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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume3,chapter77)

2006-08-22 18:24

  Chapter 77

  I told the Christian reader in the beginning of the chapter which preceded my uncle Toby‘s apologetical oration,—though in a different trope from what I should make use of now, That the peace of Utrecht was within an ace of creating the same shyness betwixt my uncle Toby and his hobby-horse, as it did betwixt the queen and the rest of the confederating powers.

  There is an indignant way in which a man sometimes dismounts his horse, which, as good as says to him, ‘I’ll go afoot, Sir, all the days of my life before I would ride a single mile upon your back again.‘ Now my uncle Toby could not be said to dismount his horse in this manner; for in strictness of language, he could not be said to dismount his horse at all—his horse rather flung him—and somewhat viciously, which made my uncle Toby take it ten times more unkindly. Let this matter be settled by state-jockies as they like.—It created, I say, a sort of shyness betwixt my uncle Toby and his hobby-horse.—He had no occasion for him from the month of March to November, which was the summer after the articles were signed, except it was now and then to take a short ride out, just to see that the fortifications and harbour of Dunkirk were demolished, according to stipulation.

  The French were so backwards all that summer in setting about that affair, and Monsieur Tugghe, the deputy from the magistrates of Dunkirk, presented so many affecting petitions to the queen,—beseeching her majesty to cause only her thunderbolts to fall upon the martial works, which might have incurred her displeasure,—but to spare—to spare the mole, for the mole‘s sake; which, in its naked situation, could be no more than an object of pity—and the queen (who was but a woman) being of a pitiful disposition,— and her ministers also, they not wishing in their hearts to have the town dismantled, for these private reasons,。 . .—。 . .; so that the whole went heavily on with my uncle Toby; insomuch, that it was not within three full months, after he and the corporal had constructed the town, and put it in a condition to be destroyed, that the several commandants, commissaries, deputies, negociators, and intendants, would permit him to set about it.— Fatal interval of inactivity!

  The corporal was for beginning the demolition, by making a breach in the ramparts, or main fortifications of the town—No,—that will never do, corporal, said my uncle Toby, for in going that way to work with the town, the English garrison will not be safe in it an hour; because if the French are treacherous—They are as treacherous as devils, an‘ please your honour, said the corporal—It gives me concern always when I hear it, Trim, said my uncle Toby;—for they don’t want personal bravery; and if a breach is made in the ramparts, they may enter it, and make themselves masters of the place when they please:—Let them enter it, said the corporal, lifting up his pioneer‘s spade in both his hands, as if he was going to lay about him with it,—let them enter, an’ please your honour, if they dare.—In cases like this, corporal, said my uncle Toby, slipping his right hand down to the middle of his cane, and holding it afterwards truncheon-wise with his fore-finger extended,—‘tis no part of the consideration of a commandant, what the enemy dare,—or what they dare not do; he must act with prudence. We will begin with the outworks both towards the sea and the land, and particularly with fort Louis, the most distant of them all, and demolish it first,—and the rest, one by one, both on our right and left, as we retreat towards the town;—then we’ll demolish the mole,—next fill up the harbour,—then retire into the citadel, and blow it up into the air: and having done that, corporal, we‘ll embark for England.—

  We are there, quoth the corporal, recollecting himself—Very true, said my uncle Toby—looking at the church.

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