Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

A Reminiscence of the Exposition of 1867

by Ita Aniol Prokop

"And you traveled alone?"

"There were two of us—Annie Foster and I."

"You found no difficulty?"

"Not a bit," she replied laughing.

"But you had adventures: I see it in your face."

"Who would travel without adventures?" and she made an expressive gesture.

"Romantic?"

"Hm!—tant soit peu."

"I am all attention: begin."

"You promise not to tell?"

"Not for the world: torture could not induce me to divulge a single word."

"Well, the way it came about was this: Annie and I had been sent from England to a small French town on the coast, for the benefit of the warm sea-water baths. It was a quaint little port; all the houses reminded you of ships in their fitting up; the beds were set into the wall like berths; closets were stowed away in all sorts of impossible places; the floors were uncarpeted and white as a main deck; and articles from distant countries hung about the walls or stood in the corners—East Indian sugar-cane, cotton from America, Chinese crockery and piles of sea-shells. The great sea by which we lodged was represented everywhere. Our food was fish, shrimps and water-fowl—our acquaintance, fishermen, shrimpers and sailors. The leading event of the day was the coming in and going out of the tide, and ducks and geese were the chief domestic animals. On one side was a prospect of wind-tossed waves and the sails of ships, on the other wind-beaten fields and the sails of mills: the few cabins that had rashly ventured beyond the protection of the village shortly lost courage, and, with their thatched roofs not a yard from the earth, seemed crouching low to avoid the continuous blasts. The church alone on the high sea-wall raised itself fearlessly against the tyrant, and though his baffled voice still howled without, within the pious prayed securely before a faith-inspiring altarpiece of Christ stilling the tempest.

"In a few weeks, after we had exhausted every amusement that the dull town afforded, become intimate with all the old gossips, tired of listening to the yarns of the pilot-tars off duty, driven the donkeys over the country until they instinctively avoided us whenever we appeared, sailed in the bay and suffered periodic attacks of sea-sickness therefrom, finished the circulating library, and half learned some barbarous sentences of Norman patois, we sat down disconsolate one afternoon to devise some means of employing the remainder of our time. It was then that the bright idea struck Annie, and she exclaimed, 'Let us go to the Paris Exposition!'

"'Just the thing!' I answered with enthusiasm. 'I wonder when the next train starts?'

"'I'll go and inquire: you begin and pack the trunks. If we can get off to-day, by to-morrow morning we can begin seeing it;' and she left the room in great excitement.

"The result was, that by seven o'clock that evening we had made our hasty preparations, and were ready to set out. It was raining terribly when the only hack of the village (which, by the by, was an omnibus) called for us at the door. The dripping fluid oozed and sparkled over the blinking lamps, the ribbed sides of the antiquated machine were varnished with moisture, and the horses looked as if each hair was a water-spout to drain the sky. Noah's patriarchal mansion might have presented a similar appearance during the first days of that celebrated wet season.

"The motherly woman with whom we had been boarding turned dismally from the weather to her invalids and tried to dissuade us from leaving that night, little understanding that we considered it 'fun.' As a parting advice she told us to call each other madame: it would procure us more consideration. 'For you know, young ladies,' she remonstrated mildly, 'it is not quite proper for you to travel alone.' After this prudent counsel and many warm adieus we sallied forth.

"The omnibus was crowded, and I had perforce to sit on Annie's knees. This, with the jolting, the queer effect of the half-light in the rickety interior, together with the expression of the good people, who evidently could see no fun in rain, excited my risibility so strongly that I indulged in a smothered laugh, tempered to fit the publicity of the occasion.

"'You must not laugh in France,' whispered Nan, pulling my dress.

"'I thought the French admired gayety,' I answered in the same tone.

"'Be quiet: it isn't proper.'

"The rest of the way was accomplished in silence. We soon arrived at the station and bought our tickets. Of course we had half a dozen bundles: in gathering them up a most gentlemanly person accosted us and asked, 'Avez vous perdu quelque chose, mademoiselle?'

"Annie replied in the negative with great dignity, and so cut off any chance of adventure in that quarter.

