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account for the phenomenon than myself; but persisted in his story: he had seen the croix set in gold, with its red ribband, he said, tied to his button hole; and had looked into the basket, and seen the patés which the Chevalier was selling; so could not be mistaken in that.
Such a reverse in a man's life awakens a better principle than curiosity: I could not help looking for some time at him, as I sat in the remise. The more I looked at him, his croix, and his basket, the stronger they wove themselves into my brain. I got out of the remise, and went towards him.
He was begirt with a clean linen apron, which fell below his knees, and with a sort of a bib that went half way up his breast. Upon the top of this, but a little below the hem, hung his croix. His basket of little patés was covered over with a white damask napkin: another of the same kind was spread at the bottom; and there was such a look of propreté and neatness throughout that one might have bought his patés of him as much from appetite as sentiment.
He made an offer of them to neither; but stood still with them at the corner of a hotel, for those to buy who chose it, without solicitation.
He was about forty-eight; - of a sedate look, something approaching to gravity. I did not wonder.
I went up rather to the basket than him, and, having lifted up the napkin, and taken one of his patés into my hand, - I begged he would explain the appearance
which affected me. He told me, in a few words, that the best part of his life had passed in the service; in which, after spending a small patrimony, he had obtained a company and
the croix with it; but that, at the conclusion of the last peace, his regiment being reformed, and the whole corps, with those of some other regiments, left without any provision, he found himself in a wide world, without friends, without a livre; — and indeed, said he, without any thing but this (pointing, as he said it, to his croix.) The
poor Chevalier won my pity, and he finished the scene by winning my esteem, too.
The King, he said, was the most generous of princes; but his generosity could neither relieve nor reward every one; and it was only his misfortune to be amongst the number. He had a little wife, he said, whom he loved, who did the patisserie; and added he felt no dishonour in defending her and himself from want in
unless Providence had offered him a better.
It would be wicked to withhold a pleasure from the good, in passing over what happened to this poor Chevalier de St. Louis about nine months after.
It seems he usually took his stand near the iron gates which lead up to the palace; and as his croix had caught the eye of numbers, numbers had made the same inquiry which I had done. He had told the same story, and always with so much modesty and good sense that it had reached at last the king's ears; who, hearing the Chevalier had been a gallant officer, and respected by the whole regiment as a man of honour and integrity, - he broke up his little trade by a pension of fifteen hundred livres a year.
As I have told this to please the reader, I beg he will allow me to relate another, out of its order, to please myself; the two stories reflect light upon each other, --- and 'tis a pity they should be parted.
WHEN states and empires have their periods of declension, and feel, in their turns what distress and poverty is, I stop not to tell the causes which gradually brought the house of d'E—, in Brittany, into decay. The Marquis d’E — had fought up against his condition with great firmness; wishing to preserve, and still shew to the world, some little fragments of what his ancestors had been their indiscretions had put it out of his power. There was enough left for the little exigencies of obscurity. - But he had two boys who looked up to him for light; - he thought they deserved it.
He had tried his sword, it could not open the way, - the mounting was too expensive,
and simple economy was not a match for it: there was no resource but commerce.
In any other province in France saving Brittany, this was smiting the root for ever of the little tree his pride and affection wished to see re-blossom. But, in Brittany, there being a provision for this, he availed himself of it; and, taking an occasion when the States were assembled at Rennes, the Marquis, attended with his two boys, entered the court; and having pleaded the right of an ancient law of the duchy, which, though seldom claimed, he said, was no less in force, he took his sword from his side; – Here, said he, take it; and be trusty guardians of it till better times put me in condition to reclaim it.
The president accepted the Marquis's sword; he staid a few minutes to see it deposited in the archives of his house, and departed.
The Marquis and his whole family embarked the next day for Martinico, and, in about nineteen or twenty years of successful application to business, with some unlooked-for bequests from distant branches of his house, returned home to reclaim his nobility, and to sup
It was an incident of good fortune, which will never happen to any traveller but a sentimental one, that I should be at Rennes at the very time of this solemn requisition. I call it solemn it was so to me.
The Marquis entered the court with his whole family: he supported his lady; - his eldest son supported his sister, and his youngest was at the other extreme of the line next his mother; - he put his handkerchief to his face twice.
There was a dead silence. When the Marquis had approached within six paces of the tribunal, he gave the Marchioness to his youngest son, and advancing three steps before his family -- he reclaimed his sword. His sword was given him: and the moment he got it into his hand, he drew it almost out of the scabbard: 'twas the shining face of a friend he had once given up: --- he looked attentively along it, beginning at the hilt, as if to see whether it was the same, when observing a little rust which it had contracted near the point, he brought it near his eye,
and bending his head down over it, I think I saw a tear fall
upon the place, - I could not be deceived by what followed.
“I shall find,” said he, some other way to get it off.”
When the Marquis had said this, he returned his sword into its scabbard, made a bow to the guardians of it, — and, with his wife and daughter, and his two sons following him, walked out.
O how I envied his feelings!
I FOUND no difficulty in getting admittance to Monsieur le Comte de B The set of Shakspeare was laid
upon the table, and he was tumbling them over. I walked up close to the table, and giving first such a look at the books as to make him conceive I knew what they were,
I told him I had come without any one to present me, knowing I should meet with a friend in his apartment, who, I trusted, would do it for me. - It is my countryman, the great Shakspeare, said I, pointing to his works, et ayez la bonté, mon cher ami, apostrophizing his spirit, added I, de me faire cet honneur-la.
The Count smiled at the singularity of the introduction; and seeing I looked a little pale and sickly, insisted upon my taking an arm chair; so I sat down; and to save him conjectures upon a visit so out of all rule, I told him simply of the incident in the bookseller's shop, and how that had impelled me rather to go to him with the story of a little embarrassment I was under, than to any other man in France. ... And what is your embarrassment? let me hear it, said the Count. ... So I told him the story just as I have told it the reader.