Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[18]

THE PASSPORT.

The Hotel at Paris.

I could not find it in my heart
to torture La Fleur's with a se-
rious look upon the subject of my embarrassment, which was the rea-
son I had treated it so cavalierly : and
to shew him how light it lay upon
my mind, I dropt the subject en-
tirely ; and whilst he waited upon me
at supper, talk'd to him with more
than usual gaiety about Paris, and of
the opéra-comique.—La Fleur had
been there himself, and had followed
me through the streets as far as the
bookseller's shop; but seeing me come

                                              out

[19]

out with the young fille de chambre,
and that we walk'd down the Quai de
Conti together, La Fleur deem'd it
unnecessary to follow me a step fur-
ther— so making his own reflections
upon it, he took a shorter cut—
and got to the hotel in time to be in-
form'd of the affair of the Police
against my arrival.

        As soon as the honest creature had
taken away, and gone down to sup
himself, I then began to think a
little seriously about my situation.—

         —And here, I know, Eugenius,
thou wilt smile at the remembrance
of a short dialogue which pass'd be-

                  C2           twitx

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twixt us the moment I was going to
set out—I must tell it here.

       Eugenius, knowing that I was as
little subject to be overburthen'd with
money as thought, had drawn me
aside to interrogate me hoe much I
had taken care for; upon telling him
the exact sum, Eugenius shook his
head, and said it would not do ; so
pull'd out his purse in order to empty
it into mine.—I've enough in con-
science, Eugenius, said I.— Indeed,
Yorick, you have not, replied Eu-
genius—I know France and Italy
better than you— But you don't
consider, Eugenius, said I, refusing
his offer, that before I have been
three days in Paris, I shall take care

                                   to

[21]

to say or do something or other for
which I shall get clapp'd up into the
Bastile, and that I shall live there a
couple of months entirely at the king
of France's expense.—I beg pardon,
said Eugenius, drily : really I had
forgot that resource.

       Now the event I treated gaily
came seriously to my door.

       Is it folly, or nonchalance, or phi-
losophy, or pertinacity—or what is
it in me, that, after all, when La
Fleur had gone down stairs, and I
was quite alone, that I could not
bring down my mind to think of it
otherwise than I had then spoken of
it to Eugenius?

     C3     —And

 

[22]

       —And as for the Bastile ! the ter-
ror is in the word—Make the most
of it you can, said I to myself, the
Bastile is but another word for a
tower—and a tower is but another
word for a house you can't get out of
—Mercy on the gouty ! for they are
in it twice a year—but with nine
livres a day, and pen and ink and
paper and patience, albeit a man can't
get out, he may do very well within
—at least for a month or six weeks ; at
the end of which, if he is a harmless
fellow, his innocence appears, and
he comes out a better and wiser man
than he went in.

       I had some occasion (I forgot what)
to step into the courtyard, as I settled

                                        this

[23]

this account; and remember I walk'd
down stairs in no small triumph with
the conceit of my reasoning—Be-
shrew the sombre pencil ! said I vaunt-
ingly—for I envy not its powers,
which paints the evils of life with so
hard and deadly a colouring. The
mind sits terrified at the objects she
has magnified herself, and blackened :
reduce them to their proper size and
hue, she overlooks them—'Tis true,
said I, correcting the proposition —
the Bastile is not an evil to be de-
spised—but strip it of towers—fill
up the fossé—unbarricade the doors—
call it simply a confinement, and sup-
pose 'tis some tyrant of a distemper—
and not of a man which holds you in

                     C4                it—

[24]

it—the evil vanishes, and you bear
the other half without complaint.

       I was interrupted in the hey-day
of this soliloquy, with a voice which
I took to be of a child, which com-
plained " it could not get out."—I
look'd up and down the passage, and
seeing neither man, woman, or child,
I went out without further attention.

      In my return back through the
passage, I heard the same words re-
peated twice over ; and looking up,
I saw it was a starling hung in a little
cage—" I can't get out—I can't get
" out," said the starling.

                   I stood

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      I stood looking at the bird : and
to every person who came through the
passage it ran fluttering to the side to-
wards which they approach'd it, with
the same lamentation of its captivity—
" I can't get out", said the starling—
God help thee! said I—but I'll let
thee out, cost what it will ; so I turn'd
about the cage to get to the door ; it
was twisted and double twisted so fast
with wire, there was no getting it
to open without pulling the cage to pieces—I took both hands to it.

      The bird flew to the place where
I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis,
press'd his breast against it, as if im-patient—I fear, poor creature! said I,

                                                   I cannot

[26]

I cannot set thee at liberty—" No," said the starling— " I can't get out
" —I can't get out," said the star-
ling.

    I vow, I never had my affections
more tenderly awakened ; or do I re-member an incident in my life, where
the dissipated spirits, to which my
reason had been a bubble, were so
suddenly call'd home. Mechanical
as the notes were, yet so true in tune to
nature were they chanted, that in one
moment they overthrew all my syste-
matic reasonings upon the Bastile ;
and I heavily wak'd up stairs, un-
saying every word I had said in go-
ing down them.

            Disguise

 

[27]

    Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still
slavery! said I—still thou art a bit-
ter draught ; and though thousands
in all ages have been made to drink
of thee, thou art no less bitter on
that account.—'tis thou, thrice sweet
and gracious goddess, addressing my-
self to LIBERTY, whom all in pub-
lic or in private worship, whose taste
is grateful, and ever will be so, till
NATURE herself shall change—no tint
of words can spot thy snowy mantle,
or chymic power to turn thy sceptre
into iron— with thee to smile upon
him as he eats his crust, the swain
is happier than his monarch, from
whose court thou art exiled— Gracious
heaven ! cried I, kneeling down upon
the last step but one in my ascent,—

                                     grant

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grant me but health, thou great Be-
stower of it, and give me but this fair
goddess as my companion—
and shower down thy mitres, if it
seems good unto thy divine provi-
dence, upon those heads which are
aching for them.

                                     THE

                     


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