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Never was there such a concurrence of favourable circumstances. The Spread Eagle invited me to go all the way,'-the entire animal for six-and-twenty shillings. The Bull and Mouth was even lower. For one guinea I was to be put on a level with the presuming Mugginses-only one-and-twenty shillings!-'twas cheaper than standing still. The Spread Eagle, to be sure, is a noble animal, and promises to convey me under the shadow of his wings in eight-and-forty hours. The Bull and Mouth, more tardy, advertises fifty; but then the Bull and Mouth is five shillings less than the Spread Eagle—that made all the difference in the world. I turned my back on the Spread Eagle, -had the eagle been a phoenix I should have done the same-and made up my mind. I did not take my place, because it is my rule of travel never to pay until I am called upon; but I made up my mind to go to Paris under the protection of the Bull and Mouth, and with that determination went home to dinner.
On my way to my lodgings, I scrutinised carefully the bookstalls, and, as good luck would have it, was enabled to provide myself, for four-and-sixpence, with a 'Guide to Paris' of the year of the battle of Waterloo, and a 'Trésor d'Ecolier Français,' which struck me as quite a literary curiosity. The phrases most essential to the ordinary travellers, were there to be found, intended to initiate the neophyte into the mysteries of the true Parisian pronunciation! The curious reader will form a better idea of the arrangement of this work from the few specimens subjoined :Comment se porte votre | Commong sea port vote mère ?
Quel chapeau épouvanta- | Kel chapo poof on tabbell!
C'est très bien, Monsieur
Se tray byeang, Moshoeu
How's your mother?
What a shocking bad hat!
It's all very well, Mr. Fer. guson; but you don't lodge here!
There you go with your eye
Who stole the donkey?
The 'Guide,' although rather out of date, I thought would do very well for me. How admirably well Paris looks upon paper! No wonder the Mugginses are in raptures! Bless us! there's the Louvre -very fine; the Pantheon, not quite St. Paul's; Notre Dame, very fine too, but not exactly Westminster Abbey; the Tuileries-queer sloping roofs-rum concern, certainly; and the Triumphal Arch-all very high, and mighty, and great, to be seen for the small charge, as the puppet showman says, of twenty-one shillings sterling.
Then the cafés, and the restaurateurs, and bills of fare-such a bill of fare! Why, 'tis a dinner to look upon! Diner à la carte; or, if you don't like that, soup, fish, quatre plats à choix ; dessert, a pint of wine, and bread à discrétion. Think of that, ye poor wretches, who put up with the ghost of a penny roll!-think of bread à discrétion!
On the morrow I repaired, as directed, to Poland Street, and in the order of our names, as inserted in the book of yesterday, we were accommodated with passports. My turn soon came; and not without awe did I find myself ushered into the presence of Monsieur Auguste de Bacomt, Chargé des Affaires to the embassy. My name, age, residence, profession, destination, and so forth, were answered
as soon as asked, Monsieur Auguste de Bacomt regarding me during the progress of the examination with fixed attention; after which the attendant secretary handed me a slip of semi-transparent paper, and with much politesse bowed me out of the apartment.
Emerging into Oxford Street, I set about translating my passport; and having sufficiently admired the royal arms of France, wherewith it was surmounted, with the help of a pocket-dictionary, I made out the subject matter as follows:
IN THE NAME OF THE KING.
'These are to will and command all mayors, prefects, commandants of garrisons, and others in authority, to receive and protect Erasmus Twig, of the firm of Twig and Figg, wholesale grocer and foreign fruit dealer, of Rosemary Lane, Minories, now proceeding singly to Paris, via Calais or Boulogne, and to give him every aid and assistance in their power, in case of necessity.
'Very polite, upon my word! "In the name of the King!"-that is something. And then to be received and protected by all prefects, mayors, commandants of garrisons!'
Flattered to find myself a person of such vast importance in the eyes of all prefects, mayors, and commandants of garrisons, and considering what Philadelphia Muggins would think, and how the other Mugginses would stare when they heard of it, I drew myself up to my full height opposite the shop of a carver and gilder, where was exhibited close to the door a mirror of one plate of glass, six feet square, or thereabouts, ticketed at the moderate figure of three hundred guineas, in whose bright reflection I sported my figure, very much to my own satisfaction.
The fact is, thought I, Monsieur Auguste de Bacomt, Chargé des Affaires, was struck with my appearance when he gave me so flattering a letter to the Gallic functionaries. And faith, now that I look at myself in that three-hundred guinea glass, I think myself not quite the ugliest fellow on the shady side of Rosemary Lane. Ah! Philadelphia Muggins, Philadelphia Muggins! the time may come when-But what the devil's this? Here's something I didn't see before, as the exciseman said when he found the contraband tobacco. Something like an order for groceries in the margin of my passport, headed 'DESCRIPTION.'
