Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lead his bruised and lacerated partner through the most complicated mazes; to a sofa, where she may congratulate and whether it be the quietest of herself on having at last obtained mazurkas or the fastest of galops, a haven of rest after the perils she he bears his partner along with has undergone.

equal skill and grace. But in addition to these three In our description of the various large divisions there is yet one classes of da cers we have purmore, though, we fear, in a smaller posely abstained from including the proportion—the really good dancer. ladies, who, as a rule, have fewer In him the spirit of dancing is not peculiarities, or, at least, less opporconfined to the mere movement of tunity of showing them. They the feet, but seems to pervade his may generally be divided into two whole body-not only his toes but classes—those who can, and those every limb seems brought into ac- who cannot dance. With the fortion. There is a spring and buoy- mer, dancing is one of the most fasancy in his style which may even cinating of all amusements. With excite admiration in the most placid the latter—but no, let us recall the of chaperons. Though an excel- days of our childhood and copylent steerer, passing easily through books, when we used diligently to the most intricate passages, he never write that most amiable of precepts, appears to be on the look out.' A Comparisons are odious.' kind of instinct seems to guide him

[graphic]

8

CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR'S DAY IN PARIS.

[graphic]

T was once my lot to spend my Christmas Day in Paris, away from familiar faces, away from familiar places, and that much-loved magnet for our Englishman's eyes and coat-tails—a Christmas coal fire.

None of your wood fires for me—such as were burnt in my white, fluted, china-looking stove, that hiss, sputter, crackle, and sing, but throw out no heat. I have often thought that wood fires and coal fires were admirable examples of the national characteristics of the two peoples. How quickly your wood kindles! How soon he is a flame: in what a state of roar, crackle, fume, and fuss he passes his brief existence; what volumes of smoke he emits; what a buoyant, boisterous, brilliant fellow he is altogether, and how soon he subsides into white ashes! How long coal takes a lighting: how he has to be petted, patted, and coaxed into a flame; but once a-blaze, what a steady, genial, glowing heat he casts around him; and what a long time that heat lasts! I remember little Jack Shattersense used to say the proper way to spell Englishman was Ingle-ishman, and that they were so called from their attachment to the chimney-corner.

But, as I said, there I was in Paris; away from my old, natural Christmas associations of holly, oyster-barrels, white-topped leads of churches, pantomimes, laurels, turkeys, country dances, foxes, mistletoe, snap-dragon, amateur theatricals, Devonshire cream, Airtation, mince-pies, pianos,

stables, staircase-conversations, snowballing, and burnt brandy. I sighed as I thought how pleasantly my friends would pass their time-sighed as I thought of those two quaint old gables that I could never remember seeing for the first time; the roof tops familiar to my eyes as my father's face, and the two little ends of white cravat that always stuck out from beneath his chin, or those long-loved capstrings of my mother's—the strings that, years ago as I went to sleep in her lap, I used to curl round my fingers, and hold as a material guarantee that Hannah of the nursery should not be summoned to carry me away.

So instead of being among my old friends, there I was in a small room, standing on a fleecy, furry rug, near the cheerless stove. My floor had no carpet to cover its shiny, slippery, bright, bees-waxed surface. My sofa, arm-chair, and indeed the furniture generally, was elegant and luxurious, and more fitted for a lady's boudoir than a man's chamber; and there was the ever-present gold pendule on the mantel-piece, which occasionally struck the half-hours as a piece of distinction from the monotony of an existence, that to a French clock must have been distressing n the extreme.

I had only one room, one whole side of which constituted a door, which closed, shut off the bed, and left an entire and perfect sittingroom. I never got over the feeling of wonder at opening the whole side of my room at once with a small handle; it looked as if it were a preliminary effort to walking away secretly with a floor of the house.

I lift my

CHRISTMAS ON TIIE BOULEVARDS.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, I turned out of my little room and took a stroll upon the Boulevards, after going through the preparatory ceremony of locking my door, and giving the key to the concierge. I verily believe that Frenchmen invented concierges, and concierges invented houses in flats, for the sole purpose of necessitating the smiles and nods, and small talk, which form the countersigns to the delivery of the key.

Bonjour, madame, voila là clef!' * Merci, monsieur,' as I offered her the key.

* Merci, madame,' as she takes it.

* Il fait un temps superbe, monsieur.'

* Très-beau, madame!'

* Bonjour, monsieur !' as I descend the stairs.

