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The lady next me was a tall lean figure of a woman, of about thirty-six; the other of the same size and make, of about forty; there was no mark of wife or widow in any one part of either of them—they seem'd to be two upright vestal sisters, unsapp'd by caresses, unbroke in upon by tender salutations: I could have wish'd to have made them happy-their happiness was destin'd, that night, to come from another quarter.
A low voice, with a good turn of expression, and sweet cadence at the end of it, begg'd for a twelve-sou piece betwixt them, for the love of Heaven. I thought it singular that a beggar should fix the quota of an alms-and that the sum should be twelve times as much as what is usually given in the dark. They both seem'd astonish'd at it as much as myself. Twelve sous! said one.-A twelve-sou piece! said the other-and made no reply.
The poor man said, he knew not how to ask less of ladies of their rank; and bow'd down his head to the ground. Poo! said they-we have no money.
The beggar remained silent for a moment or two, and renew'd his supplication.
Do not, my fair young ladies, said he, stop your good ears against me.-Upon my word, honest man! said the younger, we have no change.—Then God bless you, said the poor man, and multiply those joys which you can give to others without change!-I observed the elder sister put her hand into her pocket. I'll see, said she, if I have a sou.-A sou! give twelve, said the supplicant; Nature has been bountiful to you, be bountiful to a poor man.
I would, friend, with all my heart, said the younger, if I had it.
My fair charitable! said he, addressing himself to the elder-what is it but your goodness and humanity which makes your bright eyes so sweet, that they outshine the morning even in this dark passage? and what was it which made the Marquis de Santerre and his brother say so much of you both as they just pass'd by?
The two ladies seemed much affected; and impulsively at the same time they both put their hands into their pocket, and each took out a twelve-sou piece.
The contest betwixt them and the poor supplicant was no more-it was continued betwixt themselves, which of the two should give the twelve-sou piece in charity-and to end the dispute, they both gave it together, and the man went away.
THE RIDDLE EXPLAINED
STEPP'D hastily after him: it was the very man whose
success in asking charity of the women before the door
of the hotel had so puzzled me—and I found at once his secret, or at least the basis of it-'t was flattery.
Delicious essence! how refreshing art thou to nature! how strongly are all its powers and all its weaknesses on thy side! how sweetly dost thou mix with the blood, and help it through the most difficult and tortuous passages to the heart!
The poor man, as he was not straiten'd for time, had given it here in a larger dose: 't is certain he had a way of bringing it into less form, for the many sudden cases he had to do with in the streets; but how he contrived to correct, sweeten, concenter, and qualify it-I vex not my spirit with the inquiry-it is enough, the beggar gain'd two twelve-sou pieces-and they can best tell the rest, who have gain'd much greater matters by it.
E get forwards in the world, not so much by doing services, as receiving them; you take a withering twig, and put it in the ground; and then you water it because you have planted it.
Monsieur le Comte de B
merely because he had done me one kindness in the affair of my passport, would go on and do me another, the few days he was at Paris, in making me known to a few people of rank; and they were to present me to others, and so on.
I had got master of my secret just in time to turn these honors to some little account; otherwise, as is commonly the case, I should have din'd or supp'd a single time or two round, and then by translating French looks and attitudes into plain English, I should presently have seen, that I had got hold of the couvert1 of some more entertaining guest; and in course should have resigned all my places one after another, merely upon the principle that I could not keep them. As it was, things did not go much amiss.
I had the honor of being introduced to the old Marquis de B: in days of yore he had signaliz'd himself by some small feats of chivalry in the Cour d'amour, and had dress'd himself out to the idea of tilts and tournaments ever sincethe Marquis de B- wish'd to have it thought the affair was somewhere else than in his brain. "He could like to take a trip to England," and ask'd much of the English ladies. Stay where you are, I beseech you Monsieur le Marquis, said I.-Les Messieurs Anglois can scarce get a kind look from them as it is.-The Marquis invited me to supper.
Monsieur P- the farmer-general was just as inquisitive about our taxes.-They were very considerable, he heard— If we knew but how to collect them, said I, making him a low bow.
I could never have been invited to Monsieur P's concerts upon any other terms.
1 Plate, napkin, knife, fork, and spoon.
I had been misrepresented to Madame de Q as an esprit.-Madame de Q- was an esprit herself: she burnt with impatience to see me, and hear me talk. I had not taken my seat, before I saw she did not care a sou whether I had any wit or no-I was let in, to be convinced she had.— I call Heaven to witness I never once open'd the door of my lips.
Madame de Q— vow'd to every creature she met, "she had never had a more improving conversation with a man in her life."
There are three epochas in the empire of a Frenchwoman -She is coquette-then deist-then dévote: the empire during these is never lost-she only changes her subjects: when thirty-five years and more have unpeopled her dominions of the slaves of love, she repeoples it with slaves of infidelityand then with the slaves of the Church.
Madame de V was vibrating betwixt the first of these epochas: the color of the rose was shading fast away-she ought to have been a deist five years before the time I had the honor to pay my first visit.
She placed me upon the same sofa with her, for the sake of disputing the point of religion more closely-In short Madame de V- told me she believed nothing.
I told Madame de V- it might be her principle; but I was sure it could not be her interest to level the outworks, without which I could not conceive how such a citadel as hers could be defended-that there was not a more dangerous thing in the world than for a beauty to be a deist-that it was a debt I owed my creed, not to conceal it from herthat I had not been five minutes sat upon the sofa besides her, but I had begun to form designs-and what is it but the sentiments of religion, and the persuasion they had existed in her breast, which could have check'd them as they rose up?
We are not adamant, said I, taking hold of her handand there is need of all restraints, till age in her own time steals in and lays them on us-but, my dear lady, said I, kissing her hand-'t is too-too soon
I declare I had the credit all over Paris of unperverting Madame de V—.—She affirmed to Monsieur D— and the