We went to see the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We had heard of it before. It
surprises me sometimes to think how much we do know and how intelligent we
are. We recognized the brown old Gothic pile in a moment; it was like the
pictures. We stood at a little distance and changed from one point of
observation to another and gazed long at its lofty square towers and its
rich front, clustered thick with stony, mutilated saints who had been
looking calmly down from their perches for ages. The Patriarch of
Jerusalem stood under them in the old days of chivalry and romance, and
preached the third Crusade, more than six hundred years ago; and since
that day they have stood there and looked quietly down upon the most
thrilling scenes, the grandest pageants, the most extraordinary spectacles
that have grieved or delighted Paris. These battered and broken-nosed old
fellows saw many and many a cavalcade of mail-clad knights come marching
home from Holy Land; they heard the bells above them toll the signal for
the St. Bartholomew's Massacre, and they saw the slaughter that followed;
later they saw the Reign of Terror, the carnage of the Revolution, the
overthrow of a king, the coronation of two Napoleons, the christening of
the young prince that lords it over a regiment of servants in the
Tuileries to-day—and they may possibly continue to stand there until
they see the Napoleon dynasty swept away and the banners of a great
republic floating above its ruins. I wish these old parties could speak.
They could tell a tale worth the listening to.
They say that a pagan temple stood where Notre Dame now stands, in the old
Roman days, eighteen or twenty centuries ago—remains of it are still
preserved in Paris; and that a Christian church took its place about A.D.
300; another took the place of that in A.D. 500; and that the foundations
of the present cathedral were laid about A.D. 1100. The ground ought to be
measurably sacred by this time, one would think. One portion of this noble
old edifice is suggestive of the quaint fashions of ancient times. It was
built by Jean Sans-Peur, Duke of Burgundy, to set his conscience at rest—he
had assassinated the Duke of Orleans. Alas! Those good old times are gone
when a murderer could wipe the stain from his name and soothe his troubles
to sleep simply by getting out his bricks and mortar and building an
addition to a church.
The portals of the great western front are bisected by square pillars.
They took the central one away in 1852, on the occasion of thanksgivings
for the reinstitution of the presidential power—but precious soon
they had occasion to reconsider that motion and put it back again! And
We loitered through the grand aisles for an hour or two, staring up at the
rich stained-glass windows embellished with blue and yellow and crimson
saints and martyrs, and trying to admire the numberless great pictures in
the chapels, and then we were admitted to the sacristy and shown the
magnificent robes which the Pope wore when he crowned Napoleon I; a
wagon-load of solid gold and silver utensils used in the great public
processions and ceremonies of the church; some nails of the true cross, a
fragment of the cross itself, a part of the crown of thorns. We had
already seen a large piece of the true cross in a church in the Azores,
but no nails. They showed us likewise the bloody robe which that
archbishop of Paris wore who exposed his sacred person and braved the
wrath of the insurgents of 1848, to mount the barricades and hold aloft
the olive branch of peace in the hope of stopping the slaughter. His noble
effort cost him his life. He was shot dead. They showed us a cast of his
face taken after death, the bullet that killed him, and the two vertebrae
in which it lodged. These people have a somewhat singular taste in the
matter of relics. Ferguson told us that the silver cross which the good
archbishop wore at his girdle was seized and thrown into the Seine, where
it lay embedded in the mud for fifteen years, and then an angel appeared
to a priest and told him where to dive for it; he did dive for it and got
it, and now it is there on exhibition at Notre Dame, to be inspected by
anybody who feels an interest in inanimate objects of miraculous
Next we went to visit the Morgue, that horrible receptacle for the dead
who die mysteriously and leave the manner of their taking off a dismal
secret. We stood before a grating and looked through into a room which was
hung all about with the clothing of dead men; coarse blouses,
water-soaked; the delicate garments of women and children; patrician
vestments, hacked and stabbed and stained with red; a hat that was crushed
On a slanting stone lay a drowned man, naked, swollen, purple; clasping
