Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

“ Yes, just as at a hotel.” We yielded, at discretion, and garçon took possession of us.

“ English ? ” said garçon, as we enjoyed the pleasant walk on the sunny quay.

“ No. American,” we replied.

“Ah!” (his face brightening up, and speaking confidentially,) “you have a republic there."

We gave the lad a franc, dined, and were off for Paris. The ride was delightful. Cars seating eight ; clean, softcushioned, nice. The face of the country, though not striking, was pleasing. There were many poplars, with their silvery shafts, and a mingling of trees of various kinds. The foliage has an airy grace -- a certain spirituelle expression as if the trees knew they were growing in la belle France, and must be refined. Then the air is so different from the fog and smoke of London. There is more oxygen in the atmosphere. A pall is lifted. We are led out into sunshine. Fields are red with a scarlet white-edged poppy, or blue with a flower like larkspur. Wheat fields half covered with this unthrifty beauty ! But alas ! the elasticity is in Nature's works only. The works of man breathe over us a dismal, sepulchral, stand-still feeling. The villages have the nightmare, and men wear wooden shoes. The day's ride, however, was memorable with novelty; and when we saw Mont Martre, and its moth-like windmills, telling us we were coming to Paris, it was almost with regret at the swiftness of the hours. We left the cars, and flowed with the tide into the Salle d’Attente, to wait till the baggage was sorted. Then came the famous ceremony of unlocking. The officer took my carpet bag first, and poked his hand down deep in one end.

6 What is this?”

66

[ocr errors]

“ That is my collar box.”

Ah, ça.". And he put it back hastily, and felt of my travelling gown.

6 What is this? “Only a wrapping gown."

Ah, ça." After fumbling a little more, he took sister H.'s bag, gave a dive here, a poke there, and a kind of promiscuous rake with his five fingers, and turned to the trunk. There he seemed somewhat dubious. Eying the fine silk and lace dresses, — first one, then the other, Ah, ah!” said he, and snuffed a little. Then he peeped under this corner, and cocked his

eye under that corner; then, all at once, plunged his arm down at one end of the trunk, and brought up a little square box. 6 What's that?” said he. H. unrolled and was about to open it, when suddenly he seemed to be seized with an emotion of confidence. “ Non, non," said he, frankly, and rolled it up, shoved it back, stuffed the things down, smoothed all over, signed my ticket, and passed on.

We locked up, gave the baggage to porters, and called a fiacre. As we left the station two ladies met us.

“ Is there any one here expecting to see Mrs. C.?” said one of them.

Yes, madam,” said I; “ God bless you,” said she, fervently, and seized me by the hand. It was Mrs. C. and her sister. I gave H. into their possession.

Our troubles were over. We were at home. We rode through streets whose names were familiar, crossed the Carrousel, passed the Seine, and stopped before an ancient mansion in the Rue de Verneuil, belonging to M. le Marquis de Brige. This Faubourg St. Germain is the part of Paris where the ancient nobility lived, and the houses exhibit marks

13

[ocr errors]

we do.”

VOL. II.

of former splendor. The marquis is one of those chivalrous legitimists who uphold the claims of Henri VI. He lives in the country, and rents this hotel. Mrs. C. occupies the suite of rooms on the lower floor. We entered by a ponderous old gateway, opened by the concierge, passed through a large paved quadrangle, traversed a short hall, and found ourselves in a large, cheerful parlor, looking out into a small flower garden. There was no carpet, but what is called here a parquet floor, or mosaic of oak blocks, waxed and highly polished. The sofas and chairs were covered with a light chintz, and the whole air of the apartment shady and cool as a grotto. A jardinière filled with flowers stood in the centre of the room, and around it a group of living flowers — mother, sisters, and daughters scarcely less beautiful. In five minutes we were at home. French life is different from any other. Elsewhere you do as the world pleases ; here you do as you please yourself. My spirits always rise when I get among the French.

Sabbath, June 5. Headache all the forenoon. In the afternoon we walked to the Madeleine, and heard a sermon on charity; listened to the chanting, and gazed at the fantastic ceremonial of the altar. I had anticipated so much from Henry's description of the organs, that I was disappointed. The music was fine; but our ideal had outstripped the real. The strangest part of the performance was the censer swinging at the altar. It was done in certain parts of the chant, with rhythmic sweep, and glitter, and vapor wreath, that produced a striking effect. There was an immense audience quiet, orderly, and to all appearance devout. This was the first Romish service I ever attended. It ought to be impressive here, if any where. Yet I cannot say I was moved by it Rome-ward. Indeed, I felt a kind of Puritan tremor of conscience at witnessing such a theatrical pageant on the Sabbath. We soon saw, however, as we walked home, across the gardens of the Tuileries, that there is no Sabbath in Paris, according to our ideas of the day.

Monday, June 6. This day was consecrated to knickknacks. Accompanied by Mrs. C., whom years of residence have converted into a perfect Parisienne, we visited shop after shop, and store after store. The politeness of the shopkeepers is inexhaustible. I felt quite ashamed to spend a half hour looking at every thing, and then depart without buying; but the civil Frenchman bowed, and smiled, and thanked us for coming.

In the evening, we rode to L'Arc de Triomphe d'Etoile, an immense pile of massive masonry, from the top of which we enjoyed a brilliant panorama. Paris was beneath us, from the Louvre to the Bois de Boulogne, with its gardens, and moving myriads; its sports, and games, and lighthearted mirth a vast Vanity Fair, blazing in the sunlight. A deep and strangely-blended impression of sadness and gayety sunk into our hearts as we gazed. All is vivacity, gracefulness, and sparkle, to the eye; but ah, what fires are smouldering below! Are not all these vines rooted in the lava and ashes of the volcano side?

Tuesday, June 7. A la Louvre! But first the ladies must “shop” a little. I sit by the counter and watch the pretty Parisian shopocracy. A lady presides at the desk. Trim little grisettes serve the customers so deftly, that we wonder why awkward men should ever attempt to do such things. Nay, they are so civil, so evidently disinterested and solicitous for your welfare, that to buy is the most natural thing imaginable.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But to the Louvre ! Provided with catalogues, I abandoned the ladies, and strolled along to take a kind of creamskimming look at the whole. I was highly elated with one thing. There were three Madonnas with dark hair and eyes : one by Murillo, another by Carracci, and another by Guido. It showed that painters were not so utterly hopeless as a class, and given over by common sense to blindness of mind, as I had supposed.

H. begins to recant her heresy in regard to Rubens. Here we find his largest pieces. Here we find the real originals of soveral real originals we saw in English galleries.' It seems as though only upon a picture as large as the side of a parlor could his exuberant genius find scope fully to lay itself out.

When I met H. at last after finishing the survey - her cheek was flushed, and her eye seemed to swim.

“ Well, H.," said I," have you drank deep enough this time?”

“ Yes,” said she, “I have been satisfied, for the first time.”

Wednesday, June 8. A day on foot in Paris. Surrendered H. to the care of our fair hostess. Attempted to hire a boat, at one of the great bathing establishments, for a pull on the Seine. Why not on the Seine, as well as on the Thames ? But the old Triton demurred. The tide marched too strong -"Il marche trop fort.Onward, then, along the quays; visiting the curious old book stalls, picture stands, and flower markets. Lean over the parapet, and gaze upon this modern Euphrates, rushing between solid walls of masonry through the heart of another Babylon. The river is the only thing not old. These waters are as turbid, tumultuous, unbridled, as when forests covered all these banks - fit symbol

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »