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Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

The Address. Versailles

I SHOULD not like to have my enemy take a view of my mind when I am going to ask protection of any man: for which reason I generally endeavor to protect myself; but this going to Monsieur le Duc de C—— was an act of compulsion—had it been an act of choice, I should have done it, I suppose, like other people.

How many mean plans of dirty address, as I went along, did my servile heart form! I deserved the Bastille for every one of them.

Then nothing would serve me, when I got within sight of Versailles, but putting words and sentences together, and conceiving attitudes and tones to wreathe myself into Monsieur le Duc de C—— —’s good graces.—This will do—said I—Just as well, retorted I again, as a coat carried up to him by an adventurous tailor, without taking his measure.—Fool! continued I—see Monsieur le Duc’s face first—observe what character is written in it—take notice in what posture he stands to hear you—mark the turns and expressions of his body and limbs—and for the tone—the first sound which comes from his lips will give it you; and from all these together you’ll compound an address at once upon the spot, which cannot disgust the Duke—the ingredients are his own, and most likely to go down.

Well! said I, I wish it well over.—Coward again! as if man to man was not equal throughout the whole surface of the globe; and if in the field—why not face to face in the cabinet too? And trust me, Yorick, whenever it is not so, man is false to himself, and betrays his own succors ten times where nature does it once. Go to the Duc de C—— with the Bastille in thy looks—my life for it, thou wilt be sent back to Paris in half an hour with an escort.

I believe so, said I.—Then I’ll go to the Duke, by Heaven! with all the gaiety and debonairness in the world.—

—And there you are wrong again, replied I.—A heart at ease, Yorick, flies into no extremes—’t is ever on its center.—Well! well! cried I, as the coachman turn’d in at the gates—I find I shall do very well: and by the time he had wheel’d round the court, and brought me up to the door, I found myself so much the better for my own lecture, that I neither ascended the steps like a victim to justice, who was to part with life upon the topmost,—nor did I mount them with a skip and a couple of strides, as I do when I fly up, Eliza! to thee, to meet it.

As I enter’d the door of the saloon, I was met by a person who possibly might be the maître d’hôtel, but had more the air of one of the under-secretaries, who told me the Duc de C—— was busy.—I am utterly ignorant, said I, of the forms of obtaining an audience, being an absolute stranger, and what is worse in the present conjuncture of affairs, being an Englishman too.—He replied, that did not increase the difficulty.—I made him a slight bow, and told him, I had something of importance to say to Monsieur le Duc. The secretary look’d towards the stairs, as if he was about to leave me to carry up this account to some one.—But I must not mislead you, said I—for what I have to say is of no manner of importance to Monsieur le Duc de C—— —but of great importance to myself.—C’est une autre affaire, replied he.—Not at all, said I, to a man of gallantry. But pray, good Sir, continued I, when can a stranger hope to have accesse?—In not less than two hours, said he, looking at his watch. The number of equipages in the courtyard seem’d to justify the calculation, that I could have no nearer a prospect—and as walking backwards and forwards in the saloon, without a soul to commune with, was for the time as bad as being in the Bastille itself, I instantly went back to my remise, and bid the coachman to drive me to the Cordon Bleu, which was the nearest hotel.

I think there is a fatality in it—I seldom go to the place I set out for.