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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 239

              [loose newspaper clipping continued]
land.  The snuggery, again, was decorated in the
same way with wreath and ribbon, bits of rope, shields
and headpieces from Java (for even Java knew the
Chevalier).  The old man was particularly proud of his
piano, a wonderful instrument of the automatic order�
he had played the harmonium often on the rope.
  In 1851 Jean Fran�ois Gravel� was performing in a
French provincial town, when his agility, grace, supple-
ness, and intrepidity were remarked by a certain Ravel,
himself a famous gymnast of his day.  �Join us,� he
said to the young fellow, �and come to New York.�
�Done,� replied Jean Fran�ois.  �But how are thou
called?� �Gravel�.�  �Sacre Dieu, we cannot bill
such a name.�  Then they fixed upon Blondin, from the
colour of his hair.  Triumph after triumph followed,
until his career was crowned at last on the 30th June,
1859, when he crossed Niagara.  �Sir, I was a rope
walker at four,� he said.  �My father was a gymnast.
I have never felt fear�no, not even when crossing
Niagara.  In 1860 I crossed on stilts.  There was a danger
in crossing the Falls.  In straining a rope of that length
to the requisite tightness it was liable to snap.  The
shorter the rope the easier it is to walk on, for the dip
in the middle is less.  I once offered to carry the claimant
across a rope, but he declined, with thanks. �I will not
endanger your life,� he said, �and I do not wish to
expose mine.��
  Not the least interesting of Blondin�s collection of
mementoes was a small library of scrap-books, con-
taining cuttings from all the newspapers of the world�
French, English, German, Austrian, American,
Australian�critiques, reports, interviews, caricatures,
jokes.  He is called the �King of the Tight Rope,�
�The Lord of the Hempen Realm,� �The Emperor of
all Manilla.�  There are wonderful woodcuts, plain and
coloured; verses, too, e.g.,
	The fearless Blondin walks, perchance into his tomb,
	His dauntless courage fails him not,
	E�en tho� thy rearing torrents be his fatal lot.
	Heavenward he looks, an inspiration draws,
	Each heart beats high, he makes a moment�s pause,
	Rests at full length upon the fragile rope,
	One cheer ten thousand voices send of earnest hope.
Here is another:
	         �A NOAD TO MR. BLONDIN.�
	Remarkable pusson! enterprisin� stranger!
	You probably startid on to a railrode trac,
	Or praps a curt stan; then you took to fensis,
	And then you soared to rafters of noo houses.
	Bi merely a taikin of a walk, you clear.
	1,000 dolers neerly every time.
	Then the hier you git the straiter you kin walk;
	This shows you ain�t at all like common foax,
	Wich can�t walk mutch when they are elevated.
  �Did nervous terrors ever oppress you, Chevalier,�
I said. �Never, sir, never.  Not even when I first
crossed Niagara.  But they laughed and said, �There�s
a fool of a Frenchman going to commit suicide,� or �I
don�t believe he�ll ever try,� and so on; but I have
crossed Niagara 300 times since then.  I carry three sets
of ropes, which are two inches in diameter, with a body
of steel bound round in hemp  The blancing poles vary
in weight, according to the business, from 37, 40, 45, 47
pounds.�               
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