"On came the train. In France there is fortunately a provision made for women traveling without an escort. In your country they have, I believe, smoking-cars especially for the gentlemen: in that blessed land there is a compartment for 'ladies alone,' or Dames Seules, as it is called. A good American once read this inscription with much commiseration, D—— souls, and returning told his friends that the 'wicked' French allowed His Satanic Majesty the right of running a special car on their roads for his greater accommodation.

"As we were hastening to this most desired refuge I noticed two very student-looking young men walking near us, and caught a bit of their conversation.

"'They will.'

"'They won't: a bottle of wine on it we go up in the same car with them.'

"'I told you so!'

"As we found our car and entered the students passed on, not daring to ignore the magic words on the door; so Adventure No. 2 was nipped in the bud.

"Nan and I were the only lady-passengers, and we sank back into the soft cushions with the pleasant sense that no further effort would be needed during the journey. We had been told that the train would arrive in Paris about midnight, but the lateness of the hour caused us no uneasiness, as we had been there before and remembered the city pretty well; and, besides, we thoroughly believed in our ability to take care of ourselves.

"In an interval of wakefulness we discussed our plans, and concluded to spend the night at some hotel near the station, the next morning looking up our friends (several of whom we knew to be in town) and consulting them about our future proceedings, feeling that a midnight visit from us would scarcely be welcome to any one. Annie recalled a fine-looking hotel just opposite the terminus, and, having made our selection in its favor, we dozed off again very comfortably.

"I think we had been on the way some four hours when the welcome lights began to appear—first in the sky above the city, as if the earth in this favored spot threw out rays like the sun; next through the darkness over the country below; and then we plunged tunnel-wise into the earth under the busy streets and fortifications, to emerge at the end of our route.

"We gathered up our bundles in haste, thanking the stars that we had accomplished our ride so safely, and were walking off to the hotel when we suddenly thought of the trunks. Another consultation was held, and we decided to leave them in the baggage-room until morning.

"'But we must go and see that they are safe,' suggested Annie.

"'Where is the baggage-room?' I asked of a porter.

"'This way, mademoiselle.'

"'Madame!' I ventured to correct in a weak voice.

"'Vos clefs, s'il vous plait,' said a polite official as we entered the door, and another laid hands on the satchels we carried, to examine them.

"We had entirely forgotten the octroi officers. 'Oh my! this affair may keep us another half hour,' thought I, 'and I am so sleepy!' I have often found (I confide this to you as an inviolable secret) that to be unreasonable is a woman's strongest weakness: it is a shield against which man's sharpest logic is invariably turned aside. The next thing to there not being a necessity, is not seeing a necessity, and this I prepared in the most innocent manner to do.

"'Gracious me!' I exclaimed—or its French equivalent, which I suppose is 'Mon Dieu'—'you don't mean to detain us here opening those bags, and we so tired, and they packed so full that we could scarcely shut them; and if you do open them, we cannot get all the things into them again, and shall have no end of trouble!' Then I looked as injured as if they had been thieves or highway-men.

"Had a man made this speech they would have mistrusted him, but as women have a reputation for shallowness, such talk is never thought suspicious in them.

"'What do they contain?' asked the officer, hesitating.

"'I don't know what all: we have been at the sea-side, and they are full of trash. There are some shells and an old hat in mine, and—and things.'

"He tried to conceal a smile, and looked toward the other, who nodded, and we saw the welcome 'O' put on in chalk, upon which the bags were given back to us.

"'Now the trunks,' said the first who had spoken, holding out his hand for the keys.

"'Oh, we are going to leave them here till to-morrow: they are all right—you can mark them too;' and without further ceremony we moved toward the door. One of the men stepped after us. I thought it was to make us return, but it was only to ask if he should get us a carriage.

"We thanked him and replied that we were going to the hotel opposite, and did not need one: he then turned to a person who seemed to be the porter of the establishment, and told him to carry our satchels for us. Now we felt our journey was well at an end, for the windows of our welcome asylum were blazing not more than a hundred feet off.

"We crossed the street, rang at the ladies' entrance and asked for rooms. After a few moments the servant returned, and, much to our chagrin, said that there were none to be had, every corner was full.

