Volume 2, Chapter 01
Volume 2, Chapter 01
"WE went together to Paris, and arrived about the close of the evening. Our conversation had been eager and animated, and my companion proposed our taking up our lodging at the same inn. I was a total stranger in this great metropolis, and willingly accepted his suggestion. The streets by which we entered the capital were by no means so sumptuous as the idea of so celebrated a city had given me to expect; but I presently observed that my conductor led me away from the principal streets, and that his route lay through many a dark passage and many an alley. The house of reception to which we repaired corresponded to the road by which we reached it. My fellow-traveler, however, appeared to be well known to its inhabitants, and I observed various significant winks and gestures that passed between him and the hostess. After a brief supper, we were shown to a room where there were two beds.
"The equivocal character of the inn in which I took up my night's repose did not disturb me. I sought for no present splendors, and my plan through my journey had been simplicity and economy. When the candle was put out, then the train of my splendors began. My heart bounded with joy, when I thought that I was thus far toward the end of my labors. I folded my arms about me with wanton triumph, as if I would bestow upon myself an embrace of congratulation. The turrets and the spires of Paris, I regarded as the emblems of my independence. In the midst of this mighty scene, the conviction came home to me with pleasure, that I belonged to no one; 'For, alas!' said I to myself, 'since the death of my father, I have not seen one human creature to whom I could wish to belong! I am set loose from all compulsory connections; but I will not long be alone!'
"This short meditation was to me the precursor of sleep; and my slumbers were sweet and balmy. I was fatigued with my long peregrinations, and the sun was high before I roused myself from repose. When I awoke, the first thing I observed was that my companion was gone. 'I wonder,' said I to myself, 'whether I shall see him again.' I thought that it would full as well content me that I should not. I determined to arrange the particulars of my plan in my own way; and the having such a companion as this would but have interrupted and embarrassed me.
"I began to dress myself. Through my whole journey, I had had the precaution to take my breeches, containing my little stock of cash, into my bed, and to place them near, or rather under, some part of my body. At first, I did not remark any difference from the morning before, and the usual appearance of things. Presently, however, a suspicion flashed across my mind; I passed my hand along the pocket; it went over smooth and without interruption. I felt within--there was nothing! I went to the other pocket; all was vacancy. I threw back the clothes of the bed, with a faint hope that my money was to be found there. I turned over and shook every thing: I felt in all my pockets a thousand times: I examined in the same manner the bed-clothes of my fellow-traveler: I searched impossible places.
"Pity me, my dear Fleetwood, pity me! Distant as is the period I am describing from the present, I can never think of this horrible event, without a twinge at the heart which I cannot describe. I was then a little, uninstructed boy, and now I am an old man, and my hairs are white; yet I cannot mention this adventure without feeling my throat dry, and my voice suffocated. Common robberies are committed upon a man, who goes home, opens his escritoire, and puts into his purse the exact sum of which he bad been deprived. I had lost every thing I possessed in the world. I had just traveled two hundred and fifty miles, and was distant four hundred from the seat of my birth and my relations. All my visions, my golden dreams, my castles in the air, were demolished in a moment. What was I to do? My visions were not luxuries, were not changes of a worse state for a better; they stood between me and annihilation. I saw nothing that remained for me, but to be starved. For God's sake, turn to your Esop; open at the fable of the Dairy-maid and her Milking-pail; blot it out, and put my adventure in its stead!
"But this was not the principal aggravation of my case. Many men at many times have, no doubt, lost all that they had. But perhaps such an event never happened before to a child, entering for the first time a great metropolis, without a single friend, and four hundred miles removed from his home. Men have arms to work, and a head to contrive; they have experience, enabling them to foresee and calculate the results of a thousand schemes; and a tongue, to make good their story, to propose things which it shall be for the interest of the hearer to accept, to parley, and to demand, through that species of equality which no refinement can destroy, a fair hearing. I had nothing!
"I sat down, and found relief in a gush of tears. I wept, till I could weep no more, and felt myself stupified. By and by, a thought occurred, which roused me. If a man were in my place, what would he do? He would not sit still, and do nothing. I am alone in Paris; I must be my own man!
"I went down stairs, and saw my hostess. 'Where is the person,' said I, 'who came with me last night?'
"'Gone--he has been gone these two hours.'
"'Where is he gone?'
