This time, however, the question which Felicia had just addressed to him respecting his son appeared extremely disagreeable to him, and it was with a frown and a real expression of annoyance that he replied: “Ma foi! I know no more than yourself what he is doing. He has quite deserted us. He was bored at home. He cares only for his Bohemia.”
Felicia gave a jump that made them all start, and with flashing eyes and nostrils that quivered, said:
“That is too absurd. Ah, now, come, Jenkins. What do you mean by Bohemia? A charming word, by-the-bye, and one that ought to recall long days of wandering in the sun, halts in woody nooks, all the freshness of fruits gathered by the open road. But since you have made a reproach of the name, to whom do you apply it? To a few poor devils with long hair, in love with liberty in rags, who starve to death in a fifth-floor garret, or seek rhymes under tiles through which the rain filters; to those madmen, growing more and more rare, who, from horror of the customary, the traditional, the stupidity of life, have put their feet together and made a jump into freedom? Come, that is too old a story. It is the Bohemia of Murger, with the workhouse at the end, terror of children, boon of parents, Red Riding-Hood eaten by the wolf. It was worn out a long time ago, that story. Nowadays, you know well that artists are the most regular people in their habits on earth, that they earn money, pay their debts, and contrive to look like the first man you may meet on the street. The true Bohemians exist, however; they are the backbone of our society; but it is in your own world especially that they are to be found. Parbleu! They bear no external stamp and nobody distrusts them; but, so far as uncertainty, want of substantial foundation in their lives is concerned, they have nothing to wish for from those whom they call so disdainfully ‘irregulars.’ Ah! if we knew how much turpitude, what fantastic or abominable stories, a black evening-coat, the most correct of your hideous modern garments, can mask. Why, see, Jenkins, the other evening at your house I was amusing myself by counting them—all these society adventurers—”
The little old lady, pink and powdered, put in gently from her place:
“Felicia, take care!”
But she continued, without listening:
“What do you call Monpavon, doctor? And Bois l’Hery? And de Mora himself? And—” She was going to say “and the Nabob?” but stopped herself.