Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

demanded revenge for the dishonour offered to my family; that so positive a demand carried with it rather the air of menace than entreaty. That the vain detail of his services, and the recompense due to them, was an injurious reproach. That to grant what had been so haughtily demanded, would argue in the monarch both weakness and timidity; in a word, that to remit the punishment inflicted by my predecessors would be to condemn their judgment. Lastly, one told me in a whisper, his whole family are enemies to your house. By these means the ministers prevailed. The young lord took the refusal so ill, that he retired from court, and abandoned himself to despair, whilst the old one languished in prison. By which means, as I have since discovered, I lost the use of two of my best subjects.

'To confess the truth, I had, by means of my ministers, conceived a very unjust opinion of my whole people, whom I fancied to be daily conspiring against me, and to entertain the most disloyal thoughts; when in reality (as I have known since my death) they held me in universal respect and esteem. This is a trick, I believe, too often played with sovereigns, who, by such means, are prevented from that open intercourse with their subjects, which as it would greatly endear the person of the prince to the people, so might it often prove dangerous to a minister, who was consulting his own interest only at the expense of both. I believe I have now recounted to you the most material passages of my life; for I assure you, there are some incidents in the lives of kings not extremely worth relating. Every thing which passes in their minds and families is not attended with the splendour which surrounds their throne: indeed, there are some hours wherein the naked king and the naked cobler can scarce be distinguished from each other.

'Had it not been, however, for my ingratitude to 'Bernard del Carpio, I believe this would have been my

* last pilgrimage on earth: for as to the story of StI

* James, I thought Minos would have burst his sides at 'it; but he was so displeased with me on the other 'account, that, with a frown, he cried out, Get thee 'back again, king. Nor would he suffer me to Bay

* another word.'

CHAPTER XVIII.
Julian passes into a Fool.

'The next visit I made to the world, was performed in 'France, where I was born in the court of Lewis III. 'and had afterwards the honour to be preferred to be 'fool to the piince, who was surnamed Charles the 'Simple. But in reality, I know not whether I might 'so properly be said to have acted the fool in his court as 'to have made fools of all others in it. Certain it is, I 'was very far from being what is generally understood by 'that word, being a most cunning, designing, arch knave. 'I knew very well the folly of my master, and of many 'others, and how to make my advantage of this know'ledge. I was as dear to Charles the Simple, as the 'player Paris was to Domitian, and, like him, bestowed 'all manner of offices and honours on whom I pleased. 'This drew me a great number of followers among the 'courtiers, who really mistook me for a fool, and yet 'flattered my understanding. There was particularly in 'the court a fellow, who had neither honour, honesty, 'sense, wit, courage, beauty, nor indeed any one good 'quality, either of mind or body, to recommend him; but was at the same time, perhaps, as cunning a monster as ever lived. This gentleman took it into his head to list under my banner, and pursued me so very assiduously with flattery, constantly reminding me of my good sense, that I grew immoderately fond of him; for though flattery is not most judiciously applied to qualities which the persons flattered possess, yet as, notwithstanding my being well assured of my own parts, I passed in the whole court for a fool, this flattery was a very sweet morsel to me. I therefore got this fellow preferred to a bishopric, but I lost my flatterer by it; for he never afterwards said a civil thing to me.

'I never baulked my imagination for the grossness of the reflection on the character of the greatest noble, nay even the king himself; of which I will give you a very bold instance. One day, his simple majesty told me he believed I had so much power that his people looked on me as the king, and himself as my fool. At this I pretended to be angry as with an affront. Why, how now? says the king; Are you ashamed of being a king? No, Sir, says I, but I am devilishly ashamed of my fool.

'Hebert, Earl of Vermandois, had by my means been restored to the favour of The Simple (for so I used always to call Charles). He afterwards prevailed with the king to take the city of Arras from Earl Baldwin, by which means Hebert, in exchange for this city, had Peronne restored to him by Count Altmar. Baldwin came to court, in order to procure the restoration of his city; but, either through pride or ignorance, neglected to apply to me. As I met him at court during his solicitation, I told him he did not apply the right way; he answered roughly, he should not ask a fool's advice. I replied T did not wonder at his prejudice; since he had miscarried already by following a fool's advice: but I told him there were fools who had 'more interest than that he had brought with him to 4 court. He answered me surlily, he had no fool with 'him, for that he travelled alone.—Ay, my lord, says I, I 'often travel alone, and yet they will have it I always 'carry a fool with me. This raised a laugh among the 'bystanders, on which he gave me a blow. I imme'diately complained of this usage to The Simple, who 'dismissed the earl from court with very hard words, 'instead of granting him the favour he solicited.

'I give you these rather as a specimen of my interest 'and impudence than of my wit; indeed my jests were 'commonly more admired than they ought to be; for 'perhaps I was not in reality much more a wit than a 'fool. But, with the latitude of unbounded scurrility, it 'is easy enough to attain the character of wit, especially 'in a court, where, as all persons hate and envy one 'another heartily, and are at the same time obliged by 'the constrained behaviour of civility to profess the 'the greatest liking, so it is, and must be wonderfully 'pleasant to them to see the follies of their acquaintance 'exposed by a third person. Besides, the opinion of 'the court is as uniform as the fashion, and is always 'guided by the will of the prince or of the favourite. 'I doubt not that Caligula's horse was universally held 'in his court to be a good and able consul. In the 'same manner was I universally acknowledged to be 'the wittiest fool in the world. Every word I said 'raised laughter, and was held to be a jest, especially 'by the ladies; who sometimes laughed before I had 'discovered my sentiment, and often repeated that as 'a jest which I did not even intend as one.

'I was as severe on the ladies as on the men, and with 'the same impunity; but this at last cost me dear: for 'once having joked the beauty of a lady, whose name 'was Adelaide, a favourite of The Simple's, she pretended to smile and be pleased at my wit with the rest of the company; but in reality she highly resented it, and endeavoured to undermine me with the king. In which she so greatly succeeded (for what cannot a favourite woman do with one who deserves the surname of Simple ?) that the king grew every day more reserved to me, and when I attempted any freedom, gave me such marks of his displeasure, that the courtiers (who have all hawks' eyes at a slight from the sovereign) soon discerned it: and indeed, had I been blind enough not to have discovered that I had lost ground in the Simple's favour by his own change in his carriage towards me, I must have found it, nay even felt it, in the behaviour of the courtiers: for, as my company was two days before solicited with the utmost eagerness, it was now rejected with as much scorn. I was now the jest of the ushers and pages; and an officer of the guards, on whom I was a little jocose, gave me a box on the ear, bidding me make free with my equals. This very fellow had been my butt for many years, without daring to lift his hand against me. 'But though I visibly perceived the alteration in The Simple, I was utterly unable to make any guess at the occasion. I had not the least suspicion of Adelaide: for, besides her being a very good-humoured woman, I had often made severe jests on her reputation, which I had all the reason imaginable to believe had given her no .offence. But I soon perceived that a woman will bear the most bitter censures on her morals easier than the smallest reflection on her beauty; for she now declared publicly that I ought to be dismissed from court, as the stupidest of fools, and one in whom there was no diversion; and that she wondered how any person could have so little taste, as to imagine I had any wit. This speech was echoed through the drawing

« AnteriorContinuar »