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-And there you are wrong again, replied I.-A heart at ease, Yorick, flies into no extremes—'t is ever on its center. -Well! well! cried I, as the coachman turn'd in at the gates -I find I shall do very well: and by the time he had wheel'd round the court, and brought me up to the door, I found myself so much the better for my own lecture, that I neither ascended the steps like a victim to justice, who was to part with life upon the topmost,—nor did I mount them with a skip and a couple of strides, as I do when I fly up, Eliza ! to thee, to meet it.
As I enter'd the door of the saloon, I was met by a person who possibly might be the maître d'hôtel, but had more the air of one of the under-secretaries, who told me the Duc de
was busy.-I am utterly ignorant, said I, of the forms of obtaining an audience, being an absolute stranger, and what is worse in the present conjuncture of affairs, being an Englishman too.--He replied, that did not increase the difficulty.-I made him a slight bow, and told him, I had something of importance to say to Monsieur le Duc. The secretary look'd towards the stairs, as if he was about to leave me to carry up this account to some one.-But I must not mislead you, said 1—for what I have to say is of no manner of importance to Monsieur le Duc de C- —but of great importance to myself.-C'est une autre affaire, replied he.-Not at all, said I, to a man of gallantry. But pray, good Sir, continued I, when can a stranger hope to have accesse?-In not less than two hours, said he, looking at his watch. The number of equipages in the courtyard seem'd to justify the calculation, that I could have no nearer a prospect-and as walking backwards and forwards in the saloon, without a soul to commune with, was for the time as bad as being in the Bastille itself, I instantly went back to my remise, and bid the coachman to drive me to the Cordon Bleu, which was the nearest hotel.
I think there is a fatality in it-I seldom go to the place I set out for.
EFORE I had got half-way down the street I changed
my mind: as I am at Versailles, thought I, I might as
well take a view of the town; so I pull’d the cord, and ordered the coachman to drive round some of the principal streets. I suppose the town is not very large, said I.-The coachman begg'd pardon for setting me right, and told me it was very superb, and that numbers of the first dukes and marquises and counts had hotels.—The Count de B-, of whom the bookseller at the Quai de Conti had spoke so handsomely the night before, came instantly into my mind. -And why should I not go, thought I, to the Count de Bwho has so high an idea of English books and Englishmenand tell him my story? So I changed my mind a second time -in truth it was the third; for I had intended that day for Madame de R-in the Rue St. Pierre, and had devoutly sent her word by her fille de chambre that I would assuredly wait upon her-but I am govern'd by circumstances—I cannot govern them: so seeing a man standing with a basket on the other side of the street, as if he had something to sell, I bid La Fleur go up to him and inquire for the Count's hotel.
La Fleur return'd a little pale: and told me it was a Chevalier de St. Louis selling pâtés. It is impossible, La Fleur, said I.-La Fleur could no more account for the phenomenon than myself; but persisted in his story: he had seen the croix set in gold, with its red ribband, he said, tied to his buttonhole—and had looked into the basket and seen the pâtés which the Chevalier was selling; so could not be mistaken in that.
Such a reverse in man's life awakens a better principle than curiosity: I could not help looking for some time at him as I sat in the remise—the more I look'd at him, his croix, and his basket, the stronger they wove themselves into my brain-I got out of the remise, and went towards him.
He was begirt with a clean linen apron, which fell below his knees, and with a sort of a bib that went half-way up his breast; upon the top of this, but a little below the hem, hung his croix. His basket of little pâtés was cover'd over with a white damask napkin: another of the same kind was spread at the bottom; and there was a look of propreté and neatness throughout, that one might have bought his pâtés of him, as much from appetite as sentiment.
He made an offer of them to neither; but stood still with them at the corner of a hotel, for those to buy who chose it, without solicitation.
He was about forty-eight-of a sedate look, something approaching to gravity. I did not wonder.—I went up rather to the basket than him, and having lifted up the napkin, and taken one of his pâtés into my hand—I begg'd he would explain the appearance which affected me.
He told me in a few words, that the best part of his life had pass’d in the service, in which, after spending a small patrimony, he had obtain'd a company and the croix with it; but that, at the conclusion of the last peace, his regiment being reformed, and the whole corps, wich those of some other regiments, left without any provision-he found himself in a wide world without friends, without a livre-and indeed, said he, without anything but this—(pointing, as he said it, to his croix).—The poor chevalier won my pity, and he finished the scene with winning my esteem too.
The king, he said, was the most generous of princes, but his generosity could neither relieve or reward every one, and it was only his misfortune to be amongst the number. He had a little wife, he said, whom he loved, who did the pâtisserie; and added, he felt no dishonor in defending her and himself from want in this way—unless Providence had offer'd him a better.
It would be wicked to withhold a pleasure from the good, in passing over what happen'd to this poor Chevalier of St. Louis about nine months after.
It seems he usually took his stand near the iron gates which lead up to the palace, and as his croix had caught the eye of numbers, numbers had made the same inquiry which I had done.—He had told the same story, and always with so much modesty and good sense, that it had reach'd at last the king's ears—who hearing the chevalier had been a gallant officer, and respected by the whole regiment as a man of honor and integrity—he broke up his little trade by a pension of fifteen hundred livres a year.
As I have told this to please the reader, I beg he will allow me to relate another, out of its order, to please myselfthe two stories reflect light upon each other—and 't is a pity they should be parted.
HEN states and empires have their periods of de
clension, and feel in their turns what distress and
poverty is—I stop not to tell the causes which gradually brought the house d'E-in Brittany into decay. The Marquis d'E- had fought up against his condition with great firmness; wishing to preserve, and still show to the world some little fragments of what his ancestors had been—their indiscretions had put it out of his power. There was enough left for the little exigencies of obscurity—but he had two boys who look'd up to him for light-he thought they deserved it. He had tried his sword—it could not open the way—the mounting was too expensive—and simple economy was not a match for it—there was no resource but commerce.
In any other province in France, save Brittany, this was smiting the root forever of the little tree his pride and affection wish'd to see reblossom-But in Brittany, there being a provision for this, he avail'd himself of it; and taking an occasion when the states were assembled at Rennes, the Marquis, attended with his two boys, enter'd the court; and having pleaded the right of an ancient law of the duchy, which, though seldom claim'd, he said, was no less in force, he took his sword from his side-Here-said he-take it; and be trusty guardians of it, till better times put me in condition to reclaim it.
The president accepted the Marquis's sword—he stay'd a few minutes to see it deposited in the archives of his houseand departed.
The Marquis and his whole family embarked the next day for Martinico, and in about nineteen or twenty years of successful application to business, with some unlook'd-for bequests from distant branches of his house-return's home to reclaim his nobility and to support it.