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THIS certainly, fair lady! said I, raising her hand up a little lightly as I began, must be one of Fortune's whimsical doings: to take two utter strangers by their hands-of different sexes, and perhaps from different corners of the globe, and in one moment place them together in such a cordial situation as Friendship herself could scarce have atchieved for them, had she projected it for a month
And your reflection upon it, shews how much, Monsieur, she has embarrassed you by the adventure
When the situation is what we would wish, nothing is so ill-timed as to hint at the circumstances which make it so: you thank Fortune, continued she you had reason the heart knew it, and was satisfied; and who but an English philosopher would have sent notice of it to the brain to reverse the judgment?
In saying this she disengaged her hand with a look which I thought a sufficient commentary upon the text.
It is a miserable picture which I am going to give of the weakness of my heart, by owning that it suffered a pain, which worthier occasions could not have inflicted I was mortified with the loss of her hand, and the manner in which I had lost it carried neither oil nor wine to the wound: I never felt the pain of a sheepish inferiority so miserably in my life.
The triumphs of a true feminine heart are short upon these discomfitures. In a very few seconds she laid her hand upon the cuff of my coat, in order to finish her reply; so some way or other, God knows how, I regained my situation.
She had nothing to add.
I forthwith began to model a different conversation for the lady, thinking from the spirit as well as moral of this, that I had been mistaken in her character; but upon turning her face towards me, the spirit which had animated the reply was fled-the muscles relaxed, and I beheld the same unprotected look of distress which first won me to her interest melancholy! to see such sprightliness the prey of sorrow I pitied her from my soul; and though it may seem ridiculous enough to a torpid heart I could have taken her into my arms, and cherished her, though it was in the open street, without blushing.
The pulsations of the arteries along my fingers pressing across her's, told her what was passing within me: she looked down a silence of some moments followed.
I fear, in this interval, I must have made some slight efforts towards a closer compression of her hand, from a subtle sensation I felt in the palm of my own not as if she was going to withdraw her's but as if she thought about it and I had infallibly lost it a second time, had not instinct more than reason directed me to the last resource in these dangers to hold it loosely and in a manner as if I was every moment going to release it, of myself; so she let it continue till Monsieur Dessein returned with the key; and in the mean time I set myself to consider how I should undo the ill impressions which the poor monk's story, in case he had told it her, must have planted in her breast against me.
THE good old monk was within six paces of us, as the idea of him cross'd my mind; and was advancing towards us a little out of the line, as if uncertain whether he should break in upon us or no He stopp'd, however, as soon as he came up to us, with a world of frankness: and having a horn snuffbox in his hand, he presented it open to me You shall taste mine said I, pulling out my box (which was a small tortoise one) and putting it into his hand 'Tis most excellent, said the monk; Then do me the favour, I replied, to accept of the box and all, and when you take a pinch out of it, sometimes recollect it was the peace-offering of a man who once used you unkindly, but not from his heart.
The poor monk blush'd as red as scarlet. Mon Dieu! said he, pressing his hands together you never used me unkindly. I should think, said the lady, he is not likely. I blush'd in my turn; but from what movements I leave to the few who feel to analyse Excuse me, Madame, replied I I treated him most unkindly, and from no provocations. 'T is impossible, said the lady My God! cried the monk, with a warmth of asseveration which seem'd not to belong to him -the fault was in me, and in the indiscretion of my zeal The lady opposed it, and I joined with her in maintaining it was impossible, that a spirit so regulated as his, could give offence to any.
I knew not that contention could be rendered so sweet and pleasurable a thing to the nerves as I then felt it. We remained silent without any sensation of that foolish pain which takes place, when in such a circle you look for ten minutes in one another's faces without saying a word. Whilst this lasted, the monk rubb'd his horn box upon the sleeve of his tunick; and as soon as it had acquired a little air of brightness by the friction he made a low bow, and said, 'twas too late to say whether it was the weakness or goodness of our tempers which had involved us in this contest But be it as it would-he begg'd we might exchange boxes In saying this, he presented his to me with one hand, as he took mine from me in the other; and having kissed it with a stream of good-nature in his eyes he put it into his bosom and took his leave.
