Volume 2, Chapter 03
Volume 2, Chapter 03
" HERE my reflections were sufficiently melancholy. I would have returned, if I had been able, to the hut of the sentinel who had invited me ; but that was unfortunately within the enclosure. What was I to do ? I was by no means cured of my project of speaking to the King. How bitter were my rage and indignation against the villain who had stripped me of the trifling sum of money on which I had depended ! I wanted, I thought, but a little time - but how was I to gain time, when I was without food? The objection I had heard made against me, was the meanness of my clothing: if my money bad not been taken from me, I could have removed this objection. My ruminations were inexpressibly melancholy. As I sat, several gentlemen passed me, who bad probably made part of the company in the royal promenade. I must endeavor to obtain from some one the means of appeasing the demands of hunger. Should I apply to these? There was nothing in their appearance that invited me. Moved by my experience of the past, I was inclined to wait till I could see a soldier and a fellow-countryman. Yet of what avail was the relief I could so obtain ? I had not come hither to subsist upon the precarious charity of daily bread! Far different views had animated my steps in a course of three hundred miles ! What was I to do to-morrow ? At Marli ' I should find myself marked, and watched, and thwarted in all my attempts. When would the King return to Versailles ?
Those of the persons who passed me and were on foot, passed me by twos and threes. Others went in carriages, and on horseback. At length one gentleman came alone. He looked at me, and advanced to the place where I sat.
" ' My boy,' said he, ' are not you the little fellow that attempted to speak to the King?'
"I looked up at the gentleman. He was beyond the middle period of human life. I thought I had never seen so benign a countenance. Besides, there was something in him that struck me with a remarkable similarity to my own father.
I am, sir,' answered I with a sigh.
And what could you want to say to the King?'
I am friendless: I have nobody to take care of me I wanted to tell him that.'
" ' Was your father a military man? Did he wear the croix de St. Louis?'
"' My father was no military man: he was never in France in his life.'
" Good God!--And who told you to apply to the King?' 'Nobody told me. The scheme is all my own. I have come three hundred miles to execute it.'
The stranger became interested in my artless story.
" Will you come to my lodgings to-morrow morning? I shall sleep at Marli.'- And he gave me his address.
I will, sir,' replied I. ' But-but
" But what, my little man ?'
"I am very hungry!'
Every new circumstance I mentioned astonished him the more. He perceived, as he afterwards told me, that I was by no means without education, and a certain refinement. To have formed such a project, to have come three hundred miles to complete it, and to be here without a penny ! -He was determined to be more fully acquainted with so strange a story ! -He took out his purse.
" ' Do you know, my boy, how to procure yourself accommodations for the night?'
" I have not traveled three hundred miles for nothing.'
" Well, take care of yourself to-night, and come to me in the morning.' " I looked at the address. The name on the card was Ambrose Fleetwood. The generous man who accosted me in my desolate condition was your grandfather. This was the first time I had ever seen the name of Fleetwood; and till this pulse ceases to throb, the occasion that brought us together will never be forgotten ! This is the foundation of the friendly alliance of Fleetwood and Ruffigny-- what a precipice was I then placed! Even at the distance of so many years, I cannot recollect it without feeling my head turn giddy. For what did my destiny seem to reserve me? For beggary, for hunger, -to perish for want of food; or, if not, without guide or protector, and with no means of present subsistence, to become the associate of the worthless and the vile, -the only persons, probably speaking, who would court such an associate. ' Oh, how infinitely worse would this have been, than the most upitied death!--The King of France!--was ever poor wretch misled by such an ignis fatuus ? Did he ever condemn the criminal brave the fury of the ocean in such a cockle-shell ?
" I repaired at the appointed hour to the residence of my new protector. He asked me a number of questions; and I gave him the same answers, but with more of detail than I had given on previous occasions. He was urgent in his inquiries; he spoke to me in the most friendly and soothing manner; I was on the brink of discovering my secret; I entreated him, however, to spare me: I had been robbed by my uncle; but I did not dare to tell where and who he was. The generous Englishman perceived that I gasped and turned pale, as I touched on this tremendous subject. He became deeply interested in my behalf.
" Will you go with me to my own country?' said he.
" Oh, no, no! If you are so much my friend as to be willing to take me thither, then-pray, pray, sir!--do for me the thing I want; enable me to change these clothes for others more suitable to my projects.'