No mortal ever yet beheld a veritable, bond fide, genuine ghost with more unmitigated horror than I, unhappy Twig that I am! beheld my own portrait in pen and ink on the margin of my too flattering, as I fondly thought it, letter of introduction to the mayors, prefects, and commandants of garrisons.
'A. DE BACOMT, Chargé des Affaires."
Such a description! That I should live to describe it! Thus it was, however, between you and me and the post; but for Gracious' sake, humane reader, never let it be known in Camomile Street. Thus it was:
'Powers of distortion!' I involuntarily exclaimed, am I then so ugly as all this! What! am I to carry this offensive record of my own deformity to all prefects, mayors, and commandants of garri sons?-to present it at the gates of fortified towns, to sniggling soldiers of the line, and sneering subalterns? Impudence! Confound that sneering Chargé des Affaires! I thought he was laughing at me all the time. Low scrub! I'll not carry my own caricature about with me. Why should I spend British gold among a parcel of foreigneering chaps? All slaves, every man jack of them, frog-eaters, fellows that wear wooden shoes! What care I for old Muggins? And as for Philadelphia, with her three thousand pounds (they call it twelve, but I always divide by four), there's as good fish in the sea as ever was caught.'
Having achieved this magnanimous soliloquy, I turned away in disgust, and swaggered along Oxford Street, and so down Regent Street, when I passed the Bull and Mouth and the Spread Eagle with as much indifference as if no such unique examples of animated nature existed on the face of this terraqueous globe, fully determined to abstain from the criminality of abandoning my country, and expending my means in enriching foreigners, who, while they fleece, laugh at us. In this happy frame of mind, who should I stumble upon in the Haymarket but my old friend and fellow apprentice, Tom Taylor, with whom I served four years of my time in the eminent wholesale house of Muscovado, Knaggs, and Muscovado, of Thames Street.
Tom never was a promising youth for business; very fond of the play, literary books, and the like of that, and, moreover, a remarkably slow hand at accounts. I did my best to help him out of scrapes every now and then; but it would not do. Tom became a dissenting-minister down in the country, by which he gained a little money, a great reputation, and, what was better still, a remarkably handsome wife, with whom he had just come up to town to spend a day, and see the lions.
After the usual salutations,-Tom was remarkably glad to see me, and I was uncommonly glad to see him,-his Reverence introduced me to his little wife, and invited me to join their exploring party and to dine with them at their hotel in the evening.
'Well, I don't care, if Ido make a day with you, Tom,' said I, in reply to his kind invitation; but the fact is, I was just on the point of starting for Paris.'
'Paris!' exclaimed my friend. 'Don't you think, now, friend Twig, that there is a good deal to see in London.'
'Well, I don't know, Tom.' 'Pon my life, now, that's very true. I wonder I didn't think of that before. But some friends of mine tell me that Paris-'
'Have you ever been to Westminster Abbey ?' inquired Tom. 'Never in my life,' replied I.
'Never! Dear me,
I wonder at you, Mr. Twig!' exclaimed Mrs.
Have you visited the Tower?'-'Not yet.' 'St. Paul's?'
'The Zoological Gardens.'-'Never.'
Bless me ! my dear fellow!' exclaimed the minister, putting his arm within mine, you may go to Paris any time these twenty years.
Come with us, and recollect the proverb, that "far-off fields look green.'
We accordingly walked very leisurely as far as Westminster Abbey. With what reverential awe did we enter that hallowed fane !— that receptacle of the dust of heroes, statesmen, poets, conquerors, and kings!—that temple whose venerable walls enclose more departed wit, and worth, and fame than all the Pantheons that have flouted the sky since the days of Greece and Rome! Here, in the pride of youth and hope, strength and beauty, have the successive monarchs of our mighty England, amid the clangour of trumpets, the roaring of cannon, and the acclamations of their people, assumed the external symbols of that extended sway, which, if it does not rule, influences at least all the world and here, after various fate and fortune, in the silence of night, aud in darkness, have many of them returned, to be deposited in the silent tomb, no more to fill with their renown aught save the page of history,-no more to carry in their right hands the destinies of millions-no more to be fawned upon or flattered,—now lying low as the meanest of their subjects! There needs no preacher to set forth the vanity of human wishes, the absurdity of human ambition, the hollowness of human enjoyments here. Here we read a sermon in every stone,-the sepulchre becomes a teacher,—the very walls are eloquent!
