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Podder was very much struck with the tableau of "the city of P-r—s delivering keys to the God of Commerce and inviting Commercial Justice to enter the walls prepared for her," and I added to his surprise, by informing him that the God of Commerce was a portrait of Baron R-thsch-ld, the gentleman whose house was lately burnt down by mistake, which, when they heard of, the Pr-v-s-n-1 G-v-rnm—t apologised for by begging he would not think any thing more about it, a proceeding as generous on one side as it must have been satisfactory on the other.
Quitting the B-rse, we proceeded towards the L-vre. The F-nch have always been fond of affiches (it is a cheap way of acquiring information); and the Pr-v-s-n-Ì G-v-rnm—-nt have been by no means sparing of them; not only were the dead walls covered with placards of all sorts but the shutters of the numerous half-closed shops were decorated with them also. It is in this way that the M-n-st-r of the Int―r-r, M. L-dru R-ll-n (the well-known author of the "Ancient History"), disposes of the greater part of his works; previously to the R-v-1-tion, they were only read in schools, but now the schoolmaster being abroad, they are to be met with at the corner of every street. It was quite interesting to witness the efforts made by the honest ouvriers to comprehend the meaning of these sublime compositions. They might have got on a little faster, perhaps, if they had not been obliged to spell every word, but this, after all, is no drawback to the excellence of these publications, as they thus afford the means of education on a large scale to the future legislators of the country, and enable them to exercise a remarkable degree of patience, a virtue which has always been at a high premium in Fr-nce.
"What do you call those men, Green," he asked, "standing about with muskets in their hands, no coats or waistcoats on their backs and handkerchiefs knotted round their heads instead of hats?"
It was ridiculous enough, but I really could not tell him at the moment, so I stepped into one of the few shops that were open and asked a lady, who was busy making red rosettes-as much the fashion now as tricoloured ones-whether the gentlemen whom I pointed to were brigands? She answered me very sharply,―
"Comment, monsieur! qu'est ce que vous appelez des brigands! Comprenez bien, monsieur, que vous parlez de la Garde Mobile!"
She added something about "bête" and "Anglais," to which, as she was a female, I paid no attention; I merely lifted my hat and made her an ironical bow, and then returned to Podder, who inquired what she had said, and why she seemed so angry.
As it was not necessary to advert to the trifling mistake I had made, I answered, that owing to my addressing her rather suddenly, she had pricked her finger and that had put her out of temper; for the rest, that the persons in question were called "The Guard Mob-eel."
"And a pretty set of mob they look like," observed Podder, with a grin, rejoicing at having made a French pun-after all a very despicable kind of wit.
We now made for the L-vre, which we entered by the principal staircase, following an immense number of citizens bent, like ourselves, upon enjoying the Fine Arts. It was not, however, a very easy matter to do so in the midst of such an enormous crowd, as, independently of neither
Podder nor myself being very tall, we had our toes very unceremoniously trodden on, and were a good deal pushed about. The atmosphere, moreover, was not particularly agreeable, an odour of garlic predominating over a variety of most unpleasant smells. I have been told that this herb, which the Fr-nch call "ail," is just now the only fashionable perfume, and G-rlain, in the Rue de la P—x, sells nothing else. He calls it "Vrai Bouquet du Peuple," and great quantities are purchased by the P-r-s-ns when they attend the clubs and other public meetings, in order that they may appear to have the true popular smell, or, as they say themselves, "sentir le r-p-bl—cain.”
As I had brought with me from home the catalogue of the pictures in the L-vre, which I purchased the last time I was in P-ris, I was enabled to give Podder the fullest information respecting the exhibition. I pointed out to him some of the finest of the old masters, and expatiated on their several schools, the difference between their first and second manners, their harmony, their breadth, their impost, their colouring, and other characteristics, and I flatter myself I made a strong impression upon Podder in spite of the buzz and chatter that rose around us, for he looked very serious; the heat of the place made him yawn now and then, but on the whole he was most attentive to my observations. I was very much struck with the liberality of the Pr—v—s—nal G―v-rnm-nt in having had the frames of all the pictures re-gilt, so that they looked quite as good as new, but I could not help thinking that, in their anxiety to gratify the public, they had gone a little too far, not only having had the pictures themselves cleaned and restored, but retouched and indeed so much altered, that (though I did not say so to Podder) I could not recognise a single old favourite. There seemed, also, to be a great many more than formerly, but this is not be wondered at when one considers how fond the French are of the old masters, and how much money they spend annually in the purchase of Raffaelles, and Titians, and Correggios, whose works the modern artists are so fond of copying; they carry this passion to such an extent that one never by any chance sees a Fr-nch copy of a Fr-nch subject.
