Laurence Sterne. (1713–1768). A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
The Monk. Calais
As I pronounced the words great claims, he gave a slight glance with his eye downwards upon the sleeve of his tunic.—I felt the full force of the appeal.—I acknowledge it, said I—a coarse habit, and that but once in three years, with meager diet—are no great matters; and the true point of pity is, as they can be earn’d in the world with so little industry, that your order should wish to procure them by pressing upon a fund which is the property of the lame, the blind, the aged, and the infirm—the captive who lies down counting over and over again the days of his afflictions, languishes also for his share of it; and had you been of the order of mercy, instead of the order of St. Francis, poor as I am, continued I, pointing at my portmanteau, full cheerfully should it have been open’d to you, for the ransom of the unfortunate—The monk made me a bow.—But of all others, resum’d I, the unfortunate of our own country, surely, have the first rights; and I have left thousands in distress upon our own shore.—The monk gave a cordial wave with his head—as much as to say, No doubt, there is misery enough in every corner of the world, as well as within our convent.—But we distinguish, said I, laying my hand upon the sleeve of his tunic, in return for his appeal—we distinguish, my good father! betwixt those who wish only to eat the bread of their own labor—and those who eat the bread of other people’s, and have no other plan in life but to get through it in sloth and ignorance, for the love of God.
The poor Franciscan made no reply: a hectic of a moment pass’d across his cheek, but could not tarry—Nature seemed to have done with her resentments in him; he showed none—but letting his staff fall within his arm, he press’d both his hands with resignation upon his breast, and retired.