"'Do let us see the clerk. We must have a room: you can surely find us one somewhere.'

"The man shook his head.

"'Please go and try,' we insisted: 'we shall be satisfied with anything for the night. Won't you go and ask again?'

"'It is of no use,' he answered obstinately, à cause de l'Exposition;' and he opposed a shrug of his shoulders to every other effort at persuasion that we made.

"Just then a chambermaid passed. 'Do come here,' I called. 'Can't you find us a room? I will pay you;' and I put my hand significantly in my pocket.

"'Very sorry, ladies, but it is impossible,'

"This was a contingency we had not provided for: we looked at each other blankly, and, though loath to do so, we both came to the conclusion that they were telling the truth.

"'What shall we do?' asked Annie, speaking to me in English.

"'I suppose we shall have to take a carriage and go down town, after all,'

"'They may be full there too,' she said in a rueful tone.

"Just then the porter with our satchels spoke: 'There is another hotel near, ladies, and if you will come I will show you to it,'

"I consulted Annie with a look, and she assented. Any prospect was better than a midnight drive of several miles, with no certainty as to our lot at the end of it. So we turned from the inhospitable door and followed our guide.

"The latter walked quickly for perhaps a square, stopped before a neat-looking house and rang. Our courage rose as the door opened and revealed a clean-looking court surrounded by orange trees in boxes, with small coffee-tables under them for the convenience of the guests.

"'Rooms for two ladies!' demanded our attendant with the voice of a herald.

"The trim but sleepy servant looked at us a moment, as if not comprehending the situation, then slowly pronounced our sentence in two words, 'No rooms!' and as if to emphasize them threw up the palms of his hands, shook his head and added 'Full!' after which he closed the door with a hasty click and returned to his nap.

"Our night-errant was visibly disappointed with this reception—not more so than we were—but without allowing us time to speak he said in his most reassuring voice, 'Never mind, ladies: there are plenty of hotels about here, and we shall soon find lodgings for you.' Having undertaken the task, he seemed to think it his duty to comfort and provide for us.

"Alas! this was not soon accomplished. Two other hotels were successively tried in vain, and still our indefatigable guide went on. It appeared as if we had walked a considerable distance, but the streets cut each other at odd angles, and we had been turning so often that I confess I had but little idea where we were, or how far we had come, when we entered a quarter where the ways became narrower, passed into a dingy alley, thence plunged through a still darker court, from that to another alley, and the next moment our porter was ringing at the door of a tall, sombre house. I truly hoped that we should not find rooms here, and was turning to Annie to advise a cab and an attempt in a more civilized-looking locality, when the bell was answered and the old question repeated.

"To my surprise and dismay the servant said they could accommodate us. Should we stay? I knew that in the older parts of Paris the best of houses are sometimes found in the poorer streets, and that in no city is a person less able to judge of the interior comfort of a building by its external aspect. We were very tired, and should we turn away from this open door where should we find another open for us? The porter, however good-natured, could not continue to run about with us all night, and our faith in ourselves was considerably diluted since we left the cars: even a cab might be difficult to get at this hour of the night. Annie did not object: indeed, she looked too worn out to have an opinion in the matter, and as I could think of nothing better to do, I began to make the usual inquiries: 'Have you two adjoining rooms?'

"'Yes, mademoiselle.'

"I remembered the advice that had been given us on starting: here surely was a place to use it, so I said to the servant in a marked tone, 'Take madame's bag and show us to our chambers.'

"'This way, mesdemoiselles,' he answered with the most provoking coolness.

"I dismissed our faithful porter with regret, and followed the other up stairs. While ascending I racked my brain to determine what peculiarity of manner we could adopt that would give us a more matronly air while traveling, but I could think of nothing. I may as well tell you now that we never for an instant deceived any one on this subject during our stay, and we soon ceased trying to do so.

