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Title: Acrobats and Mountebanks
Author: Roux, Hugues le, Garnier, Jules
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Acrobats and Mountebanks" ***

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 TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

 Original small caps font is all capitals herein. Original italics is
 _surrounded with low lines_. See ENDNOTE for more details.



 ACROBATS AND MOUNTEBANKS.


 BY
 HUGUES LE ROUX & JULES GARNIER.


 TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY
 A. P. MORTON.
 WITH 233 ILLUSTRATIONS.

 [Illustration]


 LONDON:
 CHAPMAN AND HALL, LIMITED,
 1890.



 RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED,
 LONDON AND BUNGAY.



 [Illustration]

 PREFACE.


_The Banquistes_ was the first title chosen for this book: it has
been altered for two reasons which appeared conclusive after some
consideration: the general public would have misunderstood it, and it
would certainly have wounded those interested in it, who would have
known what it meant.

But if we consult an etymological dictionary we shall find that the
word SALTIMBANQUE, which is more generally used than BANQUISTE, is
derived from a definite root: SALTIMBANQUE, _s. m._, from the Italian
word SALTIMBANCO: who vaults on a bench (Latin, SALTARE IN BANCO).
In Italian we also find the word CANTIMBANCO, a platform singer. I
must add that when, after tracing out the etymology of the words
SALTIMBANQUISTE and _banquiste_, we search for the origin of the word
_banker_, we shall find that the same radical, BANCO, is the root
of these three derivatives. In the old fairs two personages were
allowed to erect a small platform, a “banc”—the money-changer and the
acrobat. Perhaps the “banc” already served as a spring-board, giving
both the BANKER and the BANQUISTE a greater impetus in their leap;
perhaps we must even look back to the same date to find the exact
origin of the now common expression “LEVER LE PIED” (to abscond).

However this may be, after the perusal of this book, it will be
readily understood that the contemporary acrobat, established,
enriched, emerging into the middle classes, indignantly rejects a
slang term which apparently assigns to him the same origin as that
of our modern financiers. This intolerance is certainly not the only
surprise reserved for the reader of these pages. We claim to lead him
to the threshold of an unknown world.

Before commencing this work, which has absorbed us during at least
three years, I made a thorough investigation of the bibliographic and
monographic information now existing upon the _banquiste_ question,
and I came to the conclusion that no French or foreign author worth
attention or quotation had yet interested himself in this original
people. M. Houcke, the manager of the Hippodrome, had kindly placed
at our disposal a series of lithographs published in Germany.
But the text and the correctness of the work were so defective,
that the drawings were of no use to us. It was the same with the
_Saltimbanques_, which M. Escudier published at the close of the
Empire through Michel Lévy. The sole merit of M. Escudier’s work
lies in his discovery of an unknown subject. He made the mistake of
writing without information, picturesqueness, or philosophy, in the
light, insufferably trifling tone, which is common to most of the
publications of that epoch.

Since then, a conscientious writer, M. Dalsème, who is attached
to the acrobats, has published a more interesting account of them
entitled _Le Cirque à Pied et à Cheval_. The kindliness with which M.
Dalsème alludes in his book to the quotations which he has made from
my publications induces me to notice his work in return. And truly,
however unequal and incomplete his book may be, it is still the most
interesting work that has yet been seen upon a new subject.

This judgment places M. Edmund de Goncourt’s novel, the _Frères
Zemganno_, far above this level, and beyond any invidious comparison.
Although exact observation is the discipline of the novelist, M. de
Goncourt has declared that in this instance his chief object was to
write a symbolical book. His information was necessarily superficial.
Such as it was, I do not think that any one has now more reason than
ourselves for admiring the superior art and truth with which M. de
Goncourt has spoken of the circus, has formulated its philosophy,
depicted its passions, and divined those things that were concealed
from him. And I trust that the author of the _Frères Zemganno_ will
be one of the first to enjoy the novelty of this work.

The perusal of the so-called naturalistic novels has gradually
accustomed the public to a fairly strong dose of realism in books. A
number of young men have written in imitation of the great masters,
stories which, commonplace in themselves, are yet worth reading for
their conscientious observation of the “surroundings.” A thousand
inquiries upon contemporary life have been cleverly made, and
readers have examined these social records with much curiosity.

It appeared to me that the best part of these novels, the portions
most appreciated by the readers, were the facts of actual experience.
I therefore asked myself if the time had not come to present to the
public these facts free from all romantic fiction, in a form in which
the author only intervenes in order to arrange the incidents and to
point out the philosophy to be derived from them.

The success of this book will prove whether the attempt is premature,
or whether there will be any reason for a sequel.

This publication is really the monograph of an unknown people,
related by the pen and pencil. Its laws, its customs, its traditions,
its secrets, its hopes, have been seized, defined in spite of
reticence, evasions, wavering, and contradictory witnesses. It
describes the organization of the _banquiste_ people, the foundation
of its agencies, newspapers, and syndicates, it follows the
mountebank from his birth in the wandering caravan to his apotheosis
in the friezes of the circus. And at the same time it penetrates into
the stables to explain the secrets of the trainer, the tamer, and the
ring-master; into the booths to ask the clown for the story of his
adventures—and by what chance, having become a gentleman himself, he
one day met in the land of whims a gentleman who had become a clown!

I cannot close this preface without addressing the warmest thanks to
all those who have aided us in bringing this work to a successful
issue—to our willing correspondents from America, England, Germany,
and Russia. But whilst thus paying our debts, we must express our
special gratitude to the learned director of the photographic
department of the Salpêtrière, M. Albert Londe; to M. Guy de la
Brettonière, the well-known _circomane_; to amateurs like MM. de
Saint-Senoch, Bucquet, and Mathieu. The photographs which these
gentlemen kindly took for us enabled the draughtsman to represent the
acrobats in THOSE INTERMEDIATE POSES WHICH THE EYE NEVER SEIZES, and
which hitherto the most rapid instantaneous photographs have failed
in reproducing. A few figures will prove better than any words the
extreme rarity of these plates.

In the month of June, 1888, M. Houcke having given us an appointment
at the Hippodrome, made the clown, Auguste, and an artist of the
fixed bar, vault in our presence. The members of the Société
d’Excursions Française de Photographie, headed by its president,
were nearly all assembled. Fifty cameras were arranged like a
battery: each amateur had brought twelve glasses. After they had been
examined, M. Albert Londe sent us ten proofs, which alone out of six
hundred had been deemed worthy of being printed, and after a final
examination only seven plates were preserved by the painter. They
inspired the series of somersaults which are found in the chapter on
GYMNASTS.

 HUGUES LE ROUX.



 [Illustration]

 ERRATA.


Page 78, line 7 from top, _for_ “bloated Vitelliuses”, _read_,
“bloated Vitellii”.

Page 206, line 3 from top, _for_ “Naet Salsbury”, _read_, “Nael
Salsbury”.



 [Illustration]

 CONTENTS.


 CHAPTER I.                           Page
 ORGANIZATION                            1

 CHAPTER II.
 THE FAIR                               37

 CHAPTER III.
 PERMANENT SHOWS OR ENTRESORTS          57

 CHAPTER IV.
 THE THEATRE BOOTH                      81

 CHAPTER V.
 THE TRAINERS                           107

 CHAPTER VI.
 THE TAMERS                             133

 CHAPTER VII.
 THE EQUESTRIANS                       159

 CHAPTER VIII.
 THE HIPPODROME                        183

 CHAPTER IX.
 THE EQUILIBRISTS                      209

 CHAPTER X.
 THE GYMNASTS                          241

 CHAPTER XI.
 THE CLOWNS                            277

 CHAPTER XII.
 THE PRIVATE CIRCUS                    307

 INDEX.                                333

 [Illustration]



 [p001] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER I.
 ORGANIZATION.


Parisians live in scandalous ignorance of the beings who surround
them and of the world in which they move. Although fond of curious
entertainments, they have never made any serious inquiries about the
origin, the private life, or the terms of enlistment of the skilful
artists whom they applaud in the circus, the theatre-concert, or the
playhouse. I have often heard persons who considered themselves well
informed, and who spoke with much reserve and many hints of deeper
knowledge, assert that secret manufactures of monstrosities exist
in the world, training schools for acrobats, registry offices for
mountebanks; and that by diligent search, with a little discreet
assistance from the police, one might discover branches of these
picturesque establishments in the thieves’ quarters of old Paris.
[p002]

This story is enough to frighten children, but it must be allowed
to pass away with the dust of other fabrications destroyed by time,
whilst you may rely upon the accuracy of the information contained in
this book; its sole ambition is to enlighten you on this mysterious
subject by telling you the truth about it.

The collection of all these facts has been a work of time. The
mountebank is too jealous of his freedom to talk openly to every
one that approaches him. The same patience which travellers use in
their relations with savages must be employed before one can hope
for any intimacy with this people, who are still as much scattered,
as varied, as strangely mixed, as vagabond, as their ancestors,
the gipsies, who, guitar on back, hoop in hand, their black hair
encircled with a copper diadem, traversed the Middle Ages, protected
from the hatred of the lower classes and the cruelty of the great by
the talisman of superstitious terror.

This tribe, recruited from every nation and every type, is called, in
its particular _argot_, the _banque_;[1] there is the _grande banque_
and the _petite banque_: its members are called _banquistes_.

Qualities transmitted through many generations, natural selection
always tending in the same direction—of strength and dexterity—have,
in course of time, endowed this [p003] international people with
special characteristics. With regard to the superior instincts,
they possess a taste for adventure, wonderful facility in acquiring
languages, in assimilating every variety of civilization, and a
strange amalgamation of qualities, which would seem incompatible with
each other—Italian pliancy, Anglo-Saxon coolness, German tenacity.
I do not quote the influence of French characteristics in the
fabrication of these free citizens of the world: the soil of France
is so dear to her children that, even if they tempt the glory and
perils of an acrobat’s life, they rarely leave their native land.
According to statistics, Frenchmen form a proportion of but five per
cent, in the tribe of _banquistes_ who travel round the world. But
these mountebanks are not so numerous as one might imagine; in all
there are only a few thousands. But earth contains no guests more
free than these men, whom the poet Theodore de Banville greets as
the “brothers of the birds, the inhabitants of the ideal city of
Aristophanes.” Lords of their own will and time, they obey no laws
except the terms of their voluntary engagements. They fly from war,
pestilence, and ruin. When the heavens darken, they strap up their
trunks, go on board a steamer and journey to other countries where
gaiety and gold are to be found.

The sole disturbance in these careless lives is the question of
engagements. The skill with which they have averted the difficulties,
which their preference for a nomad life might have produced in their
business, is a very remarkable example of that practical sense which
constant travelling develops in the least cultivated individual.

Dispersed throughout the four quarters of the world, the [p004]
_banquistes_ have placed themselves in perpetual communication with,
first, managers and _impresarii_, and then with their comrades, by
means of a certain number of agencies and newspapers belonging to
their corporation.

 [Illustration: THE ERA]

The eldest of these publications is _The Era_, published in London in
English. _The Era_, now edited by Edward Ledger, was started in 1837.
It is a kind of guide-book, consisting of twenty-four pages, each
containing six columns, in the usual shape of an English newspaper;
the price is sixpence a copy. In the title the royal escutcheon,
supported by the lion and the unicorn, separates the two words _The_
and _Era_. [p005]

Half the newspaper is filled with addresses of this kind—

 Miss FLORENCE WEST.
 Address:
 10 Elm Tree Road, N.W.

 Miss MINNIE BELL.
 Disengaged.
 Crystal Palace.

All these addresses are arranged in alphabetical order. A proprietor
can at once discover where the “novelty” with whom he proposes to
communicate is temporarily staying.

The _Era_ also serves as a letter-box to all its subscribers. A
special department is open under this heading:

 THE _ERA_ LETTER-BOX.

Then follows, arranged in columns, an alphabetical list of the
persons for whom a note has been sent to the newspaper office.

 _Adeson, M._
 _Atleyn, Madame._
 _Barry, Miss Helen._
 _Chelli, Miss Erminia_, &c.

The remainder of the _Era_ is consecrated to artistically-written
accounts of all the new theatrical performances going on in the
world, and naturally to offers of employment and advertisements for
engagements.

The most extraordinary fancies are allowed free play in the
compilation and typographical arrangement of these advertisements.
It is a question of attracting notice at [p006] any price. A clever
artist unhesitatingly pays for a whole column, in which horizontally,
diagonally, as a cross, or an X, he repeats his own name and
acquirements three or four hundred times.

I quote the following specimens, taken at random from the columns of
the _Era_:

 A YOUNG MAN, completely disarticulated, wishes to enter into an
 engagement with a travelling troupe.

 This artist can be described in the placards either as the
 _india-rubber man_ or the _serpent man_. He undertakes the monkey
 parts in pantomimes.

 MISS MAGGIE VIOLETTE (fixed bars) is free from any engagement after
 Christmas.

 A FATHER offers to managers a young girl, fourteen years old, who
 has only one eye, placed above the nose, and one ear on the shoulder.

 [Illustration: THE NEW YORK MIRROR]

The _Era_ has an American rival also published in English, _The New
York Mirror_. This newspaper has only one advantage over the _Era_:
it publishes portraits.

 [Illustration: CENTRAL-ORGAN DER CIRCUS VARIETÉ-UND
 SPECIALITATEN-BUHNEN SOWIE CONCERT-ETABBLISSEMENTS,-
 DER SCHAUSTTELLER UND REISENDEN GESCHAFTE.] [p007]

 [Illustration: M. C. KRAUSS]

Germany, however, possesses two newspapers for the _banquistes_:
one, under a French title, _La Revue_; the other, which is far the
most important, is called _Der Artist_. The complete sub-title is:
_Central-Organ zur Vermittlung des Verkehrs zwischen Directoren
und Künstlern der Circus, Varietebühnen, reisenden Theater und
Schaustellungen_. This paper is printed at Düsseldorf; M. C. Krauss
is the chief editor.

_Der Artist_ has been established six years. It looks like a weekly
review of twenty leaves, printed in three columns. A woodcut, which
fills the frontispiece and all the left side of the first page,
represents various scenes from the circus [p008] and theatres:
“shootists” breaking bottles, horses leaping over bars, pretty
equestrians on their highly-trained steeds, tame lions, dwarfs,
giants, clowns,—all the attractions of the circus and fair.

Here, as in the _Era_, we find long alphabetical enumerations of
travelling and stationary establishments and lists of addresses of
artists engaged or disengaged. These advertisements are nearly all
compiled in an extraordinary gibberish, which far surpasses the
ingenuity of the “sabir”: here is a specimen of them, the first I met
with. It is a curious mixture of French, English, Latin, Italian, and
German words:

 MISS ADRIENNE ANCIOU, la reine de l’air, la plus grande Équilibriste
 aérienne de l’Époque,—Nec plus ultra—senza Rival, frei ab August
 1888, 28 East 4. Str. New York.

It is very remarkable that English and American puffing has quite
disappeared here. The earnestness and application of the German
character are betrayed even in the typographical arrangement of
this newspaper for acrobats. It is as clearly and carefully printed
as a catalogue of the Leipzic libraries. The biographical notices,
announcements of death, column of accidents, the _Varietebühnen_
are compiled with scrupulous care and exactitude. This curious
publication even finds space for literature, and the last number of
the _Artist_ published as a supplement _Damons Walten_, a novel, by
Otto von Ellendorf. It is easy to appreciate the services which these
and similar newspapers are able to confer upon the _banquistes_.

 [Illustration: _Der Artist_, 4. Decémber 1887.]

“To tell the truth,” one of the confraternity said to me one
[p010] day, “in the whole world we have no other home but the little
pigeon-hole of advertisements, where those who know us go and ask
for news of us, where they learn the history of our engagements, our
successes, our accidents, our marriage, the birth of our children, or
the tidings of our death.”

Between the artist who seeks for an engagement and the manager always
on the look out for an extraordinary “novelty,” a third person
necessarily intervenes, the middleman, who arises everywhere between
buyer and seller.

And, in fact, at the present time all the principal cities of the
world have their agents for performing artists of every kind. These
personages are very important, and make large profits. Those best
known on the Continent are Messrs. Paravicini and Warner, of London;
Hitzig and Wulff, of Berlin; Wild, of Vienna; Rosinsky, of Paris;
Nael Salsbury, of New York, who, during the Exhibition of 1889, has
shown the Parisians the savage life of the “Wild West,” transported
to Paris in the persons of the celebrated Buffalo-Bill and his
Indians.

The history of the Rosinsky agency is worth narration, for it is now
so flourishing that it has replaced, to the advantage of Paris, the
engagement market which formerly existed in London.

You can imagine that a man would not open an agency of this kind
without first passing through many vicissitudes, and, in fact, R.
Rosinsky has had a most checkered life.

He first acquired a taste for the profession through frequenting
Barnum’s show in the United States. He has been manager of several
American troupes, and proprietor of [p011] a theatre, alternately at
St. Louis de Missouri and New York. His affairs prospered, and, with
the aid of a partner, Rosinsky opened a circus, which he intended to
run during the whole time that the Exhibition at Cincinnati was open,
when an unforeseen accident ruined him.

 [Illustration: R. ROSINSKY.]

One evening his partner’s son, a young man twenty-five years old, but
deaf and dumb, almost a brute, yet robust and dangerous, attempted
to force an entrance into the dressing-room of an equestrian, who
was just changing her dress after rehearsal. A policeman was quickly
sent for. The deaf-mute drew a revolver from his pocket, fired at the
policeman, and killed him on the spot.

The consequences of this murder may be easily guessed; [p012] the
circus was closed. R. Rosinsky was ruined, and he recommenced his
wanderings.

 [Illustration: M. SARI.
 Founder of the Folies-Bergères.]

A few months later the famous Brigham Young invited him to undertake
the management of the Theatre of the Mormons. I still have a copy of
the newspaper—_The Salt Lake Daily Herald_—in which is found dated
“Saturday morning, May 22, 1875,” an advertisement thus worded:

      _Salt Lake Theatre_
 R. Rosinsky               Manager

    GRAND MATINÉE THIS EVENING

          The Wonderful
         JACKLEY FAMILY.
      Acrobats and Gymnasts.

Engaged [p013] during the course of the same year by Sari, the
founder of the Folies Bergères, R. Rosinsky crossed the sea with the
Jackley Family.

He was immediately struck by the small number of “stars” known in
Paris, and, in order to attract them, he founded an agency for
artists in 1875. His business has increased so rapidly that the
Rosinsky agency is now in communication with correspondents scattered
through all the great cities of Europe and the world. One fact is
enough to prove the extent of this business. The annual postal
expenses of the firm exceed 10,000 francs (£400).

An agent of this kind receives 10 per cent, upon every engagement
which he arranges. To prevent any disputes in collecting this fee a
clause is inserted in the agreements to the effect that the agent’s
percentage is to be deducted by the manager himself from the salary
remitted to the artist at the end of the first month, and these
salaries are, sometimes, very considerable.

In order to compare the amount formerly paid to circus artists with
the sums now received by them, I have consulted an old manuscript
from the archives of M. Franconi, which bears the title of _Registre
personnel du Cirque_, and dates back for fifty years.

We find that in 1838 the equestrians Auriol, Lalanne the elder,
Lalanne (Pierre), Lalanne (Paul), Lalanne (Joseph), were paid, the
first-named 500 francs (£20), the others 250 francs _per fortnight_.

The star equestrian, Mdlle. Lucie Linski, then received 300 francs,
her companions 100, 50, and even 25 francs per fortnight. [p015]

 [Illustration: M. VICTOR FRANCONI.]

 [Illustration: P. T. BARNUM.]

Four years later, in 1842, Auriol, whose success evidently increased,
found his salary doubled. He received 1,000 francs per fortnight,
or 2,000 francs per month, and the equestrian, Mdlle. Lilianne, 700
francs. Now, a good pad equestrian often receives 2,000 francs per
month; a vaulting clown 1,500 francs; a family of acrobats 3,000 or
4,000 francs; and a single artist, whose performance is extraordinary
and unusual, receives from 700 to 7,000 francs. Even these prices
have been surpassed at times. Dr. Carver, the great “shootist,” was
paid 15,000 francs a month at the Folies Bergères. Léotard, at his
_début_, signed engagements for six months, and received 100,000
francs. The two brothers Lockhart, whom the Rosinsky agency had sent
to India as [p016] clowns, returned as elephant-trainers, and now
each of them, with his beast, earns about 70,000 francs per annum.

The enumeration of these sums tends, I admit, to only one object—to
fill the public with respect, and make it understand that a good
acrobat is, in his own line, quite as exceptional a being as, for
instance, M. Renan is in his. I intentionally name the learned
historian in preference to many other great intellects, because, in
his wisdom, he is certainly convinced that acrobatic feats are not
less useful than exegesis in the recreation of mankind.

I was led a short time ago, _à propos_ of the manager Rosinsky, to
mention Barnum—P. T. Barnum, the legendary man whose name, in every
language spoken upon the surface of the globe, serves as an amplified
superlative to the positive _impresario_.

To write a book upon the _banquistes_ and omit to celebrate Barnum in
it would be equivalent to erasing the venerated name of the Prophet
from a commentary on the Koran.

Let us, therefore, now recall the chief events in the biography
of Phineas Taylor Barnum. The man who has converted the “American
Circus” into a national institution of the New World was born in 1810
in the village of Bethel in Connecticut.

He is, therefore, now in his eightieth year. I refer those readers
who may be curious about the details of this adventurous life to a
book which P. T. Barnum himself wrote for the edification of his
admirers (_The Life of P. T. Barnum_: New York, 1885), and also to
another work, which was published simultaneously in Paris and New
York in 1865, under the title of _Les Blagues de L’Univers_. [p017]

I pass over the exodus of the youthful ploughboy who quitted the
farm to become the editor of a newspaper, and will only dwell upon
the patriarch, who is ending his life in the village of Bridgeport
(Conn.) with all the splendour of the setting sun. There, as far as
eye can reach, Barnum’s gaze rests upon his own property only. To
him belong the village, farms, and workshops, the 1,200 workmen, who
labour incessantly, perfecting the materials of the circus, which
special trains convey through the American continent, perpetually
travelling from one ocean to the other.

 [Illustration: J. A. BAILLY.
 Barnum’s partner and son-in-law.]

The law endeavoured to oppose the free passage of these trains over
the public railroads. Barnum, _through economy_, at [p018] once
proposed to construct new lines for his private use by the side of
those already existing. Should the idea of visiting Europe during
the Paris Exhibition occur to him, he would wish to acquire the
_Great Eastern_ to carry his apparatus, men and animals. The tent
which covers his circus is alone worth 30,000 francs (£1,200); it is
twice as large as the Hippodrome in Paris, and can shelter 15,000
spectators. In one day it can be erected, a performance given, and
the journey renewed. The daily receipts vary between 40,000 and
60,000 francs.

 [Illustration: ROWE & ATHOL]

Barnum’s cashiers, although installed in cars containing tills and
writing-tables, have no time to keep any books. The daily receipts
are forwarded uncounted to Bridgeport in sealed barrels, which are
really measures of capacity for gold, silver, and copper coin. The
accounts are all kept at Bridgeport. [p019]

A crowd of parasites follows Barnum on his travels and dwells round
his tent. A town springs up in a few hours; people throng to it from
fifty miles round. But then the arrival of the _impresario_ king has
been preceded for some months by immense descriptive placards posted
in the localities through which his troupe would pass.

 [Illustration: The PhoiFes]

One anecdote taken from a thousand is a good example of the
advantages which Barnum has derived from advertisements.

Some years ago a negro, having obtained a reward as a violinist at
the Paris Conservatoire of Music, Barnum concluded an engagement
with him by telegram for one year at a salary of 40,000 dollars. The
walls of New York were [p020] then immediately covered with placards
depicting a negro playing the violin, but without any descriptive
words attached to the picture.

His _virtuoso_ arrived, and Barnum hastened to produce him. The
Yankees came, listened, applauded, but did not send their friends.
What could Barnum do to rouse their dormant curiosity? He told his
workmen to paste the figure of the negro upside down. This ingenious
device was crowned with success. Perhaps the audience who flocked to
hear him during three consecutive years fancied that a negro would be
exhibited to them—a laureate from the Paris Conservatoire, who would
play the violin whilst balanced on his head. Whatever their idea
may have been, they went in millions; and this anecdote is not less
characteristic of the peculiar stamp of American curiosity than of
Barnum’s genius for puffing.

It is also an interesting proof of the share which advertisements
play in the success of an entertainment. The artist world has
learnt to appreciate the extraordinary effect of these coloured
placards, and willingly spends a large sum of money in procuring the
most effective designs; and these advertisements—of which I have
reproduced a few of the most typical—are so varied and so brilliant
that they might fairly dazzle collectors. The finest are issued by
the firms of David Allen and Sons of Belfast, Mr. Barlow of Glasgow,
Adolphe Friedlander of Hamburg, and Charles and Emile Levy of Paris.

This is the general outline of the organization: of the _banquistes_,
who travel round the world without a country and without home ties.
[p021]

 [Illustration: CHAMPS ELYSÉES CIRQUE D’ÉTÉ TOUS LES SOIRS] [p022]

I must now speak of a less adventurous mountebank—the Frenchman, who
never willingly travels either by railroad or steamer, and who for
centuries—for generations—has contentedly jogged along in a caravan
from one fair to another, making in this way his eternal tour of
France.

 [Illustration: Mr. E. ELLEVANTIEMIE
 EQUILIBRIST]

The origin of all these troupes of mountebanks, of every [p023] one
of these travelling shows, is lost in the mist of ages. At what epoch
were founded the _Théâtre Vivien_, the _Théâtre de Saint-Antoine_,
the theatres of the _Enfer_ and of the _Physicien Delisle_? In
what century did Mouza-ba-baloued first turn his prophetic wheel
under the awning of his caravan? I assure you that it is beyond the
recollections of grandchildren or of their grandfathers. At all
events, it is certain that from our birth we feel some curiosity
mingled with a delicious dread of the mountebank, the picturesque
wanderer, who passes our home at the same date in every year—like the
migratory birds—who disappears one morning, without any one knowing
where he has gone, or even with any certainty where he has come
from; an ambiguous individual whom travellers on the high road pass
as evening falls, encamped on the wayside, his kettle installed on
a heap of stones, his thin steed munching the dusty grass, his half
naked children wandering round the caravan, whilst the light shining
through the little red curtains in the window throws the semblance of
a plash of blood on the road.

 [Illustration: LE VOYAGEUR FORAIN Du 15 au 29 Février 1888
 Organe de la Chambre Syndicale des Voyageurs Forains]

This is the rear-guard, the voluntary laggard, the hermit, who
wishes to remain alone until the end. He has not changed any of the
customs of his ancestors, preferring to [p024] separate from his
comrades rather than conform to new ways. His comrades have therefore
renounced him. They will not drag such miscreants in their rear, now
that they form a corporation with charters and statutes publicly
decreed.

 [Illustration: L’UNION MUTUELLE Dimanche 12 Février 1883
 Organe Officiel de tous les Industriels et Artistes Forains
 PARAISSANT LE DIMANCHE]

At the present moment the showmen’s world, like all other societies
composed of rich and poor, is divided into two great disputing
parties. Each of these divisions has its own newspaper, its
representatives, the managers of its interests, its public opposition
meetings. On one side you will find a group of all the important
men in the profession, the proprietors of large establishments—who
have serious interests to defend. These gentlemen are the anxious
guardians of wealth, amassed with much trouble and labour. The
authorities, who wish for the success of the “local fairs,” show
special favour to these influential _banquistes_ in the allotment
of space. From this undue preference, extraordinary hatred, savage
jealousy, result on the part of the smaller folk, whose sole fortune
consists of one van, the sellers of _gaufres_ and fried potatoes, the
owners of swings and rifle saloons, lotteries, shows, and halls of
mystery.

The less important men were the first to organize [p025] themselves.
This is already the sixth year of publication of the _Voyageur
Forain_,[2] the organ of the syndical chamber of _forain_ travellers,
a fortnightly newspaper, published on the 1st and 15th of each month.
A notice, always placed above the leading article, informs the
readers that “the syndical chamber of _forain_ travellers admits into
its ranks all those, whether rich or poor, who honourably earn their
livelihood by instructing or amusing the public, or by retail trade.”

 [Illustration: M. HOUCKE.
 Manager of the Hippodrome.]

The office of this picturesque newspaper is situated in the [p026]
Boulevard Henri IV., at the end of a courtyard, above a stable. There
I found an extraordinary Bohemian smoking a short pipe, lengthened
by a quill, who in himself formed the whole editorial staff of
the _Voyageur Forain_. This man of letters edits the notices of
the Fairs, the Correspondence, and all the technical part of the
newspaper. The rest of the number is composed of articles by the
members of the syndical council. They consist chiefly of diatribes,
directed against the party of “bourgeois,” who form a separate band,
written in forcible language, which renders them most amusing to any
one interested in French slang.

The “bourgeois,” whose names I find at the head of the first number
of the newspaper of the _Union mutuelle_, dated May 8, 1887, were, at
the time when the society was instituted:

President: M. François Bidel, manager-proprietor of a large
zoological establishment, _Chevalier de la Valeur civile Italienne_.

Vice-presidents: M. J. B. Revest, manufacturer, part-proprietor:
boats (sea on land); M. Ferdinand Corvi, proprietor and manager of a
(miniature) circus.

I will skip the treasurers and directors, and quote part of the
address given to the subscribers to the _Union mutuelle_ in the
programme number:

 In France, men have fallen into the habit of regarding the _forain_
 as a being apart, at the outside worthy of pity.

 However, if we consult our memoirs we shall find that in all ages
 and in every place great appreciation has been shown for the high
 moral qualities of this population, which, it is true, leads a
 peculiar existence, but one which is very honest and perfectly
 honourable.

 Are not these men clever, who group as by magic whole cities within
 the city itself—cities of pleasure, filled with attractions of every
 kind, which the [p027] public hasten to applaud and admire? Are
 they not men of progress, these showmen, whose every trick is copied
 and appropriated in our great administrations?

 In a word, are they not the pioneers of civilization and comfort?

 Then why do they appear forsaken? Because they exist only as
 individuals; because they considered it impossible to obtain
 cohesion amongst themselves; because, in short, they regarded the
 creation of a great association as impracticable. The generous
 assistance of M. Bidel has proved adequate to lead this important
 phalange. Resolutely placing himself at the head of his profession,
 he said:

 “Union is possible; let us unite!”

Now, the _Union mutuelle_, which was only founded on the 29th
April, 1887, is settled in fine offices in the Rue de Châteaudun.
The association is rich. Its members have the right to apply to the
superannuation fund at the age of fifty if they have belonged to it
for ten years. M. Bidel looks forward to the day when, in order to
invest their funds, these restless wanderers over the highways of the
world will buy some “house property” in Paris. The _Union mutuelle_
will have tenants of its own. The showmen will be estate owners in
Paris. And this hope, which will be realized in a short time, gives
the greatest delight to M. Bidel and his colleagues, particularly
when they recall the modest origin of the association, the meetings
held at the Gobelins, in the menagerie even, where the voices of the
orators were drowned at intervals by the roaring of the wild beasts.
Every month the _Union mutuelle_ holds a plenary meeting, at which
the managers submit their accounts to the members. Every Wednesday
the managing committee meets to settle the business of the week.

 [Illustration: CHADWICK.]

The correspondence is voluminous. Every provincial member of the
society who has had to apply to a local [p028] mayor for a license,
or to obtain justice, addresses himself to the managing committee
to solicit its support, and in this way the showman commands the
satisfaction of his claim, which might otherwise have been refused.
The interest which the _Union mutuelle_ takes in his affairs is the
highest recommendation he can have; for it is well known that no one
can belong to the society unless his judicial record is perfectly
clear. One may learn many curious things by reading the _Voyageur
forain_ and the _Union mutuelle_. No one suspects, for instance, that
the order of the fairs is [p029] organized in an almost unvarying
routine, that has existed for many centuries, and that it is arranged
so as to diminish as much as possible the expenses of travelling for
the showmen.

In each number of the newspaper you will find the following
intelligence—_Indicateur des Foires du Mois_ (Guide to the Fairs held
this Month). Then follows an alphabetical list of the departments,
with all the items of useful information quoted in this way:—

 _Ain._—1 day: the 2nd, Trévouz, pop. 2,635; the 7th, Marboz, pop.
 2,556; the 13th, Bagé-le-Châtel, pop. 727; the 18th, Montreval, pop.
 1,475. 2 days: the 22nd, Lagnieu.

Another department, the _Review of Fairs and Fêtes_, gives exact
information to the subscribers of the paper respecting the chances
of a good sale, and the disadvantages of a useless removal. The
following account of the fair at Sigean is a specimen of these
articles:—

“THE FAIR AT SIGEAN (November 6th).

 “A small town, 21 kilomètres from Narbonne by road (a railway to La
 Nouvelle, 4 kilometres). Business has been extremely bad here, owing
 to the unlucky weather and the total ruin of the country. A few
 years ago this was one of the most popular fairs amongst showmen,
 for the inhabitants are fond of amusement and most sympathetic
 towards strangers. Space is exceedingly dear, the price being fixed
 by the municipality at 25 centimes the square mètre per diem. It is
 true that some reductions are granted on this price, but it is still
 much too high.

 “The following establishments were present: M. Bétriou, Museum of
 Progress, and M. Bracco, theatre of performing seals, Place de la
 Mairie. In the Rue de Perpignan; Lemaître, mechanical museum; two
 rifle-saloons; Cloffulia, decapitation; Mercadier, roundabout; a
 bear-fight; Gras Chognon, panorama; lottery bazaars, massacres, and
 above all, gambling booths, which enjoy great liberty here, if they
 can pay well. We saw one roulette-table which paid 200 frs. for two
 days, and others in the cafés which paid the [p030] landlord 400
 frs. for a single table. This is to be regretted—for such toleration
 to gambling is the ruin of all good and honest showmen.”

 [Illustration: 251, Rue Saint-Honoré, 251
 NOUVEAU CIRQUE]

These papers also contain carefully edited accounts of foreign fairs,
such as the following letter sent to the _Voyageur forain_ from
Karkhoff (Russia):—

 “Those of our comrades who do not suffer from cold in the eyes, and
 are not afraid of being frozen, could try their luck at Karkhoff,
 where it is only 17 degrees below zero, with 70 centimètres of snow;
 our friend and correspondent gives us some interesting details about
 the customs of the showmen and people in Russia: thus in most of
 the cities it is not unusual to see several shows installed in one
 booth; for instance, a complete museum of anatomical figures and
 groups, a panorama, monkeys, crocodiles, giants, dwarfs, and armless
 women, all shown for 20 kopecks, or fivepence, children and soldiers
 half-price; no allusion is made to the nurses, or to the treating
 propensities of Russian soldiers in love.

 “These booths remain in the same town for two or three months at a
 time; this year an exhibition was held at Karkhoff, which preceded
 the fair, and lasted a fortnight; it consisted of a large museum, a
 glass-spinner, a large circus, a fine menagerie, a monkey theatre,
 and an aquarium, besides the town [p031] theatre; and all these
 entertainments were established in a city which only contains 20,000
 inhabitants, that is to say, there were too many attractions for so
 few people, and no one made any profits; the lower classes are not
 worth counting, they devote themselves to the consumption of brandy
 which brutalizes them; and only the nobility, the middle classes and
 the Jews, who are rather bad than good, can be relied upon. It is
 impossible to open anything before noon on Sundays or Thursdays and,
 we might add, that the Russian public is utterly _blasé_, for it has
 seen nearly every variety of attraction. Still, it is very fond of
 marionettes, and the owner of a puppet-theatre, willing to risk a
 journey in this country, would soon make his fortune; rents are very
 dear but living is cheap, with the exception of wine.”

