"Your Celeste is like them all, Gobinet; she's jealous of the Bacchanal Queen." "Jealous!--do you think me jealous? Well now! that's too bad. If I chose to be as showy as she is they would talk of me as much. After all, it's only a nickname that makes her reputation! nickname!" "In that you have nothing to envy her--since you are called Celeste!" "You know well enough, Gobinet, that Celeste is my real name." "Yes; but it's fancied a nickname--when one looks in your face." "Gobinet, I will put that down to your account." "And Oscar will help you to add it up, eh?" "Yes; and you shall see the total. When I carry one, the remainder will not be you." "Celeste, you make me cry! I only meant to say that your celestial name does not go well with your charming little face, which is still more mischievous than that of the Bacchanal Queen." "That's right; wheedle me now, wretch!" "I swear by the accursed head of my landlord, that, if you liked, you could spread yourself as much as the Bacchanal Queen--which is saying a great deal." "The fact is, that the Bacchanal had cheek enough, in all conscience." "Not to speak of her fascinating the bobbies!" "And magnetizing the beaks." "They may get as angry as they please; she always finishes by making them laugh." "And they all call her: Queen!" "Last night she charmed a slop (as modest as a country girl) whose purity took up arms against the famous dance of the Storm-blown Tulip." "What a quadrille! Sleepinbuff and the Bacchanal Queen, having opposite to them Rose-Pompon and Ninny Moulin!" "And all four making tulips as full-blown as could be!" "By-the-bye, is it true what they say of Ninny Moulin?" "What?" "Why that he is a writer, and scribbles pamphlets on religion." "Yes, it is true. I have often seen him at my employer's, with whom he deals; a bad paymaster, but a jolly fellow!" "And pretends to be devout, eh?" "I believe you, my boy--when it is necessary; then he is my Lord Dumoulin, as large as life. He rolls his eyes, walks with his head on one side, and his toes turned in; but, when the piece is played out, he slips away to the balls of which he is so fond. The girls christened him Ninny Moulin. Add, that he drinks like a fish, and you have the photo of the cove. All this doesn't prevent his writing for the religious newspapers; and the saints, whom he lets in even oftener than himself, are ready to swear by him. You should see his articles and his tracts-- only see, not read!--every page is full of the devil and his horns, and the desperate fryings which await your impious revolutionists--and then the authority of the bishops, the power of the Pope--hang it! how could I know it all? This toper, Ninny Moulin, gives good measure enough for their money!" "The fact is, that he is both a heavy drinker and a heavy swell. How he rattled on with little Rose-Pompon in the dance and the full-blown tulip!" "And what a rum chap he looked in his Roman helmet and top-boots." "Rose-Pompon dances divinely, too; she has the poetic twist." "And don't show her heels a bit!" "Yes; but the Bacchanal Queen is six thousand feet above the level of any common leg-shaker. I always come back to her step last night in the full-blown tulip." "It was huge!" "It was serene!" "If I were father of a family, I would entrust her with the education of my sons!" "It was that step, however, which offended the bobby's modesty." "The fact is, it was a little free." "Free as air--so the policeman comes up to her, and says: `Well, my Queen, is your foot to keep on a-goin' up forever?' `No, modest warrior!' replies the Queen; `I practice the step only once every evening, to be able to dance it when I am old. I made a vow of it, that you might become an inspector.'" "What a comic card!" "I don't believe she will remain always with Sleepinbuff." "Because he has been a workman?" "What nonsense! it would preciously become us, students and shop-boys, to give ourselves airs! No; but I am astonished at the Queen's fidelity." "Yes--they've been a team for three or four good months." "She's wild upon him, and he on her." "They must lead a gay life." "Sometimes I ask myself where the devil Sleepinbuff gets all the money he spends. It appears that he pays all last night's expenses, three coaches-and-four, and a breakfast this morning for twenty, at ten francs a-head." "They say he has come into some property. That's why Ninny Moulin, who has a good nose for eating and drinking, made acquaintance with him last night--leaving out of the question that he may have some designs on the Bacchanal Queen." "He! In a lot! He's rather too ugly. The girls like to dance with him because he makes people laugh--but that's all. Little Rose-Pompon, who is such a pretty creature, has taken him as a harmless chap-her-own, in the absence of her student." "The coaches! the coaches!" exclaimed the crowd, all with one voice. Forced to stop in the midst of the maskers, Mother Bunch had not lost a word of this conversation, which was deeply