"Our rooms were much better than I had expected to find them, but even this caused in me a feeling of doubt. They had a hypocritical air, a grasping after appearances that I believe always accompanies deceit and imposition—a sleek shabbiness that I detest. I knew by instinct that if I examined I should find the carpets worn out under the mats, and the chairs faded beneath their smart chintz covers. There was not a candid-looking piece of furniture in the apartment: the table was an impostor with one short leg; the drawers of the bureau would not open; the glasses were all askew, and twisted your face to such a degree that it frightened you to catch a glimpse of yourself in passing. But this was not the worst: from the moment I entered the rooms I felt that they had been waiting for us.

"I did not venture to mention my suspicions to Annie, and tried to keep up a cheery sort of conversation while we undressed, but I could see that she too began to be uneasy. We carefully inspected our doors, and found the locks were good, then looked to see that there was no one lurking under the beds. It would be difficult to tell you exactly what I feared, but somehow everything impressed me as mysterious—the quiet of the streets through which we had come, and the quiet of the house. It was such a lonely, eerie kind of place: our feet echoed on the stairways as if human feet seldom ascended them; the shadows appeared especially dark; our candles' small light made little impression on the gloom; the very air seemed harder to breathe than ordinary; and on recalling the face of the impertinent servant I thought that it had a sinister look.

"I tried to recall whether we were in a good or bad faubourg, but could not; and then I remembered that Paris was now divided into arrondissements, which had a much less ill-omened sound. I went to the window to reconnoitre the locality, but, though the rain had ceased, darkness covered all so thickly that I could see nothing. As I stood there the clock on the station struck, first the quarters, and then one, in a doleful, muffled tone. It told me one thing I was glad to know—namely, that we could not have wandered very far during our walk; but there was little comfort in that, after all, since the walk had terminated here.

"Stories that I had read of strange adventures and accidents to midnight guests now trooped into my head. I thought of one in particular, in which the tester of the bed slowly descended to smother the sleeping inmate for purposes of robbery; whereupon I minutely examined mine, and found to my satisfaction that it was scarcely able to discharge the single duty of holding up the curtains, and looked most innocent of further intentions. Finding myself again peering into corners I had already searched, and feeling this general unrest to be growing upon me, I began to think I must be nervous from over-exertion, and determined to get rid of my silly fancies in sleep. Then, as if to take myself by surprise, I suddenly blew out the light, sprang under the covers and shut my eyes tight, afraid that something hateful might glare upon me in the dark.

"Just then Annie came to the communicating doorway, and with an effort to speak in her natural voice she said, 'Jane, I am going to sleep here.' And as if this endeavor had consumed her last bit of resistance, she closed and locked the door quickly, ran to my bed and threw herself shivering beside me.

"'What is the matter?' I whispered, feeling my presentiment of evil confirmed.

"She put her lips to my ear and answered, 'I found a door in my room behind the bed-curtains, and it leads I don't know where."

"'Did you open it?'

"'No indeed! I would not open it for the world. There might be something horrible in it;' and she shuddered.

"'You have left your light burning.'

"'I don't care. I won't go back: no indeed, I could not.' There was silence for a few minutes: neither of us moved, when Nan again whispered, 'Do you think this room quite safe?'

"'I looked all around before I blew out the light.'

"'Did you look behind your curtains?'

"'No!' I answered with an uncomfortable sensation.

"'You are next the wall: feel along it,' in her most persuasive voice.

"The very idea made me creep. Put my hand behind those curtains and touch—what? Even the cold wall would be sufficient to terrify me. For reply I remarked suggestively, 'If we had the light we could see.'

"'Yes, that would be just the thing. Go bring it—do!'

"I felt that something must be done, and soon, or I should be in no state to accomplish it. If Nan would not go, I must: when we had the light half our trouble would be over, and, after all, she might have been mistaken.

"'Did the door move?' I ventured to ask.

"'No, it didn't do anything—at least I don't think it did—but it looked so awful that it frightened me.'

"'That light in there may set something on fire,' I remarked.

"'Go fetch it: it will only take you a minute. Do go!'

"'You are sure the door didn't open?' I asked, far from liking my task.

"'I will go with you half-way,' she volunteered, 'and stand there while you run in quick. Come on, and don't let us talk any more about it: we shall only get more and more frightened.' You will see that Annie's gifts lay more in persuasion than in action.

