The wine was delicious, and we stayed at table till midnight, laughing and joking together, though without overstepping the bounds of propriety.
About midnight, the father came in jovially, and asked me how I had enjoyed my supper.
"Very much," I answered, "but I have enjoyed still more the company of your charming daughters."
"I am delighted to hear it. Whenever you come this way they shall keep you company, but now it is past midnight, and time for them to go to bed."
I nodded my head, for Charlotte's death was still too fresh in my memory to admit of my indulging in any voluptuous pleasures. I wished the girls a pleasant sleep, and I do not think I should even have kissed them if the father had not urged me to do this honour to their charms. However, my vanity made me put some fire into the embrace, and I have no doubt they thought me a prey to vain desires.
When I was alone I reflected that if I did not forget Charlotte I was a lost man. I slept till nine o'clock, and I told the servant that came to light my fire to get coffee for three, and to have my horses put in.
The two pretty girls came to breakfast with me, and I thanked them for having made me stay the night. I asked for the bill, and the eldest said it was in round figures a Louis apiece. I shewed no sign of anger at this outrageous fleecing, but gave them three Louis with the best grace imaginable and went on my way. When I reached Angouleme, where I expected to find Noel, the King of Prussia's cook, I only found his father, whose talents in the matter of pates was something prodigious. His eloquence was as fervent as his ovens. He said he would send his pates all over Europe to any address I liked to give him.
"What! To Venice, London, Warsaw, St. Petersburg?"
"To Constantinople, if you like. You need only give me your address, and you need not pay me till you get the pates."
I sent his pates to my friends in Venice, Warsaw, and Turin, and everybody thanked me for the delicious dish.
Noel had made quite a fortune. He assured me he had sent large consignments to America, and with the exception of some losses by shipwreck all the pates had arrived in excellent condition. They were chiefly made of turkeys, partridges, and hare, seasoned with truffles, but he also made pates de foie gras of larks and of thrushes, according to the season.
In two days I arrived at Bordeaux, a beautiful town coming only second to Paris, with respect to Lyons be it said. I spent a week there, eating and drinking of the best, for the living there is the choicest in the world.
I transferred my bill of exchange for eight thousand francs to a Madrid house, and crossed the Landes, passing by Mont de Marsan, Bayonne, and St. Jean de Luz, where I sold my post-chaise. From St. Jean de Luz I went to Pampeluna by way of the Pyrenees, which I crossed on mule-back, my baggage being carried by another mule. The mountains struck me as higher than the Alps. In this I may possibly be wrong, but I am certain that the Pyrenees are the most picturesque, fertile, and agreeable of the two.
At Pampeluna a man named Andrea Capello took charge of me and my luggage, and we set out for Madrid. For the first twenty leagues the travelling was easy enough, and the roads as good as any in France. These roads did honour to the memory of M. de Gages, who had administered Navarre after the Italian war, and had, as I was assured, made the road at his own expense. Twenty years earlier I had been arrested by this famous general; but he had established a claim on posterity greater than any of his victories. These laurels were dyed in blood, but the maker of a good road is a solid benefactor of all posterity.
In time this road came to an end, and thenceforth it would be incorrect to say that the roads were bad, for, to tell the truth, there were no roads at all. There were steep ascents and violent descents, but no traces of carriage wheels, and so it is throughout the whole of Old Castile. There are no good inns, only miserable dens scarce good enough for the muleteers, who make their beds beside their animals.