Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

before the train left for Paris, Edward was gayer and more dogmatic than I had seen him for months. I had provided myself with private salt, for the only time I was ever abroad before, when I went with my dear sister Sophy and Mamma to Prague and Dresden, a year before I was married, neither Sophy nor I could eat our dinners for the horrid spectacle of salt in a state of complete liquefaction,—the liquefaction being due to the moisture on scores of knives plunged into it by voracious Germans, after reiterated previous immersion in that natural cavity which they call their Mund. (E. says Mund, from immundus, like lucus a non lucendo, at which an Englishman near laughed very much, but I had to have it explained to me.) Edward was not sorry for my private salt, but said his “heart bounded” at the sight of the nasty public stuff, at which expression your great "gutter” illustration came back to me very forcibly indeed.

However, I must not linger so much, or how shall I ever get you to Bâle, which is, they tell me, at least five hundred miles from my little darlings, and nearly five days in time from our start ? Neither of us had ever been in Paris, and even I was as pleased as Edward at the pretty shops in the Rue Rivoli, at the pleasant, neat, dressy air of all the shopwomen, at the vivacity of every face we met, at the gay Tuileries gardens, with the bright tubs of orange-trees and splendid gladioleswe saw an old priest there enjoying like a child the spectacle of a bird-enchanter who called sparrows and pigeons round him in flocks at will, and made them perch on his finger; and the old priest smiled at us, and we smiled at the old priest, and we felt quite happy together —at the Parisians eating their breakfasts, and drinking their coffee, in the streets outside the shop doors, at the brilliant jewellers’ shops and dear little brooches, some of them like little daisies, costing only a franc, and in as good taste as if they were worth a guinea, and at the sweetest little embroidered neck ribbons you ever saw, some of the prettiest only a couple of francs each, which I thought old Lady Waldegrave might have very gracefully distributed to her Cumberland girls after that lecture of hers on cheap finery, on which you commented so admirably a few weeks ago. Why, such a neck ribbon, with the daisy brooch I have spoken of, would be a pretty ornament for a princess, and not an ambitious or vulgar one for a village girl. In fact, we were delighted with everything in Paris except the Exhibition, which as far as it was good we did not understand, and as far as we understood it—the showy, glaring, amusing part-was as vulgar and as unlike Paris as anything could be. I can't say that our countrymen in Paris were a pleasing spectacle, though they were nevertheless really entertaining now and then. I overheard two who had just arrived in Paris discussing how many meals they had had since leaving England, and their merits. The triumph of one of them over his companion for not having lunched in Amiens, where the peas, said the former, had been very fine, was almost insolent; and the mixture of regret, and selfrespect, and the air of having deserved success, though without achieving it, with which the other old gentleman

replied that he was not hungry at Amiens, and had therefore “only” eaten a piece of sweet cake without wanting it, and could do no more, was quite a new study in modest self-assertion. My husband said that even his countrymen were new to him ; seen thus, in the midst of another nation, they were as different as a mounted painting from the same painting before it is mounted ; or, he said, raising his image, they stood out in strong relief "against the brighter sky of foreign manners, which I thought was doing a little more than justice to foreign manners; but I knew it must be due to the champagne of thorough change working in these mercurial men's heads.

From Paris we came to Bâle in one day, and, tame as was the scenery to that which we hope to see, I remember nothing more lovely in its way than the pretty valley of Bar-sur-Aube, and the winding little green Aube, which we passed about the middle of our journey, in the very heart of France. But Edward said it was just like one of the green streams in Wales, and he cared more for the quaint little towns and new manners. At Vesoul we were offered one of those “hat (hot) meals” in bad English and conical baskets to which one of your correspondents has recently referred, and which are described in Mugby Junction; but, as far as I can hear, Vesoul is nearly the only railway station on the Continent which has reached this stage of civilisation. I was quite sorry I was not hungry enough for dinner, for I saw afterwards that Edward had evidently longed both physically and morally for this new species of refreshment, and

A WIFE ON HER TRAVELS.

11

when a bashful German who had ordered one, and who supposed that so much as one basket contained, must be meant for division amongst us all, requested us to fall to, the disappointment with which my husband replied that the whole wicker cone was intended for the German's own private and particular consumption was quite moving. There were four courses, fish, fowl, chop, and dessert, with a bottle of wine and a bottle of water, and all for three francs. The delighted diner called his feast "ganz erhaben,” “quite sublime," and E., who had been watching him voraciously through the dwindling pile, turned to me and, pointing out three old washerwomen who were beating the clothes of their district with stones in the stream that ran by the railway, began moralising on the curious contrast of the two extremes of civilisation, —the savage want of ingenuity which beats soft linen with stones, and the elevated thought which invented for hungry railway passengers those elegant wickerworks of grateful viands, and which uses the telegraph to get as many of these pyramids of nutrition prepared for the train's arrival as there are passengers with appetites equal to the occasion. Before we got to Bâle even I was sorry that we had not had a “hat meal” between Vesoul and Lure. But appetite will never consent to forecast its wants. Here we are at last, with the great Rhine racing past our windows with the force of a torrent, and the lights of the hotels flashing in its broad waters, in the very place where that shillyshally Alice Vavasour first fell away from her allegiance to John Gray, and induced Mr. Trollope to ask us all whether we could forgive her. Stuff and nonsense about forgiving ! But why didn't the tiresome thing know her own mind ?

You will never print my letters, even in September, if I run on like this, and as I wish to give a lesson to wives, I must stop for the present. I suppose it wouldn't be a pleasant change to you to spend Sunday at Wandsworth with my little ones, and tell me how Hannah manages. (My lock of Colin's hair is already, as Lord Houghton beautifully observes, “ blistered by repeated tears ;” but that won't move you.) I wish the whim might take you, as then I should be not only an admiring reader, but doubly grateful,-grateful in a second capacity, as well as in that of,

A WIFE ON HER TRAVELS.

« AnteriorContinuar »