Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
14. In the Street. Calais
HAVING, on first sight of the lady, settled the affair in my fancy, that she was of the better order of beingsand then laid it down as a second axiom, as indisputable as the first, that she was a widow, and wore a character of distressI went no further; I got ground enough for the situation which pleased meand had she remained. close beside my elbow till midnight, I should have held true to my system, and considered her only under that general idea.
She had scarce got twenty paces distant from me, ere something within me called out for a more particular inquiryit brought on the idea of a further separationI might possibly never see her morethe heart is for saving what it can; and I wanted the traces thro which my wishes might find their way to her, in case I should never rejoin her myself: in a word, I wishd to know her nameher familysher condition; and as I knew the place to which she was going, I wanted to know from whence she came: but there was no coming at all this intelligence: a hundred little delicacies stood in the way. I formd a score different plansThere was no such thing as a mans asking her directlythe thing was impossible.
A little French débonnaire captain, who came dancing down the street, showed me, it was the easiest thing in the world; for popping in betwixt us, just as the lady was returning back to the door of the Remise, he introduced himself to my acquaintance, and before he had well got announced, beggd I would do him the honor to present him to the ladyI had not been presented myselfso turning about to her, he did it just as well by asking her, if she had come from Paris?No, she was going that route, she said.Vous nêtes pas de Londres?She was not, she replied.Then Madame must have come thro Flanders.Apparemment vous êtes Flamande? said the French captain.The lady answered, she was.Peut-être de Lisle? added he.She said she was not of Lisle.Nor Arras?nor Cambray?nor Ghent?nor Brussels? She answered, she was of Brussels.
He had had the honor, he said, to be at the bombardment of it last warthat it was finely situated, pour celaand full of noblesse when the Imperialists were driven out by the French (the lady made a slight curtsy)so giving her an account of the affair, and of the share he had had in ithe beggd the honor to know her nameso made his bow.