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him the letter, which he perused, and then bidding us be seated, asked us in what manner we wished to proceed to America. We answered that if it were possible to go without expence we should prefer a passage in a king's ship; otherwise we should engage a passage on board some merchantman. The general replied: "You will find no merchantmen in Brest; but as you have been recommended by a colonel of mine, for whom I have a great regard, I can do no less than serve you: now, in the course of two months I hope the expedition will be ready, as I am daily engaging men to form a regiment of the fifth division. For you to pay your passage will be useless, as I can contrive to get you one as commissaries of provisions; when you land in America you may do as you please. While you remain in Brest I will assign to you officers' quarters in the city; as it will be advisable that you should economize your money that you may traffick with it in America. In regard to victuals I cannot place you on the roll, except as soldiers, and in that case it would be necessary for you to go into barrack." We thanked him, and said that having funds for all expences of that kind, we only wished to obtain a free passage, which we knew would save us two thousand francs. The general would insist on our accepting a billet for quarters, assuring us, that we should be very well lodged. That we might not appear to be proud, we accepted this offer, and thanked him for all he had done for us. He wrote a note, with which we went to the quartermaster's office, and having received our billet, proceeded to look at the lodgings assigned to us. They were in the house of a lawyer, who gave us very handsome apartments.
On repairing to the house of Monsieur N. we found that he was not yet returned from business; but we were shown to an apartment in which were the ladies very splendidly attired; indeed, they seemed to have passed much time at the toilette. I began to speak Italian, knowing that it would please the Madame N. She was extremely handsome, her figure beautiful, her countenance of the mirthful cast, which I liked much better than the Grecian style of countenance; and to all appearance she could not be more than six-and-twenty; her tone of voice and her manner of speaking were clear, gentle, and engaging. Her sister, who resembled her, I judged to be younger; her features were more regular, and many would have pronounced her to be more beautiful, but the other's style of beauty was more to my taste. I said we were just come from General Bonté, to whom we had been recommended. The lady who was conversing with me said, with some little agitation, "how then; you know General Bonté!" I told her we were not previously acquainted with him; but he had received us very kindly, and had been good enough to promise us a passage to America. "Every evening," replied the lady," he comes to our conversazione.” My companion conversed with the young lady, and while we were talking on various topics connected with America we were joined by Monsieur N. who regretted that business had detained him from home longer than usual. We begged him to make no excuses; and at this moment dinner was announced. I offered my arm to the lady, and we passed into a handsomely furnished dining-room, where, on looking around, I beheld a profusion of plate. We sat down to table, and during dinner I told Monsieur N. that his lady spoke Italian very well. "I am very glad," said he, "that she
has this opportunity for practice, for I am certain that next year I shall have to go to Italy on commercial business, and it will be very agreeable to me that she should be able to speak Italian." I enquired if there were any masters of that language in Brest; he told me that there was not one Italian; the person who taught the language was a Frenchman who pronounced it very badly. The lady told Monsieur N. that we had been to see General Bonté; but I perceived that she was by no means pleased that we happened to be acquainted with him, and I very clearly foresaw that he was likely to prove an obstacle in my way. Monsieur N. said, I am very glad you have been recommended to the General; when he comes hither this evening he will rejoice to find you here; I also shall speak to him in your favour; and am most happy to learn that you have obtained the passage gratis. And as you will have nothing to do but amuse yourselves during the two months you will have to remain in Brest, I hope we shall pass many pleasant hours together." We thanked him for this manifestation of good will. I failed not to pay my court as much as possible to the lady, while my companion directed his attentions to her young companion; and those of Monsieur N. were engrossed by the dishes before him, for he was evidently one of those fashionable husbands who think not of their spouses, but rather choose that others should pay court to them. The lady, I could see, received my attention with much pleasure, though still she was somewhat thoughtful; she glanced at me occasionally with a laughing eye, and uttering some Italian phrase or other, would ask if she pronounced aright; sometimes I corrected her, and sometimes to humour her I said her pronunciation was excellent. After a very sumptuous and splendid dinner we passed into another room to take coffee. Monsieur N. asked leave to withdraw, having to go and sign his letters for the post. The lady enquired if I liked theatrical entertainments; I answered, yes; "then," said she, we will go to the play to-morrow if you please." I told her I was at a loss for words to express the pleasure it would give me to go in such amiable company. She smiled and said, that in a short time there would be some more gentlemen in company; they all come to play the gallant; but I assure you on my own and my sister's behalf, that we cannot endure one of them." Perceiving a clue for the discovery I wished to make, I enquired if the general also took pleasure in acting that part. "Yes," said she, " more than the others; nay, as we are upon this subject, I will tell you that every body thinks the general pays his court to me, but I can assure you, on my word of honour, that this is not true; he is a great friend of my husband's, and through civility I bestow some notice upon him, which makes him believe he is in possession of my heart. Sometimes, when I speak to any one, especially a foreigner, he takes it into his head to be as jealous as a fiend, though he does not say any thing, for if he did I should answer him in round terms; he only shows it by his manner. To-night, I am quite certain, he will be jealous of you; but that troubles me not at all, as you are a friend of my husband's." I said to her: "Madam, I would not on any account be the occasion of any words or any occurrence that might displease you." "Whom do you take me for?" she replied: "I am married; I depend on no one but my husband; no other person has any command over me, and to tell you the truth, not
even Monsieur N. would dare command me like a master; judge then, if I should give any heed to other persons." Reverting to the general, she said: "He fancies he has been paying his court to me this year past, but however favourably I may behave towards him he will never advance a step in my good graces." I heard all this with pleasure, in the hope of being able to pay my court to her during our stay at Brest.