the fragment of a broken bush with a grip which death had so petrified
that human strength could not unloose it—mute witness of the last
despairing effort to save the life that was doomed beyond all help. A
stream of water trickled ceaselessly over the hideous face. We knew that
the body and the clothing were there for identification by friends, but
still we wondered if anybody could love that repulsive object or grieve
for its loss. We grew meditative and wondered if, some forty years ago,
when the mother of that ghastly thing was dandling it upon her knee, and
kissing it and petting it and displaying it with satisfied pride to the
passers-by, a prophetic vision of this dread ending ever flitted through
her brain. I half feared that the mother, or the wife or a brother of the
dead man might come while we stood there, but nothing of the kind
occurred. Men and women came, and some looked eagerly in and pressed their
faces against the bars; others glanced carelessly at the body and turned
away with a disappointed look—people, I thought, who live upon
strong excitements and who attend the exhibitions of the Morgue regularly,
just as other people go to see theatrical spectacles every night. When one
of these looked in and passed on, I could not help thinking—
"Now this don't afford you any satisfaction—a party with his head
shot off is what you need."
One night we went to the celebrated Jardin Mabille, but only staid a
little while. We wanted to see some of this kind of Paris life, however,
and therefore the next night we went to a similar place of entertainment
in a great garden in the suburb of Asnieres. We went to the railroad
depot, toward evening, and Ferguson got tickets for a second-class
carriage. Such a perfect jam of people I have not often seen—but
there was no noise, no disorder, no rowdyism. Some of the women and young
girls that entered the train we knew to be of the demi-monde, but others
we were not at all sure about.
The girls and women in our carriage behaved themselves modestly and
becomingly all the way out, except that they smoked. When we arrived at
the garden in Asnieres, we paid a franc or two admission and entered a
place which had flower beds in it, and grass plots, and long, curving rows
of ornamental shrubbery, with here and there a secluded bower convenient
for eating ice cream in. We moved along the sinuous gravel walks, with the
great concourse of girls and young men, and suddenly a domed and filigreed
white temple, starred over and over and over again with brilliant gas
jets, burst upon us like a fallen sun. Nearby was a large, handsome house
with its ample front illuminated in the same way, and above its roof
floated the Star-Spangled Banner of America.
"Well!" I said. "How is this?" It nearly took my breath away.
Ferguson said an American—a New Yorker—kept the place, and was
carrying on quite a stirring opposition to the Jardin Mabille.
Crowds composed of both sexes and nearly all ages were frisking about the
garden or sitting in the open air in front of the flagstaff and the
temple, drinking wine and coffee or smoking. The dancing had not begun
yet. Ferguson said there was to be an exhibition. The famous Blondin was
going to perform on a tightrope in another part of the garden. We went
thither. Here the light was dim, and the masses of people were pretty
closely packed together. And now I made a mistake which any donkey might
make, but a sensible man never. I committed an error which I find myself
repeating every day of my life. Standing right before a young lady, I
"Dan, just look at this girl, how beautiful she is!"
"I thank you more for the evident sincerity of the compliment, sir, than
for the extraordinary publicity you have given to it!" This in good, pure
We took a walk, but my spirits were very, very sadly dampened. I did not
feel right comfortable for some time afterward. Why will people be so
stupid as to suppose themselves the only foreigners among a crowd of ten
But Blondin came out shortly. He appeared on a stretched cable, far away
above the sea of tossing hats and handkerchiefs, and in the glare of the
hundreds of rockets that whizzed heavenward by him he looked like a wee
insect. He balanced his pole and walked the length of his rope—two
or three hundred feet; he came back and got a man and carried him across;
he returned to the center and danced a jig; next he performed some
gymnastic and balancing feats too perilous to afford a pleasant spectacle;
and he finished by fastening to his person a thousand Roman candles,
Catherine wheels, serpents and rockets of all manner of brilliant colors,
setting them on fire all at once and walking and waltzing across his rope
again in a blinding blaze of glory that lit up the garden and the people's
faces like a great conflagration at midnight.