"Thus adjured, I went with her to the communicating door, cautiously listened, then looked through the keyhole. The silence within was oppressive, but the flickering bougie warned me that I must make an effort, and without allowing myself time to think I hastily turned the key and opened the door.

"At that moment it seemed to me that I heard distant footsteps. I rushed for the light and turned to go back, when I ran against some one: the candle was extinguished by being jerked from the holder to the floor, and a hand which I vainly tried to shake off clasped my arm. My blood grew thick and still with sudden terror. I tried to speak, but could not. What increased my dread was that I could not tell whether the Thing by my side was a reality or a spectre. I had caught a glimpse of something white as the light disappeared, and I believe that a pistol at my head would have caused me less alarm than this horrible idea of the supernatural. I began to feel that I could endure it no longer, that I should stifle, should die, when Annie's voice spoke in the darkness quite near, and I found it was she who had grasped my arm.

"'I could not stay in that room alone,' she whispered. 'Don't you hear?—footsteps! They are coming.'

"'You have half frightened me to death,' I murmured trembling: 'I thought you were something.'

"'No, I ain't anything, but something is coming. Don't you hear?'

"It was true enough. Through the quiet of the house came stealthy footsteps. Nearer, nearer. They were ascending the stairs, at times delaying an instant, as if groping for the way, then on.

"'Come into your room,' said Annie convulsively: 'come, and we can lock ourselves in. Oh, where is your door? I cannot find it, and they are coming. What shall we do? what shall we do?'

"We were in total darkness: not a ray of light came from the window, and in our confusion we had lost our bearings. Neither of us had the least idea in what direction the other room lay.

"'Let us creep along the floor, perhaps we may find it. Do try,' said I.

"'No, no, I cannot move. I wish we had never come. I am dying.' She was shaking with fright, and would not leave my arm for an instant.

"Just then, from somewhere near us, we could not tell from what side, came a long low whistle, so mournful and unearthly, with such a summons in its tone, that I shivered: then a faint movement followed from the same place.

"'It is a signal for the other,' gasped Annie: 'it is in that door: they are coming, they are here. Shall I scream murder? shall I?' giving my arm an emphasizing grip.

"'No, no, wait: it will do no good.'

"She groaned, slipped down on her knees, with one arm still round me, her face pressed against my side, holding her other hand over the unprotected ear, so that she should hear no more; and in this position she began to repeat 'Now I lay me down to sleep' just as fast as she could gabble it.

"I was no less frightened, and would willingly have crouched down also, but she held me so tight that I could not without a struggle, and above all things I did not want to make a noise.

"It was thus we awaited the crisis. The steps were certainly coming to our room, but whether by the door we had entered or by the one Annie had seen behind the bed, I could not tell. I was too bewildered to locate the sound, nor did I know whether the bed was at my right or left hand. I had a slight hope that the steps might pass on.

"It was for that I waited.

"They came—near, nearer. For a time my heart ceased beating. Annie slipped lower, until she lay on the floor, and I could no longer hear her breathe. My whole being was merged in listening to that step. I could feel that now it was on a level with our room—was there almost beside us. Lightly though distinctly a hand passed over the door, as if fumbling for the latch. This was the intense moment. Had the person paused or hesitated an instant, I think it would have killed us both. But no, he did not falter. Steadily on, the step, guided by the hand, went as it had come, and as I stood, not daring to move, I heard it receding in the distance of the great house. Then all was silence.

"When sensation returned to me I felt as if I had awakened from a nightmare, and found myself shaking from the nervous reaction and the cold. I stooped to find poor Nan on the floor, and said through my chattering teeth, 'It must have been only a late boarder. Don't be afraid. It is all over: come, get up.'

"'Can't you get a light?' she begged. 'I cannot move until you have a light. I am still afraid.'

"I now remembered that the bureau must be behind me, for I had merely turned when I encountered Annie and dropped the candle. There were probably matches upon it: yes, there they were. I struck one and easily found the candle: then Annie rose with the meekest air possible, and, without looking at the obnoxious corner where the bed stood, we walked into the other room and locked the door.

