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F 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 call'd forth my affections-therefore when I let go the hand of the fille de chambre, I remain'd at the gate of the hotel for some time, looking at every one who pass'd by, and forming conjectures upon them, till my attention got fix'd upon a single object which confounded all kind of reasoning upon him.
It was a tall figure of a philosophic, serious, adust look, which pass'd and repass'd sedately along the street, making a turn of about sixty paces on each side of the gate of the hotel-the man was about fifty-two-had a small cane under his arm-was dress'd in a dark drab-color'd coat, waistcoat, and breeches, which seem'd 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 sou or two out of my pocket ready to give him, as he took me in his turn-he pass'd by me without asking anything-and yet did not go five steps further before he ask'd 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 pull'd off his hat to another who was coming the same way.-An ancient gentleman came slowlyand, after him, a young smart one.-He let them both pass, and ask'd 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 soften'd the hearts of the women, which he knew 't was to no purpose to practise upon the men.
There were two other circumstances which entangled this mystery-the one was, he told every woman what he had to say in her ear, and in a way which had much more the air of a secret than a petition-the other was, it was always successful—he never stopp'd a woman, but she pull'd out her purse, and immediately gave him something.
I could form no system to explain the phenomenon.
I had got a riddle to amuse me for the rest of the evening, so I walk'd up-stairs to my chamber.
THE CASE OF CONSCIENCE
WAS immediately followed up by the master of the hotel, who came into my room to tell me I must provide lodgings elsewhere.-How so, friend? said I.—He answer'd, I had had a young woman lock'd up with me two hours that evening in my bedchamber, and 't was against the rules of his house.-Very well, said I, we'll all part friends then-for the girl is no worse-and I am no worse -and you will be just as I found you. It was enough, he said, to overthrow the credit of his hotel.-Voyez vous, Monsieur, said he, pointing to the foot of the bed we had been sitting upon. I own it had something of the appearance of an evidence; but my pride not suffering me to enter into any detail of the case, I exhorted him to let his soul sleep in peace, as I resolved to let mine do that night, and that I would discharge what I owed him at breakfast.
I should not have minded, Monsieur, said he, if you had had twenty girls-'T is a score more, replied I, interrupting him, than I ever reckon'd upon-Provided, added he, it had been but in a morning.—And does the difference of the time of the day at Paris make a difference in the sin?-It made a difference, he said, in the scandal.—I like a good distinction in my heart; and cannot say I was intolerably out of temper with the man. I own it is necessary, reassumed the master of the hotel, that a stranger at Paris should have the opportunities presented to him of buying lace and silk stockings, and ruffles, et tout cela—and 't is nothing if a woman comes with a band-box.-O, my conscience, said I, she had one; but I never look'd into it.—Then Monsieur, said he, has bought nothing. Not one earthly thing, replied I.-Because, said he, I could recommend one to you who would use you en conscience. But I must see her this night, said I.-He made me a low bow, and walk'd down.
Now shall I triumph over this maître d'hôtel, cried I—and what then?-Then I shall let him see I know he is a dirty fellow. And what then?-What then!-I was too near myself to say it was for the sake of others.-I had no good answer left-there was more of spleen than principle in my project, and I was sick of it before the execution.
In a few minutes the Grisset came in with her box of lace -I'll buy nothing, however, said I, within myself.
The Grisset would show me everything.—I was hard to please: she would not seem to see it; she open'd her little magazine, and laid all her laces one after another before me -unfolded and folded them up again one by one with the most patient sweetness-I might buy-or not-she would let me have everything at my own price-the poor creature seem'd anxious to get a penny; and laid herself out to win me, and not so much in a manner which seem'd artful, as in one I felt simple and caressing.
If there is not a fund of honest cullibility in man, so much the worse-my heart relented, and I gave up my second resolution as quietly as the first.-Why should I chastise one for the trespass of another? If thou art tributary to this tyrant of an host, thought I, looking up in her face, so much harder is thy bread.
If I had not had more than four Louis d'ors in my purse, there was no such thing as rising up and showing her the door, till I had first laid three of them out in a pair of ruffles.
-The master of the hotel will share the profit with her— no matter then I have only paid as many a poor soul has paid before me, for an act he could not do, or think of.
HEN La Fleur came up to wait upon me at supper, he told me how sorry the master of the hotel was for his affront to me in bidding me change
A man who values a good night's rest will not lay down with enmity in his heart, if he can help it-so I bid La Fleur tell the master of the hotel, that I was sorry on my side for the occasion I had given him—and you may tell him, if you will, La Fleur, added I, that if the young woman should call again, I shall not see her.
This was a sacrifice not to him, but myself, having resolved, after so narrow an escape, to run no more risks, but to leave Paris, if it was possible, with all the virtue I enter'd in.
C'est déroger à noblesse, Monsieur, said La Fleur, making me a bow down to the ground as he said it.—Et encore, Monsieur, said he, may change his sentiments-and if (par hazard) he should like to amuse himself—I find no amusement in it, said I, interrupting him—
Mon Dieu! said La Fleur-and took away.
In an hour's time he came to put me to bed, and was more than commonly officious-something hung upon his lips to say to me, or ask me, which he could not get off: I could not conceive what it was, and indeed gave myself little trouble to find it out, as I had another riddle so much more interesting upon my mind, which was that of the man's asking charity before the door of the hotel-I would have given anything to have got to the bottom of it; and that, not out of curiosity-'t is so low a principle of inquiry, in general, I would not purchase the gratification of it with a twosou piece but a secret, I thought, which so soon and so certainly soften'd the heart of every woman you came near, was a secret at least equal to the philosopher's stone: had I