Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

The Blousard in His Hours of Ease by Wirt Sikes

Bulwer in his last novel said something to the effect that an orang-outang would receive a degree of polish and refinement by ten years of life in Paris. This statement is not to be taken literally, of course: I have detected no special polish of manners in the monkeys confined at the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris, some of whom are pretty well on in years. The novelist only sought to make a strong expression of his good opinion of French manners, no doubt. In observing the blouse wearers of Paris in their hours of ease and relaxation, I have been struck with the great prevalence of a certain unforced courtesy of manner, even among the coarsest. No one would dream what a howling demon this creature could and did become in the days of the Commune who should see him enjoying himself at his ball, his concert, his theatre or his dinner.

I suppose no one not in the confidence of the managers of these places would readily credit to what an extent the public masquerade-balls of Paris are the peculiar possession of the blousard. The gaping crowds of English and Americans who go to the disreputable Jardin Mabille and the like resorts in summer to gaze at what they imagine is a scene of French revelry, do not know that the cancan-dancer there is paid for his jollity. The men who dance at the Jardin Mabille are not there for revelry's sake: they are earning a few sous from the manager, who knows that he must do something to amuse his usual spectators—viz., the tourists—who go back to Manchester or to Omaha and astonish their friends with tales of the goings-on of those dreadful Frenchmen in Paris. The women who disport in the cancan at the same place are simply hired by the season. It is not at the Jardin Mabille that the visitor to Paris need ever look to see genuine revelry: the place is as much a place of jollification for the people as the stage of a theatre is, and no more. Very often the dancer at night is a blousard by day. So at many of the masquerade-balls which rage in the winter, particularly during the weeks just preceding Mardi Gras. These are less purely tourist astonishers than the Jardin Mabille. They are largely visited by the fast young men and old beaux and roués of Paris, but these are almost never seen to go upon the floor and dance. In the crowded ball-room of the Valentino on a masquerade-night you may have observed with wondering awe the gyrations of an extraordinary couple around whom a ring has been formed, giving them free space on the floor for their wild abandon of exercise. The man is long, lank and grotesque; he wears a tail coat which reaches the floor, and upon his back is strapped a crazy guitar with broken strings; his false nose stands out from his face at prodigious length; his hat is a bottle, his gloves are buckskin gauntlets, and his trousers are those of a circus-rider. The woman does not hide her face with a mask, for her face is her fortune, and she cannot afford to hide it: she is painted tastefully with vermilion and white; abundant false curls cluster at her neck, and are surmounted by a dainty little punchinello cap in pink silk and gilding; her dress is every color of the rainbow, and reaches to her knees; blue gaiters with pink rosettes are on her feet, and kid gloves are on her hands. The saltatory terpsichoreanisms of this couple are seemingly inspired by a mad gayety of spirit which only the utmost extravagance of gesture and pirouette will satisfy. The man flings his feet above the woman's head; the woman sinks to the floor, and springs up again as if made of tempered steel; and as a conclusion to the figure she turns a complete somersault in the air. If you are so innocent as to suppose that these performers are exerting themselves in that manner for the mere pleasure of the thing, you are innocent indeed. They are "artists," and receive a salary from the manager of the Valentino.

To innumerable blousards in Paris these dancers are objects of emulation. The Valentino supports a large troupe of such performers, and is less often the scene of the blousard's efforts, therefore, than ball-rooms where the regular corps of dancers is smaller. The matter of the admission-fee also regulates the blousard to some extent in his choice of resort. At the mask-balls he most favors—such as the Élysée-Montmartre at the Barrière Rochechouart, or the Tivoli Waux-Hall (sic) near the Château d'Eau—there is no charge for admission to cavaliers in costume. Tourists sometimes stumble upon these places, but not often: they are remote from the gay quarter which foreigners haunt.