 [Illustration: NOUVEAU CIRQUE
 Tous les Soirs a 8
 · MATINEES ·
 Jeudis et Dimanches a 2]

The third page of both the _Union mutuelle_ and the _Voyageur
forain_ is filled with advertisements. As usual, these columns are
particularly amusing. I need scarcely explain that the following
cuttings have been made almost at hazard, and that I have not altered
one word of them:— [p032]

UNRIVALLED OPPORTUNITY.

 FOR SALE (on account of family arrangements) a LARGE THEATRE OF
 PERFORMING MONKEYS AND LEARNED DOGS, WITH A MINIATURE CIRCUS,
 consisting of a PERFECTLY NEW TENT, 28 MÈTRES BY 11 M. 40 C.; CHAIRS
 AND BENCHES FOR 800 PEOPLE, provided with carpets of good quality,
 the interior well lined with very good carpets, the ceiling of
 good canvas, the scenery oil-painted and richly decorated; for the
 outside there is a pretty frontage with a show gallery, ornamented
 with pictures. The whole has only been in use for one year, and has
 been well taken care of; in short, it is all new.—5 VANS (or without
 vans), 1 caravan, 1 van for monkeys, also contains a kitchen; 1
 waggon carrying 10,000 kilog., 1 car carrying 15,000 kilog., 1 van
 for elephants, horses, goats, sheep, dogs, and other animals.—1
 ELEPHANT (usual tricks) rides on a velocipede, is worth 15,000
 frs.; 6 WELL-TRAINED DWARF-PONIES; 4 SHEEP (a performance never yet
 shown); 15 MONKEYS and 12 DOGS, equally well trained.—All these
 animals are trained and guaranteed, and the purchaser can be taught
 how to make them perform in a fortnight.—The proprietor of this
 important establishment is engaged for the winter season in Vienna
 (Austria).—_Orpheum._ The whole will be sold for 40,000 frs. [p033]

 [Illustration: M. MENGAL.]

On the manufacturers’ side:—

 FOR SALE AN ESTABLISHMENT FOR FRIED POTATOES, entirely new; glass
 frontage, 8 mètres; depth, 6 mètres; 8 boxes, with a beautiful
 Belgian stove with 4 frying-holes; 4 saucepans; a cutting machine;
 gaufre irons; fritter moulds; beer till, &c., &c. The booth is
 all in panels, with planks, waggon, caravan, and a second caravan
 5 mètres long, containing two rooms; advantageous terms, with or
 without carriages. Address to the office of this newspaper.

 FOR SALE a Sweetmeat Business, founded in 1848, well known on the
 road, possessing an excellent connection. Price 12,000 frs., 10,000
 to be paid, and easy terms for the remainder. Business: 35,000 frs.
 per annum. 156–3906.

Subjects for tamers:

 FOR SALE a very large Lioness from the Atlas, 4 years old, works
 well and is very gentle; Lioness, of the same race, 20 months old,
 very gentle; Leopard, Panther, Ocelot, White Bears from Canada,
 Russia, and Malay; large African Monkeys, Baboon, Red-backed Pavion,
 Monk, Pelicans for shows. Moderate prices.

Lastly in the series of monstrosities:—

 FOR SALE ON ACCOUNT OF HEALTH, magnificent opportunity, a superb
 phenomena of remarkable beauty, elegant, clean, very gentle, at
 liberty, admired by the whole world. The booth is also very elegant.
 The whole to be sold on advantageous terms. 87–3290.

The fourth page is filled with advertisements of manufactures—of
barrel organs, petroleum lamps, awnings, roundabouts, decorated
capitals for riding schools and booths; of glass and china, Chinese
umbrellas, and waterproof canvas; of skies, curtains, harness,
nose-bags, hobby-horses, mermaids, cars, biscuits, gaufres,
sugar-sticks, sweetmeats: of everything that makes a noise, shines or
sparkles; that swings or turns; that can be eaten or produces a great
effect. And as usual these advertisements amuse us, for we outsiders
cannot bring ourselves to look upon those industries which tend
[p034] only to procure objects of amusement for us, in any serious
light.

 [Illustration: AGOUST.
 Manager of the Nouveau Cirque.]

Most of these articles are manufactured in Germany. The oldest
manufactory of roundabouts of wooden horses is in Moblitz in
Saxe-Weimar, another is in Thuringia. Still, there are a few French
manufacturers in the field, and their productions, although a little
dearer than the German ones, are much appreciated by showmen, for the
good taste which distinguishes them. M. D———, de Vic Bigorre, (Hautes
Pyrénées,) a celebrated curtain and scene-painter, is one of these
artists. The following notice is added to all his advertisements—

 “NOTE.—Himself a child of the fair, M. D——— is well acquainted with
 the necessities and style of picture required by each individual,
 and by this title, he recommends his work to all the children of the
 _banque_.” [p035]

Another is a specialist for the vans used for carrying plant,
dentists’ cars, breaks for driving parties, caravans, &c.

I saw one of these model caravans at the Fair du Trône; it contained
dining and drawing-rooms, a bedroom and servant’s room. Through
the open window of the drawing-room, I heard the refrain of one
of Métra’s waltzes. I went nearer and saw that the musician was a
charming young girl, wearing a plush dressing-gown, conscientiously
practising the piano.

I leave you with this vision of middle-class prosperity. I hope it
will correct, as far as may be, the very false ideas which hitherto
you may have cherished about _banquistes_ and their wandering lives.

 [Illustration: M. NAEL SALSBURY.]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [1] _Grande banque_ is a general term for large shows and theatres
 in a fair.

 _Petite banque_ is used for small shows, such as “fatma,” giants, &c.

 _Banquistes_ includes all persons showing or performing on a fair
 ground, circus, or variety entertainment.

 I am indebted to Mr. John Holden, the owner of the popular _Palais
 des Fantocche_, for these definitions: there do not appear to be any
 equivalent words in English slang.—NOTE BY THE TRANSLATOR.

 [2] _Forain_ is the cant word used for all merchants with their
 wares who sell in fairs, but it is also applied generally to all
 owners of travelling shows and amusements. See Chapter II., page 37.



 [Illustration]



 [p037] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER II.
 THE FAIR.


Fashion, which regulates our amusements, has decreed for some
years past, that when at Easter time we direct our steps to the
Fair du Trône, our little excursion is quite “the correct thing.”
The faubourgs and suburbs no longer enjoy the monopoly of the fun
collected at the foot of the two columns, the caps of the swells
from Vincennes, and the hair-nets of the Cytherean bataillon from
Montreuil-sous-Bois are no longer the sole head-dresses visible.
The Gingerbread Fair has its reserved days like the Opera and the
Comédie, and on Tuesdays and Fridays the largest profits [p038] are
made. Really, if you strolled in that direction about five o’clock
on one of these select afternoons, you would be surprised to see
the long line of carriages standing in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine
and the Boulevard Voltaire. For every three cabs, in which a party
of students are enjoying themselves in somewhat noisy fashion with
their little companions, you will find one gentleman’s carriage with
servants in livery, or, at least, a hired victoria occupied by women
in over-smart dresses, who are making their annual excursion to the
fair, accompanied by the “mashers” of the year. It is curious to
watch these society people when they visit this populous district
which they have never seen except through the windows of mourning
carriages on the road to Père la Chaise, or on the eve of a capital
execution, lighted by the windows of the small taverns in a cruel
bustle of festivity. Secretly, they feel a little uneasy. The too
demonstrative enjoyment, the cries, shouts and songs, the incessant
rattle from the rifle saloons, the explosion of fireworks, the
pushing crowd struggling round the stages of the various booths,
from which the showman harangues the crowd, recall, in spite of
themselves, memories of civil war and the barricades, and produce
a gentle shiver—that shiver which steals down the spine in front
of a wild beast cage, if the thought occurs to one that the iron
bars might give way, and the lion in his fury be free to rush upon
the spectators . . . . . . But in itself, this secret, indefinable
misgiving is rather pleasant, and it is certain that this semi-dread
forms half the pleasure which many pretty women feel in venturing
amongst the crowd and exposing themselves to a somewhat rough
hustling from the people.

 [Illustration]

However, when we emerge from the shadows of the [p039] boulevard and
faubourg into the brilliantly lighted square, timid hearts regain
courage, and we at once catch the infection of the gaiety surrounding
us. Every one is come for amusement and intends to get it. We see
all the [p040] monstrosities, all the beautiful Circassians, consult
all the somnambulists, and visit all the booths, make excursions
in the switchback railway and take the traditional turn on the
roundabouts, filling up the intervals by breaking pipes, slaughtering
marionettes with balls, and throwing the hammer at the Turk’s head.
And then the late drive back to dinner in the cool evening air, the
slow recovery from the effects of so much laughter as we roll towards
the Boulevards, with paper roses in our button-holes, the carriage
filled with gingerbread from Rheims, comic figures, symbolic animals,
and effigies of Saint Remo with mitre and crosier, which resemble
primitive bas-reliefs in old oak torn from the stalls of a church
choir.

I also make an annual visit to the Gingerbread fair, but not as a
lounger who follows wherever the crowd leads him. I am accompanied to
the Champ du Trône by the best of guides, one of the most brilliant
correspondents of the _Voyageur forain_ to which I referred just
now—M. Philippe, the editor of the _Tir de la Republique_.

M. Philippe was formerly a sailor; and has retained from his sojourn
on the men-of-war the naval cut of his beard, and the cap which
he wore during the expedition which he made to the North, when he
saluted the Pole in the neighbourhood of the Behring Sea. This
retired sailor is a very intelligent man, of a stamp which only
flourishes in the atmosphere of Paris; a gunsmith by profession, the
vicissitudes of existence and a taste for adventure have made him, as
a last expedient, a showman’s journalist.

 [Illustration: THE SHOW.]

To ensure this excursion passing off with due success, it is always
preceded by a short conference held between two glasses of beer, in
which, elbows on table, my guide gravely [p041] reminds me, that I
must be careful to remember the distinction that exists between the
_forain_ and the _banquiste_, the _grande_ and the _petite banques_.

 [Illustration]

A _forain_ is technically a merchant, or the owner of a game. The
sweetmeat-maker who, surrounded by a circle of admiring children,
rolls serpentine rings of paste round a flexible wand laden with
little bells is a _forain_, so is the fritter merchant; the same term
describes the rich agent of the manufacturers of Rheims and Dijon,
who travel round the world carrying with them the best brands of
gingerbread. The celebrated M. Exaltier, the director of the American
Galleries, is also a _forain_; by the ingenuity of his inventions he
has revived the public interest in panoramas. The same term describes
the clever M. Chable, the manufacturer of the finest hygienic horses
that have ever been [p042] seen, splendid animals made of varnished
poplar wood, stout as a Flemish mare, which cost him two hundred
francs each.

“They were dearer than if they were alive,” cheerfully repeats M.
Chable, caressing his steeds, “but I save it in the food.”

The post-master of hygienic horses is an important personage in
the _forain_ world, and so is also the proprietor of the “Crystal
Palace,” the most luxurious roundabout of hobby-horses at present in
the Fair du Trône or anywhere else. His tent contains no less than
two organs; one of them cost him 5,000 fr., the other 12,000 fr.
His daily expenses amount to eighty francs for his establishment;
but a fine Sunday doubles his receipts in a marvellous way, and the
“Crystal Palace,” when all the three _sous_ a ride have been counted
up, often makes a thousand francs in one day.

All the keepers of billiard-tables, the owners of wheels of fortune
or lotteries, are _forains_. A complete and most curious book might
be written on the fraudulent games of chance which swarm in a fair,
in spite of the vigilance of the police. I shall write one some day
when M. Carrabilliat, one of the most intelligent and most respected
members of the syndicate, has completed my education. To begin with,
he explained to me the mechanism of his race game, an amusement
which, although forbidden for a time, is now permitted in the fair
since the owners have proved the impossibility of tampering with the
small horses or of preventing the slight bars upon which they move
from turning freely round the course. The good-natured public more
than suspects some tricks. It knows by experience that the rabbit
is never won at the first shot, and that no one within [p043] the
memory of man has ever carried off the clock with its glass shade.
This fact does not prevent it from paying its pennies to the owner
of the wheel of fortune, or check its eager competition with chance
as a partner, for the possession of a little glass chandelier.
Here, as at Monaco, you will find the gambler who gets excited and
ruins himself—alas! the poor fellow loses all self-restraint if the
bystanders gather round him, watching and discussing his luck!

 [Illustration] [p044]

I, who know all the secrets of the fair, would charitably whisper
to the imprudent gambler that there are always some accomplices
in cant—“stallsmen”—amongst the lookers-on. These individuals are
particularly addicted to loitering near the rifle saloons, and the
games which require strength and skill. They it is who whisper at
your back—

“Well shouldered! a little too low! What a pity! It would have broken
the egg. Stop, Arthur, perhaps the gentleman will try again.”

The “gentleman” feels flattered, takes some silver from his pocket,
and with an innocent air the proprietor of the saloon pours twelve
caps into his hand.

The rifle-shooting, the hammers, and the rings are all manly sports.
Ladies prefer the hobby-horses and the swinging-boats. You know
what perfection has been attained in this last amusement for the
gratification of those who, like Hippocrates, believe in the utility
of spring remedies. They clear the system. From this point of view
the new swinging-boats are serious rivals to all quack medicines.
Those who have not travelled round the world can enjoy in these cars
all the spasms of sea-sickness and every variety of giddiness. In
these respects the old system gave full satisfaction to many worthy
people; but it appears that, compared with the new fashion, like
the apparatus in the Rue Basse du Rempart, the old swings were mere
child’s play. Some travellers descend from this invention in much the
same state as the wolf which Baron Munchausen turned inside out like
a glove! Where will progress stop? But progress is very inconsiderate
when it attempts to substitute velocipedes and wild beasts for the
old hobby-horses. Have [p045] the inventors of these machines
never spent one quarter of an hour in front of the old roundabouts?
Have they never noticed the defiant, haughty glance which the young
shopmen and little milliners throw at you as they pass in the course
of their revolutions?

 [Illustration]

Those people are in a dream. For one whole minute they [p046]
imagine themselves in a higher sphere, riding in couples through
the woods. Intoxicated by the revolving motion which, through the
necessary bend of the body nails them to the saddle, they feel like
accomplished riders, incomparable horsewomen. Watch them there, ye
pioneers of a mistaken progress, who have not taken the instincts of
the heart into your calculation and cannot, therefore, understand
the philosophy of hobby-horses! A little attention will yet avert
the failure which threatens your riding-schools of velocipedes and
carnivorous animals.

 [Illustration]

But these are all noisy amusements which the society people avoid.
Do you remember, my dear friend, the drive we took outside the shows
and bands, one fine Easter-Tuesday, brilliant with sunshine? You
dared not leave your brougham, [p047] you were so alarmed at the
hoarse roar of the crowd, the explosion of crackers, the shrieks of
the women in the swings. Still you had one great desire that you
would not own to me, half dreading a reproof, a wish evoked by a most
appetizing odour which made your nostrils dilate.

“I am sure you are longing for some fried potatoes,” I cried
triumphantly at last.

Ah! who would ever forget the glance with which your eyes rewarded me
for guessing your fancy!

 [Illustration]

And, much to the disdain of your English coachman and footman, both
sitting so correctly on the box, I fetched you some beautiful hot
potatoes nicely powdered with salt. And in your satin-lined _coupé_,
touching them daintily with the ends of your lavender-gloved fingers,
one by one, you ate them, seasoned with merry laughter.

 “Oh, Time, arrest thy flight!” . . . . .

Five o’clock struck: it was the last effort of the fair before
[p048] the neighbourhood commenced the evening meal. The clowns joked
and shouted louder than usual; the rattles, gongs, pipes, drums,
speaking-trumpets, barrel-organs, and whistles of the steam-engines
all sounded together in a final tremendous discord. Through the
clamour, the crowd, eddying like a stream, ascended the Avenue de
Vincennes, going towards the columns erected on the spot where the
fire took place.

Between them, the disk of the setting sun was shining like the Pyx
upon an altar. And as it suddenly disappeared behind the hill, a cry
rose in the air, stifled, agonizing, which threw you trembling upon
my shoulder—a cry which pierced above all the clamour of machinery
and men—the captive lion’s farewell to the darkened sun!

It is a great mistake to imagine that all fairs are alike. Each of
them, although composed of the same booths, assumes such a different
character from the locality where it is installed and the people who
frequent it, that any one interested in such matters, like myself,
could easily make a bet, that carried blindfolded into the midst of
any local festival, when his eyes were uncovered, he could at the
first glance distinguish which fair was being celebrated. And he
could tell, simply through seeing the visitors, who thronged it, and
by inspecting the stalls.

Look, for instance, at the old fair held at Versailles, the fair of
Saint Louis, which, annually, in the heart of August, placards on
the doors of the railway stations, between the lists of circular
excursions and the advertisements of summer pleasures, long
descriptions of its attractions: water-jousts, fanfares of horns
sounded through the alleys of the park, display of fountains in the
Neptune basin, shows accompanied [p049] by big drums, the music of
the roundabouts, the gaiety of the little booths, side by side with
the great empty palace. Is it through the immense width of the alleys
that the noise of the bands seems scattered and lost? Or can it be a
secret dread of disturbing the king’s slumbers, which still haunts
all these small folk, and causes them to subdue the rough music of
their orchestras?

 [Illustration]

Surrounded by barriers, this agglomeration of diminutive white
shops resembles a flock of timid sheep huddling close together, not
venturing to ring their bells too loudly through fear of the wolf.
Here, too, are stalls of rosaries, holy-water vases, and crucifixes,
recalling the sacred origin of the fair.

 [Illustration]

No doubt you will recognize the same faces that you have [p050]
seen everywhere else; the same brightly painted caravans, with small
muslin curtains in the windows; the same gaufre-seller, mixing the
same paste, in the same moulds, with the same gesticulations; and
lastly the same horrible trumpery, utterly devoid of any originality:
blue-eyed dolls, miniature Zouaves, sixpenny knives, imitation
tortoise-shell frames, rabbits playing the drum, reed pipes, and
brass trumpets. No one knows why workmen are so entirely bereft
of imagination or self-respect as to persevere in the manufacture
of these inferior toys for at least a hundred years; yet these
“fairings” travel all over the world. You will find them in Algiers
as soon as you land; on the threshold of Asia, at Constantinople,
shops full of this rubbish are installed side by side with bazaars
for Turkish carpets; the ships which bring from Japan the delicious
knicknacks which fill our houses, [p051] return to the far East
laden with cargoes of plush frames and rabbits playing drums.

But the idiosyncrasy which distinguishes Versailles and its
neighbourhood, the chosen retreat of literary men and elderly
magistrates, is the presence of the dealer in old books who annually
attends this fair. From a little distance the reddish-brown covers of
his wares resemble gingerbread paving-stones. Men in spectacles bend
lovingly over the stall, the scent of mouldy leather gently tickling
their nostrils.

And every year there is one stall at which a woman sells false hair
by the pound. Hanging round like horses’ tails, side by side, these
poor tresses, collected from the gutter and the hospital, produce a
tragic effect. One anxiously wonders where all these dull-looking
plaits come from; who will wear them next? One day I lingered about
for some time, waiting to see if a customer would appear.

At last a woman drew near.—Ageless, in mourning, basket in hand,
unclassable; yet evidently not a happy woman. At first she dared not
pause, then she regained courage.

“How much is that?”

“Five francs.”

She hesitated for a moment.

“It is too fair for me. Can you see what I want?” And she raised her
veil from her face.

At length she passed on without buying. There was nothing grey enough
for her.

The fair at Versailles is a provincial fair, a fair patronized by
grandfathers and grandchildren, nursemaids and soldiers.

The typical Parisian fair, the _chic_ fair, is held at Neuilly.

In April, when the Avenue de Vincennes, the Boulevard [p052]
Voltaire, and the Faubourg Saint Antoine are decorated with rows
of white stalls, the cold winter wind still sweeps over the earth,
rushes through the wide streets, carrying with it clouds of dust,
blusters through the fair, filling the canvas of the booths like
sails on the sea, powdering the gingerbread stalls as it passes; then
in rough leaps, as though driven by a whip, forms dusty columns in
the air, and rising several feet above the ground triumphantly waves
the flags above the booths and roundabouts.

 [Illustration]

It makes the evenings too chilly for sauntering about, hands in
pocket, under the illuminations produced by the waving [p053]
lanterns and the flickering gaslights! one feels too cold to care
for amusement or refreshments. And therefore when after dinner the
frequenters of the _cafés_ on the boulevards hail the club _coupés_,
they never dream, as the door is closed on the still wintry toilettes
of their companions, of saying to the coachman, “To the Fair du
Trône.”

 [Illustration]

They turn to the concerts and the circus. There is too much chilly
darkness, too long a drive through the deserted boulevards, between
the dinner and the suburban _fête_. The exhilaration produced by
champagne and laughter would die on the way.

Neuilly is the evening fair. It opens in the heart of summer,
[p054] in the full tide of that excessive heat which renders the
drawing-room and theatre equally unbearable to those Parisians who
wait for the month of August before they go to the sea, and who
live in tea-gowns, fan in hand, sipping ices and lemons, behind
their closed Venetian shutters. Like passengers in the tropics, who
watch for the setting sun before they go on deck, these pretty women
reclining in their bamboo chairs, impatiently follow the course of
the clock-hands, so slowly travelling towards five o’clock. At that
hour they get up, and in the semi-light of the dressing-room, with
lowered blinds and wide-open windows, they leisurely array themselves
in fresh and scented toilettes. They are going to dine in the open
air, on the terrace of some restaurant in the Bois. Capes and mantles
are too heavy during this month, and a young woman can go out without
any wrap hiding her charming dress; she only carries a small shawl
and one of those parasols, which, itself brilliant as a flower,
enhances the effect of the whole toilette and, whilst intercepting
the sun’s rays, throws most becoming shadows on the face.

Then about six o’clock, at the doors of the Ministries and all along
the Quai d’Orsay, a line of light, open carriages may be seen, in
which young women have come to fetch husband or lover, soothing their
impatience for the hour of freedom by noting the admiring glances
of the passers-by. And when at last the lingerers appear in grey
hat, white waistcoat, short coat and smart buttonhole, the couples
lounging back in their carriages, drive through the Avenue des Champs
Elysées, towards the summer restaurants and the shade of the Bois.
The Pavillon d’Armenonville reaps the greatest [p055] advantages
from the vicinity of the fair. The orchestra of the Tzigane Rigo,
hidden in the gardens of the pavillon, first attracts the notice of
the passers-by; they draw near, lean over the hedge, and look in to
see if any one is seated at the little tables.

 [Illustration]

“See, there is so-and-so, and so-and-so, C——— and B———.” Political
and literary men, artists, financiers, women of both worlds, the
recognized and the unrecognized, the Luxembourg, the Palais Bourbon,
the theatre, the newspapers, the drawing-room, and boudoirs. The
guests seat themselves under the verandah, to watch the carriages
drive up. The table-napkins are dazzling in their snowy whiteness
against the green leafy trees, the ice melts in the silver bowls, and
the freshly cut cucumbers resemble aquatic leaves, torn from the pond
of [p056] water lilies, which we only glimpse at through the hanging
branches of the willows.

Hours pass pleasantly, languidly, in this festive scene. The Rakoczy
March, the Stephanie Gavotte, give a tinge of gallantry and love to
the reverie into which we fall, daydreams vague as the outlines of
the landscape before us.

And the spell lasts, until suddenly, lights, which are not reflected
from the stars, appear mirrored in the waters of the tiny lake. They
shine from the red lamps of the victorias now being lighted.

Night has fallen.

It is time to go to the fair.

 [Illustration]



 [p057] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER III.
 PERMANENT SHOWS OR ENTRESORTS.


The visit to the fair usually commences by the _entresorts_, or
permanent shows.

What are _entresorts_?

I must again quote my friend Philip, the ancient mariner, whom I
introduced to you just now, at the present moment editor of the _Tir
de la Republique_, municipal councillor, and editorial secretary to
the _Voyageur Forain_.

 [Illustration]

“In the cant idiom used by the _petite banque_, we describe [p058]
by the name of _entresort_ any booth which contains a permanent show
without beginning or end, an establishment which _the public only
walks through_. Waxworks are _entresorts_, so are exhibitions of
dwarfs, monstrosities, learned fleas, and tattooed women. The booths
which contain catch-pennies, somnambulists, conjuring tricks, fat
women, and pretty girls, are also _entresorts_ if you like, but they
are more frequently termed _Halls of Mystery_—I need scarcely tell
you why.

 [Illustration]

_Entresorts_ and Halls of Mystery always swarm in every fair. They
are cheap amusements largely patronized by the [p059] crowd. And
whilst the more important shows have changed all their entertainments
and have introduced unlimited improvements into their theatres, the
_entresort_ has not altered either its arrangements or its exhibition
since the origin of time. It is always established in a canvas
booth, sometimes provided with wooden benches lighted by four oil
lamps; while the show is usually of an alarming nature—scenes from
the [p060] Inquisition, executions, heads of celebrated murderers,
exhibitions of monstrosities, of five-footed sheep, armless artists,
calves’ heads, giants and dwarfs.

No one should wonder at the fact that many people are more interested
in the abnormal than in the beautiful. But this trait being once
recognised, the dwarf is more wonderful than the giant; man is such a
complicated machine, that in watching these microscopic creatures who
gesticulate and speak like ourselves, we feel something of the same
astonishment that would strike us if we found the seconds marked by a
miniature watch which we could only see through a magnifying glass.
For this reason the dwarf show is one of the most popular booths in
the fair.

Every one knows that there are two kinds of dwarfs—those who are
naturally dwarfs, and those who, as children, were at first of
average size and growth, but whose development was abruptly checked.
In their case the limbs which no longer grew, were yet capable of
enlargement. As a rule the head is enormous. Monsieur François, from
the Cirque Franconi—the partner of Billy Hayden the clown, the tiny
circus rider—is a typical specimen of this class of dwarfs, who are
called _noués_ to distinguish them from the perfect miniature of
humanity. They are physically deformed, but in all other respects
they resemble other men. François, for instance, is very intelligent.
I shall always remember our first interview two years ago in Erminia
Chelli’s box at the Cirque d’Eté.

“How old are you, Monsieur François?”

“Twenty.”

“I am older than you are, M. François; yet, as you know, I am not
celebrated.” [p061]

M. François shook his head, and as a consolation—“you see not every
one can be a dwarf”—he gravely answered:

 [Illustration]

“Do not pity yourself, sir; you are distinguished for your learning.”

Since then M. François has told me all about his present life. He
lives at Villette with his mother, whom he supports. In the evening,
as the distance is too great for his short legs, [p062] he goes out
by the last omnibus, and even when the vehicle is full, he is charged
for his place.

“Yet I take so little room, sir!”

M. François is a brave lad; and those who have seen him in his
Cordovan boots, driving his team of six horses, know that he is
an exceptionally good whip. It should though be noticed, that
however deficient the _noués_ may be in size, they possess the same
intelligence and sometimes the full strength of a man of normal
height. In 1802 Germany possessed a clever painter named Jacob
Lehnen, who was exactly 3 ft. 10 in. high; and I read in an English
newspaper, the _Daily Advertiser_, dated 18th August, 1740, an
announcement of the arrival at a London tavern, the _Great Glass_,
of a Persian dwarf called the _Second Samson_, only 3 ft. 8 in., who
carried two strong men at arm’s-length and danced between the tables
with his double burden.

 [Illustration]

These deformities are not attacked by the decrepitude which prevents
their comrades from living beyond their [p063] twentieth or
twenty-fifth year. There are historical instances of centenarian
_noués_.

 [Illustration]

In 1819, at the Court Theatre, a _noués_ was exhibited aged
sixty-three; her name was Thérèse Souvary, and according to the
advertisements, she was betrothed in her youth to Bébé, a dwarf
belonging to good King Stanislaus. And if these advertisements were
untrue, there are proofs in other places of a great many marriages
contracted by dwarfs, who have had large families. M. Edward Garnier,
in his curious pathological study of the _noués_, quotes the case
of the painter dwarf Gibson, who married a wife as small as himself
and had nine children by her, of whom five were of average height
and attained manhood. Two other dwarfs, married in London, Robert
and Judith Kinner, had fourteen children all well made and robust.
Lastly, any one may have seen in the Western papers in 1883, the
notice of the death at Sables d’Olonne, of a little dwarf long
exhibited in fairs under the [p064] name of the _Petite Nine_. This
tiny creature, who was not more than 31-1/2 inches high, married a
M. Callias and had several children by him. She had even survived
the Cesarean operation, and reached a great age notwithstanding her
scandalous insobriety.

In spite of the intelligence of the _noués_ I quite understand why
no one becomes devoted to them; but it is quite another thing with
regard to natural dwarfs who, whilst remarkable for their extremely
small size, yet retain in their miniature forms the æsthetic beauty
of proportion. All Europe has seen in the circus or in the fairs, one
couple of these elegant dwarfs, General Mite and Miss Millie Edwards,
whom Barnum launched upon the world under the name of the _American
Midgets_.

If we may believe the manager who superintends the travels of the
Midgets, they are both American citizens. Their respective families
advertised their matrimonial requirements—a young man of six inches
wishing for a suitable wife, and a young girl of five inches wishing
for a husband of six; they journeyed towards each other across the
world, and were married at Manchester.

The Midgets have prospered in worldly matters. They are engaged at
a very high salary of some thousands of francs per month, and will
be able to provide handsomely for any children that Heaven may send
them. Their dress and food cost them very little. The “General”
usually dines upon half a biscuit and a few carefully-measured drops
of wine. He is marvellously jealous of his wife, and when I once
advanced to her carriage to help her to alight, Mr. Mite pretty
curtly informed me in English that he kept a footman on purpose to
attend to her. [p065]

But it appears that the General is not only jealous, he is also
fickle: he had brilliant success in England. I tried to make him talk
about it, but like an honourable man, he was mute upon the subject,
and his present _impresario_ told me that he had often attempted to
sound him upon the point, but had met with no better success than I
had done.

 [Illustration]

General Mite sings the tambour-major’s song extremely well; manages
a “sociable” tricycle like a professional, and waltzes gracefully.
The General is very brisk, very lively, a wonderful mimic; he acts
several little pieces with real talent—amongst others, a scene of
drunkenness, and the promenade of a New York dandy.

But neither the General nor his wife possess the same charm as
Princess Paulina. I have been quite close to this wonderful little
creature and taken her by the hand, which, like the whole of her
person, is modelled with infinite delicacy. [p066] She might be
taken for a waxen statuette, a tiny dancer from Tanagra freshly
exhumed, with a little carmine still clinging to her lips, a little
gold to her tunic.

One might apply to Princess Paulina the same praises which Loret,
in 1653, addressed in his “Gazette” to “a little dwarf belonging to
Mademoiselle,” who was suffering from a cold on the chest produced by
the slamming of a door—

 “Jamais près de Roy ny de Prince[3]
 On ne vid de naine si mince.
 Quand une puce la mordait
 Et qu’icelle se défendait,
 La puce pour finir la guerre,
 La mettait aizément par terre,
 Et la moindre haleine du vent
 La fazait tomber bien souvent.
 Enfin, elle était si petite
 (Quoiqu’aucunement favorite),
 Que, dans un petit balancier
 De cuivre, d’arain ou d’acier,
 Ètant par plaisir un jour mise,
 Avec robe, jupe et chemize,
 Et de plus sa coiffure encor,
 Tout ne pezait qu’un louis d’or.” [p067]

“Princess Paulina,” says the voluble individual who advertises her
to the public, “is eleven years old. She is of Dutch origin, and
measures 15-3/4 inches, and weighs ten pounds; she is introduced by
her brother who is with her.”

 [Illustration]

And the robust stripling lifts the little doll like an ounce: he
holds out one arm and, in the pleasantest manner, the little princess
performs a few acrobatic feats over it. She is very [p068] proud of
this little social talent. When I was introduced to her behind the
scenes, she courteously said:

“Shall I turn a somersault for monsieur?”

And in an instant she was standing on her hands, head down, feet in
air, like a clown. With her tiny dress of coral-coloured muslin and
satin flying out around her, Princess Paulina did not look any larger
than a bouquet of roses enveloped in white paper.

I asked her all the questions that etiquette requires when speaking
to a dwarf.

“Princess Paulina, have you a doll?”

“As large as this, Monsieur.”

She raised her hand above her head, but even then it only reached the
medium size of the _Bébés Hurel_.

“Princess Paulina, what did you eat for dinner?”

“Six oysters and some breast of chicken.”

“Princess Paulina, do you speak English?”

“Very well.”

“Princess Paulina, can you speak German?”

“_Sehr gut._”

“Princess Paulina, will you give me a kiss?”

“Kiss a gentleman!” cried the little princess, quite alarmed.

And she consulted her tall brother with a look. The tall brother gave
an affirmative nod of the head, and the princess submitted to the
caress—this is how I am able to inform those who may not be aware of
the fact, that, like new-born babies, a little dwarf smells like a
grey mouse.

But there is no need for sensitive souls to distress themselves about
these fragile beings. Vanity is quite as strong [p069] in a dwarf as
in a man, and every “Princess Paulina” in the world is pleased to be
exhibited. Besides, the parents of these goslings with golden eggs
are too much interested in prolonging their lives ever to maltreat
them. Those who should be pitied are the poor children sold once for
all to a speculator. One of these dwarfs met with a tragic fate some
years ago.

 [Illustration]

He was named Joseph. At seventeen he measured only 27 inches, and had
a thin, woebegone face rendered grotesque by an enormous nose which,
like his hands and feet, was abnormally large. [p070]

His parents, small agriculturists at Saintes, sold him in 1882 to a
mountebank, who endeavoured to increase the popularity of his show by
making this scrap of a man become an animal-tamer.

By dint of great patience six cats were painted to resemble tigers,
with yellow and black stripes. The animals were shut into a cage with
the dwarf, and the unlucky Joseph, half dead with fear, was forced,
with the aid of a riding-whip, to make the cats perform.

The attempt succeeded for some time, when on July 12th, 1882, at
the fair of Beaupré-sur-Saône, one of the cats suddenly flew at the
dwarf’s throat and threw him down by its weight.

In one second all the other cats had rushed upon Joseph, and before
any one could intervene, the cat-tamer was strangled, his eyes torn
out, his face covered with blood.

The mountebank fled: a few days later he was arrested at Lille.

I was lately discussing this tragic accident with M. François, and my
friend, who was drawing on his riding-boots, paused in the effort to
utter these melancholy words:—

“We were certainly happier under the old _régime_.”

When one is satiated with the abnormal and monstrous, the thoughts
naturally tend towards those entertainments which exhibit the
perfection of human beauty.

It must be admitted that in this respect the public taste has
improved. The infantine and Oriental admiration which the crowd
displayed for enormous women, the “fat lady” who weighed 250 lbs.,
is declining so quickly [p071] that the “colossus” has nearly
disappeared from the fair. And really pretty girls are now exhibited
in the “Halls of Mystery.”

 [Illustration] [p072]

The success of the “Beautiful Fatma,” hastened this revolution.
No fair of any importance is now held without some imitation of
the “Beautiful Fatma” being on the ground. I noticed the _Pavillon
Marocain_ amongst the most successful of these imitations.

“Walk in, walk in! ladies and gentlemen,” cries the showman at the
top of his voice; “walk in and see the _danse du ventre_, as danced
at Bardo before the Bey of Tunis! Walk in, walk in! Hurry up!”

