Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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THE

FILLE DE CHAMBRE

PARIS.

WHAT the old French
officer had deliver'd upon travel-
ling, bringing Polonius's advice to
his son upon the same subject into my head—and that bringing in Hamlet;
and Hamlet the rest of Shakespear's
works, I stopp'd at the Quai de
Conti in my return home, to pur-
chase the whole set.

     Vol. II.          B          The

[2]

     The bookseller said he had not a
set in the world— Comment! said I; taking up one out of a set which lay
upon the counter betwixt us—He
said, they were sent him only to be
got bound, and were to be sent back
to Versailles in the morning to the
Count de B****.

    —And does the Count de B****,
said I, read Shakespear? C'est un
Esprit fort
;
replied the bookseller.—
He loves English books; and what
is more to his honour, Monsieur,
he loves the English too. You speak
this so civilly, said I, that 'tis enough
to oblige an Englishman to lay out a
Louis d'or or two at your shop&mdashthe
bookseller made a bow, and was

                                        going

                     

[3]

going to say something, when a young decent girl about twenty, who by
her air and dress seemed to be fille
de chambre
to some devout woman of fashion, come into the shop and asked
for Les Égarements du Coeur & de l'Es-
prit :
the bookseller gave her the book
directly; she pulled out a little green
sattin purse run round with ribband
of the same colour, and putting her
finger and thumb into it, she took out
the money and paid for it. As I had no-
thing more to stay me in the shop, we
both walked out of the door together.

    —And what have you to do,
my dear, said I, with The Wanderings
of the Heart,
who scarce know yet
you have one? nor, till love has

            B2         first

[4]

first told you it, or some faithles'
shepherd has made it ache, can'st thou
ever be sure it is so.— Le Dieu m'en
guard!
said the girl.— With reason, said I—for if it is a good one, 'tis pity it should be stolen: 'tis a little trea-
sure to thee, and gives a better air
to your face, than if it was dress'd
out with pearls.

    The young girl listened with a
submissive attention, holding her sat-
tin purse by its ribband in her hand
all the time— 'Tis a very small one, said I, taking hold of the bottom of it—she held it towards me—and
there is very little in it, my dear, said
I; but be as good as thou art hand-
some, and heaven will fill it: I had a

                                 parcel

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parcel of crowns in my hand to pay
for Shakespear'; and as she had let go
the purse entirely, I put a single one
in ; and tying up the ribband in a
bow-knot, returned it to her.

    The young girl made me more a
humble courtesy than a low one— 'twas one of those quiet, thankful
sinkings, where the spirit bows itself down—the body does no more than tell it. I never gave a girl a crown
in my life which gave me half the
pleasure.

    My advice, my dear, would not
have been worth a pin to you, said
I, if I had not given this along with
it : but now, when you see the crown,

            B3               you'll

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you'll remember it—so don't, my dear, lay it out in ribbands.

    Upon my word, Sir, said the
girl, earnestly, I am incapable— in saying which, as is usual in little bar-
gains of honour, she gave me her hand—En vérité, Monsieur, je met-
trai cet argent apart
,
said she.

   When a virtuous convention is
made betwixt man and woman, it
sanctifies their most private walks :
so not withstanding it was dusky, yet
as both our roads lay the same way,
we made no scruple of walking along
the Quai de Conti together.

                           She

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   She made me a second courtesy in
setting off, and before we got twenty
yards from the door, as if she had
not done enough before, she made a
sort of a little stop to tell me again
—she thank'd me.

   It was a small tribute, I told her,
which I could not avoid paying to
virtue, and would not be mistaken in
the person I had been rendering it to
for the world—but I see innocence, my dear, in your face— and foul be-
fal the man who ever lays a snare in
its way!

   The girl seem'd affected some way
or other with what I said— she gave a low sigh—I found I was not im-

                          B4                 powered

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powered to inquire at all after it—so said nothing more till I got to the
corner of the Rue de Nevers, where we were to part.

   —But is this the way, my dear, said I, to the hotel de Modene? she told me it was—or, that I might go by the Rue de Guinegaude, which was the next turn.— Then I'll go, my dear, by the Rue de Guinegaude, said I, for two
reasons; first I shall please myself, and
next I shall give you the protection of
my company as far on your way as I
can. The girl was sensible I was civil
—and said, she wish'd the hotel de Modene was in the Rue de St. Pierre—
— You live there? said I—She told
me she was fille de chambre to Madame

                                                   R****

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R****— Good God! said I, 'tis the very lady for whom I have brought a
letter from Amiens— The girl told me that Madame R****, she believed, expected a stranger with a letter, and
was impatient to see him—so I desired
the girl to present my compliments to
Madame R****, and say I would cer-
tainly wait upon her in the morning.

   We stood still at the corner of the Rue
de Nevers whilst this pass'd— We then
stopped a moment whilst she disposed
of her Egarements du Coeur, &c. more
commodiously than carrying them in
her hand—they were two volumes ;
so I held the second for her whilst she
put the first into her pocket; and then

                                                   she

 

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she held her pocket; and I put in the other
after it.

   'Tis sweet to feel by what fine-spun
threads our affections are drawn to-
gether.

   We set off a-fresh, and as she took
her third step, the girl put her hand
within my arm—I was just bidding
her— but she did it of herself, with that undeliberating simplicity, which
shew'd it was out of her head that
she had never seen me before. For
my own part, I felt the conviction of consanguinity so strongly, that I could
not help turning half round to look in
her face, and see if I could not trace out

                                                any

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any thing in it of a family likeness-
Tut! said I, are we not all relations?

   When we arrived at the turning up
of the Rue de Guinegaude, I stopp'd
to bid her adieu for good an all : the
girl would thank me again for my
company and kindness—She bid me adieu twice— I repeated it as often ;
and so cordial was the parting between
us, that had it happen'd any where
else, I'm not sure but I should have
signed it with a kiss of charity, as
warm and holy as an apostle.

   But in Paris, as none kiss each other
but the men—I did, what amounted
to the same thing—

   —I bid God bless her.

                     


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