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commercial and manufacturing trades of Paris have their workshops, in which all those wondrous things are made which Paris exports to eaclı end of the world. It was nine in the evening; all was silent, the workshops were closed, the workmen out beyond the barrières, either to seek their homes, or to eat their supper, which they procure there considerably cheaper, as the commodities have not to pay the octroi.
The street lamps grew weaker and more rare, while now and then we met patrols carefully marching through the quarters of the people. This very walk afforded me the best possible insight into the timid caution with which the government keeps order established. Long have I striven to regard this display of military strength within the banlieue as a purely political affair, as a proof how anxious M. Pietri was to prevent the slightest disturbance or improper noise in the streets. I admired this careful attention, especially as the reorganisation of the sergents de ville on the English model appeared to me fully to attain this object, and you meet them reinforced and even strengthened by cavalry pickets whenever
the collection of groups may be expected owing to balls or festivities. This zealous system of patrolling, which traverses Paris after nightfall in larger detachments than ever, this unceasing watchfulness, this clattering of sabres and muskets in every hole and corner, has some deeper meaning: the object does not lie so near the surface as they would wish us to believe. I have grown so far clever that I trust quiet in Paris less than noise. Wherever I go I see one fact confirmed, that France has obtained one party more without lessening the others in the slightest degree, and that one drop of oil falls after the other in the fire, whether it be kindled at Sebastopol, or may be hereafter on the Rhine.
Our guide proposed very wisely to show us first the jovial side of the lowest Parisian popular life. We arrived at the Barrière de Belleville, and then went in the direction of the Chopinette. Here there was a great disturbance ; the street was brilliantly lighted, groups of every description were assembled before several houses, whence the sound of dancemusic echoed. On one of the houses I read, in yard-long letters, Bal des Folies ; on another opposite, Bal de la Société Favier. We first entered the Folies, whence wild shouts and noise reached us ; the entrée cost us six sous, and this was a high figure : but then this was a tiptop establishment. The dancing-room in this institution forms a large, regular quadrangle ; round it is a space divided from the dancing-room by a barrier, within which stand small covered tables, whose cloths may certainly have been white at the commencement of the ball. A gallery, rather elevated, behind this place of entertainment appears built for spectators, while a wide gallery, apparently for the same purpose, runs round the room above this one. At these tables were seated various groups-soldiers, principals, non-commissioned officers ; male and female workpeople were drinking in the sweetest harmony the sour wine, which may be procured here for five up to ten sous, out of small bowls ; close to them, only separated by the barrier, rushed the dancers ; the music rattled, increased still more by the yelling, whistling, and shouting of the dancers. And could le bleu, the wine, namely, that vinegarlike compound, be the cause of all this excitement ? No; it was the innate, undeniable liveliness of the French, which they displayed in its VOL. XXXIX.
utter wildness, careless of the sergents de ville posted at every corner. Male and female dancers embraced each other with Bacchanalian frenzy, made the most meaning and unmeaning bounds, rushed against each other and bounded back-all this with such an elasticity and indefatigability that I should have fancied myself in a lunatic asylum had not the wild Frenchman been visible in every face. Here a pair distinguished themselves by the most artistic pirouettes, by distortions of the arms and legs, which the boldest harlequin dared not have imitated ; or when the movements of the dance separated them, they telegraphed to each other with the most extraordinary swinging of the arms, with the most inventive pantomime, then fell in each other's arms, and suddenly bounded apart like a couple of india-rubber balls. There danced a masked pair, à pierrot with a shepherdess as lightly dressed as she was light-minded. There, again, the quadrille fell into unhappy confusion-at the extreme end of the room a tragedy was taking place, a dancer had forgotten himself so far as to give his partner a box of the
But with what rapidity was this eventful catastrophe appeased ! The insulted lady hurries from the room and disappears ; but the insulter disappears with equal velocity. A la porte ! half a dozen of the nearest shout simultaneously. Within five seconds the unfortunate fellow flies over the heads of the mob in the gallery and through the door. In the mean while the music is not interrupted—the quadrille is not interrupted -nothing can disturb that ; they dance away as if nothing had occurred.
in which Frenchmen turn a troublesome fellow out of doors is perfect. Police surveillance is in this respect quite unnecessary, as the company naturally wish to avoid any disorder, as this may interfere with their pleasure.
