« VorigeDoorgaan »
serted by all but the infirm and in- girls were gathered in groups, the groupcurious, neither of them belonging to ing being evidently dependent upon an interesting section of human nature ; social equality, not upon age or simiso I walked away quietly down the larity of taste. The most unobservant avenue of chesnut trees to the parterre, eye could not fail to be struck with this which at that moment was fast filling strange classification. The critical with the aristocratic population of the glance directed by the girls in any little ladies of Paris. For it was just one particular group when a strange the hour of respite from study, as pur- playmate approached with a petition sued at the different cours, and M. Levi to join the game going forward at the and Malle. St. Clair and the great M. moment, the manner in which they Saitout bad all just finished their early would take in at one single glance classes of universal instruction in every the whole figure of the new-comer, language and every science, and the from the crown of her hat à la Watjuvenile aristocracy were left to digest teau to the sole of her tapotte Dubarri, the light and frothy meal of intellectual and with experienced connoisseurship nourishment, which the above-named would accept or reject the petition at professors know so well how to cook once without excuse for the judgment up at the slow fire of their own intelli or appeal against it when pronounced, gence, to suit the delicate appetite of was most instructive and curious to bethe customers. In the Petite Provence I hold. Every description of childish had beheld the “ germ” which my
friend vanity might be said to have been here Delbrück had advised me to consider,
unfolded to the sun. This square space and thought it wise to contemplate the between the last quincunx and the wire bud and blossom, as I should find trellis fence of the parterre has been long them, at that moment, assembled in the known as the Parc des Princesses, to parterre.
account for the turning up of little chins, and the curling up of little noses, at each other, and the whole
world besides. CHAPTER II.
It was curious to remark that even the baby world of Paris is undergoing
the strange transition which is observThe square space before the double par able in every other section of the comterre was literally crowded with the munity; for in the very midst of the world of fashion in miniature, every pure circle of the future marchionesses member of which seemed to be so full and countesses of the Faubourg St. Gerof eagerness in the search after pleasure main, whose ancestors shouted “Montthat the indifferent observer might have joie St. Denis !” on the walls of Ascalon, mistaken it for the pursuit of more might be seen some of the future serious business.
bankers' wives of the Chaussée d'Antin, I felt at once that I was in far better whose ancestors may have bawled forth company than in the Petite Provence.
Oranges à la douce !” in the streets Here all was dignity and aristocratic of Marseilles; and the lawyers' ladies pride. Few bonnes, many surveillantes of the Marais, whose only battle-cry and institutrices. No child of the was “ À la Bazoche !" But the world people was suffered to destroy with has many ways of moving forward, and plebeian blouse and cotton nightcap the little roturières claim admission into the harmony of the picture which, if the exclusive precincts of the Parc des photographed as it broke upon me when Princesses, first of all by right of their I emerged from the shade of the trees, irreproachable toilet, and then by conmight have served as the illustration of tact at the same cours, whereat both the manners and customs of the juvenile classes acquire the universal knowledge France of modern times. As usual, the I have before alluded to, and where
THE PARTERRE: BUD AND BLOSSOM,
game of "
social distinction must of necessity be doffed her hat. It lay on the chair softened by equality in the “sciences," where her surveillante's feet were restand most of all by instruction at the ing. It was snow-white crape with a
"catechism." This latter is the long rose-coloured feather. The other greatest card of all, and being the work girls had declared the wind to be too of the priesthood, bears the stamp of high to go bareheaded. It was pleasant, that mastery of human weakness, that notwithstanding the affectation of their knowledge of human nature which the demeanour, and the calculation visible Church so wisely insists shall be the first in their movements, to watch them as branch taught to those who seek to they darted across the square, now admaintain her dignity and power. The vancing on tiptoe with graceful curvings scions of the two races now struggling of the arm to beckon their companions, for supremacy in France were ostensibly now drawing back with equal grace to engaged at play together, but in reality avoid being captured. Every gesture nothing could be further from the and every motion savoured of the thoughts of either. They were, in
They were, in dancing school and the cours of unireality, occupied in criticising, in ad versal science, but it was very amusing miring, in depreciating or envying, each to witness for all that, and I sat in other's dress and manner. I considered dreamy listlessness, thinking only of the myself fortunate in finding a place for present grace and desire to please evinced my chair just in the midst of the finest by the little people before me, forgetting
in the corner." I soon all the dread prognostications which hal learnt the names of the little girls seized upon me on first beholding their engaged in it, for they called them out rich toilets and coquettish gestures. to each other in loud, shrill, screaming Many such groups passed me to and tones.