"It was not until the gray morning light crept into the window that we felt quite safe. Every crack in the floor or nibbling mouse caused us to start, and at each quarter the clock of the station would strike as if to warn us to be on the alert. But the bed was not bad, and the house remained quiet; and as soon as the dawn made our candle useless, we began to think we had been very foolish, and the result was a sound sleep.

"When we awoke it was ten o'clock: the morning was bright and clear, and the terrors of the night had all departed during our refreshing rest. The room certainly looked shabby, but if that were a crime, half the houses in the world would be sent to prison. There was nothing in the least mysterious about it. Our courage rose with the day, and we teased and joked each other about our fright. Then, anticipating the glories of the Exposition, we congratulated ourselves that we had come.

"'We won't breakfast here,' said Annie as she was dressing: 'we will go down town to a nice restaurant, and sit at a window and see the people go by. Afterward we will look up our friends and find a good hotel or boarding-house; and we must go to the Exposition this very day. We shall have a famous time. We can make up parties to drive out, and go monument-hunting and sight-seeing, and to the theatre. Ain't you glad you came?'

"'The first thing we do must be to go back to the station and leave these bags with our trunks until we find lodgings,' I remarked.

"Nan went into the next room to get some of the clothing she had left there. When she returned, lowering her voice she said, 'Jane, there is a door behind my curtains.'

"'Very well, let it alone: I suppose it is a closet.'

"'No such thing: it don't look like a closet; and why would they hide a closet, I should like to know? Come in and see it.'

"She walked back, and as I followed drew the curtain aside, and there in fact it was.

"'I am going to open it before I leave the room,' she said in a determined tone: 'there is something not right about it.'

"'I wouldn't,' I remonstrated: 'some one may be in there.'

"'I am going to see: I must look into it. It is daylight, you know, and we sha'n't be much frightened. Help me to push away the bed.'

"'I won't do anything so absurd. This is a hotel, Annie, and there must be plenty of adjoining rooms in it. Suppose that room is now occupied by a boarder?'

"'If it is occupied they will lock the door on the other side, and I will try the latch softly to see; but I know it is not. Don't you see that the only entrance must be from here? There is the entry. opposite, and here is the court: now, how could any one get into it but through this room? It must be a small place, too, for here is the corner of the house, and it has been evidently planned to be kept concealed."

"'No matter: we have no right to any rooms but these we are in. Come away, and let well enough alone.'

"'It is not "well enough," as you call it. I am going to see into it, and why they hide it. I declare,' and she examined the door critically, 'it looks like the entrance to Bluebeard's chamber. Look at these queer marks, these dents and stains, as if there had been a struggle. It is our duty to investigate;' and her voice grew impressive. 'Perhaps we have been brought here for that very purpose, and, Jane, if there is a dead body in there, I shall inform the police.' Annie was very brave in daylight.

"'Fiddle-de-dee!' I replied to this fine speech. 'What you call duty, I call curiosity. I am ravenously hungry, and I wish you would finish dressing and let us get to breakfast.'

"'I will just tell you this,' she answered indignantly, and yet with a quiver in her voice, 'I never in my life felt as I did last night when I saw that door. It was quite like what people write of a mysterious influence, or the presence of some one unseen; and that whistle or voice or moan, as if a soul was calling, came from here; and you must help me to find out what it really was, for I can't go away without knowing.'

"I saw it was useless to try longer to dissuade her. The bed moved easily: she took my hand and led me behind it; then warily tried the latch. It rose, but she was obliged to lean all her weight against the door before it would give way, and finally it opened so unexpectedly that she almost fell forward.

"What did I see? At the first glimpse a faint light from a cobwebbed window, a narrow room and a floor—red. Was it blood? A sickening mouldy smell came forth, but as I forced myself to look again I saw that it was only red tiles that had startled me. There was an upright brick range in a corner, an old water-tank, some shelves and a cupboard. A missing pane of glass left a space through which the air had entered and moaned up the broad-mouthed flue that opened above the range. This was the ominous 'signal' we had heard in answer to the footsteps. The dust was thick over everything, and the only signs of life were the rat-tracks on the floor. We stood still for a few moments, overwhelmed at this solution of the occult 'influence' that had so subtly acted on Annie's nerves, and filled me with no less terror.