The neighborhood of the Château d'Eau—an immense paved space at the junction of the Boulevards St. Martin and du Temple—is to the blousard what the neighborhood of the Madeleine is to the small shopkeeper. He does not frequent it every day: it is a scene for special visits—more expensive than the immediate quarter where he eats, drinks and sleeps, and more attractive. There is a café on the southern side of the esplanade, where, if you go on a Saturday night, you may see a curious sight. It is after midnight that the place is thronged. Descending a broad flight of steps, you turn to the right and go down another flight, entering an immense underground hall, broken up with sturdy square pillars, and brilliant with mirrors which line walls and pillars in every direction. Here are gathered a great number of men and women, sitting at the tables, drinking beer and wine, playing cards, dominoes and backgammon, and filling the air with the incessant din of conversation and the smoke of pipes and cigars. The women are generally bareheaded or in muslin caps. The men are almost without exception in blouses—some white, some black, some in the newest stages of shiny blue gingham, some faded with long wearing and frequent washing. Caps and soft hats are universal: a tall hat is nowhere to be seen—a fact which is much more significant in Paris than it would be in America, for in Paris the tall hat is almost de rigueur among the better classes. Girls from sixteen to twenty years of age stroll in from the street bareheaded with the cool manner of boys, quite alone and unconcerned, looking around quietly to see if there is any one they know: in case of recognizing an acquaintance they perhaps sit down to a game or stand with hands in pockets and converse. They have not the air of nymphes du pavé, and are simply grisettes (working-girls), passing away their idle hours in precisely the same independent way as if they were of the opposite sex. For the price of the glass of beer which he orders when he sits down (six cents) the blousard can sit here all night, playing cards and smoking.

It is one o'clock in the morning when we leave this scene, and the place is in full blast. Crossing the Château d'Eau, we plunge into a quiet street, down which comes a flood of light from an electric lamp hung before the entrance of the Tivoli Waux-Hall. Within, the ball-room is thronged. An occasional blouse is visible, but the blousard who comes here is generally arrayed in some fancy costume, which he hires for the night for a trifling sum or has devised in his leisure moments from odds and ends gathered in an old-clo' market. There is a group of four now prancing in a quadrille, who are blousards enjoying at once their hours of ease and of triumph. Emulous of the "artists" of grander balls, they have got themselves up in the guise of American Indians, and are a sight to behold. Their faces are painted every color of the rainbow; and when I say painted I do not mean tricked out with the red and white of toilet-boxes, but daubed thickly with the kind of paint used in painting houses and signs—paint which stays in spite of the reeking perspiration which trickles off their cheeks. They wear no masks, but have pasteboard noses stuck upon their faces with glue, for they are "got up" for all night, and this is the proud scene on which they win laurels. Their dance is a coarse imitation of the gyrations of the professional cancanists, and they prance and cavort with glowing enthusiasm, happy in the evident admiration of a surrounding throng of provincials, pickpockets and prostitutes.

For a more genuine scene of blousard gayety come with me to the Rue Mouffetard, where there is a ball frequented solely by the lowest and poorest class of Paris strugglers for bread, such as the ragpickers and the street-sweepers. At first thought it seems improbable that the squalid wretches who can barely earn sous enough to live on, to whom fifty cents a day are fine wages, should have a ball. But all things are possible in Paris in the way of popular amusements. In the Rue Mouffetard, then, near the Rue Pot de Fer, we read on the wall of a gloomy building a yellow advertisement which is translatable thus, literally:

GREAT HALL OF THE OLD OAK.

MOUFFETARD STREET, 69, HOUSE OF LACROSSE,

All the Sundays, departing from the first
January, up till Fat Tuesday
.

BALL OF NIGHT!

DRESS, MASK, DISGUISE.

A Grand Orchestra, composed of Artists of Talent, will be conducted by G. Maurage, who will have performed a Repertory entirely new, composed of Quadrilles, Valses, Polkas, Schottisches, Varsoviennes, Mazurkas, Redowas, Lancers, etc.

ENTRANCE—On the Sundays, five cents; at ordinary times, four cents.

One commences at 8 o'clock.

Although one commences at eight o'clock on the bills, one does not commence in reality at any such unfashionable hour. If we are so innocent as to go to the ball-room before ten o'clock, we shall find only a crowd of boys and girls gathered about the entrance of the hall, waiting to see the guests arrive. Needless to say, no carriages roll up to this door. The revelers come on foot, emerging from dark alleyways, descending from garrets by creaking old staircases, filtering out one by one into the street, and making their way to the ball-room in couples or alone. To find the ball in the full tide of successful operation we should arrive about half-past ten in the evening. Entering then through a long, broad passage, midway of which we deposit five sous each with the Cerberus on guard, we pass into a hall crowded with people. The hall is not larger than that of an average country-tavern ball-room in New England: the space occupied by the dancers will accommodate perhaps fifty quadrille sets. (There are no "side couples" in the quadrilles of Paris popular balls; hence a set consists of but four persons.) This would indicate a pretty large ball-room to most minds, but the dancers here are crowded so close upon each other that they really occupy a surprisingly small space.

