“I am not much of a philosopher. I tried my fortune and failed, and I thought I could bear it, but it is unendurable. Perhaps I shall find it more tolerable away from her,” said Calvert, gloomily.
“Then if you won’t tempt your fortune further, come to London with me, Ned. I promise you diversion and excitement. There are other interesting things to study besides the ‘governments of different European powers,’” and Mr. Morris laughed and tapped Mr. Jefferson’s letter, which he held in his hand. “I am not averse to going away myself. Ugh! Paris has become insufferable these days, with its riots and murders and houses marked for destruction. ’Tis the irony of fate that this breeding-spot of every kind and degree of vice known under high Heaven should come forward in the sacred cause of liberty! Besides all of which, Madame de Flahaut has found a new admirer. She swore eternal affection for me, but nothing here below can last forever,” he went on, in his old cynical fashion. “I embarrass her manoeuvres, and ’twere well I were away and leave a fair field for my rival.” As he spoke, the clock on the mantel chimed the hour of half after eleven.
“’Tis Christmas eve, Ned,” he said, getting up. “Perhaps we sha’n’t be in Paris for another, and so I propose we go and hear mass at Notre Dame. ’Tis a most Christian and edifying ceremony, I believe. Garat is to sing the Te Deum, so Madame de Flauhaut tells me.”
The two gentlemen decided to walk, the night being clear and frosty, and so, dismissing Mr. Morris’s carriage, they sauntered leisurely down to the Place Louis XV. and so by the way of the Quai de Bourbon and the Quai de l’Ecole over the Pont Neuf to the great parvis of Notre Dame. Arrived at the Cathedral, the Suisse, in scarlet velvet and gold lace, gave them places over against the choir, where they could hear and see all that passed. Though ’twas midnight, the great church was filled with a throng of worshippers, who knelt and rose and knelt again as mass proceeded. From the altar rose clouds of incense from censers swung by acolytes; now and then could be heard the tinkle of a silver bell at the Elevation of the Host and the voice of the priest, monotonous and indistinct, in that vast edifice. Lights twinkled, the air grew heavy with incense, and great bursts of music rolled from the organ-loft. ’Twas a magnificent ceremonial, and Mr. Morris and Calvert came away thrilled and awed. They made their way out by the old rue St. Louis and the Quai des Orfevres, and, keeping still to the left bank of the Seine, did not cross until they came to the Pont Royal. From the bridge they could see far down the river and the lights of Paris on both sides of the water. A feathery sprinkling of snow, which had fallen in the afternoon, lay over everything; but the rack of clouds which had brought it had blown away, and the night was frosty and starlit. A tremulous excitement and unrest seemed to be in the keen air.