The dance had begun, and we adjourned to the temple. Within it was a
drinking saloon, and all around it was a broad circular platform for the
dancers. I backed up against the wall of the temple, and waited. Twenty
sets formed, the music struck up, and then—I placed my hands before
my face for very shame. But I looked through my fingers. They were dancing
the renowned "Can-can." A handsome girl in the set before me tripped
forward lightly to meet the opposite gentleman, tripped back again,
grasped her dresses vigorously on both sides with her hands, raised them
pretty high, danced an extraordinary jig that had more activity and
exposure about it than any jig I ever saw before, and then, drawing her
clothes still higher, she advanced gaily to the center and launched a
vicious kick full at her vis-a-vis that must infallibly have removed his
nose if he had been seven feet high. It was a mercy he was only six.
That is the can-can. The idea of it is to dance as wildly, as noisily, as
furiously as you can; expose yourself as much as possible if you are a
woman; and kick as high as you can, no matter which sex you belong to.
There is no word of exaggeration in this. Any of the staid, respectable,
aged people who were there that night can testify to the truth of that
statement. There were a good many such people present. I suppose French
morality is not of that straight-laced description which is shocked at
I moved aside and took a general view of the can-can. Shouts, laughter,
furious music, a bewildering chaos of darting and intermingling forms,
stormy jerking and snatching of gay dresses, bobbing beads, flying arms,
lightning flashes of white-stockinged calves and dainty slippers in the
air, and then a grand final rush, riot, a terrific hubbub, and a wild
stampede! Heavens! Nothing like it has been seen on earth since trembling
Tam O'Shanter saw the devil and the witches at their orgies that stormy
night in "Alloway's auld haunted kirk."
We visited the Louvre, at a time when we had no silk purchases in view,
and looked at its miles of paintings by the old masters. Some of them were
beautiful, but at the same time they carried such evidences about them of
the cringing spirit of those great men that we found small pleasure in
examining them. Their nauseous adulation of princely patrons was more
prominent to me and chained my attention more surely than the charms of
color and expression which are claimed to be in the pictures. Gratitude
for kindnesses is well, but it seems to me that some of those artists
carried it so far that it ceased to be gratitude and became worship. If
there is a plausible excuse for the worship of men, then by all means let
us forgive Rubens and his brethren.
But I will drop the subject, lest I say something about the old masters
that might as well be left unsaid.
Of course we drove in the Bois de Boulogne, that limitless park, with its
forests, its lakes, its cascades, and its broad avenues. There were
thousands upon thousands of vehicles abroad, and the scene was full of
life and gaiety. There were very common hacks, with father and mother and
all the children in them; conspicuous little open carriages with
celebrated ladies of questionable reputation in them; there were Dukes and
Duchesses abroad, with gorgeous footmen perched behind, and equally
gorgeous outriders perched on each of the six horses; there were blue and
silver, and green and gold, and pink and black, and all sorts and
descriptions of stunning and startling liveries out, and I almost yearned
to be a flunkey myself, for the sake of the fine clothes.
But presently the Emperor came along and he outshone them all. He was
preceded by a bodyguard of gentlemen on horseback in showy uniforms, his
carriage-horses (there appeared to be somewhere in the remote neighborhood
of a thousand of them,) were bestridden by gallant-looking fellows, also
in stylish uniforms, and after the carriage followed another detachment of
bodyguards. Everybody got out of the way; everybody bowed to the Emperor
and his friend the Sultan; and they went by on a swinging trot and
I will not describe the Bois de Boulogne. I can not do it. It is simply a
beautiful, cultivated, endless, wonderful wilderness. It is an enchanting
place. It is in Paris now, one may say, but a crumbling old cross in one
portion of it reminds one that it was not always so. The cross marks the
spot where a celebrated troubadour was waylaid and murdered in the
fourteenth century. It was in this park that that fellow with an
unpronounceable name made the attempt upon the Russian Czar's life last
spring with a pistol. The bullet struck a tree. Ferguson showed us the
place. Now in America that interesting tree would be chopped down or
forgotten within the next five years, but it will be treasured here. The
guides will point it out to visitors for the next eight hundred years, and
when it decays and falls down they will put up another there and go on
with the same old story just the same.
