The most elaborately decorated apartment in this building is its foyer. Such corridors are far more used in European places of amusement than in America. The reason is obvious. In European theatres, although the intervals between the acts are usually longer than our own, there is never any music to relieve the tedium of waiting. Hence, almost as a matter of necessity, spectators leave their seats and stroll about until the warning stroke recalls them for another act. This custom is often insufferably wearisome to a foreigner, who finds himself in the gay multitude a perfect stranger, experiencing all the miseries of a ball or grand reception, with none of their redeeming features.
The Inauguration Of The Grand Opera House.
The eastern terminus of the Boulevards is the Place de la Bastille. Here stood, a century ago, that stronghold of tyranny and cruelty, the anniversary of whose destruction by the people is the great national festival of France.
The Bastille was an enormous edifice of stone, surrounded by a massive wall one hundred feet in height, fifteen feet thick at the top and forty at the base. Above this rose in gloomy grandeur eight huge towers. The whole was encircled by a moat one hundred and twenty feet in width and twenty-five feet deep. For more than five hundred years this monument of tyranny had rested on the breast of France, and it is not exaggeration to say that the instances of horrible injustice known to have been perpetrated within its walls (not to mention crimes which found no place upon the page of history) would fill a volume. The dungeons of the Bastille were slimy with the mould of ages, they swarmed with vermin, and only a few rays of light stole in through narrow clefts in the thick wall. No fresh air could find an entrance there, to purify cells foul with corruption. It seems incredible that this huge emblem of despotic power could have been taken by the people. The garrison had every advantage, for, through loopholes in the wall, it fired directly on the masses that assailed it. On the other hand, the bullets of the populace struck harmlessly against the solid masonry. In a short time, one hundred and eighty of the crowd were dead, while only one of the garrison was slain. Yet this massacre was not in vain. There were among the garrison French soldiers whose sympathies were in favor of the people. At sight, then, of this slaughter of their fellow-citizens, they summoned the Governor of the Bastille to surrender. This man, who knew that he was hated for his cruelty and avarice, saw that in either event his fate was sealed. His decision was therefore prompt and terrible. Seizing a lighted torch, he rushed into the powder-magazine. There, almost within his reach, was enough powder to blow the Bastille and its environs to atoms, and bury fifty thousand people in its ruins. A moment more and this terrific catastrophe might have occurred. But two soldiers threw themselves between him and the casks of powder, and drove him back with bayonets. At last, a pistol at his head, he signed a note of capitulation. The bridge was lowered. A living deluge of the populace rushed over it. The Bastille was taken, and its prisoners were set free.
The Column Of The Bastille.
But this was not enough. The horrible prison was to be destroyed. It must have been a soul-stirring spectacle, - that of the population of Paris tearing down this fortress, in which had been immured so many innocent victims. During a year's time it was covered, day after day, with men, women, and even children, toiling with inexpressible ardor and enthusiasm. And when at last it had really disappeared, then, on the site of dark and loathsome dungeons, this spacious square was opened evermore to the sweet light and breath of heaven, while many of the stones composing the Bastille itself were formed into a bridge spanning the Seine, and are thus daily trampled under foot by thousands of liberated Frenchmen. At present, too, the site of the Bastille is marked by a stately column crowned by a gilded figure of Liberty, holding in one hand a torch and in the other a broken chain.
On The Champs-Elysees.