by Bill Nye
Public Domain Books
The following selections are from the advance sheets of a forthcoming work with the above title, to be published by M. Foll de Roll. It is possible that other excerpts will be made from the book, in case the present harmonious state of affairs between France and America is not destroyed by my style of translation.
In the preface M. Foll de Roll says: “France has long required a book of printed writings about that large, wide land of whom we listen to so much and yet so little sabe, as the piquant Californian shall say. America is considerable. America I shall call vast. She care nothing how high freedom shall come, she must secure him. She exclaims to all people: ’You like freedom pretty well, but you know nothing of it. We throw away every day more freedom than you shall see all your life. Come to this place when you shall run out of freedom. We make it. Do not ask us for money, but if you want personal liberty, please look over our vast stock before you elsewhere go.’
“So everybody goes to America, where he shall be free to pay cash for what the American has for sale.
“In this book will be found everything that the French people want to know of that singular land, for did I not cross it from New Jersey City, the town where all the New York people have to go to get upon the cars, through to the town of San Francisco?
“For years the writer of this book has had it in his mind to go across America, and then tell the people of France, in a small volume costing one franc, all about the grotesque land of the freedom bird.”
In the opening chapter he alludes to New York casually, and apologizes for taking up so much space.
“When you shall land in New York, you shall feel a strange sensation. The stomach is not so what we should call ’Rise up William Riley,’ to use an Americanism which will not bear translation. I ride along the Rue de Twenty-three, and want to eat everything my eyes shall fall upon.
“I stay at New York all night, and eat one large supper at 6 o’clock, and again at 9. At 12 I awake and eat the inside of my hektograph, and then lie down once more to sleep. The hektograph will be henceforth, as the American shall say, no good, but what is that when a man is starving in a foreign land?
“I leave New York in the morning on the Ferry de Pavonia, a steamer that goes to New Jersey City. Many people go to New York to buy food and clothes. Then you shall see them return to the woods, where they live the rest of the time. Some of the females are quite petite and, as the Americans have it,’scrumptious.’ One stout girl at New Jersey City, I was told, was ’all wool and a yard wide.’
“The relations between New York and New Jersey City are quite amicable, and the inhabitants seem to spend much of their time riding to and fro on the Ferry de Pavonia and other steamers. When I talked to them in their own language they would laugh with great glee, and say they could not parley voo Norwegian very good.
“The Americans are very fond of witnessing what may be called the tournament de slug. In this, two men wearing upholstered mittens shake hands, and then one strikes at the other with his right hand, so as to mislead him, and, while he is taking care of that, the first man hits him with his left and knocks out some of his teeth. Then the other man spits out his loose teeth and hits his antagonist on the nose, or feeds him with the thumb of his upholstered mitten for some time. Half the gate money goes to the hospital where these men are in the habit of being repaired.
“One of these men, who is now the champion scrapper, as one American author has it, was once a poor boy, but he was proud and ambitious. So he practiced on his wife evenings, after she had washed the dishes, until he found that he could ’knock her out,’ as the American has it. Then he tried it on other relatives, and step by step advanced till he could make almost any man in America cough up pieces of this upholstered mitten which he wears in public.
“In closing this chapter on New York, I may say that I have not said so much of the city itself as I would like, but enough so that he who reads with care may feel somewhat familiar with it. New York is situated on the east side of America, near New Jersey City. The climate is cool and frosty a part of the year, but warm and temperate in the summer months. The surface is generally level, but some of the houses are quite tall.
“I would not advise Frenchmen to go to New York now, but rather to wait until the pedestal of M. Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty has been paid for. Many foreigners have already been earnestly permitted to help pay for this pedestal.”