One of our pleasantest visits was to Pere la Chaise, the national
burying-ground of France, the honored resting-place of some of her
greatest and best children, the last home of scores of illustrious men and
women who were born to no titles, but achieved fame by their own energy
and their own genius. It is a solemn city of winding streets and of
miniature marble temples and mansions of the dead gleaming white from out
a wilderness of foliage and fresh flowers. Not every city is so well
peopled as this, or has so ample an area within its walls. Few palaces
exist in any city that are so exquisite in design, so rich in art, so
costly in material, so graceful, so beautiful.
We had stood in the ancient church of St. Denis, where the marble effigies
of thirty generations of kings and queens lay stretched at length upon the
tombs, and the sensations invoked were startling and novel; the curious
armor, the obsolete costumes, the placid faces, the hands placed palm to
palm in eloquent supplication—it was a vision of gray antiquity. It
seemed curious enough to be standing face to face, as it were, with old
Dagobert I., and Clovis and Charlemagne, those vague, colossal heroes,
those shadows, those myths of a thousand years ago! I touched their
dust-covered faces with my finger, but Dagobert was deader than the
sixteen centuries that have passed over him, Clovis slept well after his
labor for Christ, and old Charlemagne went on dreaming of his paladins, of
bloody Roncesvalles, and gave no heed to me.
The great names of Pere la Chaise impress one, too, but differently. There
the suggestion brought constantly to his mind is, that this place is
sacred to a nobler royalty—the royalty of heart and brain. Every
faculty of mind, every noble trait of human nature, every high occupation
which men engage in, seems represented by a famous name. The effect is a
curious medley. Davoust and Massena, who wrought in many a battle tragedy,
are here, and so also is Rachel, of equal renown in mimic tragedy on the
stage. The Abbe Sicard sleeps here—the first great teacher of the
deaf and dumb—a man whose heart went out to every unfortunate, and
whose life was given to kindly offices in their service; and not far off,
in repose and peace at last, lies Marshal Ney, whose stormy spirit knew no
music like the bugle call to arms. The man who originated public
gas-lighting, and that other benefactor who introduced the cultivation of
the potato and thus blessed millions of his starving countrymen, lie with
the Prince of Masserano, and with exiled queens and princes of Further
India. Gay-Lussac the chemist, Laplace the astronomer, Larrey the surgeon,
de Suze the advocate, are here, and with them are Talma, Bellini, Rubini;
de Balzac, Beaumarchais, Beranger; Moliere and Lafontaine, and scores of
other men whose names and whose worthy labors are as familiar in the
remote by-places of civilization as are the historic deeds of the kings
and princes that sleep in the marble vaults of St. Denis.
But among the thousands and thousands of tombs in Pere la Chaise, there is
one that no man, no woman, no youth of either sex, ever passes by without
stopping to examine. Every visitor has a sort of indistinct idea of the
history of its dead and comprehends that homage is due there, but not one
in twenty thousand clearly remembers the story of that tomb and its
romantic occupants. This is the grave of Abelard and Heloise—a grave
which has been more revered, more widely known, more written and sung
about and wept over, for seven hundred years, than any other in
Christendom save only that of the Saviour. All visitors linger pensively
about it; all young people capture and carry away keepsakes and mementoes
of it; all Parisian youths and maidens who are disappointed in love come
there to bail out when they are full of tears; yea, many stricken lovers
make pilgrimages to this shrine from distant provinces to weep and wail
and "grit" their teeth over their heavy sorrows, and to purchase the
sympathies of the chastened spirits of that tomb with offerings of
immortelles and budding flowers.
