Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
46. The Sword. Rennes
WHEN states and empires have their periods of declension, and feel in their turns what distress and poverty isI stop not to tell the causes which gradually brought the house dE in Brittany into decay. The Marquis dE had fought up against his condition with great firmness; wishing to preserve, and still show to the world some little fragments of what his ancestors had beentheir indiscretions had put it out of his power. There was enough left for the little exigencies of obscuritybut he had two boys who lookd up to him for lighthe thought they deserved it. He had tried his swordit could not open the waythe mounting was too expensiveand simple economy was not a match for itthere was no resource but commerce.
In any other province in France, save Brittany, this was smiting the root forever of the little tree his pride and affection wishd to see reblossomBut in Brittany, there being a provision for this, he availd himself of it; and taking an occasion when the states were assembled at Rennes, the Marquis, attended with his two boys, enterd the court; and having pleaded the right of an ancient law of the duchy, which, though seldom claimd, he said, was no less in force, he took his sword from his sideHeresaid hetake it; and be trusty guardians of it, till better times put me in condition to reclaim it.
The Marquis and his whole family embarked the next day for Martinico, and in about nineteen or twenty years of successful application to business, with some unlookd-for bequests from distant branches of his housereturnd home to reclaim his nobility and to support it.
It was an incident of good fortune which will never happen to any traveler, but a sentimental one, that I should be at Rennes at the very time of this solemn requisition: I call it solemnit was so to me.
The Marquis enterd the court with his whole family: he supported his ladyhis eldest son supported his sister, and his youngest was at the other extreme of the line next his motherhe put his handkerchief to his face twice
There was a dead silence. When the Marquis had approachd within six paces of the tribunal, he gave the Marchioness to his youngest son, and advancing three steps before his familyhe reclaimd his sword. His sword was given him, and the moment he got it into his hand, he drew it almost out of the scabbardt was the shining face of a friend he had once given uphe lookd attentively along it, beginning at the hilt, as if to see whether it was the samewhen observing a little rust which it had contracted near the point, he brought it near his eye, and bending his head down over itI think I saw a tear fall upon the place: I could not be deceived by what followed.