Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
Le Dimanche. Paris
I had convenanted at Montriul to give him a new hat with a silver button and loop, and four Louis d’ors pour s’ adoniser, when we got to Paris; and the poor fellow, to do him justice, had done wonders with it.
He had bought a bright, clean, good scarlet coat, and a pair of breeches of the same.—They were not a crown worse, he said, for the wearing—I wish’d him hang’d for telling me—they look’d so fresh, that tho’ I know the thing could not be done, yet I would rather have imposed upon my fancy with thinking I had bought them new for the fellow, than that they had come out of the Rue de Friperie.
This is a nicety which makes not the heart sore at Paris.
He had purchased moreover a handsome blue satin waistcoat, fancifully enough embroidered—this was indeed something the worse for the service it had done, but ’t was clean scour’d—the gold had been touch’d up, and upon the whole was rather showy than otherwise—and as the blue was not violent, it suited with the coat and breeches very well: he had squeez’d out of the money, moreover, a new bag and a solitaire; and had insisted with the fripier upon a gold pair of garters to his breeches knees.—He had purchased muslin ruffles bien brodées, with four livres of his own money—and a pair of white silk stockings for five more—and, to top all, nature had given him a handsome figure, without costing him a sou.
He entered the room thus set off, with his hair dress’d in the first style, and with a handsome bouquet in his breast—in a word, there was that look of festivity in everything about him, which at once put me in mind it was Sunday—and by combining both together, it instantly struck me, that the favor he wish’d to ask of me the night before, was to spend the day as everybody in Pairs spent it besides. I had scarce made the conjecture, when La Fleur, with infinite humility, but with a look of trust, as if I should not refuse him, begg’d I would grant him the day, pour faire le galant vis-à-vis de sa maîtresse.
Now it was the very thing I intended to do myself vis-à-vis Madame de R——.—I had retain’d the remise on purpose for it, and it would not have mortified my vanity to have had a servant so well dress’d as La Fleur was, to have got up behind it: I never could have worse spared him.
But we must feel, not argue, in these embarrassments—the sons and daughters of service part with liberty, but not with Nature, in their contracts; they are flesh and blood, and have their little vanities and wishes in the midst of the house of bondage, as well as their taskmasters—no doubt they have set their self-denials at a price—and their expectations are so unreasonable, that I would often disappoint them, but that their condition puts it so much in my power to do it.
Behold!—Behold, I am thy servant—disarms me at once of the powers of a master.—
—Thou shalt go, La Fleur! said I.
—And what mistress, La Fleur, said I, canst thou have pick’d up in so little a time at Paris? La Fleur laid his hand upon his breast, and said ’t was a petite demoiselle, at Monsieur le Comte de B——’s.—La Fleur had a heart made for society; and, to speak the truth of him, let as few occasions slip him as his master—so that somehow or other—but how—Heaven knows—he had connected himself with the demoiselle upon the landing of the staircase, during the time I was taken up with my Passport; and as there was time enough for me to win the Count to my interest, La Fleur had contrived to make it do to win the maid to his.—The family, it seems, was to be at Paris that day, and he had made a party with her, and two or three more of the Count’s household, upon the boulevards.
Happy people! that once a week at least are sure to lay down all your cares together, and dance and sing, and sport away the weights of grievance, which bow down the spirit of other nations to the earth.