Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

. (page 47 of 103)
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as the very Pyramids. There was not light
enough yet to strike upon the towers of Notre
Dame across the water ; but I thought of the
dark pavement of the old Cathedral as just be-
ginning to be streaked with grey ; and of the
lamps in the " House of God," the Hospital
close to it, burning low and being quenched ;
and of the keeper of the Morgue going about
with a fading lantern, busy in the arrangement
of his terrible wax-work for another sunny day.

The sun was uj), and shining merrily when the
butchers and I, announcing our departure with
an engine-shriek to sleepy Paris, rattled away for
the Cattle Market. Across the country, over the
Seine, among a forest of scrubby trees — the hoar
frost lying cold in shady places, and glittering in
the light — and here we are at Poissy ! Out leap
the butchers, who have been chattering all the
way like madmen, and off they straggle for the
Cattle Market (still chattering, of course, inces-
santly), in hats and caps of all shapes, in coats
and blouses, in calf-skins, cow-skins, horse-skins,
furs, shaggy mantles, hairy coats, sacking, baize,
oil-skin, anything you please that will keep a
man and a butcher warm upon a frosty morning.



FOISSY AND ITS CALF MARKET.



241



Many a French town have I seen, between
this spot of ground and Strasbourg or Marseilles,
that might sit for your picture, little Poissy !
Barring the details of your old church, I know
you well, albeit we make acquaintance, now, for
the first time. I know your narrow, straggling,
winding streets, with a kennel in the midst, and
lamps slung across. I know your picturesque
street corners, winding uphill Heaven knows
why or where ! I know your tradesmen's in-
scriptions, in letters not quite fat enough ; your
barbers' brazen basins dangling over little shops ;
your Cafes and Estaminets, with cloudy bottles
of stale syrup in the windows, and pictures of
crossed billiard-cues outside. I know this iden-
tical grey horse with his tail rolled up in a knot
like the " back hair " of an untidy woman, who
won't be shod, and who makes himself heraldic
by clattering across the street on his hind-legs,
while twenty voices shriek and growl at him as a
Brigand, an accursed Robber, and an everlast-
ingly-doomed Pig. I know your sparkling town-
fountain too, my Poissy, and am glad to see it
near a cattle-market, gushing so freshly, under
the auspices of a gallant little sublimated French-
man wrought in metal, perched upon the top.
Through all the land of France I know this un-
swept room at the Glory, with its peculiar smell of
beans and coffee, where the butchers crowd about
the stove, drinking the thinnest of wine from the
smallest of tumblers; where the thickest of coffee-
cups mingle with the longest of loaves and the
weakest of lump sugar ; where Madame at the
counter easily acknowledges the homage of all en-
tering and departing butchers; where the biUiard-
table is covered up in the midst like a great bird-
cage — but the bird may sing by-and-by !

A bell ! The Calf Market ! Polite departure
of butchers. Hasty payment and departure on
the part of amateur Visitor. Madame reproaches
Ma'amselle for too fine a susceptibility in refer-
ence to the devotion of a Butcher in a bear-skin.
Monsieur, the landlord of the Glory, counts a
double handful of sous, without an unobliterated
inscription, or an undamaged crowned head,
among them.

There is little noise without, abundant space,
and no confusion. The open area devoted to
the market is divided into three portions : the
Calf Market, the Cattle Market, the Sheep Mar-
ket. Calves at eight, cattle at ten, sheep at
mid-day. All is very clean.

The Calf Market is a raised platform of stone,
some three or four feet high, open on all sides,
with a lofty overspreading roof, supported on
stone columns, which give it the appearance of
a sort of vineyard from Northern Italy. Here,
Edwin Drood, Etc., 16.



