COCKAYNES IN PARIS
WITH SKETCHES BY
AND OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE ENGLISH ABROAD FROM A FRENCH POINT OF VIEW.
LONDON: JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN, 74 & 75, PICCADILLY.
[All Rights Reserved.]
The story of the Cockaynes was written some years ago,—in the days when Paris was at her best and brightest; and the English quarter was crowded; and the Emperor was at St. Cloud; and France appeared destined to become the wealthiest and strongest country in the world.
Where the Cockaynes carried their guide-books and opera-glasses, and fell into raptures at every footstep, there are dismal ruins now. The Vendome Column is a stump, wreathed with a gigantic immortelle, and capped with the tri-color. The Hall of the Marshals is a black hole. Those noble rooms in which the first magistrate of the city of Boulevards gave welcome to crowds of English guests, are destroyed. In the name of Liberty some of the most precious art-work of modern days has been fired. The Communists' defiling fingers have passed over the canvas of Ingres. Auber and Dumas have gone from the scene in the saddest hour of their country's history. The Anglo-French alliance—that surest rock of enduring peace—has been rent asunder, through the timorous hesitation of English ministers, and the hardly disguised Bourbon sympathies of English society. We are not welcome now in Paris, as we were when I followed in the wake of the prying Cockaynes. My old concierge is very cold in his greeting, and carries my valise to my rooms sulkily. Jerome, my particular waiter at the Grand Cafe, no longer deigns to discuss the news of the day with me. Good Monsieur Giraudet, who could suggest the happiest little menus, when I went to his admirable restaurant, and who kept the Rappel for me, now bows silently and sends an underling to see what the Englishman requires.
It is a sad, and a woful change; and one of ominous import for our children. Most woful to those of my countrymen who, like the reader's humble servant, have passed a happy half-score of years in the delightful society and the incomparable capital of the French people.
RUE DE ROME, PARIS, July, 1871.
I. MRS. ROWE'S 13
II. HE'S HERE AGAIN! 30
III. MRS. ROWE'S COMPANY 39
IV. THE COCKAYNES IN PARIS 45
V. THE COCKAYNE FAMILY 62
VI. A "GRANDE OCCASION" 91
VII. OUR FOOLISH COUNTRYWOMEN 104
VIII. "OH, YES!" AND "ALL RIGHT!" 111
IX. MISS CARRIE COCKAYNE TO MISS SHARP 122
X. "THE PEOPLE OF THE HOUSE" 129
XI. MYSTERIOUS TRAVELLERS 140
XII. MRS. DAKER 154
XIII. AT BOULOGNE-SUR-MER 174
XIV. THE CASTAWAY 192
XV. THE FIRST TO BE MARRIED 210
XVI. GATHERING A FEW THREADS 231
PAGE MY LORD ANGLAIS AT MABILLE Frontispiece
CROSSING THE CHANNEL—A SMOOTH PASSAGE 13
CROSSING THE CHANNEL—RATHER SQUALLY 14
ROBINSON CRUSOE AND FRIDAY 16
PAPA AND THE DEAR BOYS 18
THE DOWAGER AND TALL FOOTMAN 20
ON THE BOULEVARDS 42
A GROUP OF MARBLE "INSULAIRES" 46
BEAUTY AND THE B—— 68
PALAIS DU LOUVRE.—THE ROAD TO THE BOIS 72
MUSEE DU LUXEMBOURG 77
THE INFLEXIBLE "MEESSES ANGLAISES" 105
ENGLISH VISITORS TO THE CLOSERIE DE LILAS—SHOCKING!! 109
SMITH BRINGS HIS ALPENSTOCK 114
JONES ON THE PLACE DE LA CONCORDE 118
FRENCH RECOLLECTION OF MEESS TAKING HER BATH 125
THE BRAVE MEESS AMONG THE BILLOWS HOLDING ON BY THE TAIL OF HER NEWFOUNDLAND 125
VARIETIES OF THE ENGLISH STOCK.—COMPATRIOTS MEETING IN THE FRENCH EXHIBITION 126
A PIC-NIC AT ENGHIEN 147
EXCURSIONISTS AND EMIGRANTS 152
BOIS DE BOULOGNE 164
COCKAYNES IN PARIS.
The story I have to tell is disjointed. I throw it out as I picked it up. My duties, the nature of which is neither here nor there, have borne me to various parts of Europe. I am a man, not with an establishment—but with two portmanteaus. I have two hats in Paris and two in London always. I have seen everything in both cities, and like Paris, on the whole, best. There are many reasons, it seems to me, why an Englishman who has the tastes of a duke and the means of a half-pay major, should prefer the banks of the Seine to those of the Thames—even with the new Embankment. Everybody affects a distinct and deep knowledge of Paris in these times; and most people do know how to get the dearest dinner Bignon can supply for their money; and to secure the apartments which are let by the people of the West whom nature has provided with an infinitesimal quantity of conscience. But there are now crowds of English men and women who know their Paris well; men who never dine in the restaurant of the stranger, and women who are equal to a controversy with a French cook. These sons and daughters of Albion who have transplanted themselves to French soil, can show good and true reasons why they prefer the French to the English life. The wearying comparative estimates of household expenses in Westbournia, and household expenses in the Faubourg St. Honore! One of the disadvantages of living in Paris is the constant contact with the odious atmosphere of comparisons.
"Pray, sir—you have been in London lately—what did you pay for veal cutlet?"
The new arrivals are the keenest torments. "In London, where I have kept house for over twenty years, and have had to endure every conceivable development of servants' extortion, no cook ever demanded a supply of white aprons yet." You explain for the hundredth time that it is the custom in Paris. There are people who believe Kensington is the domestic model of the civilized world, and travel only to prove at every stage how far the rest of the universe is behind that favoured spot. He who desires to see how narrow his countrymen and countrywomen can be abroad, and how completely the mass of British travellers lay themselves open to the charge of insularity, and an overweening estimate of themselves and their native customs, should spend a few weeks in a Paris boarding-house, somewhere in the Faubourg St. Honore—if he would have the full aroma of British conceit. The most surprising feature of the English quarter of the French capital is the eccentricity of the English visitors, as it strikes their own countrymen. I cannot find it in me to blame Gallican caricaturists. The statuettes which enliven the bronze shops; the gaunt figures which are in the chocolate establishments; the prints in the windows under the Rivoli colonnade; the monsters with fangs, red hair, and Glengarry caps, of Cham, and Dore, and Bertall, and the female sticks with ringlets who pass in the terra-cotta show of the Palais Royal for our countrywomen, have long ago ceased to warm my indignation. All I can say now is, that the artists and modellers have not travelled. They have studied the strange British apparitions which disfigure the Boulevard des Italiens in the autumn, their knowledge of our race is limited to the unfortunate selection of specimens who strut about their streets, and—according to their light—they are not guilty of outrageous exaggeration. I venture to assert that an Englishman will meet more unpleasant samples of his countrymen and countrywomen in an August day's walk in Paris, than he will come across during a month in London. To begin with, we English treat Paris as though it were a back garden, in which a person may lounge in his old clothes, or indulge his fancy for the ugly and slovenly. Why, on broiling days, men and women should sally forth from their hotel with a travelling-bag and an opera-glass slung about their shoulders, passes my comprehension. Conceive the condition of mind of that man who imagines that he is an impressive presence when he is patrolling the Rue de la Paix with an alpenstock in his hand! At home we are a plain, well-dressed, well-behaved people, fully up in Art and Letters—that is, among our educated classes, to any other nation—in most elegant studies before all; but our travellers in France and Switzerland slander us, and the "Paris in 10 hours" system has lowered Frenchmen's estimate of the national character. The Exhibition of 1867, far from promoting the brotherhood of the peoples, and hinting to the soldier that his vocation was coming to an end, spread a dislike of Englishmen through Paris. It attracted rough men from the North, and ill-bred men from the South, whose swagger, and noise, and unceremonious manners in cafes and restaurants chafed the polite Frenchman. They could not bring themselves to salute the dame de comptoir, they were loud at the table d'hote and commanding in their airs to the waiter. In brief, the English mass jarred upon their neighbours; and Frenchmen went the length of saying that the two peoples—like relatives—would remain better friends apart. The disadvantage is, beyond doubt, with us; since the froissement was produced by the British lack of that suavity which the French cultivate—and which may be hollow, but is pleasant, and oils the wheels of life.
Mrs. Rowe's was in the Rue—say the Rue Millevoye, so that we may not interfere with possible vested interests. Was it respectable? Was it genteel? Did good country families frequent it? Were all the comforts of an English home to be had? Had Mrs. Grundy cast an approving eye into every nook and corner? Of course there were Bibles in the bedrooms; and you were not made to pay a franc for every cake of soap. Mrs. Rowe had her tea direct from Twinings'. Twinings' tea she had drunk through her better time, when Rowe had one of the finest houses in all Shepherd's Bush, and come what might, Twinings' tea she would drink while she was permitted to drink tea at all. Brown Windsor—no other soap for Mrs. Rowe, if you please. People who wanted any of the fanciful soaps of Rimmel or Piver must buy them. Brown Windsor was all she kept. Yes, she was obliged to have Gruyere—and people did ask occasionally for Roquefort; but her opinion was that the person who did not prefer a good Cheshire to any other cheese, deserved to go without any. She had been twenty-one years in Paris, and seven times only had she missed morning service on Sundays. Hereupon, a particular history of each occasion, and the superhuman difficulty which had bound Mrs. Rowe hand and foot to the Rue Millevoye from eleven till one. She had a faithful note of a beautiful sermon preached in the year 1850 by the Rev. John Bobbin, in which he compared life to a boarding-house. He was staying with Mrs. Howe at the time. He was an earnest worker in the true way; and she distinctly saw her salle-a-manger in his eye, when he enlarged on the bounteous table spread by Nature, and the little that was needed from man to secure all its blessings.
Mrs. Rowe took a maternal interest in me. I had made an economical arrangement by which I secured a little room to myself throughout the year, under the slates. I had many friends. I constantly arrived, bringing new lodgers in my wake. For the house was quiet, well-ordered, cheap, and tremendously respectable. I say, Mrs. Rowe took a maternal interest in me—that is, she said so. There were ill-natured people who had another description for her solicitude; but she had brought herself to believe that she had an unselfish regard for your humble servant, and that she was necessary to my comfort in the world, and I was pleased at the innocent humbug. It afforded me excellent creature comforts; and I was indebted to it for a constant welcome when I got to Paris—which is something to the traveller. We cling to an old hotel, after we have found the service bad, the cooking execrable, and the rooms dirty. It is an ancient house, and the people know us, and have a cheery word and a home look.
