Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
11. The Remise Door. Calais
THIS certainly, fair lady! said I, raising her hand up a little lightly as I began, must be one of Fortunes whimsical doings: to take two utter strangers by their handsof different sexes, and perhaps from different corners of the globe, and in one moment place them together in such a cordial situation as Friendship herself could scarce have achieved for them, had she projected it for a month.
When the situation is what we would wish, nothing is so ill-timed as to hint at the circumstances which make it so. You thank Fortune, continued sheyou had reasonthe heart knew it, and was satisfied; and who but an English philosopher would have sent notices of it to the brain to reverse the judgment?
It is a miserable picture which I am going to give of the weakness of my heart, by owning that it suffered a pain, which worthier occasions could not have inflicted.I was mortified with the loss of her hand, and the manner in which I had lost it carried neither oil nor wine to the wound: I never felt the pain of a sheepish inferiority so miserably in my life.
The triumphs of a true feminine heart are short upon these discomfitures. In a very few seconds she laid her hand upon the cuff of my coat, in order to finish her reply; so some way or other, God knows how, I regained my situation.
I forthwith began to model a different conversation for the lady, thinking from the spirit as well as moral of this, that I had been mistaken in her character; but upon turning her face towards me, the spirit which had animated the reply was fledthe muscles relaxed, and I beheld the same unprotected look of distress which first won me to her interest.Melancholy! to see such sprightliness the prey of sorrow.I pitied her from my soul; and though it may seem ridiculous enough to a torpid heart,I could have taken her into my arms, and cherished her, though it was in the open street, without blushing.
I fear, in this interval, I must have made some slight efforts towards a closer compression of her hand, from a subtle sensation I felt in the palm of my ownnot as if she was going to withdraw hersbut as if she thought about itand I had infallibly lost it a second time, had not instinct more than reason directed me to the last resource in these dangersto hold it loosely and in a manner as if I was every moment going to release it of myself; so she let it continue till Monsieur Dessein returned with the key; and in the mean time I set myself to consider how I should undo the ill impressions which the poor monks story, in case he had told it her, must have planted in her breast against me.