Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
26. Nampont. The Dead Ass
AND THIS, said he, putting the remains of a crust into his walletand this should have been thy portion, said he, hadst thou been alive to have shared it with me. I thought by the accent, it had been an apostrophe to his child; but t was to his ass, and to the very ass we had seen dead in the road, which had occasioned La Fleurs misadventure. The man seemed to lament it much; and it instantly brought into my mind Sanchos lamentation for his; but he did it with more true touches of nature.
The mourner was sitting upon a stone bench at the door, with the asss pannel and its bridle on one side, which he took up from time to timethen laid them downlookd at them and shook his head. He then took his crust of bread out of his wallet again, as if to eat it; held it some time in his handthen laid it upon the bit of his asss bridlelooked wistfully at the little arrangement he had madeand then gave a sigh.
The simplicity of his grief drew numbers about him, and La Fleur amongst the rest, whilst the horses were getting ready; as I continued sitting in the post-chaise, I could see and hear over their heads.
He said he had come last from Spain, where he had been from the furthest borders of Franconia; and had got so far on his return home, when his ass died. Every one seemd desirous to know what business could have taken so old and poor a man so far a journey from his own home.
It had pleased Heaven, he said, to bless him with three sons, the finest lads in all Germany; but having in one week lost two of the eldest of them by the smallpox, and the youngest falling ill of the same distemper, he was afraid of being bereft of them all; and made a vow, if Heaven would not take him from him also, he would go in gratitude to St. Iago in Spain.
He said, Heaven had accepted the conditions, and that he had set out from his cottage with this poor creature, who had been a patient partner of his journeythat it had eat the same bread with him all the way, and was unto him as a friend.
Everybody who stood about, heard the poor fellow with concern.La Fleur offered him money.The mourner said, he did not want itit was not the value of the assbut the loss of him.The ass, he said, he was assured loved himand upon this told them a long story of a mischance upon their passage over the Pyrenean mountains, which had separated them from each other three days; during which time the ass had sought him as much as he had sought the ass, and that they had neither scarce eat or drank till they met.
Thou has one comfort, friend, said I, at least, in the loss of thy poor beast; Im sure thou hast been a merciful master to him.Alas! said the mourner, I thought so, when he was alivebut now that he is dead I think otherwise.I fear the weight of myself and my afflictions together have been too much for himthey have shortened the poor creatures days, and I fear I have them to answer for.Shame on the world! said I to myselfDid we love each other, as this poor soul but loved his asst would be something.