on the raised pavement, lie innumerable calves,
all bound hind-legs and fore-legs together, and
all trembling violently — perhaps with cold, per-
haps with fear, perhaps with pain ; for, this mode
of tying, which seems to be an absolute super-
stition with the peasantry, can hardly fail to
cause great suffering. Here they lie, patiently
in rows, among the straw, with their stolid faces
and inexpressive eyes, superintended by men
and women, boys and girls ; here they are in-
spected by our friends, the butchers, bargaineil
for, and bought. Plenty of time ; plenty of
room ; plenty of good-humour. " Monsieur
Frangois in the bear-skin, how do you do, my
friend ? You come from Paris by the train ?
The fresh air does you good. If you are in want
of three or four fine calves this market-morning,
my angel, I, Madame Doche, shall be happy to
deal with you. Behold these calves. Monsieur
Francois ! Great Heaven, you are doubtful !
Well, sir, walk round and look about you. If
you find better for the money, buy them. If not,
come to me ! " Monsieur Francois goes his way
leisurely, and keeps a wary eye upon the stock.
No other butcher jostles Monsieur Frangois ;
Monsieur Francois jostles no other butcher.
Nobody is flustered and aggravated. Nobody
is savage. In the midst of the country blue
frocks and red handkerchiefs, and the butchers'
coats, shaggy, furry, and hairy: of calf-skin,
cow-skin, horse-skin, and bear-skin : towers a
cocked-hat and a blue cloak. Slavery ! For
our Police wear great-coats and glazed hats.

But now the bartering is over, and the calves
are sold. " Ho ! Gregoire, Antoine, Jean,
Louis ! Bring up the carts, my children ! Quick,
brave infants ! Hola ! Hi ! "

The carts, well littered with straw, are backed
up to the edge of the raised pavement, and vari-
ous hot infants carry calves upon their heads,
and dexterously pitch them in, while other hot
infants, standing in the carts, arrange the calves,
and pack them carefully in straw. Here is a
promising young calf, not sold, whom Madame
Doche unbinds. Pardon me, Madame Doche,
but I fear this mode of tying the four legs of a
quadruped together, though strictly a la mode,
is not quite right. You observe, Madame
Doche, that the cord leaves deep indentations
in the skin, and that the animal is so cramped
at first as not to know, or even remotely sus-
pect, that he ?s unbound, until you are so oblig-
ing as to kick him, in your delicate little way,
and pull his tail like a bell-rope. Then, he
staggers to his knees, not being able to stand,
and stumbles about like a drunken calf, or the
horse at Franconi's, whom you may have seen.



242



A MONUMENT OF FRENCH FOLLY,



Madame Doche, who is supposed to have been
mortally wounded in battle. But, what is this
rubbing against me, as I apostrophise Madame
Doche? It is another heated infant, with a calf
upon his head. " Pardon, Monsieur, but will
you have the politeness to allow me to pass ? "
" Ah, sir, willingly. I am vexed to obstruct
the way." On he staggers, calf and all, and
makes no allusion wliatever either to my eyes
or limbs.

Now, the carts are all full. More straw, my
Antoine, to shake over these top rows ; then,
off we will clatter, rumble, jolt, and rattle, a
long row of us, out of the first town-gate, and
out at the second town-gate, and past the empty
sentry-box, and the little thin square bandbox of
a guard-house, where nobody seems to live ; and
away for Paris, by the paved road, lying, a
straight straight line, in the long long avenue of
trees. We can neither choose our road nor our
pace, for that is all prescribed to us. The pub-
lic convenience demands that our carts should
get to Paris by such a route, and no other
(Napoleon had leisure to find that out, while he
had a little war with the world upon his hands),
and woe betide us if we infringe orders.

Droves of oxen stand in the Cattle Market,
tied to iron bars fixed into posts of granite.
Other droves advance slowly down the long
avenue, past the second town-gate, and the first
town-gate, and the sentry-box, and the bandbox,
thawing the morning with their smoky breath as
they come along. Plenty of room ; plenty of
time. Neither man nor beast is driven out of
his wits by coaches, carts, waggons, omnibuses,
gigs, chaises, phaetons, cabs, trucks, boys,
Nvhoopings, roarings, and multitudes. No tail-
twisting is necessary — no iron-pronging is
necessary. There are no iron prongs here.
The market for cattle is held as quietly as the
market for calves. In due time, off the cattle
go to Paris ; the drovers can no more choose
their road, nor their time, nor the numbers they
shall drive, than they can choose their hour for
dying in the course of nature.

