Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
64. Maria. Moulines
I NEVER felt what the distress of plenty was in any one shape till nowto travel it through the Bourbonnois, the sweetest part of Francein the heyday of the vintage, when Nature is pouring her abundance into every ones lap, and every eye is lifted upa journey through each step of which Music beats time to Labor, and all her children are rejoicing as they carry in their clustersto pass through this with my affections flying out, and kindling at every group before meand every one of em was pregnant with adventures.
Just heaven!it would fill up twenty volumesand alas! I have but a few small pages left of this to crowd it intoand half of these must be taken up with the poor Maria my friend Mr. Shandy met with near Moulines.
The story he had told of that disorderd maid affected me not a little in the reading; but when I got within the neighborhood where she livd, it returned so strong into my mind, that I could not resist an impulse which prompted me to go half a league out of the road, to the village where her parents dwelt, to inquire after her.
T is going, I own, like the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, in quest of melancholy adventuresbut I know not how it is, but I am never so perfectly conscious of the existence of a soul within me, as when I am entangled in them.
The old mother came to the door, her looks told me the story before she opend her mouth.She had lost her husband; he had died, she said, of anguish, for the loss of Marias senses, about a month before.She had feared at first, she added, that it would have plunderd her poor girl of what little understanding was leftbut, on the contrary, it had brought her more to herselfstill she could not resther poor daughter, she said, crying, was wandering somewhere about the road
Why does my pulse beat languid as I write this? and what made La Fleur, whose heart seemd only to be tund to joy, to pass the back of his hand twice across his eyes, as the woman stood and told it? I beckond to the postilion to turn back into the road.
When we had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little opening in the road leading to a thicket, I discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplarshe was sitting with her elbow in her lap, and her head leaning on one side within her handa small brook ran at the foot of the tree.
She was dressd in white, and much as my friend described her, except that her hair hung loose, which before was twisted within a silk net.She had, superadded likewise to her jacket, a pale-green ribband, which fell across her shoulder to the waist; at the end of which hung her pipe.Her goat had been as faithless as her lover: and she had got a little dog in lieu of him, which she had kept tied by a string to her girdle: as I lookd at her dog, she drew him towards her with the string.Thou shalt not leave me, Sylvio, said she. I lookd in Marias eyes, and saw she was thinking more of her father than of her lover or her little goat, for as she utterd them, the tears trickled down her cheeks.
I sat down close by her; and Maria let me wipe them away as they fell, with my handkerchief.I then steepd it in my ownand then in hersand then in mineand then I wipd hers againand as I did it, I felt such undescribable emotions within me, as I am sure could not be accounted for from any combinations of matter and motion.