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Gil Blas and the Parasite.
FROM LE SAGE.
GIL Blas is a book which makes a great impression in youth with particular passages; becomes thoroughly appreciated only by the maturest knowledge; and remains one of the greatest of favourites, with old people who are wise and good-natured. Every body knows the Robbers' Cave, the Beggar who asks alms with a loaded musket, the Archbishop who invited a candour which he could not bear, the dramatic surprise and exquisite lesson of the story transcribed into the present volume; and perhaps we all have a general, entertaining recollection of authors, and actresses, and great men. But the hundreds of delicate strokes at every turn, the quiet, arch reference (never failing) to the most hidden sources of action and nicest evidences of character, require an experienced taste and discernment to do them justice. When they obtain this, they mplete the charm of the reader flattering his understanding. The hero (strange critical term for individuals the most unheroical !) is justly popular with all the world, because he resembles them in their mixture of sense and nonsense, craft and credulity, selfishness and good qualities. We have a sneaking regard for him on our weak side; while we flatter ourselves we should surpass him on the strong.
Then how pleasant the hypocrisy of the false hermit Lamela, reconciled to us by his animal spirits; how consolatory (if extension of evil can console) the bile and melancholy of the great minister, the Count-Duke, who always sees a spectre before him; and how charming, as completing the round of its universality, the alternations from town to country, from solitudes to courts, and the settlement of the once simple Gil Blas, now Signior de Santillane, in his comfortable farm at Lirias, over the door of which was to be written a farewell to vicissitude :
Inveni portum. Spes et Fortuna, valete.
Sat me lusisti: ludite nunc alios,
My port is found. Farewell, ye freaks of chance;
Le Sage is accused, like Moliere, of having stolen all his good things from Spain. Do not believe it. Rest assured, that whatever he stole he turned to the choicest account with his own genius; otherwise the Spaniards would have got the fame for his works, and not he. Nobody stole Cervantes. Le Sage was a good, quiet man, very deaf, who lived in a small house at Boulogne with a bit of trellised garden at the back, in which he used to walk up and down while he composed. He had a son, a celebrated actor, who came to live with him; and these two were as fast friends, as they were honest and pleasant men.
But if every body knows the adventure of Gil Blas with the Parasite, why, it may be asked, repeat it? For the reason given in the Preface,—because there are passages in books which readers love to see repeated, for the very sake of their intimacy with them. It is with fine passages in books as with songs. Some we like, because they are good and new; and some, because they are very good indeed, and old acquaintances. Besides, there are hundreds of readers who only just recollect them well enough to desire to know them better.
It is to be borne in mind, that our hero has just set out in life; and that this is his first journey since he left school at Oviedo.
ARRIVED in safety at Pennaflor, and halting at the
gate of an inn that made a tolerable appearance, I sooner alighted, than the landlord came out, and received me with great civility; he untied my portmanteau with his own hands, and throwing it on his shoulder, conducted me into a room, while one of his servants led my mule into the stable. This innkeeper, the greatest talker of the Asturias, and as ready to relate his own affairs without being asked, as to pry into those of another, told me his name was Andrew Corcuelo; that he had served many years in the king's army in quality of a serjeant; and had quitted the service fifteen months ago to marry a damsel of Castropol,
who (though she was a little swarthy) knew very well how to turn the penny. He said a thousand other things, which I could have dispensed with the hearing of; but after having made me his confidant, he thought he had a right to exact the same condescension of me, and accordingly asked whence I came, whither I was going, and what I was. I was obliged to answer article by article ; for he accompanied every question by a profound bow, and begged me to excuse his curiosity with such a respectful air, that I could not refuse to satisfy him in every particular. This engaged me in a long conversation with him, and gave me occasion to mention my design, and the reason I had foi disposing of my mule, that I might take the opportunity of a carrier. He approved of my intention, though not in a very succinct manner; for he represented all the troublesome accidents that might befall me on the road; he recounted many dismal stories of travellers; and I began to be afraid he would never have done. He concluded at length however with telling me, that if I had a mind to sell my mule, he was acquainted with a very honest jockey who would buy her. I assured him he would oblige me in sending for him; upon which he went in quest of him immediately with great eagerness. It was not long before he returned with his man, whom he introduced to me as a person of exceeding honesty, and we went into the yard all together, where my mule was produced, and passed and repassed before the jockey, who examined her from head to foot, and did not fail to speak very disadvantageously of her. I own there was not much to be said in her praise ; but, however, had it been the pope's mule, he would have found some defects in her. He assured me, that she had all the defects a mule could have; and to convince me of his veracit;, appealed to the landlord, who, doubtless, had
his reasons for supporting his friend's assertions. “Well,” said the dealer with an air of indifference, “how much money do you expect for this wretched animal ?" After the eulogium he had bestowed on her, and the attestation of Signior Corcuelo, whom I believed to be a man of honesty and understanding, I would have given my mule for nothing; and therefore told him I would rely on his integrity; bidding him appraise the beast in his own conscience, and I would stand to the valuation. Upon this he assumed the man of honour; and replied, that in engaging his conscience I took him on the weak side. In good sooth, that did not seem to be his strong side; for instead of valuing her at ten or twelve pistoles, as my uncle had done, he fixed the price at three ducats; which I accepted with as much joy as if I had made an excellent bargain.
After having so advantageously disposed of my mule, the landlord conducted me to a carrier, who was to set out the next day for Astorga. This muleteer let me know that he should set out by day-break, and promised to awake me in time, after we had agreed upon the price, as well for the hire of a mule, as my board on the road; and when everything was settled between us, I returned to the inn with Corcuelo, who, by the way, began to recount the carrier's history. He told me every circumstance of his character in town ; in short, was going to stupify me again with his intolerable loquacity, when, luckily for me, a man of pretty good appearance prevented my misfortune, by accosting him with great civility. I left them together, and went on, without suspecting that I had the least concern in their conversation.
When I arrived at the inn, I called for supper; and it being a meagre day, was fain to put up with eggs; which while they got ready, I made up to my landlady, whom I
had not seen before. She appeared handsome enough; and withal so sprightly and gay, that I should have concluded (even if her husband had not told me so) that her house was pretty well frequented. When the omelet I had bespoken was ready, I sat down to table by myself; and had not yet swallowed the first mouthful, when the landlord came in, followed by the man who had stopt him in the street. This cavalier, who wore a long sword, and seemed to be about thirty years of age, advanced towards me with an eager air, saying, "Mr. Student, I am informed that you are that Signior Gil Blas of Santillane, who is the link of philosophy, and ornament of Oviedo ! Is it possible that you are that mirror of learning, that sublime genius, whose reputation is so great in this country? You know not,” continued he, addressing himself to the innkeeper and his wife, “ you know not what you possess! You have a treasure in your
house! Behold in this young gentleman, the eighth wonder of the world!" Then turning to me, and throwing his arms about my neck, “ Forgive," cried he, “my transports ! I cannot contain the joy that your presence creates."
I could not answer for some time, because he locked me so close in his arms, that I was almost suffocated for want of breath; and it was not till I had disengaged my head from his embrace, that I replied “Signior Cavalier, I did not think my name was known at Penaflor." known !" resumed he in his former strain, “we keep a register of all the celebrated names within twenty leagues of us. You in particular are looked upon as a prodigy; and I don't at all doubt, that Spain will one day be as proud of you, as Greece was of her Seven Sages." These words were followed by a fresh hug, which I was forced to endure, though at the risk of strangulation. With the little experience I had, I ought not to have been the dupe of his pro
6 How !