Travel Letters: Hotel D’Orient, Paris (1870)

DEAR MOTHER, — We are at last in Paris, after a long week’s doubt whether we should be able to get here. We arrived this morning at eight o’clock, after a seventeen hours’ ride from Geneva. We met with no detention further than having to wait here and there for trains loaded with cattle and provisions for the army. No Prussians stopped our way, and though it has been officially announced that the government has taken possession of the road, the order has not yet gone into effect, and passenger trains run regularly through.

We have seen nothing here to-day to indicate that the city is under martial law, that the Prussians are only two or three days distant, and by all reports in full march for the fortifications. There are many soldiers about, but the streets are emptier and stiller than I have ever seen them in Paris, and though there may be a row at any point at any moment, there certainly was never a more peaceful and safe-looking city. What the real state of things is, it is very hard to tell. That the Prussian army is advancing on Paris, everybody seems to believe. The French papers say that it is a movement of desperation. The Prussians call it the march of a victor. Meanwhile, the mystery which envelops the condition and intentions of the French armies at Metz and Rheims leaves one utterly in the dark. Whatever comes, there seems no probability of any danger to a stranger living here, and I intend now to stay till a week from next Thursday or Friday, when I shall go to Brest, to sail the following Saturday. What we may have a chance to see in the mean time in Paris, we cannot say. You will hear by the telegraph before you get this, but be sure that I will take good care of myself and shall not be in any danger.

We have come this week from Bormio, where I wrote last Sunday, by Tirano, an Italian town in the midst of its vineyards, over the Bernina Pass to Pontresina, in the midst of its glaciers, then over the Albula Pass to Chur, on by rail to Zurich, thence to Berne, where we had to stop to get our passports viséed by the French minister for admission into France, thence to Geneva, and so here. This ends our mountain work, almost seven weeks of as perfect and successful a trip as we could ask. Everything has gone well ; no accident, no sickness, and scarcely any bad weather. I am thankful I came, and now ten interesting days of Paris will complete the journey, except the voyage home in the Ville de Paris, which I expect to enjoy exceedingly. Why cannot you time your Niagara trip so as to meet me at the ship on Wednesday, the 21st, or Thursday, the 22d, of September.

I had letters at Pontresina from you and father, which did me good. I have missed a number of your letters, and was rejoiced to get these. I also had one from Arthur about his ordination. Please write him immediately that I will gladly come to Williamsport and preach the old sermon any time in October, if he can arrange it so that the whole trip can come in between two Sundays.

It is cold and cheerless here today. I hope we are to have better weather for the gay city, which is bound to be gay, even if it is besieged. Love to all.

Affectionately always,

PHILLIPS.