When a man can contest the point by dint of equipage, and carry all on floundering before him with half a dozen of lackies and a couple of cooks--'tis very well in such a place as Paris,--he may drive in at which end of a street he will.
A poor prince who is weak in cavalry, and whose whole infantry does not exceed a single man, had best quit the field, and signalize himself in the cabinet, if he can get up into it;--I say UP INTO IT--for there is no descending perpendicular amongst 'em with a "Me voici! mes enfans"--here I am--whatever many may think.
I own my first sensations, as soon as I was left solitary and alone in my own chamber in the hotel, were far from being so flattering as I had prefigured them. I walked up gravely to the window in my dusty black coat, and looking through the glass saw all the world in yellow, blue, and green, running at the ring of pleasure.--The old with broken lances, and in helmets which had lost their vizards;--the young in armour bright which shone like gold, beplumed with each gay feather of the east,--all,--all, tilting at it like fascinated knights in tournaments of yore for fame and love. -
Alas, poor Yorick! cried I, what art thou doing here? On the very first onset of all this glittering clatter thou art reduced to an atom;--seek,--seek some winding alley, with a tourniquet at the end of it, where chariot never rolled or flambeau shot its rays;--there thou mayest solace thy soul in converse sweet with some kind grisette of a barber's wife, and get into such coteries! -
- May I perish! if I do, said I, pulling out the letter which I had to present to Madame de R- --I'll wait upon this lady, the very first thing I do. So I called La Fleur to go seek me a barber directly,--and come back and brush my coat.
THE WIG. PARIS.
When the barber came, he absolutely refused to have any thing to do with my wig: 'twas either above or below his art: I had nothing to do but to take one ready made of his own recommendation.
- But I fear, friend! said I, this buckle won't stand.--You may emerge it, replied he, into the ocean, and it will stand. -
What a great scale is every thing upon in this city thought I.--The utmost stretch of an English periwig-maker's ideas could have gone no further than to have "dipped it into a pail of water."--What difference! 'tis like Time to Eternity!
I confess I do hate all cold conceptions, as I do the puny ideas which engender them; and am generally so struck with the great works of nature, that for my own part, if I could help it, I never would make a comparison less than a mountain at least. All that can be said against the French sublime, in this instance of it, is this: --That the grandeur is MORE in the WORD, and LESS in the THING. No doubt, the ocean fills the mind with vast ideas; but Paris being so far inland, it was not likely I should run post a hundred miles out of it, to try the experiment;--the Parisian barber meant nothing. -
The pail of water standing beside the great deep, makes, certainly, but a sorry figure in speech;--but, 'twill be said,--it has one advantage--'tis in the next room, and the truth of the buckle may be tried in it, without more ado, in a single moment.
In honest truth, and upon a more candid revision of the matter, THE FRENCH EXPRESSION PROFESSES MORE THAN IT PERFORMS.
I think I can see the precise and distinguishing marks of national characters more in these nonsensical minutiae than in the most important matters of state; where great men of all nations talk and stalk so much alike, that I would not give ninepence to choose amongst them.
I was so long in getting from under my barber's hands, that it was too late to think of going with my letter to Madame R- that night: but when a man is once dressed at all points for going out, his reflections turn to little account; so taking down the name of the Hotel de Modene, where I lodged, I walked forth without any determination where to go;--I shall consider of that, said I, as I walk along.
THE PULSE. PARIS.
Hail, ye small sweet courtesies of life, for smooth do ye make the road of it! like grace and beauty, which beget inclinations to love at first sight: 'tis ye who open this door and let the stranger in.
- Pray, Madame, said I, have the goodness to tell me which way I must turn to go to the Opera Comique?--Most willingly, Monsieur, said she, laying aside her work. -
I had given a cast with my eye into half a dozen shops, as I came along, in search of a face not likely to be disordered by such an interruption: till at last, this, hitting my fancy, I had walked in.
She was working a pair of ruffles, as she sat in a low chair, on the far side of the shop, facing the door.
- Tres volontiers, most willingly, said she, laying her work down upon a chair next her, and rising up from the low chair she was sitting in, with so cheerful a movement, and so cheerful a look, that had I been laying out fifty louis d'ors with her, I should have said--"This woman is grateful."
