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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 offered a pinch on both sides of him: it was a gift of consequence, and modestly declined. The poor little fellow pressed it upon them with a nod of welcomeness Prenez-en, prenez, said she, 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 to the ground for it.
Here! said I to an old soldier with one hand, who had been campaigned and worn out to death in the service, here's a couple of sous for thee. le Roi! said the old soldier.
I had then but three sous left: so gave one, simply pour l'amour de Dieu, which was the footing on which it was begged.... The poor woman had a dislocated hip; so it could not be well upon any other motive. Mon cher et très-charitable Monsieur There's
no opposing this, said I.
My Lord Anglois! the 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 believe, would have perished ere he could have asked 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 bénisse. Et le bon Dieu vous bénisse encore, said the old soldier, the dwarf, &c. The pauvre honteux could say nothing, - he pulled 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,* and another on this (for I count nothing of his legs), he cantered 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 his bidet would not pass by it,
tention arose betwixt them, and the poor fellow was kicked out of his jack-boots the very first kick.
La Fleur bore his fall like a French Christian, saying neither more nor 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
What's the matter, La Fleur, said I, with this bidet of thine? .... Monsieur, said he, c'est un cheval le plus opiniâtre 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 scampered back to Montriul. Peste! said La Fleur.
It is not mal-à-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 in ordinary emotions of the mind, where small things only fall out contrary to your expectations, such as the throwing one's doublets, La Fleur's being kicked off his horse, and so forth, Cuckoldom, for the same reason, is always
But, in cases where the cast has something provoking in it, as in that of the Bidet's running away after leaving La Fleur aground in jack-boots, 'tis the second degree;
Tis 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 frightened 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 gat to the posthouse at Nampont.
THE DEAD ASS.
- AND this, said he, putting the remains of a crust
into his wallet,
and this should have been thy por
tion, 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 an 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 among the rest, whilst the horses were getting ready: as I continued sitting in the postchaise, 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