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ROAD TO VERSAILLES.
I got into my remise the hour I proposed, La 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 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. begged the bird of me; in a week Lord A. gave him to Lord B -; Lord B. made a present of him to Lord С
- ; and Lord C.'s gentleman sold him to Lord D.’s for a shilling: Lord D. gave him to Lord E., and so on, half round the alphabet. From that rank he passed into the lower house, and passed the hands of as many commoners. But as all these wanted to get in, and my bird wanted to get out, he had almost as little store set by him in London as in Paris. It is impossible but many
readers must have heard of him and if any by mere chance have ever seen him, I beg leave to inform them that that bird was my bird, or some vile copy set up to represent him.
I have nothing farther to add upon him but that, from that time to this, I have borne this poor starling as the crest to my arms. And let the herald's officers twist his neck about if they dare.
I SHOULD not like to have my enemy take a view of my mind when I am going to ask protection of any man: for which reason I generally endeavour to protect myself: but this going to Monsieur le Duc de Cwas an act of compulsion; had it been an act of choice, I should have done it, I suppose, like other people.
How many mean plans of dirty address, as I went along, did my servile heart form! I deserved the Bastile for every one of them.
Then nothing would serve me, when I got within sight of Versailles, but putting words and sentences together, and conceiving attitudes and tones to wreath myself into Monsieur le Duc de C—'s good graces. This will do, said I. – Just as well, retorted I again, as a coat carried up to him by an adventurous tailor, without taking his measure. Fool! continued I, see Monsieur le Duc's face first; observe what character is written in it; take notice in what posture he stands to hear you; mark the turns and expressions of his body and limbs; and for the tone the first sound which comes from his lips will give it from all these together, you'll compound an address at once upon the spot, which cannot disgust the Duke; the ingredients are his own, and most likely to go down. Well! said I, I wish it well over.
Coward again! as if man to man was not equal, throughout the whole surface of the globe; and if in the field, why not face to face in the cabinet too? and trust me, Yorick, whenever it is not so, man is false to himself, and betrays his own succours ten times, where nature does it once. Go to the Duc de C with the Bastile in thy looks;
my life for it, thou wilt be sent back to Paris in half-an-hour with an escort.
I believe so, said I. Then I'll go to the Duke, by Heaven! with all the gaiety and debonairness in the world.
And there you are wrong again, replied I; a heart at ease, Yorick, flies into no extremes, 'tis ever on its centre. Well! well! cried I, as the coachman turned in at the gates, I find I shall do
well: and by the time he had wheeled round the court, and
brought me up to the door, I found myself so much the better for my own lecture that I neither ascended the steps like a victim to justice, who was to part with life upon the topmast,
nor did I mount them with a skip and a couple of strides, as I do when I fly up, Eliza! to thee, to meet it.
As I entered the door of the saloon, I was met by a person who possibly might be the maître d'hotel, but had more the air of one of the under-secretaries, who told me the Duc de C was busy. I am utterly ignorant, said I, of the forms of obtaining an audience, being an absolute stranger, and, what is worse in the present conjuncture of affairs, being an Englishman, too. ... He replied that did not increase the difficulty.
I made him a slight bow, and told him I had something of importance to say to Monsieur le Duc. The secretary looked towards the stairs, as if he was about to leave me to carry up this account to some one. But I must not mislead you, said I, - for what I have to say is of no manner of importance to Monsieur le Duc de C-, but of great importance to myself. .... C'est une autre affaire, replied he. ... Not at all, said I, to a man of gallantry. But pray, good Sir, continued I, when can a stranger hope to have accesse? .... In not less than two hours, said he, looking at his watch. - The number of equipages in the court-yard seemed to justify the calculation that I could have no nearer a prospect; and as walking backwards and forwards in the saloon, without a soul to commune with, was for the time as bad as being in the Bastile itself, I instantly went back to my remise, and bid the coachman drive me to the Cordon Bleu, which was the nearest hotel. Sentimental Journey, etc.
I think there is a fatality in it; -- I seldom go to the place I set out for.
BEFORE I had got half way down the street, I changed my mind; as I am at Versailles, thought I, I might as well take a view of the town; so I pulled the cord, and ordered the coachman to drive round some of the principal streets. I suppose the town is not very large, said I. - The coachman begged pardon for setting me right, and told me it was very superb; and that numbers of the first dukes and marquisses and counts had hotels. — The Count de B-, of whom the bookseller at the Quai de Conti had spoken so handsomely the night before, came instantly into my mind — And why should I not go, thought I, to the Count de B, who has so high an idea of English books and Englishmen, - and tell him my story? So I changed my mind a second time. In truth, it was the third; for I had intended that day for Madame de R-, in the Rue St. Pierre, and had devoutly sent her word by her fille de chambre that I would assuredly wait upon her; — but I am governed by circumstances;
I cannot govern them: so seeing a man standing with a basket on the other side of the street as if he had something to sell, I bid La Fleur go up to him, and inquire for the Count's hotel.
La Fleur returned, a little pale; and told me it was a Chevalier de St. Louis selling patés. - It is impossible, La Fleur, said I. La Fleur could no more