Go when you will, you find somebody snuffling over that tomb. Go when you
will, you find it furnished with those bouquets and immortelles. Go when
you will, you find a gravel-train from Marseilles arriving to supply the
deficiencies caused by memento-cabbaging vandals whose affections have
Yet who really knows the story of Abelard and Heloise? Precious few
people. The names are perfectly familiar to every body, and that is about
all. With infinite pains I have acquired a knowledge of that history, and
I propose to narrate it here, partly for the honest information of the
public and partly to show that public that they have been wasting a good
deal of marketable sentiment very unnecessarily.
STORY OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Heloise was born seven hundred and sixty-six years ago. She may have had
parents. There is no telling. She lived with her uncle Fulbert, a canon of
the cathedral of Paris. I do not know what a canon of a cathedral is, but
that is what he was. He was nothing more than a sort of a mountain
howitzer, likely, because they had no heavy artillery in those days.
Suffice it, then, that Heloise lived with her uncle the howitzer and was
happy. She spent the most of her childhood in the convent of Argenteuil—never
heard of Argenteuil before, but suppose there was really such a place. She
then returned to her uncle, the old gun, or son of a gun, as the case may
be, and he taught her to write and speak Latin, which was the language of
literature and polite society at that period.
Just at this time, Pierre Abelard, who had already made himself widely
famous as a rhetorician, came to found a school of rhetoric in Paris. The
originality of his principles, his eloquence, and his great physical
strength and beauty created a profound sensation. He saw Heloise, and was
captivated by her blooming youth, her beauty, and her charming
disposition. He wrote to her; she answered. He wrote again; she answered
again. He was now in love. He longed to know her—to speak to her
face to face.
His school was near Fulbert's house. He asked Fulbert to allow him to
call. The good old swivel saw here a rare opportunity: his niece, whom he
so much loved, would absorb knowledge from this man, and it would not cost
him a cent. Such was Fulbert—penurious.
Fulbert's first name is not mentioned by any author, which is unfortunate.
However, George W. Fulbert will answer for him as well as any other. We
will let him go at that. He asked Abelard to teach her.
Abelard was glad enough of the opportunity. He came often and staid long.
A letter of his shows in its very first sentence that he came under that
friendly roof like a cold-hearted villain as he was, with the deliberate
intention of debauching a confiding, innocent girl. This is the letter:
"I cannot cease to be astonished at the simplicity of Fulbert; I was as
much surprised as if he had placed a lamb in the power of a hungry wolf.
Heloise and I, under pretext of study, gave ourselves up wholly to love,
and the solitude that love seeks our studies procured for us. Books were
open before us, but we spoke oftener of love than philosophy, and kisses
came more readily from our lips than words."
And so, exulting over an honorable confidence which to his degraded
instinct was a ludicrous "simplicity," this unmanly Abelard seduced the
niece of the man whose guest he was. Paris found it out. Fulbert was told
of it—told often—but refused to believe it. He could not
comprehend how a man could be so depraved as to use the sacred protection
and security of hospitality as a means for the commission of such a crime
as that. But when he heard the rowdies in the streets singing the
love-songs of Abelard to Heloise, the case was too plain—love-songs
come not properly within the teachings of rhetoric and philosophy.
