( Originally Published 1916 )
SHE was one of the most charming and well known artistes of the Théâtre Français. The other morning at an early hour she called a taxi to go to the railway station. She was to visit a sick friend in a near-by town. On arriving at the station she opened her handbag. Horrors! She found therein a handkerchief, some keys, a small mirror, and a powder box—but no money. She had forgotten her purse.
And the train was due to leave in ten minutes.
She got out of the taxi more frightened than she had ever been upon the stage, and addressed the chauffeur:
"Monsieur," she said, "something absurd has happened me, something desolating. I have left my pocketbook at home. I have no money to buy my railway ticket, no money to pay your fare."
The chauffeur smiled. The lady thereupon smiled also, an embarrassed smile, though she had a strong impulse to cry.
"If I dared, Monsieur," she said tremblingly, "I would ask you for a little money, instead of giving you some."
The chauffeur put his hand in his pocket.
"How much do you need, Madame?"
He had taken his purse from the pocket of his coat and was holding it politely in his hand. The artiste, abashed, said:
"Oh, Monsieur, with fifty francs I -----"
"Here you are, Madame !"
He handed her a fifty-franc note, which she took. At the same time she gave him her card, upon which she had written something.
"Here is my address," she said. "My husband will pay you. But—in the meanwhile—would you—may I offer you "
She made a motion to remove her diamond ring. The chauffeur, with the manner of a gentle-man, gave a gesture of protest.
"Oh! I pray you, Madame!" he said. "The card is quite enough."
She thanked him. She was furious, yet charmed. As she insisted in her very nicest words that he go get himself paid at once, he replied, with a shrug:
"Oh, yes, Madame, this evening, perhaps, or tomorrow, or next day. It doesn't matter in the least."
He smiled again, raised his cap, and, mounting his machine, disappeared.
No, this did not happen in New York, nor Chicago. I said Paris.
I think I read somewhere in Thackeray his account of a certain tailor in the Rue Something-or-other whom he owed a long-standing bill, and Who, when Thackeray came to see him and apologized for not paying, not only expressed deep sympathy with his customer's embarrassment but even offered to lend him money. Such things do happen--in Paris.