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


WHEN all is ready, and every article is disputed and paid for in the inn, unless you are a little sour’d by the adventure, there is always a matter to the compound at the door, before you can get into your chaise, and that is with the sons and daughters of poverty, who surround you. Let no man say, “let them go to the devil”—’t is a cruel journey to send a few miserables, and they have had sufferings enow without it: I always think it better to take a few sous out in my hand; and I would counsel every gentle traveler to do so likewise; he need not be so exact in setting down his motives for giving them.—They will be register’d elsewhere.    1
  For my own part, there is no man gives so little as I do; for few, that I know, have so little to give: but as this was the first public act of my charity in France, I took the more notice of it.    2
  A well-a-way! said I, I have but eight sous in the world showing them in my hand, and there are eight poor men and eight poor women for ’em.    3
  A poor tatter’d soul, without a shirt on, instantly withdrew his claim, by retiring two steps out of the circle, and making a disqualifying bow on his part. Had the whole parterre cried out, Place aux dames, with one voice, it would not have conveyed the sentiment of a deference for the sex with half the effect.    4
  Just Heaven! for what wise reasons hast thou order’d it, that beggary and urbanity, which are at such variance in other countries, should find a way to be at unity in this?    5
  —I insisted upon presenting him with a single sou, merely for his politesse.    6
  A poor little dwarfish, brisk fellow, who stood over against me in the circle, putting something first under his arm, which had once been a hat, took his snuff-box out of his pocket, and generously offer’d a pinch on both sides of him: it was a gift of consequence, and modestly declined.—The poor little fellow press’d it upon them with a nod of welcomeness.—Prenez en—prenez, said he, looking another way; so they each took a pinch.—Pity thy box should ever want one, said I to myself; so I put a couple of sous into it—taking a small pinch out of his box to enhance their value, as I did it.—He felt the weight of the second obligation more than that of the first—’t was doing him an honor—the other was only doing him a charity—and he made me a bow down to the ground for it.    7
  —Here! said I to an old soldier with one hand, who had been campaign’d and worn out to death in the service—here’s a couple of sous for thee. Vive le Roi! said the old soldier.    8
  I had then but three sous left: so I gave one, simply pour l’amour de Dieu, which was the footing on which it was begg’d.—The poor woman had a dislocated hip; so it could not be well upon any other motive.    9
  Mon cher et très charitable Monsieur—There’s no opposing this, said I.   10
  My Lord Anglois—the very sound was worth the money—so I gave my last sous for it. But in the eagerness of giving, I had overlooked a pauvre honteux, who had no one to ask a sou for him, and who, I believed, would have perish’d ere he could have ask’d one for himself; he stood by the chaise, a little without the circle, and wiped a tear from a face which I thought had seen better days—Good God! said I—and I have not one single sou left to give him.—But you have a thousand! cried all the powers of nature, stirring within me—so I gave him—no matter what—I am ashamed to say how much, now—and was ashamed to think how little, then: so if the reader can form any conjecture of my disposition, as these two fixed points are given him, he may judge within a livre or two what was the precise sum.   11
  I could afford nothing for the rest, but Dieu vous bénisse—Et le bon Dieu vous bénisse encore—said the old soldier, the dwarf, &c. The pauvre honteux could say nothing—he pull’d out a little handkerchief, and wiped his face as he turned away—and I thought he thank’d me more than them all.   12