- Surely,—surely, man! it is not good for thee to sit alone: — thou wast made for social intercourse and gentle greetings; and this improvement of our natures from it I appeal to as my evidence.
- And how does it beat, Monsieur? said she.—With all the benignity, said I, looking quietly in her eyes, that I expected.— She was going to say something civil in return—but the lad came into the shop with the gloves.—A propos, said I, I want a couple of pairs myself.
THE GLOVES. PARIS.
The beautiful grisette rose up when I said this, and going behind the counter, reach'd down a parcel and untied it: I advanced to the side over against her: they were all too large. The beautiful grisette measured them one by one across my hand.—It would not alter their dimensions.—She begg'd I would try a single pair, which seemed to be the least.—She held it open;—my hand slipped into it at once.—It will not do, said I, shaking my head a little.—No, said she, doing the same thing.
There are certain combined looks of simple subtlety,—where whim, and sense, and seriousness, and nonsense, are so blended, that all the languages of Babel set loose together, could not express them;- -they are communicated and caught so instantaneously, that you can scarce say which party is the infector. I leave it to your men of words to swell pages about it—it is enough in the present to say again, the gloves would not do; so, folding our hands within our arms, we both lolled upon the counter—it was narrow, and there was just room for the parcel to lay between us.
The beautiful grisette looked sometimes at the gloves, then sideways to the window, then at the gloves,—and then at me. I was not disposed to break silence: —I followed her example: so, I looked at the gloves, then to the window, then at the gloves, and then at her,—and so on alternately.
I found I lost considerably in every attack: —she had a quick black eye, and shot through two such long and silken eyelashes with such penetration, that she look'd into my very heart and reins.—It may seem strange, but I could actually feel she did. -
It is no matter, said I, taking up a couple of the pairs next me, and putting them into my pocket.
I was sensible the beautiful grisette had not asked above a single livre above the price.—I wish'd she had asked a livre more, and was puzzling my brains how to bring the matter about.—Do you think, my dear Sir, said she, mistaking my embarrassment, that I could ask a sous too much of a stranger—and of a stranger whose politeness, more than his want of gloves, has done me the honour to lay himself at my mercy?—M'en croyez capable?—Faith! not I, said I; and if you were, you are welcome. So counting the money into her hand, and with a lower bow than one generally makes to a shopkeeper's wife, I went out, and her lad with his parcel followed me.
THE TRANSLATION. PARIS.
There was nobody in the box I was let into but a kindly old French officer. I love the character, not only because I honour the man whose manners are softened by a profession which makes bad men worse; but that I once knew one,—for he is no more,—and why should I not rescue one page from violation by writing his name in it, and telling the world it was Captain Tobias Shandy, the dearest of my flock and friends, whose philanthropy I never think of at this long distance from his death—but my eyes gush out with tears. For his sake I have a predilection for the whole corps of veterans; and so I strode over the two back rows of benches and placed myself beside him.
The old officer was reading attentively a small pamphlet, it might be the book of the opera, with a large pair of spectacles. As soon as I sat down, he took his spectacles off, and putting them into a shagreen case, return'd them and the book into his pocket together. I half rose up, and made him a bow.
Translate this into any civilized language in the world—the sense is this:
"Here's a poor stranger come into the box—he seems as if he knew nobody; and is never likely, was he to be seven years in Paris, if every man he comes near keeps his spectacles upon his nose: —'tis shutting the door of conversation absolutely in his face—and using him worse than a German."
The French officer might as well have said it all aloud: and if he had, I should in course have put the bow I made him into French too, and told him, "I was sensible of his attention, and return'd him a thousand thanks for it."
There is not a secret so aiding to the progress of sociality, as to get master of this SHORT HAND, and to be quick in rendering the several turns of looks and limbs with all their inflections and delineations, into plain words. For my own part, by long habitude, I do it so mechanically, that, when I walk the streets of London, I go translating all the way; and have more than once stood behind in the circle, where not three words have been said, and have brought off twenty different dialogues with me, which I could have fairly wrote down and sworn to.
I was going one evening to Martini's concert at Milan, and, was just entering the door of the hall, when the Marquisina di F- was coming out in a sort of a hurry: —she was almost upon me before I saw her; so I gave a spring to once side to let her pass.—She had done the same, and on the same side too; so we ran our heads together: she instantly got to the other side to get out: I was just as unfortunate as she had been, for I had sprung to that side, and opposed her passage again.—We both flew together to the other side, and then back,—and so on: —it was ridiculous: we both blush'd intolerably: so I did at last the thing I should have done at first;—I stood stock-still, and the Marquisina had no more difficulty. I had no power to go into the room, till I had made her so much reparation as to wait and follow her with my eye to the end of the passage. She look'd back twice, and walk'd along it rather sideways, as if she would make room for any one coming up stairs to pass her.—No, said I—that's a vile translation: the Marquisina has a right to the best apology I can make her, and that opening is left for me to do it in;—so I ran and begg'd pardon for the embarrassment I had given her, saying it was my intention to have made her way. She answered, she was guided by the same intention towards me;—so we reciprocally thank'd each other. She was at the top of the stairs; and seeing no cicisbeo near her, I begg'd to hand her to her coach;—so we went down the stairs, stopping at every third step to talk of the concert and the adventure.—Upon my word, Madame, said I, when I had handed her in, I made six different efforts to let you go out.—And I made six efforts, replied she, to let you enter.—I wish to heaven you would make a seventh, said I.—With all my heart, said she, making room.- -Life is too short to be long about the forms of it,—so I instantly stepp'd in, and she carried me home with her.—And what became of the concert, St. Cecilia, who I suppose was at it, knows more than I.
I will only add, that the connexion which arose out of the translation gave me more pleasure than any one I had the honour to make in Italy.
THE DWARF. PARIS.
I had never heard the remark made by any one in my life, except by one; and who that was will probably come out in this chapter; so that being pretty much unprepossessed, there must have been grounds for what struck me the moment I cast my eyes over the parterre,— and that was, the unaccountable sport of Nature in forming such numbers of dwarfs.—No doubt she sports at certain times in almost every corner of the world; but in Paris there is no end to her amusements.—The goddess seems almost as merry as she is wise.
As I carried my idea out of the Opera Comique with me, I measured every body I saw walking in the streets by it.—Melancholy application! especially where the size was extremely little,—the face extremely dark,—the eyes quick,—the nose long,—the teeth white,—the jaw prominent,—to see so many miserables, by force of accidents driven out of their own proper class into the very verge of another, which it gives me pain to write down: —every third man a pigmy!—some by rickety heads and hump backs;—others by bandy legs;—a third set arrested by the hand of Nature in the sixth and seventh years of their growth;—a fourth, in their perfect and natural state like dwarf apple trees; from the first rudiments and stamina of their existence, never meant to grow higher.
A Medical Traveller might say, 'tis owing to undue bandages;—a Splenetic one, to want of air;—and an Inquisitive Traveller, to fortify the system, may measure the height of their houses,—the narrowness of their streets, and in how few feet square in the sixth and seventh stories such numbers of the bourgeoisie eat and sleep together; but I remember Mr. Shandy the elder, who accounted for nothing like any body else, in speaking one evening of these matters, averred that children, like other animals, might be increased almost to any size, provided they came right into the world; but the misery was, the citizens of were Paris so coop'd up, that they had not actually room enough to get them.—I do not call it getting anything, said he;—'tis getting nothing.—Nay, continued he, rising in his argument, 'tis getting worse than nothing, when all you have got after twenty or five and twenty years of the tenderest care and most nutritious aliment bestowed upon it, shall not at last be as high as my leg. Now, Mr. Shandy being very short, there could be nothing more said of it.
As this is not a work of reasoning, I leave the solution as I found it, and content myself with the truth only of the remark, which is verified in every lane and by-lane of Paris. I was walking down that which leads from the Carousal to the Palais Royal, and observing a little boy in some distress at the side of the gutter which ran down the middle of it, I took hold of his hand and help'd him over. Upon turning up his face to look at him after, I perceived he was about forty.—Never mind, said I, some good body will do as much for me when I am ninety.
I feel some little principles within me which incline me to be merciful towards this poor blighted part of my species, who have neither size nor strength to get on in the world.—I cannot bear to see one of them trod upon; and had scarce got seated beside my old French officer, ere the disgust was exercised, by seeing the very thing happen under the box we sat in.