Sheep next. The Sheep-pens are up here,
past the Branch Bank of Paris established for
the convenience of the butchers, and behind
the two pretty fountains they are making in the
!Market. My name is Bull : yet I think I
should like to see as good twin fountains — not
to say in Smithfield, but in England anywhere.
Plenty of room ; plenty of time. And here are
sheep-dogs, sensible as ever, but with a certain
French air about them — not without a suspicion
of dominoes — with a kind of flavour of mous-
tache and beard — demonstrative dogs, shaggy



and loose where an English dog would be tight
and close — not so troubled with business calcu-
lations as our English drovers' dogs, who have
always got their sheep upon their minds, and
think about their work, even resting, as you may
see by their faces ; but, dashing, showy, rather
unreliable dogs : who might worry me instead
of their legitimate charges if they saw occasion
— and might see it somewhat suddenly. The
market for sheep passes off like the other two ;
and away they go, by their allotted road to
Paris. My way being the Railway, I make the
best of it at twenty miles an hour ; whirling
through the now high-lighted landscape; think-
ing that the inexperienced green buds will be
wishing, before long, they had not been tempted
to come out so soon ; and* w^ondering who lives
in this or that chateau, all window and lattice,
and what the family may have for breakfast this
sharp morning.

After the Market comes the Abattoir. What
abattoir shall I visit first ? Montmartre is the
largest. So, I will go there.

The abattoirs are all within the walls of Paris,
with an eye to the receipt of the octroi duty ;
but, they stand in open places in the suburbs,
removed from the press and bustle of the city.
They are managed by the Syndicat or Guild of
Butchers, imder the inspection of the Police.
Certain smaller items of the revenue derived
from them are in part retained by the Guild for
the payment of their expenses, and in part de-
voted by it to charitable purposes in connection
with the trade. They cost six hundred and
eighty thousand pounds ; and they return to the
City of Paris an interest on that outlay, amount-
ing to nearly six and a half per cent.

Here, in a sufficiently dismantled space, is the
Abattoir of ]\Iontmartre, covering nearly nine
acres of ground, surrounded by a high wall, and
looking from the outside like a cavalry barrack.
At the iron gates is a small functionary in a
large cocked-hat. "Monsieur desires to see
the abattoir? Most certainly." State being
inconvenient in private transactions, and Mon-
sieur being already aware of the cocked-hat, the
functionary puts it into a little ofticial bureau
which it almost fills, and accompanies me in
the modest attire — as to his head — of ordinary
hfe.

Many of the animals from Poissy have come
here. On the arrival of each drove, it was
turned into yonder ample space, where each
butcher who had bought, selected his own pur-
chases. Some, we see now, in these long jjer-
spectives of stalls with a high overhanging roof
of wood and open tiles rising above the walls.



THE ABATTOIR OF MONTMARTRE.



243



While they rest here, before being slaughtered,
they are required to be fed and watered, and the
stalls must be kept clean. A stated amount of
fodder must always be ready in the loft above ;
and the supervision is of the strictest kind. The
same regulations apply to sheep and calves ; for
which portions of these perspectives are strongly
railed off. All the buildings are of the strongest
and most solid description.

After traversing these lairs, through which,
besides the upper provision for ventilation just
mentioned, there may be a thorough current of
air from opposite windows in the side-walls,
and from doors at either end, we traverse the
broad, paved courtyard until we come to the
slaughter-houses. They are all exactly alike,
and adjoin each other, to the number of eight or
nine together, in blocks of solid building. Let
us walk into the first.

It is firmly built and paved with stone. It is
well lighted, thoroughly aired, and lavishly pro-
vided with fresh water. It has two doors oppo-
site each other ; the first, the door by which I
entered from the main yard ; the second, which
is opposite, opening on another smaller yard,
where the sheep and calves are killed on
benches. The pavement of that yard, I see,
slopes downward to a gutter, for its being more
easily cleansed. The slaughter-house is fifteen
feet high, sixteen feet and a half wide, and
thirty-three feet long. It is fitted with a power-
ful windlass, by which one man at the handle
can bring the head of an ox down to the ground
to receive the blow from the pole-axe that is to
fell him — with the means of raising the carcase,
and keeping it suspended during the after-
operation of dressing — and with hooks on
which carcases can hang, when completely pre-
pared, without touching the walls. Upon the
pavement of this first stone chamber lies an ox
scarcely dead. If I except the blood draining
from him into a little stone well in a corner of
the pavement, the place is free from offence as
the Place de la Concorde. It is infinitely purer
and cleaner, I know, my friend the functionary,
than the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Ha, ha !
Monsieur is pleasant, but, truly, there is reason,
too, in what he says.

I look into another of these slaughter-houses.
" Pray enter," says a gentleman in bloody boots.
"This is a calf I have killed this morning.
Having a little time upon my hands, I have cut
and punctured this lace pattern in the coats of
his stomach. It is pretty enough. I did it to
divert myself." — " It is beautiful, Monsieur the
slaughterer ! " He tells me I have the gentility
to say so.



