I was not sorry to see Strasburg, of the wonders of which I had heard so much; but felt very loth as the time drew near when I must quit my pretty cousin, and my good old uncle. Mary and I managed, however, a parting walk, in which a number of tender things were said on both sides. I am told that you Englishmen consider it cowardly to cry; as for me, I wept and roared incessantly: when Mary squeezed me, for the last time, the tears came out of me as if I had been neither more nor less than a great wet sponge. My cousin's eyes were stoically dry; her ladyship had a part to play, and it would have been wrong for her to be in love with a young chit of fourteen--so she carried herself with perfect coolness, as if there was nothing the matter. I should not have known that she cared for me, had it not been for a letter which she wrote me a month afterwards--Then, nobody was by, and the consequence was that the letter was half washed away with her weeping; if she had used a watering-pot the thing could not have been better done.
Well, I arrived at Strasburg--a dismal, old-fashioned, rickety town in those days--and straightway presented myself and letter at Schneider's door; over it was written--
COMIT? DE SALUT PUBLIC.
Would you believe it? I was so ignorant a young fellow, that I had no idea of the meaning of the words; however, I entered the citizen's room without fear, and sat down in his ante-chamber until I could be admitted to see him.
Here I found very few indications of his reverence's profession; the walls were hung round with portraits of Robespierre, Marat, and the like; a great bust of Mirabeau, mutilated, with the word Tra?tre underneath; lists and republican proclamations, tobacco- pipes and fire-arms. At a deal-table, stained with grease and wine, sat a gentleman, with a huge pigtail dangling down to that part of his person which immediately succeeds his back, and a red nightcap, containing a Tricolor cockade as large as a pancake. He was smoking a short pipe, reading a little book, and sobbing as if his heart would break. Every now and then he would make brief remarks upon the personages or the incidents of his book, by which I could judge that he was a man of the very keenest sensibilities-- 'Ah, brigand!' 'O malheureuse!' 'O Charlotte, Charlotte!' The work which this gentleman was perusing is called 'The Sorrows of Werter;' it was all the rage, in those days, and my friend was only following the fashion. I asked him if I could see Father Schneider? he turned towards me a hideous, pimpled face, which I dream of now at forty years' distance.
'Father who?' said he. 'Do you imagine that citizen Schneider has not thrown off the absurd mummery of priesthood? If you were a little older you would go to prison for calling him Father Schneider--many a man has died for less;' and he pointed to a picture of a guillotine, which was hanging in the room.
I was in amazement.
'What is he? Is he not a teacher of Greek, an abb?, a monk, until monasteries were abolished, the learned editor of the songs of 'Anacreon?''
'He WAS all this,' replied my grim friend; 'he is now a Member of the Committee of Public Safety, and would think no more of ordering your head off than of drinking this tumbler of beer.'
He swallowed, himself, the frothy liquid, and then proceeded to give me the history of the man to whom my uncle had sent me for instruction.