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WHOEVER has travelled the route from Calais to Dunkerque, must allow, if his commendations are as veracious as those bestowed by Sterne on the Pont Neuf, that it is the most delightful, cheerful, romantic, sylvan scene, that traveller in search of the picturesque could wish, or poetic imagination conceive. It is delightful, inasmuch as you are exposed to the full glare of a meridian sun in summer, and enjoy the full benefit of a north-east wind in winter. It is romantic, being a dead flat all the way; sylvan, from not the vestige of a tree meeting the eye for twentyfive miles out of the thirty; and cheerful, from the anticipation of meeting, if you go at the proper hour, a donkey with his driver, a charrette, and the diligence. But unless we start at particular hours, the or a donkey and a charrette will be about the maximum of fellowwayfarers to be expected. It fell, however, to my lot on two occasions to have the weary monotony of this route broken into by incidents that would have proved expensive ones, had I not contrived to reimburse myself by means that, though they come before us in rather a questionable shape, were, I hold, justifiable, on the “lex talionis” principle. Driving along this road of blessed memory, a French carrier considerately conceded to my use a portion of the road just one foot less than the width of my axletree. The consequence of the collision was the compressing my gig into the smallest possible
448 CHAQUE PAYS, CHAQUE MODE.
compass, just as we do a camp stool, the difference being that the stool can be opened again at pleasure, whereas I paid Tilbury twenty pounds to bring the gig again into proper form and dimension. On applying to the very improperly called proper authorities, also of blessed memory, for redress, I was told, that mine being the lighter vehicle I should have got out of the way, and that I might think myself most leniently dealt with if Monsieur le Charrettier did not punish me for having assaulted him. I did not deny I had given the fellow a punch or two on the head, and a straight one in his stomach; on receiving which last visitation he bellowed as if I was going to murder him, and incontinently took to his heels, or rather his cart, and then set his dog at me. As he rose at me I gave him also a straight one in his throat, when like his master, he bolted. All this was fact. An Englishman in the Frenchman's place would have been ashamed to have allowed it was so, and I think an English magistrate would have been a little ashamed had he made the decision of Monsieur le Now I must most candidly confess, that though in a general way I like France and French people, and more particularly French cuisine, I did on this occasion, even in court, most energetically d French law, and most particularly and especially this particular and especial French . I suppose all this was considered as either pleading my own cause, or held as complimenting the Court on its lenity, for I was requested to repeat it in French. This I was preparing to do, with embellishments; but my avocat very wisely advised me to hold my tongue, and said I was only stating I did not understand French law : this was quite satisfactory; so, I suppose, in lieu of
REFLECTION AND GENUFLECTION. 449
damages, I got this piece of advice from the bench —“Il faut qu'il l'apprenne donc.” I thought this hint was quite superfluous, my first lesson having completely enlightened me on the subject.
My next appearance before the most worthy showed how little I had profited by his advice, or I should not have troubled him again; but I did, and my present case was this: — Riding one evening after dark along the same delectable road, on a favourite English horse, down he dropped as if he had been shot, sending me over his ears en avant-courrier. This mishap had arisen from my (Englishman-like) taking the side of the pavé in preference to the middle of the route. A drain had been left open of about two feet deep, into which my horse had gone. He was up in a moment: I remounted, and what I said about French high-roads was bad enough then, but when I examined my horse's knees by the first light I came to, and found two concavities made in them something the size of a teacup, I fear what I said was ten times worse. I really now thought, that from this trap having been left open, and holding myself a loser of about thirty pounds each knee, some redress would be afforded me. I found, however, that redress, something like promotion or reward for services, was likely to be some time in coming, for I was first told I had no business riding where I did; and secondly, from whom was the redress to come 2 Before this could be got at, it was necessary to find who made the drain, and it behoved me to find that out. “Did Monsieur know who it was P’ Of course Monsieur did not. I saw my chance was out, but to render assurance doubly sure, out came again the infernal “Il faut qu'il l'apprenne done.”
WOL. I. G G
450 “A HORSE, A HORSE, MY KINGDOM For A HORSE.”
The prayers of the wicked are sometimes heard: I prayed for a chance to return all favours to Monsieur le , and it came.
I learned that his lady had taken a mania for riding en Amazon, and that her lord and master would give any price for a perfectly broke English horse accustomed to carry a lady.
Just before I left England a very beautiful horse that had been carrying a friend of my wife's had unfortunately gone badly broken-winded, so much so as to be useless. I started my groom off for this said horse, and he brought him back in blooming condition, and looking worth as much as any lady's horse could be, and only six years old. I got the daughter of a friend of mine, a girl nine years of age, to ride him about the town, taking care he should be seen by the lady and her good lord. The beauty, and docility of the horse in carrying a mere child, could not be resisted, so a note arrived filled with apologies for asking if I would sell “le beau cheval,” in which case I was begged to name a price, and to pass my word that he was as docile as he appeared. Monsieur would only ask leave for a friend to look at him in the stable, who would bring the “argent comptant.” I replied by saying I would sell the horse, that on my honour he was “doux comme un agneau,” a hundred and fifty napoleons his price, and that Monsieur's friend was quite welcome to see him, assuring Monsieur “dema parfaite considération,” &c. &c. Yes, thinks I to myself, you are welcome to ma parfaite considération; but I suspect you will not get much consideration for your hundred and fifty. I have the “Il faut qu'il l'apprenne” fresh in my memory—chacun a son tour ! I have not spent so much money about horses without
“THE KNIGHT HE SAT ERECT AND FAIR.” 451
being able to make a broken-winded one fit to be