图书图片
PDF
ePub

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. 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, says 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-must вау his prayers

how and when he can. I believe, said I, for I was piqued, 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 shouldest 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 has done their duties in this world and who has not, and we shall be advanced, Trim, according. I hope we shall

, said Trim. It is in the Scripture, said my uncle Toby, and I will show it thee to-morrow; in the meantime, we may depend upon it, Trim, for our comfort, said my uncle Toby, that God Almighty is so good and just a governor of the world, that if we have but done our duties in it, it will never be inquired into whether we have done them in a red coat or a black one. I hope not, said the corporal, But go on, Trim, said my uncle Toby, with thy story.

me.

When I went up, continued the corporal, into the lieutenant's room, which I did not do till the expiration of the ten minutes, he was lying in his bed, with his head raised upon his hand, with his elbow upon the pillow, and a clean white cambric handkerchief beside it. The youth was just stooping down to take up the cushion, upon which I supposed he had been kneeling ; the book was laid upon the bed, and as he rose, in taking up the cushion with one hand, he reached out the other to take it away at the same time. Let it remain there, my dear, said the lieutenant.

He did not offer to speak to me till I had walked up close to his bedside. If you are Captain Shandy's servant, said he, you must present my thanks to your master, with my little boy's thanks along with them, for his courtesy to

If he was of Levens's, said the lieutenant,—I told him your honour was—then, said he, I served three campaigns with him in Flanders, and remember him ; but ’tis most likely, as I had not the honour of any acquaintance with him, that he knows nothing of me. You will tell him, however, that the person his good nature has laid under obligations to him, is one Le Fevre, a lieutenant in Angus's ; but he knows me not, said he a second time musing ; possibly he may my story, added he. Pray tell the captain I was the ensign at Breda whose wife was most unfortunately killed with a musket shot as she lay in my arms in my tent. I remember the story, an't please your honour, said I, very well. Do you ? said he, wiping his eyes with his handkerchief, then well may I. In saying this, he drew a little ring out of his bosom, which seemed tied with a black ribbon round his neck, and kissed it twice. Here, Billy, said he. The boy flew across the room to his bedside, and, falling down upon his knees, took the ring in his hand, and kissed it, too, then kissed his father, and sat down upon the bed and wept.

I wish, said my uncle Toby, with a deep sigh–I wish, Trim, I was asleep.

Your honour, replied the corporal, is too much concerned. Shall I pour your honour out a glass of sack to your pipe? Do Trim, said my uncle Toby,

I remember, said my uncle Toby, sighing again, the story of the ensign and his wife—with a circumstance his modesty omitted—and particularly well, that he, as well as she, upon some account or other (I forget what) was universally pitied by the whole regiment; but finish the story thou art upon. 'Tis finished already, said the corporal, for I could stay no longer, so wished his honour a good night. Young Le Fevre rose from off the bed, and saw me to the bottom of the stairs; and as we went down together, told me they had come from Ireland, and were on their route to join the regiment in Flanders. But, alas ! said the corporal, the lieutenant's last day's march is over. Then what is to become of his poor boy? cried my uncle Toby.

THE STORY OF LE FEVRE.

PART III.

It was to my uncle Toby's eternal honour, though I tell it only for the sake of those who, when cooped in betwixt a natural and positive law, know not for their souls which way to turn themselves, that, notwithstanding my uncle Toby was warmly engaged at that time in carrying on the siege of Dendermond, parallel with the allies, who pressed theirs on so vigorously that they scarce allowed him time to get his dinner ; that, nevertheless, he gave up Dendermond, though he had already made a lodging upon the counterscarp, and bent his whole thoughts towards the private distress at the inn ; and, except that he ordered the garden gate to be bolted up, by which he might be said to have turned the siege of Dendermond into a blockade, he left Dendermond to itself, to be relieved or not by the French king, as the French king thought good ; and only considered how he himself should relieve the poor lieutenant and his son.

That kind Being, who is a friend to the friendless, shall recompense thee for this.

Thou hast left this matter short, said my uncle Toby to

the corporal, as he was putting him to bed, and I will tell thee in what, Trim. In the first place, when thou mad'st an offer of my services to Le Fevre, as sickness and travelling are both expensive, and thou knewest he was but a poor lieutenant, with a son to subsist as well as himself out of his pay, that thou didst not make an offer to him of my purse ; because, had he stood in need, thou knowest, Trim, he had been as welcome to it as myself. Your honour knows, said the corporal, I had no orders. True, quoth my uncle Toby, thou didst very right, Trim, as a soldier ; but certainly very wrong as a man.

In the second place, for which, indeed, thou hast the same excuse, continued my uncle Toby-when thou offeredst him whatever was in my house, thou shouldst have offered him my house too. A sick brother officer should have the best quarters, Trim ; and if we had him with us, we could tend and look to him. Thou art an excellent nurse thyself, Trim ; and what with thy care of him, and the old woman's, and his boy's, and mine together, we might recruit him again at once, and set him upon his legs.

In a fortnight or three weeks, added my uncle Toby, smiling, he might march. He will never march, an' please your honour, in this world, said the corporal. He will march, said my uncle Toby, rising up from the side of the bed, with one shoe off. An' please your honour, said the corporal, he will never march, but to his grave. He shall march, cried my uncle Toby, marching the foot which had a shoe on, though without advancing an inch—he shall march to his regiment. He cannot stand it, said the corporal. He shall be supported, said my uncle Toby. He'll drop at last, said the corporal, and what will become of his boy? He shall not drop, said my uncle Toby, firmly. Ah, well-o'day, do what we can for him, said Trim, maintaining his point-the poor soul will die.

My uncle Toby went to his bureau, put his purse into his breeches pocket, and having ordered the corporal to go early in the morning for a physician, he went to bed and fell asleep

The sun looked bright the morning after to every eye in

the village but Le Fevre's and his afflicted son's; the hand of death pressed heavy on his eyelids, and hardly could the wheel at the cistern turn round its circle, when my uncle Toby, who had risen up an hour before his wonted time, entered the lieutenant's room, and without preface or apology sat himself down by the chair at the bedside, and, independently of all modes and customs, opened the curtain in the manner an old friend and brother officer would have done it, and asked him how he didhow he had rested in the night—what was his complaintwhere was his pain—and what he could do to help him ; and without giving him time to answer any one of the inquiries, went on and told him of the little plan which he had been concerting with the corporal the night before for him.

You shall go home directly, Le Fevre, said my uncle Toby, to my house ; and we'll send for a doctor to see what's the matter, and we'll have an apothecary, and the corporal shall be your nurse ; and I'll be your servant, Le Fevre.

There was a frankness in my uncle Toby—not the effect of familiarity, but the cause of it—which let you at once into his soul, and showed you the goodness of his nature. To this, there was something in his looks and voice, and manners, superadded, which eternally beckoned to the unfortunate to come and take shelter under him ; so that before

my uncle Toby had half finished the kind offers he was making to the father, he had the son insensibly pressed up close to his knees, and had taken hold of the breast of his coat, and was pulling it towards him. The blood and spirits of Le Fevre, which were waxing cold and slow within him, and were retreating to their last citadel, the heart, rallied back, the film forsook his eyes for a moment; he looked up wistfully in my uncle Toby's face, then cast a look upon his boy, and that ligament, fine as it was, was never broken.

Nature instantly ebbed again—the film returned to its place—the pulse fluttered-stopped-went on-throbbedstopped again--moved-stopped-shall I go on ?-No.

Laurence Sterne,

« 上一页继续 »