At the end of the orchestra, and betwixt that and the first side box, there is a small esplanade left, where, when the house is full, numbers of all ranks take sanctuary. Though you stand, as in the parterre, you pay the same price as in the orchestra. A poor defenceless being of this order had got thrust somehow or other into this luckless place;—the night was hot, and he was surrounded by beings two feet and a half higher than himself. The dwarf suffered inexpressibly on all sides; but the thing which incommoded him most, was a tall corpulent German, near seven feet high, who stood directly betwixt him and all possibility of his seeing either the stage or the actors. The poor dwarf did all he could to get a peep at what was going forwards, by seeking for some little opening betwixt the German's arm and his body, trying first on one side, then the other; but the German stood square in the most unaccommodating posture that can be imagined: —the dwarf might as well have been placed at the bottom of the deepest draw-well in Paris; so he civilly reached up his hand to the German's sleeve, and told him his distress.—The German turn'd his head back, looked down upon him as Goliah did upon David,—and unfeelingly resumed his posture.
I was just then taking a pinch of snuff out of my monk's little horn box.—And how would thy meek and courteous spirit, my dear monk! so temper'd to BEAR AND FORBEAR!—how sweetly would it have lent an ear to this poor soul's complaint!
The old French officer, seeing me lift up my eyes with an emotion, as I made the apostrophe, took the liberty to ask me what was the matter?—I told him the story in three words; and added, how inhuman it was.
By this time the dwarf was driven to extremes, and in his first transports, which are generally unreasonable, had told the German he would cut off his long queue with his knife.—The German look'd back coolly, and told him he was welcome, if he could reach it.
An injury sharpen'd by an insult, be it to whom it will, makes every man of sentiment a party: I could have leap'd out of the box to have redressed it.—The old French officer did it with much less confusion; for leaning a little over, and nodding to a sentinel, and pointing at the same time with his finger at the distress,—the sentinel made his way to it.—There was no occasion to tell the grievance,—the thing told himself; so thrusting back the German instantly with his musket,—he took the poor dwarf by the hand, and placed him before him.—This is noble! said I, clapping my hands together.—And yet you would not permit this, said the old officer, in England.
- In England, dear Sir, said I, WE SIT ALL AT OUR EASE.
The old French officer would have set me at unity with myself, in case I had been at variance,—by saying it was a bon mot;—and, as a bon mot is always worth something at Paris, he offered me a pinch of snuff.
THE ROSE. PARIS.
It was now my turn to ask the old French officer "What was the matter?" for a cry of "Haussez les mains, Monsieur l'Abbe!" re- echoed from a dozen different parts of the parterre, was as unintelligible to me, as my apostrophe to the monk had been to him.
He told me it was some poor Abbe in one of the upper loges, who, he supposed, had got planted perdu behind a couple of grisettes in order to see the opera, and that the parterre espying him, were insisting upon his holding up both his hands during the representation.—And can it be supposed, said I, that an ecclesiastic would pick the grisettes' pockets? The old French officer smiled, and whispering in my ear, opened a door of knowledge which I had no idea of.
Good God! said I, turning pale with astonishment—is it possible, that a people so smit with sentiment should at the same time be so unclean, and so unlike themselves,—Quelle grossierte! added I.
The French officer told me, it was an illiberal sarcasm at the church, which had begun in the theatre about the time the Tartuffe was given in it by Moliere: but like other remains of Gothic manners, was declining.—Every nation, continued he, have their refinements and grossiertes, in which they take the lead, and lose it of one another by turns: —that he had been in most countries, but never in one where he found not some delicacies, which others seemed to want. Le POUR et le CONTRE se trouvent en chaque nation; there is a balance, said he, of good and bad everywhere; and nothing but the knowing it is so, can emancipate one half of the world from the prepossession which it holds against the other: — that the advantage of travel, as it regarded the scavoir vivre, was by seeing a great deal both of men and manners; it taught us mutual toleration; and mutual toleration, concluded he, making me a bow, taught us mutual love.
The old French officer delivered this with an air of such candour and good sense, as coincided with my first favourable impressions of his character: —I thought I loved the man; but I fear I mistook the object;—'twas my own way of thinking—the difference was, I could not have expressed it half so well.
It is alike troublesome to both the rider and his beast,—if the latter goes pricking up his ears, and starting all the way at every object which he never saw before.—I have as little torment of this kind as any creature alive; and yet I honestly confess, that many a thing gave me pain, and that I blush'd at many a word the first month,—which I found inconsequent and perfectly innocent the second.
Madame do Rambouliet, after an acquaintance of about six weeks with her, had done me the honour to take me in her coach about two leagues out of town.—Of all women, Madame de Rambouliet is the most correct; and I never wish to see one of more virtues and purity of heart.—In our return back, Madame de Rambouliet desired me to pull the cord.—I asked her if she wanted anything—Rien que pour pisser, said Madame de Rambouliet.
Grieve not, gentle traveller, to let Madame de Rambouliet p-ss on.- -And, ye fair mystic nymphs! go each one PLUCK YOUR ROSE, and scatter them in your path,—for Madame de Rambouliet did no more.— I handed Madame de Rambouliet out of the coach; and had I been the priest of the chaste Castalia, I could not have served at her fountain with a more respectful decorum.
THE FILLE DE CHAMBRE. PARIS.
What the old French officer had delivered upon travelling, bringing Polonius's advice to his son upon the same subject into my head,— and that bringing in Hamlet, and Hamlet the rest of Shakespeare's works, I stopp'd at the Quai de Conti in my return home, to purchase the whole set.
The bookseller said he had not a set in the world. Comment! said I, taking one up out of a set which lay upon the counter betwixt us.—He said they were sent him only to be got bound, and were to be sent back to Versailles in the morning to the Count de B-.
- And does the Count de B-, said I, read Shakespeare? C'est un esprit fort, replied the bookseller.—He loves English books! and what is more to his honour, Monsieur, he loves the English too. You speak this so civilly, said I, that it is enough to oblige an Englishman to lay out a louis d'or or two at your shop.—The bookseller made a bow, and was going to say something, when a young decent girl about twenty, who by her air and dress seemed to be fille de chambre to some devout woman of fashion, come into the shop and asked for Les Egarements du Coeur et de l'Esprit: the bookseller gave her the book directly; she pulled out a little green satin purse run round with a riband of the same colour, and putting her finger and thumb into it, she took out the money and paid for it. As I had nothing more to stay me in the shop, we both walk'd out at the door together.
- And what have you to do, my dear, said I, with The Wanderings of the Heart, who scarce know yet you have one? nor, till love has first told you it, or some faithless shepherd has made it ache, canst thou ever be sure it is so.—Le Dieu m'en garde! said the girl.—With reason, said I, for if it is a good one, 'tis pity it should be stolen; 'tis a little treasure to thee, and gives a better air to your face, than if it was dress'd out with pearls.
The young girl listened with a submissive attention, holding her satin purse by its riband in her hand all the time.—'Tis a very small one, said I, taking hold of the bottom of it—she held it towards me—and there is very little in it, my dear, said I; but be but as good as thou art handsome, and heaven will fill it. I had a parcel of crowns in my hand to pay for Shakespeare; and, as she had let go the purse entirely, I put a single one in; and, tying up the riband in a bow-knot, returned it to her.
The young girl made me more a humble courtesy than a low one: — 'twas one of those quiet, thankful sinkings, where the spirit bows itself down,—the body does no more than tell it. I never gave a girl a crown in my life which gave me half the pleasure.
My advice, my dear, would not have been worth a pin to you, said I, if I had not given this along with it: but now, when you see the crown, you'll remember it;—so don't, my dear, lay it out in ribands.
Upon my word, Sir, said the girl, earnestly, I am incapable;—in saying which, as is usual in little bargains of honour, she gave me her hand: —En verite, Monsieur, je mettrai cet argent apart, said she.
When a virtuous convention is made betwixt man and woman, it sanctifies their most private walks: so, notwithstanding it was dusky, yet as both our roads lay the same way, we made no scruple of walking along the Quai de Conti together.
She made me a second courtesy in setting off, and before we got twenty yards from the door, as if she had not done enough before, she made a sort of a little stop to tell me again—she thank'd me.
It was a small tribute, I told her, which I could not avoid paying to virtue, and would not be mistaken in the person I had been rendering it to for the world;—but I see innocence, my dear, in your face,—and foul befall the man who ever lays a snare in its way!
The girl seem'd affected some way or other with what I said;—she gave a low sigh: —I found I was not empowered to enquire at all after it,—so said nothing more till I got to the corner of the Rue de Nevers, where, we were to part.
- But is this the way, my dear, said I, to the Hotel de Modene? She told me it was;—or that I might go by the Rue de Gueneguault, which was the next turn.—Then I'll go, my dear, by the Rue de Gueneguault, said I, for two reasons; first, I shall please myself, and next, I shall give you the protection of my company as far on your way as I can. The girl was sensible I was civil—and said, she wished the Hotel de Modene was in the Rue de St. Pierre.—You live there? said I.—She told me she was fille de chambre to Madame R-.—Good God! said I, 'tis the very lady for whom I have brought a letter from Amiens.—The girl told me that Madame R-, she believed, expected a stranger with a letter, and was impatient to see him: — so I desired the girl to present my compliments to Madame R-, and say, I would certainly wait upon her in the morning.