Up and down the two sides of the long hall are ranged coarse wooden tables, with the narrowest benches at them for use as seats that I think ever served that purpose. Sitting on a Virginia fence is the only exercise I remember that suggests the exceeding narrowness of the benches at the ragpickers' ball. On the side of the tables nearest the wall runs a narrow alley, down which we walk in search of a seat. On the other side the tables are protected from the dancers—who might otherwise bang destructively against them, to the detriment of wine-bottles and glasses—by a stout wooden railing. Reaching the lower end of the hall, we find an unoccupied seat, and are able to survey the scene at our leisure.

The hall is lighted by no fewer than six chandeliers, with numerous burners, and between the chandeliers depend from the ceiling large glass balls, coated inside with quicksilver, which serve to reflect the light and add something of brilliancy. There are two round holes for ventilation in the ceiling: the only windows are two which are at the lower end of the hall, and look out on a gloomy courtyard surrounded by a high wall, on whose ridged top is a forbidding array of broken bottles imbedded in the mortar. On an elevated platform at one side, as high as the dancers' heads, sits the orchestra "composed of artists of talent," thirteen in number; and it is but justice to say that they make excellent music—far better than that we commonly hear at home in theatres and at dancing-assemblies. Blouses are abundant on the floor, in spite of the fact that the ball is advertised to be "dress, mask, disguise." Near us is a dusty blousard in huge wooden shoes, who dances no less vigorously with his head and arms than with his legs; and how earnestly he does bend to his work! He is one incessant teeter. While the music sounds he never flags. He spins, he whirls, he balances: he stands upon the toes of his wooden sabots and pirouettes with clumsy ease, like one on stilts. He claps his hands smartly together, flings them wildly above his head, and pounds away with his feet as if it were his firm intention to go through into the cellar. But, though our attention is centred on him, he is by no means alone or peculiar. Around and around whirl others and others, under the gleaming chandeliers, in the clouds of tobacco smoke, dancing as vigorously, flinging their hands above their heads as wildly, as he. Here and there handsome costumes are seen, but the majority are in Cardigan jackets or blouses: many are in their shirt-sleeves. All wear their hats and caps. Women in male attire and men in women's frocks and ribbons are a favorite form of disguise: occasionally there is one of an elaborately grotesque character. The spectators, sitting at the tables or strolling down the narrow aisles, look on with applause and laughter at the boisterous scene. Occasionally one jumps upon a table and flings up his arms with a hilarious yell, but he is promptly tumbled down again. When the quadrille is over many of the dancers go on jumping and skipping, loath to have done; but the floor is promptly cleared by two men in authority, the proprietors of the place, for there is rigid discipline here.

In the interval, while the music is silent, three or four policemen armed to the teeth, with swords at their sides and glittering uniforms, saunter in an idle, unconcerned manner up and down the cleared floor, with the air of men who have no earthly use for their time, and are walking thus merely to stretch their legs a bit. But they are keenly on the alert, these gendarmes. They cast their eyes on us where we sit with a sidelong glance which seems to say, "We see you, you two men in tall hats," for we presently find we are conspicuous in this crowd by the hats we wear. A ragamuffin Pierrot in a white nightcap is seen to touch a trousered female on the arm and look leeringly at us, and is overheard to say, "Vois donc, Delphine, those aristos there—have they hats?—quoi?" Whereupon I nod good-naturedly to them, and Delphine comes up to us with a smile. "One sees easily thou art not Parisian, little father (p'tit père)" she says to me. "Rest tranquil, then—thou shalt see dancing—rest tranquil." And with a flirt of her heel she bounds into the middle of the floor with her cavalier as the orchestra sounds the preliminary strain of a waltz.

