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he protested was worse than a bread-pudding at Saratoga. By some process
of reasoning that was rather material than philosophical, he came to the
conclusion that the substratum of all the extraordinary compounds he had
met with at the _restaurans_ was derived from this pile, and he swore as
terribly as any of "our army in Flanders," that not another mouthful
would he touch, while he remained in Paris, if the dish put his
knowledge of natural history at fault. He had all along suspected he had
been eating cats and vermin, but his imagination had never pictured to
him such a store of abominations for the _casserole_ as were to be seen
in this pile. In vain I asked him if he did not find the dishes good.
Cats might be good for anything he knew, but he was too old to change
his habits. On the present occasion, he made the situation of the
Abattoir d'Ivry an excuse for not turning up the river by the wall. I do
not think, however, we gained anything in the distance, the _détour_ to
cross the bridge more than equalling the ground we missed.

We came under the wall again at the Barrière de Ville Juif, and followed
it, keeping on the side next the town until we fairly reached the river
once more, beyond Vaugirard. Here we were compelled to walk some
distance to cross the Pont de Jena, and again to make a considerable
circuit through Passy, on account of the gardens, in order to do justice
to our task. About this time the commodore fairly fell astern; and he
discovered that the other boot was too large. I kept talking to him over
my shoulder, and cheering him on, and he felicitated me on frogs
agreeing so well with my constitution. At length we came in at the
Barrière de Clichy, just as the clocks struck three, or in four hours,
to a minute, from the time we had left the same spot. We had neither
stopped, eaten, nor drunk a mouthful. The distance is supposed to be
about eighteen miles, but I can hardly think it is so much, for we went
rather further than if we had closely followed the wall.

Our agility having greatly exceeded my calculations, we were obliged to
walk two miles further, in order to find the carriage. The time expended
in going this distance included, we were just four hours and a half on
our feet. The captain protested that his boots had disgraced him, and
forthwith commanded another pair; a subterfuge that did him no good.

One anecdote connected with the sojourn of this eccentric, but really
excellent-hearted and intelligent man,[22] at Paris is too good not to be
told. He cannot speak a word of pure French; and of all Anglicizing of
the language I have ever heard, his attempts at it are the most droll.
He calls the Tuileries, Tully_rees_; the Jardin des Plantes, the _Garden
dis Plants_; the guillotine, gully_teen_; and the _garçons_ of the
_cafés_, _gassons_. Choleric, with whiskers like a bear, and a voice of
thunder, if anything goes wrong, he swears away, starboard and larboard,
in French and English, in delightful discord.

[Footnote 22: He is since dead.]

He sought me out soon after his arrival, and carried me with him, as an
interpreter, in quest of lodgings. We found a very snug little apartment
of four rooms, that he took. The last occupant was a lady, who, in
letting the rooms, conditioned that Marie, her servant, must be hired
with them, to look after the furniture, and to be in readiness to
receive her at her return from the provinces. A few days after this
arrangement I called, and was surprised, on ringing the bell, to hear
the cry of an infant. After a moment's delay the door was cautiously
opened, and the captain, in his gruffest tone, demanded, "Cur vully
voo?" An exclamation of surprise at seeing me followed; but instead of
opening the door for my admission, he held it for a moment, as if
undecided whether to be "at home" or not. At this critical instant an
infant cried again, and the thing became too ridiculous for further
gravity. We both laughed outright. I entered, and found the captain with
a child three days old tucked under his right arm, or that which had
been concealed by the door. The explanation was very simple, and
infinitely to his credit.

