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There was a Fair besides. The double
persuasion being irresistible, and my sponge being
left behind at the last Hotel, I made the tour of
the little town to buy another. In the small
sunny shopsmercers, opticians, and druggist-
grocers, with here and there an emporium of
religious imagesthe gravest of old spectacled
Flemish husbands and wives sat contemplating
one another across bare counters, while the
wasps, who seemed to have taken military
possession of the town, and to have placed it under
wasp-martial law, executed warlike manoeuvres
in the windows. Other shops the wasps had
entirely to themselves, and nobody cared and
nobody came when I beat with a five-franc piece
upon the board of custom. What I sought, was
no more to be found than if I had sought a
nugget of Californian gold: so I went, spongeless,
to pass the evening with the Family P. Salcy.

The members of the Family P. Salcy were so
fat and so like one anotherfathers, mothers,
sisters, brothers, uncles, and aunts that I think
the local audience were much confused about
the plot of the piece under representation, and
to the last expected that everybody must turn
out to be the long-lost relative of everybody
else. The Theatre was established on the top
story of the Hôtel de Ville, and was approached
by a long bare staircase, whereon, in an airy
situation, one of the P. Salcy Familya
stout gentleman imperfectly repressed by a belt
took the money. This occasioned the greatest
excitement of the evening; for, no sooner did
the curtain rise on the introductory Vaudeville,
and reveal in the person of the young lover
(singing a very short song with his eyebrows)
apparently the very same identical stout gentleman
imperfectly repressed by a belt, than everybody
rushed out to the paying-place, to ascertain
whether he could possibly have put on that
dress-coat, that clear complexion, and those
arched black vocal eyebrows, in so short a space
of time. It then became manifest that this was
another stout gentleman imperfectly repressed
by a belt: to whom, before the spectators had
recovered their presence of mind, entered a
third stout gentleman imperfectly repressed by
a belt, exactly like him. These two "subjects,"
making with the money-taker three of the
announced fifteen, fell into conversation touching
a charming young widow: who, presently
appearing, proved to be a stout lady altogether
irrepressible by any meansquite a parallel
case to the American Negrofourth of the
fifteen subjects, and sister of the fifth who
presided over the check-department. In good time
the whole of the fifteen subjects were
dramatically presented, and we had the inevitable
Ma Mère, Ma Mère! and also the inevitable
malédiction d'un père, and likewise the inevitable
Marquis, and also the inevitable provincial
young man, weak-minded but faithful, who
followed Julie to Paris, and cried and laughed and
choked all at once. The story was wrought out
with the help of a virtuous spinning-wheel in
the beginning, a vicious set of diamonds in the
middle, and a rheumatic blessing (which arrived
by post) from Ma Mère towards the end; the
whole resulting in a small sword in the body of
one of the stout gentlemen imperfectly repressed
by a belt, fifty thousand francs per annum and
a decoration to the other stout gentleman
imperfectly repressed by a belt, and an assurance
from everybody to the provincial young man
that if he were not supremely happywhich he
seemed to have no reason whatever for being
he ought to be. This afforded him a final
opportunity of crying and laughing and choking
all at once, and sent the audience home
sentimentally delighted. Audience more attentive
or better behaved there could not possibly be,
though the places of second rank in the Theatre
of the Family P. Salcy were sixpence each in
English money, and the places of first rank a
shilling. How the fifteen subjects ever got so
fat upon it, the kind Heavens know.

What gorgeous china figures of knights and
ladies, gilded till they gleamed again, I might
have bought at the Fair for the garniture of my
home, if I had been a French-Flemish peasant,
and had had the money! What shining coffee-
cups and saucers, I might have won at the turn-
tables, if I had had the luck! Ravishing
perfumery also, and sweetmeats, I might have
speculated in, or I might have fired for prizes
at a multitude of little dolls in niches, and
might have hit the doll of dolls, and won francs
and fame. Or, being a French-Flemish youth,
I might have been drawn in a hand-cart by my
compeers, to tilt for municipal rewards at the
water-quintain: which, unless I sent my lance
clean through the ring, emptied a full bucket over
me; to fend off which, the competitors wore
grotesque old scarecrow hats. Or, being French-
Flemish man or woman, boy or girl, I might
have circled all night on my hobby-horse, in a
stately cavalcade of hobby-horses four abreast,
interspersed with triumphal cars, going round
and round and round and round, we the goodly
company singing a ceaseless chorus to the music
of the barrel-organ, drum, and cymbals. On the
whole, not more monotonous than the Ring in
Hyde Park, London, and much merrier; for
when do the circling company sing chorus, there,
to the barrel-organ, when do the ladies embrace
their horses round the neck with both arms,
when do the gentlemen fan the ladies with the
tails of their gallant steeds? On all these
revolving delights, and on their own especial
lamps and Chinese lanterns revolving with them,
the thoughtful weaver-face brightens, and the
Hôtel de Ville sheds an illuminated line of
gaslight: while above it, the Eagle of France,
gas-outlined and apparently afflicted with the
prevailing infirmities that have lighted on the
poultry, is in a very undecided state of policy,
and as a bird moulting. Flags flutter all around.
Such is the prevailing gaiety that the keeper
of the prison sits on the stone steps outside the
prison-door, to have a look at the world that is
not locked up; while that agreeable retreat, the
wine-shop opposite to the prison in the prison-
alley (its sign La Tranquillité, because of its
charming situation), resounds with the voices of

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