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


WHEN Maria had come a little to herself, I ask’d her if she remembered a pale thin person of a man, who had sat down betwixt her and her goat about two years before? She said, she was unsettled much at that time, but remember’d it upon two accounts—that ill as she was, she saw the person pitied her; and next, that her goat had stolen his handkerchief, and she had beat him for the theft—she had wash’d it, she said, in the brook, and kept it ever since in her pocket to restore it to him in case she should ever see him again, which, she added, he had half promised her. As she told me this, she took the handkerchief out of her pocket to let me see it; she had folded it up neatly in a couple of vine-leaves, tied round with a tendril—on opening it, I saw an S mark’d in one of the corners.

She had since that, she told me, stray’d as far as Rome, and walk’d round St. Peter’s once—and return’d back—that she found her way alone across the Apennines—had travel’d over all Lombardy without money—and through the flinty roads of Savoy without shoes—how she had borne it, and how she had got supported, she could not tell—but God tempers the wind, said Maria, to the shorn lamb.

Shorn indeed! and to the quick, said I; and wast thou in my own land, where I have a cottage, I would take thee to it and shelter thee: thou shouldst eat of my own bread and drink of my own cup—I would be kind to thy Sylvio—in all thy weaknesses and wanderings I would seek after thee and bring thee back—when the sun went down I would say my prayers; and when I had done thou shouldst play thy evening song upon thy pipe, nor would the incense of my sacrifice be worse accepted for entering heaven along with that of a broken heart.

Nature melted within me, as I utter’d this; and Maria observing, as I took out my handkerchief, that it was steep’d too much already to be of use, would needs go wash it in the stream.—And where will you dry it, Maria? said I.—I’ll dry it in my bosom, said she—’t will do me good.

And is your heart still so warm, Maria? said I.

I touch’d upon the string on which hung all her sorrows—she look’d with wistful disorder for some time in my face; and then, without saying anything, took her pipe, and play’d her service to the Virgin.—The string I had touch’d ceased to vibrate—in a moment or two Maria returned to herself – let her pipe fall—and rose up.

And where are you going, Maria? said I.—She said, to Moulines.—Let us go, said I, together.—Maria put her arm within mine, and lengthening the string, to let the dog follow—in that order we enter’d Moulines.