It is the custom here for the orchestra to sound this preliminary note as a foretaste to the dancers of the coming piece. Then the musicians rest on their instruments while the two men in authority on the floor set up a stentorian call of "Advance, mesdames and messieurs: one is about to begin the waltz," or the polka, as the name of the coming dance may be. At this cry, through the little gates which open here and there in the wooden railing a crowd of eager clients pour upon the floor and range themselves in place. The men in authority coolly proceed to collect a tax of two sous from each couple, and then the music and the dance begin. In waltzing the dancers simply put their arms around each other's necks, and thus embracing vigorously, face to face, they spin about the room, bumping against each other, laughing, shouting and chaffing. Waiters in white aprons dodge about among the dancers, taking orders for wine, beer and punch, and exciting our constant amazement that they do not get knocked down and trampled on. One of them approaches us and asks what we will take. Observe, he does not ask if we will take anything, for if you sit you must "consume" either drink or cigars. Your five cents paid at the door, you perceive, entitle you to neither a seat nor a dance. The constant drinking which goes on is the heaviest source of income of the establishment, after all. Yet nobody is drunk. In New York a like amount of guzzling would have put half the men under the table by this time. It is a popular notion that Frenchmen never get drunk, but this exaggerates the truth. One sees almost as much drunkenness among the lower classes in Paris as in New York, but the amount of drunkenness is so trifling in proportion to the enormous amount of tippling that goes on among Frenchmen that the matter is a cause of constant wonderment to visitors from other lands.

At the end of the waltz the floor is promptly cleared again. One woman puts her hand on the rail-fence and leaps over unconcernedly, rather than take her turn at the gate. Then the band strikes up the opening strain of the popular opera-bouffe quadrille of the hour, and the air echoes with the shout on every side, "C'est Angot! C'est Angot!" and the struggle for places is furious. "Madame Angot," the heroine of a fashionable opera-bouffe, is a market-woman, and a sort of goddess among the blousards, who are eager to dance to the inspiring melody of her song. The men in authority have little need to persuade the dancers with their cry of "Avancez! avancez!" this time: they have only to collect the sous, and the wild revelry begins. The tallest man in the room leads on to the floor the shortest woman—a little humpbacked dwarf: he is smoking a cigar, and she a cigarette, and they dance with fury while puffing clouds of smoke. The man jumps in the air with wondrous pigeon-wings, slaps his heels with his hands, shouts and twists his lank body into grotesque shapes. The little dwarf, madly hilarious, rushes about with her head down, swings her long dress in the air, whirls and "makes cheeses," and in the climax of her efforts kicks her partner squarely in the back amid roars of laughter.

Across the way from this ball-room there is a large "brewery," as it is called—a combination of beer-hall, wineshop, café and billiard-room—where for eight cents you may play a game of billiards, or for twelve cents may play an hour. Beer is four cents the glass, and wine two cents, for in Paris wine is cheaper than beer. Blousards crowd this place at all hours of the night.

Near by is a café concert. A "Grande Soirée Lyrique" is the entertainment offered us at the Maison Doucieux, as we learn from the rudely-written handbill which hangs at the entrance. Through a long, winding, narrow, dark and dirty passage, up a rickety stone staircase, through another passage, and we stand in a crowded hall, at whose lower end a rude stage is erected, on which a ragged man is bawling a comic song. In the midst of it there is a disturbance: a drunken man has climbed upon the back of a seat to light his pipe at the chandelier, and falling thence has enraged the fallen-upon to that extent that a fight ensues. In a twinkling the tipsy man is dragged out of the door, to the delight of the audience, who shout "Bravo!" as he disappears. The concert is not entertaining, and we follow him out. He is carefully propped up against a wall by those who put him into the street, and when we come upon him is growling maledictions upon his enemies, with his hair about his eyes and his hands clawing the air. Four bareheaded women, roaring with laughter, come marching abreast along the middle of the street, and picking up the drunkard's battered hat disappear in the gloomy distance, boisterously thrusting the hat upon each other's heads in turn.

A café chantant of a more pretentious sort than the Maison Doucieux, but still the peculiar resort of the blousard—for there are café chantants of many grades in Paris—may be found in one of the back streets near the Boulevard St. Martin. Some of the cafés chantants are patronized by the well-dressed class, and a blousard is no more likely to be seen in their orchestra fauteuils than in the same division of the regular theatres. The El Dorado, for example, in the Boulevard Strasbourg, is as large and almost as elegant as Booth's Theatre in New York, but it is a café chantant. Keeping still to the favorite haunts of the blousard, we enter the showiest of the cafés chantants peculiar to him—as free-and-easy a beuglant as one could wish. Beuglant, by the way, is the argot name of this sort of place; and as the word comes from beugler, to "bellow," it may easily be seen how flattering it is as a definite noun for a place where the chief attraction is the singing.