Marie, the _locum tenens_ of the lady who had let the apartment, and the
wife of a coachman who was in the country, was the mother of the infant.
After its birth she presented herself to her new master; told her story;
adding, by means of an interpreter, that if he turned her away, she had
no place in which to lay her head. The kind-hearted fellow made out to
live abroad as well as he could for a day or two - an easy thing enough
in Paris, by the way, - and when I so unexpectedly entered, Marie was
actually cooking the captain's breakfast in the kitchen while he was
nursing the child in the _salon!_

The dialogues between the captain and Marie were to the last degree
amusing. He was quite unconscious of the odd sounds he uttered in
speaking French, but thought he was getting on very well, being rather
minute and particular in his orders; and she felt his kindness to
herself and child so sensibly, that she always fancied she understood
his wishes. I was frequently compelled to interpret between them; first
asking him to explain himself in English, for I could make but little of
his French myself. On one occasion he invited me to breakfast, as we
were to pass the day exploring in company. By way of inducement, he told
me that he had accidentally found some cocoa in the shell, and that he
had been teaching Marie how to cook it "ship-fashion." I would not
promise, as his hour was rather early, and the distance between us so
great; but before eleven I would certainly be with him. I breakfasted at
home therefore, but was punctual to the latter engagement. "I hope you
have breakfasted?" cried the captain, rather fiercely, as I entered. I
satisfied him on this point; and then, after a minute of demure
reflection, he resumed, "You are lucky; for Marie boiled the cocoa, and,
after throwing away the liquor, she buttered and peppered the shells,
and served them for me to eat! I don't see how she made such a mistake,
for I was very particular in my directions, and be d - - d to her! I
don't care so much about my own breakfast neither, for that can be had
at the next _café_; but the poor creature has lost hers, which I told
her to cook out of the rest of the cocoa." I had the curiosity to
inquire how he had made out to tell Marie to do all this. "Why, I showed
her the cocoa, to be sure, and then told her to _boily vous-même_."
There was no laughing at this, and so I went with the captain to a
_café_; after which we proceeded in quest of the _gullyteen_, which he
was particularly anxious to see.

My rides often extend to the heights behind Malmaison and St. Cloud,
where there is a fine country, and where some of the best views in the
vicinity of Paris are to be obtained. As the court is at St. Cloud, I
often meet different members of the royal family dashing to or from
town, or perhaps passing from one of their abodes to another. The style
is pretty uniform, for I do not remember to have ever met the king but
once with less than eight horses. The exception was quite early one
morning, when he was going into the country with very little _éclat_,
accompanied by the Dauphine. Even on this occasion he was in a carriage
and six, followed by another with four, and attended by a dozen mounted
men. These royal progresses are truly magnificent; and they serve
greatly to enliven the road, as we live so near the country palace. The
king has been quite lately to a camp formed at St. Omer, and I happened
to meet a portion of his equipages on their return. The carriages I saw
were very neatly built post-chaises, well leathered, and contained what
are here called the "officers of the mouth," alias "cooks and
purveyors." They were all drawn by four horses. This was a great
occasion - furniture being actually sent from the palace of Compiègne for
the king's lodgings, and the court is said to have employed seventy
different vehicles to transport it. I saw about a dozen.

Returning the other night from a dinner-party, given on the banks of the
Seine, a few miles above us, I saw flaring lights gleaming along the
highway, which, at first, caused nearly as much conjecture as some of
the adventures of Don Quixotte. My horse proving a little restive, I
pulled up, placing the cabriolet on one side of the road, for the first
impression was that the cattle employed at some funeral procession had
taken flight and were running away. It proved to be the Dauphine dashing
towards St. Cloud. This was the first time I had ever met any of the
royal equipages at night, and the passage was much the most picturesque
of any I had hitherto seen. Footmen, holding flaming flambeaux, rode in
pairs in front, by the side of the carriage, and in its rear; the
_piqueur_ scouring along the road in advance, like a rocket. By the way,
a lady of the court told me lately that Louis XVIII. had lost some of
his French by the emigration, for he did not know how to pronounce this
word _piqueur_.

On witnessing all this magnificence, the mind is carried back a few
generations, in the inquiry after the progress of luxury, and the usages
of our fathers. Coaches were first used in England in the reign of
Elizabeth. It is clear enough, by the pictures in the Louvre, that in
the time of Louis XIV. the royal carriages were huge, clumsy vehicles,
with at least three seats. Mademoiselle de Montpensier, in her Memoirs,
tells us how often she took her place at the window, in order to admire
the graceful attitudes of M. de Lauzun, who rode near it. There is still
in existence, in the Bibliothèque du Roi, a letter of Henry IV. to
Sully, in which the king explains to the grand master the reason why he
could not come to the arsenal that day; the excuse being that the queen
_was using the carriage!_ To-day his descendant seldom moves at a pace
slower than ten miles the hour, is drawn by eight horses, and is usually
accompanied by one or more empty vehicles of equal magnificence to
receive him, in the event of an accident.