painful to her, as it concerned her sister, whom she had not seen for a long time. Not that the Bacchanal Queen had a bad heart; but the sight of the wretched poverty of Mother Bunch--a poverty which she had herself shared, but which she had not had the strength of mind to bear any longer--caused such bitter grief to the gay, thoughtless girl, that she would no more expose herself to it, after she had in vain tried to induce her sister to accept assistance, which the latter always refused, knowing that its source could not be honorable. "The coaches! the coaches!" once more exclaimed the crowd, as they pressed forward with enthusiasm, so that Mother Bunch, carried on against her will, was thrust into the foremost rank of the people assembled to see the show. It was, indeed, a curious sight. A man on horseback, disguised as a postilion, his blue jacket embroidered with silver, and enormous tail from which the powder escaped in puffs, and a hat adorned with long ribbons, preceded the first carriage, cracking his whip, and crying with all his might: "Make way for the Bacchanal Queen and her court!" In an open carriage, drawn by four lean horses, on which rode two old postilions dressed as devils, was raised a downright pyramid of men and women, sitting, standing, leaning, in every possible variety of odd, extravagant, and grotesque costume; altogether an indescribable mass of bright colors, flowers, ribbons, tinsel and spangles. Amid this heap of strange forms and dresses appeared wild or graceful countenances, ugly or handsome features--but all animated by the feverish excitement of a jovial frenzy--all turned with an expression of fanatical admiration towards the second carriage, in which the Queen was enthroned, whilst they united with the multitude in reiterated shouts of "Long live the Bacchanal Queen." This second carriage, open like the first, contained only the four dancers of the famous step of the Storm-blown Tulip--Ninny Moulin, Rose- Pompon, Sleepinbuff, and the Bacchanal Queen. Dumoulin, the religious writer, who wished to dispute possession of Mme. de la Sainte-Colombe with his patron, M. Rodin--Dumoulin, surnamed Ninny Moulin, standing on the front cushions, would have presented a magnificent study for Callot or Gavarni, that eminent artist, who unites with the biting strength and marvellous fancy of an illustrious caricaturist, the grace, the poetry, and the depth of Hogarth. Ninny Moulin, who was about thirty-five years of age, wore very much back upon his head a Roman helmet of silver paper. A voluminous plume of black feathers, rising from a red wood holder, was stuck on one side of this headgear, breaking the too classic regularity of its outline. Beneath this casque, shone forth the most rubicund and jovial face, that ever was purpled by the fumes of generous wine. A prominent nose, with its primitive shape modestly concealed beneath a luxuriant growth of pimples, half red, half violet, gave a funny expression to a perfectly beardless face; while a large mouth, with thick lips turning their insides outwards, added to the air of mirth and jollity which beamed from his large gray eyes, set flat in his head. On seeing this joyous fellow, with a paunch like Silenus, one could not help asking how it was, that he had not drowned in wine, a hundred times over, the gall, bile, and venom which flowed from his pamphlets against the enemies of Ultramontanism, and how his Catholic beliefs could float upwards in the midst of these mad excesses of drink and dancing. The question would have appeared insoluble, if one had not remembered how many actors, who play the blackest and most hateful first robbers on the stage, are, when off it, the best fellow in the world. The weather being cold, Ninny Moulin wore a kind of box-coat, which, being half-open, displayed his cuirass of scales, and his flesh-colored pantaloons, finishing just below the calf in a pair of yellow tops to his boots. Leaning forward in front of the carriage, he uttered wild shouts of delight, mingled with the words: "Long live the Bacchanal Queen!"-- after which, he shook and whirled the enormous rattle he held in his hand. Standing beside him, Sleepinbuff waved on high a banner of white silk, on which were the words: "Love and joy to the Bacchanal Queen!" Sleepinbuff was about twenty-five years of age. His countenance was gay and intelligent, surrounded by a collar of chestnut-colored whiskers; but worn with late hours and excesses, it expressed a singular mixture of carelessness and hardihood, recklessness and mockery; still, no base or wicked passion had yet stamped there its fatal impress. He was the perfect type of the Parisian, as the term is generally applied, whether in the army, in the provinces, on board a king's ship, or a merchantman. It is not a compliment, and yet it is far from being an insult; it is an epithet which partakes at once of blame, admiration, and fear; for if, in this sense, the Parisian is often idle and