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AS La Fleur went the whole tour of France and Italy with me, and will be often upon the stage, I must interest the reader a little further in his behalf, by saying, that I had never less reason to repent of the impulses which generally do determine me, than in regard to this fellow he was a faithful, affectionate, simple soul as ever trudged after the heels of a philosopher; and notwithstanding his talents of drum-beating and spatterdash-making, which, though very good in themselves, happened to be of no great service to me, yet was I hourly recompensed by the festivity of his temper it supplied all defects I had a constant resource in his looks, in all difficulties and distresses of my own I was going to have added, of his too; but La Fleur was out of the reach of everything; for whether it was hunger or thirst, or cold or nakedness, or watchings, or whatever stripes of ill luck La Fleur met with in our journeyings, there was no index in his physiognomy to point them out by he was eternally the same; so that if I am a piece of a philosopher, which Satan now and then puts into my head I am it always mortifies the pride of the conceit, by reflecting how much I owe to the complexional philosophy of this poor fellow, for shaming me into one of a better kind. With all this, La Fleur had a small cast of the coxcomb but he seemed at first sight to be more a coxcomb of nature than of art; and before I had been three days in Paris with him he seemed to be no coxcomb at all.
THE next morning, La Fleur entering upon his employment, I delivered to him the key of my portmanteau, with an inventory of my half a dozen shirts and silk pair of breeches; and bid him fasten all upon the chaise get the horses put to and desire the landlord to come in with his bill.
C'est un garcon de bonne fortune, said the landlord, pointing through the window to half a dozen wenches who had got round about La Fleur, and were most kindly taking their leave of him, as the postillion was leading out the horses. La Fleur kissed all their hands round and round again, and thrice he wiped his eyes, and thrice he promised he would bring them all pardons from Rome.
The young fellow, said the landlord, is beloved by all the town, and there is scarce a corner in Montriul, where the want of him will not be felt: he has but one misfortune in the world, continued he, "He is always in love." I am heartily glad of it, said I 't will save me the trouble every night of putting my breeches under my head. In saying this, I was making not so much La Fleur's eloge, as my own, having been in love, with one princess or other, almost all my life, and I hope I shall go on so till I die, being firmly persuaded, that if ever I do a mean action, it must be in some interval betwixt one passion and another: whilst this interregnum lasts, I always perceive my heart locked up I can scarce find in it to give Misery a sixpence; and therefore I always get out of it as fast as I can, and the moment I am rekindled, I am all generosity and good-will again; and would do any thing in the world, either for or with any one, if they will but satisfy me there is no sin in it.
But in saying this sure I am commending the passion not myself.
THE town of Abdera, notwithstanding Democritus lived there, trying all the powers of irony and laughter to reclaim it, was the vilest and most profligate town in all Thrace. What for poisons, conspiracies, and assassinations libels, pasquinades, and tumults, there was no going there by day 't was worse by night.
Now, when things were at the worst, it came to pass, that the Andromeda of Euripides being represented at Abdera, the whole orchestra was delighted with it: but of all the passages which delighted them, nothing operated more upon their imaginations, than the tender strokes of nature, which the poet had wrought up in that pathetic speech of Perseus, O Cupid, prince of God and men, &c. Every man almost spoke pure iambics the next day, and talk'd of nothing but Perseus his pathetic address "O Cupid, prince of God and men" in every street of Abdera, in every house "O Cupid! Cupid!" in every mouth, like the natural notes of some sweet melody which drops from it whether it will or no nothing but "Cupid! Cupid! prince of God and men" The fire caught and the whole city, like the heart of one man, open'd itself to Love.
No pharmacopolist could sell one grain of helebore not a single armourer had a heart to forge one instrument of death Friendship and Virtue met together, and kiss'd each other in the street the golden age returned, and hung over the town of Abdera every Abderite took his oaten pipe, and every Abderitish woman left her purple web, and chastely sat her down and listened to the song
'T was only in the power, says the Fragment, of the God whose empire extendeth from heaven to earth, and even to the depths of the sea, to have done this.
WHEN all is ready, and every article is disputed and paid for in the inn, unless you are a little sour'd by the adventure, there is always a matter to compound at the door, before you can get into your chaise, and that is with the sons and daughters of poverty, who surround you. Let no man say, "let them go to the devil" 't is a cruel journey to send a few miserables, and they have had sufferings enow without it: I always think it better to take a few sous out in my hand; and I would counsel every gentle traveller to do so likewise; he need not be so exact in setting down his motives for giving them They will be register'd elsewhere.
