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

In the Street. Calais

HAVING, on first sight of the lady, settled the affair in my fancy, “that she was of the better order of beings”—and then laid it down as a second axiom, as indisputable as the first, that she was a widow, and wore a character of distress—I went no further; I got ground enough for the situation which pleased me—and had she remained. close beside my elbow till midnight, I should have held true to my system, and considered her only under that general idea.    1
  She had scarce got twenty paces distant from me, ere something within me called out for a more particular inquiry—it brought on the idea of a further separation—I might possibly never see her more—the heart is for saving what it can; and I wanted the traces thro’ which my wishes might find their way to her, in case I should never rejoin her myself: in a word, I wish’d to know her name—her family’s—her condition; and as I knew the place to which she was going, I wanted to know from whence she came: but there was no coming at all this intelligence: a hundred little delicacies stood in the way. I form’d a score different plans—There was no such thing as a man’s asking her directly—the thing was impossible.    2
  A little French débonnaire captain, who came dancing down the street, showed me, it was the easiest thing in the world; for popping in betwixt us, just as the lady was returning back to the door of the Remise, he introduced himself to my acquaintance, and before he had well got announced, begg’d I would do him the honor to present him to the lady—I had not been presented myself—so turning about to her, he did it just as well by asking her, if she had come from Paris?—No, she was going that route, she said.—Vous n’êtes pas de Londres?—She was not, she replied.—Then Madame must have come thro’ Flanders.—Apparemment vous êtes Flamande? said the French captain.—The lady answered, she was.—Peut-être de Lisle? added he.—She said she was not of Lisle.—Nor Arras?—nor Cambray?—nor Ghent?—nor Brussels? She answered, she was of Brussels.    3
  He had had the honor, he said, to be at the bombardment of it last war—that it was finely situated, pour cela—and full of noblesse when the Imperialists were driven out by the French (the lady made a slight curtsy)—so giving her an account of the affair, and of the share he had had in it—he begg’d the honor to know her name—so made his bow.    4
  —Et Madame a son Mari?—said he, looking back when he had made two steps—and without staying for an answer—danced down the street.    5
  Had I served seven years’ apprenticeship to good breeding, I could not have done as much.    6