Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[117]

THE BIDET

HAVING settled all these little
matters, I got into my post-
chaise with more ease than ever I
got into a post-chaise in my life; and
La Fleur having got one large jack-
boot on the far side of a little bidet*,
and another on this (for I count no-
thing of his legs)--- he canter'd away
before me as happy and as perpen-
dicular as a prince---

---But what is happiness! what is
grandeur in this painted scene of
life! A dead ass, before we had got
a league, put a sudden stop to La
Fleur's career---his bidet would not

*Post horse.

I 3        pass

[118]

pass by it--- a contention arose betwixt
them, and the poor fellow was
kick'd out of his jack-boots the very
first kick.

La Fleur bore his fall like a
French christian, saying neither more
or less upon it, than Diable! so
presently got up and came to the
charge again astride his bidet, beat-
ing him up to it as he would have
beat his drum.

The bidet flew from one side of
the road to the other, then back
again---then this way---then that
way, and in short every way but
by the dead ass---La Fleur insisted
upon the thing---and the bidet threw
him.

               What's

[119]

What's the matter, La Fleur, said
I, with this bidet of of thine?---Mon-
sieur
,
said he, c'est un cheval le plus
opinionâtre du monde
---Nay, if he is a
conceited beast, he must go his own
way, replied I---so La Fleur got off
him, and giving him a good sound
lash, the bidet took me at my word,
and away he scamper'd back to
Montriul---Peste! said La Fleur.

It is not mal-à-propos to take no-
tice here, that tho' La Fleur availed
himself of but two different terms of
exclamation in this encounter---
namely, Diable! and Peste! that
there are nevertheless three, in the
French language; like the positive,
comparative, and superlative, one or

I 4        the

[120]

the other of which serve for every
unexpected throw of the dice in life.

Le Diable! which is the first, and
positive degree, is generally used
upon ordinary emotions of the
mind, where small things only fall
out contrary to your expectations---
such as---the throwing once doublets
---La Fleur's being kick'd of his
horse, and so forth---Cuckoldom, for
the same reason, is always Le
Diable!

But in cases where the cast has
something provoking in it, as in
that of the bidet's running away
after, and leaving La Fleur aground
in jack-boots---'tis the second degree.

               'Tis

[121]

'Tis then Peste!

And for the third---

---But here my heart is wrung
with pity and fellow-feeling, when
I reflect what miseries must have
been their lot, and how bitterly so
refined a people must have smarted,
to have forced upon them the use of
it---

Grant me, O ye powers which
touch the tongue with eloquence in
distress!---whatever is my cast, Grant
me but decent words to exclaim in,
and I will give my nature way.

---But as these were not to be had
in France, I resolved to take every

              evil

[122]

evil just as it befell me without
any exclamation at all.

La Fleur, who had made no such
covenant with himself, followed the
bidet with his eyes till it was got
out of sight---and then, you may
imagine, if you please, with what
word he closed the whole affair.

As there was no hunting down a
frighten'd horse in jack-boots, there
remained no alternative but taking
La Fleur either behind the chaise,
or into it---

I preferred the latter, and in half
an hour we got to the post-house at
Nampont.

                    NAM-


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