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them when I see him cast the rosemary with an air of disconsolation, which cries through my ears, - Toby! in what corner of the world shall i seek thy fellow.
-Gracions powers ! which erst have opened the lips of the dumb in his distress, and made the tongue of the stammerer speak plain—when I shall arrive at this dreaded page, deal not with me, then, with a stinted hand.
I was stopped at the gate of Lyons by a poor ass, who had just turned in with a couple of large panniers upon his back, to collect eleemosynary turnip-tops, and cabbage-leaves ; and stood dubions, with his two fore-feet on the inside of the thresbold, and with his two hinder-feet towards the street, as not knowing very well whether he was to go in or no.
Now 'tis an animal (be in what hurry I may) I cannot bear to strike- there is a patient endurance of sufferings, wrote so unaffected in his Jooks and carriage, which pleads so mightily for him, that it always disarms me; and to that degree, that I do not like to speak unkindly to him : on the contrary, meet him where I will—whether in town or country, in cart or under pannierswhether in liberty or bondage--I have ever something civil to say to him on my part; and as one word begets another (if he has as little to do
as I)-I generally fall into conversation with him; and surely never is my imagination so busy, as in framing liis responses from the etchings of his countenance- -and where those carry me not deep enough—in flying from my own heart into his, and seeing what is natural for an ass to think -as well as a man, upon the occasion.-In truth, it is the only creature of all the classes of beings below me, with whom I can do this :—for parrots, jackdaws, &c. I never exchange a word with them --nor with the apes, &c. for pretty near the same reason; they act by rote, as the others speak by it, and equally make me silent; nay, my dog and my cat, though I value them both---(and for my dog, he would speak if he could)---yet somehow or other, they neither of them possess the talent for conversation---I can make nothing of a discourse with them.
But with an ass I can commune for ever. Come, Honesty! said I---seeing it was impracticable to pass betwixt him and the gate---art thou for coming in, or going out?
The ass twisted his head round to look up the street
Well---replied I---we'll wait a minute for thy driver
---He turned his head thoughtful about, and looked wistfully the opposite way.
I understand thee perfectly, answered I---if thou takest a wrong step in the affair, he will cudgel thee to death---Well! a minute is but a minute, and if it saves a fellow-creature a drubbing, it shall not be set down as ill spent. He was eating the stem of an articoke as this discourse
went on, and, in the little peevish contentions of nature betwixt hunger and unsavoriness, had dropt it out of his mouth half a dozen times, and picked it up again-God help thee, Jack ! said I, thon hast a bitter breakfast on't--and many a bitter day's labour--and many a bitter blow, I fear, for its wages—'tis all-all bitterness to thee, whatever life is to others.
And now thy mouth, if one knew the truth of it, is as bitter, I dare say, as soot-(for he had cast aside the stem) and thou hast not a friend perhaps in all this world that will give thee a macaroon.
- In saying this, I pulled out a paper of them, which I had just purchased, and gave him one-and at this moment that I am telling it, my heart smites me, that there was more of pleasantry in the conceit, of seeing how an ass would eat a macaroonthan of benevolence in giving him one, which presided in the act.
When the ass had eaten his macaroon, I pressed him to come in the poor least was heavy loaded-his legs seemed to tremble under him he hung rather backwards, and as I pulled at his halter, it broke short in my band- - he looked up pensive in my face" Don't thrash me with
it, but if you will you may."~If I do, said I, I’NI be dd. The word was but one half of it pronounced, when a person coming in, let fall a thundering bastinado upon the poor devil's crupper, which put an end to the ceremony. Out upon it! cried I.
-THEY' were the sweetest notes I ever heard; and I instantly let down the fore-glass to hear them more distinctly—Tis Maria, said the postillion, observing I was listening- -Poor Maria, continued he, (leaning his body on one side to let me see her, for he was in a line betwixt us,) is sitting upon a bank, playing her vespers upon her pipe, with her little goat beside her.
The young fellow uttered this with an accent and a look so perfectly in tune to a feeling heart, that I instantly made a vow, I would give him a four-and-twenty sous piece, when I got to Moulines.
And who is poor Maria ? said I.
The love and pity of all the villages around us, said the postillion- it is but three years ago, that the sun did not shine upon so fair, so quick-witted and amiable a maid; and better fate did Maria deserve, than to have her banns forbid by the intrigues of the curate of the parish who published them
He was going on, when Maria, who had made a short pause, put the pipe to her mouth, and began the air again they were the same notes ;-yet were ten times sweeter; it is the evening service to the Virgin, said the young man--but who has taught her to play it- or how she came by her pipe, no one knows: we think that Heaven has assisted her in both; for ever since she has been unsettled in her mind, it seems her only consolation she has never once liad the pipe out of her hand, but plays that service upon it almost night and day.
The postillion delivered this with so much discretion and natural eloquence, that I could not help decyphering something his face above his condition, and should have sifted out his history, had not poor Maria's taken such full possession of me.
We had got up by this time almost to the bank where Maria was sitting ; she was in a thin white jacket, with her hair, all but two tresses, drawn up into a silk net, with -a few olive-leaves twisted a little fantastically on one side-she was beautiful; and if ever I felt the full force of an honest heartache, it was the moment I saw her.
-God help her! poor damsel ! above a hundred masses, said the postillion, have been said in the several parish churches and convents around for her ;--but without effect ; we have still hopes, as she is sensible for short intervals, that the Virgin will at last restore her to herself; but her parents, who know her best, are hopeless upon that score, and think her senses are lost for ever.
As the postillion spoke this, Maria made a cadence so melancholy, so tender and querulous, that I sprang out of the chaise to help her, and found myself sitting betwixt her and her goat before I relapsed from my enthusiasm.
Maria looked wistfully for some time at me, and then at her goat and then at me. -and then at her goat again, and so on, alternately
-Well, Maria, said I softly--what resemblance do
I do entreat the capdid reader to believe me, that it was from the humblest conviction of what a