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'Believe me,' said He, 'my dear Raymond, you will hereafter feel the benefits of this temporary degradation. 'Tis true, that as the Conde de las Cisternas you would have been received with open arms; and your youthful vanity might have felt gratified by the attentions showered upon you from all sides. At present, much will depend upon yourself: You have excellent recommendations, but it must be your own business to make them of use to you. You must lay yourself out to please; You must labour to gain the approbation of those, to whom you are presented: They who would have courted the friendship of the Conde de las Cisternas will have no interest in finding out the merits, or bearing patiently with the faults, of Alphonso d'Alvarada. Consequently, when you find yourself really liked, you may safely ascribe it to your good qualities, not your rank, and the distinction shown you will be infinitely more flattering. Besides, your exalted birth would not permit your mixing with the lower classes of society, which will now be in your power, and from which, in my opinion, you will derive considerable benefit. Do not confine yourself to the Illustrious of those Countries through which you pass. Examine the manners and customs of the multitude: Enter into the Cottages; and by observing how the Vassals of Foreigners are treated, learn to diminish the burthens and augment the comforts of your own. According to my ideas, of those advantages which a Youth destined to the possession of power and wealth may reap from travel, He should not consider as the least essential, the opportunity of mixing with the classes below him, and becoming an eyewitness of the sufferings of the People.'
Forgive me, Lorenzo, if I seem tedious in my narration. The close connexion which now exists between us, makes me anxious that you should know every particular respecting me; and in my fear of omitting the least circumstance which may induce you to think favourably of your Sister and myself, I may possibly relate many which you may think uninteresting.
I followed the Duke's advice; I was soon convinced of its wisdom.
I quitted Spain, calling myself by the assumed title of Don Alphonso d'Alvarada, and attended by a single Domestic of approved fidelity. Paris was my first station. For some time I was enchanted with it, as indeed must be every Man who is young, rich, and fond of pleasure. Yet among all its gaieties, I felt that something was wanting to my heart. I grew sick of dissipation: I discovered, that the People among whom I lived, and whose exterior was so polished and seducing, were at bottom frivolous, unfeeling and insincere. I turned from the Inhabitants of Paris with disgust, and quitted that Theatre of Luxury without heaving one sigh of regret.
I now bent my course towards Germany, intending to visit most of the principal courts: Prior to this expedition, I meant to make some little stay at Strasbourg. On quitting my Chaise at Luneville to take some refreshment, I observed a splendid Equipage, attended by four Domestics in rich liveries, waiting at the door of the Silver Lion. Soon after as I looked out of the window, I saw a Lady of noble presence, followed by two female Attendants, step into the Carriage, which drove off immediately.
I enquired of the Host, who the Lady was, that had just departed.
'A German Baroness, Monsieur, of great rank and fortune. She has been upon a visit to the Duchess of Longueville, as her Servants informed me; She is going to Strasbourg, where She will find her Husband, and then both return to their Castle in Germany.'
I resumed my journey, intending to reach Strasbourg that night. My hopes, however were frustrated by the breaking down of my Chaise. The accident happened in the middle of a thick Forest, and I was not a little embarrassed as to the means of proceeding.
It was the depth of winter: The night was already closing round us; and Strasbourg, which was the nearest Town, was still distant from us several leagues. It seemed to me that my only alternative to passing the night in the Forest, was to take my Servant's Horse and ride on to Strasbourg, an undertaking at that season very far from agreeable. However, seeing no other resource, I was obliged to make up my mind to it. Accordingly I communicated my design to the Postillion, telling him that I would send People to assist him as soon as I reached Strasbourg. I had not much confidence in his honesty; But Stephano being well-armed, and the Driver to all appearance considerably advanced in years, I believed I ran no danger of losing my Baggage.
Luckily, as I then thought, an opportunity presented itself of passing the night more agreeably than I expected. On mentioning my design of proceeding by myself to Strasbourg, the Postillion shook his head in disapprobation.
'It is a long way,' said He; 'You will find it a difficult matter to arrive there without a Guide. Besides, Monsieur seems unaccustomed to the season's severity, and 'tis possible that unable to sustain the excessive cold. . . .'
'What use is there to present me with all these objections?' said I, impatiently interrupting him; 'I have no other resource: I run still greater risque of perishing with cold by passing the night in the Forest.'
'Passing the night in the Forest?' He replied; 'Oh! by St. Denis! We are not in quite so bad a plight as that comes to yet. If I am not mistaken, we are scarcely five minutes walk from the Cottage of my old Friend, Baptiste. He is a Wood-cutter, and a very honest Fellow. I doubt not but He will shelter you for the night with pleasure. In the meantime I can take the saddle-Horse, ride to Strasbourg, and be back with proper people to mend your Carriage by break of day.'
'And in the name of God,' said I, 'How could you leave me so long in suspense? Why did you not tell me of this Cottage sooner? What excessive stupidity!'
'I thought that perhaps Monsieur would not deign to accept. . . .'
'Absurd! Come, come! Say no more, but conduct us without delay to the Wood-man's Cottage.'
He obeyed, and we moved onwards: The Horses contrived with some difficulty to drag the shattered vehicle after us. My Servant was become almost speechless, and I began to feel the effects of the cold myself, before we reached the wished-for Cottage. It was a small but neat Building: As we drew near it, I rejoiced at observing through the window the blaze of a comfortable fire. Our Conductor knocked at the door: It was some time before any one answered; The People within seemed in doubt whether we should be admitted.
'Come! Come, Friend Baptiste!' cried the Driver with impatience; 'What are you about? Are you asleep? Or will you refuse a night's lodging to a Gentleman, whose Chaise has just broken down in the Forest?'
'Ah! is it you, honest Claude?' replied a Man's voice from within; 'Wait a moment, and the door shall be opened.'
Soon after the bolts were drawn back. The door was unclosed, and a Man presented himself to us with a Lamp in his hand. He gave the Guide an hearty reception, and then addressed himself to me.
'Walk in, Monsieur; Walk in, and welcome! Excuse me for not admitting you at first: But there are so many Rogues about this place, that saving your presence, I suspected you to be one.'
Thus saying, He ushered me into the room, where I had observed the fire: I was immediately placed in an Easy Chair, which stood close to the Hearth. A Female, whom I supposed to be the Wife of my Host, rose from her seat upon my entrance, and received me with a slight and distant reverence. She made no answer to my compliment, but immediately re-seating herself, continued the work on which She had been employed. Her Husband's manners were as friendly as hers were harsh and repulsive.
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The Monk -by- Matthew Lewis