Standing beside this noble gate on a pleasant summer afternoon, and watching countless carriages roll westward from the city, one naturally asks himself: "Where are these people going in such numbers?" It is easily explained. Their destination is the Bois de Boulogne, the charming park so dear to all Parisian hearts. If one knows Paris customs well, he can encounter in the Bois almost all the distinguished people of the French metropolis. For every one comes here. The only question is, just when to find them. Strangely enough, the morning hours are the ones when the most aristocratic ladies of Paris take their drives and walks in the Bois. Foreign pleasure-seekers usually make their appearance in the afternoon; but between ten and twelve in the forenoon these avenues are comparatively deserted, save by equestrian officers, ladies of rank, or gentlemen of leisure. It is a pretty feature of the Bois, that, though so fashionable and crowded in certain parts, a few steps from the thoroughfares will bring one into rustic scenes, where one is apparently a hundred miles removed from the great capital. It is in such places that I have often watched the happy family life which is so characteristic of the French.
It is a great mistake to base one's opinion of domestic life in France on novels of a certain character. One of the most beautiful sights in France is the filial respect, reverence, and love shown by a son or daughter. In no country in the world are parents and children seen more frequently enjoying life together, in many instances deriving pleasure from simple things which we regard as valueless, - just as French cooks will make a most delicious meal from food that we would discard.
Skating In The Bois.
In The Bois.
Upon a little island in the centre of the Seine stands the historic church of Notre Dame. The situation of this cathedral marks the cradle of the present city. Two thousand years ago, both sides of the river were lined with forests, and on this island were the primitive dwellings of the warlike tribe which was vanquished with difficulty by Caesar in his conquest of Gaul. The name of these brave warriors, the " Parish," is still repeated daily in the words "Paris" and "Parisian;" yet Frenchmen need not blush at such a derivation, for the Parisii displayed the utmost courage in their conflict with the Romans, and the testimony of their conqueror is that not a Gaul abandoned his post, but that all of them were surrounded and slain, together with their aged chief.
The Cross of Christ has replaced both the altar of those barbarians and the temple built here by the Romans. For more than seven hundred years prayers have ascended from this shrine to God. What memories are awakened, therefore, by the sight of these square towers! What scenes they have looked down upon during these eventful centuries! To recapitulate them all would practically be to give the history of France. For example, above the pointed doorways, filled with sculptured forms, stands a long line of statues representing old French kings. The figures themselves, however, are not ancient; for, at the time of the Revolution the originals were broken in pieces by the mob.
Notre Dame De Paris.
That was a gloomy period in the history of Notre Dame. Not only were the statues of her kings destroyed: Religion, too, was banished from this ancient fane. It was converted into a Temple of Rationalism, and in the ceremony of its dedication for this purpose, a woman of doubtful character impersonated here the Goddess of Reason. One recollects with gratitude whose hand it was that opened this, and countless other churches, once more for religious worship; whose voice it was that summoned from French dungeons faithful priests, who, far too conscientious to abjure their faith, had languished there for years; and, finally, whose mind it was that recognized the need of a religion for the nation, and reestablished it throughout the empire. It was the hand, the voice, and the mind of the first Napoleon. This old cathedral is a noble specimen of Gothic architecture. The long-drawn aisles, the fluted columns, the delicately pointed arches, the lofty intersections of the nave and transepts, the splendid windows of stained glass, through which the sunlight falls, apparently with the ruby and golden tints of autumnal leaves, - all these appeal to us with a mysterious charm that makes us speak in softer tones. And yet, it is not so much the architecture that thus moves us as it is the memory of all that has occurred here during seven centuries, - the baptisms, the marriages, the burial services, the splendid pageantry of royal weddings and of coronations, the voices which have echoed here, the men and women who have trod this pavement, and whom these very columns have seen come and go like insects fluttering for a moment on the incense-laden air.