CH. V. -- The course which Gil Blas took after the archbishop had given him his dismissal. His accidental meeting with the licentiate who was so deeply in his debt, and a picture of gratitude in the person of a parson.
I MADE the best of my way out of the closet, cursing the caprice, or more properly the dotage of the archbishop, and more in dudgeon at his absurdity, than cast down at the loss of his good graces. For some time it was a moot point whether I should go and lay claim to my hundred ducats; but after having weighed the matter dispassionately, I was not such a fool as to quarrel with my bread and butter. There was no reason why that money, fairly earned, should deprive me of my natural right to make a joke of this ridiculous prelate; in which good deed I promised myself not to be wanting, as often as himself or his homilies were brought upon the carpet in my hearing.
I went therefore and asked the treasurer for a hundred ducats, without telling a word about the literary warfare between his master and me. Afterwards I called on Melchior de la Ronda, to take a long leave of him. He was too much my friend not to sympathize with my misfortune. While I was telling my story vexation was strongly imprinted on my countenance. In spite of all his respect for the archbishop, he could not help blaming him; but, when in the fever of my resentment I threatened to be a match for the prelate, and to entertain the whole city at his expense, the prudent Melchior gave me a salutary caution: Take my advice, my dear Gil Blas, and rather pocket the affront. Men of a lower sphere in life should always be cap in hand to people of quality, whatever may be their grounds of complaint. It must be admitted, there are some very coarse specimens of greatness, which in themselves are scarcely deserving of the least respect or attention; but even such animals have their weapons of annoyance, and it is best to keep out of their way.
I thanked the old valet-de-chambre for the good counsel he had given me, and promised to be guided by it. Pleased with my deference to his opinion, he said to me: If you go to Madrid, be sure you call upon my nephew, Joseph Navarro. He is factotum in the family of Signor Don Balthazar de Zunigna, and I can venture to recommend him as a lad in every respect worthy of your friendship. He is just as nature made him, with all the vivacity of youth, courteous in his manners, and forward to oblige; I could wish you to get acquainted with him. I answered that I would not fail to go and see this Joseph Navarro as soon as I should get to Madrid, whither I meant to return in due time. Then did I turn my back on the episcopal palace, never to grace it with my presence again. If I had kept my horse, I should perhaps have set out for Toledo immediately; but I had sold it during the period of my administration, supposing that I was in office for life, and should not henceforward be migratory. My final resolution was to hire a ready-furnished lodging, as I had made up my mind to stay another month in Grenada, and then to pay the Count de Polan a visit.
As dinner-hour was drawing nigh, I asked my landlady if there was any eating-house in the neighbourhood. She answered that there was a very good one within a few yards of her house, where the accommodations were excellent, and the company select and numerous. I made her shew me where it was, and went thither sharp set. I was shewn into a large room, resembling the hall of a monastery in everything but good cheer. There were ten or a dozen men sitting at a long table, with a cloth spread over it that fretted in its own grease; but they, with unoffended nostrils, were engaged in general conversation, though they dined individually, each having a miserable scrap for his portion. The people of the house brought me my allowance, which at another time would have turned my stomach, and have made me sigh after the luxuries of the table I had just lost. But at this moment I was so indignant against the archbishop, that the homely fare of a paltry eating-house seemed more palatable than the dainties of his sumptuous board. It was a burning shame to see such a waste of provisions served up in soups and sauces to pamper the appetite. Arguing like a deep examiner in the economy of the human frame, and reasoning medically as well as philosophically, on the disproportion between the simple wants of nature and the complexity of luxurious indulgence; cursed be they, said I, who invented those pernicious dinners and suppers, where one must sit on the tenterhooks of self-denial, for fear of overloading the storehouse and shop of the whole body! Man wants but little here below; and provided he can but keep body and soul together, the less he eats the better. Thus did I, in my surly vein, give utterance to wise saws; which, however just in theory, had hitherto been little recommended by my practice.
While I was dispatching my commons, without any danger of a surfeit from repletion, the licentiate Lewis Garcias, who had got the living of Gabia in the manner above-mentioned, came into the room. The moment he recognized me, he ran into my arms with all the cordiality of friendship, or rather with the extravagant joy of a lover after a long exile from his mistress. He folded me repeatedly within his sincere embrace, and I was compelled to stand the brunt of a long-winded compliment on the unparalleled disinterestedness of my conduct towards him. Gratitude is a fine virtue; and yet it is wearisome when carried beyond due bounds! He took his seat next me, saying: Well! a parson must not swear; though by the mass, my dear patron, since my good fortune has thrown me in your way, we will not part without a jovial glass. But as there is no good wine in this shabby inn, I will take you, if you please, after our make-shift dinner, to a place where I will treat you with a couple of bottles, rich, genuine, and old, in comparison of which the Falernian of Horace was all a farce. The church will give us absolution, in the cause of gratitude! If I could but get you for a few days down at my parsonage of Gabia! Maecenas was never more welcome to the poet's Sabine farm, than the author of all my ease and comfort to the choicest produce of a glebe which is mine only by your benevolence.
While he was holding this high-flown language, his little slice of dinner was set before him. He fell to without the fear of indigestion before his eyes, still heightening the luxury of the repast at intervals, by fine speeches addressed to me in the most fulsome style of flattery. I took the opportunity, when his mouth was filled with something more substantial, to edge in a word or two amidst the torrent; and as he had not forgotten to ask after his friend the steward, I made no bones about acknowledging that I was no longer a hanger-on of the church. I even went so far as to particularize the most trivial circumstances attending my resignation, to all of which he listened with an attentive ear. After all his fine professions, who would not have expected to see him moved even to tears with the throes of resentful gratitude, to hear him thunder bulls and interdicts against the superannuated archbishop? The devil a bit! he did neither the one thing nor the other. But his countenance fell, and his whole air was that of an absent man; the rest of his dinner was bolted down without the garnish of intermediate talk about Maecenas; as soon as he had done, he hurried from table without minding grace or gratitude, wished me good day with a cold and distant air, and got off as fast as possible. The unfeeling scoundrel, perceiving that I was no longer in a situation for him to pump anything out of me, would not even take the trouble to draw a decent veil over his dirty principles. But such a blackguard could excite no other sensation than contempt and laughter. Looking at him with derision, the fittest chastisement for fellows like these, I called after him loud enough to be heard by the whole room: Stop there, you nun's priest! Go and put those two bottles in ice against Maecenas comes to the Sabine farm! Be sure they are rich, genuine, and old; or they will be a farce to Falernian.