CH. XV. -- Gil Blas dresses himself to more advantage, and receives a second present from the lady. His equipage on setting out from Burgos.

 

THEY served me up a plentiful fricassee of sheep's trotters, almost the whole of which I demolished. My drinking kept pace with my eating: and when I could stuff no longer, I went to bed. I lay comfortably enough, and was in hopes that a sound sleep would have the kindness without delay to commit a friendly invasion on my senses. But I could not close an eye for ruminating on the dress I should choose. What shall I do, thought I? Shall I follow my first plan? Shall I buy a short cassock, and go to Salamanca to set up for a tutor? Why should I adopt the costume of a licentiate? For the purpose of going into orders? Do I feel an inward call? No? If I have any call, it is quite the contrary way. I had rather wear a sword than an apron: and push my fortune in this world, before I think of the next.

I made up my mind to take on myself the appearance of a gentleman. Waiting for the day with the greatest impatience, its first dawn no sooner greeted my eyes, than I got up. I made such an uproar in the inn, as to wake the most inveterate sleeper, and called the servants out of bed, who returned my salute with a volley of curses. But they found themselves under a necessity of stirring, and I let them have no rest till they had sent for a broker. The gentleman soon made his appearance, followed by two lads, each lugging in a great bundle of green cloth. He accosted me very civilly, to the following effect: Honoured sir, you are a happy man to have been recommended to me rather than any one else. I do not mean to give my brethren an ill word: God forbid I should offer the slightest injury to their reputation! They have none to spare. But, between ourselves, there is not one of them that has any bowels; they are more extortionate than the Israelites. There is not a broker but myself that has any moral sense. I keep within the bounds of a reasonable profit. I am satisfied with a pound in the penny; -- no, no! -- that is wrong: -- with a penny in the pound. Thanks to heaven, I get forward fair and softly in the world.

The broker, after this preface, which I, like a fool, took for chapter and verse, told his journeymen to undo their bundles. They showed me suits of every colour in the rainbow, and exposed to sale a great choice of plain cloths. These I threw aside with contempt, as thinking them too undrest; but they made me try on one which fitted me as well as if I had been measured for it, and just hit my fancy, though it was a little the worse for wear. It was a doublet with slashed sleeves, with breeches and a cloak, the whole of blue velvet with a gold embroidery. I felt a little hankering after this particular article, and attempted to beat down the price. The broker, who saw my inclination, told me I had a very correct taste. By all that is sacred! exclaimed he, it is plain you are no younker. Take this with you! That dress was made for one of the first nobility in the kingdom, and has not been on his back three times. Look at the velvet; feel it: nothing can be richer or of a better colour; and for the embroidery, come now! tell truth: did you ever see better workmanship? What is the price of it? said I. Only sixty ducats, replied he. I have refused the money, or else I am a liar. The alternative could not fail in one proposition or the other. I bid five and forty: two or three and twenty would have been nearer the mark. My worthy master, said the broker coolly, I never ask too much. I have but one price. But here, added he, holding up the suits I had thrown aside; take these: I can afford to sell them a better bargain. All this only inflamed my eagerness to buy what I was cheapening; and as I had no idea that he would have made any abatement, I paid him down sixty ducats. When he saw how easily a fool and his money were parted, I verily believe that in spite of the moral sense, he heartily repented not having taken a hint from the extortionate Israelite. But reconciling himself as well as he could to the small profit, to which he professed to confine himself, of a pound upon a penny, he retreated with his journeymen. I was not suffered to forget that they must have something for their trouble.

I had now a cloak, a doublet, and a very decent pair of breeches. The rest of my wardrobe was to be thought of: and this took up the whole morning. I bought some linen, a hat, silk stockings, shoes, and a sword; and concluded by putting on my purchases. What pleasure was it to see myself so well accoutred! My eyes were never cloyed, as it were, with the richness of my attire. Never did peacock look at his own plumage with less philosophy. On that very day, I paid a second visit to Donna Mencia, who received me with her usual affability. She thanked me over again for the service I had rendered her. On that subject, rapid was the interchange of compliments. Then, wishing every kind of success, she bade me farewell, and withdrew, without giving me anything but a ring worth thirty pistoles, which she begged me to keep as a remembrance.

I looked very foolish with my ring! I had reckoned on a much more considerable present. Thus, little satisfied with the lady's bounty, I measured back my steps in a very musing attitude: but as I entered the inn door, a man over took me, and throwing off his wrapping cloak, discovered a large bag under his arm. At the vision of the bag, apparently full of current coin, I stood gaping as did most of the company present. The voice of angel or archangel could not have been sweeter, than when this messenger of earthly dross, laying the bag upon the table, said: Signor Gil Blas, the lady marchioness desires her compliments. I bowed the bearer out, with an accumulation of fine speeches; and, as soon as his back was turned, pounced upon the bag, like a hawk upon its quarry, and bore it between my talons to my chamber. I untied it without loss of time, and the contents were; -- a thousand ducats! The landlord who had overheard the bearer, came in just as I had done counting them, to know what was in the bag. The sight of my riches displayed upon a table, struck him in a very forcible manner. What the devil! here is a sum of money! So, so! you are the man! pursued he with a waggish sort of leer, you know how to -- tickle the -- fancies of the ladies! Four and twenty hours only have you been in Burgos, and marchionesses, I warrant you, have surrendered at the first summons!

This discourse was not so much amiss. I was half inclined to leave Majuelo in his error; for it flattered my vanity. I do not wonder young fellows are fond of passing for men of gallantry. But as yet the purity of my morals was proof against the suggestions of my pride. I undeceived my landlord, by telling him Donna Mencia's story, to which he listened very attentively. Afterwards I let him into the state of my affairs; and, as he seemed to take an interest in them, besought him to assist me with his advice. He ruminated for some time; then said with a serious air: Master Gil Blas, I have taken a liking to you; and since you are candid enough to open your heart to me, I will tell you sincerely what I think would suit you best. You were evidently born for a court life: I recommend you to go thither, and to get about the person of some considerable nobleman. But make a point either of getting at his secrets, or administering to his pleasures; unless you do that, it will be all lost time in his family. I know the great: they reckon nothing upon the zeal and attachment of a real friend; but only care for pimping sycophants. You have, besides, another string to your bow. You are young, with an attractive person: parts out of the question, for they are not at all times necessary, it is hard if you cannot turn the head of some rich widow, or handsome wife with a broomstick for her husband. Love may ruin men of fortune; but it makes amends by feathering the nests of those who have none. My vote, therefore, is for Madrid: but you must not make your appearance there without an establishment. There, as elsewhere, people judge by the outside; and you will only be respected according to the figure you make. I will find you a servant, a tried domestic, a prudent lad; in a word, a fellow of my own creation. Buy a couple of mules; one for yourself, the other for him: and set off as fast as you can.

This counsel was too palatable to be refused. On the day following I purchased two fine mules, and bargained with my new servant. He was a young man of thirty, of a very simple and godly appearance. He told me he was a native of Galicia, by name Ambrose de Lamela. Other servants are selfish, and think they never can have wages enough. This fellow assured me he was a man of few wants, and should be contented with whatever I had the goodness to give him. I bought a pair of boots, with a portmanteau to lock up my linen and my money. Having settled with my landlord, I set out from Burgos the next morning before sun-rise, on my way to Madrid.

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