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The Guest of Quesnay   By: (1869-1946)

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Several pairs of brighter eyes followed my companion ...... Frontispiece

"I haven't had my life. It's gone!"

"You and Miss Ward are old and dear friends, aren't you?"

"Embrasse moi, Larrabi! Embrasse moi!" she cried


There are old Parisians who will tell you pompously that the boulevards, like the political cafes, have ceased to exist, but this means only that the boulevards no longer gossip of Louis Napoleon, the Return of the Bourbons, or of General Boulanger, for these highways are always too busily stirring with present movements not to be forgetful of their yesterdays. In the shade of the buildings and awnings, the loungers, the lookers on in Paris, the audience of the boulevard, sit at little tables, sipping coffee from long glasses, drinking absinthe or bright coloured sirops, and gazing over the heads of throngs afoot at others borne along through the sunshine of the street in carriages, in cabs, in glittering automobiles, or high on the tops of omnibuses.

From all the continents the multitudes come to join in that procession: Americans, tagged with race cards and intending hilarious disturbances; puzzled Americans, worn with guide book plodding; Chinese princes in silk; queer Antillean dandies of swarthy origin and fortune; ruddy English, thinking of nothing; pallid English, with upper teeth bared and eyes hungrily searching for sign boards of tea rooms; over Europeanised Japanese, unpleasantly immaculate; burnoosed sheiks from the desert, and red fezzed Semitic peddlers; Italian nobles in English tweeds; Soudanese negroes swaggering in frock coats; slim Spaniards, squat Turks, travellers, idlers, exiles, fugitives, sportsmen all the tribes and kinds of men are tributary here to the Parisian stream which, on a fair day in spring, already overflows the banks with its own much mingled waters. Soberly clad burgesses, bearded, amiable, and in no fatal hurry; well kept men of the world swirling by in miraculous limousines; legless cripples flopping on hands and leather pads; thin whiskered students in velveteen; walrus moustached veterans in broadcloth; keen faced old prelates; shabby young priests; cavalrymen in casque and cuirass; workingmen turned horse and harnessed to carts; sidewalk jesters, itinerant vendors of questionable wares; shady loafers dressed to resemble gold showering America; motor cyclists in leather; hairy musicians, blue gendarmes, baggy red zouaves; purple faced, glazed hatted, scarlet waistcoated, cigarette smoking cabmen, calling one another "onions," "camels," and names even more terrible. Women prevalent over all the concourse; fair women, dark women, pretty women, gilded women, haughty women, indifferent women, friendly women, merry women. Fine women in fine clothes; rich women in fine clothes; poor women in fine clothes. Worldly old women, reclining befurred in electric landaulettes; wordy old women hoydenishly trundling carts full of flowers. Wonderful automobile women quick glimpsed, in multiple veils of white and brown and sea green. Women in rags and tags, and women draped, coifed, and befrilled in the delirium of maddened poet milliners and the hasheesh dreams of ladies' tailors.

About the procession, as it moves interminably along the boulevard, a blue haze of fine dust and burnt gasoline rises into the sunshine like the haze over the passages to an amphitheatre toward which a crowd is trampling; and through this the multitudes seem to go as actors passing to their cues. Your place at one of the little tables upon the sidewalk is that of a wayside spectator: and as the performers go by, in some measure acting or looking their parts already, as if in preparation, you guess the roles they play, and name them comedians, tragedians, buffoons, saints, beauties, sots, knaves, gladiators, acrobats, dancers; for all of these are there, and you distinguish the principles from the unnumbered supernumeraries pressing forward to the entrances... Continue reading book >>

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