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A Few Hours in Bohemia by Ita Aniol Prokop

1875

The beauty of this country is that no turbulent sea confines its borders, nor are martello-towers needed to guard its coast: no jealous neighbor threatens its frontier, no army oppresses its citizens, and no king can usurp its throne. Its locality is hard to define: like the Fata Morgana, it is here to-day and gone to-morrow, for its territory is the mind of men, and in extent it is as boundless as thought. Natives of every clime are enrolled among its freemen, and all lands contain its representatives, but it is in the picturesque streets of the older continental cities of Europe, where rambling lodgings and cheap apartments are many, that the invisible mother-country founds her colonies. I will tell you how I went and what I saw there.

Afra was a cosmopolite, and consequently knew Bohemia, its byways and thoroughfares. If any one could fill the office of guide thereto, Afra could, and when one evening she rushed into my room saying, "Come along if you want to go to Bohemia," I did not hesitate a moment, but made ready for the journey, with the simple precaution of putting on my bonnet and shawl.

"A cab?" I asked as we moved from the door.

"Who ever heard of entering Bohemia in a cab?" laughed Afra dryly. "People have been known to drive out in their own carriages, but they always make their first appearance there on foot, or at best in an omnibus."

"As you please," I replied, trying to keep pace with her rapid step, which showed constant practice.

"I wonder you did not propose a balloon," she continued pettishly. "The gods don't give everything to one person: now, they give us brains, and they give other people—money."

"If you would understand, I—"

"No, you wouldn't. I sha'n't ride in cabs until I can pay for them myself; meanwhile, I have gros sous enough in my pocket for an omnibus fare, and if you have the same we will stop here." At this she entered a bureau, and as I followed I saw her get some tickets from a man who sat behind a small counter, and then composedly sit down on a bench while she said, "We shall have some time to wait for our luxury:" then showing me the tickets, "Twelve and thirteen: it is a full night, and all these people ahead of us."

"Is it a lottery?" I asked ignorantly.

"Very much of a lottery," Afra replied grimly—"like all the ways of Bohemia, remarkably uncertain. You get a ticket for something in the giving of the Muses, and you wait until your number is called. The worst of it is, the most unlikely people are called before you, and some get disgusted and leave: there goes one out at the door at this moment. Well, he may be better or he may be worse off than those who finally win: who knows if any race is worth the running? Still, if you have courage to hold on, I believe there is no doubt that every one ultimately gets something." Seeing my perplexity, she twisted the round tickets between her fingers and added, "Do not be alarmed: these are only good for a seat in the first empty 'bus that comes up. The conductor will call out the numbers in rotation, and if ours is among them we shall go. It is frightful that you have never ridden in a 'bus before. I wonder where we should get ideas if we shut ourselves up in cabs and never walked or were hungry or tired, and thought only of our own comfort from morning till night? You don't know what you miss, you poor deluded, unfortunate rich people. I will tell you of something I saw the other evening; and, as it is worthy of a name, it shall be called 'The Romance of an Omnibus.' Listen! isn't that our numbers I heard? Yes: come quick or we shall lose our chance."

"Well," said I when we had successfully threaded the crowd and were seated—"the romance."

"You have no idea of the fitness of things. My story is pathetic: it will look badly to see you drowned in tears—people will stare."

"I promise not to cry."

"Oh, if you are one of those stolid, unemotional beings who are never moved, I sha'n't waste my tale upon you. Wait until to-morrow: we will get Monsieur C—— to recount, and you shall hear something worth listening to. He is a regular troubadour—has the same artless vanity they were known to possess, their charming simplicity, their gestures, and their power of investing everything with romance. One is transported to the Middle Ages while he speaks: no book written on the subject could so fully give you the flavor of the times. He recalls Froissart. If you are not affected by C——'s stories, you had better pretend to be. But that, I am sure, will not be necessary: a great tragedian was lost when he became a great painter."

"Might I ask how and when and where I am to meet this wonderful man?"

"At the garden-party."

"In what way am I to get there?"

"By strategy. There is a little reunion to-night of what may be called female Bohemians. They are going to settle the preliminaries of this party, and if you happen to be present they will invite you; not that they particularly care for your company, but because, as I said, you happen to be there. Only don't get yourself into a mess by tramping on any one's toes."

"Have they corns?"

