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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume4,chapter83)

2006-08-22 18:55

  Chapter 83

  It is natural for a perfect stranger who is going from London to Edinburgh, to enquire before he sets out, how many miles to York; which is about the half way—nor does any body wonder, if he goes on and asks about the corporation, &c. . ……

  It was just as natural for Mrs. Wadman, whose first husband was all his time afflicted with a Sciatica, to wish to know how far from the hip to the groin; and how far she was likely to suffer more or less in her feelings, in the one case than in the other.

  She had accordingly read Drake‘s anatomy from one end to the other. She had peeped into Wharton upon the brain, and borrowed Graaf (This must be a mistake in Mr. Shandy; for Graaf wrote upon the pancreatick juice, and the parts of generation.) upon the bones and muscles; but could make nothing of it.

  She had reason‘d likewise from her own powers—laid down theorems—drawn consequences, and come to no conclusion.

  To clear up all, she had twice asked Doctor Slop, ‘if poor captain Shandy was ever likely to recover of his wound—?’

  —He is recovered, Doctor Slop would say—

  What! quite?

  Quite: madam—

  But what do you mean by a recovery? Mrs. Wadman would say.

  Doctor Slop was the worst man alive at definitions; and so Mrs. Wadman could get no knowledge: in short, there was no way to extract it, but from my uncle Toby himself.

  There is an accent of humanity in an enquiry of this kind which lulls Suspicion to rest—and I am half persuaded the serpent got pretty near it, in his discourse with Eve; for the propensity in the sex to be deceived could not be so great, that she should have boldness to hold chat with the devil, without it—But there is an accent of humanity—how shall I describe it?—‘tis an accent which covers the part with a garment, and gives the enquirer a right to be as particular with it, as your body-surgeon.

  ‘—Was it without remission?—

  ‘—Was it more tolerable in bed?

  ‘—Could he lie on both sides alike with it?

  ‘—Was he able to mount a horse?

  ‘—Was motion bad for it?’ et caetera, were so tenderly spoke to, and so directed towards my uncle Toby‘s heart, that every item of them sunk ten times deeper into it than the evils themselves—but when Mrs. Wadman went round about by Namur to get at my uncle Toby’s groin; and engaged him to attack the point of the advanced counterscarp, and pele mele with the Dutch to take the counterguard of St. Roch sword in hand—and then with tender notes playing upon his ear, led him all bleeding by the hand out of the trench, wiping her eye, as he was carried to his tent—Heaven! Earth! Sea!- -all was lifted up—the springs of nature rose above their levels—an angel of mercy sat besides him on the sopha—his heart glow‘d with fire—and had he been worth a thousand, he had lost every heart of them to Mrs. Wadman.

  —And whereabouts, dear sir, quoth Mrs. Wadman, a little categorically, did you receive this sad blow?—In asking this question, Mrs. Wadman gave a slight glance towards the waistband of my uncle Toby‘s red plush breeches, expecting naturally, as the shortest reply to it, that my uncle Toby would lay his fore-finger upon the place—It fell out otherwise—for my uncle Toby having got his wound before the gate of St. Nicolas, in one of the traverses of the trench opposite to the salient angle of the demibastion of St. Roch; he could at any time stick a pin upon the identical spot of ground where he was standing when the stone struck him: this struck instantly upon my uncle Toby’s sensorium—and with it, struck his large map of the town and citadel of Namur and its environs, which he had purchased and pasted down upon a board, by the corporal‘s aid, during his long illness—it had lain with other military lumber in the garret ever since, and accordingly the corporal was detached to the garret to fetch it.

  My uncle Toby measured off thirty toises, with Mrs. Wadman‘s scissars, from the returning angle before the gate of St. Nicolas; and with such a virgin modesty laid her finger upon the place, that the goddess of Decency, if then in being—if not, ’twas her shade—shook her head, and with a finger wavering across her eyes—forbid her to explain the mistake.

  Unhappy Mrs. Wadman!

  —For nothing can make this chapter go off with spirit but an apostrophe to thee—but my heart tells me, that in such a crisis an apostrophe is but an insult in disguise, and ere I would offer one to a woman in distress—let the chapter go to the devil; provided any damn‘d critic in keeping will be but at the trouble to take it with him.

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