Passepartout was not the man to let an idea go begging, and directed his steps towards the docks. But, as he approached them, his project, which at first had seemed so simple, began to grow more and more formidable to his mind. What need would they have of a cook or servant on an American steamer, and what confidence would they put in him, dressed as he was? What references could he give?
As he was reflecting in this wise, his eyes fell upon an immense placard which a sort of clown was carrying through the streets. This placard, which was in English, read as follows:
ACROBATIC JAPANESE TROUPE, HONOURABLE WILLIAM BATULCAR, PROPRIETOR, LAST REPRESENTATIONS, PRIOR TO THEIR DEPARTURE TO THE UNITED STATES, OF THE LONG NOSES! LONG NOSES! UNDER THE DIRECT PATRONAGE OF THE GOD TINGOU! GREAT ATTRACTION!
“The United States!” said Passepartout; “that’s just what I want!”
He followed the clown, and soon found himself once more in the Japanese quarter. A quarter of an hour later he stopped before a large cabin, adorned with several clusters of streamers, the exterior walls of which were designed to represent, in violent colours and without perspective, a company of jugglers.
This was the Honourable William Batulcar’s establishment. That gentleman was a sort of Barnum, the director of a troupe of mountebanks, jugglers, clowns, acrobats, equilibrists, and gymnasts, who, according to the placard, was giving his last performances before leaving the Empire of the Sun for the States of the Union.
Passepartout entered and asked for Mr. Batulcar, who straightway appeared in person.
“What do you want?” said he to Passepartout, whom he at first took for a native.
“Would you like a servant, sir?” asked Passepartout.
“A servant!” cried Mr. Batulcar, caressing the thick grey beard which hung from his chin. “I already have two who are obedient and faithful, have never left me, and serve me for their nourishment and here they are,” added he, holding out his two robust arms, furrowed with veins as large as the strings of a bass-viol.
“So I can be of no use to you?”
“The devil! I should so like to cross the Pacific with you!”
“Ah!” said the Honourable Mr. Batulcar. “You are no more a Japanese than I am a monkey! Who are you dressed up in that way?”
“A man dresses as he can.”
“That’s true. You are a Frenchman, aren’t you?”
“Yes; a Parisian of Paris.”
“Then you ought to know how to make grimaces?”
“Why,” replied Passepartout, a little vexed that his nationality should cause this question, “we Frenchmen know how to make grimaces, it is true but not any better than the Americans do.”
“True. Well, if I can’t take you as a servant, I can as a clown. You see, my friend, in France they exhibit foreign clowns, and in foreign parts French clowns.”
“You are pretty strong, eh?”
“Especially after a good meal.”
“And you can sing?”
“Yes,” returned Passepartout, who had formerly been wont to sing in the streets.
“But can you sing standing on your head, with a top spinning on your left foot, and a sabre balanced on your right?”
“Humph! I think so,” replied Passepartout, recalling the exercises of his younger days.
“Well, that’s enough,” said the Honourable William Batulcar.
The engagement was concluded there and then.