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WHEN all is ready, and every article is disputed and paid for at the inn, unless you are a little soured by the adventure, there is always a matter to compound at the door, before you can get into your chaise, and that is with the sons and daughters of poverty who surround you. Let no man say, “Let them go to the Devil!”
'tis a cruel journey to send a few miserables; and they have had sufferings enow without it. I always think it better to take a few sous out in my hand; and I would counsel every gentle traveller to do so likewise; he need not be so exact in setting down his motives for giving them: -- they will be registered elsewhere.
For my own part, there is no man gives so little as I do; for few that I know have so little to give: but as this was the first public act of my charity in France, I took the more notice of it.
A well-a-way! said I, I have but eight sous in the world, shewing them in my hand, and there are eight poor men and eight poor women for them.
A poor tattered soul, without a shirt on, instantly withdrew his claim, by retiring two steps out of the circle, and making a disqualifying bow on his part. Had the whole parterre cried out, Place aux dames, with one voice, it would not have conveyed the sentiment of a deference for the sex with half the effect.
Just heaven! for what wise reasons hast thou ordered it that beggary and urbanity, which are at such variance in other countries, should find a way to be at unity in this? Sentimental Journey, etc.
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. — Vive 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 very sound was worth
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
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 career;
his bidet would not pass by it,
tention arose betwixt them, and the
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 threw him.
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!
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.
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 got 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