Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[73]

THE PASSPORT.

VERSAILLES.

I COULD not conceive why the
Count de B**** had gone so
abruptly out of the room, any more
than I could conceive why he had
put the Shakespear into his pocket—
Mysteries which must explain themselves,
are not worth the loss of time, which a
conjecture about them takes up :
'twas bet-
ter to read Shakespear ; so taking up,
" Much ado about Nothing," I trans-
ported myself instantly from the chair
I sat in to Messina in Sicily, and
got so busy with Don Pedro and Be-

                     nedick

[74]

nedick and Beatrice, that I thought
not of Versailles, the Count, or the
Passport.

    Sweet pliability of man's spirit,
that can at once surrender itself to
illusions, which cheat expectation and
sorrow of their weary moments !—
—long—long since had ye number'd
out my days, had I not trod so great
a part of them upon this enchanted
ground : when my way is too rough
for my feet, or too steep for my
strength, I get off it, to some smooth
velvet path which fancy has scattered
over with rose-buds of delights ; and
having taken a few turns in it, come
back strengthen'd and refresh'd—
When evils press sore upon me, and

                     there

[75]

there is no retreat from them in this
world, then I take a new course—I
leave it— and as I have a clearer idea of
the elysian fields than I have of heaven,
I force myself, like Eneas, into them
—I see him meet the pensive shade of
his forsaken Dido—and wish to re-
cognize it—I see the injured spirit
wave her head, and turn off silent
from the author of her miseries and dishonours— I lose the feelings for
myself in her's— and in those af-
fections which were wont to make
me mourn for her when I was at
school.

    Surely this is not walking in a vain shadow—Nor does man disquiet himself in vain, by it—he oftener does so in

                     trusting

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trusting the issue of his commotions
to reason only— I can safely say for
myself, I was never able to conquer
any one single bad sensation in my
heart so decisively, as by beating
up as fast as I could for some kindly
and gentle sensation to fight upon
its own ground.

    When I had got to the end of the
third act, the Count de B**** en-
tered with my Passport in his hand.
Mons. le Duc de C****, said the
Count, is as good a prophet, I dare
say, as he is a statesman—Un homme qui rit, said the duke, ne sera jamais
dangereuz
.
Had it been for any one
but the king's jester, added the Count, I

                     could

[77]

could not have got it these two
hours.— Pardonnez-moi, Mons. Le
Compte, said I—I am not the king's
jester.—But you are Yorick?— Yes.—
Et vous plaisantez?—I answered, In-
deed I did jest—but was not paid for
it—'twas entirely at my own ex-
pence.

    We have no jester at court, Mons.
Le Compte, said I; the last we had
was in the licentious reign of Charles
the IId—since which time our manners
have been so gradually refining,
that our court at present is so full
of patriots, who wish for nothing but
the honours and wealth of their
country—and our ladies are all so
chaste, so spotless, so good, so devout

                     —there

[78]

—there is nothing for a jester to make
a jest of—

Voila un persiflage ! cried the Count.


                     THE


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