fro, all eager, all hurried, over-dressed, Emmeline and Lucile, Melanie and and full of talk-shrill voices like the Malvina, stood at the four corners, peacock, thin legs like the antelope, whilst Aloyse occupied the middle long flat feet encased in tasselled boots post, and I was rather surprised to with exorbitantly high heels, Russian hear the young lady with so fine a toques, Smyrniote caps, Polish toquets. name called by the familiar appella- Pyrenese bérets, Spanish resilias, large tion belonging to the game, but one flashing eyes roving to the right when which we should never dare to mention the wide thin lips were throwing the to any ears whether polite or otherwise, sharp words to the left :-these signs much less scream it out across a public seemed characteristic of them all. The garden to awaken the echoes with gross enormous poufs behind, the enormous and unpleasant suggestions. But if the knots of broad ribbon between their words of the little maidens were vulgar shoulders, gave them all likewise a bent their dress was not. Emmeline was and hollow-chested look, while the attired in drab-coloured poult de soie, necessity of throwing the whole figure elaborately embroidered in sky-blue forward in consequence of the ridiculous floss; Lucilo wore an emerald-green height of the heels, added also to the mousseline de soie, with countless appearance of fatigue and exhaustion flounces, and pouf of the same; Me- which foreigners always remark in Paris lanie's fourreau of the newest fashion,
children. My four little friends engaged perfectly correct in cut, but rather in the game of puss in the corner, tight, was gay Scotch plaid poplin, won seemed literally to skate rather than derfully adorned with satin quillings; run along the ground; but when they while Alojse, despite of the office she discovered I was gazing at them with held in the game, was the most soignée interest, they began to mince and of all, a rose-coloured China silk with wriggle, and swim and sidle, after the Pompadour braidings and fringes! Aloyse fashion of Miss Carolina Wilhelmina inoreover bad splendid hair, so she had Amelia Skeggs. So out of sheer deli
cacy I turned aside and directed
my carpet-bag and umbrella. The card attention to the group of little maidens being held on each side by a string, gathered round the chair next to mine, and twirled rapidly round, the images where numerous small heads packed on the two sides come together, and the close together, and tongues wagging in exclamation printed beneath, “Oh Ciel! shrill tones, were discoursing and com mon mari !” sufficiently explains the menting upon a lot of coloured prints laid meaning of the picture. The little out upon a chair before them. These maidens seemed to enjoy the joke imcoloured prints, “ for the improvement mensely, and to understand it too, and and edification of the rising generation my mind reverted immediately to the of France," are all from the vile factory nurse's song in the Petite Provence, at Epinal. Gross in conception, horrible “Qui frappe ? qui frappe? mon mari in execution, I could not but wonder est ici !” as I gazed, that the French, who Many other funny illustrations of the boast of their immense superiority in like tendency were submitted by the taste over every other nation, should little girls to each other. But my atrisk the precious gift by suffering tention was suddenly diverted from this their children to imbibe such notions minor peep-show of juvenile morals to as those contained therein, or to contem the grander exhibition of the same on plate the horrible illustrations used to a more imposing scale, which was taking render their immoral meaning as clear place among my friends Emmeline and as possible to infantine capacity. The Lucile, Malvina and Melanie, who; sudfirst sheet of flaming pictures repre- denly breaking up their game, rushed sented “The Story of Finfin, Lirette, and past me like the whirlwind. Away they Mirtis,” in a series of twenty-five fiercely flew, kicking up the sand, across the alley, coloured plates.