We enter. The booth is clean and prettily decorated; at one end three
women in Oriental dresses are singing a harsh melody accompanied
by the traditional thrumming on the bamboo drums, which look like
butter pots. They are called, if names are asked for, Aïcha, Dora,
and Hardiendja. But there is a Fatma in the house. She is a negress
about twenty years old, a fine specimen of her race: at its base the
nose is almost as wide as her thick lips, and by this detail Fatma
shocks all our ideas of classic proportions; still, when looking at
this tall, well-made girl, I, for the first time, understood what
travellers mean when they speak of the beauty and exquisite grace of
negro women. In spite of all defects there is a pleasant harmony in
the dark face, brightened by the modest mischievous eyes. And when
Fatma dances before the negro Bouillabaisse,—first comic actor to
the Sultan of Zanzibar,—her graceful swaying movements, her languid
attitudes and smiling gestures rouse in her audience that innate
sympathy with Oriental views of women, the gentle, soulless creature
of the East, which lies dormant in the heart of every man.

 [Illustration: LA BELLE FATMA.]

Another “Hall of Mystery” worth visiting is the “House [p073] of
Metamorphosis,” Manager Stenegry, at the sign of the “Secret des
Dieux.”

The real attraction of this establishment is Mdlle. Stenegry herself,
a Romanische of rare beauty, who with her golden sequins and Egyptian
diadem forms the most perfect “Esmeralda” that you ever dreamed of
at sixteen. Inside we find a second young lady, equally lovely, a
charming blonde—Mademoiselle Lutèce. She fills the _rôle_ of Galatea,
“the marble statue that acquired life beneath the burning kisses of
Pygmalion.”

 [Illustration] [p074]

“Pygmalion” does not appear, but in a darkened room, by some device
of slanting mirrors, the beautiful head of Mdlle. Lutèce changes
into a death’s-head before the eyes of the spectators. Then from
the youthful polished ivory skull a rose bush suddenly appears.
This eminently philosophical contrast has inspired M. Stenegry,
the father, with some wonderful variations of the original idea. I
recommend his “Programme of visible and mysterious apparitions” to
all collectors of comicalities.

“Everything pales. . ,” he says, “everything dissolves, everything
blends. Come and see the _chef-d’œuvre_ produced by my researches
upon metempsychosis; it will submit its revelations and revolutions
to the judgment of the spectators, who will become its sincere
admirers.”

But just now the most æsthetic entertainment in the fair is the
series of _tableaux vivants_ presented to the public by M. Melchior
Bonnefois.

M. Bonnefois is an artist and a literary man. Last year he published
a very pathetic article in the _Union Mutuelle_, “Les Drames de la
Vie Foraine,” and I have read some very skilful verses written by him
for some of the small reviews published in the South.

This man has tastefully grouped a limited number of models, youths
and girls, who are not only well trained in their profession, but
also good-looking. Amongst them are Suzanne Bertini, the model from
the studio of J. P. Laurens; Arabelle, the model from the Bouguereau
studio; Jeanne Laurence, the model from the Baudry studio; Antonio
Vega, from the Academy of Madrid; Rose Linon, one of the favourite
models from the Gervex studio; Berthe Biéville, [p075] Serge
Worouzof, from the Academy of Moscow; last and chief, the star of the
troupe, the beautiful Mireille, from the Academy of Marseilles. This
little Phocean is crowned with beautiful blue-black hair, and has the
profile of Pallas Athene, with all the Olympian coldness, the absence
of expression, and the gravity which distinguished the goddess.

 [Illustration]

Perhaps, since it is a question of perfection, her arms, like her
bust, are a little thin, but Mireille’s statuesque divinity reappears
in her legs from the hips to the feet. One lady, whose views upon
questions of dress are extremely accurate, and in whose society I was
lucky enough to witness this [p076] artistic exhibition, made an
observation upon Mdlle. Mireille’s attire which I faithfully transmit
to this pretty girl and her directors—directors of conscience and
others.

An error on the part of the costumier is the cause of the apparent
want of harmony in the fine proportions of Mdlle. Mireille’s figure,
giving undue importance to the legs. A scarf has been draped across
the hips over the salmon-coloured fleshings; it is about the width
of a bath-towel, and is so inartistically puffed that its whiteness
destroys the harmony of the outlines, and by its vague resemblance to
the short breeches worn with trunk hose, it transforms a nude into a
travesty. Above the trousers of the page one looks for the shoulders
of the man, and because they are missing, Mdlle. Mireille looks too
thin.

What remedy can be applied to this serious error which spoils our
pleasure? There is some difficulty in the matter, I know, but it
has been frequently overcome with greater skill: for instance, by
the artist who designed a costume for Madame Théo, as Eve before
the Fall, which won the approval of all admirers of plastic beauty,
without shocking the susceptible. I shall send a photograph of Madame
Théo to M. Bonnefois.

It is a sad proof of our physical decadence that beauty is no longer
found allied with strength; the two qualities, formerly blended like
metals in an alloy, are now entirely separated, and M. Bonnefois
and M. Marseille each presides over representatives of the two
attributes, which, when united, produced the most perfect types
of humanity. At M. Bonnefois’s establishment beauty is cultivated
without strength, and at M. Marseille’s entertainment, strength is
[p077] found without beauty. Yesterday I could not stifle these
painful thoughts when I took my seat on the velvet benches provided
by the celebrated manager of the athletic show, to watch a wrestling
match.

 [Illustration]

Full of recollections of Plutarch, one remembers that in the
palestrea, Lycurgus made the young girls rub themselves with oil
and contend with the Spartan ephebes; the lines of Theocritus on
the fight between Castor and Pollux are haunting the lips; the eyes
are full of visions of the beautiful forms of the wrestlers of the
tribune—the young men of Cephissodote, so beautiful that they were
taken for the sons of Niobe, of whom Apollo was jealous. One enters
the canvas booth, the movable temple of the heroic Hercules, with a
religious shiver, and, alas! what do you see? Stout, [p078] heavy
men, their hair shining with pomatum, with abnormally developed
chests—this is the glorious phalange; on the other hand, amateurs
without either masks or black coats, but who are nearly all in the
service of the _Compagnie Lasage_, men who have served their time, or
porters in the Great Market. No well-bred figures, no delicate limbs.
Compare these bloated Vitellii to the gods? There, my good fellows,
go home to your lock-picking and your work.

 [Illustration]

Yet I remember one tragic anecdote of wrestling. It happened at the
fair at Loges about fifteen years ago. We had gone into a booth
to witness a fight with single-sticks between a fencing-master’s
assistant from St. Germains and the proprietor of the establishment.
The soldier and the mountebank evidently knew and disliked each
other; they were engaged for some time, and seemed less like holding
a [p079] match than settling a quarrel; a good many people had
followed the soldier into the booth.

The mountebank was completely beaten. He foamed at the mouth, rolling
his eyes terribly, whilst the fencing-master, swinging himself to and
fro, made his cane whistle above his head.

When the applause ended, the wrestler demanded:

“My revenge! take a belt!”

A woman intervened—a tall dark girl, a gipsy, who had juggled before
us with weights and knives.

“Do not fight,” she cried to the soldier in a voice full of pain. “He
is furious! he will hurt you!”

The mountebank sneered:

“Madame fears that I might break you! Are you a man?”

The soldier turned white. He was a tall lissom man, but he did not
look strong. However, he quietly unbuttoned the waistcoat that he had
put on, and picked up the belt.

The other waited, his arms crossed, a smile on his lips.

They grasped each other, but the struggle did not last long. The
soldier was immediately thrown underneath the other; the mountebank
put one knee on his neck, seized his head with both hands, and turned
it completely round. We heard a crack. The soldier uttered a horrible
cry—the wrestler had broken his neck like a rabbit’s back. I did not
want to see any more and rushed out, whilst the crowd threw itself
upon the mountebank. But in the evening an accidental turn in my walk
brought me in front of the booth.

In the midst of all the gaiety, of songs, of meals in the [p080]
open air, of the illuminations and noise of the shows, the wrestler’s
booth, silent and closed, was the only dark spot in the fair. An
indistinct form cowered on the wooden steps. I went a little nearer
to it. It was the gipsy, the juggler with weights. She was sobbing
bitterly, her head buried in her apron—weeping for the prisoner or
for the dead.

 [Illustration]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [3] No king nor prince did ever see
 Such a tiny dwarf as she.
 When a flea to bite her tried,
 The feast intended she denied,
 And tried to crush him; then she found
 With ease he threw her to the ground.
 The summer breeze, a zephyr’s sigh,
 Would blow her down in passing by.
 In fact, she was so slim and small
 (Although in no way beautiful),
 That when she stood in merry play,
 Upon a tiny scale, one day—
 Of brass, of copper, or of steel—
 With dress and petticoat and frill,
 And with her _coiffure_, furthermore—
 The whole weighed but one louis d’or.



 [p081] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER IV.
 THE THEATRE BOOTH.


Although an open secret is now called Punch’s secret, it is certain
that the marionettes’ theatre and the puppet dance are great
mysteries in their way.

Very few people have ever penetrated behind the scenes of these
theatres. They are far better defended than the Opera, and I am not a
little proud of having been admitted one day at the Versailles Fair
behind the curtain of the Bermont Theatre during the performance of a
grand drama, in one act, _The Spanish Brigands_.

I had been attracted by a very brilliant oration from Punch,
detailing all the amusements to be found within. [p082]

“This, ladies and gentlemen,” he spluttered between his teeth in
the usual way, “this is the real society and family entertainment.
Everything is calculated, everything is arranged, to please the eye:
a review of the greatest Parisian artists, dances in character,
Icarian games held in honour both by the Greeks and Romans, a Spanish
bolero, Harlequin’s celebrated feats on a bicycle, and, lastly, the
great unpublished drama, now performed for the first time in this
town, _The Brigands_.”

We crowded in, about one hundred urchins, grandmothers, and nurses,
eyes wide open in pleasant anticipation.

A small Italian musician, his teeth gleaming like ivory from contact
with hard crusts, formed the whole orchestra. He played the accordion
on the front bench. His melody ended, some one rapped three times,
the performance commenced.

First, two Polish warriors entered and performed a military dance,
marking the time with their heels. Then followed a couple of Spanish
dancers, who executed some wonderful pirouettes and pigeons’ flights.
Then appeared the india-rubber man, who stretched and stretched
himself, and finally bent himself until his nose touched his heels,
and then he sneezed, a performance which convulsed the spectators
with delight. He was succeeded by a lawyer in a black dress, who
doubled himself, became triple and quadruple—a naïve symbol of the
craftiness of his profession—then played in each of the four corners
of the stage with his duplicates and suddenly flew through the frieze.

The curtain falls.

From every bench a sorrowful cry is heard, “Is it over?” [p083]

No. The second part is going to begin.

Rap! rap! rap!

The curtain rises upon a second curtain, which represents a forest, a
chief, two brigands, three acolytes. This is the band.

 [Illustration]

THE CAPTAIN.—“My friends, I have heard from the old postillion that a
post-chaise will pass through this narrow road. You must stop it.”

THE BAND.—“Yes, captain.”

THE CAPTAIN.—“You, Pedro, must guard this defile. We, my friends,
must away to the mountains.” [p084]

(_The band disappears on the side to the court. Pedro remains alone
for one moment. A monk enters front the garden side._)

PEDRO.—“Halt there; your money or your life!”

THE MONK.—“But, my brother, I am as poor as you are. Capuchins have
no money.”

PEDRO.—“What are those twenty-five golden louis I see in this purse?
And the repeater that I see; I—”

(_Pedro attempts to rob the monk. The Capuchin falls on his knees._)

THE MONK.—“Mercy! If I go home without this money the superior will
shut me up in a dungeon.”

PEDRO.—“That’s not my business!”

THE MONK.—“At least fire into the folds of my frock without wounding
me, so that I can prove that I was attacked.”

PEDRO.—Very well. (_He fires._)

THE MONK, _springing upon Pedro, and stabbing him with a
dagger_.—“Fool! You missed me, but I shall not miss you!”

(_He disappears on the court side; the captain and his band re-enter
from the garden side._

_They pause before the body of Pedro._)

A BRIGAND.—“The coward, he is asleep!”

THE CAPTAIN.—“No, he is bathed in blood. The monk has killed him. Let
us pillage the monastery.”

The curtain falls; the show is really over this time.

I went behind the scenes to ask the _impresario_ Bermont for the name
of the author of this fine historical drama.

“I wrote it myself,” he modestly replied. “I have a book [p085]
of plays. I write them in the evenings, when they occur to
me—recollections, ideas, anything. We also play _The Passion_, _The
Temptation of Saint Anthony_, _Hell_, and _Geneviève de Brabant_. The
book is very old, and has never been printed. We repeat it through
over and over again. I also perform _Camilla Underground;_ or, the
_Dangerous Forest_. But once in that piece the ‘author’s rights’
found a pretext for coming in, but they did not recognize the piece;
I had changed it all.”

 [Illustration]

His wife stood near him whilst he spoke, leaning on his shoulder,
tenderly proud of belonging to a man gifted with so much imagination.

If you should ever have an opportunity of examining the large volumes
in which the Brothers Parfaict, the Des Beulmiers, de [p086] Monnet,
and some other authors have scientifically discussed the origin of
fair theatres, you will find that they have been always forced to
contend against that hereditary enemy which the _impresario_ Bermont
now calls the “author’s rights,” and which has borne different names
in different ages.

At the epoch when the fair theatres first attracted notice, that is
to say about 1595, it might have been justly styled the “comedians’
rights.” The brotherhood of the Passion and the actors of the Hôtel
de Bourgogne would not allow any extension of theatrical performances
by their side, and as they held the power they easily obtained a rule
which restricted the comedies in a fair to wooden actors, marionettes
of Brioché, learned animals, acrobats, and juggling tricks.

But the _banquistes_ are a tenacious race, and towards 1678, in spite
of the opposition from the comedians, the fair theatres commenced to
mount a few well-seasoned farces with actors of flesh and blood. The
head of the police protested, and the managers once more pretended to
restrict themselves within the limits of the law, resorting to some
ingenious infraction of the spirit of it, which provoked laughter
and put the comedians in the wrong; for instance, the artifice used
by La Grille, who opened, in the fair of Saint Germaine, an _Opera
de Bamboche_, in which the sole actor was a huge marionette, that
gesticulated to the melodies of an invisible musician concealed in
the prompter’s box.

 [Illustration]

At the same time the companies of Allard, Maurice and Bertrand,
Selle, Dominique and Octave, obtained great success in Paris and
the provinces. Conjuring tricks and [p088] feats of agility still
formed the chief part of the entertainment, but to them were added
scenes with dialogue, _comedies in song_, from which our comic operas
have developed.

 [Illustration]

The _forain_ stage has retained the triple characteristics—acrobatic,
musical, and charlatan—which appear to have belonged to it from
the earliest days of its existence; but since the century in its
refinement values distinction of style, the _grande banque_ has
adapted itself to its requirements.

 [Illustration: SNAKE CHARMER.] [p089]

There are three kinds of theatre booths:

Singing theatres.

Theatres with good variety performances.

Theatres with conjuring entertainments.

The theatres with operetta are the least amusing. No original work
has been produced in them for a long time, not even any new songs.
At the present moment the _café_ concerts provide the majority of
the tedious repetitions which make the tour of France. The _forain_
opera lives by spurious imitations and clumsy changes of title. All
its skill is expended in successfully defying the aforesaid “author’s
rights.” It succeeds to its own satisfaction when it advertises the

CLOCHES DE GORNEVILLE

with a large G. Its inventive power is limited to the substitution
of this one letter. And the individuals who appear upon the stages
of the booths to sing the “trial d’operette” are also the refuse of
the _café_ concerts. They can only impose upon an unsophisticated
audience. For this reason the _forain_ opera is no longer found in
the suburban fairs of Paris or other large cities. It is confined to
country fairs and provincial festivities.

 [Illustration]

But the variety houses are on quite a different scale. The most
flourishing and the best known at the present time are the
establishments kept by Marquette and Emile Cocherie, who styles
himself on his programmes, “Head of the _fêtes_ of Paris.” At the
commencement of each campaign, that is to say before the Fair du
Trône, Emile Cocherie gives an audience in his villa at the Porte
de Montrouge to all the [p090] artists who aspire to enter his
troupe. In his presence the candidates must all _jouent le canevas_,
_i.e._ improvise a scene with dialogue upon a given subject. The same
old themes are used which have served ever since the origin of the
open-air [p091] stage; all the situations of the Italian comedies
and Gallic farces which amused the crowd even in the time of the
_escholiers_. A new topic is not prohibited, but there are very few
“patterers” who can _speak outside as well as inside_, as the terms
of the engagements run.

Still clever actors who can improve the performance receive extra
salaries. The illustrious Clam, who is called _the last of the
merry-andrews_, earned as much as five hundred francs a month at the
_forain_ theatres. I asked M. Cocherie, who was left inconsolable
by the departure of this whimsical performer, why he did not try to
replace him by some young student of comedy who had passed creditably
through the Conservatoire.

“He would not suit me,” replied the experienced manager. “I have
tried them, and still have one in my show, but he does not succeed.
The lads have not effective voices, they are not merry and, above
all, they have no gift for improvisation. A commercial traveller who
can push a sale well, a hawker from the street, would be much more in
my line than M. Coquelin _aîné_.”

And it is quite true, this Clam is a splendid clown. I do not
recommend you to make his acquaintance in the _Clamiana_, a
collection of jokes which seem very dull when they are read, printed
with old type in a small newspaper. Clam should be heard outside
the show in the tumult of smacks and kicks which accompanies his
improvised dialogue with his butt.

I begged this important personage to give me a few notes on his life,
and I now publish them as they were given to me. The last of the
red-tails belongs to literary history. [p092]

 [Illustration]

“At noon, on the 5th June, 1837, a baby uttered its first cry. The
son of the actor Chanet entered the world in the native place of
Casimir Delavigne! Brought up in more than poverty and naturally
delicate, my childhood was passed in an asylum at Havre, about the
time of the great cholera epidemic, which spared my life; later on, I
sold [p093] checks at the theatre door, and considered myself lucky
if I occasionally managed to see one act.

“My only recreation was reading plays and acting them in a footwarmer
by means of little dolls. I was the most ignorant of the Brothers’
class. In spite of all I became errand boy and lithographer.

“In 1853 I made my _début_ as a comic singer in the Théâtre des
Familles, established in an old prison.

 [Illustration]

“Some time afterwards I tired of shining in the carnaval _fêtes_
of the period and returned to Havre as a chorus-singer, under the
direction of M. Defossez.

“I sang in choruses and made floats. Some years later I returned to
the same theatre and gave some performances.

“But in spite of this success Paris has seen me almost barefooted,
ill, and homeless; my food gathered from the scraps found under the
umbrellas round the Fontaine des Innocents. My mother was poor and
could not help me, and for my own part I would not tell her of my
distress, wishing to spare her tears. By dint of struggles and of
[p094] work I distinguished myself as an actor at Nancy, Limoges,
Bordeaux, Toulouse, Havre, Rouen, Besançon, Geneva, Nantes, Paris, &c.

“I have acted with Henry Monnier, my master, Scrivaneck, Vieuxtemps,
Hoffman, Darcier, and Renard. Circumstances have forced me to give
performances in every description of city and small town. I have
played in stables and theatres, in barns, and in the Rothschilds’
drawing-rooms; I have travelled on foot, by railway, and in carts.
I journeyed through one part of France with some acrobats, with
whom I saw it through many colours and on the road I collected some
instructive and still unpublished notes, of which I am the sole owner.

“My travelling diaries are all my fortune. Afterwards I went to the
_café_ concert with the remnant of my voice, and was successively
engaged in various large cities. I know some parts of Holland and
Germany, a little of Switzerland and Prussia, a great deal of
Belgium, and something of Italy and Spain. But I know Bohemia best of
all.

“Like the late Bilboquet, I have tampered with every _banque_ except
the Banque de France, but this does not prevent me from living a
quiet, unobtrusive life; my only wish is that no one should annoy
me (this is very difficult to get), to live a long time and to die
without pain.

“I add for the edification of the reader that my sons bear my
name, an item which my father forgot to bestow upon me (he was so
heedless).”

Clam, who—as you may judge from this narrative—has some claim to be
noticed in any complete anthology of [p095] French writers in prose,
has “teased the muse” at times. But his poems echo the prevailing
note of his century—they are cynical and melancholy. You may judge
by these three verses on the death of a comrade in the show. Clam
dedicated them to me:

 “Elle est morte, la cabotine,
 Sans avoir essuyé son blanc,
 A la bouche une cavatine,
 Son bouquet de fleurs sur le flanc.

 Dans sa “caravane,” on la garde
 Entre un cierge et des litres bus;
 Sa mère l’habille et la farde
 Comme elle a fait pour ses débuts.

 Elle attend qu’on lève la trappe
 Et qu’on frappe au rideau trois coups,
 Elle attend . . . Hélas! on les frappe,
 Mais c’est sur des têtes de clous.”[4]

A man who has so many strings to his bow is not anxious about the
future. One day when I hinted before Clam that old age might surprise
him, without any provision for it, he replied:

“When I am no good for anything else my friends will [p096] make a
politician of me. But I have still some chest left, and I shall put
off the death of the show for many years yet.”

The improvements, the tricks of every kind which have destroyed
the “outside shows,” have enriched the entertainments given inside
the booths, and have most successfully transformed the conjuring
performances like those found in the establishments of Adrian Delille
and Pietro Gallici.

Since Delille bought the theatre and tricks of Laroche he is the
king of showmen conjurers. He is third representative of the name.
The first Adrian, the grandfather, was conjurer to King Charles X.,
and, since that remote date, at every fair held in Paris or any
large town, a magician bearing the name of Delille has been seen
making omelettes in hats, juggling with balls, &c., without the aid
of pointed hat, long sleeves, wand, or cabalistic words—a modern
sorcerer in evening dress and lavender kid gloves. The Delilles first
introduced the trick of the _Speaking Head_ into France. They bought
the patent for 4,000 francs, never hesitated to bring a lawsuit
against any one who infringed it, and always won their case.

The science of white magic has made great progress since that date.
There are always some means of improving an old trick, and every year
Adrian Delille spends his six months of enforced rest in preparing
for the summer season.

 [Illustration]

Like all his comrades, he disbands his troupe in the month of
November, and takes up his winter quarters in Paris, where he has a
study devoted to experiments. He must [p097] be ready to renew the
campaign at Easter, to astonish the Parisians at the Fair du Trône.
In his youth the conjurer worked almost alone, and for hours he would
keep the public breathless with interest and wonder. For this he
required great facility of speech, a mind always on the alert, and
the [p098] skill to draw the eyes of the spectators in any direction
he wished away from his secret manipulations. Conjuring implies a
constant struggle against the malicious curiosity of the audience.
“I am not strong enough now,” Delille observed to me, “to bear the
strain during a succession of tricks; I was obliged to divide the
performance. Besides, now, the public like that best.”

 [Illustration]

 [Illustration]

The troupe consists of forty persons. It is a little difficult to
realize the size of the establishment required to work these large
show-theatres. A booth like that of Adrian Delille can seat 1,200
people, and it is always crowded for the Sunday performances. They
cost an average of 400 francs [p100] per diem, for the principal
performers receive high salaries. Clowns, acrobats, buffoons, and
equilibrists, all these artists—and they are the same who appear in
the hippodrome and circuses—are engaged through the agencies. The
engagements are concluded for one month, but they can be cancelled at
the end of a week at the wish of the proprietor.

A good clown, a skilful gymnast, can earn in a _forain_ theatre like
that of Delille as much as at the circus—about 2,000 francs per month.

The dancers employed to pose in the _tableaux vivants_ are paid
according to their beauty and skill—180, 240, or even 500 francs per
month.

Delille paid a still higher sum to the two pretty girls who lately
posed for him as the two little combatants in Emile Bayard’s picture
_An Affair of Honour_.

It would be quite as indiscreet to ask a conjurer to explain his
tricks, as a pretty woman to tell you what scent she uses for her
toilet, and therefore I have never discussed the subject. The
exclusive ownership of a conjuring trick is difficult to defend
in law, and for this reason prestidigitators are always on their
guard against the indiscretion of their workpeople. They have been
betrayed a hundred times for a bottle of wine and a few banknotes,
and now, taught by misfortune, they surround their experiments with
as much mystery as the old Egyptian priests used in their worship
of the veiled Isis. After all, our pleasure lies in this mystery
only. “These phantasmagorias,” it has been well said by one of our
contemporaries, whom a taste for philosophic acrobatics has led to
esteem acrobats in [p101] fleshings,—“these phantasmagorias please
us like every other phenomena which seems to contradict the universal
order of things, to counteract the laws of nature. The universe being
what it is, we have no other consolation than the dream that it is
otherwise, and this is the true essence of poetry. Conjuring is
lyrical poetry—fable in action.”[5]

 [Illustration] [p102]

The time has passed when conjurers were forced to ascend a woodpile
and worthy folk clung to the honour of bringing a faggot to roast
them with. Every one knows that there is nothing supernatural in the
illusions they create. Usually the explanation is one of the most
simple things in the world, but our search for it is nearly always
unsuccessful, yet whilst we persevere in it we cannot be bored, and
this is really the only aim in view.

 [Illustration: M. DE KOLTA.]

There is one conjurer more modern than Delille, more ingenious than
Robert Houdin, who has carried the art of white magic to a state of
perfection unknown before. This is M. de Kolta.

This extraordinary man takes a sheet of paper, rolls it up like a
cornucopia, and from this horn of plenty he immediately pours an
avalanche of roses into a crystal cup. [p103]

The spectator is bewildered.

 [Illustration]

“Where do these roses come from?” he asks. Apparently they had been
in some way concealed in the waistcoat of the thaumaturgist; but how
did they get into the horn? what pushed them? what secret spring made
them flow forth? [p104]

We must own that no one knows.

M. de Kolta then removes his coat and takes a cage containing a live
bird into his hands. One, two, three!

The cage and the bird are gone; nothing is left! The clever ones
will gravely tell you that the cage was jointed; by pressing some
secret spring it unjoints, closes or elongates itself. Most probably
it assumes the shape of a narrow cylinder, in the midst of which the
bird is imprisoned but not hurt.

That is all very well, but what becomes of the cylinder? The magician
has no accomplice; he performs the trick alone, before the eyes of
the public. It seems impossible that any movement could escape that
watchful gaze.

Lastly, M. de Kolta is not satisfied with making a bird disappear,
he causes a woman to vanish—his wife, so they say; and although he
chose one so frail, so tiny, so nearly related to the elves, that she
looks as though she might run across a meadow without bending a blade
of grass, still she is a woman of flesh and blood, who could not be
forced into the sheath of a sword.

M. de Kolta, who is cleverer than you are, spreads a newspaper upon
the floor and places a chair on the paper. Madame de Kolta seats
herself upon the chair, and her husband covers the little parcel of
lace with a red and black veil; then rapidly takes the veil off again.

The woman has gone!

Evidently the woman disappeared through a trap; but yet, whilst she
went through it, the veil never moved, and the newspaper is still
intact, though it is much larger than the [p105] edges of the veil.
We feel humiliated at being the victims of such an illusion, although
we were forewarned. And we ask ourselves with some alarm, what is,
then, the value of the feeble organs of knowledge we call our senses,
in which we so blindly place our trust?

But through this uneasiness, this distrust of our judgment, which
conjuring leaves, this entertainment becomes an excellent school
of wisdom. You may believe M. Jules Lemaître on this point, for he
first discovered the philosophical side of these performances. “M.
de Kolta,” he said, “should be a happy man. He is a true sorcerer.
He forces us to see with our eyes things which we cannot see, and
not to see things which we do see, and this is solely through the
marvellous skill of his agile fingers. In his place, I would go to
the mysterious and credulous East, where I would found a new religion
based upon miracles. M. Renan would provide a dogma suited to the
requirements of those far-distant souls, and M. de Kolta would work
the miracles. He would be a prophet during his life, a saint, perhaps
a god, after his death. . . . But one sorrowful reflection tempers
the pleasure which this idea gives me. The miracles worked by M.
de Kolta are practically injurious. Since we do not believe in the
false miracles he performs—since nothing distinguishes them from real
ones, and we have only the magician’s word to assure us they are
false, what, then, should we do if real miracles were worked in our
presence? We should say, We know all about them; it’s only conjuring!
And thus the small remnant of faith which we may still retain in the
supernatural is insidiously destroyed. [p106] When the prophet Elijah
returns to earth at the end of time he will meet other De Koltas
here; he will himself be sent to the Eden or to the Folies Bergères.
And that is how the last men will lose their souls—just like the
first, however.”

 [Illustration]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [4] “She is dead, the mummer gay,
 With the powder on her face,
 On her lips a merry lay,
 Flowers nestling in her lace.

 In her “caravan” she lies
 Twixt empty bottles and wax lights,
 Her mother decks her, rouge applies,
 As though it were for her ‘first nights.’

 She waits, until they raise the trap,
 Three knocks, the rising curtain hails,
 She waits . . . alas! I hear them tap,
 But ’tis upon the heads of nails.”

 [5] Jules Lemaître, _Impressions de Théâtre_, Second Series.



 [p107] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER V.
 THE TRAINERS.


It is difficult to see how man would have fared if he had not
compelled the animals to serve him. The science of animal-training
must therefore date back to the earliest stages of the world’s
history; and we may believe that _artistic training_ is almost as
old. The dwellers in caves had not yet invented the game of fox and
geese, and they must have found some difficulty in amusing themselves
in the long winter evenings; they therefore probably taught their
dumb companions the art of leaping and showing off.

Now that animal-training has become a lucrative profession,
competition has forced the trainers to rival each other, and their
skill has obtained wonderful results. All the inmates of Noah’s Ark
have passed under the whip, from minute insects to Jumbo himself. Men
have tamed serpents, birds, cats, dogs, goats, monkeys, seals, and
pigs. In their desire to grasp and conquer increasing difficulties,
they have even [p108] taken the fleas from the animals they were
training, have bridled the fleas themselves, and taught them to draw
a carriage. Do you remember Virgil’s lines upon a stallion for the
first time subject to the yoke? The poet dwells with rapture upon the
vigorous bounds which wrench the plough from the furrows. What would
he have said of the spring of a flea, which, at liberty, jumps one
hundred and forty times its own height?

If you wish to know all the mysteries of animal-training, an art
based upon definite rules which vary very little in their application
to the instincts of the different pupils, I recommend you to read
a book which will surprise you. It was written by Professor G. J.
Romanes, secretary of the London Zoological Linnean Society, and
has been translated into French for the “International Scientific
Library.” It is called the _Intelligence of Animals_. You need
only glance at the first volume, which refers to the intelligence
of molluscs, ants, termites, white ants, spiders, scorpions, and
the lower articulated animals. But you should carefully study the
chapters in the second volume devoted to birds, the cat, dog,
baboons, and elephant. I fancy that if any of you are partisans of
the Cartesian doctrine, and hitherto only regarded animals as clocks
with better regulated machinery than our own, you will leave off
reading considerably shaken in your assurance.

The _saltimbanque_, who is not a creator of systems _à priori_,
but whose philosophy is purely experimental, has, for a long time,
observed the regularity with which animals follow the same habits.
Upon this observation he has based his method of training them.
[p109]

Whatever the animal may be which he wishes to train, he commences
by watching it closely, endeavouring to discover not only the usual
habits of the race, but the personal disposition of the individual in
question. One specimen raises itself naturally upon its hind legs,
another is born with a talent for jumping. . . . And this axiom
prevails in every case under training: “Animals are never forced to
execute, at the command and will of others, any movements which are
not natural to them in a free state.” Monkeys love to swing in the
tropical creepers: they are placed on a _trapèze_; a goat seeks for
pointed rocks—he is a natural equilibrist: so he is taught to balance
himself on the neck of a bottle; a dog instinctively rises on his
hind legs to seize a morsel of sugar held out to him. He must learn
to maintain himself in the same position.

 [Illustration] [p110]

Guided by these remarks, a trainer enters upon his task. He will
attain his end if he judiciously uses the triple forces of _fear_,
_greediness_, and _habit_.

 [Illustration]

The first time that you make a dog stand on its hind legs you have to
contend with the indolence which makes the animal wish to revert to
its usual position. Practise the [p111] lesson every day, and each
time reward the pupil with a lump of sugar. An association of ideas
will be soon formed in the dog’s mind: the disagreeable sensation
of _walking on its hind legs_ will be inseparably linked in its
memory with the pleasure of _crunching sugar_. And since the frequent
repetition of the same movement lessens the fatigue of maintaining a
vertical position, the dog will at last willingly perform the feat
which it at first disliked. On the other hand, it must be remembered
that the whip is always ready to punish any obstinacy or awkwardness,
and you will readily understand that a poodle, finding itself in the
dilemma of either walking upon its hind legs and receiving a dainty,
or of not walking and receiving a blow, at once chooses the polka.

 [Illustration]

And here, in its simplicity, lies the whole secret of training
animals. Patience and regularity from the man, habit and greediness
in the animal. There is no other talisman. You have all seen a
pigeon-charmer on foot or on horseback; it is [p112] one of the
prettiest performances exhibited. A young woman is carried round the
arena at full gallop by her steed; she raises herself or crouches
down in graceful attitudes which show off the suppleness of her
figure. Behind her, like a mantle streaming in the wind, the white
flight of pigeons follows her movements. They alight on the arms,
neck, and shoulders of their mistress, who recalls one of the young
priestesses in the groves of Gnide, offering her rosy lips and soft
white throat to the caresses of her doves.

Now would you like to know the secret of her charm? It is explained
in an amusing _vaudeville_ of the old style—_Le Sourd, ou l’Auberge
pleine_.

“Would you like,” one of the characters in this farce remarks to his
companion, “Would you like me to tell you an infallible method of
catching birds? Well then, listen! You must strew some corn on your
window-sill—the little birds will come and eat it. Put it there a
second time—the little birds will come again. On the eighth day you
need not put any. The birds will come open mouthed . . . and they
will be caught.”

This is the whole secret of the pigeon-charmer. For seven days she
strewed corn in the folds of her mantle. The eighth day the pigeons
were charmed.

This is an almost mechanical movement; the certainty of success
arises from the strength of instinct and the weakness of intelligence.

 [Illustration: PIGEON TAMER.]

With superior animals like the dog, the chances of failure are much
more numerous; but the same individual intelligence which renders
obedience more doubtful, authorizes the trainer to exact an effort
that surpasses intelligence from [p113] those picked performers
which he selects from amongst the pack. And Munito, who played
dominoes with his master, seems to have as much chance of being
remembered by posterity as Archimedes the Syracusian. One of his
companions, an unlucky mongrel, born in a gutter, caused all Paris to
throng to the Folies Bergères last year. Amongst his compeers he had
created the _rôle_ of the clown Auguste.

 [Illustration]

This clever dog-clown would reach the springing-board at a gallop,
then stop short before the bar, pass under the chairs when the
hoop was held out to him, feign a sound and sonorous sleep when he
was told to perform. But all this was only shamming, intended to
evoke laughter from the audience. Suddenly the Merry-Andrew would
free himself from his collar, bound upon the board, and cleave
the air [p114] with such a wonderful spring that the greyhounds
refused to follow him, and it was necessary to catch him on a
mattress to prevent him from breaking his paws. Some months later
he broke his back in London in a still more dangerous performance.
The best doctors were sent for, but nothing could be done; he died
after a short struggle of sobs and howls. I met his master some
months afterwards, and spoke to him about his loss. He still wept
when he mentioned the poor clown, whom he had cherished with human
friendship. I listened to all his regrets, and his words reawakened a
sympathetic pang in my own heart.

