« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the broad staircase; Brassbridge, who is stout, panting and blowing: Thank God !' he says, when he gets to the top ; thank God, that's over!' Not much less rejoiced are Pigeonneau and Tiby. Now it is that Brassbridge insists on the petit verre of which he had spoken in Tunnel. To a splendid edifice, which Brassbridge calls 'a gin-palace' (palais de Genièvre), we go, and from curiously thick glasses are served with brown and fiery brandy, of which none drink with pleasure, only Brassbridge, Choppin, the ex-brigadier de gendarmes, and Jannetan, whose father is a marchand de vin in the Rue St. Denis.
“ Now we descend to the river, waiting for the steamer which shall carry us to Blackwall. As before, Brassbridge insists on paying for the tickets. Not long is it before one arrives, and, like 'old stagers’ (vieux routiers), quickly are we on board. There was life in that brandy, although so hot. To describe all we see is not possible. As the fish in the river, so are the ships upon it: the Englishmen call them all craft' (rusés), on account of the cunning manner in which they get along. More docks, more vessels ; never will they finish! On the left hand is Isle of Dogs (L'Ile de Chiens), where all is smoke and steam, cement and cast-iron, pitch and tar and timber ; on the right are Detfort Docks, floating hospitals (ambulances à l'eau) and galleys (bagnes); then Greenwich, once a palace of la Reine Elizabeth, now dedicated to ancient sailors (invalides) who lose their limbs in their terrible combats with our great nation. Here, Brassbridge says, is a noble park, which we partly see, where great fétes are held twice in the year, at which all the fashionables' of London assist. It is sorrowful to us to know that it is no longer the season ; and Babil, who himself instructs in the dance (enseigne la dance), laments it loudly (à haute voix). But Brassbridge, who, like most of his countrymen, is tant soit peu philosophe, declares
there is a time for all things, and directs our eyes to a point of land before the vessel's head, asking if we see that? To this an assent is given, and we learn that there is Blackwall, where we shall dine ; but first he says we must see the junk (la Jonque Chinoise) of which we have heard so much. Speedily we reach the pier, and again are we on firm earth, though water is on every side. Nous sommes plus Hollandais qu'en Hollande.
“Before we go to see this Chinese wonder, Brassbridge leads to Brunswiks Hôtel, which is to London a restaurant such as formerly to Paris the Rocher de Cancale. Here our kind host demands if we will refresh ourselves, to which in the negative we reply, and he then orders dinner to be ready in an hour.'
“We part for the junk. It is stationed but a short distance from where we landed. We pass another grand gin-palace, where, with pipes and pewter pots, and purple noses, East Indiamen (as the sailors here are called), are drinking rhum and porterre, seated before brown tables of mahogany (acajou), and toasting their sweethearts (leurs maîtresses). Behind this building are more docks, filled with vessels whose masts reach to the sky, and from whose bosoms are poured the riches of every clime. To see them there is not time, and over a moving bridge (un pont volant) we advance to where some figures, fantastically painted, like the Bains Chinois on the Boulevard des Italiens, assure us is the place we seek. Already we see the masts of the junk, but more than that a high enclosure of boards will not permit. Brassbridge, with nimble feet and ready purse, pays the admission-one schelling each—before we
know it; but in our mutual looks there is an understanding of a revanche which we have in store.
