A republic presupposes self-denial and a virtuous people; it cannot endure long in our selfish and luxurious days.
I went to see Bodin, a dancer, who had married Madame Joffroy, one of my thousand mistresses whom I had loved twenty-two years ago, and had seen later at Turin, Paris, and Vienna. These meetings with old friends and sweethearts were always a weak or rather a strong point with me. For a moment I seemed to be young again, and I fed once more on the delights of long ago. Repentance was no part of my composition.
Bodin and his wife (who was rather ugly than old-looking, and had become pious to suit her husband's tastes, thus giving to God the devil's leavings), Bodin, I say, lived on a small estate he had purchased, and attributed all the agricultural misfortunes he met with in the course of the year to the wrath of an avenging Deity.
I had a fasting dinner with them, for it was Friday, and they strictly observed all the rules of the Church. I told them of my adventures of the past years, and when I had finished they proceeded to make reflections on the faults and failings of men who have not God for a guide. They told me what I knew already: that I had an immortal soul, that there was a God that judgeth righteously, and that it was high time for me to take example by them, and to renounce all the pomps and vanities of the world.
"And turn Capuchin, I suppose?"
"You might do much worse."
"Very good; but I shall wait till my beard grows the necessary length in a single night."
In spite of their silliness, I was not sorry to have spent six hours with these good creatures who seemed sincerely repentant and happy in their way, and after an affectionate embrace I took leave of them and travelled all night. I stopped at Chanteloup to see the monument of the taste and magnificence of the Duc de Choiseul, and spent twenty-four hours there. A gentlemanly and polished individual, who did not know me, and for whom I had no introduction, lodged me in a fine suite of rooms, gave me supper, and would only sit down to table with me after I had used all my powers of persuasion. The next day he treated me in the same way, gave me an excellent dinner, shewed me everything, and behaved as if I were some prince, though he did not even ask my name. His attentions even extended to seeing that none of his servants were at hand when I got into my carriage and drove off. This was to prevent my giving money to any of them.
The castle on which the Duc de Choiseul had spent such immense sums had in reality cost him nothing. It was all owing, but he did not trouble himself about that in the slightest degree, as he was a sworn foe to the principle of meum and tuum. He never paid his creditors, and never disturbed his debtors. He was a generous man; a lover of art and artists, to whom he liked to be of service, and what they did for him he looked upon as a grateful offering. He was intellectual, but a hater of all detail and minute research, being of a naturally indolent and procrastinating disposition. His favourite saying was,
"There's time enough for that."
When I got to Poitiers, I wanted to push on to Vivonne; it was seven o'clock in the evening, and two girls endeavoured to dissuade me from this course.
"It's very cold," said they, "and the road is none of the best. You are no courier, sup here, we will give you a good bed, and you shall start again in the morning."
"I have made up my mind to go on, but if you will keep me company at supper I will stay."
"That would cost you too dearly."
"Never too dear. Quick I make up your minds."
"Well, we will sup with you."
"Then lay the table for three; I must go on in an hour."
"In an hour! You mean three, sir; papa will take two hours to get you a good supper."
"Then I will not go on, but you must keep me company all night."
"We will do so, if papa does not object. We will have your chaise put into the coach-house."
These two minxes gave me an excellent supper, and were a match for me in drinking as well as eating.