Monday, August 9, 2010

Americans in Paris: Ludwig Bemelmans

"I hope you attach no importance to numbers," said Georges. "The house is Number Thirteen, Rue St. Augustin, and there will be thirteen at the table. You may, however, if this upsets you, stop trembling, because we are invited to this little family celebration by Mademoiselle Geneviève and her patron saint, Ste. Geneviève, is, as you perhaps know, the protector of Paris."

After a very short ride from the Hotel de France et Choiseul, the taxi stopped, not in an obscure and somber alley or in a hypocritically genteel location, but in the center of a busy thoroughfare lined by respectable shops and businesses, all located in solid houses. There was no hidden entrance: the door of Number Thirteen with the number boldly lettered on it, was heavy and oaken, carved, and had immense polished brass knobs for handles. It was still light, and the street was filled with people. Part of Number Thirteen was occupied by a firm that sold filing equipment, and the brunette young woman in black who stood there waiting for customers looked at us without any kind of expression on their faces other than that with which people look out into a street in which nothing of particular interest happens. While we waited for the bell to be answered, there were also women who came out of a grocery store, and children who seemed to belong in the street. While it is a curious feeling to stand and wait outside an establishment of the reputation of Numero Treize and wait a long while to be let in, it seemed to bother nobody. We were not even taken notice of.

From No. 13 Rue St. Augustin in Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology, Adam Gopnik, editor (New York: The Library of America, 2004), p. 441.

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