You must turn, Monsieur, said she, going with me to the door of the shop, and pointing the way down the street I was to take,--you must turn first to your left hand,--mais prenez garde--there are two turns; and be so good as to take the second--then go down a little way and you'll see a church: and, when you are past it, give yourself the trouble to turn directly to the right, and that will lead you to the foot of the Pont Neuf, which you must cross--and there any one will do himself the pleasure to show you. -
She repeated her instructions three times over to me, with the same goodnatur'd patience the third time as the first;--and if TONES AND MANNERS have a meaning, which certainly they have, unless to hearts which shut them out,--she seemed really interested that I should not lose myself.
I will not suppose it was the woman's beauty, notwithstanding she was the handsomest grisette, I think, I ever saw, which had much to do with the sense I had of her courtesy; only I remember, when I told her how much I was obliged to her, that I looked very full in her eyes,--and that I repeated my thanks as often as she had done her instructions.
I had not got ten paces from the door, before I found I had forgot every tittle of what she had said;--so looking back, and seeing her still standing in the door of the shop, as if to look whether I went right or not,--I returned back to ask her, whether the first turn was to my right or left,--for that I had absolutely forgot.-- Is it possible! said she, half laughing. 'Tis very possible, replied I, when a man is thinking more of a woman than of her good advice.
As this was the real truth--she took it, as every woman takes a matter of right, with a slight curtsey.
- Attendez! said she, laying her hand upon my arm to detain me, whilst she called a lad out of the back shop to get ready a parcel of gloves. I am just going to send him, said she, with a packet into that quarter, and if you will have the complaisance to step in, it will be ready in a moment, and he shall attend you to the place.--So I walk'd in with her to the far side of the shop: and taking up the ruffle in my hand which she laid upon the chair, as if I had a mind to sit, she sat down herself in her low chair, and I instantly sat myself down beside her.
- He will be ready, Monsieur, said she, in a moment.--And in that moment, replied I, most willingly would I say something very civil to you for all these courtesies. Any one may do a casual act of good nature, but a continuation of them shows it is a part of the temperature; and certainly, added I, if it is the same blood which comes from the heart which descends to the extremes (touching her wrist) I am sure you must have one of the best pulses of any woman in the world.--Feel it, said she, holding out her arm. So laying down my hat, I took hold of her fingers in one hand, and applied the two forefingers of my other to the artery. -
- Would to heaven! my dear Eugenius, thou hadst passed by, and beheld me sitting in my black coat, and in my lack-a-day-sical manner, counting the throbs of it, one by one, with as much true devotion as if I had been watching the critical ebb or flow of her fever.--How wouldst thou have laugh'd and moralized upon my new profession!--and thou shouldst have laugh'd and moralized on.-- Trust me, my dear Eugenius, I should have said, "There are worse occupations in this world THAN FEELING A WOMAN'S PULSE."--But a grisette's! thou wouldst have said,--and in an open shop! Yorick -
- So much the better: for when my views are direct, Eugenius, I care not if all the world saw me feel it.
THE HUSBAND. PARIS.
I had counted twenty pulsations, and was going on fast towards the fortieth, when her husband, coming unexpected from a back parlour into the shop, put me a little out of my reckoning.--'Twas nobody but her husband, she said;--so I began a fresh score.--Monsieur is so good, quoth she, as he pass'd by us, as to give himself the trouble of feeling my pulse.--The husband took off his hat, and making me a bow, said, I did him too much honour--and having said that, he put on his hat and walk'd out.
Good God! said I to myself, as he went out,--and can this man be the husband of this woman!
Let it not torment the few who know what must have been the grounds of this exclamation, if I explain it to those who do not.
In London a shopkeeper and a shopkeeper's wife seem to be one bone and one flesh: in the several endowments of mind and body, sometimes the one, sometimes the other has it, so as, in general, to be upon a par, and totally with each other as nearly as man and wife need to do.
In Paris, there are scarce two orders of beings more different: for the legislative and executive powers of the shop not resting in the husband, he seldom comes there: --in some dark and dismal room behind, he sits commerce-less, in his thrum nightcap, the same rough son of Nature that Nature left him.
The genius of a people, where nothing but the monarchy is salique, having ceded this department, with sundry others, totally to the women,--by a continual higgling with customers of all ranks and sizes from morning to night, like so many rough pebbles shook long together in a bag, by amicable collisions they have worn down their asperities and sharp angles, and not only become round and smooth, but will receive, some of them, a polish like a brilliant: -- Monsieur le Mari is little better than the stone under your foot.
- 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.