A Flight – 1851 – a short story/journalism
Dickens first published this in 1851 in Household Words. This is more a work of journalism that a short story,
|THE STORY: |
Musing that one day a flying machine would whisk him off to Paris, but for now he had to rely on South-Eastern Railway Company from London Bridge. It is 8am and he is under the hot roof of the station on a very hot day, wondering if he is being forced like a pine-apple in a hot-house.
He notes that every French citizen is carrying a pine-apple home, opposite him a French actress, he had seen at the St James Theatre has one, her companion has two, A ‘tobacco-smokey’ Frenchman nearby has a basket full of them. And a dapper chic Frenchman, ‘Zamiel’, has one in his valise.
He studies the actress and her Mystery companion, both neat, well-dressed and not at all flustered by the heat.
Two Englishmen arrive, one a City-type, the other all bluster and hurry, calling porters for his luggage, wearing an unnecessary amount of clothes.
He feels drowsy and idle, on his ‘flight’ with South-Eastern, when a bell starts the process of his journey. The fresh air is a relief as he passes Bermondsaey, New Cross and Croydon. They go through a tunnel, it’s cold, if he closes his eyes it feels like he is going backwards. He passes Kentish hops on his way to Folkestone.
They stop at Tunbridge and the demented Englishman starts to demount, but learns Paris is still a way further, No hurry, ladies and gentlemen a five-minute stop for refereshment.
He alights to get a glass of water for the French actress. On rejoining he is alone with the City type who comments that the French are ‘no go as a Nation, their Reign of Terror!’ The narrator asks if he knows of the time before the Reign of Terror, he admits not, the narrator talks of seeds being sown then. The City-type concludes the French ‘are always at it!’
The other Englishman rather panics and is pulled aboard with the train already in motion. The actress is helped on by Zamiel, to find she has mislaid her pine-apple, Zamiel finds it.
Fresher air, they approach Folkestone. No hurry, ladies and gentlemen, they are in the Waiting-Room for refreshments as their luggage is loaded on a steamboat. Demented Englishman makes a show of seeing his luggage is safely aboard and ends up being bundled aboard.
A lovely day, a tranquil seas, the actress meets a felow Thespian aboard, also accompanied by a mystery. The first Mystery becomes unwell.
The French seem to grow as they approach their country, while the English appear to shrink commensurately.
They arrive in France to see a large sign saying ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’. Large cocked hats abound. Touters from the hotels of Boulogne call out to them. Demented gets lost among the touters and has to be rescued and put in the Customs House with the rest of those Paris-bound.
No hurry, ladies and gentlemen, more refreshments, They board their train, the actresses and their mysteries assemble in another carriage. The narrator is alone, he doesn’t count Demented as a fellow traveller.
They pass Abbeville and stop for refreshments, City-type rejoins the carriage suggesting the refreshments were not bad, but French, revolutionary people, always at it!
They finally arrive at Paris, eleven hours in all, The narrator is processed quickly and finds himself in a hackney-cabriolet, watching high buildings and wine shops pass him by.
He has a small room, so goes out for a walk, past the Palais Royal, the Rue de Rivoli and the Place Vendome. He sees the City-type still expressing anti-French sentiment.
The narrator describes Paris life attractively, and retires praising the South-Eastern for his flight into this land of dreams. He muses, ‘No hurry, ladies and gentlemen’.
Englishman, Demented blusterer