Watt, p.12
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       Watt, p.12

           Samuel Beckett
 
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  and his young cousin wife his uncle Sam’s girl Ann, aged nineteen, whose it will be learnt with regret beauty and utility were greatly diminished by two withered arms and a game leg of unsuspected tubercular origin, and Sam’s two surviving boys Bill and Mat, aged eighteen and seventeen respectively, who having come into this world respectively blind and maim were known as Blind Bill and Maim Mat respectively, and Sam’s other married daughter Kate, aged twenty-one years, a fine girl but a bleeder,2 and her young cousin husband her uncle Jack’s son Sean, aged twenty-one years, a sterling fellow but a bleeder too, and Jack’s daughter Bridie, aged fifteen years, a prop and a stay to the family, sleeping as she did by day and at night receiving in the toolshed so as not to disturb the family for twopence, or threepence, or fourpence, or sometimes even fivepence a time, that depended, or a bottle of ale, and Jack’s other son Tom, aged fourteen years, who some said took after his father because of the weakness of his head and others said took after his mother because of the weakness of his chest and some said took after his paternal grandfather Jim because of his taste for strong spirits and others said took after his paternal grandmother Kate because of a patch he had on the sacrum the size of a plate of weeping eczema and some said took after his paternal greatgrandfather Tom because of the cramps he had in the stomach. And then finally to pass on to the rising generation there were Sean’s two little girls Rose and Cerise, aged five and four respectively, and these innocent little girlies were bleeders like their papa and mama, and indeed it was very wrong of Sean, knowing what he was and knowing what Kate was, to do what he did to Kate, so that she conceived and brought forth Rose, and indeed it was very wrong of her to let him, and indeed it was very wrong of Sean again, knowing what he was and what Kate was and now what Rose was, to do again what he did again to Kate, so that Kate conceived again and brought forth Cerise, and indeed it was very wrong of her again to let him again, and then there were Simon’s two little boys, Pat and Larry, aged four and three respectively, and little Pat was rickety with little arms and legs like sticks and a big head like a balloon and a big belly like another, and so was little Larry, and the only difference between little Pat and little Larry was this, allowing for the slight difference in age, and name, that little Larry’s legs were even more like sticks than little Pat’s, whereas little Pat’s arms were even more like sticks than little Larry’s, and that little Larry’s belly was a little less like a balloon than little Pat’s, whereas little Pat’s head was a little less like a balloon than little Larry’s.

  Five generations, twenty-eight souls, nine hundred and eighty years, such was the proud record of the Lynch family, when Watt entered Mr Knott’s service.3

  Then a moment passed and all was changed. Not that there was death, for there was not. Nor that there was birth, for there was not either. But puff puff breath again they breathed, in and out, the twenty-eight, and all was changed.

  As by the clouding the unclouding of the sun the sea, the lake, the ice, the plain, the marsh, the mountainside, or any other similar natural expanse, be it liquid, or be it solid.

  Till changing changing in twenty over twenty-eight equals five over seven times twelve equals sixty over seven equals eight months and a half approximately, if none died, if none were born, a thousand years!

  If all were spared, the living spared, the unborn spared.

  In eight months and a half, from the date of Watt’s entering Mr Knott’s service.

  But all were not spared.

  For Watt had not been four months with Mr Knott when Liz the wife of Sam lay down and expelled a child, her twentieth, with the greatest of ease as may well be imagined, and for some days after this agreeably surprised all those who knew her (and they were many) by the unusual healthiness of her appearance and by a flow of good spirits quite foreign to her nature, for for many years she had passed rightly for more dead than alive, and she suckled the infant with great enjoyment and satisfaction apparently, the flow of milk being remarkably abundant for a woman of her age and habit of body, which was exsanguine, and then after five or six or perhaps even seven days of this kind of thing grew suddenly weak and to the great astonishment of her husband Sam, her sons Blind Bill and Maim Mat, her married daughters Kate and Ann and their husbands Sean and Simon, her niece Bridie and her nephew Tom, her sisters Mag and Lil, her brothers-in-law Tom and Jack, her cousins Ann, Art and Con, her aunts-in-law May and Mag, her aunt Kate, her uncles-in-law Joe and Jim, her father-in-law Bill and her grandfather-in-law Tom, who were not expecting anything of the kind, grew weaker and weaker, until she died.

