Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/251

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"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"Shakespeare.






No. 290.] SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.



There is a French city whose name, in English, means simply Water's Edge. The same name might serve in common for hundreds of other towns, villages, and hamlets; but the city to which I now am journeying holds itself to be no commonplace town. It has peers of France among its wine-merchants. It has a brick-and-stone bridge longer than Waterloo Bridge in London. It has a theatre, probably the handsomest in Europe, considering it both outside and in, where the sensible arrangement is made of keeping the scenery and properties in a separate building, to diminish the risk of fire; on which topic, see a future paragraph. In that magnificent opera-house, you may sit in the pit in a well-stuffed, plush-lined armchair; you may admire the ladies in the chorus with yellow bodices and black and purple petticoats; you may hear an opera, perhaps Verdi's Jerusalem, and remark that the army of female pilgrims must have had an excellent commissariat with them, to keep them in such tidy order and excellent plight; you may see a ballet marvellously danced and dressed, all for the sum of one and eight-pence English. This proud, luxurious city has a noble, horse-shoe-shaped, but ill-paved quay, on which hogsheads of wine are lying about, like so much worthless goods. It looks as if all the tubs in the world had convened a meeting there, to agitate a reform of their grievances. There are tubs new, tubs old, tubs yellow, tubs purple, tubs black, tubs on end, tubs reclining, tubs on shore, tubs on board ship, tubs sound in wind and limb, other tubs with their ribs staved in, everywhere tubs, tubs, tubs! And the sleek, soft-eyed, fawn-coloured bullocks, who drag, in pairs, those tubs about, or loads of wood, or do other leisurely work,—I wonder if Rosa Bonheur has painted them yet! If she hasn't, she ought to run down to the South purposely. Each of those oxen is allowed, I should think, a bottle of wine and bread-and-butter at discretion, at their déjeûner and dinner: how else should they be so fat and well-liking? I also entertain considerable doubts whether those aldermanic bullocks are ever transmuted into beef; it would be too near an approach to cannibalism to eat them. On the portion of the quay named Des Chartrons, there are elm-trees pruned to represent chandeliers (which causes them to grow short and stubby, and in many instances to be covered with gouty nodosities), and surrounded at their base with earth and tub-staves, so that their living trunks serve as mooring-posts for the goodly show of vessels in the crescent reach of the noble river. The show of shipping is goodly certainly; but with pride let me waive all comparisons, by informing you (even while strolling through the capital of clarets, Bordeaux the Stately), that there is only one London and one Thames in the world.

The ground-plan of wealthy, luxurious Bordeaux is a slight modification of the diagram of the Asses' Bridge, which has proved impassable to so many students of Euclid. The two sides of the triangle to be produced, AB, AC, are two long, long streets named ——— Cours, that start from a common apex, a tobacco-factory. But, instead of the cob-web network, or cat's-cradle, below the base CB of the too often impregnable, un-Sebastopolitan triangle, the river Garonne forms a sweeping horse-shoe, and serves as a highway for migratory salmon, who afterwards migrate by land, over the Pyrenees, as far as Madrid. Were this crescent backed by a range of hills, up which the town might mount in a continued slope, the effect would be magnificent. The townsfolk, however, are equally content to flit to and fro on level ground through the handsome streets, many of which are called fossés, or ditches, from their occupying the site of former fortifications. The river's bank, on the side which skirts the town, is lined with a vast arc-of-a-circle of quays. The general front of the quay slopes down to the water's edge at a gentle inclination, on the face of which the ebbing tides deposit abundance of drift-straw and cast-out rubbish, whose investigation would afford a clue to the nature of the cargo, destination, and habits of the vessels in the port at the time. From the quays, straight narrow streets dart away. Many of the houses composing them have almost flat roofs, covered with convex tiles, after the Italian, or rather the southern, style. There is something in the look of the place, somethingVOL. XIL 290