An old woman's flock towards the gate, uttering shrieks of has strayed; she goes out in search of it, delight, as their thin legs sped over the and finds three lovely children. She ground. « Les voici ! Les voici!” was takes them home. Finfin the boy is the cry, and presently approached a just eight years old; he betrays such a bevy of excited little Amazons, with marked preference for Lirette, that the much agitation of voice and gesture, old woman, believing them to be much bobbing of feathers and fluttering brother and sister, becomes quite uneasy of ribbons, who were literally rushing to at sight of their affection! and thinks it the front with such a valiant charge, her duty to watch them. Here the that no one dared to oppose their adillustration, red, yellow, and pink, is of vance. Every girl carried a roll of copythe old woman peeping over the hedge book, or else one of those black leather while Finfin, the boy of eight, is whis writing-cases which have grown almost pering to the girl of six. Then a good a feature of the small girl population of fairy tells the old woman that the pair Paris. These dauntless damsels seemed are not brother and sister, and she has in as great a fever of excitement as the no longer any need to spy their actions young friends who had gone out in such as before. And so on to the end. The frantic haste to meet them. “ Victoire ! comment at the bottom of each picture victoire !” exclaimed they, as if with is always clear, if not commendable. one .voice; "we have won the day!" When these had been examined, a and straightway were copybooks and series of turning cards was exhibited. handkerchiefs tossed into the air : They all possessed the same tendency, “Come along, dear friends, and hear and gave rise to the same ideas. One the tale of our triumph!” I remember well, as creating the utmost “Who are these young ladies ?" in merriment amongst the little group. On quired I of an elderly gentleman who one side of the card a lady seated on a sat near me, gazing on the scene with sofa, with a lover on his knees before a sarcastic smile. her, on the other a gentleman with his “They are the girls belonging to the
· Catechism' of St. Louis, the most question when it came to her turn to fashionable of all. There has been a explain the mystery of the Incarnation ; terrible schism in the chapel, and I am and when he inquired the reason of sorry to find that the sole individual this silence, she replied haughtily that possessed of the sense and reason indis- she was waiting for the Abbé de Villars. pensable for the government of the frothy Thereupon we all sat down convulsed mass of vanity and affectation of which with laughter at the Abbé Fauvel's our future wives and mothers are com- astonishment, and the little red-haired posed, should have been defeated.”
Sisters' girl' burst into a howl of deI was not familiar with the Paris“Cate- spair, for she had been the first in the chisms.” I had beheld“ the germ” in the class, and knew she would lose her place Petite Provence, and was glad of the with the Abbé de Villars, who has no opportunity of contemplating “the bud fancy for calico caps and clattering sabots." and the blossom" at the same time, and Here the speaker, pale with excitement, to get initiated into the action of the was forced to pause, and one of her comCatechism upon the young girls of our panions, who had been on the watch, generation. I listened, therefore, with took up the wondrous tale in a deep, the greatest attention to the next excla- husky contralto voice, contrasting finely mation which escaped the breathless lips with the shrill tones of the former of the leader of the expedition : “Yes, speaker. “And so the Abbé Fauvel dear friends; the Abbé Fauvel is beaten, was forced to retire, and the Abbé de and the Abbé de Villars reigns for ever!" Villars came forth, looking, oh! so The announcement was received with a sweetly, with his bran-new soutane and shrill scream of delight. “À bas his lovely white hair, like floss silk, Fauvel !” and “ Vive De Villars !!” burst hanging over his shoulders. And he from the dainty little throats with as dismissed the “Sisters' girls' at once, much energy as the “ À bas l'Empereur !” putting them off to another day. And and “ Vive la République !!" a few weeks when they were gone, he prayed so before by the gamins on the day of the divinely! His lovely voice, how tender plébiscite. And the clapping of hands it seemed, after the rough, rude tones of and the skipping to and fro on the tips that odious Fauvel. And then he bowed of the fashionable boots can better be so gracefully all down the benches, and imagined than described.
gave us one of his blandest allocutions, “But who dared to manage such an 'Love ye one another, even as Christ important matter as this ?” cried a timid has loved you !' And it was heavenly voice amongst the listeners.
