Laurence Sterne,-A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

 
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MARIA.

MOULINES

I NEVER felt what the distress of plenty was in any one shape till now—to travel it through the Bourbonnois, the sweetest part of France—in the heyday of the vintage, when Nature is pouring her abundance into everyone's lap and every eye is lifted up—a journey through each step of which Music beats time to Labour, and all her children are rejoicing as they carry in their clusters—to pass through this with my affections flying out, and kindling at every

      M4         group

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group before me—and every one of them was pregnant with adventures.

Just Heaven!—it would fill up twenty volumes— and alas! I have but a few small pages left of this to crown it into—and half of these must be taken up with the poor Maria my friend Mr. Shandy met with near Moulines.

The story he had told of that disorder'd maid affected me not a little in the reading; but when I got within the neighborhood where she lived, it returned so strong into my mind, that I could not resist an impulse which prompted me to go half a league out of the road, to the village,

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where her parents dwelt, to enquire after her.

'Tis going, I own, like the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, in quest of melancholy adventures—but I know not how it is, but I am never so perfectly conscious of the existence of a soul within me, as when I am entangled in them.

The old mother came to the door, her looks told me the story before she open'd her mouth—She had lost her husband; he had died, she said, of anguish, for the loss of Maria's sense, about a month before.—She had feared at first, she added, that it would have plunder'd her poor girl

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of what little understanding was left—but, on the contrary, it had brought her more to herself—still she could not rest—her poor daughter, she said, crying, was wandering somewhere about the road—

—Why does my pulse beat languid as I write this? and what made La Fleur, whose heart seem'd only to be tuned to joy, to pass the back of his hand twice across his eyes, as the woman stood and told it? I beckoned to the postillion to turn back into the road.

When we had got within half a league of Moulines, at a little opening in the road leading to a thicket, I

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discovered poor Maria sitting under a poplar—she was sitting with her elbow in her lap, and her head leaning on one side within her hand—a small brook ran at the foot of the tree.

I bid the postillion go on with the chaise to Moulines— and La Fleur to bespeak my supper—and that I would walk after him.

She was dress'd in white, and much as my friend had described her, except that her hair hung loose, which before was twisted within a silk net.—She had, superadded likewise to her jacket, a pale green ribband, which fell across her shoulder to the waist; at the end

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of which hung her pipe.—Her goat had been as faithless as her lover; and she had got a little dog in lieu of him, which she had kept tied by a string to her girdle: as I look'd at her dog, she drew him towards her with the string.—'Thou shalt not leave me, Sylvio,' said she. I look'd in Maria's eyes, and saw she was thinking more of her father than of her lover or her little goat; for as she utter'd them, the tears trickled down her cheeks.

I sat down close by her; and Maria let me wipe them away as they fell, with my handkerchief.—I then steep'd it in my own—and then in her's—and then in mine— and then

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I wip'd her's again—and as I did it, I felt such undescribable emotions within me, as I am sure could not be accounted for from any combinations of matter and motion.

I am positive I have a soul; nor can all the books with which materialists have pestered the world ever convince me to the contrary.


                           MARIA.

 

 



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