Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
25. The Bidet
HAVING settled all these little matters, I got into my post-chaise with more ease than ever I got into a post-chaise in my life; and La Fleur having got one large jack-boot on the far side of a little bidet,1 and another on this (for I count nothing of his legs)he canterd away before me as happy and as perpendicular as a prince.
But what is happiness! what is grandeur in this painted scene of life! A dead ass, before we had got a league, put a sudden stop to La Fleurs careerhis bidet would not pass by ita contention arose betwixt them, and the poor fellow was kickd out of his jack-boots the very first kick.
La Fleur bore his fall like a French Christian, saying neither more or less upon it, than, Diable! so presently got up and came to the charge again astride his bidet, beating him up to it as he would have beat his drum.
The bidet flew from one side of the road to the other, then back againthen this waythen that way, and in short every way but by the dead ass.La Fleur insisted upon the thingand the bidet threw him.
Whats the matter, La Fleur, said I, with this bidet of thine?Monsieur, said he, cest un cheval le plus opiniâtre du monde.Nay, if he is a conceited beast, he must go his own way, replied Iso La Fleur got off him, and giving him a good sound lash, the bidet took me at my word, and away he scamperd back to Montriul.Peste! said La Fleur.
It is not mal-à-propos to take notice here, that tho La Fleur availed himself but of two different terms of exclamation in this encounternamely, Diable! and Peste! that there are nevertheless three in the French language, like the positive, comparative, and superlative, one or the other of which serve for every unexpected throw of the dice in life.
Le Diable! which is the first, and positive degree, is generally used upon ordinary emotions of the mind, where small things only fall out contrary to your expectationssuch asthe throwing once doubletsLa Fleurs being kickd off his horse, and so forthcuckoldom, for the same reason, is alwaysLe Diable!
But here my heart is wrung with pity and fellow-feeling, when I reflect what miseries must have been their lot, and how bitterly so refined a people must have smarted, to have forced them upon the use of it.