 [Illustration]

My lost favourite—a black poodle—was called Miette. She was not
clever, for she never even learnt to stand on her hind legs, but we
loved each other. At that time I lived on the banks of the Marne,
between Nogent and Joinville-le-Pont, a terribly deserted and
solitary district in winter. If Miette found that I did not return
home by the last train, she would break her chain and go and wait for
me near Reuilly, in the moats of Vincennes. She wished to escort me
through the woods, which, she felt, were by night full of possible
attacks and hidden peril. One day she was bitten by a mad dog. I did
not suspect the nature of the illness that followed, and endeavoured
to open her mouth and give her some medicine. She looked at me with
mad, supplicating eyes, seeming to say, “Leave me, my master, I do
not want to bite you.” When I knew what was the matter, I would not
leave the task of killing her to a veterinary surgeon, who might
have done it awkwardly perhaps. I led her into a thicket in that
forest of Vincennes which we had so frequently crossed together on
fine, silent, [p115] frosty nights, lighted only by the brilliance
of the stars. My heart ached with the agony of a man about to commit
a crime, who has led his friend into the corner of a wood [p116]
intending to perpetrate a cowardly murder. But it was necessary that
she should die. I made her lie down, put my revolver to her ear, and
fired.

Oh, my poor Miette! the long reproachful look you gave me ere your
eyes closed for ever—your loving, childlike eyes! I dug a hole and
gently laid you in the grave. I took off your collar—it still lies in
the drawer of my writing-table, my hand often touches it when I turn
over the confusion of papers. The little curb rings like halfpence
in a purse. And then I fancy that my poor Miette is moving round me;
that I hear her clumsy gallop on the wooden staircase; that in a
moment she will be scratching at the door.

Is there a better world, a paradise for these faithful servants of
mankind? I dare not assert that I believe so, and yet, in Dauphiné,
I once knew a dog who certainly cherished the hope of it. He was a
small curious-looking yellow mastiff, a dog of a divine race which
the Emperor of China had given as a choice present to a French
diplomat. He resembled a beast in heraldry, or one of those strange
monsters that we see writhing and baying on painted vases and reliefs
in bronze. Transported into France, the Chinese had crossed with
every breed of dogs for ten leagues round, and had created a race of
fantastic-looking animals which showed the curious type of the father
blended with every variation of the canine form. Towards the end of
his life, when I made his acquaintance, he had become a dreamer. He
spent whole days with his head resting upon his paws, his eyes fixed,
lost in his recollections. One autumn evening we went out upon a
terrace to enjoy the brilliant night; we found him immovable upon a
flagstone; his head was raised [p117] towards the sky, his eyes,
shining like carbuncles, seemed to pierce the heavens, gazing upon a
definite point beyond. His master was puzzled, and called him three
times:

“Kiang! Kiang! Kiang!”

But he remained motionless, like a bronze chimera, soaring far above
us in his ecstasy.

On the morrow he was found dead in his kennel.

 [Illustration]

I have often thought since that he had some presentiment of his
approaching death, and that he heard the distant baying of Sirius’s
hounds—of those dogs, sons of heaven, who hunt the Bear, and through
all eternity assuage their divine thirst in the fountains of the
Milky Way.

Although the grimaces of the monkey may be amusing, the dog’s
capacity for affection has won a higher place in my esteem. I am
wrong; for if a poodle be very near to us by its heart and its
delicacy of feeling, a monkey is more closely akin to humanity
through its gestures and form. Darwin has written very cleverly on
this subject. A baby of four years old, whom I took to the Corvi
Theatre the other day, [p118] and who had not read Darwin, cried
out, when the dishonest cook appeared:

“Look! it’s a little negro!”

You all know the popular performance of _The Roman Orgie_ by Couture.
Behind a table well provided with biscuits and nuts, a company of
baboons, ourang-outangs, and brown monks is seated. They are dressed
like Peruvian generals, and each has a napkin tucked into his collar.
A poor little monkey, tricked out in a town-crier’s old clothes, with
a white cap and apron, waits upon his comrades, gambolling round the
table. In his right hand he holds a lighted candle; in the left a
basket, which he dances by its handle. Ah! yes, that head cook! he
dances it by the handle morally and materially.[6] You see, he is
weighing his provisions on the sly, and seizing a mouthful whenever
M. Corvi is not looking.

The same entertainment has gone on ever since our childhood, and
since the infancy of your father and grandfather. And, as it would be
difficult to believe that the head cook is a sexagenarian, we must
conclude that a whole generation of actors have worn the apron and
carried the candle without our remarking any change.

To satisfy myself on this point, I questioned M. Corvi himself on the
subject.

 [Illustration]

“My show,” he kindly answered, “is really a permanent
entertainment. As it entirely consists of scenes in which goats,
monkeys, poodles, and ponies are the sole actors, I keep a reserve
staff, behind the scenes, of understudies of [p119] every part.
In the pantomime called _The Deserter_, you will no longer find
one single artist belonging to the original caste. I have already
replaced the judge, the gendarmes, the [p120] prisoner, and the
gravediggers, just as consumption or gout made vacancies in my
troupe. The actors pass, the play remains. No one here is absolutely
necessary. If I lost my first leading gentleman to-morrow—he is
a baboon named Coquelin _aîné_—the play would not be interrupted
for one single day. We should replace him by his understudy—she is
called Coquelin _cadet_—and neither the nurses nor the babies, who
are our subscribers for Tuesdays, would ever discover the change of
performer.”

M. Corvi is one of the last representatives of the old-fashioned
trainers, who wore evening dress or a frock-coat, like M. Loyal, when
they exhibited their pupils in the arena. Modern trainers prefer a
clown’s dress, and their intentionally grotesque appearance is very
effective when accompanied by ridiculous animals like the pig and the
donkey.

The terrible Onos, compared by Homer to the divine Ajax, the ass
himself, is now drawn by the ears into the arena by a clown. Perhaps
you already know that the male ass is a dangerous animal. He may be
chosen from a small race, but his bite will still be formidable,
and therefore the halter, which only seems to decorate his head, is
really a strong muzzle, and his hoofs are never shod. In spite of
these precautions the clown must be very agile to evade the kicks
showered full at his chest, and must be careful not to miss his
spring over the bench when Master Aliboron charges at him across the
arena like a bull rushing at a picador.

The appearance even of the pig has the power of delighting the crowd,
and who can resist laughing when the clown approaches his pupil and
shouts:

“Come here, pig!” [p121]

“Eh?” asks M. Loyal.

“I’m not talking to you.”

Although the training of the pig may still seem imperfect, the
education of this animal requires extreme patience from its teacher.
An Irish proverb quoted to me by Billy Hayden says: “Beat your wife
with a cudgel and your pig with a straw.” And, truly, the pig’s
bristling skin is so sensitive that the least touch of the whip
covers it with blisters, and disgusts the animal with all work for
ever. Only coaxing and kindness must be used.

 [Illustration]

The elephant is, perhaps, the only beast yet stricter than the pig in
regard to politeness. [p122]

This animal, which the trainer Corradini at the Hippodrome, and the
brothers Lockhart in most places have exhibited with so much success,
possesses all the passions and all the feelings of man.

I quite agree with you that some of the stories quoted to us about
elephants require confirmation, and I always feel some distrust in
reading the anecdote, related by Plutarch (_De Solert. Anim._ cap.
xii.), of an elephant which had been punished for dancing badly, and
was afterwards discovered practising its steps alone in the moonlight.

But there is scientific evidence of the magnanimity of the elephant,
of its deep sense of duty and self-respect.

Griffiths, whose good faith cannot be doubted, quotes one very
characteristic incident proving this self-respect. At the siege of
Bhurtpore, after the English had been encamped for some time before
the walls of the city, the dry winds set in and soon evaporated all
the water in the reserved ponds; this led to great competition round
the last well which contained any. One day two drivers were at the
edge of the well with their elephants; one of the beasts, which
was of remarkable size, seeing its companion use a pail to draw up
the water, forcibly wrenched it away. Whilst the two keepers were
joking, the victim, though conscious of the injury, restrained its
resentment. But when the thief bent over the edge of the well to
reach the water, the smaller elephant made a terrible spring, and
throwing itself with lowered head upon its enemy, sent it rolling
into the cistern.

 [Illustration]

This pride, when once overcome, is of great assistance to the
trainer, but it sometimes produces a tragedy. When elephants are
tamed, the presence of the monitor elephants [p123] can usually
be dispensed with at the end of two months, and the prisoner is
afterwards ridden by its keeper. At the end of three or four months
it is sufficiently docile to work, but there is some danger in
subjecting it to this ordeal too abruptly, for it frequently happens
that an adult and perfectly [p124] healthy elephant will lie down
and die after it has worn harness for the first time. The natives
then say that it died of a _broken heart_; in any case, the death is
not caused by either illness or wounds. (Sir E. TENNENT, _loc. cit._
p. 216.)

I have also found, amongst the _Memoirs_ of the actor, Charles Young,
published by his son, the Rev. Julius Young, an anecdote which well
illustrates the sagacity and affectionate sensibility of these huge
pachyderms.

The newspapers had announced the arrival in England of the largest
elephant that had ever been seen. Henry Harris, the manager of
Covent Garden Theatre, at once purchased Chung—that was the animal’s
name—for exhibition in a pantomime entitled _Harlequin_, which he
had mounted very expensively. Harris paid 900 guineas for the beast.
Mrs. Henry Johnston was to ride it, and Miss Parker was to act as
columbine. But at the general rehearsal, when Chung reached a bridge
over a cascade which he was expected to cross, he refused to step
upon it, distrusting its solidity, and not without reason. In vain
the angry keeper punished him by pricking him behind the ear with an
iron goad. With lowered eyes and pendent ears, the enormous animal
stood in a pool of blood, motionless as a wall.

 [Illustration]

The captain of the vessel which had brought Chung over, came in
during the contest between the man and the elephant. He had become
fond of the beast, and often fed it with dainties. The animal
had scarcely recognized its friend when it approached him with a
supplicating air, gently took his hand in its trunk and placed it in
the bleeding wound, then held the hand up to the captain’s eyes. The
gesture [p126] said as clearly as words: “See how they have made me
suffer!”

Poor Chung appeared so unhappy that every one was touched, even the
cruel keeper. To win pardon the man ran out and bought some apples,
which he offered to the elephant. But Chung disdainfully threw them
away. The captain, who had also fetched some fruit from Covent Garden
Market, came back immediately afterwards and held it out to Chung. He
willingly accepted it, and after eating it, coiled his trunk gently
round his protector’s waist.

Since no one has yet succeeded in exhibiting a learned whale, the
elephant is the largest animal that has been taught obedience to
man. Chung’s adventures would therefore seem a fitting close to this
monograph on training.

Yet I wish to crown this chapter by an account of the training of an
animal of very different size—the cat. And although this sequence
may seem curious to you, it is chosen for at least two reasons;
first, that the appearance of a trained domestic cat is the latest
achievement of the trainer’s art; and secondly, that I am not sure
whether the conquest of the cat is a triumph of _training_ or of
_taming_. There is, in fact, as much ground for regarding the cat as
a wild beast, as for considering it a domestic animal.

Hitherto we have believed, on the authority of M. de Buffon, the
systematic detractor of the cat, that it was an untamable animal. The
great naturalist states that “it will not allow any one to influence
its idle, thieving instincts.”

The cat has waited for nearly a century, but at last this slander can
be refuted; its falsehood is clearly proved.

Nearly twenty years ago a child was born in a Dutch [p127] village,
who, from an early age, showed unusual skill in taming and training
animals.

 [Illustration]

When the youth was seventeen—his name is Bonnetty—he introduced
learned rabbits, hares, and guinea pigs, into the arena, so
wonderfully trained that even the Dutch, who are not, as a rule, easy
to move, were much astonished. However Bonnetty was not going to stop
yet. Tempted by the great difficulty of the feat, he determined to
prove that M. de Buffon was unjust to the cat, and with rare patience
he devoted himself to the education of that animal.

He chose two subjects, both Dutch, like himself, cats from Hooren—M.
Bonnetty had remarked, after much [p128] observation, that the cats
from that district are particularly docile—and he spent some months
in training them; then one by one he added comrades to them, until he
had twenty; the instinct of imitation assisted the later recruits to
learn more rapidly.

The first exercise consisted in making the cat jump at the word of
command.

“_Vooruit!_” cries M. Bonnetty, who speaks nothing but Dutch.

The cat does not _vooruit_ all at once. It pauses undecided; very
often it does not understand. But Bonnetty never loses patience.
With a gentle hand, which resembles velvet in its touch, he softly
caresses the cat’s spine, quite determined not to be angry, yet
equally decided not to yield the point. At last the cat realizes what
is required of it, and jumps.

This first step gained, the after-work of education proceeds more
quickly. The animal gets used to walking on the backs of chairs and
the necks of bottles, or to leaping over flaming circles. But there
is one decisive trial to pass through—that of appearing before the
public.

M. Bonnetty has had some cats, perfectly obedient in rehearsal, which
could not be induced to perform to the sound of music before a crowd
of spectators. They coiled themselves up in a corner of their little
house, returning suddenly to a wild state.

“I cannot treat them as I would dogs,” M. Bonnetty observed to me,
“by interpreting my wishes through a whip. All violence is useless
with them; I can only count upon what it pleases them to do; and my
cats and I always treat each other with the utmost courtesy.” [p129]

And in a moment of effusion his eyes suddenly filled with tears, and
the cat-tamer related to me the story of an incomparable cat that he
had lost in Brussels last May.

 [Illustration]

“Ah! monsieur, he was a cat that I can never replace. He would leap
over fourteen chairs with one bound, at more than a yard and a half
high.

“But you know what artists are: great children, all of them. On the
very evening that we reached Brussels, I went to see my animals
an hour before the performance. I found that Thommech had made
his escape. The poor fellow was high on the tiles rushing after a
Brussels cat that had turned his head. He tried to leap from one roof
to another on the opposite side of the [p130] street. He fell, and
when I picked him up from the pavement he was dying.

“Since then, monsieur,” continued M. Bonnetty, after a moment’s
sorrowful silence, “I have made one great resolution: I have now only
sultanas in my troupe, and the keepers of the harem.”

 [Illustration]

Like Bidel, who introduced a sheep into the cage with his lions, M.
Bonnetty has forced his cats to live in harmony with mice and birds.

A flock of Dutch canaries is perched upon a cord stretched across the
circus; near them some white mice and dappled grey rats are quietly
resting. The tamer then opens the door of the cats’ palace, and
in Indian file all the band of artists, _Thiber_, _Jano_, _Moor_,
_Edward_, _Paris_, _Brussel_, _Boulanger_, _Djeh_, _Brutus_, and
_César_, march slowly out [p131] striding over the rodents and
birds, some of which fly off and fearlessly return, alighting on the
heads of the cats.

 [Illustration]

The first interviews between a new rat and a new cat are really
amusing. M. Bonnetty delicately holds each of his pupils by the skin
of the neck, and forces them to look at each other, at first holding
them at a respectful distance, but afterwards gradually drawing them
nearer together, until at last they can touch each other’s nose.

“This proves,” M. Bonnetty said to me, “that the worst enemies are
always interested in knowing each other.”

I remember that we parted after this philosophic reflection.

I went home and found my own cat lying before the smouldering
fire. He was asleep, crouched in his usual sphinx-like attitude. I
approached him gently and said:

“My friend, hitherto I have misunderstood you. I beg your pardon.

“The friendship of so many great men who, from Théophile Gautier to
Sylvestre Bonnard, have venerated you as a god, might have warned me
that I was wrong to distrust you.

“Forgive me. Bonnetty has proved to me that you are neither indocile
nor cruel; henceforth I will live with you in greater intimacy, on
terms of confidential affection.”

And whilst pussy purred loudly in the warmth of the dying embers, I
bent over him and softly murmured, like a religious invocation, the
beautiful sonnet written by Jules Lemaître, the gentle friend of cats
and of myself: [p132]

 [Illustration]

 Mon chat, hôte sacré de ma vieille maison,
 De ton dos électrique arrondis la souplesse,
 Viens te pelotonner sur mes genoux, et laisse
 Que je plonge mes doigts dans ta chaude toison.

 Ferme à demi, les reins émus d’un long frisson,
 Ton œil vert qui me raille et pourtant me caresse,
 Ton œil vert semé d’or qui, chargé de paresse,
 M’observe d’ironique et bénigne façon.

 Tu n’as jamais connu, philosophe, ô vieux frère,
 La fidélité sotte et bruyante du chien;
 Tu m’aimes cependant, et mon cœur le sent bien.

 Ton amour clairvoyant et peut-être éphémère
 Me plaît; et je salue en toi, calme penseur,
 Deux exquises vertus: scepticisme et douceur.

 My cat, the sacred guest of my old home,
 Thy sleek electric back now curve for me.
 Come nestle on my knee and let my fingers roam
 In the warm glossy fur that clotheth thee.

 Half closed, now thou hast ended that long yawn,
 Thine emerald eye, half scornful its caress,
 Thine emerald eye, gleaming with golden rays
 That idly kind, yet mocking o’er me plays.

 Philosopher, old brother, thou hast not known
 The faithful, noisy friendship of the dog,
 Yet my heart feels the love that thou hast shown.

 Thy clear seeing, perhaps ephemeral affection,
 Contents me; and in thee calm sage I greet
 Scepticism and meekness, virtues exquisite.

 [Illustration]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [6] To “dance the basket” is the French idiom for the pilfering of
 the cook.



 [p133] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER VI.
 THE TAMERS.


The tamer’s performance is certainly one of those exhibitions which
give the most valuable evidence of the superiority of man over
animals.

Some morose spirits have put forth the lion’s claims to royalty in
rivalry to the supremacy of Adam. In the [p134] menagerie the two
candidates meet each other. The lion has formidable jaws and claws;
the man has only a pair of boots and a whip. Yet it is the lion that
obeys! The great feline’s spring through a paper hoop settles the
disputed question in favour of humanity. One leaves the theatre with
uplifted head and heart swollen with pride.

And besides this philosophic satisfaction, a visit to a menagerie
is one of the most delightful amusements you can choose. You enter
a dark booth, impregnated with a strong odour of carrion. At first
the eyes can scarcely distinguish the strange sphinx-like forms
extended behind the iron bars of the cages, crouching in dreamy,
sleepy attitudes. Suddenly the gas-burner is lighted. Two keepers
enter, covered with blood like the headsman’s assistants; they bear
a handbarrow laden with great quarters of horseflesh; a third person
accompanies them carrying a hook.

“The animals are now to be fed,” he cries in a showman’s voice. “The
supper consists of more than 600 lbs. of meat. Those persons who
wish to see the food distributed are begged to stand a little to the
right.”

You follow the hook, the barrow, and the people.

 [Illustration]

Apparently some whisper of rebellion has passed through the
menagerie, but just now resting and sleepy. A howl is raised, which
echoes every note of the desert. The keepers add to the animals’
excitement by holding out the empty hook; the lions savagely throw
themselves upon it, not seeing that they are deceived. With the
gestures of a cat, they glide their paws between the bars to seize
their prey, and crush their muzzles and their manes against them. As
they pant with rage, their breath rises in clouds of smoke, [p135]
scattering the sawdust of their litter. They roar and dribble with
hunger. At last the meat is within their reach, and they drag the
huge pieces towards their jaws, too large to pass through the bars
at first, there is a moment’s struggle, and then the great lumps are
triumphantly drawn in. When the booty is held, before rending it, the
beasts lie down upon it, with little spasmodic rattles—the expression
of satisfaction after rage. [p136]

By the side of the lions the wolf is dancing, uttering lamentable
howls. The tigers prowl to and fro in their agitation like phantoms
with lapiz gleams in their eyes. The bear waits for his piece of
bread in silence. And as the growls of enjoyment slowly, gradually
subside, the menagerie resumes its usual quiet aspect, and the beasts
lie drowsily on their sawdust beds, lazily licking their jaws with
sighs of repletion.

This is the time selected by the tamers to enter the dens.

The women go in with bare arms and necks; the men hesitate between a
gentleman’s evening-dress and the red uniform of the Horse Guards.

As the emotions of the audience must be gradually and skilfully
roused, the performance usually opens by the exercises with the white
bear. An attendant with a hook slips back the protecting partition.
The tamer receives the creature, whip in hand.

“Come in, Pierrot.” (Every white bear has been called Pierrot ever
since the North Pole was invented.) “Come, you lazy fellow, jump!
Show yourself off! That’s right! Once more! A bar for Pierrot!
Well! I am waiting for you! Higher, Pierrot, higher!” (_The strange
creature sways its serpent-like neck and gives a sudden spring._)
“Very well done! Now, Pierrot, we are going to see if you are a
coward. Ready! Fire!” (_The tamer fires a pistol. The bear moves its
head uneasily._) “That will do, my friend; you can go. Ladies and
gentlemen, there is only one thing which Pierrot cannot endure, that
is the smell of powder.” [p137]

Now it is the turn of Sarah the hyena, which comes in with its
hobbling step and the suspicious glances of the birds of darkness. It
smells the master’s boots, and takes a piece of sugar in its teeth.
It soon retires into a corner, whilst Mignonne the panther appears.
Mignonne performs with all the grace of a ballet-dancer. She passes
from right to left, over the back of the tamer; allows him to raise
her from the ground by the ears, and kisses her master’s throat near
the nape of the neck.

But this is all child’s play, trifles to commence with; the
appearance of the lion is the event of the evening that we are all
waiting for.

He enters with all the dignity of the leading performer, almost
openly impatient to show himself. His mate follows him. The couple
must have been worth seeing in their African solitude in their wild
courtship.

Now it is accepted slavery. Rebellion and hope are both over. The
lion looks at his master; he seems to say—“What do you want me to do?
Show my claws? Here they are then. Feign to be dead? Would to God
I were really so! You lie down upon me as though I were a bed; you
invite Aïda to come and share your rest. Sleep side by side. When I
was free I tore a black-maned lion to pieces for prowling round our
den. And now do as you like, whether in darkness or in light. Fire
your pistol, your barrel of sparks. I do not dread fire now any more
than I feared a battle before my loins were broken in the snare in
which I was caught for you.”

Since it is absolutely necessary to raise some laughter and vary this
tragic monologue, the lion-tamer calls his usual [p138] buffoon, a
poor little Savoyard bear, the delight of nurses and children.

The proximity of the lion is unendurable to the bear. It is willing
to dance, to say yes or no, to carry arms, but it shrinks from an
interview with the desert king, who has a fancy for receiving it with
a loud roar. But we have plenty of time to observe its caution and to
ascertain its tastes.

The tamer, already impatient at its delay, calls and scolds it.

“Come in, then, your highness; come in, my little friend. You are
always the first after all the others. Look a little more lively
then, a little more amiable. You are in society. We have been looking
forward to your visit. Here is your comrade Sultan, who wishes for
nothing better than to play with you a little.” (_Here the tamer
takes the bear by the ear and drags it towards the lion, who paws the
ground with threatening claws._) “Eh, but what is the matter then?
Your highness beginning to tremble? Don’t be frightened, my good
fellow. See how well behaved Sultan is; he is always smiling.”

 [Illustration]

I sincerely pity those persons who are not amused by this comical
bear. I, who thoroughly appreciate the delicacy of its performance,
can assert that I have never passed a menagerie without entering
the office. This is why I am now on such good terms with all the
lion-tamers—Bidel, Pezon, Nouma-Hava, and Co. It is already two or
three years since I made the acquaintance of Pezon. It was at the
wedding of one of his daughters with a young man whose name I cannot
recollect, but who had already received his [p139] baptism of blood
in the cages. The marriage-dinner was held at Saint Mandé, in the
Salon des Familles. All the tamers in the kingdom, male and female,
had been invited to this festival. They had not felt it a duty—and I
secretly regretted the fact—to wear either their trunk-hose or their
riding-boots, but were all in evening dress and lavender kid gloves.
We sat down, thirty to dinner, including myself. On my right was a
very dark man with a moustache like that of Victor Emmanuel; he has
since been eaten in a fair in the south of France. I can affirm that
this lion-tamer, as well as his comrades, had an excellent appetite,
and I should not have cared to find myself between his teeth. [p140]

Neither leg of bear nor _chaud-froid_ of lion was served at the
wedding feast, but the wine flowed abundantly, and, at dessert, all
tongues were liberated.

I had, therefore, an excellent opportunity of proving that these
powerful men are in domestic life the most amiable of mankind. I
never received so many fraternal embraces in my life as at this
wedding, where the guests followed the example of Homer’s heroes and
heroines, whose last representatives they certainly are.

Judge for yourself:

Besides a bag of gold crowns that glittered brilliantly in the
sunshine, the youthful bride entered the new menagerie—I beg pardon,
the new home—with a dowry of four lions. A friend of the family had
offered her a small panther from Java as a wedding present.

Her godfather had given her two rattlesnakes, and the bridegroom’s
brother had added to these gifts an adult rabbit without any hair, a
curiosity never met with before.

. . . You, who seek for some means of securing eternal youth in your
limbs, should devote a little time to lion-taming, the foam of their
rage must be the real fountain of eternal youth.

Look at Jean-Baptiste Pezon: he is more than sixty-three years old,
and yet one would say that roots, knotty oak roots, started from his
boots and fastened him to the ground, enabling him to stand so firmly
on his sturdy hips. And not one single grey hair is to be found in
the curious black tresses which fall to his shoulders, worn in the
same fashion as that of his contemporary Cladel, whom Jean-Baptiste
somewhat resembles. Yet the mask of the lion-tamer is cast in quite
[p141] a different mould from that of the literary man. At most
Cladel has the appearance of a shepherd; whilst Pezon looks like a
wolf-driver.

 [Illustration]

In fact Jean-Baptiste commenced his life of adventure in that
capacity. Born in Lozère, he worked in the mines during his
childhood, and was there initiated in rude muscular labour at a very
early age: but he cherished the dream of [p142] leading a wandering
life. He longed for unlimited space before his sturdy legs, the
heavens for roof over his head. He therefore quitted his subterranean
employment and became a plough-boy. For some years he was celebrated
through all the country side as a tamer of savage animals; dangerous
cows, horses, and bulls were submissive in his hands, and he forced
the beasts to obey him as much by his audacity as by his strength.
He was also a hunter. One day he snared a living wolf, and it
suddenly occurred to him to leave his servile employment and travel
through the world with this strange companion. The wolf learnt to
“carry arms,” to walk on its hind legs, and to carry a wooden bowl
round to the audience. When enough money had been acquired by these
collections, Jean-Baptiste obtained another wolf, then a bear, and
a bull, which he harnessed to his cart; and with this equipage he
made—to quote his own words—“the tour of France and the great powers.”

A little later the tamer bought his first lion at Bordeaux. It
was an animal with a superb mane, but his hind quarters had been
injured by the trap that caught him. At three o’clock in the morning
Jean-Baptiste appeared on board the vessel belonging to the captain
from whom he had bought the lion, to take possession of his new
acquisition.

“But how will you take it away?” asked the sailor, slipping his two
hundred louis into his pocket. “You have not brought a cage?”

“I have a collar and a chain,” replied Pezon.

He shackled the beast like a small Savoyard bear, and led him home
with a leash. [p143]

Now Pezon owns at least thirty lions—as many adults as cubs. He
has built a good house at Montreuil, and is thinking of giving his
farewell performance.

 [Illustration]

The success of M. Bidel, Pezon’s comrade and rival, was even more
rapidly attained. At fifty years old he had reached the summit
of wealth and honour. His visiting card, now lying before me,
recapitulates the series of lucky events which have placed the tamer
in this unique position much better than I could do:

 FRANÇOIS BIDEL,

 CHEVALIER DE LA VALEUR CIVILE ITALIENNE,
 PRÉSIDENT DE L’UNION MUTUELLE,
 DIRECTEUR D’UN GRAND ÉTABLISSEMENT ZOOLOGIQUE.

And in the left corner of the card, where you would put your address,
the single word _Propriétaire_ (house-owner).

Do not smile at this; Bidel has the right to be proud of his villa at
Asnières. To him, after so many years spent in [p144] moving round
the world, the word _propriétaire_ signifies the anchor dropped, the
harbour won. It is a genuine certificate of _bourgeoisie_.

 [Illustration]

Bidel is not only one of the richest _bourgeois_ of Asnières; he
might be called the lord of the manor. Behind his gilded iron gate,
ornamented with lions’ heads, with the porter’s lodge to the left,
the stables to the right, and a fine expanse of turf, the red and
white villa looks like a small castle. The dining-room is decorated
with panels, on which Rosa Bonheur has painted some lions; but this
is the only detail which could [p145] lead any one to suppose—unless
previously warned—that he was visiting the house of a tamer of wild
beasts.

 [Illustration]

I am sure, good people, that you would picture to yourselves a Bidel
ending his life in a room encumbered with the spoils of the lion
of Nemæa and Indian tigers. But you are far from the truth. Do you
not know that an ironical law governs all the wishes of man, the
wishes of lion-tamers as well as our own? It is called the law of
contrasts. In virtue of this rule M. François Bidel has furnished his
drawing-room in the purest Louis XV., and the ceiling, panels, and
seats are covered with pastoral designs of shepherds; idylls and love
flourish in all the four corners of the pretty room.

Mdlle. Bidel’s piano is the sole object bearing a different date.

Perhaps you may have seen this charming young girl with her mother
in the ticket office on the day of some great performance. She has
just enough romanichel blood in her [p146] veins to give a slightly
exotic brilliancy to her brunette beauty. Naturally, this pretty girl
is an heiress. Her education and accomplishments are perfect, and she
has passed her examinations at the Hôtel de Ville.

“Of course our daughter has no intention of teaching,” Madame Bidel
observed to me casually, “but her success was a satisfaction for her
father.”

All this comfort and luxury have not been won without some dangerous
encounters with the lions. Bidel, like Pezon, has passed under the
mill of their claws, and they can both show the scars of serious
wounds to those sceptics who may be inclined to deny the risk of
their performances.

A number of chimerical stories are current about the lion-tamer’s
secret. Here is one of them: that it is usual to mix narcotics with
the animals’ food, or even to teach them those bad habits which led
the celebrated Charlot to a premature death.

The truth is that a certain number—a very small percentage—of the
wild beasts in a menagerie are considerably stupefied. Guy de
Maupassant told me that in Rouen a tamer having lost his keeper,
engaged a willing man from the port, to whom he confided the duty of
cleaning the cages. On the morrow, when he went into the menagerie,
the master paused aghast. His new servant had quietly entered the
cage as though it were a stall, and was giving the lion some heavy
blows with his broom handle to clean between his paws.

At the Folies Bergère a lioness was at one time exhibited by Colonel
Bone, who was taking her round the world. This animal was so savage
that it was necessary to chain her into [p147] the cage with an iron
collar. When the colonel merely passed near the den she would fling
herself against the bars with such fury that the whole car trembled.
But one day one of the managers of the theatre was inspecting the
side scenes and witnessed the following incident: the colonel’s
servant was installed in the cage, quietly painting a background
of savannah on a canvas stretched over the floor. The lioness was
unchained and watched him as a dog watches a fisherman, stealthily
licking the green paint from time to time; the result being an attack
of colic which nearly sent her to roar in another world.

 [Illustration]

I, who now address you, have entered a black-maned lion’s cage quite
recently. Oh! do not exclaim at my heroism. A great many people have
visited this captive king of the desert; first, Tartarin, then all
the Marseillais, then Mademoiselle Roselia Rousseil, who on a similar
occasion dedicated a poem to Bidel, entitled, _La Mort du Lion, ou le
Dompteur_ [p148] _par Amour_ (_The Lion’s Death; or, The Tamer by
Love_), which commenced with these lines:

 C’est un vaillant dompteur, jamais il ne recule.
 Son corps semble pétri par les dieux; l’on croit voir
 La grâce d’Apollon dans la force d’Hercule.
 Pour moi, j’aime surtout son grand œil doux si noir.[7]

I did not visit the lion in order to write verses to him. I merely
wished to be introduced to him because I knew that I should have to
mention him to you. It was a scruple of professional honesty on my
part.

Here is a true account of the interview without any embellishment.

The lion-tamer, with whom I had a short previous conference, answered
for the safety of the attempt.

“You must wait,” he said, “in the entrance to the door until I call
you.”

He then entered the cage in a familiar way, and as the lion was
asleep, he pulled it by the ears. When the beast, who at first
grumbled a little, was sitting up and seemed composed again, my
companion called to me:

“Come in, now!”

I went in cautiously at the back, taking two steps forward, so that
I might still be nearer to the door than to the lion. I must own
that the desert king did not honour me by even turning his head. He
was talking to his tamer. The two gentlemen left me standing, and I
looked rather like a bootmaker waiting for orders from a nobleman.
[p149]

Man is a coward. The lion’s contempt gave me courage. I advanced a
step so that I could touch the leg of the beast.

 [Illustration]

“Oh!” I said, “how silky it is!”

It was not silky at all, it was abominably harsh.

Since then I have reflected upon the feeling which could have induced
me to utter this falsehood, and the result of this self-examination
is so humiliating that I will confide it [p150] to you as a penance.
In fact “how silky it is” was prompted by an instinct of base
flattery—a courtier’s compliment—the toadyism of a coward who felt
himself nearer to the lion than to the door.

The boldest individuals, who put their heads two or three times a day
into the lion’s mouth, have told me that the best way to withdraw it
from the gulf is, first of all, not to open the acquaintanceship with
this experiment; and, secondly, to perform it with great nerve.

Nerve, that is the great secret of the lion-tamer, the sole cause
of his authority over his beasts. When he has studied a subject for
some time, endeavouring to master its character—and amongst the
higher animals the character is very individual, very accentuated—one
morning the man quietly walks into the cage. He must astonish the
beast and over-awe him at once. As to the training, it consists—and
here I quote the words of an expert in such matters—_in commanding
the lion to perform the exercises which please him_; that is to say,
to make him execute from fear of the whip those leaps which he would
naturally take in his wild state.

There is one fact which no one would suspect—that it is easier
to train an adult lion taken in a snare than an animal born in a
menagerie. The lion of the booth is in the same position as sporting
dogs which play much with children; they are soon spoilt for work.
Pezon possesses five or six lions which he has brought up by hand. As
a rule they live with the staff of the menagerie on terms of perfect
familiarity, but this frequently leads to tragic accidents. [p151]

Lions, even lions in a fair, will devour a man in fine style.

 [Illustration]

Can I say that the fear of such an accident is ever sufficiently
strong to make me pause on the threshold of a menagerie? No. I
cherish, and, like me, you also cherish, the hope that some day
perhaps we may see a lion-tamer eaten. This contingency sometimes
occurs, in fact more often than is usually supposed. For instance,
without leaving the Pezon menagerie, it is not a year since the
proprietor narrowly escaped being devoured by his bear Groom at
Chalons-sur-Marne. He would have perished if his son Adrian Pezon had
not thrown himself, sabre in hand, between the two combatants and
killed the bear on the spot.[8]

This act of heroism has been celebrated by the poet Constant Robert
in some remarkable Alexandrines, which deserve to be handed down to
posterity:— [p152]

 L’assistance appelait au secours, et l’horreur
 Qui s’empara soudain de chaque spectateur
 Ne saurait se décrire! On était dans l’attente,
 Sans pouvoir l’éviter, d’une mort imminente!
 Lorsqu’au moment critique, intrépide, haletant,
 Un lion apparaît sous les traits d’un enfant!
 Son fils et son élève! . . . Adrien! Oui, lui-même![9]

As to Bidel, every one recollects that in July, 1886, at the fair de
Neuilly, a lion mangled all one side of his neck.