  This loss was a great loss to the family Lynch, this loss of a woman of forty goodlooking years.

  For not only was a wife, a mother, a mother-in-law, an aunt, a sister, a sister-in-law, a cousin, a niece-in-law, a niece, a niece-in-law, a daughter-in-law, a granddaughter-in-law and of course a grandmother, snatched from her grandfather-in-law, her father-in-law, her uncles-in-law, her aunt, her aunts-in-law, her cousins, her brothers-in-law, her sisters, her niece, her nephew, her sons-in-law, her daughters, her sons, her husband and of course her four little grandchildren (who however exhibited no sign of emotion other than that of curiosity, being too young no doubt to realise the dreadful thing that had happened, for their total age amounted to no more than sixteen years), never to return, but the Lynch millennium was retarded by almost one year and a half, assuming that during that time all were spared, and so could not be expected before roughly two years from the date of Liz’s departure, instead of in a mere five months time, as would have been the case if Liz together with the rest of the family had been spared, and even five or six days sooner if the infant had been spared also, as he was to be sure, but at his mother’s expense, with the result that the goal towards which the whole family was striving receded to the tune of a good nineteen months, if not more, assuming all the others to be spared, in the meantime.

  But all the others were not spared, in the meantime.

  For two months had not passed, since the death of Liz, when to the amazement of the entire family Ann retired to the privacy of her room and gave birth, first to a fine bouncing baby boy, and then to an almost equally fine bouncing baby girl, and they did not remain fine very long, nor did they long continue to bounce, but at their birth they were both very fine indeed, and remarkably resilient.

  This brought the total number of souls in the Lynch household up to thirty, and the happy day, on which the eyes of all were set, nearer by twenty-four days approximately, assuming that all were spared, in the meantime.

  Now the question that began on all hands openly to be asked was this, Who had done, or whom had Ann persuaded to do, this thing to Ann? For Ann was by no means an attractive woman, and the painful disorder under which she laboured was a matter of common knowledge, not only in the Lynch household, but for miles and miles around in every direction. Several names were freely mentioned in this connexion.

  Some said it was her cousin Sam, whose amorous disposition was notorious, not only among the members of his immediate family, but throughout the neighbourhood, and who made no secret of his having committed adultery locally on a large scale, moving from place to place in his self-propelling invalid’s chair, with widow women, with married women and with single women, of whom some were young and attractive, and others young but not attractive, and others attractive but not young, and others neither young nor attractive, and of whom some as a result of Sam’s intervention conceived and brought forth a son or a daughter or two sons or two daughters or a son and a daughter, for Sam had never managed triplets, and this was a sore point with Sam, that he had never managed triplets, and others conceived but did not bring forth, and others did not conceive at all, though this was exceptional, that they did not conceive at all, when Sam intervened. And when reproached with this Sam with ready wit replied that paralysed as he was, from the waist up, and from the knees down, he had no purpose, interest or joy in life other than this, to set out after a good dinn
er of meat and vegetables in his wheel-chair and stay out committing adultery until it was time to go home to his supper, after which he was at his wife’s disposal. But until then, so far as one knew, he had never affronted Liz under her own roof, or, more strictly speaking, with any of the women that it sheltered, though there were not wanting those to insinuate that he was the father of his cousins Art and Con.