"Yes, on every inch of surface: they are dreadfully thin-skinned. But they hate sham even more than a hard knock, and are quicker than a police-officer in detecting it; so be careful not to talk about anything you are ignorant of."

"Give me a few rules, and I promise to conduct myself properly."

"Well, don't be snobbish and patronize them, and don't look shocked at any strange opinions you hear, nor act as if you were at an animal show and were wondering what would happen next. Be sure not to assent when you see they wish to argue, and don't argue when they expect acquiescence. If any of them speak in broken English, and you can't for the life of you understand, don't ask them to repeat, but answer immediately, for you can imagine when one has taken pains to learn a foreign language one likes it to be appreciated, and don't—But here we are. In short, make yourself at home, as if you had been there all your life."

"Afra," I said, laying my hand on her arm as she took to her swift pace again, "perhaps I had better go home: I am afraid I can't—I think—that is—"

"Nonsense! as if you could not get on after all those hints! Anyway, you cannot return alone, and I am unable to go with you. Make up your mind to blunder, and do it. There was an amateur visited the studio about three months ago: her absurdities have lasted us for laughing material ever since. As she is getting rather stale, you can take her place. This is the house: come in."

With this doubtful prospect in view I followed my peremptory guide from the narrow street into what appeared to be a spacious court, but as the only light it received was from a blinking candle in the window of the conciergerie, I could not determine. After exchanging some cabalistic sentences with a toothless old woman, the proprietor of the candle, Afra turned to the right, and walking a few steps came to a door opening on a stairway, which we mounted. I can think of nothing black enough for comparison with the darkness surrounding us. At last a faint glimmer showed an old lamp standing in a corner of a hall bare and carpetless. A series of doors flanked the place, looking to my unaccustomed eyes all alike, but Afra without a moment's hesitation went to one of them and knocked. It was opened by a lady, who smiled and said, "Enter. You are just in time: school is over and the model about going."

I found myself in a high-ceiled room, at one end of which was suspended a row of perhaps a dozen lamps. Here, at least, there was-no lack of light: it required some moments to accustom our eyes to the sudden contrast. The yellow blaze was directed by reflectors into the space immediately beneath the lamps, which left the rest of the room pleasantly tempered. Some easels, a few chairs and screens, plaster casts on shelves, sketches in all stages of progress on the wall, a tea-kettle singing over a bright fire in a stove, and a curtain enclosing a corner used as a bedroom, completed the list of furniture. It was a night-school for lady artists. The class had finished for the evening, and a number of the students were moving about or seated near the fire, talking in an unlimited number of languages.

I was given several random introductions, and did my best to follow Afra's directions; but there was an indescribable quaintness about the appearance and manners of my new acquaintance that made it difficult not to stare. I found, however, that little notice was taken of me, as a lively discussion was being carried on over a study of an arm and hand which one of them was holding up for inspection.

"It is a style I should call the lantern," said she. "The redness of the flesh can only be accounted for on the supposition that a light is shining through it."

"I should call it raw beef," remarked another.

"It is a shame, mademoiselle!" began the model in an injured tone. She had been tying on her bonnet before a bit of looking-glass she had taken from her pocket. "Does my arm look like that?" Here she indignantly drew up her sleeve and held out that dimpled member, meanwhile gazing wrathfully at the sketch. "It ought not to be allowed. The silver tones of my flesh are entirely lost; and see how you have caricatured the elegance of my beautiful hand. Will not some one help mademoiselle to put it right before my reputation is ruined?"

"Jeanne, a model is not a critic," said the author of the drawing, coming forward and grasping the canvas with no gentle hand.—"Ladies, if you wish to find fault, turn to your own studies. That proportion is frightful"—she pointed to different sketches as she spoke—"that ear is too large; and, madame, if you take a crust of paint like yours for freedom of touch, I pity you."

This dispute was by no means the last during the evening. Opinions seemed to be plentiful in Bohemia, each individual being furnished with a set of her own on every subject broached; and as no diffidence was shown in putting them forth, the company quarreled with great good-nature and evident enjoyment. A pot of tea was then brewed by the owner of the studio, who had been English before she became Bohemian, and the beverage was handed round in tea-cups which, like the opinions of the guests, differed widely from each other. In the silence that attended this diversion Afra took the floor and said, "How about the garden-party to the country? Who is going?"

Several spoke, and one asked, "Shall we take lunch with us?"

"No, something will be provided for us there."

"So much the better. When are we to meet, and where?"