For my own part, there is no man gives so little as I do; for few, that I know, have so little to give: but as this was the first public act of my charity in France, I took the more notice of it.
A well-a-way! said I, I have but eight sous in the world, shewing them in my hand, and there are eight poor men and eight poor women for 'em.
A poor tatter'd soul, without a shirt on, instantly withdrew his claim, by retiring two steps out of the circle, and making a disqualifying bow on his part. Had the whole parterre cried out, Place aux dames, with one voice, it would not have conveyed the sentiment of a deference for the sex with half the effect.
Just Heaven! for what wise reasons hast thou ordered it, that beggary and urbanity, which are at such variance in other countries, should find a way to be at unity in this?
I insisted upon presenting him with a single sous, merely for his politesse.
A poor little dwarfish, brisk fellow, who stood over-against me in the circle, putting something first under his arm, which had once been a hat, took his snuff-box out of his pocket, and generously offer'd a pinch on both sides of him: it was a gift of consequence, and modestly declined The poor little fellow press'd it upon them with a nod of welcomeness Prenez en prenez, said he, looking another way; so they each took a pinch Pity thy box should ever want one, said I to myself; so I put a couple of sous into it -taking a small pinch out of his box to enhance their value, as I did it. He felt the weight of the second obligation more than of the first 'twas doing him an honour the other was only doing him a charity and he made me a bow down to the ground for it.
Here! said I to an old soldier with one hand, who had been campaign'd and worn out to death in the service here's a couple of sous for thee. Vive le Roi! said the old soldier.
I had then but three sous left: so I gave one, simply pour lamour de Dieu, which was the footing on which it was begg'd The poor woman had a dislocated hip; so it could not be well upon any other motive.
Mon cher et tres charitable Monsieur There's no opposing this, said I.
My Lord Anglois the very sound was worth the money so I gave my last sous for it. But in the eagerness of giving, I had overlooked a pauvre honteux, who had no one to ask a sous for him, and who, I believed, would have perished ere he could have ask'd one for himself; he stood by the chaise, a little without the circle, and wiped a tear from a face which I thought had seen better days Good God! said I and I have not one single sous left to give him But you have a thousand! cried all the powers of nature, stirring within me so I gave him no matter what I am ashamed to say how much, now and was ashamed to think how little, then: so if the reader can form any conjecture of my disposition, as these two fixed points are given him, he may judge within a livre or two what was the precise sum.
I could afford nothing for the rest, but Dieu vous benisse Et le bon Dieu vous benisse encore said the old soldier, the dwarf, &c. The pauvre honteux could say nothing he pull'd out a little handkerchief, and wiped his face as he turned away and I thought he thanked me more than them all.
HAVING settled all these little matters, I got into my post-chaise with more ease than ever I got into a post-chaise in my life; and La Fleur having got one large jack-boot on the far side of a little bidet,1 and another on this (for I count nothing of his legs) he canter'd away before me as happy and as perpendicular as a prince
But what is happiness! what is grandeur in this painted scene of life! A dead ass, before we had got a league, put a sudden stop to La Fleur's career his bidet would not pass by it a contention arose betwixt them, and the poor fellow was kick'd out of his jack-boots the very first kick.
La Fleur bore his fall like a French christian, saying neither more or less upon it, than, Diable! so presently got up and came to the charge again astride his bidet, beating him up to it as he would have beat his drum.
The bidet flew from one side of the road to the other, then back again then this way then that way, and in short every way but by the dead ass La Fleur insisted upon the thing and the bidet threw him.
What's the matter, La Fleur, said I, with this bidet of thine? Monsieur, said he, c'est un cheval le plus opiniatre du monde Nay, if he is a conceited beast, he must go his own way, replied I so La Fleur got off him, and giving him a good sound lash, the bidet took me at my word, and away he scamper'd back to Montriul Peste! said La Fleur.
It is not mal-ΰ-propos to take notice here, that though La Fleur availed himself but of two different terms of exclamation in this encounter namely, Diable! and Peste! that there are nevertheless three in the French language; like the positive, comparative, and superlative, one or the other of which serve for every unexpected throw of the dice in life.
Le Diable! which is the first, and positive degree, is generally used upon ordinary emotions of the mind, where small things only fall out contrary to your expectations such as the throwing once doublets La Fleur's being kick'd off his horse, and so forth cuckoldom, for the same reason, is always Le Diable!