  Others said it was her cousin Tom who, in a fit of exaltation, or in a fit of depression, had done this thing to Ann. And to those who objected to this that Tom, when in a fit of exaltation, was incapable of the least exertion, and could move neither hand nor foot, when in a fit of depression, it was replied that the exertion and the motion here involved were not the exertion and the motion from which Tom’s fits debarred him, but another exertion and another motion, the suggestion being that the inhibition was not a physical inhibition, but a moral, or aesthetic, and that Tom’s recurrent inability on the one hand to discharge certain offices requiring on the part of his bodily frame not the slightest expenditure of energy, such as that of keeping an eye on the kettle, or on the saucepan, and on the other to move from where he stood, or sat, or lay, or to reach out with his hand, or foot, for a tool, such as a hammer, or a chisel, or for a kitchen utensil, such as a shovel, or a bucket, was in neither case an absolute inability, but an inability limited by the nature of the office to be discharged, or the act to be performed. And it was further with cynicism urged, in support of this view, that if Tom had been asked to keep an eye, not on the kettle, or on the saucepan, but on his niece Bridie dressing up for the night, he would have done so, however great his depression at the time, and that his exaltation had often been observed to fall, with remarkable abruptness, in the neighbourhood of a corkscrew and a bottle of stout. For Ann, though apparently plain and rotten with disease, had her partisans, both inside and outside the house. And to those who objected that neither Ann’s charms, nor her powers of persuasion, could be compared with Bridie’s, or with a bottle of stout’s, it was replied that if Tom had not done this thing in a fit of depression, or in a fit of exaltation, then he had done it in the interval between a fit of depression and a fit of exaltation, or in the interval between a fit of exaltation and a fit of depression, or in the interval between a fit of depression and another fit of depression, or in the interval between a fit of exaltation and another fit of exaltation, for with Tom depression and exaltation were not of regular alternance, whatever may have been said to the contrary, but often he emerged from one fit of depression only to be seized soon after by another, and frequently he shook off one fit of exaltation only to fall into the next almost at once, and in these brief intervals Tom would sometimes behave most strangely, almost like a man who did not know what he was doing.

  Some said it was her uncle Jack, who it will be remembered was weak in the head. And to those who were not of this opinion those who were were good enough to point out that Jack was not only weak in the head, but married to a woman who was weak in the chest, whereas this could not be said of Ann’s chest, that it was weak, whatever might be said of other parts of her, for it was well known that Ann had a splendid bosom, white and fat and elastic, and what could be more natural, in the mind of a man like Jack, weak-minded and tied to a weak-chested woman, than that the thought of this splendid part of Ann, so white, so fat and so elastic, should grow and grow, whiter and whiter, fatter and fatter, and more and more elastic, until all thought of those other parts of Ann (and they were numerous), where whiteness did not dwell, nor fatness, nor elasticity, but greyness, and even greenness, and thinness, and bagginess, were driven quite away.

  Other names mentioned in this connexion were those of Ann’s uncles Joe, Bill and Jim, and of her nephews, Blind Bill and Maim Mat, Sean and Simon.

  That none of Ann’s kith and kin, but a stranger from without, had brought Ann to this pass, was considered likely by many, and the names of many strangers from without were freely mentioned, in this connexion.

  Then some four months later, when winter seemed safely past, and spring in the air by some was even felt, the brothers Joe, Bill and Jim, or a grand total of more than one hundred and ninety-three years, in the short space of one week were carried off, Joe the eldest being carried off on a Monday, and Bill his junior by one year on the following Wednesday, and Jim their junior by two years and one year respectively on the Friday following, leaving old Tom sonless, and May and Kate husbandless, and May Sharpe brotherless, and Tom and Jack and Art and Con and Sam fatherless, and Mag and Lil father-in-lawless, and Ann uncleless, and Simon and Ann and Bridie and Tom and Sean and Kate and Bill and Matt and Sam’s infant by the late Liz grandfatherless, and Rose and Cerise and Pat and Larry greatgrandfatherless.

  This set back the longed-for day, on which the Lynches’ eyes still were fixed, though with less confidence than before, by no less than seventeen years approximately, that is to say far beyond the horizon of expectation or even hope. For old Tom, for example, grew daily worse, and was heard to say, Why was me three boys took, and me with me gripes left?, suggesting that it would have been preferable, in his opinion, if his boys, who whatever their suffering did not suffer from unremitting agony in the caecum, had been left, and he, with his gripes, taken, and many other members of the family also grew daily worse and could not be expected to live, very much longer.

