[Illustration: Palais de la Bourse]
But I have been stopping in a curiosity shop when I should be on my way to the Bourse. The Paris Bourse, or Exchange, is perhaps the finest building of its kind on the continent. Its magnificence is very properly of the most solid and substantial kind. For should not the exchange for the greatest merchants of Paris be built in a stable rather than in a slight and beautiful manner? The form of the structure is that of a parallelogram, and it is two hundred and twelve by one hundred and twenty-six feet. It is surrounded by sixty-six Corinthian columns, which support an entablature and a worked attic. It is approached by a flight of steps which extend across the whole western front. Over the western entrance is the following inscription—BOURSE ET TRIBUNAL DE COMMERCE. The roof is made of copper and iron. The hall in the center of the building where the merchants meet is very large—one hundred and sixteen feet long and seventy-six feet broad. Just below the cornice are inscribed the names of the principal cities in the world, and over the middle arch there is a clock, which on an opposite dial-plate marks the direction of the wind out of doors.
The hall is lighted from the roof—the ceiling is covered with fine paintings, or as they are styled “monochrane drawings.” Europe, Asia, Africa, and America are represented in groups. In one, the city of Paris is represented as delivering her keys to the God of Commerce, and inviting Commercial Justice to enter the walls prepared for her.
The hall is paved with a fine marble, and two thousand persons can be accommodated upon the central floor. There is a smaller inclosure at the east end, where the merchants and stockholders transact their daily business. The hours are from one o’clock to three for the public stocks, and till half past five for all others. The public is allowed to visit the Bourse from nine in the morning till five at night. A very singular regulation exists in reference to the ladies. No woman is admitted into the Bourse without a special order from the proper authorities. The cause for this is the fact that years ago, when ladies were admitted to the Bourse, they became very much addicted to gambling there, and also enticed the gentlemen into similar practices. It is not likely that the old stockholders were tempted into any vicious practices, but the presence of women was enough to attract another class of men—idlers and fashionable gamblers—until the exchange was turned into a gambling-saloon. The matter was soon set to rights when women were shut out.