He drove Abelard from his house. Abelard returned secretly and carried
Heloise away to Palais, in Brittany, his native country. Here, shortly
afterward, she bore a son, who, from his rare beauty, was surnamed
Astrolabe—William G. The girl's flight enraged Fulbert, and he
longed for vengeance, but feared to strike lest retaliation visit Heloise—for
he still loved her tenderly. At length Abelard offered to marry Heloise—but
on a shameful condition: that the marriage should be kept secret from the
world, to the end that (while her good name remained a wreck, as before,)
his priestly reputation might be kept untarnished. It was like that
miscreant. Fulbert saw his opportunity and consented. He would see the
parties married, and then violate the confidence of the man who had taught
him that trick; he would divulge the secret and so remove somewhat of the
obloquy that attached to his niece's fame. But the niece suspected his
scheme. She refused the marriage at first; she said Fulbert would betray
the secret to save her, and besides, she did not wish to drag down a lover
who was so gifted, so honored by the world, and who had such a splendid
career before him. It was noble, self-sacrificing love, and characteristic
of the pure-souled Heloise, but it was not good sense.
But she was overruled, and the private marriage took place. Now for
Fulbert! The heart so wounded should be healed at last; the proud spirit
so tortured should find rest again; the humbled head should be lifted up
once more. He proclaimed the marriage in the high places of the city and
rejoiced that dishonor had departed from his house. But lo! Abelard denied
the marriage! Heloise denied it! The people, knowing the former
circumstances, might have believed Fulbert had only Abelard denied it, but
when the person chiefly interested—the girl herself—denied it,
they laughed, despairing Fulbert to scorn.
The poor canon of the cathedral of Paris was spiked again. The last hope
of repairing the wrong that had been done his house was gone. What next?
Human nature suggested revenge. He compassed it. The historian says:
"Ruffians, hired by Fulbert, fell upon Abelard by night, and inflicted
upon him a terrible and nameless mutilation."
I am seeking the last resting place of those "ruffians." When I find it I
shall shed some tears on it, and stack up some bouquets and immortelles,
and cart away from it some gravel whereby to remember that howsoever
blotted by crime their lives may have been, these ruffians did one just
deed, at any rate, albeit it was not warranted by the strict letter of the
Heloise entered a convent and gave good-bye to the world and its pleasures
for all time. For twelve years she never heard of Abelard—never even
heard his name mentioned. She had become prioress of Argenteuil and led a
life of complete seclusion. She happened one day to see a letter written
by him, in which he narrated his own history. She cried over it and wrote
him. He answered, addressing her as his "sister in Christ." They continued
to correspond, she in the unweighed language of unwavering affection, he
in the chilly phraseology of the polished rhetorician. She poured out her
heart in passionate, disjointed sentences; he replied with finished
essays, divided deliberately into heads and sub-heads, premises and
argument. She showered upon him the tenderest epithets that love could
devise, he addressed her from the North Pole of his frozen heart as the
"Spouse of Christ!" The abandoned villain!
On account of her too easy government of her nuns, some disreputable
irregularities were discovered among them, and the Abbot of St. Denis
broke up her establishment. Abelard was the official head of the monastery
of St. Gildas de Ruys, at that time, and when he heard of her homeless
condition a sentiment of pity was aroused in his breast (it is a wonder
the unfamiliar emotion did not blow his head off,) and he placed her and
her troop in the little oratory of the Paraclete, a religious
establishment which he had founded. She had many privations and sufferings
to undergo at first, but her worth and her gentle disposition won
influential friends for her, and she built up a wealthy and flourishing
nunnery. She became a great favorite with the heads of the church, and
also the people, though she seldom appeared in public. She rapidly
advanced in esteem, in good report, and in usefulness, and Abelard as
rapidly lost ground. The Pope so honored her that he made her the head of
her order. Abelard, a man of splendid talents, and ranking as the first
debater of his time, became timid, irresolute, and distrustful of his
powers. He only needed a great misfortune to topple him from the high
position he held in the world of intellectual excellence, and it came.
Urged by kings and princes to meet the subtle St. Bernard in debate and
crush him, he stood up in the presence of a royal and illustrious
assemblage, and when his antagonist had finished he looked about him and
stammered a commencement; but his courage failed him, the cunning of his
tongue was gone: with his speech unspoken, he trembled and sat down, a
disgraced and vanquished champion.