I look into rows of slaughter-houses. In
many, retail dealers, who have come here for
the purpose, are making bargains for meat.
There is killing enough, certainly, to satiate an
unused eye ; and there are steaming carcases
enough to suggest the expedience of a fowl and
salad for dinner ; but, everywhere, there is an
orderly, clean, well-systematised routine of work
in progress — horrible work at the best, if you
please ; but, so much the greater reason why it
should be made the best of. I don't know (I
think I have observed, my name is Bull) that a
Parisian of the lowest order is particularly deli-
cate, or that his nature is remarkable for an
infinitesimal infusion of ferocity ; but I do
know, my potent, grave, and common-counsel-
ling Signors, that he is forced, when at this
work, to submit himself to a thoroughly good
system, and to make an Englishman very
heartily ashamed of you.

Here, within the walls of the same abattoir,
in other roomy and commodious buildings, are
a place for converting the fat into tallow and
packing it for market — a place for cleansing
and scalding calves' heads and sheep's feet — a
place for preparing tripe — stables and coach-
houses for the butchers — innumerable con-
veniences, aiding in the diminution of offensive-
ness to its lowest possible point, and the raising
of cleanliness and supervision to their highest.
Hence, all the meat that goes out of the gate is
sent away in clean covered carts. And if every
trade connected with the slaughtering of animals
were obliged by law to be carried on in the
same place, I doubt, my friend, now reinstated
in the cocked-hat (whose civility these two francs
imperfectly acknowledge, but appear munifi-
cently to repay), whether there could be better
regulations than those which are carried out at
the Abattoir of Montmartre. Adieu, my friend,
for I am away to the other side of Paris, to the
Abattoir of Crenelle ! And there I find exactly
the same thing on a smaller scale, with the
addition of a magnificent Artesian well, and a
different sort of conductor, in the person of a
neat little woman with neat little eyes, and a
neat little voice, who picks her neat little way
among the bullocks in a very neat little pair of
shoes and stockings.

Such is the Monument of French Folly which
a foreigneering people have erected, in a national
hatred and antipathy for common-counselling
wisdom. That wisdom, assembled in the City
of London, having distinctly refused, after a
debate three days long, and by a majority of
nearly seven to one, to associate itself with any



244



A CHRISTMAS TREE.



Metropolitan Cattle Market unless it be held in
the midst of the City, it follows that we shall
lose the inestimable advantages of common-
counselling protection, and be thrown, for a
market, on our own wretched resources. In all
human probability we shall thus come, at last,
to erect a monument of folly very like this
French monument. If that be done, the conse-
quences are obvious. The leather trade will be
ruined by the introduction of American timber,
to be manufactured into shoes for the fallen
English ; the Lord Mayor will be required, by
the popular voice, to live entirely on frogs ; and
both these changes will (how is not at present
quite clear, but certainly somehow or other) fall
on that unhappy landed interest which is always
being killed, yet is always found to be alive —
and kicking.



A CHRISTMAS TREE.

HAVE been looking on, this even-
ing, at a merry company of children
assembled round that pretty German
toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree
was planted in the middle of a great
round table, and towered high above
^' ^ their heads. It was brilliantly lighted
V by a multitude of little tapers ; and

everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright
objects. There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding
behind the green leaves ; there were real
watches (with movable hands, at least, and an
endless capacity of being wound up) dangling
from innumerable twigs; there were French-
polished tables, chairs, bedsteads, wardrobes,
eight-day clocks, and various other articles of
domestic furniture (wonderfully made, in tin, at
Wolverhampton), perched among the boughs,
as if in preparation for some fairy housekeep-
ing ; there were jolly, broad-faced little men,
much more agreeable in appearance than many
real men — and no wonder, for their heads took
off, and showed them to be full of sugar-plums ;
there were fiddles and drums ; there were tam-
bourines, books, workboxes, paint-boxes, sweet-
meat boxes, peep-show boxes, all kinds of
boxes ; there were trinkets for the elder girls,
far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels ;
there were baskets and pincushions in all de-
vices ; there were guns, swords, and banners;
there were witches standing in enchanted rings
of pasteboard, to tell fortunes ; there were tee-
totums, humming-tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers,
smelling-bottles, conversation cards, bouquet




holders ; real fruit, made artificially dazzling
with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and
walnuts, crammed with surprises ; in short, as
a pretty child before me delightedly whispered
to another pretty child, her bosom friend,
" There was everything, and more." This
motley collection of odd objects clustering on
the tree like magic fruit, and flashing back the
bright looks directed towards it from every side
— some of the diamond-eyes admiring it were
hardly on a level with the table, and a few were
languishing in timid wonder on the bosoms of
pretty mothers, aunts, and nurses — made a
lively realisation of the fancies of childhood ;
and set me thinking how all the trees that grow,
and all the things that come into existence on
the earth, have their wild adornments at that
well-remembered time.

