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Last summer I was at Paris, and had gone over to Versailles to meet a party, one of which was a young lady to whom I was tenderly . . . But, never mind. The day was rainy, and the party did not keep its appointment; and after yawning through the interminable palace picture-galleries, and then making an attempt to smoke a cigar in the Palace garden - for which crime I was nearly run through the body by a rascally sentinel I was driven, perforce, into the great bleak, lonely Place before the Palace, with its roads branching off to all the towns in the world, which Louis and Napoleon once intended to conquer, and there enjoyed my favourite pursuit at leisure, and was meditating whether I should go back to "Véfour's" for dinner, or patronise my friend M. Duboux of the "Hôtel des Réservoirs," who gives not only a good dinner, but as dear a one as heart can desire. I was, I was, I say, meditating these things, when a carriage passed by. It was a smart, low calash, with a pair of bay horses and a postilion in a drab jacket, that twinkled with innumerable buttons, and I was too much occupied in admiring the build of the machine, and the extreme tightness of the fellow's inexpressibles, to look at the personages within the carriage, when the gentleman roared out "Fitz!" and the postilion pulled up, and the lady gave a shrill scream, and a little blackmuzzled spaniel began barking and yelling with all his might, and a man with moustaches jumped out of the vehicle, and began shaking me by the hand.
"Drive home, John," said the gentleman: "I'll be with you, my love, in an instant-it's an old friend. Fitz, let me present you to Mrs. Berry."
The lady made an exceedingly gentle inclination of her black-velvet bonnet, and said, "Pray, my love, remember that it is just dinner-time. However, never mind me." And with another slight toss and a nod to
the postilion, that individual's white leather breeches began to jump up and down again in the saddle, and the carriage disappeared, leaving me shaking my old friend Berry by the hand.
He had long quitted the army, but still wore his military beard, which gave to his fair pink face a fierce and lion-like look. He was extraordinarily glad to see me, as only men are glad who live in a small town, or in dull company. There is no destroyer of friendships like London, where a man has no time to think of his neighbour, and has far too many friends to care for them. He told me in a breath of his marriage, and how happy he was, and straight insisted that I must come home to dinner, and see more of Angelica, who had invited me herself-did n't I hear her?
"Mrs. Berry asked you, Frank; but I certainly did not hear her ask me!"
"She would not have mentioned the dinner but that
she meant me to ask you. I know she did," cried Frank Berry. "And, besides - hang it - I'm master of the house. So come you shall. No ceremony, old boy — one or two friends-snug family party- and we'll talk of old times over a bottle of claret."
There did not seem to me to be the slightest objection to this arrangement, except that my boots were muddy, and my coat of the morning sort. But as it was quite impossible to go to Paris and back again in a quarter of an hour, and as a man may dine with perfect comfort to himself in a frock-coat, it did not occur to me to be particularly squeamish, or to decline an old friend's invitation upon a pretext so trivial.
Accordingly we walked to a small house in the Avenue de Paris, and were admitted first into a small garden ornamented by a grotto, a fountain, and several nymphs in plaster-of-Paris, then up a mouldy old steep
stair into a hall, where a statue of Cupid and another of Venus welcomed us with their eternal simper; then through a salle-à-manger, where covers were laid for six; and finally to a little saloon, where Fido the dog began to howl furiously according to his wont.
It was one of the old pavilions that had been built for a pleasure-house in the gay days of Versailles, ornamented with abundance of damp Cupids and cracked gilt cornices, and old mirrors let into the walls, and gilded once, but now painted a dingy French white. The long low windows looked into the court, where the fountain played its ceaseless dribble, surrounded by numerous rank creepers and weedy flowers, but in the midst of which the statues stood with their bases quite moist and green.
I hate fountains and statues in dark, confined places: that cheerless, endless plashing of water is the most inhospitable sound ever heard. The stiff grin of those French statues, or ogling Canova Graces, is by no means more happy, I think, than the smile of a skeleton, and not so natural. Those little pavilions in which the old roués sported, were never meant to be seen by daylight, depend on 't. They were lighted up with a hundred wax-candles, and the little fountain yonder was meant only to cool their claret. And so, my first impression of Berry's place of abode was rather a dismal one. However, I heard him in the salle-à-manger drawing the corks, which went off with a cloop, and that consoled
As for the furniture of the rooms appertaining to the Berry's, there was a harp in a leather case, and a piano, and a flute-box, and a huge tambour with a Saracen's nose just begun, and likewise on the table a multiplicity of those little gilt books, half sentimental and half religious, which the wants of the age and of our young
ladies have produced in such numbers of late. I quarrel with no lady's taste in that way; but heigho! I had rather that Mrs. Fitz-Boodle should read "Humphrey Clinker!
Beside these works, there was a "Peerage" of course. What genteel family was ever without one?
I was making for the door to see Frank drawing the corks, and was bounced at by the amiable little blackmuzzled spaniel, who fastened his teeth in my pantaloons, and received a polite kick in consequence, which sent him howling to the other end of the room, and the animal was just in the act of performing that feat of agility, when the door opened and madame made her appearance. Frank came behind her peering over her shoulder with rather an anxious look.
Mrs. Berry is an exceedingly white and lean person. She has thick eyebrows, which meet rather dangerously over her nose, which is Grecian, and a small mouth with no lipsa sort of feeble pucker in the face as it were. Under her eyebrows are a pair of enormous eyes, which she is in the habit of turning constantly ceiling-wards. Her hair is rather scarce, and worn in bandeaux, and she commonly mounts a sprig of laurel, or a dark flower or two, which, with the sham tour-I believe that is the name of the knob of artificial hair that many ladies sport gives her a rigid and classical look. She is dressed in black, and has invariably the neatest of silk stockings and shoes; for forsooth her foot is a fine one, and she always sits with it before her, looking at it, stamping it, and admiring it a great deal. "Fido," she says to her spaniel, "you have almost crushed my poor foot; " or, "Frank," to her husband, "bring me a footstool; " or, "I suffer so from cold in the feet," and so forth; but be the conversation what it will, she is always sure to put her foot into it.
She invariably wears on her neck the miniature of her late father, Sir George Catacomb, apothecary to George III.; and she thinks those two men the greatest the world ever saw. She was born in Baker Street, Portman Square, and that is saying almost enough of her. She is as long, as genteel, and as dreary, as that deadly-lively place, and sports, by way of ornament, her papa's hatchment, as it were, as every tenth Baker Street house has taught her.
What induced such a jolly fellow as Frank Berry to marry Miss Angelica Catacomb no one can tell. He met her, he says, at a ball at Hampton Court, where his regiment was quartered, and where, to this day, lives "her aunt Lady Pash." She alludes perpetually in conversation to that celebrated lady; and if you look in the Baronetage" to the pedigree of the Pash family, you may see manuscript notes by Mrs. Frank Berry, relative to them and herself. Thus, when you see in print that Sir John Pash married Angelica, daughter of Graves Catacomb, Esq., in a neat hand you find written, and sister of the late Sir George Catacomb, of Baker Street, Portman Square: "A. B." follows of course. It is a wonder how fond ladies are of writing in books and signing their charming initials! Mrs. Berry's beforementioned little gilt books are scored with pencilmarks, or occasionally at the margin with a! - note of interjection, or the words "Too true, A. B." and so Much may be learned with regard to lovely woman by a look at the books she reads in; and I had gained no inconsiderable knowledge of Mrs. Berry by the ten minutes spent in the drawing-room, while she was at her toilet in the adjoining bed-chamber.
"You have often heard me talk of George Fitz," says Berry, with an appealing look to madame. "Very often," answered his lady, in a tone which