« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and Musketry.
E were three Englishmen travelling by the mail-train from London to Dover, on our way to Paris, one evening in this present month of December, 1851. The extensive horse-dealer in the multiplicity of thick great coats-the quiet Cambridge man reading a shilling reprint of Macaulay-and the present writer-did not find the eighty miles or so, lying between London Bridge and the Custom House Quay at Dover, hang at all heavy on their hands. There was a thick white fog outside, and a trifle of drizzling rain, and enough frost to make the rails slippery; but we were as jovial, notwithstanding, as old travellers ought to be. The horse-dealer talked voluminously of divers" parties" having a knowledge of "little mares;" and told us quite confidentially, that he intended to put the brown horse in harness next week. The Cantab discoursed of "men" who were going "up" to the University; of Brown of "Maudlin" wineing somewhat too copiously with Jones of Trinity; of how Muffle beat the Bargee, and how Snaffle of Trinity had been chased four miles through ploughed fields by a determined proctor anxious to ascertain his name and college. As to the scribe, he passed no considerable portion of the time in endeavouring to pull a
pair of worsted stockings over his boots; in talking a little, sleeping a little, and reading a little for a change.
Now, on the Tuesday immediately preceding the eve of our journey, there had been an intricate political evolution performed in Paris, called a coup d'état. People have grown so accustomed to revolutions, that they took this last revolution very quietly; expecting, doubtless, reciprocal tranquillity on the other side of the Channel. There was a harvest of the evening papers, a run of luck for the gossips, an ill wind blowing some considerable good to the "patterers" who pervaded the fashionable squares until a late hour, proclaiming, with sonorous solemnity, Paris in flames, the red flag waving, and the President assassinated.
We went about our business, however, very comfortably and quietly, crossed the Channel, and started from Boulogne with the mail-bags and a locomotive post-office, at two in the morning of Thursday, seeing nothing of revolution and nothing of arms or an army, save one very imposing gendarme a prize gendarme, with a wonderful cocked hat, a beard and moustache most martial, a sword prodigiously long, and calculated, generally, to strike terror into the disaffected, and to awe the malcontents. But, as I had seen him in the same marvellous costume several times before, (I even think I can remember him before they changed the uniform, and when he wore jack-boots and leathers,) and as I know him to be a peaceful warrior, willing when off duty, to partake of a verre d'anisette or Cassis with you, I did not argue, even from his grande tenue, any very alarming state of things.
The stations, as in the gray dawn we were whirled past them, were all filled with soldiers. This had an ugly look. My co-occupants of the carriage made various manifesta
tions. The pretty traveller from America began to get frightened ;-a pretty girl in a pretty bonnet; showing, as subsequent events disclosed, a prettier face. She had a large fur mantle, and a soft voice with a slight lisp, had come straight from New Orleans to New-York, from NewYork to Liverpool, from Liverpool to London, and so, by this mail, to Paris, alone. Come! The world is not so bad as some would accuse it of being, when a timid girl, not twenty years of age, can travel so many thousands of miles, and talk with a smile of travelling back again, when she has seen her friends in Paris!
The horse-dealer, the Cantab, the writer and, I grieve to say, the disagreeable gentleman with the seal-skin cap, made divers futile attempts to sleep, and many more successful to converse from Paris to Lille. In the carriage, likewise, was a very large cloak, which, partially disclosing a despatch box, and a button with a crown on it, I conjectured to form a portion of a sleeping Queen's messenger.
So, in the cold foggy morning, past Beauvais, Clermont, Creil, St. Denis and, by nine o'clock, into the Paris terminus.
The look of things in general assumed an uglier appearance. The dwarfish little soldiers, with their shabby great coats and bright. muskets, swarmed in waiting-rooms, refreshment-rooms, and offices. The gallant officers (why will they wear stays?) in baggy trowsers promenaded gravely, and inspected us suspiciously. Yet no one asked us for passports; the inspection of luggage went on as quietly as usual, and we were free to depart.
Now, I dwell, when in Paris, in a hostelry in the Rue St. Honoré, close to the church of St. Roch. To reach its hospitable porte-cochère, one is apt, when tired, sleepy, and encumbered with a carpet-bag, a hat-box, and a
great coat or two-to take a cab; and being resolved to take one, I sallied forth into the court-yard of the terminus. There were no cabs, no omnibuses, no vehicles of any description. Not even a wheelbarrow. Berlines, citadines. fiacres, dames blanches, sylphides, coucous, voitures bourgeoises-all the multifarious varieties of French equipages, had disappeared. The shops were shut, and the streets were apparently deserted, though impassable. The truth was, I had stepped into a besieged city.
I asked one of the railway porters where I could get a vehicle? "Monsieur," he replied, very politely," nowhere." Could I walk down the Rue St. Denis, and so by the Boulevards into the Rue St. Honoré? (6 Monsieur, it is impossible; circulation is impeded." What was I to do? My friend, the porter, had got an hour for his breakfast, and he would be enchanté to carry my bag, and to conduct me to my destination by streets where there was no apprehension of disturbance.
And so we set out. I longed for the most extortionate of cabmen. I could have embraced the most insolent of omnibus conductors. Tramp, tramp, tramp, through dreadful little streets choked with mud; now, stopped by barricades in course of construction or of demolition: now, entangled in a mob of the lowest riff-raff; thieves, gamins -vagabonds of every description-flying before the gendarmes; now stopped by a cordon of soldiery drawn across a street, hustled into the presence of the commanding officer, interrogated, brow-beaten, and dismissed. When I state that the railway terminus is near Montmartre, and that I entered Paris by the Barrière de l'Etoile, the courteous reader who knows Paris can form some idea of how very muddy, weary, and savage-tempered I was when I arrived at mine inn; earnestly desiring to be able to take "mine ease" in it.
Every body knows the court-yard of a French hotel. How the host of waiters, chambermaids, porters, and general hangers-on, all appearing to have nothing to do, lounge about, doing it thoroughly, all day long. How the landlord sits placidly, in a species of alcove summer-house, smoking cigarettes, drinking sugar and water, and surveying each new comer with the satisfied look of a boa-constrictor just getting over the digestion of his last rabbit, and ready for a new one; how the cook—" chef," we beg his pardonflirts, white-capped and white-jacketed, with the pretty daughter of the concièrge. On the momentous morning of my arrival, all these things were changed. Waiters chambermaids, boots, landlord, cook, commissionaires, concièrge, were huddled together in the hall. The cabmen attached to the hotel, slumbered within their vehicles, reduced to a state of compulsory inactivity. The porter-a torpid Auvergnat -vaguely impressed with the conviction that there was danger somewhere, had let loose an enormous dog, with rather more of the wolf in his composition than was agreeable. The concierge's pretty daughter had disappeared from human ken altogether; the concièrge himself, deprived of his usual solace of the feuilleton of the "Constitutionnel," smoked morbidly, gazing with a fixed and stony rigidity of vision at one of the dreadful proclamations of the Government, which was pasted against his lodge, and which conveyed the ominous intimation that every one found with arms in his hands, on, behind, or about, a barricade, would be instantly shot-fusillé sur le champ.
Everything, in fact, spoke of the state of siege. The newspapers were in a state of siege; for the Government had suspended all but its own immediate organs. The offices of the sententious "Siècle," the mercurial "Presse," the satiric "Charivari," the jovial "Journal pour Rire,"