Many years were passed in the Rue Millevoye by Mrs. Rowe and her niece, without more incident than the packing and unpacking of luggage, and genteel disputes over items in the bills conducted with icy politeness on both sides, and concluded by Mrs. Rowe invariably with the withering observation, that it was the first remark of the kind which had ever been made on one of her little notes. People usually came to a settlement with complimentary expressions of surprise at the extreme—almost reckless—moderation of her charges; and expressed themselves as at a loss to understand how she could make it worth her while to do so very much for so very little. The people who came and went were alike in the mass. The reader is requested to bear in mind that Mrs. Rowe had a connexion of her own. She was seldom angry; but when an advertising agent made his way to her business parlour, and took the liberty of submitting the value of a Western States paper as a medium for making her establishment known, she confessed that the impertinence was too much for her temper. Mrs. Rowe advertise! Mrs. Rowe would just as soon throw herself off the Pont Neuf, or—miss church next Sunday.
"They don't come a second time!" Mrs. Rowe would say to me, with a fierce compression of the lip, that might lead a nervous person to imagine she made away with them in the cellars.
When Mrs. Rowe took you into her confidence—a slow and tedious admission—she was pleased, usually, to fortify your stock of knowledge with a comprehensive view of her family connexions; intended to set the Whytes of Battersea (from whom she derived, before the vulgar Park was there) upon an eminence of glory, with a circle of cringing and designing Rowes at the base. How she—Whyte on both sides, for her father married his first cousin—ever came to marry Joshua Rowe, was something her mother never understood to her dying day. She was graciously open to consolation in the reflection that nobles and princes had made humble matches before her; and particularly in this, that the Prince Regent married Mrs. Fitzherbert.
Lucy Rowe was favoured with these observations, heightened by occasional hits at her own misfortune in that she was a Rowe, and could not boast one thimbleful of Whyte blood in her veins.
It was the almost daily care of Mrs. Rowe to impress the people with whom her business brought her in contact, with the gulf that lay between her and her niece; although, through the early and inexplicable condescension of a Miss Harriet Whyte, of Battersea, they bore the same name, Miss Rowe was no blood relation whatever.
It was surprising to see how Lucy bore up under the misfortune. She was not a Whyte, but she had lived beside one. Youth is so elastic! Lucy, albeit she had the Rowe lip and nose, and, worse than all, the Rowe hair (a warm auburn, which Mrs. Rowe described in one syllable, with a picturesque and popular comparison comprehended in two), was daring enough to meet the daylight, without showing the smallest signs of giving way to melancholy. When new comers, as a common effort of politeness, saw a strong likeness between Mrs. Rowe and her niece, the representative of the Whytes of Battersea drew herself to her full height, which was a trifle above her niece's shoulders, and answered—"Oh dear, no, madam! It would be very strange if there were, as there is not the slightest blood relationship between us."
Lucy Rowe was about fifteen when I first saw her. A slender, golden-haired, shy and quiet girl, much in bashful and sensitive demeanour like her romantic namesake of "the untrodden ways." It is quite true that she had no Whyte blood in her veins, and Mrs. Rowe could most conscientiously declare that there was not the least resemblance between them. The Whyte features were of a type which none would envy the possessor, save as the stamp of the illustrious house of Battersea. The House of Savoy is not attractive by reason of its faultless profile; but there are persons of almost matchless grace who would exchange their beauty for its blood. In her very early days, I have no doubt. Lucy Rowe would have given her sweet blue eyes, her pouting lips, and pretty head (just enough to fold lovingly between the palms of a man's hand), for the square jaw and high cheek-bone of the Whytes. She felt very humble when she contemplated the grandeur of her aunt's family, and very grateful to her aunt who had stooped so far as to give her shelter when she was left alone in the world. She kept the accounts, ran errands, looked after the house linen, and made herself agreeable to the boarders' children; but all this was the very least she could do to express her humble thankfulness to the great lady-relative who had befriended her, after having been good enough to commit the sacrifice of marrying her uncle Joshua.
Lucy sat many hours alone in the business parlour—an apartment not decorated with the distinct view of imparting cheerfulness to the human temperament. The mantelpiece was covered with files of bills. There were rows of numbered keys against the wall. Mrs. Rowe's old desk—style Empire she said, when any visitor noticed the handsome ruin—stood in a corner by the window, covered with account books, prospectuses and cards of the establishment, and heaps of old newspapers. Another corner showed heaps of folded linen, parcels left for boarders, umbrellas and sticks, which had been forgotten by old customers (Mrs. Rowe called them clients), and aunt's walking-boots. One corner was Lucy's, which she occupied in conjunction with a little table, at which, from seven in the morning until bedtime, she worked with pen or needle (it was provoking she could not learn to ply both at one time), when she was not running about the house, or nursing a boarder's baby. On the rare evenings when her aunt could not find work of any description for her, Lucy was requested to take the Bible from the shelf, and read a chapter aloud. When her aunt went to sleep during the reading Lucy continued steadily, knowing that the scion of the illustrious house of Whyte would wake directly her voice ceased.
Occasionally the clergyman would drop in; whereupon Lucy would hear much improving discourse between her aunt and the reverend gentleman. Mrs. Rowe poured all her griefs into the ear of the Reverend Horace Mohun—griefs which she kept from the world. Before Lucy she spoke freely—being accustomed to regard the timid girl as a child still, whose mind could not gather the threads of her narrative. Lucy sate—not listening, but hearing snatches of the mournful circumstances with which Mrs. Rowe troubled Mr. Mohun. The reverend gentleman was a patient and an attentive listener; and drank his tea and ate his toast (it was only at Mrs. Rowe's he said he could ever get a good English round of toast), shaking his head, or offering a consoling "dear, dear me!" as the droning proceeded. Lucy was at work. If Mrs. Rowe caught her pausing she would break her story to say—"If you have finished 42 account, put down two candles to 10, and a foot-bath to 14." And Lucy—who seldom paused because she had finished her task, as her aunt knew well—bent over the table again, and was as content as she was weary. When she went up to her bedroom (which the cook had peremptorily refused to occupy) she prayed for good Aunt Rowe every night of her dull life, before she lay upon her truckle bed to rest for the morrow's cheerful round of hard duties. Was it likely that a child put thus into the harness of life, would pass the talk of her aunt with Mr. Mohun as the idle wind?
The mysteries which lay in the talk, and perplexed her, were cleared up in due time.
HE'S HERE AGAIN!
"He has but stumbled in the path Thou hast in weakness trod."—A. A. PROCTER.
"He's here again, Mum."
He was there at the servant's entrance to the highly respectable boarding-house in the Rue Millevoye. It was five in the morning—a winter's morning.
Mrs. Rowe hastened from her room, behind the business parlour, in her dressing-gown, her teeth chattering, and her eyes flashing the fire of hate. The boarders sleeping upstairs would not have known the godly landlady, who glided about the house by day, rubbing her hands and hoping every soul under her roof was comfortable—or would at once complain to her, who lived only to make people comfortable—bills being but mere accidental accessories, fortuitously concurrent with the arrival of a cab and the descent of luggage.
"At the back door, mum, with his coat tucked over his ears, and such a cold in his head. Shall I show him in?"
"My life is a long misery, Jane," Mrs. Rowe said, under her voice.
"La! mum, it's quite safe. I'm sure I shouldn't trouble much about it—'specially in this country, as——"
"Silence!" Mrs. Rowe hissed. The thorns in her cross consisted chiefly of Jane's awkward attempts at consolation. "The villain is bent on my ruin. A bad boy he was; a bad man he is. Show him in; and see that Francois doesn't come here. Get some coffee yourself, Jane, and bring it. Let the brute in."
"You're hard upon him, mum, indeed you are. I'm sure he'd be a credit to——"
"Go, and hold your tongue. You presume, Jane, on the privileges of an old servant."
"Indeed I hope not, mum; but——"
Jane went to summon the early visitor; and was heard talking amiably to him, as she led him to the bureau. "Now, you must be good, Mr. Charles, to-day, and not stay more than a quarter of an hour. Don't talk loud, like the last time; promise me. Missus means well—you know she does."
With an impatient "All right" the stranger pushed into the business parlour, and sharply closed the door.
Mrs. Rowe stood, her knuckles firmly planted upon the closed desk, her face rigidly set, to receive her visitor—keeping the table between him and herself. He was advancing to take her hand.
"Stand there," she said, with an authority he had not the courage to defy. He stood there—abashed, or hesitating as to the way in which he should enter upon his business.
"Well!" Mrs. Rowe said, firmly and impatiently.
Mr. Charles, stung by the manner, turned upon his victim. "Well!" he jeered, "yes, and well again, Mrs. Rowe. Is it necessary for me to explain myself? Do you think I have come to see you!"
"I have no money at present; I wrote you so."
"And I didn't believe you, and have come to fetch what you wouldn't send. If you think I'm going into a corner to starve for your personal satisfaction, you are very much mistaken. I'm surprised you don't understand me better by this time."
"You were a rascal, Charles, before you left school."
"School! Pretty school! D—n it, don't blame me—woman!"
Mrs. Rowe was alarmed by the outburst, lest it should wake some of the boarders.
"The Dean and his lady are sleeping overhead. If you don't respect me, think——"
"I'm not here to respect, or think about anybody. I'm cast alone into the world—tossed into it; left to shift for myself, and to be ashamed of myself; and I want a little help through it, and it's for you to give it me, and give it me YOU SHALL."
Mr. Charles held out his left hand, and slapped its open palm vehemently with his right—pantomime to indicate the exact whereabouts he had selected for the reception of Mrs. Rowe's money.
"I told you I had no money. You'll drive me from this house by bringing disgrace upon it."
"That's very good," Mr. Charles said, with a cruel laugh. "That's a capital joke."
Jane entered with coffee. "That's right," she whispered, encouragingly to Mr. Charles; "laugh and be cheerful, Mr. Charles, and make haste with your coffee."
The face of Mr. Charles blackened to night. He turned like a tiger upon the servant. "Laugh and be cheerful?" he roared; and then he raised a hoarse mock laugh, that moved Mrs. Rowe, in her agony of fear, to turn the key in the lock of her desk.
