PARIS IN MAY—FRENCH GIRLS—THE EMPEROR AT LONGCHAMPS
It was the first of May when we came up from Italy. The spring grew on us as we advanced north; vegetation seemed further along than it was south of the Alps. Paris was bathed in sunshine, wrapped in delicious weather, adorned with all the delicate colors of blushing spring. Now the horse-chestnuts are all in bloom) and so is the hawthorn; and in parks and gardens there are rows and alleys of trees, with blossoms of pink and of white; patches of flowers set in the light green grass; solid masses of gorgeous color, which fill all the air with perfume; fountains that dance in the sunlight as if just released from prison; and everywhere the soft suffusion of May. Young maidens who make their first communion go into the churches in processions of hundreds, all in white, from the flowing veil to the satin slipper; and I see them everywhere for a week after the ceremony, in their robes of innocence, often with bouquets of flowers, and attended by their friends; all concerned making it a joyful holiday, as it ought to be. I hear, of course, with what false ideas of life these girls are educated; how they are watched before marriage; how the marriage is only one of arrangement, and what liberty they eagerly seek afterwards. I met a charming Paris lady last winter in Italy, recently married, who said she had never been in the Louvre in her life; never had seen any of the magnificent pictures or world-famous statuary there, because girls were not allowed to go there, lest they should see something that they ought not to see. I suppose they look with wonder at the young American girls who march up to anything that ever was created, with undismayed front.
Another Frenchwoman, a lady of talent and the best breeding, recently said to a friend, in entire unconsciousness that she was saying anything remarkable, that, when she was seventeen, her great desire was to marry one of her uncles (a thing not very unusual with the papal dispensation), in order to keep all the money in the family! That was the ambition of a girl of seventeen.