Two of my friends were amongst the spectators of this duel—the
painter, Edouard Detaille, and my dear comrade Paul Hervieu.

When Detaille reached home, on the same evening, he made a rapid
sketch of the conflict between the man and the lion whilst the
impression was still fresh in his memory. He has kindly authorized
me to reproduce it here. The effect is of a cat playing with a bird.
Bidel’s coat was torn into fine shreds by the scratching of the claws
from the collar to the waist, showing the flesh underneath. On his
side, Paul Hervieu was good enough to send me the valuable notes
which you are about to read. He addressed them to me in the form of a
letter, which has been published in the _Monde Illustre_.

 “The accident took place on one evening in July, 1886, at the
 Neuilly fair. The weather was heavy and stormy, and the lion-tamer
 had one foot bandaged for gout.

 [Illustration: HYPNOTISM IN A WILD BEASTS’ CAGE.] [p153]

 “However, the performance was nearly over, and it seemed as though
 everything would soon be safely ended, in spite of the unusually
 refractory voice and attitudes of Sultan, a fine dark-maned lion
 (for the lionesses, although I believe they are all _blonde_ like
 Eve, can choose between dark-or light-coloured manes amongst their
 large-headed lords).

 “Suddenly Bidel fell, having caught himself in his blunt two-pronged
 iron spear, and in some way tripped over it. Every one present
 uttered a brief cry. Then, a deadly silence fell upon the huge
 tent—a silence so intense that the hissing of the gas-lights could
 be heard.

 “I shall never forget the man’s face at the moment he lost his
 balance. I still see his starting eyes, the white balls vividly
 contrasting with his features, congested by gout and by his previous
 efforts. It was the expression of one who feels that he is lost, who
 is sinking into an abyss. Now the tamer was lying upon the floor of
 the cage like an inert mass, without a gesture or a cry for help.
 He never attempted to raise himself, probably through some tactic
 dictated by his experience, but apparently he had the time to do it
 in, for the lion still remained crouched a few yards away.

 [Illustration]

 “Perhaps, my dear Le Roux, you have some wish that I should define
 the nature of the emotion which seizes an eye-witness under these
 circumstances? This emotion is certainly multiform. Thus, for my
 own part, you may feel sure that I was distressed, horrified—that I
 regretted being present on that fatal evening. . . . On the other
 hand, if you do not object, I will tell you that I was accompanied
 by a friend, a kind of inseparable, who is very curious about rare
 sensations.

 “Now this friend has since confessed to me that whilst the lion
 remained immovable he was conscious of one idea . . . . how
 can I express it? . . . . In short, it was like a ferocious
 wish that something unexpected should happen, like a monstrous
 impatience. . . . .

 “And, in excuse for my friend, I try to convince myself that he
 was not alone in feeling an abominable and vague desire; to me
 it seemed to have imprinted a fugitive expression upon all the
 blanched faces that rise before me even now: for instance, that of a
 small, freckled, red-haired woman [p154] clinging to her husband’s
 arm, who gnawed her lower lip and mercilessly climbed upon my
 feet—mercilessly, at all events, for my feet.

 [Illustration]

 “At last the lion raised himself upon his four paws, and without
 advancing, gazed at his inert master with extreme distrust of the
 mass armed with a whip, ‘who was saying nothing worth hearing.’
 One second passed in this way, or one century, I could not be
 sure which. Then Sultan made, towards what he began to consider a
 possible prey, two small furtive steps . . . . two cat-like steps,
 prudent and stealthy . . . . and again, two little steps. Then he
 laid one of his heavy paws upon his tamer’s shoulder, still not
 maliciously, rather as a caution, as we should place one hand upon a
 sheet of paper in danger of blowing away.

 “In thus interpreting the ideas passing ‘through the darkness a lion
 has for soul,’ to quote a line from Victor Hugo, I have at least
 the satisfaction of knowing that my impressions harmonize with the
 picture that Edouard Detaille seized with the eye of a great painter.

 “But oh, my dear Hugues Le Roux, no pencil of the illustrious artist
 can depict, all the resources of the pen are powerless to describe,
 the frightful tumult which, in the hitherto silent theatre, greeted
 this first act after the gloomy prologue—an infernal din, the noise
 of falling chairs, of shouts, of screams! . . . .

 “If I ventured to write an essay on the physiology of modern wild
 beasts [p155] in the course of the reflections which I should be
 forced to devote to the accidents of the show, I should not fail to
 mention these axioms:—

 [Illustration]

 “1. A female spectator never faints until there is nothing more to
 see . . . .

 “2. The audience in the second places is only waiting for an
 opportunity to rush into the first seats . . . .

 “And, in fact, without a moment’s interval, all the barriers were
 scaled. Round the cage women were eagerly pushing men aside in their
 efforts to get a better view. And shrieks!—but the shrieks!

 “When the clamour first arose Sultan turned his head towards
 the multitude, [p156] which he looked at with really sublime
 tranquillity for an amateur, as my friend pointed out to me. No
 doubt it was the vivid light and the movement of the crowd which
 made the lion wink—yes, his eyes twinkled. And in itself that gave
 a shadow of indulgence to his strength. But now he returned to his
 captive, tormenting, teasing, mumbling, rather than biting him.
 It was like the play of a pupil who emancipates himself, but is
 yet conscious of his fault. But then it was lion’s play! Sultan
 moved in small jumps, all four paws together, turning his hind
 quarters to the gallery, tossing his jaws, full of no one knew
 what . . . . perhaps a human head!

 [Illustration]

 “Here I can guarantee, my dear Le Roux, that those who at first
 shared my friend’s infamous and fortunately indefinite wish, must,
 like him, have found themselves almost fainting before such a
 realization of carnage. . . . It was frightful and senseless. One
 felt scarcely alive, and no longer heard oneself howl. Suddenly the
 lion relinquished his prey and steadily watched the back of the
 cage, behind which he must have caught the sound of some noise only
 perceptible to a feline ear in the tumult of this bloody orgie. In
 the midst of the excitement the door was abruptly opened and two men
 appeared, presenting like bayonets two simple iron bars. [p157]

 “When he saw them Sultan timidly drew back like a guilty schoolboy
 who has failed in respect towards his master, and who is recalled to
 his duty by the entrance of the monitors. He was already in retreat,
 backing into the neighbouring cage, spurred on by the vibrations of
 the partition which the men were handling.

 “Already, too, Bidel had been raised, and his first energetic
 movement was to rush towards the lion, who, now separated from his
 enemy, watched him through the railing, rather jeeringly moving
 his head from right to left. A thunder of ‘Bravos’ and shouts of
 ‘Enough! enough!’ stopped the lion-tamer, who had one half of his
 neck laid open. From his forehead, just between the eyes, a red
 strip hung down. The linen showed everywhere beneath the holes in
 the cloth. The skin on his knees was bare, yet intact.

 “After this scene, whilst the wounded man received the first
 dressing to his wounds in his travelling-van, the general attention
 was drawn towards Sultan, who had returned to the society of his
 comrade Nero, the _blonde_ lion, who was languidly stretched out,
 digesting his daily rations of meat and blows. But the dark-haired
 lion did not lie down; he restlessly prowled up and down in
 suppressed excitement, his haughty nostrils sniffing the scent of
 blood in the air. His tail lashed his sides alternately. And each
 time that he passed Nero’s jaws, the latter soothingly licked a
 purple curdled spot, which the taster of human blood still retained
 upon one of his great toes.

 “At this moment a harsh voice in the crowd murmured close to my ear—

 “‘_Moâ, j’étais pértisan du lione!_’ (‘I was for the lion.’)

 “Turning round, I found myself facing an emaciated being, tall as
 a pole, beardless, wrinkled, without any visible marks of age,
 and very dirty. In the nervous state in which I found myself, a
 superstitious influence at first led me to believe that I had met
 the Englishman who makes it his profession to follow lion-tamers
 about the world until there is not a joint of them left.

 “But now I believe that the speaker had no connection with the
 legendary lord. And the _lione_ of which he was _pértisan_ must
 have been the most respectable acquaintance that he could hang on
 to. I have, in fact, met this individual again in the bookmakers’
 corner of the racecourse at Longchamps, and this was his trade:
 imagine a start of six horses; he would go up to six greenhorns, and
 successively murmur in their ears, as quickly as possible, the name
 of a different winner to each man. After the race he went up to the
 individual whom luck had favoured and claimed a reward.

 “Let us, then, my dear Hugues Le Roux, distrust all the new
 acquaintances we may meet, even under the patronage of a lion, and
 let us rely upon old friendships, such as I feel for you.

 “PAUL HERVIEU.” [p158]

I have quoted, almost as it was written, this letter from an artist,
who, like the lion possesses a good eye and velvet paws, first,
because I felt sure that it would interest you deeply; secondly,
because it delighted me; and thirdly, because it is a good proof that
there was some danger in approaching the lion, whom I interviewed in
his cage for your satisfaction. I do not wish to pose before you as
a Tarasconese hero, but I do not wish either that you should take me
for the pantaloon of Italian comedy.

 [Illustration]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [7] He is a valiant tamer, he never recedes.
 His shape combines the gods,in it one seems to see
 Apollo’s divine grace, with the strength of Hercules.
 But, above all, his soft, dark eyes, are dear to me.

 [8] In this summer of 1889 another son, Edmond Pezon, has been twice
 injured by the lion Brutus.

 [9] The audience screamed for help; the great terror
 Which seized the heart of every spectator
 No words can picture. Breathless all present wait,
 Helpless to rescue the man from impending fate,
 When, at the vital moment, fearless, yet panting,
 A lion appeared, in guise of a stripling,
 His son and his pupil! Yes, Adrian himself!



 [p159] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER VII.
 EQUESTRIANS.


I retain amongst the recollections of my provincial childhood, the
remembrance of an annual festival, in itself noisy and marvellous,
and even now, when I close my eyes, I can recall the brightness of
its lamps.

Every year, at Saint Michel, in the month when the clear heaven is
spotted with kites, in one square of the old city, by the side of the
paved road by which the Paris coaches formerly passed with sonorous
smacking of the whip, a palace of new planks would rise in a few
days as light as a house of cards. Enormous placards on every wall
announced the arrival of a grand circus consisting of fifty horses
and one hundred and fifty artists.

For some weeks beforehand our boyish hearts were seriously disturbed.
Every day, after school-hours, with [p160] books under our arms,
walking like truant schoolboys, we went to enjoy, through the
half-open doors of the stables, the intoxicating smell of horses,
blended with the scent of fresh sawdust and that perfume of musk
which turns the brains of men. And then, peeping through the chinks
between the badly fitting planks, we could watch, in the half light
of the circus, the rehearsals of the beautiful equestrians for whom
our youthful hearts were beating, as naïve and courageous as those of
their own horses.

At last some fine morning the passers by would see on the
placards the announcement of a gala performance. “The professors
of the college and MM. the pupils of the Lycée will honour this
entertainment by their presence.”

It was on one of these evenings, now almost twenty years ago, that
I first saw and loved poor Émilie Loisset, before her success in
Paris and Vienna, when she made her _début_ in the _haute école_, and
played in a pantomime disguised as Prince Charming, with her sister
Clotilde, now an Hungarian princess. Her touching story has been
related by Philippe Daryl in his charming novel _La Petite Lambton_.
At that time Émilie was not more than eighteen years old, and she was
the most charming creature in the world. Still her eyes and her face
wore a curiously melancholy expression. I learnt afterwards that the
most flattering success could never dispel the instinctive distrust
of life, the romantic fancy for gloomy subjects which afterwards
led her to take a house exactly opposite the little cemetery of
Maisons-Laffitte.

She was buried in it two days after she had been carried from the
circus mutilated and crushed by the fall of her horse, which, in
refusing a jump, had fallen upon her. [p161]

Forgive me for opening this chapter by evoking the melancholy smile
of one who is no more. But I owe this tribute to Émilie Loisset; for
it is through her, that, as a child, I received the first revelation
of the beauty of a woman on horseback, of the artistic union of the
two most perfect curvilineal forms in creation—the horse adding
height to the woman by the majesty of its stature, the woman daringly
poised on the animal like a wing.

 [Illustration]

But long and serious work, both for the equestrian and the horse, has
preceded this harmonious union. Although the woman and the animal
have acquired the habit of conquering difficulties together, and have
even attained perfect unison of will and obedience, yet they have
each studied alone, slowly [p162] reaching that perfection, that
confidence in their own powers, which produce the success of their
alliance.

It is important that the various phases of this education should be
defined at once. The studies of the equestrians of the _haute école_,
the highest form of training for horse and rider, differ completely
from those of the pad equestrian, whilst the lessons given to
performing horses differ equally from those of the _haute école_.

 [Illustration: EMILIE LOISSET.]

France possesses the legendary trainer of performing horses, M.
Loyal. For thirty-five years he has introduced his pupils to the
public. M. Franconi possesses an old mare—_la mère Tulipe_—twenty-two
years old, who was trained under his whip. Every year M. Loyal
undertakes some new [p163] pupils, and enlarges the sphere of
his conquests. He is so certain of his own pre-eminence that he
takes no trouble to conceal his method. He has often invited me to
his rehearsals, and I have met fellow-workers there who had gone,
like myself, to learn from him. One day M. Loyal even gave one of
us a short essay on the subject of his work, which has since been
published.

 [Illustration] [p164]

The horse, in the opinion of the celebrated trainer, is one of the
dullest animals created; it has but one faculty, memory. On this
account it must be forced to learn its tricks by the aid of the curb
and whip; they are imprinted in its memory by the whip if it resist,
and by presents of carrots if it obey. On these terms every horse can
be trained, but it is well understood that certain breeds, such as
Arabian and German horses from Old Prussia, are easier to teach than
any others, and also that the animal’s age is of great importance.
It must not be either too young or too old; the best educations are
given between five and seven years old. Before that age the horse is
too excitable, too nervous; he gets confused. Later than that his
muscles are not sufficiently flexible.

The A B C of education consists in rendering the horse familiar with
the arena, making it go round regularly and stop at a given signal.
To teach it this first lesson, M. Loyal leads the creature into the
circus and places it close to the palisade, whilst he goes into the
centre of the ring. In his left hand he holds a long leash, which has
been passed through the curb or _cavesson_—every one knows that this
is a semicircle of iron armed with a sharp point, which is placed
upon the nose of the horse. In his right hand he holds a long whip,
whilst an assistant, armed with a strong riding-whip, is concealed
behind the animal. In this position the trainer utters a call, then
lightly pulling the horse, forces it to walk. If it resist the
assistant gives it a blow with the whip, if it obey it receives a
carrot from its master as a reward, after three or four turns round
the arena. To make it stop, the trainer suddenly cracks the whip in
his pupil’s face, whilst the assistant throws himself in front of
it. [p165]

The same method is used in teaching a horse to leap. It is placed in
front of a barrier, and is encouraged to jump over it by voice and
gesture; if it refuse, the assistant gives it a volley of blows on
the croup with his whip. If it jump, the ever ready carrot is its
reward.

 [Illustration: THE MARE TULIPE]

To make it point, the ring-master has simply to place [p166] himself
squarely in front of the horse, to shake his riding-whip with the
left hand, whilst he cracks his long whip with the right.

But although the horse learns these tricks with comparative facility,
a great effort is required before it can be taught to kneel. The
trainer is obliged to resort to surprise. A bracelet is attached to
the two fore pasterns just above the hoof, and a cord is attached to
it by one end, the other being held by the trainer. Suddenly M. Loyal
attracts the attention of the horse by a sharp cry; at the same time
he shakes its confidence by a pull at the cord and a vigorous blow on
its shoulder. In a short time the horse kneels down at the master’s
call without being tripped or coerced in any way.

Next to this achievement, the most difficult feat is teaching a horse
the trick of _changing feet_. This requires fully a year of patience.
The animal is led into the arena and commences its usual exercise
round it. The trainer allows it to settle quietly into its stride,
then abruptly, with a touch of the whip cleverly applied, he tries
to break its pace; that is to say, to make it change step. If this
result is obtained, the horse is allowed to gallop round the ring
once or twice, then it is checked again to make it return to its
former step. When the animal understands what it ought to do at the
touch of the whip, instead of completing the turn round the ring on
one foot, it is forced to change at the half round. Afterwards it is
only allowed a quarter turn, then only three or four steps without
changing, and lastly only two. The horse thus appears to dance the
polka when it performs to music, which accompanies and follows its
movements.

The ring-master usually chooses a well-bred horse from [p167]
amongst the animals trained in this way, and already broken, for
initiation into the _haute école_.

 [Illustration]

No one will expect me to discuss here the principles of this
training, nor even the theories of circus horsemanship. [p168] I
refer the reader to the special treatises written upon the subject
by men in the profession, particularly to the fine book which the
historian of sport, Baron de Vaux, has published under the title of
_Les Hommes de Cheval_.[10] I especially recommend the perusal of the
chapter consecrated to the Franconi family. It contains an account of
how Laurence Franconi taught the present manager of the two circuses
the principles of the School of Versailles, whilst freeing good
horsemanship from the superfluities in use in the time of Pluvinel.
Laurence Franconi wished for a less formal, less studied style of
horsemanship. The introduction into France of English horses trained
in the hunting-field and on the race-course, and the re-organization
of the cavalry, had demonstrated the necessity of preparing horses
for greater freedom of action. It was realized that good riding did
not consist merely in forcing a horse to show off and tire itself
uselessly in obtaining a striking effect, but in well calculating
the strength of the steed, in husbanding its forces, and regulating
its paces. It was at last recognized that the ideal horse of the
_haute école_ should be easy in its balance and in its artificial
paces under the guidance of its rider, and that on his side the rider
should only use the force necessary to maintain this balance, and to
secure the execution of the airs of the _haute école_.

On these principles Laurence Franconi trained _Blanche_, _Norma_,
and _Hector_; Victor Franconi, his son, trained _Frisette_, _Ajax_,
_Waverley_, and _Brillante_; and Charles Franconi, his grandson,
educated _Régent_ and _Moscou_. [p169]

 [Illustration]

I remember being present at the Cirque d’Été during one of Moscou’s
rehearsals, ridden by Mdlle. Marguerite Dudlay. The little empty
circus was illumined by a red light, the reflection of the April sun
upon the velvet of the benches. Charles Franconi was watching the
work of the equestrian and her horse. It was a Russian stallion,
beautifully shaped and very elegant; in its veins it showed the
vigour of the [p170] Slav-blood, full of revolt, excitement,
passion, and violence, veiled by affected gentleness, lost in
compliance with its rider’s will.

A ring-master, armed with a whip, held the horse in front of a
barrier which he gradually raised. Without any apparent effort Mdlle.
Dudlay lifted the grand quivering beast over the bar. The young girl
was bareheaded, and her hair had fallen down with the shock. She was
a charming picture in her dangerous leaps, with her long wavy hair
flowing over her shoulders.

 [Illustration]

After the rehearsal I went up to her to speak about her horses. She
was very fond of them, and would not allow them to be scolded. They
were her friends.

 [Illustration]

“Moscou is so gentlemanly!” she said, showing me the [p172] horse,
which an attendant was leading away covered with foam. “He has such
good manners!”

And in a low tone she owned to me that she preferred him to Regent,
a grey of classic beauty, much more reliable than his comrade—loyal,
vigorous, and brave; but he replaced coaxing by a military
deportment, the correct stiffness of an officer.

“No doubt I am unjust,” said Mdlle. Dudlay, “but how can I help it?
Moscou and I love each other.”

That is the secret of the _haute école_ as well as of everything
else. Habit and skill are insufficient—love is necessary too. It is
through love of the little hands which caress their necks that these
great horses throw all their energies into leaps which exhaust them;
it is through love that they humiliate themselves, that they kneel
down. For my own part, I know no grander spectacle, no more spiritual
combination, no triumph more admirable of mental over physical force.

It is almost unnecessary to add that these instances of perfect
harmony are the exception, not the rule. The little “mashers” in
white ties and dress-coats who encumber the entrance to the ring, and
surround the equestrian as she mounts her saddle, crying “Bravo!” and
“_Très chic!_” at every movement she makes, hope by their eagerness,
by these exclamations, to pose as horsey men in the eyes of the
crowd; but they never imagine the duplicity of which they are the
victims nineteen times out of twenty.

 [Illustration: HAUTE ÉCOLE.]

There are, in fact, two very different categories of equestrians of
the _haute école_; first the wives, daughters, and sisters of the
circus managers, who are placed on a horse [p173] trained in the
establishment at an early age. Let us softly add that these subjects
are nearly always, to quote an expression of M. Molier, “Les fruits
secs du panneau.”[11] It sometimes occurs also that a well-to-do
manager, who thinks of marrying his daughter in the _bourgeoisie_—or
even in the aristocracy—hesitates to exhibit the young girl in the
semi-nudity of tights. He is afraid of alarming the future husband.
This has happened with several accomplished equestrians like the late
Émilie Loisset, and, at the present moment, Mdlle. Renz.

 [Illustration]

 [Illustration]

As a rule, the equestrian of the _haute école_ is a pretty girl who
wishes to appear in a circus, and who has found some one [p174] to
minister to her vanity. This “some one” must be rich—very rich. The
horsewoman in question must take with her three trained horses—two of
the _haute école_, and one leaper. This trio of horses costs a great
deal. It is only in a circus that they can be obtained ready to work
[p175] with a woman, and the trade in them is a speciality of German
circuses. Old horses trained in the _haute école_, regular as clocks
in their movements, may be found there for sale at from 10,000 to
15,000 francs each. The value of the horse sometimes even rises to
20,000 francs if it has a good tail.

A few weeks’ work suffice to “adapt”—another expression of M. Molier,
to whom I owe the revelation of all these secrets—a very mediocre
equestrian to one of these mechanical horses. The animal, annoyed by
its bad rider, who shuffles on her saddle, does not perform one-half
of the work which the man has taught him. But the public does not
know this, and the would-be sportsmen who adorn the entrance to the
ring open admiring eyes when the pretty girl assures them, from the
superior height of her saddle, that she trained the horse herself.

These frank explanations will probably make many pretty enemies for
me; but, at least, they ought to assure you of the sincerity of the
admiration and respect which I profess for the _pad equestrians_ or
_standing equestrians_.

Apparently, in a circus, a woman’s virtue is in inverse proportion
to the length of her skirts; the riding-habit is suspected, whilst
muslin petticoats soar above all scandalous aspersions.

 [Illustration]

The “standing” equestrian is usually married to a circus artiste
whilst still very young; she is an excellent housewife and a model
mother. As long as maternity does not interfere with her profession,
she shares her husband’s dangerous performances during her youth.
With him she dislocates herself, and bravely fractures her arms and
legs. She has [p176] scarcely recovered before she recommences her
work. Her circus education is complete. She was placed on a horse at
six years old, and besides her standing-up performances—the [p177]
most difficult of all—she has learnt the mimic art, the slack wire,
juggling, gymnastics, sometimes even the “carpet.” I am not alluding
to the _haute école_. An equestrian who can ride standing is so sure
of her balance, and so much accustomed to her horse, that she can
ride on a side saddle with very little instruction. She can therefore
appear as an equestrian of the _haute école_ with only a few days’
rehearsal.

But amongst all the necessary studies that form part of the education
of a pad equestrian, there is one fundamental and primary one to
which she devotes as much time as to the riding-school; this is the
art of dancing. The equestrian follows the same classes as a ballet
girl. Dancing lessons make her turn her feet and knees out, teach her
to carry her arms and head well, and give her equilibrium and grace.
There are some instances of dancers who, having injured themselves in
the exercise of their art, have learnt to ride standing in less than
a year.

 [Illustration]

The horse ridden by a pad equestrian should be a reliable animal,
with smooth even paces. The regularity of its movements is so
important that now the most popular equestrians possess their own
horses, and insist upon the manager of the circus engaging them
too. This is a wise precaution. I remember one day at the Cirque
d’Été seeing Mdlle. Adèle Rossi contend with a fine piebald horse
which replaced her usual steed. She appeared as a jockey, standing
and booted, in a vaulting performance in which she was charmingly
jaunty and graceful. She made her spring in the ring, and alighted
standing upon the galloping horse. Each time she leaped the animal
was startled and changed [p179] its foot; this produced an abrupt
movement of the shoulder, which sent Mdlle. Rossi back into the
arena. The young girl was obliged to recommence her performance a
dozen times before she succeeded in it, amidst the applause of the
audience.

 [Illustration]

This wonderful equilibrium is only acquired by great practice and
much patience. You may now see an amusing performance at the Nouveau
Cirque styled a “Riding Lesson” on the programme. The stablemen
place a large gibbet, which moves on its own axis, in the centre
of the arena. From the arm of this apparatus a ring, attached to a
cord, hangs above the ring-master, who is on horseback. The other
end of the cord is attached to the pupil’s waist. You will at once
realize the amusement which is derived from the awkward movements
of the gibbet. The man in the black coat, who wished to take a
riding-lesson, is left swimming in the air, whilst the horse gallops
on the other side of the [p180] arena. But at the rehearsals of an
artist, the gibbet manœuvres with more circumspection, and it has
very generally replaced the cord, which was formerly fastened on one
side to the pupil’s waist-belt and held by the riding-master at the
other end, whilst it passed in the middle through a ring hanging from
the ceiling.

The first time that an equestrian, supported in this manner, takes a
lesson on the pad, she is made to gallop in a sitting posture until
she is thoroughly accustomed to the movements of the horse. Then she
raises herself upon one knee before she stands upright, her shoulder
turned inside the ring, between the horse and the master. The
equestrian then gradually rises to her feet, and performs upon the
pad all the steps that she has acquired in the dancing academy. The
man who has followed the same classes with her, now adds to her work
the attitudes and movements of an acrobat; together they perform the
_pas de deux_ and the vaulting acts which amateurs delight in.

But although these vaulting acts, this springing through hoops, may
charm the public, they are a violent, ungraceful performance, which
can rouse the admiration of the ignorant only. Ask the real artists,
like Jenny O’Brien, what they think of these acrobatic exercises.
They will not hesitate to tell you that if these leaps are a sure
way of winning applause, they are the worst method of satisfying the
conscience of an artist.

At the same time, if it be true that danger defied adds some dignity
to the effort made, then the warmest expressions of public sympathy
are due to pad equestrians. Perhaps no one will be surprised to
learn that, according to statistics, [p181] circus-riders are more
frequently killed than even gymnasts. The reason is that an accident
is not produced by an unfortunate physical cause only, or by the
distraction of one second: a mistake of the horse may kill the man
who is riding it.

During the years that I have frequented the Parisian circuses, I was
once present at a cruel accident.

 [Illustration]

An equestrian, named Prince, was performing at the Cirque d’Été a
vaulting act on two horses, which were leaping fixed bars. Suddenly
one of the animals fell on its knees, and the man was thrown forward
upon his head. The assistants at once rushed towards him and covered
the body with a mantle. It was carried out, and M. Loyal, in a choked
voice, but with a smile on his lips, came forward and said:

“It is nothing, ladies and gentlemen—a slight accident. M. Prince
begs that the public will excuse him.”

The truth was that the rider had been killed on the [p182] spot—he
had broken his neck. And whilst a number of clowns tumbled into
the ring, reassuring the public by their jokes, Prince’s wife and
children were weeping over his body in the great whitewashed room,
where the reins of the performing donkeys were hanging on the walls
side by side with clowns’ wigs, training whips, and spangled tights.

 [Illustration]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [10] J. Rothschild, éditeur, 1888.

 [11] Those who are too old for the pad.



 [p183] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER VIII.
 THE HIPPODROME.


The re-opening of the Hippodrome and the first performance of its
pantomime are a great event in each year; a festival for “society,”
which for this occasion makes a large outlay in spring toilettes,
and a festival for the Parisians of the “fifth floor” and the shop
parlour too.

The number of those who cannot escape to the sea or the country
during the heat of the dog-days, of those whom work and economy hold
prisoners, is greater than one usually feigns to believe. During the
whole summer these people have no other oasis of refreshment within
a walk than the great hall with its movable glass roof, which gives
the Hippodrome a ceiling of stars. It is important to those Parisians
who from July to September will go at least once a week to the
Hippodrome, to know that each time they will see the new pantomime
with renewed pleasure. [p184]

 [Illustration]

I have frequently overheard the following definition given by very
superficial people: [p185]

“The Hippodrome is a circus, of larger size than the others . . .”

There are some degrees of ignorance which should be sent back to
learn A B C D. On the other hand, some amateurs may be found who
are convinced they are right because they do not quite know what
difference exists between the two.

A circus is a circular arena of _fourteen yards nine inches_ in
diameter, surrounded by benches. Travel with a yard measure, measure
the diameter of the Cirque d’Hiver, of the Cirque d’Été, and of the
Nouveau Cirque. Cross the sea towards America, follow Barnum and
measure across his arena, continue your journey round the world
by exploring Australia and Asia; lastly, return to Europe by the
Caucasus, raise the canvas of one of the numerous travelling circuses
which erect their tents at Astrakan in the fair time—you will not
discover the difference of a fraction of an inch from the rule of
fourteen yards nine inches in diameter. Fourteen yards nine inches is
the regulation size.

A superstition, perhaps?

Do not believe it.

The unvarying dimensions of the arena respond to a double necessity:
the exigency of the man and the exigency of the animal.

You already know that the _banquiste_ is instinctively nomad, both
through disposition and interest. It is therefore most important
that, although he continually changes his locality he should find the
scene of his performance unvaried.

This rule is extremely convenient for men, but it is indispensable
for animals. A performing horse must find, in whatever spot he
appears before the public, a ring of fourteen [p186] yards nine
inches sanded to a depth of three inches and a quarter, surrounded by
a palisade opening in two places only, and low enough to enable it to
walk round it, with the fore hoofs on the red cushion and the hind
legs in the arena.

 [Illustration]

The Hippodrome is not restricted to these dimensions. Its arena
is an elastic parallelogram, rounded at the four angles to assist
the horses in turning. Its shape excludes all acts of equestrian
vaulting, based upon the support given by the centrifugal force to
circus acrobats.

It is not only the name but the principles of art which the
Hippodrome has borrowed from Greece. No doubt the circus gives us an
opportunity of admiring the human body, after the education of the
ancients has restored it to the forms chosen by them for the eternal
life of marble; but the purest lessons in Greek æsthetics are to be
found at the Hippodrome. [p187]

You know that one of the most important differences which distinguish
our conception of human beauty from that formed by Greek art lies in
this principle: the subordination of the body to the head.

 [Illustration]

Christian civilization has taught us that we must seize [p188]
every opportunity of mortifying and humiliating the flesh to secure
the predominance of the superior and spiritual principle—the
soul. No doubt the passions and emotions of this soul manifest
themselves by gesture to some extent; but they are chiefly revealed
in the expression of the face, of the mouth and eyes. Hence the
preponderance given to the head, which, at the first appearance of
Christianity, when the art of the ancients escaped from the Byzantine
bonds, led the early painters to represent hydrocephalic Christs
and angels, with the enormous eyes of batrachians, and emaciated,
anchylosis, meagre bodies. Hence also the habit that we all have at
the present time of judging beauty—and particularly feminine beauty,
which is more expressive than the other—from the features of the face.

Greece never despised corporeal beauty in this way. She taught that
if the soul be divine, the body is the temple of a god. And on the
same principle that she decorated the houses of the Olympians, so
that it might please them to dwell therein, she also commanded the
body, the habitation of the soul, to be embellished by gymnastics.
She placed the _musikè_, the tutor of the soul, and the _gumnastikè_,
the tutor of the body, on the same level in the practical education
of her heroes.

This is why the artists who embodied her ideal of beauty did not
give more expression to the face than to the torso. Suppose that the
Venus had lost her head instead of an arm; she would not appear more
mutilated. One of the most beautiful legacies that Greek sculpture
has bequeathed to us is a headless _Victory_.

The immense extent of the Hippodrome prevents the [p189] spectator
from seeing the details of the features, and transfers his habitual
attention to the observation of the whole figure. I noticed this
effect a short time ago, when watching the classic poses of a
group of young Italian girls—the sisters Chiesi. To increase their
resemblance to statues, and to produce as far as possible the
illusion of nudes in marble, these young models wear tights whitened
with flour. Thus moulded, the Chiesi mount upon each other, and pause
in bold yet classic attitudes, which combine the poses of the acrobat
and the academy. I did not for one second dream of looking at the
beauty of their faces, not even when they were triumphantly driven
round the ring under my eyes in the gilded carriage of the late Duke
of Brunswick.

 [Illustration] [p190]

This is an exceptional case. But given equal talent, we always prefer
a woman’s performance to that of a man. It gives us, besides the
peculiar pleasure which acrobatic feats always produce, the general
pleasure which the exhibition of a perfectly-formed woman never fails
to excite. And to us moderns this is not merely an intellectual and
moral enjoyment; in it there mingles a little voluptuous emotion. . .

 [Illustration]

This fascination, which Greek art knew nothing of, does not
affect us at the Hippodrome. The latent sentiment is [p191] in
abeyance, like the pity which the Spaniards never feel at their
bull-fights, probably because the arenas are too vast. A true pagan
would probably congratulate himself upon the freedom from emotion
which, at the Hippodrome, leaves him free to enjoy the essence of
beauty. But we cannot all raise ourselves to the level of this
Olympian indifference; we do not care to be cured of the pleasure we
enjoy—contenting ourselves with deploring, like Théophile Gauthier,
“_d’être si fort corrompus de Christianisme_.”

 [Illustration] [p192]

The Hippodrome regains all its advantages when it leaves to the
circus the exhibition of “expressive novelties,” which must be seen
close at hand, and contents itself with its speciality of races: foot
and horse races, chariot races, “Berberini races,” processions, and
pantomimes.

The race of riderless horses is one of the most attractive spectacles
one can possibly see, and it is easily understood why the Italians
with their artistic genius elected to close the festivities of their
carnival by this exciting contest.

Every one has read some descriptions of this hippique _fête_ which
so greatly delighted papal Rome. For a fortnight before the race
the horses which were entered for it were led out every morning to
accustom them to the course, and corn was given to them at the end of
the Corso, near the winning post.

On the day of the race, at four o’clock in the afternoon, two cannon
shots gave the signal. All the carriages at once turned out of the
road, the spectators fell back into two lines, and a detachment of
dragoons cleared the Corso at a rapid gallop. The murmur of the crowd
died away into a profound silence.

The horses chosen for the race were held in a line behind a cord
stretched towards the column of the People’s Gate. Their foreheads
were decorated with plumes, which worried their eyes by waving in
front of them; golden spangles were plaited into their tails and
manes. Small copper plates and leaden balls armed with steel points
were attached to their flanks and croups to goad them on their way;
and the effort to frighten them even led to light sheets of tin
and stiff paper being fastened on their backs, which, rustling and
quivering, [p193] produced the discomfort of a rider without the
drawback of weight.

Before the cord fell, the animals, impatient to start, excited by the
crowd, uttered loud neighs, pranced about, and produced a clamour
which filled the Corso. It frequently happened that one of them would
knock its groom down and rush amongst the crowd.

At last the senator of Rome gave the signal. A trumpet sounded, the
cord fell, the half-maddened horses started wildly, urged on by the
applause of the people as though by whips. Usually the “Berberies”
traversed the 800 fathoms of the course in two minutes twenty-one
seconds, that is to say that they ran thirty-seven feet per second.
In the confusion, if one horse could overtake the competitor which
preceded it, it would bite it, kick it, and use every artifice to
impede its progress. The arrival of the horses was announced by
firing two cannon; to stop them carpets were extended across the end
of the street.

