailor, M. Michel . He was a poor, harmless small debtor, who accepted with enthusiasm, on the second day of our acquaintance, a proposition that he should mend one of my waistcoats which needed reparation, and was honestly reluctant to accept a two franc piece which I forced upon him as an honorarium.

“Ah! Mon Dieu!” he said, when I at last overcame his scruples. “Je suis comme vous, Monsieur, J ‘aime a faire noblement les choses!” and summoning a lad who acted as prison errand boy, he informed him, with much glee, that he had been lucky enough to do a little “coup de metier,” and besought him not to forget to add a sumptuous dessert of apples to his ordinary “repas” that afternoon.

Of the second old man, who was quite as poor, and not so cheerful as the tailor, we knew nothing. We called him, and spoke of him as “Monsieur.” His name, and his offence, he kept carefully to himself. He would talk, when addressed; but ordinarily smoked his pipe in silence, and volunteered but small contribution to the liveliness of the society.

The avocat, the tailor, and I, were chirping enough. M. Mongrolle’s was the hand to which also the first-named owed his commitment; and we vituperated the old boy pretty handsomely in concert, as we walked together up and down our corridor.

About four o’clock it occurred to the turnkey, that Monsieur would probably not object to improve the prison-allowance by some addition from the cuisine of the neighbouring traiteur. Monsieur was only too glad to do so if allowed. Certainly, Monsieur was allowed Good. Then Monsieur, though in prison, would “dine:” and there were set before him, accordingly, potage, cotelettes, volaille, salade, dessert; a good enough dinner in short, of which M. Michel and the other “Monsieur ” divided, with much thankfulness, the debris.

But the honest turnkey afterwards privately fell out with me for my extravagance; and instructed me how to order a thoroughly sufficient banquet at considerably smaller cost. Would many English turnkeys have done the like? Alas! I fear, but few. In that public prison of Rheims there was not a single official with whom I came in contact, who did not, in his way, do his best to be obliging, to spare me needless trouble and expense, and to make me as little uncomfortable as circumstances permitted.

And I can’t in conscience say that I was uncomfortable; though, of course, I ought to have been. I was young, and in good health; the weather was fine, dry, and warm; I had a few books, my cigar, three people to talk to, and that glorious old west-front, with its three portals, to look at. I was treated with perfect civility; had no business anywhere awaiting my coming; and felt, into the bargain, the conviction that this farce could not last very long. No. I was not uncomfortable, save only on account of one or two far away, if by chance they should come to know where I was.

Eight o’clock, p.m., and I had made no provision of candle! Twelve feet square of thick, bare, cold, stone wall, darkness, and a door heavily bolted outside! Not altogether pleasant. Some touch of real bona fide imprisonment made itself felt at last. Bah! it can’t last!” That’s my comfort!” Had I been a geologist, I should have ripped open my mattress to see what kind of stone they used for stuffing at Rheims: but, after all, what is a hard bed to an easy conscience? “Never slept guilt as Werner slept that night!”

With morning came again my gendarme. Monsieur was requested to step down, and present himself before the Substitut du Procureur du Roi, who had returned from his yesterday’s chasse, and desired to see him in his “Parquet.”

M. Alexandre (I can’t help thinking that good gendarme had somewhat predisposed him in my favour) received and treated me like a gentleman. A tall, fair, handsome man, in the prime of life, with a pleasant expression, and a frank cheerful manner — more like a well-bred country gentleman than a lawyer; but ready, quick, and precise in his questions; evidently well up to his work.

He held in his hand (God knows how he got it) a paper from which he examined me. It was a perfect diary of my journey from Luxembourg to Rheims. He knew each hotel at which I had slept — each particular conveyance, public or private, by which I had travelled. He had got down in black and white that I had unsuccessfully endeavoured to “negotiate” a “valuable security” at Luxembourg; (it was true that a banker there had refused to change for me a 500 franc note of the bank of Strasbourg): he had it recorded, that I had asked a fellow-traveller, in the coupe of the diligence, “whether we should have to show our passports at the gates of Verdun?” for which question my fellow-traveller, or some one for him, had been amiable enough to suggest an obvious motive unfavourable to myself.