But in cases where the cast has something provoking in it, as in that of the bidet's running away after, and leaving La Fleur aground in jack-boots 't is the second degree.
'T is then Peste!
And for the third
But here my heart is wrung with pity and fellow-feeling, when I reflect what miseries must have been their lot, and how bitterly so refined a people must have smarted, to have forced them upon the use of it
Grant me, O ye powers which touch the tongue with eloquence in distress! whatever is my cast, grant me but decent words to exclaim in, and I will give my nature way.
But as these were not to be had in France, I resolved to take every evil just as it befel me, without any exclamation at all.
La Fleur, who had made no such covenant with himself, followed the bidet with his eyes till it was got out of sight and then, you may imagine, if you please, with what word he closed the whole affair.
As there was no hunting down a frighten'd horse in jack-boots, there remained no alternative but taking La Fleur either behind the chaise, or into it
I preferred the latter, and in half an hour we got to the post-house at Nampont.
AND this, said he, putting the remains of a crust into his wallet and this should have been thy portion, said he, hadst thou been alive to have shared it with me. I thought by the accent, it had been an apostrophe to his child; but 'twas to his ass, and to the very ass we had seen dead in the road, Which had occasioned La Fleur's misadventure. The man seemed to lament it much; and it instantly brought into my mind Sancho's lamentation1 for his; but he did it with more true touches of nature.
The mourner was sitting upon a stone-bench at the door, with the ass's pannel and its bridle on one side, which he took up from time to time then laid them down look'd at them and shook his head. He then took his crust of bread out of his wallet again, as if to eat it; held it some time in his hand then laid it upon the bit of his ass's bridle looked wistfully at the little arrangement he had made and then gave a sigh.
The simplicity of his grief drew numbers about him, and La Fleur amongst the rest, whilst the horses were getting ready; as I continued sitting in the post-chaise, I could see and hear over their heads.
He said he had come last from Spain, where he had been from the furthest borders of Franconia; and had got so far on his return home, when his ass died. Every one seemed desirous to know what business could have taken so old and poor a man so far a journey from his own home.
It had pleased Heaven, he said, to bless him with three sons, the finest lads in all Germany; but having in one week lost two of the eldest of them by the small-pox, and the youngest falling ill of the same distemper, he was afraid of being bereft of them all; and made a vow, if Heaven would not take him from him also, he would go in gratitude to St. Iago in Spain.
When the mourner got thus far on his story, he stopp'd to pay nature his tribute and wept bitterly.
He said, Heaven had accepted the conditions, and that he had set out from his cottage with this poor creature, who had been a patient partner of his journey that it had eat the same bread with him all the way, and was unto him as a friend.
Every body who stood about, heard the poor fellow with concern La Fleur offered him money The mourner said, he did not want it it was not the value of the ass but the loss of him. The ass, he said, he was assured loved him and upon this told them a long story of a mischance upon their passage over the Pyrenean mountains, which had separated them from each other three days; during which time the ass had sought him as much as he had sought the ass, and that they had neither scarce eat or drank till they met.
Thou hast one comfort, friend, said I, at least, in the loss of thy poor beast; I'm sure thou hast been a merciful master to him. Alas! said the mourner, I thought so, when he was alive but now that he is dead I think otherwise. I fear the weight of myself and my afflictions together have been too much for him they have shortened the poor creature's days, and I fear I have them to answer for. Shame on the world! said I to myself Did we love each other, as this poor soul but loved his ass 't would be something.
1 Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter 23.
THE concern which the poor fellow's story threw me into required some attention: the postillion paid not the least to it, but set off upon the pave in a full gallop.
The thirstiest soul in the most sandy desert of Arabia could not have wished more for a cup of cold water, than mine did for grave and quiet movements; and I should have had an high opinion of the postillion, had he but stolen off with me in something like a pensive pace On the contrary, as the mourner finished his lamentation, the fellow gave an unfeeling lash to each of his beasts, and set off clattering like a thousand devils.
I called to him as loud as I could, for heaven's sake to go slower and the louder I called, the more unmercifully he galloped The duce take him and his galloping too said I he'll go on tearing my nerves to pieces till he has worked me into a foolish passion, and then he'll go slow, that I may enjoy the sweets of it.
The postillion managed the point to a miracle: by the time he had got to the foot of a steep hill about half a league from Nampont, he had put me out of temper with him and then with myself, for being so.
