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قراءة كتاب The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 10, No. 281, November 3, 1827

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‏اللغة: English
The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction
Volume 10, No. 281, November 3, 1827

The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 10, No. 281, November 3, 1827

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6

over a bottle of vin ordinaire at eleven o'clock in the morning, particularly in the neighbourhood of the markets. In England such amusements would be illegal, and the victualler who allowed them in his house would probably be deprived of his license.

In France every man plays at billiards—nay, every village has its billiard tables, one of which is almost as frequent an article of furniture in private houses, as piano-fortes are in England; and the sign of two maces crossed, and the inscriptions "Cafè et Billards" are as common over the wine-houses in the provinces, as chequers formerly were in our own country towns. I remember meeting with a curious adventure during my last residence in Paris. One morning, while leisurely walking in Rue Montmartre, I was accosted in French, by a respectably dressed man, apparently about fifty, who inquired of me the situation of —— street, (for at this moment I do not recollect the name). I replied that, being a foreigner, I could not afford him the required information, at the same time referring him to the next shop. He did not follow my suggestion, but almost at the very instant my eye caught the name of the street for which he had just inquired. The stranger then told me that being on a visit to the capital, he was anxious to see the interior of the palace of the Tuilleries, and was proceeding to a friend resident in the above street, who had promised to procure him admission to the royal residence, notwithstanding the king was then in Paris. I congratulated him on his success, having been, a few days previous, disappointed in the same object, when he offered also to procure admission for myself and one or two of my friends. We accordingly entered a second rate cafè, when, I made up to the garçon and demanded of him whether orders for viewing the Tuilleries were to be obtained there: he made no reply, but my friend of the street, who had by this time partly ascended a staircase at the extremity of the room, beckoned, and anxiously besought me to accompany him. I did so, notwithstanding I was aware that Paris, as well as London, had its "frauds." We entered a large room, the first impression of which, on some minds, would have been that of terror. In the centre stood a handsome billiard-table, over which were two dirty lamps with reflectors; the walls were papered in tawdry French taste, the ceiling black with smoke, and the whole room but indifferently lighted with a disproportionate and dusty window: the door, too, seemed planned for security, having a large lock and two bolts inside, but exhibited marks of recent repair from violent fracture. In short, there was a lurking suspicion about the place, which was not lessened by my companion meeting with a partner. From their conversation I learned they were both foreigners, and were waiting for a friend to bring the orders to view the palace, so that all the story was as yet in keeping, and I was introduced as a suitor for the same favour. My fellows "in waiting" showed much impatience, complained of cold, and politely asked me to take a glass of liqueur with them, at the same time taking up the mace and beginning to amuse themselves at the billiard-table. I looked on; they asked me to join them; I declined, and professed ignorance of the game; but their importunities became more pressing, and at last troublesome. Not a word further was said of the palace admission. I now judged it time to take my leave, and advancing towards the door for that purpose, I perceived my companions moved also: I profited by the hint, and seizing the handle of the door, thanked them for their civility, assured them I could wait no longer, but would call in half-an-hour—leaped down the stairs, and did not stop till I reached Rue Montmartre. I afterwards learned this was a common street trick in Paris to decoy strangers to the billiard-table, and had I taken the mace in hand, it would most probably have been at the expense of a good dinner for my companions, as a smart for my credulity.

A few evenings subsequent to this common-place incident, I strolled into a house of play in the palais royal, the situation having been previously pointed out to me by a friend.1 The entrance was through a narrow passage by a silversmith's shop, on the ground floor, at the end of which a strong light shone through the figures denoting the number of the house, largely cut in tin; alas! thought I, a fatal number to many thousands. On the principal landing, being that above the entre-sol story, I gently tapped at a handsome door, which was almost as gently opened. My friend (for I was not alone,) having deposited his hat and stick with the garçon, was allowed to pass, but I was stopped for want of—whiskers; till assuring him that I was older than he took me to be, and an Englishman—I was also permitted to pass. We first entered a small room, in which was a roulette-table surrounded by players, and well staked: this communicated by folding-doors with a spacious saloon with a double table for Trente-et-un, or Rouge et Noir, round which were seated the players, behind whom stood a few lookers-on, and still fewer young men, whose stakes were "few and far between,"—probably those of cautious adventurers, or novices pecking at the first-fruits of play. Nothing is better described in books than the folly of gaming, and the sufferings of its victims; but, like Virgil, in his picture of Heaven, they fall short in describing their extasies; a failing on the right side, or perhaps purposely made, for the happiness of mankind. The seated visitors here seemed to be quite at home, some picking up their Napoleons and five franc pieces, and others recording the issues of the game, and illustrating the doctrine of chances by pricking holes in cards. A death-like stillness prevailed, interrupted only by the monotonous result of the deal of the cards, and the bewitching, though not frequent chink of gold and silver. The success of the winners was as silent as the disappointment of the losers; neither joy nor grief displaying itself otherwise than in an almost unvaried tristesse on the countenances of the seated players—in some measure produced by ill health and intense anxiety so as to conceal better feelings. I took my station at one end of the table beside a middle-aged Frenchman, and by way of forfeit-money (for mere lookers on are not very acceptable company) threw a few five-franc pieces, one by one, on the same colour with his stakes, each of which varied from one to ten Napoleons. After twelve chances I had lost about thirty francs, but the Frenchman continued playing, and within twenty minutes rose a winner of three hundred Napoleons, which the banker changing for paper, he coolly put into his waistcoat pocket, and walked off. A slight emotion was visible around the table, but there was no other expression. I had now time to look around me, and enjoy a little reflection for my foolish risk. It would be difficult to say whether more anxiety was displayed among the sitters, or the company at their backs. The attractive foci of all eyes were the everlasting varieties of red and black, though not accompanied by the usual grotesque mob of kings, queens, and knaves, the latter being probably excluded by the jealousy of their living fraternity around the table. A strong and steady light spread over the faces of all present, and in some few showed the quiverings and workings of the most intense passion; but the same stare or tip-toe of hope and fear pervaded the whole assemblage. Some counted their money with apparent caution, and seemed to divide their winnings from their store with affected precision, probably with an idea of the winnings being unfit