Notwithstanding all this regal splendour, the turn-outs of Paris, as a
whole, are by no means remarkable. The genteelest and the fashionable
carriage is the chariot. I like the proportions of the French carriages
better than those of the English or our own, the first being too heavy,
and the last too light. The French vehicles appear to me to be in this
respect a happy medium. But the finish is by no means equal to that of
the English carriages, nor at all better than that of ours. There are
relatively a large proportion of shabby-genteel equipages at Paris. Even
the vehicles that are seen standing in the court of the Tuileries on a
reception day are not at all superior to the better sort of American
carriages, though the liveries are much more showy.

Few people here own the carriages and horses they use. Even the
strangers, who are obliged to have travelling vehicles rarely use them
in town, the road and the streets requiring very different sorts of
equipages. There are certain job-dealers who furnish all that is
required for a stipulated sum. You select the carriage and horses on
trial and contract at so much a month, or at so much a year. The
coachman usually comes with the equipage, as does the footman sometimes,
though both are paid by the person taking the coach. They will wear your
livery, if you choose, and you can have your arms put on the carriage if
desirable. I pay five hundred francs a month for a carriage and horses,
and forty francs for a coachman. I believe this is the usual price. I
have a right to have a pair of horses always at my command, finding
nothing but the stable, and even this would be unnecessary in Paris. If
we go away from our own stable, I pay five francs a day extra. There is
a very great convenience to strangers, in particular, in this system,
for one can set up and lay down a carriage, without unnecessary trouble
or expense, as it may be wanted. In everything of this nature, we have
no town that has the least character, or the conveniences, of a capital.

The French have little to boast of in the way of horseflesh. Most of the
fine coach and cabriolet cattle of Paris come from Mecklenburgh, though
some are imported from England. It is not common to meet with a very
fine animal of the native breed. In America, land is so plenty and so
cheap, that we keep a much larger proportion of brute force than is kept
here. It is not uncommon with us to meet with those who live by day's
work, using either oxen or horses. The consequence is that many beasts
are raised with little care, and with scarcely any attention to the
breeds. We find many good ones. In spite of bad grooming, little
training, and hard work, I greatly question if even England possesses a
larger proportion of good horses, comparing the population of the two
countries, than America. Our animals are quicker footed, and at
trotting, I suspect, we could beat the world; Christendom, certainly.
The great avenue between the garden of the Tuileries and the Bois de
Boulogne, with the _allées_ of the latter, are the places to meet the
fast-goers of the French capital, and I am strongly of opinion that
there is no such exhibition of speed, in either, as one meets on the
Third Avenue of New York. As for the Avenue de Neuilly, our sulky riders
would vanish like the wind from anything I have seen on it; although one
meets there, occasionally, fine animals from all parts of Europe.

The cattle of the _diligences_, of the post-houses, and even of the
cavalry of France, are solid, hardy and good feeders, but they are
almost entirely without speed or action. The two former are very much
the same, and it is a hard matter to get more than eight miles out of
them without breaking into a gallop, or more than ten, if put under the
whip. Now, a short time previously to leaving home, I went eleven
measured miles, in a public coach, in two minutes less than an hour, the
whip untouched. I sat on the box, by the side of the driver, and know
that this was done under a pull that actually disabled one of his arms,
and that neither of the four animals broke its trot. It is not often our
roads will admit of this, but, had we the roads of England, I make
little doubt we should altogether outdo her in speed. As for the horses
used here in the public conveyances, and for the post routes, they are
commonly compact, clumsy beasts, with less force than their shape would
give reason to suppose. Their manes are long and shaggy, the fetlocks
are rarely trimmed, the shoes are seldom corked, and, when there is a
little coquetry, the tail is braided. In this trim, with a coarse
harness, that is hardly ever cleaned, traces of common rope, and half
the time no blinkers or reins, away they scamper, with their heads in
all directions, like the classical representation of a team in an
ancient car, through thick and thin, working with all their might to do
two posts within an hour, one being the legal measure. These animals
appear to possess a strange _bonhomie_, being obedient, willing and
tractable, although, in the way of harness and reins, they are pretty
much their own masters.