"'I do not know.'
"'When will he come back?'
"'I cannot tell. I never saw him in my life before.'
"To ask these questions I was obliged to follow the landlady from side to side in the great kitchen of the inn. She seemed to be exceedingly busy, and never stood still for a moment.
"'Madam,' said I, 'I have been robbed; this man has taken away all my money.'
"These words stopped her perpetual motion, and fixed her to the place where she stood.
"'Robbed!' said she; 'this is a fine story! No such word was ever heard in my house. What business, you little rascal, had you to come with a robber to my house? Robbed! He is a highwayman, and you are his jackal. A pretty story, quotha, that you have been robbed! Such little villains as you always outwit themselves. Betty, look up the silver tea-spoons! Observe the brat! See what fine linsey-woolsey clothes he has got on! And pray, my little master, of what have you been robbed? Of a crooked copper, I warrant! Yes, I see, there are two of my silver tea-spoons gone. Step for an officer this moment! Search him! But that is in vain. The boy seizes the goods, and his companion neatly carries them off. You shall breakfast, my lad, in the Conciergerie, upon a salt eel! Why are not you gone, Betty?'
"I own I was now terrified, in a very different style from any thing I had felt in the presence of the mayor of Dijon. I believed that the house I was in was appropriated to the consultations of robbers. I had observed the signals of intelligence which had passed on the preceding evening between my fellow-traveler and the hostess, and now she denied that she had ever before seen him in her life. I did not doubt that the story of the tea-spoons was a concerted fabrication, chosen as the most effectual means of quashing my complaint respecting the loss of my property. But what chance had I, an unprotected child, without a friend, and without a name, to be able to make good my own cause, and defeat the malicious accusation which was threatened against me! This was an intolerable addition to the shock I had just felt in finding myself unexpectedly left without a penny. The whole recurred to my mind at once, and, though already exhausted with weeping, I burst afresh into a flood of tears.
"Betty, a plump and fresh-colored girl of nineteen, felt her bowels yearn with compassion for my case. 'Pray, madam,' said she, 'do not be too hard upon this little boy. I dare say he knows nothing of the tea-spoons.'
"'I dare say no such thing!' replied the mistress fiercely.
"'Upon my soul, madam, if you will send him to prison, you may go for an officer yourself. I will have nothing to do with it. For my part, I wonder what your heart is made of, to think of such a thing.'
"'Go, you are a fool!--Well, let him get out of my house! Let him tramp, as fast as his ten toes can carry him! If ever I catch him again, I will have no more mercy upon him, than I would upon the claw of a lobster! Be gone, you gallows little rascal! Off with you!'
"I took advice of the relentings of the good woman, and decamped. I know not why, however, I was by no means eager to leave the street in which she lived. I felt as if in her house I had left behind me that property, which had been so essential to my projects. I began to suspect that, notwithstanding her loudness and apparent fury, the mention of the Conciergerie was a trick, and that all her aim had been to get me out of her territories. This, however, if true, would by no means mend the case: it was impossible that I should obtain redress.
"It was well for me that I lingered in my pace, I had not departed above two minutes, before I felt some one tap me upon the shoulder. It was my friend, Betty, the barmaid. She held in her hand a pretty substantial roll of bread ready buttered, which she presented to me. She chucked me under the chin; and, after an expressive God bless you, my brave lad! she tripped away by the path by which she came.
"The offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, presented by the wise men of the East, were not more acceptable to the mother of Jesus, than this homely roll and butter were to me at this moment. Yet I was not hungry by sensation; my heart was too full of the crosses I had sustained: but I was hungry by reflection. This is a distinction that will be perfectly intelligible to every one, however heartfull, who shall suppose himself alone for the first time in an immense metropolis, without a morsel of bread, or the means of procuring it.
"Poor Betty's roll and butter proved to me nectar and ambrosia in one. I did not eat it immediately; but, in proportion as I did, I felt my spirit revive within me. To have been left without comfort and without food at this critical period might have been fatal to me. But the courage of a child, the sunshine of his soul, is easily called back; and, when the animal feeling of inanition was extinguished within me, something friendly seemed to whisper to me not to despair. I had conquered the greatest part of the distance; I was only twelve miles from Versailles. A walk of four hours would bring me to that place which I had regarded as the assured goal of my lasting prosperity.
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