I guard this box, as I would the instrumental parts of my religion, to help my mind on to something better: in truth, I seldom go abroad without it: and oft and many a time have I called up by it the courteous spirit of its owner to regulate my own, in the justlings of the world; they had found full employment for his, as I learnt from his story, till about the forty-fifth year of his age, when upon some military services ill requited, and meeting at the same time with a disappointment in the tenderest of passions, he abandoned the sword and the sex together, and took sanctuary, not so much in his convent as in himself.
I feel a damp upon my spirits, as I am going to add, that in my last return through Calais, upon inquiring after Father Lorenzo, I heard he had been dead near three months, and was buried, not in his convent, but, according to his desire, in a little cemetery belonging to it, about two leagues off: I had a strong desire to see where they had laid him when upon pulling out his little horn box, as I sat by his grave, and plucking up a nettle or two at the head of it, which had no business to grow there, they all struck together so forcibly upon my affections, that I burst into a flood of tears but I am as weak as a woman; and I beg the world not to smile, but pity me.
I HAD never quitted the lady's hand all this time; and had held it so long, that it would have been indecent to have let it go, without first pressing it to my lips: the blood and spirits, which had suffered a revulsion from her, crowded back to her, as I did it. Now the two travellers, who had spoke to me in the coach-yard, happened at that crisis to be passing by, and observing our communications, naturally took it into their heads that we must be man and wife, at least; so stopping as soon as they came up to the door of the Rιmise, the one of them, who was the inquisitive Traveller, ask'd us, if we set out for Paris the next morning? I could only answer for myself, I said; and the lady added, she was for Amiens We dined there yesterday, said the simple Traveller You go directly through the town, added the other, in your road to Paris. I was going to return a thousand thanks for the intelligence, that Amiens was in the road to Paris; but upon pulling out my poor monk's little horn box to take a pinch of snuff, I made them a quiet bow, and wished them a good passage to Dover- they left us alone
Now where would be the harm, said I to myself, if I was to beg of this distressed lady to accept of half of my chaise? and what mighty mischief could ensue?
Every dirty passion, and bad propensity in my nature, took the alarm, as I stated the proposition It will oblige you to have a third horse, said AVARICE, which will put twenty livres out of your pocket You know not what she is, said CAUTION or what scrapes the affair may draw you into, whisper'd COWARDICE
Depend upon it, Yorick I said DISCRETION, 't will be said you went off with a mistress, and came by assignation to Calais for that purpose.
You can never after, cried HYPOCRISY aloud, shew your face in the world or rise, quoth MEANNESS, in the church or be any thing in it, said PRIDE, but a lousy prebendary. But 't is a civil thing, said I and as I generally act from the first impulse, and therefore seldom listen to these cabals, which serve no purpose that I know of, but to encompass the heart with adamant I turn'd instantly about to the lady
But she had glided off unperceived, as the cause was pleading, and had made ten or a dozen paces down the street, by the time I had made the determination; so I set off after her with a long stride, to make her the proposal with the best address I was master of; but observing she walk'd with her cheek half resting upon the palm of her hand with the slow, short-measur'd step of thoughtfulness, and with her eyes, as she went step by step, fixed upon the ground, it struck me, she was trying the same cause herself. God help her! said I, she has some mother-in-law, or tartufish aunt, or nonsensical old woman, to consult upon the occasion, as well as myself: so not caring to interrupt the processe, and deeming it more gallant to take her at discretion than surprise, I faced about, and took a short turn or two before the door of the Rιmise, whilst she walk'd musing on one side.
HAVING, on first sight of the lady, settled the affair in my fancy, "that she was of the better order of beings" and then laid it down as a second axiom, as indisputable as the first, that she was a widow, and wore a character of distress I went no further; I got ground enough for the situation which pleased me and had she remained close beside my elbow till midnight, I should have held true to my system, and considered her only under that general idea.