Shaking her hands wildly in the air, Jane left the room, and shut the door.
"You are an arrant coward, Charles," Mrs. Rowe hissed, leaning across the table and shaking her head violently.
Mr. Charles imitated her gesture, answering—"I am what heartless people have made me. I have been dragged up under a cloud; made the scape-goat. How often in the course of your hypocritical days have you wished me dead? You hear I've a cough; but I cannot promise you it's a churchyard one. I'm a nuisance; but I suppose I'm not responsible for my existence, Mrs. Rowe. I was not consulted."
"And devil too, when needful: remember that." Mr. Charles moved round the table in the direction of the desk.
"Stand where you are. I would rather give you the clothes from my back than touch you." Mrs. Rowe, as she stood still turning the lock of the bureau, and keeping her angry eyes fixed upon the man, was the picture of all the hate she expressed.
She never took her eyes off him, nor did he quail, while she fumbled in the drawer in which she kept money. The musical rattle of the gold smote upon the ear of Mr. Charles.
"Pretty sound," he said, with a smile of hate in his face; "but there is crisp paper sounds sweeter. Mrs. Rowe, I'm not here for a couple of yellow-boys. Do you hear that?" He banged the table, and advanced a step.
"You can't bleed a stone, miscreant."
"Nay, but you can break it, Mrs. Rowe. I mean business to-day. The rarer I make my visits the better for both of us."
"I am quite of that opinion."
"Then make it as long as you like; you know how."
"Is this ever to end? Have you no shame? Charles, you will end with some tragedy. A man who can play the part you are playing, must be ready for crime!"
Mr. Charles shook his head in impatient rage, and made another step towards Mrs. Rowe.
"Move nearer, and I wake the house, come what may." Mrs. Rowe's face looked like one cut in grey stone.
"What! and wake the Dean and his lady! What! affright the Reverend Horace Mohun who counts Mrs. Rowe among the milk-white sheep of his flock! No; Mrs. Rowe is too prudent a woman—Now." As he ended, she drew forth a roll of notes. He made a clutch at them—and she started back.
"Charles, it has come to that! Robber! It will be murder some day."
Mr. Charles looked the man to make his word good.
Mrs. Rowe was amazed and terrified by the fiend she had conjured up in the man. He seized the table, and looked a giant in the mighty expression of his iron will.
"Lay that roll upon the table—or I'll shiver it into a thousand pieces—and then—and then——Am I to say more?"
Mrs. Rowe fell into a chair. Mr. Charles was at her in an instant, and had possession of the notes. The poor woman had swooned.
He rang the bell—Jane appeared.
"Look after her," said Mr. Charles, his eyes flaming, as they fell on the unconscious figure of Mrs. Rowe. "But let me out, first."
"You'll kill me with fright, that you will. What have you done to your own——"
"Mind your own business. A smell of salts'll put her right enough."
Mr. Charles was gone.
"And what a sweet gentleman he can be, when he likes," said Jane.
MRS. ROWE'S COMPANY.
I must be permitted to tell the rambling stories that ran parallel during my experiences of Mrs. Rowe's establishment in my own manner—filling up with what I guessed, all I heard from Lucy, or saw for myself. Mr. Charles was a visitor at intervals who always arrived when the house was quiet; and after whose visits Mrs. Rowe regularly took to her room for the day, leaving the accounts and the keys wholly to Lucy, and the kitchen to Jane—with strict injunctions to look after the Reverend Horace Mohun's tea and his round of toast if he called—and let him see the Times before it went up to the general sitting-room. On these days Lucy looked pale; and Jane called her "poor child" to me, and begged me to say a few words of comfort to her, for she would listen to me.
What a fool Jane was!
Visitors came and went. The serious, who inspected Paris as Mr. Redgrave inspects a factory, or as the late Mr. Braidwood inspected a fire on the morrow; who did the Louvre and called for bread-and-butter and tea on the Boulevards at five. The new-rich, who would not have breakfasted with the general company to save their vulgar little souls, threw their money to the fleecing shopkeepers (who knew their monde), and misbehaved themselves in all the most expensive ways possible. The jolly ignorant, who were loud and unabashed in the sincerity and heartiness of their enjoyment, and had more litres of brandy in their bedrooms than the rest of the house, as Jane had it, "put together." The frugal, who counted the lumps of sugar, found fault with the dinners, lived with the fixed and savage determination to eat well up to the rate at which they were paying for their board, and stole in, in the evening, with their brandy hidden about them. Somehow, although there never was a house in which more differences of opinion were held on nearly every question of human interest, there was a surprising harmony of ideas as to French brandy. A Boulogne excursion boat on its homeward journey hardly contains more uncorked bottles of cognac, than were thrust in all kinds of secret places in the bedrooms under Mrs. Rowe's roof.
The hypocrisy and scandal which brandy produced in the general room were occasionally very fierce, especially when whispers had travelled quietly as the flies all over the house that one of the ladies had certainly, on one occasion, revoked at cards—for one reason, and one only. Free speculations would be cheerfully indulged in at other times on the exact quantity the visitor who left yesterday had taken during his stay, and the number of months which the charitable might give him to live.
After the general brandy, in degree of interest, stood dress. The shopping was prodigious. The carts of the Louvre, the Ville de Paris, the Coin de Rue, and other famous houses of nouveautes were for ever rattling to Mrs. Rowe's door. With a toss of the head a parcel from the Bon Marche was handed to its owner. Mrs. Jones must have come to Paris with just one change—and such a change! Mrs. Tottenham had nothing fit to wear. Mrs. Court must still be wearing out her trousseau—and her youngest was three! Mrs. Rhode had no more taste, my dear, than our cook. The men were not far behind—had looked out for Captain Tottenham in the Army List; went to Galignani's expressly: not in it, by Jove, sir! Court paid four shillings in the pound hardly two years ago, and met him swelling it with his wife (deuced pretty creature!) yesterday at Bignon's. Is quite up to Marennes oysters: wonder where he could have heard of 'em. Rhode is a bore; plenty of money, very good-natured; read a good deal—but can't the fellow come to table in something better than those eternal plaid trousers? Bad enough in Lord Brougham. Eccentricity with the genius, galling enough; but without, not to be borne, sir. Last night Jones was simply drunk, and got a wigging, no doubt, when he found his room. He looks it all.
We are an amiable people!
Happily, I have forgotten the Joneses and the Tottenhams, and the Courts and the Rhodes! The two "sets" who dwell in my memory—who are, I may say, somewhat linked with my own life, and of whom I have something to tell—were, as a visitor said of the fowls of Boulogne hotels—birds apart. They crossed and re-crossed under Mrs. Rowe's roof until they hooked together; and I was mixed up with them, until a tragedy and a happy event made us part company.
Now, so complicated are our treaties—offensive and defensive—that I have to refer to my note-book, where I am likely to meet any one of them, to see whether I am on speaking terms with the coming man or woman as the case may be.
I shall first introduce the Cockaynes as holding the greater "lengths" on my stage.
THE COCKAYNES IN PARIS.
The morning after a bevy of "the blonde daughters of Albion" have arrived in Paris, Pater—over the coffee (why is it impossible to get such coffee in England?), the delicious bread, and the exquisite butter—proceeds to expound his views of the manner in which the time of the party should be spent. So was it with the Cockaynes, an intensely British party.
"My dears," said Mr. Cockayne, "we must husband our time. To-day I propose we go, at eleven o'clock, to see the parade of the Guard in the Rue de Rivoli; from there (we shall be close at hand) we can see the Louvre; by two o'clock we will lunch in the Palais Royal. I think it's at five the band plays in the Tuileries gardens; after the band——"
"But, dear papa, we want to look at the shops!" interposes the gentle Sophonisba.
"The what, my dear? Here you are in the capital of the most polished nation on the face of the earth, surrounded by beautiful monuments that recall—that are, in fact——"
"Well!" firmly observes Sophonisba's determined mamma; "you, Mr. Cockayne, go, with your Murray's handbook, see all the antiquities, your Raphaels and Rubens, and amuse yourself among the cobwebs of the Hotel Cluny; we are not so clever—we poor women; and while you're rubbing your nose against the marbles in the Louvre, we'll go and see the shops."
"We don't mind the parade and the band, but we might have a peep at just a few of the shops near the hotel, before eleven," observes Sophonisba.
Cockayne throws up his eyes, and laments the frivolity of women. He is left with one daughter (who is a blue) to admire the proportions of the Madeleine, to pass a rapturous hour in the square room of the Louvre, and to examine St. Germain l'Auxerrois, while the frivolous part of his household goes stoutly away, light-hearted and gay as humming-birds, to have their first look at the shops.
I happen to have seen the shops of many cities. I have peered into the quaint, small-windowed shops of Copenhagen; I have passed under the pendant tobacco leaves into the primitive cigar-shops of St. Sebastian; I have hobbled, in furs, into the shops of Stockholm; I have been compelled to take a look at the shops of London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and a host of other places; but perfect shopping is to be enjoyed in Paris only; and in the days gone by, the Palais Royal was the centre of this paradise. Alas! the days of its glory are gone. The lines of splendid boulevards, flanked with gorgeous shops and cafes; the long arcades of the Rue de Rivoli; and, in fine, the leaning of all that is fashionable, and lofty, and rich to the west, are the causes which have brought the destruction of the Palais Royal. Time was when that quaint old square—the Place-Royale in the Marais—was mighty fashionable. It now lies in the neglected, industrious, factory-crowded east—a kind of Parisian Bloomsbury Square, only infinitely more picturesque, with its quaint, low colonnades. You see the fine Parisians have travelled steadily westward, sloping slowly, like "the Great Orion." They are making their way along the Champs-Elysees to the Avenue de l'Imperatrice; and are constructing white stone aristocratic suburbs.
So the foreigners no longer make their way direct to the Palais Royal now, on the morrow of their arrival in Paris. If they be at the Louvre, they bend westward along the Rue de Rivoli, and by the Rue de la Paix, to the brilliant boulevards. If they be in the Grand Hotel, they issue at once upon these famous boulevards, and the ladies are in a feminine paradise at once. Why, exactly opposite to the Grand Hotel is Rudolphi's remarkable shop, packed artistically with his works of art—ay, and of the most finished and cunning art—in oxidized silver. His shop is most admirably adapted to the articles the effect of which he desires to heighten. It is painted black and pointed with delicate gold threads. The rich array of jewellery and the rare ecclesiastical ornaments stand brightly out from the sombre case, and light the window. The precious stones, the lapis lazuli, the malachite, obtain a new brilliance from the rich neutral tints and shades of the chased dulled silver in which they are held.