The opposite locality of the Société Favier bore precisely the same stamp. As the waiters here would not take their eyes off us, nothing was left us but to order some of the “blue” wine, of which vast quantities are drunk here ; unfortunately, this did not take place without our insulting the prevailing tone here, as we asked for the best, with the green seal, for which we also paid the exceptional price of ten sous. A huge placard in the saloon announced in coloured letters that the next day a bal de nuit would take place on behalf of the army in the East ; a bal de nuit, because the balls, held here regularly three times a week, commence at seven or eight, and are over by twelve, for the workman must be at work again betimes, and is not so fortunate as to be able to extend his sleep till mid-day. On such extraordinary evenings the jeux de macarons, &c., are probably more in request than they appeared to be on this occasion.
Our guide had intended to take us this same evening to the other barrières, as we insisted on seeing quelque chose de plus vilain—that is, descend a few steps lower—for although what we saw here was interesting enough in its way, still it wanted the peculiarly characteristic, the horrible and ludicrous, which we had set out with the intention of witnessing; we wished to see the mysteries of Paris, and the company we found here was only slightly mixed up with them. It had grown too late, however, for this occasion ; it would have taken us an hour and a half to reach Mont Parnasse and the Rue d'Enfer, and by that time the
mysteries would be asleep ; we must, consequently, content ourselves with a ramble through the gloomy streets, into which by night neither the patrol nor the sergent de ville ever strays. Only at intervals does a melancholy lantern illumine the nooks and corners, or a thin rushlight send its rays through the filth-choked panels of a decayed door, announcing that here the poison is sold which prevents wretchedness from living any length of years. A shadow glides hurriedly from one house door to the other; an arm clothed in tatters is extended out of the window, and casts certain objects on our heads, which even the most extreme poverty throws into the streets. Then behind that small paperpatched window, scarce two feet above the street, sits a mother with her infant on her lap, on the floor of the naked room, by a chimney, in which green, damp wood is cracking and filling the room with smoke. The child sleeps, the husband sleeps too by the fire, on a heap of rags; an earthen vessel, a broken jug-tatters and misery--form the sole furniture. “ What a wretched existence !" whispers my cousin, who has found a study here. The woman in the room looks up from the twigs, which have already fallen in and charred away: she turns her back contemptuously upon us, for what else can we appear in her eyes than some of the low mouchards, the police spies of the service de sûreté? Who else could listen and spy here, where even the chiffonniers and ravageurs could find nothing ?
Our second excursion to inquire into the mysteries of Paris led us through the memorable Quartier Latin; my cousin had again pocketed his revolver, but had the most innocent thoughts in his heart, and I would not have given him ten francs for his wardrobe, so thoroughly had he obeyed the laws of pauperism, for fear of betraying any indications of exceptionalism. We walked down the Rue des Saints Pères, past the Prado-the parent and protector of the cancan—into the Rue de Seine, visited the students' cafés, and eventually reached the Rue St. Jacques, that street which in the June insurrection played such an obstinate part, and was not forced by the troops till the house “ Les deux Pierrots” was levelled. Even at the present day folks like to talk about this house.
I ought to have a better memory than I really can boast of if I wish to remember the numerous dens into which our guide disappeared with us : the wretched ball-rooms, with their broken benches and three-legged chairs, in which we saw the workmen dancing, the countless narrow streets, with their uncomfortable aspect, through which we eventually made our
into the Rue Mouffetard. These dark streets can only be visited after nightfall
, in order to learn their primitive and partly terrific manners, when these caves drive their inhabitants into the street or to the pothouse; and the artisan, while revealing his political tendencies, strikes the table with his fist till the glasses rattle. There is something alarming in sitting in such company, when the bad wine embitters their temper, when the hard hand is raised to the brown furrowed brow, and he thinks in vain on the sorrows of the coming day. No city in the world, I am sure, contains a population of so restless and disquieting a nature as that of the barrières of Paris; an evening walk among these dark and fermenting elements makes clear to us the whole history and future of France.
After more than two hours' walking through the dirty streets, continually uphill, we at length reached the Rue Mouffetard. We had left behind the whole Faubourg St. Jacques, that “Parisian Thebaid,” as it was called by the fashionable world in the seventeenth century, because centuries ago a multitude of monasteries stood here, in which the blasée aristocracy retired ; in the same way the Faubourg St. Marcel lay behind us, which saw better days at that period, and in which St. Marcel lies buried. Poor Marcel is now in a bad neighbourhood : filth, misery, and crime have settled over his head. Any one who attempts to civilise these faubourgs must be able to do more than build houses.
