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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

He received a visit from the doctors of the Sorbonne

the curiosity of the Parisians.

"Sometimes, feeling bored by the confluence of spectators," says Duclos, "but never disconcerted, he would dismiss them with a word, a gesture, or would go away without ceremony, to stroll whither his fancy impelled him. He was a mighty tall man, very well made, rather lean, face rather round in shape, a high forehead, fine eyebrows, complexion reddish and brown, fine black eyes, large, lively, piercing; well-opened; a glance majestic and gracious when he cared for it, otherwise stern and fierce, with a tic that did not recur often, but that affected his eyes and his whole countenance, and struck terror. It lasted an instant, with a glance wild and terrible, and immediately passed away. His whole air indicated his intellect, his reflection, his grandeur, and did not lack a certain grace. In all his visits he combined a majesty the loftiest, the proudest, the most delicate, the most sustained, at the same time the least embarrassing when he had once established it, with a politeness which savored of it, always and in all cases; masterlike everywhere, but with degrees according to persons. He had a sort of familiarity which came of frankness, but he was not exempt from a strong impress of that barbarism of his country which rendered all his ways prompt and sudden, and his wishes uncertain, without bearing to be contradicted in any." Eating and drinking freely, getting drunk sometimes, rushing about the streets in hired coach, or cab, or the carriage of people who came to see
him, of which he took possession unceremoniously, he testified towards the Regent a familiar good grace mingled with a certain superiority; at the play, to which they went together, the czar asked for beer; the Regent rose, took the goblet which was brought and handed it to Peter, who drank, and, without moving, put the glass back on the tray which the Regent held all the while, with a slight inclination of the head, which, however, surprised the public. At his first interview with the little king, he took up the child in his arms, and kissed him over and over again, "with an air of tenderness and politeness which was full of nature, and nevertheless intermixed with a something of grandeur, equality of rank, and, slightly, superiority of age; for all that was distinctly perceptible." We know how he went to see Madame de Maintenon. One of his first visits was to the church of the Sorbonne; when he caught sight of Richelieu's monument, he ran up to it, embraced the statue, and, "Ah! great man," said he, "if thou wert still alive, I would give thee one half of my kingdom to teach me to govern the other."

[Illustration: Peter the Great and Little Louis XV----82]

The czar was for seeing everything, studying everything; everything interested him, save the court and its frivolities; he did not go to visit the princesses of the blood, and confined himself to saluting them coldly, whilst passing along a terrace; but he was present at a sitting of the Parliament and of the academies, he examined the organization of all the public establishments, he visited the shops of the celebrated workmen, he handled the coining-die whilst there was being struck in his honor a medal bearing a Fame with these words: _Vires acquiret eundo_ ('Twill gather strength as it goes.) He received a visit from the doctors of the Sorbonne, who brought him a memorial touching the reunion of the Greek and Latin Churches. "I am a mere soldier," said he, "but I will gladly have an examination made of the memorial you present to me." Amidst all his chatting, studying, and information-hunting, Peter the Great did not forget the political object of his trip. He wanted to detach France from Sweden, her heretofore faithful ally, still receiving a subsidy which the czar would fain have appropriated to himself. Together with his own alliance, he promised that of Poland and of Prussia. "France has nothing to fear from the emperor," he said; as for King George, whom he detested, "if any rupture should take place between him and the Regent, Russia would suffice to fill towards France the place of England as well as of Sweden."

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