Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[139]

THE LETTER.

AMIENS.

FORTUNE had not smiled
upon La Fleur; for he had been
unsuccessful in his feats of chivalry
---and not one thing had offer'd to
signalize his zeal for my service from
the time he had entered into it, which
was almost four and twenty hours.
The poor soul burn'd with impa-
tience; and the Count de L***'s
servant's coming with the letter, be-
ing the first practicable occasion which
offered, La Fleur had laid hold of
it; and in order to do honour to his

               master,

[140]

master, had taken him into a back
parlour in the Auberge, and treated
him with a cup or two of the best
wine in Picardy; and the Count de
L***'s servant, in return, and not to
be behind-hand in politeness with La
Fleur, had taken him back with him
to the Count's hôtel. La Fleur's
prevenancy (for there was a passport
in his very looks) soon set every ser-
vant in the kitchen at ease with him;
and as a Frenchman, whatever be his
talents, has no sort of prudery in
shewing them, La Fleur, in less than
five minutes, had pulled out his fife,
and leading off the dance himself
with the first note, set the fille de
chambre
,
the mâtre d'hôtel, the cook,

              the

[141]

the scullion, and all the houshold,
dogs and cats, besides an old monkey,
a-dancing: I suppose there never was
a merrier kitchen since the flood.

Madame de L***, in passing
from her brother's apartments to her
own, hearing so much jollity below
stairs, rung up her fille de chambre to
ask about it; and hearing it was the
English gentleman's servant who had
set the whole house merry with his
pipe, she ordered him up.

As the poor fellow could not pre-
sent himself empty, he had loaden'd
himself in going up stairs with a thou-
sand compliments to Madame de
L***, on the part of his master---

              added

[142]

added a long apocrypha of inquiries
after Madame de L---'s health---
told her, that Monsieur his master
was au désespoir for her re-establish-
ment from the fatigues of her jour-
ney--- and, to close all, that Mon-
sieur had received the letter which
Madame had done him the honour
---And he has done me the ho-
nour, said Madame de L***, inter-
rupting La Fleur, to send me a billet in
return.

Madame de L*** had said this
with such a tone of reliance upon the
fact, that La Fleur had not power
to disappoint her expectations---he
trembled for my honour---and pos-
sibly might not altogether be uncon-

       I       cerned

[143]

cerned for his own, as a man capable
of being attached to a master who
could be wanting en égards vis à
d'une femme;
so that when Ma-
dame de L*** asked La Fleur if he
had brought a letter---O qu'oui, said
La Fleur; so laying down his hat
upon the ground, and taking hold
of the flap of his right side pocket
with his left hand, he began to search
for the letter with his right---then
contrary-wise---Diable!---then sought
every pocket, pocket by pocket,
round, not forgetting his fob---Peste!
---then La Fleur emptied them upon
the floor---pulled out a dirty cravat
---a handkerchief---a comb---a whip
lash--- a night-cap---then gave a peep

              into

[144]

into his hat---Quelle étourderie! He
had left the letter upon the table in
the Auberge---he would run for it,
and be back with it in three minutes.

I had just finished my supper when
La Fleur came in to give me an ac-
count of his adventure: he told the
whole story simply as it was, and
only added, that if Monsieur had
forgot (par hasard) to answer Ma-
dame's letter, the arrangement gave
him an opportunity to recover the
faux pas--- and if not, that things
were only as they were.

Now I was not altogether sure of
my étiquette, whether I ought to have
wrote or no; but if I had---a devil

      6                    himself

[145]

himself could not have been angry
'twas but the officious zeal of a well-
meaning creature for my honour;
and however he might have mistook
the road, or embarrassed me in so
doing---his heart was in no fault---I
was under no necessity to write--- and
what weighed more than all---he did
not look as if he had done amiss.

---'Tis all very well, La Fleur,
said I---'Twas sufficient. La Fleur
flew out of the room like lightening,
and return'd with pen, ink, and
paper, in his hand; and coming up
to the table, laid them close before
me, with such a delight in his coun-
tenance, that I could not help taking
up the pen.

VOL. I.             L               I   

[146]

I begun and begun again; and
though I had nothing to say, and that
nothing might have been express'd
in half a dozen lines, I made half a
dozen different beginnings, and could
no way please myself.

In short, I was in no mood to
write.

La Fleur, stepp'd out and brought
a little water in a glass to dilute my
ink---then fetch'd sand and seal-wax
---It was all one: I wrote, and blot-
ted, and tore off, and burnt, and
wrote again---Le diable l'emporte!
said I half to myself---I cannot write
this self-same letter; throwing the pen
down despairingly as I said it.

              As

[147]

As soon as I had cast down the
pen, La Fleur advanced with the
most respectful carriage up to the
table, and making a thousand apolo-
gies for the liberty he was going to
take, told me he had a letter in his
pocket wrote by a drummer in his
regiment to a corporal's wife, which,
he durst say, would suit the occasion.

I had a mind to let the poor fellow
have his humour---Then prithee, said
I, let me see it.

La Fleur instantly pull'd out a
little dirty pocket book cramm'd full
of small letters and billet-doux in a
sad condition, and laying it upon the
table, and then untying the string

L 2          which

[148]

which held them all together,
run over them one by one, till he came
to the letter in question---La voilà!
said he, clapping his hands: so un-
folding it first, he laid it before me,
and retired three steps from the table
whilst I read it.

                    


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