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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume4,chapter30)

2006-08-22 18:35

  Chapter 30

  I wish my uncle Toby had been a water-drinker; for then the thing had been accounted for, That the first moment Widow Wadman saw him, she felt something stirring within her in his favour—Something!—something.

  —Something perhaps more than friendship—less than love—something—no matter what—no matter where—I would not give a single hair off my mule‘s tail, and be obliged to pluck it off myself (indeed the villain has not many to spare, and is not a little vicious into the bargain), to be let by your worships into the secret—

  But the truth is, my uncle Toby was not a water-drinker; he drank it neither pure nor mix‘d, or any how, or any where, except fortuitously upon some advanced posts, where better liquor was not to be had—or during the time he was under cure; when the surgeon telling him it would extend the fibres, and bring them sooner into contact—my uncle Toby drank it for quietness sake.

  Now as all the world knows, that no effect in nature can be produced without a cause, and as it is as well known, that my uncle Toby was neither a weaver—a gardener, or a gladiator—unless as a captain, you will needs have him one—but then he was only a captain of foot—and besides, the whole is an equivocation—There is nothing left for us to suppose, but that my uncle Toby‘s leg—but that will avail us little in the present hypothesis, unless it had proceeded from some ailment in the foot—whereas his leg was not emaciated from any disorder in his foot—for my uncle Toby’s leg was not emaciated at all. It was a little stiff and awkward, from a total disuse of it, for the three years he lay confined at my father‘s house in town; but it was plump and muscular, and in all other respects as good and promising a leg as the other.

  I declare, I do not recollect any one opinion or passage of my life, where my understanding was more at a loss to make ends meet, and torture the chapter I had been writing, to the service of the chapter following it, than in the present case: one would think I took a pleasure in running into difficulties of this kind, merely to make fresh experiments of getting out of ‘em—Inconsiderate soul that thou art! What! are not the unavoidable distresses with which, as an author and a man, thou art hemm’d in on every side of thee—are they, Tristram, not sufficient, but thou must entangle thyself still more?

  Is it not enough that thou art in debt, and that thou hast ten cart-loads of thy fifth and sixth volumes (Alluding to the first edition.) still— still unsold, and art almost at thy wit‘s ends, how to get them off thy hands?

  To this hour art thou not tormented with the vile asthma that thou gattest in skating against the wind in Flanders? and is it but two months ago, that in a fit of laughter, on seeing a cardinal make water like a quirister (with both hands) thou brakest a vessel in thy lungs, whereby, in two hours, thou lost as many quarts of blood; and hadst thou lost as much more, did not the faculty tell thee—it would have amounted to a gallon?—

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