PETE RICEPUDDING IN PARIS


When we got to know that old Pete Ricepudding had fled to Paris from his Maastricht home for demented people, we all were very inquieted. Nobody could imagine how he managed to get to Paris. But now the main question was: how to find him back? The postcard with the Eiffel tower, clearly written by Pete himself, gave no hint at all.
The police were searching in the Netherlands, in Belgium and in France. Pete had been in the newspapers and on television. But for us, that was not enough. We got to Paris at full speed, settled in a city center hotel, and formed two three-men teams to search throughout the inner city.

With photographs in our hands, we walked from Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe, and from Montmarte to the Jardin du Luxembourg. We talked with shopmen, marketwomen, policemen, café keepers, tramps, sellers of newspapers and people who let out dogs. We searched in metro stations, under bridges and in parks.
We did get some hints. Pete could be camping in the church of Saint-Nicholas, and he had been seen at the Gare du Nord, and along the borders of the Seine. But then it turned out that it had been somebody else, or that the trace had a dead end, or that the hint was a mere phantasy.

On the third day, it was raining very hard. One team telephoned the other, to come together at the metro station Saint-Michel. We were very tired. The sun came from behind the clouds, and someone proposed to seek a bar and drink coffee. Far away there was a strange sound, that seemed not to belong to Paris. It attracted us, and gave us a queer touch of sadness. I was hearing the sounds of the Heinrich Heine poem about the Lorelei: "I do not know from where is coming that sound of pure melancholy ... "
On a little square in that neighbourhood, many people were standing together. Getting nearer, we heared that there was a sound of singing and playing accordeon. It was a group of four: a lady playing flute, a man with a harmonica, and two old men who were singing. Then we suddenly noticed that one of the singers was Pete Ricepudding.

The other man was the main singer, but the song was Pete's:

"Mother dear, mother dear, in times of yore I was your darling here
but these times have passed long time ago, a long time ago ... "

While the surrounders were applauding, we slowly got nearer. Old Pete didn't seem to recognise us, and we left him singing there all day. In the evening, we asked the other musicians whether they would have Pete with them any longer. And they promised to bring him home to us as soon as the right time would have come.