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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Tigruche
By Louis Veuillot (1813–1883)
 
From ‘Les Odeurs de Paris’

I BLESS my lot: I have seen Tigruche!  1
  There is a literary man in Paris who is the second correspondent of a foreign journal. Do not build an air-castle. This foreign journal is not English; it pays little, does little business. The first correspondent, charged with furnishing French news, which must eventually return to France, receives something from the State for divulging its secrets; he can, or at least he could, pay his rent. The second correspondent is only charged with overthrowing European kings and their ministers: that does not bring in much. Nevertheless he does not do it sparingly. But after all, his thunderbolts are not resounding, and the European kings and their ministers do not tremble at all. This second correspondent is named Péquet. It is Tigruche.  2
  Péquet is the scourge of kings, Tigruche is the friend of artists.  3
  Those who know Péquet do not know Tigruche; those who know Tigruche do not know Péquet. I have seen Péquet—as one may see him; I have seen Tigruche.  4
  It was one night toward morning. My good fortune led me into a café on the boulevard where they were supping. I learned later that the artists of the neighboring theatres were accustomed to go there to regale upon a certain popular soup and certain ragoûts.  5
  They entered in couples; and soon the café was full. Among this crowd some were noted, even famous. They talked noisily in a free language, coarse rather than original, startling rather than picturesque. Men and women were called “my old woman,” “my little old woman,” “my little olive-oil.” It is current, and has endured a long time. They thee-and-thou’d each other. I listened without finding the scene as interesting as I should have expected.  6
  I saw the prima donna of a little theatre come in. She was accompanied by her master of earlier in the evening, and her slave of a quarter of an hour. The master was not yet tired, the slave not yet emancipated. She had also her companion, who was very plump. She was a person of important duties, however: she was intrusted with showing out the poets who brought her mistress the conceptions of their genius. Twenty of them presented themselves every day. It was necessary to show them out politely, because some of them might slip into the little journals, and embarrass Madame. So she said; and her hat astonished me.  7
  The star was immediately surrounded, and warmly felicitated upon her last creation, in which she sang “J’suis rincée,” which will be the national song of the season. She received all this homage disdainfully, and said at last, “This bothers me. I wasn’t made for stale jokes, and to amuse good-for-naughts. I have poetry in my heart.”—I recalled Molière, so ambitious of playing tragedy, and who felt so severely the blows which his writings drew upon him. But the shiny hat of the lady companion stifled the spark of compassion which these words had inspired. If poetry were in your heart, old lady, your lady companion would have another hat!  8
  I might note that the great artist ordered the popular soup and three poached eggs; but these details are in contemporary chronicles.  9
  My interest was languishing, and I was thinking of withdrawing from the company of these stars, when a hurly-burly of a hundred cries, making noise enough, rose from all the tables:—“Tigruche! uche! uche! Here, Tigruche!—Aren’t you shabby, Gruguche! Aren’t you ugly!—You get crazier from hour to hour, my jewel!—And your King of Prussia, won’t he part with an overcoat, then?—And your scum of Norway, isn’t he coming?—You haven’t thrashed your Bismarck enough, Tigruche: go at it again! uche! uche!”  10
  Thus made his entry, Péquet, the Terror of Princes!  11
  In truth, Péquet is not prepossessing in appearance. I have never seen a man who looks more like a wet dog. He went from table to table offering his hand and receiving fillips. Shall I tell it? I who read Péquet sometimes, and who am not his political friend, experienced something which might pass for pity. The poor fellow took everything so gently! He offered so affectionately his poor paws which no one touched cordially. I could not make out from his face whether he was humiliated or content with the terrible familiarity shown him. One person alone did not insult him,—the lady companion of the star. But the star in return, when he went to salute her, bowing almost to the ground, repulsed him in such a fashion that he asked mercy. “My little Nini,” he said to her, “don’t be as hard toward me as I am devoted to you!” There were tears in the heart of Tigruche, but how could a tear issue from the eye of Péquet?  12
  Nevertheless, such was his accent that Nini herself was touched. “Come,” she said, “Tigruche, go and see if my eggs are ready.” He precipitated himself toward the kitchen, and soon returned sparkling: “My little angel, they are going to serve you.”  13
  This was growing sad; another accident appeared tragic to me.  14
  A waiter planted himself before the lady companion, and asked in a half-bantering tone what he could serve her with. “Nothing,” she said stoically: “I am not hungry.” A fat man with a rather silly air was listening. “You are not hungry!” he said, “and in a minute you’ll be picking in our plates.” “If I don’t pick in yours,” answered the lady companion, “what does it matter to you?” “Now lose your temper!” went on the fat man. “Why don’t you say that you haven’t a cent? Every one has seen hard-up days.” “And every one may see them again,” answered the companion more sharply. She added, “I don’t ask for anything.”  15
  “No,” said the other, “but you take without asking. Never mind, I’ll pay! Order what you want. I like that better than to see you picking a little here and a little there, as you always do.”  16
  But the poor thing—oh, cruel honor!—dared not accept. “If I order, I’ll pay. I have money.” I think the woman has been an actress.  17
  The fat man lost patience. “You have money? You? Oh, come now! Ha! ha! Let us see your money, then. Attention, ladies and gentlemen: Dolorès is going to show her money!”  18
  There was silence of a sort. Dolorès glanced around with stormy eyes. Tigruche snatched the star’s eggs from the waiter, and placed them before that lady, who attacked them at once. Everybody looked at the companion. A mocking voice arose: “Dolorès, my little one, show us your pretty money!”  19
  Dolorès began to cry. “Stupid thing!” said the fat man.  20
  Dolorès was left in peace. A few minutes later, her eyes dry again, she was picking right and left in her neighbors’ plates,—that of the fat man included.  21
  Tigruche, friend of the star, was offered nothing and took nothing: he was as disinterested and as unfortunate as Péquet, the Terror of Princes.  22
 
 
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