This ornament adorns the Pont Neuf,
the oldest bridge still standing across
the River Seine in Paris, France.
Read this short excerpt from the facetious book Lessons of Thrift by Robert Cruikshank, published in 1820, where you will learn that a thrifty thief benefits from a great bon mot.
Lesson XXIII – How to steal a dinner
A like ingenious device was exerted by a brother of more ancient times. The Pont Neuf, the most important bridge of Paris, was begun by Henry III but not finished till the reign of Henry IV was considerably advanced. When this edifice of so many years was at length completed, skilful commissaries were named on the part of the king, and on the part of the city, both conjoined in the expense, to inspect the whole, and estimate the accounts. One gentleman was observed to be very busy with his measure and note-book. Each party had no doubt that he was of the other set. This ceremony was followed by the only object of our brother’s solicitude, a magnificent dinner, to which he did ample justice, and pocketed enough of the dessert (a common custom in France) to serve his sobered appetite for three days. After dinner, a warm conversation arose on a difficult topic of architecture, when one of the company addressed our brother: "Sir, as you seem, by your great attention to the various parts of the edifice, to be a most skilful judge, what may be your opinion?" Our hero filled his bumper of champagne, and rising up, thus replied: "Gentlemen, my opinion is that your dinner was excellent. As to your bridge, I can only say that you acted very wisely in placing it across the river; for if you had put it down on the side of the river, it would have been of no use." He then emptied his bumper and disappeared.
– Lessons of thrift: Published for general benefit, by a member of the Save-all club, by Robert Cruikshank, 1820
– Mascaron (architecture), Wikipedia>>