It is late when we enter the beuglant, and the place is crowded to suffocation and thick with tobacco smoke. The hall is an immensely large one, with gleaming chandeliers, frescoed nymphs and cupids on the walls, a regular stage and a regular orchestra. A venerable man in gray hair and spectacles saws away at the big bass; a long-haired, professor-looking person struggles laboriously with the piano; there are two violinists, a horn, a trombone, a flute and a flageolet. On the wall is a placard where we read that the price for the first consommation is fifteen sous, but that subsequent consommations will be furnished at the ordinary price. Consommation is the convenient word of cafés chantants for food or drink of any kind, and every visitor is forced by the rules of the place to "consume" something as his title to a seat. Nothing is furnished more nearly approaching food than brandied cherries, but the drinks include all the noxious and innoxious beverages known to the French—from coffee, sugar-water or tea to brandy, rum and absinthe. In the list of the stronger drinks, a compound of sugar, lemon, hot water and whisky (which I believe I have heard mentioned under the name of punch in remote towns of Arkansas and Minnesota) is here known as "an American." The first time one hears the order, "Bring me an American, waiter, and let him be hot, mind you—as hot as one can swallow him," it is a little surprising.

Waiters move laboriously about among the legs of the audience, bearing salvers laden with wine, beer, Americans and bottles of water. The audience is rough and ready; hats and caps are worn habitually; pipes are diligently smoked—cigars are rare. Women are seldom seen here, except upon the stage, where they sit in a semicircle in a somewhat formal manner, each holding a bouquet in her lap carefully wrapped round with white paper, each wearing flowers in her elaborately coiffé hair and in the folds of her silken skirts, and each with arms and shoulders bare. From time to time these women come forward and sing—songs not always strictly adapted to the family circle, perhaps. But the favorite vocalist is a comic man, who emerges from behind the scenes in a grotesquely exaggerated costume—an ill-fitting, long, green calico tail-coat, with a huge yellow bandana dangling from a rear pocket; a red cotton umbrella with a brass ring on one end and a glass hook on the other; light blue shapeless trousers; a flaming orange—colored vest; a huge standing collar, and in his buttonhole a ridiculous artificial flower. This type of comic singer is unknown in American concert-halls of any grade, though he is sometimes seen at the German concerts in the Bowery of the lowest class. Here he is very cordially esteemed. The ladies behind him yawn in a furtive manner under cover of their bouquets, but the audience is hilarious over him as he sings about his friend Thomas from the country, who came up to Paris to see the sights and shocked everybody by his dreadful manners. He put his muddy boots on the fauteuils, did mon ami Thomas; he fell in love with a gay woman of the Boulevards whose skin was all plastered up like an old cathedral; he ate oysters with a hair-pin at dinner; he offered his toothpick to his vis-à-vis, and altogether conducted himself in such a manner that one was forced to say to him (chorus), Ah, my friend Thomas! at Paris that's hardly done. Ah, mon ami Thomas! at Paris that is not done at all. The audience is in ecstasies of delight at this ill-bred conduct on the part of the cousin from the provinces—secretly conscious as they are, even though they be blousards, that they are Parisians, and know how to behave themselves in a polite manner; and the vocalist, recovering from his last grimace, gives them another dose. He relates that his friend Thomas wanted to go to the grand opera; so he took him to the Funambules: the fool swallowed that—il à gobé ça!—and when the tenor began to sing Thomas roared out, "Tais-toi donc!" and began to bellow a comic song, whereupon I dragged him out, protesting (Chorus), Ah, mon ami Thomas! à Paris ça n'se fait guère. Ah, mon ami Thomas! à Paris ça n'se fait pas!

