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Most travellers from London enter Paris in the evening, and I think they are wise. I wish it were possible again and again to enter Paris in the evening for the first time; but since it is not, let me hasten to say that the pleasure of re-entering Paris in the evening is one that custom has almost no power to stale. Every time that one emerges from the Gare du Nord or the Gare St. Lazare one is taken afresh by the variegated and vivid activity of it all—the myriad purposeful self-contained bustling people, all moving on their unknown errands exactly as they were moving when one was here last, no matter how long ago. For Paris never changes: that is one of her most precious secrets.
The London which one had left seven or eight hours before was populous enough and busy enough, Heaven knows, but London's pulse is slow and fairly regular, and even at her gayest, even when greeting Royalty, she seems to be advising caution and a careful demeanour. But Paris—Paris smiles and Paris sings. There is an incredible vivacity in her atmosphere.
Sings! This reminds me that on the first occasion that I entered Paris—in the evening, of course—my cabman sang. He sang all the way from the Gare du Nord to the Rue Caumartin. This seemed to me delightful and odd, although at first I felt in danger of attracting more attention than one likes; but as we proceeded down the Rue Lafayette—which nothing but song and the fact that it is the high road into Paris from England can render tolerable—I discovered that no one minded us. A singing cabman in London would bring out the Riot Act and the military; but here he was in the picture: no one threw at the jolly fellow any of the chilling deprecatory glances which are the birthright of every light-hearted eccentric in my own land. And so we proceeded to the hotel, often escaping collision by the breadth of a single hair, the driver singing all the way. What he sang I knew not; but I doubt if it was of battles long ago: rather, I should fancy, of very present love and mischief. But how fitting a first entry into Paris!
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