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duction, is all very well in a private room, where the lady hostess is supposed to guarantee the respectability of her guests; but in a public room at a watering-place, the interesting-looking foreigner, with the black moustache, and the embroidered waistcoat, who asks daughter to honour him with her hand for the next quadrille, may, for aught, you know to the contrary, be the coiffeur from Abbeville, or the pharmacien from Saint Omer.
The music is excellent at these balls, and here again we find one of the cheap luxuries of the place; Violin and two assistants, playing waltzes and quadrilles for a whole evening, in a style that can scarcely be surpassed, for something under one pound! I have paid seven times as much at an English watering-place that shall be nameless, for a band scarce fit to play to a group of dancing dogs.
The English protestant chapel is highly creditable to the English protestant residents. It is a large, handsome, commodious building. The service is well performed, and the singing, volunteered by ladies (not professional) is accompanied by a good organ. It is truly like an English church, and truly like an English congregation. There is the same squeezing of seven people into a pew which in these days of big sleeves and bustles ought only to hold six ; there is the same exhibition of pretty bonnets, and the same discussion of the merits and demerits of the preacher.
But if Boulogne be in some respects an English town, it is in others decidedly French. The costume of the fishwomen, the appearance of the market, and, above all, the open theatre on Sunday nights-to which of course an old lady like myself never went; and I believe I may say that no English of respectability are to be seen there on the sabbath. The theatre is large and handsome, but the architect has taken particular pains to obstruct the view of the stage from many of the boxes, by the largest and most lumbering-looking wooden pillars I ever beheld. The acting and singing taken altogether are better than we find at English country towns; the orchestra very good, and admirably led ; and the ballet better than ballets used to be at the large London theatres, before opera and ballet had become the principal features of attraction.
Nothing can be prettier than the market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, particularly the Marché aux Fleurs. Women sit with large baskets of bouquets before them; and gardeners are also there, exhibiting japonicas, oleanders, the rarest varieties of geranium, and all the other treasures of their green-houses. The fruit market is also abundantly provided; but the best peaches come from Paris, and the grapes from Fontainbleau.
Let me not forget the bathing, one of the most animated public exhibitions of this very lively place. The sands are excellent, the machines well provided, and, thinking that marine immersion might do my old body good, I subscribed for half a dozen baths at Mansel's establishment, paying for each, with linen, one franc. Gentlemen pay the same, and are given, in addition to their two towels, a little pair of green fustian breeches; and any bather neglecting to put them on is subject to a fine.
This is all very decent and proper, but with swimmers the practice may be attended with danger; indeed, when I was at Boulogne, a gentle
man having swum some distance from the shore, suddenly discovered that the running string which fastened the garment round his waist had given way; and his two legs were speedily entangled in, and actually tied together by, his own little pair of green fustian breeches. There is, however, always a boat in which two men row up and down, ready to snatch from a watery grave any drowned or drowning person.
Having ascertained the hour at which the tide would serve best, I went down to the sands to take my first dip; I received at the Bureau my bathing dress and towels, and at the same time a card, on which was written number ninety-nine. I was informed that, to prevent confusion, a number was given to each bather, so that everybody was sure to be attended to in his turn. When I got near the bathing machines, I found crowds of ladies and gentlemen all evidently waiting for their turn to come; the ladies in gingham gowns, and hair en papillottes, the gentlemen in slippers and Greek caps, and some wearing blouses. There were also sundry nursery maids with children of all ages, and numerous carriages, in which ladies patiently reclined. In the midst of this motley throng stood a very fat, tall, good-humoured looking man, who called as loud as he could bawl the numbers as they came round, and when I joined the party he was vociferating “ numero neuf," which proved to me that I had to remain kicking my heels in the sand, while ninety gentlemen and ladies washed themselves, before I had a chance of being washed myself. I must confess, however, that for once in a way the exhibition before me was highly amusing. The gentlemen's bathing place is about one hundred yards distant from that of the ladies. Never in my life did I see so busy a scene as the sands of Boulogne at high water, on a fine summer's morning. In the sea the ladies, hand in hand with the bathing women, are going through all sorts of extraordinary evolutions, jumping, dancing, and swimming. And the shore is equally animated, for groups of men, who do not chuse to go to the expense of a bathing machine, and all the big and little boys' schools in the town, undress under the rocks, and then scamper like mad into the water. Where they all get little green fustian breeches, is more than I can tell; but there assuredly must be a very extensive manufactory in the neighbourhood.
