But here comes the difficulty; there may be elections, but not the shadow of an elector. Of candidates there are enough, more than enough, even to spare; Toting lists where the electors’ names are inscribed; ballot-urns-no, ballot-boxes this time-to receive the lists; these are all to be found, but voters to put the lists into the ballot-boxes, to elect the candidates, we seek them in vain. The voting localities may be compared to the desert of Sahara viewed at the moment when not a caravan is to be seen on the whole extent of the horizon, so complete is the solitude wherever the eager crowd of voters was expected to hasten to the poll. Are we then so far from the day when the Commune of Paris, in spite of the numerous absentees, was formed—thanks to the strenuous efforts of the few electors left to us? Alas! At that time we had still some illusions left to us, whilst now.... Have you ever been at the second representation of a piece when the first was a failure? The first day there was a cram, the second day only the claque remained. People had found oat the worth of the piece, you see. Nevertheless, though the place is peopled only with silence and solitude, the claque continues to do its duty, for it receives its pay. For the same reason one sees a few battalions marching to the poll, all together, in step, just as they would march to the fighting at the Porte Maillot; and as they return they cry, “Oh! citizens, how the people are voting! Never was such enthusiasm seen!” But behind the scenes,—I mean in the Hotel de Ville,—authors and actors whisper to each other: “There is no doubt about it, it is a failure!”
leaving the gulf of Otranto
There were thirty of us there,
But on arriving at Cadiz
There were no more than ten.
And what has become of the Bourse? What are the brokers and jobbers saying and doing now? I ask myself this question for the first time, as in ordinary circumstances, the Bourse is of all sublunary things that which occupies me the least. I am one of those excessively stupid people, who have never yet been able to understand how all those black-coated individuals can occupy three mortal hours of every day, in coming and going beneath the colonnade of the “temple of Plutus.” I know perfectly well that stockbrokers and jobbers exist; but if I were asked what these stockbrokers and jobbers do, I should be incapable of answering a single word. We have all our special ignorances. I have heard, it is true, of the Corbeille, but I ingeniously imagined, in my simple ignorance, that this famous basket was made in wicker work, and crammed with sweet-scented leaves and flowers, which the gentlemen of the Bourse, with the true gallantry of their nation, made up into emblematical bouquets to offer to their lady friends. I was shown, however, how much I was deceived by a friend who enlightened me, more or less, as to what is really done in the Bourse in usual times, and what they are doing there now.