Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
The Passport. Paris
I had left London with so much precipitation, that it never enter’d my mind that we were at war with France; and had reach’d Dover, and look’d through my glass at the hills beyond Boulogne, before the idea presented itself; and with this in its train, that there was no getting there without a passport.
Go but to the end of a street, I have a mortal aversion for returning back no wiser than I set out; and as this was one of the greatest efforts I had ever made for knowledge, I could less bear the thoughts of it; so hearing the Count de—had hired the packet, I begg’d he would take me in his suite. The Count had some little knowledge of me, so made little or no difficulty—only said, his inclination to serve me could reach no further than Calais, as he was to return by way of Brussels to Paris; however, when I had once pass’d there, I might get to Paris without interruption; but that in Paris I must make friends and shift for myself.—Let me get to Paris, Monsieur le Count, said I—and I shall do very well. So I embark’d, and never thought more of the matter.
When La Fleur told me the Lieutenant de Police had been inquiring after me—the thing instantly recurred—and by the time La Fleur had well told me, the master of the hotel came into my room to tell me the same thing, with this addition to it, that my passport had been particularly ask’d after: the master of the hotel concluded with saying, He hoped I had one.—Not I, faith! said I.
The master of the hotel retired three steps from me, as from an infected person, as I declared this—and poor La Fleur advanced three steps towards me, and with that sort of movement which a good soul makes to succor a distress’d one—the fellow won my heart by it; and from that single trait, I knew his character as perfectly, and could rely upon it as firmly, as if he had served me with fidelity for seven years.
Mon seigneur! cried the master of the hotel—but recollecting himself as he made the exclamation, he instantly changed the tone of it.—If Monsieur, said he, has not a passport, (apparemment) in all likelihood he has friends in Paris who can procure him one.—Not that I know of, quoth I, with an air of indifference.—Then, certes, replied he, you’ll be sent to the Bastille or the Châtelet, au moins. Poo! said I, the king of France is a good-natur’d soul—he’ll hurt nobody.—Cela n’empêche pas, said he—you will certainly be sent to the Bastille to-morrow morning.—But I’ve taken your lodgings for a month, answer’d I, and I’ll not quit them a day before the time for all the kings of France in the world. La Fleur whisper’d in my ear, that nobody could oppose the king of France.
Pardi! said my host, ces Messieurs Anglois sont des gens très extraordinaires—and having both said and sworn it—he went out.