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The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.(Volume3,chapter99)

2006-08-22 18:35

  Chapter 99

  In the whole catalogue of those whiffling vexations which come puffing across a man‘s canvass, there is not one of a more teasing and tormenting nature, than this particular one which I am going to describe—and for which (unless you travel with an avance-courier, which numbers do in order to prevent it)—there is no help: and it is this.

  That be you in never so kindly a propensity to sleep—though you are passing perhaps through the finest country—upon the best roads, and in the easiest carriage for doing it in the world—nay, was you sure you could sleep fifty miles straight forwards, without once opening your eyes—nay, what is more, was you as demonstratively satisfied as you can be of any truth in Euclid, that you should upon all accounts be full as well asleep as awake—nay, perhaps better—Yet the incessant returns of paying for the horses at every stage,—with the necessity thereupon of putting your hand into your pocket, and counting out from thence three livres fifteen sous (sous by sous), puts an end to so much of the project, that you cannot execute above six miles of it (or supposing it is a post and a half, that is but nine)—were it to save your soul from destruction.

  —I‘ll be even with ’em, quoth I, for I‘ll put the precise sum into a piece of paper, and hold it ready in my hand all the way: ’Now I shall have nothing to do,‘ said I (composing myself to rest), ’but to drop this gently into the post-boy‘s hat, and not say a word.’—Then there wants two sous more to drink—or there is a twelve sous piece of Louis XIV. which will not pass—or a livre and some odd liards to be brought over from the last stage, which Monsieur had forgot; which altercations (as a man cannot dispute very well asleep) rouse him: still is sweet sleep retrievable; and still might the flesh weigh down the spirit, and recover itself of these blows—but then, by heaven! you have paid but for a single post—whereas ‘tis a post and a half; and this obliges you to pull out your book of post- roads, the print of which is so very small, it forces you to open your eyes, whether you will or no: Then Monsieur le Cure offers you a pinch of snuff—or a poor soldier shews you his leg—or a shaveling his box—or the priestesse of the cistern will water your wheels—they do not want it—but she swears by her priesthood (throwing it back) that they do:—then you have all these points to argue, or consider over in your mind; in doing of which, the rational powers get so thoroughly awakened—you may get ’em to sleep again as you can.

  It was entirely owing to one of these misfortunes, or I had pass‘d clean by the stables of Chantilly—

  —But the postillion first affirming, and then persisting in it to my face, that there was no mark upon the two sous piece, I open‘d my eyes to be convinced —and seeing the mark upon it as plain as my nose—I leap’d out of the chaise in a passion, and so saw every thing at Chantilly in spite.— I tried it but for three posts and a half, but believe ‘tis the best principle in the world to travel speedily upon; for as few objects look very inviting in that mood—you have little or nothing to stop you; by which means it was that I passed through St. Dennis, without turning my head so much as on one side towards the Abby—

  —Richness of their treasury! stuff and nonsense!—bating their jewels, which are all false, I would not give three sous for any one thing in it, but Jaidas‘s lantern—nor for that either, only as it grows dark, it might be of use.

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