Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
44. The Address. Versailles
I SHOULD not like to have my enemy take a view of my mind when I am going to ask protection of any man: for which reason I generally endeavor to protect myself; but this going to Monsieur le Duc de C was an act of compulsionhad it been an act of choice, I should have done it, I suppose, like other people.
Then nothing would serve me, when I got within sight of Versailles, but putting words and sentences together, and conceiving attitudes and tones to wreathe myself into Monsieur le Duc de C s good graces.This will dosaid IJust as well, retorted I again, as a coat carried up to him by an adventurous tailor, without taking his measure.Fool! continued Isee Monsieur le Ducs face firstobserve what character is written in ittake notice in what posture he stands to hear youmark the turns and expressions of his body and limbsand for the tonethe first sound which comes from his lips will give it you; and from all these together youll compound an address at once upon the spot, which cannot disgust the Dukethe ingredients are his own, and most likely to go down.
Well! said I, I wish it well over.Coward again! as if man to man was not equal throughout the whole surface of the globe; and if in the fieldwhy not face to face in the cabinet too? And trust me, Yorick, whenever it is not so, man is false to himself, and betrays his own succors ten times where nature does it once. Go to the Duc de C with the Bastille in thy looksmy life for it, thou wilt be sent back to Paris in half an hour with an escort.
And there you are wrong again, replied I.A heart at ease, Yorick, flies into no extremest is ever on its center.Well! well! cried I, as the coachman turnd in at the gatesI find I shall do very well: and by the time he had wheeld round the court, and brought me up to the door, I found myself so much the better for my own lecture, that I neither ascended the steps like a victim to justice, who was to part with life upon the topmost,nor did I mount them with a skip and a couple of strides, as I do when I fly up, Eliza! to thee, to meet it.
As I enterd the door of the saloon, I was met by a person who possibly might be the maître dhôtel, but had more the air of one of the under-secretaries, who told me the Duc de C was busy.I am utterly ignorant, said I, of the forms of obtaining an audience, being an absolute stranger, and what is worse in the present conjuncture of affairs, being an Englishman too.He replied, that did not increase the difficulty.I made him a slight bow, and told him, I had something of importance to say to Monsieur le Duc. The secretary lookd towards the stairs, as if he was about to leave me to carry up this account to some one.But I must not mislead you, said Ifor what I have to say is of no manner of importance to Monsieur le Duc de C but of great importance to myself.Cest une autre affaire, replied he.Not at all, said I, to a man of gallantry. But pray, good Sir, continued I, when can a stranger hope to have accesse?In not less than two hours, said he, looking at his watch. The number of equipages in the courtyard seemd to justify the calculation, that I could have no nearer a prospectand as walking backwards and forwards in the saloon, without a soul to commune with, was for the time as bad as being in the Bastille itself, I instantly went back to my remise, and bid the coachman to drive me to the Cordon Bleu, which was the nearest hotel.