Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
9. In the Street. Calais
IT must needs to be a hostile kind of a world, when the buyer (if it be but of a sorry post-chaise) cannot go forth with the seller thereof into the street, to terminate the difference betwixt them, but he instantly falls into the same frame of mind, and views his conventionist with the same sort of eye, as if he was going along with him to Hyde Park Corner to fight a duel. For my own part, being but a poor swordsman, and no way a match for Monsieur Dessein, I felt the rotation of all the movements within me to which the situation is incident.I looked at Monsieur Dessein through and througheyd him as he walked along in profilethen, en facethought he lookd like a Jewthen a Turkdisliked his wigcursd him by my godswishd him at the devil
And is all this to be lighted up in the heart for a beggarly account of three or four louis dors, which is the most I can be overreachd in?Base passion! said I, turning myself about, as a man naturally does upon a sudden reverse of sentimentbase ungentle passion! thy hand is against every man, and every mans hand against theeHeaven forbid! said she, raising her hand up to her forehead, for I had turned full in front upon the lady whom I had seen in conference with the monkshe had followed us unperceived.Heaven forbid, indeed! said I, offering her my ownshe had a black pair of silk gloves, open only at the thumb and two forefingers, so accepted it without reserveand I led her up to the door of the Remise.
Monsieur Dessein had diabled the key above fifty times, before he found out he had come with a wrong one in his hand: we were as impatient as himself to have it opend; and so attentive to the obstacle, that I continued holding her hand almost without knowing it: so that Monsieur Dessein left us together, with her hand in mine, and with our faces turned towards the door of the Remise, and said he would be back in five minutes.
Now a colloquy of five minutes, in such a situation, is worth one of as many ages, with your faces turned towards the street. In the latter case, t is drawn from the objects and occurrences withoutwhen your eyes are fixed upon a dead blankyou draw purely from yourselves. A silence of a single moment upon Monsieur Desseins leaving us, had been fatal to the situationshe had infallibly turned aboutso I begun the conversation instantly.
But what were the temptations (as I write not to apologize for the weaknesses of my heart in this tour,but to give an account of them) shall be described with the same simplicity with which I felt them.