La Grande Chaumière—the celebrated scene of the Parisian studentballs-was on this evening empty and desolate. The Grande Chaumière, on Mont Parnasse, has seen the greatest men of France dance the cancan on its parquet, before the destinies of nations had caused them any headache ; the Grande Chaumière is, therefore, a memorable house, and many coryphæi of the Revolution and the Restoration cannot drive past it without summoning up curious reminiscences—that is to say, their route leads them over this pavement of wretchedness. The Barrières Mont Parnasse and d'Enfer were our destiny: the road suddenly became scarcely passable, and we found ourselves removed from the world of lofty tottering houses in St. Jacques to an architectural Lilliput. On both sides of us extended a countless number of miserable huts, which had been erected with
materials which the wretched builders had been able to procure honestly or dishonestly; our guide explained to us that we were on a large building plot, which had been parcelled out into lots, but that hitherto no purchaser had offered; in the mean while extreme poverty had established a provisional colony upon it. Conical, square, and octagonal, straight and crooked, the huts stood then, and however poor and insufficient the material might have been, it could be seen that they were built with technical taste and the economy of poverty. Here the nomads of the capital pitch their tents, naked and wretched as a horde of gipsies.
I could not refraiu from casting a glance into the dirty windows of these huts, for neither curtains nor other hangings concealed the family life of this proletarian camp. And, in fact, what have they to conceal? Can wretchedness in Paris be moral ? Il est très difficile de penser noblement quand on n'a qu'à penser de quoi vivre. How then can extreme necessity ever arrive at thinking morally? As it was not advisable to be caught in this town of poverty as spy and watcher, and our guide himself did not appear to feel exactly comfortable, we tried to regain the main road, and waded through ‘mud a foot deep, till we entered a ravine formed by a high boarding of planks, in which there was not the slightest appearance of a light. This alley led to one of those large, beggar pothouses, which we intended to visit, so notorious by the name of Californie." An agitating silence prevailed in this quarter; the darkness was growing positively unendurable; several groups of strange-looking figures, which we passed in the dark, were not adapted to make our promenade agreeable. Suddenly we saw three lanterns coming towards us—they were honest folk (chiffonniers) who were beginning their day's labours at eleven at night, and were going into town with dark lantern, bag, and pick, to support existence
on things which those who were only a few sous per day richer than themselves considered valueless. Honest people these chiffonniers and ravageurs : they are on their legs from night till morning ; the Parisian inevitably meets them when he wanders home, sick of pleasure, at an early hour. They have a claim on the night, and neither the patrol nor the other servants of public security find any offence in their nocturnal movements. Honest people, I say, for they generally restrict their nightly chase to lower game—the dogs and cats—for the latter of which they find certain purchasers among the lower restaurants, for in Paris more cats are unconsciously eaten than the increasing frequenters of the tables d'hôte would dare to conjecture. The chiffonniers are oftentimes accompanied by their own dogs, who precede them in the streets as advance posts, and, on account of the troublesome rivalry in this branch of trade, take possession of the nearest rubbish-heap on behalf of their masters.
If we wished to find the company to whom our visit was intended still assembled, we must make haste, for the chiffonnier must reach his pasture-grounds betimes, if he wishes to earn his thirty or forty sous. The darkness around us suddenly ceased, and we found ourselves opposite a row of low houses, whose only floor was brilliantly illuminated. The windows, blind with dirt, forbade any glance through them; it could assuredly only be interesting to enter, for there could hardly be any danger, as, from our exterior, we could not possibly be taken for lords. Our guide allowed this, but hinted at the difficulty of keeping our mouths shut in such a place; they would recognise us as strangers at the first glance, and he would have a difficult part to play in getting us out again. Our cicerone was a cautious man : he was right, ay, doubly right; but as we had no time to lose, hey for California !
Once again we entered the gloomy roads—once again we wandered through a labyrinth of filthy streets, and at last arrived at a wide court-yard filled with benches and tables. “ La Californie!" our guide said, pointing to the tall and wide windows of a building in front of us, bearing a strong resemblance to a cook-shop, which in fact it is. On these benches the worthy company of la Californie pass their summer nights, for even they have a sentiment for nature and poetry. At the time of our visit the benches were in the most fearful condition, covered with rain and mud; but they will be cleansed again when spring comes, for a chiffonnier even can love cleanliness.
A perfect roar of hoarse voices reached us on the threshold of Cali. fornia, the atmosphere of the large closed room weighed oppressively on our lungs, for at least three hundred Californians of Paris were here assembled, seated at the long tables, smoking their “caporal” from blackened cutties, or busied in eating and drinking. Just as difficult as it is to impart education when a person does
not possess it, equally so it is to deny it when you once have it. Though our exterior was a masterly attempt at the popular, or chiffonnieresque,—though my cousin had reduced his great black beard to the most admired confusion, --still they need only look at our hands to convince themselves that we did not employ them in collecting rags. In addition, the lowest class of society is endowed with such penetration that it knows most accurately with