  Then they were sorry for what they had said who had said it was her uncle Joe, and who had said it was her uncle Bill, and who had said it was her uncle Jim, who had done this thing to Ann, for all three had confessed their sins, to the priest, prior to being carried away, and the priest was an old and intimate friend of the family. And from the corpses of the brothers in a cloud the voices rose and hovering sank to rest among the living, here some, there others, here some again, there others again, until hardly one living but had his voice, and not one voice but was at rest. And of those who had been in agreement, many were now in disagreement, and of those who had been in disagreement, many now were in agreement, though some that had agreed agreed still, and some that had disagreed still disagreed. And so new friendships were formed, and new enmities, and old friendships preserved, and old enmities. And all was agreement and disagreement and amity and enmity, as before, only redistributed. And not one voice but was either for or against, no, not one. But all was objection and answer and answer and objection, as before, only in other mouths. Not that many did not go on saying what they had always said, for many did. But still more did not. And the reason for that was perhaps this, that not only were those who had said what they had said of Jim, of Bill and of Joe, now by the deaths of Joe, of Bill and of Jim incapacitated from going on doing so and obliged to find something new to say, because Bill, Joe and Jim, for all their foolishness, were not so foolish as to allow themselves to be carried away without owning up to the priest to what they had done to Ann, if they had done it, but also a great number of those who had never said anything of Jim, of Joe and of Bill, in this connexion, unless it was that they had not done this thing to Ann, and who were therefore in no way by the deaths of Joe, of Jim and of Bill incapacitated from going on saying what they had always said, in this connexion, nevertheless preferred, when they heard some of those who had always spoken against them, and against whom they had always spoken, now speaking with them, to cease saying what they had always said, in this connexion, and to begin saying something quite new, in order that they might continue to hear speaking against them, and themselves to speak against, the greatest possible number of those who, prior to the deaths of Bill, of Jim and of Joe, had always spoken against them, and against whom they had always spoken. For it is a strange thing, but apparently true, that those who speak speak rather for the pleasure of speaking against than for the pleasure of speaking with, and the reason for that is perhaps this, that in agreement the voice can not be raised perhaps quite so high as it can in disagreement.

  This little matter of the food and the dog, Watt pieced it together from the remarks let fall, every now and then,
in the evening, by the twin dwarfs Art and Con. For it was they who led the famished dog, every evening, to the door. They had done this since the age of twelve, that is to say for the past quarter of a century, and they continued to do so all the time that Watt remained in Mr Knott’s house, or rather all the time that he remained on the ground floor, for when Watt was moved to the first floor, then Watt lost touch with the ground floor, and saw no more the dog, nor them who brought it. But surely it was still Art and Con who led the dog, every evening, at nine o’clock, to Mr Knott’s backdoor, even when Watt was no longer there to witness it, for they were sturdy little fellows, and wrapped up in their work.

  The dog in service when Watt entered Mr Knott’s service was the sixth dog that Art and Con had employed, in this manner, in twenty-five years.

  The dogs employed to eat Mr Knott’s occasional remains were not long-lived, as a rule. This was very natural. For besides what the dog got to eat, every now and then, on Mr Knott’s backdoorstep, it got so to speak nothing to eat. For if it had been given food other than the food that Mr Knott gave it, from time to time, then its appetite might have been spoilt, for the food that Mr Knott gave it. For Art and Con could never be certain, in the morning, that there would not be waiting for their dog, in the evening, on Mr Knott’s backdoorstep, a pot of food so nourishing, and so copious, that only a thoroughly famished dog could get it down. And this was the eventuality for which it was their duty to be always prepared.

  Add to this that Mr Knott’s food was a little on the rich and heating side, for a dog.

  Add to this that the dog was seldom off the chain, and so got no exercise worth mentioning. This was inevitable. For if the dog had been set free, to run about, as it pleased, then it would have eaten the horsedung, on the road, and all the other nasty things that abound, on the ground, and so ruined its appetite, perhaps for ever, or worse still would have run away, and never come back.

 
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