I was better pleased with the Luxembourg gardens than with the palace. They are more beautiful than the Tuileries gardens and are much more democratic. Trees, plants, and flowers seemed to me to abound in them to a greater extent than in any other garden in Paris. On beautiful days they are full of women and children. Troops of the latter, beautiful as the sky which covers them, come to this place and play the long hours of a summer afternoon away, with their mothers and nurses following them about or sitting quietly under the shade of the trees, engaged in the double employment of knitting and watching the frolicsome humors of their children. I was very fond of going to these gardens in the afternoon, just to look at the array of mothers and children, and it was as pretty a sight as can be seen in all Paris. It is a sight which New York—be it spoken to her shame—does not furnish.
[Illustration: JARDIN ET PALAIS DU LUXEMBOURG.]
In the summer evenings a band of music plays for an hour to a vast multitude. Four of the finest bands in Paris take turns in playing at seven o’clock, four evenings in the week, and their music is of the highest order. Perhaps fifty thousand people are gathered at once, men, women, and children, to listen to the delicious music and the gathering in itself is a sight worth seeing. The great majority promenade slowly around the band, some stand still, and a very few rent chairs and sit. Nearly all the men smoke, and occasionally a woman does the same. But the flavor of the tobacco is execrable. What substitute the French use I know not, but the villainous smells which come from the cigars smoked by the majority of Frenchmen indicate something very bad. Cabbage leaves—so extensively used to make cigars with in England—do not give forth so vile a stench.
I always noticed in the Luxembourg gardens many fine looking men, and some elegantly dressed and lady-like women, but the majority of the latter were grisettes, or mistresses. Many students were promenading with their little temporary wives, not in the least ashamed to make such a public display of their vices. The women present might be divided into four classes; the gay but not vicious, students’ mistresses, ordinary strumpets, and the poor but virtuous, by far the majority belonging to those classes which have a poor reputation. Yet the conduct of those women was in every respect proper. There were no indecent gestures, and not a loud word spoken which would have been out of place in a drawing-room. Not a woman addressed one of the opposite sex.
Directly in front of the Luxembourg palace there is a bower of orange trees and statues railed off from other portions of the garden. It presents an extremely beautiful appearance. In front of it there is a fine basin of water and a fountain. Four nude marble boys support a central basin, from which the water pours. The ground directly in front of the palace is lower than it is on either side, and a row of fine orange trees extends out on either hand from the palace, and flowers of every description mingle their fragrance with that of the orange blossoms. Groves of trees extend far to the right and left, and to the south, there are fine gardens devoted to the cultivation of rare plants and every variety of fruit trees.