[I know not whether the reader will praise or blame my conduct, but he must excuse some little error on the score of youth.]
It was not long ere General Bonté was announced. Scarcely had he entered the room when he stopped, on observing us; but dissembling his emotion, he advanced to pay his respects to the lady, who said to him: "General, I do not present to you these two gentlemen, who have been introduced to my husband, because I understand from them that they have been with you this morning," "Yes, I have had the pleasure of seeing them this morning," replied the General, with rather a constrained air, for he had already taken umbrage. The conversation turned on various topics, relating occasionally to Italy and to France; and in half an hour afterwards other gentlemen arrived. My companion greatly preferred the conversation of the young lady to that of all the visitants, but politeness obliged him to leave her; and our fair hostess rose and said: "Come, gentlemen, let all of us to cards." She led us to a room where the card-tables were set. The lady enquired if I knew écartez, I said I did not; I only knew piquet. "That," answered she, "is my favourite game; therefore all these gentlemen will sit down to écartes, and I will play piquet with you." The General's eyes flashed fire; but he conccaled his feelings, and joined the others at play.
In this agreeable society we passed several weeks. It in the end, however, cost us dear. One day at dinner, Monsieur N. informed me, that very shortly all the conscripts who were enrolled for America would be sent to Belleisle to be clothed and equipped. "Then," I observed, "it will probably be necessary for us to go also.", Monsieur N. replied: "We must hear what the General has to say upon that." He went away after dinner, leaving us with the ladies, who seemed very melancholy at the thought that the time of our departure was approaching. They exhorted us to give up all thoughts of it, and remain in Brest, where they would procure us appointments; reminding us at the same time that we were not sure of employment in America, and that we ought not to leave a certainty for an uncertainty. The lady then said to me, with a sigh: "The employment which I purpose to obtain for you might be no inducement to remain here; but if you told me true when you declared that you loved me, the idea of going to America should be banished from your mind." Madam," I replied, "your arguments are very forcible; I would sacrifice my life rather than give you the slightest displeasure, and would do anything to contribute to your happiness; but I know what would be the consequences if we relinquished our voyage to America; they would probably be fatal to yourselves as well as to us. What would your husband say on finding that we had changed our minds? What would the General say? I am sure he would employ all means to be revenged on us; for I am well aware F
that his passion still urges him to pay his court to you, and he has dissembled hitherto, because he knew that our departure was fixed." "Do you think then," replied the lady," that I am sold to my husband, or to the General either? I am entirely my own mistress, and am subject to no man's control. I brought with me a handsome fortune to my husband, who, being a merchant, had sustained such losses at sea, that he was on the verge of bankruptcy; but my marriage portion gave a favourable turn to his affairs, which are now going on most prosperously. All this is owing to me; therefore he would never dare to cast the slightest reproach on my conduct, and I am sure I care nothing about his own. As for the General, I have already shown you that I have always despised him during your stay in Brest; I should always continue to treat him in the same manner; for he is the object of my aversion, and I am not of the humour of many of my countrywomen, who sacrifice themselves through the mere vanity of having some person of distinction as their cavaliere servente. My sister sincerely loves your friend; why then cut asunder two connexions which are so firmly knit?"