She had scarce got twenty paces distant from me, ere something within me called out for a more particular enquiry it brought on the idea of a further separation I might possibly never see her more the heart is for saving what it can; and I wanted the traces through which my wishes might find their way to her, in case I should never rejoin her myself: in a word, I wish'd to know her name her family's her condition; and as I knew the place to which she was going, I wanted to know from whence she came: but there was no coming at all this intelligence: a hundred little delicacies stood in the way. I form'd a score different plans There was no such thing as a man's asking her directly the thing was impossible.
A little French debonaire captain, who came dancing down the street, shewed me, it was the easiest thing in the world; for popping in betwixt us, just as the lady was returning back to the door of the Rιmise, he introduced himself to my acquaintance, and before he had well got announced, begg'd I would do him the honour to present him to the lady I had not been presented myself so turning about to her, he did it just as well by asking her, if she had come from Paris? No, she was going that route, she said. Vous nκtes pas de Londre? She was not, she replied, Then Madame must have come through Flanders Apparemment vous κtes Flammande? said the French captain The lady answered, she was Peut-ιtre de Lisle? added he She said, she was not of Lisle. Nor Arras? nor Cambray? nor Ghent? nor Brussels? She answered, she was of Brussels.
He had had the honour, he said, to be at the bombardment of it last war that it was finely situated, pour cela and full of noblesse when the Imperialists were driven out by the French (the lady made a slight curtsy) so giving her an account of the affair, and of the share he had had in it he begg'd the honour to know her name-so made his bow.
Et Madame a san Mari? said he, looking back when he had made two steps and without staying for an answer danced down the street.
Had I served seven years' apprenticeship to good-breeding, I could not have done as much.
AS the little French captain left us, Mons. Dessein came up with the key of the Rιmise in his hand, and forthwith let us into his magazine of chaises.
The first object which caught my eye, as Mons. Dessein open'd the door of the Rιmise, was another old tatter'd Dιsobligeant: and notwithstanding it was the exact picture of that which had hit my fancy so much in the coach-yard but an hour before the very sight of it stirr'd up a disagreeable sensation within me now; and I thought 'twas a churlish beast into whose heart the idea could first enter, to construct such a machine; nor had I much more charity for the man who could think of using it.
I observed the lady was as little taken with it as myself: so Mons. Dessein led us on to a couple of chaises which stood abreast, telling us, as he recommended them, that they had been purchased by my Lord A. and B. to go the grand tour, but had gone no further than Paris, so were in all respects as good as new They were too good so I pass'd on to a third, which stood behind, and forthwith began to chaffer for the price. But 't will scarce hold two, said I, opening the door and getting in Have the goodness, Madam, said Mons. Dessein, offering his arm, to step in The lady hesitated half a second, and stepp'd in; and the waiter that moment beckoning to speak to Mons. Dessein, he shut the door of the chaise upon us, and left us.
C EST bien comique, 'tis very droll, said the lady smiling, from the reflection that this was the second time we had been left together by a parcel of nonsensical contingencies c'est bien comique, said she
--There wants nothing, said I, to make it so, but the comic use which the gallantry of a Frenchman would put it to to make love the first moment, and an offer of his person the second.
'T is their fort, replied the lady.
It is supposed so at least and how it has come to pass, continued I, I know not: but they have certainly got the credit of understanding more of love, and making it better than any other nation upon earth; but for my own part, I think them errant bunglers, and in truth the worst set of marksmen that ever tried Cupid's patience.
To think of making love by sentiments!
I should as soon think of making a genteel suit of cloaths out of remnants: and to do it pop at first sight by declaration is submitting the offer and themselves with it, to be sifted with all their pours and contres, by an unheated mind.
The lady attended as if she expected I should go on.
Consider then, madam, continued I, laying my hand upon her's
That grave people hate Love for the name's sake
That selfish people hate it for their own
Hypocrites for heaven's
And that all of us, both old and young, being ten times worse frighten'd than hurt by the very report
What a want of knowledge in this branch of commerce a man betrays, who ever lets the word come out of his lips, till an hour or two at least after the time that his silence upon it becomes tormenting. A course of small, quiet attentions, not so pointed as to alarm nor so vague as to be misunderstood with now and then a look of kindness, and little or nothing said upon it leaves nature for your mistress, and she fashions it to her mind
Then I solemnly declare, said the lady, blushing you have been making love to me all this while.