We stood still at the corner of the Rue de Nevers whilst this pass'd.—We then stopped a moment whilst she disposed of her Egarements du Coeur &c. more commodiously than carrying them in her hand—they were two volumes: so I held the second for her whilst she put the first into her pocket; and then she held her pocket, and I put in the other after it.
'Tis sweet to feel by what fine spun threads our affections are drawn together.
We set off afresh, and as she took her third step, the girl put her hand within my arm.—I was just bidding her,—but she did it of herself, with that undeliberating simplicity, which show'd it was out of her head that she had never seen me before. For my own part, I felt the conviction of consanguinity so strongly, that I could not help turning half round to look in her face, and see if I could trace out any thing in it of a family likeness.—Tut! said I, are we not all relations?
When we arrived at the turning up of the Rue de Gueneguault, I stopp'd to bid her adieu for good and all: the girl would thank me again for my company and kindness.—She bid me adieu twice.—I repeated it as often; and so cordial was the parting between us, that had it happened any where else, I'm not sure but I should have signed it with a kiss of charity, as warm and holy as an apostle.
But in Paris, as none kiss each other but the men,—I did, what amounted to the same thing -
- I bid God bless her.
THE PASSPORT. PARIS.
When I got home to my hotel, La Fleur told me I had been enquired after by the Lieutenant de Police.—The deuce take it! said I,—I know the reason. It is time the reader should know it, for in the order of things in which it happened, it was omitted: not that it was out of my head; but that had I told it then it might have been forgotten now;—and now is the time I want it.
I had left London with so much precipitation, that it never enter'd my mind that we were at war with France; and had reached Dover, and looked through my glass at the hills beyond Boulogne, before the idea presented itself; and with this in its train, that there was no getting there without a passport. Go but to the end of a street, I have a mortal aversion for returning back no wiser than I set out; and as this was one of the greatest efforts I had ever made for knowledge, I could less bear the thoughts of it: so hearing the Count de—had hired the packet, I begg'd he would take me in his suite. The Count had some little knowledge of me, so made little or no difficulty,—only said, his inclination to serve me could reach no farther than Calais, as he was to return by way of Brussels to Paris; however, when I had once pass'd there, I might get to Paris without interruption; but that in Paris I must make friends and shift for myself.—Let me get to Paris, Monsieur le Count, said I,—and I shall do very well. So I embark'd, and never thought more of the matter.
When La Fleur told me the Lieutenant de Police had been enquiring after me,—the thing instantly recurred;—and by the time La Fleur had well told me, the master of the hotel came into my room to tell me the same thing, with this addition to it, that my passport had been particularly asked after: the master of the hotel concluded with saying, He hoped I had one.—Not I, faith! said I.
The master of the hotel retired three steps from me, as from an infected person, as I declared this;—and poor La Fleur advanced three steps towards me, and with that sort of movement which a good soul makes to succour a distress'd one: —the fellow won my heart by it; and from that single trait I knew his character as perfectly, and could rely upon it as firmly, as if he had served me with fidelity for seven years.
Mon seigneur! cried the master of the hotel; but recollecting himself as he made the exclamation, he instantly changed the tone of it.—If Monsieur, said he, has not a passport (apparemment) in all likelihood he has friends in Paris who can procure him one.— Not that I know of, quoth I, with an air of indifference.—Then certes, replied he, you'll be sent to the Bastile or the Chatelet au moins.—Poo! said I, the King of France is a good natur'd soul: —he'll hurt nobody.—Cela n'empeche pas, said he—you will certainly be sent to the Bastile to-morrow morning.—But I've taken your lodgings for a month, answer'd I, and I'll not quit them a day before the time for all the kings of France in the world. La Fleur whispered in my ear, That nobody could oppose the king of France.
Pardi! said my host, ces Messieurs Anglois sont des gens tres extraordinaires;—and, having both said and sworn it,—he went out.
THE PASSPORT. THE HOTEL AT PARIS.
I could not find in my heart to torture La Fleur's with a serious look upon the subject of my embarrassment, which was the reason I had treated it so cavalierly: and to show him how light it lay upon my mind, I dropt the subject entirely; and whilst he waited upon me at supper, talk'd to him with more than usual gaiety about Paris, and of the Opera Comique.—La Fleur had been there himself, and had followed me through the streets as far as the bookseller's shop; but seeing me come out with the young fille de chambre, and that we walk'd down the Quai de Conti together, La Fleur deem'd it unnecessary to follow me a step further;—so making his own reflections upon it, he took a shorter cut,—and got to the hotel in time to be inform'd of the affair of the police against my arrival.
As soon as the honest creature had taken away, and gone down to sup himself, I then began to think a little seriously about my situation. -
- And here, I know, Eugenius, thou wilt smile at the remembrance of a short dialogue which passed betwixt us the moment I was going to set out: —I must tell it here.
Eugenius, knowing that I was as little subject to be overburden'd with money as thought, had drawn me aside to interrogate me how much I had taken care for. Upon telling him the exact sum, Eugenius shook his head, and said it would not do; so pull'd out his purse in order to empty it into mine.—I've enough in conscience, Eugenius, said I.—Indeed, Yorick, you have not, replied Eugenius; I know France and Italy better than you.—But you don't consider, Eugenius, said I, refusing his offer, that before I have been three days in Paris, I shall take care to say or do something or other for which I shall get clapp'd up into the Bastile, and that I shall live there a couple of months entirely at the king of France's expense.—I beg pardon, said Eugenius drily: really I had forgot that resource.
Now the event I treated gaily came seriously to my door.
Is it folly, or nonchalance, or philosophy, or pertinacity—or what is it in me, that, after all, when La Fleur had gone down stairs, and I was quite alone, I could not bring down my mind to think of it otherwise than I had then spoken of it to Eugenius?
- And as for the Bastile; the terror is in the word.—Make the most of it you can, said I to myself, the Bastile is but another word for a tower;—and a tower is but another word for a house you can't get out of.—Mercy on the gouty! for they are in it twice a year.— But with nine livres a day, and pen and ink, and paper, and patience, albeit a man can't get out, he may do very well within,— at least for a mouth or six weeks; at the end of which, if he is a harmless fellow, his innocence appears, and he comes out a better and wiser man than he went in.
I had some occasion (I forget what) to step into the court-yard, as I settled this account; and remember I walk'd down stairs in no small triumph with the conceit of my reasoning.—Beshrew the sombre pencil! said I, vauntingly—for I envy not its powers, which paints the evils of life with so hard and deadly a colouring. The mind sits terrified at the objects she has magnified herself, and blackened: reduce them to their proper size and hue, she overlooks them.—'Tis true, said I, correcting the proposition,—the Bastile is not an evil to be despised;—but strip it of its towers—fill up the fosse,—unbarricade the doors—call it simply a confinement, and suppose 'tis some tyrant of a distemper—and not of a man, which holds you in it,—the evil vanishes, and you bear the other half without complaint.
I was interrupted in the heyday of this soliloquy, with a voice which I took to be of a child, which complained "it could not get out."—I look'd up and down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, nor child, I went out without farther attention.
In my return back through the passage, I heard the same words repeated twice over; and, looking up, I saw it was a starling hung in a little cage.—"I can't get out,—I can't get out," said the starling.
I stood looking at the bird: and to every person who came through the passage it ran fluttering to the side towards which they approach'd it, with the same lamentation of its captivity. "I can't get out," said the starling.—God help thee! said I, but I'll let thee out, cost what it will; so I turned about the cage to get to the door: it was twisted and double twisted so fast with wire, there was no getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces.—I took both hands to it.
The bird flew to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis pressed his breast against it as if impatient.—I fear, poor creature! said I, I cannot set thee at liberty.—"No," said the starling,— "I can't get out—I can't get out," said the starling.
I vow I never had my affections more tenderly awakened; nor do I remember an incident in my life, where the dissipated spirits, to which my reason had been a bubble, were so suddenly call'd home. Mechanical as the notes were, yet so true in tune to nature were they chanted, that in one moment they overthrew all my systematic reasonings upon the Bastile; and I heavily walked upstairs, unsaying every word I had said in going down them.
Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, Slavery! said I,—still thou art a bitter draught! and though thousands in all ages have been made to drink of thee, thou art no less bitter on that account.— 'Tis thou, thrice sweet and gracious goddess, addressing myself to Liberty, whom all in public or in private worship, whose taste is grateful, and ever will be so, till Nature herself shall change.— No TINT of words can spot thy snowy mantle, or chymic power turn thy sceptre into iron: —with thee to smile upon him as he eats his crust, the swain is happier than his monarch, from whose court thou art exiled!—Gracious Heaven! cried I, kneeling down upon the last step but one in my ascent, grant me but health, thou great Bestower of it, and give me but this fair goddess as my companion,—and shower down thy mitres, if it seems good unto thy divine providence, upon those heads which are aching for them!
THE CAPTIVE. PARIS.
The bird in his cage pursued me into my room; I sat down close to my table, and leaning my head upon my hand, I began to figure to myself the miseries of confinement. I was in a right frame for it, and so I gave full scope to my imagination.
I was going to begin with the millions of my fellow-creatures born to no inheritance but slavery: but finding, however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me. -
- I took a single captive, and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then look'd through the twilight of his grated door to take his picture.
I beheld his body half-wasted away with long expectation and confinement, and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it was which arises from hope deferr'd. Upon looking nearer I saw him pale and feverish: in thirty years the western breeze had not once fann'd his blood;—he had seen no sun, no moon, in all that time— nor had the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through his lattice.—His children -
But here my heart began to bleed—and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait.
He was sitting upon the ground upon a little straw, in the furthest corner of his dungeon, which was alternately his chair and bed: a little calendar of small sticks were laid at the head, notch'd all over with the dismal days and nights he had passed there;—he had one of these little sticks in his hand, and, with a rusty nail he was etching another day of misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards the door, then cast it down,—shook his head, and went on with his work of affliction. I heard his chains upon his legs, as he turned his body to lay his little stick upon the bundle.—He gave a deep sigh.—I saw the iron enter into his soul!—I burst into tears.—I could not sustain the picture of confinement which my fancy had drawn.—I started up from my chair, and calling La Fleur: I bid him bespeak me a remise, and have it ready at the door of the hotel by nine in the morning.
I'll go directly, said I, myself to Monsieur le Duc de Choiseul.
La Fleur would have put me to bed; but—not willing he should see anything upon my cheek which would cost the honest fellow a heart- ache,—I told him I would go to bed by myself,—and bid him go do the same.
THE STARLING. ROAD TO VERSAILLES.
I got into my remise the hour I proposed: La Fleur got up behind, and I bid the coachman make the best of his way to Versailles.
As there was nothing in this road, or rather nothing which I look for in travelling, I cannot fill up the blank better than with a short history of this self-same bird, which became the subject of the last chapter.
Whilst the Honourable Mr.—was waiting for a wind at Dover, it had been caught upon the cliffs, before it could well fly, by an English lad who was his groom; who, not caring to destroy it, had taken it in his breast into the packet;—and, by course of feeding it, and taking it once under his protection, in a day or two grew fond of it, and got it safe along with him to Paris.
At Paris the lad had laid out a livre in a little cage for the starling, and as he had little to do better the five months his master staid there, he taught it, in his mother's tongue, the four simple words—(and no more)—to which I own'd myself so much its debtor.
Upon his master's going on for Italy, the lad had given it to the master of the hotel. But his little song for liberty being in an UNKNOWN language at Paris, the bird had little or no store set by him: so La Fleur bought both him and his cage for me for a bottle of Burgundy.
In my return from Italy I brought him with me to the country in whose language he had learned his notes; and telling the story of him to Lord A-, Lord A- begg'd the bird of me;—in a week Lord A- gave him to Lord B-; Lord B- made a present of him to Lord C-; and Lord C-'s gentleman sold him to Lord D-'s for a shilling; Lord D- gave him to Lord E-; and so on—half round the alphabet. From that rank he pass'd into the lower house, and pass'd the hands of as many commoners. But as all these wanted to GET IN, and my bird wanted to GET OUT, he had almost as little store set by him in London as in Paris.
It is impossible but many of my readers must have heard of him; and if any by mere chance have ever seen him, I beg leave to inform them, that that bird was my bird, or some vile copy set up to represent him.
I have nothing farther to add upon him, but that from that time to this I have borne this poor starling as the crest to my arms.— Thus:
[Picture which cannot be reproduced]
- And let the herald's officers twist his neck about if they dare.
THE ADDRESS. VERSAILLES.
I should not like to have my enemy take a view of my mind when I am going to ask protection of any man; for which reason I generally endeavour to protect myself; but this going to Monsieur le Duc de C- was an act of compulsion; had it been an act of choice, I should have done it, I suppose, like other people.
How many mean plans of dirty address, as I went along, did my servile heart form! I deserved the Bastile for every one of them.
Then nothing would serve me when I got within sight of Versailles, but putting words and sentences together, and conceiving attitudes and tones to wreath myself into Monsieur le Duc de C-'s good graces.—This will do, said I.—Just as well, retorted I again, as a coat carried up to him by an adventurous tailor, without taking his measure. Fool! continued I,—see Monsieur le Duc's face first;—observe what character is written in it;—take notice in what posture he stands to hear you;—mark the turns and expressions of his body and limbs;—and for the tone,—the first sound which comes from his lips will give it you; and from all these together you'll compound an address at once upon the spot, which cannot disgust the Duke;—the ingredients are his own, and most likely to go down.
Well! said I, I wish it well over.—Coward again! as if man to man was not equal throughout the whole surface of the globe; and if in the field—why not face to face in the cabinet too? And trust me, Yorick, whenever it is not so, man is false to himself and betrays his own succours ten times where nature does it once. Go to the Duc de C- with the Bastile in thy looks;—my life for it, thou wilt be sent back to Paris in half an hour with an escort.
I believe so, said I.—Then I'll go to the Duke, by heaven! with all the gaiety and debonairness in the world. -
- And there you are wrong again, replied I.—A heart at ease, Yorick, flies into no extremes—'tis ever on its centre.—Well! well! cried I, as the coachman turn'd in at the gates, I find I shall do very well: and by the time he had wheel'd round the court, and brought me up to the door, I found myself so much the better for my own lecture, that I neither ascended the steps like a victim to justice, who was to part with life upon the top most,— nor did I mount them with a skip and a couple of strides, as I do when I fly up, Eliza! to thee to meet it.
As I entered the door of the saloon I was met by a person, who possibly might be the maitre d'hotel, but had more the air of one of the under secretaries, who told me the Duc de C- was busy.—I am utterly ignorant, said I, of the forms of obtaining an audience, being an absolute stranger, and what is worse in the present conjuncture of affairs, being an Englishman too.—He replied, that did not increase the difficulty.—I made him a slight bow, and told him, I had something of importance to say to Monsieur le Duc. The secretary look'd towards the stairs, as if he was about to leave me to carry up this account to some one.—But I must not mislead you, said I,—for what I have to say is of no manner of importance to Monsieur le Duc de C—-but of great importance to myself.—C'est une autre affaire, replied he.—Not at all, said I, to a man of gallantry.—But pray, good sir, continued I, when can a stranger hope to have access?—In not less than two hours, said he, looking at his watch. The number of equipages in the court-yard seemed to justify the calculation, that I could have no nearer a prospect;— and as walking backwards and forwards in the saloon, without a soul to commune with, was for the time as bad as being in the Bastile itself, I instantly went back to my remise, and bid the coachman drive me to the Cordon Bleu, which was the nearest hotel.
I think there is a fatality in it;—I seldom go to the place I set out for.
LE PATISSIER. VERSAILLES.
Before I had got half way down the street I changed my mind: as I am at Versailles, thought I, I might as well take a view of the town; so I pull'd the cord, and ordered the coachman to drive round some of the principal streets.—I suppose the town is not very large, said I.—The coachman begg'd pardon for setting me right, and told me it was very superb, and that numbers of the first dukes and marquises and counts had hotels.—The Count de B-, of whom the bookseller at the Quai de Conti had spoke so handsomely the night before, came instantly into my mind.—And why should I not go, thought I, to the Count de B-, who has so high an idea of English books and English men—and tell him my story? so I changed my mind a second time.—In truth it was the third; for I had intended that day for Madame de R-, in the Rue St. Pierre, and had devoutly sent her word by her fille de chambre that I would assuredly wait upon her;—but I am governed by circumstances;—I cannot govern them: so seeing a man standing with a basket on the other side of the street, as if he had something to sell, I bid La Fleur go up to him, and enquire for the Count's hotel.
La Fleur returned a little pale; and told me it was a Chevalier de St. Louis selling pates.—It is impossible, La Fleur, said I.—La Fleur could no more account for the phenomenon than myself; but persisted in his story: he had seen the croix set in gold, with its red riband, he said, tied to his buttonhole—and had looked into the basket and seen the pates which the Chevalier was selling; so could not be mistaken in that.