Sophonisba, her mamma and sisters, are not at much trouble to decide the period to which the bracelet, or the brooch, or the earring belongs. "Cinque cento, my dear! I know nothing about that. I think it would suit my complexion."
"I confess to a more modern taste, Sophonisba. That is just the sort of thing your father would like. Now, do look at those—sphinxes, don't you call them—for a brooch. I think they're hideous. Did you ever see such ears? I own, that diamond dew-drop lying in an enamel rose leaf, which I saw, I think, in the Rue de la Paix, is more to my taste."
And so the ladies stroll westward to the famous Giroux (where you can buy, an it please you, toys at forty guineas each—babies that cry, and call "mamma," and automata to whom the advancement of science and art has given all the obnoxious faculties of an unruly child), or east to the boulevards, which are known the wide world over, at least by name, the Boulevards de la Madeleine, des Capucines, des Italiens, Montmartre. These make up the heart and soul of Paris. Within the limits of these gorgeous lines of shops and cafes luxury has concentrated all her blandishments and wiles. This is the earthly heaven of the Parisians. Here all the celebrities air themselves. Here are the Opera stars, the lights of literature, the chiefs of art, the dandies of the Jockey Club, the prominent spendthrifts and eccentrics of the day. About four o'clock in the afternoon all the known Paris figures are lounging upon the asphaltum within this charmed space. Within this limit—where the Frenchman deploys all his seductive, and vain, and frivolous airs; where he wears his best clothes and his best manners; where he loves to be seen, and observed, and saluted—the tradesmen of the capital have installed establishments the costliness and elaborateness of which it is hardly possible to exaggerate. The gilding and the mirrors, the marbles and the bronze, the myriad lamps of every fantastic form, the quaint and daring designs for shop fronts, the infinite arts employed to "set off" goods, and the surprising, never-ceasing varieties of art-manufacture—whether in chocolate or the popular Algerian onyx—bewilder strangers. Does successful Mr. Brown, who, having doffed the apron of trade, considers it due to himself to become—so far as money can operate the strange transformation—a fine fleur; does he desire also to make of plain, homely Mrs. Brown a leader of fashion and a model of expensive elegance?—here are all the appliances and means in abundance. Within these enchanted lines Madame B. may be made "beautiful for ever!" Every appetite, every variety of whim, the cravings of the gourmet and the dreams of the sybarite, may be gratified to the utmost. A spendthrift might spend a handsome patrimony within these limits, nor, at the end of his time, would he call to mind a taste he had not been able to gratify.
Sophonisba enters this charmed region of perfect shopping from the west. Tahan's bronze shop, at the corner of the Rue de la Paix, marks (or did mark) its western boundary. There are costly trifles in that window—as, book cutters worth a library of books, and cigar-stands, ash-trays, pen-trays, toothpick-holders (our neighbours are great in these), and match, and glove, and lace, and jewel-boxes—of wicked price. Ladies are not, however, very fond of bronze, as a rule. The great Maison de Blanc—or White House—opposite, is more attractive, with its gigantic architectural front, and its acres of the most expensive linens, cambrics, &c. Ay, but close by Tahan is Boissier. Not to know Boissier is to argue yourself unknown in Paris. He is the shining light of the confectioner's art. Siraudin, of the Rue de la Paix, has set up a dangerous opposition to him, under the patronage of a great duke, whose duchess was one day treated like an ordinary mortal in Boissier's establishment, but Boissier's clients (nobody has customers in Paris) are, in the main, true to him; and his sweets pass the lips still of nearly all the elegantes of the "centre of civilization." Peep into his shop. Miss Sophonisba is within—la belle insulaire!—buying a bag of marrons glaces, for which Boissier is renowned throughout civilization. The shop is a miracle of taste. The white and gold are worthy of Marie Antoinette's bedroom at St. Cloud—occupied, by the way, by our English queen, when she was the guest of the French Emperor in 1855. The front of the shop is ornamented with rich and rare caskets. A white kitten lies upon a rosy satin cushion; lift the kitten, and you shall find that her bed is a bon-bon box!
"How very absurd!" exclaims Sophonisba's mamma, bon-bon boxes not being the particular direction which the extravagance of English ladies takes.
Close by the succulent establishment of M. Boissier, to whom every dentist should lift his hat, is the doorway of Madame Laure. Sophonisba sees a man in livery opening the door of what appears to be the entrance to some quiet learned institution. She touches her mamma upon the arm, and bids her pause. They had reached the threshold of a temple. Madame Laure makes for the Empress.
"Ah! to be sure, my child, so she does," Sophonisba's mamma replies. "I remember. Very quiet-looking kind of place, isn't it?" It is impossible to say what description of "loud" place had dwelt in the mind of Sophonisba's mamma as the locale where the Empress Eugenie's milliner "made" for her Majesty. Perhaps she hoped to see two cent gardes doing duty at the door of an or-molu paradise.
At every step the ladies find new excitement. By the quiet door of Madame Laure is the renowned Neapolitan Ice Establishment, well known to most ladies who have been in Paris. Why should there not be a Neapolitan ice cafe like this in London? Ices we have, and we have Granger's; but here is ice in every variety, from the solid "bombe"—which we strongly recommend ladies to bear in mind next time—to the appetizing Ponch a la Romaine! Again, sitting here on summer evenings, the lounger will perceive dapper bonnes, or men-servants, going in and out with little shapely white paper parcels which they hold daintily by the end. Madame has rung for an ice, and this little parcel, which you might blow away, contains it. Now, why should not a lady be able to ring for an ice—and an exquisitely-flavoured Neapolitan ice—on the shores of "perfidious Albion?"
"I wish Papa were here," cries Sophonisba; "we should have ices."
Sophonisba's mamma merely remarks that they are very unwholesome things.
Hard by is Christofle's dazzling window, Christofle being the Elkington of France.
"Tut! it quite blinds one!" says the mamma of Sophonisba. Christofle's window is startling. It is heaped to the top with a mound of plated spoons and forks. They glitter in the light so fiercely that the eye cannot bear to rest upon them. Impossible to pass M. Christofle without paying a moment's attention to him. And now we pass the asphaltum of the boulevard of boulevards—that known as "the Italiens." This is the apple of the eye of Paris.
"Now, my dears," says Sophonisba's mamma, "now we can really say that we are in Paris." The shops claimed the ladies' attention one by one. They passed with disdain the cafes radiant with mirror and gold, where the selfish men were drinking absinthe and playing at dominoes. It had always been the creed of Sophonisba's mamma that men were selfish creatures, and she had come to Paris only to see that she was right. They passed on to Potel's.
Potel's window is a sight that is of Paris Parisian. It is more imposing than that of Chevet in the Palais Royal. In the first place Potel is on "the Italiens." It is a daily store of all the rarest and richest articles of food money can command for the discontented palate of man. The truffled turkeys are the commonest of the articles. Everybody eats truffled turkeys, must be the belief of Potel. If salmon could peer into the future, and if they had any ambition, they would desire, after death, to be artistically arrayed in fennel in the shop-window of Potel. Would not the accommodating bird who builds an edible nest work with redoubled ardour, if he could be assured that his house would be some day removed to the great window on "the Italiens?"
Happy the ortolans whom destiny puts into Potel's plate of honour! Most fortunate of geese, whose liver is fattened by a slow fire to figure presently here with the daintiest and noblest of viands! The pig who hunts the truffle would have his reward could he know that presently the fragrant vegetable would give flavour to his trotter! And is it not a good quarter of an hour's amusement every afternoon to watch the gourmets feasting their eyes on the day's fare? And the gamins from the poor quarters stare in also, and wonder what those black lumps are.
Opposite Potel's is a shop, the like of which we have not, nor, we verily believe, has any other city. It is the show-store of the far-famed Algerian Onyx Company. The onyx is here in great superb blocks, wedded with bronze of exquisite finish, or serving as background to enamels of the most elaborate design. Within, the shop is crammed with lamps, jardinieres, and monumental marbles, all relieved by bronzes, gold, and exotics. The smallest object would frighten a man of moderate means, if he inquired its price. There is a flower shop not far off, but it isn't a shop, it's a bower. It is close by a dram-shop, where the cab-men of the stand opposite refresh the inner man. It represents the British public-house. But what a quiet orderly place it is! The kettle of punch—a silver one—is suspended over the counter. The bottles are trim in rows; there are no vats of liquid; there is no brawling; there are no beggars by the door—no drunkards within. It is so quiet, albeit on the Boulevard, not one in a hundred of the passers-by notice it. The lordly Cafe du Cardinal opposite is not more orderly.
Past chocolate shops, where splendidly-attired ladies preside; wood-carving shops, printsellers, pastrycooks—where the savarins are tricked out, and where petit fours lie in a hundred varieties—music-shops, bazaars, immense booksellers' windows; they who are bent on a look at the shops reach a corner of the Grand Opera Street, where the Emperor's tailor dwells. The attractions here are, as a rule, a few gorgeous official costumes, or the laurel-embellished tail coat of the academician. Still proceeding eastward, the shops are various, and are all remarkable for their decoration and contents. There is a shop where cots and flower-stands are the main articles for sale; but such cots and such flower-stands! The cots are for Princes and the flower-stands for Empresses. I saw the Empress Eugenie quietly issuing from this very shop, one winter afternoon.
Sophonisba's mother lingered a long time over the cots, and delighted her mother-eye with the models of babies that were lying in them. One, she remarked, was the very image of young Harry at home.
And so on to "Barbedienne's," close by the well-known Vachette.
Sophonisba, however, will not wait for our description of the renowned Felix's establishment, where are the lightest hands for pastry, it is said, in all France. When last we caught sight of the young lady, she was chez Felix, demolishing her second baba! May it lie lightly on her—!
I humbly beg the pardon of Mademoiselle Sophonisba!
THE COCKAYNE FAMILY.
