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posterity ; but I was, at the same time, of too timid and of too refined a nature to fall into any such temptations. The scenes which seduced many from virtue, caused me to feel only disgust and horror.
In the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, the imperfect state of civilization, the superstitious belief, the strange and half-barbarous usages, mixed up romance with everything; there was strength of character, force of imagination, a mysterious and secret mode of life. At night, around the high walls of the burying-grounds and convents, under the deserted ramparts of the city, along the corners and ditches of the markets, and at the outskirts of the worst parts of the town, in the narrow, ill-lighted streets, robbers and assassins concealed themselves; fighting often took place, either by the light of torches or in pitchy darkness, and it was at the peril of one's life that a rendezvous was kept with a Heloïse. To induce a man to run such a risk,” he must really have loved; and, in order to depart from the prevailing tone of manners, great sacrifices had to be made. Not only accidental dangers must be braved, but the sword of the law likewise, and one had to conquer one's habitual regularity, family authority, the tyranny of domestic customs, the opposition of conscience, the terrors and duties of the Christian. All these obstacles doubled the strength of the passions.
I would not, in 1788, have entered a disreputable house, under the observation of the police; but it is probable enough that I might, in 1606, have wished to see the end of an adventure, such as has been well described by Bassompierre.
“About five or six months ago," says the Marshal, “I used to pass over the Petit-Pont (for at that time the PontNeuf was not built), and a pretty young woman, a seamstress at the Two Angels, always made me a low curtsey, and watched me till I was out of sight; and as I had observed this, I made it a point to return her salutation.
• It happened that on coming to Paris from Fontainbleau, I went along the Petit-Pont, and, as soon as she saw me coming, she stood in the door of her shop, and said, as I passed,
‘your servant, sir.' I bowed to her, and, turning my head from time to time, saw that she followed me with her eyes as long as she could.”
Bassompierre obtains an interview : “I found her,” continues he, a very pretty woman, about twenty years of age, dressed in a night-cap, petticoat of green cloth, dressing gown, and slippers. I liked her very much, and asked if I might have the pleasure of visiting her again.” “If you wish to see me again,' said she, it must be at the house of an aunt of mine, who lives in the Rue Bourg-l'Abbé, in the neighbourhood of the market, and near the Rue aux Ours, at the third house from the end of the Rue St. Martin; I will wait for you there from ten o'clock till midnight, and later still, and I will leave the door open. At the entrance there is a small passage, which you must pass quickly, as the door of my aunt's room opens upon it, and you will find a stair which will bring you to the second floor.' I went at ten o'clock, found the door which she had indicated to me, and observed a great light, not only on the second floor, but on the third and the first also ; but the door was shut. I knocked, to give notice of my arrival, but I heard a man's voice asking what I wanted. I returned to the Rue aux Ours, and, having come back a second time, and found the door open, I passed up to the second floor, where I found that this light was caused by the burning of the bed straw, and there were two naked bodies stretched upon the table. I retired in great astonishment; and, as I was going out, I met the undertakers, who asked what I was looking for ; in order to get rid of them, I laid my hand on my sword, passed out, and returned to my lodgings, no little affected by this unexpected sight.”
I went, in my turn, on an excursion of discovery, with the address given two hundred years ago by Bassompierre. I crossed the Petit-Pont, passed the Halles, and followed the Rue St. Denis, as far as the Rue aux Ours, on the right hand; the first street on the left running out of the Rue aux Ours is the Rue Bourg-l'Abbé. Its name, smoky as if from time, and a fire, gave me good hopes. I found the third little door on the side towards the Rue St. Martin, so faithful are the marks given by the historian. The front of the house, however, was modern. There, unfortunately, the two centuries and a half, which I at first thought might have remained undisturbed in the street, had disappeared. The front of the house was modern; no light shone from the first, the second, or the third floor. The attic windows, under the roof, were adorned with garlands of nasturtium and sweet pea ; in the ground floor, a hair-dresser's shop window, exhibited a quantity of locks of hair, hung up inside the glass.
Quite disconcerted, I entered this eponine museum ; since the conquest by the Romans, the Gauls have always been in the habit of selling their blond tresses, for the use of heads less adorned; the Bretons, my fellow country-women, still observe the custom of being shorn on certain fair days, and exchanging the natural covering of their heads for an Indian handkerchief. Turning to a shop-boy, who was dressing a wig with an iron comb, I said, "Perhaps, sir, you have bought the hair of a young seamstress who lived at the sign of the Two Angels, near the Petit-Pont ?” He stood motionless, unable to say either yes or no. So, making a thousand apologies, I withdrew, through a labyrinth of toupets.