to hear him imitating the bleating of "Oh, Helène de Montraville, to be the lambs in the meadows, who gambol sure; you know she has vowed re- together, and love each other, never venge against the Abbé Fauvel ever caring whether their coats be white or since he admitted the charity children to black, or their wool soft or coarse. And our class on the same day and hour as he made us laugh so at the funny way ourselves. Good heavens, mesdemoi- in which he tried to show us how the selles ! just fancy those nasty children lambkins frolic among the flowers, and from the Sisters' school, with their filthy the little birds whistle in the branches, cotton caps and clattering sabots, in our when all is peace and harmony, as it chapel ! it was not to be borne.” And should be, amongst Christians.” the orator turned with a gesture of in- “And did he walk amongst you?” finite disgust, and spat upon the ground; asked a listener, in an envious tone. and the whole bevy of little girls, in “Yes, he actually came down from the imitation of the master spirit, turned reading-desk, and glided amongst the aside and spat upon the ground! En- benches, and we all gathered round him, couraged by this mark of adhesion, the and he was so much overcome with our orator continued : “Helène de Montra- welcome that he did not perceive how ville refused to answer the Abbé Fauvel's Helène de Montraville had jumped
upon the form and had drawn her absolute children. In a very few years scissors from her pocket, with which they will be given in marriage; they she had cut off a lock of the darling will be wives and mothers as soon as å old Abbe's beautiful silver hair. But man rich enough can be found to suit in her fright she let the scissors fall, their parents.” and I picked them up, and quick as Much discussion had to be gone lightning snipped off a piece of his new through before a choice could be made soutane ; and then all the girls along amongst the various roundelays proour form snipped off a piece wherever posed. “La Tour prend garde” was they could. So you can just imagine, voted too romping for tight sleeves, when the dear old Abbé turned round, “La Marjolaine too trying for highwhat a sight his bran-new soutane pre heeled boots, and some similar objection sented. For me, look here—I got the was raised against many others, until at best of all—this bit of fringe from his length the small husky-voiced damsel sash, which I shall hoard and bless and who had related the unctuous portion pray to as long as I live."
of the Abbé de Villars' story, and who And with this the little maiden was evidently of a melancholy turn of pressed the precious relic to her lips, mind, proposed " The Old Woman's and kissed it with rapturous fervour; and Burial" (L'Enterrement de la Vieille), by then it was handed round. Each girl which no risk would be incurred to kissed it with closed eyes and bent either flounce or feather. forehead, murmuring a few inaudible after a general drawing themselves up words as she did so.
to settle" their waists, and bending This little sensation closed the scene. forward to balance their poufs, and rising The relic was replaced within the tight on tiptoe to feel their feet, the whole bodice of its owner, and in a few assembly started in quite as loud and moments the Abbé Fauvel and all the joyous a manner as the Petite Provence religious scruples he had originated had done before them; and, as I live! were forgotten. The knots of ribbon, this was the song piped, rather out of the length of the feathers, the height tune it must be confessed, by the scions of the heels worn by each of the girls, of the aristocracy became the subjects of interest; and then a game was proposed. As in the Petite
“ 'Tis Paris, the gayest city of France, Provence, a ronde was chosen. The
For there the young men have the merriest
dance ; French display in childhood that same They twirl, and they whirl the young lasses sociability which is characteristic of their among, race, and the favourite games are always
And they sing, while they turn, their merthose which demand the greatest number
Old woman! old woman ! begone, away! of players. As the gaily-dressed, highly
The old and decrepit have had their day. refined little band took their station side by side, holding each other by the hand,
“ An old woman gazed on the young fellows
dancing, until the ring was completed, I became
And her sore eyes grew moist with their deeply interested through the mere in
amorous glancing ; stinct of comparison, sure of finding a
She took by the hand the handsomest lad, favourable contrast to the ronde sung
And swore he should kiss her, and make her
heart glad. by the infantine population of the Petite
Old woman ! old woman ! begone, away! Provence. 6. These are all of them The old and decrepit have had their day. girls of elegant and refined education,"
Young fellow, young fellow! be not too thought I ; “from their rank they must
rash, have been protected from every kind The old woman's pockets are brining of baleful influence. Their age, too,
with cash, makes them almost what in England
• What! say you so, truly ?' the young fel
low cried; would already be called by strangers and
* Then old she may be, she shall still be my dependants "young ladies, no longer bride.