Chapter IX. Versailles.

On my voyage across the Atlantic, I had formed the friendship of a young clergyman, (Rev. O.), of New York, who wished to make a summer vacation tour through western Europe, visiting Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. On comparing programmes, we noticed that he would likely come to Paris during the time that I had alotted to that city. We therefore agreed that each should drop a letter to the other, immediately after reaching Paris, so that he who should happen to come last might at once know where to find the other. One evening, when I came home, the card of Rev. O., my American friend, was handed to me by the landlord, who informed me by his gestures that he had been there to call on me. The card was backed by a note asking me to meet him at No. - , Rue - - - - . Though that street is perhaps not more than an eighth of a mile long, I soon found it upon my map of Paris, which was a very excellent one, as the maps of all large foreign cities generally are and must be, in order that persons who cannot speak the languages of those cities, may still be able to find any places without asking any one where they are or which way to go. The map of Paris, for example, is divided into numerous squares by arbitrary lines. Those which run vertically down the map are lettered, and those which cross it horizontally are numbered. At the side of the map is a table of all the streets, with references to the squares on the map, designating between what lines they are found, or which they intersect. By the aid of such a map, I started out the next morning to meet my friend, whose quarters were in a distant part of the city, about three miles away. I found him without difficulty. He was accompanied by two gentlemen from London that had come with him to see Paris and its environs. It is both novel and pleasant for two such lonely pilgrims as my New York friend and I were when we left home, to meet each other again in a foreign city, and introduce to each other the friends which one picked up by the way. We soon agreed to go all together to Versailles, the French Capital, that day. This was Tuesday, July 27th. At 10:40 a.m., we crossed the fortifications of Paris, and soon came into view of Bois de Boulogne, the great park of Paris. Five minutes later we crossed the Seine at St. Cloud, a small town, where we stopped to see the ruins occasioned by the siege of Paris in 1870. We had considerable trouble, however, in identifying the strongholds and redoubts held by the Prussians in that memorable siege, as nobody seemed to understand any of our French! On one occasion, Rev. O., while asking a lady for a certain place, called on Mr. K - - , one of the Londoners, to come and see whether he could make this woman understand any of his French! It was altogether a day of odd adventures and fun. After enjoying the lovely prospects an hour, we walked another hour in great perplexity as to what directions we should take to find a railway station where we might take a train for Versailles, but finally succeeded. We did not understand more from those who directed us, than the direction we should take, never knowing the distance. It is more than a joke, for a party to be obliged to walk several miles for a station, when they had expected to reach it in a quarter or half a mile at most! When we arrived at the station at Sevres, our difficulties only commenced. "When will the next train leave for Versailles, and where can we procure our tickets?" were questions which engaged our best energies and all our ingenuity for half an hour, besides a rash adventure on my part, before they were solved. (It seems to me now, that throughout my tour, I always got into more trouble when I had company to rely upon, than when I was alone). By means of motions with our hands and by pronouncing the name Versailles, we made them understand where we intended to go to; but when we asked for "billets," they did not offer us any. They showed us, however, that the train was due at 1:10, by pointing out those figures on the dial of the clock. About 15 minutes before the train was due, we asked again for tickets, and when they were again refused, we began to fear that the tickets had to be procured on the opposite side of the railroad. We therefore crossed by a foot-bridge near the station, but could not approach the house on the other side, on account of the high fence which shut every body off from the tracks. When our plans were thus frustrated our company became alarmed with the fear that we might miss the train for want of tickets, and fail to see Versailles that day. At this crisis I ascended the bridge and climbed down along the walls on the inside of the fence; suspending myself from the lowest iron bars along the bridge, I thus dropped myself into the yard below! But our discouragement reached its climax, when I found that the door was closed and locked, which we had hoped was the ticket office. I could not get out of that inclosure, as the fences were high, the gates locked and the bridge from which I had dropped myself, was out of my reach. Several railroad men saw me immediately, who appeared as much astonished at my coming into that place, as I was perplexed in my awkward position. I did not misinterpret their French this time, however, for the way they looked up toward the sky, and their gestures and chattering, plainly indicated that they wondered where I came from. I motioned them that I came "from above," and pointed toward the bridge. What fine or punishment might have been inflicted for my intrusion I do not know, but I was only rebuked in language which I did not understand, and sent out through one of the office doors which they unlocked for the purpose. My companions were now in great glee at this termination of my adventure, one of them observing that I might soon be landed in close quarters, at my present rate of progress! I responded that we were a party corporate, and that three fourths of what any one did was to the credit of the other three. The train soon came, and we took our places on the top of the cars and rode on to Versailles. This was the only ride I had in two-story railway cars, but our trip was such a delightful one in the second story of those cars, that I often wished for like accommodations again.

The National Assembly was in session when we reached Versailles, but we could not gain admittance. We immediately went to the Palace, which is devoted to the reception of a rich and splendid historical museum unparalleled in Europe. There are altogether some 34 salles or galleries, which require upwards of an hour to walk through. The paintings are arranged chronologically, and it is this classification, as well as the magnitude of the collection, that render the museum one of the most famous in Europe. Adjoining this palace, are the gardens and park, upon the establishment and improvement of which, Louis XIV., (1616) spent $200,000,000! This immense sum would pay a tract of land 100 miles long and 10 miles wide, bought at $300 per acre! Many millions have since been spent upon it. It is at the present day one of the finest pleasure-gardens in Europe. Its fountains are among the most magnificent in existence. These are made to play only once (the first Sunday) every month; to supply the water in sufficient aboundance for this magnificent display, costs on each occasion $2,000! It is a source of the purest happiness for a party of Republicans, as ours was, to see the very palace and gardens which Napoleon III. once occupied as a royal mansion, now held as the common property and the peaceful promenade of the pleasure-seeking masses. How changed the scene! That which was prepaired for the king, is now enjoyed by the common people. Such are the fruits of the French Republic, which has now broken the fetters of royalty for the third time.