My excursions in the environs have made me acquainted with a great
variety of modes of communication between the capital and its adjacent,
villages. Although Paris is pared down so accurately, and is almost
without suburbs, the population, within a circuit of ten miles in each
direction, is almost equal to that of Paris itself. St. Denis has
several thousands, St. Germain the same, and Versailles is still a town
of considerable importance. All these places, with villages out of
number, keep up daily intercourse with the city, and in addition to the
hundreds of vegetable carts that constantly pass to and fro, there are
many conveyances that are exclusively devoted to passengers. The
cheapest and lowest is called a _coucou_ for no reason that I can see,
unless it be that a man looks very like a fool to have a seat in one of
them. They are large cabriolets, with two and even three seats. The
wheels are enormous, and there is commonly a small horse harnessed by
the side of a larger, in the hills, to drag perhaps eight or nine
people. One is amazed to see the living carrion that is driven about a
place like Paris, in these uncouth vehicles. The river is so exceedingly
crooked, that it is little used by travellers above Rouen.

The internal transportation of France, where the lines of the rivers are
not followed, is carried on, almost exclusively, in enormous carts,
drawn by six and even eight heavy horses, harnessed in a line. The
burthen is often as large as a load of hay, not quite so high, perhaps,
but generally longer, care being had to preserve the balance in such a
manner as to leave no great weight on the shaft horse. These teams are
managed with great dexterity, and I have often stopped and witnessed,
with admiration, the entrance of one of them into a yard, as it passed
from a crowded street probably not more than thirty feet wide. But the
evolutions of the _diligence_, guided as it chiefly is by the whip, and
moving on a trot, are really nice affairs. I came from La Grange, some
time since, in one, and I thought that we should dash everything to
pieces in the streets, and yet nothing was injured. At the close of the
journey, our team of five horses, two on the pole and three on the lead,
wheeled, without breaking its trot, into a street that was barely wide
enough to receive the huge vehicle, and this too without human
direction, the driver being much too drunk to be of any service. These
_diligences_ are uncouth objects to the eye; but, for the inside
passengers, they are much more comfortable, so far as my experience
extends than either the American stage or the English coach.

The necessity of passing the _barrière_ two or three times a day, has
also made me acquainted with the great amount of drunkenness that
prevails in Paris. Wine can be had outside of the walls, for about half
the price which is paid for it within the town, as it escapes the
_octroi_, or city duty. The people resort to these places for
indulgence, and there is quite as much low blackguardism and guzzling
here, as is to be met with in any sea-port I know.

Provisions of all sorts, too, are cheaper without the gates, for the
same reason; and the lower classes resort to them to celebrate their
weddings, and on other eating and drinking occasions. "Ici on fait
festins et noces,"[23] is a common sign, no barrier being without more or
less of these houses. The _guinguettes_ are low gardens, answering to
the English tea-gardens of the humblest class, with a difference in the
drinkables and other fare. The base of Montmartre is crowded with them.

[Footnote 23: Weddings and merry-makings are kept here.]

One sometimes meets with an unpleasant adventure among these exhilarated
gentry; for, though I think a low Frenchman is usually better natured
when a little _grisé_ than when perfectly sober, this is not always the
case. Quite lately I had an affair that might have terminated seriously,
but for our good luck. It is usual to have two sets of reins to the
cabriolets, the horses being very spirited, and the danger from
accidents in streets so narrow and crowded being great. I had dined in
town, and was coming out about nine o'clock. The horse was walking up
the ascent to the Barrière de Clichy, when I observed, by the shadow
cast from a bright moon, that there was a man seated on the cabriolet,
behind. Charles was driving, and I ordered him to tell the man to get
off. Finding words of no effect, Charles gave him a slight tap with his
whip. The fellow instantly sprang forward, seized the horse by the
reins, and attempted to drag him to one side of the road. Failing in
this, he fled up the street. Charles now called out that he had cut the
reins. I seized the other pair and brought the horse up, and, as soon as
he was under command, we pursued our assailant at a gallop. He was soon
out of breath, and we captured him. As I felt very indignant at the
supposed outrage, which might have cost, not us only, but others, their
lives, I gave him in charge to two gendarmes at the gate, with my
address, promising to call at the police office in the morning.