The Cockaynes deserve a few words of formal introduction to the reader, since he is destined to make their better acquaintance. We have ventured hitherto only to take a few discreet and distant glimpses at them, as we found them loitering about the Boulevards on the morrow of their appearance in Paris. Mr. Cockayne—having been very successful for many years in the soap-boiling business, to the great discomfort and vexation of the noses of his neighbours, and having amassed fortune enough to keep himself and wife and his three blooming daughters among the creme de la creme of Clapham, and in the list of the elect of society, known as carriage-people—he had given up the soap-boiling to his two sons, and had made up his mind to enjoy his money, or rather so much of it as Mrs. Cockayne might not require. It is true that every shilling of the money had been made by Cockayne, that every penny-piece represented a bit of soap which he had manufactured for the better cleansing of his generation. But this highly honourable fact, to the credit of poor Cockayne, albeit it was unpleasant to the nostrils of Mrs. C. when she had skimmed some of the richest of the Clapham creme into her drawing-room, did not abate her resolve to put at least three farthings of the penny into her pocket, for her uses and those of her simple and innocent daughters. Mrs. Cockayne, being an economical woman, spent more money on herself, her house, and her children than any lady within a mile of Cockayne House. It is certain that she was an excellent mother to her three daughters, for she reminded Cockayne every night regularly—as regularly, he said, as he took his socks off—that if it were not for her, she did not know what would become of the children. She was quite sure their father wouldn't trouble his head about them.
Perhaps Mrs. Cockayne was right. Cockayne had slaved in business only thirty-five years out of the fifty-two he had passed in this vale of tears, and had only lodged her at last in a brougham and pair. He might have kept in harness another ten years, and set her up in a carriage and four. She was sure he didn't know what to do with himself, now he had retired. He was much better tempered when he went off to business by the nine o'clock omnibus every morning; and before he had given himself such ridiculous airs, and put himself on all kinds of committees he didn't understand anything about, and taken to make himself disagreeable to his neighbours in the vestry-hall, and moving what he called amendments and riders, for the mere pleasure, she verily believed, of opposing somebody, as he did everybody in his own house, and of hearing himself talk. Does the reader perceive by this time the kind of lady Mrs. Cockayne was, and what a comfort she must have been to her husband in the autumn of his life?
How he must have listened for what the novelists call "her every footstep," and treasured her every syllable! It was mercifully ordained that Mr. Cockayne should be a good-tempered, non-resisting man. When Mrs. Cockayne was, as her sons pleasantly and respectfully phrased it, "down upon the governor," the good man, like the flowers in the poem, "dipped and rose, and turned to look at her." He sparkled while she stormed. He smiled when the shafts of her sarcasm were thrown point-blank at him. He was good-tempered before the storm began, while it lasted, and when it was over. Mrs. Cockayne had the ingenuity to pretend that Cockayne was the veriest tyrant behind people's backs; he who, as a neighbour of his very expressively put the case, dared not help himself to the fresh butter without having previously asked the permission of his wife. Fate, in order to try the good-nature of Timothy Cockayne to the utmost, had given him two daughters closely resembling, in patient endurance and self-abnegation, their irreproachable mamma. Sophonisba—at whom the reader has already had a glimpse, and whom we last saw demolishing her second baba at Felix's, was the eldest daughter—and the second was Theodosia. There was a third, Carrie; she was the blue, and was gentle and contented with everything, like her father.
The reader may now be prepared to learn that it was not Mr. Timothy Cockayne, late of Lambeth, who had planned the family's journey to Paris. Mrs. Cockayne had projected the expedition. Everybody went to Paris now-a-days, and you looked so very stupid if you had to confess in a drawing-room that you had never been. She was sure there was not another family on Clapham Common, of their station, who had not been. Besides, it would exercise the girls' French. If Mr. Cockayne could only consent to tear himself away from board-meetings, and devote a little time to his own flesh and blood. They would go alone, and not trouble him, only what would their neighbours say to see them start off alone, as though they'd nobody in the world to care a fig about them. At any rate, they didn't want people to know they were neglected. Now Mr. Cockayne had never had the most distant idea of leaving the ladies of his family to go alone to Paris. But it pleased his wife to put the case in this pleasant way, and he never interfered with her pleasures. He wanted very much to see Paris again, for he had never been on the banks of the Seine since 1840, when he made a flying visit to examine some new patent soap-boiling apparatus. He was ordered about by both mother and daughters, by boat and railway. He was reproached fifty times for his manners in insisting on going the Dieppe route. He was loaded with parcels and baskets and rugs, and was soundly rated all the way from the railway station to the Grand Hotel, on the Boulevard des Capucines, for having permitted the Custom House officers to turn over Mrs. Cockayne's boxes, as she said, "in the most impudent manner; but they saw she was without protection."
I have always been at a loss to discover why certain classes of English travellers, who make their appearance in Paris during the excursion season, persist in regarding the capital of France, or, as the Parisian has it, "the centre of civilization," as a Margate without the sea. I wonder what was floating in the head of Mr. Cockayne, when he bought a flat cloth grey cap, and ordered a plaid sporting-suit from his tailor's, and in this disguise proceeded to "do" Paris. In London Mr. Cockayne was in the habit of dressing like any other respectable elderly gentleman. He was going to the capital of a great nation, where people's thoughts are not unfrequently given to the cares of the toilette; where, in short, gentlemen are every bit as severe in their dress as they are in Pall Mall, or in a banking-house in Lombard Street. Now Mr. Cockayne would as soon have thought of wearing that plaid shooting-suit and that grey flat cap down Cheapside or Cornhill, as he would have attempted to play at leap-frog in the underwriters' room at Lloyd's. He had a notion, however, that he had done the "correct thing" for foreign parts, and that he had made himself look as much a traveller as Livingstone or Burton. Some strange dreams in the matter of dress had possessed the mind of Mrs. Cockayne, and her daughters also. They were in varieties of drab coloured dresses and cloaks; and the mother and the three daughters, deeming bonnets, we suppose, to be eccentric head-gears in Paris, wore dark brown hats all of one pattern, all ornamented with voluminous blue veils, and all ready to Dantan's hand. The young ladies had, moreover, velvet strings, that hung down from under their hats behind, almost to their heels. It was thus arrayed that the party took up their quarters at the Grand Hotel, and opened their Continental experiences. I have already accompanied Mrs. Cockayne, Sophonisba, and Theodosia, on their first stroll along the Boulevards, and peeped into a few shops with them. Mr. Cockayne was in the noble courtyard of the Hotel, waiting to receive them on their return, with Carrie sitting close by him, intently reading a voluminous catalogue of the Louvre, on which, according to Mrs. Cockayne, her liege lord had "wasted five francs." Mr. Cockayne was all smiles. Mrs. Cockayne and her two elder daughters were exhausted, and threw themselves into seats, and vowed that Paris was the most tiring place on the face of the earth.
"My dear," said Mr. Cockayne, addressing his wife, "people find Paris fatiguing because they walk about the streets all day, and give themselves no rest. If we did the same thing at Clapham——"
"There, that will do, Cockayne," the lady sharply answered. "I'm sure I'm a great deal too tired to hear speeches. Order me some iced water. You talk about French politeness, Cockayne. I think I never saw people stare so much in the whole coarse of my life. And some boys in blue pinafores actually laughed in our very faces. I know what I should have done to them, had I been their mother. What was it they said, Sophy, my dear?"
"I didn't quite catch, mamma; these people talk so fast."
"They seem to me," Mrs. Cockayne continued, "to jumble all their words one into another."
"That is because——" Mr. Cockayne was about to explain.
"Now, pray, Mr. Cockayne, do leave your Mutual Improvement Society behind, and give us a little relief while we are away. I say the people jumble one word into another in the most ridiculous manner, and I suppose I have ears, and Sophy has ears, and we are not quite lunatics because we have not been staring our eyes out all the morning at things we don't understand."
Here Carrie, lifting her eyes from her book, said to her father—
"Papa dear, you remember that first Sculpture Hall, where the colossal figures were; that was the Salle des Caryatides, and those gigantic figures you admired so much were by Jean Goujon. Just think! It was in this hall that Henry IV. celebrated his wedding with Marguerite de Valois. Yes, and in this very room Moliere used to act before the Court."
"Yes," Mrs. Cockayne interjected, pointing to Carrie's hands, "and in that very room, I suppose, Miss Caroline Cockayne appeared with her fingers out of her glove."
"And where have you been all day, my dear?" Mr. Cockayne said, in his blandest manner, to his wife.
"We poor benighted creatures," responded Mrs. Cockayne, "have been—pray don't laugh. Mr. Cockayne—looking at the shops, and very much amused we have been, I can assure you, and we are going to look at them to-morrow, and the day after, and the day after that."
"With all my heart, my dear," said Mr. Cockayne, who was determined to remain in the very best of tempers. "I hope you have been amused, that is all."
"We have had a delightful day," said Sophonisba.
"I am sure we have been into twenty shops," said Theodosia.
"And I am sure," Mrs. Cockayne continued, "it is quite refreshing, after the boorish manners of your London shopkeepers, to be waited upon by these polite Frenchmen. They behave like noblemen."
"Mamma has had fifty compliments paid to her in the course of the day, I am certain," said Sophonisba.
"I am very glad to hear it," said Sophonisba's papa.
"Glad to hear it, and surprised also, I suppose, Mr. Cockayne! In London twenty compliments have to last a lady her lifetime."
"I don't know how it is," Theodosia observed, "but the tradespeople here have a way of doing things that is enchanting. We went into an imition jeweller's in the Rue Vivienne—and such imitations! I'll defy Mrs. Sandhurst—and you know how ill-natured she is—to tell some earrings and brooches we saw from real gold and jewels. Well, what do you think was the sign of the shop, which was arranged more like a drawing-room than a tradesman's place of business; why, it was called L'Ombre du Vrai (the Shadow of Truth). Isn't it quite poetical?"
Mr. Cockayne thought he saw his opportunity for an oratorical flourish.
"It has been observed, my dear Theo," said he, dipping the fingers of his right hand into the palm of his left, "by more than one acute observer, that the mind of the race whose country we are now——"
Here Mrs. Cockayne rapped sharply the marble table before her with the end of her parasol, and said—
"Mr. Cockayne, have you ordered any dinner for us?"
Mr. Cockayne meekly gave it up, and replied that he had secured places for the party at the table d'hote.
Satisfied on this score, the matron proceeded to inform that person whom in pleasant irony she called her lord and master, that she had set her heart on a brooch of the loveliest design it had ever been her good fortune to behold.
"At the L'Ombre—what do you call it, my dear?" said the husband, blandly.