pass through a small pavilion into a garden, not unlike one of the guingettes at the Paris barriers, and the junk itself is plain to our eyes. The coup-d'æil is indeed surprising. I call to mind my classical recollections at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers. Do I behold an ancient trirème, with its lofty prow and still loftier poop? or are we again in the middle
ages ? It is neither; for on the flags which float from the masts are the dragons of a country which was old when Greece and Rome were young ; on the hull of that vessel are monsters painted which only in Eastern imaginations have existed. To sail this ship without rolling over into the ocean would seem impossible ; but yet it is here, and three years ago it was in China. An easy slope leads us upon the deck, where, in shapeless tunics and wide pantaloons of serge, with short feet mounted on chopines, with the hair twisted round the head and creeping down the back like a black snake, with faces round as moons and brown as chocolate, and eyes that make sharp angles, with nearly invisible noses, stand several natives of that country which is called Celestial. Angels, indeed, are they, but of an opposite kind to those of the Frenchman. These men are grouped round the cuisine, where they boil the rice upon which they live ; a tame diet, but enough for their energies. Better than the interior is the outside, whereon are painted many gastronomic scenes : cooks with frying-pans, active marmitons, and rejoicing guests! To make them fall over each other headlong appears the painter's intention. Next we see the grand salon, hung round with lanterns of all colours, and the walls painted with birds and beasts. The golden goddess Chin-Tee, with her twenty-four arms, each bearing some instrument of war or pleasure, sits at the upper end under a rich canopy. Around the salon are a thousand objets which show themselves to the eyes, but remain not with the memory. The most pleasing remembrance is of the daughters of the Emperor of China, who smile at us from their pictures, as if they would say, Why do not the gentlemen of Paris come to Pekin? Chez nous il y a déjà bien assez de Pekins ! Pourquoi n'y en a-t-il des Pekines !"
Our translator has purposely abstained from rendering this passage in English
“We now go on upper deck,' where there are more goddesses--to our regret they are only of painted wood: here also are many cases filled with the curiosities which create a museum. Above this another salon presents itself, in which we find a noble Chinese, He-Sing, who sells his signature for sixpence; and near him is Sam-Sing, who for five pounds (cent vingt-cinq francs) will paint your portrait. For myself I prefer the one that already was made in Tunnel, feeling but small inclination to sit to an artist who paints back-handed (à l'envers) and shows himself capable of misrepresenting the features of Europeans à la Chinoise. How these magots vivants can either write or paint is to me a profound secret, for to all their fingers are nails three inches long, sharp and horny as the claws of birds. To tell what was thought of all the things we see by Peloton and Tiby and Malingre (who greatly resembles the smallfaced, wrinkled artist, Sam-Sing) is too much for this place ; Brassbridge, who walks arm-in-arm with Choppin, for whom he seems to have formed an affection, is ready to burst with laughter. “My God! he cries at every moment, and sharply digs his fist in the ribs of the stout brigadier, who laughs yellowly (rit jaune) in reply. At last we have done ; and
leaving the mandarins to fish for snails, or salmon, or else what they can catch with their ever-ready rods and lines, we depart the junk, and make play,' so Brassbridge says, for Brunswiks Hotel.
“We enter a vast apartment set round with numerous tables, as at the Café de Paris, or the Trois Frères Provencaux, only the looking-glasses and pendules are wanting. En revanche, on one side it is all window. The table for Brassbridge is in the centre of the salon, where it projects towards the river ; thus we are enabled to see both up and down: on one hand is Isle of Dogs, with Greenvich, a noble prospect in the distance; on the other Bugsby's-Hole (where formerly the pirates were hung in chains), and the warlike establishment of Voolvich, the Vincennes of London. Smiling waiters with white neckcloths tied in stiff horizontal bows claim from us our hats and walking-sticks, and we seat ourselves at table (nous nous attablons). We feel that this will prove a real English dinner (un véritable diner Anglais); and mutually we congratulate, for hunger is now added to our other sensations.