In later years the Corso was only a speculation of the horsedealers.
The Hippodrome revives the best days of this Roman institution;
the epoch when the first families of Rome, the Barberini, the
Santa-Croce, the Colonna, and the Borghese entered their horses for
the race, the champions of their rivalries and of their colours.
Since the managers of the Hippodrome object to injuring the valuable
beasts they place in the arena, they have abandoned the practice of
harnessing them with spurs and spangles. It is really bare-backed
horses, free from all carnival disguise, which they produce in the
lists.

The animals have been trained for a long time, placed [p194] before
the barriers with a whip to urge them to jump, guided all round the
ring by sentinels, who punished any deviation from the course.

Now they know what they are expected to do, and as soon as the bell
rings they all start. They reach the barrier, their manes flowing
in the wind, their hoofs flying, terrible as the tide, white as
the surge which rises on the waves. Ἵππος μετέωρος, said Pindar,
describing a horse rearing. It is a brilliant meteor which flies over
the barrier, but it is also a crest of foam.

 [Illustration]

And the pleasure of watching these riderless races is augmented by
the good faith, the honesty of the beast, which cannot be suspected
of corruption, which strives for victory only. Neither crime nor
death can stop them. M. Houcke has told me that he has known some
horses to be killed in the [p195] ring by their jealous rivals, and
others after the victory have died from fits of apoplexy when they
had gone back to the stables.

If the riderless horse is superb, it is certain that the chariot, the
ancient Greek chariot, immortalized by Homer, is the most æsthetic
frame for it. The other day I read a commonplace remark from Madame
Dacier, who has only, and quite justly, seized the meaning of words
in Greek. “I do not understand,” she said, “why the Greeks, who were
so wise, should have used the chariot for so long a time—why they did
not see its great inconvenience. I am not speaking of the difficulty
of managing a chariot, although it is far greater than of managing a
horse; nor of the space occupied by it: I only say that there were
two men to each chariot. These two men were important individuals,
both fit for war. Yet only one of them could fight. Moreover, some
chariots required not only two, but even three or four horses for a
single warrior—another loss which merits attention.”

 [Illustration] [p196]

The excellent Madame Dacier has forgotten one thing, that the
Greeks were devoted to beauty before everything else. They liked
the chariot, because the quadriga was a superbly æsthetic picture—a
moving pedestal for the hero. So that the chariot was not only an
engine of war in their eyes; it was an object of luxurious pleasure.
Do you remember the beautiful descriptions of chariot-races which
fill the literature of Greece, and particularly the plays of
Sophocles?

Do you remember, amongst others, the account of the tutor of Orestes?
For my own part, I never witness one of these heroic displays without
the lines of the divine poet recurring to my memory.

“At sunrise the chariot-races took place. Orestes appeared, and with
him many charioteers. One was Achean, another from Sparta; two came
from Lybia, true masters of the reins. Orestes was fifth, with mares
from Thessaly. The sixth brought light chestnuts from Etolia. The
seventh was from Magnesia. The eighth, a son of Enia, advanced with
white horses. The divine Athene had sent the ninth. Lastly, a Beotian
mounted the tenth chariot.

“The heroes were standing, and when the lots had been drawn and their
places were assigned to them, they sprang forward at the blast of the
brazen trumpets. All together they raised the beasts; they shook the
reins; the arena was full of the roll of their ringing chariots. And
all mingled, confused, lavished the whip to pass by the axle of some
opponent. And the breath of the horses, covered with foam, the backs
of the drivers, and the wheels of the chariots. [p197]

 [Illustration]

“When they reached the last post Orestes grazed it slightly with his
axle. He slackened the reins, and gave the wheeler his head. With his
right hand he restrained the other. . . . He was preparing for the
finish of the race. But when he saw that only the Athenian was left,
he made his [p198] whip whistle round the ears of his steeds, and
sprang forward behind his rival. The two chariots rolled on in front.
Alternately they passed and re-passed each other by the length of a
head. Upright in his uninjured chariot, Orestes had successfully run
in every race; but in giving the left rein to the horse rounding the
post, he struck the column. His axle was broken; from the height of
his chariot he rolled entangled in the reins, whilst the frightened
horses tumultuously rushed into the arena.”

Pantomime—another ancient amusement—is the glory of the Hippodrome as
well as the races. All who saw it will still remember the splendours
of the _Chasse_. It seemed difficult to find anything more brilliant,
for there are not many subjects which can be used for these grand
spectacular shows. When a _Roman Triumph_ has been displayed, a
_Nero_ with chariot races, a _Fête amongst the Rajahs_ with rivulets
of precious stones, an _Arab Fantasia_, a fairy piece, and a genuine
_Congo_, the management must fall back upon military pieces. But we
live upon former triumphs, and the Hippodrome dare no longer produce
old-fashioned effects from its storehouses.

The embarrassment of M. Houcke the manager, who arranges his own
plays, was therefore very great. The resources of a large place like
the Hippodrome vary from one season to the other. Sometimes acrobats
form the great novelty, sometimes a troupe of vaulting clowns is the
central attraction. Lastly, the horses were there to be exhibited,
so that the director found himself obliged to select a military
pantomime.

 [Illustration]

M. Houcke is a type, a true child of the stage. He has [p199] five
or six brothers scattered through the world, all managers of riding
establishments. His father, under the name of Leonard, was formerly
proprietor of the Deux-Cirques before the Franconi. He has taken M.
Loyal’s place in the ring in Russia, Germany, and Scandinavia. This
will tell you, if [p200] heredity is not an empty word, that he is
gifted with a large amount of professional genius.

Moreover—and this does not spoil it—Houcke is very knowing. His
choice of the name of Skobelef, as the hero of his last military
_fête_, appears to me an excellent proof of this acuteness. You
may vainly search contemporary history without finding the name of
any other victorious general who would command the sympathy of the
Parisians. . . .

Skobelef and Plevna, the Russians and the Turks! Houcke had grasped
his pantomime. The chief outlines of the plot were quickly arranged,
and M. Thomas, the former decorator of the Théâtre Français and the
Opera Comique, Houcke’s right hand man left for Russia, with a great
deal of money in his pockets to buy weapons, costumes, sledges,
moujiks, drovskies, and snow.

He returned with all Russia in his trunks.

Picture to yourself, from one end of the arena to the other, a
parquet floor laid down, over which sledges and skaters glided
as though upon the Neva. In the first _tableau_ the parqueterie
represented a high road, a post-station in the steppe. The orchestra,
which had reinforced its musicians by a choir of genuine moujiks, was
suspended above the buildings of the Isba. The good people sang with
those deep voices which Agrenieff had already enabled us to hear, in
their national songs, some years previously at the Trocadero. They
were placed in a suitably decorated gallery, and when, accompanied by
bells, the moujiks chanted their national hymn—

 _Bojé tsara krani
 Silni der jarni
 Stsar stvouyna slavouna, slavounam. . . ._

one [p201] really felt carried far away on the wings of the music. During
the singing I looked over towards the third places, filled with
the poorer people, who are less sceptical than the others. Many of
them were quite touched, their eyes were glistening, their breasts
heaving. . . .

 [Illustration: CHARIOT RACES AT THE HIPPODROME.]

 [Illustration]

Whilst the bells and the moujiks were singing in unison, the
processions commenced to pass over the road. First came the singers
and wandering dancers, who followed the army to the scene of war;
then groups of officers, convoys of prisoners, the fantastic gallop
of an orderly; then, with a bustle, a troïka, containing a tall man
enveloped in a grey pelisse. This was Skobelef, who had arrived to
take command of the army.

 [Illustration]

Then we were transported before Plevna. The country people were
taking refuge in the town, carrying all their wealth in their carts.
They were just in time! the Russian soldiers were at their heels!
But they are only scouts. The Turkish sentinels have seen them
from the walls of Plevna. [p202] The alarm is given. A sortie is
made, and they are surrounded. Their case is not quite clear; their
reconnaissance has a fatal look of spying. The Turks prepare to shoot
them, when a thundering gallop shakes the floor. The Cossacks have
arrived at furious speed to rescue the prisoners. Ah, the brave men!
I always thought that a candle diet developed heroism. With the
thrust of a lance, the [p203] Turks are properly settled; a few of
them run away in great style, and succeed in re-entering the town.
They merely postpone the moment of surrender, for the whole Russian
army is advancing. It rushes to the assault of the practicable places
in the fort. In the midst of the engagement and smoke the whole end
of the Hippodrome becomes [p204] illumined with the lurid light of
fire. _Vive_ Skobelef! _vive_ Ruggieri! Plevna is burning! Plevna is
burnt!

 [Illustration]

And the victors have nothing to do but rejoice!

In a moment a painted canvas has been unrolled round the arena,
which represents St. Petersburg in perspective; the parqueterie has
changed into the frozen Neva. The whole town has come out to greet
the victorious soldiers!

A fine evening for skaters!

With the point of their skates, on the ice, in English, in Italics,
in Gothic, they write the name of Skobelef. Lamps suspended to the
arches reproduce the glorious word. The sound of the clarions and
fifes playing the triumphal march is already heard.

The moment has come!

The leader of the orchestra lowers his baton.

One, two, three!

And as though the whole army, the whole people had been stopped
spellbound at this signal, the cannon thundered, the orchestra
bellowed, the fireworks, are let off, the bells ring, and high above
all the clamour the national hymn rises for the last time—

 _BOJÉ TSARA KRANI._

Although _Buffalo Bill’s_ company has not appeared at the Hippodrome,
this seems to be a fitting place in which to chronicle the
magnificent equestrian spectacle with which they have delighted the
Parisians during the Exhibition.

 [Illustration]

The innumerable readers of Cooper’s American novels have seen
the prairie of the Sioux transported, with its actors and its
decorative accessories, to the Porte Maillot. All were there: the Red
Skins—genuine Red Skins, the mustangs, [p206] buffaloes, cowboys,
vaqueros, waggons, tents, bows, arrows, rifles, dogs, squaws, and
papooses.

 [Illustration]

This extraordinary troupe was taken to Paris by Nael Salsbury, a
manager who is celebrated in every English-speaking country. It is
commanded by an extraordinary man, Colonel W. F. Cody. Picture to
yourself the most perfect type of trapper that you can imagine after
reading _The Spy_ and _The Mohicans_. Born on the frontier, brought
up on horseback, of chimerical courage, and unequalled skill in the
management of horses and firearms, Colonel Cody is six feet high,
and this fine body is crowned by the head of a stage musketeer. His
curling hair falls upon his shoulders, and he has the moustache of an
Aramis beneath the straight classical nose of an American.

Colonel Cody’s warrior troupe has its female star, Miss Annie Oakley,
called the “infallible little shot.” She is also a child of the
frontier, where her name is as much feared as her bullet. And in
fact she has accomplished wonders. One [p207] day at Tiffin (Ohio)
she hit a fifty-centime piece held between a man’s finger and thumb
at a distance of thirty feet.

In February, 1885, she fired at 5,000 glass balls, which three
projectiles threw up for her fifteen yards high; she broke 4,772 of
them in nine hours, although loading the guns herself.

Miss Oakley manages a horse quite as well as a gun.

At a New Jersey fair she won four races out of five.

“And Miss Oakley is rendered still more interesting,” says a
biography from which I am copying, “by the fact that she is short,
and only weighs 106 lbs.”

Not one word more.

The young girl is still unmarried.

 [Illustration]



 [Illustration]



 [p209] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER IX.
 THE EQUILIBRISTS.


The equilibrists are the most artistic acrobats, the true Olympians.

The gymnast excites our admiration by the marvellous development of
his thorax and limbs, and by the epic relief of his muscles. The
equilibrist does not require the same effort in his work. The beauty
of the performance lies in the delicacy, variety, facility, and
grace of the artist’s movements, and on this account women excel as
equilibrists, for men cannot reconcile themselves to the suppression
of their [p210] strength in the feats they achieve, and therefore
take a second rank in equilibrium.

They prefer special branches of the art, and are usually jugglers,
bicyclists, or antipodeans. . . .

A proverb is current behind the scenes of the circus, to the effect
that love destroys the centre of gravity in tight-rope dancers, and
as a rule equilibrists—that is to say the true artists, not the
pretty girls who use the cord as a springing-board—might rank with
the Roman vestals. Their reputation is their fortune, and they are
carefully guarded by their parents. It is not only a question of
averting the danger of maternity, which ends the artistic career of
an equilibrist. No risk must be encountered of anything that could
damage the artist’s health; and, therefore, those who are particular
on these points can enjoy the performance of an equilibrist without
any uneasiness about her private life.

The children of acrobats are equilibrists and jugglers from their
birth. Stroll into a circus some morning during rehearsal, you
will see all the corners filled with boys and girls, who, on every
tightened rope and round the iron bars, are imitating the paternal
exercises for their own amusement. I remember, one day in London,
witnessing a curious scene in a seventh-floor garret. Under the roof
two cords were stretched across the attic; a young boy was practising
walking on one of them without a balance; on the other a monkey was
faithfully copying the gestures of his companion. The professor had
probably gone out to buy some tobacco; in his absence the two dancers
silently continued their parallel work. I can tell you that acrobats
learnt the value of mutual instruction before the schoolmasters!
[p211]

 [Illustration]

The lowest step of equilibrist art is the _globe performance_.
Walking upon the rolling ball, forward or backward, vaulting
[p212] and dancing upon it, are the A B C of the profession. This
old-fashioned accomplishment is, therefore, never used, unless some
new invention is added to increase the difficulty.

 [Illustration]

This has happened with Lady Alphonsine and the Russian Frankloff,
whom we saw walking upon the water at the Neuilly _fête_, standing
upon a ballast-tub, which he rapidly turned round with his feet.
Lady Alphonsine ascended a small spiral upon her globe. It resembled
the winding turn upon a screw, and was twisted round a mast fifteen
or eighteen feet high. The ascension is not so bad, but I assure
you that the descent gives you some trouble. It is necessary to
restrain the enormous wooden ball, always on the verge of escaping,
and the feet patter frantically, vibrating like the sounding-board
of a mandoline. Here the effect produced is out of proportion to the
exertion forced upon the artist; and this performance has another
inconvenience: if [p213] it be continued for too long it spoils
the shape of the leg by undue development of the calf—two reasons why
the globe should not be reinstated in the esteem of the public.

 [Illustration: THE SLACK WIRE.]

However, here as elsewhere, fashion rules the world, and _tight-rope
dancing_, after falling into abeyance for a time, is now apparently
returning to favour.

If, some fine morning, we may find ourselves globe spiral
ascensionists with little previous exertion, no one can become a
tight-rope dancer without much patient labour. You see how easily
the rope-dancer runs across her narrow path, and may feel tempted to
say, “Really, it only requires nerve to do as much.” But it is a pity
that, for your own edification, you were not present at the artist’s
first experiments.

All the strength of the dancer lies in the back and in the rigidity
of the legs. On this account children cannot be placed upon the
cord before they are ten years old. The apparatus used in these
performances is very simple, and has not changed since antiquity. The
cord is raised upon “_croisés_,” two crossed sticks, at each end,
which form two ╳ of different size. The ╳ at the back is the highest,
so that it may support the back of the dancer during the intervals of
rest. The second ╳, or “_croisé de face_” which bears the “_guidon_”
or _object of sight_, from which the dancer never moves his eyes, is
not higher than the cord, which is attached at each end by cross bars
of flexible wood. In Europe we use the ash, but the Americans use a
still more pliant wood, the _ixry_.

The whole apparatus is fixed by an arrangement called a “_cadrolle_”
of pulleys. The first time the dancer attempts to cross the
cord he is supported by straps on either side. [p214] With the
balancing-pole carefully held in both hands, his eyes fixed upon
the point of sight, he endeavours to turn his feet out as much as
possible, treading first on the heel and then upon the great toe.
After a few months’ practice he can dance the “_sabotière_” which
does not wound his still tender feet. The other exercises which he
must slowly acquire are the _walk forward_, the _walk backward_,
the _dangerous spring forward_, the _dangerous spring backward_ the
_horse spring_, and the art of _springing from one foot to the other_.

 [Illustration]

This is the classic series of exercises. When the dancer has once
mastered them his own imagination must aid his performance. He must
attempt some new feat upon the cord that no one else has yet tried,
and this “novelty” is [p215] more difficult to find than you would
suppose. Artists like Ada Blanche, who inherit the talents of Madame
Saqui and Blondin, have a right to repeat La Bruyère’s melancholy
words, “We have come too late.”

 [Illustration]

I have purposely given very little space in this book to former
artists. The skill of our living gymnasts, acrobats, equestrians,
and clowns, prevents our regretting the dead; but amongst the arts
practised in the circus, that of the equilibrist has been in vogue
longer than any other, and it is also the most limited in its
resources.

It is therefore expedient, Saqui, to place your charming picture in
this place, who forced the Great Emperor to raise his eyes to watch
your aerial exploits, whom he called his _enragée_, whose chimerical
daring he secretly admired for its [p216] resemblance to his own
audacity. The astronomers of our time, less gallant than the ancient
poets, have not yet placed you amidst the stars; yet, on the other
hand, I fear that you have not been received into Paradise: for,
little pagan, you once desecrated the sacred towers of Notre Dame
with your little sabots. May this sin be remitted some day! I know,
in one corner of Paris, an old centenarian Italian woman, who still
has masses said for the repose of your restless soul, and believes
that in expiation of your pride you are condemned to wander for two
hundred years between heaven and earth, without any amusement except
that of playing with the rainbow as a hoop when there is no storm.

The pleasant memory of this peri is closely allied with the name
of Émile Gravelet, called Blondin. Is there any place in the world
where the famous crossing of Niagara has not been spoken of? The two
Americas hastened to see the feat, and every day Blondin added some
novelty to his performance. Sometimes, seated on a little chair,
he would cook an omelet upon his cord, and eat it amidst shouts of
applause. Sometimes he took his son on his back and ran from one bank
to the other. One day Blondin caught sight of the Prince of Wales
amongst the spectators. He was presented to him, and proposed that
the Prince should make the journey across the Falls with him. His
Royal Highness alleged that his rank obliged him to remain on the
bank.

This offer was one of Blondin’s favourite jokes.

Pierre Véron told me that on the day that the rope-dancer crossed the
Seine he suggested to Cham, who had come to make a sketch, that he
should cross with him. [p217]

 [Illustration]

“I am perfectly willing,” replied the caricaturist, “but I will carry
you on my back.”

“Nonsense! Monsieur Cham, you cannot think of doing that!” [p218]

“You see you are the one to refuse,” coolly answered the unsmiling
jester.

 [Illustration]

The sudden discredit into which rope-dancing has fallen during the
last few years dates from the appearance of Oceana.

This young woman, anxious to adopt a “novelty” which [p219] would
exhibit her beauty without too much exertion, chose a _wire_,
which, hanging slacker than the cord, enabled her, with a little
oscillation, to assume the attitude of reclining in a hammock, the
voluptuous indolent postures of _Sarah la baigneuse_. But the genuine
rope-dancers at once determined to reproduce all the exercises of
the cord upon the wire, which Oceana had so easily brought into
fashion, and, with the exception of the horse-spring, they can all
be performed upon it. The difficulty of preserving the equilibrium
on a support that is even more unstable than the cord delighted the
equilibrists.

 [Illustration]

A young Oriental, Lady Ibrahim, in the winter of 1888, at the Folies
Bergère, showed us the advantages a clever equilibrist could derive
from the flexibility of the wire.

 [Illustration]

 [Illustration]

A little too tall, with the almost thin arms of a dancer, she allowed
herself to be raised by one hand to a rather high platform, from
which she started, far above all heads. Once there, she opened a
Chinese parasol, which she used as a balance; then, with a very
serious expression, an anxious [p220] rigidity of the whole face,
her eagle eyes fixed on the point of sight, she stepped upon the
wire, which, brilliantly plated with nickel, looked like the slippery
floor of a skating-rink under her feet. When she reached the centre
of her wire, Lady Ibrahim caught a steel hoop in its flight; for one
second she placed it behind her head; it was the starlit night: then
she slipped it over her head, and slowly, with graceful precautions,
she made it glide down the whole length of her [p221] body to her
feet. Some flags arranged in a small wheel, so that their folds waved
as she moved, afterwards replaced the parasol in her hand, and then,
suspended between the draperies of undulating silk, Lady Ibrahim
violently swung herself from right to left on one leg; suddenly she
closed her feet, raised herself in the air on the points of her toes,
turned, and went towards the back _croisé_. The performance was
crowned by a promenade on a plank balanced on the wire. Lady Ibrahim
repeated upon the plank the various exercises that I have already
described, until at last, amidst loud [p222] applause, she picked it
up and carried it off upon her shoulder.

The wish to conquer increasing difficulties has raised the
equilibrists from the slack wire to the trapeze. The danger of this
work lies in the instability of the support. The slack wire and cord
are less steady than the ball; the trapeze, although weighted by
lumps of lead at the ends of the two cords, oscillates perceptibly
more than the cord.

It is like a thoroughbred, a nervous, supple, and rebellious horse,
which must be mounted with infinite care and delicacy of movement.
Therefore the equilibrists who have once tried the trapeze will never
abandon it. Through the meshes of their net they disdainfully look
down upon the poor slack wire-dancers, who are with difficulty raised
two yards above the sand of the arena by the _croisés_.

Globe, cord, slack wire, trapeze—this is the complete cycle, and we
have already seen that these graceful exercises are performed chiefly
by women. A man has not the same æsthetic reasons for exhibiting his
body in a work which provides no use for his masculine strength, and
he therefore rarely leaves the “carpet;” he is a _juggler_ or an
_antipodean_. All the _banquistes_ juggle, and all their children
too. It is their leisure work between the exercises that exhaust
their strength. They sit in a corner, pick up whatever is near their
hands—a key, an orange, a stone—and throw them into the air. But
daily practice is necessary before they can surpass the average skill
and attain the dexterity which excites our wonder on the stage.

 [Illustration]

The true juggler, who is usually left-handed, never juggles on
horseback, nor on a cord or trapeze; he performs with [p223] balls
standing on the ground. This is a speciality of the Japanese. One
was seen this winter in drawing-room performances whose dexterity
approached sorcery. He only used a large white ball and a small red
one, but in his hands they seemed like living things. They ran over
his face, up [p224] and down his arms, and stopped on his nose or
the tip of a finger.

 [Illustration]

Our friend Agoust was celebrated in America as a juggler before
he became a comic clown and manager of the Nouveau Cirque. I have
seen him juggle simultaneously with an egg, a ball, and a bottle of
champagne; and this is a miraculous feat, through the difference in
the muscular effort required in throwing back each object as it falls
into the juggler’s hand.

The Dane Sévérus is also one of the present celebrities of carpet
equilibrism. He appears on the stage like Hamlet, in a black velvet
tunic. One expects him to commence the monologue spoken on the
terrace of Elsinor. No. He orders a small velvet chair to be brought
to him, and perches himself upon it head downwards, feet in air. But
he has first balanced a lighted lamp, with its glass and globe, upon
the nape of his neck. He then moves it forward upon his skull by tiny
jerks of the skin of the hair. It reaches his forehead; from there it
travels down his profile, and finally descends to his chest.

This Sévérus has made a speciality of juggling with fragile objects.
He replaces balls and knives by basins, salad-bowls, lamp-glasses,
and plates of all sizes. [p225] Whilst seeing his performance one
cannot but regret having left the cook at home, instead of giving her
one good lesson in the art of skilfully handling a dinner-service.

Sévérus has a remarkable _iron arm_. The biceps of the arm develop
very strongly in jugglers, and the crural muscles attain an
extraordinary expansion and strength in the _antipodeans_.

The _banquistes_ use this term for the jugglers who work with their
legs. For instance, the Japanese Yotshitaro and the Mexican Frank
Maura.

I have seen Maura perform one of the most extraordinary bounds that
I ever witnessed on the stage. It did not excite much applause from
the audience, who little suspected the immense force of the exertion.
Frank Maura knelt at the edge of the stage, seated himself upon his
heels and crossed his arms, then, without assisting himself by one
movement of the bust, by one effort of the loins he threw his body
into the air, and did not return to the ground until he had completed
the revolution of a dangerous somersault.

After seeing the performance of this antipodean, one can understand
the wonderful vigour of his muscles.

Frank Maura places in the middle of the theatre a metal handle about
two yards high, which supports a small saddle. The equilibrist
balances his shoulders and nape upon it, and then raises both legs at
a right angle. An assistant throws to him successively three enormous
balls, a barrel, and a bench long enough to seat six persons. Maura
catches these objects, throws them into the air, recatches them,
passes them from his hands to his feet, turns them violently round
and then suddenly stops their rotation from time to time. [p226]
With this extraordinary strength the faculty of “prehension” is so
curiously developed amongst antipodeans, that many of them can pick
up a ball or an orange with their feet, and throw these objects, like
a projectile, towards a given mark.

 [Illustration]

We must add to the group of equilibrists two classes of acrobats,
whose appearance in the Hippodrome dates from the grand spectacular
pantomimes which rendered it necessary to cover the arena with a
_parqueterie_ floor. These new comers are _bicyclists_ and _skaters_.

 [Illustration]

The bar used to guide the bicycle was certain to attract the
attention of the equilibrists sooner or later, and we can understand
how the idea suggested itself of reproducing upon this unsteady
support some of the exercises which the gymnast performs upon the
fixed bar. Since the number of these borrowed “acts” is necessarily
very restricted, the wish to introduce variety into his “novelty act”
led the bicyclist to add a companion to his [p228] performance, who
springs upon his shoulders whilst he is in motion, and executes there
some of the acrobatic feats which the pad equestrians perform in the
_pas de deux_.

The summit of the limited performance possible on a bicycle is
attained when the artists attempt on a _monocycle_ the exercises
which are now frequently seen on the two wheels.

As for the skaters, they appear upon the _parqueterie_ in order to
provoke laughter by their falls; their performance belongs to comic
acrobatics.

You who in former days have tested the asphalte of the Skating Rink
in the Rue Blanche, with your shoulders, back, and knees, are well
acquainted with the horrible sprains which followed your attempts.

The clown-skaters have found means of avoiding those inconveniences
by the suppleness of complete dislocation. At the same time they
make great capital out of the natural perversity which impels us
to laugh at our neighbours’ falls. I shall not astonish you when
I tell you that these comic equilibrists are looked down upon by
“professionals.” They are held a little aloof, and are regarded as
entertainers rather than artists. For they have not been forced
to conquer an enemy in whose defeat lies all the glory of an
equilibrist—the vertigo.

Can we say that the equilibrist is really victorious over the
vertigo? After much observation I am convinced that it would be more
accurate to write that the vertigo conquers the equilibrist.

 [Illustration]

You all know the experiment which plunges a hen into a state of
immobility and renders it more or less completely [p230] insensible
by placing its beak upon the ground and drawing a straight chalk line
towards which its eyes forcibly converge. In the same way, if any one
take a brilliant object between two fingers and hold it a few inches
from the eyes and a little above the forehead of a somewhat nervous
person, first engaging him to look at it fixedly and to concentrate
his attention on what follows, there is every chance of sending the
person who is victim of the experiment into an hypnotic sleep.

The series of phenomena which then take place are familiar to all:

First, the eyes water a little through the fixed gaze, the pupils
dilate and contract alternately, the members become extended, rigid,
in some degree cataleptic. . .

Now recall the succession of acts which the equilibrist accomplishes
in his work. He too, fixedly, obstinately gazes upon a single
spot—the point of sight. All those who perform upon the cord have
acknowledged that the same peculiar phenomena are produced at the
end of the first seconds of this intense gaze; the equilibrist feels
a sensation of _absolute isolation_, and at the same time a curious
_attrahent_ feeling towards the point of sight. In this nervous state
the muscles assume a species of rigidity which assists the acrobat in
his work.

Must we then conclude that the phenomena found here border upon
hypnotism? This is a delicate question. I know that it will soon be
laid before the Académie de Médecine by two clever _savants_ of the
Faculty of Montpellier. I commend these remarks to their attention,
for they may feel some interest in them, owing to the difficulty
which impedes close [p231] observation of these wandering artists,
whose confidence is so hard to win.

 [Illustration]

Those who study this question of hypnotism amongst equilibrists
should notice:

1. That as a rule they are _female subjects_,

2. That the most skilful equilibrists come to us from the land of the
fakirs, from India, Japan, the East;

3. That all the European subjects that attain exceptional dexterity
are at least neurolopathic. [p232]

 [Illustration]

To quote but one instance: Erminia Chelli, the queen of equilibrists
upon the trapeze, is a natural somnambulist.

From May till July, 1887, Paris possessed this charming [p233] young
girl at the Cirque d’Été, and her departure has left us inconsolable.

I shall never forget the emotion which her performance caused me at
our first meeting.

I at once begged M. Franconi to introduce me to her father.

M. Chelli and I exchanged cards.

I have copied the document here as an extraordinary monument of
acrobatic and paternal pride:

 EMILIO CHELLI,

 EX-ARTIST, GYMNAST, AND CLOWN,

 FATHER

 OF THE CELEBRATED AERIAL EQUILIBRIST,

 SIGNORINA ERMINA CHELLI.

The wife’s card said “Madame Mère.”

Erminia Chelli is not more than nineteen; she is a Venetian, and by
lengthening her legs in the trapeze she has acquired the supreme
grace in walking, the elegant proportions, which are usually rather
lacking in Italians The bust is youthful yet charming, the neck
delicate; the little dark head is proudly carried upon shoulders
which the trapeze has rendered supple without unduly developing
the shoulder blades. Since the appearance of Oceana no one of
such perfect proportions has been seen in either of the circuses
or the Hippodrome. The beauty of Oceana was, perhaps, a little
more individual and original; but Erminia is better bred and more
typical. [p234]

“She is her father’s pupil,” Madame Chelli, her mother informed me,
as she assisted Erminia in putting on a large pelisse. “She began to
appear in public when she was quite a little girl. . . .”

 [Illustration]

As she spoke an equestrian came in to tell them that the net was
being prepared for Mademoiselle Chelli’s performance.

Erminia threw off her mantle, and with the caressing tones [p235]
of a young girl, a little seriously and gravely, she went up to her
mother and put her arms round her neck:

“Addio, mamma,” she said, kissing her.

A little surprised, I inquired:

“Is this a superstition, Madame Chelli?”

“No one knows,” the mother answered. “It has been her custom since
childhood.”

Truly, in spite of the net extended beneath her, she might well
be excused, poor little girl, for having one moment’s uneasiness
whenever she was fetched for her dizzy work on the trapeze.

For one whole month I strained my neck watching her extraordinary
performance in the friezes. Without the assistance of her hands,
which she used as a counterpoise, she bent low enough to pick up
with her teeth a handkerchief laid upon the trapeze. She mounted a
ladder which was only poised upon the round oscillating piece of
wood. Lastly, she balanced an immense ball still upon this frail
support, and then, without leaning upon anything, she mounted upon
it. And thus, lost in space, the globe beneath her feet, she seemed,
the little acrobat, so beautiful, so unconscious of danger, like
a goddess travelling through the air with the earth for a movable
pedestal.

The enthusiasm with which I had praised the beauty and talents of
Erminia Chelli in several newspapers procured for me at that time
the letter which I reproduce here with great pleasure. It is from a
literary man, and throws a genuine light upon the customs of some of
those acrobats who as a class are so misunderstood by the public.
[p236]

 “SIR,

 “The article in which you allude to Mademoiselle Chelli recalls to
 me a souvenir which I have much pleasure in relating to you.

 “Three or four years ago the Chelli family came to Vichy and took
 part in the performances at the Eden Theatre. The father went
 through some acts of strength and equilibrium; the daughter was
 commencing on the flying trapeze the work for which she is now
 distinguished. The mother watched them both, admired them, and
 trembled.

 “At that time the child, who might have been fourteen years old,
 already placed a ball upon a movable trapeze, steadied it as far as
 possible with her feet whilst holding by the cords, then loosening
 her grasp of the cords, she rose, bowed, stood upon one foot, and
 threw kisses to the crowd, visibly directing some of them towards
 her mother, who usually occupied the second chair in the second row
 of the orchestra stalls; the first chair being reserved for the
 child, who came back to her mother as soon as her performance was
 over.

 “My usual place was in the first chair in the first row. I soon
 began to talk to the mother and her daughter, whose modest manners
 and childish affection for her parent were perfectly free from all
 affectation, and attracted me immensely.

 “One evening I ordered a bouquet to be thrown to Erminia as she
 left the trapeze. On the following day I asked her mother if this
 attention, which the audience warmly applauded, had pleased her
 daughter.

 “‘Oh! yes,’ she said, ‘and this morning Erminia carried it to the
 Virgin’s chapel.’ [p237]

 [Illustration]

 “‘She is pious, then?’

 “‘Certainly; it is only a fortnight since she received the
 communion; she often communicates.’ [p238]

 “I will not point out the contrast which presents itself to the
 mind. There are some facts like the drop of water, in which, as
 Mademoiselle de Gournay has already said, the whole sun is reflected.

 “Poor child! has she travelled so far in safety on the rough voyage
 of the life which she leads? I hope so; it is the sincere wish of an
 old and unknown friend.

 “C. LIVET.”

The “old and unknown friend” of Erminia Chelli may feel reassured. I
have eaten macaroni in the society of Mademoiselle Erminia and her
family, and since her departure from France we live in the friendly
intercourse of letters: the pretty equilibrist is still just the same
as when he knew her. The horse filled the thoughts of poor Émilie
Loisset, and so the trapeze fills the whole life of Erminia Chelli.
It is her vocation; when quite small she would go under the table
and swing her dolls upon a trapeze made of a hairpin and the elastic
from her hair net. And, on the other hand, whenever she is not in
the circus she passes her time in making bonnets for herself and
her friends. This talent for millinery replaces Ingres’ violin. One
has much more chance of pleasing her by saying, “How becoming your
bonnet is, Erminia!” than by complimenting her upon her talent as an
equilibrist.

Erminia is likely to amass a very large dowry. Do you know that £120
per month may be earned by walking head downwards upon the ceiling of
a circus? In four or five years’ time she will marry. [p239]

“But there is no hurry,” she said, shaking her head, when some one
mentioned this contingency to her.

 [Illustration]

She was right. The sight of her youthful form flying through the
friezes is a delight to those pagans who appreciate pure curved
lines, and it is also a subject for meditation to those philosophers
to whom the little acrobat unconsciously gives a symbolic lesson
when she has exhausted in an ascending [p240] scale of difficulties
all the most unexpected combinations of equilibrist art, upright
upon her globe, supported by the trapeze only, she pauses, and upon
this vantage point of unsurpassable perfection, feeling sure that
nothing more is possible, she smiles, sends a kiss from the tip of
her fingers to her admirers, then abruptly, as though struck by
lightning, she falls into the net.

 [Illustration]



 [p241] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER X.
 THE GYMNASTS.


The tragic accident which killed an unfortunate equilibrist,
Castagnet, by a fall from his cord in September, 1888, roused great
emotion amongst the public. Those persons, even, who wrongfully
credit the poor acrobats with practising every vice, cannot restrain
their admiration for the marvellous courage which these pariahs
display on these terrible occasions. We must take advantage of
the intervals thus produced in the contempt usually felt by the
public for circus artists, to prove to all lovers of fine physical
performances that this great skill is not acquired without the
practice of many daily virtues, of which temperance ranks least, and
incredible perseverance is the most admirable.

