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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
him also, he would go, in gratitude, to St. Iago in Spain.
When the mourner got thus far on his story, he stopped to pay Nature his tribute, - and wept bitterly.
He said, Heaven had accepted the conditions, and that he had set out from his cottage with this poor creature, who had been a patient partner of his journey;
that it had ate the same bread with him all the way, and was unto him as a friend.
Every body, who stood about, heard the poor fellow with concern.
La Fleur offered him money. The mourner said he did not want it; it was not the value of the ass, but the loss of him. The ass, he said, he was assured, loved him; — and, upon this, he told them a long story of a mischance upon their passage over the Pyrenean Mountains, which had separated them from each other three days; during which time the ass had sought him as much as he had sought the ass; and that they had scarce either ate or drank till they met.
... Thou hast one comfort, friend, said I, at least, in the loss of thy poor beast; I'm sure thou hast been a merciful master to him. Alas! said the mourner, I thought so when he was alive; that he is dead, I think otherwise. — I fear the weight of myself and my afflictions together have been too much for him, they have shortened the poor creature's days, and I fear I have them to answer for. Shame on the world! said I to myself. Did we but love each other as this poor soul loved his ass, 'twould be something.
The concern which the poor fellow's story threw me into required some attention; the postillion paid not the least to it, but set off upon the pavé in full gallop.
The thirstiest soul in the most sandy desert of Arabia could not have wished more for a cup of cold water than mine did for grave and quiet movements; and I should have had a high opinion of the postillion, had he but stolen off with me in something like a pensive pace. On the contrary, as the mourner finished his lamentation, the fellow gave an unfeeling lash to each of his beasts, and set off clattering like a thousand devils.
I called to him as loud as I could, for Heaven's sake to go slower: and the louder I called the more unmercifully he galloped. The deuce take him and his galloping too, said I, he'll go on tearing my nerves to pieces till he has worked me into a foolish passion, and then he'll go slow, that I may enjoy the sweets of it.
The postillion managed the point to a miracle: by the time he had got to the foot of a steep hill, about half a league from Nampont, he had put me out of temper with him, — and then with myself for being so.
My case then required a different treatment; and a good rattling gallop would have been of real service to me.
Then, prithee, get on, — get on, my good lad, said I.
The postillion pointed to the hill, - I then tried to return to the story of the poor German and his ass;
but I had broke the clue, and could no more get into it again than the postillion could into a trot. The deuce go, said I, with it all!
Here am I, sitting as candidly disposed to make the best of the worst as ever wight was, and all runs counter.
There is one sweet lenitive at least for evils, which Nature holds out to us: so I took it kindly at her hands, and fell asleep; and the first word which roused
this is the very town where my poor lady is to come.
The words were scarce out of my mouth when the Count de L***'s post-chaise, with his sister in it, drove hastily by; she had just time to make me a bow of recognition, — and of that particular kind of it which told me she had not yet done with me. She was as good as her look; for before I quite finished my supper, her brother's servant came into the room with a billet, in which she said she had taken the liberty to charge me with a letter, which I was to present myself to Madame R-, the first morning I had nothing to do at Paris. There was only added, she was sorry, but from what penchant she had not considered, that she had been prevented telling me her story – that she still owed it me; and if my route should ever lay through Brussels, and I had not by then forgot the name of Madame de L
that Madame de L-would be glad to discharge her obligation.
Then I will meet thee, said I, fair spirit! at
Brussels; - 'tis only returning from Italy, through Germany to Holland, by the route of Flanders, home;
'twill scarce be ten posts out of my way; but were it ten thousand! with what a moral delight will it crown my journey, in sharing in the sickening incidents of a tale of misery told to me by such a sufferer! To see her weep, and, though I cannot dry up the fountain of her tears, what an exquisite sensation is there still left in wiping them away from off the cheeks of the first and fairest of women, as I'm sitting with my handkerchief in my hand in silence the whole night beside her!
There was nothing wrong in the sentiment; and yet I instantly reproached my heart with it in the bitterest and most reprobate of expressions.
It had ever, as I told the reader, been one of the singular blessings of my life to be almost every hour of it miserably in love with some one: and my last flame happening to be blown out by a whiff of jealousy on the sudden turn of a corner, I had lighted it up afresh at the pure taper of Eliza but about three months before, - swearing, as I did it, that it should last me through the whole journey. - Why should I dissemble the matter? I had sworn to her eternal fidelity; - she had a right to my whole heart: — to divide
my affections was to lessen them; them was to risk them; where there is risk, there may be loss: and what wilt thou have, Yorick, to answer to a heart so full of trust and confidence, so good, so gentle, and unreproaching!
I will not go to Brussels, replied I, interrupting myself; — but my imagination went on, - I recalled her looks at that crisis of our separation, when