"Twelve o'clock, midday, at ——."

"What messieurs are going?"

"Quite a number—a tenor from the Grand Opera, and the leader of the orchestra, who is a magnificent violinist; that new Spanish painter who plays the guitar divinely; a poet—that is, he has written some pretty songs—besides plenty more."

"That promises well."

"You will bring your friend?" and the speaker nodded her head toward me.

"I shall be delighted: I am so curious to see those eccentric—" Here a warning glance from Afra stopped me.

But the lady only laughed and said, "You will see eccentricity enough to-morrow, if that is what you want. People who devote their minds to great objects have no time to think of little things. You had better see that Afra has on her bonnet or she will go without one."

"Nonsense!" replied Afra.—"Miss," this to the owner of the studio, who was so called in honor of her English birth, "are you ever troubled by the ghost of that young painter who hung himself up there?"

"Those who have occasion to commit suicide are not likely to come back: they have had enough of this world," said the Englishwoman.

"Did some one really die here?" I asked.

"Yes, really;" and Afra mimicked my tone of horror. "You know, a Bohemian is at home anywhere, so a change of country don't affect him much. If we find a place disagreeable, we travel."

"Was he insane?"

"Not more than the rest of us, but you can't understand the feeling that would induce a man to do such a thing. This young fellow painted a picture: he put his mind, his soul, himself, into it, and sent it to the Exhibition. It was rejected—that is, he was rejected—and he came here and died. They found him suspended from that beam where the lamps hang now."

"I thought your Bohemia was so gay?"

"So it is, but the brightest light makes the deepest shadows."

The conversation went on. These ladies discussed politics, literature, art and society with absolute confidence. One of the topics was Alfred de Musset. The Englishwoman was praising the English Alfred, when a pale-faced girl, who up to this moment had been intently reading, oblivious of all about her, closed her book with a snap (it was a much-worn edition of one of the classics, bought for a few sous on the quay) and broke out with—"Your Tennyson is childish. His King Arthur puts me in mind of our Louis Philippe and his umbrella. Did you know Louis carried an umbrella with him when he was obliged to fly from Paris? One would have looked well held over Arthur's dragon helmet that disagreeable night he left the queen to go and fight his nephew. But perhaps Guinevere had lent it to Launcelot, and even the best friends, alas! do not return umbrellas. Your poet writes in white kid gloves, and thinks in them too. Imagine the magnificent rush and struggle of those ancient days, the ecstasy of battle, the intensity of life, and then read your Tennyson's milk-and-water tales, with their modern English-ménage feelings. Arthur would have been much more likely to give his wife a beating, as did the hero of the Nibelungen Lied, than that high-flown lecture; and it would have done the Guinevere of that time more good."

"And what is your Alfred, Anita?"

"He is divine."

"After the heathen pattern. He dipped his pen in mire."

"What is mire?—water and earth. What are we?—water and earth. Mire is humanity, and holds in itself not only the roots of the tree, but the germ of the flower. A poet who is too delicate to plant his thought in earth must be content to give it but the life of a parasite: it can have no separate existence of its own."

"But one need not be bad to be great."

"Nor need one be good to be great," returned Anita sarcastically. "Alfred de Musset was a peculiar type of a peculiar time. He did not imagine: he felt, he lived, he was himself, and was original, like a new variety of flower or a new species of insect. Tennyson has gleaned from everybody's fields: our Alfred gathered only from his own. The one is made, the other is born."

"Come away," said Afra impatiently: "no one can speak while Anita is on her hobby. Besides, I must get home early to trim a bonnet for to-morrow;" and without more leavetaking than a "Good-evening," which included every one, we found ourselves in the street.

"Who is Anita?" I asked.

"She is nobody just now: what she will be remains to be seen. Her family wish her to be an artist: she wishes to adopt the stage as a profession, and is studying for it sub rosa. Did you ever see a more tragic face?"

"Poor thing!" I involuntarily exclaimed.

"Don't pity her," said Afra, more seriously than she had yet spoken. "The best gift that can be bestowed upon a mortal is a strong natural inclination for any particular life and the opportunity of following it. The man or woman who has that can use the wheel of Fate for a spinning-wheel."