" I raved of the King of France. The scheme of applying to him had been my favorite contemplation for months. I had had his picture so often before me ! The thought of him had soothed my weary steps, and comforted me under all my disasters. I could not give up my plan. I could not divest myself of the sort of robe of nobility with which my fancy had clothed me, and descend into the vale of ordinary life. I entreated my benefactor, with miraculous and unpacified importunity, that he would direct all his assistance to this end.
" Enthusiasm is always an interesting spectacle. When it expresses itself with an honest and artless eloquence, it is difficult to listen to it, and not in some degree to catch the flame. Particularly at my age it was so extraordinary in itself, and so impetuous in its way of manifesting itself, that it was impossible to contemplate it without sympathy. There are so many ways in which the heart of man conceals itself from man! Beside the thousand motives which impel us to suppress one thing, and to be reserved respecting another, it is necessary that the human mind should be put into motion in order to its being seen. ' Speak, that I may see thee!' said the antient philosopher. He might have added, I speak upon some subject, respecting which your feelings are spontaneous and strong.' The soul of man is one of those subtle and evanescent substances, that, as long as they remain still, the organ of sight does not remark ; it must become agitated, to become visible. All together, Mr. Fleetwood grew exceedingly anxious respecting my welfare.
" On this account he condescended to a certain degree of artifice and temporizing. He observed to me that I had ruined my own project at Marli, and that it would be ten days before the King removed to Versailles. He invited me to spend this time with him at Paris, daring which I should be clothed and equipped more suitably to the great person I designed to address. He promised me that I should have the earliest intelligence of the removal of the court.
" In how new a situation was I now unexpectedly placed! I had not heard the accents of genuine kindness for almost two, years; not since the calamitous moment, when my father uttered his expiring breath. Mr. Fleetwood, almost from the first, conceived for me the affection of a father. He did not treat me as a vagabond whom he had taken up out of charity, and kept at a distance from him. I saw him, morning, noon, and night. His accents were those of friendly solicitude; the looks I cast upon him were those of affection. My spirit was softened within me: my new situation took away, from me the heart of stone, and gave me a heart of flesh. -
" It was this heart of stone, if you will allow me so to express myself, that led me to the King of France. It was the sentiment of despair: I had sent my inquiring glances round the world, and had not found a friend. Methodically and slowly I had worked myself up to the resolution I had adopted, and I could not immediately abandon it. It was a sort of frenzy; a high pitch of the soul, foreign to its naturaI temper. Kindness, the perpetual attention and interest of a real friend, in no long time brought me back to myself. It is impossible to express what comfort, what a delicious relaxation and repose of spirit, was produced by this revolution. Mr. Fleetwood gradually led me to consider the scheme I had formed, as wild, senseless, and impracticable. His expostulations were so gentle, benignant, and humane, that, while they confuted, they had not the effect of mortifying me. He took me with him to England.
" I have been thus minute in the description of my condition at Lyons, and of the manner of my deserting it, that I might the better demonstrate to you the infinite value of the ' the kindness your grandfather bestowed on me. If I had not been the most unfortunate, the most abused, and the most deserted of my species, the favors I received would not have had a tithe of the value they actually possessed. I cannot recollect the situation I deserted, or that upon which I threw myself, without a horror bordering on despair. The generous and admirable mortal that then interposed for my relief, I must ever regard as my guardian genius, and my better angel. How distinctly have I passed over in my mind ten thousand times the stone upon which I sat at the gate of the park of Marli, and the gesture and countenance with which my preserver approached me ! The day was declining, the landscape had assumed the grave and uniform hues of evening, and there was that sadness in the air which wakes up the tone of sensibility in the soul. The circumstances in which I was placed, sufficiently prepared me to be deeply affected. The first word that Ambrose Fleetwood uttered went to my heart. I had occasionally, perhaps, been treated during my journey with gentleness and civility ; but it was the difference between the voice that tells you which turn you are to take in the road from Auxerre to Sens, and the voice that tells you by implication that the speaker is interested that you shall go right in the road of happiness and life. With what considerate wisdom of this noble Englishman soothe me in the midst of the exalted and enthusiastic fervor which had brought me to Versailles and Marli! How patiently did he wean me from the wild plan upon which my heart was bent ! And all this to an unknown and pennyless vagabond! There is, perhaps, more merit in this tem. per, that listened to all my extravagancies without anger, and did riot suffer itself to be discouraged by my tenaciousness and stubbornness, than in the gift of thousands.