On Sunday, August 1st., I visited this garden and park again, this time to see the fountains play. It is impossible to do justice to this pleasure-garden even in two days. In the center is the grand canal 186 feet wide and nearly a mile long, intersected at right angles by another canal that is 3,000 feet long. My rambles were confined to the section intervening between the palace and the Bassin d'Apollon, which is at the nearer end of the Grand Canal. The fountains and jets in this section, north and south of the Allee du Tapis Vert (green lawn), are almost innumerable. They do not all play at the same time, so the crowd can follow them from basin to basin until Neptune with his numerous jets, the last and the greatest of them all, is reached. The Terrasse du Chateau with Silenus, Antinous, Apollo and Bacchus, after the antique, lies next to the palace. Immediately below is the Parterre d'Eau, upon whose border repose twenty-four magnificent groups in bronze, namely, eight groups of children, eight nymphs and the four principal rivers of France, with their tributaries. Toward the left of this lies the Parterre du Midi, and still further south, along the palace, lies the Orangerie. A flight of 103 steps lead down to an iron gate on the road to Brest.

Parterre de Latone lies in advance of Parterre d'Eau, which two paterres (pits) the Allee du Tapis Vert (green carpet) and the Grand Canal, lie in a straight line and present a charming view nearly a mile and a quarter in length. Bassin Latone is surrounded by a semi-circular terrace crowned with yew-trees and a range of statues and groups in marble. (It would require the space of a volume to describe all the fine statuary of this garden). This fountain consists of five circular basins rising one above the other in the form of a pyramid, surmounted by a group of Latona with Apollo and Diana. "The goddess implores the vengeance of Jupiter against the peasants of Libya, who refused her water, and the peasants, already metamorphosed, some half, and others entirely, into frogs and tortoises, are placed on the edge of the different tablets, and throw forth water upon Latona in every direction, thus forming liquid arches of the most beautiful effect." Walking down the green velvet lawn, we came to the Bassin d'Apollon. Apollo, the God of Day, is emerging from the water in a chariot drawn by four horses, and surrounded by a throng of sea-monsters. Several other fountains represent the seasons. Spring is represented by Flora and Summer by Ceres. Winter appears in a group representing Saturn surrounded by children; and Bacchus, reclining upon grapes and surrounded by infant satyrs, represents Autumn. Near the Tapis Vert, in the midst of a dense grove, is a magnificent rotunda composed of 32 marble columns, united by arches and supporting a number of marble vases. Under the arcades, are a circular range of fountains, "and in the middle is a fine group of the Rape of Proserpine."

The largest and most splendid fountain in the park, is the Bassin de Neptune. Upon its southern border stand 22 ornamental vases, each with a jet in the center. Against the same side, are three colossal groups in lead. The central one represents Neptune and Amphitrite seated in an immense shell and surrounded by tritons, nymphs and sea-monsters. On the left is Oceanus resting upon a sea-unicorn, and on the right, Proteus, the son of Oceanus. There are several other groups; and from the jets of these, amounting to some 55 or 60 in all, issues a deluge of water, when the gates are opened. A quarter of an hour in advance of the appointed time, about 15,000 persons had assembled upon the circular terrace, facing this magnificent fountain, and were waiting with breathless anxiety to see old Neptune take his turn. We had seen the wonders and beauties presented by the other fountains as they shot their silvery columns, and clouds of vapor high into the air, or spanned their pyramidal basins with innumerable liquid arches intersecting each other in every conceivable direction; but the grandest sight, it was said, was still in store for us. All the other fountains had commenced their playing with humble spasms - the columns rising higher by degrees, but old Neptune took every body by surprise. Hundreds leaped and shouted for joy, when they saw that the southern heavens, which had been so clear and beautiful but a moment before, were suddenly whitened with clouds of vapor upon which the rays of the western sun produced a most charming effect. A gentle breeze gave to each spouting jet, a misty tail, comet-like in appearance to the admiring spectators.

An Incident

which added much to my pleasures and enjoyments of that glorious day, deserves notice here, as it illustrates that if one even starts to make the tour of the world alone, so that he may not be detained by the loiterings of a companion whose tastes and fancies differ from his, need not therefore be without pleasant associates when he is in want of them. Early in the afternoon, as I was about taking my seat under the shade of a yew-tree on a terrace where I might have a fair view of Bassin de Latone, (the play of whose liquid arches render it the most beautiful of all in the garden), I was accidentally met by the same English party with whom I had traveled from London to Paris. It was a happy meeting indeed, and the incidents of our walks and conversations upon that pleasure-garden will ever remain fresh and green on memory's tablet. They had finished their tour of Germany and returned in time to spent the great day of the month at Versailles. As the band was discoursing excellent music, the fountains playing, and crowds of people streaming hither and thither in the midst of these splendid scenes, one of the ladies passed a remark which I only learned to appreciate fully, several months afterwards. She said, "I love the quiet English Sabbath." Her father had experienced before what the continental Sabbath was, but his daughters, though they appreciated these charming scenes none the less, would have preferred them on week-days; for, nearly a month of sight-seeing among a people who keep no Sundays such as we do, had made them long for a day of sweet and silent repose. Several months later, after I had traveled through France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, without finding a day of rest such as England and America make of their Sundays, I felt that even the pleasure-seeker should rest one day in seven. Often thought of the "quiet English" and American Sabbaths.