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STRANGER IN FRANCE.
arrival, the town of Southampton was in a bustle, occasioned by the flocking in of a great number of French'emigrants, who were returning to their own country in consequence of a mild decree which had been passed in their favour. The scene was truly interesting, and the sentiment which it excited de lightful to the heart.
A respectable curé, who dined in the same room with us at our inn, was observed to eat very little; upon being pressed to enlarge his meal, this amiable man said, with tears starting in his eyes, “ Alas! I have no appetite; a very short time will bring me amongst the scenes of my nativity, my youth, and my happiness, from which a remorseless revolution has parted me for these ten long years; I shall ask for those who are dear to me, and find then for ever gone: those who are left will fill my mind with the most afflicting descriptions; no, I cannot eat, my good sir."
About noon, these unfortunate exiles had deposited their baggage upon the quay, which formed a pile of old portmanteaus, and battered trunks. Parties remained to protect them, previous to their embarkam tion. The sun was intensely hot, they were seated under the shade of tattered umbrellas, which looked as if they had been the companions of their banish. ment.
Their countenances appeared strongly marked with the pious character of resignation, over which were to be seen a sweetness and corrected animation, expressive of the heart's delight upon returning to its
Native home, erected wherever it may be, and the regret of leaving a nation, which, in the hour of flight and misery, had nobly enrolled them in the list, of her own children, and had covered them with protection.
To the eternal honour of these unhappy, but excellent people, be it observed, that they have proved themselves worthy to be received into such a sanctuary. Our coantry has enjoyed the benefit of their unblemished morals, and their mild, polite, and unassuming manners, and wherever destiny has placed them, they have industriously relieved the national burden attending their support, by diffusing the knowledge of a language, which has in consequence become very general, and, from its great utility as well as beauty, ought to be considered as an importa , ant branch of education.
Amongst these groups were some females, the wives and daughters of Toulonese merchants, who left their city when lord Hood abandoned that port. The politeness and attention which were paid to them by the men were truly pleasing. It was the good breeding of elegant habits, retaining all their softness in the midst of adversity, sweetened by the sympathy of mutual and similar sufferings.
They had finished their dinner, and were drinking their favourite beverage of coffee. Poor wanderers ! the water was scarcely turned brown with the few grains which remained of what they had purchased for their journey:
I addressed them, by telling them, that I should have the happiness of being a passenger with them in the same vessel; they said they were fortunate to have in their company one of that nation which would be dear to them as long as they lived. A genteel middle aged woman offered to open a little parcel of fresh coffee, which she had purchased in the town for the voyage, and begged to make some for me. By her manner, she seemed to wish me to consider
it more as the humble tribute of gratitude than of politeness, or perhaps both were blended in the offer. In the afternoon, their baggage was searched by the revenue officers, who, on this occasion, exer: cised a liberal gentleness, which gave but little trou. ble, and no pain. They who brought nothing into a country but the recollection of their miseries, were not very likely to carry much out of it but the remembrance of its generosity.
At seven o'clock in the evening we were all on board, and sailed with a gentle breeze down the river: we carried with us a good stock of vegetables, which we procured fresh, from the admirable market of Southampton. Upon going down into the cabin, I was struck, and at first shocked, with seeing a very aged man, stretched at his length upon pillows and clothes, placed on the floor, attended by two clergymen, and some women, who, in their attentions to this apparently dying old gentleman, seemed to have forgotten their own comfortless situation, arising from so many persons being crowded in so small a space, for our numbers above and below amounted to sixty. Upon inquiry, they informed me, that the person whose appearance had so affected me, had been a clergyman of great repute and esteem at Havre, that he was then past the age of ninety-five years, scarcely expected to survive our short voyage, but anxious to breathe his last in his own country. They spoke of him as a man who, in other times, and in the vigour of his faculties, had often, from his pulpit, struck with terror and contrition the trembling souls of auditors, by the force of his exalted eloquence; who had embellished the society in which he moved, with his elegant attainments; and who had relieved the unhappy, with an enlarged heart and munificent hand. A mere mass of misery and help. less infirmities remained of all these noble qualities!
The appearance of the coast of Havre is high, rugged, and rocky; to use a good marine expression, it looked ironbound all along shore. To the east, upon an elevated point of land, are two noble light houses, of very beautiful construction, which I shall have occasion to describe hereafter.
At some little distance, we saw considerable Aights of wild ducks. The town and bason lie round the high western point from the lights, below which there is a fine pebbled beach. The quays are to the right and left within the pier, upon the latter of which there is a sinall round tower. It was not the inten tion of our packet-captain to anchor within the pier, for the purpose of saving the port anchorage dues, which amount to eight pounds sterling, but a government boat came off, and ordered the vessel close up to the quay, an order which was given in rather a peremptory manner. Upon our turning the pier, we saw, as we warped up to the quay, an immense motley crowd focķing down to view us. A panic ran throughout our poor fellow passengers. From the noise and confusion on shore, they expected that some recent revolution had occurred, and that they were upon the point of experiencing all the calamities which they had before fled from; they looked pale and agitated upon each other. It turned out, how.. ever, that mere curiosity, excited by the display of English colours, had assembled this formidable rabble. Upon the landing of the emigrants, we were much pleased to observe that the people offered them neither violence nor insult. They were received with a sullen silence, and a lane was made for them to pass into the town. At the custom-heuse, notwithstanding wh 1 the English papers have said of the conduct of the revenue officers, we were very civilly treated, our boxes were only just opened, and sone of our packages were not examined at all. Away we had them whirled to the Hôtel de la Paix, the front of which looks upon the wet-dock, and is embellished with a large board, upon which is recorded in yellow characters, as usual, the superior advantages of this house over every other hotel in Havre. Upon our arrival, we were ushered up a large dirty staircase into a lofty room, upon the first floor, all the windows of which were open, divided, as they always are in France, in the middle, like folding doors; the floor was tiled; a deal table, some common rush chairs, two very fine pier glasses, and chandeliers to correspond, composed our motley furniture. It was a good specimen of French inns in general. We were followed by our hostess, the porter, two cooks, with caps on their heads, which had once been white, and large knives in their hands, who were succeeded by two chamber-maids, all looking in the greatest hurry and confusion, and all talking together, with a velocity and vehemence which rendered the faculty of hearing almost a misfortune. They appeared highly delighted to see us, talked of our dress, sir Sidney Smith, the blockade, the noble English, the peace, and a train of etceteras. At length we ob tained a little cessation, of which we immediately seized the advantage, by directing them to shew us to our bed-rooms, to procure abundance of water hot and cold, to get us a good breakfast as soon as possible, and to prepare a good dinner for us at four o'clock. Amidst a peal of tongues, this clamorous procession retired.
After we had performed our necessary ablutions, and had enjoyed the luxury of fresh linen, we sat down to some excellent coffee, accompanied with boiled milk, long, delicious rolls, and tolerably good butter, but found no knives upon the table; which, by the bye, every traveller in France is presumed to carry with him: having mislaid my own, I requested the maid to bring me one. The person of this damsel would certainly have suffered by a comparison with those flagrant fowers to which young poets resemble their beloved mistresses; as soon as I had preferred my prayer, she very deliberately drew from ter pocket a large clasp knife, which, after she had