When a sentimental song is sung the audience pay little attention. To patriotic songs they listen respectfully. A song which breathes the glories of literature as represented by Montaigne, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Molière is tolerated idly. But when the stage is presently cleared for a ballet the young blousards—for they are mostly young men who gather here—are all attention. What is their disgust at perceiving that the dancers are men in ancient Greek costumes, who do a sword-fight to music, with periods of sudden tableau-attitude striking! They are a bit ridiculous, these Greeks, flopping about the stage in tights and tunics, and presently three or four blousards near me begin to guy the performance. "Ah-h-h!" they cry, grinning broadly; "ah, ah, ha! ha-a-a-a!"—putting into this utterance a world of amused scorn. The "regulator" of the establishment—a solemn man in a tail-coat who walks about the hall preserving order—gets angry at this. "Restez tranquilles," he says to the jeerers, with expressive and emphatic forefinger leveled at the group. Whereupon one of them, a handsome chap in a soft hat, leans his elbows squarely on the table in front of him, wags his head saucily and openly chaffs the solemn regulator. "Ah, bah!" he says, "do we come here to keep still?" The superintendent threatens to call the police: the blousards laugh him to scorn. "You would make a fine figure of yourself bringing here the police, wouldn't you? Look then at what we have consumed!" pointing to the empty glasses before him on the table. "Go along, then, do—go quickly—and bring here the police, old wag that you are!" The regulator perceives the force of this argument. "But they should be more respectful," he says, appealing to me: "n'est ce pas, m'sieu?" and with this walks away. The hall is so large, and the noise which fills it so prodigious, that this little altercation has attracted no general attention, as it must have done in a quieter place.

The theatre named by the beuglant's funny singer the "Funambules," to which he took his friend Thomas under pretence that it was the opera, is one of the queerest of the blousard's places of resort. It is a droll little underground theatre—literally underground, with no windows, no opening of any kind to the light of day, and no ventilation. We reach it by a long winding way of pleasantly-lighted stairs and corridors, and find ourselves in a room incredibly small for a theatre—a mere little box of a place, not wider, I should judge, than sixteen feet, nor more than fifty feet deep, but so curiously and ingeniously arranged with seats in tiers upon an inclined plane that quite a numerous audience can find room within it. The "fauteuils d'orchestre," or orchestra-chairs, are the front row of benches, nearest the stage. The "parterre" is the back rows. There is a little bird's nest of a gallery at the rear of the room, where the spectators cannot stand up without striking the ceiling with their heads. At the sides of the space set apart for the musicians are two queer little private boxes, perched up against the wall like old-fashioned pulpits, and reached by a narrow flight of steps like a ladder. The aristocratic seats (after the boxes) are the fauteuils d'orchestre, for which we pay the ruinous sum of twenty-five sous each. Here we are in an atmosphere utterly unlike that of the beuglant just described, for this is a place where the honest blousard comes with his wife and children for an evening of innocent amusement. Directly behind us sits a family of three generations—a bent old man of seventy-five or eighty years, gray-haired and venerable; a round-faced, middle-aged blousard with his dark-eyed wife; and their two little babies, scarcely old enough to prattle, and who lisp their delight with beaming eyes to "dan'père." Next me is a bright-eyed boy of four years, with clustering curls about his fair forehead, who sits bolt upright in his mother's lap and comments in subdued but earnest tones on the performers on the stage. "Pou'quoi fait-on ça?" ("What are they doing that for?") is his favorite question during the evening, varied by the frequent and anxious remark, "Mais, c'n'est pa' encore fini?" ("But it is not yet finished?"). A cat is asleep on the steps of the private box at the left. Neither of the boxes is tenanted, by the way, as they are inordinately expensive—fifty sous each occupant, or some such heavy sum of money. Under one of them there is a cozy cupboard, where the woman-usher (in a neat muslin cap with pink ribbons) keeps the candies and cakes she sells to the audience between the acts. Upon the poor little profits of her office here this honest woman lives, and keeps herself as tidy as if she had ample pin-money. She thrusts a little wooden footstool under the feet of each woman in the audience, and is amply repaid with a sou at the end of the evening. The footstool is welcome, for a Frenchwoman is ill at ease at a place of amusement without her little "bench" under her foot: it is invariably brought her at theatres or cafés, as a rule; and each of the larger theatres in Paris has a dozen or so of these "ouvreuses," as they are called, who are paid usually two sous by each lady who accepts a little bench. In the present instance the fee is as small as it possibly could be, and the bench-woman ekes out her income by selling cakes, oranges and candies. Curiosity to know her earnings elicits the frank reply that she often makes as much as thirty sous a night in her sphere of labor.

