One pleasant spring evening, the negro Mok sat behind a table in the well-known beer-shop called the “Black Cat.” He had before him a half-emptied beer-glass, and in front of him was a pile of three small white dishes. These signified that Mok had had three glasses of beer, and when he should finish the one in his hand, and should order another, the waiter would bring with it another little white plate, which he would put on the table, on the pile already there, and which would signify that the African gentleman must pay for four glasses of beer.
Mok was enjoying himself very much. It was not often that he had such an opportunity to sample the delights of Paris. His young master, Ralph, had given him strict orders never to go out at night, or in his leisure hours, unless accompanied by Cheditafa. The latter was an extremely important and sedate personage. The combined dignity of a butler and a clergyman were more than ever evident in his person, and he was a painful drawback to the more volatile Mok. Mok had very fine clothes, which it rejoiced him to display. He had a fine appetite for everything fit to eat and drink. He had money in his pockets, and it delighted him to see people and to see things, although he might not know who they were or what they were. He knew nothing of French, and his power of expressing himself in English had not progressed very far. But on this evening, in the jolly precincts of the Black Cat, he did not care whether the people used language or not. He did not care what they did, so that he could sit there and enjoy himself. When he wanted more beer, the waiter understood him, and that was enough.
The jet-black negro, gorgeously arrayed in the livery Ralph had chosen for him, and with his teeth and eyeballs whiter than the pile of plates before him, was an object of great interest to the company in the beer-shop. They talked to him, and although he did not understand them, or answer them, they knew he was enjoying himself. And when the landlord rang a big bell, and a pale young man, wearing a high hat, and sitting at a table opposite him, threw into his face an expression of exalted melancholy, and sang a high-pitched song, Mok showed how he appreciated the performance by thumping more vigorously on the table than any of the other people who applauded the singer.
Again and again the big bell was rung, and there were other songs and choruses, and then the company turned toward Mok and called on him to sing. He did not understand them, but he laughed and pounded his fist upon the table. But when the landlord came down to his table, and rang the bell in front of him, that sent an informing idea into the African head. He had noticed that every time the bell had been rung, somebody had sung, and now he knew what was wanted of him. He had had four glasses of beer, and he was an obliging fellow, so he nodded his head violently, and everybody stopped doing what they had been doing, and prepared to listen.