Mrs. Cockayne went through that stiffening process which ladies of dignity call drawing themselves up.
"You really surprise me, Mr. Cockayne. If you mean it as a joke, I would have you know that people don't joke with their wives; and I should think you ought to know by this time that I am not in the habit of wearing imitation jewellery."
"I ought," briefly responded Cockayne; and then he rapidly continued, in order to ward off the fire he knew his smart rejoinder would provoke—
"Tell me where it was, my dear. Suppose we go and look at it together. I saw myself some exquisite Greek compositions in the Rue de la Paix, which both myself and Carrie admired immensely."
"Greek fiddlesticks! I want no Greek, nor any other old-fashioned ornaments, Mr. Cockayne. One would think you were married to the oldest female inhabitant, by the way you talk; or that I had stepped out of the Middle Ages; or that I and Sphinx were twins. But you must be so very clever, with your elevation of the working-classes, and those prize Robinson Crusoes you gave to the Ragged-school children—which you know you got trade price."
"Well, well," poor Cockayne feebly expostulated, "if it's not far, let us go and see the brooch."
"There, mamma!" cried both Sophonisba and Theodosia in one breath. "Mind, the one with the three diamonds."
Mrs. Cockayne being of an exceedingly yielding temperament, allowed herself to be mollified, and sailed out of the hotel, with the blue veil hanging from her hat down her back, observing by the way that she should like to box those impudent Frenchmen's ears who were lounging about the doorway, and who, she was sure, were looking at her. Mr. Cockayne was unfortunate enough to opine that his wife was mistaken, and that the Frenchmen in question were not even looking in her direction.
"Of course not, Mr. Cockayne," said the lady; "who would look at me, at my time of life?"
"Nonsense! I didn't mean that," said Mr. Cockayne, now a little gruffly, for there was a limit even to his patience.
"It is difficult to tell what you mean. I don't think you know yourself, half your time."
Thus agreeably beguiling the way, the pair walked to the shop in the Rue de la Paix, where the lady had seen a brooch entirely to her mind. It was the large enamel rose-leaf, with three charming dew-drops in the shape of brilliants.
"They speak English, I hope," said Mr. Cockayne. "We ought to have brought Sophonisba with us."
"Sophonisba! much use her French is in this place. She says their French and the French she learnt at school are two perfectly different things. So you may make up your mind that all those extras for languages you paid for the children were so much money thrown away."
"That's a consoling reflection, now the money's gone," quoth Mr. Cockayne.
They then entered the shop. A very dignified gentleman, with exquisitely arranged beard and moustache, and dressed unexceptionably, made a diplomatic bow to Mr. Cockayne and his wife. Cockayne, without ceremony, plunged in medias res. He wanted to look at the rose-leaf with the diamonds on it. The gentleman in black observed that it became English ladies' complexion "a ravir."
It occurred to Mr. Cockayne, as it has occurred to many Englishmen in Paris, that he might make up for his ignorance of French by speaking in a voice of thunder. He seemed to have come to the conclusion that the French were a deaf nation, and that they talked a language which he did not understand in order that he might bear their deafness in mind. For once in her life Mrs. Cockayne held the same opinion as her husband. She accordingly, on her side, made what observations she chose to address to the dignified jeweller in her loudest voice. The jeweller smiled good naturedly, and pattered his broken English in a subdued and deferential tone. As Mr. Cockayne found that he did not get on very well, or make his meaning as clear as crystal by bawling, and as he found that the polite jeweller could jerk out a few broken phrases of English, the bright idea struck him that he, Mr. Cockayne, late of Lambeth, would make his meaning plainer than a pike-staff by speaking broken English also. The jeweller was puzzled, but he was very patient; and as he kept passing one bracelet after another over the arm of Mrs. Cockayne, quite captivated that lady.
"He seems to think we're going to buy all the shop," growled Cockayne.
"How vulgar you are! Lambeth manners don't do in Paris. Mr. Cockayne."
"But they seem to like Lambeth sovereigns, anyhow," was the aggravating rejoinder.
"If you're going to talk like that, I'll leave the shop, and not have anything."
This was a threat the lady did not carry out. She bore the enamel rose-leaf—the leaf with the three diamonds, as her daughters had affectionately reminded her—off in triumph, having promised that delightful man, the jeweller, to return and have a look at the bracelets another day. She was quite enchanted with the low bow the jeweller gave her as he closed his handsome plate-glass door. He might have been a duke or a prince, she said.
"Or a footman," Mr. Cockayne added. "I don't call all that bowing and scraping business."
When Mr. and Mrs. Cockayne returned to the Grand Hotel, they found their daughters Sophonisba and Theodosia in a state of rapture.
"Mamma, mamma!" cried Sophonisba, holding up a copy of La France, an evening paper, "you know that splendid shop we passed to-day, under the colonnades by the Louvre Hotel, where there was that deep blue moire you said you should so much like if you could afford it. Well, look here, there is a 'Grande Occasion' there!" and the enraptured girl pointed to letters at least two inches high, printed across the sheet of the newspaper. "Look! a 'Grande Occasion!'"
"And pray what's that, Sophy?" Mrs. Cockayne asked. "What grand occasion, I should like to know."
"Dear me, mamma," Theodosia murmured, "it means an excellent opportunity."
"My dear," Mrs. Cockayne retorted severely to her child, "I didn't have the advantage of lessons in French, at I don't know how many guineas a quarter; nor, I believe, did your father; nor did we have occasion to teach ourselves, like Miss Sharp."
"Well, look here, mamma," Miss Sophonisba said, her eyes sparkling and her fingers trembling as they ran down line after line of the advertisement that covered the whole back sheet of the newspaper. "You never saw such bargains. The prices are positively ridiculous. There are silks, and laces, and muslins, and grenadines, and alpacas, and shawls, and cloaks, and plain sultanes, and I don't know what, all at such absurdly low prices that I think there must be some mistake about it."
"Tut," Mr. Cockayne said; "one of those 'awful sacrifices' and bankrupt stock sales, like those we see in London, and the bills of which are thrown into the letter-box day after day."
"You are quite mistaken, papa dear, indeed you are," Theodosia said; "we have asked the person in the Bureau down stairs, and she has told us that these 'Grandes Occasions' take place twice regularly every year, and that people wait for them to make good bargains for their summer things and for their winter things."
The lady in the Bureau was right. The prudent housewives of Paris take advantage of these "Grandes Occasions" to make their summer and winter purchases for the family. In the spring-time, when the great violet trade of Paris brightens the corners of the streets, immense advertisements appear in all the daily and weekly papers of Paris, headed by gigantic letters that the fleetest runner may read, announcing extraordinary exhibitions, great exhibitions, and unprecedented spring shows. "Poor Jacques" offers 3000 cashmere shawls at twenty-seven francs each, 2000 silk dresses at twenty-nine francs, and 1000 at thirty-nine francs. "Little Saint Thomas," of the Rue du Bac, has 90,000 French linos, 1000 "Jacquettes gentleman," 500 Zouaves, and 1000 dozen cravats—all at extraordinary low prices. Poor Jacques draws public attention to the "incomparable cheapness" of his immense operations: while Little St. Thomas declares that his assortment of goods is of "exceptional importance," and that he is selling his goods at a cheapness hors ligne. For a nation that has twitted the English with being a race of shop-keepers, our friends the Parisians who keep shops are not wanting in devotion to their own commercial interests. Indeed, there is a strong commercial sense in thousands of Parisians who have no shutters to take down. Take for instance the poetical M. Alphonse Karr, whose name has passed all over Europe as the charming author of A Journey round my Garden. Nothing can be more engaging than the manner in which M. Karr leads his readers about with him among his flowers and the parasites of his garden. He falls into raptures over the petals of the rose, and his eye brightens tenderly over the June fly. One would think that this garden-traveller was a very ethereal personage, and that milk and honey and a few sweet roots would satisfy his simple wants, and that he had no more idea of trafficking in a market than a hard man of business has in spending hours watching a beetle upon a leaf. But let not the reader continue to labour under this grievous mistake.
M. Karr is quite up to the market value of every bud that breaks within the charmed circle of his garden at Nice.
He cultivates the poetry for his books, but he does not neglect his ledger. In the spring, when, according to Mr. Tennyson, "a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast," and "young men's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love," M. Alphonse Karr, poet and florist, opens his flower-shop.
Carrie had taken up the newspaper which had moved the enthusiasm of her elder sisters. Her eyes fell on the following advertisement:—
"By an arrangement agreed upon, M. ALPHONSE KARR, of Nice,
sends direct, gratuitously, and post free, either a box containing Herbes aux Turguoises, or a magnificent bouquet of Parma Violets, to every person who, before the end of March, shall become a subscriber to the monthly review entitled Life in the Country. A specimen number will be sent on receipt of fifteen sous in postage stamps."
This is Alphonse Karr's magnificent spring assortment—his Grand Occasion.
"So you see, Mr. Cockayne," said his wife, "this Mr. Karr, whose book about the garden—twaddle, I call it—you used to think so very fine and poetic, is just a market-gardener and nothing more. He is positively an advertising tradesman."
"Nothing more, mamma, I assure you," said Sophonisba. "I remember at school that one of the French young ladies, Mademoiselle de la Rosiere, told me that when her sister was married, the bride and all the bridesmaids had Alphonse Karr's bouquets. It seems that the mercenary creature advertises to sell ball or wedding bouquets, which he manages to send to Paris quite fresh in little boxes, for a pound apiece."
"Do you hear that?" said Mrs. Cockayne, addressing her husband. "This is your pet, sir, who was so fond of his beetles! Why, the man would sell the nightingales out of his trees, if he could catch them, I've no doubt."
"The story is a little jarring, I confess," Pater said. "But after all, why shouldn't he sell the flowers also, when he sells the pretty things he writes about them?"
"Upon my word, you're wonderful. You try to creep out of everything. But what is that you were reading, my dear Sophonisba, about the grande occasion near the Louvre Hotel? I dare say it's a great deal more interesting than Mr. Karr and his violets. I haven't patience with your papa's affectation. What was it we saw, my dear, in the Rue Saint Honore? The 'Butterfly's Chocolate'?"
"Yes, mamma," Theodosia answered. "Chocolat du Papillon. Yes; and you know, mamma, there was the linen-draper's with the sign A la Pensee. I never heard such ridiculous nonsense."
