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Our French Watering-Place
HAVING earned, by many years of fidelity, the right to be sometimes inconstant to our
English watering-place, we have dallied for two or three seasons with a French
watering-place: once solely known to us as a town with a very long street, beginning
with an abattoir and ending with a steam-boat, which it seemed our fate to behold only
at daybreak on winter mornings, when (in the days before continental railroads), just
sufficiently awake to know that we were most uncomfortably asleep, it was our destiny
always to clatter through it, in the coupe of the diligence from Paris, with a sea of mud
behind us, and a sea of tumbling waves before. In relation to which latter monster, our
mind's eye now recalls a worthy Frenchman in a seal-skin cap with a braided hood over
it, once our travelling companion in the coupe aforesaid, who, waking up with a pale and
crumpled visage, and looking ruefully out at the grim row of breakers enjoying
themselves fanatically on an instrument of torture called 'the Bar,' inquired of us whether
we were ever sick at sea? Both to prepare his mind for the abject creature we were
presently to become, and also to afford him consolation, we replied, 'Sir, your servant is
always sick when it is possible to be so.' He returned, altogether uncheered by the
bright example, 'Ah, Heaven, but I am always sick, even when it is IMpossible to be so.'
The means of communication between the French capital and our French watering-
place are wholly changed since those days; but, the Channel remains unbridged as yet,
and the old floundering and knocking about go on there. It must be confessed that
saving in reasonable (and therefore rare) sea-weather, the act of arrival at our French
watering-place from England is difficult to be achieved with dignity. Several little
circumstances combine to render the visitor an object of humiliation. In the first place,
the steamer no sooner touches the port, than all the passengers fall into captivity: being
boarded by an overpowering force of Custom-house officers, and marched into a
gloomy dungeon. In the second place, the road to this dungeon is fenced off with ropes
breast-high, and outside those ropes all the English in the place who have lately been
sea-sick and are now well, assemble in their best clothes to enjoy the degradation of
their dilapidated fellow-creatures. 'Oh, my gracious! how ill this one has been!' 'Here's a
damp one coming next!' 'HERE'S a pale one!' 'Oh! Ain't he green in the face, this next
one!' Even we ourself (not deficient in natural dignity) have a lively remembrance of
staggering up this detested lane one September day in a gale of wind, when we were
received like an irresistible comic actor, with a burst of laughter and applause,
occasioned by the extreme imbecility of our legs.
We were coming to the third place. In the third place, the captives, being shut up in the
gloomy dungeon, are strained, two or three at a time, into an inner cell, to be examined