« PreviousContinue »
"We are off at last!" sighs a citizen.
"Yes, but what was the use of hurrying me, to sit a quarter of an hour in the sun?" retorts a citizeness. "I have broken the bone of my stays."
"I do not precisely see," ventures the citizen, in a studious mood, "what sitting a quarter of an hour in the sun has to do with the rupture of a whalebone. Unfortunately I cannot catch a cetaceous animal for you on the spot. Natural history is opposed to it. Tintin, do not go too near to the bulwarks, or you may tumble into the water." "Unfortunate Tintin! He is lost!" exclaims a jocose traveller close by.
"Heavens!" shouts the citizen.
"Pooh! one child more or less," perseveres the joker.
Sir, Tintin is not one child more or less; he is my son, the hope of Polymnia, pay attention; we are about to pass under the Pont de la Concorde. It was formerly called the Bridge of the Revolution, because it was erected in the time of Louis XV."
"We have a bridge much better built than that in our sub-prefecture," interpolates a provincial.
"Look out for smoke!" shouts the bell-ringing mariner, as he lets down the funnel, and the passengers are swept out of sight by the dense cloud that envelops them.
"Allow me, madame, to make a rampart for you with my body," observes an obsequious passenger.
"That gentleman is really very polite," the citizeness remarks to her husband, when she has recovered from the shock.
"The Bridge of Jena! Tintin," continues the citizen, "do not forget that this is the bridge which the allies wanted to blow up at the time of our sad reverses. The reminiscence will not fail to awaken patriotic emotions in your bosom. Blücher had just entered into Paris
"Papa, do they sell gingerbread on board the boat? I should like a slice," interrupted the juvenile excursionist.
"This is the Champ de Mars, my son. Magnificent spot, consecrated to the manœuvres of our valiant soldiers. It was enlarged in 1848 by the national workshops."
"Pooh!" sneered the provincial. "There is a plain for manœuvres in our sub-prefecture that is twice the size of that!"
"Look, sweetheart," a beardless youth, seated by a sylph of the Rue Montmartre, ventures to break silence with. "That is the island of Grenelle; it appears to me to-day like an oasis. The chimneys of those factories of oil-cloth have in them something ideal. I could find poetry even in chemistry. And all because thou art near me, bringing sunshine to my heart."
"Ah!" simpers the sylph; then, turning aside: "How stupid he is with his sentimental rubbish. A rat that would not even buy me an hidalgo hat to come out into the country."
"Why, it is raining!" screams the citizeness.
"What, with such a sun!" interrupts the citizen. "That is impossible. The laws of nature are opposed to it."
"Oh no. It is the paddles that are scattering the brine over me," observes the lady.
"Permit me, madame, to shield you from the obnoxious waves," interpolates the polite excursionist.
"That gentleman is really charming," observes the lady, sotto voce, but loud enough to be overheard.
"Tintin, to the left you have the plain of Grenelle, where General Mallet was shot. Repeat, Tintin: Who was shot on the plain of Grenelle ?" "How should I know ?" retorts the promising youth. "There is no gingerbread on board."
"Pour ton amour, ma blanche Marguerite,
is now sung by an artist who accompanies himself on the guitar to charm the passengers on board the Arcas, and to whom he afterwards holds out his hat for as many sous as it pleases them to disburse.
"Yes, dearest! He is in the right. My crown as a king. I, too, would give it, if I had one," ejaculates the enthusiastic lover.
"No doubt of it! (Aside.) A chap who won't even stand a pair of boots."
"Tintin, the guitar is an instrument, the origin of which is lost in the obscurity of time. Repeat, Tintin: What is the origin of the guitar lost in ?"
"How I should like to be away from this crowd," persists the lover; "the presence of so many interferes with my happiness."
"Thank you! (Aside.) I will have no tête-à-têtes, except at table. When he is eating he can't repeat his elegies."
"Tintin! Come here to me, and I will explain to you the theory of the steam-engine. That machine, my son, was invented by one Fulton, a neglected genius, who perished in obscurity in London, as your father may do, Tintin, and yet he might have been a great man, if nature had only conferred upon him the necessary faculties.
"Papa, I am thirsty !" observes the youthful Tintin.
"Fulton made an offer of his machine to Napoleon, but, notwithstanding his great talents, he did not appreciate the sublime discovery. Ah! if it had been me!"
"Pooh!" broke in the provincial. "We have a steam-boat on the river in our sub-prefecture, the machine of which is three times as large as that."
