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FAINT HEART NEVER WON FAIR LADY.
A MODERN STORY.
BY DUDLEY COSTELLO.
A TEACHER OF LANGUAGES.
WAEN, after the fall of the elder branch of the House of Bourbon, in the year eighteen hundred and thirty, the Faubourg St. Germain was nearly emptied of its noble inhabitants, when runaways of all descriptions, fearing a new reign of terror, made England once more their place of refuge, there landed at Portsea a storm-tossed fugitive, named Pascal Perrotin.
He had furtively embarked, in the dead of night, on board a small fishing-lugger, called the Jeune Adèle, of Saint-Malo ; and, after three days' experience of rough Channel weather, such was his state of mind that, whether he set foot on the shore he fled from or on that for which the vessel was bound, had become to him a matter of supreme indifference: to find himself on terra firma again, was all he asked.
At last-it seemed a lifetime to Monsieur Perrotin-his prayer was granted, and he stood on the well-known landing-place of Common Hard, safe from his enemies who—it may be observed-had never troubled their heads about him. But fear makes men gregarious and imitative of others' Alight, and when Pascal Perrotin heard that The First Christian Baron had taken wing, he thought it high time to follow the illustrious example. With perfect safety to themselves and without any danger to their country, both might have remained—the one at his hotel in the Rue de Grenelle, the other in his lodging on the Quai Voltaire ; but it seemed an important thing to emigrate--and so they emigrated.
In taking this step there was one point of view in which Monsieur Perrotin appeared to have the advantage over his co-mate in exile : the State might seize upon the property of The First Christian Baron, but it was out of its power to confiscate the goods of Pascal Perrotin—for the simple reason that, when he quitted Paris, he left nothing which could, by possibility, be confiscated, except the State had been his washerwoman. This was a negative advantage, however, for by the time he had paid his passage to Portsea, and ascertained, to his sorrow,
that even an emigrant does not cross the Channel gratis, he discovered that all the
money he was master of amounted to rather more than a hundred francs, but as the superabundance was only in sous, his fortune may very fairly be estimated in the round numbers already given.
Now a hundred francs, managed with French economy—the straitest of all financial processes-will go a long way in Paris (at least, it would have done so before the era of Imperial luxury), but a hundred francs in England is not a sum to fall back upon in every emergency, particularly
start with the rate of exchange against you. The latter fact Monsieur Perrotin speedily discovered on entering the shop of Mr. Levi Abrahams, where an intimation, conveyed in his own language, that the utmost value was given for all descriptions of foreign coin, attracted him like a welcome. He was, 'indeed, welcome enough to Mr. Levi Abrahams as long as the latter thought there was a chance of making the stranger lay out on "a shplendid di'mond pin” the three pounds five, which was the conscientious equivalent for a hundred francs ; but when the Israelite merchant found that Pascal Perrotin had no fancy for trinkets, his welcome and his greasy smile disappeared together: he did not even know where the Frenchman could find a lodging—that was not his line of business—and having "cushtomers” waiting-two jolly tars who looked like prizes—he wished him good morning
Alone, then, in the streets of Portsmouth, Monsieur Perrotin was left to shift for himself, with his three pounds five in his pocket, and a very small bundle in his hand.
While he is wandering about, observing everybody with an eye of distrust—the result of his interview with Mr. Levi Abrahams-à few descriptive words, to say who and what he was, may not be out of place.
Pascal Perrotin's father was an honest vinedresser in the department of the Loire, and owned a small parcel of wine-producing ground on the banks of that noble, but revolutionary river. Living beyond the reach of its ordinary floods, and favoured by good harvests—his own industry aiding-old Michel Perrotin had husbanded, out of his small gains, sufficient to send his son to be educated at Tours. Pascal took to his studies kindly, did not disgrace his clerical instructors, and when he left college was fully qualified to instruct others. Education was his métier. He followed it, in the first instance, in the château of Monsieur Saint Aubin, a wealthy proprietor, near Blois, but after a few years, his pupils having in the mean time grown up, he departed from Touraine to seek his fortune in Paris. Impressed with the belief—and justly impressed—that to impart the pronunciation of Blois, is to confer the same benefit on a Parisian which a Scotchman fancies he bestows on a Londoner when he favours him with his dialect, Pascal Perrotin thought , he had little more to do, in making the fortune he sought, than merely to announce his arrival in the capital.