The French lottery is a bait at which few English strangers can resist nibbling ; so much may possibly be gained by so very little! But then again, people so repeatedly are induced to put in that same “very little” without even getting "much,” or indeed anything at all, that in the end they are apt to find themselves minus a very large sum.
The regular dabblers in the lottery amused me exceedingly; just before my arrival, a very fortunate gentleman, for six francs, had gained eight hundred pounds; and this very naturally set all the young speculators ou the qui vive. Some of them were dreamers of dreams, and went about telling you of extraordinary visions, which had all but secured to them very large fortunes. But there was sure to be some little mistake in the business; either the dreamer had in the morning felt uncertain which of two numbers was the real one of which he had dreamt, and had then chosen the wrong one; or else he deputed some servant or naughty little youngest son to purchase the ticket, and some vile mistake had been made. I certainly never heard of so many bright visions, which however seemed to me generally to end (as they began)
in a dream. But it is time to cease blowing my bubbles, for fear the reader should discover that I have exhausted my soap ; in other words, it is well to lay aside the pen before the matter is entirely exhausted. There are many odd people in Boulogne, many who have done very questionable things, and with their faults, follies, and foibles, I could doubtless very much amuse the reader ; but I conscientiously avoid personality; I wish to hurt nobody's feelings; I leave the bad here (and elsewhere) to reform, and have no intention, when I blow bubble," of making any one “squeak.”
Boulogne may be the sanctuary for the swindler, but it also affords a refuge for the swindled ; and he who, by the ignorance of an uneducated attorney, or the chicanery of an unprincipled one, finds himself suddenly and fraadulently deprived of an income which he had every reason to suppose had been legally settled on himself, his wife, and children, may at Boulogne effectually retrench his expenditure; and while he may
live with comfort on an income which in England would be inadequate, it will be his own fault if he does not enjoy a society quite as good, if not better, than any he could have found in an English country town.
One fact respecting Boulogne may be asserted in its favour,—there is no place where the really respectable are more difficult of access. This is one favourable result of her bad name; it renders her residents doubly cautious; and I have seen men and women tolerated in certain English watering-places, who, for the reason I have named, would not be admitted into the best set at Boulogne; but when I speak of the best set, I do not by any means refer to those who make the most display.
As a watering-place, Boulogne is delightful: the bathing so good, the town so clean and gay, and so much variety in the neighbouring walks and drives. The views from the ramparts, with the rich strawberry gardens beneath them, the pretty sailing vessels on the Loire-altogether I think it impossible for any good-humoured old body like myself to spend part of a summer at Boulogne, without afterwards remembering the place with satisfaction.
Before I lay aside my note-book, I suppose I ought to follow the example of Master Trollope, and set forth tapping the rocks with a little hammer, that I may be enabled to instruct the reader concerning fossils and strata; but, as there are many land-springs in the cliffs, and they are apt to slip down, and might tumble on my head, I will content myself with hoping that Mrs. Trollope may herself visit this interesting sea-port, and allow her son to tap all the rocks with his little hammer for the edification of the curious.
It is time for me to pack up my two trunks and my band-box, and bubble back to London, where I shall be glad again to repose in my own elbowchair. And, in conclusion, I must confess (though some may accuse me of blowing hot and cold with the same breath) that though I admire the novelty and vivacity of this pretty town, yet when summer days are over, and the long evenings of winter approach, there is no place so dear to the heart of an old woman as her own fireside.
Oh, sweet, untroubling, bubbling, mild old man !
And of the pleasant places,
To plash and purify;
But, mild old man ! alas, to thee alone
Is no monopoly of bubbles. Here
In England,-England, the severe, the austere,-
And shine,-still round, and globular, and fair;
And it is my intent
To blow an English bubble or two, in two,
And to the imperious, serious reader's view,
And oh! the greatest round—“the round and top"
(But not“ of Sovereignty," as Shakspeare saith)-
All the high men I see
With basins at the knee,-
Off goes the bubble, brilliant, glowing, floating,
And ere it bursts—or while it bursts—another,
“ Another, and another, and another"
I cannot love them!
“ And these are of them !"
“ But let me not,” as Roderick Random says,
“ Profane the mysteries of Hymen!” not
Dwell on the twistings of the twisted knot !-
Less serious topics,-clip my muse's wings,-
Get out of high-blown bubbles
With all their troubles !--
Out of the land that gave them birth,
The poor profuse alive!
These with gratuitous labours
Work on their weaker neighbours,With language, all seductive, à la Byron,
They coax them to abide
No more inside, And make them, half with wheedling, half with pushing,
To emigrate from comfortable cushion
And colonize their trousers 'gainst cold iron !