MONSIEUR Dessein came back to let us out of the chaise, and acquaint the lady, Count de L---, her brother, was just arrived at the hotel. Though I had infinite good-will for the lady, I cannot say, that I rejoiced in my heart at the event and could not help telling her so for it is fatal to a proposal, Madam, said I, that I was going to make to you
You need not tell me what the proposal was, said she, laying her hand upon both mine, as she interrupted me. A man, my good Sir, has seldom an offer of kindness to make to a woman, but she has a presentiment of it some moments before
Nature arms her with it, said I, for immediate preservation But I think, said she, looking in my face, I had no evil to apprehend and to deal frankly with you, had determined to accept it. If I had (she stopped a moment) I believe your good-will would have drawn a story from me, which would have made pity the only dangerous thing in the journey.
In saying this, she suffered me to kiss her hand twice, and with a look of sensibility mixed with a concern, she got out of the chaise and bid adieu.
I NEVER finished a twelve-guinea bargain so expeditiously in my life: my time seemed heavy upon the loss of the lady, and knowing every moment of it would be as two, till I put myself into motion I ordered post-horses directly, and walked towards the hotel.
Lord! said I, hearing the town-clock strike four, and recollecting that I had been little more than a single hour in Calais
What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in every thing, and who, having eyes to see what time and chance are perpetually holding out to him as he journeyeth on his way, misses nothing he can fairly lay his hands on.
If this won't turn out something another will no matter 't is an assay upon human nature I get my labour for my pains 't is enough the pleasure of the experiment has kept my senses and the best part of my blood awake, and laid the gross to sleep.
I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and cry, 'T is all barren and so it is; and so is all the world to him, who will not cultivate the fruits it offers. I declare, said I, clapping my hands cheerily together, that was I in a desert, I would find out wherewith in it to call forth my affections If I could not do better, I would fasten them upon some sweet myrtle, or seek some melancholy cypress to connect myself to I would court their shade, and greet them kindly for their protection I would cut my name upon them, and swear they were the loveliest trees throughout the desert; if their leaves wither'd, I would teach myself to mourn, and when they rejoiced, I would rejoice along with them.
The learned SMELFUNGUS1 travelled from Boulogne to Paris from Paris to Rome and so on but he set out with the spleen and jaundice, and every object he pass'd by was discoloured or distorted He wrote an account of them, but 't was nothing but the account of his miserable feelings.
I met Smelfungus in the grand portico of the pantheon he was just coming out of it 'Tis nothing but a huge cockpit,2 said he I wish you had said nothing worse of the Venus of Medicis, replied I for in passing through Florence, I had heard he had fallen foul upon the goddess, and used her worse than a common strumpet, without the least provocation in nature.
I popp'd upon Smelfungus again at Turin, in his return home; and a sad tale of sorrowful adventures he had to tell, "wherein he spoke of moving accidents by flood and field, and of the cannibals which each other eat: the Anthropophagi" he had been flay'd alive, and bedevil'd, and used worse than St. Bartholomew, at every stage he had come at
I'll tell it, cried Smelfungus, to the world. You had better tell it, said I, to your physician. Mundungus, with an immense fortune, made the whole tour; going on from Rome to Naples from Naples to Venice from Venice to Vienna to Dresden, to Berlin, without one generous connection or pleasurable anecdote to tell of; but he had travell'd straight on, looking neither to his right hand or his left, lest Love or Pity should seduce him out of his road.
Peace be to them! if it is to be found; but heaven itself, was it possible to get there with such tempers, would want objects to give it every gentle spirit would come flying upon the wings of Love to hail their arrival Nothing would the souls of Smelfungus and Mundungus hear of, but fresh anthems of joy, fresh raptures of love, and fresh congratulations of their common felicity I heartily pity them: they have brought up no faculties for this work; and was the happiest mansion in heaven to be allotted to Smelfungus and Mundungus, they would be so far from being happy, that the souls of Smelfungus and Mundungus would do penance there to all eternity.