But whether he did not advertise sufficiently, or whether the selfsatisfied Parisians preferred their own clipt phrases to his full-weighted flow of language, certain it is that he did not grow richer: it may, on the contrary, be affirmed, that at the end of five or six
he was considerably poorer, and if it had not been for the modest income he derived from his succession in the Blésois--old Michel Perrotin being dead-it might have
hard with him to find the means of living. It is true, he got a stray pupil now and then among the English who lived in Paris, but in the spring of eighteen hundred and thirty the Loire forgot its propriety altogether, despised the limits of the Levée, broke through that famous dyke wherever it opposed resistance, and inundated the country far and wide, sweeping away everything before it. Thousands were ruined by the inundation, including Pascal . Perrotin,; his smiling vineyard be
came in one night an unsightly heap of stones and gravel; he had no capital wherewith to restore his desolated property, and remained that very pitiable object, a proprietor without a landmark. Within three months of this distressing event, the ordonnances of July were issued—the revolution followed next day; away went king and court, away went The First Christian Baron, and—what was more to the purpose, and served in some degree to justify the flight of Pascal Perrotin-away went all the English families.
What was he to do? Loyalty and honour counselled him to tread in the steps of his king, contempt of the Parisian “butors”—that was his word-pointed the same way, and self-interest, with a glimpse of hope in the distance, beckoned from the cliffs of perfidious Albion.
So, to perfidious Albion he made up his mind to go. He disguised himself, in a city where nobody knew him, secretly took a place in the diligence to Saint-Mâlo, travelling in the obscure depths of the banquette, and after confiding himself to the sea-a sacrifice which none but a Frenchman can rightly understand-arrived incognito in England.
The Portsmouth people are in the constant habit of seeing strangers from all countries in their streets, and few, as he passed along, took any notice of Monsieur Perrotin. Nor was there, in his personal appearance, very much to notice, unless it were the extreme fragility of his figure, his very meagre features, and an excessively prominent, bony nose, which he seemed, literally, to be always following. For the rest, he was a man prematurely old, who might have been taken for sixty, when he wanted at least twenty years of that age. But there are a great many who, like the Wechselkinder of the German tradition, have never looked young, and Monsieur Perrotin was facile princeps of this race.
From the Common Hard of Portsea he found his way past various gates and bridges into the High-street of Portsmouth, anxiously searching for a not too expensive hotel where he might quiet the wolf that now gnawed within him. But to look for an inexpensive hotel in that locality was a fruitless endeavour, and on he went till he reached the Sally Port and entered the Alsatian region of the Point, finally bringing up at the “ Blue Posts," which well-known house, since Peter Simple has been there, requires no description.
However uninviting to anybody but midshipmen, the Blue Posts appeared to Monsieur Perrotin exactly the kind of place to suit him, and he entered.
Being a Teacher of Languages, en gros, he had no fear of not being understood, though certainly English was not his forte, all he knew of it having been picked up here and there in Paris, amongst his English pupils : the value, moreover, of what he remembered was considerably modified by his pronunciation. As a recompense for these drawbacks, he possessed a very powerful voice, and, as Bob Fudge says of old Laïs, generally "chose to make use of it.” It may, indeed, be laid down, almost as a general rule, that, whatever other qualifications a Frenchman
have to recommend him to the world, the capacity for making a noise is very rarely denied him. " I say,” he roared to the waiter, who, accustomed to bundles,
stepped forward to relieve Monsieur Perrotin of his, “I will somm dinnerre.'
“ Very well, musseer,” said the waiter, at once detecting Monsieur Perrotin's country, though, for that matter, he said “Musseer" to
every foreigner; "what would you like to have ?"
And he gabbled through the larder of the Blue Posts.
“Sheep!” exclaimed Monsieur Perrotin, with emphasis. " First of all-sheep."
The waiter, being a true-born Briton, laughed, of course, at the Frenchman's mistake, before he corrected it.
“Mutton, musseer! That's it!" said he, nodding. “ There's a nice 'arnsh in prime cut; three of the Powerful's young gentlemen is all as it 'as been to."
