Everybody laughed, and, I, much pleased with his eccentricity, began to coax him. He was the tutor of a young boy of twelve or thirteen years who was seated near him. I made him give me during the journey lessons in French politeness, and when we parted he took me apart in a friendly manner, saying that he wished to make me a small present.
"What is it?"
"You must abandon, and, if I may say so, forget, the particle 'non', which you use frequently at random. 'Non' is not a French word; instead of that unpleasant monosyllable, say, 'Pardon'. 'Non' is equal to giving the lie: never say it, or prepare yourself to give and to receive sword-stabs every moment."
"I thank you, monsieur, your present is very precious, and I promise you never to say non again."
During the first fortnight of my stay in Paris, it seemed to me that I had become the most faulty man alive, for I never ceased begging pardon. I even thought, one evening at the theatre, that I should have a quarrel for having begged somebody's pardon in the wrong place. A young fop, coming to the pit, trod on my foot, and I hastened to say,
"Your pardon, sir."
"Sir, pardon me yourself."
"Well, sir, let us pardon and embrace one another!" The embrace put a stop to the discussion.
One day during the journey, having fallen asleep from fatigue in the inconvenient gondola, someone pushed my arm.
"Ah, sir! look at that mansion!"
"I see it; what of it?"
"Ah! I pray you, do you not find it...."
"I find nothing particular; and you?"
"Nothing wonderful, if it were not situated at a distance of forty leagues from Paris. But here! Ah! would my 'badauds' of Parisians believe that such a beautiful mansion can be found forty leagues distant from the metropolis? How ignorant a man is when he has never travelled!"
"You are quite right."
That man was a Parisian and a 'badaud' to the backbone, like a Gaul in the days of Caesar.
But if the Parisians are lounging about from morning till night, enjoying everything around them, a foreigner like myself ought to have been a greater 'badaud' than they! The difference between us was that, being accustomed to see things such as they are, I was astonished at seeing them often covered with a mask which changed their nature, while their surprise often arose from their suspecting what the mask concealed.
What delighted me, on my arrival in Paris, was the magnificent road made by Louis XV., the cleanliness of the hotels, the excellent fare they give, the quickness of the service, the excellent beds, the modest appearance of the attendant, who generally is the most accomplished girl of the house, and whose decency, modest manners, and neatness, inspire the most shameless libertine with respect. Where is the Italian who is pleased with the effrontery and the insolence of the hotel-waiters in Italy? In my days, people did not know in France what it was to overcharge; it was truly the home of foreigners. True, they had the unpleasantness of often witnessing acts of odious despotism, 'lettres de cachet', etc.; it was the despotism of a king. Since that time the French have the despotism of the people. Is it less obnoxious?
We dined at Fontainebleau, a name derived from Fontaine-belle-eau; and when we were only two leagues from Paris we saw a berlin advancing towards us. As it came near the diligence, my friend Baletti called out to the postillions to stop. In the berlin was his mother, who offered me the welcome given to an expected friend. His mother was the celebrated actress Silvia, and when I had been introduced to her she said to me;
"I hope, sir, that my son's friend will accept a share of our family supper this evening."
I accepted gratefully, sat down again in the gondola, Baletti got into the berlin with his mother, and we continued our journey.
On reaching Paris, I found a servant of Silvia's waiting for me with a coach; he accompanied me to my lodging to leave my luggage, and we repaired to Baletti's house, which was only fifty yards distant from my dwelling.
Baletti presented me to his father, who was known under the name of Mario. Silvia and Mario were the stage names assumed by M. and Madame Baletti, and at that time it was the custom in France to call the Italian actors by the names they had on the stage. 'Bon jour', Monsieur Arlequin; 'bon jour', Monsieur Pantalon: such was the manner in which the French used to address the actors who personified those characters on the stage.