I was directing Podder's attention to an exquisite Salvator, when a citizen in a blouse, with a red sash round his waist, a red neckcloth, and wearing a red beard, and a greasy velvet cap, elbowed his way through the crowd, and making me a profound salute, fell at once into conversation with me. I say me emphatically, for Podder was prevented by his ignorance of the language, from taking any part in it.
My new friend began by observing that the picture we were looking at was a very fine one. I replied that it was, and added, "un très grand original," to which he at once assented, with the remark that that was one of its principal merits. I then said I thought it as fine as any Salvator I had ever seen, on which he made me a very low bow and told me I was a very good judge. Pleased with the man's frankness I at once offered him my hand, and, in point of fact, we fraternised on the spot. He then, after observing that the English were very rich, asked me if I should like to buy the picture. I was rather surprised at this, not being aware that I could get such a hors d'œuvre with so little difficulty, but I replied with a smile that I should be very glad to do so, provided the price were not too long.
"As to that," said he, "I dare say we shan't fall out; you wouldn't stick at a thousand frongs?"
"Certainly not," I replied, being perfectly aware that it was worth twenty times that sum, and wondering what could make him rate it at so low a figure.
"Well, then," he continued, "as money is scarce with me just at this moment, I dont't care if I let you have it for that sum.”
I asked him what he meant. I thought it had belonged to the nation. "So it does," he answered, "every one here belongs to the nation, we all have our share in it,-this is mine, and that, and that," pointing successively to a fine Rembrandt, a portrait, and a splendid Albano, naked figures dancing round a May-pole with a red cap on the top of it.
"So," said I to myself, "this is a secret worth knowing. The Pr-v-s-nal G-v-rnm-nt have literally given away the national pictures to individuals; I suppose they did it by ballot or lottery, or some such thing. My friend here is lucky to have got three out of the collection." Then speaking aloud I said, "May I have the pleasure of asking your name?" He dived into the breast of his blouse and presently fished up a card which he presented to me; it bore the following inscription :"VICTOR GOUACHE,
"Rue des Capucines, No. 32."
Of course I gave him mine and Podder's in exchange. He looked at them wistfully, and though he mastered my name easily enough, I saw he was puzzled by that of my companion. I pronounced it for him, and he repeated after me with a strong accent on the last syllable. "Podderre, Pod-derre; très-bien,-ah, ha, j'y suis, Pod-derre !"
He then, with the honest freedom which r-p-bl-can institutions have not repressed in the Fr-nch character, asked me a variety of questions; how long I had been in P-ris; what brought me there; how long I meant to stay; and, very emphatically, was I rich?
To these inquiries I returned suitable answers, explaining that my chief motive in paying a visit at this period to the Fr-nch capital, was to give in the adhesion of a very important district near London, of which I was the representative, to the Pr-v-s-nal G-v-rnm-nt. "Peckham,” said I, throwing off all reserve, "Peckham is desirous of fraternising with P-ris."
"A la bonne heure," replied M. Gouache; "mais où est donc Peckhang? N'est-ce-pas que c'est une partie de l'Irlande. Nous avons déja des envoyés de ce pays-là, Messieurs Oberon et Makewar,—je les ai vus moi-même !"
I gently rectified his mistake, informing him that although "over the water" in one sense of the term, we actually formed the most influential section of ratepayers on the Surrey side of the river; "and," continued I, with dignity, "any demonstration on our part is certain to command the attention of government."
By this time M. Gouache and myself had got on terms of tolerable intimacy, and he showed his sense of it by saying, somewhat abruptly, "Eh bien, mon cher! Où allez vous à present?"
I replied that I didn't exactly know; anywhere to pass the time before dinner.
He caught at the last word. Then we hadn't dined yet? So much the better; we would all dine together. He would show us afterwards something I had never seen in P-ris. We should go to the Fr-nçais and hear R―chel sing the "M-rseill-se," after which he would take us to his club, "La Société centrale des Coupegorges bleus," which met at midnight in the Rue Duph-t. It was presided over, he said, by a distinguished chiffonier, who, in all probability, would one day be at the head of affairs in Fr-nce, a man of unbounded eloquence, profoundly deep in worldly affairs, and accustomed from habit to get to the bottom of every thing.
As we had seen as many pictures as we wished,-more, indeed, than poor Podder could recollect, for he made sad work of the old masters, mistaking Annibale Caravaggio for his elder brother Correggic, and so forth, and obliging me every moment to set him right-with the assistance of M. Gouache, who seemed to have a genius for making his way through a crowd, we contrived to get back to the upper end of the gallery, and so on to what is called the sortie. I had, however, knowing what tricks picture-dealers are in the habit of playing, taken the precaution to put down the number of the Salvator which I intended to purchase, in my pocket-book, so that it would be impossible for any body to attempt to deceive me. Not that I entertained the slightest suspicion of the integrity of M. Gouache-he was evidently all above board-but still there was a possibility that the g-v-rnm-nt might interfere if they heard that a foreigner was carrying off one of their hors d'œuvres, and it was just as well to be on the safe side.
