English Literature

How Paris Amuses Itself by F. Berkeley Smith

How Paris Amuses Itself by F. Berkeley Smith

Chapter One


Alcazar d’Été, the open-air café concert of the Champs-Élysées, you go there some afternoon, and are ushered by a waiter through a narrow corridor of the adjoining restaurant, past little rooms, shining in copper pots and pans, and pungent with steaming sauces, through a pair of swinging doors well worn by hurrying waiters, and into a square room piled high with snow-white linen, pyramids of lump sugar, and rows of glittering silver. Half hidden in a corner among this spotless collection you discover a desk presided over by madame, who greets you pleasantly and produces for your inspection from beneath a litter of dinner checks and bills the seating diagram of the Alcazar.

“Does Monsieur wish seats for the evening, and in what location?” madame asks.

You suggest two in the third row.

Bon,” replies madame, approvingly. She dips a pen in violet ink and writes carefully upon a checklike document the numbers of the chosen seats, tears this check from its stub, blots it, and scratches the corresponding numbers from the diagram. “Voilà, Monsieur,” and she hands you your ticket. Then she dives into the pocket of her petticoat for the key to a money-drawer from which to make your change. Finally, as you raise your hat to go, she adds, in parting assurance, with a little shrug of her shoulders beneath her worsted shawl: “I am sure Monsieur will find the seats excellent; I should have chosen them myself.”

All this takes time, but I must confess that I like the pantry method better than having my change blown at me through the pigeon-window of a draughty box-office, with the last rear seats in the house slapped out to me, all the desirable ones being in the mercenary hands of a band of sidewalk pirates.



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