From the Abbey, which my friend Taylor assured me is as much superior to Notre Dame both in intrinsic beauty and in the magic of its associations, as Muscovado's sugar warehouse is to a sweet-stuff shop, we went to the Houses of Parliament, where we performed the customary operations of seating ourselves by turns upon the Woolsack, and in the Speaker's chair, without finding any material addition made thereby to the stock of information we already might have possessed either in law or politics.
Our destination was next to the river, and we were speedily at Hungerford Market, whence we embarked in a Greenwich steamer : two clarionets and a harp on board striking up 'Rule Britannia' with the enthusiasm of true Britons. It was high tide, the day was fine, and the broad silvery stream was covered with every variety of craft, whether of business or pleasure, from the lumbering barge slowly worked up with the advancing tide by her sweeps (like an enormous black-beetle), to the dashing six-oared cutter, manned by a crew of gallant young lawyers, at this moment putting off in high style from the Temple Stairs. Soon we swept through London Bridge,—that model, as Tom Taylor called it, of lightness, grace, and strength, the ample arches of which rather skimmed over than spanned the river; and became lost in the forest of masts that grow upon the bosom of old Thames.
'Talk to me of the Seine !' exclaimed Tom Taylor, with a curl of the lip.
What! you have seen the Seine ?' inquired I; and is it really now as fine a river as this?'
As this exclaimed my companion, in astonishment; as thisthe commercial artery of Europe,-the highway of nations,-the element of wealth, fertility, and beauty! The Seine, forsooth! a pitiful runlet of two-milk whey; whose most important services are those it renders to swimming-schools and washerwomen!'
'Lord!' said I to myself, what fools these Mugginses must be, to be sure !'
We were now wandering up and down the spacious courts and noble corridors of the palace, for truly such it is, of the Greenwich pensioners. We inspected their chaste and beautiful chapel; lingered a long time in their hall, where the thousand triumphs of the British flag live on the glowing canvass; but were most of all gratified with the air of contented satisfaction that beamed in the weather-beaten faces of the time-honoured veterans who, outliving all the chances of war and tempest, luxuriated here in the well-earned repose provided for them by a grateful country.
'This,' said Tom Taylor, who was waxing of late rather oratorical, -'this in part redeems the horrors and the miseries of war. Can we any longer wonder that our gallant tars have so long preserved to England the empire of the sea, when England provides for them in age, and mutilation, and disease, so glorious an asylum? Well, indeed, may they expend their life-blood in her service, when she shelters them in the palaces of her sovereigns. Glory and honour cannot surely desert the land that makes the worthy recompense of her brave defenders not merely a duty, but an honour. May we never see the day when the British tar will no longer be treated with the marked consideration of the country he defends! for surely never will he cease to deserve it.'
Leaving Tom Taylor's fine sayings, of which I have forgotten the rest, for visiters less hungry than we, let me go on to observe that the sight of Blackwall-it was the white-bait season-suggested ideas of something more substantially refreshing than oratory, and all that sort of thing; the result of which was a suggestion of mine that we should dine comfortably at the Artichoke, and then made the most of our time for the rest of the afternoon, to which my worthy friend, Tom, and his fair companion, willingly agreed.
It is not always the fate of the traveller to fall in with a good dinner every time that he feels himself able to do it justice: to-day, however, we were in clover. Dinner being over, I ventured to ask my friend, Tom, if the French cookery, of which I had heard and read so much, and upon which my guide-book and the Mugginses were so eloquent, was really the splendid thing they made it out to be; and in particular, whether it was true that with an old shoe and an onion a French cook can turn out a 'potage' that might tickle the palate of Apicius himself.
Have you any fault to find with the dinner of to-day, Mr. Twig?' inquired Mrs. Taylor with an expression of surprise.
'By no means, my dear madam,' I replied. The stewed eels were perfect; the flounders uncommonly good; and the hashed venison-not to speak of the Mulligatawny-superb.'
The pastry I thought was excellent,' observed the lady.
'But,' continued I,-I said but, because I would not give you a farthing for a true-born Englishman if he is not to be allowed to grumble, but the variety of French dishes is extraordinary. I happened to fall in with a Parisian bill of fare-'
I beg pardon for interrupting you,' observed Tom, but that variety of which you speak is produced curiously enough. I happened to take up my quarters once upon a time at the Café de l'Orangerie, and I know the trick. There the bill of fare exhibits a catalogue of three hundred dishes; but, in truth, there are never more in the house than three. For instance, there appear on the carte' a hundred different entrées of veal, another hundred of beef, and a third