Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.


THE WORDS were scarce out of my mouth, when the Count de L——’s post-chaise, with his sister in it, drove hastily by: she had just time to make me a bow of recognition—and of that particular kind of it which told me she had not yet done with me. She was as good as her look; for, before I had quite finished my supper, her brother’s servant came into the room with a billet, in which she said she had taken the liberty to charge me with a letter, which I was to present myself to Madame R—— the first morning I had nothing to do at Paris. There was only added, she was sorry, but from what penchant she had not considered, that she had been prevented telling me her story—that she still owed it me; and if my route should ever lay through Brussels, and I had not by then forgot the name of Madame de L—— —that Madame de L—— would be glad to discharge her obligation.    1
  Then I will meet thee, said I, fair spirit! at Brussels—’t is only returning from Italy through Germany to Holland, by the route of Flanders, home—’t will scarce be ten posts out of my way; but were it ten thousand! with what a moral delight will it crown my journey, in sharing in the sickening incidents of a tale of misery told to me by such a sufferer! to see her weep! and though I cannot dry up the fountain of her tears, what an exquisite sensation is there still left, in wiping them away from off the cheeks of the first and fairest of women, as I’m sitting with my handkerchief in my hand in silence the whole night besides her?    2
  There was nothing wrong in the sentiment; and yet I instantly reproached my heart with it in the bitterest and most reprobate of expressions.    3
  It had ever, as I told the reader, been one of the singular blessings of my life, to be almost every hour of it miserably in love with some one; and my last flame happening to be blown out by a whiff of jealousy on the sudden turn of a corner, I had lighted it up afresh at the pure taper of Eliza but about three months before—swearing as I did it, that it should last me through the whole journey.—Why should I dissemble the matter? I had sworn to her eternal fidelity—she had a right to my whole heart—to divide my affections was to lessen them—to expose them, was to risk them: where there is risk, there may be loss—and what wilt thou have, Yorick! to answer to a heart so full of trust and confidence—so good, so gentle, and unreproaching!    4
  —I will not go to Brussels, replied I, interrupting myself—but my imagination went on—I recall’d her looks at that crisis of our separation, when neither of us had power to say Adieu! I look’d at the picture she had tied in a black ribband about my neck—and blush’d as I look’d at it.—I would have given the world to have kiss’d it—but was ashamed—and shall this tender flower, said, I pressing it between my hands—shall it be smitten to its very root—and smitten, Yorick! by thee, who hast promised to shelter it in thy breast?    5
  Eternal fountain of happiness! said I, kneeling down upon the ground—be thou my witness—and every pure spirit which tastes it, be my witness also, That I would not travel to Brussels, unless Eliza went along with me, did the road lead me towards heaven.    6
  In transports of this kind, the heart, in spite of the understanding, will always say too much.    7