Over the tavern, as its sign-board, hangs MARCEL’s picture, “The Passage of the Red Sea,” while underneath, in large letters, is the inscription. “At the Port of Marseilles.” On either side of the door are frescoes of a Turk and a Zouave with a huge laurel-wreath round his fez. From the ground-floor windows of the tavern, which faces the toll-gate, light gleams. The plane-trees, grey and gaunt, which flank the toll-gate square, lead diagonally towards the two boulevards. Between each tree is a marble bench. It is towards the close of February; snow covers all.
As the curtain rises, the scene is merged in the dim light of early dawn. In front of a brazier are seated, in a group, snoring custom-house officers. From the tavern at intervals one may hear laughter, shouts, and the clink of glasses. A custom-house official comes out of the tavern with wine. The toll-gate is closed.
Behind the toll-gate, stamping their feet and blowing in their frost-bitten fingers, stand several street-scavengers._
SCAVENGERS. What ho, there! What ho, there!
Make haste and let us pass,
The sweepers are we. (stamping their feet)
Look how it’s snowing! What ho, there!
We are frozen!
AN OFFICIAL. (yawning and stretching himself) All right!
(Goes to open the gate; the scavengers pass through to the Rue d’Enfer. The official closes the gate again.)
CHORUS. (from the tavern; the clink of glasses
forms an accompaniment
to the song)
Pass the glass,
Let each toast his lass;
Pass the glass,
Let each lad toast his lass;
Each one as he sips,
As he sips his wine,
Shall dream of lips
Made for love divine!
MUS. (from the tavern)
As the toper loves his glass,
So the gallant loves his lass.
CHORUS. (all bursting into laughter) Noah and Eve!
MILK WOMEN. (from within) Houp-la! Houp-la!
(A sergeant comes out of the guard-house and orders the toll-gate to be opened.)
CUSTOM HOUSE OFFICIAL. Here come the women with their milk.
(A tinkling of cart-bells is heard.)
CARTERS. (from within) Houp-la!
(Carts pass along the outer boulevard, lighted by large lanterns.)
MILK WOMEN. (quite close) Houp-la!
(The gloom gradually gives way to daylight.)
MILK WOMEN. (to the officials who admit them to
PEASANT WOMEN. (who enter carrying baskets)
Chickens and eggs!
SOME. Which way, then, are you going?
OTHERS. Up to Saint Michael’s.
SOME. Well, shall we see you later?
OTHERS. At twelve o’clock.
(They go off in various directions, and the officials remove the bench and brazier.)