In short, all my most trivial doings for the last four days had been “set in a note-book, conned, and got by rote, to cast into my teeth.” So well and thoroughly had it been done, that I could not help expressing, then and there, my admiration, not of the system, but of the way in which it was worked.

M. Alexandre only smiled at the dubious compliment. He dismissed me, apparently well satisfied with my responses, promising to come up immediately to my room, and personally examine my “belongings,” and with some complimentary phrases on the easy fashion in which I took my misfortune. His faith! if he had been in my place he should have been utterly desole!

He was as good as his word, and did come immediately. Two minutes’ inspection — though he went conscientiously through every item — was enough to show him that a grievous blunder had been committed. He requested me to entrust him, “in my interest,” with my sister’s letter, previously mentioned — (he understood English perfectly, though he did not speak it), — regretted that, as I was actually imprisoned, it was beyond his power to let me out without authorisation from his superiors — pledged himself to omit no endeavours to arrange “my affair” as soon as possible — and gave orders that any addition to my personal accommodation which I might desire should be provided, if within their resources, by the officials of the prison.

“He is no more the man they want than I am !” I heard him exclaim to the gendarme, as he closed my door; and he prefaced the assertion by one of those sinful ejaculations with which the Abbess of Andouillets, and Margarita the novice, ineffectually endeavoured in concert to overcome the obstinacy of the old mule.

Tuesday — Wednesday — the noon of Thursday arrived and passed without incident, save a visit from two long-cloaked flap-hatted brethren of some charitable fraternity, who sate upon my bed, with little or nothing to say for themselves, and stared at me with a calm, mild, non-impertinent, inoffensive curiosity.

I own, the novelty of the situation had by this time worn off, and I was beginning to get tired and impatient. But about that noon of Thursday came again my gendarme, with an intimation that M. Alexandre wished once more to see me.

“Aha! you go to hear good news!” said the little avocat, as I descended.

M. Alexandre had now another paper in his hand — the real “signalement,” forwarded from Frankfort, of my confounded namesake. He was there described as a Jew, aged (in 1845) sixty-five years, and in particulars of personal appearance so different from mine, that M. Alexandre interrupted his comparison more than once to exclaim, “Bah! not the slightest resemblance!”

I ventured to ask him how he accounted for the blundering Luxembourg “signalement” on which M. Mongrolle had acted, and why it was that the authorities of that place had not, then and there, themselves arrested my progress?

“Ma foi!” he said, with the national shrug of the shoulders, “Je ne comprends pas la Police Allemande.” “And now,” he added, “I don’t know what to do with you. It is clear enough that you are not the man. I don’t like to keep you here; but I have not, strictly, the power to let you out. I incur some responsibility (je m’engage un peu) in making you the offer, but, if you will give me your word not to leave Rheims till you hear from me, you shall be at liberty to return to your hotel.”

Gladly, of course, I would. A cell in the Lion d’Or would be but a nominal prison.

“No, no, not even so. Soyez libre — amusez vous. Do what you will; only do not quit Rheims till I authorise you.”

And so, with all sorts of polite speeches on both sides, we parted.

I think everybody was pleased when my liberation was known; and I wonder my hand was not shaken off before I got out of the prison. The landlord of the lion d’Or congratulated me calmly on getting so soon out of an ugly scrape. The garcon who reinstalled me in my apartments vented his sympathy in scathing remarks on the stupidity of people “who were betes enough to box up (coffrer) like that a Monsieur with such a dressing-case as mine.” Innocent garcon!

