Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[56]

THE SNUFF-BOX..

CALAIS.

THE good old monk was within
six paces of us, as the idea of
him cross'd my mind; and was ad-
vancing towards us a little out of the
line, as if uncertain whether he should
break in upon us or no.--- He stopp'd,
however, as soon as he came up to
us, with a world of frankness; and
having a horn snuff-box in his hand,
he presented it open to me---You
shall taste mine---said I, pulling out
my box (which was a small tortoise
one) and putting it into his hand---

                   'Tis

[57]

'Tis most excellent, said the monk;
Then do me the favour, I replied, to
accept of the box and all, and when
you take a pinch out of it, sometimes
recollect it was the peace-offering of
a man who once used you unkindly,
but not from his heart.

The poor monk blush'd as red as
scarlet. Mon Dieu! said he, press-
ing his hands together---you never
used me unkindly.---I should think,
said the lady, he is not likely. I
blush'd in my turn; but from what
movements I leave to the few who
feel to analyse---Excuse me, Madame,
replied I---I treated him most un-
kindly; and from no provocations---
'Tis impossible, said the lady---My

                   God!

[58]

God! cried the monk, with a warmth
of asseveration which seemed not to
belong to him---the fault was in me,
and in the indiscretion of my zeal---
the lady opposed it, and I joined with
her in maintaining it impossible,
that a spirit so regulated as his, could
give offence to any.

I knew not that contention could
be rendered so sweet and pleasurable
a thing to the nerves as I then felt it.
---We remained silent without any
sensation of that foolish pain which
takes place, when in such a circle you
look for ten minutes in one another's
faces without saying a word. Whilst
this lasted, the monk rubb'd his horn
box upon the sleeve of his tunick;

                   and

[59]

and as soon as it had acquired a little
air of brightness by the friction---he
made a low bow, and said, 'twas too
late to say whether it was the weak-
ness or goodness of our tempers
which had involved us in this contest
--- but be it as it would---he begg'd
we might exchange boxes---In say-
ing this, he presented his to me with
one hand, as he took mine from me
in the other; and having kiss'd it---
with a stream of good nature in his
eyes he put it into his bosom---and
took his leave.

I guard this box, as I would the
instrumental parts of my religion, to
help my mind on to something bet-
ter: in truth, I seldom go abroad

                   without

[60]

without it; and oft and many a time
have I called up by it the courteous
spirit of its owner to regulate my
own, in the justlings of the world;
they had found full employment for
his, as I learnt from his story, till about
the forty-fifth year of his age, when
upon some military services ill re-
quited, and meeting at the same time
with a disappointment in the ten-
derest of passions, he abandon'd the
sword and the sex together, and took
sanctuary, not so much in his con-
vent as in himself.

I feel a damp upon my spirits, as
I am going to add, that in my last
return through Calais, upon inquir-
ing after Father Lorenzo, I heard

             he

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he had been dead near three months,
and was buried, not in his convent,
but, according to his desire, in a little
cimetiery belonging to it, about two
leagues off: I had a strong desire to
see where they had laid him---when,
upon pulling out his little horn box,
as I sat by his grave, and plucking
up a nettle or two at the head of it,
which had no business to grow there,
they all struck together so forcibly
upon my affections, that I burst into
a flood of tears---but I am weak as
a woman; and I beg the world not
to smile, but pity me.

                  


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