" In our journey to England, I was so fortunate as continually to advance in your grandfather's good graces. He thought me, as he afterwards told me, a youth of very extraordinary qualifications, and well deserving of his care. He sent me to proper schools, and had me taught every thing which he believed it would be important for me to know. He was an English merchant, and he determined to provide for me in some of those departments, in which commerce opens the road to competence and wealth.
" It was not till after a very long time that I could prevail upon myself to unfold my heart to my benefactor, respecting my extraction, and the way in which I had been driven to the deplorable situation in which he found me. Your grandfather often inquired of me what were the condition in which I was born, and the prospects which my birth had opened to me; but I manifested such a shrinking of the soul, such a convulsive kind of terror, whenever the subject was started, that for some time he forbore all mention of it. The alarm had been impressed on me early, and had taken deep root in my breast. While I was at Lyons, it formed the peculiarity of my situation, and I cherished it with a strange and mingled sentiment, something between horror and delight. Every human creature loves, perhaps, to think that there is something extraordinary about him, and dwells with complacency upon that which makes him different from all his race. I felt like an exiled sovereign, or a prince who roams about the world in disguise. I firmly believe that it was partly to both these notions, of self-complacency, and of terror, that I was indebted for the habit of regarding the names of my father and my uncle as the most inviolable of secrets.
" At length I became convinced, by the unaltered kindnesses of my benefactor, that my secret would be no less safely reposed in his keeping, than in the recesses of my own soul. I told him the whole. He was astonished at the terror with which I had looked forward to the disclosure, and proposed immediately to take such measures as should operate to compel my uncle to resign his ill-gotten wealth. I entreated him that he would engage in no proceedings of that sort; I reminded him of his promise that my secret should never be communicated to a third person without my consent. My uncle, however deeply he had injured me, was still the brother of my father, and in that quality I could not but feel reluctance at the idea of exposing him to public ignominy. The menaces with which he had so emphatically dismissed me, were impressed on my heart ; they gave me a horrible anticipation of the event which would attend my hostile return to my native land; and I could not help apprehending that that event would be miserable to me, no less than to him. I implored your grandfather that he would suffer the question to remain unopened, at least till I had arrived at a mature age. He had often assured me that, having only one son, he did not regard the expenses I brought on him as a burthen ; but, if he, did, I did not desire the situation he provided for me, or the advantages he bestowed; the tithe of his benefits would amply satisfy my ambition and my wishes. To occasion an entire revolution in the fortunes and situation of my family, was a very serious consideration; it might be the most important transaction of my life ; and I earnestly entreated that in such a transaction I might be allowed to consult the ripest decisions of my own understanding. Your grandfather generously yielded to these representations.
" The principal friend I had in England, after my original benefactor, was your father. We were nearly of an age, and your grandfather brought us up together. I saw in him the image of the man who had rescued me from utter destruction, and loved him accordingly. Your father was acquainted with my situation, and knew that I had no claim either of blood or alliance upon my preserver: he saw me brought up with himself, and enjoying the same advantages; yet be never repined at the favor in which I was held. Not only while we were children together, he regarded true as a brother; but this sentiment never altered in him as he advanced in judgment and years. He never looked upon me as an intruder; never considered the large sums your grandfather laid out to procure me a respectable footing in life; nor even inquired whether, as I equally shared the bounties of my benefactor at present, he might not make a distribution of his property at death no less impartial. Could I help loving so disinterested and noble-minded a companion ?
" Having been perfectly initiated in the principles of commerce -the country where they are best understood, it happened -that, about the time when it was proper I should be launched in the world, a proposition was made to the elder Fleetwood, respecting a banking-house which it was in contemplation to set up at Lisbon. A countryman of my own was the principal in the project ; but his capital was not sufficient for the undertaking as it had been chalked out, and he designed taking in one or two other persons as partners with him in the concern. Provided he could enter upon the affair in the way which had been delineated, he had the promise of being immediately installed as banker to the court of Portugal. Your grandfather was an opulent London merchant, and had no inclination to extend his concerns. His son he destined for his successor in the business in which he was himself engaged. Under these circumstances he thought of embracing the proposal in my behalf.