* Bonjour, madame.' hat-we exchange a smile, the old lady giving infinitely more in the way of propitiation than she takes. I have no doubt, that in speaking of me to the garçon, she says: 'Ce monsieur là est très-aimable!' and not only says it, but thinks it, because I always linger near her window for that delicious interchange of thought and sentiment quoted above. Singular people! If lifting the hat, and saying bonjour, give you a good opinion of me, then will I lift my hat and bonjour continually

Three minutes' walk brought me to the Boulevards—those wonderful Boulevards that would half convince a stranger that the population of Paris is composed of soldiers, waiters, nurse-girls, and babies. As I walk on the broad asphalte pavement, and look at the shops, and the leafless trees, I sigh as I think of our noble Fleet Street, and our gorgeous Strand, and confess that while Paris is a city, London is a mere agglomeration of houses.

Although the Parisians think but little of Christmas, and reserve the celebration of the season for New Year's Day, still there is a bustle on the Boulevards. The visitor who only knows Paris in the heat of summer, will be surprised to see

that on each side at the edge of the pavement nearest the gutter, small wooden huts are being erected. Mere shells, built of the roughest boards — they spoil the beauty of the Boulevards. Their construction is conducted with great noise and bustle, hammering of nails, shouldering of planks, consultations with the sergent-de-ville, for it is impossible to do anything in Paris without demanding permission of an individual in a cocked-hat.

The erection of these cockle-shells on the Boulevards forms the distinctive difference of Paris at Christmas to any other season of the year. What, asks the inquiring English visitor, as he hears the strife of hammers, and the din of tongues, 'can it be that the town is in a state of siege, and that the Emperor is ordering the erection of these huts for the military; or are they merely temporary accommodation until fresh barracks are built?' and he thinks with fond pride of his own Shorncliffe, Aldershott, and Colchester, and the superior strength of the timber-architecture there.

The builders of the huts—those wood masons, who are very industrious-go at their work with a savage energy for sometimes full five minutes together; then rest for a quarter of an hour or so, and contemplate the product of their toil with pride, and talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. Stimulated to fresh exertion by the flow of conversation, they renew their efforts; more nails are driven, another plank is added. Hourra! and they go to the café and order a choppe of beer, and talk to the garçon, and confer with him as to the general effect of the wood-work on the eye of the casual spectator, and say: 'Eh! Ah! Ouf! Hein!'

These little temporary shops are for the sale and exhibition of the Etrennes ; and great is the excitement of the perambulating Parisian population, as indeed it would be at anything-a victory, a defeat, the erection of a new wall, the pulling down of an old house, a bonne carrying twins, or a drum-major twirling his staff. Nothing comes

ear

amiss to inveterate sight-seers or to be English manners, and like to flaneurs, from a revolution to a preserve an unruffled surface; but chiffonier.

at a later, or rather at an On Christmas Eve, a yule log is lier hour, natural vivacity breaks burnt, as with us; and among the through affected phlegm, and they humbler class there is a charming are noisy, jolly, unreasoning, and and touching observance. When agreeable. the children are undressed, and They have réveillons, too, among have presented their soft, round the people, for in this variable, cheeks to papa and mamma, they political climate, the humbler classes place their shoes upon the hearth alone are styled the people. Jeanclose to the fire : their prayers Marie clinks a cup of hot blue wine said, they once more kiss papa and with Claude, and Jeanne-Maria commamma, and go to bed. During pares confidences with Claudine; a the night, an angel, or a Good considerable quantity of tobacco is Fairy, is presumed to come down consumed; hard times deplored; the chimney and fill the little shoes the continual shrug of the shoulders, with presents, toys, bonbons and and the 'equally continual Que macaroons; and sure enough, as they voulez-vous ?' oft spoken, more blue rise in the morning, and run to the wine heated, and a provincial song fire-side, the tiny shoes are filled about the smiling land that they with sweetmeats. Great is the have left 'la bas,' with a Ta-ra-lachildren's joy as each bonbon is ra-lon-ton-taine chorus, sung so brought to light; loud is their noisily, and so effectively, that the laughter, and, to foreign ears, extra- black eyes of the women are gemmed ordinary their proficiency in French, with tears; and the men knit their as the smaller ones inquire if the brows, and begin to think upon their good things were placed there by a wrongs, and how hard it is to work fairy or by an angel.

all day for a few sous. C'était un ange,' smiles papa. Those who spend the eve of ' C'était maman!' shout the little Christmas out of doors, spend it on nasal treble voices.

the Boulevards and in the PasMais, maman, elle est un ange,' sages; but in Paris, though there says the biggest boy; 'n'est-ce pas, may be a number of people, there

never is a mob. In England, hardly And n'est-ce pas, everybody else? a hundred folks can gather together for if a mother is not the providence without the chance of a fight. Here or good fairy of her children, who there is always good-humour, forshould be ?