We now left the L-vre, arm-in-arm with Gouache, who walked in the centre. I was pleased with his conduct, for it was plain that by doing so he was pledging himself for our loyalty, and let me tell my countrymen it was no slight thing for me (I put Podder out of the question) already to have accomplished so much. Here I was, in the heart of re-p-bl-can Fr-nce on terms of liberty, fraternity, and equality (if I may be allowed the expression) with one of the leading spirits of the day, for I could not doubt that Gouache was one-indeed, he said as much afterwards—who had mainly contributed to overturn the g-v-rnm-nt of L-is Ph-1-ppe; and yet this warrior of the barricades was happy to hold out the right-hand of friendship to an unpretending and honest Briton, of the force of whose character he must at that time have been completely ignorant.
But there is a freemasonry in these things, and clever fellows very soon discover who are adapted for each other; we soon take the measure of a man's intellect, and act accordingly!
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when we turned out of the gallery; too late, said Gouache, to go and see any other public establishment, and too soon to visit any of the r-v-l-tionary committees, who seldom sat in the daytime. The interval until the spectacle might, he thought, be best filled up by dining; to tell the truth, he felt rather hungry; he was quite at my service, and would dine wherever I liked; at the Trois Frères, at the Café Anglais, at Véry's, no matter where.
"How do you feel, Podder ?" said I; "are you peckish ?"
"I believe you, my boy," returned my secretary, rather more jocosely,
perhaps, than I could have wished in the presence of others; but as the words were uttered in a language unknown to Gouache, I consoled myself with the idea that the familiarity of the expression would pass unnoticed.
To Vérys, therefore, we went, and a very prime dinner I ordered. I was pretty well up to that sort of thing, for the human mind will advance, in spite of what philosophers say to the contrary. Some twenty minutes must elapse, however, before it could be served, and to amuse ourselves in the meantime, Gouache suggested oysters. I had often heard-indeed, I had often seen-that the Fr-nch were fond of these delicacies, but it never entered into my imagination to suppose, and I'm sure it never did into Podder's, that a single person could clear off six dozen of natives in less than a quarter of an hour, and that immediately before dinner.
"Don't you think," said I, "as he impaled them on his fork and tossed them down his throat as fast as he could swallow, “don't you think will spoil your you
Mais, point du tout, mon chèr, ça ouvre l'estomac, je mangerais facilement le double de ce que nous avons ici; c'est une de mes habitudes. Il n'y a rien pour donner de l'appetit comme les huitres!"
He really seemed to be in the right, for when the dinner actually made its appearance, he set-to with such hearty good-will, that I could almost have fancied-if the thing had been possible-that he had had nothing to eat for a fortnight. But he was not silent during the operation; on the contrary, he talked as fast as any three men I ever heard put together, no doubt for the purpose of making up for the interruptions caused by the necessity of eating and drinking. I will just give a specimen of his style of conversation, as well as I can remember it.
"Langue de boeuf piquée-oui, c'est un plat excellent--j'en prendrai -servez-vous messieurs, non?-eh bien, mangez de ces épinards à la crême -enchanté de faire votre connaissance, Monsieur Grinne-turbot, sauce aux capres-un plat que j'adore-quel vin buvez-vous, Monsieur Grinne, du Champagne? Hé, garçon, versez du Champagne ici-je bois à votre santé, Monsieur Grinne-à votre santé, Monsieur Pod-derre-mais vous ne mangez rien-canard aux navets, très-bien, c'est très-bien ça c'est succulent, ça fortifie-er -encore du Champagne-ah, que c'est doux de mener la vie de Paris-vous êtes les bien-venus, messieurs, sans moi vous n'auriez rien vu, je connais tout le monde à Paris-oui j'aime beaucoup les legumes, les choux-fleurs par excellence, je t'embrasse mon chèr Grinne-vive la Republique-vive les-chapon au gros sel-découpez-le, mon vieux, je mangerai une cuisse et puis cette aile là-à la santé du Gouvernement Provisoire!à bas les tyrans!-votre helse, Monsieur Pod-derre, God-dem!"
In this manner he went on eating, drinking, and talking as fast as his various organs permitted, to the utter amazement of poor Podder (who had never been in Fr-nch society before). I drank his health in return, and Podder, who always follows my example, did the same. Whether the gentleman's name was impracticable to a truly British tongue, or whether the champagne had got into his head, I cannot positively say, but certainly Fodder made a desperate business of it when he toasted our new acquaintance. Nor did he much improve the matter when he insisted