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Cousin Pons by Honoré de Balzac
page 2 of 419 (00%)
from their chairs, watch the passers-by, and indulge in the agreeable
pastime of analyzing them. That smile is peculiar to Parisians; it
says so many things--ironical, quizzical, pitying; but nothing save
the rarest of human curiosities can summon that look of interest to
the faces of Parisians, sated as they are with every possible sight.

A saying recorded of Hyacinthe, an actor celebrated for his repartees,
will explain the archaeological value of the old gentleman, and the
smile repeated like an echo by all eyes. Somebody once asked Hyacinthe
where the hats were made that set the house in a roar as soon as he
appeared. "I don't have them made," he said; "I keep them!" So also
among the million actors who make up the great troupe of Paris, there
are unconscious Hyacinthes who "keep" all the absurd freaks of
vanished fashions upon their backs; and the apparition of some bygone
decade will startle you into laughter as you walk the streets in
bitterness of soul over the treason of one who was your friend in the

In some respects the passer-by adhered so faithfully to the fashions
of the year 1806, that he was not so much a burlesque caricature as a
reproduction of the Empire period. To an observer, accuracy of detail
in a revival of this sort is extremely valuable, but accuracy of
detail, to be properly appreciated, demands the critical attention of
an expert _flaneur_; while the man in the street who raises a laugh as
soon as he comes in sight is bound to be one of those outrageous
exhibitions which stare you in the face, as the saying goes, and
produce the kind of effect which an actor tries to secure for the
success of his entry. The elderly person, a thin, spare man, wore a
nut-brown spencer over a coat of uncertain green, with white metal
buttons. A man in a spencer in the year 1844! it was as if Napoleon
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