It was a simple dinner and a little stodgy for that time of the year, but the two men were hungry and sat at table, almost alone in the upper room, for a long time, saying how good everything was, and from time to time despatching the saturnine waiter, a Madrileno, for more peppers. When at last they came out into the narrow street, and thence to the thronged Boulevard des Italiens, it was nearly eleven o’clock. They stood for a little time in the shelter of a kiosk, looking down the boulevard to where the Place de l’Opera opened wide and the lights of the Cafe de la Paix shone garish in the night. And Ste. Marie said:
“There’s a street fete in Montmartre. We might drive home that way.”
“An excellent idea,” said the other man. “The fact that Montmartre lies in an opposite direction from home makes the plan all the better. And after that we might drive home through the Bois. That’s much farther in the wrong direction. Lead on!”
So they sprang into a waiting fiacre, and were dragged up the steep, stone-paved hill to the heights, where La Boheme still reigns, though the glory of Moulin Rouge has departed and the trail of the tourist is over all. They found Montmartre very much en fete. In the Place Blanche were two of the enormous and brilliantly lighted merry-go-rounds, which only Paris knows—one furnished with stolid cattle, theatrical-looking horses, and Russian sleighs; the other with the ever-popular galloping pigs. When these dreadful machines were in rotation, mechanical organs, concealed somewhere in their bowels, emitted hideous brays and shrieks which mingled with the shrieks of the ladies mounted upon the galloping pigs, and together insulted a peaceful sky.
The square was filled with that extremely heterogeneous throng which the Parisian street fete gathers together, but it was, for the most part, a well-dressed throng, largely recruited from the boulevards, and it was quite determined to have a very good time in the cheerful, harmless Latin fashion. The two men got down from their fiacre and elbowed a way through the good-natured crowd to a place near the more popular of the merry-go-rounds. The machine was in rotation. Its garish lights shone and glittered, its hidden mechanical organ blared a German waltz tune, the huge, pink-varnished pigs galloped gravely up and down as the platform upon which they were mounted whirled round and round. A little group of American trippers, sight-seeing with a guide, stood near by, and one of the group, a pretty girl with red hair, demanded plaintively of the friend upon whose arm she hung: “Do you think momma would be shocked if we took a ride? Wouldn’t I love to!”
Hartley turned, laughing, from this distressed maiden to Ste. Marie. He was wondering, with mild amusement, why anybody should wish to do such a foolish thing; but Ste. Marie’s eyes were fixed upon the galloping pigs, and the eyes shone with a wistful excitement. To tell the truth, it was impossible for him to look on at any form of active amusement without thirsting to join it. A joyous and carefree lady in a blue hat, who was mounted astride upon one of the pigs, hurled a paper serpentine at him and shrieked with delight when it knocked his hat off.