SPECIAL AGENT OF CUPID
A Bureau of Elopement Operated by a French Woman.
There has been a regular epidemic of mysterious elopements in Paris during the past six months. Every guard which stern parents have put about their infatuated daughters has been broken down and piff! In a twinkling loving couples have been whisked away to conjugal happiness, carried off apparently on the wings of Cupid.
Indeed, Cupid has played a most practical and effective part in these runaway marriages, but it is a Cupid of rubber tires, shining wheels, and powerful motor power, it’s a Cupid with the speed of Mercury—in short, it is the latest make of racing automobile.
This speeding car has become as well known in France as in the Little Church Around the Corner in this country.
For a long while all that could be wrested from runaway couples was the statement that they had been married in the “Cupid Car.” What the Cupid Car was or where it was to be found they declined to reveal to any but those whose hearts were torn by “the cruelty of opposing parents.”
Somehow the secret leaked out, as even the deepest mysteries will in time, and lo, there is in Paris, a perfectly equipped elopement bureau with a polished and charming Parisienne in charge—a regular fairy godmother she is to the elopers—and her splendid garage is a much sought port in the rough ocean of true love.
This elegant garage is a regular Jekyll and Hyde establishment, for besides providing means of escape to young couples it also supplies enraged parents with high speed cars in which to follow. But these latter lack a few horse power of the speed of the former, and—but that is a long story and must be told briefly in tis proper place, after the tale of the Cupid.
Mlle. Bob Walters is known in Paris as the owner of one of the finest garages in the French capital, and many races have been won by her machines.
She will show you frankly every nook and corner of her establishment, and then as soon as your back is turned will press a button, glide through a hole in the wall and gesticulate wildly to a frightened couple awaiting her. She has just allayed the suspicions of an irate parent, and is now ready to send the lover son the road to the Mayor.
Behind this sliding panel there is a powerful touring car—a perfect beauty, always in the pink of condition, and ready to start on the wildest race over the hardest roads at a moment’s notice—it is the “Cupid.”
All about this car are suitcases, small trunks, parasols, umbrellas, heavy boots, dainty shoes, rain-coats and top-coats, caps and travelling hats, closets containing fine lingerie and boxes filled with every imaginable kind of accessories, filmy veils, powder-puffs, bottles of perfume, boxes of sachets, and even little packages of beauty patches.
In an adjoining room there is every facility for putting up a hasty lunch, and here there are guide-books and time-tables, hotel directories and road-maps. In short, nothing has been forgotten by Mile. Bob, as she is called, which would add to the comfort of the couples who come to her for aid in their love affairs.
Sometimes she receives word weeks ahead that her Cupid will be desired on such and such a date, then the matter of wardrobe, route, etc., can all be attended to with leisure, but more frequently the couples run into her garage, breathless and incoherently plead for speedy first aid. Then all Mademoiselle’s ingenuity is roused, and she soothes, assures and plans as she gives orders and bustles about fitting out the bride with finery which hasty flight has obliged her to leave behind. She has the route laid out, the honeymoon planned, a telegram sent to the mayor or parson, rooms at a distant hotel secured, a substantial lunch packed, Cupid run out, Jacques, the chauffeur, equipped, a dainty maid to act as necessary witness instructed, and all four packed into the double-seated car, with the luggage in the tonneau and honk, honk and another elopement is on!
After about an hour’s respite mademoiselle’s services may be again called for —this time in the outer garage. Monsieur, very red of face, very damp of brow, and very fierce of temper, dashes into the garage so innocently famous for its speedy motor carriages, and excitedly implores mademoiselle to bring out her best car and put her cleverest chauffeur at the wheel. Mademoiselle is all solicitude; she hopes that monsieur has not had bad news. She prays that her car may be of assistance, and little by little, as she again gives orders and bustles about, she learns the father’s side of the elopement story.
She may not willfully lead him astray as to the road to take; indeed, she earnestly asserts that she often helps a little—not enough to cause trouble—in this direction. And who can blame her if Cupid is many horse-power superior to any other car in her garage, or if the lovers have a full two hours’ start of “papa “? Surely not the eloping couple. And so her business grows. Cupid is constantly changing his colour and his number. Even his trimmings are renewed about once a fortnight, so that although Mlle. Bob’s garage is famous throughout Paris among sportsmen, and has a fame of a different order among a number of happily-married young people, as yet the Cupid has not been “spotted.” To have the car become familiar would be to materially injure the value of this strange elopement office. Mlle. is growing so rich in worldly goods that she anticipates the day when she can equip the Cupid and launch matrimonial barks without thought of material compensation.
The Strand Magazine, Vol. 35, 1908
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Elopements were not always the sole purview of a dewy-eyed maiden and her handsome, yet impoverished suitor, formerly a clerk in Papa’s office or a coachman in his stable. Those in the bonds of matrimony also slipped the “old ball and chain,” as a spouse is sometimes quaintly called.
Happy Man Wants Wife to Stay Eloped; Tells People Other Fellow Was Stung.
Wilkesbarre, Pa., June 4. Wearing a sheepish grin, George H. Charles, who said he lived in Scranton, walked into the police station here to-night and said he was looking around for his wife, who he thought had eloped with a neighbor.
“You might ask your men to watch out for them,” he said to the sergeant in charge.
“Sure we will,” replied the sergeant, reaching for his book. “What does she look like?”
“She don’t look like anything I can think of right now,” said Charles. “She is five feet, eleven inches tall and weighs 100 pounds. There are two teeth out in front, but that don’t bother her much. She squints in her left eye and the right is a kind of a dark purple shade as a result of a little argument in our family. The little hair of her own and all that she has bought is a carroty red. I might say that up to the present she has never won any beauty prizes.
“All right,” said the sergeant. “We will arrest her if we see her, but why do you want her back?”
“Want her back! I don’t want her back, and I don’t want her arrested. I have been trying for five years to wish her onto someone and now that she has gone, I want her to stay. Tell your men if they see her to say that I have reported the elopement and that may frighten them so they will go so far away they can’t get back. I certainly hope she will stay eloped. That fellow who ran away with her sure was stung.” The Weekly Messenger [St. Martinsville, LA] 17 June 1911: p. 4
Mlle. Bob Walter (this seems to be the correct spelling) was also a danseuse in the vein of Loïe Fuller and famous for her “serpentine dance,” among her other startling achievements as a lion tamer and racing-car driver. This piece, which includes more photographs, gives an admirable summary of what is known about the lady.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.