A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy

Nampont. The Dead Ass - Nampont. The Postilion


- 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 lamentation 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 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 her 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 eaten 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 scarce either eaten 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 but love each other as this poor soul loved his ass--'twould be something. -


The concern which the poor fellow's story threw me into required some attention; the postilion 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 postilion 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 deuce 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 postilion 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 postilion 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 postilion could into a trot.

- The deuce 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.