What joyous sounds of mirth come from each group—the clear voices ringing pleasantly on the ear, from creatures fair and blooming as the flowers of the rich parterres among which they wander! How each group examines the other—half-disposed to join in each other’s sports, but withheld by a vague fear of making the first advances—a fear which indicates that even already civilisation and the artificial habits it engenders, have taught them the restraint it imposes!
The nurses, too, scrutinise each other, and their little masters and misses, as they meet. They take in at a glance the toilettes of each, and judge with an extraordinary accuracy the station of life to which they appertain.
The child of noble birth is known by the simplicity of its dress and the good manners of its bonne; while that of the parvenu is at once recognised by the showiness and expensiveness of its clothes, and the superciliousness of its nurse, who, accustomed to the purse-proud pretensions of her employers, values nothing so much as all the attributes that indicate the possession of wealth.
The little children look wistfully at each other every time they meet; then begin to smile, and at length approach, and join, half-timidly, half-laughingly, in each other’s sports. The nurses, too, draw near, enter into a conversation, in which each endeavours to insinuate the importance of her young charge, and consequently her own; while the children have already contracted an intimacy, which is exemplified by running hand-in-hand together, their clear jocund voices being mingled.
It is a beautiful sight to behold these gay creatures, who have little more than passed the first two or three years of life, with the roses of health glowing on their dimpled cheeks, and the joyousness of infancy sparkling in their eyes.
They know nought of existence but its smiles; and, caressed by doating parents, have not a want unsatisfied. Entering life all hope and gaiety, what a contrast do they offer to the groups of old men who must so soon leave it, who are basking in the sunshine so near them! Yet they, too, have had their hours of joyous infancy; and, old and faded as they are, they have been doated on, as they gambolled like the happy little beings they now pause to contemplate.
There was something touching in the contrast of youth and age brought thus together, and I thought that more than one of the old men seemed to feel it as they looked on the happy children.
I met my new acquaintance, Dr. P——, who was walking with two or three savans; and, having spoken to him, he joined us in our promenade, and greatly added to its pleasure by his sensible remarks and by his cheerful tone of mind. He told me that the sight of the fine children daily to be met in the Luxembourg Gardens, was as exhilarating to his spirits as the gay flowers in the parterre and that he had frequently prescribed a walk here to those whose minds stood in need of such a stimulant.