The grand stand to which I was admitted was a little privileged republic. I remember Thackeray's story of his asking some simple question of a royal or semi-royal personage whom he met in the courtyard of an hotel, which question his Highness did not answer, but called a subordinate to answer for him. I had been talking some time with a tall, good-looking gentleman, whom I took for a nobleman to whom I had been introduced. Something led me to think I was mistaken in the identity of this gentleman. I asked him, at last, if he were not So and So. "No," he said, "I am Prince Christian." You are a Christian prince, anyhow, I said to myself, if I may judge by your manners.
Two sensations I had in Windsor park, or forest, for I am not quite sure of the boundary which separates them. The first was the lovely sight of the hawthorn in full bloom. I had always thought of the hawthorn as a pretty shrub, growing in hedges; as big as a currant bush or a barberry bush, or some humble plant of that character. I was surprised to see it as a tree, standing by itself, and making the most delicious roof a pair of young lovers could imagine to sit under. It looked at a little distance like a young apple-tree covered with new-fallen snow. I shall never see the word hawthorn in poetry again without the image of the snowy but far from chilling canopy rising before me. It is the very bower of young love, and must have done more than any growth of the forest to soften the doom brought upon man by the fruit of the forbidden tree. No wonder that
I visited several of the well-known clubs, either by special invitation, or accompanied by a member. The Athenaeum was particularly attentive, but I was unable to avail myself of the privileges it laid freely open before me during my stay in London. Other clubs I looked in upon were: the Reform Club, where I had the pleasure of dining at a large party given by the very distinguished Dr. Morell Mackenzie; the Rabelais, of which, as I before related, I have been long a member, and which was one of the first places where I dined; the Saville; the Savage; the St. George's. I saw next to nothing of the proper club-life of London, but it seemed to me that the Athenaeum must be a very desirable place of resort to the educated Londoner, and no doubt each of the many institutions of this kind with which London abounds has its special attractions.
I was surprised to find the trees in the Bois de Boulogne so well grown: I had an idea that they had been largely sacrificed in the time of the siege. Among the objects which deserve special mention are the shrieking parrots and other birds and the yelping dogs in the grounds of the Society of Acclimatization,--out of the range of which the visitor will be glad to get as soon as possible. A fountain visited by newly married couples and their friends, with a restaurant near by, where the bridal party drink the health of the newly married pair, was an object of curiosity. An unsteadiness of gait was obvious in some of the feasters. At one point in the middle of the road a maenad was flinging her arms about and shrieking as if she were just escaped from a madhouse. But the drive in the Bois was what made Paris tolerable. There were few fine equipages, and few distinguished-looking people in the carriages, but there were quiet groups by the wayside, seeming happy enough; and now and then a pretty face or a wonderful bonnet gave variety to the somewhat bourgeois character of the procession of fiacres.
Well, what have you done with the matches, Doctor? called Dab-Dab. "They were always in your coat."
"Nothing hath got so far
"A mystery, as are you that gaze.
But here I stand once more before the home of the long-suffering, much-laboring, loud-complaining Heraclitus of his time, whose very smile had a grimness in it more ominous than his scowl. Poor man! Dyspeptic on a diet of oatmeal porridge; kept wide awake by crowing cocks; drummed out of his wits by long-continued piano-pounding; sharp of speech, I fear, to his high-strung wife, who gave him back as good as she got! I hope I am mistaken about their everyday relations, but again I say, poor man!--for all his complaining must have meant real discomfort, which a man of genius feels not less, certainly, than a common mortal.
Yes, said Cheapside. "There's always something doing in good old London. They've got a new kind of cab that goes on two wheels instead of four. A man called 'Ansom invented it. Much faster than the old 'ackneys they are. You see 'em everywhere. And there's a new greengrocer's shop near the Royal Exchange."