« ZurückWeiter »
HE bird in his cage pursued me into my room; I sat
down close to my table, and leaning my head upon my
hand, I began to figure to myself the miseries of confinement. I was in a right frame for it, and so I gave full scope to my imagination.
I was going to begin with the millions of my fellowcreatures, born to no inheritance but slavery: but finding, however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me
-I took a single captive, and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then look'd through the twilight of his grated door to take his picture.
I beheld his body half wasted away with long expectation and confinement, and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it was which arises from hope deferr'd. Upon looking nearer I saw him pale and feverish: in thirty years the western breeze had not once fann'd his blood—he had seen no sun, no moon, in all that time—nor had the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through his lattice—his children
-But here my heart began to bleed—and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait.
He was sitting upon the ground upon a little straw, in the furthest corner of his dungeon, which was alternately his chair and bed : a little calendar of small sticks were laid at the head, notch'd all over with the dismal days and nights he had pass'd there—he had one of these little sticks in his hand, and with a rusty nail he was etching another day of misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards the door, then cast it downshook his head, and went on with his work of affliction. I heard his chains upon his legs, as he turned his body to lay
his little stick upon the bundle.-He gave a deep sigh–I saw the iron enter into his soul-I burst into tears I could not sustain the picture of confinement which my fancy had drawn-I started up from my chair, and calling La FleurI bid him bespeak me a remise, and have it ready at the door of the hotel by nine in the morning.
-I'll go directly, said I, myself to Monsieur le Duc de Choiseul.
La Fleur would have put me to bed; but not willing he should see anything upon my cheek which would cost the honest fellow a heartache-I told him I would go to bed by myself—and bid him go do the same.
ROAD TO VERSAILLES
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 traveling, I cannot fill up the blank better than with a short history of this selfsame bird, which became the subject of the last chapter. Whilst the Honorable 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 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 stay'd there, he taught it in his mother's tongue the four simple words—(and no more)—to which I own'd 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 learn'd his notes—and telling the story of him to Lord A-Lord A begg'd the bird of me—in a week Lord A gave him to Lord B-; Lord B made a present of him to Lord C-; 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 pass'd into the lower house, and pass'd 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 of my 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 further to add upon him, but that from that time to this, I have borne this poor starling as the crest to my arms.—Thus:
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 endeavor to protect myself; but this going to Monsieur le Duc de C— was 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 Bastille 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 wreathe 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 you; and 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 succors ten times where nature does it once. Go to the Duc de Cwith the Bastille 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.—