"The house had been built for a hôtel garni; that is, a house with furnished rooms or apartments, something like a tenement-house in your country. This was the kitchen of the suite, and belonged to the two rooms we had taken. Being unused for its proper object, and too small for a bed-chamber, it had been closed, and appeared as if it had been unentered for years. I turned to Annie to see how she would bear this prosaic explanation of our alarm, but with the air of one who had expected nothing but this from the beginning, she remarked, 'Now you see how much better it is to look into such things. This room would have furnished me with bad dreams for the remainder of my life, and here I find it is only a commonplace kitchen. Think how ludicrous to have the horrors over a kitchen! Sha'n't I tell of your fright when we get home—how you didn't want to open the door, and wanted to 'let well enough alone'? The place might be haunted by the ghost of a chicken or a rabbit, but, my dear, you should not allow that to terrify you.'

"'Perhaps it was the ghost of a chicken that you feared last night, and that caused your presentiments this morning. I hope you will inform the police of what you have discovered here,' I remarked quietly.

"'A truce, a truce, good Jane! I will say no more. We were both boobies. But wouldn't it be 'cute to live here, you and me, and make our own breakfast? Look at the hole for charcoal, and the little cupboard, the nails for the pots and pans to hang on: everything is complete. That room could be for dining, the other a parlor, and—'

"'The only drawback would be that, except at the North Pole, the night comes once in twenty-four hours.'

"'Don't be mean, Jane! Do come in here a minute: it's a dear little place.'

"'You will certainly make a housekeeper if a kitchen gives you such ecstasy. Come out, I am so hungry. Put on your bonnet and leave this elysium: I have had enough of it.'

"'You come in for a second: it will shake the terror off and you won't dream of it. That is a cure my old nurse once gave me for laying ghosts.'

"'It may be a good plan to shake off the terror, but the dust on you will not be shaken off so easily.'

"'Suppose,' and she stamped her foot—'suppose that the floor should be hollow, and that this were only a pretended kitchen after all, or that there was a trap-door painted to resemble tiles, or a sliding panel.' Here she felt over the surface of the wall. 'Why should I feel so queer last night if this was really nothing but a kitchen?'

"'Because you are a goose,' I answered impatiently, 'and if you don't come I will leave you. If you like, you can engage boarding here for a week, and raise the tiles one by one with a knife and fork. As for me, I am going to breakfast.'

"'But don't you think it really has an uncanny look?' she asked, giving a last glance over her shoulder as she came out.

"'If you call dirt uncanny, there is plenty of that. Shut the door, and I will push back the bed.'

"'Jane,' she again remarked as she was trying on her bonnet before the crooked glass, 'if ever I tell of this night, I think I will say that there was a trap-door in the kitchen: you know there might be one and we not see it.'

"'Oh yes,' I answered as patiently as I could, 'I suppose a fib more or less will make but little difference in your lifetime. While you are at it, however, you may as well make a few more additions.'

"'Now you are unkind.'

"'A person is not accountable for temper when famishing. Take up your satchel.'

"We found the house a most every-day-looking house, seen by sunlight; but there had lain the difficulty. The clerk in the office did not particularly resemble a cutthroat, or even a cutpurse, and, strange to say, did not overcharge us: in fact, he behaved very civilly. We found we were not far from the station, and depositing our bags there, we walked down the beautiful Rue La Fayette.

"'It is a great deal pleasanter to travel alone in this way,' said Nan gayly, her spirits rising in the delightful air. 'When I was here before with all the family, it was not near so jolly; and I think we manage well, don't you? Oh, there is an omnibus not complet: let us get in. I am too hungry to walk.'

"After we were seated she continued: 'I wonder what will happen to us to-night. Suppose we find every place full, and have to sleep in a garden or on the steps of a church, or something? Isn't it delightful not to know in the least what is going to happen next?—just as in fairy-land. Don't you hope we may have an adventure every night?'

"'I should not call last night an adventure: it seems to me it was more like a panic,' I said drily.