“ Civilisation, we see, has already made some progress in this country, for to eat a potage we are first invited. But it is the good intention only, not the execution, that we can praise ; for in this potage, dark and stiff and indescribable, no man could find it difficult to set his spoon upright. Brassbridge, with a burning, purple face, eats it eagerly, stopping only to poke his right hand neighbour, Choppin, in the side, and say
to him, Capital turtle, ain't it?' to which Choppin, with eyes that run water, says, “Yes, yes,' and appears to choke. However, we all eat some, though with green fat our jaws are almost sticking together. "To help it down,' as Brassbridge says, the waiters bring round punch of an icy coldness. This we gladly swallow, and find it excellent; it lifts our spirits, and already we begin to enjoy our condition. Round the salon I look at the numerous parties assembled to dine. Many ladies are there, for which pleasure I was unprepared ; and amongst them I observed a handsome miss, with blue eyes and hair of gold, smiling greatly whenever she gazes in the direction of where I sit. It is not possible for me to doubt of the cause, and expressively I return her glance, at which she still more sweetly smiles. It is now confirmed what I have always heard, that the English ladies are not fierce ones (les dames Anglaises ne sont pas farouches). But to myself this knowledge I keep, for fear that Tiby, or Pigeonneau, or Babil, who are sitting on the same side with me, should observe also, and struggle with me for a prize I intend to win. A fine fortune with that charming miss will crown my desires.
“ These thoughts pass quickly through my mind; but now they receive another direction, for the waiters return loaded with dishes, with which the table is filled. They raise the covers, and at once all the fishes of the sea are before us. How to speak of them is the hardest task; to eat them requires alone the perseverance of a famished epicure. Salmon is there drest many ways ; first, plainly, in the huge block, which Brassbridge eats, and persuades Choppin to do the same, with a sauce made of melted butter (beurre fondu), the juice of cockchafers, called 'soy' (hannetons pilés), and Harvey,' another unknown liquid, invented by the well-known author of the “ Meditations ;" then in cutlets; then en croquettes, in pudding, and à l'Indienne, the last with fiery preserves which burn up our throats, and make us loudly call for more iced punch. There also are eels--some fricasseed, some fried, and others stewed. A rare fish, in which we delight, is called 'water-souchy,
made from flounders (des limandes), of which the river is full. Besides these are soles and turbot, and many more kinds, which to our astonishment are served up with sauces which with pleasure we would eat on the Boulevard des Italiens. This mystery is afterwards explained by learning that it is to a French cook these noble dishes are owing. To see that we can eat appears a great joy to Brassbridge, who himself sets a good example. “At a fish dinner, he exclaims, everybody should drink like a fish!' and quickly is poured out for us du Sherry et du vin de Rhin. Whenever I drink, cunningly I turn my eye and toast the charming miss, whom I still observe to smile.
“ At length these dishes are cleared, but not half the fish are yet eaten. Upon the table are placed large plates of brown bread-and-butter (tartines de pain bis), and others holding lemons and cayennes-pepper (le poivre rose de Cayenne). We wonder at these preparations, but our wonder increases when all the space between is filled with some of the largest dishes ever seen, which are piled up with fishes so small that not one of them is equal in size to my little finger. We doubt our eyes, thinking what this may mean. We imagine them to be sardines, but Brassbridge, in his jovial way, soon undeceives us. “Now then for the white-bait!' he cries, and with an enormous spoon he shovels a quantity innumerable into my plate. Petit poisson of the Thames,' he says,
mangez, musseer, with brown bread-and-butter.' The waiters fly round with the dishes. We begin to eat, and never then shall we stop. The white-baits, hot and crisp from the fire, crackle and melt in our mouths, and are of a delicious flavour. Brassbridge calls for Vin du Champagne. It comes foaming into the broad-headed glasses ; down go the white-baits, rendered piquantwith lemon-juice; down go the brown tartines; and at every instant down goes the champagne. Glass after glass disappears, but while the white-baits take one direction the wine takes another; it mounts to our heads : our gaiety of Paris, absent for many days, comes back to us, and loudly we laugh and talk, attracting to us the regard of many. More boldly now I look at the beautiful miss, nor yet has she forgotten to smile. Sweet gal,' to myself I say, “I shall marry you quickly.'