I do assure the reader, that I was hardly master of myself, and was on the point of saying that I had determined to remain in Brest, being quite sure that my companion would do as I did, and would choose to reside here rather than in America. But reflecting that such a change in our intentions would be criticised by our friends, who would be aware that it was owing to the ladies, and that slanderous tongues would be busy in propagating daily scandal, perhaps even going so far as to say that we were kept by the ladies, I made an effort to subdue my inclinations, and said: "Madam, I want words to express what I feel towards you, and what I suffer in being obliged to leave you. I do uot pretend to influence my companion; he may remain if he be so disposed." While each of us was thus conversing with his fair friend, the General was announced, and on entering, he advanced with a very cheerful air to pay his respects to the ladies, and afterwards to us, in a manner totally different from that in which he behaved on former evenings. Having enquired after their health, he said to us: "Gentlemen, in three days the battalion will march for Belleisle to be equipped and embodied. As I have inscribed you on the roll of the expedition, it will be requisite for you also to set out." My companion, who did not at all relish this intelligence, said to the General: "I think it will take some time to embody the expedition, and as we are not enlisted, we might remain in Brest until the moment of embarkation, and then repair to the place appointed." The General, who was anxious for nothing so much as for our departure, or rather for mine, replied: "That is impossible; General Vrillar, the governor of the island, is now there for the purpose of inspecting the men, and they must all present themselves." I then said: "Excuse me, General, but we do not wish to be considered as conscripts, or held under an obligation to remain in the service. If we were aware that this was intended we would forego the advantage held out to us, and take our passage on board some merchant-vessel, for which our means are quite adequate, and we love nothing in the world so much as liberty." The General replied: "You need be under no apprehension; I will write to apprise the governor of the island, that, for the sake of appearance, you are
inscribed on the roll, but that you are not enlisted; and you will be at liberty to do as you like." The lady, perceiving that I was resolved to depart, quitted her seat by my side. Other gentlemen arrived, and the conversation concerning America was dropped.
The company being gone, we staid supper as usual. Monsieur N. being gone to bed, we all four sat down to table, and began to partake of the repast without saying a word. When it was ended, the lady said: "I told you, my dear sister, that we ought never to have fixed our affections on foreigners; they make professions of attachment, and then leave you to sigh over your disappointment." My companion replied: "I am sorry that you judge thus of our conduct. We have never deceived you; from the very first, you have been apprised of our intentions; yet, if my friend choose to remain, I certainly would not go without him; but as I feel that his reasons for our departure are very forcible, and that self-respect and delicacy forbid us to remain, I concur in his decision; assuring you, however, that I never did and never shall do so much violence to my feelings as I endure at this moment." The young lady perceiving that my friend also was determined to depart, rose from table in tears. Her sister said: "I shall no longer urge you to stay; but this will ever be a warning for us not to place our affections on foreigners." She rose from table; we followed the example, and in a short time took our leave.
On going to dine with the ladies next day, we found them very reserved, and we altered our behaviour accordingly. Monsieur N. though I think he perceived this change among us, took no notice of it. I said to him: "Monsieur N. as you have already had the kindness to do so much for us, be pleased to procure us letters of recommendation for America." With many protestations of friendship, he assured us that he would do all in his power to procure us letters that would be of great service. Dinner being over, he went away as usual; and the ladies, after taking coffee in total silence, bowed and withdrew, leaving us in the room by ourselves. My friend and I laughed at finding ourselves alone, and after some discussion we quitted the house without saying a word to any one, and went to the play.
We waited on the general next morning; he received us very politely, and told us that the battalion would march next day. I said we preferred travelling at our own expense, and should be in Belleisle as soon as the battalion. He said he was quite willing that we should travel as we pleased, but added, that it would be necessary on our arrival at Belleisle, to present ourselves to the Governor and be attached to the regiment which was forming. My companion instantly told him we were content to do as he desired us. (I however had some misgivings on hearing him speak of a regiment, and was apprehensive that we should be regarded not as commissaries but as conscripts.) The General was profuse in his civilities, wishing us a good journey and all manner of prosperity. Leaving him we went to the house of Monsieur N. and on our way I told my companion that we ran some risk of being imposed upon, since on our arrival at Belleisle we might possibly be considered as enlisted. My companion would not believe the general capable of such baseness. On entering the house of Monsieur N. the ladies did not as usual make their appearance; on enquiring after them, we were told that they were gone