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all nations talk and stalk so much alike, that I would not give ninepence to choose amongst them.
I was so long in getting from under my barber's hands, that it was too late of thinking of going with my letter to Madame R— that night: but when a man is once dressed at all points for going out, his reflections turn to little account; so taking down the name of the Hotel de Modene, where I lodged, I walked forth without any determination where to go I shall consider of that, said I, as I walk along.
AIL ye small sweet courtesies of life, for smooth do
ye make the road of it! like grace and beauty which
beget inclinations to love at first sight: 't is ye who open this door and let the stranger in.
-Pray, Madame, said I, have the goodness to tell me which way I must turn to go to the Opera Comique :-Most willingly, Monsieur, said she, laying aside her work.
I had given a cast with my eye into half a dozen shops as I came along in search of a face not likely to be disorderd by such an interruption; till at last, this hitting my fancy, I had walked in.
She was working a pair of ruffles as she sat in a low chair on the far side of the shop facing the door.
-Très volontiers; most willingly, said she, laying her work down upon a chair next her, and rising up from the low chair she was sitting in, with so cheerful a movement and so cheerful a look, that had I been a lying out fifty louis d'ors with her, I should have said—“This woman is grateful.”
You must turn, Monsieur, said she, going with me to the door of the shop, and pointing the way down the street I was to take you must turn first to your left hand—mais prenez garde—there are two turns; and be so good as to take the second—then go down a little way and you'll see a church, and when you are past it, give yourself the trouble to turn directly to the right, and that will lead you to the foot of the Pont Neuf, which you must cross—and there any one will do himself the pleasure to show you
She repeated her instructions three times over to me, with the same good-natur'd patience the third time as the firstand if tones and manners have a meaning, which certainly they have, unless to hearts which shut them out-she seem'd really interested, that I should not lose myself.
I will not suppose it was the woman's beauty, notwithstanding she was the handsomest grisset, I think, I ever saw, which had much to do with the sense I had of her courtesy; only I remember, when I told her how much I was obliged to her, that I looked very full in her eyes—and that I repeated my thanks as often as she had done her instructions.
I had not got ten paces from the door, before I found I had forgot every tittle of what she had said-so looking back, and seeing her still standing in the door of the shop as if to look whether I went right or not-I returned back, to ask her whether the first turn was to my right or left-for that I had absolutely forgot.—Is it possible? said she, half laughing.—'T is very possible, replied I, when a man is thinking more of a woman, than of her good advice.
As this was the real truth-she took it, as every woman takes a matter of right, with a slight courtesy.
-Attendez, said she, laying her hand upon my arm to detain me, whilst she called a lad out of the back shop to get ready a parcel of gloves. I am just going to send him, said she, with a packet into that quarter, and if you will have the complaisance to step in, it will be ready in a moment, and he shall attend you to the place.-So I walk'd in with her to the far side of the shop, and taking up the ruffle in my hand which she laid upon the chair, as if I had a mind to sit, she sat down herself in her low chair, and I instantly sat myself down besides her.
-He will be ready, Monsieur, said she, in a moment.And in that moment, replied I, most willingly would I say something very civil to you for all these courtesies. Any one may do a casual act of good nature, but a continuation of them shows it is a part of the temperature; and certainly, added I, if it is the same blood which comes from the heart, which descends to the extremes (touching her wrist), I am sure you must have one of the best pulses of any woman in the world.-Feel it, said she, holding out her arm. So laying down my hat, I took hold of her fingers in one hand, and applied the two forefingers of my other to the artery
-Would to heaven! my dear Eugenius, thou hadst passed by, and beheld me sitting in my black coat, and in my lack-aday-sical manner, counting the throbs of it, one by one, with as much true devotion as if I had been watching the critical ebb or flow of her fever.-How wouldst thou have laugh'd and moralized upon my new profession-and thou shouldst have laugh'd and moralized on—Trust me, my dear Eugenius, I should have said, “there are worse occupations in this world than feeling a woman's pulse."-But a Grisset's ! thou wouldst have said—and in an open shop! Yorick
-So much the better: for when my views are direct, Eugenius, I care not if all the world saw me feel it.
HAD counted twenty pulsations, and was going on fast towards the fortieth, when her husband coming unex
pected from a back parlor into the shop, put me a little out of my reckoning.—’T was nobody but her husband, she said-so I began a fresh score.—Monsieur is so good, quoth she, as he pass'd by us, as to give himself the trouble of feeling my pulse.—The husband took off his hat, and making me a bow, said, I did him too much honor—and having said that, he put on his hat and walk'd out.
Good God! said I to myself, as he went out-and can this man be the husband of this woman!
Let it not torment the few who know what must have been the grounds of this exclamation, if I explain it to those who do not.
In London a shopkeeper and a shopkeeper's wife seem to be one bone and one flesh: in the several endowments of mind and body, sometimes the one, sometimes the other has it, so as in general to be upon a par, and to tally with each other as nearly as man and wife need to do.
In Paris, there are scarce two orders of beings more different: for the legislative and executive powers of the shop not resting in the husband, he seldom comes there—in some dark and dismal room behind, he sits commerceless in his thrum nightcap, the same rough son of Nature that Nature left him.
The genius of a people where nothing but the monarchy is salique, having ceded this department, with sundry others, totally to the women-by a continual higgling with customers of all ranks and sizes from morning to night, like so many rough pebbles shook long together in a bag, by amicable collisions, they have worn down their asperities and sharp angles, and not only become round and smooth, but will re