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THE RIDDLE EXPLAINED.
I STEPPED hastily after him: it was the very man whose success in asking charity of the women before the door of the hotel had so puzzled me; and I found at once his secret, or at least the basis of it; 'twas flattery.
Delicious essence! how refreshing art thou to Nature! how strongly are all its powers and all its weaknesses on thy side! how sweetly dost thou mix with the blood, and help it through the most difficult and tortuous passages of the heart!
The poor man, as he was not straitened for time, had given it here in a larger dose: 'tis certain he had a way of bringing it into less form, for the many sudden cases he had to do with in the streets; but how he contrived to correct, sweeten, concentre, and qualify it, - I vex not my spirit with the inquiry; it is enough, the beggar gained two twelve-sous pieces, and they can best tell the rest who have gained much greater matters by it.
We get forwards in the world not so much by doing services as receiving them: you take a withering twig, and put it in the ground; and then you water it, because you have planted it.
Mons. le Comte de B****, merely because he had done me one kindness in the affair of the passport, would go on and do me another, the fews days he was at Paris in making me known to a few people of rank;
and they were to present me to others, and
I had got master of my secret just in time to turn these honours to some little account; otherwise, as is commonly the case, I should have dined or supped a single time or two round; and then, by translating French looks and attitudes into plain English, I should presently have seen that I had got hold of the couvert* of some more entertaining guest; and, in course, should have resigned all my places, one after another, merely upon the principle that I could not keep them. - As it was, things did not go much amiss.
I had the honour of being introduced to the old Marquis de B**** In days of yore he had signalized himself by some small feats of chivalry in the Cour d'Amour, and had dressed himself out to the idea of tilts and tournaments ever since. The Marquis de B**** wished to have it thought the affair was somewhere else than in his brain. “He could like to take a trip to England;” and asked much of the English Stay where you are, I beseech you,
Mons. le Marquis, said I. Les Messieurs Anglois can scarce get a kind look from them as it is. The Marquis invited me to supper.
Mons. P****, the farmer-general, was just as inquisitive about our taxes. They were very considerable, he heard. . . . . If we knew but how to collect them, said I, making him a low bow.
I could never have been invited to Mons. P****'S concerts upon any other terms. I had been misrepresented to Madame de Q*** as
* Plate, napkin, knife, fork, and spoon.
an esprit. Madame de Q*** was an esprit herself: she burnt with impatience to see me, and hear me talk. I had not taken my seat, before I saw she did not care a sous whether I had any wit or no I was let in to be convinced she had. I call Heaven to witness I never once opened the door of my lips.
Madame de V*** vowed, to every creature she met, “She had never had a more improving conversation with a man in her life.”
There are three epochas in the empire of a French woman; She is coquette,
then dévote; the empire during these is never lost; she only changes her subjects; when thirty-five years and more have unpeopled her dominions of the slaves of love, she re-peoples it with the slaves of infidelity, and then with the slaves of the church.
Madame de V*** was vibrating betwixt the first of these epochas: the colour of the rose was fading
she ought to have been a Deist five years before the time I had the honour to pay my first visit.
She placed me upon the same sofa with her, for the sake of disputing the point of religion more closely.
In short, Madme de V*** told me she believed nothing. - I told Madame de V*** it might be her principle; but I was sure it could not be her interest to level the outworks, without which I could not conceive how such a citadel as her’s could be defended; that there was not a more dangerous thing in the world than for a beauty to be a Deist; that it was a debt I owed my creed not to conceal it from her that I had not been five minutes upon the sofa beside her before I had begun to form designs; - and what is it
but the sentiments of religion, and the persuasion they had excited in her breast, which could have checked them as they rose up?
We are not adamant, said I, taking hold of her hand; and there is need of all restraints, till Age in her own time steals in and lays them on us. But, my dear lady, said I, kissing her hand, — 'tis too — too soon.
I declare I had the credit all over Paris of unperverting Madame de V***. She affirmed to Mons. D*** and the Abbé M*** that in one half hour I had said more for revealed religion than all their Encyclopædia had said against it. — I was lifted directly in Madame de V***'s coterie; and she put off the epocha of Deism for two years.
I remember it was in this coterie, in the middle of à discourse, in which I was shewing the necessity of a first cause, that the young Count de Faineant took me by the hand to the farthest corner of the room, to tell me my solitaire was pinned too strait about my neck . . . . It should be plus badinant, said the Count, looking down upon his own; but a word, Mons. Yorick, to the wise ....
And from the wise, Mons. le Comte, replied I, making him a bow, - is enough.
The Count de Faineant embraced me with more ardour than ever I was embraced by mortal man.
For three weeks together, I was of every man's opinion I met. Pardi! ce Mons. Yorick a autant d'esprit que nous autres It raisonne bien, said another.... C'est un bon enfant, said a third. And at this price I could have eaten and drunk and been merry all the days of my life at Paris; but 'twas a
dishonest reckoning; I
ashamed of it: it was the gain of a slave: every sentiment of honour revolted against it; the higher I got, the more was I forced upon my beggarly system;
the better the coterie, the more children of Art, I languished for those of nature; and one night, after a most vile prostitution of myself to half a dozen different people, I grew sick, went to bed; ordered La Fleur to get me horses in the morning, to set out for Italy.
I NEVER felt what the distress of plenty was in any one shape till now, to travel it through the Bourbonnois, the sweetest part of France, – in the hey-day of the vintage, when Nature is pouring her abundance into everyone's lap, and every eye is lighted up;
a journey through each step of which music beats time to Labour, and all her children are rejoicing as they carry in their clusters – to pass through this with my affections flying out, and kindling at every group before me and every one of them was pregnant with adventures.
Just Heaven! it would fill up twenty volumes;
and alas! I have but a few small pages left of this to crowd it into, and half of these must be taken up with the poor Maria my friend Mr. Shandy met with near Moulines.
The story he had told of that disordered maid affected me not a little in the reading; but when I had got within the neighbourhood where she lived, it re