The next morning at the appointed time I met Afra at the station. "How do I look?" she asked, standing up for my inspection as soon as I appeared in sight, at the same time regarding as much of her dress as it was possible for her to see. But before I could reply the satisfied expression of her face changed: an unpleasant discovery had been made. "I have shoes on that are not mates," she exclaimed—"cloth and leather: that looks rather queer, doesn't it? Do you think it will be noticed? I could not decide which pair to wear, and put on one of each to see the effect: afterward I forgot them. Now, I suppose that would be thought eccentric, though any one might make the same mistake. It shows I have two pairs of shoes," she added more cheerfully, "and they are both black. How is my bonnet?"

The bonnet was black velvet, and we were in midsummer. The material, however, was skillfully draped with a veil, and a profusion of pink flowers gave it a seasonable air. A crimson bow was also tied at her neck; she complacently remarked that "pink and crimson harmonize beautifully;" and others of the party arriving at that moment, I was saved the trouble of making a polite answer.

The ride through ripening grain-fields and moss-thatched hamlets need not be described; suffice it to say, it was France and June. An omnibus was waiting at the station where we dismounted: it carried us near, but not to, our destination. After leaving it we walked through the streets of a low-roofed village, then followed a path bordered with wild mignonette and apple trees that wound up the side of a hill covered with vineyards. A couple of chattering magpies ran before us, an invisible cuckoo was heard between snatches of Italian melody warbled by the tenor sotto voce and the little company overflowed with gayety.

The house we arrived at looked as if it might be a castle in the air materialized—pointed windows hidden in ivy, through which you saw the chintz-covered walls of the interior; turrets on the roof and a stair-tower; odd nooks for pigeons and cattle; the color a weather-toned red, met by gray roofs, green trees and blue sky. We passed through it to the quaint garden: rows of dwarf pears bordered its paths, and trellises and walls supported nectarines and vines, with sunshine and shadow caressing the half-ripe fruit.

The shady spaces were occupied by guests who had arrived before us, and we saw with pleasure that ceremony had not been invited to attend. The host's kindly manner was sufficient to put the company at once at ease. We wandered at will from group to group, listening or conversing: introductions were sometimes given, but more often not.

At one table some ladies and gentlemen were playing the artistic game of "five points." A more difficult pastime was never invented. The materials necessary are simply a piece of paper and a pencil: it is their use that is extraordinary. A person puts five dots on the paper in whatever position fancy may dictate: on this slight foundation another is expected to design a figure, the puzzle being to include all the marks given. One that I saw had four of the dots placed unusually close together, and the fifth in a distant corner: this latter, in the opinion of the lookers-on, would surely prove refractory. After some moments of consideration, with pencil suspended and eye attentive, the artist commenced drawing. In ten minutes the sketch was finished. It was an angel: her upturned head took in the highest of the group of dots; one hand hanging by her side the next; a knee the third; and the flowing hem of her robe the fourth; but the fifth in the corner—what could reach it? With a touch of the pencil the angel's other hand appeared flinging up a censer attached to a long chain, which struck the solitary dot like a shot amid acclamations. To show that he did not consider the feat a tour de force, the artist turned the paper, and taking the same marks drew a devil in an entirely different attitude, the difficult point being reached by his pitchfork. This gave rise to a learned discussion as to whether the devil's emblematic pitchfork was not a descendant of Neptune's trident, which I did not stay to hear, as Afra whispered she wanted to present me to Monsieur C——, and I was taken to a gentleman of no great height, but of such wondrous width that Nature must have formed him in a most generous mood.

"You are American?" said this wide man to me as I was introduced, and without waiting for a reply went on: "I like your country-people: they admire frankly. Show them a picture, they exclaim, 'Beautiful! magnificent! lovely! exquisite! name your price;' and they buy it. Here the public look and look. 'Not bad,' they say, 'but the color is from Veronese, and that attitude is surely Raphael's. What a mine that man's genius has been to ambitious but less gifted artists!' and so they go on. I wish they would let the dead rest in peace. Are you acquainted with Mr. B—— of New York?"

I was obliged to say "No."

"I wish to send a message to him," he continued grandly: "tell him that I paint now for him alone."

"You are court-painter to Mr. B——," I remarked laughingly.

"Don't speak of courts," he exclaimed pettishly. "I was to have painted the baptism of the prince imperial for the state: it gave me no end of annoyance, and in the end was never finished."

"I understood that you insisted on painting the little prince nude, after the Rubens manner, and that was one ground of objection to the design," said Afra.

