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Abbé M-, that in one half-hour I had said more for revealed religion than all their Encyclopedia had said against it.— I was lifted directly into Madame de V—'s Coterieand she put off the epocha of deism for two years.
I remember it was in this Coterie, in the middle of a discourse, in which I was showing the necessity of a first cause, that the young Count de Faineant took me by the hand to the furthest corner of the room to tell me my solitaire was pinn'd too strait about my neck.—It should be plus badinant, said the Count, looking down upon his own-but a word, Monsieur Yorick, to the wise
-And from the wise, Monsieur le Comte, replied I, making him a bow-is enough.
The Count de Faineant embraced me with more ardor than ever I was embraced by mortal man.
For three weeks together, I was of every man's opinion I met.—Pardi! ce Monsieur Yorick a autant d'esprit que nous autres.-11 raisonne bien, said another.-C'est un bon enfant, said a third.—And at this price I could have eaten and drank and been merry all the days of my life at Paris; but 't was a dishonest reckoning—I grew ashamed of it.It was the gain of a slave-every sentiment of honor revolted against it—the higher I got, the more was I forced upon my beggarly system—the better the Coterie-the more children of Art, I languish'd for those of Nature: and one night, after a most vile prostitution of myself to half a dozen different people, I grew sick-went to bed-order'd La Fleur to get me horses in the morning to set out for Italy.
NEVER felt what the distress of plenty was in any one shape till now—to travel it through the Bourbonnois,
the sweetest part of France—in the heyday of the vintage, when Nature is pouring her abundance into every one's lap, and every eye is lifted up—a journey through each step of which Music beats time to Labor, and all her children are rejoicing as they carry in their clusters—to pass through this with my affections flying out, and kindling at every group before me—and every one of 'em was pregnant with adventures.
Just heaven !—it would fill up twenty volumes—and alas ! I have but a few small pages left of this to crowd it intoand half of these must be taken up with the poor Maria my friend Mr. Shandy met with near Moulines.
The story he had told of that disorder'd maid affected me not a little in the reading; but when I got within the neighborhood where she liv’d, it returned so strong into my mind, that I could not resist an impulse which prompted me to go half a league out of the road, to the village where her parents dwelt, to inquire after her.
'T is going, I own, like the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, in quest of melancholy adventures—but I know not how it is, but I am never so perfectly conscious of the existence of a soul within me, as when I am entangled in them.
The old mother came to the door, her looks told me the story before she open'd her mouth.—She had lost her husband; he had died, she said, of anguish, for the loss of Maria's senses, about a month before.—She had feared at first, she added, that it would have plunder'd her poor girl of what little understanding was left—but, on the contrary, it had brought her more to herself—still she could not rest,
her poor daughter, she said, crying, was wandering somewhere about the road
-Why does my pulse beat languid as I write this? and what made La Fleur, whose heart seem'd only to be tun'd to joy, to pass the back of his hand twice across his eyes, as the woman stood and told it? I beckon'd to the postilion to turn back into the road.
When we had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little opening in the road leading to a thicket, I discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplar—she was sitting with her elbow in her lap, and her head leaning on one side within her hand-a small brook ran at the foot of the tree.
I bid the postilion go on with the chaise to Moulinesand La Fleur to bespeak my supper—and that I would walk after him.
She was dress'd in white, and much as my friend described her, except that her hair hung loose, which before was twisted within a silk net. She had, superadded likewise to her jacket, a pale-green ribband, which fell across her shoulder to the waist; at the end of which hung her pipe.-Her goat had been as faithless as her lover: and she had got a little dog in lieu of him, which she had kept tied by a string to her girdle: as I look'd at her dog, she drew him towards her with the string.–“Thou shalt not leave me, Sylvio,” said she. I look'd in Maria's eyes, and saw she was thinking more of her father than of her lover or her little goat; for as she utter'd them, the tears trickled down her cheeks.
I sat down close by her; and Maria let me wipe them away as they fell, with my handkerchief.-I then steep'd it in my own—and then in hers—and then in mine—and then I wip'd hers again-and as I did it, I felt such undescribable emotions within me, as I am sure could not be accounted for from any combinations of matter and motion.
I am positive I have a soul; nor can all the books with which materialists have pester'd the world ever convince me of the contrary.
HEN Maria had come a little to herself, I ask'd her
if she remembered a pale thin person of a man,
who had sat down betwixt her and her goat about two years before? She said, she was unsettled much at that time, but remember'd it upon two accounts—that ill as she was, she saw the person pitied her; and next, that her goat had stolen his handkerchief, and she had beat him for the theft-she had wash'd it, she said, in the brook, and kept it ever since in her pocket to restore it to him in case she should ever see him again, which, she added, he had half promised her. As she told me this, she took the handkerchief out of her pocket to let me see it; she had folded it up neatly in a couple of vine-leaves, tied round with a tendrilon opening it, I saw an S mark'd in one of the corners.
She had since that, she told me, stray'd as far as Rome, and walk'd round St. Peter's once—and return'd back-that she found her way alone across the Apennines—had travel'd over all Lombardy without money—and through the finty roads of Savoy without shoes-how she had borne it, and how she had got supported, she could not tell—but God tempers the wind, said Maria, to the shorn lamb.
Shorn indeed! and to the quick, said I; and wast thou in my own land, where I have a cottage, I would take thee to it and shelter thee: thou shouldst eat of my own bread and drink of my own cup, I would be kind to thy Sylvio—in all thy weaknesses and wanderings I would seek after thee and bring thee back-when the sun went down I would say my prayers; and when I had done thou shouldst play thy evening song upon thy pipe, nor would the incense of my sacrifice be worse accepted for entering heaven along with that of a broken heart.
Nature melted within me, as I utter'd this; and Maria observing, as I took out my handkerchief, that it was steep'd too much already to be of use, would needs go wash it in
the stream.—And where will you dry it, Maria ? said I.I'll dry it in my bosom, said she—'t will do me good.
And is your heart still so warm, Maria ? said I.
I touch'd upon the string on which hung all her sorrowsshe look'd with wistful disorder for some time in my face; and then, without saying anything, took her pipe, and play'd her service to the Virgin.—The string I had touch'd ceased to vibrate-in a moment or two Maria returned to herselflet her pipe fall—and rose up.
And where are you going, Maria ? said I.—She said, to Moulines.-Let us go, said I, together.-Maria put her arm within mine, and lengthening the string, to let the dog follow-in that order we enter'd Moulines.