I next wandered from door to door: no seamstress, twenty years old, made me low curtsies ; . I discovered no free, disinterested, impassioned young woman, in a night-cap, petticoat of green cloth, dressing-gown, and slippers. A grumbling old woman, ready to rejoin her teeth in the tomb, attempted to strike me with her crutch ; she was, perhaps, the aunt of the rendezvous.
What a pleasant story is this of Bassompierre! We must understand one of the reasons for which he was so resolutely loved. At this period, the French were divided into two distinct classes—the dominant and the demi-servile.
The seamstress pressed Bassompierre in her arms, as a demi-god in those of a slave : it gave her an illusion of glory, and Frenchwomen alone are capable of becoming intoxicated by such an illusion.
But who will reveal to us the unknown causes of the catastrophe ? Was it the pretty grisette of the Two Angels, whose body lay stretched upon the table along with that of another person? Whose was the other body? That of her husband, or of the man whose voice Bassompierre had heard ? Had the plague (for the plague was in Paris,) or jealousy, had the foreway of love in the Rue Bourg-l'Abbé? Imagination may easily disport itself on such materials. By adapting to popular music the inventions of the poet,—the arrival of the gravediggers and undertakers, and Bassompierre's sword,--there are in the adventure copious materials for a melodrama.
You will wonder, also, at the correctness of my youth in Paris, where I was free to act as I pleased; but I did not abuse my independence.
Berlin, April 1821.
PRESENTATION AT VERSAILLES-HUNTING WITH THE
The fatal day arrived : I was obliged to set out for Ver. sailles more dead than alive. My brother took me thither the evening before my presentation, and left me at the house of Marshal de Duras, a clever man, of such a general stamp of mind that he showed something of the citizen in his refined
This good Marshal, however, gave me a dreadful feeling of fear.
On the next morning I went alone to the palace. Those who have never seen the pomp of Versailles, may be said to have seen nothing,—even after the dismantling of the old residence of the king. Louis XIV. seemed always there.
Every thing went well, as long as I had only to cross the guard-rooms : military pomp has always pleased, but never daunted me. But, when I entered the Eil de Bæuf, and found myself in the midst of courtiers, then began my embarrassment. They looked at me: I heard some one asking who I was. We must bear in mind the old prestige in favour of royalty, thoroughly. to comprehend the importance of being then presented. A mysterious destiny belonged to the débutant; he was spared that contemptuous, patronizing air, mixed with extreme politeness, which constituted the inimitable manners of a grand seigneur. Who knows whether this
new-comer may not become the king's favourite ? In him they respected the future domestic privileges with which he might be honoured! Now, we hurry into the palace with much greater eagerness than formerly, and, strange to say, without illusion. A courtier reduced to live upon truth, is very likely to die of hunger.
When the king's levee was announced, the persons not presented withdrew. I felt an emotion of vanity ; I was not proud of remaining, but I should have felt humiliated at having to retire. The royal bed-chamber door opened ; I saw the king, according to custom, finishing his toilet,—that is, taking his hat from the chamberlain in waiting. He advanced, on his way to the chapel to hear mass; I bowed ; Marshal de Duras announced my name,
Sire, the Chevalier de Chateaubriand.” The king looked at me, returned my
salutation, hesitated, and appeared as if he wished to address me. I would have replied with a firm countenance,-my timidity had vanished. Speaking to the general of the army, or the chief of the state, appeared to me a very simple matter, without my being able to account for what I felt. The king, more embarrassed than I, finding nothing to say to me, passed on. Vanity of human destinies! This sovereign, whom I then saw for the first time,-this monarch so powerful, -was Louis XVI., only six years before he was brought to the scaffold! And this new courtier, whom he scarcely looked at, charged with distinguishing bones from bones, after having been presented to the descendant of St. Louis, after proof of nobility, was one day to be with his ashes, after proof of fidelity !-a double tribute of respect to the twofold royalty of a sceptre, and of a heavenly crown! Louis XVI. might have replied to his judges in the words which Christ used to the Jews, “Many good works have I showed you ; for which of these works do ye stone me?”
We hastened to the gallery in order to be in the Queen's passage on her return from the chapel. She soon appeared, surrounded by a numerous and brilliant cortège ; she gave us a gracious salutation ; she appeared enchanted with life. And those beautiful hands which then carried with so much grace