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and ink and paper and patience, albeit a man can't get out, he may do very well within, at least for a month 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 walked down stairs in no small triumph with the conceit of my reasoning
Beshrew the sombre pencil! said I, vauntingly for I envy not its power, 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 foss 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 hey-day of this soliloquy, with a voice which I took to be of a child, which complained "it could not get out.” I look'd
and down the passage, and, seeing neither man, woman, nor child, I went out without further 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 approached 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 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.”
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 up stairs, 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, nor 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 seem good unto thy Divine Providence, upon those heads which are aching for them!
The bird in his cage pursued me into my room. I sat down close by 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. Ι
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 looked 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 deferred. Upon looking nearer, I saw him pale and feverish; in thirty years the western breeze had not once fanned 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 calender of small sticks was laid at the head, notched 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 will. ing he should see any thing 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.
ROAD TO VERSAILLES.
I got into my remise the hour I proposed, Fleur got up behind and I bid the coachman make the best of his way to Versailles.
As there was nothing in this road, or rather nothing which I look for in travelling, I cannot fill up
the blank better than with a short history of this self-same bird, which became the subject of the last chapter.
Whilst the Honourable Mr. was waiting for a wind at Dover, it had been caught upon the cliffs before it could well fly, by an English lad who was his groom; who, not caring to destroy it, had taken it in his breast into the packet; -- and, by course of feeding it, and taking it at once under his protection, in a day or two grew fond of it, and got it safe along with him to Paris.
At Paris, the lad had laid out a livre in a little cage for the starling; and, as he had little to do better the five months his master staid there, he taught it, in his mother's tongue, the four simple words - (and no more) to which I owned myself so much its debtor.
Upon his master's going on for Italy, the lad had given it to the master of the hotel. But his little song for liberty being in an unknown language at Paris, the bird had little or no store set by him: so La Fleur bought both him and his cage for me for a bottle of Burgundy
In my return from Italy, I brought him with me to the country in whose language he had learned his notes; and, telling the story of him to Lord A - Lord A.