Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

IV.
And shall we meet the Master so,

Bearing our withered leaves ?
The Savior looks for perfect fruit,-
We stand before him, humbled, mute;
Waiting the words he breathes,

Nothing but leaves ?"'*

EXERCISE XLV.

LAURENCE STERNE was born in Clonmel, Ireland, in the year 1713. He died in 1768. Though a member of the clerical profession, he was by no means exemplary in walk and conversation. As a writer, however, he was not without extraordinary claims to distinction. He excelled in the delineation of comic character, in coarse, and often vulgar humor, in occasional touches of pure and tender sentiment, and in the command of a style and diction powerful to interest the fancy and move the heart. The following is a specimen in his best manner.

THE STORY OF LE FEVRE.

STERNE.

1. It was some time in the summer of that year in which Dendermond was taken by the allies, which was about seven years before my father came into the country, and about as many, after the time, that my uncle Toby and Trim had privately decamped from my father's house in town, in order to lay some of the finest sicges to some of the finest fortified cities in Europe, when my uncle Toby was one evening getting his. supper, with Trim sitting behind him at a small sideboard, I say sitting, for in consideration of the corporal's lame knee, (which sometimes gave him exquisite pain) when my uncle Toby dined or supped alone, he would never suffer the corporal to stand; and the poor fellow's veneration for his master was such, that, with a proper artillery, my uncle Toby could have taken Dendermond itself with less trouble. than he was able to gain this point over

* He found nothing thereon but leaves. Matt. chap. xxi. v. 19.

him ; for many a time, when my uncle Toby supposed the corporal's leg was at rest, he would look back and detect him standing behind him with the most dutiful respect. This bred more little squabbles betwixt them than all other causes for five-andtwenty years together; but this is neither here nor there—why do I mention it? Ask my pen—it governs me—I govern not it.

2. He was one evening sitting thus at his supper, when the landlord of a little inn in the village came into the parlor with an empty vial in his hand, to beg a glass or two of sack. 'Tis Ur a poor gentleman-I think of the army, said the 'andlord, who has been taken ill at my house four days ago, and has never held up his head since, or had a desire to taste anything, till just now, that he has a fancy for a glass of sack and a thin toast; I think, says he, taking his hand from his forehead, it would comfort me. If I could neither beg, borrow, nor buy such a thing, added the landlord, I would almost steal it for the poor gentleman, he is so ill. I hope in God, he will still mend, continued he; we are all of us concerned for him.

3. Thou art a good-natured soul, I will answer for thee, cried my uncle Toby; and thou shalt drink the poor gentleman's health in a glass of sack thyself; and take a couple of bottles with my service, and tell him he is heartily welcome to them, and to a dozen more, if they will do him good. Though I am persuaded, said my uncle Toby, as the landlord shut the door, he is a very compassionate fellow, Trim, yet I cannot help enter. taining a high opinion of his guest too; there must be something more than common in him, that, in so short a time, should win so much upon the affections of his host. And of his whole family, added the corporal; for they are all concerned for him. Step after him, said my uncle Toby; do, Trim; and ask if he knows his name.

4. I have quite forgot it, truly, said the landlord, coming back into the parlor with the corporal; but I can ask his son again. Has he a son with him, then ? said my uncle Toby. A boy, replied the landlord, of about eleven or twelve years of age; but the poor creature has tasted almost as little as his father; he does nothing but mourn and lament for him night

and day He has not stirred from the bedside these two days. My uncle Toby laid down his knife and fork, and thrust his plate from before him, as the landlord gave him the account; and Trim, without being ordered, took it away, without saying one word, and, in a few minutes after, brought him his pipe and tobacco.

5. Stay in the room a little, said my uncle Toby. Trim! said my uncle Toby, after he lighted his pipe, and smoked about a dozen whiffs. Trim came in front of his master, and made his bow. My uncle Toby smoked on, and said no more. Corporal! said my uncle Toby. The corporal made his bow. My uncle Toby proceeded no further, but finished his pipe.

6. Trim, said my uncle Toby, I have a project in my head, as it is a bad night, of wrapping myself up warm in my roquelaur,* and paying a visit to this poor gentleman. Your honor's roquelaur, replied the corporal, has not once been had on since the night before your honor received your wound, when we mounted guard in the trenches before the gate of St. Nicholas. And besides, it is so cold and rainy a night, that what with the roquelaur, and what with the weather, 'twill be enough to give your honor your death, and bring on your honor's torment in your back. I fear so, replied my uncle Toby; but I am not at rest in my mind, Trim, since the account the landlord has given me. I wish I had not known so much of this affair, added my uncle Toby, or that I had known more of it. How shall we manage it? Leave it, an't † please your honor, to me, quoth the corporal. I'll take my hat and stick, and go to the house and reconnoiter, and act accordingly; and I will bring your honor a full account in an hour. Thou shalt go, Trim, said my uncle Toby; and here's a shilling for thee to drink with his servant.

