(Extract from “Recollections of a Page at the Court of Louis XVI: Chapter, The Pages,” by Charles-Alexandre-François-Felix, Comte de France de Hézecques, Baron de Mailly. (Author Hézecques born 7-30-1774, died August 1835.) Originally written 1804. Edited, from the French, by Charlotte M. Yonge, 1873)
[NOTE from K.M. What was life really like for a young aristocrat serving as a page to the King of France and taking early life lessons from the paramilitary organization of the Grand Stable? From 1784, from the age of 12 through the age of 18, this young Count served his King…read on for a very interesting story.]
“The imagination always recurs with delight to the happy days of youth. In the thorny paths of life, a moment of sweet satisfaction is often felt in turning the thoughts to these peaceful years of tender age when the only sorrow was to be thwarted in some little project, when privations were so short, and tears so soon forgotten.”
(Lilith: A Romance by George MacDonald, excerpt Chapter XXXI. First published in 1895. Detail from “The Prince Rode Out In The Moonlight” by John Bauer, 1882-1918.)
I stood and watched the last gleam of the white leopardess melt away, then turned to follow my guide—but reluctantly. What had I to do with sleep? Surely reason was the same in every world, and what reason could there be in going to sleep with the dead, when the hour was calling the live man? Besides, no one would wake me, and how could I be certain of waking early—of waking at all?—the sleepers in that house let morning glide into noon, and noon into night, nor ever stirred! I murmured, but followed, for I knew not what else to do.
The librarian walked on in silence, and I walked silent as he. Time and space glided past us. The sun set; it began to grow dark, and I felt in the air the spreading cold of the chamber of death. My heart sank lower and lower. I began to lose sight of the lean, long-coated figure, and at length could no more hear his swishing stride through the heather. But then I heard instead the slow-flapping wings of the raven; and, at intervals, now a firefly, now a gleaming butterfly rose into into the rayless air. By and by the moon appeared, slow crossing the far horizon.
“You are tired, are you not, Mr. Vane?” said the raven, alighting on a stone. “You must make acquaintance with the horse that will carry you in the morning!”
He gave a strange whistle through his long black beak. A spot appeared on the face of the half-risen moon. To my ears came presently the drumming of swift, soft-galloping hoofs, and in a minute or two, out of the very disc of the moon, low-thundered the terrible horse.
Where would we be without the generosity, courage, and friendship (and sacrifice) of the horse?
(© Herman Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976), pp 271-2. Photograph: Roadway and quay at Regent Quay West, Aberdeen, Scotland. More information at bottom of post.)
“Among all the sights of the docks, the noble truck-horses are not the least striking to a stranger. They are large and powerful brutes, with such sleek and glossy coats, that they look as if brushed and put on by a valet every morning. They march with a slow and stately step, lifting their ponderous hoofs like royal Siam elephants.