"The baby would have had on plenty of clothes: one of his dresses was sent from the Tuileries for Monsieur C—— to paint, and I sewed a rosette on it myself." This from the painter's wife.

"A countryman of yours sat for the head of a young priest at the ceremony. He had a fine countenance: he was studying art with me at the time, and has since been professor of drawing at your Naval Academy. Teaching is a sad trade—Pegasus dragging the plough."

"At least, your other great picture brought you nothing but praise."

"The public have since repented of being so good to me. Then, they could not say enough in my favor: now, if a person asks what I am doing, every one repeats like a parrot, 'C—— doesn't paint, C—— doesn't paint.' I have heard it so often that I begin to believe it myself, and when I am asked join the general cry, 'C—— doesn't paint.'"

I laughed, thinking this a joke, but I soon found that though C—— might be cynical, sarcastic or bitter, though he might excite unintentional laughter by his remarks, he was too sensitive a man to take any but a serious view of life. The imperfections of the world excited his disgust, his anger, never his mirth.

"Ah but, monsieur," said Afra, "you should be satisfied, and leave some little honor for the rest of us to gather. The stories one hears of your youth are like fairy-tales."

"And they are true," replied the artist with evident enjoyment. "In those days I was pointed out to people when I walked the street; which, by the way, gave rise to an odd incident. A gentleman thought he had seen me in a crowd, but he had taken an older and taller man for the great painter. He believed big pictures were painted by big men, and I had not then my present circumference. This gentleman sent me an invitation to dine with him. On the day appointed I arrived at the house, and was met at the door by my host, a look of surprise and annoyance on his face which he tried to conceal by a low bow, at the same time asking politely, 'How is your father?'—'Very well, thank you,' I returned, although I could not understand why my father's health should be a matter of interest to him.—'You have come to tell me of some catastrophe which prevents his attendance here to-day?'—'Not at all: I have come to dine with you, according to this invitation.' Here I pulled out the card, which I happened to have in my pocket.—'Are you the person here addressed?' he said, staring at me.—'I am'.—'I beg your pardon, there is a mistake: I meant it for your father, the painter of the "Décadence des Romains."'—'I am the painter of the "Décadence," but I am not my father.'—'You ought to be an older man.'—'I should have been, monsieur, had I been born sooner.'—At that moment a friend, overhearing the conversation and divining the cause, came and explained to my wonder-struck host that I was really the artist in question. With many apologies I was led into a hall adorned with floral arches in my honor, next to a beautiful salon, likewise decorated, and finally we reached the dining-room, which was arranged to represent my picture. Columns wreathed with flowers supported the roof; flowers festooned the white table-linen and adorned the antique vessels that covered it; couches of different colored silk were laid after the Roman fashion for the guests to recline upon; and lovely women dressed in costly Roman costumes, their heads crowned with flowers, were placed in the attitudes that you will see on my celebrated canvas. Was it not a graceful tribute to my genius?"

"If a Frenchman wants to pay a compliment, he never uses one that has done duty before, but invents something new," said Afra emphatically.

"What are you painting now, monsieur?" I asked.

"A series of pictures called 'Pierrot the Clown.' He succeeds in tricking the world in every station of life. I am just finishing his deathbed. All his friends are weeping about him: the doctor feels his pulse and gives some learned name to the disease—doctors know so much—while hidden everywhere around the room are empty bottles. The drunken clown plays with even death for a mask."

"I thought he painted such romantic pictures," said I to Afra as we turned from the master.

"So he does: there is one in his studio now. A girl clad in gray and shadow—open-air shade which in his hands is so clear and luminous. She walks along a garden-path, her head bent down, dreaming as she goes, and unconsciously nearing a half-open gateway, through which the sunshine is streaming. Above the rustic gate two doves are billing and cooing. You feel sure the girl is about to pass through this typical, sunshiny, invitingly half-open door; and—what is beyond?"

Just then we were called to lunch, a plentiful but not luxurious repast. There was no lack of lively repartees and anecdotes, and we had speeches and songs afterward. I wonder if I ever heard "'Tis better to laugh than be sighing" given with more zest than on that day? One could easily imagine that it was such an occasion as this that had inspired it.