" I was never more surprised than when the idea was suggested to me. The money necessary to be advanced, was more than three times the amount which my father's property would have produced, if it had been all sold immediately on the event of his death. I was suffocated with the thought of so incredible a generosity exercised toward me. I told my benefactor that I was as far from the expectation as the wish of becoming opulent; and that, independently of a secret feeling which led me to the hope of one day settling in my native fields, I could be contented to remain for ever the first clerk in my preserver's counting-house.
" Your grandfather answered me, much disapproved of a character deficient in enterprise; and asked, how the humility of the views I at present professed, accorded with the ardor which had formerly led me to throw myself at the feet of the sovereign of France ? He said, I had with my own consent passed through all the stages of a commercial education, and that therefore it seemed but reasonable, that whatever enterprise I possessed, should be directed into that channel. He expatiated upon the uses of wealth; and observed that, however limited might be my desire of indulgences for myself, I ought by no means to forget the great public works which an opulent man might forward for the benefit of his species, or how extensive was his power of relieving distress, of exciting industry, of developing talents, of supplying the means of improvement to those who panted for, but could not obtain them, and of removing the innumerable difficulties which often surrounded the virtuous and the admirable, that impeded their progress, and struck despair into their hearts.
" My benefactor recommended to me to make myself perfectly easy, as to the money necessary to be advanced, to launch me in the undertaking proposed. He could spare it without the smallest inconvenience. If my views in life were unsuccessful, it should never be repaid, and be should then have the satisfaction of having exerted himself liberally to establish in life a youth, whom he loved no less than his own son. But he had no doubt that the undertaking would be prosperous; and then he consented, if that would be any gratification to me, that I should repay the present loan, only upon one condition, that the first installment of therepayment should not commence till that day seven years, counting from the day of my landing in Lisbon: young men, who entered upon business with a borrowed capital, had often received a fatal check in the midst of the fairest prospects, by a premature repayment of the loan which had originally set them afloat on the ocean of life.
" ' Ruffigny,' continued your grandfather, ' what miserably narrow notions are these which you seem to have fostered in your bosom! Are all the kindnesses of the human heart to be shut up within the paltry limits of consanguinity? My son will have enough; and I am sure he will not repine, that you should be made a partaker of the opulence with which Providence has blessed me. If you will, we will ask him, and I will do nothing for you that has not his entire and undissembled approbation. Why should I not set up two persons in the world, instead of one ? Thirty-six princes, we are told, erected each of them a pillar in the temple of Diana at Ephesus: why should I not erect two pillars in the edifice of human happiness, and prepare two persons, instead of one, to be benefactors of their species? You are my son, a son whom the concourse of sublunary events has given me, no less dear to me than the heir of my body. I found in you various estimable qualities, which won my attachment in the first hour I saw you ; and, I trust, those qualities have lost nothing in the cultivation I have given them. You belonged to me, because you beIonged to no one else. This is the great distribution of human society; every one who stands in need of assistance appertains to some one individual, upon whom lie has a stronger claim than upon any other of his fellow-creatures. My son belongs to me, because I was the occasion of his coming into existence; you belong to me, because you were hungry and I fed you, because you wanted education and a protector, and have found them in me. You are now arrived at man's estate, and I regard you as the creature of my vigilance and of my cares. Will you not acknowledge me for a father?'
" I was convinced by the arguments of my preserver was moved by the feelings he expressed : my beloved companion, the brother of my heart, declared most warmly his consent to the arrangement. I resided twenty-one years at Lisbon ; and in that time, by honorable and just traffic, made a fortune infinitely beyond the most sanguine of my wishes. I faithfully repaid to my benefactor, at the time he had himself limited, the capital he advanced to me. During the period of my residence at Lisbon, I several times came over to England, and visited the two persons whom I reasonably regarded as the most generous of mortals ; and in one of these visits, after I had been ten years engaged as a principal in my commercial undertaking, I witnessed the expiring breath of my original benefactor. Never, perhaps, did I love a human creature, as I loved that man. My father, good, and kind, and affectionate as he had been, was, to my mind, a sort of air- drawn vision, the recollection, as it were, of a preexistent state. My youthful companion and sworn confidant, no less generous than my preserver, was inexpressibly dear to me ; but the sentiment I felt for him was altogether different. Nature has formed us to the love of the venerable. Filial affection is an instinct twined with the very fibers of our heart. For the gray hairs ; of your grandfather, I had a mystical and religious awe; and age had softened his features into an expression of such calm benignity, that, if I were an adherent of the sect of the anthropomorphites, I should take from his countenance my idea of the object of my worship.
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