She wore a wide straw hat with red ribbons, which fluttered in the wind behind her.
On the 15th of September, 1840, about six o’clock in the morning, theVille de Montereau, just on the point of starting, was sending forthgreat whirlwinds of smoke, in front of the Quai St. Bernard.
People came rushing on board in breathless haste. The traffic wasobstructed by casks, cables, and baskets of linen. The sailors answerednobody. People jostled one another. Between the two paddle-boxes waspiled up a heap of parcels; and the uproar was drowned in the loudhissing of the steam, which, making its way through the plates ofsheet-iron, enveloped everything in a white cloud, while the bell at theprow kept ringing continuously.
At last, the vessel set out; and the two banks of the river, stockedwith warehouses, timber-yards, and manufactories, opened out like twohuge ribbons being unrolled.
A young man of eighteen, with long hair, holding an album under his arm,remained near the helm without moving. Through the haze he surveyedsteeples, buildings of which he did not know the names; then, with aparting glance, he took in the Île St. Louis, the Cité, Nôtre Dame; andpresently, as Paris disappeared from his view, he heaved a deep sigh.
Frederick Moreau, having just taken his Bachelor’s degree, was returninghome to Nogent-sur-Seine, where he would have to lead a languishingexistence for two months, before going back to begin his legal studies.His mother had sent him, with enough to cover his expenses, to Havre tosee an uncle, from whom she had expectations of his receiving aninheritance. He had returned from that place only yesterday; and heindemnified himself for not having the opportunity of spending a littletime in the capital by taking the longest possible route to reach hisown part of the country.
The hubbub had subsided. The passengers had all taken their places. Someof them stood warming themselves around the machinery, and the chimneyspat forth with a slow, rhythmic rattle its plume of black smoke. Littledrops of dew trickled over the copper plates; the deck quivered with thevibration from within; and the two paddle-wheels, rapidly turning round,lashed the water. The edges of the river were covered with sand. Thevessel swept past rafts of wood which began to oscillate under therippling of the waves, or a boat without sails in which a man satfishing. Then the wandering haze cleared off; the sun appeared; the hillwhich ran along the course of the Seine to the right subsided bydegrees, and another rose nearer on the opposite bank.
It was crowned with trees, which surrounded low-built houses, coveredwith roofs in the Italian style. They had sloping gardens divided byfresh walls, iron railings, grass-plots, hot-houses, and vases ofgeraniums, laid out regularly on the terraces where one could leanforward on one’s elbow. More than one spectator longed, on beholdingthose attractive residences which looked so peaceful, to be the owner ofone of them, and to dwell there till the end of his days with a goodbilliard-table, a sailing-boat, and a woman or some other object todream about. The agreeable novelty of a journey by water made suchoutbursts natural. Already the wags on board were beginning their jokes.Many began to sing. Gaiety prevailed, and glasses of brandy were pouredout.
Frederick was thinking about the apartment which he would occupy overthere, on the plan of a drama, on subjects for pictures, on futurepassions. He found that the happiness merited by the excellence of hissoul was slow in arriving. He declaimed some melancholy verses. Hewalked with rapid step along the deck. He went on till he reached theend at which the bell was; and, in the centre of a group of passengersand sailors, he saw a gentleman talking soft nothings to acountry-woman, while fingering the gold cross which she wore over herbreast. He was a jovial blade of forty with frizzled hair. His robustform was encased in a jacket of black velvet, two emeralds sparkled inhis cambric shirt, and his wide, white trousers fell over odd-lookingred boots of Russian leather set off with blue designs.
The presence of Frederick did not discompose him. He turned round andglanced several times at the young man with winks of enquiry. He nextoffered cigars to all who were standing around him. But getting tired,no doubt, of their society, he moved away from them and took a seatfurther up. Frederick followed him.
The conversation, at first, turned on the various kinds of tobacco, thenquite naturally it glided into a discussion about women. The gentlemanin the red boots gave the young man advice; he put forward theories,related anecdotes, referred to himself by way of illustration, and hegave utterance to all these things in a paternal tone, with theingenuousness of entertaining depravity.
He was republican in his opinions. He had travelled; he was familiarwith the inner life of theatres, restaurants, and newspapers, and knewall the theatrical celebrities, whom he called by their Christian names.Frederick told him confidentially about his projects; and the elder mantook an encouraging view of them.
But he stopped talking to take a look at the funnel, then he wentmumbling rapidly through a long calculation in order to ascertain “howmuch each stroke of the piston at so many times per minute would cometo,” etc., and having found the number, he spoke about the scenery,which he admired immensely. Then he gave expression to his delight athaving got away from business.
Frederick regarded him with a certain amount of respect, and politelymanifested a strong desire to know his name. The stranger, without amoment’s hesitation, replied:
“Jacques Arnoux, proprietor of L’Art Industriel, BoulevardMontmartre.”