Lunch being over, Monsieur C—— was asked to relate one of his own stories. I cannot give it entire, but the plot was this: A pilgrim, whom he called poor Jacques, hearing much of heaven, set out to find his way to the blessed abode, with only a little dog to accompany him on the journey. As he went he met many of his contemporaries, who had made what a walker would style but poor time. The allusions to well-known peculiarities in the various people and their occupation in the other life caused much amusement. For instance, Ingres the painter was seated by the roadside playing Rossini's music on the violin, on which instrument he was a great proficient. But he was known to detest the Italian's music before he started heavenward: his taste must then have grown en route. (Critics might object to this supposition.) However, Jacques was anxious to push on, and spent little time listening. But he was a good-hearted man, and, though he would not delay for his own amusement, he could not refuse to stop when fellow-pilgrims asked him for assistance. Little children were continually straying from the path, and without Jacques and his little dog would inevitably have been lost. Feeble old people were standing looking with despair at some obstacle that without Jacques's friendly arm they would have found it impossible to pass. Young men who never looked where they were walking were continually calling on him for a hand to help them out of the ditch where they had fallen; and young girls—well, one would have supposed they had never been given feet of their own to walk with, from the trouble they were to poor Jacques. The worst of it was, that when all these good people were well over their troubles they called Jacques a simpleton for his pains, and refused to have any intercourse with him, giving him the worst side of the road and laughing at his old-fashioned staff and scrip, and even at his little dog, to which they gave many a sly kick. Nor was it any wonder, for there were many in the company robed in silk, wearing precious stones and with well-filled wallets by their sides. Jacques was but human, and often he wished he had never set out for heaven at all in such company; but even in their bitterest moods neither Jacques nor the little dog could ever hear a cry of distress without forgetting all unkindness and rushing at once to the rescue.

These labors exhausted Jacques's strength: the little dog, too, was worn to a shadow, and so timid from ill-treatment that it was only when some great occasion called out his mettle that you saw what a noble little dog-heart he had. He did his best to comfort his master, but when Jacques's sandals were worn out and his cloak in rags, and when he looked forward and saw nothing yet of the holy city in view, though he still tried to go forward, Nature gave way: he sank to the ground, and the little dog licked his hands in vain to awaken him.

There is a band of angels who each night descend the holy mount whereon is built the city, in search of such pilgrims as have failed through fatigue to reach the gate. They are clothed in robes woven of good deeds, which never lose their lustre, for they are renewed every day. It was this company which found Jacques in his swoon by the roadside. One gently touched his tired body, and more than the vigor of youth leapt through his veins. Another whispered "Come," and he rose and walked with them. As he moved on with eyes abashed, thinking of the rents in his garments and regretting their poverty, he noticed that they too were changed, and were as bright as those of his companions. "Who has done this?" he said, venturing to address the one that walked at his right hand. "You wore them always," he answered with an angelic smile, "but it is this light which shows their beauty;" and he pointed to that which streamed from the celestial walls.

There was much applause. I saw Afra wipe a tear from her eye; only, a thin-faced individual who sat near me whispered that it was too long. The delicacy and pathos of expression and language it is impossible to give, and, though old in form, the story was skillfully new in incident; nor must I forget that the little dog slipped through the eternal gate with his master. Some one asked the troubadour why he did not write it out. He shook his head and threw up his hands as he replied, "I wrote one book and gave it to a literary man for correction. You should have seen the manuscript when he sent it home: not a page but was scarred and cut. He called that 'style.' Now, what did I want with style? I wanted to write as I talked."

"Certainly," said one. "What did you do?"

"I quickly put Monsieur le Rédacteur's style out of my book; then I published it. George Sand promised to write the preface, but some busybody told her that I was attacking the whole world, so she would have nothing to do with it. She was misled: I blamed nothing in my book but what deserved censure."

Having heard this excellent representation of the ancient minstrel, we were shortly given a touch of the modern usurper of the name. A gentleman was present who in the many turns of Fortune's wheel had once found himself a follower of the burnt-cork persuasion. He gave us a negro melody with a lively accompaniment on the guitar. A melancholy Spanish song followed. The company again dispersed into congenial groups, and in the long twilight you heard the murmur of voices broken by occasional snatches of melody or the nightingale's song.


"And what do you think of Bohemia?" asked Afra as we returned that night.

"It is different from what I expected. They are refined, and, though frank, never rude. I think—"

Afra laughed: "You had unconsciously thought them a set of sharpers; but there is a great difference between living by your brains and living by your wits. My dear, you have broken bread with giants to-day: such men live in another world that they may rule this one."