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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
In Languedoc: An Idyl
By Laurence Sterne (1713–1768)
 

’TWAS in the road betwixt Nismes and Lunel, where there is the best Muscatto wine in all France—and which, by-the-by, belongs to the honest canons of Montpellier; and foul befall the man who has drank it at their table, who grudges them a drop of it.  1
  The sun was set—they had done their work; the nymphs had tied up their hair afresh, and the swains were preparing for a carousal. My mule made a dead point.—“’Tis the fife and tambourin,” said I.—“I’m frightened to death,” quoth he.—“They are running at the ring of pleasure,” said I, giving him a prick.—“By St. Boogar, and all the saints at the back-side of the door of purgatory,” said he (making the same resolution with the Abbess of Andouillets), “I’ll not go a step further.”—“’Tis very well, sir,” said I: “I will never argue a point with one of your family as long as I live.” So leaping off his back, and kicking off one boot into this ditch and t’other into that—“I’ll take a dance,” said I, “so stay you here.”  2
  A sunburnt daughter of labor rose up from the group to meet me, as I advanced towards them; her hair—which was a dark chestnut, approaching rather to a black—was tied up in a knot, all but a single tress.  3
  “We want a cavalier,” said she, holding out both her hands as if to offer them.—“And a cavalier ye shall have,” said I, taking hold of both of them.  4
  “Hadst thou, Nannette, been arrayed like a duchess! But that cursed slit in thy petticoat!”  5
  Nannette cared not for it.  6
  “We could not have done without you,” said she, letting go one hand, with self-taught politeness, leading me up with the other.  7
  A lame youth, whom Apollo had recompensed with a pipe, and to which he had added a tambourin of his own accord, ran sweetly over the prelude, as he sat upon the bank.—“Tie me up this tress instantly,” said Nannette, putting a piece of string into my hand. It taught me to forget I was a stranger.—The whole knot fell down. We had been seven years acquainted.  8
  The youth struck the note upon the tambourin, his pipe followed, and off we bounded.—“The deuce take that slit!”…  9
  The sister of the youth who had stolen her voice from heaven sung alternately with her brother, ’twas a Gascoigne roundelay—
  Viva la joia!
Fidon la tristessa!
The nymphs joined in unison, and their swains an octave below them.
  10
  I would have given a crown to have it sewed up: Nannette would not have given a sous; Viva la joia! was in her lips—Viva la joia! was in her eyes. A transient spark of amity shot across the space betwixt us. She looked amiable. Why could I not live and end my days thus? “Just Disposer of our joys and sorrows,” cried I, “why could not a man sit down in the lap of content here, and dance and sing, and say his prayers, and go to heaven with this nut-brown maid?” Capriciously did she bend her head on one side, and dance up insidious. “Then ’tis time to dance off,” quoth I.  11
 
 
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