A French Charlatan
About four years ago, a man of imposing figure, wearing a large sabre and immense mustachios, arrived at one of the principal inns of a provincial city in France, accompanied with a female of agreeable shape and enchanting mien. He alighted at the moment that dinner was serving up at the table d’hôte. At his martial appearance all the guests rose, with respect; they felt assured that it must be a lieutenant-general, or a major-general at least. A new governor was expected in the province about this time, and every body believed that it was he who had arrived incognito. The officer of gendarmerie gave him the place of honour, the comptroller of the customs and the receiver of taxes sat by the side of Madame, and exerted their wit and gallantry to the utmost. All the tit-bits, all the most exquisite wines, were placed before the fortunate couple.
At length the party broke up, and every one ran to report through the city that Monsieur the governor had arrived. But oh! what was their surprise, when the next day his excellency, clad in a scarlet coat, and his august companion dressed out in a gown glittering with tinsel, mounted a small open calash, and preceded by some musicians, went about the squares and public ways, selling Swiss tea and balm of Mecca.
How shall we describe the fury of the guests? They go and complain to the mayor, and demand that the audacious quack should be compelled to lay aside the characteristic mark of the brave. The prudent magistrate assembled the common council; and those respectable persons, after a long deliberation, considering that nothing in the charter forbids the citizens to let their beard grow on their upper lip, dismissed the complaint altogether.
The same evening the supposed governor gave a serenade to the complainants, and the next day took his leave, and continued his journey amidst the acclamations of the people; who, in small as well as in great cities, are very apt to become passionately fond of charlatans.
From The cabinet of curiosities, or, Wonders of the world displayed,London, Printed for J. Limbird, 1824.