My case then required a different treatment; and a good rattling gallop would have been of real service to me
Then, prithee, get on get on, my good lad, said I.
The postillion pointed to the hill I then tried to return back to the story of the poor German and his ass but I had broke the clue and could no more get into it again, than the postillion could into a trot.
The duce go, said I, with it all! Here am I sitting as candidly disposed to make the best of the worst, as ever wight was, and all runs counter.
There is one sweet lenitive at least for evils, which Nature holds out to us: so I took it kindly at her hands, and fell asleep; and the first word which roused me was Amiens.
Bless me! said I, rubbing my eyes this is the very town where my poor lady is to come.
THE words were scarce out of my mouth, when the Count de L***'s post-chaise, with his sister in it, drove hastily by: she had just time to make me a bow of recognition and of that particular kind of it, which told me she had not yet done with me. She was as good as her look; for, before I had quite finished my supper, her brother's servant came into the room with a billet, in which she said she had taken the liberty to charge me with a letter, which I was to present myself to Madame R*** the first morning I had nothing to do at Paris. There was only added, she was sorry, but from what penchant she had not considered, that she had been prevented telling me her story that she still owed it me; and if my route should ever lay through Brussels, and I had not by then forgot the name of Madame de L*** that Madame de L*** would be glad to discharge her obligation.
Then I will meet thee, said I, fair spirit! at Brussels 't is only returning from Italy through Germany to Holland, by the route of Flanders, home 't will scarce be ten posts out of my way; but were it ten thousand! with what a moral delight will it crown my journey, in sharing in the sickening incidents of a tale of misery told to me by such a sufferer! to see her weep! and though I cannot dry up the fountain of her tears, what an exquisite sensation is there still left, in wiping them away from off the cheeks of the first and fairest of women, as I'm sitting with my handkerchief in my hand in silence the whole night beside her?
There was nothing wrong in the sentiment; and yet I instantly reproached my heart with it in the bitterest and most reprobate of expressions.
It had ever, as I told the reader, been one of the singular blessings of my life, to be almost every hour of it miserably in love with some one; and my last flame happening to be blown out by a whiff of jealousy on the sudden turn of a corner, I had lighted it up afresh at the pure taper of Eliza but about three months before swearing as I did it, that it should last me through the whole journey Why should I dissemble the matter? I had sworn to her eternal fidelity she had a right to my whole heart to divide my affections was to lessen them to expose them, was to risk them: where there is risk, there may be loss: and what wilt thou have, Yorick! to answer a heart so full of trust and confidence so good, so gentle, and unreproaching!
I will not go to Brussels, replied I, interrupting myself but my imagination went on I recalled her looks at that crisis of our separation, when neither of us had power to say adieu! I look'd at the picture she had tied in a black ribband about my neck and blush'd as I look'd at it- I would have given . the world to have kiss'd it-but was ashamed and shall this tender flower, said I, pressing it between my hands-shall it be smitten to its very root and smitten, Yorick! by thee, who hast promised to shelter it in thy breast?
Eternal fountain of happiness! said I, kneeling down upon the ground be thou my witness and every pure spirit which tastes it, be my witness also, That I would not travel to Brussels, unless Eliza went along with me, did the road lead me towards heaven.
In transports of this kind, the heart, in spite of the understanding, will always say too much.
FORTUNE had not smiled upon La Fleur; for he had been unsuccessful in his feats of chivalry and not one thing had offered to signalize his zeal for my service from the time he had entered into it, which was almost four-and-twenty hours. The poor soul burn'd with impatience; and the Count de L***'s servant coming with the letter, being the first practicable occasion which offered, La Fleur had laid hold of it; and in order to do honour to his master, had taken him into a back parlour in the Auberge, and treated him with a cup or two of the best wine in Picardy; and the Count de L***'s servant, in return, and not to be behind-hand in politeness with La Fleur, had taken him back with him to the Count's hotel. La Fleur's prevenancy (for there was a passport in his very looks) soon set every servant in the kitchen at ease with him; and as a Frenchman, whatever be his talents, has no sort of prudery in showing them, La Fleur, in less than five minutes, had pulled out his fife, and leading off the dance himself with the first note, set the fille de chambre, the maξtre d'hτtel, the cook, the scullion, and all the household, dogs and cats, besides an old monkey, a-dancing: I suppose there never was a merrier kitchen since the flood.
