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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 101, September 5, 1891   By:

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PUNCH,

OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.

VOL. 101.

September 5, 1891.

SOME CIRCULAR NOTES.

CHAPTER III.

REIMS NIGHT STREETS ARRIVAL LION D'OR DEPRESSION LANDLADY BOOTS CATHEDRAL LONELINESS BED.

It is just ten o'clock. Reims seems to be in bed and fast asleep, except for the presence in the streets of a very few persons, official and unofficial, of whom the former are evidently on the alert as to the movements, slouching and uncertain, of the latter.

We drive under ancient Roman Arch; DAUBINET tells me its history in a vague kind of way, breaking off suddenly to say that I shall see it to morrow, when, so he evidently wishes me to infer, the Roman Arch will speak for itself. Then we drive past a desolate looking Museum. I believe it is a Museum, though DAUBINET's information is a trifle uncertain on this point.

We pass a theatre, brilliantly illuminated. I see posters on the wall advertising the performance. A gendarme, in full uniform, as if he had come out after playing Sergeant Lupy in Robert Macaire , is pensively airing himself under the façade , but there is no one else within sight, no one; not a cocher with whom Sergeant Lupy can chat, nor even a gamin to be ordered off; and though, from one point of view, this exterior desolation may argue well for the business the theatre is doing, yet, as there is no logical certainty that the people, who do not appear outside a show, should therefore necessarily be inside it, the temple of the Drama may, after all, be as empty as was Mr. Crummles ' Theatre, when somebody, looking through a hole in the curtain, announced, in a state of great excitement, the advent of another boy to the pit.

And now we rattle over the stones joltingly, along a fairly well lighted street. All the shops fast asleep, with their eyelids closed, that is, their shutters up, all except one establishment, garishly lighted and of defiantly rakish, appearance, with the words Café Chantant written up in jets of gas; and within this Café , as we jolt along, I espy a dame du comptoir , a weary waiter, and two or three second class, flashy looking customers, drinking, smoking, perhaps arguing, at all events, gesticulating, which, with the low class Frenchmen, comes to much the same thing in the end, the end probably being their expulsion from the drinking saloon. Where is the chantant portion of the café ? I cannot see, perhaps in some inner recess. With this flash of brilliancy, all sign of life in Reims disappears. We drive on, jolted and rattled over the cobble stones (if not cobble, what are they? Wobble?) and so up to the Lion d'Or .

[Illustration]

I am depressed. I can't help it. It is depressing to be the only prisoners in a black van; I should have said "passengers," but the sombre character of the omnibus suggests "Black Maria;" it is depressing (I repeat to myself), to be the only two passengers driving through a dead town at night time, as if we were the very personification of "the dead of night" being taken out in a hearse to the nearest cemetery. Even DAUBINET feels it, for he is silent, except when he tries to rouse himself by exclaiming "Caramba!" Only twice does he make the attempt, and then, meeting with no response from me, he collapses. Nor does it relieve depression to be set down in a solemn courtyard, lighted by a solitary gas lamp. This in itself would be quite sufficient to make a weary traveller melancholy, without the tolling of a gruesome bell to announce our arrival. This dispiriting sound seems to affect nobody in the house, except a lengthy young man in a desperate state of unwakefulness, who sleepily resents our arrival in the midst of his first slumber (he must have gone to bed at nine), and drowsily expresses a wish to be informed (for he will not take the trouble to examine into the matter for himself) whether we have any luggage; and this sense of depression becomes aggravated and intensified when no genial Boniface (as the landlord used invariably to be styled in romances of half a century ago) comes forth to greet us with a hearty welcome, and no buxom smiling hostess, is there to order the trim waiting maid, with polished candlestick, "to show the gentleman his room... Continue reading book >>


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