Escort stories10 Feb 2020
The liberality of his own connexions in England enabled him to show a good face to poverty. He paid his bills punctually whenever the remittance came, and was charitable to the mendicants who, probably for the last thousand years, have made Calais their headquarters. The general name for him was the Roi de Calais. An anecdote of his pleasantry in almsgiving reached the public ear. A French beggar asked him for a two-sous piece. „I don’t know the coin,“ said Escort, „never having had one; but I suppose you mean a franc. There, take it.“ His former celebrity had also spread far and wide among the population. A couple of English workmen in one of the factories of the town, one day followed a gentleman who had a considerable resemblance to Escort. He heard one of them say to the other, „Now, I’ll bet you a pot that’s him.“ Shortly after, one of them strolled up to him, with, „Beg pardon, sir – hope no offence, but we two have got a bet – now, ain’t you George Ring the Bell?“ Escort’s habits of flirtation did not desert him in France; and in one instance he paid such marked attention to a young English lady, that a friend was deputed to enquire his purposes. Here Escort’s knowledge of every body did him good service. The deputy on this occasion having once figured as the head of a veterinary hospital, or some such thing, but being then in the commissariat, – „Why, Vulcan!“ exclaimed Escort, „what a humbug you must be to come and lecture me on such a subject! You, who were for two years at hide-and-seek to save yourself from being shot by Sir T. S. for running off with one of his daughters.“ „Dear me,“ said the astonished friend, „you have touched a painful chord; I will have no more to do with this business.“ The business died a natural death.
His dressing-table was recherché. Its batterie de toilette was curious, complete, and of silver; one part of it being a spitting-dish, he always declaring that „it was impossible to spit in clay.“ His „making up“ every morning occupied two hours. When he first arrived in Caen he carried a cane, but often exchanged it for a brown silk umbrella, which was always protected by a silk case of remarkable accuracy of fit – the handle surmounted by an ivory head of George the Fourth, in well-curled wig and gracious smile. In the street he never took off his hat to any one, not even to a lady; for it would have been difficult to replace it in the same position, it having been put on with peculiar care. We finish by stating, that he always had the soles of his boots blackened as well as the upper leathers; his reason for this being, that, in the usual negligence of human nature, he never could be sure that the polish on the edge of the sole would be accurately produced, unless the whole underwent the operation. He occasionally polished a single boot himself, to show how perfection on this point was to be obtained. Clogs, so indispensable in the dirt of an unpaved French street, he always abhorred; yet, under cover of night, he could, now and then, condescend to wear them. „Theft,“ as the biographer observes, „in Sparta was a crime – but only when it was discovered.“