« ÎnapoiContinuă »
THE STORY OF LE FEVRE.
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 sieges 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. The landlord of a little inn in the village came into the parlour with an empty phial in his hand, to beg a glass or two of sack-Tis for a poor gentleman-I think of the army, said the landlord, 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 any thing, 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.
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 entertaining 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
I have quite forgot it, truly, said the landlord, coming back into the parlour 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 bed-side 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 away, without saying one word, and in a few minutes after brought him his pipe and tobacco.
-Stay in the room a little, said my uncle Toby.Trim!-said my uncle Toby, after he had 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 farther, but finished his pipe.
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 roquelaure, and paying a visit to this poor gentleman.Your honour's roquelaure, replied the corporal, has not once been had on since the night before your honour 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 roquelaure, and what with the weather, 'twill be enough to give your honour your death,
and bring on your honour's torment in your groin. 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 honour, to me, quoth the corporal;-I'll take my hat and stick, and go to the house and reconnoitre, and act accordingly; and I will bring your honour 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. -I shall get it all out of him, said the corporal, shutting the door.
My uncle Toby filled his second pipe, and had it not been that he now and then wandered from the point, with considering whether it was not full as well to have the curtain of the tenaille a straight line as a crooked one, he might be said to have thought of nothing else but poor le Fevre and his boy the whole time he smoked it.
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 honour any kind of intelligence 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 honour, replied the corporal, every thing straight forwards, as I learnt 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 honour 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.
I despaired at first, said the corporal, of being able to bring back any intelligence to your honour about the lieutenant and his son; for when I asked where his-servant was, from whom I made myself sure of knowing every thing which was proper to be asked,―That's a right distinction, Trim, said my uncle Toby-I was answered, an' please your ho
nour, 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.
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, while I did it. I believe, Sir, said he, very modestly, I can please him best myself.- -I am sure, said I, his honour 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.
-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 honour? 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 honour (though a stranger) was extremely concerned for his father—and that if there was any thing in your house or cellar-(and thou might'st have added my purse too, said my uncle Toby)-he was heartily welcome to it:-He made a very low bow (which was meant to your honour) 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 was wrong, added the corporal. -I think so too, said my uncle Toby.
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 bed-side: and as I shut the door, I saw his son take up a cushion.
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 honour 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, an' please your reverence, has been standing for twelve hours together in the trenches, up to his knees in cold water;—or engaged, said I, for months together, in long and dangerous marches; -harassed, perhaps, in his rear to day;-harassing others to morrow ;-detached here; countermanded there ;-resting this night out upon his arms;-beat up in his shirt the next;-benumbed in his joints; perhaps without straw in his tent to kneel on;-he must say his prayers how and when he can. I believe, said I, for I was piqu'd, quoth the corporal, for the reputation of the army,-I believe, an't please your reverence, said I, that when a soldier gets time to pray, he prays as heartily as a parson-though not with all his fuss and hypocrisy.-Thou should'st not have said that, Trim, said my uncle Toby,-for God only knows who is a hypocrite, and who is not:-At the great and general review of us all, corporal, at the day of judgment, (and not till then)—it will be seen who have done their duty in this world, and who have not; and we shall be advanced, Trim, accordingly. I hope we shall, said Trim.-It is in the Scripture, said my uncle Toby; and I will show it thee to