“At last impossible is it for us to eat more white-baits, and vainly the waiters present them. Where they come from, so many of them, is to us a miracle ; where they go to, Malingre and Peloton can best explain, for their unbuttoned waistcoats proclaim them bursting. It is well that we pause, or perhaps never should we eat again; and yet such is the kindness of Nature, that in offering to man variety she doubles his powers. Science and experience have disclosed the fact, that long to pursue the same thing is to create disgust. For this reason a Frenchman runs from his wife, and an Englishman puts a rope round her neck and takes her to Smits field Market to sell her. Owing to the same cause we regain our lost appetites at dinner. Vive la variété !
1. The next entrée is of meats and fowls; des côtelettes, des patés d'huitres et d'homard, boiled hens, bacons, and again lamb’s-ribs, with sauce aigre-dour. There is but one rule for a Frenchman to follow in dining in this country—to take every meat he is offered, and sternly to reject every native sauce. It is on that rock the reputation of English cookery is split open. Again we eat till hardly can we move our machoires, and Pigeonneau and Tiby are grey (gris) with drinking. This I observe to Brassbridge, who, laughing loudly, replies, Done brown, hey ? and pledges me in more champagne, over which I wink at the beautiful
miss. Sweet dishes and pastry follow; one of the last—a tart made of rhubarb—being always taken medicinally in England. Some people, I am told, prefer dinner pills, which they carry in their pockets. Have we done yet? Not so; still more is there to come-fromage de Chester, vast and heavy as a rock of red granite ; and, strangely ending so great a repast, is a salad. Brassbridge invites us to drink ale with this mountain cheese. There is a new kindStogumber' (quel drôle de nom !) which he loudly praises ; but to drink any now we are not capable. Finally the table-clothes are removed, the dessert and wine are placed, the Bordeaux is sent round; to which all do honour but Brassbridge alone, who says to me when I ask him if he shall take some, • No, musseer; I stick to port.'
“ We now carry some toasts. Brassbridge gives the first to “The Queen, God bless her ;' then, “To the happy union between France and England' (which, as I look towards the door, where the beautiful miss is now disappearing on the arm of an aged "gent,' I know how to interpret); and then to “The party assembled on this occasion (when Brassbridge makes a speech, and says on this occasion' many times over). In return, we drink the health of Brassbridge, and after that we prepare to depart.
“To stand steady after such fast drinking is not easily accomplished, but we can very well see : some of us even see double. On the terrace in front of the stations-house many ladies and gentlemen are walking ; amongst them is the handsome miss. In passing I salute, by raising my hat, and the rest do the same. The bandsome miss and her papa, with others of their company, enter the stations-house : we also shall return to London. Again does Brassbridge take the tickets, and my friends enter with him the carriages. But I desire to have another look at the lovely miss, and I pass by the carriage into which she has gone. She is seated by the window. A bold and happy thought inspires me. Sudden I recollect the portrait which was painted for me in Tunnel ; I take it from my pocket, and while I gaze upon it for a moment the conductor of the train calls out to me to take my seat. With the quickness of a lightning flash I throw the picture on the lap of the lovely miss ; I kiss my hand, and dart away. I am called to by Brassbridge as I go by, but observing a carriage-door open at the end of the train, I jump in, there to feed upon myself with pleasant recollections. In another instant the train is off, and soon I think shall I be in London once more, to see and follow to her home that beautiful creature. Presently the carriage stops-much sooner than I had expected. The door is opened, and with a light step 1 jump out; but what do I see? I am alone in a desolate place, with high walls round me, above which are the masts of ships, and lofty buildings full of blank windows; and far in front, along the line of rail, I perceive the train from which the carriage in which I sat has been cast off. I dash my hands into my face and utter loud cries, impossible for me to be heard but by a policemans, who comes to ask for my ticket. None have I to give him; it is Brassbridge who has them. He says I must go to the stationshouse. Where am I?' I ask; 'Is this London ?' A broad grin is on his face as he replies, with the calmness of the imperturbable English, No; this is Poplar!
“In madness I shake my fist at the train, and gloomily follow the policemans."