Such a reverse in man's life awakens a better principle than curiosity: I could not help looking for some time at him as I sat in the remise: —the more I look'd at him, his croix, and his basket, the stronger they wove themselves into my brain.—I got out of the remise, and went towards him.
He was begirt with a clean linen apron which fell below his knees, and with a sort of a bib that went half way up his breast; upon the top of this, but a little below the hem, hung his croix. His basket of little pates was covered over with a white damask napkin; another of the same kind was spread at the bottom; and there was a look of proprete and neatness throughout, that one might have bought his pates of him, as much from appetite as sentiment.
He made an offer of them to neither; but stood still with them at the corner of an hotel, for those to buy who chose it without solicitation.
He was about forty-eight;—of a sedate look, something approaching to gravity. I did not wonder.—I went up rather to the basket than him, and having lifted up the napkin, and taking one of his pates into my hand,—I begg'd he would explain the appearance which affected me.
He told me in a few words, that the best part of his life had passed in the service, in which, after spending a small patrimony, he had obtained a company and the croix with it; but that, at the conclusion of the last peace, his regiment being reformed, and the whole corps, with those of some other regiments, left without any provision, he found himself in a wide world without friends, without a livre,—and indeed, said he, without anything but this,— (pointing, as he said it, to his croix).—The poor Chevalier won my pity, and he finished the scene with winning my esteem too.
The king, he said, was the most generous of princes, but his generosity could neither relieve nor reward everyone, and it was only his misfortune to be amongst the number. He had a little wife, he said, whom he loved, who did the patisserie; and added, he felt no dishonour in defending her and himself from want in this way—unless Providence had offer'd him a better.
It would be wicked to withhold a pleasure from the good, in passing over what happen'd to this poor Chevalier of St. Louis about nine months after.
It seems he usually took his stand near the iron gates which lead up to the palace, and as his croix had caught the eyes of numbers, numbers had made the same enquiry which I had done.—He had told them the same story, and always with so much modesty and good sense, that it had reach'd at last the king's ears;—who, hearing the Chevalier had been a gallant officer, and respected by the whole regiment as a man of honour and integrity,—he broke up his little trade by a pension of fifteen hundred livres a year.
As I have told this to please the reader, I beg he will allow me to relate another, out of its order, to please myself: —the two stories reflect light upon each other,—and 'tis a pity they should be parted.
THE SWORD. RENNES.
When states and empires have their periods of declension, and feel in their turns what distress and poverty is,—I stop not to tell the causes which gradually brought the house d'E-, in Brittany, into decay. The Marquis d'E- had fought up against his condition with great firmness; wishing to preserve, and still show to the world, some little fragments of what his ancestors had been;—their indiscretions had put it out of his power. There was enough left for the little exigencies of OBSCURITY.—But he had two boys who looked up to him for LIGHT;—he thought they deserved it. He had tried his sword—it could not open the way,—the MOUNTING was too expensive,—and simple economy was not a match for it: —there was no resource but commerce.
In any other province in France, save Brittany, this was smiting the root for ever of the little tree his pride and affection wish'd to see re-blossom.—But in Brittany, there being a provision for this, he avail'd himself of it; and, taking an occasion when the states were assembled at Rennes, the Marquis, attended with his two boys, entered the court; and having pleaded the right of an ancient law of the duchy, which, though seldom claim'd, he said, was no less in force, he took his sword from his side: —Here, said he, take it; and be trusty guardians of it, till better times put me in condition to reclaim it.
The president accepted the Marquis's sword: he staid a few minutes to see it deposited in the archives of his house—and departed.
The Marquis and his whole family embarked the next clay for Martinico, and in about nineteen or twenty years of successful application to business, with some unlook'd for bequests from distant branches of his house, return home to reclaim his nobility, and to support it.
It was an incident of good fortune which will never happen to any traveller but a Sentimental one, that I should be at Rennes at the very time of this solemn requisition: I call it solemn;—it was so to me.
The Marquis entered the court with his whole family: he supported his lady,—his eldest son supported his sister, and his youngest was at the other extreme of the line next his mother;—he put his handkerchief to his face twice. -
- There was a dead silence. When the Marquis had approached within six paces of the tribunal, he gave the Marchioness to his youngest son, and advancing three steps before his family,—he reclaim'd his sword. His sword was given him, and the moment he got it into his hand he drew it almost out of the scabbard: —'twas the shining face of a friend he had once given up—he look'd attentively along it, beginning at the hilt, as if to see whether it was the same,— when, observing a little rust which it had contracted near the point, he brought it near his eye, and bending his head down over it,—I think—I saw a tear fall upon the place. I could not be deceived by what followed.
"I shall find," said he, "some OTHER WAY to get it off."
When the Marquis had said this, he returned his sword into its scabbard, made a bow to the guardians of it,—and, with his wife and daughter, and his two sons following him, walk'd out.
O, how I envied him his feelings!
THE PASSPORT. VERSAILLES.
I found no difficulty in getting admittance to Monsieur le Count de B-. The set of Shakespeares was laid upon the table, and he was tumbling them over. I walk'd up close to the table, and giving first such a look at the books as to make him conceive I knew what they were,—I told him I had come without any one to present me, knowing I should meet with a friend in his apartment, who, I trusted, would do it for me: —it is my countryman, the great Shakespeare, said I, pointing to his works—et ayez la boute, mon cher ami, apostrophizing his spirit, added I, de me faire cet honneur-la. -
The Count smiled at the singularity of the introduction; and seeing I look'd a little pale and sickly, insisted upon my taking an arm- chair; so I sat down; and to save him conjectures upon a visit so out of all rule, I told him simply of the incident in the bookseller's shop, and how that had impelled me rather to go to him with the story of a little embarrassment I was under, than to any other man in France.—And what is your embarrassment? let me hear it, said the Count. So I told him the story just as I have told it the reader.
- And the master of my hotel, said I, as I concluded it, will needs have it, Monsieur le Count, that I shall be sent to the Bastile;— but I have no apprehensions, continued I;—for, in falling into the hands of the most polish'd people in the world, and being conscious I was a true man, and not come to spy the nakedness of the land, I scarce thought I lay at their mercy.—It does not suit the gallantry of the French, Monsieur le Count, said I, to show it against invalids.
An animated blush came into the Count de B-'s cheeks as I spoke this.—Ne craignez rien—Don't fear, said he.—Indeed, I don't, replied I again.—Besides, continued I, a little sportingly, I have come laughing all the way from London to Paris, and I do not think Monsieur le Duc de Choiseul is such an enemy to mirth as to send me back crying for my pains.
- My application to you, Monsieur le Count de B- (making him a low bow), is to desire he will not.
The Count heard me with great good nature, or I had not said half as much,—and once or twice said,—C'est bien dit. So I rested my cause there—and determined to say no more about it.
The Count led the discourse: we talk'd of indifferent things,—of books, and politics, and men;—and then of women.—God bless them all! said I, after much discourse about them—there is not a man upon earth who loves them so much as I do: after all the foibles I have seen, and all the satires I have read against them, still I love them; being firmly persuaded that a man, who has not a sort of affection for the whole sex, is incapable of ever loving a single one as he ought.
Eh bien! Monsieur l'Anglois, said the Count, gaily;—you are not come to spy the nakedness of the land;—I believe you;—ni encore, I dare say, THAT of our women!—But permit me to conjecture,—if, par hazard, they fell into your way, that the prospect would not affect you.
I have something within me which cannot bear the shock of the least indecent insinuation: in the sportability of chit-chat I have often endeavoured to conquer it, and with infinite pain have hazarded a thousand things to a dozen of the sex together,—the least of which I could not venture to a single one to gain heaven.
Excuse me, Monsieur le Count, said I;—as for the nakedness of your land, if I saw it, I should cast my eyes over it with tears in them;—and for that of your women (blushing at the idea he had excited in me) I am so evangelical in this, and have such a fellow- feeling for whatever is weak about them, that I would cover it with a garment if I knew how to throw it on: —But I could wish, continued I, to spy the nakedness of their hearts, and through the different disguises of customs, climates, and religion, find out what is good in them to fashion my own by: —and therefore am I come.
It is for this reason, Monsieur le Count, continued I, that I have not seen the Palais Royal,—nor the Luxembourg,—nor the Facade of the Louvre,—nor have attempted to swell the catalogues we have of pictures, statues, and churches.—I conceive every fair being as a temple, and would rather enter in, and see the original drawings and loose sketches hung up in it, than the Transfiguration of Raphael itself.
The thirst of this, continued I, as impatient as that which inflames the breast of the connoisseur, has led me from my own home into France,—and from France will lead me through Italy;—'tis a quiet journey of the heart in pursuit of Nature, and those affections which arise out of her, which make us love each other,— and the world, better than we do.