"What is that dark object down there," observes the citizeness, "at the level of the water? It must be a rock! I told you, Monsieur Rabinois, that it was dangerous to trust our persons to
"Do not be afraid, my good lady," the polite traveller remarks; "there are no rocks in this peaceful river, and I regret it, for nothing would have given greater pleasure than to have saved you from a peril.'
"You are too kind, sir."
"Tintin, to the left is the viaduct of the Western Railway. Viaducts are of ancient origin. The Romans made use of them. Repeat!" "Repeat what? The Western Railway is very ancient; the Romans made use of it ?"
"Tantalising little fellow !"
"Pooh! there is a viaduct in our sub-prefecture," observes the provincial, "rather different from that. It is two leagues in length, and so solid
"Dearest! you are pensive. Thinking of he who loves you with all the force of his"
"I was thinking that you ought to buy me a dress of mauve-coloured silk, like that of yonder lady."
"Tiens! Why, here is a boat's crew!" exclaims the citizeness. "Tintin, come here, that I may explain to you the origin of rowing," observes papa. "You see those gentlemen in their dress flannel Guernseys
"Hola! you, the
Thank you! Is
The boat's crew, rowing by, hail the passengers. little old man in the grey hat! Are you quite well! that madame seated by your side? Our compliments. be better coupled! Beg pardon, papa, but two ugly ones make only one. We can't go farther with you; our fry is waiting" (a fry of gudgeons is a sine quâ non on the Seine).
"Pooh! we have boats' crews in our sub-prefecture," ejaculates the provincial, "who can row in a different style to that!"
"A franc, if you please!" This from the bell-ringing, funnel-lowering mariner, who seems to be the whole crew of the Arcas embodied in
"Why, it is only
"How is that? A franc ?" utters the citizen.
thirty centimes by the omnibus."
"A franc, if you please!"
"But Tintin ought only to pay half price; he is only three years of age."
"Three in the steam-boat; at home I am five and a half!" shouts out the incorrigible.
"Pooh!" observes the provincial; "if we had such perverse children as that in our sub-prefecture !"
"What a splendid view! The park of St. Cloud! Polymnia! Tintin! Here is the lantern of Demosthenes. The common people say of Diogenes; but that edifice is thus baptised in commemoration of a tower, situated on the borders of the sea, in which the famous Greek orator used to exercise himself in declaiming with pebbles in his mouth. Tintin, who was it who went into a tower on the borders of the sea to practise"
"Get your tickets ready!" shouts the mariner.
"What! are we already there?"
"Pooh! Is that the park of St. Cloud. There is a garden in our sub-prefecture that is much prettier than that."
"Madame, the disembarkation is dangerous; give me your hand," insinuates the polite excursionist; and, carrying the action further than the word, he at the same time takes her round the waist.
"Dearest,” murmurs the lover, "in the presence of these secular trees, I swear to you that my whole heart
The sylph apart: "I wonder if he is going to order dinner."
Well, at all events, one does meet with polite gentlemen when travelling," observes the citizeness. "But what is this! Why, my purse is gone
"Robbed, madame! No doubt of it. The charming gentleman! Tintin, may this be a lesson to you. In our time no one is civil save a thief. Repeat: What class of people are alone civil in our days?"
"Here is gingerbread!" shouts young precocious, perceiving a dealer in cakes and sweetmeats.
STREET TRADES IN PARIS.
IN Paris there are said to be sixty thousand persons who wake in the morning without knowing whether they will have anything to eat during the day. But they must all eat, and they find their food, although their existence is ephemeral, and truly from hand to mouth. With them, more than all others, the proverb is true, "Aide toi et Dieu t'aidera."