"'You will never let anything be agreeable,' in a hurt tone: then recovering her good temper, she went on: 'Well, call it a panic if you like. Now, suppose we had one every night, and we stayed here two weeks, there would be fourteen panics before we go home. Wouldn't that be glorious?'

"'You did not appear to enjoy it so much last night.'

"'At the time I did not,' she admitted frankly. 'Weren't we frightened? But then, you know, how nice it will be to talk of it afterward!'

"We arrived at a restaurant in the Palais Royal, and found a seat by the window, and a breakfast. We had already finished the latter, and were playing with our fruit, when a party entered who attracted our attention by speaking English.

"'One of them is Miss Rodgers,' Annie whispered excitedly. 'I know her well: hadn't we better run away? What will she think of our being here alone?'

"'Nonsense! You had better ask her where she is staying. Remember, we are houseless as yet.'

"'I don't like to ask her.'

"'Introduce me: I will ask.' The idea of spending the night in a garden or on a church-step did not possess the same charms for me as for Nan. Thus prompted, she walked forward and spoke to her friend, afterward presenting me. We chatted a few minutes, when Miss Rodgers asked Annie where she was staying, and how her mamma was.

"'Mamma is not with us,' was Nan's embarrassed reply.

"I went to her rescue, and diverted the questions by asking some myself: 'Miss Rodgers, where are you staying? We do not like our hotel and want to change.'

"'There is not a room in our house that is unoccupied, and you won't find good accommodation anywhere. You had better not change if you have a place to lay your head. Paris is so crowded that everything has been taken up long ago. You can ask at a dozen hotels or boarding-houses and not find a garret to let. You have no idea of the difficulty.'

"Yes, we had an idea, and believed every word she said: in fact, we would rather have felt less convinced on the subject. Even Annie seemed to think that traveling alone might present some disagreeable features, and looked quite unhappy, notwithstanding her love of adventure. But before our mental anguish had time to become unbearable a young girl, a niece of Miss Rodgers, spoke: 'Auntie, if the young ladies would like, I know of just the place that would suit them.' Then turning to us, she continued: 'I am at school a few miles out of the city, and madame told me that if I knew of any one, she had room for a few parlor-boarders. It is a lovely spot, and no end of trains coming and going all day; so that it would be just as convenient as living here, and you would have excellent accommodation. Then, too, I could speak English to you sometimes. I am so tired of talking for ever without half knowing what I am saying.'

"I could have embraced the chatterbox on the spot for this opportune proposal, but controlled my feelings and looked at Nan to see if she approved. She was consenting with every one of her expressive features, and did not appear at all anxious to enjoy one of her fourteen delightful panics this evening if it could be avoided. Being spokesman, I said, 'I would willingly try the school on your recommendation, Miss Ada, if you think madame could be ready for us this evening.'

"'Of course she could: come out with me now and see her. I must go at one, and can show you the way. Will you meet me at the station? or shall we call for you at your hotel?'

"'We will meet at the station,' I replied, glad to settle it so quickly, 'if you are quite sure that your madame will like our unceremonious arrival.'

"'That will be all right, I know. She has several empty rooms, and will be happy to have them filled. You can leave your trunks until to-morrow if you don't like to come bag and baggage.'

"We needed no further pressing. Here was deliverance and safety, and we bade good-morning to the party with light hearts.

"We found the school all that Miss Ada had promised, and thus ended the nearest approach to an adventure that we had during the two weeks that we remained."

"And now tell me about the Exposition."

"Well, we saw it."

"Saw what?"

"Why, everything."

"Describe it to me."

"Certainly. In the first place, it was very big, and everybody was there, so it was crowded; and you met your friends and you talked; and—and you got fearfully tired; and it was wonderful; and there were ever so many restaurants, and a soda-water fountain, and queer things that you never expected to see there, like the Mexican techcatl and Russian horses; and everything was real—real lace and cashmeres and diamonds, and nothing but what was very nice. But, after all, I think you had better get a file of old newspapers and read about it, for I really have no talent for description—or, better still, go and see the one in Vienna this summer."