A little hostelry of the barriere swung its sign of the As de Pique where feathery palms once had waved above mosques of snowy gleam, with marble domes and jeweled arabesques, and the hush of prayer under columned aisles. “Here are sold wine, liquor and tobacco,” was written where once verses of the Koran had been blazoned by reverent hands along porphyry cornices and capitals of jasper. A Cafe Chantant reared its impudent little roof where once, far back in the dead cycles, Phoenician warriors had watched the galleys of the gold-haired favorite of the gods bear down to smite her against whom the one unpardonable sin of rivalry to Rome was quoted.
The riot of a Paris guinguette was heard where once the tent of Belisarius might have been spread above the majestic head that towered in youth above the tempestuous seas of Gothic armies, as when, silvered with age, it rose as a rock against the on-sweeping flood of Bulgarian hordes. The grisette charms of little tobacconists, milliners, flower-girls, lemonade-sellers, bonbon-sellers, and filles de joie flaunted themselves in the gaslight where the lustrous sorceress eyes of Antonina might have glanced over the Afric Sea, while her wanton’s heart, so strangely filled with leonine courage and shameless license, heroism and brutality, cruelty and self-devotion, swelled under the purples of her delicate vest, at the glory of the man she at once dishonored and adored.
Vanitas vanitatum! Under the thirsty soil, under the ill-paved streets, under the arid turf, the Legions lay dead, with the Carthaginians they had borne down under the mighty pressure of their phalanx; and the Byzantine ranks were dust, side by side with the soldiers of Gelimer. And here, above the graves of two thousand centuries, the little light feet of Cigarette danced joyously in that triumph of the Living, who never remember that they also are dancing onward to the tomb.
It was a low-roofed, white-plastered, gaudily decked, smoke-dried mimicry of the guinguettes beyond Paris. The long room, that was an imitation of the Salle de Mars on a Lilliputian scale, had some bunches of lights flaring here and there, and had its walls adorned with laurel wreaths, stripes of tri-colored paint, vividly colored medallions of the Second Empire, and a little pink gauze flourished about it, that flashed into brightness under the jets of flame—trumpery, yet trumpery which, thanks to the instinct of the French esprit, harmonized and did not vulgarize; a gift French instinct alone possesses. The floor was bare and well polished; the air full of tobacco smoke, wine fumes, brandy odors, and an overpowering scent of oil, garlic and pot au feu. Riotous music pealed through it, that even in its clamor kept a certain silvery ring, a certain rhythmical cadence. Pipes were smoked, barrack slang, camp slang, barriere slang, temple slang, were chattered volubly. Theresa’s songs were sung by bright-eyed, sallow-cheeked