Laurence Sterne. (17131768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
WHEN Maria had come a little to herself, I askd her if she remembered a pale thin person of a man, who had sat down betwixt her and her goat about two years before? She said, she was unsettled much at that time, but rememberd it upon two accountsthat ill as she was, she saw the person pitied her; and next, that her goat had stolen his handkerchief, and she had beat him for the theftshe had washd it, she said, in the brook, and kept it ever since in her pocket to restore it to him in case she should ever see him again, which, she added, he had half promised her. As she told me this, she took the handkerchief out of her pocket to let me see it; she had folded it up neatly in a couple of vine-leaves, tied round with a tendrilon opening it, I saw an S markd in one of the corners.
She had since that, she told me, strayd as far as Rome, and walkd round St. Peters onceand returnd backthat she found her way alone across the Apennineshad traveld over all Lombardy without moneyand through the flinty roads of Savoy without shoeshow she had borne it, and how she had got supported, she could not tellbut God tempers the wind, said Maria, to the shorn lamb.
Shorn indeed! and to the quick, said I; and wast thou in my own land, where I have a cottage, I would take thee to it and shelter thee: thou shouldst eat of my own bread and drink of my own cupI would be kind to thy Sylvioin all thy weaknesses and wanderings I would seek after thee and bring thee backwhen the sun went down I would say my prayers; and when I had done thou shouldst play thy evening song upon thy pipe, nor would the incense of my sacrifice be worse accepted for entering heaven along with that of a broken heart.
Nature melted within me, as I utterd this; and Maria observing, as I took out my handkerchief, that it was steepd too much already to be of use, would needs go wash it in the stream.And where will you dry it, Maria? said I.Ill dry it in my bosom, said shet will do me good.
I touchd upon the string on which hung all her sorrowsshe lookd with wistful disorder for some time in my face; and then, without saying anything, took her pipe, and playd her service to the Virgin.The string I had touchd ceased to vibratein a moment or two Maria returned to herself let her pipe falland rose up.
And where are you going, Maria? said I.She said, to Moulines.Let us go, said I, together.Maria put her arm within mine, and lengthening the string, to let the dog followin that order we enterd Moulines.