7. It was not till my uncle Toby had knocked the ashes out of his third pipe that Corporal Trim returned from the inn, and gave him the following account. I despaired at first, said the corporal, of being able to bring back your honor any kind of

* Roquelaur, (rok' e lor) a cloak. + An't is old English for if't, that is, if it.

iutelligence concerning the poor sick lieutenant. Is he in the army, then ? said my uncle Toby. He is, said the corporal. And in what regiment? said my uncle Toby. I'll tell your honor, replied the corporal, everything straightforwards as I learned it. Then, Trim, I'll fill another pipe, said my uncle Toby, and not interrupt thee till thou hast done; so sit down at thy ease, Trim, in the window seat, and begin thy story again. The corporal made his old bow, which generally spoke as plain as a bow could speak it-Your honor is good. And having done that, he sat down, as he was ordered; and began the story to my uncle Toby over again in pretty near the same words.

8. I despaired at first, said the corporal, of being able to bring back any intelligence to your honor about the lieutenant and his son; for, when I asked where his servant was, from whom I made myself sure of knowing everything which was proper to be asked—That's a right distinction, Trim, said my uncle Toby

- I was answered, an' please your honor, that he had no servant with him; that he had come to the inn with hired horses, which, upon finding himself unable to proceed, (to join, I suppose, the regiment) he had dismissed the morning after he came. If I get better, my dear, said he, as he gave his purse to his son to pay the man, we can hire horses from hence. But, alas ! the poor gentleman will never get from hence, said the landlady to me; for I heard the deathwatch all night long: and, when he dies, the youth, his son, will certainly die with him; for he is broken-hearted already.

9. I was hearing this account, continued the corporal, when the youth came into the kitchen, to order the thin toast the landlord spoke of. But I will do it for my father myself, said the youth. Pray, let me save you the trouble, young gentleman, said I, taking up a fork for the purpose, and offering him my chair to sit down upon by the fire, whilst I did it. I believe, sir, said he, very modestly, I can please him best myself. I am sure, said I, his honor will not like the toast the worse for being toasted by an old soldier. The youth took hold of my hand, and instantly burst into tears. Poor youth! said my uncle Toby; he has been bred up from an infant in the army, and the name of a soldier, Trim, sounded in his ears like the name of a friend; I wish I had him here.

10. I never, in the longest march, said the corporal, had so great a mind to my dinner, as I had to cry with him for company. What could be the matter with me, an' please your honor ? Nothing in the world, Trim, said my uncle Toby, blowing his nose; but that thou art a good-natured fellow. When I gave him the toast, continued the corporal, I thought it was proper to tell him I was Captain Shandy's servant, and that your honor, though a stranger, was extremely concerned for his father; and that, if there was anything in your house or cellar— And thou might'st have added my purse too, said my uncle Tobyhe was heartily welcome to it. He made a very low bow, which was meant to your honor; but no answer, for his heart was full; so he went up stairs with the toast. I warrant you, my dear, said I, as I opened the kitchen door, your father will be well again. Mr. Yorick's curate was smoking a pipe by the kitchen fire, but said not a word, good or bad, to comfort the youth. I thought it wrong, added the corporal. I think so too, said my uncle Toby.

11. When the lieutenant had taken his glass of sack and toast, he felt himself a little revived, and sent down into the kitchen to let me know that, in about ten minutes, he should be glad if I would step up stairs. I believe, said the landlord, he is going to say his prayers; for there was a book laid upon the chair by his bedside, and, as I shut the door, I saw his son take up a cushion.

12. I thought, said the curate, that you gentlemen of the army, Mr. Trim, never said your prayers at all. I heard the poor gentleman say his prayers last night, said the landlady, very devoutly, and with my own ears, or I could not have believed it. Are you sure of it? replied the curate. A soldier, an' please your reverence, said I, prays as often of his own accord as a parson; and, when he is fighting for his king, and for his own life, and for his honor too, he has the most reason to pray to God of any one in the whole world. 'Twas well said of thee, Trim, said my uncle Toby. But, when a soldier, said I

« AnteriorContinuar »