1 Refers to Tobias Smollett, who had published his Travels through France and Italy in 1766.
2 Vide S---'s Travels.
I HAD once lost my portmanteau from behind my chaise, and twice got out in the rain, and one of the times up to the knees in dirt, to help the postillion to tie it on, without being able to find out what was wanting Nor was it till I got to Montriul, upon the landlord's asking me if I wanted not a servant, that it occurred to me, that that was the very thing.
A servant! That I do most sadly, quoth I Because, Monsieur, said the landlord, there is a clever young fellow, who would be very proud of the honour to serve an Englishman But why an English one, more than any other? They are so generous, said the landlord I'll be shot if this is not a livre out of my pocket, quoth I to myself, this very night But they have wherewithal to be so. Monsieur, added he Set down one livre more for that, quoth I It was but last night, said the landlord, qu'un my Lord Anglois presentoit un ecu a la fille de chambre Tant pis, pour Madamoiselle Janatone, said I.
Now Janatone being the landlord's daughter, and the landlord supposing I was young in French, took the liberty to inform me, I should not have said tant pis but, tant mieux. Tant mieux, toujours, Monsieur, said he, when there is any thing to be got tant pis, when there is nothing. It comes to the same thing, said I. Pardonnez moi, said the landlord.
I cannot take a fitter opportunity to observe, once for all, that tant pis and tant mieux being two of the great hinges in French conversation, a stranger would do well to set himself right in the use of them, before he gets to Paris.
A prompt French Marquis, at our ambassador's table demanded of Mr. H---, if he was H- the poet? No, said H- mildly Tant pis, replied the Marquis.
It is H the historian, said another Tant mieux, said the Marquis. And Mr. H---, who is a man of an excellent heart, return'd thanks for both.
The landlord deliver'd this in a manner which
instantly set my mind to the business I was upon and La Fleur, who stood
waiting without, in that breathless expectation which every son of nature of us
have felt in our turns, came in.
I AM apt to be taken with all kinds of people at first sight; but never more so, than when a poor devil comes to offer his service to so poor a devil as myself; and as I know this weakness, I always suffer my judgment to draw back something on that very account and this more or less, according to the mood I am in, and the case and I may add the gender too of the person I am to govern.
When La Fleur entered the room, after every discount I could make for my soul, the genuine look and air of the fellow determined the matter at once in his favour; so I hired him first and then began to enquire what he could do: But I shall find out his talents, quoth I, as I want them besides, a Frenchman can do every thing.
Now poor La Fleur could do nothing in the world but beat a drum, and play a march or two upon the fife. I was determined to make his talents do: and can't say my weakness was ever so insulted by my wisdom, as in the attempt.
La Fleur had set out early in life, as gallantly as most Frenchmen do, with serving for a few years: at the end of which, having satisfied the sentiment, and found moreover, That the honour of beating a drum was likely to be its own reward, as it open'd no further track of glory to him he retired ΰ ses terres, and lived comme il plaisoit ΰ Dieu that is to say, upon nothing.
And so, quoth Wisdom, you have hired a drummer to attend you in this tour of yours through France and Italy! Psha! said I, and do not one half of our gentry go with a humdrum compagnon du voyage the same round, and have the piper and the devil and all to pay besides? When man can extricate himself with an equivoque in such an unequal match he is not ill off But you can do something else, La Fleur? said I O qu'oui! he could make spatterdashes, and play a little upon the fiddle Bravo! said Wisdom Why I play a bass myself, said I we shall do very well. You can shave, and dress a wig a little, La Fleur? He had all the dispositions in the world It is enough for heaven! said I, interrupting him and ought to be enough for me So supper coming in, and having a frisky English spaniel on one side of my chair, and a French valet, with as much hilarity in his countenance as ever nature painted in one, on the other I was satisfied to my heart's content with my empire; and if monarchs knew what they would be at, they might be satisfied as I was.
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