Being now at home again, and alone, the
only person in the house awake, my thoughts
are drawn back, by a fascination which I do
not care to resist, to my own childhood. I
begin to consider, what do we all remember
best upon the branches of the Christmas Tree
of our own young Christmas days, by which we
climbed to real life ?

Straight, in the middle of the room, cramped
in the freedom of its growth by no encircling
walls or soon-reached ceiling, a shadowy tree
arises ; and, looking up into the dreamy bright-
ness of its top — for I observe, in this tree, the
singular property that it appears to grow down-
ward towards the earth — I look into my young-
est Christmas recollections !

All toys at first, I find. Up yonder, among
the green holly and red berries, is the Tumbler
with his hands in his pockets, who wouldn't lie
down, but whenever he was put upon the floor,
persisted in rolling his fat body aljout, until he
rolled himself still, and brought those lobster
eyes of his to bear upon me — when I affected
to laugh very much, but in my heart of hearts
was extremely doubtful of him. Close beside
him is that infernal snuff-box, out of which
there sprang a demoniacal Counsellor in a black
gown, with an obnoxious head of hair, and a
red cloth mouth, wide open, who was not to be
endured on any terms, but could not be put
away either ; for he used suddenly, in a highly
magnified state, to fly out of Mammoth Snuff-
boxes in dreams, when least expected. Nor is
the frog, with cobbler's wax on his tail, far off;
for there was no knowing where he wouldn't
jump ; and when he flew over the candle, and
came upon one's hand with that spotted back —
red on a green ground — he was horrible. The
cardboard lady in a blue silk skirt, who was



CHRISTMAS-TREE FRUJT.



245



stood up against the candlestick to dance, and
whom I sec on the same branch, was milder,
and was beautiful ; but I can't say as much for
the larger cardboard man, who used to be hung
against the wall and pulled by a string ; there
was a sinister expression in that nose of his ;
and when he got his legs round his neck (which
he very often did), he was ghastly, and not a
creature to be alone with.

When did that dreadful Mask first look at
me ? AMio put it on, and why was I so fright-
ened that the sight of it is an era in my life ?
It is not a hideous visage in itself; it is even
meant to be droll ; why then were its stolid
features so intolerable ? Surely not because it
hid the wearer's face. An apron would have
done as much ; and though I should have pre-
ferred even the apron away, it would not have
been absolutely insupportable, like the mask.
Was it the immovability of the mask ? The
doll's face was immovable, but I was not afraid
oi/ier. Perhaps that fixed and set change coming
over a real face, infused into my quickened heart
some remote suggestion and dread of the uni-
versal change that is to come on every face, and
make it still. Notliing reconciled me to it. No
drummers, from whom proceeded a melancholy
chirping on the turning of a handle ; no regiment
of soldiers, with a mute band, taken out of a box,
and fitted, one by one, upon a stift" and lazy little
set of lazy-tongs ; no old woman, made of wires
and a brown-paper composition, cutting up a pie
for two small children ; could give me a perma-
nent comfort for a long time. Nor was it any
satisfaction to be shown the Mask, and see that
it was made of paper, or to have it locked up
and be assured that no one wore it. The mere
recollection of that fixed face, the mere know-
ledge of its existence anywhere, was sufficient to
awake me in the night, all perspiration and
horror, with, " Ob, I know it's coming ! Oh the
mask ! "

I never wondered what the dear old donkey
with the panniers — there he is ! — was made of,
then ! His hide was real to the touch, I recol-
lect. And the great black horse with round red
spots all over him — the horse that I could even
get upon — I never wondered what had brought
him to that strange condition, or thought that
such a horse was not commonly seen at New-
market. The four horses of no colour, next to
him, that went into the waggon of cheeses, and
could be taken out and stabled under the piano,
appear to have bits of fur tippet for their tails,
and other bits for their manes, and to stand on



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 47 of 103)