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I had got within ten steps of the top of the landing before my door, I met her coming easily down.
It was the fair fille de chambre I had walked along the Quai de Conti with: Madame de R*** had sent her upon some commission to a marchand des modes within a step or two of the hotel de Modene; and, as I had fail'd in waiting upon her, had bid her inquire if I had left Paris; and, if so, whether I had not left a letter addressed to her.
As the fair fille de chambre was so near my door, she returned back, and went into the room with me for a moment or two, whilst I wrote a card.
It was a fine still evening in the latter end of the month of May the crimson window-curtains (which were of the same colour as those of the bed) were drawn close, the sun was setting, and reflected through them so warm a tint in the fair fille de chambre's face, I thought she blush'd; the idea of it made me blush myself; we were quite alone, and that superinduced a second blush before the first could get off.
There is a sort of a pleasing half-guilty blush, where the blood is more in fault than the man; 'tis sent impetuous from the heart, and virtue flies after it, not to call it back, but to make the sensation of it more delicious to the nerves; 'tis associated
But I'll not describe it; I felt something at first within me which was not in strict unison with the lesson of virtue I had given her the night before; I sought five minutes for a card; I knew I had not one. I took I laid it down again, up a pen, trembled: the Devil was in me.
I know as well as any one he is an adversary
whom, if we resist, he will fly from us; but I seldom resist him at all, from a terror that, though I may conquer, I still get a hurt from the combat; give up the triumph for security; and, instead of thinking to make him fly, I generally fly myself.
The fair fille de chambre came close up to the bureau, where I was looking for a card, took up first the pen I cast down, then offered to hold the ink; she offer'd it so sweetly I was going to accept it, but I durst not; I have nothing, my dear, said I, to write upon. Write it, said she, simply, upon any thing. I was just going to cry out, then I will write it, fair girl, upon thy lips!
If I do, said I, I shall perish; so I took her by the hand, and led her to the door, and begged she would not forget the lesson I had given her. .... She said, indeed she would not, and, as she uttered it with some earnestness, she turned about, and gave me both her hands, closed together, into mine; it was impossible not to compress them in that situation; I wished to let them go; and, all the time I held them, I kept arguing within myself against it, and still I held them on. In two minutes I found I had all
the battle to fight over again; and I felt my legs and every limb about me tremble at the idea.
The foot of the bed was within a yard and a half of the place where we were standing. I had still hold of her hands (and how it happened I can give no account;) but I neither asked her, nor did I think of the bed; but so it did happen, we both sat down.
I'll just show you, said the fair fille de chambre, the little purse I have been making to-day to hold your
crown. So she put her hand into her right pocket, which was next me, and felt for it some time then into the left. "She had lost it." I never bore expectation more quietly; it was in her right pocket at last; she pulled it out; it was of green taffeta, lined with a little bit of white quilted satin, and just big enough to hold the crown: she put it into my hand; it was pretty; and I held it ten minutes, with the back of my hand resting upon her lap, looking sometimes at the purse, sometimes on one side of it.
A stitch or two had broke out in the gathers of my stock; the fair fille de chambre, without saying a word, took out her little housewife, threaded a small needle, and sewed it up. I foresaw it would hazard the glory of the day, and, as she passed her hand in silence across and across my neck in the manœuvre, I felt the laurels shake which fancy had wreathed about my head.
A strap had given way in her walk, and the buckle of her shoe was just falling off. . . . . See, said the fille de chambre, holding up her foot, I could not, from my soul, but fasten the buckle in return; and, putting in the strap, and, lifting up the other foot with it, when I had done, to see both were right, in doing it so suddenly, it unavoidably threw the fair fille de chambre off her centre, and then
YES, and then Ye, whose clay-cold heads and lukewarm hearts can argue down or mask your passions, tell me, what trespass is it that man should
have them? or how his spirit stands answerable to the Father of spirits but for his conduct under them!
If nature has so wove her web of kindness that some threads of love and desire are entangled with the piece, must the whole web be rent in drawing them out? Whip me such stoics, great Governor of Nature! said I to myself: wherever thy Providence shall place me for the trials of my virtue; whatever is whatever is my situation, my danger, let me feel the movements which rise out of it, and which belong to me as a man, and, if I govern them as a good one, I will trust the issues to thy justice; for thou hast made us, and not we ourselves.
As I finished my address, I raised the fair fille de chambre up by the hand, and led her out of the she stood by me till I locked the door and put the key in my pocket, and the the victory being quite decisive, and not till then, I pressed my lips to her cheek, and, taking her by the hand again, led her safe to the gate of the hotel.
IF a man knows the heart, he will know it was impossible to go back instantly to my chamber; it was touching a cold key with a flat third to it, upon the close of a piece of music, which had called forth my affections; therefore, when I let go the hand of the fille de chambre, I remained at the gate of the hotel for some time, looking at every one who passed by, and forming conjectures upon them, till my attention got
fixed upon a single object which confounded all kind of reasoning upon him.
It was a tall figure, of a philosophic, serious adust look, which passed and repassed sedately along the street, making a turn of about sixty paces on each side of the gate of the hotel. The man was about fiftytwo, had a small cane under his arm, was dressed in a dark drab-coloured coat, waistcoat, and breeches, which seemed to have seen some years' service; they were still clean, and there was a little air of frugal propreté throughout him. By his pulling off his hat, and his attitude of accosting a good many in his way, I saw he was asking charity; so I got a sous or two out of my pocket ready to give him, as he took me in his turn. He passed by me without asking any thing, and yet did not go five steps farther before he asked charity of a little woman. - I was much more likely to have given of the two. He had scarce done with the woman, when he pulled his hat off to another who was coming the same way. An ancient gentleman came slowly, and, after him, a young smart one. let them both pass, and asked nothing: I stood observing him half-an-hour; in which time he had made a dozen turns backwards and forwards, and found that he invariably pursued the same plan.
There were two things very singular in this, which set my brain to work, and to no purpose; the first was, why the man should only tell his story to the sex; and secondly, what kind of story it was, and what species of eloquence it could be, which softened the hearts of the women, which he knew 'twas to no purpose to practise upon the men.
There were two other circumstances which en