Accordingly, next day I presented myself, and was surprised to find that
the man had been liberated. I had discovered, in the interval, that the
leather had broken, and had not been cut, which materially altered the
_animus_ of the offence, and I had come with an intention to ask for the
release of the culprit, believing it merely a sally of temper, which a
night's imprisonment sufficiently punished; but the man being _charged_
with cutting the rein, I thought the magistrate had greatly forgotten
himself in discharging him before I appeared. Indeed I made no scruple
in telling him so. We had some warm words, and parted. I make no doubt I
was mistaken for an Englishman, and that the old national antipathy was
at work against me.

I was a good deal surprised at the termination of this, my first essay
in French criminal justice. So many eulogiums have been passed on the
police, that I was not prepared to find this indifference to an offence
like that of wantonly cutting the reins of a spirited cabriolet horse,
in the streets of Paris; for such was the charge on which the man stood
committed. I mentioned the affair to a friend, and he said that the
police was good only for political offences, and that the government
rather leaned to the side of the rabble, in order to find support with
them, in the event of any serious movement. This, you will remember, was
the opinion of a Frenchman, and not mine; for I only relate the facts
(one conjecture excepted), and to do justice to all parties, it is
proper to add that my friend is warmly opposed to the present _régime_.

I have uniformly found the gendarmes civil, and even obliging; and I
have seen them show great forbearance on various occasions. As to the
marvellous stories we have heard of the police of Paris, I suspect they
have been gotten up for effect, such things being constantly practised
here. One needs be behind the curtain, in a great many things, to get a
just idea of the true state of the world. A laughable instance has just
occurred, within my knowledge, of a story that has been got up for
effect. The town was quite horrified lately, with an account, in the
journals, of a careless nurse permitting a child to fall into the
_fossé_ of the great bears, in the Jardin des Plantes, and of the bears
eating up the dear little thing, to the smallest fragment, before
succour could be obtained. Happening to be at the garden soon after, in
the company of one connected with the establishment, I inquired into the
circumstances, and was told that the nurses were very careless with the
children, and that the story was published in order that the bears
should not eat up any child hereafter, rather than because they had
eaten up a child heretofore!




LETTER XVIII.

Personal Intercourse. - Parisian Society and Hospitality. - Influence of
Money. - Fiacres. - M. de Lameth. - Strife of Courtesy. - Standard of
Delicacy. - French Dinners. - Mode of Visiting. - The Chancellor of
France. - The Marquis de Marbois. - Political Côteries. - Paris Lodgings.
- A French Party. - An English Party. - A splendid Ball. - Effects of good
Breeding. - Characteristic Traits. - Influence of a Court.


To MRS. POMEROY, COOPERSTOWN.

I have said very little, in my previous letters, on the subject of our
personal intercourse with the society of Paris. It is not always easy
for one to be particular in these matters, and maintain the reserve that
is due to others. Violating the confidence he may have received through
his hospitality, is but an indifferent return from the guest to the
host. Still there are men, if I may so express it, so public in their
very essence, certainly in their lives, that propriety is less concerned
with a repetition of their sentiments, and with delineations of their
characters, than in ordinary cases; for the practice of the world has
put them so much on their guard against the representations of
travellers, that there is more danger of rendering a false account, by
becoming their dupes, than of betraying them in their unguarded moments.
I have scarcely ever been admitted to the presence of a real notoriety,
that I did not find the man, or woman - sex making little difference - an
actor; and this, too, much beyond the everyday and perhaps justifiable
little practices of conventional life. Inherent simplicity of character



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperRecollections of Europe → online text (page 22 of 29)