Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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[187]

THE DWARF.

PARIS.

I HAD never heard the remark
made by any one in my life, ex-
cept by one; and who that was will
probably come out in this chapter;
so that being pretty much unprepos-
sessed, there must have been grounds
for what struck me the moment I
cast my eyes over the parterre---and
that was, the unaccountable sport of
nature in forming such numbers of
dwarfs---No doubt she sports at cer-
tain times in almost every corner of
the world; but in Paris, there is no

              end

[188]

end to her amusements---The god-
dess seems almost as merry as she is
wise.

As I carried my idea out of the
opéra-comique with me, I measured
every body I saw walking in the streets
by it--- Melancholy application! espe-
cially where the size was extremely
little---the face extremely dark---the
eyes quick---the nose long---the teeth
white---the jaw prominent---to see so
many miserables, by force of acci-
dents driven out of their own proper
class into the very verge of another,
which if it gives me pain to write down
--- every third man a pigmy!---some
by ricketty heads and hump backs---

              others

[189]

others by bandy legs---a third set ar-
rested by the hand of Nature in the
sixth and seventh years of their
growth---a fourth, in their perfect
and natural state, like dwarf apple-
trees; from the first rudiments and
stamina of their existence, never meant
to grow higher.

A medical traveller might say, 'tis
owing to undue bandages--- a splene-
tic one, to want of air---and an in-
quisitive traveller, to fortify the sys-
tem, may measure the height of their
houses--- the narrowness of their streets,
and in how few feet square in the
sixth and seventh stories such num-
bers of the Bourgeoisie eat and sleep

              together;

[190]

together; but I remember, Mr.
Shandy the elder, who accounted for
nothing like any body else, in speak-
ing one evening of these matters,
averred, that children, like other animals, might be increased almost to
any size, provided they came right
into the world; but the misery was,
the citizens of Paris were so coop'd
up, that they had not actually room
enough to get them---I did not call it
getting anything, said he---'tis get-
ting nothing--- Nay, continued he,
rising in his argument, 'tis getting
worse than nothing, when all you
have got, after twenty of five and
twenty years of the tenderest care and
most nutritious ailment bestowed up-

I                on

[191]

on it, shall not at last be as high as
my leg. Now, Mr. Shandy being
very short, there could nothing
more be said of it.

As this is not a work of reasoning,
I leave the solution as I found it, and
content myself with the truth only of
the remark, which is verified in every
lane and by-lane of Paris. I was
walking down that which leads from
the Carousal to the Palais Royal, and
observing a little boy in some distress
at the side of the gutter, which ran
down the middle of it, I took hold
of his hand, and help'd him over.
Upon turning up his face to look at
him after, I perceived he was about

              forty---

[192]

forty---Never mind, said I; some
good body will do as much for me
when I am ninety.

I feel some little principles within
me, which incline me to be merciful
towards this poor blighted part of
my species, who have neither size or
strength to get on in the world---I
cannot bear to see one of them trod
upon; and had scarce got seated be-
side my old French officer, ere the
disgust was exercised, by seeing the
very thing happen under the box we
sat in.

At the end of the orchestra, and
betwixt that and the first side-box,

5               there

[193]

there is a small esplanade left, where,
when the house is full, numbers of
all ranks take sanctuary. Though
you stand, as in the parterre, you pay
the same price as in the orchestra. A
poor defenceless being of this order
had got thrust somehow or other in-
to this luckless place---the night was
hot, and he was surrounded by be-
ings two feet and a half higher than
himself. The dwarf suffered inex-
pressibly on all sides; but the thing
which incommoded him most, was
a tall corpulent German, near seven
feet high, who stood directly betwixt
him and all possibility of his seeing
either the stage or the actors. The
poor dwarf did all he could to get a

VOL. I.             O               peep

    [194]

peep at what was going forwards, by
seeking for some little opening be-
twixt the German's arm and his body,
trying first one side, then the other;
but the German stood square in the
most unaccommodating posture that
can be imagined---the dwarf might as
well have been placed a the bottom
of the deepest draw-well in Paris; so
he civilly reach'd up his hand to the
German's sleeve, and told him his
distress---The German turn'd his head
back, look'd down upon him as Go-
liath did upon David---and unfeel-
ingly resumed his posture.

I was just then taking a pinch of
snuff out of my monk's little horn
box---And how would thy meek and

              corteous

    [195]

courteous spirit, my dear monk! so
temper'd to bear and forbear!---how
sweetly would it have lent an ear to
this poor soul's complaint!

The old French officer, seeing me
lift up my eyes with an emotion, as I
made the apostrophe, took the li-
berty to ask me what was the matter
---I told him the story in three words;
and added how inhuman it was.

By this time the dwarf was driven
to extremes, and in his first trans-
ports, which are generally unreason-
able, had told the German he would
cut off his long queue with his knife
---The German look'd back coolly,

O 2              and

    [196]

and told him he was welcome if he
could reach it.

An injury sharpen'd by an insult,
be it to whom it will, makes every
man of sentiment a party: I could
have leaped out of the box to have
redressed it---The old French officer
did it with much less confusion; for
leaning a little over, and nodding to
a centinel, and pointing at the same
time with his finger at the distress---
the centinel made his way to it.---
There was no occasion to tell the
grievance---the thing told itself; so
thrusting back the German instantly
with his musket--- he took the poor
dwarf by the hand, and placed him

5             before

    [197]

before him--- This is noble! said I,
clapping my hands together--- And
yet you would not permit this, said
the old officer, in England.

---In England, dear Sir, said I,
we sit all at our ease.

The old French officer would have
set me at unity with myself, in case
I had been at variance,---by saying it
was a bon mot---and as a bon mot is
always worth something at Paris, he
offered me a pinch of snuff.

E 4

                   


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