Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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LE PATISSIER.

VERSAILLES.

BEFORE I had got half-way
down the street I changed my
mind : as I am at Versailles, thought
I, I might as well take a view of the
town ; so I pull'd the cord, and or-
dered the coachman to drive round
some of the principal streets—I sup-
pose the town is not very large, said
I.— The coachman begg'd pardon for
setting me right, and told me it was
very superb, and that numbers of the
first dukes and marquises and counts
had hotels—The count de B****, of

               whom

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whom the bookseller at the Quai de
Conti had spoke so handsomely the
night before, came instantly into my
mind— And why should I not go,
thought I, to the Count de B****,
who has so high an idea of English
books, and English men— and tell
hi, my story ? so I changed my
mind a second time—In truth it was
the third ; for I had intended that day
for Madame de R**** in the Rue
St. Pierre, and had devoutly sent her
word by her fille de chambre that I
would assuredly wait upon her—but
I am govern'd by circumstances— I
cannot govern them ; so seeing a man
standing with a basket on the other
side of the street, as if he had some-
thing to sell, I bid La Fleur go up

               to

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to him and enquire for the Count's
hotel.

    La Fleur return'd a little pale ; and
told me it was a Chevalier de St.
Louis selling patès—It is impossible,
La Fleur ! said I.—La Fleur could no
more account for the phenomenon
than myself ; but persisted in his
story : he had seen the croix set in
gold, with its red ribband, he said, tied
to his button-hole—and had look'd
into the basket and seen the patès
which the Chevalier was selling ; so
could not be mistaken in that.

    Such a reversal in man's life awakens a better principle than curiosity: I could not help looking for some time

               at

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at him as I sat in the remise—the
more I look'd at him, his croix and
his basket, the stronger they wove themselves into my brain— I got out
of the remise, and went towards him.

    He was begirt with a clean linen
apron which fell below his knees, and
with a sort of bib that went half way
up his breast ; upon the top of this,
but a little below the hem, hung his
croix. His basket of little patès was cover'd over with a white damask
napkin ; another of the same kind
was spread at the bottom ; and there
was a look of propreté and neatness
throughout ; that one might have
bought his patès of him, as much
from appetite as sentiment.

   VOL. II.    E     He

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    He made an offer of them to nei-
ther ; but stood still with them at the
corner of a hotel, for those to buy
who chose it, without solicitation.

    He was about forty-eight—of a
sedate look, something approaching
to gravity. I did not wonder.—I
went up rather to the basket than
him, and having lifted up the nap-
kin, and taken one of his pâtés into
my hand— I begg'd he would explain
the appearance which affected me.

    He told me in a few words, that the best part of his life had pass'd in
the service, in which, after spending
a small patrimony, he had obtain'd
a company and the croix with it ;

               but

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but that, at the conclusion of the last
peace, his regiment being reformed,
and the whole corps, with those of
some other regiments, left without any provision — he found himself in a
wide world without friends, without
a livre— and indeed, said he, with-
out any thing but this— (pointing, as
he said it, to his croix)—The poor
Chevalier won my pity, and he finish'd
the scene, with winning my esteem
too.

    The king, he said, was the most
generous of princes, but his gene-
rosity could neither relieve nor reward
every one, and it was only his mis-
fortune to be amongst the number. He had a little wife, he said, whom

     E2          he

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he loved, who did the patisserie ; and added, he felt no dishonour in defend-
ing her and himself from want in this
way—unless Providence had offer'd
him a better

    It would be wicked to with-hold a pleasure from the good, in passing
over what happen'd to this poor
Chevalier of St Louis about
nine months after.

    It seems he usually took his stand
near the iron gates which lead to
the palace, and as his croix had
caught the eye of numbers, num-
bers had made the same enquiry
which I had done—He had told
the same story, and always with

3               so

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so much modesty and good sense,
that it had reach'd at last the king's
ears—who hearing the Chevalier
had been a gallant officer, and re-
spected by the whole regiment as a
man of honour and integrity—he
broke up his little trade by a pension
of fifteen hundred livres a year.

    As I have told this to please the
reader, I beg he will allow me to
relate another out of its order, to
please myself—the two stories reflect
light upon each other,—and 'tis a pity
they should be parted.

               E    3   THE


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