He died a nobody, and was buried at Cluny, A.D., 1144. They removed his
body to the Paraclete afterward, and when Heloise died, twenty years
later, they buried her with him, in accordance with her last wish. He died
at the ripe age of 64, and she at 63. After the bodies had remained
entombed three hundred years, they were removed once more. They were
removed again in 1800, and finally, seventeen years afterward, they were
taken up and transferred to Pere la Chaise, where they will remain in
peace and quiet until it comes time for them to get up and move again.
History is silent concerning the last acts of the mountain howitzer. Let
the world say what it will about him, I, at least, shall always respect
the memory and sorrow for the abused trust and the broken heart and the
troubled spirit of the old smooth-bore. Rest and repose be his!
Such is the story of Abelard and Heloise. Such is the history that
Lamartine has shed such cataracts of tears over. But that man never could
come within the influence of a subject in the least pathetic without
overflowing his banks. He ought to be dammed—or leveed, I should
more properly say. Such is the history—not as it is usually told,
but as it is when stripped of the nauseous sentimentality that would
enshrine for our loving worship a dastardly seducer like Pierre Abelard. I
have not a word to say against the misused, faithful girl, and would not
withhold from her grave a single one of those simple tributes which
blighted youths and maidens offer to her memory, but I am sorry enough
that I have not time and opportunity to write four or five volumes of my
opinion of her friend the founder of the Parachute, or the Paraclete, or
whatever it was.
The tons of sentiment I have wasted on that unprincipled humbug in my
ignorance! I shall throttle down my emotions hereafter, about this sort of
people, until I have read them up and know whether they are entitled to
any tearful attentions or not. I wish I had my immortelles back, now, and
that bunch of radishes.
In Paris we often saw in shop windows the sign "English Spoken Here," just
as one sees in the windows at home the sign "Ici on parle francaise." We
always invaded these places at once—and invariably received the
information, framed in faultless French, that the clerk who did the
English for the establishment had just gone to dinner and would be back in
an hour—would Monsieur buy something? We wondered why those parties
happened to take their dinners at such erratic and extraordinary hours,
for we never called at a time when an exemplary Christian would be in the
least likely to be abroad on such an errand. The truth was, it was a base
fraud—a snare to trap the unwary—chaff to catch fledglings
with. They had no English-murdering clerk. They trusted to the sign to
inveigle foreigners into their lairs, and trusted to their own
blandishments to keep them there till they bought something.
We ferreted out another French imposition—a frequent sign to this
effect: "ALL MANNER OF AMERICAN DRINKS ARTISTICALLY PREPARED HERE." We
procured the services of a gentleman experienced in the nomenclature of
the American bar, and moved upon the works of one of these impostors. A
bowing, aproned Frenchman skipped forward and said:
"Que voulez les messieurs?" I do not know what "Que voulez les messieurs?"
means, but such was his remark.
Our general said, "We will take a whiskey straight."
[A stare from the Frenchman.]
"Well, if you don't know what that is, give us a champagne cock-tail."
[A stare and a shrug.]
"Well, then, give us a sherry cobbler."
The Frenchman was checkmated. This was all Greek to him.
"Give us a brandy smash!"
The Frenchman began to back away, suspicious of the ominous vigor of the
last order—began to back away, shrugging his shoulders and spreading
his hands apologetically.
The General followed him up and gained a complete victory. The uneducated
foreigner could not even furnish a Santa Cruz Punch, an Eye-Opener, a
Stone-Fence, or an Earthquake. It was plain that he was a wicked impostor.