I have now frequented the society of _banquistes_ for many years,
and am on confidential terms with them; I cannot assert [p242]
too often the very great esteem I feel for them. Their art is
wholly traditional, and it preserves habits of respect and
obedience in their families which, perhaps, can scarcely be found
elsewhere. Of course there are some black sheep in the band, some
slave-drivers, like the bully whom Nils Forsberg formerly painted in
a picture—_Avant la ’Loi Talon_—which caused a great sensation in
Paris, but the subject of it appeared so cruel that the committee
dared not admit it to the Salon. But this is an exceptional case,
which is much less common than is usually believed. The “families”
whom you see pirouette in the arena, vault over fixed bars, and
scale the trapezes, keep, as a rule, to the old patriarchal customs.
Rehearsal fills every hour of the day which can be spared from the
theatre, and this muscular work produces a healthy physical fatigue,
which is the best school of morality.

The first business of a family of acrobats that wishes to succeed in
its tour round the world, is to perfect each member of it in some
special exercise which suits his natural aptitudes. Some men are born
_carpet_ acrobats, others are attracted by the _fixed bar_, others
seem born for _vaulting_. No mistake must be made at the _début_ of a
professional education, for an artist who wishes to acquire fame and
fortune must become a specialist from his first teeth.

Whatever branch may be decided upon, the carpet acrobats, the bar
experts, and the trapezeist have always commenced by training
themselves in a certain number of universal exercises which form the
basis of gymnastics, as the scale is the basis of all music.

They consist in learning the innumerable number of somersaults.
[p243]

 [Illustration]

The first attempted with the _feet firm_, that is to say without
springboard or _batoude_, is the _somersault backward_. This is much
easier to learn than the _somersault forward_. The neophyte wears
a strong tight belt provided with a ring above each hip. Cords are
passed through these rings, and are held by two companions in work,
enabling them to uphold the gymnast. The latter strives to turn round
upon the axis formed by the two cords, gradually decreasing his
reliance upon them. At last he can dispense with them entirely.

Before the acrobat attempts the _somersault forward_, he must go
through the whole series of _exercises in posturing_. [p244] First
_bending forward_ or “posturing,” the hands laid flat upon the ground
so as to support the body, which is raised with the legs opened, the
first time in the form of a Y, the second time in an elongation of I.

Then comes _bending backward_, in which the body is arched in an
inverse sense, the hands on the ground near the heels.

Next follows the _curvet_, which is performed by throwing the body
suddenly backwards until the hands touch the ground. And at the
moment they reach the floor a vigorous relaxation of the muscles of
the legs makes the acrobat rebound upon his feet.

When any one has mastered these three primeval exercises, he may
attempt the _somersault forward_ without the aid of his hands. He
must now rely upon combining these various acquirements in “acts” of
his own invention that will dazzle and astonish the public.

The classical performance of a carpet acrobat opens by _bending
backward_. It is continued by a _monkey’s somersault_—a decomposition
of the somersault backward, by the _rondade_—a curvet backwards, and
then by a _somersault_.

But vaulters do not end here; each of them varies in an infinite
number of ways by the acts of his invention, the outline of his
acrobatic career. He introduces an _Arab somersault_ (a somersault
from the side, which is obtained by starting from the ground on one
foot only); the _lion’s somersault_, which is a _monkey’s somersault
forward_; the _coward’s leap_, in which the acrobat, lying upon
his back, raises himself by one effort of the loins; the _forward
somersault_, a _lion’s somersault_ without the hands, which throws
the man, legs in air, head downwards upon the nape [p245] of his
neck; the _carp’s leap_, also the sudden spring of an extended
acrobat, which raises him to his feet through the relaxation of the
muscles of the spine.

 [Illustration]

The _double somersault_ cannot be performed from the carpet
without assistance; the artist must spring from the shoulders of a
companion, or with the aid of the peculiar spring-board which French
_banquistes_ call the _batoude_. With [p246] the _batoude_ Auriol
cleared twenty-four bayonets with a _flying somersault_, ended by a
_dive_—a jump from a great height.[12] With the _batoude_ specialists
have bounded over twenty-four horses, and at the gymnasium Du Marais,
belonging to M. Pascaud, last year an amateur, M. Mars, performed a
_triple somersault_.

This feat is the realization of the highest ambition of those carpet
acrobats whom you have so often seen grouped in an apotheosis in one
of those _human pyramids_ which rise in a second through the strength
of the gymnasts’ biceps, and which fall to pieces like fireworks, in
rockets of somersaults.

 [Illustration]

We cannot leave the circus floor without allusion to a series of
individuals who exhibit themselves by the side of the genuine
acrobats in performances of a special kind.

These are the _contortionists_, the india-rubber women—all those who
were formerly known by the more general name of _boneless_ acrobats.
These boneless or dislocated performers are more numerous in the
world than one would imagine. [p247]

Ballet-dancers are all dislocated, for their feet, legs, and loins
have been disarticulated to obtain _beautiful points;_ the naturalist
quadrille-dancers from Mabille, who are now seen at the _café_
concerts, are also dislocated.

There are some naturally disarticulated men. All Parisians will
remember in their youth, a beggar who was celebrated as the “humpback
of the Pont d’Austerlitz.” This mountebank caused his hump to pass
from his back to his chest as he liked. The vertebral column turned
without any effort from back to front, and from front to back again.
He was found drowned one day between two coal boats, and his skeleton
is still shown in the Museum.

 [Illustration]

But he was an exception. One must begin early in order to manufacture
a dislocated man like the “man in the ball.”

A wooden ball, about one yard in diameter, is rolled into the arena.
This huge sphere ascends an inclined plane, and rolls from right
to left upon it, then descends and recommences the ascension like
a living being. And truly, for it suddenly opens and a dislocated
man appears, who, without any semblance of fatigue, bows to the
astonished audience. [p248]

 [Illustration]

No one has yet guessed the secret which enables this wonderful
contortionist to bend and move his body in so small a space. The
bones, instead of being joined by articulations, are held together
by a fibrous membrane which envelops them like a kind of muff and
holds them in their sockets. This membrane, called “a capsule,” is
very flexible, [p249] and is capable of great elasticity of tension,
during childhood particularly. By preserving and developing this
natural disposition, the abnormal movements can be obtained which
surprise us amongst acrobats.

 [Illustration]

The performances of Walter, called the _Serpent-man_, are not less
extraordinary.

I will not insult you by supposing that you have not seen and
applauded this wonderful artist; it is, therefore, for the [p250]
inhabitants of hyperborean countries that I shall now describe his
work.

J. H. Walter appears in black tights spangled with silver, classic as
an Antinoüs, nervous as a stag. He looks as though he could reach the
friezes with a bound, and one is quite surprised to find that he does
not leave the “carpet.” His performance opens by an important and
novel act, in which the bust is reversed, and the head touches the
back of the knees, whilst the right hand seizes one of the ankles,
and the left is extended in an inverse sense, flat upon the ground.
And the startling series of leaps, of movements, of contortions,
which follow, end in an alarming pose, which recalls the monstrous
gargoyles of Gothic sculpture; for the acrobat drops his feet, knots
them under his head, and in this attitude, with starting eyes, and
rigid, open lips, he resembles a skull supported on cross-bones.

When we were introduced to each other, I complimented him upon his
artistic skill.

J. H. Walter seemed pleased with my praises; his British stiffness
thawed, and we chatted familiarly.

I was very curious to know whether this acrobatic monstrosity had
attracted much notice from the women. He frankly replied—

“Sir, the chastity which monks do not always observe is forced upon
an artist of my class. You will guess that I did not obtain this
complete flexibility in one day. On the very morning of my birth my
father commenced to bend my joints. I grew up with the idea that
I would be the greatest disarticulated artist of the century, or
perhaps of all ages. I never had any other ambition. With regard
to the point on [p251] which you question me, the greatest reserve
is imposed upon me. I have all the appearance of a strong man; my
chest is wider than your own, but beneath it I conceal the lungs of
a child; they are stunted by the daily pressure of my thoracic cage.
Consumption threatens me, and will carry me off very early unless I
break my neck in the circus some evening, which I should certainly
prefer.”

 [Illustration]

The acrobat told me all this without any affectation, in so natural
and decided a tone that I did not feel justified in pitying his
fate. But since I wished to know what sentiment could survive, in a
being of such mediocre intellectual culture, his resignation to the
sacrifice of life, I said to him with some interest—

“I quite understand; dear Monsieur Walter, that the applause you
receive seems to you, whilst it lasts, a sufficient reward for your
past sufferings and approaching end. But, tell me, when the fever of
the circus has passed away, in your hours of leisure and solitude
like this one, do you not curse your destiny?”

The Englishman smiled quietly.

“I have,” he replied, “a specific against _ennui_—a passion which
saves me from reflection. I gamble, sir, gamble madly for whole
nights at a time. I stake the thousands of francs which the managers
[p252] pay me every month; worse than that, I have staked my
skeleton, and lost it!”

The terrace of the _café_, where we were talking, had become empty
through the lateness of the hour; the waiters had already closed the
front, and were taking in the chairs.

 [Illustration]

The Serpent-man rose; and as I stared at him with wonder in my eyes,
he added—

“We are driven from here, sir. Will you accompany me to my hotel? I
will tell you how it occurred.”

He led me to a family boarding-house in the Rue du Colisée, which has
no customers except the acrobats who pass through Paris. J. H. Walter
occupied a fairly comfortable room on the first floor. He lighted a
lamp, and [p253] when we were seated, facing each other, he continued
his story in these words—

“It happened about five years ago I was performing in London, and
every evening I played poker in the taverns with an ill luck that
would not change. All my savings were lost, and when I had no money
left the idea occurred to me to insert an advertisement in _The Era_
(you know that is our professional newspaper), in which I said—

 [Illustration]

“‘_J. H. Walter, the celebrated Serpent-man, will dispose of his
skeleton upon his death for one thousand guineas, payable at once._’

“On the following day I received a visit from a celebrated surgeon.
He made me undress, carefully examined [p254] my back, felt the
vertebræ of my spine, then drawing out a pocket-book, he handed me a
cheque for a thousand guineas without a word!

 [Illustration]

“Alas! my ill-luck still pursued me, and the money soon followed my
wages.

“It is now eighteen months since I lost the last guinea of the
surgeon’s money on the card-table. But if the treasure has gone,
the contract still stands. In obedience to a formal clause in the
agreement, I always travel with this. . . .”

The Serpent-man rose, went to his bed, and, stooping down, he drew a
long, narrow oak box from under it. An [p255] address was painted in
large black letters upon this queer violin-case—

DOCTOR __________

         __________

           __________

                _London._

The acrobat raised the lid, and I saw that the box was empty.

“This,” he said, “is my coffin; I always travel with it. Now, when I
break my neck, I shall be hurriedly embalmed and packed into it. You
see this paper gummed inside the box? It contains instructions from
the doctor himself, written in four languages, for the undertakers,
who will lay me out. Look, here are the directions.”

The Serpent-man stooped down with the lamp in his hand; I knelt
beside him, and read—

“_The persons who place the acrobat, J. H. Walter, in this coffin,
are begged to inject a solution of chloride of mercury and acetic
acid into his veins, according to the method used by the American,
Doctor Ure._

“_In default of the above, an injection of about four quarts and a
half of sulphate of zinc may be used. The latter is even preferable,
if the coffin will be more than forty days on the road._”

“Well,” said the acrobat when I had finished reading, “what do you
think of it all?”

“I think, my friend, that you must have been tempted more than once
to leave this box in the cloak-room.” [p256]

I smiled as I spoke, hoping to induce the Englishman to speak out;
but the Serpent-man replied rather dryly—

“No, sir; such a temptation has never occurred to me: a gentleman
keeps his word.”

 [Illustration]

. . . . The performance of carpet acrobatics is something like a
state of larva to gymnasts. They all aspire to take flight.

The first step in this elevation is the “bars.”

The second, the glorious altitude, is “vaulting.”

Any one who has put on the belt of a gymnast, if but for [p257] one
trial, has practised on the single bar the following rudimentary
exercises:—

 [Illustration]

1. _Breasting the bar_, which consists in gently drawing the body,
without jerking it, to the level of the bar, by the contraction of
the biceps.

2. _Circling the bar_—curling the body gently over the bar head
forward, holding tightly with the hands.

3. _Simultaneous “upstart”_—the elevation of the body [p258] above
the bar, with both arms through a spring from the back—“_temps de
reins_.”

4. _Alternative “upstart”_—one arm after the other.

5. _Upstart on one leg_, which has a corollary called _German
upstart_ or _swinging_.

6. “_Cutaway up_,” which is obtained by giving a strong spring, which
throws the body forward, brings it back again in a natural swing, and
is completed by an “upstart.”

7. _Long swings or giant swings, forwards and backwards._ This is a
series of rapid somersaults round the bar, executed with extended
arms. At times they are so rapid that the body describes a succession
of circles round the bar, like the arms of a windmill.

8. _Hough swings._ This exercise resembles the preceding one, but
the bar is grasped below the kneecaps, without the assistance of the
hands.

9. _Hands and feet swings._ This is performed backwards or forwards;
the hands and feet are both placed on the bar, the hands outside, the
feet inside.

This is a fairly complete list of the exercises of an amateur,
but very few of them practise the whole series. They pause at the
“upstarts,” and at once pass to the _double bars_ or _parallel bars_,
which possess the hygienic virtue of widely opening the chest and
developing the biceps.

Circus gymnastics usually commence with the _triple parallel bars_.
There are a few acrobats who perform with the single bar and a
_double “batoude_,” but I have only seen one specialist with the
_parallel bars_—Gustave de Penthièvre, who is rarely seen now in the
hippodromes.

 [Illustration]

On the other hand, the _triple parallel bars_ offer signal [p259]
advantages for acrobats, through the opportunities they provide for
numerous and very varied exercises. They enable several gymnasts to
appear together, and thus give [p260] the artists breathing-time
whilst their companions perform their share of the entertainment.
These frequent intervals of rest are indispensable, on account of the
exhaustion which follows the violent exertions of the gymnasts.

The series of acrobatics performed upon the fixed _triple bars_ are
called passes.

Amongst them you will find all the exercises of the single
bar perfected, enlarged, and multiplied—the _simple swings_,
_demi-pirouette swings_, _swings on the feet_, _swings standing_,
_vaulting acts_, _hands and feet swings_, _hough swings_, _somersault
swings_, _heel swings_. Sometimes the artist raises himself, sits
on the first bar, opens his legs and profits by the impulse thus
received to spring forward upon the other bar (_vaulting act_);
sometimes he springs in recoiling, and then turns upon himself to
catch the next bar facing him (swing upon the heel); but it must
be understood that each acrobat has his particular acts which are
combinations of these exercises suited to his dexterity and personal
strength, and blended with various _falls_, _somersaults backwards
and forwards_, _double somersaults forwards_, _double reversed
somersaults_, etc., etc.

The _fixed bar_ is also the best school of _vaulting_ or _flying_.

Before Léotard invented the _flying trapeze_ by a stroke of genius,
_vaulting_ exercises were restricted to the _river jumping_. Acrobats
have now rejected with some contempt the two cords which held them
prisoners by the wrists; to-day, they are masters of space.

This subject reminds me of the modern kings of the trapeze—the two
brothers Volta.

 [Illustration: THE HANLON-VOLTAS AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE.]

These gymnasts belong to a good family. They were educated in England
in one of those country colleges where [p261] English boys develop
the lobes of their brains and the biceps of their arms at the same
time. Thanks to this system, my two friends, although they are the
kings of the fixed bar, can also read the _Iliad_ in Greek with great
facility.

 [Illustration]

They both worked in a bank, and in the evenings, after dinner, they
practised gymnastics for their amusement in a public gymnasium.
Naturally supple fine young men, they made wonderful progress. A
“manager” who accidentally saw them perform, proposed making an
engagement with them. They consulted each other. They laboriously
earned 600_l._ per annum between them in the bank. Now the Barnum
offered a salary of 160_l._ per month. [p262]

The brothers Volta closed their books, crossed the ocean with
a somersault, and made their _début_ in America. They joined a
band which already possessed two _flying trapezists_ and an _iron
arm_, the Hanlons, the genuine pupils of the old Hanlon-Lees. The
Voltas’ contributions to the entertainment was a very clever series
of performances on the _fixed bars_. This completed the scale of
vaulting exercises. The band could make the tour of the world in
glorious style with the varied accomplishments of its members.

With the exception of the standing swing and the feet swing, all the
exercises of the _fixed bar_ can be performed on the trapeze. Some
special swings are also risked, such as the _passe ventre_, which
is executed by throwing one’s self over the trapeze. But the most
popular of these exercises is the simple flight from one trapeze
to the other, with a few yards’ interval to be crossed between
them. This infatuation is explicable, for there is no doubt that
this performance gives us the best opportunity of admiring as in
apotheosis the beauty of the human form, and this is the reason why
the idea of placing young girls upon the trapeze was so quickly
grasped. With the advent of woman, passion and crime made their
appearance in the serene atmosphere of the aerial realms; which,
like the republic of Aristophanes’ _Birds_, extend beyond the reach
of human perversity. You have all felt the anxiety which seizes the
heart during the _flight supported_ (_voltige en porteurs_), when
one of these young girls hangs by the feet to her trapeze—hushes the
music, and in the sudden silence calls to her companion—

“_Are you ready?_”

The youngest of the two acrobats is mounted upon her [p263] saddle;
with eye and muscle strained she watches the trapeze, which advances
towards her in waves of rhythmical movements approaching nearer each
time.

 [Illustration]

Suddenly the word is given—

“_Go!_”

 [Illustration]

The youthful body launched by the trapeze like a stone from a sling,
crosses the whole width of the circus, and the [p264] flying girl
clasps the hands of her companion. The shock causes the two bodies
to sway together for an instant, then they free themselves, and
with a double somersault reach the net. You can imagine how easily
a jealous girl can rid herself of a rival in those few minutes. An
imperceptible movement of the loins, the delay of one-tenth of a
second, and the girl flying through space is condemned to death.
This misfortune recently happened through an accident, but there are
some criminal cases of it. One of these incidents has been related
already. The two heroines were called “Ohia” and “Nella.” The
advertisement styled them “sisters,” but they were only companions in
their aerial work. They detested each other with the indescribable
artist-jealousy, in spite of their entry hand in hand and their stage
smiles. It happened that the applause was warmer for Nella, the
vaulter, than for Ohia who caught her; and on this [p265] account
the miserable girl hated her companion so intensely that she resolved
to kill her.

One day, therefore, when after the great spring Ohia grasped Nella by
her hands, an abrupt movement suddenly precipitated the young girl
outside the net.

Fortunately the shock was not too violent to allow Nella to catch
hold of the cord as she fell. She remained suspended, dazzled for one
moment, clinging to the saving line.

Ohia was still swinging in the friezes. Warned by the shouts of the
audience that her scheme had failed, she made one tremendous spring,
traversed the whole width of the circus, and fell shattered upon the
palisades of the arena. Thus another proverb, also current in the
side-scenes of the circus, was verified, and this time the whole
world may take warning from it—“If you value your bones, never work
with wine or with a woman.”

I once questioned some celebrated acrobats upon a subject which
piques the curiosity of the public.

We all know by experience that Eves love well-made Adams. I do not
mean the “mashers” with girls’ faces, but men built like the old
statues, with supple limbs and broad chests. From this point of
view, the gymnast who acquires strength without losing his agility,
seems an ideal lover. I therefore asked them to tell me in friendly
sincerity if they found many scented notes in their dressing-room
every evening.

“I am sure,” replied Alphonse, the elder of the two friends, the
orator of the pair, “that we receive quite as many love-letters, as
the tenors do. From this you may conclude, if you like, that there
is exactly the same number of practical women as of sentimental
ones, unless the same individuals write to the [p266] tenors and the
gymnasts—and this seems very probable to me.”

 [Illustration]

“And in what terms do you answer these passionate advances, my dear
Alphonse?” [p267]

“We throw the letters into the fire without reading them,” replied
the acrobat.

 [Illustration]

“You are afraid of being tempted?”

“Of course all excess is forbidden us. No one must mount into the
friezes without a perfectly clear head. It is too easy to miss a
spring and break one’s neck, even by falling into the net—which is
more useful for reassuring the audience and the police than for
anything else. But this is not our only reason for avoiding women.
Ask Adolphe’s opinion on the point.” [p268]

“We do not like women because they are badly made,” replied his
comrade, with a grimace of disgust.

I could not help smiling.

 [Illustration]

“Well, my friend,” I replied, “I think you are speaking of them like
a jealous artist; you object to them because, with very limited
skill, by the exhibition of their bodies flying through the air they
attract as much applause as you do with all your artistic dexterity.
It is not personal dislike in your case, as you seem to think—it is
trade jealousy.”

At this Alphonse interposed.

“Adolph is right,” he answered. “Women are badly made. A woman
is not an object of art, but of use. Look at her hips—how they
exceed the falling line of the shoulders, crush the short legs
and destroy all proportion by their excessive width. This defect
requires concealment by some drapery, [p269] and should prohibit the
exhibition of the nude. On the other hand the strength of the body,
which in a woman lies in her hips, a man carries in his shoulders.
Atlas bears the weight of the world upon his neck. Get up, Adolph,
and show us your back.”

 [Illustration]

His friend was smoking, but he quietly laid down his cigarette, and
took off his shirt. Alphonse looked at him for an instant, admiring
him with the enjoyment of an artist, a smile on his lips.

“You can put that fellow,” he said, “into the ideal oval of the egg
upon which Greek sculpture has inscribed the hermaphrodite, and you
will see whether his shoulders destroy the classic lines of sexless
beauty.” I have often heard these æsthetic truths expressed by other
trapeze artists more coarsely and with less appreciation of art.
[p270]

 [Illustration]

After an interval of some centuries, the life of the gymnasium has
revived the customs which astonish modern readers in the _Banquet_.
This surprise is unworthy of philosophers. It is logical that
throughout all ages the same causes should produce the same effects.
The woman of antiquity remained in the gynæceum, and she was rarely
seen by the outer world.

Woman is banished from modern gymnasiums by her natural destination
of wife, mother, and nurse.

The Greek youth became enamoured of the _ephebe_ in the gymnasium,
where they appeared nude and beautiful.

Modern gymnasts admire their fellow-workers in their [p271]
dangerous performances with equal enthusiasm. And it would show
little knowledge of human nature if we inquire how the admiration for
beauty becomes transformed into the wish to possess it, that is, into
love.

 [Illustration] [p272]

 [Illustration]

I write the word without fear of any misunderstanding.

 [Illustration]

We are now contemplating simple, healthy men who pass [p273] their
lives in performing very hard work, and who are freed from sensual
temptation by physical fatigue. As a rule, [p274] therefore, the
passions of gymnasts are purely sentimental and platonic; you
will find in them first of all the great element of all love—the
protection of the weak by the strong. There is, in fact, in every
pair of acrobats, a male and a female, the “hero” or bearer, the “man
underneath” who supports the weight of the whole “act,” to whom the
“man above” confides his life. The latter is the younger, the most
supple and graceful of the two. He receives the larger share of the
applause, the most enthusiastic “bravos.” His existence depends upon
the self-sacrifice and affection of the man who upholds him.

“We must rely upon each other,” said one of the Hanlons to me one
day, referring to their young comrade, “Bob,” the favourite of the
whole troupe.

Translated:

“We must love each other like the youthful soldiers of the Theban
legion, like Castor and Pollux, to whom legend has never assigned any
mistress.”

This conviction of the superior, absolute beauty of man is so bound
up in the customs of the gymnasium, that you will find that all men
of high culture who devote themselves to physical exercises, acquire
with their attachment to the trapeze, the same æsthetic views. The
most illustrious example that I can quote on this point is certainly
Pierre Loti.

You have read his novel of _Azyadé_, and you know the enthusiasm
with which he speaks of the gymnasium. Remember, on the other hand,
the tenderness of the novel-writer for _Frère Yvres_, recall the
_Pêcheurs d’Islande_ clinging to the helm of their boat, and you will
more easily realize the [p275] discipline by which gymnastics lead
an acrobat who cares for his profession, to the æsthetic admiration
for man.

For my own part until I read the works of Pierre Loti, I never
thoroughly understood the epithet which Pindar throws in the face of
an Olympian victor in a lyrical antistrophe—

“Oh, barren gymnastics!” . . . . .

 [Illustration]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [12] Originated by “Little Bob” Hanlon.



 [Illustration]



 [p277] [Illustration]

 CHAPTER XI.
 THE CLOWN.


The clowns are the most popular members of the motley crowd that
attracts the audience of the circus, hippodrome and other places
of amusement, where strength and beauty form the basis of the
entertainment. Their pirouettes fill the house, they are the
“attraction,” the great success of the programme. As they are not
very numerous, for there are not more than thirty of them scattered
over the globe, [p278] the directors compete for them at very high
salaries. Like the star-tenors they contract engagements for many
years in advance, and receive the emoluments of an ambassador, and
their requirements increase with their success. I am told by the
agents that their commissions have never been so high as in the last
few years.

Although much appreciated in France, the clown is not a creation of
the Latin genius. It only invented the three personages of the comedy
_dell’arte_, the three typical masks from which every expression
of the human face arise: Pierrot the coward, Arlequin the crafty,
and between them, the perverse Columbine. During many centuries
these three puppets have moved through every shade and variety of
psychological pantomime.

At the present time Italian pantomime is an extinct art. In the time
of Watteau the poor masks had already lost their definite outlines,
and their idiosyncrasies had become misty and dim. They are now
effaced, dispelled by the cloud of powder which the clown, launched
from the other side of the Channel, scattered in the air as he
tumbled upon the French stage.

Etymologically the clown is the rustic, the rough peasant,
pugnacious, ignorant and silly, who enlivens the sombre dramas of
Shakespeare by his foolish quibbles. In England this ludicrous
personage was the indispensable accessory of every play; he is
nearly related to the French Jocrisse, who also wears the garb of a
well-to-do countryman, and is equally ridiculed by the city folk.

The Shakesperian clown has not yet disappeared. He is to be found
with all his traditional attributes in the three [p279] companies
of Hengler’s Circus, which travel all over England, and at Christmas
time give simultaneous performances in London, Liverpool, and Dublin.

 [Illustration]

I remember entering the arena of this national circus one Sunday
morning in London, and being considerably surprised to find the
whole company in morning dress assembled in the ring. A black-coated
individual, Bible in hand, was addressing the acrobats. He was a
clergyman. I have been told since that Mr. Hengler exacts punctual
attendance at the Sunday services from every member of his troupe.

In this traditional house, the Shakesperian clown, the _jester_, as
he is called in the profession, appears in white tights, [p280]
ornamented with blue or red patches indiscriminately arranged, with
a short drapery round the hips, and a fool’s cap on his head. Thus
attired, he does not caper and joke, but declaims passages from
Shakespeare and sings Irish songs which delight the public in the
cheap places.

You can easily imagine that such a figure could not be moved from
its native surroundings. The dialect of Old Tom, the tirades of King
Lear, would not please any audience, except in the United Kingdom.
Some other work must be found for foreign engagements.

The _jester_, therefore, looked round to see if he could not gather
some useful hints from his stage companions, that might help to
fill his travelling bag, and naturally he studied the coloured
_minstrels_. It is impossible to write a serious history of the clown
without making some allusion to these negro singers. The modern
clown, acrobat, magician, and pantomimist was produced by the union
of the _jester_ and the _minstrel_.

Lovers of old books, who strolled round the Quai Voltaire last winter
may have noticed in the window of a dealer in curious prints, a
collection of bad chromolithographs from New York which attracted and
amused the passers by. They depicted the misfortunes of “coloured
men,” caricatured by their old masters; ridiculous falls into buckets
of water; a horse kicking a negro in the jaw; a gun exploding, blows
a negro into a thousand pieces like Captain Castagnette. The mouths
with their gleaming teeth are always split by a foot placed across
them, the legs are thrown above the woolly heads in grotesque dances,
which seem performed in rhythm to the blows of a whip. These coarse
pictures were not signed [p281] by the artist, they bore the names
of the publishers only, Currier and Ives of New York.

 [Illustration]

English pantomime, the extraordinary pantomime of the Hanlons,
Pinauds, Renards, Leovils, Ramys, and Leopolds, is considerably
influenced by these slave gaieties, by the monkey-like tricks of the
negroes capering for the amusement of their cruel masters.

Freedom has been granted, the whip no longer inspires the [p282]
epileptic dances of the blacks, but their jerky gambols so greatly
diverted the “massa,” that they have survived slavery itself in an
essentially American and English institution: the _Christy Minstrels_.

Visit _music halls_ you will find on occasional stages a curious
chorus of men in evening dress, sitting in a semicircle, their faces
blackened with soot. In St. James’s Hall the effect is particularly
curious, for it is here that Messrs. Moore and Burgess, who have
carried negro minstrelsy to the highest perfection, exhibit their
company of coloured minstrels. The back of the stage is occupied by
the orchestra. From an artistic point, no pains is spared to seek out
and engage the best musicians who come before the public both vocal
and instrumental. Among the vocalists may be reckoned some of the
finest voices obtainable in England or in America. The singers are
seated in a semi-circle, the comic men are placed at either end of
the row, and these furnish the life and humour of the entertainment;
they are the comic vocalists, the propounders of quips and tellers of
droll stories; their instruments are the bones and tambourines.

They play, sing, dance a jig and make jokes. This is the duty of the
two leaders of the band, the jester and his butt.

Messrs. Moore and Burgess confine their well-recognised original
Christy Minstrel Entertainments to the St. James’s Hall. It is the
key-note of their programme that they “never perform out of London.”
On the other hand, their commonplace imitators become out of the
London season itinerant humourists.

In the summer you will find them on the sands [p283] of every sea
side town. Banjo in hand, arrayed in the cotton trousers worn by the
old slaves, always accompanied by the black dress coat, an eyeglass
in one eye, straw hats on their blackened heads, they call themselves
the _Ethiopian serenaders_. They travel in bands and perform in the
open air.

 [Illustration]

Very agile and supple, they repeat in violent dances a [p284]
species of gymnastics which a little resembles the “_chahut_” of the
lower classes in France. The great “split” is as familiar to them as
the somersaults, etc; and these two exercises form the greater part
of the pantomime, which the minstrels perform when they are tired of
playing on the banjo.

The acrobatic success of the minstrels pointed out a road for these
clowns, who were anxious to place a girdle of somersaults round
the terrestrial globe. The pirouette had the advantage of being
understood by the spectators in every land.

The clown therefore started without any other luggage.

This English emigration dates from about 1865. This was the time of
the clever entries of vaulting clowns, who starred the whole ring
with their capers. They vaulted from the “carpet,” and from the great
and little _batoude_, that is to say, performed a somersault from a
spring-board over a wall of horses.

In the course of his travels the _jester_, now an acrobat, learnt the
idiom of several countries. From a few words interspersed through his
performance, he at once saw that his English pronunciation easily
roused the laughter of the audience. His accent amused the Parisians
particularly, and he thought that great capital might be made of his
broken French, and a large salary earned whilst sparing his physical
labour. The corporation at once divided into two branches.

The clowns who found that their inclinations prompted them to become
“patterers” renounced the “carpet” and the “spring-board” to speak to
the public.

Those whom gymnastics had fascinated turned towards acrobatic
pantomime. [p285]

And here we must weave a crown of laurels and immortal flowers for
Billy Hayden, the incarnate type of a patterer clown, and you may
be sure that some day his place in the history of the stage will be
quite as important as that of the late Deburau.

 [Illustration]

Billy related the history of his life to me. He was born in
Birmingham, and his vocation dates from his early childhood. He was
one day mounted upon his father’s shoulders to watch an acrobat
performing in the open air, who ascended a movable perch. The
spectacle made a deep impression upon the [p286] child, and nothing
could prevent him from following his vocation.

Billy is a pupil of the minstrels. At the opening of his career,
he travelled through the world besmeared with black. In Germany,
the idea first occurred to him to powder himself like Pierrot, and
at once found that the change produced a great success. The clever
expressive features previously concealed by the soot were suddenly
disclosed by the powder. And the audacity of the clown increased with
the encouragement of public applause.

Nearly all the jokes with which he has amused us are borrowed from
the minstrels. They always repeat the scene of a jester and his butt,
the stock-in-trade of the old show. At the circus, the ring-master is
the butt, the sensible man who corrects the childish nonsense of the
clown.

The clown Footeet plays one of these traditional scenes very
naturally. Mounted upon a horse, with his face to the tail, he calls
out:

“Oh, this horse hasn’t got a head.”

The ring-master gravely answers:

“It is on the other side, clown.”

“Turn it round then.”

“That is impossible, clown, you must turn round yourself.”

Footeet prefers vaulting to talking. But Billy Hayden is as lazy as
his donkey, and prefers jokes to somersaults. His repertoire includes
an amusing story of a stolen child.

When the star equestrian dismounts from her horse, Billy turns to M.
Loyal and says:

“Môa aussi, jé été oun cholie pétit démoisel.” [p287]

“Allons donc! clown!”

“Vô n’étiez pas là quand jé suis né? Môa, j’y été. Alôrs jé dois
savoir mieux que vô!”

 [Illustration]

And in a lamentable voice he relates the misfortune which befell him:

“Labonn’ mé proménait dans oun vouâture d’enfant, et ell’ [p288]
s’assoit sur le bi-du-bout-du-banc à causer avec oun militair’. Et
alors oun vieil’ sorcière é venue avec oun pétit garçon. Et ell’ a
pris môa la choli pétit’ fill’ de la vouâture d’enfant’, et ell’
a mis à la place môa, le vilain petit garçon, dans la vouâture
d’enfant. Et depuis ce temps-là jé oun souis vilain pétit garçon!”[13]

With this Billy draws out an indescribable pocket-handkerchief and
bursts into tears.

Those whom this clown does not amuse, who prefer drama to comedy,
will reserve their approbation for the acrobat-clown, who has
inherited the genius of the Hanlon-Lees.

This radical transformation of style tempted the _jester_ by many
advantages: first, by replacing words by gestures, it suited the
natural taciturnity of the Anglo-Saxon character, which cannot
dispose of the resources of Italian loquacity; then it evoked great
applause by the unexpected contrast between the somersault suddenly
executed precisely according to rule, following the ridiculous
knockabout performance of the tumbling scenes.

In making this evolution the clown exposed himself to the danger
of being confused with the professional gymnast whose exercises he
reproduced. This danger however was more [p289] apparent than real.
The work of a gymnast is of a special traditional character which no
whimsical variation is ever allowed to tamper with. Its immediate aim
is the display of daring movements and harmonious attitudes of the
human body, and above all it is a plastic performance. The clown’s
art, on the contrary, should aim at evoking laughter, not applause.
It appeals less to the sense than to the intelligence, and, unlike
gymnastics, it is not confined by classic fixed rules. It has the
right to follow the wildest fancies of a whimsical imagination. It
is not a Greek art, but an English one, and it reflects all the most
curious characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon people.

 [Illustration] [p290]

The prevailing note in the Anglo-Saxon character is melancholy.
This produced the spleen, the gloomy ideas and the systematic
calculated first tinge of madness which the English themselves call
“eccentricity.” To this habitual sadness the Anglo-Saxon joins a
certain brutality, which is visible in all his games, sullies all
his pleasures, and even gives to his vices a peculiarly sombre hue.
In England gymnastics are cultivated, not for the beauty which they
bestow upon the body, but for the murderous weight which they give to
the fists of a boxer. England is the cruel country, where men first
formulated the law of the “struggle for life.”

