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MY GRAND TOUR.
WHAT is the world to a man who has not seen Paris?
Why, in sober sadness, such an one is not fit to live, and, what is worse, will not be allowed to live. O Miss Muggins! Miss Muggins!-defend me, ye powers, if any powers there be that preside over untravelled young gentlemen, from the horrors of another teaparty at the Mugginses!
Paris-Paris-Paris? Never been to Paris? What! not to Paris? -not at Paris? Astonishing!-incredible!-can't be! Never heard of such a thing! Who'd have thought it!
Such was the entertainment I received the last night I took tea at Muggins's. Muggins had travelled-so had his wife, Mrs. Muggins, -and so had his daughters, Emmeline and Philadelphia Muggins;they had actually, bodily, substantially, and in the flesh, been to foreign parts-boldly dared the perils of the vasty deep, landed at Boulogne, and penetrated, like the allied armies, to the very gates of Paris. There was, unluckily, no mistake; they had been at Paris these same Mugginses-had been, did I say? By King Pepin ! they are at Paris now!-they were at Paris when I took tea with them in Camomile Street-they have been at Paris ever since. Their hearts and souls, eyes, ears, noses, fingers, and tongues are at Paris; and all they can talk of, think of, or dream of, are the men and women, streets and lanes, sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Paris-Paris-Paris!
'Confound the lot of you!' said I to myself, as I turned the corner into Bishopsgate Street, after having bid an affectionate good night to all the Mugginses-'confound the lot of you! where did you forget to learn manners? Here have you been crowing over ine all the evening, because I have not, like yourselves, taken advantage of the present unprecedentedly low fares, and earned the reputation of a Who would traveller at a cheaper rate than I can stay at home. make his life miserable in this way, when thirty shillings there, and thirty shillings back, will make a man of him? Who that can get a Continental reputation for sixty shillings would allow himself to be crowed over in this manner. I'll be even with the Mugginses. I will go to Paris, through Paris, and come out at the other side, that I will. I'll book myself all the way this very night, and start before daylight in the morning. Au revoir, mon ami Muggins!'
But with the morning cool reflection came.' A passport I must have; and, as it did not suit my views to pay for a passport at the Foreign Office, I went off to the office of the French Embassy in Poland Street, indicated by a little shabby house, with a little shabby green door, and a little shabby brass plate, as the establishment where letters of introduction to the Gallic territories might be had for the asking. I entered my name, age, profession, destination, with several other little particulars, in a book kept for the purpose, and was desired to call again at the same hour on the following day. This little affair being arranged, I betook myself to the Regent Circus, that common centre of the travelling world, and stood for a long time undecided what course to adopt. I had two objects in view. Paris was, of course, the first; but money was the second. Vanity commanded me to go; but economy whispered me in the ear, not to make a fool of myself in going.
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 book stalls, 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 ? mare? 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.
'A. DE BACOMT, Chargé des Affaires.'
'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, bonâ fide, genuine ghost with more unmitigated horror than I, unhappy Twig that I am! be. held 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.
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. Tom Taylor.
'Have you visited the Tower ?'-'Not yet.'
'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.