The Funambules orchestra is composed of three instruments—a big bass, played by a tall, genial-looking man who wears a flannel shirt and a paper collar, and has a bald head; and a piano and violin, played by two handsome, dark-haired, romantic-looking young men, apparently brothers. The music is excellent. The performance lasts from seven till twelve, five hours, and includes three pieces. The first is a farce, in which the orthodox stage papa looks over the top of a screen in a fury at the orthodox stage-lovers, and ends the piece by joining their hands with the orthodox "Take her, you young rascal!" The second piece is a nautical, black-eyed-Susan sort of drama, with the genteel young navy lieutenant who sings like a siren; the jolly old tar who swaggers like a ship in the trough of the sea; the comic servant who is in love with the heroine, and whose passion brings him droll burdens of woe; and so on. Both these pieces are interspersed with songs, duets, quartets, after the manner of the old-fashioned Dibdin "Jolly Waterman" style of pieces, never seen on our stage now-a-days, nor on the French stage except at minor theatres. Follows a pantomime—Monsieur Goosequill's Troubles—the only pantomime of the kind introduced in America by the Ravels that I have ever seen in Paris, this style of entertainment having gone completely out of fashion in France. The papa of the farce (who was also the Jack Tar of the drama) reappears in the pantomime as Pierrot, the white-faced clown; and tremendously funny is he. There is a weird, elastic harlequin in a ghastly mask which he never lifts; and an amazing notary in an astounding nose, who proves to be Monsieur Goosequill. There is a humpback of hideous deformity and a Columbine of seraphic loveliness; and all Monsieur Goosequill's troubles come out of the fact that he endeavors to marry the humpback to the Columbine, who prefers to marry the harlequin. And so the notary's quill sets fire to the inkstand: the table is bewitched and treads on his corns; and indeed he suffers terribly and turns somersaults of agony. Peace arrives at last through the humpback giving up his suit; the curtain falls on Columbine and harlequin bowing and backing, hand in hand; gran'père and the babies are all three fast asleep; but the bright-eyed boy in his mother's lap asks with unabated interest, "Pou'quoi fait-on ça?"

In the Boulevard Beaumarchais, close by the old Place of the Bastile, stands the grandest of the theatres habitually visited by the blousard. Its most constant patrons are the furniture-makers of the Faubourg St. Antoine, who bring to the theatre a decided perfume of mahogany and rosewood, and suggest the varnish of newness which the place would otherwise sadly lack. The quarter in which it stands is not a specially suspicious one by day, but at night it is ill calculated to inspire confidence. There are villainous-looking, slouching wretches about, who eye you curiously and not too amiably. The theatre has had its day of splendor, but is now a frowzy-looking concern—very roomy, somewhat suggesting the Old Bowery Theatre, but lacking its cheerful aspect. The audience is without exception of the blousard class: the patrons of the Old Bowery, even in its latest years, were almost millionaires in comparison. The highest-priced seats (excepting the proscenium-boxes, which are never occupied) cost forty sous. You can sit in the gallery for five sous if you like the company of the Paris gamin. At the entrance of the theatre there is a placard which reads thus: "By paying twenty-five centimes one enters immediately without making queue." The ticket-seller is a prosperous-looking old woman of fifty or there-about, who wears a beribboned cap and side-curls, and has a mouth which tells of years spent in the authoritative position she occupies. She is stern to a terrible degree with the average blousard who approaches the round hole whereat she reigns; but to us, who indulge in the extravagance of paying the extra five sous for the privilege of entering without taking our place in the queue at the door, she relaxes visibly.

The curtain rises at seven o'clock, here as at all the theatres where the blousard pays his money, and the amusement continues until after midnight. But it is not amusing. There are several pieces on the bill, but' the chief one, a drama in five acts, is a poor thing, played by mediocre actors in the most dismal manner possible. The scenery is worn and dilapidated and wretched; the play turns on the sufferings of the poor; there are two or three murders, a suicide, a death from starvation, and such a glut of horrors that the whole entertertainment is dismal and depressing to the last degree. Yet the theatre is usually well patronized, and the audience seems intensely interested. The blousard loves to see depicted on the stage a degree of misery more terrible than that which is his daily lot. For the dramas which depict high life—unless it be the high life of the old days of beruffled and silk-stockinged cavaliers—he cares very little. And in his serious modern dramas the hero must be a blousard, the villain a fine gentleman, the blousard to marry the heroine in the last act, and the fine gentleman to be sent to the galleys.