The Count said a great many civil things to me upon the occasion; and added very politely, how much he stood obliged to Shakespeare for making me known to him.—But a propos, said he;—Shakespeare is full of great things;—he forgot a small punctilio of announcing your name: —it puts you under a necessity of doing it yourself.
THE PASSPORT. VERSAILLES.
There is not a more perplexing affair in life to me, than to set about telling any one who I am,—for there is scarce any body I cannot give a better account of than myself; and I have often wished I could do it in a single word,—and have an end of it. It was the only time and occasion in my life I could accomplish this to any purpose;—for Shakespeare lying upon the table, and recollecting I was in his books, I took up Hamlet, and turning immediately to the grave-diggers' scene in the fifth act, I laid my finger upon Yorick, and advancing the book to the Count, with my finger all the way over the name,—Me voici! said I.
Now, whether the idea of poor Yorick's skull was put out of the Count's mind by the reality of my own, or by what magic he could drop a period of seven or eight hundred years, makes nothing in this account;—'tis certain the French conceive better than they combine;—I wonder at nothing in this world, and the less at this; inasmuch as one of the first of our own Church, for whose candour and paternal sentiments I have the highest veneration, fell into the same mistake in the very same case: —"He could not bear," he said, "to look into the sermons wrote by the King of Denmark's jester." Good, my Lord said I; but there are two Yoricks. The Yorick your Lordship thinks of, has been dead and buried eight hundred years ago; he flourished in Horwendillus's court;—the other Yorick is myself, who have flourished, my Lord, in no court.- -He shook his head. Good God! said I, you might as well confound Alexander the Great with Alexander the Coppersmith, my lord!— "'Twas all one," he replied. -
- If Alexander, King of Macedon, could have translated your Lordship, said I, I'm sure your Lordship would not have said so.
The poor Count de B- fell but into the same ERROR.
- Et, Monsieur, est-il Yorick? cried the Count.—Je le suis, said I.—Vous?—Moi,—moi qui ai l'honneur de vous parler, Monsieur le Comte.—Mon Dieu! said he, embracing me,—Vous etes Yorick!
The Count instantly put the Shakespeare into his pocket, and left me alone in his room.
THE PASSPORT. VERSAILLES.
I could not conceive why the Count de B- had gone so abruptly out of the room, any more than I could conceive why he had put the Shakespeare into his pocket. -
Mysteries which must explain themselves are not worth the loss of time which a conjecture about them takes up: 'twas better to read Shakespeare; so taking up "Much Ado About Nothing," I transported myself instantly from the chair I sat in to Messina in Sicily, and got so busy with Don Pedro, and Benedict, and Beatrice, that I thought not of Versailles, the Count, or the passport.
Sweet pliability of man's spirit, that can at once surrender itself to illusions, which cheat expectation and sorrow of their weary moments!—Long,—long since had ye number'd out my days, had I not trod so great a part of them upon this enchanted ground. When my way is too rough for my feet, or too steep for my strength, I get off it, to some smooth velvet path, which Fancy has scattered over with rosebuds of delights; and having taken a few turns in it, come back strengthened and refresh'd.—When evils press sore upon me, and there is no retreat from them in this world, then I take a new course;—I leave it,—and as I have a clearer idea of the Elysian fields than I have of heaven, I force myself, like AEneas, into them.—I see him meet the pensive shade of his forsaken Dido, and wish to recognise it;—I see the injured spirit wave her head, and turn off silent from the author of her miseries and dishonours;—I lose the feelings for myself in hers, and in those affections which were wont to make me mourn for her when I was at school.
SURELY THIS IS NOT WALKING IN A VAIN SHADOW—NOR DOES MAN DISQUIET HIMSELF in vain BY IT: —he oftener does so in trusting the issue of his commotions to reason only.—I can safely say for myself, I was never able to conquer any one single bad sensation in my heart so decisively, as beating up as fast as I could for some kindly and gentle sensation to fight it upon its own ground
When I had got to the end of the third act the Count de B- entered, with my passport in his hand. Monsieur le Duc de C-, said the Count, is as good a prophet, I dare say, as he is a statesman. Un homme qui rit, said the Duke, ne sera jamais dangereux.—Had it been for any one but the king's jester, added the Count, I could not have got it these two hours.—Pardonnez moi, Monsieur le Count, said I—I am not the king's jester.—But you are Yorick?—Yes.—Et vous plaisantez?—I answered, Indeed I did jest,—but was not paid for it;—'twas entirely at my own expense.
We have no jester at court, Monsieur le Count, said I; the last we had was in the licentious reign of Charles II.;—since which time our manners have been so gradually refining, that our court at present is so full of patriots, who wish for NOTHING but the honours and wealth of their country;—and our ladies are all so chaste, so spotless, so good, so devout,—there is nothing for a jester to make a jest of. -
Voila un persiflage! cried the Count.
THE PASSPORT. VERSAILLES.
As the passport was directed to all lieutenant-governors, governors, and commandants of cities, generals of armies, justiciaries, and all officers of justice, to let Mr. Yorick the king's jester, and his baggage, travel quietly along, I own the triumph of obtaining the passport was not a little tarnish'd by the figure I cut in it.—But there is nothing unmix'd in this world; and some of the gravest of our divines have carried it so far as to affirm, that enjoyment itself was attended even with a sigh,—and that the greatest THEY KNEW OF terminated, IN A GENERAL WAY, in little better than a convulsion.
I remember the grave and learned Bevoriskius, in his Commentary upon the Generations from Adam, very naturally breaks off in the middle of a note to give an account to the world of a couple of sparrows upon the out-edge of his window, which had incommoded him all the time he wrote, and at last had entirely taken him off from his genealogy.
- 'Tis strange! writes Bevoriskius; but the facts are certain, for I have had the curiosity to mark them down one by one with my pen;- -but the cock sparrow, during the little time that I could have finished the other half of this note, has actually interrupted me with the reiteration of his caresses three-and-twenty times and a half.
How merciful, adds Bevoriskius, is heaven to his creatures!
Ill fated Yorick! that the gravest of thy brethren should be able to write that to the world, which stains thy face with crimson to copy, even in thy study.
But this is nothing to my travels.—So I twice,—twice beg pardon for it.
And how do you find the French? said the Count de B-, after he had given me the passport.
The reader may suppose, that after so obliging a proof of courtesy, I could not be at a loss to say something handsome to the enquiry.
- Mais passe, pour cela.—Speak frankly, said he: do you find all the urbanity in the French which the world give us the honour of?— I had found every thing, I said, which confirmed it.—Vraiment, said the Count, les Francois sont polis.—To an excess, replied I.
The Count took notice of the word exces; and would have it I meant more than I said. I defended myself a long time as well as I could against it.—He insisted I had a reserve, and that I would speak my opinion frankly.
I believe, Monsieur le Count, said I, that man has a certain compass, as well as an instrument; and that the social and other calls have occasion by turns for every key in him; so that if you begin a note too high or too low, there must be a want either in the upper or under part, to fill up the system of harmony.—The Count de B- did not understand music, so desired me to explain it some other way. A polish'd nation, my dear Count, said I, makes every one its debtor: and besides, Urbanity itself, like the fair sex, has so many charms, it goes against the heart to say it can do ill; and yet, I believe, there is but a certain line of perfection, that man, take him altogether, is empower'd to arrive at: —if he gets beyond, he rather exchanges qualities than gets them. I must not presume to say how far this has affected the French in the subject we are speaking of;—but, should it ever be the case of the English, in the progress of their refinements, to arrive at the same polish which distinguishes the French, if we did not lose the politesse du coeur, which inclines men more to humane actions than courteous ones,—we should at least lose that distinct variety and originality of character, which distinguishes them, not only from each other, but from all the world besides.
I had a few of King William's shillings, as smooth as glass, in my pocket; and foreseeing they would be of use in the illustration of my hypothesis, I had got them into my hand when I had proceeded so far: -
See, Monsieur le Count, said I, rising up, and laying them before him upon the table,—by jingling and rubbing one against another for seventy years together in one body's pocket or another's, they are become so much alike, you can scarce distinguish one shilling from another.
The English, like ancient medals, kept more apart, and passing but few people's hands, preserve the first sharpnesses which the fine hand of Nature has given them;—they are not so pleasant to feel,— but in return the legend is so visible, that at the first look you see whose image and superscription they bear.—But the French, Monsieur le Count, added I (wishing to soften what I had said), have so many excellences, they can the better spare this;—they are a loyal, a gallant, a generous, an ingenious, and good temper'd people as is under heaven;—if they have a fault—they are too SERIOUS.
Mon Dieu! cried the Count, rising out of his chair.
Mais vous plaisantez, said he, correcting his exclamation.—I laid my hand upon my breast, and with earnest gravity assured him it was my most settled opinion.