 [Illustration] [p291]

The clown, the direct son of the Saxon genius, said to himself:

 [Illustration]

“To please my fellow-countrymen, who worship strength more than
anything else, I must first of all be strong, before I can excite
their admiration. I will therefore commence by developing my
muscles. As to my pantomime, if I wish it to succeed, it must, by
the incoherence of its actions, the whimsicalness of its pointless
gestures, the automatism of its movements, imitate the terrible
spectacle of insanity.”

With this idea, the English clown has adopted a mourning livery of
black and silver, and has broken the powdered mask [p292] of Pierrot
by two red spots, two bloody patches; the insignia of boxing and of
English consumption.

 [Illustration]

This gloomy clown crossed over to France upon the steamers that
carried Darwin’s books and the commentaries of Schopenhauer. For one
hour the French imbibed the sadness of their insular neighbours, the
black acrobat was well received.

Every one will remember the welcome which the Magiltons and the
Hanlon-Lees received in Paris. It was the first time [p293] we had
seen English pantomime. The exotic art upset all our ideas of logic,
it was in direct opposition to all our innate taste for clearness and
delicate performances. However, it succeeded, for it evoked the only
laughter of which we were at that time capable, a laughter without
merriment, convulsive, full of terror.

The Hanlon-Lees! How many pleasant artistic feelings the name evokes
in the memory of Parisians. The troupe is scattered now, throughout
the world, there are the Hanlon-Lees on one side, the Hanlon-Volta on
another, three of the brothers are dead, and their comrade Agoust has
abandoned them to become manager of the Nouveau Cirque.

 [Illustration]

This intelligent and amiable man, who intends some day writing
the memoirs of his eventful life, has told me the details of the
history of the Hanlon-Lees—their true history, not the account of
them which you will find in a little book published under the title
of the _Memoirs of the Brothers Hanlon-Lee_, [p294] with pretty
illustrations by Regamey and a splendid preface by the master,
Theodore de Banville.

The six brothers Hanlon, Thomas, George, William, Alfred, Edward,
and Freddy, first met Agoust in Chicago, about 1865. They were then
working as trapeze and carpet acrobats. Thomas and Alfred, two
splendidly built men, were the “underneath men,” the carriers in the
pyramid. The other brothers were—rather puny; they always wore double
tights. Under the silk tights—worn outside—was another suit, called
in the acrobatic vocabulary, a _thirty-two franc_. In the place of
muscles this suit was arranged with fine woollen fringes, which were
carefully combed upwards so as to obtain good curves; and one of the
favourite jokes amongst artists, is to stick pins, provided with
little white flags, into these false muscles.

At Chicago the Hanlons were vaulters, and Agoust juggled. A
tight-rope dancer, and Tanner with his dogs, had joined the company,
but the entertainment was still too short.

Agoust, who had been manager of the Young Henry Theatre, pantomimist
and leader of the ballet, suggested to the Hanlons that they should
perform a pantomime. He made them rehearse two old pieces by Deburau,
_Harlequin Statue_, and _Harlequin Skeleton_. The experiment
succeeded, and in 1867 the little company went to Paris, where it
made its reputation by the pantomime of the _Village Barber_.

The war of 1870 divided every one. The Hanlons returned to America
with the Strandges company, which had been installed at the Châtelet.
Agoust enlisted in a marching regiment.

They met again in 1876, at the Walhalla in Berlin. The [p295]
Hanlons were trying to mount a scene borrowed from the minstrels, the
celebrated _Do, mi, sol, do_. They were made up like negroes.

“What can you do in this piece?” they asked Agoust.

He replied, “You have no conductor. I will place myself in the desk.”

The five Hanlons then accepted their old comrade as a partner in the
place of their brother Thomas, who had died in America. Thomas Hanlon
had fallen at Cincinnati whilst making the _spring for life_, and had
broken his head against the balustrade. It had been mended somehow,
but he suffered intense pain when his brothers jumped with both feet
upon his head. He had complained, saying that he could not bear it,
but he still continued this performance. At the end of a few months
he went mad.

The brothers Hanlon were always a band of terribly hard workers.
Every day, except Sunday, they rehearsed from ten in the morning,
till two—and from four till six in the afternoons. When they were
tired of vaulting they sat down and worked mentally.

“My boys, never drink before a performance,” George (the leader)
would say to them. “After it is over, do whatever you like.”

The Hanlons were Irish, and were supposed to drink deeply sometimes
after leaving the theatre. But if there were excesses they were
utilised, for when they met on the following day, they related their
dreams to each other and endeavoured to construct a play out of them.

_Do, mi, sol, do_ met with extraordinary success at the
Folies-Bergères. The Hanlons had been engaged for one [p296] month
at a salary of £360, but the first evening after the performance,
they signed an agreement for £600 per month, and played their
pantomime for thirteen months running.

_Do, mi, sol, do_ and the _Journey in Switzerland_ were performed in
Belgium and England with extraordinary success. In the latter country
Agoust separated from his companions.

 [Illustration]

 [Illustration: ENTRY OF CLOWNS]

English pantomime does not require any tragic incidents in order to
fill us with admiration and wonder. We have lately seen two companies
of artists in Paris, the Leopolds and the Pinauds, who recalled the
best days of the Hanlon-Lees. I am thinking chiefly of the Pinauds,
who are exceptionally clever. I made the acquaintance of these three
talented American actors whilst they were at the Folies-Bergères.
They are not brothers, but friends, and they are thorough gentlemen.
I say this quite earnestly, for if you [p297] meet them in the
American Minister’s drawing-room you will not feel at all surprised
to find them there.

 [Illustration]

They are devoted to their art, extol it with much enthusiasm, and
discuss it like artists who have deliberately adopted it, and who
exert all their inventive faculties in the production of their
pantomime and in bringing their unique idea into full relief. I saw
this strange performance several times running and should find great
difficulty in analysing it. It consists of a series of disjointed
actions placed side by side, accompanied by rapid changes of costume,
mad pursuits, and grotesque disguises.

 [Illustration]

 [Illustration]

A gentleman is playing a guitar, but he is constantly [p298]
interrupted by the entry and exit of strange individuals leading
animals, which are all musical instruments. Everything is musical in
this pantomime—the pig that the peasant drags after him, the carriage
of the cannon with which a malefactor fires a shell at the back of
the guitarist. The last part of the farce [p299] is filled with
the misfortunes of the peasant with the pig. In the first place the
rustic is roughly attacked by a bull, which aims violent blows at
his umbrella with its horns. The peasant valiantly resists the blows
from the horns and tail of the animal, drives it off, and proud of
his victory, sits down to rest with a triumphant air. But, alas, an
ill-disposed jester sets fire to John Bull’s hat, it explodes like
a petard and flies into the friezes. In despair the peasant lifts
his arms to heaven. His prayer is answered immediately. As though
the ceiling were a horn of plenty, a rain of hats and caps descends
upon the stage. But they are the crushed shabby hats of bookmakers
and poor Irishmen, a lot of those formless head-gear, which are only
seen in London, where the workman has no distinctive head-dress, but
puts on the cast-off garments of [p300] the rich, thus giving to his
poverty the appearance of a masquerade. The peasant quickly tries on
about twenty of the hats, but not one of them fits his head. Again he
lifts his arms to heaven with a gesture of despair, and the curtain
falls.

 [Illustration]

With the mania which we Frenchmen have of insisting that everything
should have a meaning in spite of all appearances, I asked the
Pinauds what their pantomime signified. “Absolutely nothing,” replied
one of them. “On the contrary, we try to destroy all connection
between the scenes of our entertainment. We only wish to produce
upon the audience the impression of violent terror and madness. And
therefore we represent a man, alarmed by the successive apparitions
of animals which play music when they are touched.” I listened
[p301] quietly, but I could not help remembering the invariable
question, which I had heard the doctor at the police station ask the
drunken maniacs whom the police had picked up in the streets—

“You see beasts, do you not, animals that swarm round you?”

 [Illustration]

They all reply in the affirmative, hanging down their heads.

These drunken hallucinations, these apparitions of animals, are
the framework of the English pantomime, the terrible visions of a
gin-drinker who has rolled into a gutter at the door of a drinking
bar.

The Craggs, “gentlemen acrobats,” also appeared at the
Folies-Bergères.

They came from New York, where they had made a great success.
They had also made large profits during their six [p302] weeks’
engagement, for they received 100 dollars a night. They enter the
stage in Indian file, all the seven, wearing evening dress and white
ties. They come forward in a line to the front of the stage, and
bend their heads; you think that they are going to bow, simply like
you or I. Instead they make a somersault. Seven somersaults forward.
They are so quickly executed that every one present asks if he is
dreaming. Very correctly executed, notwithstanding, very correctly!
Not one smooth head is ruffled, not one white tie unloosed, not a
shirt front creased.

 [Illustration]

We must however believe that the coat inconveniences the gentlemen in
their work, for with very leisurely movements, [p303] and perfect
indifference, the seven Craggs go to the back of the stage, and
there, one, two, three, in time, as though performing an exercise,
they take off their coats and appear in fourteen shirt sleeves.

 [Illustration]

And from that moment, for the space of half an hour, they execute the
most wonderful acrobatic feats.

The seven Craggs mount upon each other, then fall away like houses
built of cards. MM. Craggs senior turn MM. Craggs junior round their
arms. One half of the Craggs always has the legs in the air, whilst
the other half is head downwards. And what deportment! how completely
it differs from the smiles, kisses thrown to the public, and rolling
eyes [p304] of the Italian acrobat! We shall see that in the Molier
Circus, authentic gentlemen have been converted into passable clowns.
Messrs. Craggs have proved to us, a more unexpected fact, that
perfect gentlemen can be made from professional clowns.

 [Illustration]

Since it is my mission to betray the secrets confided to me, I will
tell the public, the whole world, that the Craggs are not seven
brothers, as we might be tempted to believe, but a family consisting
of the father, six sons, and one little sister Cragg.

Mr. Cragg, the father, is nearly forty-two years old, he looks like
the brother of his eldest son, who is not yet twenty-four. The
little girl who so bravely wears the black coat asserts that she is
fourteen. I kissed her, after the performance, and complimented her
most sincerely. [p305]

“She is a little Australian,” said her father, smiling kindly at her.

“An Australian, Mr. Cragg?”

“Yes, she was born at Sydney, whilst her brothers and I were
performing in New Zealand and China.”

The Craggs have just returned from Pekin.

They have travelled round the world, with gardenias in their
buttonholes, and Barnum has thrown golden bridges across the ocean
for them.

I told you that the time had come for writing a monograph of the
clown-king!

 [Illustration]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [13] “I too was once a pretty little young lady.”

 “Come now! clown!”

 “You weren’t there when I was born? Well, I was. So I ought to know
 better than you! . . . . . .

 “The nurse had taken me out in a perambulator, and she sat down on
 the end of a bench to talk to a soldier. And then an old witch came
 by with a little boy. And she took me, the pretty little girl, out
 of the perambulator, and she put in my place, me, an ugly little
 boy, into the perambulator. And ever since then I’ve been an ugly
 little boy!”



 [Illustration]



 [p307] [Illustration: Cirque Molier]

 CHAPTER XII.
 THE PRIVATE CIRCUS.


Whilst the acrobat was endeavouring to become a man of the world, the
man of the world was becoming an excellent acrobat. The “governing
classes” determined to have their Léotard. The gentleman quitted his
stall in the circus to ascend the pad and the trapeze. [p308]

Lieutenant Viaud—in literature Pierre Loti—was one of the first to
achieve this metamorphosis.

 [Illustration]

Those who have read his novels with a little attention will know
the high value he places upon human beauty. _Azyadée_ particularly,
contains whole pages, infinitely curious, a little disquieting, very
pagan in their candour, in which [p309] gymnastics are extolled with
technical knowledge and lyric warmth.

M. Pierre Loti thinks, with the Platonics, that the body should be
formed and embellished with as much refinement as the intelligence.
Certain of the superiority of his mind, he wished that this cerebral
strength should be served by the muscles of an athlete, and worked
with indefatigable patience to correct in himself the weakness of
nature.

And he has really transformed his body by the practice of gymnastics.
Now, well set up, although of medium height, he produces an
impression of strength and agility. One feels that in him exists that
spring of elasticity which raises a body from the soil and wrests it
from the laws of gravitation.

And indeed, or so it has been said, Pierre Loti joined a troupe of
acrobats a few years ago, and appeared as a trapeze “novelty” in a
circus in the south of France. The Naval Ministry would have been
agitated by this whim....

Is this story true?

At all events it is probable, and it proves—and this is all that
concerns us—the high esteem which, at the present time, a gentleman
can feel for an art which the last generation decidedly ignored too
much.

The men of taste, even, who clearly perceived the picturesque side of
a circus, were not too numerous.

The collection of M. Louis is perhaps unique in the world.

Paul Ginisty, who has examined these treasures, has related his
impressions, with much ability and grace, in the _Dieu Bibelot_.

“Do you know,” he says, “the Montchanin Circus?” [p310]

 [Illustration]

“You do not go into it through a large entrance, you need only knock
at the door of a charming little hôtel. You do not [p311] find in
it any of those odours usually noticed in hippique establishments,
because it contains neither arena, stables, nor horses. The title of
‘circus’ is simply the familiar name given to the collection of an
old amateur, who dwells in a calm quiet street in the Quartier de
Villiers, and who has really a passion for everything relating to
equestrian exhibitions. No one possesses as many traditions of circus
art as he does. He has not only known all those who for thirty or
thirty-five years have distinguished themselves in the arena; but
he has also lived with every dynasty of ring-masters, Hercules and
jugglers of the past. In fact, he has surrounded himself with an
infinitely curious collection of prints and documents of all ages
referring to the circus. It includes portraits of all the masters,
specimens of costumes, placards, programmes, and advertisements of
‘phenomena.’

“Some of these prints, drawings by Carle Vernet, engravings of
Grimaldi and Debucourt, are artistically interesting; others are
simply typical. There is not one corner of the hôtel without some of
these pleasing designs.”

Another lover of the circus, no longer content with collecting
portfolios full of beautiful equestrian placards, determined to
quietly live the healthy existence of a circus performer for his
own amusement. When first the public read in the paragraphs of the
society papers that Señor Molieros had built a circus, in his private
house, in which he was ring-master, and trained horses for the _haute
école_ and other performances, people said:

“It is simply a whim of a Spanish grandee.”

The truth is that Señor Molieros is really named Ernest Molier,
that he is a Manceau, and that possessing a large [p312] fortune,
he prefers spending it upon horses that he loves, rather than with
gamblers, who bore him.

 [Illustration]

Not every one who asked for admittance to the small hôtel [p313]
in the Rue de Boulogne obtained it. Molier’s intrepidity led him to
prefer vicious horses, and difficulties only increased his eagerness
to conquer them. “He was never happier than when some dangerous
animal that no one had hitherto ventured to mount, would obey his
eyes and his lightest touch. Like Anthony he would have rather killed
the horse than allowed him to disobey!”[14]

Ernest Molier has often told me that he did not learn his profession
from books. You have seen too in the perusal of these monographs,
that the science of the circus is entirely traditional. But you
would never guess with how much suspicious jealousy the _banquiste_
defends the guardianship of his secrets. I have learnt by experience
how unwillingly he confides even a few items of his knowledge to
a writer, who can never be a rival; and from this I can imagine
how much he would distrust a horseman. Only Molier’s integrity and
military frankness enabled him to overcome this dislike.

Besides, Molier has the circus genius, and a man of genius can
dispense with masters.

In the Rue Blanche his stable overcrowded him. Air and space were
both lacking. In 1879 he therefore transported his luggage and
caravan to Rue Benouville, at the gate of the Bois. A house, fencing
hall and stables sprang from the soil as though built by magic. The
riding-school was ornamented with the decorations of the fête of the
Paris-Murcie and was converted into a regular circus. A few boxes
were added for the use of privileged spectators; no one then foresaw
the wonderful success obtained by the meetings in the Rue de [p314]
Benouville; the preparations were only made for the reception of
friends.

They came in crowds to visit the hospitable mansion.

 [Illustration]

 [Illustration]

The fencing hall was opened to them; they fenced, vaulted, practised
with the dumb-bells and mounted the trapeze. But Molier, faithful to
his passion, devoted himself to his horses. He trained _Arlequin_, a
dappled grey Russian horse, in the [p315] arts of the _haute école_,
which consist in performing the Spanish walk and trot, in galloping,
cantering, changing feet, balancing on the fore legs, as well as
on the hind quarters;[15] “and also _Blondin_, a superb Norman
chestnut, with a light mane and [p316] tail, a horse trained in the
_haute école_ almost in the same style as _Arlequin_.”

 [Illustration]

Molier also trained equestrians for the pad and the _haute école_.
His first pupil was the pretty Mademoiselle de Trèves. [p317] He
placed her on a horse, and made her an exceptionally good rider,
capable of riding standing, on a bare-backed horse and of leaping
over barriers, in the best style of the _haute école_. Then followed
Mademoiselle Irma Viollat, one of the ornaments of the corps de
ballet. The master taught her to repeat on horseback all the dances
that she excelled in upon the stage.

 [Illustration]

Insensibly a crowd of amateurs had gathered round Molier; and they
formed a complete company. At last Molier one day yielded to the
entreaties of his comrades and consented to give a performance in his
circus. [p318]

 [Illustration]

It was quite understood that it was to be a private entertainment.
[p319]

 [Illustration]

All Paris tried to get in.

Artists and society people broke open the doors. [p320]

They left the circus in great astonishment, and loudly proclaimed
their admiration.

Of course, the newspapers were full of it. The people who had been
left out were very severe. They declared it was a scandal. Noblemen
playing at acrobatics were an easy subject for abuse. “What do you
say? Messrs. Hubert de la Rochefoucauld, Martel, de Saint-Aldegonde,
de Maulde, de Visocq, de Sainte-Marie, Courtay, d’Arquevilliers and
de Pully had appeared in spangled tights?”

They recalled the Romans during the decadence, and M. Prudhomme
crossed his arms upon his breast in the attitude of the philosopher
of Couture.

Since then, men have realized that these acrobatic amusements were
only the artistic form, the blast of trumpets preceding the vanguard
of the revolution, which has just ended in the formation of the
Society of Physical Education.

Molier and his friends, who, with legitimate pride, remember that on
one occasion they presented the Duchesse d’Uzès with 50,000 francs
for the benefit of the Hospital for Incurables, claim, with some
reason, a share in influencing this national movement. They certainly
rendered bodily exercises fashionable once more, and this is a great
deal in a country where routine is the only queen that has never been
dethroned.

Moreover the warm applause which greeted the tirade of the Brettigny
in the _Révoltée_ last winter, proved to the acrobats of the Cirque
Molier that they had won their cause in the opinion of the public.

 [Illustration: M. ERNEST MOLIER.]

You may remember the indignant tirade in which the gentleman acrobat
defends his favourite amusement against the witticisms of Madame
Herbeau: [p321]

“What do you want a man of our class to do at the present time?
Politics are prohibited. They are monopolized by other buffoons,
whose exercises are much more dangerous for the spectators and not so
amusing. The army? Well, it is a refuge for those who have courage,
and I have belonged [p322] to it. But there was too little to do in
time of peace. Literature? I should not know how to begin, and I
dare own that I would not deign to adopt it. Naturalism is too dull,
and dilettantism too sterile. I find it better to enjoy life than to
write about it. You say that I degrade my race? Nay, I revive it. You
know the language used by the rhetors and journalists in describing
the corrupt scions of the old aristocracy. Well, we will regenerate
this corrupt youth! We are strong, our muscles are like those of
the street porters, of our ancestors the Frank warriors, of the
companions of Charlemagne, who were only superb brutes.”[16]

 [Illustration]

Molier and his friends have triumphed without noise, just as they
resisted the ill-humour of foolish grumblers without bluster.

During the last ten years this clever troupe of amateurs
has wonderfully increased. It now includes two new star
equestrians—Mademoiselle Blanche Lamidey and Miss Anna. You have
probably seen _Mazeppa_ performed in a circus, at least once in your
life, but, since Miss Ada Menken, you have never seen a very young
girl, thrown on her back, held by one foot only, her loosened hair
dragging in the sand, and in this dangerous position leaping with her
galloping horse an arrangement of several barriers.

 [Illustration]

Nor since Jenny O’Brien left us for America have we ever seen a
woman ride standing upon two horses with as much dainty jauntiness,
self-possession and audacity as Miss Anna. And then how well she
dresses! Lovers of Florentine bronzes will never forget a certain
suit of grey tights, a harlequin’s [p324] costume, cut low and
heart shaped at the neck, with greaves of the same grey tint below
the knees.

 [Illustration]

Molier has grouped a number of pretty women, actresses, [p325]
artists, and young men of the world round these two charming girls.
Amongst the ladies are Mesdemoiselles Lavigne and Desoder from the
Palais Royal, Mademoiselle Felicia Mallet, Mademoiselle Renée Maupin,
from the Opera, Jeanne Becker, Léa d’Asco, etc.;—amongst the men:
Messrs. Frédéric Vavasseur, Jules Ravaut, Arthus, Gerbaut, Adrien
Marie, Craffty, Goubie, Pantelli, J. Lewis-Brown. I must apologize to
those whom I forget to name.

 [Illustration]

With these resources the performance of a pantomime was easily
arranged, and these spectacles are one of the chief [p326]
attractions of the entertainments given in the Rue Benouville. It was
here that Félicien Champsaur made the first trial of contemporary
pantomime by which he amuses us without introducing the form of
Pierrot or the bat of Harlequin.

 [Illustration]

“Why,” he reflected, “should we show the fashionable people who
annually fill the boxes of the Molier, some old fairy story remounted
in a new form? Men of the present day with money and audacity
accomplish greater prodigies than the magicians of old.” [p327]

M. Champsaur resolved to show us his contemporaries at work—and this
is the plot of his pantomime—

The charming Mademoiselle Rivolta, from the Eden, appeared disguised
as a little Spring looking for her course. No one had thought of
using her to fill a lake, rush down a waterfall or turn a mill. She
therefore wandered about the Cirque Molier, shedding floods of tears.

Good Luck, who never likes to see pretty girls cry, led two
speculators in the same direction. They remark to each other:—

“Look! here’s a little Spring! And there’s no casino on the bank!”

“No race game!”

“No gambling house!”

“Cannot this little Spring cure some illness?”

“If not, she is the only one of her kind!”

To satisfy themselves on this point they then take Mademoiselle
Rivolta’s hand, lead her to the house of Madame Dezoder, a lady
doctor in the same neighbourhood, and knock at the door.

Armed with a goblet, Madame Dezoder tastes Mademoiselle Rivolta.

After carefully testing her, her gesture says “Pooh!”

“What does that matter?” replied the bankers. “We will bottle
Mademoiselle Rivolta and, with a good label, she will cure as well as
her companions.”

No sooner said than it was done. And since a godmother was required
for the new Spring launched upon the world, the bankers fetch
Fortune, Mademoiselle Renée Maupin, from the Opera! [p328]

Ah! what a delightful person!

I always liked Fortune instinctively, before I knew her; but since I
have seen her feet, figure, and eyes! . . . . .

 [Illustration]

“You shall cure everything!” Fortune assured the Spring.

They placed the bottle in the doctor’s house and in it Mademoiselle
Rivolta, who looked like a saint in her shrine.

Then the procession of those wounded by Life (_Ereintés de la
Vie_)—this is the title of the pantomime—commences. [p329]

They are all invalided by love: first, a number of pretty girls who
have flirted too much; then all the gentlemen who have been wounded
by these flirtations.

Love himself comes to the Spring.

He is very ill.

His poor little wings hang down his back in a lamentable way.

“Douche him! Douche him!”

The child is dipped in the water and is drawn out transformed into a
Farnese Hercules, with enormous muscles which stand out in huge rolls
upon his arms from the shoulder to the elbow.

The entertainment closes by a procession accompanied by a blast of
trumpets, at the end of which appears the Golden Calf, led by Fortune
with a leash.

I have quoted this pantomime by M. Champsaur in preference to others
of more recent date which have been equally successful, because it
clearly indicates the nature of the entertainment given in the Cirque
Molier.

People see and perform in the Rue Benouville pieces that could not
be played or shown elsewhere; for here the audience and the actors
are all people of the same education, the same surroundings, who know
each other.

The doors have been more widely opened than they formerly were. But
they are still closely guarded, the members of the society intend to
amuse themselves as they please in their own circle, and to exclude
anything that offends them.

For instance, you will not find either at the rehearsals or at the
performances in the Rue Benouville in the boxes or behind the scenes,
the shadow of a professional actor. [p330]

 [Illustration]

The door is closed against theatrical men.

What! even “Chose” and “Machin?” [p331]

Even for them.

The “cross” and the banner are both useless. _Monsieur le Sociétaire_
has vainly tried to force a door which is half open for the
_banquistes_ . . . . .

A voice has cried to him from the trapeze, “We are very sorry, sir!
But we have retained the prejudices of the comedians.”

 [Illustration]


 FOOTNOTES:

 [14] Baron DE VAUX, _Les Hommes de Cheval_.

 [15] Baron DE VAUX, _Les Hommes de Cheval_.

 [16] JULES LEMAÎTRE, _Révoltée_, Act I., Sc. 3.



 INDEX.


 A

 AGOUST, 34, 224, 293, 294, 295, 296

 AGRENIEFF (d’), 200

 ALLARD, 86

 ALLEN, 20

 ALPHONSE, 265–269

 ALPHONSINE (Lady), 212

 ANCIOU (Miss), 8

 ARABELLE, 74

 ARCHIMEDES, 113

 ARQUEVILLIERS (d’), 320

 ARTHUS, 325

 _Artist_ (_der_), 7, 8

 ASCO (Léa d’), 325

 AURIOL, 13, 15, 246

 B

 BAILEY (J. A.), 17

 BANVILLE (de), 3, 296

 BARLOW, 20

 BARNUM (P. T.), 10, 16–20, 261, 305

 BAYARD (Émile), 100

 BECKER (Jeanne), 325

 BERBERIE, 172, 193

 BERMONT, 81, 84, 85, 86

 BERTINI (Suzanne), 74

 BERTRAND, 86

 BIDEL (François), 26, 27, 130, 143–146, 153–157

 BIÉVILLE (Berthe), 74

 BLANCHE (Ada), 215

 BLONDIN, 216, 217

 BONE (Colonel), 146

 BONHEUR (Rosa), 144

 BONNEFOIS (Melchior), 74, 76

 BONNETTY, 127–131

 BOULMIERS, 85

 BRETONNIÈRE (Guy de la), ix

 BRIOCHÉ, 86

 BUCQUET, ix

 BUFFALO-BILL, 10, 204–206

 BUFFON (de), 126

 BURGESS, 282

 C

 CALLIAS, 64

 CARRABILLIAT, 42

 CARVER (Dr.), 15

 CEPHISSODOTE, 77

 CHABLE, 41, 42

 CHADWICK, 28

 CHAM, 216, 217

 CHAMPSAUR, 326–329

 CHELLI (Emilio), 233

 CHELLI (Erminia), 60, 232–240

 CHUNG, 124–126

 CLADEL (Léon), 140, 141

 CLAM, 91, 92–96

 COCHERIE, 89, 91

 CODY (W. F.), 206

 COQUELIN aîné, 91

 COQUELIN cadet, 120

 CORRADINI, 122

 CORSO, 193

 CORVI, 26, 117, 118, 120

 COURTAY, 320

 COUTURE, 118, 320

 CRAFFTY, 325

 CRAGGS, 300–305

 D

 DACIER (Mme), 195, 196

 DARYL (Philippe), 160

 DARWIN, 117

 DEBURAU, 294

 DELILLE, 23, 96, 100

 DESODER, 327

 DETAILLE (Edouard), 152

 DOMINIQUE, 86

 DUDLAY (Marguerite), 169–172

 DALSÈME, vii

 E

 ELIJAH (Prophet), 106

 ELLEVANTIÉMIE, 23

 _Era_ (_The_), 4, 5, 6, 8, 253

 ESEUDIER, vi

 EXALTIER, 41

 F

 FATMA, 72

 FOOTEET, 286

 FORSBERG (Nils), 242

 FRANÇOIS, (Monsieur), 60, 61, 62, 71

 FRANCONI (Chs.), 168, 169

 FRANCONI (Laurent), 168

 FRANCONI (Victor), 13, 14, 162, 168

 FRANKLOFF, 212

 FRIEDLANDER, 20

 G

 GALLICI, 96

 GAUTIER (Théophile), 131

 GERBAUT, 325

 GIBSON, 63

 GINISTY (Paul), 309

 GONCOURT (de), vii

 GOUBIE, 325

 GRIFFITHS, 122

 H

 HANLON-LEES, 292–296

 HARRIS, 124

 HAYDEN (Billy), 60, 121, 285, 288

 HENGLER, 279

 HERVIEU (Paul), 152, letter from, 152–157

 HITZIG, 10

 HOMER, 120

 HOUCKE, 25, 194, 198–200

 HOUDIN (Robert), 102

 I

 IBRAHIM (Lady), 219–221

 J

 JACKLEY (family), 12, 13

 JOSEPH, 69, 70

 JUMBO, 167

 K

 KINNER, 63

 KIANG, 117

 KOLTA (de), 102–105

 KRAUSS (C.), 7

 L

 LA BRUYÈRE, 215

 LA GRILLE, 86

 LALANNE, 13

 LAMIDEY (Blanche), 322

 LAVIGNE, 325

 LEDGER, 4

 LEHNEN (Jacob), 62

 LEMAÎTRE (Jules), 100, 105, 131, 322

 LÉOPOLD, 296

 LEOTARD, 15, 260, 207

 LEOVILS, 281

 LE ROUX (Hugues), Letter to 152–157

 LÉVY (Chs.), 20

 LÉVY (Émile), 20

 LEWIS (Brown), 325

 LILIANNE, 15

 LINON (Rose), 74

 LINSKY, 13

 LIVET (G.), 238

 LOCKHART (brothers), 15, 122

 LOISSET (Clotilde), 160

 LOISSET (Émilie), 160, 161, 162, 173, 238

 LONDE (Albert), ix

 LOTI (Pierre), 274, 275, 308, 309

 LOUIS (Mr.), 309

 LOYAL (Mr.), 120, 162–166, 181

 LUTÈCE (Mdlle.), 73, 74

 LYCURGUS, 77

 M

 MABILLE, 247

 MAGILTON, 293

 MALLET (Félicia), 325

 MARIE (Adrien), 325

 MARS (Mr.), 246

 MARSEILLE, 75, 76

 MARTEL, 320

 MATHIEU, ix

 MAULDE (de), 320

 MAUPASSANT (de), 146

 MAUPIN (Renée), 325, 327

 MAURA (Franck), 225

 MAURICE, 86

 MENGAL, 32

 MENKEN (Ada), 322

 METRA, 35

 MIDGETTS, 64

 MIETTE, 114–116

 MIREILLE, 75, 76

 MITE (General), 64, 65

 MOLIER (E.), 173, 175, 311–317, 320, 322, 324, 326

 MOORE, 282

 MOSCOU, 168–172

 N

 NELLA (Miss), 264, 265

 _New York Mirror_, 6

 NINE (La Petite), 64

 NOUMA-HAVA, 138

 O

 OAKLEY (Annie), 206, 207

 O’BRIEN, 180

 OCEANA, 218, 219, 233

 OCTAVE, 86

 OHIA, 264, 265

 P

 PANTELLI, 325

 PAQUERETTE,

 PARAVICINI, 10

 PARFAICT (frères), 85

 PAULINA (princess), 65, 66, 67, 68, 69

 PEZON (Adrien), 151

 PEZON (J. B.), 138, 140–143, 150

 PHILIPPE, 40, 57

 PINAUDS, 296, 300

 PINDAR, 194

 PLUTARCH, 77, 122

 PLUVINEL, 168

 PRINCE, 181, 182

 PULLI (de), 320

 R

 RAMY, 281

 _Revue (le)_, 6, 7

 RAVAUT (Jules), 325

 REGAMEY, 294

 RÉGENT, 172

 RENAN (Ernest), 16, 105

 RENARDS, 231

 RENZ, 173

 REVEST (J. B.), 26

 RIGO, 55

 RIVOLTA (Mlle.), 327, 328

 ROCHEFOUCAULD (Hubert de la), 320

 ROMANES (G. J.), 108

 ROSINSKY, 10–13

 ROSSI (Adèle), 177, 179

 ROUSSEIL (Roselia), 147

 RUGGIERI, 204

 S

 SACQUI, 215

 SAINT-ALDEGONDE, 320

 SAINTE-MARIE (de), 320

 SAINT-SENOCK, ix

 SALSBURY, 10, 35, 206

 SARI, 12, 13

 SELLE, 86

 SÉVÉRUS, 224, 225

 SHAKSPEARE, 278

 SIRIUS, 117

 SKOBELEFF, 200, 201, 204

 SOPHOCLES, 196

 SOUVARY, 63

 STENEGRY, 73, 74

 T

 THÉO (Mme.), 76

 THÉOCRITUS, 77

 THOMAS, 200

 U

 _Union mutuelle_, 24, 26, 27, 28, 31

 UZES (duchesse d’), 320

 V

 VAUX (baron de), 168

 VAVASSEUR (F.), 325

 VEGA (Antonio), 74

 VÉRON (Pierre), 216

 VIOLAT (Irma), 317

 VIRGIL, 108

 VISSOCQ (de), 320

 VIVIEN, 23

 VOLTA, 260–262

 _Voyageur forain_, 23, 25, 26, 27, 30, 31

 W

 WALTER (J. H.), 249–256

 WARNER, 10

 WATTEAU, 278

 WILD, 10

 WORENZOFF, 74

 WULFF, 10

 Y

 YOTSHITATRO, 225

 YOUNG (Brigham), 12

 YOUNG (Chs.), 124



 RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BUNGAY



 TRANSCRIBER’S ENDNOTE

Original printed spelling and grammar is generally retained.
Footnotes were renumbered and moved from the ends of pages to the
ends of chapters. Illustrations were moved out of paragraphs to
between paragraphs. Ellipses look like the originals. The original
printed page numbers are indicated thus: "[p089]".

“Lemaitre” was changed to “Lemaître” in the two places it was
originally printed (in a footnote, and in the index). The entry
“Paquerette” in the index had no page number associated with it, and
neither “paquerette” nor “pâquerette” appear elsewhere in the book.

Page x, ERRATA: The error mentioned in the first note, regarding
“Vitellii”, has been corrected at page 78. The second note—‘Page 206,
line 3 from top, _for_ “Naet Salsbury”, _read_, “Nael Salsbury”’—is
wrong. Page 206 was actually printed with “Naet Salisbury”. In
this ebook, page 206 has been changed to read “Nael Salsbury”. The
original “Salisbury” was printed only once, while “Salsbury” was
printed in several places.

Page 63: “nouée was exhibited” was changed to “noués was exhibited”

Page 225: the word “Yotshitaro” is spelled “Yotshitatro” in the index.

Page 238: “Emilie Loisset” was changed to “Émilie Loisset”.

Page 262: “admirn g” was changed to “admiring”.

Page 274: “them selves” changed to “themselves”.

Page 331: the index entry “Bretonnière” probably refers to
“Brettonière” on page ix.

Page 334: the index entry “Jaclley” was changed to “Jackley”.

Page 335: the index entry “Linsky, 13” probably refers to “Linski”
on page 13. The entry “Mallet (Félicia)” doubtless refers to Felicia
Mallet on page 325.

Page 336: the index entry “Worenzoff, 74” might refer to “Worouzof”,
which occurred on page 75. The entry “Vissocq (de), 320” probably
refers to “Visocq”, as printed on page 320. The entry “Violat (Irma),
317” probably refers to “Viollat” on page 317.





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