Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
WHEN all is ready, and every article is disputed and paid for in the inn, unless you are a little sourd by the adventure, there is always a matter to the compound at the door, before you can get into your chaise, and that is with the sons and daughters of poverty, who surround you. Let no man say, let them go to the devilt is a cruel journey to send a few miserables, and they have had sufferings enow without it: I always think it better to take a few sous out in my hand; and I would counsel every gentle traveler to do so likewise; he need not be so exact in setting down his motives for giving them.They will be registerd elsewhere.
A poor tatterd soul, without a shirt on, instantly withdrew his claim, by retiring two steps out of the circle, and making a disqualifying bow on his part. Had the whole parterre cried out, Place aux dames, with one voice, it would not have conveyed the sentiment of a deference for the sex with half the effect.
A poor little dwarfish, brisk fellow, who stood over against me in the circle, putting something first under his arm, which had once been a hat, took his snuff-box out of his pocket, and generously offerd a pinch on both sides of him: it was a gift of consequence, and modestly declined.The poor little fellow pressd it upon them with a nod of welcomeness.Prenez enprenez, said he, looking another way; so they each took a pinch.Pity thy box should ever want one, said I to myself; so I put a couple of sous into ittaking a small pinch out of his box to enhance their value, as I did it.He felt the weight of the second obligation more than that of the firstt was doing him an honorthe other was only doing him a charityand he made me a bow down to the ground for it.
I had then but three sous left: so I gave one, simply pour lamour de Dieu, which was the footing on which it was beggd.The poor woman had a dislocated hip; so it could not be well upon any other motive.
My Lord Angloisthe very sound was worth the moneyso I gave my last sous for it. But in the eagerness of giving, I had overlooked a pauvre honteux, who had no one to ask a sou for him, and who, I believed, would have perishd ere he could have askd one for himself; he stood by the chaise, a little without the circle, and wiped a tear from a face which I thought had seen better daysGood God! said Iand I have not one single sou left to give him.But you have a thousand! cried all the powers of nature, stirring within meso I gave himno matter whatI am ashamed to say how much, nowand was ashamed to think how little, then: so if the reader can form any conjecture of my disposition, as these two fixed points are given him, he may judge within a livre or two what was the precise sum.
I could afford nothing for the rest, but Dieu vous bénisseEt le bon Dieu vous bénisse encoresaid the old soldier, the dwarf, &c. The pauvre honteux could say nothinghe pulld out a little handkerchief, and wiped his face as he turned awayand I thought he thankd me more than them all.