An acquaintance of mine said the other day that he was doubtless the only
American visitor to the Exposition who had had the high honor of being
escorted by the Emperor's bodyguard. I said with unobtrusive frankness
that I was astonished that such a long-legged, lantern-jawed,
unprepossessing-looking specter as he should be singled out for a
distinction like that, and asked how it came about. He said he had
attended a great military review in the Champ de Mars some time ago, and
while the multitude about him was growing thicker and thicker every moment
he observed an open space inside the railing. He left his carriage and
went into it. He was the only person there, and so he had plenty of room,
and the situation being central, he could see all the preparations going
on about the field. By and by there was a sound of music, and soon the
Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Austria, escorted by the famous
Cent Gardes, entered the enclosure. They seemed not to observe him, but
directly, in response to a sign from the commander of the guard, a young
lieutenant came toward him with a file of his men following, halted,
raised his hand, and gave the military salute, and then said in a low
voice that he was sorry to have to disturb a stranger and a gentleman, but
the place was sacred to royalty. Then this New Jersey phantom rose up and
bowed and begged pardon, then with the officer beside him, the file of men
marching behind him, and with every mark of respect, he was escorted to
his carriage by the imperial Cent Gardes! The officer saluted again and
fell back, the New Jersey sprite bowed in return and had presence of mind
enough to pretend that he had simply called on a matter of private
business with those emperors, and so waved them an adieu and drove from
Imagine a poor Frenchman ignorantly intruding upon a public rostrum sacred
to some six-penny dignitary in America. The police would scare him to
death first with a storm of their elegant blasphemy, and then pull him to
pieces getting him away from there. We are measurably superior to the
French in some things, but they are immeasurably our betters in others.
Enough of Paris for the present. We have done our whole duty by it. We
have seen the Tuileries, the Napoleon Column, the Madeleine, that wonder
of wonders the tomb of Napoleon, all the great churches and museums,
libraries, imperial palaces, and sculpture and picture galleries, the
Pantheon, Jardin des Plantes, the opera, the circus, the legislative body,
the billiard rooms, the barbers, the grisettes—
Ah, the grisettes! I had almost forgotten. They are another romantic
fraud. They were (if you let the books of travel tell it) always so
beautiful—so neat and trim, so graceful—so naive and trusting—so
gentle, so winning—so faithful to their shop duties, so irresistible
to buyers in their prattling importunity—so devoted to their
poverty-stricken students of the Latin Quarter—so lighthearted and
happy on their Sunday picnics in the suburbs—and oh, so charmingly,
so delightfully immoral!
Stuff! For three or four days I was constantly saying:
"Quick, Ferguson! Is that a grisette?"
And he always said, "No."
He comprehended at last that I wanted to see a grisette. Then he showed me
dozens of them. They were like nearly all the Frenchwomen I ever saw—homely.
They had large hands, large feet, large mouths; they had pug noses as a
general thing, and moustaches that not even good breeding could overlook;
they combed their hair straight back without parting; they were
ill-shaped, they were not winning, they were not graceful; I knew by their
looks that they ate garlic and onions; and lastly and finally, to my
thinking it would be base flattery to call them immoral.
Aroint thee, wench! I sorrow for the vagabond student of the Latin Quarter
now, even more than formerly I envied him. Thus topples to earth another
idol of my infancy.
We have seen every thing, and tomorrow we go to Versailles. We shall see
Paris only for a little while as we come back to take up our line of march
for the ship, and so I may as well bid the beautiful city a regretful
farewell. We shall travel many thousands of miles after we leave here and
visit many great cities, but we shall find none so enchanting as this.
Some of our party have gone to England, intending to take a roundabout
course and rejoin the vessel at Leghorn or Naples several weeks hence. We
came near going to Geneva, but have concluded to return to Marseilles and
go up through Italy from Genoa.
I will conclude this chapter with a remark that I am sincerely proud to be
able to make—and glad, as well, that my comrades cordially endorse
it, to wit: by far the handsomest women we have seen in France were born
and reared in America.
I feel now like a man who has redeemed a failing reputation and shed
luster upon a dimmed escutcheon, by a single just deed done at the