The Count said he was mortified he could not stay to hear my reasons, being engaged to go that moment to dine with the Duc de C- .
But if it is not too far to come to Versailles to eat your soup with me, I beg, before you leave France, I may have the pleasure of knowing you retract your opinion,—or, in what manner you support it.—But, if you do support it, Monsieur Anglois, said he, you must do it with all your powers, because you have the whole world against you.—I promised the Count I would do myself the honour of dining with him before I set out for Italy;—so took my leave.
THE TEMPTATION. PARIS.
When I alighted at the hotel, the porter told me a young woman with a bandbox had been that moment enquiring for me.—I do not know, said the porter, whether she is gone away or not. I took the key of my chamber of him, and went upstairs; and when I had got within ten steps of the top of the landing before my door, I met her coming easily down.
It was the fair fille de chambre I had walked along the Quai de Conti with; Madame de R- had sent her upon some commission to a marchande des modes within a step or two of the Hotel de Modene; and as I had fail'd in waiting upon her, had bid her enquire if I had left Paris; and if so, whether I had not left a letter addressed to her.
As the fair fille de chambre was so near my door, she returned back, and went into the room with me for a moment or two whilst I wrote a card.
It was a fine still evening in the latter end of the month of May,- -the crimson window curtains (which were of the same colour as those of the bed) were drawn close: —the sun was setting, and reflected through them so warm a tint into the fair fille de chambre's face,—I thought she blush'd;—the idea of it made me blush myself: —we were quite alone; and that superinduced a second blush before the first could get off.
There is a sort of a pleasing half guilty blush, where the blood is more in fault than the man: —'tis sent impetuous from the heart, and virtue flies after it,—not to call it back, but to make the sensation of it more delicious to the nerves: —'tis associated. -
But I'll not describe it;—I felt something at first within me which was not in strict unison with the lesson of virtue I had given her the night before.—I sought five minutes for a card;—I knew I had not one.—I took up a pen.—I laid it down again;—my hand trembled: —the devil was in me.
I know as well as any one he is an adversary, whom, if we resist, he will fly from us;—but I seldom resist him at all; from a terror, though I may conquer, I may still get a hurt in the combat;—so I give up the triumph for security; and, instead of thinking to make him fly, I generally fly myself.
The fair fille de chambre came close up to the bureau where I was looking for a card—took up first the pen I cast down, then offer'd to hold me the ink; she offer'd it so sweetly, I was going to accept it;—but I durst not;—I have nothing, my dear, said I, to write upon.—Write it, said she, simply, upon anything. -
I was just going to cry out, Then I will write it, fair girl! upon thy lips. -
If I do, said I, I shall perish;—so I took her by the hand, and led her to the door, and begg'd she would not forget the lesson I had given her.—She said, indeed she would not;—and, as she uttered it with some earnestness, she turn'd about, and gave me both her hands, closed together, into mine;—it was impossible not to compress them in that situation;—I wish'd to let them go; and all the time I held them, I kept arguing within myself against it,- -and still I held them on.—In two minutes I found I had all the battle to fight over again;—and I felt my legs and every limb about me tremble at the idea.
The foot of the bed was within a yard and a half of the place where we were standing.—I had still hold of her hands—and how it happened I can give no account; but I neither ask'd her—nor drew her—nor did I think of the bed;—but so it did happen, we both sat down.
I'll just show you, said the fair fille de chambre, the little purse I have been making to-day to hold your crown. So she put her hand into her right pocket, which was next me, and felt for it some time—then into the left.—"She had lost it."—I never bore expectation more quietly;—it was in her right pocket at last;—she pull'd it out; it was of green taffeta, lined with a little bit of white quilted satin, and just big enough to hold the crown: she put it into my hand;—it was pretty; and I held it ten minutes with the back of my hand resting upon her lap—looking sometimes at the purse, sometimes on one side of it.
A stitch or two had broke out in the gathers of my stock; the fair fille de chambre, without saying a word, took out her little housewife, threaded a small needle, and sew'd it up.—I foresaw it would hazard the glory of the day; and, as she pass'd her hand in silence across and across my neck in the manoeuvre, I felt the laurels shake which fancy had wreath'd about my head.
A strap had given way in her walk, and the buckle of her shoe was just falling off.—See, said the fille de chambre, holding up her foot.—I could not, for my soul but fasten the buckle in return, and putting in the strap,—and lifting up the other foot with it, when I had done, to see both were right,—in doing it too suddenly, it unavoidably threw the fair fille de chambre off her centre,—and then -
Yes,—and then -. Ye whose clay-cold heads and luke-warm hearts can argue down or mask your passions, tell me, what trespass is it that man should have them? or how his spirit stands answerable to the Father of spirits but for his conduct under them?
If Nature has so wove her web of kindness, that some threads of love and desire are entangled with the piece,—must the whole web be rent in drawing them out?—Whip me such stoics, great Governor of Nature! said I to myself: —wherever thy providence shall place me for the trials of my virtue;—whatever is my danger,—whatever is my situation,—let me feel the movements which rise out of it, and which belong to me as a man,—and, if I govern them as a good one, I will trust the issues to thy justice; for thou hast made us, and not we ourselves.
As I finished my address, I raised the fair fille de chambre up by the hand, and led her out of the room: —she stood by me till I locked the door and put the key in my pocket,—and then,—the victory being quite decisive—and not till then, I press'd my lips to her cheek, and taking her by the hand again, led her safe to the gate of the hotel.
THE MYSTERY. PARIS.
If a man knows the heart, he will know it was impossible to go back instantly to my chamber;—it was touching a cold key with a flat third to it upon the close of a piece of music, which had call'd forth my affections: —therefore, when I let go the hand of the fille de chambre, I remained at the gate of the hotel for some time, looking at every one who pass'd by,—and forming conjectures upon them, till my attention got fix'd upon a single object which confounded all kind of reasoning upon him.
It was a tall figure of a philosophic, serious, adust look, which passed and repass'd sedately along the street, making a turn of about sixty paces on each side of the gate of the hotel;—the man was about fifty-two—had a small cane under his arm—was dress'd in a dark drab-colour'd coat, waistcoat, and breeches, which seem'd to have seen some years service: —they were still clean, and there was a little air of frugal proprete throughout him. By his pulling off his hat, and his attitude of accosting a good many in his way, I saw he was asking charity: so I got a sous or two out of my pocket ready to give him, as he took me in his turn.—He pass'd by me without asking anything—and yet did not go five steps further before he ask'd charity of a little woman.—I was much more likely to have given of the two.—He had scarce done with the woman, when he pull'd off his hat to another who was coming the same way.—An ancient gentleman came slowly—and, after him, a young smart one.— He let them both pass, and ask'd nothing. I stood observing him half an hour, in which time he had made a dozen turns backwards and forwards, and found that he invariably pursued the same plan.
There were two things very singular in this, which set my brain to work, and to no purpose: —the first was, why the man should ONLY tell his story to the sex;—and, secondly,—what kind of story it was, and what species of eloquence it could be, which soften'd the hearts of the women, which he knew 'twas to no purpose to practise upon the men.
There were two other circumstances, which entangled this mystery;— the one was, he told every woman what he had to say in her ear, and in a way which had much more the air of a secret than a petition;— the other was, it was always successful.—He never stopp'd a woman, but she pull'd out her purse, and immediately gave him something.
I could form no system to explain the phenomenon.
I had got a riddle to amuse me for the rest of the evening; so I walk'd upstairs to my chamber.
THE CASE OF CONSCIENCE. PARIS.
I was immediately followed up by the master of the hotel, who came into my room to tell me I must provide lodgings elsewhere.—How so, friend? said I.—He answered, I had had a young woman lock'd up with me two hours that evening in my bedchamber, and 'twas against the rules of his house.—Very well, said I, we'll all part friends then,—for the girl is no worse,—and I am no worse,—and you will be just as I found you.—It was enough, he said, to overthrow the credit of his hotel.—Voyez vous, Monsieur, said he, pointing to the foot of the bed we had been sitting upon.—I own it had something of the appearance of an evidence; but my pride not suffering me to enter into any detail of the case, I exhorted him to let his soul sleep in peace, as I resolved to let mine do that night, and that I would discharge what I owed him at breakfast.
I should not have minded, Monsieur, said he, if you had had twenty girls—'Tis a score more, replied I, interrupting him, than I ever reckon'd upon—Provided, added he, it had been but in a morning.— And does the difference of the time of the day at Paris make a difference in the sin?—It made a difference, he said, in the scandal.—I like a good distinction in my heart; and cannot say I was intolerably out of temper with the man.—I own it is necessary, resumed the master of the hotel, that a stranger at Paris should have the opportunities presented to him of buying lace and silk stockings and ruffles, et tout cela;—and 'tis nothing if a woman comes with a band-box.—O, my conscience! said I, she had one but I never look'd into it.—Then Monsieur, said he, has bought nothing?- -Not one earthly thing, replied I.—Because, said he, I could recommend one to you who would use you en conscience.—But I must see her this night, said I.—He made me a low bow, and walk'd down.
