Here I am in Philadelphia. It’s eleven o’clock in the evening. I am stopping at the Continental Hotel, a twin as to size of the Tiplte [Fifth?] Avenue Hotel in New York. Only there are more people than usual, for the Americans are giving a great dinner for the Emperor of Brazil, who has been living here.
From my room I can hear a band not absolutely in tune playing Orphée aux Enfers. Are they hailing the departure of Don Pedro or my arrival? Perhaps it’s for both, unless someone has requested (which is more probable) that this music should be played during dinner.
The next day at ten o’clock, I went down to the dining room to have breakfast and found a complete reproduction of the same meal I had in New York. One thing, however, gives an individual and rather strange atmosphere to the room; one has as servants only Negroes and mulattoes. To be hired as a waiter in this hotel one must have a pot of shoeblacking on his face. The dining room is immense. It is really strange to me to see thirty large and small tables, occupied for the most part by very beautiful ladies in fine dresses, around which hover forty or fifty Negroes. The Negroes are not bad-looking but the mulattoes have superb faces. It seems to me that Alexandre Dumas16 must have spent a good deal of time in this country—for the portrait of our great novelist is reproduced here many, many times.
Immediately after breakfast I went to the Exposition, not remembering that it was Sunday. Now on Sunday the Exposition is closed, the stores and the restaurants as well, everything closed in this happy town. How gay it was! The few people you met were coming from church with funereal faces and their Bibles in their hands. If you were unfortunate enough to smile, they stared at you with flaming eyes; if you were unfortunate enough to laugh, they would have had you arrested. The streets are superb, wide enough to make the Boulevard Haussmann envious. On both sides are little houses of red brick with window casings of white marble. Now and then a pretty little private house. But it is the churches that pullulate—and since pretty Philadelphia women probably do many things they have to be forgiven for, I see no great harm in that.
A new City Hall is being constructed of white marble and will cost, it is said, 200,000,000 francs.
My two friends and I did not know how to occupy our Sunday. We were advised to go to Indian Rock in Fairmount Park. It takes two hours to get there, but you never leave the park. The Philadelphians are proud of this immense garden. They are right, for it is most beautiful and picturesque—here and there tiny houses half-hidden by the thickets, streams winding beneath the trees, cool valleys, shady ravines, superb trees, thick woods.
From time to time one encountered restaurants along the road, cafés filled with people. The men, after the American manner, had stretched out in rocking chairs or even ordinary chairs, their feet resting on some place higher than their heads. Each had in front of him a tall glass of red, green, or yellow lemonade. Since strong drink is forbidden on Sunday, they have to fall back on soft drinks. Probably the law is not the same for everybody, for a carriage driven by two natives, completely drunk—I don’t think it was lemonade that got them into this state—almost ran into ours five or six different times. These doubtful observers of the Sabbath kept passing us and seemed to be trying to run into us. When we arrived at Indian Rock, our coachman descended gravely from his box and no less gravely took hold of the reins of the horse driven by the two drunkards. He asked these gentlemen to get out of their carriage. They refused. Then a policeman gravely climbed into the carriage, picked up one of them, and threw him into the arms of another policeman who caught him very politely. Once the man was on the ground, the policeman gravely took the reins and drove off with the other. Not a dozen words were spoken; everything was done silently, methodically.