His friend’s intention is to give Tompkins the night of his life in Montmartre and one that I’m sure would have lived long in his memory.
His trip to the Moulin was in fact his final stop but now we go back to the beginning of his evening and call at the first of his stops – Le Cabaret du Ciel.
“Tonight, we shall go to Paris! This is an opportunity for a tour of discovery. The Boul’ Mich’ or Montmartre?” Bishop whispered to me.
“Montmartre,” I replied; “Heaven, Death, Hell and Bruant.”
Mr. Thompkins looked surprised, but made no response. Presently we reached the gilded gates of Le Cabaret du Ciel. They were bathed in a cold blue light from above. Angels, gold-lined clouds, saints, sacred palms and plants, and other paraphernalia suggestive of the approach to St. Peter’s domain, filled all the available space about the entree. A bold white placard, “Bock, 1 Franc,” was displayed in the midst of it all. Dolorous church music sounded within, and the heavens were unrolled as a scroll in all their tinsel splendour as we entered to the bidding of an angel.
Flitting about the room were many more angels, in all white robes and with sandals on their feet, and all wearing gauzy wings swaying from their shoulder-blades and brass halos above their yellow wigs. These were the waiters, the garcons of heaven, ready to take orders for drinks. One of these, with the face of a heavy villain in a melodrama and a beard a week old, roared unmelodiously.
“The greetings of heaven to thee, brothers! Eternal bliss and happiness are for thee. Mayst thou never swerve from its golden paths! Breathe thou its sacred purity and renovating exaltation. Prepare to meet thy great creator – and don’t forget the garcon!”
A very long table covered with white extended the whole length of the chilly room, and seated at it, drinking, were scores of candidates for angel ship, - mortals like ourselves. Men and women were they, and though noisy and vivacious they indulged in nothing like the abandon of the Boul’ Mich’ cafes. Gilded vases and candelabra, together with foamy bocks, somewhat relieved the dead whiteness of the table. The ceiling was an impressionistic rendering of the blue sky, fleecy clouds, and golden stars, and the walls were made to represent the noble enclosure and golden gates of paradise.
“Brothers, your orders! – Command me, thy servant!” growled a ferocious angel at our elbows, with his accent de la Villette, and his brass halo a trifle askew.
Mr. Thompkins had been very quiet, for he was Wonder in the flesh, and perhaps there was some distress in his face, but there was courage also. The suddenness of the angel’s assault visibly disconcerted him; - he did not know what to order. Finally he decided on a verre de Chartreuse, green. Bishop and I ordered bocks.
“Two sparkling draughts of heaven’s own brew and one star-dazzler!” Yelled our angel.
“Thy will be done!” came the response from a hidden bar.
Obscured by great masses of clouds, through whose intervals shone golden stars, an organ continually rumbled sacred music, which had a depressing rather than a solemn effect, and even the draughts of heaven’s own brew and the star-dazzler failed to dissipate the gloom.
Suddenly, without the slightest warning, the head of St. Peter, whiskers and all, appeared in a hole in the sky, and presently all of him emerged, even to his ponderous keys clanging at his girdle. He gazed solemnly down upon the crowd at the tables and thoughtfully scratched his left wing. From behind a dark cloud he brought forth a vessel of white crockery (which has not a wash – bowl) containing (ostensibly) holy water. After several mysterious signs and passes with his bony hands he generously sprinkled the sinners below with a brush dipped in the water; and then, with a parting blessing, he slowly faded into mist.
“Did you ever? Well, well, I declare!” Exclaimed Mr. Thompkins, breathlessly.
