Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[103]

THE MYSTERY.

PARIS.

IF a man knows the heart, he
will know it was impossible to go
back instantly to my chamber—it
was touching a cold key with a flat
third to it, upon the close of a piece
of music, which had call'd forth my
affections—therefore when I let go
the hand of the fille de chambre, I
remain'd at the gate of the hotel for
some time, looking at every one who
pass'd by, and forming conjectures
upon them, till my attention got fix'd

         H 4            upon

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upon a single object which confounded
all kind of reasoning upon him.

   It was a tall figure of a philoso-
phic, serious, adust look, which
pass'd and repass'd sedately along the
street, making a turn of about sixty
paces on each side of the gate of the
hotel—the man was about fifty-two
—had a small cane under his arm—
was dress'd in a dark drab-colour'd
coat, waistcoat, and breeches, which
seem'd to have seen some years ser-
vice— they were still clean, and there
was a little air of frugal propretè
throughout him. By his pulling off
his hat, and his attitude of accosting
a good many in his way, I saw he
was asking charity ; so I got a sous or

                     two

[105]

two out of my pocket ready to give
him, as he took me in his turn—he
pass'd by me without asking any
thing—and yet did not go five steps
farther before he ask'd charity of a
little woman — I was much more
likely to have given of the two—He
had scarce done with the woman,
when he pull'd off his hat to another
who was coming the same way.—An
ancient gentleman came slowly— and,
after him, a young smart one—He
let them both pass, and ask'd nothing :
I stood observing him half an hour, in
which time he had made a dozen
turns backwards and forwards, and
found that he invariably pursued the
same plan.

                     There

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   There were two things very sin-
gular in this, which set my brain to
work, and to no purpose—the first
was, why the man should only tell
his story to the sex—and secondly—
what sort of story it was, and what
species of eloquence it could be,
which soften'd the hearts of the
women, which he knew 'twas to no
purpose to practise upon the men.

   There were two other circum-
stances which entangled this mystery
—the one was, he told every woman what
he had to say in her ear, and in
a way which had much more the air
of a secret than a petition—the
other was, it was always successful
— he never stopp'd a woman, but she

                    pull'd

[106]

pull'd out her purse, and immed-
iately gave him something.

   I could form no system to explain
the phenomenon.

   I had got a riddle to amuse me for
the rest of the evening, so I walk'd
up stairs to my chamber.


                     THE


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