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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume4,chapter88)

2006-08-22 18:55

  Chapter 88

  Now my uncle Toby had one evening laid down his pipe upon the table, and was counting over to himself upon his finger ends (beginning at his thumb) all Mrs. Wadman‘s perfections one by one; and happening two or three times together, either by omitting some, or counting others twice over, to puzzle himself sadly before he could get beyond his middle finger—Prithee, Trim! said he, taking up his pipe again,—bring me a pen and ink: Trim brought paper also.

  Take a full sheet—Trim! said my uncle Toby, making a sign with his pipe at the same time to take a chair and sit down close by him at the table. The corporal obeyed—placed the paper directly before him—took a pen, and dipp‘d it in the ink.

  —She has a thousand virtues, Trim! said my uncle Toby—

  Am I to set them down, an‘ please your honour? quoth the corporal.

  —But they must be taken in their ranks, replied my uncle Toby; for of them all, Trim, that which wins me most, and which is a security for all the rest, is the compassionate turn and singular humanity of her character—I protest, added my uncle Toby, looking up, as he protested it, towards the top of the ceiling—That was I her brother, Trim, a thousand fold, she could not make more constant or more tender enquiries after my sufferings— though now no more.

  The corporal made no reply to my uncle Toby‘s protestation, but by a short cough—he dipp’d the pen a second time into the inkhorn; and my uncle Toby, pointing with the end of his pipe as close to the top of the sheet at the left hand corner of it, as he could get it—the corporal wrote down the word HUMANITY. . .thus.

  Prithee, corporal, said my uncle Toby, as soon as Trim had done it—how often does Mrs. Bridget enquire after the wound on the cap of thy knee, which thou received‘st at the battle of Landen?

  She never, an‘ please your honour, enquires after it at all.

  That, corporal, said my uncle Toby, with all the triumph the goodness of his nature would permit—That shews the difference in the character of the mistress and maid—had the fortune of war allotted the same mischance to me, Mrs. Wadman would have enquired into every circumstance relating to it a hundred times—She would have enquired, an‘ please your honour, ten times as often about your honour’s groin—The pain, Trim, is equally excruciating,—and Compassion has as much to do with the one as the other—

  —God bless your honour! cried the corporal—what has a woman‘s compassion to do with a wound upon the cap of a man’s knee? had your honour‘s been shot into ten thousand splinters at the affair of Landen, Mrs. Wadman would have troubled her head as little about it as Bridget; because, added the corporal, lowering his voice, and speaking very distinctly, as he assigned his reason—

  ‘The knee is such a distance from the main body—whereas the groin, your honour knows, is upon the very curtain of the place.’

  My uncle Toby gave a long whistle—but in a note which could scarce be heard across the table.

  The corporal had advanced too far to retire—in three words he told the rest—

  My uncle Toby laid down his pipe as gently upon the fender, as if it had been spun from the unravellings of a spider‘s web—

  —Let us go to my brother Shandy‘s, said he.

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