"Yes; and there was another, my dear," said Mrs. Cockayne, "'To the fine Englishwoman,' or something of that sort."
"Oh, those two or three shops, mamma," said Sophonisba, "dedicated A la belle Anglaise! Just think what people would say, walking along Oxford Street, if they were to see over a hosier's shop, written in big, flaring letters, 'To the beautiful Frenchwoman!"
Mr. Cockayne laughed. Mrs. Cockayne saw nothing to laugh at. She maintained that it was a fair way of putting the case.
Mr. Cockayne said that he was not laughing at his wife, but at some much more ridiculous signs which had come under his notice.
"What do you say," he asked, "to a linen-draper's called the 'Siege of Corinth?' or the 'Great Conde?' or the 'Good Devil'?"
"What on earth has La Belle Jardiniere got to do with cheap trowsers, Mr. Cockayne?" his wife interrupted. "You forget your daughters are in the room."
"Well, my dear, the Moses of Paris call their establishment the Belle Jardiniere."
"That's not half so absurd, papa dear," Sophonisba observed, "as another cheap tailor's I have seen under the sign of the 'Docks de la Violette.'"
"I don't know, my dear; I thought when my friend Rhodes came back from Paris, and told me he had worn a pair of the Belle Jardinieres——"
"Mr. Cockayne!" screamed his wife.
"Well, unmentionables, my dear—I thought I should have died with laughter."
"Sophonisba, my dear, tell us what the paper says about that magnificent shop under the Louvre colonnade; your father is forgetting himself."
"Dear mamma," said Sophonisba, "it would take me an hour to read all;" but she read the tit-bits.
"My dears," said Mrs. Cockayne to her daughters, "it would be positively a sin to miss such an opportunity."
Mr. Cockayne took up the paper which Sophonisba had finished reading, and running his eye over it, said, with a wicked curling of his lip—
"My dear Sophy, my dear child, here are a number of things you've not read."
Sophonisba tittered, and ejaculated—"Papa dear!"
"We have heard quite enough," Mrs. Cockayne said, sternly; "and we'll go to-morrow, directly after breakfast, and spend a nice morning looking over the things."
"But there are really two or three items, my dear, Sophy has forgotten. There are a lot of articles with lace and pen work; and think of it, my love, ten thousand ladies' chem——"
Mrs. Cockayne started to her feet, and shrieked—
"Girls, leave the room!"
"What a pity, my dear," the incorrigible Mr. Cockayne continued, in spite of the unappeasable anger of Mrs. Cockayne—"what a pity the Magasins de Louvre were not established at the time of the celebrated emigration of the ten thousand virgins; you see there would have been just one apiece."
A "GRANDE OCCASION."
"Well, these Paris tradespeople are the most extraordinary persons in the world," cried Sophonisba's mamma, and the absolute ruler of Mr. Cockayne. "I confess I can't make them out. They beat me. My dear, they are the most independent set I ever came across. They don't seem to care whether you buy or you don't; and they ask double what they intend to take."
"What is the matter now, my dear?" Mr. Cockayne ventured, in an unguarded moment, to ask, putting aside for a moment Mr. Bayle St. John's scholarly book on the Louvre.
"At any rate, Mr. Cockayne, we do humbly venture to hope that you will be able to spare us an hour this morning to accompany us to the Magasins du Louvre. We would not ask you, but we have been told the crowd is so great that ladies alone would be torn to pieces."
"I forget how many thousands a day, papa dear," Sophonisba mercifully interposed, "but a good many, visit these wonderful shops. I confess I never saw anything like even the outside of them. The inside must be lovely."
"I have no doubt they are, my dear," Mr. Cockayne observed. "They were built about ten years ago. The foundations were——"
"There," cried Mrs. Cockayne, rising, "there, your papa is off with his lecture. I shall put on my bonnet." And Mrs. Cockayne swept grandly from the room.
Mrs. Cockayne re-entered the room with her bonnet on; determination was painted on the lady's countenance. Cockayne should not escape this time. He should be led off like a lamb to the slaughter. Were not the silks marked at ridiculously low prices? Was not the shawl-room a sight more than equal to anything to be seen in any other part of Paris? Was not the folding department just as much a sight of Paris as that wretched collection of lumber in the Hotel Cluny?
Some wives had only to hint to have; but that was not the case with the hapless Mrs. Cockayne. She was sure nobody could be more economical than she was, both for herself and the children, and that was her reward. She had to undergo the most humiliating process of asking point-blank; even when twenty or thirty thousand pairs of gloves were to be sold at prices that were unheard of! Men were so stupid in their meanness!
"Buy the shop," Mr. Cockayne angrily observed.
Perhaps Mr. Cockayne would be pleased to inform his lawful wife and the unfortunate children who were subjected by fate to his cruel tyranny—perhaps he would inform them when it would be convenient for him to take them home. His insults were more than his wife could bear.
"What's the matter now?" asked the despairing Cockayne, rubbing his hat with his coat-sleeve.
"Mamma dear, papa is coming with us," Sophonisba expostulated.
"Well, I suppose he is. It has not quite come to that yet, my dear. I am prepared for anything, I believe; but your father will, I trust, not make us the laughing-stock of the hotel."
"I am ready," said Cockayne, grimly, between his teeth.
"I am obliged, you see, children, to speak," icily responded the lady he had sworn to love and cherish. "Hints are thrown away. I must suffer the indignity for your sakes, of saying to your father, I shall want some money for the purchases your mother wants to make for you. It is not the least use going to this Grande Occasion, or whatever they call it, empty-handed."
"Will you allow me time to get change?" And Mr. Cockayne headed the procession through the hotel court-yard to the Boulevards.
"Walk with your father," the outraged lady said to Sophonisba. "It's positively disgraceful, straggling out in this way. But I might have known what it was likely to be before I left home."
Mr. Cockayne, as was his wont, speedily re-assumed his equanimity, and chatted pleasantly with Sophonisba as they walked along the Rue de la Paix, across the Place Vendome, into the Rue Castiglione. Mrs. Cockayne followed with Theodosia; Carrie had begged to be left behind, to write a long letter to her intellectual friend, Miss Sharp.
Mr. Cockayne stopped before the door of Mr. John Arthur.
"What on earth can your father want here?" said Mrs. Cockayne, pausing at the door, while her husband had an interview with Mr. John Arthur within.
Theodosia, peering through the window, answered, "He is getting change, mamma dear."
Mr. Cockayne issued radiant from Mr. John Arthur's establishment.
"There," said he to his wife, in his heartiest voice; "there, my dear, buy what you and the girls want."
"I will do the best I can with it. Perhaps we can manage our shopping without troubling you."
"It's not the least trouble in the world," gaily said Cockayne, putting that bright face of his on matters.
"I thought you had some idea of going to the Museum of Artillery this afternoon, to see whether or not you approved of the French guns."
Mr. Cockayne laughed at the sarcasm, and again gave Sophonisba his arm, and went under the colonnades of the Rue de Rivoli, wondering, by the way, why people stared at him in his plaid suit, and at his daughter in her brown hat and blue veil. Mrs. Cockayne wondered likewise. The French were the rudest people on the face of the earth, and not the politest, as they had the impudence to assert.
When the party reached the colonnades of the Grand Hotel du Louvre, they found themselves in the midst of a busy scene.
The Magasins du Louvre stretch far under the Hotel, from the Rue de Rivoli to the Rue Saint-Honore. Year after year has the stretching process continued; but now the great company of linen drapers and hosiers have all the space that can be spared them. The endless lines of customers' carriages in the Rue Saint-Honore and on the Place opposite Prince Napoleon's palace betoken the marvellous trade going on within.
The father of the English family here turned his back upon the great shop, and glancing towards the Louvre and the Church of Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, exclaimed—"Marvellous scene! A sight not to be equalled in the world. Yonder is the old church, the bell of which tolled the——"
"You're making a laughing-stock of yourself," Mrs. Cockayne exclaims, taking her husband firmly by the arm. "One would think you were an hotel guide, or a walking handbook, or—or a beadle or showman. What do you want to know about the massacre of St. Bartholomew now? There'll not be a mantle or a pair of gloves left. Come in—do! You can go gesticulating about the streets with Carrie to-morrow, if you choose; but do contrive to behave like an ordinary mortal to-day."
Mr. Cockayne resigned himself. He plunged into the magnificent shop. He was dragged into the crowd that was defiling past the fifteen-sous counter, where the goods lay in great tumbled masses on the floor and upon the counter. He was surprised to see the shopmen standing upon the counter, and, with marvellous rapidity, telling off the yards of the cheap fabrics to the ladies and gentlemen who were pressing before them in an unbroken line. Beyond were the packers. Beyond again, was the office where payment was made, each person having a note or ticket, with the article bought, showing the sum due. A grave official marshalled the customer to the pay-place. There was wonderful order in the seeming confusion. The admirable system of the establishment was equal to the emergency. An idea of the continuous flow of the crowd past the silk and mixed fabric counters may be got from the fact that many ladies waited three and four hours for their turn to be served. One Parisian lady told Mrs. Cockayne that, after waiting four hours in the crowd, she had gone home to lunch, and had returned to try her fortune a second time.
Poor Cockayne! He was absolutely bewildered. His endeavours to steer the "three daughters of Albion" who were under his charge, in the right direction, were painful to witness. First he threaded corridors, then he was in the carpet gallery, and now he was in the splendid, the palatial shawl-hall, where elegant ladies were trying on shawls of costly fabric, with that grace and quiet for which Parisians are unmatched.
"This is superb! Oh, this is very, very fine!" cried the ladies. "How on earth shall we find our way out?"
Now they sailed among immensities of silk and satin waves. Now they were encompassed with shawls; and now they were amid colonnades of rolls of carpet.
Mrs. Cockayne stayed here and there to make a purchase, by the help of Sophonisba's French, which was a source of considerable embarrassment to the shopmen. They smiled, but were very polite.
"This is not a shop, it is a palace dedicated to trade," cried Cockayne.
"Stuff and nonsense," was his answer; "take care of the parcels. Yon know better, of course, than the people to whom it belongs."
The Cockaynes found themselves borne by the endless stream of customers into a vast and lofty gallery. Pater paused.
"This is superb! It would have been impossible to realize——"
"Don't be a fool, Cockayne," said his wife; "this is the lace department. We must not go away without buying something."
"Let us try," was saucily answered.