The lazzarone of Naples, when he has earned the four pauls which are sufficient for his daily bread, remains carelessly lying on the stairs of some palace, and gazes across the glistening sea at Capri, or the small smoke-clad peak of Vesuvius, and will not bestow a glance on a stranger, who wishes to give him a chance of earning something. The Parisian lazzarone, his civilised brother (to begin my account with the commissionnaire), has similar manners and inclinations, except that he must earn more than four pauls, for his wants as a citizen of the world's capital are greater. But in return he is a tax-paying citizen of the empire, and able to vote if not to be elected; in the great revolutions he has helped to make a republic out of the monarchy, and out of the republic an empire, and even under the present absolutism his vote is respected, always assuming that he says oui, or else—But to my story:
The commissionnaire is in reality only a prosaic shoeblack, but in addition he is everything possible, and performs commissions of every description, as his name indicates. He is crafty, clever, and discreet, and, at the same time, honest, so far as such a man can be honest. The commissionnaires form a separate caste, are inscribed at the Hôtel de Ville, and each has his number, which he must wear very ostensibly on a small brass plate. There are about four thousand in Paris, who, however, are divided into numerous classes. The commissionnaire of the inner boulevard stands at the head, and those stationed at the Boulevard des Italiens, and about the Grand Opéra, are fine fellows, who read their paper in the morning and smoke their cigar, and live more at the marchand de vins opposite than at their corner of the street. The latter do not enter into my category, as, thank Heaven, I have no dealings with the danseuses of the Grand Opéra and the other euses of that quarter, for such are the chief customers of these commissionnaires, who have often been introduced into the small farces of the Palais Royal theatre.
For two sous every commissionnaire will clean our boots, and tell us, while brushing, the latest occurrences of his quarter: there, a gas explosion, or an omnibus upset; here, a fire or an arrest; he has seen it all, and on each occasion was the principal acting person. A Parisian commissionnaire never has any small change, like the hackney-coachman : this is a principle, and the trick succeeds with many persons, especially strangers. They leave the poor devil the ten-sous' piece in order not to wait, for he inquires at three or four places for copper money, and, strange to say, cannot obtain it anywhere, as he assures us with the most serious face in the world.
The story of the black poodle on the Boulevard Montmartre, though twenty years old, is still told sometimes. Some of my readers, perhaps, have not heard it, or have forgotten it. This black poodle always kept faithfully by his master's side, and paid great attention to the passers by:
if a handsomely dressed dandy came along, the poodle thrust its forepaws in the gutter and ran off to place them on the dandy's boots. The natural result was that the gentleman must have them cleaned by the nearest shoeblack, and this happened to be the poodle's master. When the trick was blown, all Paris wished to see the clever dog, in order to have their boots dirtied by the poodle and cleaned by its master. The latter then appointed his four children as aids, as he could not himself satisfy all his customers, and in the course of a few months he saved up a small capital with which to establish himself elsewhere. The clever poodle was kept till its death as the benefactor of the whole family, and held in high honour.
But the commissionnaire is a man of rank among the Parisian ephemeræ, and hence has no poetical side: he is, with few exceptions, the prose of the boulevard.
Our boots are bright, and we have safely reached the Palais Royal, but how we are to cross the immense Place de Carroussel to the other bank of the Seine, where we are compelled to go to-day, in spite of the tropical heat and the want of an equipage of our own? If it were not for the Place de Carroussel, that sahara nearly a quarter of a mile in length, we might manage, for afterwards we should have the trees on the quay, and the shady side of the houses. At this moment a tidily-dressed man comes up to me and opens a gigantic umbrella, a perfect family tent, under whose shelter I can easily cross the hot square. I do not require much pressing, especially as he carries the umbrella himself, and walks reverentially behind me, so that I imagine myself an eastern prince under his palanquin. And all this for a sou-two, perhaps, if the story of the umbrella-bearer has touched me en route, a father with six young children and an ailing wife-a story which is always the same with but slight variations, and which you do not accept without hesitation when you have heard it a few times. But, good gracious, we must all live, though the philosopher did not see the necessity for it.
In a sudden shower we are in an equal difficulty: but help is at hand here. Because we have gone out for a week with an umbrella, owing to the rain, we leave the troublesome article at home, being taken in by a sunshiny hour. On the road there is a terrible shower, which certainly refreshes and lays the dust, but is not at all advantageous to our new hat. But at the same instant we see in doorways to the right and left of us ministering spirits who offer an umbrella on hire. Four sous the hour, and as a rule a deposit of two francs: for such an umbrella is not worth more, and hence the lender runs no risk if it is not brought back. These people also have a brass plate, with their number and the name of their street, so that they can be easily found. They are not either nearly so stupid as they look, and know at once with whom they have to do. If by chance a gentleman applies to them, they look up a better umbrella, and decline the deposit by saying very humbly: "Monsieur a l'air d'un sénateur ou d'un ancien Pair de France: cette garantie me suffit." Who could resist this and not pay double, for of course you need not be a senator or peer to gain the compliment: a good coat is sufficient. You can also give your address, and the umbrella lender will call next morning to fetch his property: but, as this of course entails extraordinary expense-you do not get off under ten sous.
With the hundred thousand other people we stroll along the boulevards,