I am walking and smoking after dinner on the pavement in front of the cathedral. At the windows of the corridor, along which I had paced the previous evening, I see figures apparently endeavouring to attract my attention, and before long I make out M. Michel and the anonymous “Monsieur.” They bow, they smile, they gesticulate, they lay their hands upon their hearts. The fact is, that I have, in a note addressed to my little avocat, placed at the disposal of those two poor devils a small enough sum — some five-and-twenty francs a-piece. I did not know how much gratitude one could get for the money. There comes to the door of the gaol M. Bernard, the gaoler, full of smiles, and beckons me across to shake me violently by the hand.

Mais, mon Dieu! M. Temple, mais vous etes —genereux!” The adverb he employed is not to be found in any dictionary of the French tongue.

I still keep two letters as souvenirs of my captivity. One, in which my little avocat returned thanks on behalf of the two beneficiaires (and which I would here print if it were not so full of compliments to myself); and one, of much politeness, from M. Alexandre, in which, on the morning after my liberation, he returned to me my passport and my sister’s letter, stating that, as he had received authority from Paris to act in my case entirely on his own discretion, he lost no time in announcing that I was once more a perfectly free agent, and handsomely expressing his own regret at the share in my annoying detention, which the duties of his office had imposed upon him.

As I trotted out of the gates of Rheims, in a cabriolet-de-poste, that afternoon, en route for Paris, I met, and was glad to meet, my gendarme; and no grim-visaged functionary of his order ever broke into a smile so honest, or made a ci-devant gaol-bird a bow so profound, as the smile and the bow which accompanied his “Bon jour, Monsieur! Bon jour et bon voyage!”

* * * *

My first visit at Paris was to the English embassy. I had, it appeared, in my hurry, addressed my letter to “The Right Hon. the Lord Cowley, Ambassador of England,” &c. &c, forgetting, at the moment, that Lord Cowley had recently died, and that Lord Normanby, in his stead, represented Queen Victoria in the Faubourg St. Honore. My letter was lying comfortably, unpresented, in the porter’s lodge.

Ah, mon Dieu, Monsieur! Milord Cowley est mort!” said the portress, as she calmly handed back to me the wasted epistle.

Had I not turned up, or unless Lord Cowley’s spirit had come “rapping” to claim his property, I suppose it would have lain there to this day. I demanded to see the Ambassador. He was out. Some attache was, I presumed, at his post. Yes; but he was “souffrant,” and could not see anybody just then. It was eleven o’clock, a.m., and I conclude that “souffrant” is French for “fast asleep, and don’t want to be bothered;” for he showed no symptom of disorder when I did see him, three hours later, and when he affably said, “He was really very glad I was out without trouble.”

But, then, I had an interview with the French Minister of the Interior, who heard my story patiently, complimented me on my French, and shrugged his shoulders wonderfully at the recital. And did not the “Ambassador of England” leave his card for me at Meurice’s? And don’t I keep it to this day? Doubtless it was great honour for the like of me — and it was all the compensation I ever got.

* * * *

In the year 1850, I was once more at Frankfort and Wiesbaden. Recollecting what had happened, I took the precaution of going to the police bureau at the former place, and getting their visa placed upon my passport. I mentioned my reasons, and was told I need be under no apprehension, as my namesake had been some time since caught and duly punished.

At Wiesbaden I re-entered the bureau of M. Junius Merle. He did not know me till he caught the name in my passport, when he seized me violently by the hand.

Ach! mein Gott!” he cried, “Heinrich Tempel! my tear sir, vy have you not shange your name? Dey vill have you once more!”

“No!” I answered, laughing; “now they have got the real man they will, I hope, let me alone.”

“Who have got him?” said M. Merle, quickly. “Vere have dey got him?”

“At Frankfort,” said I “So, at least, the police there assured me.”

“At Frankfort!” said M. Merle, tersely. “De police do lie! II court encore. Dey have not catch him! Dey cannot catch him! Dey nevare sall catch him! No, nevare!”


1859 Author: Harry Leroy Temple

Cover: Juan Gris

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