Obrazy na stronie

table, though only a light country wine, but this is drank out of beer glasses, to which I have a mortal aversion.

Inconvenient as this journey must necessarily be at all times, it is rendered ten times worse by being taken in winter. To provide a room with a fire against the arrival of the diligence, is what nobody thinks of, and the only resource against perishing with cold is to adjourn to the kitchen. But this is a very partial remedy; he alone who fortunately is among the first that enter, and understands how to manage, has any chance of obtaining a tolerable birth, and even he can only choose whether to warm himself in the front or the rear, for to do both is impossible. This is another advantage for the lovers of colds. Nor is this all : they have yet a third chance : these places are never floored, only paved with brick, from which a chill pestilential moisture is constantly rising: to this may be added, all the water thrown about, people spitting, and dogs doing what dogs ever will do; which all together form an assemblage of damps that may fairly be considered as reducing the matter to a certainty.

Two hours is the time allowed for dining, and the diligence ought also to stop for the night. But since in winter the roads are frequently bad, and it must be at Paris at the tirne appointed, it often travels all night, or at least rests for so short a time, that it is scarcely worth while to attempt going to bed, though 'tis a sufficient delay to weary and fatigue the passengers, unless they happen to be blessed with that propensity so common to travellers, of being able to eat and drink at any time, even in the middle of the night.

And should it happen, that five or six hours are allowed for rest, a man must be somewhat practised in witchcraft to be able to sleep. The best accommodations to be procured are a perishingly cold room, where the wind blows in at every corner, furuished with a bedstead ready to break down, to which are attached old tattered hangings, and a feather-bed shaken up high at the feet, somewhat lower in the middle, and lowest of all at the head. If, spite of all these preventives a doze should begin to steal over the traveller's wearied eye-lids, he may rely upon being quickly awakened again, either by the noises of the inn, or the howling of the wind in the chimney.

But most terrible of all, is the situation of the poor valetudinarian, who from the state of his health cannot, without inconvenience, experience a privation of his customary habit of sacrificing every morning to a certain subterranean divinity held in great respect among the Romans--or, to put the case in another point of view, who wishes not to forego the performance of what, if neglected, would, according to Montaigne, transform even a Seneca into a fool. The shaking of the vehicle has perhaps rendered it doubtful whether this can be accomplished or not, and should he wish to counteract these bad effects by a cup of coffee and a morning pipe, either there is no time for taking them, or if he be disposed to rob himself of an hour of rest, and rise early, that sufficient time for the purpose may be secured, where is the coffee to be had ? * In the inn, it is never furnished ; and at the coffee-house, the people are never up so early. But he may give the waiter at the coffeehouse a trifle to rise on purpose. So he may, and the waiter will make very liberal promises over night, which before morning will be entirely forgotten.

After this general description of what may be expected in the diligence, the picture of which is faithfully sketched, and in no respect overcharged, I proceed to a detail of the particular inconveniences we had to endure. Our company consisted partly of people going all the way from Strasburgh to Paris, partly of chance passengers taken up only for short distances. Among the first class were :

Imprimis,--A merchant from G

who was so extremely satisfied with himself, that he thought all other people must be equally satisfied with him. He pretended to know everything and to have been everywhere, and kindly gave us ample instructions what we should do at this place, what see at that, with other like useful information. He was besides infected with the disease of speaking French, imitated the French manner of clipping words, and speaking through the nose, to which his vile Thuringian dialect was a great addition. He had besides the insufferable habit of saying comment? or plait-il ? at every word addressed to him, although it was obvious that he was no more deaf than myself. But worse than all, if by chance he stumbled upon some dry dull joke, he mumbled it, and tortured it about, till it was disgusting as the drink made by the South Sea islanders with chewing the roots of yams.

Secondly,-A Fleming, by name B- who had lived for twelve years at Petersburgh. He had the perfect physiognomy of a Calmuc. Never did I see a man who could always drink, always laugh, and always talk ribaldry like him. He seemed to have abundance of vermin about him, and sung chansons when they were troublesome. He was pleased, as an excellent joke, to confer the title of monsieur le baron' upon his neighbour the merchant. In what this profound piece of humour originated, I did not learn; but this I know, that ‘monsieur le baron' was rung in my ears till I was so fretted that I heartily wished I could have jumped out of the window to escape from it. I have commonly found the barons themselves more fatiguing than their titles, but for this time the case was reversed.

Thirdly and fourthly, -A couple of honest citizens from some little town either in Alsace or Lorraine. One of them was a fat portly gentleman, the other had a brown sturdy visage, with a superabundance of black beard. In the countenance of the former, the space between the nose and mouth formed a complete semcircle. This is said to be a certain indication of self-importance; and, indeed, he seemed to take upon himself entirely the part of Mentor to his companion. If the latter opened his mouth, and appeared in the most trifling or insignificant circumstance to differ in opinion with his fat companion, an immediate snub was the consequence. They gave us to understand, that they were travelling upon public business. Probably they had something to lay before the National Assembly, and the fat man was to be the orator, for he often leaned his head against one of the windows, with his eyes closed, while his lips were moving.

Fifthly,--An officer of the national guards, of whom I have nothing more to observe, than that he understood the best of any of the company how to manage at the inns, and was always one of the first at the fire.

Besides these, we had several chance passengers for a short time each. Among others, a Jew from Nancy, who, at early morning, in the carriage, conformably to the custom of his religion, stretching out his arms, and bundling up both them and his head with a variety of wrappers, offered his prayers to heaven, without concerning himself about the inconvenience he might occasion to his fellow-travellers.

A young officer, who also accompanied us a part of the way, and seemed to think himself a great wit, began to display it upon the poor Jew most unmercifully, stringing together silly and insulting jokes, and branding the whole race of Israel as rogues, till at length I could not suppress my indignation. I ob. served, that it was extremely indecent and unlike a gentleman to attack a man who had no means of defending himself; and added, that I had no doubt there were many very worthy and respectable people among the Jews. The officer on this gave me a full and expressive stare, which seemed, when translated, to mean, O, ho! what, you also are a Jew?”

Thus my benevolent feelings towards an insulted fellow-creature had probably drawn like insults upon myself, had not the young son of Mars, as is commonly the case with such stupid conceited jesters, had inore mouth than heart, and been somewhat frightened by my reproof. As it was, he was awed into silence, and let the Jew rest, only now and then casting oblique and significant glances upon him. My protegé, however, did not appear very deserving of this interference in his behalf, since he manifested no signs of being any way affected either by the warrior's insults, or the correction they had received.

The rest of our chance passengers are not worth enumerating. They did nothing but squeeze our bodies and fatigue our understandings.

This first day, the 14th, we dined at Phalsbourg, and reached Blammont in the evening, where we stopped some hours to rest.

December 15. We arrived at Nancy about noon, passing through Luneville and St. Nicholas. By this time the disi. gence was become so absolutely insupportable to me, that I resolved to quit it for four-and-twenty hours at least. Gladly would I have gone post all the remainder of the way to Paris, had we not taken our places at Strasburgh, and paid twelve new louis-d'ors for them.

I hired a cabriolet to Toul, in which my companion, my servant, and myself, proceeded forwards the next morning, and found it tolerably commodious. The diligence had now gotten the start of us very much. We passed through St Aubin, Barleduc, and Vitry, to Chalons-sur-Marne, where, at ten o'clock in the evening, we were so unfortunate as to overtake that miserable vehicle again.

Post-horses are intolerably dear in this country, and the regulations with regard to them are to me wholly inexplicable. In Germany, if we pay for

« PoprzedniaDalej »