Now shall I triumph over this maitre d'hotel, cried I,—and what then? Then I shall let him see I know he is a dirty fellow.—And what then? What then?—I was too near myself to say it was for the sake of others.—I had no good answer left;—there was more of spleen than principle in my project, and I was sick of it before the execution.
In a few minutes the grisette came in with her box of lace.—I'll buy nothing, however, said I, within myself.
The grisette would show me everything.—I was hard to please: she would not seem to see it; she opened her little magazine, and laid all her laces one after another before me;—unfolded and folded them up again one by one with the most patient sweetness.—I might buy,—or not;—she would let me have everything at my own price: — the poor creature seem'd anxious to get a penny; and laid herself out to win me, and not so much in a manner which seem'd artful, as in one I felt simple and caressing.
If there is not a fund of honest gullibility in man, so much the worse;—my heart relented, and I gave up my second resolution as quietly as the first.—Why should I chastise one for the trespass of another? If thou art tributary to this tyrant of an host, thought I, looking up in her face, so much harder is thy bread.
If I had not had more than four louis d'ors in my purse, there was no such thing as rising up and showing her the door, till I had first laid three of them out in a pair of ruffles.
- The master of the hotel will share the profit with her;—no matter,—then I have only paid as many a poor soul has PAID before me, for an act he COULD not do, or think of.
THE RIDDLE. PARIS.
When La Fleur came up to wait upon me at supper, he told me how sorry the master of the hotel was for his affront to me in bidding me change my lodgings.
A man who values a good night's rest will not lie down with enmity in his heart, if he can help it.—So I bid La Fleur tell the master of the hotel, that I was sorry on my side for the occasion I had given him;—and you may tell him, if you will, La Fleur, added I, that if the young woman should call again, I shall not see her.
This was a sacrifice not to him, but myself, having resolved, after so narrow an escape, to run no more risks, but to leave Paris, if it was possible, with all the virtue I enter'd it.
C'est deroger a noblesse, Monsieur, said La Fleur, making me a bow down to the ground as he said it.—Et encore, Monsieur, said he, may change his sentiments;—and if (par hazard) he should like to amuse himself,—I find no amusement in it, said I, interrupting him. -
Mon Dieu! said La Fleur,—and took away.
In an hour's time he came to put me to bed, and was more than commonly officious: —something hung upon his lips to say to me, or ask me, which he could not get off: I could not conceive what it was, and indeed gave myself little trouble to find it out, as I had another riddle so much more interesting upon my mind, which was that of the man's asking charity before the door of the hotel.—I would have given anything to have got to the bottom of it; and that, not out of curiosity,—'tis so low a principle of enquiry, in general, I would not purchase the gratification of it with a two- sous piece;—but a secret, I thought, which so soon and so certainly soften'd the heart of every woman you came near, was a secret at least equal to the philosopher's stone; had I both the Indies, I would have given up one to have been master of it.
I toss'd and turn'd it almost all night long in my brains to no manner of purpose; and when I awoke in the morning, I found my spirits as much troubled with my dreams, as ever the King of Babylon had been with his; and I will not hesitate to affirm, it would have puzzled all the wise men of Paris as much as those of Chaldea to have given its interpretation.
LE DIMANCHE. PARIS.
It was Sunday; and when La Fleur came in, in the morning, with my coffee and roll and butter, he had got himself so gallantly array'd, I scarce knew him.
I had covenanted at Montreuil to give him a new hat with a silver button and loop, and four louis d'ors, pour s'adoniser, when we got to Paris; and the poor fellow, to do him justice, had done wonders with it.
He had bought a bright, clean, good scarlet coat, and a pair of breeches of the same.—They were not a crown worse, he said, for the wearing.—I wish'd him hang'd for telling me.—They look'd so fresh, that though I knew the thing could not be done, yet I would rather have imposed upon my fancy with thinking I had bought them new for the fellow, than that they had come out of the Rue de Friperie.
This is a nicety which makes not the heart sore at Paris.
He had purchased, moreover, a handsome blue satin waistcoat, fancifully enough embroidered: —this was indeed something the worse for the service it had done, but 'twas clean scour'd;—the gold had been touch'd up, and upon the whole was rather showy than otherwise;—and as the blue was not violent, it suited with the coat and breeches very well: he had squeez'd out of the money, moreover, a new bag and a solitaire; and had insisted with the fripier upon a gold pair of garters to his breeches knees.—He had purchased muslin ruffles, bien brodees, with four livres of his own money;—and a pair of white silk stockings for five more;—and to top all, nature had given him a handsome figure, without costing him a sous.
He entered the room thus set off, with his hair dressed in the first style, and with a handsome bouquet in his breast.—In a word, there was that look of festivity in everything about him, which at once put me in mind it was Sunday;—and, by combining both together, it instantly struck me, that the favour he wish'd to ask of me the night before, was to spend the day as every body in Paris spent it besides. I had scarce made the conjecture, when La Fleur, with infinite humility, but with a look of trust, as if I should not refuse him, begg'd I would grant him the day, pour faire le galant vis-a-vis de sa maitresse.
Now it was the very thing I intended to do myself vis-a-vis Madame de R-.—I had retained the remise on purpose for it, and it would not have mortified my vanity to have had a servant so well dress'd as La Fleur was, to have got up behind it: I never could have worse spared him.
But we must FEEL, not argue in these embarrassments.—The sons and daughters of Service part with liberty, but not with nature, in their contracts; they are flesh and blood, and have their little vanities and wishes in the midst of the house of bondage, as well as their task-masters;—no doubt, they have set their self-denials at a price,—and their expectations are so unreasonable, that I would often disappoint them, but that their condition puts it so much in my power to do it.
BEHOLD,—BEHOLD, I AM THY SERVANT—disarms me at once of the powers of a master. -
Thou shalt go, La Fleur! said I.
- And what mistress, La Fleur, said I, canst thou have picked up in so little a time at Paris? La Fleur laid his hand upon his breast, and said 'twas a petite demoiselle, at Monsieur le Count de B-'s.— La Fleur had a heart made for society; and, to speak the truth of him, let as few occasions slip him as his master;—so that somehow or other,—but how,—heaven knows,—he had connected himself with the demoiselle upon the landing of the staircase, during the time I was taken up with my passport; and as there was time enough for me to win the Count to my interest, La Fleur had contrived to make it do to win the maid to his. The family, it seems, was to be at Paris that day, and he had made a party with her, and two or three more of the Count's household, upon the boulevards.
Happy people! that once a week at least are sure to lay down all your cares together, and dance and sing and sport away the weights of grievance, which bow down the spirit of other nations to the earth.
THE FRAGMENT. PARIS.
La Fleur had left me something to amuse myself with for the day more than I had bargain'd for, or could have enter'd either into his head or mine.
He had brought the little print of butter upon a currant leaf: and as the morning was warm, and he had a good step to bring it, he had begg'd a sheet of waste paper to put betwixt the currant leaf and his hand.—As that was plate sufficient, I bade him lay it upon the table as it was; and as I resolved to stay within all day, I ordered him to call upon the traiteur, to bespeak my dinner, and leave me to breakfast by myself.
When I had finished the butter, I threw the currant-leaf out of the window, and was going to do the same by the waste paper;—but stopping to read a line first, and that drawing me on to a second and third,—I thought it better worth; so I shut the window, and drawing a chair up to it, I sat down to read it.
It was in the old French of Rabelais's time, and for aught I know might have been wrote by him: —it was moreover in a Gothic letter, and that so faded and gone off by damps and length of time, it cost me infinite trouble to make anything of it.—I threw it down; and then wrote a letter to Eugenius;—then I took it up again, and embroiled my patience with it afresh;—and then to cure that, I wrote a letter to Eliza.—Still it kept hold of me; and the difficulty of understanding it increased but the desire.
I got my dinner; and after I had enlightened my mind with a bottle of Burgundy; I at it again,—and, after two or three hours poring upon it, with almost as deep attention as ever Gruter or Jacob Spon did upon a nonsensical inscription, I thought I made sense of it; but to make sure of it, the best way, I imagined, was to turn it into English, and see how it would look then;—so I went on leisurely, as a trifling man does, sometimes writing a sentence,— then taking a turn or two,—and then looking how the world went, out of the window; so that it was nine o'clock at night before I had done it.—I then began and read it as follows.