bearance, and the external forms While the buche de noël is burning of politeness — these social virtues with proper state and ceremony, a being all beneath the grim guard réveillon is held, a thé is prepared, of a cocked-hatted sergent-de-ville. and a family party is given. Mon- The theatres are crowded on sieur, the husband, is very amiable Christmas Eve, and the cafés in the to his wife's relations; as is madame neighbourhood are thronged during to her husband's-it is a Christ- the Entr'actes. About half-past mas party without the preliminary eleven, the salles disgorge their dinner.

audiences, the cafés do a brisker Réveillons are held all over Paris, business, and those wonderful beings, for though the aspect of the streets the garçons, move about with a may contradict us, there are still more ubiquitous rapidity, ‘Du café! students in the Quartier Latin--as, du soda! Un grog du vin ! un grog despite alterations and improve- du cognac! du vin chaud ! groseille! ments, there is still a Quartier and pallal,' are sounds that meet the Latin. Eugène, Jules, Alphonse, ear on every side. As I have spelt and Hyppolite meet over a ‘ponche. pallal phonetically, I may as well They are somewhat lugubrious and inform my reader that it means dismal in their jollity, for they pale ale, or bitter beer. have recently taken to stick-up It is curious to follow the crowds collars, and to what they suppose on Christmas Eve. They go to the

papa ?'

sun

theatres, the concert-rooms, the corridors divided into streets, and music-halls, the guinguettes, and its postes de service stationed at inthe dancing-rooms, and then to hear tervals, where the servants send High Mass.

orders to the kitchens, stables, and High Mass at midnight, on the bureaux by electric telegraph. The eve of Christmas Day! The Made- Boulevard des Italiens, with its old leine was so crowded that numbers Opera House, attainable by the old of people were turned back by Passage de l'Opéra, with its many the Suisses, and it was difficult memories of Meyerbeer, Scribe, and to obtain admission at St. Roch. the infernal attempt of Orsini, the The interior of the church was Boulevards Montmartre, Poissonière, crowded, and among the female por- Bonne Nouvelle, to the famous Porte tion of the congregation there was St. Denis. Past the Porte St. Mara refreshing absence of costume. tin to the Boulevard St. Martin, The ladies who were seated had or the new Boulevard du Prince evidently come to hear the service, Eugène, as far as the Barrière and not to exhibit their toilettes; du Trone. Back again to the but their attention must have been Boulevart du Temple, with its sadly disturbed by the continual recollections of Marie Antoinette, stream of people, entering, as it and Sir Sidney Smith, on by the would appear, for the sole purpose Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire, of looking round, and going out at and the Boulevard Beaumarchais, an opposite door. These ill-man- where the winged figure that crests nered folks had no scruple, but the magnificent column of the pushed and elbowed their way Bastille shone molten in the clear through ranks of earnest and devout

down the new Boulevard spectators. Another thing offensive Bourdon, over the Pont d'Austerlitz, to my English eyes, was that the by the side of the river into the sergents-de-ville wore their hats. Quartier Latin; then into the FauSurely, in a church the policeman bourg St. Germain, back again over might descend to the level of the the Pont des Arts, and so into the mere civilian.

gardens of the Tuileries-a tolerably But these annoyances faded from good walk, in the course of which I my feelings as my eye grew accus- met several military schools taking tomed to the proportions of the their promenade; the lads talking edifice, and my ear drank in the with volubility and gesticulation service. And as the rich and noble perfectly national, and their masters music swelled to the roof, wreathed bringing up the rear. The majority round the pillars and filled up the of the shops were closed; and the vast area, that man would have been only sign of external festivity was indeed cold and unimpressionable a troop of boys in the gardens of who had not remembered how grand the Tuileries, playing at La Barbe' and solemn was the anniversary there -a sort of calm compromise between celebrating.

the English games of 'prisoner’s

base,' and ' horney.' CHRISTMAS DAY

Paris observes Christmas Day as was clear, sparkling, and not cold. it does Sunday. Many of the shops I delivered my key to the concierge are closed; and the bonnes and the with my accustomed amiability, soldiers walk about with an air of took off my hat with my usual rest rather than holiday. It is a grace, and prepared for a long walk. Dimanche that falls in the middle I struck from the Rue Neuve de of the week, et voilà tout! That it Luxembourg, on to the Boulevards, is Carnival time, you are reminded and traversed the whole of that by the bills of all the places of wonderful pavement. The Boule- public amusement, and by the vard des Capucines, stony, white, notices, stuck against the doors and new, with its promise of a of the cafés and restaurants that magnificent Jockey Club, and a new they will keep open all the night Grand Opera House, and its realiza- on the occasions of the masked tion of a monster palatial hotel, with ball at the Opera.

« AnteriorContinuar »