In the middle of the afternoon, we reached the Northern Railway Terminus (Embarcadere du Nord) in Paris. This magnificent station covers nearly 10 acres of ground. The arrival and departure sheds in the center are 230 metres long, and 70 metres wide. (The meter is equal to 39.370079 inches). Its facade is 180 metres long, 38 metres (about 125 feet) high and consists of a lofty central arch and two lateral arches. This imposing front is adorned with twenty-three colossal statues of noble female figures, representing the following, principal cities of Europe: Paris, (surmounting the central arch), Londres, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Frankfort, Vienne, Bruixelles, Cologne, Amsterdam, Donai, Dunkerque, Boulogne, Compeigne, St. Quentin, Cambrai, Beauvais, Lille, Armiens, Rouen, Arras, Laon, Calais, Valengiens. (1864).
There are a number of other very fine railway stations in Paris, but we can only take room to define their area. The largest is the Strasbourg Railway Terminus, nearly 13 acres in extent; while the Western Railway Terminus covers an area of 5 acres.
As soon as our train had stopped, I followed my French companion (Prof. S.) into the extensive apartments of the station, and passed muster. I expected to be asked for my “passport,” but slipped through unchallenged. On passing out into the yard I was again saluted by my English friends who were about entering a “bus” to drive to a hotel. In bidding each other good-by and god-speed on our journeys, I ran a great risk of losing my Parisian friend, in the great multitude of people that thronged the yard and pavement; but fortunately, I found him again in a few minutes.
Before we reached the street, I was already made to feel that some strange scenes and experiences were undoubtedly in store for me in Paris and likely throughout the rest of my continental tour, for I had already observed one of those strange social habits of the Parisians in a most public place which the nice delicacies of our language and customs forbid to describe.
The French, the Italians, and many of the inhabitants of South Germany and parts of Switzerland—I should say all the sunny lands in Europe—have handed down to our day, manners and customs which speak in a language that cannot be misunderstood, and with a force far louder than a whisper, that it is not very long since man took to dressing himself. In my intercourse with those people, from Paris to Egypt, I nowhere observed any baneful influences exerted over morality by these practices in question, for they are not thought about by those people which are guilty of them, but many an American will be shocked at them, and go home declaring that such indecencies must lead to immoralities, even if they have never gone to the trouble to see whether they actually do. Their pernicious influence upon American