Madame de L***, in passing from her brother's apartments to her own, hearing so much jollity below stairs, rung up her fille de chambre to ask about it; and hearing it was the English gentleman's servant who had set the whole house merry with his pipe, she ordered him up.
As the poor fellow could not present himself empty, he had loaden'd himself in going up stairs with a thousand compliments to Madame de L***, on the part of his master added a long apocrypha of enquiries after Madame de L---'s health told her, that Monsieur his master was au dιsespoire for her re-establishment from the fatigues of her journey and, to close all, that Monsieur had received the letter which Madame had done him the honour And he has done me the honour, said Madame de L---, interrupting La Fleur, to send a billet in return.
Madame de L- had said this with such a tone of reliance upon the fact, that La Fleur had not power to disappoint her expectations he trembled for my honour and possibly might not altogether be unconcerned for his own, as a man capable of being attached to a master who could be wanting en ιgards vis ΰ vis d'une femme! so that when Madame de L- asked La Fleur if he had brought a letter O qu'oui, said La Fleur; so laying down his hat upon the ground, and taking hold of the flap of his right-side pocket with his left-hand, he began to search for the letter with his right then contrary-wise. Diable! then sought every pocket, pocket by pocket, round, not forgetting his fob Peste! then La Fleur emptied them upon the floor pulled out a dirty cravat a handkerchief a comb a whip-lash a night-cap then gave a peep into his hat Quelle ιtourderie! He had left the letter upon the table in the Auberge he would run for it, and be back with it in three minutes.
I had just finished my supper when La Fleur came in to give me an account of his adventure: he told me the whole story simply as it was; and only added, that if Monsieur had forgot (par hazard) to answer Madame's letter, the arrangement gave him an opportunity to recover the faux pas and if not, that things were only as they were.
Now I was not altogether sure of my etiquette, whether I ought to have wrote or no; but if I had a devil himself could not have been angry. 'T was but the officious zeal of a well-meaning creature for my honour; and however he might have mistook the road, or embarrassed me in so doing his heart was in no fault I was under no necessity to write and what weighed more than all he did not look as if he had done amiss.
'T is all very well, La Fleur, said I 't was sufficient. La Fleur flew out of the room like lightning, and return'd with pen, ink, and paper, in his hand; and coming up to the table, laid them close before me, with such a delight in his countenance, that I could not help taking up the pen.
I begun and begun again; and though I had nothing to say, and that nothing might have been expressed in half a dozen lines, I made half a dozen different beginnings, and could no way please myself.
In short, I was in no mood to write.
La Fleur stepp'd out and brought a little water in a glass to dilute my ink then fetched sand and seal-wax It was all one; I wrote, and blotted, and tore off, and burnt, and wrote again Le diable l'emporte, said I half to myself I cannot write this self-same letter; throwing the pen down despairingly as I said it.
As soon as I had cast down the pen, La Fleur advanced with the most respectful carriage up to the table, and making a thousand apologies for the liberty he was going to take, told me he had a letter in his pocket wrote by a drummer in his regiment to a corporal's wife, which, he durst say, would suit the occasion.
I had a mind to let the poor fellow have his humour Then prithee, said I, let me see it.
La Fleur instantly pulled out a little dirty pocket book cramm'd full of small letters and billet-doux in a sad condition, and laying it upon the table, and then untying the string which held them all together, run them over one by one, till he came to the letter in question La voila, said he, clapping his hands: so unfolding it first, he laid it before me, and retired three steps from the table whilst I read it.
JE suis pιnιtrι de la douler la plus vive, et rιduit en mκme temps au dιsespoir par ce retour imprevϋ du Corporal qui rend notre entrevue de ce soir la chose du monde la plus impossible.
Mais vive la joie! et toute la mienne sera de penser ΰ vous.
L'amour n'est rien sans sentiment.
Et le sentiment est encore moins sans amour. On dit qu'on ne doit jamais se dιsesperer. On dit aussi que Monsieur le Corporal monte la garde Mercredi: alors ce sera mon tour.
Chacun ΰ son tour.
En attendant Vive l'amour! et vive la bagatelle!
Avec toutes les sentiments les
plus respectueux et les plus
tendres, tout a vous,
It was but changing the Corporal into the Count and saying nothing about mounting guard on Wednesday and the letter was neither right or wrong so to gratify the poor fellow, who stood trembling, for my honour, his own, and the honour of his letter I took the cream gently off it, and whipping it up in my own way I seal'd it up and sent him with it to Madame de L*** and the next morning we pursued our journey to Paris.
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