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tangled this mystery: the one was, he told every
woman what he had to say, in her ear, and in a way which had much more the air of a secret than a petition: he the other was, it was always successful; never stopped a woman but she pulled out her purse, and immediately gave him something.
I could form no system to explain the phoeno
THE CASE OF CONSCIENCE.
I had got a riddle to amuse me for the rest of the evening; so I walked up stairs to my chamber.
I WAS immediately followed up by the master of the hotel, who came into my room to tell me I must provide lodgings elsewhere..... How so, friend? said I. . . . . He answe wered, I had a young woman locked up with me two hours that evening in my bedchamber, and 'twas against the rules of his house. Very well, said I, we'll all part friends, then, for the girl is no worse, and, I am no worse, and will be just as I found you. It was enough, he said, to overthrow the credit of his hotel. Voyez vous, Monsieur, said he, pointing to the foot of the bed we had been sitting upon. I own it had something of the appearance of an evidence; but my pride not suffering me to enter into detail of the case, I exhorted him to let his soul sleep in peace, as I resolved to let mine do that night, and that I would discharge what I owed him at breakfast.
.... I should not have minded, Monsieur, said he,
'Tis a score more,
if you had had twenty girls. replied I, interrupting him, than I ever reckoned upon. Provided, added he, it had been but in a morning. And does the difference of the time of the day at Paris make a difference in the sin? .... It made a difference, he said, in the scandal. I like a good distinction, in my heart; and cannot say I was intolerably out of temper with the man. . . . . I own it necessary, resumed the master of the hotel, that a stranger at Paris should have opportunities presented to him of buying lace, and silk stockings, and ruffles, et tout cela; and 'tis nothing if a woman comes with a band box. O' my conscience, said I, she had one; but I never looked into it. Then, Monsieur, said he, has bought nothing? Not one earthly thing, replied I. . . . . Because, said he, I could recommend you to one who would use you en conscience. .... But I must see her this night, said I. He made me a low bow, and walked down.
Now shall I triumph over this maître d'hôtel, cried I;- and what then? Then I shall let him see I know he is a dirty fellow. And what then? What then!
I was too near myself to say it was for the sake of others. I had no good answer left; there was more of spleen than of principle in my project, and I was sick of it before the execution.
In a few minutes the grisette came in with her box of lace. I will buy nothing, however, said I, within myself.
The grisette would shew me every thing. I was hard to please; she would not seem to see it. She opened her little magazine, and laid all her laces, one after another, before me; unfolded and folded them up
again, one by one, with the most patient sweetness. I might buy, or not; she would let me have every thing at my own price: the poor creature seemed anxious to get a penny; and laid herself out to win me, and not so much in a manner which seemed artful, as in one I felt simple and caressing.
If there is not a fund of honest cullibility in man, so much the worse; my heart relented, and I gave up my second resolution as quietly as the first. Why should I chastise one for the trespass of another? If thou art tributary to this tyrant of a host, thought I, looking up in her face, so much harder is thy bread.
If I had not had more than four Louis d'ors in my purse, there was no such thing as rising up and shewing her the door till I had first laid three of them out in a pair of ruffles.
The master of the hotel will share the profit with her: then I have only paid, as no matter, many a poor soul has paid before me, for an act he could not do, or think of.
WHEN La Fleur came up to wait upon me at supper, he told me how sorry the master of the hotel was for his affront to me in bidding me change my lodgings.
A man who values a good night's rest will not lie down with enmity in his heart, if he can help it. So I bid La Fleur tell the master of the hotel that I was sorry, on my side, for the occasion I had given him;
and you may tell him, if you will, La Fleur, added I, that if the young woman should call again, I shall not see her
This was a sacrifice not to him, but myself, having resolved after so narrow an escape, to run no more risks, but to leave Paris, if it was possible, with all the virtue I entered it,
C'est deroger à noblesse, Monsieur, said La Fleur, making me a bow down to the ground as he said it. Et encore, Monsieur, said he, may change his sentiments: and if (par hazard) he should like to amuse himself. I find no amusement in it, said I, interrupting him.
.... Mon Dieu! said La Fleur,
In an hour's time he came to put me to bed, and was more than commonly officious; something hung upon his lips to say to me, or ask me, which he could not get off; I could not conceive what it was; and indeed gave myself little trouble to find it out, as I had another riddle so much more interesting upon my mind, which was that of the man's asking charity before the door of the hotel. I would have given any thing to have got to the bottom of it; and that not out of curiosity, 'tis so low a principle of enquiry, in general, I would not purchase the gratification of it with a two-sous piece; but a secret, I thought, which so soon and so certainly softened the heart of every woman you came near was a secret at least equal to the philosopher's stone; had I had both the Indies, I would have given up one to have been master of it.
I tossed and turned it almost all night long in my brains, to no manner of purpose; and when I awoke in
the morning, I found my spirits as much troubled with my dreams as ever the King of Babylon had been with his; and I will not hesitate to affirm it would have puzzled all the wise men of Paris, as much as those of Chaldea, to have given its interpretation.
IT was Sunday: and when La Fleur came in, in the morning, with my coffee and roll and butter, he had got himself so gallantly arrayed I scarcely knew him.
I had covenanted at Montriul to give him a new hat with a silver button and loop, and four Louis d'ors pour s'adoniser, when we got to Paris; and the poor fellow, to do him justice, had done wonders with it. He had bought a bright, clean, good scarlet coat, and a pair of breeches of the same. They were not a crown worse, he said, for the wearing. I wished him hanged for telling me. - They looked so fresh. that though I knew the thing could not be done, yet I would rather have imposed upon my fancy with thinking I had bought them new for the fellow than that they had come out of the Rue de Friperie.
This is a nicety which makes not the heart sore at
He had purchased, moreover, a handsome blue satin waistcoat, fancifully enough embroidered; this was indeed something the worse for the service it had done, but 'twas clean scoured, the gold had been touched up, and, upon the whole, was rather showy than otherwise