Mrs. Cockayne immediately settled upon some Chantilly, and made her lord, as she expressed it in her pretty way, "pay for his impudence."
The silk gallery was as grand and bewildering as the lace department; and here again were made some extraordinary bargains.
Obliging officials directed the party to the first staircase on the right, or to turn to the left, by the furnishing department. They made a mistake, and found themselves in the salons devoted to made linen, where Mrs. Cockayne hoped her husband would not make his daughters blush with what he considered to be (and he was much mistaken) witty observations. He was to be serious and silent amid mountains of feminine under linen. He was to ask no questions.
In the Saint Honore gallery—which is the furnishing department—Mr. Cockayne was permitted to indulge in a few passing expressions of wonder. He was hushed in the splendour of the shawl gallery—where all is solid oak and glass and rich gold, and where the wearied traveller through the exciting scene of a Grande Occasion at the marvellous shops of the Louvre, can get a little rest and quiet.
"A wonderful place!" said Pater, as he emerged in the Rue de Rivoli, exhausted.
"And much more sensible than the place opposite," his wife replied, pointing to the palace where the art treasures of Imperial France are imperially housed.
"Grande Occasion!" muttered Mr. Cockayne, when he reached the hotel—"a grand opportunity for emptying one's pocket. The cheapness is positively ruinous. I wonder whether there are any cheap white elephants in Paris?"
"White elephants, Cockayne! White fiddlesticks! I do really think, girls, your father is gradually—mind, I say, gradually—gradually taking leave of his senses."
"La! mamma," unfortunate Carrie interposed, raising her eyes from a volume on Paris in the Middle Ages—"la! mamma, you know that in India——"
"Hold your tongue, Miss—of course I know—and if I didn't, it is not for you to teach me."
Mr. Timothy Cockayne heaved a deep sigh and rang for his bill.
He was to leave for London on the morrow—and his wife and daughters were to find lodgings.
OUR FOOLISH COUNTRYWOMEN.
I Introduce at this point—its proper date—Miss Carrie Cockayne's letter to Miss Sharp:—
"Grand Hotel, Paris.
"DEAREST EMMY—They are all out shopping, so here's a long letter. I haven't patience with the men. I am sure we have had enough abuse in our own country, without travelling all the way to Paris for it; and yet the first paper I take up in the reading saloon of the hotel, contains a paragraph headed Le Beau Sexe en Angleterre. The paragraph is violent. The writer wants to know what demon possesses the Englishwomen at this moment. I might have been sure it was translated from an English paper. The creature wants to know whether the furies are let loose, and is very clever about Lucretia Borgia, and Mary Manning, and Mary Newell! One would think English mothers were all going to boil their children. This is just what has happened about everything else. In certain English circles slang is talked: therefore women have become coarse and vulgar. The Divorce Court has been a busy one of late; and scandals have been 'going round' as the American ladies in this hotel say; therefore there are to be no more virtuous mothers and sisters presently. Upon my word, the audacity of this makes my blood boil. Here the ladies paint, my dear, one and all. Why, the children in the Tuileries gardens whisk their skirts, and ogle their boy playmates. Vanity Fair at its height is here—I am not going to dispute it. Nor will I say papa is quite in the wrong when he cries shame on some of the costumes one meets on the Boulevards. My dear, short skirts and grey hair do not go well together. I cannot even bear to think of grand-mamma showing her ankles and Hessian boots! But what vexes and enrages me is the injustice of the sudden outcry. Where has the slang come from? Pray who brought it into the drawing-room? How is it that girls delight in stable-talk, and imitate men in their dress and manners? We cannot deny that the domestic virtues have suffered in these fast days, nor that wife and husband go different ways too much: but are we to bear all the blame? Did we build the clubs, I wonder? Did you or I invent racing, and betting, and gambling? Do you like being lonely, as you are, my dear? When women go wrong, who leads the way? The pace is very fast now, and we do give more time to dress, and that sort of thing than our mothers did. I own I'm a heavy hand at pastry, and mamma is a light one. I couldn't tell you how many shirts papa has. I should be puzzled to make my own dresses. I hate needlework. But are we monsters for all this? Papa doesn't grumble very much. He has his pleasures, I'm sure. He dined out four times the week we came away. He was at the Casino in the Rue St. Honore last night, and came home with such an account of it that I am quite posted up in the manners and costumes of ces dames, yes, and the lower class of them. The mean creature who has been writing in the Saturday Review gives us no benefit of clergy. We have driven our brothers out into the night; we have sent our lovers to Newmarket; we have implored our husbands (that is, we who have got husbands,) not to come home to dinner, because we have more agreeable company which we have provided for ourselves. Girls talk slang, I know—perhaps they taught their brothers! I suppose mamma taught papa to describe a woman in the Bois as 'no end of a swell,' and when he is in the least put out to swear at her.
"Now, my dear, shall I give you my idea of the mischief? Papa thinks I go about with my eyes shut; that I observe nothing—except the bonnet shops. I say the paint, the chignons, the hoops, and the morals—whatever they may be—start from here. My ears absolutely tingled the first evening I spent here en soiree. Lovers! why the married ladies hardly take the trouble to disguise their preferences.
"I was at an embassy reception the other night. Papa said it was like a green-room, only not half so amusing. They talked in one corner as openly as you might speak of the Prince Imperial, about Mademoiselle Schneider's child. There were women of the company whose liaisons are as well known as their faces, and yet they were parfaitement bien recues! Theresa is to be heard—or was to be heard till she went out of fashion—in private salons, screaming her vulgar songs among the young ladies. When I turn the corner just outside the hotel, what do I see in one of the most fashionable print-shops? Why, three great Mabille prints of the shockingly indecent description—with ladies and their daughters looking at them. Those disagreeable pictures in the Burlington Arcade are, my dearest Emmy, moral prints when compared with them. We have imported all this. Paris is within ten hours and a half of London, so we get French ways, as papa says, 'hot and hot.'"
"Who admires domestic women now? Tell an English creve that Miss Maria is clever at a custard, and he will sneer at her. No. She must be witty, pert; able to give him as good as he sends, as people say. Young Dumas has done a very great deal of this harm; and he has made a fortune by it. He has brought the Casino into the drawing-room, given ces dames a position in society, and made hundreds of young men ruin themselves for the glory of being seen talking to a Cora Pearl. Now what do you think he has done. He has actually brought out a complete edition of his pieces, with a preface, in which, Papa tells me, he plays the moralist. He has unfolded all the vice—crowded the theatres to see a bad woman in a consumption—painted the demi-monde—with a purpose! All the world has laboured under the idea that the purpose was piles of gold. But now, the locker being full, and the key turned, and in the young gentleman's pocket, he dares to put himself in the robe of a professor, to say it was not the money he cared about—it was the lesson. He is a reformer—a worshipper of virtue! We shall have the author of Jack Sheppard start as a penologist soon. My dear, the cowardice of men when dealing with poor women is bad enough; but it is not by half so repulsive as their hypocrisy. Ugh!
"Any news of the handsome Mr. Daker? It strikes me, dear Emmy, 'Uncle Sharp' didn't send him up from Maidstone with a letter of introduction to his niece for nothing.
"Your affectionate friend, "CARRIE C."
"OH, YES!" AND "ALL RIGHT!"
Lucy was privileged to read the following:—
Miss Carrie Cockayne to Miss Emily Sharp.
"Rue Millevoye, Paris.
"MY DEAREST EMMY,—I should certainly not venture to offer any remarks on taste to you, my love, under ordinary circumstances. But I am provoked. I have passed a severe round of soirees of every description. Jaded with the fantastic activities of a fancy-dress genteel riot, I have been compelled to respond to the intimation of the Vicomtesse de Bois de Rose, that "on sautera". I have jumped with the rest. I have half killed myself with sirops, petit-fours, those microscopic caricatures of detestable British preparation—sandwiches (pronounced sonveetch), bouillon, and chocolate, in the small hours; ices in tropical heats; foie-gras and champagne about two hours after healthy bedtime, and tea like that which provoked old Lady Gargoyle to kick over the tea-table in her boudoir—in her eightieth year, too. The Gargoyles (I shall have much to tell you about them when we meet) were always an energetic race; and I feel the blood tingling in me while my eye wanders over the impertinences of the French chroniqueurs, when they are pleased to be merry at the expense of la vieille Angleterre. I hold I am right; am I not?—that when even a chroniqueur—that smallest of literary minnows—undertakes to criticize a foreign nation, at least the equal of his own, he should start with some knowledge of its language, history, manners, and customs. But what do we find? The profoundest ignorance of the rudiments of English. The special correspondent sent to London by the Figaro to be amusing on our darker side, cannot spell the word theatre; but he is trenchant when dealing with what he saw at the Adelphi Theater. How completely he must have understood the dialogue, he who describes Webster as a comique de premier ordre! In the same paper the dramatic critic, after explaining that at the rehearsals of L'Abime, the actors, who continually are complaining that they are ordered off on the wrong side, are quieted with the information that matters dramatic are managed in this way in bizzare England—prints in a line apart, and by way of most humorous comment, these words, 'English spoken here.' Conceive, my dear, an English humorous writer interlarding his picture of a French incident with the occasional interjection of Parlez-vous Francais? Yet the comic writers of Paris imagine that they show wit when they pepper their comments with disjointed, irrelevant, and misspelt ejaculations in our vernacular. We have a friend here (we have made dozens) who has a cat she calls To-be—the godfather being 'To-be or not to be! 'All right' appears daily as a witticism; 'Oh, yes!' serves for the thousandth time as a touch of humour. The reason is obvious. French critics are wholly ignorant of our language. Very few of them have crossed the Channel, even to obtain a Leicester Square idea of our dear England. But they are not diffident on this account. They have never seen samples of the Britisher—except on the Boulevards, or whistling in the cafes—where our countrymen, I beg leave to say, do not shine; and these to them are representations of our English society. Suppose we took our estimate of French manners and culture from the small shopkeepers of the Quartier St. Antoine! My protest is against those who judge us by our vulgar and coarse types. The Manchester bully who lounges into the Cafe Anglais with his hat on the back of his head; the woman who wears a hat and a long blue veil, and shuffles in in the wake of the malhonnete to whom she is married; again, the boor who can speak only such French as 'moa besoin' and 'j'avais faim,' represent English men and women just as fairly as the rude, hoggish, French egg-and-poultry speculators represent the great seigneurs of France.