rebellious, he is also quick at his work, resolute in danger, and always terribly satirical and fond of practical jokes. He was dressed in a very flashy style. He wore a black velvet jacket with silver buttons, a scarlet waistcoat, trousers with broad blue stripes, a Cashmere shawl for a girdle with ends loosely floating, and a chimney-pot hat covered with flowers and streamers. This disguise set off his light, easy figure to great advantage. At the back of the carriage, standing up on the cushions, were Rose- Pompon and the Bacchanal Queen. Rose-Pompon, formerly a fringe-maker, was about seventeen years old, and had the prettiest and most winning little face imaginable. She was gayly dressed in debardeur costume. Her powdered wig, over which was smartly cocked on one side an orange and green cap laced with silver, increased the effect of her bright black eyes, and of her round, carnation cheeks. She wore about her neck an orange-colored cravat, of the same material as her loose sash. Her tight jacket and narrow vest of light green velvet, with silver ornaments, displayed to the best advantage a charming figure, the pliancy of which must have well suited the evolutions of the Storm- blown Tulip. Her large trousers, of the same stuff and color as the jacket, were not calculated to hide any of her attractions. The Bacchanal Queen, being at the least a head taller, leaned with one hand on the shoulder of Rose-Pompon. Mother Bunch's sister ruled, like a true monarch, over this mad revelry, which her very presence seemed to inspire, such influence had her own mirth and animation over all that surrounded her. She was a tall girl of about twenty years of age, light and graceful, with regular features, and a merry, racketing air. Like her sister, she had magnificent chestnut hair, and large blue eyes; but instead of being soft and timid, like those of the young sempstress, the latter shone with indefatigable ardor in the pursuit of pleasure. Such was the energy of her vivacious constitution, that, notwithstanding many nights and days passed in one continued revel, her complexion was as pure, her cheeks as rosy, her neck as fresh and fair, as if she had that morning issued from some peaceful home. Her costume, though singular and fantastic, suited her admirably. It was composed of a tight, long-waisted bodice in cloth of gold, trimmed with great bunches of scarlet ribbon, the ends of which streamed over her naked arms, and a short petticoat of scarlet velvet, ornamented with golden beads and spangles. This petticoat reached half- way down a leg, at once trim and strong, in a white silk stocking, and red buskin with brass heel. Never had any Spanish dancer a more supple, elastic, and tempting form, than this singular girl, who seemed possessed with the spirit of dancing and perpetual motion, for, almost every moment, a slight undulation of head, hips, and shoulders seemed to follow the music of an invisible orchestra; while the tip of her right foot, placed on the carriage door in the most alluring manner, continued to beat time--for the Bacchanal Queen stood proudly erect upon the cushions. A sort of gilt diadem, the emblem of her noisy sovereignty, hung with little bells, adorned her forehead. Her long hair, in two thick braids, was drawn back from her rosy cheeks, and twisted behind her head. Her left hand rested on little Rose-Pompon's shoulder, and in her right she held an enormous nosegay, which she waved to the crowd, accompanying each salute with bursts of laughter. It would be difficult to give a complete idea of this noisily animated and fantastic scene, which included also a third carriage, filled, like the first, with a pyramid of grotesque and extravagant masks. Amongst the delighted crowd, one person alone contemplated the picture with deep sorrow. It was Mother Bunch, who was still kept, in spite of herself, in the first rank of spectators. Separated from her sister for a long time, she now beheld her in all the pomp of her singular triumph, in the midst of the cries of joy, and the applause of her companions in pleasure. Yet the eyes of the young sempstress grew dim with tears; for, though the Bacchanal Queen seemed to share in the stunning gayety of all around her--though her face was radiant with smiles, and she appeared fully to enjoy the splendors of her temporary elevation--yet she had the sincere pity of the poor workwoman, almost in rags, who was seeking, with the first dawn of morning, the means of earning her daily bread. Mother Bunch had forgotten the crowd, to look only at her sister, whom she tenderly loved--only the more tenderly, that she thought her situation to be pitied. With her eyes fixed on the joyous and beautiful girl, her pale and gentle countenance expressed the most touching and painful interest. All at once, as the brilliant glance of the Bacchanal Queen travelled along the crowd, it lighted on the sad features of Mother Bunch.
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