On the 7th July, 1815, the united English and Prussian armies marched into Paris, after the battle of Waterloo, and took military possession of the city. It was a remarkable but grievous day for Paris; the citizens generally stayed within their houses, and left the streets to the armed multitude, whom they could not regard as friends, and with whom they were no longer able to contend as enemies. In spite of the enthusiasm with which Napoleon was greeted in Paris on his return from Elba, there were very many royalists resident in the city; men, who longed to welcome back to France the family of the Bourbons, and to live again beneath the shelter and shade of an ancient throne. But even these could not greet with a welcome foreigners, who by force had taken possession. of their capital. It was a sad and gloomy day in Paris, for no man knew what would be the fate, either of himself or of his country: shops were closed, and trade was silenced; the clanking of arms and the jingling of spurs was heard instead of the busy hum of busy men.
On the evening of this day, a stout, fresh-coloured, good-looking woman, of about forty years of age, was sitting in a perruquier’s shop, at the corner of the Rue St. Honore and the Rue St. Denis, waiting for the return of her husband, who had been called upon to exercise his skill on the person of some of the warriors with whom Paris was now crowded. The shutters of the little shop were up, as were those of all the houses in the street, and the place was therefore dark and triste; and the stout, good-looking woman within was melancholy and somewhat querulous. A daughter, of about twenty years of age, the exact likeness of her mother, only twenty years less stout, and twenty years more pretty, sat with her in the shop, and patiently listened to her complaints.
“Well, Annot,” she said, “I wonder at your father. He had a little spirit once, but it has all left him now. Had he been said by me, he wouldn’t have raised a bit of steel over an English chin for the best day’s hire that ever a man was paid—unless, indeed, it was to cut the fellow’s throat!”
“If he didn’t, mother, another would; and what’s the good of throwing away their money?”
“No matter—it’s a coward’s work to go and shave one’s country’s enemies. Do you think he’d have shaved any of the blues’ officers in La Vendee twenty years ago, for all the money they could have offered him? He’d have done it with a sword, if he had done it at all. Well, I suppose it’s all right! I suppose he’s only fit to use a razor now.”
“But you always say those were horrid days in La Vendee; that you had nothing to eat, and no bed to sleep in, nor shoes to your feet; and that you and father couldn’t get married for ever so long, because of the wars?”
“So they were horrid days. I don’t think any one will live to see the like again. But still, one don’t like to see a man, who once had a little spirit, become jacky to every one who has a dirty chin to be scraped. Oh, Annot, if you’d seen the men there were in La Vendee, in those days; if you’d seen the great Cathelineau, you would have seen a man.”