« We crowded into a cab to the station, and went by rail to Saint Germain. Richmond is beautiful, but is nothing to that place. The terrace, bordered on one side by forests, descends on the other to a sparkling reach of the Seine, overlooks a fertile expanse of country dotted with hamlets and woods, takes in the whole varied outlines of Paris, serrated by steeples and cathedral towers and domes, as well as the vast sweep of hills, where villages and palaces peep at every point between masses of verdure, from Argenteuil all round to Meudon. There is no place which the Parisians admire so much, or with such good reason. On Sunday, especially, train after train flies over the wooded country, up the slope (where atmospheric pressure takes the place of steam), and discharges an almost unceasing torrent of people under the red walls of the palace, where a proscribed Stuart had once leisure to repent the obstinate bigotry that forced him to make way for a Dutch prince adventurer.
The Parisian, however, cares nothing for historical associations. Besides, he has never heard what took place before ‘89 ; and if he had, what matters it to him in what room of what big house a discarded king of times gone by spent [p. 5] some gloomy hours ? Our countrymen are note quite so philosophical ; and I rarely go to Saint Germain without seeing some relative of my friend Cockney, or some solid North Briton, guide-book in hand, prowling about the gateway, and trying to look sentimental. There are still a few people who feel an interest in that gross family, and now and then we hear in society innocent young maidens warbling wretched ditties, that appeal to sentiments which they would be ashamed to understand. Why will mothers allow marriageable daughters to make that abominable « Charlie » the hero of their imaginations ?
« What is that great – ? » [the oath had no meaning in her mouth, and so it is unnecessary to repeat it.] « What is that large Englishman looking up into the air for ? » inquired Fifine.
« An English king has apartments there », observed Rose, to whom Guguste had been trying to impart some historical notions. The young man, being in a bookseller’s office, thought it necessary to exhibit his learning, and tried to correct her chronology ; but was interrupted by Fifine, who cried :
« It is no matter ; I don’t care a rush about him. Here is a dealer in macarons : the gentleman must treat us to some. »
Agricole looked a little annoyed, because he had [p. 6] been just telling me that, instead of educating himself, he had been trying to educate Fifine, and had boasted of his success. He admitted, however, that he could not impart to her any proper ideas of chronology, because she could neither believe in the past nor in the future, and could rarely be brought to refer even to the period of their own childhood, much less to the possibility that a time should come when she should cease to be. I believe that to humble, uneducated people, life is much longer than it is to us, who constantly overhaul the years that have gone by, and classify our doings and express them in general formula, and look a-head and analyse life, and reduce it to four or five great events.
I have forgotten to mention that it was fête-day at Saint Germain – to my horror and dismay, for I had been taken away quite unexpectedly. Early in spring the villages in the neighbourhood of Paris by turns begin to celebrate the festivals of their patron saints. In some out-of-the-way places we may still observe the presence of real hearty simplicity on these occasions. Dancing and donkey-races form the amusements. As a rule, however, the fêtes are only means of attracting people to spend money. They take place on Sundays, when all Parisiens indulge in a holiday. »
Saint John, Bayle