The royal cortege of the kingdom of heaven was now forming at one end of the room before a shrine, whereon an immense golden pig sat sedately on his haunches, looking friendly and jovial, his loose skin and fat jowls hanging in folds. Lighted candles sputtered about his golden sides. As the participants in the pageant, all attaches of the place, formed for the procession, each bowed reverently and crossed himself before the huge porker. A small man, dressed in a loose black gown and black skull-cap, evidently made up for Dante, whom he resembled, officiated as master of ceremonies. He mounted a golden pulpit, and delivered, in a loud, rasping voice, a tedious discourse of heaven and allied things. He dwelt on the attractions of heaven as a perpetual summer resort, an unbroken round of pleasure in variety, where sweet strains of angelic music (indicating the wheezy organ), together with unlimited stores of heaven’s own sparkling fire of life, at a franc a bock, and beautiful golden-haired cherubs, of la Villette’s finest, lent grace and perfection to the scheme.
The parade then began its tour about the room, Dante, carrying a staff surmounted by a golden bull, serving as drum-major. Angel musicians, playing upon sacred lyres and harps, followed in his wake, but the dolorous organ made the more noise. Behind the lyre angels came a number of the notables whom Dante immortalised; - at least, we judged that they were so intended. The angel garcons closed the cortege, their gauzy wings and brass halos bobbing in a stately fashion as they strode along.
The angel garcons now sauntered up and gave us each a ticket admitting us to the angel-room and the other delights of the inner heaven.
“You are Eenleesh?” He asked. “Yes? Ah, theece Eengleesh arre verra genereauz,” eyeing his fifty-centime tip with a questioning shrug. “Can you not make me un franc? Ah, eet ees dam cold in theece laigs,” pointing to his calves, which were encased in diaphanous pink tights. He got his franc.
Dante announced in his rasping voice that those mortals wishing to become angels should proceed up to the angel-room. All advanced and ascended the inclined passage-way leading into the blue. At the farther end of the passage sat old St. Peter, solemn and shivering, for it was draughty there among the clouds. He collected our tickets, gave the password admitting us to the inner precincts, and resented Bishop’s attempts to pluck a feather from his wings. We entered a large room, all a glamour of gold and silver. The walls were studded with blazing nuggets, coloured canvas rocks, and electric lights. We took seats on wooden benches fronting a cleft in the rocks, and waited.
Soon the chamber in which we sat became perfectly dark, the cleft before us shining with a dim bluish light. The cleft then came to life with a bevy of female angels floating through the limited ethereal space, and smiling down upon us mortals. One of the lady angel’s tights bagged at the knees, and another’s wings were not on straight; but his did not interfere with her flight, any more than did the stationary position of the wings of all. But it was all very easily and gracefully done, swooping down, soaring, and swinging in circles like so many great eagles. They seemed to discover something of unusual interest to Mr. Thompkins, for they singled him out to throw kisses at him. This made him blush and fidget, but a word from Bishop reassured him, - it was only once in a lifetime!
After these angels had gyrated for some time, the head angel of the angel-room requested those who desired to become angels to step forward. A number responded, among them some of the naughty dancing-girls of the Moulin Rouge. They were conducted through a concealed door, and presently we beheld them soaring in the empyrean just as happy and serene as though they were used to being angels. It was a marvel to see wings so frail transport with so much ease a very stout young woman from the audience, and their being fully clothed did not seem to make any difference.
Mr. Thompkins had sat in a singularly contemplative mood after the real angels had quit torturing him, and surprised us beyond measure by promptly responding to a second call for those aspiring to angelhood. He disappeared with another batch from the Moulin Rouge, and soon afterwards we saw him floating like an airship. He even wore his hat. To his disgust and chagrin, however, one of the concert-hall angels persisted in flying in front of him and making violent love to him. This brought forth tumultuous applause and laughter, which completed Mr. Thompkin’s misery. At this juncture the blue cleft became dark, the angel-room burst into light, and soon Mr. Thompkins rejoined us.
As we filed out into the passage Father Time stood with long whiskers and scythe, greeted us with profound bows, and promised that his scythe would spare us for many happy years did we but drop sous into his hour-glass.
Next stop Cafe Du Neant (DEATH)