National Geographic : 1923 Jul
THROUGH THE BACK DOORS OF FRANCE cently wooded heights which sloped downward into level swards, where white villas gleamed among overarching trees. But there were still locks ahead-nine big ones, each capable of holding 16 barges at a time, and necessitating a delay of from half an hour to an hour, depend ing upon whether we locked through alone or in company with a full quota. Racing a string of steam-towed canal boats is really more exciting than it sounds. Though we could pass them readily enough, our object was to lock through before the far-off tug whistle warned the keepers of the flotilla's ap proach, when we would be detained for its arrival. Sometimes the Nageoma won and locked through alone, looking like a pea nut in a swimming-bath. Sometimes we lost and locked through in company with 16 big barges. At Vives Eaux, where it was the latter case, the final boat had just entered the lock when the keepers discov ered that the sluice mechanism was broken. It would entail, they announced, a 24-hours' delay. "GOOD LUCK, SHRIMP AMERICAINE" Now, we didn't relish the prospect of lying overnight in that cement tank. As for the bargees, they gesticulated, and cursed, and upbraided the lock-keepers with a violence which boded the drawing of clasp knives. In a lucky moment one rough fellow discovered the Nageoma lying wedged in among the canal boats and looking like a minnow among a school of whales. He fairly gaped, then yelled to his comrades: "Hi, you! Here's a shrimp that's got caught in the lobster-pot!" and immedi ately we became the center of the picture. All bad humor fled, and every man lent a willing hand to extricate the "shrimp" which had crossed France from St. Malo. A couple of ropes, 20 stout arms, an "All together, boys!" and the Nageoma, bag gage and all, was hoisted from the lock and relaunched in free waters. "Au 'voir !" yelled the grinning bargees, waving after us, "Good luck, shrimp A mricaine!" Two more days on the glassiest and fairest of ever-widening waters, while the red roofs of Corbeil and Villeneuve-Saint Georges slipped past, while noble, tree crowned heights embraced us, and racing shells darted by, and Sunday parties sat at luncheon in rustic arbors perched among the limbs of waterside trees. Then the Paris-Lyons-Mediterranean Express thundered overhead, across the stream, and we waved our good-byes to the back-doors country. Ahead the sky grew murky, where cranes and factory chimneys towered; then certain distant murmurings deepened into a dull roar, as successive industrial suburbs came into view. And finally stone embankments arose on either hand, completely cutting off the prospect. Wishing to know exactly what suburb we had reached, I ascended a convenient stairway and addressed myself to a man who was leaning over the parapet. "What town is this ?" I asked casually. But he didn't falter or ask me what my barbarous race was. He merely pointed over my shoulder, and I turned and saw it all-the vista of arching bridges, the long, tree-bordered boulevards, and afar off, gray and brooding, the square towers of Notre Dame. "Monsieur," said the Frenchman, with a polite bow, "this is Paris." Notice of change of address of your GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE should be received in the office of the National Geographic Society by the first of the month to affect the following month's issue. For instance, if you desire the address changed for your September number, the Society should be notified of your new address not later than August first.