Monsieur Perrotin accepted the waiter's nod as an answer to his exclamation : of his speech he could only make out that mutton was the theme, but he was not likely to be at a loss on this point, his informant having pointed, as he spoke, to a table where three saucy, handsome boys were paying their addresses to the joint in question. The ravages they had already made in it showed plainly that their appetites deserved the name of the
ship they belonged to. A hungry Frenchman, however, who had been three days at sea without eating, was not likely to object to anything in the shape of food; and, bestowing a gratified smile on everybody in the coffee-room, Monsieur Perrotin sat down in a corner and prepared for his meal.
If the three young gentlemen of the Powerful had not been under the necessity of fulfilling the engagement which had brought them on shore
—that, namely, of riding off to Portsdown fair the moment dinner was over-it is
very probable they might have had some fun at the expense of Monsieur Perrotin ; but, their time being short, they limited themselves to a few remarks on his personal appearance, while they hastily swallowed the scalding hot gin-and-water with which they wound up their repast.
" Johnny Crappo!" said one, by way of designating Monsieur Perrotin's nation.
“What a twist he has !" observed the second, forgetful of his own exploits.
« Never ate meat before, I'll swear," said the third. “Nipcheese wouldn't like to mess that fellow !”
And Monsieur Perrotin, raising his eyes and perceiving that the three young gentlemen were looking at him while they talked, gave them another grateful smile and resumed his agreeable occupation.
The Powerfuls burst out into a loud laugh, lit their cigars, shouted out “Good-by, old boy, don't swallow the bone !" rushed out of the room, mounted their steeds which were waiting at the door, and galloped away at the usual midshipman's pace, one of the three a little behind the other two, having stopped to buy an orange which he threw at Monsieur Perrotin's head as he sat with his back to the open
window. The young gentleman was a good marksman—he could already lay a gun well
, and hoped some day to do so in the teeth of an enemy's battery-and the missile caught Monsieur Perrotin in the nape of the neck, causing him to drop a glass of porter which he was at that moment raising to his lips, and eliciting from him a tremendous expletive which need not be re
peated. But beyond the broken tumbler and this momentary explosion of astonishment and wrath, no damage was done, and Monsieur Perrotin finished his dinner in peace.
Being now on more equal terms with the world, he began to consider what course he ought to take.
To remain at Portsmouth, where he knew nobody, was not likely to serve his purpose. He had left France, partly from fear, partly in the hope of gaining a livelihood by teaching French and Italian. There was written down in his pocket-book the name and address of an English lady to whose two daughters—des êtres charmants !—he had given lessons at their apartment in the Place de la Concorde. The lady had a magnificent house in London, and, if he hoped to prosper, thither Monsieur Perrotin must go.
He took out his pocket-book, and turned over the leaves till he found what he sought. He had copied the address from that hastily written by one of his pupils. English ladies write very good hands—no one denies them that accomplishment—but, if a fault may be hinted, it is that
every letter so much resembles some other, that the reader, if at all desirous of making out the meaning, must, nine times out of ten, be guided by the context. But besides the general vandyked illegibility, Monsieur Perrotin's difficulty of transcription was increased, in the present instance, by an after-thought on the part of the fair writer, and an emendation of his own, arising from his profound knowledge of English ceremonials, so that his copy represented a somewhat doubtful topography. As he looked at it now, it read as follows :
“ Mistress SCROPE Esq.
Monsieur Perrotin, however, felt perfectly satisfied with the address. It was a talisman, he doubted not, which would carry him safely to his journey's end ; and after repeating it three or four times to fix it in his memory in case he should have the misfortune to lose his pocket-book, he resolved to announce his arrival by letter, and told the waiter to bring him “pepper."
The usual imbroglio followed, but at last he obtained what he wanted, and composed the following epistle, which, in honour of his patroness, he wrote in his best English:
MADAME,—Having passed the Sleeve by a detestable weather which has failed to loose me, I am descended to-day upon the costs of the old England, and at the moment I write I am making my box to go to London see you, remembering of your amiable kindness to give me a former invitation. Unhappily for France we have for us at last the revolution come back, but not yet the real conditions of it are known. For that I have not waited thinking only of my salvation which I accomplished in the diligence of Saint-Malo. From there I come to Portsmout, a very sad city, in which to live would be impossible. Therefore I hope to arrive at London to teach my tong to the scholars who shall desire to