+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


THESE lines, when they meet your eye,
Mr. Swallow, will perhaps astonish you.
When you arrived at the Hôtel des Bains,
on an evening early in the present month,
too late for the table d'hôte: when, on that
account, you were denied access to the
salon, although you told the attendant you
were dying of hunger: when the waiter
shrugged a very good imitation of despair,
and said in his native language he was
desolated, but that it was defended for the too
tardy to disturb the convives who were
already arranged; but that, if you liked, he
would command you a particular dinner in a
particular chamber: when you indignantly
refused the former, but accepted the latter,
calling in a menacing manner for pen, ink, and
paper: when you retired and wrote a biting
article (for the "Warrior for Peace," of which
you are the distinguished Editor,) against
the entire population of Boulogne, with
special reference to the infamous treatment
of English travellers at the hotels of that
city: when, in the midst of your denunciating
peroration, you joyfully threw down the pen
at the waiter's announcement that " Monsieur
is served:" when you snatched up your
article, rushed into the saloon, and found it
adorned with the ruins of a dessert: when
you found a place cleared for you behind six
strawberries on an enormous dish, the rinds
of two melons on a plate, a few "lady's
fingers" in a saucer, and a Turk's caftan very
much the worse for wear, in sponge-cake:
when, as the various courses of the dinner-
over-again which the few remaining guests
were doomed to behold were brought in succession,
you devoured them in uncommunicative
solitude, as if you and the waiter were
the only two individuals left in Nature, and as
if the whole world was bounded by the edges
of your plate: when, as you dallied with your
macaroni au gratin, and sipped your Medoc, the
acidity of your visage gradually relaxed, and
you deigned to stutter a few foreign words to
the waiter; who, because he thought that they
were meant to be French words answered you
in excellent English: when you ordered him
to wake you in time for the London boat the
next morning, and to pack up, for exportation,
half-a-dozen of his best cognac: when
you lighted your cigar with your annihilating
manuscript, retired, and visited several shops
in the Rue de l'Ecu, to make a variety of
purchases: and when, finally, you retired to
chamber number twenty-one for the night, you
little thought, Mr. Swallow, that a mysterious
being dogged every step you took, heard every
word you uttered, witnessed every bargain
you made. Perhaps he was a detective policeman
who mistook you for a St. Alban's elector.
Possibly, he was a disguised tide-waiter,
watching to see what amount of fraud you
contemplated on that amiable department of
the British GovernmentHer Majesty's

In the morning, Mr. Swallow, disregarding
the early announcement that l'eau chaude was
at your door, you overslept yourself.

It was considerably past six; the boat was
to start in half-an-hour, and your carpet-bag
would not close by any means you had at
command: no sort of squeezing, nor punching,
nor thrusting, nor jamming, nor ramming,
nor stamping: no attempt to distend its sides
by pulling it on like a tight boot: no frantic
jumping upon it from high chairs to flatten
them: no kind of dexterity in coaxing shaving-
tackle into bunged-up corners, in fitting
hairbrushes into slippers, or wrapping up bottles
of eau-de-Cologne in a night-shirt: no
crushing of your finest linen (got up regardless
of expense by your French laundress):
no smashing of satin cravats: no artful insertion
of fancy waistcoats between the leaves of
your writing-case: no ruthless rolling up
of your dress coat to the resemblance of a
black pudding: no stratagem, no force
succeeded. The jaws of your carpet-bag with
its one tooth grinned open defiance, and
would not on any terms become a locked jaw.
You looked round in despair; for, a bottle of
Maraschino, a dozen of gloves, a new pair of
boots, and a "Guide to French Conversation,"
still lay on your toilette-table under an
unavailing sentence of transportation. The clock
of St. Gudule chimed the half hour; and
protracted exile on a foreign shore presented
itself horridly as your destiny. Captain Tune,
of the "City of Paris," advertised that he
would leave the wharf at seven, A.M., precisely;
and you knew that Time and Tune wait for
no man.